Monday, January 30, 2012

we have mail

Did you ever stop to think about how much of the New Testament is made up of letters?  Letters!  In the Bible!  Letters that give us personal glimpses into the lives of Paul and John and Peter... (“Get here before winter if you can”…  “When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, and the books…” ). Letters that weave such very human requests right in with sentiments like “I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ...”  (Philippians 3:8). 

While the Bible is the most important source of letters to guide us, we can also find inspiration in letters of saints.  Such writings “embody an art and style of their own, an unselfconscious art that tends to hide itself, and a style that is closer to the dialogue of spoken language….with the power to be formative for both writer and reader.” (Wendy Wright and Joseph Power OSFS, Francis de Sales & Jane de Chantal Letters of Spiritual Direction, Paulist, 1988) 

With this in mind, I’d like to begin probing just a bit into our legacy of letters.  I’ve enjoyed the breadbox excavations we’ve engaged in so far; they’ve brought smiles and perspectives and some food for thought.  I like sharing photos (and will definitely continue to do so), but my interest right now is toward diving more deeply into the Breadbox.  I have a feeling its depths are beyond what I had imagined.  

I hope you’re up for a bit of exploring.  After all, who knows what might be waiting right behind the Wonder Bread…..?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Tiny Ode to Snow

I am enchanted by snow when it softens a city.  It's like the gentleness of God blanketing all that is sharp and angular, and somehow this is magical to me.  Maybe that's because, in grade school, I rode the city bus twice a day.  The bus made stops and starts along Main Street, its doors whooshing open to let in soggy passengers toting briefcases and shopping bags.  I could hear sighs of relief as these weary ones fell into seats; they seemed grateful to be able to let chilled bones thaw.  I watched the snow-shrouded city roll by the windows; all was fresh and white and new and clean.

I don’t spend time on buses anymore.  But I still notice snow, making a decision to savor its sparkles even when it interrupts my plans. I allow it to decorate my life.  I sit beside a window for prayer time.  I thank God for pink and blue and amber sprinkles under streetlights.  I grab a camera and stick head (if not sliding feet) out the front door.  I appreciate the hush of city sounds.

Snow is, to me, the gentleness of God trumping the clamor of man.  In the darkest months of the year, the ones in which we might feel starved for light - that's when snow comes to brighten our paths.

And if it’s there, I may as well enjoy the view.

“Praise the Lord... fire and hail, snow and mist, storm winds that fulfill His word…”  (Psalm 148:7-8)

(photo © Nancy Shuman)

Thursday, January 26, 2012


"Song is the leap of mind in the eternal, breaking out into sound."  (St. Thomas Aquinas)

"Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.." (Psalm 105:2) 

"Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, and hymns, and inspired songs."  (Ephesians 5:19)

"To sing is the work of a lover."  (St. Augustine)

(photo © Nancy Shuman)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

a time for waiting

"Worldlings... who live according to the ways of earth, as soon as they have some good thought or some idea that seems to them worthy of being esteemed... are never at rest till they have exhibited it and made it known to everyone they meet.  Wherein they run the same risk as the trees which are very early in sending out their leaves.. for if, perchance, the frost surprises them, they perish and bear no fruit."  (St. Francis de Sales).  

"It is owing to His favor that salvation is yours through faith.  This is not your own doing, it is God's gift.  Neither is it a reward for anything you have accomplished, so let no one pride himself on it.  We are truly His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance."  (Ephesians 2:8-10)

(photo © Nancy Shuman) 

Monday, January 23, 2012

a saint for bloggers

Francis de Sales is patron of Catholic writers.  As a blogger, therefore, I happily claim him as a patron of me. As the Church celebrates his feast on the 24th, I can easily imagine him sitting with a laptop, clicking out the good news that indeed Jesus lives. 

Francis wrote voluminously.  Not only is he known for his books, but for his (numerous) letters. He also composed short papers and pamphlets for wide distribution, to help clarify the faith in a time when confusion abounded.  I like to imagine him patting today's Catholic bloggers on the back, encouraging us to "keep it up" as we distribute our witness to the Truth in THIS age of the Church and in the turbulence of our world.  

St. Francis was a bishop and founder of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary.  He was a busy man in France in the early 1600s. Still, he found time to take up his quill pen and spread the good news of Christ. As we clack away at our keyboards, often in wee hours of the morning or while a baby naps, I'd like to think our patron is praying for us.  

I have a feeling he is doing just that. 

and so we choose life

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I consecrated you...."  (Jeremiah 1:5)  

"My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth."  (Psalm 139:15)

"Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live..."  (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Flower's Invitation

"Listen to the sermon preached to you by the flowers, the trees, the shrubs, the sky, and the whole world.  Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God, and how they invite you to glorify the sublimity of that sovereign Artist Who has given them being."  (St. Paul of the Cross)


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

alleluia always

'Say alleluia always, 
no matter the time of day, 
no matter the season of life.'  

St. Benedict

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

home interiors

"To decorate their houses with religious pictures is a custom as old as Christianity itself, for the true Christian has always considered his home as nothing less than a temple of God; and the religious pictures as means to extend and preserve the spirit of Christianity in the home."  (St. John Vianney)

Monday, January 16, 2012

something fishy

Temptation.  The very word makes me remember that lies are more believable when they're built on a foundation of half-truths.  With this in mind, I'd like to spend a moment with minnows....

It is true that a minnow is a fine meal for a bass.  A tasty gulp of dinner that would satisfy the fish's appetite and nourish and refresh him.  That is the truth.   But some minnows warrant closer inspection. Perhaps a bit of discernment... for as we know, sometimes there's a hook buried deep inside.

Can you imagine the underwater conversations if fish were rational beings able to engage in such chatter?

   "...Look, Oscar!  Dinner!  Last one there is a rotten bass.....!"
   "... I dunno, Gil.  That minnow looks to me like it's swimming a little funny.  See how it's moving just a tiny bit sideways?  I think maybe we'd better watch this one awhile longer.."
   "Nonsense!  Everybody and his Aunt Bessie knows I am THE expert on minnows.  Trust me, this one is the real deal." 
   "Oh, it's real, all right.  I just feel a sense of caution.  I think this bears some watching, that's all.  I know you're hungry and yes, that bit of swimming protein does look mighty tempting.  Just please don't be too hasty.  Remember when Bruce went for that giant minnow and was never heard from again...?",
   "Gosh, I had no idea you were so uptight!  It's just a minnow, for Pete's sake!   And a tasty looking one at that.  Trust, me, it's no big deal.  You stay hungry if you want to.  As for me, here I go...!  Last one there is a rotten ba............."    

"The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes...." (Genesis 3:6)

(photo © Nancy Shuman)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pressed Ice

A recent breadbox expedition yielded the following treasure from "Jane"..... 

"I was feeling very discouraged with myself for not feeling a greater love for Jesus.  Theoretically I knew that the 'feeling' is a gift from Him and not an indication of our actual love.  But still I was concerned that I just didn't love Him enough.  Then I came across something St. Gertrude had written about experiencing the same fear.  She complained to Him that her heart was just a block of ice.  I couldn't get that idea out of my mind.  I implored Him to pick me up since I was just a block of ice and press me to His lips.  In that way, I would be able to refresh Him and quench His thirst.  That thought filled me with such joy, I went around all day rejoicing that I was indeed a block of ice, for as long as I am totally at His disposal, I can refresh Him.  Now when I recognize that He is keeping consolations from me, I just smile to myself - knowing that as long as I trust Him patiently, my piece of ice will bring Him greater joy by my submission to His will..."  (Jane)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

check those batteries....

God teaches in the simplest ways and things.  I had just sat down to write this and realized the computer wasn't plugged in and the battery was down.  I secured the plug and thought 'that's how it is!'  I must stay securely plugged in, too, in order to be powered up to operate as I should. 

Prayer is kind of like battery recharging.  I must recharge daily in order to stay ready to work..... 

Friday, January 13, 2012

God is Here

God is present.

It is a simple statement, just three little words.  Yet for me these are the operative words which inspire devotion, soothe trauma, motivate me toward good, enable me to resist temptation, give me courage to carry on in the face of difficulties.

Sometimes I ask myself what I would do if Jesus Christ walked into the room where I am right now.  It is a simple question and a simple thought, yet over the years I have found this to be the one thought that brings things into perspective.  After all, the thought of Christ being right here is not an imaginary exercise.  It is reality.  God is present.  He is here.

If Jesus suddenly appeared to me in the flesh, right this minute, what would happen?  Would I be concerned with what others around were thinking of me? ...or would I fall on my face in utter self-forgetfulness.  Would this sudden appearance change any of the behaviors in which I am presently engaged?  Would such a stark encounter with Reality alter my worries, my priorities, my thoughts?

It is a worthy subject for meditation, for it is not an imaginary exercise.  It is allowing myself to realize the Truth that God is present.  It is reality.

God is here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

a life sandwich

Dear Nancy, 
          What a journey my life has been.  Certainly not exactly as I envisioned, but I suspect this is true of everyone's journey.   Once we set out on a trip, we expect it will lead to our desired destination, but we do not see or even imagine all those interesting, delightful, challenging, painful, undesirable, hurtful, ugly, barren, surprising, exhilarating, enlightening details along the way.  We only dwell on the beginning and the end, which in a way is like a sandwich.  The beginning is one slice of bread, the ending is the other slice.  Obviously very essential to the sandwich, but by no means the main attraction.  And so it is with life.  We've got to embrace all of it lovingly to our hearts, the good and the not so good.  It all contributes to a wonderful life, a free gift from God...                             

Sister Mary Elizabeth VHM       

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a reason for writing

"I attempt to be one of those who write because they have made some progress, and who, by means of writing, make further progress."

                                                                    (St. Augustine)

Monday, January 9, 2012

a small grand opportunity

"God asks us to mortify ourselves in small things rather than in big ones because the big occasions are rare, whereas the small ones are continuous."
         (Teresa Valse Panetellini)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Linus and Lessons

Being a "homeschooled grandma," I continue to appreciate the lessons I'm taught by three pint- sized tutors.  Funny:  I missed such lessons when my own children were small.  But of course that isn't funny at all.. it's understandable.  I was busy with "At this moment everybody at once needs to be fed clothed diapered bathed held bandaged  corrected inspected collected and perfected." 

Not being the person responsible for getting everyone everywhere anymore, I take these years of  grandma-time to listen for the lessons.  I have found they are all around me.  "Linus," for instance, gave me a lesson on new year's day. 

I've long called this little one (now age 3) our "little Linus" because he has been a thumb sucker since birth, and for nearly two years he dragged his beloved blankie everywhere (to church, to the grocery, fishing on a muddy riverbank with Daddy..).  I suppose it's only appropriate, therefore, that little Linus has a streak of the philosopher within him.  I can easily imagine him marching onstage to explain what Christmas is really all about, Charlie Brown.

On New Year's day, Linus offered the grace before dinner.  His prayer was a string of thank-yous..  Thank you for Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Pop and Mimi and the dog.  Thank you for food, and Christmas, and turkey; thank you for toys and fishing poles and my new game and snow.  And thank you God for cheese. 

We all sat with heads bowed, the aroma of cooling food reaching our nostrils, and patiently listened.  Every now and then someone would interject an "amen," which Linus saw not so much as an ending, but more of an "Amen, Brother!!!!!" as he continued on.

The lesson for me?  Primarily it was one of thanks.  I didn't look on Linus' grace as merely something cute; I joined in his thanksgiving, for I saw it as a real prayer.  I am sure God saw it that way, too.

I wonder.  What if I were to go through today thanking God for everything I think of, everything I see, everything in nature in which I see His hand?  Would this please Him?  Oh, I know it would.   Do I want to please God today?  Indeed I do.

So thank You, God for Linus and Lessons.  Thank you for Linus' sisters.  Thank you for sunshine and snowflakes and trees and gravy and lamplight and my family and a furnace and a house. 

And thank You God for cheese.