Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Invoking the Garden Saints ~ A Morning Prayer for the Nation

There are saints beyond counting, most of whom fit into one category or another. Of course, there are the apostles. Then there are martyr-saints, saints who were kings and queens, monks and nuns, popes and bishops. There are saints who were married with children (finally recognizing that lay people are supposed to be holy too). Dig around (no pun intended) and we see there's even a category of Garden Saints. 

Here's a home-made morning prayer we might offer on behalf of our needy country (and others too) suffering, what Pope Francis has called, an epidemic of animosity. But the right politics won't put us back together. As a nation we need to do some very deep, personal, inner work - sometimes called spiritual gardening. Might the Garden Saints plant seeds of new goodness, unity, reconciliation, courtesy and healing in our hearts. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I arise today in the gentling of Francis,
   in his lauding of the Creator.
I arise today in the common sense of Brigid,
   in her community-building and inner flame.
I arise today in the discipline of Cuthbert,
   in his interior hermitage and animal friendships.
I arise today in the persuasion of Ansovino,
   in his awareness of the littlest and sharing of plenty.

Holy Dorothy of Caesarea,
   we'll need your patience today.
Holy Elizabeth of Hungary,
   may we care for one another.
Holy Fiacre of Meaux,
   may our hearts be closed to no one.
Holy Isidore and Maria,
   bless us in our prayer.
Holy Kessog of Scotland,
   cover us with justice.
Holy Nauchlan of Deeside,
   stave off our spiritual hunger.

The ever-bloom of Mother Mary, be ours this new day.
The generosity of Phocas, be ours this new day.
The watchful gaze of Magnus, be ours this new day.
The non-hate of Werenfried, be ours this new day.
The ordinariness of Adelard, be ours this new day. 

May Joseph, whose staff bloomed lilies, delight us.
May Swithin the rain-maker, uphold us.
May Rita, whose winter-garden bore figs, shield us.
May Urban, who tended vines, strengthen us. 
May Valentine, with his rooster, inspire us.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

From the beginning of creation...

Hold this picture-thought.

After leaving there, he came into the territory of Judaea and Transjordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, 'Is is lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' They were putting him to the test. He answered them, 'What did Moses command you?' They replied, 'Moses allowed us to draw up a writ of   dismissal in cases of divorce.' The Jesus said them, 'It was because you were so  hard hearted that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. This is why a man leaves his father and mother, and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide.' Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.' Mark 10:1-12

At face value Jesus is giving us a new law about marriage. If that's the case, then we must acknowledge that the teaching is much more strict than the rules of the Church today. There's much more going on here than that, but we must look at the larger context to understand.

A few lines before and then immediately following the twelve verses above, Jesus makes two references to children. They serve as bookends to the verses about divorce.

Then he took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arm round him, said to them, "Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake welcomes me. And the man who welcoming me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!" Mark 9:36,37

Then some people came to him bringing little children for him to touch. The disciples tried to discourage them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant and told them, "You must let little children come to me - never stop them!  For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Indeed, I assure you  that the man who does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Then he took the children in his arms and laid his hands on them and blessed them" Mark 10: 13-16 

Then right between these two references and in the middle of the verses about divorce, (did you catch it?) Jesus says, "But from the beginning of creation God made them..."

Jesus is inviting us to accept his teaching and live with the utter simplicity and acceptance of children. And the focus of the teaching in this chapter is the words, "the beginning of creation." 

Lots of people believe that the end time will be the moment of God's punishing evil and rewarding good. There's scripture to support that belief. But they also like to think of themselves as rewarded and the people they don't approve of as punished. But all the more, (and this was not an unusual Jewish belief in Jesus' time) in the end, creation will be restored to its original plan or state. 

The most well known psalm 23:2-3 suggests this restoration, "Beside restful waters he leads me, he refreshes my soul."  In the Book of Job, poor Job having lost everything is promised a new beginning. And we remember the rainbow after the flood waters receded and Noah and his family left the ark - creation as it was in the beginning. 

So the verses about divorce are really much more about our eventual return to the state of right relatedness. Our destiny is to "return to the garden," a garden of such delight and where we walked with God in the cool of the evening. God will give back to us what we've lost.

I remember our third grade class being introduced to the Encyclopedia Britannica in the mid 1950's and sitting with classmates writing our first research reports. Somehow volume E wound up in front of me, and how I enjoyed the discovery of everything about elephants, especially the differences between African and Indian elephants. The picture accompanying the article was something like the one above. 

What ancient memory must reside in these marvelous animals! And how horrifyingly awful it is that an elephant is shot and killed every fifteen minutes. A world without elephants?! That since those 3rd grade days elephants are near extinction, because ruthless, greedy people want the money that's made by stealing their tusks. How we insult God!

I really need to believe that in the end, God, in His most wonderful creative imagination, will not leave us in sorrow before all the terrible losses of this earth: our destroying the animals and plants, spoiling the water and air, blowing up the mountains and ripping out everything below the earth to make things that we then throw away. In effect, turning the entire, spinning planet into a huge heap of trash . 

Oh Jesus my God, that we would know the truth of your words, that in the end, we will know creation "as it was in the beginning." And Jesus, that I would miss nothing and appreciate deeply everything of what remains. Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yes! Going Down A Dark Road ~ Can You Name It?

Someone terribly unnerved wrote about this picture, trying to figure me out with my reference to the dark road: "Are you making a political statement?" First of all, it's good to be unnerved by the picture. Images of any kind that don't elicit a felt response are pretty useless. The people who create TV commercials know this. 

And maybe the image is un-nerving because we've probably all been in a car on a desolate night like this. But as Advent begins, what I'm saying with the photo is: Name this; it's an interior place.

You know, we can sit in church for a hundred years, listen to hundreds of sermons, light the candles, watch the vestments change color, hear the readings and liturgical prayers go around and round and still never go inside, which is where true religion takes place. I don't know about you, but I wasn't given Christianity as a spiritual way - a way of exterior religious observance - but not an inner spiritual path. But we grow with God's help and those we meet along the way.

How can I celebrate Christmas, the Feast of Light, if I don't first identify my own personal darkness? And while some darkness is sin, pray we realize that's by no means all it is. We don't know where the dark road in the photo is going, do we? Is there some part of my life that feels like that?

This road is slippery and narrow. Does that touch some inner place? I'd be thinking, "O God, please don't let me break down here." Does that resonate within me? How un-settling this darkness is. Can I identify in my life the inner place that feels so desperate for light or for an experience of safe arrival? 

Friends, this is the spiritual life. And if  Advent, in these darkest days before the solstice, doesn't take me to these inner places where I need the Child to be born who is called LIGHT - then I'm just roasting chestnuts and jingling bells. 

We might interrupt our regular prayer routine for at time and sit with this photo and get to naming some of it: 

  • the loneliness perhaps,
  • the fear of what lies ahead in my life, 
  • where I'm feeling closed in, 
  • where I'm unnerved or feeling desperate, 
  • the terror of a breakdown. 
  • where I'm kind of slipping and sliding, 
  • where interiorly I know I could go over the edge,
  • an inner place where I'm gripping the wheel, 
  • maybe the dark road is the road of resentment,
  • or the lonely road of my personal discontent. 

Many people never look there, keeping religion all external. Look out the window these dark days and what do you see? You see yourself reflected in the dark glass! These are metaphors for sure. But metaphor doesn't mean something's not real. Metaphor means it's MOST real - it's what's going on with me personally. I get it! This is where the Christmas Child wants to be born again. Now I can make my prayer: perhaps the best prayer I've ever prayed.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Intercessions ~ First Sunday of Advent

Going down a dark road: can you name it?

As we set out into Advent,/ forgive the nation's polarization/ and what we say or do that excludes or labels others unfairly./ Heal the dark animosity that has been emboldened./ We pray to the Lord.

As we prepare for Christmas and the Birth of God's Child,/ bless us with all that "new birth" signifies:/ trust,/ hope/ and a renewed sense of belonging./ We pray to the Lord.

Give us generous hearts/ as we become aware of those for whom wintertime means suffering:/ those without shelter,/ or who work outdoors,/ or have insufficient food,/ heat,/ clothing or companionship./ We pray to the Lord.

Bless us with patience,/ safety and gratitude/ in this season of holiday traveling,/ and homes that are welcoming and sober./ We pray to the Lord.

As Christians will celebrate Christmas,/ the Jewish people will celebrate Hanukkah/ their own festival of light./ Dispel the darkness of destruction and violence that can emanate from a human heart./ Bless us with a time of peace./ We pray to the Lord. 

We ask gifts of healing for those who are sick or frail/ and the blessings of strength and patient good-will for care providers and family./ Grant that our hope would remain intact./ We pray to the Lord.

As we begin a new liturgical year,/ and trusting you leave no one in darkness,/we pray for those who have died since last Advent./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

White Pine With Snow

Looking for signs, even glimpses of hope these days, and then it snowed Saturday night into Sunday - a heavy, wet, ground-covering, branch-bending snow. Here's an early morning photo of the young, self-seeded, White Pine out front, when the snow started to let up. 

Then investigating the symbolism of both snow and pine, I put the two themes together and realized the possibilities for good wishes and a hint of optimism. 

"God has given us two books - the book of nature and the book of the Bible."  Father Alexander Men

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Sweet smell of pine, enliven us.
Fire sparks of pine, ignite courtesy anew.
Wreath of pine, kindness as our prize.
Endurance of pine, encircle us.
Iroquois Peace Tree, talk to us.

First snow, clean heart of Christ's Gospel.
First snow, safe covering of unity.
First snow, preservation of our goodness.
First snow, land softly on made-up minds.
First snow, Melt, frozen hearts!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Blessing Prayer for My Country

These nineteen months have been a terrible political time for many people in the United States: fights for domination, failing fact-checks, demonization, threats, arrogance, dirty-ness, false promises, self-betrayal, pandering, superficiality, manipulation, even violence. Priests hear a lot: I am not alone in feeling we have gone off into darkness.

But I don't like staying stuck in bitterness, so I created this Prayer for My Country - imagining that (like St. Joseph Cupertino) I can fly. But in my day-dream I fly beyond the church ceiling, up and into space, and there, hovering, I pray blessings over the nation.

The community of Trinity be yours.
The Father's imagination be yours.
Christ's countenance,
Holy Spirit's life-breath be yours.

Gabriel's All-Hail be yours.
Anna's, Who am I? be yours.
Heaven's good-will angels,
Magi's guiding star be yours.

The Salvation-bearing hand of Christ be yours.
The dignity of  Mary be yours.
Joseph's integrity,
The Baptist's repentance be yours.

Mary's Bethlehem welcome be yours.
Christ's embrace of children be yours.
The humility of Zaccaheus,
The inner freedom of the Samaritan be yours.

The new-seeing of Bartimaeus be yours.
Christ's courtesy towards women be yours.
His Gethsemane consciousness,
The water-wash from his side be yours.

Joy of the myrrh-bearers be yours.
Thomas' change of heart be yours.
Christ's ascent to higher things,
The un-burdening of Paul be yours.

The bread-breaking of apostles be yours.
The Gospel-love of Francis be yours.
The sick-carrying strength of Aloysius,
Drexel's love of the littlest be yours.

The medicine of Martin be yours.
The God-love of Tekakwitha be yours.
The violence-stopping witness of Telemachus,
Emma's healed temper be yours.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Intercessions for the Feast of Christ the King

Christ's Blessing Hand ~ Hagia Sophia

The animals and plants of our planet are rapidly being pushed to the edge by deforestation,/ pollution,/ over-fishing,/ illegal wildlife trade and climate change./ We pray to be smart/ and to learn how to take care./ Human greed needs to be healed./ We pray to the Lord.

As the Jubilee Year and the Liturgical Year come to a close/ we pray for grateful hearts/ able to discern the life-sustaining,/ protective,/ healing/ and merciful presence of God in our own day./ We pray to the Lord.

This Feast of Christ the King,/ we invite and ask for Christ to enter the universe of every human heart and mind./ For the disciples of Jesus to establish and promote Christ's reign of compassion,/ love and justice./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for the seventeen new cardinals installed in Rome to be pastors and not princes./ We pray for religion where it becomes distorted,/ a scourge upon God's earth/ instead of a blessing./ We pray to the Lord.

For family and friends with whom we gather this holiday week. For those who are away from home by distance or alienation./ For the safety of holiday travelers/ and for anyone who is alone,/ jobless or depressed./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for persons who are feeling vulnerable these days,/ badly shaken  or in the dark,/ unholy or un-well./ We ask blessings of stability and security for our nation/ in a time of leadership transition./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we remember those who are fallen asleep in death/ and who have entered God's land of light./ Grant peace to our world,/ wearied and spent by violence and warring./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Seasoned with salt...

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing; but if the salt loses its saltiness, what will you season it with? Have salt in yourselves; and be at peace with one another." Mark 9: 49,50

Some scholars have suggested that these three salt-sayings are really independent of one another, as if Jesus said them at different times and under different circumstances. Perhaps as the Evangelist wrote his Gospel he simply lumped them together for convenience. 

As with the previous sayings, they are mysterious, but not because they are up-in-the-clouds and so far removed from us, but because they are so close to us, right under our noses, we can miss their meaning. Here is a verse from the Hebrew Scriptures, The Book of Leviticus, that might help us to understand:

"None of the cereal offerings which you offer to Yahweh must be prepared with leaven, for you must never include leaven or honey in food burnt for Yahweh. You may offer them to Yahweh as an offering of first-fruits, but they will not make a pleasing smell if they are burnt on the altar. You will put salt in every cereal offering that you offer, and you will not fail to put the salt of the covenant of your God on your cereal offering; to every offering you will add an offering of salt to your God." Leviticus 2:11-13

In the Hebrew Scriptures the temple gifts were burnt because human beings are fickle and so to emphasize that a gift to God is really that - a gift - it was burnt so it couldn't be taken back. Makes sense!

And now that whole system of temple sacrifice of grains, calves, kid-goats, lambs and doves is over. Perhaps Jesus consciously ended it when he turned over the tables in the temple where animals were being sold for sacrifices.

Now it's not not dead animals, but we're the sacrifice. Our offering is the alive offering of ourselves and all we do, our thanks, our praise. We might remember the 1960's Joe Wise song we sang at Mass?

Yours as we stand at the table you set,
Yours as we eat the bread our hearts can't forget,
We are the sign of Your life with us yet.
We are Yours. We are Yours.

Take our bread, we ask you

take our hearts,
we love you, take our lives,
O Father, we are Yours,
We are Yours.

Even our standing is a gift to God, our heart's remembering, the living out of each of our days. And what about the salt?

  • As salt wakes up food - wake yourself up as a living offering to God. Wake up to the realm of the Spirit!
  • As salt is a preservative - preserve yourself from hatred and delusion.
  • As salt is a catalyst (making chemical reactions happen) - that I would experience some new and enduring heart-reaction to God in Christ.

"Have salt in yourselves." Human tears are salty. I'm wondering if Jesus is inviting us to shed tears, not for ourselves, but salty tears for the sorrows of the world. 

Tears for the money waste: Some say three billion dollars. Others, five billion. Still others, six billion dollars to elect a new president? 

Tears for our worship, if even unwitting, of false gods. Build a football stadium; you're amazing. Build a cathedral; you're a fool.

Tears for the sex exploitation of girls and young women, the turning of young boys into soldiers and all the decisions that leave children worse off, even dead.

Tears for the planet's destruction by greed and human stupidity: every fifteen minutes a great elephant is killed and hacked to pieces for its tusks, which are then carved into Chinese baubles.

Let's pay attention to the salt-sayings of Jesus!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Moon Shines Full....

Last night's moon over Chicago

Priest-Martyr, Father Alexander Men said: "God has given us two books, the book of nature and the book of the Bible." So did you see the bright super-moon last night or early this morning? I found myself singing a hymn we often used in the seminary: I Sing the Mighty Power of God.

I sing the mighty power of God
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad,
and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day; 
the moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord
that filled the earth with food;
he formed the creatures with his word
and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how your wonders are displayed
where'er I turn my eyes;
if I survey the ground I tread 

or gaze upon the skies.

There's not a plant or flower below
that makes your glories known;
and clouds arise and tempests blow
by order from your throne;
while all that borrows life from thee
is ever in your care,
and everywhere that we can be,
you, God, are present there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Holding On ~ Letting Go

Here are some golden beech tree leaves, chewed on by insects, spent and weighed down a bit by an early November snow. While the leaves of all the other trees have fallen, the beech trees hold on. There's undoubtedly a wonderfully mysterious, botanical reason for this, but the leaves also offer us pause for reflecting about ourselves.

It's about holding on. Each leaf holds on by a thin stem. I'm holding on by a thread, or I'm holding on for dear life, we might say. It was poor Job who coined the phrase, "by the skin of my teeth." Not giving up can feel like that: Holding on for the sake of the children. Holding onto a job that's just awful, but is needed for now. Holding onto friendships. Holding on to dear memories. Holding on to each other in fears or darkness. Holding on to faith or hope.

Sometimes the holding on doesn't serve us well, but leaves us distracted and tired: Holding on to old memories which feed resentments. Holding on to too many things (stuff). Even holding on to another person which relationship isn't serving us well, but is keeping us small, un-evolved or even feeling inwardly ugly. Holding onto past mistakes and regrets, long ago forgiven. That's a big one!

We might have a deeper, silent look at the beech leaves above and give thanks for the holding on which reveals some personal strength, courage or depth of generosity. Ever wonder where it comes from!? Conversely, we might pray for clarity and resolution when, at least in an inner, secret place, we know we'd be better off if we could/would just let go.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Angel Alphabet


This Angel Alphabet was posted back in 2015 to celebrate the September Feast of the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. I thought it might be a good idea to post it again, now that this election time of nineteen months has passed with all of its disappointment, and that we might ask for the help of angels in the days, months and years ahead. And that as a nation we might recover and once again know light-heartedness.

The image above shows the roof of a Coptic Church, with wide-eyed and concerned angels looking into our world. 

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. 

Father Stephen P. Morris

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Intercessions ~ Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pope Francis brings the Year of Mercy to a close next week./ We pray to be a Church that extends to the world/an experience of God's great kindness./ We pray to the Lord.

Election Day is passed./ Now we pray in the United States/ to create a land that pleases God,/ and that we would create that land together/ and for the good of all./ We pray to the Lord.

For the conversion of hearts to the things of peace./ For the little children of the world:/ that they would be fed,/ housed,/ clothed,/ protected and loved./ We pray to the Lord.

Give strength and healing to those who suffer addictions,/ where marriages are in trouble/ where refugees and exiles look for safety and security./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who live in pain and sickness./ For those whose minds are sick with negative or harmful thoughts./ And for the healing of those who are fearful or angry./ We pray to the Lord.

As nature shuts down in our hemisphere for its winter rest,/ we pray to enter our own inner room/ where we may know God in stillness./ And make us generous in helping those who suffer in the cold time./ We pray to the Lord.

Restore hope and joy to those who grieve over painful losses./ And to those who have died,/ give the delight of encountering Jesus in his welcome./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Some mysterious sayings

Young Jesus teaching

'As for the man who leads astray one of these little ones who have faith, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck. If your hand is your undoing, cut it of; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell and the unquenchable fire. And if it is your foot that leads you astray, cut it off; it is better to enter into life a cripple than to keep both your feet and be thrown into hell. And if it is your eye, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.'  Mark 9: 41-49

How well Jesus teaches us, using memorable images to help us know what's most important.  Here in these verses: handseyes and feet are internal places. Jesus is teaching: Your interior life is serious business. So in that inner life steer clear of evil things - let nothing take you away from friendship with God.

And what might that inner menace be? Superficiality. An arrogant heart that looks down on other people. Incessant inner chatter. Stoking the fires of division. Unresolved issues which bring about emotional overload. Maybe even over-commitment which exhausts us, leaving little time for anything else. 

It's all an invitation to self-knowledge. Opinion-ating might be an avoidance tactic - deflecting us from the inner work of coming to self-knowledge. An inner life in this state can be a living hell.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Master, we saw..."

John said to him, 'Master, we saw a man driving out devils in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.' Jesus said, 'Do not stop him; no one who does a work of divine power in my name will be able in the same breath to speak evil of me. For he who is not against us is on our side. I tell you this if anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah, that man assuredly will not go unrewarded. Mark 9:38-41

Sounding quite pleased with themselves for having driven out devils in Jesus' name, the apostles then seem to step over the line, complaining to Jesus about the fellow who did the same, but illicitly. Jesus sets them straight, giving them a lesson on what matters and doesn't matter in the realm of religion.

I read recently from a blog that's been defunct for a number of years, of a young woman who claimed to be a Christian and a devoted follower of Jesus. When someone asked her where she had been baptized, she acknowledged that she had baptized herself in the tub at home. This set off all kinds of debate and contention in the hearers. Kind of sounds like the apostles running to tell Jesus about this exorcist-man who doesn't have jurisdiction and their stamp of approval. 

Orthodox-Heterodox. Authorized-Unorthorized, Valid-Invalid. Approved-Disapproved. Legitimate-Illegitimate. Who's in-Who's out. We've got all kinds of words in religion that reflect this kind of thinking still. Jesus doesn't seem to care. In other words: Don't stop anyone from doing a heavenly work just because they're not part of your group.

I con-celebrated a funeral Mass some years ago and after the Our Father, the priest went into a kind of dissertation about who may and may not receive Holy Communion. He spoke longer than he had at the homily time.

Mind you, this isn't a call to throw all caution - all disciplines - to the winds, but rather: If we were to really hear these words of Jesus deeply, what might change? This week Pope Francis went to Sweden to begin a year of reconciliation with the Lutherans as they remember the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. The pope's plane hadn't left the Rome airport when one cardinal (apparently assuming the pope was going to advance inter-communion with Lutherans), went very public announcing that a mutual reception of the Sacrament  was out of the question, an impossibility. One Lutheran bishop said: "Catholics don't own the Eucharist." Catholics don't own the Eucharist anymore than the apostles owned the power to perform exorcisms.

God is active everywhere, Jesus seems to say. What joy if we were better at discerning that active, divine presence. What new unity! What new Christian community! What a sign of healing for a world divided, bitter and weary.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Intercessions ~ Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

As November begins/ we pray for all who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for the blessings of peace,/ good health and safety./

Marking the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation,/ Pope Francis has asked for the healing of memories,/ the forgiveness of sins/ and that we would forge ahead towards unity with Lutherans./ We ask for these efforts to be fruitful and sustained./ We pray to the Lord. 

Our country will need a very deep purification and healing after Election Day./ We pray that we would love each other well./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for Christians who are impatient to be perfect/ and for anyone who is angry with God or the Church./ For people who carry the injury and sadness of past hurts/ and for anyone we need to forgive./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust our deepest longings to God's care,/ asking for clarity,/ strength/ and patience./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for seminarians,/ priests and deacons,/ who are discouraged,/ feeling lost or empty,/ tired/ or even unbelieving./ For the restoration of joy and hope./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember those who are chronically or terminally ill./ For those whose health is frail or failing/ and for those who care for them./ And we pray for all the dead:/ fulfill their desire to know you/ who has created and loved us./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Religion: Husk and Kernel

"When the husk gets separated from the kernel, almost all men run after the husk and pay their respects to that. It is only the husk of Christianity that is so bruited and wide spread in this world; the kernel is still the very least and rarest of all things. There is not a single church founded on it." Henry David Thoreau

This quote is taken from Thoreau's essay, Wild Fruits. We might not like the sound of it, or perhaps we feel the sadness of the charge. But years ago when I went on my How To Be A Pastor workshop, Josephite Sister Kitty Hanley, reflecting upon Church and Eucharist, shared this autobiographical story. A little kernel which carries hope.

Kitty was traveling by bus from Missouri to Arizona (over 1300 miles), on her way to visit two other members of her religious community. These were sisters who were active politically, as advocates for the poor and the marginalized. On the last leg of the journey she arrived at night with a long lay over before catching a mid-morning bus the next day. At five in the morning, when the only other people people in the terminal were the drifters and the homeless, as she sat and waited, she heard the morning TV news that the two nuns she was going to visit had been killed in a car accident. 

Dissolving into tears and sobbing over the news, she suddenly found herself surrounded by the people in the terminal who asked about her sadness. They also knew the two sisters who had championed and loved them. Someone started praying the rosary while others told stories about what they knew of the sisters. A man went off and got Kitty coffee and something to eat.

She said, "These people pulled up power out of their own brokenness and gave it to me." They even refused to let her take the bus for the last part of the trip but got her a ride and accompanied her as a group. "The terminal became a church." she said. "The Word was the sharing of the stories; the food they shared was the Breaking of the Bread." She remembered St. Thomas Aquinas  said that the grace of the sacrament is not limited to the ritual. Here was the Church and the grace of the Eucharist showing itself in a bus terminal among strangers.