I struggled early on after my conversion to Catholicism with whether to soldier through some of the challenges I was experiencing or whether to revert back to Anglo-Catholicism. I read whatever I could find to help understand what belief or lack of belief the Anglican martyrs held so strongly that they were willing to be tortured, burned, quartered…horrific atrocities. For most of them it came down to their disbelief in the Real Presence of God in the host and wine of the Eucharist. Many Anglicans also struggled with Marian devotions, but the central issue for most was whether and how God is…how He becomes…present physically in the host and wine. I felt convicted about the Anglican view for some time, and yet, periodically I continued to entertain conversations and prayer about the subject.
Finally, in the local grocery store one day I ran into the woman who had been my RCIA sponsor. We agreed to have lunch and, not surprisingly, the subject came up. There was the predictable back and forth, but I finally asked something like, ‘how can you believe in this?’ (I don’t remember my exact words.)
She said, ‘It’s the mystery. You have to leave room for the mystery of God’s presence.’
Well, I don’t know what it was about her words exactly, but something in me at that very moment just ‘got it.’
God is God. We aren’t.
We aren’t given to understand everything He knows with our rational minds, but we are able and are called upon to believe with our spiritual hearts.
I still don’t understand the Real Presence, but from that moment, I believed. And with that belief I was immediately awestruck with the incredible grace of this deeper relationship. Even today, it’s enormity thrusts me to my knees in praise and gratitude.
And, just one post script: more recently..a few years ago someone…maybe Bishop Barron…described how continual reception of the Real Presence changes one’s spiritual DNA. I’d go a step further to a belief that as my spiritual DNA has been altered over the last 15-20 years, my physical DNA has likely changed as well. It’s nothing I feel moved to test or prove or argue, but it’s one more of those things that I have complete faith is true.
Oh Lord, I have so much to give thanks for, yet so little energy for giving thanks.
Thank You for our health and for each other and for our relationship with You, most especially.
This is an odd time when I feel so very grateful and yet so reticent to sit down to spend time with You.
I’m always grateful when I get here, but so uninspired to be here—anywhere, really.
I don’t understand the near complete lack of compulsion, the ennui, when there’s really nothing keeping me from here, no other demands for my time.
This time in isolation due to Corona Virus is truly strange. I’m even grateful for it in many ways — especially for the slowing of our world and for the chance to stop and appreciate Your way and Your purposes for us — but it is strange.
Someone I was reading this morning likened it to a spiritual retreat — a time to be alone and uninterrupted with You, when I might be especially open to Your inspiration.
And so, I pray for that now Holy Lord. I pray that You might move me to write, just a little movement that might move me forward still to some worthwhile revelation; just a small word that might calm or move another somehow during this time.
Only with Your help will I find the strength to do this, for I am otherwise limp with irrelevance.
It’s a mystery why things happen as they do. We try to trust that God will not abandon us, but sometimes we feel alone. Well-meaning friends may try to cheer us up, yet tears are often the only possible response.
When we pour out our hearts like that, we are in good company. Jesus himself grieved. When his friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Countless saints, too, suffered losses that caused them grief and agony. But when they poured out their hearts to God, he came into their grief. He might not have taken their grief away, but he walked through it with them.
Grief is authentic. David grieved over Absalom, and it was right. Jesus grieved over Lazarus, and it was right. We should feel free to grieve our losses. We don’t have to grieve alone. We can bring our sorrow to the Lord, lay it before him and allow him grieve with us. Allow him to remind us that He promises “to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2). Let him remind us that our Father is “the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Then, when we have poured out our heart, rest in Him and let his love wash over us.
As with the whole of the last week, You have blessed us here with clear skies and warm weather. These blessings have been appreciated by everyone in our community and all our neighbors who are clearing and cleaning up debris, recovering after the treacherous tornadoes that attacked our area. So much devastation. So many lives lost. So many lives altered forever. I pray that You have them all in the palm of Your mighty hand.
My needs are so small by comparison. We were spared from the storm’s damage. But in its aftermath, I have had trouble concentrating on anything for long, trouble concentrating on You, Father.
You know. You’ve watched my struggle to be present with You in my Rosaries, at Mass, in my daily time with You. I’m sorry. My thoughts seem to have a mind of their own. How I should I act? How I should be helping? Who? Feelings of inadequacy, as I have tried to find ways to offer my help, ways that are relevant to others’ needs, ways helpful to their circumstance.
And I’ve worried for myself. Such a miserable worthless bit, am I, Father. Better to ask, how do I still my own chaos and neediness and simply be in Your presence?
I should be here on my knees with You praying for everyone. It’s always been my most useful work, yet it feels so small, such a little an offering, given from such safe and protected surroundings.
Still, You’ve already instructed me on this over and over in the past. My desire to offer big things, to help in big and tangible ways is my own ego whispering in my ear. You have most often wanted my prayers, been most responsive to my spiritual caring for others.
In this, too, Father?
So be it.
For whom do I pray? Where do I start?
I pray, Holy Lord, for all those poor and wretched human beings, who were homeless and outside when the storm passed through. Those who were terrified and lost and without a hand to hold or another’s heart to love them through the storm. I pray they felt then, and sense even now, Your loving spirit protecting them and consoling them in their confusion.
I pray for those who died, who sheltered as best they could, but still were crushed by the fury of the storm. I pray for their families and friends, who grieve and mourn their loss, I pray that You are with them and comfort them in their pain and loss. I pray for the souls of those departed, that You accept them into Your presence and loving care, as they find their way to You and Your peace.
I pray for those fearful and frightened, those terrorized by the rage and fury of the storm, who lost their homes, were ejected from the comfort of their shelter into the fury and the danger of the night, barefooted, bedraggled, newly homeless. I pray they draw closer to You as they receive Your love through Your Holy Spirit in their faith and their hope for the future; and through the loving care, the charity, of this community and their friends and neighbors and loved ones. I pray that You bless them with the knowledge and comfort of Your grace through the storm of their lifetime; and with the knowledge that, if through this storm, then surely, through any storm they may face.
I pray and give thanks for those whose immediate response was to act; those in whom You have placed gifts of knowledge and ability to act confidently and quickly in emergencies to protect people and property, identify needs, work immediately to board up windows, cut up downed trees, clear roads, disconnect downed power lines, if possible, until other professional emergency responders could be dispatched for the work of replacing power poles and transmission lines, restoring power, covering buildings whose roofs were ripped away, organizing debris for pickup and disposal. Those who came with chainsaws and trucks and bulldozers from hundreds of miles away and from next door to help, those receiving pay and those literal tens of thousands receiving only the comfort of knowing they acted through Your compassion.
I give thanks for the reporters who, at more personal risk than is often advisable, worked to let everyone know and understand what happened, what we could do, what we should not do, what is helpful, what is not…who reported the overwhelming abundance of Your love.
I give thanks for all those who took charge and organized the community response. There was such an outpouring of love and help and caring and aid that it was, at times, chaotic and confused, but it was out of the abundance of Your love, holy Lord. Even those who don’t know You well, yet, were acting from the Holy Spirit that You have given them. There has been no blue nor red, no Christian or Jew or Muslim, no Democrat or Republican, no hipster, rocker, or country crooner or, precious Lord, any ones other than those You created and loved into being. Those who, as a phoenix rising literally from ashes, stand strong. Hold us all close to You, Holy Father. Help us, I pray, and mold us into Your one perfect body here on earth, pleasing in Your sight, worthy of Your love.
I give thanks to You for all the generosity of businesses and celebrities who have given so generously of their resources — their time, their treasure and their talent — to rescue efforts. This is a special place. So many have said so. That the response here has been so overwhelming. Practically no one sat by watching, waiting for someone else to act. Everyone found something to do, some help to offer, some way to love.
I give thanks that You allowed us a chance to give and offer our helping hands. So little to offer; so much need; and yet, part of the larger body of benevolence and loving spirit of service.
And I give You thanks, Holy Lord, for helping me articulate these prayers, for placing them in my heart, for the grace of loving You and being loved so bounteously in return.
I give thanks that You have called me to prayer and time and again You have gently guided me to the knowledge that it is not my job to sort out the details of who and how and what and where, to be at the center, or to be the do-er of great things, but only to listen, to do what You ask, to love You and entreat You to do great things on behalf of those other ones whom You place in my heart through Your grace.
In this time, Holy Father,
This time of tornado destruction and recovery,
This time of plague of coronavirus Covid 19,
This time of global economic collapse being experienced worldwide,
This time of corruption and evil, which is overwhelming Your Church here on earth,
This time of Satan so skillfully and so deeply embedding his lies and deceit into the very fabric and sinew of Your creation, the creation that You named ‘good,’ even, ‘very good,’
This time which is described so completely by Your son, St. John the Apostle in Revelations, I pray that You come, Holy Lord, and save us this one last time for all time.
Reveal to everyone Your Most Beautiful Face, be our one and only true King, and bring peace — the peace that passes all our understanding — to our world.
It is in Your power, Holy Lord. Only Your power can heal and mend and put everything right again, that we might walk with You in the garden You planned for us from the beginning, that we might love You, delighting in all of Your creation, that we might know true contentment — even in our knowledge of good and evil — that we might know what it is like to live and love and have our being in the comfort and security of Your loving kindness.
So many thanks to each of You who has thought to check in on us here in Nashville after the tremendous tornado that blew through our lives early Tuesday morning — super Tuesday 2020 will forever have a different meaning for us.
We’re safe…now. But there are so many others — people who live just blocks from us here in East Nashville, people who live just across the Cumberland river to the west of us in Germantown and Buena Vista, people just across the river to the east of us in Donelson and Hermitage and Mt. Juliet, and still further east on the Cumberland Plateau in Cookeville — people we see at the gym and in the grocery store, along Shelby running trail, the coffee shop down the street — not just the few whose names we know or to whom we’ve spoken at some point, whose dog we may have petted along the way, but thousands of people — we’re all neighbors now. We all shared in the fury of the storm. We’ll all share — in ways I don’t think I can even imagine in just this minute – we’ll all share in the recovery.
Before dawn on this super-Tuesday — a redefined and repurposed super-Tuesday — people were posting on social media, ‘My truck and my chainsaw are both fully gassed. My hands are ready to help whoever needs them.’ And the immediate responses came, ‘I’m with you. I’ll be over at … I’ll meet you at…’ Or another questioned, ‘How can I help? I have extra room for you to stay, a shower, towels, clothes..PM me.’
So many people affected directly, personally — those who died or lost a loved one, those missing, and their grieving families, surely. Those, too — newly homeless, wandering the streets in the dark in their pajamas and house slippers, many carrying a pet, a few belongings, maybe, that they were able to salvage before being evacuated from their homes, before broken glass and boards with upturned nails and gas leaks further wounded their lives, before the nearby Farmers’ Market opened to offer them shelter.
And those too, also newly homeless, sitting dazed in their front yard as the sun dawned to reveal the leavings of the storm’s fury — roofs stripped from their houses, homes lifted from their foundations and planted yards away, brick siding hanging, threatening, and the trees, all the trees, across roads, atop houses, through windows; cars upturned, crumbled, one lifted and shot through the third story of a building; broken glass, nails, slivered wood and debris scattered and everywhere downed electric lines and poles and water from broken water mains and the smell of gas from broken gas lines and the flashing red and blue lights of police and fire and medical responders.
And the reporter, trying to capture it all for the world to see, standing in front of a local mural, mysteriously preserved from the devastation all around — a favorite, on a different day just 12 hours ago, for tourists taking memory photos — saying, “We Believe In Nashville.”
Already music concerts — fundraisers to help pay for the clean up and rebuilding — are happening, More are being planned in nearby living rooms and studios and by musicians throughout the region. Hope. Prayer in action everywhere around us.
Personally, it’s only in the storm’s aftermath that we realize the bliss of ignorance. As we were awakened to the roar of what we would only later learn were 165 mph winds circling continuous blasts of lightning with their immediate claps of thunder, just over our house, we wondered what was happening. After a few moments we heard what must have been delinquent sirens wailing in the distance, barely audible through the raging roar of the wind. And we wondered, amazed by the force of the storm’s fierceness, what was happening.
What is happening? What now? Who to help? How to help? How to give thanks that we were, in our bliss, passed over by a furious and awesome force? How to pray? For whom to pray?
We’re okay. Praise God, we’re all okay. Those of us who were passed over are each finding our way to be a prayer in action. Fears of the coronavirus seem a distant memory, a silly, self-indulgence. The other super-Tuesday, a nearly irrelevant after-thought.
We’re all neighbors now, all members of one body, all needed and all pleasing in His sight. He was very close last night and very Superior. He’s walking among us today on this Holy ground, working through us, as we begin the labor and love of restoration and repair.
What should I do, Holy Lord? How should I be, when I’m feeling restless and dissatisfied?
1. Turn around, retrace your steps, figure out where you lost your way, where you lost sight of My love for you. 2. If you search and search to no avail, do as Mary and Joseph did when they lost sight of Jesus. Make your way to the temple. Seek Him in prayer. 3. Listen for Him. Wait for Him to speak. Do what He says.
In the meantime …
Pray for sight. Plant a flower; Feed the birds; Go for a walk in the country; Go to a market with fresh food and flowers; Smile and greet those whom I have placed along your way.
Give away that which you wish to receive. Pray for a friend; Go to a movie; Cook a new recipe; Share it joyfully, maybe with someone in need.
Make a list. What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Who makes you happy? Who disappoints you?
Pray for ears to hear. Call a friend; Make a date; Listen for My voice; Do as I say.
Pray… For all those things and people that make you unhappy. Pray… That I show you how to love them, just as I love them; Pray for their good, Will their good, In your prayers to Me and through your action.
Pray… For all those things and people that make you happy. Pray… That they are strengthened and renewed by your prayers; Pray… They are led deeper, More meaningfully Into their relationship with Me, their loving Father.
Pray for yourself, That you learn to love all things as I love them, That you learn to love yourself as I love you, Unceasingly and without hesitation.
Pray. Then breath. Then pray some more, Confident in the sure knowledge that I hear every word. Certain that My peace, Which passes your understanding, Surrounds you, Enfolds you, even now in this moment.
Holy Spirit, that perfect love between God, our Father, and Jesus, His fully human, fully divine Son.
A love in which the child adores, trusts implicitly, honors and obeys the Father, While the Father cherishes His Child with affection So sweet, So precious, Filled with protection and guidance, Support and loving correction.
As we watch from a distance, The Father’s and Child’s eyes meet. He seals his love with a kiss on the Son’s forehead. The Son wraps His little fingers around His Father’s finger, Shuts His eyes, falling into an innocent, trusting sleep.
And in a deep shared sigh, Father and Son release their collective breath, The Son, warm and secure in the Father’s arms. The Father, relaxed, confident, at peace, Even as he is forever more at watch over the Son.
Fill us today, Holy Lord, with Your loving Spirit.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good afternoon, Father. Thank You for this beautiful day that You’ve given us in Your mercy and Your delight.
My daughter continues to be sad about her favorite pet’s and other’s recent deaths in her life and she’s still suffering from the flu. Now upon her return to work, she is feeling as thought she’s still ‘running on empty,’ emotionally, and very unappreciated and taken for granted.
And she probably is being taken for granted. Poor sweet girl. You know what’s going on, don’t You, Father?
So, what is the message You’re sending her? Can I help carry it to her for You? I felt at Mass this morning as though I had an insight from You that might be helpful for her. If it is Your will that I should talk with her about this, please help me to recall and recapture the thread and then, to find a way to express it to her that is pleasing to You and that resonates with her.
I tried to think about what You want for her to understand. It seems as though life has been piling an extraordinary number of challenges on her lately. At the same time, I feel as though there’s always a message from You somewhere in the midst of our strife — similar to the pony in a room full of horse manure — and maybe that’s the analogy that will resonate with her. She’s familiar with this story from childhood.
Where’s the blessing for her in all that has gone on in her life over the last several weeks?
I considered this morning that if I were to name my daughter’s greatest passion in life (so far), it would have to be service and caring for those too weak to care for themselves…animals being somewhere near the top of her list. She has always wanted to do things for people and she has always cared about rescuing people and animals in trouble.
I don’t think her motivation starts out being service or rescue in order to be recognized as a server or a rescuer. But like so many of us, when the recognition of our good works doesn’t come, the gratitude for our help isn’t expressed, we can become disappointed, dis-spirited. Not only that, but later, when we need others’ help in return or the understanding of another or just someone’s patience while we make our way through our own misery and sorrow, then, when our favors are not reciprocated, resentment and anger can well up in us.
Often, since we didn’t give or serve or rescue or exercise patience for the sake of recognition in the first place, the anger and resentment are followed quickly by guilt for being the one needing another’s understanding,…and yet…sigh.
It’s a nasty circle of neediness and dependence, Father. You understand. You’ve watched this tendency in us humans to look to other humans for our sense of well-being. It’s been like this ever since You created our first parents and they failed You in the garden. But today, even as You promised them back then, we have only to lift our eyes to You to find You watching us. We only have to call on Your name to be reminded that You know and see everything we do — each act of kindness, each act of forgiveness, each act of patience, each act of service in aid of another — You see it all and You bless us each time with Your love and Your comfort.
So why, right now, are You allowing her to feel so unappreciated, such sadness?
Is it Your way of helping her to lift her eyes to You? To seek only Your appreciation, Your blessing. To recognize that the only faithful, constant, true love we will ever experience is Your love, the love You have for us. To know, with everything that we are, that it is You who sends us out into the world, to serve You, Lord, as You bless others through our actions and our words.
Yours is the blessing, not ours. It is You who gives, You who serves, You who forgives. We are only Your vessels through which You act here on earth. So often, Father, others whom are blessed by You through us do not even realize they’ve been blessed. They may even think they deserve all that they’ve received from us. But still it’s Your blessing, Father, not ours. Yours to give. Yours to judge. All Yours.
So, are we to simply act to allow Your blessings to flow through us without any attachment to the quality of others’ reception, any expectation of a favor returned?
Yes, I think so. If they appreciate us, so be it. Glory to You, Lord.
If they do not, no worry, no shame. We have already received our reward by virtue of allowing You to break into our lives and to use us.
Our reward is Your presence here with us as we follow our passion — in M’s case to serve and to rescue.
In Your compassion, Father, — literally translated as You being with us in our passion — You are with us, around us, walking next to us, helping us to carry our burdens (all the elements of our passion — our fervor, our joy, our rage, our misery, our sorrow, our ecstasy, our suffering), helping us to carry the crosses of our passion.
What I sense You wanting her to understand — because she is so close now to lifting the veil that obscures Your beautiful mystery — is that You’re right there with her. All the time with her.
She has only to look up with her spiritual eyes, to clear the film blurring her spiritual vision and there’ll You’ll be: arms out-stretched, longing to enfold her in Your warmth and Your loving embrace, excited to explain to her all the ways in which You are calling her to Yourself, all the ways in which You envision using her here on earth in service to You, aching to share in her pain — for that’s what passion is really, isn’t it, Father? pain? When others ignore her or disregard her service or her contributions or her insights or when they scold her for her goodness or try to entrap her in their lies and misrepresentations, just as they did with Jesus, Your Son, when he walked here on earth with us — aching to help her know how very good and beautiful she is, how beautiful her heart is in Your sight — both in our physical reality and in Your spiritual sight.
Your way is so simple, Father, yet so difficult: Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.
And when people here on earth don’t respond or worse, respond in hurtful ways, we must turn to You again and again and yet again. Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.
All is Yours, heavenly Lord. All goodness, all righteousness, all beauty, all truth. Thank You for allowing us to share in this spiritual reality with You, Father, and to come finally to rest in You, to come finally to find our peace in Your grace.
I pray all this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.