Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ First Sunday of Advent

As we begin the month of December this week/ we ask a blessing for all who will celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries,/ or other days of remembrance./ We pray to the Lord.

Hanukkah and Advent candles burn at the same time this year./ We ask for Jews and Christians to be agents of light in the world's darkness./ We pray to the Lord.

As we begin Advent/ we pray to be spiritually-minded/ and not so quick to begin the celebration of Christ's birth before it is time./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray to enter the holiday time freed of resentments./ And so we pray for those who have harmed,/ offended,/ burdened,/ cheated or exploited us./ Trusting that Jesus is patient with our efforts to forgive,/ we ask for hearts of mercy,/compassion and love./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all who are sick,/ wounded,/ forgotten,/ those in prison, or who live where there is war,/ disaster or fear./ We ask for the endurance and safety of people who are trying to create a peaceful world/and those who offer themselves to help where there is human need./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally,/ we pray for those who have died since last Advent/ asking for them to be freed of darkness/ and to live in the place of God's light./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Intercessions for Thanksgiving Day

The touch of Jesus

At Thanksgiving,/ and as we begin the holiday season/ we pray for a peaceful world/ and the conversion of human hearts to the things of non-violence,/ reconciliation and justice./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for our country at Thanksgiving./ We ask for those in government to work together well for the good of all./ We pray to the Lord.

At Thanksgiving/ praying for our families/ we ask for them to be built-up in faith./For our families to remain in safety and good health./ We hold in our prayer any who are burdened,/ anxious or suffering./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who feel no gratitude today,/ and for those who will spend Thanksgiving serving others who have very little or nothing./We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are visiting with us this week/ for those who are returning home for the holiday and for anyone who is away./ With grateful hearts we pray for anyone who has helped us or done us any kindness./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the sick at Thanksgiving,/ mindful of anyone who will spend the holiday in the hospital./ We pray for their families and friends/ and for those who have to work on Thanksgiving./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for those who have died since last Thanksgiving/ and for all the dead/ asking for them to enjoy the gift of life which Jesus has prepared for us./ We pray to the Lord.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mother of God, Soothe My Sorrows

POOR MARY, THE DARK CIRCLES BENEATH HER EYES suggest sleeplessness. She holds her left hand to her temple. Perhaps she has a headache - considering the separation of her Son in the sadness of his bitter rejection. But she contemplates our sorrows too, and the Holy Child seems suspended, as if hovering in love over the world's grief.

On a Saturday morning,
Sister Eunicia
phoned my mother
that I had failed arithmetic and
would need to go to summer school
to be promoted to seventh grade.

And I listened from the dining room
to the scary news and ran
from the house
hiding myself
in the locked car.

And my mother came after me,
and coaxed me out,
and took me to her room
where we sat on her bed.

And I liquefied, crying,
"I can't do anything right."
And she put her arms around me and
said, "That's not true, Stephen,
no one can grow tomatoes like you do."

What  a stretch!

But echo-like,
indeed a voice,
that tiny annunciation,
for a moment at least
putting me back together -
soothing my sorrows.

Have you seen the news about the little four year old boy who got up on the platform where Pope Francis was giving a talk? And the four-year-old stood in front of the pope and waved to the tens of thousands. And he hugged the pope's legs and sat on his chair. And the pope welcomed him and blessed him. And the boy's mother said that the little guy had been adopted from Colombia a year ago and she believed the pope's blessing was for all the abandoned children of the world. How gracious and spiritually awake is that!

Troparion Before the Icon of the Mother of God ~ Assuage My Sorrows

Sooth the pains of my much-sighing soul,
O Thou who hast wiped away every tear flowing
from the face of the earth:
for Thou dost drive away the sickness of humanity;
and quench the afflictions of the sinner.
We have obtained hope and support in Thee,
O Most Holy Virgin.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ The Feast of Christ the King

It is the Feast of Christ the King./ We thank God for the liturgical Year of Grace that is ending/ and pray that we would live fruitful lives of faith,/ hope and charity./ We pray to the Lord.

This feast originates from a time when the world was again preparing for war./ We pray for a world converted to the mind of the just and peaceful Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus our King asks us to feed the hungry,/ give drink to the thirsty,/ clothe the naked,/ shelter the homeless,/ visit the sick and imprisoned./ We ask for the insight and will to follow his mandate well./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus tells his disciples to own nothing,/ yet once again we begin the holiday shopping season,/ which promises meaning and happiness in owning things./ We pray for hearts that are inwardly free for the pursuit of spiritual and deeply human concerns./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus our King wears a thorn-crown./ We pray for those who suffer human indignities,/ torture,/ enslavement,/ false imprisonment,/ false execution./ We pray to the Lord.

Advent begins next week./ We pray to delay feasting and celebrating without first entering into our own personal Advent-tension of light and dark./ We pray for those who will approach Christmas through the doors of repentance and reconciliation./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray that the sick would know the gentle love and consolation of Jesus,/ our crucified and risen King./ We pray too for those who have died this past year and for those who mourn them./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"How I wish it were kindled..."

THIS IS THE SWEET RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CEMETERY-CHAPEL of Sainte Genevieve-des-Bois outside Paris. Like all Russian churches, large or small, it has at least one onion shaped dome called a cupola. Some cupolas are golden, others blue or blue with stars or are formed of wooden shingles, laid out like fish scales and which turn silvery over time. The cupola likely is a descendant of the domes of ancient Byzantium, perfected to shed the snow of Russia's winter.

But there is more, because the cupola is a stylized flame symbolizing the Church - the disciples of Jesus down through the millennia, on fire for Christ. Here's the little verse from Saint Luke's Gospel (12:49) And Jesus said, "I have come to bring fire down to the earth, and how I wish it were kindled already!" 

So what's the fire? It isn't the hell-fire some Christians love to wield. But what about this, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love."  The fire of loving-kindness, comfort giving  and mercy. 

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, "Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?" Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, "If you will, you can become all flame." (From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

And there is the fire of compassion. Albert Schweitzer said: "Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man himself will not find peace." This means the animals and plants too - and the water and the soil, which are alive. Doesn't this echo the words of Jesus at the end of Saint Mark's Gospel: "Go out to all the world and proclaim the good news to every creature." 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"O Son of God, bring me into communion..."

IN THE OLD ROMAN MISSAL there was a very beautiful Mass prayer the priest prayed privately before receiving Holy Communion. In the revised Missal following the Second Vatican Council that prayer was divided into two - the priest praying one or the other.

In the Eastern Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom there is also a prayer for the priest preparing to receive the Eucharist. It is easily learned by heart and suitable for reciting, even several times, as one approaches the Sacrament at Mass:

O Son of God
bring me into communion this day
with your Mystical Supper.
I will not tell your enemies the secret,
nor will I  kiss you with Judas' kiss,
but like the good thief I cry:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

"bring me into communion this day with your Mystical Supper." Again, and we really must get this sense, mystery doesn't mean a puzzle we have to wrack our brains to solve. Mystery isn't that the clues are so far away from me that I can't comprehend or solve the riddle. But mystery means that God is so close to us - as with a printed text right up against our eyes - we can miss it utterly. This is Bethlehem. This is Calvary. This is the Eucharist.

Your Mystical Supper. Jesus is often in attendance at dinners and suppers. He reveals himself most intimately at the last meal before his dying and again on Easter night to the apostle-travelers. While Americans have lost the sacred sense of meal, for the Middle Easterner, few things are as intimate as eating a meal together. And it's within a meal that Jesus draws most closely to us, in the wonder of his love. 

How the Lord of Creation is present totally in the little bit of bread and wine is  incomprehensible, as is the enormity of his love for all the people of our wounded world. I say incomprehensible because we're so inclined to parcel out love, like little bits of string or crumbs, or make people jump through hoops for the inclusion or the mercy. It simply isn't that way with Jesus, and there are Christians who will bristle at the thought.

Vatopedi Monastery ~ Mystical Supper

I will not tell your enemies the secret. The image below was painted by Duccio Buoninsegna, depicting the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There's a large crowd of people with Judas - torch-bearing temple guards and leaders. Obviously, Judas has told the secret of where to find Jesus so to arrest him. I will not tell your enemies the secret then is a poetic way of telling Jesus before Holy Communion: Count me among your loyal friends, one who will never betray you.

Nor kiss you with Judas' kiss. Judas has taken the gesture of respectful love for one's teacher and twisted it up so that Jesus could be identified in the dark garden. Talk about a betrayal. I want nothing to do with that. Perhaps we've heard about the airline stewardess in Europe who was terminated for refusing to remove the simple cross she was wearing around her neck.

I remember when I was a young boy that three Christian men from neighboring houses came to see my father about helping to buy a house on the street  they had heard was going to be sold to an African-American family. I stood next to my father and heard him refuse.

Finally there is that last bit of the prayer which recalls a final dialogue Jesus had while suffering his crucifixion. But like the good thief. Usually he (the Good Thief) is named Dismas. The other thief is named Gesmas who scoffs at Jesus and taunts him. 

Dismas offers a corrective: We deserve it after-all, but Jesus has done nothing wrong. And then Dismas proclaims that Jesus is a king - Remember me in your kingdom, or Remember me when you come into your reign. He seems to know that Jesus isn't an earthly king, but he still wants to be counted as one who lives under Jesus' rule. 

And the words Remember me, - how beautiful is that, born of a desire to share the intimacy of friendship with Jesus - to be the recipient of his promises. We can wonder how Dismas knew about Jesus and the good things he offers. And don't we all want to be remembered? Maybe that's why we put up headstones in cemeteries. But Dismas wants better than a headstone - he wants Jesus! And Jesus doesn't disappoint. "Today, you will be with me in paradise" Jesus taking care of others even though he is at the end of his own life and suffering greatly.

Holy Communion gives me an experience of Jesus' remembering. In the Eastern Liturgy the point of Jesus' remembering me personally is made even more explicit as the name of the communicant is announced as he/she comes forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

A lot of people are distracted on the Communion line at Mass: little waves to people, managing children, who's here/who's not. The parish expectation might be that we be singing, which is often not very successful. This prayer might help us to focus. Or even in the moments when there is some relative quiet - when the priest and those in the sanctuary are receiving Communion, instead of watching all of that choreography up front, we might pray this prayer in quietness and joy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

The people of the Philippines and other nations are suffering terribly from a recent typhoon./ We ask for their comforting/ and a blessing for those involved in rescue and recovery efforts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for a more just and peaceful world/ asking for leaders who will work for reconciliation/ boldly asking for our world to be freed of wars/ and all that threatens the life,/ freedom,/ and dignity of human persons./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust our families and friends to God's care/ especially as the holidays draw near./ We hold them where there is loss of faith,/ illness,/ division,/ addiction,/ marital or financial trouble./ We pray to the Lord.

There is the sad reality of homelessness seemingly everywhere./ We ask for a world of new priorities,/ where no one is left without shelter and some comfort./ We pray to the Lord.

In the dark time of the year we pray for those who live dreary inner lives:/ without hope,/ joy,/ friendship or emotional balance./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for ourselves and those who worship with us this weekend./ We ask blessings for each person with whom we will have contact this coming week/ and for mindfulness in our relationships./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally, we pray for those who have died/ asking for them the forgiveness we all desire,/ and to be sharers of Christ's bright Resurrection-life./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Priggish Pharisee

A PHARISEE WAS A MEMBER OF an ancient Jewish group which taught a rather strict or narrow observance of Jewish traditions. They believed in life after death and looked for the coming of the Messiah. When we read the Gospels we notice that Jesus frequently found himself opposed by Pharisees.

In this Gospel account (Luke 18: 9-14) Jesus tells us about a Pharisee who was so pleased with himself and his religious observances. He stood in the front of the great temple in Jerusalem and reminded God of all the holy things he'd been doing lately: "I fast two days in the week; I pay tithes on everything I get."

He even thanked God that he wasn't like other people: "O God, I thank you that I am not like other men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous, or like that tax-collector." The tax man was standing behind him with his eyes down, telling God how sorry he was that he was a sinner.

The Pharisee saw the world and people in black and white. Like the picture here: You're right if you agree with me. You're wrong if you disagree with me. There are lots of people like this in the world. When religious people call themselves orthodox, which means right teaching, it means everyone else is heterodox, which of course means wrong teaching. This is how wars start.

I was very interested recently in a religious blog that offered a course called Catholic Bible 101. But I quickly discovered that the blog used the scriptures as a weapon, a tool for arguing, a kind of club to defend Church dogmas and the acceptable sexual morality. Where are the blogs that simply invite people into the mystery of Jesus, the joy of Jesus, the beauty of Jesus, the poetry of Jesus and even the fun of Jesus and his household.

A prig is a person who adheres smugly or unthinkingly to rigid standards of propriety or morality. Prigs are often religious people - like this arrogant man in the front of the temple. In fact, this Pharisee-man has a bad case of priggery. He doesn't love God, but only the idea of himself as pleasing to God. He thinks so highly of himself he has placed everyone in categories and thinks of the tax collector as the lowest of the low. 

Jesus doesn't' allow priggery. He tells us the story so we'll see ourselves and cut it out. No one is exempt. Pope Francis speaks about this a lot. He's told the Cardinals to "Stop acting like princes." He told the priests to get out of the sanctuary and to be with the people - closely. This Jesus story is an invitation to very practical gospel living.

We might remember this the next time we find ourselves making assessments about other people and how their families are formed. We might remember this the next time we're in one of the stores where a special needs person gives us our wagon or when we're tempted to just leave that empty supermarket wagon anywhere in the parking lot, thinking, "What's the big deal, it's someone's job to collect them anyway."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Among November's Saints

SAINT MARTIN DE PORRES was born in 1579 and raised poverty-stricken in Lima, Peru. At the age of fifteen he desired to become a Dominican Friar, but at that time persons of mixed race were not allowed to enter religious life. Martin, desiring to get as close to religious life as he could, became a lay-helper (a volunteer), asking only to be given a broom so he could sweep the cloister walkway.

The community was so impressed by his kind charity and humble willingness that they gave him the white and black habit and allowed him to make the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. At a particularly poor time for the friary, Martin offered himself to be sold as a slave so the bills could be paid. "You're not for sale," the superior said.

It is said that animals, which were natural enemies (cats, dogs, mice) would eat and drink from the same dish in his company causing him to be recognized as a patron of reconciliation and the healing of relationships. He opened a home for the homeless-sick and stray animals in his sister's house. She should be canonized a saint too!

Martin was known to sneak the sick and the weak into the friary, placing them in his own bed. He was apprenticed as a barber, which enabled him to practice some primitive medicine. His skills as an herbalist, which he learned from his mother and grandmother, enabled him to offer relief to the sick.

As his ministrations to the sick extended beyond questions of race and social status, Martin is the patron of those who seek to build and enhance race relationships. He was canonized a saint by Blessed John XXIII in May of 1962, a time of great social pain in our own country.

This sensitive and fine bronze statue of Saint Martin de Porres is found in the Dominican Father's Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer ~ 869 Lexington Avenue, New York City, at 66th Street. It is the work of Father Thomas McGlynn, O.P. (1962). Entering this church on a sunny day is like stepping into a kaleidoscope. The statue, which draws one immediately into serenity and prayer, is placed through the iron gates of a little side chapel on the left. When I am in New York City and even remotely in the area, I make a point of visiting this place.

In the image Martin has paused in his sweeping. His  broom rests against his side as he presses a cross to his heart. He isn't troubled by the rats at his feet. Indeed, he has likely just fed them.

A Poem-Prayer to Saint Martin de Porres 
in the style of an Eastern Troparion

When you passed through death to life
all of Lima turned out
to celebrate your memory,
O Brother Martin.

From the deep well of your
vulnerable heart,
no living thing escaped your love:

the leper ~ your bed,
the animals ~ your dish,
the sick ~ your healing herbs,
the orphan ~ your bread,
the slave ~ your word,
the dying ~ your restorative glass of water.

O holy donado, pray to Christ-God
for the softening of hearts
throughout the Americas.

(donado = volunteer)
Martin's Feast Day is November 3.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sunday Intercessions ~ Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we enter the dark time of the year/ we ask to remain inwardly persons of light:/ not complainers, but grateful,/ not bitter, but serene,/ not anxious, but trusting in God./ We pray to the Lord.

We live in a land of aggressive debate,/ argument and contradiction./ We pray for our country to remember that our salvation lies in giving our lives over to God's transforming power./ We pray to the Lord.

Soon it will be the holiday time./ We ask to keep our sights fixed on Jesus/ who leads us to the things of goodness,/ generosity and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

There are many thousands of  seriously  wounded and damaged soldiers returning home/ as we are still involved in wars./ We ask God to forgive the sins of war/ and to bless the efforts that seek to heal soldiers,/ and that none would be forgotten or abandoned./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for persons whose lives are filled with trouble:/ prisoners,/ refugees,/ addicts,/ homeless,/ those in chronic pain,/ the depressed,/ people trafficked and enslaved,/ children being raised poorly./ We pray to the Lord.

Our families are often sadly afflicted./ We ask for blessings and gifts of healing where there is physical,/ spiritual,/ emotional,/ relational or financial stress./ We pray to the Lord.

In November we pray for those who have died/ to be recipients of God's charity - received into the joy of God's bright eternity./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Holy Marina ~ and Mary's Breastplate

Saint Marina is one of a large group of early martyrs called The Virgin Martyrs. Some of their names appear in the Roman Canon of the Latin Rite Mass: Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Caecilia, Anastasia. Kathleen Norris in her book, A Cloister Walk, teaches us that these young women were not martyred because they were virgins but rather, in ancient cultures marriages were arranged and when young Christian women found themselves to be married to pagan men, rather than raise up children to an emperor who considered himself to be a god, they refused.

Of course then, not only did the fiance turn against the young Christian (little more than a girl) but so did his family and not infrequently her own family. When she was brought before the Imperial Court and attempted to speak, her tongue was cut out; her teeth knocked out. Men will often go to outrageous extremes so as not to  have to listen to a woman. Finally she would have been raped, mutilated and beheaded, in effect saying:  "If you won't marry (let's say) Titanius, you'll marry no one." 

The account of Marina's imprisonment and torture is almost indescribable. Kathleen Norris uses the word "ferocious" to describe the resilience of a girl against her attackers. She simply wouldn't die. We can hardly imagine the temptations of the Virgin Martyrs:  to back out of it, to give in, to despair, to curse the enemy. Marina is called a Defender Against the Devil because her temptations during trial, imprisonment and torture were so intense.

Paragraph 2851 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects upon the last petition of the Lord's Prayer: "But deliver us from evil." The Eastern Church prays more precisely: "But deliver us from the Evil One." 

"In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who 'throws himself across' God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ."

We might experience this obstruction in our own personal lives but also in the life of the Church, of society, culture and government. We hear this in the letter Catherine de Hueck Doherty wrote to Thomas Merton.

For some reason I think you are weary. I know I am frightened and weary too. For the face of the Prince of Darkness is becoming clearer and clearer to me. It seems he does not care any more to remain "the great anonymous one," "the incognito," the "everyone." He seems to have come into his own and shows himself in all his tragic reality. So few believe in his existence that he does not need to hide himself anymore! (Compassionate Fire, The Letters of Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty March 17, 1962, Ave Maria Press 2009 p.60)

We see the Prince of Darkness showing himself in tragic reality in the wearying sins of the Church, emanating from the highest levels of the clergy: vanity, attachment to and abuses of power, secrecy and lies, entitlement, arrogance, pandering, materialism and love of money, pride, loss of faith, misogyny.

We see the Evil One come into his own in the sins of politicians and their torch bearers: power, lies, war-making, racism and hatred, obstructionism, greed, cheating, the loss of the Common Good, arrogant pride and indifference.

The Catechism states further in paragraph 1707:

"Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history." He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:
"Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness." Gaudium et Spes 13:2

A breastplate is a piece of armor used in ancient warfare to protect the torso and its vital organs from injury. Here is a powerful prayer titled: Mary's Breastplate we can make part of our daily prayer, asking for the protection of ourselves, our families, friends, Church and National life - indeed the protection of the entire planet.

Mary's Breastplate
(A Prayer for Protection)

Direct me in your praise ~
though no master I in poetry ~
O Angelic countenance without blemish
you gave the milk of your breast
to redeem me.

I commend myself to your protection,
O Loving Mother of the only Son:
under your shield protect my body,
my heart, my will and my strength.

O temple of the three persons,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I beseech you to help me at the hour of
my judgment and my death.

O Queen, on whom the King, the Father,
bestowed perpetual favor ~
virginity and motherhood ~
I enlist your aid for my salvation.

O vessel bearing the light,
O great brightness outshining the sun,
draw me ashore, under your protection,
from the short-lived ship of the world.

O Mary, gracious and beautiful,
gentle, mild and stately,
I do not tire of calling on you;
you are my defender on the day of danger.

Admittedly, there will be even some Christians who find the direction, thoughts and feelings of this prayer to be incomprehensible, perhaps repugnant. But the language of the prayer is love, and that language is  best given to poetry and song. It is the nature of love to speak in what may appear to some to be excess. The heart has its reasons, Jean Vanier says.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What good is a road....?

IN OLD RUSSIA IT WOULD BE SAID: "What good is a road if it doesn't lead to a church?" In our country we might say, "What good is a road if it doesn't lead to a mall?" or "What good is a road if it doesn't lead to a stadium?" or "What good is a road if it doesn't lead to a place to eat?" Before 1917 in Russia a wooden church could be found along the Onega River every six to eight miles.  It's said that bells could be heard up and down  the roads that ran along the river's edge. A different world.

And here at the end of imaginary roads,  a wonderful wooden chapel, called Holy Trinity, has been built in the old Russian style - in Antarctica - at the bottom of our planet. Daydream: that as we walk along an ice road, we come across this miniature wonder of spiritual genius.

"Always look up!" my friend Natalya's Mother would tell her when she was a girl in St. Petersburg. "Always look up," through the disappointments, the malaise and discouragement, the stresses we encounter in relationships and the work we have to do. "Look up," the wooden chapel invites.

Discovering the chapel in the desolate Antarctic might surprise us - as God offers surprises us along the life-way. "Want to make God laugh?" Mother Teresa would ask, "Tell him your plans." As an 18 year old, I joined a Franciscan community  in 1969 because I wanted to be a food-raising-farmer for the large institution the brothers ran in caring for pre-delinquent boys. When the superior met me at the airport he said, "Well you start school on Monday." "I hate school" I thought and said, "Brother I joined the order to work the farm." He said, "Oh we're phasing all of that out. We want all of our brothers to be teachers."  A high speed, ninety degree life-turn in five seconds. I looked up to see if the plane had left.

The Antarctic chapel instills joy, which even many Christians have forfeited over the years. In Muriel Spark's novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,  high-spirited Jean Brodie confides to Teddy Loyd, the Art Master, that among the teaching staff of the proper 1930's Scottish girl's school, Marcia Blaine, "There are colleagues here who would delay the Second Coming if they detected the sound of a harp or two." 

I stumbled on this splendid chapel in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in 1967, when I took a Franciscan pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., and even got to serve the priest's Mass at the High Altar. When we were given time to explore I found this alive and light-hearted place dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The undulating walls with the bright mosaic procession of candle-bearing Mexican believers, calls us, like the Lord to John's investigating disciples, "Come and see." (John 1:39). Good mothers surround the disclosure of secrets with fun!

Anyway, for all the creative delight and surprise, intimacy and joy that churches and chapels can evoke - ultimately it's an interior communion with God that they signify. It's important to hold the memory of having seen these marvelous places, if even in pictures, as somehow in pondering them, they awaken what's very lovely and of God within.

Church of Mary's Nativity ~ Novgorod ~ 1719

Psalm 27 is called A Song of Assurance. I'd say, A Song of Assurance in Difficult Times. I imagine the psalm-singer as a pilgrim on the road with Jerusalem's great temple in sight.

V3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
even then will I be confident.
V4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to contemplate his temple.