Keep Me Beneath Thine Own Almighty Wings

Vespers are on my mind this Sunday evening. Back home after a Carmelite retreat, I opened my breviary on the porch as the shadows lengthened and the breeze made the air so delightfully fresh. A lovely way to begin to bring the day to a close and to ask God’s blessings upon it all.


In the last several weeks I have found myself in a number of conversations with half a dozen women who are new to praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I answered a few questions, suggested a book and a website ( you’ll find these on Coffee and Canticles thanks to my friend, Daria) and discussed rubrics, the beauty of the Office of Readings and sometimes, the struggles that we have in finding the time to pray in our busy days.

Skyping with a newly-married niece, I was also surprised this week to see her hold up the wedding gift she received from her husband, a four volume Liturgy of the Hours. Now that is a marriage that is off to a good start!

On two nights of the retreat, a group of Carmelites from our community introduced some of the newbies into the intricacies of chanting Compline together, instead of a simple recitation. Their joy at the other worldly aura of our voices blending together was sweet to behold.

Earlier in the week I picked up a novel that had been on our homeschool reading list. No doubt I had read it twenty some years ago…….The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock. After all these years it seemed new to me and, there, in Chapter V, a dear scene in which a mother and her eldest daughter head off alone into the church for Evensong.

     “I loved Evensong. I loved the stillness of the church that enfolded the small evening congregation, the mellow evening sunshine that slanted in low through the windows in summer, the gathering, sombre shadows of spring and autumn evenings, and the profounder darkness of the winter months, all wrapped the evening worship in a mystery and a beauty…..

Mother settled into our pew with a happy sigh. The evening service was a cherished time for her, when she could give herself to the worship without the stress of the little ones’ company or the anxiety of being late……

Glory to thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings
Beneath thine own almighty wings.

I knew about his almighty wings. They were folding around us here, in the quiet of the evening, kind and everlasting and utterly secure. It was the same wings that wrapped me round in our home, in the bedtime candlelight. Sanctuary from the busy and complicated daytime, God gathered us under his evening wing, haven for all our weariness.
The evening service felt as familiar as an old friend, comfortable to be with. I knew these prayers and Actually, I could say them all while thinking about something completely different, which to my sham I frequently did.

     ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,’ we sang.

     I thought of Peregrine, singing the same words, but in Latin, all those years ago; wrapped like me in the contentment of evening calm, blissfully unaware of the turbulence of surprise and grief that lay around the corner…’No! I told myself sharply, ‘this is not the time! Come out of the walled garden and shut the door firmly behind you and turn your back on it. Concentrate!’

“Glory be to the father, and to the Son….Mrs. Crabtree sang vigorously behind me.

     Father Carnforth took the evening service. his gentle, wheezy old voice led us through the prayers; the Lord’s prayer, the responses, the collect of the day. I felt reassured by the humble confidence with which he prayed.

     ‘Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give…’

     What a gift! What a thing to ask for! And yet, incredibly, it is given. I knew that peace; I had been brought up with the flavour and texture of it in our home. Peace, at the very core of things, constantly unobtrusive, like the humming of the fridge and the ticking of the clock. Peace, freely given. Beyond our making, or even our understanding. Thank you, God.

May every one of us know this peace and may our prayers at Vespers serve to still the world and make us open and receptive to the divine presence.

Deo Gratias!

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Looking Back Over the Road

Last night Andy and I met at a little pizza place. Their main business seemed to be take-out so there was a steady stream of customers coming in to pick up warm cardboard boxes. The busy staff  were in perpetual motion taking orders and making pizzas. We pushed two tables together and rearranged the chairs so we would have enough room for our group of eight. A blast of cold air and there were Paul & Jasmine and our three grandchildren. Then another blast and in walked our friend, John.

We usually make pizza at home on January 7th, but tonight we opted to gather at Bella Rome. Same intent, though. It was Adoption Day and we were still celebrating twenty five years later, undeterred by the fact that the guest of honor was not physically present. We still wanted to honor this family anniversary and think about Tim.

When I told the kids that we were having a special guest join us for dinner, the girls thought I meant Tim. Sweet ones! “No, just Tim’s friend, John”, I explained.

We talked about this and that while we waited for the pizza to be assembled and baked. We asked about the school day, about how the cars were running, and when John sat down, we asked him to tell us about his Camino adventure. As if on cue, John pulled out a stack of pictures from his walk to St. James Compostelo in Spain last year. He gave us a little travelogue, explaining the pictures, the terrain, the customs and the greetings of fellow pilgrims along “The Way”. Happily for us, a retired college professor is never without his historical details and background!

John told us about the yellow arrows showing the way, the common greetings of the pilgrims, but also about the two Latin greetings that resonated the most with him.

“It’s like this with the yellow arrows
on the Camino.  Generally they are a
ready guidance system, all along the
way.  Painted on the sides of buildings
and fence posts, they indicate changes
in direction. Turn left.  Turn right.  Go straight
ahead.  Pretty simple.  But the occasional
vertical arrow, which means go straight
ahead, reminded me of the old pilgrim
Camino 1020
If you pass someone walking on the
path today, you might smile and wave,
and shout ‘bien camino,’ or have a
good walk.  But in the middle ages,
the two latin words were much more
common than now.  The first greeting
to a fellow pilgrim, might be ‘Ultreya’
meaning, good luck on your way to
Santiago, hope you make it to the end
(and don’t get robbed or run out of
food, or become injured, etc).
The reply might be ‘Suseya’ which
more literally means, after you get to
Santiago, hope you make it home again.
But the ultimate spiritual meaning is
hope you make it to your final home,
after the last camino!  This digs deep.
It means a lot, and is the perfect
encouragement, especially for a physically
exhausted pilgrim, who doesn’t know
if he’ll ever make it home.  “
John Paulmann
Camino 2021
We are all still pilgrims on the road of life, occasionally exhausted and sometimes discouraged; footsore and sunburned.
Tim, though, and countless others have made it through the gates and sit around the heavenly table. Someday we will look back over the road and sigh with contentment that we, too, have indeed run and not grown weary. May God help us all.
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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers from the Country Mother! In honor of the day I have a little story to tell you.

On Friday I got an email telling me that there was a comment to moderate on this blog. As I read what Jessie had written, I was suddenly alert and surprised. She had been searching for her mother-in-law, Brenda, to find out any information she could about the baby Brenda gave up for adoption in 1989.  Jessie had written to me, hoping that I would respond and that Brenda could communicate with me after all these years.

We spoke later in the day and I told her as much as I could about Tim and, with sadness, about his death. I can only hope that my words consoled her. Yesterday I mailed out copies of Diary of a Country Mother to Brenda and to her son Nathan, Tim’s half-brother, and to his wife, Jessie. I hope to do the same later for Nathan’s sister, Shawna.

The books should arrive tomorrow, a day late for a timely Mother’s day present, but the perfect gift for Brenda to read so that she can get to know Tim, the son she will not have a chance to meet again in person in this life.

Today I want to pause in the normal activity of the day and set aside a few moments to thank Brenda and all the other mothers who have made the brave and difficult decision to choose adoption for their child. What a huge amount of courage it takes to place an infant

A perfect ocean day

in the arms of another mother, trusting that their sweet little one will be loved and cherished and cared for! There is an injury to the mother’s heart, one which heals over and fades with the passage of years, to a certain extent I am sure, but whose scar still throbs when other children are born, when you see a little boy of a certain age and on Mother’s Day, of course.

Thank you, Brenda for your courage. Thank you for the gift that your sweet son was for our family. May God bless you today and all days and may He give you joy in your children and grandchildren to offset the sorrow.

Tim always said he had three mothers. First his birth mother, second, me, his mom third Mary, his Mother in heaven. With the three of us close in spirit today we offer thanks for Tim and his abundant love that brings us together in joy.

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Carmelite Conversations

On March 16, I had the great pleasure to be a guest on the Radio Maria program, Carmelite Conversations. Host Mark Danis, a Secular Carmelite, spoke with me about Diary of a Country Mother and I had a chance to talk about Tim, our family and the writing of the book.

My thanks to Mark, his co-host, Frances Harry, and Radio Maria for this opportunity.

You can listen here:

The Country Mother

The Country Mother

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Suffer the Little Ones


On Saturday evening I was fixing dinner and had a free moment, so I picked up a little book we keep on display in the dining room, Saints: A Year in Faith and Art, to see whose feast was that day. There I read about Venerable Carlo Gnocchi and was intrigued by his story. I sent Andy to the computer to see if he had been beatified or canonized yet while I made the salad and pulled the pizza from the oven.

He did a little searching (what a good husband to jump at my commands!) and found photos and an endearing story of an Italian priest who had been beloved by so many.

It wasn’t his heroism in war or the loyalty he felt to the young men he served with, however, that caught my attention, but his efforts after World War II when so many Italian children had been left orphans, maimed by land mines and were so in need of medical care and love.

That, by itself, would have been an amazing story. What endeared Bl. Carlo Gnocchi to me, though, was the theology of suffering that he taught his children.

“Just as in the physical body there are organs destined for the protection and the purification of the whole organism, organs that often become sick for the defense and salvation of the body, such as the tonsils, the kidney, etc.; there also exists in the Mystical Body of the Church, souls destined to support suffering in virtue of their purifying capacity for the sake of the social body. Among these souls we certainly encounter children who are called more precociously to suffer the cleaner their souls are from personal sins and the more similar their sacrifice is to that of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… Each child that suffers is like a small precious relic of the Christian redemption which actualizes and renews the redemption in time for the expiation of daily sins.”

How beautiful! The children who suffer and have been taught this redemptive theology can have a particular dignity that ennobles them and helps them to see the value in their suffering.

And, oh, how we do need to emphasize this point of Catholic teaching in our society today where rejection of those disabled in body or mind is the norm, whether they are born or unborn!

Here I had enough to ponder and to pray about, but as God often does to illustrate a point further, I picked up another book that evening and read a passage which gave even more emphasis to the meditation.

The Stations of the Cross are not given to us only to remind us of the historical Passion of Christ, but to show us what is happening now, and happening to each one of us. Christ did not become man or to lead His own short life on earth—-unimag-inable mercy though that would have been—but to live each of our lives. He did not choose His Passion only to suffer it in His own human nature—tremendous though that would have been—but in order to suffer it in the suffering of each one of his members through all ages, until the end of time.

              The Way of the Cross   by Caryll Houslander

Christ, suffering in His Passion through each little one who suffers; each little one another Christ redeeming the Church through that suffering given over freely, as gift. O Blessed Mystical Body of Christ!

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The Amen at the Bottom of the Page

I think of this new year as a white page given to me by Your Father on which He will write, day by day, whatever His divine good pleasure has planned. I shall now write at the top of the page, Domine, fac de me sicut vis, Lord, do with me what you will, and at the bottom I already write my Amen to all the proposals of your divine will. Yes, Lord, yes, to all the joys, the sorrows, the graces, the hardships prepared for me, which you will reveal to me day by day. Grant that my Amen may be the Paschal Amen, always followed by the Alleluia, uttered wholeheartedly, in the joy of a complete gift. Give me Your love and Your grace, and I shall be rich enough.”

Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, OCD

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December 17, 1989

December 17, 1989

Today is the anniversary of Tim’s baptism, so I will borrow this entry from The Diary of a Country Mother:

December 17, 2005 Morning
Another dawn is rolling slowly over the hills on a frosty morning. I sit inside with a cup of hot tea and take advantage of the morning quiet to write.
In a little while Andy and I will dress and brave the cold and make our way down the Blandford hills and along the Westfield River to the little town of Huntington for morning Mass. Our godson Mark is with us so we will have his red-haired, five-year-old liveliness along to brighten the ride. Today is the anniversary of Tim’s baptism, and we will head for church and the presence of God to offer our gratitude for his life and the gifts of grace he was given along the way. We will pass the cemetery as we drive. Another bittersweet day.
The sweetness is there, though. It is in the light of the sunrise and the remembering hearts. A large measure of that sweet peace is due to the faith we have that Tim’s story has a happy ending and an ending that has no end. Due to his learning disabilities, we spent a lot of time reading to Timothy. He loved books that had sequels; he didn’t want the story to end. When he was little we read the Little House on the Prairie books and as the years went by, the Narnia Chronicles and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. There was always more to come.
Now Tim is in the never-ending story! Eternity means always one more chapter, and the story comes from the best book ever conceived. How marvelous! And how nearly impossible for the human mind to comprehend. All the memories we have of perfect days are of days that had a natural end. The sun sets, we say our farewells, put out the lights, and we go to sleep.
Our perfect certitude that Tim now experiences eternity comes in large measure from the grace he received on the day we celebrate today. He was baptized in a beautiful sanctuary in Cranston, Rhode Island. It was dedicated to Our Lady under the title of Madonna de la Civita, a copy of a church in Italy held dear in memory by the Italian immigrants of the neighborhood. Tim was still a tiny babe, a day shy of one month old, and Andy and I had petitioned for his early baptism. We didn’t want to wait until the adoption was finalized, which could take about a year. With our eyes on eternity, we dressed Timothy Andrew in the family baptismal gown worn by his brothers at their baptisms, with his name embroidered along with theirs on the hem of the slip. We invited family and friends to witness the adoption by God of a new child of His. We dedicated this new child of eternity to the Mother of God after the baptismal rites and then we celebrated. As we do today.

At Mass this morning, when the deacon read the Gospel, we heard the genealogy of Christ. In his homily our pastor referred to the ancients’ interest in genealogy and to the resurgence in genealogical research in our own day. He pointed out, though, that the only genealogy that has any lasting value is that which is ours by virtue of our baptism. We have been adopted into the family of God and by His death and resurrection we have a right to our portion of a son’s inheritance: Eternal Life.
I sat and listened and smiled inwardly at another instance of God’s eternal watchfulness. We were here to celebrate Tim’s baptism, and we heard the words that would best console and inspire us. It was indeed another day to celebrate.
After Mass, Mark marveled at the donkey and sheep and calves in the living nativity outside of church, much as Tim would have done even at fifteen, and then we headed back past the cemetery and on to pick out our Christmas tree. There was a thick layer of ice atop the snow and our footfalls crunched as we inspected the trees and Mark helped cut the chosen one.
We remember, we celebrate and we give thanks.

Each child that is born brings to us the smile of God and invites us to recognize that life is His gift, a gift that must be accepted with love and protected with care, always and at all times . . . Baptism is adoption into the family of God, in communion with the Holy Trinity.

—Pope Benedict XVI, Sistine Chapel Baptisms
7 January 2007, Baptism of the Lord
I guess God adopted all the people just like you guys adopted me.



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