Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Intercessions ~ Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

15th c Ethiopian icon ~ She Who Listens

November begins with the Feast of All Saints./ We pray to become saints ourselves:/ to love God and to love people well./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of November we pray for those who will celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for the blessings of good health and safety./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask forgiveness,/ healing and help from heaven/ as our nation is so often saddened by gun violence./ Children are frequently among the victims./ We pray to the Lord.

Election Day approaches./ We pray again to be healed of the waste and aggressive anger which overtakes us./ We pray to the Lord.

Much of our world awakens each day to suffering and misery./ We pray to be aware of and grateful for every blessing and good fortune./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for God to light up dark hearts/ and that we would live and move and have our being in God./ We pray to the Lord.

We hold in our prayer the world's children,/ the poor,/ the sick,/ the prisoner and those who mourn,/ care-providers,/ parents and those who govern./ We pray to the Lord.

And for those who have died to share the fullness of God's joy,/ light and life./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mother of God Milk-Giver Continued

A PRIEST WRITING about the meaning of the icon of the Mother of God Milk~Giver reduces the icon to a kind of proof that the Incarnation (God become human in Jesus Christ) was physical. I imagine he wrote that as a kind of rebuttal to the many who don't believe in the Incarnation. That's okay, but I think there is much more we can say about the icon's meaning for all of us.

Of course, not everything found on the Internet is true. Just because someone puts something up on a screen (including priests) doesn't make it true. But it seems that mothers, midwives, nurses, scientists and care-providers have a great deal to say about the wondrous medical benefits of mother's breast milk. 

Here are just a few of the claims made about what some call Nature's Cure and Wonder-Milk. Breast milk can help to heal: rashes, yeast and ear infections, pink eye, acne, cuts, diaper rash, sunburn, dry skin, staph infections, pneumonia, poison sumac (oak and ivy), bites and burns. It has even been found to kill forty different kinds of cancer cells. It is used as an anti-infective, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory agent. My intention is not to make medical claims of any kind but to get our attention and point us in the direction of spiritual healing.

Now someone might say, "Oh, you mean it's all just symbolic." But that doesn't serve the icon well because symbolic doesn't mean something isn't real, symbolic means that something is most real. Let the icon inform your prayer: heaven is holding and feeding humankind in our most weak, sickly and confounded inner worlds. 

One blog for new mothers says, "Every Drop of Breastmilk is Medicine; Don't Waste It." So the question is, what ails me - relationally, spiritually, in my mind? Then come before the icon with a felt need for your own interior healing (not someone else's). Ask the Milk-Giver to be healed of: 

the poison of hate and non-compassion,
the infection of suspicious distinctions,
the rash of a stubborn and un-generous spirit,
the toxin of desiring, dissatisfaction and possessing,
the inflammation of resentment,
the infection of moodiness, touchiness and laziness,
the old psychic cuts and burns that I keep picking at,
the dis-ease of entertaining the non-reality of fanciful thinking,
  grumblings and ungrateful negativity,
and the denial that often accompanies illness.

End the prayer with delight as the Theotokos is dressed so beautifully, angels give her a crown, and the Child is as comfortable as a baby can be. And their matching halos!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Newly Ordained and Meeting Arnold

THIS MUG BELONGED TO ARNOLD DE PAUL  who was a parishioner in my first parish where I was a curate or junior-assistant priest thirty-five years ago. Arnold was middle-aged, deaf and mute and would often come to church, not to weekday Mass, but simply to visit. Our paths would cross when I'd be on a church errand; I'd find him kneeling at the foot of the large wall crucifix on the side wall or at the communion rail.

Arnold made sounds which I couldn't distinguish as words. I expect my own anxieties got in the way, such that it never occurred to me to sit him down to see if he could write or read lips. A foolishly missed opportunity. We communicated only through smiles, handshakes and hugs. In this world of lonely alienation perhaps that is more than he received elsewhere. 

In the spring a senior Washington official died who had a home in the parish. President and Mrs. Reagan flew in for the funeral, the bishop celebrated the funeral Mass, the choir sang, there was a police escort for the lengthy procession to the cemetery, the candles burned and the flowers (like the accolades) were abundant. Like a potted palm, I stood in the sanctuary corner and watched.

A few weeks later Arnold died.  I was told to "do his funeral Mass" which pleased me. Arnold's casket was the cheapest, called a doeskin box because of the soft cloth covering designed to conceal the knots in the wood. The only worshipers were his two out-of-town sisters, the undertaker, the cantor, organist and myself. There were no speeches, no flowers and only the two required candles on the altar.

At the end of the Mass I spoke with the sisters for a few moments, briefly telling them how Arnold and I knew each other. They said they'd be around for a week or so, clearing out his apartment before heading back to their own homes. I asked them if they came across some little thing of his that they could let go of, might I have it to remember him by. 

A few days later this mug, wrapped in plain paper, was left for me at the rectory office. There was a note inside the mug telling me that some years prior Arnold had gone on retreat to the French-founded Trappist abbey-monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky. The monks either made the mugs themselves or imported them from a monastery in France.

The mug is curious of course because it has two handles. A little investigation disclosed that French babies learn to drink from cups with two handles, making it easier to hold on tight with both hands. The monks retained this image to remind them of their own littleness and weakness. To "Become like little children" Jesus said, acknowledging being loved in one's dependent vulnerability. 

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote of living in her convent with twenty or so other women, "Sometimes I feel as if I am living inside a volcano." I get it, living in this polarized, often contentious, sometimes mean-spirited Church.  But in the midst of that I met Arnold. I'm thinking gratefully: how is it that in this life, with all of its vagaries, for seconds in each of our life's story, Arnold's path and my path crossed. I witnessed his prayer born of vulnerability and struggle.

And over thirty-five years of priesthood (today being the anniversary of ordination) that kind of wondrous intersecting has been played out over and over again. That witnessing has been the best part of my priesthood.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Intercessions ~ Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Saints Simon and Jude

Tuesday is the Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude./ The word apostle means one who is sent - as an ambassador./ We ask for the Church to be the joy-carrier of Christ in a world of tremendous sorrow and loss./ We pray to the Lord.

The enemies of Jesus try to trap him by asking which is the greatest commandment of the law./ Jesus responds: Love God - Love people./ We pray that all the questions we ask about life would lead us to the full realization of Christ's creative mandate to love./ We pray to the Lord.

Some people live in the deep darkness of violence,/ addiction,/ hatred or emotional imbalance./ We pray for their healing and our own/  asking that we would all give God our hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the priests of the world/ asking for their renewal and strengthening./ We pray for priests who are discouraged or who have lost faith./ For priests who are worn out/ or who no longer serve Christ well./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who hold or seek political office or positions of leadership in the Church,/ hoping for them to be servants of others/ without theatrics/ or love of power or money./ We pray to the Lord.

We bring to mind and heart the world's children/ praying for a new world that treasures each of them/ allowing none to be lost to preventable death,/ slavery,/ exploitation,/ exhaustion or fear./ We pray to the Lord.

It is not a morbid thought to remember that earth is a foreign land and we are not here long./ We ask to seek God's protection and entrust the dead to the safety of God's keeping./ We pray to the Lord.