Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent, a good time to go to God

“I keep calling to you but you do not come.” 
I couldn't until I was sure there was nowhere else to go.

Florida Scott Maxwell

I totally relate to the quote above.  First of all, let me say this:  turning to God does not necessarily mean that I’ve been away from God.  God surrounds me like the air I breathe.  God is the Source of my life and all life and I can’t really get away from the Mystery of that Amazing Presence.   I can, however, move through my days as though everything depends on me.  I can wear myself out because I forget to remember to breathe.  Well, of course I breathe whether I remember that I am breathing or not but it is so much more enriching when I can truly be in the breathing.  
Imagine that you live your life beside a flowing stream; the water is always moving.  The stream provides a kind of natural music for your soul.  The sun rises and sets.  The seasons pass over the flowing stream.  Plants grow. Birds sing and drink and play in the waters.  Only you~~you never seem to come. 

What healing presences are you missing in your life right now simply because you don’t hear them calling to you?  What are you missing because you are rushing around doing important things?  These are good questions.  In some way God is always calling us deeper into the mystery of life, calling us to the Source.   To hear this call we have to stop.  We will not be able to hear the call ‘on the run’ unless we also learn to stop.  To rest!  To be!  To linger!  To dwell!  To enjoy!  To see!  To hear!  To abide!

God is somewhat like that stream and concerning the quote above, perhaps there are times when we don't go to God because we don't know what to say.  Or perhaps there are times when we don’t go to God because we think we don’t have time.    I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Words are the least important part of prayer; we don't need a lot of words to pray.  We just need a lot of presence and mindfulness.

The season of Advent can assist us in remembering that we have nowhere else to go except to the stream of living water.  Let the sunrise of God’s Presence shine on you during this holy season.  Get out your hopeful heart. 

Put your feet in the stream
 of living waters and 
wait for God.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

O Source of all Life, a prayer

O Source of all Life,

as once you looked with compassion
on the weary crowds
who seemed lost and without a shepherd, 
look again upon your people
so desperately in need of renewal. 
Send your spirit to  blow over our dead bones
resurrect in us a surprising new life. 
Blow away negative thoughts,
replace them with hopeful dreams. 
Blow away critical thoughts;
replace them with affirming words.  
Blow away busyness;
replace it with a desire
to take more time
for building a rich interior life.
 Blow away anxiety;
replace it with trust.  
Blow away indifference;
replace it with love.  

O Breath of God,
 transform our unconscious way of living
into a vibrant, enlivening way
of being in this world.

©Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Friday, October 18, 2013

In Praise of WONDER

This poem by  Czeslaw Milosz  invites me into the grace of WONDER.  Read it slowly and think of some thing in your past that filled you with wonder.  


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness. 

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand. 

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture. 

O my love, where are they, where are they going?
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

~ Czeslaw Milosz ~

The flower above is one of my memories.  It, too, no longer exists in the way I once beheld it.  It does, however, still exist in my mind, in my memory.  Its visit once filled me with wonder.
As we reflect on some of the gifts of the past and the WONDER they brought into our lives we might also reflect on the importance of living mindfully.  There are many people who wouldn't give a 2nd thought to the things that the poet is so lovingly remembering.   Remembering is important.  Mindfulness is important.  We can choose how alive with wonder we are.   Right now, today, make plans to choose wonder.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The gift of a word

For those of you who have been 
keeping up with my WORD FOR A MONTH prayer 
you may think I forgot all about my monthly word.  
Actually I didn't, although it is true
that I have failed to post some of them.  
So how about a little review.
  1. January: the word was VESSEL, with emphasis on allowing myself to be poured out for others.
  2. February: SIMPLICITY, reminding myself of how clutter oppresses me.  It was an attempt to keep my mind, my heart and my space uncluttered.
  3. March: During this month I tired to be grateful and present to the wonder of my HANDS.
  4. April: During this month I reflected deeply on the importance of GRIEF in our lives.
  5. May: This was the month when I put forth much effort be present and live in the PRESENCE.
  6. June:  RESILIENCE, After weathering the storms of the seasons I became aware of how much springing-back power nature has and I wished the same for myself.
  7. July: The word, RESILIENCE, didn't want to leave me so I allowed it to stay for the month of July.
  8. August, SILENCE entered into my life during this month.  I encouraged it with much enthusiasm.
  9. September:  WILD, UNTAMED visited me during September.  I tried to get in touch with those undomesticated parts of my life, my original self.
  10. October: As I write this,  leaves are beginning to fall.  I chose the word,  SURRENDER, asking my whole self to let go of what is no longer needed.
  11. November will be MINDFULNESS.
  12. December, PEACE.
I found it so helpful for my prayer to focus on a word each month for 2013 that I decided to use this idea for my annual 2014 calendar.  Below you will see a composite of the photos I've used for my calendar this year.  Each month I give you a word to pray.  Your word is splashed across the picture for the month and a prayer poem describing the process can be found on the last page of the calendar.  If you would like a calendar check our website or gift-shop.  It should be advertised soon.

Think of  a journal that is empty.  The pages are waiting for your words.  Each year is somewhat like that.  The hours, days, weeks, months await your words, your dreams, your actions.  The 2014 year of prayer calendar is offering you 12 words for your pilgrimage through the year.

Write on your heart 
that every day is the best day of the year!
~~Ralph Waldo Emerson~~

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tracking the Mystery

Have I actually been away from this blog for two months! 
 My apologies for staying away so long. 
 I've been tracking the Mystery. 
 Many things have happened while I was away. 
 A ten day silent retreat in Colorado.
A month of re-wilding myself--spending 30 minutes outside each day.
The adventure of trying to live mindfully!

But now I'm sort of back.  Actually I am in transition and this blog will eventually be part of my website which is under construction.  If I had time to fetch an orange barrel to keep in line with all the highway construction going on these days, I would do so but for the moment I will leave that to your imagination.

Getting ready for my Heart of the Hunter retreat 
which is sometimes called Tracking the Mystery.

We are all trackers. We are all hunters!  And the crucial hunt in life is not the hunt for BIG GAME but the hunt for meaning and purpose, for fullness of life, for God.   The tool we have been given to serve us on this life-long hunt is the heart.  During this retreat we will explore the power of the heart and delve into the truth that we are both the hunters and the hunted, for the HOUND OF HEAVEN is tracking us with the most powerful heart of all.   And so, in this hunting season I am remembering the forest again and I  am reminded of how hunters find clearings in the forest where they set up food-traps for their prey. 

On my hunting-retreat I, too, will set up food traps for you.  It will be a holy trick to lure you into the astounding beauty of your own heart’s forest where you might find a little clearing to sit down and wait and perhaps be found by God.  And who knows but you, too, might die because all forms of surrender include a kind of dying. 

Whether you are attending this retreat or not I suggest you prepare yourself for the Hunt.   Find a path in the forest of your life.   Follow the path.  

Find the clearing.  Sit down and wait.  Eat what is provided for you which is nothing more or less than beauty and terror. Allow yourself to be found by God.   There is always a sacred place--a little clearing made ready for you; a place where the light will fall on you if only you arrive, and pause for awhile waiting for transformation.

To be hunted by God is not to die but to fall in love.  
The spears of God’s love slice through your being
 and you are both wounded and healed. — Macrina

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Resilience: a precious, often hidden gift!

...all within you that is able to rise again 
after a time of angst.

...your rising power
your potential to blossom,
to spring forth revitalized
after a season that felt like death!

...a restoration of energy and joy
after long periods of bitterness, 
withering and drought.

...a bouncing back power  
recovery, renewal, resurrection
a return from desolation

Resilience is the word I chose to pray with and reflect on during the month of JULY.  It is such a rich word.  All of us experience the piercing sword of separation that comes from death.  There are many kinds of death.  It may be the actual physical death of a beloved.   Or, it may be the death of dreams, the loss of health, the ending of a dear relationship or perhaps your fading youth.  Whatever the severing may be, it is an experience of death.  Something has ended.  Can there be a rebirth of life?  Do we want to find our way to new life?

When these things happen it may feel as though nothing is left but a withered spirit of what once was bright and beautiful.  Hope seems to have lost her wings and you are left with a broken heart.   At times such as these try to become silent, look into your heart.  After many heart-viewings you may eventually find resilience waiting to be discovered.  For further reflection, pray with the image below.  

A tree behind our House of Discernment was struck by lightening.  The debris and remnants of the tree were cleaned up and used for firewood and mulch.  After a few months a seedling appeared, a new shoot sprang up.  It is still growing!  A lovely quote from the book of Job came to me.  I offer you this image and scripture text for your own prayer and reflection.

For a tree there is hope;
if it is cut down, it will sprout again,
its tender shoots will not cease.
Even though its roots grow old in the earth
and its stump die in the dust,
Yet at the first whiff of water it sprouts
and puts forth branches like a young plant.

Job 14: 7-9

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Would you like a cup of tea?

“I am trying to arrange my life so that I don’t even have to be there,” reads an anonymous quote on one of my calendars.  I laughed out loud!  It was kind of funny on first reading but when I looked again and started thinking more seriously about those words I decided they were words I might take to my prayer.  There are entirely too many moments in my life when I’m not really present to where I am or what I'm doing.   I’m not truly with the person I’m encountering.  It’s not that I don’t want to be there; it’s just that another part of my brain is somewhere else, or in the planning mode for a new event.   

My word to pray during May was PRESENCE.   Although I have chosen the word, RESILIENCE for June I am still contemplating the spiritual significance of living in 'the presence'.  Being present to God, to others, to all of creation, to my experiences of joy, doubt, confusion, grief, beauty, inspiration etc is not easy.  It really is a spiritual practice and being intentional about what I do or say is crucial for healthy living.  

I've been remembering all the people I've promised to have tea with, (tea here is sort of a metaphor for whatever you like to drink with a friend)  and wondering why we haven't followed through with our plans.  Ordinarily, for me, it is because I have a fairly full schedule in addition to making a concentrated effort at leading a monastic life.   Still, an important part of our charism is also leisure and sharing is necessary for building good relationships. 

All this musing has brought me to the point of playfully reflecting on people with whom I would like to have tea.  If someone is deceased it is not too late for tea.  (If you don't understand this meet me for tea and I'll explain)  I'll make my list and then you, too, might like to make a list.

First I'll put on the kettle!   

From among those who have passed to the other shore,
 here is a very incomplete list:

St. Benedict and Scholastica
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Macrina of Cappadocia
Julian of Norwich
The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Ettty Hillesum
Opal Whitely
anonymous author of the cloud of unknowing
my unknown grandmother
Oscar Romaro
Pope John XXIII
Johnny Cash
Thomas Merton
Abraham Lincoln
Rigoberta Menchu
Etty Hillesum
George Washington Carver
all my family members


Mary Oliver
Anne Lamatt
Annie Dillard
Tom Hanks
Don McClean
Chris Bohjalian
Sandra Bullock
Meryl Streep
Eckhart Tolle
Wendell Berry
J.K Rowling

...and of course YOU!

Let's not arrange our lives so that we're not in them!
Meet me for Tea, and let's both be there!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Book Thief

Last night I finished reading The Book Thief for the 2nd time.  It is indescribable in its loveliness and loneliness.  It begins in my birth year (1939) Nazi Germany.  Death is the narrator and death is remarkably kindhearted as it tenderly carries souls from the bodies of those who have died.  Some of those souls, it was noted, were sitting up inside the person who died and I came to the conclusion that the souls sitting up belonged to someone who was unusually present during life.   I kept thinking, Ah! all this was happening the same year that Life carried my soul to Earth.   If you want a big thrill and just to be entertained, don't read this book.  But if you are willing to have your heart crushed and put back together in the same moment you might find this book therapeutic.  If you would like to live for a while with a fascinating little girl, Liesel Meminger on Himmel Street (which ironically means heaven) you might want to pick up this book and give it your attention.  Liesel: the child who loved words and stole books!  Liesel who embraces the ugliness and beauty of each moment!  Liesel, curious, passionate and fiercely present!  Liesel and Death will be your guides. Liesel's last written words were:

 I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right.

Death's last words were:
I am haunted by humans.

Liesel and Death have provided me with the 'word' I will try to live during the month of May.  Scroll down underneath the picture of the book to see the word.

And the word is, presence.  PRESENCE, which is so beautifully described in the words of Etty Hillesum, who died in Auschwitz in 1943.  These words from her diary portray the kind of presence I would like to offer my community and the larger world.

"I feel as if I were the guardian of a precious slice of life with all the responsibility that entails.  There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze."   This quote is taken from her diaries: An Interrupted Life.

So let's be present to one another during May (and beyond).  Let's do everything in our power to keep the spark of life inside us ablaze, so that when Death comes for us our souls will be sitting up inside us ready to keep on blazing.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Path of Life

[For those of you new to this blog I have been choosing a WORD each month of 2013
 ~~ a word that I attempt to live throughout the month~~
Although I have already chosen my new word for May, 
I am not quite finished with April's word, grief]

I love the picture above.  For me, it is a path of Holy Mystery~~a path of LIFE!  It is a kind of icon of joy and sorrow, light and darkness, hope and despair, love and grief.  Perhaps I am being too dualistic!  I don't really know if everything has an opposite. I thought a long time about grief.  I don't know what its opposite would be.  I believe all of these gifts (that don't always feel like gifts) will eventually be integrated into our lives.  Maybe it is all part of the Paschal Mystery which many Christians will relate to.  We don't exactly get rid of grief, sorrow, loneliness, despair, darkness.  They will always be part of the mystery of our lives.  And as I mentioned in my last post, they have every right to be a guest at our table.  Hopefully, some kind of integration will eventually take place in our lives and then we will become more at ease with this unwanted guest.  Remember, "Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house." 

Continued reflections from my book, A Tree Full of Angels, 
 "There's nothing like sorrow to get your attention.  It is almost as though sorrow pulls presence out of you. In the midst of sorrow there's nothing to do but be there and celebrate the hurt.  We celebrate the hurt through holy screams.  Holy screams come from the heart.  They are screams that people often, in their ignorance, try to smother.  Don't let them take your screams away too early.  Holy resignation comes only after holy screams.  Don't let them tell you it's God's will, unless they are saying that life is God's will and freedom is God's will, and you are God's will.  Much of the news you see on television each evening is not God's will.  It is the will of the human race.  It is too comfortable to blame it on God.  
Why blame the One who wills nothing for you except that you be divinized.

We are absent from life far too much.  Sorrow (and grief) make it impossible for us to be absent, and so, blesses us with real presence.  In the midst of our sorrows, distractions fall away, and we are there, raw and open, often confused, always vulnerable, little and great.  In sorrow we are nudged to our depths.  I do not claim to understand the mystery of suffering, but I often meet people who have walked through great sorrow; they seem to wear the face of God.  These are the people at whose feet I yearn to sit.

-taken from A TREE FULL OF ANGELS: seeing the holy in the ordinary - page 35

May you find comfort as you walk the Path of Life.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Singing in the midst of Grief

Cemeteries do not ordinarily make me sad.  Each stone holds a name; and the name is a prayer.  It is the prayer of the person who wore that name on earth.  The name is a memory.  The name holds a  story.  The name is a song.  Cemeteries are meadows full of stories, landscapes full of songs once sung.  Cemeteries are fields of memories.  

When I was a little girl I used to go through our parish cemetery laying flowers on  all the unmarked graves.  It is a treasured memory.  I was honoring the memory of some dear unknown name.  I was celebrating a life that would, perhaps, forever remain a mystery.  As a child I would not have used those words to describe what i was doing, but these are the words that come to me now in my wisdom years.

Holy Grief!  Grief has continued to keep me company during the month of  April.  This grief has held many faces: the loss of loved ones in death, unexpected violence throughout our world, loss of jobs and of hope,  broken relationships, trees splintered into pieces because of lightening.

I have made huge efforts to be aware.  I have tried, with some success, not to numb my feelings.  I have kept company with many kinds of grief.  Just at the end of March very shortly after my friend, Dottie, died, three of my Sisters in community died.  Even though two of them were elderly and certainly  ready to take leave of this world~~still, three in  such a short time period is shocking beyond words.

Something I have had to look at in the face of these many deaths is how all too often I put my work schedule before  my presence to others.   One of the Sisters who died was Sister Gabriel.  She and I had been trying to get together for tea, for about three years it seems.  Usually it was my schedule that got in the way.  One day, about a month before she died, she said (concerning our efforts to have tea) "Well, I'll be surprised if this event takes place before we meet in the Kingdom."    Little did I realize that was a fairly accurate prediction.   These deaths have spoken volumes to me about the importance of being present to others while there is yet time.

And so as April wends its way into May I leave this month still thinking about the holiness and necessity of integrating the grief with the blossoms, with the singing and the resurrection stories.   Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house.   Remember the temple that you are and invite grief and gladness to make their home in you.  As we listen to the poetic words of the poet, Gregory Orr. may we learn how to sing through our grief.

Grief will come to you.
Grip and cling all you want,
It makes no difference.
Catastrophe?  It's just waiting to happen.
Loss? You can be certain of it.
Flow and swirl of the world.
Carried along as if by a dark current.
All you can do is keep swimming;
All you can do is keep singing.
~ Gregory Orr ~


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Grief is Love in Person

It is not easy to get a picture of grief
 even with tears streaming down our cheeks
 because that is not the whole story.   
In some small way, are not those tears, tears of love.  
Perhaps grief is Love in Person!

Grief is a little out of focus in my life at the moment;
for this reason I have chosen an out-of- focus dead leaf to depict grief.
But is the leaf really dead?  Or, is there more to that story also?
As Paul Harvey used to say,
...and that's the rest of the story!
It's your story,  too,  so you can decide.

My word for April is GRIEF.  I thought it was going to be tenderness or maybe gentleness because I see so much of that in Pope Francis.  However as things begin to unfold toward the end of March I knew that grief was trying to get my attention. It is difficult to find a picture of grief because almost every image of grief could also be named, LOVE.  Why do we grieve except because we have loved?

It all began when a dear friend from Chicago, Dottie, had to undergo a 7 hour surgery because of an aorta aneurysm.  Her sister assured me that I could give her a call before the surgery.  I intended to call her but I allowed my work to be my priority.  I decided to call her after her  recovery.  She came through the intense surgery and it seemed that all might be well but there were complications and so there will be no recovery in the sense I was imagining.

Dottie was once a member of my Benedictine community in Fort Smith Arkansas and I have wonderful memories.  How odd that her death should be heart-related when she had such a benevolent heart..  Her heart was present wherever and whenever there was need.  She was a visionary woman and a wonderful teacher.  She taught even when she wasn't officially teaching.  She taught by living well.   She was a cancer survivor.  And now the heart!

I have wonderful memories of being in the novitiate together at St. Scholastica.  On summer evenings before the sun set we used to climb out on the roof of the monastery and read to each other.  Our choice of reading material was stuff like, Winnie the Pooh, Huckleberry Finn, The Wind in the Willows, etc.  Being on the roof was illegal by monastery rules but oh, what fun, especially when the sun set and we had to close our books and just be in all that beauty.  And we would laugh!   I can still hear her laugh--surely one of the best laughs ever created!

Another funny memory is when I was visiting in Chicago and we went to see the movie GROUND HOG DAY.   I can hardly recall the story line if there was one, but there was a lot of repetition:  people doing the same thing over and over until they learned from it I guess.  After the movie she went to the window and asked if maybe we could have our money back because the projector got stuck and the same thing kept playing over and over.  Only Dottie!  We laughed so hard about that and for a few years we sent each other Ground Hog Day cards.  I was reminded of that when shortly after her death I was at a cabin  nearby preparing for an upcoming retreat and Lo and Behold I saw a groundhog and wondered if Dorothy was playing a joke on me.

I have decided that grief is like a little person that we need to lovingly invite into our homes.  It seems necessary to welcome grief and have time for it rather than just stay busy to dull the feelings.  One of my problems with grief is that I often live as though I don't have time for it.  I can remain rather numb until eventually I just sort of numb my way back into daily life,  and grief, that child of love, is locked out of my life.  And that's a shame because truly grief is love IN PERSON. -   I have been thinking quite a lot about grief these days.  I need to take a long, slow walk with grief--maybe we even need to start 'dating' ----  We might eventually marry; and that will mean integration is finally taking place.  There are many dwellers in my household and grief has every right to an honored place at the table.  If I allow grief to sit at my table she will discover that she has many sisters and brothers surrounding her.  There is courage and hope, new beginnings, sorrow and joy, delight, forgiveness.  The list is infinite.  But that's all for now!  
To be continued...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Would you mind being borrowed?

Holy Saturday has always been one of my favorite days of the Easter Triduum.  For me, it is more silent than Good Friday.  Good Friday is a noisy day.  As I walk with Jesus on the journey to the cross I can hardly bear it.  I feel so  crowded, all the jostling and the pushing, the cruelty, the cries of hate, the tears of sorrow.  Violence is always difficult and when a good person is being condemned unjustly it is more heartbreaking than I know how to describe.  I am relieved when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus come for his body and lay it in the tomb.  It was a borrowed tomb, one in which no one had yet been laid.

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting.  Not much is happening.The Beloved is in the tomb.  Sorrow has taken away our words and we are very silent, so silent. The silence is deep.  Every Holy Saturday I go to my Holy Week file and take out a meditation.  I read it again and again. This reflection is from Living Faith (Creative Communications for the Parish)  and it was written by James Adams.  Because I find it so moving I take the liberty of sharing it with you here.

I had no grave of my own.  My body was laid in somebody else's tomb.  Was it fitting that I be buried in a borrowed tomb?  Yes!  I was always borrowing things.  I borrowed a crib in Bethlehem to be born.  I borrowed Peter's boat to preach from.  I borrowed a donkey to ride on when I came to Jerusalem.  I borrowed bread and wine to make my body move and my blood to flow in history.  I borrowed thorns, wood and nails to redeem the universe.  Why should my burial be any different?

I will go on borrowing things until the end of time, until I have borrowed them all and made them holy.

I will also borrow you.  You will be my tongue and my throat, parched.  You will be my hands and feet, nailed.  You will be my head, thorned.  You will be my side lanced.  You will be my body stripped.  You will be my corpse, buried.  And when the borrowing is over, you will be my sisters and my brothers, risen and unspeakably happy.         -James E. Adams

So let's allow the Holy One, Source of our Life, Source of all Life
to borrow us.  Remember, we are being borrowed together.  We'll all be there!  

On the eve of Good Friday I always go to our empty chapel
and just sit before all that is gone. Holy Thursday adornments have been taken away.
No altar cloth.  Not a candle in sight.
The tabernacle door is empty and open resembling an empty tomb.
In spite of the tremendous absence that I feel
there is also an incredible presence.
Now I know why; it is because I've been borrowed.
Now I am the temple of Christ's presence
You are too!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

What More Can I Say?


"I had found living so dear I wanted to do it full time." 

quote taken from THE BARN AT THE END OF THE WORLD 
by Mary Rose O’Reilly       

What more can I say,  indeed!  You are a temple of God; the Spirit of God dwells in you!  Pray with your whole being.  Use your hands and arms and feet and knees, mind and heart.  Your entire body can be a living prayer.  I know that everything in the world is not perfect.  I know about the pain, the violence, the wars, the scandals.  I know about death. Still, in the midst of our wounds we are invited to celebrate life.  In the midst of everything that is wrong with our world, let's celebrate what is right.

The Glory of God is a person fully alive, St. Irenaeus writes.  If he had that figured out in the 2nd century maybe we should give it our best.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hands that Bless and Anoint

I love to be in our monastic chapel in the early morning hours when it is still dark. I watch the saints in our stained-glass windows as they slowly return to us with the first rays of  morning light.  This appearance and disappearance of the saints has intrigued me since my days as a novice.  At dusk they melt into the night.  When dawn arrives, slowly they reappear: this wonderful cloud of witnesses that surround us through the hours of our prayer day!

Unfortunately, their faces are somewhat saccharine and entirely too Caucasian for my taste.    Even so I have chosen to allow these saints to anoint me through the hours of the day.  It is their HANDS that bless me.  There are times I pray the windows much like I would journey through the stations of the cross.  I fix my gaze upon their hands and reflect upon the potential of my own hands.

I see hands raised in blessing, clasped in prayer, hands holding sacred books,  writing quills, olive branches and lilies, hands holding musical instruments, lamps and flasks of oil, hands held out in petition or raised in joy.  HERE IS MY CLOUD OF WITNESSES WHOSE HANDS HELD OUT IN BLESSING ANOINT ME THROUGH THE HOURS OF THE DAY!

However, I have another Cloud of Witnesses that bless me throughout the day.  These are my Sisters, my praying community, who meet me in chapel, in the dining room, in the recreation room, in the garden, in various places of work, Ora et Labora -- work and pray!  (and PLAY)  Our hands are sacramental; they are extensions of our hearts.

I have begun to watch the hands of my Sisters and sometimes I imagine their faces and hands in the stained-glass windows.  Here is my flesh and blood CLOUD OF WITNESSES whose fidelity to the monastic way of life inspire me, as together we listen with the ear of the heart.  We listen each day to the call that won't go away: the call to seek God in ordinary life.

You may wish to go back to my last week's post and bless your own hands as you continue this day of service to your family and to humankind. Remember: your hands are an extension of your heart. Everything you touch can blossom with love.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


The word I have chosen for March is HANDS

My first post for March is taken from my book, Seven Sacred Pauses.  It is a blessing of your hands for the mid-morning pause that I call THE BLESSING HOUR.  We take so much for granted.  A good morning prayer before you go out to meet the day and be obedient to the invitations of the day could be a simple blessing.  Use the one below or create your own. 

Sit in your favorite chair, stand by a window or choose some soulful place for this blessing prayer.  Hold out your hands in gratitude for their many uses.  Reach out and touch the things that are near you.  Feel the texture of the things you touch.   Think of some of the tasks you have done and  will do this day.   How important are your hands for these tasks?  Now bring your hands  to a comfortable resting place on your lap or held up in a gesture of praise.

O Source of  Life,  you lifted me out of the earth,  From your hands I have come.  I place my hands in the welcoming  hands of your heart and pray for a sweet anointing in this mid-morning hour.  Anoint my hands with tender awareness.   Anoint my hands with compassionate touch.   Anoint my hands with sacred energy.  Give success to the work of my hands this day.  Help me remember  my potential to reach out and touch things to life.   Give me spirit hands.  Fill my hands with insightful consciousness.  Let me see with my hands the way those who are blind see.   May all that I touch be transformed into an instrument of grace.  O Holy One, anoint these hands and use them for healing all through the day. May it come to pass.
        -taken from Seven Sacred Pauses:  Living mindfully through the Hours of the Day  
         Sorin Books, Notre Dame, Indiana        


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Keep it simple!


As I look tenderly back on the month of February, the word I chose to befriend and companion me remains with me and hopefully will continue to teach me in the month of March.  I would like to always be open to the possibility of being taught.  SIMPLICITY!   In praying with the concept of simplicity I am reminded of how clutter depresses me.  Even so, it is easy for me to surround myself with too much:  too much stuff, too many words, too many opinions, too many books, and on and on and on,  I love space.  One of the most memorable dreams I have ever had was that of being invited into a room where I thought I would find everything I longed for, only to discover that it was a totally empty room.  I knelt down in the middle of the room and wept for joy.  It was as though I had come home.   Perhaps that dream was calling me to simplicity.

A favorite memory of February is the one red rose I received on Valentine Day.  I spent part of my personal prayer-time simply gazing at the ONE rose. I would rather have just one flower than a whole bouquet. One you can learn to love and cherish, one stands out, one seems such a good companion and is so easy to BEHOLD. How could I have even found my one ROSE if it had been mixed in with a dozen? 

Tomorrow we begin another month and I will choose a new word.  I'll share it with you when I'm ready. 
May this new month help you to believe the truth about yourself no matter how beautiful it is! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

...but the storm of love is stronger

Happy Feast of St. Scholastica

Today, February 10, is the feast of St. Scholastica, twin sister of St. Benedict.  There is a lovely story about Benedict and Scholastica's last visit before her death.  This is told in the dialogues of St. Gregory the Great.  These twin saints had a custom of meeting once a year for holy conversation and speaking of the spiritual life.   This meeting took place in a house near Benedict's monastery. During one of their visits as evening drew near Scholastica begged Benedict to spend the entire night conversing of the things of God.  Benedict was horrified that she should suggest that he spend a night away from the monastery.  Upon his refusal Scholastica put her head on the desk and wept.  A severe thunder storm arose with torrential rains making it impossible for Benedict to  return to his monastery.  Thus they spent the night in holy conversation.  

We have picked up on the holy humor of this story and have used some of it in our antiphons for the feast.  In one of our antiphons we sing of Benedict's frustration when he discovers his plight:  "May almighty God forgive you sister, what have you done?"  And the responding antiphon is Scholastica's answer:  "See I have asked a favor of you, and you refused to hear me.  I asked my Lord and He has heard me." 
f you and you ed; I asked our Lord and He has heard."
Last night I was awakened in the midst of a thunderstorm and smiled at the memory of St. Scholastica's storm.  Whether this story is true matters little.  What matters is the deep love that St. Scholastica portrayed in wanting to spend time with God and with her brother.

In our Hymn for this feast we  sing:

Crash of tempest; roll of thunder                                                 Lightening flash from pole to pole,

But the storm of love is stronger
Brighter flashes in the soul.

May each of you experience a storm of love with bright flashes in the soul.  Who will you have holy conversation with this week?

Happy Feast!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

To be a star

Do you ever wake up feeling lost, sort of dejected and forlorn--wondering how you landed in this world? That was my awakening experience about two weeks ago.  In my disgruntled state I poured a cup of coffee, opened the door to the great outdoors and gasped.  When I first beheld this scene I did not see the star.  I saw the tree holding the sunrise and it was like medicine for me.  I forgot my dejection.  I even sat there for a few minutes before getting my camera. Later when I put my photos on my computer, the star became visible and it was like a second dose of medicine.  I remembered a poem from my book, Seasons of Your Heart, and re-read the poem.  Now I offer a selection of  that poem to you because you, too, may have desolate days when being reminded that you have the potential to be a star for someone else in their desolation, just might be helpful for both of you.

I hope a star comes out for you today,
a new one that you've never seen before.
I hope it's bright and bold,
a prophetic star,
piercing your darkness
and helping you to see the things
you really need to see.

I hope it touches you
with fire
and runs along beside you
all  day long.

This star!
Oh, how I hope it comes
in your life!

And when the day is through
I hope this star
keeps shining on in you
For without a doubt
you are
someone who's called 
to be
a star.

-Macrina Wiederkehr
Seasons of Your Heart: prayers and reflections 

Sunday, February 3, 2013


My Word for February is SIMPLICITY

It speaks to me about the grace of slowing down long enough to discern "what's enough".  My altar above depicts my efforts to simplify.  It offers me sacred space that helps me remember to breathe.  It invites me to see beauty in stillness and non-action. I am a person who love rituals, icons, symbols, etc and so it often happens that my sacred space becomes too cluttered. When my personal altar becomes cluttered with too many treasures it becomes difficult to see the one true treasure.

My altar holds the single image of a praying woman.  You will notice she doesn't have a lot of prayer books around her.  No props or paraphernalia .  She is just BEING THERE.  Perhaps later a candle will arrive but it will be small.  Nothing flashy or overpowering!    My intention is to have just one treasure on my altar this month--something that speaks of the simplicity of BEING.  The treasure here is obvious.  It is presence.  It is prayer.  It is attentiveness.  It is silence and simplicity.

My question for this month:  Is there anything I can take out of my life so that I may be able to more truly see who I really am?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How are you being poured out?

My word for January:  Vessel

Although my promise to allow the word "vessel" to become my guide for the month of January has been forgotten on occasion, for the most part I have tried to be aware of myself as a vessel.  It isn't easy to live in radical awareness.  It is a practice.  In moments of living AWAKE, however, I am aware that I am a vessel to be poured out, a vessel that is both fragile and strong.

I am a vessel of abundant life
a vessel of compassionate presence
a vessel of vibrant hope and affirmation.

I am a vessel of creativity
a vessel of poetry and song
a vessel of stories and dreams.

I am a vessel of joy 
a vessel of laughter
a vessel of sorrow
and of tears.

I am a vessel of silence
a vessel of quiet
a vessel of solitude
and deep stillness.

I am a vessel of radical awareness.

And you?  
Whoever you are...  
How are you being poured out?
Sit with the vessel of your life. 
Envision gifts flowing into you each day.  
Recall the gifts you have gathered from others.
Name them.   Treasure them.   
What do you hold that you cherish?  
How do your pour yourself out as gift to the other?

Write the story of your own vessel of life. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Since I have been away from this blog for quite a spell, a new year is a good time to return.  It has been my custom on the first day of the new year to choose a word or phrase that serves as a guide for me throughout the year.  As I was listening for my word last night I felt drawn to choose a word just for January.  This year I will choose a different word each month.  I like this idea as it may help me be more faithful to my word.  Each month's word will be saved and  will eventually become part of my collage of guides for 2013.

As I was praying out the old year, clear as a bell, my word came to me


 I am to be a vessel this year, a container.
I am to be a vessel of delight, a vessel of joy
a vessel of  sorrow, compassion and beauty
a vessel of God.

A vessel: that can receive and hold gifts!
A vessel: out of which one can pour forth gifts!
To be filled and poured out
To receive and to give and be given!
I think I can live with that!

So last night as the bells rang out the old,
rang in the new
I was preparing my very simple altar in my room.

What you see below is my altar.
I am trying to keep it simple

A reminder to receive the gifts given each day
and then, to the best of my ability
allow myself to be poured out as gift for others. 

O Giver of all Good gifts,
Thank you for the fragile vessel that I am
In the earthenware jar of my being
I will gather the gifts of each day
holding them carefully, faithfully
until that moment arrives 
when I am called to give them back again.