Memorial of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111. Prayed in tandem with our first reading from 1 Timothy, the psalm directs our hearts to an awareness of the gifts we have received in faith.

We are all “gifted” by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes if someone tells us that we’re “gifted”, they are really referring to special talents we may have developed – like art, music, dance, writing etc.

But the gifts our readings highlight are those which are rooted in the Holy Spirit, and we receive them through our Baptism and Confirmation.


Paul tells Timothy not to neglect these gifts. And the psalmist suggests that the first step in such care is the practice of awe, wisdom and prudence.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
    prudent are all who live by it.
    His praise endures forever.

Psalm 111:10

We can’t just practice these gifts for an hour or two as we might practice piano!


The Holy Spirit’s gifts must be nurtured and tended daily, through all seasons of our lives,
allowing their roots to deepen and grow in us.
This was the advice that Paul gave Timothy.
We could all use it as well.


The prophet Isaiah was the first to list the Gifts of the Holy Spirit when he described the coming Messiah:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

We are baptized in the image of Christ. These same gifts flow, in a waterfall of grace, into our spirits. May we receive and respond!

Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manel Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111, a rather exultant prayer for such a somber feast.

I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
    in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
    exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:1-2

The psalm allows us to see beyond the sorrows we commemorate today. At the same time, the memorial reminds us that these sorrows of Mary were real human sufferings endured for Love.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

from The Stabat Mater

The scriptures give us precious little of Mary’s life. But each small account demonstrates the same thing: Mary responded, she showed up, she acted, she stood by Jesus until the end.

As Christ continues the work of redemption in our times, where do we stand?


Poetry: Today’s poetic passage is from one of the great classics of Christian literature, A Woman Wrapped in Silence by Father John W. Lynch.

The book is a masterpiece best appreciated in reflective contemplation. I have chosen a sliver of its beauty today, one of many that captures Mary’s joy born of faith-filled suffering. This selection imagines what it was like when Mary remained in the Upper Room as the others, not knowing what to expect, went to the tomb early on Easter morning. The Resurrected Jesus comes to Mary first, before any other appearance.

Or is 
it true or thought of her she found no need
To search? And better said that she had known
Within, they’d not discover him again
Among the dead? That he would not be there
Entombed, and she had known, and only watched
Them now as they were whispering of him,

And let them go, and listened afterward
To footsteps that were fading in the dark.

To wait him here. Alone. Alone. A woman
Lonely in the silence and the trust
Of silence in her heart that did not seek,
Or cry, or search, but only waited him.

We have no word of this sweet certainty
That hides in her. There is not granted line
Writ meager in the scripture that will tell
By even some poor, unavailing tag
Of language what she keeps within the silence.
This is hers. We are not told of this,
This quaking instant, this return, this Light
Beyond the tryst of dawn when she first lifted
Up her eyes, and quiet, unamazed,
Saw He was near.

Music: Much magnificent music is available for the Stabat Mater, a 13th century poem written by Franciscans and interpreted by many musical masters.

  1. Stabat Mater – Antonio Vivaldi
    A short piece – Section 5: Eja Mater, fons amoris performed by Tim Mead

Eja, Mater, fons amóris
me sentíre vim dolóris
fac, ut tecum lúgeam

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord.


2. The complete work by Vivaldi is below for those who would like to hear it:


3. A little bit of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater here with the same fabulous Tim Mead and Lucy Crow

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 78 which commands us:

Do not forget the works of the Lord!


The psalm, in its entirety, is a recital of God’s faithfulness to Israel over time, culminating in the triumph of David/Jerusalem/Temple.

God chose David his servant,
took him from the sheepfolds.
From tending ewes God brought him,
to shepherd Jacob, the people,
Israel, God’s heritage.
He shepherded them with a pure heart;
with skilled hands he guided them.

Psalm 78: 70-73

David foreshadows Jesus, the Good Shepherd who not only tends the sheep but becomes the Lamb of God. Jesus completes our salvation by his death on the Cross. In him, the long journey of Psalm 78 is ultimately fulfilled.


Philippians’ exquisite hymn captures the profound nature of that fulfillment:

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
    Rather, he emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    coming in human likeness;
    and found human in appearance,
    he humbled himself,
    becoming obedient to death,
    even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

Each of our lives reflects, in its own way, the salvation journey we find in scripture. We experience the same kind of twists and turns, highs and lows as those described in Psalm 78.

In each of these moments, we are held in the mystery of the Cross wherein Christ transforms all suffering to grace:

Because of this, God greatly exalted him
    and bestowed on him the name
    that is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue confess that
    Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2: 9-11

Poetry: Good Friday – Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Am I a stone and not a sheep 
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath thy cross, 
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss, 
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved 
Who with exceeding grief lamented thee; 
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly; 
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the sun and moon 
Which hid their faces in a starless sky, 
A horror of great darkness at broad noon— 
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er, 
But seek thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; 
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more 
And smite a rock.

Music: Adoramus Te, Christe

Memorial Of St. John Chrysostom

Monday, September 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 28, a prayer of nine succinct verses in which the psalmist rides a seesaw emotion.

My prayer is like that sometimes. I try to pray the way Jesus would pray — the “Our Father” type of goodness and all.

But to be honest, “Thy Will be done” and “as we forgive those who trespass” are not always easy sentiments for me. How about you?


Our psalmist seems to have some trouble too … but with points of light and redemption in the end:

O Lord, I call to you;
my rock, do not be deaf to my cry;
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
FEAR
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, 
when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.
PLEADING
Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers,
who speak peaceably with their neighbours,
while strife is in their hearts.
JUDGEMENT
Repay them according to their deeds,
and according to the wickedness of their actions.
According to the work of their hands repay them,
and give them their just deserts.
VENGEANCE
They have no understanding of your doings,
nor of the works of your hands;
therefore you will break them down
and not build them up.
PRIDE
Blessed are you, O Lord!
For you have heard the voice of my prayer.
FAITH
O Lord, you are my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in you, and I have been helped;
therefore my heart dances for joy,
and in my song will I praise you.
TRUST
You are the strength of your people,
a safe refuge for your anointed.
SECURITY
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
shepherd them and carry them for ever.
PRAYER

What I learn from this psalm is to tell God the truth when I pray – but the real truth -the truth that we hear back from God when we listen in our prayer. And that listening should always be done in sync with the Gospel. It is as if we cup the Gospel around our prayer the way we bend an ear to the faint but longed-for sound.


Poetry: Lost – David Whyte

Stand still. 
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you 
Are not lost. 
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. 
Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying 
Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still.
The forest knows Where you are.
You must let it find you.”

Music: The Golden Forest – Tim Janis

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Sunday readings increase in dramatic tone.  The passage from Isaiah describes a Savior bent on his mission despite mounting resistance and expressed hatred.

The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
    have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
    from buffets and spitting.

Isaiah 50:5-6

Psalm 116 paints a person set upon by suffering and death threats, still trusting in the Lord’s saving grace.

The cords of death encompassed me;
    the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;
    I fell into distress and sorrow,
And I called upon the name of the LORD,
    “O LORD, save my life!”

Psalm 116: 3-4

In the Epistle, James says we must demonstrate our faith by our works — by putting our money where our mouth is.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works? 

James 2:14

And in our Gospel, Jesus says we demonstrate our faith by following him, renouncing ourselves and taking up our cross.

This is heavy stuff. Jesus wants us to be like him — and it would be so much easier not to be!  It would be so much easier to think that our life is all about ourselves, and that we have no responsibility for Beloved Creation.

It would be so much easier not to give our lives to Christ to allow Him to bless the world through our love.

But if we wish to “save” our lives like this, we will — in the end — lose them for eternity.

Let us pray today for the grace to take our life and lay it down over the Cross of Christ.

In that laying down, to conform ourselves to the pattern of his love, to place the weight of our burdens and hopes on the crossbeam of his strength.

Let us ask for the strength to live 

  • for God
  • for others
  • for good in the world
  • and never for self when it injures or lessens others or our Sacred Home.

This is the way we will keep our lives in Christ.

Music: Renouncement – Michael Hoppé

We remember …

September 11, 2001
A Twentieth Commemoration

This is a day of painful and dark remembrance, a day we remember all those who died on 9/11 and all who have died since in the forces of terror unleashed that day. 

On September 11, 2001, the world lost so much, the dearest of which were the nearly 3000 innocent lives taken in an evil instant.

Photo by Lars Mulder on Pexels.com

Think of those thousands of people who left home on a beautiful morning just like this one.  They expected to see their loved ones again but never would.  Think of those co-workers sitting beside one another, those passengers on the fated planes, who never realized they were speaking a last word to each other.  

Remembering them, we might be moved not to leave unspoken that word of gratitude, compassion, forgiveness or love that we would put off until later.  We might look into people’s eyes, to smile and offer a greeting. We might notice a need otherwise overlooked; we might realize that the people around us are precious and fragile. Every life is so delicate.  In an instant it can disappear.  

As the years have passed, we have understood that so many precious things were injured or died that day:

  • the joy and dreams of bereaved families
  • the ensuing health of first responders
  • the spontaneity to believe in and trust each other
  • the freedom and security to be in our world without fear

Still, although this is a somber anniversary, we can use it to motivate ourselves positively.  We can make a choice today to do something for light and peace. It is only when we see others as objects that we can injure, curse and kill them.  When we see others as persons — children of God like ourselves — we are moved to act with kindness, patience and forgiveness.  

Deny those who tried to fill our country and hearts with fear and darkness.  Always and ever, deny them what they tried to do!

Let this solemn anniversary make us persons of greater light.


The prayer of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Keep us, O God, from all pettiness.
Let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us not be faultfinders
and keep us from self-absorption.
May we put away all pretense
and meet each other truly face to face,
without self-pity and without prejudice.
Grant that we may realize
that it is the little things of life
that create differences,
that in the big things of life
we are all the same.

Music: Da Pacem Domine – Arvo Pärt

Da pacem, Domine in diebus nostris
Quia non est alius
Qui punnet pro nobis
Nisi tu Deus noster.

Grant peace, O Lord, in our time.
for there is none else
who would make a way for us
if not You, O God.

Friday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, September 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 16, complementing as it does today our first reading from 1 Timothy.

Both these scripture passages
speak to us
of finding
– and being found by –
God.


Paul, in guiding his beloved disciple Timothy, defines the phenomenon as “Grace”:

Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:14

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Grace is a participation in the life of God, which is poured unearned into human beings, whom it heals of sin and sanctifies.”

Paul agrees:

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.

1 Timothy 1:13

But how do we open ourselves do the gift of grace? How do we engage God’s desire to deepen us in holiness?

Psalm 16 offers us wisdom:

I bless the LORD who counsels me;
    even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
    with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Psalm 16: 7-8

We invite God’s counsel 

  • by an ardent study of scripture
  • by a sacramental faith
  • by a prayer that listens more than it speaks
  • by a life centered on the works of mercy
  • by a reverence for all Creation
  • by a love that loves as God loves

I have set the Lord always before me;
because you are at my side I shall not fall.
My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.
For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see destruction.
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your hand are graces for evermore.

Psalm 16: 8-11

Poetry: BELOVED IS WHERE WE BEGIN —Jan Richardson

from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.


Music: Lead Me, Lord

Memorial: St. Peter Claver

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 150, an all-out summons to praise God.

Psalm 150, with its four predecessors, creates a rousing chorus of praise to God. As the closing piece of the Book of Psalms, Psalm 150 summons all Creation to unbounded praise.


The prayer of praise may not come as easily to us as other types of prayer. We find the prayer of supplication easy – asking God for something. Even the prayer of thanks is natural to us. But even Pope Francis says that the prayer of praise might not come so readily:

The prayer of praise is quite different than the prayer we normally raise to God,
the Pope continued, when “we ask something of the Lord”
or even “thank the Lord”.

“We often leave aside the prayer of praise”.
It doesn’t come so easily to us, he said.
Some might think that this kind of prayer is only
“for those who belong to the renewal in the spirit movement,
not for all Christians.

The prayer of praise is a Christian prayer for all of us.
Each day during Mass, when we sing:
‘Holy, Holy…’, this is the prayer of praise.
We praise God for his greatness, for he is great.
And we tell him beautiful things, because we like it to be so”.

And it does not matter if we are good singers, the Pope remarked.
In fact, he said, it is impossible to imagine that
“you are able to shout out when your team scores a goal
and you cannot sing the Lord’s praises,
and leave behind your composure a little to sing.

Praising God is “totally gratuitous”, Pope Francis continued.
“We do not ask, we do not thank. We praise: you are great.
‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…’. 

L’ Osservatore Romano

Psalm 150 calls us to a prayer of pure praise:

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord in the holy temple;
praise God in the firmament of divine power.
Praise the Lord for mighty acts;
praise God for excellent greatness.
Praise the Lord with the blast of the ram’s-horn; 
praise God with lyre and harp.
Praise the Lord with timbrel and dance; 
praise God with strings and pipe.
Praise the Lord with resounding cymbals; 
praise God with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Hallelujah!

Psalm 150

By the culmination of the sequence in Psalm 150, there is a total lack of any specificity, and users of the psalm are invited to dissolve in a glad self-surrender that is to be enacted in the most lyrical way imaginable. Such praise is a recognition that the wonder and splendor of this God—known in the history of Israel and in the beauty of creation—pushes beyond our explanatory categories so that there can be only a liturgical, emotive rendering of all creatures before the creator.

Walter Brueggemann

We might try to offer this type of prayer in a simple manner, by naming God’s goodness – the goodness that we love and adore. We can do this in the same way that we tell any beloved being that we love them. Some prayer phrases might be:

  • You are beautiful in all Creation – in this morning’s dawn, this evening’s sunset.
  • You are just yet everlastingly kind.
  • Your power is stunningly gentle in a bird’s wing; it is overwhelming in the storm’s roar.
  • You are so humble to live within and among us.
  • You are infinitely loving through the gift of Jesus

Thoughts like these might also inspire us to a silent awe in which we offer wordless praise to our awesome God.


Music: No poem today, but two very different musical interpretations of Psalm 150 to inspire your prayer of praise

~ from Taize

Caesar Franck

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 13. We can imagine it being sung in Mary’s voice as we celebrate her birth.

Though I trusted in your mercy,
    let my heart rejoice in your salvation.
Let me sing of the LORD 
    Who has been good to me.

Psalm 13:6

These psalm verses can bring us deeply into Mary’s generous, prophetic soul. She is, even before the Annunciation, a holy young woman, at peace and unity with God ….

I have trusted in your mercy


But when she is invited to donate her solitary peace to the infinite self-giving of God, Mary says, “Yes!”.

Let my heart rejoice in your salvation


With her “Yes”,
Mary’s sacred peace
no longer belongs to herself.
She has given it
in order to become
an agent in our salvation.


Mary realizes that the moment Israel has longed for has dawned in her little room, her little cottage, in little Nazareth. And her faith is large enough to believe that God could do such a thing!

Annunciation – Henry Osawa Tanner

Mary calls us to make our dream of salvation larger than ourselves – to allow God to release the power of mercy, astoundingly, from our small and simple lives.


In this great fiat of the little girl Mary, the strength and foundation of our life of contemplation is grounded, for it means absolute trust in God, trust which will not set us free from suffering but will set us free from anxiety, hesitation, and above all from the fear of suffering. Trust which makes us willing to be what God wants us to be, however great or however little that may prove. Trust which accepts God as illimitable Love.

Caryll Houselander – The Reed of God

Poetry: After the Annunciation- Madeleine L’Engle

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.

From A Cry Like a Bell:Poems 


Music: Hail Mary – Boyce and Stanley

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 in which the psalmist, filled with gratitude and joy, makes a prodigious promise:

Every day will I bless you,
    and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Everyday! Forever and ever!

Psalm 145:2

Such a promise requires all one’s attention, discipline and practice. We must learn to see all experience in God’s Light so that everything becomes a reason for praise.


Paul, guiding the Colossians to live that kind of life, tells them:

As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him,
rooted in him and built upon him
and established in the faith as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:6-7

Powerful words:
~ walk in Christ
~ be rooted and built in Christ
~ be established in faith
~ be abundant in thanksgiving 


God is gracious and merciful toward us as we pray for the psalmist’s prayer to be fulfilled in us and in our lives:

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
    and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
    and speak of your might.

Psalm 145:10-11

Poetry: from the Book of Hours – Rainer Maria Rilke

You are the future, the great sunrise red
above the broad plains of eternity.
You are the cock-crow when time’s night has fled,
You are the dew, the matins, and the maid,
the stranger and the mother, you are death.

You are the changeful shape that out of Fate
rears up in everlasting solitude,
the unlamented and the unacclaimed,
beyond describing as some savage wood.

You are the deep epitome of things
that keeps its being’s secret with locked lip,
and shows itself to others otherwise:
to the ship, a haven — to the land, a ship.

Music: Psalm 145 – Travis Cottrel