Name Day June 24

“On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed.” —Luke 1:59-63.

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If your name is John or some derivative, June 24 is your name day. It is also celebrated as the birthday of John the Baptist. In some countries such as Greece, this is even more important than your regular birthday. When our daughter, Joanna, and her dad were in Greece on this, her name day, their guide Maria did not charge them for taking them around that day. When others heard that it was her name day, they gave her gifts.

Just as important as this name day is to our family is the remembrance that June 24 is the birthday of Bob, my husband’s father, who showed us and our children so much unconditional care and love. More and more in my life, I find it important to remember people who taught us about unconditional love. As we remember the person, we can feel that love they brought into our lives.

Consider finding out about your name, how you got your name, and even your name day.

On June 24, I also remember my grandparents Joe and Anna, as I was named after them. Again, these were two people who taught me about love without conditions. I was the “apple of their eye.” They loved me no matter what I did. They did not always condone what I did, but they still loved the sinner. Through their love, I learned about the unconditional love of God.

Honor and remember those who have brought the presence of love into your life. My experience is that in bringing them back into our memory, we can still feel and experience that love—even if they are not with us and are now living in eternal life. The God of my understanding does not give us this love and then stop it at death. Love lives on. Love never dies.



“While visiting the University of Notre Dame, I met with an older professor and while we strolled he said with a certain melancholy, ‘you know, my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.’” —Henri Nouwen in Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Image Books, 1975), p. 52.


This has been my experience. I have an agenda, but I am slowly, often painfully learning that God most often meets me in the interruptions in my life that are not on my agenda. There is that call from a friend or family member when I think I am too busy to talk. For me this is a sure sign that I am in trouble, losing priorities of what life is all about, if I cannot stop and talk. Interruptions are like a stop or yield sign to go off script, and listen for a grace note. Nouwen calls them opportunities, especially opportunities for hospitality and new experiences. When I come back to a project after an interruption, I usually have fresh ideas; but there is that false idea that keeps ever lurking and speaking in my ear that if I stop, I will lose my creativity or my train of thought.

Interruptions are also a reminder of how powerless we are. If we think we are in charge, the interruptions remind us that this is a myth. On the other hand, when I seal myself off and refuse to respond to anything but what is on my agenda, I become exponentially isolated. My world, my God become too small. I become the center of the universe and fossilized. I develop a high hubris titer.


Holy Smoke

“And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” —Revelation 8:4.


I slowly stand up from my seat next to the Bishop’s chair near the altar at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Gulf Shores, Alabama, as the organist plays the prelude to the closing hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” The music is uplifting, but suddenly I am transported and raised to another space. There is an unusual burning smell in the air. I look up and see two almost straight lines of black smoke rapidly rising at least a foot above the altar—and just as quickly disappearing into the air in front of the congregation.

I am aware, as the acolyte in the white alb passes by me to reach for the silver processional cross, that she just extinguished the two candles on the glass altar.

This smell is different from what I usually perceive at the end of the service. For me this is an especially holy smell, and it is accompanied by an uplifting holy smoke, stronger than incense. It is raw, attention getting, signaling that something has happened. The black smoke can be seen, certainly, by those few in the front rows of the congregation; but the smell probably persists only around the altar. By verse two of the hymn, as the crucifer starts to lead the choir members in their blue cassocks and white surplices out of the church, I realize what this is all about.

The Altar Guild of Holy Spirit uses real candles, not the oil candles that I am familiar with in many of the churches I visit or serve. This is the smell and smoke from extinguished candle wax.

This is also the residual fragrance after a session of spiritual direction with seekers as they depart. I light the candle at the beginning of a session when I am doing spiritual direction to symbolize our meeting as holy, as we care for our souls. I extinguish the candle at the end of our time to symbolize the passing on of what we have shared. I know our time together as spiritual friends is holy work, just as our Eucharist together on Sunday is a holy time.

The smell and the smoke tell me that whatever has happened is now being lifted up, spreading into the air of our surroundings, our universe. The Word we had together has now moved away from the altar or our meeting place and out into the world. We can no longer see the smoke, but it is there. I experience the smell only briefly, but it is an icon of what is happening.

The holy Word has moved on with its healing blessing out into the world, making a difference in all our wounded spaces.

Bless the Altar Guild of Holy Spirit for teaching me a little more about the movement of the holy.