Psalm 33: God’s Peace

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 which has been described as “a song of praise” and a call to worship. But as I pray with it this morning, I think of the psalm as much more. Within it is a profound call to social justice grounded in faith.

Maybe my attitude is the result of a commercial I keep thinking about. You may have seen it – the one for an organization called Wounded Warriors. Every time I see it, my soul splits. There is deep compassion, admiration and respect for the veterans depicted. But there is also the raging question “WHY!”.

How can we still allow, tout, and support the systemic atrocity of war in any form? How can we see these young men and women, bodies maimed and lives fractured, and not be outraged that war even exists!


I think that, thousands of years ago, the writer of Psalm 33 may have entertained similar questions. The psalmist realizes that it is not by the superiority of the nation state that a people gains righteousness and mercy.

The LORD foils the plan of nations,
frustrates the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever,
the designs of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people chosen as his inheritance.

Psalm 33:10-12

It is instead by acknowledging God’s care for all peoples that a nation achieves the humility, understanding, and courage to help build universal peace.

From heaven the LORD looks down
and observes all the children of Adam,
From his dwelling place he surveys
all who dwell on earth.
The One who fashioned together their hearts
is the One who knows all their works.

Psalm 33:13-15

The challenge of global peace-making is daunting. We “children of Adam” have permitted ourselves to not only normalize, but to exalt war. Reversing the systems that depend on and lead to war will be a long, complex, and arduous pursuit.

But for God’s sake, and our own, we must do it!
Our soul waits for the LORD,
he is our help and shield.
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33: 20-21

Reading: from
In Truth, Peace
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE
1 JANUARY 2006

The theme chosen for this year’s reflection—In truth, peace — expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated forty years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, stated that humankind will not succeed in ”building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace”. 

But what do those words, ”the truth of peace”, really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as ”the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder”, an order ”which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice”. As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds ”to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us”.


Music: Let There Be Peace on Earth sung by the magnificent Wintley Phipps

Psalm 98: The Lord Remembers

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

October 15, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of the great St. Teresa of Avila, we pray with Psalm 98.

Our psalm is the exultant song of a joyful and triumphant people – a people grateful and blessed by the Lord’s Presence among them.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
Who has done wondrous deeds;
Whose right hand has won for us
the victory of peace.

Psalm 98:1-2

We have all experienced these types of moments when we feel “delivered”.

  • We might have been praying for someone’s health, or our own.
  • We might have been caught in a difficult decision.
  • We might have been waiting for an acceptance letter or call.
  • We might have been hoping our apology would be accepted, or that one would be given.
  • We might have been aching for an inspiration, a thread of hope, or a new understanding.

And then —- Light!

We know what it feels like when the Light comes. But often, it is not the light we had expected. True “deliverance” comes not from shedding a worrisome circumstance. Instead, it comes from being incorporated into an unshakable faith and trust, as St. Teresa of Ávila describes it:

May today there be peace within. 
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. 
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. 
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. 
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. 
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. 
It is there for each and every one of us.


Poem: Nada Te Turbe – Teresa of Ávila

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing:
God alone is changeless.
Patience
obtains all things.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante.
Todo se pasa.
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia 
Todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.


Music: Voice in My Heart – Iris Koh


A beautiful reflection in Spanish from the Discalced Carmelite Sisters

Psalm 1: The First Word

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1.

Patrick D. Miller, Hebrew Scriptures scholar, suggests that Psalm 1 “sets the agenda for the Psalter through its identification of the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked as well as their respective fates” along with “its emphasis on the Torah, the joy of studying it and its positive benefits for those who do“.

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.

Psalm 1:1-2

What does it really mean to “meditate on God’s law day and night”? Become a monk? Read the Bible all day? Never sleep?

Of course not. I think it means to live in the firm belief that God is in everything, and to train our hearts to see and respond to that Omnipresent Love.

We all know people who, no matter the circumstances, are focused on good and radiate a joyful confidence. There is a light within them and a peace around them. The living of their ordinary lives is a meditation on God’s order in all things.

Such a person …

… is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever that faithful one does, prospers.

Psalm 1:3

It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges … even protests, righteous anger, sadness and pain. Think of Jesus as he overturned the Temple tables!

It means rather that the focus is never lost because …
Creation’s sacred order is our Light;
and God’s law has taught ours hearts 
to find our joy in its Beauty.

my transliteration of Psalm 1:2

Let’s be that tree near
the running water of Grace!🙏


Poem: On Beauty by Khalil Gibran

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
     And he answered:
     Where shall you seek beauty, and how
shall you find her unless she herself be your
way and your guide?
     And how shall you speak of her except
she be the weaver of your speech?
    
The aggrieved and the injured say,
“Beauty is kind and gentle.
     Like a young mother half-shy of her
own glory she walks among us.”
     And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is
a thing of might and dread.
     Like the tempest she shakes the earth
beneath us and the sky above us.”
    
The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is
of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
     Her voice yields to our silences like a faint
light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
     But the restless say, “We have heard her
shouting among the mountains,
     And with her cries came the sound of
hoofs, and the beating of wings and
the roaring of lions.”
    
At night the watchmen of the city say,
“Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the
east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and 
the wayfarers say, 
“We have seen her leaning over
the earth from the windows of the sunset.”
    
In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall
come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say,
“We have seen her dancing with the autumn
leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.”
     All these things have you said of beauty,
     Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of
needs unsatisfied,
     And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
     It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty
hand stretched forth,
     But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
     It is not the image you would see nor the
song you would hear,
     But rather an image you see though you
close your eyes and a song you hear though
you shut your ears.
     It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
nor a wing attached to a claw,
     But rather a garden for ever in bloom and
a flock of angels for ever in flight.
    
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when
life unveils her holy face.
     But you are life and you are the veil.
     Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.


Music: I Delight in You, Lord – David Baroni

Psalm 119: Come, Sweet Mercy!

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119 whose refrain is beautiful to the ears of those who love Mercy.


We can invite Mercy in many ways.

One way is to ask Mercy to heal the fractured circumstances of our lives – the outside of the cup, if we would borrow an image from today’s Gospel:

  • to strengthen us against any pain or fear in our own lives
  • to deliver us and those we love from all that overwhelms
  • to forgive our inexcusable retreats into selfishness
  • to repair that which seems irrevocably broken 

But another, deeper way is to invite Mercy to the inside of our “cup”:

  • to indwell our hearts
  • to transform, within us, the place where we encounter life
  • to inspire us to respond always with the heart of Jesus
  • to flow from us in continual witness to God’s Mercy

Today, in our prayer, let’s spend some time with Mercy, the most beautiful Face of God.


Poem:  Blest are the undefiled in heart (Psalm 119)
by Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748) was an English Christian minister (Congregational), hymn writer, theologian, and logician. He was a prolific and popular hymn writer and is credited with some 750 hymns. He is recognized as the “Godfather of English Hymnody”; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.

Blest are the undefiled in heart,
whose ways are right and clean;
who never from your law depart,
but flee from every sin.

Blest are the ones that keep your word,
and serve you with their hands;
with their whole heart they seek you, Lord,
obeying your commands.

Great is their peace who love your law;
how firm their souls abide!
Nor can a bold temptation draw
their steady feet aside.

Then shall my heart have inward joy!
I’ll keep my steps from shame;
your statutes help me to obey,
and glorify your name.

Music- Sanctuary by Secret Garden

Psalm 113: Over All the Earth

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 12, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 113, a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, focusing our praise on the Name of the Lord.

Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.

Psalm 113:1-2

A particularly beautiful dynamic emerges in the following verse:

From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the Name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.

Psalm 113:3-4

Praying this verse, we might picture the sun slowly lighting and darkening the contrapuntal curves of the earth.

Within that inverse yet complementary rhythm, the morning and evening prayers of believers encircle the globe. The whole Church, the Communion of Saints, each takes up its part in the prayerful caress of our world.

As I go to sleep at night, I know someone is waking on the other side of the world with the Holy Name on her lips. When I rise in the morning, I lift that song from the semi-darkness to offer my part to the Great Embrace.

Each morning and evening, I pray for my blog followers, thinking of their moment in this universal prayer. I imagine that prayer dawning near St. Barbara Catholic School in Guam, then drifting westward to Australia, Uzbekistan, Rome, and the little village of Hampstead Norreys, England.

I see it reach the shores of the Americas, deepening as it resounds in various languages through Rio de Janeiro, Haiti, Guyana, and Chulucanas, Peru.

I feel the warm healing of God’s Name prayed over my own country from Silver Spring, MD to McAllen, TX; from Dubuque, IA to Sacramento, then on again over the Pacific.

As each of us joins this global song of praise, let us be aware of the Infinite Power Who holds us all within the Divine Song – beyond time, beyond borders, beyond space, beyond any comprehension but Love.

Praise the Lord,
the Unnamable, the All-Perfect, the Inconceivable, 
who, higher than the highest heavens, 
stoops to the lowest of the low, 
who raises the poor from the dunghill 
and lifts the wretched from the dust, 
who grants them an infinite abundance 
and showers them with all good things.

from A Book of Psalm Selections Adapted from the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell

Music:  Praise the Lord, Psalm 113 – Blanca Vega and Roby Duke

Psalm 23: The Banquet

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, a familiar, comforting and beloved prayer.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23: 1-3

The psalm comes between readings that assure us of a waiting and sumptuous banquet to which we gain entrance by both mercy and grace.  


Isaiah describes the feast in the future tense:

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

Isaiah 25: 9

But Paul reminds us of the truth we often forget. The banquet is NOW!

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:20

In our Gospel, Jesus invites his guests to that feast with both an immediacy and a demand. The celebration of abundance is open to all. But we must at least make the effort to don a wedding garment – that reverent, grateful attitude which gives glory to the Source of our abundance. 


The edge of the white choir mantle is visible below the veils.

In ancient times – when I first came to religious life 🙂 – we would add a special garment to our habit to celebrate a great feast. The white choir mantle was a symbol of our awareness of a particularly sacred moment.


Miraculously, it is that reverent awareness that opens our eyes to the plentitude in our midst. It releases us to the freedom of a hope already realized, but hidden from those whose hearts refuse to be dressed in grace.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

Our readings invite us to live as not only invited and but saved people, completely convinced of God’s eternal welcome and protection.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:6

What would the world be like if we lived out this conviction? 

How might the reproaches fear, competition, domination, selfishness,
and hoarding be removed from our midst?

How might the rush of generosity, forgiveness, and mercy
flow out of our confident hearts to wash the earth in God’s restful waters?


Poem: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Music: Abundant Life – written by Ruth Duck, sung by Marty Haugen

We cannot own the sunlit sky, 
the moon, the wild-flowers growing, 
For we are part of all that is 
within life’s river flowing.

With open hands receive and share 
the gifts of God’s creation, 
That all may have abundant life 
in every earthly nation.

When bodies shiver in the night 
and weary wait for morning,
When children have no bread but tears, 
and war horns sound their warning. 

God calls humanity to awake, 
to join in common labor,
That all may have abundant life, 
oneness with their neighbor.

God calls humanity to join as partners
in creating a future free
from want or fear.
Life’s goodness celebrating, 

that new world beckons from afar,
Invites our shared endeavor 
that all might have abundant life 
and peace endure forever.

Psalm 105: God at the Center

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 10, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, a recounting of the marvelous works God has done from the Abrahamic covenant to the Exodus.

Sing to God, sing praise,
proclaim all God’s wondrous deeds.
Glory in the Holy Name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!

Psalm 105: 2-3

Our psalm today enjoins us to remember God’s faithful mercy to us and to praise God as we remember.

Such sacred “remembering” is an act of radical faith which, first, recognizes God as the Center of our life, and second, acts from that radical awareness.


The word “obedience”, so commonly misconstrued as subservience, is another way of describing this radical faith which hears, listens, acknowledges, responds and centers itself on the voice of God. The word “obedience” comes from the same root as the word “listen”.

This freely-given and continually deepened obedience allows us to hear and discern the loving truth God weaves through our lives.

The counter-world of the Psalms contradicts our closely held world of amnesia and mediates to us a world of lively remembering….
… In Psalm 105, a long recital of the great deeds climaxes, “in order that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws” (v. 45). The purpose of remembering is thus to evoke a contemporary practice of obedience in the wake of the memory. The implied negative is that when the inventory of miracles is forgotten, there will be no contemporary obedience .

Walter Brueggemann, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

In the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis points out how this obedience, (this holy remembering, listening and acting), is tied to the course of human affairs. Francis quotes JPII here:

In this regard, I wish to cite the following memorable statement: “If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which the human person achieves full identity, then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at their disposal in order to impose personal interests or opinion, with no regard for the rights of others… The root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by very nature the subject of rights that no one may violate – no individual, group, class, nation or state.

St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991)

Rootedness in this “remembering obedience” begins with each person’s own sincere prayer. With the psalmist, let us remember God’s loving fidelity to us and, in grateful response, live that Love faithfully into our conflicted world:

Look to the LORD’s strength;
seek to serve the Lord constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that God has wrought,
the signs, and the graces God has spoken in your life.

Psalm 105: 4-5

Poem: Called to Become – Edwina Gateley

You are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one else is called to become
Who you are called to be.
It does not matter
How short or tall
Or thick-set or slow
You may be.
It does not matter
Whether you sparkle with life
Or are as silent as a still pool.
Whether you sing your song aloud
Or weep alone in darkness.
It does not matter
Whether you feel loved and admired
Or unloved and alone
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one's shadow
Should cloud your becoming.
No one's light
Should dispel your spark.
For the Lord delights in you.
Jealously looks upon you
And encourages with gentle joy
Every movement of the Spirit
Within you.
Unique and loved you stand.
Beautiful or stunted in your growth
But never without hope and life.
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
This becoming may be
Gentle or harsh.
Subtle or violent.
But it never ceases.
Never pauses or hesitates.
Only is—
Creative force—
Calling you
Calling you to become
A perfect creation.

Music: Psalm 105 – Give Thanks – Sean Dayton

Psalm 111: Make It Personal

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111, an elegant and simple hymn of praise to God.

Wikipedia says that the psalm praises God for a few specific things:

  • God’s great works v.2
  • God’s enduring Righteousness v.3
  • God’s grace and compassion v.4
  • God’d provision v.5
  • Truth and Justice v.7
  • Redemption for God’s people v.9
  • Granting of wisdom to those who revere God v.10

As I pray this psalm this morning, I will thank and praise God for these things. But I also want to be more personal in my gratitude, to thank God for the elegant Divine Presence in my life and in our world.

  • How blessed are we even to have been born, let alone loved, sanctified, and redeemed by God!
  • How blessed are we to know God and to seek the depths of God in our lives!
  • How blessed are we to share our moment in time with other beloveds of God who enrich and challenge us!
  • How blessed are we to be enlivened with the exquisite grace of God’s own life, and to know that our eternity will be the fulfillment of that grace!

Poem: Grace by Wendell Berry

Music: Arioso, Cantata 156 – Johann Sebastian Bach played by Susanne Beer

The Benedictus

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 8, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, for our Responsorial, we pray with a passage from Luke’s Gospel. This passage is known as the Benedictus or Canticle of Zechariah. It is one of three canticles in the first two chapters of Luke, the others being the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis. The Angelic Hymn is often considered a fourth.


At the Wednesday General Audiences given by the Pope, a theme is chosen for “catechesis” or teaching. From October 2001 until February 2006, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI gave their teachings based on the Psalms. JPII closed the first section of these audiences with these words:

“Our commentary on the Psalms and canticles from Morning Prayer concludes today with the Canticle of Zechariah, commonly known as the Benedictus. It is a prophetic canticle, in which the father of John the Baptist, indicates three events in God’s liberation of Israel: the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with David, and the new covenant with Christ. Like the “dawn from on high,” Christ gives light and guides us into the way of peace.”

Wednesday General Audience, October 1, 2003

As we pray with the hope-filled verses of the Benedictus, we pray in a world still seeking the fullness of that Dawn of Tender Mercy …

… the tender mercy of our God
by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.


Pope Francis’s closing prayer in Fratelli Tutti reflects the same hope as his predecessors for that universal Dawn, that rising of Love in our hearts.

O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion 
of your divine life, 
pour out upon us a torrent 
of fraternal love.

Grant us the love reflected 
in the actions of Jesus, 
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.

Grant that we Christians 
may live the Gospel, 
discovering Christ in each human being, 
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister 
who makes a new start.

Come, Holy Spirit, 
show us your beauty, 
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important 
and all are necessary, 
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. Amen.

Music: A Mass for Peace: Benedictus- Karl Jenkins 

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.