Feed Me. Now!

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Mass was at a church that had been reclassified, rather, to use the Bishop’s words, “suppressed” as an Oratory. After a priest created a rift in the faithful the number of parishioners had dropped. The decline in the worshipping community never regained its former attendance. 

I sat back and lifted the kneeler having offered the prayers brought with me. I looked at the many beautiful, although disparate images and statues about the modern octagonal structure. On the wall behind the altar a modern mosaic framed a crowned and stylized risen Christ the King. To each side of it were hung large cloth portraits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and matching Immaculate Heart of Mary, reminiscent of 1950s prayer cards. Each of the side walls framed an assortment of Marian statues and images, statues of saints, and portraits and crucifixes of Jesus. It felt crowded, jarring, as if by adding more, more holiness would come. 

We stood as the priest and deacon advanced down the main aisle. I groaned to myself. The priest was in his nineties. He is a holy and dedicated priest who had served our churches well and for a very long time. Of late he would get confused while at the altar. His homilies would ramble on and on as he included bits of well worn verses from the whole of the Bible. Cohesiveness had escaped him, though the love for shepherding had not. It was going to be a long service. 

The accompanying deacon exaggerated all that he deemed appropriately holy. His slow and deliberate affectations, and singing everything, were a distraction. When he read the Gospel he paused for drama. At every. Single. Word. 

My expectations for being nourished by the Word of God were thwarted. I was irked by the whole of it all with these two presiding. I was not into Mass and numbly recited the Penitential Act, barely listened to the readings, and mentally checked out as the priest hobbled to the ambo for what I anticipated to be one of his long disjointed homilies.

Finally. We were at the point of the Eucharistic Prayers.

After the aged priest offered a cursory, and what appeared painful, genuflection, the tremors in his hands stopped as he raised the host inches above the altar. Having lowered his arms we the congregation chanted “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” And it hit me—my judging heart had come close to silencing communion with God! 

The shame of my critical nature caused me to pause before I moved into the communion line. I realized I needed the Eucharist more than ever that morning. Tears welled up as I ate and drank His body and blood and felt—begged—the words “…and my soul shall be healed.” 

I didn’t understand why I felt impatience toward a loving and dedicated priest who for decades had given powerful homilies that fed the soul and encouraged the mind.  And what business was it of mine how a deacon is inspired at Mass? 

I am still praying about my sense of entitlement last Sunday…and a strong need for Grace.

Thursdays Prayer for Priests Persecuted by ISIS

This prayer appeared in a similar version for Sisters and Nuns on Tuesday:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend and protect our Priests and monks in this time of great danger in Iraq. As they are persecuted for their faith, and in their fleeing from Islamic extremist, keep anger and hatred from damaging their souls. Help them to be a candle in this chaotic night of oppression that they may draw to themselves other Christians who, for the love of Jesus, have lost everything, fleeing genocide. Keep the hands of our priests strong and steady as they consecrate the precious body and blood of our Lord, and guard their souls should they face martyrdom. Let their blood, and that of all those murdered for the love of Christ, strengthen the resolve of all who remain in exodus. Beloved St. Michael bring our holy men to safety in this world, and for those martyred in the name of Jesus, the Nazarene, guide them quickly home into His loving embrace. Amen.

A post from the Editor of the Catholic Channel, Elizabeth Scalia, has these words to offer prayer for all those being persecuted by ISIS, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2014/07/22/the-isis-effect-flattened-everything-is-gone

Concise Silence

 

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For those of us called to an anchoritic life, the silence of solitude teaches interior repose and perseverance in prayer, turning towards the Spirit within as the sunflower turns towards and follows the sun.

The perspective and peace brought of silence is, rarely, an opened parcel in daily life. We twirl about stepping over it, directing ourselves towards yet another distraction—injustices, persecutions, disordered behaviors, family life where we spin plates on poles and try to keep them from falling, or the running whole heartedly towards evaporating happiness.

In the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter six addresses the humility of and contains strong language about the “Spirit of Silence.”  He teaches that “…in the flood of words… [lies] …the key to life and death…” For without silence the intent of prayer is weakened and the rightness of action confounded.

The monk Idesbald Van Houtryve writes in Benedictine Peace

The friend of silence draws near to God and, entering secretly into a holy familiarity with Him, is enlightened by His divine light. For the man or woman who wants to lead a spiritual life, the silence of solitude is a freedom, a security, and a fortress, a sort of shelter against the noises of the world…Silence teaches interior repose and diligence in prayer.

The silence being referred to here is not one of constraint for lack of charity, refraining from condemnation, though this is certainly an important part of the practice. It is the interior silence that occupies oneself with God in the prayer of the heart, the practice of an interior retreat.

Those who evangelize with words have purpose in their words—and care must be taken to practice silence before making pronouncements. Again from Monk Idesbald:

There are some who speak from morning to evening and yet do not violate the law of silence; the point is that they pronounce no word without a reason. Dumbness is not a virtue in itself. It is good to speak when duty requires…[but] it may also proceed from indignation and from pride.

I am a slow writer; it feels unnatural to plant words instead of flowers. The words are written in a loving sense of duty and are chosen, rearranged, left to rest and reworked. I leave them to grow as God sees fit, and practice—instead of marketing—the art of being well-pleasing to God.

We feel an estrangement from oneself when the mind is disordered by distractions. There is a beauty in the freedom of prolonged solitude, and also a beauty, I am coming to realize, in the going out and the coming back.

Once gain I will be going out, and be among the throngs of attendees at the writers conference. I long to feel that which is denied in an anchoritic life—the physical embrace of genuine peace, a heartfelt hug. It will be a different kind of quieting among the distractions in the days to come, it will be one where isolation is silenced and prayer and praise are openly sung.

 

Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns Persecuted in Iraq

St. Michael the Archangel, defend and protect our Sisters and Nuns in this time of great danger in Iraq. As they are persecuted for their faith, and in their fleeing from Islamic extremist, keep anger and hatred from damaging their souls. Help them to be a candle in this chaotic night of oppression that they may draw to themselves other Christians who, for the love of Jesus, have lost everything, fleeing genocide. Guard the souls of our Sisters and Nuns should they face martyrdom, and let their blood, and that of all those murdered for the love of Christ, strengthen the resolve of all who remain in exodus. Beloved St. Michael bring our holy women to safety in this world, and for those martyred in the name of Jesus, the Nazarene, guide them quickly home into His loving embrace. Amen.

UPDATE: a post from the Editor of the Catholic Channel, Elizabeth Scalia, has these wonderful words to offer prayer for all those being persecuted by ISIS, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2014/07/22/the-isis-effect-flattened-everything-is-gone/

(An earlier prayer http://www.patheos.com/blogs/prayergardens/2014/06/tuesdays-prayer-for-sisters-and-nuns-in-mosul-and-throughout-iraq/)

 

Off with Their Heads! Deadheading for Reblooming, Practical Gardening

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Like most gardeners I like a lot of flowers all season.  If you’re not a fan of annuals, you probably search for the few perennials that bloom all summer. You can also extend the bloom period of perennials by deadheading.

Deadheading is the maintenance practice of removing spent flowers. By deadheading you keep the plants looking tidy, redirect the plant’s energy from seed production to roots and top growth, minimize reseeding, and for most perennials prolong the flowering period for a couple of weeks. Extending a blooming period is different than remontant blooming where a cultivar is designed to “remount” with blossoms a second time in the season without our intervention, i.e. specific cultivars of Daylilies or the yellow Corydalis.

Deadheading can range from a daily activity to every couple of weeks depending on seasonal temperatures, rainfall, and the species. Often times when I wandered through my (small) backyard in the morning, coffee cup in hand, I’d find myself snapping off spent flowers.  I felt less overwhelmed by doing this task daily.

Your queue will be the overall appearance of the perennial as flowers decline. But don’t wait too long to deadhead, unless you are saving seeds. When spent flowers become seed heads, chemical changes occur that can halt flower production.

There are several perennials that produce flowers along their stems and on a spike that can have their blooming period extended by deadheading.

To deadhead perennials that produce flowers along their stem, known as laterally, cut just below the spent flower at the first set of leaves or next bud. A few common perennials with both terminal and lateral flowering are Bee Balm (Monarda), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Coneflower (Echinacea), False Sunflowers (Heliopsis), Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum) and Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia).

There are several perennials that flower from the bottom up on single or multi-branching spikes. The single flowering spike should be deadheaded when about three quarters of the stem has finished blooming. Cut it off at the same junction as mentioned above. In the case of multi-branching spikes, like Globe Thistle (Echinops) or Hollyhock (Alcea), each flower head and its stem can be removed to the central spike. A few common perennials with spiked flowers are Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum), Delphinium, Foxglove (Digitalis), Lupine, Miniature Hollyhock (Sidalcea) and Spiked Speedwell (Veronica).

Deadheading flowers of one-time bloomers keeps them looking good but does not prolong the flowering. Some of the more recognizable single-season bloomers are Bergenia, Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), most Coral Bells (Heuchera), most Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Hosta, Iris, Lamb’s Ear (Stachys) and Rose Mallow (Hibiscus). Daylilies and Iris can be groomed daily but you will also need to remove the spent flowering stalks.

Another method of deadheading is shearing. This is done when masses of flowers die back all at once, as with thread leaf Coreopsis. With one hand gathering up the spent blooms and with the other clip off the stems and part of the upper leaf cover using garden scissors. Perennial Geranium (not the annual Pelargonium, aka Zonal) and Salvia can be cut back almost to the ground to produce a second flowering. This method may look messy, but all will look fine in a few days.

It’s no secret on how to have longer lasting color from your perennials…just give ‘em a pinch!