Alleluia: Speak, Lord!

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 26, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062622.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse suggests an amazing consideration- that the Almighty God responds to our human invitation!

Alleluia, alleluia.
Speak, Lord, your servant is listening;
you have the words of everlasting life.

1 Sm 3:9; Jn 6:68


This humble, hopeful prayer encapsulates themes from each of today’s readings which all use the symbol of a yoke to illustrate their message.

Elisha, and the listeners to both Paul and Jesus understand what a yoke does. It ties the beast of burden to its task. It also ties the one who holds the reins and plow handle.

Although the symbols of ploughing and yoke may be less familiar to us, our readings instruct us that to truly hear God’s voice in our lives we must have a deep freedom from anything that burdens our spirits. How do we do that while living normal human lives with responsibilities, worries and frustrations?

Our verse today might offer us an answer. It all depends on how we perceive our daily lives. 

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Do we see our life only for itself with all the burdens it might put on us? Or do we see it as the sacred unfolding of an infinitely deeper life – everlasting life?

  • Elisha’s life was so much more than the field he had to plow that day!
  • The Galatians lives were so much more than the “biting” arguments that plagued them that day!
  • Jesus’s invitation to follow him is to so much more than the surface concerns of our lives.

Our life in Christ is a call to live in the deep stream of grace – to live “everlasting life” even within the limits of time’s circumstances.

Doing so changes us. It breaks the yoke that constricts our vision, our hope, our capacity for mercy. It allows us to invite God to speak and to hear God’s voice in our ordinary day. It strengthens us to live with extraordinary love and “everlasting “ grace.

Poetry: from T.S.Eliot’s Ash Wednesday 

I have taken a few lines from this long poem of Eliot’s. He wrote it in his later years. He expresses his continuing struggle with living a deep faith. After the excerpt, there is a link to the entire poem. I find Eliot not to be an easy poet, but oh is he ever worth the effort!

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent

If the unheard, unspoken

Word is unspoken, unheard;

Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,

The Word without a word, the Word within

The world and for the world;

And the light shone in darkness and

Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled

About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word

Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence

Not on the sea or on the islands, not

On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,

For those who walk in darkness

Both in the day time and in the night time

The right time and the right place are not here

No place of grace for those who avoid the face

No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny

the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for

Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,

Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,

time and time, between

Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait

In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray

For children at the gate

Who will not go away and cannot pray:

Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender

Yew trees pray for those who offend her

And are terrified and cannot surrender

And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks

In the last desert before the last blue rocks

The desert in the garden the garden in the desert

Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/t__s__eliot/poems/15133


Music – I Can Hear Your Voice – Jean Watson, Michael W. Smith

Alleluia: Full of Grace

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June 25, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062522.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Mary, blessed mother of Jesus, and thus of us all who have been born anew in him.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is the Virgin Mary
who kept the word of God
and pondered it in her heart.

What can this beautiful mother teach us, she who kept and pondered the very Word of God?

In order to grow fully in to God’s heart and will, this holy woman held the Word – the way the dough holds yeast to allow its own transformation.

So that she might blossom into the fullness of her own beauty, she caressed faith’s slow-forming bud in the dark protection of her prayer.


Like all of us, Mary was not divine. She was not supernatural. She was an ordinary, good woman who loved God with extraordinary passion.

She spent her days clearing her heart-space of any clutter that would keep her from God. And slowly, that Divine Presence ripened and revealed itself in the flash of an angel wing and the soundless message that would transform all time.


We too, in our particular ways, are asked to allow God the space to imagine Divinity into flesh through our human experience.

Mary believed that God could and would do such a miracle for love of us. She let the Truth of Jesus live, not only in Him, but in her own mother’s life.

This generous mother then became the first disciple, keeping company with Jesus through his Passion, Death and Resurrection

Indeed, we have much to learn from her.


Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,

almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,
                                Spirit,
                                          suspended,
                                                            waiting.

______________________________

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.


Music: Two versions of the magnificent “Ave Maria”.

Ave Maria – Franz Schubert – sung by Ms. Jessye Norman, in German as written by Schubert.

( I had the immense privilege and pleasure of meeting and working with the great Jessye Norman when I chaired a UNCF event in Philadelphia many years ago. She, in her own way, was a bit “divine”!)

Ave Maria – Charles Gounod – sung by Ms. Jessye Norman in Latin, as written

Alleluia: God’s Heart for Us

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
June 24, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062422.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we offer our loving adoration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who teaches us the boundless humility of God.

Although not today’s reading, this passage from Philippians captures for me the perfect description of God’s humility in Jesus:

Though Jesus was in the form of God,
he did not count equality with God
a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form
he humbled himself
and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Creator.

Philippians 2: 6-11

In order to meet our invisible God in prayer, we must imagine God in the ways that most speak to our spirits. For St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that image came in the form of the Sacred Heart, an image which combines both the sacred infinity and the full human heart of Jesus.

Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647 – 1690) was a French Roman Catholic Visitation nun and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form.

We must never be discouraged or give way to anxiety. . . but ever have recourse to the adorable Heart of Jesus.

Margaret Mary Alacoque

As we pray on this holy feast, may we lean closer and more confidently into the loving heart of Jesus. God loves us enough to do for us what is described in our passage from Philippians. May we fully trust that love and give our own hearts to it.


Poetry: from Rumi in The Masnavi, an extensive poem written in Persian. The Masnavi is one of the most influential works of Sufism, commonly called “the Quran in Persian”. It has been viewed by many commentators as the greatest mystical poem in world literature. The Masnavi is a series of six books of poetry that together amount to around 25,000 verses or 50,000 lines. It is a spiritual text that teaches Sufis how to reach their goal of being truly in love with God.

Open the Window

There’s a street where the Beautiful One
is known to take a stroll.

When a certain radiance is noticed
through the latticed windows
of that neighborhood,

people whisper, The Beloved
must be near.

Listen: open a window to God
and breathe. Delight yourself
with what comes through that opening.

The work of love is to create
a window in the heart,

for the breast is illumined
by the beauty of the Beloved.

Gaze incessantly on that Face!
Listen, this is in your power, my friend!

Find a way to your innermost secret.
Let no other perception distract you.

You, yourself, possess the elixir,
so rub it into your skin,

and by this alchemy
your inner enemies will become friends.

And as you are made beautiful,
the Beautiful One will become your own,
the intimate of your once lonely spirit.


Music: This Ancient Love – Carolyn McDade

Alleluia: Living Bread

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the most intimate and sacred feast of “Corpus Christi”, as we called it in our Latinized “old days”. In those days, we tried very hard to celebrate the feast in the best way we knew how — processions, hymns, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Yet nothing did, nor ever will, come close to capturing the mystery we honor on this holy day.

Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven,
says the Lord;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.


The items of faith contained in this short verse are earth-shattering. We are asked to believe that Jesus

  • came down from heaven
  • is the visible Presence of the infinite Love of God
  • lives on with in the Eucharist and in the community of the Church
  • grants us a share in eternal life
  • and is present to us beyond time, space, and appearances

The mystery of the Body of Christ/Living Bread is infinite and profound. Great minds such as Pierre Teilhard deChardin spent entire lives plumbing its depths.

When one understands how physical and immediate is the omni-influence of Christ, the vigor assumed by every detail of the Christian life is quite astonishing; it gains an emphasis never dreamt of by those who are frightened of the realistic view of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Take charity, for example, that complete change of attitude so insistently taught by Christ. It has nothing in common with our colorless philanthropy, but represents the essential affinity which brings human beings closer together, not in the superficial sphere of sensible affections or earthly interests, but in building up the pleroma (the fullness of God in Creation.).

The possibility, and even the obligation of doing everything for God are no longer based solely on the virtue of obedience, or solely on the moral value of intention; they can be explained, in short, only by the marvelous grace, instilled into every human effort, no matter how material, of effectively cooperating, through its physical result, in the fulfillment of the body of Christ.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in Christianity and Evolution

As I pray this rather heady passage from de Chardin, I reflect on these thoughts:

  • All Creation generates from God and returns to God in the fullness of Love.
  • Jesus Christ is the visible gift of that Love born into our human story.
  • By our faith in Jesus, and our choice to participate in his life, we become part of the ongoing perfection of Creation.
  • The Body of Christ, once present in the flesh in time, now sanctifies Creation through our lives, united in the Bread of Life.


No poetry today. Slowly read and re-read the passage from de Chardin. Find it’s message for you … perhaps just a word or a phrase:

  • the omni-influence of Christ
  • charity, …. that complete change of attitude so insistently taught by Christ
  • nothing in common with our colorless philanthropy
  • building up the fullness of God in Creation
  • the marvelous grace… of effectively cooperating … in the fulfillment of the Body of Christ

Music: Benedictus – Karl Jenkins

Alleluia: Love’s Silent Unity

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
June 15, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061522.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we listen to Jesus’s instruction and promise about how to live at one with God.

Alleluia, alleluia.
If you love me and will keep my word,
and my Father will love you
and we will come to you.

What wonderful assurance! We don’t have to labor to find God, or worry about searching for God. 

God will come to us – will blossom in our hearts like a sacred flower, – if we love Jesus and keep his Word.


In the opening sentence of her book “Too Deep for Words”, Thelma Hall, r.c. says this:

There is an inner dynamic in the evolution of all true love that leads to a communication too deep for words.  There the lover becomes inarticulate, falls silent, and the beloved receives the silence as eloquence.

Our verse today carries
that same, exquisite mystery,
the silent and complete unity
that comes from mutual love. 

Our Gospel elaborates on the invitation. 

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Matthew 6:6

Let us savor these promises in our prayer today.


Poetry: in the silence – Rumi

In the silence 
between your heartbeat 
bides a summons
from Love.
Do you hear it? 
Name it if you must, 
or leave it forever nameless, 
but why pretend it is not there?

Music: The God of Silence – Bukas Palau

Alleluia: Be Love!

June 9, 2022
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse holds the complete essence of Jesus’s life. If there ever was glorious “nutshell”, this is it:

Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you. (Jn. 13:34)

Our motherhouse chapel is breathtakingly beautiful. Thinking of it as a “chapel”, people who first walk through its doors are astounded at itscathedral-like dimensions. I know I certainly was as a wonder-struck eighteen-year-old on my first visit.

Our Chapel in the 1950s

For the next almost three years, I often sat in my little pew pondering the chapel’s central mural — and especially the words framing it.

The words are an invitation and a command. The painting beneath is the whole instruction on Love… “…love as I have loved you.”

After those initial years, I chose those precious words for the motto to be engraved on my ring. I have prayed ever since that it might someday be engraved on my heart. In a culture that can so misunderstand the nature of love, I always appreciate the chance to visit that altar or to look at that ring.

May we have the courage to be
“Alleluia Lovers”
in this love-hungry world!

Poetry: from one of the greatest poets, Paul in his letter to the Corinthians

If I speak in the tongues in human or angelic tongue 
but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.
If I give away all I have,
and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; 
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends. 
As for prophecies, they will pass away;
as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I grew up, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; 
but the greatest of these is love.

Music: Love Never Ends – by The Corner Room

Feast of the Ascension

May 29, 2022

le mans
Le Mans Cathedral is a Catholic Church situated in Le Mans, France. Its construction dates from the 6th through the 14th century, and it features many French Gothic elements. The cathedral, which combines a Romanesque nave and a High Gothic choir is notable for its rich collection of stained glass and the spectacular bifurcating flying buttresses at its eastern end. The Ascension window, towards the western end of the south aisle of the nave, has been dated to 1120, making it one of the oldest extant stained glass windows in France.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we stand with the disciples, straining for a last look at Jesus as He ascends into heaven. Their hearts are stretched with both joy and pain at all that is happening to them. They long for the Holy Spirit to come to them even as they mourn the physical departure of Christ.

As mentioned in Thursday’s reflection, many years ago I was blessed to stand in the Chapel of the Ascension, a small shrine on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Tradition holds this to be the site of Jesus’ Ascension. Inside is a well-worn rock with a slight indentation. Many venerate this as the last footprint of Christ on earth.

Ascension rock
Whether or not this devotion is valid is unimportant. In the hush of my early morning visit to this shrine, the Holy Spirit embraced me, overwhelming me with an awareness of how the disciples felt that day in the absence of Jesus.


Many reading this may feel a similar absence, a need, or a longing for God. Perhaps by touching that sense of absence, that indentation in the rock of our hearts, we may invite and welcome the Holy Spirit to fill our need.


Poetry: Ascension Day by Christina Georgina Rossetti

“When Christ went up to Heaven the Apostles stayed”
Gazing at Heaven with souls and wills on fire,
Their hearts on flight along the track He made,
Winged by desire.
Their silence spake: “Lord, why not follow Thee?
Home is not home without Thy Blessed Face,
Life is not life. Remember, Lord, and see,
Look back, embrace.
“Earth is one desert waste of banishment,
Life is one long-drawn anguish of decay.
Where Thou wert wont to go we also went:
Why not today?”
Nevertheless a cloud cut off their gaze:
They tarry to build up Jerusalem,
Watching for Him, while thro' the appointed days
He watches them.
They do His Will, and doing it rejoice,
Patiently glad to spend and to be spent:
Still He speaks to them, still they hear His Voice
And are content.
For as a cloud received Him from their sight,
So with a cloud will He return ere long:
Therefore they stand on guard by day, by night,
Strenuous and strong.
They do, they dare, they beyond seven times seven
Forgive, they cry God's mighty word aloud:
Yet sometimes haply lift tired eyes to Heaven—
“Is that His cloud?”

Music: Abide with Me – Matt Maher

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 28, 2022

john6_29 Ask

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus once again instructs his disciples to pray “in my Name”.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.
Until now you have not asked anything in my name;
ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

John 16:23-24

What does Jesus really mean by,:

“Ask in My Name”.


There is an idiomatic phrase popular in culture today, “just asking for a friend”. It is used when the questioner feels embarrassed or unsure about the question, or unworthy of posing it oneself, for example: Can you really go to jail for not paying your taxes, just asking for a friend?


What might happen if we prayed like this, taking Jesus seriously in his offer to intervene for us, to stand in the place of our fear, hesitation, confusion, or unworthiness:

  • Dear God, please forgive me for this sinful choice I made. I ask you in the Name of Jesus, my friend.
  • Dear God, will you please comfort my dear one who is suffering. I ask you in the Name of Jesus, my friend.
  • Dear God, will you please intervene to stop the suffering in the world. I ask you in the Name of Jesus, my friend.

How would the addition of this little phrase change my prayer?


magic

The words are not a magic formula for working miracles. They won’t allow us to cure the sick or raise the dead in visible ways. But they will allow us to heal ourselves and others in ways beyond human calculation.

I think the words are a key to unlock our understanding that when we pray in the Name of Jesus, the miracle happens in us, not in our surroundings.


150 cross

We realize that Jesus, in whose Name we pray, changed the world not by magic but by sacrificial love. Becoming his friend and praying in his name demands that we too live our experiences with that kind of unquestioning love.

Such love unveils the glorious mystery of the Cross to us. Even under its shadow, we see through to the triumph of the Resurrection as Jesus did. 


Certainly, suffering was not removed from Jesus’ life nor from that of his followers.

But what was given was abiding faith, hope, love, and the trustworthy promise of eternal life.

Let’s ask for these precious gifts, in the Name of Jesus.


Poetry: Name Of God – by Sant Tukaram Maharaj who was a 17th-century Marathi poet, religious leader, and Hindu sant (saint). He is best known for his devotional poetry called “Abhanga” and community-oriented worship with spiritual songs known as kirtans.

Mahatma Gandhi, in early 20th century, while under arrest in Yerwada Central Jail by the British colonial government for his non-violent movement, read and translated Tukaram’s poetry.


He who utters the Name of God while walking
gets the merit of a sacrifice at every step
His body becomes a place of pilgrimage.
He who repeats God’s Name while working
always finds perfect peace.
He who utters the Name of God while eating
gets the merit of a fast
even though he has taken his meals.
Even if one were to give in charity
the whole world encircled by the seas
it would not equal the merit of repeating the Name,
By the power of the Name
one will know what cannot be known,
One will see what cannot be seen,
One will speak what cannot be spoken,
One will meet what cannot be met.
Tuka says.
Incalculable is the gain that comes
From repeating the Name of God.

Music: In Jesus’ Name I Pray – Charley Pride
(Lyrics below)

In Jesus’ Name I Pray

Father give me strength, to do what I must do.
Father give me courage, to say what I must say.
Let that spirit move me.
I’m nothing on my own.
Father stand by me, I can not stand alone, in Jesus name I pray.

Father open up my eyes to your wonders all around.
Father let me see the good and beauty of this day.
Fill my heart with love, for my fellow man.
And if I’m tempted Father.

Father take my hand, in Jesus name I pray.
Father help me through the troubled days that lie ahead.
Let your life stand before me, that I may find a way.
So let me stumble Father, or fall beneath my load.

Father guide my footsteps.
Hold me to the road, in Jesus name I pray.
Let not hunger be my guide, nor fear be my master.
Father let not envy, be a part of me in any way.

Father search my soul, take away my fear and doubt.
Any moment that you find this,
Father cast it out, in Jesus name I pray.
Ah ah ah Amen.

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 27, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus acknowledges the difficulty of living a Christian life in a hostile world, especially without his physical presence to lead the disciples.

John16_22 separation

He knows that his friends are anguished at the thought of being separated from him. He compares their heartbreak to the pain of a mother in labor. The comparison is a perfect one because labor pains yield a gift that washes away the memory of suffering:

… when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.

John 16:21

Jesus tries to comfort his followers with this analogy, but he doesn’t deny the sorrow they are experiencing. Jesus knows that separation from what we dearly love can be a crushing experience. He knows that change often carries unwanted loss.

joys and sorrows

Our lives are braided into this cycle of labor, birth, love, loss, sorrow and joy. Jesus assures us that if we live this cycle in faith and hope, all things return to him in glory:

But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.

John 16:22

Poetry: Braid Your Hair With His – Mark Heathcote

God - has many names, 
but ‘Love' is the one that counts 
most aptly ‘Love' … ‘Love' 

‘Just Love' only, one word 
one name like ‘God' isn't it? 

God - has so many names 
each acts as a veil 
but ‘Love' is, ‘Love' only. 
So braid your hair with His 
embrace, lock fingers with His. 

His is a tree twining roots 
His is the first branch you perch on 
His is trees-bough at your centre 
your hearts bead is a locket of amber 
the tree's name is Love. 

At those times in our lives when we more feel the absence of God than the presence, remembering the endurance and bravery of others may help us. Although it’s not a religious song, this melody kept playing itself in my heart as I read today’s Gospel. It opened my spirit to a very comforting prayer time.

Music: We’ll Meet Again – Dame Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Margaret Lynn Welch, CH,DBD, OStJ, was a British singer of traditional popular music, songwriter and actress, whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during World War II. She died in 2020 at the age of 103.

She is widely known as “the Forces Sweetheart” and gave outdoor concerts for the troops in Egypt, India and Burma during the warThe songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, and “There’ll Always Be an England”. 

My Dad’s Ascension Thursday Gift

( I’m going a little off the grid this morning because we get a double chance to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension with its recurrence this Sunday. So I will leave my scriptural reflection until then.)


For me, the celebration of Ascension will always be on a Thursday – and it will always belong especially to my Dad. Here’s why.

I was already a young nun in the early 1970s when I went home to visit my parents one beautiful May afternoon.  We had a day off from school to commemorate the Feast of the Ascension. 

That’s me in pink before nunhood

My Dad was sitting on the front steps contemplating a patch of pachysandra on our small front lawn, or so I thought.  After initial hugs and greetings, Dad said, “I’m worried about something.” Worry bells starting ringing deep in my brain. Where was Mom!?!?

“Joe Brodski just walked by a little while ago”, Dad continued. I paused a moment to consider this seeming non-sequitor.

Now Joe Brodski never walked anywhere.  He was our next-door neighbor whose only apparent activity was tumbling out of his house and into his car each morning to go to work. So I began to think that maybe the worry was about Joe Brodski, and not my Mom who had not yet appeared on the front steps.

“So what’s the worry, Dad?”, I asked. 

“Well, I asked Joe why he was out walking and he told me he was coming back from church. Ren, I completely forgot it was Thursday – the Ascension – and now all the Masses are over!”


Dad was really distressed by this oversight and it took a little theologizing on my part to allay his concern. Still, his reaction was so sincere that it has stayed with me for nearly fifty years. I never fully appreciated my Dad’s deep spirituality – nor the embedded culture of faith in our home – until I had grown up and moved away. 


Many years after that Thursday, I read David Foster Wallace’s famous graduation talk at Kenyan University. He opens the talk like this:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

Wallace goes on to explain, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”


We didn’t talk a lot about faith in my family, we just practiced it. And that practice was like fish swimming in water. We didn’t even realize that faith was the medium soaking our whole lives.

When Dad realized that he had forgotten to go to Mass that day, he felt like the proverbial “fish out of water”. The deep abiding faithfulness of his life had suffered a little fracture.


In Jerusalem, there is an ancient stone on a hillside. People venerate it as the site from which Jesus ascended into heaven. There is a deep indentation in the stone which is believed to be the last footprint of Christ on the earth as He lifted toward heaven. Whether it actually is the site isn’t important. What matters is that the life of Jesus has left an everlasting impression on our hearts and souls – a well of grace which continues to feed our spirits.

Stone as it is today.
Outline of foot

My Dad’s unassuming holiness has left the same kind of impression on me. It is a touch point which I visit many times during the year, but especially on Ascension Thursday.

I tell the story today because this Feast might be a good time for all of us to consider the “water” we swim in – that culture of faith which nourishes our life – and the life of our family and loved ones.

You may want to bless the many sources that have inspired and fed your faith over your lifetime – perhaps in your family, and perhaps in others relationships. Doing so can be a recurring source of grace even if the “inspirer” has, like Jesus and like my Dad, made their way back to heaven.

And we all might want to consider who depends on us for the nurturing water of their faith!


Music: My Father’s Faith – Janice Kapp Perry

A father’s faith can bless his little children
And help them rise above life’s daily storms.
A father works each day to keep his dear ones
Ever protected, safe and warm.

My father’s praise can send my spirit soaring
And help me see the good I may achieve.
My father’s trust can fill my soul with courage
And help my doubting heart believe.

My father’s tears can somehow say, “I love you”
When words fall silent in his tender heart.
Through daily acts of service and of caring
His deepest feelings he imparts.

My father’s prayers can call down heaven’s blessings
And keep his children walking in the light.
His constant strength is steady as a lighthouse
That brings me safely through the night.

My father’s arms can offer consolation
When I, in sorrow, turn my heart toward home.
His loving voice resounds within my being
To help me know I’m not alone.

My father’s eyes can see past faults and failings
And still imagine all I may become.
And when I fall he’s there to walk beside me
To tell me I can overcome.

My father’s love will shine through generations –
A gentle force that guides me through the years.
My father’s faith will be my inspiration
And make my path to heaven clear.