The Second Half of Life

"The knowing that characterizes the second half of life is open to mystery, drawn to the depths, and ready to risk. It is not easily distracted by minutiae. The questions it raises are rarely multiple choice or true-false. Embracing ambiguity leads to a kind of holy agnosticism, a comfortableness with mystery and open-endedness."
Toward Holy Ground

A Spiritual Friend

"A spiritual friend is one to whom we can entrust all the secrets of our heart and before whom we can place all our plans. In other words, a spiritual friend offers a safe place to try things out, to stretch and to grow: we need not fear shaming or ridicule, no matter what we might say. . . . The tradition of the anamchara — the soul friend — was well established when Christianity arrived in Ireland and Scotland, and so was easily incorporated into Celtic spirituality. The anamchara was a person of wisdom and integrity; in the early days a soul friend might be a woman or a man, lay or ordained, before the work of spiritual guidance became the prerogative of the clergy. Anyone might have a soul friend — St. Brigit among others is reported to have said that a person without a soul friend was like a body without a head."
Toward Holy Ground

Broaden Your Horizons in Prayer

"With maturity, our horizons should broaden from the narrow circle of those known to us to include all those in need or suffering, whole nations as well as individuals. When I quiet my words and let myself simply be open, I find myself praying for the people who are dying right now, the babies who are being born right now, the frail old woman lying sleepless in a nursing home right now, the prisoners who are being tortured right now."
Toward Holy Ground

A Bountiful Homecoming

"I love to let my imagination run lose, but ultimately, I don't care. I don't care because at a deep level I believe Jesus' promise in John's Gospel. He assures us that there are many rooms in his father's house. I don't need to know the floor plan and decor. It is enough that he has promised that he will come and take me to himself. At seventy-three, I have now lived most of my life, at least this part of it and believe with my wise fourteenth-century friend Julian of Norwich that it will ultimately be all right. I'm in no hurry, but when the time comes, it will be one more journey to a new place. There will be a room for me, and it will be a bountiful homecoming."
Just Passing Through

Everyday Spirituality

"Thomas Merton wrote somewhere that the essence of the Benedictine ethos is "doing ordinary things quietly and perfectly for the glory of God." This gives me pause. Maybe my vision is too limited. Perhaps I should lift my eyes from the mattress and approach my other simple tasks in the Benedictine spirit. Emptying the dishwasher, one of the most boring bits of my housewifery, can be sanctified if I remember to give thanks for the dishes, the food that was on them, the loved ones who ate from them, the hot water that cleaned them. Scrubbing the bathroom sinks and the kitchen floor? Sorting and folding the laundry? Yes, these jobs can be done quietly and perfectly for the glory of God.

"But I draw the line at washing windows and sewing on buttons. As of now, I can't imagine how such tedious jobs can be sanctified. But maybe I'll grow in holiness."
Just Passing Through

Clinging To Rules & Security

"I am convinced that, even as we celebrate freedom, we yearn for for rules. It is frightening and disorienting to be adrift. . . . At the very least, there is freedom and security when our days are shaped and held by a supportive structure. . . .

"Even as we might resist rules imposed by others as blighting our promise and hampering our creativity, we seek them out and cling to them like drowning swimmers to a lifeline."
At Home in the World

It's a Matter of Choices and Priorities

"I wish that I had a dollar . . . for every time someone sitting in my little office has said, "I don't have time to pray." . . . I have said the same thing too many time myself. . . . [But it's really] a matter of choices and priorities. . . .

"Even as we march purposefully upward and onward, inwardly we are adrift. It is not a more rigorous schedule that we need. Rather, we need to establish our priorities. Where, after all, does prayer fit in the day? Ahead or behind returning phone calls or loading the dishwasher? Ahead or behind the obligatory twenty minutes on the exercise bicycle or trip to the gym? "
At Home in the World

Examples of True Hospitality

"Dee, who answers my doctor's telephone, is one of my hospitality angels. I'm not sure that I would recognize her if I met her on the street, but just the sound of her voice makes me feel better. Then there's Veronica from Ghana. She is one of the checkers at the wildly eclectic discount grocery up the street from the elegant gourmet shop. Her perfunctory colleagues do their job just as efficiently, but Veronica's broad smile, her collegial expressions of gratitude when I help bag the fruits and vegetables, her inquiries about my whereabouts when I am on the road — all make my encounters with her at the cash register occasions of true hospitality."
At Home in the World

Other Uses of the Rosary

"The rosary lends itself to many prayers, not just the traditional mysteries. We can use it for intercessions, naming a name and seeing a face as each bead slips through our fingers. We can use it as the Orthodox use their knotted prayer ropes, saying a Jesus Prayer with each bead. Or we can create our own categories for the decades — the groups of ten beads, separated by a single "Our Father" bead — as I did for my own prayer time a few years ago. Some of the categories were obvious. One decade for my loved ones, another for the sick and suffering.'
The Practice of Prayer

Getting Rid of Things

"I haven't achieved Jesus' standard of material austerity yet, but I'm working on it. A few years ago it was a real pleasure to dump my grandmother's twelve-place setting of elegant china on my elder daughter. She got more than she bargained for, but she hasn't realized it yet. I'd dragged it around for fifty years without realizing what a burden it was. It couldn't go in the dishwasher, and when would I ever have twelve people trying to sit down at a table, which comfortably seats four? To be sure, I still hang on to my staff and an extra tunic. It seems foolhardy to let them go and who knows when they might come in handy?"
Walking Home