THE UNBROKEN WORD

In recent weeks we have been preparing for the upcoming retreat season at Mater Dolorosa. Each year the retreat team meets for weeks to discuss what the theme for the year might be. This year, in particular, placed a vast challenge upon us, and resulted in the retreat named “Walking with God during difficult times.”

For those of us who have our faith challenged at these times, we fall back on scripture, lives of the saints, or other spiritual guidance provided by the Church and its abundance in the past 2000 years. However, these sources are not the only ones where we can find solace and assistance. While researching for materials, I returned to a popular song which always makes me very reflective. The song is Paul McCartney’s “Let it Be.”

When Paul McCartney wrote this song there were many interpretations of the meaning. Many interpretations occur when an artist places their heart out there in their art. They are willing to share it, and you become the co-creator. For many years, I, like many others, thought that Paul was referring to our Blessed Mother. Why wouldn’t I? The lyrics seem to talk directly to the soothing relationship we have with the mother of Jesus. Where she can be the intermediary between Christ and us to “Let it Be”. In this regard, as we with many bible verses, we become the co-creator, interpreting the words, images, or sounds into what is God saying to me.

However, in Paul’s case, the lyrics, at least for him, the author, were about his mother. His mother’s name was Mary, and he obviously loved her dearly. Despite the fact that she had died of cancer when Paul was just fourteen years old, he was still very close to her. Paul explains:

“I had a dream in the Sixties where my mum who died came to me in a dream and was reassuring me, saying: ‘It’s gonna be OK. Just let it be…”

I wonder if this way was Gods way of providing the peace Paul was seeking in his motherless desert wilderness? Could he have known how such sage advice was going to become an anthem to invite the peace of God into so many lives over the years?

Sometimes we feel that even though we are in community with others, we are still not prepared. We feel alone even though we are not. Just as in the photograph below, God’s gaze is always focused on us, even when we cannot see or feel it.

This week, perhaps we can notice where God is present in the lives of others, who don’t seem to appreciate His presence. Perhaps you can help them through gracefully showing them how God has not left them, but they may just not see Him as clearly as he sees them.

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Clearly noticed in a sea of Grasses

THE UNBROKEN WORD

ART FOR ART’s SAKE?

In the world of Church and Prayer, we see seeing in a lot of different ways. In the Christian Tradition, particularly that of the Catholic Church, we find ourselves using objects, images and artifacts as a way of communicating with God.

In the most traditional ways, we use statues, paintings, and other objects as ways of reminding ourselves of our relationship with God. From the Crucifix to the Tabernacle, all of these objects are designed to remind us of some aspect of our relationship with God. This relationship we can call prayer.

In the sanctuary, we consider many of these items sacramentals. Holy objects which help us either enter into or stay in a prayerful relationship. We may not even consider this, but the simple act of blessing ourselves is also a sacramental one, so a sacramental does not always have to be an object, although often it is.

I want to introduce this prayerful way we look at certain objects or art as a means of understanding how we see things in our everyday life. An excellent study of this process is captured in a book by Stephen Pattison called Seeing Things. In this book, Stephen illustrates how we humans have become used to scanning things quickly from a visual perspective, categorizing them, almost without thinking and then miss the opportunity to understand the relationship or meaning they may have in our lives.

While no one would consider throwing a rosary or bible down in anything but a gentle manner, we often ignore what is going on in the objects around us in our everyday lives.

For example, when in an art gallery or museum, we immediately take a different form of attention when looking at the artwork because of its location or the fact it is framed than we do for all the other materials surrounding it. Once informed of its artful nature, we give it the respect it deserves as a result.

Part of this problem is we often view things in this manner by determining if they are “beautiful” or not. In his research, Pattison notes we often blow by something quickly if it does not fit into this category, and alternatively are willing to “gaze not glance” at objects which meet the first category. By doing so, we often miss many of important items that are a vital part of our everyday life, but are not in the category of artwork or a traditional sacramental.

So today, perhaps, we can take some stock at the items we have around us, even on our desks or dressers at home, in the kitchen, the toolshed, and see them for their own importance, their function and then lastly, our relationship with them. We often have a haptic (or feeling) relationship with these items which is sometimes not recognized until they go missing from our lives.

When we begin to notice these other things around us, we may find ourselves drawn into a new form of prayer, one of reflection and gratitude or memories which helps us immensely. We don’t ignore the everyday gifts and objects around us, but are rather thankful for them.

Art Thou Art

The blank frame stands proudly to attention,

Clearly displaying its nudity by the dust on the untouched wall behind it.

Still they stop and gaze

Thinking knowingly, there is meaning within.

Meanwhile the author, a simple carpenter,

Giggles from above,

Watching the security cameras,

Holding her morning Starbucks fav.

Later that day she places the sign below the frame.

“Art thou Art?”

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Monetary Car Wash

Copyright © 2020 Reflection, Poem and Photograph Michael J. Cunningham

THE UNBROKEN WORD

When we talk of God we often talk of His unconditional love for us. A willingness to do whatever it takes to show us what love is, without any underlying agenda to trick or fool us into something false. Just love itself.

This loving unconditional love, a love without strings attached is hard for us to comprehend. Even harder for us to emulate. It is often difficult to see where in our family lives that such love can be rendered by us mere mortals. To see this unconditional love, we often have to move down the chain of evolution, to our pets to see how this works.

This week, a beloved pet in our family, Rosie passed away. Rosie was my daughter Terri’s family dog. She was a rescued from a home which was inhabited by two heroin addicts, she was undernourished, had obviously been abused and in a need of a good home.

My daughter and her husband found Rosie at a rescue kennel many years ago. We didn’t really know how old she was at the time, perhaps a year or so would be a guess, but that’s all it would be. She stayed at our home in Massachusetts for a couple of months, until my daughter and husband moved into a home where she could legally stay in Washington D.C. This short training period with Rosie in New England began our relationship with this dog that lasted many years.

Rosie, was perhaps one of the least beautiful dogs you might run into. She was skinny, not great posture. When I walked her in the streets of D.C. I actually had people stop and tell me how “ugly” she was. None of this phased Rosie. She was happy to be with me. She was happy to be with any member of the family. She was happy to be with anyone. She was just happy.

While we had owned many dogs ourselves in our lives, for some reason Rosie, more than any others, exemplified “unconditional love”. She never seemed to worry about anything except being accepted in the family and despite years of having ears pulled and being sat on by her subsequent best friends who arrived in Terri’s family (her kids); she never complained.

If I had to emulate a dog in my life, I think Rosie would be a good one. Undemanding, peace filled, happy to do, well, nothing all day. Providing you were there of course.

Rosie of course, as does any dog with character, had some bad habits. She wanted to be close to you and would try and get on sofas where she could not read the “no dogs allowed” sign. Same for bedding. I think because her owners let her sleep with them, she was not the easiest dog to break the habits of being close to her dog sitters, wherever they lived. However, these were minor flaws in the scheme of things. After all, how can you feel angry towards someone who just wants to snuggle up to you.

I think we learn something from animals who exist with only one raison d’être, to be with us. Rosie was such a beast. Simply in need of our presence and love. (Well perhaps a little food and water too).

Rosie will be missed by our family. The spirit and love of Rosie however, lives on. She taught some young people and old folks in our family how unconditional love can be played out each day. And not just for the days we feel like giving it. I wonder where else we have heard that message?

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Rosie Segura: a beloved dog.