Let it come as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.”
~Jane Kenyon

It seems I am surrounded by many people who are going through things…..illness, loss, grief, confusion, decisions big and small, change, transition. The list goes on and on. And while life is always made up of these threads that weave in and out causing feathery wings and bruise-like colors, there seems to be a greater proliferation of it all right now. It doesn’t help that our national life is fractured as well. Social and financial fear mongering keeps our nerve-endings raw from response. The hope for numbness looms large in our collective psyche and yet rarely comes.

All of this is compounded by the fact that the sky has been cloudy the last 22 days in Minnesota. This is the time of year when you really have to buy into the ‘quality of life’ message about our land of 10,000 lakes because the visual would send us all screaming for some border, north or south, east or west. There seems to be a cloud hanging over each waking moment of the day. Those of us who observe the season of Lent, a church rhythm meant to bring about introspection and penitence, have the perfect backdrop for this winter drama.

Yesterday as I was stopping into a hospital to check in on one of our dear ones, I had my head appropriately tucked into my neck, my ears surfing on my shoulders as I sought to keep out the biting wind. My eyes, like all the other walkers, were focused downward on the dirty, salty sidewalk. Just outside a bus shelter I caught sight of a pacifier dropped onto the ground, just laying there abandoned. My heart gave a little tug in my chest. “Someone is needing comfort someplace.”, I thought.

The sight of this little piece of molded plastic sent me back some years to the times I would search frantically in the night, sleep-deprived and stumbling to find the object that would comfort a crying child and send us both back to sleep. I laughed to myself as I remember the little stashes of these miracle-workers we had hidden in nooks and crannies of beds, car seats, drawers, diaper bags. The ability to provide comfort with such a tiny tool was of paramount importance.

Placing a pacifier in a crying infant’s mouth and allowing them to soothe themselves to sleep is an easy enough act. Other comforts don’t come quite so easy. Those I know who are struggling with health issues are searching for a comfort that often arrives in the right medication or the hopeful word of a physician. Many I know are still searching for employment or work that more appropriately fits their gifts. What can bring comfort to these bright, intelligent people? All I can offer is to walk with them, to pray for them, to listen.

So many people I know are walking the road with relatives, parents mostly, who are aging and losing the freedom they once knew. The feeling of being both child and parent holds them in a suspended animation for which they are not trained. How to comfort their lack of security and confidence, their desire to respect these ones who have given them life? If only there was a comfort blanket that could fall gently on the hands that hold, the hearts that break.

What brings you comfort? As I thought about the things that become my pacifier, I thought of the communities I am blessed to sit in. Those people who make me laugh, tell the truth and cut myself some slack, knowing I will deliver a platter of the same to them when needed. And then there is that morning sighting of the brilliant red of a cardinal defying the cold and drab view out my window. And of course, a good story, a blazing fire, the big, black dog looking expectantly into my eyes, a hand to hold,a steaming cup of coffee.

When all those fail there is always one deep breath. Then another. And another until the breath becomes prayer. This breathing rhythm is, perhaps, the original Comforter coming to rest within reminding us that, no matter what, we are really never alone.


Snow Moon

Tonight the moon came up, it was nearly full
Way down here on Earth, I could feel its pull
The weight of gravity, or just the lure of light
Made me want to leave my only home tonight…….”

~Mary Chapin Carpenter

Did you see the moon last night? My lovely calendar with equally lovely words had told me to expect a ‘Snow Moon’. I had read that teaser in the early morning but had forgotten about it. Fixing dinner in my kitchen, I was focusing on chopping and dicing when I sensed a pull on my attention. I turned around to see the most amazing yellow orb making its way up the dome of the sky out my window. The deep blue night sky and the jet black silhouettes of black walnut branches framed the golden disk with perfection. I was stopped in my movements by a beauty and awe that took my breath away. I threw on my coat and headed outdoors so I could breathe in the air that held such a sight.

I spent the evening tracking the movement of this Snow Moon. As it rose higher and higher in the sky, it lost some of its golden hue trading it in for the purest white. Driving in my car toward the horizon that held it, I marveled that I have the privilege to be alive under such a moon. In my head this little snippet of the Mary Chapin Carpenter song floated providing a winter soundtrack. I had indeed felt the pull of this amazing moon and I also had to leave my home to get as pure a view of it as possible. It felt like a sacred act to me.

Perhaps sacred sights like this one come to us when we need them. Certainly there were countless other people who did not have the experience of the pull of this moon. But its sighting was a reminder to me of the vast Universe of which I am a tiny speck. So many times I behave as if I am at its center! The lure of the light of this moon assured me that its glow was so much bigger than anything I could imagine and that same glow was for all the little specks just like me. If we have the eyes to see. If we pay attention to the pull.

I was intrigued by the name Snow Moon. Doing some research I learned that it is the name given to the full moon of February in North America because the light of this full moon will probably fall on lots of places with snow. Amen to that. Whatever it is called, it was a beautiful sight.

Sometimes we have experiences, ordinary, every day experiences that nudge (or pull) us to remember how fabulous it is to be human. Fabulous and fragile. Last night as I felt the pull of the moon, something tugged in my chest. It was the deep tug of knowing that this gift of seeing the moon will not always be mine. Or yours. That knowing connected me with all those I have known who no longer glimpse the moon in the way I was able to do at that moment. Gift. Pure gift.

This morning I went searching for the lyrics to the Mary Chapin Carpenter song. Its title? ‘Between Here and Gone’. It is a melancholy song about where we find home,not leaving things undone that are important and the fact that, indeed, we all live someplace between here and gone.


Rare Word

It is a pleasure to be with you for this day we are on earth together.”
~Libby Larsen

Yesterday I made a trek across Loring Park in Minneapolis to Westminster Presbyterian Church for their Town Hall Forum. The speaker was homegrown composer Libby Larsen. She began her talk with the words above. While I have admired much of her music over the years, with this one statement she won my heart. Indeed, wouldn’t it be a kinder, gentler world if we walked into each day, to the breakfast table, into our classroom or office and greet those we meet with these words? “It is a pleasure to be with you for this day we are on earth together.” Ahhhhh……..

As Larsen spoke on the subject of ‘a composer on composing’, we were able to glimpse the life of someone whose primary way of moving in the world is through hearing. As a primarily visual person, I am always interested in the other ways people access information, process it and then communicate with the world. As a composer Larsen spoke of hearing the rhythm in traffic, remarked on a sound she was hearing overhead at that moment, probably a vent of some kind, the rhythms she hears in the various languages people speak. All these contribute to the music she writes, her way of being ‘a person who hears their way into the world’, in her words.

It all made me want to be a better hear-er. I think I am a pretty good listener but perhaps not a very good hear-er. I can tune out other conversations around me, work with music playing or even the television and not pay a bit of attention to the sounds around me. What is it like to be aware of all the sounds that make up our daily life?

Larsen says “We haven’t heard a world like we are hearing now.” I suppose that is true. I just have never thought about it….or listened for it. More than the sounds of today I am most often jarred out of my tuned out state by sounds that connect me with a distant memory. The sound of a train’s horn moving along the St.Paul bluffs connects me with the warm, summer nights of my childhood when the train would move through our town signaling its journey from one place to another. The impact of ball to bat, the cracking that sends me back in time to the freedom of summer leisure. A song heard on the radio that conjures a tug in my chest of melancholy and adolescent angst. An old hymn that reminds me of the warmth of leaning into my mother’s soft, fleshy arm during church.

What is the world we are hearing now? I suppose there are more sounds of machines and equipment and the clicking and clacking of all the many devices we ‘need’ to make our 21st century work. There is also the tapping of fingers on keyboards, the beeps of cellphones and alerts to do this or that. The sound of more planes taking off and landing, cars of varying revs and vrooms. And all of it happening at once in a way that it has not always done, creating a sense of chaos for some and comfort for others.

Perhaps the sound that is in this world we are inhabiting right now that is in shortest supply is silence. Not silence as the absence of sound but the actual sound of silence. And silence is a sound, isn’t it? Again Larsen remarked: “Silence in our culture is the rarest of all words.”
When this brilliant woman made this statement, I thought of all the people throughout time who have pursued the sound of silence, this rarest of all words. I thought of the places I have visited, holy, ancient places, where silence was pursued by the great and the humble. I thought of the places in this postmodern world I am blessed to inhabit where the rare word of silence is also found.

For a moment I felt the gift of that silence wash over me like a prayer.Though I will endeavor to be a better hear-er for its gifts to stretch my visual world,the pursuit of the rare word of silence seems equally as important.



“The ancient rabbis teach that on the seventh day, God created menuha- tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose – rest, in the deepest possible sense of fertile, healing stillness. Until the Sabbath, creation was unfinished. Only after the birth of menuha, only with tranquility and rest, was the circle of creation made full and complete.”
~ Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

A funny thing happens when you read a book several times. You bring to a second, third or fourth reading all the life experiences that have happened in between. They inform the words and your eyes and your heart are drawn to completely different words with multiple readings. Since I am a great book underliner, I know this is true. This quote from Wayne Muller’s book, one I have read at least four times if not more, is a perfect example. I have underlined sentences and whole paragraphs in this book. Some of my highlights still make sense to me but others create brow-furrowing reactions. Why was I drawn to those words? Why did I take the time to underline that whole paragraph?

My faith community has engaged in reading this book for Lent. It is a great book, one that always challenges me and causes me to think about the small and large movements of my days. I am anticipating conversations and insights others may have as they read it for the first time or once again.

The paragraph I printed at the beginning of this post is one I had glossed over in my other readings. But for some reason, this time, it jumped right out at me and shook its fist in my face. “Until the Sabbath, creation was unfinished.” It opened yet one more door on this central story which shapes a worldview and even an understanding of the Holy. Until there was a sense of tranquility, repose and rest, the rhythm of Creation was not complete.

Perhaps this paragraph decided to dance with me because, I confess, I am not a very good rest-er. I have been noticing this lately and have begun trying to be better at it. The problem with ‘trying’ to rest is that the trying can become another task, another effort that really is not resting but working at resting. Does this make sense to you?

But when I think about the process of creation and the ways in which it plays itself out in my life, I can begin to see how without the final movement of serenity, peace and rest, the creative process is a cycle without wholeness. I imagine an artist painting or sculpting, how the inspiration, energy and adrenaline moves toward the culmination of portrait or statue. Can the work be complete without the final step of stepping back resting in the beauty of what has been created?

Thinking about my friends who are musicians, I think of the ways in which notes, rests, words, tunes, rhythms move together to create song. This composition all comes together in some form for someone to hear or sing or play. And can it really be complete without those final moments when the exertion has ceased and the sound is suspended in the air, held on the breath of those visible and invisible? This moment of peace and serenity becomes that place of ‘healing stillness’ that gives finality to what has been born and hope for what is yet to be.
Everyday we embark on acts of creativity both grand and mundane. In doing so we embody the gifts and intention of the Great Artist. From the meals we make to the lessons we teach, from the conversations we nurture to the decisions that must be made, each is a creative act whether we name them so or not. These acts of creativity of the every day are the flesh and blood of life; yours, mine, ours, the world’s. The creative movement that gives life and breath to taking us out of one day and into the next, through our work, our play, our joys, sorrows, dreams and disappointments is the stuff of Creation. We would do well to remember this……and to honor the fullness of the coming full circle.

And then, rest.


Beneath the Surface

“Light within all light
Soul behind all souls
at the breaking of the dawn
at the coming of the day
we wait and watch.”
~John Philip Newell

There is always a certain time of winter in Minnesota when our ability to get around is not hindered so much by snow as ice. Though snow, brown and dirty, may still be piled high and patches of ice shine like glass in the brilliant sun, it is the potholes in the road that cause us to drive cautiously, veering left and right, slowing to a creep to drive into and then out of a hole that had not been there even a day before. The combination of salt, sand and chemicals to reduce tires sliding on snowy streets creates these sometimes enormous holes that can jar our teeth and mess with our car’s alignment. This can be at the least annoying and at worst dangerous.

However, there is always one pothole whose appearance I anticipate. It happens year after year in one particular place along a busy street in my neighborhood. The asphalt that has created a smooth drive chips away and reveals a glimpse at another time in our city’s history. The black, tarry substance peals back and reveals not only the cobblestones that lay beneath but also the rails that carried the street car. When this happens, as it did this past week, I am always pleased to be reminded of what my neighborhood might have been like in a slower, perhaps even more elegant time. As streetcars carried people from work and shopping in downtown St. Paul up the Smith Avenue hill, I imagine them getting off at the local pharmacy on the corner. This building which now houses the coffee shop where I often sit drinking a steaming cup of coffee and reading or writing, was once the local place to have a prescription filled or to have a soda while thumbing though a magazine. The pothole that conjures this all up for me rests like a beacon outside the pharmacy-cum-coffee shop.

Each time this pothole makes its yearly appearance, I am reminded of all the layers of our lives. Historically we know that cities are built upon cities, other lives upon other lives. It is the work of archeologists to dig and unravel what lays beneath soil and sand to reveal a piece of pottery or jewelry, a clue to the lives that once lived in a place. We also know that our own lives have the layers of where we were born and lived our early days piled high with the experiences of education and work, relationships and family, disappointments and successes. All these are layered upon one another, over and over until sometimes it is easy to forget what is just below the surface.

As people of faith, we also carry the layers of the stories that shaped not only us but those who have nurtured, protected and defined our traditions. For good or ill we carry these layers within our own story. I am always reminded of this as one church season turns to another.

Those of us in the Christian household began the observance of Lent this past week. On Sunday we read again the story of Jesus’ journey into the wilderness. Here he confronts the temptations of body and spirit, of wrestling with power and control, of turning his back on his Creator. It is Jesus’ story. But it is also ours and if we allow its wisdom to inform our own story we are confronted by our own wilderness journeys. We can peal back the layers of what these wilderness times have brought us and, perhaps, find wisdom for moving through these forty days in new ways, with new understanding of the call on our own lives.

Lent can be a time for reflection. Reflection on the layers of who we are and how the Holy moves in our lives. Reflection on what has shaped us, what is important to keep and what is as equally important to let go. Reflection on our story and how it fits into a larger story. The layers are rich and deep, sometimes holding the gifts of the past. Always pointing toward the hopes of the future.


Breath, Body, Prayer

Last night as we began our Ash Wednesday service, we also began a time of living into the theme: My Breath, My Body, My Prayer. Woven throughout the words we spoke and the music we sang was the invitation to pay attention to this trio of words…..breath, body, prayer. Over the next 46 days we will read more, reflect on and talk about this theme. The hope is that in shining the light on these three simple words we will find ways to also experience the breath, body and prayer of the one we follow on this journey. Jesus.

At the same time we are exploring this theme we are also encouraging people to read and be in conversation about the book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller. As I have reflected on this intersection of theme and book, it seems that each inform the other. Or at least that is our hope. Time will tell if our instincts are correct.

Breath….this invigorating action, this life force that keeps us moving. Body…..the house of spirit and hopes and dreams. Prayer…..that communication between human fleshiness and the One who created us and continues to invite us into a co-creative relationship more often than we like to admit. I often forget the dance these three do together. Do you? I must constantly remind my head and heart to be present in my earthly home-body. To breath, deeply, regularly, fully, passionately, quietly. And then to pray……connecting through words, silence, and simply being with the Sacred that threads through it all.

This forgetting is the ‘gift’ of living in busyness. I know it. You probably know it, too. And yet we keep on as if we didn’t know better. My understanding is that this remembering, this knowing is the true gift of practicing Sabbath. It was offered to us at Creation,in the wilderness with our Hebrew ancestors and through the life of Jesus. And so, I am thankful to be weaving a tapestry of these three words with the wisdom of Muller’s book. ” If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence.” Who couldn’t use more of that?

As I begin this Lent, I am breathing, I am caring for my body and honoring its gifts to me. And I am committing myself to prayer…..a communion with the Holy in all the ways I can imagine or that may be presented to me. I am not doing any of this by making lists of ways to do it or in pushing myself to accomplish this task of remembering. Instead I am trying… best I can… rest and fall gently into it all.

“God does not want us to be exhausted. God wants us to be happy.”, Muller writes. And I think this means even in Lent.



“The true joy of life is not in the grand gesture but in the consecration of the moment.”
~Kent Nerburn

Today the Christian household begins the observance of Lent. These forty days and seven Sundays help us, once again, to remember the consecration of moments. Our days are meant to connect our life story with the life story of Jesus. We will read the scriptures and allow ourselves to experience them with all the changes that have happened to us since this same time last year. Birthdays have been celebrated. Loved ones have departed. Jobs and careers have shifted or ended. The world has known unimaginable tragedies and experiences of overwhelming joy. All of our own life experiences have brought us to the beginning of the Lenten journey not quite the person we were this time last year. At some level we have integrated, denied, celebrated or fled our last year and all of that can bring us to this Lent with new eyes, a new heart.

Many of us will head to our places of worship and be marked with the sign of ashes today. Sitting yesterday with some friends, we discussed how this ritual has not always been a part of our own Lenten journey. For many of us this was something our Roman Catholic friends experienced but was not a common practice in our own Protestant churches. Over the years, however, this has changed. I think we are the better for it. This marking of ashes which symbolizes the fragility of our lives…..from dust you have come and to dust you will return… the consecration of the moment that begins our Lent. It is a way of saying, “Something holy is going to happen. If you pay attention. If you choose to notice. If you give yourself over to it.”

These seasons and rhythms of the church year are a way of reminding us to do just this. To pay attention to the moments and not just the grand gestures. Easter will be the grand gesture and certainly an important one. It is the day most churches pull out all the stops to tell the story of who they are. But the truth is we live our lives in the moments. And it is the moments that beg to, long to, deserve to be consecrated.

Consecrate: to set aside or declare as sacred. It is not a word we use very often in every day speech. We can tend to imagine that consecrating is something people, usually ministers or priests, do and others cannot. And yet, at least for me, what I believe is that when those ordained in their faith tradition consecrate…… bread, wine, water, people…..what is really happening is the recognition and honoring of the sacred nature that already exists in these thought-to-be common elements. It is a deep recognition of the presence of God in all.

Today we will take ashes, black and sooty, a substance that resembles soil and consecrate it. We will say words and make music and hold this black substance at the center of the worship we make. Finger will touch ash and then the forehead of each person who comes to be reminded of the fragile, precious life they are living. The invitation is to pay attention to how Jesus’ life….going into the wilderness, temptations, healing, laughter, storytelling, time spent with friends, encounters with enemies, betrayal, commitment to God, suffering, death…….informs our own living of these same experiences. Most of these are not grand gesture times but moments in which, if we are aware, hold seeds of the sacred. They are moments to be consecrated.

And so the journey begins.



Some weeks hold more than others. For me, this has been one of them. I realized that this morning when I thought back to the past Sunday and felt as if it had happened a month ago. This thing called time can play mighty tricks on a person. Some days seems endless out of a sense of boredom. Others have that same sense of longevity because they are so full. As someone who tries vigilantly to live in the present moment, this can be befuddling.

Last Sunday I had one of those rich experiences that can only be offered by an encounter with others who have walked the earth in different ways, who are from different places and have folded into their living, experiences that are foreign from your own. In our worship we were blessed to have guests from Ireland who shared not only their music but a ritual that was new to me. Their music had already worked its way into our spirits when we were invited into a blessing of throats. That’s right, throats.

This blessing happens on the Feast Day of St. Blaise. Living in the 4th century, it seems that a physician named Blaise was approached by a frantic mother whose young son was choking on a chicken bone. The mother begged the physician who was also a bishop to save her child as she watched him struggle for his life. St. Blaise did something that caused the bone to dislodge and the child lived. In Ireland, February 3rd is a favorite celebration day of this one who became sainted and the protector of throats. Given the gifts of music and storytelling that graces the people of this island nation, throats are not to be taken lightly.

During this week that has seemed like month, I have been reflecting on the willingness of my community to embrace this ritual which clearly meant so much to our Irish visitors. Those who showed up expecting business as usual at church found themselves offered an opportunity they did not know existed. As the two young Irishmen stood holding lit candles through which people passed, a sign of walking through the fire that purifies us, each person who chose to do so approached for a blessing in both Irish and English. The first few did so with a look of surprise and curiosity on their faces. But as the blessings continued an energy began to fill the room, an energy that was woven with the Sacred.

Throats. This home of voice and speech. This vehicle of words and song. This avenue that brings both kindness and harm into any day, any moment. Particularly at this time of year in Minnesota, throats are to be protected from germs and viruses that land us in bed and mute. Being one of those who was blessed to bless these throats, I encountered an amazing experiences: Not one throat felt the same. As I cupped my hand on the throats of those I knew well and those I had never met, each throat was a unique experience for my touch. I now carry the gift of those throats in the palm on my hand. It seems almost too much of the Sacred to carry.

I have thought about the blessed throats this week. Did the people who offered themselves for blessing carry the gift of this into their week? Were their words dripping in some honey they found surprising? Did the harsh phrase they wanted to say stop some place mid-exit remembering that something unexpected had happened to this avenue of speech? Or did most simply experience this ritual as ‘different’, something to be easily forgotten?

Sacraments have been sanctioned by the church for centuries: outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. We come to receive them with all the baggage of our lives which opens us or closes us to their gifts. Sometimes amazing experiences result and other times we walk away and time moves on unchanged. This day I carry the imprint of throats on the palm of my hand and I can never be the same.


Giving Gifts

This morning as I awoke and stumbled toward my first cup of coffee, I was greeted with a laminated sign placed on the door: “Give the gift of silence.” it read. Last night I had seen the sign in several places around the retreat center where I am staying. As I noticed their placement, I chuckled a bit because, in truth, they were a kinder and gentler way of saying “Be quiet!” in that way our parents or teachers did when our vocal rowdiness was reaching a fever pitch. Near meeting rooms. Outside the chapel. Along a hallway that passes by rooms where sisters and brothers who have given their lives to religious service. These signs were a reminder that others are here for quiet, reflection and prayer.

My reason for being here is the once a year interviewing of people who are hoping to be ordained for ministry in the United Methodist Church. While our time here will contain prayer and worship, we are engaged in meetings and group activities that are not always quiet, certainly not silent. The work we have been given to do requires us to actually talk a lot. And because we are friends and colleagues who don’t often get to see one another, we can tend to talk and laugh sometimes in a volume that can reach a few decibels. I wondered if those who live and work here remembered that abut us and posted the signs before our arrival. In hope. As a gift.

We can give many gifts in a day. Most of them are not wrapped up in brightly colored paper and tied with a ribbon. Our presence for one thing. The gift of being fully present to another is one of, if not the best, gift we can give another person. We know this is true because we cherish when someone gives it to us. I remember with great fondness the times when I could stop my busyness to be fully present to one of my children. To simply allow our conversation, our snuggling, our breathing together to lift our day to some moments that seemed a sacrament. I also am quite aware of offering the gift of presence to those I am blessed to visit in hospital or care center. Almost always I am, in turn, gifted right back with the presence of the other and recognize also the presence of the One in our midst.

Presence and silence are two amazing gifts we have to offer that cost us nothing. And then there are the gifts of smiles and laughter and tears and really seeing another. I believe that even when we choose to see, really see, the presence of any other part of Creation…..the trees in their winter nakedness, the black crows swooping as they have been lately, the icicles shining in the brilliant sun……we are blessing the One who caused them to be. This seeing, this gift of presence connects us with the wholeness of the world in which we walk and make meaning and tell the story of who we are.

What gifts will you offer today? To whom or what will you offer these gifts? The truth about giving gifts, of course, is that we almost always receive back more than we give. It seems to be some magical or miraculous act of nature.

This day I pray that I can still my need to talk at all times especially as I walk by those signs imploring me to do otherwise. I will try to give the gift of silence to those who are here for that opportunity to unplug from the busyness of their own lives and to be in this place that has offered the gift of solace, reflection and prayer. This gift of silence wiIl undoubtedly help me to listen more fully and be more present to those whose hopes and work I have come to hear. I have a feeling I will receive much more than I could ever give. It has always been so.


Fires of St. Brigid

Let me be the first to wish you a ‘Happy first day of spring!’ With the temperature hovering around zero outside, rest assured I have not gone off the deep end. Today, February 1st is the first day of spring in the Celtic calendar so why not dream of warmer days to come? It is also the feast day of one of Ireland’s beloved saints, St. Brigid of Kildare. St Brigid, the patron saint of poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies will be celebrated today in small churches in Ireland and some towns in England. She will also be celebrated at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality on the campus of St. Catherine here in St. Paul all weekend. Songs will be sung, fires will be lit, poetry read and the welcome mat of hospitality will be out just as Brigid was known to do in her own time. Welcoming one and all to sit, rest, eat and be present to one another in a common spirit.

Growing up as I did, a Protestant girl, I did not learn of Brigid until I was an adult. But the inspiration of her life and her leadership as a woman in the 5th century has been beacon for women and girls and for many men over the centuries. In the fall I had the privilege of visiting the church that had at one time been a part of Brigid’s monastery. This center of faith was a place of learning and sanctuary for the poor, the lost, the pilgrim and the refugee. Brigid was truly a woman ahead of her time and yet her prominence in the church of her day shows that things were not always as hierarchical as they later became.

Helping the gathered to celebrate St. Brigid’s day this weekend will be three Irish singers whose voices I find spellbinding. Noirin Ni Riain and her sons Owen and Moley O’Súilleabháin will offer fine Irish traditional singing of both sacred and popular song. There is something incredibly powerful about what happens when voices with the same DNA sing together, isn’t there? It is often difficult to hear where one voice starts and the other stops. It is as if they are singing from one common voice, moving in and out in some mysterious way. This is the gift these three bring. They will also be offering their music at both 9:00 and 11:00 at Hennepin Church on Sunday.

For some it might seem strange to celebrate and make such a fuss over a woman who lived so long ago, whose story is a mixture of shadowed fact and myth. And yet, it seems, there are many who find some deep connection with a story that reminds us of the power of acts of kindness, goodness and faith. Brigid, who it is said, always opened the door and spread a feast for the mighty and the downtrodden, can still place the mirror before our own faces. How are we offering hospitality to the stranger and to the friend? How are we caring for the least among us, even those nonhuman ones who walk in the world with their vulnerability always before them?

Outside the church of St. Brigid in the tiny town of Kildare, is a sunken place with walls of stone thought to have been her chapel. It is a small space, not the place for entertaining large parties. But as we gathered around it on a sunny, Irish day, there was a sense of her presence that still welcomed the far flung visitors of today. She might not recognize her little village. But something simmered in the air there. I like to think her spirit was still hoping to light a fire of hospitality, learning and beauty in all who pass that way and are able to see.

This weekend I will remember the gifts of this saint who only showed up for me when I was past an impressionable age and yet has made a place in my heart anyway.

Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us,
Beneath your mantle gather us,
And restore us to memory.