'O my Lord, I am in a dry land, all dried up and cracked by the violence of the north wind and the cold; but as You can see, I ask for nothing more. You will send me both dew and warmth when it pleases You.'
St. Jane de Chantal
Painting: Eastman Johnson, The Girl I Left Behind Me
'Words are powerful, they are for weal or woe. They build up or raze to the ground. They cut to the quick or they soothe and heal. They inspire courage and loftiness of purpose, or they rouse to anger, bitterness and revenge... Words! Words! How powerful you are! How terrible you are when lodged in an unkind and critical heart! ... If we have not been perfect in this regard, let us begin now to make a record in charity. It is never too late to work at our perfection, it is never too late to determine to be saints. Let us seal our lips against cutting remarks, unkind insinuations, unfavourable words. Many a heart has writhed in pain because of poisoned arrows that pierced to the core.'
(from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, The Peter Reilly Co, Philadelphia, 1952, pp. 24-25)
'Soon we shall be in eternity, and then we shall see how very petty are the things of this earth....
When we were small children, how carefully we collected pieces of wood, stone and such to build huts, and if someone knocked them down we cried.. but now we understand how unimportant these things were. We will feel the same way one day in heaven, when we see that all our preoccupations in this world were nothing but childish concerns. Be faithful to your duties, but be convinced that there is nothing more worthy or more important than eternal salvation and the perfection of your soul.'
Someone I know compares the Church's
storehouse of spiritual treasures to an attic filled with family
heirlooms, ones discovered anew as each generation comes and goes. Our
Church is blessed with devotions, traditions, revelations, stories,
truths, and precious gems of faith. Some of these are emphasized at
particular times, while others slide into the background only to
resurface a few decades later. Thus we may find it helpful to “climb up
into the attic” from time to time to see if perhaps there might be some
treasures we're overlooking.
There are a few people who try to
caution us about the attic. There's nothing but old stuff up there,
we're sometimes warned. Just bundles of old junk not relevant to the
world today. "We don't really have books about saints," I was once told
by someone running a Church library. "Mostly we have modern self-help
books and some fiction." I came away feeling like someone whose
spiritual ancestors had been forgotten; maybe even erased from the
of my favorite books was sent to me
by a friend in another country. She'd rescued it when people hosting a
retreat were throwing it into the trash. It's just an old volume, very
"out of date," she was told. Funny. I quote this (out of print) book
here from time to time, and am often told how much help it has been. In
fact, because of a recent request, I have gone back and labelled blog
posts quoting this writer - so now we can more easily find them. The
author, who wrote simply under the name "A Religious," actually wrote a
number of small volumes on prayer and spiritual growth. Thanks to the
generosity of yet another kind friend, I'm currently able to borrow some
of these titles, one at a time.
you've ever searched for copies of The Living Pyx of Jesus, or any
other writings by this particular author, you know they're rare - and in
the neighborhood of $300 per volume (last time we checked) when they
can be found.
And someone was throwing one into the trash.
If you'd like to sample some treasures from the heart of "A Religious," you can now do so by clicking this line.
Until twelve years ago, I had never met anyone "interesting" on a plane. Oh, I know amazing persons were all around me, but I'd never struck up a conversation with one.
That changed the day I decided to say a prayer.
I felt a little silly, asking for something as trivial as "could I please sit beside someone interesting on the plane?" It was a quick prayer, uttered as I hurried out the door, ready to board a flight to another (American) state.
I don't remember exactly how the seating went, but for some last-minute reason there was a quick exchange. By the time we were airborne, Mr. and Mrs. S. had switched to the seats beside me.
I have no idea how the subject of "Australia" came up. But here we were, shortly after take-off, going from hello-how-are-you into conversation about a land across the earth. Mr. and Mrs. S. had never been there; I had. They said they knew one person in Australia, a lady named Katherine, who was American and had once lived in their hometown. Katherine had been a neighbor of Mr. S., and a good friend of his mother's when he was growing up. After being widowed at a relatively young age, Katherine met and married an Australian gentleman. As Katherine's story unfolded before me, I began to think of Kate.
Dear American Kate. I'd met her when my husband and I were staying with friends in a tiny Australian town. Kate was a member of my friends' Catholic parish, was so happy to meet us, and loved to talk with The Americans about "home." She was elderly, and generous, and we wrote each other after my return to the States.
Mr. and Mrs. S. and their family had lost touch with their friend Katherine, but they'd been so intrigued by how she'd met her Australian husband that they told me more about it.
This was starting to sound familiar. Why, Katherine had met her husband in the same way Kate met hers. How unusual. I told Kate's story to my new friends. The two accounts were identical.
Could Kate and Katherine be one and the same person? Mrs. S. was astonished at the very possibility. I mean (she kept asking), what were the odds? The Australian town was a tiny one, across the continent from Sydney... not a place many Americans happen to visit. To sit on a plane next to a woman who'd been there and knew their friend would be an amazing circumstance.
Long-story-less-long: Katherine was (of course) Kate. And through a last minute switch of plane seats and exchanged addresses, I was able to help long-lost friends re-establish contact across the earth.
Mrs. S. has phoned me several times over the past few years. In almost every conversation, she has said, still with that obvious astonishment, "we know ONE person in the entire continent of Australia, and we happen to sit on a plane next to a woman who knows her too!?!!"
Of course, the woman sitting next to Mrs. S. had prayed. Taking a quick minute as she headed out the door, she'd asked for something quite tiny in the grand scheme of things. Or so it seemed. Only God knows how it has all played out in the lives of reconnected friends.
Mrs. S. phoned me a few weeks ago. She wanted me to know that, just after celebrating her 100th birthday, Katherine had recently died.
Always when I think of that day on the plane, I am struck by the power of prayer. I'm reminded of the truth that anything we ask of God can never be too "small" for His attention. God answered my tiny prayer in a big way.
I sat beside someone interesting on the plane.
Painting: Penleigh Boyd, Ghost Gum at Kangaroo Flat, 1921 (Australian)