Page 1


Acknowledgments Introduction

xi xiv

I. Driving Lessons Cheese Lady CarMa

5 9

I’m Not Nice Anymore Ironing the Gi Teens





Kitchen Wisdom


The Little Way


I I . B r e at h i n g L e s s o n s Sitting in Happy Doors



Three Moments of Grace Teenie Beanie Babies Contentment Tricycle


54 61

64 67

Telephone Meditation, Take 2



I I I . M u s ic L e s s o n s Vocation


Duck Day


Invisible Friends


Bedtime Blessings


Potato Stories


The Mother of Men Married



I V. E a r t h L e s s o n s Porch Prayer Night


122 125



Blessing One Another


The Wisdom of the Heart


The Mother’s Journey Holy Ground



V. L i f e L e s s o n s Hiding Places


Are We There Yet? Dead Ants



All Shall Be Well Transfiguration

vi i i



No Words



184 192


Epilogue: A Blessing for Your Journey Appendix Notes


203 205


I Driving Lessons Wherever you go, there you are. Jon Kabat-Zinn

I’ve come to realize that it’s often in the most unlikely of places that a sign appears, one that gives us just the message we need for our journey. Maybe it comes in the advice of a friend; perhaps it shows up in rays of sunlight breaking through dark clouds. If we pay attention, any moment or any place or any person might be the bearer of wisdom. Years ago, I was zooming down the street, feeling pressured because I was late, hassled because of the traffic, and angry with myself for putting myself in that predicament. Yet another red light forced me to stop, this time right in front of a bakery. Exasperated, I had nothing to do but sit and look at the shop’s front window. There I saw a hand-lettered sign that read, “Relax . . . You Have Plenty of Time.” How did that bakery owner know just what it was that I needed to hear? He or she had sent a message out into the universe, and it was now being received. The words had their intended effect, and I took a deep breath and smiled. Frederick Buechner, in his book The Eyes of the Heart, invites us to see such messages as little signs that let us know we’ve turned up at the right place at the right time. He writes that “there is no telling where

If we pay attention,

God may turn up next—around what sud-

any moment or any

den bend of the path if you happen to

place or any person

have your eyes and ears open, your wits

might be the bearer

about you, in what odd, small moments

of wisdom.

almost too foolish to tell.”

M y

M o n a s t e r y




We do not know where God might turn up next, or where our path will lead, but when we stop and ask for guidance, answers eventually come. These answers are not always as obvious as the signs that we see on the road, signs that tell us clearly to STOP or YIELD, that warn us of a DETOUR AHEAD, or that encourage us to PASS WITH CARE. But if we pay attention and look carefully for them and then heed their message, we discover that it is possible to experience transformation right in the midst of wherever we find ourselves. The very place we are now is the very place that holds all that we need for growth.

Cheese Lady Many poets are not poets for the same reason that man y religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. Thomas Merton

A funny thing happened on my way to Safeway. My daughter and I were returning home from her school when I remembered that we needed a few groceries. We drove down the road, the one on which the large Carmelite monastery takes up an entire city block, and the stoplight turned red. As we sat at the intersection, a car from the cross street turned left, passing my minivan. I made eye contact with the driver and her three passengers—Carmelite sisters out on a rare “outside� visit, probably keeping a medical or dental appointment.

M y

M o n a s t e r y




And then I smiled. That could have been me. From the time I was six until I was twenty-one, I had this sneaking suspicion that I was meant to be a nun. My guess is that it all went back to my first-grade teacher, Sister Regina Mary. You know, one of those early imprint things, like a newborn Canada goose that will bond with a mother goose or an airplane, depending on what it sees first. Sixyear-old girls are very susceptible to such influence, and believe me, those early days of Catholic education were all about influence. I wanted to look like Sister, talk like her, be like her. It didn’t matter that all I could see of her was about ten square inches of her face, with the rest of her encased in a full black habit. We’ll skip over all the years in which my favorite reading was Butler’s Lives of the Saints (especially the story of the young mother-martyr who, shortly after giving birth, was led out into the coliseum to be eaten by lions, the milk dripping from her breasts . . . I kid you not, I remember reading this, although the name of the poor saint escapes me). Let’s just say that my early conditioning was very powerful. Then I ended up in college, worried that I was going to let God down in a big way if I didn’t follow up on this vocation. I signed up for a religious studies course on Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and prolific writer, and as a result I was convinced that not only was I to be a nun, I was to be a contemplative one at that. I wanted to go into seclusion, to live unfettered by the mundane world and be involved in holier pursuits, loftier ideals. (In fairness to Thomas Merton, he did not hold this position; he wrote that if you think you can

$14.95 u.s.

Spirituality/Family Life “Some people can hold up a lens to life that reveals the depth and beauty all around us. Denise Roy is that kind of person, and spending time reading the stories that fill her book is like spending time with a wise friend who brightens your life.” —Tom McGrath, family-life editor, U.S. Catholic, author, Raising FaithFilled Kids

D enise R oy is a mother of four (ages five to twenty), a psychotherapist, a spiritual director, and the founder of FamilySpirit, an organization that nurtures spirituality in families. She received her master of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. She and her family live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends a good deal of time in her minivan.

One person’s car pool is another person’s pilgrimage In My Monastery Is a Minivan, Denise Roy offers thirty-five entertaining and touching stories that show how family moments can bring the greatest spiritual rewards. We find everything we need for spiritual growth as we picnic with the children, go to the grocery store, and pick up the morning paper. Denise’s intimate approach invites us to recognize the grace that exists within our own lives. We needn’t pull over and look for enlightenment; the divine is always present, even in the car-pool lane.

“I was thrilled to discover a soul sister in Denise Roy. This book will be a wonderful companion to any parent, whatever their faith tradition.” —Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, author, Parenting as a Spiritual Journey “This is the kind of book that makes you want to grab all your friends and say, ‘You’ve got to read this!’ This collection of inspirational stories will lift your spirits and soothe your soul. Denise Roy’s minivan wisdom invites you to discover the sacred right smack in the middle of ordinary life.” —Steve and Patt Saso, authors, 10 Best Gifts for Your Teen “The humor and honesty of Denise Roy’s writing pulled me in right away. If you are not a saint but an ordinary man or woman hoping to live the joys and trials of daily life with your eyes and your heart wide open to the sacred, this is a book for you.” —Oriah Mountain Dreamer, author, The Invitation and The Dance

Stories of finding wisdom in the everyday God is in the silence and also in the noise. Spirit is in stillness and also in silliness. The Sacred is in the monastery and also in the minivan.

“I don’t know how it is that days filled with children and noise and mess and clutter can seem endless, and then, when the kids are grown, it can seem as if those same days passed ever too quickly. I don’t know how many billions of stars are up in the sky or how suffering can hold the seeds of resurrection. I don’t know how to answer all my children’s questions, or my own. I don’t know how to completely let go. Life keeps inviting me to learn these things, presenting me each and every day with opportunities for growth. And it does seem that when I open my eyes and heart to others, I begin to recognize something that has been there all along. It feels like a presence, a light, a love that is unbounded by time or space or matter. It moves within us and among us, healing us, filling us, calling us to recognize that what we seek is right here in our midst.” —From My Monastery Is a Minivan

My Monastery Is a Minivan: Where the Daily Is Divine and the Routine Becomes Prayer  
My Monastery Is a Minivan: Where the Daily Is Divine and the Routine Becomes Prayer  

Is it possible that family spirituality can flourish in...a minivan? Denise Roy, author and mother of four, believes that no mile is mundane...