Friday, September 27, 2013

In Honor of St. Francis ~ Reflections on Sister Earth!

This earth we are riding keeps trying to tell us something with its continuous scripture of leaves. –William Stafford
Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.  Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love he animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. When you are left alone, pray. Love to throw yourself on the earth and kiss it.  Kiss the earth and love it with an unceasing, consuming love.
                                                                                          – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature. – Meister Eckhart

Poem by John Soos
To be of the Earth is to know/the restlessness of being a seed/the darkness of being planted/the struggle toward the light/the pain of growth into the light/the joy of bursting and bearing fruit/the love of being food for someone/the scattering of your seeds/the decay of the seasons/the mystery of death/and the miracle of birth.

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"When we recognize ourselves as a part of the earth community, as the scriptures and mystics have encouraged us to do for centuries, then we begin to see the profound mystery at work in the depths of our own souls as the same sacred mystery at work in the natural world. Being present to the gifts of creation helps to give us insight into paths for our own spiritual growth and into the ways in which God is present to us."

Blessing of Earth
Spirit of the Abundant Earth/Allow me to live in the knowledge that/I am of the earth, from the earth, and returning to the earth.
Tree of Life/Rise up in me, /Rooting me deeply in the ground/And inviting me to extend my branches far into the sky. 
Spirit that rises like bread,/Knead me into the shape you desire for my life/And allow me to be nourishment for others.
Blessings of the earth be upon me./May its taste, smell, and touch remind me of the abundance of God. (Christine Valters Paintner)

Photo Courtesy of  S. Anita H., CSA

Thursday, September 26, 2013

In Honor of St. Francis ~ Reflections on Sister Water!

All praise be Yours, my God, through Sister Water, So useful, humble, precious, and pure.                                  –St. Francis 

Deep peace of the running wave to you, of water flowing, rising and falling, sometimes advancing, sometimes receding . . . May the stream of your life flow unimpeded! Deep peace of the running wave to you. – Celtic Prayer

God is a bright ocean that distills and reveals hidden truth so that my soul has a better understanding of how to trust Love, and this water is a mirror in which You, Eternal Trinity, give me knowledge.  – Catherine of Siena

Selections of the Poem: In Praise of Water by John O’Donohue
The imagination of the primeval ocean where the first forms of life stirred and emerged to dress the vacant earth with warm quilts of color.
The well whose liquid root worked through the long night of clay, trusting ahead of itself openings that would yet yield to its yearning until at last it arises in the desire of light to discover the pure quiver of itself flowing crystal clear and free through delighted emptiness.
The courage of a river to continue belief in the slow fall of ground, always falling farther toward the unseen ocean.
The river does what words would love, keeping its appearance by insisting on disappearance; its only life surrendered to the event of pilgrimage, carrying the origin to the end . . . A ceaseless traverse of presence soothing on each side the stilled fields, sounding out its journey, raising up a buried music where the silence of time becomes almost audible. . .
Let us bless the humility of water, always willing to take the shape of whatever otherness holds it, The buoyancy of water stronger than the deadening, downward drag of gravity, the innocence of water, flowing forth, without thought of what awaits it, the refreshment of water, dissolving t he crystals of thirst. . . Blessed be water, our first mother. (From: To Bless the Space Between Us)

Story: I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sand castle by the water’s edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand. I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle. I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh. (Harold Kushner in When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough)

My Story: Once upon a time, I was waiting for a young man to visit.  I stood by the windows of the empty room watching the dark storm clouds move across the sky accompanied by peels of thunder and quick flashes of lightening.  When he entered the room, he joined me at the window to watch this display.  I spoke to him of how I learned not to be afraid of storms – for my father would sit with me on the porch swing and talk to me about the storm. The visitor then told me that when he was a young child growing up in his poor country, he lived in a cardboard box with his brother and grandmother – and when he hears the rain, it reminds him of the sound he heard on the “roof” of his box home.  Silence.

Blessing of Water
“Spirit of Living Water, you hold all of creation in your womb and spring us forward onto the earth at birth.  Spirit of the Tides, remind me of the rise and fall of your rhythms so that I may discover them deep within my own being.Spirit of Greenness, bring moistness and vigor to my life so that I might savor the experience of your energy moving through me out into the world. Blessings of water be upon me. May I be carried by the flow of the great river of life. May I discover a hidden spring within, gushing forth, May I be carried to the shores of the sacred and renewed.” (Christine Valters Paintner from Water, Wind, Earth & Air)                                                                                                                              

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In Honor of St.Francis ~ A Reflection on Brother Fire!

It is said that at one time Rabbi Lot went to see Rabbi Joseph and said, “Rabbi, as much as I am able, I practice a small rule of life, all the little fasts, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible, I keep my thoughts clean.  What else should I do?  Then the old Rabbi Joseph stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like the torches of flame.  And he said, “Why not be turned into fire?”                                        (From the Desert Fathers and Mothers)

“In the spiritual life we keep our practices, spend time in prayer, seek God in all things, and yet at some point even all this is not enough – and we are asked to become fire. Becoming fire means letting our passion for life and beauty ignite us in the world. It means, that we are called  to set the whole world on fire with our passion for God. . . .
What is the invitation of fire for you this day?
What is blazing in your heart?
Where do you need the fire of courage in your life?
What keeps you from living your life with an awareness of this holy fire within you?
What ignites you with sacred passion for the world?
What would it mean for you to truly become fire?

Blessing of Fire
Spirit of Fire, you revealed yourself through the burning bush and the fiery courage of Pentecost.
Fiery Spirit, Source of all creative power, kindle your Holy Spark within me, Breathe into me your Sacred Passion, fill me with your Flame until I have become fire, offering warmth and light to the world.
Spirit of Refining Fire, help me to release what no longer serves me to make room for your light to fill me.
Blessings of fire be upon me; May the light of God illuminate me; and may the flame of love burn  brightly in me.  May I discover each day anew my own hidden fire and enter it fully."  (Christine Valters Paintner: Water, Wind, Earth & Fire)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In Honor of St. Francis ~ A Reflection on Brother Wind!

“St. Francis, in his famous prayer, welcomes the wind in all its manifestations and directly associates it with God’s work as Creator.  Brother Wind is seen as the Creator’s fellow-worker, the one who cherishes supports, strengthens, and invigorates other creatures . . . 
The element of wind invites us to ‘open our souls to Being,’ which means opening ourselves to a God who flows in directions we cannot predict.  This element invites us to a radical posture of surrender in releasing our hold on our own plans and making room for God to blow us in the most life-giving direction.” 

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“There are times in our lives when we feel as though we have been caught in the midst of a great storm, buffeted about by life’s unexpected turns.  Winds of change we did not anticipate may rise so suddenly we have trouble regaining our foothold. Each of the elements offers us much beauty to contemplate, but they also offer us an opportunity to meditate on the challenges of our lives and times of suffering when the firm foundation we have come to rely upon is shaken and crumbling.

Storms are an inevitable and unavoidable part of life. Sometimes the most painful part of an experience of suffering or loss is that it causes us to question our understanding of who God is and how God works in the world. Our theological frameworks begin to unravel. When we are faced with a broken relationship, a lost dream, the loss of a job, or the death of someone dear to us, our hearts are broken open.  The winds that come to blow us in a new direction are not always welcome.” 

 Blessing of Wind
"Spirit of Creation, in the beginning you blew over the waters, coaxing the earth up from the depths of the sea, and inviting all creatures to rise up on their own wings.
Spirit of Renewing Life, you breathed into me in my very first moment, invigorate me with your gifts of energy and newness. Continue to breathe expansively in me, inviting me to a vision for what  is possible in my life.

Spirit of Restlessness, stir me from my longing for comfort that so often stifles me, help me to release from the place that keep me stuck, and guide me in the direction you would have me go.

Spirit of the Great Winds, help me to hear your voice in the midst of the whirlwind of my life. Grant me the trust to hold on while I am being buffeted by life’s storms.
Blessings of wind be upon me. May my sails billow wide; May I breathe deeply the gift of inspiration; May I be carried to the place of my resurrection; May I be fully free.” 

(Excerpts from: Water, Wind, Earth & Fire by Christine Valters Paintner)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Good-bye and Hello!

“It is harvest time. A sense of completion and accomplishment enwraps the land.”  It is at this season that we “kiss” good-bye to summer.  Autumn is the “walkway” between summer and winter.  We (in the northern hemisphere) are slowly being invited into the season of Autumn with cool nights, early sunsets, completion of the growing season, summer flowers’ dried stems and leaves are now slowly bowing to be received into earth’s embrace, numerous grey skies are part of our daily experience, Canadian Geese flying south, people turning inward both physically and mentally with the struggle to deal with more hours of darkness than light.
 It is also the conclusion of the regular baseball season, however, we still have the World Series Championships to go through in October.  Then we are in the midst of football season - would you believe me if I told you that sometimes in churches that homilies are shortened or not preached at all so folks can watch the games?

But with all of this, it is time to put a little slow in our hurry and create a litany of gratitude for all that has been over this season of summer.  I place here a few quotes about autumn to ponder and one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost.
I also have provided you a link to a Harvest Bread – it is the season of apples, zucchini, and pumpkins, oh my.  May you be blessed.

Quotes of Autumn:
Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons. ~Jim Bishop

Winter is dead; spring is crazy; summer is cheerful and autumn is wise! ~Mehmet Murat ildan
In autumn, don't go to jewelers to see gold; go to the parks! ~Mehmet Murat ildan

O' pumpkin pie, your time has come 'round again and I am autumnrifically happy! ~Terri Guillemets
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus
I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it. ~Lee Maynard

Autumn is the hush before winter. ~French Proverb

Poem: A Leaf Treader by Robert Frost
I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn tired
Lord knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired
Perhaps I have put forth too much strength or been too fierce from fear...
I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year
All summer long they were overhead more lifted up than I
To come to their final place in earth they had to pass me by
All summer long I thought I heard them whispering under their breath
And when they came it seemed with a will to carry me with them to death
They spoke to the fugitive in my heart as if it were leaf to leaf
They tapped at my eyelids and touched my lips with an invitation to grief
But it was no reason I had to go because they had to go...
Now UP MY KNEE to keep atop another year of snow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Prayer for the Day

Softening the Soul (by Robert J. Wicks)
Lighting a candle
in a dark room
is a small gentle act of peace.

When the match touches the wick,
time slows down
and the race to the future ceases.

Worries are consumed
anxiety burns out
and I sigh deeply.

Watching the flickering light
is a graceful prayer
which eases my stress and lessens my strain.

Finally when the flame goes out
I turn quietly back,
to the events of the day

And find everything changed because of the time
I sat softening my soul candlelight

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Prayer for Harvest Days

A Prayer for Autumn Days
By Joyce Rupp

God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life.  For all this, we are grateful. (From: May I Have This Dance?)

How are you being invited to enter into transformation?
To what are you saying “goodbye” and entering a time of surrender, insecurity, and risk?
How are you aware of the patterns of growth that have been part of your life's journey? What have you learned from them?
Are you aware of God’s power-filled presence in your times of walking in mystery and wonder?
What does patience look like in your life?  Feel like? May you be blessed by its teaching.
Have you ever had to leave something behind while at the same time move into a “holy newness” of the future? What insights and visions did you embrace?
Ask the God of the seasons to keep your heart from growing cold in the empty seasons.
God of life, we live, and move and have our being in you. We are grateful!

Lectio Divina of Earth

How surely gravity’s law, strong as an ocean current, takes hold of even the strongest thing and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing – each stone, blossom, child – is held in place. Only we, in our arrogance, push out beyond what we belong to for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again to learn from the things, because they are in God’s heart, they have never left God.

This is what the things can teach us; to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that before she can fly.
                                                                                         --Rainer Maria Rilke
For Pondering:
  • Where and when do you experience yourself rooted in the Earth?
  • Where in your life do you sense that you are in need of grounding?
  • How in your life do you honor the changes, movements, and subtle shifts of the seasons?
  • What have you learned from your experiences in life that are in “God’s heart”?
  • Have you ever had to learn from “falling” and trust in your own “heaviness” of life’s challenges and gifts?  
      Photos courtesy of S. Doris Klein, CSA

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Prodigal Father?

This is the season for reruns and repeats. Therefore, I am referring you to view the blog postings of March 2012, entitled: The Extravagant God I and The Extravagant God II.  The Gospel for Sunday is from Luke with the story of the Prodigal Son.  Enjoy the reruns! Have a blessed week!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Magnanimity ~ God's DNA!

I think we all have a selfish gene which rises to the top, sometimes. But then we're also all capable of a sudden magnanimity. Jim Broadbent 

The word that found me this week is MAGNANIMITY!  Webster defines it as: loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity. Also, Dean Brackley, has a section on Magnanimity in his book on Discernment.  He writes:
“To put the matter positively: our fragile modern egos need what the ancients called magnanimity. The magnanimous person is, literally, a great souled individual and expansive spirit. With appropriate self-esteem and a realistic sense of their talents, great-hearted individuals think big. They refuse to bog down in trivia. Unperturbed by minor grievances, indifferent to the ‘trinkets’ of wealth and status, they are spontaneously generous, even prodigal, the opposite of the stingy, shrunken soul.” (Quoted in: The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times, by Dean Brackley)

I’m beginning to become aware of the inner connection between our heart and hands. It seems that when my heart is released of fear, judgment, resentment, and all those other negative demons that can “constipate” my spirit, then my hands can open wider and wider to be generous with my time, talents, understanding, and gifts. Then I can be a tad bit magnanimous – a practice that God sends for me to transform into my authentic self!

This week I have experienced a number of “speed bumps” on my journey of life which have invited me to slow down and ponder a little longer, a little deeper, a little more attentively, and a little less fearfully the magnanimous moments in which I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and to share stories of great souled people with expansive spirits!

Here are a few of my magnanimity musings.
Recently my community celebrated Founders Day. We shared stories of how three great souled individuals with expansive spirits converged - much like the planets lining up in their respective orbits, to create a rare constellation of zeal, passion, and call.  Each story about these founders was unique, and expressions of how their “DNA” runs through our CSA bones and blood today were truly a tribute to their courage and expansive spirits!

At the end of last month, we had a group of forty students from Marian University experience an “Immersion Day” as part of their freshmen orientation week. They came eager and willing to enter into the day venturing into the knee-high-shoulder-high grasses and invasive plants which have taken up residence in the upper fields on the property surrounding our four prayer hermitages. The students, now beginning their first week of university life, experienced in this prickly-place what it means to be a team member and work collaboratively.  They were people with generous spirits, aware of their talents as they named their majors, excited to begin classes, and eager to make a difference with their lives. It was an awesome experience to be in their company. This was magnanimity up close!

I’m sure you recall this quote: “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” Flavia Weedn

This quote came to mind as I attended a wake service for a woman who recently died. Her life was celebrated by her husband, their five children, sixteen grandchildren, and throngs of friends. “She will long be remembered for her total and unwavering commitment to her family and in particular her 16 grandchildren. In addition, her Irish wit and general love of life along with her many dear friends are her true legacies.”  

Our line at the visitation moved at a snail’s pace. However, while in line, people “crossed over” to greet one another and shared stories of this terrific woman. When we finally arrived at the place where the family stood to welcome the visitors, each person was greeted with individual attention. However, I felt that I was receiving a blessing from them with each hug, smile, expression of gratitude, and handshake. This beautiful family thanked us for coming and for sharing in the life of their mother. She was truly a great souled and great hearted individual. I left thinking that she and her family have left footprints on my heart, and I will never be the same because of this sacred moment of blessing.  Her DNA runs through their bones and blood as well, carrying into the future her Irish wit, love, and expansive spirit!

Finally, I attended a memorial service for Professor Dan, who died unexpectedly in June this year at the age of 57.  He was a gifted and popular professor.  I share a quote from his obituary: “Dan was passionate and devoted to the education of young people. He loved being in the classroom and working with students and staff in the university setting. Education, he believed, was one of the most important ways to empower individuals to lead better lives and in making this world a better place for us all to live.” His magnanimous gifts, talents, skills, are missed. Thank you, Dan,  for being a great soul and for sharing God’s DNA!

  • When and where have you experienced MAGNANIMITY?
  • What word is searching for you?

May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.  May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your individuality and difference. May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the fa├žade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.  
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment. (John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us)