WISDOM STORY: The Knight And The Keg by Nathalie Leone

October 19, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom The knight was as comely as an angel.  Even if he rode all day, on his return he was fresh and the folds in his clothing were as unruffled as they had been before he set out. And yet he spread horror.  He desecrated, burned, killed, and ravaged men and beasts who crossed his path.  He was so cruel that people even thought he was born heartless. He did not distinguish between respected holy days and normal days, never went to church, and never fasted, not even during Lent.  And rumor had it that he had never in his life heard a sermon.  “He isn’t even baptized,” it was whispered.  He instilled the fear of an antichrist.  On Good Friday, the knight joyfully proposed to his companions that they [...]

HEALING: We Are All Good Goats by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 19, 2017

From: Good Goats A few years ago, we presented some of the ideas in this book to a group of elderly retired Roman Catholic nuns.  One sister raised her hand and said, “But what about the story of the sheep and the goats?  It says right there that the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell.” Dennis responded by asking the whole group, “How many of you, even once in your life, have done what Jesus asks at the beginning of that passage and fed a hungry person, clothed a naked person, or visited a person in prison?”  All the sisters raised their hands.  Dennis said, “That’s wonderful!  You’re all sheep.”  Then Dennis asked, “How many of you, even once in your life, have walked by [...]

POETRY: Luke 14, A Commentary by Kathleen Norris

October 18, 2017

So he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11) He is there like Clouseau [...]

MYSTICISM: Why Mysticism Matters by Carl McColman

October 18, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:3) All mystic charisms are worthless compared to the love of God. They are as a string of pearls adorning a hungry infant who does not heed the pearls but only wants his mother’s breast. (Macarius the Egyptian) For those who have a sense of God’s presence in their lives, who enjoy a natural bent toward spirituality or a strong commitment to religion, or who simply enjoy the history of ideas, mysticism is a fascinating subject in its own right.  Others without an innate attraction to the topic, however, may be asking themselves: “What’s the point?  Does mysticism really make a difference?  How can it make life [...]

PSALMS: Broader Structures In The Psalter by W. Robert Godfrey

October 17, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Within the Psalter, certain groups of psalms have long been identified.  Psalms 146–150 are concluding psalms of praise, each beginning and ending with the same Hebrew word: Hallelujah.  Psalms 113–118 have been known as the Egyptian Hallel, the psalms used to celebrate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt at the feast of the Passover.  As we study the Psalter, we may see other groups of psalms emerging.  For example, in Book One, Psalms 19–26 seem to form a special group prophetic of the redemptive work of Christ. Still other groups of psalms are united by certain words or ideas that are repeated from one psalm to another.  These links are complex, and we will only scratch the surface of them [...]

POETRY: Meditation Seven by Edward Taylor

October 17, 2017

My  heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. (Psalm 45:1-2) Thy human frame, my glorious Lord, I spy. A golden still with Heavenly choice drugs filled Thy holy love, the glowing heat whereby The spirit of grace is graciously distilled. Thy mouth the neck through which these spirits still; My soul thy vial make, and therewith fill. Thy speech the liquor in thy vessel stands, Well tinged with grace, a blessed tincture, lo, Thy words distilled grace in thy lips poured, and Give graces tincture in them where they go. Thy words in graces [...]

ANGELS: At The Dawn Of The Day by Martin Shannon

October 17, 2017

From: All God’s Angel After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from Heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—Trusting Courage by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 16, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Suppose our argument thus far is convincing.  Suppose we agree that gratefulness is that fullness of life for which all of us are thirsting.  Then the task ahead is simple enough: to learn to live gratefully.  The key question is: How shall we go about it? Earlier on, when we spoke of learning to live prayerfully, I suggested that we take the most prayerful moments in our daily life and start from there.  This gives us the advantage of starting with something we already know from experience.  In certain situations we have experienced an inner attitude that we consider prayerful; now the task is to approach not only some but all situations in that attitude.  At least we already know what it is [...]

MUSIC: Wrong Notes In A Splendid Performance by Thomas H. Troeger

October 16, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I particularly remember one lesson from years ago, when I was seriously studying the flute.  I was playing for my teacher, John Oberbrunner, a major work that I was about to perform in public.  We had agreed that I was to play the piece all the way through, as I would in the performance, and then he would respond to what he had heard.  I do not now recall exactly what the piece was, nor do I remember the whole of my teacher’s response.  But I have never forgotten one thing that he said.  I had played a dotted half note just before a rest of several beats, and I had forgotten that it was supposed to be a sharp, not a natural.  During the measure’s rest that followed the wrong note I lifted the flute [...]

PRAYER: Prayer Of Confession, 19th Century India

October 16, 2017

Like the bounding stag I have sought sensual pleasures and fallen into the lake. I am the greatest sinner among sinners, unwilling to part with even a grain of rice to the noisy crow. Like the fly buzzing about without any rest, I seek. O, Father, tell me what to do that I may not die without your grace, and grant me your grace to support me. Like the bull bearing heavy burdens, I have toiled carrying the load of my own grief. Not knowing anything, I have roamed like the unclean animal feeding upon the refuse of the streets. I am lower than the dog, which tires itself out with barking in utter thoughtlessness. Holy Father, what can I do to obtain your grace to support me in my distress? I have taken pride in regarding my darkness as light [...]

POETRY: Wilt Thou Love God? by John Donne

October 15, 2017

Wilt thou love God, as he thee? then digest, My Soule, this wholsome meditation, How God the Spirit, by Angels waited on In Heaven, doth make his Temple in thy brest. The Father having begot a Sonne most blest, And still begetting, (for he ne’r begonne) Hath deign’d to chuse thee by adoption, Coheire to his glory, and Sabbaths endless rest; And as a robb’d man, which by search doth finde His stolne stuffe sold, must lose or buy it againe: The Sonne of glory came downe, and was slaine, Us whom he had made, and Satan stolne, to unbinde. ‘Twas much, that man was made like God before, But, that God should be made like man, much [...]

SATURDAY READING: Screaming by Dan Wakefield

October 15, 2017

From Returning: A Spiritual Journey One balmy spring morning in Hollywood, a month or so before my forty-eighth birthday, I work up screaming.  I got out of bed, went into the next room, sat down on a couch, and screamed again.  This was not, in other words, one of those waking nightmares left over from sleep that is dispelled by the comforting light of day.  It was, rather, a response to the reality that another morning had broken in a life I could only deal with sedated by wine, loud noise, moving images, and wired to electronic games that further distracted my fragmented attention from a growing sense of blank, nameless pain in the pit of my very being, my most essential self.  It was the beginning of a year in which I would have [...]

POETRY: A Prayer To Eve by Kathleen Norris

October 14, 2017

Mother of fictions and of irony, help us to laugh. Mother of science and the critical method, keep up humble. Muse of listeners, hope of interpreters, inspire us to act. Bless our metaphors, that we might eat them. Help us to know, Eve, the one thing we must do. Come with us, muse of exile, mother of the [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Sanctifying Work Of The Spirit by Raniero Cantalamessa

October 13, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit Saint Seraphim of Sarov said to one of his disciples: We need to keep praying up to the moment when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us and grants us Heavenly grace in a measure known only to him.  As soon as he visits us, we should stop calling upon him to come.  For indeed, what purpose could it serve to keep on pleading, “Come, you who are goodness itself, make your dwelling in us, purify us of every stain and save our souls,” if he has already come? To behave differently would be like inviting someone to your house, and when he arrives meeting him at the door and letting him stand there while you repeat over and over with monotonous insistence, “Do please come and visit me!”  People [...]

SURRENDER: The Limited Use Of Intelligence, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

October 12, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender The mind with all its powers would like to hold first place among all the instruments employed by God, but it must, like a dangerous slave, be reduced to the lowest place.  It might be of great service if made use of in a right manner, but it can do much injury if it is not kept in subjection.  When the soul longs for outward supports, grace whispers to the heart that God’s invisible work is enough.  When the soul wishes to forego created means of help at the wrong time, God shows it that such help should be received and used with singleness of heart, in keeping with his established will.  We should use such means as tools, not for their own sake, but as though we did not use them, and when we are [...]

WISDOM STORY: Providence by Nathalie Leone

October 12, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom A priest had shut himself in his cell to write a sermon on divine providence. Suddenly he heard an explosion.  The dam that protected the small town had just given way and the river burst its banks in a roar of flood water that swept along everything in its path. The priest, distraught, was about to give way to panic when he caught sight of his sermon on divine providence.  He pulled himself together and calmed down. The village was flooded and most people stayed cloistered indoors.  Some of them, however, did venture out, waist-deep in water, in search of help.  A rescue boat soon arrived under the presbytery windows. The rowers called out to the priest, gesticulating to him. “No, no,” he said to [...]

HEALING: Punishment Never Heals, Only Love Can Heal by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 12, 2017

From: Good Goats When we speak of how our recovery depends so much on knowing God as merciful and loving, the most frequent question we are asked is this: “If God is so merciful and loving, then why be good?” I (Dennis) understand this question since I did many good things because I feared a vengeful, punishing God.  For example, I read Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats.  I interpreted this passage literally and thought that since the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell, I wanted to  make sure I was a sheep.  So, out of fear and as a good sheep, I did many good things such as visiting the sick and feeding the hungry.  Yet, when my image of God changed, I did even more good things and did them with more [...]

MYSTICISM: Simone Weil—Encounters With Christ

October 11, 2017

From Waiting for God and The Notebooks of Simone Weil In 1938 I spent ten days at Solesmes, from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday, following all the liturgical services.  I was suffering from splitting headaches; each sound hurt me like a blow; by an extreme effort of concentration I was able to rise above this wretched flesh, to leave it to suffer by itself, heaped up in a corner, and to find a perfect and pure joy in the unimaginable beauty of the chanting and the words.  This experience by analogy enabled me to get a better understanding of the possibility of divine love in the midst of affliction.  It goes without saying that in the course of these services the thought of the passion of Christ entered into my being once and for all. [...]

POETRY: Daydreaming by Simone Weil

October 11, 2017

I believe that the root of evil, in everybody perhaps, but certainly in those whom affliction has touched, is daydreaming. It is the sole consolation, the unique resource of the afflicted; the one solace that helps them bear the fearful burden of time; and a very innocent one, besides being indispensable. So how could it be possible to renounce it? It has only one disadvantage, which is that it is unreal. To renounce it for the love of truth is really to abandon all one’s possessions in a mad excess of love and to follow Him who is the personification of Truth. And it is really to bear the cross; because time is the cross. In all its forms without exception, daydreaming is falsehood. It excludes love. Love is [...]

PSALMS: Poetic Forms Of The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

October 10, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms The meaning of any kind of poetry is tied to the form of the poem.  The essence of poetry is the artful variation of words and images in forms different from ordinary prose communication.  Think of Shakespeare’s brief poetic lines in Richard II: I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. In these poetic lines, Shakespeare’s reversal of word order is both memorable and arresting.  The form draws us into reflecting on the meaning of the words.  The same is true with the meaning of the psalms. To understand the psalms, we need to understand something of the literary forms of Hebrew poetry.  The forms of Hebrew poetry, however, are different from those of English poetry and therefore require [...]

POETRY: In Tenebris II by Thomas Hardy

October 10, 2017

Considerabam ad dexteram, et videbam; et non erat qui cognosceret me.  Non est qui requirat animam meam. [I looked also upon my right hand, and saw there was no man that would know me; no man cared for my soul.] (Psalm 142:5) When the clouds’ swoln bosoms echo back the shouts of the many and strong That things are all as they best may be, save a few to be right ere long, And my eyes have not the vision in them to discern what to these is so clear, The blot seems straightway in me alone; one better he were not here. The stout upstanders say, All’s well with us: ruers have nought to rue! And what the potent say so oft, can it fail to be somewhat true? Breezily go they, breezily come; their dust smokes around their career, Till I [...]

ANGELS: At The Hour Of Our Death by Martin Shannon

October 10, 2017

From: All God’s Angel He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.  When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”  Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed.  “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”  Then an angel from Heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.  In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.  When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—Responding From The Heart by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 9, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Contemplation Leisure (ideal) (give) Vision (order) Meaning (yourself) Play (practical) (take) Action (realization) Purpose (in hand) Work As we recover this comprehensive sense of the term contemplation, we are restoring a key term of Christian spirituality to its full significance.  But we are doing much more.  We are rescuing contemplation from specialists and returning it to all those to whom it belongs as their birthright, to every human being. Far too long has contemplation been regarded as the private domain of contemplatives.  Contemplatives in this impoverished sense were only those who were preoccupied with the vision of meaning and withdrew from purpose and action.  They often set an [...]

MUSIC: Before The First Note—Getting Centered by Thomas H. Troeger

October 9, 2017

From: Music As Prayer Whenever I am about to give a sermon or lecture or perform on the flute, I first need to get “centered.”  Conductors and organists know all about this.  Think of choir rehearsals.  People arrive with many things going on in their lives: a fight with their boss, a sick child, a job interview, results from a medical test.  The amount of mental and bodily energy they have to support their voice on pitch with an unforced, clear sound is not much until they get centered.  Or think of performing on the organ.  You sit there for a moment and, before the first note, you get centered.  You turn on the blower, take a deep breath, release from your mind all the other things you need to do, set your stops, [...]

PRAYER: Prayers By Chinese Christian Women

October 9, 2017

Prayer when opening a door I pray thee, Lord, to open the door of my heart to receive thee within my heart. When washing clothes I pray thee, Lord, to wash my heart, making me white as snow. When sweeping floors I pray thee, Lord, to sweep away my heart’s uncleanness, that my heart may always be pure. When pouring oil I pray thee, Lord, to give me wisdom like the wise virgins who always had oil in their vessels. When posting a letter I pray thee, Lord, to add to me faith upon faith, that I may always have communication with thee. When lighting lamps I pray thee, Lord, to make my deeds excellent like lamps before others, and more, to place thy true light within my heart. When watering flowers I pray thee, Lord, to send down spiritual [...]

POETRY: Mrs. Adam by Kathleen Norris

October 8, 2017

I have lately come to the conclusion that I am Eve, alias Mrs. Adam. You know, there is no account of her death in the Bible, and why am I not Eve? (Emily Dickinson in a letter, 12 January, 1846) Wake up, you’ll need your wits about you. This is not a dream, but a woman who loves you, speaking. She was there when you cried out; she brushed the terror away. She knew when it was time to sin. You were wise to let her handle it, and leave that place. We couldn’t speak at first for the bitter knowledge, the sweet taste of memory on our tongues. Listen, it’s time. You were chosen too, to put the world [...]

SATURDAY READING: An Aboriginal Christian Perspective On The Integrity Of Creation by Stan McKay

October 7, 2017

From Native and Christian There is a sense of compromise in doing this essay as well as hesitancy in placing images on paper that reflect our spiritual insights.  The present urgency to come together for a healing vision for the Earth, “our Mother,” has brought our elders to advise us to share and risk even by writing what has been our oral tradition. Art Solomon is an Ojibway (Ontario, Canada) spiritual elder who attended the World Council of Churches’ meeting on the Island of Mauritius in February 1983.  Art wrote this prayer for the diverse group of people representing various faith communities gathered there to prepare for the Vancouver meeting. Grandfather look at our brokenness. Now we must put the sanctity of life as the [...]

POETRY: Genesis by Geoffrey Hill

October 7, 2017

I Against the burly air I strode Crying the miracles of God. And first I brought the sea to bear Upon the dead weight of the land; And the waves flourished at my prayer, The rivers spawned their sand. And where the streams were salt and full The tough pig-headed salmon strove, Ramming the ebb, in the tide’s pull, To reach the steady hills above. II The second day I stood and saw The osprey plunge with triggered claw, Feathering blood along the shore, To lay the living sinew bare. And the third day I cried: “Beware The soft-voiced owl, the ferret’s smile, The hawk’s deliberate stoop in air, Cold eyes, and bodies hooped in steel, Forever bent upon the kill.” III And I renounced, on the fourth day, This fierce [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Your Soul’s Supreme Director by Luis M. Martinez

October 6, 2017

From True Devotion to the Holy Spirit The soul’s delightful Guest does not remain idle in his intimate sanctuary.  Being, as the church calls him, fire and light.  He hardly takes possession of the soul before his beneficent influence extends itself to the whole being and begins with divine activity its work of transformation. The Holy Spirit lives in the center of the soul, in that profound region of the will where he himself has diffused charity.  And from that center, he pours himself out, so to speak, over the whole man with a divine unction, like the sacred perfume of which the scriptures speak, which descended from the head of Aaron down his flowing beard and over his vestment to the tassel of his mantle. Like the victor [...]

POETRY: Whether There Is Enjoyment In Bitterness by Thomas Merton

October 6, 2017

This afternoon, let me Be a sad person. Am I not Permitted (like other men) To be sick of myself? Am I not allowed to be hollow, Or fall in the hole Or break my bones (within me) In the trap set by my own Lie to myself? O my friend, I too must sin and sin. I too must hurt other people and (Since I am no exception) I must be hated by them. Do not forbid me, therefore, To taste the same bitter poison, And drink the gall that love (Love most of all) so easily becomes. Do not forbid me (once again) to be Angry, bitter, disillusioned, Wishing I could die. While life and death Are killing one another in my flesh, Leave me in peace. I can enjoy, Even as other men, this agony. Only (whoever you may be) Pray for my soul. Speak my name To Him, for [...]