Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 5/22

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Memorial Day weekend has become known as the "unofficial opening" of the summer season - a notion not at all related to Memorial Day's origins and meaning.  It's unfortunate that millions will mark the day with time off and a cookout but fail to pause and spend time to honor those who gave their lives in service of their nation.

Here's a prayer I wrote some years back to use at the Memorial Day exercises in my town.  It's composed to be as inclusive as possible of all who might be in attendance at such an event.  Perhaps you'll print or copy it for family and neighborhood gatherings you'll be part of this weekend - and invite those present to pause, pray for and honor those for whom Memorial Day is intended...

Memorial Day Prayer

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing...

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer today.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone…

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs…

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice…

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace…

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts...

Hear our prayer today
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.


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Memorial Day Prayer
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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 5/21

Photo by CP

From before all time, O God,
you knew these blossoms, each by name,
calling them to flower on Main Street,
in Concord, in the month of May 2015...

You knew, by name, each flake that fell
on this shrub's wintry wait
for spring and for the warmth it needed -
first to bud and then break open in your praise...

You know, by name, each raindrop sent
to baptize and caress each flower
blushing with your glory and reminding us
that you are near...

You know precisely just how many days
these blooms will last before they fade
and then let go their grip
on branches now that hold them fast...

And if you know so well a flower
whose season is so short, whose span so brief,
how much more you know and call by name
each one of us, your own...

Oh, how carefully you number all our days:
every hour, every minute, every second
of our sorrows and our joys through all the years,
through all the seasons of our lives...

From before all time, O God,
you knew and loved us each by name
and called us into being in a year, on a date,
at an hour in a season of your choosing...

From before all time, O God,
you knew and called us each by name
and waited for the day we'd bloom,
born to give you glory...

Let springtime flowers remind us, Lord,
how well you know and love and care for us,
by name, on every day
through all the seasons of our lives...



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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 5/20

I spent some time yesterday, on the anniversary of my ordination, reflecting on God's gifts to me over the last 42 years.  This prayer for all of us comes from that reflection...


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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 5/19

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(I invite you to celebrate with me today the 42nd anniversary of my ordination as a priest and to pray for my classmates and me and for all who are celebrating ordination anniversaries this spring.)

A Prayer for Priests

Gracious God, loving Father,
font of every gift and grace,
make our priests for us, we pray:
men of faith and sacrifice,
humble servants of your Word,
prophets of your Spirit’s power;

men of hopefulness and peace,
loyal heralds of the gospel,
strong defenders of the truth;

men of scripture and tradition, 
faithful preachers of the Word,
its comfort and its challenge;

men of prayer and grateful praise,
servants of your table
where we gather in communion;

men of custom and of change,
bound to follow day by day
where your Spirit calls and leads...

men of tenderness and strength,
shepherds leading home the lost,
caring for the poor and sick;

men of counsel and discernment,
trusted guides along our way,
shining light on darkened paths...

men of patience and of mercy,
offering healing consolation
for the grieving and abused;

men of justice and compassion,
reconciling and forgiving,
granting pardon in your name;

men of sacrifice and honor,
single minded in your service,
set apart to do your will;

men of holiness and joy,
anointed by your grace,
ordained to preach the Cross.
Make us one with them in faith
and in Christ your only Son,
in whose holy name we pray.



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Monday Morning Offering: 5/18

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

Some days, Lord,
I feel like I've run out of everything...

fuel gauge battery gif photo: Fuel Gauge Battery Gif Animation2.gif

Like  I've run out of energy, time and patience...

Like I've run out of interest, ideas and desire...

Like I've run out of strength, endurance and steam...

Like I've run out of heart, compassion and tenderness...

Like I've run out of faith or hope or love...

Some days, Lord,
I feel like I'm running on empty,
wondering if or when I'll
Just. Stop. Running.

At least that's how I feel, Lord...

But even on days when I feel
like I'm running on fumes,
something or someone (usually you)
fills up my soul, my heart and my mind,
recharges my will to begin once again
and reboots my spirit to take the next step,
to come back to life
and to walk again in your grace...

So, I offer you this morning, Lord,
the run out, run down feelings,
the places in my soul in need of you:
   empty places needing to be filled,
   sleepless nights in need of rest,
   dull edges needing to be sharpened,
   mindless thoughts in need of wisdom,
   shadows of doubt in need of trust,
   disappointments in need of a dream,
   selfish impulses in need of kindness,
   broken pieces in need of your grace,
   and vacant places in need of your presence...

Some days, Lord, there are just so many
run out, run down feelings:
so much emptiness to fill,
so much energy to supply,
so much of me to bring to life again...

So I offer you these feelings, Lord,
these places in my mind and heart
which only you can fill,
for no one else but you
can fill a tired empty soul
with faith and hope and love...

Fill me up, Lord,
with your mercy, your presence and your love...

Fill me up, Lord,
till my soul overflows with your grace...

Fill me up, Lord, with all that I need
to grow and to live, to remain in your peace...


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Homily for May 17

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Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter 
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Mission Impossible!
Perhaps you remember the TV show or the movie of this title
but even if you don’t, you know what it refers to
an impossible task set before us, or one that appears to be impossible.
Jesus missions his friends in the gospel today
and he missions us, too.
I want to show you how he does that.

Perhaps you saw a report that came out this past week
tracking religious affiliation in the United States
between the years 2007 and 2014.
According to this study,
about 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christian.
That sounds pretty good but that number, 70%,
is down 8 percentage points since 2007.
And, today, 23% of Americans identify themselves as  “unaffiliated.”
Now, and for the first time ever,
the “unaffiliated” in the US outnumber Catholics -- by 3%.
The study also tells us that average age of adult Catholics is 49.
Seven years ago it was 45.
There even more unhappy numbers in the survey.

Is this story playing out here in our own parish?  Yes, it is.
Our parish census shows an increase
of about 65 more households registered this year
as compared to last year
but we also have about 60 funerals every year…
Regardless of the net gain or loss of members on our rolls,
our Sunday attendance numbers continue a slow but steady decline.
Is that because our parish is lifeless and boring?  I don’t think so.
I try hard each week to cut back on the announcements I make
at the end of Mass of all the activities and opportunities
here at Holy Family.
Are we losing people because the music is bad,
the preaching boring
and the liturgy sloppy?   I don’t think so.
But if all these good things are present,
how is it that we’re losing people?

Take a look around the church and take a guess
at what might be the average age of the adults here.

These are questions facing parishes across the United States
and it’s our task to discover what we need to do
to share our faith and the gospel more compellingly
and with greater conviction.
These realities, these numbers, put a keen edge
on Jesus’ words in today’s gospel
where he “sends us into the world with a word of truth.”

Our world is Concord and its environs.
We might like to think that “the missions” exist
only across the seas, on other continents and in the third world
but more and more we find that we’re living in mission territory,
right here at home.

In fact, this is a theme in Pope Francis writing and preaching.
Two years ago he wrote these strong words: 
I hope that all communities will devote the effort necessary
to advance along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion
which cannot leave things as they presently are.
‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.
Let us be in a permanent state of mission – throughout the world.
There are church structures which can hamper this effort
and even good structures are only helpful when there is a life
constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them.
I dream of a missionary  impulse capable of transforming everything,
so that the Church’s customs, our ways of doing things,
our times and schedules, language and structures,
all can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world
-- rather than for our own self-preservation. * 

The pope’s words here offer counsel for the universal Church,
for the Archdiocese of Boston, for Holy Family Parish
-- and for each of us.
Francis believes the mission is POSSIBLE, not Impossible,
but possible only through change.

But I wonder: will we be open to this kind of change
and to letting go the preservation of our self-interests
in favor of attracting back those who have left us
and welcoming in the “unaffiliated?”

Let me offer you a little test case.
As you know, we’re doing a survey right now
on our weekend Mass schedule
to determine how well the current schedule
serves the Catholics of Concord
and if any changes in the schedule would serve us better.
So, what if the survey reveals that some schedule changes
might be helpful -- to those who aren’t here?
How willing will you be, how willing will I be,
to make those changes?
How much will we want to hang on to what we have?
what we’re familiar with? what we do every Sunday morning?
what we’ve “always” done?
How much will we want to preserve our self-interest?

How difficult might we find it to change: 
our customs,  our ways of doing things,
our times and schedules,
and our structures, 
channeling them  for the evangelization of others 
-- rather than for the preservation of our ways? 

Questions like these will be multiplying in the near future
as the church around the world
and the Archdiocese of Boston
and our own parish respond to the Lord’s call
to open our doors ever wider:
first for us to go out to share with others what we find here
and then to be sure that the doors are wide open to welcome in
those who are drawn to join us.

In the first reading the apostles replaced Judas, the betrayer,
by casting lots – rolling dice!
Well, the lots have been cast again
and the future of our church is in our hands in very real ways.
It falls to us, we who are still here,
to build up Christ’s Body, the Church.
And we’re going to have to find new ways to do it
and we’re going to need to do it together.

Today’s passage from the gospel
offers us the words of Jesus at the Last Supper.
On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for his friends
that they would go out into the world with a word of truth.
We’re gathered again this morning at the table of his Supper
and he’s telling us the same thing.
May the sacrament we celebrate and receive here
nourish us for the work that falls to our hands and hearts.
And because this work is our from God,
and guided by the Holy Spirit,
the mission is POSSIBLE.

* Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) 11/24/13

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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 5/17

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Lord, tap me on the shoulder
   and remind me that you're here...

Tug on my sleeve till I stop, turn
   and look you in the eye...

Get my attention, Lord - and hold it -
   till I've spent some time with you today
      in prayer...

Behind and before
   you encircle me
      and rest your hand upon me...    - Psalm 139


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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 5/16

(Today's prayer was written by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ)

God of Compassion,
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.

Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.

For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death rows and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.

Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you.

Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduing love may help them heal.

Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice.

Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more. 



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Reflecting on the sentence


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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 5/15

How might I make this day, Lord, a better day than yesterday?
How might my words and deeds today prepare me for tomorrow?

How might I give more generously of all I call my own?
And how receive more humbly what others kindly offer?

How might I speak more honestly my mind, my thoughts, my heart?
How might I hear more patiently what others have to say?

How might I be more merciful when others' faults offend?
How might I be more grateful for mercy tendered me?

How might I right my wrongs, my past mistakes repair?
How open might my own heart be to those who'd mend the same?
How might I be more faithful, Lord, to you and to my prayer?
How might I make more time today to spend alone with you? 

How might I make this day, Lord, a better day than yesterday?
How might my words and deeds today prepare me for tomorrow?



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