Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reaching the Age of Losses

The last three days have been dedicated to last, loving efforts on behalf of my dearest friend; helping her family to give her the 'send off' that would honor her life of love for them and so many others and her life of faith in our Loving God. That we managed to do. Today she was buried next to her beloved husband among the pines in an old hillside cemetary. Their head stone reads: "Adele and Antonin Tutter - In love they planted a tree, built a house and made a family."

It seems to me that when you pass the 'fifty-somethings' you enter the stage of losses, the stage of having to say, "Goodbye." Perhaps I am among the fortunate few who still have my parents and have not lost a sibling. I do not have a large family in which deaths have been recorded frequently. But I have entered the stage where one begins to lose precious friends. How selfishly I mourn the passing of those who could always be depended upon to shore me up, to give encouragement, to offer consolation in trial, to make me laugh and to support me in faith.

With the loss of this very special friend it feels as if I have been left to finally stand up straight on my own and grow to full stature, to be all that my dear friend always said that I could be. It seems that might just be the finest way to honor her memory.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Goin' Home - A Tribute to Adele

Adele Chambart Tutter 1932 – 2007

When Adele Chambart and Antonin Tutter met in the 1950s each was suffering from homesickness. Adele’s childhood reality was lived in the homes of various relatives and focused primarily in her years of attending a boarding school run by the Amityville Dominican Sisters in Monticello, New York. Antonin, more than ten years her senior, was making the most of hard work and education offered in a new country but he was a political refugee and his heart in exile from his true home which was Czechoslovakia. In love, these two ‘homeless’ young people determined to create a new home, a home of their very own, a home away from true home.

Brooklyn, Staten Island, Kingston, Bloomville were the successive geographical settings for their home-making efforts. Here they raised outstandingly intelligent and super-achieving children, independent of mind and spirit, loving in ways that could only be learned from such parents. Adele’s achievements as a parent, a professional, a community activist and parish minister are well known. I would like to speak about the quality of “HOME” Adele created and shared with others. It has been said that “the best sort of family [is one] in which the members are so at home with one another [that] they create an atmosphere of nourishing hospitality.” Adele welcomed and brought home all sorts, including me and my children. For his part, Tony may not have cooked the meals or made the beds but he allowed and cooperated in the extension of Adele’s earth mother brand of generosity and caring.

Adele’s extension of ‘home’ to me included the development of a quality of friendship that can only be described as a rare treasure. Out of the’ welcomings’ to her home: through the back door to the kitchen and family room of the Pearl Street house; into the ancient, tiny, rickety Bloomville farm house that magically expanded to hold all whom she desired it to hold; to the spacious, light-filled retirement home on the hill – out of all these warm ‘welcomings’ grew a friendship of mutual care and knowing. Adele knew me to the soles my feet and to the depth of my heart. She heard it all and was willing to do so. And for her part, Adele shared her heart, her spiritual soul, her concerns for husband and children and the homelessness of her inner child.

On the Occasion of her 70th birthday I wrote:

Adele Tutter taught me:
· how to make tabouli, babahanoush, and spinach pockets
· how to pick blueberries
· how to welcome a friend at the back door any time and offer a kind word, a cup of tea, a meal or a healing hug.

Adele taught me:
· How to be confident in a ‘still wet behind the ears’ teenaged son who just happens to know more about some things than you do.

Adele taught me:
· how to be generous without even thinking about it as when I reported losing a special rosary and she promptly dipped her hand into her pocket and gave me the beads she found there, probably a treasured possession.
· how to give your children every freedom necessary for healthy development and independence even when you KNOW exactly what they SHOULD be doing.
· how to be your brother and sister’s keeper, to serve the less fortunate, to respect the poor, the disabled, the outcast – even to delivering groceries to a squalid second floor apartment because the need was great.

Adele taught me:
· how to relax with friends, to know that the company was the most important thing, not the dishes in the sink, the toys on the floor, or the clothes strewn about because there are fourteen people sleeping in a house intended for six.

Adele Tutter taught me:
· how to be a soul sister for a lifetime

HOME meant everything to Adele and, in her ‘heart as big as the all outdoors' way, she shared everything that HOME meant for her. My heart is breaking with gratitude for that gift.

In loss, as I just begin to touch the hole her departure leaves in my life, my only consolation is that her once homeless soul has finally gone HOME. She has arrived at the true HOME she yearned for each and every day of her deep and mystical life of faith. It is this knowledge of the desire of her heart to be embraced by her Loving God in the HOME to which so many of her loved ones had already gone that we must allow to carry us over the hard times. After all, this is the model of selflessness she gave us. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In love therefore, we can make the effort to put aside our desires to have her forever. In imitation of her own selflessness and generosity we can rejoice that Adele has gone HOME.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Be Sober and Alert

It is now the hour for you to wake

from sleep.

The night is far spent;

the day draws near.

Let us cast off the deeds of darkness

and put on the armor of light.

Let us live honorably as in daylight.

Romans 13:11b, 12-13a

This message from the Epistle to the Romans was the scripture reading at Morning Prayer today. Thematically, it underscores the message of all the allusions to the end times in the readings for Mass of these last days of the liturgical year: Be awake; You know not the hour; It will come like a thief in the night.

What are these end times? Ultimately it will be the end of the world. In a personal sense it will be the moment of death, our last breath, the final embrace of God in the next world. But just as we are so often urged to live in the moment, to savor the moment lest we miss its gift and its promise, perhaps we are being reminded to be conscious in this moment because each moment has its end, each moment offers the possibility of life or death. Each moment offers a gift of opportunity which will expire in no time at all.

And there is so much to which we are invited to be conscious. The call to contemplation is a call to consciousness, to awareness of the moment, awareness of those things, those events, and those people around us - what we allow to fade into the wood work by our lack of consciousness, our lack contemplative seeing, savoring and appreciating. Greater contemplative awareness calls us to linger in the moment and by our recognition of reality to be summoned to react with generosity, thanksgiving, compassion, service and a whole host of other human responses to which Jesus invites by teaching and example.

Many of us have been drawn into the endless hype concerning a presidential election that will take place a year from now. This is, it seems to me, a vast wasteland of distraction from what is real in this moment, in this time. Endless debates, miles of video tape, filled with words that toss about the horrible realities in such careless fashion that we can no longer see them for what they are, the very things we are to regard in sobriety and alertness.

How distracted we can become from what is real. How distant we become from that state of consciousness, that contemplative vision that sees in truth, names truth and creates a response that comes from deep within the soul and the psyche. And so we pray, "Let us cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Contemplative Nuns and Quilts

More to follow. Stay tuned - or is that too antiquated a term to use in cyberspace?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"How Beautiful the Morning and the Day"

However frightening the advent of global warming may be, today it is bringing unusually late and sustained autumnal beauty to the Hudson River Valley. The colorful peak of leaf color is usually gone by October 2oth. Today is the 6th of November and the peak is still with us and hanging in spite of the early morning rains. I find the phenomenon both awesome to behold and scary in the prospect it may foretell.

Here in the monastery of Mother of Perpetual Help, we have finally recuperated from the great expenditure of energy necessary in hosting our Regional Meeting of Redemptoristine Contemplatives. It was an occasion of tremendous joy in sharing our life, our mutual concerns, our deep and long-held friendships and our life of prayer. Although the sisters who came represented five monasteries in only three countries, the group was even more multi-cultural in that sisters originally came from not only the U.S. , Canada and South Africa but also from the Philippines and Thailand.

I recently added to the recommended reading list in the side bar a novel which I enjoyed very much. (On Kingdom Mountain by Henry Frank Mosher)I would like to close this post with the words of the personal credo of the novel's main character, Jane Kinneson.

"Jane Hubbell Kinneson
The Duchess of Kingdom Mountain
That which I have learned I leave as my legacy:

Close all gates behind yourself.

Every generation should have its own Bible.

The walls we erect to protect ourselves from early pain
often shut us off from later joy.

To immerse oneself in the natural world is to share a
universal thread with every living thing.

Always declare yourself to the person you love.

Live each day not as though it is your last, but as though
it is the last day of the lives of the people you meet.

All the best stories are about love."