January: New Year, New Beginnings: Quotation

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Let me listen to me and not to them.

– Gertrude Stein


Let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.

– Hillary Clinton [11/11/16]


Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap.

– also from that speech by H. Clinton, drawn from Galatians 6:9

29/52 – Penance

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​Penance is a funny thing. Well, not funny, but you know what I mean. It’s not the stereotypical say one Our Father, and three Hail Marys. It can be that, but it’s not always that. In the times that I’ve gone to reconciliation and received a penance to do it is usually related to what it is that I feel I needed to confess at that moment.

It’s almost never a punishment. Punishment is not the point of giving a penance. Whatever I’m reconciling has taken me further away from G-d, and the penance is supposed to bring me back; set me back on the right path.

After missing a couple of masses, I wasn’t surprised that I was asked to attend one of the daily masses this week. Sure. I wanted to get back to them, but then I realized that this week’s masses are all scheduled for 7am instead of 9. Oh boy. I can do it. I put Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in my cell phone’s alarm, and figured I could make at least one of those.

Who would have thought that Monday morning would have me up so early?

My alarm went off, and I was immediately like who set an alarm for 6:30? Oh yeah.

No snooze. Got up, got dressed, grabbed my purse, silenced my phone, and stepped out of the house. The screen door closed behind me. [I call it a screen door – there is no screen, but for some reason that’s what it’s called to me.] I closed it quietly; everyone in the house was asleep.

I was immediately struck by the cool air on my face. It stopped me, and I stood for a moment, listening to the early morning sounds.

There were none.

The air smelled fresh, the animals were still, the sky was bluish, and I was filled with gratitude that my morning was going to start with mass.

I arrived at church, and this week’s mass has been moved to one of the parish center rooms. Vacation Bible School is taking place in the church. The room is a more intimate setting. There were no missals; it’s hard to remember everything that needs to move over for the mass – the hosts, the wine, water, the priest’s vestments, the Bible, and whatever else is hidden right in front of us during the daily service.

I looked around the room, seeing the usual people who come to the daily mass, but everyone was sitting closer to each other. The front two rows were still empty. You know, you come lat, you sit in the front.

We opened with a song that everyone knew. Everyone sang.

The first reading spoke to me. It was a little depressing, but I was hoping it was coupled with a more uplifting Gospel. Numbers 11:4b-15 was Moses complaining to G-d about the people he was having to deal with. Who of us hasn’t been there? Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this? Why are you punishing me? Why am I responsible for these people?

Boy, can I relate! This week is already too much, and it’s only Monday. I have gishwhes. The kids have VBS, which for me is a lot of driving back and forth. I have this website (which I love, and I love to do, but it is most definitely work and a responsibility. We’re planning our trip, and getting everything ready for it, tying up some loose ends. For all the wonderful things happening, there is a stress that is a constant, bubbling under the surface. Every little whine or moan from someone around me grates like nails on a chalkboard, but it also picks at my patience. I really feel Moses’ pain.

The Gospel, however (Matthew 14:13-21), while representing Jesus’ pain of the loss of John the Baptist and his wanting to be alone, he is still there for his followers. He nurtures them as a parent does, putting Himself second to His people. He feeds them. And I have no doubt that as night fell, and the cold air surrounded them, he made sure they were warm. He knows what they need before they ask, and he takes care of it.

He needs his own time, but he puts that aside for the benefit of others.

I’m not that selfless.

But when mass was over, I slowly walked to my car, knowing I would have to turn around and come back in an hour to bring the kids back, and it was good.

It was exactly what I needed.

Galatians 3:28

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I’ve been mute on the Orlando shooting because what can I say. 49 lives taken for no reason other than their orientation. I thought of drawing something like I had done for Prince and Muhammad Ali, but nothing came to me apart from ribbons that I can’t draw and didn’t want to copy.

This is the twenty-first century. Forget six degrees, we are all one or two degrees of separation from someone in the LGBT+ community so maybe instead of six degrees of separation we should change it to six degrees of connection.

At mass this morning, this line in Galatians screamed out at me and this came out. It is not necessarily limited to remembering the victims of Orlando or any other victims of hate, but it can be a bringing together.

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Among Women

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[Note: This is a repost of yesterday’s. I decided to divide it into two posts – one the actual reflection on the readings and the second to come later this week on the art project and what each item means to me and to the overall design.]

Today was the second of four weeks spent reflecting on women in the Gospel and the Gospel Women in our midst. We begin each week with a prayer, and are given a glimpse of the two women we will be reading about and reflecting on as the week goes by. We think about last week’s two women and then create art as reflection of them. Or, as I hash-tagged it on Instagram, #artastheology.

I often talk about how I use writing in many ways, including as therapy, and as theology, reflection, meditation. I would claim myself not to be an artist, but in the few retreats that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of led by artist, Brother Mickey McGrath, I’ve discovered a calmness from the act of coloring, and that has led to simple drawings, tracings, and copying. You can see some of my work on the pages of my website. I’ve tried to stop demeaning my art as an example to my son, who has the potential to be a true artist. He has the talent for it.

We’re supposed to reflect on them through the week, but it wasn’t until this morning that I connected to the Bent Over Woman and the Syrophoenician Woman. I sometimes have trouble connecting to parables and the abstract as well as picturing myself in ancient Jerusalem. I can also see things a little too literally. I’m not bent over, so what do I have in common with her? We don’t really know anything else about her.

But I recognized myself in her quiet; her being there, but not there for anyone else, unnoticeable, unimportant. Jesus doesn’t wait until he’s called upon; he takes the initiative, he heals her, and that’s all. It’s done.

With the Syrophoenician woman, she is there for her daughter. Jesus tells her no. She’s not one of his people, and he’s not going to help her. She talks back to him. She tells him, no, you will listen to me. She stays polite, she makes her point, and he rethinks his position. Maybe he admires her persistence, her love for her child; maybe even her impertinence.

This shows me once again that we have the ability to see ourselves in these women. We hear their stories but do we really hear them? How long does it take for us to listen?

There are women throughout the Gospel. Jesus surrounded himself with women; they were his disciples. Mary Magdalene was the first person to report the Good News. Most of the women in the Gospels aren’t named; only a handful of them, and each of them, named and unnamed,  have something to teach us, to show, to tell.

These four weeks are opening our group up to us as Gospel women and reminding us of the women in our midst who embody the Gospel, Jesus’ words, His Word, and his example.

When we were “dismissed” to begin our art project, we were introduced to the items we could choose from. How will our art reflect the two readings (The Bent-Over Woman and The Syrophoenician Woman) and how are we reflected in them and with the art items?

Piles of letters, feathers, fabric, words, magazines. All things that look like nothing until we choose what appeals to us, and make it into something of our very own. No formal direction, no preconceptions, just letting the spirit work.

One of the items I chose were puzzle pieces; they were there to represent that everything fits together,  it is all connected and interconnected, and after I decided on them, I remembered my words on my prayer bead: Connect, Interconnect.

It really is all connected.

[NOTES: The Bent-Over Woman (Luke 13:10-17), The Syrophoenician Woman (Mark 7:24-30)]

All Souls Day

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Wisdom 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.

But they are in peace.

For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.

As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.

In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever.

Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

Monday’s Good for the Soul – Back to School

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“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”

Deuteronomy 32:2

Monday’s Good for the Soul – GishWhes and G-d

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“Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

With gishwhes week coming to a close for 2015, this was today’s reading at Mass. It is from Corinthians 9.

It is a good reminder that G-d is everywhere as are good people. Random acts can occur all year long beginning today.

Live gishwhes everyday. Love your neighbors and your friends. Pray for your enemies or those who mistreat you.

Do good.

Be well.

Reminders

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Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Today’s Gospel acclamation reminded me of something that often strikes me as funny. As someone who did not grow up with the New Testament, on occasion I will hear something in the church readings and I will remember it from the secular world.

Lambs to the slaughter is one of those phrases.

Another one is when Mary Magdalene asks where Jesus has gone after his burial in the tomb. Her words are: They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him (within John 20: 1-9).

The way this was intoned the first time I heard this, it came out in a rhythm, and reminded me of Little Bo Peep: Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them.

There are many times I wonder how many fables, how many familiar sayings come from the stories of Jesus, original reminders for the less than literate as his Death and Resurrection are repeated and told as more and more believers each find Him in their own time.

Kind of like me.

Lectio Divina

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Last week I was introduced to Lectio Divina, a fancy Latin name for Divine Reading and something that I had been doing already much of this for the last two years even though it was unbeknownst to me. Honestly, it came so naturally to me that I recognized my participation immediately as it was described and I wondered why this is considered a unique concept and why this isn’t done by everyone all of the time.

I try to read the Mass readings daily. Once I’ve done that, I currently have two other daily devotionals that include meditations and individual perspectives on the day’s Scriptures. Unless I am attending Mass, I let my feelings dictate when I will read. Despite leaving it to a sign of wanting it and not obligatory I have rarely skipped the readings.

During this time of Easter until Pentecost, I have been reading the Little White Book which I like for its combination of facts and related particulars along with Scripture and the Gospel of Matthew.

Upon becoming Catholic, I received a gift of Grace by Max Lucado from my best friend and after the other readings, I will read the morning page and then the evening section right before bed.

Many of these days I will latch upon a word or a phrase that strikes me as important or so closely related to my life that I can’t ignore it even if I wanted to. As a writer, there are days when I’m fortunate enough to take one or two of those wisps and express my heart.

Lectio Divina, to me is very much like this with a deeper meaning as it relates to my relationship with Christ.

I understand and appreciate the divine and the sacred, but I also find it sacred that many of my questions in my life, tangible, practical concerns that I seek guidance on are found in ancient texts that happen to know when I’ll need to hear them. I have the faith to accept this, but it is still a wondrous happening all the same.

It was explained to me as a fine food that you take into your mouth by small morsel and let it lay on your tongue so you can identify what it is that is so special about this tiny piece, savor it until you can taste all it has to offer and then seek more.

In researching online I have found that this is not far from what is happening while savoring the Scriptures.

Read whatever you’ve chosen for today and if something jumps out at you, grab it and hold onto it. See how it fits. Why did this word or phrase speak to you?

I have a perfect example of this happening today, so I’ll share it here: In reading Max Lucado’s Grace for this morning, the Gospel reading is from Matthew 7:2:

“You will be judged in the same way that you judge others.”

I found this appropriate that it should come today. One of the things that came between my murdered friend, whose anniversary of death was yesterday, and me was my judgmentalness. It is a reminder of all the negative that I projected when I should have been listening. I’m also afraid of being judged harshly because of my way of judging too harshly, so it makes me insecure and fearful about how others feel about me and whether or not they really like me.

In an essay I read yesterday by Mary Stommes, her quote, “A love you could come home to any time…” flew out at me quite unbidden. As an adult, married with children, I always felt that I didn’t need to worry; I always had a home to go to in my parents’ house. It wasn’t until after they both died that I realized I could not go home again. It left me drifting. Even though they hadn’t abandoned me, they both would certainly have chosen to remain here, but they were gone nonetheless and it left a hole, but not only a hole in my heart that losing a parent (or both) does to someone, but it left a frightening chasm that reminded me that if I took a misstep or made a huge mistake, I had nowhere to run to. I couldn’t hide and on an unconscious level this scared me.

It wasn’t until I had no childhood home to come back to that I began to search for myself, and where a few years later, I continue to search for other parts of myself still missing.

I use Lectio Divina in my secular life, grasping onto the words and phrases that stand out, and when I started relaying that kind of meditation to my spiritual life through the daily Scriptures, I could see and remind myself of G-d’s love and the never alone feeling that eluded me for so long. If that reminder was in a Bible written more than 2000 years old, some parts more than 5000, there was somewhere to turn to reconcile me to afjusting my thoughts and my deeds and that things were not impossible.

With Lectio Divina there are four steps: Read, Meditate, Pray, Contemplate.

Clare of Assisi had a noted four step method to hers: Gaze on the Cross, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate (as in become more Christ-like). Her method seems very much like the one that I’ll describe below.

I’ve also discovered that the Cistercians (as well as other monastic orders) used this method of meditation and contemplation. They were the White Monks in Northern Wales during the Middle Ages and whom Llywelyn Fawr was a patron of.

The meditation itself is a slow progression from one to the next, but it is definitely a quiet contemplation, a time to be alone with Christ.

I will almost never find myself in silence, so I try to adapt. The white noise of a coffee shop, headphones listening to music without lyrics, the hub of the house ,if it’s not too loud and through a closed door, so long as I can focus my energy on my reading. The important part for me is centering my spirit. The willingness to look deeper needs to be available. Music without words. Tea. Water. The day’s reading. Sometimes I find myself choosing a random page in a motivational book or checking a particularly insightful horoscope, and see where that guides me. For me, even these seemingly mundane inspirations still find their way to becoming closer with Jesus.

I leave the passages and the amount that I will read in G-d’s hands. I try to have no set plan as to x number of words or y number of verses. When you find it, you will know.

Read it slowly.

Repeat it until it becomes a mantra on your lips and in your mind.

Ponder the words, pay attention to how they feel on your tongue. When something comes to you – an answer, another question, a face or an item, savor it, meditate on it and then pray on it.

It should be quiet and contemplative.

Sometimes, I know I am too wound up to have any positive affect and so I’ll walk away for a bit. Read a book, make a list. It is very rare that I am not called back to my reading.

One of the most exciting parts for me is that there is no set time. This can be a ten minute exercise or twenty minutes or an hour.

It’s possible that I’ve so easily adopted this method of meditation because of my work with quick, ten minute or less writing prompts that this seems to fit into how my brain works.

However it does it, I’m happy that it is something I can do and feel comfortable with.