Pope Francis and Snow days

Yes. I know. Snow days are the last thing you want to think about right now. To imagine the biting cold and razor sharp winds that seemingly shatter any layer of outerwear is not something to talk about while the early September temperatures are sill in the 80’s (and 90’s in Chicago!) However, while completing a reading assignment for one of my classes, the book, Life’s Operating Manual by Tom Shadyac presents the pleasant memories of elementary school snow days.

Tom remembers:

There’s a lot one can learn from a snow day. Yes, there’s the joyful experience of a blessed day of play – and blessed by the authorities, nonetheless! – but there’s also something telling in the unbridled glee at escaping the chain link and linoleum life that is school. Adulthood offeres nothing that compares. Oprah has her giveawys, but the madness of instant gratification goes as quick as it comes; a day of play hits us kids deep (165).

He’s right, isn’t he? Who didn’t like a snow day? The liberating feeling of hearing the cancellation blared over the radio or the TV and immediate need to jump right back into bed. It was only a matter of time before dreams of snowballs and snow forts would creep into your mind and you would have to throw on a snowsuit and journey out into the pristine and crunchy snow.

When can we do that now? Sure, there are times when the road conditions are too bad that it’s almost impossible to leave the house. It seems though, that most responsibilities we have disregard the impenetrability of the streets. And, if you are graced with the opportunity to stay home, I’m sure there is a pile of laundry that needs to get done, carpets to vaccuum and dishes to wash? So then, even the snow day turns into an opportunity for work. When was the last time you were able to slow down and enjoy the surroundings around you? Tom is right, adulthood does not offer any opportunity that equals the unparalleled freedom that a snow day offers school children.

So what does Pope Francis have to do with all of this? Well have you read his prayer intention for the month of September? (BTW, the Pope has a couple of prayer intentions every month. Check them out here.) One of the intentions the Holy Father wants the Universal Church to keep in their minds this month is:

Value of Silence. That people today, often overwhelmed by noise, may rediscover the value of silence and listen to the voice of God and their brothers and sisters.

Consider this a snow day without the inclement weather associated with it! What a beautiful intention!! It is true that silence has become an endangered species in our lives. Silence is so unfamiliar to us that we grow uncomfortable with the idea of it. This apprehension probably comes out of the nervousness of what we might hear if we are silent. What happens if we actually hear God’s voice speaking to us? Will He ask of us something that is too hard for us to handle? Will we even hear God’s voice? The only way  to know the answer to these questions is to try. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

Since returning to Chicago, I’ve tried to get down to the chapel early before Lauds and Vespers. To sit there in the silence allows me to decompress and examine my attitudes and actions of the day. It is in this silence that I have been able to fall in love with Jesus again. The Lord has such a small, still voice that it is easy to bury His voice under the noise of the day. However, when I get back in sync with Jesus again, I suddenly come to an awareness that is crystal clear. Jesus provides the clarity that fills the silence and refocuses me for the journey.

But the Holy Father is not just praying that this Holy Silence opens us up to the voice of God. In addition, the Pontiff also prays that in the silence we can better hear our brothers and sisters. So often do I find myself realizing I have a response in my mind before my conversation partner has even said anything. That’s not much of a conversation….rather it’s a monologue. Going through life preaching a monologue is not satisfying. We lose so much if we don’t listen. Not only to God, but to those around us.

The Pope’s other prayer intention, by the way is for:

Persecuted Christians. That Christians suffering persecution in many parts of the world may by their witness be prophets of Christ’s love.

How timely. There is so much hurting around the world, but this day especially in Syria and the surrounding nations. Not to mention, there is concern around this country as to whether or not military action will be taken. Due to the gravity of this situation, the Holy Father has called today a day of prayer and fasting. He is asking that all around the world, people pray. There are plenty of opportunities to pray for peace, both in Rome and at St. Norbert Abbey. Here at Holy Spirit House, we are also encouraged to fast and pray. Through these small sacrifices, we unite with other Catholics around the world in the plea for peace.

So, if you are ever going to take a “snow day,” please take it today. Pray in the silence. Pray for peace. Listen to Jesus! Let Him use you in ways that promote the inherent image of God found in each person, in this country and a far.

God of all time,
I bring before you the joys, hopes and aspirations,
the trials, the suffering and the pain
of all your people in every part of the world.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful,
of those who have no hope;
Send your peace [to Syria and] the Middle East,
to the whole human family;
stir the hearts of those who call upon your name,
[so they may] walk humbly
the path of justice and compassion.

“The Lord is good to those who trust in Him,
with soul that seeks him” (Lam 3: 25).

[Adapted from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s prayer for peace on the occasion of his visit to Jerusalem].

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