Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 8/16

Lake Quannapowitt: photo by Steve Pressley

Before the end of day, Lord,
help me make the time
and lead me to a place
where you might still the waters of my life,
calm my fears
and give me rest

in the peace that's only yours to give...

Be the still point of my spinning world,
the center of my heart,
the place wherein I find that peace
where I find you and know

that you've found me...

In chaos and in calm,
in rage and in relief,
in turmoil and tranquility:
make your dwelling place within me,
your home within my heart

at the center of my being...

Help me make the time
and lead me to a place
where I might swim the waters of your mercy,
refreshed by peace in mind and heart,

restored by your good grace...

Today, Lord, gently touch

the troubled waters of my life
and still them with a calm
that settles deep within my soul...



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Assumption Day 2018

The Assumption of Bertha Huber by Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson

My annual nod to Bertha Huber - on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15.   

(The readings for the day can be found here.)

I post this delightful painting not out of any irreverence or even playfulness but rather because the feast of the real Assumption is upon us and, as on all feasts of the Blessed Virgin, we need to discover how what happened in her life and love for God relates to our own. From the website of the painter, Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson:
"This 16x20 oil painting is called The Assumption of Bertha Huber. It is the third version I have done of this theme. Miss Huber was godmother to my three children. She died at age 87 in August, 1975 and I told the children I would paint what it 'really' looked like.
"Miss Huber was from Munich so I know she was expecting nice blond angels waiting for her in heaven...
"At the bottom of the painting is supposed to be me and the three children weeping for her at the nursing home where she had expired just moments before our arrival. It was a very good nursing home, by the way, named Calvary, in the Bronx."
Painting in the folk art style, Wilson has given us a folk art appreciation of the Assumption. The word comes from the Latin assumere which means to take to one's self. Assumption celebrates the Lord's taking to himself his beloved Mother, the Mother of us all, who, the Church has taught from early times, was assumed into heaven body and soul lest the body which bore the Christ into the world should undergo any corruption.

We pray that one day the Lord will take us to himself at the time of our passing from this life to life forever with God: one day the hands reaching down in Wilson's painting will reach out for you and me. No, we will not be assumed body and soul: this mortal coil of ours will undergo the inevitable corruption of nature. Yet one day, we pray and hope, the Lord will waken each of us to glory and our souls will be reunited with our bodies in a glorified state, the beauty of which we cannot yet imagine. 

I remember being called, a few years ago, to visit and pray with a woman who was dying. Margaret was only a few weeks shy of her 103rd birthday! I saw her only hours before her death and yet she was as sharp as a tack, greeting me by name, thanking me for coming to see her, and joining wholeheartedly in the prayers I offered with her and for her.

But there were moments during my visit when Margaret seemed distracted from our conversation, straining to see something above her that I couldn't see. And several times she turned her head, as if to listen more closely to a voice I could not hear...   I don't know, but I would not be surprised if this beautiful woman was attending to the faces and the voices of angels, or perhaps of the Lord himself, as he prepared to take her to himself...

The words of the former preface from the Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary say well what we celebrate on this day:

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven
to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection,
and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.
You would not allow decay to touch her body,
for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life,
in the glory of the incarnation.

In our joy we sing to your glory
with all the choirs of angels: 

Holy, holy, holy...  

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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 8/15


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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 8/14

Photo by CP

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the last two weeks:
for time away, for rest and peace;
for quiet time to pause and pray;
for time with friends and time alone,
for time with you
and for your beauty
all 'round me...

Let me take nothing for granted, Lord,
but make my heart gratefully aware of all your gifts:
on vacation and at home, in my work and in my rest;
when I'm most at peace and when I have no peace;
when I know you're at my side
and when I cannot find you;
in all these times your gifts are mine
if I but trust in you
and open wide my eyes to find them...

Thank you for the gifts of the last few weeks, Lord:
give me grace to hold them in my heart and in my mind
and in my memories,
especially when vacation fades away...

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the last two weeks:
may the rest and peace I've known
make me strong for all that lies ahead...



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Just one of a billion blooms...

Photo by CW

I wonder, Lord, do you individually paint
each of the billions of blossoms around the world?
And if not, how does each, uniquely,
so beautifully display your distinctive brush stroke?


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Pause for Prayer: MONDAY 8/13

Image: MacJams

I thank you, Lord,
for something as simple
as a warm summer's day
and for time,
plenty of time,
to sit in the sun at the shore,
soaking in the warmth
of the heart of the solar system, hoping
that as the sun seeps into my body
so the very heat of your grace might permeate
the marrow of my soul...

And I thank you, Lord,
for the constant, gentle breezes
sweeping over my bared flesh,
spiriting me to prayer,
reminding me of your gentle healing touch...

I thank you, Lord, for Yo Yo Ma,
sitting by my car parked hard by the shore's edge,
playing Bach's unaccompanied cello suites:
the digital mystery of dashboard music
floating over this sandy beach just for me --
and for any passersby...

I thank you, Lord,
for something as simple
as a summer's afternoon
and time, plenty of time,
to sit by the shore
soaking in the heat of your presence,
the warmth of your love and the surety
that even as the sun burns bright in August skies,
so all year 'round your gracious love
burns warm within my soul...


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 8/12

Newcomb Hollow, Wellfleet: photo by Kaitrin Acuna

no matter what's going on in the world right now,
still morning will break
and the sun that shone at creation's dawn
will shine anew on us all...

no matter what's going on in the church right now,
in our broken hopes and shattered dreams,
still morning will break
and the sun that glowed when life began
will warm your people again...

no matter how confused and angry we are right now,
whatever our troubles and trials,
still morning will break
and as sure as the sun shines above
you'll rise in our broken hearts...

Ours is the sunlight, Lord, ours is the morning,
born of the one light Eden saw play:
we praise with elation, praise every morning,
your recreation of every new day...



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The countdown...

I remember the first time I heard a mom explaining to her youngster how much time was left before his birthday.  I marveled at the marvelous simplicity of the concept.

Of course, "how many sleeps until..." is most often used to anticipate the approach of something desirable (a birthday, Christmas, the end of school), not something to be dreaded - like the end of vacation.  But, it is what it is and there are only three more sleeps until my vacation is over.

See you soon - back in the parish or in the virtual chapel of my daily prayer posts!


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St. John's Seminary: my alma mater

The allegations against Archbishop Theorodre McCarrick are both tragic and troubling as once again the Church faces the trauma of sexual abuse in its own house and the victims it has claimed.  Now comes the news that my own alma mater, St. John's Seminary in Brighton, is being investigated for some of the same elements found in the McCarrick story.

Both of these revelations leave me stunned, unsure of what to say or write except to express my sorrow that there seems to be no end to what which drains our Church's energy and spirit and to pray for the healing of those who have been abused.

With my ordination in 1973, I left St. John's.  Since then I've not had much contact with the seminary but I'd agree with those who frequently observe that over the last four and a half decades St. John's has become, in many ways, an increasingly more conservative institution where a particular brand of orthodoxy is both taught by its faculty and expected of its students.

The reports of the McCarrick story and now this development at St. John's suggest or explicitly charge that seminaries are and have been long been homes to a gay subculture tolerated or even promoted by faculty and administrators.  My seminary experience is as dated as it is limited but seminaries have always been known to be small communities where the rumor mill is always grinding and there are few secrets. So it's with some degree of confidence that I can say that such a culture wasn't the seminary world I lived in for eight years (two years at Cardinal O'Connell Seminary in Jamaica Plain (closed in 1970) and six years at St. John's in Brighton).

I don't write here to defend what may well come to be proved to be indefensible. Nor do I presume to speak to the experience in other seminaries or predict what truth will and must be uncovered in all of these stories. I can only pledge my own prayer, and ask for yours, for any who have been victims in these situations and for reform and renewal in seminary administration and in truly pastoral priestly formation that will benefit the work of the gospel and the spiritual lives of the people of God.


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Another tragic chapter in the story...

Of all that I've read this past week on the McCarrick story, these are among the most helpful reflections/reports I've encountered:

By Elizabeth Scalia, blogging at The Anchoress

By Bishop Timothy Doherty, bishop of Lafayette, IN and chair of the US Bishops Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, in his weekly column (scroll down if a newer column has been published and now heads the queue)

By Hans Zollner, SJ. professor of psychology and president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, in an interview with Catholic News Service

By Bishop Robert Barron on his site, The Word on Fire, a sobering voice in the midst of much well intentioned but perhaps hasty commentary.

By Jamie Wolfe, Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. author, speaker and a senior editor at Ave Maria Press, in The Pilot.


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