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Blog 10/7/2012


Bringing in the Sheaves.....     10/7/2012            

It is that time of year again, when the days are getting shorter and there is a slight nip to the air.  Yesterday was very windy and leaves were flying everywhere.  I kept thinking of Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin chasing leaves in the hundred acres wood, and a nursery rhyme I used to read to the children when they were small:  “One misty moisty morning when cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet and old man, clothed all in leather,” only I kept substituting, “when windy was the weather”.  I remember the children playing in the leaves and now I get to see our grandchildren doing the same.  This is my favorite season of the year.  It’s light sweater weather and the colors are breath-taking.  The sedums and mums are exploding with color along with the trees.  All around us, people are putting away summer things and getting ready for the colder months.  The garden is still producing, though it is slowing down, and Bill has already started putting some of the raised beds to sleep for the winter.  A fresh batch of straw arrived this past week and Bill spread it all over the orchard, adding one more layer of fertilizer to the ground. 


Neighbors are gathering in the hay and loading it into barns to use until next spring.  I passed some of them working the other day and paused to take a few pictures, and was reminded of an old American Gospel spiritual: “Bringing in the Sheaves”.  I remember hearing it in a number of television programs and stories, though I don’t remember singing it myself in Church.  I started investigating and found out it was very popular among Protestant Churches, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  I found out that the lyrics were written by Knowles Shaw in 1874 and the tune was composed by Gregory Minor in 1880.  At the heart of the hymn, though, not surprisingly is a psalm: Psalm 126.  It is one of those short assent psalms, only six verses long, but one that contrasts the then and now scenarios.  Scholars have suggested it might be talking about the Exodus or the Babylonian captivity or simply what happens if one becomes transformed by the Almighty God.  One moves from sadness to joy.  What one sows one day, one may be able to bind later into sheaves of grain, grain to nourish.  The words offer some beautiful thoughts as we begin to appreciate the gorgeous paintbrush of autumn that our Lord God lavishes upon us:


Bringing in the Sheaves


Sowing in the morning,                                        MV.Sheaves.two

sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.



Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,  

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.


Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,

Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;

By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.  


   Refrain                                                                     MV.Sheaves.three  


   Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,    

   Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;

   When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,

   We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.





Blog 9/14/2012


School bells are ringing… we go again, down into the cave…..


backtoschool-300pxThe school buses are rolling again, and the day after Labor Day, one could almost hear that collective “Yippee!” resounding from all the moms and dads in town putting those little ones back on the school buses after a long summer hiatus. Or, if they were older and just leaving for college, those occasional tears might have been shed as young adults left home for the first time and moms and dads let go for the first time. Of course, there was that other collective sigh from all the teachers and school administrators and classroom aides and workers, etc., some more excited than others, of beginning that trip down into the cave one more year…..

If you’ve ever read Plato’s Republic, in his seventh book, he describes his educational theory for his utopian polis or city. Already divided into his three categories of craftsmen, guardians and philosopher kings, Plato realizes that education will be critical for all his classes and uses the allegory of the cave to illustrate what he envisions. Many young Athenians of his day were blind to true knowledge and were swayed easily by various opinions and really sitting in ignorance in the dark. So he has them in a cave, sitting chained to and facing a wall, with a small fire burning behind them in front of a wall with puppeteers performing on top of the wall. The puppeteers cast shadows on the wall and that is all the young Athenians are seeing: a mere illusion of reality. They have not come out of the cave into the light to see that there is a reality about which they never dreamed. The wise begin dragging out their kinsmen, one at a time and bringing them into the light, where they encounter all that is bright and just and GOOD. It is often a struggle and they need time to get adjusted to the light. It then becomes their turn, though, to go back down into the cave and bring out the next person, and the cycle continues. Each citizen, once they have tasted the sweetness of knowledge must go back down in to the cave to share with those who do not yet see clearly. That way, he envisions that eventually everyone in his polis will become an educated person.

So, whether we are the parents sending the young ones off to school or the teachers welcoming them back for another year, or if we choose to go down into the cave in other ways this year to teach others what we have learned, or listen and be taught by others far wiser than ourselves, another year of learning has begun. Autumn is my favorite time of year; the colors are gorgeous and the weather crisp and cool. When our children were small, and they got back on those school buses and started coming home day after day with homework and assignments and trumpet lessons and ballet lessons and soccer practice and religious education and chorus practice and cheerleading and volleyball, etc., you could almost hear them growing. You could almost hear them learning.

A sustainable lifestyle is one that acknowledges the growing cycle. Aristotle tells us we are always moving, always in motion toward our natural end goal. We are growing and decaying, dying and rising in concert with the Paschal mysteries. Education and learning is an invitation, one that God extends to us every year. Come, dig a little deeper. Come, investigate a little further. Come, open oneself up to new possibilities. Come, see the light!

Blog 8/17/2012

Making sauerkraut with Our Lady…..

     Though I love them both, one usually doesn’t pair the Blessed Virgin Mary with sauerkraut. For me, however, they went together on Tuesday. The day before Our Lady’s Feast of the Assumption, Bill picked a few heads of cabbage for me to start making sauerkraut. We have a number of large heads of cabbage this year, and we usually plant the early variety, so I can harvest some of them in the summer. A lot of folks wait until fall to make sauerkraut, but by fall, I’m usually back in school, so time is a premium. We’ve already had some wonderful coleslaw and stuffed cabbage, but now it was serious time to get a handle on putting up the cabbage.

I love our Marian feasts, too. I have relied on Our Lady most of my life as role model and as one to turn to who had that understanding heart of a mother. When we first moved to MV, some forty plus years ago, one of the first things we did do was get a small statue of Mary and put it at the bottom of the backyard hill, near a small hillside of daffodils and tulips we had planted. I could see the statue from my kitchen window, which is above my kitchen sink, and over the years, let me tell you, I have spent lots of time in front of that window. The tulips lasted only one season, since we were soon to discover we were sharing the land with a host of little chipmunks, who just love tulip bulbs. The daffodils, however, are still with us, since those bulbs are often poisonous. Even my goats need to stay away from those. But every spring, the yellow blaze of glory erupts after a long winter nap. Today, the same statue of Mary sits in her same spot, but now near the goat yard and chicken yard, sort of keeping watch.

MarystatueSo, the other day, I was reflecting on Our Lady’s Assumption while shredding cabbage and looking out the window. It seems she accompanies me with a variety of household tasks, since she probably did some of the same while on earth. One of our homilists said something about Mary not having to undergo decay, and being assumed into heaven body and soul, was part of her destiny. It went well with the feast and the logic of the Immaculate Conception, that Mary was conceived without sin. Death should not and did not touch her in the usual way. And I agree with him, but our destiny is somewhat different. We are burdened with sin and our bodies will go the way of all carbon creatures at the end of our time on this planet until the Parousia, the second coming, the day of Resurrection. We are in process until then. We are born, grow up, mature, get old and eventually die. It is a journey back to the Father. In a way, we are sort of like the cabbage I was shredding: we are fermenting, we are growing and becoming something more mellow, more aged, more nourishing. It will be a few weeks before we can enjoy the sauerkraut in, among other things, some of our favorite Rueben casseroles, and hopefully a number of years before God is done with me yet, but we share a common destiny. We are fermenting. Praise God!!  


Blog 8/03/2012

Movin’, movin’, movin’…..

     moving dayThe summer of 2012 will go down in our family as the summer of the moving vans and moving furniture. We tend to visit each other in the summer, especially when new babies have been born, so extra beds and pack ‘n plays get set up and then taken down. My husband and I were trying to move a queen sized box spring downstairs today and it got caught in the stairwell. Currently it is in our living room, while we wait for the carpenter to finish hanging new pegboard and insulation in the garage, where we will have to store it until it is needed again. Our eldest daughter is moving across country from California to Massachusetts, so she has had moving vans moving her car and taking some furniture to storage and others to her sister’s house until she finds a condo she likes near her new job. Our oldest son is moving from one town in MA to another, to a home he owned, but was renting to a young couple. Unfortunately, they are leaving it less than pristine, so this weekend is all about painting walls before the rugs get pulled up and replaced later this week, one day ahead of the furniture arriving. And our family Patriarch, Pepere, at 93 years young, will be moving in with us within a few weeks, so we are clearing one room for his bedroom and trying to figure out how we have accumulated so much “stuff” in nearly 40 years in one house and how he has accumulated so much “stuff” in his 93 years of living. I am reminded of the passage in Scripture in which the man is so worried about filling his barn that he forgets his life will need an accounting that very night. (Luke 12:16-21):

Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘what should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grains and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool. This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich for God.”

The garden is also “coming in,” which means it’s time for canning and freezing and putting up food for the winter, too. We don’t have a barn, but we do have a basement kitchen that will be chock full of canned goods and frozen food by the end of October. We have been blessed with an abundance this year, too. I think there is an old adage about space and closets and cupboards…the more you have, the more you will fill them. Finding places for all this “stuff” this summer can cause one to reflect on what is really important. It’s not how many jars of pickled beets are in the cupboard or how many jars of tomatoes are on the shelves. It’s not about queen sized beds or end tables or cedar chests or couches or coffee pots. Relationships matter. God matters. And that’s pretty much it. It’s good to remember that when one is movin’.

Blog 7/6/2012

suckers300pxA simple theology of presence…..


     In both my office on my desk, and in my home on my wall, I have reminders to “simplify”. We live such cluttered and busy lives today that for the past several Lents, my resolution has been to de-clutter, to simplify. It is often easier to do theology if one’s head is uncluttered. There are multiple ways of understanding theology. Scholars do fundamental theology, apologetic theology, historical-critical theology, existentialist theology, etc. and many define theology in different ways. My favorite has always been St. Anselm’s 13th century definition: Theology is: “faith seeking understanding”. The Judaic-Christian-Islamic message, however, no matter how one does their theology, is about relationships, especially our relationship with the Holy One. Our Lord, or Adonai or Allah is always watching over us, is constantly sustaining us and giving us the very air we breathe. If this God were to look away, we would perish in an instant; this God is in constant relationship with us; his attention span is eternal. When I try to understand this, I think of my own relationships and they pale enormously. I can barely concentrate on one thing at a time, never mind more than one person at a time. I do think, however, that when we find ourselves totally absorbed with another human person, when we are truly present to that other person, and not thinking about where we just came from or what we have to do in the next hour or day or so, or when we simply uni-task with one person instead of all the ridiculous multi-tasking the world tells us we must do, we mirror God the closest. We are doing a “theology of presence”. We are intimately present to the other. I had a rare opportunity to do this yesterday with one of our granddaughters, Ayla, who is just five years old. Ayla, who lives in Virginia, is visiting for a couple weeks this summer. She is great fun, but today she and I were having a contest. We wanted to see who could lick a lollipop the fastest if all we did was just lick… biting or nibbling. So, she sat on my lap and we each took out a lollipop and began to lick and savor the watermelon pops. For five whole minutes, we licked and talked and looked each other in the eye and were really PRESENT to each other. We noticed that when you just lick a lollipop, it can get sharp and you can cut your tongue. We noticed that our tongues were turning pink or green. We decided that we both like watermelon lollipops. We chatted about a few other things, too, but for those five minutes, the rest of the world had to wait…..we were busy being there for each other in a fun way. A theology of presence is crucial in our lives, but it doesn’t have to be all serious and profoundly complicated and explicated and theorized. It can be as simple as being there for another enjoying a lollipop.