Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Song of Fall . . .

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 Blessing in times of vulnerability . . .

new vulnerability

Blessed are the poor …
not the penniless
but those whose heart is free.
Blessed are those who mourn …
not those who whimper
but those who raise their voices.
Blessed are the meek …
not the soft
but those who are patient and tolerant.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice …
not those who whine
but those who struggle.
Blessed are the merciful …
not those who forget
but those who forgive.
Blessed are the pure in heart …
not those who act like angels
but those whose life is transparent.

Blessed are the peacemakers …
not those who shun conflict
but those who face it squarely.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice …
not because they suffer
but because they love. ~ P. Jacobs

Thresholds: A Book of Prayers, 2011
Edited and compiled by Helen Hacksley and Robert Steiner

Francis . . .A Fool for Christ's Sake!

Saint Francis of Assisi - Cimabue -
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)

On October 4,  we observe the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who not only turned into fire but set the world on fire with his generosity, creativity, imagination, dedication to the poor,  and his austere living of the Gospel.  He had a profound faith, a deep prayer life and an abiding love of God and creation.   Many commentators have called Francis “a Second Christ,” because he tried in so many ways to be exactly like Jesus.

He was born in the Tuscan country side of Assisi in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant.  Francis enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up; he received little formal education and during his early years he was preoccupied with having fun.  Today, we would perhaps say he is among the bold and the beautiful, the rich and famous, and the young and the restless!  As a young man, he was popular, charming, enjoyed practical jokes and was usually the life of the party.  He was good at business, but wanted to become a troubadour and write poetry.   Everyone loved Francis.  He was constantly happy, a dreamer and a born leader.  

When he was twenty years old he was eager to be a knight and took part in a battle of a nearby country, yet his townspeople were defeated and he spent a year in prison.  After his return to Assisi, he became seriously ill and dissatisfied with his way of life.  He endured a spiritual crisis and devoted himself to solitude, prayer and service of the poor.  One of the many conversion experiences of his life that is told was when he was riding one day, he came face to face with a leper who begged for money.  Francis had always had disgust for lepers, and turning his face, he rode on.  But immediately he had a change of heart and returned to the leper and gave him all the money he had and kissed his hand.  As he rode off, he turned around for a last glance, and saw that the leper had disappeared.  From that day on he dressed in rags and gave himself to the service of the lepers and the poor.

Another conversion moment is told when he was in the nearby Church of San Damiano.  While he was praying, he heard Christ on the cross speak to him.  “Francis, repair my church.”  With this mandate and with the words of the Gospel, “The kingdom of God is at hand, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out devils; freely have you received, freely give.  Carry neither gold nor silver nor money, nor bag, nor two coats, nor sandals. . .”  Francis, then at once felt that this was his vocation and proceeded to preach to the poor.  In time, 12 others joined him in preaching the Gospel and working among the poor. They took literally the words of Christ when he sent his disciples out to preach.  They would have no money and not property, individually or collectively. 

Their task was to preach, “using words if necessary,” but declaring the love of God by their words and actions.  Francis called his order the “Order of Friars Minor” or the order of lesser brothers.  They were to live as brothers of all, to reveal by their love that all human beings are sisters and brothers.  Francis did not live in a monastery but among the people, and in that world, he sought and found God.  

His approach was an Incarnational approach – God was a loving Father/Creator and all that Francis had was gift, Christ was his Brother and the Spirit of that love lived and burned in him.  

Following the Gospel literally, Francis and his companions at first frightened their listeners as these men dressed in rags talking about God’s love.  But soon the people noticed that these barefoot beggars wearing sacks seemed filled with constant joy. They celebrated life.  

An early biographer gives an account of Francis’ physical appearance.  “In stature he was rather on the short side, his head of moderate size and round, his face long, his forehead smooth and low, his eyes of medium size, black and candid, his hair dark, his eyebrows straight, his nose even-shaped, thin and straight, his ears prominent but delicate.  

In conversation he was agreeable, ardent and penetrating, his voice firm, sweet-toned and clearly audible, his lips delicate, his beard black and rather sparse, his neck slender, his shoulders straight, his arms short, his hands small, with long fingers, his feet small, his skin tender, his clothing rough, his sleep brief and his bounty most liberal.”

Francis’ brotherhood included all of God’s creation.  He had a deep love for animals and a special fondness for birds.  He liked to refer to animals as his brothers and sisters.  In one well-known story, Francis preached to hundreds of birds about being thankful to God for their wonderful clothes, for their independence, and for God’s care. The story tells us the birds stood still as he walked among them, only flying off when he said they could leave. 

Another familiar story involves the wolf of Gubbio.  Out of hunger, the wolf took to attacking the people of Gubbio as they worked in their fields. The people were so frightened of the wolf they didn’t dare go out into the fields without armed protection.  Francis said to them, “Let me go out to talk with the wolf.”  So he went out to meet the wolf and spoke with him, who became docile at his approach and so the wolf returned with Francis to meet the people of Gubbio.  Francis arranged a peace pact between the people and the wolf.  The people would feed the wolf and in return the wolf would live peacefully with them. 

Francis’ final years were filled with much suffering.  Praying to share in Christ’s passion he had a vision and received the stigmata, the marks of the nails and the lance wounds that Christ suffered.  Years of poverty and wandering had made Francis ill.  In his final months of his life, being blind and enduring intense suffering, he joyfully and with cheerfulness wrote his beautiful Canticle of the Sun that expresses his brotherhood with creation in praising God.  He died at the age of 45 and at which time there were now several thousand members throughout Europe to carry on his mission and call.  He was canonized two years later.

So what is the good news for us today?
Francis speaks to us to live with joy, simplicity and faithfulness to the Gospels.   Let us dare to search for meaning and fulfillment in our relationship to God even when we may look a little foolish or even when it may call us to make drastic changes in our attitudes and behaviors.

Francis speaks to us about our relationship to creation. Let us be voices that challenge as we confront the environmental issues that affect our planet today.  “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis

Francis was called to “repair the church.”  Let us live with integrity and courage to witness a church of inclusivity, compassion, forgiveness and hope so that the message and mission of Jesus will be revealed – and let us use words, if necessary!

Francis speaks to us about the gift of suffering.  Let us ask for the graces we need when we find life tiring and burdensome so that the gentle and loving presence of God will bless us with refreshing peace, healing and bravery.

Francis speaks to us of poverty.  Let us live with awareness that all we have is a gift, and that we are to share the resources of this world with everyone; we are guardians and stewards of creation; sisters and brothers to all.

Francis kisses the leper and tames the wolf.  Let us be aware of the things in our lives that we may fear; the things that scare us – let us ask for the graces to embrace them with courage and love.   

Let us search for the wolf who hungers in our world, our church, our governments, communities, and in our personal lives – let us name and tame the hungers so that we may live with trust, harmony, justice and peace. “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” Francis

In closing, let us recall the words of the Responsorial Psalm, for they could be the prayer of Francis today:
Take care of me, God, I rely on you for safety.  You are my destiny; my life is in your hands. Even in my sleep, God whispers to my heart.  God is my constant companion, You will direct my steps . . .”

Previously posted: October 2012

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Welcome, Autumn!

Autumn Prayers
In the Fading Summer Sun

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows' flight and moonlight rays
we see the Creator’s hand
In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls frost's first kiss
we see the Creator’s hand
- Author Unknown

Autumn Prayer
O God of Creation, you have blessed us with the changing of the seasons.
As we embrace these autumn months,
May the earlier setting of the sun
Remind us to take time to rest.
May the crunch of the leaves beneath our feet
Remind us of the brevity of this earthly life.
May the steam of our breath in the cool air remind us that it is you who give us your breath of life.
May the scurrying of the squirrels and the migration of the birds
Remind us that you call us to follow your will.
We praise you for your goodness forever and ever.                                                                                                                       
 - Author Unknown


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

God of all seasons . . .


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!

Autumnrifically happy!

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

In Praise of Autumn . . .

In the stillness of an autumn afternoon
we sit in quiet communion. Before us,
hills and valleys yawn, spreading wide
their yellow and green, ochre and gold
harvest of hay, beans and corn.

All summer long these fields drank
daily offerings of dew and sunlight.
We listen to the hush of hills, a hawk
above us riding thermal winds,
the drying corn nearby whispering
Praise! Praise! Praise!, the grass
beneath our squeaking swing
chanting, sotto voce, Thank you, God.

Everything around us whispers shhh.
And when we do, we hear the holy
breath of God bringing forth the world.

 Poem by: Sister Irene Zimmerman, SSSF


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Autumn-tired" . . .

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Abundance of Autumn!

O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.  As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty, I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches.

You are the season of retirement, of full barns and harvested fields. The cycle of growth has ceased, and the busy work of giving life is now completed. I sense in you no regrets; you've lived a full life.

I live in a society that is ever-restless, always eager for more mountains to climb, seeking happiness through more and more possessions.  As a child of my culture, I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.

Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received; may I know that it’s enough, that my striving can cease in the abundance of God’s grace.

May I know the contentment that allows the totality of my energies to come to full flower. May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure.

As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty, let me also take delight in the abundance of the simple things of life which are the true source of joy. With golden glow of peaceful contentment may I truly appreciate this autumn day.                       

(Ed Hays, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim)

An Autumn God!

A Song of Praise to Our Autumn God 

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)

Friday, September 8, 2017

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)

Struggle Within . . .

Unknown author . . .

Monday, September 4, 2017

Starting again and again and again . . .

God is there in these moments of rest
and can give us in a single instant
exactly what we need. 
Then the rest of the day can take its course,
under the same effort and strain,
perhaps, but in peace. 
And when night comes,
and you look back over the day
and see how fragmentary everything has been,
and how much you planned that has gone undone. . . just take everything exactly as it is,
 put it in God’s hands and leave it with God. 
Then you will be able to rest in God ~ really rest ~
and start the next day as a new life.

St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein)