I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Patricia Leyko Connelly’s reflection on talking and listening to God.
I remember that as a child of 10 or 12, I used to walk to school and church about 7 blocks to and from my home.
Sometimes I’d walk with other family members or some neighborhood kids but most of the time I was walking alone.
On those walks I imagine I would think about many things…maybe “why didn’t I finish my homework” or how much I like helping the nuns after school.
That’s about the time when I started “talking to God”! I don’t even know why I even thought that I could do such a thing but perhaps it was because of what I had learned in Catechism class…. the answer to this question; “What is prayer”? , answer “Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God.” Awesome! I believed it and that’s just what I did! I lifted my mind and my heart to God, speaking to God whether I was in church or walking to school or church.
There is a lot in between those days and now; including wanting to be a nun, entering an order, leaving. In the midst of my “wondering and wandering” Vatican ll happened and I experienced the first “Folk Mass” at my parish and knew “I had to do this!” (And I didn’t even play guitar yet!) So, I joined the Folk group, then learning guitar, leading the Folk group and on to living in a mixed community of 14 Franciscan Friars and 2 Sisters, and I the only lay person, a young single woman. In time I met my husband to be, and we were married at this Retreat House. It was a Franciscan Retreat House and we were living Vatican ll!
During those days while living in community, again, I would “talk to God.” Many times, I did this when I was alone with my guitar in chapel I listened for God and spoke to God in song, writing several songs I went on to record 2 albums with this Franciscan Retreat community! I was talking to God; God was speaking to me, and I was listening. One song I wrote and recorded at that time was “Be Still” based on psalm 46.
Fast forward to about 4 years ago. Living a more contemplative life here in Vermont without any real opportunities to use my gift of Music again I prayed and asked God, “How do I share my gifts without music? What do I do now?” I was so used to sharing my faith in song and feeling a real sense of Ministry. Now what?
That’s when I felt the desire to go for walks, take my phone and take photographs. As I set out on my walk I again would “talk to God.” “What do you want me to see? What should I say?” Vermont is so beautiful and so it is very easy to capture a beautiful image of nature. I often heard of the idea of writing Haiku poems but to be honest it just didn’t appeal to me. Yet I wanted to express myself in some way with the photos that I was taking and what moved my spirit.
I thought I would try writing in Haiku style, prayers using the 5/7/5 syllables style of poetry. I would take the photo of what moved me and try and remember the prayer or thought that came to mind as I walked. Then I started a Facebook page “Haiku Prayers and Photos” by Pat Leyko Connelly. I did this almost every day and now have posted well over 300 written all throughout the pandemic and I continue to do so today!
Most of my writing began in the height of the pandemic and daily as I prayed I gazed at the beautiful print (by artist Kreg Yingst) that I have of Julian of Norwich and I felt connected with her in her solitude of her Anchorage! Although I wasn’t sealed-in here at my home, my loft here did feel like a place of real solitude where I could pray and still communicate with the world via the internet! (For good or for ill.)
It was also meaningful to me to write these prayers in the Haiku style only 3 lines. As a Benedictine Oblate and Lay Associate who loves to talk, it was a good challenge to say or pray in these few lines! With few words!
And so, on I walked and prayed and shared.
As time went by and my Haiku prayers and photos accumulated, my years in life started to add up too. I thought and prayed about self-publishing a book of my Haiku prayers and photos, I also had started writing long poems as well and so I had quite a collection. This book is Sacredness Surrounds Us in Every Season released in April!
A sample of one of my Spring Haiku Prayers and Photos:
Trinity of blooms Roadside blessings unfolding... The gift of seeing
Patricia Leyko Connelly is a retired Music Minister/Parish minister and retreat facilitator now living as a self-taught poet and photographer and a Benedictine Oblate (Lay Associate at Weston Priory in Weston, Vt).
This June Pat and her husband Joe and will celebrate their 45th Wedding Anniversary! They lived and worked in Northern New Jersey where they raised their two children. About 11 years ago in June, they retired, sold their house, and moved to Weston, Vermont. They had been going to Vermont several times a year for over 40 years to visit the Priory, a Benedictine Monastery famous for the Music of Weston Priory.
Patricia’s new poetry collection Sacredness Surrounds Us in Every Season is available today.