Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Twelfth Station ~ Jesus is Crucified

Side of Christ ~ Medieval Pieta ~ Cloisters, NY

THE DEEP WOUNDS of Jesus' hands, feet and side are called his stigmata. It was the soldier's lance that opened his side - the soldier wanting to be certain that Jesus was dead before allowing his body to be removed from the cross. 

But there is more. Through this pierced side, a doorway is opened, giving us new access to the heart of Jesus where all the people of the world can touch God's great tenderness. The doorway is opened to the banquet of forgiveness arranged for us by God, where we will sit and be pleasantly surprised to see with whom we are sharing the table. And in joy we will and drink to our heart's content at this forgiveness-feast. 

And still more. There is yet another hollowed-out or opened-up side - the stigmata of my own side - into which I gather people so they can touch God's passionate love, which loves us each specially and always.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Station Eleven ~ Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

EVEN THE SILENT GESTURES of Jesus have meaning. Look at the enormity of Jesus stretch! Maxed out, we say. So many of us tell of great losses: a loved one's sudden death; sexual abuse; a father never known, virginity foolishly given or stolen away; infidelities; addiction; a home ruined with fighting and divorce; emotional absence where I'd hoped for love.

And a great loneliness has perhaps overwhelmed me, making living and believing painfully difficult. But how is it, in this moment of my life, I have been put in contact with this picture, this meditation? Is it God's way of finding me, perhaps lost in an abyss?

In Jesus, God himself has opened his arms to the whole human race, including me? Like an eternal priest before the altar, with arms outstretched in prayer, Jesus welcomes me personally. 

This is a crowded picture. But I can push the ladder, skull and robe aside in the forefront of the painting. I might imagine right now entering the scene and quietly approaching Jesus who is wide awake in pain, cold and loneliness. He will whisper something for my ears only. Listen!

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Station Ten ~ Jesus is Stripped of His Clothes

WHY DOES JESUS have his clothing taken away? There is a simple historical answer: the Roman soldiers wanted to shame him, exposing him fully to the belittling judgments of gawkers. But there is more. Maybe Jesus is disrobed at Calvary because in the Resurrection he will be robed in glory, robed in light.

There are signs of this in the lives of the saints. Peter Claver was a 16th century Spanish Jesuit priest who cared for the slaves shipped from Africa and brought to the New World through the port of Cartagena, Columbia. 

Peter would wait for the ships to arrive, filled with the most diseased and broken human cargo. Invading the hulls, he brought practical comfort and companionship to the hundreds of thousands who had been stolen away from their homes; now sick, disoriented, terrified, filthy, abused, degraded. 

It is said that his blood, pus and urine soaked priest's cloak smelled of flowers! A bit of Resurrection! Something of Christ's risen presence breaking through into our dirty world of dissolution and sin.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Station Nine ~ Jesus Falls A Third Time

THE WORLD DOESN'T TOLERATE long explanations Even the products we buy are sold by a word or phrase: Just do it! And so, What is love? In a word? Generosity. 

Jesus changed copious amounts of water into a fine wedding- wine. That's generous. Jesus fed five thousand people with a little bit of bread and a few fish. That's generous. When the men lowered their paralyzed friend down through the roof in front of Jesus who was teaching, Jesus responded to the intrusion with compassion and healing. That's generous.

Now Jesus is exhausted and down on the ground a third time but struggles back to his feet to finish the work he was given to do: to love us into something new. That's generous. 

Jesus proposes only one question to the Christian wanna-be, and he proposes it by his own example: Am I generous? Truly.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Intercessions ~ Fourth Sunday in Lent

We begin the month of April this week,/ praying again for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance in the weeks ahead./ For the blessings of good health,/ safety and inner peace./ We pray to the Lord.

Too often the Christian Church is known more for what it is against than what it has to proclaim positively and of God./ We ask for that new outpouring of the Holy Spirit which would enable the Church to make Jesus Christ attractive to all./ We pray to the Lord.

Continuing our prayer for the countries of the world/ we pray for the nations of: Bolivia,/ Bosnia and Herzegovina,/ Botswana,/ Brunei,/ Bulgaria,/ Burkina Faso and Burundi./ For peaceful times and the well-being of all./ We pray to the Lord.

The world is a place of dark impulses:/ murder,/ lies and power-abuse./ We boldly ask God for the gift and blessing of inner light./ We pray to the Lord.

To every Mass we bring hearts that are awake and aware of the sick,/ the poor,/ those troubled, weak and burdened./ We ask for them strength,/ healing and the presence of caring, helpful persons./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who die in wars and disasters./ We ask for their full joy in God's Kingdom of Love/ and for the consolation of those who mourn./ We pray to the Lord.

Station Eight ~ Jesus Speaks to the Women

"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN," Jesus taught us. But mourn for what? That God's Kingdom is not here yet, God's rule is not obeyed? 

A Jewish student at a Catholic high school suffered terrible bullying at the hands of his classmates. One episode included what the students called The Jew Game, in which a $5 bill was thrown on the floor to see if the Jewish student would pick it up. The boy's father removed the teenager and his brother from the school after this and other incidents, "We never heard of any disciplinary action," he said.

Earlier, when the father enrolled his sons, school officials had assured him that the school was "unabashedly Catholic". What does that mean? Unabashedly? Statues and crosses? Daily Mass? Instruction in Catholic sexual morality? Books loyal to the Magisterium? An elderly nun still around? The pope's picture in a gold frame in the the front lobby? Faculty who've signed an oath of orthodoxy? 

Jesus might stop along the way to Calvary and tell us to mourn and weep about this.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Station Seven ~ Jesus Falls a Second Time

SOLDIERS WERE EVERYWHERE as Jesus struggled up Calvary to be crucified. Executions were on a schedule and there were crowds to be controlled. Wherever they are mentioned in the Passion account the soldiers are seen as thugs, merciless experts in cruelty.

Surely soldiers are taught to be killers and these Roman soldiers had apparently learned their lessons well. But is there a little of the Roman soldier in each of us? The one who takes his/her power too seriously? That aspect of myself that forgets it is people who I'm dealing with and not a plan or day to be managed, a job that's got to be executed, "Come hell or high water."

The inner Roman soldier sees people as an inconvenience; can be scary, moody and testy. The Roman soldier is hurtful, humorless and pushy. 

On the other hand, there is a Christ-person within me too, (don't doubt it) the one who is full of light and compassion. How can I lift him up? Unbind her? Allow him to be heard?

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Station Six ~ Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

SOME PEOPLE SAY she never existed because Veronica and her kind deed of wiping the sweaty, bloodied face of Jesus are not recorded in the Gospels. Oh, we needn't waste time fussing and arguing about these things, we need only to let the story change us.

In this brave and brief moment, there is the tender story of a holy saint! Dorothy Day, who began the work of the The Catholic Worker with Peter Maurin wrote:

"We are all called to be saints, Saint Paul says, and we might as well get over our bourgeois fear of the name. We might also get used to recognizing the fact that there is some of the saint in all of us. In as much as we are growing, putting off the old man and putting on Christ, there is some  of the saint, the holy, the divine right there."

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...

Hail Mary full of grace...

Glory be to the Father... 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another Way of the Cross ~ Simon Helps Jesus

I MUSTN'T MINIMIZE SIMON'S kindness just because the gospel tells us he was "pressed into service." We all know this kind of scenario: the telephone rings and there's an urgent request and I'd rather be left alone to eat my meal, listen to my music, finish my work or watch my show.

A woman's van flipped and went off the road on a snowy evening. A window was broken and the the vehicle's interior quickly grew cold. A passerby stopped. After phoning for an ambulance, she stayed with the driver who couldn't be moved. Covering her legs with her own coat and holding her hand, she prayed for the people who were coming to help and for all the people traveling on dangerous roads. 

As the gurney was being put into the ambulance, the Samaritan said good-bye with warm wishes and a kiss. Simon walked with Jesus and helped him one step at a time. Love is kind.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Station Four ~ Jesus Meets His Mother

WHEN LITTLE CHILDREN ARE HURT, they run to their mothers who kiss their wounds and announce, "There, all better!" But Mary can't do that now. Like Jesus, she is helpless and has her own surrendering to do. How did she ever do this?  All Mary can do now is to look at Jesus, speak to him with her eyes, perhaps touch him as he passes by.

This anguished little boy is Afghan Hassin Ullah. He lives in a refugee camp near the Pakistan border of Chaman. Mothers still grieve for their pained children. Crushed by their own poverty, they stand by helplessly. 

We're all called to be helpless grieving mothers. Can we stop along the way and even from a great distance join Hassin's mother in her own grieving or take her place if she is dead or has disappeared?

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Station Three ~ Jesus Falls

JESUS HAS BEEN BADLY BEATEN and now he carries his cross. It is said that the crossbeam alone weighed about ninety pounds. So these are not little stumbles but increasingly repeated and exhausted collapses. 

Walking with Jesus, I may become aware of my own repeated falling - my inconsistencies, my weakness in prayer, my forgetting to attend to the things that matter most: "You have been told, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) 

In this painting, Jesus having fallen, looks over his shoulder - at me. He understands. In truth, my falls are not born of malice towards God but are more the result of inattentive haste, loneliness, self-centeredness, forgetting, anxiety or immaturity.

Oh Jesus, grow-me-up strong, awake and persevering!

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Station Two ~ Jesus Carries the Cross

GOOD FRIDAY WAS AN ANGRY DAY, Jesus picking up his cross, surrounded by angry guards and the vulgar crowd. But of course, Good Friday didn't have a corner on anger - anger is everywhere and everyday. Why do we resort to anger so easily? We even celebrate anger and feed it.

Anger is a cloak used to cover our own powerlessness. But as he embraces the cross, Jesus wants me to pay attention to that powerlessness. Indeed, Jesus claims that only God has real power. If I am going to follow Jesus in discipleship then I have to find my way through this seeming contradiction of the Gospel:
"Then Jesus took a child and placed it by his side and said, 'Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.'" (Luke 9:47)

Oh Jesus, 
obedience to you 
requires the vulnerability 
of living without claims to power.

At times the best I can do 
is simply to walk beside you
as with baby steps,
trusting you understand.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another Way of the Cross ~ Jesus is Shown to the Crowd

PILATE IS SHOWING JESUS to the crowd which is ugly with delight. "Look, here is the man" he announces (John 19:5). Maybe seeing Jesus pummeled, pathetic and crowned with thorns will change their hearts, satisfy their lusts. But through bribery and stupidity the crowd shouts louder, "Let him be crucified," (Matthew 27:23). There is stubborn stupidity everywhere.

Oh Jesus,
forgive the stubborn stupidity of my stereotyping,
of my resentments,
unyielding self-righteousness.

Forgive even the secret
of my life ~
withholding my heart from you ~
which you have always wanted to enter
only to change me by your love.

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Lent

There is great tension in the world these days./ We ask for the blessings of sensible dialogue/ and the non-violent resolution of conflicts in Syria,/ Ukraine and Venezuela./ We pray to the Lord.

We are moving through Lent quickly./ We do not have forever./ Bless us with gifts of insight and the will to grow in Christ's joy and compassion./ We pray to the Lord.

Observing the little signs of the Spring's thawing,/ we pray for the thawing of resentments,/ negative stereotyping,/ obstruction and old hatreds./ We pray to the Lord.

As Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well/ we ask to catch the missionary spirit he entrusts to her./ That we would never hide Christ/ but make him known in joy./ We pray to the Lord.

The marginalized woman in this Sunday's Gospel/ goes to the well at the hour when no one will be there./ We pray for those who are marginalized throughout the world:/ persons of color,/ ethnicity,/ sexual orientation,/ marital status,/ caste,/ poverty./ We pray to the Lord.

This past week the Church celebrated the Feast of Saint Joseph/ guardian and protector of the Virgin Mary and the Infant Christ./ We pray for families all around the world in their great variety,/ asking for their health,/ stability,/ well-being and safety./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all who ask for the healing of memories,/ relationships,/ body or spirit./ We continue our prayer for those lost in the Malaysian Flight 370/ and those who are searchers and who wait for news of loved ones./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Joseph ~ That With Spiritual Sight Made Pure...

THIS AMAZING PAINTING of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus comes from 17th-18th century Peru. Of course the pair didn't dress like this, but their fabulous clothes are demonstrative of delight in heavenly things, joyful faith, and over-the-top love. All's well here: the hills are flowering and Jesus is secure hand-in-hand with Joseph. The boy carries a small basket with carpenter tools, much as a little child would carry a play tool box today.

Joseph is handsome, wide-eyed and  proud of the boy, happy in his calling. A lily in the hand of a saint always indicates chastity. But I think it's much more than that. The Collect from the Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent prayed:

O God Who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.

"That with spiritual sight made pure..." How do we even begin to attain that kind of sight? Joseph points the way.

We live in a culture that can't stop talking. We take "freedom of speech" so literally our problem has become "too much speech". Where there is much talking, sin cannot be avoided, a priest friend says. And we are to believe everything that's said is important, funny and true. Joseph's life-way wasn't easy: the confusion of Mary's pregnancy, resolute in the face of what must have been his family's disappointment if not horror, standing with Mary when the community could have stoned her, the exhausting travel, Herod wanting the newborn gone, losing the twelve-year old boy. There was a lot Joseph could have complained about bitterly. But's he's silent. There's no recorded word of Joseph throughout the Gospel accounts. 

Joseph usually receives accolades for his purity and obedience. I think his silence is the most important virtue he has to share with us. We can't hear God or each other because there's so much talking and so little listening. The beauty of the old Mass is that it was essentially silent. I often wonder about the Mass we have today - that there are so many words. It frequently strikes me as very noisy, especially when there is a piling up of hymns. 

Anyway, maybe in this second week of Lent we might listen not just to the fact that so many others are talking so much, but we might be all the more aware of ourselves. Or that even our prayer is too talkative. We might add a new dimension to our Lent in silencing so much of the noise that's born of talking. We might find the more quiet day to be unnerving. I wonder if a lot of people hate Jesus Christ because he is to be listened to. Jesus is even called The Word and we often don't like listening (unless we find it tantalizing or flattering). Shhhh!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Fourteenth Station ~ Jesus is Buried in the Tomb

THE BODY OF JESUS is put away in a borrowed tomb. Father Gregory Petrov was a Russian Orthodox priest who died in a Siberian prison camp in 1940.  He composed a great prayer there called, The Akathist of Thanksgiving. The sung prayer is a great celebration of God's glory found in even the smallest things and the ordinary events of daily life. 

The song-prayer is most appreciated when we understand and hold the memory that it was written by a man from whom all promise of life, beauty, happiness and goodness was seemingly denied.

I was born on earth as a feeble and helpless child, but your angel spreading his shiny wings, has sheltered my cradle. From that moment your love shines in all my ways and miraculously guides me into the light of eternity. For that my soul praises you and hails you with all who know you.

Glory to you, who has called me into life.
Glory to you, who are revealing to us the beauty of the universe.
Glory to you, who are opening to us heaven and earth as an
     eternal   book of wisdom.
Glory to your eternity in this passing world.
Glory to you, for your covert and overt mercies.
Glory to you, for every sigh of my suffering heart.
Glory to you, for every step of my life, every moment of joy.
Glory to you, O God through all the ages.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Feast of Saint Patrick ~ and the Breastplate

SAINT PATRICK, who was born about 385 in the British Isles, was carried off while still very young during a raid on England by the Irish and sold as a slave. At the end of six years he managed to escape to Europe., became a monk and was ordained a priest; he then returned to Ireland to preach the Gospel. During the thirty years that his missionary labors continued he covered the Island with churches and monasteries. St. Patrick died in 461. After fifteen centuries he remains for all the Irish the great bishop whom they venerate as their father in faith.

Patrick founded his first stone church in Ireland n the site now occupied by Saint Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral, known as Sally Hill, in the year 445. The Book of Armagh relates a beautiful tradition  that when St. Patrick took possession of Sally Hill a deer with her fawn leaped from the bushes. His companions wanted to catch and kill the fawn but the Saint would not allow them. He himself took the fawn on his shoulders and carried it, followed by its mother, to Sandy Hill, the site of the present Cathedral. The incident has been fondly seen as an echo of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

The prayer here, attributed to Patrick, is called Saint Patrick's Breastplate. A breastplate being a piece of armor, the prayer is one of protection against the things, visible and invisible, that threaten, menace and tempt.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan River,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet 'Well done' in judgement hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord.
and purity of Virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star-lit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned arrow,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

The Thirteenth Station ~ Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross

HUMAN HATRED HAS REACHED a high point. Jesus, who is God come into our world, to find, restore and love us into a new kind of creation, is crucified to his death. But in the face of this awful hatred we see God's still more tremendous love. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) 

Here in this descent from the cross, Rembrandt has placed himself as a young man tenderly and closely embracing Jesus. In truth, we were all at the cross on Good Friday. By my folly and wandering I stand alongside those who hated Jesus on that day.  

But now, in this very moment, I can move to the side of love, estranging myself from sin and by practicing goodness - even to the renewal of my mind. I have before me a decision, the decision to make for good choosing or bad choosing.

Oh Jesus, I place myself on the side of love. Speak to me too the words you addressed to the imploring thief,  "Today you will be with me in Paradise!" (Luke 23:43)


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Twelfth Station ~ Jesus is Crucified

THE CROSS HAS BECOME a kind of pulpit from which Jesus taught us even to the end. And the first words of the crucified Jesus were: "Father forgive..." 

Forgiveness, the distinguishing characteristic or mark of the disciple is most difficult to achieve. I might imagine myself tucked into this crowd beneath the cross, perhaps next to Mary (for strengthening), and where the gaze of Jesus falls. But also in the crowd are those I have yet to forgive. Jesus asks nothing of me that he doesn't require of himself. That he expects us to forgive is likely why he has so many enemies.

Father John Krestiankin was a much-loved and holy priest-monk of the Pskovpecherski Monastery in Russia. On Forgiveness Sunday, the week before the start of Lent (1986) he offered this soul-touching sermon. We must remember that Father Krestiankin lived through decades of Soviet persecution - which is said to have been the most terrible persecution of the Church since the early centuries. 

"It is not possible to know divine joy - not possible to enjoy people without making suffering  people happy. Those who do only a little good in this life will receive only a little in the next. Savior; teach me to forgive from  my whole soul anyone who has offended me in any way. My Lord, I know I can't stay before you with all the hostilities I hide inside. The cancer is that we don't pay attention to this. My heart becomes hardened without love. Help me God, to forgive everyone the way you forgave the thief on the cross. We must forgive always not just today. My heart should be full of love and peace always. Of course, if we think like this, we will forgive even our enemies. 

Lord, let us not offend nor be offended. Let us be patient and pray for those who offend us. So friends, let us love each other. And let us not care whether our enemies love us or not. But we should love them. And our only care should be finding the way to love them. On this earth we can't only meet those who love us. It's not possible to be on earth without meeting hostilities. It's impossible for everyone to love us, but it's possible and an obligation for us to love everyone."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Eleventh Station ~ Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

SO MUCH INGRATITUDE. God's hands of kindness and mercy have been opened to us, and we have nailed those hands to the cross. God has walked among us in love, and we have nailed those feet to the cross.

I must never be surprised by ingratitude Indeed, I mustn't even expect, anticipate or require the gratitude of others. From the start in Eden we are not very good at gratitude. Only God is sure to reward. 

And when we are surrounded by ingratitude and every good thing we do seems to go unnoticed or forgotten, we can trust that God knows and that is all that matters. And God will hold us up and perhaps even send us some human hand to reassure us of his presence and grateful love. Here, Jesus looks into our own space, expecting ingratitude. He understands our weakness. 

O Jesus, share life and love with me - your grace - so I can be patient  with everyone, especially myself.


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mother of God Merciful and of the Dawn

THIS ICON FROM CYPRUS is titled Mother of God, Merciful. It is of the Hodegetria type: The Infant Christ looking like a little man (he is always the Lord), is seated on his Mother's throne-like left arm. His feet suspended, with one arm he cradles his Word from heaven while blessing us.

With her right hand the Holy Mother indicates or points not to herself, but to him. Hodegetria is sometimes translated Shower of the Way.  Both the Christ and his Mother look, not at each other, but at us. They wish us all-good.

But Mary's great gold-trimmed Maphorion is lovely shades of pink - color taken from the dawn sky - color which signifies the new day. But spiritually new day means renewal, restoration, beginning again and transformation. Color psychology indicates that rose and pink have anti-depressant energies. That's interesting, as one of the first things a depressed person says about his or her symptoms is I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

We might print small copies of this soft-smiling Mother and her Son - wrapped in the warm tones of  new beginning, the new day and persevering attempts at growth and change. Tape the Mother and Child up everywhere.

Having said that, I'd like to offer the icon and prayer here to priests all around the world. The clergy is/are in need of a new day. Fathers, let's put her on our shaving mirror.

More than a few of us need help with our depression ~ pray God a new day.
Many of us suffer untreated addictions ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests have lost their interior Christ-life  ~ pray God a new day.
There are rectory tables where Church things are talked about but not Jesus ~ pray God a new day.
Some of us burden and sadden the people with our moodiness ~ pray God a new day.

Some priests think more about money and time-off than anything else ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests make it clear they don't want to be bothered ~ pray God  a new day.
While priests claim high job satisfaction, many don't do very much that's priestly ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests have become liturgical fashion plates and interior decorators ~ pray God a new day.
There's  the expression: From the bed linen, to the altar linen, to the table linen ~ pray God a new day.

There are priests who work only on their duty day ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests preach everything but Jesus ~ pray God a new day.
Not a few priests live in their offices or in living rooms watching daytime TV ~ pray God a new day.
Some rectories are effectively hotels ~ we talk secretly about the sick men we live with ~ pray God a new day.
Some of us are kingdom builders and power-abusers ~ pray God  a new day.

Too many of us are waiting for the people to come to us ~ pray God a new day.
Many of us would rather bury the dead than work creatively with the engaged ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests live in sarcasm, bitter and low-end humor ~ pray God a new day.
Lots of us don't know who we are when we're not wearing specialized clothing ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests don't believe anymore and have become dispensers of piety, cliche and dead religion ~ pray God a new day.

Many pastors act like General Managers instead spiritual guides ~ pray God a new day.
Priests often do nothing to heal their loneliness ~ pray God a new day.
Priests often feel entitled and have become pompous ~ pray God a new day.
Some priests live with deep resentments ~ pray God a new day.
Older priests and younger priests sometimes think they've got it over the other ~ pray God a new day.

O Lady, grant me compunction and contrition of heart,
humility in my thoughts,
a healing remedy for what ails me,
release from the slavery of my own reasonings
and the light of a new day.

The Tenth Station ~ Jesus Is Stripped of His Clothes

IN THE ANCIENT GREEK WORLD, the Olympic Games were held every four years on Mount Olympus, the Sanctuary of Zeus. There were no team sports, but rather each man set out singly into the contest, one against the other. 

The sports were javelin and discus throwing, sprints, long jump and races. Wrestling and boxing were violent contests with only minimal restrictions. Athletes entered the contests naked and were considered to be part god and part human in a world of otherwise inferior and weaker mortals.

But now Jesus is the naked athlete, on Calvary, not Olympus. His fight isn't with a visible enemy - he put that idea away in the garden of his arrest. But Jesus fights an invisible enemy. 

Someone might say, "O then it's all just a metaphor." But metaphor doesn't mean that something is not real. Metaphor means that something is most real. Jesus contests with whatever is dark, sinful, evil, menacing, self-destructive. Jesus naked, went to the mat for some part of my life that had gotten too much power and needed to be taken down.


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Intercessions ~ The Second Sunday of Lent

Pope Francis has been pope for one year./ We ask blessings for him/ and that the world would catch his spirit of joy and hope./ We pray to the Lord.

Millions of Syrian children are suffering terribly in the fighting which afflicts their country./ We pray for them and for the agencies attempting to help./ We pray to the Lord.

Mindful of the disappearance of the Malaysian flight near China/ we pray for those who await news of loved-ones/ and for those who are searchers and helpers./ We pray to the Lord.

While there are little hints of spring/ we pray all the more for an inner Lenten springtime/ which opens us to the truth about ourselves as we stand before God./ We pray to the Lord.

We continue to pray over the world/ asking the blessings of peace and well-being for the countries of Belarus,/ Belgium,/ Belize,/ Benin,/ Bermuda and Bhutan./ And for the peaceful resolution of tensions in Ukraine./ We pray to the Lord.

For our relatives and friends,/ travelers and those who suffer in any way,/ for prisoners,/ the aged and those who struggle with special needs./ We pray to the Lord.

Grateful for God's kind mercies,/ we ask gifts of light and life for those who have died/ and consolation and faith for those who mourn./ We pray to the Lord

The Ninth Station ~ Jesus Falls the Third Time

WE HEAR OF DOGGED DETERMINATION to become an Olympian or to win the big prize money on the reality TV show. But here is a determination that almost defies our understanding or appreciation: Jesus returning to his feet after this third crushing fall. 

If I'm a disciple of Jesus, then I return to my feet, fall after painful fall: moral failing, faithlessness in my problems, succumbing to cravings and addictions, letting myself down, setting out again after discouragement. Why? Because Jesus did. He knows how difficult it can be and that the raising up may be pained and slow.

Saint Peter writes: "No one can hurt you if you are determined to do only what is right; and blessed are you if you have to suffer for being upright. Have no dread of them; have no fear. Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15)


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Eighth Station ~ Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem

SOBBING, WAILING WOMEN meet Jesus along the way as he carries his cross to Calvary. He stops to tell them not to cry for him but for themselves and for your children. This is a mysterious saying cry for your children.

In Italy there is a Christmas tale told with a dark side. A mother has lost her baby in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, ordered by Herod who was jealous of the newborn boy being called a king. But Joseph, warned of the danger by a dream-angel, took Mary and the Infant Jesus to the safety of Egypt.

But this other mother, overwhelmed with grief, packed her child's belongings in a bag and searched among all the remaining children for her own. The long travel and worry caused her to grow ugly, worn out and beggarly. 

Finally she found the Child Jesus, placing the bag of clothes at his feet, embittered that her baby had been killed while Jesus escaped. But Jesus blessed her and gave her the new name La Befana, which means The Bestower. Though her sadness remained, Befana, outwardly ugly but inwardly beautiful, left Jesus and spent the rest of her days giving gifts to children.

And let us cry too for the dead children - the children who died at Bethlehem, who die in abortions, and the children who died (and die still) at Wounded Knee, Hiroshima, Dresden, My Lai, Gaza, Beirut, Birmingham, Baghdad, Calcutta, Chicago...


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Seventh Station ~ Jesus Falls the Second Time

A PRE-MEDITATED CRIME is one in which every detail of the scene is scrupulously thought out beforehand: all possibilities are anticipated, all the potential problems  resolved in the imagination. And so to meditate is simply to fix my mind on the gospel scene - perhaps to take up a role in the sacred drama and to let it unfold in my mind, even in the details: the touch of Jesus, the words of Jesus, the look of Jesus. 

How often we lament, "I'm having such hard time these days." And then we tell the sad tale: the injuries suffered, the disappointing failure, the unwanted responsibilities, the money or health woes, the over-burdening requests, the self-doubting, the beckoning of the past. 

There is really only one thing for the Christian to do: get beneath the cross with Jesus and carry at least a little piece of the wood with him. Or if that won't do, at least walk alongside Jesus in my mind as he does the work for me. After awhile, I'll see how much stronger I am beside Jesus - stronger than I ever imagined!

"Do not let your hearts be troubled," Jesus said to the apostles before they left for the Garden of Gethsemane, (John 14:1)


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10 ~ The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

THE NUMBER FORTY IS A HOLY NUMBER. Often it means a great or long time, as in spending a long time with God or God working over a long time. Today is the feast of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, Armenia. The feast was dropped from the liturgical calender in the reforms of 1969. I won't side-track by opion-ating about that. Rather....

While the Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity, Licius was one of those more local imperial rulers who rejected it, and even required all of his soldiers to worship idols. A group of forty Christian elite soldiers set themselves apart and refused to abandon their Christianity. As enticements they were offered pay-raises, promotions and other benefits, but they persisted in their refusal.

Licius had them imprisoned, threatened and beaten - they remained steadfast. Finally he had them thrown naked onto a frozen pond in the depths of winter. Baths were placed around the perimeter of the ice to entice them to renege. While they prayed ardently to maintain the number forty, one left the group, but a soldier who guarded the group, edified by their strength, joined the group restoring the number to forty.

It took them three days of die of exposure. They continually prayed  the 91st Psalm. In Nigeria where Christians are targeted, an American group asked, "What can we give you; what do you need?" They answered, "Send us black clergy shirts so we can see our priests when we are being killed." Stunning.

It is said that the Forty Martyrs sang the 91st psalm throughout the ordeal We might pray this psalm as well in our own trials and burden-carrying. It is very beautiful and featured in the movie A Trip to Bountiful, with Geraldine Page. A must-see.

He who dwells under the shelter of the Most High,
Who abides under the shadow of the Almighty,
Says of the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress,My God, in whom I trust."

For he rescues you from the snare of the fowler,
From the deadly pestilence;
With his pinions he covers you,
And under his wings you find refuge.
His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Not the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor the devastating plague that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side.
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it will not come near you.
You will but gaze upon with your eyes
And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge.
And the Most High your habitation.
No disaster will befall you,
Nor calamity come near your tent.
For he will give his angels charge over you,
To guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up upon their hands,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Upon the lion and the viper you will tread;
Upon the young lion and the dragon you may trample.
Because he cling fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will set him on high because he knows my name.
When he calls upon me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in time of trouble;
I will set him free and honor him,
With long life I will content him,
And show him my salvation.

The Sixth Station ~ Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

VERONICA HAS CROSSED THE LINE. She has no business approaching a condemned man. And to be offering him the comfort of a towel! She's breaking all the rules. 

Jesus told the parable of the farmer who planted his field by throwing seed everywhere by the fistful  (Matthew 13:4-9). It seems that most of the seed was lost as it landed on the path where the birds ate it up. Some seed fell where the thorn bushes choked it out. Other seed landed where the soil was thin and the roots hit the rock shelf and it was killed by the sun. But at least some of the seed fell where there was good soil, and it grew very nicely and produced an abundant crop.

Surely the good seed of Jesus' Word fell in Veronica's heart as she was moved to such a brave love.

Oh Jesus, make my heart like a field of good ground, where your Word of life and light can take root. Make me fruitful - abundant in tender but brave good works.


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Fifth Station ~ Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

THE GOSPEL TELLS US that Simon was coming home from his work in the fields when the soldiers forced him to help carry Jesus' cross awhile. His having been beaten so severely, the soldiers were afraid Jesus wouldn't make it to the top of Calvary. That would mean trouble for them.

We can imagine Simon's fear having to get involved in this execution. Maybe he was afraid that he'd be hurt by the surrounding violence, or that this was going to take more time than he could afford, or fear of what others would think of his contact with this condemned man. Or perhaps he was simply lost in un-imagined fears.

Oh Jesus, I am a slave to fear, free me! I want to sing, My heart is ready O God, my heart is ready. Ready to serve. Ready to learn. Ready to be generous. Ready to trust. Ready... 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Fourth Station ~ Jesus Meets His Mother

THIS IS A GREAT AND MYSTERIOUS THING - the tears of Mary. Her anguish must matter because years before, when Jesus was an infant, Simeon had told her: "A sword of sorrow will pierce your soul." Surely Simeon meant more than just watch out or get ready. 

Tears can heal. We feel better after a good cry. I can wonder about the healing value of Mary's tears. What did she know? How did she share in all of this? Though the hour for Jesus to undertake the work of his suffering and death was known only to the Father, it was Mary who got Jesus started by proposing he begin at the Cana wedding (John 2: 1-11).

Mary seems to possess a painful secret and she weeps. And my own bitter tears? - over personal wounds and secrets, over the world's sad scenes, over the pain I may have caused, the personal knowledge I have that is sometimes too much to bear.


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...

Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Intercessions ~ First Sunday of Lent

Eastern Christians have begun Lent as well./ We ask for new understanding and efforts towards unity among the Christians of East and West./ We pray to the Lord.

Lent is the Church's springtime./ Aware of the deep hatreds present in our world/ we ask for the warming and new growth of forgiveness and mutual love/ where there are pained divisions,/ violence and death./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask never to take our Christian lives for granted/ or to be lukewarm in living it./ And we pray for Christians who are troubled and harassed in many places./ We pray to the Lord.

Praying for a peaceful resolution of deep tensions between Ukraine and Russia,/ we also pray for the people of  Austria,/ Azerbaijan,/ Bahamas,/ Bahrain,/ Bangladesh and Barbados./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust our families to Christ this First Sunday of Lent,/ calling to mind family members who are sick,/ burdened,/ anxious or in any difficulty./ We pray to the Lord.

At Mass today we hold in our hearts the children of the world:/ those waiting to be born,/ the abused,/ exploited and forsaken./ We ask for every child to be welcomed and treasured./ We pray to the Lord.

We have set out in the journey to Easter,/ holding in love those who have died/ asking for the forgiveness of sins committed,/ and the Resurrection promise of the fullness of life./ We pray to the Lord.

The Third Station ~ Jesus Falls the First Time

From the Vietnam War: the fleeing of napalm bombing

IN PICTURES DEPICTING the repeated falls of Jesus we see him surrounded by bullying soldiers who do their job in the service of the Roman Imperial Army. They spit at Jesus, hit him, stick out their tongues and scold him violently along the way. 

Carol Penner has written a Prayer Against Violence for the Mennonites, who are a non-violent Peace Church. I can pray this prayer, asking for the conversion of our violent world and for my own conversion to the things of God's peace.

Perfect love casts out fear and so today we pray for your spirit of Love on our world.

Cast out the strapping of bombs to bodies.
Cast out the explosion of bombs in crowded places.
Cast out the tricking of children to carry bombs.
Cast out the desperation that leads people to terrorist acts.
Cast out the making of walls that divide and imprison us.
Cast out the firing of missiles and the bulldozing of homes.
Cast out the prejudice against people of a certain race or culture.
Cast out the political structures that perpetuate violence.
Cast out the hatred that produces fear.
Send down the courage to reach out in peace.
Send down the resolution to not return evil for evil.
Send down the creativity to find peaceful political solutions.
Send down the wisdom that politicians and diplomats need.
Send down the commitment to work together to end terrorism.
Send down the power of nonviolence to create change.
Send down the comfort and justice that victims need.
Send down the love that will end our fear.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Second Station ~ Jesus Picks Up His Cross

HERE JESUS HAS PICKED UP HIS CROSS, the hill rises before him, and as he walks he pauses to look over his shoulder. His eyes are searching. What, or more importantly, who is Jesus looking for? Perhaps an old friend: Peter, Andrew, Thomas, Philip. Where has everyone gone?

Maybe Jesus is hoping to catch sight of his grieved yet consoling Mother. Or has a faithful friend called his name and he has turned, hoping to find a familiar face in the crowd? 

But remember when earlier in the Gospels, Jesus approached the potential disciples with the words, "Come follow me." And in another Gospel place where Jesus charged those who would follow him, that each would have a personal cross to pick up and carry. 

So maybe Jesus is looking back through all of time to this very moment, hoping to see my face among those who, rather than having run away in fear, have followed close by in humility, obedience and a deep love!


Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...

Glory be to the Father...