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Dearest monks and artists,
I am back in Galway after two magical weeks in Vienna. This past week, Kayce Hughlett and I were leading our first ever retreat in Vienna, exploring the beauty of the city through the contemplative practices of writing and photography. I had been eagerly anticipating this experience for months, so excited to show others this city I love so much. To show them Vienna, not through the lens of a tour bus, but through the eyes of the heart. And I was absolutely enchanted by the wonder stirred in each pilgrims’ heart as we wandered the streets slowly, eyes wide, paying attention to what gifts might emerge. I fell even more in love with Vienna because of how each person opened themselves to her beauty. It wasn’t until Kayce arrived several days before our retreat was to begin that I realized how important it was for me to have this place witnessed by others, this city which has been the crucible of so much of my transformation.
I shared with you before I left, that I had been overcome with a sense of grace around my father and his wounds, that there had been some deep forgiveness opening up without my even realizing it. It was very meaningful to me to return to his grave while in Vienna, where we had finally, after 17 years, added his name to the headstone under those of his parents. I spent a long time sitting there in the cemetery, full of gratitude for his love of Vienna which he shared so freely with me.
As I sat there, I noticed the white stones spread out over the plot and I took one in my hand. The passage from Revelation came to me, where God says that a white stone will be given with a new name, known only to that person. My heart feels ready to be engraved, and I carried the stone back to Ireland with me as a reminder of what is breaking through. At first I found my mind grasping at what this new name might be, but soon I softened and released into the unknowing. I am listening.
Another wonderful gift of this time was having my beloved husband join us, supporting our work in so many essential ways during the week. We have been dreaming of ways to collaborate more in Abbey work, and the retreat was a concrete step toward that happening. John has been on sabbatical the last few months, discerning what comes next after 12 years of teaching high school and several years prior to that of church ministry. I am delighted to share his introduction with the Abbey community so you can learn a bit more about him. He will be sharing some of his reflections with you in the coming months, offering another perspective on living as a monk in the world. So many possibilities have been opening up and I am eager to see how it all unfolds.
I returned to Galway feeling so full of joy. Of course, the call of pilgrimage is always to return home, bringing this heightened sense of wonder to the everyday. This week ahead offers me some much needed rest as I recover from this time of holding my heart wide open and engaging in so many of wonderful conversations. It is time to integrate. We want to offer another retreat in Vienna. We want to invite people to Ireland to walk this sacred landscape. We want to create more ways for this blessed community to connect with one another. So much grace.
Mostly right now I feel a deep sense of being called to nourish myself for what is to come. I am listening to this invitation carefully, leaning into how I might offer myself a surplus of rest and renewal in preparation for the many new things emerging, so that I will be ready to greet this next unfolding with fullness of heart and soul.
And what about you, my wonderful monk friends? How are you cultivating your own sense of growing wonder? What invitations are being whispered to you in the spring (or autumn) breezes? Do you feel yourself being ushered toward a great new blossoming or release?
If you heard God whispering a new name to your heart, what might it be? Consider pausing for a few minutes to simply listen, to rest into the great ripening of your life.
Next week I begin a month-long blog book tour in celebration of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice (a book which author Jan Phillips described as being “like entering a garden in full bloom.” During the tour look for a series of book reviews, interviews with me, and guest posts. I will be including links to all of the posts in future newsletters. I am also offering a free webinar through the professional development series at Ave Maria Press next Tuesday, April 23rd. Details are below. Register and join me!
With great and growing love. . .