Belonging Even If It Only Lasts a Week

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

If you asked me how I spent my summer vacation, I would talk about it for an hour nonstop. But I’m sure you could use that hour on something else.

As most of you know I have been an aspiring potter for over 20 years and have gained a certain expertise and quality to my work. In order to learn more technique and have the chance to talk to other potters, I spent a week at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.  It is an exceptionally good school and students come from all over the USA to attend.

To say I learned a lot would be an understatement, I think, and I hope the experience will change the direction of my work, the look and feel of what I make.  Stay tuned.

But just as important, perhaps more importantly, I came away with a deeper appreciation for the nature of community and a sense of belonging to something larger than myself, larger than my own work. Spending a week with other potters and other art makers expanded my sense of forming community, even for a short time to explore a common language and passion for making art. Folks there knew what I meant when I said that I fire in a cone 6 oxidation and that I wanted to learn how to dart and alter my work.  They got it, and I got them when they talked about underglazes, clay’s joys, its frustrations, risks, and rewards.

The point is that we all belong to something, someone, and someplace. Belonging is a complex but basic human need and desire. Belonging to someone or something gives us a place in the world. Belonging is a desire to be one with another, to bond, to bear one another’s burdens and share each other’s joys. It is shared meaning, shared language, and shared hope. It is crossing a boundary and finding a home.

Belonging is a fundamental human need and emotion, and in our present climate, belonging needs to extend to everyone, especially those who are different from ourselves. Belonging invites welcome, it is founded on acceptance. Belonging is rooted in the Gospel invitation of Jesus to make our home in Him. When we celebrate this gift, this invitation to make our home in God, then everyone belongs.

During the weeklong class the instructor, Kristen Kieffer, was a superb teacher eager to share her knowledge and experience. The other students, all accomplished in one form or another shared their experiences and yes, their failures. I found two friends Kelly and Carol, who shared the table with me for meals and we laughed about eating too much dessert and the sometimes quirky and unpredictable nature of clay.

The workshop ended with a show and tell of our own work that gave everyone an appreciation of each other’s way with clay. When I left Arrowmont, I felt like I belonged, not just for a week’s vacation/workshop, but to a beautiful community of art makers who readily shared what they have and who readily receive what I have to offer. Even if just for a week, potters form a community where everyone belongs. Differences are celebrated, failures are acknowledged and beauty feeds the soul.

Could it be that art will heal the world? Yes, I think so, at least a part of it.

Posted in Wednesday's Word

The Sacraments of Summer

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

“Green is the season after Pentecost. The Holy Ghost in an abstracted space/ spreads out the languid summer of his peace,/ unrolls his hot July./ O leaves of love, O chlorophyll of grace.” Jessica Powers

I was sitting in the river….and all afternoon I listened to the voice of the river talking./ Whenever the water struck the stone it had something to say,/ and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water./ And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying./ Said the river: I am part of holiness./ And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.”    Mary Oliver, “Evidence”

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./ I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down/into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,/how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day/.… /Tell me, what is it you plan to do /with your one wild and precious life?    Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day.                                                                   

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” writes Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning chimes in: “Earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.

Summer glows and grows with the glory of God. It preaches to us of life amazing and tenacious, fertile and fruitful.  You hear it singing in the bird songs of morning, see the pink edges of clouds, the golden shimmer of early sun wobbling toward you over the water, the profuse growth and blossoming of petunias and zinnias and roses, herbs and tomatoes and the tendrils reaching out as the zucchini stealthily captures more ground. Hummingbirds and butterflies. Tiger lilies and Queen Ann’s Lace in weedy plots where fields meet roads. All is holy, calling us to surprise and delight, to a moment’s contemplation of all that “dearest freshness deep-down things” (Hopkins) where God’s ongoing, unfolding creation celebrates seasons present and promised.

Love lives and speaks in bright bits and subtle tones and dangles its green to be noticed. Notice.  Let the small sacraments stir your soul in brief encounters of graced creation, so easily lost in all the noise, the troubles, the constant searing, blearing, smearing (Hopkins) that human progress and fractiousness and technological too-muchness can bring.  See, hear, taste God’s peace and promise of a blossoming beyond our imagining.  And with e.e.cummings, thank God “for most this amazing day” and “for everything which is infinite which is natural which is yes.”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Interdependent

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

I know it’s been over a week, and a lot has happened since, but, this past Memorial Day 2018 we recalled all those who have sacrificed their lives for our national freedom.  Perhaps then TODAY is a great day to recall again how our own lives are built on the sacrifices of others and how our own sacrifices lead to the common good.  We are more than a group of individuals who live, work, and play side-by-side. We are a community of human beings whose journeys are intertwined.  We rise and fall on the success and failures of others.  We are INTERDEPENDENT, not just independent.

We are MORE than the sum of our parts.  Sure, we can accomplish great things as individuals.  When we engage our whole being: body, mind and soul, there is little outside our grasp as persons. Yet, how do we engage our entire self?  By the encouragement and inspiration of others.  Literally they give us heart and spirit!  Even when we think we’re working alone, we’re not!

Today, and every day, may we acknowledge and embrace the intentional engagement of our synergy, so we can realize even more significant things TOGETHER.  And perhaps our instinct for this human togetherness will eventually remind of the UNITY of our God in the Trinity.  On that day, we will truly become more fully CORPUS CHRISTI!  Happy Feasts!

“The more we get together, together, together,

the more we do together, the happier we’ll be.

‘Cause your friends are my friends, and my friends are your friends,

the more we do together, the happier we’ll be.”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

SPIRIT MOVE WHEN YOU WILL….BUT CAREFULLY!

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

“Racial Disparity” is the new way to describe the treatment of people of color by white people. Well, it is really not new but it is becoming more prevalent. What is happening in this country of ours?

Sunday, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast of Pentecost. A remembrance of a moment in human time when the Holy Spirit was so present that people began to speak in all kinds of languages and perform all kinds of healing acts to the astonishment of the crowds and no one was left out. What has happened to us since that moment?

I don’t think we have to look far at all to see answers to that. Most recently, consider Philadelphia, PA, and Starbucks; Warsaw, NC, and Waffle House; Saraland, AL, and Waffle House; New Haven, CT, and Yale University. People of color may not loiter, may not nap and, most certainly, may not talk back to authority figures under any circumstances in public places. We tell their white counterparts the same thing, but the responses to their actions are almost always far different.

The Holy Spirit is seeking ways to break through the barriers we keep putting up to protect ourselves from those who are different, from ideas that make us uncomfortable, from solutions that take us far out of the boxes we put ourselves into and call personal space. We say we want the Holy Spirit to come, but what does that mean? When we know that accepting the Spirit will mean new life and probably change, do we still want it? I think we do. We just have to pray harder to know what to do when we feel the presence of the Spirit.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Don’t Keep Us Waiting Too Long

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I write this in the time between Ascension and Pentecost, an awkward moment in the Liturgical Year, when Easter is beginning to feel like a distant memory, and Pentecost, when we await a great birthing of the Spirit.  There are other in-between moments in our faith, Holy Saturday is an obvious good example.

A friend of mine shared with me a little book called Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, winner of the PEN/Hemmingway Award. Although I have not started it yet, the piece I want to share with you from the book is a pensive and beautifully written description of the life of Jesus. It is a wonderful pondering of this very in-between moment. A pondering of what it must have been like to have Jesus be with us in the flesh and then feel his “lack”.

Read this slowly and with care for the words.

“And while He was on earth He mended families. He gave Lazarus back to his mother, and to the centurion he gave his daughter again. He even restored the severed ear of the soldier who came to arrest Him—a fact that allows us to hope the resurrection will reflect a considerable attention to detail. Yet this was no more than tinkering. Being man [Jesus] felt the pull of death, and being God He must have wondered more than we do what it would be like. He is known to have walked upon water, but He was not born to drown. And when He did die it was sad—such a young man, so full of promise, and His mother wept and His friends could not believe the loss, and the story spread everywhere and [those who were] mourning would not be comforted, until He was so sharply lacked and so powerfully remembered that his friends felt Him beside them as they walked along the road, and saw someone cooking fish on the shore and knew it to be Him, and sat down to supper with Him, all wounded as He was. There is so little to remember of anyone—an anecdote, a conversation at table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”

I hope Pentecost does not keep us waiting too long.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word