Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"Say Three Hail Mary's"

Any Catholic who has known the habit of going to confession will also know that most traditional penance given by the priest, "Say three Hail Mary's." It's very little to ask, especially if we emphasize the word say instead of pray. Nevertheless, in some way however deficient, the phrase suggests an understanding that penance is essential if indeed we desire the broken, contrite heart referred to in Psalm 51:17. Let's hold this thought.

Watching the neo-Nazi and KKK marches recently and listening to their Jewish-hating chant, I remembered when I was twelve years old that I had a German pen pal from Hessen, Germany. My mother's kind friend, a Holocaust Survivor, translated Hans' letters for me. In time I came to understand what the numbers on her arm meant and that she had come to this country to be safe and to heal.

As a young priest I visited the American cemeteries at Normandy, France: thousands of marble-marked graves - young soldiers who fought back Nazi hate! So to hear these young, white, flame-carrying "Christians" whose numbers and boldness are increasing in our country; leaves me deeply troubled.

But you know (and here's the Three Hail Mary's connectiont) our Church has had a hand in the hatred of Jews, even to our own time. It was only in 1959 that Pope John XXIII removed the word perfidious from the Good Friday prayers which prayed for the Jews. The most kind meaning of perfidious is unbelieving: the unbelieving Jews.

And this was the Prayer for the Jews in my 1962 boyhood missal:

Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.

Well, thanks be to God, that prayer was finally changed and evolved in the 1970's  - the Jewish people repeatedly having asked for that as early as the 1920's. But here's the thing: It seems to me that the religion which produced the little three-year old Mary, who un-escorted climbed the temple stairs before the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies and by her stopping to dance there, delighted all of Israel - that religion could not be living in blind darkness

So here are three little meditations about the young Mary on the day of her Presentation in the Temple. We might perhaps consider them and "Pray three Hail Mary's" along the way as an Act of Reparation for Catholic sins against the Jews - even to our own time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At her presentation Mary climbed the temple steps at age three. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has said in an interview, "I think every human being is almost by definition capable of hatred. But what I've learned is that a child, until the age of three is not. A child begins to hate at the age of three. In other words, the child has been taught how to hate." Hate is strong feelings against other people. With Mary, I want to climb inner temple steps: up and out of ignorant hatred, to insight, understanding, mercy, compassion and love.

Hail Mary!

Old Zechariah received the three-year-old Mary, who climbed the steps unassisted to the Holy of Holies. It was right for Mary to climb the temple steps - she is higher than the angels. And when she reached the top, Zechariah took her by the hand, leaning on her as if she were a little staff, who would lead him to life. Then she went past the veil into the deepest and most secret place of the temple, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year. Oh Lady, enter with your brightness and light up the inner places where we are blinded by dark inclinations.

Hail Mary!

Mary is presented to God in the temple at age three. And at Mass there is the presentation of the bread and wine to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. There is almost nothing in our culture inviting inner transformation - only the transformation of, who can lose the most weight and whose face can be transformed by surgery into sexy. But the best transformation is from sin to forgiveness, or an old life to the new life of Christ. And when I undergo that transformation - then I am free to love. But it begins with an oblation - a conscious offering of myself to God, who wants so much to grow-me-up in goodness.  

Hail Mary!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Holy Acarius, Pray for Us

O Holy Acarius,
how wonderful to discover your patronage, 
living as I do in a world of
*difficult personalities - 
people who are irksome, tiresome,
annoying, irritating.
And so I pray...

For the people who are always
critical of others,
Holy Acarius, pray for us.

For the power grabbing,
ignorant (but know-it-all),
name dropping people.
Holy Acarius, pray for us.

For those who play the victim,
the big-mouthed.
the dirty-mouthed,
the social climbing,
money-grubbing people.
Holy Acarius, pray for us.

For those who are ungrateful,
too-good-to-be-true cheery.
Holy Acarius, pray for  us.

But really, Holy Acarius,
while I ask for help in this world of difficult personalities -
that I would love people as I find them
or as they may become -
I pray all the more for myself,
who is undoubtedly irksome in some way to someone else,
for God to change me in ways that are presently
unknown to me - 
even unimaginable. Amen

*I put this litany prayer together after having asked a half dozen people, "What comes to mind when you hear the words 'difficult personalities?'" 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday After Charlottesville

Today is Friday -  traditionally a day of penance in the Catholic world - remembering in some felt-way the meaning of Christ's death on the cross. And here is a final scene from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. It is like Michelangelo's famous marble Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica, except here it is created in film.

Last Friday and Saturday, young white men who fancy themselves to be the new Nazis, carried torches in Charlottesville, VA (like in a 1940's Third Reich procession) chanting, "Jews will not replace us." They also chanted "Whose streets? Our streets," which means, "If we have anything to do with it, this country will belong to us again and not to anyone who is not us." That translates: black people, native peoples, brown people, Asians, gay people, Muslims, Jews, even Catholics. Special needs and handicapped people? Hitler got rid of them too.

When I heard the anti-Jewish chant, this film-image came to mind. Mary Magdalen and the young apostle, John, are on the left. They were Jewish. Jesus and his dear Mother are in the center of the tableau. They were Jewish. Who is that on the right? Perhaps a soldier, exhausted with hate and violence. He's bending over to catch his breath and still his pounding heart. Perhaps he is feeling the first twinges of terrible regret for his complicity.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Bartholomew ~ El Greco

We pray for Pope Francis,/ who has many set against him for his continued call to welcome refugees./ We ask for a world that solves problems and crises creatively and with great kindness./ We pray to the Lord. 

Jesus never wrote a book/ because he wanted to give us a new way of life/ and not an intellectual exercise./ We pray to understand and embrace this new heart-challenge./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the Feast of the Apostle and Martyr,/ Saint Bartholomew./ We pray for the Christians of the Middle East/ whose enemies want them removed or destroyed./ We pray to the Lord.

A week after the violence of Charlottesville,/ we pray for the nation to name its demons boldly./ We pray for a change of heart,/ and that we would learn to love God and neighbor rightly./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask soundness of mind for our leaders,/ generosity of heart and spirit,/ and the desire to serve and unify an embittered country./ We pray to the Lord.

"Jews will not replace us" was one of the new-Nazi slogans chanted last week./ Jesus and his Mother were Jewish./ For the stain of anti-semitism to be washed out of our country./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people who are considered to be of less value./ We pray for the American family which is often weak and afflicted./ For the safety and well-being of our own families and friends./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mary's Assumption ~ Sunflowers With A Prayer Attached

A happy memory of this Assumption Feast: In June of 1975, having completed my first year of theology up in Yonkers, New York,  I took a job cutting grass in Calvary Cemetery (section 4B under the Kosciuszko Bridge) in Greenpoint, New York. The last bit of the morning commute took me in my yellow beetle along the infamous Interboro Parkway - a winding, heavily trafficked road.

Aware that it was Mary's feast day, and that I might not be able to get to Mass, I passed a median of wild sunflowers, whipped by the air currents created by speeding rush-hour traffic. I quickly pulled over onto the barely existent shoulder and dashed across the lane of cars, filling my arms with bright yellow flowers. Then taking some extra turns and minutes to Richmond Hill and the Church of the Holy Child Jesus, which I knew from my student teaching days, I left the flowers (in a mysteriously appearing large jar of water) at the foot of Mary's lovely altar there. Kind of crazy, reckless and best of all, utterly romantic!

And here is a liturgical prayer from the Eastern liturgy for the Feast of the Assumption (Dormition).
Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her Virginal Womb.

Assumption Prayer To the Mother of Life

So near your feast day,
there is killing in our country,
a bold river of flame,
the angry young white men,
the fearsome call to unite people
in violence and hate.
Like a 50's wild-west movie,
boys brandishing guns,
even the peace-calling clergy
are insulted and assaulted.
And Heather Heyer is dead.
And Jay Cullen and Berke Bates.
We're not born hating people
we have to be taught. 
On the feast of your resurrection,
in your assumption into the heavenly kingdom, 
intercede for our nation
O Lady.

And once again CNN drags out
the retired generals who,
like priests,
helping us to meditate
but on the things of war:
the smart board maps and missiles,
the submarines and heavy bombers,
the artillery,
the firepower, 
the warfare planes and
all the talk that causes
the military industrial complex 
to high rejoicing
while the money pours in.
And the macho bluster,
the bellicose threats and
the counter threats.
We don't dare consider
how many children would die
if it all came to pass,
and the animals and plants,
the waterways and mountains,
the temples and churches.
On the feast of  your glorification,
in the fullness of your spiritual and 
bodily existence,
intercede for our nation,
O Lady.

And from your place of 
bright encounter with the face of your Son,
shout out an awakening to those who wink at violence,
whose hearts are dull,
whose minds are dim,
who turn away, 
who won't admit,
who sleep 
as on Gethsemane night.
On the feast of your translation
to the higher things,
the highest things,
intercede for our nation,
O Lady.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Digging Rocks ~ Unearthing People

The local old-timers nearby say about the ground here, "For every piece of dirt, there's three rocks." The photo here makes the point, these rocks having been pulled out of a 3 foot flowerbed extension. Once I worked for a week with a car jack before dislodging a boulder from a garden!

For me, the best time to dig rocks is between 7 and 9 in the morning before the sun clears the hills. The morning after rain is good too; the ground soft and workable. But while I was pulling rocks today, I held one in my hand and thought, "No one has ever laid eyes on or touched this rock before." Each rock has a story:
  • How long has it been buried in this spot before my shovel hit it?
  • How did it get here? Was it pushed by water or ice?
  • How old is it? 
  • Did Indians walk over it?
  • How was it formed?
  • How would a rock expert identify it? 
But it was really the un-earthing that caused me the deepest reflection, because there are millions and millions of people on this earth who are hidden away: who have never had eyes fall on them, who we might say need to be un-earthed, recognized, named, held or helped.

Years ago I was in the lower church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City anticipating the start of Mass. And immediately after I moved into the bench I became aware of the most incredible smell ever - so awful it was impossible to stay there. Everyone else had moved far away to the other side. And off in a shadow against a pillar was a sleeping bag-man. We might remember Paul Simon's song, The Boxer.

In the company of strangers
in the quiet of the railway station
running scared
laying low, seeking out the poor quarters
where the ragged people go
looking for the places only they would know.

This man hidden in the church shadows had a story, as does each human person - like the garden rock, maybe a very long story:

  • What was his name?
  • Where was he born? To whom?
  • Was he loved as a child - fed, kept clean, educated?
  • Did he ever know love?
  • Did he marry? Have a family?
  • Did he have friends? Jobs? A home?
  • When was the last time someone spoke directly to him - except the persons who might have said, "Get lost!"
  • When did he last eat a home cooked meal, soak in a tub, sleep on clean sheets?
  • When was the last time he was hugged or kissed?
  • When was the last time he laughed?
We might recall these gospel stories of Jesus un-earthing people who were hidden away, or looking in at life from the outside? 
  • Jesus taking the little girl by the hand, "Little girl, arise." Mk 5:41 
  • Jesus hearing blind Bartimaeus and saying, "Call him over." Mk 10:46-52
  • Jesus calling for the mothers to bring the children forward. Lk 18:16
  • Jesus calling embarrassed Zacchaeus down out of the tree. Lk 19:1-10
  • Jesus sitting in conversation with the woman at the well. Jn 4:1-25

While sitting in a doctor's waiting room, a crazed man, surrounded by bulging plastic bags, sat muttering out loud to himself. An old-fashioned nurse in white uniform (even a cap) came through, and seeing the fellow, went over to him, sat down real close, put her clipboard down and started a conversation which seemed to break the spell. Eye-contact, touch and conversation broke the spell! I'm so glad to have witnessed that un-earthing. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Intercessions ~ Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception ~ Seoul, South Korea

For Pope Francis as he encourages peace,/ love for God/ and a far reaching love of neighbor./ We ask blessings for local parishes at worship this weekend/ and for the ministries of care and service they undertake./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for stability in a dangerous world,/ asking for leaders who will solve problems diplomatically,/ sensibly/ and without wild and fearsome threats./ We pray to the Lord.

For the soldiers and sailors of every country,/ the ones who return from wars and conflicts/ injured or maimed./ For those who need inner healing./ We pray to the Lord

Bless and sustain those who supply the things we need:/ our energy,/ our food,/ the clothing and many products we will use this week./ May we take nothing for granted./ We pray to the Lord./

We pray for those who work through the night:/ who keep the country safe,/ who make travel possible,/ who operate hospitals,/ who are prepared to rescue others./ For parents who are awake with small children./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for people who are hidden away in mental institutions and prisons for the criminally insane./ For those who have no place to live/ or no one they can count on./ For people around the world who are thrown away./ We pray to the Lord.

And we pray for ourselves and our families/ to be blessed with hearts that are free/ and ready to love those we will meet this week./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Consider the lilies..."

These amazing lilies have been blooming here for weeks. And now, as they're beginning to fade and die back for another year, I want to think on the invitation of Jesus in St. Luke's Gospel (12:27). And Jesus said, "Think of the lilies: they neither spin nor weave, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his splendour was not attired like one of these."

We don't know for sure which flower Jesus was referring to in his ancient desert-world, but these will do - happy receivers of rain and sun, untroubled and seemingly eager to share their gifts.

Consider the lilies...
lost as we are in fears and fantasies,
the world of menace and
bad spirit,
acquisitive for power,
approval and

Consider the lilies...
distracted as we are,
owned by neediness,
vulnerability and
negative energies,
our "savage breasts" 
the agitation of troubled hearts.

Consider the lilies...
confident receivers,
imagined from beyond,
strong in their own place,
making no noise,
exhaling joy!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Transfiguration Table

This alive and bright painting is titled Transfiguration Table. It is August, and nature is offering one last great push of light, wheat, flower and fruit before autumn. Even the wallpaper gets in on it all, reflecting nature's gifts. And we have been invited into this most modest home to share the simple feast day meal.

"There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as dazzling as light. Matthew 7:1-8.

Gospel and painting: everything suggests God's abundance. It is a brilliant summer day: blue sky with fruit trees that seem to sparkle. The window is wide open and the curtains transparent, allowing the room to fill with light and air. The lamp is lit before the piled up icons in the Beautiful Corner; an altar-like candle burns to welcome us as guests. All the more, wheat shafts bring the Eucharistic table to mind, and a brimming bowl is ready with wooden spoons.

At first, it strikes me as strange that there would be fruit lifted up by the window to ripen. But then, maybe it's not about fruit at all, but about us, that in Christ, God reaches into our world to ripen us in some yet unimagined way.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Intercessions ~ Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration

Saturday is International Youth Day./ We pray for young people to value their gifts and to be generous in sharing them./ We pray for young people who are unable to grow/ due to poverty, corruption, or power abuse./ We pray to the Lord. 

Today is the Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration./ We pray to be Christ's family,/ living in his light,/ distancing ourselves from the darkness of greed,/ hatred,/ arrogance and ignorance./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of August we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries/ and other days of remembrance./ For the safety and enjoyment of summer travelers and vacationers./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the Feast of Saint Lawrence the deacon-martyr./ Bless the deacons of the world with a love of the Gospel and of the poor./ Strengthen Christians who who are in trouble for their faith in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

In the United States/ each day an estimated 140 people die from drug overdose./ We pray for the restoration of our national health,/ and for the desire to live lives of inner freedom and joy./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis and for those who resist his message,/ especially as that resistance is found among bishops and the parish clergy./ We ask for him/ health,/ strength/ and to be sustained in the joy of the Gospel./ We pray to the Lord.

Both Korea and the United States claim the Virgin Mary as patroness/ under the title of the Immaculate Conception./ We ask her intercession in this time of tremendous tension/ placing all of creation under God's merciful care./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mother of God ~ Quick to Hear

This 11th century icon of the Mother of God ~ Who is Quick to Hear is found outside the refectory (dining room) of the Docheiariou Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece. The story goes: the monk in charge of the refectory was in the habit of carrying a torch at night while walking through the entrance tunnel where the icon (rather unnoticed) is painted on the wall. On two separate occasions he heard a voice that said, "Do not come this way with a torch again, darkening my icon with soot." Thinking a fellow monk was playing a joke on him he shrugged it off. Soon after he heard the voice again, this time saying, "Un-monastic monk, how long will you irreverently defile my image with smoke?"

The story continues with the monks repenting and crowds starting to visit the icon which rendered healings of many kinds. My own first thoughts are that of the icon calling us to attention: that we would be more aware as we walk through life. But also that we would keep human beings, who are made in the image and likeness of God, from being covered in smoke: the smoke of hatred, prejudice, racism, exploitation, destruction and that kind of poverty which crushes and grinds up people. 

In time the monks bestowed upon the icon the beautiful title Quick to Hear. Americans love things that are quick or instant. Growing up in the 1950's, America's favorite chocolate powder drink was called Nestle's Quick. Quick forms the basis of our advertising: Restore the shine on this floor or furniture with one easy and quick application. This cream reduces facial lines quickly. This drink promises weight loss quickly. These pills will reduce aches and pains quickly. Use this machine and you'll quickly muscle-up and be sexy again. Buy these prepared ingredients in a box and you've got a quick dinner. 

But here the Mother of God is called Quick - quick to hear us in our necessities like the mother who is quick to hear the child's disturbed sleep, or quick to discern the child's feelings of loneliness, boredom, failure or fatigue.

So here are some prayers to the Mother of God from what is called The Supplicatory Canon to Our Lady Quick to Hear. Maybe we could mark the post as a favorite and so easily return to it when people ask to be remembered prayerfully and we promise we will. There are many prayers here, but don't be burdened, they can be used any way you want: all at once, once in awhile or broken up little by little over many days. All that matters is that they issue from a heart of felt need. 

Compassed with perils,
let us fly to the icon
of God's pure Mother
and her infinite goodness,
while crying from the depths with grief and pain of soul:
Swiftly hear our prayers,
O immaculate Virgin,
for you are rightly called
Quick to Hear for your mercies;
your defense in all our need,
our ready helper in every adversity.

O Theotokos, we shall not cease from speaking
of all your mighty acts,
all we the unworthy ones;
for if you had not stood to intercede for us,
who would have delivered us
from such numerous dangers?
Who would have preserved us all
until now in true freedom?
O Lady, we shall not turn away from you;
for you always save your servants from all manner of grief.

With what beauty your icon is wondrously adorned!
Brighter than the rays of the sun,
it enlightens all.
The heavenly angels extol you,
flying about and trembling with love, 
O all-pure Virgin Quick to Hear.

O Quick to Hear,
O Virgin Mother of God,
hear your servants,
who in painful sickness and sorrows cry out to you,
and save us from all kinds of danger.

Drive off the clouds of dark despondency
far from my soul, O Lady,
and grant joy of heart to me, O Mother most pure;
for you are the vessel of gladness.

Encompassed about with strife and wars on every side
from visible foes and those that are invisible,
we cry out with fervour to you:
O Lady, who are Quick to Hear,
break their darts with your mighty strength
and grant us your supplicants a peaceful life.

To the four quarters of the earth
is your wondrous icon made famous for its signs;
and all people with heart and mouth and mind
sing the praise of her who is so Quick to Hear.

Who has ever invoked your name
when in any danger, affliction or distress,
and has not been swiftly heard by you,
since you are the Quick to Hear, O Mother most pure?

From sea storm and swelling waves of certain death
you have saved them that invoked your heavenly name:
preserve us also from outward destruction
and from the shipwreck of soul in eternal deeps,
and bring us to the tranquil port of salvation, 
O Mother of God Most High.

All the world has found salvation in you 
and a swift and fervent help in temptations;
and so, O Virgin, from all the four quarters,
people flee to your holy icon, O Quick to Hear,
and all find you to be in truth
refuge, comfort and certain deliverance.

Most grievously tossed
upon the stormy sea of life,
and all-overwhelmed 
with swelling waves of sufferings,
we take flight, O Virgin, to your blessed icon
as to a tranquil port;
wherefore, stretch forth your hand to us,
and save us from tempests as your Son saved Peter.

Come, let us all praise in song
the icon of the Mother of God
rightly famed as Quick to Hear,
which shines majestically
like a brilliant moon,
sending forth shining rays
lighting earth and heaven;
Mary, that bright star whereby we set our course
towards the God of all
who is rresplendent and blazing forth
with mercies as with many stars.

Kindly hear and fulfill 
all the requests of your servants,
who in faith hurry to you 
and invoke your mighty help
and your swift deliverance,
O pure Mother of God, Quick to hear;
spotless Lady Virgin,
you whose  praise is sung around the world.
come and deliver us
from all tribulation, from all disease,
from sufferings and misery
both of soul and body, O Bride of God;
that we might extol you
while glorifying Christ your Son and God.

From all plague, pest and ruin
you have delivered all those who have fled to you;
so rescue us now also
from every harm and evil,
that we also might sing the praise 
of all your wonderful works.

From every sickness,
O Virgin, keep us safe and sound,
through your fervent and unceasing protection,
saving us as you have saved so many through the ages.

Your holy icon,
O Lady Quick to Hear,
has been shown to be a well-spring of wonders,
from which many draw relief of their afflictions.

O Theotokos,
you reveal what has been lost,
and you give joy of heart to the finder;
for the grace is great that you show forth in your icon.

Now the time of need is upon us all;
now a day of darkness
falls over our hearts and souls;
now we need your help:
O Virgin, quell the peril,
stretch forth your hand and save us,
who seek your certain help.

You are joy to all who sorrow
and of the oppressed a protection,
and the nurturer of the poor,
comfort to the estranged,
a staff to the blind,
visitation of all the sick,
a shelter and hope to those brought down by pain,
helper of the orphaned,
Mother of God in the highest
hasten, we beseech you, to assist your servants.

Lady, receive the prayers of your servants,
and deliver us from afflictions and necessities.

To you I commit my every hope, O Mother of God;
guard me under your shelter.

*A note about using the word "salvation" with regard to Mary: Christ our Salvation comes into the world through Mary, and in his passion and death she stood nearby in a close association with his work on our behalf. Do you remember in the film The Passion of the Christ: Mary wanders into a courtyard over the underground prison where Jesus is being held. She presses her face to the stone floor directly over the chained Jesus who looks up, knowing she is there. Two drops of water are heard falling from the ceiling. It's not a biblical image but spiritually powerful. 

Docheiariou Monastery ~ Mount Athos

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The 1000th Post ~ To The Father's Glory

Here a young Ethiopian man stands near a brilliant icon of the Annunciation in his church. Notice that in order for us to venerate the icon, not  one, but two veils have been pulled back. In the Annunciation: the conversation Gabriel and Mary have concerning her pregnancy and God's advancing into our world in Christ - the veil between heaven and earth has been pulled back fully and for all time.

And this is the 1000th Pauca Verba post which began in March of 2013.  Since then there have been 426,000 page views from countries all around the world: Ireland, Great Britain, Mexico, France, Russia, China, Australia, Italy, Poland and all across Canada and the United States. Pauca Verba (a few words) began in the late 1990's as a column in a little Sunday bulletin for young people in their residential school. Later it morphed into a reflection page for parish weekend bulletins until friends pushed a bit and together we envisioned putting it up online. 

It's a blessed project for me because it has invited me to deeper learning, awareness, reflection and prayer. The folks who follow are 99.9% friendly - "not for nothing" in a contentious world where a single online word can start an ugly fight. 

The purpose of the blog is not to indoctrinate anyone but simply to point to ideas for prayer and places where we might encounter and ponder God. Indeed, in numerology the number 1000 signifies the Father's Glory: God's beauty, awesomeness, joy and delight, wondrous imagination and invitation. God's Glory is the humility God displayed in coming to us in Christ.

God is wonderful, and everyday there is something to experience which re-introduces us to God. I don't want to miss out on any of that. That's what I hope to point to here. 

A word about the Thursday Intercessions: I think of them as a great needle and thread pulling together the things of heaven and our weary world. Do they effect any change? Maybe. That's God's business. The purpose of the prayers is to bring my heart before God - a heart which I hope is increasingly defrosted and opened. God reads hearts. 

I send thanks, good wishes and a blessing to you and your homes. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Intercessions ~ Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friday is the Feast of St. John Vianney,/ the patron saint of parish priests./ Awaken the clergy with gifts of conversion,/ creativity and a new love of the Gospel./ Heal the priests who are weary,/ spiritually dry,/ un-evolved,/ troubled or broken/ We pray to the Lord.

During the month of July,/ Pope Francis asks us to pray for lapsed Christians./ For those who have given up on the life of faith,/ who have turned away from the Gospel,/ or who no longer care to love God and neighbor./ We pray to the Lord.

The word crisis is appearing in American politics these days./ Restore and guide this land in the way of honesty and humility./ Forgive the nation where we are sorely divided,/ inhospitable,/ bitter or self-seeking./ We pray to the Lord.

Deepen our prayer./ Fill us with spiritual awareness and a love of praise and gratitude./ Free us from prayer that is superficial,/ bored or selfish./ We pray to the Lord.

Reassure those who are mourning,/ living in emotional or physical pain,/ desperate or fleeing for their lives./ Teach us continually the way of presence,/ careful listening and generosity./ We pray to the Lord. 

Every two minutes/ a child dies somewhere in the world due to unsafe drinking water or poor hygiene./ We pray to think rightly/ and to re-order our priorities/ so to be pleasing to God./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for those who have died this week,/ mindful of those who die terrible deaths in wars or because of exploitation,/ neglect,/ disaster or carelessness./ And that we would be given all we need for our own salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Prunella Vulgaris and a Prayer for Healing

As many times I've walked along this dirt road I have never (before now) laid eyes on this humble July-flowering plant whose Latin name is Prunella Vulgaris. Its everyday name is Heal-all or Self-Heal. Prunella apparently gets the more friendly name from her wide use as an herbal remedy for throat ailments. Considering the plant's ability and will to heal, what an affront to its dignity that some sources call it "a common lawn weed." Huh! Along with the plant-discovery, I've also come across this lovely healing prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. What a happy combination!

O God, our creator and preserver, we humbly beseech you for all sorts and conditions of humankind; that you would be pleased to make your ways known to us, your saving health to all nations. More especially we pray for your holy Church in every place; that it may be so guided and governed by your good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or spirit, especially those for whom our prayers are desired; that it may please you to comfort and relieve them in their necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy way out of their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Psalm 147 ~ Praise God Who Heals The Brokenhearted

Verse 1: The psalm begins and ends with the word Alleluia, which resembles the sounds a baby makes. Before God everything we say is just a kind of babbling. It has also been said that Alleluia is the word we're privy to that angels use. Lovely. Alleluia means: Praise the Lord!

Native Americans found Christianity to be a too complicated religion of paper and books. One priest has written, "You can't understand Catholicism unless you understand metaphysics." What's that? Alleluia = Praise the Lord! = O God, how wonderful you are!

Verses 2-3: God rebuilds Jerusalem, gathers Israel and heals the brokenhearted. Notice the psalmist doesnt' say time heals, but rather, God heals. God heals the abandonment, the betrayal, the profound disappointment. Do I believe it? And then, when healed and put back together, I can be a source of compassion for others because I understand.

Verse 4: The stars! I love this verse. But it's not about movie-stars, rather, the stars we see in the photograph above. God knows how many there are and even has given them names. Can you imagine? Of course not. It's too wonderful! And if God knows the names of the stars, how much more God knows my name.

Verse 5: There's no limit to God's wisdom - God's thoughts, God's creative imagination, God's insights and knowledge. God's wisdom gives us everything in awesome variety - so many kinds of weather, plants, animals, landscapes, foods. Last fall I was in a fancy supermarket that had more than two dozen different kinds of apples displayed. Wow! But often we disdain human diversity. Why is that?

Verse 6: God casts the wicked to the ground. Really? I can battle discouragement when I hear about or see evil-doers seemingly win the day or get the upper hand. I'll accept this verse on faith but I don't like it when Christians offer up pious talk and worn out cliches to let God off the hook. But I'll do what I can to help God lift up the lowly. 

Verse 7: Sing to the Lord...make music. Good question for Catholics in church: Do you sing out? Or do you stand there, not even picking up the hymnal, hoping it'll be over in one verse. Shame on the priest who doesn't join in. Do you ever find yourself singing a hymn while you wait, or while you work? "But I don't have a good voice," Catholics say. What? Did God give voices only to Protestants? You've got the voice God gave you - delight God by using it. 

Verses 8-10: God gives clouds, rain, soil, grasses and all the green plants for the animals and for us. So yeah, "climate change" should be a major concern for the Christian. It's not a political issue, it's a religious/spiritual issue. How we insult God by ignoring the care of God's planet-gift!

Verse 11: God's not impressed with the strength of horses (ancient war machines) and all the ways humans pump up themselves. Some people might not like it because it gets in the way of their politic, but we've got to let this verse speak to our 21st century. God isn't impressed with military budgets and parades, uniforms, tanks, drones, rockets, jets, poisons and gasses, landmines, "mother-of-all-bombs, nuclear ramp up. Let's hear it again: God isn't impressed...

Verse 12: But the Lord takes pleasure. You know what's pleasing to God? When we allow our minds to be changed about someone: him, her, them. 

Verses 13,14: God blesses the children. Do we? Why is it so hard for a country that thinks of itself as 'the greatest' to be sure that every child is welcomed and loved? We can do anything and everything we set our national mind to. Then why are there children who live in desperate poverty, who can't read, who are lost and abandoned, who never see a doctor, who are ravaged by sex trafficking, who are shot dead on the street or in their classrooms?

Verse 15: God sets up peace on the borders. Is it just national borders? Aren't there also the borders of our minds, hearts, indeed our whole lives? I want there to be peace on those borders when I encounter any person. 

Verse 16: God's word runs swiftly. God is relational, continually reaching into our world with a sense of urgency born of love.

Verses 17-19: And God sends his word to melt the hoarfrost, the hail, the wintry winds and ice. But to think only in terms of the weather is to miss the bigger point. Some human hearts are in a deep freeze, a personal ice age. Oh God, it isn't just the winter airplane wings that need to be de-iced....

Verses 20,21: We live in the long line of faith-relatives. Here Jacob is brought to mind, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah.  And we're reminded that God has not done these things for any other nation. Hmm. All religions want us to think they're special to God, that they have a corner on the truth or they alone know what is pleasing to God. But when we start thinking and acting that way, bloodshed and flame pick up their heads.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Intercessions ~ Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Living in a dangerous world/ marred by violence and hatred,/ we entrust ourselves,/ our families,/ neighbors and parishes to God,/ asking for safety,/ and the change of heart God desires for each of us./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all whose lives are disrupted by the vagaries of summer:/ drought,/ fires,/ floods,/ storms and heat./ And that we would care for one another/ not only in times of calamity, but everyday./ We pray to the Lord.

At the center of our Christian lives is the broken bread/ which is given away./ We pray for those who have no bread/ and that each of us who worship this weekend,/ would see to it/ for our part/ that someone is fed who would otherwise go hungry./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anna/ the parents of the Virgin Mary./ We ask the blessings of wisdom for parents around the world,/ and for the healing of families ruined by drug abuse,/ unemployment,/ anger or emotional problems./ We pray to the Lord. 

This Friday marks the start of the First World War in 1914./ We ask for world leaders who are intelligent and generously dedicated to creating a world that is at peace,/ which is a world of justice./ We pray to the Lord.

Our federal government is not functioning well these days;/ we ask for the healing of bitter partisan divisions,/ and behaviour that is foolish,/ prideful,/ disingenuous or dysfunctional./ Bless our leaders with a new desire to be of service./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Pilgrim Relics of Saint Nicholas

When Pope Francis met with Patriarch Kirill of  Russia in Cuba in February last year, Francis agreed to allow the relics of Saint Nicholas, Patron of Russia, to be brought to Moscow and St. Petersburg this summer. The saint's relics have been kept in Bari, Italy for over 900 years. 

There's lots of news about the United States and Russia these days. Maybe we can spiritually join the many thousands of believers in Russia and pray to Nicholas these summer months. 

Here is the Troparion (liturgical hymn) sung in honor of Saint Nicholas. Note: In Eastern icons the saint's head is large as it thinks the high and wonderful thoughts of  God. 

The truth of your deeds
has shown you to your flock
as a vessel of the faith,
an example of virtue
and a teacher of temperance. 
Wherefore by humility
you acquired greatness
and by poverty riches.
Father and Bishop Nicholas,
intercede with Christ our God 
that our souls may be saved.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Psalm 138 ~ Thanks for God's Goodness

When folks are asked, "What's your favorite psalm?" Psalm 138 comes in third place after Psalms 23 and 121. It's a prayer of mindfulness and gratitude for God's goodness. We might even learn it by heart. Click on the woodland path above to hear it read.

Verse 1: Notice the psalm says, I will give thanks..." Should we make anything of the world will? Maybe the psalmist is making a committment: "O God, all the way into the future, as long as I will live, you will have my heart." 

"Before the gods, I will sing your praises." The psalmist is thinking of little temple gods of carved stone and metal. But Americans have their own other gods: a political party, some politician's base, the military industrial complex, my to-die-for amendment, my "rights," the contents of the thingdom come stores...

Verse 2: "I will bow down at your temple." Bow down. This isn't a little nod of the head but a deep bow from the waist - what monks call a profound bow. A look-at-your-shoes bow. A get-down-on the-ground-head-to-the-floor bow. Why bow like this? Because God is faithful in love for us, who can be such spoilers. That's a very big love!

Verse 3: "Your word is above all things." God is always speaking God's Word.  I should be listening with the ears of my heart. You can't talk when you're bent over. You don't have the air for it. My father taught me to love words: God's Word is above all our yammering - our noisy, boisterous complaining. 

Verse 4: We may not always like what we hear - but God answers, and God gives strength. Many believing people can attest to that. The strength to hang in there while raising a family. The strength required to take care of the sick, the damaged, the elderly, the failing or dying. The strength not to quit on beating back an addiction. You name it.

Verses 5-6: All the earthly kings will praise God because they will learn the ways of God and see God's greatness. Instead of kings, we might substitute: presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, corporate heads, managers, supervisors...

Verse 7: A lovely contrast here - while God is high, God cares for the lowly. We can imagine God bent over the world's thrown away people, those hidden away in filth, despair and sadness. There are millions and millions of them. God sees the haughty from a distance - the ones who make policies, plans, deals and budgets that ignore the littlest and the voiceless.The haughty create the distance, not God.

Verse 8: The verse refers to God's right hand twice. It is a poetic image of God's omnipotence. So why doesn't God use his omni-power as I think he should? I'll have to ask God about that if heaven's beautiful gate is opened to me. Meanwhile, I let God be God. But for me, God's right hand means, God has me pulled in real close, the way parents do with their children when there's sadness, worry or danger. And the greatest danger for us? Anything that would cause us to become indifferent or hateful.

Verse 9: God doesn't abandon. Humans are fickle, bellicose, resentful, fearful, destructive, greedy consumers. But the psalmist testifies that God doesn't give up on us -  again - like those parents who don't give up on their children who can make some very wrong, even perilous choices. 

God created each of us as an original idea. Each person is created with a God-inspired purpose. A radio preacher-man said this week, "The two most important moments in our lives are: the moment when I was born and then, the moment when I discover why I was born."