Blog posts

FAITH: Meditation On The Road To Emmaus

From The Monks of Norcia During the Triduum, that is to say the three days before Easter, the Eucharist is not celebrated as usual. Instead, on Maundy Thursday, we celebrate an evening liturgy, a particular Mass which commemorates the Institution of the Eucharist. Then, Friday and Saturday, there isn’t a Mass until the Easter Vigil (the liturgy of Good Friday is not a Mass). Other than these days, the Eucharist can be celebrated as usual on any day of the year. This is necessary for several reasons. One of these is to show us that the Eucharist is the fruit of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. That first Maundy Thursday, Jesus instituted the Eucharist only in view of the events of the days to follow. Then, the Easter [...]

PRAYER: Imaginative Prayer—A Meeting on the Road to Emmaus, by Vinita Hampton Wright

From Ignatian Spirituality This imaginative prayer exercise is based on Luke 24:13-35, the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It’s a long walk home from Jerusalem, but you’re glad for the exertion. The physical work of walking might ease, just slightly, the harder work that’s going on inside you today. It is the work of grief. You lost a friend just a few days ago. Not only a friend, but your leader, your beloved teacher. And he didn’t simply die; he was executed in the most torturous, shameful way. You’ve seen a lot in your lifetime, but the memories of Jesus’s ordeal are forever branded into your memory. You close your eyes and see blood; you go to sleep but dream about someone suspended, gasping for air. At [...]

POETRY: The Dry Salvages, by T. S. Eliot

No. 3 of “Four Quartets” (The Dry Salvages—presumably les trois sauvages—is a small group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Salvages is pronounced to rhyme with assuages. Groaner: a whistling buoy.) I I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable. Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, [...]

POETRY: Love Sorrow, by Mary Oliver

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must take care of what has been given. Brush her hair, help her into her little coat, hold her hand, especially when crossing a street. For, think, what if you should lose her? Then you would be sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness would be yours. Take care, touch her forehead that she feel herself not so utterly alone. And smile, that she does not altogether forget the world before the lesson. Have patience in abundance. And do not ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment by herself, which is to say, possibly, again, abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult, sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child. And amazing things can happen. And you may see, as the two of you go [...]

SERMON: From Sorrow To Joy, by Charles Spurgeon

Your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20) Our Lord was very honest with his followers when any enlisted beneath his banner. He did not profess that they would find an easy service if they took him to be their leader. Over and over again he stopped some young enthusiastic spirits by bidding them count the cost; and, when some said they would follow him wherever he might go, he reminded them that though the foxes had holes and the birds of the air had nests, yet he had no where to lay his head. He never duped any man. He told all the truth to them, and he could honestly say to them, If it were not so, I would have told you. He kept back nothing which it was needful for them to know in enlisting under his name. In this verse he [...]

LECTIO DIVINA: John 16:16-20

From Order of Carmelites 1) Opening Prayer Lord God, our Father, you are not far away from any of us, for in you we live and move and exist and you live in us through your Holy Spirit. Be indeed with us, Lord, send us your Holy Spirit of truth and through him deepen our understanding of the life and message of your Son, that we may accept the full truth and live by it consistently. We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 2) Gospel Reading – John 16:16-20 Jesus told to his disciples: “In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean, ‘In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later [...]

PRAYER: Novena To Saint Willibrord

Born in Yorkshire, Willibrord studied in Ireland and was ordained there.  He returned to England and led a mission to Frisia.  He was based in Utrecht, and later founded a monastery in Echternach.  He is an important saint to the people of Holland and Luxembourg.  A step-dance has persisted at Echternach in which the clergy participate.  Willibrord was noted for his graciousness and joy, and for his faithful preaching. 1st Day God our Father, you have given to Saint Willibrord a strong and living faith, which preserved him from faintheartedness in every difficulty.  Give us the grace of the same deep faith, which will support us in all the situations of our life. So make us worthy to have our petitions heard, at the intercession of [...]

PRAYER: Sorrow Into Joy

From Daily Prayers & Blessings Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20) God, thank you for sometimes reminding me that in the center of chaos lies the seed of new opportunity and that things are not always as awful as they seem at first. I often forget that what starts out bad can end up great and that it is all a matter of my own perspective. [...]

POETRY: Small Things, by Anna Kamieńska

It usually starts taking shape from one word reveals itself in one smile sometimes in the blue glint of eyeglasses in a trampled daisy in a splash of light on a path in quivering carrot leaves in a bunch of parsley It comes from laundry hung on a balcony from hands thrust into dough It seeps through closed eyelids as through the prison wall of things of objects of faces of landscapes It’s when you slice bread when you pour out some tea It comes from a broom from a shopping bag from peeling new potatoes from a drop of blood from the prick of a needle when making panties for a child or sewing a button on a husband’s burial shirt It comes out of toil out of care out of immense fatigue in the evening our of a tear wiped away out of [...]

CREDO: I Believe, by A. J. Muste

First of all, I believe in God.  I think it is possible to build a reasoned argument for the existence of God, though there are serious dangers connected with the effort.  It is not on that account, however, that I believe in God but simply because I cannot not believe in him.  He is given in my experience and as the ground of all my experience as surely – more surely – than this hand that I raise before my eyes, this desk that I grasp. This does not mean that I behave consistently, as this belief requires.  God had always been to me at least as much the Demand from which we try to escape – I suppose my Calvinist upbringing may account for that – as he is the Everlasting Rock upon whom we rest, the Redeemer who makes no [...]

POETRY: My Beautiful Soul, by Laura Kasischke

It is the beggar who thanks me profusely for the dollar. It is a boat of such beggars sinking beneath the weight of this one’s thanking. It is the bath growing cold around the crippled woman calling to someone in another room. And the arthritic children in the park picking dust off summer speck by speck while a bored nurse watches. The wind has toppled the telescope over onto the lawn: So much for stars. Your brief shot at the universe, gone. It is some water lilies and a skull in a decorative pond, and a tiny goldfish swimming like an animated change-purse made of brightness and surprises observing the moment through its empty eye. Thank you, thank you, bless you, beautiful lady with your beautiful soul. It is as if I have tossed a [...]

ALL SOULS: Cluny And The Feast Of All Souls, by Iotsald

From Iotsald Concerning the vision of a hermit. Lord Bishop Richard related to me the story of a certain vision, which I had heard once before but I could not remember the details.  At that time, he said, a certain devout man from the district of Rouergue [in southwestern France] was returning from Jerusalem.  But when he had sailed halfway across the sea that stretches from Sicily to Thessaloniki, very strong winds struck his boat and drove it to an island, or rather a rocky outcropping, where a certain servant of God lived as a hermit.  As he waited for a while for the sea to calm, the pilgrim tarried long enough to have a conversation with this servant of God about many different topics.  Asked by the man of God where he was [...]

POETRY: All Souls’ Day, by Frances Bellerby

Let’s go our old way by the stream, and kick the leaves as we always did, to make the rhythm of breaking waves. This day draws no breath— shows no color anywhere except for the leaves—in their death brilliant as never before. Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly, brown of Oak Eggar Moth— you’d say. And I’d be wondering why a summer never seems lost if two have been together witnessing the variousness of light, and the same two in lusterless November enter the year’s night… The slow-worm stream—how still! Above that spider’s unguarded door, look—dull pearls…Time’s full, brimming, can hold no more. Next moment (we well know, my darling, you and I) what the small day cannot hold must spill into [...]

ALL SAINTS: A Negative Definition, by L. R. Tarsitano

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19) In this octave of All Saints’ Day, on one of eight days when we consider every year what it means to be called to be the “saints” of God, we would do well to heed this negative definition from Saint Paul. One of the best ways to know what a saint is is to know what a saint is not. I think that it was the Renaissance artist Michelangelo who explained that when he worked in marble, he didn’t so much try to carve an image as to take away any of the stone that did not [...]

POETRY: All-Saints’ Day, by Ada Cambridge

Blessed are they whose baby-souls are bright, Whose brows are sealèd with the cross of light, Whom God Himself has deign’d to robe in white— Blessed are they! Blessed are they who follow through the wild His sacred footprints, as a little child; Who strive to keep their garments undefiled— Blessed are they! Blessed are they who commune with the Christ, Midst holy angels, at the Eucharist— Who aye seek sunlight through the rain and mist— Blessed are they! Blessed are they—the strong in faith and grace— Who humbly fill their own appointed place; They who with steadfast patience run the race— Blessed are they! Blessed are they who suffer and endure— They who through thorns and briars walk safe and sure; Gold in the fire [...]

SAINTS: Saint Patrick Speaks To The Dead, by Whitley Stokes

From The Tripartite Life of Patrick with Other Documents Relating to That Saint. It was Patrick’s custom to make the sign of the cross one hundred times every day and every night.  And whether he was in a chariot or on horseback, he would visit every standing cross, sometimes leaving the road to do so, even if it was a thousand feet away, provided that he saw it from a distance or knew that it was there.  Once on a certain day Patrick did not visit a standing cross that was on his route.  In fact, he did not even realize that it was there.  Then at the end of the day, his chariot driver remarked that the saint had passed by a standing cross without stopping to visit it.  Hearing this, Patrick abandoned the guesthouse where he [...]

SAINTS: Saint Germanus Quiets A Specter, by Constantius of Lyon

From Life of Saint Germanus of Auxerre Once when Germanus was on the road in the winter and had passed the entire day in fasting and weariness, he was advised to find shelter somewhere with the approach of evening.  There was a little house some distance from the road.  Now long abandoned, its roof had partially collapsed and it was covered in foliage due to general neglect, so it seemed almost better to brave the night in the cold of the open air rather than to find shelter in that place of danger and horror, especially since two old men had claimed that this particular house was uninhabited because something terrible dwelt there.  When the most blessed man learned this, he approached the dreadful ruin as though it was a place of [...]

SAINTS: Saint Martin And The Bandit’s Ghost, by Sulpicius Severus

From The Life of Saint Martin There was a place not far from the town [Tours] and near to the monastery [Marmoutier], which the false belief of men considered to be sacred, as though martyrs had been buried there.  And there was even an altar there, set up by past bishops.  But Martin, not one to believe idly in rumors, sought the name of this martyr and the date of his death from presbyters and priests older than him.  He felt considerable doubt because no established tradition had been passed down.  For a while he stayed away from that place, neither speaking out against the veneration of the martyr, because he was unsure of his identity, nor lending his authority to the rumor, because he did not wish to strengthen a false belief. [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: Tell Lazarus, Arise

It was a time of flight. I used to define flight as a time when I had one foot in the seen world and the other in the unseen world. But recalling this time I think that it would be better defined as having both feet in the unseen world, while still being in this world. This flight was most profound.  So much so, that for the two years that it went on, I never needed my reading glasses to see. I thought, at the time, that this was an indication that I had received a healing to my eyes. But, no.  Over the years that followed the flight, my eyes gradually went back to being “normal.” My first miracle was when I touched the hand of a woman born deaf, and she was healed. And now I was beginning work on my second. When it was time, [...]

POETRY: Hagia Sophia, by Thomas Merton

I. Dawn. The Hour of Lauds There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.  There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.  This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom. I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister, sent to me from the [...]

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part Four), by Claire E. Wolfteich

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility The Power and the Ambiguity What these stories of the desert elders, Ignatius, and Teresa show is a common thread of the tradition: the centrality of prayer to the Christian way of life.  The practice of prayer actually is the path to knowledge of God; prayer is part of the faith that seeks understanding.  This understanding of prayer has unfortunately been undermined by a false separation of spirituality from theology that began in the high Middle Ages and continues today, leaving devotion privatized and disconnected from a whole life that seeks wisdom.  For the desert elders, Ignatius, and Teresa, the practice of prayer was integral to a way of life that seeks [...]

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part Three), by Claire E. Wolfteich

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility Prayer as Friendship: Teresa of Ávila Another Spanish spiritual guide, Teresa of Ávila, a mystic and preeminent teacher on prayer, described prayer as “nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends.”  Teresa knew about friendship and about prayer; she was sociable and as a teenager quite absorbed in what she later would see as vain friendships.  Inspired by spiritual books and conversation, she made a decision at age twenty (against her father’s wishes) to enter a nearby Carmelite monastery and live as a nun.  She experienced terrible health problems and great difficulty in prayer for years before experiencing the intense mystical [...]

POETRY: The Rat Of Faith, by Philip Levine

A blue jay poses on a stake meant to support an apple tree newly planted. A strong wind on this clear cold morning barely ruffles his tail feathers. When he turns his attention toward me, I face his eyes without blinking. A week ago my wife called me to come see this same bird chase a rat into the thick leaves of an orange tree. We came as close as we could and watched the rat dig his way into an orange, claws working meticulously. Then he feasted, face deep into the meal, and afterwards washed himself in juice, paws scrubbing soberly. Surprised by the whiteness of the belly, how open it was and vulnerable, I suggested I fetch my .22. She said, “Do you want to kill him?” I didn’t. There are oranges enough for him, the [...]

POETRY: Faith Of Our Fathers, by Paul J. Willis

The faculty ate lunch and sang today, a dark day in the old chapel. We lent our less than thousand tongues unto a fortress mighty as it’s ever been, and though there were brave women too we bellow like bass organ pipes, joining mostly our forefathers in echoes of their hallowing, our brief and particular stanza. So many rich voices among us, grave and deep and reverberant, and this was a great comfort to me— to be still a child after all, still surrounded by grown men growling low in their unmistakable [...]

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part Two), by Claire E. Wolfteich

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility LIVING GENEROUSLY: IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA The Spanish soldier and founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius of Loyola, lived in a very different time and place.  Yet he too came to an understanding of prayer as central to the Christian life.  In many ways, Ignatius lived quite opposite to the way the desert ascetics did.  The early monks and nuns retreated to the desert; Ignatius brought his mission to the cities – to Barcelona and Rome, to Jerusalem and Paris.  Many desert elders lived in solitude; Ignatius traveled with a band of companions, fellow visionaries and missionaries, who would become the “Society of Jesus,” or the Jesuits.  They would work [...]

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES: Prayer And The Christian Way Of Life (Part One), by Claire E. Wolfteich

From Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility One of the fourth-century desert fathers, Abba Macarius, was asked, How should one pray?  The old man said, There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one’s hands and say, “Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.” Macarius was among the early monks and nuns who led solitary lives in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.  They left cities and towns to live a stark, ascetic life of prayer, confronting the demons within and without, seeking to grow in discernment and purity of heart.  People often came to them and asked for a “word” – for spiritual counsel.  The elders would respond [...]

THE CHURCH: Running With The Witnesses, by John Piper 

From Desiring God And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 11:39–12:2) Running — Not Meandering The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was getting old and was [...]

PRAYER: Prayer On Our Cloud Of Witnesses

From The Book of Common Prayer (1928) Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1) Almighty God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of thy Saints, and especially of thy servant [Saint——], may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, [...]

POETRY: Pentecost, R. T. Smith

for John Foster West Squint-eyed and cunning, its tongue split like a wishbone, the canebrake sulls up, cursive spine and the diamonds in spiral like genetic code, and Joby frets the Stratocaster, it’s plastic the color of a salted ham. A tambourine’s discs shiver, and Brother Pascal wields the Book’s hot gospel like a blunt instrument. This is spirit. This is bliss. The words from Heaven would almost strangle you. The Holy Ghost is a rough customer alright, and if someone comes for healing touch, for translation into a mended soul, a whole body, let him lie beside the altar all shorn and shocked and willing, sing amen, say grace abounding, and the current sizzles, the tail beads buzz, as the road to Zion is not all [...]

COMMUNITY: The Soup Kitchen, by Nora Gallagher

From The Sacred Meal Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:46-47) Many of us are asking, How should I live?  How should we live?  We come to our faith communities with those questions.  Sometimes they are taken seriously, even answered, and sometimes the church sticks us on a committee. One of the things that happened to me after I went to church for many years, asking those questions, was I began to see that if you don’t act on what you hear in the gospels every Sunday, then it doesn’t stick. When I first went back to the Episcopal Church after a long hiatus, I [...]