St. Benedict Monastery where I am preparing to become an Oblate is in Oxford, Michigan. The location of the monastery was chosen because of the land; glaciated hill country rising nearly 1,000 feet above the Great Lakes. It is the second highest point in Michigan, and on a clear day you could see Detroit fifty miles away.
The sixty foot wall of glass that is the south side of the sanctuary and behind the tabernacle and altar reveals a breathtaking view of the sky—a nod to eternity if you will. From any one of the monk’s stalls the heavens are the dominate scene. As I sat in the chapel and looked into the clouds I felt weightless, as if all of earth and its burdens had fallen away.
One Sunday, looking at the sky as I prayed, my focus was drawn to the distant specks of Canada geese in their orderly V-formation heading north. A few moments later at closer range a single hawk moved into my view. It skillfully maneuvered the wind currents with only slight movements of its tail or wings, floating and gliding gracefully. Science and aero-dynamics aside, I am always delighted by the flight and fancy of birds.
An unexpected motion at the top of the glass wall caught my attention. Six little brown sparrows were perched on the roofs ledge and leaping off. Like mini rockets, with tiny necks extended and wings held tight against their bodies, they plummeted.My heart beat quickened as I watched the little brown birds’ reckless abandon. As they leapt from the very precipice of peril, they picked up speed, plunging earthward. But my fears were not theirs…nor were my fears—that the little sparrows wouldn’t be able to turn away in time and go splat against the rocks—grounded in truth. Just moments later, there they were wings wide in flight, navigating upward almost as fast as they had rocketed downward. Once more they came to perch on the roofs ledge, seeming to mock me at being afraid for them.
These little skydivers, exhilarated by their leaping, repeated their dare-devil free-fall. I imagined their confidence as they leapt; an unconscious trust in their ability to fly. Their mastering the gift of what they were designed to be kept them safe. They could play and soar and dance on the very Breath of God.