It's in the wilderness of our everyday lives, especially when we become so preoccupied with the physical world around us and its reality within us, when we most acutely become aware of our fragility, dependence, and poverty, that the greater reality of God and the world and life of the spirit can come breaking through to us. That is precisely what the best Christmas stories are all about, as they all reflect the very first Christmas story, that of the long arduous journey of a simple young married couple on the verge of giving birth to their only child with not place to stay... As long as we are strong and self reliant, we are less inclined to see, hear or even notice the presence of God, but when we become desperate, our minds, hearts, eyes, and ears mysteriously open up. No wonder God has such love for the poor, the suffering, the destitute, and the abandoned.
They have lost the illusion of being able to be self-sufficient and are in touch with their need for God and the life that He constantly offers. They are more attentive and appreciative of each breath, each sip of water, each morsel of food, each moment of shelter, and each stitch of clothing. May you have a meaningful Advent and joyous Christmas season, you and your family!!! Fr. Gilles November 20th, 2006
I'm shocked to see it was almost 2 months that I last posted a reflection on pastoring or news of my sabbatical journey.... I seem to recall that in mid-October, we went to Mundelein Seminary, where there is a conference/retreat center, and had a day of recollection. It had been almost two months since our arrival August 23rd, and I began to sense that I had launched rather intensively into it all: going to all the classes, taking an extra course a half hour away at the Water Tower Campus of Loyola University downtown Chicago, blogging, participating in our sabbatical community, taking solitude time for prayer, reading and reflection.... I wasn't playing enough.
So, I visited a few museums, alone and with another priest, and took time to walk, and began going for morning swims 3 times a week at the almost new athletic center of Chicago University. I intended to blog again, but days went by, and it was enough just to clear the box of email.... A few weeks went by. Then I caught a cold when I left the car at a garage for repairs and came home in the wind and rain. I could have chosen a better day. They replaced the fuel pump, which probably needed to be changed and saved me breaking down altogether anywhere anytime, but the car still had the same intermittent problem with ignition, occasionally sputtering and losing power. So I rested to recover from the cold, when I cut my thumb trying to open a package. 18 stitches and my first experience going through an American hospital ER later, I needed to recover from the wound.
Then we had a week retreat at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat Center at Notre Dame Univ., Indiana, came back for the weekend, and it was Thanksgiving break. I spent the week at Madonna House Windsor, and had a good rest. In the meantime, I did quite a lot of work on the research project on pastoring, and for the course with John Shea. The sabbatical was truly becoming a time of renewal. I began spiritual direction around the time of my last post, and that has been a wonderful grace as well. Also around that time, our reflection group asked me to give the homily at our scheduled weekly Thursday group Eucharist, followed by a social: preprandrials and supper. Each member of the four groups participates in the animation of the liturgy when it's their group's turn. They asked me again and I gave the homily once more last evening. It was a wonderful experience.
As we come into the last 2 weeks, I've scheduled some films for the benefit and enjoyment of the whole group: "Babette's Feast", "The Passion of the Christ", "A Christmas Carol" (1951), "It's a Wonderful Life". We're into the great season of Advent now, a time to stop and listen to the breath of life coming from our God.... Well, I've got to end, as the library closes early on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, another little obstacle in getting to the internet. God bless you all....
(to be continued)