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Blog 10/1/2016

School schedules, sports schedules, music and dance lessons, scouts and faith fomration classes and family trips to the apple orchard have settled most of us into a routine as October begins.  Here at MV, there have been a few bumps in the routine since we added the two newcomers, two Icelandic sheep, Macrina and Midnight, to our menagerie.  Two of our granddaughters also picked up their new puppy, Vail.  Babies, whether humans or animals, are such a delight and demonstrate that we still believe that our world is still such a beautiful place to be.

Macrina and Midnight

 

Macrina and Midnight settled in right away, and since we gave them a yard and shed all their own right next to the goats, they must think they are in heaven.  We can't really put collars on them since it would mat down their beautiful wool they are growing (check with us next month to see how we make out with the shearing!), but we discovered they will eat grain right out of our hands and follow us just about anywhere if we have grain with us.  The goats on the other hand, just sort of looked at them when they arrived, and more or less asked, "OK, what are these?!!  They don't exactly look like us!!"  Our nieghbor's grandson, Gilbert, who is not quite a year old yet, came to visit the other day and it was love at first sight!

 

Gilbert.two

 

Jeremiah and Sophie also seemed to size them up the first day with a few questioning glances, and Sophie has been her usual self still going out every night on her nighttime patroling excursions.  When the sheep arrived, she hopped over the livestock fences to check things out up close and personal.  Macrina and Midnight had a similar guard dog where they were before, so they pretty much ignored her.  The dogs just seem to be taking them in stride . . . "these must be the new kids on the block . . . funny looking kids though!"

 

Sky and sheep

 

A few days ago, we opened up all the gates, letting the sheep and goats mix. Again, it appeared that the sheep thought they had died and went to heaven. . . they now had three large yards to explore and much more grass to munch.  They are kind of funny to watch, since they never go far from the other one, and almost walk or run as if they were attaached at the hip.  There have been a few head bumps betweeen them and the goats, but for the most part, everyone is sharing and being good so far.

 

Our granddaughters don't live with us, but ar eabout 45 minutes away, and last week they came down our way to pick up their new puppy, Vail.  Since they were i the neighborhood, they had to stoop by and show her off!  Very cute!  45 minutes is not a long ride, but for a new puppy, who has never been in a car before . . . you guessed it . . . first she threw up all over Mary, our daughter, when she just stopped the car to pick up some Lysol wipes for puppy accidents, and then after she cleaned up and went back to driivng, Vail threw up all over Gretchen, our 8-year old granddaughter, before htey got home.  Once at her new home, however, Vail was a perfectly happy littel pup, romping and running all over the yard in her hew home. She is good as gold now and is currently being spoiled, esp. by two young girls who want tolay as much as she does.

 

vail.400

 

Pope Franics, in his Laudato Si letter, ahs told us we are all connected, and if animls and children are any indication, he was "right-on"!  To ensure those connections are blessings for all of us, we may need to pay more attention to our planet and our "Common Home" as he calls it, to see how we can continue to hang out those "home, sweet home" signs for the  next generations.  check out this week's LS column with section 2 of the document.  The first week's suggestion, even though it sounded pretty innocent . . . "let's check to see if we are all recycling in our homes" may have rocked a few boats. . . will tell you more later next week!

 

 

Blog 9/1/2016

Blog  September 1, 2016

 

As we enter into the Meteorologists’ autumn (September, October and November) and head into Labor Day weekend, students and teachers have started back to school, and eyes on are approaching tropical storms coming up the east coast.  Summer is just about over, but the beauty of another season is beginning to unfold.  Even with the possible storms, soon there will be glorious colored leaves falling from the trees and a panorama of God’s creation will begin to unfold.   Families will go apple picking and cranberries will be harvested here in New England, and there will be many a child going off to the pumpkin patch to see if they can find a big pumpkin that may be carved into the perfect jack-o-lantern and a few smaller ones that may make it into pies and breads and scones.

 

grains.400

 

September 1st also marks another observance.  Pope Francis reminded us today that in 2007, the Third Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu proposed celebrating a “Time for Creation” or a five week period starting today, September 1st (the Orthodox commemoration of the beginning of God’s creation) to October 4th, the feast of St. Francis Assisi, a feast in the Catholic Church and some Western traditions.   The World Council of Churches also supports this initiative.  It is a call to work together for environmental justice, or to roll up our sleeves and start taking better care of our planet.  In lieu of that, Pope Francis has directed today that care for our planet now be ranked among the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, especially in this Year of Mercy. 

 

leaf prayer.375

 

 

Last year, Pope Francis penned his encyclical, Laudato Si, on caring for our common home, and while encyclicals are usually addressed to Catholics, this one went a bit beyond that readership.  He implored not only all faiths, or all men and women of good will, but everyone living on this planet.  Such is the dire need to address the plight of our living space and our Common Home.  His entire message on this "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation" is found at this link: 

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/09/01/pope_francis_message_on_world_day_of_prayer_for_creation/1255035 

  

At Mystical Ventures, a site dedicated to sustainable living and caring for the earth, alongside our Catholic principles, we decided that this year would be a good year to unpack the teachings of Laudato Si, and see how they might apply to us living in rural New England.  The Pope in his message approaches the problem in true Ignatian format with an examen of sorts.  Caring for the planet first of all calls for prayers of gratitude and contemplation.  Our planet is a gift.  But we have sinned against it.  We have not cared for it as we should.  We need to examine our consciences to see what we have done not only to harm the various biosystems, but the poor and future generations who also depend on this earth. 

christians-praying

 

Acknowledging our sins should lead us to repentance, Confession and a firm purpose of amendment to do better, to try harder.  The pope gives us concrete examples of what we can do from not consuming more than we need, to turning off light bulbs, or curtailing our use of plastics.  In our area of the country, especially since it is semi-rural and many use the land in various ways, we should be able to come up with multiple ways in which we can care for the earth as an old Indian proverb has said:

 

"to the seventh generation . . . In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation . . . even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine."

 

This is an often repeated saying, and most who use it claim that it comes from “The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations," or the The Great Binding Law.

 

Each week at MV, we will unpack one paragraph of Laudato Si, and make some practical suggestions for care of our planet.  We invite you to do likewise and send in your comments so we may make this a community effort.  Our comments box seems to be having a few difficulties at the moment, so please send those comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for now.  I’ll report them each week.

 

God bless!

 

Blog 8/21/2016

 

Summer giving way to autumn . . .

 

Of course, as soon as the fireworks stop from the 4th of July, the school shopping ads come out and stores are trying to entice us to go school shopping . . . didn’t the kids just get out of school?  When our children were home and school age, this was the crazy time, trying to see who needed new shoes and jackets and school supplies, and what could be passed down from one child to the next one (do families still do that?).  Autumn has long been my favorite time of the year.  My birthday is in October and so was my Mom’s.   We shared the same day and it was always special for that reason.  The colors in New England are magnificent as well and I always thought that that was God’ birthday present to the two of us.  I also remember, though, along with numerous moms in town, that when that school bus finally rolled around for that first day of school, there was this collective “Thank You, God!!  They’re back in school!” going up all across town.  After that, as fall settled, it, one could almost hear the children growing . . .

 

Back-To-School.resized

 

Within the past week, we have made two summer trips to my son’s home two hours away, one, to see his new home (with a pool – it’s been unbelievably hot here) and two, to celebrate our granddaughter’s 5th birthday.  This weekend, we also heard proclaimed in the Gospel the story of the narrow gate, how we are all called to enter the narrow gate to the Lord.  One homilist talked about how all of us carrying two suitcases, one filled with memories of all the things we’ve done bad or hurtful pains of our past life and the other suitcase, all the good things we have done in our lives.  He told us that in order for us to go through that narrow gate, we needed to let go or drop both suitcases, for nothing we have done is outside of God’s mercy and nothing we have done could ever have earned us salvation.  Another homilist talked about that gate or that door being a “man door” or a door through which only one man could fit – it is the door to Christ and we each have to go in, one at a time.  He challenged us to ask ourselves if that was the door to which we are aiming – or is that just another entryway in our world that we look at from time to time?   Are we singularly focused on that door or gate?  Are all our energies directed toward that door or gate? 

swim.three.resized

 

I learned a lesson from my 5-year old granddaughter about singularity of attention this past week.  Abby is learning how to swim.  Since she is in her new home with a pool, each day she is getting a little braver and trying to “go deeper”.  A week ago, I was in the pool with her, laughing and jumping around in the water, and frolicking along with our 4 year old and 5 and ½ year old grandsons from another daughter.  Abby wanted to learn how to put her face in the water and swim.  She was trying, but a little apprehensive.  We were in the shallow end, and I took her two little hands and pulled her around in circles and weaved in and out, just for fun.  Then I let go and said, “OK, now you swim to me,” and I stepped back a few paces.  Again and again, she tried it and was laughing all the time.   She still wanted to put her face in the water and go underwater, so she finally did.  Each time she tried, I caught her two little hands with my hands and the more we did it, the more confident she became.   By the end of the day, she jumped off the diving board, went under and came up and I caught her two little hands once more.  She did it!  She was able to do that because of the marvelous attention and singular focus of a 5 – year old and because she knew I was there to catch her until she got it.  She wasn’t looking for anything else except my two hands.  That is singularity of attention!  Do we walk through life with our eyes on the prize (Phil. 3:13-14)?  Do we walk through door after door, with our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ?  Do we need someone on the other side with two hands ready to catch us? or pull us through?  I would say that the Holy Spirit provides those hands for us in each of the members of Christ’s body.   Scores of people in our lives offer those two hands to help us stay focused, to pull us along, or to pull us through the doors or that narrow gate.  We have only to open our eyes!  And hold on!   Once through that narrow gate, we can begin to appreciate autumn or fall, and we can actually hear each other grow!

 

leaves

 

As we begin another school year, may we all pull each other along, to help keep us focused and our eyes on the prize.  May we all teach each other how to care for our Common Home,  and may we all extend our hands to those in need and not be afraid to grasp onto the hands extended to help us through those narrow gates!

 

 

 

Blog 7/4/2016

 

Happy Independence Day!!

It has been a while since I have updated the website, since other projects have taken their time, especially a research project around the beautiful prayer form of Taize’, but the birth of our country seems good place to resume regular postings, especially since there is also a new birthing emphasis with Mystical Ventures.  Last year, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter, Laudato Si,

 

LS.pope francis

 

which called all peoples to begin to work together to take care of our Common Home, this planet.  It received widespread acclaim and acceptance, and struck a chord for many, no matter what religion or philosophy the many may have embraced.  It is about stewardship.  We are all dependent on one another and all of us are dependent on our loving Creator, who sustains our every breath, and who gave us this Common Home to enjoy and nurture.  The principles behind Mystical Ventures are very similar to Pope Francis’ directives: to live a sustainable life while taking care of the earth and putting more back into the earth than what we took:

Grounded in the Roman Catholic mystical tradition and the conviction that the earth sustains us in multiple ways, Mystical Ventures (MV) hopes to connect the dots for many peoples of varied interests and demonstrate how religious faith empowers us to understand our ecological environment. Mystical prayer connects with the food we eat, the animals that sustain us, the books we read, the cycles and sounds of nature and stewardship of the earth alongside our individual vocations and care for the poor.

We will continue to share our lives of living that sustainable life through gardening, cooking, preserving produce, animal husbandry and land management, ecological practices, adult faith formation and prayer.  Today, more than ever, prayer is required.  Laudato Si will be available by link on the website and we will begin to make explicit connections between Laudato Si (LS), or what Pope Francis is calling us to do and the sustainable lifestyle at MV.  To begin, perhaps, we should all step back and consider repentance.  What have we done to this beautiful Garden of Eden that was once gifted to us?   In the early paragraphs of LS, Francis refers to his predecessor’s words, those of Pope Benedict XVI, who with paternal concern urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone.  The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.” (LS, 6)

The opening words of our Constitution read:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of  the United States of America.

Just in those opening lines, we hear a call to unity (not factions), to Justice (not injustice), to Tranquility (or peace), to common needs, and to Blessings.  David Brooks wrote a great text last year, entitled: The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015) in which he gave his readers several stories of men and women in this country who gave up their own agendas for someone else’s or for some larger purpose than themselves.  That is what is needed as we move forward to caring for our planet or our Common Home.  If we truly love this country, then we must be willing to sacrifice for her. 

 

fourth of july.soldier

There is no love without sacrifice.  As we celebrate the 4th this year, let us all be mindful of that call.  May we do what we can to ensure that those spacious skies, those amber waves of grain, those purple mountain majesties and alabaster cities gleaming are here for our children and our grandchildren.

 

 

Blog 11/27/2015

 

From one year to the next . . .

As we continue to enjoy turkey sandwiches, turkey casseroles, and turkey soup these days after Thanksgiving, this is one of those years when Thanksgiving is put away and Advent is brought out all the same weekend.  Our Advent wreath will be put out tomorrow evening  on our dining room table and stockings will be dug out of storage to make sure they are hung on the mantle before December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas.  We savor the beginning of a new Cycle and a New Year by gradually introducing Christmas in our home, putting up the Christmas tree just days before Christmas.  This Advent time is the time for reflecting and waiting and anticipation.  We pause to think about what we learned this past year, what we lost, and what we gained and what may lie ahead.  An appreciation for family roots was gained by our trip to Ireland, England and Wales this past summer, where we met distant cousins and family members. I was given the opportunity to pause long enough to enjoy the beautiful Jesuit retreat house in St. Asaph, Wales for eight days of that trip.  We felt a deep loss this fall when our favorite and last “house” dog, Joey, our English Setter, had to be put down about six weeks ago, but more recently, we have welcomed a new member to our family in the canine department, a 15-month old Irish Setter named Maverick.  His formal name is more true to his character though: Organized Chaos!  The New Year will soon be beginning and we do not know where it will take us.  Soon, the holiday baking and shopping will commence, and the Christmas choir concerts and shows will unfold.  Bill filled so many Thanksgiving baskets with our local St. Vincent de Paul that he lost count, and the chairman has told him to expect the same as Christmas nears.  The need is so great for those among us who do not have enough food.

2016 may be a year of surprises, and certainly a year of the unknown, but for now, we pause to give thanks and continue to wonder at the beauty of the earth, and the love of our God, who loved us so much that he gave the world his only begotten son! 

Maranatha!