“Words are cheap.”

This is what my friend replied in response to my suggestion that he write a letter to express his frustration and displeasure about how the church is handling one of its difficult current issues.

He’s an extremely bright, critical thinker and has a particular gift for written expression. I could do nothing to change or effect the issues he was writing to me about — except to pray for our church and its leaders and him, which I already do. He has strong opinions and questions and a desire to engage on the subject. So, I suggested he write and share his thoughts.

“Word are cheap,” he said in reply.

I have not yet responded to his dismissal, Father. But, I feel You are bit by bit giving me the words to say to him. Help me, if it’s Your will, to tell him how powerful our words are — all of them — and how crucial they can be, when they are speaking Your truth.

Words have power. My friend’s not wrong that some words can come cheap: Throw-away lines; thoughtless sarcasm; words that cut and are cruel, mean-spirited and malicious. Words can slander and mislead. They can give aid and comfort to the Father of Lies, who seeks to separate and divide us from one another and Our Lord, Your Word made flesh.

But, Father, You breathed our world into existence. Your words spoke us into creation. You sent Jesus Christ, Your Word made flesh, to us to help our humanity come to understand and develop right relationship with Your divinity.

With a few words You called a little girl back from death; Lazarus, too. And You calmed the storm and the fears of Your disciples when they were at sea.

You calm us, too, whenever we turn to You during the storms of our own lives. With only three words of love from my own angel when she said, “Don’t be afraid,” You calmed my fears and walked with me step by step as I was threatened and assaulted by a (ill-advised) hitchhiker. [Read the whole story here.]

Words are powerful. Words that speak Your truth can be the seeds necessary to speak to souls, to help change lives. We may never understand their influence on others. We may not get to see the changes in them or experience the fruits of words we’ve helped You plant — Thy Will be done in Your Time to Your Purpose.

But even if words speaking Your truth never find a welcome home in others, they nonetheless strengthen our own spirit and understanding. These words are not cheap or hollow or void of meaning and value. They go out, then they come back to us with on-going blessing.

When You call us to be Your own — when You choose us, Father — You promise to give us the right words — Your words — and then You choose how and when to bless them and help them to grow.

You commission us to act here on earth as Your body — ears, eyes, arms, hands, voice. And just as Your voice spoke our world into creation at the beginning, You place the divinity of Your Holy Spirit in us to speak and so to act with You — to plant seeds, to help light a fire for You in others.

Whether the fire takes hold in them or dies is not our concern, only Yours, Father.

So be it. Your will be done.

Isolation versus solitude

Contemplation and prayer are solitary endeavors, opportunities to be with You, Father, and Your Holy Spirit in me.

How does this feeling of oneness with You wander so easily during times of trial into a such desert of isolation and division?

There’s a part of me that wants to curl up and hide from all the realities of my life today. To separate and isolate myself from others; to run away from home; to hide myself in You.

And yet, it’s different than my desire to find my rest in You.

I think the Father of Lies is lurking about me, too close right now, possibly sensing my weakness and vulnerability to his promises. Waiting to cull me from the herd, then to separate me from You.

Pray, strengthen me, Holy Father against His lies and designs for my soul. Help me to submit only to Your holy and gracious plan for my life. Enslave me, Father, to Your will, Prepare me, by Your grace, to be worthy to be with You one day in Heaven.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Answered prayer

A while back, I prayed for Your guidance, Father, on how to share my faith — how to evangelize, even though that seems WAY too big a word for what I think I’m capable of.

Not long after, You answered me through a daily meditation published in Word Among Us magazine. You knew I read the prescribed daily scripture readings there, along with Word Among Us meditations on each day’s readings. Before all the busy-ness of the day takes hold of my attention, these readings — Your Word — help give me focus each day.

On this day Your Word was right on point with an answer to my earlier prayer. How could You be clearer, Lord, about sharing my faith? Thank You.

And to help me remember over and over again going forward, here’s what You said to me in that day’s meditation:

When they came to the town they reported everything. (Matthew 8:33)

Shouting demoniacs, possessed pigs, sprinting swineherds, and terrified townspeople—this has to be one of the most colorful stories in Matthew’s Gospel! But did you know that this is also the first story about Gentiles sharing the good news about Jesus? Imagine you were there when the swineherds raced into the town square to tell their story after they had encountered Jesus:

“You’ll never believe what happened! There we were, tending our pigs away from the tombs because we knew about those two demoniacs. But a group of men speaking Aramaic came ashore and got out of a boat—and the demoniacs charged right at them, screaming something about being tormented! The men didn’t run away. Instead, the man in front started gesturing toward our pigs. The next thing we know, our entire herd went racing toward the cliff and threw themselves into the sea. Every one of them drowned! We were terrified. How could this stranger do that?

“Right after that happened, we could see the demoniacs, but they weren’t violent any more. They seemed peaceful, calm. Even happy. And this man, this foreigner, had something to do with it. We just had to tell everyone! Who could this man be?”

Sometimes evangelism is simply sharing what has happened to you, what you have observed or experienced. The swineherds give us an example of what it looks like to share the good news, but for each one of us, it will be different. That’s because each of our stories is different!

But don’t forget; the townspeople weren’t half as enthusiastic as the swineherds. They ran to Jesus—and begged him to leave! They responded with fear, not faith. These townspeople show us that the response of our audience is not in our control.

You may not see the response you’re hoping for when you try to share your faith. But don’t worry. All you can do—all God asks you to do—is share what you’ve seen and heard. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to inspire a response.

Each one of us has a story. Whatever yours is, share it! (Emphasis added)

Jesus, you are amazing. Give me the chance to tell people what I have seen.”

And yet, I’ve needed continued reassurance and encouragement that this is Your desire for me. I’ve needed continual reminders to get myself and my ego out of the way and let You do the work; let You write the words; let You touch others’ hearts; let You use me to Your purposes.

At times, I’ve needed You to strengthen my faith, even as I feed my own fears.

Thank You, Holy Lord, for not losing patience with me, and for continually reminding me that evangelization may a too big word for what I think I’m capable of, but it’s You — always You, Father — who makes every thing I say or do have meaning and value.

Here I am, Lord

Holy Father,

Here I am, Lord. Please be here with me.

Even though my heart is burdened with the minutiae of my day and the continuing onslaught of evil in our world, please help me to quiet my mind and my heart, so I might experience Your presence here, so I might hear Your voice.

You are my only audience, my first and only love. Help me to keep my eyes and my heart fixed on You, and on Your purpose. Always grateful. Always faithful. Always Yours.

When the errands and the chores and the service to others call out for my attention, help me, Holy Lord, to turn first to Your beautiful face. Help me to pause to receive the gracious blessing that I know awaits me from You.

Be with me, Father, as I go and do today. Guide my thoughts and my words and my actions. Prepare them, strengthen my trust in You. Build the muscle of my knowingness — certain that You are everything I need, confident that You will provide everything I need to go about the tasks You given me to do today.

And wherever evil lurks, Holy Lord, lead me away, or so surround me with the light of Your Holy protection that I might find swift, safe passage. Or if is Your will, heavenly Lord, for me to act as one of Your defenders as I go, strengthen me to Your purpose that I might respond to hate with love, to false accusation and recriminations with understanding and forgiveness, and to despair with hope.

In Christ’s name I pray. Amen

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My belated response to Melinda Henneberger

Melinda Henneberger wrote and published a column in the National Catholic Reporter back in December 5, 2018 on her reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. She (and many of us) felt a crisis of conscious over the McGarrick revelations and the unfolding knowledge of our church’s continuing sex abuse scandal and coverup.

I shared her pain and her anger and frustration, as so many of us Catholics did, upon hearing the unwelcome news. I wrote this response at the time, mostly for my own healing. I share it here in the hope that it touches other hearts that have been broken by this terrible tragedy.

Dear Melinda,

First and foremost, I want to tell you how grateful I am for your column in NCR. I’ve been avoiding organizing my own thoughts, even as I’ve known I would have to do so eventually. Your column provided a helpful catalyst.

My heart hurt for you, as it does for all of us, as I read your piece. Our hearts have been shattered by this evil…most especially for the first order victims and their families. Their pain is paramount. But, all of us who love the church are experiencing our own personal crises.

I’ve recently been trying to understand and live better our church’s teaching on how to be blessed by the pain and challenges given to each of us. To somehow recognize and be blessed more deeply by His grace that attends painful times.

So, it was in this frame of mind that I prayed for you and for our church this morning. I asked God how my heart should respond to your decision to leave. Is it a signal for all of us to fragment? To exercise Rod Dreher’sBenedict Option”?

If not, how best do I respond? To the obvious corruption that has so gripped our beautiful teachings? To my own confusion and distress? How can I possibly be blessed by the knowledge of this terrible travesty that too many of our church fathers have allowed or enabled … or worse?

And, as I felt emotion well up inside me, I saw Our Lord in Gethsemane as Christ shed His tears of blood. I heard as His words from Sermon on the Mount rang out:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And I looked on at Calvary as He hung in pain on the cross. I heard Him tell Dismis, the good thief, “you will be with me today in heaven.

Then He gave His beloved disciple and all of us into HIs mother’s care to wait for Him until His return. Mother Mary will comfort each of us, if we allow her to embrace us.

For my own part, as a sinner who wandered and wondered for far too many years before finding the Catholic Church, before being allowed to join in the joyful celebration feast, before being fed and formed by the church’s teaching, before experiencing the warmth and abundance of our Blessed Mother’s embrace, before knowing how or even why I should want to walk with our Lord as He lived and died for us and for our salvation, I have opted to continue to receive and be fed by the Holy Eucharist and, as often as I can, to sit with our Lord in adoration and to pray our Holy Mother’s Rosary .

Is He really present in the host as Catholic teaching says? Can He only be present through the word and exhortation of priests ordained in apostolic succession from Peter? I was told once, ‘It’s a Mystery. We have to leave room for the mystery.’ So, is it true? I don’t know….mysteries, by definition, mysterious. But I do have faith. I believe based on my own personal experience and based on knowledge from the Holy Spirit within me, and my belief comforts me.

I’ve opted to stay — where else can we go, Lord? — and to wait (as much as possible) in joy-filled anticipation of His beautiful face. I know He will come one day and sort us all out. He will cleanse and purify, again and again, each of us and His Church Bride on Earth.

In the meantime I give thanks that you and I and other believers have already been given the end of the story. We know that the sweet incense that fills our beautiful sanctuaries throughout the world will not be overwhelmed by the sin and corruption of Satan’s smoke.

Those priests and bishops will not win, who, through their acts or their inaction, have caused your crisis of communion with the church. Theirs will be a terrible fate.

I pray your mourning for our church blesses you and that you allow Him to walk with you and to comfort you as you wander for a time in the desert. And when it is time, I pray you will again find a comfortable place at His table where we will all rejoice as one church in Christ, where we will all rejoice that we who have gone lost are once again found.

In the meantime I pray He blesses you richly and continuously on your journey.

Yours in Christ,

Mary Adrienne

Speak God’s truth. Leave the rest to Him.

Dear Holy Father,

I come to You in this place most often not having any idea what I want to say or what to focus on.

I’m never quite sure how to know if You have something You want to say to me. Eventually, You seem to speak, after I’ve quieted my mind and my heart a bit from the demands of my daily routine.

Yesterday, I began my writing with what I thought was purpose and direction. I was anxious to capture the lessons I’d learned about prayer and, in particular, the message I heard from our priest in his Sunday homily.

But maybe my clue to the problem that unfolded is captured in the word, ‘anxious.’

The words I wrote struggled to do justice to the message or to the feelings I had as I experienced Your message.

Listening to our priest speak felt like I was hearing directly from You.

Now, our priest is a nice guy. He’s young, not particularly polished yet as a speaker or as a homilist. Or at least I’ve never perceived that about him. He’s a bit awkward and seems like he’s reading his words rather than speaking Your truth.

Well, that was what I used to think, until his two most recent Masses. ‘Extraordinary’ isn’t too big a word for my reaction. Maybe not even ‘transcendent.’

I found myself, twice now, transfixed and hanging on his every word.

Thank You, Father. I guess it isn’t necessary to feel those feelings whenever a priest speaks, but to feel them at all — to sense Your presence in real time, at work through our priest speaking directly to me — was sublime. Thank You.

And maybe it demonstrates something more.

I struggle with my words here…working to make them just right. I feel frustrated when I can’t seem to capture in them the transcendent quality that I so often experience when I’m talking with You. If I can’t find words to communicate that most sublime sense of Your presence, I end up not wanting to share anything at all with others.

And yet, it wasn’t our priest or his words that was key, was it?

The fact is, I’ve heard the same lessons he was preaching on from several other priests in different situations, through different media.

Rather, it was Your grace that took his words as he spoke them and somehow, breathed Your own breath of love on them as You delivered them to my open heart.

The lesson? We need to speak Your truth, Holy Father, and leave the rest to You. Just as You gave all the right words in all the right languages to Your disciples at Pentacost, You can work with our words, our heartfelt expressions of Your truths.

So long as we express them out loud to others in love, You can bless them with Your grace and make of them the transcendent, sublime messages other open hearts are waiting to receive.

Sowing (and sacrificing) seeds of Your love and mercy

My Holy Lord,

Bless me, Father, this day, and my words and actions to Your holy purpose.

It’s my sister’s birthday today. And currently she’s upset with me. When that happens, she cuts herself off from me and avoids our conversations. I think I know the most recent cause.

I sent her one of Bishop Barron’s homilies on Spiritual and Religious. She and I had had a conversation in which she had told me she really didn’t believe in Christ and Christianity; that she was “spiritual.”

Bishop Barron’s homily on this precise subject was so gentle and welcoming and clear. We can find God in all things, all places, but only in Christ are we able to enter into a personal relationship with You. Only through Christ do You call us to be You own, heirs to Your kingdom, Your adopted children, part of Your family. When we are chosen by You, all we have to do is say ‘yes,’ and believe and submit our will to Yours.

Well, Bishop Barron said it all better than I have. But the upshot upon hearing his homily was my desire to share it with my sister since it spoke to precisely the issues she and I had been discussing. It felt as though You were encouraging me to act, to evangelize Your truth to her.

Sadly, as has happened before, my words were not only rebuffed, but a rift resulted. So, I’m confused. I don’t seemed to know how to share You with others, without causing relationships to be severed.

I don’t think this is Your desire…and yet…

Maybe You want me to sow these seeds and shake up the worlds of these people You call me to evangelize. Disturb them enough that You’re able to get their attention. Maybe my relationship with each of them is the sacrifice (long or short-term) that is required to save their souls.

I pray that You bless her on her birthday today and help me to let her know that I love her, despite how troubled her feelings may be about me and You.

Yours first, holy Lord, Your voice and teaching. Then I’ll go help Martha in the kitchen.

My Dear Lord,

I have felt great sympathy for Martha (Luke 10:41) over the last week. I tried to take the time to sit at your feet as Mary did, listening for Your voice, and reading Your daily word. But our time here, where You sit beside me as I write — such precious time — was sacrificed to serving our out-of-town guests.

The week left me exhausted, spent. The 24-hour presence of others to serve and to enjoy wore heavily, as we two couples shared our meals, our housing, our time, stories, music, travel.

I was left feeling incredibly inadequate as a servant and host, not because I did not serve our friends and make them welcome, but because rather than being uplifted and enlivened in my service, I was often left grumpy, stressed, frustrated by one thing or another, then, disappointed with my own behavior or words.

I think my sin-filled humanity dimmed, maybe even extinguished, the light of Your divinity in me.

I am sorry, Father. No wonder You choose to have me spend so much of my time in introspection and writing, where you give me time to consider with greater care my words and thoughts. I’m not yet well equipped to represent You as You deserve in real time with others. I don’t yet retain the calm and peace of Your spirit, allowing it clear passage to shine through my interior darkness.

Forgive me, Father. And bless me with Your gentle direction. Only with Your help and grace may I remember how to be, no matter my circumstances; whose I am, first and always; and only then, the holy purpose You have for me, when You place others on my path.

As St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata would pray, help me to give what You ask and to accept what You give, all with joy and a big smile.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Spread the Light of Love, not the darkness of division

Heavenly Father,

I am so sorry for my words last night.

We have friends visiting from out of town. They’ve been here now for several days and we’ve gotten all our catch-up conversation out of the way. As the evening wore on and our words became less guarded, the conversation turned to politics and our relationships with our respective relatives. As it did, the frustration I have felt with several of our kin just spilled out, raw and unguarded.

My husband and I stand pretty much alone in our family on most issues of our day. With next year’s presidential election, these issues are already heating up. Our family once again is coming face-to-face with the deep fault-lines in our respective world views. During less political times we manage mostly to ignore them or paper them over in attempts at family unity.

Facebook exacerbates the problem for us. It can be a terrible force for separation and division. People are less guarded there in their comments. One relative, in particular, feels driven to re-post others’ misguided, thoughtless, and ill-informed memes and opinions. As much as I would like to remain ‘above it all’, the endorsements quickly feel personal and alienating and divisive. Ugh. I understand why some go into convents and monasteries, taking vows of silence and severing contact with the outside world.

But, those were only the triggers. My poor judgment and incontinence of speech are more the problem here. I’m disappointed in myself and ashamed for allowing these distant postings to drive my own behavior. In doing so, I’ve hurt You, gracious Lord, and been a poor example of what it means to be one of Your chosen ones. None of us, last night, was blessed by my comments, and this morning, I am more frustrated and angry after giving voice to my frustration than I was before. Not because what I said was untrue, but because I surrendered to the temptation of…what?…whatever sin this would be. Gossip? Not really. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor? Not really, because it was all true. So what is the sin? Submitting to the luxury of venting in a safe space? Maybe. If nothing else just talking too darn much!!

So, I apologize, Father, and beg Your forgiveness. And I’ll go to confession and ask for Your absolution and You, in Your grace and love for me, will forgive me and wash me clean once again. And I will try to be better.

But I need Your help, Holy Lord, to overcome whatever this is that causes me to lash out about people and issues that frustrate me. Help me not only to control my words and my emotions and my behavior better, but if there is better way to address these concerns and to deal with them (writing here, maybe?), please direct my action to Your purposes and Your service.

Reaching out to change the minds and hearts of the particular person (people) involved have only made relations worse in the past and would likely result in a full severing of communication. So I pray Father that You take these concerns, and bless them with Your grace and love. Help me to be more detached from ignorant, hurtful words and actions, and more focused on You, who are my first love. These situations make me realize how often I fail You, fail to be that person You intended me to be.

You created me and called me to help carry Your light out into the world. All I seemed to be spreading last night was the darkness of division.

I am sorry, Lord. Please forgive me.

All my day is Yours, Lord…But this time right now, when I am able to write with You without fear of interruption

My dear sweet Lord,

All of my day is Yours for You to do with as You wish, according to Your will. At my best all my time begins and ends with You — seeking to serve You better, being the person You created me to be, learning to discern Your will for me, sharing Your Light as I go about my daily responsibilities.

I am only ever able to be anywhere, do anything as a result of Your grace, Holy Father.

But this time right now, when I am able to write to You without fear of being interrupted, when I can focus on our conversation and lose myself in Your Way is most precious. I pray You bless this time to Your purpose. Draw me closer and closer to Your perfect heart. In Your good time, I pray You’ll prepare me for greater and greater holiness.

Your words — the words You give me here as I transcribe them — fill me with such wonder. Every so often they let me glimpse, just for a brief moment, the woman You created me to be, the woman I know You love so very much. And for just that brief moment, I come to love her too.

Capturing these words — these thoughts and images that You share with me — are rather like lines in a sketch, where the artist must ‘feather’ in images, defining and refining the light as it glows through the shadows.

So, too, for Your words here. I don’t always capture them just right the first time, do I, Father. Instead, when I’m seeking Your voice and Your grace through my writing, I have to ‘feather’ the words and images, which You place in my heart. Often Your Light is revealed only as I fumble for a while with darkness and shadow.

And then, as if by some miracle of Your grace, there, hidden in some unsuspected phrase, I’ll be surprised by a beautifully constructed thought, or be blessed by the goodness of Your mercy or understand more deeply a new, yet foundational truth, which insight could only have come from You.

Glory to You, my precious Lord, for this time alone together.