Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Intercessions for the Feast of the Departed

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 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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mother of God Milk~Giver

Galaktotrophousa ~ Mother of God Nursing 

MANY ICONS COME TO US with tales of their creation, their wondrous discovery or transport, how miracles were wrought by their presence or  monasteries and convents grew up around them. 

Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (+532) predicted on his death bed that another monk, also named Sabbas, would appear one day as a visitor to their monastery outside Jerusalem and that the Milk~Giver icon at that time should be given to him.

The story continues "the next six centuries rushed by" (perhaps a poetic way of saying that time means nothing to good monks) and in the 13th century, Saint Sabbas the Archbishop of Serbia arrived in Palestine. The monks related to Sabbas the story that had been handed down for centuries, fulfilling the holy founders prophecy entrusting the Milk~Giver icon to his care. 

Along his return trip to Serbia, Sabbas stopped in Greece where he visited the Hilander Monastery, evidently giving the icon to the monks there. Eight centuries later the icon still resides in a kellion there (a sub-community of six or seven monks) attached to that  monastic community. But I believe there is more!

The ancient Greeks believed there were four libations (liquid gifts offered to the gods: oil, water, honey and milk). But now in Christ, there is a great reversal as God offers us - humankind - the milk of God's wisdom and truth. 

Like new-born babies all your longing should be for milk - the unadulterated spiritual milk - which will help you to grow up to salvation, at any rate if you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2)

Wisdom is not at all the same as being smart, or being able to solve problems or give good advice, or being old and having good sense solutions drawn from long life experience.

Wisdom is having insights into God's mind. And God has gone to a great deal of trouble to share God's mind with us in Christ. And truth is closely linked to this wisdom. But truth is not trends and fads, advertisements and the newly elected, the top ten list, the winners, what's in, what the experts say, what the guarantees promise. 

God's truth first has to do with my becoming a newly conscious person. It is bigger than simply nodding my head to dogma
"But let the complete renewal of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God ~ what is good and acceptable and mature." (Romans 12:2) 
Another translation says: "But let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed."

And this re-making and renewal of our minds might express itself first of all in a radical embracing of the truth of the Incarnation - the abandonment of the limiting separations we create between God and us, and the abandonment of  the destructive separations we create between and among humans. 

Over the door of a friend's church there is a stained glass window of angels holding an open scroll which reads: Porta Caeli (Door of Heaven). I don't deny it, but I would suggest that the same sign could appear over the door leading into the doctor's waiting room, or the door leading into the Motor Vehicle office! YIKES! 

Instead of flipping through old issues of People or watching the awful and too loud TV suspended from the wall, could I imagine personal prayers for each of the people waiting along with me. There's the renewed (re-made) mind!

Lord, that woman looks so tired...
Lord, that man is so crabby towards his wife...
Lord, that mom looks so worried about her child...

Instead of worry, fear and demonizing complaints I can send blessings and prayers of help, healing and strengthening to the ISIS militants, the Ebola sufferers and helpers, the President whose job is unspeakably difficult, the pro-democracy students of Hong Kong and the police who drive them back, the homeless teens in Ocean Beach, California. The new mind is a kind of waking up - no more separations, no more dividing distinctions between humans.

And Saint Benedict says in his monastic rule, "Treat the garden and kitchen tools as carefully as you treat the sacred chalice used at Mass." No more separations between God and humankind.

Your icon, O Lady
in the kellion at Athos
where monks alone admire you ~
fly now on techno-wings
around our dry world 
nourishing us all with the
abundant milk of divine
wisdom and truth.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lilium Candidum

These curious bulbs arrived this week from Holland. They are Lilium Candidum, also known as Madonna Lily. We've noted before that until the Protestant Reformation, very many flowers had names with Marian connotations. I imagine Madonna Lily survived that time of cultural and religious upheaval..

Madonna Lily is planted in the fall, but with a covering of only one to two inches of soil. Unlike tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses, Madonna Lily will put out a tuft of low-to-the-ground leaves and then in the spring begin to develop a stem, budding and flowering in the later summer. The flowers, facing outward, are waxy, brilliant white and highly fragrant. 

Often in Medieval paintings of the Annunciation (the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary her pregnancy and Mary's ascent) either the angel holds a Madonna Lily or there is a vase holding a stem or two nearby. This 15th century Annunciation by Martin Schongauer illustrates this. Lilium Candidum aptly symbolizes Mary's Beatitude Heart: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

But to return to the first idea of fall planting ~ it is an invitation to deeper living. We can:

  • Plant ourselves in a good book that helps us to grow
  • Plant ourselves in a new company ~ less combative, negative or divisive
  • Plant ourselves in a discipline of  Gospel-study or prayer
  • Plant ourselves in new thinking that makes us better spouses or parents
  • Plant ourselves in a time of silence
  • Plant ourselves in a community or group of support for the  healing of addiction
  • Plant ourselves in professional therapy and not run away  when it gets difficult
  • Plant ourselves in a new job or new home
  • Plant ourselves in a parish through the ups and downs
  • Plant ourselves in a new life after a significant loss

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Enitrean Orthodox Icon ~  Mother of God

We ask that our Mass-prayer would reach into the farthest and deepest places of human suffering/ where people are lost,/ disappeared,/ imprisoned,/ trapped or threatened by the abuses of power./ We pray to the Lord.

As we enter an election season/ we pray for our nation,/ asking for the healing of polarization,/ dishonesty and bitterness./ We pray to the Lord.

In Respect Life Month/ we pray in solidarity with the poor,/ the elderly,/ the baby in the womb and those who live in lands of conflict and war./ For the softening of human hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis as the time of synod comes to a close in Rome./ We ask blessings for him of health,/ safety and courage./ We pray to the Lord.

This Monday is the Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross who generously served the sick-poor in 17th century Northern Italy./ We pray for those who care for the sick all around the world/ mindful of the great suffering of Ebola victims/ especially in West Africa./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask God to heal and bless our own families/ and families throughout the world/ in all their need and diversity./ And for persons without family or friend/ who suffer in anxiety and loneliness./ We pray to the Lord.

For the deceased persons we have known and loved over the years/ and for all the departed,/ we ask the fullness of life in the joy of God's mercy./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

His Holy and Venerable Hands

Detail Jairus' Daughter Raised ~ Gabriel von Max

AT THE CONSECRATION of the bread and wine in the First Eucharistic Prayer (also called The Roman Canon) at Mass,  the hands of Jesus are described as holy and venerable.

On the night before he was to suffer he took bread in his holy and venerable hands...
In a similar way when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands.

That the little phrase of five words appearing twice within moments of each other, suggests we might be be sure to pay attention to the hands of Jesus. They are called holy hands because they are God's hands, reaching into our troubled and burdened world.

We don't use the word venerable often. The word's Latin origin means commanding respect and admiration because of an impressive dignity or noble character.What a lovely thought: the holy and venerable hands of Jesus. We might consider in silence the painting detail above taken from a larger image of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus.

There are dozens of references to the hands of Jesus in the Gospels. Here are some verses from Matthew alone which might invite us to  deep meditations and joy:

Suddenly a man with a virulent skin-disease came up and bowed low in front of Jesus saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can cleanse me." Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying, "I am willing. Be cleansed." And his skin-disease was cleansed at once. (8:2,3) 
And going into Peter's house Jesus found Peter's mother-in-law in bed and feverish. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. (8:14,15) 
When Jesus reached the official's house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Get out of here; the little girl is not dead; she is asleep." And they ridiculed him.  But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took her by the hand; and she stood up. (9:23-26) 
Then Jesus instructed  the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves and the fish, and after giving thanks he broke them and began handing them to the disciples, who gave them to the crowds. (15:36)
At the Transfiguration of Jesus in brilliant light, Peter, James and John fell down on their faces. Saint Matthew tells us: But Jesus came up and touched them, saying, "Stand up, do not be afraid." And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but Jesus. (17:7,8)
Now there were two blind men sitting at the side of the road...Jesus felt pity for them and touched their eyes, and at once their sight returned and they followed him. (20: 30,34)

His Holy and Venerable Hands

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pomegranate Harvest

THE BEST POMEGRANATES are said to grow in Afghanistan, where today exports are increasing and opium production is decreasing as the fruit becomes globally more popular. We should be glad. 

Now is the time of the pomegranate harvest in Afghanistan. And as the fruit has been cultivated since the earliest days of civilization, it is symbolically rich. In other words, human beings have had a long time to think about the deeper significance or meaning of the tree and its fruit. Here considering some of the characteristics of the pomegranate and then, perhaps like a Rorschach test, what immediately comes to mind.

The only fruit worms do not eat or corrupt: Asking God to heal humankind of our own very deep corruption and loss.

When the roots of the pomegranate tree are separated, they always twist together again: Many roots insisting on unity. Human beings might try that for real - not for any gain, agenda or national interest, but simply for the sake of friendship.

One of the most juicy fruits found anywhere: It is said to be an original paradise plant, inviting us to consider the gifts of air, soil, water, the plants and animals.

It supplies a red dye from red seeds: prayers for the Ebola-stricken countries of Africa where sufferers bleed out shortly before death.

King Solomon had an enclosed garden of these trees: We each carry an inner enclosed garden - a place of intimacy with the God of life.

Pomegranates are the biblical symbol of abundance: The spiritual life is gratitude for the abundance surrounding us and the call to give ourselves in a like abundance.

Pomegranates symbolize the Christian attributes of the fertile Virgin: Mary! But perhaps also an inner gift untapped or un-expressed or that inner psychological place still held in reserve - waiting to open up to growth.

Sanctity ~ Holiness: The sign of sanctity is our personal evolution or changing, even in our psychology. That we would allow God to grow us up!

In the ancient Hebrew Temple of Jerusalem, the High Priest wore a vestment which had sewn decorative pomegranates of blue, purple, scarlet around the hem and small golden bells to scare away the demons at the temple threshold: That there are negative forces or energies that want us undone or taken down personally from the things of God and full human living. We need to be aware and protective of ourselves spiritually. 

Pomegranates are a symbol of the Church and God's spiritual gifts: The Church is the friends of Jesus gathered around him in the obedience of faith and love - working with Jesus to establish and extend God's Kingdom-Rule.

The Pomegranate tree possesses brilliant flowers without fragrance: We often approach a flower that has gotten our attention only to be disappointed to discover it has no fragrance. Why is it so often that we live in disappointment - that we feel it is never enough?

Sometimes the pomegranate is said to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge: The Genesis story tells us that our original downfall was/is our desire for knowledge and power. It seems we have an inability to let God be God.

The top of the pomegranate fruit is surrounded by rising parts that resemble a crown. The perfect kingdom: We create kingdoms, empires, realms, caliphates. Some pastors are kingdom builders. The Jesuit Fathers have as their motto: "To the Greater Glory of God."

With the fruit burst open, the pomegranate is called a symbol of concord, truth and frankness: These would be the character traits needed of world leaders who might someday set out to create a world of peace where families and orchards can grow and the planet heal of war.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Christ Emmanuel ~ God is with us.

October is Respect Life Month./ We pray for babies who are in the first month of life within the womb./ We pray for their mothers and fathers,/ asking for them gifts of generosity and strength./ We pray to the Lord.

In Respect Life Month we pray for prisoners around the world,/ asking for their inner healing and the conversion of  hearts to the truth of God's love./ We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those who suffer from Ebola/ and for health care workers who assist the sick or who research for a cure./ And as Africa is begging for a global response of compassionate assistance/ we pray for the world's heart to be moved./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Paul VI spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on October 4th, 1965./ He said, "War never again; never again war."/  We pray boldly/ asking God for the conversion of human hearts to the things of justice,/ which creates peace./ We pray to the Lord.

As there are meetings in Rome preparing the agenda for next years Synod on the Family,/ we pray to stop blaming others for the threats to marriage and family life./ We ask rather, / that we would know ourselves truly/ and set out to find healing where selfishness tires,/ strains and ruins family relationships./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for that true religious freedom which is interior./ For freedom from self-pity,/ addictions,/ ingratitude,/ hurtful impatience,/ and those actions which leave others lonely and unattended./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask God for the good health we need to do our work and to love our families./ We pray in solidarity with the sick,/ the fearful and depressed,/ the wounded,/ the dying and those with special needs and challenges,/ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for all the dead/ asking Jesus to welcome them into the heavenly banquet which is shared here at Mass./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Michael ~ Raising His Sword Against the Enemy of Illusion

MICHAEL, GOD'S GREAT ARCHANGEL, wielding a sword and in battle attire is often invoked and acclaimed for saving churches from enemy attacks, overcoming plagues, changing the course of rivers, creating healing springs, and winning battles. But I would suggest that the angel's real influence is interior and spiritual. 

We're more likely to hear about the spiritual danger of illusion from a Buddhist than from a Christian. Maybe this is Michael's real target as he raises his sword: to separate or save us from illusion.

What is illusion? The word comes from the Latin illudere: to mock. 1. A false idea or conception. 2. An unreal or misleading appearance or image.
  • the phrase The American People (what's that!?)
  • the speeches of the retired generals brought out at war time
  • polls and statistics to bolster argument
  • press secretary reports
  • everything is Breaking News 
  • political cliches and rhetoric
  • religious leaders who are really politicians 
  • candidates who make grandiose promises
  • agency reports that mislead or under report
  • the claims of products to make life perfect (quickly)
  • the lies we tell
  • the masks we wear
  • our arguing without knowing much
  • our hidden agenda and motives
  • falling back on power claims

Perhaps everything on this planet is illusory, because it fades. The joy of the first spring day in the garden disappears as the sun's heat increases and the first hand-blisters appear. The baby's smile is fleeting as hunger and fatigue bring on irritability.

Is illusion just fault-finding? No, illusion is much deeper than that. Fault finding is:
  • "Why can't you remember to put the bathroom seat down?" 
  • "Your potatoes are always so lumpy!" 
  • "Do you have to make so much noise eating?"
  • "You drive too fast and never come to a full stop." 
  • "You bought the wrong kind of butter, again."

Illusion on the other hand accepts or gives credibility to what appears to be real but conceals untruth. Illusion is everywhere. Perhaps we accept so much that's illusory because it leaves us undisturbed. It makes for a neat world, like the little monkey with his hands over his eyes and ears.

Does accepting the world as illusory make for a cynical worldview (nothing pleases; everything presses down)? I would say, absolutely not - at least for those who believe in the love of God - and all the more for those who know and trust God's love as it is shared with us in Jesus Christ who calls himself the Truth - the one who transcends fads, trends, fashions, innovation, the advice of experts and party spokespersons, the talk-show guests, the entertainment-news and all the claims made as the definitive and last word.

My brothers and sisters I need only add this. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and admirable. Put into practice what you have leaned from me and what I passed on to you, both what you heard from me and what you saw in me, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4: 8,9)

We hear an echo of this when Pope Francis tells the bishops and others gathered in Rome now, that the Synod on the Family is not for conversing about ideals and impressing others with our intelligence (illusion) but about helping people to live their lives authentically. 

I want to ask Michael the Archangel, with his sword held high, to sever from me (us) all that's pretend, or look alike, said to be true because it's born of power, all the insignia and protocols that conceal weakness, lies that are told to protect the guilty or to keep the peace, everything that's locked away, secreted, dreamed up, cooked, fanciful and falsely reported, buried away, lost. Then I am free, and unencumbered to know and love God.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

In October ~ Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

It's apple season in many parts of the country. The retreat house is just over the New York - Pennsylvania border and so there are apple orchards, barns and stands everywhere. There is a lovely hymn which calls Jesus an apple tree.

The lyrics to that poem/hymn are 18th century American. The later tune is sometimes found among Christmas music collections, though neither has anything to do with Christmas. Rather than just presenting the thoughts of others surrounding the hymn I might offer some new ideas of my own.

Jesus as apple tree, is metaphor of course. A metaphor is a symbolic way of speaking: two things are so closely identified with each other that by symbol they are made to look as if they were one and the same. 

  • She cried an ocean of tears.
  • He died of a broken heart.
  • It's raining cats and dogs.
  • You're the light of my life. 

But why call Jesus an apple tree? Human beings knew to eat apples 6000 years before the birth of Jesus. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," we say. Eating apples is a healthy thing to do. And people who knowingly or unknowingly follow Jesus' simple rule of loving others tend to be healthier and happier. I say unknowingly because there are people of course who are loving but who make no identification with Jesus. Indeed Jesus didn't invent love or a rule to follow the way of love - but he did bring love forward and surely modeled it as no one ever has before. Jesus is good for your health.

Apples are fragrant. The flowers of an apple tree in spring are wonderfully fragrant. Some people put an apple to their noses, inhaling the scent before biting into it. Even the wood of the tree itself has a lovely aroma. Now I'm thinking of that other fragrance which surrounds every Catholic Christian ~ the Chrism of our Baptism and Confirmation - and for the priest, his ordination. 

Chrism is consecrated once a year, just before Easter. And part of its blessing is the adding of fragrances, so when it is applied to the top of our heads, foreheads or hands we smell very nice indeed. The symbolism is: that we would leave behind us the lovely fragrance of Christ wherever we go in this life. 

Perhaps the most successful way of creating new apple trees is by grafting: a branch from one kind of apple tree is cut and attached to the trunk or main stem of another. Oh, to be grafted onto Christ - that his very life would careen in me and that I would be fruitful in his love. And what would that love look like?

"Have no fear of human sin. Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Care and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God's creation. The whole and every grain of sand on it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love." Fyodor Dostoyevsky ~ The Brothers Karamazov

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October 4 ~ The Feast of Blessed Francis

HERE'S A HILLY FIELD of wild flowers near Assisi ~ the home of Saint Francis. It's said that when God created the world, God made the fields around Assisi to be like a garden of extravagant bloom as this is where Saint Francis would someday walk.

There are numerous stories told of Francis and his followers. In one scene, Francis witnesses a wealthy man, (sitting on his horse), kill a beggar who has dared to approach him. Francis runs up to see if he can help the poor man who has fallen to the ground. Perhaps to keep Francis quiet, the murderer puts a gold coin into Francis' open palm. Without even closing his fingers around the coin, Francis turns his hand over, allowing the shiny coin to fall to the ground. The murderer rides off cursing angrily.

Francis is to have said to a young friar among his disciples: "It would be better for you to go outside into the street and kiss donkey dung than to touch money." 

We touch money, count and re-count money, play games to make quick money, manipulate and treasure money, delight in money, dream of money, even sometimes kiss money. Sad to say, but priests are often taken up with money. 

Christians are over-the-moon with love for Francis when he stays put, standing in the garden birdbath, but find the saint annoying, impossible or impractical when he says things like this about money. Still, on his feast day we might have a think about his money injunction and discover some way in which we might be able to even remotely make the teaching part of our lives. It's the change of attitude, that pleases Jesus. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Litany To My Guardian Angel ~ Feast October 2

Church Ceiling Angels ~ Ethiopia

Angel, guide me
Angel, strengthen me for the fight.
Angel, protect me from danger.
Angel, defend me from evil.
Angel, escort me to Jesus.

Angel, lead me in the way of repentance.
Angel, steer me in the way of prayer.
Angel, appear beside me on the day of my judgement.
Angel, sustain me in Christ's truth.
Angel, grow me up.

Angel, inspire me to love.
Angel, animate me to generosity.
Angel, bring me to true knowledge.
Angel, console me in my fears.
Angel, correct my thinking.

Angel, direct my steps.
Angel, keep me fixed on Jesus.
Angel, hold me up in gratitude.
Angel, support me in my stumbling.
Angel, prevent me from getting lost.

Angel, preserve me in faith.
Angel, shelter me beneath your wings.
Angel, share your thoughts with me.
Angel, lead me to the Light.
Angel, build me up in goodness.

Angel, teach me silence.
Angel, ground me in honesty.
Angel, create in me the clean heart.
Angel, instruct me in the way of forgiveness
Angel, open me to a deeper love for Jesus.

Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday Intercessions ~ Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Christ, Saviour of the World ~ Quinten Metsys

We ask God for us to see the wind,/ the waters,/ the plants and trees,/ the morning and evening time,/the soil and the vault of stars at night,/ the sun and all the animals/ as blessings for us to treasure./ We pray to the Lord.

There is hardly a place on the planet that is without serious troubles/ often born of power claims and abuses./ We ask for a world of new-hearted leaders,/ dedicated to the up-building of their people's development and peace,/ especially that of the children and the most vulnerable./ We pray to the Lord.

It seems no one is exempt from terror threats/ even the pope./ We pray for Francis our Pope and for his protection,/ health and well-being,/ asking God to turn militant hearts to the beauty of God's peaceable truth./ We pray to the Lord.

Prayers are daily requested of us by family,/ friends and colleagues./ And so we pray for them,/ asking for their health,/ strengthening and renewed faith/ even in the face of challenges and struggles./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask God to turn to the world where there are tears/ and to bestow gifts of consolation,/healing and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

There are communities around the world where there is such severe drought that water supplies will end in a matter of days or weeks./ We ask God to bestow the wonderful gift of rain where it is most needed and desired,/ and for God to rain within us what we need for salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask the Destroyer of Hell/ to bestow life to those in the tomb/ especially mindful of those we have loved,/ those who die without funeral rites or proper burial/ those who die in wars or who are forgotten./ We pray to the Lord.