September 10, 2012


Filed under: Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:48 pm

O Holy Wisdom, direct us on your path. Make us worthy of your teachings and open our hearts to accept your embrace, that we may serve you in peace and grace. Amen[i]

I have been reflecting for some weeks now on the various personifications of wisdom and ignorance, enlightenment and discernment, teaching and learning in the lectionary readings for Proper 19. It was tempting at first to wish these had been the readings for the first week of school. In truth, however, I’m rather grateful that they have fallen just a little later, now that we are more deeply settled into the rhythm of a new cycle.

These have also been weeks of decision and discernment for my family, as our daughter has tackled the inner work of determining where her mind, body, and spirit would be best nurtured at this point in her educational path. Watching her process the pros and cons of each of her options, I’ve been reminded of a prayer I learned at 8:00 on a Monday morning, at the beginning of my very first class as a college freshman:

Bless us, O Father, that every thought and work of ours may begin from thee, and by thee be happily ended. Our Lady, seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

Sr. M. Dominic Twohill, O.P., Ph.D. was a force to be reckoned with. Having entered the convent 50 years earlier, at the age of 18, her vows paralleled her academic progress toward a vocation in philosophy and ethics. She was sharp as a tack and could argue any one of us into a corner, using our own assertions to steer us into every dead-end of an intellectual maze. She was especially fierce with the women—we were only the sixth entering class to include women in a formerly all-male university and she made it her personal mission to show us just how talented we were. Being smart wasn’t the point—we had already proven ourselves to the admissions committee—Sister Dominic was committed to our intellects and our spirits. We would graduate knowing the voice of Wisdom when she called to us; the voices of foolishness and falsehood would find no ear.

Thirty years later, I still invoke this prayer, now with a very different heart. Maybe that was part of Sister’s grace. I see now that the power of her ministry lay not in the classroom, but in the slow-growing wisdom she would plant deep in the essence of the emerging adults she was called to form. I adored her. I took as many classes as I could from her. She was the first person who ever spoke to me in the language of vocation. She knew things that it would take me decades to figure out.

So here’s the question I keep coming back to: Why does wisdom take so long to mature in some of us, while in others it almost seems effortless, as if they were born wise? (And some people never get there.) And most importantly, wherever we find ourselves in our journey, How will we embrace Wisdom’s light and love this day?[ii]

[i] Daily Prayer for All Seasons, Final Draft, January 2011,  p.98.

[ii] Ibid,  p.99.


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