Nativity set at Mercy Convent

Mercy nativity 1-9-16

I learned that the Catholic Church observes the season of Christmas until they celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, which this year is 1/10/16. This meant that the really nice Nativity set was still up in the chapel when I went on retreat from 1/8 – 1/9. There are real evergreens behind the creche. They are about 8 feet tall and smell amazing. The creche is on a table that is about three feet off the ground, and it is about five feet wide. The tallest figurine is about a foot high. Everybody is here – it is a packed scene! They have seven pots of poinsettias decorating the front.

I enjoyed sketching it in the chapel and then watercoloring it in my room. Ideally I’d watercolor it on site but the nuns were setting up for Mass so I felt I’d be more comfortable doing the messy bit without an audience.

Plus, I still can’t take Communion because of their (The Church’s) rules.
Again, not that Jesus made those rules…

I’m not sad/angry/upset about it because I feel I’m missing out – it is because they are. To exclude anyone is to be the exact opposite of what Jesus wanted. I pray that the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to the un-welcoming nature of a policy that says only Catholics can take communion.

Mercy nativity1

Mercy nativity 2

(edit 2-28-16, I decided to add more pictures that I’d taken)
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Harvest from Mercy Convent retreat, November 15th 2015

The theme of the retreat was “Autumn: A Season of New Beginnings”. The Bible reading was Mark 4:1-20 and 30-32. These are the Parables of the Sower and the Mustard Seed. Here’s my Condensed Gospel version of them:

The parable of the sower

Jesus was again teaching beside the sea. He decided to teach while sitting in a boat in the water because a large crowd had gathered around him. The crowd stood on the shore to listen to him. They had come to hear him from every town.

He taught them many things using parables, including this one: “Think about the person who went out to sow his field. While he was sowing, some seeds fell along the path and birds came and ate it. Other seeds fell where there were more rocks then soil. The seed sprang up quickly, but then withered just as quickly in the sun because it didn’t have deep roots to gather moisture. Other seeds fell among the thorn bushes and the thorns made it impossible for them to produce a crop. Yet other seeds fell on good ground and were able to produce 30, 60, even 100 times what was sown. Anyone who has ears should listen to this!”

MT 13:1-9, MK 4:1-9, LK 8:4-8

When Jesus was alone with his disciples, they came up and said to him “Why do you speak to people in parables? What does the parable of the sower mean?”
Jesus answered them “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been revealed to you but not to everyone. For them the information is transmitted in parables so that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled. It says ‘They may listen but never understand, and they may look and never see. For people’s hearts have grown hard and their ears have grown deaf, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they might see, hear, and then understand and turn back, and I would heal them.'”

MT 13:10-15, MK 4:10-12, LK 8:9-10

Jesus said “Do you not understand this parable? Then how are you going to be able to understand any of them? The seed is the word of God. The sower is the one who shares it with others. The people along the path are those who have heard the message about the kingdom and don’t understand it. Satan has snatched away the words that were sown in their hearts so they would not believe and be saved.”

“As for the seed sown on rocky ground, this represents the people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. However, because they are not rooted in their faith, they believe for a little while but stumble when troubles come because of the word.”

“Regarding the seed sown among thorns, these are the people who hear the word but are distracted and paralyzed by worry and greed, and the word is not able to take root in them and produce any fruit.”

“But the seed sown on good ground represents the people who hear the word with honest and open hearts. They understand it, welcome it, and through endurance are able to bear much fruit, even up to 100 times what was sown.”

MT 13:18-24, MK 4:13-20, LK 8:11-15

The parable of the mustard seed

“How can I explain what the kingdom of God is like? What can I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed sown in the ground. It is smaller than any other seed, but when grown, it is a huge tree, taller than any plant in the garden. It becomes a tree big enough for birds to make nests in its large branches.”

MT 13:31-32, MK 4:30-32, LK 13:18-19

I’d never thought of Autumn as a time of new beginnings. To me, it was always seen as a sign of endings. It is harvest time, a time of wrapping up, of preparing against the winter that is to come. It is a beautiful time, but short-lived, and leads to a time of sparseness and lack. It is hard to fully enjoy the glory of Autumn knowing that the trees will soon be bare and ice and snow are coming.

But I like this new idea that was offered at the retreat – think of Autumn as a time to sow seeds. They have to be planted in the ground in Autumn, and rest quietly underground in darkness, in silence, unseen, in order to grow into what they are to become.

The poet Mary Oliver said “Is it not incredible that in an acorn something has hidden an entire tree?”

I saw a church sign recently that said “We can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.”

Seeds are powerful things to think about.

It is also a gift to be invited to see old things in new ways.

My Mom gave me shiny pennies. My Dad gave me leaves. I’m grateful that they gave me simple things to remember them by. But interestingly, these things are both brown. I’ve been drawn to brown for a few months now, sketching with it, writing with it, painting with it, making jewelry with it. Different shades of brown – chocolate, caramel, sepia, café au lait.

I’ve been meditating on the fact that Dad was red-green color blind, so most of the time he saw nature as brown. The army green that I wear as my neutral color these days would have been brown to him. Autumn was his favorite time of the year because he could finally see colors.

While at the retreat I made some art to think about him and how he saw the Autumn world, the time when he was happiest. This is the first one I made. It is 7” x 10”.

Dad collage at Mercy 1

I was going to make a simple one on a 4 x 6 index card, but I couldn’t find them in the craft supplies so I decided to work bigger instead. I’m glad I did.

I had some leftover materials so I made a second one. They work perfectly together. It is hard to see that here, and I don’t have a larger scanner. You could click on the pictures, print them out, and put them together to see what I mean.

Dad collage at Mercy 2

While making these pieces I had quite a bit of understanding and peace come over me concerning my parents. I’m grateful I took the time to make this art, and also grateful that I was in the craft room alone so I could cry a little.

One thing I’m coming to understand is that there is great beauty in just allowing experiences to be what they are without defining them. I’m also learning that life is richer if it is a blend of things – for instance, happy/sad/wistful/grieving/hopeful is a valid feeling, even though we don’t have a word for it. Just like with Autumn leaves, they are more beautiful if they are a range of colors – reds, greens, yellow, orange, brown – all on the same tree, and often on the same leaf.

It was a gift from my Dad’s spirit that when we happened to take his ashes to scatter, it was the peak of Autumn in the mountains. This is where I sat to disperse his ashes, some 20 years after he had died.

GM 10 2015 a

GM 10 2015 c

GM 10 2015 d

GM 10 2015 e

GM 102015 b

You know where you stand with Autumn.
Not tall, not short.
But between.
Between life and death,
awakening and slumber,
the present and the future,
the known and the unknown.
Autumn is a time of harvests, of reaping
yet also sowing, of planting.
Hardy bulbs planted now sleep deeply,
hibernate like mother bears,
deep underground,
in darkness,
in silence,
in stillness.
Both awake in spring,
with flowers, with cubs,
new growth, new life
out of that stillness,
that silence,
that darkness.

We too are called into that cave, that tomb, that dark earth into the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We too are called into quiet, into stillness, so the seeds that God has planted within us can grow.

Virtual retreat

I like going on retreat to Mercy Convent, a home for retired Sisters of Mercy. I’m fortunate that this place is about thirty minutes from my house. I wish I could go here every month. Honestly, I wish I could live here. The last time I was on retreat (11-15-14) I took several pictures so I could share the feeling of being there virtually.

Welcome!

welcome

The statue of Mary and Jesus is straight ahead
mary statue

The parlor where you will meet with the other retreatants is just to your left.
parlor

If you turn to the left of the statue, you are walking to the dining hall and the chapel. Pictures of those follow in a bit.

Turning to the right of the statue, you are walking down the hallway to your room.
main hall

On the way to your room. At the end of the hall is an intersection with some plants, a Pieta nook, and a display cabinet with Mercy history.
hall2

The hallway ahead is the A wing. The B wing is to the left, and the C wing is to the right.
hall

This is looking down the A wing.
A wing

The Pieta corner is at the intersection of the three wings. It is nice to sit here at night.
pieta nook1
pieta nook2

One item in the display cabinet.
notice

The TV room for the nuns. Off limits to the retreatants. Panning right. This is at the corner of the A and B wings.
TV room3
TV room2TV room

The stained glass windows marking the library. This is at the corner of the A and C wings.
library window2library window1

In the Library
librarylibrary2

Down the hallway of the B wing is the small chapel.
small chapel

The stained-glass window there.
small chapel glass

Welcome to your room.
door2

The cross on the wall as soon as you open the door.

bedroom cross

The room. Most are laid out like this. They all used to be rooms for the retired nuns. After they “started going to heaven” as the director euphemistically says, members of the community asked if they could use the area for retreats. They said yes, as hospitality is part of their charism.
bedroom 3bedroom1

The pictures on the walls are different in every room. Some are similar. Many are of Mary and Jesus. There are usually about 4 pictures. These are various ones I’ve seen over my many times here.
bedroom art2bedroom art
room8
room9
room10
room4room5
room6room7room3
room2
room1

Instructions.
Mercy rules

A close-up of the Mercy Cross.
Mercy cross

The bathroom.
bathroom2bathroom

Even your soap is friendly.
soap

Your desk.
bedroom2

On the wall in the hallway near your room in the C wing.
sign2sign1

On the way to the day room – handrails
rail

The day room for retreatants is in the C wing.
little kitchenlittle kitchen2

Opposite the day room – an open porch. Don’t forget your key – you’ll never get back in otherwise.
open porch

Walking back to the dining room and chapel area.

Mary inside, near the dining hall and chapel. The dining hall is right, the chapel is left.
mary inside2Mary inside1

In the sacristy. A dispenser for Holy Water.
holy water1

In the chapel, just before communion. It wasn’t dark, but I had to play with the settings to get the stained glass windows to show up.

chapel1chapel3chapel2chapel4communion1communion2communion3communion5communion4communion6

The aumbry, with key.

aumbry3aumbry2aumbry1

Random prayers in the Missal that I found interesting.
prayer2prayer

In the dining hall
dining room

The buffet line
dining2

The quiet area for dining for retreatants (also where the art supplies are)
small dining room

Art supplies for retreatants
art2art3

The sun porch at the end of the dining hall – looking left
porch2

Looking right
porch1

Looking straight ahead
door

Go outside and see the yard.

A pan around the yard outside. Panning right.
yard1
yard2yard3yard4yard5yard6<a yard7yard8yard9yard10yard11<a

Mary outside
Mary3mary2mary1Mary feetMary hand

In the yard – a feather
feather

Because it is winter, you can see the nearby farm with cows.
farm

An interesting hackberry tree – note how it grows around obstacles. This is in the back yard.
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An interesting bit of old tree with lichens.

tree4