Birthdays make me reflective and as I get older the more
reflection I seem to need. I just had my birthday and I have been contemplating
memories of the last 72 years. I find it
hard to believe that I’m in my 70th decade and it is even harder to
believe I survived all those years.
Have you noticed memories are kind of weird? We never really
remember them as they were but as we want them to be. I also don’t remember
them in order and one memory seems to trigger another that may have happened
years before or years after. But, the
act of remembering is a re-membering of me.
It is a process to remind me from where I came and how each memory
created me. It is a little like a yearly
‘Examen.’ It isn’t just remembering but an accounting of my life. It is an opportunity to remember the good
times and the bad, to forgive others, and to be forgiven, and to offer myself
I find God’s grace in memories, grace I hadn’t noticed when
I was living them. I sometimes discover angels who have been my guides or
protectors that I didn’t recognize when they entered and left my life. Each
grace and angel helped form me into the person I have become. Unfortunately, I
have also recognized a few individuals who lead me from my path, and I had to
struggle to return, often with the help of one of those angels. It is one of
God’s enduring graces that angels come when we need them and it’s usually when
we have gotten everything all wrong.
I have been rescued so many times that my guardian angel carries
an extra-large emergency kit. I am sure
she is grateful I haven’t needed to be rescued for a while. I started very
early with getting my self into trouble. I was 6 when I pulled a deep-fat fryer
down on top of me, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns
over 75% of my body. My memory of the incident is I wasn’t alone, I was being
told I would be alright, and I was. An
angel in the shape of a plastic surgeon came and volunteered to perform all the
skin grafts, paying for the hospital himself, and not charging my parents. Without the skill of Dr. Meany, I would have
been severely crippled. I would have been unable to live a normal life. My
gratitude for the Doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save and heal me has
no bounds. To give back the gift given
to me I have tried to be present to those who have been burnt, giving them
comfort, and sitting and listening to their fears.
Passing on the gifts of grace has become part of who I am. I
have been on the verge of homelessness a couple of times in my life and each
time one of those angels was sent in to help. To pass on that gift I have
helped others who have been on that edge, never expecting I will be repaid but
always expecting that they will pass on their gift of grace. If everyone did that no one would ever be
Those are nice memories, but I also have memories I am not
proud of. In my early 20’s I worked with
a woman who could be abrasive and, quite honestly, we didn’t just not get
along, we disliked each other intensely. I am ashamed to say that I started a
not so nice rumor about her. There was a small, very small, bit of truth to it but
essentially it was an exaggeration of the facts. I never apologized to her, in fact it wasn’t
long after it happened that I left for college. I regret that. I will never see
her again, I don’t even know if she is still alive. A few years ago, during a
ritual of forgiveness, I asked God to let her know, wherever she is, that I am truly
sorry. I also offered a prayer to forgive myself in order to let go of the feelings
of guilt, and, anger I had felt towards her. It took a while to feel within the
forgiveness I sought but eventually I did.
Memories are funny things, I don’t remember the same ones
every year but the ones I do seem to be the ones God wants me to remember. As I am 72 I have a lot of memories, I sincerely
hope I have enough time in the life left to me to ask for forgiveness, and to
express gratitude for those I haven’t remembered yet. Only time will tell.
Birthdays are not something I celebrate, but I find them useful. They offer a time to recognize grace, ask for forgiveness, and find peace in a life that has seen some rocky roads. I have no idea what memories I will form in the next years and I hope they will be good ones. I also hope they won’t be too embarrassing, but if they are, I know God and the angels will be nearby. After all my guardian angel has that huge emergency kit just waiting for me to mess up.
Last night was the Autumnal Equinox. The Sun crossed that imaginary line in the sky called the celestial equator from north to south. Spring begins in the southern hemisphere and fall officially begins here in the north. I don’t know about you but I’ve been feeling ‘fall’ for some time now. The nights are cooler, the air has that dried leaf smell to it and the light, well, just looks different, fallish you might say. But with all things human we have to have a point in space and time that defines what we already know to be. We humans can be silly.
While summer is my favorite time I have to admit fall has its good points. There is nothing like taking a walk in the park, leaves crunching beneath my feet, red gold above my head and a blue sky the color of which you only see in fall. This is the time of year I make a pilgrimage into our neighborhood park, Yost Park, and find a quiet corner to sit and pray with nature. A thank you prayer for a lovely summer, a pray of gratitude that I am able to experience the joys, and beauty of all the seasons. I reflect on the past summer and all of the joy and sorrow it brought. As I gaze at the now flaming trees amongst the dark evergreens I allow memory’s to surface of past falls, and allow myself to sink into that deep connection to nature that comes only from giving me permission to feel the creative life of the surrounding world now slowing into slumber. I often remember past fall walks with my father. We used to walk through our fields that were once green and bursting with life but now covered in a sleepy haze the ground began to enter its winter sleep.
Fall is a good time for reflection, a time to take stock, a time to remember, and a time for rest. So for this week’s prayer practice I would like to offer you a Prayer of Examen with nature. Being outside and experiencing the smells and sights of the natural world often triggers memories of past walks by yourself or with others. It gives the experience of the Examen a very immediate and fresh sense, allowing the old memories to open a deeper connection to the creator in today’s moment.
Prayer of Examen with Nature:
Take 30 minutes, or more if you like, and go for a walk outside. Find a quiet place where you may sit without interruption. Note: leave your cell phone at home.
Let this time be just between you and God. In whatever way is most comfortable for you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your memories through your imagination.
As you sit allow a memory to surface of an experience from the past summer or from a previous year where you felt deeply connected with nature and creation.
In your imagination, visit your memory, recall details such as colors, smells, and sounds, even tasted. Take your time in remembering the details. If you have your journal with you may want to write them down.
Walk through your memory, turning it around and viewing it from different angles. Are you with someone, or alone? Where was it? Was it a joyful memory or one that tugs at the heart with sadness? Not all fall memories are happy ones and those that cause us grief can be just as meaningful as the joyful one. Linger with your memory; let it soak in.
When you feel you have spent sufficient time with your meditation notice how you feel at this moment and offer any gratitude that arises. Express thankfulness to God in the way that is most natural for you. You may want to express your gratitude for the part of nature you have spent this time, recognizing the part it played in your imagination.
You may wish to write your insights in your journal or just what you did or did not notice in your memory for later reflection.
May your time of reflection and rest in your quiet corner of creation help shape how you see and experience nature in the coming days and years. May all creation bless you with rest and healing.
As you gaze at the picture take a deep breath and let it out slowly, take a second breath and let it out slowly, let your shoulders relax and your gaze soften.
Look deeply at the picture and let the colors and figures enter your imagination. What feelings does it bring to the surface? What memories? Do you see yourself in the picture? What does that feel like?
Respond to the image with prayer and if you would like to offer a prayer of thanksgiving or intercession.
Continue to gaze at the picture, breathe deeply and rest quietly. Let God pray in you in silence beyond words.
Blessings to all mothers, who give up so much for the love of their children.
Holy Mother God, thank you for the love of my mother, in her arms I always found shelter and comfort and now she rests in your arms. Tell her I am grateful for all her gifts, for they have made me the woman I am today. Amen