Have you ever gone to the circus? My family went several times when I was growing up. I remember that The Ringling Brothers Circus boasted a “Three Ringed Circus” which meant that there were several areas that something was going on simultaneously. It was meant to be exciting, which it was. It was also overwhelming. I remember as a child holding my hands up to my eyes, trying to narrow my field of vision to see which ever of the acts I wanted, without the distraction of the others. I think the word they use for it now is over-stimulation.
blinders – a small pair of screens attached to a horse’s bridle to prevent it from seeing sideways and behind
-Something that prevents someone from gaining full understanding of a situation
When I think about that time, with my hand up to my eyes, an image comes in my mind. I see a horse with blinders on, pulling a plow across the field, a man trudging along behind it, struggling to keep the plow level and straight. I’m not sure if this image came from a picture or a movie or if a story helped me create it in my mind. But I was reminded of it this weekend, while praying the rosary.
Usually, when I visit St. Meinrad, and the weather is nice, I will try to pray a rosary outside. There are so many beautiful places here to “get lost in” for a nice long spiritual rest. But this weekend, as you know, was cold…bitter cold when the wind kicked up. So, praying the rosary outside wasn’t really an option.
While I might have been contemplating the best of all of the indoor chapels to pray the rosary, Jim had already set in his mind where we were going. We headed out from the warmth of the Guest House and followed the path past the Archabbey church. The air was cold, but the wind had died down and the stars were out. It was so peaceful and quiet, with just the lights of the Abbey Church and the howl of an occasional coyote to keep us company.
As we entered the building, we began to head for St. Thomas Aquinas chapel. This is a favorite of ours and, until recently, would have been my first option for prayer time. But during our visit in December, when we were here for my final oblation, Fr. Robert Zwilling introduced us to a gem, in the form of a prayer room.
Going upstairs from the chapel, we entered a very small room. There are two comfy chairs, a table and lamp, and two kneelers. It is narrow and dark and at first glance, unimpressive. That is, until you kneel. The kneelers are positioned in front of a wall of glass that is mostly frosted. Only thin strips are clear. As you kneel, the image on the other side becomes clear. You are looking out over the altar and tabernacle of the St. Thomas Aquinas chapel.
At night, the biggest part of the chapel is dark, but the altar is lit just enough to see the cross. The picture above was my view from where I was kneeling. As I knelt down, everything was fuzzy…but once in position, my view was clear. I thought of the scripture from I Corinthians 13. Most people know the part of this chapter that is read at weddings…but the verse I am thinking of comes near the end.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
As I knelt, I could see clearly what had been hidden from view a moment before. I think of the many times in my life that I look all around me for answers. It’s easy to become so “over-stimulated” with the world around us that we forget where our focus should be. Sometimes, it feels like a three-ringed circus and I’m the juggler. But when I slow down, and listen, I remember. I put my blinders on and focus in on the One with the answers.