Psalm 103: Be Like God

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, and its gentle comforting refrain:

The Lord is kind and merciful, 
slow to anger, and rich in compassion.


Our Sunday readings encourage to become like this merciful, forgiving, patient, compassionate Lord.

I’m not doing so well at that. Anybody else with me? Sometimes I feel like we’re living in a desert devoid of humanness and reverence.

Somehow, in our current political and cultural environment, too often I feel angry and even outraged. Those kinds of feelings don’t leave much room for compassion and its accompanying virtues!


Recently I witnessed two wonderful friends openly spat on social media because of their opposing political camps. I’ve seen family members shut each other out for the same reasons. We can’t turn on the TV without seeing a barrage of hateful words and actions unleashed against other human beings.

I feel poisoned and sick when I see the culture we have brewed for ourselves!


In our first reading, Sirach seems to have felt pretty sickened by his environment too. He counsels his listeners:

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?


Paul, in our second reading, tells us why we should change our hateful behavior:

None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.


In our Gospel, Jesus uses a stunning parable to drive home the commandment for forgiveness. I don’t think any of us really wants to end up like the selfish, wicked servant – handed over to the torture of our own hatreds.

This Sunday’s readings are serious. They’re not kidding. We have to change any sinful incivility or hate that resides in our hearts. We may not be able to change our feelings. But we can stop feeding them with lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

What we can change are our actions and words. And we must.


Poetry: Love my enemies, enemy my love by Rebecca Seiferle

Oh, we fear our enemy’s mind, the shape
in his thought that resembles the cripple
in our own, for it’s not just his fear
we fear, but his love and his paradise
.
We fear he will deprive us of our peace
of mind, and, fearing this, are thus deprived,
so we must go to war, to be free of this
terror, this unremitting fear, that he might

he might, he might. Oh it’s hard to say
what he might do or feel or think.
Except all that we cannot bear of
feeling or thinking—so his might

must be met with might of armor
and of intent—informed by all the hunker
down within the bunker of ourselves.
How does he love? and eat? and drink?

He must be all strategy or some sick lie.
How can reason unlock such a door,
for we bar it too with friends and lovers,
in waking hours, on ordinary days?

Finding the other so senseless and unknown,
we go to war to feel free of the fear
of our own minds, and so come
to ruin in our hearts of ordinary days.

Music: Kyrie Eleison – Lord, have Mercy

This is an extended, meditative singing of the prayer. I like to listen to it in the very early morning. Just doing that is a good prayer for me.

Psalm 5: Bless Our Work

Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, September 7, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 5. It seems to me a good prayer for Labor Day which we celebrate today in the United States.

Psalm 5 is the prayer of an upright person seeking God’s justice and protection in order to live in God’s favor.

Then all who trust in you will be glad
and forever shout for joy.
You will protect them and those will rejoice in you
who love your name.
For you, LORD, bless the just ones;
surrounding them with favor like a shield.

The U.S labor movement grew out of similar desires for protection and justice. The inequities and hardships experienced by laborers at the turn of the 19th century led to protests and changes. These are recognized and celebrated on Labor Day.


Catholic social teaching, beginning with Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor”), has a long history of support for labor and unions.

“The most lasting effect of Rerum Novarum to Catholic social teaching was its approval of labor unions. Pope Leo observed that employers would not necessarily act in the best interests of their employees. Therefore, workers “must form associations among themselves and unite their forces so as to shake off courageously the yoke of so unrighteous and intolerable an oppression.” His hope was that social harmony would emerge as the three – employers, workers, and government – worked together: “Capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in pleasantness and good order; perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and outrage.” (Website: Diocese of Harrisburg)


Today, as we pray Psalm 5:

  • Let’s remember that all labor is a gift of participation in God’s continual act of Creation
  • Let’s be conscious of all those throughout the world whose labor is exploited. 
  • Let’s pray for all those unable to work for any reason, especially due to the effects of COVID 19.
  • Let’s give thanks for the labor of all our brothers and sisters which contribute to our wellbeing and happiness.
  • Let’s take time today to recognize the joy and blessings of our own labors throughout our lives.
  • And let’s ask ourselves these most important questions:

Why do I work?
What do I hope for as the fruit of my labors?

Our answers will tell us much about who we really are.


Poetry: What Work Is– Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to   
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,   
just because you don’t know what work is.

Music: Bread and Roses – Joan Baez

( Bread and Roses” is a political slogan well as the name of an associated poem and song. It originated from a speech given by American women’s suffrage activist Helen Todd; a line in that speech about “bread for all, and roses too” inspired the title of the poem Bread and Roses by James Oppenheim. The poem was first published in December 1911, with the attribution line “‘Bread for all, and Roses, too’—a slogan of the women in the West.” The poem has been translated into other languages and has been set to music by at least three composers.
The phrase is commonly associated with the successful textile strike in Massachusetts between January and March 1912, now often referred to as the “Bread and Roses strike”. The slogan pairing bread and roses, appealing for both fair wages and dignified conditions, found resonance as transcending “the sometimes tedious struggles for marginal economic advances” in the “light of labor struggles as based on striving for dignity and respect”, as Robert J. S. Ross wrote in 2013.)

As we go marching, marching
In the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens
A thousand mill lofts grey
Are touched with all the radiance
That a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing
Bread and roses, bread and roses

As we go marching, marching
We battle too for men
For they are women’s children
And we mother them again
Our lives shall not be sweetened
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread, but give us roses

As we go marching, marching
We bring the greater days
For the rising of the women
Means the rising of the race
No more the drudge and idler
Ten that toil where one reposes
But the sharing of life’s glories
Bread and roses, bread and roses

Psalm 95:Hear the Voice

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, a favorite of liturgists, and one we have met several times before. What different light might it offer us today as we pray?

The psalm today serves as a bridge between powerful readings about neighborly love and fraternal correction. These readings tell us to listen for God’s heartbeat in our world and to enter its rhythm. 

They also tell us to love our neighbor enough that, if she or he is out of synch with God’s rhythm, we help align them by our counsel and example.

Have you ever tried to do that? It’s really tough!


First of all, we have to be so vigilant about the purity of our own intentions. We can’t instruct our friends in righteousness out of our own confusion. So often, our desire for others to “improve” grows out of our opinionated self-interest. You might remember what Jesus said about extracting the plank from our own eye before removing the splinter from our neighbor’s!


Next we really have to love our sister or brother and sincerely want their good. We have to forgive them any hurt they have caused us. We have to be bigger than most of us, speaking for myself, are inclined to be.

As the psalm tells us, we can’t have hard hearts. As we approach our sister or brother, our hearts must be softened by listening, patience, understanding, humility and hope. We have to be sure the “voice” we’re sharing comes from God not self.

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.

And the flip of all this, of course, is that when we are the one out of rhythm, we receive loving correction in the same spirit of openness.

Lots of Grace is needed on both sides of this dance! May we learn and receive it!


Poetry: The Gift by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Music: Let Me Hear Your Voice – Francesca LaRose

Psalm 145: To Life!

Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 5, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, the only chapter of this Book which is specifically identified as a “psalm”, a hymn of praise.

I think of “praise” as gratitude steeped in awe, rising from our hearts when we are overwhelmed by God’s mercy, love, generosity or power.

Praise is a connection between God and us – so powerful that it is beyond words. It flows from us in song, dance, tears, and that profound silence which enfolds us in the Holy.


My whole family is filled with praise this week because, yesterday, we welcomed our second baby this week, precious Nathaniel.

Nathaniel joins his cousin Claire, born on Monday, both shining the beautiful Face of God on our family and the world! (And they join their treasured brother/cousins Robert and Ollie who must, of course, be mentioned in our praise🤗)


As we pray today, may each of us relish the sacred icons of Divine Life that God has given us. Sometimes these signs come in very surprising costumes. May we recognize them with the eyes of faith.


Poetry: Opening Heart – an interpretation of Psalm 145 by Christine Robinson

I exalt you, Holy One, and open my heart to you
by remembering your great love.
Your expansiveness made this beautiful world
in a universe too marvelous to understand.

Your desire created life, and you nurtured
that life with your spirit.
You cherish us all—and your prayer
in us is for our own flourishing.

You are gracious to us
slow to anger and full of kindness
You touch us with your love—speak to us
with your still, small voice, hold us when we fall.

You lift up those who are oppressed
by systems and circumstances.
You open your hand
and satisfy us.

You ask us to call on you—
and even when you seem far away, our
longings call us back to you.

Music: Forever Young – Joan Baez

Psalm 37: Divine Delight

Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, Sept 4, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37, a psalm which Walter Brueggemann says describes “a world that works!”


Jalopy with headache 🙂

Living in a world that sometimes feels like a crumbling old jalopy, “a world that works” sounds very inviting. So how does the psalmist imagine such a world’s genesis?

Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
you will be granted your heart’s requests.


When we hear a consoling verse like this, we might be tempted to picture a magical world where whatever we desire is granted to us – you know, sort of like the genie in the lamp! We’re good people – we deserve that, don’t we???


Rather, what we have been given, undeserved, is the eternal assurance that God is with us, and that as we open ourselves to God’s gracious Presence, our hearts will be transformed.

For ancient Israel, that heart-opening was accomplished by making just choices, remaining faithful in difficulty, and building a community of mutual care.

Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
Criminals are destroyed 
and the posterity of the wicked is cut off.


So, in the end, it is surely not that our “every wish” is granted. It is, instead, that we become so aligned with God’s hope for all Creation that it becomes our greatest desire and delight. We trust and live within God’s loving and Omnipotent Will for our good.

The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
God is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
delivering them from the wicked and saving them,
because they take refuge in God.


Poetry: Primary Wonder – Denise Levertov
( I am repeating this poem and, oh my, it is so worthy of the repetition!)

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: I Delight in You, Lord – David Baroni

Psalm 145: Prayer Answered

Memorial of Saint Monica

August 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Monica, we pray with Psalm 145.

We can almost picture the psalm’s sentiments pouring out in Monica’s prayer. For years, she had prayed for her son Augustine’s conversion. She was canonized for the level of her persevering prayer – a prayer blessed with the amazing answer of St. Augustine’s holy life.

Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.

Like the answer to most prayers, Monica’s came after the long working of God’s mysterious ways. Her own life was shaded by suffering and loss. But, she was steadfast in her hope over the nearly two decades it took to see Light dawn in Augustine.


Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.


As we reflect on the generations of our own families, and the decades of our own lives, there are many “Monica-Augustine” stories. Whenever we pray for life to lead us and our beloveds to God, we pray like Monica.

Today, let’s bring our own “Augustines” to God in hopeful prayer. And let’s thank God for any “Monica” who has done this loving service for us over our lives.

I think this morning of my mother’s well-worn prayer book. The little devotional volume had been fattened with a number of prayer cards stuffed in its thin pages. One day, just before my mother died, I noticed this one: Prayer for My Daughter, a Nun. I can’t say I was exactly surprised by it. I supposed Mom prayed for me. But the card blessed me in a vey tender way and made me confident that my life would continue to be blessed.


Discovering the card also made me aware of my responsibility to pray daily for my family, friends, and community. They are my “Augustines” in whatever challenges they may face in life – just as I hope I am somebody’s too. Because, friends, we belong to one another in the Communion of Saints, and our “family” is fed not by blood, but by the Spirit.

The generations discourse of the power of your awesome deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice.


Poetry: St. Augustine and Monica by Charles Tennyson Turner

Her weeping kiss – for years, her sorrow flowed
At last into his wilful blood; he owed
To her his after-life of truth and bliss:
And her own joy, what words, what thoughts could paint!
When o’er his soul, with sweet constraining force,
Came Penitence – a fusion from remorse –
And made her boy a glorious Christian saint.
Oh ye, who tend the young through doubtful years
Along the busy path from birth to death,
Parents and friends! forget not in your fears
The secret strength of prayer, the holy breath
That swathes your darlings! think how Austin’s faith
Rose like a star upon his mother’s tears!


Music: (something for opera fans among us) La Conversione di Sant Agostino, Oratorio by Johann Adolph Hasse

Hasse begins La Conversione di Sant’ Agostino with an orchestral introduction that establishes the work‘s tonal center in the key of B-flat major, with most arias composed within related keys. From the grandeur and dynamic intensity of the Introduction comes the first vocal entrance of the oratorio. The listener acts as a voyeur into a conversation between Simpliciano (tenor), a priest, and Monica (soprano), the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo, in which Monica expresses her fears that her son may never change his wicked ways. This urgent desire becomes the core dramatic theme throughout the oratorio with Alipio (alto), the friend, and Navigio (bass), the brother, serving to intensify the desperate desire for conversion. The role of Saint Augustine (alto) is secondary to that of his mother, Monica. Saint Augustine only has two arias, both dealing with his desire to find release from his sinful ways. His conversion is explicitly stated in the Part Two aria in which he begs God to look upon him with compassion following the censure of his own heart.

Psalm 107: Lost Then Found

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

August 21, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 107, a chant of gratitude to God’s Mercy from the lost who have been found.

There are all kinds of “lost”. 

There are small “losts” like when I misinterpret my GPS and keep hearing “Recalculating route…”. 

Then there are huge “losts” like when a beloved dies and our life’s anchor breaks.

This morning’s psalm and reading are speaking of a particular kind of “lost”, one that comes from wandering away from Love, for whatever reason that happens to us.


As I pray these readings, the face of a good high school friend comes to mind. Judy was a super basketball player. Everything about her was vigor, coordination, and that all-American beauty that needed no makeup to impress anybody.

After graduation, I went into the silence of the pre-Vatican II convent and Judy disappeared into her future. When our five-year reunion rolled around, I looked forward to reconnecting with her.

When I saw her, my heart broke. She was a shadow of herself, emaciated, listless, and lightless. She silently shouted a refrain like today’s verse from Ezekiel:

Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.

We were both twenty-three years old. I was just beginning to grow into my hopes. Judy was already divorced, alone, and the mother of a father-starved child.

That kind of “lost” feels almost irredeemable. 


But Psalm 107 assures us that, in faith, no loss, no alienation is irredeemable.

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits God rescued them.
And led them by a direct way
to the healing of community.


Judy and I stayed in touch for a few years. Despite her troubles, she kept faith. That was the key.

She did the hard work to find herself again with the help of family, friends, counselors, and a supportive faith community. Eventually, she remarried and was happy the last time I saw her before she moved to the west coast.


This morning, I see such apparent parallels between Israel’s and Judy’s story. That helps me look back over my own life for the same, perhaps not so dramatic, parallels and to be grateful for the many times God found me.

Let them give thanks for God’s Mercy
and wondrous deeds to us,
Because God has satisfied the longing soul
and filled the hungry heart with good things.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Poetry: Lost – Carl Sandburg

Desolate and lone 
All night long on the lake 
Where fog trails and mist creeps, 
The whistle of a boat 
Calls and cries unendingly, 
Like some lost child 
In tears and trouble 
Hunting the harbor’s breast 
And the harbor’s eyes. 


Music: Amazing Grace – Sean Clive

Psalm 67: Bless Us All!

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we read the story of the Canaanite woman whom Jesus first meets with a sarcastic banter. The banter however serves to expose some of the alienating prejudices of Jesus’s time which he then dissolves in a sweeping act of mercy and inclusion. His actions signify a new culture of divine justice offered to all people. The reading challenges us to confront our own prejudices and any limitations we place on who belongs to the Kingdom of God.

from this Sunday’s Reflection – 2017

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 67, a call to God for universal blessing on all Creation. Written to invoke a benediction on the land’s harvest, the Psalm blossoms into a generous prayer for the whole world to bask in God’s abundance.

May the nations be glad and rejoice;
for you judge the peoples with fairness,
you guide the nations upon the earth.

What if we prayed like that for all our brothers and sisters worldwide! What if we acted toward them with a justice that would make their abundance possible as well as our own! This is the Gospel mandate Jesus entrusted to us.

Psalm 67 shows the maturing of a nation from its own legitimate self-interests into its responsibility within all Creation.


In the USA, as our pre-election political awareness heightens, let’s learn from Psalm 67. Let’s broadly educate ourselves to the fundamental moral issues underlying various partisan platforms. 

For a religious person, voting is hard. There are profound moral issues on all sides of the question. A single issue approach does not work. An adamant stance on a single issue is the easy but inadequate approach. 


Even Jesus, in today’s Gospel, can be moved to a new way of thinking. The outcast Canaanite woman prevails on Jesus to broaden his kingdom. He opens his heart to another way of bringing mercy to all those longing for it.


Voting is a moral act. How we choose demonstrates the God we believe in.


May the peoples praise you, God;
may ALL the peoples praise you!


Poetry: Selah by Honoreé Fannane Jeffers

“The past few weeks were very hopeful for me, as an African-American. I saw images of young Black people out in the streets protesting, to make this country a better place. As an older person who stayed inside while these young folks put their bodies on the line, I wanted to celebrate them. I wrote this poem as a spiritual exaltation of Black faith, that our hoped-for change for our country is coming.”

Honoreé Fanonne Jeffers

Selah
after Margaret Walker’s “For My People”


The Lord clings to my hands
             after a night of shouting. 
                           The Lord stands on my roof 
             & sleeps in my bed. 
Sings the darkened, Egun tunnel— 
             cooks my food in abundance, 
                           though I was once foolish 
             & wished for an emptied stomach. 
The Lord drapes me with rolls of fat 
             & plaits my hair with sanity. 
                           Gives me air, 
             music from unremembered fever. 
This air
                            oh that i may give air to my people 
                            oh interruption of murder 
                                         the welcome Selah
The Lord is a green, Tubman escape. 
             A street buzzing with concern, 
                           minds discarding answers. 
             Black feet on a centuries-long journey.
The Lord is the dead one scratching my face, 
             pinching me in dreams. 
                           The screaming of the little girl that I was, 
             the rocking of the little girl that I was— 
the sweet hush of her healing. 
             Her syllables 
                           skipping on homesick pink. 
             I pray to my God of confused love, 
a toe touching blood 
             & swimming through Moses-water. 
                           A cloth & wise rocking. 
             An eventual Passover, 
outlined skeletons will sing 
             this day of air 
                           for my people—
                                         oh the roar of God 
                                         oh our prophesied walking

Music: Charles Ives – Psalm 67

The Feast of the Assumption

Many of us grew up in households where we were surrounded by a strong devotional faith. I am happy to be one of those people. These simple, sacramental practices awakened and engaged my young faith and offered me a visible means to respond to its stirrings. These practices also offered my parents and grandparents the tools to teach me to love and trust God, Mary and the saints.

I remember with gratitude the many parameters of that deep devotion which accompanied our fundamental practice of a sacramental and liturgical life.

  • Our home had a crucifix in every room.
  • Over the main door was the statue of the Infant of Prague and the first Christmas card we had received depicting the Three Kings. (Under the statue was a single dime – so that we wold never completely run out of money!)
  • All year, Dad’s fedora sported a tiny piece of straw tucked into its plaid band. He had plucked it from the parish Christmas crèche, near to St. Joseph who was his patron.
  • During a really violent thunderstorm, we might get a sprinkling from Mom’s holy water flask kept for especially taxing situations.

And, maybe because we live not too far from the ocean, we had one special summer practice. We went into the ocean on the Feast of the Assumption, believing that Mary offered us special healing and graces on that day.

I can still picture young boys helping their elderly grandparents into the shallow surf. I remember mothers and fathers marking their children’s brows with a briny Sign of the Cross. There was a humble, human reverence and trust in these actions that blesses me still.

While that August 15th ritual, like similar devotions, might seem superstitious and even hokey to some today, the memory of it remains with me as a testament to the simple faith and deep love of God’s people for our Blessed Mother.

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God). The world at that time was still healing from the horrors of World War II. The Pope himself, no doubt, was wounded beyond description by what he had witnessed. He begins his letter by saying:

“Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life.“

It was just such devotion and faith, expressed over centuries by the faithful, that moved Pius XII to declare this dogma:

“We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
(MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS 44)

This belief is complementary to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. These two articles of faith embrace the totality of Mary’s life which was uniquely blessed among all humans. Mary offers us, in our humanity, both a model of and a supportive invitation to holiness.

Jan Van Eyke – Ghent Altarpiece

Sister Marie T. Farrell, RSM closes her scholarly essay on the Assumption with these words:

Mary assumed into heaven and Spiritualised in her whole personhood is a pro- phetic symbol of hope for us all. In his Resurrection-Ascension, Jesus has shown the way to eternal life. In the mystery of Assumption, the Church sees Mary as the first disciple of many to be graced with a future already opened by Christ, one that defies comprehension for ‘…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…’(1 Cor 2: 9)

Musical Reflection with Song: Prayer of Pure Love – Letty Hammock

Psalm 102: For the Generations

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

August 4, 2020

The USCCB website (that you click for daily readings) has been beautifully updated. Make sure you take a look!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 102. Today’s chosen verses proclaim the psalmist’s confidence that the Covenant Promise will endure through the generations.


The psalm really rings a bell for me today. We are expecting two new babies in my family within the next month. The excitement and joy are building throughout the family branches, scattered over several states and hundreds of miles.

Due to Covid-19, I probably won’t be with these new “grands” for a long time. That’s why I am so grateful for FaceTime to help me feel a real part of their lives.


Psalm 102 is David’s FaceTime.
Through it, he looks into a future
physically distant from him.
He has confidence that that future
is already blessed by God
through the faith which it inherits.


Thinking about this, I realize that I am someone’s “future” – my parents, grandparents and all the long line of ancestors before them. They thought about me, hoped in me, prayed for me the way I am praying for these coming babies.

Those Elders passed on to me a strong faith, hard-earned on the soils of Ireland, hard-carried over immigrant waters, hard-kept in a highly secularized culture. Like David, they wanted God’s faithfulness to be remembered by all who came after them:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD …


When my Aunt Mary died last October, I became the oldest living member of our family. I take that role seriously. I pray for our entire family, by blood and law, every day.

Each day, I pick one who gets special prayers for blessing on his or her life. Sometimes I know they need it for a certain reason. Sometimes, they have no idea I am praying for them – or perhaps, if they are distant relatives, that I even know their names.


As we pray Psalm 119 today, let’s consider our place in the generations of faith, and our responsibility to give and receive the riches of that faith to one another.

The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD  and God’s praise
may be ever declared;
When the peoples gather together
and the families, to serve the LORD.


Poetry: Isaac’s Blessing by Janet Eigner whose adult daughter died young, leaving the freckled boy in this poem:

When Isaac, a small, freckled boy 
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp, 
playing pirate with his rubber sword,

sometimes he slumps in grief, 
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin 
in hand, his palm over his chest,

saying, Mother is here 
in my heart. Before he leaves for home, 
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.

Our grandson’s handsome face ignites; 
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life. 
We unfold the prayer shawl,

its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light, 
hold the white tallis above his head, 
recite the blessing in its ancient language

and then the English, adding, for a long life. 
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t 
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.

We lower its silken ceiling 
to graze his dark hair, 
repeat the prayer.

Music: As for Me and My House – a prayer for our families for the generations