Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peace In The Abbey

     September is a tough month for my late husband’s family. Bob died in early September. A year later, on the heels of 9/11, our two nieces were killed by a tornado at the University of Maryland. Bob’s birthday was in September, and his Mom died on the last day in September.
     Each year September rolls around with heavy certainty and each year we comment about its arrival and feel the crushing weight of grief. Perhaps the weight lessens over time, but there are moments. Those of us who have lost loved ones know that it is not easy. But we also know that we must go on, and we must find a way to take one day at a time, sometimes one breath at a time.
     Tonight the girls and I went to Mass at Benedictine College. It was a quiet, dark night, the students coming from all directions of the campus. The President smiled to each as he walked up to the door, calling many by their first names. There were smiles as we entered. The peace of the sanctuary was comforting, almost on a physical level. Mass was beautiful.
     The readings from the Bible were from Ezekiel, Philippians and Matthew. Father Justin talked about two kinds of lives, one that hears the Word and doesn’t live it, and one that both hears it and lives it, despite the difficulty, despite the cost. Life is not always fair, nor is it always easy. We have choices presented to us every day to do what is right. Each time we do we are given grace. Bruce and I tell our little ones that this is the stuff of the Real Superheroes. The more we do the right thing, the more grace we receive and the more natural it becomes. We become stronger.
     It is not easy with death and suffering.  I think of the Apostles, confused and shaken after Jesus’ crucifixion. How could twelve men have catalyzed the faith for millennia? What if they had gone into hiding and never emerged. No one would have blamed them. With the power of the Holy Spirit, breath by breath, day by day, they did what Jesus told them to do. And that is what we must--even in the dark times, the confusing times. We may not always succeed, but we must try. As Mother Teresa taught, success is not necessarily in “succeeding,” but it is in the diligent attempts filled with love.
     At the front of the Abbey is a mural. At the very top is an image of a Godly face—the Holy Spirit—breathing on Jesus and depictions of the life of St. Benedict. Tonight I realized that the breath was directed at the whole congregation. And I felt it.
     After Mass we quietly prayed and left the Abbey Church. Smiles and hugs and glazed donuts were exchanged outside. The energy and faith of the young college students was inspiring. Out on a dark Sunday night to worship and fellowship, and to do what Christ called us to do: to take his Word and to go and live it.
     God bless them. God bless us all, especially in difficult times. Help us to hold on, to trust Him. There are blessings to come. New life, love, births, weddings, peace and joy. We may feel momentarily unable, that we don’t have the power. But He does.


The Abbey Farm

Friday, September 9, 2011


     I was recently in touch with one of my childhood friends (thanks to Facebook), and found myself explaining why I would miss yet another High School Reunion. Once upon a time I was Vice President of the Senior Class at Hereford High School. After graduation I helped organize our five and ten year reunions but after that, life got really busy.  It seems the best I can do these days is to try to find old friends and classmates on Facebook and spread the word.
     It’s our thirtieth now. I remember my High School as though it were yesterday. Mine was not a perfect experience, but it was a good one. Good teachers, good friends, good fun; a lot of learning, and not just of the academic sort. Sometimes I was just plain lucky--or had a great Guardian Angel!
     Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time with all we’ve learned in our adult years? I now give such amazing advice to my High Schoolers! They may not think so, but they’ll see someday. A thought ran through my head the other day while talking to Bobby about his religion class on the drive to school (he is back for a second year!).  The thought was how much I enjoy the teen years. Perhaps it is because of my own experience, or that my job for the first decade and a half out of college was working with teens.  Whichever reason, the teen years are a unique time of experiencing life in a new way, an exciting and potentially confusing way.
     I’ve known teens who had little adult support. Though my teenagers might feel it would be a luxury to have the latest iPhone, computer, Wii, X-Box 360 (all in their bedrooms), and no curfew or dating rules, I’ve seen the downfalls of affluence abuse and neglect, and the absence of parental support and structure.
     “No,” I tell mine, "you can’t meet at the local donut joint at 2am because everyone else is,"  "you can’t date until you’re sixteen, "you can’t be out past 10pm on a non-school night" (a formal might be an exception but then there’s a list of rules there, too).  I need to be asked first if they get a ride home, and need to know that person’s number and home address. I’ve said no to certain events. But we talk it out, and though they may not like a particular decision they understand our rationale, and they know it is out of love.
     "Rules without Relationship=Rebellion." The relationship, the love, has got to be there.

     Multiply all that by the number of teens we’ve raised/are raising and it can be challenging, but rewarding. There are six more coming along in our household. I'd better like it, I guess, because Bruce and I will be doing it until we're nearly 70. Crazy? Maybe. Paradoxically awesome? I think so.

     Hence, there is little time for my reunion. I will miss catching up, but like a wedding, I’d probably still come away wishing for more time with each person. To my old classmates and friends who read this: "I am sad, and I will really miss you, but perhaps I’ll get there for the Grey-Hair-and-Cane Reunion.” I sure hope so. Life is precious. Teen years are no exception.

God bless,


The Abbey Farm

PS: Thanks, Shari!