Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Word

My family will get a big laugh out of this. When I was little, everybody called me a chatterbox. And that nickname has persisted even though I am a quiet person. But there is also a desire to talk, to be heard, and in writing, I have discovered an outlet. But the writing itself can be very distracting from what I need to hear. I've had a couple of days alone to ponder and pray what it is I need to work on this year and it happens to be silence. Maybe I will fail spectacularly, but I have to try to cultivate more silence so that I can listen better. Listen to the still, small voice of God within my heart. Listen to the stories. Listen to my husband, children and friends. Listen.

Won't you share what you'd like to work on in the New Year?

Look at these furry friends of mine. How silent and alert they are, listening. I have much to learn from them.

I love this hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

In previous years, my words have been: Trust; Courage & Clarity; Patience; Fiat. It's good to remember the progress I've been making over the past few years, as well as the pitfalls. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Blessings

Adoration of the Shepherds by Ludovico Cardi, 1599 AD
I will never forget our first Midnight Mass at St. Jude's -- snowy outside, candlelight inside, a cantor singing O Holy Night. The children were sleepy but excited to be woken up to go to Christ's Mass. And here at Stella Maris, we always celebrate with a High Mass. Our Advent is spent in preparation for this most Holy Hour.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
 in which the Son of God was born
 of the most pure Virgin Mary,
 at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God,
 to hear my prayers and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother.
Here's a beautiful reflection from Dom Prosper on the Midnight Mass. And I leave you with Byrd's Gloria!

Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle is a beautiful book to read during Advent when you are quietly waiting and assessing your writing life. L’Engle makes me question my motives. Am I being honest? I don’t just write for love. I also write for money. Am I listening and getting out of my own way? Yes and no, but I need to do this better. Spend more time in quiet and prayer. I love how Madeleine equates the sense of writing in flow to the same as when in contemplative prayer. I never made the connection before but it can be a similar state. Do I want the children to see this? What a wonderful question. Sometimes when I look at movie previews and I see something isn’t appropriate for our children, I realize it isn’t appropriate for me either. I love that about her books. They are for everybody. And this book in particular is a book for all Christian writers as she explores the relationship between faith and art. It is a book I’ve savored and marked up and I suspect I will come to it again and again.

Without further ado, let me share a few quotes to whet your appetite:

I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love.”

We are all asked to do more than we can do.”

The child is aware of unlimited potential, and this munificence is one the joys of creativity.”

Creativity opens us to revelation.”

So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound so that it will not forget.”

Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored.”

Choice is an essential ingredient of fiction and drama.”

What if – the basis of all story.”

My stories affect my Christianity, restore me, shake me by the scruff of the neck, and pull this straying sinner into an awed faith.”

Remember – the root word of humble and human is the same: humus: earth. We are dust. We are created; it is God who made us and not we ourselves. But we were made to be co-creators with our Maker.”

This book reminds me why I write. Writing and family life brought me to Jesus, and when you possess this great Treasure, you cannot keep it to yourself. My thoughts echo L’Engle’s: “If I understand the Gospel, it tells us that we are to spread the Good News to all four corners of the world, not limiting the giving of light to people who already have seen the light. If my stories are incomprehensible to Jews or Muslims or Taoists, then I have failed as a Christian writer. We draw people to Christ … by showing them the light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Beauty, then, will save the world.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the review copy. Cross-posting this review to Amazon.

Friday, December 9, 2016

On Waiting and Longing and Our Heart's Desire

This beautiful poem by Frances Chesterton, copied from the front pages of her biography by Nancy Carpentier Brown conveys so much of the Advent longing.

How far is it to Bethlehem? 
Not very far. 
Shall we find the stable room 
Lit by a star?

Can we see the little Child? 
Is He within? 
If we lift the wooden latch 
May we go in? 

May we stroke the creatures there 
Oxen or sheep? 
May we peep like them and see 
Jesus asleep?

If we touch His tiny hand 
Will He awake? 
Will He know we’ve come so far 
Just for His sake?

Great kings have precious gifts 
And we have naught 
Little smiles and little tears 
Are all we brought.

For all weary children 
Heaven must weep 
Here, on His bed of straw 
Sleep, children, sleep.

God in His mother’s arms 
Babes in the byre 
Sleep, as they sleep who find

Their heart’s desire.

Wearing my mother's jacket!
It is fitting that I came across this yesterday because last night, after Mass, a friend I'd not spoken to in a while asked whether I was expecting. I wish! I let her know it was a "food baby." However, I also let her know that we've been longing for more children for quite some time, but didn't think it was going to happen given that I'm nearly 52. I mean, I pray for menopause on a regular basis now :) Why yes, I can hold completely contradictory thoughts in my head all at once.    

I know so many of us who struggle with infertility, who are waiting, expectant of the miracle of life. But Frances, also suffering from infertility, in How Far is it to Bethlehem perfectly captures the deepest desires of our human heart.  

This Advent, I am baking and writing and praying/practicing a beautiful William Byrd Mass for four voices and thinking of my own heart's desire -- the Babe. 

I pray you will have a most blessed Advent!