Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Intercessions ~ Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. John Vianney ~ Cure of Ars

Every country has its own sins;/ we ask God to forgive ours:/ where there is racism,/ violence,/ consumerist greed and aggression,/ our own forms of idolatry/ and belief that problems are to be resolved by death./We pray boldly for our conversion./ We pray to the Lord.

As August begins/ we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for them/ good health,/ safety,/ peace and well-being./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of Saint John Vianney/ the patron saint of parish priests./ We pray for priests to guide us out of exhausted and false religion/ to the fresh beauty of the Gospels./ We pray to the Lord.

August 6th is the Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration and the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki./ We ask God to show the world the way to be freed of these weapons/ capable of destroying the paradise-planet God has given us./ We pray to the Lord.

Life on this planet is difficult and burdensome for many children./ We pray:/ asking for them the health,/ nutrition,/ education,/ inclusive love and peace they need to grow well./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who work in hospitals and clinics,/ for researchers, rescuers and technicians./ For the sick,/ the weak and the dying/ and for those who care for them./ We pray to the Lord.

And we pray for all who have died this week,/ entrusting them to the kind love of Jesus/ who forgives,/ heals,/ restores and brings to life./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yellow Loosestrife

Yellow Loosestrife along the retreat house road

This is Fringed Loosestrife. It is sometimes called Yellow Loosestrife or Willow~Herb because it has willow-like leaves. Loosestrife grows in damp wooded areas and thickets throughout much of the country, blooming from June to August. Loosestrife's delicate flowers face downward. I wonder if that's a design feature to shed rain?

Loosestrife's botanical name is Lysimachia ciliata which may have meant loosen (to end, to drop, to let go of) strife.  So the meaning of the plant's name is Loosen the Strife: set us free from all the fighting and argument, the hatred and enmity, the contention and resentment.

Maybe we should make Yellow Loosestrife the National Flower and put it on each state flag. Big bouquets of it in every church, synagogue and mosque. A sprig on every politician's podium - on every cleric's pulpit. Fields of  it along the highway median. Gardens of Loosestrife around all the government buildings! Vases of it in every home, office and news-entertainment studio.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dappled Things

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a 19th century Catholic convert, an English Jesuit and poet. His style was new and lots of folks don't like new, so his poems weren't published until after his death. How blessed are we then! 

For this poet-priest, God's Revelation and nature go hand in hand. This past week I re-discovered his poem, Pied Beauty, which I remember studying in college English at St. John's University in New York. I don't remember what the professor said about the meaning of the poem, so I've done my own study and reflecting and am pleased to share some of that with you.  Here's the poem:

Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.

The Latin motto of the Jesuit Fathers is Ad maiorem Dei gloriam - To the greater glory of God. And so, like bookends, the poem begins and ends with a declaration of God's Glory.

Then for some verses Hopkins teases out where he witnesses God's glory in things that are dappled - that is, spotted and varied. Like the sky when colors touch each other as at sunrise and sunset or if a storm is approaching or light is coming through clouds. Or a spotted cow.

I came across a stream once which was packed with trout all swimming gently upstream. And the sunlight made them shiny and their colors intense as they moved the way fish do. Dappled.

And then for a moment the poet changes direction and takes us from these things that are real and observable outside to the inner reality of our souls in all their variety, using the image of chestnuts that are roasted and glowing (Fresh-firecoal) as they burst open. Then simply the beauty of finches' wings.

Making my descent into Dublin Airport years ago I was indeed taken by the fields over quilted hills and all the various shades of green depending upon the light and whether the field was resting (fallow) or planted and with what: sugar beets, oats, wheat, barley, potatoes. 

Then Hopkins makes a very sensitive move as he considers us - human persons hand in hand with the creator. Us - in all our variety and with our tools and the things we make and use (tradesgear, tackle and trim). He thinks about us in our original ideas and inventions. 

And us where we don't understand or are ignorant (like the rejection of his new kind of poetry) or where human variety is undervalued or known only remotely, by hear-say or prejudice (fickle, freckled), or to which we are not accustomed (who knows how). This is very wonderful as we often tend to value only what is orthodox, approved, acceptable, sanctioned, allowed, legitimate, lawful. My goodness! 

Instead, Hopkins is saying: Oh let's not be so stingy with our appreciations ~ God has made it all (He fathers-forth). Look! Every aspect and every one, even that which we don't acknowledge~in the variety and contrasts (swift/slow) and what we're blind to (adazzle) ~ Look! all of this and all of these are of God's one and beautiful creation. Let us Praise God in this!

And I'm thinking of people who have done incomprehensibly hideous things: each of them was once someone's dearest little boy or girl. Or maybe they were not and should have been.

Wow! If we could only accept this - what love there would be! What peace! What justice! But this is very hard for some people - inconceivable really.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Intercessions ~ Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today is the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anna, the grandparents of the Virgin Mary./ We pray for our relatives and friends/ asking for them all that is good/ where health,/ security,/ balance and peace are lacking or threatened./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis will be coming to the United States in September./ For our nation to be attentive and listening./ We pray to the Lord.

In the summer time we pray for travelers and vacationers/ asking the blessings of safety,/ renewal and health./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of Saint Martha/ who with Lazarus and Mary were the friends of Jesus./ For the strengthening of friendships and for those who are alone,/ without support or love in their lives./ We pray to the Lord.

One year after Africa's deadly Ebola epidemic/ many thousands of children have been left orphaned./ Many are despised and rejected./ We pray for them/ and all the world's children to be accepted,/ valued and loved./ We pray to the Lord.

For the sick,/ the hungry,/ the displaced and the war weary./ For prisoners,/ mourners and the elderly-poor./ For those who are neglected,/ abused or exploited./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for our own relatives and friends who have died./ For those forgotten in death./ And for any who have lived badly/ to know the kind mercy of Jesus which converts and transforms./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"...where all the beauty comes from..."

Someone wrote the other day and at the end of the email this quote from C.S. Lewis was attached:
"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from..." 

Maybe C.S. Lewis was looking over his shoulder as he pondered his life. But if we'd care to make the quote our own, we can frame it in the present tense; "...where all the beauty comes from..."

The sweetest thing. Language changes very quickly in the United States, so I may already be out of date, but only a short while ago, a young person would use the word sweet to express delight, surprise, approval or happiness. Admiring a new shirt, hair cut or pretty face, a young person would simply exclaim, "Sweet!"

C.S. Lewis is delighting in the very best aspect of his entire life - the sweetest thing, he says.

But then notice the sweetest thing of his life is not a person, possession, recognition or achievement - but a longing. Longing is an interior thing which suggest emptiness, like a refugee longing to return home. 

The word longing is a desire word - a deep desire to be filled, answered, resolved. Aching comes with longing. C.S. Lewis calls this longing, (this ache), the sweetest thing.

And while he says he's longing to find the place, we know it's not a geographical place. He doesn't expect the longing will be satisfied in an executive's office, a throne room, or inner chambers, but in an invisible place, a heart place, a spiritual or interior place where ultimates are encountered. 

Longing for the place where all the beauty comes from. Beauty is very hard to define because it isn't a commodity and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," we say. And beauty comes and goes - like this flower that lasts only one day then it closes up in the evening and is gone. 

Maybe there's a beauty that lasts forever, and maybe that's God. But I'd suggest that for many of us who are living harried, fast-paced, inside-all-day lives, we might first start to recognize and enjoy the beauty that's before us right now:
  • the layered birdsong I hear through the open window
  • the glass of water on my desk; the cup of tea
  • the pick-ready black currants in the garden
  • the e-mail attached photo of children on vacation
  • the July peach
  • the scent of dill and strawberries in the produce section 
  • the 1940's black and white photo of my parents
  • the calendar print of the night-illumined church in the snow
  • And truth be told ~ we see an awful lot of beautiful people everyday and Bishop Fulton Sheen said, "Just because you look at the menu doesn't mean you have to order." 
"...the place where all the beauty comes from..." C.S. Lewis is wondering out loud. And wondering is much more at the heart of spiritual living than it is having an answer for every question. Some people haven't felt any longing in their inner lives since they were very young children. That's sad and a great personal loss.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bach's Easter Salvation-gift

To be on this planet is to know advances and setbacks, ups and downs, high points and low points.: Church, nation, community, family and each of us as individuals. Sometimes the setbacks and low points are very terrible, and so we look for a way to keep from going under. The  survival life-method might be frivolous, foolish, wasteful or even dangerous. Sometimes creative and life-giving. 

The 1960's was a very difficult time for me. The Church was spinning around in change and my own family had entered a very bad time. An evil person who had been admitted as a guide and friend brought ruin with him. I was terribly distracted, failing and lonely in school and even alienated from my siblings. 

Fortunately, we were allowed to leave the school building at lunch time. And so to escape the isolation and pain of the cafeteria I would walk fifteen minutes to the local public library, bump around in the stacks for another fifteen minutes and then return to school just in time for the bell. 

I remember the precise moment when flipping through the library's collection of vinyl records, Michelangelo's Pieta appeared and the title "Bach's Easter Oratorio." I didn't know Bach. I didn't know Oratorio, but I did know the image of Mary holding her dead Son on her lap after his being taken down from the cross. 

So I brought the album home and listened and listened to this over the top music ~ the libretto in German: "Kommt, eilet und laufet"

Come, hurry and run, you speedy feet,
reach the cavern which conceals Jesus!
Laughter and merriment (jokes)
accompanies our hearts,
since our Savior is risen again.

So ~ in a world of chaos and darkness, too often seeming more down than up, I've found a new release/remake of the 1958 recording I discovered in the library that day and which held me together through some of  the deepest and the worst. I'm pleased to offer here the instrumental introduction (sinfonia) and some Easter images for your eyes.

Maybe listen a second or third time with eyes closed. It's easier to ponder the salvation that way. Salvation not meaning, "Oh, get me to heaven" but the cry from within, "Get me out of this inner bad neighborhood, off this inner wrong road." 

All of this is pure joy! Brilliant with an inner light for us. Doesn't the world need something we can call pure joy!

The complete recording: 1958 Johann Sebastian Bach "Kommt, Eilet und Laufet" BWV 249 Easter Oratorio Stuttgarter Bach-Choir, Marcel Couraud

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Intercessions ~ Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Prophet Jeremiah scolds the failed king and leaders of ancient Israel in the lesson today./ And so we pray for candidates seeking political office/ and for those who govern/ asking for them to be freed of greed,/ duplicity,/ pandering,/ and self-aggrandizement./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene ~ Disciple and Friend of Jesus ~ and Easter Witness./ We pray to know Jesus who is risen/ and to love him dearly./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the world where it has become painfully un-balanced/ where there are great divides,/ destruction,/ extinctions or/ exploitation./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray blessings for the strengthening of the world wherever there is a dialogue for peace/ or efforts towards the progress and development of peoples./ We pray to the Lord.

For the safety of summer travelers,/ for those who suffer from the heat or lack of water,/ for those who work out of doors/ or whose job places them in danger./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who adopt children/ for the welcoming of immigrants and refugees,/ for the sick and those who are physically or emotionally challenged,/ for the elderly poor and those who do works of charity./ We pray to the Lord.

For any who are forgotten here in death/ to be recognized,/ called by name/ and welcomed into the loveliness and joy of heaven./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Another Prayer for Syria

Prayer to the Mother of God in Time of Need
Holy God-Bearer,
You are the joy of all who are sad,
the defender of the oppressed,
the nourishment of the wretched,
the consolation of the strangers,
the staff of the inwardly blind,
the visitation of the sick,
the shelter and relief of the defeated,
the hope of orphans;
wherefore, O Holy Mother of the Most High,
O all Holy One,
we implore you,
swiftly come to the deliverance of your servants,
all who are devoted to you.

This icon of the Mother of God is from Syria. It is of the Glykophilousa type - which means Sweet-Kissing. Doesn't the world need to feel the kisses being exchanged here - heaven's kissing of earth and humankind? 

Poor Syria especially needs to feel this divine embrace: heaven so close - cheek to cheek. But that can only happen if the world rushes to help. So often when countries are imploding, global help is delayed, procrastinated, debated, put-off, analyzed. Meanwhile half of the Syrian people are now refugees living in desert tent-camps provided by neighboring countries. Others are turned back.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have been killed. They have been gassed; their cities bombed to dust. Untold numbers of Syrian children, perhaps millions, are suffering terribly from thirst and heat. Another generation of children is lost to psychological trauma, destroyed schools and access to health care.

Maybe we can make the accompanying prayer part of any spiritual discipline we practice. Or, compose your own prayer before the Sweet-Kissing icon. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Prayer Before The Image Of The Young Jesus

Here is a Litany Prayer I wrote for young people some years ago. Maybe it will help us to pray even if we're not youngsters anymore. All the singular pronouns can be changed to plural if we're thinking: Family, Church, Nation, Community, World.

Jesus, I greet you,
   receive the gift of my love,
   the whisper of my prayer,
   my thanks and praise.
   my desire for what is good.

Jesus, thank you for your Word and
   the wonder of your miracles,
   grow me up,
   make me whole, 
   seal me with your Spirit-Gifts.
Jesus, show me what you desire,
   lead me in heart-truth,
   disclose your secrets to me,
   direct my steps,
   illumine my life-path.

Jesus, walk with me,
   forgive the sins of my ignorance,
   transform me from within,
   draw me out of darkness,
   challenge my frivolity.

Jesus, give me a clean heart,
   remove from my mind what is worthless,
   restore me where I am poor and needy,
   brighten my consciousness,
   repair me where I have been abused or forgotten.

Jesus, take the weapons out of my heart,
   draw me out of the shallows,
   recreate me as a reconciler,
   refashion me to be an agent of life,
   keep me safe.

Jesus, strengthen me for my tasks,
   make me to be a good friend to others,
   a companion to the poor,
   protect me from unseen enemies,
   fill me with your good spirit.

Jesus, refresh me,
   release me from enslaved reasonings,
   be a remedy for my discouragement,
   soften what's hardened in my heart,
   melt what's frozen.

Jesus, no more greed or waste,
   teach me to harm no one.
   instruct me to kindness and compassion,
   spark justice in me,
   open me to gratitude. 

Jesus, expand generosity in me,
   quiet the beasts of false-judgments in me,
   tame the inner storms,
   exorcise the spirit of addiction in me,
   scour revenge from me. 

Jesus, establish the peaceable kingdom here,
   be patient with my unbelief,
   increase humility within me,
   free me from resentments that I may love freely,
   raise me from among the dead.

Jesus, awaken me from my inner sleep,
   expand me to a global heart,
   gift me with tears for the sorrows of the world,
   protect and enlighten my family,
   heal my memories.

Jesus, calm my exhausting fears,
   hold me close to your heart,
   show your face,
   build me up in trust,
   increase joy in me.

Jesus, give me the gift of peace.
   lift me up from my stumblings,
   fill me with new purpose,
   transport me beyond externals,
   break the lies.

Jesus, stir up creativity in me,
   confirm me in your friendship,  
   teach me how to love God and other people ~
   that I would be like light.
   Jesus, you can count on me!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Christ Pantocrator at a Young Age

Here is an icon titled, Christ Pantocrator at a Young Age. The Greek word Pantocrator means, Ruler of All. Jesus appears as a young man in this 16th century fresco painted over the altar at the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on Mount Athos. God, being born with the human face of Jesus, has become picturable. 

Jesus seems to be in motion here: on his way, setting out with purpose. He is beautiful and full of life. He is wide awake but serene. His face possesses an inner light. 

Christ's head is large ~ filled with the best human-divine thoughts. His eyes remain wide open to all the world's struggles. His nose, elongated and slender, with arched eyebrows suggests a palm tree offering protection, nourishment and consolation. 

The ears of Jesus are easily detected ~ he will hear my prayer, the expression of my heart-longings, my sorrows and joys, my thanks and praise. The line of Jesus' mouth suggests nothing carnal. Presently his mouth is closed, but he will open it with a word spoken to each of us. I will hear him if I am attentive, receptive and still.

The circle of light around Jesus' head keeps my gaze drawn to his face. The cross inside the nimbus forms the Greek initials for the Divine Name revealed to Moses: The Being. Jesus is the God-Man.

There are lively decorations of green and red within the nimbus too. Divine light radiates from the clothing and even the hair of Jesus. We know the old expression, You are what you eat. We might also say, You are what you look at.

Tomorrow there'll be a prayer here that we might enter before this icon. And of course, as with any prayer, poem or hymn found here, we can expand and adapt it as we are inspired.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Intercessions ~ Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Tuesday is the Feast of St. Kateri Tekawitha/ the country's first Native American saint./ We pray for native peoples on every continent/ as they are often exploited and degraded,/ asking forgiveness for the national sins committed against them./ We pray to the Lord.

From South America/ Pope Francis has asked us to pray for the miracle which will heal and renew the world's families./ We pray for homes which have become sad and lonely/ dysfunctional and violent places./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have been cast away in our culture,/ those who are left out and longing for love./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the many people whose work benefits us./ For those who are out of work/ or whose work is dangerous,/ tedious/ or poorly compensated./ We pray to the Lord.

For summer travelers./ For those who suffer from the heat/ or who live where there is drought or destructive fires./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who are displaced,/ migrant or homeless./ For the world's children,/ the weak and the elderly who suffer./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember the sick/ especially those who receive no care or who have no visitor./ And for the dead to be received into the place of forgiveness,/ refreshment,/ light and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In July ~ The Blood of Christ

IN THE FILM The Passion of the Christ, Jesus is whipped severely and his blood pools on the pavement. Unable to watch, Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene leave, comforting each other alone through painful tears. Claudia, Pilate's wife, appears carrying clean, white cloths. In silence she hands them to Mary. After the body of Jesus is dragged away the crowd disperses, but the two Mary's return, kneel down and begin to wipe up the blood of Jesus using Claudia's gift.

A number of websites object to the scene: a psychiatrist wrote a sixty-two page booklet on male corporal punishment and women as outsiders, an evangelical Christian condemns the scene as uselessly un-scriptural, a film critic blasts the scene as creepy.

There are so many negative responses to the film-image I feel confident in putting my oar in the water. In the movie scene we might think of the priest at Mass, who after Holy Communion carefully purifies the chalice that has held the Blood of Christ. That purification should take place quickly, unobtrusively but gratefully.

And there is more. As our hearts expand, we might consider that all around the world and from time immemorial, women have wept over and  mopped up the precious blood of loved ones. And God has entered that world of spilled blood.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Miracle at Akona

The Virgin Mary appearing in a dream at Akona

The Miracles of Our Lady Mary is a 12th century series of Mary-miracle accounts from the Egyptian Church. The story here tells of a Greek monastery and church dedicated to Our Holy Lady, the Virgin Mary built some distance from a stream. A certain priest encountered Mary every night in his dreams during which she instructed him to build a church in her honor near the edge of the stream. This dream continued nightly for years, and while the priest dutifully made Our Lady's instruction known to the monastic community, they stubbornly refused to comply.

One night then, while the monks slept in their cells, the monastic church and cells were pulled apart and the whole building moved down to the edge of the stream, the walls being made stable and strong as they had been on the original site. Apparently sound sleepers, the monks knew nothing until the next morning when they went from their beds to the chapel and found the stream running through their courtyard. 

Filled with astonishment (and maybe some guilt over their stubborn disbelief) they sang hymns of praise to Our Lady and spread the news to the folks all around. And of course, they established a feast day in remembrance of the great event. Here is the Theotokian hymn for the feast day.

Your power was mighty and you made manifest 
   your wonderful act,
As you removed the Monastery of Akona
   from its wretched condition and decay,
   O Mary, the daughter of Mati.
Even so remove the glory of my adversary
   by the might of your hand,
For are you not the object of my boasting
   and the object of my commemoration?

Now someone might say, "Oh, Mary did a marvelous miracle!" and leave it at that. The hymn suggests that the movement has to do with the humbling of enemies, (remove the glory of my adversary) but I think that misses the point.

The word monastery can refer to buildings or it can mean the community of monks who live in those buildings. The hymn says the monastery was in a condition of wretchedness and decay. So what was it about these monks: Were they obtuse to God's movement and presence? Were they stubborn and hardened of heart? Had they sunk into indifference, laziness, loss of zeal and the brightness of faith?

But get this ~ Mary lifted them up in their inner sleepiness and dropped them off at the stream, which means a new place of surprise, refreshment, life and delight.  The miracle really isn't about buildings then, is it? If Mary can move monastic buildings, how much more might she move an inner life! 

So I've written here a new Theotokian born of new insights and our condition today.

Having heard of the wonder you performed at Akona:
a monastery moved to a nearby stream
We call upon you, O Lady,
move us now to that inner spring
where life is renewed and 
Christ is glorified in joy.

Move us O Lady,
    to a new personality, healed of old wounds.
Move us O Lady,
    from bitterness to compassion and loving kindness.
Move us O Lady,
    from externalized religion to an inner Christianity.
Move us O Lady,
    to the consciousness of an alive soul.
Move us O Lady,
    to a personal understanding of Jesus' teachings.
Move us O Lady,
    to a creativity un-imagined and waiting to be born.
Move us O Lady,
    to encounter Christ, who invites human wholeness.
Move us O Lady,
    to docility and humility before something that is new.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Intercessions ~ Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

As the nation celebrates its birthday/ we pray for healing in our often fractious country./ And for each of us and all of us to become agents of  justice,/ kindness,/ reconciliation and welcome./ We pray to the Lord. 

Jesus returns to his home town in the Gospel today/ where he is amazed at the lack of faith he encounters./ We pray not to disappoint Jesus/ but that our own lives of discipleship would be marked by an alive faith/ and love in action./ We pray to the Lord.

As Pope Francis will be coming to the United States in September,/ we ask blessings for his visit./ And as the pope will also visit Cuba/ we pray for our own nation to be attentive/ and awake in prayer and hope./ We pray to the Lord.

In the month of July we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance:/ asking gifts of good health,/ safety,/ and growth in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

Election Day is not until November of next year/ yet already there is a flood of candidates./ We pray for those who seek public office to be honest and good,/ freed of whatever interior thing makes us ugly and useless before God./ We pray to the Lord.

All around the world there is sadness and trouble./ We pray for those who are helpers in every place/ and that we would do our part in alleviating suffering as we are able./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask a spiritual remedy for those who are sick with sorrow,/ bitterness,/ hatred,/ worry,/ addictions and pain./ We pray for those who have died this week - and for those who mourn loved ones/ or the loss of peace and security in their lands./ We pray to the Lord.