Our Heart


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aheartshineOn this Friday morning as I sit waiting for the light to come, I offer a simple “Prayer of Awareness” from John Philip Newell’s book, Praying with the Earth. May it travel with us through the day.

Clear our heart, O God, that we may see you. Clear our heart, O God, that we may truly see ourselves. Clear our heart, O God, that we may know the sacredness of this moment and in every moment seek you, serve you, strengthen you as the Living Presence in every presence. Clear our heart, O God, that we may see.

Notice, if you will, that Newell speaks of “our heart” rather than our hearts. This is a communal prayer, seeing the world as one. May it be so with us.








St. Louise de Marillac


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alouisedemarillacIt is said that behind every great man is a great woman and this is certainly obvious as one learns the story of Saint Louise de Marillac. Born on August 12, 1591 near the small town of Meux in the southwest of France, Louise had lost both her parents by the age of fifteen. Discouraged by her confessor from becoming a nun, she was married and had one son but soon became the longtime caregiver to her beloved husband until his death. Although she had wise council from two notable men – one a bishop and the other later declared a Saint (Francis de Sales), Louise’s vision of her spiritual path came from an “inner illumination.” In this way she understood that “she was to undertake a great work under the guidance of another person she had not yet met.” That person was St. Vincent de Paul. Vincent, busy with his “Confraternities of Charity” – aristocratic ladies who were helping him serve the poor and neglected children – was reluctant to become Louise’s confessor, but he soon realized that she, of the peasant class herself, could not only meet the poor as an equal but also was gifted in teaching and organizing helpers of their own class.

What stands out in the biography of Louise in “Saint of the Day” at http://www.franciscanmedia.org is what Teilhard de Chardin saw as the slow work of God. The long illness of her husband, the only periodic availability of counselors, the long time it took for Vincent DePaul to realize that she was the answer to his prayers and Vincent’s slowness in allowing the organization of what became the Daughters of Charity into a religious congregation all reads as a testament to the faith and trust and patience of this remarkable woman. Louise spent her life helping wherever needed and in her later years traveled throughout France, establishing her community members in hospitals, orphanages and other institutions. Louise died on March 15, 1660, and was finally named a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 1934.

It has been my privilege to know and work with many of the Daughters of St. Louise de Marillac and I celebrate them today as a collective example of what one woman can accomplish and how her followers can change the world of needy people around the globe.







One In God


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adandelionseedsWhen I read the gospel this morning (JN 5: 17-30) I was struck by the first few verses, not because of the declaration of Jesus but for the reaction of the people listening to him. Jesus was already in trouble for healing on the Sabbath for which he was being vilified, but when he said, “My Father is at work until now, and I am at work as well,” the people “were more determined to kill him because he was speaking of God as his own Father thus making himself God’s equal.”

As I pondered that small section of the text and the conclusion of detractors of Jesus, I heard in my head a line of one of the early “folk Mass” songs from the 1970’s: God is our Father, we are his sons (!); we are all one in Christ. Knowing ourselves as beloved children of God doing our best to work for God’s reign and the unity of all people in God is, or should be, the ultimate goal of life for all of us, as it was for Jesus. He came to model that way of living for us to follow.

As I think of Jesus in this situation, I feel compassion for him. Even though the conclusion they jumped to about his statement was correct (God is his own Father), their reaction of wanting to kill him was extreme. Clearly, his purpose was not to boast of privilege but rather to speak the truth of his unity with God, a mystery that we cannot understand but toward which we lean ever closer when speaking of Jesus and – may I dare to say – all of us. I am reminded of a quote that says, “We are not God but are each a seed of God…” and speaks of our responsibility to grow that seed into a flowering in God’s garden. However we imagine all of this to be true, what we do know is that the at the heart of the mystery is love.







Why Not Ask for Help?


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ahelpinghandfromjesusThere is such a strong message in the lectionary readings today of the necessity of trust – and reasons to do so even when our patience is wearing thin. It is the psalm that shakes me awake right at the beginning, declaring: God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea. (Ps. 46:2-3)

What follows in the gospel is the reminder to never give up. It’s the story of the man who was ill for a long time – waiting 38 years at the healing pool of Bethesda for help. (JN 5:1-16) I always have trouble with that gospel passage because it seems to me unconscionable that there is no one who notices this man who needs help. I try to see that there might be more to the story when Jesus arrives and asks him “Do you want to be well?” That makes me wonder if something more than his physical infirmity is keeping him from the pool. Maybe he just needs to admit his need for help or to trust the help that is available to him. It’s interesting that he doesn’t answer Jesus with a resounding “YES!” as do all the others in the gospels to whom Jesus puts that question. What he does say is that there is no one to help him. So Jesus does.

The message I see here is that God is always at the ready – no matter what – if we don’t give up and if we are willing to speak our needs. The example (38 years!) seems extreme but perhaps some of us need all that time to wake up and/or give in totally.

Then there’s the second half of the story that opens up several more questions, but that’s a conversation for another day…








What’s In Your Bowl?


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abowloflightIt seems that the theme of light is meant to continue here for at least one more day. In Alan Cohen’s book, A Deep Breath of Life, just the title for this morning’s daily reflection got me curious. “Rocks or Light?” it asked. He was talking about the Hawaiian spiritual tradition that every child born into this world is like a “bowl of light” containing the radiance of heaven. The theory is that if rocks – like fear, guilt and unworthiness – are placed into the bowl, the original brilliance is obscured. The more rocks in the bowl, the less light we shine. Cohen’s comments are very similar to yesterday’s Scripture readings. (I love it when serendipity like this happens to support my conclusions!) Here’s a little of what Cohen offers.

The game of enlightenment is not about going out and getting something we do not have or becoming something we are not. We are already enlightened; we have simply covered over our wisdom. We started out fine; then we got de-fined; now we must be re-fined.

Health, happiness and success are our birthright and we carry all we need within us to manifest all the good we seek. But first we must remove everything from our consciousness that works against the full expression of what we are.

What rocks are in your bowl?







Being Light


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abeaconOn this day we begin the season of “daylight saving” by having decided at some moment in the past to say that 7:00AM is now 8:00AM in order that darkness will not descend upon us so soon tonight. It seems ironic that the Scriptures for today include (if reading the alternate “Year A’ texts) a strong directive from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as well as a declaration before the gospel from John – both on the subject of light.

John declares, “I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.” (JN 8:12) Having the light of God shining within us is something to be desired and worked toward in our daily life. It’s as if God is promising to be a beacon – like a flashlight for us – which, if we only flip the switch to “ON,” will illuminate our path.

Paul goes even further in his command to the Ephesians and to us that we actually must become the light. No prepositional phrases for Paul about living in the light; rather, Paul says, “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord.” (EPH 5:8) For Paul, it seems that following the light of God is not enough. We, ourselves, must be transformed into that light. That’s an astounding statement if we really consider the depth of its meaning. Thomas Merton had a vision of what that might be like which he described as [people] all walking around shining like the sun.

Are we ready and willing to take the responsibility of lighting the way, being that beacon in concert with God?







What Kind of Sacrifice?


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aspringrainSometimes I think we can get carried away doing penance during Lent. I must admit that for many years I refused to talk about the need for repentance because I thought life held enough challenge and people I knew needed nothing more to feed their poor self-esteem. I have now come, I hope, to a healthier place where admission of imperfection lives in concert with a willingness to reform. This is the message that stands out to me in the lectionary readings for today, clarifying God’s desire for us and urging us on from the very first words.

Come, let us return to the Lord, Hosea calls out. Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord; as certain as the dawn is his coming…He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth…Speaking for God, Hosea then announces: For it is love I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (HOS 6:1-6)

The psalmist picks up the theme saying: Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe put my offense…My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (PS 51)

These texts have taken up a peaceful place in my being and allow me to be confident in God’s compassionate acceptance of my honest efforts at conversion.







The Opening of Eyes


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aeyeopenedLast Sunday, as I listened to a dramatic reading of the entire gospel of Mark, I was struck by the number of exorcisms Jesus performed. In the different ways that “evil spirits” manifested in people, Jesus commanded those “spirits” to “come out!” and the people were healed. I’m wondering this morning if all the synoptics were similarly engaged in reporting such events. My attention was a caught because today’s gospel from Luke (11:14-23) begins with Jesus “driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.”

That makes me think that the gospel writers use the term “demon” as we might not only when speaking about any sort sinful habit, as in “the demon rum,” but also with some physical conditions that are not easily dealt with. There are examples of physical cures in the gospels, as in “the man with the withered hand” but I wonder what I would learn by re-reading the texts with the intent to identify “demons,” how Jesus dealt with them, and what was the transformation that occurred upon the release.

As is often the case, a paper protruding from among my side-table books this morning gave me a clue to my wondering expressed above. We would do well, I think, to ponder moments in our lives when a light appeared in some way and see if it deepens our understanding of something heretofore inexplicable.

The Opening of Eyes
by David White

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water,
and I heard the voice of the world
aaaaaa speak out,
I knew then as I had before
Life is no passing memory of what
aaaaaa has been,
Nor the remaining pages in a great book
aaaaaa waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes, long closed.
It is the vision of far off things,
aaaaaa seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years of secret conversing,
aaaaaa speaking out loud in a clear air.
It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
aaaaaa before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
aaaaaa as if to enter heaven,
And finding himself, astonished,
Opened, at last, to falling in love
aaaaaa with solid ground.










Going Forward…Again


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atodolistThis early rising time – 5:20 again this morning – seems a throwback to when I was first in the convent! At issue now, however, is the fact that I wake up at this time after only five or six hours of sleep (when my “normal” is eight) and am not able to go back for more rest, which has serious consequences later in the day. With my coffee just now I decided to make a list of important things not to forget for today and tomorrow. No wonder I’ve already entered a mental marathon! Within about three minutes I had 25 things on my list! They aren’t all very time-consuming, but still…

I read a few lines from Joan Chittister when I finally gave in to the dawning of day. I was reminded immediately of the importance of prayer and reading to Benedictine spirituality and the rule that she says “does not call for either great works or great denial. It simply calls for connectedness…with God, with others and with our inmost selves. It (the Rule) is for ordinary people who live ordinary lives.” But it calls us to attention and awareness.

That’s why I need my list. Lately I feel as if I have let the weather determine my activities and see the hours slipping away in lassitude. A little discipline is good for the soul. So here I am – determined enough to regroup and take my list in hand, willing to admit my shortcomings to the world in order that I might get back to a deeper connectedness and well-ordered living.

May it be so this very day!







Just Love


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ahearthandoffAfter all my preparation and the very meaningful retreat day yesterday for a wonderful group of welcoming parishioners, I have little to say today. I yield to St. Francis of Assisi for a poem that seems a perfect postscript for me and a meaningful thought for all of us.

God came to my house and asked for charity. And I fell on my knees and cried, “Beloved, what may I give?” “Just love,” He said. “Just love.” (Love Poems from God, p. 33)