The Nativity of Mary

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Today, with no historical basis but with the approbation of the Church and of Christians around the world, we celebrate the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the courageous young woman who brought Jesus into the world. On this day we pray especially for pregnant women and those who are unable to carry a child. We pray additionally in thanks for Mary, faithful mother and model of fidelity to God

John Philip Newell offers a prayer on this day when the earth is turning to autumn and new hope may be planted as a seed in our souls. Can you feel it?

I have tasted the fruit of the earth, O God. I have seen the autumn trees hang heavily with heaven’s gifts. I have known people pregnant with your spirit of generosity. Let these be guides to me this day. And may Mary who knew her womb filled with your goodness teach me the wisdom that is born amidst pain. May I know that deeper than any fallowness in me is the seed planted in the womb of my soul. May I know that greater than any barrenness in the world is the harvest to be justly shared. (Celtic Benediction, p. 29)

Non-Labor Day

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I have often thought that the holiday we celebrate today is named incorrectly because it sounds like just the opposite of what the intention is. The truth is that this holiday truly was initiated to protest unfair and unsafe working conditions for adults and even young children toward the end of the 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution. There were many violent events in different cities that led to the idea of a “workingmen’s holiday” until Congress passed an act making Labor Day a law, signed by President Grover Cleveland on June 28, 1894.

Many of us have memories of history lessons in high school where names and terms like Eugene Debs, the Pullman Railway strike, or the Haymarket Riot of 1886 strike a chord. The story is often not as clear as the title, however, and the struggle for fairness practices overlooked as we eat our picnic foods and celebrate the end of the summer vacation season.

This year is different. There should be no large gatherings in parks or on beaches. We cannot celebrate in the same way because businesses are closing down and many more people find themselves unemployed by the day. The situation will not change until the virus which is ravaging the world is conquered. That will not happen until all people come to understand that we are each responsible for the health of all of us. Our “work” now is to care enough for the whole to discipline ourselves, to follow the instructions set out by health officials while waiting for a vaccine to be conceived and approved to end the pandemic.

My prayer for this day is that we will all come to recognize that this “work” is necessarily shared by all of us and it will be a united effort or we will fail. I am reminded of a song. We know it. It goes like this:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…

Fully Alive

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At the beginning of this week, our prayer might well be one of the desire to be fully alive. John Philip Newell has just such a prayer, invoking the Trinity on our behalf for that gift. May it be ours for this day…this week…our lives.

The vitality of God be mine this day, the vitality of the God of life. The passion of Christ be mine this day, the passion of the Christ of love. The wakefulness of the Spirit be mine this day, the wakefulness of the Spirit of justice. The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be mine that I may be fully alive this day – the vitality and passion and wakefulness of God that I may be fully alive! (Celtic Benediction, p.53)

Mother Teresa

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Today the world celebrates Saint Teresa of Calcutta, known during her life as “Mother Teresa” because of her tireless work of caring for the poorest of the poor and dying. Inspiring women and men not only in India but all over the world, she died on September 5, 1997 and was named a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 2016.

This tiny woman who impacted the way the world saw care for the poor spoke often of the importance of small efforts toward love. Here are some of her words of advice. We would do well to allow the words to enter deeply into us because they come easily to mind but may take a long time to seep into the heart.

There are no great things, only small things with great love.

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

The Gift of Music

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I was reminded this morning of the gift that is ours in the beauty of music. I was reading an interview with Andrea Bocelli where he speaks of what music does for the “human heart and soul,” something that I agree is necessary to us, perhaps more important than ever in our lives now. See if you agree with him.

Bocelli says: “Music is like a dear friend, one that never leaves your side. It is a universal language with the strength and ability to affect our conscience, helping us to do better. Music is also a source of spiritual enrichment, which is why knowing its language can be useful for everyone, not just those wanting to make it a profession.

When music embraces beauty, it soothes us, makes us grow, heals us by directing us toward rectitude. It can also lead us toward a fuller mystical experience.” (blog.franciscan media.org – Andrea Bocelli on Music and Miracles, August 26, 2020)

What is the music that can alter your mood, lifting you to a place of beauty, joy, peace or promise? Might you give yourself the gift of music today?

Vigilance

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Here’s a word for today from the Dhammapada, the most widely read and best known Buddhist scriptures. I found it while reading Meg Wheatley’s thoughtful book, Perseverance. I was drawn to the page by its title: “Vigilance,” a noun that is defined as the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. Synonyms include: watchfulness, attentiveness, alertness, care, caution, circumspection, prudence, heedfulness, mindfulness…

The advice from this Buddhist scripture cautions us: Do not follow low practices. Do not live carelessly. Do not hold wrong views. Do not prolong the suffering in the world. Whoever moves from carelessness to vigilance lights up the world like the moon that emerges from a cloud. (p. 133)

Worthwhile thoughts for the present life we are living…So let’s WAKE UP!

The Ministry of Healing

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Luke’s gospel moves quickly into the mission of Jesus as healer. By Chapter 4, he has already cured Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a severe fever and then spent the night – from sunset to daybreak – curing all those who came to him with “various diseases.” Even as he goes away to a deserted place, they follow and try to call him back. There seems no rest for him, weary as he is from working all night.

I am instantly reminded of the ambulance drivers, the orderlies, the nurses and doctors who are working non-stop to stem the tide of the Coronavirus. I can imagine they never expected to be swallowed up as they are now – from dawn to dusk and into the night, working to save lives.

They will be my focus for gratitude today, with the hope that they can persevere and know the peace that comes from selfless service.

Confounded

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I looked up the word confounded just now. I had started thinking about the fact that we are once again in a new month and still the Coronavirus hangs on. Last night we got word that a friend died of a massive heart attack. She was someone who had seen the value of what we do at the Spiritual Center and dived into our mission with a generosity and an energy that was virtually unparalleled. We have missed seeing her this season because of the Coronavirus. She was 63 years old.

I had a phone conversation yesterday with someone who knows me better than almost anyone. Her birthday is today and I would dearly love to party with her but my smiles would have to be behind a mask and any birthday hug virtual. A bit of a disappointment. Much of our conversation yesterday was about our disappointment with people, even some of former colleagues and long-time co-workers, who who do not deem it necessary to wear a mask and observe what we have come to know as “social distancing.” We are both at a loss to understand behavior that is dangerous to our health.

To confound means to puzzle, to confuse right and wrong, to make something worse, to perplex. That is the state we are in. To wear a mask is inconvenient, even uncomfortable at times. The difference between that and risking an infection that could cause serious illness or even death – for ourselves or a loved one or both – is just confounding. I fear I will never understand it.

What Is Peace?

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Although we are not engaged in an “all out war” in our country right now, we are experiencing what Joe Wise, one of the early musicians of the “guitar Mass” era, called our “private little wars.” In truth, we are in a very dangerous moment of civil unrest and seem unable to restore a sense of peace any time soon. With this in mind this morning, I turned to Joan Chittister for a word of hope or guidance. I was not disappointed. Sister Joan reminded me of what some call “the long view” – the truth that cycles of life are longer than my personal story and it is up to me and all of us to move toward change for the better each day. Here is what she said about Benedictine peace. Every sentence deserves reflection.

Benedictine peace is not something that is ever achieved. It is something sincerely and consistently sought. It comes, in fact, from the seeking, not from the getting. It comes from the inside, not the outside. It comes from right-heartedness, not from self-centeredness. It comes from the way we look at life, not from the way we control it. It comes from the attitudes we bring to things, not from the power we bring to them…Monastic peace, in other words, is the power to face what is with the serenity of faith and the courage of hope, with the surety that good can come from evil and the certainty that good will triumph. Peace is the fruit of Benedictine spirituality. Peace is the sign of the disarmed heart. (Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, p. 184)

Sunday Morning

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Geese are squawking on the river beyond our land as morning breaks. Not just a new day but a new week is dawning and hope begins to rise in my heart. It is as if we might be returning to a sense of normalcy. As soon as the silence is overcome by human activity, I know that the morning news will bring a different feeling to the day, but just for now I am grateful for the sense of possibility that helps me remember the goodness in life.

John Philip Newell is my guide as I step into this day. Here is his prayer.

I watch this morning for the light that the darkness has not overcome. I watch for the fire that was in the beginning and that burns still in the brilliance of the rising sun. I watch for the glow of life that gleams in the growing earth and glistens in sea and sky. I watch for your light, O God, in the eyes of every living creature and in the ever-living flame of my own soul. If the grace of seeing were mine this day I would glimpse you in all that lives. Grant me the grace of seeing this day. Grant me the grace of seeing. (Celtic Benediction, p.2)