Every year in my Discalced Carmelite Secular Community, we draw names to pray for each other and to pray for the priests, deacons, and religious in our diocese. We also draw the name of a virtue to practice during the year. For the last three years, I have drawn the virtue of fortitude. The first year, I thought, that’sinteresting. The second year, I thought, what a coincidence! This year, when I drew it again, I realized that I needed to give the virtue of fortitude some serious thought.
Pondering this virtue, I used to think of it in relation to the unpleasant tasks I needed to complete. Don’t give up, I would tell myself. Practice fortitude! Now, as my husband and I, along with so many others, must ‘shelter in place’ to avoid the Coronavirus, I realize that fortitude also pertains to all the things we would like to do but can’t, at least for the foreseeable future. In a way, ‘sheltering in place’ is a desert experience. We are separated from all the unnecessary activities with which we often distract ourselves.
The cacti in my garden practice fortitude better than I have ever done. In recent years, I have not paid much attention to them in favor of whatever was blooming in the garden. Yet, they have continued to survive, and even to thrive.
After we retired, my husband and I discovered that we loved art. Each piece that we added to our walls added a new dimension of beauty to our lives.
I am attracted to beauty – the beauty of Carmelite spirituality, the inner beauty of the people I love, the beauty of nature and the garden, and last but not least, the beauty of art. Everything beautiful reminds me of God. Pictured above are a few of my favorites: “Blue Tutus” by Eric Wallis, “After the Mass” by Chuck Mardosz, “Embudo Bounty” by James Trigg, and “Texas Tapestry” by Eric Michaels.
A few years ago, my husband and I bought a lot that included 33 mature pecan trees. When the pecans ripened in December, I experienced the wonder of gathering food that fell from above. This was a new experience for me, since I had never lived on a farm or even planted a vegetable garden. I didn’t mind bending and stooping to search through the dry leaves for the pecans, though I was sore for several days afterwards. One tree in particular produced so many pecans that I thought I could live on them for a year. I probably couldn’t have, but so it seemed at the time. We eventually sold the lot, so I only experienced that one abundant harvest. I treasure the memory.
Now it is May, and the pecan trees at the Carmelite Monastery have just come into leaf. It will be seven months before this year’s crop is ready for harvest, but the promise is already here. The earth is full of the goodness of God.