Monday, June 30, 2008

where the old friends were and 34 cards of Peace

In silence I found not only God but many an old friend....The last three posts were written as I retreated with Jesuits in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.

It may have been some other old friends that resulted in my weight gain... banana cream pie, black raspberry ice cream, sticky buns, tiramisu ...

I do lots of art when retreating and though I tend to give a few things away, most always comes home and sits doing whatever a pile of art does that comes home from a retreat center. As I unpacked the prismacolor pencils from my suitcase I heard, "don't take any art work home with you." The voice didn't tell me what to do with the art work.

I made cards. On each I wrote four things:
  2. the date
  4. and a name from the list of retreaters.
I prayed that the cards would not distract me from my retreat or distract others from theirs. Some folk broke silence to say a quick thank you. A few wrote notes. Others were mystified by who Stratoz was. As I came back from shaving the last morning, a note sat at my door.

A seminary student from Pittsburgh was on his way out but wanted to thank me. He would add my wife and me to the prayer list at the seminary. He had remembered a prayer I had put out concerning Mosaic Woman on the day we entered the retreat house.

Now I was amazed for sure. I fell into silence and the connection came. I had been guided to reflect upon Jesus handing me a loaf of bread and sending me out to feed the five thousand. "You are a disciple of Christ after all," said the Jesuit, who was guiding me.

I took that bread and I went to family and friends. I imagined a young woman holding a flood damaged violin at the U of Iowa's music dept, I went to China to feed the mourning parents, then down to those we hold captive in Cuba, and I even gave myself a piece to chew on along the way. Could my art work be that bread?

At the final mass those of us who stayed the distance are given a chance to share a thought. I share mine, some of which I wrote above. A half hour later I am sitting, looking out at the nearly empty parking lot. Stories that came to me after the mass were filling my heart and mind about how my cards had entered the lives of those who had entered into silence. Did I do the right thing by handing out those cards? Will I ever do such a thing again?

All week I had watched a woman in mourning. Her pain was immense. I would close my eyes and ask God to be with her, to bring her comfort. As we shared during that final mass, she told us her story, and the room felt her grief. Out of character, I approached her after the mass had ended. She told me that the card had arrived on the one day she had not found any consolation. She hugged me. Then she amazed me. "I did not have the energy to say prayers for many at the retreat, but I did pray for you and your wife."

Normally I feel connected to those who enter silence with me on these 8 day retreats. This time something bigger happened. Somehow given pencils, color, and paper I had fed some people. I am grateful and in awe of what can happen.

and glad that Michelle Shocked singing HOLY SPIRIT by Victoria Williams just kept coming into my head as I walked in silence. Peace to all those good folk who prayed for me, and thank you for accepting my prayers, my bread, and my hope for peace.


  1. First, Stratoz, I appreciate your insights and your reflections, and this one is no different.

    Second, thanks for reintroducing me to Do you have an account on If you do, I'd be interested in hearing what you listen to, because that song by Michelle Shocked was e-mail is My account is unfinishedprsn on LastFM.

  2. Stopped here yesterday but got side-tracked by the group here with something else on the agenda. How neat, my friend, that God so used you with your talents and your heart! We all tend to see ministry, I think, in terms of a sermon preached, an actual plate of food served at a homeless shelter. Christ be "in" us, however, and we need only be attentive to His breeze as it blows through our life.

    Headed home early tomorrow morning. Catch you there...

  3. Jim-- thanks, hope that drive home went well.

    s.e.-- No I am not at LastFM-- looks cool and so I probably should avoid already do too much on the computer, with that said, I am getting away from my computer right now.


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