A Needed Darkness, Rain Moving In

Curtains Rain file0001774425054Before sunrise the intense heat and humidity of the past few days was broken by the cooling air that preceded a storm.

Gathering myself into the morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew, I opened all the windows. When I lifted the sash in the oratory, the breeze drew the sheers delicately against the screens and then, just as softly, floated them back and up into the room.

I breathed deeply the fresh unconditioned air.

The rain started with a drizzle. The thunder rumbled long and distant, then near, then rolled past and away.

I didn’t know what to expect of the storm. The wind was picking up, making the tree limbs sway, and the thunder had become more frequent. I looked at the southwest sky, saw it was evenly gray and lacked the blackish-green mottling of danger. The birds continued their morning songs—a good indication of a regular rain—and so I was unconcerned as I sat down and picked up the breviary.

With windows opened wide the breeze moved easily through the upstairs hermitage. I listened to the rain drops plink on the aluminum window sills; it steadily grew into a persistent thrumming.

It was a needed darkness, a good storm, a refreshing rain. Sipping my coffee I prayed:

Dear Lord,

I thank you for the storms that move through life. Though there is darkness, there is assurance of its passing. You send the rain to cleanse, the thunder to make us attentive, and the wind to remind us that all things move according to your plan.

Although I do not like the darkness, I know your storms draw me down and away from the often consuming blaze of this world. And for every storm that moves across my heart, I will embrace it as a time to patiently wait for your return.

I pray to be strong enough to hold fast when storms become intense. And if I grow weary, to know I am not alone and to call out to angels, saints, and friends to shore me up.

I praise you Lord for dark nights and stormy days that deepen my desire for you.


(June 30, 2013)


(Image by cgiraldez at morgefile.com.)


Graces from Gleditsia

Image morguefile.com

It was one of those perfect fall days when the clear cerulean sky contrasted the vivid reds and yellows of the maples, poplars, and the honey locust in my yard.

Settling into this house in 1988 one of the first things I did on the property, after removing all the trash and debris, was add trees. It takes time for trees to fill in the landscape. So during the time of roof repairs, plumbing and furnace upgrades, and painting, the trees grew on.

Eventually the time came to develop the gardens, and then a few decades later it was time to tear them out. Through it all, the trees remained.

My favorite tree, now matured to over forty feet high, is the Skyline Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Skycole’). It’s a thorn-less Locust variety (inermis in Latin means unarmed) and half the height of its native cousins.

The dark gray limbs are sturdy through storms, flexing without shattering in gusting winds or heavy snows, and have a lovely curve to them—an elegant feminine line. It leafs out in the spring in a neon chartreuse turning to a bright Kelly green by summer. Small pinnate leaves offer open dappled shade and raking is never an issue. This variety lacks seed pods. I’ve never had issues with any diseases or pests warned about in the literature. I’ve called it “that blessed tree”—for its shade, for its beauty, for its endurance.

The other day I gathered my lunch and a rosary, and went to sit under its boughs to rest.

The sky was clear and the sunlight crisp. A light and stirring breeze caused the poplar leaves to chatter and, as I walked under the locust, a cascade of shimmering yellow began to fall.

Each small leaf reflected the sunlight as it fell. Bits of gold danced around me and I was elated by the tiny leaves that landed on my head and arms.

I imagined the blessings of God to be much the same as those golden leaves—small and cumulative, bearing light. We may not take as much notice of God’s blessings when they come one by one. But looking back at all the mercies in life, the cascade of light is thrilling.



A Walk through the Garden

For those of you taking your daily walk through the beautiful prayer garden that is Margaret Realy’s blog post, you may notice a different gardener today. As Margaret is on retreat for a few weeks, she has very kindly allowed me to help tend to her garden while she is away.

In the garden

Image courtesy Marty Rymarz.

As an Oblate novice at the same monastery as Margaret, I have been blessed to become friends with her and see her daily blogs. For me, reading her daily post is not unlike taking a leisurely stroll through my local greenhouse in the spring. There, I see many beautiful flowers starting to bloom, waiting to be taken home and planted where they will grow and flower further. Margaret’s daily prayers are inspired flowers of thought that I take with me each day and allow them to germinate in my mind and flower in my soul. Like the lilies and petunias in the greenhouse, some of Margaret’s prayers are perennials and some are annuals. Some will stick with me year after year while others flower brilliantly for a time and may fade away with the season.

It is the loving embrace of God’s light and warmth that allows these flowers to blossom and our prayers to bloom to their full beauty.  A little seed that looks insignificant and gets tenderly planted in the soil may eventually blossom into a beautiful flower. Another type of seed may produce the vegetables that feed us. Though unseen, these seeds are quietly but faithfully striving upwards, ever upwards, towards heaven, until one day, they burst forth from the earth, straining towards the sky and the sustaining power of the Son.

So it is with God’s word and the prayers of others for us. These start as a little seed in our soul that can be covered for a time in the dirt of our concupiscence. Our daily prayers and contemplation give these seeds of our soul the water and warmth they need to grow.  They may manifest themselves, flowerlike, as a beautiful smile that we share with a stranger or a helping hand that we lend to those in need. They may also bloom as succulent fruit and healthy vegetables to feed our own spiritual needs when we minister to those in need. Our job, as gardeners of Jesus, is to cultivate these seeds, while pulling the daily weeds that can so easily sprout, until these seeds grow and others may appreciate the beauty of them as they are reflected not only in our words, but more importantly, in our actions.

So on this day, as we have taken the time to walk through this prayer garden, do we also take time to gaze in childlike awe at the beauty of God’s creation in both this garden and in the beauty of each other’s souls? Do we truly strive to see Jesus in everyone we encounter? For if we did, if we sought to see Christ in both our friends and those who challenge us, we would truly be living in a modern day Garden of Eden. And that garden, my friends, would not be a bad place to live until we reach that final destination that we know, as Christians, is the loving eternal communion with our Father in heaven.

Concise Silence


Image morguefile.com

Image morguefile.com

For those of us called to an anchoritic life, the silence of solitude teaches interior repose and perseverance in prayer, turning towards the Spirit within as the sunflower turns towards and follows the sun.

The perspective and peace brought of silence is, rarely, an opened parcel in daily life. We twirl about stepping over it, directing ourselves towards yet another distraction—injustices, persecutions, disordered behaviors, family life where we spin plates on poles and try to keep them from falling, or the running whole heartedly towards evaporating happiness.

In the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter six addresses the humility of and contains strong language about the “Spirit of Silence.”  He teaches that “…in the flood of words… [lies] …the key to life and death…” For without silence the intent of prayer is weakened and the rightness of action confounded.

The monk Idesbald Van Houtryve writes in Benedictine Peace

The friend of silence draws near to God and, entering secretly into a holy familiarity with Him, is enlightened by His divine light. For the man or woman who wants to lead a spiritual life, the silence of solitude is a freedom, a security, and a fortress, a sort of shelter against the noises of the world…Silence teaches interior repose and diligence in prayer.

The silence being referred to here is not one of constraint for lack of charity, refraining from condemnation, though this is certainly an important part of the practice. It is the interior silence that occupies oneself with God in the prayer of the heart, the practice of an interior retreat.

Those who evangelize with words have purpose in their words—and care must be taken to practice silence before making pronouncements. Again from Monk Idesbald:

There are some who speak from morning to evening and yet do not violate the law of silence; the point is that they pronounce no word without a reason. Dumbness is not a virtue in itself. It is good to speak when duty requires…[but] it may also proceed from indignation and from pride.

I am a slow writer; it feels unnatural to plant words instead of flowers. The words are written in a loving sense of duty and are chosen, rearranged, left to rest and reworked. I leave them to grow as God sees fit, and practice—instead of marketing—the art of being well-pleasing to God.

We feel an estrangement from oneself when the mind is disordered by distractions. There is a beauty in the freedom of prolonged solitude, and also a beauty, I am coming to realize, in the going out and the coming back.

Once gain I will be going out, and be among the throngs of attendees at the writers conference. I long to feel that which is denied in an anchoritic life—the physical embrace of genuine peace, a heartfelt hug. It will be a different kind of quieting among the distractions in the days to come, it will be one where isolation is silenced and prayer and praise are openly sung.


What, Then.

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

What, then.

When walks are not relieving,
More a long distance pace
Up and back.
When anti-anything meds do not work,
When rosaries, and prayer requests,
And offering-ups are not enough,
What then?
When the ache to feel
The love of Our Lord,
Embrace of Mary’s arms,
Lifted by the Holy Spirit,
Or wrapped
In my Guardian’s wings
Is left without sense,
What then?
When the scars of the heart
Are healed and still tight,
When the soul is bloated with love
And lacks release,
What then?
When fear silences the longing
For home with God,
Because the hearer hears falsely
Intents of suicide,
Not intensity of love,
What then?
When pain is deep,
And doesn’t matter.
When the heart skips and pounds
Beneath the bone,
No fear constricts the throat,
What then?
When God feels absent
In Adoration or at Mass
In the eyes of others,
Or in my rooms,
What then will suffice?
When words read or written,
Penned on pad and prodded
Then circled, danced with,
Moved past, visited
Again, and again are not enough,
What then?
When all that God gave,
Is giving, promised and fulfilled,
When every wall of every room
Carries an echoing call,
And it is not enough
What then?
When I sit as near to paradise
As God will allow,
When beauty confounds,
And Grace is exposed,
And I ache with a longing
That only angels and saints lack,
And all this is not enough.
What then but faith will do.
2104 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB