Large Print and Double-spaced: Please Do Not Worry

Last week I had the privilege of giving a retreat to my Sisters in our infirmary in Cincinnati.  I worked the week before to make sensible outlines of my presentations and I prayed a lot.  On the day the retreat opened, one of the sisters saw that I was carrying a three-ring binder in which the outlines were kept.  Her eyes bulged a bit.  “Are your talks in there?” she asked.  I realized she could have been thinking that there was too much in that binder and wondering could she sit that long?  Would she doze off in embarrassment?  I chuckled and replied, “Don’t worry.  Each talk is typed in very large print and double-spaced!”  She was relieved. 

When I arrived home, after the retreat, I knew I had to get my blog to my editor as soon as possible.  I had lost time because of so many activities surrounding my visit to Cincinnati.  So, I sat at the computer, and nothing would come!  I was suffering from writer’s block for the first time in memory. Try as I may, I couldn’t write.  Not one inspiration was flowing into me.  I was “biting my truant pen,” as the poet Sir Philip Sydney wrote.  Then I remembered that once in undergraduate days – a very long time ago – I was reading Sydney’s poetry and came across a line that has helped me when writing gets a little slow and I’m groping in a fog of distraction.  He wrote in Astrophil and Stella, “Fool, said my muse to me, ‘look in thy heart and write.’”  

That’s it!  I must look into my heart about this retreat and all I had experienced in it.  Then I can write something.

And this is what the muse said: “Were you not stopped short by the serene intensity with which these women listened and observed?  You felt like an insignificant messenger to people who knew more about life and God and soul and spirit than you know and might ever know.  You saw them at prayer and watched their prayer spiral slowly into the center of their beings taking all that concerned them into the ether of the room leaving them peaceful.  You noticed their kind smiles and you heard their laughter.  Several times as you looked out at them, you saw them as busy ministers in their past careers: nurses scurrying about in congregationally owned hospitals; teachers singing with children; missionaries providing medicine and distributing books.  You saw principals, administrators, and pastoral leaders and you couldn’t take your mind off the thousands of souls they had helped, and you felt sure were in the room with them.  They were a collective group of history, gifts, and holiness.  And they were sitting in front of you waiting to hear what you might have to say.  They were eager to learn from you because they are humble.  And so, you try to explain ‘flourishing,’ ‘growth mindset versus fixed mindset, and that awful scientific term, ‘neuroplasticity.’  But they stayed with you.  Because they are humble.  And eager to learn.  They try your different methods of prayer, and they want to know more about prayer.  Imagine that!!  Here they are, can we say, ‘professional pray-ers’ and they want to know more!” 

As I reflect on this experience, I see women who are interested in the pain and joy of this world.  They have a global mentality and heart; they participate to the extent they can in every concern of our nation and world.  They have worked too fiercely toward justice and too hard toward education and the care of the sick, handicapped and elderly to witness any diminishment of their achievements for the people they served.  They are still involved.  Yes, this was a retreat I had given but I can’t help but wonder if they had given it to me.


Writing, like any craft, requires a lot of reflection.  So does painting, music, scientific experiments, and a host of other interests.  It is said that Michelangelo stared at the blocks of marble in front of him until a vision emerged of the figure he was to carve.  Picasso stared at his canvas until he saw something there to paint.  The muse is said to be working then and I believe the Holy Spirit works then as well.  The writer looks into the heart for inspiration.  My heart was full of the Sisters who made the retreat I had given; I had to write about it.

It might be a good idea to ask oneself: Do I let an unusual or unique experience speak to me?  Do I give it room in my soul to think about so I might draw grace from it? 

What opportunities have you had that brought you to inspiration?  How did other people inspire you to do something creative?  Did you realize that God was at the center of that inspiration?

May all of you, my readers, have a wonderful Halloween (one of my favorite holidays). What can I say?  I’m still a kid!!  And those of you in distant countries I say: have a wonderful week and if you have seasonal changes, may they be inspirational.

4 thoughts on “Large Print and Double-spaced: Please Do Not Worry

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  1. Dear Mary Ann, This reflection really touched my heart. Like you, I have given retreats in health care centers for sisters all over the country. Like you, I am in awe of the women sitting before me–and humbled by the fact that I am the one “leading” this retreat. And like you, I am so inspired by their eagerness to learn–a quality that reveals their humility, their genuine interest in life, and their desire to connect more deeply with God and with our larger world. Thank you for looking into your heart and sharing the beauty of these women with us! Gratefully, Melannie


  2. All I can say Sr. Mary Ann is thank you time and again for your wonderful blogs!!! They touch my heart and lift me up.
    Peace and joy,
    Rita Smith


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