Summertime, let’s make the living easy

I read a quote posted on social media this morning from an author and “behavioral change” expert I follow, Karen Salmansohn that said “Sit. Breathe. There are 1440 minutes in a day. You can use 3 of them for self care.” I have been challenging myself to do it more – more pauses to breath, to sit on a patio for a few minutes with the cats to listen to the birds and enjoy my flowers, to make a cup of tea, or to read. Simply, more savoring the moment and giving myself permission to pause.

I recall from trips to Europe that there were times in the afternoon when the shops closed and people rested. A riposo (in Italy or siesta in Spain) is a time to break from the summer heat, have a meal, and spend time with family. The English have the lovely tradition of pausing for afternoon tea. In the past that might have been an energy drink or tea at my desk, which is getting up but not really pausing. I am being more intentional about taking a break after working in the morning and early afternoon, before starting my errands or tasks, to take a few moments of quiet rest or stillness. You might still be at work full-time so this sounds impossible, but perhaps it could be to step away from your desk to the break-room area or a picnic table outside. I wonder how the rest of the afternoon might go after a few relaxing minutes?

Over the past few years the invitation to make Sunday the “Lord’s Day” has hit home for me. It was harder to do when working full-time than it has been the past couple of years, but I have been pausing on Sunday to read, journal, pray and reflect or spend time with family. It is not a day for errands, washing clothes or cleaning. In the Chapter 48 of the Rule of St. Benedict, the guidance is to use Sunday for reading. In Jane Tomaine’s book, St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living, we are reminded that Benedict creates a balance of daily activities that are comprised of “work and prayer, study and recreation, rest and activity, time alone and time together”. Taking time for self-care, physical and spiritual, is an important aspect of this balance. Jane reminds us that even St. Benedict allowed a time of rest for the monks, on their beds, after lunch.

Yesterday, after watering the flowers and plants in the landscaping, I paused to rest from the heat but also to enjoy the beauty of the plants flourishing around me. For those of you with school children or grandchildren, the school year has concluded. Days and activities change, days at the pool or evening baseball games are now part of the schedule. How can you find a moment to enjoy the time outside allowing it to restore and nurture you, despite the busy schedule. Of course, don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun too!

If I have learned one thing living with cats it is to stretch and take long naps. Even though they are in the house with the air conditioning, they seem to slow down a bit in the summer, savoring the time to rest during the afternoon heat.

I was reminded of the song Summertime this morning when I sat down to write this. I thought you might enjoy a couple of different renditions of the song. Stop for a few minutes, pause and breathe as you listen to one or all of them.

Peace, Deena

Ella Fitzergerald: Summertime

Norah Jones: Summertime

George Gershwin’s Summertime by the All Virginia Orchestra 2014


Peace be with you

Maybe my mood is a bit more somber today because of the rain and gloom compared to the radiant sunshine of the past three days. So, I reflect, Thank you, God, for Divine Mercy Sunday! I don’t know about you but I can be Thomas on many days – I won’t believe unless… I can fill in the blanks with a variety of concerns or issues and then the desired outcome. Even though I have seen countless appearances of God acting in my life and the lives of others, I easily forget and let “dark clouds creep in and cover up the sun” and get discouraged. “We wonder if the sun is still up there. And perhaps we begin to get discouraged as our faith and trust start to waver and change to doubt and distrust.”

This quote is from the book, 33 Days to Merciful Love, by Father Michael Gaitley. I have used this book three different times over the course of seven years and found myself picking it up last night after attending Vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. I prayed the Divine Mercy Novena this week, beginning on Good Friday, and hope to attend a Divine Mercy Sunday celebration this afternoon in LaSalle at St. Hyacinth’s Church. I have had a few challenges over the past couple of weeks, so I found myself opening to the section, Week Four, Into the Darkness.

The book is a 33-day personal retreat (but often studied together in groups, as I did the first time) in preparation to consecrate our lives to Merciful Love. Through our prayer, study and offering we offer ourselves to Jesus and let his consoling love transform us into saints. The book is focused on the life and spiritual teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux and incorporates some of the teachings of St. Maria Faustina Kowlaska, best known for her writing on Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy image. I have never been the biggest fan of St. Therese and her “little way”, but somehow her teachings shows up when I need them. My mother had a great devotion to her, so I wonder if Mom is tugging her sleeve at those times that I need a reminder of St. Therese’ trust even in dark and difficult times. Early on in the study we consider that sin (I replace with doubt and lack of trust) comes from a lack of faith in God, God’s Word in scripture and God’s goodness. Fr. Gaitley offers the premise that this is the deep root of the darkness in the world, people act as if God does not exist.

Yesterday, in my monthly Benedictine lay Oblate gathering, we studied Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Letter Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. A few lines have been on my mind since re-reading the assigned sections for our discussion. In #92, Pope Francis says “We have only one heart…” and any act that would mistreat an animal or another creature, creation in general, is “contrary to human dignity.” The darkness in the world feels that we do not live with that one heart of love and compassion for all we have in this world and for each other. So we offer our plea for mercy as we pray and repeat, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, “have mercy on us and on the whole world”.

Perhaps we need to embrace those days that we are more like Thomas and ask for a sign of God’s presence but then wait in hopeful anticipation for consolation versus living in doubt. We pray and place ourselves in the presence of the fountain of Mercy, over and over again, clinging to the love Jesus offers us, as St. Therese did. As Fr. Gaitley points out in a summary section, it isn’t about getting rid of the difficult and dry times in our faith lives, it’s about finding peace, joy and happiness in the midst of all the challenges and gifts of each and every day.

This Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, is such an important reminder for us to reach out to the extended hand of our Lord as he says to us, “Peace be with you.”

Peace, Deena

Image: Resurrected Jesus, Side Altar Holy Family Church

My Photo Album


All You Holy Men and Women

It’s a busy weekend and week for honoring the Saints. We all celebrated St. Patrick on Friday, his persistence in faith and bringing the Gospel message and Christianity to Ireland. Today we celebrate St. Joseph’s Day. The Solemnity in the Church is actually tomorrow due to March 19 2023 being the Fourth Sunday of Lent. As a member of Holy Family Church and an Italian, some of us are celebrating his feast day for two days. I look forward to a St. Joseph’s Table meal tonight at neighboring St. Joseph parish, part of the Peru Catholic Parishes. As part of my Lent Retreat, A Different Kind of Fast, we did a reflection of Joseph as sleeping Joseph in art. I posted that I found an increase in devotion to this representation of Joseph, sleeping and as the Dreamer, after Pope Francis shared in 2015, his devotion and a statue that he keeps to remind him that even while sleeping Joseph cares for the Church. As our commentator for that day’s reflection, Amanda Dillon, so wisely said, perhaps this art reflects “a call to put down our tools, rest, to allow God to hover over us and refresh us to new insights about out lives.” Profound!

Some saints, like St. Benedict, have two feast days, we celebrate his actual feast day on July 11 but on Tuesday, March 21, he, like St. Francis, also have a memorial day of their “transitus”, the day he entered Eternal Life. So it was appropriate this weekend to have our monthly Oblate gathering, as Oblates of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, as well as a study of St. Benedict as part of the The Mystical Heart Retreat Series with Abbey of the Arts.

Later this week, on Saturday, we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord, the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary and her “yes”, or fiat, to be Christ-bearer to the world. We celebrate Mary under several titles throughout the year or in our prayer; Christ-Bearer, Mystical Rose, Greenest Branch, Untier of Knots, Star of the Sea, Mother of Sorrows, Mother of Good Counsel, Queen of Heaven, and of course the more popular, Our Lady of Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe. There are so many titles for Mary that we can reflect upon to give us guidance in our lives.

I have an endless list of favorite saints, some for specific reasons like St. Nicholas, for charity and generosity, or St. Fiacre, patron of gardeners, and I often turn to St. Anthony, patron of lost items, to help me find something I put in a safe place! St. Hildegard in all things; she is a paragon of all the virtues I treasure and admire, mystic, writer and teacher, artist, musician, herbalist, Benedictine Abbess, and so much more. My mother loved her patron saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, for her “little way” while I love the passion, depth of spirituality and desire for reform of St. Teresa of Avila. Both, along with St. Hildegard, were mystics and are female Doctors of the Church.

I have been turning to both St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena during Lent for assistance with my contemplation of the immense love and mercy of Jesus for us. I recalled during another Lent virtual retreat of the contemplation of Jesus’ love for us and desire for our love, as consolation to Jesus, as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reflected on a Lenten letter written by St. Pope John Paul II. She wrote, “the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst…Whenever we come close to Him – we become partners of Our Lady, St John, Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name.” (excerpt from 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley). The interesting thing is that reviewing that excerpt, and another book by Fr. Gaitley, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, I was reminded of the role of Ignatian spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius that began for me in the 1990’s, and again with these books in 2016, and now that I am a part-time team member of Ignatian Ministries. St. Ignatius and others have guided my vocation through the years.

In today’s second reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, reminds us that we now live in the light of Christ. He appeals to us “Live as children of light, now light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” One of my favorite tasks as administrator of the Facebook page for our parish is to share stories of saints on their feast days. We can learn so much from how they lived their lives. We can turn to them for their intercession and assistance in our own lives. We look to them as models and guides. They offer a treasury of examples of ways to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Spend some time reflecting on your own favorite saints and spend some time with their writings or prayers as part of your Lenten journey.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints. (final line of the Divine Praises)

All you Holy Men and Women, Saints of God, pray for us. (Included in The Litany of Saints)

Peace, Deena

Image: Two Saints by 20th century Russian artist, Mikhail Nesterov, on The Sacred Art Page on Facebook


When a message is repeated – listen

When a message is repeated over and over – listen! What do I mean by a message? You read about a topic, it comes up in conversations, you see a social media post that resonates with how you are feeling, etc. I am sure this has happened to each of you and you know what I mean.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about rest, taking time when prompted, to listen to the voice within that begs us to just sit down a minute and be still. I started writing about the topic again last week, but then the blog went another direction because of the amazing sunset I saw and the desire to reflect on the sacredness of threshold places, in which we might experience a different level of awareness and closeness to God. To experience those moments, you have to slow down and pause.

Last Saturday’s daily gospel was the scripture from Mark 6:30-34 that I quoted in my initial blog regarding rest. “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The Twelve had been watching and learning from Jesus as he cast out demons, healed and restored life. He sent them out with a similar message to teach and heal. As they returned, they were probably excited, overwhelmed, tired, surprised and anxious to share with Jesus what they had accomplished in his name. Jesus acknowledged what they had done and then encouraged them to rest.

This week the daily gospel readings in Mark continued with Jesus performing miracle after miracle. The crowds grew and people continued to seek Jesus, to learn from him and to bring people to him for healing. Saturday’s gospel, this weekend, was one of the gospel accounts of Jesus feeding thousands by the multiplication of fish and loaves. His heart was “moved with pity” for them. He fed them and then sent them home. Jesus then, along with the apostles got in a boat and left.

This year our Oblate group is studying the Benedictine virtue of hospitality. St. Benedict clearly directs us in The Rule that all should be welcomed as Christ (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53). This month’s study surprised (and delighted) me, we looked at Hospitality to Self. We studied the chapters of The Rule, and commentaries, on The Reception of Guests (chapter 53), The Reception of Visiting Monastics (chapter 61) and The Porter of the Monastery (chapter 66. Yes, St. Benedict even provided guidelines for the type of person who should answer the door and how it should be answered.) We also read from chapter or “Week 2 – Welcoming Ourselves” from Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp and “The Humility of Self-Compassion”, an article by oblate Becky Van Ness published in Oblate News, Saint Benedict’s Monastery (Fall 2015).

Joyce Rupp points out that there are numerous accounts in the Gospels that show that Jesus took time to step away from his teaching and healing to pray or rest. He also leaves places that reject him or seek to harm him. By his example we learn that self compassion is not self absorption, and focus on the self, despite the needs of others. Jesus attended to their needs. But, he also knew when it was time to step back. It requires, Joyce suggests, more than just stopping the inner critical voices that keep telling us we need to give more, be more, care more. We “ask for the grace to change our relationship with that inner critic” states Becky Van Ness. Both authors offer for our consideration, each in their own way, that as we take time to love and care for ourselves, we will have more love to offer out to the world.

This week let’s take a look at moments that we might benefit from a bit of self compassion. Instead of blaming ourselves for the hundreds of times we don’t get it right (according to our inner critic), can we pause a moment, as we might with a friend, to offer a word of encouragement? Perhaps we can greet ourselves as needed during the day, borrowing from The Rule and the guidelines for the porter of the monastery, and offer a warm and welcoming verbal embrace saying “Thanks be to God” or “your blessing please”.

Wishing you peace this week, Deena

Resource Info:

What is a Benedictine Oblate? I’ve attached a link to the Sisters of St. Benedict, St. Mary Monastery, in Rock Island, IL. This is the monastery that I am an Oblate of. You can visit most Benedictine monastery websites and learn about their Oblate affiliate programs.

Oblates of St. Benedict Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota

You might be interested to learn that the multiplication of fish and loaves is found six times in the four synoptic gospels, that is, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is the only miracle that is consistently reported in all four of the gospels. Hospitality – Welcoming the Stranger by Catherine Upchurch


Advent – December 18, 2022

The Fourth Week of Advent. Here we are. Typically I arrive at this point wishing I had taken more time to slow down, more time to pray or read spiritual writing, and taken more time to savor the coming of Christmas. I absolutely see missed opportunities in the past three weeks but this year feels a little different. My weekly prayer group, assisting on an Advent prayer guide at work and facilitating two Advent small groups has helped. Perhaps the more we immerse ourselves in something that we desire, the easier it is to attain the desired goal.

This weekend I was reminded of something that a parish priest, Fr. Tony, said to me when we were meeting to discuss my involvement in activities at the parish over 25 years ago. The priest assigned and then reassigned after one year, right before Fr. Tony, was the first one to reach out and ask me to get involved. He not only asked me to get involved, he gave me the task of writing a weekly prayer guide for Advent, with a prayer and reflection for each day. I had never written anything like that before! They turned out pretty good and I found the task of writing each week to be quite enjoyable. I wrote one for Lent as well. Then he was reassigned and Fr. Tony came to Holy Family. I shared some of my experiences of living in Michigan (parish life, women’s groups, studying at an ashram…), interests and ideas I had for Holy Family. He either thought I was from another planet but was desperate for the assistance or he saw potential. I chose to believe the latter.

The conversation I was reminded of this weekend was “I’m open to trying different things here at Holy Family…but before that I would like you to go to the deep, dark incense-filled corners of the church and experience the beauty of the rituals and traditions of the church.” That began a journey that has led me to a deepening of my faith life, an ever-growing appetite for learning about the Church and our spiritual mothers and fathers, and some of most amazing spiritual experiences. Not too long after that I considered religious life, but discerned I wasn’t cut out for community life. I compared and visited different communities to learn about their “associate” programs ultimately leading me to the Sisters of St. Benedict at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, IL (initially Nauvoo IL). After three years of formation and study, I became an Oblate. Again, the more we immerse ourselves in something, the more likely we will achieve the desired goal.

One of the rich traditions of the Church begins each year on the evening of December 17 with the recitation of the first of the O Antiphons, “Come O Wisdom”. The seven days of reciting the O Antiphons are absolutely my favorite week of Advent. Each of the seven antiphons (Wisdom, Lord, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring, King of the Nations and Emmanuel, God with us) have been sung (or recited) as part of evening prayer, with the Magnificat, since as early as the eighth century. The antiphons use images from the Bible that remind us of Old Testament prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ.

My mother was hospitalized in early December many years ago after a fall that required spinal surgery. I visited the large chapel at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria every evening to pray before leaving her and beginning the hour or so drive home. The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, the hospital sisters, came to the chapel during Advent and prayed each evening. Seeing me there a few evenings, they invited me to pray with them. Hearing them sing the O Antiphons each night, the final week before Christmas, was a profound experience. I will treasure it and the time with the sisters forever.

I saw a delightful version of O Wisdom, shared by the International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies on Facebook written by St. Hildegard. St Hildegard, a favorite saint, was a Benedictine Abbess in the twelfth century. She studied herbs and oils and wrote about medicine, composed chants and sacred music, created amazing art, wrote poetry and was a mystic. She wrote “O Wisdom…hip, hip, hooray! From earthen clay have all God’s splendid wonders sprung, that the new Sun might come forth, the new Light shine, the new Song sound in us!” (oi, oi! De limo Terre in Latin)

There is still a full fourth week of Advent available to us this year. Next year it will only be one day long. Sunday will be the Fourth Sunday of Advent but also Christmas Eve, so we will lose a week of Advent. Treasure the full week this year. And what an amazing week it is! We began on Saturday hearing the genealogy of Jesus, then for the Fourth Sunday of Advent reflect on Joseph’s dream and decision to trust the message and protect his little family. On Monday we listen to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Zechariah’s visit by Angel Gabriel and his disbelief when Gabriel tells him aging Elizabeth will bear a son, John. We hear the Annunciation and Visitation stories, my favorites, scripture passages of Mary and Elizabeth. We experience the prayers, first declared by Zechariah and Mary, that are now prayed each and every day, the Benedictus and the Magnificat, in the Liturgy of the Hours, at Morning and Evening Prayer respectively.

How might some of these remaining days of Advent help you prepare for Christmas? How can we experience the joy that would leave us singing a “new Song sound in us”? With last minute baking, shopping or cleaning left to do, can you create time to enter into the rich tradition of our Church lived through scripture or the praying of the O Antiphons? What do you desire in these final days of Advent so that you feel ready to welcome Emmanuel, God With Us?

Peace be with you, Deena

Photo from Shutterstock on PicMonkey

Visit the monks at St John’s Abbey and scroll down to find the nightly singing of the O Antiphons


Advent – December 11, 2022

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. Isaiah 35

Isaiah continues in Chapter 35 by describing a world that will see the splendor of God, where hands are strong and knees are firm (ok, that part of the prophecy hits home), the frightened are now fearless and unafraid, eyes and ears seeing and hearing and the lame able to leap and move about. The prophet continues to talk about a new world order, as I shared last week. It’s a beautiful vision to hold and rejoice in during this Third Week of Advent.

Today after a parish cookie sale, I dropped off our excess cookies at the homeless shelter. The person that greeted me said that the cookies would be appreciated because there are so many children staying at the shelter at the moment. It broke my heart. You don’t have to look far to see similar stories of hardship, just watch the news. I know families grieving the loss of a loved one as we prepare for Christmas, and in two specific cases, one in my area and another in Baton Rouge, two families trying to navigate life after the suicide of 13 year sons. Weather catastrophes, homelessness, violence – how do we rejoice? Where do we see glimpses of the world to come? We have faith that when Jesus comes again, we’ll see the glory of the Lord. But what about now?

I am in a weekly prayer group that began about 4 years ago after attending a weekend parish retreat. We select different books or programs to study and discuss. We are currently reading the Advent and Christmas Reflection book by Word on Fire, The Word Became Flesh. One of the homilies included for reflection in the book was written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard was a Benedictine Abbott and major leader in the reformation of the Benedictine order. He was canonized a short time after his death and named a Doctor of the Church in 1830. I was awestruck! St. Bernard writes in dramatic fashion of the brief moment that the Angel Gabriel is waiting for Mary to respond yes, her fiat. He writes that God needs Mary to respond yes, to give her consent to the angel, for the fulfillment of salvation to take place, and that the rest of humanity waits in anticipation. It is one of the most moving pieces I have read. (The homily can be found in the Office of Readings, for the Fourth Week of Advent, in the Liturgy of the Hours, the “Divine Office” or Breviary.)

I have been thinking about that homily all week. I don’t mean these next ponderings on the same level of importance as Mary’s fiat, but I wonder if God waits for our consent, the decisions we make and actions toward others, to be part of the plan of bringing love and hope in the world. Does God wait for us to help provide hope to those we encounter?

Perhaps God places desires in our heart as way to serve. Perhaps God waits with a similar anticipation for us to stand in our “yes” to those desires, our call.

One of my favorite prayers is by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman regarding our mission in life. It was shared in class when I was in the Lay Ministry program in our Diocese. I have never forgotten it and when I wonder about my purpose or have a decision to make, I often return to this prayer.

This is the beginning of the prayer:

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.

As we try to identify and live that mission, we can live in an Advent spirit of Gaudete, Rejoice. We help our world move a step closer to that vision that Isaiah shares of the ransomed returned and where sorrow and mourning are ceased. If not ceased, maybe paused for just a moment. We enter singing, crowned with an everlasting joy that cannot be filled by the passing moments of this world. We anticipate and look to that day, as we do this Advent for Christmas, with hearts full of rejoicing and joyful song.

Peace be with you, Deena

Image by Shutterstock on PicMonkey


Advent – December 4, 2022

On this Second Sunday of Advent we hear about a new world order. It certainly doesn’t sound like the world we live in today. The world feels more chaotic, like we should be listening to the voice of the prophet John the Baptist, calling us all to reform and repent. Yet, Isaiah tells us of a world that will be filled with justice, harmony, animals that usually attack each other lying down peacefully together, and the ultimate prize, peace for ever.

While we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and again, at the end of time, we seek that peace in our hearts and in our families. Our daily prayers help us to vision the world that Isaiah foretells. They help us to slow down, to listen, to be still in the midst of our holiday shopping, baking and preparations. To see the world differently, to be a bit kinder.

But in the scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, I was most struck by St Paul’s letter to the Romans. St. Paul tells us that the God of endurance and encouragement will help us to think in harmony with one another and that with one voice we will glorify God. He asks us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. Harmony? One voice? This can seem like a remote fantasy too.

If you have ever visited a Benedictine Monastery, you have experienced that kind of being welcomed that St. Paul speaks of. The community makes sure that your needs are taken care of and that you have someone to guide you to chapel, that you feel included and part of communal prayer. In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53, The Reception of Guests, Benedict writes that “all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”

Can you imagine if we spent our days trying to see Christ in others? The person that races up behind you in the car or cuts you off? The grouchy clerk that tosses your items down to the end of the checkout counter like a frisbee? The colleague that says they are listening but is distracted the entire time? The politicians we don’t agree with? The governments around the world abusing our natural resources? I am sure we can all come up with a list of people we are challenged to see as the body of Christ standing before us.

One of the daily prayer guides I use for reflection and daily Mass is Give Us This Day. I read editor, Mary Stommes’ reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent on Welcome. She talks about Advent as a time that exists right now but also not yet. She says “The thing is, the more clearly we see Christ, the more Advent will cut to our core. The more we will realize that hope and hurt are close companions. The more we will recognize our own sinfulness, the ‘harm and ruin’ we inflict within and without.” (December issue, Second Sunday of Advent Reflection.).

I am challenged to look at how I encounter others when I am distracted or in a bad mood. Do I set aside my own concerns and look for the face of Christ in the person standing right in front of me? Can I say a silent prayer for the person that I see as treating me unfairly? Where am I inflicting “harm and ruin” by being angry at or judging others? Are you willing to join me on this challenge this week?

My prayer is that we find opportunities to be kinder, more welcoming and hospitable to those we encounter each day this week. If we can, then I think we close the gap a bit between the way the world is today and the way we long for it to be. We help prepare the way and help make straight the path. We help water the roots so a bud of peace will blossom.

Peace be with you, Deena

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Give Us This Day if you don’t already.

Image by Laura Nyhuis on Unsplash

Advent – November 27, 2022

Starting this blog on the First Sunday of Advent seems fitting, it’s the first day of the Liturgical Year 2023. Happy New Year! I would like to share a few thoughts about why I am writing and then a thought about Advent.

The idea to write about journeys began many years ago when I owned my little ice cream/health and wellness shop in Oglesby, Illinois. I had an idea for a book and bought a url for a website. Seriously, I mean MANY years ago, a time before blogs! I wanted to write about how our call, to live our lives authentically using the gifts and talents we each have, comes to life when we share it with others. We help others as we honor the call we each have and encourage each other to listen to it. I sat on it for years!

In more recent times, I have been encouraged to listen to the voice within that seeks expression, by exceptional writer, journalist, contemporary poet and friend, Judith Valente. I’ve been inspired by Judith to keep journaling, writing haiku and letter writing. (A must read regarding two spiritual companions sharing their journey in letter writing – How to Be by Judith and Brother Paul Quenon) Although I am not as faithful as I would like with poetry writing. Judith said write for yourself, write to share your thoughts, even if no one reads it. I have pages of ideas that would be part of a book. I waited for a sign, for more ideas, to have more time. I kept putting it off.

About a month ago, I had a pretty significant emotional setback. It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but one of purpose. I wondered what the point was if I didn’t have a purpose. I had a lot going on in my personal and work life, so I know now, looking back, things seemed worse at the moment than they actually were. But it was a moment of crisis that resulted in deep self-reflection and setting goals to focus on things that are important to me. One of those goals was to begin this blog. So, today I begin.

Perhaps you have had moments like that on your life’s journey. Think about who and what helped you moved out of the darkness of not knowing what to do next. Write about it – capture your thoughts in a journal or write a letter (yes, the long-hand kind, on stationery, not an email or text) to the person who was there for you.

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. In life we wait. We wait for summer vacations, holidays and family gatherings. We wait for good health reports or wait in hopes that the news isn’t bad. We wait for the arrival of a new baby, a new job, new beginnings. We live in a time of instant gratification. We don’t like to wait or we wait impatiently. All you have to do is look at Black Friday sales that begin in September or October and continue long after “the” Black Friday. We are marketed to and sold that we have to act now or we’ll miss out.

In some ways, spiritually, this is true. We need to “awaken from our slumber, to always be aware of the presence of God, and to welcome Him in our daily lives.” (Pope Francis, Angelus Message on the First Sunday of Advent) Pope Francis also said we need to shake off the lethargy of daily life and be vigilant always. To wait for, prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and at the end of times should give us reason for hope. It is a foundation of our Christian faith.

I attended the funeral of a wonderful woman yesterday. I will miss her warm smile and greeting at daily and Saturday Masses. Madeline had a long life and the celebration of her faith was a reason for rejoicing that years of believing and confident trust will be worth the wait for her. The “discipline of doing God’s will is not … quick and easy. Neither is bearing with things that we have repeatedly asked God to fix” says Judith Sutera in Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from St. Benedict. As a Benedictine Oblate (lay associate of a Benedictine monastery) we begin the year (and repeat twice through the year) with the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict reminding us to get up, to rise from our sleep and to open our eyes and ears to God’s voice.

Advent helps us take a deeper look at the delicate balance of waiting, slowing down in hopeful anticipation, and being prepared for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. My goal is to be more thoughtful and prayerful this Advent. I don’t want to arrive at Christmas saying I wish I had prepared better, spiritually. I also don’t want to say that at the end of my days.

On this first day of Advent, make a “new year’s” resolution of your own. How would you like to spend this time of waiting, preparing for Christmas? What changes might you make to deepen your faith life or your spiritual practices and communal prayer life this new liturgical year? Is there a slumber or lethargy that you would like to wake from? How can you be more aware of God’s presence in the common and ordinary moments of each day?

Peace be with you, Deena

Note: My goal is to write weekly but during this holy time of Advent and Christmas, I may post a bit more. I hope that this blog will provide some food for thought and inspiration, but at least, know that you have a friend on this journey with you.

Image by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash