It has long been my habit as the old year passes into history and the new year, with all its yet unspoken hopes and dreams begins, to spend some time in reflection and gratitude. As I sat down today, January 1, 2016 I recalled a recent reflection of Pope Francis in which he expressed three aims:
To look to the past with gratitude; to live the present with passion; to embrace the future with hope.
So with the eyes of gratitude I reviewed my year and gave thanks:
For my family and the love we share, and I give special thanks for my beautiful niece Domenica. She graduated with first class Honours from her Fine Arts degree and stands on the threshold of living her passion for her art.
For my friends who enrich my life and nourish my soul; who support me in good times and bad. And the joy of friendships renewed. For my faith community that sustains and strengthens my beliefs.
For an amazing, enriching, challenging and confronting journey to Uganda to give formation retreats to the NET youth ministries. This was a very special and graced time spent with people passionate about their country and education, poor in material goods but rich in faith and love. The banner on the NET Uganda website states:
We are a people who yearn to be remembered … for we are a people
I know that I was blessed to have been a small part of the lives of these people and I shall never forget them.
And for all the people I met, those unexpected encounters that touch the heart and gladden the soul; for conversations and laughter, for getting lost in a book. For poetry and music that inspired, soothed and healed me; that guided me to reflection, reminiscence and daydreams, and filled me with enthusiasm and optimism.
For concerts and ballet, painting and art galleries, for ice cream and pasta and Brown Brothers wines; and for the beauty of creation – jacarandas, poincianas and frangipani, for the ocean and walks on the beach, for pelicans, the salty air and the roar of the surf, sunset and full moons. And most of all, for my life and talents and my ability to seek and find the divine beauty that awakens all that is noble in the human heart.
My reflection then turned to living the present with passion. One of my favourite poets is Mary Oliver and the Jesuit author William Barry notes that Oliver ‘seems to have been born a contemplative’. This is very evident in her many books of poetry and the way in which she pays attention to the world around her. In Just Around the House, Early in the Morning published in Swan she wrote:
Though I have been scorned for it, let me never be afraid to use the word beautiful. For within is the shining leaf and the blossoms of the geranium at the window. And the eyes of the happy puppy as he wakes. The colors of the old and beloved afghan lying by itself, on the couch, in the morning sun.
Now as I reflect on living the present with passion, it is to her poem The Summer Day that I turn, with its final, haunting question:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Formed in Ignatian spirituality my response to that question is, that the purpose of my wild and precious life is to make a difference – to all lives that touch mine, and to all God’s creatures. To live a life of service and to do this with passion and joy.
Today I received a New Year reflection written by Madeline Duckett and posted on the Contemplative Evolution Network – Inspired Words from the Network. In it she notes the tension we hold between what is and what might be, and the darkness and light of our journey through 2015. There has been much darkness she says, “but there has been light as well – so much light to balance the darkness of our world’s soul”. And so my wish for 2016 is that gratitude, passion and hope will prevail over the darkness.
To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing,
To contemplate the beautiful thing; that is enough for one man’s life.