Whit Monday: Reflections, Obstacles, and Discernment

Whit Monday: Reflections, Obstacles, and Discernment June 14, 2024

By guest blogger, Anne Randerson, PhD

May 20th was Whit Monday, referred to as Lundi de Pentecôte in French, or Pinkstermaandag in Dutch or Flemish—the feast day after Pentecost Sunday. All shops were closed, and most people didn’t have to work, since it was a bank holiday here in Belgium: a holy day, a time for everyone to rest, gather their families for picnics in their gardens, at the seaside, or local parks. Some folks—mainly the elderly—traversed the cobblestone roads to attend morning Mass in my village. Others preferred to do their spring cleaning, washing windows and scrubbing their cars, yet not cutting their grass or trimming hedges, as this is forbidden in Belgium on Sundays and holidays.


I took a Whit Monday stroll through our local park to get some fresh air and inspiration. Nature is a healthy option for combatting stress and fatigue; it nourishes my soul. As I wandered down the dirt path through rows of sturdy trees, I noticed how green their leaves were, and how high the grass had grown. For once, it was sunny and warm outside. We have had an unusually rainy, cold winter.


For the past few years, our commune or gemeente (‘municipality’ in English) has decided not to cut the grass during the entire month of May, to make our region more bee-friendly, allowing wildflowers to grow, so bees can pollenate. Lately, we have experienced a steep decline in bee populations, most likely due to habitat loss, pesticides, and global climate change. I’m glad that most inhabitants in my village are aware that pollination from insects, especially bees, is vital for ensuring biodiversity and sustainability in plants and crops. Thus, they abide by this informal rule, as evidenced by the calf-high blades of grass, interspersed with blossoms, in their yards.


Obstacles on my path


As I meandered through our park yesterday—taking in the vivid colors of wild dandelions, daisies, bee balm, snapdragons, crocus, lavender, foxglove, coneflowers and cosmos—I saw a few families picnicking in the sun. Then, a few yards away, I spotted a young boy in a blue shirt. He seemed barely old enough to steer his bicycle, which became evident when he zigzagged right in front of me on the narrow dirt path. When he abruptly stopped, I skirted around him and continued on my way. To my surprise, he cranked his pedals, wobbled next to me, rode a bit further, then turned his wheels to block my passage again. Surprised, I stopped, glanced at his parents, who were hoisting a volleyball net, sidestepped him, and continued down the path. This happened again and again. Each time, he looked up at me with a grin.

“So, we’re having an obstacle course, are we?” I thought to myself, smiling.


Changing course: unexpected findings


Remembering how bored I sometimes got as a kid, I played along for a while, appreciating how his eyes twinkled each time he blocked my path. At last, either he tired of the game, or else I went too far ahead, veering right at the fork, instead of left, as I usually do. A few paces later, buried in the grass beside a tree trunk, I found a plastic object. It appeared to be a charger for someone’s hearing aids, which made sense since I was near our local rusthuis (assisted-living center for senior citizens). I went inside to return it. But since it was a holiday, the reception was closed. When leaving, I noticed some brochures. One was on dementia, and others explained about living in the center, and its service flats across the park. I took a few brochures.


This discovery was timely, yet something I had wanted to avoid thinking about. My in-laws are getting older, and my father-in-law lost much of his memory after he suffered a heart attack exactly a year ago. We had been putting off discussing what to do next. The brochures could help us make some important decisions.


Indeed, yesterday’s walk led to meaningful discoveries. When I rounded another bend, the young boy on his wobbly bicycle smiled at me through the trees. This time, his entire family laughed as I skirted his bike each time he skidded to a stop. After a while, I noticed orange cones up ahead. Someone had placed a row of these small, conical objects in the middle of the dirt path, probably to prevent the boy from riding out of the park—safety obstacles from people who cared: most likely, his loving family.


In my role as a spiritual director, I seek to help clients navigate the spiritual meaning that permeates their lives, including any unexpected obstacles along the way. In my next post, I’ll share more about how we do that.


Many thanks to Teresa Blythe for this opportunity to contribute to Spiritual Direction 101.


Anne Randerson, Ph.D. graduated from the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction Apprentice Training Program in January, 2024. Anne lives in Brussels, Belgium and is a spiritual director, writer, mindfulness-based transitions coach, teacher of contemplative practices and creative expression, and a member of Spiritual Directors International (SDI). In 2003, Anne earned her Ph.D. degree in Human Life Studies after six years of research in northern Japan. Her dissertation was titled: Human lifestyle and sensitivity towards nature—A comparative study between Japan and the West from a religious perspective. Anne has lived in five countries, speaks six languages, and currently offers online sessions to spiritual directees from multiple faiths, cultures, languages, and backgrounds. She especially welcomes individuals from LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent (including ADHD), global and creative communities, and those facing chronic illness, grief, and loss. Anne also facilitates interfaith group spiritual direction, contemplative nature-based retreats, and plans to lead international pilgrimages soon. To reach Anne, please visit https://evocativesoul.com or email: info@evocativesoul.com.





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