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Sunday, October 31, 2010

One of my favorite Gospels today

I love the fact that this little man who was an important person but not a popular one, wanted to see Jesus. Jesus was not going to stay in his city, but when Zaccheus ran ahead and actually climbed a tree in order to see Jesus, his desire was more than fulfilled for Jesus saw him and told him to come quickly because He wanted to stay in his house. Zaccheus came down quickly and received Jesus with joy! I love the thought that when we desire to see Jesus, He comes to us and we can receive Him with joy"! It is also good to realize that the invitation of Jesus resulted in an immediate conversion of this tax collector! I think that Jesus is still inviting Himself to stay with us and we need only to heed His call and respond quickly and with generosity.
Today I am with the fourth invocation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart used in the Society of the Sacred Heart: "Sacred Heart of Jesus, to your reparation I unite myself." It is helping me to pray at odd moments during the day and I guess I am also sometimes starting at the beginning with "Sacred Heart of Jesus, to your adoration I unite myself; to your burning love, I unite myself, to your ardent zeal, I unite myself and today, to your reparation, I unite myself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Other Blogs

I am aware that there are many blogs that are really worth reading. The ones I have listed on the right side of my blog are the ones that I try to read regularly; after reading other blogs, I wonder why I am still trying to post daily. Then, I remember that I usually wait for the Holy Spirit to move my fingers to get something posted and so I keep on putting whatever comes into my head to share with you. Today I am using as a walking prayer, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, to your burning love I unite myself" and find it helpful. I also found the homily at noon Mass yesterday on prayer very helpful. Luke's Gospel really says a great deal about prayer - the prayer of Jesus (yesterday was how Jesus spent the entire night on the mountain in prayer before He chose his twelve Apostles), moments when He prayed and the parables about prayer such as we had last week with the Pharisee and the Publican. This Sunday we have Jesus changes his plans because someone wanted to see Him enough to run ahead and climb a tree. Jesus invites Himself to stay in his home and tells him to "Come down quickly". He came down "quickly" and received Jesus with joy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn reflected in clear water

There is a grace in contemplating stillness wherever it is to be found. I find the stillness of water leads me to a contemplative attitude. I am also remembering the sense of stillness that I found in the woods near Sugar Creek, Kansas earlier this month. Stillness brings peace and we all want to be at peace. Interior stillness is a grace to pray for as it allows us to hear God's voice. I often see my own deafness as a grace as it is so helpful for interior silence and that sense of stillness.
Today I am repeating, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, to your adoration I unite myself!"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The picture says all. I am cooling off in the swimming pool and wondering how long our "summer" will last. I still miss the cool autumn days and the gorgeous trees when they change their colors. Our air-conditioning is off again so one is tempted to think of bonfires and roasting marshmellows over the fire. Halloween is an autumn feast but we stay in summer most of the year in Miami. I usually am grateful for the sun and the swimming and it is only this year that I seem to be wishing for some cool weather. I am grateful though that we can still swim!! I think I find God in the water in a special way. God is everywhere but for me there is a special felt presence when I am swimming at my own pace.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autmn Colors

One thing I miss in Florida is the turning of the leaves and then the fallen leaves ready to be raked in brisk, cool weather. Here most of our trees stay green all year so I am going to borrow autumn images for this blog as we approach Halloween and the Feast of All Saints.
I came across this quote yesterday which spoke to me and so I pass it on to all of you:
" The Heart of Jesus is our consolation in our doubts, in our temptations, , after our faults, in our troubles...let us go to Him...let us open our hearts and speak of all that we love or regret. If we open our hearts to Jesus, He will open His own to us." This is from a letter of a former Mother General, Manuela Vincente. I think the Lord waits for us to come to Him and wants to console us no matter what is happening in our lives and our world. Let us go to the Heart of Jesus and find there all we need.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Praying for Others

Every day I pray for all those I have promised to pray for and for all those who need my prayer. I have found that lately I need to pray for others by name and take each before the Lord. Today I did this but forgot to write my blog so here it is quite late today. I console myself that the Lord knows what is best for each of us and He does hear and answer prayer.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner

Today's Gospel has the Pharisee speaking to God and thanking that he is not like others but that he does everything right; the publican does not even dare to raise his eyes but stays at the back of the synagogue and beats his breast and repeats this prayer from his heart""O Lord be merciful to me, a sinner." He is the one who is justified.

I never hear this parable without remembering one of my Jesuit cousins who came to see me as soon as I had made my first vows and was sent to a community near his Jesuit community. We talked about prayer and I am sure I had a great deal to say, but then he told me that his prayer each morning was just repeating, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." I did not realize then that this was a perfect prayer for all of us and now I often find myself repeating the same for it is a short form of the famous "Jesus Prayer" that can be said at any time, any where.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Purpose of Contemplation

I suspect we could all come up with different reasons for cultivating contemplation. It is, of course, a gift and we are called to it by God. Today I dipped into a new book by Carl McColman, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism that a good friend had told me about; he loved the first chapters but I found myself jumping to later chapters and here is a sample of what I copied in my Journal in the place where I save quotations - these were all on page 246:

"Christian mysticism is a path without a destination, for the point behind the journey is not to reach a goal, but rather to be reached--by God."

"The purpose of contemplation is only to be available for God and to open yourself up to his elusive presence."

"...God is always present and already loves you regardless of what you do or don't do to cultivate and accept that love."

I firmly believe that last quote but do I live as though I really believed it? "Lord, help my unbelief!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sugar Creek, Kansas

The Jesuits begged for us (the Society of the Sacred Heart)to join their mission with the Potawatomi Indians who had been moved from the Northeast to "Indian Territory" in Kansas. Father de Smet even helped raise some money in order to get permission to take a band of four Religious of the Sacred Heart to Sugar Creek in 1841. He arrived at the City House in St. Louis to finalize plans and realized that Philippine Duchesne was not being included in the group to go to the mission; Philippine was now past seventy and her health was poor. The Jesuits had always know of Philippine's desire to go to the Indians and insisted that she come even if they had to carry her. Actually, when given the permission to go with Lucile Mathevon, Mary Ann O'Conor, and Louise Amyot, Philippine seemed to have new life and the four days on the boat going up the Missouri river rejuvenated her. Another four days of travel on land brought them to the Potawatomi Mission. The Indians had come out to meet them and they had to shake hands with about 500 braves and kiss 700 Indian women before the welcome ceremony ended. The priest at the mission had not expected them so soon and nothing was prepared for them. An Indian vacated his small log cabin and the nuns moved into the tiny room that contained only two chairs. They soon had the four corners designated as kitchen, community room, dormitory, and parlor with the middle of the tiny cabin serving as a classroom for the older girls whenever classes could not be held outside. The would not be able to have their own chapel with the Blessed Sacrament for thirty years! They had to spend time each day gathering food for their cooking, and carrying water. The Indians would come into the cabin to watch the nuns so there was no privacy but they learned to accept the presence of the Indians at all hours. Now, at Sugar Creek they only have what they think was the foundation of the log cabin that was built for the nuns about three months after they arrived. It was larger and had a loft. Lucile seems to have picked up the Potawatomi language quickly with the help of two women and within two weeks had taught the Indians canticles in their own language which they sang at Mass. Many of the Indians were devout Catholics and there were many conversions among the tribe. The Indian girls were docile and soon learned to sew, knit, and cook. Before we taught the women and girls how to cook vegetables, they had eaten most of their food raw. The Indian women usually had a pot of corn mash cooking near their wigwams and the Indians just helped themselves when they felt hunger. During the hunting season they would eat meat. These are a few of the facts that I learned that made Sugar Creek a place of pilgrimage as our nuns were real pioneers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Feast of Mater

Today we look at Mater and let her show us the invisible and the essential in our lives. You will enjoy this, I think, as we see how Mater is so active in the life of our students in all parts of the world.

Check out the blog listed first on the right in my blog, "Whispers in the Loggia" for a list of the newly named Cardinals.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

St. Philippine Duchesne

This statue was commissioned by the city of St. Charles and placed at the extreme southeast corner of the school property. Philippine established the first convent of the Sacred Heart in America in 1818 in St. Charles and opened the first free school west of the Mississippi. The first year was very difficult and they lacked everything. Although situated almost on the banks of the Missouri river, they lacked water, fuel, and food. They were living in a very small cabin and yet received boarders from St. Louis. Because of the condition of the house and the hardships of that first year, the Bishop moved us to Florissant. However, we returned to St. Charles in 1828 and Mother Duchesne left Mother Lucile Mathevon there as superior.
Lucille and Mary Ann O'Connor were the two who had to be carpenters before the house was ready to receive boarders but they soon had the windows replaces, the doors repaired, and even made some benches to begin the free school as soon as the floor had been repaired. It was the Jesuits who brought us back to St. Charles but they were so concerned with getting their Church finished that they had not done any work on the old cabin. Our first mothers were real pioneers!

I want to include this from a talk by the Holy Father. He is speaking to seminarians in England, but this paragraph would seem to be for all of us:

"That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to "pray constantly", he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God. Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him."
You can read the entire talk if you look at the blog listed on the right: Whispers in the Loggia.

Monday, October 18, 2010

St. Charles, Home of both Philippine and Lucile Mathevon

The picture is of the "new" shrine at St. Charles where I prayed for all of my readers. I arrived on Wednesday evening, rented a car and drove to St. Charles. On Thursday I went to visit a friend in St. Louis and also worked in the archives at St. Charles reading the Journal that St. Philippine Duchesne kept from the foundation of the first houses in Missouri. On Friday, I met my sister-in-law who was in St. Louis from Arizona to visit her mother. Her mother took us to lunch and we had a delightful visit that made me late to begin the week end seminar on spiritual accompaniment for youth at St. Charles. I was with about thirty-four other RSCJs and we learned how to plan and give several types of retreats that could be for faculty, staff, parents, and Board members as well as for young people. The three retreats that interested me are: the Busy Persons' Retreat, the Land/Place Retreat, and the Life Directions Retreat. We also learned about the "hiking retreat" from those who gave this for college students last year. I think I will try to teach our campus ministers about the Retreat for Busy Persons so they could offer this at the different Universities that they are ministering to this year. I like the idea of offering it during Lent.
The second week end (after a week working in the national archives in St. Louis), I went on a pilgrimage to Sugar Creek where both St. Philippine and Lucile Mathevon worked with the Potawatomi Indians; we had the school for the Indian girls and the Jesuits had the boys. In 1848 we went with the Indians to St. Mary's, Kansas. I will continue this tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mater's Feast is on October 20 but celebrated today in Miami

I am just back from a wonderful Liturgy in honor of Mater. Many of us were dressed in pink in her honor and the middle school choir sang so well and one felt proud to be a child of the Sacred Heart. Many of the Cuban alumnae wore their Child of Mary medals and we had a call to create stillness in our own lives to realize the call of Christ in the world today.

I had to get new tires for my car! I had the second flat tire yesterday and was parked at my doctor's office. I blamed my blood pressure on the flat tire so my doctor came out and actually put air into the tire and called the garage where he always takes his cars and told them I needed new tires as mine were in a terrible condition. Actually, the rubber was peeling off of the tires. So, now I have four beautiful tires and the car feels so much better and safer. I am thanking Mater and asking her to thank both my doctor and the garage that ordered the tires and put them on the car today. Because of all of this, I am not telling you more about my trip today but visions of Sugar Creek and St. Mary's, Kansas, are still floating around in my head, especially the walk in the woods in the park dedicated to Rose Philippine Duchesne; one can see the probable foundations of the cabin the nuns lived in while at Sugar Creek. I have an acorn from an oak tree near the path in front of the cabin's foundations. It was so quiet and peaceful there and I am trying to keep the atmosphere in my soul amid the many chores waiting for me today. The picture of Mater helps!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Feast of Teresa of Avila

Today is the Feast of Teresa of Avila, who is a Doctor of the Church as well as the reformer of the Carmelites in the 16th century. She died in 1852 after having made many foundations and her writings are still influencing us today, especially her spiritual classic on prayer, "The Interior Castle."

The opening prayer for today's liturgy asks that her inspired teaching may awaken in us a longing for true holiness. I think I have that longing and, if you are reading this blog, you have it, too. It is how we continue to deepen that longing which leads us to greater intimacy with Jesus that matters. Jesus wants to be the Center of our life!

I am home from a wonderful two weeks in St. Charles, St. Louis, and a week end in Kansas tracing the footsteps of our pioneer Religious in their work with the Indians in Sugar Creek and St. Mary's. I will tell you more tomorrow about my research in the archives and the graces of these two weeks away.
One of my dear friends in Scotland needs your prayer so please pray for Jane that God may restore her to health.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Serenity Prayer

The following commentary on the Serenity Prayer is copied from another Blog, the Busted Halo (you will find a great many interesting blogs to read under the Concord Pastor blog. Just follow the link on the right hand side of my blog. Since I am away for two weeks, you will find plenty of material to reflect on in these blogs. I thought you would like this on the Serenity Prayer. It begins by addressing God...

"The most remarkable thing about how often the Serenity Prayer is said by non-believers is its unequivocal stand in its first few words: that the serenity and courage we seek comes as a gift from God. (Niebuhr’s original version said “God, give us grace to accept with serenity…”) The bottom line is that we seek not to control our behavior and our life, to engineer it, in such a way as to have serenity and courage. Rather, we admit our powerlessness and humbly ask for the tools and guidance we need.
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change

To have serenity means to be in an untroubled state. It is derived from a term that means clear skies — and this meaning survives in the phrase, “not a cloud on the horizon.” This line in the Serenity Prayer is interesting because to accept the things I cannot change will help me experience serenity, and to begin with serenity will help me to accept of things that I cannot change. So serenity and acceptance can feed each other in an upward spiral, while conversely, to be unaccepting and troubled can feed into each other in a downward spiral.

The concept of radical acceptance is the most important part of the Serenity Prayer because it is the most needed. In our self-help narcissistic culture, we are rarely encouraged to stop striving and fighting but, rather, accept limits.

Things are the way they are and we cannot change this. We can work towards making things better, but we must start by accepting this moment as it is. Also, there are many things in this world that are not within our power to change, ever. We can either accept them, or struggle against them. For example, if there’s a person at your job who is a real jerk, your being unaccepting of this fact won’t help. He’s around (assuming you don’t have the power to fire him.) Trying to change him is almost certain to fail, and will likely make the situation worse. Your best approach is to accept that the jerk is the way he is, and work from there. You might decide to avoid him, laugh his behavior off, leave the job, or pray for him because of the suffering he is likely experiencing that he externalizes as being a jerk. Those are all valid responses. But they all start with accepting that he is the way he is and that you can’t change that. Other things that aren’t in our power to change: death, disease, global imbalance of resources. You get the idea.
Courage to change the things I can

The most misunderstood thing about the Serenity Prayer is that it’s not just about serenity. The name doesn’t help. Too often people use the Serenity Prayer and the concept of acceptance as excuses to avoid action when action is called for. But the prayer gives equal weight to challenging us to change the things we can.

In my earlier column on discernment, I said “It’s all well and good to say we should live in the now and accept God’s plan as it unfolds, but that doesn’t mean we should be passive. Using the metaphor of the stream of life, there are times to watch the water flow by, and there are times to row the boat. We have to decide which is called for, and the right answer will vary depending on the situation.”

In the beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” As Rick Warren points out: “Notice Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the peace lovers,’ because everyone loves peace. Neither did he say, ‘Blessed are the peaceable,’ who are never disturbed by anything. Jesus said, Blessed are those who work for peace — those who actively seek to resolve conflict.” (The Purpose Driven Life, p153)

Once we accept things as they are in this moment, often we are called to action, and when there is action to be taken, or a choice to be made, let us be courageous. Let us do what we know is right, step into the unknown in faith, be brave in standing up for what we believe in. And closer to home, change can mean improving our diet, abstaining from drinking, sticking up for ourselves, and dozens of little actions throughout our day.
And wisdom to know the difference

When I’m working with people who are struggling to navigate acceptance and action, the tricky bit is knowing which things you can and should change and which you can’t and shouldn’t. Discernment. But as I said in the earlier column on the subject, you already know the answer. Your vision might be so clouded (unserene) that you can’t discern it at the moment, but deep down you know. Tenth-century monk and favorite of contemplatives, Symeon the New Theologian, used the phrase “serenity of the heart” and said it’s the result of Jesus’s command in Luke 12:31 to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. He said that by guarding the heart from worldly attachments one can achieve something which is translated, interestingly, as “sobriety.”

The way to clear up the cloudiness (lack of serenity) that makes it hard to discern what we can and cannot change is to connect with Truth — to seek the Kingdom of God. This is the spiritual journey. We must do what we can to make conscious contact with God, and then to sustain that contact on a daily basis. As I said in the earlier column on discernment, my patron saint, Augustine said, “Love, and do what you will” — the goal is not to use our willpower to figure out what to do; the goal is to align ourselves, ground ourselves, in God’s Love. This will give us “wisdom to know the difference.”

If you don’t already use the Serenity Prayer, try it out. Let me know what you think of it. If you do, share your experience with it? What has it done for you in your life? Share your thoughts and experiences below in comments or email me at phil AT bustedhalo (DOT) com.