Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Revisiting Shadows

“As the wall remains the same however many shadows pass across it, and as the looking glass remains the same however many changes of expression it reflects, so the soul that is held fast in God remains uninfluenced by the waving shapes and images that come and go.” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, The Yoke of Divine Love, Templegate, Springfield IL, 1957, p. 226)

Sin casts shadows. Living in the world as I do, I can't help but see them. Shadows of sin wave daily across my enclosure walls. I walk into a room with a TV and I might hear them. I step into a store and they are there. 

Wanting to live enclosed in the will of God, I choose the boundaries of that will in circumstance after circumstance. Yet unless I run away from everything in the world - unless I run away from my own self with my
sinful inclinations, memories, and attitudes - the shadows of sin remain. 

"Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth," Scripture tells me, and I want to do exactly that. "Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth:  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust which is called idolatry.  These are the sins which provoke God's wrath.  Your own conduct was once of this sort, when these sins were your very life.  You must put that aside now:  all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language.  Stop lying to one another.  What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator."   (Colossians 3:2-10)

'Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.'  Romans 12:2

Today I make the choice to live within the boundaries of God's will. In this time, in this place, I make the choice.

And the shadows? They will be there. They will tempt and remind and whisper; they'll try to frighten and condemn. But when it comes right down to it, they do not bring anything into the enclosure. They are only reflections of things outside.

Shadows are just shadows, after all.    

This is a repost from 2014. It is being linked with Theology Is A Verb and Reconciled To You for 'It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday' 

Text not in quotes

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


'Thank God, there still remains one sanctuary, 
the sacredness of which no earthly power may violate… 
It is the sanctuary of the human heart.  
It needs no fixed place for its confines, 
no stated time for the opening of its gates, 
no particular hour of silence for its prayer.  
A thought, a word, a moment of reflection, 
and by faith and by love, the 
soul is within the blessed refuge, and 
the gates are closed on the confusion of life
with all its noise and tumult. 
It is secure against the bitterness 
and the pain of persecution, 
or hardship or trial, 
or hurt of body, 
or wound of earthly pride, 
or failure of worldly ambition, 
for there she is inviolable, sacred,
impregnable in the fortress of her own spirit.'

From The Living Pyx of Jesus, Pelligrini and Co, 1941, p.101

Painting: Gerard Dou

Monday, June 29, 2015

Prayer To Pierce the Clouds

I love it when I find that my work has already been done. After struggling and wrestling to write about the perspective necessary for those who wish to pray "through the grille," I ran into an article that said exactly what I would have said had I been able to say it.

"Prayers used to look to God and long for heaven," writes Msgr. Charles Pope. "More commonly today, even when they look to God, they speak more of this earth and ask God to make it more comfortable.... I notice that many, if not most prayers, ask God to fix something here: 'Fix my finances, Lord; fix my health; fix my situation at work; help people who are suffering; fix it all Lord!'... Now, of course it is not wrong to pray for any of the things above. But it is the silence about heavenly things that most concerns me...."

It concerns me, too. Make me happy. Make me comfortable. And I'm not forgetting about others, so please make my family and friends and the folks in my parish comfortable too.

But why am I trying to write this? Msgr. Pope has said it wonderfully.

Click this line to see for yourself.

"Perhaps our prayer, while not neglecting worldly needs and concerns, should once again pierce the clouds and set our minds on heavenly things?" 

Set our minds on heavenly things. Oh yes indeed. I ask it, Lord, for each of us.

Teach us prayer that pierces clouds. Teach us to pray, really pray, "through the grille."

Painting: Walter Moras, 1913, in US public domain due to age

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Revisiting a Culture Ungrilled

Monastery grilles are normally set into walls, so there is essentially no getting around them. The grille in this photo would have been in such a situation in its original state. As it is now, however, it's on public display to illustrate how the set-up once worked.

As persons who live in the world, we are not enclosed by physical walls and grilles. If we want to respond to all things "through the grillwork of the will of God" (in other words, through Scripture and Church teaching), we must make a conscious effort to "see" that grille before us. Such seeing does not come automatically, and the culture we live in doesn't help us. 

In fact, if we really pay attention to what God says about (insert topic here), we are likely to find a real conflict between God's revealed will and what we're told by the world around. Scripture and Church teaching are clear on how to think according to the basics of God's will, but how often would we rather ignore the clarity? We can find it quite easy to succumb to the murkiness of what is most commonly thought, tolerated, said, believed, done.

It is not difficult to find God's "mind" on a particular subject. We have Scripture, and we've been given the marvelous tool of the Official Catechism of the Catholic Church. There is not much that can't be found therein, and there we can find the basic "bars of the grille."  

I love the photo a friend provided for this post, because I feel it shows our exact situation. We can choose to view and respond to situations through the grillwork of the will of God .... or we can move away at any time. We can simply get up, or lean just a little, and we're suddenly seeing life "un-grilled and raw."  

Thankfully we don't have to stay ungrilled, however. Jesus is always waiting to help us get back to where we belong.
We live in the midst of an ungrilled culture. With one click of a TV button or computer mouse, we come face to face with life as it was not intended, by God, to be. 

If we compare what we see around us to what's in Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, how many examples might we find of "a culture ungrilled?" 

This is an edited repost from June, 2012. It is being linked with Theology Is A Verb and Reconciled To You for 'It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday' 


(photo by C Wells, at the Carmel of Port Tobacco in La Plata, Maryland, site of the first Carmelite monastery in the USA) 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Have Mercy On Me!

                   'There are times, bitter times, full of doubt and despair,
                   when we almost abandon the language of prayer.
                   When our lips and our hearts scarcely venture to frame
                   even His, our dear Master's own merciful Name.
                   When Mary, our Mother, seems deaf to our cry
                   and angels and saints seem too far and too high.
                   O! When God in His wisdom such moments shall send,

                   let one cry from our lips in His Presence ascend,       
                   a cry full of anguish, yet trust let it be -
                   O Thou Who has made me,
                   have mercy on me!'

by 'A Religious,' LISTENING TO THE INDWELLING PRESENCE, Pellegrini, Sydney, pp. 217-218

Painting: M Nesterov, The Nightingale is Singing 1918, in US public domain due to age

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cloistered Darts

'It is an old custom with the servants of God always to have some little prayers ready, and to be darting them up to heaven frequently during the day, lifting their minds to God from out of the filth of this world. He who adopts this plan will get great fruit with little pains.'

St. Philip Neri

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Revisiting Bells

Most activities in the physical monastery start with a bell. Time to rise:  the bell rings. Time to pray:  the bell rings. The sections of a monastic day are spoken into being by the bells.  

Part of me hungers for such bells. I almost crave the insistent rhythms of their voices. Predictable, familiar, reliable, steady bells that would insure my prayer and rest; bells that would regulate and balance the pieces of my life.

Out here in the world, my "bells" are unpredictable. I cannot count on their sameness from week to week. "Just as soon as we are familiar with one set of daily bells ringing," wrote one of you, "another replaces them." 

Don't we know the truth of this. Seasons come and go, calling us to answer school bells and wake-up bells, church bells and wedding bells, baby cries and doorbells and phone bells and stovetop buzzers. They change with every passing year.

Predictable, reliable, steady?  No. Out here, things cannot be that way.

Calls to prayer, too, are far from automatic. I must find ways to ring the "prayer bells" for myself.  Notes stuck to a mirror, a watch alarm, a phone beep. I have to make my own reminders. 

When it comes to prayer, I must ring my own bells.

(this is edited from earlier posts in our archives)


Anonymous painting, 1877, in US public domain due to age

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Those Things the Fathers Taught

'Teach nothing new, but implant in the hearts of everyone those things 
which the fathers of venerable memory taught with a uniform preaching.'

Pope St. Leo the Great

 Painting: Caravaggio, St Augustine, c. 1600

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lost in His Heart

'I feel entirely lost in this divine Heart. It is as though I were in a fathomless abyss, in which He discloses to me treasures of love and of grace for those who consecrate and sacrifice themselves to give and procure for Him all the honor, love and glory in their power.'

St. Margaret Mary

public domain photo