Friday, December 4, 2020

Thoughts on hope

 

Hope
When we live with hope we do not get tangled up with concerns for how our wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, our prayers are not directed toward the gift but toward the One who gives it. Ultimately, it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith in the giver of all good things. . . . Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the promise to come through, even though you never know when, where, or how this might happen.

Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Thoughts on waiting

 

Radical Waiting
I have found it very important in my own life to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God, something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen in me.

To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.

Our spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. This, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

Henri Nouwen

Sunday, November 29, 2020

1st Sunday of Advent

 











Advent begins quietly, with the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath. As the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere, we move to a place of increasing light both indoors and in our hearts. Instead of adding more things to do and and more challenges to meet in an already busy time, Advent calls us to rest, to step back, to learn to appreciate the small events and simple gifts that flow through our days.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent 
by Diane M. Houdek


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Thoughts on waiting

 

The Attitude of Waiting
When Jesus speaks about the end of time, he speaks precisely about the importance of waiting. He says that nations will fight against nations and that there will be wars and earthquakes and misery. People will be in agony, and they will say, “The Christ is there! No, he is here!” Many will be confused and many will be deceived. But Jesus says, you must stand ready, stand awake, stay tuned to the word of God, so that you will survive all that is going to happen and be able to stand confidently (con-fide, with trust) in the presence of God together in community (see Matthew 24). That is the attitude of waiting that allows us to be people who can live in a very chaotic world and survive spiritually.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, November 26, 2020

More thoughts on Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving: For and In

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
Psalm 95:1-2 
 
In America, today is Thanksgiving Day. Its roots go back to 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in the New World. But it was not until 1863 that it became an official U.S. observance at the instigation of President Abraham Lincoln. 

Recommended Reading:
Psalm 100: 1 – 5

In the most general terms, the way to give thanks was expanded from the Old Testament to the New. In the Old Testament, God was normally thanked “for” things—His works, attributes, and blessings (Psalm 106:1). While that focus is maintained in the New Testament, it is expanded to giving thanks “in” all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That is, in all circumstances. We can do that because we know God causes “all things” to work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Why not do both today? Give thanks to God for His blessings and give thanks for whatever circumstances you are experiencing. Fill this day with thanksgiving to God.

Dr. David Jeremiah

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thy unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving kindness to us, and to all men. 
Book of Common Prayer


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

 

Fill Your Days with Thanksgiving

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Thanksgiving is fully living into our givenness—it is the acceptance that our life is a miracle. To be thankful is to take pleasure in our existence and in the things that make that existence possible. “In this pleasure,” writes Wendell Berry, “we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” Berry is here speaking particularly of the pleasure that comes in our eating and its attendant thanksgiving, but he is also necessarily speaking of the pleasure of membership. Our lives are indebted to other lives and dependent upon them. Through this gratitude and proper understanding of indebtedness, we are able to gain the freedom to become more generous ourselves. When we come to truly understand our givenness, which is also our indebtedness and embeddedness in the whole of the creation, then our response must be to give as we have been given. All pretenses that attend the accomplishments of our own work, all illusions of making value or owning something, is but a debt unaccounted, a gift accepted without thanks. Our first and most profound response should be to fill our days with thanksgiving. It is in that practice that we will finally begin to recover who we are and what we should be about in this world, this creation, this gift.

—from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life by Ragan Sutterfield

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Thoughts on the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Painting titled Presentation of Mary in the Temple, by Alfonso Boschi
Image: Presentation of Mary in the Temple | Alfonso Boschi | photo by sailko

Saint of the Day for November 21

Click here to listen

The Story of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honor of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.

As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the temple only in apocryphal literature. In what is recognized as an unhistorical account, the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was 3 years old. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless.

Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.


Reflection

It is sometimes difficult for modern Westerners to appreciate a feast like this. The Eastern Church, however, was quite open to this feast and even somewhat insistent about celebrating it. Even though the feast has no basis in history, it stresses an important truth about Mary: From the beginning of her life, she was dedicated to God. She herself became a greater temple than any made by hands. God came to dwell in her in a marvelous manner and sanctified her for her unique role in God’s saving work. At the same time, the magnificence of Mary enriches her children. They—we—too are temples of God and sanctified in order that we might enjoy and share in God’s saving work.


Click here for more on Mary!


Friday, November 20, 2020

Thoughts on prayer

 

Why Pray?
Why should I spend an hour in prayer when I do nothing during that time but think about people I am angry with, people who are angry with me, books I should read, and books I should write, and thousands of other silly things that happen to grab my mind for a moment?
The answer is: because God is greater than my mind and my heart and what is really happening in the house of prayer is not measurable in terms of human success and failure.

What I must do first of all is to be faithful. If I believe that the first commandment is to love God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, then I should at least be able to spend one hour a day with nobody else but God. The question as to whether it is helpful, useful, practical, or fruitful is completely irrelevant, since the only reason to love is love itself. Everything else is secondary.

The remarkable thing, however, is that sitting in the presence of God for one hour each morning—day after day, week after week, month after month—in total confusion and with myriad distractions radically changes my life. God, who loves me so much that he sent his only son not to condemn me but to save me, does not leave me waiting in the dark too long. I might think that each hour is useless, but after thirty or sixty or ninety such useless hours, I gradually realize that I was not as alone as I thought; a very small, gentle voice has been speaking to me far beyond my noisy place.

So, be confident and trust in the Lord.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thoughts on friendship

 

Be Bold in Your Friendship with God

Be Bold in Your Friendship with God | Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash

Prayer is about love, not insight. It is meant to establish friendship. Friendship, as we know, is not as much a question of having insight into each other’s lives as it is of mutually touching each other in affection and understanding. Friendship, as John of the Cross puts it, is a question of attaining “boldness with each other.” When we have touched each other’s lives deeply, we can be bold with each other. We can then ask each other for help, ask each other to be present without needing an excuse, or share our deepest feelings. Good friendship inspires boldness. The object of prayer is precisely to try to attain this kind of “boldness” with God, to try to reach a point where we are comfortable enough with God to ask for help, just as we would a trusted friend. But to reach this kind of trust we first must let God touch us in the heart, and not just in insight.

 —from the book Prayer: Our Deepest Longing
by Ronald Rolheiser

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

More thoughts on prayer

 

Prayer Ebbs and Flows

Photo by Lenart Lipovšek on Unsplash

Prayer has a huge ebb and flow. When we try to pray, sometimes we walk on water and sometimes we sink like a stone. Sometimes we have a deep sense of God’s reality and sometimes we can’t even imagine that God exists. Sometimes we have deep feelings about God’s goodness and love, and sometimes we feel only boredom and distraction. Sometimes our eyes fill with tears and we wish we could stay in our prayer-place forever, and sometimes our eyes wander furtively to our wristwatches to see how much time we still need to spend in prayer.

 —from the book Prayer: Our Deepest Longing
by Ronald Rolheiser

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Thoughts on St. Martin of Tours

 

Where the Lord Calls

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

“I propose to go wherever the Lord calls me.” (St. Martin of Tours)

Martin’s choices in life had been limited. His parents were pagans, and his father was a Roman army officer, so of course that was the plan the family insisted he pursue. Martin had begun studying to become a Catholic but had not yet been baptized when he saw a shivering beggar. Martin ran his sword through his cloak, and gave the beggar half. A mystical experience resulted, hastening Martin’s conversion. He was imprisoned for his refusal to fight; after his release, he eventually made his way to Hilary of Poitiers, who ordained him and provided him with land for a hermitage.

Martin continued to live as a monk throughout his twenty-five years as bishop of Tours. He is believed to be the first non-martyr the Church considers to be a saint. Becoming a Christian freed Martin from a need to live up to the expectations of his parents or his military commanders. His story reminds us that even if people have financial control over us, it is God, not them, who we serve and who we must put first. Today invite God to help you make the decision with which you’ve been wrestling.

—from the book Brotherhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration,
by Melanie Rigney

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Thoughts on gratefulness


Gratefulness brings joy to my life. How could I find joy in what I take for granted? So I stop “taking for granted,” and there is no end to the surprises I find. A grateful attitude is a creative one, because, in the final analysis, opportunity is the gift within the gift of every given moment. Mostly this means opportunities to see and hear and smell and touch and taste with pleasure. But once I am in the habit of availing myself of opportunities, I will do so even in unpleasant situations creatively.

—from the book Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace
by Joseph Grant

Friday, November 6, 2020

Thoughts on wisdom and death

 

Wisdom and Death


A comedian once commented, "I'm not afraid of dying; I just don't want to be there when it happens." Natural disasters and the covid pandemic have brought our mortality, our inescapable future death, more into our focus and attention. In Sunday's Gospel Jesus teaches us with the story of the wise and foolish virgins who are waiting to welcome the bridegroom to his wedding party. The wise women brought extra oil for their lamps in case the bridegroom was delayed which he was and they were ready to greet him with lamps shining brightly.

I used to be vaguely afraid of dying. After all, it's a huge unknown and you probably won't know when it's going to happen. Over the years I came to realize that I wasn't afraid of death, I was afraid of God, of being seen and judged by Him. His gift of faith-filled wisdom taught me that I am God's beloved child and He constantly looks on me with infinite compassion and love and wants more for me than I could ever hope for or imagine. I am a sinner and will die a sinner but God forgives and forgets them all.

One of Ignatius' favorite prayers was the Soul of Christ. It ends with "In the hour of my death, call me. And bid me come to Thee, that with Thy saints I may praise Thee forever and ever. Amen." Now I prayerfully imagine my death as Jesus appearing to me and saying "Come on, Ralph, let's go home."

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Thoughts on All Souls Day


Today, we commemorate All Souls Day, which is a wonderful opportunity to pray for all those who have gone before us.

Also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, on this day we honor them for their fidelity in life, as well as pray for them, since they are being purified before entering the All Holy Presence of God. 

 

We encourage you to spend today, at least in part, in prayer for the souls of our loved ones, as well as those who have no one who will pray for them.

 

Thanks to your prayers and support, millions of people learn and appreciate the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

 

You can learn more about All Souls Day and get a free resource to pray for the Souls in Purgatory here: https://www.ewtn.com/all-souls

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Thoughts on Saints

 

Saintly Counselors
In the past, the saints had very much moved to the background of my consciousness. During the last few months, they re-entered my awareness as powerful guides on the way to God.

I read the lives of many saints and great spiritual men and women, and it seems that they have become real members of my spiritual family, always present to offer suggestions, ideas, advice, consolation, courage, and strength. It is very hard to keep your heart and mind directed toward God when there are no examples to help you in your struggle. Without saints you easily settle for less-inspiring people and quickly follow the ways of others who for a while seem exciting but who are not able to offer lasting support. I am happy to have been able to restore my relationship with many great saintly men and women in history who, by their lives and works, can be real counselors to me.

Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Prayer for Election week

 

A prayer for the week before an election


Loving God, creator of this world who is the source of our wisdom and understanding, watch over this nation during this time of election. Help us to see how our faith informs our principles and actions.

We give thanks for the right to vote. Help us to hold this privilege and responsibility with the care and awareness it merits, realizing that our vote matters and that it is an act of faith.

Guide us through this election as a nation, state, and community as we vote for people to do work on our behalf and on the behalf of our communities. Help us to vote for people and ballot initiatives that will better our community and our world so it may reflect the values Christ taught us.

Help us create communities that will build your kingdom here on earth—communities that will protect the poor, stand up for the vulnerable, advocate for those who are not seen and heard, and listen to everyone’s voice.

We pray for this nation that is deeply divided. May we come together for the common good and do as you have called us to do—to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you through creation. Help us act out of love, mercy and justice rather than out of arrogance or fear.

Loving God, continue to guide us as we work for the welfare of this world. We pray for places that are torn by violence, that they may know peace.

We pray for communities who are struggling with inequality, unrest, and fear. May we all work toward reconciliation with one another and with you.

Help us to listen in love, work together in peace, and collaborate with one another as we seek the betterment of our community and world.

Amen.

— Rev. Shannon Kelly, minister for young adult and campus ministries for the Episcopal Church
 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

More thoughts on friendship

 

Giving in Friendship
When we truly love God and share in his glory, our relationships lose their compulsive character. We reach out to people not just to receive their affirmations but also to allow them to participate in the love we have come to know through Jesus. Thus true friendship becomes an expression of a greater love.

It is hard work to remind each other constantly of the truth, but it is worth the effort. Constant mutual forgiveness and a continual openness to the love of God are the disciplines that allow us to grow together in friendship.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thoughts on friendship

 

Be a Real Friend
True friendships are lasting because true love is eternal. A friendship in which heart speaks to heart is a gift from God, and no gift that comes from God is temporary or occasional. All that comes from God participates in God’s eternal life. Love between people, when given by God, is stronger than death. In this sense, true friendships continue beyond the boundary of death. When you have loved deeply that love can grow even stronger after the death of the person you love. This is the core message of Jesus.

When Jesus died, the disciples’ friendship with him did not diminish. On the contrary, it grew. This is what the sending of the Spirit was all about. The Spirit of Jesus made Jesus’ friendship with his disciples everlasting, stronger, and more intimate than before his death. That is what Paul experienced when he said, “It is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20).

You have to trust that every true friendship has no end, that a communion of saints exists among all those, living and dead, who have truly loved God and one another. You know from experience how real this is. Those you have loved deeply and who have died live on in you, not just as memories but as real presences.

Dare to love and be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as to those whom God has given you to love.

Henri Nouwen

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Thoughts on Saint Luke

 

Saint Luke

 

Painting titled The Apostle Luke

Image: The Apostle Luke | Andrey Mironov

Saint of the Day for October 18

(d. c. 84)
Audio file

Saint Luke’s Story

Luke wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him “our beloved physician.” His Gospel was probably written between 70 and 85 A.D.

Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem, and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion.

Luke’s unique character may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles:
1) The Gospel of Mercy
2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation
3) The Gospel of the Poor
4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation
5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit
6) The Gospel of Joy


Reflection

Luke wrote as a Gentile for Gentile Christians. His Gospel and Acts of the Apostles reveal his expertise in classic Greek style as well as his knowledge of Jewish sources. There is a warmth to Luke’s writing that sets it apart from that of the other synoptic Gospels, and yet it beautifully complements those works. The treasure of the Scriptures is a true gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.


Saint Luke is the Patron Saint of:

Artists/Painters
Brewers
Butchers
Notaries
Physicians/Surgeons


Click here for more on Saint Luke!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Friday, October 9, 2020

Thoughts on wounds

 

Live Your Wounds
You have been wounded in many ways. The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are. . . . The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your hurts to your head or to your heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down to your heart. Then you can live through them and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Inspirational quote

 


Thoughts on nature

 We who tend to think of nature as nothing more than a usable commodity can learn a great deal from Francis’s relationship with the environment. He teaches us the liberating truth that our physical surroundings are holy because they aren’t purely physical. Instead, they’re permeated through and through with the Spirit and beauty of God. In a mysterious way that the mind can’t fathom but the heart knows full well, we don’t just dwell in God’s world. In dwelling in God’s world, we also abide in God himself.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters



Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Thoughts on creativity

 A Christian celebration of humanity consists in lovingly midwifing our fellow humans into full being. One of our God-given endowments is creativity, the ability to cooperate with God in the inauguration of the kingdom. We’re called to use this creativity in nurturing our brothers and sisters as full members of that kingdom, and we do this by going out of our way to help them recognize and affirm themselves as images of God. In concrete terms, this means performing the acts of charity listed in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew: clothing the naked, tending the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty. Celebrating the sheer existence of others often demands that we do the dirty work of easing the material burdens that inhibit them from arriving at a conscious appreciation of their own holiness.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters



Monday, October 5, 2020

Thoughts on God's love

 

God’s First Love
Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begin to invade the human soul this is not something that comes from God. This sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits.

This unconditional and unlimited love is what the evangelist John calls God’s first love. “Let us love,” he says, “because God loved us first” (1 John 4:19). The love that often leaves us doubtful, frustrated, angry, and resentful is the second love, that is to say, the affirmation, affection, sympathy, encouragement, and support we receive from our parents, teachers, spouses, and friends. We all know how limited, broken, and very fragile that love is. Behind the many expressions of this second love there is always the chance of rejection, withdrawal, punishment, blackmail, violence, and even hatred. . . .

The radical good news is that the second love is only a broken reflection of the first love and that the first love is offered to us by a God in whom there are no shadows. Jesus’ heart is the incarnation of the shadow-free first love of God.

Henri Nouwen

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Thoughts on your identity

 

Accept Your Identity as a Child of God
Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.

Henri Nouwen

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Thoughts on spiritual warfare

 

LUKE 10:17-24

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus equips his disciples for defeating the devil. And the Lord continues to empower them for spiritual warfare.
We are reminded that the battle is not simply with flesh and blood and not merely on the psychological or political stage, when Jesus says to the chief of his Apostles: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail.”

That the new-born Church will be in for a fight becomes clear in the surprising words of Jesus: “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.” He is setting up a contrast between these instructions and those that he gave them when he sent them on their missionary way earlier in the Gospel.

In giving the first set of directives—carry no bag, no travelling staff, no sandals, etc.—he was encouraging in them an attitude of radical dependency upon God; in giving the second—including the recommendation to carry a sword—he is readying them for a struggle.

Bishop Robert Barren