When my parents got impatient with us kids for our loudness or rowdiness, after some futile attempts to curb our outbursts, they would say, “Enough is enough.” That was more than just a hint to be quiet. We were being taught to be content with less rambunctiousness. We heard,” Enough is enough” again when we wanted more cookies.

Recently in her book Radical Spirit, a book discussing humility, Joan Chittister wrote ‘Develop a sense of enoughness’ in the chapter titled “Be Content with Less Than the Best.” Having only enough can be humbling. Perhaps we have enough clothes, but not the latest styles. Sufficient food is on the table, but the fare is quite simple. Unemployment, failure, aging may bring embarrassment, even hardship.  We may want to cry in frustration, “God, this is enough! Enough is enough.” Then we may hear a whispering of divine words in our heart, “I have given you enough, and enough is enough.”

Most of us probably lead very ordinary lives. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever get the proverbial “15 minutes of fame.” But let’s look at our day.  Our 16+ hours of waking time contain at least 64 15-minute slots. Slots for work, slots for family, slots for conversation, slots for prayer, slots for meals, slots for leisure. Now pick a slot—any slot. Did you fill that slot for something or someone? Did you invest yourself for the good of others? Did that task make the world–or some little corner of it–a better place? Did your prayer nudge a mountain? Did your compassion bring a tear to someone’s eye? When we do anything for someone or something outside ourselves, we are not leading just an ordinary life. We are giving ourselves. And when we read in Scripture about giving a cup of cold water, that’s all the fame we need. Our deeds are written in heaven.

Not having a job with compensation puts me in a similar quandary with those across the country who were suddenly unemployed early in the pandemic. My prospects for ministry are many, but remuneration is not promising. Now I am trying to set up grief support groups in a parish. Although there’s ache in not being employed, I know that ministering to others, trying to be Jesus Christ to them, is more important. I am privileged to live the life of Jesus. Mother Teresa said, “Jesus is the Life to be Lived.” So, I am determined to live my life to the best of my ability each day. In doing so, I will be Jesus Christ, who is the Life to be lived. May your days be filled with the same grace! LIVE JESUS!

I enjoy work—at least most of the time. The enjoyment—actually, the joy—stems from performing the task my way. By “my way” I mean creatively. I love thinking of different ways to perform a task. In how many ways can I dust a room? Does polishing a shoe have to start at the toe? Does a towel folded in thirds look better than one folded in half? In which direction shall I mow the lawn today? Can I find another use for zucchini?

I have little time or talent for the tasks most often called “creative” like art, music, writing, decorating, and the like. Thus, work fills my need for creative outlet. I enjoy creating different ways to achieve the same end. I look upon a kitchen I just cleaned or a lawn I just mowed and see my stamp upon it. Work leaves me with a satisfying feeling. In a tiny way I feel the joy of the artist who writes his/her name on the canvas or composition. Although I don’t leave my initials, I’ve left my mark—and that’s joy for me.

Recently I obtained the book The Moment of Tenderness, a collection of Madeleine L’Engle’s stories. Somewhat chronologically arranged, they show L’Engle’s development as a writer who ultimately wrote 60 books including her classic A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine’s soul rises out of these stories that could be used as studies in psychology. In “The Birthday” we see little Madeleine’s confidence arising from knowing she is someone’s child. We glimpse her introversion in “The Mountains Shall Stand Forever.” Perhaps her moral development is seen in “Summer Camp.” 

I have always felt a kinship with Madeleine L’Engle. In her book Walking on Water she writes “The writer does want to be published. . . . Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been still born. . . So there is no evading the fact that the artist yearns for ‘success,’ because that means that there has been a communication of the vision that all the struggle has not been invalid.” My writing will never make the best seller list, and I am not putting myself in the same category as the phenomenal Madeleine L’Engle. But I still have a sense that on some mystical level we are soul friends. We just haven’t met.

Richard Rohr claims in The Naked Now that God seems to be “totally into change.” In elementary school I learned that God was immutable, and I understood that big word to mean that God will never, ever change. God couldn’t change, because God was perfect. How could someone be improved who was already 100%? Now in my adult life having read books by Teilhard de Chardin and having attended presentations by Ilio Delio and others expounding on evolution and the discoveries of cosmologists, I understand (as much as God can be understood) that God is changing.

The pandemic has been changing everything over the past several months—individuals, communities, the whole world. The times are calling us to greatness. Great people adjust to life’s changing demands. Being patient in uncertainty and adapting to each new guideline calls for greatness. It’s the change that can help us become more like God. We’re all in this together—with God!

Do you remember your tenth birthday? Didn’t you feel special to have a two-digit number? My tenth birthday coincided with the wedding of an aunt, and I recall telling my cousins, “It’s my birthday! I’m ten!” Twenty was special, too, but each succeeding decade less glorious. Well, another birthday ending in zero is coming soon, so guess what I’m reading. Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully. The chapter titles fit: Letting Go, Ageism, Wisdom, Legacy, Memories, and so on. While never reading the last chapter first, I allowed myself the last sentence in the epilogue fittingly titled “The Twilight Time.”  It read: “Now it is finished.  Now it is only beginning.” The author sees so many possibilities and blessings in growing older, that I’m looking forward to the next zero. Her wisdom runs deep. One message running across the pages is to let go. Good advice. As Richard Rohr writes in The Naked Now, “All great spirituality is somehow about letting go.” The zero is my birthday present—a constant reminder let go, to spend a new decade emptying myself of myself.

I have a large picture of “The Windsock Visitation,” a copy of the one painted by Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath. From the instant I saw the painting, it spoke to me of the deep soul-to-soul friendship between Elizabeth and Mary. The energy of the Holy Spirit surrounds the cousins, uniting them in joyous ecstasy. Their delight emerged not so much from the family reunion, but from souls magnifying the Lord who had done great things in them.  Holy be His name!

It was only recently when I discovered the book This Little Light: Lessons in Living from Sister Thea Bowman written and illustrated by Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath that I learned how the painting came to be. Brother Mickey (as he is called) visited the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, who traded their “cozy comforts of the academies” to live among the poor. A windsock was hung outside the monastery on days children could come for after-school care and playtime. A German Renaissance picture of the Visitation hung in the monastery clashing with modern times and the neighborhood. Brother Mickey was commissioned to paint an “Afro-centric rendition of this timeless mystery.”  On the day of the unveiling the children were told the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. They heard that everyone needs an Elizabeth, someone to tell them that “it’s gonna be all right, stop being afraid, God is here, so just keep on stepping.” That’s the message behind Sister Thea Bowman’s life and the insightful homespun paintings. May you discover the book, and I pray that you have an Elizabeth soul friend, too.

The feast of Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, is July 31. You’re probably familiar with his phrase “for the greater honor and glory of God.” Service of God and God’s glory, empowered by surrender to God’s will, animated all Ignatius’ endeavors. His famous prayer is one of total surrender: “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will. . . . All I have is yours.  Dispose of it, wholly according to your will.” Could I pray such a prayer and mean it? Take my memory, my understanding? Would I want such a prayer to be answered? What motivated Ignatius to pray such a prayer? Assuredly it came from his close following of Jesus who prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done” in his agony in the garden. In Gethsemane Jesus was so terribly afraid that an angel came to strengthen him, and “his sweat became like drops of blood.” Courageously Jesus surrendered himself totally: “Yet not my will but Yours be done.” Whether a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) or not, we are challenged to pray the scary prayers prayed by Ignatius and Jesus.

You’ve probably seen “Christmas in July” sales and Christmas programs on the Hallmark channel in July. It seems rather gimmicky to me, but as a liturgist, I know that every day is everything.  Every day is Christmas. Every day is Easter. Every day is Good Friday and Ascension and Pentecost and everything else. How so? No matter the day on the calendar, liturgy celebrates the whole reality of Christ’s life—his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, sending His Spirit, and everything in between. Although the Church doesn’t sing “Silent Night” in July, the reality of the Incarnation is celebrated 365 days of the year. The first instant of creation, which some call the Big Bang, was for the purpose of the Incarnation. Then 14.7 billion years later when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Incarnate Word was laid in a manger. And someday at the end of the world, the Second Coming will complete the Incarnation when all creation will be one with its Creator. What a Christmas that will be!