Dr. Mary Marrocco is an associate secretary for the Canadian Council of Churches. She is also a teacher, writer and lay pastoral worker. Morrocco explores the lives and writings of the saints, spiritual writers and theologians‚ and how they relate to contemporary life.

A concert I attended last month included George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Not a favourite of mine, but that evening I felt the song’s appeal. In music and words, it carries a sense of relaxed fullness, an invitation into a lush, protected place where the “livin’ is easy,” the harshness of the world far-off at the edges: “fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high... there ain’t nothin’ can harm you, with mama and daddy standin’ by.” 

Hearts on fire

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It can be tough to speak up even when something burns inside you. Especially if everybody seems happiest not saying or hearing it, and you wonder if you’re crazy or misguided, and won’t you look like a fool or a downer if you do say it.

We can’t always trust happiness

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One of the most gifted actors I’ve observed is Robert Duvall. From fearless napalm-loving Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, to shy retired Cuban barber in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, or mild-mannered consigliere of The Godfather, he gives life to an astonishing array of characters.

Striking gold with a Lenten prayer vigil

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Did I really want to spend a long evening sitting alone in a chapel — not getting done any of the things I wanted to get done, not visiting any of the people I wanted to visit, not having any of the adventures I wanted on a Friday night? Instead, a seven to midnight Lenten prayer vigil.

The Church’s great treasure hunt

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In one of my favourite stories, four children travel to a secret country. On their second trip, they discover the ruins of a castle. Together they descend a dark, cold staircase into a vast underground chamber. Shining flashlights all round, they discover it’s filled with gems, jewels and treasures, all covered over with thick layers of dust.

Having coffee with God

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On one of the darkest, chilliest days of the year, I met an old friend. This day had been long coming: I’d accidentally managed to stand him up a couple of times before this rendez-vous. He forgave me.

God is the gift that insists on giving

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“What’s wrong with you?” the young woman asks her co-worker, Joe. She’s been trying to convey a message from their boss, but Joe seems to be on another planet.

Combat emptiness with Advent

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Do you ever get that empty feeling? For me, it often happens in grocery stores — nowadays so big you could easily get your day’s exercise there — crammed with foods, tastes, colours.

Electric electronic communication

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Recently I received an e-mail from a person who died many months ago.

Concrete, bricks and hard feelings

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Sharon sat on one side of it, James on the other. It was too tall to climb, too thick to break, too endless to go around. They couldn’t hear each other through its mass. The morning sun coming through the window shone on them both, but they were looking at the floor. Each felt alone, abandoned, angry and a little afraid, sitting some distance away from that wall, unmoving. Her arms were folded on her chest. He was sunk into his chair like a reprimanded six-year-old. Given its immense size and the innumerable ways it affected their lives, it’s surprising they could get so used to the invisible wall. And it ran right down the middle of their marriage.

Learning to love the questioner

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Late afternoon sunshine brought gold and charcoal shadings. I felt dusty and worn. We’d started early, when it was relatively cool, but the heat grew quickly and we’d wandered through several hot places in the north of Galilee this July day.