Enter the Silence


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amonkswalkingOften these days I have conversations with others about the necessity of living in the present moment and doing our best to carve out some silence on a regular basis. This is not a new concept. I think of my first years in the convent when we spent the major part of every day in silence and wonder about how different life would be for me today if the Second Vatican Council had not achieved an aggiornamento (updating) that clarified the differences in monasticism and apostolic religious life. In addition to the understanding of the differences, however, there remains significant overlap in the various forms of such a call and the element of silence in each cannot be overstated.

Antony of Egypt, (ca. 251-356), celebrated today in the Christian Church and revered as a primary example of the eremitic life, spent his days in the desert from the age of 20 into an old age remarkable even today! I found a telling comment in David Keller’s book, Oasis of Wisdom: the Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. In speaking about “Abba Antony”, Keller remarks: “Even in his need for extreme solitude, he influenced other monks through their visits or decisions to live near his two places of refuge.” The second half of that statement says something very key, I think, to the power of silence not only as an example to be followed but also as an agent of communal transformation. Sitting in silence alone is a deepening experience and sitting in silence with another or many others with intention has an increased capacity for raising the energy of loving consciousness.

Today, then, let us be mindful of – and grateful for – the efficacious work of those who spend their days in the silence of contemplation and let us make our own effort toward peace and harmony in our hearts for the good of the world.









As God Sees


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atattooI am remembering a time when my cousin’s daughter was dating a tattoo artist and relatives in my generation began to worry about her reputation as piercing and tattoos began to appear on her body. Never mind that she was bright and attending college while living with her grandparents to help them as they aged. Never mind her wonderful personality and winning smile, because tattooed ladies did not belong in our family! Now when “body art” is everywhere, my young cousin is moving toward the ripe old age of 40 and is recognized by everyone as the brilliant star that she has always been, if only others had taken the time to truly know her.

How often we judge by appearances! Today’s lesson from chapter 16 of the first book of Samuel has a great example of the danger of that stance. As Samuel was introduced to seven sons of Jesse from whom Saul’s successor was to be chosen, God kept saying, “Nope, not him!” until there were none left before him. (It sounds a little bit like a comedy routine if we imagine Samuel getting more and more agitated every time God rejects one of those presented to him.) When Samuel says to Jesse, “Don’t you have anyone else???” (Can’t you hear the exasperation?) Jesse had to wake up to the fact that it might be David, the youngest, the sheep herder, the dreamer that God had chosen. And so it was.

It’s a great story and an important lesson for us – not to judge a person by clothing or speech or degree of education or position in the work-a-day world…because not as humans see does God see, because people judge the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart. (1 SM 16:7) I will remember that today as I go about my various appointments and look for clues to the hearts beating all around me.






Our Brother Martin


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amlkThere is so much to say about Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a “wake-up call” to our nation like no other, shaking us to the roots of our passivity in the 1960’s, and he paid the ultimate price for his courage. His own words still stir me when I hear his clear, booming voice proclaiming: I have a dream today

Meg Wheatley speaks of people like “Brother Martin” as “accidental activists” – those who are compelled to do what they do. “In every case,” she writes, “they saw an injustice or tragedy or possibility when others weren’t aware of a thing. They heard a thundering call that nobody else noticed…They offer us dreams of bold new futures that others will never see.” (Perseverance, p.19)

Such was the life and death of Dr. King. One wonders today as we remember  his actions on behalf of racial justice how we can still be so far from his vision of “one nation under God.” When hatred and bigotry seem on the rise and we wring our hands in despair about the divisions in our country, let us seriously consider that “if we’re not part of the solution, we are part of the problem” and resolve to do our part toward directional change. It begins in our minds but grows to fruition only as it reaches our hearts and we come to understand that history chooses all of us in some way for the good.






God Calling


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aeliOne of my friends calls me Valerie. Urban legend has it that my mother wanted that to be my name but that she was convinced otherwise. It was probably the same dramatic flair in her that desired to call my sister “Heather Angel” which I’m told was the name of an actress back in the day. I smile now when that image of my mother bubbles up. She had her own delightful story of being named Mary Frances but always being called May. Her birthday was May first and the story goes that she was put in a May basket when she was born. I don’t really know what that means specifically (and never asked!) but I envision ribbons and flowers surrounding her sweet self as she greeted the world.

All this palaver about names derives from Samuel’s confusion about who was calling him out of sleep in the first reading from today’s lectionary. (1 SM 15:16-23) He thought it was his mentor, Eli, when it was really a deeper, inner call that he was hearing. Still a small boy, he didn’t yet understand the call of God in his life but was obedient to the directive of Eli who finally got the message of what was happening. So little Samuel began to respond when he heard his name – most likely before he had any idea of the meaning for his life – with the unconditional declarative statement: Here I am, Lord!

We are called by name in formal and informal ways during our lives. When in a situation of a roll-call vote, there is a sense of weightiness, of “putting your life on the line” for what you believe and are willing to stand up for. Additionally, when someone uses my name in a sentence (as in: “Can you see, Lois, the importance of this issue?”) I tend to wake up a bit more to what they’re asking. Thus, living into our names means living into truth and to deep listening for God’s word in our lives. Psalm 40 says it clearly to me today in the following translation.

For even in the scroll of Torah, the book you wrote, it is said that I should simply do your will. That is it, your whole desire, which has now become my soul’s delight. So from my heart I keep your ways, your law of life. (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p. 99)











Living Love


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ahugAs is often the case, I woke up today with song lyrics in my head. This time it was a familiar text from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chosen by countless people for a wedding reading. You know it too, I’ll wager. Love is patient, love is kind, love is ready to forgive, sings Jeannie Cotter with David Haas ready to jump in as the lyrics veer off a bit from Paul. The last line of the chorus summarizes the message beautifully, however, when both sing that in love we choose to live.

I usually wait for a second sign if the song doesn’t go away by the time I sit down and root around inside and outside for a message. As I take stock of the previous day (or, as in this case, two days since I had no internet service yesterday) my theme often becomes perfectly clear. Yesterday was a day of communicating with loved ones – in person or on the phone – who are dealing with issues of deep sorrow. I carry them now and will continue to do so on this day where quiet and inaction is being enforced by the ice and snow outside. As I move through the hours I will take Thomas Merton with me as well to help me stay in the sphere of loving consciousness. Won’t you join me?

Every day love corners me somewhere and surrounds me with peace without having to look very far or very hard or do anything special. (Entering the Silence, p. 196)




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acorrectionFor any of you who follow the Catholic Bishops’ website to find Scripture readings for each day, and/or anyone who hears those readings at daily liturgies, you must have been wondering yesterday why I used the reading from next Thursday. I was wondering that myself just now since the battle I spoke of as a great success for Saul and David had not happened by then or in this morning’s text either! It’s not even as if I skipped down to the same day in next week on the calendar. (Yesterday was Wednesday!) My only conclusion is about serendipity. The jealousy theme was already in my head when I opened to the Scripture texts and the story of Saul and David gave me a great example of what I was thinking.

Significant, I think, to this “mistake” is the fact that the correct reading for yesterday was about God’s call to Samuel. The fact that the boy – Samuel – had mistaken God’s call for that of his mentor Eli makes me think that maybe God was interested in having the topic of jealousy come up yesterday for someone. Me? Maybe. You? Perhaps. That might just be my way of making an excuse for my mistake but I’m pretty careful about checking the date as well as the whimsical nature of my cursor sometimes. And the fact that I have written over 1,300 of these posts without such a happening makes me want to attribute it to something other than carelessness.

Whatever the reason for yesterday’s mishap, perhaps the words of Barbra Streisand suffice for today when she sings, “There are no mistakes, just lessons to be learned.”








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adavidgoliathJealousy is a very dangerous trait in a person. It seems to me a bit more serious than envy although it appears in the dictionary as envy’s synonym. I might be envious of someone’s good looks or good luck but, if I have a positive attitude about my own life, I don’t spend a lot of time comparing my lot with those of others. If jealousy takes hold of my life, however, it can lead to wishing harm to others – sometimes instigating events that will cause very bad things to happen.

In this morning’s lectionary reading from the first book of Samuel (1 SM 18:6-9, 19:1-7) we read about what seems like a childish attitude on the part of King Saul who is returning from a great victory over the Philistines. At his side was David, the hero that we know from his fame with his slingshot; he used it to slay the giant, Goliath. Everyone was singing and dancing as Saul and David approached. Unfortunately, the lyrics to their song (“Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands”) planted the seed of jealousy in Saul and as it grew he feared that David would take over the kingship of Israel.

It’s always good to have a friend who can see such a situation honestly and speak the truth to the parties. In this case it was fortuitous because Jonathan was both Saul’s son and David’s friend. Well-placed to see the situation as it truly was, Jonathan convinced Saul (for the moment at least) that David had been a faithful servant, desiring nothing but the good of the nation and, in fact, had helped Saul very much by his deeds.

Two adages come to mind as I think about applications of this story for us. The French are known to say: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same) and in English we hear that it was ever thus. In our culture of today, there is so much pressure to get ahead, to be the best (which means the most successful or the richest), to climb to the top of the corporate ladder – as well as to be the best-dressed, most glamorous, the richest. We do well to cultivate the qualities of honesty, gratitude and the willingness to be satisfied with what we have and who we are. Oh yes, and don’t forget to thank God for good friends!






Friends of God


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aprayerplantSometimes when life feels very complicated I like to find some simplicity somewhere. This morning, since light had already arrived at this task before I did, I looked up and saw that my prayer plant had found a way to untangle herself from the tight configuration her leaves had been living in since I transplanted her a few weeks ago. She seemed happy to spread her arms in praise. That moment was enough to call me to do the same.

The feeling was deepened when I opened to the words of Thomas Merton who offered me the following message from his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

You ask of me nothing else than to be content that I am your Child and your Friend, simply to accept your friendship because it is your friendship. This friendship is Spirit. You have called me to be repeatedly born in the Spirit, repeatedly born in light, in knowledge, in unknowing, in faith, in awareness, in gratitude, in poverty, in presence, and in praise.

Such a wide-ranging invitation offered to all who consent simply to accept humble friendship with God!






Breathing Baptism


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abaptismToday is one of those times when it seems impossible to choose a topic for consideration, not because I find nothing as a possible focus but because there is too much to feel and then try to say! I was immediately distracted by the headline about the Golden Globes award ceremony held last night and I took precious time to read the report in the Washington Post. It sounded as if the purpose of everyone wearing black and the tone of acceptance speeches were purposeful and not crass but meaningful. As I left there for the USCCB website and found that we are celebrating the feast of Baptism, traditionally held in my experience on the Sunday after the Epiphany, I was surprised but somehow it felt sensible.

On my trek for coffee this morning I had been feeling an urgency that said, “Time to get back to business” – a need for routine, I might say. The whole Christmas season has felt like a time-out-of-time. Day after day I have found myself (and heard others) asking “What day is today?” as if “normal” had disappeared in favor of living by the weather. That’s a good example too because last night I read weather predictions for the week as a warming trend and today it has shifted back to a continuing deep freeze.

Back to the USCCB website. There are four choices for a first reading and two possible psalm responses for this feast! How is one supposed to choose between Isaiah and the Acts of the Apostles or Psalm 29 over Isaiah 12? (Isaiah seems always to have a lot to say!) Every one of the readings has merit for today as a call to consider the concept of baptism, a call that is offered and must be accepted each day and deepened as we wake up to the needs of the world.

I was baptized when I was three weeks old. No one took pictures so I have no evidence of the event. I learned later that there was an indelible mark on my soul, a stamp of “Christian” that was meant never to be erased. It got renewed at special times along the way by other sacraments, religious vows and anniversaries as well as by the opportunity to participate in many baptismal celebrations for other people and hear the words that accompany the ritual actions.

Today it all comes together as I am awash in reminders. “I have grasped you by the hand,” says the Lord to Isaiah, and later, “Seek the Lord while he may be found,” Isaiah shouts to us. Then there is Peter telling the people in the house of Cornelius that “God shows no partiality” as he tells them the stories of Jesus and how “God was with him.” John’s letter tells us that we become God’s children by loving one another and the psalmist calls us to “give to God the glory!” In conclusion I am treated once again to Mark’s version of the baptism of Jesus in all its cinematic imagery and I feel as if there is no place to go from here. I want only to sit and ponder the effects of God’s promises and the responsibility I have to live my baptism.

I just looked at the time. It’s 7:53am and I am due to leave the house by 8:30. I just need a few more minutes before I can move, before I am settled enough to “Go with God,” as my friend, Barbara, says to me often as I leave her. It is enough. Amen.







Epiphany Today


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aepiphanyI just read my post from yesterday to refresh my memory of what I said or didn’t say about Epiphany. As it happens, I think that post turned out to be a bit of an example of the meaning of the word. As celebrated in Christianity, the Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles represented by the Magi: a moment of great revelation. In a modern dictionary definition it is seen as “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

I was talking yesterday about the possibility of overcoming fear through simple, commonplace practices of eating, walking and talking to a friend. It isn’t the practices themselves, however, that overcome the fear. It is rather our recognition of our ability to achieve success in those things that gives us new confidence in facing what frightens or stops us.

It is all well and good for us to celebrate the revelation of Jesus to the larger world 2000 years ago but that revelation is only “activated” in our day if something related to the event is triggered in our lives. If we consider the most important lessons we have learned from the life of Christ, which I believe to be universal love and compassion, it would seem that our job is to manifest the reality of those lessons in our daily lives.

What does love of neighbor mean in 2018? How are we able to practice compassion when we see a need – either spiritual or physical? It takes keeping our hearts open and, yes, “eating our vegetables” to push us beyond our limits – one step at a time.