The Gift of a Slower Pace

The Gift of a Slower Pace

Of course there was some stress involved, but the school year ended with fairly little fanfare and at a much slower pace than usual. No massive liturgies to plan for hundreds of people, no finals to prepare, no feeling like everything needs to happen right now. I fully understand that this pandemic is causing suffering for many people, but I can’t help but consider the blessings found in the midst of the difficulties.

For a variety of reasons, this school year was difficult in different ways. I found myself stressed and in continual need of a break. Many life-giving things were happening in my life, yet the breaks from school were never long enough, the time to relax never quite rejuvenating enough, my grasp on responsibilities never quite firm enough. After overcoming the initial stress of the transition, I slid into an indefinite period of teaching from home….relieved.

The time gave me the gift of reading a little more, enjoying the comforts of home much more, and the unchosen halt of many ministries. Things I could never say “no” to before (and I don’t generally have a problem saying no), like some work responsibilities, and things I enjoy, like prison ministry, were suddenly over or put on a long pause. While there was a sadness in missing some things, I mostly found the break to be good for me. And as a definite introvert, I was really okay with hours spent alone at home. With nine weeks of teaching from home wrapping up, I can honestly say I never got very sick of being at home. Sometimes staring at a computer screen was painful or the endless assignments that needed grading were unwelcomed. Despite all of that, the pandemic provided the opportunity to come up for a breath of much needed air.

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The Beauty of a Child’s Prayer

The Beauty of a Child’s Prayer

“Do you mind if we stop at the church for a couple of minutes?” I asked my nephew.
“Why?”
“To say hi to Jesus.” He said nothing. “Do you?” I said as I turned on my blinker. I asked again as I pulled into the parking lot. He remained silent.

We walked into the sanctuary, the heavy fragrance of incense making me close my eyes and breath deeply. For a few minutes, we knelt and then sat back in the pew. It was completely quiet and empty. The stillness in striking contrast with the usual full bustle of a Sunday morning Mass.

I turned to say something to my nephew and saw that he sat there with eyes closed and hands folded. And so I waited in the weight of silence until he suddenly turned to me and asked if we could go.

We spoke for a little bit about the silence, spent some time reading about St. John the Beloved on his feast day, and then I asked if we could pray for a friend of mine who was suffering from an illness that was lasting years. It was her birthday and she was on my heart and mind throughout the day. So I offered a brief intention for her and my sister before asking if he had anything to add.

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A Country Heart

I’m fairly convinced that my little heart would shrivel a bit if forced to reside in a major city.  I could do it, mind you, because I’m stubborn and (I like to think) tough.  However, it would be difficult.  Recently I made the move from my beloved parents’ farm to the “big city” of 150,000.  Today, as I sat in traffic caused by a train I had a couple thoughts.

1. It is nice to see these tracks actually being used for a train.  I miss the train tracks that run by my home in the country.
2. Lord, I could never live in a big city for too long.  Or if I did, my heart would ache a bit and feel a little restricted.

I’ve been to big cities–New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Rome, Madrid–but I think it would take a lot to be at home in one.  The novelty would eventually wear off and I wonder if I would just walk around with an extra weight on my shoulders.

Freshman year of college I found myself on the phone with my parents telling them that there were people everywhere.  I went to a school boasting about 2500 students but I felt that wherever I turned there were people.  My room was no longer a quiet sanctuary and I couldn’t think of one place where I could go and be alone.  It was a frightening prospect to an introvert.  Even as I got used to the people that surrounded me, there were a couple times when I wanted to just go be by myself.  Whether it was to have a good cry (and not have to explain why–can’t we just feel like crying sometimes?) or to just let down all of my defenses, I longed for a quiet place of my own.  I was used to being in the country.  My summer days were isolated from the rest of the world with only my sisters, a TV, a stack of books, and the great outdoors to occupy my hours.  In the country, if you want to be alone you have so many options to choose from.  You can even walk down a road and not encounter any people for quite a while.  It was a haven from the rest of the world and I loved it.

Now I find myself driving home most weekends and relishing the sight of stores fading away, houses fading away, and finally paved roads fading away.  Then I will turn off my car and hear…nothing.  The beautiful sound of silence that is deep and hearty.  I can go to my favorite window in the house and gaze down at the surrounding countryside.  The creek that forms a frozen bridge to the pastureland and a sprinkling of trees that provide refuge for the wildlife.  If you ignore the lone white house on the hill and the power lines, you could feel like you are all alone for miles and miles.  That, my friend, is a very good feeling.

I’m a country girl at heart.  My soul is rooted in simplicity and silence.  The concrete jungle isn’t really my thing and house after house isn’t the landscape I long for.  All of this leads me to conclude (obviously) that Heaven, while being a great communion, must also be filled with deep silence and that beautiful feeling of being alone.  I’m not quite sure how it works, but I look forward to finding out.