I had a class mate in seminary, Amy, who had a passion for crossword puzzles. She was a real master and a fanatic practitioner of the art form. Her puzzle source of choice was the New York Times, whose puzzles increase in complexity and difficulty from Monday to Sunday. After morning prayer in the chapel, a number of us would gather in the student lounge each morning before class for coffee and a bagel...and she would sit with us at table and do her morning crossword with the same passion and devotion she had just offered in the recitations of the psalms. Powerful stuff, to watch her take a ballpoint pen to newsprint and attack the open squares, filling each space in with words culled from a vast vocabulary, years of experience and a quick, sharp mind.
Oh, she was good.
I remember her passion for those puzzles and her description of what it meant for her to take a moment with them over her morning coffee. Some people do yoga to stretch their bodies in the morning. She did those puzzles to stretch her mind.
I know that passion is something many people share. Sadly, I am not one of them. I do enjoy a good crossword every once in a while, but I have learned that this is a discipline that (like prayer!) is something you get better at with practice...and practice is best when it is something you love, something that can become a part of you. I can't imagine Amy (whose priesthood now is to the Church Triumphant-she passed away earlier this year) in a heaven without a crossword in the morning. I can just imagine her answering (yes, answering) Our Lord when he asks for a seven-letter word for love, Lat. She wouldn't even look up, it would just flow out of her!
For me, puzzles have a way of taking my anxiety down a notch. Of late, though my anxiety is no where near levels it has been in the past, I have found Sudoku puzzles to be a balm. After my morning prayers, as the day is ending or just before lights out, I have found my little book of sudoku to be a comfort. I see Amy's point now in loving to work at a puzzle or two before work begins or as it ends. It quickens the mind, stretches thoughts out...patterns emerge. With Sudoku (which I found unfathomable just over a year or so ago!), I am finding that I see other patterns emergent in my life. These things have always been there, I have just not heeded them. Time to line up the numbers in their appropriate boxes, groups and lines....speaking metaphorically in context with life itself! Everything relates to its neighbor...and in the grand scheme of God's plan for life, ministry and the Church, each of us has a role to play out and a place that God intends for it to play itself out in...I just need to keep that in mind!
Still, the thought of taking on the Saturday NYTimes puzzle with a ball point pen, as Amy did without little apparent fear and trembling will elude me for a while...perhaps when I get a chance to enjoy her company again over a morning cup in heaven I will have a chance to watch her do her thing again with that magical pen. For now, I will pray that I will have some of the same clarity visited on me in the time between puzzle-solving sessions that I saw extant in her way of being.
God bless puzzles.....