In Blizzards and Winter Storms, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests

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Lord Hear Our Prayer,

During this season of continued storms of snow and ice and freezing rain, in the relentless cold and winds that chill our bodies and our spirits, let us remember our priests.

They too struggle with this weather. Not only to meet the demands of being a priest, they also ache in their hearts for those who are most vulnerable: the poor and homeless, the elderly and the sick—those who have become isolated.

We pray for our priests who feel overwhelmed by the needs of their flock. We pray for our priests who work with limited resources to help those in need. We pray that our priests find strength in you for the burden they carry when they cannot help everyone who needs.

Lord hear our pray that our priests persevere in the challenges of a burdensome winter that threatens the people whom you have entrusted to their care. Amen.

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Painted Pony Beans and Nature’s Hold

Lima Beans

When my friend, Linda, and I bought this house thirty-one years ago we had to literally dig out the basement with coal shovels. It looked like a hoarder lived downstairs. With the help of Linda’s family the basement was eventually cleared, scrubbed and white-washed.

This January there was extensive (and expensive) work done in our unfinished basement. The ducts had to be cleaned, patched and insulated. The furnace too had to be repaired. Then there were the five slow leaking water lines that my repairs had been insufficient to stop, and the plumber wasn’t called until the washing machine hoses gave out. It’s not that I’m negligent about maintaining a home, it’s about financial priorities when poor.

With all the upheaval, the stacks of boxes, stored furniture, bins of lumber, shelves of paint and crates of gardening supplies were displaced or covered in a thick layer of dust. I was startled after the last repairman left; the basement again looked like a hoarder was living there.

I was overwhelmed by the amount of effort needed to clean up the mess. I have physical limitations and knew the basement had to be cleaned…somehow. The only way I could accomplish the task would be in small bursts. My goal was set: 30 minutes a day, four days a week until. I prayed for endurance.

The journey of a thousand steps (remember, I’m in a basement) began with the area under the stairs. This was my gardening hold that over the years had encroached nearly four feet into the laundry area. Wearing face mask and gloves, I wiped down and sorted through hundreds of vases, containers and pots. I allowed myself only one box for items I would keep. The sorting resulted in three large boxes for donation, four bags of garbage, and five crates of terra-cotta pots and saucers for a friend who would crush them for a small path in her garden.

Some items carried memories of a place or a person, and though I hesitated a moment to allow the memory to float through, most of the objects were easily passed along.

That was except for when I came to several crates of nature elements.

Inside a paper grocery bag were ten-inch long by one-inch wide canoe shaped pods from a trumpet vine. The back of the light brown pods were smooth and as soft as flannel. Each pod was slightly curved, and nested in that bag they looked like little wooden smiles appropriately sized for snowmen.

My fascination with dried beans goes back to childhood when I would stir the farm market’s bins of seeds with my hands. That enchantment is still with me fifty years later. A two-gallon apothecary jar contained Painted Pony beans, coppery-brown with speckled white rumps. There were three two-quart mason jars filled with shiny black Turtle beans that have a white dotted midpoint; I had planned to create a small mosaic-like plant stand with their little dots facing up. I also had jars of magenta striped Crimson beans, large Limas, and chocolate-on-honey Pinto beans.

The next crate had cones. Pug-nosed sequoia, long papery spruce, feathery Douglas fir, and pine cones with their incrementally spiraled crowns.

Another crate had palm-sized rocks gathered from lake sides and woodlands, and a small 50# kraft bag of white sand. Peeking into a 35-gallon bag, I found it filled with driftwood.

What was it about these items that caused such resistance to being discarded? I easily pass along purchased items or gifts from friends, but these…these unearned gifts from nature…I was unwilling to part with.

Standing there circled by crates of pods and beans, rocks and wood, I found myself in a revealing paradox. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).  And I wondered…What is this hold that nature has on me? How, in my cloistered life, do I connect with others?

I sat down on an empty crate and picked up the jar of Painted Pony beans. Placing my hand inside, I stirred them with my fingers and wondered where I needed to let go.

Image Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons

(1/2013)

Naiveté of a New Life, Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns

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When the decision is made to progress into a new way of life, the associated fear of the unknown can halt our movement. Sometimes we are faced with our own naiveté when we discover that we don’t even know what we don’t know.

And though we’ve prayed, and sought advice from those more experienced, only the person, within themselves, can we quell the anxiety and choose to step into the unfamiliar.

Let us pray for those beloved women who have discerned a calling to become Sisters and Nuns. Let us pray for their concerns to be transformed into trusting God’s will, for if God had brought them to the edge of such a life, he will surely guide them to fruition.

Let us pray, too, for those consecrated Sisters and Nuns who mentor the novices to be all they have been called to be.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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Rule of St. Benedict, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests

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In the Rule of St. Benedict it states for the monastery Abbott:  

Let him who know, then, that he who has undertaken the government of souls must prepare himself to render an account of them…he may be sure beyond a doubt that on Judgment Day he will have to give to the Lord an account of all these souls, as well as of his own soul.

 That, not only for our Abbots but also for our priests, is a demanding—possibly terrifying—responsibility. It is one that few of us would be willing to undertake unless called.

Let us pray for these courageous men willing to step into such a perilous job description. Let us pray, always, that Our Lord grant them the strength and perseverance in the governance and guidance of the souls under their watch.

Amen

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The Oxymoron of an Anchoress on a Silent Retreat

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It was a sweet and gratuitous offer from Father, one that I didn’t want to accept. He kept calling it a contemplative retreat—whatever, it was a silent retreat, and I live an eremitic life.

Indecision is generally not the nature of my character. Taking time to mull things over, trusting the holy to manage the details, I’d throw myself full-on into what was at hand. Let me add, that that assurance only goes so far when neglecting to consult with Our Lord.

For nearly a month I waffled about attending the retreat. The preceding two months had been filled with activity, and so the upstairs hermitage felt pretty comfortable. (There’s that word again—comfortable. It’s kind of like when you are contacted for urgent prayers, and you just know you’ll get hit with something to offer up on their behalf.)

The day before the retreat began—yes, I’d procrastinated that long—I heard there would be a significant snow storm. No better place to be holed up for a winter event than on a lovely 95 acre wooded site, where somebody else cooks and shovels out the car. I was swayed, so called the center, deciding ahead of time that if the room I needed was assigned I wouldn’t go. Well, of course it was available and, AND, I learned that there would be over 40 women attending! So much for it being silent.

Fine, I grunted after I’d hung up, surrendered and began to pack.

When I arrived I was given a crisp green folder filled with handouts and learned—oh, the irony of it all—that the retreat would be on how to pray. I couldn’t help but laugh with God.

The sessions would be the Carmelite methodology of prayer: St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. The presenters used words I’d never heard before—a language for and about an activity second nature in my life. As a supplicant, I experience private prayer as inclusive, communal, and encompassing. This, this prayer technique, it seemed almost vertical, singular, and personal.

Like a child in her certitude I spiritually resisted each time I heard them say “…a personal relationship with Jesus…”. My strong will to follow God’s will began to feel like stubbornness. Was this lack of openness, as my confessor had warned, the beginning of spiritual narcissism?

The first day ended with Adoration that night, and my silent confusion.

snow and magnolia

As I sat in the Gaze of Mercy, I felt Our Lord ask “Let me look at you…I love to look at you.” These words were from a shared story, which goes something like this: Each day, after school, a mother would wash and press her young daughter’s uniform. In the morning the child would be clean and fresh for a new day of learning. Before the child left for school the mother would say to her, “Let me look at you” checking her from head to toe, then “I just love to look at you.”

I’ve never been a parent, never received or understood that kind of gazing. To be looked upon with the eyes of love, for no other reason than that you exist, I imagined would be profound.

I was awake most of the night as the implications of those words swirled in my thoughts. By early dawn I needed a good long walk, and did so for two hours in the gentlest of winter storms. Falling snow creates a special kind of silence, and softness.

two birch treesAnd eventually I got it.

The beauty of existence, loved into it and through it, pierced my heart. There was  joy in knowing what it is to be the child of a parent looking upon you in all your sweet wonders.

It is good to be somebody’s beloved daughter.

Now, on with the lessons…

2013

Images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.