Sunday, May 28, 2017

Grace and a thought for Saint Madeleine Sophie

I went to a funeral this year on the feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat.  It was a funeral that was important to have someone from the community attend...two others were away and the third was occupied at the school next door.  We had decided to celebrate the Feast tonight instead.  There was dinner with the Associates, some of the community members who live in a building with Sisters of Charity about fifteen minutes away, and the 99 year old mother of a community member.   I helped spearhead the preparation of the main dish--the rest was being brought by others who were coming.  I was also asked to do grace.

It was a different grace than if I'd composed it for her actual feast on the 25th.  I've read two things since was a double page spread article in The Globe and Mail (TGAM) on Saturday, May 27th. "The Forever War," by Mark Mackinnon was a thoughtful piece about becoming a culture acclimatized to acts of terror.  The other was a line in an essay about the bookstore Chapter One in Ketchum, Idaho.  "There is no community without a common resource." (Dale Bates, local architect)

The combination of those two things had me wondering, "What is our common resource?"  What is it that we put out there for the use of the Whole:  the big Whole and the smaller wholes...  It makes sense that an abundance or a scarcity of Resource shapes the community who uses or needs it.  Water; Freedoms; Food; Hate; Shelter; Fear; Stability; Ignorance; Love....  

What is our common resource and how does it shape our identity as community?  In our best moments, I pray that the resources we put forth serve to build up, to console, to lead community toward greater ideals.  And to bring in the article from TGAM, do we make the acquisition or manipulation of those resources into contests of superiority or quantity...or do we see sharing what builds us up as a community as a call to offer it because we have it to offer for the good of the Whole and the wholes?

Anyway, this is what I was thinking about as I wrote grace for Saint Madeleine Sophie's feast.  Thank you, Sophie, for understanding why it was a couple of days later than usual this year.

Grace for the Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie, 2017

The print on pages,
staining fingers and
provoking a sigh already
at a day’s fresh rising,
has said “The memorials are always sad
and beautiful, but
the fact that they’ve become common scenes
tells us love
isn’t winning the contest
with hate.”

Madeleine Sophie, you
lived a revolution
of fire and vision;
courage, challenge, and
strength measured in Love.

For you, it was never a contest to win;
it was a call to answer…
A life to live for the sake of a child,
for neighbor, for Sister, for All.

We ask that you bless each of us.
Bless each of us who desire to
make known with our lives the Love
that is the Heart of Jesus:
a heart that is wholly given,
given without reservation,
so that tomorrow may be met
with hope, in faith, and with the confidence
that we are not alone.

May this meal nourish us and strengthen us
that this might be so.


(Quotation: Mark Mackinnon in “The Forever War,” The Globe and Mail, 27 May, 2017; written in the aftermath of the suicide bomber in Manchester, England)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Your Voice

This brings me back to thoughts of the voice of God…remembrance of when the choir director told me that notes are made up of harmonic waves.  What if the note of the voice of God is also made up of these waves?  Those waves being bits of the wind, bits of laughter, wailing, loving, soothing, shouting, mourning, foghorns, ram’s horns, car horns…elements of the noise of life’s fullness harmonizing into the note that is the voice of God.  (KMK on CTL, April 8, 2009, “Harmonics.”)

I don’t usually think of you in gendered human terms… but while listening to music recently, I realized that the feeling I get when listening to a rich alto sing is a feeling I associate with you…so relaxing, so open, so soothing, inviting… 

I remembered a conversation I had once at Xavier after John found me flat on my back in the middle of the center aisle, looking up at the ceiling.  (I had thought I was alone.) Then, I started thinking about other sounds: The sirens that pass by day and night; the caffeinated gurgle of the coffee pot; the wind, brushing out the knots and tangles of tree branches at dusk; the panicked shout of parents looking for their child; the fish breaking surface in the wide-quiet of a lakeside morning; the first cry and the last breath; the wake cut by a low flying swift skimming through crops; the rain; the pounding of feet running away in fear…all of this…all of this comes together in your voice. The harmonic waves of all that it means to be alive and part of creation in the midst of our messy and glorious world…they meet in your voice. 

Yours is the voice of understanding; the sigh of awe; the steadying ballast; the strength to let go; the beckon; the scrape of the chair when someone we trust moves closer to listen; the metronome of every heart; the music that bears us home. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Simply A Good Weekend

In my imagination, I could see myself picking up words, looking through them at what lay beyond; draping them like shawls; offering them on raised hands—lifting them up; scooping them from puddles and pools, allowing them to wash over me and make me laugh and smile; drinking them from waterfalls, filling up with the life their waters contain…allowing them to take my shape and feeling my own shape change and swell with liberation as they lived into my marrow and whispered their secret beauties. (KMK on CTL, May 6, 2009, ‘Playing with Treasure’)

~Vincent VanGogh, in his letters to his brother, Theo, outlined a life filled with the tangible.  Vincent loved to look, to touch, to smell, and to taste the world about him.  Most of all, he loved to look, and then feel, with his hands grasping the charcoal or brush, what he had just seen.  His hands roamed all over his mind, trying to decipher the different grains of thought and emotion…~Writer Lucy Grealy in an essay called “My God.”

I spent the last several days at the Religious of Atlantic Canada conference which took place at a local university.  The theme was “Keep your Hand on the Plough.” Over the course of the gathering, I found myself talking about things that are important to me with around 40 other Sisters from at least six different congregations:  It was so refreshing to splash my hands in the pools of my heart and draw forth JOY…draw forth DELIGHT and FREEDOM…to feel the sustaining vibration of LAUGHTER as it saw new light… Each of these words are filled with experience…they wriggle with those grains of thought and emotion; they wriggle with the divine stuff of life that cannot be contained…and it was gift to hear and to feel them whisper their secret beauties once again. 

That was gift, just as it was gift to hear the life-words of others…to hear the sound of voices merging when we prayed by singing…to have newly met many people who have also said Yes to God and to great mystery and grand adventure with all that they have to offer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

With Pen and Fork and Fog

From my notebook...
I love hanging out with you in the kitchen…I love celebrating the diversity of textures and flavors, taking them in, arranging them, marveling at the science and delighting in the sensory experience. I love eating poetry that I created…I love the freedom that comes with the time to concentrate and the space to let go. I love fiddling, experimenting, using basic ingredients in different sorts of ways to achieve contrast, harmony, cohesion, surprise, intrigue, comfort, interest, nourishment.  I love that this time with you is more about learning through intimacy rather than complexity.  I love that carrots are more carrot-y when roasted simply with olive oil and sea salt on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. I love knowing that tomato paste makes red lentil lemon soup eversomuch more punchy without leaving a trace of tomato taste and also knowing that something would be discernibly missing without it.  

I love cooking with you and I love writing with you and I love that those two activities are not so different, really.  Putting a thought to paper or screen, putting a meal in a bowl or on a plate, and sharing them via blog or print or the place setting across from me… They are manifestations of your delight made known in the universe; your love made known to the senses.

Somehow especially these days when the world around me has been shrouded in fog and steeped in rain, these simple wonders, these deep joys, have been like the brilliant “new green” leaf bundles at the tips of the branches brushed clean by the wind outside the room where I pray: a great delight, most welcome, and dearly satisfying.

Mushroom and Red Pepper Stroganoff over Rice

A bit less than a tablespoon of oil and a small blop of butter into a hot skillet

Two handfuls of chopped onion into the skillet to cook for some minutes

A healthy teaspoon and a half of paprika and a good pinch of chipotle pepper into the skillet

Stir and shoosh around

Add a handful of red bell pepper (in pieces about a quarter inch wide and about an inch long)


Add sliced/whole mushrooms (cremini hold up well)

Shoosh around until mushrooms have reduced in size and most of the liquid is gone

Add a glug or two of cooking wine or dry white wine and stir

Sprinkle a bit of flour over skillet contents and stir to thicken

Cook until a good gravy clings to everything and there isn’t too much extra liquid.

Add cooked rice to skillet, stir, and serve