Mother Stuart wrote: Our Lord loves to be understood...the is the inward life that is set before us--to try to understand and to sympathize with Him. The counterpart is His understanding and sympathy with us. When no one else understands He does. When no one else is aware, He is; so that in reality we are never alone..."
I have promised a list of new and really good spiritual books for October and will try to give the list and then take one each day to talk about in the blog during the first part of October. I must confess that I have not read all of these books but have dipped into them and only post books that are really helpful for our spiritual reading.
Mother Stuart said: "You know who is on your side, God has called you, and you must look to Him and lean on Him, not as a Master but as a Friend, on whom you can pour out all the wealth of love that is in you, and one who will always be with you and respond and understand and help, although you will not always see how."
I think the fact that Jesus came to us as a human being and wanting to be friends with us is reason for joy. He calls us friends and wants to be with us and wants us to take all our cares and concerns to Him and talk to Him as one friend talks to another. Sometimes we forget that Jesus is with us waiting for us to talk to Him and to listen to Him. I keep thinking of the word "silent" and how, if we just arrange the letters differently, it really is "listen" - we do listen to our friends, but Jesus speaks when we are silent and can hear His gentle voice so full of love and compassion for each of us.
Mother Stuart wrote: "Courage, my soul! God has all in His hands!...It will come right somehow. You can do little but pray. It is not good to give one's advice unasked. Pray and be patient and nestle closer than ever to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, where I hope to find you safe--laughing,soon".
I find myself remembering good advice given to me by some of my really outstanding superiors who were both holy and very human and therefore made a lasting impression on me. One said to me in a moment of exhaustion when I felt I could do no more: "Courage, forward" only it was in Spanish, "Animo! Adelante!!" and gave me such confidence that I did go forward and managed to cram the fifth and last English phonic course required by the Catholic University of Valparaiso for my degree that made me officially a master teacher in Chile. I only found out that I needed this course in the last week before summer vacation that began in December. I spent the week before Christmas "cramming" and passed the examination so that I could graduate and schedule the "Examen de Grado" where I could defend my thesis written during the that summer. The point is that I still hear those words, "Courage, forward" when faced with a difficulty and they have been a lasting grace for me.
Mother Stuart writes: "Only a line to tell you that I love to think of your 'making a cheerful noise to God.' Joy is splendid, the joy that admits of no half measures, but will be glad because the joy is in God, and God and heaven and Our Lady and all that is lovely belong to it. That joy is queenly, and moves in a realm about the huff and the squeeze, so I shall love a banquet of it for my feast..."
Mother Stuart wrote to a friend: "Your letter gave me so much pleasure that I must write a line at one to thank you for it. You know what pleased me so much? The warmer and more intimate terms with Our Lord, the increase of pleasure in being before the Blessed Sacrament, 'the one mighty joy of those who have sorrow, till He comes.' It makes a great difference in spiritual life when joy is there, and it delights me too to find that you are beginning to understand how homely duties can be transformed in His service."
Joy is the star of my life so, of course, I love the many references I find to joy in Mother Stuart's writings. I know by experience that I am meant to live in joy and give joy to others.
And then there is this consoling word to the same person, or I at least think of it as consoling: "Was it very heartless of me to laugh when I read your letter and your account of your spiritual shortcomings? If you went bounding along from victory to victory I should be far more unhappy about you; for humility is cheap at any price, and a few failures in trying to reach our ideal are the shortest way to humility."
I always find myself relating to both sons. Sometimes I say "no" and then do what I am being asked to do; other times, I easily say "yes" and then do not do what I said I would. Both sons must have been a disappointment but I am sure the Father loved both. I thought I had posted for this Sunday, but must have forgotten to save it. I am finding that I am relating differently to Jesus because of having read "The One Great Act of Fidelity" by Ronald Rolheiser. He seems so present in a tangible way to me, especially in the Eucharist. The book is easy to read and I would suggest that my Catholic readers get it and find new ways of looking at the Liturgical Celebration which is a prayer for the world.
"It is for the Master's eye and His pleasure that you must bloom, and eye hath not seen, nor ear heard what He thinks of silent, lonely blooming,and daily efforts to climb, nor what He will say to them when we meet Him."
"However solitary and lonely the way may seem to you, God is there with you. You want Him. Could He possibly fail or forget? He will send you help or give it to you yourself, always in the moment of need; and the very uncertainty of the supplies is the glory of the thing. You live on trust and hope and love..."
I suspect that we are more used to thinking of God dwelling within us, but I feel that Mother Stuart's writing almost a century ago still holds wisdom for us. I remember feeling God's presence so deeply when I was lonely that first year in Chile when I could not speak or understand the language and was struggling to keep discipline with 153 Middle School children. Yet, I know that God was always there with me and gave me the strength to keep on smiling and struggling. The next year I had the entire high school and had just succeeded in getting them to want to do what they were supposed to do when I was asked to take over the grade school as the one in charge had to have a serious operation. I was happy to do so as I loved the younger children, but the first day was bedlam. Again, God was with me and soon we were a model school where the children were happy. I got off on this thinking about how present God was to me in the more difficult moments.
Well, here is my quote of the day from Mother Stuart: "Think of our inner life: we are not called to a lonely life, for we are not alone, but we are invited to a most perfect and complete home life within our souls...We are called to work with God, to walk with God, to have influence with God and with all the degrees of crowned heads--saints and angels--who minister around His throne."
I love the thought of being called to work with God, to walk with Him and to have influence with God and all those "crowned heads" - we live and move and have our being in God and this is such a marvelous truth that we have trouble believing it in our daily lives.
This picture intrigues me so I am using it instead of Mother Janet Stuart. However, I am going to continue to share quotes from the little booklet, "The Inward Life" as I am trying to schedule ahead.
Mother Stuart wrote: "You have made one very useful experience and it will be of value to you for life, that is, that it is not circumstances but desire that makes the interior man. One may progress in prayer just as much in the high pressure of full work as in the low pressure of less absorbing duties, for if they are allowed to, they expand like gas and tend to fill all the space available. Solitude and external peace do not then make a soul of prayer, but a great desire of God..."
This quote was one that helped me often and still does, but now I am reading it a bit differently as I am not in the high pressure of full work...still, the great thing is the intense desire for God and that comes from God...
Mother Stuart wrote: "Be full of confidence; God loves you so much in spite of all. Miseries and temptations against which you are struggling, do not in any way separate you from Him. Fly to the foot of the Cross and the Wounds of Our Lord, and let nothing persuade you you are not dear and near to Him...
"You are right in thinking more prayer is what you need. You might have added "and a great deal more confidence". If you could only know how God loves you!
I think that Mother Stuart was aware of how much God loved her and that is why she could help so many. She had such peace, confidence, and joy and radiated these qualities around her. May we, too, learn to trust God and believe in His infinite love for each of us!!
Mother Stuart wrote: "How glad I am that you have now the real light about God being pleased with us, for it is most important to believe it. It makes such a difference to our courage. Saint Francis of Sales puts it nicely when he says:'God is content with little, for He well knows that we have not much.'"
Mother Stuart also said: "You cannot think how much our soul depends on what we say to it in our thoughts. Try always to say hopeful and encouraging things, for it is a great and true principle that at the bottom of every discouraging thought there is an untruth and at the bottom of every helpful thought of God and of our soul there is a truth. We must hold to hope and tell ourselves: 'My soul, with God's help, we shall do this and that. We may fall often into daily faults, but in the end all will be well and we shall be with God..." and this is true."
Thoughts matter and we need to protect ours from discouragement. I love to think that God is with me and inspiring me to keep on even when I seem to keep failing in what I want to do for Him. I just find that Mother Stuart has a great deal of very practical wisdom to impart to all of us.
This is from an article by Patricia Sanchezin the National Catholic Reporter and I thought it good to quote it here as last Sunday's Gospel raised the question of justice and God's freedom to be generous.
"For it is by grace and not merit that sinners are saved. We, for our part, are to let God be God and to marvel at the ways and thoughts of God that we have yet to understand. Rather than resent the redemption of the wicked, we are to rejoice over their return to God. Then, for all our lives and with all our strength and effort, we are to work at closing the gap between God’s thoughts and our own, between God’s ways and our own by surrendering ourselves, our anger, our resentments and our desire for vengeance to the transformative power of grace."
[Patricia Sánchez holds a master’s degree in literature and religion of the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York.]
The point for all of us to remember is that Jesus wants to love us and is always at the door asking to be admitted to our hearts. He will never take away our freedom but the Holy Spirit seems to work overtime to make sure we heed this desire of Jesus. He wants to love each of us and help us to love one another. Never doubt this and that helps me to see that when we respond to God's love, it is His gift, not anything I merit.
"Life alone with God does not mean the life of the Miller of Dee...It simply means facing the truth that love consists in giving, not so much in receiving, while we are here. The receiving will be so superabundant even in this life, when we have learnt to give, that we shall feel small and confused at our little gift. It is more love for others, not less; more feeling for them and not less, that we want, only to find our joy in giving--"me last."
This Sunday has the parable that Jesus told about the workers in the vineyard. It seems that some worked all day, but that late in the day the owner of the vineyard had gone out and found other workers who were waiting to be hired, so he hired them but then paid them all the same. Of course, he was not unjust as he was giving each what was necessary to live on, but those who had toiled all day resented his generosity. God is free to do what He wants. Here is another interpretation of the parable: "We see a different story when we change our traditional interpretation of this parable. When we do not presume that we should identify God with the landowner we open ourselves to a new angle of understanding. We begin to see the world from the perspective of the oppressed day laborer, just as Jesus was given voice to their complaint. The parable interpreted in this way again shows God on the side of the poor."
We are meant to struggle sometimes in our reflection on the parables.
"In prayer it is often the very best just to leave yourself face to face with God without saying anything."
"Don't make the mistake which many make of thinking that intimate union with God in prayer comes as a gift to those that are worthy of it. 'The Spirit breatheth where He will.' Perhaps He gives it, not because you are worthy, but to make you so. Anyhow, persist in prayer in spite of all disinclination, not violently, but patiently and silently and even dumbly. Don't seek to be contented with your efforts or to be assured within that all is well, balance yourself on the tremulous outer edge of hope, over the abyss, trembling sometimes but self-surrendered to God's loving care."
I guess I am hoping to have some comments to know if my quotes from Mother Stuart are as helpful to others as they are to me. I did rather decide to devote the blog to her for this month of September, but would like to know if others find the quotes I am selecting worth thinking about now in your own lives...I do, but I seem to find that many things from many authors at this point in my life give me much to reflect upon. In October I will be sharing some of the spiritual books that I am reading and I know others will enjoy and find fruitful.
Here are a couple of quotes from my Journal that I think I may not have shared yet; they are from letters of Mother Stuart: Humble yourself, which means quiet yourself every day under God's hands, and when you find fright invading your soul, or resentment or agitation, trust God and let go of all else. Is He not more than able to keep all right or set it right?.."
That quote is in my prayer Journal and it helps me to go back to it and ask myself if I am really trusting God and letting go of all else...I do like the idea of quieting myself every day under God's hands...Mother Stuart also said, and I may have quoted this before, "The past is God's, the future is His, the present is His and yours together. Be joyful for His sake, inside as well as outside...
This is a special day for me as I feel that Our Lady is so close to us in our sorrows and in our joys. The seven sorrows of Our Lady are named as: Simeon's prophecy at the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the flight into Egypt, the disappearance of the boy Jesus in Jerusalem, the road to Calvary, the crucifixion, the removal from the cross, and the entombment. I am sure there were many more and continue to be as she suffers with us - every time a son is killed, or a child dies, or a spouse, parent, etc. Mary is with us and her presence is always a consoling one. I think I have mentioned before how often I felt her presence with me in Chile when I could not yet speak the language and was homesick.
I think, then, of Mary being with us in all our sorrows. I guess this feast has been special to many through the centuries and Our Lady of Sorrows gives us courage to face whatever is hard in life. She stood at the cross. She wept, but she remained standing at the foot of the Cross to be close to her Son, Jesus. She now helps us to stay close to Him. Mary is my Mother and so is interested in every detail of my life, but above all she wants to bring me closer to Jesus.
This picture above of the "holy Cross" is found in San Clemente, the oldest Church in Rome that has a fascinating history. You can learn it by descending beneath the Church; each level has its own story. At the bottom is the early Roman ruins. I am thinking today of all the centuries since the Crucifixion and how we have come to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross and what this means in each of our lives. I guess it is a "what if" sort of a day but also one that fills me with gratitude. Christ suffered death on the cross for us to show us how much God loves us. How can we doubt His love when we look at the Crucifix?
Here is my quote of the day from Mother Janet Erskine Stuart: "The external of things, failure, success, scope, influence, acceptability, all these things say very little to me, and I think mean very little to God either. It is the inner tendency of each individual soul to Him, in the old phrase "the heart right with God" which alone matters and chiefly interests me. And God, through all failure, weariness and disappointment with ourselves is working out His harmonies for the future. We can only shut our eyes and do what lies in us and trust Him..."
Mother Stuart is connected with Scotland and I am trying to keep this blog with some of her quotes so that my readers will learn to love her as I do. Here are a couple of short quotes on prayer taken from "The Inward Life":
"Contrition always, hope always, prayer as you can, in the way that is easiest at the moment. Be very flexible, don't want to have it this way or that way, but tend to what is simple and quiet, and persevere in hard times. One moment of realization is worth days and weeks of waiting."
"Nurse the spirit of prayer, all good comes from that, and it needs care to grow. Try to read a little of something spiritual every day, even if only for five minutes."
Jesus always forgives and forgets. He receives us back into his arms with love and wants only to embrace us. He never reproaches us for our faults but forgives us as soon as we turn to Him. He came to the Apostles on the first Easter Sunday and not only forgave them by saying "Peace be with you" and never mentioning that they had all abandoned him when the soldiers had come to arrest him; Jesus breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins. We forget that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift given on Easter when Jesus was going around and appearing to give joy and consolation.
Today is also the anniversary of a terrible tragedy that has affected all of us and will continue to do so; we must pray for peace in our world and learn to treat all justly. I am upset about the immigration laws in the United States, among other things. I find that getting angry about what I think is wrong does not help, but I am spending time now each day praying for our world.
As a spiritual director, I am drawn especially to the advice given on prayer to those who wrote to her. You may also enjoy some excerpts from her letters about prayer: "You are quite on the right track, it is the gift of your heart that God wants above all in prayer, that you may both give to Him and receive Him. Keep it always uplifted with great expectations. "Expect, expect again." God loves us to expect from Him, because He loves to give Himself to us. If we only believed this, as we profess it, how close our union would become and how blessed our work would be."
That quote gives me much to reflect on so I will stop here and let you do your own reflections. I did want to share one thought from my retreat about using the Gospel meditations and the five senses. It really helps to take an apparition and try to see, hear, feel(touch), smell and taste. I found it made me feel very present in each Gospel scene and then I could just be there.
Our reflection group met on Thursday evening and all seemed enthused about the book we are using this year: (The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis Savary). I have mentioned the book before as I find it a transforming one and began to use it last April. It is really a retreat in daily life and so I am going slowly through it and marking it up!
From Mother Stuart: "Give us Thyself" is the best prayer we can pray, and "we give ourselves to Thee" no better offering. For we do not know what to ask and what to offer. Leave it to Him, but remember that we must and we mean to give all for all.
Often her advice for prayer was just to be there without words. She wrote to one: "In prayer it is often the very best just to leave yourself face to face with God without saying anything."
I find this is true for me and it reminds me of married couples who so often communicate without words and are just content to sit quietly with each other.
Mother Stuart also wanted our relationship with Jesus to be natural and informal. She said, "Remember that He looks, and cares and takes interest in and enters into every joy or sorrow or duty of your day. Try to look trustfully up to Him in every difficulty...
Mother Janet Erskine Stuart often wrote about the importance of having "right thoughts of God" and urged complete trust in one who loves us. Here is an excerpt you may find helpful: "If Our Lord said a word to you it would be "O Thou of little faith why didst thou doubt1" How could He be displeased with anyone who wants, even a very little, to please Him. And you want to, very much indeed. But it must be a little disappointing not to be able to convince you, as you would find it disappointing if you could not convince an infant that you thought kindly of it!
...God loves you and is full of interest and approval of your efforts, only not of the doubtful thought of Himself.
One of the best known Religious of the Sacred Heart was the holy, brilliant, and fascinating Janet Erskine Stuart. I am going to talk about her in several blogs as we are preparing for the centenary of her death in 2014. She was a wise and wonderful person who wrote so well and we are fortunate to have accounts of her long voyages, her letters, conferences, and other writings such as plays and poems.
Today I am using a little booklet called "The Inward Life" that contains extracts from the letters of Mother Stuart and was compiled by Maud Monahan, the author of "The Life and Letters of Mother Janet Erskine Stuart" that I have read many times and delight in it each time.
As I want my readers to learn to know and love Janet as I do, I will begin with a short biographical note that is also at the beginning of "The Inward Life."
"Mother Stuart was born on November 11th, 1857, in the Anglican Rectory at Cottesmore. As a child of thirteen she set out on a solitary search for Truth, having been roused to this great venture by a casual remark of one of her brothers, that Aristotle held that every rational creature must have a last end. The search occupied several years and landed her in the Catholic Church at the age of twenty-one. Three and a half years later she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton, where she was to spend the great part of her religious life. Named Mistress of Novices immediately after her profession, she became Superior Vicar in 1894. She held this post for seventeen years; years in which peace was her gift to all who came near her. Having acquired to perfection that art of managing her own soul and of living from moment to moment on the Will of God, she directed all her energies to helping others to do likewise. A born ruler and educator, she was at the same time an ideal friend..."
She was elected Superior General in 1911 and her residence was the Mother house of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Brussels, but much of the last three years of her life was spent in visiting our convents in all parts of the world. She died on October 21, 1914 and is buried in the little Chapel at Roehampton.
Here is an excerpt from a letter:"The only possible contentment for our souls is in God, and remember that to doubt or kick or repine or judge hardly of God is to go back to the old fetish-worship which you have given up. A God who could be anything but incomparably sweet and loving is not our own God...think the best and sweetest thoughts and believe them, but you can never reach half of what He is..."
Here is a quote from Thomas Merton that I took yesterday from "The Book of Hours": Be content, be content.
We are the Body of Christ.
We have found Him, He has found us.
We are in Him, He in us.
There is nothing further to look for, except the deepening of this life we already possess.
It is always fun to have a "Labor Day" that really seems to celebrate the end of vacation for so many. Now the schools usually start at least a week before Labor Day, but when I was growing up school began the day after Labor Day so we would have the last day at the lake to swim and picnic or just enjoy doing something together as a family. My mother always made us feel that going back to school was something very exciting and I looked forward to seeing all my friends, learning new things, and being in a different grade. I hope all the students who are back to school now have the same sense of anticipation about what the new academic year will bring. It is the first year that I really feel I am not returning to school, although I will still be at the University on Thursdays.
I am using "A Book of the Hours" that is made up of the writings of Thomas Merton and was edited and published in 2007. I had it on my shelf and must confess that I have just started using it because it was suggested by my retreat director. Merton has some lovely things to say, especially about silence so I hope to quote him here sometime this week.
Since this is the end of vacation, I need to finish up telling you about mine. A college friend (known and admired even before college) drove me from Davis to her home in Novato where we spent hours just talking and eating outside or at the nearby country club. She then drove me to Oakwood where I visited with all my friends in our retirement home, made my eight-day of retreat and then had three nights at Villa Maria del Mar in Santa Cruz before returning to one of our communities in Redwood City. It was a very restful and cool August. Still, I was glad to get home again and I am also happy to be back in contact with my readers.
It is Sunday and we had a Community planning day this afternoon so I am just now getting around to writing my blog. I am reflecting back still on the way God worked in my life this summer. When I was visiting a friend in Davis, I went to a group at the Episcopal Church that meets every week for a discussion and then a half hour of Centering Prayer. They were using the part of Father Keating's "The Mystery of Christ" that talks about the apparition of Jesus to Thomas on the Sunday after Easter. I found it so helpful to go back and imagine both how Jesus felt and how the apostles felt as well as how Thomas must have felt when Jesus came and stood in their midst and it was at that moment that I had the inspiration to maybe suggest to my retreat director that taking the Easter apparitions might be a good thing for me to do in retreat. She agreed and so I spent the eight days taking a different apparition each day and just staying with it. I found this fruitful and hope it still is going to help me during the year. I think that Jesus went around sharing his joy for those forty days after Easter and I would like to be able to do the same as we are called to spread the "Good News" and our world needs to hear it!
That is my reflection for today.
Every moment of the day we "live and move and have our being" in Christ. He is always with us and that makes every day special!
To return to my visit to California to share a few more highlights of the trip with you: In San Diego I went to lunch with one of my high school classmates so I have known her since 1944 or for 67 years! Her twin sister is dead as are about half of our class. We did not really reminisce as we were updating each other on present day news. The next day I spent with a dear friend from Los Angeles who came down to see me. She also took me to lunch and then we went back to my room to talk. I also had a delightful visit with our novice on Sunday when we went to lunch and then back to the house that is now the novitiate where I had visits with RSCJ friends. My sister and brother-in-law picked me up on Thursday and I stayed on Coronado with them until Tuesday. One highlight was going to the beach, of course, and the weather was perfect. Another was sitting on the village green and watching the many families who come on Sunday to picnic there with their children; when the band starts to play, many old and young dance around the circular bandstand and the whole crowd looks happy!
I could continue every day giving highlights of my trip. However, I am going to be mentioning a few spiritual books soon that I think worth reading; I just need to get myself organized a bit.
Although I am happy to be home again, I had so many good experiences that I want to take time to reflect on some of them and share my reflections here. The first great experience was the meeting of 24 Religious of the Sacred Heart who are in higher education at many Universities or, like me, retired and involved now in some research or writing project. We had some wonderful prayer times together prepared ahead and several involved sharing with one or two others in our circle. I was most impressed by the simplicity and sincerity of all present so our sharing enriched each one. I think it was the best Higher Ed meeting I have attended because of the atmosphere of friendliness and openness. The longer prayer periods helped us bond as well as both the reception at the end of the first day and the banquet the next night on the terrace. The sunset is spectacular as the University of San Diego is up on a hill overlooking the city.
The meeting ended at noon on Saturday. One of the priorities that will also be of interest to many of my readers is to broaden and deepen our knowledge of Reverend Mother Stuart in preparation for the centenary of her death in 2014. She visited many convents in the United States and Canada in 1898 and gave conferences in most of these. Later, as Mother General of the Society of the Sacred Heart, she continued to write but her long trip to our houses in South America was made first and we have wonderful descriptions of her adventures as she wrote charming letters back to the community at Roehampton, England, where she had been superior for many years. She is buried there in a little Chapel that escaped the bombing during the war that destroyed most of our convent and college. I shall be writing more about her in my blog in the coming months as I have some great quotes to share with you. One of my favorites is her definition of joy as "the song of the spirit under the pressure of happiness."
It is good to be home again. Irene missed Miami but my heart goes out to all those who are still suffering from the storm and the floods. So many are still without power and I know what that means!
I really had a wonderful time visiting in eight places in California as I was able to stay with friends, family, and in three different RSCJ communities during my time away. California is a beautiful state and I enjoyed seeing it from the air from San Diego to Sacramento, driving from Davis to Novato to Atherton, and then driving to Santa Cruz for three nights after my retreat at Oakwood, our retirement home in Atherton. I felt the prayer for my retreat which was very peaceful and full of joy and gratitude. Now I need to live out all the good resolutions I felt Jesus wanted me to make. So far I am breaking them but remember being told before I left Rome after my final profession, "If you break your resolutions immediately, it is a sign that those are the resolutions that you need and they are good ones."
I am trying to catch up today and start again with my resolutions which mostly concern trying to keep to "an order of day" instead of just letting the time be dictated by whatever seems to be the next thing needed. I want to add more prayer, spiritual reading, time for writing, exercise, etc. but began by taking my car to the garage as it needed more than just an oil change. It is twelve years old so I am happy that I could get it checked yesterday and needed to replace a belt and spark plugs etc. and it is now running better and is a faithful friend. I pray in my little Toyota and so it is something special.
Hello, my name is Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ. Those initials stand for Religious of the Sacred Heart in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Since my religious congregation began in France in 1800 and now is all over the world, we have kept the RSCJ. By now you know that I am not only known as Dr. Helen Rosenthal, but also as Sister Helen Rosenthal.
I am the oldest of four children. We were all born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. We lived in a big house with a playroom on the third floor. On Sundays we either went to my paternal grandmother's house where her six children would gather faithfully for supper or we would have my mother's father and our great aunt and uncle for a roast beef dinner at home. In summer, I would go to the lake with my Dad and I still love to swim.