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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Off to Scotland and England

These pictures are of Iona and I thought you would like to imagine me there next week. This is the last reflection I shall write until October 17 when I am home again and will be able to share about my trip. It has been very busy this week so I think my reflections have much to do with trust. I was reading Carlos Martini's book on Paul and was struck by Paul's hope and trust even when he was experiencing all kinds of suffering. He seemed to see all the misunderstandings in his own life and the real heart suffering he went through as ways of being united to the sufferings of Christ and a way to bring comfort to others. I am trying to pray the news these days as a way to bring comfort to so many who are suffering in all parts of our world. It is possible to hope and trust even at the darkest moments and Paul never gave up.
I count on all your prayers for my trip to Scotland and England and I look forward to renewing my relationship with old friends and meeting new ones.:)
This trip is all about relationships; Iona is a side trip, a pilgrimage into the past riches of Celtic spirituality. Do come back to read about it all on October 17, feast of St. Margaret Mary.

Monday, September 22, 2008

International Day of Peace

The International Day of Peace was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. In 2002, September 21 was designated as the permanent date for this observance. It has become a worldwide movement to create a global ceasefire and a day of peace and nonviolence.

In establishing the International Day of Peace, the United Nations General Assembly decided that it would be appropriate "to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of humankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways . . . [The International Day of Peace] should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples."

My reflection today is on peace and "let it begin with me. One of my "lights" before my final profession over 48 years ago was that only in proportion to my establishing the reign of God in me, can I establish the reign of God in the world." I am convinced that this is true and must work hard to establish peace in myself before I can be a peacemaker.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Celtic Cross

I was reading in Philip Newell's Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation today. Philip was a warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland and conducted the seven-mile weekly pilgrimage. Since I will be going to Iona in ten days, I am interested in knowing more about Celtic spirituality and learned something new this morning: St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century is the first teacher of historical significance in the Celtic Christian world. We think of the Celtic territory as being comprised only of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. But Newell points out that in the ancient world, "the Celts spanned the whole of middle Europe, extending from Turkey in the east to the Atlantic coastline of Spain in the west." Irenaeus teaches that Christ expresses the heart of the first work of God, namely, the work of creation, the deepest and most essential energy of the Creator.
Christ is viewed in the Celtic tradition as coming from the very Heart of God and thus revealing God's Heart to us. The high Celtic crosses speak of the twin love of Christ and creation; sometimes, as is the case with the thousand-year old high-standing cross of Saint Martin on Iona, one side is devoted to Scripture imagery and the other to creation imagery. Both are read in Christ and both are important.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On the Way - Over 500 Reflections!

I wrote my blog this morning but it would not save for some reason. I think I have solved the problem, but this will be a short reflection since I lost the last one. I was thinking that this is reflection 501 and I am very much on a journey. I want to walk each day with Jesus but so often forget him. He is always with me, with each of us; why am I so unaware of his presence in my daily life? I guess I want Jesus to be the center of my life but keep pushing him out by concern for the pressing things that seem to crop up. I suspect that they would get done and done better if I paused and asked Jesus to help. I think he waits for me to ask and loves it when I trust him.
Having said this, let us continue on the path as he is the Way.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Gift of Prayer

I ordered Margaret Silf's The Gift of Prayer: Embracing the Sacred in the Everyday and love the candle flame on the cover. This book was published in 2004, but I had not seen it; the publisher is BlueBridge and it was published in London under the title On Prayer. The page before the Introduction has two powerful quotes that are familiar: "Be still, and know that I am God." (Ps 46) And this one from The Dhammapada: "Better than a thousand useless words is one single word that gives peace."

Today the St. Thomas More Catholic Law Society had "The Red Mass" at St. Thomas University. The purpose of the "Red Mass" is to seek God's blessing on those who are part of the legal profession. Judges and lawyers attend in a body joined by public officials and law faculty members. The Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit is celebrated at the opening of the judicial year. Celebrants are clothed in Red because the red vestments represent the flames of the guiding Holy Spirit.

Here is a prayer of St. Thomas More: "Lord, grant that I may be able in argument, accurate in analysis, strict in study, candid with clients, and honest with adversaries. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my client's plaints, read with me in the library, and stand beside me in court, so that today I shall not in order to win a point lose my soul."
Let us pray for all lawyers today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Open the Door, Lord

It was the antiphon "O Key of David" that started Joyce Rupp thinking about the symbol of the door. I was at the dentist this morning and there is a picture of a little cottage with a blue door that is ajar. There is a wooden folding chair in the sun in front of the cottage with lots of flowers growing in pots in the patio, but the door is what holds my attention. It invites one to come into the inner chamber; there is a closed window in the picture with a white curtain so one knows that the inner room is private, but the door is partly open and one wants to enter. I guess the desire is what counts in our lives.

Now, I want to share this bit of wisdom that came from my great friend, Dr. Alex Tang, in Malaysia. He sends wonderful reflections and you can find his website if you wish to read more. He begins by talking about our disposable society so that we begin to think that even people are "disposable" but this is what struck me today:
"True growth takes time. It is important to recognise this. The man who
takes care of the vineyard understands this, and thus is willing to
stake his reputation with the vineyard owner. In spiritual growth
there is nothing disposable. Everything that takes place is precious
and irreplaceable. We cannot take away anything because everything
that had happened to us, whether positive or negative, makes us who we
are. Spiritual growth is when we redeem all our experiences by washing
it with the blood of Christ. This transformative action takes time."

Let us remember that everything in the spiritual life is important and not to be disposed of but to be used for our growth and gradual transformation and we are called to transform our world!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Busy as a Bee

Sometimes we seem to be going in circles but to get to the center of ourselves, according to Joyce Rupp, we need only to open the door. I seem to be too busy to settle down to even visualize the inner door to my heart. I think I shall take her book with me on my trip next week.
Yes, I will be going away a week from tomorrow for three weeks. I do not like to leave my daily readers, but it is too difficult to write a blog when I am away. If fact, I am so busy this week that I am not sure the quality of my reflections will be very helpful. However, I am very excited about my trip and all the friends I will be meeting - some are old friends that I have not seen in years; others are new friends and I look forward to meeting them.
I leave Wednesday, the 24th for Edinburgh; I change planes in London. I have a few days in Edinburgh and then I will be in Perth and making a pilgrimage to Iona. I suspect that many of you do not know about Iona off the western coast of Scotland. I began learning about it in the Online Program that I was teaching and visited the website and was hooked. There is actually a Religious of the Sacred Heart running a prayer house on the island! More about this later.
The second part of my trip will be in England. I suspect that I will want to tell you about that tomorrow so I can begin work now. I do not like to be as "busy as a bee" but sometimes I need to commit myself to too many things - at least I am learning to limit myself, but this week I found circumstances that have caused me to feel rushed. Rushing around accomplishes nothing so I shall slow down and not say more today. At least I am not going round and round in circles! Or am I?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

This is a feast with a sequence, the Stabat Mater and I am sorry that I am late in posting something and that I seem to have added an image of Mary that is not what I thought I was choosing. The truth is that I was quite distracted yesterday in trying to name the Seven Sorrows of Mary but I looked them up for my readers:
The Seven Sorrows (or Dolors) are events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary which are a popular devotion:

The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus.(Luke 2:34)
The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Matthew 2:13)
The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (Luke 2:43)
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23:26)
The Crucifixion where Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (John 19:25)
The Descent from the Cross where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57)
The Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross

Today's feast was established to celebrate the fact 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 Apostles had a hard time with the idea of Jesus crucified; but the early Church had icons that show a glorified cross as they came to realize that the cross had set us free and was a symbol of life.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Listen and act

St. John Chrysostom was born in Antioch in 347. He trained as an orator but wanted to be a hermit. His health did not permit him to live the austere life of a hermit so he returned to Antioch and was ordained and became a great preacher. He was called "golden mouth" or "Chrysostomos". He was made Archbishop of Constantinople and set about to reform the church there. He made enemies who tried to exile him, but he died on the journey. His dying words were, "Glory to God for all things."

Today's Gospel is very appropriate as we see the flood waters in Texas washing away houses as indeed the hurricane surge did in Haiti and Cuba. Jesus tells us that a good tree bears good fruit. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good...but then Jesus says, "I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation."
Let us learn to listen and to do whatever the Lord asks of us. Let us also pray for all those who have lost material homes in this hurricane.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Praise for John Dear

Today I finished reading A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World by John Dear, S.J. and I feel that my life needs to be different. One cannot follow Jesus and not be concerned about peace and nonviolence at every level. I am much more conscious of sudden feelings of anger inside me, of the way I avoid conflict rather than try to be active to promote peace. I want to share two quotes from the Epilogue:
"So each day we pray: 'Your reign of peace come. Your will of peace be done.' We don't wait for some far off future...the Reign of God is at hand, right now, in this very moment. We pledge to live with the God of peace, follow the Christ of peace, breathe in the Holy Spirit of peace...."

"And so we walk the narrow path of Gospel nonviolence. We are becoming Beatitude people, Sermon on the Mount people, a new breed of Christians. We go forward filled with hope into the new life of resurrection, the promised land of peace. Each step forward brings blessing upon blessing upon blessing."

John Dear is a Jesuit who lives for peace; he is a prophet for today's world.

Meetings - but "give and igifts will be given to you"...

My image may need to be your reflection today as I am off to a meeting with a group that is very life-giving for me; some of us have been meeting for twenty years to share our lives and help each other with the supervision that all spiritual directors should have.
Tonight we begin our Reflection Group which I started about fifteen years ago; the people change but usually we have around fourteen who come for dinner, prayer, and reflection on a book that we choose each year to help us grow spiritually. This year we are beginning with Margaret Silf's Inner Compass.
I did prepare a reflection this morning on the Gospel, but no time now to share it. I was struck though by "Stop judging and you will not be judged. ...Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love came as a guest into my heart...

“Love came as a guest into my heart, my soul then opened, so that love could dine in me.” I love this quote that one of my students in my International Online Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies quoted from a mystic. I do not know the source, but the quote seems to be staying with me so I am going to write it again here:

"Love came as a guest into my heart, my soul then opened, so that love could dine in me."

It is a good introduction to a new book that I want to share with you. I have not read much of it yet as this is a very busy time and I seem to have several books at least partly read and none of them finished. This is one from Joyce Rupp. I had read her book on "Prayer" that was published last year and now she has "Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self". The article "the" is small and faint so the title reads as "Open Door". The contents after my quick scanning make me think that it is a book that I am really going to use. It is designed for six weeks with a daily reflection, a question, and a scripture passage to copy and keep before one during the day. Here are the Chapter headings (there is an Introduction, Suggestions for Using the Book and a Prayer for Openness before the Chapters and an Appendix with Rituals for groups after the Epilogue, As You Go Forth. There is also an extensive bibliography.
Chapter Headings:
1. The Door of Our Heart
2.Knocking On the Door
3. Opening the Door
4. Standing on the Threshold
5. Closing the Door
6. Beyond the Door

Rupp suggests 20 or 30 minutes daily to enter into the process of each day's reflection.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Night Prayer

Jesus, in today's Gospel, "departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God."
Jesus went out to be alone, not to enjoy the view but to pray. He was capable of spending the entire night praying to his Father. Remember, he was human and like us in all things except sin; he chose to spend the night in prayer. Later, he will ask his closest friends to stay awake and watch with him, but they are overcome with sleep.

In one of my Scripture classes the Professor asked which of us had stayed up all night? Many hands were raised. Some had danced the night away at parties that ended with a breakfast; some had stayed awake to watch over a sick child or a dying parent; others were on a bus all night after a game and too excited to sleep. Other students has spent the night before an exam studying. When asked how many had spent a night in prayer, no hands were raised. A few years later I made a two-week school of prayer in Chile and each week included an all-night vigil for prayer. It was an unforgettable experience, but hard to do alone. However, the night my 30-day retreat finished in Manresa in Spain, I spent the night alone in prayer in the cave where Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises and I was amazed that I did not get sleepy at all.

Jesus had an important decision to make and needed to talk to God. He was discerning, praying about his disciples and for them. He chose his Apostles only after the night of prayer. "When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles." He chose them by name; one would betray him, one would deny that he even knew him. He chose them to "Go out to all the world and tell the good news; I am with you always, says the Lord."(Communion Antiphon for today)
Let us, also, try to go out and tell the good news that Jesus is with us always!

Monday, September 8, 2008


One of my International Online Program in Spirituality Studies students quoted this and I though it worth reflecting on today. Sometimes we need to remember that God is at work and we need to trust him.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser. Amen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

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

Today's Psalm and the readings ask us to listen; we are to listen to God who speaks to us in our hearts. We are also to listen to those who speak in the name of the Lord; we are to listen and love.
Psalm 95 tells us to sing joyfully to the Lord; to come into his presence with thanksgiving; to bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord who made us. "For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. O that today you would hear his voice..."
To listen to the gentle voice of the God of love we need to be quiet. It is not an easy thing today to be quiet when we live with others who are addicted to having television at all hours, who have cell phones that ring loudly and then result in conversations all over the house, to have radios, etc. We live in an age of technology, but have we lost our capacity for sitting in silence before God? Let us take time to listen to him today and harden not our hearts...he may also be speaking to us in many ways even in the midst of noise, but I know that I hear him best in the peaceful silence of my room where he waits for me to listen to him.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Persistant Peace

Today I am going to talk about a fascinating book by John Dear, S.J. It is A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle For A Nonviolent World. I just received a gift copy from Loyola Press and cannot put it down. I love biographies of Jesuits anyway, but this one shows me how John Dear was called to live a life of nonviolence with all that means in today's world. He is rather famous now, but I have not heard him speak and only knew about him from Pax Christi. His life is inspiring and I have devoured the first three hundred pages and look forward to more than a hundred more. It is not a brief biography, but one worth reading!
I will give one quote on the back cover (there are several) from Helen Prejean, CSJ, as she is one I do know. She says, "Look, I know this guy. He's real and he shows that it is possible for ordinary folks to really live Jesus' call to be peacemakers...Prepare you own heart as you open this book."
It is a book that calls us all to look at our own lives and to begin in our own hearts to live nonviolent lives, and then to work for peace at every level!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Teaching and Fishing

I am sorry that events yesterday kept me from posting this, but I am doing it now.
Yesterday's Gospel had Jesus teaching from Peter's boat. The crowds were pressing him so he just got into the boat and asked Peter to move away from the shore. Jesus sat down in the boat and taught.
Years ago when visiting the Holy Land, the guide explained that Jesus taught on the shore because the wind from the water would carry his voice to the crowd seated on the hillside. I had not given much thought to the problem of addressing a huge crowd of over five thousand men, not counting women and children, without a microphone. For the Sermon on the Mount the guide said that Jesus had to be standing on the shore. Here, Jesus was so pressed by the crowd at the shore that he resorted to teaching from the boat of Peter.
When finished, Jesus tells Peter to "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon tells him that they have toiled all night and caught nothing but "at your command I will lower the nets." When they did, there were so many fish that the nets were tearing and they had to signal their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats. Then Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus saying, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
Jesus said to him, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."
When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him."
The homily yesterday was on vocations and the seemingly lack of success we are having in fishing for men and women to follow Jesus. I am convinced that Jesus is still calling others to leave all and follow him, but we need some silence to hear the call and to discern our vocation. The monastery of the Augustine Fathers at the University is making room for young men to come and discern what God is calling them to do with their lives.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

God speaks to us through Scripture

Today is the feast of St. Gregory who was a great Pope and one that I love. However, I decided this morning to share some of my favorite Gospel quotes with you. These passages all have been a special source of grace for me in the past and still say much to me as each was an experience of God for me. In the retreat I started jotting them down just as the passages came to me. It is an exercise that I hope each of my readers will do for themselves: "Come to Me..."
"I am the Good Shepherd..."
"I know mine and mine know me."
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want"
"Fear not; It is I, do not be afraid."
"I am not alone because I do always what is pleasing to my Father."
"Let not your heart be troubled"
"Remain in my love."
"You have not chosen me; I have chosen you that you may bear fruit and your fruit will remain."
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you."
"Do whatsoever he tells you."
"Could you not watch and pray with me?"
"Lord, if you want you can make me clean."
"Behold I stand knocking at the door; anyone who opens to me, I will come in and dine with her and she with me."
"You are precious in my sight."
"Behold, I am with you always."

I skipped over at the end as it is too long and you will notice that not everyone of these passages is found in the Gospels, but I just let them come. It was a good exercise for me as I went back to the experience that made these passages so special for me. I hope you try it for yourself as God does speak to us through the Scriptures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Teaching with authority

Jesus went down to Capernaum to teach. He taught in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. The Gospel tells us that all who listened to him "were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority."
Can we teach without authority? To teach, we need to be able to speak with authority; but we must also be meek and humble of heart. It is the one thing that Jesus asked us to learn from him. "Come...learn from me that I am meek and humble of heart." It is not easy to combine meekness and humility with authority!
Jesus silenced the unclean spirit who cried out, "you are the Holy One of God." All were amazed and said to one another, "What is there about his word?"
They spread the news of him everywhere in the surrounding region.

Jesus is the Word of God. During my retreat this summer, I could not get past the Prologue of John's Gospel. I just felt that I had to keep going back to it in prayer.
"In the beginning was the Word;
And the Word was with God;
And the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him.
Without him, nothing came to be....
He was in the world and the world did not know him.
He came to his own people and they did not accept him...

This is from memory and I have no doubt mixed two translations but these are lines that spoke to me besides "And the Word was made flesh" and "of His fullness we have all received."

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Liturgy for Labor Day has the creation story from Genesis(1:26-2,3). God made us after his own image and he blesses us. On the seventh day, God rested. Scripture adds, "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation."
It takes Labor Dad to recall that we are all to take a day of rest every seventh day. We used to do this and really give God one day out of the seven, but now Sunday is a "shopping" day with all the stores open. I think we need to work at having a day without work! Or at least remember the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath.
Psalm 90 has this verse which I love: "Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all of our days."
May we learn to let God fill us with His love and kindness so that we may cry out in joy and gladness everyday!