Monday, February 27, 2017

Lent ~ A moveable feast!

 
“Certain pieces of our journey are moveable feasts.” (Fran Dorff)

There was a time, long, long ago – in fact, in the past century - that I recall an Ash Wednesday liturgy, when the presider at the beginning of his homily asked: “What things in your life have turned into ashes?”  At that moment, I thought I was the only one in the assembly and that he was speaking directly to me. You see, I had just finished three months of a sabbatical time and was struggling with what was to happen next in my life? I asked myself often: Who am I now?

However, before I stepped into that Sabbath time, I experienced a “dying” – a drastic letting go ~ for so much of my life had turned into ashes. I can’t begin to name all the pieces that collided together to create this tectonic shift in my life.

However, here are a few of the seismic movements that created this liminal space of “holy newness” ~
• I left my successful ministry of twelve years of working with a dedicated group of faculty and staff at our nearby college. 
• I left my students of whom I was a mentor for their potential as teachers.
• I left my friends in the town where I worked.
• I had no car, no place to call “home”, no particular ministry, and a whole lot of a blurry identity.


It seemed that so many things to which I had held tightly for purpose and passion had “turned into ashes” and that I was experiencing my own desert. And yet, “cathartically,” there was the phone call from my superior (at just the right time) who told me to take things easy and don’t rush into getting a new ministry. Ah, she didn’t forget me! 

There were the women of my community, who provided me housing in a basement bedroom – of which I lovingly named the “catacombs of St. Agnes.” Ah, they didn’t forget me and provided for my needs.

Then there were openings that came as volunteer opportunities which led to other possibilities for my potential to unfold in such a way that I had no idea of the transformative grace that was now being heaped upon my very spirit. Ah, God had not forgotten me and was loving me into a “holy newness.”

Then, during the liturgy, I remembered coming back to consciousness; (I  believe I missed hearing the homily in total). However, at the end of his reflection, I recall the presider’s final question. It was this: “What in your life is God asking you to turn into ashes?” With that question, I became aware that I was now marked with a cross of ashes, and invited to move out from there with renewed courage, trust, inspiration, hope, creativity, and the grace to honor the ashes that marked my path to Easter joy!

So what is the good news for us on this Ash Wednesday?

Let us ponder:
• What things have turned into ashes in your life?
• What things now is God asking you to turn into ashes?
• May we all have a blessed Lent of Holy Newness!


“But is there a transformation-truth
in this experience of ashes?
Yes, for in the ashes is a story of resurrection.
Yes, for in the ashes is strength about rising.
For remember, you are dust
and to dust you shall return.
For Ash Wednesday is a moveable feast.
A day to celebrate ashes and Easter!
For remember, you are loved,
And to Love you shall return.
For Easter is a moveable feast!”
Sjh 1995
 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"For Lent" . . .

 
Poem: "For Lent" by Monica Lavia

What are you giving up for Lent? Adam asked of Eve.
Well, Eve said. I am thinking I should give up apples.
And what about you, husband of mine?
Adam replied, I think I am going to give up taking advice from you.


What are you giving up for Lent?
Abel asked his brother Cain?
Cain replied, I am going to try to give up my anger
Lest in a weak moment, I injure someone I love.


What are you giving up for Lent?
Jacob asked his twin, Esau.
Apparently my birthright, little brother of mine.


What are you giving up for Lent?
Moses asked of Aaron?
I am going to give up worshiping false gods                                                
Especially the golden calf variety.                                                                 
What about you? Aaron asked Moses in return.                                         
I am giving up my need to see the promised  land.    


What are you giving up for Lent?                                  
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar asked Job.                                                         
I am giving up trying to understand the mind of God.   

                             
What are you giving up for Lent?  I asked of Mary.
She whispered her response so softly
I had to move in close to her to hear her hushed reply:

My only Son

Our Lady of Sorrows
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mardi Gras . . .Feasting to Fasting!

 

 
Mardi Gras Prayer

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.


Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.


As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.
Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.


May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.


As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.


May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.


We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord.  (Creighton University)


Gratitude Reflections. . .


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order,
and confusion into clarity...
It turns problems into gifts, failures into success,
the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

MELODIE BEATTIE

Prayer for Guidance . . .

 
 
O, God,
Guide my thoughts with your spirit of truth;
Lead my actions with your heart of generosity;
Empower my decisions with your wisdom;
Take away my fears with your heart of courage
And embrace me in your love
that protects me from all harm.

Kathleen M. Sullivan ’82MA                                                                                                
Notre Dame University
  

Guidance in dark and fog . . .

 
 
Trust That Guidance Will Come

Trust and act on the guidance you have now. 
Some parts of our lives appear like a long, paved highway. 
We can see exactly where to go; we have a panoramic view. 
 
Other times, it may feel like we’re driving in the dark
with only one headlight on a winding road through the fog. 
We can only see a few feet in front of the car. 
Don’t worry if you can’t see that far ahead,
if you only have a glimmer of light to guide your path. 

Slow down.
Listen to your heart.  Guidance will come. 
Trust what you hear.  Do the small thing.  Take that one step. 
Go as far as you can see. 
Then go back to your heart, and you’ll hear the next step.

It may be a step of immediate action, or deliberate inaction. 
Sometimes you may have to quiet down,
wait, and prepare yourself to hear what you’re to do next. 
Trust and act on the guidance you have now, and more will come.  

Melodie Beattie (Journey to the Heart)

 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Walking Trees . . .


 
In the gospel of Mark (8:22-27) there is a story of how people from a village brought a blind man to Jesus for healing.  The story unfolds with Jesus taking the blind man by the hand and leading him beyond the village.  “He put spit on the man’s eyes, laid hands on him and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’”  The man responded that he saw people, but they looked like trees walking.  So Jesus had to lay his hands on the man’s eyes once again and the man recovered his sight with 20/20 vision!

This is a great story of how we come through the process of discernment.  The spirit often invites us to leave our comfort zones so that in our discomfort we can be detached enough from our illusions and certainties to notice how we feel within, so that we can learn to trust God’s grace and light.  Much like the man in the story, we are never alone. God is present with us as we encounter new events, circumstances, relationships, and experiences that are part of our search for what God desires of us. 

Discernment is a way of deep listening that cannot be forced.  There is no “drive-thru” for discernment; there is no App for quick and easy answers; and there are no flashing lights with bells and whistles pointing to the right path!  Often, we find clarity and peace a little at a time – we get “blurry-clear” insights and begin to notice more and more of God’s purpose for us with each step on our journey. We are invited to notice signs in our everyday lives that God seems to put in our path to point to the way that will give us peace and joy. This movement is often slow, so as to allow God to gently take us by the hand and to touch our hearts again and again, so that our seeing becomes a vision of how we are being called to a new way of being and becoming. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Words of Love . . . Words With Heart . . .



Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
that is, than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.


What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything. 


It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you will do with your evening, how you will spend your weekends,
what you read,  who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love,
stay in love
and it will decide everything.

(Pedro Arrupe, s.j. 1907-1991)    

💓 💓 💓 💓 💓

Heart of Love, source of kindness,
Teacher of the ways of goodness,
You are hidden in the minutes of daily life
waiting to be discovered among us.


Heart of Gladness, Joy that sings in our souls,
the Dancer and the Dance,
You are Music radiating in our
cherished times of consolation.


Heart of Compassion, the Healing One weeping
for a world burdened and bent,
You are the heart we bring
to the wounded and weary world.


Heart of all Hearts,
You are the Gift living
in the depth of our lives,
connecting us with others. 

(Joyce Rupp/ Out of the Ordinary)

"Holy One, in every moment we live in your expansive love and your tender embrace. All around us we behold your presence. All around us and within us life emerges, fresh and new, vital, sparked with zest. May we continue to expand our lives and our living, accepting the challenge and responsibility to be co-creators with you. May we embrace all the gifts you have given and use them well, in love and for love. May we use our gifts with wisdom and with courage, celebrating the connectedness and seeing the expressions of your love everywhere. May our actions and attitudes generate unity and may love bring us to communion. May we live in such a way that generations to come will look at us in you and say, 'Radically Amazing!'”      
 (Judith Cannato: Radical Amazement)



Monday, February 13, 2017

Light of Courage

 
 
For Courage
When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside,


When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen,


When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see
That it is your own thinking
That darkens your world,


Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone
And that this darkness has purpose;
Gradually it will school your eyes
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.


Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.

That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you toward higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

(From To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue)

A Gathering Prayer . . .

 
 
 
Gather Me to Be with You

O God, gather me now to be with you as you are with me.
Soothe my tiredness; quiet my fretfulness; curb my aimlessness;
Relieve my compulsiveness; let me be easy for a moment.

 + + + 
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
Forgive me for claiming so much for myself that I leave
no room for gratitude; for confusing exercises in self-importance
with acceptance of self-worth;
 
+ + +
For complaining so much of my burdens that I become a burden;
For competing against others so insidiously that I stifle celebrating
them and receiving your blessing through their gifts.
 
+ + +
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
Keep me in touch with myself, with my needs,
my anxieties, my angers, my pains, my corruptions,
that I may claim them as my own rather than
blame them on someone else.
 
+ + +
O God, deepen my wounds into wisdom; shape my weaknesses
into compassion; gentle my envy into enjoyment,
my fear into trust, my guilt into honesty,
my accusing fingers into tickling ones.
 
+ + +
O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.
 
(From: Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Valentine's Day Heartful Reflection . . .

A few seasons ago, I presented the following reflection on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. As we move into the much "heart-anticipated" celebration of Valentine's Day in the USA . . .why not ponder the Heart of God . . .  So I post this reflection:

Image design by: Doris Klein, CSA



Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The story is told that once a young boy was about to have open-heart surgery.  To prepare him the surgeon said, “Tomorrow I will look at your heart.”  Smiling, the boy interrupted, “You’ll find Jesus there.”  Ignoring his remark, the surgeon continued, “After I have seen your heart I will try to repair the damage.”  Again, the boy insisted.  “You are going to find Jesus in my heart.”

The surgeon who had suffered losses in his own family and was still in pain from a failed marriage, felt very distant from God. He replied in a chilling tone, “No, what I’ll find is damaged tissue, constricted arteries, and weakened muscle.”

The next day he opened the boy’s chest and exposed his heart. It was worse than he expected – a ravaged aorta, torn tissue, swollen muscles and arteries.  There was no hope of a cure, not even the possibility of a transplant. His icy anger at God began to surface as he thought, “Where is God? Why did God do this? Why is God letting this boy suffer and cursing him with an early death?”

As he gazed at the boy’s heart, he suddenly thought of the pierced heart of Jesus, and it seemed to him that the boy and Jesus shared one heart, a heart that was suffering for all those in the world experiencing pain and loss; a heart that was redeeming the world by love. 

Struck with awe at such goodness, such redemptive, unconditional love, tears began rolling down the surgeon’s cheeks, hot tears of compassion for the little boy. Later, when the child awoke, he whispered, “Did you see my heart?”  “Yes,” said the surgeon.  “What did you find?” the boy asked. The surgeon replied, “I found Jesus there.”
 
The heart can be understood as a physical part of each of us – that hidden yet vital organ that circulates the full human blood supply three times per minute and whose hundred thousand beats a day are often taken for granted. The heart is the very core of a person.  When that very center is deeply affected, one’s whole way of thinking about the world, one’s whole way of feeling it, of being in it is profoundly altered. As in our opening story, the doctor experienced a conversion of heart – a healing from heartlessness to heart-fullness. And the child – who was all heart and shared in the heart of Jesus – had a heart filled with redemptive and unconditional love.

Today’s feast (June 3) is the celebration of the “enlarged heart” of God as it was enfleshed in the heart of Jesus through the womb of Mary – a heart filled and overflowing with unconditional love and mercy.

Today is not necessarily a feast of our devotion to the heart of Jesus, but it is a celebration of God’s devotion to us by offering us a heart of love beyond our comprehension, a heart of love beyond any Hallmark card expression, and a heart full of love that is unfathomable. Our God’s love is tender; Our God is totally in love with us, and desires to be of one heart with us. For as John writes: God is Love!

As we celebrate this feast today of God’s love for us it was different in the Middle Ages – as the devotion was not to the heart of Jesus but to the wound in the side of Jesus. In later times, especially rising from the visions of St. Margaret Mary, the focus shifted more to the Heart of Jesus.

In the writings of Margaret Mary, she describes what happened one day as she was praying when she received a vision of Jesus:  “For a long time he kept me leaning on his breast, while he revealed the wonders of his love and the mysterious secrets of his Sacred Heart. Till then, he had always kept them hidden; but now, for the first time, he opened his Heart to me.”

Margaret Mary continued to describe in her writings how Jesus revealed his heart as a heart on fire with love as he said: “My divine Heart is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you (Margaret Mary), that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning love any longer.”  She then reveals what followed. “Next, he asked for my heart. I begged him to take it; he did, and placed it in his own divine Heart.  He let me see it there – a tiny atom being completely burned up in that fiery furnace.  Then, lifting it out – now a little heart-shaped flame – he put it back where he had found it.”

In our Gospel today, Jesus reveals to us that his heart is humble and invites us to find rest within his heart. Jesus lived love and mercy throughout his ministry as he encountered the least, the last, and the lost.

In Scripture we find a number of examples of how his love was lived out. . .
• Let the children come to me . . .then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them
• At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them.
• Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they received their sight.
• (Rich man) Jesus looking at him loved him.


So what is the good news for us today?
Let us through our daily reflection imagine ourselves resting in the heart of God hearing the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our own prayer. 


(Nouwen)- “when we come to hear the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our prayer, we realize that God’s heart embraces all the sufferings of the world.  We come to see that through Jesus Christ these burdens have become a light burden which we are invited to carry.  . . It is in the heart of God that we come to understand the true nature of human suffering and come to know our mission to alleviate this suffering not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus.”


For God’s heart goes out to us and God’s love is always there for us –
Closing: Reflections from Macrina Wiederkehr’s experience of the heart of God in her prayer . . .


Like lightning at dawn – the All-Powerful One came
electrifying, energizing, frightening, shattering, crashing into my morning prayer! Totally unprepared for this kind of interruption,
I froze on my knees both in wonder and terror.
There was no morning silence left,
no comforting darkness to enfold me
only those flashes of light that make hiding impossible.
But this? Oh, this was awful!
God stood there with terrible, penetrating loving eyes, saying only:
Your love is too small!  


Standing that close to truth felt uncomfortable, unbearable and I tried
to hide my face the way I often do when truth gets too close.
I tried to hide the pieces of my terribly divided heart. 
But then the lightning came again.
And God was standing there even closer than before
Holding the pieces of my heart with such tenderness
still saying, Your love is too small. 


I took the pieces back with reverence
My tears proclaiming the truth of all I felt.
There was no pressure, no force
just the God of morning asking for my love.
And now, every time I see those flashes
in the northern sky I hear again, a voice
saying simply, Your love is too small.


And I weep; I weep at the possibility of who I could be.
(From Seasons of Your Heart)

Prayer with Heart!

 
Design by: Pablo Mutini
 
The Heart of Eternal Love

Heart of Love,
Source of all kindness,
Teacher of the ways of goodness,
you are hidden in the pockets of daily life,
waiting to be discovered.


Heart of Gladness,
Joy that sings in our souls,
the Dancer and the Dance,
you are Music radiating in our
cherished cashes of consolation.


Heart of Compassion,
the Healing One weeping
for a world burdened and bent,
you are the heart we bring
to the wounded, worn and weary.


Heart of Comfort,
Sheltering Wings of Love,
Refuge for sad and lonely ones,
you embrace all who bear loss,
gathering their tears with care.


Heart of all Hearts,
the First and Best of all Companions,
you are the Gift secreted in our depths,
connecting us with others.


Heart of Understanding,
One who gazes upon the imperfect,
the incomplete, the flawed, the weak,
you never stop extending mercy.


Heart of Freedom,
The Uncontained Spirit bearing truth,
Great Liberator, forever calling to us,
you urge us toward unrestrained trust.


Heart of Generosity,
Abundance of insight and hope,
daily you offer us gifts of growth,
leading to continual transformation.


Heart of Deepest Peace,
Center of Tranquility,
Resting Place at the core of our being,
you are waiting always for our return
to this sacred home.


Author: Joyce Rupp ~ Out of the Ordinary



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Clad Yourself in Peace!

 
 

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says, come, rest here by my side.


Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made, proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.


Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.


Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.


Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet know you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.


 ~ Maya Angelou, On the Pulse of Morning
 
 
 
 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Creative Carpenter!

 
 
BUILD BRIDGES NOT FENCES

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on the older brother's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?"

"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor, in fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence - - an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge -- a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all -- and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build."

REMEMBER THIS: God won't ask what kind of car you drove, but God will ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.

God won't ask the square footage of your house, but God will ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet, but God will ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won't ask about your social status, but God will ask what kind of class you displayed.

God won't ask how many material possessions you had, but God will ask if they dictated your life.

God won't ask what your highest salary was, but God will ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

God won't ask how many promotions you received, but God will ask how you promoted others.

God won't ask what your job title was, but God will ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

God won't ask what you did to help yourself, but God will  ask what you did to help others.

God won't ask how many friends you had, but God will ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won't ask what you did to protect your rights, but God will ask what you did to protect the rights of others.

God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived, but God will ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won't ask about the color of your skin, but God will ask about the content of your character.

God won't ask how many times your deeds matched your words, but God will ask how many times they didn't.

Author Unknown

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CSA Promoting Justice . . .

Electronic billboard
posted in Fond du Lac, WI
 for the month of February
~ sponsored by CSA! ~

 
 
Sometimes It Just Seems to be Too Much

Sometimes, God, it just seems to be too much:
too much violence, too much fear; too much of demands and problems;
too much of broken dreams and broken lives;
too much of war and slums and dying;
too much of greed and squishy fatness and the sounds of people
devouring each other and the earth; too much of stale routines and quarrels,
unpaid bills and dead ends; too much of words lobbed in to explode
and leaving shredded hearts and lacerated souls;
too much of turned-away backs
and yellow silence, red rage and bitter taste of ashes in my mouth.


Sometimes the very air seems scorched by threats and rejection and decay
until there is nothing but to inhale pain and exhale confusion.
Too much of darkness, God,
Too much of cruelty and selfishness and indifference. . .
Too much, God,
Too much, too bloody, bruising, brain-washing much.

Or is it too little,
too little of compassion,
too little of courage, of daring, of persistence, of sacrifice;
too little of music and laughter and celebration?

O God,
Make of me some nourishment
For these starved times,
Some food for my sisters and brothers, who are hungry for gladness and hope,
That, being bread for them, I may also be fed and be full.
(From Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)

 
 

A Heart Of Questions . . .And Questions With Heart!

 
 
 
 
Prayer For A Questioning Heart

It seems to me, God,
that we search
much too desperately
for answers
when a good question
holds as much grace
as an answer.

Jesus,
you are the Great Questioner.
Keep our questions alive
that we may always be seekers
rather than settlers.

Guard us well
from the sin of settling in
with our answers
hugged to our breasts.

Make of us
a wondering,
far-sighted,
questioning,
restless people.

And give us the feet of pilgrims
on this journey unfinished.

Macrina Wiederkehr (Seasons of Your Heart)