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Mary’s Musings: On Meaningful Rituals

By Mary Bridges, chaplain

“In reality, life is all about change. We may be afraid of it. We may try to avoid it. But no matter how we view it, change is going to come our way.” — Abigail Brenner, M.D.
Mary created two “centering places” in her home that remind her of the people she loves and offer an opportunity for prayer and gratitude.

Our lives are defined by change, which we mark with baptisms, birthdays, graduations, weddings and celebrations of life. Rituals can be an integral part of change, whether it is planned or comes without warning. Some change brings joy, but it can also cause pain and sorrow.  

To say 2020 is synonymous with change would be an understatement. What makes this year so overwhelming is that everyone is struggling with a world we no longer recognize. Since it is difficult to gather in groups, we can use self-created rituals to comfort ourselves as we adjust to this new way of life.  

We can all create meaningful rituals. I use what I call “centering places” that help me focus. Soft music, nature sounds or silence can enhance the ritual. Weather permitting, there is no better place than outside in God’s beautiful creation. Nature’s changing seasons are a reminder that our lives are also built around change. In this place you can reflect, meditate, remember and pray.    

I have two centering places in my home. The first is a collection of battery-operated candles representing each person in our family. I light them whenever I have a need to feel connected to them. They have burned nonstop since the shutdown changed our lives on March 13. (It’s costing me a small fortune in batteries.) When I find myself starting to worry, I use a very simple ritual. As I watch the candles, I center my heart and speak a simple prayer of gratitude and a request to keep them safe.  

A second place helps me remember the people in my life no longer with me. On an antique washstand, I’ve collected objects of theirs that I treasure. Among these are a depression glass vase, a handmade rabbit, my grandmother’s reading glasses and a wooden bowl. Here my ritual includes prayers of gratitude and memories of the time we shared.

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