The Cottonwood

The Cottonwood

The work of acquiring new content usually requires our product development team to move well beyond the doors of our St. Anthony Messenger Press offices in Cincinnati.

Earlier this month, I had a chance to travel to New Mexico with colleague Lisa Biedenbach to meet with internationally known Franciscan Father Richard Rohr and the team from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

While there we had a chance to discuss ongoing and future projects, including those for Advent Preparing for Christmas and Lent Wondrous Encounters.

Father Richard founded the center, located in Albuquerque, in 1987 as a place of discernment and growth for activists and those interested in social service ministries—a place to be still, and learn how to integrate a contemplative lifestyle with compassionate service and into each day.

It is a place that I found both quieting and energizing—sometimes simultaneously.

There are areas connected to the center that go by names such as the Stillpoint chapel, the Beehive (a residence), the Hermitage (a place for solitary quiet contemplation), the Mustard Seed Resource Center, the Brother Sun, Sister Moon and San Damiano rooms (meeting places picking up on the center’s connection to St. Francis).

But there is a cottonwood tree on the center grounds that is as imposing as it is  breathtaking. In talking to Father Richard about the tree, he points to it with wonder on its longevity—it’s about 150 years old—and how it is unusual among such trees as its branches do not grow straight.

I asked him whether it’s circuitous branches say anything about faith. He laughed and said he hadn’t thought about it, but then reflected that the spiritual path of each of us is indeed unique.

As we look back on our own spiritual path, how different is that from what we considered would be our faith journey when we were younger? How much more complex are our lives? How much more challenging are the choices we have in living out our faith in a quickly changing world that can be too often hostile to or disinterested in religion?

But Father Richard is right. We, like the cottonwood, are hopefully rooted in soil that remains life giving, life sustaining and fertile, growing in ways toward the light that are unique to each of us.


About the Author

Mark Lombard, director of the product development division, has worked throughout his career in Catholic publishing. He is married, a father of two and a grandfather of two. Mark is an avid jazz lover, traveling with his wife to catch jazz performances throughout the East Coast.