In this issue of Thema, listen while whistling a tune and celebrate the joy of life. I recently lost my nephew and though grieving found expressions of God’s love uplifting, full of hope and wonder. I learned that the path of joy sometimes begins in moments of despair and sadness. I invite you to be spiritually deepened through reflections, art, literature, film, music, poetry and a sermon.
Experiencing Joy on Retreat
Ms. Sally Orcutt, O.P.
When your life changes so dramatically, when everything you thought you knew is turned upside down in the best possible way, how can anyone keep that to themselves?
Experiencing joy on retreat is a special type of joy. It is the joy of being known, the joy of being loved, and the joy of feeling fully accepted that invites me to fully accept myself.
In Gratitude for All the Gifts
Though he confronted the brutality of the modern age, Czeslaw Milosz believed in the joy-bringing potential of art and intellect. Seamus Heaney pays tribute to the Polish poet upon his death.
In this season of shortening daylight and bourgeoning autumnal hues, farming communities prepare for harvest time. Harvest celebrates the miracle that, somehow, meager seeds, faithfully planted early in the year and tended over time, transform in the darkness and quiet under the ground and break into sunlight, a living sustenance of winter’s food and next spring’s seed.
The Parable of the Squirrel-Planted Pumpkins
Porch décor is not a big priority at this house — now that our children are grown, my husband and I don’t even get around to carving a jack-o’-lantern most years — so I didn’t give the porchscapes a lot of thought until holiday decorations began to replace them. On garbage day the curbside bins were suddenly overflowing with pumpkins, and I hated to see all that food going to waste.
I have reached the age of caring not a whit whether people think I’ve lost my mind. I liberated as many of those garbage-can pumpkins as I could carry and set them in the scraggly area at the back of our lot.
Listening While Whistling a Happy Tune
Sr. Deborah Lockwood
Sometimes the melody wraps around my heart like a kaleidoscope, twisting and turning small bright pieces this way and that, producing endless beauty. This melody enables me to take the events of daily life and twist and turn them to another vision, to newer relationships and to understanding life in a different, perhaps, fuller way. It is listening with an inner ear to wonder or amazement, to hear the melody of the Spirit giving deeper insight or more profound understanding and compassion.
All Ye Joyful
Enjoy the prose of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973), an English writer and professor at Oxford University (1925–1959). He’s best remembered for his fantasy works The Hobbit (1937) and its sequel The Lord of the Rings (1954), both of which have sold well over 100 million copies.
Continue the joy as you listen to the Duquesne Chamber Choir sing the joyful hymn, “And the Father Will Dance” by Mark Hayes.
Chris Koellhoffer, IHM
My office, where I’m writing now, is drenched in the fullness of afternoon sun. Sometimes when I walk into this space around three o’clock, I sense the pull of the sun’s rays. It’s both palpable and startling. “Oh, it’s your favorite time of day,” I say aloud to my plant neighbors. I thank them for their quiet company, for purifying the air, for enhancing the quality of my inhaling and exhaling.
And I remind them, as I remind myself, that the surges of growth that late spring and summer invite are now left behind us in memory.
Matthew A. Cherry
Hair Love, an Oscar®-winning animated short film from Matthew A. Cherry, tells the heartfelt story of an African American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.
Making a Home in the Heart
Rev. Dr. Rindy Trouteaud
Everyone who has ever “built” a house – cardboard, wood scraps, or bits of twigs and pinestraw – knows that there is no blueprint for the love that transforms a structure, flimsy or well-built, into a home. More than skill, more than grit, more than determination, builders of all ages must believe that hearts leaning into one another to create a home, a bit of heaven on earth for the weary ones – winged, four legged, and two legged – is an act of the highest love. It is an act that lifts the other and affirms the worthiness, the belovedness of that one.
Exercise of Joy
Dr. Chris Burton
“Joy is a substance in our lives that is often conflated and mistaken for happiness. Indeed, you can experience happiness and joy at the same time but there is something long-lasting about joy. Happiness is a wonderful feeling that we get to visit from time to time but we don’t live there…Joy, on the other hand, is a place where we live not just visit. Joy is that substance that keeps us going through difficult times. It’s the good soil where hope can thrive. It’s the guarantee behind encouragement, endurance, and the ability to keep going,” begins Dr. Chris Burton, Director of the Leadership Institute at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, operator of an antiracism consulting firm, Di Baddist Consulting, and co-host of the podcast CrossStreets. Burton says, “Joy is a discipline.” How do we exercise joy in our lives and how does that impact those around us?