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A Winter Walk.

A WINTER WALK By Tolbert McCarroll (Crossroad, 2006)

Tolbert McCarroll has a thing for the O Antiphons, those great hymns of joy chanted by monks in the week before Christmas since the year 900 or so.

McCarroll, now in his mid-70s, lives at Starcross, a small lay monastic community in Sonoma County, California, which, in addition to farming, cares for children victimized by the AIDS pandemic. Born and raised a Catholic, he attended a Benedictine seminary but later in life found deep meaning and solace in the other religious traditions of the world.

He taps into those traditions throughout A Winter Walk, not as systems of belief but as human efforts to be open to life and to God. For example, "the sound of an O Antiphon still jazzes me," he writes, because the hymn helps him hold off the distractions of the world and experience the inner connections of the Christmas season.

"Simple things matter. Moses found holy ground at the burning bush. Jesus was born in a barn. The Qur'an was revealed in a cave. Siddhartha sat under a tree. The Hopi Butterfly Maiden is near a mound of corn deep in the earth. The monk finds a creator God in the rain dripping from the eaves outside his little room," he writes. All are examples of the divine and human touching.

This could come across as New Age rainbow wishes. But McConnell weaves accounts of his work with AIDS-afflicted children, his own cancer, and his sometimes imperfect interactions with his foster children and community members. These give real-life grit and traction to his ruminations on the season of winter and the dark times of any soul--and to his message, which is simple: Be open.

Whether walking in the early morning chill or maneuvering through the emotional land mines of a holiday party, be attuned to what is real and deep. Be attuned to and curious about and alert to the invisible lines that connect each of us to each other. And to all nature. And to God.
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Author:Reardon, Patrick T.
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:340
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