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Friday, September 18, 2020

Sometimes a Picture says more than Words

It is a gift to be known and loved by God!

 When I want to talk about a favorite Psalm, as I really am using the book, Life in the Psalms: Contemporary Meaning in Ancient Texts by Patrick Woodhouse, I sometimes feel I need to find a picture that makes what I feel evident. This is not always easy to do, but I hope that whatever picture I do put at the bottom of my blog is a help for your own personal reflection - or imagine your own scene....

Today I begin with one of my very favorite Psalms which meant so much to me in my first directed retreat that I always suggest Psalm 139 to my retreatants - or I think I have done this almost always...

Today, I want to look at just the first five verses of the Psalm that Woodhouse describes as "intimacy with the mystery of God". These first verses really explore the experience of being fully known by God.

"O Lord, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar,

You mark out my journeys and my resting place

and are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue,

but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

You encompass me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

so high that I cannot attain it."

Thursday, September 17, 2020

I Dream A World

 This poem was sent to me and I may have shared it with you, but I like it enough to copy it again for you. Unfortunately, I do not know who wrote it but it speaks to me and we all need to dream such a world.

"I dream a world where man

No other man will scorn,

Where love will bless the earth

And peace its paths adorn

I dream a world where all

Will know sweet freedom's way,

Where greed no longer saps the soul

Nor avarice blights our day.

A world I dream where black or white,

Whatever race you be,

Will share the bounties of the earth

And every man is free,

Where wretchedness will hang its head

And joy, like a pearl,

Attends the needs of all mankind-

O such I dream, my world!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

"God is really all and everything else is nothing"

 I am again quoting Mother Stuart in The Inward Life - these quotes are extracts from her letters but I so often feel that she is present and speaking to us right now.

"God is really all and everything else is nothing, and when you submit to Him and resign yourself to Him and lovingly kiss the hand that holds you, then you become one with the All: the great Power, Wisdom and Love that is God..."

In another letter Mother Stuart writes: "How much I have entered into your feelings, and into each day's offering as you make it to God. He knows best what is good for us and if He seems to close the avenues through which you would willingly have gone, devoting yourself to His service, it can only be to give you what is much better, a shorter way to Him and a more excellent way than any which one could have dreamed for you, or you for yourself. He is bringing home to you, whether you feel it or not, that to love Him is more than to serve Him, that to be submissive to Him is the greatest of all worship. So try to do the one thing worth doing, abandon yourself to His care and His love, and let Him love you in His own way, and try to agree with all that He does, that is best."

It seems to me that this is good advice for all of us during this time when we are to stay home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

 I can do nothing better today than to offer the Gospel for this feast for us to pray over and reflect on - it is John:19: 25-27

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home."

Years ago I had a dream and Our Lady came to me and then I saw her standing at the foot of the Cross. I have never forgotten what that dream did for me. Our Lady was crying. I felt that it was good to cry when we are faced with a sorrow. When I told my mother that I wanted to enter the Society of the Sacred Heart, she left the room and went into my parents' bedroom and I saw her sitting on the end of their four poster bed and looking up at the Crucifix on the wall over the bed. Tears were streaming down her face, but somehow I knew she would find the courage to let me go to the convent. She did tell me that there was no way she would shop with me for black shoes and stockings!

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

 We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.

John's Gospel (3: 13-17) chosen for this feast has Jesus speaking to Nicodemus and telling him that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

The Reflection in "Give Us This Day" is from Walter Burghardt, SJ who died in 2008. He wrote that "the passion of Christ did not end on the first Good Friday. The passion of Christ surrounds you, chokes you: every human wasted in the womb; every third black child languishing below the poverty line; the thousands of women savaged by men vowed to love and honor; the homeless on your streets rummaging for food in garbage cans, the racism that lurks just below our civilized surface. The death that envelops us....lays a heavy demand on us who share a risen life given us freely from a cross." 

This is just a bit of that reflection but it it is even truer now years after he wrote it. 

It is interesting that the Church keeps this feast the day before we celebrate Our Lady of  Sorrows. It was when Jesus was on the Cross dying to show His Love for each of us that He gave us His own Mother.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Collect for this Sunday:

Look upon us, O God, Creator and ruler of all things,

and, that we may feel the working of your mercy,

grant that we may serve you with all our heart. 

The first reading is from the Book of Sirach: 27:30-28:7

The Responsorial Psalm 103: 1-4, 9-12

"The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion."

"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name.... "

The second reading is from Paul's Letter to the Romans, 14:7-9

The Gospel is from Matthew 18:21-35

It begins with Peter asking how often must he forgive one who sins against him and Jesus tells him, 'I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." And then Jesus tells them parable of the King who forgave a debtor a huge amount; that same person found one of his fellow servants who owed him much less and had no mercy on him. You know the story and it was told by Jesus to teach us to be merciful.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

More from Mother Stuart on Prayer

 "Whatever happens, my dear child must keep the ideal up, and not be daunted by any failure to get there. You cannot expect to reach it at once, but if you keep on hoping, praying and trying you will get there in the end, but you will never know it. Nurse the spirit of prayer, all good comes from that, and it needs care to grow. Try to read a little of something spiritual every day, even if only for five minutes. It helps to keep the mind on heavenly things, and remember that all passes away except these heavenly things. Troubles pass, and fighting passes, and weariness and temptations, all except God and the life we live in Him. Pray then, and hold on, and may God and Our Lady be with you." p.40 in "The Inward Life"

It is good to remember that all does pass away; I remember still a nun saying to me when I was still in school, "What difference will this make in five years?" I guess now I often say "What difference will this make next week?" I love the thought that all passes except God and the life we live in Him. That helps us be aware of what really matters and so we can let go of other things.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Courage and trust

 Here is another excerpt from "The Inward Life" that I think is good for us to reflect on during these days:

"...nothing matters except that you should be united with Him in loving trust, and conformity of will. He can only do what is best for every one of us. So we will trust Him in everything, from the greatest to the least."

And then, in another letter, Mother Stuart wrote: "How glad I am that you have now the real light about God being pleased with us, for it is most important to believe it. It makes such a difference to our courage. Saint Francis de Sales puts it nicely when he says 'God is content with little, for He knows that we have not much.'"

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Another gem from Mother Stuart

 This is a quote I have often returned to and so share it with you today:

"Yes, do be a saint; why not? What else is worth living for, caring about; and every little thing in the day may help you on towards it, if you will look at it on the right side as coming to you form our dearest God, who is so in with us in our daily troubles and duties, for whom nothing is too great or too small, who is so understanding and loving to all our moods and aches and longings, and asks only one thing, that we should take our worries to Him to be comforted, and our joys to be blessed, and our tangles to be pulled out, and our choking gulps of trouble to be quieted down; if you have Him in the details of your life with you, all is well, and you can manage love Him and trust Him all you can, and let nothing take you away for the keep of that strong castle, God the refuge of His people." 

From "The Inward Life: Extracts from the Letters of Mother Stuart" p.23

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What does God want from us?

 Today I will have the opportunity to see my senior student from last year before she leaves on Sunday for college. Most of her courses will be online. Her twin brother left for college last week and all of his courses, I believe, will be online. I am writing this on September 2 as I am scheduling ahead.

I have been using "The Inward Life: Extracts from the Letters of Mother Stuart" as it always helps me to go back to the good advice I always find from Mother Stuart. She told one that she was on the right track, "it is the gift of your heart that God wants above all in prayer, that you may both give to Him and receive Him. Keep it always uplifted with great expectations."

And then this advice: "In prayer it is often the very best just to leave yourself face to face with God without saying anything."

I am giving God the gift of my heart and trying to keep it always uplifted with great expectations. I think this time of more silence and solitude can be a grace, but one needs to make an effort to keep joyful as the news each day is bad news! Looking for the things to be grateful for in our lives is the best thing for us to do now. Joy is a gift but gratitude helps us to cultivate it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Feast of Our Lady

 I think we all love Mary so much that the Liturgical Calendar is full of her feasts. This is the birthday of Our Lady. I doubt that it is her real birthday, but we do celebrate birthdays and so this date was picked. My sister used to have a birthday party for Mary. First, those invited said the rosary together and then they had a delicious lunch and a birthday cake. I think this year she cannot have it as she and her husband are sheltering in place, but they do go to daily Mass.

We have had some bushes planted outside of our front door and they line our new sidewalk, too. We have a new look now that the construction is finished. The irony is that we now have two lovely little parlors for visitors, but no one is allowed to come in to visit! We are staying safe and praying for so many who are suffering at this time. Our prayer board is full of intentions. 

Because of the lockdown, I do not have much to say in my blog. I am looking forward to weekly visits by zoom and emails from my two Seniors from the Sacred Heart Society in the school. One is the younger brother of a boy I had four years ago and the other is a girl I do not know, but I am keeping up with another Senior girl that has been writing to me all summer because she thought the nuns might need to be "cheered up" since we are not having children come to see us. I must admit that I do miss the third graders who came weekly to read to me. The campus here is so beautiful, but empty of the usual groups of students going from one building to another and there is no noise from the football field yet. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

In Him our hearts rejoice

 Since beginning to take a new interest in the Psalms, even the responsorial psalm for the daily Liturgy seems to jump out at me. Some days ago, it was Psalm 33:20-21 which I am copying here from the missalette, Give Us This Day:

"Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield,

For in Him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust."

First of all, this Psalm is for all of us. We wait for the Lord...

Why? Because He is our help and our protection! We pray to Him to stop the spread of the virus.

It is in Him that our hearts rejoice. It is because we know that we are loved, cared for, and cherished, so we rejoice and trust Jesus. He hears us; He is with us and concerned for us. Let us be joyful and very grateful.

I hope this helps others to pay more attention to the Psalms. I love the thought that my heart is rejoicing in God!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

As usual, the Sunday Collect is worth praying:

"O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption, look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters, that those who believe in Christ may receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance."

The first reading is from Exekiel 33:7-9 - the prophet is to warn the wicked....

The responsorial Psalm (95: 1-2, 6-9) "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

"Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

 "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

O that today you would hear his voice: Harden not your hearts....

Again, I find these first verses helpful to lead me into prayer.

How do you sing joyfully to the Lord?

The second reading is from Paul's Letter to the Romans 13: 8-10 and is a call for all of us to love one another.

The Gospel is Matthew 18:15-20

The last verse is "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."

I find that last line so consoling.

The Communion antiphon is from Psalm 42: 2-3

Like a deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God; my soul is thirsting for God, the living God.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

True Wisdom

 Psalm I , verse 3, sent me to Jeremiah 17: 7-8 as I do love this image of the tree planted near water.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.

He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream;

it fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green;

In the year of the drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

Hopefully this also applies to the year of the pandemic!

Friday, September 4, 2020

First Friday of September

 August seems to have flown by and I cannot believe that we are at the First Friday of September! I was sent a lovely poem to share in my blog so here it is, but I do not know who composed it.

I Dream a World

I dream a world where man

No other man will scorn,

Where love will bless the earth

And peace its paths adorn.                             

I dream a world where all

Will know sweet freedom's way,

Where greed no longer saps the soul

Nor avarice blights our day.

A World I dream where black or white,

Whatever race you be,

Will share the bounties of the earth

And every man is free,

Where wretchedness will hang its head

And joy, like a pearl,

Attends the needs of all mankind-

Of such I dream, my world!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

In what do I delight?

 The second verse in Psalm 1 is "Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night." Patrick Woodhouse explains that the "law of the Lord" means more than just the law found in the first five books of the Bible - it really means the presence of the God and thus they delight in God and want to be with Him day and night. The law is life-giving and they want to delight in the teachings given by God, but also find God present in them and so want to keep thinking about Him.

Then comes the wonderful image as verse 3 "takes us into one of the great metaphors of the Psalms. Those who meditate on the law of the Lord are like a tree, planted by the waterside. In just a few sparse phrases the poet paints his rich picture of a great tree with its roots going down into the flowing waters so that the moisture is drawn up through the trunk and out into the spreading branches, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither'. The image wonderfully fertile." (Woodhouse, p.92 in Life in the Psalms)

I have always loved this metaphor. It is found elsewhere in the Bible. God gives the fruit in due season, but this verse ends with the promise of prospering in whatever we do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The "righteous" - who are they?

 In the psalms we will often find that they contrast the righteous and the wicked. Both terms are used often so we should try to understand what they mean for us today. Righteous is not a word we use accept when maybe trying to describe a "self-righteous" person; the psalms use the term to portray a good, humble, person who seeks God and wants to please God in all things. The righteous trust in God, not in themselves. They are the poor in spirit and count on God to save them.

The wicked are the opposite. They are proud and rely on their own resourcefulness and are greedy and arrogant and act as if they had no need of God. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Tree planted by the waterside

 Today we will look to Psalm 1 - the very first Psalm in the Book of Psalms. It was probably a late addition, but makes for a good introduction with its emphasis on the keeping of the law.

Blessed are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.

Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.

Like a tree planted by streams of water bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither, whatever they do, it shall prosper.

As for the wicked, it is not so with them; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgment, nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish."

I am missing the operetta, Hansel and Gretel, shown this morning as I choose to work in the morning hours. However, as I copied this Psalm, I was aware of speaking of the wicked  in four of the six verses. It reminded me of the "wicked witch" both in the story of Hansel and Gretel and in the Wizard of Oz.

My Dad loved to tell the story of how they took me to the Muny Opera in St. Louis when I was five. We had box seats and when the witch began to follow Hansel and Gretel, I cried out: 'Watch out!" My father said that at intermission their box was the center of attention as so many came to see the child who was so caught up in the drama that she called out a warning to the children.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Last day of August

 Time seems to disappear. We are concerned here in California with the forest fires that began on the 15th of August and have caused so many to evacuate their homes; many homes were in the path of the fire and families just had to grab their children and pets and rush to their cars. Our firefighters have done a great job, but they could not stop the destruction that started in so many places with the heat lightning. Many prisoners were also used to help control the fires. We mostly have suffered from the smoke that the wind has brought us. 

In the meantime, we have prayed for those in the path of hurricanes, storms, and tornadoes. We wish we had some of the rain here in California. The virus is still spreading and we hope that it will not spread among the many people who have had to seek shelter from the fires.

Now, for something a bit more spiritual. I am finding new life in the Psalms. I love the line, "But I have quieted and stilled my soul. like a weaned child on its mother's breast; so my soul is quieted within me." 

I am really trying to quiet and still my soul during these days of more silence here. I know that it is hard for many to stay in now that we do not even see the end in sight of sheltering in place, at least for us; I suppose each must find a way to quiet one's soul. Saying that little prayer or song is a help to me so I repeat it here: "Breathing in, breathing out. I am calm, I am smiling. You in me and I in You. Present moment, wondrous moment. Peace to the world, peace to the world."


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The entrance antiphon is a cry that we need to make for ourselves and our world today:

"Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long. O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of mercy to all who call to you."

Collect: "God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that, by deepening our sense of reverence, you may nurture in us what is good and by your watchful care, keep safe what you have nurtured..."

The first reading is from Jeremiah 20:7-9

"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped;..."

Responsorial Psalm: My soul is thirsting for you. O Lord my God.

"O God, you are my God whom I seek...."

The second reading is from Paul's Letter to the Romans 12:1-2

He tells us not to conform ourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that "you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect."

The Gospel is Matthew 16:21-27

It ends by Jesus saying, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me..." And then he asks us what profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

Saturday, August 29, 2020

"But I have quieted and stilled my soul

 Since I have been using Life in the Psalms: Contemporary Meaning in Ancient Texts by Patrick Woodhouse, the Psalms seem to be coming alive for me with new meaning. I think the author does want us to find contemporary meanings for the Psalms, but what is helping me is to just take one verse and stay with it, let it seep in, and try to use it during the day. If I do not remember it word for word, I still find it helpful. 

Psalm 131 is what I am going to be using today.

O Lord, my heart is not proud,

my eyes are not raised in haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

with things that are too high for me.

But I have quieted and stilled my soul,

like a weaned child on its mother's breast;

so my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, trust in the Lord,

from this time forth for evermore.

I think I will continue to reflect on this Psalm on Monday, but let us all strive to quiet and still our souls.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Feast of St. Augustine

 St. Augustine lived from 354-430 and, although a great theologian, is probably known best for his Confessions. When I was a freshman in college, I saw that an advanced Latin course on the Confessions of  St. Augustine was being offered and I actually went to the Dean to be allowed to take this course. It was over my head as far as Latin was concerned, but I was interested and with the help of a good translation I managed to finish the course as I was really interested in what Augustine wrote. I remember getting up early on Sunday mornings and spreading out my books on my desk and working through the translation of the chapters we would be covering in Latin during the week. When there is a will, there is a way. 

Unfortunately for me, the Dean, thinking I really could do advanced Latin, put me in her course in my second year of college. I bought English translations of Pliny, Livy, and I do not know all we covered and set about trying to learn how the Latin matched the English translations. That worked only until our Friday afternoon class when the Dean would give a weekly quiz by putting the English on the board and asking us to translate it into Latin! That was impossible for me to do so I passed only because I was quick to raise my hand in the Monday and Wednesday classes to offer to translate into English - I never really managed to put English into Latin!

Not a very spiritual blog today. But here are two quotes from Augustine for reflection:

"My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it."

"You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."

Augustine was converted after he came under the influence of St. Ambrose and his mother Monica had been praying for his conversion for years. He became a Bishop and is a Doctor of the Church.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The essence of the contemplative experience

 In an earlier blog, I copied the first nine verses of Psalm 63 using the translation found in Life in the Psalms: Contemporary Meaning in Ancient Texts by Patrick Woodhouse. He takes his texts from the "Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England" but you can use the text in whatever Bible you are using. I just want to quote what Woodhouse says about the first nine verses of Psalm 63:

These verses "capture the essence of the contemplative experience....The Psalm begins with the cry, 'O God'. Two syllables which encapsulate humanity's longing, 'O God'-- the deepest cry of the human heart bursting out at any moment of crisis. 'O God'-- the cry that captures our hope that there is meaning, that human life is not just random, and meaningless. 'O God'-- a cry that is a search, but also an affirmation that the transcendent Holy One is."

And then the psalmist says, "you are my God" - stop and think what that means. God is the ground of my being! He is near and the psalmist continues telling us to eagerly seek this God that our soul thirsts for - does this not lead us into prayer?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

How to discover life in the psalms?

 First of all, we need to pray the psalms. They will teach us how to discover their life. Patrick Woodhouse tells us, "Because they ceaselessly orbit around the question of God, each one, whatever its different focus--and their range is huge--is about prayer, and the search for a deeper life in God. So the challenge is to attend to them."

Sometimes it will just be the first line of the psalm that invites us into prayer; stay where you find fruit! Always read the psalm slowly twice - what meaning may this psalm have for me today? It is a challenge and we may need to search for the meaning for us now this very day.

I used Psalm 63 for the Westwood Community prayer last Monday night. It begins:

"O God, you are my God, eagerly I seek you" - and that desire has stayed with me for I do seek God.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Longing that leads us into the depths of God

 It is amazing how many of the Psalms express our longing for God. This longing for intimacy with God is found over and over; some psalms also express thanksgiving for a deeper intimacy or the recovery of an intimacy that has been lost. 

We need to discover, or rediscover, this deep longing for intimacy with God in our own lives. For this, we need silence and solitude - both easier to find in this time of sheltering in place. When and where we pray matters. Woodhouse tells us that we need both a quiet space and time to pray the psalms. He says it is about refuge. Psalm 2 ends with the words, "Happy are all they who take refuge in him." We all know the image of taking shelter under the shadow of God's wings. You will find other images of refuge when you pray the psalms. In Psalm 18, we call upon God as "my rock in whom I take refuge." 

Today is the Feast of St. Louis; it is my father's birthday and, when he was alive, the celebration was what marked the end of the summer. He loved a good party and my mother always counted on giving him one. I suspect he is celebrating in heaven today.

Monday, August 24, 2020

An invitation to intimacy with God

 The Psalms present us with different ways to express worship, to thank, to rejoice, to lament, etc. Looking at some of the Psalms, we see that they are communal songs of praise glorifying God on festival days; others are songs asking God to intervene; some are called 'royal psalms' which focus on the king but might be prayer before battle or celebrations; still other psalms are songs that contain the history of the Hebrews escaping from captivity. Some psalms are more personal- some lamenting, some thanking, some praising!

Somehow, all this diversity came together in the book of Psalms. Most books on the Psalms try to make sense of  how the Psalms were used, what they meant to the people then, but the more important question for us is "What are the Psalms to us, now?" What is our response today in our context? What does it mean for us to pray the Psalms now in very different times?

I am going to talk about how they invite us to intimacy and I guess I will need to explain how they have put me in direct contact with God at different times in my life. I can affirm their call to intimacy with God!

My room remains at 85 most of the time now that we are having a heat wave, but looking at snow cools me off. This is unusual for California to have so many hot days. Fortunately, Oakwood and Rosewood have air-conditioning and so does the Gathering Room so we are managing with fans in Westwood but can cool off elsewhere if we get too hot. I look at this picture and cool off!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

 We have a Communion Service every Sunday, but I am missing Mass as it is now getting to be over five months since we are sheltering in place and I suspect it may last until after Christmas.

The Collect is worth praying over so I will copy it here:

"O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found,,,"

The responsorial psalm is "Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of our hands."

The verses from Psalm 138 are full of thanksgiving and seem worth copying here for all of us.

"I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart,

for you have heard the words of my mouth;

in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;

I will worship at your holy temple.

I will give thanks to your name,

because of your kindness and your truth:

when I called, you answered me;

you built up strength within me.

The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,

and the proud he knows from afar.

Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever;

forsake not the work of your hands.

The Gospel has Jesus asking disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16: 13-20)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Feast of the Queenship of Mary

 I have always loved this feast which used to be on May 31, my birthday, but was changed to the 22nd of August when the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was transferred to the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart. 

Th entrance antiphon: "At your right stands the queen in robes of gold, finely arrayed.

The Collect asks that we may, through Mary's intercession, attain heaven.

It is a day to go to Mary and thank her for all she has done and is doing for each of us. She sees what we need. Just as she saw the lack of wine at the wedding feast, she sees what we lack and tells Jesus about it and then says to each of us, "Do whatsoever He tells you." This requires us to listen to Jesus in our hearts.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Psalms need to be re-imagined in our times

 The problem most of us have with the Psalms is that they were written in a different culture and we do not understand many of the references, so we need to re-imagine them in the context of the issues that now concern us. Last week, I spoke of the power of the imagination. I think we need to really read the Psalms with imagination and transpose or interpret them so they are meaningful for us. I think it is challenging and may just be what I need to focus on during this time of sheltering in place. I invite any who wish to join me. I suspect it will be easier to begin with the Psalms that I know best and love the most. Stay tuned and I will be happy to share any new insights.

I will no doubt be learning much from Patrick Woodhouse. In the second Chapter of Life in the Psalms, he reminds us that the Psalms were shaped and formed over maybe 800 years and only became a book of Psalms around 200 BC. We can trace their beginnings to the reign of King David in 1000 BC. Some are even attributed to David, but many were after his reign. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

'Pathway', a second key metaphor

 As I am slowly reading Life in the Psalms, I feel that I want to share some of the insights I am gleaning. According to Woodhouse, 'refuge' and 'pathway' are "two defining metaphors of the Psalms. At the heart of them is adoration. The Psalms recognize that the deepest impulse and need of the human heart is to love this mystery of Life called 'God', and they kindle that impulse afresh, again and again.."

Even I know from my reading of the Psalms that they are "saturated with longing. There is a desire for God and that desire does open us to thanksgiving and praise. Woodhouse also says the there is a discovery "of a sense of wisdom, and profound homecoming. So we are promised the deepest kind of joy that it is possible for humans to experience."

I am sorry that all those years when we said Office in choir, I really did not understand the Latin enough to appreciate the Psalms. Maybe that is why this book is attracting me and I feel that I need to share a bit. 

I am here to let God love me and to respond to His love. Living in an awareness of God's presence in me and in others is a call that seems to be deepening in this time of more solitude and silence. 

I shall look for a cool picture that will also symbolize the silence I am cultivating.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Come and See

 Praying with Psalm 63 today may be helpful. Just stay with the verse that helps you most. I am only copying the first nine verses as the last three are very different and it is the first ones that help me to pray this Psalm. Remember, you can stay with just one or two verses that seem to speak to you.

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul is athirst for you.

My flesh also faints for you, as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.

So would I gaze upon you in your holy place, that I might behold our power and your glory.

Your loving-kindness is better that life itself and so my lips shall praise you.

I will bless you as long as I live and lift up my hands in your name. 

My soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips,

When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night.

For you have been my helper and under the shadow of your wings will I rejoice.

My soul clings to you; your right hand shall hold me fast."

That is enough for today, and I just want to invite you to maybe look more closely at the Psalms as a source of prayer, but remember that we need to use our imagination to apply them to our own context!

Refuge, a key metaphor of the Psalms

 Again I am sharing a thought from Patrick Woodhouse who tells us the Psalms give us a different perspective, one in which, we find refuge from a world which can constantly threaten a person's balance and integrity. "Refuge is a key metaphor of the Psalms. But finding such 'refuge' does not just happen. It has to be learned, and practiced. It requires discipline, and, crucially, a surrender, a letting go of the insistent demands of the individual ego. The daily prayer time is a crucial part of learning what this means."

Then Woodhouse tells us that "from that 'refuge', the Psalms invite you to live differently in the world. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The silent transformative power of the Psalms

 Today is the Feast of St. Helen. When I was Head of the School, the children always celebrated my feast with an address, flowers, a play and the entire school would be in dress uniforms. It was a tradition so I suffered through it, but my mother told me she had named me after Helen of Troy!

To continue to share thoughts from my new book, Life in the Psalms, Woodhouse tells us that if we really internalize the psalms, we will begin to discover that we are "slowly ushered into another perspective altogether different from the one you know only too well, and is assumed by the world around you. What characterizes this new way of 'seeing' is a constant consciousness of a transcendent Other. It is a perspective which will slowly--if you remain attentive to the words of the Psalms and the meanings found in them--reorientate you mind, and lead to a different life. That is their silent transformative power."

Monday, August 17, 2020

The hour of God

 Way back in 1992, Father Bede, monk and mystic, said that we are "now in the hour of God." He went on to explain that " the whole human race has now come to the moment when everything is at stake, when a vast shift of consciousness will have to take place on a massive scale in all societies and religions for the world to survive. Unless human life become centered on the awareness of a transcendent reality that embraces all humanity and the whole universe and at the same time transcends our present level of life and consciousness, there is little to hope for us."

Are we becoming centered on the awareness of a transcendent reality?  The above quote comes from the book I have just received from England: Life in the Psalms: Contemporary Meaning in Ancient Texts by Patrick Woodhouse. Woodhouse tells us that the one thing we cannot escape in reading the Psalms is God. "They are shot through and through with the divine presence, the divine grace and the divine call. That is why, despite the difficulties of their culture context, they need to be valued and loved and known, not just as odd fragments but as whole texts, which, when deeply pondered can kindle faith afresh and reorientate a person's entire perspective." p. 8.

Woodhouse tells us that the psalms have this power "by totally assuming the reality of God."

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 The Collect for the Mass is especially beautiful for this Sunday:

"O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire."

The Gospel is Matthew 15: 21-28 and is that of the Canaanite woman who came to the Lord because her daughter was tormented by a demon. She kept calling out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!" Jesus did not say anything until his disciples asked him to send her away. Then Jesus said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and asked Jesus to help her - she had great faith and humility and so the Lord healed her daughter. 

Perhaps we need more faith and humility to overcome the virus which is causing so much suffering, so many deaths.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Feast of the Assumption of Mary

 Sister Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ, has a lovely reflection on the Feast of the Assumption in Living This Day, for the nineteenth week in ordinary time entitled "There She Goes for All of Us".  Although the Assumption of Mary was only defined as a dogma of the Catholic Church in 1950, "devoted speculation in the early Christian centuries concluded that God carefully prepared the Mother of Jesus and would not have left he in the common human lot of mortality and physical corruption, having to wait with the rest of us for deliverance from death. Instead, she joins the few illustrious one who are not made to wait."

I love the fact that Mary is in heaven, body and soul. 

The Preface for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary says"

"For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church's coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people; rightly you would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb since from her own body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life."

Let us thank and praise Mary and, as they do in some countries, give her the key to our home and our hearts.

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Power of Grace

 A dear friend sent me this little prayer from David Richo entitled, "The Power of Grace".

"I say yes to everything that happens to me today as an opportunity to give and receive love without reserve.

I am thankful for the enduring capacity to love that has come to me from the Sacred Heart of the universe.

May everything that happens to me today open my heart more and more.

May all that I think, say, feel, and do express loving kindness toward myself, those close to me, and all beings.

May love be my life purpose, my bliss, my destiny, my calling, the richest grace I can receive or give."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Increase my Gratitude

 One of the three prayers sent by America in "Increase my Gratitude" and I liked it, but have changed it to fit what I really want to say to God. Still, it is helpful to have a prayer that I can make my own.

Dear Lord, sometimes I forget to thank you; I may seem ungrateful for what I have; You have given me so much and sometimes I'm not grateful for what I have.

Sometimes I forget that I have access to things that many people would consider luxuries: running water, clean food, a home with bathrooms with hot water, a comfortable bed, a screen on my window, access to WIFI, television, reliable electricity, a beautiful patio outside my window, a washing machine and dryer down the hall.

I know that many people in the world have none of these things. But sometimes I forget that, and I forget to be thankful.

Please increase my gratitude for what I have, help me not to overlook the blessings in my life, and open my heart to those who do not have these things -both here and abroad.

Teach me to do something to help those who are struggling to find food, to not be evicted during this crisis, or struggling in so many ways just to live. Help me to pray for them and, above all, increase my gratitude, dear Lord, and give me a compassionate heart!


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The power of imagination

 Tonight my Miami Reflection Group is meeting and I will be with them on Zoom. We will be using the third Chapter of  Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World, by Beatrice Bruteau.  It is not a new book, but one that is worth reflection. One truth that I find interesting and also worth a bit of exploring in my own life is that "whenever there is a conflict between the will and the imagination, the imagination always wins."

Beatrice tells us that we need to become aware of the role of our imagination in our "everyday inner life. We should spend some time just watching it until we learn what sorts of things it does,...

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Give me a listening heart

 The pandemic has slowed us down all over the world. I think good may come out of this time of great suffering, illness, death, and real poverty due to the entire situation we are facing. Why am I still so hopeful? I know that God loves us and is present with everyone of us, especially He is with those who call on Him in their suffering.

I want to share this prayer that I just received from America - a am always happy to share prayers from the Jesuits.

"Slow me down, God, slow me down,

so that I may see you more and more

in my faster and faster life.

Give me a listening heart,

and contemplative eyes,

so that I may see you more

in my active world."

Monday, August 10, 2020

You Raise Me Up

 Someone I love sent this to me but I do not know who wrote it.

When I am down and, oh my soul so weary

When troubles come and my heart burdened be

Until you come and sit a while with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.

I am strong when I am on your shoulders.

You raise me up,,,.to more than I can be."

I love the image of the Lord coming to sit a while with me; I also feel that I am often carried on the Lord's shoulders.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Collect is always worth reading and sometimes we hardly hear it so I will begin with it:

Almighty ever-living God, whom taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call our Father,

bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,

that we may merit to enter into the inheritance which you have promised...

The first reading in from the first Book of Kings 19:  9a, 11-13a

This is the story of Elijah who took shelter in a cave and the Lord called him to come outside as the Lord would be passing by. Elijah did but the Lord was not in the strong wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire. "After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When Elijah heard this, he hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave."  

The Gospel is one of my favorites, Matthew 14: 22-33.
Jesus made his disciples get into a boat while he dismissed the crowds. Jesus then went up the mountain by himself to pray. Meanwhile, the boat was caught in a storm and was tossed about by the waves and the wind. During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus comes to toward them walking on the sea. They are terrified. "At once Jesus spoke to them, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

Those words mean a great deal to me and I feel that I have heard them spoken to me. Then, the Gospel tells us how Peter is brave enough to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus, but then he begins to sink and Jesus catches him and says, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Saturday, August 8, 2020

First Saturday

On this First Saturday of the month of August (where has the summer gone), I am going to share with you the twelve fundamental elements that were strongly affirmed by all in the international meeting as a common core. They are: Prayer - the Integration of Prayer and Life
                                                Personal relationship with Jesus - deepening our faith.
                                        Mission - Transformative Education
                                                        Sense of Internationality
                                                        Joy of living in community
                                                        Embodied Spirituality
                                                        Human Growth
                                                        Interior Life

Of course, JPIC stands for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation and needs to be seen today as even more important.

Friday, August 7, 2020

First Friday of August

We have this wonderful formation booklet: Life Unfolding...Offering the Gift created for the Society of the Sacred Heart in 2013. It tells us that we are in a process of formation that never ends. I am sure that I used parts of it in my blog during these past years, but I went back to it to prepare prayer for Westwood as we are now praying together every Monday evening. The booklet calls us to be transformed. First it tells us that "formation is a way of being open to life, a constant invitation to learn, to grow, to let ourselves be transformed."

Transformation is not the same as change for the strategies of change come from our own initiative, while "transformation is always the fruit of an Encounter. It happens when we venture with our whole being into a deep, sincere encounter with God and let ourselves be encountered by God, just as we are, with nothing in our lives remaining outside of this encounter."

"We need to move, to let ourselves be transformed and renewed, so that we can respond from the depths of our being and throughout our lives, remembering who we are and by Whom we were called."

I think the wisdom found in this booklet is for others, too. You do not need to be a member of the Society to value the twelve fundamental elements affirmed -  I will share these tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Feast of the Transfiguration

"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. 

Jesus invites us to go up the mountain and pray with Him. We need to listen to Him. Since we are sheltering in place, we all can find some moments of quiet just to sit and listen to what is going on inside of us. I believe that Jesus is in each of us and is speaking to us -perhaps it is the Holy Spirit whispering what Jesus wants us to hear. If we are silent, and if we learn to listen with the ear of the heart, we will hear God and be filled with joy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Listen to what is going on inside of you

Again this quote is from Etty Hillesum and is helpful for us learning to listen to God:

"Not thinking but listening to what is going on inside of you. If you do that for a while every morning you acquire a kind of calmness that illumines the whole day. I listen all day to what is inside me. There is really a deep well inside me and in it dwells God. God is our greatest and most continuous inner adventure."

Let us learn to listen with the ear of the heart!

"On God alone my soul in stillness waits." Psalm 62

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

God waits for us

I find God in the ocean. Where do you find God?

I guess I really find God everywhere. God is always with us.

Today I want to share something from a Tablet review of a book by Patrick Woodhouse. The title is Life in the Psalms and I have it in my cart on Amazon. The review is written by James Roose-Evans and it is his lockdown favorite. This is the part I want to share today:

"The most important lesson to be learned in life is the skill of listening. Woodhouse quotes Etty Hillesum (he is also the author of Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed) who, in one of her last letters from the transit camp at Westerbork before being taken to Auschwitz, where she died at the age of 29, wrote to a friend, 'People must be taught to listen; it the the most important thing we have to learn in this life'."

We need to heed the desire for silence if we are to be led into the depths of God. This week we will have the feast of the Transfiguration and hear God say, "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him."

Monday, August 3, 2020

"Come to the water..."

I am still frustrated with the Update for this blog. I may even be thinking of taking a vacation. In the meantime, I find myself going back to the readings of the Sunday Mass yesterday. God loves us so much and tells us to come to the water and drink, come and eat, and do not worry because He loves each of us unconditionally. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus feeds the crowd who have been with him all day.

To look first at the Collect, we ask, "Draw near to your servants, O Lord,

and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness, that, for those who glory in you as their Creator

and guide, you may restore what you have created and keep safe what you have restored...."

The first reading is from Isaiah 55: 1-3 "Thus says the Lord, All you who are thirsty, come to the water!

....Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant."

I hope my spacing works this time.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Generosity and Joy

I want to share some thoughts from the Book of Joy before I return it to our spiritual library. I like the idea that our joy is enhanced when we make someone else happy. Archbishop Tutti reminds us that "it is in giving that we receive...It is when we grow in a self-forgetfulness--in a remarkable way I mean we discover that we are filled with joy."

"When we practice a generosity of spirit, we are in many ways practicing all the other pillars of joy. In generosity, there is a wider perspective in which we see our connections to all the others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves too seriously. There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what might otherwise have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is 'wise selfish,' a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. As the Dalai Lama put it, 'In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.'"
(The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, p.275)