Small s sacraments, quotidian grace

144052 Like many, I was very rattled by the events in Charlottesville, and all week I was fraught with a rootless anxiety that swirled about me like the Santa Ana winds. In addition to that were the rough edges of a low level, but chronic bout of ennui, plus I saw a play about the 80’s that reminded me of the roots of today’s politics. Let’s just say it was a tough week. My outlook, generally positive despite my usual litany of complaints had tumbled.

On Saturday we attended a funeral; the mother of one of Mark’s old friends had died. Making our way out to a nearby small town on a sunny day was a small pleasure, but did not lift my spirits. My typically extroverted self was feeling some anxiety about socializing; I did not mention this to Mark, lest I give it more life.

It took us 40 minutes to arrive at this small country church, clearly a very old one.  Entering the sanctuary, we made our way into a narrow pew that one entered by opening a small door panel on the side. The size of the church did not impede the spacious feeling of the Spirit within; it was Continue reading

Ultreia, always ultreia

Ultreia Museum SantiagoJuly 25 is a big day in the city of Santiago de Compostela, in the province of Galicia in the northwest of Spain. On that day the church celebrates the feast of St. James – in Spanish, Santiago – the namesake of the city.

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Saint James, aka Santiago – the pilgrim

Of course that day is today! I can’t imagine the countless peregrinos who will make their way into the city today. Many of them started in Sarria, making the final 100 plus kilometers of the Camino de Santiago. Many others will have begun in other places, a large majority beginning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France to walk the Camino Frances, as I did, or Pamplona, or Burgos, or Leon. Some will have come from further away, Le Puy, France maybe, or those who travel other routes, such as the Camino de la Plata, Camino Portugues, Camino del Norte, or the Primitivo. On foot, with Continue reading

Curiosity and contempt

Camino Edith Wharton QuoteIt has been a little while since I have blogged. I’ve been either too tired, too busy, or too uninspired.  Anyway, I was reminded of this quotation from Edith Wharton today, always a favorite one of mine, so I made a meme out of it.  That got me thinking about how often my own desire and willingness to live as Wharton’s words suggest.

With the reminder that when I write, I’m talking to myself allow me to begin. Right up front we are reminded that being unafraid of change is step one.  Change?! Unafraid of change?! Oh sure, many of us will say we are fine with it… that’s generally the case as long as it is a change of our own choosing. Any change that chooses us? Not quite so easy to like that kind of change. That goes for change that comes forth as challenge in both large ways and small, as well as the less obvious invitations to grow. You know, like the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Those kinds of changes… are they so welcomed? Not always.

Having said all of that, I have long believed the words of a little wallet card that came into my possession in the mid-90’s. It read said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” The moment I read those words, I immediately hated them. Yet, something in them caught my attention, the slightest little tug Continue reading

Wait – what?

photoHot, huffing, and puffing, I was four days into my camino. Strangely enough, my knees were not bothering me nearly as much as I imagined they would, nor were my legs too sore, but I was dogged by blisters. And by the overstimulated exhaustion that can come about in the pursuit of a dream. Four days in, I was still a Camino Santiago neophyte without a clue.

Making it to the top of Alto del Perdon was no joke. It was not as steep as it was to get from St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson, nor was as long and hard as it was to keep going uphill from there on the way to Roncesvalles. It was however hot! And again, those blisters. Ouchie. Anyway, making it to the top of Alto del Perdon was also a glorious moment – what a famous spot for those who know the Way of St. James! It is the place where the “the path of the wind meets the path of the stars.” In a word – magical.

Alto Sue Fran DeeanneLike most matters of faith, the high is often followed by a challenge. So consumed was I with getting up Alto del Perdon, I gave little thought to getting down. An essential camino lesson for me was this – going down is often far worse than going up. As we began our descent, my weariness gave way to an overwhelming anxiety with each footfall on the steep and rocky path. In fact, I felt certain that I might not be able to get down. I simply believed that I could not do it. And you know where that kind of thinking gets you.

nicodemus nightIn today’s Gospel from John, Nicodemus pays a visit to Jesus. At night. I love this imagery, poor old Nicodemus sneaking into see Jesus under the cover of darkness. It is a real struggle for Nicodemus to understand what it means to be “born again” and to be “born of the Spirit.” Here he is wrestling, like anyone who is inclined to being too literal, wondering how a “man once grown old” gets back into the womb to be born again. As usual, Jesus is trying to tell him. Jesus speaks to us in ways that leave us no place to go but deep into our hearts. Our literal and practical heads won’t allow us to understand, although our literal, practical – you know, our “realistic” heads – the ones that we value in the material world. Overvalue, it would seem.  Nicodemus is basically saying, “Wait – what?” Continue reading

Endless mercy

EDIT CalzadillaThe day we walked to #calzadilladeloshermanillos was one of the toughest in #spain🇪🇸 The #challenge of walking the #meseta got me, more mentally than physically. The #caminodesantiago was no game. God have mercy, I cried! How #bleak things seemed. Today’s 1st reading from #daniel expresses my #prayer that day, & my prayer today. The #gospel from #matthew reminds us however that the #mercy of #god is present. There is a price… we are to offer our mercy to others, full stop. There’s the toughest #camino challenge- how to do this. The road may seem barren, bleak, endless, but is not. Refreshment is ours when we open ourselves to receive the #love of #christ and then lavish it upon others. Especially to those who are the hardest to #forgive . Do that however and the #fountains of mercy that #jesus offers flow perpetually. #lessons of #lent

(This is a copy of today’s version of my daily Instagram posts of Lent.  I’m enjoying doing this, and I’m grateful for the good feedback that I have received. Today please be merciful to someone you would prefer not to show mercy to. This is what is asked from us, and it is so challenging to respond to God in this way.)

Personal desert

EDIT Somewhere between Logrono and Najera Sep 2016I’m enjoying being off of Facebook for Lent, and spending my time on Instagram with one post per day; a photo and a mini-reflection. You will have to head over to my Instagram feed, or to my Facebook page (where my Instagram auto posts) to read my reflection for today. Essentially, I am thinking about Jesus instructing us to love our enemies.

Hardest. Thing. Ever.

I’ll gladly take a long walk with a heavy cross on my back than to do this. Yet, I try to constantly push myself to do so. I suck at it, by the way. Big time.

It occurs to me that part of the problem is my own lack of willingness to look at the enemy within. Of course I am well aware of that enemy, but my inner looking often results in things like my own defensiveness about myself, my shame, and my superhuman strength at avoiding and denial. I’m great at that stuff. Big time.

All of this is an invitation to me, a good deal of which is more clear this Lent because I am spending less time “talking” via Facebook. Painful is my awareness this Lent that the driest and most arid desert is often found deep within my own heart. Thus, the gifts of death and new life are made clear, but only if I am willing to keep going.

What does your inner search Please be assured of my prayers as we ply our way through deserts of our own making. God offers us so much more, but even for those of us who say we will follow, do we really?

Bread line, Lent 1 short

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Seen in Spain, during Camino.

“I gotta put bread on the table!” How often has that line, or something like it been used to justify doing things? Doing things that go against what we know is right. Whether it is not honoring the Sabbath, completing a work assignment that has moral implications, missing time spent with family or loved one… you fill in the blank. We’ve all done it. We all do it.

Today’s Gospel is from Matthew show us Jesus is in the desert being tempted. It has to be hot, challenging, and lonely. He must be exhausted, hungry and thirsty. It would be easy to give in, it would be reasonable even. Right?

But is anything about a life of faith, a life following Christ, ever reasonable in the material sense? Think about that and you have your answer. This does not mean some intense over-scrupulosity that turns self-induced sacrifice into some kind of holy-making exercise. Instead, we are asked to keep God first in our sights and choose accordingly. It means trusting God when the last shred is about to tear away. It is that simple, which indeed that difficult. And it does not always work out in the way we wish for. There’s the rub.

How often do we do what we should not? What else can we do…  we don’t want to end up on the breadline, do we?

(I’m off of social media for Lent. What I am doing is posting a photo a day on Instagram, with a short reflection. Each one posts to Facebook automatically. If you are on Instagram, check it out.)