Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Naked before the Lord

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

All Israel, too, cried out with all their strength, for death was staring them in the face.

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. Taking off her splendid garments, she put on garments of distress and mourning. In place of her precious ointments she covered her head with dirt and ashes. She afflicted her body severely; all her festive adornments were put aside, and her hair was wholly disheveled.

Then she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: “My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”

Divine Office, Office of Readings for October 20, Esther 4C:11-14

I was very taken with this passage because I saw a powerful and symbolic undressing of the soul in preparation for meeting with the Lord. I’m certain that Queen Esther took off her outer royal garments and covered herself with dirt and ashes,  laying herself out practically naked before the Lord, to show Him the state of her soul, in anguish. She knew to present herself as nothing before God so that she could beg mercy for her people.

It’s a very powerful metaphor for the state of my soul. I’m wondering what I need to peel off from myself in order to see it in its true state. That kind of undressing requires humility and courage, to lay oneself bare, and make oneself truly vulnerable.

Queen Esther received the answer she desired from her heartfelt prayer to the Lord and her people were spared. They were very fortunate to have such a wise ruler who understood the need to lay herself bare before her Creator.

It leaves me much to think about as I consider the casual way in which I approach the Lord or do my examination of conscience. This story is a great reminder of my need to take the time to appear naked before my God.

Daring to dream – inspired by today’s Office of Readings (Oct. 20)

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There were so many great lines of scripture today in the Office of Readings that it was hard to choose (Divineoffice.org for Oct. 20). Here’s one from Psalm 18, verses 28 and 29:

You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.

I don’t have any great barriers that I need broken down at the moment nor do I have a large wall to scale. But, an idea came into my head this morning, an idea that has entered my mind before, and an idea I have resisted.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I used to create books to continue the stories of favorite classics (Black Beauty especially) or write about my trolls (remember those? :-)). I would illustrate and bind them, and I was very proud of them (in fact, I still have them!). When I was in middle school, I was discouraged in my writing by my teachers and gave up on the idea.

I then took up songwriting and did that for several years. I enjoyed especially writing the lyrics, as you can imagine, inspired by my heroine in music and lyrics, Joni Mitchell. That lady could sure write a line!

I moved into writing music about my faith and enjoying sharing about it through the lyrics, and praising God through the music.

And when email came along, I would write long, newsy letters that got a good response from friends. And when I ran GrapeVine Magazine for several years (a magazine about Catholic musicians), I wrote articles about artists and many CD reviews. (After ten years, I turned over GrapeVine to a new editor, Jim Logue).

So the writing never really stopped.

Entering the ‘empty nester’ phase of life, I’ve found more time for reading and I’m discovering that for the first time since my childhood, I am really enjoying the escape that is reading. Reading is the one thing I can do where I am not multitasking (which is why I refuse to read anything but an old fashioned printed book!), and that is immensely relaxing.

And now, the idea that was planted in me as a child is coming back, the idea to write a real book. It’s a book that taps into my endless interest in Louisa May Alcott and her writings. It’s come back several times and each time my response is, “What an absurd idea! I’m no writer. I don’t have the discipline. I don’t have the background, the education. I haven’t read nearly enough books, it’s been done before,  I have no idea how to do it!”

But the idea that presented itself today for a possible book spoke back to me: “You are reading now. You are writing two blogs (this one and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion). Your other blog is full of over 100 great, thoughtful comments from learned women who are writers, historians, English teachers and students. You have a whole community there to support you in your effort. A close friend of yours is a published author. Any other excuses?”

And then I listen to the Divine Office this morning and hear these verses:

You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.

It also says in the scriptures, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

This is what I will need to discern over the next several days in prayer – does God want me to pursue writing? How can I use it  for His glory? Do I dare dream about what could be if I do write a book? I’ve never dared to really dream before.

But maybe it’s time I put myself out there and dare to dream. I only know that the best way to find out if God wants this is to try it and see if the interest lasts and if the doors open. Perhaps I have a gift that God wants me to use that I am not fully using. Stranger things have been known to happen.

God’s wisdom is deemed foolishness in the world. Perhaps my “absurd” idea isn’t so foolish, if it’s inspired by the Lord. Only time will tell.

Sharing in suffering and consolation – reflection on the Divine Office morning prayer, September 20

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I was struck today by the short reading included in the Divine Office morning prayer:

Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation! He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from him. As we have shared much in the suffering of Christ, so through Christ do we share abundantly in his consolation.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I immediately thought of my dear friend whom I take communion to every Tuesday. She endures much suffering but freely shares how God consoles her through that suffering. It always amazes me how she is able to hang on, and not just hold on, but keep trying. She leads a life full of purpose even though she can do little physically.

Someone in her shoes could so easily become bitter and be blinded by the suffering. But my friend is open, looking for, asking, expecting God’s consolation. And because of that, she offers consolation to others. I know that is certainly true for me. Every week I learn something new from her which deepens my understanding of the faith. She says that I console her too – I do all I can.

I remember last year when my husband Rich was laid off. This was a second layoff for him but we opted to trust in God and support each other, and not allow worry to undo us. At that time, I felt so much consolation from God that I just had to share it, and that’s when I produced a limited podcast series called “How Can I Keep from Singing” as part of the  Marian Cenacle Rosary Podcast. In this series, I freely shared what was going on in my life and how I leaned on God, trusting Him to see us through. I knew there were a lot of people out there like us and I wanted to let people know that trusting in God does help. My husband didn’t land a job immediately – we were on unemployment for 4 months – and I’d be a liar if I said there were no bumps in the road along the way. But for some reason, God graced both of us tremendously with confidence and we remained calm and peaceful throughout the layoff.

2 Corinthians 21:3-4 is something I have truly lived and I can tell you, is possible for anyone so long as you don’t let your suffering blind you to God’s goodness. Surrendering your sorrow to God is essential – He must be allowed to lead the way.

Short personal reflections on how to avoid sin and stay connected

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Just wanted to jot down a quick note about something that’s been a running theme lately in my spiritual life, that of connections. Over the past couple of weeks, the Lord has been showing me how everyone: past, present and future, is connected because God is omnipresent. At the same time, I recently asked the Lord to shed some light on my sins are so I could do an effective examination of conscience each night with my prayers. These two things are coming together in an interesting way.

The first point is that because everyone is connected, even the things you do to yourself in secret affect others. Even if you just whisper some gossip to yourself, or complain about someone to yourself, it will ultimately affect someone else. It might not affect someone in the present, but it could affect someone in the future. Take, for example, Adam and Eve – their sin against God not only brought them the taste of death, but all humanity as well. There is no way of knowing how a sin can affect you or others. One thing is certain: sin wounds my relationship with God, and could even cause a serious separation. It’s clear – sin must be avoided at all costs!

It then occurred to me that the best way to avoid sin is to remain connected to God. I listened to a podcast this morning that talked about the fall of our first parents, and how the consequence of their sin was being disconnected from God and His breath of life (which is why they must die). On this day celebrating the Exaltation of the Cross, I am reminded that the Cross is a symbol of victory for Christ defeated death and restored that connection with the Triune God.

We are still fallen in this life, however, and must work constantly to keep that connection going with the Lord. I realize now why St. Paul exhorts us to pray always, for that is the only way to stay connected to God.

The Church in her wisdom has given us the Divine Office which one prays several times a day, to maintain this connection. I can also listen to music that reminds me of God’s presence, or listen to podcasts. I can whisper the Jesus Prayer over and over again until it becomes such a habit that it will continue to be prayed even as I work or play. I can gaze upon holy icons and meditate for a moment or two about Jesus, Mary or a saint.

There are many ways to stay connected but it really takes force of will to keep it going. I know though that it is the best way to avoid sin, which breaks connections with God, and with everyone else.

How do you stay connected to God?

God’s love never quits, even if we do

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Today I attended Divine Liturgy at my husband Rich’s church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Worcester, MA, where he is known as Deacon Elias. The Gospel was taken from John 3:13-17 which you can read here. The Melkite Church, which is Eastern Catholic, follows a different lectionary.

Just a quick thought today on the homily which Father Paul presented regarding this famous gospel reading. One of the things he pointed out was that God never stops trying to get our attention, even if we are determined to go our own way. It made me stop and think about  how I pray for loved ones who indeed stubbornly go their own way, totally ignoring our Lord. The prayers are often centered around asking the Lord to act. Today made me realize that God never stops acting. I should have realized that just as father in the story of the Prodigal  son (Luke 15:1-32, coincidentally the Gospel reading in the Roman lectionary today!)  never stopped looking for opportunities to bring his son home, so God in his eternal love, never stops trying to lead us home. But He will never force the issue, just like the father didn’t force the son to come home. He waited patiently and when he saw the slightest action from the son, indicating that he was open, he acted, pouring out his love, concern and gratitude upon the son.

It means I need to be even more alert and awake to God’s actions. Perhaps the unexpected blessing to a loved one whom I’ve been praying for was a way of God trying to get that person’s attention. Maybe I then need to gently remind that person to give thanks for that blessing, to help that person make the connection.

I don’t need to ask God to act. I need to ask that my loved ones’ eyes be opened to all of God’s actions around them. God never stops acting.

Junk Food vs. Good Food – Reflections on prayers and readings for Sept. 11

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 Corinthians 10:14-22; Psalm 116:12-13,17-18; Luke 6:43-49
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart[a] brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
(Luke 6:45, New King James version)

There are so many things I can fill up my life with: books to read, TV shows to watch, places to go. Our world offers so many choices that it’s easy to become full and cluttered. There’s a lot of “junk food” out there to feast upon.

We all know the temptations of junk food – it tastes so good! It satisfies. It brings me comfort when I feel blue or stressed. But we also know the consequences (especially if we’re older!) – indigestion, weight gain, health issues. Junk food can tempt me to eat too much, and thus suffer the consequences. Junk food does not bring forth good things that last.

The “junk food” of the world can do the same, cluttering my mind with thoughts and feelings that can ultimately harm my soul.  And being full of such junk food, it will inevitably pour out of me and perhaps, harm someone else.

In today’s Divine Office, morning prayer, I read about Wisdom:

Now with you is Wisdom who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
who understands what is pleasing in your eyes
and what is conformable with your commands.

Send her forth from your holy heavens
and from your glorious throne dispatch her
that she may be with me and work with me,
that I may know what is your pleasure.

For she knows and understands all things,
and will guide me discreetly in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory.
Wisdom 9:9-11

Today (and every day) I need to seek out the wisdom of God in helping me to decide whether the things I take part in constitute junk food that would bring forth bad fruit that could harm,  or good food, that will bring forth good fruit, fulfilling the Will of God. For surely good fruit serves others in love and leads them closer to Him. Filling my head and heart full of that wisdom will lead me there through such activities as praying the rosary, reading scripture, or simply taking a walk with Jesus as my companion.

Staying away from junk food takes real willpower, but once I am immersed in God’s grace, it gets a lot easier!

Running the Race to Win – reflection on readings for Sept. 10

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Today’s readings can be found here.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-27; Psalm 84:3-6,12; Luke 6:39-42

From today’s Divine Office, morning prayer:

2 Corinthians 12:9b-10
I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.

St. Paul tells us to run the race to win.A cup of coffee so I can wake up, a longer commute than usual because of heavy traffic . . . I think you know where this is leading. It’s painful like no other. I struggle mightily with this pain even though it is so small in the scheme of things. In the midst of it I tried hard to remember that it would resolve itself in due time, but in the middle of it, I was desperate. I could not figure out how to maintain my peace .

This happened a couple of days ago and I am still reflecting on it. Then I read the above reading from the Divine Office and wonder how Paul did it. Did he lose his peace when he was in pain? Or did he maintain it? I suppose the best way to find out is to ask him through intercessory prayer, and to study his life.

In today’s first reading, Paul talks about running the race to win. Since I am not an athlete, I never could relate to the analogy of running a race. But now that I have begun working out at the YMCA 3 times a week, I am beginning to understand. It’s about total commitment, and total belief in that commitment. You can’t run a race to win if you don’t believe you can win.

I have to believe that I can win in my spiritual life as well. How can I lose with the Lord’s Holy Spirit inside of me? I can lose only if I don’t believe.

I think I would almost welcome the challenge of my “pain” after coffee again and see if this time, I can run that race to win!


Reflection on daily readings for Sept. 9

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 Corinthians 8:1-7,11-13; Psalm 139:1-3,13-14,23-24; Meditation: Luke 6:27-38

Before reading, start off with this wonderful classic hymn of praise from today’s Divine Office morning prayers. Click on this link and then click on Morning Prayer to listen – the hymn is very near the beginning.

The prayers from the Divine Office today reinforced the theme of being connected. I realized as I read that I am connected to all God’s people, not only in the present, but in the past and in the future. If I am immersed in God, I am surrounded by the saints of heaven and connected with all people on earth. When I receive the eucharist, all the saints of heaven, known and unknown, are there with me. I can never think that something I do, even in secret, only impacts me. We are so connected to each other that anything we do will somehow impact others.

The most obvious examples are these: the impact of Adam and Eve disobeying God by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, thus causing a rupture for all time between God and His people that will never be fully restored until we die. Of course, the other great example was pointed out yesterday on Mary’s birthday, how her “yes” to God brought forth the Savior of the world who saved everyone: past, present and future.

Closer to home, I think of the impact of my parents’ care of us and their careful planning, and how beautifully that legacy is being played out. So many times I turn my eyes towards heaven to thank them for their care. Their love for us will carry through our generation and beyond. Love never ends.

Perhaps now, today, I will think more about what I do, knowing better that it will impact someone, somewhere.

Family History is Important

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Today’s readings
Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 13:6; Matthew 1:1-16,18-23

Last night when I posted about Mary, I had no idea today was her birthday! Everything I read today, from the morning prayers of the Divine Office to today’s readings, reinforced everything I had heard the night before from John Michael Talbot’s song.

Family history became important to me after my mother’s passing last April. My sister and I made a trek to the city where my her father came from, as I wanted to see his grave. He died when I was teenager and I wasn’t permitted to go to his funeral since I was so young, but since that time, I had wanted to say goodbye in a proper way. I waited 46 years, but I finally got to say my goodbye at the cemetery, and see 4 generations of his family to boot! You can see pictures of our trek here on Facebook.

Everything is connected and in such intimate ways. The hymn from this morning’s Divine Office said it all for me:

Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!
Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the Rose-Tree, Christ the Rose Blood-red!
Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son.
Both ever blest while endless ages run.
Amen.


Mary the Dawn; Medieval English text; Gregorian Tone 4, setting by Paul Crosssung; performed by Kathleen Lundquiest

You can hear it sung here. Click on the Morning Prayer tab and listen to the beginning of the podcast.

The morning prayers also contained a favorite reading from Isaiah about the Shoot from Jesse; I put that reading to music and thought you’d like to hear it. Again, it speaks of connections.

The more I am connected with the Lord, the more I see how all things are connected to and through Him, and to everyone and everything else. It becomes a joyful adventure, recognizing and making these connections.

So even though today’s Gospel reading is a long, long genealogy, take a moment to read it anyway and marvel in all the connections that made the birth of Christ possible. It will give you a new appreciation of your own family history.

Reflection on the daily scripture readings for Sept. 7

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles . . .

from Luke 6:12-13

Today’s readings

I prayed the morning prayers from the Divine Office this morning and felt like I had hardly prayed them. My mind was totally distracted, thinking about very mundane plans for the day and days to come. I kept trying to come back and focus my mind, but it just wasn’t happening. I felt bad and asked the Lord for forgiveness.

Then I read the gospel for today and the verses on how Jesus spent the whole night in prayer to God. Granted, Jesus IS God but He was human too. How did he maintain focus for the entire night? Did He feel tempted to sleep? Did His mind ever wander, thinking about the task He was to perform in naming the apostles? Did He have to work at staying focused on His heavenly Father?

One thing is for sure – He did not rely on human emotion to stay in prayer to His Father. He may have felt absolutely nothing, just as I did this morning. But He remained faithful in prayer.

Many days, prayer is such a dry experience where I experience no sweet consolation from the Lord. But I have learned over the years that consolation is not the objective.  I must remain faithful to prayer even if my emotions say, “no”.

God is near to me even as I feel far away. My desire to be near Him despite my weakness in focusing on Him, draws Him close.