The real “September Issue” is grace

September 14, 2009 - Leave a Response
Photo by filetransit.com
Photo by filetransit.com

First of all, let me tell you about this photo. I asked Sr. Tracey (one of the sisters in my community) what image came to mind when she heard the word “grace”. She said the ocean, big, blue, all-embracing. I asked because I wanted to lead into this reflection with this image in mind….

Last Friday I went to see “The September Issue”, the story of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine, the biggest ever. The film also focused on Anna Wintour, the editor – some say that the Meryl Streep character in “The Devil Wears Prada” was based on her.

Although the film was about fashion, it turned out to be a grace-filled experience.

I wrote it for this blog and then thought to share it via my blog on the  National Catholic Reportersite. I invite you to click through to savor the moment.

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Grace is losing your keys (and wallet)

September 7, 2009 - 2 Responses

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What are the ingredients for a stressful day? What portends it? It started off very well. A quiet, prayerful morning. Beautiful weather. Driving to the bookstore (Barnes&Noble) and movie theater (Landmark) complex a couple of miles away. Buying tickets for two movies to see and then review for St. Anthony Messenger Magazine or National Catholic Reporter or other outlets. Next, a non-fat latte in the Barnes & Noble cafe’. Browsed for a few moments before the first film started. And on the way out, somehow, I dropped my keys. I mean, I had a bag. My wallet and keys weigh more than a pound. I have a long chain dangling off it and a St. Paul medal (thanks a lot, St. Paul.) What was I thinking? I have no idea.

I take my lunch with me (they don’t sell diet food at the theater) so I went from one theater to the other to see the films,  stopped in the ladies’, and then to the car. As I approached the car I started digging in my bag (portable pit, true). No keys. The water bottle weighed down the bag so I hadn’t missed the weight of keys. I frantically checked through the car windows; had I locked the keys in the car (I have done this twice in the last year or so)? No, I had them when I bought the tickets. I started getting more frantic; but knew I had to keep my cool.

I began praying to my guardian angel as I mentally went through the process of cancelling cards and getting a new driver’s license. Then I began bargaining with God, “Come on, God. You have saved me from this so many times. Don’t let this be the time when I really lose it all.” At the theater concierge desk the manager told me no one had turned in any keys with a wallet attached. He asked one of the employees to go with me to search the theaters where I had been sitting. He was so kind. I checked the trash bins (yuck, but it had to be done). Nothing.

Next I made the rounds in Barnes & Noble, up, down, nothing. Then the theater concierge suggested checking with the mall security across the street. Although I protested that I hadn’t gone there (I can’t stand that mall actually; it is not set out well and doesn’t have anything a nun needs. Hmm. Oh, except a See’s chocolate shop but I must stay away from those.) But I trekked over there and left my name and number.

I returned to the concierge at the theater for another try; this time a young woman accompanied me. She told me, “You know, I always think that something happens for a reason. Who knows? Maybe if you had not been delayed here, something might have happened. God must have wanted you to wait here.”  I looked at her with amazement; she was teaching me like it was the most normal thing in the world to speak this way. I thought to myself, “Who are you? My guardian angel?”

Back to Barnes & Noble, resigned to the consequences of my own distraction and habitual misplacing of keys, and feeling more calm. I called one of the Sisters with a spare car key and asked if she would come and meet me. I sat on a bench, leafing through a magazine, waiting for her call when she reached the parking garage. I was decompressing, breathing, and wondering, “What is God trying to tell me? I think God is trying to get my attention; God is telling me to pay attention, to take care, to be intentional, thoughtful.”

Then it came to me: “You didn’t leave your name and number with the service desk at Barnes & Noble.” So I took the escalator downstairs and waited for someone to serve me. I had been there earlier but one young man went through a box and said the keys were not there. This time it was a different young man. His eyes brightened! He said, “Oh, yes. I have to check the safe.” They were not there, but meanwhile another sales assistant came, reached under the counter, and voila’! My keys and wallet!” “Someone turned them in” the young man said. “You know, people do that. This week someone found a $100 bill on the floor and turned it in, too.”

It was hard not to cry with relief. I blessed them effusively – they were so kind. Then I went upstairs and thanked the theater manager for all their help.

Now I would have to face my community; they know how I am with those keys. Yet even they were kind and merely smiled rather than the usual teasing. I thanked Sr Hosea for bringing the spare key even though she arrived at the garage just as my keys were returned to me.

My heart was slowly returning to normal.

So, what did I learn from this seemingly futile exercise?

1. People are good; I believe in that people want to do the right thing.

2. God wants me to pay attention more; to slow down.

3. Like the young woman said, it was providence; for some reason I was meant to spend an extra two hours running around the complex, delaying my getting back on the road.

4. It was an experience in grace shown through the kindness of many people, all unknown to me and perhaps to one another.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading was from Mark (7:31-37). It was the story of a miracle: Jesus opened the ears of a man who could not hear or speak. Yesterday was a miracle for me, a small one in relation to all the miracles people need every day.

Thank you, God, for miracles and the goodness of people. Grant people the miracles they need, even before they ask or know they need them.

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(And the last thing? I did my exercise! To the point of perspiring – profusely. No exercise machine tonight! Ah, such a small silver lining but I was grateful for this, too.)

Breathing space

September 3, 2009 - One Response

breathing space

On Tuesday I had to wait at the doctor’s office for an hour before he could see me. Knowing this might be the case, I decided to bring some reading from home rather than browsing the celebrity magazines, which is ok (it helps one collect trivia for game shows). But I had started reading Pope Benedict’s latest document, the encyclical “Charity in Truth” or if you prefer the Latin: Caritas in Veritatae  and I got hooked.

The Pope lays out the Church’s social teaching in this document. At first this may sound intimidating but the language, the English, is remarkable: in places it is almost poetic.

I have been pondering this quote for two days and I thought I would share it with you:

“Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing space.”

Breathing space. Without the thought of heaven as the end game, human progress will have nowhere to expand, to develop, grow.

This made me think of the Amazon forests, the lungs of the world, hundreds of square miles of the earth’s lungs being destroyed ever week for profit, not progress. Breathing space.

The overcrowded slums of the world. Breathing space.

We need the thought of heaven to motivate us to do the right thing.

Breathing space.

Just breathe.

Breathing space is grace. When we take the time to just breathe, we open ourselves to inspiration. To do the right thing.

Legends of the hummingbird

September 3, 2009 - One Response

hummingbird

I bought a Papyrus card (their logo is a hummingbird) the other day. Inside was a paper that said:

“Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”

“Confront the duck!”

September 1, 2009 - One Response

Duck4

The best line from Norah Ephron’s movie Julie & Julia is when Julie (Amy Adams) is watching Julia Child’s cooking show (played by the inimitable Meryl Streep.) Julie has spent almost an entire year cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (co-written with  Simone Beck and Louisette  Bertholle in 1960).

Julie has saved that which she perceived to be the most challenging dish to last: roasting a duck.  Julia Child (Meryl Streep) begins the episode of her show on duck cooking by grasping the legs of a plucked duck and announcing, “The first thing to do is to confront the duck!”

I smiled when I heard this and thought, “This is what the whole movie is about: confronting ducks, our fears,  obstacles to growing up, to taking ones place in the world, to know oneself.”

 “Confront the duck” made me laugh.

For Julie, the year’s journey led up to this finale. If she was really going to finish at least one thing in her life: she had to confront that duck.

That duck was a means of grace for Julie. Once she confronted that duck, she was free to take the next best step in her life, including the disappointment that Julia Child didn’t think much of her blog or her project.

If I had been in Julie’s place, I would have wanted to hear Julia Child say: “Confront the fish!” But duck is so much … funnier.

Food movies are inevitably about grace because they are about creativity, sharing, nurturing, transformation, sacrifice, selflessness.

This blog will be reflections on divine grace in everyday life. I believe that God is the source of grace. As Catholics we believe that grace comes to us through the sacraments, those outwards signs of invisible realities, instituted by Christ. Food movies often suggest the Eucharist, in particular, the panis angelicum of the soul.

Grace grows with each good thought and action that people share with others beyond themselves.  Grace is that free gift of God that empowers us to be the change we want to see in the world (Gandhi.) Grace is there for all, without distinction. How people respond to this gift, or struggle with it, is the stuff of the best stories ever told.

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