POETRY: Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis by Denise Levertov

September 6, 2017

Maybe he looked indeed much as Rembrandt envisioned Him in those small heads that seem in fact portraits of more than a model. A dark, still young, very intelligent face, a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging. That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions. The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him that He taste also the humiliation of dread, cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go, like any mortal hero out of his depth, like anyone who has taken a step too far and wants herself back. The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how, in the midnight Garden, or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross, He went through with even the [...]

ART: Window One — The Spiritual Exercises, Art as the Soul’s Expression, by Michael Sullivan

February 27, 2017

From: Windows Into the Light The spiritual exercises that follow each narrative provide an opportunity to open the windows toward God’s light.  These exercises use various artistic methods to surprise the soul with new awareness and hope.  They create bridges between what you read and your own life, a way to jump from the light in another person’s life into your own.  These exercises are easy to follow and require no artistic experience or expertise.  You don’t need expensive supplies or a studio.  All you need is an open heart and mind – a willingness to engage God’s journey with you as your discover your life. Art opens our experience to newness in our prayers.  Most of us use far too much of our left [...]

PRAYER: Litany For Humility

February 13, 2017

From: Our Catholic Prayers (First published on The Value of Sparrows on April 16, 2012.) The litany of humility, for private devotions, is a moving prayer that can bring us closer to Christ. Do you worry constantly about what others think of you? Do you feel empty or frustrated if you’re not the center of attention? The litany of humility asks for our Lord’s assistance in humbly following in his footsteps and casting aside, or at least offering up to him, all those nagging doubts and fears that come with our self-centeredness. Our Lord asks us in Matthew’s gospel to learn from him, “for I am meek and humble of heart,” as he is described in the first line of this prayer below. We ask in this litany, composed by Rafael Cardinal [...]

POETRY: The Love Of The Cross by Clare of Assisi

March 22, 2016

Look, I say, at the border of this mirror, that is, the poverty of Him Who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. O marvelous humility! O astonishing poverty! The King of angels, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, is laid in a manger! Then reflect upon, at the surface of the mirror, the holy humility, at least the blessed poverty, the untold labors and punishments that He endured for the redemption of the whole human race. Finally contemplate, in the depth of this same mirror, the ineffable charity that He chose to suffer on the tree of the Cross and to die there the most shameful kind of [...]

PRAYER: Forgive Us Lord (Polynesian)

March 18, 2016

Lord, today you made us known to friends we did not know, And you have given us seats in homes which are not our own. You have brought the distant near, And made a brother of a stranger, Forgive us, Lord… We did not introduce you. [...]

LENT: Thorns And Impediments, by Richard Valantasis

March 17, 2016

From Centuries of Holiness The ascetical struggle has often been metaphorized as a difficult hike up a high mountain.  The metaphor includes the strenuous effort required, the difficulties of climbing, and the occasional encounter of impediments on the road, especially a thorny path.  Macarius the Egyptian, a fourth-century ascetic monk, writes in particular of the encounter with thorns on the way of progress, and his vivid descriptions give important instruction about the attitude and effort in the face of thorns and other impediments.  This theory of thorns provides important information for the postmodern ascetic. The thorns, theorizes Macarius, demand that the ascetic pay attention.  Thorns cannot be ignored, because if one tries [...]

PRAYER: Father Forgive Us (Congregational)

March 17, 2016

God of our salvation, our rescue, our health: all things are yours and when we bring our hearts and hands and voice to worship, we bring you what is yours. Yet we do not serve you as we should, and the world is racked by all the tensions and outright conflicts which come from the worship of that which is less than yourself. Our goodwill towards men has no firm foundation, and crumbles at the first tremor of real testing. In our personal affairs, and in our communal judgments, we try to heal deep wounds with superficial cures. Father, forgive us. Confront us with your way of righting wrong, your strange work of redemption through the sacrificial love of Jesus. And help us to love one another as he has loved us. [...]

PRAYER: He Hath Redeemed My Life, by Eric Milner-White

March 16, 2016

Withhold not from me, O my God, the best, the Spirit of thy dear Son; that in that day when the judgment is set I may be presented unto thee not blameless, but forgiven, not effectual but faithful, not holy but persevering, without desert but accepted, because he hath pleaded the causes of my soul, and redeemed my life. [...]

PRAYER: Prayers Of Confession (Presbyterian)

March 14, 2016

Gracious God, we are a people formed by your Word in Christ; but we have wandered away from your truth, we have broken your commandments, we have distorted your teachings to serve our own ends, we have failed to trust your promises, we have refused your mercy. Ground us again, O Holy One, in the written wisdom of Scripture and in the living Word which is Christ Jesus. Nourish us on the bread of his teachings until we can taste your goodness. Renew us at the fountain of his wisdom, so we may find joy in obedience and freedom in giving ourselves to you. Amen. Manna God, who fed Israel in the wilderness, we confess that we have not fed your world. People go to bed hungry who could be nourished just on what we throw away, and we are divided [...]

PRAYER: Covering Our Sins, by Søren Kierkegaard

March 11, 2016

Your love covers the multitude of my sins. So when I am fully aware of my sin, when before the justice of Heaven only wrath is pronounced upon me, then you are the only person to whom I can escape. If I try to cover myself against the guilt of sin and the wrath of Heaven, I will be driven to madness and despair. But if I rely on you to cover my sins, I shall find peace and joy. You suffered and died on the cross to shelter us from our guilt, and take upon yourself the wrath that we deserve. Let me rest under you, and may you transform me into your likeness. [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Tasting The Blood

March 10, 2016

Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God. (Henri J. M. Nouwen / In The Name of Jesus) I am here at my 30th day of Lent. Thirty out of 40. Or 47, depending how long you make your Lenten disciplines. Plunging around in my imagination to find blessings from people I’ve only always associated with a grunt and a shrug is like having to go to the dentist every day and having a root canal. Being scraped and scraped and scraped.  Down to the nerve.  And then scraping the nerve. And, then, every day after the procedure, having [...]

PRAYER: Grey Clouds, by Gilbert of Hoyland

March 10, 2016

When we see dark grey clouds forming in the sky, we fear a mighty storm. In the same way, when we see the darkness of our sin, we fear the storm of your wrath. But just as in truth rain brings new life to the Earth, so you rain down mercy on our sinful souls, bringing forgiveness and peace. Be to us always like a mighty storm, raining down upon us the abundant waters of your mercy. [...]

POETRY: Solar Ice, by Paul Mariani

March 9, 2016

The sudden shock of what you really are. Early March. The tentative return of afternoons. Saturday, and Mass again. The four. All about swelling buds on beech & ash & maples. Crocuses & snowdrops trilling. Four months impacted ice at last receding from the north side of the house, and bobbing robins back & soon, soon, red- winged blackbirds strutting on the lawn. Soon too the sweet familiar groundswell of peepers in the marshes. Reasons enough to melt the frozen heart. Father lifted the host above his head & prayed: a small white sun around which everything seemed to coalesce, cohere & choir. But as I raised my head, the thought of some old insult likewise reared its head, and in that instant the arctic hatred [...]

POETRY: To Keep A True Lent, by Robert Herrick

March 9, 2016

Is this a fast, to keep The larder lean? And clean From fat of veals and sheep? Is it to quit the dish Of flesh, yet still To fill The platter high with fish? Is it to fast an hour, Or ragg’d to go, Or show A downcast look and sour? No ; ‘tis a fast to dole Thy sheaf of wheat, And meat, Unto the hungry soul. It is to fast from strife, From old debate And hate; To circumcise thy life. To show a heart grief-rent; To starve thy sin, Not bin; And that’s to keep thy [...]

PRAYER: A Monarch’s Thanksgiving And Confession, by Queen Elizabeth I

March 9, 2016

O most glorious King, Creator of the whole world, to whom all things be subject, both in Heaven and Earth, and all best princes most gladly obey, hear the most humble voice of thy handmaid, in this only happy, to be so accepted. How exceeding is thy goodness, and how great mine offences. Of nothing hast thou made me not a worm, but a creature according to thine own image, heaping all the blessings upon me that men on Earth hold most happy. Drawing my blood from kings and my bringing up in virtue; giving me that more is, even in my youth, knowledge of thy truth, and in times of most danger, most gracious deliverance; pulling me from the prison to the palace; and placing me a sovereign princess over thy people of England. And above all [...]

PRAYER: A Confession, by John Dunne

March 8, 2016

Forgive me, O Lord, O Lord, forgive me my sins, the sins of my youth, and my present sins, the sin that my parents cast upon me, original sin, and the sins that I cast upon my children, in an ill example; actual sins, sins which are manifest to all the world, and sins which I have so labored to hide from the world, as that now they are hid from mine own conscience, and mine own memory. Forgive me my crying sins, and my whispering sins, sins of unchaitable hate, and sins of unchaste love, sins against thee and against they power, O almighty Father, against thy wisdom, O glorious Son, against thy goodness, O blessed Spirit of God; and sins against him and him, against superiors and equals, and inferiors; and sins against me and me, against [...]

PAIN: A Time To Heal, by Joan Chittister

March 4, 2016

From For Everything a Season I remember the rush of insight that seeped through me the day I realized the situation.  It had suddenly occurred to me that none of us can really be sure that we understand the Book of Ecclesiastes.  What’s more, I realized that maybe no one is supposed to be able to grasp its meanings completely, in one burst of consciousness, in one gift of light.  Maybe it is supposed to come over us slowly, in layers, one bright moment at a time when life becomes new with pain, fresh with joy, different from its beginnings.  Maybe it is the very obscurity of the book of Ecclesiastes that is its meaning. The problem with the book lies in the fact that it is very deceptive.  It reads with such simplicity that, at [...]

PRAYER: Prayer Of Confession, by Eric Milner-White

March 4, 2016

O God our Father, help us to nail to the cross of thy dear Son the whole body of our death, the wrong desires of the heart, the sinful devisings of the mind, the corrupt apprehensions of the eyes, the cruel words of the tongue, the ill employment of hands and feet; that the old man being crucified and done away, the new man may live and grow into the glorious likeness of the same thy son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — God, the Rumpelstiltskin

March 3, 2016

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, Whose mouth speaks lying words, And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood— That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands And ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:11-15) I never expected this from God, to be honest. And I’m not sure there would be many who would either.  Unless they [...]

PRAYER: I Do Not Understand Your Ways, by Thomas Merton

March 3, 2016

My God, I frankly do not understand your ways with me. You fill me with desires that people have been canonized for having and for carrying out. Then you tell me not to carry them out, and you tell me in such a way that it would seem to be a sin if I carried them out. Then you make the desires grow more and more until they consume the very foundations of my life. Are you trying to kill me? Amen. [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Playing The Hand The Fool Dealt

February 18, 2016

There is a saying, Only a fool plays the hand he’s dealt. But sometimes, I’ve found, it is The Fool, himself, who deals the hand. I have learned a lot about forgiveness this week. A whole lot. One thing I have learned is that we all lie to ourselves about the nature of forgiveness. We want it to be all about resolution. About peace-making. About love. But what it is really about – what it is about when we are alone with ourselves in the darkness – is justice. We want justice for the pain. For the inconvenience. For the disruption to our lives that the injury caused. And we use forgiveness as payback. I know this now because what I saw before me this week, working hard to find something to be grateful for for some people [...]

POETRY: Letter To Saint Francis by Abigail Carroll

February 17, 2016

When you broke with the world, you gave up jerkins and boots (Italian leather, no less), the title to your name. In light of your example, I hereby forsake (not wanting to duplicate) the paisley, polarized shades I have wanted to buy for some months (now on sale at Rite Aid), plans for a new voile spread and matching shams—you see, my room (unaltered in years), is begging for a complete re-do. In addition, I forthwith happily resign (and with only a little shame) my ignorance of bird songs, apathy toward insects, and above all else (no simple task) my solemn right to complain—about weather, fractures, vacuuming, (the Lord gives) or the sudden need for new axels, a change of plans, someone to love (the Lord takes away) I’d also [...]

LENT: Bothering To Love by James Martin

February 16, 2016

From Huffington Post One Priest’s Modest Proposal for Lent What have you given up for Lent? That’s what many Christians – from almost every denomination, and especially Roman Catholics – are asking one another this time of year.  The most common thing to forego, I would wager, is some kind of food: soda and chocolate seem to be the Most Favored Sacrifices, with cigarettes and liquor running a close third.  Each year, in fact, a Jewish friend from my college days calls me on Ash Wednesday to tell me what to give up, since he thinks my deciding on my own is too easy.  Last year it was chicken wings, which was harder than you might think.  (I’ll save the story of how he came to assign my abstinence for another [...]

LENT: Message For Lent by Pope Francis

February 15, 2016

Make your hearts firm. (James 5:8) Dear Brothers and Sisters, Lent is a time of renewal for the whole church, for each community and every believer.  Above all it is a time of grace.  God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us.  We love because he first has loved us.  He is not aloof from us.  Each one of us has a place in his heart.  He knows us by name, he cares for us, and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him.  He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us.  Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings, and the [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Turn Around

February 11, 2016

Where to begin? I think of people lost on the moors.  Lost in swamps.  Lost in endless stretches of forest.  Or desert. Direction becoming a matter of wishful thinking.  Of good intentions.  Of wondering where it will all end. So this particular beginning begins with Lent. The usual organizational push.  What to do.  How to structure it. Pieces.  Like a child sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Building. One at a time. Watching for an imbalance that will bring it down. Only to be pieced together again. Lent. Stillness. But with a different hush than the one that belongs to Advent. Instead of the glow of ahead-ness, there is the slow choking, the tightening of the heart and mind and soul and body. It Is Coming. That which we [...]

POETRY: The Litany, by Dana Gioia

February 11, 2016

This is a litany of lost things, a canon of possessions dispossessed, a photograph, an old address, a key. It is a list of words to memorize or to forget—of amo, amas, amat, the conjugations of a dead tongue in which the final sentence has been spoken. This is the liturgy of rain, falling on mountain, field, and ocean— indifferent, anonymous, complete— of water infinitesimally slow, sifting through rock, pooling in darkness, gathering in spring, then rising without our agency, only to dissolve in mist or cloud or dew. This is a prayer of unbelief, to candles guttering and darkness undivided, to incense drifting into emptiness. It is the smile of a stone Madonna and the silent fury of the consecrated wine, a benediction of the death [...]

POETRY: Ash Wednesday, by Anya Silver

February 10, 2016

How comforting, the smudge on each forehead: I’m not to be singled out after all From dust you came. To dust you will return. My mastectomy, a memento mori, prosthesis smooth as a polished skull. I like the solidarity of this prayer, the ointment thumbed into my forehead, my knees pressing hard on the velvet rail. If God won’t give me His body to clutch, I’ll grind this soot into my skin instead. If I can’t hold the flame that burned my breast, I’ll char my brow; I’ll blacken my pores; I’ll flaunt with ash this flaw in His [...]

ASH WEDNESDAY: Spiritual Medicine, by Thomas Merton

February 9, 2016

From Seasons of Celebration Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.  It cannot be otherwise, as it forms part of the great Easter cycle. The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life, in which the church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters in the Kingdom of Life which he has established once and for all by his definitive victory over sin and death.  We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ver sacrum, the church’s “holy spring” in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to [...]

LENT: Metanoia, by Daniel E. Pilarczyk

February 9, 2016

From Lenten Lunches To think of Lent only as a time of penance is to do it an injustice.  While the traditional practice of “doing something” for Lent is praiseworthy, there is much more to this wonderful season than just additional practices of piety or acts of penance and mortification.  In Lent, the church calls us to metanoia.  As a former Greek teacher, I take delight in pointing out that the word metanoia connotes a change of mind and heart, altering one’s mind-set toward whole new ways of thinking and acting.  This involves taking a look at where we are and trying to see where we ought to be.  It involves testing our values and discerning how they stack up against the values that Jesus offers his [...]

PRAYER: Introduction To The Lenten Season — Prayer by Harold A. Buetow

February 8, 2016

From Embrace Your Renewal Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children.  Eighteen!  In order merely to keep food on the table, the father, a goldsmith, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and at any other paying job he could find.  Despite their seemingly hopeless situation, two of the children of Albrecht Durer, the elder, had a dream.  They both wanted to pursue their talent for art; but they well knew that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the academy. After many discussions, the two boys finally worked out a pact.  They would toss a coin.  The loser would go down into the nearby mines and with his [...]