Merton’s Prayer

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This prayer of Thomas Merton has been a staple for many people over the years. It has popped up several times now in my mail and as an advertisement for a Spirituality & Practice Workshop. I am tempted to sign up for the course as I am a fan of “all things Merton,” but perhaps this prayer is all I need. It certainly speaks to this moment of time in our world. Won’t you pray it with me today…and perhaps for each of the remaining days of this tumultuous year that we’re experiencing.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thoughts in Solitude)

Snow

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Although it’s a little late to be looking for signs that mean “Snow is coming!” (since it has already appeared as predicted this morning!), I found an interesting list of “signs of snow” on the internet today. In an effort to maintain a lighthearted attitude toward a beautiful but difficult reality that will now likely be with us for several months in this area of our country, I choose to share what I learned.

Seven natural signs of snow:

  1. in the Alpes, big flowers are usually good signs.
  2. In Scotland, the locals observe snowberries bushes.
  3. In France, snow cover can be predicted by the thickness of onion skins.
  4. Ants are the main winter weather predictors on Ischgl, Austria.
  5. In Italy, it’s the bees that are closely observed.
  6. Flying creatures are monitored by the local ski patrol in Aspen, Colorado. (especially Black Rosy-Finches)
  7. The First Nations aboriginal people in Canada observe the coats of their horses who shed their summer coats and grow a new winter coat in the autumn.

If it’s snow-time in your neighborhood, give thanks for the beauty, bundle up and be careful out there!

Do I Measure Up?

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Lynn Bauman, in his translation of the Psalms, characterizes Psalm 15, the psalm for today, as “Friends of God.” Who wouldn’t want to be in this circle? Here are some of the criteria listed in response to the initial questions to God about: Who may approach the summit of your mountain strong? Who may come invited to your presence there? Listen to a few of the requisite behaviors:

  1. Those who live their lives devoid of blame, who do what is right, and from whose hearts truth is the only word;

2. Those who treat their neighbors as their own, their kind;

3. Those whose promise is as good as any word they ever give, even in the face of loss or gain;

4. Those who give and give and ever give again without hope of getting in return…

I think I have some climbing to do before reaching the summit of that holy mountain but the good news, as I see it, is that God is standing up there, maybe with a megaphone (depending upon the distance between us) cheering us on with lots of enthusiasm…so we’ll all get there…together!

What Do You Want?

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In a conversation with a blind man in today’s gospel, Jesus asked a question: “What do you want me to do for you?” When we think of the man who was going to be the recipient of the answer, it seems really like “a no-brainer.’

If Jesus just happened by in your life today and asked the same question, what would your answer be?

Do It Now!

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It appears that I was correct when I “woke up” (read: “was shaken out of my lethargy”) yesterday about the possibility, the inevitability of never going back. I should have known when I read Eckhart Tolle’s Present Moment Reminder earlier this morning. He said this:

Give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting, snap out of it. Come into the present moment. Just be and enjoy being.

It took the Sunday lectionary readings from the U.S. Catholic bishops to recognize how late it is. Did you know how soon the season of Advent is upon us? With all the consternation about the danger of traveling for Thanksgiving, have you even thought about readiness? Internal readiness, I mean…

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians today that “You, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness…for all of you are children of the light. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” It’s as if he is saying, “There has been enough hand-wringing and lamenting about the state of our country and the world. It’s up to each one of us to take charge of our situation because the healing will come from the inside.” It is true that we are in a season of distress, the like of which most of us have never seen before, but if we wait, let it be in a state of active waiting. Give up passivity and step into possibility and trust. Love as you have never loved before – not just for your own well-being but also for that of those who walk with you. Be here now and love the opportunity to BE!

Late Start

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I woke this morning—late—to blaring sun and a beautiful sky. Stillness was all around. That was almost two hours ago because I opted for coffee in the kitchen. These days there is an inevitable turn toward the political news in our morning coffee hour, and even though the election is over, much of the distress remains. I doubt that “business as usual” will ever exist again, at least in the way we have known it and, for some reason, I believe that today is the day that I must begin to accept that fact.

That’s rather a monumental thought for a Saturday—which is usually the day to attend to household chores… It will call up every ability for clarity that I possess to deal with the issues indicated in never going back, because there is no road map for going forward—and I love maps!

How would you cope with a completely new reality that was a challenge to your way of doing things? Are you willing to entertain that thought? I will need the rest of the day to just get started on that conversation with myself. If you plan to take the challenge, I wish you clear skies and a peaceful journey. May we meet “on the other side.”

Celebrating Mother Cabrini

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Born in Italy in 1850, Maria Francesca Cabrini was the youngest of thirteen children in a family where only four of the thirteen survived to adulthood. Although prepared with a teaching certificate (cum laude) she was considered too frail for the religious life by the Sisters who had been her teachers. Had someone been privy to her inner strength and to her wish to serve God in China and India, she might have become famous for missionary work in the East. The story goes that during her childhood on visits to her priest uncle “she made little boats of paper, dropped violets in them, called the flowers ‘missionaries,’ and launched them in the waters of a nearby swiftly flowing canal to sail off to India and China.” (see http://www.saintoftheday.org) That was not to be for her, however, as her life unfolded.

Having been rejected by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Arluno, Italy, as too frail, she eventually became headmistress of an orphanage where she taught and drew a small community of women to live in the manner of a religious community. This group became the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, led by “Mother Cabrini” who wrote the Rule and Constitutions of the community and remained the superior general until her death.

Her desire to be a missionary to China had never waned. At the age of 37 years, she went to seek the approval of Pope Leo XIII to establish missions in China. The Pope urged her instead in a different direction. “Not to the East but to the West” was his advice and so Mother Cabrini went with her Sisters to New York City where life was not easy and the work was overwhelming, serving the Italian immigrants by establishing catechism and education classes as well as providing for the many orphans who had recently arrived in the City.

By the end of her life Mother Cabrini had established institutions across the United States, and in countries throughout Latin America and Europe. After her death, the Sisters achieved her goal of sending missionaries to China but that was not to be as she had dreamed. Because of social and religious upheaval, the Sisters withdrew. Her worldwide influence is a testament to her willingness to follow God’s Spirit wherever she was led, even if she needed a little help with her geography!

Watch and Pray

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I have been sitting for quite awhile this morning, trying not to try…to say anything of merit but just to wait. A song comes to me from Taize, a chant that simply says “Stay with me. Remain here with me. Watch and pray.” I hear it over and over in my head and then I realize it is my prayer for the day. As Americans we are not generally very good at waiting for things to happen. And truly, things are always happening. In the spring the energies of the earth “wake up” and bring us the beauty and renewed life of the land. That is much more pleasing than the moment we are in now when nature is resting and death is the order of the day – a stark reality in human terms this year.

We cannot avoid the reality that is ours now. Neither can we waste the moment that is upon us. We wait for resolution of our political situation. It looks like nothing will happen for at least the next two months…but that is not true. Much is happening in preparation for the inauguration of a new political team. Watch the news. It will happen and we can only hope it will happen peacefully. So pray for a peaceful transition.

We are watching incremental growth in the death toll every day. And still people refuse to do the simple things that will stem the tide of this horrific loss. We wait for a simple solution and a vaccine is coming but why wait? Wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. Is that so difficult?

And pray for an awakening of consciousness. There are so many ways in which we are unconscious. We think it is the duty of others to fix things. I ask myself today what is my ability and my responsibility to my community, my nation and the world. What more can I do than watch and pray? Am I even consistent in those two activities? Is that enough?

BOMBAS

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I was just looking at a new website – new to me, I mean. It’s called Bombas. Maybe you’ve heard of them. They make socks and for each pair they sell, they give one pair to a homeless person. They say that the one item of clothing most needed by poor or homeless people is socks. At the moment their website says that they have given away 40,000 pairs of socks! (You see why I say it’s not new. I think they have been in existence for about five years, but still, that’s a lot of socks!)

Today I saw a new face of Bombas. It concerned their care for military veterans. I’m amazed at their organization and happy that I found it on the internet in a new way on this Veterans’ Day holiday. The Executive Director of Bombas, Marguerite Bachand, announced today Operation Dignity, a program serving at-risk veterans in their 20s, their 70s and every age between, providing them and their families with emergency, transitional and permanent housing as well as comprehensive outreach and support services, under the title, Operation Dignity. (You can find it on the internet.) Today is a great day to remember the service of our military men and women. If you are so inclined and able, why not give socks for Christmas this year? (…even order them today from Bombas!).

Perhaps the greatest gratitude you can give is through your prayer. Please join me throughout today – and beyond – in offering a bow of gratitude in the prayers we say for all those we know and those unknown to us who have given service to our country and the world. God’s blessing on our Veterans!

The Long View

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As we learn that the election we have just concluded was fair and decisive, we realize also that the “new day” is not yet upon us. There will be challenges to what has been determined as “the will of the people” and we need patience and stability to assure a safe transition. I read a brief paragraph this morning from Thomas Merton’s Book of Hours by Kathleen Deignan that gave me a glimpse of a possible “long view” going forward. It will be my companion for this day as I struggle to wait for a resolution.

Merton writes: I think what I need to learn is an almost infinite tolerance and compassion because negative thought gets nowhere. I am beginning to think that in our time we will correct almost nothing, and get almost nowhere: but if we can just prepare a compassionate and receptive soil for the future, we will have done a great work. I feel at least that this is the turn my own life ought to take. (originally written by Merton in The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 20)