Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Twice now--once for five days in the fall of 2007, and last year, for roughly the month of July--I've spent time with contemplative Jeanne McNulty at the Franciscan Appalachian Hermitage in Spencer, West Virginia.

Sr. Jeanne rents out cabins for twenty bucks a night and has a straw bale chapel that houses the Blessed Sacrament and is an all-around good egg/woman-of-deep-faith/treasure. 

I wrote about last year's stay in a previous post

The other day, I received Sr. Jeanne's annual Christmas card. I was in a bit of a jumpy, nasty mood and this card brought me right around. So with her permission, I pass on the first couple of paragraphs and if you're ever in Spencer, check out the Hermitage. 

The donkey drawing is by William Kurelek (who was schizophrenic and entitled one of his most well-known paintings I Spit on Life) and comes from a Christmas card that was designed years ago for Catherine de Hueck Doherty's Madonna House

"The donkey that carried Our Lady to Bethlehem took another form in my thoughts.  For he carried the Word-a dumb animal, carrying a Virgin

who carried God…" (Catherine Daugherty) Dec. 2011

Merry Christmas !

This picture captures so much mystery:  the silence, the profundity, the obscurity and the simplicity of God's descent to human kind.  I think that the picture too speaks of journeying thru the desolate places and many of us have been on long lifetime journeys now.  We've crossed over many peaks and valleys and have felt the comforting, guiding hand of Providence in our lives.  We've seen God's wonderful "past performance" and marveled at it.  We are enabled to pass this "Good News" forward with confidence to the others who are finding their life journeys difficult.

There is not a desert here but there is a pathway through the wilderness and all of nature seems to just be waiting for His second coming to our barren earth.  I try to stay away from all the busyness of the stores and the let the silence penetrate the depths of my being while I hold in my heart before the Lord, all my relatives, friends and all those who have crossed the threshold of this "little portion" on retreat.


  1. As you may know I adore donkeys ( like so many others) and I am familiar with this image but the message that goes on the card is a new one and a lovely one it is too, especially as we are in the last few days of Advent.
    Donkeys have a wonderfully slow momentum but they get there !!
    Blessings and hope you enjoy your stay - it looks a great place to be.

  2. much for meditation here...
    The journey of our Lord, led into this world on a donkey, and led out of this world on a donkey. I want to let it sink in. all of it.

  3. when it is a matter of silence, I just have to is very deep painting...btw glanced some very nice on your video, so it is probably your own space(hermitage)-veru similar taste to mine...actually I wanted to ask you if you ever read famous trilogy of David Torkington? One of the books from mentioned trilogy is called 'Hermit" and it is my favorite...I'm in love with deserts, wilderness, name it..thank you again for sharing life with and blessings full of silence from Ireland, that special silence that Our Lady knows about...happy Christmas Heather!!!

  4. and how could I forgett Providence and St. Joseph...I've been pondering providence just from early I just started to pray recently to the St. Joseph for providence in the comming year or so...

  5. Let there always be chapels in unexpected places!

  6. Thank you, dear friends...Philomena, I did not know of your donkey adoration--have you seen the Bresson film Au Hasard, Balthazar? Stana, also did not know of David Torkington--briefly checked him out (unfortunately, the LA Public Library doesn't carry his books)and he sounds right-on...that Catholicism is not a set of rules, but about coming awake to God's love, from which good will naturally follow (or rather we'll be willing to engage, for the right reasons, in the life-long struggle/journey). I'm constantly quoting Karl Rahner: "The Christian of the future will be a mystic, or he will not be a Christian at all"...

    Reflective, insightful Carie, stalwart, faithful Dylan--thank you for being such mainstays...your comments ALWAYS brighten my day...

  7. Enjoy the silence, the peace and the wonder that Christmas is.

    And, for me, it is difficult; but, relying on my faith does help. And now more than ever.

  8. David Torkington's trilogy has been updated and edited and is now available in a single volume 'Wisdom from the Western Isles - the making of a mystic' and is available on Amazon .


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