Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ruined Maronite Church ~ Aleppo, Syria

The ancient Christian communities of Iraq and Syria are being driven out,/ starved,/ enslaved and destroyed by radicalized Islamists./ We pray for them/ and ask blessings for the work of those offering support and help./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for a fervent renewal of the Church in the West/ where it is often weakened by materialism,/ poor teaching and indifference./ We pray to the Lord.

It is said that the United States is a nation of problem-solvers./ Yet these are days of unprecedented individualism,/ dysfunction,/ fear and anger./ We pray to learn again how to be kind to one another./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are leaders in our country,/ and that for their part,/ each person in this land would feel welcomed,/ included and assisted./ We pray to the Lord.

January is the time of snow and ice./ And as the snow falls silently and gently,/ we pray to grow in our inner spiritual lives/ and that we would learn to be at peace with God and with others./ We pray to the Lord.

We intercede for those who are out of work,/ under-paid or who sincerely are unable to work./ We pray blessings for those whose work makes life easier for ourselves,/ who help us to stay safe and healthy./ We pray to the Lord.

Every week brings news of disasters somewhere in the world./ At Mass we pray in solidarity with those who suffer near and far/ from disease,/ violent crimes,/ natural disasters,/ wars and neglect./ And for those generous souls who bring rescue and comfort to others./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Blessed Assurance

The Mayberry Church Community  ~ Sunday Morning

Here's a scene from a early 1960's television series, The Andy Griffith Show. It is Sunday morning in the Mayberry Community Church. Sheriff Andy Taylor is in the front row with Deputy Barney Fife and son, Opie. Aunt Bea is behind them with a neighbor-lady. No wimpy singing in this little church. 

But Andy Griffith was a God-loving man, and he believed in the power of hymn-singing in real life. He said: 

"You know when you're young you think you will always be. As you become more fragile, you reflect and you realize how much comfort can come from the past. Hymns can carry you into the future."

When he spoke of becoming "more fragile" he had in mind our aging minds and bodies. I'm aware of that in my own life, but I'm thinking even more of how life itself is fragile at every stage: the fragile life of every baby, the fragile life of Christians in many places, the fragile life of the poorest people, the fragile life of the planet itself - so greedily, ruthlesslly plundered and wasted. 

What do you hold onto in this fragile life? A woman wrote not too long ago, so worried about the future of our country - how bitter and ugly we've appeared recently.  She said that she was going to hunker down and focus on her family, promoting its life, health and goodness with new energies. I understand.

And I would add to that: Let's each find a really great hymn, memorize all the verses and sing it often. There are many stories in the long history of the Church where burdened Christians walked while singing hymns.

Blessed Assurance is my favorite hymn, composed in 1873 by Fanny Crosby, who was blind.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight!
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love

This is my story, this is my song,...

Perfect submission, all is at rest!
I in my Savior am happy and blessed,
Watching and waiting looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

And here are some personal first-thoughts about each line of the hymn.

Jesus is mine: In a world of so much loss, I have Christ.
A foretaste: Heaven shows itself even now in Christ.
Heir of Salvation: not just about going to heaven - but NOW.
Purchase of God: Who has gone to a lot of trouble not to lose me.

My story; my song: "For me, to live is Christ," says St. Paul.
All the day long: No Sunday-morning-call-it-a-day religion.

Submission: Jesus, teach me; lead and guide me.
Visions of Rapture: "Earth is crammed with heaven..."
Angels descending: bring reverberations of God's kindness,
 and the heady intimacy of God's love for us in Christ.

All at rest: "Let nothing make you afraid," writes St. Teresa of Avila.
Happy and Blessed. Love is redundant.
Watching and Waiting: "In joyful hope" we pray at Mass.
Lost in his love: The Christian life isn't a rule book but an encounter with a  living, loving Jesus.

Spring Harvest, sings Blessed Assurance here with a brisk joy. I could sing this wonderful hymn all day.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Beautiful Corner

The room is dark, which might lead us to think that this dad is getting the children ready for bed at night. But look beyond and we see through the bathroom window that it is more likely morning. Maybe it's Saturday and he's letting mom sleep in. Already the candle is burning by the Beautiful Corner in the living room.

The Beautiful Corner, (sometimes called, The Front Corner, The Holy Corner, or even God's Place) is a sacred space in every Eastern Christian home. Ideally, it is seen as one walks in through the front door, announcing at once, believers live here! The purpose of the space is worship; calling a family to prayer.

There really aren't rules about putting together a Beautiful Corner, more like suggestions: the corner should include icons of Christ and the Mother of God. Images of saints should not be higher than that of Christ. There shouldn't be posters of sports or entertainment figures near by.  That's just good common sense.

But we must never think we've got God in a box or in a corner, let alone think we've got God in our corner. That's  dangerous thinking. Remember the verse in the Book of Genesis 28:16 when Jacob woke from his dream-sleep he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it." I'd suggest that could be said about every place where people gather.

I'd suggest The Beautiful Corner calls us to the awareness of the divine presence which is everywhere: 

  • God in the corner of the nursing home lobby, where folks hope for a visitor.
  • God in the corner of my desk drawer where I find the address of someone I know I really ought to write to or phone. 
  • God in the corner of the classroom where a young person is trying to hide. 
  • God in the corner of the party or gathering where someone is invariably without fellowship. 
  • God in the corner of the parish church where "I've seen that woman at Mass for twenty years and I've never bothered to go over and introduce myself."
  • God in the corner, which is my TV screen, playing the children's aid info-mercial.

Ah, God in the corner of my mind, where a small voice urges me to "Do something about that," whatever good thing that may be.

Friday, January 13, 2017

David's Gloom-Busting Psalms

Here is Marc Chagall's painting (1967) of King David accompanying himself with a harp as he composes and sings his psalms. Psalms are the sung poem-prayers of ancient Israel. Christians love the psalms too. Indeed, a psalm is prayed at every Mass. 

The revered King is elevated here, as if floating between heaven and earth, suggesting the power of the psalms to lift up souls from the mundane, and even to afford us relief from suffering and sadness. 

Remember Kate Smith singing Irving Berlin's 1938 anthem: God Bless America. It's not a patriotic song nearly so much as it is a prayer. 

"God bless America, land that I love....through the night with a light from above." Mr. Berlin wrote the song during the Second World War; he understood darkness. So does King David who is floating and singing in darkness.

Well, the land that I love, and I expect you love too, is living under a dense, light-obstructing cloud these days. There is civil war in the hearts of many Americans. Dark demons were released and empowered this past year: the demon of disrespect, the demon of humiliation and mockery, the demon of bigotry, the demon of bullying, the demon of violence, the demon of lost decency, the demon of narcissism, the demon of hate, the demon of lost grace. We failed ourselves this past year, and all the world watched. 

So I'm proposing (just offering) that we might memorize a psalm (or two or three) as gloom-buster; cloud-lifter, darkness dis-speller. 

Memorizing psalms is a handy way to bring the best things to mind and heart. Here are ten psalms that I believe are wonder-working for troubled souls and minds. If when you investigate and the numbers and the opening lines don't agree - look to the next one - the numbering is sometimes different depending on the translation you are using.

Psalm 22 ~ The Lord is my shepherd...
Psalm 50 ~ Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness...
Psalm 69 ~ Deign, O God, to rescue me...
Psalm 90 ~ You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High...
Psalm 102 ~ Bless the Lord, O my soul...
Psalm 112 ~ Praise, you servants of the Lord...
Psalm 115 ~ I believed, even when I said...
Psalm 129 ~ Our of the depths I cry to you, O Lord...
Psalm 130 ~ O Lord, my heart is not proud...
Psalm 145 ~ Praise the Lord, O my soul, I will praise...

Is is possible to memorize a whole psalm? Of course it is. People memorize the lyrics to songs. We memorized the prayers of our childhood. Actors memorize their lines. Many of us have memorized the Gloria and the Nicene Creed. Try memorizing a couple of psalms and they will spring into mind spontaneously, when the darkness overshadows. In the movie A Trip to Bountiful, as she recites the 90th psalm from heart, Carrie Watts calls it "A bower of strength within me."