Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Waking up

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know, all mystics - Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion -- are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

-- Anthony de Mello

You can read the rest of Fr. de Mello's short article right here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

About truth

Do you know about St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe? Here's part of his story:
On February 17, 1941 he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz I as prisoner #16670.

In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

During the time in the cell he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
Here's something he said that I found very insightful and challenging:
No one in the world can alter truth. All we can do is seek it and live it.
It strikes me that many (if not most) of the conflicts of the world are due to people trying to alter truth. What would happen if we chose to live it instead?

Monday, April 28, 2008


Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.

--Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seeing God in all things

I have just stumbled upon the website of a retreat center in Dublin run by the Dominicans. Here's a brief passage from a letter by one of the brothers to an inquirer about seeing God in everything:

Words can become idols, as believers have always known – even the word ‘God’. They are much more likely to be mistaken for the reality than a statue or a picture. “If one knows anything in God,” said Meister Eckhart, “and affixes any name to it, that is not God. God is above names.”

How then do we see God in all things? We search for God all our lives; but God is not lost. We are lost. God is always present, and when we become present God is present in that awareness. As long as we are present – to anything, even to a tree – we are present to God.

-- Donagh O’Shea OP

Saturday, April 26, 2008


"Sky and Cloud"

Even if I should be locked up in a narrow cell and a cloud should drift past my small barred window, then I shall bring you that cloud, Oh God, while there is still the strength in me to do so.

--Etty Hillesum from An Interrupted Life

Friday, April 25, 2008

Living Water

"Quiet Stream"

Jesus said, "And let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’"

-- John 7:38

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I think this is beautiful

" The Joy of Life"
It's possible for a person to be created and live an entire lifetime just for the sake of uttering one word or making a single gesture that he performs for the Holy One.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Here is an excerpt from an Earth Day sermon by Joseph C. Hough, Jr., President of Union Theological Seminary in New York:

Here is a fundamental compelling choice. It is the one choice that will determine all of the other choices we make. It is an absolutely bottom line, base line choice between life and death.

* Yet, despite the disappearance of the forests, the death of thousands of species and the pollution of air and water;

* despite the growing consensus that we have already done irreparable harm to our world;

* despite the fact that we are in danger of opening another nuclear arms race;

* despite the fact that a deteriorating ecosystem can seriously distort the genetic structure of those yet unborn;

Despite all of this that we now know, our national political leaders scorn the warnings of the world's top scientists and stand alone against all efforts of other nations to stem the tide of destruction.

This cannot go on. This is not a matter that we Christians can leave to habitual partisan politics. At this moment in history, our choices have to transcend our self-interests and our political loyalties. The care of the earth is a part of our covenant with our God that determines who we are and what we choose. So let the voice of the covenant people rise into a mighty and deafening roar so that all the world may hear:

This destruction of God's world cannot go on. The time is now and we cannot rest until we are heard. We choose life! We choose life! We choose life! -- a life that will ensure that we are working with our God as a covenant people to ensure a future of any life at all for our children and their world!

It is a powerful sermon, truly. I would like to urge you to click through and read it in its entirety.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Windows to the inner life

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Connection with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer.

- Patricia R. Barrett from The Sacred Garden

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Poured into the will of God

"Warm Light Over Southern France"
As a drop of water seems to disappear completely in a quantity of wine, taking the wine’s flavor and color; as red-hot iron becomes indistinguishable from the glow of fire and its own original form disappears; as air suffused with the light of the sun seems transformed into the brightness of the light, as if it were itself light rather than merely lit up; so, in those who are holy, it is necessary for human affection to dissolve in some ineffable way, and be poured into the will of God.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Psalm 121

Treble soloist: Andrew Johnson

Friday, April 18, 2008

Becoming the silence

"Inner Silence"

Years ago, when I was living in Ireland, I spent some time house sitting for a priest friend of mine while she was on vacation. She had left out some tapes she thought I would be interested in and some of them were by John Main, the priest who was so influential in the fairly recent revival of Christian meditation. Here's something he said:

Now to tread the spiritual path we must learn to be silent. What is required of us is a journey into profound silence. . . Meditation is the way to silence, because it is the way of silence. . . I think what we all have to learn is that we do not have to create silence. The silence is there within us. What we have to do is to enter into it, to become silent, to become the silence. The purpose of meditation and the challenge of meditation is to allow ourselves to become silent enough to allow this interior silence to emerge. Silence is the language of the Spirit.

--John Main from Moment of Christ

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The ideas of God

"The Tree of Happiness"

A luminous realization by one of my favorite poets:

So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,

one of which was you.

-- Mary Oliver

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Listening to Spring

"Spring Rain"

Listening to Spring

How quietly the earth breathes forth new life.
How eagerly the sun bleeds forth the spring,

I am listening.

I am listening to seeds breaking open,
to roots growing strong beneath the ground,
to green shoots rising up from winter wombs.
I am listening to thorns blossoming,
to barren branches laughing out new growth,
to wildflowers dancing through the meadows,

I am listening.

I am listening to the forest filling up with song.
I am listening to the earth filling up with life.
I am listening to the trees filling up with leaves.

I am listening.

I am listening to the sky with its many changing moods,
to flashes of lightning, peals of thunder,
to opening buds and greening grass.
I am listening to the breaking forth of light
in the vestibule of dawn.
I am listening to the freshness of the morning.

I am listening.

I am listening to the rain drops
giving hope to thirsty gardens.
I am listening to the orchards
pregnant with new life.
I am listening to the flowers
bursting forth in rainbow colors.

I am listening.

I am listening to the brook,
to the song of happy waters.
I am listening to music
rising up from all the earth.
I am listening to spring
soaring in on wings of life.
I am listening to the sounds of spring.

I am listening.

I am listening to prayers
pouring forth from feathered throats.
I am listening to prayers
rising up from misty waters.
I am listening to prayers
of a meadow crowned with dawn.

I am listening.

I am listening to the growing
in the garden of my heart.
I am listening to my heart
singing songs of resurrection.
I am listening to the colors of life.

I am listening.

I am listening to winter
handing over spring.
I am listening to the poetry of spring.

I am listening.

Macrina Wiederkehr

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Someone sent me a list of slogans today and this was one of them:
It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to be kind to others.
I agree.

Many people who come to talk to me tend to fuss about what "God's will" for their life might be. And what they are talking about is the so-called big decisions: where to live, what job to take, whom to marry, whether or not to be ordained --- those sorts of things.

Of course, there is no way of knowing. What I'm very sure of, however, is the nature of God's will no matter what life choices they make. It is very clear that we are to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When you think about it, it really doesn't matter what we do in terms of those seemingly important decisions. What matters is how we go about carrying out those decisions once they are made. Are we going to be competitive and grasping and self-centered? Or are we going to practice compassion and loving-kindness?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The gift

"Brand New Day"

Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day.

-- Kent Nerburn

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A friend who cares

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Autism awareness

Maureen Adams sent me the following information:

The band, Five for Fighting, is generously donating $0.40 to Autism Speaks for each time the video is viewed. The funding goes toward research studies to help find a cure. When you have a moment, please visit the link below to watch the video and pass it along to your friends and family. It is a great & sad video. They are aiming for 10,000 hits, but hopefully we can help them to surpass this goal.

What kind of world do you want?

Note from Ellie: It's actually a lovely video and the music is great. Please go watch.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Simple awareness

"Desert Sun"

It is a common misconception that prayer is about talking to God. Actually, talking is not necessary. Words are not only not necessary, they can be a genuine hindrance at times. Here's a wonderful passage that describes the real beauty of non-verbal prayer - the prayer of simply disposing oneself towards God:
As one passes through the wilderness on the way back to God, one discovers a new depth and efficaciousness at prayer. Previously one might have thought that prayer consisted in saying things to God and that it trafficked only in words and mental images. In the desert the words and images fall away, and one is left with a simple awareness of God’s presence. The subtle presence of God is as palpable as that of a friend or lover, and yet one does not see God. Rather, it is as though for a moment in the corner of one’s eye one glimpses God passing. One feels caught up in God’s presence and transformed by it.
-- William A. Simpson in From Image to Likeness: The Christian Journey into God

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Today I happened to come across several passages from a book I now want to read in its entirety. That book is Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. Here is a sample:
This experience of living at the edge is not so extraordinary as it may sound. We have all had it. Perhaps you have sat with someone who was near death, and found yourself drawn into her inner radiance, into a place where pain and fear give way before a lucid awareness of the nearness of life’s source. Or perhaps you have listened to a friend who has just lost a loved one, and heard in his voice, through the grief and exhaustion, a wondrous and wondering connection to life’s deepest levels. Perhaps you have had it while giving birth or witnessing a birth, when we seem to rise out of our bodies and become winged things, hovering over all we love. Or you have had it in those ordinary moments, when watching a child butter a slice of bread or a crow settle in a field, and suddenly nothing else matters and you felt like removing your shoes and bowing down.

We all have within us this capacity for wonder, this ability to break the bonds of ordinary awareness and sense that though our lives are fleeting and transitory, we are part of something larger, eternal and unchanging.

Wonder. Just sit with the word for a little bit and see how it affects you. It's a beautiful word - a full, rich word. May we learn to cherish both the word and the experience.

UPDATE: You can learn more about Philip Simmons right here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

About grace

I found this on the Spirituality and Practice site:

Grace confounds certain very natural human tendencies. We want to believe we are in control. We assume there are specific moves we can take to ensure that we are rewarded. We expect God's gifts to be doled out according to some recognizable plan.

But grace does not work that way. Instead, it teaches us to let go and let God. Not only are we not in charge, we don't have to be. We just need to stay open to receiving the sacred.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What church is really for

By a 10 year old
If This Is Not a Place

If this is not a place where tears are understood
Where can I go to cry?

If this is not a place where my spirit can take wing
Where do I go to fly?

If this is not a place where my questions can be asked
Where do I go to seek?

If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard
Where do I go to speak?

If this is not a place where you will accept me as I am
Where can I go to be?

If this is not a place where I can try to learn and grow
Where do I just be me?

(Attributed to William J. Crockett)

This was posted on a brand new blog I just discovered called Thoughts and Liturgical Elements for the Emerging Church.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


"Open Spaces"

Openness is not gentility in the social arena. It is not polite listening to people with whom we inherently disagree. It is not political or civil or “nice.” It is not even simple hospitality. It is the munificent abandonment of the mind to new ideas, to new possibilities. Without an essential posture of openness, contemplation is not possible. God comes in every voice, behind every face, in every memory, deep in every struggle. To close off any of them is to close off the possibility of becoming new again ourselves.

- Sr. Joan Chittister

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My heart

The Peace Rose
Artist: Ruth Sharkey
That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty,
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful.

Friday, April 4, 2008

What speaks to us of God?

Anisa Kasa, Age 13, Tirana (Albania)

You know, if we did this and if we let this princple guide our evangelism, we wouldn't be able to keep up with all the baptisms!

If God is love, then let our love speak to us of God. If God is good, then let what is good speak to us of God. If God is joy, then let what fills us with joy speak to us of God. If God is peace, then let what brings us peace speak to us of God. If God is life, then let what is full of life speak to us of God.

Margaret Hebblethwaite

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Love and peace and tenderness

Today, someone who comes to me for spiritual guidance sent me a card with this quote on the front:

Our life is love and peace
and tenderness -
and bearing
with one another -
praying for one another,
and helping
one another up
with a tender hand.

-- Isaac Penington (Quaker)

I thought it was absolutely beautiful. There was also a mandala on the front of the card. I couldn't find one exactly like it to reproduce here but the image above is close!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sacred space of contemplation

Seated upon the porch one finds it unnecessary to comment upon or analyze what one sees and hears. It is enough that it is. Being is not something to be taken for granted nor overlooked, but something to be breathed in and celebrated with sweet contentment and a grateful heart. The porch is the home's sacred space of contemplation, the structural articulation of the home's most treasured and earnest secret. The porch speaks mutely all that we cannot say, but that we nonetheless know to be truest about our lives.

-Wendy Wright, Sacred Dwelling: A Spirituality of Family Life

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thinking of others

Thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity. If you learn this art of being thoughtful, you will become more and more Christlike, for His heart was meek and always thought of others.

- Mother Teresa