Monday, December 30, 2013


DECEMBER 26, 2013

Hello dear people, did you all survive the holidays?

I celebrate New Year's Eve by staying cozily ensconced in my room so the scary part of December (i.e. human interaction) is over for me, and January 1st I'll probably go to Mass for Mary, Mother of God, then attend my friend Lisa G.'s annual New Year's Day All-Girls Clothes Swap.

I am still eating leftover flageolets, roasted radicchio, and tapenade from Christmas, and have picked the first of the camellias, and had a beautiful day of rest yesterday so all is well from this end.

And I'm ruminating on the year past and the year to come

One of the main things I see is that we cannot afford the slightest bit of resentment, bitterness and/or hatred. And I, for one, am utterly powerless to get rid of any of that on my own. No use trying to assert my "willpower," which only wants to win and will convince me that NOT loving the person in question is the goal and some kind of twisted triumph.

So I need to be in constant contact with a Power greater than myself. I've gotten in the habit these past few months of a nightly review, i.e. Examination of Conscience: where was I selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, fearful? In this way, my petty jealousies, enmities, resentments, meannesses, and lies (I like to call these exaggerations for effect but they are lies!) are constantly revealed and then I get to ask to be forgiven and to do better. And I see how very much help I need. How very flawed I am. But also how much I yearn to do better so that, at least, is good and to be grateful for.

I'm always in a bit of tension about whether I should spend more time trying to promote myself and my work, but on the whole, I think: No. My prayer is to know God's will for me and for the power to carry that out, and my real life are the hours I spend at Mass and in prayer and before the Blessed Sacrament. I can start collecting Social Security after July this year if I want to! Ever more I am storing up my treasure in heaven.

Still, what does that mean? I'm an introvert but that doesn't mean I don't love people. In fact, that I'm called to be around people is clear and one of my questions is how, i.e. is there some way I could be using my talents/experience to help that I haven't yet discovered?

To that end, 2014 promises to be a learning year. A year with a lot (for me) of travel. So far, I'll spend a week of solitude in Joshua Tree in January and a week in the Monterey Bay area in April. I'm giving a talk/mini-retreat in St. Paul on May 3. From there I'll go to Combermere, outside Ottawa, for a week or more in and around Catherine Doherty's Madonna House, then to Malvern, Pennsylvania to lead a 12-step retreat for women. June 19 I'm giving a talk in Charlotte, NC for the Catholic Media Association and from there I'll head north, through NYC and up to the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where I'll spend the whole of July doing the Ignatian Exercises. Then I head down to the Cape for a few days to a retreat house in Orleans, home of Paraclete Press, the publisher of Shirt of Flame.

And I am seriously considering doing the Camino in September. That's been a long-time dream that I keep half-hoping will go away, but that is only sharpening over time. For whatever reason, I feel the call. Maybe I would even launch a little kickstarter campaign, partly to raise the funds and partly to invite people in so I could make it a communal thing and folks could ask me to pray or carry some burden for them--I have ordered Brierley's updated Camino guide and will have to pray on it more from this end.

Another thing I've noticed: I've been conducting a series of phone interviews with struggling, questing (i.e. normal) Catholics for a book that I want to call Christ On the Outskirts and one of the things that makes me wince in transcribing is how often I interrupt my poor subjects to interject some "insight" of my own! Partly this is because I spend so much time in silence that when I actually have someone interesting to converse with I tend to get over-excited. But partly it's an inability to calm down, be TRULY silent, and let God enter in.  .

I thought of Psalm 95, which we pray every morning in the Office:

"Today, listen to the voice of the Lord
Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness
when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me
Although they had seen all of my works"...

So I'm thinking to make 2014 The Year of Listening.

That's my plan and, as of today, I'm sticking to it!


  1. Dear Heather,
    I thought of you yesterday when I was in Portsmouth (NH) buying Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal. In my mind I always associate you with her because it was through your writing about her that I came to know her work.
    I have decided that 2014 (for me) will be the Year of Movement. I am inviting movement into my life in every area and we'll see how that works out. With all your travel plans, it sounds like your 2014 could be the Year of Movement too! Whatever the year brings, I hope it is a blessed one for you.
    Dana Laviano

  2. Looking forward to the book! Glad I visited your blog today.

  3. Looking forward to the new book! Glad I stopped in your blog today.

  4. Sounds like you have a busy and exciting year ahead of you. I will try to remember to pray for you. :) Over the past year and a half the idea of walking the Camino has haunted me as well so I'm excited to hear you may be doing it. I hope you share your journey here. Also, excited to hear you will be in Combermere. I've never been there but I understand that Michael D. O'Brien lives around there somewhere, maybe has an art studio? I covet a painting he did called "Co-creation". Anyway, he's been my favorite "living" novelist over the past seven years. I'm reading his "Voyage to Alpha Centauri" right now and enjoying the adventure. :) As far as being a better listener...I tried that the other night and felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. And I'm and introvert! And here I am, wanting to comment on your excellent article and let you know I'll be praying for your 2014 engagements and I've focused on MYSELF once again! arghh

  5. I live vicariously through you, Heather. I learn so much from you. And hopefully, it passes through me and touches others. Thank you.

  6. Greetings Heather! I can't read all of your posts, because I have my own writing and posting to do and it's too hard to make all the rounds, but I do always appreciate my visits here. I'm an introvert, too, yet one, like you (and all of them) who needs people. I struggle with being public and needing time also to reflect, pray and just be near God, who brings such comfort, always. I have taken it upon myself to come up with a word of the year, in advance, to help me focus. Much like your word of "listening." Mine for this year, which I'll blog about soon, is "Expectation." It's not so much a verb, but it carries great hope. Have a wonderful 2014. :)

  7. When I was in Madonna House, Michael O'Brien lived nearby. The Camino route is very crowded, Heather, ! Have you considered walking the Via Francigena, which goes from Canterbury, UK, to Rome, thru France. It is growing in popularity, a very ancient pilgrimage route, much quieter and so more attractive, eg goes over the Mt St Bernard pass in the Alps, where there is a monastery guest house. A more spiritual route...!

    1. Oh the crowdedness of the route (by some accounts) is one of my huge reservations, Denis! on the other hand, I find every single person who's done the Camino has a completely different experience to report. Taking into consideration the various possibilities will definitely be part of my research so thank you for pointing me toward the via Francigena. Though I do feel whatever brings me closer to God is "spiritual," whether it's crowds and noise, or silence and solitude...

  8. No use trying to assert my "willpower," which only wants to win and will convince me that NOT loving the person in question is the goal and some kind of twisted triumph.

    I struggle with this too. And you are so right, it does feel like I will acquire a twisted triumph! But I never do.

    Anyway, Happy New Year! Thanks for all you do here on your blog.

  9. Thanks so much, everyone--I love the different ideas of themes for the year--The Year of Movement, The Year of Expectation...past experiences have included The Year of Dashed Hopes, The Year of Unrelenting Mental Torment, The Year of Angst-Induced Skin Condition...Are we supposed to be working today? These holidays in the middle of the week are kind of disorienting...

    Love and peace to all as we pray out the old year and pray in the new....

  10. I really like the idea of a year of listening... St. Benedict begins his Rule with the word "Listen." I have heard that often, but generally people don't mention that the second word of the Rule is "carefully." I find that as an introvert, I am often in a position of listening... but I also realize that I am capable of looking attentive whilst my mind wanders hither and yon... I catch myself semi-listening and semi-spacing. So I will endeavor myself to make 2014 the year of "listening carefully." Thanks, Heather, and may 2014 be a blessed year! If everything falls into place for you, I think walking the Camino would be an awesome experience. I suppose there are pros and cons to a lot of foot traffic - surely some intersting fellow pilgrims to share the journey with.

  11. "Listening" is a wonderful resolution. Much like "attention," which Simone Weil called the rarest and purest form of generosity.


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