Send us Good and Holy Religious, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests

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O Jesus, Good Shepherd, who have come to save what was lost, you have established the priesthood of the Holy Church, so that the work of Redemption might be perpetuated. We ask you urgently: send laborers into your vineyard! Give your Holy Church worthy and holy priests. Give your Holy Church religious brothers and sisters. Grant that all those whom you have chosen from all eternity may follow your call. Do not allow anyone who is unworthy to ascend the steps of the altar.

Confirm all priests and religious in their difficult vocation and bless their efforts and labors. Grant that they may be the salt of the earth which preserves from corruption and that they may be the light of the world which enlightens the faithful by their words and example. Grant them wisdom, patience and fortitude in order that they may promote your honor, propagate your Kingdom in the hearts of men, and guide the souls which have been entrusted to them to eternal life.

Amen

Prayer shared from https://www.praymorenovenas.com/

Image Pixabay.com, CCO creative Commons.

Graces from Gleditsia

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It was one of those perfect fall days when the clear cerulean sky contrasted the vivid reds and yellows of the maples, poplars, and the honey locust in my yard.

Settling into this house in 1988 one of the first things I did on the property, after removing all the trash and debris, was add trees. It takes time for trees to fill in the landscape. So during the time of roof repairs, plumbing and furnace upgrades, and painting, the trees grew on.

Eventually the time came to develop the gardens, and then a few decades later it was time to tear them out. Through it all, the trees remained.

My favorite tree, now matured to over forty feet high, is the Skyline Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Skycole’). It’s a thorn-less Locust variety (inermis in Latin means unarmed) and half the height of its native cousins.

The dark gray limbs are sturdy through storms, flexing without shattering in gusting winds or heavy snows, and have a lovely curve to them—an elegant feminine line. It leafs out in the spring in a neon chartreuse turning to a bright Kelly green by summer. Small pinnate leaves offer open dappled shade and raking is never an issue. This variety lacks seed pods. I’ve never had issues with any diseases or pests warned about in the literature. I’ve called it “that blessed tree”—for its shade, for its beauty, for its endurance.

The other day I gathered my lunch and a rosary, and went to sit under its boughs to rest.

The sky was clear and the sunlight crisp. A light and stirring breeze caused the poplar leaves to chatter and, as I walked under the locust, a cascade of shimmering yellow began to fall.

Each small leaf reflected the sunlight as it fell. Bits of gold danced around me and I was elated by the tiny leaves that landed on my head and arms.

I imagined the blessings of God to be much the same as those golden leaves—small and cumulative, bearing light. We may not take as much notice of God’s blessings when they come one by one. But looking back at all the mercies in life, the cascade of light is thrilling.

 

 

A Walk through the Garden

For those of you taking your daily walk through the beautiful prayer garden that is Margaret Realy’s blog post, you may notice a different gardener today. As Margaret is on retreat for a few weeks, she has very kindly allowed me to help tend to her garden while she is away.

In the garden

Image courtesy Marty Rymarz.

As an Oblate novice at the same monastery as Margaret, I have been blessed to become friends with her and see her daily blogs. For me, reading her daily post is not unlike taking a leisurely stroll through my local greenhouse in the spring. There, I see many beautiful flowers starting to bloom, waiting to be taken home and planted where they will grow and flower further. Margaret’s daily prayers are inspired flowers of thought that I take with me each day and allow them to germinate in my mind and flower in my soul. Like the lilies and petunias in the greenhouse, some of Margaret’s prayers are perennials and some are annuals. Some will stick with me year after year while others flower brilliantly for a time and may fade away with the season.

It is the loving embrace of God’s light and warmth that allows these flowers to blossom and our prayers to bloom to their full beauty.  A little seed that looks insignificant and gets tenderly planted in the soil may eventually blossom into a beautiful flower. Another type of seed may produce the vegetables that feed us. Though unseen, these seeds are quietly but faithfully striving upwards, ever upwards, towards heaven, until one day, they burst forth from the earth, straining towards the sky and the sustaining power of the Son.

So it is with God’s word and the prayers of others for us. These start as a little seed in our soul that can be covered for a time in the dirt of our concupiscence. Our daily prayers and contemplation give these seeds of our soul the water and warmth they need to grow.  They may manifest themselves, flowerlike, as a beautiful smile that we share with a stranger or a helping hand that we lend to those in need. They may also bloom as succulent fruit and healthy vegetables to feed our own spiritual needs when we minister to those in need. Our job, as gardeners of Jesus, is to cultivate these seeds, while pulling the daily weeds that can so easily sprout, until these seeds grow and others may appreciate the beauty of them as they are reflected not only in our words, but more importantly, in our actions.

So on this day, as we have taken the time to walk through this prayer garden, do we also take time to gaze in childlike awe at the beauty of God’s creation in both this garden and in the beauty of each other’s souls? Do we truly strive to see Jesus in everyone we encounter? For if we did, if we sought to see Christ in both our friends and those who challenge us, we would truly be living in a modern day Garden of Eden. And that garden, my friends, would not be a bad place to live until we reach that final destination that we know, as Christians, is the loving eternal communion with our Father in heaven.

Intimacy Relearned

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A pair of Mourning Doves rested beside the massive zucchini leaves near the bird bath. They cooed, crouching in the warm soil, and rubbing their heads along each others beak and neck. Scratching the soil with their feet they created a shallow divot. They tucked themselves down into the earthen bowl to lay close together, front to tail, heads resting atop one another’s back.

I watched these two birds with a sense of reverence. Mourning Doves mate for life. I wonder if they possess an innate sense of intimacy, unlike humans who require an awareness of it for close physical contact.

Sharing my thoughts with a friend, I learned that the physical element of intimacy was the least of its definitions. That caught me by surprise; I thought that was all of its meaning. When later I pulled the dictionary from the shelf, I found intimacy to mean:

  1. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
  2. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history
  3. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
  4. an amorously familiar act, sexual intercourse.

Being a survivor of abuse, the word intimacy tends to strike a cord of fear in my heart. Discovering that intimacy is largely about a mutual knowing of someone else, I had to think if and where this was true in my life and redefine what I thought.

My first sense of this closeness brought to mind the woman who guided me into a writing career. She is four hours drive away, and we talk on the phone often. This seems obvious, though, based on my original definition, I had only thought of her as a dear friend.

Another friendship, very different from the one above, is with a sister Benedictine Oblate who lives in New York. We’ve only met once and yet we share a deep spiritual connection with prayer for one another. The sense of deeply knowing the other increases as we read each others blogs or exchange emails. This is a friendship of absence; we are not involved with each others life.  I would never be asked to a wedding or baptism—and yet the prayers that flow between us are intimate and, I believe, reliable.

There is a developing closeness with a lovely woman in Westphalia, Michigan, and her family’s open welcoming of my presence. I had spent a night this week at their home and, in the morning, found loveliness in sharing prayer time in the company of another—a rare occurrence for me. The lightness I feel in her presence draws me out of my anchoritic life and at the same time breathes air into it.

A loving reciprocal relationship with another person isn’t something I’d imagined possible. I enjoy the company of (most) others and my solitary nature never drew me truly close to anyone. I always felt distanced, different, and singular.

Maybe it’s my aging, my lack of family, or, of late, being called out of my hermitage to be a pray-er, that draws me to appreciate more the profoundness of knowing another. There is a depth of learning more about myself through their eyes.

At times it makes me shudder, this word intimacy, when I realize that being known so is to be vulnerable. It has also opened my eyes to the startling closeness of God.

 

Summit Climbing

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I remembered being light headed and giddy. The man who had brought me to that secluded place held me tight as we leaned against the rocks of an adjoining mountainside. The air tickled my lungs in a way that a city girl—I was from Detroit—rarely experienced. There was a purity and thinness between where we stood on the alpine tundra, and God.

I had taken the summer off before beginning a graduate program at Michigan State University. He was a friend of a friend, a geologist, and worked as an oil drilling engineer—of sorts. He lived in Colorado and part of his job was hiking and surveying the land his company thought productive for drilling. He and his sister had planned several backwoods hiking adventures for the summer and he’d offered to fly me out to join them.

I had done a lot of hiking, cross-country skiing, and canoe portages around the Great Lakes. Not until that summer, over thirty-five years ago, had I seen mountains. We backpacked several trails throughout the Rockies, Tetons, Pikes Peak, and the Big Horn. What I experienced that summer was exhilarating and grueling. And I had thought myself fit! One such hike took us from a sweltering near ninety degrees at the ranger’s station, to snow gear a day and a half up a mountain.

Those memories came forward during morning prayers while reading a reflection in Magnificat (Aug 2014, p.52) by Sherry A. Weddell. Her description of Pike’s Peak Barr Trail sent my thoughts to wandering along rocky paths, sitting on cliffs bordering raging rivers, through forests, and gasping at the sight of being surrounded by alpine tundra wildflowers.

Sherry wrote of the challenges to reach Pike’s Peak summit on foot.

A small child could be carried up Pikes Peak, but adults cannot simply wander up to the summit casually, much less passively. They have to spend some seriously strenuous hours covering nearly thirteen miles…nearly five thousand feet through foothills, the montane (forest), and then the sub-alpine zone before climbing another three thousand feet beyond the tree line.

The air at the summit is thin, having less oxygen. The farther one goes hiking the trail, the more challenging the journey becomes. I remembered this from personal experience. I had not been trained, physically conditioned, in high-altitude environments, so for my safety hiking up only went so far.  Even at that I’d felt the mild side of mountain sickness—lightheadedness. To reach a summit is not, as Sherry said, a casual thing. Learning and conditioning come first in order to persevere in thin air.

It is to that intentionality that she speaks regarding Communion:

I don’t think it is an accident that the Church uses the metaphor of a summit to convey the significance of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is described as the summit, the apex, and the pinnacle of the Christian life….Just as we have actively to climb a mountain summit, we have to make an intentional journey, properly prepared, fully to receive the inexhaustible grace to be found in the Eucharistic Christ.

Any mountain climber or backwoods hiker will tell you, preparation is everything.

With that, let us pray that through the intercession of St. Bernard of Menthon for the protection of all who travel in the mountains of this earth, and the mountains in our souls, that they be granted strength and fortitude as they seek. Amen