Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Angel Alphabet Prayer

We begin the Sunday Creed delighting in God who has created things - visble and invisible. This means we acknowledge an angel world. Here is an Ethiopian Church ceiling filled with busy angels, looking in all directions. Perhaps they are scoping out their jobs and realms of influence.

So I wrote an alphabet prayer for today's late September angel feast: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel - grateful for their presence; asking for their inspiration and enlightenment.

Angel of the Americas ~ North, Central and South, pray for us.
Angel of breakfast, blueberries and bread, pray for us.
Angel of Christmas! the Christ Child's cradle, pray for us.
Angel of dear ones departed, pray for us.
Angel of my energy and efforts, pray for us.

Angel of forgiveness, ferns, and frozen things, guide us.
Angel of goodness and gardens, guide us.
Angel of happy times, helpers and health, guide us.
Angel of icy hearts, guide us.
Angel of job-seekers and the joyless, guide us. 

Angel of kisses and all human affection, inspire us.
Angel of lupine and lilies, inspire us.
Angel of Mary, mourners and good manners, inspire us.
Angel of non-believers, inspire us.
Angel of opposites and obstruction, inspire us.

Angel of poetry, prayers and popes, enlighten us.
Angel of questions, quizzes and quackery, enlighten us.
Angel of road rage-ers, robins and  relaxation, enlighten us.
Angel of sunflowers and snow, enlighten us.
Angel of thunder and thankfulness, enlighten us.

Angel of our understandings, protect us.
Angel of violence and vitriol, protect us.
Angel of windy wintertime, protect us.
Angel of my anxieties, protect us.
Angel of yellow finches, school buses and taxicabs, protect us.
Angel of Ground Zero, zygotes and life's zigzags, protect us. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Even The Pope's Hands Teach

While watching the Pope's motorcade from the White House to Saint Matthew's Cathedral this past Wednesday I paid close attention to his hands. As he drove by the crowds he made small crosses in the air, he raised his hands up and down just a little (his gestures are not grand) and at times he gently drew his hand back and forth over the people palm down. Then, maybe when he got tired, he switched to using his left hand.

In a number of media interviews, priests were asked, "What do you think the Holy Father will say to the assembled bishops?" And almost always the priests answered, "He won't be finger wagging." 

In speaking to about three hundred bishops, Pope Francis referred to his own hands as, wrinkled with age. He then shook hands with each of those bishops and along the way to wherever he was going next, he picked up children and caressed the faces of the elderly and those with special needs. 

Even as Pope Francis walked along the lined up crowds someone dropped a little souvenir card. The Pope bent down, picked it up, and in great courtesy returned it to the person who'd dropped it. 

Hands matter. Saint Mark tells us five times of Jesus taking people by the hand and leading them or raising them up. 

Hands speak their own language, don't they? Hands can dismiss and object; hands can invite and console. Hands can bless and clap; hands can insult or curse. Hands can give and hands can receive. Hands can twitch and thump, "I'm in a hurry," or hands can rest at peace. 

We might pay attention to our own hands this week and what they're saying. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Intercessions ~ Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Early Autumn

Pope Francis said this week:/ "We do not serve ideologies but people."/ We ask God's forgiveness where we forget or consciously ignore this teaching/ and for new hearts to embrace it generously./ We pray to the Lord.

That in a long political season/ we would not be swept up mindlessly in the attraction of personalities,/ that we would be smart and attentive,/ not allowing ourselves to be seized by lies and pandering./ We pray to the Lord. 

For the global religion of Islam to be true to the love of God and neighbor./ For the heart-turning of all who use any religion to cloak hatred,/ terrorism,/ violence and death./ We pray to the Lord.

In the autumn time/ behind each dropped leaf is next springs bud./ We pray to keep life in sight/ and to be freed of cynicism,/ negativity and soul-threatening resentments./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the Feast of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus./ We pray to embrace her gospel way of spiritual childhood:/ simplicity,/ humility,/ trust in God and love for Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

Let us never forget to pray for the world's children:/ the baby waiting to be born,/ the legions of children who are disappeared,/ some of whom are not even asked about or sought after./ For them to be found and loved./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for the sick,/ the sorrowing,/ the prisoners and refugees./ We remember those whose sobriety and hope are fragile./ And for those who have died/ to know the merciful and welcoming face of Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Prayer Before the Icon ~ Mother of God Searcher of the Lost

As you searched for your Child
who had wandered in Jerusalem,
as the Lord seeks after
lost coin and lamb,
O Mother and soul-guide,
rummage now through history's losses
escorting us through darkness to the
moment of sunrise.

A few thoughts about the prayer which might help us to feel or personalize it more deeply. In the first and second lines: we recall Mary searching for the twelve year old Jesus who she found in the Jerusalem temple. Luke 2:41-52

In the third and fourth lines: in Luke's Gospel Jesus likens God's searching love to the woman who turned the house upside down to find the lost coin of least value and the shepherd who recklessly left the ninety-nine sheep in search of the one that wandered off. Luke 15: 1-10

History's losses could be the history of our own family: suicide, sudden death, child death, job loss, divorce, addiction, mental illness, sex abuse. Or loss in the history of our own personal lives: loss of faith, loss of friendship, failure in relationship, loss of peace meaning or stability, the loss of a much-desired pregnancy...

How terrible, terrifying, lonely and deep darkness can be. Can you name it for yourself? Rummage is a wild, kind of frenzied word. Heaven rummaging to find us - even or most especially - interiorly.

And can you identify what sunrise might mean for your own life? A dawning? A new start? Dorothy Day wrote: "We are always beginning again." Can you name it?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Malala's Request

This young lady is Malala Yousafzai who is a Child Activist born in 1997. Her biography begins: As a young girl Malala Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 but survived.

At age 17 she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. By simply going to school she became a global teacher. Surely every school-aged young person in America should know her story. Malala has said, 
"The shocking truth is that world leaders have the money to fund primary and secondary education around the world, but they are choosing to spend it on other things, like their military budgets. In fact, if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for 8 days, we could have the 39 billion dollars still needed to provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on the planet." 
Her motto is: Books Not Bullets. She invites children around the world to send online photographs of themselves holding up their favorite books. The link here invites us to put our name to something BIG and planet-changing. Jesus often lifts up, brings forward and celebrates children.

Some people will take great delight in Malala, but someone else might scoff at her because she asks money for books instead of bullets. Military spending is a Golden Calf for some. But children are dreamers and "dreams can come true" we say. Some adults stopped dreaming of possibilities a long time ago and that's very sad. 

"One Child, One Teacher, One Book and One Pen Can Change the World" ~ Malala Yousafzai  Check out this link below - there's a petition to share.

Malala's Request

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Intercessions ~ Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pope Francis Plants an Olive Tree for Peace

Autumn begins this week,/ and the trees will change color and drop their leaves./ We pray to drop resentments/ and the bitterness of memories which keeps our hearts distracted and weakened./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis arrives in our country on Tuesday./ We pray for his safety/ and that we would listen well,/ and with gratitude for his presence and message./ We pray to the Lord.

September is the month of the Jewish holy days: Yom Kippur,/ Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot./ We pray for the Jewish people to grow in their covenant with God/ and to be creative agents of peace./ We pray to the Lord.

On Sunday/ we ask that our prayer would be authentic,/ un-distracted,/ heartfelt and generous./ We pray to the Lord.

The drought in California is the worst in five hundred years/ and the fires are being called catastrophic./ While asking for rain/ we also ask blessings for those who have lost everything/ and for the safety and rest of fire fighters/ and all who are helpers there./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember the many who hope for strength and healing:/ Care-providers,/ those with special needs,/ the sick and the addicted,/ the wounded,/ depressed,/ confused and troubled./ We pray to the Lord.

For those whose deaths are sudden or particularly sad,/ the children who have died,/ those whose lives are lost by accident,/ war,/ or in helping others./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Prayer To End Terrorism

Prayer To The Merciful Lady, Guadalupe,
 For An End to Global Terrorism

Radiant Lady in the golden mist,
Compassionate Mother of all who weep,
End the terrorism which afflicts our weary world.
Make gentle the murderous hearts.
Take from my own the weapons of hate,
and escort me to Jesus ~ 
the bearer of light.

Author: Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Prayer of Intercession

Mother of God Interceding

When I was in seminary (my goodness ~ 40 years ago!) a priest told me that prayer of intercession was the lowest form of prayer. I just accepted it because I was a seminarian and seminarians don't know otherwise about anything. Now I'm a senior priest and I can say not only is the priest's claim false, but that intercession is a way to pray always, as Saint Paul enjoins:
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17,18)

And then we may have heard these verses recently at Mass from another of Saint Paul's letters:
Brothers and sisters: from the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding... (Colossians 1:9,10)

At the end of the Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, paragraphs 281-283, Pope Francis speaks beautifully about intercession. This is so worth reading. Be encouraged!
281. One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelization and to seek the good of others; it is the prayer of intercession. Let us peer for a moment into the heart of St. Paul, to see what his prayer was like. It was full of people: "I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you...because I hold you in my heart:" (Phil. 1:4,). Here we see that intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation, since authentic contemplation always has a place for others.

282. This attitude becomes a prayer of gratitude to God for others. "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" (Romans 1:8). It is constant thankfulness: "I give thanks to God always for you  because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus: (1 Cor 1:4); "I thank my God in all remembrance of you: (Phil 1:3). Far from being suspicious, negative and despairing, it is a spiritual gaze born of deep faith which acknowledges what God is doing in the lives of others. At the same time, it is the gratitude which flows from a heart attentive to others. When evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed of self-absorption, they are desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others.

283. The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like "a leaven in the heart of the Trinity." It is a way of penetrating the Father's heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them. We can say that God's heart is touched by our intercession, yet in reality God is always there first. What our intercession achieves is that his power, his love and his faithfulness are shown ever more clearly in the midst of the people.

I would add: let your prayer of intercession far exceed your own immediate and familial concerns. Let your prayer-net be cast far and wide as they say, encircling the planet in all of its tearful troubles. If you are awakened at night, perhaps it is the Spirit's prompting you to intercede with the monks and nuns who pray in the darkness about the world's darkness, in the time when the most terrible things happen. 

Pray about the situations of which others say, "Oh I don't even want to know that," or "Oh I have to look away, that makes me sad." Looking the other way, shielding my eyes and sensibilities ~ these are luxuries we don't have.

You know this little boy is three-year-old Aylan Kurdi? He and his mother and five-year-old brother drowned when the boat they were in, fleeing the ISIS-Kurdish fighting in Syria, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. His body washed up on the beach of a fashionable resort in Bodrum, Turkey. 

Europe is presently overwhelmed with refugees fleeing Libya and Syria where civil war, corruption, gangs and terrorists have brought these countries to dissolution. It is the most dire refugee crisis since the Second World War...

That the net of our heart-awake-intercessions would encircle the world.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Intercessions ~ Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Late Summer Sun

Pope Francis is coming to our country soon./ Bless him with safety and strength./ And give us teach-able hearts./ Calm and heal the loveless divisions which afflict our nation./ We pray to the Lord.

Lift the dense fog which covers human minds in our families,/ in Church,/ in politics,/ media and business./ We pray to the Lord.

Draw us together where there is misery,/ violence,/ sadness and every kind of human suffering./ We pray to the Lord.

Bless the world's priests:/ the new priests and the elderly priests,/ priests who are lonely,/ worn-out,/ depressed,/ in need of personal renewal and growth./ Bless the priests who are in any kind of trouble./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask heaven's help for our families,/ holding in our hearts this Sunday/ family members who are stressed,/ sick,/ addicted,/ depressed/ or making seriously wrong-choices./ We pray to the Lord.

The suffering of the world's children is before our eyes./ We ask for a new global heart that takes in the children  who are in flight,/ afraid,/ sick,/ abandoned,/ hungry and thirsty./ And forgive us where we fail them./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for the dead,/ mindful of the many whose deaths shock,/ sadden and discourage us./ We pray for God to heal and convert those who murder and wound./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

James and Ita and Pure Religion

The holy Apostle James

We say many things about religion. Some of what we say can be a source of tremendous division, sadness and pain - like the people who use religion to promote terrorist violence or who think their religion has a corner on the truth, which at once sets everyone else up as an adversary.

On a recent Sunday at Mass we heard Saint James' write about religion:
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Religion is about taking care of the most vulnerable people. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity have orphanages all throughout the poor world. There are lots of orphans because there are lots of wars, lots of addiction, lots of poverty. So the sisters invite comfortable North American women to come to an orphanage for a week or two just to handle infants.

The sisters know that leaving an infant in a crib all day without communication and touch prevents the child's brain from developing. So these generous ladies go to hold the babies, play with the babies, talk with the babies. One day Mother came through a room filled with women sitting in rocking chairs, holding babies and having a good gab about many things. Just short of scolding, Mother reminded them that they had traveled a great distance not simply to hold infants but to move them, bounce them, laugh with them, coo to them, sing to them, rock them, play with them.

The Christian Foundation for Children and the Elderly says that lots of people are eager to fund programs that care for abandoned kids, but the problem of elderly folks being abandoned is even more serious. Taking care of the most vulnerable: that's pure religion. 

And finally James writes that pure religion is keeping yourself unstained by the world. When I was a boy the only stains and spots we concerned ourselves with were of a sexual kind: "dirty thoughts, words and deeds." I'd suggest the following are far more dangerous and nasty stains: power, greed, lies, pride, willful ignorance and mediocrity.

Sixth century Irish Abbess of Killeedy, Saint Ita, gives us her own simple insights into what constitutes pure religion. Saint Brendan asked Ita what the three things are that most please God and the three things most dis-pleasing to God. Her plain-spoken answer might surprise. Ita said:

The three things that please God most are:
  • true faith in God with a pure heart,
  • a simple life with a grateful spirit,
  • and generosity inspired by love.

The three things that most displease God are:
  • a mouth that hates people,
  • a heart harboring resentments,
  • and confidence in wealth.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

I Never Noticed That Before

Wreath Goldenrod

All that's known of Minnie Aumonier is that she was an early 20th century English poet who wrote two books of garden verse. There are poems that cause us to feel like the little mouse in the maze or the way we feel when we enter a thoroughly dark room patting down the walls in a frenzy hoping to find the light switch. But garden verse is usually very accessible.  She wrote:

When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, 
there is always the garden.


There is always music
amongst the trees
in the garden,
but our hearts must be
 very quiet to hear it.

Maybe your garden is a few potted plants on a bright window sill, perhaps rows of beans, a pumpkin patch, or some blue berry bushes. When I taught second grade in New York City years ago each October we tied plastic window boxes to the building (three floors up) and planted tulip and hyacinth bulbs and crocus corms. 

Here at the retreat house I'm realizing the best part of the garden is found naturally along the edge of the woods. That's where I made this late August discovery of Blue-stemmed Goldenrod, sometimes called Wreath Goldenrod. 

The very yellow flowers form little clusters nicely spaced along the arching stems. The leaves are elliptical, pointed at both ends and slightly serrated or toothed along the edges. The wildflower field guide (Eastern Region) says that Wreath Goldenrod is found from Ontario, then east to Nova Scotia, then south to Florida, then west to Texas and Oklahoma and north to Wisconsin. My goodness! 

Wreath Goldenrod is an American Native - not a European or Oriental import. Its bright flowers invite a closer look and thoughts of: lovely, delicate, charming, vulnerable.

Do we look mindfully and carefully enough that we at least sometimes (if not often) say, "I never noticed that before." 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is Labor Day weekend:/ bless with justice,/ safety and health/ those whose work benefits us/ or whose work is dangerous and difficult./ Give success to those who are looking for work./ We pray to the Lord.

As September 11 approaches,/ we remember that most sad day fourteen years ago,/ offering prayers for all who died in the tremendous violence,/ those who still suffer and mourn/ or were traumatized by so much destruction and death./ We pray to the Lord.

Grant safety to Pope Francis as he soon makes his journey to Cuba and the United States./ That we would be open and teachable,/ and not just commentators,/ debaters and argue-ers./ We pray to the Lord. 

Bless the families of the world/ in all their variety and complexity./ Heal families that are dysfunctional,/ poor,/ pained,/ divided or addicted./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the poor nation of Syria,/ disintegrating by terrorism and war,/ asking blessings for those countries who are taking in refugees fleeing destruction and death./ We pray especially for the children and the most vulnerable./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the world where there is drought,/ fire,/ famine or natural disaster./ We pray for those whose generous hearts offer help where there is suffering./ We pray to be intelligent and honest care-takers of our planet./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for the forgiveness and enlightenment of those who do terrorist,/ murderous things./ For those who have died and for mourners everywhere who grieve losses./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Joy Restoring Mary

Do we remember in 2013 Pope Francis wrote an exhortation (a calling forth from within) titled The Joy of the Gospel? I grew up in a Catholic faith that wasn't very joyful. There were the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary alright, but the poor nuns I spent the day with wore headgear made of starched linen boards that prevented them from looking left or right.  I discovered later that this limiting costume was to remind the sister of being in her coffin! You can't very well enjoy being with a classroom of seven-year-olds if you're supposed to be thinking about your coffin all day.

But here is the Virgin Mary in all of her happy beauty. Let's let her cast away sadness and melancholy. Invite her into the inner place where depression lurks, the place of our negativity and futility, our complaining and whining, where we feel victimized, stressed out, defeated, filled with resentment and even cynicism. Ask her to restore joy!

Here's what Pope Francis says about the joyful Mary at the end of the exhortation, paragraph 286.

Mary was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises. She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. She is the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword and who understands all our pain. As mother of all, she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God's love. Through her many titles, often linked to her shrines, Mary shares the history of each people which has received the Gospel and she becomes a part of their historic identity...There, in these many shrines, we can see how Mary brings together her children who with great effort come as pilgrims to see her and to be seen by her. Here they find strength from God to bear the weariness and the suffering in their lives. As she did with Juan Diego, Mary offers them maternal comfort and love, and whispers in their ear: "Do not let your heart be troubled...Am I not here, who am your Mother?"