Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Self Love

Once again I find myself so aware of the importance of self-love or self-compassion.  We all have our good, bad, and messy parts and yet it is so easy to be tolerant of others who are less than we would hope and yet we remain intolerant of our own humanity.  I like the above quote from St. Augustine because it reminds me that in the sequence of the great commandment loving others comes with the phrase “AS YOURSELF”.  Scripture invites us to love others as we love ourselves and yet perhaps that is where the challenge in life really lies.  When we love ourselves we’re truly freed of the burden of “needing” love so desperately from everyone else.  Loving ourselves is what frees us to be in healthy relationships with everyone else.  And yet we need to find that place in our heart that has not just a tolerance for our own humanity but a willingness to love ourselves with every fiber of our humanity.
Clearly I say more negative things to myself than positive.  My spiritual director has been inviting me to a bit more self-compassion.  I have been observing my self-talk for a month or so and, sure enough, it’s filled with a litany that can go on and on, filling me with all sorts of cruel words:  too ashamed, too fat, too wordy, too boring, too slow, too judgmental, and so on.  Self-love obviously moves on a continuum but the cruelty with which we treat ourselves might call us to a change of heart.  I am beginning to look at self-compassion as prayer.  If God has made me, and my desire is to praise and love God, then there is no better place to begin than in loving the self that God has created.  If I am to be compassionate and loving toward others as God calls me to be than I first have to learn how to be loving and compassionate to myself.  So, I have a new prayer practice.  I want to affirm within myself something good each day so that I can identify the beauty that God sees within me.  I want to surround myself with people who can see goodness and love within me so that I can receive their love and recognize my own worth.
I know that self-love is important because I believe that since God is love, love is a creative power that surrounds me and the more I can receive it, the more I will be able to give it and the more I can spread it.  And, if I maintain this mentality, I will be able to unite with others to fill the world with deep love and compassion.   The more self-love I can provide myself the more open I will be.  And so, as I pray, I invite the inner child and the painful memory into the stillness of my prayer.  I sit and let them soak slowly in the healing love of the God who is love.  I invite my cruel litany to be transformed into a litany of affirmation and praise.  And I ask the God of love to remind me over and over about what she could possibly see as good and beauty within me and, guess what?  I think I’m beginning to see it myself (at least every now and again).  My hope is that my strategy for making self-love a prayer might work for you as well.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You are dust and unto dust you shall return -- Stardust that is!


As we are signed today with the ashes that call us to repentance and hear the words "you are dust and unto dust you shall return", let us remember our connectedness to all of creation.   The New Science tells us that our bodies are made of the same stuff as the stars.  The atoms of which we are made are the same as those in the stars.  They were actually created within the stars more than 13 billion years ago and those same particles/energy waves have been recycled over and over for 13 billion years.  Our bodies may contain some of the same energy particles as our ancestors, Jesus, Francis of Assisi, flowers, birds, and much more.  These ponderings bring us to a truth that is hard for us to take in.  We are all one --all of creation, all that now lives, all that have ever lived-- created by a loving God who calls us into the future inviting us to co-create in love.  You and I are an integral part of it all.  We are connected.  We often become so complacent that we forget the reality of our connectedness and focus only on our little world.  Pope Francis reminds us:  "Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard; the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades." (Eangeli Gaudium, p. 4)  Perhaps we need Lent to reconnect our awareness of our interconnectedness.   Our invitation is to recognize our unity and recognize the responsibility that this unity calls us to.

Pope Francis reminds us often of the poor and the material poverty that persists in our world and the
responsibility it should call forth in our lives.  In his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel) Pope Francis tells us "Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering, flesh of others (p. 133)," and he challenges us to avoid the ever present modern temptation "to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord's wounds at arm’s length (p. 133)."  Pope Francis tells us whenever we take a step toward Jesus we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. And so he invites us to pray:

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.” (Evangeli Gaudium , p.4).

So, welcome to Lent, You are dust, stardust, and to stardust you will return.  The energy that connects us flows from an all loving God in whose image we are made, a God who never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.  This very same God prepared for 13 Billion Years for this one moment when you and I choose Life for our world and our Universe.  Jesus is our model, "God in flesh”; Jesus invites us into His dying and rising.  Teresa of Avila tells us "Christ has no body now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.  This Lent will we be willing to enflesh the mystery of the Incarnation in the concrete reality of our daily lives?  Our observance of the Lent can support us in this effort.  May we do the inner work of Lent so that we can make a difference for all.

 

Monday, January 20, 2014

 
It is an amazing thing that on the holiday of Martin Luther King people choose to serve one another.  It is a great tribute to a man who modeled so clearly our interrelatedness and taught us that none of us can be who we called to be until all of us have the same right.  He was committed to non-violence even in the face of violence.  He knew how to take that first step and it pushed him on to climbing the whole staircase in faith — one step at a time.  Faith is what drove his every action and HOPE for all peoples was the outcome.
Martin Luther King, Jr. worked for the protection of human dignity of all, and had the courage to speak the truth to power.  His commitment influenced many to join with each other in working toward a more compassionate world.  And today that legacy continues as we work side by side.  As Americans he reminded us what our country is all about and called us to something better.  We aren’t there yet but we have taken the first steps and as we work side by side on this holiday of service we will come to know one another and, in that knowing, we will be a fuller and stronger nation.  In faith, we are taking those first steps but we have a long way to go to enable his dream to become the dream of our nation and the dream of our people — WE THE PEOPLE!  We the people can do this together — one step at a time.
At the Spiritual Center in the past week we had a Tai Chi Chih retreat where people came together desiring peace within the world and peace within their own hearts.  We had a group of men from St. Thomas on retreat trying to fill their lives with the Gospel Message and desiring to live it out day by day.  We had a group of women who came together to proclaim love within their own lives and desired to share it with one another.  These men and women know how important it is to live a principled life, and a life of committed engagement to social and spiritual transformation.  They are walking a stairway to hope by taking that first step in faith.  Join them and all those this day who are doing service to make a better world.  Take the first step.  You don’t have to know the outcome or where the stairs will lead you; you simply have to believe in your own goodness and desire to have a compassionate heart that will touch someone else and make their day just a little bit better.  It all begins with the faith to take that one little step and move in the right direction.  There is a world waiting for you to act.  There is a Gospel calling you to do just a little bit more.
As we deepen our understanding of the Gospels it is clear that the model we have in Dr. King calls us into action.  This past Sunday the first reading from Isaiah reminded us that we are called to be light.  Sister Marie Angela showed me a reflection that said:  "We live in the light to the extent that we live in the truth about ourselves.  Befriend a truth-teller, and be one yourself."  Martin Luther Kind lived in the light because he lived in the truth and had the courage to speak truth to power.  He also called each of us to do the same thing.  Taking that first step to move into action on behalf of the Gospel is difficult.  His actions moved many of us to join with each other in working toward a more compassionate and just country.  He has been a model for many encouraging us to live a principled life, and a life of committed engagement to social and spiritual transformation.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Listening and Wabi Sabi

I am blessed with a spiritual director who is an extraordinarily good listener.  As I pondered my gratitude for this gift I also recognized that her listening enabled me to be more at home with myself and gentler with myself.   Everyone likes to be heard and understood but it is far more important to be at home with ourselves.  I didn’t quite recognize the connection between listening and feeling at home until I read this quote from Rachel Naomi Remen’s Kitchen Wisdom:  Our Listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.
 
As we begin this New Year what a great challenge for us!  The most important gift we give one another is the gift of listening.  A sanctuary is a safe haven.  Our listening can create this safe haven for others.  But what are “the homeless parts” within us that seek this safe haven?  As I pondered that question I got lost in my varied cracks, flaws and imperfections and the shame that so easily creeps within me when I see myself as less than worthy or less than perfect.  These are the homeless parts within me – the parts that I deny within myself over and over because I am convinced that everyone else has it more together or more contained than I.  A good listener enables me to let go of the need to prove myself and not worry about what people will think if we fail or give up or seem less than perfect in any other fashion.  Perhaps it is a good listener who enables us to be at home with the broken, homeless parts of who we are.
 
Thinking about my “homeless parts”, I have decided to embrace the Japanese world view of wabi sabi.  In this world view the aesthetic is described as one that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".  Wabi Sabi is the art of appreciating the beauty in the naturally imperfect world.  This Japanese philosophy celebrates beauty in what’s natural, flaws and all.  Wabi Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." (Powell, Rich)rd R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media)
 
What if we learned to cherish the flaws and the cracks in our messy lives, the homeless parts within us.  After all, it is the cracks in our life that let in the light – a good thing by any standard.  We can do this each day by listening to one another and creating a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.  The challenge is on!

Thursday, January 2, 2014


 
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new
things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your
world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly,
you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New
Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made
before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it
isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Neil Gaiman

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films.  When I read this quote I initially thought it a bit strange but then the more I let it marinate in my heart the more I liked it.  God is so tolerant of our humanity and we, on the other hand, tend so often to demand perfection from ourselves.  If incarnation does anything for us, it is to help us accept our humanity.  God chose to be human in Jesus and, in that act, God shows us our precious our humanity is.  One look at the saints and we learn that making mistakes is normal even for those we set apart as models of the Christian life.
I tend to have some techy expertise and, often people ask me if I took classes and I say no but I should say YES I learned all I know through the school of mistakes.  It was through my mistakes that I learned all that I know.  For me now, every mistake I make on the computer is a challenge to learn something new and, in the process, to be able to help someone else who has made the same mistake.  I am also very willing to try new things because I know that I will always learn something new if I'm willing to make a few mistakes on the initial try.
One would think that I could transfer that same method of learning into my everyday life but I haven’t.  And yet, when I really think about it, I have learned my most profound lessons in life by my mistakes and I've made and continue to make quite a few.  I also have had a sense of adventure which gave me a willingness to try new things even if I'm clumsy in the beginning.   But probably my best example would be in relationships.  Each individual is a unique gift and, with time and mistakes, we learn the best way to love one another.  Often the people we love the most are the ones we make the most mistakes with in our relationships and yet, through those mistakes, we learn unique aspects of one another that often help us love them even more, especially the realization that they keep loving us even in our “humanness”.  Yes mistakes are a part of humanity and, in the end, they often help us as we grow in comfort with ourselves and others.
There is a fair amount of research that teaches us that we learn more about things for which we initially make incorrect predictions than for things for which our initial predictions are correct. The element of surprise in discovering we are wrong is conducive to learning.  The research of Professor Andy Wills of the University of Exeter takes this research a step further and established just how quickly the brain works to help us avoid repeating errors. By monitoring activity in the brain as it occurs, he and his colleagues were able to identify the moment at which this mechanism kicks in.  Monitoring individuals with electrophysiological recording by 58 electrodes placed on their scalp in computer simulations, the researchers identified activity in the lower temporal region of the brain, the area closest to the temples. This activity occurred almost immediately after the person was presented with the visual object that had previously made them make an error, and before there was time for conscious consideration.  How amazing is that?  So, with Neil Gaiman I hope that, in this year to come, you make mistakes.


If you like this blog please visit the blog area on our Franciscan Spiritual Center website.  I make many more entries at that site.  May your New Year be filled with peace and joy!

 
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pope Francis in Assisi for the Feast

Tomorrow on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis will be in Assisi for the day.  I’m rather excited about that prospect.  His day is filled with visits to the poor, the ill, and the marginalized.  I imagine that even the walls in Assisi will be speaking to our Pope about Francis of Assisi.

The Bishop of Assisi sent Pope Francis a letter shortly after he was elected reminding him that he lives where Francis undressed before his speechless father, in order to free himself entirely for God and for his brothers.  As the day got closer, the Bishop took the liberty to say to Pope Francis: “So Father, it would be great if among your many other commitments …, you came here [to the room in the Bishop’s residence where Francis undressed] at least to say the Our Father, as Francis did 800 years ago.” The Pope’s response was: “The Our Father? But I want to talk about how the Church should undress and somehow repeat that gesture Francis made and the values inherent in this gesture.” (Source: Vatican Insider, October 2, 2013)

My heart is filled with expectation.  I think our beloved Pope will absorb much of Francis’ spirit in this small little town.  St. Francis will be overjoyed at his namesake.  St. Francis revered Popes even in his day when they weren’t exactly the compassionate witness that our Pope is, so imagine his excitement at having Pope Francis in his home town.  Francis would invite him to follow the same voice that he received before the San Damiano Cross inviting him to “rebuild my Church.”  Indeed Pope Francis’ desire to have a Church for the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no voice will be exactly what Francis had in mind.  Indeed Pope Francis' own words indicate that he and Francis have a common heart: ”I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity,” he said. Like Francis of Assisi, our Pope realizes that the Church is not the buildings or the Roman curia or its hierarchical structure but it is the “people of God” alive and struggling each day.  We have a Pope who, like Francis, chooses to be “brother” to us all because he is a Pope in tune with the extravagant love of God!  May God bless him and bring him deep peace and joy so that he can be an instrument of peace in this troubled world.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Simple Way of the Little Flower

St. Therese of Lisieux

 I’ve always been  fascinated by St. Therese of Lisieux.  I think the fascination comes from the fact that she did very little and yet ended up being canonized.  When I was a young religious I thought she was a bit too flowery and pious for me but as I age I have become awed by her simplicity and her determination.  She entered religious life at the age of 14 over the protest of everyone and died at the age of 24.  She never founded a religious congregation, never became a great missionary, never did any great work and the only book she had published was her own personal journal which was published after her death with intense editing by her sister as The Story of a Soul. 

Therese lost her mother when she was only 4 years old and her older sister filled in but then entered the Carmelites five years later leaving Therese alone again.  She felt abandoned as many motherless children do.  Therese was, by her own admission and the recollection of everyone else, a spoiled child who was overly sensitive, desperately in need of affection and affirmation of every sort, and unable to contain her emotions.  She never denied these weaknesses but used them as a way to understand herself and the depths God’s love despite these weaknesses.  She had a great affection for St. Mary Magdalene who she perceived as also having difficulty holding and expressing her emotions.  But what she knew was that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene and that Mary was transformed by that love and so she was determined to be equally as transformed by God’s love. 

Therese recognized God’s infinite love and compassion for each of us and identified this as her “simple way” of becoming a saint.  Brother Joseph Schmidt tells us, in his book (2012) Walking the Little Way of Therese of Lisieux:  Discovering the Path of Love, that Therese believed that “mercy and compassion, not perfectionism, was the Gospel call to holiness and that, for her, to love God was to receive God’s love into her heart.”  Despite her self doubts, she knew beyond any question that she was loved by God and knew also that her calling was to love others and help them to recognize the love of God.  In the ordinary everyday tasks and annoyances of life she could remember that love and share it with others.


And so, on this feast day of a young woman who recognized God’s love despite her weaknesses, I choose, with all of you, to live this “simple way” of love and compassion.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Feeling One as I sit among the trees


A gorgeous day
to sit with the trees
bathe ourselves in the beauty of
fresh air, warm sun, crisp bright colors,
and deep inner peace.
Letting ourselves feel the oneness
of all we are and all we hope to be.

All around me is beauty,
the frightful tension of
my “shoulds” and  “oughts”
disappeared
and in its place nothing but
here and now
alive, warm, and holding me in stillness.

The blueness of the sky,
the sound of flowing water
flowers showing me their face
in the most surprising space.
I look up and remember the night sky
knowing there is a vastness of otherness above,
before and within me is one

I sit, feeling whole and healed and wonder:
“why don’t I do this more often?”
and the answer within
is frightful and hard for me to even acknowledge.
 “I’m just too busy”, I say
and another voice deeper within says:
“or are you just too afraid you’ll lose control
as a simple thread in this web of life?”

As I walk inside,
I feel the trees look, but they say nothing,
The stale air of my office welcomes me
and a silent whimper in my heart
makes me feel cold and cracked like ice.
I look out the window and promise my heart:
“tomorrow we’ll go and sit with them again.”
(Julia Keegan, OSF)


Friday, August 2, 2013

Portiuncula: Francis' first response to "Rebuild My Church"

Today is the feast of the Portiuncula.  It is a special day for Franciscans throughout the world as we celebrate the presence of a very small Church in Assisi which St. Francis made famous.  St. Francis had an experience where he believed the icon of the crucified Christ in San Damiano spoke to him telling him to “Rebuild my Church”.  Francis had often prayed in a very small, abandoned and broken down Church in a wood of oak trees.  Francis took the message quite literally and, carrying stones from Mount Sabasio, began to rebuild by hand this little Church named St. Mary of Angels.  Francis referred to this portion of land as the Portiuncula.  Eventually he came to understand that the Church Christ was calling him to rebuild was really the “people of God”.

Even with his growing awareness of what the message from the cruicified Christ really meant, Francis Sacred Place.  After Francis’s death as the masses came to visit Assisi this little Church was sacred and fragile and too small to accommodate tourists and so the Friars built a basilica to house the portiuncula
continued to love this little Church and made it a physical and central focus for the Franciscan order.  He slept only feet from the Church and when the Friars had their Chapters it was always at the Portiuncula that they would gather.  When he was dying he asked to be carried to this

Some biographers of Francis repeat a legend that as Francis  prayed in this chapel for the people of Assisi, Jesus and  Mary asked him what he wanted for them and he asked the Lord to grant a full pardon of sins to all who came to visit the church of Portiuncula (from vespers on August 1 to sundown on August 2) and Jesus nodded to him.  The outside fresco on the front of the Portiuncula by Johann Friedrich Overbeck depicts this event of Jesus and Mary granting to Francis the "Pardon of Asssi".  At the base of this fresco there is a small rectangular fresco with the Latin words Haec est porta vitae aeternae ("This is the gate to eternal life").  That was Francis desire for all who entered that little Church and his desire for all "the people of God" who were the Church he was called to rebuild.   It is said Francis immediately went to the Pope with the same request; he recognized the significance of hierarchical approval.   Plenary Indulgences were very rare in  those days and certainly not for just visiting a little chapel but the Pope said YES.  Since the Portiuncula is far to travel, for most of God's people,  over the years, various Popes have extended the indulgence to any Franciscan Church or Chapel.  

When you go to Assisi and enter this little portion of sacred land and sit within the old chapel walls even the dirt speaks to you, you can truly feel the presence of Francis.  As you recognize that these stones are the very same ones that Francis placed to firm up the structure you have an experience of the sacredness of place.  Joseph Campbell tells us "your sacred space is where you can find yourself time and again."  Trust me I don't get there "time and again" but my heart goes there frequently because it somehow felt like "home" to me.  We have to sit still and let Sacred Places tell us their secrets.  The walls of the Portiuncula have a lot to say.  I clearly have a Franciscan bias but it is truly holy ground.  Assisi on October 4th; I wonder what the walls of the Portiuncula will say to him! 
And as I ponder my experience of sitting in that little chapel years ago I can’t help but believe that our new Pope, the Francis of our day, has surely received the same message of our brother, Francis of Assisi, to “rebuild my Church”.  There is no question that he has internalized the awareness of Francis of Assisi and desires to rebuild “the people of God.”   Pope Francis plans to visit

Pope Francis is a Pope of the People who has an unquestionable bias to those who are most weak and vulnerable.  He calls each of us to examine our lives so that we can live as authentically as Francis of Assisi and this present man who has taken Francis as his patron.  May he continue the ardent journey of rebuilding our Church and may we as loyal Franciscans and as the People of God join him daily in that venture.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tempest Fugit -- Where did July go?

Tempest Fugit!  July has come and gone and here we are ready to move to August – where does the time go?  And apologies are in order since I haven’t written a blog for the whole month.

At the Franciscan Spiritual Center July is our Mini-Sabbath Program.  It is always an absolute delight.  Brother Michael Laratonda directs it using music, poetry, films, story telling, workshops, reflection, and Spiritual Guides; all touch deeply the hearts of our participated and allow them to enter more fully into a living the Incarnation, allowing both one’s humanity and divinity to unfold. 

Don’t take our word for it though, here are some of the comments from our participants:

  • What was most helpful was the permission and strong encouragement to address the “shadow” side of my life and to go deeper into one’s life to become “truly” whole.
  • Everyone here, Sisters, presenters, gardeners, housekeeping were welcoming and seemed glad we were there!
  • Gentle, tender and sensitive presentations and prayer services enhanced my journey.
  • Sr. Angela mirrored Franciscan hospitality in her selfless service during our mini-sabbath spiritual journey.
  • A beautiful spirit of community developed among those of us who participated in the mini-sabbath program and we truly enjoyed our time together.
  • As an artist you can imagine my delight at being given full unrestricted access to their fully stocked, organized art room.  Talk about a kid in a candy store.
  • Closing was very impressive, writing our letter that we will receive 3 or 4 months from now – And God’s letter to me.

If this appeals to you consider registering for the our Mini-Sabbath next Summer – the dates are July 6 to 27, 2014 and here is a link for  description and registration: Mini-Sabbath 2014

And what about me, how do I account for my whereabouts in the month of July? – Well I had the privilege of being in Colorado Springs, CO at the Mercy Center learning how to be a Spiritual Director.  It was a nourishing experience for me despite the fact that they worked us to the bones.  I learned a great deal about movement and countermovement, consolation and desolation, boundaries and ethics, about the Myers Briggs and the Enneagram and how they can be great tools for growing and helping others grow in their spirituality and prayer life.  I learned about dreams and mandalas, communication skills and lots more but what touched me the most was what I thought would touch me the least, i.e. Teresa of Avila.  I was amazed at her Inner Mansion and the journey we take to come to know ourselves, to heal our brokenness, and to allow ourselves to move with God’s grace into a unity that transforms our hearts.  In the presentation her spirituality was framed in a Jungian Perspective that made all the difference in the world to me.  Now I keep finding material to read to enrich that experience even more. 

Well at any rate I promise to be more faithful in August and the coming months.  I have no trips planned in the future so the website has my full attention.  Peace and all good things to you.  Our prayer is that your July was our joyful and peaceful as ours.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

How the Compost Pile of our Humanity Transforms US



I had a good retreat this year but the end of it was filled with my humanness in all of its glory – jealousy, clinging, not staying in the present moment because of the grief of having to leave my favorite place on earth yet another time.  When I returned home I sent my retreat director an email telling her I had learned a lot about myself in those last few days and apologizing for my bad behavior.  Her reply touched me deeply, she said:  “Isn’t it wonderful that the compost of your self was turned, allowing the breaking-down-into-nutrients process to carry on.”  I have been pondering that statement ever since. 

Believe me I’m not all that familiar with compost piles but I surely caught the idea clearly.  Composting is a process of regeneration, renewal, and resurrection.  We take the organic scraps from our table like apple cores, banana peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. and we add to them the organic scraps of the earth like grass trimmings, dead flowers, and leaves that fall from the trees and then we just let them sit.  With time microorganisms break things down and worms transform what remains.  The seasons turn, alternately warming and cooling, wetting and drying and then miraculously we have a pile of moist, nutrient rich soil to spread on our newly planted vegetables which will grow with the aid of the sun and water, minerals from the earth, the pollination of bees and the soil loosening of earthworms and  Voila -- the cycle begins all over again -- Life begets life!  How amazing this regenerating life that God has given us! 

What happens with the earth can also happen within me.  In composting, it’s the scraps we throw away, the stuff that has rotted, the stuff with bad spots, we give it air and time and end up with amazing soil.  Within us there are also those areas that we are ashamed of, those areas where our anger flares or our bruised ego cries in unbecoming ways.  If I’m willing to look at the scraps within me of jealousy or insecurity or impatience or downright meanness in a compassionate way then, with time, something amazing can also happen – a regeneration, a renewal, a resurrection.  

All of those mysterious times when we seem stuck or lost (pain, remorse, regret, guilt), we’re meant to just gently turn the pile over.  Into this smelly pile of our brokenness, we work in a bit of self-compassion and forgiveness and lots of God’s grace.  Next, with a little loving attention, we carefully pick out the stones and debris of our life that no longer serve us well and say goodbye to them.  And then we simply wait each day in the stillness of our prayer for the miracle of God’s grace. 

When we are emotionally, creatively, or spiritually stuck, we need not ask more of ourselves then nature asks herself.  Often we expect way too much of ourselves.  Sometime we see only the negative within us.  We spend all of our time looking at the compost pile rather than the fragrant flower or luscious fruit that is waiting to grow within us.  But nothing grows when our days are spent guarding the compost pile, defending it, covering it up to make our lives look larger than life itself.  I learned once that our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength.  Maybe this is the paradox that we live.  Without the nutrients of our humanity, the soil of our lives, of our personalities, will remain arid.  Gardening is full of grunting, sweat, dirt and sometimes holding your nose.  Composting demonstrates to us the powers of birth, death and regeneration at an earthly level.  We have to choose to believe that it can do the same with the weakest elements of our personality. It’s a slow process this finding the garbage of our lives and seeing the value in “composting” it.—breaking-down-into nutrients” but alas it is what births new life within us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Can we become the music? Is it mysticism? Ask our Jubilarians?


Thomas Merton defines mysticism as an experience with God beyond words.   Many have been touched deeply by God when we listen to some piece of classical music or perhaps had a spiritual experience when listening to the melody of a good song.    Perhaps there are times when each of us experience music without ever hearing a sound and we are touched deeply.  It often comes from another’s life or some profound moment in our own, a moment when God reveals Godself.  It is when we are deeply immersed in the music of life that we become the music.  God and I make music all the time.  How about you?

Merton tells us “…the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion.  It is wordless!  It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept.” (“Thomas Merton’s View of Monasticism,” a talk delivered at Calcutta, October 1978,)  Many have had such an experience when we spend a quiet afternoon with a friend saying virtually nothing but being so at peace and  at one with one another that we know “communion. ”   The same often happens on a quiet day alone with God perhaps enjoying nature together.

When I was on sabbatical (at Cedars of Peace in Nerinx, KY) my hermitage was called “Namaste” and there was a sign in my hermitage explaining the term Namaste.  It read:
I honor that place in you, where the entire universe resides. I honor that place in you, of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor that place with you where, when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.

The word Namaste  is often used as a greeting in the Hindu or Buddhist tradition.  When spoken to another person, it is commonly accompanied by a slight bow made with hands folded in prayer. This gesture is often made wordlessly and carries the same meaning.  Namaste is a form of music living within us,  music in which a reverent dance honoring another flows freely.  When we use it, we are recognizing in the sacredness of one another, that place where the divine dwells within each of us.  The gesture alone is like sweet centering music without any sound.  In it we become the music.  I had a Namaste experience this weekend.

The music of Namaste was everywhere this weekend.  Our congregation’s Jubilarians spent the weekend in the Spiritual Center amid a great deal of celebrating and sharing.   It was a time of pure joy in every possible way, celebrating those among us who for seventy-five, seventy or fifty years of professed religious life have lived the music of their lives and sung it beautifully to each of us and to all who they have served and all who have touched their lives.   They offered many surprises to us as well.  On Saturday they spent a significant amount of time with our retired sisters at Assisi House thanking them for being their role models and mentors and friends who brought them to this day.  At a magnificent liturgy on Sunday morning amid the most joyful music imaginable the jubilarians entered with dance and celebrated with praise to our God who is always loving us extravagantly.  They thanked the congregation for all that they have been for them and asked pardon for any way in which they were not fully present to anyone of us. 

It was a powerful way to begin their renewal of vows.  And in a tradition that is still alive in our congregation they sang the Benedicam Domine thanking our all good God for such extravagant love.  Throughout the liturgy the joy was in no way restrained.  It was contagious and on the way out of chapel they surprised us as each one pulled out a silver streamer and began their movement down the aisle or one might say their dance down the aisle.   Trust me THEY WERE THE MUSIC – if no instruments were playing or no voices singing – their lives and their joy would have been enough.

Those of you who have been around the Spiritual Center for some time may know one of our Jubilarians quite well.  Sr. Marie Angela Presenza, our program coordinator,  celebrated 50 years as a professed Sister of St. Francis.  Here is a picture to just give you an inkling of the joy in her heart.   Sr. Bernadette McKinniry, RSM, a former Board Member of the Franciscan Spiritual Center joined her for the celebration as did many of her cherished friends in community:


The weekend was filled with song, dance, and a deep level of sharing God's love.  It was clear that here in the joy of the moment we were each the music we heard in the sound of one another's joy and in the memory of each jubilarian's journey.  Namaste!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Learning to be at home....


Wendell Berry, in The Unforeseen Wilderness, tells us the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful by which we arrive at the ground of our feet, and learn to be at home.  

As I stumble through the spiritual journey of life inch by inch I have begun to ask myself if home is a place or a feeling.  As a feeling, home could include being safe, comfortable, joyful, peaceful  and accepted as we are.   These feelings are not something you find outside of yourself,  they are something you bring with you wherever you go, so perhaps home is an attitude we have within ourselves.    Home is wherever we are, or as Berry says "at the ground of our feet", the place where we learn to be comfortable with ourselves.  It takes a long time for us to get there and notice that we are at home. 

Home is a place inside of ourselves where we’re brave enough to  bring our insecurities, our quirks, our fears, and our strengths and feel comfortable with them.  Sometime we walk past home because we’re going too fast and don’t take the time to notice where we are.  Other times, we take the time to notice that we are home and that alone transforms our day.   I was on retreat last week and I noticed that I was AT HOME but as the time came to an end there was a deep sadness about having to leave home.    Although I believe home is in my heart there are the people who help us feel most accepting of ourselves.  They enhance our awareness of being AT HOME, leaving them sometime feels like leaving home.

We often think of home as where we come from, or the place we know best, or the people we love most, where we stay each night or perhaps where we long to be.  Home may be all of this or none of this.  But we all know home is important and we recognize it when we feel it.  There is a longing in our hearts to be AT HOME.   Home can be a mixed bag for many of us and for some , where there is domestic violence, home is a dangerous and unsettling place.  Yet, even in those situations, the human spirit finds a way to create a safe haven within our hearts, a place that becomes like home.  Our dreams and fantasies of home may give us direction and calm our anxieties as we continually look for ways of satisfying our longing for home.

If we are blessed enough, home is also a place where those we love and those who love us wait for us and, as we come home to them, we are nourished and our life becomes fuller and warmer and more tender then we could ask or imagine.   

Our greatest gift and our greatest challenge is to be at home within ourselves but also to make for others a dwelling place where they are comfortable and “at home”. 

Welcome yourself home!  But also let your spirit look at others and whisper in their ear – Welcome home my friend, welcome home!

Visit our website:  www.fscaston.org  and checking out our blog and our online spirituality sections.

Friday, May 31, 2013

In Eucharist We Meet A God Who Wants To Touch Us


Although Christ is present in in Scripture, in prayer, symbols, and rituals,  Ron Rolheiser tells us Christ is most present in the Eucharist -- a presence we can touch and feel, a presence that lives within our body.   In an article in the Catholic Herald, Rolheiser reminds us that "in the Eucharist, Christ touches us, intimately, physically, sensually, carnally.  Euchharist is physical, not spiritual:  its embrace real, as physical as the incarnation itself. "

Similarly in a reflection on the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St. Louis University, Rolheiser tells a beautiful story about Brenda Person who wrote a book of essays entitled, Nature and Other Mothers.  Her first essay in the book is entitled "In Praise of Skin", she tells about a skin condition which was not being cured by multiple visits to numerous physicians.  One day her grandmother saw the rash and told her immediately that her "Skin needs to be touched" and began to give her regular skin massages and, of course, Brenda was healed of her condition."  Rolheiser says "God knows that better than anyone.  It's why Jesus gave us the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist skin gets touched.  The Eucharist isn't abstract, a theological instruction, a creed  a moral precept, a philosophy, or even just an intimate word.  It's bodily, an embrace, a kiss, something shockingly physical, the real presence in a deeper way than even the old metaphysics imagined. ..Skin heals when touched--that's why there's a Eucharist. " 

Is that perhaps why it is so much more fulfilling for us to receive Eucharist in our hand rather than our tongue.  The sensual experience of holding the body and blood of our God makes God's presence real in our lives.  It calls us to a tenderness that knows deep within our God desires to be one with us in every way possible.

In a book published after Nouwen's death entitled  Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit (2010, Kindle Locations 1692-1697,  HarperCollins. Kindle Edition) Nouwen is even more forceful about God's desire to be fully present to us in Eucharist.    Henri Nouwen  says "Jesus never said:  "Munch and sip" the bread and wine.  He said, "Eat me up, drink me empty, take it all in.  Don't hold back.  I want you to become part of me.  I don't want to be separate anymore.  I want to live within you, so that when you eat and drink, I disappear because I am within you.  I want to make my home in you, and invite you to make your home in me."

Reading John 6:53-68 in the Message Translation (Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson) the phrasing is rather explicit in Jesus' response to those who questioned the concept of "Eating his Body and His Blood.  :
But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”


How sad that we often grew up so focused on doctrine that we failed to let our hearts and our bodies know deeply the GOOD NEWS of Eucharist.  May your heart be nourished by this beautiful sensual gift of God and May you remember we have a God who wants to be present to us "Skin-to-Skin".  God certainly touches us through one another but no time more closely than in this beautiful gift of Eucharist.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken


I saw this Oscar Wilde quote and it made me realize how often we try to be someone other than ourselves.  We think everyone else looks good in a bathing suit or everyone is funnier than we are, or perhaps that people only love us because we have talents that they need.  Many are  afraid to be themselves because they are afraid they  wouldn't be liked.  Some, in their past, found love was conditional, given  only  if we were good or didn’t cause any trouble.  Some never felt good enough because those they loved never affirmed them.  And so we build a wall around ourselves in order to protect ourselves.   But the call for us is to take the journey deep into ourselves and recognize the beauty that is there.  

Here is a poem by Mary Oliver that helps me remember the really journey of my life....Happy journeying!

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.


Mary Oliver, Dream Work, Grove Atlantic Inc., 1986 & New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, 1992.

You can also view this  blog on our website: http://fscaston.org/category/blog/
Or look at some inspirational videos at http://fscaston.org/inspiration-powerpoint/ or perhaps preview some of our programs at http://fscaston.org/events/.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gratitude

Today on YouTube I saw this picture and it speaks to me about gratitude.  It was an adopted dog and his rescuer.  The story really focused on the expression on the dog's face that clearly says it all but I also thought the expression on the woman's face also spoke about gratitude.

It is always amazing to me how transforming gratitude is in my life and how very often it changes my perspective almost immediately.  So today, I am praying that each of you have hearts filled with gratitude and friends who remind you often how grateful they are that you are in their lives.  This dog perhaps reminds us to say thanks to our friends.


“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 

Friday, May 10, 2013



Although Emerson's original poem (Hamatreya) mocks our possessiveness of the earth this line tickles my heart to no end.  Today is a beautiful Spring Day with sunshine and flowers everywhere so it was easy to reflect on the beauty all around.   The flowers  on the picture were planted by our groundsmen in front of our motherhouse and whenever I walk in and out of the door I smile and think "Earth laughs in flowers".  In Spring there are flowers everywhere so there are many laughs occurring everywhere I look today.  Yes, there is pain and loneliness but today in this moment life gives me good things and I accept them with joy.  May good things be with you today and may your heart be able to laugh with the earth as you look at the flowers which gift our Springtime.

Spring comes without and within us

Our eyes feast on the beauty around
and smiles delight our hearts
with all the goodness we see.
It's hard to be sad in the spring time
because God hides in every seed
and peeks out when we least expect
to surprise us with color and beauty and love.
Take time to delight in beauty
because all that is without
is also within.
God hides in every seed
and that means even in you and me.
Let yourself blossom.
Take time to delight
and feast on the beauty
within and without.
Take time to laugh with the earth
but since you are of the earth
know also that
your heart laughs flowers too.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


As April ends I’m looking back at the month in awe of all who have blessed us with their presence.  We've had 8th grade graduating retreats, high school graduation retreats, and and Faculty retreats.  We had a senior retreat (as in seasoned adults) which focused on novelist E. M. Forster ‘s book Hope For The Flowers.   In it Foster says “ We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for me.” Using the paradigm of the metamorphosis of a butterfly, Sr. Clare D’Auria invited all, during this Easter season, to reflect on our own aging process as the kind of real diminishment that is also the necessary prelude to transformation into Christ and the only way through which we can journey toward the true freedom that is resurrected life.  
We had a Secular Franciscan Weekend Retreat on the Franciscan Theological Tradition focusing fully on God’s Extravagant Love as the fountain-fullness that overshadows all we do and all we are.   While this retreat was going on we also hosted a diocesan sponsored program for the deaf community.  The liturgy for that Sunday was prepared and executed by the deaf community of the diocese of Philadelphia.  At that liturgy all of us understood in a very real way what it means to not understand the nuances of what is occurring.  We were the outsiders and the 100 members of the deaf community were the insiders.  And although we had a narrator for those of us who could hear it laws an off-stage sort of hearing that left us feeling like “outsiders” for whom an adjust was being made.  All the readings and the homily were signed.  The celebrant was himself deaf and so the entire Eucharistic Prayer was signed.  At the homily Father (in sign of course) told a story about his family experiencing a joyous gathering where there were funny lines that he couldn't get.  He asked them to tell him what was happening but in their excitement they told him they’d tell him later but when later came they couldn't remember the lines and so he felt like he missed an important sharing.  As he explained I couldn't help to feel the loneliness and the ache such an experience must bring and then I looked at my own sense of feeling “outside” at a liturgy in my own motherhouse.  It was good for me to be there; it taught us a lot about the need to reach out to all and make them feel a part of all whenever it is possible.
We also had a day focused on the Spiritual Energy of Teilhard de Chardin, a day where God’s divine milieu was visible as we focused on the energy of love tangible in our universe and a day where we were invited to co-create the future with the Cosmic Christ who is the Omega point calling us into the future filled with extravagant love.

This week we had two well published speakers:  Margaret Silf and Edwina Gately.  Margaret Silf gave a professional day for Spiritual Directors and an evening presentation focused on Simple Faith:  Faith in the Future.   Although her faith journey has been shaped by Jesuit Spirituality, like Pope Francis and Teilhard de Chardin, you could see a Franciscan heart deep within.  In times of unprecedented flux and transition, in which many of our old certainties are breaking down, by using vignettes, she showed where God is being experienced and how we can trust that breakdown (like the cross) can become a breakthrough (a resurrection experience).  In the evening program she told us the word “faith” implies certainty and security.  But the Christian vision, as lived by Jesus of Nazareth, is never about certainty, but mystery; not about security but about risk.  Are we looking for certainty or are we ready to embrace mystery and risk?
Edwina Gately joined us for a weekend entitled Mothers, Sisters, Daughters:  Standing on the Shoulders.  During this weekend retreat, Edwina shared stories and poetry about women from different walks of life around the globe who have made a difference in the world.  We entered the lives of some amazing women–both living and dead–environmentalists, poets, politicians, mystics, social activists, women in Scripture, martyrs and even some unknown women whose witness, courage and faithfulness will inspire and guide us on our own journeys.  At the end, as the participants celebrated their own stories and possibilities they realized they stand on the shoulders of these modern prophets and valiant women.
Finally on the last weekend we hosted two groups:  The Elam Mthodist Community Women's Day Retreat and  the Visitation Marianist State community weekend retreat.  Both groups blessed us by their presence.  Their energy, their spirit, their charism,  support, and their joy filled the air.  Although their programs were fully packed they found time to enjoy a perfect spring weekend on our grounds.  Everything was in full bloom when they came so I think nature was celebrating their time with us as well
And of course this month included our regular Yoga, Tai Chi, and Focusing series and our Women’s Salon group.  This month they focused on Gratitude and left with hands full of gratitude seeds, gratitude rocks, and most importantly, a grateful heart.
The really cool part is that we get to have even more surprises as we begin the month of May.  Life is not dull in the Franciscan Spiritual Center.  Come and visit us and, if you don’t have the time, then we hope that you will be nourished by some of the “online spirituality” on our website (www.fscaston.org)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Practice Resurrection



In an Easter Reflection a Loretto Sister introduced me to Wendell Berry’s Poem, Manifesto:  The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.  The last line of the poem says “Practice Resurrection”.  Her reflection was powerful but it created  all sorts of energy in my heart about what it means to “Practice Resurrection”.   So here are my musings:

 Practice Resurrection

Walking forth from the death within us
we know life in a new way
a joyous, grateful, more powerful way
but the getting there isn’t all that easy.
There is the choosing life
that happens each morning
with each foot touching the floor with the words Thank You.
There is the staying in the present moment
when we’re yearning inside to cling to a more comfortable
“the way it’s always been”.
There is the claiming victory
taught to us by Jesus, the Christ,
on one amazing Sunday morning
but also each day we allow this Jesus
to live and rise within our heart.
 Each time we truly allow ourselves
to encounter a brother or sister we practice resurrection,
each time we affirm another,
put another’s interest above our own
or even walk gently along side someone
for whom there is much pain,
in each of these moments we
practice resurrection.
Walking in the rain was glamorized in Hollywood movies
but often the rain is hard and
we feel wet and cold
wanting the warmth of our own home.
But, if we’re willing to look another in the eye and say
“I have no umbrella
but may I walk with you,”
we practice resurrection.
The daily rising to our better self
to a more compassionate and loving heart
is, for me,  what it really means
to practice resurrection
but I’d still like to know
what was in Wendell Berry’s heart
as he wrote those words..

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reflections on the Triduum


Our Jewish brothers and sisters have been celebrating Passover remembering the events leading to their release from slavery in Egypt and we gather these three days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to celebrate our Passover from death to life in Christ.  It is a time of remembering the triumph of God's love over darkness and death.  It can change our hearts deeply if we allow it.

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday we experience the washing of feet and see Pope Francis wash the feet of the young men and women in the juvenile detention center.  It is a ritual of service that sends the message that Eucharist is how we treat one another and our call is to treat others with respect and open service. The Eucharist of Holy Thursday unites us not only in ritual but in the desire and the commitment to be one with each other, to recognize and support one another and to serve one another.  As we watch Pope Francis during these Holy days we become more aware that great change is occurring in small gestures.  He could have just washed the feet of these young men and women, that's the ritual, but he also kissed their feet.  He also told them "washing your feet means I am at your service."  Holy Thursday should move us to the tenderness our Pope expressed in this short clip of the Holy Thursday experience.   It should invite us to be at the service of one another.

Good Friday


On Good Friday we gather to remember the Lord's passion and death.   I have always been inspired by Teilhard de Chardin's reflections on the cross  in The Divine Milieu.  He acknowledges the redemptive aspect of God's suffering for our sins but he focuses on Jesus'  effort at reconciliation. Jesus by his life, his passion and death teaches us how hard it is to work toward reconciliation and unification.  In the Divine Milieu Teilhard tells us that by his death, Jesus reconciled the world with God, but, because he was human (matter), he also reconciled  the various elements of the world with itself in a way that is being worked out in history even in our day. It is this side of the redemptive act of the cross that is uppermost in Teilhard's thought:   that Jesus by his death unified the world with God and within itself.  Teilhard sees the cross of Jesus above all as a work of unification. Jesus Christ bears the sins of the world, he overcomes the resistance to unification offered by the many, the resistance to the rise of spirit inherent in humans and in all matter.  The complete meaning of redemption is no longer to expiate sins, it is to surmount and conquer the resistance that divides us, that separates us from love. Christ's suffering reveals to us that its hard work to overcome resistance, he shows us what it is like, and he helps us to carry the weight.  And so, in Teilhard de Chardin the cross is brought into human becoming, our potential of being more, of evolving in compassion.  The cross is the symbol of work more than of penance.  Jesus' suffering, without ceasing to be he who bears the the sins of the world, indeed precisely as such, is also the one who bears and supports the weight of the world as it evolves.    The cross preaches and symbolizes the hard work of renunciation.   The cross is both the condition and the way of progress.   Because of the very nature of reality we are on a cross.  It is in Jesus crucified that every person can recognize his own true image.  The cross is the symbol of progress and victory won through mistakes, disappointments and hard work.  The cross synthesizes the transcendent, the "above" (the "upward' impulse of a person toward the worship of God) and the ultra-human, the "up-ahead", the "forward" impulse of a person towards building a better future.  The cosmic Christ calls us forward to that future.  Teilhard tells us true compassion is participating in the action of the cross.  We carry our cross 1) in compassion with Christ and 2) in compassion with all human suffering in our history.

Holy Saturday

Saturday is a day of quiet reflection on the Entombment of Christ as we wait, like the disciples, for news of the resurrection. I  always want to go fishing on Holy Saturday because I think that's what the disciples did.  They were deflated, crushed perhaps, and they would have wanted to just go away and be by themselves.   James Martin in an article in America Magazine Online tells us most of our lives are spent in Holy Saturday.  In other words most of our lives are not filled with the unbearable pain of a Good Friday.  Nor are they suffused with the unbelievable joy of an Easter.   But most are...in between.  Most are, in fact, times of waiting, as the disciples waited during Holy Saturday.  May your waiting be holy.

Holy Saturday:  The Easter Vigil

And finally, on Saturday night we gather in vigil and hear the amazing news that Jesus Christ, our companion and brother, is not dead, but is risen from the grave.  We no longer have to fear the empty tomb.  We move from darkness into light.  Having read the stories of our journey, we know all is well and all will be well as Julian of Norwich tells us.  Let us open our hearts to see the resurrection of Jesus all around us.  In this video clip of a flashmob  we see a building Alleluia as one by one humanity unites and surprises us all with the beauty of an Alleluia.  We, together, in joyous heart praise the risen Savior among us.  Perhaps we see this Savior in the eyes of all those around us.  As you watch this video be patient -- wait with the people, marvel at the gentle talents and be one with the crowd as it joins in the praise.  Ordinary people like you and I lift their voice in praise.  Can you resist singing?

Forgive You Judas


Forgive Your Judas
Maybe he wasn't the nicest man
but Jesus saw something good there
he tried to set him right
gave him all the love and compassion
he had to give
but Judas just couldn't let him in,
his heart was empty
and Judas couldn't believe he was worth even a little love
Judas had a hole in his heart
so he couldn't see or feel
the love that was coming his way.
I'm wondering if the Judas within me
is any more willing to allow God's forgiving love
to seep into my broken heart and heal it.
Peter messed up too but he was healed
because he allowed love inside
But Judas just couldn't do it

he even used the  friendship sign of a kiss
as his final refusal to let Jesus transform him.
It was the kiss that hurt Jesus the most
 even more than the thorns or nails

i'm wondering if the Judas within me
has learned anything from that broken man
who earned 30 pieces of silver but hung himself on a tree.
I'm wondering if I believe enough in love and forgiveness
to open up my wounds and let in a little love
what if Judas had done that
what if I do it now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Pope Francis can teach us about immigration reform...


I find myself entering this Holy Week with unquenchable joy.  I keep feeling I should have a more sober tone but in my heart I still believe Pentecost has already come to the Church in the person of Pope Francis.  Simplicity,  compassion, and social justice are front and center.  We can all enumerate our favorite stories about him:  his simple greeting and wave, the request for prayers as he bends to receive them, the simple wish “ good night and sleep well”, getting out of the pope mobile to greet the disabled man, gathering his own things from his hotel and paying his own bill, calling personally to cancel his home newspaper, spending Holy Thursday at a juvenile detention center, inviting guests to his early morning Mass (including Vatican gardeners, street sweepers, kitchen staff and maids working at the hotel where he is currently staying.)   This is a welcoming and warm man.  He is rebuilding our Church as Francis of Assisi was also called to do. 
But yesterday as we remembered the 33rd anniversary of Oscar Romero’s death I couldn't help but look at the similarities between Romero and Pope Francis. Oscar Romero tells us:  "Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.  Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.  Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.  It is right and it is duty." On his anniversary it is fitting that we say a prayer of hope for his people in El Salvador and here in the United States but also for immigrants everywhere.  Both Oscar Romero and Pope Francis are known to be  conservatives,  both deeply spiritual, and both committed to peace and  unflinchingly focused on the poor.   I believe that our Pope will be very vocal about the poor and the marginalized in our society, about the  immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families, for peace throughout the world, and for the nurturing of all creation.  His stance on Social Justice will be clear and straightforward – not just in words but in all of his actions just like they were for Oscar Romero.
In an NCR article John Allen cites two older quotes from our new pope that touched my heart deeply:  1) "Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord” ( 2001 address) and 2) “We live in the most unequal part of the world,  which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least.  The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of  social  sin  that  cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers  (his 2007 address at a conference for Latin American Bishops)."
As the son of Italian immigrants to the South American nation,  Pope Francis knows what it is like to live in an immigrant family and what it must have been like for his parents as they migrated from Italy to Buenos Aires, Argentina.    When our Congress returns from their Easter recess on April 8th, immigration will be introduced and our voice and actions need to speak the tenderness of mercy to which our Pope refers.  There are still some Senators who hold out for legal status rather than citizenship.  Both the USCCB and the Interfaith immigration Coalition insist that a common sense, achievable path to citizenship is essential and that family reunification must be a priority.  Addressing root causes of illegal immigration and inclusion of funding for integration of new US citizens are also very important.
Members of Congress need to know that their constituents care deeply about compassionate immigration that includes these elements.  Our Advocacy Committee and the Franciscan Action Network as well as our Bishops ask us to call or email our local congressional offices and, if at all possible, schedule appointments to talk with them while they are in our neighborhoods between March 25 to April 5  for their Easter Break.   I believe Pope Francis can and will influence people of good will within our nation and others to welcome the immigrant as they come to find a new and healthier life among us.  Like Francis of Assisi, Oscar Romero, and Pope Francis we need to do what is ours to do.  We need to speak  peace and tenderness  with our actions.  Please call or email congress.  God's poor and marginalized need our voice.

(You can also see this blog at our Franciscan Spiritual Center Website)