Last month we traveled a little way from home and had a great big adventure. We were celebrating our girl turning 8 and went to stay a few nights in the yurts at Champoeg, a historic townsite from the 1840s. Even though it was rainy and cold outside, the yurts kept us dry and happy! We went for walks along the river, built fairy houses, took a daytrip to the monastery, and even roasted cinnamon rolls over the fire!
Remembering the red paper poppies that blossomed on lapels the autumn I lived in London.
Remembering bells tolling each day at parish churches during November as the the names of parishioners who had died were read aloud. This was not an abstract remembrance. It was rooted in place and time.
Remember the absolute hush that washed over the busy city at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Everything stopped.
Remembering my Shakespeare professor in London taking us out for dinner at a Korean restaurant. When the woman came with our menus, he waved her off and began speaking to her in Korean. He had served in the Korean War…as a code breaker. We were totally shocked! The woman went back to the kitchen and brought out everyone who worked there. We smiled and looked on amazed as they talked on. Can you imagine the meal they served us?
Remembering my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. McGrath, teaching us “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Remembering the nubby feeling of the blanket that always covered the crippled legs of my great grandfather, Christopher Columbus West. He got frostbite on his legs in the trenches in France during the first World War. He always welcomed me on his lap when I got scared as the freight trains rattled past.
Ár NAthair (Our Father)
by Brian Doyle, from his collection Epiphanies & Elegies: Very Short Stories
It was my grandfather who taught me the prayer
One sunny morning sitting on the front brick steps
As cars and dogs and children went passing by.
Atá ar neamh, who is in heaven he said, though
Of course He is no He at all in the general sense
But is us and everywhere and that’s a stone fact
No matter what your gramma says, don’t tell her.
Go naofar d’ainm, hallowed be thy name,
Go dtaga do ríocht, thy kingdom come, which
It is already, as we see just by paying attention.
Go ndéantar do thoil, thy will be done, ar an
Talamh mar a dhéantar ar neamh, on earth as
It is in heaven. Tabhair dúinn inniu, give to us
Ár n-arán laethúl, our daily bread, and agrus
Maith dúinn ár bhfiacha, forgive us our debts
Mar a mhaithimidne dár bhféichiúna féin, as we
Forgive our own debtors, which huh we have none.
Well, the prayer as usually promulgated then goes
On to say agus ná lig sinn i gcathú, and lead us not
Into temptation, but that’s a cruel and foolish line
And I will not teach it to you. So, ach saor sin ó olc,
But deliver us from evil, and right there we really
Should say please, but we are Catholics, boy, and no
Polite at all one bit. And then we finish with amen.
Which let us say it together as men do, so amen!
We said together sitting smiling watching the parade
Which forty years later I do with him still in my heart.
Rahima Baldwin said that reverence and gratitude form the basis of our spiritual lives. That if we can approach life with reverence and respond with gratitude, we will be able to lead our children as well.
Late one night as I was sweeping up the kitchen, I realized again that I was spending my life cleaning up messes that would be made new in the morning. But I was doing it because I wanted to show forth my thanks not only with my lips but also with my life. I was grateful beyond words for the lives that had made this mess. It was reverence for these lives that had me re-making our home.
No one understood the connections between reverence for life, profound gratitude, and a life given over to service better than Dorothy Day, whose birthday we celebrate today! She made life on the edge of the Bowery in New York City beautiful by offering a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup to the least among us.
- Read this brief article about Dorothy Day and the examen.
- Listen to Brother Cornell West speak the truth about our dear Sister Dorothy.
How will you and your children give thanks this year?