Knitting hands us many slow and steady spiritual lessons.
I can’t remember when I learned to knit. I know it was sometime when, as a small child, I watched my mom creating a sweater or afghan and wanted to do the same. I made a scarf or two and became skilled enough to knit a simple sweater. Unfortunately, I decided I didn’t like the texture of the polyester yarn after I’d finished knitting it, so I put the pieces in the back of a closet for years.
How often do the dead get to speak to the living? Every day on the obits page.
Years ago my sister found herself explaining death to her young son. She tried to present the startling truths in a reassuring fashion. “Well, honey, everyone dies, but it’s mostly older people who’ve lived a long life. It’s not going to happen to me or your dad for many, many years, and not to you until you’re an old man.” “You mean it’s going to happen to me, too?” asked my nephew. “Well, yes,” said my sister, “but not for a long time.” He looked up at her, grinning, and said, “You’re kidding, right?”
Pilgrimages prove that in order to move your soul, you usually need to move your feet as well.
A few years ago, on an incongruously cushy tour bus with plentiful opportunities for shopping, I made a pilgrimage to Assisi. We had Mass every day and visited the sites where St. Francis lived. I chose to enter into the experience, however, on what I hoped would be a deeper level.
Wash your own dishes and see the spiritual insights that bubble up.
Opportunities for spiritual growth—even contemplation—can occur almost anywhere, at any time. St. Ignatius of Loyola speaks about finding God in all things. The 17th-century spiritual writer Brother Lawrence found the “presence of God” even as he ordered provisions for his monastery. I was surprised to find such an opportunity in the simple task of washing dishes. For me, doing the nightly dishes, like praying the liturgy of the hours or spiritual reading, has become—in Ignatius’ words—a spiritual exercise, a spiritual practice.
Practicing custody of the eyes helps us stay focused on the important stuff.
The first time I heard the phrase “custody of the eyes,” I was not much older than 6 or 7. I was sitting beside my mom during Mass with her arm draped over my shoulder, one hand gripping me tightly. She was practicing that silent Catholic mom death grip—the one that says, “Be quiet and look straight ahead at the altar.” The task of looking directly ahead would have been easier if my dad weren’t fast asleep at the end of the pew.
Packing up our prized possessions and giving them away doesn’t just de-clutter our lives, it fulfills our baptismal call.
I love my Christmas dinnerware. For the past 20 years I’ve served many wonderful feasts on it. Family and friends have gathered around my festive green and red table year after year to pray, eat, celebrate, and share stories. Our sons have grown up with my Christmas dishes, and now my granddaughter looks for them. Our family picture album reinforces the years gone by.