Reclining at table

Jesus, we’re told, often “reclined at table,” with his disciples and with others. I wonder, do I ever ‘recline’ in the fullness of what this word might mean applied to Christ?

When I imagine Christ reclining, I see Him vulnerable, open, receptive, comfortable, resting. His feet are not under Him bearing the weight of His body, but outstretched. They are not ready to run or prepared to fight, but up and resting.

Similarly, His arms are not flexed and ready for action. He might be lying back on one or the other of them, using it for support.

How much more calm and prepared would our bodies be to receive nourishment, if we could recline, as our Lord did, trusting, relaxed, at peace, not only in our surroundings, but in our humanity.

Pray we are able to recline in peace knowing that our sins have been recognized and forgiven; our souls washed clean by His Blood.

What you have to offer others is enough

Do you ever hold back from giving or including others because you feel what you have to offer is not enough, not nice enough?

Here’s how Fr. James Martin, SJ suggested we view this common insecurity it in his excellent book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage.

All we need to do is bring what little we have, generously and unashamedly. At Tabgha, the disciples seemed embarrassed that there was not enough for the crowd and were about to send everyone away hungry. But Jesus knew that whatever there is, God can make more of it. But first we are asked to offer our loaves and fishes, no matter how inadequate they may seem. Only then can God accomplish the kind of true miracle that occurred at Tabgha.



Focus on love

I pray this finds each of you enjoying a happy and fruitful Lent. I have begun to read the Word Among Us, which  provides the daily readings and accompanying meditation for U.S. Catholic Mass.

The meditation last Wednesday (February 17, 2016) instructed that we should ‘focus on Jesus on the cross and imagine the LOVE that put Him there.’

As I read this, I realized that I always focus on all the sin that put Him on the cross, and maybe most especially, on my sin that added to His pain and suffering.

It feels entirely different to consider too the love — His love — with which He sacrificed Himself and forgave us.

Meditating on His love adds to my sense of sorrow and penitence an even stronger sense of humility. I found with that humility I experienced a growing desire to allow His love to fill me so full that through His grace it will just spill over and pour out upon all I meet.

Blessings on you and yours this Lent. I pray that your journey brings you closer to Him and His peace.

Think small

We’ve been told throughout my life. Think big. Live your dreams. We taught our children to ‘follow their passions.’

On this day I don’t want to disparage those sentiments (although they may, in the end, be at the root of much of our current malaise), but to reflect on an almost opposite perspective that has been drawing me increasingly to its position.

Instead of big thoughts, think small. Focus your energies. Narrow your perspective. Revel in each moment.

What is this moment like? Peaceful. Contemplative. Filled with promise and potential. Healthy. Strong. Welcoming this day and recognizing that it is already blessed; a gift from a loving God.

Already my small, narrowly focused thoughts have enlarged my perspective and my sense of purpose.

Think small. I’ve just prepared the mushroom soup for our traditional green bean casserole. Our daughter made sweet potato cheesecake last night. Our family will be with us today. We’ll enjoy an unusually full meal and watch football together. Simple, joyful, fulfilling and fulfilled acts of love and happiness.

Give thanks. Just outside this moment, just outside this place, there may be heartache, peril, physical or emotional threat. But right in this moment I am filled with joy. In this moment I can feel His presence around and within me. In this moment there is certainty that I am fully protected in His loving care. And if now, then so too tomorrow and the day after and one after that…all in God’s time.

Relocating our spiritual center

When Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus in the Temple, how relieved and filled with joy they must have been. Losing my child in the midst of a crowd was always a great fear for me, when I would take our daughter anywhere. I can only imagine the emptiness and anxiety and dread that any parent must feel in such a situation.

Similar, too, I believe might be the anxiety and the helplessness we feel, when we lose sight of Christ in our own lives…when we lose our way, or when we feel as though we have. This story of Mary and Joseph retracing their steps to Jerusalem to find their lost son provides a guide for us during these times when He seems lost to us.

When we lose sight of our spiritual center, we too need to retrace our steps. Jesus asked Mary, when she finally found Him in the Temple, “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

When we are searching for the Jesus, the Word Incarnate, I need to remember that He is close at hand. I need in these times to return to my intentional reading of The Word, my Bible. He’s there, just waiting for me, as He goes about Our Father’s business.

Abiding with our children

When our children – no matter their ages – are in pain, we feel all of it and more. Their hurt, their helplessness, their humiliation, their soul searching all become ours, along with a sense of guilt and remorse. What could I have done better to shield them from, prepare them for this struggle? What can I do now to help them carry this burden? What should I do?

As our children grow into their adulthood, while we parents grow increasingly comfortable in our nearing retirement, money and things are often the easy way to avert a current crisis. Money, though, is often not what is needed most. More difficult, is arriving at that time in our children’s lives, when we find that their burden — their cross — is something heavier, which they have to bear, as we stand by — with little ability to exercise any control or influence — and watch.

As I was praying the Rosary this morning, we were meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries. They all seemed to pertain to my current concern for our daughter. The 4th mystery in which Jesus is carrying His cross made this lesson particularly vivid.

We know that Jesus’s mother, Mary, was nearby, as He carried His cross to Calvary. She was likely moving with Him along His path feeling each step of Jesus’s way as an arrow piercing her heart. Yet, she could do little more than watch and mourn for Him and His pain. She was helpless to do more than to be there at the last to receive Him in His brokenness and wait for our Father’s work to be completed in Him…for His resurrection into new life.


Prayer Corner3 PC Crucifix

I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude yesterday, as I first knelt at church in preparation for our weekly Mass — that place our Lord has made for us to gather together to worship Him.

Our church is a magnificent structure; the oldest in our town. You can almost feel the history of love and reverence that has blessed the place.

My gratitude quickly extended to the place in a small corner of our spare bedroom, which we have recently dedicated to prayer and time with our Lord. It’s a place where my husband and I can now go anytime and enter into silence and solitude with our Lord in prayer.

I had no idea at the outset that I was planning something special. I bought a room divider off the web that I’d seen and liked. Later, I saw an old mirrored window and thought it would fit in somewhere for something. Over a period of months the vision of fashioning a private space in a little 4′ x 6′ corner of an oddly shaped spare room in our home began to take a fuzzy form.

My husband one day shared with me that he was often moved to want to kneel to pray, but had not felt there to be an appropriate place to do that in our home. At once, the fuzziness of my thinking about this little corner began to take form.

I began to search for a kneeling rail we could afford. When I finally learned the correct name for them – prie dieu – I found just the right one. It is an old, used (the more used, the more loved, I like to believe), silvered Art Deco vintage kneeler. It can even be expanded to accommodate two people at prayer together, if we want to at some point.

After finding a little shelf and learning how to hang the relatively heavy mirror/window on to wallboard, all we needed was a standing crucifix to complete our little prayer corner. We traveled to several antique shops, Catholic gift shops, and to various websites over the next several weeks. There were lots of possibilities, but none that seemed just right.

One day, I finally I logged onto Ebay and there it was – the perfectly sized, most beautiful standing crucifix I may have ever seen. It is bronze (I think) and blue from age. It had apparently been buried for some unknown time somewhere in Hawaii and there it was, just waiting for me to claim it for our special place.

I had no real appreciation at the outset of this project for how special the time would be that I would spend in this space or the gratitude I would feel, knowing how He guided each step of my way to its creation. Now, I look forward each morning to beginning my day here with our Lord.

Like our old magnificent church down the street, this special place is filling up with love and reverence.

Choosing to be chosen

Prodigal Son ImageOur priest’s recent homily touched on being chosen by God. Each of us is. Not all of us know it.

Many have never heard His call. Some hear it, but turn away. For some, recognition happens all at once. For others, God’s call is revealed more slowly and in stages. Continue reading

We are all called to be saints

No, this isn’t a belated April Fool’s joke. Although when I first heard that we – all of us – can be saints…are called, in fact, to be saints, I had a similar reaction: ‘You must be kidding! Me?’

But, what I am slowly coming to appreciate more fully is that God’s most important call to each of us is to be saints – each in our own special way, each in our own individual circumstance. Our only challenge is to learn to say ‘Yes, Lord, I’m willing. Show me how.”

Maybe you won’t have as hard a time as I did hearing these words and taking them seriously, but let me share what some writers who actually know what they’re talking about have to say about our call to sainthood:

In discussing Saints, People Like Us, Henri Nouwen says,

Through baptism we become part of a family much larger than our biological family. It is a family of people “set apart” by God to be light in the darkness. These set-apart people are called saints. Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people. Some of their lives may look quite different, but most of their lives are remarkably similar to our own. The saints are our brothers and sisters, calling us to become like them. (Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2009-03-17). Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (p. 328-9). )

He went on to describe that:

The saints are God’s holy people. The apostle Paul speaks about all those who belong to Christ as “holy people” or “saints.” He directs his letters to “those who have been consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be God’s holy people” (1 Corinthians 1: 2; see also Ephesians 1: 1). This sanctity is the work of the Spirit of Jesus. Paul again says, “All of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3: 18). As saints we belong to that large network of God’s people that shines like a multitude of stars in the dark sky of the universe. (Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2009-03-17). Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (p. 330))

Fr. James Martin S.J. in his book My Life with the Saints, quotes Thomas Merton to say,

“For me to be a saint means to be myself.”

And Merton says in his own book, The Seven Storey Mountain:

And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within, and from the habitual union of their souls with God in deep faith and charity. (Merton, Thomas (1998-10-04). The Seven Storey Mountain: Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition (p. 62))

So this is my Easter gift to you…the good and joyful news that Christ lived among us, died for us and rose again to be with the Father. He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within each of us. To be with us in times of trial and triumph. To guide and direct our hearts along our journey. To call us to walk with Him in sainthood, as He shares the truth of His love with the world.


Sun thru monkey treeEvangelism has been a difficult concept for me. I’ve never thought I knew enough. I can’t quote Bible verses from memory. I don’t have a complete understanding of church history or teaching. My words can sound sanctimonious and saccharin even to my own ear. In the un-churched community in which I live I fear my witness would do more to offend than to welcome.

Yet, as I have begun to know our Lord better, I’ve at times felt as though I would burst if I didn’t find some way to share His beauty and gentleness and love with others. It’s a natural outcome of His sharing His abundance with me, who has done so little to deserve it.

When we don’t know how to do something that at the same time feels so urgent, it’s often true that our understanding of our purpose is lacking. My concept of evangelism in this case has been faulty and incomplete.

This morning Henri Nouwen addressed “The Fruit of the Spirit” in his book of daily meditations, Bread for the Journey. He says,

Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives.

But this explicit missionary endeavor often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.

Talk about an arrow straight to my heart. “…an insecure heart…creates divisions.” Here’s the nut,

The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). These fruit speak for themselves. It is, therefore, always better to raise the question “How can I grow in the Spirit?” than the question “How can I make others believe in the Spirit?”

I’m not sure there are words to express the relief I felt as I read this. My job is to grow myself. I’m increasingly certain I can do that.

Henri continues in the next meditation to discuss “Right Living and Right Speaking” saying that,

To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking. When we forgive our neighbors from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words. When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.

Father, I pray Your grace guides my heart and my actions and my words; that they honor You and are acceptable in Your sight; that they bless those You bring into my life.