In the middle of this 3rd week on sabbatical, realizing it's the end of the day 11 days since my last post, I'm so glad to recall this declaration by Jesus. It expresses the space I find myself in at this very moment. You see, I wrote the last post from a wonderful awareness of grace and was filled with gratitude. I can now sense, yes, that grace is still there; however, on the surface, much else is clamoring for attention. Isn't that so often the case, that we are conscious of the essence of life - where our soul really is and is content to be - all the while some not so quiet breezes, if not tropical storms, thrash about on the surface, possibly dividing our mind and maybe even our heart.
For me, it has been the intensity of the orientation week or 10 days, meanwhile attending to such details as having my door lock fixed (1 week), shopping for breakfast foods once I realized what they have here just won't satisfy my organism's needs (the first few days), giving in and getting a US cell phone for emergencies and my family (you don't want to know how much), picking up some beer and snack foods once I learned that we're responsible for our own and what's in the fridge is for our community social on Thursday's (second week), finally getting my bicycle out for some air and exercise (end of 1st week), clarifying with the Catholic Theological Union Registrar how I was going to get registered for a course at one of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools at Loyola University of Chicago Institute for Pastoral Studies and then going downtown by car for the first time just to see where the Loyola Water Tower Campus is and then a second time for the first class (my second week here) in Gospel Narratives by John Shea (the priest who wrote "Stories of Faith" and "Stories of God" - more about Fr. John and the course in a future posting.
I just love the course and am delighted I signed up for it. I immediately went shopping for the 3 books required by the professor at the university bookstore (surge of memories....), got home, and over the next few days put the package of photocopied articles he gave us in order and began reading the current assignments. One of the sisters, on hearing about it, asked to have regular reports; so we just may have a little periodic "reading group" where I might relate some of what I'm hearing and reading and learning - no preparation of course - I'm not here to work or get into that efficiency mode, but to rest and be renewed. Talking about it though would help me process what I'm learning and contribute to my overall sabbatical experience and renewal.
That isn't all of the whirlwind I've been in! The first 2 weeks, we had wonderful weather with nights at around 70 degrees and days around 84. I was out on the bicycle 3 or 4 times, the last being on Saturday, when I went downtown (ca. 20 km round trip) - my longest ride in probably two years! I think I let my enthusiasm push a little too hard, and coming back in a cool breeze, felt a little sensitive and tired the next few days; so I rested. Then 2 nights ago, the air temp plummeted, and my 8th floor room with a view seeing the lakefront to the right, downtown to the north straight ahead, and the city stretching to the left felt like a wind tunnel. A strong wind outside was blowing air in through the air conditioner; so I just had to take it out of the window, only to find the window was broken and already out of its track on one side.... We're having it looked into, but everyone else seems to be happy with open windows and doors; needless to say my body has been feeling "under siege" by drafts. Thankfully I came fully equipped and packed so I believe I'm getting the better of it, for now!
There's more! Some of our African brothers and sisters are here on a very tight budget, if they have any money at all. I have been deeply touched by them, they are really good and authentic people; so it seemed natural for me - in the course of conversation - to invite one of the priests along with me on a drive. We got memberships at the Athletic Center (brand new) at Chicago University, began to look into his desire to continue his studies after the sabbatical in the area of Clinical Pastoral Education, and then went shopping for swim trunks and sandals for him. His heartfelt and profound gratitude made my day! Christian community is really beginning to happen here as we open up to one another.