Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Caught in a Storm

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A few gentle reminders to stop, relax and think about what really needs to happen in this holy season began with a snowstorm this past weekend. We shortened our to-do list, changed many of our plans and settled down to get as much accomplished indoors as possible. I (Ann) told Jim I was going to make chocolate pecan turtles to go with the cookies we were making for our sons and daughters.

His immediate response was, "Oh no! Just stick with the old favorites; the cookies you've always made. Don't try anything new at this late date."

I reminded him that, at my age, I usually do whatever I want, and I wanted to try to make the pecan turtles. He gave up. I made the turtles. They were a little more difficult to make than I thought, but they looked presentable. I bit into one. The caramel had gotten chewier than it should have been. Within a few seconds, I realized there was something small, round and hard in the caramel.

It turned out the caramel had removed the crown from one of my teeth: so much for being in charge and doing what I wanted. The worst part wasn't thinking of how much a new crown would cost. The worst part was having to tell Jim he had been absolutely right.

This past week, the world mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela, a great humanitarian who spent 27 years in prison. For all of those years, Mandela was painfully aware he was not in charge of his life. Even though he was imprisoned during what should have been his most productive years, much that was meaningful happened during those long years of waiting.

Though he wasn't released until he was almost 72 years old, he still had enough time left to make enormous contributions to peace. That gives those of us who are in our later years much hope. Like Abraham and Sarah, Mandela is a sign that no matter how advanced we are in age, there is still much we can accomplish.

The manner in which Mandela spent his time in prison teaches us how to wait in ways that are mentally and spiritually productive. While imprisoned, he completed a bachelor degree in law from a college in England. He also forged positive relationships with his jailers and wrote and rewrote the few letters he was allowed to send to others. Once released, he resolved to leave all anger and any regrets behind so that he would be truly free. He taught all of us that a time of waiting can also be a time of great personal growth.

For many of us, our greatest contributions in our later years may come through devoted, focused prayer. Though we might never see the results of our prayers in this life, in the life to come we may be amazed at how much those prayers have accomplished.

We can either "do" this holy season, or we can learn to "be" in this season. When the emphasis is on doing, obligations must be fulfilled, standards must be met and life becomes more stressful and difficult every year. Today, we were given an opportunity to let go of believing we must make things happen.

Our Christmas cards are still only half done on the dining room table. Packages must be mailed by tomorrow morning or they won't get to our older son and daughter (both in California) before Christmas. We still have things to do, but a measure of peace has returned to this season, thanks to a storm, a lost crown and the example of a good man. 

Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.


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