Realizing life while we live it

Father William Meninger

Father William Meninger

I have a confession to make: I am often preoccupied, anxious and fearful about the future. I sometimes spend more time consumed with worry about what might happen than I do paying attention to what is happening.

Planning and thinking about what lies ahead is not always a bad thing, except when it is. I cannot predict nor control the future, no matter how much I ponder and anticipate it. Furthermore, when I keep thinking about what is to come, I miss out on a lot of special moments happening now.

Father William Meninger reminded me of this today. In a guest sermon here in Pensacola, the Trappist monk from Colorado spoke of God’s glory revealed in the cosmos and in the world around us. There is so much to be in awe of. Father William tied this revelation to a single line in the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder.

The ghost of lead character Emily Gibbs née Webb, dead at the age of 26, revisits her mother’s kitchen on the day of her 12th birthday. Emily is struck by how little attention her mother pays to her as Mrs. Webb putters about making breakfast. Emily yearns for her mother to truly look at her and be in the moment with her.

Disheartened, Emily asks, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?” Her guide, the Stage Manager, answers, “No — saints and poets, maybe. They do, some.”

“We are called to be saints,” Father William informed us from the pulpit. We are called to recognize the wonderful in the most seemingly mundane moments. Emily didn’t recognize the beauty of the life she’d been given until it was too late.

Let it not be the same for us. Let us revel in all that we have, all that we see, all that is freely given — here and now — for as long as we live.

Loving kindness

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Today, I invited the youth in Children’s Chapel to consider the topic of loving kindness. Loving kindness is the religious practice of recognizing and treasuring the majesty in all creatures. I offered it as a way to live the Valentine’s Day holiday on more than just February 14.

As part of chapel, we did a loving kindness meditation. I asked the children to visualize different people and then send loving kindness to those people. One of the people we did this for was someone toward whom we felt hostile or annoyed. “Like a bully?” “Like a brother or sister?” “Like someone who takes your toys?” I agreed that any of these kinds of people would fit the description.

We reflected afterward on why we might send loving kindness toward bullies or irritating siblings or toy-stealers. I was touched by the insight of these 7- and 8- and 10-year-old kids.

“We hope they won’t be a bully anymore.” “Maybe they are having a bad day, and we want them to have a better day and feel better.” “It is like, when someone does something bad, and you say, ‘I will pray for you.'”

The kids agreed that they could use loving kindness throughout their day or during specific times when they feel stressed or scared or angry. They said they felt better after practicing the meditation.

Instead of seeing “hostile people” as the enemy, these kids understood that sometimes the difference between a friend and an enemy is just a matter of perspective. Most significantly, they learned a bit about taking responsibility for their own feelings and soothing themselves in times of discomfort. These are the skills from which resilience is born.