Saturday, October 15, 2011



Early this week we had a day off from school so I took the opportunity to visit a cousin and his wife who live at the New Jersey shore. I sat for a couple of hours on a bench at the beach reading and writing with the soothing swish of the surf in the background.

Then after lunch I went to Eno’s Pond County Park where I took a short walk through the woods to the beautiful pond that gives the park its name. Once again I sat on a bench, this time enveloped in silence broken only by the occasional honking of geese. I took out a small sketch pad and did a drawing of the pond, trying to capture the magic of the scene: tall pines towering above other trees whose leaves were starting to turn crimson and purple, dark green shrubs crowding up to the edge of the inky-black mirror of the pond that reflected the pewter gray of the sky. A few more geese flew across the far end of the pond in a carefully kept line as if being pulled on an invisible string.

This was one of those times when it’s easy to sense the presence of the Creator all around you. In fact it would be hard to miss it. Words of praise and thanks rose from my heart unbidden to join in the quiet chorus of praise being sung by the red leaves, the silver ripples, the gray clouds, and the wild geese honking for God.


Yesterday I was the chief celebrant at our daily community mass at 5:00 p.m. I was irritated by the background noise during the entire celebration -- not the murmur of surf or the honking of wild geese but the droning murmur of a man’s voice distorted by an electric megaphone. He was standing in front of the courthouse a block away from the monastery, and although his words at this distance were completely unintelligible, I knew what he was saying. He and others like him have been shouting the same message every day for weeks between 5 and six in the evening.

He was calling to passing commuters as they drove home, “Honk your horn for jobs! Honk your horn for jobs.” This call was interspersed with his constant loud patter of words of complaint, accusation and exhortation concerning the high unemployment rate in our country and especially here in Newark. But soon he would inevitably come back to the refrain, “Honk your horn for jobs! Honk your horn for jobs.” Often drivers would encourage him with long, loud beeps on their horns.


So there I was at the offertory of the mass holding up the big silver paten with the host on it and praying, “Blest are you Lord, God of all creation; through your goodness we have this bread to offer…Honk your horn for jobs! Honk your horn for jobs!” The voice from down the street had now intruded on the holy sacrifice and placed on the paten, next to the sacred bread for the sacrifice, the heartaches and fears of all of the unemployed people in the city. The paten got heavier as I realized that I was offering not just the sufferings and the hopes of people in the city, but of my brothers and sisters across the United States and around the entire world.

The vision lasted just a second or two, but it gave the rest of the mass a new and deeper meaning, especially as the disconcerting voice down the street kept droning on determinedly, competing with the words of the Eucharistic Prayer “This is my body which will be given up for you... Honk your horn for jobs… this is the cup of my blood will be shed for you and for all… Honk your horn for jobs!”

“Let us proclaim the mystery of Faith: … Honk your horn for jobs... Christ has died, Christ is risen,
honk your horn for jobs!”

After mass I wanted to sit in the quiet of the monastery garden and meditate on scripture. But I knew that the voice was going to be even louder out there. So instead I sat inside and prayed for folks who can’t find work.

Sometimes I need to sit by Eno’s Pond and listen to the wild geese honking for God. But yesterday whether I wanted it or not I got a different kind of honking that brought me out of my self-centered comfortable world to remind me of the suffering of my brothers and sisters outside the monastery. It was as much a gift to me as my quiet visit to Eno’s Pond. “Honk your horn for jobs! Honk your horn for jobs.”


.........................Honk if you love God!


  1. Reading your thoughts while at Eno's Pond was refreshment for the soul. Moments of solitude are so essential for our peace of mind and fostering a contemplative spirit. Communing with nature in solitude is most conducive to blotting out the distractions and stressors of daily life in order to fully appreciate all of God's blessings and cultivate a sense of gratitude. The sort of social consciousness that you described following your pond experience illustrated so poignantly the fruits of contemplation.

  2. Karyn, thanks for pointing out that my sudden awareness of the problems of my unemployed brothers and sisters was very likely the fruit of the time I'd spent sitting at the pond the previous afternoon. I hadn't thought of it that way.