Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Summer is Passing By?

Father John J. Lombardi

"I've never seen the Grotto more beautiful," Bill, a pilgrim said, as we walked in front of Corpus Christi Chapel in the Grotto. Thing is: a Summer storm just passed by and all the fauna (rhododendrons) flowers (roses) and trees (poplars, maples and oaks) were in resplendent green and color after the rains nourished them---noticeable because of our leisurely stroll. There was a fresh succulence about it all.

We've lost the culture of leisure. That's Joseph Pieper's premise (see his excellent book: "The Decline of Leisure"), namely that Catholics have gotten too busy and have forgotten what it means to relax, enjoy, recreate and enjoy a contemplative life That's what the Grotto-and Summer-is all about-taking time to get away from harriedness and enjoy simple being, walking, noticing, praying, embracing.

You're probably not the CEO of a company or a bank president or a big-wig fast-paced executive in the world-i.e., sooo busy so as to be emaciated by so many demands--so you can, at some level, take time from "the race" to embrace God and His Creation. But, what gives, you're still too busy?

We all get busy-multi-tasking, family activities, sports-and sometimes fail to appreciate the precious present moment and experience of Summer and all its' hidden meanings and uniquenes,. So, following are some ways to help you contemplate and celebrate Summer--spiritually

Take a Hike, Hog Rock, Indian Lookout, Monacacy Valley and other scenic vistas are right here near the Catoctin Mountains for our delight. God fashioned them for us. It is up to us to seek them out and find Him through them. Earth and sky, Divinity, mortals may all merge here in a pristine fashion, and the more leisurely (and sometimes, physically!) time you spend amidst it all, you may relax, breathe, spirate and penetrate into new depths of being and freshness. After all, Jesus says: "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (Mk 6:31).

Take a swim in a creek, I mean. Forget the chlorine and sterilized pools-visit Cunningham Falls State Park (nearby Mary's Mountain, in Thurmont, or Little Owns Creek (the Covered Bridge on Frederick Rd.), or Mother Seton's stomping grounds of Tom's Creek in Emmitsburg . I visited there recently for a swim with a friend and we noticed, amidst a wrought iron trestle bridge a set up of table and chairs where, previously there was none -right out in the wilderness. Somebody was really accentuating leisure here, right in the middle of the woods! The Lord Jesus often retreated to lakes to show us the Way to Holiness and yes, wholeness. Listen to a creek ripple and roar its way downstream, gaze upon a still Summer pond, put your feet or body in, immerse and impress your sense into God's creation and regenerate. Well, okay, maybe not a creek, then in a pool-it's great exercise and rejuvenation for body and soul.

Take a Walk: The Lord Jesus never rode in a car or flew in a plane. He walked wherever he went. Seems pedestrian (literally it is) but: when you walk you notice a lot more than when you drive. You have time to relax and enjoy creation around you. The other day I went out for a run but decided before doing that I would walk to simply, really slow down and notice the agrarian fields nearby me, the wild horses in the pastures, the clouds billowing in the sky, the orange orchids growing and blazing wildly near a creek, the Catoctin Mountains rising from the west, summer haze filling the sky: I could take it all in more and become, sorta like, a fellow-pilgrim of it all, drenching in the Summer sun, relaxing, embracing, then I took my run.

Enjoy the Summer sky: watch the clouds go by-cumulus and nimbus and cirrus clouds dot the atmosphere and sometimes turbulent storm clouds-do you know and notice them, slow down enough to "study" and appreciate them? I was recently at a two hour indoor meting (O rats, inside!) and had the privilege and blessing to look out a vast window and observed a cloud tarry along and hug Mary's Mountain-a simple-yet-elegant mind tease and pleaser to my boredom which billowed and lifted my wanderlust spirit, a kind of private relation before me of God's majesty. The words and discussion of the meeting continued, and so did the cloud, draping and creeping and floating along as the cauldron-sun illuminated it. Revelation? The cloud moved, manifested itself, did what it was supposed to do, unlike us mortals, sometimes, following and doing God's Will. Have you watched a Summer thunderstorm come up and drench the landscape, first arriving by increasing winds, the rustling leaves of trees, then a sprinkle, followed the inevitable downpour? How about actually being in a storm, not "fighting" it but embracing and enjoying God's love thru it? (Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, called "The Pastoral." is an elegant meditation on pastoral landscapes, storms and Nature's ways-listen to it sometime in holy leisure!).

Take a bike ride: Okay, Jesus never did this but you can. Expend some energy, enjoy the scenery, pedal along floatingly, and then go and take a rest by lying down in a field

Make a Pilgrimage: To Washington DC (the Franciscan monastery Holy Land replica, or the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception), to Sacred Heart Basilica in nearby McSherrystown. Bring a sacred intention with you (perhaps someone in need of healing) and relax, pray, attend Mass and leisurely stroll the grounds or church and replenish yourself with God's Love

Go Fishing: The Lord Jesus did this. A few weeks ago I went to a creek nearby Mary's Mountain and noticed a trout in the stream; I watched it as It swam there darting to and fro. It seemed to enjoy itself (I didn't have looming hook over its head!) Then I jumped in with it! Well, grab a rod, get some bait, and go out and kill some time with the fishes of the sea. The First Apostles were fishermen-as was the first Pope, Peter, so why not you? Rainbow Lake on the other side of the Grotto in a valley tucked between Mary's Mountain and another hill is a beautiful spot for solitude and catching some bass and trout. "Killing time"doesn't that mean entering into eternal timelessness. Maybe that's why fishing is so popular.

Picnic: In St John's Gospel Chapter Six we have the famous Eucharistic-like celebration and discourse of Jesus feeding the multitudes-outside, mind you, not in a church. So pack a lunch and get out there and be like Jesus. Be ecumenical and feed some nearby mammals, too (St Francis would be proud).

Study the Flowers: Yes, Jesus Himself counsels this as a spiritual, re-creational act: "Consider the flowers of the field… (Mt. 6:28: Another translation: "Learn from the way flowers grow"). I was recently running across Mt St Mary's campus and briskly passed a lady twice, and we exchanged greetings. The second time I passed her she said: "Hey, slow down and smell the roses." Yes! Flowers-they're amazing and enchanting just by merely being there. Isn't that Jesus' point?: we put so much emphasis on doing, running and accomplishing and forget God's most profound and simple attribute-Being. I just read the monument to a monumental man, Msgr Hugh J Phillips (of our Grotto), and one line reads, "Most dedicated to being, Chaplin of the Grotto." Now, notice, that comma there and its accentuation: "Most dedicated to being,…" Get it?. That's what he, our hero was about, dedicated to Being, to God, to worshiping and honoring the Supreme Being of Life, So true thanks to that comma! This Summer take time to dedicate yourself to, and focus on Be-ing. You're a human be-ing, you're a being-in-love, your being subsists in God's Being. Be in Him, simply, elegantly, don't afraid to just be. That's true leisure, true prayer and worship when you're able to grasp this.

Summer eating: In Maryland especially taste the delights of soft shell crabs (hmmm, a delight!), silver queen corn, fresh tomatoes, cherries and vegetables, hard shell steamed crabs. When Jesus rose from the dead He ate some fish: what about some Chesapeake Bay rock fish or mountain trout?: Taste and see how the Lord is Good!

Summer is here for only a few months. As I type this in the shadow of Mary's Mountain, nighttime, I now hear a dog barking and the crescent moon is shining forth. Open your window to the Summer breezes, the night sky, and the floating humidity. Let your house breathe and yourself to. Recycled air can affect you much. Allow God's air in and within, and a dog's night-barking, too.

Summer is passing by, is it passing you by? Stop, breathe, walk, notice, enjoy, receive and release yourself to God's creation. He can re-create you…

Here's another meditation for summer:

Archbishop Harry Flynn recently told the story to priests on retreat at Mary's Mountain.. "There is a letter there in bronze that was written by a doctor Thomas Dooley, then President of Notre Dame University, to a Father Hesburg in 1960, and I quote: "it has become pretty definite that the cancer has spread to the lumbar vertebrae over the past two months. I have monstrous Phantoms as all men do but I tried to exercise them with all the fury of the Middle Ages. Inside and outside the wind blows, but when that time comes the storm around me does not matter, the winds within me do not matter, nothing human or earthly can touch me, because a wilder storm of peace gathers in my heart. What seems unfathomable I fathom, what seems un-possessable I can possess, and what is unutterable I can unutter because I can pray, and communicate to our Lord: how do people endure if they cannot have God."

"If you were to take your four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John you would know a phrase that repeats itself over and over and over, and that phrases is this, he went out to the desert alone to pray. He went up into the mountains alone to pray. Jesus Christ prayed and that phrase repeats itself over and over and over again under all kinds of different circumstances and situations. He is tired and having dismissed the multitudes he goes up the mountain alone to pray, he is rested and rising very early goes into a desert place to pray. He is baptized and when it came to pass that when all the people were baptized, and Jesus also being baptized, he prayed and heavens opened and the Holy spirit descended upon him in bodily shape like a dove. He is popular and his reputation begins to grow and large crowds gather to hear his words and have their sicknesses cured and he would always go off alone to someplace where he could pray. He makes a decision anyone out into the hills to pray and spent the whole night in prayer to God, and one day came when he summoned his disciples and out of his disciples he picked out the 12 apostles."

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi