Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Do They Do at Christmas?

How do those living behind monastery walls celebrate Christmas? I used to wonder.

Do they 'celebrate' at all?

Click the following italicized lines for clues:

They decorate trees, deck the halls, and sometimes shelter kittens at their feet.

They gather around the Christmas tree.

They enjoy candles and tree lights. 

They have celebrations, sing carols, and wear funny hats.

They lift their hearts at Mass.

They contemplate the reality of Jesus Being With Us. 

They embrace the fulfillment of Advent's promise.

They give their hearts anew to God. And with them, so may we.

'Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.' (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, quoted in Vultus Christi)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

In the Arms of Our Love

'If we would please this Divine Infant, we too must become children, simple and humble. We must carry to Him flowers of virtue, of meekness, of mortification, of charity; we must clasp Him in the arms of our love.'

St. Alphonsus

Painting: Dvorak, Presenting Flowers to the Infant

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Daily Christmas

Painting: Jacob de Backer, 1555–1585, The Nativity

A Blessed Christmas to you and yours

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Triumph of Calm

'Never be in a hurry. Do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. 
Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, 
even if your whole world seems upset.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting: BH Croats

Monday, December 21, 2015

Stir Our Hearts


'Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thy only-begotten Son; 
that by His coming we may be able to serve Him with purified minds.'
Roman Missal, 5th to 7th century

Painting: Bernardino Luini

Friday, December 18, 2015

How To Find Christmas Peace?

'How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body; namely, let Christ be formed in you.... 

'As He was physically formed in her, so He wills to be spiritually formed in you. If you knew He was seeing through your eyes, you would see in every fellowman a child of God. If you knew that He worked through your hands, they would bless all the day through.'

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Painting:George Bernard O'Neill, A Christmas Kiss

Thursday, December 17, 2015

If You're Not Feeling Merry

It's a bad time of year to be hurting.  Not that there is a good time for pain, of course, but the weeks around Christmas and New Year's can be particularly poignant for some.

I suspect many of us have had such seasons. Times when we can't be with loved ones, or a relative or close friend has died, or we've suffered a miscarriage, or we're sick, or we've lost our job, or there is illness in the family.  Even the time of year can make us feel blue.  Here in the northern hemisphere, night falls early in these months of bleak midwinter. We may be struggling to adjust to the long, long, long dark.

For anyone reading this who is sad, in pain, or maybe just wishing the holidays would be over and gone - know that you're not alone. In fact, you are so 'not alone' that I'm going to ask a favor of everyone reading this.

Could we each take just a minute and offer a little prayer for anyone coming across these words who might be hurting?  If this gets to a number of people, that could amount to quite a few prayers.

May God lift burdens, heal pains, comfort loneliness, and soothe hearts. 

'We beseech You, Lord and Master, be our help and succor, save those among us who are in tribulations, have mercy on the lowly, lift up the fallen, show Yourself to the needy, heal the ungodly; convert the wanderers of Your people, feed the hungry, release our prisoners, raise up the weak, comfort the fainthearted, let all nations know You are God.'  (St. Clement of Rome)

'Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for You.' (1 Peter 5:7)

This is a post from 2014. 
Painting: Viggo Johansen  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is There Room in My Heart?

Sometimes, at this time of year, a question drifts into my mind. It's always the same. 

"Is there room in Your heart for Me?" 

I immediately think of innkeepers.  I think of a house in Bethlehem where travelers once lodged, where no room was found when the time came for Jesus to be born.

Christ is in my heart; this I know. But sometimes I wonder. Am I providing a place of welcome and adoration?  Or could it be that I've allowed my heart to become cluttered with so many other things that I have little room in my life for Christ Himself.

The inn in Bethlehem was not filled with "bad" people on the night Mary and Joseph arrived seeking shelter.  It had no room for the holy family only because others had gotten there first.

Does Jesus find little space in some of my days simply because the hours fill up with everything else first?

Do I get up in the morning and put off prayer until I get one thing accomplished, and then one more thing - and do I ever find that the day has sped by without my spending any time at all in communication with God?  I am deeply ashamed to admit that more often than I care to mention, this has been the case.

My heart seems, today, like a manger filled with clutter.  Sometimes it's as if there's no room in it for the most important Person in the universe.  Just imagine the "logic" of that.  And so I come today to Jesus, asking HIM to clear out all the distractions.  I ask our Blessed Mother, who so tenderly prepared a place for Jesus, to help prepare my heart to be a fitting refuge for my Lord. May she re-arrange my priorities as one might arrange pieces of straw in a manger.

As my Christmas gift this year, I ask that the same be done for you. I ask that all our hearts be prepared as places of loving refuge for the King and Messiah Whose birth we are about to celebrate. The world did not welcome Him when He came to earth as an infant; it does not welcome Him still.  You and I have the opportunity of welcoming Him in a world that does not do so.

May our hearts prepare Him room.

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

Monday, December 14, 2015

Please Use the Back Door

'Mary is now with child, awaiting birth, and Joseph is full of expectancy as he enters the city of his own family. He searched for a place for the birth of him to whom heaven and earth belonged. 

Could it be that the Creator would not find room in his own creation? Certainly, thought Joseph, there would be room in the village inn. There was room for the rich; there was room for those who were clothed in soft garments; there was room for everyone who had a tip to give to the innkeeper. 

But when finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last word of time, the saddest line of all will be: 'There was no room in the inn.' No room in the inn, but there was room in the stable. 

The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world's moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. 

But there's no room in the place where the world gathers. The stable is a place for outcasts, the ignored and the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born in an inn; a stable would certainly be the last place in the world where one would look for him. The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. 

So the Son of God made man is invited to enter into his own world through a back door.'

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In This Time of Preparation

‘Silence is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy,
which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God. 
In this time of preparation for Christmas, 
let us cultivate interior recollection, 
so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.’

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

We Interrupt Your Life To Say....

Sometimes the activities of Advent and Christmas can feel like an intrusion. Day to day life is more or less put on hold by an urgent need to shop and wrap and plan. Chairs and tables are displaced by, of all things, a tree in the middle of our house.  There is no time to do ordinary things, as everyday life is seriously disrupted for weeks on end. It can seem like a major interruption. 

A few years ago, the truth of it hit me. This is what Christmas has been since the instant of the Incarnation: an interruption. Please stay with me here, because our first reaction to the word “interruption” could be negative.  But interruptions are often quite positive, and this Interruption was the most positive of them all.

Think of it.  Mary was living a quiet, hidden life.  She was betrothed. Then one day an angel appeared to her, and with that Holy Interruption Mary’s life was changed forever. As was Joseph’s, as was yours, as was mine.

As we know, there was a Birth.  There were shepherds tending their flocks, and again an angel appeared.  A night of sheep-watching was interrupted.  

While most of the world went on unaware, a few men in the east noticed something out of the ordinary.  A sign in the sky.  Something signaling, to them, a wondrous Interruption – one so marvelous that they must drop any other plans they had and go in haste, and they must bring gifts.  These men were wise enough to know that somehow the world had changed, maybe even that the course of life on earth had been altered.

The change was so shattering that mankind took notice.  Calendars would later mark the divide.  

God Himself had split the heavens.  

We now measure time by the before and after of that Grand Interruption, in effect saying that yes, we see. We may not understand, really, but we recognize the wonder and the mystery of it. God interrupted the cycle of sin and death by breaking into our world (John 3:16).  Jesus broke into the flesh of man, shattering hopelessness with His power and mercy.

With Jesus' arrival in the flesh, God interrupted our misery.  He opened to us the path to salvation.   

When I feel stressed by Christmas interruptions, I try to remember what I'm celebrating. Death was interrupted by Life. Despair was interrupted by Hope. 

With His glorious interruption, God tore through the fabric of time.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Start Over...

'Don't despair over your shortcomings. 
Start over each day. 
You make spiritual progress by beginning again and again.'

St Francis de Sales

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reopening The Advent Window

In the past, I've shared a post I called 'The Advent Window.' It seems only natural to do so this year (edited a bit) for Worth Revisiting Wednesday.

My 'Advent Window' opened when I was twenty years old. I was in what I call my 'God doesn't bother me and I don't bother Him' phase. There was, you see, so much to do... friends to hang out with, boys to date, parties to go to. I took no time to think about God; in fact, I was ignoring Him altogether. God, however, was 'thinking' of me, and began reminding me of Himself through a series of little seasonal things. A song heard on the radio, a nativity scene featured on the court house steps, Christmas songs piped into stores to draw customers, strains of O Come Let Us Adore Him wedged between Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Here Comes Santa Claus. One song in particular stood out to me that year, with its announcement that 'Jesus the Savior is Born.' I didn't know what was happening to me when I heard those five simple words on the radio. I only knew my heart felt strangely warmed.

I've heard discussions about whether or not Christmas should be celebrated before the 25th.  After all, it's still Advent. In the Church, it is a time for quiet, for prayer, for gentle shades of purple. In the physical monastery, hearts wait in hushed anticipation.

But most of us live out in the red and green neon of the world. We're where bells jingle, songs jangle, nerves frazzle, patience frays. Because of my long ago 'Advent window,' however, I believe these weeks before Christmas bring moments when the love of Christ can be smoothly shared with neighbors, co-workers, family members, store clerks, acquaintances, friends.

In the midst of a secular, godless, 'we're-doing-fine-by-ourselves' world, there appears in this one season a window of opportunity. There is a slot, a crack in the Everyday. A few short weeks during which the whisper of God might be heard through carol or card.

In recent years, we have seen that crack narrow. The court house steps of my youth haven't seen a nativity display in years. But even now, somewhere between shoppers lined up for black Friday and the queues awaiting after-Christmas sales, there is still a window of opportunity. A time when someone rushing through a store might catch the strains of an old familiar carol, one she's heard every Christmas since childhood. Yet this time, the words sound different. She remembers a Babe in a manger, and her heart is strangely warmed.

This is a season when we can acknowledge (like at no other time) the One Who was born for us. After all, few friends would toss out cards that have nativity scenes on them. Neighbors visiting our homes won't be offended by the words of  'Silent Night.' It's all just part of the season, part of the holidays, part of the fun.

The Church will begin Christmas music and celebrations on the 25th, but out here in the world, the Advent window is now wide open.

This is when scenes and songs normally found only in Church can spill out into the world.

And who knows? Someone years from now might look back on a card you or I sent this season, and recall that 2015 was her own special Advent. We just never know.

The following video captures (externally) what can happen to us (internally) when the Advent Window begins to open...

(ads that might pop up on this video were not chosen by me)

This is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tamed by God

In the Religious vocation, say the Lathrops in A Story of Courage, there is always something 'that tells of the heart once and forever pierced with the sword; the peaceful dwelling of a nature which has been touched and tamed by God.' (p. 4)

Even as one living in the midst of the world, I want to be touched by God, and I want to be pierced by His love, and I want to be tamed. It is, I think, an appropriate prayer for Advent.

Come, Lord Jesus, and pierce my heart with Your sword of truth.
Touch my wounded soul with your love.
Tame my wild, selfish nature, and claim me as Your own.
Make me into a peaceful, holy dwelling for Yourself.

(Because what I'd like to share next from A Story of Courage will be a multi-post 'visit to the monastery,' I will wait until after Advent to launch more fully into that). 

This post is part of our series 'A Story of Courage.' To continue in chronological order, click this line.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent in Everyday Life

'It is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an 'advent,' a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize Him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward Him Who already came, Who will come, and Who comes continuously.'

Pope St John Paul II

Painting: Martin von Feuerstein, US public domain due to age

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Loveliest Beauty of All

'To eyes which know how to find it, there is in the least luxuriant season of the year a beauty which is entirely sufficient. And to the perception of a nun, the quiet and solemnity of a convent contain all the loveliness she needs. Just as there is no season without its particular beauty, so there is no health of soul without beauty; and the beauty of holiness is the truest and loveliest of all.' (Lathrop, A Story of Courage, p.2; punctuation slightly edited)

Click this line for information about A Story of Courage.

Painting: Carl Friedrich Lessing, Klosterhof im Schnee 

This post is part of our series 'A Story of Courage.' To continue in chronological order, click this line.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And Give Him Thanks

'In all created things discern the providence 
and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Painting of Thanksgiving: Norman Rockwell
Painting of monks: Konstantin Stoitzner

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Trained to Beds of Roses

'Our master, 'the world,' has trained us to beds of roses - if we can afford them, or get credit for them. He has taught us to follow luscious waltz tunes and broken rules; he has loaded us with wasted hours, with muscles relaxed, and with flesh tender with indulgence.' (A Story of Courage, p.4)

Entering cloistered life is refusing to be mastered any longer by the world. It is turning ourselves over to another Master. This act of turning is what has long drawn me. Can I, a woman whose vocation is in the world, truly make such a turn?

I've asked that question for years now. Have I found the answer? I can only say: I am finding.

I consider these things today and ask myself:

- Do I identify with being 'trained to beds of roses?' What does this mean to me?
- What enchanting, mesmerizing 'tunes' of the world am I following?
- Am I emulating those (perhaps in the media) who make it seem okay to break God's rules?
- How am I wasting time? What steps can I take to change this?
- How are my prayer-muscles? What can I do to tone up my prayer life? 

'God trains.... to laws that cannot be broken; to a system that holds back from sin... to hours devoted to the good of the many... and to a sight which can see, whenever the spirit hungers and thirsts for it, Christ upon the cross, dying to save mankind.' (A Story of Courage, p.4)

Click this line for information about the book A Story of Courage.

Painting: Jan van Beers, In The Hammock

This post is part of our series 'A Story of Courage.' To continue in chronological order, click this line.

A Story of Courage

This is a post to be linked back to, in order to provide information on the following book:

A Story of Courage: Annals of the Georgetown Convent of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by George Parsons Lathrop and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop.
Original publication date: 1894.

Nabu Public Domain Reprints states: 'You may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.'

Information on Rose Hawthorne Lathrop can be found by clicking here. 

My copy of this book is a bound paperback, given to me by a friend. I am sorry that I know of no links for downloading the text. 

To begin our 'series' of posts using this book, click this line. They will then link from one to another in chronological order.

Painting: Noel Halle, Francis de Sales Giving Visitation Rule to St. Jane 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Still Singing in the City

A generous friend 'just could not stand waiting' until Christmas to send me a particular gift. So before Advent has even begun, I have received a modern reprint of an 1894 book. It's a hefty paperback the size of a large textbook, and is a historical account of the second oldest convent for nuns in the United States. Which sounds rather dry, I know, but the opening chapter - to me - is anything but that. Perhaps because I've spent time in this semi-cloistered monastery, I was glued from the very first sentence. The introductory chapters share a visit the authors made to the monastery in the then-dashingly-modern 1890s. I found the descriptions so accurate and timeless that reading them was like visiting the buildings and grounds this very day.

The monastery, situated in the bustling Georgetown suburb of Washington DC, is one I have written of here before. Its location in a busy city strikes me as the perfect analogy of the life of a cloistered heart. You can find some of my own impressions at An Ideal Set Up and Singing in the City.

I am writing this post primarily so I can link back to it, because I'd like to use snippets from the book as jumping off points for further reflections on the inner cloister.

The book is A Story of Courage: Annals of the Georgetown Convent of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by George Parsons Lathrop and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (yes, THAT Rose Hawthorne Lathrop - we can read about her by clicking here). Publication date: 1894. My edition is from Nabu Public Domain Reprints, which states: 'You may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.'

I know we are heading into a busy season, but like my generous book-giving friend, I just cannot stand waiting! So I hope to begin this next little journey into heart-cloister within a day or two....

'The time of year at which we first saw the convent was perhaps not unfitting for our first impressions; since the December leaflessness, the unornamented aspect of the ground and the stone walls, whose vines were mere shadows, typified the stern simplicity of the life....'

Photo: Cloister garden, Georgetown Visitation Monastery, Washington DC, by Nancy Shuman, 1992

This begins a 'series' of posts on A Story of Courage. To continue in chronological order, click this line.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Call of Little You and Little Me

I am not going far back into the archives for today's 'Revisiting Wednesday' - only to this past January. I ran across this yesterday, just when I needed some encouragement...

I have been looking (here) into our calls to be heroes of the faith in our everyday lives. 

Little you and little me: heroes of the faith.


Throughout history, there have been those who actually could imagine such possibilities. St. Therese, the little flower who practiced a very little way, wrote "already God sees us in glory and takes joy in our eternal beatitude. How this thought helps my soul!"

This thought helps my soul too, as does the realization that Therese was not always a great saint. From most accounts, she was a willful little girl given to occasional tantrums.  But of course, that was in her youth. What about those of us who carried our willfulness and rebellion all the way into adulthood? Is there any hope for us?

There was hope for a man named Augustine, even as he was pleading "Lord, make me chaste - but not yet!" Anyone who heard him say these words would be unlikely to think "now, that is a saint." 

But there was hope. There is always hope.

''To him who still remains in this world, no repentance is too late. The approach to God's mercy is open." (St.Cyprian)

"In the moment of temptation think of the Love that awaits you in heaven: foster the virtue of hope." (St. Josemaria Escriva)

We are all called to be with God in heaven, for all eternity. We are invited to begin (or to begin anew), answering that call at this very moment.

We were created to be more than just nice people, more than folks who are fun to be around. We are called and graced by God to become true heroes of the faith.

Little you and little me.


Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.

Painting: Olga BoznaƄska, 1898, in US public domain due to age

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Revisiting 5 Smooth Stones

Armed with only his little bag of five smooth stones, young David went into battle against the powerful warrior Goliath. David took one of his stones, hurled it with a sling, and struck Goliath.  The stone hit the giant and Goliath fell on the ground. Thus was seen the truth of David's words declaring that 'it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord's...'

We may feel spiritually 'young,' we may feel powerless, we may feel anything but able to combat forces coming against ourselves, the world, and those we love. The truth, however, is that we have been given the weapon - the 'stone' - of prayer. Even a simple aspiration, prayed from the heart and in effect hurled against the giants, has much more power than we can imagine.

We each have our little pouch of stones. Simple aspirations, the Mass, prayer with Scripture, the Liturgy of the Hours, songs of praise, the rosary, adoration, chaplets, fasting and sacrifice; yes, each of us has our own little bag of stones...

I pray that God will gather together our prayers, blending their fragrance as incense before Him.  There are so many stones in our pouches, possibly more than we realize. 

I pray we will uncover and practice using our 'stones...'

This is a repost from our achives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'


Photo from Pixabay

Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Crowds or Cells

'We absorb more and more of His Spirit until - in the midst of crowds or secluded in our cells - we are alone with our Master and inseparable Guide.  Jesus Christ is very nigh to the soul that seeks and loves Him, and she speaks to Him in the inner cloister of her heart...  She is at home with God, and He with her. Jesus Christ is no far off Divinity, but very nigh, dwelling in her heart.'

 (from Sheltering the Divine Outcast, by a Religious, Peter Reilly Co., Philadelphia, 1931, pp. 14-15)

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Fragrance From That Censer

                    'The Heart, a censered fire whence fuming chants aspire,
                    Is fed with oozed gums of precious pain;
                    And unrest swings denser, denser, the fragrance from that censer
                    With the heart-strings for its quivering chain.'

(Francis Thompson, The Sere of the Leaf, quoted in Burnt Out Incense by M. Raymond OCSO, PJ Kenedy + Sons, 1949)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Revisiting Heroic Stones

Minute by minute heroics is a good way to cooperate with God in constructing the monastery of the heart. Each minute can provide a 'stone' of opportunity. Each can be lived well (perhaps even heroically) for God.

'Have you seen how that imposing building was built? One brick upon another. Thousands. But, one by one. And bags of cement, one by one. And blocks of stone, each of them insignificant compared with the massive whole. And beams of steel. And men working, the same hour, day after day.... Have you seen how that imposing building was built? ... By dint of little things!' (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 823) 

I am being given thousands, millions, of minutes to live on this earth. Each is insignificant compared to the whole .. but each one, added to each other one, is absolutely necessary to make up my life. I have the minutes, I have the mortar of free will, and I have the Architect's plan of Scripture.

I have recognized one seemingly inconsequential way in which I haven't been following the plan all that well. Sometimes I grab a few perfectly good, newly minted minutes, and slap the mortar on them with a harrumph. I have not considered this activity significant at all, because my harrumphs have been directed at 'things.' At inanimate objects like misbehaving computers, spoons that leap out of my hand onto the floor, remotes that play hide-and-seek.

I am anything but heroic when these items play their tricks. Huffs and grumbles and loud sighs pop right out of me in search of the offending object. 'Take THAT harrumph, you rotten, jumping spoon!'

I don't do this when others are around. At least - not when they're in the same room. Or, well, not when anyone is actually paying attention. Or, well, that's how it started. It began as a casual harrumph here, an innocent snap there. So what if it became something of a habit? It isn't as if it's hurting anything. Except, of course, a few hyperactive spoons.

But the development of such behavior is far from heroic. It has pulled me away from 'heroism' toward a grumbling, critical habit of internal whining. If I let it, it can alter the way I look at life. It certainly is not seeing things "through the grille." Having realized this, I am asking for grace to overcome my misuse of minutes...  each one precious, each one a minute in which I have the chance to be heroic. Not just passably good enough, but heroic. I don't have to give in to big sins, and I don't have to indulge in moments of whining.

If I am tempted to grumble - why, look at the opportunity I'm being given! I can resist the temptation, and I can thank God in that very moment. Thank You, Lord, that I have a computer on which to write of Your goodness, and if that device is acting up right now, give me patience to deal with it and to turn this moment to good. Thank You, Lord, for plenty of food to eat. Thank You that I don't have to eat it with my hands.

And thank You for a nice, washable floor to catch all my leaping spoons.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Because Pumpkins

How can one use pumpkin? Let me count the ways.

In the last week, through no fault of my own, my house has been filled with the glorious aromas and tastes of

Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin pies
Pumpkin flavored coffee
Pumpkin seeds (roasted)
Pumpkin pancakes
Pumpkin ice cream
Pumpkin candy
Pumpkin items that I cannot possibly remember

I feel rather monastic about it all, especially when I recall a deluge of pumpkins with which the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery were once blessed. They posted about it here, and their Great Monastery Pumpkin Adventure is as "adventurous" today as when they first shared this story. 

November is a great time for a 'field trip,' so shall we drop in for a visit?  

I'll bring the pumpkin pie. 

Graphic made from painting by Lapage

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Your Photo Here...

'What does it mean to be saints? Who is called to be a saint? Often it is thought that holiness is a goal reserved for a few chosen ones. St. Paul, however, speaks of God's great plan and affirms: '(God) chose us in him, before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before him.' And he speaks of all of us..... I would like to invite you to open yourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our life, to be, we also, pieces of the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the Face of Christ will shine in the fullness of its brilliance....'  (Pope Benedict XVI, 2011; click here to continue)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two Years Later, and Still I Need Help

In 2013 I wrote the following, which I share now for It's Worth Revisiting Revisiting Wednesday. I needed to be reminded of this today....

I have felt, at times, as if I were running from prayer. Not a pleasant thought at all.
However, one of you said something that opened a floodgate. Because of this, I see myself sitting in my ‘prayer chair,’ Bible or Breviary in hand, settling in to pray. In come the distractions... as they always do.

It seems that once my mind makes any attempt to 'quiet,' suddenly every stray thought that's been lingering around snaps up that golden opportunity to hop on in and demand its share of attention. I can count on it.

Ah ha, there it is. There is the very phrase I've needed to look at: 
'I can count on it.' 

I realize. I've begun to associate sitting in prayer with feeling beaten up, bedraggled, worn down, defeated, and ashamed of being 'lukewarm.’ 

It is not the Lord Himself I’ve been avoiding! It's that persistent, nagging, dragging war with distractions.

But what to do about this problem? Shall I fight it out, trudge on upward, scale that wall of distractions unaided?

I'm sure God is pleased by such efforts. However, I think He understands when we sometimes need a little help. A spiritual director once asked me (when I was having trouble praying) 'well... what CAN you do?'  Start with that one thing, I was told, and begin to build on that. 

Today I went back to that suggestion. I gave myself permission not to beat myself up, permission not to climb a ladderless wall with my bare, worn down hands. I took one thing I CAN do and asked God to help me build on that.

The one thing (today) was music.  I remembered that I haven't been using it in my prayer time lately.  It has often helped me 'shake the dust of the world' out of my soul before, so I tried to find a CD.  I couldn't, for I had moved them.

Then I got distracted by my laptop sitting next to me.. but instead of fighting that distraction, I actually picked UP the laptop and clicked on a few holy songs. Before long, I was absorbed in the music and singing along.

There were pictures also, as these were YouTubes, so suddenly two senses were engaged. One photo was of an incenser; I got distracted by thinking of how much I love incense. Remembering that I have a jar of it right next to my chair, I opened that and savored the aroma gently filling my prayer space.  Three senses engaged.

I picked up a rosary (four senses), began to pray it, but before doing so I told God what and whom I wanted to pray for. Soon I was thanking Him for one thing, and another... and, well.... what do you know!

I was talking with God, totally undistracted, unconcerned about anything other than Him and Him alone. It was as if the whole entire world had disappeared.  

Well. What do you know.

'Come, O God of my heart,' wrote St. Gertrude, 'gather together my scattered mental powers and fix them upon Yourself.'  

Thanks be to God.  He did.

Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.


Public domain photo; bottom version digitally altered

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wearing the Habit of Praise

The night before last, I had an unsettling dream. It happens to all of us, I suppose: the occasional strange dream that persists throughout the day. This one was not so much story as atmosphere; a kind of dense blue vapor, thick and smoky, like dark wisps of shadow masquerading as forms.

It put me in a 'mood.' I couldn't shake the dream off, couldn't exactly remember it, couldn't grasp its essence enough to logically think it away. I felt as if my mind had gone heavy and dense.

Then I came across the scripture speaking of  'the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.' (Isaiah 61:3) And there it was. The very 'piece of grillwork' I needed. A part of my habit. The garment of praise.

What a powerful image. Praise not just to 'do' now and then, but to be clothed in, day and night. Praise as a HABIT, something that could become so much a part of my life that I'd habitually praise God in happy times and sad.

Scripture is filled (filled!) with prayers of praise to God, as well as exhortations and examples. It provides the perfect pattern. A concordance can be an excellent guide to the most basic pieces. We discover, for instance, that we are called to praise God continually (Hebrews 13:15), with all that we are (Psalm 103:1), because He is worthy (Chronicles 16:25).

The garment of praise is, I think, the perfect habit. I would like to wear it well.

'You changed my mourning into dancing; You took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my soul might sing praise to You without ceasing. O Lord, my God, forever will I give You thanks.' (Psalm 30:12-13)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

We Have Been Created For That

'Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty for you and for me. We have been created for that.'

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Painting of nun: Anton Hansch
Painting of harvester: John Faulkner Wetherbee

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In Substance The Same

'The Christian life is nothing else but Christ; the monastic life is nothing else but Christ. The requirements for the Christian and for the monk are in substance the same; the difference lies only in the particular kind of stress that is given to them. The Church exists so that souls should lead the life of Christ; the monastery exists for the same purpose. Whether it is union with Him in the world or in the cloister, it is union that is the soul's purpose.'

Dom Hubert Van Zeller, The Yoke of Divine Love, Templegate, 1957, p. 182


Painting of monk: Restout, Seated Carthusian Holding Open Book, in US public domain due to age
Silhouette of praying man via Pixabay