I’m starting a work week, and I hope there will be something special about the week. “Special” could happen unexpectedly, but often enough it means I have to create “special.” One way is to change my vision. An experiment I participated in recently proves this point. The audience was asked to introduce themselves to someone nearby. We spoke in rather quiet tones about our names, jobs, residence. Next we were asked to pretend this same person was a very good friend not seen for ten years. The volume dramatically increased, handshakes became hugs, smiles and laughter abounded. The difference? Our vision. We first viewed the person as an acquaintance and then as a friend. I can take this same change in vision into my work week. I can envision the day as ho-hum and boring, or I can anticipate surprise and newness. I can plan to make it special with little shocks of happiness: a treat for coworkers, a note of gratitude, an act of kindness, a display of concern. Set your sights on beauty and goodness. Create a day that doesn’t disappoint.
To some today, especially youth, many things have a one-year shelf life. Some need a new phone every year, for example, and the weekly “Business” section of the newspaper touts new brands and styles that suggest any former model is obsolete. Clothes hang idly in closets for fear someone saw us in the outfit last year. Apparently stability has become a relic from a past age.
Freedom, civil rights, debate, compromise, equality, pursuit of happiness, honesty seem to have had their shelf-life. Today’s style tends toward –isms that divide, cheap talk, off-the-cuff remarks, divisions. Are we developing a culture based on a lack commitment, because there’s no foundation in stability?
Shelf-life seems to be a by-product of secularization that forgets the spiritual dimension and historical meaning. Our shelf-life mentality is a form of amnesia. We forget the most important things in life have longevity and history. We fail to cultivate the memories, and in the process we lose our identity.
How can we respond to this phenomenon? First, keep community a priority. Give your ego and individual preferences a rest. As you pray, gather humanity into one Spirit, and remember you are part of the Body of Christ. Second, remember important traditions, as well as our Church’s Tradition and our nation’s tradition. Don’t let our Church’s and our nation’s best memories fade. Third, consciously make daily decisions that promote the best in yourself and in others. Don’t wait. You, too, have a shelf-life.
Recently four Sisters of Notre Dame from Germany visited our Sisters in the Toledo area. On their last evening before traveling on to the Cleveland area the sisters had dinner at one of the Sisters’ homes. The pork loin meal ended with raspberry pie. Although some of the German sisters spoke English, “pie” was not only a new word, but a new experience. This delectable dessert was a tasty way to learn what pie is, and I’m wondering whether the convents in Germany will try to create American pie.
Jesus didn’t talk about pie, but he relied on concrete words to teach spiritual things. Treasure. Wheat. Weeds. Seeds. Farmer. Pearls. Merchant. Coins. Like pie, these things are tangible, part of the experience of his listeners. Those of us who have opportunities to share our faith need to be as concrete as Jesus. Plain words. To-the-point messages. Succinctness. And just as Jesus’ medium and message created desire for more, we too need to make the message of Jesus desirable. How can we create the desire for more? How can we make following Christ delectable?
August is here, time of ripeness, time of fullness, time of fulfillment. Plump red orbs on tomato vines. Bushels of zucchini. (“Please take some off my hands.”) Buttered sweet corn crackling under eager bites. Watermelon juice sticky on face and fingers. (“Anyone for a seed-spitting contest?”) Ripening peaches. Fresh cherries. Succulent, taste bud-tempting, glorious August–the most delectable month of the year!
Why wait for the harvest tunes of Thanksgiving to praise God for his bounteous creation? Bite into a psalm of praise today, and let the melody drip down your chin.
The morning after a nighttime rain each leaf of a pin oak tree held a teardrop at its tip. The tree had become a chandelier of droplets. Often we think of rain in negative terms, such as “It’s raining on our picnic.” But there can be beauty after the rain. If today has “rain on your picnic,” look for the crystal chandelier.
During my annual retreat I started each day by taking a cup of coffee with me to the edge of a lake where I would sit for a while in reflective silence. One morning without any previous thought I lifted my cup and said “Cheers!” to God. Simultaneously I sensed God saying “Cheers!” to me. We both laughed. I then sipped my coffee imagining God sitting with me, both of us enjoying the morning and our daily brew. Many prayers, especially psalms, give praise to God. They are like offering a toast to God. That morning God also toasted me.
Just six months until Christmas Eve! Have you started your shopping? Today’s feast on the Church calendar is a solemnity—the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. John was the precursor of Jesus, the Messiah, so today looks toward the birth of Jesus. Today’s feast and Christmas were selected for their proximity to the solstice—summer and winter, times when we note the amount of light. John was the light illuminating the path to Jesus, and Jesus is the Light of the world. Be a light today shining on the path to Jesus.
In 1969 the three branches of the Sisters of Notre Dame celebrated the canonization of Julie Billiart. Some attended the ceremony in Rome, while the majority had celebrations at home. Our Toledo province gave a concert that day, singing the biography of Julie and the history of Notre Dame. Even though Julie suffered much from paralysis and persecution, she is called the “smiling saint.” Honor St. Julie today by extra smiles and a prayer asking God for Julie’s deep experience of God’s unconditional love.
The window in the Lial Renewal Center chapel allows the worshipers to see the outdoors though not distinctly. Much of the window is a large yellow circle that seems to embrace the outdoors, signaling “Come in! Come in!” And at the very center of the yellow circle is the tabernacle, miraculously containing the Lord of the Universe. The chapel window is a visual image of what our fidelity to our life of chastity calls us to realize; namely, that we love all creation in God–the heron flying over the lake, peonies and violets, grapes on the vine, leaves rustling in the breeze. In his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, Paul tells us that God is in everything. Ever since the Ascension of Jesus into heaven we live in a God-filled world. God and Nature: inseparable Beauty. In Christ we love all creation in God.
Today is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron of youth. On this day we also remember the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring, who took Saint Aloysius as her patron. His patronage was a good choice, because Sister Maria Aloysia spent her religious life teaching children and taking care of orphans. Let us pray today for youth that they may be kept safe through the summer months, that they grow in virtue, spend time in service and good deeds, and remember their friendship with God. May each day fill our children with joyous wonder!