Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallows Eve

"Snap apple night"
Artist: Daniel Maclise

Some thoughts for the evening:

Backward, turn backward,
O Time, in your flight
make me a child again
just for to-night!

--Elizabeth Akers Allen

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

-- Edgar Allan Poe

One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

-- Emily Dickinson

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.

-- Ambrose Redmoon

Friday, October 30, 2009

What color is an apple?

"Still Life - Apples and a Jar"
Artist: Samuel Peploe

I found this on the Spiritual Literacy blog that is kept by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat:

We always like to keep up with what Robert Fulghum is writing about in his online journal. He has a knack for finding delightful things in the ordinary experiences of everyday life. In an entry for May 31, 2009, he shares an encounter with a group of little children out for a stroll after a rainstorm. One of the children steps out of the line because he's seen a rainbow — not in the sky but in a puddle of water. His act of wonder opens the eyes of the other kids and the teacher to the path of imagination. This teaching story reminds us of the boy who, when asks the color of apples, says "white." The teacher says apples can be red or green or yellow, but the boy has looked inside them.
Wonder. Do you have it?

What's inside. Do you look?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

For your meditative listening

I grew up on this kind of chant. I must say, I miss it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saint Simon and Saint Jude

Today is the anniversary of my clothing as a novice - the ceremony during which I received the habit. And I was given the name Sister Ellen Jude in religion. I've often joked that it was because my superiors thought I was such a "hopeless cause" but that's not really true. I actually asked for the name myself. I've long had a devotion to St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless causes) because he represents God's never failing fidelity to me. Seemingly desperate, hopeless, causes are not ignored or written off by the living God. Somehow, in God's timing and according to God's ecomony, those predicaments are never wasted and are truly redeemed and we can count on that.

A devotion to Saint Jude reminds us that, as Christians, we are clearly under orders not to despair. Ever.

"Saint Jude, Hope of the Hopeless, Pray for me."

Deo gratias!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...

Artist: Meister Bertram von Minden

Oh, my. Look at what I just discovered:

I hate it when people kill animals, even insects, after God went to all that trouble to make them.

-- Jane, age 5

Is that not truly beautiful? And does it not properly bring us to compunction?
(I found it here.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Healing one's vision

Remember last Sunday's gospel story about James and John asking to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus in the Kingdom? Here's a quotation I found about this morning's story of healing the blind man:
What the blind man asked was quite different from what James and John asked. The blind man asked not to be seen, but to see: not for honor, but for vision; not to be superior to ordinary people, but to become ordinary himself; not to rule over others, but to join others in their experience of a normal life.
A big breakthrough for me spiritually came when I learned to be okay with being ordinary - and not only just okay but to cherish being ordinary. Learning to be ordinary brings us in solidarity with others. Insisting on being special isolates us.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Transcendent common-sense!

Artist: Renoir

I did not realize before that the great G.K. Chesterton wrote a piece entitled "A Defense of Baby-Worship". Here a brief passage that I really like:

The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common-sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always primarily to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.

Friday, October 23, 2009

About icons

Icon of Virgin Mary in Veljusa Monastery, Macedonia
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Here is the Quote of the Day that Sojourners sent out in an email:
"Icons are like the horizon between heaven and earth. When you pray in front of an icon it is like you are praying in front of a window into heaven. Even those who are not Christians can stand and appreciate and believe there is something holy there, and sometimes this causes them to study about it." (Dennis Bell, an artist, explaining a Pan Orthodox Icon Exhibit being shown in Washington D.C. this weekend.)
That prompted me to go looking for material on the spirituality of icons and I stumbled upon a little piece about icons and pain reduction. Take a look:
For the research, Catholics, agnostics, and atheists were subjected to a series of electric shocks, some while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary and some without the image. Practicing Catholics perceived less pain when they were staring at the Virgin Mary, Science News reports, and displayed increased activity in an area of the brain associated with “emotional detachment and perceived control over pain.” Agnostics and atheists didn't show the same kind of neuro-activity, nor the perceived pain reduction.
It's not really all that surprising. Intriguing all the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interesting prayer technique

"Madonna with the Long Neck" (detail)
Artist: Parmigianino

I have benefitted from Fr. Edward Hays' writings for many years now. Here's something I just found that I like very much:

The Koran says that God is closer than the vein in your neck. What a beautiful invitation to pray. In fact, it suggests a new way to pray. Begin by placing your first and second fingers on your throat's jugular vein. Linger there as your feel the vigorous throbbing of life within you. Praying with your fingers on your jugular vein can be a sensual affirmation that God is not distant or remote but is pulsating within you. . . Besides being an excellent preface to any prayer, this tactile throat prayer gesture is useful whenever you are in need of God's presence.

-- From Prayers Notes to A Friend

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gratitude for the whirlwind

Painting of the Chinese Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279)

Here is one of Anthony de Mello's wonderful stories:

"Calamities can bring growth and Enlightenment," said the Master.

And he explained it thus: "Each day a bird would shelter in the withered branches of a tree that stood in the middle of a vast deserted plain. One day a whirlwind uprooted the tree, forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles in search of shelter -- till it finally came to a forest of fruit-laden trees."

And he concluded: "If the withered tree had survived, nothing would have induced the bird to give up its security and fly."
This speaks to me today. (I will need to develop why some other time.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist (transferred)

For Luke, the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth is healing for the world. For Luke, the power of God’s Holy Spirit and the incarnation of God in Jesus is healing for the world. For Luke, the power of evil in the world is overcome by the power of God’s Spirit in the person of Jesus and in the life and work of the faithful. This is true, he says, before and after the resurrection. This is true, Luke claims, from the moment of Gabriel’s good news for Zechariah until this very day. The healing embrace the writer of Luke–Acts offers describes a creation that is healed when God and creation love each other in return.

-- Minka Shura Sprague

Sunday, October 18, 2009

God's way

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Here's a little passage from a sermon on this mornings readings:

Jesus promises his disciples not that they shall be in glory with him, rewarded and happy. He promises that if they will follow him they shall share with him in his sufferings and challenges. Two disciples ask to sit next to Jesus in his glory, one on his right, one on his left. When Jesus came into his "glory," it was not on a throne. It was on a cross, with two thieves, one on his right and one on his left.

This is the message that contemporary followers of Jesus have been reluctant to proclaim to the world, perhaps because we're reluctant to hear this message ourselves! Jesus is not a technique for getting what we want out of God; Jesus is God's way of getting what God wants out of us. God wants a world, a world redeemed, restored to God. And the way God gets that is with ordinary people like us who are willing to walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, yes, and even if need be to suffer like Jesus. (emphasis, mine.)

-- William Willimon (Methodist bishop)

I am so deeply struck by that statment, "Jesus is God's way of getting what God wants out of us." Not the "prosperity gospel", now, is it?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How not to be broken

Artist: Claude Monet

Rigidity tends to make us brittle, doesn't it?

I've learned how to not be broken from life's unwanted things by watching a willow in the wild wind tossing and bending rather than pushing back against the storm. It's taught me that I can't always have everything go my way. Sometimes I need to bend a bit.

Joyce Rupp

Friday, October 16, 2009

A poem on the moon

Artist: Ando Hiroshige

Here's something about divine omnipresence. I really like the line, "Only in absolute stillness, beyond self, can you know Me as I AM..."

We all need to learn to be still. Really.

Do you need Me ?
I am there.
You cannot see Me, yet I am the light you see by.
You cannot hear Me, yet I speak through your voice.
You cannot feel Me, yet I am the power at work in your hands.

I am at work, though you do not understand My ways.

I am at work, though you do not understand My works.
I am not strange visions. I am not mysteries.
Only in absolute stillness, beyond self, can you know Me as I AM, and then but as a feeling and a faith.

Yet I am here. Yet I hear. Yet I answer.
When you need ME, I am there.
Even if you deny Me, I am there.
Even when you feel most alone, I am there.
Even in your fears, I am there.
Even in your pain, I am there.

I am there when you pray and when you do not pray.
I am in you, and you are in Me.
Only in your mind can you feel separate from Me, for only in your mind are the mists of "yours" and "mine".
Yet only with your mind can you know Me and experience Me.

Empty your heart of empty fears.
When you get yourself out of the way, I am there.
You can of yourself do nothing, but I can do all.
And I AM in all.

Though you may not see the good, good is there, for I am there. I am there because I have to be, because I AM.

Only in Me does the world have meaning; only out of Me does the world take form; only because of ME does the world go forward.
I am the law on which the movement of the stars and the growth of living cells are founded.

I am the love that is the law's fulfilling. I am assurance.

I am peace. I am oneness. I am the law that you can live by.
I am the love that you can cling to. I am your assurance.
I am your peace. I am ONE with you. I am.

Though you fail to find ME, I do not fail you.
Though your faith in Me is unsure,
My faith in you never wavers, because I know you, because I love you.

Beloved, I am there.

-- James Dillet Freeman

I found the above poem on Inspiration Peak. I also discovered this about it:
This poem received a lot of attention in 1971 when it was taken to the moon by astronaut James B. Irwin on Apollo 15. Irwin's mother gave it to him before the flight and he actually left a copy of the poem on the moon.
Something to think about when we look up at the moon at night, huh?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I found an article on Teresa of Avila by Raymond G. Helmick S.J. today. Here's an excerpt:
Teresa's way of prayer, which she taught the nuns of her convents, is the main topic of her writings and one of the principal values she brings to us since. She had been brought up to think of prayer only as recitation of texts, whether of the prayers she had learned to repeat in private or of the Latin Psalms she recited together with her community in choir, and had realized that there was another whole world in mental prayer, the free prayer that breaks away from all these formulas. We misrepresent this prayer if we think of it primarily in terms of visions and raptures. She does report these herself, though far more seldom than do those around her who let their imaginations get away with them. The visions came mostly in the earliest years of her life of prayer, notably the vision of an angel with a fiery dart. But she came to regard even that as far less important than the experience of simply letting herself be quiet in God's presence. From an early stage, she describes her prayer thus:

I tried as I could to keep Jesus Christ, our God and our Lord, present within me, and that was my way of prayer. If I reflected upon some phrase of his Passion, I represented Him to myself interiorly.
So true. The "phenomena" of prayer are of little consequence. Traditionally they are considered to be for beginners. Simply being quiet in God's presence is the deep mystery and condition of utmost beauty.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No small thing

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I once really wanted to learn German just so I could read Martin Buber in the original. Here is something he said that is deeply true, of that I'm certain:
There are people who suffer terrible distress, and they cannot tell anyone of it, and they go about full of suffering. But if you meet them with a kindly countenance, you may lighten their load with your joy. And it is no small thing to cheer another.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Swimming through fire

Artist: Margret Hofheinz-Döring

I told you yesterday that Fr. Clyde Glandon had outdone himself with the quotations he sent to his email list this week. One of his offerings was a Mary Oliver poem that I had not come across before and I absolutely love it:

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world

And look! Look! Look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.
Ah! Let us not waste our time looking for an easier world.

It occurs to me that looking for an easier world and making a better world are two different journeys. I would submit that Jesus calls us to the latter.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Community and disappointment

"Christ in Majesty"

Oh my. Fr. Clyde Glandon has really outdone himself today with the lectio quotations he sends out. All of them are simply wonderful. It's hard to pick a favorite but I think I'll go with this one:

Our risk lies in choosing one another over and over again in the face of failure and disappointment. Living in the Spirit means choosing not to live from our resentments and disappointments but from our new life in Christ. And we have to go on choosing right, up until the end. The work of the Spirit is to unsettle us through love. We don’t build community by building community. We build it by having our eye on something else. What is that ‘something else’? God in Christ.

Alan Jones, from Common Prayer on Common Ground

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The "rich young ruler"

"Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" (11th Century)

Today's gospel tells the story usually known as that of the "rich young ruler". Jesus says to him, "Sell all that you have and give it to the poor and come, follow me."

Here's some that I found on a page of thoughts about this morning's readings:

"Oh, but I'm not rich." Try entering your income in the Global Rich List and see where you end up.
I just discovered that I'm in the top 7.16% richest people in the world. It's very thought provoking, really.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Greeting the Holy

Artist: Michel Martin Drolling

It is so easy in our rushed and busy culture to resent interruptions. Here is a very different approach:

I recall the story about a man whose path was the act of greeting people. Whenever there was a knock on the door he would say, "The Lord is at the door."

— Donald Altman in Art of the Inner Meal

I remember my mother telling me when I was very small that we must always be kind to strangers and unexpected visitors because you never knew when such a person might be an angel. I don't know if she really believed that or not but I do know that one of her highest values was that of hospitality.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Feast Day of Robert Grosseteste, bishop

Robert Grosseteste, Bishop (ca. 1170-1253)

Here is some wonderful information about this bishop:

During his lifetime, Grosseteste was an avid participant in European intellectual life. His early education had given him a taste for natural philosophy. He began producing texts on the liberal arts, and mainly on astronomy and cosmology. His most famous scientific text, De luce (Concerning Light), argued that light was the basis of all matter, and his account of creation devotes a great deal of space to the the biblical text of God’s command, ‘Let there be light.’ Light also played a significant role his epistemology, as he followed the teachings of St. Augustine that the human intellect comes to know truth through illumination by divine light. Grosseteste’s interest in the natural world was further developed by his study of geometry, and he is one of the first western thinkers to argue that natural phenomenon can be described mathematically. He also played a pivotal role in the introduction of Aristotle to scholastic thought, producing commentaries on a number of Aristotle’s logical and scientific works.
During his eighteen years as bishop, Grosseteste became known as a brilliant, but highly demanding, church leader. He insisted that all his clergy be literate and receive some training in theology. His high standards for Christian practice and ministry landed him in a number of disputes with various parts of his dioceses, especially monasteries, and most notably his own cathedral chapter. When the cathedral chapter refused to allow an episcopal inspection in 1239, a long court case began which was eventually resolved in Grosseteste’s favour in 1245.
Further disputes over the activities of the archbishop of Canterbury in the 1240’s led to Grosseteste’s appearance at the papal court in 1250, residing at the time in Lyons. He lectured the pope on the major problems of the contemporary church, indicting the papacy as a principal cause for the current malaise.
Hmmm. I do think we could use his intercession during these latter days.

May we be strengthend by his example and aided by his prayers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why worship?

Artist: Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)

Sojourners offered this quotation in one of their emails today:

I do not go to Mass to make myself "better." I go because, in the dimmest reaches of my scattered, angst-ridden mind, there is something that wants me to get down on my knees and, in spite of my own suffering and all the suffering around me, give thanks. I go because I am beginning to believe that heaven is not in some other world, but shot through the broken world in which we live.

- Heather King, from her essay "Heaven and Earth"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The reason for our existence

"Creation of Adam" from the Nuremberg Chronicles

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.

- Thomas Merton, from A Book of Hours

What would happen if we knew - really knew in our bones - that Love is our true identity? How would that affect our mood, our self-concept, our behavior, our ability to express love ourselves?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just something rather lovely

Illustration from an Italian breviary, c. 1380

Breviary: Liturgical book containing the psalms, readings from the scriptures, the Church Fathers or the lives of the saints, antiphons and prayers that constitute the Divine Office for each day of the Christian Church year.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Something about vocation

Fr. Clyde Glandon just sent out his weekly collection of lectio quotations and the following grabbed my attention. It's from Rowan Williams' book of sermons entitled A Ray of Darkness. I have that book but somehow I did not particularly notice this beautiful and eloquent observation about vocation before today:
Vocation is, you could say, what’s left when all the games have stopped. We shall still need to work to find the structure and form of life that is most our own because it leaves us most alert, most responsive, most open to the never-failing grace of God. We have to find the meter for our poem, the key in which to sing to our God, the cell where we can pray to him, the person in whom we can love him, so as to give “a local habitation and a name,” face and flesh, to our own particular following of Christ.
I like this: "when all the games have stopped." How very true. And how very seductive those games can be. Let us all pray to be delivered from them for the duration. (Duration = life!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Trust and openness

The disciples still living in the old order wanted to protect him from the children, but Jesus welcomed them. "This is what I am about," he said. How do children manifest the kingdom? Their lack of status? Their willingness to trust? Their openness to new possibilities?

- Sojourners Sept/Oct. 1994

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Undoubtedly the most beautiful plainchant melody for the Kyrie ever. I grew up on this one. (1940 Hymnal)

Friday, October 2, 2009

The real secret

Artist: Benjamin West
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I found this on one of my favorite blogs, Wounded Bird. The blog owner, Grandmère Mimi, found it on a site called Story People:

If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can & there is nothing more to it than that.

The concept of listening to the sound of what cannot be seen is, of course, intrinsic to the "Shema" - the great declaration of faith that begins, "Hear O Israel." And what the "story writer" says above is that the sound truly sings within us.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

About speculation

Jesus as the Good Shepherd, 3rd Century

Here's something to ponder:

Theologians have felt no hesitation in founding a system of speculative thought on the teachings of Jesus; and yet Jesus was never an inhabitant of the realm of speculative thought.

-- Walter Rauschenbusch

I don't mean to be anti-theology here. It just seems thought-provoking, that's all.

By the way, if you don't already know about Walter Rauschendbusch, I recommend that you click through and read up on him. Very interesting and compelling figure.