Last Advent I went on a small “retreat” where there were poems and reflections I read every day, and then I’d chat with a religious sister on the phone every evening.
I think the point was to be like, “Hmmm, I could be a religious sister if I wanted!” but, that isn’t exactly a path I’m pursuing at this moment, so instead we just chatted about poetry and poverty and the coming baby Jesus and it was quite lovely, actually.
One thing I loved contemplating was this concept of baby Jesus growing inside of Mary in silence, in darkness, like a seed. We talked about it for some time, the religious sister and I, as I talked about dreams I had and plans for the future.
When I visited Coloradah, Father Ryan remembered the time he was in Australia (which was, coincidentally, the same time I was in Australia. We never saw each other, but we both saw the Pope, which is way better anyway). Father Ryan was still young (still is, I guess), in the crowds and crowds of hundreds of thousands of young people. He remembered a saying that deeply impacted him, though, from the good bishop of Australia who commented that a single decision was better than a thousand options.
In other words: commitments can set us free. You see: commitment to dedicate our lives, energy, virtue, and growth to a greater cause will direct us. Whereas floating around, waiting for things to happen will keep us idle and distracted.
You all know I’ve been reading the pope’s Apostolic Exhortation for months now. Paragraph at a time, no judging. 🙂 My copy is full of underlines, hearts, stars and other girlie paraphernalia. This is what I drew a cyan box around yesterday:
Realities are greater than ideas.
That really struck me.
Actions matter–for us, for our communities, our world. Sometimes it’s not just the thought that counts, it’s the follow-through, the rolling-up-of-sleeves that ends up costing a bit more than you thought you could give.
As the ladies I used to work with would say: “Mmm, mmmm, mmm.”
A few months ago I drew this picture at Hanna’s art night. Well, drew and paper-cut and painted, I guess.
It’s Mary and Elizabeth, a relationship I’ve been contemplating since last Advent retreat. Mary and Elizabeth were silently GROWING MEN WHO WOULD CHANGE THE WORLD. And no one knew. No one had any idea, just them. And the growth happened slowly, silently, in darkness.
I painted the colors using Hanna’s paints, so they ended up more in her color scheme than the one I tend to favor, which was interesting in itself. The two women are together, living, loving, changing and being changed together, at night and under the stars. They’re together, too. Want to know a new line from the mass I’ve been loving? When the priest thanks God for giving us the bread and the wine and the “friends with whom to share them.” Every time he says that I look about and smile because: it’s such a gift.
(Update from a reader who was like, yo, those aren’t legit mass-words. Apparently they’re not. I am sorry to have taken you down this shaky road with me. Forgiveness, por favor).
I also painted and papercut some sunflowers, but they’re at different stages of growth: some just seeds, others stalks, others fully-flowered, as a sign that all are valuable steps in a process.
And, at the bottom, the faint words, “Hope and love silently grow.”
I wrote those thinking about my own dreams, really, but then Hanna pointed out, “Oh, and St. John the Baptist is hope and Jesus is love, right?”
And I was like, “Yes, I guess you’re right.”
Then I was like, “Wait, sunflowers don’t open at night, do they? They follow the sun.”
“Maybe they’re following the Son,” Hanna said, “Jesus is right there.”
“Oh,” I said, “maybe they are.”
So I left them that way. And I keep thinking about silent dreams, ideas…and realities.
God, grant us the courage.
(I note I ask for the courage, not for the provision, for His provision is always generous and guaranteed).