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.

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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

Liturgy, incarnation and other messes of love

mess4I am posting daily over at Catholic Sensibility, which is such a liturgy blog, and I have said so little about liturgy. I’m in way over my head talking about liturgy over there! Make no mistake, I have the heart of a liturgist, but I feel a bit out of my league. After all, I’m an amateur liturgist. Don’t forget that amateur means one who does something out of love, not someone who can’t cut it.

Liturgist and musician, Rory Cooney put a post up on his blog this past Tuesday — it was called Liturgy and the mess of incarnation. I want to cut and paste some sections of it here, just to give you a flavor of why I am writing about it here today, but the whole post is so good, I do not know where to begin.

This could have been me at that age, pondering God. And wondering why I could not be an altar boy!

This could have been me at that age, pondering God. And wondering why I could not be an altar boy!

The post has Rory ruminating about liturgy, looking a the expansion of permission to use the Tridentine rite. I know that I have more than one friend with a deep affection for this liturgy, so allow me to be clear that I am not mocking this rite, or any Latin liturgy. Also allow me to be clear that I personally do not wish to return to this form of liturgy. (Note: I did love mass as a child, weirdly church-nerdy child that I was!)

In his post, Rory quotes a friend who speaks about the transcendent nature of the Tridentine rite as a means of rejecting the messy business of incarnation.

hocuspocus1Hmmmm…. I do kind of get that.

Rory goes on to talk about all manner of things, about bad presiders, annoying congregants, and all the rest. If you are a presider, a musician or a liturgist, even if you do not long for that Tridentine rite, you know what it means to live in the messy business of mass. People who can’t sing. People who let their cell phones ring. People who are looking at their phones. Crying babies. Snoring sleepers. Careless cantors. Lousy lectors. And of course – poor presiders, horrible homilists are part of it as well.

sleep-in-churchWhat a mess! Why bother?

Well, I will let you go back to Rory’s to read about that. The whole post got me thinking about how much happens at and around church and liturgy in the realm of the “I-can’t-stand-you” mode. It can be such a huge mess.

Rory, with the input of his friend, continues to ruminate, bringing forth losers and lowlifes, like ourselves!

And if that wasn’t enough, my friend insists that God continues to become flesh in losers and lowlifes to the present day, presumably including even me and my exaggerated opinion of myself, along with all the folks whose insouciance I lament and who drive me nuts Sunday after Sunday. It is in this world, in these people, the God is become flesh. That just about ought to stop me in my tracks, and make me think a little bit, right?

Those words have settled in my heart since Tuesday.  “God becomes flesh in losers and lowlifes “- which includes all of us.

I'm a loser. Which in this case is great news!

I’m a loser.

As someone who is more oriented to a horizontal style of liturgy, there is so much to think about. I am drawn to two points of view about the whole thing.

One thought is that if we are to get to the place of the transcendent divine, perhaps we do need a more, dare I say, formal liturgy? Oriented outside of ourselves? Literally – facing away?  (Did I really just say this?)

picture-17The other however, brings me right back where I stood in the first place. God entered the world as flesh, humanity, as it is. How does that place the transcendent divine right in our midst? And with that, a liturgy that celebrates the ordinary and extraordinary nature of it all? One that orients us outside of our own selves, but into others. You know, into the losers and lowlifes, which we are a part of. And once oriented so, finding Christ in the messy midst of it all.

This is why I tend to come down where I do. I happen to find God more in the mess that is all of us,  and it is as holy and divine as it can be.

As all of this rambled around my head and heart for two days, I did not get to write about it. And what did I find on Rory’s blog today? A guest post response from a priest friend of Rory’s.

So interesting. Read some of what his friend wrote:

Evangelical churches have made great headway here in Guatemala- mainly due to the funding send from the US and former governments here to lure people away from the Catholic Church (the government didn’t like the Catholics siding with the poor, and wanted to dilute Catholics’ influence by attracting its members into other churches that focused more on personal spiritual experience). From what I have read about the Church in Brazil, it seems that they have had some success holding onto members by switching to a more theatrical style of liturgy, drawing out emotions with a particular style of music and preaching. It will be interesting to see if this does the trick.

gps_god_personal_savior_bumper_stickers-r4343fc927ec6481083e25e7610a77594_v9wht_8byvr_512The loss of Catholics to spirituality which promises a more personal relationship to Jesus breaks my heart.  The loss of Catholics to worship that is more theatrical also hurts me. It is not just about “Jesus ‘n me.” It is about Jesus and me – but, there is more.  In the heart of liturgy, the heart of the Eucharist is all of us. Horizontal and vertical. And that is why we are liturgists, musicians, lay ecclesial ministers – it is about Christ and about all of us as one in Christ.

Anyway, maybe you will go read read Rory’s posts and think about what he and his friends say. Also think about the big messy mess of a mess that is life, and think about the work of the people, that is, the liturgy. It is beautiful and it can be a mess, but in Christ, the mess is transformed. Amen to that.

And yet here we are, so many of us in love with this, not knowing any other way to be.

What a mess.