Don’t Wait!

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acircuitI recently heard that procrastination can become an addiction. I was rather surprised at that designation but have since pondered it as I make my daily lists and check at the end of the day or week to see what has fallen through the cracks of time and why. I can sometimes put the blame on unexpected events or lack of sleep the night(s) before the list was made but have added this practice of awareness to my desire for conscious living in the everyday. The challenge is to be responsible without becoming rigid so I try to remember a favorite book title of long ago:  A Light Grasp on Life.

My thoughts above were occasioned by two things:

1. Tomorrow I leave for an out-of-state family wedding so I need to ramp up my readiness quotient and get busy with all the tasks that need to be completed including what needs to be taken along for the ride. (That list will include my computer but there’s no telling whether or how often there will be another blog entry before next Tuesday.)

2. Earlier this morning I read the following reflection by Alan Cohen that started me thinking about the deeper side of procrastination. He was speaking of an electrical problem in his laundry room that he waited almost too long to attend to.  His words seemed an appropriate conclusion for this “thought for the day” in any situation that we might be tempted to “put off until tomorrow.”

When something in our life is malfunctioning, we receive signs, warnings…In life too, we cannot afford to keep overriding the breakers. We must heed the breaker’s warning and go to the source of the problem rather than simply treating the symptom. Instead of taking an aspirin for a headache, we need to face who or what is giving us a headache and deal with the problem at its source. Keep your antennae up for signals. Take the grace and then take action. (A Deep Breath of Life.)

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Mary of Nazareth

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aassumptionIn 1950, Pope Pius XII declared a feast celebrating Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as a dogma of the Catholic faith. There are many feasts of Mary and this one was not a new thought; it’s reality had been celebrated by Christians with rituals from as early as the sixth century. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven is, ironically, something “assumed” since there is no concrete evidence of the fact that Mary, like Jesus, was taken body and soul into heaven at the time of her death, because of her esteemed role in the birth and life of Jesus in this earthly realm. It is one of those instances that the Church follows the sensus fidelium, a time when “from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals.” The Pope was, in a sense, just certifying what people had believed and practiced for centuries.

More recently than this proclamation has been the publication of an extraordinary book by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ entitled: Truly our Sister: Mary in the Communion of Saints. I say it is extraordinary because of Sister Elizabeth’s exhaustive study of both the theology and the Scriptural evidence of Mary’s life. The added section on life in Nazareth in the first century of Christianity grounds our knowledge and appreciation of Mary as “one like us” who was a true human being, a mother who raised her child with all the worries of every mother, and then some. Mary’s joy was extreme as was her suffering and her service to us a blessing that calls for the gratitude of all. The wonderful conclusion of Sister Elizabeth’s work, therefore, is that Mary is totally approachable, not at all out of the reach of any of us. She is a model for us, but not in the manner of “Superwoman” – rather more like a wonderful mother, or “truly our sister.”

Let us honor her as such and think of her, as today’s gospel tells it, as running to share the news of her pregnancy with her kinswoman, Elizabeth, with all the awe and fear it held for her. Let us see her in the home of Elizabeth, a refuge from her confusion about how her life will unfurl, listening to stories and gathering her courage to return home to face what awaits her. And let us follow that life to the cross and beyond, wondering about her last days and the mix of emotions that must have been hers in those days until she was taken to her true home in peace. May we hold her in our hearts today and celebrate her willingness to be God’s presence in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

To Be A Saint

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akolbeOften when speaking of a very good person, someone will say, “S/he’s a saint!” but when we’re talking about saints in a specific way, we generally look to people who lived in the early days of Christianity or the Middle Ages. Almost everyone knows about St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict and (finally!) St. Mary Magdalene, as well as mystics Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Lately, we Catholics in the United States have been gratified with the canonization (official recognition) of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, and Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. Now there are also “regular people” who have lived a good and holy life who are coming to the notice of people in high places or those whose diligence pleads their case successfully with the Vatican to have them recognized in this special way. One such heroic holy person is Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who volunteered to take the place of a Jewish man in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. A prisoner had escaped and, in retribution, the commandant announced that ten men would die. Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek was married with a family and lived to tell the tale of the holy man who took his place in the group of ten executed on this day in 1941. Fr. Kolbe was canonized in 1982.

Although this heroism was extreme, it was not uncharacteristic behavior for Maximilian Kolbe. His entire life was dedicated to God, most significantly in devotion to the Blessed Mother, Mary. Reading his biography – even the snapshot found on the website http://www.franciscanmedia.org – is inspiring. Most of us will not be called to the kind of heroism that Fr. Kolbe exercised, but we can all aspire to the holiness born of love, willingness and generosity that characterized his life. And in this moment in our complex and dangerous world, we can use those motivations to mitigate the hatred, greed and selfishness that causes the negative energies to rise.

May peace reign in our hearts today and lead to peace in our world.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Attention

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awalkonwaterHow does God get your attention? How do you pray for God to attend to you? When God shows up, do you recognize and accept how God comes? Today’s lectionary readings hold examples of two such situations for our consideration.

In the first, we have the story of Elijah the prophet on the mountain of Horeb who was instructed by God to leave the cave where he had found shelter in order to encounter “the Lord who will be passing by.” All sorts of wild signs arose: heavy wind, earthquake, fire…extraordinary conditions that might suggest such an extraordinary vision – but no, the Lord was in none of those signs. Thank goodness Elijah was astute enough to recognize the Lord “in a tiny whispering sound” or he would have missed God’s visitation. (1 KGS 19: 9-13) So God might show up anywhere, any time and we need to be ready for the unexpected.

In the gospel, there is also an unexpected event – a storm on the sea – when Jesus is off on a mountain by himself and the disciples are in a boat with waves crashing mightily against it, suggesting it might sink. This time, God sends Jesus walking toward them and they don’t recognize him because he is – like in the Book of Kings – coming in a way that seems impossible. He’s walking on the water. Peter, the impetuous one, challenges the vision that they think is a ghost by saying, “If it’s you, tell me to come to you across the water.” When Jesus says, “Come,” Peter jumps in and does fine until he remembers that he is doing something impossible so he starts to sink. Jesus saves him, of course. (MT 14: 22-33)

So whether God shows up in the ordinary, or in some totally incredible circumstance, we need to be ready and open to accept and respond to what comes to us, even if it calls us to trust what seems impossible, in order to have an experience that is beyond anything we have ever known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Is the Answer

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ahearthandThere are so many ways to say it – and so many reasons to consider it. The point to make every day really is that love is at the heart of every solution, every relationship…every success in life. It was what fueled Sts. Francis and Clare (see yesterday’s post) and today, the message in the readings couldn’t be clearer.

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them to your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead…(DT 6:4-13)

I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer! (PS 18:2-3)

Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (MT 17:20)

I’ve never seen a mountain move because of a show of power. The impetus – the fuel – of such an undertaking has to be love. And it starts with the simple things, so let’s get moving! A new day – a new chance for loving has dawned.

 

 

 

 

 

Selfless Love

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asandomianoSome years ago I had the privilege of visiting the town of Assisi in Italy. The visit was brief and the focus was, as one might think, the holy places associated with St. Francis. It was an extraordinary six hours, and I often long to return for a longer visit. One of my most vivid memories, however, was not of the places and stories of Francis alone – although those remain as well – but of walking down the path to the Church of San Damiano. Somehow, the olive trees that lined the path seemed to shimmer in the sunlight as if they were saying to me, “Pay attention, for this place you are approaching is extraordinarily holy.” San Damiano became the home of St. Clare and her followers in 1212 and she never left but died there on August 11, 1253. The intense holiness of the saint and her Sisters, who lived a poor and very simple life of prayer, can be felt in the walls of the refectory, in the oratory where they prayed and the dormitory where a cross marks the spot of Clare’s death. What, one wonders, creates such a living vibration in a place where life was so “daily?” Intention and motivation, I suspect. A famous quote of St. Clare gives a hint of an answer.

We become what we love, she says, and what we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.

 

 

 

 

 

Giving Is Receiving

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acastingwheatAll of the lectionary readings today are about generosity. On this feast of St. Lawrence, we hear about this young deacon in Rome the very early days of Christianity (c. 225 – 258). Legend tells us that Lawrence was charged with giving alms to the poor and when the pope was put to death and Lawrence knew that he would suffer the same fate for his faith, he gave all the money on hand to the poor and then sold the sacred vessels of the Church to add to what was available. In the first reading from 2 Corinthians 9, Paul says that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…for God loves a cheerful giver. Psalm 112 reminds us that those who are gracious and lend to those in need shall be blessed. Finally, in the gospel Jesus says, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

With the image of St. Lawrence hurrying around to all the poor, distributing funds from the Church to all those he could reach, and a farmer lavishly flinging seed to assure a great crop, I can feel the desire rising in me for a world wherein we share all of the wealth that is stored “just in case” instead of building bigger barns to house it all. And with that thought comes a wondering about what it is of myself that I only share when I am confident of a return or when it is easy to give of my time or talent for someone who might need a lift. Do I allow myself the recognition of the paradox that has always proven to be true: that in giving we know a freedom never available to one whose fists are closed tight against a possible loss?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-duality

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acornsToday is the fifth in our discussion series of No Ordinary Time, the inspiring book of Jan Phillips. We will be talking about the concept of and our desire for non-duality. We have come into and live in a world where things are defined by separation and difference: young or old, meek or bold, joy or pain, wealth or poverty…so many things. We are waking up to the fact that our salvation comes from the ability to go beyond those distinctions to find more than common ground. We must come to unity in our diversity if we are to survive and thrive.

Jan’s text is brilliant in setting out the territory we must traverse in order to find such a solution, all of which is worthy of quoting. I offer just a bit of what she says at sunrise for your consideration and wish you the impetus and stamina to make it a reality for your own life and for the world.

What’s happening in the world is a result of our collective input. The morning headlines are the news that we are making as a whole human family, by what we do and what we fail to do. Each one of us is a co-creator of the culture we are immersed in, and if we want to see change, we can make change by changing ourselves, our thinking and our destructive habits.

Blame is not useful. Polarization is not useful. Bitterness and negativity are not useful. What’s useful in these perilous times is deep thought and dialogue. What’s useful is a willingness to speak from our hearts, to say out loud what we hunger for, what we’re willing to live for, and what it is we can no longer abide. We are attendants at the wake of the old way, and each of us – through our actions, our thoughts, our work and relationships – is midwifing a new world into existence. This is our destiny, our meaning, our purpose, and when we come to our days with this awareness, when we sense the oak in the acorn of our beings, then we will have the energy to move mountains and shift the tides. (p. 126)

May it be so in our time!

 

 

 

 

 

St. Dominic

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aSt._DominicToday is the feast of St. Dominic, another of the great founders of religious communities. Dominic’s religious order is called the Dominicans but the formal title is “Order of Preachers,” thus the sometimes puzzling designation “O.P.” after their names. Dominic was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi and much like Francis in his asceticism and his desire to spread the Gospel. Reminiscent of the love Francis had for the poor, Dominic sold all of his books to help his neighbors who had survived a great famine. Like Francis, Dominic saw the need for a new type of religious organization, one whose members did not stay behind the cloistered walls of the monastery but rather traveled among the people, in the way of the first apostles, to spread the good news.

I am always in awe, living in the 21st century, to think of these men and others whose mission was to travel far and wide in their day to preach and to battle the great heresies of their times. Dominic was born in 1170 and died in 1221, five years before Francis. Travel was primitive and slow but their vision was vast and both of their communities garnered large numbers of members in the first century of existence.

Thinking of these two charismatic men, my thoughts float back to the sense of charism. Each had a different gift and focus – Francis, “the little poor man of Assisi,” preaching poverty and simplicity in his personal life, shining always with the love of God, and Dominic, powerful preacher of the Word of God in Scripture. Such great complementarity! What gifts to the world that still have an effect today!

In our daily activities and in all our words spoken today, let us mirror God’s action in the world for the good of all!

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding the Hungry

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aloavesfishesThere is a line from Matthew’s gospel in the story called variously “the loaves and the fishes” or “the feeding of the five thousand” (CH 14) that always goes straight to my heart. It appears today and catches me as usual. It is late in a day that began with Jesus trying to escape the crowds to grieve the death of John the Baptist. Failing that, Jesus responds to the needs in what has turned into a long and likely tiring session of healing people. The narrative picks up with the apostles saying to Jesus that he ought to send the people away because it’s late and there’s no availability of food to buy in the deserted place where they are. They will need to go to one of the villages nearby to buy food. There is no need for them to go away, Jesus says. Give them something to eat yourselves. The gospel continues with the miracle of feeding the whole crowd on five loaves and two small fish.

How often the needs of the world seem that impossible to fulfill! And it is true that we cannot achieve such a goal alone. It will take a monumental – miraculous even – metanoia (conversion) to get our world on track toward the “peaceable kingdom” where all are fed and cared for. My question for today, however, is this: how shall we be until that possibility comes into view? Whom and how am I being asked to feed today? Am I awake to the people who need a kind word or a sandwich to help them through the day? Is it enough that I go through the day mindful of those for whom I have promised to pray? There wasn’t much to go on when Jesus started that “handout” but the result, worked through his helpers, fed them all.

Can we believe that what we have to give is enough?