By Sr. Brigid O’Shea Merriman, OSF, PhD
Theology tutor, ASC, Lourdes University
I treasure memories of childhood summer vacations, especially our travels as a family. These took us to northern Michigan, sometimes to eastern Canada or to the coastal New England states. Camping, fishing, swimming, walking in fragrant woods, and learning the history of each place was a joy. Since Dad’s yearly vacation time came in August, these days for us youngsters were also a last hurrah before classes began again after Labor Day. Those days are long gone, of course. Between then and now, much has happened, not just for my family but for each one of us. Surely, we have experienced joys, suffering, growth and some setbacks too. In and through each of these our good God has called and led us to the maturity of our years.
Now, during the days moving us from summer to autumn, we might find ourselves reflecting on change/s. For me, that includes nature’s shifts and even more so, the seasons of our lives. The connection between the two is wondrously heard in violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (1723). Each Seasons concerto depicts one of the four seasons; the musical story is influenced by a set of four sonnets. The sonnets incorporate basic human elements: the passage of time, the cycle of years, the sights and sounds of nature. The music tells this story. In winter, for example, the instruments “walk across the hard-frozen ice, carefully stepping. . . All the winds raging.” The Violins sing out: “all this is winter, with joys of its own.” Yes, and this mirrors life, with its changes, challenges, careful steps, and peak moments and “joys of its own”. Music is one of many gifts to us.
Our good God provides for us in all seasons of our lives. We are guided and strengthened, for instance, by our communal and personal prayer and reflective Scriptural readings. We are blessed by many Sacred Encounters: with people, through music and art, when walking in/riding through beautiful, natural spaces. In each of these and more, we are held lovingly by God, who reminds us all: “You are precious in my eyes . . . and I love you” (Is. 43:4).
Sister taught grades 1 – 7 until 1974, spent a year in the House of Prayer, and chaired the Religious Studies Department at Lourdes. In 1978 she went to Berkeley, CA to earn a PhD in Theology, later teaching theology at Mount Angel Seminary in OR. Since returning in 2003, she has served as a Professor of Theology at Lourdes University and, until recently, as Formation Minister.