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Mercy Surrounds Us

dark mercy

We exist in the infinite embrace of God’s mercy.  In mercy, we all were created.  In mercy, we all live.  In mercy, we all have the hope of eternal life.

The lavish mercy of God pours over us in every sunrise and sunset, in every noon and midnight.  With every breath, we draw on mercy.  With every thought, we capture its spirit and turn it to our hope.  The gift of such divine power in us calls us to lavish mercy with our own lives, to be agents of mercy in all things.

This journal is offered as an act of thanksgiving and celebration for that lavish mercy.  It is a gathering of reflections and prayers which sift through our ordinary experience to seek the breath-giving grace of God awaiting us there.

My name is Renee Yann. I am a Sister of Mercy.  I love to chase God through the bright blessing of words. I love to discover words in the dark blessing of silence. It is a joy to share with you the humble fruit of those mutual blessings.

Our entire theological tradition is expressed in terms of Mercy,
which I define as the willingness to enter into the chaos of others.
James F. Keenan, S.J.

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Promise Remembered

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, a recounting of the marvelous works God has done from the Abrahamic covenant to the Exodus. Indeed, our psalm celebrates God”s faithfulness to Abraham and to all generations, even us!

God remembers forever the sacred covenant
    which God made binding for a thousand generations –

Psalm 105:8

In our reading from Romans, Paul preaches about that Covenantal Promise. The text is a little deep, and I had to dig a bit to get my inspiration. But there are gems in these dense words!

It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.

This is a spiritually freeing passage. It assures us that God is with us through our faith, not through the perfection with which we keep laws and rules.


Our Gospel reinforces the message:

Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven

… the proverbial “bad apple”!

The passage is a little scary when first read, because we all hope we haven’t done anything to offend the Holy Spirit. But I think what Jesus is telling his listeners is this:

If a person criticizes or rejects my life and teaching, forgiveness is still possible when they come to their senses and repent. It’s like cutting the bad spot out of an otherwise good apple.

But if a person chooses to live a life which blasphemes (mocks, dismisses) the Spirit of life, love, mercy and peace, that person can never be forgiven — because they can never repent. They will be rotten to the core.


So the advice of Paul and Jesus boils down to this. Befriend the Holy Spirit by your life of faithful choices. Listen to the Spirit’s inspiration. Help others to do the same. And do not worry when you make a few mistakes. God stands by the promise to be with us always.


Poetry: The Promise Written by Rumi
Translated and read by Fatemeh Keshavarz

(Remember when reading that, for the Sufi mystic poets, everything was about God. Modern users often apply these poetic sentiments to human relationships, but they were not composed in that light.)

When pain arrives side by side with your love
I promise not to flee
When you ask me for my life
I promise not to fight

I am holding a cup in my hand
By God if you do not come
Till the end of time
I promise not to pour out the wine
Nor to drink a sip

Your bright face is my day
Your dark curls bring the night
If you do not let me near you
I promise not to go to sleep…nor rise

Your magnificence has made me a wonder
Your charm has taught me the way of love
I am the progeny of Abraham
I’ll find my way through fire

Please, let me drink water from the jug
This love is not a short-lived fancy
It is the daily prayer, the year-after-year fast
I live it, like an act of worship, till the end of my life

But then, a tree
Blessed not with fruits of your bounty
Will be dry wood for fire
Even if it drinks the ocean

On the wings of the Friend, fly o my heart!
Fly and look upward
For high on the peak of presence
Earthlings like you will not be let in

Others praise God at the time of affliction
You stay awake day and night
Steady, watchful like the wheel of the firmament

Time to stop speaking of the Friend
Jealousy won’t let me scatter the perfume to the wind


Music: Spirit of the Living God – Divine Hymns

Teresa of Avila

October 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of the great St. Teresa of Ávila, we pray with Psalm 32:

You are my shelter; you guard me from distress;
with joyful shouts of deliverance you surround me.

Psalm 32:7

We have all experienced these types of moments when we feel “delivered”.

  • We might have been praying for someone’s health, or our own.
  • We might have been caught in a difficult decision.
  • We might have been waiting for an acceptance letter or call.
  • We might have been hoping our apology would be accepted, or that one would be given.
  • We might have been aching for an inspiration, a thread of hope, or a new understanding.

And then —- Light!

We know what it feels like when the Light comes. But often, it is not the light we had expected. True “deliverance” comes not from shedding a worrisome circumstance. Instead, it comes from being incorporated into an unshakable faith and trust, as St. Teresa of Ávila describes it:

May today there be peace within. 
May you trust God that
you are exactly where you are meant to be. 
May you not forget
the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. 
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you. 
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. 
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom
to sing, dance, praise and love. 
It is there for each and every one of us.


Poem: Nada Te Turbe – Teresa of Ávila

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing:
God alone is changeless.
Patience 
obtains all things.
Whoever has God 
lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante.
Todo se pasa.
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia 
Todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.


Music: Two beautiful selections today

  1. Voice in My Heart – Iris Koh

2. A reflection in Spanish from the Discalced Carmelite Sisters

Pure Grace

Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 130 which promises that, even when we are in the depths, God offers us “the fullness of redemption”.

Let Israel hope in the LORD,
For with the LORD is mercy,
and plenteous redemption.

Psalm 130:7

For Paul in our first reading today, who is preaching a universal salvation in Jesus Christ, those “depths” are sin:

For there is no distinction; (between Jew and Gentile)
all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

Romans 3:2-24

Paul then declares a core teaching of the New Covenant

They are justified freely by God’s grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus…

Romans 3:24

Paul is preaching to a community in which a few “boasters” have surfaced – people who felt they could reinterpret and codify the Gospel their own way – like the Pharisees and lawyers do with the Mosaic Law in our reading from Luke today .

Paul is correcting that falsehood. He uses a lot of words to explicate the Gospel’s core tenet of universal redemption by grace. But for me, they are “theology words” not “prayer words”.


What I choose to pray with is this awesome truth:

God loves me so much
as to redeem me
from the depths of spiritual alienation
through the Gift of Jesus Christ.

The people in today’s Gospel refused to recognize and accept that all-defining gift. If they had, everything about their lives would have been transformed. And worse yet, by their exalted positions as scholars and leaders, they used their power to block others from learning about and receiving this Transcendent Grace.


In every generation, there are “religionists” who decide what elements of doctrine satisfy their own needs and desires. They preach that fragmented and divisive catechism to advance their self-serving agendas. They design laws which inhibit rather than assist people in opening their spirits to God’s merciful fullness.


Our readings today call us rise from the depths of any such inhibitions:

  • to cherish the gift of our redemption in Christ
  • to meditate on and educate ourselves in a true understanding of that gift
  • to test ourselves for an honest and inclusive faith rooted in the righteousness of God

Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,
though testified to by the law and the prophets,
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ
for all who believe.

Romans 3:21

Poetry: CONSUMED IN GRACE – Catherine of Siena 
From ‘Love Poems From God‘ by Daniel Ladinsky. 

I first saw God when I was a child, six years of age.
the cheeks of the sun were pale before Him,
and the earth acted as a shy
girl, like me.
Divine light entered my heart from His love
that did never fully wane,
though indeed, dear, I can understand how a person’s 
faith can at time flicker,
for what is the mind to do
with something that becomes the mind’s ruin:
a God that consumes us
in His grace.
I have seen what you want;
it is there,
a Beloved of infinite 
tenderness.

Music: Amazing Grace – written by John Newton, sung by Il Divo

Don’t Be a Louse!

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
October 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, pray with Psalm 62 which offers us sound advice about what is important in life:

Only in You, God, is my soul at rest;
    from You comes my salvation.
You only are my rock and my salvation,
    my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.

Psalm 62: 6-7

Hopefully, we take the advice because … Oh boy, Paul and Jesus stick it to hypocrites in today’s readings. And I’m like, “Yeah! Go get those fakesters, those lying hypocrites” – and I have a whole slew of people in mind!

Then, WHOA!  I see Paul’s no-nonsense warning:

For by the standard by which you judge another
you condemn yourself,

since you, the judge, do the very same things.

Romans 2:1

This is a definite “clean up your act” reading. And don’t deflect your own sinfulness on to the people around you!


Jesus takes the same advice to the Pharisees by throwing a couple of serious “woes” at them:

  • Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
  • Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.
  • Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.

Yipes!

I mean “Yipes”! I don’t want to be like an unseen grave, do you?!

Neither did one of the scholars who responded to Jesus,
Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too!


But Jesus is undeterred: 

Woe also to you scholars of the law!
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.

Lke 11:46

Today’s readings offer us a clear message
to take a good look at ourselves.
Are we guilty of the very uglinesses
that we condemn in others?


Poetry: In his poem “To A Louse”, Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the famous line:

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!


For fun, here is the Standard English Translation

Ha! Where are you going, you crawling wonder? Your impudence protects you sorely,
I can not say but you swagger rarely
Over gauze and lace,
Though faith! I fear you dine but sparingly On such a place

You ugly, creeping, blasted wonder, Detested, shunned by saint and sinner, How dare you set your foot upon her – Such fine a lady!
Go somewhere else and seek your dinner On some poor body
Off! in some beggar’s temples squat:

There you may creep, and sprawl, and scramble, With other kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Where horn nor bone never dare unsettle
Your thick plantations

Now hold you there! you are out of sight, Below the falderals, snug and tight;
No, faith you yet! you will not be right, Until you have got on it —
The very topmost, towering height Of misses bonnet.
My sooth! right bold you set your nose out, As plump and gray as any gooseberry:

O for some rank, mercurial resin,
Or deadly, red powder,
I would give you such a hearty dose of it, Would dress your breech!
I would not have been surprised to spy You on an old wife’s flannel cap:

Or maybe some small ragged boy,
On his undervest;
But Miss’s fine balloon bonnet! fye! How dare you do it.
O Jenny do not toss your head,
And set your beauties all abroad! You little know what cursed speed The blastie’s making!

Those winks and finger-ends, I dread, Are notice takiing!
O would some Power the gift to give us To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us, And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us, And even devotion.


Music: Britt Nicole – Through Your Eyes (a chance to think about how our loving God sees us, and everyone else/)

Fools?

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
    and night to night imparts knowledge.
Not a word nor a discourse
    whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
    and to the ends of the world, their message.

Psalm 19:2-5

The psalm captures the point of Paul’s declaration that the natural revelation of God’s power is accessible to all of us in the magnificence of Creation.

For what can be known about God is evident to them,
because God made it evident to them.
Ever since the creation of the world,
God’s invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity
have been able to be understood and perceived in what God has made.

Romans 2:19-20

This natural gift inspires us to know and believe in God. In fact, Paul says we “have no excuse” for a lack of faith, calling those who fail to believe “fools”.


It’s a word Jesus uses in our Gospel to describe Pharisaical religion – a religion of appearances rather than loving practice.

The Lord said, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?

Luke 11:39-40

In our first reading, Paul expresses his complete trust in and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this, Paul means more than the written words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He means the entire gift of the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, continuing among us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Today’s readings leave me with two intentions:

  • to be more deeply aware of and grateful for God speaking to me in my natural surroundings
  • to examine my heart for the sincerity of my faith proven in practice

Poetry: God’s Word Is in All Creation – Hildegard of Bingen

No creature has meaning
without the Word of God.
God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible.
The Word is living, being,
spirit, all verdant
all creativity.
This Word flashes out in
every creature.
This is how the spirit is in
the flesh – the Word is indivisible from God.

Music: For the Beauty of the Earth

Grace … God’s Life in Us

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98

God has made salvation known:
    in the sight of the nations revealing justice.
God has remembered mercy and faithfulness
    toward God’s People.

Psalm 98: 2-3

Indeed God has made salvation known through the gift of Sacred Scripture. And I feel so enthused about the next month’s prayer because, also today, we begin about a month of readings from Paul’s letter to the Romans. (We will also continue with Luke’s Gospel all the way up to Advent.)

Like the rest of Sacred Scripture, which has God for its transcendent author, Paul’s Letter to the Romans has a spiritual and theological depth that is literally inexhaustible.

Scott W. Hahn: Romans

In praying with Romans, I am using a book by Scott W. Hahn, Father Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology at Steubenville University. In his introduction, Hahn says this:


Today’s reading offered me these elements to ponder and pray with:

  • Paul calls himself a “slave” of Jesus Christ
  • He invokes his call as an Apostle
  • He sets himself in the company of the prophets
  • He appeals to Jews who revere David
  • but proclaims Christ, through his Resurrection, as Messiah beyond human lineage
  • He proclaims his mission to the Gentiles
  • to bring about “the obedience of faith”

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve read or heard this passage maybe a hundred times in my lifetime, and it has meant little or nothing to me. At best, it has sounded like a formal introduction such as those we hear from government “whereas” type decrees.

But I took Dr. Hahn’s advice, studying the passage, and reading it slowly and prayerfully. Here’s what I received:

  • Paul’s Apostolic call, to which he willingly enslaved his heart, was to preach the Good News of our redemption in Jesus Christ – to preach it to Jews, Romans, Gentiles, and all people.
  • It is an awesomely incredible message that can be received only through the gift of faith.
  • It is a message rooted in the scripture stories we love, and where we look to find a reflection of our own life stories.
  • Learning from these realities will help us come to a faith which expresses itself in action and gives glory to God in our own time.


Luke gives us one such story today. Jesus reminds the crowd of two familiar passages – that of Jonah and the “Queen of the South” (the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10).

Jesus indicates that the people in these stories
believed without a sign.


Jesus tells the people gathered around him  to learn from this. The crowd demands a sign, but Jesus says the sign is right in front of you – it is only your open heart that is lacking.

In his introduction, Paul prays for such open hearts in the Romans:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

By that same grace, may we receive faith’s blessing as well.


Poetry: The Avowal – Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding GRACE.

Music: Grace and Peace – Fernando Ortega

Which Way to Turn?

The Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90 along with readings that are both beautiful and poignant.  

In our first passage, we drink from Wisdom’s sweet nectar. This book, written about fifty years before Christ’s birth, is the work of an unnamed Jewish poet and scholar. At points, as in today’s segment, the writer assumes the persona of Solomon, speaking in his name.


We know from the Book of Kings, chapter 3, that Solomon, as a young king, led a faithful and righteous life. Because of this, God offered Solomon “whatever you want me to give you.”

Think of the possibilities for this young man, just on the cusp of kingship! Power, wealth, longevity, peace, prosperity, political dominance – all the things we are inclined to covet in this world.

But Solomon prays instead for wisdom, as described in today’s reading:

Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.


Our Gospel tells of a young man offered an opportunity similar to Solomon’s. Already living a faithful life, he wants to go deeper into God’s heart. 

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,

“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.” 

But this young man, unlike Solomon, cannot accept the invitation to this deep place of love and devotion. Instead, he goes away sad. It makes me sad, too, whenever I read these verses. I always wish that, after a few steps, he had turned around and shouted, “Yes! I will do what you ask. I love God that much. Help me!”


Like these young men, we have a deep desire to live within God’s love. But are we walking toward that love or away from it? Most of us don’t say an outright “No” to God’s invitation. Instead, we are distracted, lazy, or just not paying attention to the the whispers of grace.

Let’s pray today’s powerful Psalm 90 to open our minds and hearts to God’s hope for us.


Poetry: Based on Psalm 90 – Christine Robinson

We have come out of the Earth
and to the Earth we return
Our lives are but a flash in the light of Eternity.
We are like beautiful flowers which live only a day.
We might live 70 years—more if our strength holds.
So much work and hardship!
How quickly the time passes.

Teach us then, to value our days
to treat each one as a sacred trust.
Fill our hearts with wisdom.
and a love for our lives.
In spite of all the grief and suffering
May we be always glad of this precious gift
And hallow the good in each day.


Music: Fill Us With Your Love ~ Ephrem Feeley

Stirred, Not Shaken

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97 which is built on two themes:

  • God reigns over all the earth
  • those who acknowledge God’s power have abundant reason to rejoice

This is good news for the people to whom Joel is preaching! Joel’s community has been devastated by locusts and drought. They are surrounded by adversaries. Life is just not easy for them. They have felt abandoned by God.

But Joel tells them that indeed God is annoyed, but still is always on the side of the faithful.

The LORD roars from Zion,
    and from Jerusalem raises his voice;
The heavens and the earth quake,
    but the LORD is a refuge to his people,
    a stronghold to the children of Israel.
Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God,
    dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain;
Jerusalem shall be holy,
    and strangers shall pass through her no more.


Psalm 97 reflects the same confident promise to all who suffer. Despite everything we are to rejoice!

The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
    before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim God’s justice,
    and all peoples see God’s glory.
R.    Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
    and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
    and give thanks to God’s holy name.


So we are encouraged to heed Joel’s advice – to stir up our hearts in faith, to look around at all the faith-filled promises of nature mentioned in our first reading. We can learn:

  • from the sun which both rises and sets
  • from the moon which turns its mood but never disappears
  • from snow and rain which cycle invisibly through the years
  • from the leaves which hold the secret of eternal life

God abides with us, even amidst the “droughts” and “locusts”. And if we are faithful, all will be well.


Poetry: There are many wonderful images in Joel 4. One is that of the “Valley of Decision”, an image that has lent itself to many applications in art and literature. Here is one such poem:

OK — two of my “favoritest” actors!!!!

The Valley of Decision by John Oxenham

The World is in the Valley of Decision; 
It is standing at the parting of the ways; 
Will it climb the steps of God to realm elysian — 
Or fall on horror of still darker days? 

Will it free itself of every shameful shackle? 
Will it claim the glorious freedom of the brave? 
Will it lose the soul of Life in this debacle, 
And sink into a mean dishonored grave?

All the world is in the Valley of Decision, 
And out of it there is but one sure road; 
Eyes unsealed can still foresee the mighty vision 
Of a world in travail turning unto God.
 
All the world is in the Valley of Decision. 
Who shall dare its future destiny foretell? 
Will it yield its soul unto the Heavenly Vision, 
Or sink despairing into its own hell?

The World is in the Valley of Decision; 
— It is standing at the parting of the ways; 
Will it climb the steps of God to realm elysian — 
— Or fall on horror of still darker days?


Will it free itself of every shameful shackle?
— Will it claim the glorious freedom of the brave? 
Will it lose the soul of Life in this debacle, 
— And sink into a mean dishonored grave?
 
All the world is in the Valley of Decision, —
And out of it there is but one sure road; 
Eyes unsealed can still foresee the mighty vision 
— Of a world in travail turning unto God. 

All the world is in the Valley of Decision. 
— Who shall dare its future destiny foretell? 
Will it yield its soul unto the Heavenly Vision,
— Or sink despairing into its own hell?


Music: It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

Out of the Gloom

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 9. It, together with Psalm 10, forms an acrostic which ultimately proclaims profound hope in God’s immutable justice, especially toward the poor and oppressed. But it takes us through a lot fire and brimstone to get there!


When we read the entire Psalm 9, we realize that the psalmist starts out in a lot of trouble:

Be gracious to me, LORD;
see how my foes afflict me!
You alone can raise me from the gates of death

Psalm 9:14

Match that with Joel’s community which is in the midst of a terrible drought. Joel uses the situation to teach that we must withstand many evils in life — not just droughts — in order to keep faith with God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
    for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
    a day of clouds and somberness!

Joel 2:1-2

In the end however, Joel assures the community — as does the psalmist — that God is present even in treacherous circumstances and will finally bring “right-balance” or justice to all things.

The LORD sits enthroned forever;
setting up a throne for judgment.
God judges the world with justice;
and governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 9:8-9

I think these readings are difficult to pray with, but it’s worth a try. How we respond to challenge in our personal circumstances – and even evil in the world at large – depends a lot on how we view God’s Presence in our lives. Both Joel and the psalmist ask us to hold fast to our confidence in God.

Praying with these readings may provoke questions like this for us:  Do I believe God’s justice and mercy truly will prevail in Creation? And how will I help bring about this holy “equity”?

Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge – Emily Dickinson

Faith is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side
It joins behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel

My Dad’s Rosary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary 
October 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1, its very opening verses.

Blessed the one who follows not
    the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
    and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-3

Scripture scholar James L. Mays says that the psalm’s primacy is not accidental:

The Book of Psalms begins with a beatitude. Not a prayer or a hymn, but a statement about human existence. Here at the threshold of the Psalter we are asked to consider the teaching that the way life is lived is decisive for how it turns out. This opening beatitude also serves as an introduction to the book. Its location as the first psalm is not accidental; the psalm is there to invite us to read and use the entire book as a guide to a blessed life.

Psalms: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

Psalm 1 helps us to understand that praying the Psalter is a tool for spiritual guidance. It is not just about the people and times it mentions. It is about us and our lifelong journey with God.

In a sense the rosary, which we think about today as we pray with Mary, is a similar tool. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s a tool I didn’t appreciate until much later in my life.


Most Catholics have a history with the rosary. It’s a form of prayer we learned as children at our grandmother’s or first grade teacher’s knee. But for me as a six-year old, it was just too long. I became bored mid-second decade. I even used to cheat, drop the rosary on the floor, and pick it up a few decades further down the beads!

Me – on the right! 🙂

Of course, as a young nun, I prayed the rosary. I even wore the rosary at my hip and fingered its cool beads throughout the day. But I still didn’t appreciate or love it. Not until I was 36 years old and my father died.

My Dad lived an extremely simple, and I think holy, life. He didn’t vow it, but he practiced the evangelical counsel of poverty beautifully. He possessed very little that was his alone. When he died, almost everything important and precious to him (besides his family) could be found in the bottom drawer of our old China closet. That’s where I found his rosary on the day after his funeral.


It was cuddled in a wrinkled pouch imprinted with the phrase “My Rosary”. I smiled when I read that, thinking one didn’t really need to be reminded what was inside! But there was actually more inside than I expected.

Dad always loved the poems of James Metcalfe, published daily in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. One little poem was folded neatly inside the pouch:


A Dad’s Prayer

Almighty Father help me be . . . 
A good and loving dad . . . 
That my dear children may enjoy . . . 
The blessings I have had . . . 
Give me the wisdom I should use . . . 
To teach them right from wrong . . . 
And how to keep on going when . . . 
The road is rough and long . . . 
To do the duty that is theirs . . . 
Until its very end . . . 
To look for lasting beauty and . . . 
Appreciate a friend . . . 
Endow me with the grace I need . . . 
To mold their gentle youth . . . 
According to the measurements . . . 
Of loyalty and truth . . . 
Enable me to comfort them . . . 
Whenever they are sad . . . 
And O my Father, grant that they . . . 
Will always love their dad. 


Every morning after I discovered Dad’s rosary, I ran the beads through my fingers, wanting in some way to touch Dad again.

I began to read about the rosary and its purpose as a means of meditation on the life of Christ. I began to pray it differently, slowly – eventually using the vocal prayers only as a rhythm underneath the thought of Jesus’s experiences.

Sometimes, rather than rushing through a decade as I had before, I couldn’t stay long enough to absorb all that Jesus or Mary chose to share with me in one of the rosary’s mysteries.


Maybe on this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we might renew our love, understanding,and appreciation of this beautiful means of prayer. Online, I found this guide created by the Knights of Columbus which I liked. You might find it helpful. (I didn’t check, but I think it might be printable.)


Music: Verde by Guido and Mauricio deAngelis

(One of my Dad’s favorite pieces of music.)