Psalm 63 A Passionate Prayer

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen

July 22, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 63, a perfect prayer for the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, who longed for and loved God with all her heart.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Psalm 63, in the verses quoted today, is a love song. The psalmist longs for God, body and soul. Experience has taught her that without God her whole being is a desert.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

And so she fixes her eyes on God, her heart on God. She looks for God’s Presence in the sanctuary of her life, in the temple of her soul.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.

The psalmist promises to bless God – to be grateful and attentive to God’s affectionate grace in all the circumstances of her life:

Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

In her serene and confident prayer, she is like the fragile hatchling, protected under her Divine Mother’s wing. She clings to God’s merciful hand, no doubt kissing it in a prayer of grateful love.

You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Poetry: The Living Flame Of Love – St. John of the Cross
Some find John of the Cross’s poetry challenging, if not shocking because, as well as being deeply mystical, it is often clearly erotic. But we are both mystical and erotic human beings made so by God in Whom Love has infinite dimensions. John channeled all his mystical erotic power into his profound love for God. His poems may help us to open that holy power to God as well.

Songs of the soul in the intimate communication of loving union with God.

O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life. 

O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

Music:  Living Flame of Love – John Michael Talbot

Oh, Living Flame of Love
Tenderly wound my soul
To its deepest inner heart
Without oppression!

Come consumate our love
Tear through the veil of our union
If it be your will, come and rend
The veil of the temple!

Oh, lamps of fire
In deep caverns of feeling
Once obscured and blind
Are now leading
In the warmth and the passion
Of your love

Yet gently Your hand does wound
As You rend through the veil of my temple
Come and take this life that I give
So that I might come to live in this our dying

Oh, Living Flame of Love
Tenderly wound my soul
To its deepest inner heart
Without oppression!

Psalm 85: Believe a New World into Being

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2020

Return from Babylon by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85. In Judaism, it is called “a psalm of returned exiles” as it reflects the experience of the Jews returning to their ravished land after the Babylonian exile. Things are a mess, and they have to start all over again to rebuild their Abrahamic nation. 

But they pray as if it is already accomplished.

Despite their suffering and captivity, the people have not lost hope in the promise of Yahweh. They expect its fulfillment and call on God to make it happen.

You have favored, O LORD, your land;
you have brought back the captives of Jacob.
You have forgiven the guilt of your people;
you have covered all their sins.
You have withdrawn all your wrath;
you have revoked your burning anger.

This is the power and beauty of a pure and faithful heart. It is free to “believe” God into action. We find this prayerful power expressed over and over in the Psalms. It is answered by God’s almighty and active desire for our good.

The Psalms mediate to us the great promise keeper whose resolve guarantees that the world is not a closed system. Creation, instead, is a world very much in process, sure to come to full shalom. Despair is the fate of a world “without god,” where there are no new gifts to be given. The Psalms refuse that world, knowing that God is not yet finished. Consequently, the Psalms can gather all the great words of the covenant and apply them to the future …

Walter Bruggemann

During these pandemic times, don’t prayer and promises like these speak to our hearts?

I find myself wondering what the world will be like when we finally “return” – come out of our “Covid exile” – what it will be like to see and hug the family, friends and community we love and miss right now, or to fully mourn those we have lost – what it will be like to resume our soul’s unworried dance with Creation and Time.

As we imagine that world, how might we hope for it to be more reflective of God’s dream for us than the world we closed down last March, than the “Babylon” we are experiencing? How will our prayers and actions for merciful justice “believe” God’s promises into reality for all God’s People?

Will you not instead give us life;
and shall not your people rejoice in you?
Show us, O LORD, your kindness,
and grant us your salvation.

I picture some ancient Jewish woman or man standing amidst the rubble of the ruined Temple. How deep did that person have to reach to find the faith and hope to move God?

I picture us standing in a very sick and dysfunctional world. Can we reach that deep ourselves by praying in the childlike, confident spirit of the Psalms:

Lord, show us your mercy and love.

Poetry: Antidotes to Fear of Death – by Rebecca Elson, a gifted Canadian–American astronomer and writer. Elson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 29. With treatment, it went into remission, and in 1996 she married the Italian artist Angelo di Cintio. However, the cancer returned soon afterwards. Elson died of the disease in Cambridge in May 1999, at the age of 39.

A volume of wide-ranging poetry and essays she wrote from her teens until shortly before her death was published posthumously as A Responsibility to Awe in 2001 in the United Kingdom, and in 2002 in the United States. 

Antidotes to the Fear of Death

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

Music: Going Home– based on Antonin Dvořák’s Largo from New World Symphony, lyrics by William Arms Fisher, sung here by Alex Boyé with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Psalm 95: The Real Voice

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 20, 2020

From this liturgical date in 2016:  

Monday, July 18, 2016: Today, in Mercy, we pray to do as the prophet Micah says. As our intense political season begins, we pray that our leaders – and we citizens – may do right, show real goodness, and find the courage to be humble. May we have the insight to shun a democracy built on values opposite to these. May God bless and inspire all who would lead us and may God bless and heal our country.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we will pray with Psalm 95, our Alleluia Verse. Today’s Responsorial is Psalm 50, which we have reflected on twice recently.

The verse from Psalm 95 is an often repeated one, and presents us with a clear ultimatum:

But how do we do that?
How do we hear God’s voice?
How do we avoid a hardened heart?

When I was a little girl, I loved to read the stories of the saints. I was particularly impressed by the life of the brave St. Joan of Arc, not only because she got to ride a horse, but because she heard heavenly voices. I thought it was very nice of God to tell Joan exactly what to do to be holy.

I waited a few years, probably from age six to nine, for God – or at least St. Michael, my parish patron – to speak to me. You know, just in case God had anything important for me to do, like take a small army over to New Jersey or something like that.

When I was 9 or 10, I fell in love with Jimmy Danvers and put my saint books in my bottom drawer. I still listened for God, but started not to expect an audible conversation.

What I failed to realize at that young age was that the conversation had already begun. I thought about God, prayed and tried to be a pretty good person. I went to Mass every day since 5th grade. I began to serve others in the way I thought Jesus would want to do it. With the help of my parents and teachers, I had made the choice to invite God’s heart into my heart.

Finally, I came to understand that God was speaking to me, and to everyone else, all the time. My job was to keep my heart’s ear open, softened, by my choices for Love.

Prayer is the communication of the soul with God. 
God is love, and love is goodness giving itself away. 
It is a fullness of being 
that does not want to remain enclosed in itself, 
but rather to share itself with others.

Saint Edith Stein

When we do this, each day brings us deeper and deeper into the Silent Word Who breathes forth the story of our lives. That sacred breath takes as many forms as there are creatures. Joan of Arc was one holy form. So am I. So are you.

Literature:  from Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw

Charles VII:  Oh, your voices, your voices. Why don’t the voices come to me? I am king, not you!

Joan: They do come to you, but you do not hear them. You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the angelus rings, you cross yourself and have done with it. But if you prayed from your heart and listened to the thrilling of the bells in the air after they stopped ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.

Music: Holy Ground – John Michael Talbot

Verse 1
This is holy ground
We’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy
This is holy ground
We’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy

Verse 2
These are holy hands
He’s given us holy hands
He works through these hands
And so these hands are holy
These are holy hands
He’s given us holy hands
He works through these hands
And so these hands are holy

Verse 3
These are holy lips
He’s given us holy lips
He speaks through these lips
And so these lips are holy
These are holy lips
He’s given us holy lips
He speaks through these lips
And so these lips are holy

Psalm 86: Incline Your Ear to Me, O Lord

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 19, 2020

From 2017:

Today, in Mercy, we pray with a tiny mustard seed. Like this seed, any small act of kindness, courage or faith multiplies and yields a harvest greater than seems possible. A holy life is made of such small seeds… given daily with loving intention. We pray today for a vibrant and firmly rooted faith that, like the mature tree, offers a haven for others on the journey.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 86, “a prayer of David”. Today’s verses provide a bridge between our first and second readings, as is usually the case on Sundays.

The thread holding all three passages together is the topic of prayer.

Both the first reading and psalm display a particular type of prayer, which I think of as a “Butter God Up” prayer. Both the Wisdom writer and psalmist tell God how good God is, presumably hoping that God will be good to them:

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned….
…. But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us .

Wisdom 12

You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.

Psalm 86

There’s nothing wrong with the human psychology here. I used it on my parents a few times when I was young:

Mom, Dad, you’ve always trusted me.
Would it be OK if I go to the shore overnight with my friends?

In other words, “You are good, so bless me.” It’s an innocent prayer that pleads for the Provider’s benevolence and mercy on our petition

But Paul, in our second reading, teaches another, deeper way of prayer:

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

This deeper prayer arises out of a complete confidence and abandonment to God’s Mercy. Convinced that God loves us and wills our good, our prayer becomes an underlying, often wordless, relationship with God.

And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

Poetry: Primary Wonder – Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
                                                        And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng's clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Music:  Bow Thine Ear, O Lord – by William Byrd, sung here by The Cambridge Singers with John Rutter
The loss of Jerusalem is an inspiration for William Byrd (1539-1623) in his setting of Bow thine ear, O Lord.

Bow thine ear, O Lord, and hear us:
Let thine anger cease from us.
Sion is wasted and brought low,
Jerusalem desolate and void.

Missing Links

Good Saturday, dear friends,

I realized that some of the links on today’s reflection did not work properly. I have fixed them, I hope – just in case you wanted to hear T.S. Eliot reading his poem. Thanks for your patience and support.

Here’s a little Saturday afternoon poem I wrote … just for fun, and to thank you for taking the trouble to read this extra note.

Saturday Afternoon Conversations
                Saturday afternoon conversations
                in the tight neighborhoods of the city,
                especially in sunshine,
                are like light glanced off mirrors
                fractured in forgotten 
                where responsibility did not exceed
                the guarding of a pocketful of marbles
                against unnoticed holes.

Psalm 10: Lord, Don’t Turn Away

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 18, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 10. It is known in Latin by its first mournful line:

Ut quid Domine recessisti

Lord, why are You standing so far from me?

The image that comes to my mind is of two people at a large social gathering. One is not speaking to the other because of a profound disagreement. But the other is desperately sorry and wants to be forgiven and restored. Still, the first person remains distant, off in the room’s far corner, and seems to ignore any imploring glances.

In Psalm 10, Israel is that imploring person. They lament all the discord around them and wonder why their powerful Friend seems to ignore them, failing to help.

I know that I have talked to God about this feeling hundreds of times. What about you?

I continually ask the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Are you not paying attention, Lord?  Did you accidentally fire the “Bad Things Gun” in the wrong direction, or do you just not care?

Why do You seem not to notice or care?

But the psalmist eventually stills herself at the center of these spinning questions. In that stillness, she rests in utter dependency on God. We creatures do not see through the mystery of good and evil, but God does. When we accept that, and look for God in the circumstances, peace settles in.

You do see, for you behold misery and sorrow,
taking them in your hands.
On you the unfortunate one depends;
of the fatherless you are the helper.

Psalm 10, for all its heart-wrenching mournfulness, is really a psalm of exultant victory. Within its prayer, the vulnerable one is transformed to comprehend the secret. God favors them and assures their deliverance by faith.

If for some reason, we might feel that God is on the other side of the room ignoring us, let us not turn away. Walk over and tug God’s sleeve with your prayer.  Lift the burdens from your shoulders into God’s open arms.

You listen, LORD, to the needs of the poor;
you strengthen their heart and incline your ear.

Poetry:  another excerpt from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot

Time and the bell have buried the day,
the black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

Music: D’où vient cela – Claudin de Sermisy – written in, and sung here, in French by a German choir. This melody was originally a popular love chanson, reworked in the 16th century to be Psalm 10. I could find only the French and German translations (below). For those, like me, who understand neither, the music itself is sufficiently beautiful.

Isaiah’s Psalm

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah 38 as our Responsorial Psalm.

Although the verses are under Isaiah, they are actually the words of Hezekiah, a king of Israel during Isaiah’s time. Our first reading relates the story of Hezekiah’s mortal illness and the prophetic role Isaiah plays in his recovery.

Our psalm reemphasizes the power and mercy of God who delivers Hezekiah from death. Hezekiah’s vibrant images reveal the depth of his desperation:

Once I said,
“In the noontime of life I must depart!
To the gates of the nether world I shall be consigned
for the rest of my years.”

We all know what the prayer for deliverance feels like. It rises from the depths of our souls and repeats itself in a constant, “Please…”. We can think of nothing else but the favor we are praying for. We linger in our begging, sometimes for years.

Hezekiah stretches into the full extent of his pain with these striking metaphors:

My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent,
is struck down and borne away from me;
You have folded up my life, like a weaver
who severs the last thread.

Deliverance is that condition in which we, having lost all personal power to effect change, must be carried by another hand to life and well-being. If we can do that in faith, our prayer will be answered.

When it is, by either a merciful “Yes” or “No”, we will understand. It will be as if we have fallen from hanging by our fingernails into the enveloping caress of a feathered bed.

Those live whom the LORD protects;
yours is the life of my spirit.
You have given me healing and life.

Poetry: For Deliverance from a Fever by Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672),  the most prominent of early English poets of North America and first writer in England’s North American colonies to be published. She is the first Puritan figure in American Literature.

When sorrows had begirt me round, 
And pains within and out, 
When in my flesh no part was found, 
Then didst Thou rid me out.

My burning flesh in sweat did boil, 
My aching head did break, 
From side to side for ease I toil, 
So faint I could not speak.

Beclouded was my soul with fear 
Of Thy displeasure sore, 
Nor could I read my evidence 
Which oft I read before.

“Hide not Thy face from me!" I cried, 
"From burnings keep my soul. 
Thou know'st my heart, and hast me tried; 
I on Thy mercies roll." 

“O heal my soul," Thou know'st I said, 
"Though flesh consume to nought, 
What though in dust it shall be laid, 
To glory t' shall be brought." 

Thou heard'st, Thy rod Thou didst remove 
And spared my body frail 
Thou show'st to me Thy tender love, 
My heart no more might quail.

O, praises to my mighty God, 
Praise to my Lord, I say, 
Who hath redeemed my soul from pit, 
Praises to Him for aye. 

Music: You Will Redeem It All – Travis Cottrell

You were there at the 
loss of all the innocence
You were there at the 
dawn of all the shame 
You were there, felt the
weight of all the helplessness 
put Yourself into the agony and pain

Nothing is hidden from Your eyes 
You flood the darkness with Your light 
I have this hope
as an anchor for my soul
You will redeem it all, redeem it all
Out of the dust into something glorious
You will redeem it all, redeem it all

You are here in the middle of my circumstance
You are here bringing purpose out of pain 
You are here restoring every broken path
Speaking life, You raise me once again
Nothing is hidden from Your eyes 
Out of the ashes I will rise  
Hallelujah in the waiting
Hallelujah even then  
Hallelujah for the healing
You will make a way again 

Hallelujah in the waiting
Hallelujah even then  
Hallelujah for the healing
You will make a way again 

Hallelujah my Redeemer
You redeem me by Your blood
Hallelujah! What a Savior
You turn evil back for good 
 Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! My Redeemer!
My Redeemer!     

Psalm 102: God’s Time

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2020

From 2018: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 102, one of the seven penitential psalms. It is introduced as “the prayer of the afflicted”.

Yet, I find our verses today full of hope. They look with confidence to a better future.

You, O LORD, abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.

That last line, “for it is time to pity her”, is particularly touching as the psalmist nudges God to move forward with healing. Don’t we  pray like that sometimes?

  • Dear God, I’ve had all I can take! Please fix this — now!
  • Lord, I’ve learned my lesson. Please relent and rescue me.
  • Jesus, please let this trial be over and let us survive.
  • Lord, it is time for this to be over!

The bedrock of this prayer is the psalmist’s deep trust that God will act as God has promised:

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.

You may find your heart filled with a prayer like this today. Surely, our whole human community voices a longing for the pandemic sufferings to be over. Or there may be other afflictions you carry that are testing the limits of your endurance.

Psalm 94 holds out encouragement and hope. Reach for it and let it strengthen you.

But you are forever the same, Lord, 
without beginning or end, 
infinite in your compassion, 
fathomless in your love. 
You rebuild the desolate city; 
you bring the exiles back home. 
You grant the poor your abundance; 
you guide the nations toward peace.
You hear the cry of the destitute 
and the sobbing of the oppressed. 
You soothe the pain of the captive; 
you set the prisoner free. 
Come to me too in your mercy 
and set my soul at peace.
from A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell

Poetry: from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future, 
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been 
Point to one end, which is always present. 
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take 
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. 
My words echo 
Thus, in your mind.

Music: On Time God – Deborah Kline Iantorno

Psalm 94: Tough Talk

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

July 15, 2020

From 2016:

Today, in Mercy, on this feast of St. Bonaventure, we pray for God to be revealed across our battered globe. God does not hide from us. We hide God in our sinful choices. May we, no matter our religion or politics, find the means to confront terrorism, war and domination by uniting in the God who made and loves us all.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 94, a ruthless, stinging condemnation of greed, sinful arrogance, and hypocrisy. This morning’s prayer is not a comfortable one.

If you don’t think twice, you might feel like you’re reading today’s newspaper.

Set between Isaiah’s blistering condemnation of an “impious nation”, and Jesus’s expressed preference for the humble and innocent, this psalm scalds those who “trample” the widows, the stranger, the fatherless …

As I pray with the psalm’s uncompromising judgements, flashing before me are:

  • the faces of refugee families.
  • children in cages.
  • desperate parents pushed into buses to return to the terror they fled.
  • the Black and Brown faces of people consigned to our social and economic margins
  • the helpless eyes of those unfavored by a skewed justice system

Your people, O LORD, they trample down,
your inheritance they afflict.
Widow and stranger they slay,
the fatherless they murder.

My prayer is soaked with angry frustration at the unabated moral torpitude and social injustice of many with political power. When will they answer for their soulless actions and inactions!

And they say, “The LORD sees not;
the God of Jacob perceives not.”
Understand, you senseless ones among the people;
and, you fools, when will you be wise?

I take some solace in the promise of these final lines, stilling longing for a glimmer of the justice it describes:

For the LORD will not cast off his people,
nor abandon his inheritance;
But judgment shall again be with justice,
and all the upright of heart shall follow it.

May that day come soon, dear God, for all Creation and for all your beloveds suffering under the willful injustice, selfishness, indifference, or complicity of others.

Poetry: Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again

Music: All Who Love and Serve Your City – Eric Routley

All who love and serve your city,
all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice,
all who curse and all who bless,
In your day of loss and sorrow,
in your day of helpless strife,
honor, peace, and love retreating,
seek the Lord, who is your life.

In your day of wrath and plenty,
wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus,
“I must work while it is day.”
For all days are days of judgment,
and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him,
offering peace from Calvary’s hill.
Risen Lord! shall yet the city 
be the city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
be its name, “The Lord is there!”

Psalm 48: You’re Upheld

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

July 14, 2020

From 2016 

Today in Mercy, on this feast of St. Kateri, we pray for the grace to love others while still wisely discerning their words. May we listen, and allow our spirits to be formed, only by those words that reflect the love of God, respect for all God’s creation, and compassion toward all people. May we consistently eliminate from our life all words of hate, prejudice, indifference, and disrespect for ourselves and others.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which describes God’s greatness, especially as enshrined in the magnificent Holy City. Even enemy kings were so stunned by the city’s splendor that they fled before attacking, trembling in their stirrups.

I like to think about that trembling. When we were the youngest of nuns, about three months out of high school, we learned to say the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. This psalm was part of the Office and contained my favorite line:

Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.

Go ahead. You try saying it! It struck a few of us funny and gave us “church giggles”. Ever had them?

We were young. Everything was so new, and a little funny to us. It would take years of praying before God’s awesome magnificence – revealed in the long unfolding of life – to understand that “Tarshish” kind of soul-shaking.

But those years also have proven true the exultant refrain of today’s Responsorial:

God upholds his city for ever.

My dears, we are God’s beloved City. Let’s look back today at God’s merciful upholding of our lives through our many “Tarshishes” (dare you to say that one 😂)

We praise and thank you, Awesome Mercy!

Poem: Tyre – by Bayard Taylor who was an American poet, literary critic, translator, travel author, and diplomat. Taylor was born on January 11, 1825, in Kenneth Square in Chester County, PA. For my readers from other parts of the world, that’s about 30 minutes from where I live.❤️

A wonderful poem, not necessarily religious. But it is so beautifully crafted and will certainly help you imagine those “ships of Tarshish”.

THE wild and windy morning is lit with lurid fire;
The thundering surf of ocean beats on the rocks of Tyre, -- 
Beats on the fallen columns and round the headland roars, 
And hurls its foamy volume along the hollow shores,
And calls with hungry clamor, that speaks its long desire: 
‘Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?'

Within her cunning harbor, choked with invading sand,
No galleys bring their freightage, the spoils of every land, 
And like a prostrate forest, when autumn gales have blown, 
Her colonnades of granite lie shattered and o'erthrown; 
And from the reef the pharos no longer flings its fire,
To beacon home from Tarshish the lordly ships of Tyre.

Where is thy rod of empire, once mighty on the waves, --
Thou that thyself exalted, till Kings became thy slaves?
Thou that didst speak to nations, and saw thy will obeyed, --
Whose favor made them joyful, whose anger sore afraid, --
Who laid'st thy deep foundations, and thought them strong and sure, 
And boasted midst the waters, Shall I not aye endure?

Where is the wealth of ages that heaped thy princely mart? 
The pomp of purple trappings; the gems of Syrian art;
The silken goats of Kedar; Sabæa's spicy store;
The tributes of the islands thy squadrons homeward bore, 
When in thy gates triumphant they entered from the sea 
With sound of horn and sackbut, of harp and psaltery?

Howl, howl, ye ships of Tarshish! the glory is laid waste: 
There is no habitation; the mansions are defaced.
No mariners of Sidon unfurl your mighty sails;
No workmen fell the fir-trees that grow in Shenir's vales 
And Bashan's oaks that boasted a thousand years of sun, 
Or hew the masts of cedar on frosty Lebanon.

Rise, thou forgotten harlot! take up thy harp and sing: 
Call the rebellious islands to own their ancient king:
Bare to the spray thy bosom, and with thy hair unbound, 
Sit on the piles of ruins, thou throneless and discrowned!

There mix thy voice of wailing with the thunders of the sea, 
And sing thy songs of sorrow, that thou remembered be!
Though silent and forgotten, yet Nature still laments
The pomp and power departed, the lost magnificence:
The hills were proud to see thee, and they are sadder now; 
The sea was proud to bear thee, and wears a troubled brow, 
And evermore the surges chant forth their vain desire: 
‘Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?'

Music: I Will Carry You – Sean Clive