Sunday, August 31, 2008

St. Aidan

Today is the traditional feast day of St. Aidan, missionary Bishop to Northumbria in the seventh century. Here's a traditional story about him that was told by our priest in the sermon at Christ Church this morning:

An inspired missionary, Aidan would walk from one village to another, politely conversing with the people he saw and slowly interesting them in Christianity. According to legend, the king gave Aidan a horse so that he wouldn't have to walk, but Aidan gave the horse to a beggar. By patiently talking to the people on their own level Aidan and his monks slowly restored Christianity to the Northumbrian communities. Aidan also took in twelve English boys to train at the monastery, to ensure that the area's future religious leadership would be English.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Christ our Sun


The Lord has turned all our sunsets into sunrise.

- Clement of Alexandria

Friday, August 29, 2008

Unfathomable mysteries

"Beatrice Addressing Dante"

Wonder encourages us to stand humbly before the unfathomable mysteries of human life, trusting that, in them, we encounter God.

— Melanie Svoboda in Traits of a Healthy Spirituality

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Complicity and hope

"Battle in the Heavens"

Black and white thinking is almost always problematic in developing insight and awareness. It's important that we exercise care not to project our own capacity for wrongdoing onto others. We are all mixtures:

"Resurrected" people prayerfully bear witness against injustice and evil — but also agree compassionately to hold their own complicity in that same evil. It is not over there, it is here.

— Richard Rohr in Hope Against Darkness

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogging sabbath

Hello, friends.

I need a little break from blogging today. Be back tomorrow or Friday!

Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be a lover of silence


I really cannot collect too many quotations on the subject of silence. I found this one today and I think the juxtaposition of an auditory reference with a visual one is quite wonderful:

If you love truth, be a lover of silence. Silence, like the sunlight, will illuminate you in God.

-- St. Isaac (7th Century Hermit Monk)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dreams, shadows and projection

"Jacob's Dream"

Oh my. Wait 'til you see what I have for you today.

I subscribe to a spirituality journal called The Rose published by Emmanuel Church in Athens, Georgia. Today these "new lyrics" were published along with permission to copy freely:
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine;
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine;
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

This little dream of mine, it's gonna be my guide;
This little dream of mine, it's gonna be my guide;
This little dream of mine, it's gonna be my guide,
Be my guide, be my guide, be my guide.

This little shadow I see, it's just a part of me;
This little shadow I see, it's just a part of me;
This little shadow I see, it's just a part of me,
Part of me, part of me, part of me.

Project it on other people... NO!
I'm gonna make it mine;
Project it on other people... NO!
I'm gonna make it mine;
Project it on other people... NO!
I'm gonna make it mine,
Make it mine, make it mine, make it mine.

This little journey I take, it's not a piece of cake;
This little journey I take, it's not a piece of cake;
This little journey I take, it's not a piece of cake,
Piece of cake, piece of cake, when I'm awake.
It is necessary to be awake and aware, folks. I actually preached about that yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn't write the sermon out so I can't post it here. But don't ever forget that, as Richard Rohr says, "pain that is not transformed will be transmitted." How true, how true.

You might like to read up on "the shadow" in Jung's thought right here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

This good life

I think this is an important prayer:

Thank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.

-- Garrison Keillor

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prayer of Forgiveness

Here is a prayer of forgiveness that I found many years ago and saved. This prayer makes it clear that true forgiveness is a decision - not a feeling. If the hurt in my heart is very great, using these words is a huge help:
Healer of Hearts, Counselor of Souls,
Each morning the miracle of life is renewed in me;
As I have been restored, time after time
So now do I pass on the merciful gift to ______________.
On my part I release him/her/them from any bond of anger, blame, recrimination.
May all corrosive links between us be dissolved.
By the blessed balm of peace and concord.
I believe this was written by Caitlin Matthews .

Friday, August 22, 2008

The sweetness of devotion

"Sweetness" was a very important word for Francis de Sales. It was he who recommended carrying a "spiritual nosegay" throughout the day from one's morning devotions. It's a lovely concept.

Devotion is the real spiritual sweetness which takes away all bitterness from mortifications, and prevents consolations from disagreeing with the soul; it cures the poor of sadness, and the rich of presumption; it keeps the oppressed from feeling desolate, and the prosperous from insolence; it averts sadness from the lonely, and dissipation from social life; it is as warmth in winter and as refreshing dew in summer; it knows how to abound and how to suffer want, how to profit alike by honour and by contempt; it accepts gladness and sadness with an even mind, and fills the human heart with a wondrous sweetness.

-- Francis de Sales

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Now HERE'S a prayer!

Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change; and when we are right, make us easy to live with.

-- Peter Marshall

* Peter Marshall was born in Scotland.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Artist: Jan van Eyck

Something to ponder:

A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The essential nature of solitude


There are so many words that can be reflected upon in this short quotation by the very wonderful Henri Nouwen: solitude, transformation, victim, entanglement, illusion, false self... One could take each word in turn and write down everything that comes to mind about it. That would be a powerful spiritual exercise:

Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.

-Henri J. M. Nouwen

Monday, August 18, 2008

Serenity Prayer with a twist

"Angel Serenity"

Most of us have heard the usual form of the "Serenity Prayer". But today I found this variation and I like it a lot!
God grant me the serenity
To accept the people I cannot change,
Courage to change the one I can,
And wisdom to know it's me.
I found it here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Approaching infinity

Artist: Jane Callister

Something wonderful about the movement from loneliness to true solitude:
Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Last night's moon

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.

-- Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The above is the Lady Shrine at St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation. I found the icon while on vacation some years ago in New Mexico.

Today I have found some interesting quotations by the great reformers about Our Lady. Here are a few by Martin Luther. Take a look:

Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.
There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith . . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ.

The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.
[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough.

Let us give thanks this day for Mary, Christ's mother and ours.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The appearance of the Holy

Some time ago, I blogged about "thin places" and how I had experienced those - particularly when I lived in Ireland. A couple of days ago, some anonymous person left a book on my assistant's desk entitled Thin Places: Where Faith is Affirmed and Hope Dwells by Mary Treacy O'Keefe. Thank you so much, whoever you are! Here's a passage that O'Keefe herself quotes:

One of the things we easily forget while in the depths of pain is to look for the Holy. We are simply preoccupied with daily survival. But sometimes the Holy sneaks up on us, in ways that surprise us, like the gentle caring word from a nurse, an angel-like appearance in a therapist's office, a word from scripture that sustains us, the appearance of a friend we haven't seen for years, or a bird that will not leave our window sill. These little things help us make it through the day or a week and help us see that we are not alone or forgotten.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Hello, friends!

No blogging today, I'm afraid. It's been a busy day and I'm kinda wiped out right now. But I'll be back tomorrow!


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Feast of St. Clare of Assisi

St. Clare

I want to recommend an inspiring little article called Clare: A woman for our times. Here's one paragraph:

She was also the first woman in church history to write a rule of life for religious women and to get it approved. This was something very close to her heart, as several different religious rules had been imposed on them, none of which reflected the Franciscan ideal that she wanted to live. So, she set about writing her own ‘Form of Life', and had it approved by the pope on her deathbed, just the day before she died! Two years later (1255) her name was enrolled among the saints.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Light and strength

Bearing the Light

For some time now at Christ Church, our vicar has used the following for the final blessing:

God be your comfort, your strength;
God be your hope and support;
God be your light and your way;
And the blessing of God,
Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life,
Remain with you now and for ever. Amen.
I have experienced it as hugely consoling.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Prayer in the name of Christ

I've always been bothered by what has seemed to me to be an almost supersitious need to tack on "in Christ's name" at the end of prayers as if were some sort of incantation. It is eroneous to believe that we are required to do this as Christians so that in an interfaith setting we feel we must impose certain language on non-Christians. The following expresses my views on this subject wonderfully:

Many people have a very strangely childish notion, that "praying in the name of Christ" means simply the addition of the words "through Jesus Christ our Lord" at the end of their prayers. But depend upon it, they do not by adding these words, or any words, bring it about that their prayers should be in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to pray in such a way as represents Christ. The representative always must speak in the spirit and meaning of those for whom he speaks. If Christ is our representative, that must be because He speaks our wishes, or what we ought to make our wishes; and if we are to pray in the name of Christ, that means that we are, however far off, expressing His wishes and intentions.

-- Charles Gore

Friday, August 8, 2008

The most ignored teaching, maybe?

Probably the aspect of the religious right that disturbs me the most is the apparent disregard of the insistence of Jesus that we are to love our enemies. I have pondered the following today and it brings me both compunction and consolation:

Ye have enemies; for who can live on this earth without them? Take heed to yourselves: love them. In no way can thy enemy so hurt thee by his violence, as thou dost hurt thyself if thou love him not. And let it not seem to you impossible to love him. Believe first that it can be done, and pray that the will of God may be done in you. For what good can thy neighbor's ill do to thee? If he had no ill, he would not even be thine enemy. Wish him well, then, that he may end his ill, and he will be thine enemy no longer. For it is not the human nature in him that is at enmity with thee, but his sin.

-- St. Augustine of Hippo

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Silence and distance

Mandala ~ Healing
Artist: Jennifer

I think I told you a while back that I had the very great privilege of hearing Fr. Henri Nouwen give a whole series of lectures back in the 70s. In that series he talked a lot about what he called "downward mobility". That concept was a huge influence on me regarding my willingness to listen to God about what was to become my vocation. Here's something else about the ability to pay attention to the God who is ever present as well as to each other:

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.

- Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I've lived in Ireland and the bit about "thin places" is very true. I've experienced them:
Barbara Brown Taylor, one of the best preachers in the Episcopal Church today, once gave a sermon on the Transfiguration in which she spoke of "thin places." She had just returned from Ireland, and it seems the Irish have a notion of something they call "thin places." Thin places are the soft, porous, permeable places where the veil between this world and the next is so sheer that it is easy to see through them and perhaps get a glimpse of the power of Jesus' life penetrating into our lives. I remember the noted biblical scholar, Marcus Borg, also referring that to Celtic, Irish spirituality as he wrote about "thin places, opening the heart."
I am suggesting that the disciples with Jesus on the mountain had encountered a thin place between this world and the future that Jesus was revealing to them. They suddenly recognized Jesus for who he really was, for what he represented both in this life and the one to come. And as the light of Jesus' presence shone on them, they were transfigured that day, to see the next steps in their lives in terms of their potential.

Think about it: in this transfiguration story, Jesus does not focus on himself, but on those who were with him. The story is as much about them as it is about him. It is here that they see the connection of their lives to the stories they grew up with about Moses and Elijah. Now their eyes were finally opened to the direction Moses and Elijah had pointed, the direction that Jesus was now revealing.
-- from a sermon by The Reverend Elton O. Smith, Jr.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Comforter and courage

At St. John's Center, the ongoing meditation classes have been in a series on the topic of "courage" for some weeks now. The following is pertinent:

The word "Comforter" as applied to the Holy Spirit needs to be translated by some vigorous term. Literally, it means "with strength." Jesus promised His followers that "The Strengthener" would be with them forever. This promise is no lullaby for the faint-hearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living.

-- E. Paul Hovey

Monday, August 4, 2008

The infinite desire of God

Theotokos and Crucifixion

This is a teaching of great consolation, encouragement, and true hope:

Oh, plain, and easy, and simple way of salvation! wanting no subtleties of art or science, no borrowed learning, no refinements of reason; but all done by the simple natural motion of every heart that truly longs after God. For no sooner is the finite desire of the creature in motion towards God, but the infinite desire of God is united with it, co-operates with it; and in this united desire of God and the creature is the salvation and life of the soul brought forth.

-- William Law

It has been aptly said (I can't remember by whom at the moment) that our love for God and God's love for us is the same love.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Life's greatest teacher

I will be having some oral surgery in a couple of months and I chose my surgeon by trying to find one who does not have music playing in the waiting room or the treatment room. (I will be awake for the procedure.) Amazingly, I found one. When I went for my consult I felt cradled and soothed by the peaceful silence. It's so unusual, I'm sorry to say. Most medical offices even have televisions these days.

We need to come reacquainted with silence. Here's why we don't:

Silence frightens us because it is silence that brings us face to face with ourselves. Silence is a very perilous part of life. It tells us what we’re obsessing about. Silence reminds us of what we have not resolved within ourselves. Silence shows to us the underside of ourselves, from which there is no escape, which no amount of cosmetics can hide, that no amount of money or titles or power can possibly cure. Silence leaves us with only ourselves for company. Silence is, in other words, life’s greatest teacher. It shows us what we have yet to become, and how much we still lack to become it.

-- Sister Joan Chittister

Saturday, August 2, 2008

God's Presence

"God's Presence"

O Christ Jesus,when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

--- St. Ignatius of Loyola

Friday, August 1, 2008

Choosing love instead of fear

"Flow of love"

Fear is a problem that plagues many, many people. I want to make a distinction between the feeling of fear and the decision to let our fear exercise authority over our choices. Please do not fret about the feeling itself; that is something to be healed, not condemned. Simply have compassion for yourself in your fear and care for your fear tenderly as if it were a small child. The fear, rather, that we need to renouce is the kind exercised by the ego, the fear that insists on playing itself as some kind of trump card. I really like what Marianne Williamson has to say about this:

The ego has a pseudo-life of it’s own, and like all life forms, fights hard for survival. As uncomfortable as our life might be, as painful or even desperate at times, the life we are living is the life we know, and we cling to the old rather than try something new. Most of us are so sick of ourselves, in one way or another. It’s unbelievable how tenaciously we cling to what we’ve prayed to be released from.

The ego is like a gravitational force-field, built up over eons of fearful thinking, which draws us away from the love in our hearts. The ego is mental power turned against ourselves. It is clever, like we are, and smooth-talking, like we are, and manipulative, like we are. Remember all the talk about the silver-tongued devil? The ego doesn’t come up to us and say, “ Hi, I’m your self-loathing.” It’s not stupid, because we’re not. Rather, it says thing like, “Hi, I’m your adult, mature, rational self. I’ll help you look out for number one.” Then it proceeds to counsel us to look out for ourselves, at the expense of others. It teaches us selfishness, greed, judgment, and small-mindedness. But remember there is only one of us here: What we give to others, we give to ourselves. What we withhold from others, we withhold from ourselves. In any moment when we choose fear instead of love, we deny ourselves the experience of paradise. To the extent that we abandon love, we will feel it has abandoned us.