A feast day for all creation...

My grandson, Louis Edmund Piscitello, was born on the Feast Day of St. Francis. He - Louie - is one of the constant signs of God's light in my life; and Francis has long been a source of wisdom and guidance for my heart. Last year, after wanting to host a "Blessing of the Pets" liturgy in worship for over 30 years, we had everything set - and then my little man decided we should be with him rather than in Sunday worship. So we joyfully made the pilgrimage to Brooklyn and greeted his arrival as my congregation in Pittsfield carried on without us.  Life is filled with surprises.
This year we were all in Frederick, MD on Louie's birthday, having gathered for love and prayer for my father who seemed close to death just last Sunday. Late in the week, however, something shifted - including his return to a hope-filled and compassionate nursing home - and now he is stable and growing stronger. We know this is a temporary turn of events, but the whole clan rejoiced that not only does he have more time to share love with us but that he wants to do so with such verve and passion.

In an hour, we will head off to worship and participate in this year's St.
Francis blessing ceremony aware of how precious and precarious the gift of life truly is. Two poems have been guiding me this week and call out for sharing as the feast unfolds. The first comes from the Sabbath poems of Wendell Berry:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leave me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leave it,
and the fear of it leave me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.


Most of last week was spent sitting quietly by my father's beside: sometimes he was asleep, sometimes he was awake and worried, sometimes we spoke silently and at other times with words. The more I rested - and trusted - the more present I was able to be with him. When I let my head be filled with my fears, I was no earthly good to him - or anyone else. Berry's words and practices ring true and I celebrate the call to contemplation as part of this day's blessing.

The other is from Mary Oliver's volume entitled: Evidence. In a poem she has called "Mysteries, Yes" the sage reminds us that even in the midst of pain and confusion, life is saturated with goodness.

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
   to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the 
   mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
   in allegiance with gravity
      while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
   never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
   scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
   who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
   "Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
   and bow their heads.

Yesterday, as we celebrated Louie's first birthday together with my aging father, we took a photograph of four generations of Lumsdens. Like Francis - and Ms. Oliver - I found myself laughing in astonishment and bowing my head in gratitude.  Now it is time to go and share some other blessings with the pets of my flock...

Comments

Peter said…
This post is literally dripping with blessing. Raised my spirits, James.
RJ said…
That makes my heart so happy, my man.

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