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.

New thing

EDITIsaiahLilacBud copyHaving attended a 4pm liturgy on Saturday, I heard a good homily, but I was left wanting. After hearing a young woman proclaim the First Reading from Isaiah with such gift and passion, and then to hear another woman proclaim the Second Reading with similar style, I felt so hungry – starved actually – to hear a woman’s preaching voice.

For the record, and to the chagrin of many, I do not support the women’s ordination movement as it exists today. Sorry, that’s another story for another day perhaps. Those of you who actually know me know that this is how I feel, what I believe, others – you will have to take my word for it and maybe I will go into it another time.

Anyway, these women’s proclaiming voices snapped me into a kind of openness and attention that left me vulnerable. Thankfully the homily was OK. The kind of homily an old friend might have described by saying Continue reading

Bread and desert living during Lent

downloadAs is often the case, my desire to blog is confronted with the reality of daily life – result, no time for blogging. Work has been busy, I have been dealing with a sick cat, and also working on some other projects. Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That said, I have a few minutes today and I’m wondering about how your Lent is going? What are you reading? Have you altered your prayer life? Many of us have obsessed over what to give up or take on, or both, but too much obsessing means a focus on the self and not God. Essentially giving up or taking on should be about creating more space to encounter God.

For the first time in a long time I am at peace with how that is unfolding this Lent. Various things had occurred that had my typical prayer practices disturbed, resulting in limited prayer. I was not at peace with that and have struggled for some time to find a new rhythm. Lent has provided me with a way to do that. Also, I am spending time each morning reading some wonderful texts, beginning with Give Us This Day. In full disclosure Continue reading

Possessed by possessions and positions

imagesJesus is very clear about one thing in today’s Gospel and if I am honest, it makes me super anxious. I wrote a reflection about this in the current Give Us This Day, but honestly, I just reread the Gospel and it has me in a twist all over again.

We must renounce all of our possessions. I look around our house and think about how much stuff I would love to get rid of, but then I am very slow to actually do so. Sure, I read the articles and books that tell me to spend 15 minutes a day doing one thing. 15 minutes? Are you joking? It would take me a lot more than 15 minutes to figure out where to begin. While I have ditched many an object over the past few years, including letting go of a ton of books, I still have too much stuff. It is a slow work in progress.

Then I think about what Jesus might want me to renounce along with the multitude of books, tchotchkes, and more. What can I declutter from my soul itself? What thoughts, feelings, and more possess me, making no space for Christ himself? That will be the much more difficult portion of renouncing, that much I already know.

This of course is the greatest challenge, to let go of what possesses us both in soul and spirit as well as in our material lives. What a work in progress this is, one I will wrestle with forever. When I think about it I can see clearly that all I need is God, but when I look around I see that I have a lot of baggage that grew out of my wants. Until I dislodge the possessions of obsession, inaction, and distraction, this is going to be a difficult journey…

UPDATED Innocence and perspective

See below for update!
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Things on my mind today… how we easily pick and choose those for whom “the dignity of all human life” matters for and who it does not matter as much for, and also Odoardo Focherini. The phrase “dignity of all human life” no doubt brings forth images for you, and meaning.  I’m guessing that you may have never heard of Focherini, unless if you, like me, read about him in today’s Give Us This Day.  Reading about him on today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents reminded me that perspective and context are everything, and that makes picking and choosing our moral precepts problematic.

Liturgically in the church today is the day when we recall the massacre of the Holy Innocents by Herod. Enraged to learn that the magi had deceived him, old Herod decided it would be a good idea to just go ahead and murder the children of Bethlehem. You know, he was throwing a wide net “just in case.” We wouldn’t want any dangerous babies around, would we?

Obsessed as I am with matters of immigration debate, the irony is not lost on me and I find myself with a bitter taste in my mouth. Last week on December 21 it was reported that the White House was considering a policy where children would be separated from their parents in cases of undocumented human beings crossing the border illegally. You can read about that here. Honestly, reading terms like “family units” or “unaccompanied alien children” (also known as “UACs“) makes me sick to my stomach. This is how dehumanizing human beings, all born with the dignity of human life in them, takes off.

If you find yourself feeling Continue reading

There WILL be bread

isaiah 25v6

Today’s readings are among the most beautiful to me. Just yesterday I thought of the Isaiah reading, and then boom – earlier today, as I sat in the dim lamp light aided by one flickering Advent candle, I opened Give Us This Day and there it was.

The imagery in Isaiah is so powerful:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.

God is not fooling around. The is for ALL peoples, a feast, not some little energy bar type snack that tastes like cardboard, one that is meant only for a certain few who have somehow “earned” it, and includes Continue reading

Just walk

my-boot-and-me-wordsToday is the feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ. It is not on the liturgical calendar because his canonization is not complete. One day, one day…

Ever since I returned from Camino Santiago on October 31, I have found myself at loose ends. First of all, the return from the pilgrim life and back into the quotidian routine is startling. I am reminded of cycles of birth and death – I imagine being birthed is a shock to our tiny bodies, but we adjust, and God willing, thrive. As we do not know of death until we get there, our faith informs us of another passage which may be shocking at first, but one that I believe will be… well, I have no words, but glorious comes to mind.

Anyway, I feel like I have either been born or died, I cannot figure out which one. Born in the sense that I feel ever more a child of God, totally dependent and unable to Continue reading

Bury fear, resurrect love, keep Easter

50_days_easter_graphic_webIt happened about midday on Monday, as I sat at my desk. It happens every year, in every way, but this year it hit me hard; perhaps I was snappish in my reply, I don’t know. This “it” is something we’ve likely all said or thought over the years. The gentleman sitting before me, a very “churched” person said, “I bet you’re glad that Easter is OVER!”

The snappish bit? When I looked up and (was I roaring like a lion?) Continue reading

Repairers of the breach

Incontro con S.S. Kirill

Viaggio in Messico – Incontro con S.S. Kirill 12-02-2016 @Servizio Fotografico – L’Osservatore Romano

“As the Russian Patriarch and the Pope huddle right now inside Havana airport, I keep thinking of the old Yiddish proverb: ‘Two mountains can’t come together, but two people [mensches] can. – A barg mit a barg kumt zikh nit tsunoyf, ober a mentsh mit a mentshn yo.’ – Meaning: There is always a way for people to find common ground.” My friend Dina Tsoar, on Facebook today

Today I woke up very early and I immediately went to my phone to read more about the unprecedented meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis that took place in Havana yesterday.  While this seems a blip in the news to most of the world, this is incredibly significant. I suppose if you are reading this blog, you will be inclined to agree, but I’m astounded by seeing more photos of Pope Francis in a sombrero on social media, than with Patriarch Kirill!

The full text of their joint declaration, an almost unimaginable thing, can be found at this link. Their prayers and pleas for unity, peace, justice, and more are quite moving and are worth the time it will take to read the declaration. It is astounding and a cause for joy! Remember that Jesus came so that as Jesus said: “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

As it happens, I wrote the daily reflection in Give Us This Day today. Now these assignments can come up to a year in advance, so I it was done some time ago, and who knew that this moment would be in the news. When I wrote it, my entire focus was on Continue reading

War and peace, the Advent edition

i_am_for_peace_logo (1)To the LORD in the hour of my distress
I call—and he answers me.
“O LORD, save my soul from lying lips,
from the tongue of the deceitful.”
What should he give you, what repay you,
O deceitful tongue?
The warrior’s arrows sharpened,
with red-hot coals from the broom tree!
Alas, that I live in Meshech,
dwell among the tents of Kedar!
I have had enough of dwelling
with those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak,
they are for war.
Psalm 120

One week ago today, I who –  to quote the psalmist – “am for peace” became consumed with the fire of my own anger. If you do not know what I am talking about, you can read the blog post from that day, but I’m not linking to it. Righteous anger is one thing, but that was something else! Again, referring to the psalm above, “red-hot coals from the broom tree” were Continue reading