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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.