Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Feast of St. Francis ~ October 4

A Franciscan Prayer for Peace

Lord, make us instruments of your Peace

In a world all too prone to violence and revenge,
We commit ourselves to the Gospel Values of
Mercy, Justice, Compassion, and Love;
We will seek daily to promote forgiveness and healing
in our hearts, our families, and our world.

Where there is hatred, let us sow Love;
Where there is injury, let us cultivate Peace

Fear and distance prevent people from recognizing all
as brothers and sisters;
tensions lead to violence and mistrust;
We will strive to honor the dignity that God places
in each and every human person.

Grant that we may not seek to be understood as to Understand;
To be loved as to Love

Our failure to understand the other can create exclusion
in all its negative forms –
racism, marginalization of those who are poor, sick, the immigrant;
it can also create situations of domination, occupation, oppression and war.
We pledge to seek the way of solidarity,
to create hearts, homes, and communities
where all people will experience inclusion, hospitality, and understanding.

For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned
And in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Let us Pray:
Lord God, create in us:
-the Capacity to hear and understand the voices of those who suffer from
every form of violence, injustice, and dehumanization;
-the Openness to receive and honor people from other cultures, languages,
religious traditions, and geographical regions;
-the Creativity to explore new ways of communication and dialogue through
music, poetry, performing arts, and the mass media;
-the Audacity to undertake the building of communities of forgiveness, healing,
and reconciliation.
To God who is above all and in all are the glory and the honor. Amen.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Doctor Therese!

Thérèse of Lisieux,
October 3rd, Feastday
Saint Theresa's Prayer

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. 
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Marvelous Light!


Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt --- marvelous error! ---
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt --- marvelous error! ---
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt --- marvelous error! ---
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt --- marvelous error! ---
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

By: Antonio Machado (Version by Robert Bly)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Welcome Autumn!

Fall Song
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries – - -roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – - – how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
-Mary Oliver

A Leaf Treader
"I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired.
God knows all the color and forms of leaves I have trodden on and mired.
Perhaps I have put forth too much strength and 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 threatening 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 leaves 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 on top of another year of snow."

-Robert Frost

Friday, September 19, 2014

All is Gift!

Wine Grower by Aelbert Cuyp, 1628

Today’s Gospel  (Sunday – September 21) is a story of liberation and includes what is called a “great reversal” – where the Gospel writer inserts the phrase - the last will be first and the first will be last. 

Allow me to insert a few examples of “great reversals” from my hearing and reading experiences as I reflected on this Gospel. . .

• My first story is that of a friend of mine, who with his seminarian companions, needed to get specific classes at the beginning of their college semester.  So the plan was to rise very early the next morning, set out across campus to the building for registration, and be the first in line so as to sign up for their classes which were limited in the amount of students who would be able to attend. 

So the following morning, the band of eager seminarians headed off to their building for registration with forms and personal data in hand.  After standing at the door of the  registration building for a couple of misty morning hours, the door finally opened. The seminarians inquired as to the room for registration of their classes, only to be told that they were to register in the next building. They were at the wrong building.  They found that they had to turn around, go down the steps, and follow the students who were originally standing behind them – who were to be the last ones to register.  Now the last students would  be the first ones to register at the next building and these eager seminarians would be last. Truly a great reversal!

• My second story of a “great reversal” reminds me of St. Rose of Lima.  She dedicated her life helping her family, the homeless, the poor, and the sick.  She was a beautiful woman, and she did all that she could to make herself “less than” or “last” in the eyes of humanity and God!  She lived as a recluse, and practiced austere penances and excessive mortifications.  For example, she cut off her beautiful hair, wore coarse clothing, also wore a chain around her waist, and also had a metal spike crown covered with flowers upon her head.  She fasted daily and slept on a bed of broken glass, thorns, and stones.  She was known to have visions of Jesus and prayed for hours in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  She did all of this to become less – to become small – to become last in the eyes of the world. 
However, after her death, there were many miracles attributed to her, and upon her canonization she became the First  American Saint and Patroness of South and Central America, and the Philippines. Truly a great reversal in which her efforts to be last turned upside down and around and she became first and sainted in the eyes of the Church.

Today’s Gospel is also a parable – and Jesus was a master storyteller and used this literary form artfully. A Parable is a short story that uses images to illustrate a truth or a lesson.  Parables used familiar symbols so that the listener could relate, and if need be, be shocked. Whatever the outcome in the hearer, the parables required a response.  Either the hearer was to change behaviors, or a thought, or a belief, but change was the reason for the parables. 

Jesus’ parables always spoke of the Kingdom of God – or the Reign of God - and always had a little twist hidden within the story. Our Gospel is a story of the Kingdom; a Kingdom where one does not have to earn the love of God – it is a Kingdom where one learns to receive the love of God.  All are equal in the eyes of God – all are invited to the Kingdom. 

This parable is not about earning, or about being paid with an amount proportionate to the time you worked in the hot sun.  The Gospel illustrates an alternate economy – the economy of the Reign of God – an economy of GIFT!  An economy of GIFT regards all that we have received from God, - that is, nature, family, community, all our relationships, and talents, all of life, - we receive freely from God’s generosity – all is GIFT!

The vineyard owner, clearly a God-figure, claims to be operating according to a different economic system.  No one earned anything – all is GIFT. Divine generosity, not personal effort, is the source of what each received. 

So as we reflect this week – we can ask -
Where or when have we been shocked by God’s divine generosity?
What have we heard in our hearts this week that requires of us to consider new behaviors, new attitudes, or new thoughts about life, God, others, ourselves?
Is God teaching us the “economy of Gift” and that God desires us to simply be open to the generous out-pouring of God’s love and mercy for us?
Finally, are we aware that God’s love for us never changes, never ends, is never earned and never lost? 

Then let us ask Rose of Lima to intercede for us today, and gather the graces for us that we need to grow in courage, authenticity, and wisdom so as to better manage the ambiguities and paradoxes of our lives, especially when we are challenged to understand great reversals – such as when the last are first and the first are last.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Autumn Day Prayer

Prayer for Autumn Days (Sr. Joyce Rupp, OSM)

 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. Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Season of Letting Go!

O God of Autumn loveliness, we thank you for the many colors of our lives. We thank you for the rich hues of red, the promising hope of greens, the depth of the golds, and the well-worn browns.

We praise you for all of the life you have given us, the life we celebrate at this harvest time each year. Like the leaves of the trees, we ourselves have been blown around, toasted in the sun, and whipped by rain and storms. Yet, we stand as a testament to life well lived.

Your trees, O God, remind us of our letting go, our need to trust transformation, so that new life can come. Yet, like them, we resist the tearing, wrenching, pulling, and tugging.  We cling earnestly to our color and our home!

Release us, God of the Autumn, and free us so that the wind of your Spirit can fling us to the places we most need to go.  Bury us deep in places where we will find warmth.  Help us to find ourselves grounded in you.

As we look around in this harvest time, we celebrate the bounty all around us and deep within us.  May we be forever grateful for the plentitude!  May we be forever generous with all that is ours.  May we be forever willing to give of ourselves!

And as we journey towards this winter time, help us to always carry the spirit of springtime deep within us as a sign of hope!  We believe, O God of Transformation, that all of life is your belief and hope in us!  Ready our hearts, steady our hearts that we can respond fully in faith and love!

(Author Unknown)

An Inner Force!

We carry within us a mysterious inner force for life and love, an ache for the truth, and an indivisible link to creation and creator.

Our lives are ordered toward this end and there’s little we can do but discover that within ourselves. The specific work we do, the specific people we love, the specific stuff of our lives all take their origin and root in this human condition. It’s the code of life for us.

Christ urges us to seek that inner sense of calling which is where God reigns. This is not some heaven light years away; it’s the real thing within us, the thing we most urgently seek, the ache in our hearts, the thing we know deep down that nobody can deny.

This is not a vocation from a distant god at which we must guess; it’s a movement within us directed by a living God pulling us toward ourselves, toward our Self:
a self-for-others
for peace
for harmony
in short, a self-for-God . . .

Each of us can do the thing we most want to do in life which is to say that each of us can live in the reign of God, each of us can follow the pillar of fire in the night, each of us can learn to trust our inner voice.

And if each of us did, there would be no violence, no exclusions, no hatred,  no darkness at all. The light for which the world waits is not coming from above the stars but from within our human selves. The light will come when the energy of God flows through us, when the world sees in us what the world saw in Christ.

‘If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.’

Reflect: What does your inner voice prompt you toward? When you pause to listen, what do you hear deep within yourself?

From: A New Look at Prayer by Bill Huebsch


Monday, September 8, 2014

Our Extravagant God!

Waken in Me a Sense of Joy
By Ted Loder

O extravagant God,
in this ripening, red-tinged autumn,
waken in me a sense of joy
    in just being alive,
joy for nothing in general
    except everything in particular;
joy in sun and rain
    mating with earth to birth a harvest;
joy in soft light
    through shyly disrobing trees;
joy in the acolyte moon
    setting halos around processing clouds;
joy in the beating of a thousand wings
    mysteriously knowing which way is warm;
joy in wagging tails and kids’ smiles
    and in this spunky old city;
joy in the taste of bread and wine,
    the smell of dawn,
    a touch,
    a song,
    a presence;
joy in having what I cannot live without –
    other people to hold and cry and laugh with;
joy in love,
    in you;
and that all at first and last
is grace.

(From: Guerrillas of Grace)

Honoring Earth

In Praise of the Earth
By John O’Donohue

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

(From: To Bless the Space Between Us)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 5 ~ Day of Remembering Blessed Mother Teresa

Quotes 'n Stories:
• “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” -Mother Teresa
• Advice to a Novice - “The story is told of what she said to a novice gingerly cleaning an ugly wound in a woman's neck, as if repelled by what she saw. Mother Teresa told her that was not how to do the task. She took over a scalpel and quickly excised the nasty ulcer.
 ‘You must understand,’ she said, ‘that this is Jesus. We are cleaning the wounds  of the Lord.’ She then turned to a reporter witnessing this encounter: ‘If we didn't  believe this -- that this is the body of Christ -- we could never do it. No money  could make us do it. I wouldn't ask these fine young women to take on a life like  this. We are not social workers. We are seeing and touching the heart of Christ --  twenty-four hours a day.’" –Mother Teresa

• “I will never forget one day when I met a lady who was dying of cancer and I could see the way she was struggling with that terrible pain. And I said to her, I said, ‘You know this is but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Him on the cross that He can kiss you.’ And she joined her hands together and said, 'Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.'” –Mother Teresa
• “One night a man came to our house and told me, ‘There is a family with eight children. They have not eaten for days.’ I took some food and I went. When I finally came to the family, I saw the faces of those little children disfigured by hunger. There was no sorrow or sadness in their faces, just the deep pain of hunger. I gave the rice to the mother. She divided it in two, and went out, carrying half the rice with her. When she came back, I asked her, ‘Where did you go?’ She gave me this simple answer, ‘To my neighbors-they are hungry also.’
I was not surprised that she gave–because poor people are generous. But I was  surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we  are so focused on ourselves we have no time for others.” –Mother Teresa

• A successful businessman traveled to India to spend a month working in one of Mother Teresa's shelters. He longed to meet the tiny nun, but Mother Teresa was traveling, and it wasn't until the day before his departure that he received an audience. When he was finally in her presence, much to his surprise, he burst into tears. All the times when he'd been self-centered, busy or focused on his own gain flashed before his eyes, and he felt an enormous sadness that he had missed so many opportunities in his life to give of himself and his resources. Without a word, Mother Teresa walked over to where he was seated, put her hands on his shoulders and looked deeply into his eyes. "Don't you know," she said, "that God knows you are doing the best that you can." (Story from Chicken Soup for the Soul At Work by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Maida Rogerson, Martin Rutte, Tim Clauss)

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa's children's home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However, an article in the New York Times reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Dr. Kent Keith]