January 9, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Contemplating what might be ahead in 2009

Shirley Vogler MeisterFor my husband, Paul, and me, last year ended with good experiences.

However, it also ended with health issues and other negative concerns that we carry over into the New Year.

In fact, our entire nation suffers in many ways that need no explanations with everyone hoping that 2009 will bring better times. As I write this before the year’s end, I can foresee specific obstacles that could make life more difficult for everyone this year.

With all that in mind, I also think of ways to soften the blows that might come our way through no fault of our own.

My first idea comes from the parish bulletin for the fourth Sunday of Advent at Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, my home parish. It is a message by Father Gregory Fruehwirth, a monk of the Anglican Order of Julian of Norwich, in Waukesha, Wis., and the author of Words for Silence: A Year of Contemplative Meditations (with a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu).

The bulletin quotation is: “… find an empty church to sneak into on one of these cold and dark days of early winter. Sit in a pew. Let go of the burden of your life, the anxious rattling of your thoughts, if only for a moment. Listen to the sleet tapping away at the windows. What a miraculous sound! Sit before an icon or picture of Christ or the Trinity and offer your life to God. Then sit there, watching your breath as you breathe in and breathe out. Let the prayers come and go as they may. Discover how you actually do feel and tell God about that. God is interested. God cares.”

Since I was a girl at St. Bernard School in St. Louis, which was later razed to accommodate a highway, I have loved going into an empty or near-empty church—if for nothing else than to sit quietly just as Father Gregory suggests for meditation.

During those years, girls and women kept handkerchiefs handy to wear on their heads during such visits to show respect for the Eucharist.

I continued the custom into adulthood until, unfortunately, church doors had to be locked because of vandalism. Although some parishes provide coded alarm systems for entry into the church, I have not done that yet. Instead, I pray at home, where I have assorted icons to keep me focused.

During the end-of-year holidays, many experts and organizations gave advice on how to deal with the hard times, such as making donations to charitable organizations instead of giving gifts, lending one’s skills—cooking, shoveling snow, running errands, etc.—for a neighbor or shut-in, volunteering at a local charity or promoting inexpensive family friendly activities. Such suggestions carry over well into 2009.

What do my readers suggest? To share ideas, write to me in care of The Criterion, P.O. Box 1400, Indianapolis, IN 46206 or send an e-mail to me at paulmeister@att.net.

May 2009 still bring blessings!

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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