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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reflection: A Sunday Afternoon's Walk

This afternoon I took a leisurely seven mile walk as I had some free time on my schedule. A weekend retreat for women in recovery was ending and a pervading quiet was settling in at the retreat house. The gusty winds of the past few days have ceased and the outside temperature warmed up to 57 degrees (14 C.) The clouds over the ocean appear as if a fog covers it. The clouds are evenly white with gentle curves. It looks like a mid-November sky although it is much warmer day.

I can smell the moisture in the air. Precipitation will be light if there is any at all. The moisture allows me to notice the earthy soil as decaying leaves form a blanket or browns and fading reds on the ground. The pine trees' fragrance has a steady scent. The stillness from above makes me notice the overlooked aspects of creation below.

I listen to the Estonian composer, Arvo Part, on my IPod and set out for my daily exercise. My mind does its usual wanderings as I spend part of my time in prayer and some time noticing the beauty of the land. I tell Christ about what has happened with my family during the past week and then spend some time telling him about my Jesuit life. The graces I received in Australia are still strong and I continue to offer my thanks to Christ for rewarding me generously. I tell Christ about the events of my week and the people who have moved me or are in need of prayers. Walking while praying helps me get everything out. It does not replace my contemplative prayer; it helps me clear out the cobwebs so my prayer in stillness can be more focused upon Christ. Somehow these forward physical steps assist my spiritual steps.

People bring beauty into their lives. The great mansions of Gloucester and the small houses alike do well to keep up their properties and these seasonal decorations describe the houses' and owners' personalities. Most of these decorations are flowers, gourds, stalks, or other natural products that make for tasteful seasonal displays. I find it incredible the variety of late-autumn flowers that appear so fresh and at the height of their lifespan. I would have thought that any cold would have diminished their growth and beauty. Beauty seems to bring up in less than favorable conditions.

While I admire the beauty of these houses and properties, I am past the point of dreaming of having my own place. I have lived in many places and met some truly good people along the way. I like staying in touch with them and letting them know I still care about them, but I feel like I am more truly living for Christ. No place seems like home and yet everyplace seems like home.

It seems natural to want to feel rooted, to have permanence, and to feel secure. Right now, I would feel hampered by possessing my own property. While I do like to maintain and care for the houses where I am assigned, I no longer feel as if I want to build a home. On the contrary, I want to give away much of what I do have. Perhaps it is the season we are in when the daylight leaves us more quickly than we want and we think about the cycle of life more intensely. I also care less for building my own status or honor. I feel freer to let my life be more about living it for Christ.

I consider how much death is a part of life. I am praying for many people who are sick or in need of surgery or are merely having a difficult time with some aspect of their lives. I feel for them and want them to do well and to thrive. I want them to be healthy and happy and to know how much the Lord cares for them. I realized the sadness a person feels when a loved one has died. The memories of these people remain with us and always will, especially as we advance towards our own death. Life will continue without us and we have to choose each day how we will best live it.

Death does not need drama. I want to be ready for it whenever it comes and I want to live a long life with good health and caring friends. I want to make the best choices I can for my happiness each day and want to live and die well. I want to take the words of the preacher Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes to heart: enjoy life, recreate well, choose your own happiness. I want to live in the freedom God extends to us. I want to be true to the Creator's hope for me. To do anything otherwise would be to act falsely.

Death comes to us all. I choose to live for Christ and to bring his message to anyone who wants to hear it. At this stage in my life, I realize my efforts and activities are not worth all that much. I have diminishing illusions about the great work I can do. I am settling into the reality that Christ merely wants to be with me and that he wants me to live as joyfully as I can. That's all. If I can notice the ways God gives us so much and gives us each other and I live in gratitude for people and their gifts, then I am doing rather well and I will be content in life. Give me only your grace. That's enough for me.

I enjoyed my walk today.


  1. Thank you for this - it is a hearfelt and inspiring tale that gives me a lot of to think about. I tend to struggle with indecision and doubt about the right way to live my life at the moment and yet you make me realise that it is sometimes better to let go of the striving.

  2. You are welcome. We sometimes need to place our life's situations within the larger context of God's desire for us. Keep your eyes upon Christ as you pray. We never with certainty that we are making the best decisions - and that is what can make us free. Live well, enjoy life, do good works with a heart that seeks to love God and neighbor. Christ will take care of what we cannot. Yes, let go.