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I woke at 6:30 A.M. with this dream:

It was mid-afternoon, the sun enlivening scarlet knockout roses in the backyard. Over the weekend, nieces and nephews and their children had gathered for a reunion. A steady stream of stories energized everyone. Especially impressive was their maturity; it being a long while since we last met. Many commented on how well I looked, attired in my yellow T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, my limbs showing signs of summer’s tan. “It’s because of the exercise,” I said.

In this dream I showed no signs of disease, despite my white hair and wrinkles. I felt vibrant, deeply loved, glad to have been included in my extended family for this reunion. No one had difficulty with my introversion, only conversing with them as my energy allowed, unlike past gatherings at the Tan-Tar-A Resort when I had exhausted myself to fit in.

My response about exercise was pivotal: both in toning the body and the psyche. Only a surgeon’s warning in 1970 prodded me to exercise my arthritic body every morning, a practice I still maintain. And only pesky dreams surfacing in the 1980s drove me into Jungian analysis and mandated a gut job for my psyche teeming with specters. Occasionally like this extended family dream, my authentic self surfaces.

On a deeper level, the dream suggests lively connectedness within the kinship archetype, the Jungian designation of patterns that repeat themselves in the unconscious of human beings. Fossil remains of families have been unearthed all over the world: they just are. Given everyone’s flawed character, however, it is the rare family that enjoys such intimacy. This dream story of my relatives, however, seems to be one and fills me with joy.

Could this be a glimpse of eternal life—The kinship archetype evolving in multiple systems of creations in which we participate even now? Just a thought…

Your word is a lamp for my feet, so prayed the Psalmist who sought to know and follow God’s will, within the specificities of his time and place. This spiritual practice, for centuries internalized by others, has opened onto ultimate joy, but not without sacrifice.

This prayer first became mine during formation as a novice in 1958, easily practiced among others brimming with youth and enthusiasm. Then, the will of God was spelled out in the Order of Day posted outside the office of the Mistress of Novices. Over time, I learned to hear God’s will sounded by the clapper of the hand bell marshaling everyone to the next activity. Only thundering footsteps along terrazzo corridors marred the silence, observed by everyone. Somehow, it worked very well, within the quiet of our hearts.

Despite leaving the convent years later, I still carry this imprinting; it serves me well, especially with the eruption of new limits impinging upon my former independence. No longer do I go outside. No longer do I prepare my own food. No longer do I scrub my back. No longer do I speak for long intervals without oxygen. No longer can I spend long hours at my word processor. And so many more No longer cans … At times, these bristle with wintershock.

Were it not for my compassionate family, friends, and spirited caregivers I would have lost track of the light’s lamp and fallen off the path. This work is too onerous to attempt alone.

So with the Psalmist, I renew the prayer, Your word is a lamp for my feet, and surrender to the Unknown, awaiting all of us, on the other side of time.

 

Around 11:35 P.M., I awoke with this dream:

The late morning sun glints upon long rows of black-suited priests wearing Roman collars and parading down the tree-lined-boulevard. Their stooped posture, shuffling gait, and sunglasses speak of exhaustion. Yet, they march, at times, grimacing. Crowds overflow the curbs freshly swept for this event. Afterwards, many restaurants will serve buffet lunches for everyone.

This curious dream gave me pause. The color black, associated with mourning and death, scintillates beneath the sun’s glare; it produces an almost ghoulish effect upon the black-suited priests wearing Roman collars. Despite tailored-made suits contrived to give them youthful appearances, they seem spiritless, but willing to participate. Who organized such a march, marshaled the crowds to watch, and prepared the festival afterwards is unknown. No one questions the appropriateness of the demonstration. It just is.

Yet, the dream seems to be a parody on priestly functioning: Instead of evidencing conversion of heart through prayer and humble service, the priests seem bent upon display and congratulations.

On a deeper level, however, the black-suited priests wearing Roman collars suggest my own aping for the priesthood, when much younger, even leaving the Catholic Church for one that would ordain women. Such foolishness bore no fruit, especially since my recertification with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains was due several years later.

 Not that I’ve not uncovered my own priesthood in subsequent years, one of stillness and learning, for which I’m most humbled.

Whatever the dream’s actual intent, however, there will a banquet with choice foods and juicy wines, as found in the prophet Isaiah, for those who choose as to participate.

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