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,

Friday, November 11, 2016


'For my heart is always with Him; day and night it thinks unceasingly 
of its heavenly and divine Friend, to Whom it wants to prove its affection.'
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Unlearning the World

'The true Christian is ever dying while he lives...

Day by day he unlearns the love of this world and the desire of its praise; he can bear to belong to the nameless family of God, and to seem to the world strange in it and out of place, for so he is.

And when Christ comes at last, blessed indeed will be his lot.  He has joined himself from the first to the conquering side; he has risked the present against the future, preferring the chance of eternity to the certainty of time...

His reward will be but beginning, when that of the children of this world is come to an end.'
Cardinal John Henry Newman

Painting: Julian Falat

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 6, 2016

Be Not Afraid

Painting: Childe Hassam, The Fourth of July, 1916, in US public domain due to age

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Run Towards the Roar of the Lion!

'Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare ourselves for trial. 
Let us neither be dogs that do not bark, nor silent onlookers, 
nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. 
Instead, where the battle rages, let us find ourselves. 
Run towards the roar of the lion! 
Run towards the roar of battle! 
That is where Christ's most glorious victories shall be won!'

St. Boniface

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Am Your Opportunity

"Everyone who speaks to me 
a harsh or unfriendly word, 
who slights me, or sets me aside, 
who criticizes or injures me,
Such a one delivers a message, 
a reminder, an invitation, 
a challenge to my aspiring soul.
For such a one
seems to be saying:
'You seek to be holy? 
I am your opportunity.'"

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini, 1941, pp. 183-184)

Painting: Ivan Kramskoy, 1883

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Revisiting Morning Prayer

Morning prayer does not have to be hard. I must remind myself of this, because sometimes I feel I'm climbing over a hurdle as I begin the day. But waking-up prayer doesn't have to consist of anything more complicated than remembering God as soon as I become conscious; and, quite simply, of greeting Him.

I used to fret about this. I wondered if I was doing it "right."  I wanted to be reverent, but "warm and loving and real."  What I have come to realize is that the actual words I say are not as important as the fact that I say something, or think something.  After all, God knows my thoughts and He knows my heart.

I enjoyed a post by Msgr. Charles Pope wherein he said (here) that one of the nicest descriptions he has heard of prayer comes from Ralph Martin, in the book The Fulfillment of All Desire.  Writes Dr. Martin: "Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God."  (p. 121).

Oh, I do love this.  

So:  I begin my day by paying attention to God.  For me, personally, this is not usually my time of lengthy mental prayer.  More accurately, I could say that my morning prayer is divided into two basic sections.  The first is when I wake up, uttering a brief spontaneous sentence or two as I begin the day.  The second part of morning prayer is a bit more formal, when I sit down with Scripture or perhaps some holy reading.  Depending upon the duties of the day, however, the more "formal part" might come in the afternoon or evening. 

Because I don't live in a physical monastery, I cannot expect to adhere to the regular by-the-bell prayer times of those who do.  God does not expect this of me.  He expects me to live the vocation He has given me.  In that vocation, however, He does ask that I "pay attention to Him."  If I do so first thing in the morning, I am on track for the day ahead.

It's a start.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

God's Invitation

'God's invitation to become saints is for all, not just a few. Sanctity therefore must be accessible to all. In what does it consist? In a lot of activity? No. In doing extraordinary things? No, this could not be for everybody and at all times. Therefore sanctity consists in doing good, and in doing this good in whatever condition and place God has placed us. Nothing more, nothing outside of this.' 

Blessed Louis Tezza

Painting at top: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maestà
Painting at bottom: Gari Melchers, Young Mother