Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time ~ Returning to the Green Time

Returning to the long weeks of liturgical green/ we ask to grow in personal goodness,/ and that our worship would green and grow out of a clean  heart./ We pray to the Lord.

Summer Solstice was observed this week;/ the longest day and the shortest night./ We pray that our spiritual lives would be lived in the full light of mercy,/ inclusion,/ compassion and  justice./ We pray to the Lord.

Strengthen and comfort those who live in fear and  gloom everyday:/ fear of terrorism,/ corruption,/ power abuse,/ wars,/ job loss and family disintegration./ We pray to the Lord.

The United States is suffering an epidemic of drug abuse claiming countless lives./ We pray for a new national sobriety/ and the blessing of every effort to restore the nation to inner freedom./ We pray to the Lord.

We are being quickly reduced by new depths of nastiness,/ non-cooperation and wasteful partisanship./ We ask for a national restoration of all that is best in us./ We pray to the Lord.

Bless the sick and those who care for them/ mindful of medical staff which is overworked and paid unfairly./ We pray with grateful hearts for those who help around the world where terrorism kills and destroys./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the turning of hearts to those who die unwanted,/ untended,/ unseen,/ or by the wars and terrorist violence which claim so many lives today./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mother of God Who Looks In On Her Children

This Mother of God reminds me of the woman who returning home at night says to the sitter, "I'll just look in on the children." She goes beyond the door and up to each bed. What is she looking for? That the child is not agitated, wet, anxious, cold, uncovered, fevered, in need of a touch or whispered word.

It's all an invitation to prayer. Mary's eyes are wide-awake, totally open to me as she enters my own shadowed, inner room. Her mouth is small; no idle word, saying only what I will need to hear.

Mother of God, who looks in on her child,
in my dis-ease and frustration,
spiritual hunger and thirst,
fear of uselessness and failure,
yet eager to begin again.

Mother of God, who looks in on her child,
where I feel an impending collapse,
where patience is tried and often short,
where I fear I have stopped growing.

Mother of God, who looks in on her child,
here unmasked,
between the rock and the hard place,
going under.

Mother of God, who looks in on her child,
in my complaint,
on the brink of tears,
in the darkness of my mind.

Mother of God, who looks in on her child,
in my foolish distractions,
poor choices,
resentments and fatigue.

Mother of God,who looks in on her child,
in the hurt of unhealed wounds,
fears un-addressed,
the energy drain of pride and stubbornness,
the un-knowing -  even of my self.

Mother of God, who looks in on her child,
in my soul-room,
on the edge of this bed
speak the re-assuring word,
Everything will be alright.

Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Blessed is the Man

Click on the icon above to hear Divna Ljubojevic and a few members of her Melodi Choir sing Blessed is the Man. It is very beautiful. Here is an English translation.

Blessed is the man, who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice in Him with trembling.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Salvation is of the Lord; and Thy blesssing is upon Thy people.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirt, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, glory to Thee, O God!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, glory to Thee, O God!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, glory to Thee, O God!

  • In the first line: man. Of course, it means human - every human  person.
  • Serve the Lord with fear. This doesn't mean to be afraid of God, but  that I would fear anything that could take me from God, or cause  me to lose the Holy Spirit.
  • Taking refuge in God. To hide in God against the soul-dangers. Some prayers to the Mother of God speak of our flying to her.
  • The word alleluia. It almost sounds like babbling or an infant's  sound. It's a good word when ordinary language fails us before  God. It is said that alleluia is the one angel-word we're privy  to. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sunday Intercessions ~ Feast of Corpus Christi

On this Feast of Corpus Christi/ we remember that Jesus chose to stay with us as food./ We pray for those who have inadequate food - especially children./ And for the privileged world to stop wasting food./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray blessings for fathers around the world,/ and ask for strengthening where their parenting is especially difficult/ or where they fail their chidlren./ We pray too for those who graduate this month./  We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the safety of summer travelers and vacationers./ We ask for these months to be a time of restoration and renewal,/ mindful of those who get no time away/ or who suffer in the heat./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday was the feast of St. Anthony of Padua - patron of lost things./ We ask Anthony to help us find Jesus where we have lost him to bitterness or distracting fears./ And for the Church/ where it loses its Christ-center in defensiveness,/ exclusion and power./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the conversion of hearts where there is injustice,/ indifference,/ lies and cover-ups./ And may we find Christ this week in some surprising new way./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who are chronically sick,/ pained or weak./ For those who care for the sick,/ the immigrant and the needy./ For the recovery of those who were injured in the Virginia attack this week/ and blessings for all who came to rescue and help./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Your Blessing Hand, O Christ Our God

Here we have zoomed in on the blessing hand of Jesus in a 19th century Russian icon. Beginning with his little finger and moving around to the thumb, Jesus' fingers spell out IC XC, the Greek initials for his name: Jesus Christ. Below the picture is a nighttime prayer, asking for Christ's blessing hand to extend over the whole world. Of course, we may make adjustments and use the prayer at any time.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over my family,
my friends,
my neighbors,
the little ones born this night
and those who will die.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over the world's children,
over the troubled,
the plotters of evil deeds,
the terrorized,
the war torn and those in flight,

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over the world's leaders,
the homes where there is violence,
the rooms where lies originate,
where blood-money is given and received,
over the prisoners and
those who are hiding.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over the Pope of Rome,
the bishops,
the priests and deacons,
the monks and nuns,
the young families,
the families in trouble and
those how are away from their dear ones.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over all the land,
the air and the water,
the plants and animals,
the polluted places and
the exploited environment.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over the sleepless,
those in hospitals and by sickbeds,
those who work through the night,
those in pain, panic, sorrow,
or who are ground up by addictions,
those who have no place to rest.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over those who are angry, raging, agitated,
carrying old grudges and unhealed inner wounds,
who are spiritually unsettled,
feeling unbalanced,
loaded down with disappointment.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over those who have no joy, no gratitude,
whose patience is gone,
who have lost hope,
who long for some comfort,
who live in inner darkness.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over the peacemakers and the problem solvers,
those who do the works of mercy,
the rescuers, the helpers and the healers.

Your blessing hand, O Christ our God,
over me, who hopes to have served you today,
and who with a repentant heart
now asks for the gift of sleep,
that I might rise up tomorrow in peace,
in gratitude and joy. Amen

Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Having No Other Help

This early 14th century image of the Virgin Mary by Duccio di Buoninsegna is titled: Madonna and Child with Six Angels. It is lovely, isn't it? The Mother of God looks out at us, while the Divine Child looks to his mother. He holds onto her veil tightly with his right hand while reaching for his Mother's hand with the other. Six admiring angels look down on the scene while leaning over the edge of heaven.

In a series of comments off of other posts this week, some of us have talked about prayer and the world's problems. I acknowledge that we are powerless before most of it: terrorism in Europe, the great divide we find ourselves in here, the threats to the global climate, corruption in leadership, the militarization of  our planet, the refugee crisis...

Saint Francis said, "I can't do everything, but I can do something." I have a friend whose husband is in a nursing home which she visits daily. Much of the day she spends stopping in on the other residents along the corridor and doing what she can to lighten the load for the over-burdened staff. The family dog comes along, delighting everyone. "I can't do everything, but I can do something."

As for the rest? My prayer-holding heart can bring before heaven the whole human family which inhabits this weary planet. Here is a prayer to the Mother of God titled: Having No Other Help. The prayer acknowledges our ultimate powerlessness and limitation. I like prayers that "feel" something. Buoninsegna's interfacing Mary seems to invite this prayer. Does the prayer effect any change? That's not really for me to know. For me, it is enough to offer the prayer and to leave the rest to God.

We have no other help.
We have no other hope than thee, O Lady!
Help us, for in you we have placed our hope,
  and you we praise, 
We are your servants,
 let us not be put to shame.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Intercessions ~ Trinity Sunday

On Trinity Sunday,/ we celebrate the inner life of God which is relational and familial./ We ask to be healed of partisan,/ nationalist,/ isolationist,/ selfish thinking./ Restore our belief in the common good./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those whose work benefits us in any way./ For those who help to keep us safe and well./ We pray to the Lord.

For the world where it is mired in conflict./ That we would respect the deep dignity of each human person./ That our way of life might be marked by creative non-violence./ We pray to the Lord.

Give us insight and the resolve to heal our savage world./ We ask for world leaders to be honest,/ well-intentioned,/ measured and just./ We pray to the Lord.

For the children who live in danger,/ where there is war,/ domestic violence or poverty./ For the strengthening of those who are parents./ For orphans and the children who have special needs./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are corrupted:/ murderers,/ exploiters,/ drug and sex traffickers,/ politicians who have stopped serving the people,/ hustlers,/ abusers and liars./ Bless our efforts to make the world a kinder place./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday was the 73rd anniversary of D-Day,/ remembering the amphibious landing of allied forces on the Beaches of Normandy./ We pray for the many thousands who died that day./ For the mourners,/ the wounded and those who were lost and never found./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Fig Tree, Withered and Restored

On the following day, after they had left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig-tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. But when he came there he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. He said to the tree, 'May no one ever again eat fruit from you!' And his disciples were listening. Mark 11: 12-14
Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig-tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him, 'Rabbi, look, the fig-tree which you cursed has withered.' Jesus answered them, 'Have faith in God. I tell you this; if anyone says to this mountain, "Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea", and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says is happening, it will be done for him. I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you the wrongs you have done. Mark 11:20-25 

This is a photo of the Moreton Bay Fig Tree in Balboa Park, California. It is an apt image to convey the symbolic meaning of the fig-tree for first century Judaism: a sign of the end time when God's Kingdom-Rule will be finally realized. Indeed, like this fig-tree, God's Rule will be fully stretched and expanded.

Looking back even further, the fig-tree was thought to be the tree of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. And why not? When Adam and Eve were expelled from that Garden they made their first clothes by sewing fig leaves together (Genesis 3:7).

At the same time God told Adam and Eve: now you've spoiled everything and the very ground you walk on will only grow thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). But later the Prophet Isaiah tells us that God reversed that curse and made the land once again productive and lovely. 
"Cypress will grow instead of thorns, myrtle instead of nettles. And this will be fame for Yahweh, an eternal monument never to be effaced." Isaiah 55:13
There are indications that when Jesus "cursed" the fig tree he had this kind of reversal in mind. Most bible translations read that Jesus cursed the tree saying, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." But some translators say a better translation is, "May no one eat fruit from you again until the end of this age." The word until suggests the curse will be reversed. And if we are familiar with the mind of Jesus, we can see this reversal making sense.

Peter said to Jesus, "Master, the fig tree you cursed has withered." The response of Jesus is revealing, "Have faith in God," which might suggest the story isn't over, but there is more to come. Notice too the word withered reminds us of the Gospel account where Jesus healed the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). Same word. It is the very nature of Jesus to heal. So Jesus is telling Peter in effect: Have faith, believe that the fig-tree, like the sickly man, will be restored.  

And following the story line faithfully, we see Jesus tying the idea of restoration to forgiveness. Forgiving people is like this withered tree which will be restored. Indeed, a few verses later, Jesus refers to the fig-tree in all its spring glory. A Kingdom person is a forgiving person.
Learn a lesson from the fig-tree. When its tender shoots appear and are breaking inoto leaf, you know that summer is near. In the  same way, when you see all this phapppening, you may know that the end is near, at the very door. Mark 13:28 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"In Little Sips"

This native field flower is called Mouse-ear Hawkweed. It is not to be confused with dandelion. We can't see it here, but the plant gets its name from the mouse-eared shape of the leaves which hug the ground. A resilient plant, Hawkweed spreads rapidly by both runners and seeds and may well look like this again just a few days after the lawn mower comes through.

These are troubling days in many ways. And it is important to find the little remedies for what ails us lest we become cynical and morbid. An expanse of Mouse-ear Hawkweed might cheer one up and restore a sense of hope. 

Here's a bible proverb which might encourage us in this regard. I'd add beauty to the little list of things to "bind around our necks."

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart,
so you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and others.
Proverbs 3:3,4

I'm thinking too of Edith Piaf's song Avec ce soleil (with this sun):

To drink in life
with little sips
under the magnificent sky

Each day invites us to "drink in life with little sips"

  • a field of Hawkweed
  • a glass of wine
  • a good loaf of bread
  • a genuine laugh
  • an insight or new understanding
  • the presence of dear ones
  • a sense of personal growth and change
  • being at Mass and really believing
  • a good nights rest
  • the refreshment of water
  • music that delights
  • a bit of shade
  • an act of kindness

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Intercessions ~ Pentecost Sunday

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we pray for the Church and its unity./ We ask for the Church to be a bold witness to Jesus-Risen/ a victor over indifference,/ fear, / pessimism and alienation./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we pray for all the human family/ mistaken and often lost in exhaustion and fear./ And for the healing of emotional and spiritual wounds in our own families./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we pray for those who will be Confirmed this year./ We ask the Spirit of Jesus to build them up in faith,/ prayer,/ and an eagerness to serve./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost we pray for the safety of summer travelers/ and for those who this month celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we intercede for the sick and those who care for them/ asking blessings for all who hope for the healing of body, mind or spirit./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we remember those places around the world where is great suffering:/ wars,/ natural disaster,/ oppression and poverty./ That the world of prosperity might rush to lift the weak ones./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Beverly Sills in Mary's Month

This May-blooming, frilly iris has been named Beverly Sills (1929-2007) who was a much-acclaimed American operatic soprano.  The online biography describes her voice as: rich, supple, silvery, effortless, precise, a little high, robust, enveloping.

She was born in Brooklyn of Jewish parents who had come to the United States from Odessa, Ukraine.  So at the end of May, her iris blooming and Mary's Month drawing to a close, it might be nice to hear her singing Schubert's Ave Maria. Unlike other opera stars, Ms Sills recorded no album of sacred songs, but I have a feeling she really enjoyed singing the hymn as she repeats it three times.

While considering the iris, we can listen once, and then if we so desire, eyes closed, a second or even third time. We know of course that the Ave Maria is the Hail Mary in Latin, though for some unknown reason sung here in another language I can't make out.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

All Things Are Possible

This low growing violet is a wonder as about two months ago it was under three feet of snow. When the snow melted I found it pitifully crushed and flattened without buds or flowers. And here it is now, this Memorial Day weekend, greeting those who walk along the bluestone path to the chapel.

As if they were hand-painted, notice the short black streaks radiating from the center of each flower and the watercolor like purple edge blending into the yellow. Lovely, heh?

Free association is the first thought or word that comes to our minds in response to some stimuli (what we've seen, tasted, touched, smelled or heard) For me: never say never, don't stay crushed, lean in, with God all things are possible.

Being crushed is something we can all relate to: some tremendous disappointment, worsening health, being over-whelmed with responsibility, the deep sadness of a great loss, exhaustion. The composer of Psalm 143:03 understands. We don't know who the enemy is being referred to here, but it sounds just awful. We can name the crushing enemy for ourselves, but I'd suggest we look deeper than the people around who might be trouble makers. Think inside.

An enemy is in deadly pursuit,
crushing me into the ground,
forcing me to live in darkness,
like those long dead.
My spirit is faint,
and within me my heart is numb with fear.

Poor fellow, we don't know what the burdening sin is in Psalm 38:08, but yes, sin can crush us as well:

My sins stand higher than my head,
they weigh on me as an unbearable weight.
I have stinking, festering wounds,
thanks to my folly.
I am twisted and bent double,
I spend my days in gloom.

But the snow melted, and the violet sprang to life. And for us, we survive and perhaps even flourish out of the crushing pain. Being crushed can make us bitter or it can soften and sensitize us. That's not to say it's easy - I'd suggest the little violet had to expend a great deal of energy to come alive again. I want to congratulate, compliment and honor it when I pass by.

Remember the Gospel account of the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22) - he wanted eternal life (which starts here and now) but he felt the requirements of Jesus were too much to bear and he went away sad. He is the only person in the Gospel to leave Jesus disappointed. But that account is followed by this:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'In truth I tell you, it is hard for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven.' When the disciples heard this they were astonished. 'Who can be saved, then?' they said. Jesus gazed at them, 'Humanly speaking, it is impossible, but with God anything is possible." Matthew 19: 23-26.

Do I believe it? 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Intercessions ~ Seventh Sunday of Easter

Normandy, France ~ American Cemetery

Amid the growing trend of populist nationalism,/ Pope Francis warns of the virus of polarization and hostility in the Church and around the world./ We ask for the Spirit-Gifts of healing and unity./ We pray to the Lord.

It is Memorial Day weekend./ We pray for all who have died in the country's many wars./ Give us insight/ and the generous will to create a peaceful world./ We pray to the Lord.

In these spring days of lengthening and strengthening light,/ we ask for that heavenly light which leads us to see clearly the value and dignity of each human person./ We pray to the Lord.

As our hemisphere greens and flowers,/ we pray to be good stewards of the paradise God has given as our home./ Heal us of the exploitation and wasteful greed that destroys./ We pray to the Lord.

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins,/ we pray for its themes to be shared and felt around the world:/ soul-purification,/ spiritual elevation,/ charity and prayer./ We pray to the Lord.

In Manchester and in Cairo,/ terrorist attacks have left dozens dead and injured/ including many children and young people./ Comfort those who are traumatized,/ saddened and afraid./ Bless those who continue to help and restore./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

God, who puts things together

I found these Foam Flowers and Ferns growing together along the side of the road the other day. God's imagination includes knowing how to put things together beautifully and giving us the soul-capacity to recognize these wonderful combinations and to admire and consider them. 

God put creation together in the Genesis account. I like the part about the universe being put together with the stars making galaxies and constellations. Remember the bit about God introducing us to the animals and inviting us to name them? God put the lilac, the lily and the rose together with their unique scents.

Psalm 119:3 is a reminder of God's putting-it-together skill: You did knit me together in my mother's womb. Jesus put together a team of twelve apostles. He put a family back together when he raised the little girl from death and the boy to the widowed-mother at Nain. Jesus put the cured lepers back together with the community that excluded them for their sickness. Bread and wine, lilies of the field and birds of the air - those are nice combinations.

Sometimes God puts us together by introducing us to friends and dear ones. I remember at school I would remind the kids that their lives were crazy like a seismograph line and my life too, and that God had seen fit for our lives to touch for this fleeting second of cosmic time.

In September we're put together with teachers and classmates. Teams are put together. By God's design? A dog trainer told me, "When you take in a rescue, you get the dog YOU need." I get it.

When we're little we learn to put words together and then sentences. Then we discover how to put sentences together to create a story. Some people are good at putting colors, clothes or design ideas together, or problem-solving ideas.

Some folks tell of being personally put back together after a divorce, job loss, bout of bad health or breakdown. Anyway, discovering the woodland Foam Flower and Ferns so beautifully growing together might help us to pray: gratitude for the coming together of relationships, moments and events that are so good.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jesus' Entrance Into Jerusalem

As indicated in Tuesday's post, there is now a shift in Mark's Gospel: the time of miracles is over and Jesus turns to Jerusalem. 

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, 'Go to the village facing you, and as you enter it you will at once find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you "What are you doing" say, "The Master needs it and will send it back here at once." ' They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, 'What are you doing, untying that colt?' They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go. Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he mounted it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of David our Father! Hosanna in the highest heavens! He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple; and when he  had surveyed it all, as it was late by now, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. Mark 11:1-11

It is said, "What the Word does for the ear, the icon does for the eye." The mosaic we see here is from the cathedral in Ravenna, Italy. Jesus arrives at the city gate riding the donkey. The road is strewn with branches. The apostles follow behind, and Peter is up close talking with Jesus as they move along. Perhaps Jesus is filling Peter in on the significance of things. Jerusalem is on the far right - two religious leaders already have their heads together. We see the populace of the city and the children spreading their cloaks on the road. From the look of things, they're spreading more than their cloaks - the young fellow on the left has his head stuck as he pulls off his long shirt. 

But notice this - Jesus rides a donkey, not a horse. We usually see in this a sign of Jesus' humility, but there is more. A man in the ancient world was wealthy if he owned donkeys as did the judges of Israel:

"After Tola rose Jair of Gilead, who judged Israel for twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty young donkeys and who owned thirty towns..." Judges 10: 3,4
"After Elon, Abdon son of Hillet of Prathon was judge in Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode seventy young donkeys." Judges12:14

Is Jesus entering Jerusalem as the judge of human history? Notice the icon shows Jesus sitting side-saddle, as if were a judge at his courtroom seat. And not only a judge, but sitting as a king on his throne. And not only a king, but a king with a message of peace. The Prophet Zechariah foretells the King's Message:

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!
Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is approaching,
he is vindicated and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will banish chariots from Ephraim
and horses from Jerusalem;
the bow of war will be banished,
He will proclaim peace to the nations,
his empire will stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the limits of the earth.  Zechariah 9:9,10

Pope Francis recently shared something of a conversation he had with a group of scientists, one of whom said: "I'm an atheist, I ask you a favor: tell the Christians that they should love their message of peace more."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Intercessions ~ Sixth Sunday of Easter

The American Red Cross was founded today in 1881./ We pray enduring strength for this organization/ and all who participate in its important work of emergency assistance and disaster relief./ We pray to the Lord. 

We ask blessings for Pope Francis and President Trump as they meet this week./ May their time together in the Vatican bear the fruit of peace and healing for our country./ We pray to the Lord.

In the first lesson today we heard:/ "So there was much joy in that city."/ Restore joy where people suffer deep losses,/ where there is grief,/ domestic violence,/ destruction,/ loneliness and war./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the governments of the world,/ asking for conversion/ and the safety of citizens where there is corruption,/ repression and the violation of human rights./ We pray to the Lord.

Mindful of those who are around us at Mass today,/ we ask for health,/ safety,/ the deepening of faith,/ and help in their struggles and challenges./ We pray to the Lord.

For the safety of travelers,/ health for the sick,/ comfort for mourners,/ a welcome for each child,/ inner healing and a change of heart for prisoners./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"And he followed him along the road."

They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus - that is, the son of Timaeus - a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and cry out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me." And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man over, "Courage," they said, "get up, he is calling you ." So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "Rabbuni, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has saved you." And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Back in the middle of June 2014, we set out here to walk gradually and reflectively through St. Mark's Gospel one pericope (peri-ko-pea) at a time. A pericope is a gospel passage that can stand on its own. 

Now here, at the end of chapter ten, we consider this well-known and much-loved account of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. It marks a turning point, as it is the last of many miracles before the story turns to the teaching of Jesus and the events which lead to his betrayal, trial and suffering. In other words, as Mark shifts gears he gives us this last miracle account to review and summarize all the previous wonders. Good teachers do that, don't they?

More than any of the other Gospels, it's Mark who shares the accounts of Jesus' wonder-working ministry. Have you ever listened to Handel's Messiah, where the hopeful words of the Prophet Isaiah (35:4-6) are set to music?

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unstopped,
then the lame will leap like a deer
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy...

We meet Bartimaeus which translates Son of the Unclean. Going all the way back to chapter one: these sick folks are ritually unclean, which translates, You can't participate in our religious-communal life. Perhaps the real wonder of Jesus' healing, beyond the physical cure, is the restoration to the community effected by the healing.

Remember the rich young man (10:17-22), who couldn't follow Jesus because he owned so much stuff? Now we see Bartimaeus contrasted as he throws off the last thing he owns, his old, dirty cloak. Unlike the rich young man, Bartimaeus goes down the road with Jesus.

How beautiful is this - when Bartimaeus cries out, it's an act of believing and a desire to be with Jesus. Back in chapter 5, when the unclean spirit cries out, it's to get away from Jesus.

And that same calling out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me," is a cry of faith. In fact, we can say that Bartimaeus already sees, and more clearly than the religious leaders who are blind to what Jesus is doing, getting all fussed that Jesus eats with sinners (2:15-17). A few verses later they will accuse Jesus of being aligned with the devil. Talk about not seeing!

Jesus must have been quite happy to hear Bartimaeus cry out in faith. Notice this, that the blind man isn't calling out in the temple, but at the side of the dusty road. Instead of complaining about all the relatives and the others who don't go to church, let's be happy wherever confidence in God (faith) is found. 

I have to laugh a little when the apostles tell blind Bartimaeus to have courage. He already has courage; he doesn't need their advice. They're the ones who were lacking in courage. Remember when they were terrified (6:50) at seeing Jesus walking on the water that windy night.

And when the apostles tell the blind man to get up - we're hearing again the command of Jesus to the dead child back in 5:41, "Little girl, I tell you to get up." Really "rise up!"

Then Jesus offers this marvelous compliment, "Go, your faith has saved you," just as he said to the woman who (5:34) had been slowly bleeding to death, "My daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint." How courteous. I wish back in my 1970's  homiletics class that the priest would have told us: Tell the people often from the pulpit that their faith is God-pleasing.

So what's Mark's purpose in sharing this Bartimaeus story? Again and again, the miracles of Jesus tell us that he wants us to be inwardly free so we can walk down the life-road beside him. I want to understand this better than the wrangling apostles in the previous gospel scene unable to get get past who is going to be nearest Jesus when he gets his earthly crown and throne. Jesus didn't care about any of that. 

Oh Jesus,
heal the blindness:
our stalled partisan politics,
our sleep-stealing anxieties,
the hot hatreds and prejudices,
our willful ignorance, 
the machinations,
the role-playing and the masks,
the superficial religion and
our unhealthy relationships.
I'm crying out.
I'm on my feet.
I'm throwing off the ragged cloak,

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spring Opening

These wonderful photos come from the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. They show a Star Magnolia bud opening in late April. Key word: opening. This time of year is full of spiritual reminders and messages. The Magnolia flower opens to the warmth of the day-lengthening sun. And this opening is the first movement of the Christian spiritual life which is relational. The psalmist instructs us:

You do not ask for sacrifices and offerings
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim
Instead, here am I.
Psalm 40:11

An open ear. Here am I. Listening is relational: student to teacher, soldier to officer, child to parent. But for the Christian, the ear is interior. It is the ear of the heart. St. Benedict's rule for monks begins.

"Listen, O my child, to the teachings of the Master, and incline the ear of your heart."  And in another place: "What dear brothers, is more delightful than the voice of the Lord calling to us." 

This is often difficult as we have somehow gotten the idea that Christianity is doing, doing, doing. When we were in the seminary, a monk came to speak to us about praying the psalms. The "rule" expects that when praying the psalms we are somehow to get through it to completion. Years ago a priest might pull his car off to the side of the road at night and read his breviary by the headlight in order to fulfill the rule that the prescribed psalms be read completely before midnight. 

But this monk disavowed that. He said instead, "Read the psalms so slowly that one line, even on word can jump out at you! Then close the book and let the phrase or word speak to you. Perhaps close your eyes and repeat the phrase gently over and over. The goal is never simply to get it done, but to allow Holy Spirit to speak, and for me to listen."  Of course, there are religious rigourists who will reject this approach - so be it.

We might apply this same method to the reading of the Gospels. One phrase; one word. Shhh. Then the gospel opens for us, and we notice what we had never noticed before, though we've "heard this story a million times," and the gospel becomes even dazzlingly alive because we are allowing God to instruct us.

Try it! You'll have a new sense of Christianity as an inner, spiritual way.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Intercessions ~ Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fra Angelico ~ The Annunciation ~ 1440

Today we pray for mothers who mourn the loss of a child./ For mothers who are unable to properly care for or protect their children./ For mothers who need to be renewed in strength,/ joy and hope./ We pray to the Lord.

In May/ we remember Mary singing of God who lifts up the lowly from the dust./ We pray for a just world/ which recognizes the dignity and value of each human person./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray boldly for soldiers and sailors of every nation/ to return home in peace to their families and neighbors./ We pray to the Lord.

In May we pray for the children who will receive their First Holy Communion:/ may they approach the Lord's table often,/ growing in faith and love./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray too for those who will be ordained deacons and priests this month,/ asking for them to grow in the virtues and skills they will need to serve the Church well./ We pray to the Lord.

The news from Washington this week is troubling./ We pray for the nation's restoration and healing,/ asking for government officials who in truth/ will work only for the public good./ We pray to the Lord.

Bring consolation and help to those who live where life is ruined by war,/ sickness,/ violence,/ death,/ widespread addiction,/ destruction and corruption./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Whoever wants to be great..."

This is Father Richard Ho Lung, the founder of the Missionaries of the Poor, who while headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, are actively present around the world, where there is the deepest poverty. It is the practice of these missionary priests, brothers and sisters, that after morning prayers they go out into the streets to find the dirtiest person, who they then wash. 

After checking out their website, I spoke by telephone with the Vocation Director and asked, "Why are there clearly no Americans among the members of your growing community?" He laughed a little and said, "It's too tough; you can't do it." Hmm. What was he saying? - that we are soft, spoiled, over-indulged, entitled, measured in our generosity, distracted? Fair enough question.

Several weeks ago, before Lent, there was a reflection here on Mark's Gospel, chapter 10, verses 35-40.  Apostles James and John have asked Jesus to be chosen as important figures in Jesus' cabinet when he comes into power. Here are the verses which follow:
When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with James and John. Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that in the world the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and their great men make them feel the weight of authority. This is not the way with you; among you whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the willing slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to surrender his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:41-45
We might imagine the other ten apostles were indignant because James and John asked Jesus for prominence ahead of themselves. "Dang, they asked first!" 

Our nation recently voted on greatness: "Make America Great Again," and then we dropped the so-called Mother of All Bombs to make the point. But Jesus has another idea: no power, serve others, be a willing slave of all.  YIKES!

These religious communities don't exist to make us feel guilty, but to be pointers. Saint Francis of Assisi said, "I cannot do everything, but I can do something." There it is.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Near your altar, O Lord...

Stream of Consciousness means allowing our thoughts to roam or flow where they will - one leading to the next without attempting to control, judge or order them. I value stream of consciousness as it can give us an indication of what we're made of - who we are beyond our outer, observable self.

Here is a photograph taken this week of a robin's nest hidden inside a forsythia bush blooming brilliantly outside the chapel door. I remember a similar bush planted alongside my childhood home, standing next to my mother, patiently trying to show me where to place my tongue against my teeth to make the sythia sound.

Then I'm reminded of the psalm verse about the birds and the open air Jerusalem Temple:
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord who rules over all, my King and my God. Psalm 84;3

Perhaps the sparrow and the swallow are images of the soul (our inner part) longing to be with God, near God, nesting in God - free, joyful, comforted and unafraid. 

And I recall the words of Jesus who speaks of God's Kingdom, saying:
"What is the Kingdom of God like?" he continued. "What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew to be a tree and the birds came to roost among its branches."  Luke13:19

The birds finding their place among the branches, like so many people in this sad, throw-away world of exclusion, loneliness, fear and alienation -  hoping so desperately to find among the Christians a place of inclusion and welcome: "We've been expecting you; you'll feel safe here." 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Intercessions ~ Fourth Sunday of Easter

Stefan Lochner ~ Madonna in the Rose Garden

May is Mary's Month./ We pray not simply to admire her,/ but that we would see an increase of her virtues within us:/ her humility,/ willingness,/ generosity and trust./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for a peaceful resolution to the growing tensions between our own country and North Korea./ For countries ruined by war/ which kills civilians,/ destroys cities and despoils the land./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those whose lives have been disrupted by floods,/ fires,/ tornadoes and other disasters./ With gratitude,/ we ask for the strengthening of rescuers and helpers./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday through Wednesday of this week remembers the 1945 end of the War in Europe./ Give us the desire and will to reconcile and heal the problems which stress our weary planet./ We pray to the Lord.

As spring days lengthen,/ we ask for the Risen Christ to bring light to darkened hearts and minds,/ light where there are lies,/ greed/ and secrets which conceal any dark agenda./ We pray to the Lord.

Strengthen those who are exhausted by work,/ conflict or injustice./ Console the sick and the wounded/ and bless those who help them./ Heal the minds which are troubled with bitter contention and hate./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mary Alphabet In the Month of May

S is for Swaddling Clothes

A is for Awake ~ Mother Mary in Bethlehem's cave.
B is for Beauraing ~ Monastery of Mary's Golden Heart.
C is for Cana ~ Prompting Christ's wedding sign.
D is for Dormition ~ Eastern name for the August feast.
E is for Everyone ~ tucked safely neath Her Mantle.
G is for Golden Gate ~ Jerusalem's meeting of Joachim and Anna.
H is for Haste ~ Pregnant Mary's journey to visit Elizabeth.
I is for Incarnation ~ God's love closer than our imagining.
J is for Jesus ~ Mary's Son and our delight.
K is for Knock ~ Ireland's home of Mary's appearing.
L is for Mary's Lap ~ God's new throne here on earth.
M is for Magnificat ~ song-promise of wonders to come.
N is for Nazareth ~ our inner growth alongside Christ.
O is for Orans ~ Mary's open-armed stance of prayer.
P is for Her Priestly Heart - full of gift, thanks and praise.
Q is for Queen-Mother ~ the most solicitous kind of love.
R is for Rosary ~ fingering Mary's jewelry.
S is for Swaddling ~ Mary wrapped her Jesus-Child.
T is for Mary's Thistle ~ green leaved; milk spotted.
U is for Useful ~ Mary's disposition before God.
V is for Violet ~ Her humility, not blown by strong storms.
W is for Wadi El Natrun ~ where in Egypt she nursed Her Child. 
X is for Expanse ~ heaven's wide-opening in Christ.
Y is for the garden's Yarrow ~ also called Our Lord's Back.
Z is for Kazan ~ Mary's victory against the Golden Horde

V is for Violets in Snow

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Surprise

The other day I came across this lovely native plant growing along the edge of the woods. Turns out it has many names: Dutchman's Breeches, Collicweed, Eardrops, Staggerweed, White Hearts, Butterfly Bane, Fly Flower, Soldier Cap and Monk's Head. 

Fly Flower is about eight inches tall, with many waxy-white flowers held up in clusters above thin stems. The underneath leaves are soft and fringed. It was often children investigating field and forest who bestowed names on these native plants. Free association! "I see a soldier's hat," "I see a monk's hood," "I see a lady's earrings," "I see a pair of pants."  Or farmers named them after seeing how the plants (often negatively) effected their cows and sheep. At any rate, the giving of names suggests a time when people lived, worked and played outdoors more often and were thus observers of natural things: plants, animals, rock and land formations, rivers, streams and clouds...

We're losing (or have already lost) this connection and the delight it can bring. There's a moment of wonder when we discover a nature-surprise. We come into the world filled with wonder - crawling around and exploring objects and spaces, learning to identify colors, sounds, textures and tastes. And as we grow, there's a lot going on that can rob us of this sense of wonder. "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot." 

I knew a surgeon who was rushing against time to identify and catalogue the remaining native plants on Long Island. An elderly man, he never mentioned going to church, but his keen sense of wonder was evident. Remember the creation account in Genesis - day three:

And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind And God saw that it was good. and there was evening and there was morning, a third day. Genesis 1:9-13
It's spring. We might take a walk around the property or down the block or maybe there is some untouched wild space not too far away where we might look down and be surprised. Look long and close - as long as it would take to discern the tiny yellow tips on the bottom of each flower in the photograph above. 

God is all-imagination.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday of Easter

Pope Francis visits Egypt this weekend/ standing in friendship with persecuted Coptic Christians/ and in dialogue with Muslim leaders./ We pray for his safety,/ asking that his visit would bear the fruit of peace./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for the brightness of the Risen Christ to shine in dark hearts:/ in the military-industrial complex,/ in politicians and clerics,/ in government,/ the judiciary system and finance industry./ We pray to the Lord.

Twenty million people in Somalia,/ South Sudan,/ Nigeria and Yemen are threatened with starvation/ among them more than a million children./ We pray for them/ and wherever children are orphaned,/ abandoned or in crisis./ We pray to the Lord.

The Risen Christ was recognized in the breaking of the bread./ We ask a blessing on our Eucharistic worship/ and that we would see Christ also in those around us at Mass:/ the children,/ the newcomer and visitor,/ those who are worn down or alone./ We pray for those who stay away from Mass./ We pray to the Lord.

We seem increasingly to see each other no longer as Americans/ but as divided Republicans and Democrats./ We ask for a new national community,/ with a renewed sense of what is best for all - not just some./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the many in our country held in the tight grip of drug addiction./ We pray for those who produce,/ smuggle and sell drugs./ And for those who mourn the loss of loved ones lost to this dark aspect of life today./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for any who have died since last Easter./ For deceased soldiers and sailors,/ aid workers and rescuers,/ family and friends./ We pray to the Lord.