Blog posts

PSALMS: Psalm 18 by W. Robert Godfrey

November 28, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 18 is a psalm of David, a song celebrating “the day when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”  This psalm, the longest of Book One, praises God for his deliverance.  It is also recorded, with slight differences, in 2 Samuel 22.  At the center of this psalm is a strong confession of faith: “With the merciful you show yourself merciful,” (v. 25). This psalm begins (vv. 1-6) and ends (vv. 46-50) with praise offered to God.  It is praise filled with love and thanksgiving for God’s protection from enemies and from death.  The praise rejoices in the victories God has given his king and his people – victories displayed before the world. The [...]

POETRY: The Sleep by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

November 28, 2017

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2) Of all the thoughts of God that are Borne inward unto souls afar, Along the Psalmist’s music deep, Now tell me if that any is, For gift or grace, surpassing this: “He giveth his beloved—sleep?” What would we give to our beloved? The hero’s heart to be unmoved, The poet’s star-tuned harp to sweep, The patriot’s voice to teach and rouse, The monarch’s crown to light the brows? He giveth his beloved—sleep. What do we give to our [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—From Fear To Faith by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 27, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer There is no telling how many times in the course of a lifetime we may have to go through this process of creative dying.  (The more creatively we live, the more often we shall have to die, I suppose.)  But one thing is certain: in the end, no one can be spared this passage.  There is a staggering variety of dishes set out on the banquet table of life.  Each one of us gets a different menu.   The final course, however, is the same for all of us: It is one big rock.  “Sorry,” says our Host, “but now it’s time to die.”  Will we be ready by then to “swallow up death”?  If so, it will be a dying into fullness of life.  We know this.  We know it, not because someone else told us [...]

MUSIC: Escaping The Hubris Of The Present Moment by Thomas H. Troeger

November 27, 2017

From: Music As Prayer How easily we are tempted to think that our present generation is superior to the generations that have preceded us.  We learn about cruel practices of the past and judge them as barbaric while congratulating ourselves on being more civilized.  We read about the ignorance of the past and dismiss it as folly while priding ourselves on how knowledgeable we are.  We study tools and machines from the past and describe them as primitive while reveling in the sophistication of our technology.  We see fashions from the past and assess them as quaint and dated while admiring the newest style as chic and smart.  It all adds up to what I call the hubris of the present moment, an arrogance that fails to see that we share [...]

PRAYER: The Empty Chair (an exercise in prayer) by Anthony de Mello

November 27, 2017

I developed this exercise as a result of hearing the story of a priest who went to visit a patient in his home.  He noticed an empty chair at the patient’s bedside and asked what it was doing there.  The patient said, “I had placed Jesus on that chair and was talking to him before you arrived.  For years I found it extremely difficult to pray until a friend explained to me that prayer was a matter of talking to Jesus.  He told me to place an empty chair nearby, to imagine Jesus sitting on that chair, and to speak with him and listen to what he says to me in reply.  I’ve had no difficulty praying ever since.” Some days later, so the story goes, the daughter of the patient came to the rectory to inform the priest [...]

POETRY: The Inner History Of A Day by John O’Donohue

November 24, 2017

No one knew the name of this day; Born quietly from deepest night, It hid its face in light, Demanded nothing for itself, Opened out to offer each of us A field of brightness that traveled ahead, Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps And the light of thought to show the way. The mind of the day draws no attention; It dwells within the silence with elegance To create a space for all our words, Drawing us to listen inward and outward. We seldom notice how each day is a holy place Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens, Transforming our broken fragments Into an eternal continuity that keeps us. Somewhere in us a dignity presides That is more gracious than the smallness That fuels us with fear and force, A dignity that trusts [...]

POETRY: Thirst by Mary Oliver

November 22, 2017

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 8 by W. Robert Godfrey

November 21, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 8 is another song of David, but it is very different from Psalm 3.  Psalm 8 is one of the small number of psalms in Book One that do not express distress on the part of God’s people.  Instead, it represents a psalm that celebrates the great creative work of God.  The psalmist uses this celebration of the glory and power of God as a way to build confidence in God. The focus in the psalm is very much on God and his splendor.  Again, the form of the psalm makes that point clear.  The first and the last declarations of the psalm are the repeated praise of God: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth!”  In this verse, we hear an echo of Genesis 1.  Genesis 1:2 tells us [...]

POETRY: In Pilgrim Life Our Rest by Edwin Sandys

November 21, 2017

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all [...]

ANGELS: Worship God by Martin Shannon

November 21, 2017

From: All God’s Angels The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:13) We began these reflections with the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible and the book of beginnings.  We end with the Revelation to John, the final book of the Bible and the book of new beginnings.  The author, who identifies himself as John, is thought to have been living in [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—The Faithfulness At The Heart Of All Things by Brother David Steindl-Rast

November 20, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer The idea behind all this [living by the Word of God means feeding on it] is one of the deepest insights in the Bible: God speaks.  What does this mean?  It is image language, of course.  But what experience stands behind the idea that God speaks?  It is the experience of listening with our heart.  For there is an aspect to that experience which we overlook all too easily.  When we truly listen with the heart, we do not merely overhear something that is going on “out there,” with or without us, regardless.  No. We find ourselves addressed.  We realize in a flash: Whatever is “out there” concerns us, because it is somehow concerned with us, it is “toward” us in some mysterious [...]

MUSIC: Children Of Process by Thomas H. Troeger

November 20, 2017

From: Music As Prayer When I was a teenager, I studied the flute with one of the instrument’s great teachers, John Oberbrunner.  I learned all the Handel sonatas and then all the Bach sonatas.  I played most of them in church services, and later in recitals during my college years.  But when I began to study theology, I put the instrument away for many years. Now I am playing again, and I have been revisiting some of those sonatas.  They are the same collections that I used forty years ago, but it seems the music has changed.  I play and I find in the music things I never knew were there before.  I begin to think Handel and Bach must have sneaked out of the cloud of witnesses and fiddled with their compositions in the [...]

PRAYER: Hear My Voice by Pope John Paul II

November 20, 2017

To you, creator of nature and humanity, of truth and beauty, I pray: Hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations. Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and who will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war. Hear my voice when I beg you to instill into the hearts of all human beings the vision of peace, the strength of justice, and the joy of fellowship. Hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and in every period of history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace. Hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to [...]

POETRY: For M. On A Cold Grey Morning by Thomas Merton

November 18, 2017

A grey good morning and rain And melting snow Far from any help Or love, I am warmer At least wanting you. Sorry in the grey Weather without lights Far from any other center I nurse one inner lamp Our common need Which is our common presence It burns alone And still In the wet dark and for us, Lighting a dry place in me I do not know Because it is myself Love’s inner cell Where I am glad to be a prisoner Since I am prisoner with you. While you come back to life in distant rain Looking perhaps at the dark river With blurred eyes Still full of dreams And think of me in my hills, You wake in me, darling. We are nearer than we know Love has another Place of its own Nearer to you than hill or city; Nearer than your own mirror You wake in [...]

GOD 101: The Shape Of Change

November 17, 2017

I have had periods in my life when I feel perfectly comfortable with a concept God has given me to study, but don’t know how to express it in ordinary English language.  It feels, sometimes, as though I think in one language, but speak in another. This is one of those times. If we go to church, or read the Bible to the point of knowing it, or even if we listen to sermons on television, sooner or later we run up against the wall that is God’s final day for us.  The Day of Judgment.  We might also start to wonder why or how there is going to be a “New Heaven” and a “New Earth.” So we might be able to find a kind of theme facing us down: I’m going to come and sort you all out.  Those who pass my [...]

SURRENDER: Holiness Made Easy by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

November 16, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender I believe that if those who are seriously striving after holiness were instructed as to the conduct they ought to follow they would be spared a good deal of trouble.  I speak as much of laypersons as of religious.  If the former (that is, laypersons) could realize the merit concealed in the actions of each moment of the day – I mean in each of the daily duties and actions belonging to their state of life – and if the latter (that is, those who are members of religious orders) could be persuaded that holiness is found in what seems unimportant to them, they would all indeed be happy.  If, in addition, they understood that the crosses sent them by Providence – crosses that they constantly find in the [...]

WISDOM STORY: Saint Francis And The Wolf by Nathalie Leone

November 16, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Francis loved animals.  He saw a sacred link between animals and men and spoke to all his brothers in the same way, whether they were feathered or furred, and whether they walked upright or on all fours. One day Francis was on his way to the abbey of Gubbio.  He walked at a brisk pace, leading his donkey by its bridle.  Just as he began to see the towers of the abbey coming into view above the trees, his path was blocked by some peasants. “Brother Francis, do not go any further!  Ferocious wolves are prowling around.  They are starving and will devour you if you go on!” “I have not hurt them at all and neither has my soul.  Don’t worry.  Return to God!  Good night.” Francis then passed by [...]

MYSTICISM: Caryll Houselander—An Appreciation by Robin Maas

November 15, 2017

From Crisis Magazine In the midst of all the shouting it can be extremely difficult to hear the voices of spiritually powerful women who have come to terms with Holy Mother Church. Such women have found in the church, in their own femininity as well as in hers, a deep and satisfying sacramentality. One such voice is that of the lay spiritual theologian Caryll Houselander. Both her substantial corpus of writing and the particulars of her personal history provide a rich source of hope and encouragement for all who struggle with flawed family relationships, unfulfilled dreams, and personal disappointment – for these were her legacy. She became perhaps the most popular spiritual writer of her day, sought out for her guidance, and dearly [...]

POETRY: The Rosary by Frances Caryll Houselander

November 15, 2017

In the doorway of a low grey house, built of stones as old as the Crusades, a woman of Bruges sits in the sunlight, among the flowers, saying her Rosary. She seems to be carved out of season walnut and polished smooth by the constant touch of the hand of God, and the beads that twine her crippled fingers are scarlet berries on the thorny twigs. The running rhythm and the repetition of the Paters and the Aves is like the rhythm that in nature moves through the seasons from seed to harvest with the unity and the pause and stress of music; like the bloodstream of Christ, that flows through the seasons from Advent to Easter in the Liturgy of the Church, the ebb and flow of the tide of love in the Mystical Body of Christ. II God has given His [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 3 by W. Robert Godfrey

November 14, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 3 bears a title indicating the author and the historical situation that inspired the psalm: “A psalm of David.  When he fled from Absalom his son.”  Although the psalm comes from the pen of the king and representative of Israel and relates to events of his life, the tone of the psalm is deeply personal.  It expresses perfectly the prevailing theme of this book: real distress linked to deep confidence in God. The poetic center of the psalm is verse 5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”  Here David confesses his confidence in the Lord even while he is asleep – a time of great potential weakness and danger.  David may be thinking of how he had received a [...]

POETRY: The King of Love my Shepherd Is by Henry W. Baker

November 14, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23) The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never, I nothing lack if I am His And He is mine forever. Where streams of living [...]

ANGELS: Divine Reminders by Martin Shannon

November 14, 2017

From: All God’s Angels We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard.  When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss.  I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong [...]

MUSIC: The Necessity Of Beauty by Thomas H. Troeger

November 13, 2017

From: Music As Prayer During this time of economic distress I find myself reading the business section of the newspaper with a degree of interest I have never before taken in such matters.  Being a rank amateur when it comes to economics and often puzzled by the technical terms, I plow through editorials and analyses hoping to gain at least a small grasp of the causes and possible solutions.  But there is always a sharp debate about policies and strategies, and there are even profounder questions about whether or not we ought to try to return to the consumer-based economy that has fed our prosperity since World War II. Amidst all of the financial turmoil and the toll it is taking on millions of families, individuals, and communities, I [...]

PRAYER: Four Prayers by Frances Caryll Houselander

November 13, 2017

Descend, Holy Spirit of Life! Come down into our hearts, that we may live. Descend into emptiness, that emptiness may be filled. Descend into the dust, that the dust may flower. Descend into the dark, that the light may shine in the darkness. Amen. Be born in us, Incarnate Love. Take our flesh and blood, and give us your humanity; take our eyes, and give us your vision; take our minds, and give us your pure thought; take our feet and set them in your path; take our hands, and fold them in your prayer; take our hearts and give them your will to love. Amen. By your heaviness and fear in Gethsemane, comfort the oppressed and those who are afraid By your loneliness, facing the Passion while the Apostles slept, comfort those who face evil alone [...]

SPIRITUALITY: Divine Presents, The Sacramental Mysteries—The Sacramental Mystery of Baptism by Gregory Collins

November 11, 2017

From Meeting Christ in His Mysteries O useful element and clear! My sacred wash and cleanser here, My first consigner unto those Fountains of life, where the Lamb goes! What sublime truths and wholesome themes, Lodge in thy mystical, deep streams! Such as dull man can never find Unless that Spirit lead his mind, Which first upon thy face did move, And hatched all with his quick’ning love. (Henry Vaughan) In holy scripture this mystery has such an overwhelming significance that a great variety of images and metaphors are used to describe it such as illumination (Ephesians 5:8), rebirth and renewal (2 Titus 3:5), and clothing with Christ (Galatians 3:27).  One of the most suggestive images, the one which has most influenced [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Paraclete, A “Person” by Raniero Cantalamessa

November 10, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit “Paraclete” is the title that most clearly expresses the personal character of the Holy Spirit.  Using that title, the author of the hymn takes us a decisive step forward in contemplating the Holy Spirit.  If by the term, “Creator,” he affirmed that the Spirit was by nature divine, now by the term “Paraclete” he affirms that the Spirit is also a divine person.  The other titles and symbols of the Spirit – water, fire, love, and the very name Spirit  – might of themselves at the very most convince us that there is “something divine” about the Holy Spirit.  Paraclete, however, is in itself a personal title: it can be attributed only to a person, because it implies both intellect and [...]

POETRY: Proverbs by Thomas Merton

November 10, 2017

For Robert Lax 1. I will tell you what you can do ask me if you do not understand what I just said 2. One thing you can do be a manufacturer make appliances 3. Be a Man-u-fac-tu-rer 4. Make appliances sell them for a high price 5. I will tell you about industry make appliances 6. Make appliances that move 7. Ask me if you do not understand what is move 8. First get the facts 9. Where to apply? Ask industry 10. Do not expect to get by without Mr. and Mrs. Consumer 11. Man-u-fic-tion 12. I am wondering if you got the idea be a manu 13. MAKE FALSE GODS 14. Apply mind energy they will move 15. Mention one of the others see what happens 16. Now apply that to our problem 17. Try not to understand 18. Be a mounte-fictioner 19. Surpass all others [...]

VIRTUES: Freedom From Within (Detachment) by Gary L. Thomas

November 9, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit If you desire to undertake a devout life, you must not only cease to sin, but also cleanse your heart from all affections to sin.  Souls that are recovered from the state of sin, and still retain these affections, eat without joy, and drag themselves along rather than walk.  They do good, but with such a spiritual heaviness that it takes away all the grace from their good exercises. (Francis de Sales) For me, the saddest flowers in all the world will always be yellow roses. The last time I purchased them was twenty years ago, after the fifth or sixth breakup with “Sharon.”  Yellow roses were her favorite. Sharon and I were involved in a tempestuous relationship during high school, and, try as we [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Clothes Chest by Nathalie Leone

November 9, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Father Poemen used to say, “If you have a chest full of clothes and do not open it for a long time, the clothes inside will go moldy.” The same is true of the thoughts in our heart.  If we do not act upon them, they eventually spoil and change for the [...]

MYSTICISM: The Nature Of Mysticism—A Heuristic Sketch (Part One) by Bernard McGinn

November 8, 2017

From The Foundations of Mysticism According to the great mystical Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Ávila: I used sometimes, as I have said, to experience in an elementary form, and very fleetingly, what I shall now describe.  When picturing Christ in the way I have mentioned, and sometimes even when reading, I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God of such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that he was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in him.  This was in no sense a vision: I believe that it is called mystical theology. This quotation from Teresa’s Vida, or, Life, introduces some of the major issues that govern the account of mysticism to be presented in these volumes, especially the [...]