PILGRIMAGE: Rue de Sèvres, Paris—Putting Faith Into Action by Albert Holtz

February 17, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road Number 95, rue de Sèvres, is a charming rabbit warren of buildings.  Since 1817 it has been the mother house of Les Pères de la Mission (the Vincentians), founded in 1625 by Saint Vincent de Paul.  The order has since spread around the world, bringing the Good News to the poor.  Vincentians of all ages come and go in the hallways, speaking French, Spanish, English, or any of a number of other languages.  Many are here for ongoing refresher courses in the theology of their order. Vincent was born in 1581 into a peasant family in a village of southwestern France.  As a young priest, he arrived in Paris and became chaplain to the rich and influential Gondi family.  Then one day he was called to the bedside of a [...]

PILGRIMAGE: La Paz Witches’ Market, Bolivia—Trusting In God Alone by Albert Holtz

February 16, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road La Paz, Bolivia, sits in a bowl-shaped valley 12,000 feet up in the Andes.  Hundreds of tiny brick houses climb the steep slopes like a tattered blanket of brown ivy. Iris, our private guide, is escorting three of us on an afternoon tour of La Paz, the world’s highest capital.  With me are a young Chilean couple, Carlos and Elena.  We’ve left our hired taxi for a few minutes to stroll up a cobblestone street in an old quarter of town.  Its official name is Calle Linares, but everyone calls it, “el Mercado de las Brujas,” (“the Witches’ Market”).  The street is lined with little shops and sidewalk stalls displaying love potions, magic charms, animal skins, medicines, and folk remedies.  Iris explains [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: 1 Jesus Is Condemned To Death by Caryll Houselander

February 15, 2018

From The Way of the Cross  “Behold the man!” He is a man of sorrows.  He is covered in bruises and stripes.  He is made a laughing stock.  He is crowned with a crown of thorns.  A reed is put into his hand for a scepter, a tattered soldier’s cloak is thrown over his naked shoulders.  His eyes are blind-folded.  His face is covered with spittings.  He is bound like a dangerous criminal.  His own people have chosen a murderer before him.  His friends have forsaken him.  The kiss of treason burns on his cheek. “He has no comeliness whereby we shall desire him!” “He is a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people.” And he is condemned to death. “Away with him!  Away with him!  Crucify [...]

LENT: Into The Wilderness by Aaron Damiani

February 15, 2018

From The Good of Giving Up We are not ready for Easter.  Not emotionally, not spiritually.  But we always seem to be ready for the trappings of Easter. For most Christians, Easter Sunday is a polite and happy occasion.  Families, including mine, dress up in pastels and bow ties for the after-church picture.  Children paint eggs, hunt for eggs, and consume Peeps and chocolate bunnies.  We eat brunch, including delicious ham, and then move on with our lives. Meanwhile, church leaders see Easter Sunday as an opportunity unlike any other to reach out to the community.  Easter is still one of the highest-attended services of the year.  As a local church pastor, I appreciate that people are open in a unique way on Easter Sunday.  And I [...]

PILGRIMAGE: The Channel Tunnel, England—Waiting For The Lord by Albert Holtz

February 15, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road 8:09 a.m.  Ping-pong-ping!  The electronic chimes sound their warning.  The shiny silver doors of the Eurostar train slide closed, and we roll smoothly out of Paris’s Gare du Nord.  On its second day of regular operation, the train smells of new carpeting and upholstery.  Everything around me is sparkling and high-tech.  This streamlined train, specially designed to run through the new tunnel under the English Channel, will whisk me to Waterloo Station, London, in three hours and six minutes.  The sooty slate-blue of the November morning glides past my window as the train hums through suburban Paris. 8:20 a.m.  We’re now in high gear – 186 miles an hour.  The farm fields are pouring past like a river of [...]

PILGRIMAGE: Canterbury, England—Patrons For The Journey by Albert Holtz

February 14, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road Canterbury is lively and welcoming this November afternoon.  Her streets, lined with pubs and souvenir shops, are noisy with the tongues of a dozen different lands.  People still flock to visit the magnificent Gothic cathedral and its tomb of Thomas Becket, just as they’ve been doing since the late 1100s.  Along these bustling lanes once walked the Wife of Bath, the bawdy Miller, the courtly Knight, the Pardoner, and the other colorful pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, who told each other stories to pass the time on the road. But if Canterbury breathes welcome and warmth, she also has an air of Saxon solidity, thanks to her cobblestone pavements, granite fences, moss-covered church walls, and grumpy [...]

PILGRIMAGE: The Days After Ash Wednesday by Albert Holtz

February 13, 2018

From: Pilgrim Road SETTING OUT Imagine that we are in a church in Le Puy, up in the rugged central mountains of medieval France.  The group has been gathering for an hour already and there is a growing feeling of festivity and excitement in the air; we are about to set off on a pilgrimage to the great shrine of Saint James, Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain.  Many of the people in the church are carrying the walking stick and drinking gourd that mark them as pilgrims; some are wearing a scallop shell, the traditional badge of pilgrims on the difficult and dangerous 800-mile journey over mountains and across desolate uplands to Compostela.  There is a spirit of joyful anticipation as we greet friends and check our supplies while [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Via Crucis by Caryll Houselander

February 13, 2018

From The Way of the Cross  Three o’clock on a grey afternoon.  Outside, a steady drizzle of rain; inside the church, an odd motley of people. A smartly dressed woman, side by side with one who is shabby and threadbare.  A boy and girl who appear to be in love.  A very old man, so bowed that he is permanently in an attitude of adoration.  A stalwart young soldier whose polished buttons glitter like gems in the candlelight.  A couple of students, shabbily but elegantly dressed in corduroys and bright scarves, rubbing shoulders with a gaunt, round-shouldered man who looks like a tramp.  A sprinkle of small children.  And behind them all, as if he felt himself to be the modern Publican, though there is no reason why he should, a [...]

POETRY: Station Island XI by Seamus Heaney / John of the Cross

February 13, 2018

As if the prisms of the kaleidoscope I plunged once in a butt of muddied water Surfaced like a marvelous lightship And out of its silted crystals a monk’s face That had spoken years ago from behind a grille Spoke again about the need and chance To salvage everything, to re-envisage The zenith and glimpsed jewels of any gift Mistakenly abased …. What came to nothing could always be replenished. “Read poems as prayers,” he said, “and for your penance Translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.” Returned from Spain to our chapped wilderness, His consonants aspirate, his forehead shining, He had made me feel there was nothing to confess. Now his sandaled passage stirred me on to this: How well I know that fountain, filling, running, [...]

PRAYER: The Prayer Of Saint Ephrem The Syrian

February 12, 2018

(To be used daily through Lent.) O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk; But grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother; For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. [...]

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. [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: 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. [...]