A Gentle, Encouraging Voice for Lent

A Gentle, Encouraging Voice for Lent January 31, 2013

When I invited Margaret Rose Realy to develop her beautiful blog here at Patheos, I did it for the authenticity and clarity of her contemplative voice, as with this voice:

I remember a couple of months ago several Goldfinches rocketing across the backyard. I wondered if there was a disagreement about whose yard it was. Typical of these lively little birds, they are unconcerned about my purpose or presence in what they have claimed as their territory. They continued to dart about and I wondered if it was a sort of Goldfinch-game. I watched them flittering and listened to them titter from the lower limbs of the Sunburst Honeylocust tree.

That day was a yellow day. Yellow is pure, a primary color and according to research evokes energy and illumination, and brings awareness and clarity to the mind. Besides the yellow finches, the narrow leaves of the locust were vivid chartreuse, flowering nearby in light-gold the Rudbeckia ‘Irish Eyes’, and the Lemon Drop daylily was in all its glory.

The little birds continued darting about the yard; one of them repeatedly landed on the top of an empty daylily stalk and reached for the seed head of a nearby grass. The stalk looked as though it was strong enough to bear the weight of the tiny finch but was too weak to do so. The little bird rode the not-so-sturdy stalk downward, and then flew off to a tree branch. It looked at the frond of grass seeds, flew again to the daylily stalk beside it, and again rode it downward. The truth is, no matter how often the finch comes to the stalk, the daylily stem will not bear its weight.

Reflecting on that yellow day I now wonder… How often do I latch onto something too weak to bear the weight of truth? Do I continue to land in the same place in hopes that the more I try, the better my chances are of the situation changing?

I’d like to think I’m smarter than a goldfinch. But I can see that sometimes a simple truth is evident in the smallest of things. Just because I want it to be so doesn’t mean it will hold up under the weight of reality.

That’s good, useful stuff.

Margaret is not (currently) what you’d call a “heavy-hitter” in the Catholic blogosphere. She certainly could be if she wrote more, but she follows her muse. As a Master Gardener, her instinct for silence and blooming and more silence seems natural and authentic and I’ve always said authentic voices needn’t chase readers because readers seek them out. The ‘sphere has plenty of folks who pound out content every day — mostly because we feel compelled to; we’re the people at the party who never shut up — but the Catholic ‘net needs a few voices that help to quieten our souls, and Margaret does that, brilliantly.

I’m not the only one who noticed. Back when I was talking to Margaret about coming over here, the comparatively rowdy Mark Shea noticed the same thing about her, and he had no idea I had set my sites on her.

Of course, the great Lisa Hendey found Margaret first, and featured her over at CatholicMom.com, so I can’t claim any brilliance, there. But in attempting to showcase all sorts of faces and voices of imperfect-but-always-striving Catholicism here in the channel, I really wanted to be able to include Margaret’s (and for that matter, Lisa’s own utterly sane and grounded faith as well).

One of Margaret’s strengths is that she doesn’t overwhelm or demand a great time-investment. She writes pithy reflections that manage to take root and then kind of nourish you throughout the day. It seemed to me that a collection of her pieces would make a great devotional book — something you can turn to in the morning or evening for a good word — and the folks at Patheos Press instantly agreed, and here it is, just in time for Lent:

I thought Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent was going to be an ebook, but not yet, apparently. Sarah Reinhard, over at Happy Catholic Bookshelf has given the book a rave and admits she found Margaret’s voice so soothing and compelling she read the entire book in one go.

Ash Wednesday is coming quickly (February 13), so I’m saving my copy for Lent. Recent Lents have been pretty challenging for me. I expect this one to be difficult too, if it’s going to be at all fruitful, so I will need some of Margaret’s gentleness. You may, too.

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