Saturday, December 31, 2016

I Resolve...

'During this new year I resolve 
to begin a new life. 
I do not know what will 
happen to me during this year. 
But I abandon myself entirely to You, 
my God. And my aspirations
and all my affections will be for You. 
I feel so weak, dear Jesus, 
but with Your help I hope and resolve to live a different life; that is, a life closer to You.'

St. Gemma Galgani

Friday, December 30, 2016

Do You Not See?

How beautiful is the poor little Babe!   
I beg you to take your repose close to Him,
  because He will not fail to love your heart just as it is,
  with all its lack of tenderness and of feeling.
 Do you not see how He receives the breath of the oxen
and the ass, which have no feeling at all?   
How will He not appreciate the operations of your poor heart,
which, even though it lacks tenderness, yet throws itself
 resolutely and firmly at His feet, pledging itself
to be always a faithful servant of His divine Heart.

                                                                                 St. Francis de Sales

Painting:  Arthur Hughes, The Nativity

Monday, December 26, 2016

From the Measure of This Bright Day

'All days from the measure of this bright day gain blessings.
All the feasts from the stores of this feast have their fairness and their ornaments...
Great is this day above all days, for in it came forth mercy to sinners.
A medicine chest is this great day, 
because on it shone forth the Medicine of Life to the wounded.
A treasure of helpful graces is this day, because on it, 
Light gleamed forth on our blindness.

St. Ephraem the Syrian 

Painting: Edward Burne-Jones, Star of Bethlehem (detail)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

In This Night

In this night of reconciliation, let none be angry or gloomy.  
In this night that stills everything, let nothing threaten or disturb.  
This night belongs to the sweet One; let nothing bitter or harsh be in it...
In this day of gladness, let us not spread sadness.
St. Ephraem the Syrian

Painting:Tahi, 1896

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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 days around Christmas and New Year's can be particularly poignant for some.

Many of us have had such seasons. Times when we can't be with loved ones, or a 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)

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Change This Straw

'My soul is poor and bare of virtues,
the straws of so many imperfections
will prick You and make You weep;
but O, my Lord, what can You expect?
This little is all I have.
I am touched by Your poverty...
Jesus, honor my soul with Your presence,
adorn it with Your graces.
Burn this straw
and change it into a soft couch
for Your most holy body.

'Jesus, I am here waiting for Your coming.
Wicked men have driven You out
and the wind is like ice.
Come into my heart.
I am poor, but I will warm You
as well as I can....

'I want to adore You,
to kiss You on the brow, O tiny Jesus,
to give myself to You once more, forever.
Come, my Jesus, delay no longer.
Come, be my Guest.'

Pope St. Pope John XXIII

Monday, December 19, 2016

Toward Us He Is Journeying

'The nine months draw to a close, and our Lord's last act is to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It is toward us, as well as toward Bethlehem, that He is journeying. He is about to leave His home a second time for the love of us. As He had left His uncreated home in the bosom of the Father, so is He now going to leave His created home that He may come to us and be still more ours.'

Fr. Frederick Faber

Painting: James Tissot

Saturday, December 17, 2016

This Solitude Cannot Be Violated

'Always remember… to retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart 
even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others.  
This mental solitude cannot be violated by the many people who surround you 
since they are not standing around your heart but only around your body.  
Your heart remains alone in the presence of God.'

St. Francis de Sales 

Painting: Carl Larsson, 1904

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Message of the Tree

"The traditional Christmas tree is a very ancient custom which exalts the value of life, as in winter the evergreen becomes a sign of undying life. 

In general the tree is decorated and Christmas gifts are placed under it. The symbol is also eloquent from a typically Christian point of view: it reminds us of the 'tree of life' (Genesis 2:9), representation of Christ, God's supreme gift to humanity. 

The message of the Christmas tree, therefore, is that life is 'ever green' if one gives: not so much material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection, and fraternal help and forgiveness, in shared time and reciprocal listening."

Pope St. John Paul II

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Love in the Smallest Things

'Only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things 
out of great love - love, and always love.'

St. Faustina

Monday, December 12, 2016

In the Noise and Clatter of My Kitchen

'The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees'

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection

Sunday, December 11, 2016

While You Are Doing Your Work

'Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work.'
 St. Paul of the Cross

Saturday, December 10, 2016


'Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money.  We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us.'

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Friday, December 9, 2016

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 

Let's Watch and See

Because many are pressed for time during this busy season, most of the posts here during the rest of Advent will be brief thoughts or prayers. I know that I, for one, am in need of ongoing reminders of the Presence of Christ in what could be hectic, stressful days.

If things go as I expect, we will start by thinking about how we can spend this season with God 'in the midst of the world.' Then the final week of Advent can (ideally) be spent going more deeply into silence.

Will things work out that way? 

I expect that either they will or they won't. Now, how's that for a plan?

Let's watch and see....

Thursday, December 8, 2016

If You Knew He Worked Through Your Hands...

'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 Gerhard Wilhelm von Reutern, 1843

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Revisiting The Wondrous Interruption

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 6, 2016

To Carry Him As You Did

'Teach us, O Mother, to carry Him as you did, completely oblivious of material things, with the eyes of your soul fixed unceasingly upon Jesus within you, contemplating and adoring Him in continual wonder.

'You passed in the midst of created things as in a dream, seeing everything that was not Jesus as though in a mist, while He shone and scintillated in your soul as resplendent as the sun, and encompassed your heart and enlightened your mind.

'Teach us to act on our little excursions in this world and indeed on our whole journey through life so that we may walk as you did, on your travels and every day, seeing external things as though they were plunged in deep darkness, with our eyes fixed only on your Jesus Who illuminates our souls like a flash of fire.'

Charles de Foucauld

Painting: Chiesa de S. Pietro, Madonna del Parto

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent in Daily 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: Jules Breton. The Weeders, 1868

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Do We Seek A Savior?

"The question is: is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Savior? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need Him. They live as though He did not exist and, worse still, as though He were an 'obstacle' to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers - we are sure of it - some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness. Yet, despite its contradictions, worries and tragedies, it seeks a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Savior who renews the world and our life, the coming of Christ, the one true Redeemer of man and of the whole of man."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Painting: T F Simon, New York

Friday, December 2, 2016

To Recollect the Mind

'One way to recollect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least recall it from its wanderings.'

Brother Lawrence 

Painting: Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Crack in the Everyday

This time last year, I shared an archived post called 'The Advent Window' for It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday. Because Advent presents such an ideal opportunity for sharing Christ with others, I'm now revisiting this anew.

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 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 courthouse 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 rare 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 courthouse 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 smoothly and naturally 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 2016 was her own special Advent. We just never know.

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.'
text ©

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent: We Begin in Song

To our e-mail subscribers: this post features a video, which can be seen by going to the blog itself

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Beautiful Task of Advent

'Advent is concerned with 
that very connection 
between memory and hope 
which is so necessary to man. 
Advent's intention is to awaken 
the most profound and emotional 
memory within us; namely, 
the memory of the God Who became a child. 
This is a healing memory; 
it brings hope.... 
It is the beautiful task of Advent 
to awaken in all of us 
memories of goodness 
and thus to open doors of hope.'

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Friday, November 25, 2016

Enclose My Heart

'Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee, but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it into practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.'  
Blessed Miguel Pro

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We Give Thanks

'In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' 
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Painting of monks: Wilhelm Riefstahl
Painting of family: Von Bornin

Monday, November 21, 2016

I Apologize!

This is a quick between-the-acts-post to apologize.

Like most blogs, this site's program has a filter that automatically dumps comments it "determines" to be spam into a spam folder. It does this before I see them, and if I don't check that folder, I never even know such comments have come and gone.

I seldom think about the spam folder, and it doesn't occur to me to check it. I happened to do so tonight, however, and lo and behold! There were a few wonderful and very real comments from very real people - and oh, I would hate to have missed them.

So if you have taken the time to write a generous comment and wondered why it never showed up - I was not ignoring you, and your kind words are deeply appreciated.

I have no clue as to why the "program" categorizes some perfectly fine things as spam. But I do solemnly (raises right hand) promise to check the folder much more often!

The Soul's Secret

Quote from 'Listening to the Indwelling Presence' by a Religious, Pelligrini, 1940

Painting: Carl Gustav Carus (attr), Mönch in Winterlandschaft

Saturday, November 19, 2016

When Night Comes

'When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork, and much that one had planned left undone; when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life.'

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Painting: William Peter Watson, Asleep Under a Patchwork Quilt

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Regathering Fruits of Lectio

It is hard to put Lectio Divina into words. God speaks to us in Scripture, we speak to Him in prayer, and these back and forth encounters weave into and through our everyday lives.

"I must admit," wrote one of you, "that when I first heard about Lectio Divina, I was intimidated thinking that it was a practice that only a few could master along with the great saints.  But as I am learning more and more everyday, it can be very simple and maybe even something that I have been doing all along and was unaware.  Maybe it can be as easy as sitting in a favorite chair in peace and silence and feeling the love of God envelop me.. feeling His greatness and my smallness and dependence.  I think this is something that we can all master..."

"We are not always going to have an experience," said someone else; "the scriptures will not always speak to us at that specific moment... it may even be quite dry. We may find that nothing struck us, but a few days later that particular verse will come to mind. There are times when I read a verse and it does strike me, but I don't have any particular words to say so I will sit quietly in God's Presence. It will be different for each unique soul."

Others had the following things to say:

"Scripture not just contained in praying time, but weaving throughout the circumstances of our whole day."

"Monastic life seems to be simply life itself, lived more intentionally, lived symbolically.... it confirms that what has been in my own heart is something real, something that can harmonize with my vocation to married life and motherhood."

"For various reasons (some known to  me some unknown), opening the Sacred Scriptures is a challenge for me... I do love the Bible and there was a time in my life when my relationship with the written word of God was strong and healthy. This gives me hope for what is to come, though I also know that things will necessarily be different now than they were in the past. A renewal of active love for Sacred Scripture seems to be the resolution God is leading me to."

"He puts in front of us what we need...whether those words speak to our hearts at the time, later in the day, or maybe even a few days later."

"I am happy to learn that I have maybe been practicing lectio on some level, as I have begun my morning with scripture and prayer for many years.  In a very loosey-goosey unguided kind of way. But I like the suggestion to re-read scripture several times, pray and reread, and will begin tomorrow."

"My prayer life has been unfolding ten-fold. It's been a quiet, gentle process and feels very natural. I have begun following the Divine Office online with morning prayers and night prayers. I love to listen along to the podcast (especially the night prayers). It gives me a sense of community, joining the universal church in prayer, while still having that private prayer time I crave."  

"I often will find myself drawn to one word  or phrase that then becomes my prayer for one day or more. A long as I feel moved to pray it, I do that. Often the need for that prayer is made known, sometimes not. But it is a kind of way of  'praying without ceasing.'"

"The prayer weaves in and out of my days."

"Your suggestion of writing down or journaling what we hear in Scripture on a given day is an excellent one. Our techy gadgets can keep us grounded in Scripture too. Yesterday as I was praying one of the Offices for the day, a verse from one of the Psalms struck me. I put it into the Memo feature on my phone and returned to it throughout the day. It helped to keep that grille work in place!"

"Rosalind Moss once referred to Scripture as God's love letter to us."

"Today's gospel was a huge smack in the head, a good one. It made me realize that even though I stop giving chase to Him (neglecting my prayer life), He never stops His."

(click here for an explanation of lectio divina from Catholic Spiritual Direction)

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.'


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cotton Candy

I cannot imagine how anyone truly desires the world. It's like being starved for protein and satisfying one's hunger with cotton candy, mistaking the synthetic taste for nourishment. 

One bite and the substance has disappeared, as if turned to air. But still we continue to eat, charmed by the sweet flavor that does nothing but deceive.

text © N Shuman,