Friday, February 19, 2016
Last weekend, I went for a walk in six degree weather. The air I walked in was the type that burns any exposed skin... that makes your sinuses ache when you scrunch your nose and your eyes water in the wind. These aren't the types of temperatures we often have in the Mid-Atlantic region and yet, despite the absolute chill, I walked for over a mile.
Sitting here as my forehead peels, I'm grateful that I did. I cleared me head and allowed me to see things from a new perspective. It also reminded me of where I've been. You see, for the year I lived in Chicago as a novice I walked a lot and at least once a week I walked multiple miles in temperatures near zero to get to my ministry site at a Montessori school across town on the North Side.
I remember the freedom those walks afforded me. As novices, the women I lived with and I lived in close quarters. We spent an inordinate amount of time together and a lot of time praying and processing together. This time was full of grace, yet every Monday when I hopped on the L, I was happy for the walk that awaited me. That walk gave me time to reflect on my own. I'd walk a mile to the station by our house and then reaching the North Side, I'd walk at least another mile because the bus never seemed to show up. Through rain and snow, ice and wind, I made that walk. And trudging down the hill to our Mother house Saturday, I couldn't help but remember all that time in Chicago meant to me.
There are some moments in life, when it feels like seismic shifts are taking place, that you find yourself grasping for solid ground. And, there are other moments when, even though the shifts are seemly imperceptible- whether by design or denial- that you find yourself happening upon touchstones in your life. These touchstones give you something to stand on. With each footfall this weekend I felt a little more support.
These cold winter days are filled with change and challenge. The stark realities of religious life stand out when everything else seems to be stripped bare. It's at that intersection that I seem to stand. And here is where numerous touchstones seem to be coming to me, as if God is saying "Be still. Fear not. I am here and you are mine."
Two weekends ago, I found myself at my Alma Mater for a reunion of sorts. Each year, alumnae of the Religious Studies program at Fairfield University gather for an evening to join in conversation and community. This moment of pause with old (and new) friends in familiar places is a gift. This is a touchstone community for me, full of touchstone people. This is the group I left suddenly the first year to go be with my dying grandfather and this is where I return year after year to reflect personally and theologically on life and the future. We share and journey together. I am reminded who I am, simply by being with those who know a part of me and as a result hold a touchstone piece in the mosaic of my life.
Before leaving campus the day after to drive back to Philly, I stopped by the Egan Chapel- a cornerstone of my Fairfield experience. Here is where I prayer the Spiritual Exercises during the 19th Annotation, where I spent countless nights, where I gave my energy and found a deeper sense of living. Simply being in a space like that is rejuvenating. Everything you encounter holds significance, reverberating with a sense of the holy and evoking a fundamental wholeness. This place is home, even after many years of absence.
It is the places, people, and experiences of life that ground us. From time to time, we find ourselves called to return to them. In some cases, we know why and in others, we are left to wonder. Either way, we know them in the core of our being. These are our touchstones. They lead us closer to God and the pave the way for what lies ahead, reminding us that no matter how rocky the path gets it is the touchstones that hold firm beneath our feet.