As summer days begin to slip away into fall routines and with the calendar soon turning to a new month so I have been reflecting on the gift of this past summer.
In this season of sunshine, growth, first fruits and long days I have appreciated the gift of life. The very blessing that our lives are and the ways our lives intertwine, connect, change and are celebrated. Over the course of the summer I have had the great gift of gathering at table and raising a toast with many great people (and still didn’t have enough time to see everyone). There were three occasions where the beautiful gift of life was really heightened. Both of my dear Grandmothers turned 90 this summer and we celebrated! Family gathered from near and far, hugs were shared, stories told, feasts enjoyed and tributes and love abounded. The third occasion where the gift of life was made evident was in the celebration of the baptism of my niece and nephew. A simple Sunday afternoon gathering, united in faith, reminded of the source of our life and a time to reasure the beauty of a journey just begun.
Also in the ordinary was the gift of life appreciated from baking with a couple of nieces, to crafting with another, to hearing about summer adventures from my young nephews, to seeing the talents of horse and rider skills, to listening to my teenage nieces chattering about their life, to meeting as my mom would say “a friend that is a boy and friend that is a girl” of my oldest niece and nephew, to watching sandbox toys litter the box, to sunroom snacking, to perfect lamp… well you get the picture. Life unfolds each day and there are blessings to behold most often in the simplest of everyday things. I am so grateful for these summer ordinary moments. I hope each of us can reflect back on our summer and see where life called us to life and fullness.
For one week I was on retreat this summer and it not only challenged me it also encouraged my religious life journey. I gathered with 19 other religious both male and female from all walks of religious life from just beginning to several years of being perpetually professed and from thirteen different orders. We were guided by a great leader who is also a religious and could speak from the depths of expereince. We spent time in quiet prayer, we spent time alone, we spent time sharing about the journey, celebrating the gift of religious life and discussing the hopes, the dream and the challenges. It was a time of grace and the Holy Spirit was indeed moving in and through the retreat.
The gift of being able to reflect on a way of life that one has been called to and hear others speak of their journey is an amazing opportunity. Struggles do surface but joy always supersedes. Letting go is always evident but more so the beauty of what we embrace is evident. Purpose and affirmation rise up and the need for community is always unmistakeable. I am so grateful for this retreat, the opportunity that it allowed for dialogue with God, with others who know the religious life journey and for the reminder that religious life calls us to “do the puny well!”
Up until August 15 I was a student Friar and although learning is lifelong my role as student shifted a bit over the summer. After three years of full time study usually over 3 semesters per year and add in a couple of summer courses I will be walking down the graduation aisle this fall with my degree. Amen! The journey has been at times challenging but always rewarding. I studied with some remarkable people who have helped me to express my faith in new ways. I have been taught by brilliant men and women, priests, religious and laity who have helped me to deepen my faith. I have served in ways that called forth my gifts and abilities. I have met men and women that I not only called classmates but now call friends. My daily routine of classes will shift as I begin a new program in Spiritual Direction, work on my French and minister in both retreat ministry and in schools. I look forward to the new paths and the being able to live out my Friar life in new ways.
My Franciscan life was also affirmed again this summer as I renewed my vows. For the first time since I made my first vows I renewed my vows with another Brother. What a gift to stand with my Brother and profess together to continue to live our vows for another year and be supported by our Brothers. Our renewal calls us to be both active and contemplative, to walk with the saints both those here on earth and those in heaven and to trust in our great God that our vows are life-giving and are serving a purpose. Together along with our two Brothers in Quebec we step forward – hope-filled, challenged and open to the gift of Franciscan life that will come with a new Canadian Franciscan Province.
Finally as summer slips way I am reminded that life too slips away. Sometimes slowly and other times in a flash of moment. I attend 2 funerals for 4 people over these last days. We celebrated and remembered the life of two of our Franciscan Brothers (one in his eighties and one in his nineties). Their lives were honored, toasted (maybe even roasted a bit) and celebrated. The gift of these two men who I lived with reminded me of the value in serving well, saying ‘yes’ with my all, the gift of brother and of being part of a brotherhood/fraternity and community.
The other funeral I attended was for a couple who were killed in a tragic car accident. They had just celebrated 65 years of marriage. I have the great honor of knowing a large part of their family and have had the privilege to visit with them and hear some of their story. The pain in this family robbed of both their mom and dad/grandma and grandpa in such a sudden way is heart wrenching and yet in their great loss great love, dignity, strength, bonds and unity has arisen. The family was and continues to be surrounded by great people. The gift of the lives of this couple we honored and celebrated has reminded me to look at my legacy, to ponder what my legacy will be and I can only work at making it one of faith, charity and service inspired by the portrait of their lives.
Lives remembered and cherished.
And so life calls us to step forth from summer delights into fall routines more aware of life… moving, twisting, and breathing in us each day. How do we choose to do this? I know I have work cut out for me, I hope you do as well and together we are inspired to do so with perspective.
Know of my prayers. I humbly ask for yours.