Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. 

~Henry James

If you’re a regular listener to my radio program, Catholic Connection, or if you follow me at all on-line then you will know that summer is my FAVORITE time of year.

I had a taste of a glorious early summer during my recent travels to Italy and Israel and I am intent on carrying the warmth with me as long as I can. 

While the incredible sights including the Shroud of Turin, the Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano, Capernaum, the Mt. of Beatitudes, and a long list of other unforgettable places will forever be etched in my memory, what also impressed me greatly were simply the sights and sounds I was able to take in while doing absolutely nothing. I know I have spoken about this in a previous newsletters and articles but being that this is the time of year for vacations, I wanted to stress the importance of down time.  Too many of us seem to need a vacation from our vacation when we get home.  Psalms 46 vs: 10 remind us that we need to “be still” and allow our selves to “know that He is God.”  And that’s what I did an awful lot of  in the three and a-half days I had on my own in the Holy Land before the second wave of pilgrims, three wonderful busloads full, arrived along the Sea of Galilee to begin their own joyful journey. 

Sitting still is not something this “type A’ personality has exactly perfected.  But I am getting better at practicing what I am preaching in terms of turning off the noise and slowing down. I have done enough tours to know that when you are doing your best to be the hostess with the “mostest” as the old saying goes, that means you are there for the pilgrims or my “peeps” and “sheep” as I affectionately call them; morning, noon, and night.  And I love that part of ministry; meeting new people, spending face time with listeners, and hearing their faith stories and their reasons for traveling half way around the world to grow in their relationship with God.  They are faithful Catholics that come from all across the country to experience the Church in a different way and to learn from me, my dear friends and co-hosts and tour leaders Steve and Janet Ray, and our wonderful guides.   It’s an honor and a blessing.  That is even more reason why it’s important for me to make time for myself.  I can’t give of myself if I don’t take care of myself. 

Being that I was born on the East Coast and raised in Michigan you might not be surprised by the fact that I am very comfortable in and around water.  So that’s where I planted myself for that pre-pilgrimage time in the Holy Land; right along the Sea of Galilee.  A marble picnic table that sat just a few feet from the sea became my own private beach bench, with a little help from the extra blankets and pillows from my hotel room. Since most of the other guests were touring during the day, I had practically the entire place to myself.  With my Bible and Magnificat, and most importantly of course the Lord, to keep me company, I managed to get into a wonderful rhythm which included prayer, Scripture reading, and pondering.  It was a peaceful pondering of the Palm trees, the waves, and the flowers.  Even though this was my seventh or eighth time to the Holy Land, this was the first trip that allowed time on my own and I think it finally sunk in that I was actually swimming in the same waters that our Lord walked upon.  At night I sat outside on the hotel deck and stared at the stars realizing that this is much the same view that Jesus saw when He went to sleep at night along the same seashore two thousand plus years ago. 

Now I am back to reality.  So I quickly whipped the patio into shape so I could continue to “be still”.  Beyond doing my radio show and some writing, I am home to enjoy some additional peace and quiet during this merry month of July.  I know my little neck of the woods in suburban Detroit isn’t exactly the Sea of Galilee.  I realize I am now pondering pretty potted plants instead of towering Palms.  But what a blessing to be able to truly enjoy summer, to ponder the sun glistening off the waves in Lake St. Clair or the clean, crisp water in my pool.  It’s my own little piece of paradise that I share only with Jesus, my husband, and close friends.  I hope this month you find your own little piece of paradise to be still and know that He is indeed God.  Yes He is indeed the God of Galilee, but also of the God of backyards and local beaches.  Enjoy!  Happy July and God bless America.

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