PRAYER: Miracles Granted To The Prayer Of Friends, by George MacDonald

From The Miracles Of Our Lord

If we allow that prayer may in any case be heard for the man himself, it almost follows that it must be heard for others. It cannot well be in accordance with the spirit of Christianity, whose essential expression lies in the sacrifice of its founder, that a man should be heard only when he prays for himself. The fact that in cases of the preceding group faith was required on the part of the person healed as essential to his cure, represents no different principle from that which operates in the cases of the present group. True, in these the condition is not faith on the part of the person cured, but faith on the part of him who asks for his cure. But the possession of faith by the patient was not in the least essential, as far as the power of Jesus was concerned, to his bodily cure, although no doubt favorable thereto; it was necessary only to that spiritual healing, that higher cure, for the sake of which chiefly the Master brought about the lower. In both cases, the requisition of faith is for the sake of those who ask – whether for themselves or for their friends, it matters not. It is a breath to blow the smoking flax into a flame – a word to draw into closer contact with himself. He cured many without such demand, as his Father is ever curing without prayer. Cure itself shall sometimes generate prayer and faith. Well, therefore, might the cure of others be sometimes granted to prayer.

Beyond this, however, there is a great fitness in the thing. For so are men bound together, that no good can come to one but all must share in it. The children suffer for the father, the father suffers for the children, and they are also blessed together. If a spiritual good descend upon the heart of a leader of the nation, the whole people might rejoice for themselves, for they must be partakers of the unspeakable gift. To increase the faith of the father may be more for the faith of the child, healed in answer to his prayer, than anything done for the child himself. It is an enlarging of one of the many channels in which the divinest gifts flow. For those gifts chiefly, at first, flow to men through the hearts and souls of those of their fellows who are nearer the Father than they, until at length they are thus brought themselves to speak to God face-to-face.

Lonely as every man in his highest moments of spiritual vision, yea in his simplest consciousness of duty, turns his face towards the one Father, his own individual maker and necessity of his life; painfully as he may then feel that the best beloved understands not as he understands, feels not as he feels; he is yet, in his most isolated adoration of the Father of his spirit, nearer every one of the beloved than when eye meets eye, heart beats responsive to heart, and the poor dumb hand seeks by varied pressure to tell the emotion within. Often then the soul, with its many organs of utterance, feels itself but a songless bird, whose broken twitter hardens into a cage around it; but even with all those organs of utterance in full play, he is yet farther from his fellowman than when he is praying to the Father in a desert place apart. The man who prays, in proportion to the purity of his prayer, becomes a spiritual power, a nerve from the divine brain, yea, perhaps a ganglion as we call it, whence power anew goes forth upon his fellows. He is a redistributor, as it were, of the divine blessing; not in the exercise of his own will – that is the cesspool towards which all notions of priestly mediation naturally sink – but as the self-forgetting, God-loving brother of his kind, who would be in the world as Christ was in the world. When a man prays for his fellowman, for wife or child, mother or father, sister or brother or friend, the connection between the two is so close in God, that the blessing begged may well flow to the end of the prayer. Such a one then is, in his poor, far-off way, an advocate with the Father, like his master, Jesus Christ, the righteous. He takes his friend into the presence with him, or if not into the presence, he leaves him with but the veil between them, and they touch through the veil.

The next is the case of the palsied man, so graphically given both by Saint Mark and Saint Luke, and with less of circumstance by Saint Matthew. This miracle also was done in Capernaum, called his own city. Pharisees and doctors of the law from every town in the country, hearing of his arrival, had gathered to him, and were sitting listening to his teaching. There was no possibility of getting near him, and the sick man’s friends had carried him up to the roof, taken off the tiles, and let him down into the presence. It should not be their fault if the poor fellow was not cured. “Jesus seeing their faith – When Jesus saw their faith – And when he saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer – Son – Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” The forgiveness of the man’s sins is by all of the narrators connected with the faith of his friends. This is very remarkable. The only other instance in which similar words are recorded, is that of the woman who came to him in Simon’s house, concerning whom he showed first, that her love was a sign that her sins were already forgiven. What greater honor could he honor their faith withal than grant in their name, unasked, the one mighty boon? They had brought the man to him; to them he forgave his sins. He looked into his heart, and probably saw, as in the case of the man whom he cured by the pool of Bethesda, telling him to go and sin no more, that his own sins had brought upon him this suffering, a supposition which aids considerably to the understanding of the consequent conversation; saw, at all events, that the assurance of forgiveness was what he most needed, whether because his conscience was oppressed with a sense of guilt, or that he must be brought to think more of the sin than of the suffering; for it involved an awful rebuke to the man, if he required it still – that the Lord should, when he came for healing, present him with forgiveness. Nor did he follow it at once with the cure of his body, but delayed that for a little, probably for the man’s sake, as probably for the sake of those present, whom he had been teaching for some time, and in whose hearts he would now fix the lesson concerning the divine forgiveness which he had preached to them in bestowing it upon the sick man. For his words meant nothing, except they meant that God forgave the man. The scribes were right when they said that none could forgive sins but God – that is, in the full sense in which forgiveness is still needed by every human being, should all his fellows whom he has injured have forgiven him already.

They said in their hearts, “He is a blasphemer.” This was what he had expected.
“Why do you think evil in your hearts?” he said, that is, evil of me – that I am a blasphemer.

He would now show them that he was no blasphemer; that he had the power to forgive, that it was the will of God that he should preach the remission of sins. How could he show it them? In one way only: by dismissing the consequence, the punishment of those sins, sealing thus in the individual case the general truth. He who could say to a man, by the eternal law suffering the consequences of sin: “Be whole, well, strong; suffer no more,” must have the right to pronounce his forgiveness; else there was another than God who had to cure with a word the man whom his maker had afflicted. If there were such another, the kingdom of God must be trembling to its fall, for a stronger had invaded and reversed its decrees. Power does not give the right to pardon, but its possession may prove the right. “Whether is easier – to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Rise up and walk?” If only God can do either, he who can do the one must be able to do the other.

“That ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon Earth to forgive sins – Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.”

Up rose the man, took up that whereon he had lain, and went away, knowing in himself that his sins were forgiven him, for he was able to glorify God.

It seems to me against our Lord’s usual custom with the scribes and Pharisees to grant them such proof as this. Certainly, to judge by those recorded, the whole miracle was in aspect and order somewhat unusual. But I think the men here assembled were either better than the most of their class, or in a better mood than common, for Saint Luke says of them that the power of the Lord was present to heal them. To such therefore proof might be accorded which was denied to others. That he might heal these learned doctors around him, he forgave the sins first and then cured the palsy of the man before him. For their sakes he performed the miracle thus. Then, like priests, like people; for where their leaders were listening, the people broke open the roof to get the helpless into his presence.

“They marveled and glorified God which had given such power unto men” – “Saying, We never saw it on this fashion.” – “They were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today.”

And yet Capernaum had to be brought down to hell, and no man can tell the place where it stood.



POETRY: Last Night, As I Was Sleeping, by Antonio Machado

Translated by Robert Bly

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvellous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvellous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvellous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I was slept,
I dreamt—marvellous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

PRAYER: A Prayer For Peace, by Dorothy Day

Rome.  The fast of the twenty women, which I had come to join and which was the primary reason for my visit to Rome during the final session of the [Second Vatican] Council, began on October 1, a Friday.  That morning I checked out of my hotel and proceeded to the great square in front of St. Peter’s to wait for Barbara Wall and Eileen Egan at the end of the Colonnade.  We were going to Mass together on that First Friday morning.

Without tickets we could not have got in, since all the Masses which preface the meetings of the Council are packed to the doors.  The laity receive communion not at the main altar but at a side altar.  All around there were confessionals, frequented, I was edified to see, by bishops and cardinals, their scarlet and purple robes billowing out behind them.  They took as long, I noticed, as nuns, who I always thought were scrupulous indeed, judging by the length of their confessions.

But I was able to go to confession on that last visit I paid to St. Peter’s, and I felt with joy and love that warm sense of community, the family, which is the church.  How the Council has broken down barriers between clergy and laity, and how close the bishops seem to us when they are together from all parts of the world, at home in Rome, and not set apart alone and distant on episcopal thrones and in episcopal palaces!

The Mass that morning was in the Syriac rite and was sung, so it was not until ten that I arrived at the Cenacle on Piazza Pricilla on the other side of Rome.  There we gathered in the garden, twenty women, and a few of the male members of the Community of the Ark, including Lanza del Vasto, whose wife, Chanterelle, had initiated the fast.  He led us in the prayers that we would say each morning as we gathered together after Mass: the our Father, the peace prayer of Saint Francis, and the Beatitudes.  Afterward, the trained members of the community sang.  Then we went to our rooms, which were on the third floor of the old convent, looking out on gardens and sky.

Each day we followed a schedule.  There was Mass at seven-fifteen and then prayer together.  From nine to twelve we kept to our rooms in silence, reading, writing, or praying.  During the day and night there was always one of us keeping vigil.  At noon we went to the garden and read together.  Readings included a book by Martin Luther King and an account of the work of Father Paul Gauthier, who founded the Companions of Jesus the Carpenter, in Nazareth.  Most of us had some sewing or knitting to do.  The wicker chairs were comfortable, the garden smelled of pine trees and eucalyptus and sweet herbs, and every day the sun was warm.  Other members of the Ark, who were running an exhibit on nonviolence, came and told us news of the visitors to the exhibit and of the Fathers of the Council they had talked to.

At four in the afternoon there were lectures by priests, and at six a French doctor came daily to see how everyone was getting along.  Two of the women were ill during the fast and had to keep to their beds, so the lectures were held in Chanterelle’s room.  Prayers again at seven or eight, and then silence and sleep – for those who could sleep.

As for me, I did not suffer at all from the hunger or headache or nausea which usually accompany the first few days of a fast, but I had offered my fast in part for the victims of famine all over the world, and it seemed to me that I had very special pains.  They were certainly of a kind I have never had before, and they seemed to pierce to the very marrow of my bones when I lay down at night.  Perhaps it was the hammock-shaped bed.  Perhaps it was the cover, which seemed to weigh a ton, so that I could scarcely turn.  At any rate, my nights were penitential enough to make up for the quiet peace of the days.  Strangely enough, when the fast was over, all pains left me and I have not had them since.  They were not like the arthritic pains which, aggravated by tension and fatigue, are part of my life now that I am sixty-eight.  One accepts them as part of age and also part and parcel of the life of work, which is the lot of the poor.  So often I see grandmothers in Puerto Rican families bearing the burden of children, the home, cooking, sewing, and contributing to the work of mother and father, who are trying so hard to make a better life for their children.  I am glad to share this fatigue with them.

But these pains which went with the fast seemed to reach into my very bones, and I could feel that I had been given some little intimation of the hunger of the world.  God help us, living as we do, in the richest country in the world and so far from approaching the voluntary poverty we esteem and reach toward.

On the night of the 10th of October, the fast, those ten days when nothing but water passed our lips, was finished.  Hard though it was, it was but a token fast, considering the problems of the world we live in.  It was a small offering of sacrifice, a widow’s mite, a few loaves and fishes.  May we try harder to do more in the future.

HEALING: Spiritual Healing, by Jim Pym

From Lightening to the Light

Are you open to the healing power of God’s love? (George Fox)

Hold yourself and others in the light, knowing that all are cherished by God. (John 1:9)

From the time of Jesus, there has always been a healing ministry within the Christian church, and this was one of the gifts of the Spirit that early Friends rediscovered.  There are also records of healing miracles in the Jewish faith, in ancient Egypt, in India, and in every country in the world where there is a written religious history.  Though healing continued to be important in the early church, the story since that time – with a few exceptions – is one of steady decline until relatively modern times.  This coincided with the rise of medical healing.

From the accounts in the Gospels, we can get some idea of the range and power of Jesus’s healing ministry.  He was quite clear that his healing was the other half of his ministry.  He instructed his disciples to heal the sick and preach the Gospel.  Whether it was because the second part was easier, or the first part needed a greater discipline than his followers were prepared to attempt, the preaching gained ascendancy over the healing.  Or perhaps, as has been suggested, it was because of the increasing deification of Jesus.  If Jesus was the only son of God, then regardless of what he had asked us to do, we could not hope to follow his example.  Whatever the reason, the healing ministry only arose through a few saintly individuals and, with the increasing power of the church, it became dangerous for those not in holy orders to claim to heal the sick by prayer.  They might  – and many did – get tried for witchcraft.

George Fox had powerful gifts of healing and prayer, and there are a number of outstanding examples recorded in his Journal.  In fact, he was accused of being a witch several times.  He wrote a manuscript entitled, The Book of Miracles, which along with his other writings, he requested should be published after his death.  Possibly because the climate had changed, and the idea of healing miracles was not respectable, this was not done.  However, the existence of the manuscript was sufficiently well known for extracts from it to appear in the manuscript, Annual Catalogue, of Fox’s papers which appeared after his death.  From these and other sources, the Quaker historian, Henry J. Cadbury, assembled a reconstruction of the Book of Miracles which was published in 1948, and which lists over one hundred and fifty healing miracles attributed to Fox.

Spiritual healing and intercessory prayer have a very important place in Quaker practice.  Because early Friends saw themselves as reviving primitive Christianity, and because they were sure that the Christ within was a living reality, they were open to the ministry of healing.  Encouraged by this, and by the instructions of Jesus to pray for one another, many Quakers today try to give some time each day to thinking of those who are sick or otherwise in need of prayer.


As we open ourselves to become a channel of God’s healing
grace we shall find that healing is given to those who pray as

well as to those for whom we are praying.
(Jack Dobbs)

The most common form of healing prayer among Friends is the practice of “holding someone in the light.”  There are two main ways of doing this.  If we know the person, we can actually visualize them enfolded by the light of God’s love.  We can see this light permeating every aspect of their being, and filling any dark patches which might be seen as disease.  If we do not know them well enough for this, we can meditate on the light itself, knowing that the light that is within us is also within them, and accepting that God’s will for them is being fulfilled.  In fact, we have discovered that almost any form of meditation on the divine and its qualities, on God and his love or any similar approach will bring healing to those who are remembered in this way.

This is only one of the practices that Friends who are involved in the healing ministry use.  There is in Britain a Friends Fellowship of Healing who publish a wide range of literature on the subject.  Some Friends also practice personal healing on a one-to-one basis.  In this, they may use the technique of laying on of hands – either on the head or on the point of pain – which has been traditional in the Christian church since the time of Jesus, or they may sit quietly and just worship, pray, or meditate with someone.

The important thing to remember at all times is that we do not do the healing.  Furthermore, we do not of ourselves know how to, or even what to pray for.  While there are some Friends – particularly among Quakers in Africa and the USA – for whom inspired vocal prayer is a vital part of their healing process, this is used to help surrender the one needing prayer to the love of God.  It is not for the purpose of telling God what to do for a particular person.

In the many years I have been practicing spiritual healing – and I discovered this before I became a Quaker – I have been made aware that I too gain blessings from praying for others.  It is as if I am included in my own prayers, whether or not I seek it.  Another thing is that it helps me to remember my daily prayer and meditation.  If I was doing it solely for myself, I might easily forget, but if I have the responsibility of praying for others, it is easier to remember.  So are we blessed by giving blessings.

HOMILY: Three Movements Of The Christian Life, by Pope Francis

From Walking With Jesus

Homily for the Mass with the cardinals, March 14, 2013

In these three readings for today’s Mass, I see a common element: that of movement.  In the first reading, it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading, the movement of building the church; and in the third, in the Gospel, the movement involved in professing the faith.

Journeying.  “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord,” (Isaiah 2:5).  This is the first thing God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and live blamelessly.  Journeying: our life is a journey, and when we stop moving, things go wrong.  Always we are journeying, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with the blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.

Building.  We are building the church.  We speak of stones.  Stones are solid, but living stones are stones anointed by the Holy Spirit.  We are building the church, the bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself.  This is another kind of movement in our lives: building.

Professing.  We can walk as much as we want, and we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong.  We may become a charitable non-governmental organization but not the church, the bride of the Lord.  When we are not walking, we stop moving.  When we are not building on the stones, what happens?  The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sand castles: everything is swept away, there is no solidarity.  When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.”  When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.

Journeying, building, professing.  But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, and professing there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey, movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind.  The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ now says to him: You are the Christ, the son of the living God.  I will follow you, but let us not speak of the cross.  That has nothing to do with it.  I will follow you on other terms, but without the cross.  When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly.  We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

My wish is that all of us will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s cross; to build the church on the Lord’s blood, which was poured out on the cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified.  And in this way, the church will go forward.

My prayer for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, and to profess Jesus Christ crucified.

POETRY: New Heaven, New War, by Robert Southwell

Come to your heaven, you heavenly choirs,
Earth hath the heaven of your desires.
Remove your dwelling in your God;
A stall is now his best abode.
Since men their homage do deny,
Come, angels, all their fault supply.

His chilling cold doth heat require;
Come, seraphims, in lieu of fire.
This little ark no cover hath;
Let cherubs’ wings his body swathe.
Come, Raphael, this babe must eat;
Provide our little Toby meat.

Let Gabriel be now his groom,
That first took up his earthly room.
Let Michael stand in his defense,
Whom love hath linked to feeble sense.
Let graces rock when he doth cry,
And angels sing his lullaby.

The same you saw in heavenly seat
Is he that now sucks Mary’s teat;
Agnize your king a mortal wight,
His borrowed weed lets not your sight.
Come, kiss the manger where he lies,
That is your bliss above the skies.

This little babe, so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake,
For in this weak unarméd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field;
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need
And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitchéd in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall,
The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound
The angels’ trumps alarum sound.

My soul, with Christ join thou in fight
Stick to the tents that he hath pight;
Within his crib is surest ward,
This little babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy
Then flit not from this heavenly boy.

REFLECTION: Yea, Though We Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

The world around us is changing.  The dark forest that is war grows taller and denser.  The light of God is increasingly being blocked out.

We invite it more and more into our lives through our insistence on remaining ignorant to what is happening around us.

Four million refugees from Syria alone seek asylum somewhere else in the world.  Anywhere else in the world.  And countries compete to turn their face away from them.

Let the ocean swallow them up, the world seems to say.  Like our other trash.

Some people wait hungrily for ISIS to release another film of executing people.  They yell when their pleasure is delayed.  Free snuff films.  And legal to watch.  Some of the best pornography out there.

That’s where we are in the world.

Officially turning our backs on God.

God, the joke.

God, the mocked.

God, the fool.

And in our own country, walls blocking out God with our obsession with killing, are being built.  Not with federal funds, as some want to block out human beings in need, but with passion.  Passion for death.  For killing.

On the right side of the political sphere, the country has turned into one, giant video game of first-person shoot-em-up.  A not-so-virtual OK Corral, with bad guys and good guys, where only the bad guys do bad things.

Like the father who just shot his wife, his four children, and himself.  He’s one of the “bad” guys it seems.

Or the four-year-old who found a loaded gun and shot his mother dead.  Another real “bad” guy.

And even though there have only been four Muslim mass killings in the past decade (Fort Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, and Texas), pro-gun advocates claim that they are the problem. Only one of the 207 mass shootings this year alone has been done by a Muslim.

People on one side of the aisle laugh at the idea of disallowing American citizens the right to carry weapons that can mow down a small town in a matter of minutes.

It is, very clearly, a race war that we are not allowed to talk about.  Unless we want people to cast their vote for us, then it’s all good to talk about how we have to arm ourselves against the “bad” guys.

But that’s just the right.  That is getting louder and stronger in their defense of the now twisted Constitutional amendment that allows us an armed militia.

This is just an expansion on a very old theme.

It’s the left side of the aisle that has me completely flummoxed.

Currently, Congress is looking at a bill to criminalize the killing of a baby born during an abortion.  The corporation who commits such a procedure, Planned Parenthood, argues against this bill.  They write:

This bill would interfere with the sacred doctor-patient relationship and substitute a physician’s best judgment with that of a group of politicians.

Sacred.  They use the word, sacred.

Sacred means to be related to God, to that which is holy.

To Planned Parenthood, a woman discussing whether or not to kill her living, breathing, kicking, crying baby is having a sacred conversation.

I used to just be sardonic about how the right has its guns, and the left has its abortions.  So both sides are arguing for their freedom to kill.  The only difference between the two is that Democrats kill for profit.

Republicans just use their guns for the fun of it.  Unless they are angry.  Or forgot to put the safety on and sit down in a wrong way.

But then I started to notice things.

First it was the way that Planned Parenthood proponents defended the sanctity of their beloved institution.

Why should a questioning of a particular women’s health clinic’s methods bring people to tears?

Were another chain of women’s health clinics being questioned about their practices, would women jam the street with their posters and their fists?  Would Satanists perform ceremonies outside the doors of the clinics?

Would our politicians fight to keep funding them?

Planned Parenthood has had to close clinics because of fraudulent billing, financial malfeasance.   More than one of their clinics have had to pay hefty fines for the same thing.

Any other women’s health clinic would lose their privileged status with government funding just over that alone.

Abortionists in many states have been brought to trial for neglecting to inform the police when an underaged girl has come in to get an abortion.  And have been involved in trials where the little girls have been released to their abusers after the abortion.

Just to be raped and impregnated again.

You can tell this to Planned Parenthood’s supporters and what do they do?  Attack you.

You can show them proof.  Articles written about the trials.  The guilty findings.  And what do they do?  Attack you.

How dare you question the perfect work that Planned Parenthood performs?

Here is what one abortion doctor said about Deborah Nucatola, a Planned Parenthood director who is being accused of selling baby parts.

I’m thinking about a strong parallel between what’s happening to my colleague and the trial week of Jesus before he was crucified. As he was marched from place to place, asked to answer allegations about, “You say you’re the King of the Jews. What do you say?” (Willie Parker)

Planned Parenthood has become, unlike other women’s health clinics, its own religious institution.

People who work for Planned Parenthood give care and respect to those in need, doing God’s work. For this we are grateful. (The Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board)

I have, for a while, made the supposition that it is the taste of blood, of being part of a blood sacrifice that hooks the women.

Like the ISIS snuff videos.

Death.  Gory.  A body ripped to shreds.

Glorious, it appears to some.

Try telling a Planned Parenthood proponent that some women are profoundly traumatized by having an abortion.  That some kill themselves because they cannot get over their feelings of guilt.  That some shut down.  Begin to believe that they are no longer deserving of being loved.

And if you do that, you will be laughed at.  I have been.  Too many times to count.

“Those” women laugh at the idea that a woman can be anything other than delighted with the procedure.

There’s even a YouTube video of a teen girl “advertising” for Planned Parenthood and saying that abortion is something we all do.  It’s fun.  It’s great.  Go out and get pregnant just so you can have one!

The fight over gun control is essentially a race war.

But the fight over abortion is a war of religions.

Planned Parenthood supporters even taunt Christians.

What would Jesus say about abortion?  Nothing!  Ha. Ha. Ha.

And yet it’s funny.  People who don’t know about Jesus (and even those who claim they do) seem to forget that Jesus was born and was given the grace to live in the midst of the killing of the innocent babies.

Innocent babies.

Killed.  Not as a blood sacrifice, but as a preemptive strike against a potential enemy.

Kill him before he kills us.

Jesus is the baby who lived.

He rose up into life with the blood of innocent babies at his feet.

He lived as their representative in the world.

In today’s world, he would be an abortion survivor. 

Which, given Who He Is, says a great deal.

He was given the chance to live.  And to do his work.

Do people really imagine that he would be flippant about that?  Or uncaring?

And I think that more Christians need to remember just that.

That we are saved by the blood of Jesus, but he was saved once himself.

By the blood of innocent children.

So we need to remember the true nature of sacredness with reference to the blood of children, killed by a tyrant or by a tyrannical government.

We need to keep what is truly holy in our hearts at all times.


PRAYER: The Our Father, by John Wyclif

This is the Pater Noster:

Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your realm, or kingdomcome to you.  May your will be done on Earth as it is done in Heaven.  Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, that is our sinsas we forgive our debtors, that is men who have sinned against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen, so be it. (Matthew 6:9-13).

When we say, “our Father, who are in Heaven,” we are taught to love each other as brothers of a single Earthly father and mother do, and much more, since God is our Father who created us from nothing.  We are taught to live in meekness with one another, to desire Heavenly things like virtues and a holy life, and to do all our deeds, privately and publicly, for the honor of God and the bliss of Heaven.  Our life ought to be “in Heaven” in this way, through holy desire and perseverance.  Thus at the beginning we must be meek and loving to all men, both Christian and heathen, and to friends and enemies, otherwise we are not worthy to pray the Pater Noster.

When we say, “hallowed by your name,” we pray that we may be made holy and steadfast in virtues by the holy name of God and by his grace and virtue – that we may be holy by grace as God our Father is holy in himself.  In this petition we devoutly ask for steadfastness of faith, without which faith we cannot please God.  We pray that all kinds of pride, in thought, speech, deed, and all kinds of actions and appearances, be kept away from us, for such pride makes men into the children of Lucifer.  And we pray that all kinds of true meekness ground us against pride, for true meekness makes us God’s children.

When we say, “your kingdom, or realm, come to you,” we pray that all men and women living in this world who will be saved, and all those who have died, come to the bliss of Heaven as soon as God wills it, in order to see our blessed spouse Jesus Christ and have endless joy with him and his angels and saints.  For all angels and men and women who will be saved are God’s kingdom and holy church, and our Lord Jesus is king of this realm and head of this holy church.  All those who will be damned to hell are the devil’s church or synagogue, and the devil is their false prince and king, or rather their tyrant.  Here we ask for true hope and perseverance in order to have the bliss of Heaven by the mercy of our God and by our good life and by dying in perfect charity.  In this petition we pray that all cursed envy and hate be kept away from us and that all fervent charity toward God and our fellow Christians be so steadfastly rooted in us that it never fails in this life, no matter what.

When we say, “may your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we pray that we may do the will of God without error and without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), as the blessed angels always do in Heaven, and that we may do God’s will with full understanding and with great desire and joy and delight, not with complaints and heaviness of heart.  In this petition we ask that in all things our will may be conformed to God’s will, so that nothing may separate our will and our love from God, who is endlessly good and just.  And here we pray to acquire the high virtue of charity, without which all other things are not sufficient to bring us to Heaven.  And here we pray that in every way God will keep us from wicked desires for worldly goods, so that we do not offend against God’s commandments or good conscience either by acquiring or keeping worldly goods.  For he who gets or keeps his neighbor’s goods by breaking God’s commandments – for instance, by false oaths, false measures or weights, or any deceit – does not do God’s will but is a thief and traitor to God and his neighbors, according to God’s law.

When we say, “give us today our daily bread,” we pray for the sustenance necessary for our body, and to understand and keep God’s word, and especially God’s commandments, which are spiritual sustenance for our soul.  And we pray that we have gotten this sustenance by true means, not by robbery or extortion, or deceit; and that it be used in the service of God and the fear of God; and that we humbly give thanks to God for all of his grace and the gifts that he gives us out of his great generosity.  In this petition we pray to have the virtue of prudence, in order to know what sorts of sustenance are necessary and appropriate for us, and what we ought to do in return for God, and in what measure we should take this sustenance, in order that we may put aside all kinds of gluttony,, drunkenness, daintiness, and waste of food and drink.  For gluttony and drunkenness make men love their belly and their gullet more than God almighty, for they make their belly their false god, as Saint Paul says, (Philippians 3:19).

When we say, “and forgive us our debts, that is our sins, as we forgive our debtors, that is men who have trespassed against us,” we pray that God may have mercy on us as we have mercy on those who have angered us.  Certainly, if we have no mercy on those who trespass against us, then we pray against ourselves that God condemn us for our sins.  Here men must forgive their neighbors for their rancor, hate, and ill will toward them, but they may lawfully pursue worldly debts, so long as they do so by just means and retain their patience and charity.  And if men are poor and live justly and would gladly pay their debts, and if they work hard in truth to do so, and if they do not waste their few goods, then this prayer wishes that such poor men should not be imprisoned or punished but rather tolerated in patience and mercy until they can pay.  In this petition we pray to have the virtue of justice, to put aside unreasonable wrath and vengeance and to keep ourselves steadfast in true mercy and patience against anger and unreasonableness, so that reason and mercy may govern well all our stirrings of heart, speech, and actions.

When we say, “and lead us not into temptation,” we pray that God may not allow us, by withdrawing his grace and his help, to be overcome by the temptations of the devil, the world, and fleshly desires and evil delights.  It is beneficial to be tempted and to withstand temptations by the help of God and his angels, for thus is our merit and joy restored.  But it is evil to be overcome by temptation, and that will only happen by our own negligence, sloth, and false desire for sin.  Therefore, in this petition we pray to have the virtue of spiritual strength, to be strong by the help of the Holy Spirit against all temptations, and not to be obstinate in sin but to be diligent in holy prayers and good work and to bear in mind the shortness of the delight of sin and the bitter punishments of purgatory and hell.  And if we wish, we will overcome all our temptations with diligence and by remembering these things, since God’s grace and help is available, and we will acquire our crown in Heaven forever.

When we say, “but deliver us from evil,” we pray that God may deliver us from all the evils of sin and punishment, both of body and soul, in this life and also in purgatory, and especially from the punishment of hell, and that we might not despair of God’s mercy on account of our having been used to sinning in the past.  In this petition we pray to have the virtue of temperance, to take worldly goods and joys in such a way that we do not forget God in Heavenly bliss.  And we pray to temper the stirrings of our flesh, so that we do not touch any woman except in true and lawful matrimony and in fear of God and not like beasts without reason, who set about their lusts and forget God and all his works.  For the archangel Raphael taught Tobit that the devil has power over such men who dishonor the order of matrimony and act only according to their lusts and forget God and the fear of God and act as beasts without reason, (Tobit 6:16).

May God deliver us from all evil of sin, both hidden and public, especially from enduring in sin and despairing of God’s mercy, and from all bodily conflicts and vengeance and punishment, both in this life and in purgatory and hell.  And grant us, by correct faith, to receive Heavenly bliss and true and perfect charity.  So be it, Jesus, for your great mercy.

Certainly, this Pater Noster surpasses all other prayers in authority, wisdom, and benefit to both soul and body.  It is of the greatest authority, for our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, composed it and commanded Christians to say it.  But other prayers are composed by men and contain no other meaning than the Pater Noster, unless it is error.  Therefore, since Jesus Christ is more worthy than other sinful men, the Pater Noster is of more authority than prayers composed by other men, even if their prayers are good.  This Pater Noster is more profound than other prayers, for it is made of the endless wisdom and charity of Christ and contains all topics for thought that are necessary both for body and soul in this world and in the other.  Our Lord Jesus made it in few words and much wisdom, so that men should not be weighed down by it nor excuse themselves from knowing and saying it.  It is of the greatest benefit, for if a man says it well, he will lack nothing that is necessary and profitable for virtuous life in the world to bring men to Heaven to have endless bliss in body and soul.  Lord, how much they are to blame who busy themselves with prayers made by sinful men and neglect the Pater Noster, which is the best and easiest of all and contains all goods for the body and the soul.  Blessed be this endlessly good lord, who out of his endless wisdom and charity taught this short prayer.


VIOLENCE: War, by Thomas Merton

From Love and Living

Living in a world that is constantly at war, in an age when all war has become total war, we scarcely need an explanation of what war is.  And yet we are so familiar with it that we forget what it really is.  If we did not forget so easily, we would not be so ready to become involved in new ones.

The most obvious fact about war today is that while everyone claims to hate it, and all are unanimously agreed that it is our greatest single evil, there is little significant resistance to it except on the part of small minorities who, by the very fact of their protest, are dismissed as eccentric.  The awful fact is that though mankind fears war and seeks to avoid it, the fear is irrational and inefficacious.  It can do nothing against a profound unconscious proclivity to violence which seems, in fact, to be one of the most mysterious characteristics of man, not only in his individuality, but in his collective and social life.  War represents a vice that mankind would like to get rid of but which it cannot do without.  Man is like an alcoholic who knows that drink will destroy him but who always has a reason for drinking.  So with war.  And the best, most obvious, most incontrovertible reason for war is of course “peace.”  The motive for which men are led to fight today is that war is necessary to destroy those who threaten our peace!  It should be clear from this that war is, in fact, totally irrational, and that it proceeds to its violent ritual with the chanting of perfect nonsense.  Yet men not only accept this, they even go so far as to sacrifice their lives and their human dignity and to commit the most hideous atrocities, convinced that in so doing they are being noble,honest, self-sacrificing, and just.

The only possible conclusion is that man is so addicted to war that he cannot possibly deal with his addiction.  And yet if he does not learn to cope with it, the addiction will ruin him altogether.

Instead of dealing in abstractions, let us begin by considering the typical and concrete act of war: the destruction of Dresden, by the English and Americans, in the Second World War.

First of all, it must be remembered that considerably more people were killed in this bombing raid than in the atom bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  In wave after wave of bombers, the defenseless city of Dresden was systematically pulverized and reduced to ashes by so-called conventional weapons – which no longer excite any special interest on the part of casuists today.

Second, Dresden was not what one could call a military target, and in any case, the bombers paid no special attention to the industrial plants in and around the city.  They concentrated on the city itself and the residential areas.  In so doing, they obtained what someone referred to as a “bonus” in extra victims, since the city was filled with refugees flying from the Russian Army in the east.

Third, the bombing of Dresden was not necessary, nor was it even from a military point of view particularly useful.  Dresden was bombed for purely political reasons, glossed over, perhaps with arguments for military expediency.

In a word, this ferocious and massive act of destruction was nothing but a calculated atrocity, perpetrated for the effect that it might have on the Russian ally.  But as ever in such cases, it was rationalized as an inescapable necessity.

It will be seen that anyone who willingly participates in modern warfare sooner or later commits himself to cooperation in acts like this.

For this reason, Pope John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris, declared that war was no longer to be considered a rational method of settling international disputes (since it obviously settles nothing at all), and the Second Vatican Council called for an entirely new evaluation of war on the part of all the men of our time, in the realization that we will all be called upon to account for our acts of war and the future will depend on the decisions we make today.  The Council added:

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself.  It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

The arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree.  It is much to be feared that, if this race persists, it will eventually spawn all the lethal ruin whose path it is now making possible.  Divine Providence urgently demands of us that we free ourselves from the age-old slavery of war.  It is our clear duty therefore to strain every muscle in working for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent.

What the Council has said is, of course, quite obvious to reason.  But we repeat, the trouble is that war is not made by reason, its conduct is not governed by reason.  To appeal against war to reason is to make an appeal that cannot have any serious effect on the war makers themselves.

Though sustaining itself by a massive pseudologic of its own, war is, in fact, a complete suspension of reason.  This is at once its danger and the source of its immense attraction.  War is by its nature supposed to be the “last resort” when, all reasoning having failed, men must turn to force to decide their differences.  The moral problem of war does not begin when men have finally resorted to force.  The root problem of war is the occult determination to resort to force in any case, and the more or less conscious self-frustration of any show of “reason” in settling the problem that will eventually be decided by the ordeal of force.  The awful danger of war is, then, not so much that force is used when reason has broken down but that reason unconsciously inhibits itself beforehand (in all the trivialities of political and military gamesmanship) in order that it may break down, and in order that resort to force may become “inevitable.”

This demonic psychological mechanism behind war is at once the fault of everybody and of nobody.  The individuals who make the actual decisions are convinced that they are acting seriously and responsibly, and indeed they can convincingly display the anguish they feel in their awful situation.  The public applauds their sacrifice and clamors for guns and ammunition.  And yet: when examined dispassionately by the historian, it may often be seen how “inevitable” wars could fairly easily have been avoided.  If only whole nations had not been ready to fight, if only empires had not thirsted for blood and revenge, if only the commanders had not been all too eager for a pretext to launch another campaign!

The real problem of war is, then, not to be found in this or that special way in which force is grossly abused, but in the instinct for violence and for resort to force which has become inveterate in the human race.  Is this something that man can learn to change?  If so, how does he go about it?  What should he do?  Where should the study of this dreadful problem begin?  Who can say?

Perhaps our first problem is to get rid of the illusion that we know the answer.

POETRY: Reverie, by Robert Browning

I know there shall dawn a day
—Is it here on homely earth?
Is it yonder, worlds away,
Where the strange and new have birth,
That Power comes full in play?

Is it here, with grass about,
Under befriending trees,
When shy buds venture out,
And the air by mild degrees
Puts winter’s death past doubt?

Is it up amid whirl and roar
Of the elemental flame
Which star-flecks heaven’s dark floor,
That, new yet still the same,
Full in play comes Power once more?

Somewhere, below, above,
Shall a day dawn—this I know—
When Power, which vainly strove
My weakness to o’erthrow,
Shall triumph. I breathe. I move.

I truly am, at last!
For a veil is rent between
Me and the truth which passed
Fitful, half-guessed, half-seen,
Grasped at—not gained, held fast.

I for my race and me
Shall apprehend life’s law:
In the legend of man shall see
Writ large what small I saw
In my life’s tale: both agree.

As the record from youth to age
Of my own, the single soul—
So the world’s wide book: one page
Deciphered explains the whole
Of our common heritage.

How but from near to far
Should knowledge proceed, increase?
Try the clod ere test the star!
Bring our inside strife to peace
Ere we wage, on the outside, war!

So, my annals thus begin:
With body, to life awoke
Soul, the immortal twin
Of body which bore soul’s yoke
Since mortal and not akin.

By means of the flesh, grown fit,
Mind, in surview of things,
Now soared, anon alit
To treasure its gatherings
From the ranged expanse—to-wit.

Nature,—earth’s, heaven’s wide show
Which taught all hope, all fear:
Acquainted with joy and woe,
I could say “Thus much is clear,
Doubt annulled thus much: I know.

“All is effect of cause:
As it would, has willed and done
Power: and my mind’s applause
Goes, passing laws each one,
To Omnipotence, lord of laws.”

Head praises, but heart refrains
From loving’s acknowledgement.
Whole losses outweigh half-gains:
Earth’s good is with evil blent:
Good struggles but evil reigns.

Yet since Earth’s good proved good—
Worth loving—I understood
How evil—did mind descry
Power’s object to end pursued—

Were haply as cloud across
Good’s orb, no orb itself:
Mere mind—were it found at loss
Did it play the tricksy elf
And from life’s gold purge the dross?

Power is known infinite:
Good struggles to be—at best
Seems—scanned by the human sight,
Tried by the senses’ test—
Good palpably: but with right

Therefore to mind’s award
Of loving, as power claims praise?
Power—which finds naught too hard,
Fulfilling itself all ways
Unchecked, unchanged: while barred.

Baffled, what good began
Ends evil on every side.
To Power submissive man
Breaths “E’en as Thou art, abide!”
While to good “Late-found, long-sought,

“Would Power to a plenitude
But liberate, but enlarge
Good’s straight confine,—renewed
Where ever the heart’s discharge
Of loving!” Else doubts intrude.

For you dominate, stars all!
For a sense informs you—brute,
Bird, worm, fly, great and small,
Each with your attribute
Or low or majestical!

Thou earth that embosomest
Offspring of land and sea—
How thy hills first sand to rest,
How thy vales bred herb and tree
Which dizen they mother-breast—

Do I ask? “Be ignorant
Ever!” the answer clangs:
Whereas if I plead world’s want,
Soul’s sorrows and body’s pangs,
Play the human applicant,—

Is a remedy far to seek?
I question and find response:
I—all men, strong or weak,
Conceive and declare at once
For each want its cure. “Power, speak

“Stop change, avert decay,
Fix life fast, banish death,
Eclipse from the star bid stay,
Abridge of no moment’s breath
One creature! Hence, Night, hail, Day!”

What need to confess again
No problem this to solve
By impotence? Power, once plain
Proved Power,—let on Power devolve
Good’s right to co-equal reign!

Past mind’s conception—Power!
Do I seek how star, earth, beast,
Bird, worm, fly, gained their dower
For life’s use, most and least?
Back from the search I cower.

Do I seek what heals all harm,
Nay, hinders the harm at first,
Saves earth? Speak, Power, the charm!
Keep the life there unamerced
By change, change, death’s alarm!

As promptly as mind conceives,
Let Power in its turn declare
Some law which wrong retrieves,
Abolishes everywhere
What thwarts, what irks, what grieves!

Never to be! and yet
How easy it seems—to sense
Like man’s—if somehow met
Power with its match—immense
Love, limitless, unbeset

By hindrance on every side!
Conjectured, nowise known,
Such may be: could man confide
Such would match—were Love but shown
Stript of the veils that hide—

Power’s self now manifest!
So reads my record: thine,
O world, how runs it? Guessed
Were the purport of that prime line,
Prophetic of all the rest!

“In the beginning God
made heaven and earth.” Forth flashed
Knowledge: from star to clod
Man knew things: doubt abashed
Closed its long period.

Knowledge obtained Power praise.
Had Good been manifest,
Broke out in cloudless blaze,
Unchequered as unrepressed,
In all things Good at best—

Then praise—all praise—no blame—
Had hailed the perfection. No!
As Power’s display, the same
Be Good’s—praise forth shall flow
Unisonous in acclaim!

Even as the world its life,
So have I lived my own—
Power seen with Love at strife,
That sure, this dimly shown,
—Good rare and evil rife.

Whereof the effect be—faith
That, some far day, were found
Ripeness in things now rathe,
Wrong righted, each chain unbound,
Renewal born out of scathe.

Why faith—but to lift the load,
To leaven the lump, where lies
Mind prostrate through knowledge owed
To the loveless Power it tries
To withstand, how vain! In flowed

Ever restless fact:
No more than the passive clay
Disputes the potter’s act,
Could the whelmed mind disobey
Knowledge the cataract.

But, perfect in every part,
Has the potter’s moulded shape,
Leap of man’s quickened heart,
Throe of his thought’s escape,
Stings of his soul which dart

Through the barrier of flesh, till keen
She climbs from the calm and clear.
Through turbidity all between,
From the known to the unknown here,
Heaven’s “Shall be,” From Earth’s “Has been”?

Then life is—to wake not sleep,
Rise and not rest, put press
From earth’s level where blindly creep
Things perfected, more or less,
To the heaven’s height, far and steep,

Where, amid what strifes and storms,
May wait the adventurous quest,
Power is Love—transports, transforms
Who aspired from worst to best,
Sought the soul’s world, spurned the worms’.

I have faith such end shall be:
From the first, Power was—I knew.
Life has made clear to me
That, strive but for closer view,
Love were as plain to see.

When see? When there dawns a day,
If not on the homely earth,
Then yonder, worlds away,
Where the strange and new have birth,
And Power comes full in play.


At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time,
When you set your fancies free,
Will they pass to where—by death, fools think, imprisoned—
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so,
—Pity me?

Oh to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken!
What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly?
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break.
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

No, at noonday in the bustle of man’s work-time
Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be,
“Strive and thrive!” cry “Speed—fight on, fare ever
There as here!”

PRAYER: A Psalm Of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow.
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing.
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

POETRY: Earthquake (Isaiah 52), by Thomas Merton

Go tell the earth to shake
And tell the thunder
To wake the sky

And tear the clouds apart
Tell my people to come out
And wonder

Where the old world is gone
For a new world is born
And all my people
Shall be one

So tell the earth to shake
With marching feet

Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race.

For the old wrongs are over
The old days are gone
A new world is rising
where my people shall be one.

So tell the earth to shake
With marching feet
Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race.

And say
The old wrongs are over
The old ways are done
There shall be no more hate

And no more war
My people shall be one.

So tell the earth to shake
With marching feet
Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race.

For the old world is ended
The old sky is torn Apart.
A new day is born
They hate no more

They do not go to war
My people shall be one

So tell the earth to shake
With marching feet
Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race.

There shall be no more hate
And no more oppression
The old wrongs are done
My people shall be one.

REFLECTION: Lying With Death

When my children were small, we had a general yearly plan for them.  School, friends, choir, soccer, and all things that belonged to these kind of activities were done there at home in Maryland. Free time was in Maine. Except for a while, my family came down on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was, for a while, “home base” for those kind of formal occasions.

But anytime there was a week here or there, and most especially when summertime came, then we shot home to Maine to relax and be foolish.  Not competent.  Not studious.  Just time walking dogs, picking through rocks on the different shores, eating ice cream, and watching old, stupid movies.

It became a real quandary for me, though, when I realized that spring vacation in Maine was more a punishment than a treat.  Maine has an official term for that time of year: mud season.  In fact, it’s considered a real season.  Spring is usually relegated to Memorial Day Weekend.  After which came summer.  Which could be a time of still wearing footed pajamas and sitting in front of the fire.

It might be more fun to stay in Maryland during that time and see flowers blooming, etc., but how does one stop being fully active and actually relax in your own home?


One year I had a series of visions.  My grandmother, they showed me, would not be alive the following summer.  The time when most other family members congregated there.  For the lobster, the sea air, and, well, the great expanse of non-productive time that Maine offers.   She might not even be alive at the time of spring break.

The visions came and came and came.  I lived quite in the mystical closet at the time, but I decided to brave it, and I alerted my family members, warning them to make time in their schedules to get to Maine before the spring and say good-bye to the woman who had always insisted, most aggravatingly, on keeping her fingers in everyone else’s business.

Oh, pshaw, they responded.  Don’t be stupid.  Or melodramatic.  Or whatever.

I shrugged.  I felt my visions, so consistent, so insistent, could be trusted.  So I arranged my children’s schedule so that we could go to Maine for the Christmas holiday and stay perhaps a few more weeks.

Changing things around officially, me calling off hosting Christmas, caused much consternation.  But I didn’t care.  I was committed to going and seeing and serving my grandmother as a way of saying farewell.

So we went.  My children and I.  And we stayed.

And what I saw there shocked me.  It still shocks me, although recently I have come to understand what I saw better.

Death was already there.  Ahead of me.

I whispered my plans and why I made them to my mother.  She did not slap me down.  Instead, one day, she pointed out the back window, to the picnic table on the back porch.  On it there was a mound of snow.  My mother said, Look, a coffin.

And that’s exactly what it looked like.  Sitting there.  Serene.  Solid.  Confident.

But it was my grandmother’s behavior that revealed to us all what was happening.

Her personality had completely changed.  Instead of a somewhat easygoing (if a British matriarch can ever be considered easygoing) personality, trying to please people while controlling their every breath, there was an enraged woman.  She had been a lifelong vegetarian, but this was the only time no one could cook any meat in her kitchen.  And I was going through a period of extreme anemia at the time, a condition that wasn’t responding to anything other than eating meat.  Three times a day.

Didn’t matter.  If I wanted to eat meat, I had to find it elsewhere.  So out we went to forage the Maine woods for sustenance.  (Which just meant driving down the road to Moody’s Diner.)

And she argued with death.  In her sleep.  From her bedroom, she was so loud, we could hear throughout the house.  And the nights that, exhausted by her anger and frustration, she fell asleep on the couch, we could even hear exactly what she was saying.

It was no calm chess match.  It was a screaming fight to the finish.

My grandmother was a woman who didn’t believe in illness.  When I vomited from eating shellfish as a child, I didn’t do it because I was allergic to shellfish, I did it to get attention.

My grandmother believed firmly that if she wasn’t ill, then no one else was ill.  Illness was an illusion.

And here she was, at 93, with a body that was doing things she couldn’t control.  She couldn’t even explain.

Death had come.  Death had sat down next to her and touched her hand.  Death had stirred her body to respond to it.

Death was calling her.

And my grandmother was having none of it.

What shocked me was the level of rage she communicated.  Every day.  Every night.

No walking gentle into that good night.

And, as the visions had shown me, she did die.  Before spring vacation.  Before summer.

Before anyone else in the family could say, We will miss you.

She died.

So when the doctors in 2012 told me I only had a few months to live, not really thinking of my grandmother’s response, not comparing myself to her, I thought myself quite spiritually superior when I calmly accepted the death sentence.  I was happy about it, in fact.  My life had been what my life had been.  My children were grown.  There was nothing here to keep me, really.  I had time to make sure all my library books had been returned, and my affairs were in order.

I could see myself just lying down and dying.  I was anxious, even, for it to happen.

As the months rolled by and my death sentence was lifted, I was still being treated.  And one night, having reacted horrifically to the medicine I had been taking all day, I lay down so weak and worn out I really did think I was going to die that night.  And it felt sweet and peaceful.

And, yet, when I awoke the next morning, the sweetness of seeing the sunlight and hearing the birds thrilled me.  It was like life kissed me that morning, and I responded with joy.

But then came now.

As my doctor stood over me and declared me to be on death’s doorstep.  Again.

I knew this time he was completely wrong.  I was fine.  I knew that I was fine.  There was nothing unfine about me.

But he was the doctor.  And I thought I should at least find out what was what.

But, see, I really was allergic to seafood as a child.  I did vomit it up when I ate it.  I was told by a doctor when I was a young woman that it was a potentially fatal poisoning, and I had to stop sneaking marinated mussels and waiting for the nausea to go away.

This is to say, I am someone with a very serious allergy to seafood, and yet I ate it all the time I was growing up.

It’s an accumulative poisoning.  Enough of the poison and I’m dead.

Well, in 2012, to track exactly how and why I was dying I was forced to take a test.

That pumped me full of the kind of iodine that occurs in shellfish.

The shock and fear of taking this test I felt was overwhelming all on its own.  But having to physically suffer from being poisoned was a lot to bear.  Even then.

So here I was.  Being told I had to do it all over again.

Surrender to the poisoning.

This time, though, they were ready for me.

I was told that I was a unique case.  That not many people with serious allergies actually grow up eating the food that poisons them.

They took it quite seriously.

But I lay down on the table.

I had survived the first time.  I would survive this time.

The difference was, because I was told I was in the throes of death last time, I had carved out a time of peace and solitude for myself.  I wasn’t expected anywhere.  To do anything.

This time, I am older.  I am much more active.  I am expecting a lot from myself these days.

So first, the steroids I was given to block any immediate reaction wore off, leaving my body to fight the toxins surging through my body.

My heart beat so much that my bed reacted to it, as though a cat were walking up and down on it.  Gently came the response of the mattress to my heart’s beating.  But it was there.

I spent my days in unconsciousness, and my nights sitting on the toilet.  Praying for something to happen.  But my body had stopped working.  Stopped flowing.  I was a breathing stone.

I could barely eat.  Barely stand up straight.

So when I was conscious I read.  I read mysteries about a young widow in Scotland solving mysteries around great estates filled with ladies and gentlemen who rode horses in the morning and sipped tea in the afternoon.  I can remember the detail about the women’s clothing.  Men were described as being “in kit” in the evening, and being decked out in riding clothes during the day.

When the time of semi-consciousness passed it was time for the toxins to come out of my body.

I felt like I literally had a lightening storm going on inside my own body.  Blood flowed out of me.  And not from the expected place.

I wondered, again and again, if I should turn myself over to the hospital.

But I couldn’t even organize that.  I couldn’t even ask for help.

And it was then that I saw it.

The rage.

The all-consuming fury that burned my body even worse than the toxins did.

I remembered my grandmother.

But I wasn’t fighting with death.

All the tests, even the potentially lethal one, showed that I was right.

I was not dying.

And that was one part of my rage.

I had to endure this for nothing.

Because a doctor, yet again, would not listen to me.  Not hear that my body does do its own thing.  Always has.  You can’t judge what my body does by what your books tell you.  By your assumptions.

But that wasn’t the only source of my anger.

I don’t know why but this time around, this time of my being held in the arms of death, waltzing around my life, I saw no one around me.

No one and nothing.

There were people asking me how I was doing, if they could anything for me, I know.  I remember.

But in my swirling around, holding my ballroom skirt up so I wouldn’t trip on the hem, I saw that my ballroom was empty.

There was no one there save death and I.

Perhaps this perspective has to do with the gap I’ve felt between myself and others since my first vision.

Perhaps I had always allowed my closeness with God to take the place of really feeling aligned with others.

Whatever it was that caused this view of life, it angered me more than I could express.

But then it settled into something: into an awareness that my “new” assignment from God has made me feel alone.  Cut off from the rest of the world.

Abandoned and lost in the wilderness.

And this experience with death was my portal into this new reality of mine.

I have to find my way now.

And I don’t know where to start.

Perhaps I should go back and do foolish things.  Walk.  Pick up stones.  Eat ice cream.

I don’t really know what else to do.

All I know is that God is expecting me to do something.


HEALING: Listening To The Hound’s Howls

It was that time in my life when, though not exactly a time that I want to forget, exactly, but, rather, the time that never really existed for me.

A shadow time. A time of not existing.

I had had my first vision before I had ever had my first school lesson. And so it went. Happily, really. Intensely, certainly.

Until the call vision.

Julia, come do your work.

But I was seventeen.  I was aware of my budding womanhood.  And of the potentially budding world around me.

So I said, No.

I want to be normal.

I said.


None of this vision nonsense any more.

And I took up my stick with my bandanna full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches tied tightly inside, hoisted it onto my shoulder and walked out and into the world.

To be normal.

So now, years later, like gifts being parachuted down to Earth from God to me, they fall into my life.

Friends, they call themselves.

Shadows, I think of them.

Some I acknowledge and greet, pretending most of the time to know them, recognize them, remember them.

Some I don’t. And just let them fade back into the background.

Like a ring around me they form.

Smiling, mostly.

Confused at my awkwardness.

My stammering.

Who are you? And what do you want with me?

But that’s not the accepted or anticipated response from a friend.

An old friend.

A close friend.

I’m to jump with joy.  Clap my hands.  Strew flowers on the path between us.

Instead I weep.

It is too much for me.

To go back to that time.

To make reality out of the shadows.

To remember.

Who I was.

But, mostly, who I wasn’t.

I wasn’t normal.

Not then.

Not now.

But they just don’t expect me to join with them in remembering the good old days.

They also bring a light that I can use to see with.

See into the shadows.

Behind them.

Around them.

Around me.

And I see the box that I created around myself.

The box that caused the darkness that plunged my life into shadow.

Sealed walls.  Tight corners.

My box.

I suppose, in reality, I wanted to be in that box alone.

But that’s not how life goes.

There are people.  Hands.  Faces.  Laughter.

Fireflies lighting my way through the darkness.

Gifts from God, I suppose.  Letting me know that in spite of my wish to be alone, that I was not going to get my way.

I was going to have friends.

People to watch out for me.  Not let me get lost in the darkness.  Not let me fall off the edge.

Mostly, during that time I learned how to walk away from them.

I want to say it was because I wanted to keep the door between us closed so they wouldn’t find out my secret and then slam the door closed, slamming my nose.  My toes.

But that’s a lie.

I wanted the door closed because I was afraid that if it stayed open, I would reveal myself to them.  Tell them my story.

My truth.

Want to know what God says about that?

And what if my revelation was met with respect?

What then?

Then I would have to be me.

Instead, I searched out and found those people who couldn’t see me.  Couldn’t see me if their life depended on it.

So I could bring the structure of the shadowland into the relationship with me and feel safe.

So I learned how to say good-bye to my friends, and hello to those I might even call my enemies.

I preferred enemies, really.

I wanted to not be so strongly that I created a life in which I could feel dead.

And yet be still alive.

And people wonder why I really don’t want to remember that time.

How that felt.

Standing in the shadows.  Not being seen.  Not being heard.

I think my greatest goal was to die and be left on the roadside.


Achieving nothing.  But mostly, achieving the ultimate state of being nobody.

To anybody.

Learning the art of not existing.

And now having to see that about me.

I understand the ways of healing.

But this is new to me.

Being dissected.  Having pieces picked out of me and shown to me.

What kind of surgeon does that?

Showing the diseased kidney to the patient?

But this is what God is doing to me these days.

Here, look at you back then.

Photo albums from hell.

Except they are from God.

When God, the Hound of Heaven, howls, is it the howls of hunger?  Or of laughter?

Or of warning?

Warning that he is closing in.

That it’s time for me to really start paying attention.

That no moment of my life is safe from his prying eyes, his fidgeting fingers, his ever-healing impulse.

It kind of makes me understand why, so many years ago, I looked for a time of shadows.

Out of the light.

Out of the way.


CREATION: Natural Knowledge Of God Is “Natural,” by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

From Trinity and Revelation

Both common sense and Christian tradition have always believed that the “traces” of God are to be found in the world God created.  This intuition can even be placed in a wider framework in the history of religions and of cultures: “The idea that a transcendent reality can be known or at least intimated through the mundane has a long history and is not a specifically religious idea.” (Alister McGrath)  To say that common sense and Christian intuition have posited the existence of God on the basis of the created order is not to say that the expressed doctrine of natural theology has always been a pedigree of Christian theology.  Indeed, “natural theology – as this notion would now be understood – is a recent invention.” (Alister McGrath)

When compared to typical systematic presentations, it may seem odd for talk about natural revelation and natural theology to come so late, almost at the end of the discussion of the doctrine of revelation.  Isn’t it the norm to divide the doctrine of revelation into two parts – general and special revelation – and then to speak of the former first?  While that approach is possible and in many ways useful, the reason for the current choice of order has to do with the marginalized – almost exclusively preparatory – role assigned to natural theology in modern theology.  Indeed, there are theological traditions such as neo-orthodoxy in which natural theology has a hard time getting a word into the dogmatic discussion, apart from when it’s critiqued.  The thesis of this discussion argues for both the possibility and the need for a robust Christian natural theology and that, whatever preparatory role (in relation to special revelation) it may play, natural theology is an essential part of the polymorphous doctrine of revelation.  Indeed, it will be argued that natural theology is not “natural” in the sense that it wouldn’t be part of the divine revelation.  Similar to the doctrine of revelation in general, which is thoroughly and robustly trinitarian, the discussion of natural theology in this project concerns itself with “the dynamics of a trinitarian natural theology.” (Alister McGrath)

Important here is how one understands the category of “nature.”  Whereas for common sense “nature” seems to be a self-evident concept, it is not necessarily so when subjected to scrutiny.  It is socially constructed.  However, this does not make impossible the theological evaluation of nature – not at all.  The acknowledgement of the socially constructed idea of “nature” rather opens the door for a robustly Christian understanding of nature.  For Christian theology, nature is “creation.”  All Christian talk about natural theology rejects the idea of the autonomy of nature, either as in creation or as in human nature. For Christian theology, all nature is contingent and derives from God.  Hence also, all natural knowledge and natural theology are based on God, and God alone.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the “natural” knowledge of God by human beings created in the image of God was not contested.  Biblical passages such as Psalm 19, Romans 1:19-21, and Acts 17:16-34, among others, seemed to affirm it unequivocally.  Said Athanasius: “For by means of the creation itself, the Word reveals God the Creator; and by means of the world does he declare the Lord the maker of the world; and by means of the formation of man the artificer who formed him.”  In Aquinas’s theology, natural knowledge of God was, of course, an important theme, as it was in Calvin’s.  Even Luther, who was also critical of perversions of natural knowledge of God prior to revelation in Christ, took the natural knowledge of God for granted, even among the idolaters.  The Swedish botanist Carl von Linné of the eighteenth century saw clearly the vestiges of God.  English natural theology came to its zenith in William Paley’s Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity in the beginning of the nineteenth century (1802).

In contemporary theology, Dei Verbum‘s formulation expresses well this confidence in wider Christian tradition: “God, who through the Word creates all things (see John 1:3) and keeps them in existence, gives men an enduring witness to himself in created realities, (see Romans 1:19-20).”  Whereas criticism of the idea of natural theology began from the time of Friedrich  Schleiermacher, before Karl Barth the natural knowledge of God was not contested.  Even Barth, of course, did not categorically contest the notion of some kind of natural knowledge of God; he just did not take it for a revelation and, rather than making it an asset, considered it a major obstacle to the saving knowledge of God.

POETRY: The Brown Forest, by Robinson Jeffers

I entered the life of the brown forest
And the great life of the ancient peaks, the patience of stone,
I felt the changes in the veins
In the throat of the mountain…
and I was the stream
Draining the mountain wood; and I the stag drinking;
and I was the stars,
Boiling with light, wandering alone, each one the lord of his
own summit; and I was the darkness
Outside the stars, I included them, they were part of me.
I was mankind also, a moving lichen
On the cheek of the round stone…they have not made words for it,
to go behind things, beyond hours and ages,
And be all things in all time, in their returns and passages,
in the motionless and timeless center,
In the white of the fire…how can I express the excellence
I have found, that has no color but clearness;
No honey but ecstasy; nothing wrought nor remembered;
no undertone nor silver second murmur
That rings in love’s voice.

POETRY: The Indwelling Presence, by William Wordsworth

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world.

CREATION: The Sacramental Approach, by John F. Haught

From The Promise of Nature

The beginnings of such a change are now taking place in what I shall call the sacramental approach to Christian ecological theology.  This second type focuses less on normative religious texts or historical revelation than does the apologetic approach, and more on the allegedly sacral quality of the cosmos itself.  It is more willing to acknowledge the revelatory character of nature.  It comes in a variety of theological forms ranging from what has been called “natural theology,” which focuses on the apparent evidence for God’s existence in nature, to the cosmic spirituality of Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox and their followers.  It is also found, in different ways and degrees, in non-Christian religions, as well as in the spirituality of ecofeminists and some so-called “deep ecologists.”

In its typical form this sacramental approach interprets the natural world as the primary symbolic disclosure of God.  Religious texts and traditions are still important, but the cosmos itself is the primary medium through which we come to know the sacred.  Today the sacramental approach usually accommodates evolutionary theory and aspects of contemporary physics.  It embraces a holistic view of the Earth as an organism comprised of a delicately balanced web of interdependent relationship.  Rejecting mechanism, it regards the entire universe organismically, that is, as an intricate network of dynamic interconnections in which all aspects are internal to each other.  Hence, it also places particular emphasis on the continuity of humans with the rest of the natural world.

Accordingly, it views our spiritual traditions not as activities that we humans “construct” on the face of the Earth, but as functions that the cosmos performs through us.  According to Thomas Berry, for example, the universe is the primary subject, and humanity is one of many significant developments of the universe.  Cultures and religions are simply natural extensions of he cosmic process rather than unnatural creations of lonely human exiles on Earth.

In the Christian context today I think this revisionist approach finds its most compelling expression in what has been called “creation-centered” theology.  As the prime example of our second type it goes beyond the apologetic variety of environmental theology by arguing that our present circumstances require a whole new interpretation of what it means to be Christian.  In the face of the environmental crisis it will not do simply to take more seriously our inherited texts and teachings.  These are still important, but they must be carefully sifted and reinterpreted in terms of a cosmological, relational, nonhierarchical, nonpatriarchal, nondualistic, and more organismic understanding of the universe.  We must pay more attention to the sacral quality of the universe and not place such a heavy burden on premodern religious texts to give us the foundations of our environmental ethic.

In Christian circles this creation-centered outlook accepts the doctrines of the creed but gives them a cosmological interpretation.  It may be helpful to look briefly at several of the results of its recosmologizing of traditional Christian teachings.

  1. As the label suggests, this new theology emphasis brings the biblical theme of creation to the center of theology instead of subordinating it, as it has been in the past, to the theme of redemption.  Theology’s focusing primarily on the redemption of a “fallen” world has distracted us form an adequate reverencing of the intrinsic goodness of nature.  Moreover, our understanding of redemption has been too anthropocentric.  We have been so obsessed with overcoming our human sinfulness and suffering, that we have forgotten about the travail of nature as a whole.

  2. Creation-centered theology also argues that we need a correspondingly broader understanding of that from which we are said to be redeemed, namely, sin.  It insists that sin means not just our estrangement from God or from each other, but also the present condition of severe alienation of the cosmos from ourselves.  Reconciliation then implies not only the restoration of human communion but, just as fundamentally, our reintegration with the Earth-community and the whole of the universe.  In order to experience this reconciliation we must abandon all forms of religious dualism which have sanctioned our self-distancing from nature.

  3.  Creation-centered theology insists also that we need to rethink what we mean by revelation.  Revelation is not just God’s self-manifestation in history, let alone the communication of divine information in propositional form.  We need to think of revelation in more cosmic terms.  The universe itself is the primary revelation.  In its 15 billion-year evolution the cosmos is the most fundamental mode of the unfolding of divine mystery.  The mystery of God is revealed gradually in the evolution of matter, life, human culture, and the religions of the world (and not just in biblical religions either).  Viewed in terms of cosmic evolution our religions can no longer be explained or explained away as simple heartwarming gestures that estranged humans engage in on an alien terrain as we look toward some distant far-off eternity.  Rather, religions are something that the universe does through us as it seeks to disclose its mysterious depths.  The fact of there being a plurality of religions is in perfect keeping with evolution’s extravagant creation of variety and difference.  Hence, an ecological spirituality should be no less committed to preserving the plurality of religions in the world than it is to the salvaging of biodiversity.  We should lament the loss of religious diversity since religions are also products of cosmic evolution and just as deserving of conservation as the multiple species of plants and animals.

  4.  Viewing things in this cosmological way, creation-centered theology appreciates both ancient and modern efforts to understand the Christ also as a cosmic reality, and not simply as a personal historical savior.  Cosmic Christology, already present in ancient Christian theology, needs to be recovered today in terms of an evolutionary and ecological worldview.  The entire cosmos (and not just human society) is the body of Christ.  A cosmic Christology then provides the deepest foundations of a distinctively Christian environmental spirituality.  And in keeping with this cosmic Christology the eucharistic celebration ideally represents the healing not only of severed human relationships, but also of the entire universe.

  5. The theological experiment of creation-centered theology culminates in an ecological understanding of God.  Here the trinitarian God is the supreme exemplification of ecology, a term which refers to the study of relationships.  Creation in the image of God then means that the world itself has being only to the extent that, like God, it exists in relationship.  An ecological theology is congruent both with contemporary science and the classic doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine which renounces the idea that God exists only in isolated aseity.

  6.  This ecological contextualization of Christian teaching leads us in the direction of a whole new spirituality.  Creation-centered theology encourages an enjoyment of the natural world as our true home.  Traditional spiritualities, often characterized by a discomfort with bodily existence, received parallel expression simultaneously in the sense of humanity’s fundamental homelessness in nature.  The classic texts of Christianity have unfortunately been tainted by a dualistic bias that has sanctioned our hostility toward nature and the body.  For this reason a purely apologetic type of environmental theology is inadequate, for it is not sufficiently alert to such ideological flaws in the classic sources.

  7.  Moreover, an ecological spirituality requires its own kind of asceticism.  This asceticism prescribes a renunciation not of the natural world but of the Enlightenment ideal of autonomous, isolated selfhood.  It subjects us to the arduous discipline of taking into full account the fact of our being inextricably tied into a wider Earth-community.  A full life, one in which we acknowledge our complex relation to the universe, widens our sense of responsibility toward ourselves and others.  Above anything else, this means adopting a continually expanding posture of inclusiveness toward all otherness that we encounter, including the wildness of the natural world.

  8.  Creation-centered spirituality in turn inspires a restructuring of Christian ethics in terms of an environmental focus.  Ethics cannot be grounded only in the classic moral traditions which usually left the welfare of the cosmos out of the field of concern.  An environmental awareness gives a new slant to social ethics and life ethics.  In place of (or alongside of) social justice, it advocates a more inclusive “eco-justice” according to which we cannot repair human inequities without simultaneously attending to the prospering of the larger Earth-community.  And being “pro-life” means going beyond the focus simply on the ethics of human reproduction.  An environmentally chastened life ethic questions aspects of current moral teachings that tolerate policies which, while protective of human fertility, ignore the complex life-systems in which human fertility dwells.

  9. Finally, creation-centered theology advocates the reshaping of education from the earliest years so that it pays closer attention to the natural world.  At the level of secondary and college education, including the core curriculum, this would mean making environmental education central and not just an afterthought.  Our students should be required to look carefully at what both science and religion have to say about the universe, and yet remain critical of scientism and materialism, both of which are no less ecologically disastrous ideologies than are dualistic and patriarchal forms of religion.

The most characteristic feature of this contemporary revision of theology is its focus on the sacramentality of nature.  (By “sacrament,” let us recall, we mean any aspect of the world through which a divine mystery becomes present to religious awareness.)  Ever since the Old Stone Age aspects of nature such as clean water, fresh air, fertile soil, clear skies, bright light, thunder and rain, living trees, plants and animals, human fertility, etc., have symbolically mediated to religious people at least something of the reality of the sacred.  Sacramentalism recognizes the transparency of nature to the divine, and it therefore gives to the natural world a status that should evoke our reverence and protectiveness.  The sacramental perspective reads in nature an importance or inherent value that a purely utilitarian or naturalist point of view cannot discern.  Nature, then, is not primarily something to be used for human purposes or for technical projects.  It is essentially the showing forth of an ultimate goodness and generosity.

In principle the sacramental features of Christianity (and of other religions) protect the integrity of the natural world.  According to our second type of environmental theology, therefore, the nurturing of a sacramental vision is one of the most important contributions Christianity and other religions can make to the preservation of the natural world.  If biodiversity eventually decays into a homogeneity similar, say, to the lunar landscape (and this is the direction in which tings are now moving) we will lose the richness of our sacramental reference to God.  And if we lose the environment, Thomas Berry is fond of saying, we will lose our sense of God as well.

By way of evaluation, I would say that this second type of environmental theology is another important step toward an acceptable Christian environmental theology.  It goes beyond the more superficial efforts of our first type which consist primarily of an apologetic search for texts that allegedly contain a ready-made environmental theology adequate to our contemporary circumstances.  Our second type seeks a radical transformation of all religious traditions, including Christianity, in the face of the present crisis.  The creation-centered approach is aware that religious texts, like any other classics, can sometimes sanction policies which are socially unjust and ecologically problematic.  So it allows into its interpretation of the classic sources of Christian faith a great deal of suspicion about some of the same motifs that our first approach holds to be normative.

To give one example, the ideal of human dominion or stewardship over creation, which is fundamental in our first type of environmental theology, turns out to be quite inadequate in the second.  Stewardship, even when it is exegetically purged of the distortions to which the notion has been subjected, is still too managerial a concept to support the kind of ecological ethic we need today.  Most ecologists would argue that the Earth’s life-systems were a lot better off before we humans came along to manage them.  In fact, it is almost an axiom of ecology that these systems would not be in such jeopardy if the human species had never appeared in evolution at all.  So, even if we nuance the notions of stewardship and dominion in the light of recent scholarship, the biblical tradition is still too anthropocentric.  And since anthropocentrism is commonly acknowledged to be one of the chief causes of our environmental neglect, creation-centered theology seeks to play down those theological themes that make us too central in the scheme of things.  In the shadow of the environmental crisis it seeks a more cosmic understanding of Christianity.

At the same time, this approach acknowledges that we humans still play a very important role in the total cosmic picture.  OUr presence enriches and adds considerable value to life on Earth.  However, the concept of dominion or stewardship, important as it is, fails to accentuate that we belong to the Earth much more than it belongs to us, that we are more dependent on it than it is on us.  If in some sense we “transcend” the universe by virtue of our freedom and consciousness, in another sense this same universe is taken up as our constant companion in our own transcendence of it.  Christian theology now needs to emphasize more than ever before the inseparable and the everlasting connection between ourselves and the cosmos.

PRAYER: A Monthly Cycle Of Prayers For The Earth

(From The Diocese of Newcastle in the Church of England)

Day 1. Times and seasons

We thank you for the rhythm of times and seasons. Make us more aware of our changing environment, in our parks and gardens, in the countryside, and by the sea. Help us to appreciate all that is special about the present time of year, and to live our lives in keeping with the natural order.


Day 2. Climate change

Help us to respond with wisdom and foresight to the threat of climate change. We pray for those affected by rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. Help us, in reducing our own carbon footprint, to play our part in reducing this country’s carbon emissions. Grant us the personal and political will to make a difference.


Day 3. The oceans

In the beginning your Spirit swept over the face of the waters, and the oceans of the world proclaim your majesty and glory. May the expanse of the seas and the fury of the waves speak to us of your creative power. In your mercy protect all who work and travel on the sea, and preserve the teeming life of coral reef and ocean depth.


Day 4. Landscape and soil

We thank you for all that is beautiful in the landscapes that surround us. As the environment forms us, so help us to form an environment that is beneficial to others. We thank you for the soil beneath our feet. As the soil supports and nurtures us, so help us to nourish the soil for the good of all living things.


Day 5. Sea creatures and all that live in the waters

We give thanks for the diversity of life in the seas and rivers of the world, for the grandeur of whales, the beauty of fish and the intricacy of coral reefs. Bless those who make their living from the sea, and help us to strike a wise balance between fishing for food and preserving the integrity of the marine environment.


Day 6. Farms and farmers

We pray for all who make their living from the land. Help them to contend with the vagaries of the weather and with the variability of the economic climate. Defend them from the threat of disease, and help them to protect the animals in their care. We ask for your blessing on farm shops and farmers’ markets, and on all who buy and sell food locally.


Day 7. Reduction, re-use, and recycling

We thank you for the resources of the world, and for the many goods available to us. Grant us wisdom and restraint in our spending and consumption; grant us inspiration in the re-use and recycling of resources. Bless those who work in the recycling industry, and those who work in charity shops.


Day 8. Nuclear power

We pray for wisdom in our response to the apparent promise of nuclear power. Help us to weigh up the benefits and dangers, the security of supply, and the problem of waste. Bless those who work in the nuclear industry and those involved in the transport of nuclear material. Bless those who seek renewable alternatives to the use of either fossil or nuclear fuels.


Day 9. Weather patterns

We give thanks for the weather in its infinite variety. We thank you for the rain and snow, the winds that blow across the face of the Earth and the warmth of the sun upon our faces. As we read the signs of the ever-changing weather, help us also to understand the signs of the times in which we live.


Day 10. Lakes, rivers and streams

We thank you for the precious waters of the Earth, from the mirror stillness of a lake to the turbulence of a mighty flood, from their crystal clarity to their murky depths. Help us to remember that water is the essence of life itself and that, through the waters of baptism, we rise to new life in union with Christ.


Day 11. Trees and plants

We have heard that the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations. Draw us ever closer in heart and mind to the trees and plants around us. Inspire us with their beauty, and instruct us in their power to heal the broken bodies, minds and spirits of a fallen humanity. Teach us to protect the trees and plants of the Earth, that we might thereby protect ourselves.


Day 12. Birds and insects

Help us to find joy in the glorious songs of birds and the immense variety of insects. We praise you for their ability to fly above the Earth. We give thanks for the part they play in the spreading of seeds and the fertilization of flowers.


Day 13. The built environment

We pray for your blessing on the environment of our own making, for town and countryside, buildings and fields. We give thanks for the ingenuity and artistry of engineers and architects. We give thanks for those who maintain the fabric of our green and pleasant land.


Day 14. Sustainable development

We give thanks for all the blessings of this life, and remember those less fortunate than ourselves. Help us, who have more than enough, to live more simply, that others may simply live. As we borrow the Earth from our children, may we not take more than we can return.


Day 15. Light pollution

We thank you for the lights of the natural world and for the lights of human ingenuity. Help us to appreciate the variety of light and the value of darkness. Grant us wisdom in the use of light, so as not to pollute the awesome beauty of the night sky. May we continue to see the stars, and wonder at our place in the vastness of the universe.


Day 16. Air pollution

We give thanks that life depends upon the air that we breathe. Help us to see the atmosphere as a precious resource, and forgive us when we use it as a dumping ground. As the wind blows where it wills, grant all nations wisdom in dealing with the effects of air pollution, for the health and well-being of all your creatures.


Day 17. Water pollution

We give thanks for the sustaining power of the waters of the Earth. Forgive us when we are wasteful and take clean water for granted. Forgive us when we are careless and contaminate the waters of life.


Day 18. The rainforests

In the rainforests of the Earth you reveal the diversity of your creation. Help us, in wonder, to care for your forests, and in so doing to protect and strengthen the lungs of the Earth. Bless native peoples and forest dwellers, and help us with them to learn the lesson of our shared belonging and interdependence.


Day 19. Animals

We give thanks for your promise of salvation, to us and to every living creature. We praise you for the animals of the Earth and for all domestic animals. We ask for your blessing on the animals in our care, giving thanks for their simplicity and companionship. Forgive us when we are careless and forgetful of your creatures.


Day 20. Globalization and fair trade

We pray for guidance in the global economy. We give thanks for the diversity of foods and the range of products available to us, and remember those who produce the goods which we enjoy. Help us to support the principles of fair trade, and to practice it in our daily lives.


Day 21. Waste production and litter

We give thanks for the material things of life. Help us to use them wisely, and to dispose of them thoughtfully. In business and as individuals, help us to reduce what we waste, and to remember that, as the Earth is our only home, nothing is altogether thrown away.


Day 22. Renewable energy

We give thanks for the power of the sun above us, for the warmth of the ground beneath us, for the freedom of the wind around us, for the strength of waves and the rhythm of tides. We pray for ingenuity and inspiration in the research and development of renewable energy.


Day 23. Wind energy

The Holy Spirit, like the wind, sweeps over the face of the Earth, giving life to the world. We pray for those who seek to harness the power of the wind, and for those concerned about the siting of wind turbines. Grant wisdom and integrity to the people responsible for forming opinions and making decisions.


Day 24. Drinking water

We offer thankful hearts for easy access to safe drinking water, sufficient to meet our needs. We remember those who lack clean water supplies, and those who walk for miles to fetch water for their families. Bless the work of Water Aid and all those who seek to make a difference.


Day 25. Biofuels

Teach us wisdom in our use of the earth’s resources. Grant us inspiration in our search for alternatives to fossil fuels. Give guidance to those involved in the development of biofuels. Help us to find the right balance between the need for food and the need for fuel.


Day 26. Biodiversity

Through the process of evolution you have created a rich diversity of life on Earth. Help us to recognize and appreciate the intricacy and variety of life in all its fullness. Bless all teachers and scientists as they reveal to others, young and old alike, the wonders of creation.


Day 27. Organic farming

We thank you for the gifts of the land, and pray your blessing upon the farmers who make those gifts available to us. We give thanks for those who respect the Earth and seek to maintain its natural balance. We pray for a healthy market for those who produce organic food.


Day 28. Genetic modification

From the beginning you have created plants and creatures of every kind. Help us, who have dominion over every living thing, to respect the integrity of each and every species. Enlighten the debate about genetic modification. May we be blinded neither by science nor prejudice.


Day 29. Natural disasters

Help us to understand the powers at work in your creation, in the storm and flood, in the earthquake and landslide, in the snow and ice. Grant us wisdom in choosing where to live and work, to build houses and grow crops. Help us to support our neighbors around the world when natural disasters devastate their lives.


Day 30. Transport and food miles

We give thanks for the ability to travel widely, in this country and around the world. We give thanks for the rich variety of food available to us, at all times and from all places. Help us to discern the true cost of transport, to travel thoughtfully, and to buy locally.


Day 31. Tourism

You have granted us the opportunity to explore your world as never before. In our travels, give us peace of mind and relief from stress. Open our eyes to the beauty of the Earth, so that our spirits may be renewed by your Spirit. In all our journeying help us to tread lightly, so as to avoid the harsh imprint of humanity upon a fragile ecology.


PRAYER: A Weekly Cycle Of Prayers For The Earth

(From The Diocese of Newcastle in the Church of England)

Day 1. (Sunday) Light and power

God said, “Let there be light. … Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to … be for signs and for seasons.” (Genesis 1:3, 14)

We thank you for brother sun, sister moon and the stars. We give thanks for the rhythm of the days, months, and years. Help us to value both light and darkness. Grant us wisdom in the use of energy supplies, and inspiration in the development of renewable resources.


Day 2. (Monday) Air and climate

God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters.” … God called the dome Sky. (Genesis 1:6, 8)

We thank you for the air that we breathe and for the ever-changing skies. We give thanks for the rhythm of the seasons, for the warmth of the summer sun, and the sharpness of the winter frost. Help us to feel the freshness of the breeze upon our faces and to discern the rainbow of hope that you give us.


Day 3. (Tuesday) Water

God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place.” (Genesis 1:9)

We thank you for the life-giving waters of the earth. We give thanks for the rains that bring refreshment to the dry land and succor to living things. Help us to see your peace in the still waters, your power in the flood and the crashing wave, your joy in the babbling brook, and your timeless presence in the cascading waters.


Day 4. (Wednesday) Land and vegetation

God said, “Let the dry land appear. … Let the earth put forth vegetation.” (Genesis 1:9, 11)

We give unbounded thanks for the land which sustains us, in all its variety and complexity. We thank you for high mountains and deep valleys, for fertile plains and desert places, for tropical forests and meadow grasslands. Help us to value the soil of which we are part, and to be good caretakers of the land on which we all depend.


Day 5. (Thursday) Sea, air and land creatures

God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth. … Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind.” (Genesis 1:20, 24)

We thank you for the integrity and diversity of all living creatures. Enlarge within us a sense of fellowship with our brothers and sisters, the animals, with whom we share the Earth and who love the sweetness of life. Grant us compassion in our dealings with all creatures great and small.


Day 6. (Friday) Human beings and the environment

God said, “Let us make humankind in our image.” (Genesis 1:26)

We thank you for creating humankind according to your likeness. Help us, like you, to see the goodness of creation. Help us to remember that we are part of a greater whole, and that we have a duty to care for the Earth, not just for ourselves. Help us to live in balance rather than conflict, to treat the material world with care and gentleness, and to conserve and nurture the things around us.


Day 7. (Saturday) The need for restraint

God … rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. (Genesis 2:2)

We thank you for the gift of Sabbath rest amid the busyness of our lives. May we have time to stand and stare, to reflect on the beauty of the created world, and to appreciate the many blessings of this life.

Help us to be satisfied with enough, and to live within our means in relation to the Earth.


MYSTICISM: Saturday, November 16, 1996, by John Dear

From The Sound of Listening

The clear blue sky shines brightly across West Virginia and Kentucky as I make my way to the hidden hills near Bardstown.  I get lost driving along the country roads when suddenly the large, white monastery appears on my left.  I see the lower, dark grey wall, a remnant of the original cloister, and the dark pointed church bell tower with the cross on top.  I pull up to the front entrance and take a deep breath.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuits and their coworkers, Elba and Celina Ramos, at the Jesuit University in San Salvador, El Salvador.  I remember visiting with them throughout the summer of 1985, when I had gone to work in a church-sponsored refugee camp in El Salvador.  I remember the pictures of their bloody, lifeless bodies lying face down on the front lawn of the community house.  With Jesuits and friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, I spoke out for an end to United States military aid to El Salvador.  A month after those murders, just before Christmas, 1989, I made my first pilgrimage here to Gethsemani.  I came tired and devastated, and shortly I found new strength in the peace of the monastic life.

Once again, on this important anniversary, I come to the Abbey of Gethsemani.  I arrive tired and spiritually drained.  I come to recenter my soul in Christ.  I think of the many Jesuits and friends from around the country who gather today for prayer and nonviolent civil disobedience at the gates of the School of the Americas in Georgia, calling for the closure of that military training center for death squad troops in Latin America.  The soldiers who killed the Jesuits and their coworkers, as well as the four North American churchwomen and even Archbishop Romero, were trained in Georgia.  I pray with my friends for the immediate closing of this “School of Assassins.”

Yesterday, I visited my father at Georgetown University hospital.  His leg is reddish and swollen, but steadily healing from a sudden and serious infection, which is related to the removal of a vein for his heart by-pass surgery last January.  His spirits are good, though his energy has been depleted.  He expects to go home tomorrow and encouraged me to go on ahead to Kentucky.  A real survivor, he has overcome colon and liver cancer, angioplasties, heart by-pass surgery, and now a serious leg infection.  He remains in my heart and prayers every moment.

I walk along the monastery wall to the cemetery below the church bell tower where Thomas Merton rests with his brother monks under the shade of a huge cedar tree.  At his grave, before a short white cross, I offer a prayer that these days may be filled with peace and prayer, that I may turn to Christ with all my heart, that I may become an instrument of Christ’s peace.  I look up at the clear blue sky.  The breeze refreshes me.  I walk back slowly and enter the monastery.

I want to start with a clean slate.  In the guest house, a sign invites retreatants to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I wait in line in the chapel.  I confess my sins.  A compassionate monk listens attentively.  He calls me back to the basics, to the love of Christ and the roots of my vocation.

Saint Francis’s peace prayer offers a framework for my confession.  I begin: I have not been an instrument of the Lord’s peace.  Parts of me have been sowing hatred, instead of love; despair instead of hope; darkness instead of light; doubt instead of faith; sorrow instead of joy.  I seek my own consolation instead of consoling others; arrogantly insist that I be understood instead of understanding others; and demand to be loved instead of generously loving others.  It’s the same old story.  My heart has grown cold.  I feel burnt-out, far from God.  I take responsibility for myself.  I’ve become exceedingly proud, selfish, ungrateful, narcissistic, thoughtless, hurtful, even violent.  I have not loved as I could, have not believed as I should, and have not hoped as I would.  God have mercy on me a sinner.

As my penance the priest suggests a quiet, prayerful reading of Psalm 139:

Yahweh, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.  My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar.  Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.  Your eyes have been my actions; in your book they are all written; my days are limited before one of them existed.  How weighty are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!

I have arrived.

LOVE: Styles Of Vision, by John O’Donohue

From Anam Ċara

To the fearful eye, all is threatening.  When you look toward the world in a fearful way, all you see and concentrate on are things that can damage and threaten you.  The fearful eye is always besieged by threat.

To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed.  Greed is one of the powerful forces in the modern Western world.  It is sad that a greedy person can never enjoy what they have, because they are always haunted by that which they do not yet possess.  This can refer to land, books, companies, ideas, money, or art.  The motor and agenda of greed is always the same.  Joy is possession, but sadly possession is ever restless; it has an inner insatiable hunger.  Greed is poignant because it is always haunted and emptied by future possibility; it can never engage presence.  However, the more sinister aspect of greed is its ability to sedate and extinguish desire.  It destroys the natural innocence of desire, dismantles its horizons, and replaces them with a driven and atrophied possessiveness.  This greed is now poisoning the Earth and impoverishing its people.  Having has become the sinister enemy of being.

To the judgmental eye, everything is closed in definitive frames.  When the judgmental eye looks out, it sees things in terms of lines and squares.  It is always excluding and separating, and therefore it never sees in a compassionate or celebratory way.  To see is to judge.  Sadly, the judgmental eye is always equally harsh with itself.  It sees only the images of its tormented interiority projected outward from itself.  The judgmental eye harvests the reflected surface and calls it truth.  It enjoys neither the forgiveness nor imagination to see deeper into the ground of things where truth is paradox.  An externalist, image-driven culture is the corollary of such an ideology of facile judgment.

To the resentful eye, everything is begrudged.   People who have allowed the canker of resentment into their vision can never enjoy who they are or what they have.  They are always looking out toward others with resentment.  Perhaps they are resentful because they see others as more beautiful, more gifted, or richer than themselves.  The resentful eye lives out of its poverty and forgets its own inner harvest.

To the indifferent eye, nothing calls or awakens.  Indifference is one of the hallmarks of our times.  It is said that indifference is necessary for power; to hold control one has to be successfully indifferent to the needs and vulnerabilities of those under control.  Thus indifference calls for a great commitment to nonvision.  To ignore things demands incredible mental energy.  Without even knowing it, indifference can place you beyond the frontiers of compassion, healing, and love.  When you become indifferent, you give all your power away.  Your imagination becomes fixated in the limbo of cynicism and despair.

To the inferior eye, everyone else is greater.  Others are more beautiful, brilliant, and gifted than you.  The inferior eye is always looking away from its own treasures.  It can never celebrate its own presence and potential.  The inferior eye is blind to its secret beauty.  The human eye was never designed to look up in a way that inflates the Other to superiority, nor to look down, reducing the Other to inferiority.  To look someone in the eye is a nice testament to truth, courage, and expectation.  Each one stands on common, but different, ground.

To the loving eye, everything is real.  This art of love is neither sentimental nor naive.  Such love is the greatest criterion of truth, celebration, and reality.  Kathleen Raine, a Scottish poet, says that unless you see a thing in the light of love, you do not see it at all.  Love is the light in which we see light.  Love is the light in which we see each thing in its true origin, nature, and destiny.  If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility, and depth.

The loving eye can even coax pain, hurt, and violence toward transfiguration and renewal.  The loving eye is bright because it is autonomous and free.  It can look lovingly upon anything.  The loving vision does not become entangled in the agenda of power, seduction, opposition, or complicity.  Such vision is creative and subversive.  It rises above the pathetic arithmetic of blame and judgment and engages experience at the level of its origin, structure, and destiny.  The loving eye sees through and beyond image and effects the deepest change.  Vision is central to your presence and creativity.  To recognize how you see things can bring you self-knowledge and enable you to glimpse the wonderful treasures your life secretly holds.

POETRY: Sunset, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Robert Bly

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs—

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

POETRY: Revelation, by Robert Frost

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really find us out.

‘Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

HOLY SPIRIT: The Spirit Gives Manifold Gifts, by Lowell J. Satre

From All Christians Are Charismatic

There are three major passages in the New Testament concerning charisms, or gifts of grace.  They are Romans 12:308; 1 Corinthians 12—14; and Ephesians 4:7-12.  Since the exercise of spiritual gifts was causing problems in Corinth, Paul took great pains to counsel the Christians there.  First Corinthians is therefore a good place to begin.

The Corinthians were a gifted but chaotic church.  In this epistle, Paul is employing his apostolic gifts to help his readers function effectively as members of their congregation.  First, as he continues to answer a letter from Corinth, he does not make clear whether he is writing about spiritual things or spiritual people; the word he uses could refer to either.  Then Paul mentions the ecstatic religious experiences with dumb idols which the Corinthians had in their pre-Christian days.  He proceeds to answer a twofold question they had apparently asked him about the inspiration behind two very different statements.  Paul replies, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  Is it not almost unthinkable that a Christian congregation should ask whether, “Jesus be cursed,” is inspired by the Holy Spirit?  It may be that there was a “Christ party” at Corinth who were so carried away with the Heavenly, spiritual Christ, as opposed to the Earthly, fleshly Jesus, that they cried out, “Cursed be Jesus!”  At any rate, the spirit who inspires such is not holy.  The Holy Spirit does, however, evoke the fundamental Christian confession, “Jesus is Lord.”  The content of inspired speech indicates its source, according to Paul.

A recurring emphasis in Paul that has generally not been sufficiently noticed in discussions about spiritual gifts begins in the next verses: “Varieties of charismata, varieties of services, varieties of workings.”  With Paul’s emphasis on varieties of gifts, can we assume that all will be included in the list in the next few verses?  Some apparently think so.

For the Common Good

The significance of the next verse can scarcely be exaggerated: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  Each believer is given a gift; not one is giftless!  The verb is a “divine passive”: God is the donor.  The last part of the verse is as important as the rest: each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.   This last phrase is a key to everything Paul says about charisms.  Therefore, this red thread of Paul’s thought will be followed.

The cruciality of using a spiritual gift for the common good is spotlighted in Paul’s discussion of Christ’s body.  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were caused to drink of one Spirit.”  In the next paragraph the apostle states that in a body, every member is different; if such great diversity should cause a member to say, “I do not belong to the body because I am not some other member,” it is still a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, what a monstrosity!  But more important, there would be no hearing or smelling, in fact, no body.  No part can say to another, “I have no need for you.”  In fact, the seemingly weaker parts are indispensable.

The common good is stressed again by Paul as he becomes even more explicit about the body: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”  In Romans, a still greater emphasis on members’ mutuality occurs: “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  Members of Christ’s body are even members of one another – that is intimacy!

The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, is positioned where it is to stress sharply that gifts without love are useless.  Without love, gifts of tongues, prophecy, or knowledge, or even of the handing-over of one’s body for burning, amount to nothing.

First Corinthians 14 intensifies the emphasis on mutuality.  “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”  Prophecy edifies the church.  If it is interpreted, speaking in tongues edifies believers.  These verses are mentioned here simply because of their profound eloquence in underscoring that charisms are “for the common good,” for building up all members of the congregation.

Of a piece is Paul’s next question: “If I come to you speaking in tongues, how shall I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?”  Paul concludes the paragraph with another ringing plea “for the common good”: “So with yourselves; since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.”

In the remainder of the chapter the author continues his emphasis on congregational practices that result in edification.  Prayer during worship is to be so intelligible that even a novice will know when to say, amen.  Unintelligible tongues are useless for evangelism, but prophecy can convict and convert unbelievers.

Paul assumes that when the congregation assembles, each member will make a contribution toward building up the church.  “Let all things be done for edification,” he reiterates.  Later, in the final part of the chapter, the apostle lays down guidelines for orderly and edifying services of worship by and for members with various gifts of the Spirit.  “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”  Paul makes the apostolic claim that “what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord,” and exhorts that “all things should be done decently and in order.”

How Manifold Are the Gifts?

In connection with Paul’s emphasis in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 on the varieties of gifts, we asked whether gifts might be involved beyond the nine listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.  This is a relevant question, because some actually recognize only the nine.  It is now time to answer that question.

In chapter 12, after describing the body the apostle writes, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.”  Although it is not evident in most translations, Paul first mentions three kinds of gifted people: apostles, prophets, teachers.  He then adds some gifts: miracles, gifts of healing, helpful deeds, administrative gifts.  But the main point here is that apostles and teachers are not specifically mentioned in 12:7-11, and helpful deeds and administrative gifts are totally new in 12:28.  Romans 12:6-8 gives additional proof that the nine charisms listed first in 1 Corinthians 12 are not intended to be exhaustive.  In Romans, eight of those original nine are missing, and added to prophecy, which is common to the two lists, are five gifts not mentioned in either: service, exhortation, contributions, helping, showing mercy.  Ephesians 4:11 mentions two categories of gifted people not previously mentioned: evangelists and pastors.  It is obvious that the charisms are more than merely nine.  As we noted, people and gifts are listed together in 1 Corinthians 12:28, three of one and five of the other.  In Romans 12:6-8, there is a new variation on the theme.  Here the gifts come first and are followed by the gifted people – two of one, six of the other.  What is to be made of all this?

Ephesians 4 may shed further light on the number of spiritual gifts.  The chapter begins with a challenge that believers lead a life worthy of their calling.  The unity of those called is then emphasized.  There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all.  After this is a section on gifts:

But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

Later the text continues,

And [Christ] gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.

According to these verses, Christ gave gifts and gifted people to his church.  It can be seen that in New Testament passages where the charisms are listed, there is a happy commingling of gifts and gifted persons.

The reason the New Testament authors can so easily glide between the charism and the charismatic person is that these two are as inseparable as belief and the believer.  There is no gift floating around apart from a baptized believer who uses it.  Conversely, there is no Christian without a charism.  “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  But the charisms are not merely nine in number; they are ninety times nine.  There are as many charisms as there are Christians.

Paul’s extended section on the body celebrates this.  All were baptized in one Spirit into Christ’s body with a functional drink of one Spirit.  Every member belongs to the body with a function indispensable for the well-being of the body.  Seeing requires an eye and hearing an ear; an ear normally hears and an eye sees.  Part and function belong together.  Hence, both 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 teach contrary to the position that there are only nine gifts.

The wrong question has too often been asked: What are the gifts of God’s Spirit?  Why not ask instead, Who are those gifts by God’s Spirit?  The answer is, All baptized believers are charismatic, Spirit-gifted.  Not all of the many members in the one body have the same function, but they all have some function.  All members of Christ’s body, just as they are, with all their potential and all their limitations, are gifts of God’s Spirit.  No member is inconsequential.

To get at the same point from another angle.  Does Paul mean to exclude any Christian at Corinth when he gives his second list in 1 Corinthians 12:28?  “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.”  A Stephanas might say to himself hearing this, “An apostle, I am not, but a helper I try to be.”  This is no mere flight of fancy, because Stephanas and his household were probably Paul’s first converts in Corinth; Paul himself baptized them.  And this Corinthian must have felt his charism confirmed when he heard a few remarks in the last part of Paul’s letter.  “You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.”  Stephanas and his household had been employing their Spirit-given selves to the service of the saints.”  They had labored “for the common good” of the congregation, and that is what charism is all about.

Is there anything, then, that cannot be a charism?  Any gift devoted to the service of the saints for the common good is a charism.  The notion of charism is as inclusive as that of justification.  Forgiveness is for each one who believes in the God who declares the ungodly righteous.  By this each believer becomes a saint (a sinner forgiven), as Christ’s welcoming notorious sinners to table fellowship so potently proclaims.  No one who enters is cast out.  God has poured out the Spirit on all human kind in these last days since Pentecost.  Each believer is Spirit-baptized and “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

It is not the case, however, that a charism is necessarily a permanent possession of a believer.  The Spirit of Christ is a permanent resident.  A charism, however, is more like a transitory guest.  Apostleship in the narrow sense may be one exception.  By the strictest definition an apostle is one who was with Jesus from the days of John the Baptist till his ascension.  Of these there were only several more than a baker’s dozen.  Paul claimed apostleship because he had seen the risen Lord and been commissioned by him.  Even his claim did not go unchallenged, however.  At any rate, apostles were unique because Jesus was crucified and resurrected only once.  This does not mean that an apostle was infallible.  An apostle could be dead wrong, as Peter was at Antioch when Paul withstood him “eyeball to eyeball.”  Nevertheless, Peter was still an apostle.  There were, on the other hand, false apostles.  And there was Judas, whom the Father had given to Jesus, who turned aside from the ministry and apostleship.  Apart from apostleship, the charisms do not seem permanent possessions.  There are different kinds of charisms.  Not all in the congregation can lay claim to each kind.  In principle each believer may from time-to-time enjoy any charism.  Since this was true of prophecy – “You can all prophesy one by one” – the same seems likely of other charisms as well.

How manifold are the gifts and the gifted?  How many and how varied are they?  They are at least as manifold as the baptized believers in Christ’s body, the church.  No member of that lively body is without a vital function.  The Spirit has made some parts magnificently versatile.

THE CHURCH: Undressing The Spirit Of The World, by Pope Francis

From The Church of Mercy

During my visit to Assisi for Saint Francis’s day, the newspapers and media were stirring up fantasies.  “The Pope is going to strip the church there!”  “What will he strip from the church?”  “He is going to strip bishops and cardinals of their vestments; then he will divest himself.”  This is, indeed, a good occasion to invite the church to divest herself.  But we are all the church!  All of us!  Beginning with the newly baptized, we are all the church, and we must all follow the path of Jesus, who himself took the road of renunciation.  He became a servant, one who serves; he chose to be humiliated even to the cross.  And if we want to be Christians, then there is no other way.

But can’t we make Christianity a little more human, they say, without the cross, without Jesus, without renunciation?  In this way we would become like Christians in a pastry shop, saying: what beautiful cakes, what beautiful sweets!  Truly beautiful, but not really Christians!  Someone could ask, Of what must the church divest herself?  Today she must strip herself of a very grave danger, which threatens every person in the church, everyone: the danger of worldliness.  The Christian cannot coexist with the spirit of the world, with the worldliness that leads us to vanity, to arrogance, to pride.  And this is an idol; it is not God.  It is an idol!  And idolatry is the gravest of sins!

When the media speaks about the church, they believe the church is made up of priests, sisters, bishops, cardinals, and the pope.  But we are all the church, as I said.  And we all must strip ourselves of this worldliness: the spirit opposing the spirit of the Beatitudes, the spirit opposing the spirit of Jesus.  Worldliness hurts us.  It is so very sad to find a worldly Christian who is sure – according to him or her – of that security that the faith gives and of the security that the world provides.  You cannot be on both sides.  The church – all of us – must strip herself of the worldliness that leads to vanity, to pride, that is idolatry.

Jesus himself told us: “You cannot serve two masters: either you serve God or you serve mammon.”  In mammon itself there is this worldly spirit: money, vanity, pride, that path.  We cannot take it.  It is sad to erase with one hand what we write with the other.  The Gospel is the Gospel!  God is one!  And Jesus made himself a servant for our sake, and the spirit of the world has nothing to do with this.  Today I am here with you.  Many of you have been stripped by this callous world that offers no work, no help.  To this world it doesn’t matter that there are children dying of hunger: it doesn’t matter if many families have nothing to eat, do not have the dignity of bringing bread home; it doesn’t matter that many people are forced to flee slavery, hunger, and flee in search of freedom.  With how much pain, how often don’t we see that they meet death, as in Lampedusa: today is a day of tears!  The spirit of the world causes these things.  It is unthinkable that a Christian – a true Christian – be it a priest, a sister, a bishop, a cardinal, or a pope, would want to go down this path of worldliness, which is a homicidal attitude.  Spiritual worldliness kills!  It kills the soul!  It kills the person!  It kills the church!

PRAYER: Prayer To The Holy Spirit, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

From The Light Is On For You

(To begin an examination of conscience.)

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the Earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
grant that by the same Holy Spirit,
we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations,
through Christ, our Lord.


Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of your just punishments; but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.


MYSTICISM: Mystical Knowledge And Rational Knowledge, by Peggy Wilkinson

From: Finding the Mystic Within You

“I prayed, and understanding was given me. . . .  Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion: she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.  She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty, a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness.  Although alone, she can do all: herself unchanging, she makes all things new.  In each generation she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets.” (Wisdom 7:7, 24)

“Mysticism – doctrine that knowledge of spiritual truth may be attained intuitively.”

“Intuition – the immediate knowing or learning of something without the conscious use of reasoning.”

There are two kinds of knowledge – “rational” knowledge and “mystical” knowledge.  “Rational” knowledge is gained through our conscious effort; it is the work of the created intellect.  Through the use of our senses; reading, studying, and hearing talks, facts, or information “about” God is gathered and stored in the memory.

“Mystical” knowledge is not knowledge “about” God, but God himself that is apprehended intuitively.  Through the activity of God in our deepest center, mystical knowledge is absorbed from within, by-passing the created senses.

“He who would go to God relying upon natural ability and reasoning will not be very spiritual.  There are some who think that by pure force and the activity of the senses, which of itself is lowly and no more than natural, they can reach the strength and height of the supernatural spirit.  One does not attain to this peak without suppressing and leaving aside the activity of the senses.

“Pure contemplation lies in receiving.  It is impossible for this highest wisdom and language of God, which is contemplation, to be received in anything less than a spirit that is silent and detached from discursive knowledge and gratification.

“This wisdom is loving, tranquil, solitary, peaceful, mild, and an inebriator of the spirit, by which the soul feels tenderly and gently wounded and carried away, without knowing by whom, nor from where, nor how.  The reason is that this wisdom is communicated without the soul’s own activity,” (Living Flame of Love, Saint John of the Cross).

Through a kind of “spiritual osmosis” the soul is gradually absorbing God, by silent time spent in each other’s presence.

“Osmosis – Gr. osmos – impulse; the tendency of fluids to pass through a somewhat porous membrane so as to equalize concentrations on both sides.”

In spiritual osmosis the concentration of divine life, love, and knowledge, through the impulse of God, gradually becomes absorbed, equalized, and fully balanced in the divine/human spirit.

This divine activity is far beyond the capacity of the created human intellect to observe or evaluate, and proceeds regardless of whether or not the created senses or feelings are involved.

“Contemplation is also termed mystical theology, meaning the secret or hidden knowledge of God.  In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words, and without the help of any bodily or spiritual faculty, in silence and quietude, in darkness to all sensory and natural things.  Some spiritual persons call this contemplation knowing by unknowing,” (Spiritual Canticle, Saint John of the Cross).

“It is written in the prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God,’” (John 6:45).

To be taught by God, and not through our own conscious efforts may be for us a completely new approach to spiritual growth.  It is the reason for the spiritual emphasis on becoming a “little child,” and allowing God to lead and form the soul, remaining passively receptive and not interfering with this delicate work.

In the beginning of the spiritual journey, this is often difficult for people to become accustomed to, especially those who are “take charge” types.  Even those who are not often resist the idea of giving up control.  We hesitate on the brink of this mysterious unknown, for we are used to proceeding through blocks of time schedules, semesters or years, during which our “performance” is graded or evaluated, and in which we are able to observe our progress and achievements, and thereby enjoy a sense of satisfaction and pride of “accomplishment.”

But our human “measuring rods” are useless in the spiritual world where “the last is first”; the “greatest among you is the servant of all”; the “weak confound the strong”; and “a little child shall lead them.”  In this spiritual land it is necessary to let that spiritual, eternal child, which is in each one of us, lead us to the Father.

“To reach a new and unknown land and travel unknown roads, a man cannot be guided by his own knowledge, rather he has doubts about his own knowledge and seeks the guidance of others.  Obviously he cannot reach new territory nor attain this added knowledge if he does not take these new and unknown roads and abandon those familiar ones.  The soul, too, when it advances, walks in darkness and unknowing.  Since God, as we said, is the master and guide of the soul, this blind man, it can truly rejoice,” (The Dark Night, Saint John of the Cross).

If, through self-knowledge, we know ourselves, and have gained some idea of the omnipotence of God, it will come as no surprise that we cannot immediately comprehend divine wisdom.

“How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods!  Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?” (Romans 11:33).

In the silent absorption of contemplation we wait, experiencing God through love without attempting to analyze, question, or measure, as he fills us with his own divine life.  In the stillness we train the mirror of our souls upon God, and the mirror-image becomes progressively clearer and more indelible.

Mystical knowledge is both love and wisdom.  Love is of the “essence” of God, not of the created, and is therefore able to immediately unite with God; but Divine Wisdom is incomprehensible to the created mind and is not always fully understood at the moment that it is received.  Part of the suffering of the “dark night” is that the faculties are not able to function in their accustomed manner.  Love has to love, and reason has to reason.  Both are proceeding according to their nature, but the created needs time to grasp and absorb the Divine, as the body needs time to digest and assimilate food.

Love IS God, of his very nature, and is able to surmount matter and merge with God in sameness, while the understanding lags behind.  Love transcends the mere human way of proceeding, and goes out of itself to God in a kind of “quantum leap.”  Love is like the rope of the mountain climber which grasps a new peak, then supports the struggling, created intellect while it “hangs suspended” for a time.  When understanding “catches up,” the “rope of love” again flings higher.  Created consciousness slowly assimilates the divine knowledge with which it has been filled, before it arrives at that place to which love, uncreated spirit, has effortlessly leaped.

Love effects change; information, without love, does not.  Knowledge, even spiritual knowledge, of itself is not growth inducing.  Divine transformation does not require knowledge equal to God’s, but it does require equal love.  True spiritual growth is accomplished through humble openness to the Divine infusion.  Love contains all that God is and, eventually, all that the soul is, as the soul’s capacity is strengthened and expanded to fulfill its divine destiny of being equal to God.

Spiritual writers have said that information plus experience equals wisdom.

“Experience must be restored to its rightful place in theology; doctrinal truth and a life of prayer must be wedded again.  Theology begins with experience, and experience reflected upon produced theology.

“If we stop short of the deep inner stuff of religion, chances are we’ll become either fanatics or skeptics.  The deep inner stuff of religion is called the mystical life.  It consists primarily of the contemplation of truth.  Contemplation is a supremely human and intuitive gaze on truth,” (The Human Adventure, Fr. William McNamara).

“You will learn the truth and the truth will make you free,” (John 8:32).

In every area of our lives, in order to communicate we must know the language.  God’s language is “the silent language of love,” which requires the ability to listen with the heart.  Learning the language of divine love puts us in touch not only with God, but with all those who are close to him, both in Heaven and on Earth.  From time-to-time during our Earthly journey we may glimpse, at the edge of perception, the radiant beauty of another’s soul in the blinding flash of a “Transfiguration experience.”  At the sudden recognition of Spirit and Spirit, an answering flame leaps up spontaneously form our depths.

“Master, it is wonderful for us to be here!” (Luke 9:33)

The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy!” (John 21:7).

Through the indwelling, Divinity smiles out at us from other eyes and speaks through their mouths, sometimes so directly and immediately that the encounter and its significance can neither be mistaken nor denied.

“Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32).

Through the ever-growing intimacy of the prayer relationship, Christ becomes “familiar” to the soul, and is therefore more easily recognized regardless of the outward “disguise.”  Contemplative awareness is necessary in order to recognize him for “Our God is a hidden God.”  Because of obvious human weaknesses and failings, the clearer, deeper perception of the soul is needed to “see” the paradox of the Divine within the human, whether it be in ourselves, or in our sisters and brothers.  The contemplative spirit keeps us open and receptive, with a sense of wonder and awe at the reality of the presence of God “shining diaphanously at the heart of creation,” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin).  The contemplative remains a spiritual child, young at heart, regardless of the passing years.

To the prayerful soul loving and generous enough to give God the time, and humble and willing enough to listen and change, Christ will come again.  “I will not leave you orphans: I will come back to you,” (John 14:16). 

In the depths of contemplation as we sense his gaze upon us, irresistibly drawing our souls to “Come, follow me,” we are moved to respond.  From time-to-time we are called to temporarily leave our “nets,” the entanglements of the world, the trivia with which we have become so caught up, too many possessions that in time “own” us, prejudices not worthy of the divine intelligence that God shares with us, and false images of God or ourselves that tend to block out the Divine Light.  To know (experience) the depths of God, we must first know (experience) the depths of ourselves, and the dark emptiness of the creature without God’s light and love.  “The soul is like an empty vessel waiting to be filled,” (Spiritual Canticle, Saint John of the Cross).



NATURE: The Still Sad Music Of Humanity, by Peter Milward

From: A Poetic Approach to Ecology

Contemplating all these various voices of the Earth in their totality and unity, it is impressive to note how well “each mortal thing does one thing and the same.”  Each thing in itself has only one sound to make, however well it may make it.  Each thing is as it were eternally endowed with a certain intrinsic monotony, but in conjunction with other things it contributes its characteristic sound to a symphony, whether a restricted pastoral symphony of farm and farmyard or the “great chime and symphony of Nature.”

Now at last I come to the one grand exception to the monotony of all mortal things, and that is, for all his mortality, Man.  He isn’t limited, like the other animals, to his vocal chords, but he can imitate, as no parrot or raven can, almost all the sounds he hears, besides adding many others of his own invention.  What he makes are not just animal cries from the depths of his heart or to the best of his poor ability.  He is able to mix his sounds in such a way as to convey a meaning, or a variety of meanings, to other men.  This he does in an unlimited variety of mixtures, with different meanings in different languages.  This may be in the form of conversation, or drama, or oratory, or poetry, or song, or opera, ascending from prose to poetry, and in it all we may recognize the quality of music.

Needless to say, what Man utters isn’t always musical or melodious or euphonic.  It may also be cacophonic, full of jarring sounds that grate on our ears, as when an individual is drunk or quarrelsome or self-assertive.  Then it may be said that the very cawing of a crow is melodious in comparison with him.  Or the sounds he utters may be groans at the pain inflicted by evil men, cries of distress and agony, or laments over the weariness of life in a world where evil seems to prevail.  This is what Wordsworth calls “the still sad music of humanity,” when Man, who is made for joy, is plunged into sorrow at the sight of “what man has made of man.”

Nor, when it comes to sound, is Man limited to his vocal chords.  He is also able to use his wits in making a variety of musical instruments, some with strings, some with wood, some with brass, some with skins.  Then by putting all these instruments together, and playing them in various ways at the same time, in a certain arrangement, he can produce a symphony or, with the addition of human voices, whether solo or in chorus, an oratorio.  It is indeed marvelous what Man can do, in contrast to “each mortal thing” in the world of Nature around him.  He is indeed, with all his good and bad qualities, what Pope calls, “the glory, jest, and riddle of the world.”

It is only in relatively recent times that Man has attained a climax of musical achievement with the oratorios of Handel and the symphonies of Beethoven.  Since then, however, with the rise of the industrial revolution, it seems that everything produced by Man, whether in music or in other mechanical sounds, has come to be charged with cacophony.  I am not just thinking of jazz or hard rock, but almost all the sounds that assail our ears in modern cities, such as those emitted by cars and trucks and motorbikes, seem to set at nought or nullify the symphony whether of Nature or of Man.

Thus, whereas everything in the world of Nature, however, as Tennyson says, “red in tooth and claw,” combines to form one “grand chime and symphony,” everything in the world of Man, above all in our modern industrial world, conspires (it seems) in the opposite direction.  How ironical it is that modern science, which originally boasted of its emphasis on the world of Nature, has moved so far from that world as to endanger its very existence!  Or rather, it isn’t so much the fault of science as of Man, who has misused the inquiries of scientists into the secrets of Nature in such a way as to endanger the existence at once of Nature and of himself.  For so Man is his own worst enemy.

Such criticism of Man may, however, sound yet another note of discord in the ears of the modern world.  Only, to return to the original harmony of Man and Nature, it seems necessary for me to strike such a jarring note.  There can be no real concord in weakly accepting a world of Man that is out of harmony with the world of Nature as well as the old world of Man.  Rather, one has to go deeper to discover the hidden harmony by which all may yet be reconciled, just as even in the world of Nature there is, for all its seeming discord, a basic harmony.  But, I ask, where is this harmony to be found?  How are we at this late hour to reconcile Man and Nature?  That is the problem, which seems to defy a solution.

Yes, it is a problem without a solution, so long as we look for that solution to the ingenuity of human science, which can only make things worse.  The only hope, or else despair, consists in looking away from the world of Man, and the way we have cooped ourselves up in big cities, to the world of Nature and the rural countryside.  Then from both these worlds, as they appear to our senses, whether of sight or hearing, we have to look to the inner world of Spirit.  For there in our inner world we come close to the origin of our being in the beginning, and there we find ourselves in the presence of Him who has created us and everything around us.  After all, we have to confess that we human beings can’t help making a mess of everything.  At least, out of the mess we have made for ourselves we can turn, at least with a humility born of desperation, to Him who alone can put everything right for us.  We have to learn, as Hamlet learnt, that “there’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.”  We have to groan with that unutterable groaning which, as Saint Paul says, is a sign of the Holy Spirit of God interceding for us, that heartfelt cry which, as Wordsworth says, is the “still sad music of humanity,” transforming our human cacophony into a divine symphony of prayer and praise.

POETRY: That Day, by Denise Levertov

Across a lake in Switzerland, fifty years ago,
light was jousting with long lances, fencing with broadswords
back and forth among cloudy peaks and foothills.
We watched from a small pavilion, my mother and I,
And then, behold, a shaft, a column,
a defined body, not of light but of silver rain,
formed and set out from the distant shore, leaving behind
the silent feints and thrusts, and advanced
unswervingly, at a steady pace,
toward us.
I knew this! I’d seen it! Not the sensation
of déjà vu: it was Blake’s inkwash vision,
‘The Spirit of God Moving Upon the Face of the Waters’!
The column steadily came on
across the lake toward us; on each side of it,
there was no rain. We rose to our feet, breathless—
and then it reached us, took us
into its veil of silver, wrapped us
in finest weave of wet,
and we laughed for joy, astonished.