THE UNBROKEN WORD

Speaking the words of God is an awesome responsibility, and yet sometimes we place our inflection on those words so others may congratulate us on our presentation skills, our dulcet tones and other self-satisfying metrics of the world. (Perhaps the word inflection should be replaced with infection.)

When we hear the words “Thy Will Be Done, Not Mine,” are we really saying them as if we truly mean it? Perhaps, but often we still want to know others appreciate us, our words, etc. Do we really need the applause after presenting something from scripture, or something spiritual for others to consider? Do we want to get between the person and the Holy Spirit?

I don’t think so. If we do, then it becomes about me, not about the listener’s relationship with God. When we consider our role in the world, as a Christian, we have a responsibility to “do the right thing,” making ourselves secondary. In fact, when you do something genuinely selfless, without expectation of a result and leave the cards to fall where they may, it often results in the most beautiful outcomes. This is because we have already placed ourselves in a good situation in relation to God. We have surrendered our personal goals and success objectives for the common good of another.

What you do for the least of my brothers, you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)

One Voice

So today, perhaps I may think differently.

Not using God’s words with my voice, but talking in one voice.

A voice which listens to God, but does not drown God out.

A voice which discerns what should be said.

A voice which determines how it should be said.

XXX

One voice, but not my voice alone.

God, lead me to lose my solo voice and become a duet with you.


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Which voice do I hear?

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

I have just returned from a trip to Pittsburg, PA prior to the July 4th celebration. The visit was to a Monastery there, which marked the foundation of the Passionist order in the United States, over 150 years ago. Celebrating Mass with the Passionist priests and community there, I saw a church which was built before the Civil War, has a relic of the real Cross and the remnants of what was once a large, joyous and vibrant community.

The community, albeit smaller, is still joyous, although like much of our clergy is considerably older and mourning better days for vocations. Amidst the retreat I was attending the Provincial Superior of the Passionists revisited the reasons the order was formed in the first place. His comments profoundly resonated with me.

As a young priest he found the message of the founder (St. Paul of the Cross) difficult to comprehend and engage at first. By digging deeper into the writings of St. Paul of the Cross, he discovered the reason the order was created. St. Paul could not find a message (from other spiritual sources, such as the Benedictines, Dominicans or even Franciscans) which matched the love he had for Jesus the Christ. Eventually, it dawned on him the love which Jesus had for us, particularly as expressed in the Passion of Christ was the message to communicate. He wanted to get “himself” out of the way and let Christ do the work. We often say the catchphrase, “Let Go and Let God,” but do we really mean it? Do we understand it?

Often when we spread the Word of God, we operate as a mirror. Someone in front of us sees our reflection, not the real Word of God, but what we want to project. In the presentation at the retreat, the image of being a transparent window to allow God to do the work through us came directly to mind. One where I “get out of the way” and let whatever God wants to have happen be between this person and their relationship with God.

At times when we celebrate our history, such as Independence Day, we can be pleased we live in a country which treasures many of the gifts God has given us; particularly the gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, to turn these gifts into fruits requires us, our ministry and vocation in the world, and a willingness to “Let God” shine through. This weekend, I am going to try and remember this message for the whole year. And recall anything I do should be in God, and not about me and my ego.

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Left Alone

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

I am not sure if you have ever felt this way, but at times it seems like I was informed that I have to keep my distance from God. Perhaps this was some of the ways things were when I was young, that we always were meant to feel that we should “fear the Lord,” and not try and get to close to Him.

Thankfully, my personal experience showed me that God was playing out much closer in my life than a God which I was supposed to adore but not get too close. God made Himself known to me in an experience with the Eucharist at the time of my first Holy Communion. This resonated with me for many years, even though, at this young age, I didn’t really know what had happened to me during this peace-filled experience.

At times of trouble, or when in need or reassurance, we can all return to those moments when God’s presence has suddenly become evident to us. That God loves us at all times; is not only with us but within us.

So the next time you feel separated from God, at a distance for whatever reason, let us remind ourselves of His constant presence in us. Scripture tells us:

“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

Jn 14:20

This week let us remember there is no separation between God and us; only the separation we place there ourselves, or our resistance to His love. Something never to forget, even in our most desperate times.

The Long Distance between Us

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Seems like I am keeping us apart.

Not really sure why;

Perhaps because you have forgiven me,

But I won’t accept it in my heart.

No wonder I feel the distance.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

Going deep.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Antelope Valley near Lancaster, CA. This time of year, springtime is so beautiful in California it is hard to describe. After a warm winter with much rain, the hills are literally alive with color. The time of renewal which was celebrated by the Celts and others around the world is very obvious to us all.

Few can describe this better than John O’Donohue in his bestselling book Anam Cara

“One of the beautiful transitions in nature is the transition from winter to springtime. An old Zen mystic said that when one flower blooms it is spring everywhere. When the first innocent, infantlike flower appears on the earth, one senses nature stirring beneath the frozen surface. There is a lovely phrase in Gaelic, ag borradh, that means there is a quivering life about to break forth. The wonderful colors and the new life the earth receives make spring a time of great exuberance and hope. In a certain sense, spring is the youngest season. Winter is the oldest season. Winter was there from the very beginning. It reigned amidst the silence and bleakness of nature for hundreds of millions of years before vegetation. Spring is a youthful season; it comes forth in a rush of life and promise, hope and possibility. At the heart of the spring, there is a great inner longing. It is the time when desire and memory stir toward each other. Consequently, springtime in your soul is a wonderful time to undertake some new adventure, some new project, or to make some important changes in your life.” O’Donohue, John. Anam Cara (pp. 165-166). HarperCollins

We have just encountered the spiritual renewal which comes to us from the Eastertime period. Here, God, through the sacrifice and gift of His beloved son, invites us to enter into our own springtime. Our renewal of spirit, returning the gift given to us by loving God even more.

Perhaps this springtime we can think about ourselves “going deep” in our relationship with Christ. How can we be more grateful, more gracious, more forgiving, more loving, more understanding … you get the idea. More.

By looking and loving all the renewal around us, it becomes almost impossible not to be more grateful for all we have, and all we have been given. So let us celebrate spring along with the flowers, the butterflies and the awakening nature which surrounds our lives; in a delight of our body and soul.

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Poppyfields, CA

THE UNBROKEN WORD

Every year on Good Friday, more than 3,200 people gather at the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in the San Gabriel mountains to pray the Stations of the Cross together. This pilgrimage is an annual event, with people from all over the southern California region attending.

As this was my first full year working at Mater Dolorosa, this was my first experience. The joy of being with and praying with so many who are dedicated to this prayer form is indeed inspiring. It is also interesting to see the differences in traditions each parish or national group brings to the day. By the evening, we had nearly all the stations at the center decorated with flowers of a wide variety.

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It is surprising how much variety there is when praying the Stations of the Cross. The narrative can be very traditional in nature, or more modern and accessible.

Here is an excerpt from one of the many narratives we use at Mater Dolorosa for the Stations. This one written by the well-known theologian Dr. Michael Downey.

Leader: Before setting out on the Way of the Cross, let us gaze on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he surrenders to the Father’s will. (Pause)

Leader: In this lonely hour while others sleep, you come face to face with the Father in the deepest recesses of your heart at prayer. You ask the Father to relieve you of the horror that lies ahead, but in an act of surrender you lift your hands in prayer and give yourself over to the Father’s will.

This is a moment of anguish and soul-searing struggle. But it is also a moment of luminous glory. Because it is here that you glorify the Father by the act of complete self-surrender. And begin the Way of the Cross that leads to Calvary.

Response: Amen

We often relive the journeys of the life of Christ and the Holy Family with the various mysteries of the rosary, bringing us into imaginative prayer as we place ourselves alongside them in their times of joy and sorrow.

This oscillation of joy and sorrow helps us in our faith in a very special way. While is not exclusively Catholic, I do feel we enter into the sorrow alongside Christ and others through the difficult times and then feel the joy of His presence to help us through these moments. I hate to admit it, but sometimes the difficult times end up being some of the greatest benefits in deepening our faith. Perhaps it is because then we need God the most, and are less willing to turn away because we want His love and mercy to get through the hard times.

As we pass through Divine Mercy Sunday, we can always return to God’s Divine Mercy. Perhaps this week we can return to some times in our lives when we received this mercy. By doing so we can perhaps see God’s presence inside ourselves?

Divine Mercy

The weaver does the work well.

Interconnecting colors, age and location,

Into a tapestry called “Together”

Only by seeing our part,

Touching those near us,

And seeing the others in the distant fabric,

A world away,

Can we feel our innermost.

The love imparted to us by the divine,

As today, we turn our will and freedom in recognition of the gift.

So, the divine in me is palpable,

As the intention of creation, incarnation and salvation merge in a moment of recognition,

One I will hold forever.

The divine presence in me.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

THE UNBROKEN WORD

After Easter, we have the afterglow of the Resurrection, a period in the Church calendar known as the Octave of Easter. Now that we have been reminded of the consistency of God’s mercy to us, it may be time to reflect for a moment on how this plays out in our lives.

Divine Mercy Sunday is one such day for such reflection. We can always be assured of God’s presence, but do not still recognize it. The photograph attached to this reflection reminds me of how that mercy washes over us, even though we may not always be aware of His presence. Just as the waves come towards the seashore, we can be assured these cleansing movements are there to wash over us.

If you never have prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, this may be an excellent time to try out this exceptional prayer. St. Faustina remains one of my favorite Saints, and she is a beacon of reminding us of the Passion of Christ and older devotions such as those focused on the Sacred Heart.

One line, in particular, rings out to me.

“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Our empathy with the sorrow of others brings us into unity with each other, present and past, in a unique way. We often misunderstand the word mercy, especially as it relates to God’s unconditional and unlimited love for us. This mercy, distributed as grace to all who need it, helps us survive what seems like unsurvivable experiences. It grants us the courage to hold fast when all seems to be against us and reassures us of God’s ever-present love.

This weekend, let us make the Chaplet, or at least read it. Savor those words brought to us all through St. Faustina of Poland.

Let us taste the words as intended. This prayer is an extension of the grace of the Eucharist. The loving proof of Christ presence today, as He always has been.

With us for all time.

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THE UNBROKEN WORD

The spiritual masters, including St. Paul of the Cross can be often heard saying “When you are aware that you are praying, you are not praying very deeply.” At first blush this may appear to be a surprising statement. Yet, we can all recall doing something without appearing to pay attention to it.

Perhaps one of the most obvious experiences is in driving a car. We drive along the way to our destination and then suddenly realize we don’t “remember” going through the past three towns which were on the way; and yet, we didn’t have an accident along the way.

The same can be true of praying, while deliberate, responsive prayer provides proof we are praying, some of the most powerful prayer experiences go unnoticed. A great example of what St. Paul is saying is the ministry of presence. Remember what it is like when you visit a friend or family member in hospital, where you just sit together in silence, without a need to say or do anything, and yet, we are often praying very deeply purely by being in their presence. These are prayers without agenda, just sitting at the foot of the Cross with them, being available, a friendly soul being just what is needed. A soul friend.

John O’Donohue, the Irish writer and poet, wrote extensively on this type of friendship in his best selling book Aman Cara (Gaelic for Soul Friend), where he describes this relationship and the deep prayer life which results.

Another encounter we often have is when the beauty of nature captures our imagination. This prayer of beauty enters our soul in a way we cannot describe, yet we know this of God and we respond with loving admiration or gratitude. The gift was given to us by God, and we are notified with a real recognition of beauty. For myself, photography is one way of holding these moments as they occur, (I almost always have a camera with me), and then I can go back and reflect on the gift recorded by the camera.

Perhaps this Easter we can consider some of those times in our lives when we find ourselves praying deeply without noticing those moments. Reflecting on the week just past.

Just as I did this past week looking at a “wood-pile” shelter built in a clearing. Perhaps this shelter was an intentional prayer in itself, one where the builders could return to the gift they provided for others as they need it.

THE SHELTER


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