Tuesday, March 31, 2015

O Supreme Love!

Jesus "knew all of us by name, above all on the day of His Passion, when He offered His tears, His blood and His life for all... 'Father, I take upon Myself all the sins of poor ____  (name). I am ready to undergo torment and death so that he may be freed.'  O supreme love of the heart of Jesus!"

St. Francis de Sales

Painting:Jean Leon Pallière

Monday, March 30, 2015

No Complaint

'Oh Jesus,You were led to death like a lamb, like a sheep that does not open its mouth before its shearers. You utter no word of complaint to Your Father Who sent You, nor against the men whose debt You are paying.'  

St. Bernard

Painting: Francisco de Zurbarán, 'Agnus Dei'

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Our Souls Spread Before Him

'Let us spread before His feet, not garments of soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves clothed in His grace, or rather, clothed completely in Him.  We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before Him.  Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the Conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of His victory.

'Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children's holy song:  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Blessed is the king of Israel.' 

(St. Andrew of Crete, from Liturgy of the Hours for Palm Sunday, Catholic Book Publishing Co. NY, 1976, pp.419-420)

Painting: Charles Courtney Curran, in US public domain due to age

Thursday, March 26, 2015

As Long as We Have That Map

'There's a tremendous satisfaction in having a map. That is what the truth of Christ is like in the Church. We may get off the road; we may get off it by sin; we may get off it by error. But as long as we have that map, we can get back on the road.'

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Painting: Julius Sergius Klever, 1908

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In That Spiritual Home

'Come, my soul, let us pass beyond our langours, our illnesses, our aridities, our inequalities of humour, our weaknesses of mind, the snares of the devil and of men with their suspicions, jealousies, sinister ideas and prejudices. Let us fly like the eagle above all these clouds...

'Let us live in the higher region of the soul where the will of God produces His eternal operation, ever equal, ever uniform, ever immutable. In that spiritual home... we remain calm even when our senses are the prey of the tempest.'

Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Painting: Peter Vilhelm Ilsted, in US public domain due to age

Monday, March 23, 2015

More Prayer Keys

I have written a lot, here, about prayer. As you've guessed, a main goal for me is to pray throughout the day.  As you've also (surely) guessed, I am constantly battling to do this.

My main struggle is with distractions, and not just during prayer. I battle distractions (especially now that I'm getting 'older') when I read books as well, or when I try to watch a film, or even sometimes in conversation.

Which is why I'm thankful for the many aids we've been given to help us pray.  Just today, sidetracked during the Office of Morning Prayer, I found my way back more than once through words on paper before me.

I may have shared every one of these helps here before, but they are definitely worth another mention. So in case anyone else has a mind that 'drifts' now and then, here are some keys I've found to help open doors to prayer. While these are readily accessible without needing to be sought online, I am including links for anyone who may find those beneficial.

Scripture. The current day's Mass readings are an ideal source for Lectio Divina. These can be found by starting here, or here. 

The Divine Office. This is the prayer of the Church, in which nuns, monks, clergy, religious and laity all over the world are participating, as one, on the same days. In addition to being available in bound volumes, this is free with no registration necessary online at Divine Office.org . The entire day of prayer is right there, printed and with (optional) audio. Bound volumes are available through the link as well.

The Rosary. If anyone finds it helpful to pray with others (who are praying at the same time), this link at Come Pray the Rosary offers that opportunity.

The Stations of the Cross are especially appropriate during this holy season. I sometimes spend time with the paintings and video here at Prie Dieu.    

"You aren't the only one to be distracted from the presence of God.  I understand completely.  Our minds are so flighty.  But remember that our God-given will governs all of our strength."  (Brother Lawrence) 

"It isn't necessary to be too verbose in prayer, because lengthy prayers encourage wandering thoughts.  Simply present yourself to God as if you were a poor man knocking on the door of a rich man, and fix your attention on His presence.  If your mind wanders at times, don't be upset, because being upset will only distract you more.  Allow your will to recall your attention gently to God.  Such perseverance will please Him. (Brother Lawrence)

"When it’s God Who is speaking.. the proper way to behave is to imitate someone who has an irresistible curiosity and who listens at keyholes.  You must listen to everything God says at the keyhole of your heart."  (St. John Vianney)  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

On the Morning of Confession

'When our Lord is with us, 
light is poured abroad
on life's path, 
light is shed around
in the house of our soul,
His own living Tabernacle.... 

'On the morning of Confession, 
show Him round the house; 
show Him what needs repair;
show Him where thieves 
break in and steal; 
be busy telling Him all, 
and beg of Him the grace 
of perfect contrition.'

(from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, 
compiled by a Religious, 
Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, p. 223)

Reposted from The Breadbox Letters archives

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How To Enter His Presence

'Enter His gates with thanksgiving, 
His courts with praise; 
give thanks to Him; 
bless His name, 
for He is good: the Lord, 
whose kindness endures forever, 
and His faithfulness, to all generations.' 

Psalm 100:4-5

Painting: Restout, St Bruno Praying

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How to Open...

'Prayer is the door 
to favors as great as those He has granted me. 
If this door is closed, I don't know how He will grant them.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, March 16, 2015

Helpers at the Doors

Living in the will of God is not something chosen once and for all. The choice to so live is continual, made one decision at a time, one door at a time, in one yes after another.

The doors of 'yes,' at times, overwhelm me. They can sometimes loom ahead as massive, weighty, impossible things that would surely need a team to budge.

The doors of 'no,' however (of no to God's will) always look lightweight and undemanding. These are the popular doors, the everybody's-doing-it, live-however-you-want, put-yourself-first doors that never really close. They are like revolving doors:  easy to breeze through and ultimately leading, in time, right back to .... me.

One thing that helps, as I stand before an ongoing succession of choices, is the remembrance that I actually do have a 'team' to help open the doors that usher me more deeply into God's will.

The saints have left 'tracks', their testimonies, to show what can happen when a person chooses to live totally for God.  In the next few weeks, we'll be hearing from a few of these holy men and women.  After all, God has generously given their witness and teaching and prayer to His world - not just for their spans of life on earth, but for all time.  They are a treasure we do not want to overlook as we continue on our journeys Home to God.

The saints are even now, interceding. May they help us go through every holy door. 

'Follow the tracks of the flock, and pasture the young ones near the shepherds' camps.' (Song of Songs 1:8)

'Since we for our part are surrounded by this cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside any encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith.' (Hebrews 12:1-2)

'Follow the saints, because those who follow them will become saints.' (Pope Clement I)

'It is said that a saint is one who always chooses the better of the two courses open to him at every step.' (RH Benson)

'Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.' (Matthew 7:7)


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Only In This Friendship

'If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing,
absolutely nothing, of what makes life free,
beautiful and great.  No!
Only in this friendship
are the doors of life opened wide.
Only in this friendship
is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.'

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Photo via Pixabay

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who Art In Heaven

After praying yesterday with the words "Our Father," I thought I would probably spend today's prayer time with "hallowed be Thy Name."

But wait. I was missing something. What about "Who art in Heaven?"

I didn't deliberately omit these words from my pending meditation, it's just that I figured they wouldn't draw me toward prayer.  I'd anticipated, perhaps, a time of thanksgiving and praise, maybe with music and psalms. That seemed a "next logical step."

I love it when God surprises me.

I began praying, just as I had yesterday.... "Our Father Who art in......heaven...."

heaven. HEAVEN....

Will it sound strange if I say that word kind of...... "shimmered?"  Probably, but that's what seemed to happen. As if the word itself were suddenly dripping gold.

I find it difficult to squeeze such things into words, so I won't try to share the "fruits" (so far) of my ongoing meditation.  Instead, I'll include a few quotes from those who know what they're talking about.

Anyway, my main point is that God is answering prayer.  In His mercy, He is (again) teaching me to pray. Which I did throughout the day, as it turned out, cooking and washing and opening mail while keeping up an inner conversation with the One Who awaits us in heaven.

I sometimes make things too complicated. I can think that in order to pray, I must first "do this" and then "do that" and then read something particular and then cross this T while standing on my head in the kitchen corner, and by the time I've put all the pieces in place, I've sort of forgotten the goal. Which is to give my attention and love to God.  But He knows my cry of "Lord, teach me to pray" is exactly that, and He is now pointing me toward this profound prayer that He, Himself, gave us.

I love it when God surprises me.  

"As you know, we have our citizenship in heaven..." (Philippians 3:20)

"The country in which I live is not my native country; that lies elsewhere, and must always be the center of my longings." (St. Therese of Lisieux)

"Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. To live in heaven is to be with Christ.... This mystery of blessed communion with God and with all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise.  'No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.' (1 Corinthians 2:9)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1024-1027)

Painting: Giovanni di Paolo, Paradise 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lord, Teach Us To Pray. Again.

Lately, I've felt as dry as dust. Distractions blow in every time I open a door to prayer. "Now that you're quiet," they seem to whisper, "let's take this opportunity to remind you of this...."

Frustrating.  It is frustrating.

I've been asking Our Lord for help. It seems that once I do rein in my thoughts, they might go something like: "Oh Lord, I thank You for this day in which to serve You, and for that blue sky and I wonder why it is that I'm not crazy about blue? It seems to be almost everyone's favorite color but my favorite is probably maroon and I really need to clean out those books in the maroon room and by" this time words to God are gone and even ones to myself are disappearing and I'm drifting around in a wordless thoughtswirl of blue and red and books and

before I know it, my carved-out time for quiet, concentrated prayer is over. 

"Sometimes," wrote St. Therese of Lisieux, "when my mind is in such great aridity that it is impossible to draw forth one single thought to unite me with God, I very slowly recite an 'Our Father' and then the angelic salutation ('Hail Mary');  then these prayers give me great delight.  They nourish my soul much more than if I had recited them precipitately a hundred times."

I read these words of St. Therese this morning, and recalled a season when I personally committed to praying an Our Father every day, in just this way. Slowly, thoughtfully, with reverence, one phrase at a time.

I did this today.  My thoughts (and my prayer) went something like: "Our Father..."

I was immediately struck by these two words, each brimming with revelation. I began (without effort) to meditate. Father. Father! God is my Father! He is THE perfect Father, the One Who cares for me and watches out for me and protects me and is in relationship with me. There was much more to this meditation, but before long the word "our" began to stand out. He's not just my Father, He is OUR Father. He's your Father, and He is mine. This thought led me into praying for others, for the Church as a whole, and for you (yes, you). I finished my "carved out" time for prayer with the realization that my mind had not wandered, not one tiny bit. 

I did eventually pray the entire Our Father. And I intend to come back to meditation with it tomorrow, when perhaps I'll be drawn to spend more time with the next few words (we'll see what God unfolds).

There is much food for meditation, worship, intercession and thanksgiving in this most basic of prayers.

Like His disciples, I have been asking "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1-2)

And so He did.  

Painting: Charles Allston Collins, Convent Thoughts (detail)


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Two Doors Stand Before Me

'Enter through the narrow door.
The door that leads to
damnation is wide,
the road is clear,
and many choose to travel it.
But how narrow is the gate
that leads to life,
how rough the road,
and how few there are
who find it!'  (Matthew 7:13-14)

Painting from original by Vilhelm Hammershoi - digitally altered

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Unlock Your Soul

'Let your door stand open to receive Him, unlock your soul to Him, offer Him a welcome in your mind...

Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the everlasting Light that shines on every man...  He does not want to force His way in rudely, or compel us to admit him against our will….

Our door is faith; if it is strong enough, the whole house is safe. This is the door by which Christ enters….
It is the soul that has its door, its gates.
Christ comes to this door and knocks;
He knocks at these gates. Open to him; He wants to enter, to find His bride waiting and watching…'

St. Ambrose

Painting: Carl Vilhelm Holsoe

Friday, March 6, 2015

Birds and Poems and Cloistered Sledding

Today I sit inside a snowglobe. I'd love to grab woolen mittens and a wooden sled and spend the day sliding until my face freezes and my hair cakes with ice.

Ah... but for me, such activity is no longer possible. For a "not so young woman," attempting anything of the kind would be throwing not only caution, but also sanity, to the wind.

I can, however, toss aside any of my previous posting plans, and invite you to share a few spontaneous minutes of "virtual cloistered sledding."

We can then spend a little time contemplating God's seasonal gifts.

What do you say?  Let's click "Winter Birds (and Nuns too)" to see what cloister gardens (and recreations!) are like at this time of year.

And to settle back in contemplation of God's world, we can click on
"A Winter's Serenade"  
"Winter Poem of Mystical Death and Divine Rebirth"

And we can enjoy!

Paintingt: Adolf_Kaufmann

Photo © 2015 N Shuman

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Door of What Must be Done

'On hearing Christ's voice, 
we open the door to receive Him, as it were,
when we freely assent to His promptings 
and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done.'

St. Bede

Painting: Edmund Tarbell, 1910, in US public domain due to age

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What a Simple Thought

I needed a touch of comfort overnight. A power outage plunged the house into darkness, sending us in search of flashlights we could not find.

I recalled having written, yesterday, of a "wall" between me and the publishing of a blog post (this due to a computer glitch). I had realized the wall was not between me and God. What a simple thought, and what a real one. It's a thought I found, in the dark of a cold night, to be as comforting and protecting as a soft, warm cloak.

Storms may rage and plunge the world around into darkness. But not one storm can place a wall between me and God.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

"We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree." (Romans 8:28)

Painting: Vasnetsov Snegurochka

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ooops. Another Wall.

I have to laugh. I have to thank God for whatever He's doing in my most recent computer-snag. He has allowed the snag to happen, and I trust He is somehow working with it.

The problem? I haven't been able to post here, and still the situation remains a bit iffy (will you see this? I wonder). I had similar difficulties once before - also in Lent, two years ago. At that time, we were looking at various "walls" that can crop up as we journey more deeply into living for God.


Now, while trying to find a "door," I've run smack into a wall. I can choose how to respond to this sudden obstacle. I can panic, be angry, fret, complain (I may or may not have had any of these reactions earlier today).

Or I could, in cloistered heart terminology, "look at this through the grille."

The truth is: this wall has cropped up between me and a computer; it is not a wall between me and God. 

I could PUT it between God and myself, however, and I think a few good rounds of complaining and fussing might just start pushing it in that direction.

With grace, I choose not to let this wall come between God and me.

With grace, I choose to embrace the grille.