Thea, sloth is a long summer day, sluggish heat and scorching sky willing me to while the day away. Be a desert dawn, Holy Muse, that I may breathe in the scent of your plump, crisp air and get going. Amen.
Nine months ago, I gave birth to my second daughter. Nine months before that, I had little idea that I was about to conceive another child. In each of these nine-month periods, my world changed radically. Eighteen months ago, I had one awesome child. Then, nine months ago, there were two. Nine months ago, I had an office job and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area--my husband and I had no plans in place for anything else. Now I am living a life that, for all my creativity, I couldn't have imagined. I live in the Sonoran desert. I've published my first book. I've become an Episcopalian in the midst of a beautiful Christian community. I have found greater peace than I ever anticipated in my prayer life as a Benedictine Canon novice. This evening I am filled with gratitude and hope for the blessings I experience in each moment. And I wonder, with great hope, what shall be brought to birth in my life next.
This is my last day as a Roman Catholic. Tomorrow I will be received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Kirk Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, thus continuing my baptismal journey, continuing my journey as a novice of the Community of St. Mary of the Annunciation Benedictine Canons, and beginning my journey in a new-to-me Christian tradition. I am continually surprised at the deep connections I find between my adult faith and the faith of my childhood. I am about to enter the Episcopal Church, a church that liturgically isn't very different from the Roman Catholic tradition. My devotion to a relational, triune God was established before I knew it on Trinity Sunday, the day of my baptism. And my formation in the Community of St. Mary of the Annunciation Benedictine Canons, whose devotion is to God's preeminent open-hearted listener, the Theotokos, began not during my years of graduate study at St. John's School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota, but at my baptismal church, St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Greenville, Ohio. My Prior suggests that synchronicities such as these are worth attending to. I have always been a fan of synchronicity--I have just never experienced so much of it in one place as I have in the Sonoran Desert these last five months. All the threads of my life of faith--the threads of liturgical practice, structured prayer, understanding of God as relational/transcendent/imminent, singing, feminism, openness, commitment to the seeking of truth in all places and people, and humility in the presence of God's wondrous deeds--all of these and more are woven into the pattern of my faith life at St. Augustine's and as a Benedictine Canon Novice of St. Mary of the Annunciation. And the pattern they weave takes my breath away. I say farewell to the Roman Catholic Church in kindness and love, and I greet the Episcopal Church with fondness and hope. I trust that my almost thirty-two years as a Roman Catholic Christian have not been in vain, but instead have created a strong foundation on which I can build a stronger faith.
This past Saturday, my family hosted an Advent housewarming, and I found the wreath and berries you see to the left from Trader Joe's. A tiny wreath and a few tea candles make the passage of Advent time more pronounced, and the faint scent of pine reminds me of home. When I was growing up in northeast Ohio, I was surrounded by evergreens. On Earth Day each year it was customary to receive an evergreen sapling from school to plant at home, and my family planted them. One of the most beautiful places in Ohio to see evergreens is Quail Hollow State Park in Hartville; another is the Jesuit Retreat House in Parma. Evergreens like those don't grow in the desert. Instead, the thriving flora of the Sonoran desert include Mediterranean olive trees, which would have been familiar to the eyes and hands and mouth of Jesus of Nazareth. I miss my childhood home enough to buy an evergreen wreath that isn't native to where I live. Maybe next year I'll fashion my own wreath with olive branches and olives. Olive branches have always been a sign of goodwill, and olive oil is a sign of majesty, healing, and nourishment. Appropriate for the season that awaits the arrival of the majestic, healing nourisher, yes?