The Spiritual Work of Gratitude
To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.
Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.
by Henri Nouwen
Sunday, 28 September: a day of prayer for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
On 8 October, 2013, Pope Francis announced that in October 2014 there would be an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on topics related to the family and evangelization. Subsequent communications made clear that the Extraordinary General Assembly would be followed by an Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, on the same topics.
Sunday, 28 September is to be set aside as a Day of Prayer for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to take place on 5-19 October to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.
Particular churches, parish communities, institutes of consecrated life, associations, and movements are invited to pray for this intention during Mass and at other liturgical celebrations, in the days leading to the synod and during the synod itself. In Rome, in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, prayers will be recited each day in the chapel of the icon, Salus Populi Romani. The faithful, individually but above all in families, are invited to join in these prayers.
† Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen.
Prayer for Peace
Good and Loving God, grant us hearts that can feel the pain of others and the power to help lessen the pain.
Grant us wisdom to seek the truth.
Grant us courage to break the silence and take actions against injustice and inequality.
Grant us souls that will love all the living beings You created. Grant us voices to speak for the voiceless. Grant us the ability to listen with compassion, lend a helping hand, wipe a tear, lift a spirit, mend a broken heart and share our joys and sorrows with each other.
Grant us the strength to eradicate fear, poverty, hate, despair, division and violence. Grant us the courage to replace it with love, hope, inclusion and peace in your beautiful world. Grant us hope for a better world for all of us and our future generations. We need your divine intervention to help us forgive.
Please fill our hearts with joy, light, faith, love and peace. Grant us commitment, dedication and persistence so we can continue on the path you designated for us.
May we have peace in our lives and in our world. We ask this through Christ our Lord, The Prince of Peace.
Prayer for Those Who are Being Persecuted in Iraq and Syria
Lord, the plight of their country is deep and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening. Therefore, we ask you, Lord, to spare their lives, and to grant them patience and courage to continue their witness of Christian values with trust and hope. We pray also for those of other minority religions who are being persecuted.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life; grant them all the peace and stability that will enable them to live with each other without fear and anxiety, and with dignity and joy. Glory be to you, O Lord. Amen.
Being Living Signs of Love
Jesus’ whole life was a witness to his Father’s love, and Jesus calls his followers to carry on that witness in his Name. We, as followers of Jesus, are sent into this world to be visible signs of God’s unconditional love. Thus we are not first of all judged by what we say but by what we live. When people say of us, “See how they love one another,” they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and are drawn to it as by a magnet.
In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.
Burning With Love
Often we are preoccupied with the questions, “How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus? What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?” These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love. Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses. He was so full of God’s love, so connected with God’s will, so burning with zeal for God’s Kingdom, that he couldn’t do other than witness. Wherever he went and whomever he met, a power went out from him that healed everyone who touched him. (See Luke 6:19.)
If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was.
Daily Prayer This Week
It is helpful to be reminded by Jesus this week that to be his disciple is not about comparing ourselves with each other. It is not about a competition to be greater than another. It is about being servants of each other and being like him, who came to give his life away. As we pray this week, in the background of our daily lives, we can reflect upon all the relationships in our lives and ask for the grace to come to know the needs of each person in my life and for the grace to be servant as Jesus is servant.
The parable of the sower can be a wonderful source of reflection this week. We can do it in a variety of ways, but it might be helpful to just take one kind of soil to reflect on each day. Each day we can begin — as we first get out of bed, in the shower, while dressing, eating, driving, walking from one place to another, shopping — by asking for the grace to understand how parts of me are like this soil.
Seed sown on the hard path: I can ask to know how the Word is simply stolen away from my heart. What is hard-hearted in me? What hardens me? How am I not open? What saps my spirits, my hope, my faith?
Seed sown on rocky ground: I can ask to know how I sometimes initially receive the Word readily, even with joy, but my lack of deep roots leads to my losing heart when troubles come. When do I lose courage? How do I believe the Word but fail to pay the price for living it? How can I develop deeper roots?
Seed sown among thorns: I can ask for the grace to know how I initially welcome the Word, but then let anxieties and the lure of riches choke the Word so it can’t bear fruit. What kind of worldly anxieties trouble me? What kind of attractions, possessions, addictions affect my freedom and peace? What grace in me isn’t bearing fruit? How can I be freer, live more simply, with more surrender?
Seed sown on rich soil. I can ask for the grace to hear the Word and understand it and to bear much fruit. What will help me, prepare me to be more receptive? What environment, activities, service will help?
Each night, we can give thanks for these reflections that help us examine our daily life and grow in love, in freedom and in fruitfulness.
Taken from the “Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer” on Creighton University’s Online Ministries at creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html. Used with permission.
“Imagine” is a song written and performed by the late English musician John Lennon. The lyrics encourage the listener to imagine a world at peace without the barriers of borders or the divisiveness of religions and nationalities, and to consider the possibility that the focus of humanity should be living a life unattached to material possessions.
The Seeds Of Peace
May I plant the precious seeds of peace
In my own soul, and may I tend and nurture
this sweet crop with loving care and water it
with the gentle rains of tender mercy.
May those seeds produce a harvest rich
of kindness and compassion for my friends
and for all humankind. And may this crop
be not greedily devoured, but yet shared
in equal portions, and ever passed around
in general spirit. And may the plenteous seeds
of peace fall on the rich and fertile ground
of warm and caring hearts in great abundance.
For as one tiny spore of peace produces
But a small harvest, yet as time goes on,
Those seeds will multiply, as does faith’s grain
of mustard. And the crop in time will yield
a bounty most plentiful for our kind labours,
with peace enough for all humanity, and the end
of futile wars in all lands near and far.
Come, Holy Spirit
Come, Spirit who is our Light, shine among the shadows within. Warm and transform our hearts.
Come, Spirit, who makes a home in us. Draw us to the treasures of Your dwelling. Reveal to us the inner
journey of love.
Come, Spirit, Comforter and Consoler. Heal the wounded. Soothe the anxious. Be consolation for all who
grieve and ache.
Come, Spirit, who energizes our being. Keep us from the tangles of toil and travail. Lead us to moments of
prayer and play.
Come, Spirit, consuming Fire of Love, fill us with the enthusiasm for Your vision. May the desire for truth be
vibant in us.
Come, Spirit, of wisdom and insight. Draw us towards Your goodness and light,. Direct our growth and guide
Come, Spirit, strength of wounded ones. Be warmth in hearts of those grown cold. Empower the powerless,
rekindle the weary.
Come, Spirit, source of our peace. Deepen in us the action of peacemakers. Heal the divisions that ravage the earth.
Prayers for Mothers
We thank you, Creator of us all, for our mothers who gave us life and nurtured us to the best of their abilities.
Bless them with the graces they need. Help them to feel precious in Your eyes each day and to know that they are loved. Give them strength and courage, compassion and peace.
Bless them this day and all days with your love. Amen.
For Mothers Who Have Gone to God
Good and Loving God, relying on your promises to us, we turn to you in trust that our mothers are with you and that they are enjoying your loving embrace. May she enjoy the communion of all her family and friends who are with you.
Lord, we know our mothers still love us who are here on earth. Please listen to their fervent prayers for us. Help us to grow into a new and deeper relationship with them now, as we wait for the day when we will meet again in Your embrace – freed from all that might have hindered our relationship on earth, knowing and understanding everything we did not know or understand on this earth.
We ask you this with faith in Your Son, Jesus’ resurrection. Amen.
The Mission of the Church
There are more people on this planet outside the Church than inside it. Millions have been baptized, millions have not. Millions participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but millions do not.
The Church as the body of Christ, as Christ living in the world, has a larger task than to support, nurture, and guide its own members. It is also called to be a witness for the love of God made visible in Jesus. Before his death Jesus prayed for his followers, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Part of the essence of being the Church is being a living witness for Christ in the world.
The Weakest in the Center
The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control. The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That’s the mystery of the Church. As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us – the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick – who form the real center. Paul says, “It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity.” (1 Corinthians 12:23) The Church as the people of God can truly embody the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part. Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity. It is the essence of being the body of Christ.
– Henri Nouwen
by Henri Nouwen
Often we speak about love as if it is a feeling. But if we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love well. The feeling of love is beautiful and life-giving, but our loving cannot be based in that feeling. To love is to think, speak, and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible in this world.
Mostly we know what the loving thing to do is. When we “do” love, even if others are not able to respond with love, we will discover that our feelings catch up with our acts.
Empowered to Receive Love
by Henri Nouwen
The Spirit reveals to us not only that God is “Abba, Father” but also that we belong to God as his beloved children. The Spirit thus restores in us the relationship from which all other relationships derive their meaning.
Abba is a very intimate word. The best translation for it is: “Daddy.” The word Abba expresses trust, safety, confidence, belonging, and most of all intimacy. It does not have the connotation of authority, power, and control, that the word Father often evokes. On the contrary, Abba implies an embracing and nurturing love. This love includes and infinitely transcends all the love that comes to us from our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses, and lovers. It is the gift of the Spirit.
Power vs. Love
by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
There are always two worlds. The world as it operates is largely about power; the world as it should be, or “the Reign of God,” is always about love. Conversion is almost entirely about moving from one world to the next, and yet having to live in both worlds at the same time. As you allow yourself to loosen your grip on the ego or bad forms of power, you will gradually see the inadequacy and weakness of mere domination and control. God will then teach you how to tighten your grip around the second world, which is the ever-purer motivation of love.
Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using that as power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion. I must admit, it is rare to find people who hold both together in perfect balance—who have found their power and use it for others, or people who have found love and use it for good purposes. I think the Reign of God includes both love and power in a lovely dance. I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be “cunning as serpents but gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). It is a beautiful combination of both authority and vulnerability.
Adapted from Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount, p. 41
Fall in Love
Nothing is more
practical than finding God,
than falling in Love
in a quite absolute,
What you are
in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will
get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you do
with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you
with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in Love,
And it will decide everything.
By Pedro Arrupe, S. J.
“God of every thought, Lord of my heart’s desire, in my search for you I ask three things: Give my knowledge clarity, give my love intensity and let my journey follow in your footsteps so that my service can be patterned after yours.”
Michael Moynahan, S.J.
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Losing and Gaining Our Lives
by Henri Nouwen
The great paradox of life is that those who lose their lives will gain them. This paradox becomes visible in very ordinary situations. If we cling to our friends, we may lose them, but when we are non-possessive in our relationships, we will make many friends. When fame is what we seek and desire, it often vanishes as soon as we acquire it, but when we have no need to be known, we might be remembered long after our deaths. When we want to be in the center, we easily end up on the margins, but when we are free enough to be wherever we must be, we find ourselves often in the center.
Giving away our lives for others is the greatest of all human arts. This will gain us our lives.
Always it happens when we are not there –
The tree leaps up alive into the air,
small open parasols of Chinese green
wave on each twig.
But who has ever seen
the latch sprung, the bud as it burst?
Spring always manages to get there first.
Lovers of wind, who will have been aware
of a faint stirring in the empty air,
Look up one day through a dissolving screen
to find no star, but this multiplied green,
shadow on shadow, singing sweet and clear.
Listen, lovers of wind, the leaves are here!
May New Life easter in us as a parish and surprise us with renewed energy and vision for our life together!
I said: What about my eyes?
God said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
God said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow?
He said: Stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
An Easter Prayer from Sr. Joan Chittister
To say “I believe in Jesus Christ … who rose from the dead,” is to say I believe that the Resurrection goes on and on and on forever. Every time Jesus rises in our own hearts in new ways, the Resurrection happens again. Every time we see Jesus where we did not recognize him before—in the faces of the poor, in the love of the unloved, in the revelatory moments of life, Jesus rises anew. The real proof of the Resurrection lies not in the transformation of Jesus alone but in the transformation awaiting us who accept it.
To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . who rose from the dead,” is to say something about myself at the same time. It says that I myself am ready to be transformed. Once the Christ-life rises in me, I rise to new life as well. “Christ is risen, we are risen,” we sing at Easter. But it has a great deal more to do with life than with death. If I know that Jesus has been transformed, then I am transformed myself, and as a result, everything around me.
Until we find ourselves with new hearts, more penetrating insights, fewer compulsions, less need for the transient, greater awareness of the spiritual pulse of life, resurrection has not really happened for us. Jesus has risen but we have not. Resurrection is change at the root of the soul. It marks a whole new way of being in life.
PRAYER: Jesus, help me to understand that in every life, something good fails, something great ends, something righteous is taken unjustly away, something looms like an abandonment by God. Give me the wisdom to know that You rose from the dead as a sign to us that every one of these “little deaths” is life become new all over again. Be with me in living Your Resurrection over and over again.
– This reflection by Joan Chittister has been added to Benetvision’s Stations of the Cross eBook, Gateway to Resurrection.
Our week begins with “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin. It comes from the first word of the Entrance antiphon on Sunday. The spirit of joy that begins this week comes from the words of Paul, “The Lord is near.” This joyful spirit is marked by the third candle of our Advent wreath, which is rose colored, and the rose colored vestments often used at the Eucharist.
The second part of Advent begins on December 17th each year—this year, in 2012, it is Monday of the Third Week of Advent. For the last eight days before Christmas, the plan of the readings changes. The first readings are still from the prophesies, but now the gospels are from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke. We read the stories of faithful women and men who prepared the way for our salvation. We enter into the story of how Jesus’ life began. These stories are filled with hints of what his life will mean for us. Faith and generosity overcome impossibility. Poverty and persecution reveal glory.
Preparing our Hearts and asking for Grace
We prepare this week by feeling the joy. We move through this week feeling a part of the waiting world that rejoices because our longing has prepared us to believe the reign of God is close at hand. And so we consciously ask,
“Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow.”
Each morning this week, in that brief moment we are becoming accustomed to, we want to light a third inner candle. Three candles, going from expectation, to longing, to joy. They represent our inner preparation, or inner perspective. In this world of “conflict and division,” “greed and lust for power,” we begin each day this week with a sense of liberating joy. Perhaps we can pause, breathe deeply and say,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
Each day this week, we will continue to go through our everyday life, but we will experience the difference our faith can bring to it. We are confident that the grace we ask for will be given us. We will encounter sin – in our own hearts and in our experience of the sin of the world. We can pause in those moments, and feel the joy of the words,
“You are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Mt 1:21
We may experience the Light shining into dark places of our lives and showing us patterns of sinfulness, and inviting us to experience God’s mercy and healing. Perhaps we wish to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week. We may want to make gestures of reconciliation with a loved one, relative, friend or associate. With more light and joy, it is easier to say, “I’m sorry; let’s begin again.”
Each night this week we want to pause in gratitude. Whatever the day has brought, no matter how busy it has been, we can stop, before we fall asleep, to give thanks for a little more light, a little more freedom to walk by that light, in joy.
Our celebration of the coming of our Savior in history is opening us up to experience his coming to us this year, and preparing us to await his coming in Glory.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come and visit your people.
We await your coming. Come, O Lord.
Taken from onlineministries.creighton.edu
Stay ever so close to Me, and you will not deviate from the path I have prepared for you. This is the most efficient way to stay on track; it is also the most enjoyable way. People tend to multiply duties in their observance of religion. This practice enables them to give Me money, time, and work without yielding up to Me what I desire the most—their hearts. Rules can be observed mechanically. Once they become habitual, they can be followed with minimal effort and almost no thought. These habit-forming rules provide a false sense of security, lulling the soul into a comatose condition. What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence!
Reflect on DEUTERONOMY 6:5: Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. COLOSSIANS 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. PSALM 16:11: You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Adapted from Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling: A 365 Day Journaling Devotional
Be near me, Jesus, all the days of my life. Be near me in all that I say, in all that I do, in all that I am, and never let me be parted from you. Amen.
Wisdom from Mother Teresa
Don’t think that love, to be true, has to be extraordinary. What is necessary is to continue to love. How does a lamp burn, if it is not by the continuous feeding of little drops of oil? When there is no oil, there is no light and the bridegroom will say: ‘I do not know you.’ Dear friends, what are our drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things from everyday life: the joy, the generosity, the little good things, the humility and the patience. A simple thought for someone else. Our way to be silent, to listen, to forgive, to speak and to act. These are the real drops of oil that make our lamps burn vividly our whole life. Don’t look for Jesus far away, He is not there. He is in you, take care of your lamp and you will see Him.”
Lord Jesus, bless this Advent. Bless our families and friends. Bless the stranger and the enemy. Bless the poor, the lonely, and the forgotten. Bless those who are sick and are journeying home to you. Bless those who are suffering. Bless them all, dear Jesus, with the balm of your healing presence and with your comforting peace.
Help us to do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa encourages. And as we begin to wait during this Advent Season, may we no longer wait to begin a deeper way of knowing You and living according to Your word.
We ask all these things in Your name. Amen.
For the journey
In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen writes the following about prayer:
“Prayer is the bridge between our conscious and unconscious lives. Often there is a large abyss between our thoughts, words, and actions, and the many images that emerge in our daydreams and night dreams. To pray is to connect these two sides of our lives by going to the place where God dwells. Prayer is ‘soul work’ because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one and where God is with us in the most intimate way.”
Some describe prayer as a form of “centering.” Others think of it more as a time of reflection or even lively conversation with the divine. What is prayer for you, and how do you make room in your life for meaningful times of praying?
Prayer by Henri Nouwen:
O Lord, every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray, only you can set my heart at rest, only you can let me dwell in your presence. No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments become the way to you.
But Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative; let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour when you will come and break through all the walls I have erected. Teach me, O Lord, to pray. Amen.
The Unknown Presence
When you are lost and the storm of life
Has washed you up on an unknown shore;
When the familiarity of place is taken from you
And the contours of time cease to be your guide;
Remember that I am home to you.
When you are wounded and the winds of life
Take all your security away from you;
When the rain of uncertainty drenches you
And a sudden frost stills your longing;
Remember that I am warmth for you.
When the setting sun bathes your soul
And the moon and the sea draw on your heart;
When the wild geese beckon to you
And the song of the seagull speaks to you;
Remember that I am the one who is calling you.
When the innocence of childhood returns to you, and the freedom of belief creeps up on you;
When the forgiveness of nature takes hold of you, and the light of dawn possesses you;
Remember that I your God am close to you.
– Father Michael Conway, Galway Cathedral, Ireland
Experiencing the Holy
Mysticism begins when the totally transcendent image of God starts to recede; there’s also a deepening sense of God as imminent, present, here, now, within me. Augustine’s line was “God is more intimate to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” St. Catherine of Genoa shouted it in the streets, “My deepest me is God!” In other words, the Beyond One is also one with me. The delight is total.
You must overcome your primary alienation to know truthfully—and what you learn is that the Beyond One is doing the knowing through you! You are not alone. The gap has been overcome from the other side. God is no longer “out there.” At this point, it’s not like one has a new relationship with God; it’s like one has a whole new God! “God himself is my counselor, and at night my innermost being instructs me,” says the Psalmist 16:7.
The mystics are those who are let in on this secret mystery of God’s love affair with all souls, but with their soul in particular; and that God loves me just as I need to be loved. It’s absolutely our unique love affair, and that sets the whole thing on a different and deeper ground.
My deepest me is God
In happy moments, praise God.
In difficult moments, seek God.
In quiet moments, worship God.
In painful moments, trust God.
And in every moment, thank God.
– Author Unknown
Adapted from Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate by Richard Rohr, OFM.
What is the “true self”?
Most spirituality has said, in one way or another, that we have all indeed begun to forget, if not fully forgotten, who we are. Universal amnesia seems to be the problem. Religion’s job is purely and simply one thing: to tell us, and keep reminding us of who we objectively are. Thus, Catholics keep eating “the Body of Christ” until they know that they are what they eat—a human body that is still the eternal Christ.
Is it possible that we do know our True Self at some level? Could we all know from the beginning? Does some part of us know from the beginning? Does some part of us know—with a kind of certitude—who we really are? Is the truth hidden within us? Could human life’s central task be a matter of consciously discovering and becoming who we already are and what we somehow unconsciously know? I believe so. Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had.
Excerpted from Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, pp. 11-12, by Richard Rohr,OFM
Who am I, God? And who are you?