Psalm 8: Hymn of the Universe

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

October 17, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 8.

O LORD, our LORD,
how glorious is your Name over all the earth!
You have exalted your majesty above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings
you have fashioned praise ….

Psalm 8:2-3

Just yesterday, I got an email from the amazingly organized Sister who manages our grounds. She wanted to alert us that there would be a small “star-gazing” event this weekend, sponsored by our school, in case we might wonder about unusual nighttime visitors.


The note took me back to my own star-gazing days, residues of which percolate from time to time, especially during meteor showers. These days I do most of my “gazing” out our kitchen window, but when I studied for my certification in Earth Sciences, I had several opportunities for “instructed” star-gazing with excellent West Chester University astronomers. In a subsequent reflection, I described one such experience like this:

There are a few places where nature offers an experience of darkness so absolute it can be terrifying.  Assateague Island lies along the barrier coast of Virginia.  On a winter night, darkness there feels complete, enveloping.  As evening lengthens, night pulls its velvet canopy from the black ocean, covering the beach in silence. The whisper of rustling sea oats along invisible dunes is the only link to a land left behind.  But slowly, like sparks rolling through dry tinder, stars burn one by one through heaven’s blanket.  By midnight, their incomparable brilliance convinces the soul that it has never been and can never be alone.


Three thousand years ago, our psalmist felt the same way:

When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What are we  that you should be mindful of us,
we human beings that you should care for us?

Psalm 8:4-5

Charles Spurgeon, revered Baptist preacher, calls this psalm “the song of the Astronomer“, as gazing at the heavens inspires the psalmist to meditate on God’s creation and humanity’s place in it.

You have made us little less than the angels,
and crowned us with glory and honor.
You have given us rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under our feet.

Psalm 8:6-7

Pope John Paul II said this:

 …. for those who have attentive ears and open eyes, creation is like a first revelation that has its own eloquent language: it is almost another sacred book whose letters are represented by the multitude of created things present in the universe. St. John Chrysostom says: “The silence of the heavens is a voice that resounds louder than a trumpet blast: this voice cries out to our eyes and not to our ears, the greatness of Him who made them.

General Audience – January 30, 2002

And our dear Pope Francis reiterates this thought so beautifully in his epic encyclical:

At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God, and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us, will share in unending plenitude.

Laudato Si’

Let’s rest in all this beauty as we pray today with Psalm 8


Music: Beautiful Universe – Tim Janis

Psalm 27: Seek God’s Face

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

October 1, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27 – and gosh, did I need it!

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

I woke up this morning still half sick from watching last night’s “debate”. I fully agree with this estimation from Jon Meacham:


“No hyperbole: The incumbent’s behavior this evening
is the lowest moment in the history of the presidency
since Andrew Johnson’s racist state papers.”


(Jon Meacham, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Meacham holds the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Endowed Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt University)


I care about how my country’s leadership has degenerated. I care about how that collapse affects all of our lives especially poor, sick, and marginalized persons. It is painful to witness a situation where leadership suffers from an egregious forfeiture of responsibility and care for anything but its own self-interests.

It’s very hard to find prayer’s central clarity
when a dysfunctional world spins around us.
I asked myself today,:
“Can Psalm 27 help me?
Can the Little Flower shed some light for me?”.


Psalm 27 is a prayer that moves from relentless hope to deeply rooted faith. It is a remedy I crave.

Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
“Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”;
your face, LORD, do I seek!


Walter Brueggemann places great emphasis on verse 27:3 and the particular word “though”….

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart does not fear;
Though war be waged against me,
even then do I trust.

Bruggemann says this:

I suggest that the psalm pivots in verse 3 on the word “though,” which is an act of defiance. It is a bold and brave “nevertheless, notwithstanding”…
… This “though” is a well-grounded, adamant refusal to participate in the anxiety that is all around.


St. Thérèse of Lisieux wasn’t into “politics” as we commonly define the term. But her life in the abbey presented a good deal of human “politics” which challenged her spiritual growth. Here are a few quotes that I plan to pray with today to invite their blessings on my own anxieties, and to listen for where they might call me to hope, trust and faith, as well as productive, not fretful, action. You might like to do the same.

My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice, these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words, I know it by experience. 
― The Little Way for Everyone Day: Thoughts from Thérèse of Lisieux

Joy is not found in the things which surround us, but lives only in the soul. 
― The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

It is wrong to pass one’s time in fretting, instead of sleeping on the Heart of Jesus. 
― ibid.


In place of a poem today, this tidbit about Psalm 27 from Pope John Paul II:

The faithful know that being consistent creates ostracism and even provokes 
contempt and hostility in a society that often chooses to live under the banner 
of personal prestige, ostentatious success, wealth, unbridled enjoyment. 
They are not alone, however, and preserve a surprising interior peace in their hearts because, as the marvellous “antiphon” that opens the Psalm says, 
“the Lord is light and salvation… the stronghold of life” (cf. Ps 27: 1) of the just. 
He continuously repeats: “Whom shall I fear?”, “Of whom shall I be afraid?”, 
“My heart shall not fear”, “Yet I will trust” (cf. vv. 1, 3).
JOHN PAUL II- GENERAL AUDIENCE
Wednesday, 21 April 2004

Music: The Lord is My Light and My Salvation – Haas and Haugen 

Refrain: The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?

The Lord is my light and my help; whom should I fear?The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom should I shrink?

There is one thing I ask of the Lord; for this I long;
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord, in the land of the living;
hope in him and take heart, hope in the Lord!

Be Life in a Culture of Death

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 24, 2019

Click here for readings

Rm6_21 death

Today, in Mercy,  Jesus says he has come to set fire on the earth! He says that, because of him, there will not be peace but division, setting households against one another. It’s not a comforting Gospel.

And guess what, we don’t live in a comforting world do we? We see human beings set against each other in war, political corruption, economic despoiling, human trafficking, ecological crime and other deeply ingrained systemic abuses.

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical EVANGELIUM VITAE refers to these realities as a “culture of death”.

Some threats come from nature itself, but they are made worse by the culpable indifference and negligence of those who could in some cases remedy them. Others are the result of situations of violence, hatred and conflicting interests, which lead people to attack others through murder, war, slaughter and genocide.

And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the world’s ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today! 

Paul says that, through our Baptism, we are called and strengthened to bear witness against such a culture:

But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

poor child

Every day, each one of us has the opportunity to stand up for mercy and justice by the choices we make, by the attitudes we affirm, by the values we stand for. But sometimes it’s hard, because it can set us against some of the people around and close to us. That’s when the rubber meets the road!

Music:  We Are Called – David Haas