The Little Way to Holiness

Monday, October 1, 2018

                 Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we begin a week of readings from the Book of Job, a poetic masterpiece and theological treasure. These readings from Job always occur during the 26th week of the Liturgical Year. 

It is so fitting that they should begin this year on the feast Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun – popularly known as “The Little Flower”. Thérèse, like Job, experienced much suffering in her life. 

little flower

Some came from external circumstances, such as her mother’s death when Thérèse was only four years old, as well as Thérèse’s own tuberculosis and early death,

But much of Thérèse’s suffering came from within. She possessed a soul of remarkable religious sensitivity to the point of scrupulosity. She struggled with this for much of her early life until a spiritual breakthrough brought her peace. 

Thérèse called this experience a “complete conversion” through which she “felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy—Since this blessed night I was not defeated in any battle, but instead I went from victory to victory and began, so to speak, “to run a giant’s course” (Psalms 19:5).”

This turning from self toward the needs of others is the basis for the truly Christian life. In each life, the call to make this turn comes in different forms. Thérèse calls her approach “The Little Way”. Inspired by a passage from Proverbs, she reimagined her journey to holiness: “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me” (9:4)

Thérèse wrote:
“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are beyond me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

The spirituality of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus has inspired many, thus this simple childlike woman has been declared a Doctor of the Church and a Saint.

Music: Art for God – Sr. Marie-Anastasia Communauté des Béatitudes

In this video, sung in French, you will hear and see some of Thérèse’s words. The painting represents her desire to find a “little way” to God.

Jealous for My Sake?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

                       Readings:  Click here.

Today, in Mercy, our reading from the Book of Numbers reveals a very human moment between Joshua and Moses.

Moses is getting older. He realizes that the time is approaching for him to hand over the leadership of his people. God seems to realize that too.

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Joshua, ever since his youth, has been aide to Moses. Moses is his hero – the one, who having spoken with God, led the People out of Egypt. Now Joshua sees other ordinary guys assuming some of Moses’s roles. Joshua feels his own security and comfort shifting beneath him, hints of a spiritual earthquake.

Number 11_29 Jealous for my sake

An outraged Joshua alerts Moses, begging him to stop these supposed imposters. But Moses assures Joshua with words no hero-worshipper ever wants to hear:

Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!

What a powerful question Moses poses. It searches Joshua’s heart:


Are you jealous for my sake? 

Are you fearful, biased, closed-hearted,
and self-protective because you fear
that you and I will lose position and power?


Surely Moses senses Joshua emerging as the next leader of Israel — even though Joshua might not share that awareness yet. Moses wants him to see that it is the Spirit of God Who leads the People through any human means She wishes.

When we presume to control the Spirit, or think to invest Her power only in our own particular “heroes”, we close ourselves to the amazing, surprising power of God. This Divine Power cannot be controlled and, like wildflowers through concrete, will bloom where She chooses.

We see the fruits of such presumption all over our histories: the falsely assumed superiority of men over women, whiteness over color, wealth over labor, age over youth, or any form of dominance over mutuality. These assumptions become concretized in our culture, hardening us to the movements of the Spirit.

If we have any hold on privilege in our lives, we might be inclined to profit by these assumptions. It is just such an inclination that Moses nips in Joshua in this powerful exchange between revered teacher and apprentice.

Music: An oldie, but goodie. Always brings me a deep peace.  I hope it does the same for you, dear reader.

Come Holy Ghost – The Singing Nuns

Remember Your Angels

Saturday, September 29, 2018
Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Ps 138_Angel

I have always had a special love for St. Michael, having grown up in a parish named for him. Like many people, I was fascinated by the concept of angels – dynamic, immortal beings who provided hidden protection to my young soul. Although popular culture minimizes angels into fat little Valentine cherubs, the idea of a strong, noble supernatural sibling has remained with me throughout life. 

And although tradition has designated these angels with beautiful male names, angels are without gender. They could just as easily be imagined as mighty, glorious Sisters safeguarding us for God.

Praying with the angels can teach us more about their nature, and more about our own. Each of us, creatures of The Eternal One, reflect particular aspects of God’s nature. Just as children might resemble one of their parents, we humans and angels look like God. 

We humans, with all natural Creation, reflect God’s mercy, love, inclusivity.

Angels mirror God’s power, transcendence and glory. They exist in the perfection of adoration and service to God. They invite us to that same perfection when our earthly journey ends.

What a blessing and help for us to live more consciously in the presence of these invisible beings who desire and foster our good! What a spiritual support to realize that the communion of angels and saints perpetually and lovingly surrounds us!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by the angels’ watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading that person to life. Here on earth the Christian life already shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and saints united in God.

Perhaps today, we might pray to know these holy companions a little better, and to gratefully allow them to bolster our spirits for the day’s journey.

Music: The Hymn of the Cherubim of the Byzantine Liturgy is one of the most beautiful hymns of all the Catholic Liturgies. The hymn was added to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by the Emperor Justinian. The lyrics are:     

We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,
And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,
Let us set aside the cares of life
That we may receive the King of all,
Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.

The Illusion of Time

Friday, September 28, 2018

                      Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read about time, that elusive framework that binds our days.  We are so conscious of time, still it defies all our efforts to define or control it. It lumbers when we want it to skip. It flies when we long for it to tarry. Once it has passed, we wonder where it went. We find the long, vibrant years compressed to a distant, gossamer memory.

Eces3_1 time

Time can create in us a sense of urgency, a deadline for us to make a mark on its surface. But Ecclesiastes counsels us to be patient, telling us there is a time for everything – a segment in our life story for us to plumb each emotion. 

As we read through his antiphonal list of life’s realities, we are conscious of the ones we would rather eliminate – the down side of experience. But the scribe suggests that even life’s shadowed side serves to hone us for eternity. 

Faith allows us to stand in balanced trust on the crossbeam of our shifting lives. Hope causes us to expect light out of every darkness. Love convinces us that our timeless God abides with us beyond time’s testing.

In our Gospel, Jesus is conscious that he is coming to the end of his time. As many of us do when we are feeling unsure of ourselves, Jesus asks his disciples what people are saying about him. They respond in glowing accolades – Elijah, the Baptist returned from the dead, the Christ, Son of God. But Jesus knows it is not a time for accolades. He rebukes them with a somber forecast of darkening times.

Even Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, experienced time’s shifting waves. Praying the Gospel daily, living with Jesus through his highs and lows, is the steady fulcrum in our own uneven seas.

Music: In His Time ~ CRC Worship

What Is, Is.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

          Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we meet the first of a few readings from Ecclesiastes, written by an author who calls himself Qoheleth – Teacher. The book contains many loved and oft-repeated phrases that we might recognize:

  • There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
  • He has made everything beautiful in its time.

And today’s kick-off thought:

  • Vanity of vanities ….  All is vanity.

Reading Ecclesiastes places us in the presence of a writer who is a realist at best, and a cynic at worst. Parts of the book can be downright depressing; other parts, elegant in their spare beauty.

We can finish a passage like today’s and hear echoes around us of Star Trek’s Borg mantra: 

Resistance is futile. 

Qoheleth says as much:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

The phrase carries at least a little tinge of hopelessness. But I think a lot depends on the way we read it.

Realizing that “things are the way they are” can give us a sense of stability and trust. It can release us from struggling needlessly against realities that will not be moved. It can encourage us to find within these “immovables” the hidden path to a new grace. It can remind us that others have endured; so can we.

What is is

One of our Wisdom Sisters taught us that by naming and accepting our reality, we can move from fighting it into growing from it. She always said, “What is, is” – implying “now deal with it”.

It sounds spartan, but it actually can be very freeing. We can’t change so many things – the weather, the tides, the hearts of others. The years will pass, friendships blossom and fade. We will get old, if we are blessed with that gift. We’ll lose our jump shot and probably some of our hair – maybe a few others things too.🤗

But God will always love us, abide with us and cherish us for eternity.

Music: In Every Age – Janét Sullivan Whitaker

What Would I Ask For?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

          Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, what an interesting prayer we find in Proverbs! The speaker beseeches God to grant him two things before death:

  • to be surrounded by truth and
  • to be neither rich nor poor

A fascinating and radical request, don’t you think? And we get eavesdrop on it.

Prov30_7 truth

The supplicant fears riches because they may cause him to forget his need for God.
He fears poverty because it might cause him to steal and thus betray God’s law.
All he wants is a nice, even life with not too much drama. I get it, don’t you!

In our Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out, telling them to let go of drama too. If people don’t engage you, move on he says. He instructs them not to be caught up in material possessions, but to leave all behind that for the sake of the truth they will be preaching.

Both these readings are really about truth and freedom, two gifts that allow us to live in grace, hope and joy. They are about not being bound by our possessions, our pretenses, our success, or what people think of us. They are about being at peace with who we really are before God and others.

The Proverbs passage makes me wonder—  if someone were eavesdropping on our most radical prayer, what things they might they hear us asking for? What is it that would free us to be our truest selves before God?

Some quiet music to think about that question:

Anchoress ~ Kerani 

In God’s Hand

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

          Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings instruct us on what it means to really belong to God – heart and soul.

Proverbs tosses out a series of minstrel-like two-liners that could easily be overlooked for their beauty and depth. For example, the first couplet says: 

Like a stream is the king’s heart
in the hand of the LORD;

wherever it pleases him, he directs it.

Would we all not desire that kind of heart, where our thoughts and choices are so directed by God’s power and grace – held and guided into freedom by God’s loving hand? How confident, peaceful and joyful our lives would be!

Psalm 199 discern

Today’s Psalm 119 is a passionate prayer to be guided through an entangling world by our deep loyalty to God’s own truth, learned by meditating day and night on God’s goodness.

Our Gospel, in an often misinterpreted incident, shows us how Jesus considers his true disciples as close to him as his own mother and family.

So today, to deepen our own closeness to God, let us practice making our ordinary life into a constant prayer – allowing it to flow, like water, through God’s tender, guiding hand. 

We can do this by gratefully noticing God’s Presence in nature, in our companions, in the opportunities for kindness, honesty and service  that come to us today. 

Or, sadly, our experiences today might cause us to notice God’s absence in these places. This offers us an incentive to invite, beg and pester God to transform the desert places in our lives and world.

Whichever approach we take, it will open up a constant conversation with God about our life as we experience it at each moment. We begin to listen better to the Word of God revealing itself in our daily life. We begin to live more consciously in God’s Presence… in God’s dear family.

God’s Law is already written deep in the fabric of our lives. We pray for discernment to discover that guiding grace by opening our hearts to God’s Presence in our every experience.

Music: I Belong to You ~ Hillsong

Happy Mercy Day!

Monday, September 24, 2018

       Readings: Click here for readings

Today, as the Mercy Family throughout the world celebrates Mercy Day, we praise and thank God for the call given to Venerable Catherine McAuley to respond to God’s grace by founding the Sisters of Mercy.

mercy2018

On September 24, 1827, Catherine used an unexpected inheritance to open a house for poor and homeless women in Dublin. It began with two, Catherine and Mary Ann Doyle – and that small, vibrant fire has lit the hearts of millions ever since.

Many of you, dear readers, carry that fire and will know Catherine’s story well. But some still unfamiliar with her life might want to explore this website:

https://www.mercyworld.org/catherine/introducing-catherine/

For those of us who treasure a share in Catherine’s call, today’s readings from Proverbs and Psalms offer a picture of what mercy in action looks like. Luke’s Gospel exhorts us that our Mercy light should be raised up to shine for all those seeking refuge from a darkness- whether it be poverty, sickness, ignorance or any kind of isolation or oppression.

To gain courage and energy for that shining, let us reach through time for Catherine’s hand, telling her how we share her dream for God’s Mercy for all Creation. Let us ask her to enliven us each morning with the same passion for justice, the same compassionate tenderness, the same welcoming heart by which she showed others the love of God.

Are there not moments when we are overwhelmed by the Mercy of God welling up within us and around us, flowing from good hearts over the world’s needs? We see and bless this grace in each other, dear Family, as we thank God this day to be called “Mercy”.

May each of your lives be richly blessed and marked by Mercy!


Today, I thought you might enjoy this powerful poem by Denise Levertov.
The music link is beneath it.
❤️ Happy and blessed Mercy Day to all.



To Live in the Mercy of God

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
before ribs of shelter
open!

To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.

To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
as salt water
would hold you,
once you dared.

To live in the mercy of God.
To feel vibrate the enraptured
waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
to clenched fists of rock.

Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.

To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?

Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
flung on resistance.
———-

Music: Mercy ~ Matt Redman

Jealousy Dresses in Many Costumes

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Reading: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092318.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our Sunday readings each address, in some way, the motivations and judgments of the heart.

Most of us are good people, or at least we want to be. But life can still get us mixed up in situations and decisions which test our character and challenge our moral fortitude. A few characters from today’s readings seem beset with such dilemmas.

The voice within the Wisdom passage belongs to a hard-hearted and jealous person who finds the just person obnoxious. The speaker can’t stand being shown up by the good man’s character. It challenges his comfortable, self-absorbed existence.

In our epistle, James gives us the powerful admonitions, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” He tells us that our hearts should be filled instead with the wisdom from above, yielding peace, gentleness and Mercy.

When I watch the news, or observe the day’s political dramas, I long for the honest, sincere and decent world James describes. I long for a world where we respect and honor each other beyond politics, gender, color, nation, religion, and sexual orientation – for a world where we make choices FOR one another, not against.

How can we help realize a world like that by the choices we make in our personal lives? How can we minimize the jealousy that is born of self-interest and prejudice?

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the way. His disciples are busy trying to figure out which of them is the greatest, missing -as they so often do- the whole point of discipleship. Jesus is gentle with them. He tells them to look at a little child. There they will find what is most important – in simplicity, vulnerability, openness, innocence. They will see that this is the way Jesus is with them.

If we can approach and receive one another with just an ounce of such selflessness, we might begin to change the world.

Music: Ubi Caritas ~ Taizé Community

Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.

Where there is charity and love, God abides.

Stick With It!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

       Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092218.cfm

Lk8_15 persevere

Today, in Mercy,  both Paul and Jesus teach their followers by using images they would be familiar with – seed, wheat, planting, and waiting for harvest.

Even those of us far removed from such images may have planted a few things at some time.  Picture a kindergartner pushing a seed into a paper cup filled with dirt.  She watches everyday for the green shoot, impatient for its appearance.

Paul’s community seems infected with the same kind of impatience regarding the end of time and their being raised to new life.

Paul makes me laugh with his own impatience at their constant questions. He responds to their nagging like this:

You fool!
What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.
And what you sow is not the body that is to be
but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind.

Jesus is a lot gentler when he teaches about the Sower and the Seed. At the end of the parable, Jesus gives his followers the key to achieving the full harvest of grace. Perseverance! 

It is the same tool any farmer must employ in the fields. It is the same strategy we must use as we sow good works through our lives. The harvest is slow coming, but Jesus promises it is worth the investment and the waiting.

Music: When You Believe~ sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey