It is hard to believe that this column will appear on the final day of August. Although summer is still with us for another three weeks, we know with the start of the school year many see it as the unofficial beginning of autumn and the arrival of Pumpkin Spice products! For better or for worse, the change of seasons always brings with it transformation. Some of us will observe this makeover in change of household or work schedules, while for others it will make itself known in the departure of swimsuits and summer whites and pulling out sweatshirts and sweaters! Even the national pastime will move from the ballpark to the football stadium.
Servite Sister Joyce Rupp in her book of prayer-poems, May I Have This Dance? (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2007), writes of this transformation in her “Prayer for Autumn Days.” She begins, “God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process …”
The poet hits the nail right on its head for me — Courage — yes, indeed, that is what one needs when it comes to a change of seasons, especially one in which daylight lessens, and our world becomes chilled. Besides warm drinks and warm clothing, the days and nights ahead invite you and me to deepen our intimacy with our God who can lighten our days and warm our hearts!
Just like the return to the classroom is an invitation to read new books, I would like to suggest that the approach of autumn and its shorter days are an invitation for you and me to take advantage of this change and use it for some quality spiritual reading and quiet reflection. If you have been wanting to spend some time with The Good Book — The Bible — now is your chance! What better way to unwind after the evening meal before bedtime … or if you tend to nap then … it could be during your commute since phone apps are available that allow us to hear God’s Word almost any place like the one offered by Fr. Mike Schmitz.
Speaking of commutes, if we find someone reading to us too distracting or too soothing, it might be the opportunity for praying the Rosary, even a decade or two. These days also, as much as I like music, I find myself often turning off the radio and just quietly talking to God and trying to listen to His Voice as I travel throughout the diocese. I find this especially helpful if I have been in the office most of the day and now must shift gears to be present to others at church or some other event. Think of what this might mean for your own transition from work or school to home or vice versa, from home to work or school.
Of course, such opportunities do involve “surrender.” As Sr. Joyce states in another verse of her autumn prayer: “God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.”
In a culture and society where instant gratification is so much sought after, to surrender ourselves to the cycle of seasons waiting for them to produce a harvest can seem almost intolerable. Yet, as we have come to know, in the unfolding of the seasons one comes to experience the goodness of the Lord in creation itself and in our own lives. It is the experiencing of this goodness that empowers us to move forward ready to embrace what lies ahead with confidence knowing that God is with us every step of the way.
As you might have discerned, the change of seasons appears not to be one of my favorite things. Nonetheless, I readily admit without it, life itself could become routine, even complacent, and what happens to one’s faith life then?!
So, bring on the next season and all the potential it has to renew and transform one’s life! As Sr. Joyce writes in conclusion, “God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all this we are grateful. Amen.”