Pray for One Another

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Saturday, October 15, 2022

St. Teresa of Avila – François Gérard

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101522.cfm

Ephesians 1_18 Blessed be

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read the magnificent Ephesians prayer, spoken by Paul over his beloved community — and over us.  The phrases are like sacred honey, each one to be individually savored and consumed.

  • I never cease giving thanks for you
  • May God give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
  • May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened
  • May you know what is the hope that belongs to God’s call
  • … what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones
  • … and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe

Wow! What if we prayed for one another like that? What if we prayed for ourselves like that?

Sometimes we, and our companions on life’s journey, do require prayers for a specific need: recovery from illness, strength in a time of trial, courage in darkness.  

But we should pray for one another every day – a prayer that transcends specific needs – a prayer for wisdom, faith, understanding, and wild confidence in God’s loving  power in our lives.

Such a prayer, like Paul’s, helps create a web of spiritual resilience for our beloveds, around them and within them. This is the power of the Communion of Saints.

Let us pray like this for each other.


Poetry: some thoughts from today’s holy Wonder Woman, Teresa of Avila:

Each of us has a soul,
but we forget to value it.
We don’t remember
that we are creatures
made in the image of God.
We don’t understand
the great secrets
hidden inside of us.

Music: Ephesians Hymn I, Suzanne Toolan, RSM

Lift Your Heart in Praise!

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
October 14, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101422.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul tells us that we were created “for the praise of God’s glory”. Paul emphasizes the phrase by using it twice in the first reading.

so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

praise

Thinking about the prayer of praise may remind us of the four types of prayer we learned by nemonic as a child: ACTS.

  • Adoration
  • Contrition 
  • Thanksgiving 
  • Supplication 

The last three types are prayers centered in the self. They express my regrets, my gratitude, and my needs.  But the first type, Adoration, is centered on God – a prayer of awe and absorption into God’s Presence.

That kind of prayer is so important to deepening our relationship with God. We can understand why just by considering our human relationships.  

In order to love someone deeply and intimately, we have to forget ourselves and allow ourselves to embrace their reality. It’s very hard to do this. We are naturally self-centered and self-concerned. But through generosity, intentionality and self-sacrifice, we can learn to love unselfishly.

We can learn to love God like this too. Our prayer of adoration may be a shared silence with God. It may be simple phrases we offer in the awareness of God’s Being, as we breathe the breath of God’s life: 

  • You are Beauty….
  • You are Life….
  • You are Mercy….
  • You are Love…
  • You are…

We let go of time and purpose. We give ourselves to the One who sustains us.

We don’t ask for anything, say thanks or sorry for anything. We simply absorb God’s Presence and return it in praise. 

If we feel the need for words to begin this prayer, we might use the first phrases of an old, beloved mantra – the Divine Praises. Here’s my translation:

Blessed are You, precious God.
Blessed is your Holy Name.
Blessed are dear Jesus, truly God, truly human.

Blessed is your holy Name.
Blessed is your Sacred Heart.
Blessed is your Precious Blood.

…. and then go on with your personal praises to bless God:
blessed is your Presence in my Life
… your call to my heart
… your peace in my turmoils…..


Poetry: from Rumi

To praise
is to praise how
one surrenders
to the emptiness.


Music: We Praise You, O Lord ~ The Dameans

Holding Hands with God

Picture two people, who love each other deeply, walking along a quiet beach. They may be a child and parent, committed spouses or devoted friends. They are walking, fully in each other’s presence. But at times, one or the other may wander off to study a shell or watch a sandpiper while the other continues slowly walking. Still, they are completely with each other and will often reconnect to share snatches of thought and imagination. In many ways, this image captures the meaning of the epistolary admonition, “Pray always.” On the beach of our lives, we are walking with God always.


But there are times in that walk when, for some reason, we will reach for the other’s hand. We will intensify and focus our attention to each other. The reason may be an awareness of something beautiful, poignant, frightening, joyful or overwhelming. We will remember these moments as specific experiences such as:

  • • “It was the time we saw the magnificent sunrise.”
  • • “It was the time we were frightened by the unexpected storm.”

In our lifelong walk with God, this reaching for and holding each other’s hands is a good image for the act of prayer. It may be initiated by God or by us, or perhaps by both at once. It may be vocal or silent. It is an experience which has a beginning and an end. Like the shared moments on the beach, these acts of prayer are definite moments, for example:

  • • “It was the time I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s gift of my family and prayed that gratitude as I watched them around our family table.”
  • • “It was the time I became aware of the call to greater generosity and service and prayed aloud for God’s guidance and support.”

These acts of prayer change us. They open us to greater depth in our journey with God. They deepen the sense of God’s presence within our total experience. They thin the veil which separates us from the Divine.

To become pray-ers like this, we must first become constant listeners. God is whispering to us in every moment and experience of our lives. As we learn to hear God in our own lives, we become better at hearing God in other’s hearts. Our prayers become a response to that Voice which first and constantly speaks to us.

Some music for you all:

Tony O’Connor – Whispering Sea

Prayer

February 26, 2022
Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, each of our readings encourages us to live a life of prayer – with fervor, perseverance, and childlike simplicity

The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

James 5:16

O LORD, to you I call; hasten to me;
hearken to my voice when I call upon you.
Let my prayer come like incense before you;
the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.

Psalm 141:1-2

Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Mark 10:14

Rather than make any theological comment on prayer, I thought I might simply offer some of my own poetry-prayers today, if you would care to pray with them.


Awaking

Sunrise paints 
the hedge's morning side
rosy gold.
But I choose
the western side.
There, midnight's purple leaves
awake in lazy grey, 
then stripes
of green and silver.
There, the awesome 
grace of living
rises slowly in the heart,
a liquor savored,
a prayer lingering
In genuflected silence

Photo credit: Mary Pat Garvin, RSM

Prayer

Still ourselves,
we are more one
than separate now,
Heart over heart,
heart within Heart,
like a word's meaning
held within its sound.
I drink from that union
like the verdant earth drinks
from its deep reserve of water.
It is Your color
that flushes
every blossom
sprung from me.
But that water, once tasted
precludes satiety
by any other water.
There is
no return for me now
to a season
not fed by You.
What I have given You, then
is the whole seed of my life.
Love it in that way.

Music: Inside This River – Gary Schmidt

How Long, O Lord?!

October 27, 2021
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 13, a powerful lesson in prayer.

The psalm is one of my favorites because it feels so “real”. The one who prays, presumably David, needs an answer to his prayer- and is not perceiving one. (emphasis on “perceiving”)

So the psalmist sounds a bit like someone desperately calling customer service to see why a life-saving order has not arrived😉:

How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
..
Look, answer me, O LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes that I may not sleep in death

Psalm 13: 2, 4

But as the psalmist continues to pray, an evolution of grace and understanding occurs. There is a realization that the kind of answer expected is one according to human measurement … one that will make the pray-er look triumphant in the eyes of his enemies:

Answer me, Lord my God …
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.

Psalm 13: 4-5

But the depth of our relationship with God is not determined by what our enemies think … or even our friends. That sacred relationship is rooted in our grateful recognition and trusting immersion in God’s ever-present mercy and love for us:

But I trust in your mercy.
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD,
Who has dealt bountifully with me!

Psalm 13: 6-7

God always answers us. We may not have the capacity to perceive the answer because it is not the one we expected or wished for. But the truth is that through whatever “answer” unfolds to our prayer, God is leading us deeper into God’s heart.

Can we trust that? Can we yield to it? That is the “salvation” the psalmist ultimately prays for:


Sometimes we might hear a person say that they don’t know how to get started talking with God in prayer. They seem to feel it’s kind of like a blind date where you end up realizing you have nothing in common with each other.

Paul – in our reading from Romans says – no, wait a minute. God is already within you simply by the nature of your creaturehood. You are made of the very stuff of God. In fact, the Spirit of God deep within our souls is like the fiery magma from a volcano. It erupts from our love and prays for us to the Creator – if we will only let it.


Poetry: Praying by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Music: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – by Janet Erskine Stuart, interpreted here by the Daughters of St. Paul (Lyrics below)

Spirit seeking light and beauty,
Heart still longing for your rest
In your search for understanding,
Only thus can you be blest,

Through the vastness of creation,
Though your restless thought may roam,
God is all that you can long for,
God is all creation’s home.

Taste and see God, feel and hear God,
Hope and grasp the unseen hand;
Though the darkness seem to hide you,
Faith and love can understand.

Loving Wisdom, guiding Spirit,
All our hearts are made anew.
Lead us through the land of shadows
‘Til we come to rest in you.

Let the Spirit Pray in Your Heart

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 30, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells us that our life is about getting to know God ever more intimately. Otherwise, when we come to our final moments, we may not be recognized by our Lord and Master.

Could this be possible? Could God not recognize the work of his own hands, the one made in God’s own image?

Probably not. But what I think the Gospel suggests is that if, throughout our whole lives, we have never prayed or drawn closer to God, God’s own image in us may be quite obscured after that disconnected lifetime.

Sometimes we might hear a person say that they don’t know how to get started talking with God in prayer. They seem to feel it’s kind of like a blind date where you end up realizing you have nothing in common with each other.

St. Paul says no, wait a minute. God is already within you simply by the nature of your creaturehood . You are made of the very stuff of God. In fact, the Spirit of God deep within our souls is like the fiery magma from a volcano. It erupts from our love and prays for us to the Creator – if we will only let it.

Rm8_26 groanings

Let us give the Spirit the space, time and invitation to rise up in our hearts, praying with us and through us. In the deep love of that relationship, we will know ourselves to be recognized and loved. We can trust that all things are working together for our good.

Music: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – by Janet Erskine Stuart, interpreted here by the Daughters of St. Paul (Lyrics below)

Spirit seeking light and beauty,
Heart still longing for your rest
In your search for understanding,
Only thus can you be blest,

Through the vastness of creation,
Though your restless thought may roam,
God is all that you can long for,
God is all creation’s home.

Taste and see God, feel and hear God,
Hope and grasp the unseen hand;
Though the darkness seem to hide you,
Faith and love can understand.

Loving Wisdom, guiding Spirit,
All our hearts are made anew.
Lead us through the land of shadows
‘Til we come to rest in you.

God, please …

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings talk about prayer – a particular kind: the prayer of supplication. 

As children, many of us learned this acronym for the types of prayer: ACTS
Ollie_pray

Adoration – Contrition – Thanksgiving – Supplication

The mnemonic has been helpful to me as an adult too. It reminds me to communicate with God only many levels, not just to ask for something. I know how I feel about someone who never talks to me unless they need something. I don’t want to be that way with God.

In our first reading, Esther prays a prayer of supplication for the deliverance of her people from death. Her prayer is not a simple, passing, “Please”. The passage tells us:

She lay prostrate upon the ground,
together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, (praying)

In our Gospel, Jesus describes the prayer of supplication :

Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

My prayers of supplication haven’t always seemed to get the results Esther got or that Jesus describes. Ever feel that way … that your prayer really hasn’t been answered?

Faith assures us that all our needs are met … even before we present them to God. God is acting in our lives whether or not we speak with God about it.

Our prayer, as it becomes deeper and truer, allows us to enter God’s action with faith, hope, love and courage. This is the perfect prayer of supplication – it allows us to float, content, in the water of God’s will always flowing around our lives.

ask-Receive

David Foster Wallace created a parable you may have heard:

Two young fish are 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 says, “What is water?”

Foster explains, “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.”

Our reality is that we exist in the “water” of God’s life and presence. May our “asking” of God lead us to understand that our life in God is already the answer.

Music: Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire – James Montgomery (1771–1854)

Montgomery wrote the lyrics at the request of Edward Bickersteth, who wanted them for his book Treatise on Prayer. Montgomery called this “the most attractive hymn I ever wrote.”

( I have included all the Lyrics below. Quite beautiful, I think.)

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains
That reach the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters Heav’n with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold, he prays!”

The saints in prayer appear as one
In word, in deed, and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

Nor prayer is made on earth alone;
The Holy Spirit pleads,
And Jesus, on th’eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou by whom we come to God,
The life, the truth, the way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray.

Jesus Prayed

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Mark’s Gospel allows us to spend a day with Jesus during his early ministry. 

After “church”, so to speak, Jesus and his buddies go to Simon’s house for a meal. Where Simon’s wife was we’re not told, but his mother-in-law seems to have been chief cook and bottle washer. Unfortunately, on that day, she’s not feeling well. However, with but a touch from Jesus, she’s restored and begins waiting on the guys. 

It seems like Jesus and his friends hung out through the heat of the day. As evening cool descends, neighbors begin arriving with their sicknesses and troubled spirits. Jesus cures many of those gathered. Can you just imagine the scene!

pray

The next morning, even before dawn, Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. No doubt he wants to discern, with his Father and the Holy Spirit, the things that are happening in his life. Again can you imagine that conversation!

We know that, when asked, Jesus gave us the human words of the “Our Father” to teach us to pray. But how did Jesus himself pray in the solitude of his heart? 

Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity
focused in relationship to one another
and yielding a Love
too immense for description!

In our own humble prayer today, may we lean against the heart of Jesus as he immersed himself in the Presence of the Creator and Spirit. May we pray in Christ’s pregnant silence.

Music: a very simple, yet very profound hymn: Father, I Place into Your Hands

Come and See

Friday, January 4, 2019

Click here for readings

Jn 1_39

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, the first American born saint.

Elizabeth Seton was born on August 28, 1774, of a wealthy and distinguished Episcopalian family. She was baptized in the Episcopal faith and was a faithful adherent of the Episcopal Church until her conversion to Catholicism.

She established her first Catholic school in Baltimore in 1808; in 1809, she established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After seeing the expansion of her small community of teaching sisters to New York and as far as St. Loius, she died on January 4, 1821, and was declared a saint by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975. She is the first native born American to be canonized a saint.

(from CatholicCulture.org)


In our Gospel, we find the first disciples encountering Jesus. They are curious about him because the Baptist has just described him as “the Lamb of God”.

We can picture Andrew and his unnamed buddy trailing behind Jesus, watching him, listening to him. Finally they hazard a question, “Rabbi, where do you live?”

It’s kind of a loaded question. What it might really mean are things like these:

  • Where did you come from all of sudden?
  • Could you possibly be the Messiah if you’re walking around looking just like us?
  • Do you go back to heaven at night or are you really one of us?
  • Can we just hang out and find out more about you?

Their faith is tentative, hopeful and maybe just a little bit suspicious. Does your faith ever feel like that? 

When we pray, are we convinced that God hears us? When we suffer, do we believe God abides with us? When we choose, act or respond, do we trust that God cares about our actions? Do we believe, in these and all circumstances, that the power of God is present in our lives?

To have that kind of faith, we have to “learn” Christ, to become as close and comfortable with him as with an intimate friend. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us how to do that: “Come and see.” 

In other words:

Spend time with me.
Talk with me about ordinary things.
Watch sunsets and sunrises with me.
Tell me your secrets.
Let me tell you mine.
Laugh with me.
Be silent with me.
Trust that you are never separate from me.

If we do these things, even slowly and steadily as the first disciples, we will eventually say with Andrew, “l have found the Messiah” – and he is living right within my life!

Music: Come and See – Bob Bennett

In God’s Hand

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

          Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings instruct us on what it means to really belong to God – heart and soul.

Proverbs tosses out a series of minstrel-like two-liners that could easily be overlooked for their beauty and depth. For example, the first couplet says: 

Like a stream is the king’s heart
in the hand of the LORD;

wherever it pleases him, he directs it.

Would we all not desire that kind of heart, where our thoughts and choices are so directed by God’s power and grace – held and guided into freedom by God’s loving hand? How confident, peaceful and joyful our lives would be!

Psalm 199 discern

Today’s Psalm 119 is a passionate prayer to be guided through an entangling world by our deep loyalty to God’s own truth, learned by meditating day and night on God’s goodness.

Our Gospel, in an often misinterpreted incident, shows us how Jesus considers his true disciples as close to him as his own mother and family.

So today, to deepen our own closeness to God, let us practice making our ordinary life into a constant prayer – allowing it to flow, like water, through God’s tender, guiding hand. 

We can do this by gratefully noticing God’s Presence in nature, in our companions, in the opportunities for kindness, honesty and service  that come to us today. 

Or, sadly, our experiences today might cause us to notice God’s absence in these places. This offers us an incentive to invite, beg and pester God to transform the desert places in our lives and world.

Whichever approach we take, it will open up a constant conversation with God about our life as we experience it at each moment. We begin to listen better to the Word of God revealing itself in our daily life. We begin to live more consciously in God’s Presence… in God’s dear family.

God’s Law is already written deep in the fabric of our lives. We pray for discernment to discover that guiding grace by opening our hearts to God’s Presence in our every experience.

Music: I Belong to You ~ Hillsong

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WV6_nPD2sG4