Padre Pio

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Today Christians everywhere celebrate Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, who died on this date in 1968. We know him as Padre Pio. There is much to say about this humble servant of God, which you can find on http://www.franciscanmedia.org or in any number of books, documentaries and internet sites or perhaps from people, still alive, who have had experience of his life. It was not easy; he suffered spiritually and physically, and, perhaps most of all, psychologically from the words and actions of those who did not believe the movements of God in his life.

The verse before the gospel in today’s lectionary could be called “difficult grace” in the life of Padre Pio. It calls us all to humility and truth in recognition of our gifts, and reads as follows: Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Clearly, Padre Pio did not take credit for his extraordinary gift of healing or complain about the trials of his suffering, especially when he received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ in his physical form). It was his willingness to serve God in whatever way was asked of him that we honor today.

May we be willing each day to do the same.

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Encouragement

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I am not accustomed to posting in the afternoon but being off schedule today got me to play catch-up and I found the second-in-a-row message that comes from the monks of St. John the Evangelist. (See yesterday’s post). I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it as we all need encouragement once in awhile and I thought this a good reminder. (I especially liked the first line about being “rescued by love.”)

We are rescued by love when someone bequeaths dignity, worth, recognition, gratitude upon us, encouragement for us because of who we are and what we do. We simply cannot grasp this alone: that we are precious, and amazing, and of inestimable value, unless this truth is mirrored into our being by another person. We need to give and receive support and encouragement for one another as “daily bread.” (Br. Curtis Almquist.)

Diversity

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As we struggle toward unity in our homes, our communities and our world, we are also charged with the responsibility to embrace diversity. From our families to the members of the United Nations (meeting this week in New York City) the task is acceptance and understanding. I was reminded of this today by a post from the Society of St. John the Evangelist that called for appreciation of our uniqueness as a way to celebrate the unity of humanity. Here is the post.

Although we may have plenty of differences, it remains true that the Holy One created human beings as perfectly beautiful and in God’s image, shining like stars with the light of Christ. It’s a light reflected through the prism of this world as a diverse offering pouring forth from within each unique human heart. We pray with God’s help we will bear witness to that light, and instead of creating separation from difference, see diversity as a cause for celebration. (Br. Nicholas Bartoli, SSJE)

Choice

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Life sometimes seems to be offering us little choice. When we’re young we have to go to school, we eat what our parents put before us, we do what we’re told, etc. When older, sometimes it feels the same when our patterns are established and we go to work, we spend our money on necessities (or not) and sometimes life seems to winnow the list of choices we have to fit into how much time we have in our busy schedules (but who makes the schedule?).

I am considering the topic of choice today not because I feel constrained by the number of hours in the day (although as I get older that sometimes rankles) but because of Margaret Wheatley’s book, Perseverance, that I chose for my morning reflection. Here’s a little of what she said – which you might choose to consider as I did, whether you are making judgments about time constraints, other people or anything in your life.

We need first to notice that we’ve made choices about everything in our lives. How we react and respond, every single feeling, is a choice. Every situation has infinite possibilities for interpretation and reaction. But we collapse all those possibilities the second we assign a feeling or judgment to the situation. (Page 103)

So, really, it’s more about how we feel about our choices and/or how we judge them that makes the difference in our acceptance of them. I will be spending some time with this thought today. Will you?

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Sleep Patterns

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I’ve been blessed in my life with a rather consistent pattern of sleep at night – as well as a felt need for at least eight hours in bed each night. I have also been aware that things change…Yesterday morning I was awake from 3 to 5AM thinking about the upcoming events and challenges of the day to come. Happily, after completing some small tasks and my 20-minute centering prayer meditation, I got back into bed and slept for another hour before my alarm rudely interrupted me.

This morning I found a section of Macrina Wiederkehr’s book, Seven Sacred Pauses, that I had underlined sometime ago. I think it will help me to relax the next time my head is too full to sleep. She says the following:

Perhaps some night when you get up to pray, something will turn over in someone’s heart and find its voice all because of your small prayer. Never underestimate what little acts of love can accomplish. Do not take lightly the sacred connections that are possible in daily life. Perhaps our very waiting in the darkness gives some struggling unknown pilgrim of the hours hope. (p.32)

Monday Morning Stillness

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The lovely book by John Philip Newell entitled Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace is set up in such a way that the reader not only finds – in addition to the prayers for the life of the world – prayers of awareness and blessing twice a day but also quotes from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and the Quran. That sounds like a lot of words but, in fact, it is not. Here are the three Scripture quotes for Monday morning that in their brevity moves one, perhaps, to a deeper, wordless place of peace.

Wait for God. Be strong and let your heart take courage. (Psalm 27: 14)

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Remember God deep in your soul with humility and reverence. (Quran – The Heights 7 .205)

Luke, the Storyteller

The gospel of Luke is, for me, the most accessible of the four canonical gospels. I would even venture to say that his account is often “folksy.” I am reminded of the wonderful book by Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere, published 25 years ago, called Dining in the Kingdom of God, that explores Luke’s stories of Jesus and their meanings through the lens of the meals he shared throughout the gospel.

Today we have a long gospel (LK 15: 1-32) in response to complaints by the Pharisees and scribes that Jesus is “welcoming and eating with tax collectors and sinners.” It would seem that Jesus is determined to give his listeners lots to think about in regard to this accusation because he tells three stories to make his point. First there is the lost sheep: the willingness of a shepherd to leave his 99 sheep in search of the one lost one, and the celebration when the sheep is found. (Could that be me? You? Someone you know?) Then comes the lost coin: the determination of the woman who sweeps the whole house until she finds it and calls in all the neighbors to celebrate. (Did you ever lose your car keys? credit card? wallet?) Finally we have the lost son in the famous story of the spendthrift son who finally comes home and the father who goes way beyond anyone’s expectation of what should be given to someone so undeserving in celebration of the return. (We all know what it means to be reconciled…the forgiven or the forgiving, do we not?)

So today may we all suspend our judgments of who is worthy and who is not and follow the example of Jesus in our willingness, determination and the joy of reconciliation.

Listening With Your Heart

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I felt I needed to check news headlines this morning as I had been rather “out of the loop” during a whirlwind week playing “catch-up” with myself. It was an interesting few minutes. Most of what I read were a number of interpretations of the debate performances of one or all of the ten top candidates of the Democratic Party for our next President of the U.S.A. Everyone has an opinion and, although I do realize many of the reporters do their “homework” before, during and after events such as these, I will now be better off reading transcripts of what they really said and following my own heart in making decisions. I would wish for some face-to-face time with each one of those still standing but will have to settle for replays and reflection for the next several months.

After my foray into the news headlines I spent some time with Joan Chittister’s Wisdom Distilled from the Daily. Sister Joan always has a way of pulling me back into my own head and heart with just the right words. (I would do well to support her for some lofty political office, I think.) Here’s what she said that, by way of analogy, reinforced my confidence this morning.

Benedictine spirituality is, then, the spirituality of an open heart…At one point in the monastic life, I was sure that knowing the Rule and practicing its practices was the secret of a holy life. Now I know that knowing the document will never suffice for listening to the voice of God wherever it may be found. No longer do I hope that someday, somehow, I will have accumulated enough listening so that there will be no further questions about pious practices that can easily be learned. Now I have only a burning commitment to those qualities of the spiritual life that must be learned if I am to grow. (p.24-25)

It’s far-fetched perhaps as a way to proceed in winnowing the political field for office, but I do think there is a relevance in Sister Joan’s comments. It’s up to me to go beyond the words offered by the candidates, to feel their motivations and check their past and present actions for what is really the make-up of their agenda – to the best of my ability, of course. And in the end, to pray for wisdom and the best hope for the future of our country.

Of Beams and Splinters

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I was lucky this past week during the retreat I was leading at the Spiritual Center where I live that quick action and skill avoided a serious accident. Participants were out in pairs pruning trees and observing how mindfully they could be in working together. Suddenly, a large branch that had been wind-tossed during a storm came down and left a small piece of bark in the eye of one of the participants. It was quickly removed (to my great relief) by another “guardian angel” in the group and the pruning continued.

You can, perhaps, guess that today’s gospel was the famous text from Luke 6 where Jesus uses hyperbole to make his point. He asks, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” He sounds frustrated, even calling that kind of offender a hypocrite. “You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye!”

Even a speck of dust in my eye can be painful. I notice any such invasion right away. I should take note of that when I begin to speak about the failings of others that seem so offensive, and practice reminding myself each time I am rubbing my eye to see clearly that focusing on the gifts of others would be a better way to avoid spiritual blindness of any kind.

Just A Taste

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There are some days when I find little to comment on from the lectionary readings as I open the US Catholic Bishops’ website. Sometimes, however, there is too much because all the readings are candidates for “Scripture of the Year.” Today is one of those days. The readings are self explanatory but the content calls for reflection with every new line so I choose this morning to offer a smorgasbord of loving advice that just gives a taste of what can be found in the storehouse of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…as the Lord has forgiven you. And over all these virtues put on love…(COL 3)

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! (PS 150)

If we love one another, God remains in us and God’s love is brought to perfection in us. Alleluia! (1 JN 4)

To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…Stop judging and you will not be judged…Forgive and you will be forgiven…For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. (LK 6)