Category Archives: Lent

Why Can’t I Pray?

 

couple in love art by robert berran

Art by Robert Berran

 

You have got to approach prayer as a love affair. And the accent is not on praying; it is on the one to whom you pray. You are drawn to God as a young girl is drawn to a young man. Slowly, as in a human love affair, Christ absorbs you more and more and becomes the center of your life. You savor and find new depths to every word he says.

Then you turn to the Scriptures. We call this meditation, but how can such a little word describe your plunging into the depths of each word of Christ?

As you plunge into Christ’s words, your deep relationship to him, the one you call prayer, will change. You will enter into a new dimension, which some call contemplation.

What is contemplation? One Sunday I was walking in a city park, and I came across a couple sitting on a bench. Before them was their picnic basket, and a dog was happily eating their sandwiches, paper and all; I stood less than ten feet away. The two paid no attention to me, and were utterly oblivious to the dog. They were holding hands and looking at each other.

There comes a moment when words become useless—men and women just sit and look at each other. This is the moment of deepest love, when the wings of the intellect are folded and the heart is totally opened to the other. This is contemplation.

So, before you can pray, you must meet God. The best way to meet him is to stand very still, without frustration or anxiety, and wait for him. He will come if you are waiting for him.

That is really all I can tell you about prayer.

And when you hold hands with Christ, whisper my name.

 

~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 

 

My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
~ Sg 2: 10

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

 

The Prdigal Son art by Sieger

The Prodigal Son, art by Fr. Sieger Köder

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32


In the parable of the prodigal son a man loses both of his sons — the first through self-indulgence, the second through self-righteousness.


 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son leaves us with an unanswered question: Does the elder son join in the celebration of his brother’s return or does he stay outside fuming in his self-righteousness? The door is unbarred. He can go in whenever he chooses. Only his inability to enter into his father’s joy keeps him outside.

Within this perspective we can understand Jesus’ words: “If you forgive the faults of others, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours. If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you. “If we misinterpret these words, we can conclude erroneously that God withholds forgiveness from us when we withhold it from others. In reality, when we do not forgive others, we lose the capacity to receive the forgiveness that God offers us.

Jesus condemns not the elder son, but his self-righteousness. Self-righteousness can cloak itself in many forms, even the guise of humility. Even the prodigal son himself has a peculiar self-righteousness that declares, “I may have my faults and failings; I may have even done wicked things in my life, but at least I’m not self-righteous like my brother. ” Such a disclaimer not only proclaims one’s moral superiority but also can even contain a sort of boast. It’s the pride of the initiated sophisticate who smiles down with condescension upon his inexperienced brother. “What does my brother know of life? He’s never been off my father’s farm. He’s never been in the big city. My God, he’s never even disobeyed one of my father’s orders.” Tolkien labels such an attitude “inverted hypocrisy.” He held that while we are somewhat free from the common form of hypocrisy that professes a holier than thou attitude, we are subject to an inverted form of hypocrisy that consists of “professing to be worse than we are” (337).

The two brothers in today’s gospel may resemble each other more than either of them would care to admit. Rigid, overly moralistic, self-righteous people are vulnerable to abandoning themselves to a self-indulgent, hedonistic lifestyle. Conversely, hedonistic individuals are often blind to the self-righteousness that they project upon others.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

 

Fear: Our Worst Enemy

 

woman reflection

Art source unknown

 

Hosea 14: 2-10


The prophet Hosea calls the Israelites to return to God and forsake the idols of their own making.


 

“We shall say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.” People don’t worship work. Rather, they offer their life’s blood for what work affords, be it power, prestige, or possessions. The pagan cults that worship power, prestige or possessions are rooted in fear. Power provides a reassurance against helplessness; prestige offers protection against humiliation, and possessions assuage the fear of destitution. But each god betrays its worshipers. For the more we dedicate our lives to protecting ourselves against insecurity, the more insecure we feel.

The story of the king who had a nightmare reveals a deep truth about insecurity. He called in his wizard to interpret his dream. The wizard told the king that the dream predicted he would be murdered on his next birthday and all of his possessions stolen. Out of fear, the king stockpiled his riches in his throne room and ordered guards to surround it. The closer his birthday drew, the more afraid he became. He moved his riches to a smaller room with fewer entranceways and placed his most trusted guards around it. On the eve of his birthday, he ordered that all of his riches be piled in a vault. The king sat inside the vault and ordered its only entrance sealed up with bricks, to be torn down a minute after midnight, the day after his birthday. When they tore the wall down, his men found the king dead. He had suffocated. His dream came true. He was murdered, and his possessions were taken from him. The culprit was his own fear.

Our deep insecurities are insatiable. We will never feel completely secure. The more we placate our fears the stronger they become. We cannot defeat them, nor should we try. The king did not have the power to stop feeling afraid; his dream was too frightening. But he did have the ability to not give into his fear. The same is true with us.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 34:4

Never Forget The Great Graces You Have Received

 

Christ blessing a child 1926 art by Mikhail Vasilevich Nesterov

Christ’s Blessings, art by Mijaíl Vasílievich Nésterov – 1926

 

 

Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9


Moses exhorts the Israelites to remember the great deeds that the Lord has done for them and to not let those deeds slip from their memories.


 

Upon recovering from a long illness, Wilfred Sheed reflected:

The spiritual life becomes very simple when you’re sick. You pray to get better, and if and when you do, you don’t need to be told to be grateful about it: it gushes out of you. And you discover, in the same giddy rush, that just being alive . . .  is astoundingly good. G.K. Chesterton once said that if a person were to fall into the waters of forgetfulness and come out on the other side, he would think he had arrived in paradise. But all you need to do is to spend a couple of months on your back, or return home from a war and come downstairs to have breakfast in your own house. So my private proofs of God . . . begin with this: the sheer capacity for happiness, and one’s sense, when it happens, that this is correct and normal and not some freak of nature. When health returns, it feels like coming home . . . and the other thing, the bad news — the broken leg or even the mental breakdown — feels like the freak. But now you are to where you belong, in harmony with the universe. And from this I deduce with some conviction that the universe is essentially a good place to be, despite appearances. (10)

We feel gratitude most poignantly shortly, after we have recovered from a great sickness or immediately after unburdening ourselves of some mental anguish. We feel deep relief because we still remember our pain. But as time passes and we get further and further away from that initial experience of relief, our sense of gratitude fades because we forget how bad it really was.

This is what happened to the Hebrews. When they were in slavery, they cried out to God to be released. And when Moses brought them out of their bondage, they were grateful, but only for a while. As they sojourned in the desert, year in and year out, their memory of what God had done for them began to fade. And whenever anything went wrong, they complained to Moses. “Why did you bring us out into this desert? We were better off back in Egypt!” Past pain is no match for present suffering. We forget how bad we had it.

Thus, Moses exhorts the Hebrews: “Take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your mind as long as you live…. “Forgetting the things of the past does not mean the inability to recall an event. Rather, it means that a past event ceases to have an impact upon the present. Remembrance is an act of re-membering ourselves, to reconnect ourselves to the great graces that we have received.

God’s saving mercy has brought all of us through difficult times. We should not let what God has done for us slip from our memory. We need to remember the pain of the past. Doing so fosters gratitude and helps us keep the little annoyances of daily life in perspective.

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley. O.C.D.

 

Lady Charity

 

Charity por lluisribesmateu 1969 museo del Prado en Madrid

Allegory of Charity, art by Francisco de Zurbarán c.1655

 

Lady Charity
where are you wandering
these days?
where have you hidden?
where is your voice—
your words of kindness
and compassion?
I need to find you
before I lose 
my faith.

Lady Charity
you are my friend 
and companion.
Don’t disappear from
the human hearts.
The hearts of men
need you.

There is so much unkindness
and indifference around.
Men are not kind to each other.
Many hearts are wounded
and exhausted with pain. 

We need to be restored.
We need to be truly caring.
We need a  revolution
of the heart.
We need to love.

I ache in silence
hearing the talks
that lack warmth,
prudence and
sincerity.

Lady Charity
come again
and dwell in all
the human hearts.
The world, God’s creation,
the Church, the families,
the streets need you.

Lady Charity
come and stay for awhile.

Hear my prayer! ❤

 

~ My Personal Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

Our Prayers Break On God

 

women lenten retreat

Photo taken by me at the Women’s Lenten Retreat Weekend (March 22nd to 24th) 

 

 

Our prayers break on God like waves,
and he an endless shore,
and when the seas evaporate 
and oceans are no more
and cries are carried in the wind
God hears and answers every sound
as he has done before.

Our troubles eat at God like nails.
He feels the gnawing pain
on souls and bodies. He never fails
but reassures he’ll heal again,
again, again, again and yet again.

~ A poem by Luci Shaw

 

Thank you, my Beloved!
❤ 

 

 

women lenten retreat 5

Photo taken by me at the Chapel (March 2019)

 

women lenten retreat 3

“Just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands, and leave it with him. Then you will be able to rest in him—really rest.”  ~ St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D.

Third Sunday of Lent

 

Icon of the Fig Tree

The Fig Tree icon

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 13: 1-9


The parable of the fig tree exhorts us not to live a fruitless life.


 

In 1970, during a protest at Kent State University, national guardsmen shot and killed several students. Shortly afterwards, psychologists interviewed parents of college-age children. Among other questions, they asked whether the students who had been killed were campus radicals or innocent bystanders. Overwhelmingly, the parents believed that the slain students were campus radicals. Applying to their findings Attribution Theory, which tries to explain how and why people make sense of their world, the psychologists concluded that the majority of parents held that the slain students were radicals because it was too frightening for them to believe otherwise. If they believed that the slain students were innocents bystanders, then they would have to admit that in a similar situation their own children were vulnerable. Whenever disaster strikes, we tend to attribute it to a cause that will protect us from a similar disaster.

This is what the people in today’s gospel were trying to do. They had to believe that those killed by Pilate or the falling Tower of Siloam were sinners. This belief protected them from living in an unpredictable world. They were reasoning thus: “All we need to do in order to be safe is to keep the Law, for bad things don’t happen to good people.” Jesus challenges their thinking by telling them the Parable of the Fig Tree, which teaches that to avert spiritual disaster it is not enough to keep the Law. Our lives must bear fruit.

The Greek word translated “wasting (katargeo) the soil,” means unused, idle, inactive, or useless. From a spiritual perspective, our life is useless and barren, if, like the fig tree, we provide shade only for our selves and offer no nourishment to others.

The parable is consoling, for it proclaims a season of grace, a second chance, a stay of execution. Each day when we wake up, we are given another opportunity to truly live life by loving our neighbor. But the parable is also sobering, for it warns us that our opportunities are not endless. Thoreau wrote that he wanted to live deliberately in order to avoid the ultimate disaster of life, that at the moment of death he would “discover that [he] had not lived” (86). This is what we must fear.

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

The Lord’s Abundant Crop

Lord you’re doing
So much in our lives
To bring a deeper growth
A time of pruning
The withered branches
So healthier ones can grow

Though it is painful
And hard to endure,
It is needful in our lives —
For without it we’d be
An unhealthy tree
And may wither away and die

To keep on producing
The fruit of the Lord,
We need to have sin cut out
Then new branches will come
And we’ll flourish again
As the new shoots begin to sprout

Then we will produce
From the seeds God planted
Fruit that will never rot
Ripened by God
And picked in its season,
Is the Lord’s abundant crop!


A poem by Michelle Lowndes
© By M.S.Lowndes

Into the Desert

 

 

Christ man of sorrows

Art by William Dyce (1860)

 

 

Is Lent
and I feel the interior call to walk
by your side during these 40 days
united to you, 
my Beloved.

These 40 days in the wilderness
where the earth is barren and quiet,
I can feel your loneliness, 
my Beloved.
Silence engulfs this desert
and I can only hear  
your footsteps as we walk 
side by side.

I can’t wait for the night to arrive.
So I can view the magnificent sky
filled with all the beauty
of your Father’s creation.
The moon and the stars —
the sky looks like a blanket
of shooting stars covering us from above
giving us light and protection
marked by the beauty
of His love.

All those bright stars are speaking to you
they bring you messages from above,
from your Beloved Abba!
They prompt you to persevere,
and remain in His presence
all along this journey.
Giving you strength for your mission ahead,
consoling your weary heart,
my Beloved.

They urge you to keep going,
to keep focused,
to keep praying.
To stay and remain
in His perfect love.

Following you along this desert,
my Beloved,
is not an easy task.
At times 
I have so many questions,
so many concerns,
so much restlessness in my own heart.
But you only ask me
to trust in you,
to hold your hand and continue
to walk together,
side by side
these 40 days.

My heart is united to yours
and is finding true calm now,
being in your presence
is all I need
during these long 40 days.

In quietude and awe,
my heart is waiting,
and preparing.

Your beloved child, sister and friend,
Redeemed by your love!

 

~ My Personal Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Lent

 

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Transfiguration, art by Giovanni Battista Moroni (c. 1520-1525-1578) The Fitzwilliam Museum

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 9: 28-36


Jesus is transfigured on Mount Hermon and resolves completely to accept his impending death.


 

Luke tells us that Jesus was transfigured while he was praying. We do not know for certain what he was praying about, but his conversation with Moses and Elijah provides a clue. “They appeared in glory and spoke to him of his departure (Greek exodus) which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” The exodus or departure referred to here is Jesus’ death. In Luke’s gospel, this is the first time that Jesus had contemplated his death.

On Mount Hermon Jesus made a choice: he resolved to embrace his death fully. At his baptism Jesus accepted his mission as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, but only now does he confront its stark and gruesome reality. It is one thing to say “yes” to suffering that lies in the far future. Imminent suffering presents a completely different reality. Jesus was changed at the transfiguration because he came to a resolution regarding his own death.

We have all experienced the great release of energy that results when, after years of irresolution, we make an important life decision. We do not realize how much energy living in a perpetual state of avoidance, vacillation, or procrastination consumes until we experience the incredible relief that follows such a decision.

The choice Jesus made at the transfiguration also protected him against any inner vacillation. When Jesus came down the mountain, “He set his face (Greek sterrizo) to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). Sterrizo means to make fast, or to fix with an unalterable purpose. Saint Teresa encouraged her sisters to embrace the cross with a “determined determination.” In doing so, she wrote, “that person struggles more courageously. He knows that come what may he will not turn back” (“The Way of Perfection” 127).

A definitive choice protects us from inner vacillation. In The Lord of the Rings Tolkien portrays this symbolically. At the council of Elrond, a decision has to be made. Someone has to take the One Ring of Power into the evil land of Mordor and cast it into the fire of Mt. Doom. Frodo, who had lived comfortably all of his life, makes a fully conscious choice to be the Ring Bearer. At this point in the story, his uncle Bilbo Baggins gives Frodo a mithril coat.

This coat, as un undergarment made of an extremely strong but light metal, will protect the wearer from many dangers — arrows and the thrusting of spears. Why, asks Jungian analyst Helen Luke, does Bilbo present the mithril coat precisely at the moment that Frodo decides to be the Ring Bearer? What does it symbolize? Luke writes:

It was at this moment of his complete acceptance of exposure to every kind of danger, without thought of success or failure, that he was given the protection of the mithril coat…. It is not difficult to see the relevance of these things to ourselves. It is surely true that in the life of every person there is one major turning point — a moment of choice when one’s basic will (the Frodo in oneself) may say “yes” or “no” to the challenge of one individual way and to the inevitable suffering and danger it involves. It is certain that, if we say “yes” … then in proportion to the single-mindedness of this decision, we too are given protection…. Every day there is the temptation to go back on our choice … but each time we decide to take up a responsibility we have sought to evade … then, in the very moment of our willing self-exposure and conscious acceptance of the task … we can often literally feel a new invulnerability. (75-76)       

Like Jesus, when we decide to embrace the cross with determination, we are transfigured and given courage that protects us against inner vacillation.

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

Christ “was transfigured, not by acquiring what he was not but by manifesting to his disciples what he in fact was; he opened their eyes and gave these blind man sight.”
St. John Damascene

 

 

A letter to St. Francis from a modern-day pilgrim

 

Saint Francis Stigmatization of St Francis c 1594-5 (II Baroccio)

The Stigmatization of St. Francis, art by Federico Barocci (II Baroccio) c. 1594-5

 

Dear Francis
(On the occasion of your stigmata),

As if
you could
know
why a seraph
should appear,
why its six
dazzling wings
should enfold
the dying Christ.
As if
you could ask
the mountain’s
jutting rocks
what provoked
those lonely hills
to illuminate
your fast.
Because
I cannot say
why love and pain
go hand in hand,
I will not
doubt
the sky
tore up
in flames,
that day of joy
and blood—
nor that
you bore
His wounds.

From one unpierced

 

~ A poem by Abigail Carroll

 

 

How did St. Francis of Assisi receives the Stigmata of Christ?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

It was on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September 1224) while praying on the mountainside, that he beheld the marvelous vision of the seraph, as a sequel of which there appeared on his body the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified which, says and early writer, had long since been impressed upon his heart.

Brother Leo, who was with St. Francis when he received the stigmata, has left us in his note to the saint’s autograph blessing, preserved at Assisi, a clear simple account of the miracle, which for the rest is better attested than any other historical fact.

The saint’s right side is described as bearing an open wound which looked as if made by a lance, while through his hands and feet were black nails of flesh, the points of which were bent backward.

After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind.

Francis died in 1226 at the age of forty-five. He was canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX.