Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

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