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Finding Home Within (a love note from your online Abbess)

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Wild Rosebush

How it stands there against the dark
of this late rainy hour, young and clean,
swaying its generous branches
yet absorbed in its essence as rose;
with wide-open flowers already appearing,
each unsought and each uncared-for….
So, endlessly exceeding itself
and ineffably from itself come forth,
it calls the wanderer, who in evening contemplation
passes on the road:
Oh see me standing here, see how unafraid I am
and unprotected. I have all I need.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Dearest monks and artists,

It feels like the threads of my life are weaving themselves again and beckoning to me to follow. I shared in my newsletter last week about herbalism and the particular gifts of rose as a part of medicine. Then the Rilke poem above was shared with me by a dancing monk and I was grateful to find it again, or to be found by the poem, as would be more accurate. I see myself so clearly in that wanderer, receiving the wisdom of rose by the side of the road. To be reminded of the courage needed.

Rose is also my birth flower (born in the month of June) and of course, the rose is a symbol both for Mary and for Jesus (as in one of my favorite hymns for the coming season). Lately I have been feeling like Mary is inviting me into a deeper intimacy with her. Last fall she showed herself again and again inviting me into a deep trust in the fundamental generosity of life.

This past week I contacted Ronna Detrick, whose work I so deeply respect, she has such a creative and enlivening way with the stories of women from scripture. She makes them matter for our lives. Ronna has created a process she calls Sacred Readings, where you ask a question and she draws a card with one of these women and listens for how she responds. My question to Ronna had to do with home and our longing to put down deep roots here in Galway.  Out of the 52 possible women she could have chosen, Mary was the one who stepped forward.

In the reading she appeared as the wanderer, the one who has known exile, and the one who carries home in her heart. Of course these things resonate deeply with me. The message, as all of the wisdom that has come to me in the past year and a half on this life pilgrimage, has been an invitation to a deep and abiding trust and knowing there is an abundant Source at the heart of everything. This is the trust which allowed me to step away from my lovely and comfortable life in Seattle, sell everything I owned, and move out into foreign landscapes seeking something I couldn’t quite name. I continue to listen.

Ronna wrote to me: Mary “creates a ‘home’ for others through her story, her status, her heart.  And all of this is possible because of her ability to trust the unseen, the miraculous, the amazing.” There was much solace offered in this encounter. Funny, how we humans need confirmation again and again. I am grateful it continues to be offered to me.

I love that Mary is especially revered in the world of monks: from the Black Madonnas in Benedictine monasteries like Einsiedeln in Switzerland and Montserrat in Spain to Bernard of Clairvaux, that great Cistercian reformer of the Middle Ages and Hildegard of Bingen, the Benedictine Abbess, who both held Mary in special regard, her yes as participating in a unique way the holiness birthed through God.

I have been traveling a great deal this fall and as you read this I will have left on another trip – this time to Norway to lead a retreat.  John and I are also making time to visit Tromso, up in the Arctic Circle, where we hope to see the Northern Lights we have always longed to see. But even if that doesn’t happen, we will be embraced by the long dark nights and skies filled with a thousand stars. It will be a gift to breathe into a small window of time when holy mystery descends in such a tangible way. Vienna also beckons for some time at the Christmas markets, this is the most magical time of year there with glittering lights everywhere and the chance to warm yourself with mulled wine, classical music streaming from church doors, long walks in the Vienna woods.

Following these travels, I enter into a season at home, three lovely months in Ireland and the invitation right now is to continue the inner pilgrimage with Mary as my guide. I delight in my times of travel and in connecting with dancing monks in person, and I am also dancing in the anticipation of time to turn inward and root and rest, to continue to find ways to claim this land as home and listen for Mary’s ongoing wisdom in the midst of so much ongoing transition.

This is what I love about seasonal wisdom. Autumn has been a season or travel and exploration and the coming winter beckons with quieter rhythms and the call to focus energy on building my connections here in Ireland, to deepen into a sense of community. This too is the essence of the monk’s path: to listen for what this season right now invites you to consider, knowing it is different than the season that came before. We are invited to yield and be flexible, to surrender into a greater wisdom than our own.

What is the invitation of the season ahead in your own life?  What threads are you following? How might you honor the shifts happening deep within?

This all feels like very ripe possibility for entering into Advent, the time of waiting, of tending to the coming birth.  If you would like to make an intentional journey from home, please join us as we embrace the wisdom of Celtic spirituality this year to guide our pilgrimage online. We would love to have you.

We also have a new Poetry Party and monk in the world guest post from Mary Sharratt, author of a wonderful novel about Hildegard of Bingen, and you have a chance to win a free copy of her book.

With great and growing love,


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One Response

  1. Christine,
    As ever your love notes provoke and inspire. Thank you. I’m sure others have given you the following poem – even if you don’t know it yourself – but in case they didn’t I thought I would. I read it and thought of you in wonder.
    With all blessings,

    What Was Told, That

    by Jalal al-Din Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

    What was said to the rose that made it open was said
    to me here in my chest.

    What was told the cypress that made it strong
    and straight, what was

    whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
    sugarcane sweet, whatever

    was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
    Turkestan that makes them

    so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
    like a human face, that is

    being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
    language, that’s happening here.

    The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
    chewing a piece of sugarcane,

    in love with the one to whom every that belongs!