Thursday, October 1, 2009

Discerning - A New Season

"525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life? How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of love...."
- Seasons of Love

Sometimes I get pleasantly surprised by the most simple yet beautiful events.
Recently a friend surprised me by recalling an old favorite quote.

"Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy... or they become legend."
- Jim Harrison

I don't know why I get surprised so often , but I do! I guess I am easy. Sometimes I guess I don't have a great expectations for myself and am humbled by the wonder-filling surprising gifts I receive daily. The surprises begin sometimes as early as the pre-dawn hours when I decide to go out on my deck for some solitude and prayer. Recently there have been occasions of significant torrents of never-ending rain and increasing autumnal cold winds in the afternoon and evening hours. Then waking up the next morning I am filled with disappointment as I have an expectation to be relegated to sitting inside the comfort of my safe harbor for my quiet time. It is at that moment a new awareness surfaces as that the Noah type rain is gone and as I peer upward and the heavens are clear and filled with a million stars. Ginny calls me "Buddha" as I light a small candle, as it is still dark as night and ready my coffee and prayer journal next to my chair facing the forest that surrounds our yard. The momentary disappointment evaporates as peace and consolation wake within . The new day day and the new season are being born.

But it should be no surprise to the average pilgrim that surprising blessings come in all forms.Not too long ago I met a student who informed me and the class I was teaching that he was leaving the world of work to enter the monastery and to become a Capuchin Friar. Ironically the class is called "The Nature of Work." At our first class session he introduced himself by discussing his past and in general terms his vision and plans for the future. He had everyone intrigued. "Who in their right mind would leave the business world for religious life?",they thought. Though I really didn't know him well I don't believe I ever had a student who was quite open about his faith journey and who decided to answer the call of religious life. The student and I had a few side bar exchanges during class session breaks about faith and discernment. He seemed to delight in the fact that I am sort of a "Jesuit-phile"(as he called me) and he was curious that a lay college instructor would read and be interested in some of the similar books he reads and that we would have a mutual admiration for similar saints, well known religious and spiritual scholars.

(I read somewhere that the term "vocation" comes from the Latin "vocare" which was meant to indicate "To listen to the voice (calling) within." Sometimes I think there is a shouting deep within me calling"Wake up!" Sometimes I think I hear a whisper that is barely discernible saying "Trust me.".)

This college course would be his final class before his departure to begin his official postulancy and formation. He shared his excitement and anxiety as he began to embark on this journey into a new season in his life. When we said farewell we promised to keep in touch. But it seems that we always commit to staying in touch with new acquaintances we encounter along our journeys. This seems to happen a lot between instructors and their students. I had hoped that this would be different in that we would stay in touch. After a few weeks of no emails or calls I gave up on hearing from him. I didn't want to make the first move. I didn't know if he stuck with his personal pilgrimage or split for the outback in Australia. Then there was the second surprise with this encounter.Without notice months after he had departed I was a recipient of a broadcast email he sent to his former classmates. He was assigned to his postulancy in NY and he said he would appreciate hearing from us.

So a new season would begin for me also. The delightful surprising initial correspondence has now evolved into a mutual formation journey of sorts.I responded to his email. He responded to my response.Then I replied to his communique and so on and so on.He would write me at night and I have made reading his email and writing back to him part of my prayer exercise each morning after my reflection on my deck.We share experiences of the day, current readings and thoughts about life, struggles with faith, and our postulant odysseys . We pray for each other. I think his prayers are much more substantial and effective than my own attempts at humble contrition and supplication.

Here is a link that tells you a little more about my former student, Ron, and his journey. Since it is publicly posted , I am hoping that he won't object.

Here is a sample of what I have written to him recently

"...Sitting out on the deck this morning experiencing the first real chill of the autumn that is about to enter our lives the crickets' chorus reminds me of an old Joni Mitchell song:

'And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game'

The once bright greens are fading to yellow, orange and brown
some flowers seem to make a last statement before their demise
or is it that this is their time to celebrate ?
The sky appears more clear than usual and
the geese squawk their
way in formation home.
The ashes from the fire that burned the night before
bring consolation in the reflection and recollection of what was.
But the heart is sobered wth the awareness that what was will not be again.
The spirit needs to be filled with the gratitude
of the morning song of nature for the gift of the present...
as well praising with trust the great anticipation of what is to be.
My self centerdness drives me to desire to be transformed
and to welcome by celebrating the new season in my life.
Though grateful for waking to another day
I am hope-filled that my heart and spirit
are awakened to the presence of grace all ways. "

For all my family and my friends ..."listen to the voice of the great wonder of a new day and the gift a new season.May Peace constantly surprise you and be with you all-ways!


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