Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Intercessions ~ Feast of All Saints

October Full Moon

Today is the Feast of All Saints./ That we would not admire the saints/ so much as desire to be saints/ with hearts made new by the love of God:/ compassionate,/ generous and kind./ We pray to the Lord.

There are forty-three million displaced persons in the world today./ Bring help to those who are over-whelmed by the loss of home,/ nation,/ loved-ones and livelihood./ Bless those who search for solutions/ and those who offer practical help./ We pray to the Lord.

As the autumn darkness increases in our hemisphere/ bring to light those places of darkness within/ where there is hatred,/ ignorance,/ prejudice or fear./ We pray to the Lord. 

Restore families where relationships have broken down,/ where there is violence,/ selfishness or addiction./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for hatred to be rejected among Christians,/ Jews and Muslims./ We ask for every religion to discover anew its best reasons for friendship and peace./ We pray to the Lord. 

The bishops of the Philippines  have called our God-given, planet-home a wonderland of beauty and life./ Forgive the sins of planet-exploitation and greed,/ give us new hearts/ born of grateful courtesy and love for this earth./ We pray to the Lord.

Strengthen those who live with disabilities,/ wounds,/ chronic sickness,/ depression and fatigue./ Delight those who are departed with your promises-come-true of life and joy./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Unhealed Wounds ~ And the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa

The Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Czestochowa, is Poland's patroness and queen. She is also titled The Black Madonna as her features have been darkened by centuries of candle smoke. Some claim the icon was painted by the Evangelist Saint Luke. Art historians date it to somewhere between the 6th and 9th centuries. 

Historical documents indicate the icon has traveled widely through Constantinople and then in and out of the hands of kings and castles. Eventually it found its way to the monastery at Jasna Gora where it is enthroned today. 

It is said that when an enemy wants to attack the Catholic Church it does so by going after the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist. And so in 1430 there was a Hussite invasion of Jasna Gora, leaving the monastery plundered and the icon's face and neck slashed. Attempts by art restorers to repair the painting have failed - the gashes repeatedly re-appear. 

Whether heaven has intervened in leaving the scars on Mary's face or simply that modern repair techniques won't adhere to centuries old paintings, doesn't matter: the message is the same - Mary is human - one of us - and we all bear wounds that sometimes just don't heal.

Some of that damage is suffered at a very early age, some later in life. And despite our prayers, hopes and perhaps even professional help, the scars remain. Time does not heal all wounds. Saint Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians 12:7-9

So tremendous, however, were the revelations that God gave me that, in order to prevent my becoming absurdly conceited, I was given a stabbing pain - one of Satan's angels - to plague me and effectually stop any conceit. Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, "My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely." There, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weakness, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ.

Some scars can even remain quite painful. This leaves me to suffer them the best I can and perhaps to be compassion-ated by them. By this suffering I might become more understanding, more resilient, more connected to other sufferers, newly mindful of some gift of which I was previously unaware.

Suck it up and Just get over it are unkind and unhelpful responses to persons carrying even old wounds. We might wonder if we use phrases like this because we're unwilling or unable to be real companions to others in their sorrows. Or perhaps it's just laziness, or fear of one's own vulnerability. 

Mother Mary of Czestochowa  carries wounds. Sometimes the unhealed wound is national or eccesial: the national wound of what was done to Native Americans in this country. The wound to the Church in the recent sex abuse scandal and the institutional, self-protective stance of some bishops once the story broke. Or the wound is deeply felt in a very personal way:

the wound of family dysfunction
of carrying addiction
of child abuse
of some grave loss or disappointment

the scar of divorce
of failed parents or teachers
of an experience of personal violence
of a loved-ones sudden death

the pain of inner disturbance
of war
of betrayal and infidelity
of rejection or abandonment

the injury of being marginalized
of marital abuse
of lies and deception
of being taken advantage of 

The scar of repeated failure
of ridicule and bullying
of physical disability
of chronic pain

We can bring these things to mind and hold them in silence before the Czestochowa Mother of God who bears her own scars. It isn't necessary to speak - just exchange gazes. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Word Origins As Spiritual Enrichment

A ciborium holds the holy food at Mass

We often bandy words, assuming we know their meanings. But our understandings can be impoverished. Early on in my priesthood I had a pastor who had taught Latin to young seminarians for years. I only have two years of high school Latin and so I enjoy Latin discoveries. 

One evening I was sitting in my front room struggling to translate the lovely hymn Ave Maris Stella (Hail Star of the Sea) from Latin to English. The pastor came up behind me and looking over my shoulder at the Latin text he gave me a free translation which was so beautifully tender - very unlike the book translations I'd seen. Then out of no where he said, "Do you know the word ciborium comes from the Latin word cibus (chee-bus) meaning food?" I had never made that connection. And what a lovely inner light turned on.

I remember when it dawned on me that the word humility comes from the Latin word humus which means good earth. Not that we are dirt or should degrade or falsely deny ourselves but that we should be down to earth about ourselves - realistic or real with and about ourselves - our vulnerabilities, fears, neediness, hopes.

And I remember when I realized the word radical comes from the Latin word radix which means root. So radical doesn't mean a destroyer or bomb-thrower but a person or a movement looking to get back to the root of deep origins. Jesus is indeed radical in this sense: getting back to the root or essential thing of religion which is the love of God and the love of other people.

Recently someone asked if I was leading a revolt against the Church when I suggested (since God has become human in Jesus Christ) that churches should offer bathrooms. That's Christianity 101 for me, not a revolt. But then I discovered revolt comes from the Latin word volvere which mean roil (a small wheel) which gives us vault - to jump. With the prefix re it means to roll back, unroll or return

The word only assumed the sense of a violent overthrow in the 16th century. But between that late usage and the ancient Latin, the word meant a complete reversal. So....the young people in our country have clearly abandoned the Church and given up on institutionalized religion, we are lost in the worst and often ugly polarization and contentious argument about all kinds of religious believing and do-ing. Yeah, the Church needs a revolt - an unrolling, a jumping back  to what is essential which is the mystery of God drawn so close to us that we often miss its meaning. But mystery is more like a room with too much light.

Some priests (maybe not a few) have lost their sense of the mystery. They have become religious functionaries and need an inner revolt. The young people can detect it at once.  I knew a priest who had done seminary in what is said to be one of the finest theological centers in Europe. I shared with him the Genesis account of creation which I'd just seen in a new children's bible.

The page read something like this: God had created all the planets and the stars and the plants and animals but then out of his lonely heart God created us. I told the priest that I thought this was lovely and sensitive and he said, with a kind of knee jerk reaction, "Well yes, maybe, even though it is completely heretical." 

And I thought, poor fellow, he has lost the mystery - which is the sense of wonder and pondering about the love of God. He doesn't know that love has to know loneliness and incompleteness. Ask any newlywed. But he was locked in by his mind-training, his catechism page, his academic-drunk and had lost the sense of Jesus: "The kingdom of heaven is LIKE..."

So yeah, bring on the revolt: getting the heart-mind of Jesus and not just using bible verses to defend dogmas and moral teachings.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Intercessions ~ Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grant that in all the religious activity of the Church/ we would be inwardly transformed in our lovelessness,/ indecision and coldness,/ and be renewed in the joy of the Gospel./ We pray to the Lord.

Always we pray for children./ For the children who are poorly parent-ed./ For children who are refugees,/ abandoned,/ sick or afraid./ We pray to the Lord. 

Even a pope has enemies./ Bless Pope Francis with safety and good health./ Sustain him in the joy our world so needs to witness./ We pray to the Lord. 

Guard our loved ones:/ family and friends./ Build them up in faith,/ hope and charity/ and give them all they need for salvation./ We pray to the Lord. 

In our hemisphere/ by now the leaves are mostly fallen from the trees./ That we would drop all hatred and resentment/ and cultivate a more peaceable,/ compassionate and kindly spirit./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for rescuers/ and those who work in hospitals,/ hospices,/ nursing homes and clinics./ Bless them for their generosity/ and give to the sick the reassurance of your close presence and care./ We pray to the Lord.

Give comfort and peace to the dying/ and healing and light to those departed from us/ but not from you./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Testing Belief In The Incarnation

Restored Saint Patrick's Cathedral, New York City

Incarnation is the essential Christian teaching that in Jesus Christ, God has became one of us. Jesus is the God-Man. And as a man Jesus grew hungry, thirsty, sweaty, tired - even fed-up at times. We know he bled like us too. Of course Incarnation then means Jesus would have needed a bathroom like every other person on this planet. That's why I think the test of whether a parish really "gets" the Incarnation is whether or not there are bathrooms available for those who show up. My sense: Catholics are not especially good at this.

I've often tested my theory, even in other countries, but one time stands out most pointedly. While visiting the fine Catholic cathedral in St. Augustine, Florida, of necessity I discovered that the bathroom in the vestibule was locked with a sign that read: ONLY OPEN DURING CHURCH SERVICES. But on the other side of the same vestibule there was a gift shop doing a brisk business. 

Directly across the street is the Anglican Church where I knew I'd find an accessible bathroom. I've long believed that Episcopalians understand the Incarnation better than Catholics. Indeed as one enters the side door of that church, the parish offices are found just off to the right. And so I went in and the cheerful lady at the desk directed me at once to an immaculately clean bathroom, well stocked with the necessary paper and soap. 

Centuries ago a bible-copying medieval monk painted a small angel on the margin of St. Luke's gospel-telling of the Christmas story: the little angel zooming in with an open and clean diaper for the Infant Jesus! And at Bryant Park in New York City, there is a very fine, stone, public bathroom: clean, clean, clean and well stocked. An ever present and busy janitor keeps things in perfect order. There's even a magnificent bouquet of flowers as one enters the door. No requirements - no conditions: "Are you visiting the park?" "That'll be fifty cents, please." "May I see your Bryant Park Membership Card."

Bryant Park Public Bathroom

It's recently cost nearly 180 million dollars to restore St. Patrick's Cathedral inside and out. I don't object: Saint Patrick's Cathedral should be a grand, beautiful and safe place. But the cathedral has no public bathrooms. The sacristies of course have bathrooms for the clergy, but the rest of humanity has to hold it, or, (and this is sad), according to the sign I've seen posted by the cathedral's front door, "Go across the street..." 

But a Christian church should be a place where people can find some physical comfort, because God became human and that God-Man needed a bathroom, as humans do. We could add this to the Works of Mercy found in Matthew 25: "When I needed a bathroom, you supplied one."  And Saint Patrick's could be a model for these things.

If St. Peter's in Rome can figure out a way to provide showers, beds and haircuts for the poor - and Bryant Park can pull off an efficient public bathroom - then St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City can too. It's just about having the will to do it. The money garnered from the cathedral's numerous candle racks would amply pay for the paper, soap, janitor salary and cleaning supplies. "Where there's a will, there's a way." 

When asked about this, someone on the cathedral staff responded: "The cathedral has never supplied public bathrooms." Holy good God, my Irish father would have said ~ what an answer!

Bottom line: God didn't become an angel; God became a human. And that means the things of religion (at least our religion) can sometimes be inconvenient, messy, tedious, demanding and inglorious. There's really no getting around this - no wiggle room.

The flowers say: Welcome! Only your comfort!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Best I Can

I have no recollection of how this un-named iris came to me. I don't remember anyone giving it to me or ordering it from a mail order nursery or buying it locally. Although it's a re-blooming iris (spring and then again fall) it doesn't have much of anything to recommend it: no frilly petals (called falls), no scent, no jump-out colors. But there it is, mixed in and blooming now in the garden with the others which carry dramatic names illustrative of their fabulous-ness, names like: Savannah Sunset, Vision in Pink, Slew O' Gold, Dream of You. I've named this iris: Doing the Best I Can.

But I decided today to leave it alone and let it stay because it clearly is making an effort, and as I get older I realize that's all that matters. Our culture is largely interested only in the show-stopper and the WOW factor, but the Gospel teaching is ~ the little bit and the best I can, matters. 

Jesus tells the story about the fellow who went out to sow the seed on his land: most of it was wasted - the birds ate it up, the rocks prevented the seeds from sending down deep roots, the thorns choked it out, the neighbors stomped on it along the path. But a little bit of the seed landed where it could be enormously productive (Mt. 13:1 ff).

And the little mustard seed becomes a giant bush where birds make nests (Mt. 13:31-32). And the little sparrow is noticed by God even in its dying (Mt. 10:29) And the little children were invited into the circle around Jesus who blessed them (Mk 10:13-15). And the little boy offered the little lunch he had, and using it, Jesus performed a great miracle (Jn. 6:9 ff). And so it goes...

Many people who are trying to follow the Christian way feel frustrated and guilty because "doing the best I can" was never (or isn't now) enough. Some folks throw the word sin around very easily when the persons they're critiquing (even condemning) are already trying very hard - indeed - trying the best they can. 

"I'm trying the best I can" is sometimes met with "Well, your best isn't good enough."  But Jesus isn't like that. He's pleased for the cup of cold water we give, (Mt. 10:42) and how we feed the hungry, and clothed the naked and visit the home bound and the imprisoned (Mt. 25 ff).  

Therese of Lisieux understood this. She said that picking up a pin off the floor for love mattered to Jesus. And do you know why? Because nuns keep their headgear on with pins. And Carmelite nuns don't wear shoes, so a pin landing on the floor might cause someone pain and trouble and Therese anticipated that. 

So do what you can ~ the best you can ~ for love of God and love of other people. And be encouraged. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

An Autumn Prayer (in the Celtic Spirit)

In the autumn time
a morning bow ~
community of persons,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit ~

In the shortening of day,
the early hour of darkness,
In the Robin's farewell
and the sprouting of rye seed

In the planting of crocus,
the setting of leaf bud,
In the burrowing of toads
and the Milky Way's brightness

In this week's first frost,
the cool weather lettuce,
In the celebration of saints
and prayers for passed loved ones

In the windy leaf-swirl,
the securing of roots,
In the weaning of fawns
and the laziness of bees

In the appearance of mushrooms,
the silvered tremble of aspen,
In the abandonment of trees
and the opening of sky

In the decay of forest floor,
the fading of ferns,
In the washing of tools,
and the closing of the gate

Oh God of imagination, 
assurance and delight.

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grant that in the life of the Church/ we would learn to love kindness/ where there is often cruelty,/ power abuse,/ ignorance,/ and a disregard of persons./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for the Rome Synod on the Family to offer a message of reconciliation,/ hope and healing to the human family/ wherever it is hurting,/ weak and conflicted./ We pray to the Lord. 

We ask heaven's help for all near to us and around the world/ who are confused,/ despairing,/ grieved,/ angry or sad./ For gifts of joy and restored hope./ We pray to the Lord.

That we would know better how to resolve the great dangers which threaten our world:/ the absence of peace,/ the pains of injustice,/ the problems of young people,/ the health of the planet itself./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is the Feast of the North American/ Jesuit Priest-Martyrs/ Saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf/ and six other companions./ That we would not be complainers in discomfort./ We pray to the Lord.

We offer prayers for the sick,/ the disabled,/ those damaged by wars,/ the lonely/ and those whose hearts plan terrorist and violent acts./ We pray to the Lord.

And we pray for those who have died/ to know fully the promises of Jesus:/ his joy,/ his light,/ his gift of life./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Is Bulb Planting Month

Planted hyacinth bulbs in the garden yesterday as October is Bulb Planting Month. Hyacinths are a flower of the lily-family which was already highly cultivated (especially in Holland) before the end of the 16th century. The fragrance is heady and intense. The story of the flower's cultivation spread from southern Turkey through Lebanon and Syria, to northern Israel/Palestine to Iraq, to north east Iran and Turkmenistan. 

Rumi, The 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic wrote:

If you have three loaves of bread,
give two to the poor,
sell the third,
and with the money
buy hyacinths for your soul.

Like Jesus' parable of the merchant who searched for fine pearls and was un-relenting until he found the most perfect one, (Matthew 13:45ff),  Rumi's poem declares that our inner life is more important than anything. And that inner life requires the attentions of beauty, silence, sacrifice, study and consideration. 

What challenges there are to living in this awareness and intent! We weren't made for so much stress and speed. Monks and nuns understand. We need to pay attention and make some changes as we're able. Any ideas?

"You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience; you are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience."  Father Teilhard 

Jan Bos ~ Brilliant Carmine Red

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Help Us Accept Each Other

Following this morning's post reflecting on the Largesse of Jesus, I later found myself singing the lovely hymn, Help Us Accept Each Other. The lyrics were written by Fred Kaan and the tune is Kings Lynn. It is found in the Worship II hymnal. 

We might ask the parish music director if it could be taught to the folks for Mass. It's the kind of hymn which has the power to change and evolve us. The lyrics, and this new icon of a young and very beautiful Jesus, call us to a deep meditation.

Help us accept each other 
As Christ accepted us;
Teach us as sister, brother,
Each person to embrace,
Be present, Lord, among us,
And bring us to believe
We are ourselves accepted
And meant to love and live. 

Teach us, O Lord, your lessons,
As in our daily life
We struggle to be human
And search for hope and faith,
Teach us to care for people, 
For all, not just for some;
To love them as we find them, 
Or, as they may become.

Let your acceptance change us,

So that we may be moved
In living situations
To do the truth in love;
To practice your acceptance,
Until we know by heart
The table of forgiveness
And laughter's healing art.

Lord, for today's encounters

With all who are in need,
Who hunger for acceptance,
For righteousness and bread,
We need new eyes for seeing,
New hands for holding on;
Renew us with your Spirit;
Lord, free us, make us one!

The Largesse of Jesus and the Rome Synod on the Family

The largesse of Jesus

Largesse is a medieval word (Old French) meaning: extreme generosity, open handedness, big-heartedness, liberality, a willingness to give or spend freely and in abundance. In 13th century Catholic theology largesse was called a virtue ~ the opposite of avarice, which is selfish greed, hoarding, claiming and possessing.

Always there is the danger of forgetting and displacing this virtue-emphasis with the defending of dogmas, canon law, Church order, the application of scripture verses to other people's lives and even an obsession with sex. Those who hope to make the largesse of Jesus the centerpiece of Christianity (he always gives more than was hoped for) are often accused of going soft on morality. A struggling, weary, pained world awaits our announcement of the largesse of Jesus.

The gospels are filled with expressions of the largesse of Jesus:

Six stone water jars (each holding 20 to 30 gallons) turned into an amazing wine for the wedding that had run dry. (John 2:1-12) The largesse of Jesus!

The fellow who was lowered through the roof by his faithful friends who asked for restored legs but got all his sins forgiven too. (Luke 5:17-39) The largesse of Jesus!

The little boy's little bread and fish were used by Jesus to feed more than 5000. And they were satisfied and there were leftovers. (John 6:1-14) The largesse of Jesus!

The Jesus story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps the best known story ever told, has as its HERO a heretic loser-outcast - the one from whom you'd never expect anything good to come. (Luke 10:25-37) The largesse of Jesus!

The pierced side of Jesus at Calvary: blood came out and then water ~ EMPTY! (John 19:34) The largesse of Jesus!

Families all over the world await news of the largesse of Jesus for them!

  • A mom and dad and their children ~ maybe they are refugees!
  • A single mom and her children
  • A single dad and his children
  • A newly formed family with a step mom or step dad
  • A family of children being raised by an older sibling
  • A family of children being raised by a grandmother
  • A family of children being raised by an aunt
  • The family of parents who have taken in foster children
  • The family of parents with adopted children plus their own
  • The families of children shuttling back and forth between divorced  parents

Then recently I met a gay woman and her partner who are raising fifteen adopted children - all of whom are thrown away, unwanted special needs kids.  And I read about an older married couple who take in gay teens who have been kicked out of their homes, often by ostensibly Christian parents. These are families too. 

There's a lot of generosity, good will, sacrifice and self-forgetting love in all of these families. I hope the message that pours out of the Rome Family Synod is this: "How can the Church help and support you and your unique family to grow and to be safe and healthy, productive and good? What can the Church do to help you in your daily struggles?"

Most people are working so hard just to keep things together, through the disappointments, the fatigue, the financial stresses, the fears. People need the Church to be encouraging and hopeful. People need to experience the largesse of Jesus.

The Catholic Church excels in blessing things. That means the Church celebrates the goodness of God everywhere and in just about everything. In the old ritual book of blessings there are:

  • Blessings for pigs, goats and fowl
  • Blessings for bees and hives
  • Blessings for vineyards, tools, trains and type-writers
  • Blessings for beer, cheese, butter and lard
  • Blessings fire engines, oats, pastries and ashes
  • Blessings for silkworms and mobile film units
  • Blessings for communities suffering from mice, worms and  insect invasion
  • Blessings for fourteen kinds of processions
  • Blessings for ten different kinds of holy water
  • Blessings for eight kinds of rosaries
  • Blessings for fifteen kinds of scapulars...
  • But no blessing for a family.

There are priests who bless bombs, guns, tanks, submarines, warships and killer jets. There are priests who bless the homes, property, crosses, cars and graves of mafia figures. But there's no blessing for families in their variety and struggling need.

Here is the great colonnade in front of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. You know this, don't you, they represent the mother-like arms of the Church collecting and bringing into the heart of Christ every human person - all the human family. The largesse of Jesus.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Shagbark Hickory ~ Symbol of Persistence

There are two tall hickory trees standing side by side at the head of the driveway here at the edge of the woods. A hickory can reach 100 feet. Native Americans used the hickory as an important food source. When the nuts mature and fall to the driveway I rake them into piles to avoid crushing them with the truck. Turkeys, squirrels and chipmunks have a feast. 

There's a woodsman around here who tells me that hickory is probably the strongest wood - that trying to chop or saw into it is like sawing into nails. That's why hickory is used to make excellent furniture. East-of-the-Mississippi Native Americans would say hickory makes the best drumsticks. 

Where there's forest damage or devastation due to fire, drought or insect invasion, hickories are more likely to be the first trees to re-appear. Because of this capacity for survival it's become a symbol of persistence prompting me to ask myself: Do I quit or give up too soon before challenges? Or am I persistent in what needs to be done?

The Gospels are filled with images of both divine and human perseverance: 
  • God as an un-relenting  shepherd who went out to find the lost sheep or the woman who turned the house upside down to find the little coin. 
  • The friends who were so insistent in getting their friend to see Jesus that they hoisted him up to the top of the house and lowered him down through a hole they'd torn open in the roof. 
  • The long journey of Jesus to Jerusalem going through towns and villages, encountering acceptance and rejection, faith and disbelief along the way.
  • The three-day persistence of Joseph and Mary searching for the twelve year old Jesus lost in Jerusalem. 
  • The woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and who pushed through the crowd: "If only I can touch him."

But there's more! A hundred year old hickory can still produce bushels of nuts each fall, posing questions about realizing or wasting my potential? We're humans so we're not perfect, but we can be whole. Individuated is the term used by psychology.

The process by which the individual in the course of his/her life is pressed to realize his innate capacities to the full and become what he has it in him to become.

Many people never realize their capacities. Sometimes it starts when we're very young: "Stephen isn't living up to his potential," the teacher said. Ugh! Many of us quit on ourselves a long time ago. But we can change that! The hickory is a strong, enduring and successful tree  - an image of promise and potential through difficulty and challenge.

We've all left some part of our God-given capacities un-addressed. Name it:
  • The things to which we've been saying "not now"
  • The things we procrastinate over
  • The things we think we need someone else's permission to start
  • The things we only dreamed of but never approached for fear

I thought all my life that I should be a hermit-monk, but everyone stood against the idea, and so I never went. But when I turned 50 I disappeared for a week, driving across the wide state of Pennsylvania into Ohio, to the Holy Family Hermitage where as a boy I always dreamed of entering.

In the visit I met Father Basil who helped me to see quickly that hermit-monk wasn't my vocation but that I needed to do more to bring forward the inner monk I'd not been listening to. With that, the problem was resolved in an instant, and I set out on a new path.

The hickory trees have just dropped pounds and pounds of nuts - each filled with potential and possibility. Go for it!

Intercessions~ Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grant that our Sunday worship would be attentive,/ heart-felt,/ inclusive and generous./ Unify the Church where it is divided;/ send the spirit of renewal where the faith has grown weak./ We pray to the Lord.

In the new month of October we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries,/ and other days of remembrance,/ asking good health,/ safety and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

October is the Month of Mary's Rosary./ We ask to live in the atmosphere of Mary's prayer:/ in faith,/ humility and praise./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those in the Carolina's and the Bahama Islands who have suffered from recent storms./ For those who died in the sinking of the El Faro container ship/ and for all who mourn them./ We pray to the Lord.

Syria is being bombed by both Russia and the United States./ We pray for this poor,/ stressed country which knows no peace./ For its children,/ the elderly,/ the homeless./ We pray to the Lord.

Heal our families and families throughout the world/ where there is sickness,/ addiction,/ fighting and dysfunction./ Bless the efforts of the Rome-Synod./ We pray to the Lord.

Comfort families in Oregon where loved ones were murdered in gun violence this week./ Give gifts of life and light to those who have died./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's Already Spring!

Magnolias Autumn Buds

Putting the garden to bed this time of year: washing tools and reorganizing the shed, bringing in clay pots to keep them from cracking with the ice, heaping up spent vines on the compost heap. But also planting bulbs and green manure. Digging in the new grasses I found at the nursery end-of-season 40% off sale! And watching and observing ~ the leaves of trees, the birds, the sky, the animals, the temperatures, the sun's light, the berries...

Then my sister sent four 12th century Japanese poems about the four seasons and suddenly I discovered one of them present of actualized in my garden here. So I wrote my own 21st century, Starlight, Pennsylvania version. Just a few lines.

Bay Magnolia's buds are set,
Winter Rye is scattered,
Blue Grass roots are settling in,
Spring is here already.

The spring or new life is already present in the buds, the seeds, the roots ~ and in my imagination, energy, personal history, creative possibilities and potentiality. The discoveries may well take time; we might need some help, but there's no shame in that.

Even in the old wounds, the personal misfortune or upset, the resolution, insight, growth, learning, are already present. Often it is so close we don't see; we miss it. 

We might try to catch an idea or inspiration that passes through our minds. Seize it! Write it down! We're getting older, we can lose it in a moment. And then hold the idea and let it ferment a bit: to write, to compose, to work in a new way with any kind of material: flour, dreams, watercolor, paper and pen, soil and seeds, fabric, clay, journaling. Maybe it's a book that's been sitting for too long, waiting to be read.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Pope Said What?

More than a few people said during the recent papal visit that the pope should avoid politics and stick to church concerns: sexual morality, liturgy, prayers, kissing babies and charity. 

In this country we have a policy of separating church and state because history has shown (even to today) that when religion and the state are wedded, things often get ugly and dangerous - at least for some. 

But the pope has to speak to the world's problems best he can because our consciences become lax or power and greed take over.

The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. (Psalm 24:1 ~ New Living Translation)

Mahatma Gandhi said: "Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." 

So as Pope Francis addressed Congress and spoke about a Seamless Garment of Life he said:
"Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout the world. Here we have to ask ourselves: why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade." 
Now more than a week later I've yet to hear a commentator-priest or newscaster draw our attention to this paragraph from the pope's thoughts. Why is that? Too busy talking about the Fiat, the pope's clothes, what he ate and who he met privately. 

My Ukrainian priest-friend, Father John, said of Catholicism in the world today: "It is like a great ship trying to navigate a narrow and cavernous ice flow."

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Here is my friend Yuri's painting of St. Therese of Lisieux whose feast day is today. And here's a little paragraph from my boyhood missal telling us who Therese is:

Mary Frances Teresa Martin was born at Alencon in France on January 2, 1873. She was brought up in a model Christian home, and educated in the Benedictine convent at Lisieux. While still a child she felt the attraction of the cloister, and at fifteen had by persistent entreaties obtained permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux. She wanted to offer herself in sacrifice for priests and missionaries and the whole Church. She heard God's call to little ones to come to Him and surrendered herself forever with childlike confidence to God's "merciful love". She died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized in 1925. 

Perhaps the best way to become familiar with Therese, especially the Little Way of living the Gospel, is to read her autobiography, The Story of a Soul. The Ronald Knox translation (French to English) is especially beautiful. 

Therese had an exuberant love for Jesus, often expressed in her writings by the use of the little word "Ah" and repeated exclamation points which one teacher-colleague of mine called surprise marks. Here is perhaps the most lovely and spiritually awake paragraph taken from Therese's journal. 

Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: "O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation, my vocation is Love!... Yes, I have found my place in the Church, and it is you, O my God, who have given me this place... in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!... Thus I shall be all things: thus my dream shall be realized!!!"

Intercessions ~ Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

At Ground Zero/ Pope Francis said the deep fountains of flowing water reflect the tears shed on September 11, 2001,/ but also the tears people cry around the world each day,/ caused by terrorism,/ war and destruction./ For those who weep/ to be comforted./ We pray to the Lord.

Today is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi./ We ask for a new willingness to love and protect the earth/ and every living thing,/ God's great gift to us./ We pray to the Lord.

Our political climate is characterized by bitter divisions./ And if we cannot hope to work together well for the common good,/ can we at least hope by prayer to stop demonizing each other./We pray to the Lord.

We ask blessings for the peace-making work of the United Nations as it celebrates its seventieth anniversary./ We pray too for the healing of any part of our own lives where we feel disturbed,/ troubled or despairing./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the reform of prisoners around the world./ For the enlightening of consciences,/ the turning of hearts/ and growth in goodness./ We pray too for the healing of those who have been victimized by violence and crimes./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the many who are injured in wars: soldiers and civilians./ For the conversion of those who plan and execute terrorist attacks./ For refugees,/ the sick,/ the elderly and all the world's children./ We pray to the Lord.

And we pray for those who have died to enter God's promised life of light and peace/ where saints live in joy./ We pray to the Lord.