Weekly Word

Blog by
Sister Anne Lythgoe


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
— Mary Oliver, Thirst

Praying. I’m so relieved to know it is not a competition. Honestly, much of my early Dominican life was lived in fear that I was a fraud, a pretender, a scam artist thinking that somehow I was not prayerful as my sisters were. Always worried that my secret would be discovered and that I did not really know how to pray. I found it difficult to relate to the Divine Office, the rosary, and other recitative methods. Sitting in quiet made me anxious, thinking I should be having holy thoughts. But frequently I came up empty. I drew a blank when trying to practice contemplation.

Then, I started to pay attention. The psalms became a doorway to see God in nature, in the grandeur of mountains, in humble birds who need not worry about what to eat. Jesus’ reassurance that God provides.

One day, while sitting under a tree on the motherhouse grounds on a beautiful sunny day, as I found a moment of stillness, a baby deer came up behind me. I think she did not notice me at first. And suddenly we just encountered each other, quietly pausing to acknowledge each other’s presence. It was a deeply personal visitation as if that sweet creature was sent to me. Just to me. And I heard God say, “ I’m right here”.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention,

I had no words that day. Not that I came up empty, no, it was more that I was full. Words were not possible and not even necessary, it was a silence in which another voice may speak.

I have come to know – through a very patient spiritual director over many years — that much of prayer is silence. It’s waiting quietly in the midst of all the noise and activity that surrounds me, waiting for the deer to show herself again and I wait to hear God say, “I’m right here”. I try to pay attention still and move through the doorway into thanks.

Posted in Weekly Word

7 responses to “Weekly Word

  1. Sister Anne,
    I truly loved this article, totally identifying with your early prayer challenges. I will take your wisdom and focus on paying attention and being silent. I will listen for the other voice as Mary Oliver suggests.

  2. Anne, the light sound you heard in the distance was the sound of silent clapping in response to your blog,,,from several, and perhaps many, who have also felt the feelings you expressed, and the relief once they “got” the good news…. Thanks for also hearing Mary Oliver write: Pay attention….Be astonished…..Tell about it. !
    Peace, Kay

  3. Thanks, Anne. I recognize your experience of God’s voice as similar to mine. It wasn’t a deer though; it was being present and witnessing the birth of of one of my dear nieces taking her first breath outside her mother’s womb. Thanks, Anne for your sharing.

  4. Anne, I just read your blog. It put words around the experience I am having now here at Villa Maria on retreat. Thank you and Mary Oliver for your gift of words.

  5. Thanks so much, Anne! What a beautiful and moving reflection! (And I love Mary Oliver’s poem: “The Blue Iris”, which I first encountered on my 30-Day Retreat.)



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