Monday, October 25, 2010

A Nod to Nouwen

Three months ago, J and I spent part of a day at the Abbey of the Genesee in New York, where Henri J. M. Nouwen spent seven months, and wrote The Genesee Diary: report from a Trappist monastery. Last week, I finished reading the Diary, and once again experienced the sense of sadness I feel when I have read the final sentence in a book I've loved. Do any of you feel something similar at the end of a cherished book, as though a dear friend walked out the door?

Nouwen's honest writing about his painful struggles while in the monastery include excellent entries about prayer, the psalms, manual labor, community, moodiness, the need for approval, and the communion of saints. His dedication which precedes the book's opening pages reads as follows: "To all contemplative men and women who by their commitment to unceasing prayer offer us hope in the midst of a troubled world."

I commend this book to you, and I hope that Nouwen's descriptions of baking the abbey's Monk's Bread (famous in upstate New York) will make you prayerful over the next piece of bread that you eat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Please pardon this proud mom moment

Happy feast day of St. Luke!

Normally I reserve this space for poking fun at myself, or relating a story from church life which serves as a reminder that we can take ourselves too seriously. Today I want to share this link from last night's Anglicans Online. The authors went to the Evensong service at the church where our son serves as choirmaster.

Several paragraphs down in the article the authors begin, "Tonight, we attended a service of sung Evening Prayer that was flawless in every respect." Of course I'm delighted to see the recognition, but I'm happier still to hear in that 25-yr.-old choirmaster's voice today such complete joy in his work, such passion for the music and text. That N has found this degree of joy in his work and has such a parish that both receives and shines forth joyous light makes me happier than I can say.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


On this date 39 years ago J and I had our first date, sitting together at an Oberlin Alumni Association dinner for which we (in the Oberlin Choir) were part of the evening's entertainment. J was my entertainment; he spent the whole dinner making me laugh. Our older table companions likely were rolling their eyes at his nonstop antics. The vichyssoise that we ate that night was fantastic, and we still talk about it. Little did I know that J had planned to sit with me, nor that we would laugh so much, no doubt raising many a distinguished eyebrow.

After that night, I discovered that J walked down Professor Street at a certain time each night to the dining hall, so I "happened" to walk down the same street, several days in a row, till we met up -- and the sparkle in those dancing brown eyes won my heart all over again. After that, we were obvious as a couple. A fellow choir member (now a well-known conductor) dubbed us "Mr. and Mrs. Farm America." The title may have come from J's wearing plaid flannel shirts -- who knows?

And how could we have known that, years later, we'd be living in the heart of wavy cornfields, not quite on the farm, but firmly planted in Iowa. We won't be eating vichyssoise this evening, but we will have dinner together -- better than way too many evenings, now that we work as priests in cities 75 miles apart. Ah, soup of the evening, beautiful soup!