God who is, God who is to come…

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Advent is upon us, the season of holy waiting. This short prayer from Karl Rahner is how I began my own Advent prayer.

We wait for what already is, we hope for what we know, we long for the One. This year I pray for a simple Advent, one of expansive silence and hope. I pray that we all find our way into the place of waiting and watching and always full of the grace of the God who is, the God who is to come…

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All Saints

These panels are from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This short post is a reminder… As we pray with the saints today, let us remember first and foremost that they were all deeply flawed, ordinary human beings, transformed by God to do the extraordinary.

The mural panels at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles are a great reminder that the saints are not so different from you or me. The difference might be – what choices do we make and how do we make them?

You can read more about the work of John Nava and his tapestries of the saints at the Cathedral here.

Yarhrzeit – Year Time, a reflection on loss, grief, and going forth

Light the candle

In Judaism the one year anniversary of someone’s passing is called yarhzeit – which essentially means “year time.” At this time a candle is lit, kaddish is prayed, and the deceased person’s headstone is unveiled. That person is gone, but they are remembered with love forever and each year yarhzeit is noted.

I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood, either immigrants or the children of those immigrants. Our parish was a very Italian one, it was built by hand by using stones, a small but beautiful worship space.

When someone died, everything went black for the following year. The women all wore black, often pictures were veiled. Life was somber as they mourned their departed loved one. Any big celebrations, weddings included, were canceled or postponed.

My mother was Irish Catholic and she found the entire business dreadful and far too mournful for her cultural sensibility. Don’t wear black when I die, she’d say, don’t cry and cancel things. Just remember that I lived, and send me off with joy and love. When she did die, many years later, I wore a red dress to her funeral, one that she loved to see me in. Some people were scandalized, but I had not doubt I was doing the right thing.

How I digress – anyway, the one year anniversary of a death was as important to my Irish Catholic mother as it was to our Italian Catholic neighbors, as well as to our Jewish friends and relatives. We just marked it differently.

Yesterday, October 8, 2022, was the one year anniversary of the death of my former boss Fr. Jerry Gingras. A garden was created in his memory and it was dedicated before the 5pm mass. The combined choirs of our three parishes sang, there were prayers and a reading from the Book of Genesis. It was very beautiful and deeply moving. Our new pastor Fr. Tom Konopka is deeply pastoral and is trying to shepherd us all as we move from death back into life.

That’s me reading about the second day of creation.

Death and loss impacts each of us differently. Grief has myriad facets and no two people experience it in the same way. Because Fr. Jerry died unexpectedly, the suffering of our parish communities was something akin to a ginormous water balloon hurled to the ground. The rubber snapped, the water exploded, things went flying, we were soaked in sorrow. It was such a difficult time.

Here we are one year later, each of us experiencing our on-going grief and mourning in a different fashion. Sometimes the grief of another makes us want to ask them what’s wrong with them. To our own wounded eye, we see someone who is either suffering too much, or someone who seems aloof. We see disrespect where there is simply an emotional distance from where we stand. We grow impatient with one another as we attempt to hold each other up and muddle along.

All of this is part of the grieving process. It does kind of suck, but it is necessary.

Anne Roiphe wrote this: “Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” Those words are where I find myself as October 9, 2022 dawns. May this year ahead be full of that remaking of life, remember and holding all that was in our hearts, and going forward in hope.

Fr. Jerry we miss you so much, but we know you are with us. We go forward in faith from here.

Soul clutter

This is a season of letting go for me. I’m trying to get rid of too many things through donations, recycling, and when necessary, throwing out. It is easy to focus on the physical and material world and taking care of clutter.

But what about letting go of the things that weigh down our hearts, our minds, our spirits? That is another matter.

Today I pray that we can all support one another in our efforts to decultter our souls. Which of these things or others need to be cleared out of your life?

Retreating

National Shrine of Saint Thérèse, Juneau, AK

In May of 2019 I was invited to Juneau, Alaska to lead a retreat. Honestly, what a gift – I got so much out of it myself. Ministry and pastoral work is like that though.

I am *not* going there, but I am headed off for a few days of retreat-like time with a friend. My prayer is that the time will offer us gifts of community and faith, quiet and conversation, conversion and transformation.

When I used the word conversion to someone recently, they said “but you are already Catholic.” I’m not sure what you think, but honestly, I think we all need to be converted each and every day. God invites us to stretch and bend, and sometimes even break, but God is always there to gather us back in and together – full stop.

Be assured I will pray for the intentions of anyone who reads this blog. I’m really glad I started up again, and I pray that I keep at it. Thank you all for being there on the journey with me – I am so grateful.

See you next week! Peace to all.

Prayer reflection

Over the past 8 years, I have had the privilege of writing a number of scriptural reflections for Give Us This Day from Liturgical Press. Recently I was given the opportunity to write about a prayer. With the permission of the publication, I share it with you here. If you don’t subscribe, I urge you to consider doing so, not because of my contributions, but the devotional is simply rich and beautiful to spend time with.

August 2022

Devotional Prayer Reflection

Prayer for God’s Blessing

Bless all who worship you, almighty God,

from the rising of the sun to its setting:

from your goodness enrich us,

by your love inspire us,

by your Spirit guide us,

by your power protect us,

in your mercy receive us,

now and always.

—Ancient Collect

Often referred to colloquially as the “opening prayer,” the Collect serves to gather people and intentions to prayer, invit­ing us to a deeper place in God. While a Collect may seem like a door to pass through quickly so as to get to the “important” parts of the liturgy, the prayer should help us to slow down, to pause, to listen to with the ear of our heart.

Such is the case with this ancient collect, a prayer that orients us to our unity. Beginning with the blessing of all who worship God, ideas of exclusivity are immediately dispelled. With many different ideas about what prayer or worship should be, or about who is welcome or not, this establishes that we are called to be one.

As in ancient times, ideological divisions tamper with the integrity of families and faith communities, not to mention the Church universal. Fault lines erupt across the landscape of our lives, tearing once-solid ground apart, opening chasms difficult to bridge. How can we respond?

This prayer gives us clear instruction by reminding us that it is God’s goodness alone that enriches us. It might seem that we are hardwired by our culture to think we can “make” ourselves good, but nothing happens without God. We may long for God to fix this or change that, but should we approach God with a list of demands? How often do we, instead, simply ask God to enrich us with goodness?

Along with goodness, inspiration can seem in short supply today, but this prayer invites God’s love to inspire us. God’s love animates each of us, but only if we allow it. The Holy Spirit—that is where guidance comes from, that hand of God leading us to where we need to be.

As the prayer concludes, it establishes that God’s power alone protects us and that mercy will receive us. It is a total embrace of us by God, as individuals and as a common body called to worship God alone.

Suddenly this short prayer, one that might be easy to miss, encourages us to open wide, day and night, and welcome God. In doing so, we respond to the call to welcome one another with goodness, love, guidance, protection, and mercy—in God’s name, now and always.

            Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn is a writer exploring the intersection of faith and daily life. She is a contributor to the Homilists for the Homeless project and blogs at “There Will Be Bread” at breadhere.wordpress.com.

[CREDIT]   Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, “Prayer for God’s Blessing,” from the August 2022 issue of Give Us This Day, www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2022). Used with permission.

Things I am pondering…

Wisdom House, Litchfield CT July 2014

Today I am wondering about how compartmentalizing our spiritual life keeps us from God. Many of us seem to think that the place to pray is Church, perhaps at mass. I’ve heard the remark that mass is “my time with God.” While I do understand that, and have thought it myself, I have to wonder how this harms our spiritual growth and well-being.

This is not to say that mass is not time with God, but it is time with God in community. For me, I see it as a rather large, raucous, dinner party with Jesus. I love time alone with God, but mass is not where I expect it.

This is not meant to be a post delineating liturgical elements and ecclesiology. Maybe we will do that another day, but today I am pondering the nearly invisible but resilient fabric of integrated spiritual life. It is something I long for, gratefully something I glimpse, but it can appear to be elusive.

This got me wondering about how I compartmentalize, without fully understanding the utterly shocking reality of Christ in the most mundane and often annoying moments of life. Doing the grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, dealing with a difficult person, and so forth. How many times am I sitting in a meeting as a sense of growing testiness rises up within me because I am impatient, thinking to myself “I can’t wait to go on retreat.”

If I cannot experience the presence of God in all moments and all things, how can I expect to find God at a monastery or retreat house?

Of course retreats, mass, spiritual direction, and other such pursuits are important. However, today I am hoping to smooth out the ridges that keep me from traversing the ordinary and the holy in one journey. Maybe my need for this day is to experience the “Quiet Area” that is deep within my heart, rather than seeking it as part of something external.

What is your quiet area? The one in your heart and the one outside. How can any of us stitch the interior and exterior together with the thread of God in our very being into a quilt of holy integration?

This will be my prayer today. Will you join me?

Deacons Pod and other things Paulist

When I first heard about the new podcast from the Paulist Fathers, Deacons Pod, I was intrigued. After all, here at the intersection of faith and life (blog subtitle), I see all kinds of things where people are coming or going. Or just confused, frustrated, or whatever. That’s why I loved finding these words on their landing page.


Deacons Pod is a podcast for everyone. But, it’s especially created to inspire and give hope to people on the “threshold of faith”: Those who are thinking about going to Church and those who are thinking about leaving Church.


Imagine my surprise when I was invited to be interviewed by them! I was to follow in the footsteps of great Catholic minds that I follow and respect, Kaya Oakes and Fr. Stuart Wilson Smith, CSP. I suggest listening to these episodes in order – because the first two are my favorites so far! Me, I always feel weird hearing my own voice.

The three deacons, Deacon Dennis Dolan, Deacon Drew Dickson, and Deacon Tom Casey are great guys, and they sure know how to do an interview and set the interviewee at ease! I’m looking forward to future podcasts and interesting interviews from them! They are off to a great start, and I thank them for including me.

I happen to love the Paulists and there is a lot of Paulist related stuff going on. Next up is this outstanding video about the work of Paulist Father Larry Rice, CSP
and the Catholic Community of Christ Sun of Justice, not far from here. Fr. Larry has been here for one year and is creating such vibrant community after the Covid shutdown and lack of activity. What a blessing for students, faculty, and Catholics who worship there. The video gives you a sense of what it is like and it is so well done!

That’s the good Paulist campus ministry news, but on Sunday, July 31, 2022, some very sad Paulist campus ministry news happened… The St. Thomas More Newman Center at Ohio State University in Columbus celebrated its final liturgy as a Paulist ministry after about 70 years. The new bishop of Columbus apparently suddenly decided that the diocese should run the Newman Center. A blog from a group of concerned parishioners (not from the Paulists themselves) can give you more information. Here is the link. Please pray for everyone involved in this situation, especially Fr. Vinny McKiernan who recently celebrated 65 years as a Paulist Father, and having served at OSU for 33 years.

Servant of God Isaac Hecker was the founder of the Paulists, the first American order. You can learn more about him here. He was a forward thinker and a vibrant evangelist who came to the Catholic faith later in life. Lest we despair about anything, I want to leave this post with a few of his words. Hecker was full of the Spirit and full of hope, he imagined “a future for the Church brighter than any past.” May we too always orient ourselves with such faith and hope!

Allowed in

This morning I came across the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, also known as the Kotzker Rebbe. You can learn more about who he was here. When asked where God could be found, he replied, “Wherever He is allowed in.” You can find this and more of his wisdom at this link.

If you look at the graphic at the top you may read it as GOD IS NOWHERE.

Or you may see it and understand it as GOD IS NOW HERE.

What a reminder that God is where God is allowed in. We might believe that we always allow God in, but it is worth examining how we might do quite the opposite.

Where is God in your life today? Nowhere? Or now here? God is all powerful, but the choices here are given to us by God. What a risk on God’s part, vulnerable, and also hopeful.

Today when each of us wonders in prayer about where God is, perhaps we can pray with this notion, that God is turns out to be where we allow. What will you choose today?

A reminder about kindness

This photo from one of our visits to Tucson (we go once or twice a year) reminded me that I wanted to say something about the power of kindness.

Kindness is absolutely free and can be shared widely. The older I get, the more I am reminded that kindness is an essential element of community. I’m not talking about sappy happy clappy faux happiness, but simply about kindness. Holding a door, complimenting someone, letting that car in ahead of you – even when you don’t want to.

The first time I experienced pay it backward/forward kindness was at Dunkin’. After ordering my coffee, I got to the window and was informed that the person in front of me paid for my coffee! This filled me with joy and prompted me to do the same for the person behind me. I hope that it carried on for awhile at that busy place.

Anyway, no super deep thoughts today, just the reminder that the smallest kindness that we might show another may just make a huge difference in their world. And the smallest kindness shown to us, can do precisely the same.

Looking for some kind-spiration? Check out the Ben’s Bells page!