I first heard the song “Don’t Forget The Star” during a drive home last month. It was barely past Thanksgiving, but the Christian music station I listen to had already switched to their Christmas playlist. Amidst the traditional songs, an unfamiliar tune caught my attention. I turned up the volume to follow the story in the lyrics. “Don’t Forget The Star” begins with a flashback to Christmas as a child, to a time when Christmas meant presents and new toys. The grandpa in the song, however, pointed to the star on top of the tree and taught the child the true meaning of Christmas, in the promise of God’s son. When the child in the song grew up, he passed along this lesson to his own child.
One Friday evening, I was sitting on my front porch when a neighbor called over to me, “There’s going to be a concert in the park, if you want to come check it out--”
“And you need to wear a mask!” the girl skipping alongside her added.
The woman smiled. “And you need to wear a mask. Spread the word!”
The snow had stopped by the time we gathered in the Motherhouse library for Saturday morning yoga. It was a quiet and cold winter morning, but the sun streamed through the windows and filled the room. I relaxed into my seat as I joined the guided breathing exercises, followed by gentle stretching. The instructor invited us to stand behind our chairs with our hands gripping the backrest. We lifted ourselves onto our toes and moved our gaze from left to right, then let go of the chair and flapped our arms like we were splashing in a pool. “Let yourself wobble,” our instructor urged us as we explored these new movements and sensations. In order to improve our balance, she explained, we needed to let ourselves get off-balance.
I have gathered with the Ursuline community on many different occasions, and the constant theme of these interactions has been the Ursulines’ hospitality. No matter where I join them in celebration—even in a physically new place—it becomes home.
There are spaces in our lives that feel as comfortable as a warm bed. A cup of tea with a lifelong friend. A walk along a well-worn path. A song that you can sing by heart. Our most cherished memories wrap us like a cozy blanket, inviting us to drift off and dream. These spaces offer a chance to rest and re-energize. The body settles easily and begs us to stay, just a little longer. Then, life wakes us up.
Anxiety cannot be cured, only managed. Fifteen years since the diagnosis, my therapist offered this gentle reminder as I returned to her office for my now weekly appointment. The anxiety had been at a manageable distance for the past decade. During that time, I had been to China twice. I had lived on my own in a different state where I didn’t know anyone. I had spoken in front of crowds of a hundred people. Each milestone chiseled the anxiety into a pocket-sized problem that I could tuck out of sight.
The sun was setting over the seminary grounds in Wickliffe. Food trucks and vendors had put away their goods. The Christian bands who had filled the summer air with song had played their final numbers. The daylight would soon give way to a warm August night, but the Fest was not over yet. The outdoor mass was about to begin.
Snow swirled across the road like wisps of smoke, illuminating in the headlight beams then fading into the night. I had begun my drive to Youngstown after a busy day at work, and the momentum of the day propelled me. My thoughts spun like the wind-whipped snow.
At the Temple of Yu Fei in Hangzhou, China, a student approached me to practice her English. She pointed to a nearby tree and proudly told me that it was over 700 years old. We were standing outside of a temple built in honor of a twelfth century military hero, but I wasn’t aware that I was standing on the precipice of history until that moment. I gazed at the calloused bark and realized that the tree was older than my country.
“Come celebrate with us,” Sister Dorothy said when I spoke with her on the phone earlier this month. The Ursuline Sisters and Associates were preparing their annual celebration for the Feast Day of Saint Angela Merici, their founder. For the past few years, I was already back at West Virginia University by this time, the spring semester well underway, and I hadn’t been able to attend a Feast Day celebration. Now was my chance.