Psalm 46: Secret Stream

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 46 which celebrates the felt assurance of God’s presence no matter surrounding circumstances.

God is our refuge and our strength,
    an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
    and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 46: 2-3

That kind of faith is pretty amazing! It’s easy to celebrate God when things are going well – but earth shaking and mountains plunging? That’s something else. What’s the secret to that kind of faith?


Such believers seem to have found the “stream”:

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
    the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
    God will help it at the break of dawn.

Psalm 46: 4-5

In her “Four Waters of Prayer”, St. Teresa of Ávila describes how we find this stream. Imagine your soul as a garden that needs to be nourished by prayer.

  • The first way to nourish it is like drawing water from a well. It is a very active kind of prayer in which we use our faculties to come closer to God.
  • The second way is like a water-wheel. As we accustom ourselves to prayer, it becomes easier to enter a sacred space.
  • The third way is a stream. It is the point in our spiritual lives where prayer, awareness of God, flows throughout our day.
  • The Fourth Water is the prayer of ecstasy when we are filled with and by God as by a luxuriant rain.

You can read St. Teresa’s descriptions here. The language is that of the 16th century but the wisdom is eternal. 


Poetry: Poem for St. John of the Cross by Lisa Zimmerman

 In the dark night of the soul,
bright flows the river of God

John of the Cross
Saint John of the Cross,
Your father married for love
an orphan below his noble station.
Discarded by his wealthy kindred
they say your parents nurtured you in poverty—
and the bread was as sweet as any bread

and the days offered their shiny hands
and their little streams of water
singing in the glades.

I see you wandering happily as a boy,
the sun a crown on your small head,
your bare feet scuffing the dust.
God chirped like a wood lark
in the throat of afternoon
and the lonely months in prison
were far ahead beneath the great shadow
of the future.

I try to follow you there, O mystic,
to watch you defy your greedy brethren
monks who will reject your reforms, your love
of less, of days returned to prayer and fasting.

Fat and threatened, they silenced you
in a narrow stone cell, one tiny window
like the one in the soul where day after day
the voice of God pierced your suffering.

Out of emptiness, a full heart—
out of abandonment, a poem of seeking—
out of utter darkness, a gleam of pure light—
love’s last trembling boat waiting for you
to get in, and row.

Music: Streams in the Desert – Abigail Miller

Psalm 23: The Shepherd

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

February 22, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this Feast of St. Peter we pray with Psalm 23 – the Good Shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    In verdant pastures I am given repose;
Beside restful waters the Lord leads me;
    refreshing my soul.

Psalm 23

The history and devotion intrinsic to this feast can inspire us to pray especially today for our dear Pope Francis who carries Peter’s grace and burden in our time. He carries, in Primacy, the charge reflected in our first reading:

Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.


Pope Francis faces resistances just as Peter did. There are always forces within a community who pull its energy in contradictory directions. When rooted in love and reverent dialogue, that counteraction can generate growth. But when born of selfishness and obstinance, such opposition poisons the whole Body.

Francis needs our prayer. The Church needs our prayer. According to Teresa of Avila, Saint and Doctor of the Church, that prayer should be scriptural:

All the troubles of the Church,
all the evils in the world,
flow from this source:
that human beings do not
by clear and sound knowledge
and serious consideration
penetrate into the truths
of Sacred Scripture.

St. Teresa of Avila

Today, Psalm 23 inspires our prayer for our Pope:

Even in the dark valley
    may you fear no evil; for you are at God’s side
Whose rod and staff
    give you courage.
May God spread graces before you
    in the sight of your troubles;
and anoint your head with oil;
    your cup overflowing.
May goodness and kindness follow you
    all the days of your life;
May you dwell in the LORD’s sanctuary
    for all your days.


Poetry: When I was a boy … (Da ich ein Knabe war …) – Friedrich Hölderlin

Pope Francis’s favorite poet is said to be the German writer Friedrich Hölderlin. Perhaps Francis, composer of the lyrical Laudato Sí and Fratelli Tutti, loves this rhapsodic poem.

When I was a boy
Often a god would save me
From the shouts and blows of men;
I played safely and well
With the flowers of the fields
And the winds of heaven
Played with me.

As you make happy
The hearts of plants
When they extend to you
Their delicate tendrils,
So you make my heart happy,
Father Sun, and like Endymion
I was your favorite,
Holy Moon!

All true and neighborly gods!
If only you knew
How much I loved you then!
True, at that time, I didn’t
Know your names, and you
Never bothered to name me, like men
Who only pretend to know one another.

Yet I know you better
Than I’ve ever known anyone,
I understood the silence of the upper air,
But I’ve never understood the words of men.
I was raised by the sounds
Of the rustling grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
I grew up in the arms of the gods.

Music: Psalm 23 with Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze

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 16: The Secret

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2020

Click here for readings

psalm16

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 16.  This Psalm is introduced as “A Michtam of David”. “Michtam” can be interpreted as either “golden” or “secret” by various translators. 

For prayer this morning, I focused on “secret” because, in the psalm, David expresses what he considers the secret to a joyful, holy life even in difficulty.

O LORD, my allotted portion and cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

The last line of this verse immediately brought to mind St. Teresa of Avila’s transcendent advice:

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

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.

Repeating this Psalm slowly and intentionally, let us pray for that kind of peace today:

  • for ourselves
  • our beloveds
  • our world, especially those from whom peace has been stolen by injustice, war, greed, and hate.

Music: Psalm 16 – Shane and Shane

There is fullness
Of joy
Of joy
At Your right hand
There are pleasures
Forevermore
Forevermore

My heart is glad and my soul rejoices
My flesh it dwells secure
Because You put on flesh
Lived a blameless life
My curse on the cross You bore

Then You ripped the doors off the City of Death
And the chains fell to the floor
Now the serpent’s crushed
It has been finished
And You reign forevermore

You are my portion
My cup and you make my lot secure
The lines have fallen
For me in pleasant places
A beautiful inheritance

God Alone

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the great Saint Teresa of Avila. 

Teresa prayer

Teresa was a Spanish noblewoman who became a Carmelite nun, mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian, and one of the 36 Doctors of the Church.

(Until 1970, no woman had been named a Doctor in the Church, but since then four women have been designated: Saints Teresa of Àvila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of the Child Jesus, and Hildegard of Bingen)

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Our reading today from Romans is a good one for Teresa’s feast. In it, Paul expresses his complete trust in and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this, Paul means more than the written words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He means the entire gift of the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, continuing among us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Teresa understood and lived this same trust and devotion. She said:

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.

Like Paul, Teresa was not ashamed to proclaim and live the Gospel. May these two strong and amazing saints help us to do the same.

Music: Christ Has No Body Now But Yours – David Ogden

Yes, I’m Talkin’ to YOU!

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel reveals a lot about the relationships and personalities among Jesus and his disciples.

John is described as “the one whom Jesus loved”, indicating that there was a unique affection shared between them. What was that like? John was younger than most of the other men. Perhaps he needed more overt direction and care from Jesus. We know from John’s later extensive contributions to scripture that he was a poet and a visionary, someone with heightened sensitivities. Perhaps John expressed his love for Jesus more openly, triggering a similar response in Jesus.

Peter, once again, appears as the questioner. Throughout the Gospels, he is always asking Jesus to explain, to define, to assure. In today’s reading, Jesus has given Peter the prime call to follow him. But Peter wants more. Looking at John, Peter wants to know, “What about him… will he follow?”

Maybe Peter is a lot like some of us, a little unsure of where we are in God’s love. Maybe he wants to know how he compares to John, the obvious “Beloved Disciple”.

Jesus doesn’t coddle Peter. He wants Peter to “man up”. Peter has immense leadership responsibilities ahead of him. He needs to rely totally on Jesus’s promise to him.

John21_22

So Jesus tells him not to worry about how others are loved and called by God. He tells Peter, “ You follow me!” – that’s all you have to be concerned about.

Everybody’s call to follow is personal and different. It comes dressed in our particular life circumstances, gifts and awarenesses. God wants Peter and God wants John. He doesn’t want clones of either.

And God wants and calls each one of us in our uniqueness. By entering deeply into our own spirit, we will find our answer to God’s call.

Teresa of Avila said this:

It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven
without entering into ourselves.

May dear, questioning Peter inspire us today to be brave, confident and complete in our own response to God’s call.

Music:  Follow Me – Ray Repp