Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

Monk in the World Guest Post: Kathleen Deyer Bolduc

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kathleen Deyer Bolduc’s reflection “Mary’s Message: Say Yes to Breaking Open.”

I sit in my study, depleted. I have no energy to write or pray or meditate. I light a candle that sits next to an image of Mary I keep close, knowing she understands what it is like, as a mother, to experience a broken heart. 

I take a few deep breaths and simply sit in her presence.

She stands, eyes cast down, face thin and pale. Mother Mary, who cradled the Son of God in her arms. The fear! The joy! The expectancy! The submissive spirit, casting reputation to the wind!

Nine months to wonder—who will he look like? What kind of personality will he have? What will his mission be? 

Eighteen years of boyhood—skinned knees. Tears. Games of tag and hide’n’seek. Building forts in olive trees. Learning woodwork at Joseph’s knee. 

And then, seemingly overnight, her little boy is a man. She wants to keep him close but he’s ready to move on, move out, lean into his destiny. It’s so hard to let him go, having to live the mystery of what God has in store for him.  

Did Mary know of the suffering ahead? Would she have said “yes” if she did? Would she have agreed to stand beneath that cross?

Hand on heart, without a word, Mary relays a message to me:

I know it’s hard, living with adult sons with autism, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. I know there are days you feel like giving up. Listen to me, Kathy. Keep on saying yes when you want to scream no

Your heart, like mine, is large enough to contain a universe of joy and tears. Remember the gift my Son sent to live within your heart—the Holy Spirit, Breath of God—who brooded over the chaos as God considered his artist’s palette before the work of creation.

Yes, Mary whispers. I weep. You weep. God weeps. Jesus weeps. Spirit weeps. We weep over wrong turns and bad choices; rejection and unkind words; mental and physical illness; autism and the need for full-time caregivers; caregivers who become a part of your family and bring their own personalities, trials and tribulations to the table.

Yes means not only accepting the suffering that comes with deep love; it also means opening your heart to the effervescent joy that erupts in perceiving ALL that God has wrought—woodpeckers pounding, rivers rushing, birds serenading, squirrels chattering, rain running in rivulets down the road, leaves letting go—God’s creative power all around you and within you—in this heart that breaks open again and again.

Reach down and pick up an acorn, Kathy. Know that it’s only with the breaking open that seeds break forth in green shoots tenacious enough to form a mighty oak!

In my imagination I walk under the oak trees that line Cove Creek, my favorite vacation spot. Leaves crunch under my feet as I walk, and I bend down to pick up a single acorn. Holding it gently in my palm, I turn it this way and that, meditating on the world it holds within itself. I listen again to Mary’s quiet voice. 

Know that it’s only with the breaking open that seeds break forth in green shoots tenacious enough to form a mighty oak!

A poem arises, unbidden, and I open my eyes to copy it in my journal before it’s lost:

Standing on Tiptoe

All creation waits with eager longing
           Waiting to witness
                     Each unique and glorious creation
                                   come to wholeness, complete as God envisioned
Tightly enclosed seeds gradually opened
             Borne on wind, carried by waters
                         Planted, rooted, greening
                                    Unfurled flags unveiled
Nothing is, that wasn’t first imagined in the mind of God
                Nothing is, that wasn’t first seen, created and called by name
                                  Nothing is, without love first pouring

Break me open, Lord. Let me trust, like Mary, that you are there in the midst of ALL of it—the mud and the mire, the dying to self, the cracked relationships. As I meditate on the acorn that Mary pointed me toward this morning, let me walk forward as a bearer of your greening power, tender shoots growing out of the wounds I’ve struggled to understand and accept. Let me trust that you are working within my family members, each one unique and beautiful and called by name, a universe unfolding, unfurling, all in your precious time. 

Kathleen Deyer Bolduc is a spiritual director, author, and founder of Cloudland, a contemplative retreat center. Her books, including The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities, contain faith lessons learned parenting a son with autism, and finding healing and restoration through the spiritual disciplines.

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Sharon Clymer Landis

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Sharon Clymer Landis’s reflection on the wisdom and love of a foster dog. I’m fostering a dog named Ladybug. She was caught

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Will Boesl

I am delighted to share am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series. Read on for Will Boesl’s reflection Nonduality and Nonbinary. For as long as I can remember, I have been told that I am not

Read More »