Herald of Hope

It’s hard to believe that so much of summer has already quietly (for the most part) passed into history. Youngsters wake each morning to the prospect of their evermore imminent return to the more rigorous schedule of classes during the rest of the year.

The morning sun seems to linger abed a bit longer each day before finally rising to bless the activities that fill our lives. Family trips and visits to close relatives who happen to reside elsewhere in our country seem now to have been relegated to the memory bank.

The fiscal fruits of the parish festivals, which have been scattered through the summer months, have been counted and allocated to the works of their communities. The annual “Back to School” sales of children’s school clothing remain in high gear at the moment. An abbreviated, documented list of required shots and vaccines is packed with the other school supplies for kids returning to classes. Neighborhood playmates prepare to go off in different directions to the schools of their parents’ choice.

The reports from Ukraine in each evening’s news continue to document the terror under which those poor people are forced to live on a daily basis. Deeply Christian, as well as humanitarian, instincts provide ample justification for the ongoing support offered by America and western allies to those families.

Here in Wisconsin, we are truly blessed to be the beneficiaries of each of the four seasons. They arrive in turn, bringing their own blessings, stay for their allotted time and then move back into God’s closet for another year. Summer on our shores of Lake Michigan occupies a wonderful portion of each year. St. Francis of Assisi, together with all his Franciscan sisters and brothers, is remembered for celebrating the Canticle of Praise for the blessings of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, united with all the creatures of our natural world. They would probably also join in a single, less positive, melody, all united in a chorus of voices, shaming us for the violence which our pollution has done to damage the rhythm of creation around us and within us.

Many of our Native Americans have a harvest feast at the end of each autumn, relishing the blessings of the annual gathering of crops. They even welcome the anticipated visit of “Grandmother Winter” — with a whispered hope that she not stay too long this year.

The ravages of climate change, now sufficiently documented to be recognized as a very real shift in our global reality, cast an ominous shadow over our human existence. They beg us to make changes in our behavior or face dire consequences for generations yet to be born. The terrible fires which have recently ravaged our hemisphere give ample testimony to some of the more sinister thermal forces which have entered our world and suddenly consumed so much of our God-given natural resources. Many similar considerations come quickly to mind as we watch the blessings of summer in Wisconsin slowly begin to pack and depart for another season elsewhere.

I have an abiding sense of gratitude as I prepare for the celebration of my 88th birthday next month. When my parents were alive, I used to take them out to a nice dinner each year on my birthday as a personal sign of my deep and enduring gratitude for their kindness and generosity over my entire lifetime. Family and friends remain a constant sign of God’s blessings throughout the years. Each season provides yet another opportunity and occasion for personal gratitude in the shade and shadow of such blessings.

Much to my surprise, I find myself recalling the words of the Church’s prayer, which included the date’s incision of the Easter candle last Holy Saturday (April 8): “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end … all time belongs to him and all the ages; to him be glory and power, through every age and forever.” Amen.