on wings and prayers

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence; hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

On Friday, hubby and I attended our nephew’s Wings Ceremony. Sixteen young men and women were presented with their Royal Canadian Air Force Advanced Military Pilot Wings. A short biography was read as each graduate marched forward, describing their academic and military journey to this point.

We were bursting with family pride. My father is a pilot. My brother is a retired Military pilot, now flying for Air Canada. It was just over thirty years ago that we attended his Wings Ceremony in Moosejaw, Canada – home of the famed Snowbirds. Now, he was pinning the Wings on his son’s uniform.

The military ceremony was dense with protocol; the marching, the salutes, and the deference given to commanding officers. Uniforms and flags gave a burst of color to an otherwise colorless hanger. Bag-pipes and drums stirred hearts during the march past of students. Gleaming helicopters and planes on the perimeter of the parade floor nudged us earth-bound mortals to day-dreaming glories of flight; a dream realized for these young women and men.

It takes many years of hard work and dedication to become a military pilot. It will take ongoing training and work to gain and maintain credentials for each new craft flown. And during the graduation speeches, we were reminded of the reality of an Air Force pilot’s career. One day they might be flying over the Canadian prairies, the next week they could be over Haiti, Afghanistan, or Libya.

Whether close to home, on peace-keeping missions, or in the midst of war, the men and women of our armed forces take risks that most of us never face – or would want to face. They deserve and need our ongoing support…and, our daily prayers.

Up, Up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

High Flight

by Jon Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Pilot Officer, RCAF
— 1941

feast of the presentation and the prophet anna

Twenty-nine years ago today, hubby and I embarked on our parenting journey. Our first-born entered the world with  healthy lungs announcing his displeasure at the sudden change of venue. We joked about him seeing his shadow and wanting to go back for six more weeks of snoozing. When hubby began the round of phone calls to share the good news, mention was made of it being Groundhog Day. But it was our dear Benedictine friend, Sr. Grace, who gently reminded us that it was also the Feast of the Presentation.

Luke’s gospel story of Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus in the temple is filled with rich words and memorable characters. (Luke 2: 22-39)  I always had a fondness for the prophet, Anna. She spent a mere 7 years with her husband, and was a widow until 84. Her days were spent praying and fasting in the temple.

Do you know an Anna? Our parish has been blessed with many Anna’s over the years. These are the faithful and faith-filled women who form the small remnant of weekday mass goers. They are present at every Eucharistic Adoration or extra prayer service. They arrive early, and leave late in order to pray more. They are the ones with the tattered prayer books and worn-out rosary beads. In our parish it was Anne, Pearl, Kay, Catherine, Helen, Tessie, Kate and more. When we first came to the parish, 30 years ago, some were already widows. Some are still alive today. Others have joined the glorious communion of saints, still joining their prayers with all holy women and men across time.

My favorite Benedictine community also had its Anna’s. These elder nuns were no longer able to participate in active ministry. But, they spent hours in the chapel praying for all.

Of course, we cannot forget the Simeon’s. But the men in the temple are usually front and center, so it is not easy to forget them. Today let’s remember, with gratitude, all the quiet women prophets in our midst.

silence and word

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested…


A couple of weeks ago, the hard-drive on my lap-top crashed. The repaired computer has returned home. My data was saved and restored, but I’m still in the process of down-loading all the necessary software. My mind is filled with usernames, account keys, and passwords. Meanwhile, I’m overwhelmed with tasks that were lost in cyber-space, and projects that are now even further behind schedule.

So, I needed a writing break. Writing helps me to center mind and heart. But, what should I write about? What do I need to hear to help me in the midst of a chaotic week?

During my daily web-surf of catholic and world news, I came across this amazing piece. Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day calls us all to seek silence. For those who delight in social communications, it seems a paradoxical message. Letting our voices be heard is the whole purpose of blogging, Face-booking, Twittering, and online discussing. Isn’t it? But what is the value of speaking if no one is listening? What is the use of listening if we don’t have the opportunity to enrich the discussion?

Respectful silence is at the heart of dialogue. This does not mean merely “biting our tongue”. It means listening deeply to the other. It means trying our best to understand without formulating instant responses and judgments.

I think that BXVI has a real winner with this message on Silence and Word. It’s a message I needed to hear. I hope to explore it further in the next few blog posts…