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January 08, 2014
'To Shine in Use'
By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. *

By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. *

The month of January is named after the Roman god, Janus, who presides over beginnings, transitions, and ends.  Janus wears two faces, the one looking back and the other, forward.  2013 is no longer within reach except through our memories and through history; the future is a blank canvas on which our stories must yet be inscribed.  We seek happiness, succinctly described by Aristotle: Happiness is the full use of one’s faculties in the pursuit of excellence.  The Book of Proverbs makes clear that “where there is no vision, the people perish; he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Prov 29:18). 

So let us begin with some pearls of wisdom to inspire our comings and goings.

What shall my vision be in 2014?  From Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ring out, Wild Bells:”

(. . .)

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring happy bells across the snow;
The year is going, let him go,
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

*

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

*

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

*

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

*

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

*

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

*

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kinder hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.”

How shall I nourish my mind in 2014?

“Read and your world will grow larger.” (Aphorism)

From Emily Dickinson:

“There is no frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Courses like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul—.”  (“There Is No Frigate like a Book”)

How shall I speak during 2014?

“Let your speech always be gracious and seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Again, from the "Belle of Amherst":

I fear a Man of frugal Speech—
I fear a Silent Man—
Haranguer—I can overtake—
Or Babbler—entertain—
But He who weigheth—While the Rest—
Expand their further pound—
Of this Man—I am wary—
I fear that He is Grand—.”

*   

How shall I work in 2014? 

From Robert Frost: 

“The woods are lovely dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

And again, from Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (“The Road Not Taken”)

From Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses:” 

“How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use.”

How shall I care for my body in 2014?

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity” (Pres. John F. Kennedy).

*

“Whether you eat or drink, do all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

And what of my prayer in 2014? 

St. Augustine tells us what we already know from experience:  “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions 1:1-2). 

From the verse of Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” (Andrea del Sarto)  

From St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians (2:14-15): “Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like the stars.”  

From St. Teresa of Avila:

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you.
Everything passes.  God never changes.
Patience obtains all.
Whoever has God wants for nothing.
God alone is enough.”

Finally,

“When upon your face I held my gaze,
I could not keep myself from wondering
Where you had gone to spend your winter days,
That you should be so lovely in the spring.” (Joseph Roccasalvo, “Sonata Pathétique”)

Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY, holds degrees in philosophy (Ph.L), musicology (Ph.D.), theology (M.A.), and liturgical studies (Ph.D). She has taught at all levels of Catholic education and writes with a particular focus on a theology of beauty and the sacred arts. Her e-mail address is [email protected].
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July 24, 2014

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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Mt 13:10-17

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