Weekly Round Up: Embracing Ordinary

Weekly Round Up: Embracing Ordinary June 15, 2024
Some things I am grateful for:
  • I am trying to find a place for a wonderful gift my wife recently bought me in celebration of our 15 years of marriage. It’s a print of St. Drogo who is patron of Coffee and because of that has been near and dear to me for many years. My own efforts to incorporate my own spirituality with the drink has been a labor of great love for the past 2 decades and St. Drogo has been a great companion on the journey. The print is by Daniel Mitsuri, an artist I have a great love for and who’s has brought a delightful balance of joy, tradition and reverence to the work he does. In his own words about the print: “This drawing is formatted as a recto page in an illuminated manuscript. The central image depicts St. Drogo (a.k.a. Druon) of Sebourg, a twelfth century pilgrim, shepherd and hermit. My drawing refers to all three of these stages in his life. In the foreground, I drew him as a youthful pilgrim. The path on which walks leads through a field of sheep in which he appears again as a somewhat older shepherd, and ends at the hermit’s cell built against his parish church where he concluded his life. Thus, the path represents both a literal pilgrimage as well as a figurative pilgrimage through life. Having the saint visible in two different places refers also to his ability to bilocate. St. Drogo is the patron saint of coffeehouses. In reference to this, I drew the plants that yield coffee, tea, cocoa and vanilla in the ornamental border.”
  • Ordinary Time – It’s been a wonderful liturgical journey this year and this over the past few months I feel like I’m finally leaning into ordinary time. In my own life I have particularly relished the way the church gradually leads us into ordinary time by giving us some incredible feasts and celebrations in the first few weeks after Pentecost. We contemplated the glorious mystery of the Trinity, we honored the gift of Christ’s Body given to us in Corpus Christi and took time to contemplate the mystery of his infinite self-giving love through the celebration of the feast of His Sacred Heart. It’s been nearly a month since the end of Easter and yet I think that it’s this week when I have really begun to sink into ordinary time. It’s a blessing. When I was young in my faith, I remember feeling a pressure at all times for God to be doing something “big” in my life. However, as I’ve gotten older I’m amazed at how much grace there is in simply being faithful for another day – to receive the gift of life with gratitude and joy. This is something I have learned from the guests I serve at the Pope Francis Center each day. So often I am amazed at the ways they remind me of how much of a gift another day on this earth is. I do not want to squander the breath of each day. Even the smallest moments and tiniest parts of our lives are pregnant with possibility,  totally alive with life and death – light and darkness – the drama of God’s love and the call to live in step with the cascading song of response to that love.
Some Joys from the week
  • I’m so glad summer break has started. I’ve been spending my evenings spending quality time with my kids not just managing homework. I’ve particularly loved having backyard fires and grilling. There is something so wonderful about life in late spring.
What I’ve been reading
    • The poem (below) was recently shared by my friend Christian. Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors, I have often found his writing helps me to see the world with a warmer lighting and the people in it with a deeper grace. I was talking to Christian about how much both of us appreciate the ways that some of our favorite authors inhabit spaces outside of the typical spaces of grace to encounter God. Christian a few months ago had also pointed me towards this lovely article in Plough which helps honor both poetry and religion as similar bedfellows in the human endeavor to articulate the ineffable. I really appreciated the article and particularly am grateful for the article’s introduction to me of a helpful perspective from Marianne Moore who described the successful poem as containing “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”

      Anyway. Here’s the poem, by Berry. I keep coming back to it. It’s a great articulation of some bit of what I’m trying to get at as I reflect on what it means to embrace Ordinary Time.
      A Little Poem
      I put myself in mind
      of a stem of our native rye
      that followed a thread of the sun
      up through a pile of brush
      to break out into the world
      astir in the full daylight
      and the darkness of full night
      Wendell Berry
    • I recently completed The Crucifixion by Flemming Rutledge. I can’t say I’ve ever read a more profound and helpful treatment on the cross. Highly recommended. I wanted to share at least one quote that I have been reflecting on. It’s related to this reflection on ordinary time once again. She states:

      “Here is an important distinction with far-reaching implications for Christian behavior. The deeds of Christians in this present time — however insignificant they may seem, however “vain” they may appear to those who value worldly success — are already being built into God’s advancing kingdom.”

      Since we have a life in God, all that we do is connected through Him, with Him and in Him. Out life in Christ, down to the smallest steps we take is something that God is weaving into the fabric of eternity and the story of the restoration of the universe.


What I’ve been listening to
Insights and highlights from the liturgy
  • This past week was the feast of St. Ephraem
    Since it fell on a Sunday, and therefore wasn’t celebrated in the liturgy you may have missed it. However, I didn’t want the day to go by without comment. This past year I have been taking a deep dive into the hymns and metrical sermons of this great man of faith. The Syrian tradition gives us a unique tradition of hymns and preaching that are really unlike anything else. I would highly recommend exploring the writings of St. Ephraem. They have been a true balm and inspiration for me this past year. As I went back through my highlights and notes I was struck at how deeply he is able not only to know the stories and passages of scripture, but how well he is able to weave them together with creativity and insite. He is one of my all-time favorite writers of the early church. Do yourself a favor and make time for him in your life.
Lessons in leadership I’m learning
This week I have been reminded continually about the importance of keeping my mouth shut. As a leader, my words have an unbalanced amount of weight. It’s tempting to use it. However, there is often great wisdom in staying silent. Give people the space to be fully heard. Allow others the chance to take ownership of developing plans. When people are upset or disagree with you, make sure you not only take the time to hear and understand their concerns but take the time to make sure THEY FEEL heard and understood. As a leader, your words can be a sledgehammer wield it sparingly. Many of the best ideas are never heard because the time isn’t taken to give them the space to be heard.
Hard Stuff
This week I’m processing some losses. I wanted to honor a few folks who have personally impacted me.
  • I learned about the death of Henry Root, a critically important music producer in the history of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and someone I regret I didn’t get to know more. His work played a key role in my dissertation. If you aren’t familiar with the music of the Word of God. It is in many ways the wellspring of much of the music in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and in the Covenant Communities Movement. Worship Heritage recently began re-releasing the albums. I encourage you to take a listen and stay tuned.
  • I found out about the death of my favorite bookseller. Sheridan Settler was one of a kind. A man who would not only remember every book in the store but would remember every interest of every customer. Each time I would come in he would remember the sorts of books I had asked for, and would sometimes have made special purchases in anticipation of my return. Sheridan, you will be greatly missed by me and by many others in Ypsilanti.
  • A third loss is the anticipated death of Al Kresta. For the past month or so I’ve been praying a lot for Al, who developed liver cancer and has been in rapid decline. It’s hard to express how much Al and his work have meant to me. I first encountered Al many years ago when he headed up a small Catholic newspaper that was distributed around my community in Ann Arbor. This was many years before I even contemplated becoming Catholic, but I soon learned a bit about his story and his decision to become Catholic after many fruitful years serving the church within Protestantism. Soon after I discovered Ave Maria radio. At that point in my life, Catholicism was very much a mystery to me, and this station was a tremendous resource that introduced me to many aspects of the Catholic faith and planted seeds that would later germinate and grow in my own heart leading to my own conversion in 2013, leaving protestant ministry behind as a result. I can remember countless mornings when I opted to listen to Ave Maria radio in my car because it had fascinating theological discussions about faith and scripture – much more than the increasingly politicized Protestant radio station across town. Al’s voice, and the voices of many of the guests and hosts that he invited on the air, were formative in my life for more than a decade before I ever took the plunge into the Catholic Church. Now, it seems Al is preparing to make His journey from this life and into his eternal reward. No one but God knows how many lives he impacted, but I wanted to at least honor the way he impacted mine. To Sally and the rest of the family you are near my heart and in my prayers as well.
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