Today's gospel for the feast of St. Andrew recounts how Christ called him and his brothers, who were busy with their fisherman's nets. They left their nets to follow the Lord. Grace builds on nature, and so these fishermen took up new a new net, the one Mother Teresa named joy. "Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls," she said, adding that "A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love." Another woman by the name of Teresa comes to my mind, St. Teresa of the Andes. She wasn't even 20 years old when she died -- just 19 years, 9 months! -- but her life of radiant, vibrant joy has caught many souls for the Lord, whom she called her only joy, the joy of her life. "You are loved by the God who is infinite joy," she once told her brother -- and so we are, thanks be to God!
Dear Lord, please catch me and keep me forever in your net of joy, so that through me others may know the joy of your love. Amen.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The seed, He said, is the Word of God sown in the human heart.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed."
"So is the Kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the earth."
Even his own life-blood: "Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone."
The Advent, the seed of the world's life, was hidden in Our Lady.
Like the wheat seed in the earth, the seed of the Bread of Life was in her.
Like the golden harvest in the darkness of the earth, the Glory of God was shrined in her darkness.
Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence.
It is the season of humility, silence, and growth.
~Caryll Houselander in The Reed of God
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, during these Advent days, may we rejoice with you in the Divine Seed, nurturing it carefully and cherishing it always, so that at Christmas we may also rejoice in the fruit of your womb, Jesus, the Glory of God. Amen.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I live my Advent in the womb of Mary,
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
with hope’s expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.
"Advent" by Jessica Powers
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, how happy we are to wait with you in your darkness for the coming of your beloved son, Jesus, who is forever the light of the world! Amen.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Why? Because, as this canticle enumerates: God is praiseworthy ... forever glorious is his name ... he is just in all he has done, all his deeds are faultless, all his ways right, all his judgments proper ... he alone is the Lord God, glorious over the whole world, exalted above all forever ... he is good, for his mercy endures forever ... his signs are great and his wonders mighty ... his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures through all generations.
If we ever have reason to question God's goodness and mercy, to doubt his power and might, to wonder if he really does love and care for us, this is the song to sing! After all, this canticle comes from the lips and hearts of three men sentenced to death for refusing to serve the god of their king. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, confident in their God, stand up to King Nebuchadnezzar, who sets up a golden statue for his subjects to worship. Not only do these three brave men refuse to bend the knee to any god but theirs, they also inform the king that they have no need to defend themselves in this matter. They are ready to die for their beliefs, so much so that they boldly declare that even if their God will not save him, they will remain true to him. The king orders them thrown into the white-hot furnace, which has been heated "seven times more than usual" – and they walk about in the flames, singing to God and blessing the Lord.
How Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego pray is a wonderful model for us, especially when we are in distress. First they acclaim God's greatness and justice, next they acknowledge their sinfulness and ask forgiveness, and then they renew their resolve to follow their God. Finally, they burst forth into praise and thanksgiving, calling upon all creation to join them in blessing the God whose mercy endures forever. What an excellent way for us to end the church year!
Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and glorious forever is your name! ALLELUIA! (Daniel 3:52)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart...
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
~George Herbert, 1593- 1633
The above photograph, "Grace," taken by Eric Enstrom in 1918 in Bovey, Minnesota, is well known and much loved throughout the world. However, few people are aware of how it came to be. The official Web site for "Grace" contains a copy of a newspaper clipping published in 1961 that tells the fascinating story about this famous picture that has touched the hearts of so many. Two ordinary people going about their everyday tasks met up with each other in a seemingly chance encounter, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history -- the everlasting and ongoing history of God's loving Providence and amazing grace. Oh, praise Him!
"Father...you have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord." ~from the Preface of the Mass, Weekdays IV
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I thank You, God, that I have lived
In this great world and known its many joys;
The song of birds, the strong, sweet scent of hay
And cooling breezes in the secret dusk,
The flaming sunsets at the close of the day,
Hills, and the lonely, heather-covered moors,
Music at night, and moonlight on the sea,
The beat of waves upon the rocky shore
And wild, white spray, flung high in ecstasy:
The faithful eyes of dogs, and treasured books.
The love of kin and fellowship of friends,
And all that makes life dear and beautiful.
I thank You, too, that there has come to me
A little sorrow and, sometimes, defeat,
A little heartache and the loneliness
That comes with parting, and the word “Goodbye,”
Dawn breaking after dreary hours of pain,
When I discovered that night’s gloom must yield
And morning light break through to me again.
Because of these and other blessings poured
Unasked upon my wondering head,
Because I know that there is yet to come
An even richer and more glorious life,
And most of all, because Your only Son
Once sacrificed life’s loveliness for me –
I thank You, God, that I have lived.
Elizabeth, Countess of Craven, writer and dramatist, 1750-1828
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This painting, "The Presentation of Mary in the Temple" by Paolo Uccello, Italian early renaissance painter, has been the object of my prayer and contemplation since this past Saturday's memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This beautiful depiction of Our Lady's presentation to God in the temple is full of poignant details, such as the two small girls at the bottom of the stairs waving farewell and the chief priest at the top of the steps welcoming Mary with open arms (I am reminded of the last line of Alice Meynell's poem "Renouncement": "I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart").
What totally captivates me, however, is Mary herself. As her dress flows behind her, she appears to be scampering upward to her divine destination, eager and glad to give herself to God alone. "Be jubilant, my feet!" With the heart of a child who trusts totally in her loving Father, Our Lady gladly goes in haste to do His will. Was she remembering the words of the Psalmist, "I will run the way of your commands, for you open my docile heart" (Ps 119:32)? Mary seems to have already grasped what St. Francis de Sales describes as "true devotion," which is simply "true love" – the "constant, resolute, prompt and active will to do whatever we know is pleasing to God" (Introduction to the Devout Life, Bk 4, Ch 2).
Later, much later, Our Lady of Sorrows will take another upward path -- the long, lonely road to the foot of the Cross, where she will kneel in anguish and grief to receive the crucified body of her Beloved Son. Then, her feet will not be jubilant nor will they scamper, but she will still pray, as did Jesus, "My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast" (Ps 108:2). Even then -- especially then! -- as she did throughout her entire lifetime, she will persevere, she will trust, she will love.
O Mary, full of grace, help us to wholeheartedly give ourselves to God. May we always say to Him, as you did, "To do your will is my delight" (Ps 40:9). Amen.
Monday, November 23, 2009
King Jesus, to whom we so rightfully belong, you have redeemed us at the cost of infinite love and charity. I acknowledge you as my sovereign.
My Prince, who would not praise you? Who would not wonder at your goodness? What empire was ever more justly won than ours, since your only subjects are the captives you delivered, the poor you have enriched, the sorrowful you make happy, and the slaves your mercy makes kings.
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, 1627-1704, French bishop, theologian, and court preacher
Blessed be Jesus Christ, the King of love and mercy!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
...Jesus Christ, the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God (1 Tim 1:17)
...the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:15-16)
...the crucified King who calls us by name and who longs for our beauty and our homage (Ps 45:12)
...whose dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, whose kingship shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:14)
...whose kingdom does not belong to this world (Jn 18:36), "an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace" (Preface of Christ the King)
...who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father (Rev 1:5-6)
...Jesus Christ, the King of love and mercy! the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8)!
I turn to you, my own Jesus, King of happiness and eternal glory, and I embrace you with all the strength of my soul. I adore you with my whole heart. I choose you to be my King now and forever. By this inviolable act of fidelity I pay you irrevocable homage. I submit myself to your holy laws and ordinances.
~St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life, Book 1, Chapter 18
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
You are my beloved son; you are my beloved daughter. I love you with an everlasting love. I have molded you together in the depths of the earth. I have knitted you in your mother's womb. I've written your name in the palm of my hand and I hold you safe in the shade of my embrace. I hold you. You belong to Me and I belong to you. You are safe where I am. Don't be afraid. Trust that you are the beloved. That is who you truly are. ~Henri Nouwen in Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Dear Lord, may I always rejoice to be your beloved! Amen.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Keep me as the apple of your eye. Psalm 17:8
Today at Mass we pray with the psalmist, "Keep me as the apple of your eye" (Ps. 17:8). Whoever is the apple of my eye is very precious to me. I love and honor that person in a special way, and the mere thought of him or her makes me smile with delight. So isn't it perhaps a bit bold of us to ask God to keep us as the apple of his eye?
No, not really, because we're simply asking him to keep us as we already are. Each one of us is the apple of God's eye! The prophet Isaiah reminds us that we are precious in God's eyes (Is 43:4). The prophet Jeremiah points out that God has loved us with an everlasting love and continues to so love us (Jer 31:3). Every other line of Psalm 136 assures us that "God's love endures forever." St. Augustine tells us that "God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us." And Blessed Columba Marmion, writing about the sacrament of baptism in his book Christ, the Life of the Soul, observes that we who "'put on' Christ on the day of our baptism…have, therefore, the right to present ourselves before the Eternal Father and say to Him: 'I am your only-begotten one'".
What is truly bold is God's deep, abiding, eternal love for you and me!
Thank you, dear God, for making me the apple of your eye! Amen.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." Lk 19:5
O thou soul, then, most beautiful of creatures, who so longest to know the place where thy Beloved is, that thou mayest seek Him, and be united to Him, thou knowest now that thou art thyself that very tabernacle where He dwells, the secret chamber of His retreat where He is hidden. ~St. John of the Cross in The Dark Night of the Soul
Thank you, dear Lord, for wanting to make your home with me. Amen.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Lord, I want to see! Lk 18:41
Lord, that in every creature I may discover and sense you, I beg you: give me faith. Grant me to recognize in other men, O Lord, the radiance of Your face! ~Teilhard de Chardin
Sunday, November 15, 2009
These are the sacrifices most pleasing to God: mercy, humility, praise, peace, charity. ~St. Augustine
I came across the above this morning while praying the Office of Readings. It appeared in the second reading, which was from a commentary on Psalm 95 by St. Augustine (go to this page at Universalis and scroll to bottom for full reading), and it gave me some good food for thought and prayer. When I think of a sacrifice primarily in terms of giving up something, at first glance there does not seem to be anything terribly sacrificial about mercy, humility, praise, peace and charity. However, if I think some more about it, I find plenty of things that I can and must give up if I am offer to God these sacrifices that St. Augustine says are most pleasing to him. Being merciful demands that I forgo criticizing and judging others as well as myself. Humility requires that I relinquish my ego with all its inordinate desires. Praise calls for me to release all complaining, both in words and in thoughts. And charity, the greatest of all, obliges me to forsake anything and everything that does not embody the love of God that has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom 5:5). In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who makes holy my little offerings and transforms them into "an offering in spirit and in truth" so that I might become a living sacrifice of praise to the glory of God. AMEN! ALLELUIA!
Dear Lord, let me choose the sacrifices most pleasing to you rather than the ones that I prefer. Amen.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito. Unknown
It's the little things that get us,
That tend to hold us back;
We can sit upon a mountain
But not upon a tack.
Dear Lord, let me never underestimate the power of little things! Amen.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
God of Love and Peace,
Mender of Hearts,
you are friend of all and foe of none.
Your goodness is seeded in everyone,
including those with whom I struggle.
Enter into my heart and soften its hardness.
Erase any ill will and anger abiding there.
Help me to reach out with openness,
to speak when I prefer hiding in silence.
Teach me how to listen with loving ears
and not to cling tenaciously to my opinions.
Instill hope of reconciliation in our hearts
and help us to not give up on one another.
Be the Patience within us that resolves issues.
Be the Love among us that seeks forgiveness.
Be the Faith amid us that strengthens our bonds.
Be the Truce between us that brings us peace.
Prayer for Peace by Joyce Rupp
Sr. Joyce Rupp is a well-known and much-loved writer, poet and speaker and, by her own definition, "a spiritual mid-wife." She has helped birth life and love within me many times since I began reading her books in 1988. The first book of hers that I read was Praying Our Goodbyes, which is about the spirituality of change. I was going through a very difficult time accepting the chronic pain and fatigue in my life, and her chapter on living with chronic pain helped transform my heart and mind. This book has helped me to embrace change, a constant in our lives, with enthusiasm, gratitude, and serenity. In the late 90's, my dear friend Carol Rewers gave me Sr. Joyce's book Your Sorrow is My Sorrow, a series of reflections on the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Sr. Joyce is a member of the Servite Sisters, or the Servants of Mary, a religious community which has a special devotion to our Mother of Sorrows. This book has kindled in my soul a deep love for and devotion to Mary under this title. Shortly after I read this book, my sister Ann, the Queen of Thrift Stores, came upon a very old chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary in a thrift store and gave it to me, which I pray often. Thank you, Sister Joyce, for being such a loving and beautiful spiritual midwife for me and for so many others!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
O God of love, we ask you to give us love:
love in our thinking, love in our speaking, love in our doing,
and love in the hidden places of our souls;
love of our neighbours, near and far;
love of our friends, old and new;
love of those whom we find it hard to bear with us;
love of those with whom we work,
and love of those with whom we take our ease;
love in joy, love in sorrow,
love in life and love in death;
that so at length we may be worthy to dwell with you,
who are eternal Love. Amen.
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1944
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Dear friends, how beautiful and consoling is the communion of saints! It is a reality that infuses a different dimension to our whole life. We are never alone! We form part of a spiritual "company" in which profound solidarity reigns: the good of each one is for the benefit of all and, vice versa, the common happiness is radiated in each one. It is a mystery that, in a certain measure, we can already experience in this world, in the family, in friendship, especially in the spiritual community of the Church. May Mary Most Holy help us to walk swiftly on the way of sanctity and show herself a Mother of mercy for the souls of the deceased. ~Pope Benedict, Angelus, 11/1/09
Dear Lord, our resurrection and our life, thank you for the beauty and consolation of the communion of saints. I can hardly wait for that glorious day when, at long last, I will be fully and finally united with those whom I love so much and miss so greatly. Amen.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Dear Lord and Giver of Life, we pray for those who have died, especially the victims of violence, and for those who mourn their passing. In Your goodness and mercy, give peace to the dead and strength to the living. Amen.
Mother, I come from the turmoil of life, I am exhausted, body and soul.
It is hard to accept peacefully what happens around us in a day of work and struggle. The things we had put so much hope in betray us. People to whom we wish to be kind resist us. And those from whom we seek help try to take advantage of us.
This is why I come to you, Mother, because deep inside me lives an insecure child. But close to you I feel strong and full of confidence. Only the thought of having a mother such as you gives me courage. I feel that your arm supports me and that your hand guides me. I can thus continue on my way undisturbed.
Renew me entirely, so that I may see the beauty of life. Lift me so that I may walk without fear. Give me your hand so that I may always find my way. Bless me so that my presence in the world may be a sign of your blessing.
"When I Am Weary" by Ignacio Larrañaga
Friday, November 6, 2009
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.
Edna St. Vincent Millay in “Renascence”
Mount Battie in Camden, Maine is where Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote her well-loved poem "Renascence." My sister Ann took this picture on a foggy day. When the sun is shining and the sky is clear, one has a panoramic view of the town of Camden and its beautiful harbor. No matter what the weather is when I visit my sister in Maine and we go to Mount Battie, I always hear "the ticking of Eternity."
Loving Father, thank you for artists who reveal to us the beauty of Your creation. Amen!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Edna St. Vincent Millay in "God's World"
My sister Ann shot the above image in her hometown of Lincolnville, ME. As she described it, "The trees were at the front of a private property. No one seemed to be at home, so I just parked the car and stretched out on the ground underneath the trees….too cool." That's my bold and beautiful sister! A free spirit with a quiet eye for both beauty and an opportunity. To life!Thank you, dear Lord, for my "too cool" sister and her quiet eye. Amen.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Give rest, O Christ, to your servants,
with your saints
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.
You only are immortal,
the Creator and Maker of mankind,
and we are mortal,
formed of the earth,
and to earth shall we return.
For so you did ordain when
you created men, saying,
"You are dust and to dust you shall return."
All of us go down to the dust,
yet even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Give rest, O Christ, to your servants...
~Prayer for the Faithful Departed from the Orthodox Liturgy
Sunday, November 1, 2009
the saved ones;
immense fresco of joy,
love with a thousand faces
that form one image,
in the light,
the only icon of glory:
Praise to you,
Lord of all the living!
You shared in their trials,
in the power of your resurrection,
You have purified them in your spilt blood,
they are children of the Father and give you thanks:
You have fed them with the bread of life;
triumphant over death, they acclaim you:
Praise to you,
Lord of all the living!
Commission Francophone Cistercienne
quoted in Days of the Lord, Volume 7