BENEDICTLate spring has been a time of renewal for me. This comment from reader Susan McN, strangely enough, captures how I’ve been feeling recently:

All right, Rod. Here’s as good a place as any to admit that I’ve been a bit grumpy lately of you stinking up one of my favorite blogs (yours) with all this Dante mania for the past 9 months. Then it infected the cover of the magazine too. Then a publishing deal? Argh!

I finally gave in, got a copy from the local library along with a sort of erudite, cartoony Cliff’s Notes, and dove in. I’m still in the Inferno, but darn it, you’re right. This is amazing, life changing stuff and it does color everything else you read or encounter after it. It probably helps that I’m in midlife, I’m sure.

Apparently for me Dante Divine Comedy = Green Eggs and Ham.

I love this. Her experience so far has been similar to mine: being surprised by wonder, where you least expect it. And maybe it will give Susan a new perspective on life (not that she needs it; you know what I mean). If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know the story about how God worked a profound healing in me, largely through the poetry of Dante Alighieri.  My physical condition has tracked my spiritual and emotional condition; after having been pretty sick for over two years, I began to grow stronger this spring. A couple of weeks ago, Shawnee Smith brought a film crew to town to film a segment for her upcoming documentary about Orthodox Christianity — go to Orthodox: A Love Story‘s Facebook page to send them ideas and, if you can, funding — and the gang from L.A. gave us all a boost, just by their presence and interest. I wrote about that here. 

Here’s what happened next: I felt so happy and strong that I went to the new YMCA in a nearby town, joined, and have been exercising every day for the past week. Every day! It’s hard to express how big a little thing like that is to me. At this time last year — at this time as recently as seven months ago — I was sleeping most of the afternoon, and was too exhausted to do much of anything. I’ve put on a lot of weight in that time, and been fairly miserable. I have a long, long way to go to lose that weight and to build my strength back up, but each day I feel stronger and more like my old self. This morning at liturgy, instead of asking St. Benedict and St. Genevieve to pray for my healing, I thanked them. Not entirely out of the woods yet, but much farther along the path than I could have imagined. Last year at this time, I feared that this was going to be a permanent condition. Now, I have hope that it won’t be.

Here’s what else happened this week. Julie and I have been looking for a house for a long time. We love the house we’re renting, but we’ve known we can’t stay in it. This house is a treasure to the family that owns it, and they’re not selling. But we weren’t sure where to go. The houses around here we liked, we couldn’t afford. The houses we saw that we could afford didn’t quite fit, for various reasons. It has been a frustrating search, because there’s not a lot of housing stock in our part of the world. We thought about building a house, but we are both so consumed by daily life — Julie educating the kids and directing our church choir, me with my various writing projects — that we simply didn’t think we had it in us to commit to project that big.

It got to the point where I began to pray for God to show us the right house, and to let us know when we had found it, if it existed. And I asked St. Benedict, my patron saint, to pray for us in this intention.

Over the weekend, a house in Starhill, close to both our church and my family, came on the market. Julie saw it with an agent on Tuesday. “You’ve got to see this house today,” she texted me. When I returned from Baton Rouge, I met her and the kids and the agent at the house. There’s a big back yard, with young trees, including a pear already bearing fruit. The house was simple, but seemed just right — and we could afford it. I had gone through most of the house, and thought yes, this is working, this is really working for us, first house we’ve seen yet that seems like what we need — and then walked into the kitchen. That pretty much sealed the deal.

This afternoon, we and the owners signed a contract on the place. If the inspection and everything else goes well, the house will be ours.

When I told my mom and dad the news late today, they both looked so relieved. Mama was exuberantly happy; Daddy looked like he was finally at peace. And they both remarked on how much my health had improved, and how I was starting to seem like my old self again.

What does this have to do with the photo above? That quote of St. Benedict, from his Rule, hangs on the wall in the kitchen of this house. This part spoke to my heart:

If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, if with wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds: he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires.