Sealed in the Book of Life

Today I offer many prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world as they fast and pray on Yom Kippur.  For the past 10 days they have been praying and reflecting through the Days of Awe and now the holiest day is here. There is a fast that began last night, the Kol Nidre service ushered in this solemn moment.

Fasting, prayer, and repentance are intended to draw anyone who seeks God into the reality of life. It helps us to recognize our sin and confess, and God willing, be transformed. On this particular day, our Jewish brothers and sisters pray fervently to be sealed for another year in the Book of Life.

Such hope and desire is something for all of us, no matter how we seek it. Today may we all pray for such renewal and change so that we might bring good to the world. G’mar Chativah Tovah!

This is real

At sundown tonight, Rosh Hashanah begins. May all of our Jewish brothers and sisters be blessed with a sweet new year – we could all use that, right?

Each year I read the book cited in the link below. I find it an extremely important element of my spiritual life.  May we all find ways to embrace suffering; it spares no one. If that is not evident this year, I do not know if it ever will be.

My retreat from last weekend is still being processed, but this much is clear to me – honesty without shame, suffering with vulnerability, and offering ourselves openly to God and one another is the only way forward. May we soften, open, embrace – and be transformed. It is all very real, and we typically are, to riff off of Rabbi Alan Lew’s book title, completely unprepared. Yet God awaits us.

L’shana tovah to our Jewish friends. May peace prevail for all, may we each do our part of it, one surrender at a time.

“Our suffering, the unresolved element of our lives, is also from God. It is the instrument by which we are carried back to God, not something to be defended against, but rather to be embraced.”
― Alan Lew, This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation

Open doors, open hearts

As someone who returned – albeit reluctantly – to church almost 30 years ago, I am very much inspired by being welcomed. Nervous to return and fearful of being scolded, I found nothing but open doors and open hearts. It is a privilege to be that welcoming presence today. Honestly, I hear so many stories that astonish me because they are about being unwelcome in church. Like a family, we are meant to hold space and work towards unity, but how can you do that if people cannot get in the door? And shouldn’t we be holding the door open and looking for people to come in? In fact, we should get out of the door and into the world, if you ask me.

Earlier I read an article about Pope Francis written by Philip Pullella for Reuters. It focused on the potential for schism, particularly here in the United States. The article can be found here. These lines in particular struck me:

“When you see Christians, bishops, priests, who are rigid, behind that there are problems and an unhealthy way of looking at the Gospel,” Francis said. “So I think we have to be gentle with people who are tempted by these attacks because they are going through problems. We have to accompany them with tenderness.” 

Accompany them with tenderness – he means everyone who is struggling. Honestly – who is not struggling at some point? Ironically, as I write this on the 14th, I consider the Exultation of the Cross that we celebrated today. To celebrate this day is to remember that everyone is bearing crosses, crosses we cannot even imagine. Jesus calls us to help them bear those crosses, not to put more nails in them.

All of this led me back to my post about primacy of conscience the other day. In discussing it with a reader, I asked if they had ever listened to the Francis Effect podcast, because the most recent episode addressed politics head on. This is the first episode of the new season and in addition to hosts Daniel P. Horan, OFM, and David Dault, Heidi Schlumpf who is the editor of the National Catholic Reporter now joins the line up. They each bring so much depth, wisdom, and actual knowledge to the podcast, and I look forward to what’s next.

They are off to a good start with this one and I recommend it highly. There is clear canonical advice about how Catholics can vote; I especially liked that as he went through said advice, Fr. Dan clearly spoke about how these words came from then Cardinal Ratzinger who was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In other words, he did not take such things lightly, but he emphasized how one might find themselves voting for a candidate who supported one evil, but with conditions. His words specifically state:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons. (The Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in public life can be accessed here at the Vatican website.)

The important thing is to understand issues, to pray and discern so that one is able to cast a vote in good conscience.

Church should not be an ideological refuge or prison, but as Pope Francis once noted, a field hospital. May we all find places of welcome, especially during this time of particular challenges – fires, floods, hurricanes, Covid-19, the election, and more distract and distress us. Let us turn to Christ and to one another in humility, hope, and peace.

Stillpoint – socially distant, soul connected

The retreat was wonderful. Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, NY is a very special place, a thin place. It was called Stillpoint and was led by Mary DeTurris Poust, who is a longtime friend and colleague in various efforts. I’ve been to other retreats of Mary’s before; they were good, but this one was astonishing. There is a lot to process. I’m so deeply grateful for a time of socially distant soul connection with God and with others.

Retreat

Today I will head north to the Adirondacks for a weekend retreat. There is no internet, so no comments will be moderated in. If you leave one before about noon I should be able to see it, so if you have a prayer intention, send it along. I will pray for you and yours Know I will be doing so at large anyway – plus God always knows.

A peaceful place of retreat in the Adirondack Mountains.

In any case, I am grateful to go to the mountains and be near a peaceful lake. There is almost no cell service and no internet, which truly means I will be on retreat. It is not an entirely silent retreat, but it will have plenty of silence.

I’ll be back next week and hope to be a more regular presence here.

Primacy of conscience

It has been awhile, hasn’t it? No real reason, just time away! But I have returned, for today at least, so address an issue that is pressing heavily on many of us.

The election is about 54 days away at this point – it is close. Voting is important, it is an essential element of a democracy. I was raised in a household that held the right to vote high and it was impressed upon me at an early age that voting was a privilege – and not one to be squandered. Although a toddler at the time of his election, and one raised in a Republican family, I was often reminded that having a JFK as Catholic president was important. I’m pretty sure my parents voted for him because party politics were somewhat different at the time.

Anyway, here we are today during particularly fractious and divisive times. We are barraged with messages that tell us if we vote for this person, or do not vote for that person, terrible things will happen. Feelings and emotions run high, opinions are confused with facts, and we are faced with inordinate amounts of information.

As Catholics we may believe we must vote for one party over another, but that is simply not the case. We have a responsibility to vote for causes that support life, contribute to the common good, respect human dignity, and more. Beyond that we have a special call to not only help those less fortunate, but to be transformed by them. What one party can live up to that?

If you are struggling, I would simply like to share two links with you. One is to the USCCB website to help with voting called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The other is to a very well written article about conscience, originally published in America Magazine in 2015. Both links will offer you guidance and resources, but in the end, we have to pray, discern, choose wisely, and vote according to our understanding of our faith and the importance of our own conscience.

Fast forward to today’s fractious and combative environment, one in which we are regularly threatened

Bidden or Not

115_BZ-vocatusA video reflection about feeling joy and sorrow in this season of Easter, especially this year when sorrow may seem to take the lead. Here are links to the books and the quote I mention:
Carl Jung
The Prophet
Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace
The Closeness of God

Easter dawns

Sunrise October 2016 leaving Villar de Mazerife

Dawn breaking over Villar de Mazerife, Spain, October 2016

How often do many of use the old adage “it is always darkest before the dawn” without thinking about it? Very often, that is the answer. When I was on Camino de Santiago in September and October 2016, I learned the truth of the saying. While walking on the portion of the Camino known as “the meseta,” the flat northern plains in Spain, we would leave our albergues in the dark. Walking in darkness, it would actually get a bit colder and a bit darker as sunrise approached. At that time the sun was not coming up until after 8am, so it was not even that early. But it was that cold and that dark.

Then each day would offer us a gift if we turned around, we would see the faintest hint of light on the horizon behind us. Dawn would soon break, dispelling the darkness and the cold. Soon, the sun would blaze overhead and the temperatures would rise. We would walk on, donning hats and sunglasses, adding sunscreen to arms newly bared as we peeled away layers of clothing.

Every day felt new when this moment happened, as if we had not witnessed it the day before. Every day was joy.

Today as I consider that it is Easter, but that it feels like anything but, I am reminded to focus on the cold and dark for a moment before I recognize what it happening… Each day we rise again and again and again.

This Easter may be the coldest and darkest pre-dawn moment that many of us will ever know, but hold this thought in your mind, grasp it as tightly as you do when you cling to Christ… Dawn will break, the darkness will be eradicated and flooded with light, the cold will turn to warmth.

Rejoice in the Alleluia that signifies the Risen Christ! No matter how cold and dark it feels, and often we must remain in that place for longer than we wish, may we all know the hope of belief in the Living God.

May your Easter be blessed in these unusual times. Darkness is dispelled, Jesus has destroyed death forever! New life springs forth! Easter dawns and Christ is risen! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

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