Thoughtful Responses to Annunciations
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
In the article, “A Pregnant Pause: Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation,” (America) the author quotes a passage from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, vibrating with an urgent appeal for Mary to say YES and to say it ASAP! In this passage of poetic and dramatic intensity, with direct address to Mary, the speaker begs in utter earnestness on behalf of himself and the world for the response that will set a new course for history.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word. Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.
Bernard’s earnestness is compelling considering what is at stake. But the fact that Mary does pause, does weigh options, does evaluate realities should give us pause. Here is a model for our own discernment regarding the annunciations in our lives, the calls along our journey that have implications for ourselves and necessarily others.
Answer quickly, O Virgin.
DO PAUSE, MARY, FOR DISCERNMENT
GIVEN THIS MOMENTOUS QUESTION.
Reply in haste to the angel,
TAKE TIME TO CONSIDER.
or rather through the angel to the Lord.
ASK WISDOM TO INSPIRE YOU WITH CIRCUMSPECTION AND COURAGE.
Answer with a word,
ANSWER WITH CONSIDERED WORDS OUT OF A PRAYERFUL CONTEXT.
Receive the Word of God.
SPEAK YOUR OWN WORD FROM YOUR INTEGRITY.
Why are you afraid?
DO WEIGH ALL THAT IS AT STAKE HUMBLY KNOWING YOU DO NOT KNOW ALL.
Conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive.
Let humility be bold,
HUMILITY IS TRUTH.
Let modesty be confident.
This is no time for virginal simplicity.
YES, THIS IS NO TIME FOR NAIVETÉ!
This is no time to forget prudence.
ALL IS NOW UNFOLDING IN GOD’S TIME,
SO TAKE YOUR TIME TO HEAR THE VOICE
OF THE GOD WITHIN YOU.
In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous.
Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.
We, too, are eager for our salvation. Yet we know the already and the not yet must be worked out in the daily, must be lived out in fidelity. Mary’s YES was an openness to the unknown ahead. Even though we might be impatient to know how grace will work, we must, nevertheless, reflect on next steps, bringing faith and hope and love to bear on each major decision.
Mary, strong woman,
throughout your life,
ever reflecting on the mysteries
revealed in scripture,
the world around you,
and your life unfolding,
inspire us to ponder God’s Word
Revealed in scripture
and the world around us,
and to know that,
filled with the Holy Spirit,
we can call on extraordinary grace
for each ordinary day.
(Based on A Bouquet of Mary Prayers, p. 10)
*Vanessa R. Corcoran, “A Pregnant Pause: Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation,” America, November 30, 2018. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/11/30/pregnant-pause-mary-and-annunciation
- February 2019, "Apocalyptic Thinking and Prophetic Acting: The Immeasurable Value of Prayer"
- January 2019, "Can We Put Away Christmas?"
- December 2018, "Live Gladly"
- November 2018
- October 2018
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- August 2018
- June 2018
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- April 2018
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- FEBRUARY 2018
- January 2018
- DECEMBER 2017
- November 2017
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- Summer 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
Apocalyptic Thinking and Prophetic Acting: The Immeasurable Value of Prayer
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
We easily recognize the immense importance of the prayer of adoration and praise, not only in liturgy, but at every faith gathering or acknowledgement from our hearts. Similarly, lifting our hearts in thanksgiving is appropriate for any moment of the day or night. Obviously, acknowledging our imperfection calls for expression of sorrow. Genuine love does mean saying you are sorry. These forms of prayer are sent from us to the Divine. What about Intercessory prayer, the prayer of petition, which asks that something from the Divine be sent to us.
The psalms are filled with entreaties to God for assistance including the laments which often assume that God will act on behalf of the praying person or community because God’s name will be honored in the successful accomplishment of the petition.
Hear the sound of my pleading . . .
Blessed be the Lord,
Who has heard the sound of my pleading. (Ps. 28)
Be my rock and refuge . . .
On you I depend since birth . . .
My hope in you never wavers . . .
Turn and comfort me . . .
That I may praise your faithfulness. (Ps. 71)
Let us allow God’s world to evolve and God's work to bear fruit that might save us in ways we might not predict. As Isaiah announces: Behold, I am doing something NEW!
"Entering God's imagination requires inner conversion," explains Michael Simone, S.J. Prayer assists us in this conversion, this turning, toward God intentionally.
Praying in many forms may expand our imaginations. Imagination is necessary for envisioning the kingdom of God: Thy kingdom come! The Book of Revelations startles us with images of this new creation where water flows freely and there is no darkness, where every tear will be wiped away. Consider a meditation of God tenderly wiping away the tears of someone you know who is suffering and then stretch your imagination to see God wiping away the tears of someone else in the world whose child is suffering starvation, whose house has been demolished, whose family life has been disrupted.
Contemplative life is based in part on the intuition that the personal and communal prayer is effective, that is, it brings about transformation. Holding someone in prayer is a deep act of love.
Will thoughts help a problem close to home or a problem on a national level or even of international import? As Mahatma Gandhi put it: [You] be the change you want to see in the world or in your workplace or even in your neighbor’s or your own family. "The structures of empire can give way to the imagination of God.” (Cf. "Swept Away,” America, December 10, 2018.) Prayer is powerful.
"The wholeness we hunger to see in our country [or our world] we must first welcome into ourselves." Reflecting on Fr. Thomas Keating, Tim Shriver affirms: "The sacred place of transformation is where you are." We need the calm and presence and silence of prayer to place ourselves in Christ and to be moved to give over all to Christ asking only for the graces to do God’s will.
(See "A Call to Prayer," America. p. 46, January 7, 2019.)
So prayer changes the world because it changes the pray-er. Prayer fosters greater faith, hope, and love. Hope IS a way of life and love DOES bring about justice and peace.
The transformation that prayer can bring about can change our world of living and relating and loving and serving. Prayer can lead to apocalyptic thinking and even prophetic acting. It is prayer, meditation, and contemplation that will give us courage to speak the truth with love, to take up the cross in following Jesus, to act on behalf of justice and the transformation of the world.
I open my heart
to meeting You in prayer.
into a deeper image and likeness of You.
Can We Put Away Christmas?
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
One of Magnificat’s teachers said that her son would wave to the Christmas tree . . . but only when the lights were on. In our moving on from the Christmas season, we might keep in mind symbolic meanings of waving to the light that we must continue to let the light of Christmas promise shine. The promises of Christmas are seemingly too good to be true: The Light of the World has come! The light shines in the darkness and cannot be quenched. God has pitched a tent among us to live like us. Fear not, God is with us. Christ has come that we may have life and have it more abundantly. We are students of Divine Mystery. So rejoice always and preach the word in season and beyond.
But can we move on from Christmas or how should we carry Christmas into the new year, into ordinary time, into all that is ahead? The Christmas feast of the Epiphany gives clues. Our posture of believing calls for an attitude of reverence for Christ present among us.
The Word became flesh, entered personally into the natural sphere of what is natural, vulnerable, perishable . . . in order to shed light on all from within.*
We are never alone. We can never be abandoned. We are meant to flourish. We are called to announce the good news that no matter what seems overwhelming in our own lives or in our world or in anywhere in the whole world we have an advocate. We cannot shrink from any task of which we could be a part, large or small, that might deliver anyone or any group from anything or anyone or any situation or structure or policy or political situation oppressing them to greater flourishing.
St. Paul gave us a model of rejoicing in hope no matter the circumstances. He focused his thoughts and feelings on God’s promise of an abundant life. Because he rooted "his wellbeing in his eternal and invaluable relationship with God, no worldly circumstances could ever affect the internal joy experienced by living each day with God.”**
God spoke and there was light, indeed uncountable lights in the sky, including the star seen by the Magi and in the recent Geminid astronomical display. If the simple goldsmith in the rabbinic tale was so transported when he realized God spoke and that meant that he could become like the Divine and thus could not contain his wild enthusiasm—he had to dance—how much moreso should we be overcome with knowing God spoke and the Word was made flesh.
The Epiphany indicates that we will not be putting Christmas away but will proclaiming the truth manifested in the incarnation of the Word and Wisdom of God. Nothing is impossible with God.
A rabbinical tale is told about a simple goldsmith hearing that “God spoke,” Let there be light and there was light! Astounded by the transformative power of dabar, God’s Word, he became ecstatic, jumping around and shouting: God speaks! God speaks!*
May we, too, be so astounded at the thought that God speaks
and we can hear the very Word of God
in the scriptures
and can contemplate the very Word of God,
Silence . . . and then exuberance!
*Elizabeth Johnson, Creation and the Cross, 2018, 194.
**Elyse Galloway in preaching for the Third Sunday in Advent, 2018.
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
Advent is the quiet time to absorb images from the Gospel. The greatest honor we can give God, claims Julian, the Mystic, is to live gladly because of the knowledge of God’s love. How do we gain that knowledge? By reflecting on Jesus’ actions in the Gospels which convey love in multiple forms: healing love; empowering love; spiritual-understanding love.
Quietly meditate on scenes of Jesus’ love being poured out upon:
The man paralyzed with no one to help whom Jesus liberates, telling him to rise up and walk (John 5)
A woman caught in adultery to whom Jesus pledged No one condemns you, nor do I (John 8)
The man born blind to whom Jesus desires to give light (John 9)
The widow whom Jesus, moved with compassion, tells not to weep (Luke 7)
The woman afflicted for 12 years who was healed by touching Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8)
The slave of the pagan centurion who built a synagogue whom Jesus heals at a distance (Luke 7)
The woman pouring perfumed oil on his feet whom he defends as a model disciple (Luke 7)
The Syrophoenician woman ‘converting’ Jesus to realizing his mission was also to members of other religious groups (Mark 8)
So ease quietly into Advent in anticipation of the midnight solemnity for a child is born. Even angels bow down but they also sing gloriously across the heavens where the stars shine and a comet travels.
The psalms direct us to make a glad sound, make a great noise, make a thunderous clamor! We are celebrating a new reality, giving newness a new name. We are celebrating a reality beyond imagining. The Infinite, Mysterious, Transcendent God become human; the Universe-Creating Wisdom-Word become flesh; the Trinitarian God, the God-with-us. Well, this is mind-boggling, spell-binding unfathomable Good News. No wonder trumpets should be played, choirs of all ages should sing, every nation on earth should shout. WONDERFUL! COUNSELOR! ALMIGHTY GOD! PRINCE OF PEACE!
Live gladly each day because of the Christmas’ feast of
Incarnation: God’s Love poured out upon us;
Incarnation: God’s Presence permeating our world and the cosmos;
Incarnation: The Mystery of the Word made flesh dwelling among us;
Incarnation: The Wisdom of God ordering all things mightily, teaching and guiding us in the way of peace.
Jesus, Word of God,
Wisdom of God,
fill our hearts with joy
so that we witness
to Your Loving Presence
in words and actions
and by our very being.
Love One Another
by Sr. Helen Jean Novy, H.M., Vice President of Mission
“Love one another as I have loved you!” Can we love by being meek and humble of heart? Can we love by forgiving 70 times 70? Can we love by laying down our lives for one another?
Can you be meek and humble?
Think of a situation that might call for meekness . . . or humility . . . . humility as truth, acknowledging talents and accomplishments as gifts from God; admitting imperfections and the need for grace to grow into greater and deeper patience, tolerance, peace, charity.
Can you love by forgiving?
Imagine yourself forgiving yourself for some omission or failure.
Imagine yourself forgiving someone else, perhaps for the seemingly nth time.
Imagine yourself forgiving some someone that offended you or treated you less than ideally.
Imagine yourself listening closely and openly to someone with seeming counter opinions or perspectives.
Imagine yourself side-by-side with Jesus in all of these merciful attitudes and actions.
Can you love others as Jesus did by laying down your life?
You may well be doing this already in many forms:
by speaking the truth with love;
by being faithful in a challenging situation;
by attending to someone;
by washing feet or tending physically to anyone;
by giving up your time to comfort another;
by protesting experiences of injustice courageously;
by nursing someone back to health
physically, mentally or spiritually;
by giving witness with integrity and being met with critique or indifference;
by putting yourself in a position to protect another from harm;
by living in day-to-day fidelity, no matter the temptation for the easier way;
by suffering psychological or physical disabilities united to Christ.
help me to love
others as you have loved.
Let me bring
mercy upon mercy
and not count the cost.
Let me follow You
even along the way to the Cross
because You are the Way,
and the Life.
Finding Inspiration with St. Francis
by Katie Higgins, Theology Teacher
I’ve long been drawn to St. Francis of Assisi. I grew fond of the patron saint of animals as an animal lover from a tender age. As a young person, I took my Confirmation name after his as a model of faith and simplicity. As I grew older, I was struck by his story of conversion, of leaving behind his life of wealth and privilege to devote himself wholeheartedly to living the Gospel in radical solidarity with the poor. And now as an adult and faculty member at Magnificat, I’ve grown to appreciate St. Francis for his solidarity with all of creation and his profound impact on the Church’s understanding of our responsibility to care for God’s creation.
October 4th marks the feast of St. Francis and occasions us with the opportunity this month to reflect upon his witness of faith and what it might mean for us today. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis offers us one suggestion, writing, “Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness” (12).
Assisting me in this effort are my two daughters, ages 2 and 5, who invite me to see the world anew each day through their eyes. To notice the magnificent (although perhaps alarmingly) large spider web spun outside the kitchen window. To watch in wonder as a small ant makes its way across the driveway carrying an impossibly heavy load. To gently lift a washed out worm from the pavement in an effort to return it to safer ground. These and other examples echo in my mind as I think about glimpsing the infinite beauty and goodness of God in the magnificent book that is the natural world.
My daughters also offer me practices to help read and appreciate this book God has given us. Practices like slowing down, moving in closer, paying attention, and sharing your delight. When my two year old spots something of interest, she drops whatever she is doing and squats down low with the practiced ease of a toddler. She stares in fascination with focused attention, a form of quiet reverence for that which is new and wondrous to her. And often, she calls excitedly for her big sister and me, inviting us to share in her discovery. Such delight is impossible to keep to herself.
As we enter into this month of October, I invite you to consider how you might try, like St. Francis, to see nature as a book through which God speaks to us. What glimpses of beauty and goodness is God gifting you with this month? What practices might help you to be more attuned to and appreciative of this gift? Consider ways that you might practice slowing down, moving in closer, paying attention or sharing your delight with others.
I believe that any good book leaves us changed in some way. And so I also invite you to consider how are you changed by encountering God’s presence in the book of creation. In the words of the Catechism, “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other” (340). In fidelity to the spirit of St. Francis, let us joyfully contemplate God’s creation and may our contemplation leave us changed, so that we better recognize our interdependence with our brothers and sisters in all of God’s creation. May it inspire actions that demonstrate our care and service for the sacred lives with whom we share this planet.
"Mary of Magnificat”
This is an invitation to reflect on Mary as depicted in Brother Mickey McGrath’s painting of "Mary of Magnificat," now displayed in Chapel.
Perhaps list a few words/responses that first come to you.
Consider the vivid colors. What might they symbolize?
Joy . . . Fullness of Life . . . Hope . . .
Consider the rhythmical curvilinear lines. What might they convey? Energy . . . Unity . . .
Consider how at home Mary is with the Holy Spirit symbolized by the Dove.
Consider Mary’s confident gaze, leaning us forward to a “future full of hope.”
Consider the cosmic background indicating God’s action for our salvation from the beginning of creation
Mary of Magnificat,
fill us with hope fill us with hope
as you were filled with grace.
Lead us into a future
full of hope.
Help us to seek the guidance
of the Holy Spirit
so that our hearts will be open
to Jesus' message
of mercy and love.
There Are Wisdom Figures in the Neighborhood
A master teacher, Mr. Rogers called on the wisdom of other great teachers including mystical thoughts of St. Exupery, “What is essential is invisible to the eye!” and deeply encouraging words of Yo Yo Ma coaching a young performer experiencing frustration in his rendering of a piece, “Nobody else can produce the sound you can.”
Mr. Rogers drew further implications by challenging his listeners to look into their own lives for the invisible essential. Go ahead and explore your deepest self and consider what the unique sound only you can make in some artistic or home or social domain.
On our faculty/staff mission day all one hundred twenty of us took time to consider all who have wanted the best for us, supported us in such a way that it brought us to this day, encouraged us to come close to what is essential. “It’s a miracle when we finally discover whom we’re best equipped to serve, when we can best appreciate the unique life that we’ve been given.”*
“What marvelous mysteries we’re privileged to be a part of “* . . . in our faith-filled lives at Magnificat . . . in our parishes . . . in our homes . . . in whatever our vocation or avocation.
“We are here to do for each other what God would do.”*
Let us get on with that call very thought-fully, very committedly, very prayerfully, very lovingly while God’s grace works miracles in our souls and thus in our world.
may I revisit Your Words
in the Gospels
and ponder them
in my mind and heart
and let them shape me
into Your Work of Art
and Your Work of Mercy.
*Cf. Fred Rogers’ Commencement Address at Marquette University.
May and June bring multiple occasions to celebrate, among them, First Communions and Graduations, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Celebrations are at the core of family life and faith communities. It is the call of the Christian life to give thanks and praise. The last day of May honors the feast of the Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary and the occasion of the composing of the Magnificat prayer. This year, the month of May includes major Liturgical celebrations of Pentecost and The Holy Trinity, and the month of June, Corpus Christi and The Sacred Heart, ultimately feasts about the expansiveness of love, the unfathomable nature of God’s love.
Pentecost recalls the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the Christian Community. That outpouring on the disciples changes their fear into courage, their hesitation into passion, their doubt into deep conviction, their lack of understanding into full knowing through faith that imparts power. But Pentecost is not only a remembering; it is a promise full of hope. We, too, have received the Spirit’s gifts in sufficient abundance to have our fears and lack of awareness transformed into a commitment to live as believers in the Resurrection who are eager to share the implications of that belief. We have the call and capability to comfort the suffering; to enlighten the doubting; to clarify for the confused; to motivate the luke-warm with renewed zeal.
The feast recalling the profound mystery of the Trinitarian relationships is cause for humility and joy. The One God is characterized by relationship. The Persons of the Trinity are in relation to us as Holy Wisdom expressing God’s threefold creative, saving, and sanctifying action in the world.
The feasts of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) and the Sacred Heart focus on the nearness of God in mercy and love.* Ponder God’s unfathomable love. Ask God to use you as a vehicle for sharing God’s all-inclusive, fully-embracing love for others.
renew, sanctify and transform me.
Giver of life,
Fill me with creativity and joy.
Enable me to be an instrument
of Your healing love,
Connect me to the sufferings and joys of others
through compassionate understanding.
source and goal
of all that is,
direct my life to You
every day in all ways.
*A group of Magnificat staff and alumnae plan to visit the church in France that honors St. Margaret Mary Alaquoque, a Visitation Sister, who spoke of visions of the loving heart of Jesus and inspired devotion to the Sacred Heart whose feast this year is June 9th. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Mary_Alacoq...
Being About the Important Things
Do you know anyone who lifts others' spirits with a good sense of humor? When you think of a joyful spirit, does someone come immediately to mind? Can you think of someone who prays daily, who is even conscious of God throughout the day? When you hear the words "passion for a cause" or committed, bold and enterprising, are you able to name someone? Could each of these people be holy? Could any be you?
In Pope Francis’ recent statement aptly titled, Rejoice and Be Glad (Gaudete et Exsultate), he identifies these characteristics as signs that could indicate or witness to holiness.
Could you be holy? Go ahead, seek holiness. Be holy.
After all, baptism and the sacraments give grace, a sharing in the life of God. After all, when God created the world, God saw all as good and human beings as very good. We are called to live out that goodness. Holiness shines. Holiness, like love, spirals out from the soul to others near and far, in kindness to any “neighbor” in need, in contribution of personal abilities for the sake of God’s kingdom, in advocacy for the oppressed.
Holiness is wholeness. Do give comparable attention to all facets of your life, the spiritual, physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and cultural. Even listening to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto could contribute to your growing in holiness. Take time for doing some art or some gardening and certainly some praying.
Study Jesus of the Gospels. Meditate on Jesus' words and actions in the Gospels. Follow Jesus. Pray with Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit pray through you.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
make my heart like Yours.
Let me be attentive to the outcasts
at the side of the road.
Let me be assisting to those
who do not have
the proper garments or talents for occasions.
Let me respond to
the over-eager as well as the disinterested.
Let me embrace the off-putting as well as the holy.
Let me focus my attention on signs of Your glory
in Your natural world.
You are there in all of the above
and it is You I seek.
Live Easter Time
Christ has risen! And that has made all the difference! So why not live in the Easter Time by living Easter.
Why not go to the empty tomb to contemplate the mystery of Jesus not being there, with the signs of death, the linen wrap and face cloth, removed, and see only light and its promise remaining. . .
Why not hear Jesus’ voice calling your name in the garden of your soul . . .
Why not expand your courage to tell others the Good News and implications of the good news in their lives . . .
Why not live with unutterable joy deep in your heart even in the midst of trials and suffering . . .
Why not walk and talk with Jesus about the scriptures related to his death . . . and to his life . . .
Why not contemplate Jesus’ wounds and expect to find Him in others wounded in some form . . .
Why not recognize Jesus present in the breaking of bread . . .
Why not assume his presence when you eat any meal with another . . .
Why not meditate on moments of Jesus’ presence in your life and respond to their beauty and marvel . . .
Why not expect lavishness of graces and opportunities symbolized in the overflowing catch of fish and the prepared meal at the seaside . . .
Because Christ has risen and that has made all the difference! Christ lives now in the world through the believing community. Christ now intends to transform the world through us.
Small acts of kindness and tenderness,
done with humility and confidence,
will bring unity to all
and eliminate violence from the world.
in our hearts
and in our world.
Let me be in touch with You
Let me live
this Easter Time
with courageous faith,
with transforming hope,
with self-surrendering love.
Let me live in Your Resurrection.
Let me live Your Resurrection.
Getting to Know Jesus from the Prayers He Said
The Psalms As Jesus Might Have Prayed Them
As faithful members of the Jewish religion, Jesus and Mary prayed the psalms. Mary’s Canticle, the Magnificat, is psalm-like in its themes and poetic format with sets of echoing lines reinforcing praise and thanksgiving. Jesus often quoted the psalms including from the Cross. It has been said that the psalms express virtually all human emotions. Let us look at psalms that hold sentiments that correspond with some of Jesus’ human experiences.
A Psalm of Giving Praise through Nature (Ps. 65)
Jesus was observant of the environment surrounding him in his daily life. He was attuned to nature. He used natural images galore about the earth, the plants, the animals, e.g.,“Notice the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin” or punch a timeclock, but see how our loving Creator provides all that is needed for them.
As March approaches, we can imagine Jesus saying or singing this psalm in praise of creation, even personifying the terrain and the plants and animals calling on all to give praise to God at this cusp of spring.
You visit the earth and water it.
You greatly enrich it.
Your rocky rivers are full of water;
You provide the hungry with grain
You have prepared the earth to receive the seed.
You water its furrow abundantly,
smoothing out its ridges.
softening the clods with showers
and giving abundant blessings to its growth.
The pastures of the wilderness will overflow;
The hills will dress themselves with flowers of joy.
The meadows will clothe themselves with flocks of sheep.
The valleys will deck themselves with corn and wheat.
They will shout for joy and we will sing together with them!
Praying with the Utter Confidence of Jesus (Ps. 57)
Jesus was fascinated with the care mother birds give to their young and chose that image for His own fond care of the weak, even the religiously weak, and those suffering in any way. Jesus resonated with the steadfast-love and loving-kindness of God and revealed it through His person.
Be merciful to me, dear God,
for in You my soul can take refuge.
Under the protection of Your wings
I will hide safely
until the destroying storms pass by.
I cry to God most high
to God who fulfills His purposes for me
and keeps His promises.
I am confident that You will send forth
your steadfast love and all-embracing kindness.
My heart is faithful; my heart is steadfast.
I will sing new and old melodies.
I will give thanks to You before others
Your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
Your faithfulness extends as far as the clouds.
Let me see Your Glory shining over all the world.
A Psalm of Lament (Ps. 55)
Thomas Merton suggested that we pray the psalms of the Prayer of the Hours daily to expand our charity by saying psalms of joy and thanksgiving even when we are down in the dumps or saying psalms of lamentation when all is fairly well with us because we are invited to take on the situations of others. For whom would Jesus say this desperate lament today? In whose voice would you make this appeal?
Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am so troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught by the noise of enemies
and the clamor of the godless.
For they bring trouble upon me
and in anger they perpetuate hatred against me.
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death surround me.
Fear and trembling have come upon me.
Yet, You say: cast your burden upon the Lord
and God will sustain you.
From the Cross, Psalm 23:
The church has recognized the prophetic nature of the psalm Jesus prayed from the Cross by uttering its first words, the way of referring to the whole psalm, the first lines as title. The psalm begins in utter despair, a black night of the soul: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?. . . Wasted are my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. Imagine that spiritual despair, that feeling of abandonment, as the psalm continues with dramatic scenes we have associated with the crucifixion with mocking people hurling insults, with indifferent callous others throwing dice for the victim’s garments. Yet, by alluding to this seeming desolate psalm from the Cross, Jesus claims the whole psalm in the most profound trust in seemingly absent God and hopeful promise of resurrection when no clues are evident. Do you have this much hope? This much faith? This much love?
Then I will proclaim Your name in the assembly
and give You praise in the Community.
For You did not spurn nor disdain
the misery of this poor wretch.
You did not turn away from me,
but You heard me when I cried out.
The poor will eat their fill;
those who seek the Lord will offer praise;
their hearts will enjoy life forever.
All who have gone down in the dust
will be lifted up to praise You.
I will live forever
proclaiming the news to generation after generation.
Pray Psalm 67 for a Miracle of Peace Across the Whole World.
This psalm, in a way, prays that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. It also links the environment with religious concerns for peace, a hint of integral ecology.
May God be gracious to us and bless us.
May God’s face shine upon us.
May Your rule be known upon the whole earth,
Your saving power among all nations.
May the people praise You, God;
may all the peoples praise You.
May all the nations be glad and shout for joy;
for You govern the peoples justly;
You guide the nations upon the earth.
May all peoples praise You, God.
May all on earth praise You.
The earth has yielded its harvest.
so that the ends of the earth may revere the Lord.
Lord Jesus, please give us the peace that only You can give us. Give us fidelity to prayer which can change hearts as nothing else can and motivate actions. Help us to offer mercy and forgive again and again as a threshold to reconciliation. Give us the wisdom that comes from seeking your will. Amen.
Psalm of the Mystical Longing of the Soul (Ps. 63)
Perhaps Jesus prayed this psalm whenever He went aside to pray. Imagine Him praying this psalm in the desert or in the mountain or even from the boat, which took Him away from the crowds pressing upon Him. Jesus went aside for solitude so that He could renew the source and motivation for His call to heal, to serve and to save others.
O God, you are my God; I seek You.
My soul thirsts for You;
my flesh faints for You,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary,
beholding Your power and glory;
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise You
I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises You with joyful lips
when I think of You at the end of day
and mediate on You in the watches of the night.
For You have been my help,
and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
while Your right hand holds me up.
Through every moment of Your life and every moment of Your passion,
You knew God’s steadfast-love was holding You up.
Help me feel that I am loved with such steadfast and unfailing love.
Help me never to fear but to experience confidence from Your loving kindness.
Let me know that God’s loving kindness supports me in joys and in sorrows.
Let me remember You in the morning, commune with You throughout the day,
and return to You in the evening handing over to You all the day’s happenings.
Coincidence of Timings
“Coincidence? Maybe . . . . “ This colloquial expression is sometimes uttered by people who feel they see beyond the surface of parallel happenings. What about the coincidence of holy happenings and their secular counterparts, namely, the coincidence of Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day and Easter on April Fool’s Day?
We can say that there is not so much of a dichotomy between the religious and the secular. After all, we live our religious practices in the thick of our daily lives. As Christians, we have a sacramental worldview. God’s creation is good! Matter mediates grace, for example, the water of baptism and the other symbolic objects of the sacraments. Signs and symbols abound in the world around us.
We certainly can claim “love,” agape, as ultimately the end-point of Lent. So starting Lent with consideration of various “loves” reminds us to expand our hearts during Lent. As each day lengthens in daylight, may our outreach in loving concern extend even further.
But what to make of Easter in association with fools? The secret to success in fooling someone is the element of surprise. Jesus’ Resurrection was a total surprise to the Apostles. After all, they are depicted in their abject dejection, for example, the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Johns’ Gospel or the whole group of disciples shutting themselves up in a locked room. Who would have ever thought . . . He is risen! He is alive! He is among us! A marvelous fulfillment worth immersing ourselves in Lenten practices for.
There is a level at which we are asked to be a fool for Christ, to forego the logic of the world and to take a leap into the Mysteries of Faith.
Jesus, You who walked the hills of Galilee
and the shores of the Jordan,
Who prayed in deserts and on mountains,
take me with You
through all Your gospel journeys.
You who spoke with the simple
and confounded the wise,
lead me as I endeavor to walk with You
through all my Lenten moments
and deepening spiritual practices.
May I find You in all.
May You become all in all to me.
A Good Way to Start the New Year
Why not begin the year with praise? Consider praising God by exploring psalms of praise. Mary and Jesus were familiar with these psalms as part of their daily religious prayers. Make them yours.
Begin with Psalm 34 in which the psalmist invites us to join in praising the Lord and to make that a continuing practice. One translation suggests that, because of our faith in God’s action in our lives, we can be “bright with joy.”
Continue by praising the very nature of God with psalms emphasizing God’s steadfast love and loving kindness: 25; 30; 31; 32; 33; 36: vv. 6-13; 138.* God’s steadfast love touches everyone who trusts. It gives us limitless hope in Yahweh’s limitless love. This concept could remind us of the Cosmic Christ who extends through time and space, whose love is all-inclusive, embracing everyone.
Praise God through psalms acknowledging God as savior from a variety of troubles: Psalms 40; 104; 124; 30; 116; 131. When we are brought low, God will deliver us. God will act so bountifully that a new song will be called for. Another set praising God’s graciousness and saving acts includes: 47; 48; 63; 70; 76; 78; 84.**
Celebration psalms 65 and 66 are noisy psalms with 65 giving a voice to earth and 66 calling for shouting. (Better go outside to say this one.) Consider drawing the images of Psalm 65. Psalm 29 gives voice to God; indeed, God’s voice thunders!
Psalm 98 is an exuberant psalm in a seven-fold form including seven actions of the Divine, seven attributes, and seven verbs of praise. Conclude its recitation by clapping your hands.
Praise with these psalms of praise: 100; 103; 117; 135; 136; 146; 147; 148; 149. Jesus prayed Psalm 136, the great Hallel, at the Last Supper. Each line is an Alleluia!
Do conclude with Psalm 150, recited more authentically, accompanied by a tambourine or timpani. . . . Go ahead . . . strike up your personal band or instrument or create a tune.
When have you experienced God’s steadfast love or loving kindness?
What does your steadfast love look like?
How has God saved you from or for something?
For what additionally would you like to praise God?
Sun and moon,
stars and rain,
frost and snow,
all praise the Lord!
thunder and lightning,
sunrises and sunsets,
praise the Lord!
My heart, my mind,
my gifts, my talents,
family, friends, and faith community,
praise and glorify God
Who is ever creating, saving, and making holy.
*N.B. Depending on the translation, psalm numbering may vary by one from 17 on, so simply read the one before or after the number if theme does not seem to match.
**For a brief thematic comment on psalms in order from 1 to 60, consider the section of prayers inspired by the psalms (1-30; 31-60) from Prayers and Reflections for the Magnificat Community.
The Christmas Story Unfolding
There’s a swan in there somewhere . . . or a horse or a kite. . . . Origami, Japanese paper-folding, starts with a square piece of paper and evolves step by step, fold upon fold, into a figure such as a swan, a cat, a butterfly, a rose. One might say hidden in a simple square of paper are artifacts of the universe.*
The Incarnation is a Mystery that enfolds uncountable realities. It invites our meditating again and again. The Incarnation is the unfolding of God’s will.
In Jesus, the transcendent God draws radically near
in incarnation into human flesh,
into earthly matter formed of stardust.
A genuine member of the human race,
Jesus lived a real historical life from start to finish,
“one in being” with the Father . . .
God’s mercy in person.
(“The Banquet of Faith”)
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son . . . who was incarnate. . . .
How would you express what you believe about the Incarnation of the Son of God?
How does the reality of Incarnation impinge on your life?
How is Christ present on earth today?
The paradox begins. The story unfolds. Each of these moments is a fold in the life of the Incarnate Word: “Jesus’ life begins in distress born into a poor family, laid in a manger, and soon becoming a refugee. Jesus sets in His mission in terms of Isaiah. The good news is concrete as misery is met and transformed. Surrounded by women and men disciples, the Messiah heals, exorcizes, forgives, gives assurances of God’s care to those whose lives are a heavy burden and practices table companionship so inclusive as to give scandal.” Cf. “The Banquet of Faith.”
unfathomably living among us,
may I be
here and now.
*Click here to view the referenced Ted Talk about Origami.
You Have Revealed These Things
A four-year-old has a favorite planet. He received a Saturn tree bulb for Christmas. A three-year-old told his mother he has pledged allegiance to the earth and wants to plant apple trees: “We have to be kind to the earth.” These two youngsters are embodying the message of the Pope’s encyclical on Our Common Home. Furthermore, they are modeling awe and wonder, the beginning of practices of praise for God and the things of God. No wonder Jesus said: “I thank You, Father, for revealing these things to the little ones.” (Cf. Matthew 11:25) May we be humble—little enough, childlike enough—to receive revelations from God in multi-fold forms.
We might ask ourselves, do we have a favorite planet . . . or tree or mountain or “entangled bank”*? Are we open to awe and wonder at eclipses and night skies and sunrises and changing leaves? Do we let any part of the created world be cause for pause? Do we practice not only respect for all that God has created and loves, but also a deep reverence for self, others, earth, God?
God’s revelations are occurring constantly. God’s beauty, “ever ancient, ever new,” arrests our attention in each changing leaf, a unique revelation of some part of the Divine Mystery. By giving mindful attention to a leaf or tree or moment of sky, may I uniquely praise God for this moment of revelation, a unique gift to me.
As winds of November whirl around us physically or metaphorically, may we go deeper into our inner selves where the Spirit of God resides. May we find there our true selves and our call to listen inwardly. May we also search for glimpses of God in one another and all others we encounter.
I seek You.
Let me find You
in expected and unexpected
places and persons.
May I discover You
deep within me
by attending to You
in prayer and reflection.
May I learn more about You
by reading a Gospel
May I recognize You
family, friends, co-workers.
Reveal Yourself to me
in my littleness.
*Cf. Ask the Beasts.
Doctors and Learners in the Church
What does it mean to be a Doctor of the Church? St. Albert the Great and his student St. Thomas Aquinas, extraordinary thinkers, synthesized knowledge from various disciplines. They also theologized from a stance of faith. The famous anecdote about St. Thomas is that he considered all his great systematic presentation of theology in a logical structure to be worthless compared to his faith in Christ.
Consider St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux. St. Teresa authored mystical writings while also reforming monastic practices demanding that women and men religious live up to their ideals. St. Therese is recognized for the “little way,” which gave a simple formula for becoming holy: simply do little things with love.
St. Hildegard of Bingen, proclaimed a Saint in May 2012 and a Doctor of the Church in Oct. 2012, had a wide range of interests from healing herbs to mystical paintings. Considered a polymath, she wrote music as well as experienced visions. She even sent letters of advice to queens. Nothing thwarted her strong moral character.*
All of these “doctors” strove to learn more about God. Their learning processes, though quite diverse, were forms of “theologizing,” thinking about and articulating understandings about God and God’s work on earth and in souls.
Recently, the freshman class was “commissioned to learn” at a Freshman Family Mass. This official call to study, to stretch their minds, to activate their imaginations, to investigate new things was contexted in a liturgy, a Divine work. They were blessed for this undertaking to study, to learn. Just “knowing” new things was not the goal but a particular kind of learning, a learning bearing fruit in the spirit of Mary’s Magnificat.
That kind of engagement with learning involves values of commitment, investment in hard work, collaboration with other learners and teachers, acquiring of skills for life-long learning and honing motivation for ongoing learning, all in a context of a faith-filled life. The learning is for transformation of the learner’s mind and heart for the sake of a transformation of the world through greater knowledge, yes, but also through faith, hope and love. Through this learning, the learner realizes that all learning about any facet of the world or reality is about the Creator. The learner realizes that all learning is about a deeper understanding of themselves and the God within. The learner realizes that all learning is a path toward a fuller grasp of the mind and heart of God.
Go ahead and accept the commission to learn that is inherent in the calls of baptism and confirmation. Committed to ongoing learning, read in any and all areas. Dialog with other appreciators of a broad range of interests. Context study in prayer. Light a candle when you begin to read the writings of a saint or theologian. Ask God for knowledge about the nature of God. Pray not just to obtain new knowledge but humbly to integrate it with your faith. Pray to have the insight and wisdom to use the new knowledge to transform yourself and the daring courage to work to transform the world. Doctor Therese, Doctor Hildegard, pray for us. (Cf. Hildegard and Timeline.)
knowable through grace,
grace me with learning about You
through any learning I achieve.
May I discover You
when I study Your creation.
may I catch glimpses of Who You really are.
Let humility enlighten my mind;
let faith enlighten my heart.
Let all my learning begin
and end in love
resulting in some meaningful,
transformation of the world.
Today Is the Day
The Irish have an expression: Today is our day! Yes, today is our day.
Lo cotidiano, the daily: where life is lived – in the daily.
Scripture scholars tell us that New Testament authors coined the term “daily” for the Eucharist as our “daily bread.” Spiritually, our daily bread is an essential for deepening our faith.
There is a Latin hymn that declares: Haec Dies quam fecit Dominus. This is the day the Lord has made! Each and every day is gift. This day is THE day.
So let us attend to this day. Let it be a day for the five attitudes of prayer: of praise, of adoration, of thanksgiving, of petition, and/or examination of consciousness and expression of sorrow.
How do we live the daily? Let us SEE more May we LISTEN for all sounds, for any music, in any dialog with fuller focus. Let us FEEL more feelingly, literally aware of textures, metaphorically, with empathy and compassion. Let us TASTE more concentratedly each drop of liquid, each morsel of food, enjoying the refreshment that it is. Let us pause before choices and discern decisions so that our own and others’ lives are enriched and God’s kingdom is furthered. May we LOVE more comprehensively grounded in mercy and forgiveness. That way we can gain time, not lose it, by not spending our thoughts on “tomorrow” or some future preoccupation.
So we pray the line from the Our Father even more earnestly: Give us today our daily bread. We need to pray each day. It is good to worship each day. It is a gift par excellence to receive the Eucharist weekly and even daily to the extent possible.
God of my life,
Lord of my days,
You have given me
the gift of this day.
May I give it my full attention
as my way of saying thanks.
May I immerse myself in it
as my gift back to You.
May I share its delights with others.
May I bring its sorrows to prayer.
May it bring me new forms of hope.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a June for which you’ve pondered what gift to give a graduate fitting for the future. Here we are in a June that promises gifts galore for our future, the outpouring of the Spirit’s Gifts on Pentecost. Might we pray for gifts fitting our future, a future full of hope for our personal plans and our complex world?
What gifts would befit
A country imagining locomotion atop a drone?
A country a mere 13 years away from a driver-less car phenomenon?
A country experiencing the devolution of some cities?
A world searching for alternative food sources from foraging to fisheries?
A world in the midst of an alarming refugee crisis?
A war-torn world?
Let us ask the Creator of All Gifts, to give us gifts to contour our personal future and our world’s future as the response to the petition in the Our Father: “Your Kingdom come on earth.”
Awe and Wonder – the deep awareness of Your creation of each and every person out of love in Your image with an irreplaceable destiny
Prayerfulness – a sine qua non for choices that enrich, fulfill, gift others, save a soul bereft of a sense of value
Fortitude – courage and integrity to speak truth to power in family, organizations, church or world (no little gift) with the accompanying virtues of prudence and justice and balance and restraint..
Knowledge – awareness of the connections of all subjects and all systems on earth and in the universe; appreciation of the relation of faith and reason and the sacramental principle of all things to be signs of the Divine and to be sources of grace
Understanding – commitment to delve deeply into Your Scriptures and inspired commentaries and spiritual resources; sense of the integration of all knowledge and experience
Counsel – insights from wise counselors; the fruit of individual and communal discernment: “Not my will but Yours.”
Wisdom – vision to see beneath the surface to the heart of the matter
fill us with Your Gifts
so that our lives will be
bursting with faith
offering unconditional love.
Continue transforming us
into Your Likeness
So that we can be
Fire . . . Light . . .
Warmth . . . Coolness
Wind that shakes up . . .
Breeze that calms . . .
re-shaping hearts and the world
with You for You.
Mary (and Us) in May
As the hymn so rightly describes: We walk by FAITH and not always by light. Perhaps that is the reason in “From a Woman’s Life,” the poet Maura Eichner, SSND, says of Mary at the Annunciation and of all of us each day: we do not have a compass; we have to make the way ourselves: She created a road to travel by.
In an article in America recently, the radio voice of “On Being,” Krista Tippett, reported a response to the question What is the opposite of faith? Read on for the “answer.”* She muses about the spiritual and mystical dimensions of our being in the world:
I am strangely comforted when I hear from cosmologists that human beings are the most complex creatures we know of in the universe.
Black holes are in their way explicable, human beings are not!
I love that word perplexing.
In this sense, the spiritual life is a reasonable, reality-based pursuit.
It can have mystical entry points and destinations, to be sure.
But in the end, it is about befriending reality, the common human experience of mystery included.
It acknowledges the full drama of the human condition.
It attends to beauty and pleasure; it attends to grief and pain and the enigma of our capacity to resist the very things that we long for and need.
Einstein saw a capacity for wonder, a reverence for mystery, at the heart of the best of science, religion and the arts. Einstein kept asking himself questions going deeper into reality. There are multiple meanings of aspects of the real world, our realities, so to speak.
Reality and virtual reality and faith realities
Outer space and cyber space and inner space
Intelligence and artificial intelligence and wisdom.
Clearly, we are called to probe the deepest realities, the mysteries of our faith.
Mary as model confronts us, startlingly, with contemporary situations that headline the news or our neighborhoods:
Babies being born in strange cities and strange lands;
Families having to flee persecution for ethnic, religious, nationality, or perceived differences;
Loved ones detained or imprisoned unjustly;
Single parents assuming multiple roles in raising and providing for children;
Children moving beyond the homebase and matters familiar;
Young adults challenging the status quo in a variety of domains;
Spouses carrying on after unspeakable loss.
So he opposite of faith is *Not doubt, but certainty! Therefore, as we make our way through May and life, in hope contoured by our faith, in faith spilling over into love, let us walk with Mary creating our own road to travel by.
Mary, if Jesus is fully human,
Like us in all things save sin
You are truly our sister,
The myriad experiences
That give rise to our joys
And our burdens,
And our sorrows.
In celebrations, in rituals,
In prayers for miracles,
and in prayers bursting
With joy and thanksgiving.