Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Memorare! Remember!

Znamenie Mother of God

Lest we forget its beauty, I'm posting this much-loved prayer: The Memorare. Perhaps it will be a first encounter for some. There's a benefit to knowing at least a few prayers by heart, serving as a jump-start when we're feeling empty. Pray this prayer everyday for a week and it will spring up spontaneously from deep inside when things seem impossible or all uphill.

But I'm putting the prayer out there alongside this flame-like icon of the Mother of God of the Sign. Mary's head is large as she perceives the fullness of God's presence while holding all our concerns in mind. Her prayer is like fire, standing with angels. Her open arms and hands form a chalice or cup waiting to be filled with our every concern. She is first disciple here - imaging a life which has Christ at the center.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection,
  implored your help
  or sought your intercession
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto you,
  O virgin of virgins, my mother.
To you do I come,
before you I stand,
  sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in your clemency hear and answer me.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grant that we would be freed of anxiety this Sabbath day/ so to worship well,/ preparing us for the forever-joy of heaven./ We pray to the Lord.

Sanctify and lead your Church to repentance/ and the clean heart of the Gospel,/ that in our vocation and good works,/ we would serve you truly and humbly./ We pray to the Lord.

In an election time/ we pray for God to drive far from us all wrong desires/ and that our nation would be restored to unity/ and preserved in goodness and love./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi,/ who is more rightly portrayed cleaning lepers than preaching to birds./ That we would be brave Christians./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of October,/ we pray for those who will keep birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for them,/ good health,/ safety and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who are unhappy with themselves/ or who are ready to give up./ We pray for those who live where there is war,/ and for the injured,/ the sick,/ the orphaned,/ those left-behind/ and for mourners./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember those who have died from among our own family and friends./ We pray as well for those who die suddenly,/ with no time to prepare/ and for those who are forgotten in death./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Prayer for Animals

Russian photographer Elena Karneeva has taken this photograph of a young girl with a young bear. When we are little, animals are our heroes: they have secret knowledge, they are magical and inspire our first books, we interact with them lovingly, they are friends whose company we enjoy. Then at some point, animals become the enemy, and we can start killing them, abusing and being violent with them. Perhaps this reflects the Adam and Eve story where Adam is so close to the animals,  he even names them. The story doesn't tell us, but after taking up with the tempter and eating from the forbidden tree, did he become indifferent to the animals or worse? 

Here is a prayer for the animals written by Albert Schweitzer.

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for animals who are suffering, for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful. Amen.*

*Matthew 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Healing the Demon-Seized Boy

Raphael ~ Section of The Transfiguration

This painting is part of a much larger and well-known painting of the Transfiguration by the Renaissance artist, Raphael. The larger piece is of the Apostles, Peter, James and John, over-whelmed by Christ's brightness on the mountaintop, with Moses and Elijah in conversation. We find this little sub-scene at the bottom of the image: as Jesus and his friends descend the mountain, they meet the father of a demon-seized child, hoping for the boy's release. 

It is a very moving scene, isn't it? The dad's face is full of anxiety and anticipation as he holds up the boy who is flailing about. Is that the boy's mother, who points to her son, looking to Jesus, expectantly? Other stressed-out relatives and neighbors surround the desperate family, calling out for Jesus to help. Here is the Gospel account.

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and lawyers arguing with them. As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe, and they ran forward to welcome him. He asked them, 'What is this argument about?" A man in the crowd spoke up: "Master, I brought my son to you. He is possessed by a spirit which makes him speechless. Whenever it attacks him, it dashes him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they failed. Jesus answered: "What an unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long must I endure you? Bring him to me." So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, "How long has he been like this? "From childhood," he replied, "Often it has tried to make an end of him by throwing him into the fire or into water. But if it is at all possible for you, take pity upon us and help us." "If it is possible?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible to one who has faith." "I have faith," cried the boy's father; help me where faith falls short." Jesus saw then that the crowd was closing in upon them so he rebuked the unclean spirit, "Deaf and dumb spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never go back!"After crying aloud and racking him fiercely, it came out, and the boy looked like a corpse; in fact, many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately, "Why could not we cast it out?" He said, "There is no means of casting out this sort but prayer."  Mark 9:14-29

As Jesus and the disciples arrive at the bottom of the Glory-Mountain the waiting crowd surges towards Jesus. "Runs forward" the gospel tells us. And they were "overcome with awe." And they "welcome Jesus." Can you feel the excitement? It makes me wonder if Jesus is still shining as he was at the top of the mountain or was there some remnant of his white-brightness that stuns the crowd. The attractiveness of Jesus. 

The father describes what's going on with the boy: it dashes him to the ground.  Poor boy. Poor parents who have to watch their children suffer. So many children suffer around the world. while their powerless parents can only watch and weep. But interiorly, can you name a time in your own life when you felt dashed to the ground?

Then there is this conversation the father and Jesus have about believing. I think the exchange is light-hearted; Jesus isn't being stern or indignant. "If it's possible," the dad asks with great courtesy. "Sure it's possible, if we believe," Jesus says. Sounds like Angel Gabriel in the conversation with Mary at the Annunciation: Sure it's possible! 

And Jesus doesn't reprimand because the dad admits faith is sometimes challenged or in short supply. We can imagine how vulnerable the parents felt - their child so tormented for so long and with no solution in sight. Jesus understands this and gives the gift of healing.

Then, when the boy is freed but left so weakened and down, people think he's dead, Jesus lifts the boy up, taking him by the hand. This is typical of Jesus all throughout Mark's Gospel accounts. Jesus, lifting up humankind. A hint of resurrection. How tender and solicitous. 

And Mark tells us that Jesus raised the boy to his feet. Can you name that place for yourself - when you were down-for-the-count and heaven restored you - put you back together or back on your feet? It's very wonderful.

Then finally, Jesus goes indoors and speaks to the disciples privately. Some folks only attend to the Gospel in the past tense. But the wonders of Jesus are for you and me as well, and NOW. Indoors means in our own interior lives - privately and personally. We don't even have to imagine what he said to them. What matters is what Jesus says to us. Each of us. Anything come to mind?

Friday, September 23, 2016

When Feeling Troubled

Christ-Teacher in Glory

This prayer comes to us from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. The monastic community of Bethlehem prays the blessing at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer. We might use it for ourselves and our families when feeling burdened, tired, heart-broken, sad or anxious. We might also pray the blessing over the world when we hear troubling news from far away and we don't know what else to do.

O Christ our true God, risen from the dead,
through the prayer of your all-holy and all-Immaculate Mother,
elevated soul and body
into the Glory of the Three Divine Persons,
by the power of your glorious and life-giving Cross,
by the protection of the holy Angels and Archangels,
through the prayer of the holy prophet
John the Baptist the Forerunner,
of Saint Joseph,
of the holy apostles,
of the martyrs,
of the holy monks and nuns,
be pleased to pour down your mercy upon us and save us,
for you are Good and You love mankind. Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Native Asters ~ Early Autumn

At the start of a new week/ we pray not to be overcome by challenges or adversity/ but that each day we would discover how to fulfill God's purposes./ We pray to the Lord.

Receive the prayers we make for the members of the Church around the world,/ that Christians everywhere would serve God truly and devoutly,/ in safety and in peace./ We pray to the Lord.

This past week at Assisi,/ Pope Francis met with religious leaders from around the world to talk about and pray for peace./ We ask blessings for this effort./ And that we would be peace-makers./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are having surgery this week,/ for the elderly,/ the chronically sick and those who care for them./ We remember as well,/ that in so much of the world there is no place or personnel to care for the injured,/ the frail and the dying./ We pray to the Lord. 

Thursday is the Feast of the Archangels Michael,/ Gabriel and Raphael./ We ask heaven to protect us from evil and danger,/ and that with angels/ our prayer would be strong in praising and thanking God./ We pray to the Lord.

For our families and our friends,/ we ask the healing of old wounds,/ addictions,/ money problems,/ resentments and anxieties./ Give new life,/ joy and hope to families which are dysfunctional or broken./ We pray to the Lord.

For relatives and dear ones who have died,/ remembering too the many who die each day by murder,/ suicide,/ untreated disease and war./ And that we would each be given what we need for our own salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation...

Praise the Lord, all nations,
extol him, all peoples,
for his faithful love is strong.
and his constancy never-ending.

That's all there is to Psalm 117 - just two verses. "If you've got gratitude, you've got the whole of the spiritual life." We complicate it of course, but really all we need to do is to strive after an ever-deepening gratitude.

I've heard there are Orthodox Jews who practice One hundred blessings a day. We know the little formula at Mass (borrowed from Judaism): "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness..."

And we can take that invitation to conscious gratitude with us all day, beyond the bread and the wine:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness there is:

my first conscious breaths of the day,
that my heart beat through the night,
these morning meds,
this glass of water,
my shower and my teeth (real or false)
my morning coffee,
that I was taught how to read,
this Gospel page,
this technology by which I communicate,
the smell of just cut grass coming through the window,
and the morning fog,
the person who crafted my eye glasses,
the sound of summer insects,
and the music of birds,
that I will see friends today...

There's 15 right there. We get the idea. Carry on...!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lessons Descending Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor in Springtime

On their way down the mountain, he enjoined them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They seized upon those words, and discussed among themselves what this 'rising from the dead' could mean. And they put a question to him. 'Why do our teachers say that Elijah must be the first to come?' He replied, 'Yes, Elijah does come first to set everything right. Yet how is it that the scriptures say of the Son of Man that he is to endure great sufferings and to be treated with contempt? However, I tell you Elijah has already come and they have worked their will upon him, as the scriptures say of him.'  Mary 9: 9-13

These verses follow the Transfiguration account of Mark 9:1-8. And as the little group now descends the mountain, Jesus instructs them not to tell others about their mystical experience until he has been "raised from the dead."  Of course the three disciples are confused, and even though Jesus has made reference to the resurrection, when he is raised on Easter morning, they are taken by surprise. 

Then out of their confusion they question Jesus. I grew up being told no questions allowed: "Just believe it; it's a mystery." But that won't do. Jesus doesn't scold or ridicule them; he allows for questions. Lots of people have lots of legitimate questions, especially about human suffering and why God allows us to experience such pain, loss and sorrow. 

But in their questioning they speak of the great prophet, Elijah, who was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. But when Jesus speaks of Elijah, he's really speaking about John the Baptist, who was treated with contempt and murdered. Jesus announced that he should personally expect no less treatment. And so the shadow of the cross falls across the scene as they descend the glory- mountain.

In the Resurrection of Jesus, God will have his day. These three disciples have been given a peek into that day and Jesus, good teacher that he is, reinforces the lesson on the way back down Mount Tabor. But many Christians get stuck at Calvary, joyless and obsessed with death and sin (especially the sins of other people). Saint Augustine said, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." Christ's death and resurrection is one fluid movement. Do you feel you have that movement in balance? Does Resurrection show in our lives: looking for life, encouraging life. repair, restoration and personal evolution?

Here's a little biography of Sister Constance and her Memphis companions. Life-claiming yellow fever and an Easter-shout!

In 1878 the American city of Memphis on the Mississippi River was struck by an epidemic of yellow fever, which so depopulated the area that the city lost its charter and was not reorganized for fourteen years. Almost everyone who could afford to do so left the city and fled to higher ground away from the river. (It was not yet know that the disease was mosquito-borne, but it was observed that high and dry areas were safe.) There were in the city several communities of nuns, Anglican or Roman Catholic, who had the opportunity of leaving, but chose to stay and nurse the sick. Most of them, thirty-eight in all, were themselves killed by the fever. One of the first to die (on September 9, 1878) was Constance, head of the Anglican Community of Saint Mary. Her last deathbed words were all Easter:  "Alleluia, Hosanna!"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

El Greco ~ Saint Matthew

Wednesday is the Feast of the Holy Apostle, Saint Matthew./ We pray for the Church to be un-distracted/ in proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ, the Savior./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the first day of Autumn./ And that as the trees will drop their leaves,/ we pray to let go of resentment,/ bitter anger,/ harmful pride and self-justification./ We pray to the Lord.

Three and a half million children live in extreme poverty in the United States,/ yet poverty is not an election-time issue because the poorest people don't vote./ We pray for a new national consciousness/ and an end to indifference and blame./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for our families and friends/ asking safety,/ well-being and health./ For anyone chronically sick,/ weakened,/ anxious or alone./ We pray to the Lord.

In our suffering world/ may we learn that diversity is a strength./ Guide world leaders/ and those who seek public office/ to be truth-tellers and unifiers./ We pray to the Lord.

Syria is nearly a failed country in this time of terrible internal war./ We pray for those who are bombing it ruthlessly/ to be returned to sanity./ For Syria's children who are terrified,/ homeless and injured./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the many who die by war,/ disaster and untreated disease./ And for our planet where the environment is dead by exploitation and greed./ And that we would be given what we need for salvation./ We pray to the Lord. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee from His face. As smoke vanishes, let them vanish, and as wax melts from the presence of fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of those who love God and who sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross and say with gladness: Hail, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for You drive away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was crucified on thee, went down to hell and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His honorable Cross, for driving away all enemies. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me with our holy Lady, the Virgin Mother of God, and with all the saints throughout the ages. Amen

Prayer to the Lord's Holy Cross of Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1357) Monk, Theologian and Archbishop of Thessalonica. Father Kresk suggests praying this prayer before traveling and when we know we will be meeting persons who can be dangerous or difficult. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Khalid Jahara and a Decade of the Rosary

I invite us all to read the story of  Khalid Jahara - click on his name here. And someone might ask, "Father Stephen, there's so much sad news in the world, do we really need to know about this?"  I'd say we're like blind Saul on the Damascus road if we don't know. And if we don't know, we can't pray.

Here is a rosary decade with meditations between each Hail Mary, remembering Jesus being crowned with thorns. The prayer-thoughts spring from the news of Khalid's death, which urges us to pray - - - urgently. 

Our Father...

Khalid Jahara, a Lebanese Christian, wasn't killed in the Middle East, but here in this country, in Oklahoma. In this country, which is one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. O Jesus, help us to understand you rightly. 

Hail Mary...

The guards in this painting have made up a sadistic game. They are having a lot of fun at Jesus' expense. The royal crown, the bowing, the faded cloak and scepter are all fake. The world is full of bullies who will not go away. God keep us all from shaming others, making them feel invisible, unwanted and afraid.

Hail Mary...

The first verse of the hymn Healing River says: O healing river, send down your waters, send down your waters upon this land. O healing river, send down your waters, and wash the blood from off the sand. 

Hail Mary...

The long thorns of the fake crown go deeply into Jesus' head. They invade and violate the mind of Jesus where his thoughts of invitation and light originate. But perhaps the thorns also amend the worst thoughts of human beings: self-righteousness, deadly hatred, bigotry, moral superiority and exclusion. These are the thoughts that demonize other people while remaining totally blind to self. 

Hail Mary...

Throughout this humiliation and abuse, Jesus is silent. He does not curse; he does not threaten. Conversely, the radio airwaves and internet commentary in our country are filled with objections, foul complaint about others, menace, disapproval and hate. The priest who heads up the Vatican office for communications says that the world of Catholic blogs is a cesspool of hate, all in the name of defending the faith. We need to ask for forgiveness and a change of heart. 

Hail Mary...

American television journalist Tom Brokaw wrote a book called The Greatest Generation. There is no greatest generation as interiorly, each of us and all of us, in every generation, is seriously flawed. And just when we think we might be evolving into a greater consciousness and expansion of heart, hatred reveals itself in some new and unforseen way. Blessed are the clean of heart, they will see God," Jesus says. What a promise: to see God!

Hail Mary... 

Apparently, the distinctive white robes worn by the KKK can be bought online now: $145 for the standard cotton uniform, $165 for the satin version. Father forgive. 

Hail Mary...

An American news commentator born in India said recently, "After this election cycle, will we ever be able to love each other again in this country?"

Hail Mary...

A lot of religion concerns itself, even obsessively, with correct externals. But murder and all violent acts begin with a single thought. Let us pray for religious lives that transform us from the inside out.  

Hail Mary...

And let us pray for Khalid and his grieving family, his wife, parents and all his family. Let us pray for our national shame to be healed and forgiven. Let us pray for those who harbor hatred and bigotry and for their conversion. Let us pray for ourselves to be freed of anything that is not of God.

Hail Mary...

Glory be to the Father to the Son and to the Holy Spirit...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Doors Wide Open And The 800th Post

Today marks the 800th post for the Pauca Verba blog. And here is a photo of the monastery chapel in Cyprus dedicated to the Mother of God Trooditissa. The doors are wide open, inviting us to enter our own inner room, our secret place, to pray. Like open doors, that's all these 800 posts have hoped to do. 

After the shepherds visited the cave of Bethlehem and returned home praising God, Saint Luke tells us: But Mary treasured up all these sayings and reflected on them in her heart. Luke 2:19

To treasure. To reflect. To ponder. To turn the things of God over and over in our hearts. Thanks to all who enter here with me. I send good wishes and a blessing.


Here is the icon of the Trooditissa Mother of God found in the high-altitude Cyprus monastery bearing her name. The monk who painted the icon spared no effort, enfolding the Holy Mother and Her Christ-Child in great folds of embroidered fabric. Angels burst through the clouds placing heaven's crown; the Child sits in the crook of his Mother's arm as if on a throne. Mary seems to stand at heaven's window looking out at us happily, while Jesus wondrously reads his open book. Maybe he is reading the ancient prophecies which tell of his birth or maybe his favorite psalm. 

But the Trooditissa icon has a specialty. Under this title, Mary is invoked by women who can't conceive. "Women who are infertile," the tradition says. And while this is notable and many couples will give testimony about the wonder-working icon, I'd suggest the Trooditisssa might understand fertility as a matter of the heart even more than obstetrics.

So to explore this larger sense, I looked up the word fertile, discovering many synonyms and other beautifully related words that can deepen our prayer and help us to advance in spiritual understanding.

From the infertility of so much arguing - deliver us, O Lady.
From the sterility of cynicism and complacency - deliver us, O Lady.
From the barren inner world of suspicion - deliver us, O Lady.
From fruitless opinion-ating and arrogance - deliver us, O Lady.

From the unproductive rehearsing of resentments - deliver us, O Lady.
From the  impoverishment of harboring old wounds - deliver us, O Lady.
From the fallow mind of fevered imaginings - deliver us, O Lady.
From the death of ingratitude - deliver us, O Lady. 

O Lady, make us bountiful in love,
   and rich in mercy.
O Lady, give us a high yield of hope;
   bring forth goodness in us.
O Lady, guide us to plentiful rejoicing,
   generative of trust in God
   and the child-ing of kindness.

O Lady, that we would flower compassion,
   and be fruitful in good deeds.
O Lady, that we would be birth-ers of love,
   our minds teeming with good thoughts of others,
   our words bearers of peace.
O Lady, mother something new of Jesus in us;
   smile into us an abundance of joy-carrying faith.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

World Trade Center from the Staten Island Ferry

Today we remember the great sadness of September 11, 2001./ We pray for the inner healing of so many family and friends who lost loved ones that day,/ and for the health of 9/11 first-responders and helpers./ We pray to the Lord. 

Last Sunday/ Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized a saint./ We pray to learn well her simple teaching:/ To do small things with great love./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the Church/ and for our country,/ that we would keep our faces heavenward,/ lest we grow hard of heart./ We pray to the Lord. 

Let us pray for the many who need protection and help./ For babies in the womb to be kept safe,/ for those who care for the elderly and the sick,/ for anyone facing difficult decisions,/ for those who are homesick./ We pray to the Lord.

Students and teachers have returned to school./ We pray blessings for all,/ and that we would  love learning./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross./ We pray for the up-lifting of those who feel defeated,/ depressed,/ overwhelmed or despairing./ And for Christians who suffer imprisonment,/ abuse,/ pain and even death in troubled parts of the world./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally/ we pray for those who have died:/ among them children trapped in poverty and domestic violence,/ war and disaster./ And for our own salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mexico in the news and the Guadalupe

So much TV talk about Mexico these days. And I think of that country's troubles and its dear people, the Lady of Guadalupe and her shrine in Mexico City. Pope John Paul II presented the Guadalupe to us as patroness of our hemisphere.

Here is her litany, composed by Father Elizondo. The prayer is very beautiful and deep. If we pray it slowly and thoughtfully it can evolve us, each line invading our sub-conscious, which is the underneath of our minds, our dream place, where we often don't go, for fear of change.

Mother of the unborn, pray for us.
Mother of orphans,
Mother of the rejected,
Mother of the unwanted,
Mother of the unrecognized,
Mother of the powerless,
Mother of the voiceless,
Mother of the oppressed,
Mother of migrants,
Mother of the marginalized,
Mother of the destitute,
Mother of foreigners,
Mother of immigrants,
Mother of the homeless,
Mother of those considered gift-less,
Mother of those who see no value in their lives,
Mother of those who have no political influence,
Mother of those who have no reason to hope,
Mother of consolation,
Mother of those who say yes to Jesus,
Mother of Providence,

From becoming oppressive, deliver us.
From becoming cynical,
From denying options to the poor,
From becoming opportunists,
From becoming deaf to the voices of prophets,
From becoming blind to injustice,
From becoming complacent,
From becoming ungrateful servants,
From becoming arrogant,
From becoming elitists,

Model of love and compassion, may we imitate you.
Model of hope and new life,
Model of evangelizaton,
Model of simplicity,
Model of justice for the poor,
Enabler of the downtrodden,
Example of receptivity,
Example of humility,
Example of sensitivity,
Bridge builder of cultures,
Respecter of diversity,

Virgen Morena, "Dark Virgin," Mother of God, Lady of Guadalupe, we commit ourselves to follow your example, to be life-givers and receptive to new life. We will be faithful followers in our love towards the poor, in our desire to give dignity to all people and to treat all the abandoned with tenderness. Let us live with constant confidence that we need not fear when we acknowledge you as our Mother, Mother of god. Grant that we may participate in your plan for new life and give us faith in the daily miracles that you and your Son, Jesus, work in our lives. Amen

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Here is a photo of the wonderful 6th century mosaic discovered in the chapel of Saint Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. The mosaic, dating to the time of the Emperor Justinian, depicts the gospel account of the Transfiguration we read in Saint Mark's Gospel:
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain where they were alone; and in their presence he was transfigured; his clothes became dazzling white, with a whiteness no bleacher on earth could equal. They saw Elijah appear, and Moses with him, and there they were, conversing with Jesus. Then Peter spoke: "Rabbi," he said, "how good it is that we are here! Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?" (For he did not know what to say; they were so terrified.) Then a cloud appeared, casting its shadow over them, and out of the cloud came a voice: "This is my Son, my Beloved; listen to him." And now suddenly, when they looked around, there was nobody to be seen but Jesus alone with themselves.  Mark 9:2-8 

Six days later. Some days earlier and in the verses previous to this account, Jesus has shared sad news with the disciples that he will be rejected and made to suffer, and that there is a cross for them to carry too. We can imagine how disheartened they were to hear this.

Peter, James and John. That these three are Jesus' gospel-insiders doesn't mean they are being held for us as fine examples of faith. Peter will deny knowing Jesus at the Last Supper. After this Transfiguration account James and John will argue over who is the greatest. And the three of them will fall asleep in the Gethsemane Garden the night of Jesus' arrest. 

"...and led them up a high mountain..." Biblically, a mountain is an image of a meeting with God. The image calls to us: "Pay attention, God is going to teach us something new." We can have our own mountain top experiences for sure.

"...he was transfigured; his clothes became dazzling white, with a whiteness no bleacher on earth could equal."  Jesus consoles them in their sorrow, giving them this window into Easter. It's not that Easter replaces Good Friday, but the darkness and sorrow of Jesus suffering-death is transformed into Easter light and joy.

"...and out of the cloud..." Another image: God is here! We might re-think what we're saying the next time we complain: "There's a cloud hanging over me" indicating a string of bad luck and instead, as spiritual people, acknowledge the nearness of God through it all.

"This is my Son, my Beloved; listen to him." Oh, I want to listen to Jesus! Have you heard this hymn: I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow of my life...I want to see the brightness of God...clear sun of righteousness shine on my him there is no darkness at all...night and day are both alike...shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

"They saw Elijah appear and Moses with him..." These two have been referred to as Israel's heavy hitters. They are present here to let us know that in Jesus Christ, God's ancient promises have come true. God's day is here.

But what does it all mean? The previous verses, the three insider apostles and then this scene: it is all of one fluid movement. Indeed, something has to die so that something new and glorious can appear. Something has to change, as Jesus is changed. It isn't appearances that must change, but consciousness, (even sub-consciousness!), hearts, minds and choices. The change (the transfiguration) is deep and personal to each of us, yes, but it is all the more ecclesial, national and global. Get this:

"The poor man cries before your house, and you pay no attention. There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand confused over the choice of attractive floor coverings."  Saint Ambrose of Milan

Someone leaving the Catholic faith once said to me, "I want a religion that's about more than just dying and rising." I'd agree, if I thought for a moment we really understood the profound heart-searing depth and urgency of "dying and rising." 

I met a lawyer recently who is at retirement age. She talked about going back to school to become an RN so she can go to third world countries, where there are no doctors and nurses, to take care of the sick-poor. She's discerning this only for herself, not suggesting we all have to do it. But I thought, "WHOA!"

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Church of Mary's Nativity ~ Putinki, Russia

Wednesday is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary./ We pray for little girls everywhere,/ mindful of those who are unwanted, / uneducated,/ sold or exploited,/ whose very presence in the womb is threatened./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis who will meet with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury next month./ Guide the Church along the way of reconciliation,/ focused on our common Baptism./ We pray to the Lord.

It is Labor Day weekend./ In solidarity,/ we pray blessings upon all human labor:/ for child laborers/ and all whose work is un-seen,/ under paid,/ under appreciated,/ unjust./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray especially for those whose work personally benefits us in any way:/  for teachers,/ health care professionals,/ the people who create the food we need and the products we use./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray never to forget our first love for God and God's mercy./ That we would desire living only as God would have us live./ We pray to the Lord.

Give help and healing to all whose suffer./ For those who live where there is fire,/ famine,/ flood or any disaster./ For those who work hard to rescue and aid those who are in trouble./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray too for those who have died/ as so many parts of the world are becoming a cemetery/ with wars claiming the lives of even the littlest children./ And that we would stop this madness./ We pray to the Lord.