Making Room

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, September 17, 2017

We might call it the “Summer of Displacement” for to displace is to move something from its usual or proper place to another, less familiar location.

On the microcosmic scale, I experienced displacement this summer when a fall that fractured my ankle and sternum also displaced a rib, so that every movement I made reminded me that I was no longer comfortable in my body, my home, in the same way  I had once been. And my personal experience seemed a harbinger of the displacement unfolding on a national and global level, and on a previously unimagined scale.

In the United States, we wept over the images: weary, frantic faces in Texas, Florida, and the Gulf Coast as thousands faced the flooding of Hurricane Harvey and the lingeringmakingroomworldheart copy 2 fierceness of Hurricane Irma’s hovering. Frightened faces of hundreds in a hurried evacuation, trying to get ahead of and outrun wildfires on the West coast and in the Northwest.

Those images were replicated on the world stage as our neighbors in the Caribbean woke up to as much as 95% of their world flattened and destroyed. In India and Bangladesh, in Nepal and Pakistan, hundreds left dead and thousands homeless.  In Sierra Leone, where mudslides have thousands still missing, Gabriel Fattah Manga, the lone survivor of his entire family who were swept away, spoke for many: “I lost my family. I lost my people. I lost my place.” Streets turned into rivers and forests into piles of ash. Displacement was a universal experience.

It occurs to me that displacement of any kind is accompanied by this subtext: a longing for home, a yearning to return to the familiar and the routine, to find comfort in the seemingly ordinary around which our daily lives once revolved.

In “Sending the Great Blue Heron,” a chapter in Longing for the Endless Immensity, I wrote about the multi-layered loss that comes in the wake of displacement: the shattering of notions of safety and security; the deep knowing that one’s ability to GreatBlueHeronprotect children and family is uncertain; the reality of impermanence; the loss of connection and belonging; the returning to a landscape—both inner and outer–forever altered by wind and water, by fire and fear.

The questions that face all people whose lives have been upended are not unlike those voiced by refugees, by the masses desperately seeking sanctuary from war, regional conflict, natural disasters, and extreme hunger and poverty:

Where to place our hope?
How to be in the face of what has been taken from us?
What to do with the dreams of a future that seems unrecoverable?
How to move forward so that healing can take place? Or can it?
Where to find God in the midst of such profound human pain?

I hold no answers to these questions, which I’ve been mining and revisiting most especially throughout the summer months. Instead, I offer another worldview, one that captivated many of us. Recall how, in the midst of so much suffering, we also witnessed our beautiful, yet wounded world opening its heart in welcome, in acts of profound compassion and courage.  How we also witnessed images of accompaniment, affirming that God is present in human history, even in its most tragic episodes. How we saw:

  • Strangers coming together at great personal risk to form a human chain and pull drowning persons from submerged cars;
  • Neighbors grabbing anything that would float to ferry the most fragile and vulnerable across once passable streets that had turned into raging rapids;
  • Volunteers enfolding exhausted evacuees into a reassuring embrace;makingroommancarrying
  • Refugees shivering and wrapped in blankets and hearing words of welcome and consolation in a language they did not speak but for which they needed no translation;
  • Crowds gathered in formal or spontaneous prayer for both loved ones and for strangers who were in harm’s way.

On the other side of terror and anguish, on the other side of unimaginable loss and inconsolable grief, we saw the kind of tender companioning that can come only from a human spirit cultivating spaciousness of heart. Only from those deeply practiced in making room for the other, just as the Holy One unceasingly does for us.

Takeaway

Sit quietly and revisit images or experiences that moved you recently.
Where were you inspired?
Where was your heart called to a deeper compassion and empathy?
How might these images call you to act in the days ahead?
Spend some time sending your compassion and healing energy out to those most in need of it at this moment.

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayerful support of all who were part of the retreat day for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, September 9, in Scranton, PA. 

Please now remember in prayer an ongoing formation day for the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy I’ll be leading September 23 in Newfield, NJ. Thank you! 

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roc4life.com

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Staying as We Leave

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, September 3, 2017

So here we are today, about to leave this place of beauty and peace and welcome. And the question at this time is much the same as the questions that face us as we move on from any time of retreat, or vacation, or sabbath time: What now? What next? How do we carry the graces and learnings of these days forward? How are we called to reach out to our neighbor with the new light and insight we now carry after these days away? How are we to leave?

I suspect those were much the same questions that Ruth noticed in the reading we heard proclaimed today (Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22). In that passage, there’s a whole lot of leaving going on, isn’t there? First, there’s a famine, there’s food insecurity, so we know that longinghand copypretty much all possibility of nourishment had gone away from the town of Bethlehem. That scarcity of sustenance caused Elimelech, Naomi, and their sons to depart and make their home in Moab. Not long after they settled in, Naomi faced another leave-taking, saying farewell to her husband who had died. For a woman of her time, to be without the protection of a husband was especially dangerous.  It meant she was left with no voice, no income, no support. And some ten years later, Naomi had to once again let go of another precious part of her life: her two sons.

The leavings she experienced are the kind that can make a person feel bereft, without resources, immersed in a terrible loneliness. They echo our own experiences of what it means to be left without. To be left behind. To feel the impermanence of anything we possess, anything we love, including cherished relationships.

But in the person of Ruth, we also hear what it means to be companioned and accompanied. What it means to echo and bear witness to the faithfulness of a God who never abandons. A God who stays with us with tenderness and compassion, no matter what.

Just as God does, Ruth is present to Naomi’s loss. And just as God does, Ruth refuses to leave Naomi in her vulnerability, in her time of need and aloneness. Ruth embodies the Gospel call to love God with our whole heart and to love the our neighbor as our very selves, just as we would hope to be loved and cared for. It’s a theology of accompaniment that emphatically says: God is deeply present to us in our most solitary and lonely moments, even when it feels as if everyone else has left. And this theology of accompaniment is summed up in four words from the Book of Ruth: “Ruth stayed with her.” She stood with Naomi, she remained, just as the Holy One does.

When we leave a retreat, or a vacation, or some quiet time away, we’re not returning to Paradise, to the fullness of justice and wholemaking. We’re not heading back to the world as it could be or the world as we dream it should be.

We’re returning not to Eden, but to some place East of Eden. To the world we live in, the kin-dom still unfolding. East of Eden is the world as it is, marked by both beauty and brokenness. The world where we’re called to work, with God’s grace, to bring about the dream of the Holy for our world that is at the same time both beautiful and wounded.

So how might we stay with the graces of a retreat, even though we’re physically leaving this place?

Steve Garnaas Holmes (Unfolding Light) offers this wisdom to anyone leaving a retreat, a vacation, Sabbath time. In “Don’t Come Back Soon,” he notes, “The thing now is not to jump back uluggagefromretreatp into fifth gear and start hurrying and fretting and multitasking and plowing all night long.  Don’t come back from vacation and fill up with stuff.  Stay a little vacant.  Keep the empty place.  Stay slow.  Keep paying attention, keep being deeply present….”

“The thing as I rise from prayer,” he says, “is to stay in prayer. The purpose of prayer, or vacation, or sabbath, or sleep, is not just to come up for air so you can go back into the fray but also to slow yourself down so what you go back into isn’t a fray…”

“Even when others are panicking and hurrying and demanding, or when they aren’t doing anything at all and it’s all falling to you, even when the house is afire and you have to move quickly, you can stay rooted.  You can do one thing at a time.  Even when you’re not at your prayers, you can still be in prayer.”

He ends by saying, “Go on vacation, or into prayer, or on sabbath, early and often.  Go there now.  And don’t come back soon.”

He’s saying that, even though we’re leaving, we need to stay, to remain with the spirit and grounding of these days. So we continue to hold in our heart and prayer our beautiful, yet wounded world. We renew our intent to be present and attentive to our neighbor by loving the one in front of us, whether that person shares the same space we do or inhabits a space on the other side of the world. This is our hope and our prayer as we leave. May it be so, today and always.

Takeaway
Sit with the graces and blessings of time away, and give thanks for what has come to you.
What might be the challenges that await you as you leave?
Ask the Holy One to help you in staying rooted and centered in peace.

Images:

View from the shore of Hampton Bays, NY
Longing hands
Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island, NJ

NOTE:

This reflection was offered at the close of a guided retreat at St. Joseph’s Villa, Hampton Bays, NY, in August. Thank you for holding in your prayer all who were part of the retreat week.
After taking a break in August for my own time of quiet and healing, I’m back to blogging on Mining the Now this September. Thanks for returning!

Please remember in prayer those who will participate in a retreat day for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Scranton, PA, September 9. Thank you!

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Learning to Fall

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM,  July 29, 2017

There seems to be an almost limitless list of ways to fall in this world. We fall for someone as we fall head over heels in love. We fall ill, we fall flat, we fall back and fall away. We fall down on the job and we fall under another’s influence. There is the falling star Perry Como sang about catching, and the falling upward Richard Rohr references for the second half of life. Water falls. Leaves fall. We even have a season we call “fall.”

Last week I was at a christening for my grandnephew, followed by a barbecue at a local state park. Gathered with three generations of family and friends, I began to reflect on falling while watching my fourteen-month-old grandniece delight in the wide open space of the park and the reality that her little legs could take her anywhere. Now with several months of newly learned walking under her belt, she would run, then trip, then fallingtoddlerwalkingbyherself copyoccasionally fall, all with seemingly equal delight and absent of any caution or fear. At the same time I looked at the two generations of adults gathered and reflected that, for many of us, falling meant something entirely different. Seasoned by the reality that what we have in this moment could disappear in another, tempered by our own experiences of letting go, we regarded falling as an experience that might more often result in injury, limitation, perhaps an unplanned or dreaded change in independence and lifestyle.

But the falling that interests me most at this time in my life is what Philip Simmons writes about in Learning to Fall, the Blessings of an Imperfect Life. I’ve read and savored this book, quoted from it and recommended it many times when leading a retreat or giving a presentation.

Simmons was 35 years old, married and the father of two small children, when he was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given less than five years to live. In the face of his prognosis, he composed, with profound wisdom and without a shred of self-pity, twelve essays that speak to the mystery of life, the joy to be savored, the mud seasons, the lessons that await us at every turn in the road.

Learning to Fall speaks on one level to Simmons’ need to learn how to fall correctly so as not to further injure himself as his balance and mobility decreased. But the title of the book has a larger purpose, one that includes all of us with our own concerns, needs, and sensibilities. We bring all of who we are, Simmons writes, “to the work of learning to live richly in the face of loss—work that I call ‘learning to fall.’”

Learning to fall in this sense is something my little grandniece has not yet experienced, but in the course of her lifetime, she, like the rest of us, will not escape this challenge. The challenge to embrace all of our world, the world as it is and the world as it could be. A world with its madness and mayhem, but also its music. A world both beautiful and broken, at one and the same time full of wonder and marked by wounds.

This learning to fall, learning to live richly in the face of loss, invites us into reflection. How not to run from grief and farewell, limitation and diminishment, loneliness, the painful ending of relationships and the leave-taking of those most precious to us, but falling leaf singleinstead to listen to it, sit with it, sift through and discern its meaning. How to let go, let be, and let grow. How to become practiced and conscious of the art of both living and dying. How to learn from this most unpopular teacher the way to integrate all of our life experiences–the coming to birth and the fading away, the joyful embrace and the painful parting–into the person we continue to become. To mine our losses is to fall into a wholeness, richness, and depth we often can’t envision in our most painful hours.

However our lives unfold, may we all become highly practiced in the art of learning to live richly in the face of loss. May we come to see our flawed and imperfect and profoundly beautiful lives as the blessing they truly are. May the Holy One who never abandons accompany us in our falling.

Takeaway

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind a loss or letting go of the past year.
Reflect on the learnings that have come to you through this experience.
Hold in tenderness and prayer all those in our world whose wounds may be fresher than yours.
Offer a prayer or gesture of gratitude for your learnings.

NOTE:

During the month of August, I’m taking time away for my own retreat, some vacation, and also to continue mining my own learnings from a recent fall that fractured my ankle, sternum, and rib.  EPSON MFP image

I won’t be posting any new blogs during August but will resume posting again in September.  

In the meantime, please hold in your prayer my next guided retreat, “Bearing Witness to the Holy,” that I’ll be offering for the Sisters of St. Joseph (Brentwood, NY) August 19-25 in Hampton Bays, NY.

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Chris Koellhoffer

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A Lifetime Learning

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, July 16, 2017

Have you heard of the school no one ever wants to attend? A school with no fixed geographic location, no waiting list, no prospective students clamoring for admission. And yet it’s a school in which we will most probably find ourselves unexpectedly registered at some time in our lives, usually not by choice.schoolbrokenheart copy

It’s the school of the wounded, the scarred, the broken, and the bruised. The school of loss, and limitation, and diminishment. And it appears that, for all who share our human condition, there are some lessons which can be learned only through attendance here.

I found myself enrolled in this school last week. In the midst of a full summer calendar of offering directed and guided retreats, I fractured my ankle as I grabbed a wooden chair and tried unsuccessfully to save myself from falling. Surprisingly, it’s not so much the broken bone that demands my attention; it’s the soreness and the swelling bruises on my side that cause me to cry out every time I make the slightest unconscious movement. I’m in the school of the temporarily bruised and I’m quickly learning a deepened awareness of my body and its limitations. In this school, I’m also remembering the wisdom of Pema Chodron: “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we needed to know.”

Bones can mend. Bruises can fade. What often takes longer, sometimes a lifetime, to heal are the emotional and psychological wounds, the profound inner brokenness, the shame carried in secret and deeply buried or known only to ourselves.

Yet even that unwelcome suffering can be a teacher, according to Rabbi Rami Shapiro. In Connection, the Newsletter of Spiritual Directors International, he writes:  “It is when we are most broken that we become the most loving. When we are stripped of all we pretend to know; when our masks are torn from our faces; when our stories are ripped from our grasp; when the self we imagine ourselves to be is shattered; and when we are left with nothing to hold on to and nothing to hide behind; then we find the searing love of the Divine burning through us, melting the wax of ego, consuming the wick of self, and using the hope and horror of our lives to illumine the world.”

In the Gospels we find a parade of characters human and flawed who graduated from this school and who illumine the way forward: Matthew, the tax collector, with his unsavory reputation; Peter caught in his denial of Jesus by a maid; the disciples abandoning their crucified friend; and on and on. Their limitations can embolden us to bring our bruised hearts to Jesus and know ourselves welcome in his presence. After all, we might reason, if people like this could sit in the company of Jesus, there must surely be a place at the table for us as well.

What if the very limitations we struggle with, coupled with our efforts to follow Jesus, offer that same hope to us? What if, instead of hiding our wounds, we put them at the service of others? What if we refused to be dismayed by our own personal brokenness and the collective fragmentation of our world? What if we lived in the school of the human condition reflecting Nisha Moodley’s assertion that,

“I am no longer interested in becoming unbreakable.
I am interested in shattering with grace and courage,
and making art of all the broken pieces.”

Takeaway

For what scars or bruises of your body do you seek healing?
What are the wounds of our world you’re most drawn to tend and mend?
What art do you hope to make of all the broken pieces?
Spend some time seeking healing in the heart of the Holy One.

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayerful support of all who were part of the guided retreat for Sisters, “Our Work Is Loving the World,” at St. Francis Center for Renewal, Bethlehem, PA, last week. 

Please hold in your prayer now those who are participating in the directed retreat at St. Mary by-the-Sea, Cape May Point, NJ, which begins tomorrow. Many thanks! 

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Making a Mark

 

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, July 2, 2017

One of the deep desires of the human heart is to live a life that matters, that makes a difference. The prophet John the Baptist came into this world with all the signs and portents pointing to a life of that kind of significance. He was called from birth from his mother’s womb. He was a messenger. An announcer. A shining light.

And then in Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:57-66, 80), there’s the mysterious choice of a name for this baby. Not named after any of his ancestors, or after his father, Zechariah, as was the custom. Without talking to each other, both of his parents were mysteriously inspired to choose the name, John.

There’s also the question which parents everywhere must wonder at the birth of a baby: “What will this child turn out to be?”

diverse worldIt occurs to me that, although the circumstances of birth are different, the call of John the Baptist is not so far from our own. John spent his life announcing and pointing the way to Jesus. Isn’t that exactly what our lives are meant to do? To bear witness to the Holy One?

John the Baptist was a witness. We also are witnesses. We might reflect on our own lives in light of Webster’s definition of the word, “witness”:

As a noun, witness: A person who has seen or was present at an event and so has direct knowledge of it. A person who gives evidence.

As a verb, to witness: To see and be present at. To sign one’s name to attest that something is genuine.

Perhaps you, like me, have had the experience of entering a search word or phrase in Google and discovering much more than just the original search. Perhaps, like me, you sometimes take a detour and end up following a trail apart from your original quest. So when I Googled “witness” I also discovered the term, “Witness Mark,” and I wondered what that could be.

It turns out a Witness Mark is a line or small notch left during machine or hand work. Think of the signs of attention or work done on an antique clock when it’s serviced or clockface copycleaned. The person doing that work leaves a mark on the surface of the clock to indicate that he/she has been there, that he or she’s done work and left a body of evidence. The witness mark makes it possible for one craftsperson to follow after another, to see the path they’ve taken, and to continue and carry on their work.

So on the birthday of John the Baptist, we might ask: what about us? What is our witness mark? What is the mark we wish to leave on our beautiful, yet wounded world? The mark we wish to make as evidence of a life pointing to Jesus and given over in love and tenderness?

Pope Francis wasn’t writing specifically about a witness mark but he might have been when he observed, “One cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.” A life that has left a mark for all that come after. A life that gives evidence, that shows the way forward by revealing the graced story of the past.

To bear witness is to point by one’s very existence to the presence of the Holy among us. Today, John the Baptist asks us: How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we acquire his consciousness? How do we see through his eyes? Feel through his heart? How do we respond to the world with his wholeness and healing love?

Bearing witness is underscored in every reference to John the Baptist. Bearing witness is also our call. Like John, may our hearts grow in graciousness and openness. May all that we’re about today and in the days ahead bear witness to the tender Presence that transforms us and changes our beautiful, yet wounded world.

Takeaway

How do you make a difference in your family, neighborhood, community, world?

Where and in what ways do you desire to leave a witness mark?

Ask our loving God to bring that desire to fulfillment in you for the life of the world.

NOTE:

Thank you for your prayerful support of the directed retreat at St. Mary by-the-Sea in Cape May Point, NJ, where this reflection was offered on the feast of the nativity of  John the Baptist. Deep gratitude to Joan Dollinger and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia for welcoming all of us into this sacred space.

Please now hold in your prayer all who will be part of a guided retreat, “Our Work Is Loving the World,” which I’ll be offering for Women Religious at the Franciscan Renewal Center, Bethlehem, PA, July 2-7. Many thanks!

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Try a Little Tenderness

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, June 4, 2017

Yes, tenderness.  On this feast of Pentecost, when a torrent of languages is being spoken and shouted, when a mighty wind is howling through every inch of a house, when fiery tongues appear over the heads of a community, there is also in John’s Gospel (20:19-23), the quiet appearance and tender care of the risen Jesus.

When the disciples are huddled in fear in a locked room, Jesus demonstrates another dimension of the presence of Spirit.  He simply appears among his friends, breathes out peace, and shows them the sign of his wounded hands and side. His gentle entrance and breathprayer evoke the image of Isaiah’s suffering servant (Isaiah 54). Clearly, Jesus recognizes how fragile, how despairing, and how beaten down are the hopes of the paralyzed and cowering disciples.  He is full of tenderness for all that is wounded and broken among them, and so he will not break a reed that is already bent.  He will not snuff out a lamp whose flame is already flickering. Whatever he says and does will be marked by a profound tenderness.

The American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan defined healthy adult maturity as “aWaitingcouplewithwheelchair copy state in which tenderness prevails.”  A state in which tenderness prevails.  What a helpful yardstick in reflecting on our own lives and actions in this Pentecost season and asking, “Does tenderness prevail in me?”

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis makes the case for a tender, welcoming heart.  In describing a parish, he writes, “The parish is the presence of God in a given territory.  The parish is a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey.” (#28)

Try re-reading those words and substituting “community” or “family” for “parish.” Then ask yourself: How am I, how are we the presence of God in our corner of the world?  How am I, how are we a sanctuary, a safe, welcoming, and hospitable heart? For what do we thirst, and how are we ministering and reaching out to give drink to  others who also long for the Holy One?

Brian Doyle, a gifted storyteller and editor of Portland magazine, wrote in one of his articles of a conversation with his 90-year-old mother.  He was concerned about his daughter and her problems. He wanted to take charge of his daughter and fix everything.  His mother reminded him that, no matter how smart you are, you cannot fix anyone else.

And then she shared from her store of wisdom and experience.  Be tender, she told him.longinghand copy Everything else is a footnote. Be the conduit for love. Insist on love against all evidence. Tell your daughter you love her and repeat as often as necessary.

She might have been speaking to us as well. Be tender.  There’s just not enough tenderness in the world.  Be tender to all that is broken, fragile, and wounded in those you serve, and be tender towards yourself. Don’t beat yourself up with regrets in your inner monologue. Give yourself equal consideration, attentiveness, and compassion.

Think for a moment of how different our world might be if we “insisted on love against all evidence.”  If we told others they were loved and repeated those words as necessary.

In our very human lives, we are surrounded by the incomplete, the unfinished, the unresolved, the imperfect. When we experience the limits of the human condition in ourselves and others, may we also return to the witness of the risen Jesus. May we remember that evening on the first day of the week. May we breathe in the presence of Spirit. May we try a little tenderness.

Takeaway

Sit in stillness.
Imagine the risen Jesus entering any part of your life where you are held captive by fear, anxiety, despair.
Breathe in the tender welcome of his compassionate gaze.
Breathe in his loving presence.
Breathe in peace.
Rest in that moment as you go through the day and encounter others.

NOTE:  I’ll be grateful once again for your prayers, this time for all who will be part of my next guided retreat, “Bearing Witness to the Holy,” June 11-16, at The Welcoming Space at the IHM Center, Scranton. Thank you!

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Knowing Beyond Sight

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, May 21, 2017

When we love deeply, we recognize, even from a distance, what we’ve cherished and accompanied and brought to life in any way. This noticing is one of the spiritual practices we’re invited to cultivate and deepen in the everyday.

I’ve always suspected that parents, teachers, and guardians were already highly skilled in cultivating this ability to recognize and name.  When my nieces and nephews were young, I sometimes accompanied them and their mothers to a  park or play area. There I would witness an amazing feat: my sisters’ ability to pick out a single, unique, high-pitched cry from among hundreds of children at play, and say knowingly, without needing to look up, “Oh, that’s Kevin” or “Alex sounds like he’s having fun.”  So familiar and intimate was the bond between them and their little ones that sight was almost superfluous.  Without seeing, they could recognize their own flesh and blood, their profound life connections.

In the house where I live, as I’ve come to know my downstairs neighbors more deeply, I’ve simultaneously become a bit more practiced in the skill of recognizing them by voice and sound.  My neighbors on the first floor are residents of a group home sponsored by St. Joseph’s Center, which offers a variety of services including residential programs for adults diagnosed with intellectual disability. Though none of the young adult men downstairs can speak language as most of us know it, they certainly can communicate.  Through cries and other sounds, they talk and express their feelings to one another and to their aides.  Having lived on the second floor of the house for some time, I’ve grown in the intuitive skill that comes from a close journeying together: I can hear and recognize their cries of insistence or delight or attentiveness and name the persons who uttered those sounds, even without seeing them.

At this time of year, when part of the world is bursting with all things green and beautiful-trees-4 copygrowing, we may feel the stirrings of this practice of noticing taken to another level.  In the created world, we experience the embodiment of Rainer Marie Rilke’s comment that, “All things sing him; at times we just hear them more clearly.”

Isn’t all of the creative world singing the presence of the Holy?  We hear it in the plaintive call of a mourning dove and the full-throated cry of a cardinal in search of his mate.  We hear it in the rustle of a breeze caressing the birch and the maple tree. If it’s possible to smell a song, that’s exactly what we do when we bury our nose in the fragrance of honeysuckle on a warm July evening. It’s all of nature chanting, “God is here.  God is here.  God is here.”

Yes, God is here.  Our reality is that sometimes we don’t notice the presence of the Holy right here, right now.  But might we be somewhat consoled by how this intimacy or the absence of it plays out in the post-resurrection accounts?  We read in the Gospels of how at first there was a seeming blindness or deafness that got in the way of opening eyes and ears to the presence of the Risen One.  Certainly, overwhelming grief and loss can do that.  We see a weeping Magdalene mistaking Jesus for the gardener until he utters two familiar syllables: “Mary.”  We witness two broken-hearted disciples so deflated by the death of a dream that they walk an entire journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus oblivious to the presence of Jesus.  Only at the end of that trek do they notice a flicker of familiarity, leading them to insist their companion remain and break bread with them. In that most elemental of gestures, they recognize at last the presence of the risen Jesus.  Just so do we often wait and look and listen and come to know the face of the Holy among us.

Our world is filled with signposts pointing to the presence of God at work in every moment.  In our human condition, we may easily miss those appearances, so let’s try anew each day to enter into and live the words of the song,

“Without seeing you, we love you.  Without seeing you, we believe.”

May it be so!

Takeaway

Where do you most easily recognize and point to the presence of God in your everyday life?

Might there be persons or places or things that challenge you to believe that God is present?

Spend some time in quiet and share your reflection during an Emmaus Walk with Jesus, a conversation about what is unfolding in your life. Listen more than you speak.

NOTE:

My deep thanks for your support of all who were part of the Directed Prayer Weekend at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA this week.  Special thanks to Brother Chris Derby, SJ and the staff of the Center for creating a spaciousness of silence and spirit that welcomed all of us.

 

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