Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prayer After Receiving Holy Communion

Strengthen , O Lord, the hands which have been stretched out to receive your holy things, that they may daily bring forth fruit to your glory.
Grant that the ears which have heard your songs may be closed to the voices of clamor and dispute;
That the eyes which have seen your bright love may also behold your blessed hope;
That the tongues which have uttered your praise may speak the truth;
That the feet which have trodden your courts may walk in the regions of light;
That the souls and bodies which have fed upon your living Body and Blood may be restored to newness of life. Amen
And some thoughts:

This prayer comes either from the ecumenical community at Taize, France or an Anglican source. It clearly reveals that there are communities who believe in the presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist who have their own fervent insights to share. 

The hands which have been stretched out. There are some people still frenzied that Holy Communion may be received in the hand. The world is on the brink; we must get past this. The second piece of that first line is what matters, and I'd suggest we might consider this to be the most important bit: that our hands would daily bring forth fruit to God's glory. I mean, what's it all about if we're taking Holy Communion (however we receive it) and we're not bringing about "fruit to God's glory." The world awaits! And what's God's glory? Saint Augustine says it's a human being fully alive!

That our ears would be closed to the voices of clamor and dispute. What contentious times we're living in: vulgar, mean-spirited, looking for a fight, raging, argumentative, threatening. 

That our feet would walk in regions of light. What's that? That we'd walk in an awareness of God's up close and personal presence. When we forget this, we leave ourselves vulnerable to every kind of human foolishness and error - especially the error of resentment, life-draining anxieties and even hate. 

And that having received the living Body and Blood of Christ we'd be restored to newness of life. A living Christ brings us to life. We don't receive the Eucharist to make us feel good - we receive the Eucharist to make us alive: in mercy-kindness, justice, awareness, self-knowledge, compassion, understanding and love. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Do you still not understand?"

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them; they had no more than one loaf in the boat. Jesus began to warn them: "Beware," he said, "be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." They said among themselves, "Is is because we have no bread?" Knowing what was in their minds, he asked them, "Why do you talk about having no bread? Have you no inkling yet? Do you still not understand? Are your minds closed? You have eyes: can you not see? You have ears: can you not hear? Have you forgotten? When I broke the five loaves among five thousand, how many basketsful of scraps did you pick up?" "Twelve", they said. "And how many when I broke the seven loaves among four thousand? They answered, "Seven." He said, "Do you still not understand?" Mark 8: 11-21

Recall that before this gospel scene Jesus had fed 4000 people with seven little loaves of bread and a few fish. Then he had a brief encounter with some skeptical, scheming Pharisees before taking off with the disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake. Maybe as he embarked he said to himself, "Oh enough of this already."

But once they're in the boat the apostles start to fuss about having forgotten to take bread along with them. Sometimes our priorities are terribly messed up - even in religion. We shouldn't get defensive, this is after all a story about Jesus who asks some startling questions. 

While the apostles spin emotionally about bread, Jesus starts talking to them about yeastYeast is symbolic of influence. Yeast influences flour quietly and invisibly while it makes the dough rise. Jesus knows what the anxiously distracted apostles are thinking and calls them out on it. Imagine! He warns them about the religious Pharisees (influencing yeast) who are filled with wrong ideas. Don't get infected by them. But the apostles don't understand because they're preoccupied with the lower place of their stomachs.

What's preoccupying me? How is my own mind closed? Has some wrong idea got hold of me? What bit of Christ have I forgotten or never paid attention to: "This justice stuff isn't for me," a proud parishioner once admitted. 

 These Pharisee guys are still very alive in hearts and minds. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Intercessions ~ Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Costa Rican Child: I am the Body of Christ too.

The once large Christian communities of the Middle East have steadily declined over the last century./ We pray for this terrorized remnant,/ asking consolation and restoration./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi/ we celebrate Christ coming to us as food./ And so we pray for a world of justice/ where all have food,/ not some./ We pray to the Lord.

As June begins/ we pray for all who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries/ and other days of remembrance,/ asking for health,/ faith/ and growth in goodness./ We pray to the Lord.

As Memorial Day marks the start of the summertime/ we pray for the safety of travelers and vacationers,/ mindful too of those who get no time away/ for rest and renewal./ We pray to the Lord.

Our world is full of suffering:/ the sick,/ the refugee,/ the prisoner,/ the victimized and the lonely./ Grant us a deepening awareness/ and hearts filled with charity for others./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray the blessings of strength and renewal for families in all their variety./ For families that are stressed financially or emotionally./ For parents and children separated from each other./ We pray to the Lord.

On Memorial Day/ while remembering prayerfully the many soldiers and sailors who have died in battles,/ we pray too for the millions of civilians killed in wars./ For a new world,/ eager to work hard at solving problems through dialogue./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Upon Finding An Old Icon

Found you in the attic box
sealed and forgotten,
Your icon, O Christ,
from your czarist home
your long adventuring
to my hands and heart.

Now to light again,
smiling, with blessing hand,
Child of the Imagining One:
of the trillion, trillion galaxies,
of fetal fingerprints and DNA,
of uncoiling fern and the Spring's spring,
of weeping moss for joy or sorrow,
of Shinleaf and Foam Flower,
of the ten thousand bird species,
and textured clouds.

From our own worn frame,
split and dulled,
save us who cry to you
All-Merciful and Golden.

Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trinity: Divine Circle of Returning and Inclusion

God is one, at least the monotheist says. But within God's inner, Trinitarian life there is a community or family of revealing persons. Here, Andre Rublev's icon of the Old Testament Trinity (Genesis 18: 1-15) gives this expression in the three figures sitting within the perfect relational circle we might superimpose over them. 

And then there is a kind of flat, saucer-like circle on the horizontal plane as we realize that two figures - the regal Father on the left and the greening Spirit on the right - are seated on this side of the table while the Son, in deep red and blue, sits on the far side of the table. All the divine life-energies flow counter-clockwise from the radiant Father to the Spirit, to the the Son, returning to the Father. Even the tree and the mountain lean in  towards the Father and his open house.

The icon sends the message: Don't just admire the Trinity, but consciously step into it: And look, there is room right in the middle between the two footstools, for you, and you, and you, and you. We're all God's children. There is room for everyone. This is our announcement!

There are some exclusionary Christians who on judgment day will be shocked to see who's already sitting (joyful and brilliant) within the Holy Circle of Divine Light.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Intercessions ~ Sunday of the Holy Trinity

On Trinity Sunday we ask/ as we are drawn into God's inner life/ we would find not only God/ but each other/ and all the world in its poverty,/ fatigue and need./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis has said: "I am old now and these trips are heavy."/ And so we pray for him,/ asking stamina,/ safety and health./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust the children of the world to our prayer/ as they face perils in many places./ We ask for a movement of hearts/ which will make the care of children/ a priority of love./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray to be careful stewards of our planet/ using its resources wisely and justly:/ guardians of the water and air,/ the animals and plants./ we pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the feast of St. Philip Neri,/ the saint with a sense of humor./ We ask not to be overwhelmed,/ but to keep a light heart,/ rooted in the presence of God./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for our families where there is weakness,/ imbalance,/ sickness or stress./ For the unemployed,/ the destitute,/ the refugee and those who help them./ We pray to the Lord. 

Finally we pray for those who have died,/ remembering that so many die violently,/ suddenly,/ alone and unacknowledged./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seek the Higher Things

Tulip Altissima

This tulip, named Altissima (which translates highest), was sent by a fall bulb company as a thank you for an order I'd placed. A little note was included attesting to the tulip's height and that it should be featured prominently in the garden. Altissima seems to be happy and healthy enough to reappear for the third year now. 

But of course, bearing the lovely name, the highest, we might think of Saint Paul's verses in First Corinthians chapter 12:21; 13: 1-8.

You should set your hearts on the best spiritual gifts but I will show you a way which surpasses them all...If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have not love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing. 
This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience - it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it shares the joy of those who live by the truth.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails. 

The verses above were taken from the J.B. Phillips translation of the New Testament.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

To Cure Our Madness

This is Swamp (or Marsh) Buttercup. It blooms April through July across much of Canada, then South to Florida, West to Texas and then North to North Dakota. It prefers moist woods, thickets and meadows. Native to North America, some attentive botanists have divided it into twenty to thirty species. Oh that we could be as welcoming of human variety! It's Latin name is Ranunculus septentrionalis.

In flower symbology it's said Swamp Buttercup offers a cure for madness when it blooms under certain astrological conditions. Madness is defined as: mentally disturbed or deranged; insane; demented. Extremely foolish or unwise; imprudent; irrational. Overcome by desire. Synonyms for mad: lunatic, maniacal, crazed, crazy, batty, senseless.

How wonderful would that be, were God, in great imagination, to have left us a humble botanical cure for our troubled minds. But seeing the little plant here might remind us to recognize and attend to our own need for inner transformation. We might say there is something at least a little mad about all of us in our irrationality, imbalance, extremes, ignorance, wrong-headedness.

And then:

The madness of our fevered fantasies,
our domestic violence,
our planet-destruction,

the madness of our politics,
our bitter prejudices and
human greed,

our mad defense of wars and weapons,
the terrorist turns of religion,
the horrors we inflict on children,

the nation's mad appetite for drugs,
our frenzied shopping and non-stop eating,
our inventive cruelties no creature escapes:

Imagining God of Swamp Buttercup,
heal us in our madness.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Intercessions ~ Pentecost Sunday

At Pentecost/ we pray for minds to be enlightened and hearts to be challenged/ by God's promptings and human need./ We pray to the Lord.

At Pentecost/ we pray to acknowledge the love of God when we are feeling angry,/ heavy-hearted,/ frustrated and worried,/ as much as when we are happy and light-hearted./ We pray to the Lord.

At Pentecost/ we pray for the healing of Christianity where it is scandalously cracked or split./ We pray to the Lord.

At Pentecost/ as fire purifies,/ we pray for the renewal of our own country where there is hatred,/ racism,/ ignorance and simmering violence./ We pray to the Lord.

At Pentecost,/ and in the month of May,/ we pray for those who receive First Communion,/ who are confirmed,/ married or ordained./ For their happiness,/ strengthening and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

At Pentecost/ we pray to remain faithful to the sick,/ the poor,/ the forgotten/ and the children./ We ask to outgrow whatever keeps us inwardly selfish or small./ We pray to the Lord.

At Pentecost,/ grateful for our own life-gift,/ we call to mind those whose lives are ended by terrorism,/ war,/ disaster or neglect./ And for those who in great pain contemplate ending their own lives./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"We will not leave you again..."

We entrust our miseries, the many streets of hate and blood, the thousands of ancient and new poverties and above all, our sins. To you we entrust ourselves, Mother of Mercy; grant us the forgiveness of God, help us to build a world according to your heart. O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain that ties us to God, chain of love that makes us brothers and sisters, we will not leave you again. You will be in our hands a weapon of peace and forgiveness, star that guides our path.

This prayer was offered by Pope Francis when he visited Pompeii last year. Notice that half way through the prayer he addresses the rosary itself: "O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain that ties us to God..." And then, "We will not leave you again." What could Pope Francis have been thinking of when he made that promise? 

Perhaps he had in mind the many who were devoted to the rosary as children but who left it as adults. Perhaps he was thinking of the 1960's and 70's when the rosary fell out of fashion. Or was he thinking of those who only wear the rosary as jewelry (or tattoo), or keep it hanging from the rear view mirror for good luck. Anyway, he then reaffirms the rosary's power as a weapon of peace and reconciliation - a guiding star along life's dark and dangerous path. 

The picture at the top of this post is of my own rosary which I made the first year of my priesthood almost 37 years ago. It has gone with me everywhere. My sixth grade teacher said, "Keep it in your left pocket, because a medieval knight wore his sword on the left side." I get it.

We're usually told that in praying the rosary we ought to focus our attention on the mysteries or even the words of the prayers themselves. But I'd suggest that the rosary can also serve as a tool for the expansion of our hearts, dedicating each Hail Mary for one particular name, problem or concern:

1. for the child waiting to be born and the newborns in NICU
2. for the children who live where the water is not potable
3. for the children sold into prostitution
4. for the children victimized by terrorists
5. for the children who are exhausted refugees
6. for the children who are out of school
7. for the children shown on the hunger commercial
8. for the children who are orphaned
9. for the children of war zones
10. for the children caught in violent homes

or again

1. for the children of my own family
2. for the child who is missing
3. for the children who are frightened
4. for the child who is bullied
5. for the children who are falling behind
6. for the child with special needs
7. for the child who is friendless
8. for the children in foster care
9. for the children of addicted parents
10. for the children failed by adults

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Prayer for Quiet Confidence in Difficult Days

Maybe this yellow gosling is riding out a storm that's whipped up the lake waters. Perhaps a turtle has snapped at his webbed feet, or an owl has honed in too close for comfort. Now he's tucked in safely beneath his mother's wing. The wing restores confidence: safety, peace and security.

An older Austrian friend told me of the night Hitler's blackshirts took over the opera house as she sat in  the waiting audience. The performance was cancelled and everyone was sent out into the night. A great loss of confidence and insecurity started to cover the newly annexed country: people becoming suspicious of each other, not knowing what to do, hateful rhetoric springing up among groups. 

And today, people are feeling greatly dismayed - some saying, "I can't believe what I'm hearing," with regard to events far away or close to home. One interviewed television guest asked this week, "Come the day after Election Day in November will the people of this country ever be able to love each other again? Will we ever again feel ourselves to be a United States of America?"

So here is a sensitive and beautiful prayer found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It is titled simply, "For Quiet Confidence."  I think I'd nuance it a bit: A Prayer for Quiet Confidence in Disquieting Times. We might pray it every morning at the start of a new day.

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Intercessions ~ Seventh Sunday in the Easter Time

And it is Mother's Day

On Mother's Day we pray for our own mothers and grandmothers,/ and that we would be gratefully conscious of the gift of our own lives./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray too for mothers who struggle to raise their families wherever life is difficult./ And for mothers who have lost their children./ For children who have lost their mothers./ We pray to the Lord. 

Political seasons are often contentious,/ divisive and even hateful./ We earnestly pray for our country in this time,/ asking for healing, and that we would not forget how to accept and love each other./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis will visit Armenia,/ Georgia and Azerbaijan in late June./ We pray for safety and peace/ as he travels to that part of the world where there is sometimes violent dispute./ We pray to the Lord. 

When President Obama travels to Japan soon,/ he will visit either Nagasaki or Hiroshima./ We pray boldly for our world to be freed of the terribly destructive and deadly power of nuclear weapons./ We pray to the Lord.

Heal us and make us whole where we are lost in depression,/ the inability to forgive,/ power abuse,/ or the non-use of our gifts./ We pray to the Lord. 

Comfort those in hospitals,/ nursing homes and hospices./ Strengthen those who care for the sick,/ the injured and the weak./ Give gifts of light and joy to those who have died./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mother of God Psychosostria ~ Searcher of Souls

This Byzantine icon which dates to the 14th century, is titled Mother of God Psychosostria. Psychosostria might translate: Savior of Souls. 

We notice the lovely silver work behind and around the figure of the Mother of God. With extended right hand she stands in the position of the Hodgetria icon - Shower of the Way. There are vigorous folds in her deep red maphorion (mantle). The archangels Michael and Gabriel look on, while prophets reside in the small border medallions. The Christ Child, with light red hair, blesses us with his right hand while with his left he holds the scroll of his teachings.

Recently a young college man wrote that on his campus no one makes any reference to God. People aren't even thinking about God, maybe a "ten year plan" for their lives, but not God. So religion isn't being helpful today when it quickly resorts to the use of religious language which bounces off of people: Savior, Salvation, Grace, Heaven, Redemption, Sacrifice. It's like talking to ourselves. 

Using these kinds of words can stop people from wondering and pondering. Indeed, I'd suggest that wonder is in short supply among many first-world Christians, and that's too bad because wonder is supposed to be our method from the very start, no? 

O star of wonder,
star of night,
star with royal beauty bright,
west-ward leading,
still proceeding,
guide us to the perfect Light.

So instead of Savior of Souls, we might use Searcher of Souls or See-er of Souls. And rather than relying on an abstract and philosophical definition of soul, which fewer of us will understand, we might try musing on inner soul-aspects of our lives that are closer to home:

Mother of God ~ Psychosostria,
in the lifting up of my heart,
in my night dreaming and day dreaming,
in my fears and fantasies, faith and trust,
where I live in beauty, goodness and truth,
in my flight from ugliness, vulgarity and mindlessness.

Mother of God ~ Psychosostria,
in my deepest value and regard,
in my inner awakening,
as I stand in the world beyond what's transitory,
where I yearn for understanding and rooted-ness,
where I discover still my growing up.

Mother of God ~ Psychosostria,
in the evolution of my relationships,
as I leave behind cruelty and falsity,
in the unburdening of resentment,
as old wounds heal and I discover new strength,
as I expand in openness and clarity of vision.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mary Alphabet in the Month of May

Lady Altar ~ Basilica of the Assumption ~ Zwolle, Netherlands

A is for Ave Mater ~ Greetings Mary, in your maternity!
B is for Saint Bernard ~ called the Harp of Mary.
C is for Cherubim Choir ~ Jesus' heavenly escort.
D is for Discipleship ~ Mary its first-flowering.
E is for Everywhere ~ Her sightings and apparitions.
F is for Mary's Flowers ~ Her earrings, slippers and gloves.
G is for Guadalupe ~ Aztec Mary in a golden mist.
H is for Hill Country ~ Pregnant Mary hastening on foot.
I is for Iris ~ Mary's light-receiving eye.
J is for Joseph ~ attentive to his dreams.
K is for Mary's Kitchen ~ finding God in pots and pans.
L is for Lourdes ~ Mary smiling from the grotto.
M is for Maris Stella ~ o'er life's tempestuous sea.
N is for Numinous ~ God's bright shining; can you feel it?
O is for Oak ~ sacred tree of Jesus' cross.
P is for Pro Populo ~ Mary's prayers for the people.
Q is for Quince ~ fruit of Jesus' rising.
R is for Resonance ~ the happy sound of Her name.
S is for Shhh ~ Nursing Holy Infant.
T is for Temple ~ Mary and Joseph presenting the Child.
U is for Untangling ~ knots of fear and scorn.
V is for Vogue ~ Mary in and out of fashion (but not for me).
W is for the Wine ~ running out at Cana's wedding.
X is for Exclaim ~ Mary singing of God's marvels.
Y is for Yellow Bedstraw ~ covering manger's floor.
Z is for Zwolle ~ Her Netherland church with fifty-one bells!