It’s hard to believe summer’s over. Just last night, we went to a farewell dinner for my nephew William who is leaving for college in Colorado. He looks so tall and handsome, and he seems so ready to embark on this new adventure.
Teacher friends are back in the classroom, which in Nebraska demands air-conditioning. The flowers, although still blooming, seem to have passed their peak, and the lush fields of soybeans and corn, blessed with adequate rain this year, seem to beckon the harvest.
As this column appears in Alaska, it’s probably around State Fair time. It always seemed that no matter how rainy August was, there were a few days of glorious summer that would return for Alaska’s fair. I hope that holds true this year.
The end of summer always seems to be a time for resolutions, for new beginnings. I never feel that way on Jan. 1. Then, I’m just tired out and weary from the Christmas season, and a little sad that all the Christmas lights are coming down and there’s still plenty of dark winter ahead.
But there’s something about the fall that makes me feel a sense of renewal. Maybe it’s because I have an autumn birthday, or maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm and the harvest was always a time of joy.
I think the sense of newness in the fall is partly because school starts then, bringing with it a sense of order restored and routine reestablished. Summer’s crazy schedule gives way to reasonable bedtimes. People are around for more family meals.
The sound of basketballs bouncing at the court in the park down the street grew silent as autumn brought darkness to the midnight hour. People begin to hunker down a little bit. It seemed like people scattered by the bright lights of summer were somehow summoned back to the security of the hearth.
The fall seems different around parishes, too. Classes resume for adult education. Parishioners begin thinking about the ministry fair or stewardship sign-ups. Trainings begin for lectors. Prayer groups form.
Fall brings with it the sense that disorder is giving way to challenges and possibilities.
I think autumn is a wonderful time to recommit to a prayer routine. If yours lapsed during the summer, or if you found yourself praying in the beauty of mountains and lakes, you are probably turning back to a more organized form of prayer now.
Don’t let this feeling of renewal slip by. Check out the opportunities at your parish, or within the archdiocese, for adult education. Find a good cause and volunteer your time. Call Catholic Social Services or Habitat for Humanity. See if your parish offers a women’s group or a men’s group.
Have you been thinking you might benefit from spiritual direction? Fall is the time to begin! There are many trained spiritual directors in the Archdiocese of Anchorage.
Holy Spirit Center used to offer the Challenge program beginning in the fall. This wonderful 34-week program was loosely based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Participants committed to daily prayer and came together once a week for discussion.
I don’t know if that wonderful Ignatian program is available in Alaska anymore, but you can find a 34-week Ignatian retreat beginning this fall at onlineministries.creighton.edu. You could begin your own “challenge” group by finding friends who might want to make this online retreat with you and meet weekly for prayer and discussion.
It’s autumn. Instead of settling into the “old” routine, think of all the possibilities for new beginnings!
The writer, formerly from Anchorage, now lives in Omaha, Neb.