Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympics of CALL!

A Sufi master had lost the key to his house and was looking for it in the grass outside. He got down on his hands and knees and started fingering every blade of grass. Along came his disciples, asking, “Master, what’s wrong?”  He said, “I have lost the key to my house. Can you help me find it?” So they all got down on their hands and knees, running their fingers through the grass.

As the day grew hotter and hotter, one of the disciples asked, “Master, have you any idea WHERE you might have lost the key?” The Master replied, “Of course. I lost it in the house.” To which they all exclaimed. “Then why are we looking for it out here?” He said, “Isn’t it obvious? There is more light out here?”

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“Calls are invitations from life to serve, to activate your will toward a cause worthy of you and the human family.  They are purposes with a voice, visions turned into inner commands.  Calls draw you into the specifics of a purpose and a vision.” (John P. Schuster ~ Answering Our Call)

"In the thousands of moments that string together to make up our lives, there are some where time seems to change its shape and a certain light falls across our ordinary path.  We stop searching for purpose, we become it. "(Dawna Markova ~ I will not Die and Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion)
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This week some of you may be glued to the TV, or to your SmartPhone, or computer to catch the results of the Olympic Games. I thought that these Games had a significant correlation to our efforts at discerning one’s purpose and call in life.  Much like the Sufi Master in the story above, we sometimes feel more comfortable, safe, and in control when we are “in the light”  -  searching for that something that will give us a clue or direction as to what we are to be or do with our lives. However, finding the KEY calls for us to step inside ourselves where we may experience darkness, quiet, restlessness, aloneness, feelings, truth, fears, obsolete “life commandments”, images, thoughts, or memories that all are part of God’s invitation to us to find the KEY for our real purpose and call.

According to a YouTube video, to become and Olympic Athlete there are a number of KEY steps to take so as to stay on the path to possibly acquiring the gold, silver, and bronze medals.  But how is this related to the spiritual inward journey of finding your purpose and call possibly to live a religious lifestyle?  Here are some elements to consider:
1. Talent – you have to have the talent to “give yourself away” so that others may become more or better because of your self-awareness, relationship skills, generosity, knowledge, physical and mental health, and spiritual growth to make the mission of Jesus real and alive in our world.
2. Dedication – this calls for the capacity to commit yourself to the mission of Jesus in a particular organization, with its charism, ministries, spirituality, lifestyle, and  values.
3. Training Center: Once you’ve discerned a form of religious life (Apostolic, Monastic, Cloistered, or Contemplative) then you will need to be more specific and choose a “Training Center.”  There are many religious communities with charisms unique to its founding, and each with its’ own vocation and formation guidelines.  Many of these can be found on sites such as: 
Discernment is crucial here that you have had time to research the choices.
4. Coach: It’s important to have someone who companions you in your spiritual and personal growth journey.  Possibly seek out a spiritual director ( a mentor, or friend who will be able to hear what your heart desires. 
5. Enter local, regional and national games:  This again calls for research as to where your heart feels a fit and “at home” with the community of choice.  It may mean you will have to move to a place where their motherhouse is and become familiar with their members in other regions to learn about them and for them to get to know you. 
6. Finances:  Many communities today require you to be debt free from credit cards, health debts, property debts, etc., but are willing to negotiate entering with education debts.  They may have policies or guidelines formulated.
7. Try Outs:  Communities have very well developed discernment guidelines before you are able to apply for formal acceptance into the community’s formation program.  There are wonderful opportunities to get to know the membership through sharing prayer, meals, meetings, discussions, activities, and on-going personal and spiritual growth planning.
8. Keep your eyes on the prize!: There are no gold, silver, or bronze medals for living a life of service and self gift – It all requires a willingness to carry out the mission of the community, to have the gift of membership “having your back,” and a deep desire to grow in the love of God and to be about the mission of Jesus as his hands and heart.

For Reflection:
1. How have you experienced God’s invitation to consider a religious lifestyle?
2. Are there mentors in your life who will be objective listeners and good guides?
3. Do you have a prayer life?
4. Have you ever considered visiting the motherhouses of those in religious life?
5. Consider a weekend retreat, a Come and See experience, or visiting a ministry site of those in religious life.
6. Get in touch with a vocation director who will answer your questions.
7. To find the KEY takes time, prayer, patience, and a good mentor.  Sorry, there are no “Drive-thru” approaches to this type of search.

“You must mightily believe that beneath the noise is a call to a deeper life that only you can respond to in the unique ways that your gifts allow and your life path has led you. ((John P. Schuster ~ Answering Our Call)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Heart Broken Open With Compassion!

 An Unlikely Pick:    With a big smile, a little boy approached a farmer to buy one of his puppies. But the farmer discouraged the boy. “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal.” The boy dropped his head for a moment, then looked back at the farmer and said, “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?” The farmer responded by whistling for the dogs. Out from the doghouse peeked a pup noticeably smaller than the others. Down the ramp it slid and began hobbling in an attempt to catch up with the others. The little boy cried out, “I want that one,” pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you the way you would like.” The boy reached down and slowly pulled up one leg of his trousers – revealing a steel brace. Looking up at the farmer, he said, “You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.” (Author unknown)     

The Rocking Chair:   There was once an elderly, despondent woman in a nursing home. She wouldn’t speak to anyone or request anything. She merely existed – rocking in her creaky old rocking chair. The old woman didn’t have many visitors. But every couple mornings, a concerned and wise young nurse would go into her room. She didn’t try to speak or ask questions of the old lady. She simply pulled up another rocking chair beside the old woman and rocked with her. Weeks or months later, the old woman finally spoke. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘Thank you for rocking with me.’” (Author unknown)

My Joy Complete In Them:  Notre Dame cardiologist Dr. Paul Wright ‘72 journeyed to Calcutta to seek the wisdom of Mother Teresa. Dr. Wright desperately sought the answer to his burning question: “How will I be judged?”  When Mother Teresa invited him to care for a dying leper, Dr. Paul failed miserably: “The dying person’s suffering and loneliness overwhelmed me. I recoiled from the stench of the infected wounds and tissues and walked out of the House of the Dying.”  After apologizing to Mother Teresa, Dr. Paul listened carefully to her wisdom: “Dr. Paul, I do things that you cannot do, and you do things that I cannot do, but together we can do beautiful things for God.”    Mother Teresa then advised Dr. Paul “to go home and grow in love and compassion in his own community.” She challenged him to be a cardiologist who would see his patients as the body of Christ.

(Mark 6:30-34)
The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place for themselves. Someone saw them going and the word got around. From the surrounding towns people went out on foot, running, and got there ahead of them. When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke – like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them. (The Message)

In this Sunday’s Scripture, we read of how Jesus’ little band of followers had been out student teaching to actualize their new skill-set by practicing preaching, healing, and casting out unclean spirits. They returned to give a Powerpoint presentation - which included graphs and pie charts - of their performance on the road so as to assess what worked and what didn’t work. No doubt, Jesus is interested in their efforts at customer service, mission performance, strategies for improving management and team leadership, along with safety awareness after confronting unclean spirits. However, Jesus senses their low hum of physical energy and requisitioned a boat to take them the four miles across the lake. After these field experiences of a new learning curve, these fishermen now are in much need to catch up with their own inner spirits with a little “R ‘n R”.  Seems they were pursued by people with major “hunger” needs, yet these neophyte teachers had no time for a little fast food for themselves. By the time they reached the other side of the lake, the crowd, who had been coming and going, had already shown up. So much for “R ‘n R”.  We hear of the Jerusalem paparazzi, along with a flash-mob-size of people with hopes to be healed, listened to, or be inspired, along with the least, the last, and the lost who frequented these deserted places and now seek to be nourished by the Word!  Here Jesus steps from the boat, sets aside his personal agenda, and pours out his compassion on them for: “When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke”  – What a powerful witness of self-transcendence!

So what is the Good News for us this week?  Let us in our comings and goings practice the art of compassion this week:
• Compassion is a feeling deep within ourselves — a "quivering of the heart" — and it is also a way of acting — being affected by the suffering of others and moving on their behalf. (Spirituality and Practice)

• Do you have a deserted place that longs for you to visit so that you can ponder your own life in quiet?
• Are there things coming and going in your life that need your time, attention, and understanding? 
• Are there things pursuing you: Your busy-ness? Your expectations? Others’ expectations?  Your restlessness? Your fear? Your desire to be successful?  You inner voice calling you to quieting?
• Are you willing to step out of your boat:
o  of comfort and security?
o of your own agenda?
o of keeping others at “arms length” from your personal presence of kindness and generosity?
• How has your heart been broken open with compassion in your life’s journey?  Are you willing to be vulnerable enough to practice again?
• What opportunities have been on your spiritual path that invited you to respond with self-transcendence?

Compassion Prayer by Henri J. M. Nouwen 
Dear God, as you draw me ever deeper into your heart, I discover that my companions on the journey are women and men loved by you as fully and as intimately as I am. In your compassionate heart, there is a place for all of them. No one is excluded. Give me a share in your compassion, dear God so that your unlimited love may become visible in the way I love my brothers and sisters. Amen.  (With Open Hands)

“The entire history of the universe has been the history of the outpouring of love.  Karl Rahner reminded us that grace is nothing other than the Divine’s self-communication in love.  God creates in order to give God’s self away in love.  All that creation has ever been invited to do is accept this gift of love.” (Field of Compassion by Judy Cannato)

Monday, July 16, 2012

"My Pleasure!"

A cat dies and goes to heaven. God meets him at the gate and says, “You have been a good cat all of these years. Anything you desire is yours; all you have to do is ask.” The cat says, “Well, I lived all my life with a poor family on a farm and had to sleep on hardwood floors.”  God says, “Say no more."  And instantly, a fluffy pillow appears. 

A few days later, 6 mice are killed in a tragic accident and they go to heaven. God meets them at the gate with the same offer that was made to the cat. The mice said, “All our lives we've had to run. Cats, dogs and even women with brooms have chased us. If we could only have a pair of roller skates, we wouldn't have to run anymore.” God says, “Say no more.” And instantly, each mouse is fitted with a beautiful pair of tiny roller skates. 

About a week later, God decides to check and see how the cat is doing. The cat is sound asleep on his new pillow. God gently wakes him and asks, “How are you doing? Are you happy here?” The cat yawns and stretches and says, “Oh, I’ve never been happier in my life. And those Meals on Wheels you've been sending over are the best!”

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There is a grocery store in our town that has a foundational philosophy of Servant Leadership.  Every customer is considered a guest. My experience has been that when you wander through the store and look puzzled at finding what you want, suddenly a clerk appears to help you. When you express gratitude for their service, they respond, “My pleasure.”  One time I wasn’t able to find an ingredient I needed for a marvelous dish, so I went to the manager and inquired. He instantly took out his SmartPhone and searched as to where he could locate it among their distribution warehouses.  He said, “I’ve located it, but it won’t be here until two days from now. When we get it in, we will call you.”  I expressed my gratitude for his service and he responded, “My pleasure.”

In a recent experience at a retreat, I was the “presider” in which I was to facilitate the reconciliation prayer service.  This meant introductions, organizing the readings, and giving a short reflection on the readings before the ministers went off to administer the Sacrament to the participants. Well, I couldn’t help but tell them the story of my grocery store experiences of “My pleasure.”  But in my reflection, I related this comment to how God might relate to us in our healing and forgiveness.

We come to retreat entering into silence, searching for a word of hope, an insight, a specific grace, an affirmation, or a challenge where we may meet new Nazareths  and new Bethlehems.  We sense that we are in the presence of the Holy and we express our prayer of gratitude. It is then at the level of the sacred we hear whispered in our heart, “My pleasure.”  For God does not desire worthiness but only willingness.  

What if we would enter into the Sacrament with such sincerity, and a deep desire to be healed and forgiven that deep within us as we express our gratitude for the flood of healing grace – God says, “My pleasure.”  What if, as we walk and live beyond that moment of gracing in the Sacrament, we encounter a situation where we need the courage and integrity we prayed for in the sacrament? Then again deep within us we sense a movement of grace, a surge of courage to stand in a non-defended stance and softly hear . . . “My pleasure.”

It just seems that before the thought has fully formed within us, or the words have left our lips, God rushes to embrace us saying,  “Anything you desire is yours; all you have to do is ask – then say no more . . .for you are welcomed here, you are accepted here, you are loved here.” And humbly we say, “Thank you.” And God responds,” My pleasure.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Stephen Fried, "The Race for the Secret of the Universe"

It is something and nothing,
the God particle;
everything else is mass:
tables, chairs and books,
the lint we remove from dryer filters,
even the air we breathe.

But the God particle
is like the matrix of a poem,
invisible force,
slowing what is born
massless at light speed,
pulling, binding the words together
until it takes form.

We cannot see where it begins
only the words of where it's been:
the subatomics of creation,
colliding in darkness,
taking shape in the ashes
of beauty, desire and pain.

At Fermi Lab
scientists find the secret
of universal cohesion,
not in their particle accelerator:
but in their luminous dreams.

Physicists have been searching for millenniums for the answer to the questions: Who created mass and where did it originate? Did God or the Higgs Field? Wow, do I feel wobbly getting into this track of thinking? And now, what if I started throwing words around like: protons, neutrons, electrons, leptons, and quarks? Now I’m really feeling wobbly in my inner self. Well, that’s just it – there are some things I just don’t grasp unless I have a lot of visual clues, mega time, and very patient mentors. With the discovery of the God Particle,” I guess for me, I would like to say that all of us have a piece of dust from that first nano moment of measured time. And this is enough for me to hold - I just struggle with not colliding with matter around me - like with the other cars on the highway, or the other person’s cart in the grocery store, or not bumping into someone while walking through a shop with unique one-of-a-kind fragile artifacts!  For me, being in alignment is a daily spiritual practice.

Recently, the automatic door in the garage that I use failed to go down or up – so just pushing the wall-button or the remote control transmitter only made it hum, hiss, and choke, along with the cable running back and forth! So how do I get it into alignment?   I started reading the manual and words, such as: remote control transmitters, sensors, gear and sprocket assemblies, limit switches, starting capacitors, sequencers, carriage/trolley assemblies, wall-buttons, (are you still with me?)  circuit boards, belt drive gears, torsion and extension springs, rollers, tracks, hinges, brackets, lift handles, bottom seals, pulleys/drums, cables, inside and outside locksets – all jumped out at me. Yikes!  Another moment of feeling wobbly!  However, I thought, I can do something. I can call Precision Garage Door Service – alignment is their talent! The repair man arrived and said that the two photoelectric sensors on either lower side of the door were not in alignment.

So the sacred word for the week is ALIGNMENT!  Think of all the events, experiences, or objects in life that you and I meet each day that call for alignment. Just to name a few: my glasses, my jaw, my spinal column, the wheels of the car I drive, the planets, and I know this is a principle in design and layout. But on the inside of me, I need to have alignment as well, and this is accomplished as best I can with God’s grace through my daily practice of meditation. 

One of my favorite practices of alignment is the Loving-Kindness meditation. I believe this is a gentle practice to put our spirit in line with our selves, our families, our home, our town, our planet.  So I offer this link to you:
This takes about 14 minutes; sometimes alignment takes time. You can always repeat the words to yourself whenever or wherever you may be sense you need to re-align yourself if you are feeling “wobbly” within. Repeat slowly and gently: May I be well, may I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be loved.  I believe that if we each practice this “alignment” meditation, we can bring more positive energy into our world.

And finally, I offer you a little story that speaks to me of alignment. May you ponder this sacred practice in your life this week.

A little girl was sitting on her grandfather's lap as he read her a bedtime story. From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek.  She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again.

Finally she spoke up, "Grandpa, did God make you?"
"Yes, sweetheart," he answered, "God made me a long time ago."
"Oh," she paused, "grandpa, did God make me too?"
"Yes, indeed, honey," he said, "God made you just a little while ago." 
 Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, "I think God's getting better at it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sacred Seeing, Sacred Listening!

Uncrowd my heart, O God, + until silence speaks
in your still, small voice; + turn me from the hearing of
and the making of words, + and the confusion of much speaking,
to listening, + waiting, + stillness, +silence. (Joyce Rupp)

“In the first creation story of the Hebrew Bible, God ‘speaks’ creation into being: ‘Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light.’ The rhythm of this creation account – ‘And God said’ – calls us to remember a God whose deepest song and sound utters us into being. We contain that sound within us. So when we enter into prayer of the heart through lectio divina, allowing the different sounds and rhythms of this universal music to be the text of our prayer, we are called into relationship with the God who sings to us and through us.” (Christine Valters Paintner)

The prayer practice of Lectio Divina essentially means “divine reading.”  When we encounter a sacred text of the Scriptures, we enter into an encounter with God.  However, we can also encounter the Divine Presence by spiritual seeing and spiritual listening through the “texts” of poetry, art, music, and nature. This practice is the art of being present to each moment in a heart-centered manner.  We step into a quieting, a stillness, a silence and read the text before us.  It is here in our heart-centered space we encounter “a God who is already calling to us from these texts and who offers us a gift each time we make room to receive this presence.”

“Entering the human heart, God’s divine touch sets its strings vibrating.   God draws from them a variety of sounds, from zeal to compunction, which blends into a marvelous spiritual symphony.  Between the sacred author, moved by the Spirit to write the text, and the reader, moved by the same Spirit when reading it, a deep communion is established. Time’s difference do not matter because both are in communion with the Word of the living God.” (Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible: Introduction to Lectio Divina)

I offer a few links that provide a “text” for prayer of holy reading, seeing, and listening.  You can learn more about Lectio Divina through these sites as well.
Consider this week experiencing the HOLY in your reading, seeing, and listening.
Let us pray ~
“Incomprehensible Holy Mystery, so often I am blind to your self-communication. So often I fail to see your love that is in plain view. Help me to see. Release me from my inattentional blindness, and allow me to truly see what is before me. May I release myself and others from judgment, and may I discover in the silence who I am in you and who you are in me. Enable me to grow into a maturity that embraces the world and participates co-creatively in the life of the world.  May all creation benefit from my practice of meditation.  Amen. (Judy Cannato, Field of Compassion)
“The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.” (14th Century German mystic, Meister Eckhart)