Saturday, July 26, 2008

Night Air at Open Windows

I recently had dinner with a friend who for some time in college had seriously considered a monastic vocation. Our conversation reminded me of something I had written awhile ago. It will soon be August, and an anniversary of sorts looms ahead for me.

Leaning against a windowsill at night and breathing in the cool air, I am sometimes awakened to an old hunger for truth, an early yearning for something real and dear. I imagine myself again as someone I can trust to welcome the best there is in a world so large and wild and worth being vulnerable before.

In the language of my upbringing and training, God is in that air, in that wild, fresh darkness right outside a window at night.

And briefly I become twenty years old again, sitting by a window that is not in my parents’ air-conditioned New Orleans home. I become someone sitting by an open window in the 70’s in a seminary building in the rural South where I had recently begun a program of studies that over the next nine years would lead me close to ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood.

When I entered the seminary, the Roman Catholic Church was still within the first decade of energy and upheaval resulting from the "new Pentecost" for which Pope John XXIII had prayed in 1962 at the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The final message of that Council in 1965 had been addressed to young women and men, exhorting us to do two things, to open our hearts "to the dimensions of the world" and to find in the Church "the face of Christ." I think I was trying to do both that August day that I walked with my parents into the dim, high-ceilinged front hallway of the seminary.

Even that first day, I marveled at the building that was to be home for most of the two years awaiting me. It was not a particularly elegant structure, but it was a place that would become mine as I explored its four floors and its extensive grounds. I imbibed the flavor of the place through long, solitary walks.

The front driveway late at night, silent and black, led to an empty road and a glimpse of a distant traffic light.

Early morning there were fogs in the front of the house that you could smell and feel through the screens in the doors and parlor windows.

Walks at night on the dark road behind the chapel led to moments of standing and staring into the night sky through the black, spreading branches of the oaks, waiting for a clearer sense of a presence that seemed out there waiting for me.

And indeed, I would realize more clearly years later, God had been there, had been with me in each of those places.

Photo by georgeindenver


H.A. Page said...

You've written of retreats this month... The Pecos Monastery is just about 40 minutes from Santa Fe (which is just an hour and a half or less from the airport in Albuquerque). My mother did a retreat there awhile back and has urged me to do so. The Pecos retreat schedule is here.

MperiodPress said...

Oh Friend! What a gorgeous picture you paint of a place I too know, though in a different way. I especially like the description of the fog that you can smell and feel. How often I remember looking out over the horse pasture and the fields by the barn and walking through that early fog with my morning coffee...listening to the world awaken one mockingbird at a time, or so it seemed to me.

Long live the memories of your senses that can paint such a beckoning invitation so many years hence.

Donald said...

It is a marvel to me how other times and places of recollection have been triggered by what I wrote here. The urge to step apart and into a different schedule for living our days is something about which I seem always ready to reflect afresh. Thanks for the encouragement.