Dear Parishioners,

This season of Lent requires that we willingly enter into the utter solitude of our souls, that sacred space.  It is the room we enter, and whose door we shut.  It is there, as Bonhoeffer says, that we will develop senses that we hardly knew we had in everyday life. Out of this solitude, comes a new increased sensitivity and compassion for life. Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton, once said that “solitude and silence teach me to love my brother and sisters for what they are, not for what they say.”

You and I discover this bond, this connection, in that sacred space of our solitude. Remember prisoner Bonheoffer’s words:  “the quieter it is around me, the clearer do I feel the connection to you.”  As a result of this experience, we are then called to be God’s presence to others in the world.  It is the end result of our Lenten journey into ourselves, our Lenten pilgrimage to the Promised Land.

In Mark Hansen and Jack Canfiled’s book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, there is a wonderful story about a young boy named Mark. He was walking home from school one day when he noticed that the boy ahead of him had dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove, and a small tape recorder.  Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles.  Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden.  As they walked together, Mark discovered that the boy’s name was Bill, and that they shared a lot of the same interests: video games, baseball, and history.  Mark also learned that Bill was having trouble with his other subjects in school, and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. The two boys became good friends over time, and eventually both graduated from junior high school.  They ended up in the same high school, where they remained friends over the years.  Finally, the long-awaited senior year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.  Bill reminded him of the day many years ago when they had first met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying home so many things that day?” asked Bill.  “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life.”

This Lent, as you and I begin our journeys to distant lands, as we enter our secret rooms and shut the door of our sacred space, it is our hope and prayer that we may be brought closer to God in the solitude of our souls; that we may develop increased sensitivity and compassion for all life; that we may discover the happiness which depends on what takes place inside of a person, so that in the end, you and I may become God’s presence for others.

The Rev. Philip W. Stowell