POETRY: Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy

June 15, 2018

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. So, a woman will lift her head from the sieve of her hands and stare at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift. Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts, that small familiar pain; then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth in the distant Latin chanting of a train. Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales console the lodger looking out across a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls a child’s name as though they named their loss. Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer— Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.*   *The poet is English, and these geographical markers are a well-known feature of the local shipping [...]

POETRY: Like A Brazier’s Bronze Cinders by Boris Pasternak

March 23, 2018

Like a brazier’s bronze cinders, the sleepy garden’s beetles flowing. Level with me, and my candle, a flowering world is hanging. As if into unprecedented faith, I cross into this night, where the poplar’s beaten grey veils the moon’s rim from sight. Where the pond’s an open secret, where apple-trees whisper of waves, where the garden hanging on piles, holds the sky before its [...]

WANDERING: Banished (part one) by A. J. Swoboda

March 10, 2018

From The Dusty Ones Return, O Wanderer, to thy home, Thy Father calls for thee; No longer now an exile roam In guilt and misery; Return, return Return, O wanderer, to thy home, ‘Tis Jesus calls for thee: The Spirit and the bride say, Come; Oh now for refuge flee; Return, return. Return, O wanderer, to thy home, ‘Tis madness to delay: There are no pardons in the tomb And brief is mercy’s day. Return, return. (Thomas Hastings, “Return, O Wanderer”)   “In the beginning God….” (Genesis 1:1). As we’ve been discussing, that’s the beginning of creation – four words that capture the essence of everything from the sunset to raccoons to the very book in your hands.  Before everything, was God.  Sure, God eventually gets [...]

WANDERING: Mom’s Gazpacho by A. J. Swoboda

February 24, 2018

From The Dusty Ones The spiritual journey is not a career or success story.  It is a series of humiliations of the false self that becomes more and more profound. (Thomas Long) This book is about wandering. What does the image of wandering provoke in your mind’s eye? Wandering is a surprising image to pay attention to in the Bible.  Similar to a good many other Biblical images, wandering is an image that’s repeated with relentless consistency throughout the Good Book.  But even such a relentlessly consistent image inspired by the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that the reader will appropriately interpret the image in the way it was intended – we’ve become masters at misunderstanding Biblical images.  That an image is inspired [...]

WANDERING: Wandering And Lamaze by A. J. Swoboda

February 17, 2018

From The Dusty Ones This is what the Lord says about this people: “They greatly love to wander.” (Jeremiah 14:10) This book is about wandering. It wouldn’t be fair to say I make my final approach to the topic of wandering out of nowhere or free of baggage.  I’ve checked some heavy bags for the flight.  Indeed, I bring myself with a cargo load of luggage from my own story that’s sure to affect the way I reflect upon it.  For one, I approach the topic of wandering as a preacher.  Preaching is my trade, my vocation, and my life’s passion.  Preaching is also my paycheck – it puts food on my family’s table.  But my preaching isn’t entirely driven by economic forces alone.  I preach because I am a Christian.  And as a [...]

VIRTUES: The Tunings Of Faith

May 21, 2017

The word, faith, is said a lot. At least in my world. But almost every time it is named, it is done in its own unique way. Have faith. Have faith in me. Have faith in God. Your faith can move mountains. Your faith can set you free. Your faith will be rewarded. Your faith has made you well. We live by faith. Walk in faith. And so on and on and on. But the one phrase that has me truly confounded is: Faith is a gift. Period. Just the statement.  No explanation. Faith is a gift. It might be mentioned that it is given to us by God. So what is the deal exactly?  God is sitting around one day and looks down at me and thinks to himself, That’s it!  I’ll give Julia some faith! Does it come wrapped? Do I find it under my pillow when I [...]

POETRY: The Doubter’s Prayer by Anne Brontë

March 28, 2017

Eternal Power, of earth and air! Unseen, yet seen in all around, Remote, but dwelling everywhere, Though silent, heard in every sound. If e’er thine ear in mercy bent, When wretched mortals cried to Thee, And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent, To save lost sinners such as me: Then hear me now, while, kneeling here, I lift to thee my heart and eye, And all my soul ascends in prayer, Oh, give me—give me Faith! I cry. Without some glimmering in my heart, I could not raise this fervent prayer; But, oh! a stronger light impart, And in Thy mercy fix it there. While Faith is with me, I am blest; It turns my darkest night to day; But while I clasp it to my breast, I often feel it slide away. Then, cold and dark, my spirit sinks, To see my light [...]

POETRY: New Mexico, 1992 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

March 6, 2017

We learned to make the sign of the cross, Dipping earth stained hands in Catholic Waters. We’ve filled the desert with our altars We prayed our rosaries, played them, Rubbed them, clutched them– rattles in the wind Swaying back and forth—our Playground swings, we rode them toward God, Now hang them on walls or rear view Mirrors of fixed-up ’57 trucks. Comenzamos el Padre Nuestro en espanol but we finish the prayer in a North American tongue. De vez en cuando we gather ourselves together to baptize a child in the name of the Father, the Son, and our ancestors who command us from the grave. We have made our way in the world, worked hard, worked hard. Now, we toss money at the feet of my parent’s grandchildren like [...]

POETRY: The Beautiful, Striped Sparrow by Mary Oliver

February 27, 2017

In the afternoons, in the almost empty fields, I hum the hymns I used to sing in church. They could not tame me, so they would not keep me, alas, and how that feels, the weight of it, I will not tell any of you, not ever. Still, as they promised, God, once he is in your heart, is everywhere— so even here among the weeds and the brisk trees. How long does it take to hum a hymn? Strolling one or two acres of the sweetness or the world, not counting a lapse, now and again, of sheer emptiness. Once a deer stood quietly at my side. And sometimes the wind has touched my cheek like a spirit. Am I lonely? The beautiful, striped sparrow, serenely, on the tallest weed in his kingdom, also sings without [...]

POETRY: The Ten Lepers by Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon

February 22, 2017

’Neath the olives of Samaria, in far-famed Galilee, Where dark green vines are mirrored in a placid silver sea, ’Mid scenes of tranquil beauty, glowing sun-sets, rosy dawn, The Master and disciples to the city journeyed on. And, as they neared a valley where a sheltered hamlet lay, A strange, portentous wailing made them pause upon their way— Voices fraught with anguish, telling of aching heart and brow, Which kept moaning: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us now!” Softly raised the gentle Saviour His eyes like midnight star, And His mournful gaze soon rested on ten lepers, who, afar, Stood motionless and suppliant, in sackcloth rudely clothed, Poor Pariahs! by their nearest, their dearest, shunned and loathed. Not unto Him prayed [...]

POETRY: This World Is Not Conclusion by Emily Dickinson

November 25, 2016

This World is not Conclusion. A Species stands beyond— Invisible, as Music— But positive, as Sound— It beckons, and it baffles— Philosophy, don’t know— And through a Riddle, at the last— Sagacity, must go— To guess it, puzzles scholars— To gain it, Men have borne Contempt of Generations And Crucifixion, shown— Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies— Blushes, if any see— Plucks at a twig of Evidence— And asks a Vane, the way— Much Gesture, from the Pulpit— Strong Hallelujahs roll— Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the [...]

THE SANCTITY OF LIFE: Things Seen And Unseen by Sam Torode

November 21, 2016

From A woman in a white coat walked into the room and flipped on the fluorescent lights, jarring my wife awake.  Bethany had been asleep for about half an hour – the longest nap she had managed all day.  Though the doctor had ordered her to get plenty of sleep, nurses kept coming in every few minutes to take her temperature and blood pressure. The day before, we were invited to lunch at a Thai restaurant.  When we returned home, Bethany was bothered by a cramp in her side.  Blaming the food, she laid down in bed.  But after four hours of increasing pain, we left for the emergency room, thinking that it might be appendicitis.  We were right, after after a few hours the appendix was removed with no complications [...]

FAITH: Road To Emmaus Gives Hope To All Christians, Says Holy Father

November 17, 2016

From Catholic News Agency (Vatican City, April 6, 2008) The road to Emmaus “is the path of renewal and maturation in faith for all Christians,”   Pope Benedict told the many thousands of pilgrims that packed St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli Prayer today at noon. The Gospel of this Sunday – the third Easter – is the famous story told of the disciples of Emmaus. It tells of two followers of Christ who, sad and disheartened, left Jerusalem the day after the Sabbath, the third since his death, to go to a nearby village called Emmaus. Along the road, the risen Jesus came up beside them, but they did not recognize him. Sensing their dejection, he explained on the basis of the scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer and [...]

FAITH: Meditation On The Road To Emmaus by The Monks of Norcia

November 14, 2016

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 Vigil, the Easter Sunday Mass, [...]

POETRY: The Rat Of Faith by Philip Levine

October 26, 2016

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 [...]

THE CHURCH: Running With The Witnesses by John Piper 

October 24, 2016

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 [...]

HOMILY: Towards Holiness by Josemaría Escrivá

July 31, 2016

We are deeply moved, and our hearts profoundly shaken, when we listen attentively to that cry of Saint Paul: This is God’s will for you, your sanctification.  Today, once again, I set myself this goal and I also remind you and all mankind: this is God’s will for us, that we be saints. In order to bring peace, genuine peace, to souls; in order to transform the Earth and to seek God, our Lord, in the world and through the things of the world, personal sanctity is indispensable.  In my conversations with people from so many countries and from all kinds of social backgrounds, I am often asked: What do you say to us married folk?  To those of us who work on the land?  To widows?  To young people? I reply systematically that I [...]

POETRY: The Land Of Silence by May Sarton

June 3, 2016

1 Time beats like a heart; we do not hear it But we are nourished as by sleep after pain. Death is so close to life that we can bear it. The smallest veins drink time and breathe again. 2 The horizon is inhabited by mountains, The foreground presents birds. In the morning I saw the gray dove In the bare trees, active as a mother, And in the evening without words The intense violet light Lifted the mountains away into night. And I knew I did not have to make a choice But only to look at each thing as it came, To look as one might listen to a voice Unknown, but calling a familiar name. 3 Now I am here in the land of silence, Of the near dove and the distant hills, I know that the surface is the essence, No stripping down to what is already [...]

FAITH: He First by Father Andrew

May 31, 2016

From Meditations for Every Day We love him because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) There are some truths which make the whole difference to life, and the thought of the priority of God is one of them.  God is first in priority of time.  In the story of Genesis (and science tells us the same thing), the world was got ready for man before man came into it.  Beauty was fashioned before the eye was fashioned to see it.  The songs of the birds, the sigh of the wind, and the sound of the sea, were all there before the ear.  We live because God first lived.  The world of speculation that scientific people give us only puts the mystery a little further back.  They never can tell us of the First Cause.  There is no other answer but that [...]

TRINITY: Faith Is Our Fortress by Corwin C. Roach

May 26, 2016

From In Spirit and In Truth Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; we beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen. The original form of the Trinity Collect which was retained until 1662 prayed “that through the steadfastness of this faith, we may evermore be defended from all adversity.”  Our present form separates this clause into two.  We pray that we may be kept steadfast in the Faith and that God may defend us.  Although [...]

POETRY: No Coward Soul Is Mine by Emily Brontë

May 10, 2016

No coward soul is mine, No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere: I see Heaven’s glories shine, And faith shines equal, arming me from fear. O God within my breast, Almighty ever-present Deity! Life—that in me hast rest, As I—undying Life—have Power in Thee! Vain are the thousand creeds That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain; Worthless as withered weeds, Or idlest froth amid the boundless main, To waken doubt in one Holding so fast by thy infinity; So surely anchored on The steadfast rock of Immortality. With wide-embracing love Thy spirit animates eternal years, Pervades and broods above, Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears. Though earth and moon were gone, And suns and universes ceased to [...]

SERMON: The Canaanite Woman, by Bede the Venerable

February 28, 2016

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said [...]

PRAYER: A Prayer Of Confession For Lent (2) by James S. Lowry

February 22, 2016

From Prayers for the Lord’s Day: Hope for the Exiles Lord God, forgive us. Unlike the psalmist, when we walk through the shadow of death, we sometimes fear evil. Unlike Paul, we are not always sure that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Unlike John of Patmos, in the midst of injustice we do not always see a new Heaven and a new Earth. Forgive again, we pray, our feeble use of the faith you give, and restore to us the hope of trust and the trust of hope. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. [...]

SUFFERING: To Know The Cross, by Thomas Merton

February 19, 2016

From No Man Is An Island I pray that we may be found worthy to be cursed, censured, and ground down, and even put to death in the name of Jesus Christ, so long as Christ himself is not put to death in us. (Paulinus of Nola) The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy.  Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering. Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps, to harden them.  Endurance alone is no consecration.  True asceticism is not a mere cult of fortitude.  We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial. Suffering is consecrated to God by faith – not by faith in suffering, but by faith in God.  Some of us [...]

SATURDAY READING: What Do You Want? The Place of Seeing God by Ann Voskamp

January 16, 2016

From One Thousand Gifts Every time you feel in God’s creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: “O my God, if thy creations are so full of beauty, delight, and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight, and joy art thou thyself, creator of all! (Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain) “You will want to see this.” He takes my shoulders in his hands, large and field-worn, and draws me close.  I fight the urge to writhe. It’s not him.  Not his hands holding me, the whisper of his voice, his eyes inviting me now.  It’s just that I’m feeling time’s strangling grip, struggling to [...]

BELIEF: A Christmas Creed

December 22, 2015

Author unknown I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem. I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world, in towns both large and small. I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today. I believe in the one whom the rulers of the Earth ignored and the proud could never understand; whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts. I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible. I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother’s arms, whose modest home in Nazareth had [...]

FAITH: Evil, A Conversation with Elie Wiesel

November 10, 2015

From Evil and Exile (Philippe-Michaël de Saint-Cheron is a French journalist) Philippe-Michaël de Saint-Cheron: How do you reconcile the ideas of providence and silence, or what Buber called the eclipse of God?  Do you feel that providence died during the Shoah [holocaust]?  What possible meaning can it have today, when it is clearly so sorely lacking? Elie Wiesel: There are some paradoxes that I have to accept.  I simply have no choice.  That particular one is essential, and it is equally essential to face it, though I have found no way to resolve it.  I do not understand it now, and I never will.  I first asked this question more than forty years ago, and it is as valid today as ever.  My only answer is that I would not like [...]

SUFFERING: Recapturing A Sense Of Mystery by Basil Hume

November 5, 2015

From The Mystery of the Cross In our day we need to recapture a sense of mystery.  Pascal made the distinction between a mystery and a problem, and it is one we have tended to forget.  A problem is an obstacle, a conundrum something that can in principle be formulated and solved.  A mystery is utterly different.  It lies beyond us; it is too rich for our understanding.  It can be entered into, explored, even inhabited; but it can never be exhausted or fathomed. Our age dislikes intensely the idea of mystery, because it directly exposes our limitations.  The thought that there could be something, or someone, beyond human comprehension or imagining is, of course, exciting, but it is also belittling.  It puts us in our place, and that [...]

FAITH: Is There Hope For Faith by Thomas H. Groome

July 24, 2015

From Hope At the end of his public ministry, Luke has Jesus wonder, “Will there be faith on Earth?” upon his return.  Faith, as always, is the foundation of hope, but in our postmodern and secularized era, the more pressing question may be, “Is there hope for faith?”  This essay proposes the rationale why we can have such hope and a pedagogy that, by God’s grace, may ensure as much. There is an obvious logic to Aquinas’s sequencing of the three great theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. As Dominic Doyle lays out so clearly, faith is presumed to come first as what we believe, encourages us to hope for the good we desire, and should result in love for, and in keeping with, our ultimate desire: God.  In theory, we move [...]

FAITH: It Takes Too Much Faith! by Thomas Alan Wheeler

July 21, 2015

From Second Wind Last night around 10 p.m., we heard shots fired just outside my door.  I rushed to see what was up, a normal occurrence in my new life.  My neighbor across the street was standing in his side lawn, saw me at the door, and asked in a loud voice, “You got any problem with what I just did?” “Well, I don’t know what you just did,” I said, certain he had fired the shots.  “I just came out to see if everything was OK and everyone was still alive.”  He assured me everything was fine.  I heard the neighbor behind him asking the same thing as I went inside.  I guess he just decided to take out a pistol and start shooting.  Thankfully not at me! I walked away shaking my head – again. (Author’s journal entry, [...]