Psalm 110:Through Paul’s Lens

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 110, but through the lens of our first reading from Hebrews.

We have prayed with this psalm a few times recently, exploring its links to priesthood, ministry, and good old Melchizedek. When I saw it again this morning, I was at little exhausted by it. Then I read Hebrews and got a new perspective on Psalm 110.

For by one offering Christ has made perfect forever 
those who are being consecrated.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:
    This is the covenant I will establish with them
        after those days, says the Lord:
    “I will put my laws in their hearts,
        and I will write them upon their minds,”

Hebrews 10:14-16

This passage from Hebrews is a testament to Jesus Christ, the ultimate High Priest, the Complete Melchizedek. That which Christ sanctifies or consecrates is us – his Body, the Church.

This consecration places in our hearts the covenant once spoken of by Jeremiah:

See, days are coming says the LORD—
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.
They broke my covenant, though I was their master.
But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days.
I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:31-33

Praying with Psalm 110 in this light, I give thanks for the Covenant expressed in my own life:

  • for my Baptism into Christ,
  • for the grace to witness to Christ’s law of love
  • for my inclusion into Christ’s ongoing ministry through the Holy Spirit

Poetry: The Covenant Prayer of John Wesley (1703–1791)

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Music: A New and Living Way – Michael Card

Year after year there the priest would stand
 An offering of blood held out in in his hand
 Before the curtain there he would stand in fright
 It hung there to hold in the holy ~ to keep in the light
 
A new and living way
 Through the curtain that was torn
 The climax of the cross
 The moment our hope was born
 By a new and living way
 
 And when time was full another Priest came to save
 He would offer forgiveness for He was the Offering He gave
 From the sacrifice ~ from that dark disgrace
 Came the power to make anywhere a Most Holy Place
 
 A new and living way
 Through the curtain that was torn
 The climax of the cross

Psalm 72: Governed with Mercy

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop

January 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 72 which will be familiar to us because it is used six times throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Psalm 72: 1-2

This short post-Epiphany season is all about “manifestation” – how Jesus begins to show us the face of God-become-flesh.

The core message, conveyed to us in the daily progressive reading of 1 John, is that God is Love.


Our Gospel today, the feeding of the 5000, shows how that Love is expressed – merciful action for those in need.

Our psalm, written a thousand years before Christ, exults in the expectation of such a merciful Messiah:


The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Let us begin once again, in this new year,
to soak in the words and images
describing this longed-for and loving Savior.


Poetry: When Little Was Enough – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

(LUKE 9:10–17)

“Send the people away from this deserted place
to find food and lodgings,” the twelve urged Jesus,
“for the day is advanced and it is almost evening.”

Jesus looked at the crowd (there were about five thousand)
and looked at his disciples, still excited and tired
from their first mission journey.

What had they learned from the villagers of Galilee
who shared bread and sheltered them from cold night winds?
What had they learned of human coldness on the way?

He remembered the pain in his mother’s voice
as she told of his birth night when they found no room
in all of Bethlehem, House of Bread.

“You give them something to eat!” he said.

“We have only five loaves and two fish!” they protested.
“How can we feed so many with so little?”
He understood their incredulity.

They had yet to learn that a little was enough
when it was all they had—
that God could turn these very stones to bread.

“Have the crowd sit down in groups of fifty,” he said.
Jesus took the food and looked up to heaven.
He blessed it, broke it, gave it to the disciples
to distribute to the new-formed churches.

Afterwards, when everyone was satisfied,
the twelve filled twelve baskets of bread left over—
as faith stirred like yeast within them.


Music: Justice Shall Flourish – Rory Cooney

Psalm 95: Advent’s Threshold

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 28, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95. As we pray its laudatory verses, we are invited to stand on the very threshold of Advent.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into the Lord’s presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to our God.


Even though the pre-dawn sky seems essentially unchanged, we can sense the First Light waiting to spring over the horizon. And, oh, how we long for it! How we need it to illuminate the shadows of this pandemic year, to warm the long cold of separation and loss, to fill the stunned silence of our hearts with a new rising song!

For the LORD is a great God,
and a great king above all gods;
God holds the depths of the earth,
and the tops of the mountains
like jewels in a loving hand.
God made and owns the sea
and the dry land, forming them from the Divine Imagination!


We join the whole Church as we pray today’s psalm refrain:

We ask God to prepare Advent’s doors in our hearts and spirits. It is time to be renewed in faith, hope, and love. Over the coming season, God will guide us to that longed-for Light. 

So for this last pre-Advent day:

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us,
who is our God,
and we are the people Love shepherds, 
the flock Love guides.


Poetry: Advent Credo by Allan Boesak

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

From Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak, Eerdmans, 2004.

Music: Threshold – Adam Hurst

Called to Be Saints

Solemnity of All Saints


Today, in Mercy, we celebrate all those canonized and uncanonized sisters and brothers who lived their lives in Christ with gusto and fidelity.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III by (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”. (Wikipedia)


I’ve personally known many of these saints, whether I fully recognized their sanctity or not. I know you have too!

They have lived in my family, school, neighborhood, parish, ministries, and workplaces. Some were clothed as nuns and some as beggars. Some taught me by words and some by silence. I knew some by name, others by grace. Now they have all joined the eternal family watching over us and cheering for us.

There they have formed communion with my more recognized and favorite holy friends like Mary, Joseph, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Kateri Tekawitha, Anna the Prophet, John XXIII, John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and of course Catherine McAuley.

What a wonderful day to know that these beloveds of God are our sisters and brothers, who pray with and for us that we may one day rejoice with them in eternal light.

Who are the saints that speak especially to your heart? Take time to have a grateful conversation with them on this glorious feastday! And I would so love to see them noted in the comments so that we all may rejoice in their lives!

In the comments, you are invited to list five or six of your personal saints who blessed your life with grace. Please share if you can. I am sure this community would love to pray in thanksgiving with you for those who have so blessed your life. Here are just a few of mine:

  • Eleanor Mellon Yann
  • Jim Yann
  • Sister Mary Giovanni Wynne
  • Mother Mary Bernard Graham
  • Eunice Hunt
  • Clare Costello
  • Sister Mary Joan Thompson
  • Joe, on the heat grate at 17th and Arch
  • Every single, sweet soul at McAuley Convent who has blessed me by their faith and goodness

Music:  All Saints Day – featuring “Lifesong” by Casting Crowns (lyrics below)

Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
Now joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight

May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day

Lord let my heart wash true
Let my lifesong sing to you
Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be your hands and feet

So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day

Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you

Hallelujah,…
Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day

Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you

The “Impossibler” and His Buddy

October 28, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude. Since we have reflected on Psalm 19 twice recently, I have republished a reflection on the Apostles Simon and Jude whom we honor today.

Not much is really known about either of these men. One tradition suggests that after the Ascension, they went together to carry the Gospel to Persia where they were eventually martyred.

Since we have so few facts, many legends and interpretations have grown up around these two men. Probably the strongest and most familiar of these is of St. Jude as the patron of hopeless cases.

There are probably very few of us who haven’t asked at least one favor from St. Jude in our lifetimes. This probability begs the question of why and how do we pray with the saints.

Our tradition holds that we exist in the Communion of Saints with all of God’s creatures, and that we inspire and support one another by the sharing of our lives. This sharing is not limited by time, nor is it constricted by death.

When we pray with the saints, we draw on their faithful witness to inspire, motivate and sustain us in our lives.

Today, we might pray within the spirit of these two great Christians whose witness, though historically muted, transcends time. May they inspire in us the passion and joy to speak Christ in our lives.

Music: Apostles’ Creed – sung here by Rebecca Gorzynska, a beautiful and talented artist (Latin and English text below.)

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, 
Creatorem caeli et terrae,
et in Iesum Christum, 
Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,
qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, 
natus ex Maria Virgine,
passus sub Pontio Pilato, 
crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,
descendit ad ínferos, 
tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit ad caelos, 
sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,
inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, 
sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam.
Amen

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven;
sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Amen. 
(Apostles’ Creed – Roman Ritual)

Psalm 1: Play Nice Together

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 26, 2020

2018 Reflection on the Bent-Over Woman

Click here ^


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 which, together with our first reading from Ephesians, gives us a complete outline for moral behavior.

There are days when I feel like the world’s not doing too bad responding to that outline. But, to be honest, there are more days when I think we’re a pretty big mess. 

It may sound simplistic, I know, but why can’t we all just follow Paul’s advice and be kind?

Brothers and sisters:
Be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Ephesians 4:32

I think Pope Francis feels pretty much the same way as I do. Our reading from Ephesians could easily serve as a summary statement for Fratelli Tutti. Praying with this profound document, we can see the hope and agony of the world open before God’s Mercy, begging for healing.

(You may realize that I frequently refer to Fratelli Tutti. I believe this ground-breaking encyclical to be critically important for the future of our world. If you share my belief, you will be interested in this superb analysis written in Commonweal magazine by Austen Ivereigh.)


Psalm 1 gives us the peaceful picture of a person – and a world – centered on God’s loving law, the “plumb line” for holy balance in our lives. It is that same plumb line which Pope Francis drops for us in Fratelli Tutti.

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.

Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.

Psalm 1

Poetry: A thought from Confucius:

If there is righteousness in the heart, 
there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character, 
there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home, 
there will be order in the nations.

When there is order in the nations, 
there will peace in the world.

Music: Blessed Be the Tie – Sara Groves remasters an enduring hymn on Ephesians 4:32. The original was written in 1782 by Baptist theologian John Fawcett

You for a father’s throne
We pour our art in prayer
Our fears and hopes are one
Out comforts and our cares

Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love
We share each other’s walls
Our common burdens bear
And love for each other
The sympathizing tear

Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love
Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love
Oh, kindred heart

It’s like heaven above
It’s like heaven
Oh, kindred heart
It’s like heaven above
It’s like heaven

Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love, oh
Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love

Psalm 122: The Journey

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 24, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 122, one of my favorites.

I rejoiced when they said to me
“Let us go to the house of the LORD
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.


The year 1963 was a dynamic time in the Church. The landmark Second Vatican Council was reaching full steam.

Several changes resulted from the Council, including the renewal of consecrated life with a revised charism, ecumenical efforts towards dialogue with other religions, and the universal call to holiness which, according to Pope Paul VI, was “the most characteristic and ultimate purpose of the teachings of the Council”.

Wikipedia


Simultaneously, a love and engagement with sacred scripture was blossoming throughout the Church.  International scholars were completing their response to Pius XII’s 1943 call, in the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, to translate scriptures from the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts. The incomparable Jerusalem Bible was the fruit of these endeavors. It had already been published in French, and was nearing its 1966 English publication.

One of these gifted Bible scholars was a French Jesuit priest, Joseph Gelineau. Gelineau was himself part of the working group for the French Jerusalem Bible, and he developed a revised version of that psalter which respected the rhythms of the Hebrew original.

In my senior year in high school, 1962-63, we were introduced to the Gelineau Psalms. That introduction came at a perfect time for me, as I discerned a call to religious life. In that discernment, Gelineau Psalm 122 became a central part of my prayer.

Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.


I felt rising in me a passionate desire to find and engage my “Jerusalem”, that journey which would pattern my life on the life of Jesus.

The outlines of the journey, the distant vision of “Jerusalem”, were so surreal and indefinite. And yet they were compelling. I came to believe and trust that I would find my path to holiness, my Jerusalem, as a Sister of Mercy. 

Like Jesus, I was given the grace and courage to “steadfastly set my face toward Jerusalem” ( Luke 9:51) And it has been an indescribably amazing journey ever since!


As Vatican II so beautifully stated in the document Lumen Gentium, chapter 5, we all share in the universal call to holiness. We all have our own path to that one, glorious Jerusalem. 

I know these Documents of Vatican II are over a half century old. But they are priceless classics that I never tire of studying. Here are some passages that might enrich our prayer today as we each consider our own call and response to God.

Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (I Thes. 4:3; df. Eph. 1:4).

The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one-that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his or her own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.

Finally all Christ’s faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives-and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will. In this temporal service, they will manifest to all humanity the love with which God loved the world.


Poem: The Neophyte – Alice Meynell

Who knows what days I answer for to-day:
  Giving the bud I give the flower.  I bow
  This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.

Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
  Give one repose to pain I know not now,
  One leaven to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

Oh, rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
  I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils?  In their retreat
  I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
  And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.

Music: Jerusalem, My Destiny – Rory Cooney (All lyrics below)

Refrain: I have fixed my eyes on your hills, Jerusalem, my Destiny. 
Though I cannot see the end for me I cannot turn away. 
We have set our hearts for the way; this journey is our destiny. 
Let no one walk alone. The journey makes us one.
1. Other spirits, lesser gods, have courted me with lies. 
Here among you I have found a truth that bids me rise. Refrain
2. See, I leave the past behind; a new land calls to me. 
Here among you now I find a glimpse of what might be. Refrain
3. In my thirst, you let me drink the waters of your life, 
Here among you I have met, the Savior, Jesus Christ. Refrain
4. All the worlds I have not seen you open to my view. 
Here among you I have found a vision bright and new. Refrain
5. To the tombs I went to mourn the hope I thought was gone, 
Here among you I awoke to unexpected dawn. Refrain

Psalm 96: A New Song

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 18, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, one of the “royal psalms” praising God as King.

Bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.
Tremble before God, all the earth;
declare among the nations: The LORD is King.
The world will surely stand fast, 
never to be shaken.
The Lord rules the peoples with fairness.
The Lord rules the peoples with fairness.

Psalm 96: 9-10

Our psalm today forms a link between two readings about two different kinds of human kings.

In our first reading, we hear about King Cyrus, an “anointed” one:

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him …

Isaiah 45;1

In fact, Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. This became a very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects. Israel thrived under Cyrus and found no barriers to their own religious practices


In our Gospel, however, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by testing him about their current political leadership, which is not so kindly inclined to the people:

Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Matthew 22:17

Jesus’s answer pretty much tells to Pharisees to obey the legitimate law. But that answer is secondary to his real challenge to them:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?


Our psalm is the praise song of a people who do not “test” God; who receive both the blessings and trials of life with faith and hope, and seek the path to God within those circumstances.

A “Cyrus” builds up that holy courage in the people. A “Caesar” only builds up himself.


In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul shows himself to be such an “anointed” leader, praying for and encouraging the Church in the journey of faith:

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father …


Today, there’s a lot of politics swirling in the wind – a lot of discerning about leadership and our own brand of “kings”. The current sufferings of our time cause our hearts to long for “a new song”.

The readings today remind me that the only way our spirits can …

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell God’s glory among the nations;
among all peoples, God’s wondrous deeds

… is by living Paul’s formula – “to live our lives as a work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.


:Sing a New Song – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Our Lady of the Rosary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

October 7, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117. Since it is also the Memorial of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, I’ll refer you to a previous post on Psalm 117.


For today, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, we may wish to focus on that venerable prayer which had its origins in the very early Church. In fact, those early versions of a rosary are connected to the Psalms:

Prayers with beads like the rosary may have begun as a practice by the laity to imitate the Christian monasticism of the Liturgy of the Hours during the course of which the monastics prayed the 150 Psalms daily. As many of the laity could not read, they substituted 150 repetitions of the Our Father for the Psalms, sometimes using a cord with knots on it to keep an accurate count.
(The Catholic Encyclopedia)


The shape of the rosary as we pray it today emerged more clearly in the 13th century as Marian devotion blossomed in the Church. The tendency of that devotion was to place Mary, and other saints, between us and God. They, having already gained heaven, were deemed to have intercessory power we lacked. So praying the rosary became an “asking prayer” rather than a meditation on the whole of Christ’s life. In many ways, our relationship with Mary also took on a sentimentalism which lessened her true and unique power as witness and companion in the Communion of Saints.


Theotokos of the Passion – 17th century

Today, Marian theology, as well as rosary devotion, looks to a clearer understanding of Mary’s role as participant in the continuing redemptive act of Jesus. Praying with her, in any form, is an opportunity to experience Jesus from her perspective and to apply that grace to our own life and world.

“Remembering Mary as a friend of God and prophet in the communion of saints, a woman who is truly sister to our strivings, allows the power of her life to play in the religious consciousness of the church, encouraging ever-deeper relationship with the living God in whom our spirits rejoice, and allying us with God’s redemptive designs for the hungry, the lowly, and all those who suffer, including in an unforgettable way women with their children in situations of poverty, prejudice, and violence.”

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Truly Our Sister

I try, as I pray the rosary, to imagine Mary within each particular mystery or circumstance of Christ’s life. What did she experience? How did she grow in grace? What is she guiding me toward in my relationship with God?

I also ask Mary to allow those graces and insights to bless and heal not only my life but the life of the world, particularly where there is great pain or suffering for women and children.


In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being
~ Denise Levertov
(Reading this poem, we may think of our prayer as a “breathing” enveloped in the Presence of God. The “holy ones”, like Mary, easily ride that breath of prayer. When we pray with them, as in the Rosary, they “rock” us into the silent rhythm of God.)

Photographer: Johannes Plenio
Birds afloat in air's current,
sacred breath?  No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It's we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled -- but only the saints
take flight.  We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest.  The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air.  Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storms or still, 
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
encompassed, encompassed.

Music: Beneath Your Compassion (Sub Tuum Praesidium) performed here in Russian by the PaTRAM Institute Singers

The oldest known devotion to Mary can be found in the words of a hymn that is documented to have existed and been sung before the middle of the 3rd century. 

Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Theotokos:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble;
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

Fratelli Tutti

Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
October 4-5, 2020

This year, in normal liturgical custom, our Sunday celebration supersedes the Feastday of Francis. But I can’t let this special day go by without notice. Therefore, I am publishing tomorrow’s reflection early, hoping that you will read some of it today. I write with warmest greeting to all Franciscans, especially my dear Sisters in Aston. PA. (The Franciscan Spiritual Center has designed some wonderful programs and made them accessible even during the pandemic. Here is a link to explore their wonderful offerings.)


St. Francis Preaches to the Birds – Giotto

For reflection, I plan to spend this evening and tomorrow morning with Pope Francis’s new encyclical Fratelli Tutti (Brothers and Sisters All), issued on this feast. St. Francis inspired the world with a renewed Gospel vision. Our Holy Father seeks to do the same with this ground-breaking teaching.

These will be the first of many prayerful days with this powerful document which Michael Sean Winters, in the National Catholic Reporter, describes:

What is clear is that Pope Francis has given the church a testament of authentic solidarity at a time when our president — and his nationalistic allies abroad — offers a counterfeit of solidarity. Both varieties of solidarity are responses to the excesses and the poverties created by neo-liberalism. Yes, poverties, it is clear, … that the material wealth neoliberal economies generate is precisely coincident with the generation of spiritual and moral poverty. The whole world groans to move beyond the moral slovenliness of laissez-faire ideas. But only the pope’s version represents an authentically Christian version of solidarity and, I would add, an authentically human version. This text challenges Christians in unique ways, but it challenges all….
…. If this pandemic does not shake us out of our post-modern cultural and moral and spiritual lethargy, what will? Pope Francis is throwing the Catholic Church and the whole world a lifeline. Will we grab it?


If you would like to pray with this profound and challenging instruction from Pope Francis, here is a link to it.


A second opportunity for prayer over today and tomorrow comes from our Mercy Sister Eileen Dooling. On our Sisters of Mercy blog, Eileen offers a lovely reflection on the Franciscan-Mercy connection. I’m sure you will enjoy it.


As you can see, there are so many ways to reflect, pray and grow on this beautiful feast. May your prayer be blessed by Francis (both of them) and by this amazing music!

Music: St. Francis Preaching to the Birds by Franz Liszt, played by Kotaro Fukuma