We thank you for an opportunity to come together as a global community to address such an important issue that is affecting so many people worldwide.
Please be with our leaders from around the globe. Give them wisdom as they seek a universal agreement on climate change. Give them minds and hearts that are open to the cries of those suffering the most from our harmful actions. Guide them to listen to the voices of all and come to a consensus on how to move forward in a manner that will benefit not the most powerful among us, but the most vulnerable.
Please grant us wisdom, as well, as we seek to be lights in our home communities. Keep us from fruitless arguments, and provide us with words of encouragement and edification as we seek to engage positively with those around us on the issue of climate change. Let our words and actions become one, stemming from our love for your creation and your people. Make us instruments for your peace.
It’s been a busy spring for me and postings here have been less regular, but you are constantly in my heart where ever you are!–Rose
Reflections from Christ in the Desert monastery’s Abbot Philip on the practice of Lectio Divina:
I have been reading the Gospel of Matthew for my lectio. Lectio is part of the monastic way of life. It is a slow and prayerful reading of the Scriptures. In our Benedictine tradition, this practice of the slow and prayerful reading of the Scriptures is fundamental. The purpose is to know the Scriptures profoundly and this can take place only over a long period of time. This type of knowledge of the Scriptures is focused on encounter with the Word and no on some form of academic knowledge. It requires a daily commitment on the part of the monk. At Christ in the Desert we have a small booklet that we call our Customary.
It sets down for the monks some of the things that we do and sometimes how to do them. Regarding Lectio, the Customary tells us that a monk must strive to spend at least a half hour each day in silent prayer and at least one hour each day in this practice of prayerful reading with a focus on Scripture.All of us who have been monks for a number of years know that it is easy to avoid praying and to avoid reading Scripture. It sounds so easy at first. Continue reading “Abbot Philip: The Practice of Lectio Divina”
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love,
We turn to you with confidence.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Re-awaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.
God is eternal, and eternity is fire,
and that is God.
And God is not hidden, no silent fire,
but an acting fire.
The Holy Spirit is life-giving life,
Mover of the universe and root of all created being.
She cleans the universe of unfairness,
she repays the debt, and she anoints the wounds.
She is brilliant life, worthy of praise
She breathes and again inspires the universe.
—Hildegard of Bingen
From the evening of Tuesday, June 3, through the evening of June 5, Jews will be celebrating the festival of Shavuot, which in most of Jewish life today is focused on the revelation and acceptance of Torah at Mount Sinai.
And since Shavuot became transcribed in Christian tradition into Pentecost, perhaps Christians as well as Jews might learn from reexamining this holy day.
The Hebrew word “Shavuot” means “Weeks.” Its name comes from the festival’s timing in regard to Passover: It comes after a “week of weeks,” seven weeks and one day, beginning on the second night of Passover.
In Biblical Israel, Shavuot was the celebration of a successful spring wheat harvest. For seven weeks, the community anxiously counted its way into the precarious abundance of harvest. The counting began on Passover as each household brought a sheaf of barley to the Temple, for the barley crop ripened before wheat.
On the 50th day, there was a unique offering at the Temple—two loaves of wheat bread—regular leavened bread, not unleavened matzah, on the only occasion all year when leavened bread was offered.
This agricultural celebration of Shavuot fit into the broad pattern of Biblical Judaism. During the Biblical era, spiritual leadership of the People was held by a hereditary priesthood defined by the body from birth and skilled in the body-rituals of bringing various foods (beef, mutton, matzah, grain, pancakes, fruit) as offerings to a physical place.
The Jonah House Catholic Worker community lives in inner-city Baltimore on the property of a 150-year old Irish Catholic cemetery. The llamas and goats keep the weeds trimmed back. The Catholic Workers in residence honor the dead — and tend to the living.
I’ve always wanted to spend All Saints’ Day on retreat at this location, practicing a walking meditation in the circuit through the old cemetery, amid the pawpaw trees, looking through the fence at the Section 8 housing that borders one edge and the tire reclamation center that rides the other side. I want to walk and remember the dead. I want to rejoice with them. I want to linger in their presence. I want to meet them in holy communion.
A few years ago, I spent a quiet day at Jonah House–healing the soul. Below is a litany that I used. It’s also especially suited to Ember Days in November, All Saints’ Day or Reformation Day, or Day of the Dead memorial at the end of October.
Liturgical Notes. This litany works best when read responsively. It can be divided in to multiple parts. Each part can begin with the leader saying, “We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…” and concluding the section with the “Grant us…” triplet.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s made to be adapted. It contains some saints recognized by the church and many holy men and women of God who have served the cause of the gospel or the spirit of liberation through the ages. Not all of them are Christian, though all are Christ-like. We encourage each community to add the names of those known locally who have inspired us to live a Godly life in the service of others.
Many of the names listed here will not be familiar to the congregation. We invite you to use the month of November to tell the stories of those who are part of our Great Cloud of Witnesses, including remembering those who have died who personally have influenced us. This litany can also easily be set to a plain chant or other simple musical refrain. Find an easily printable version here.—Rose Marie Berger
All Saints Day: A Litany of the Great Cloud of Witnesses
by Rose Marie Berger
We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…
Our parents of earth and life, Adam and Eve…Pray for us.
Mothers Sarah and Hagar, and Father Abraham…Pray for us.
Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel…Pray for us.
Puah and Shiprah…Pray for us.
Miriam, Moses, and Aaron…Pray for us.
Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz…Pray for us.
Daughters of Jeptha…Pray for us.
Daughters of Lot…Pray for us.
Dinah and Tamar…Pray for us.
Bathsheba, Uriah, and David…Pray for us.
Women of Midian…Pray for us.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and all Hebrew prophets…Pray for us.
Judith, Deborah, and Jael…Pray for us.
“Spirituality is about living with reality and always living in the connection with God. Spirituality is not exactly about praying, especially not about reciting prayers. It is about maintaining a living relationship with God at all times. It surely includes praying and includes reciting prayers. As a monk, I am always reciting prayers. The challenge is not just to recite them, but to pray them. Here in the monastery we have classes on the Psalms, for instance, and we can learn a lot about Psalms and about other Scriptures and even about hymns and prayers. The challenge is always to pray the Psalms, pray the Scriptures, and pray all the hymns and prayers.
Central to this challenge is to come to known my own heart and to be able to focus my heart on the presence of God. If I can manage that, then I can also begin to add to that the knowledge of what I am saying if I am involved in spoken prayer or spoken community prayer. The basic element, however, is always to have my heart set on the Lord, seeking His face. Most of us are able to be still and to pray, as long as that is all that we have to do and as long as nothing else very important is on our minds. The challenge is to keep that basic focus of our souls in the Lord when we have to pray with others, when we must live with others, when we have challenges, when we meet conflict, when we meet complex life situations. Only practice allows us to maintain this inner life of prayer at all times.
“The early desert monks and nuns realized that there is a huge importance in learning about how thoughts work in our lives. Only by beginning to deal with our thoughts can we begin to deal with all of our lives. I hate to say that we must control our thoughts because that really does not describe the challenge. The challenge is to learn to live with our thoughts in such a way that we can direct them in some sense. If we try to control them, then there is usually a rebellion!
Learning to live with our thoughts is one of the reasons for learning how to be silent and still with the Lord. We focus on being silent and still, not on stopping thoughts. When thoughts do come, we simply let them pass by because our attention is on being silent and still. We have to practice this before we can truly understand it. And it takes continual practice to enable us to turn aside from thoughts that really attract us and focus on other thoughts.
Another way of learning to live with our thoughts is to develop interests in many things. For some people, a good book can draw and attract their thoughts in a very positive way. For others, a hobby can do the same trick. For still others, a long walk or a vigorous period of exercise can help. Still other persons can relax and let go of attachments by listening to beautiful music and being drawn out of themselves into the music. Others can play a musical instrument and get totally caught up into that. Others can do works of charity, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.
There are countless ways to learn how to live with our thoughts. Why would be want to do that? Because our decisions in our lives come from our thoughts. We want to be able to see our own thought process and to be able to direct our thoughts. In that we, we can build the Kingdom of God together. What often happens in present culture is that our thoughts possess us instead of us possessing our thoughts. This is why it is so important to begin now to know how to live with my thoughts and how to direct my thoughts.
So often I have heard people tell me to go where my thoughts lead me. To some extent, I can understand that and even honor it. On the other hand, I have to know that not everywhere my thoughts might take me is a good place for me to be. There is always a matter of discernment: I have to choose if the direction of my thoughts really is in agreement with the deepest choices of my life.
Each of us is invited to live life to its fullness. In order to do that, we need to listen attentively to those who have gone before. When we find ourselves wanting to set out on our own, we need to be strong enough to hear what we may not want to hear. We may even try to run away from the things that we do not want to hear. Deep within us we remember that it is God calling us and it is God to whom we want to respond. …”–Abbot Philip, OSB
The Catholic Church has very strong teachings against war. The U.S. bishops have not yet called on Catholic soldiers not to fight – but only because they are afraid of the chaos it would cause, not because it’s inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Catholics are not permitted to participate in pre-emptive war or any war that does not meet just war principles (which attacks on Syria do not).
As Americans, the question we face is not whether we condone chemical weapons use — of course we do not. The question is how should the international community responds when someone commits a war crime (ie uses chemical weapons).
The pope invites all people of good will to set aside a day for prayer, meditation, and fasting — or any discipline that leads one deeper into an experience of personal peace and peace for the world. Below is Pope Francis’ appeal:
“Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.
“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.
“I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children who will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgement of God and of history upon our actions which is inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.
In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, one practice in some monasteries is to turn massive beautifully crafted prayer wheels. Each rotation of the wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers. In my Christian interpretation, it is another way of fulfilling Paul’s invitation to “pray without ceasing.”
Whenever I hear the “prayers of the people” at worship, I think of a prayer wheel. When people ask me to pray for them, I often respond “I will put it in the prayer wheel.” In my imagination it is an active ongoing place in my heart where I tuck away the needs of humanity and let the wheel spin forward into the heart of God.
At Sojourners, Julie Polter has for years produced our little internal community newsletter — one manifestation of our communal spinning of the prayer wheel. I’m so grateful for it. I think some version of this “newsletter of need, thanksgiving, and praise” has been in the church since the early days. Here’s a recent example of ours:
Friday, July 26, 2013. Prayers, concerns, & joys:
Blessings and congratulations to: Sojo staffer Sondra Shepley and former staffer and intern Parker Haaga, who are getting married this Saturday, July 27! Sojo staffer Beau Underwood and Casey Osterkamp, who are also getting married this Saturday, July 27!
Sojo staffer Rose Marie Berger and 53 others were arrested today in an act of civil disobedience organized by 350.org at the headquarters of the Environmental Resources Management (ERM)company in downtown D.C. today. Most likely they were going to be allowed to post bond and go home, but I’ve not heard an update. Please remember them in your prayers (in case they’re still waiting for release—arrestees included one person using a walker), and continue to pray for efforts to counter the creeping catastrophe of climate change. ERM is the “independent contractor” hired by the State Department (and regularly used by TransCanada) that assessed the Keystone XL pipeline to be “climate neutral.” Poke around the 350.org twitter feed and you can find links to photos of the action. https://twitter.com/350