Category : Prayer

Jesus Calms the Sea Eugène_Delacroix_-_Christ_Endormi_pendant_la_Tempête
Faith, Grace, Hope, Lent, Passion, Prayer, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation, Virtue
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Having Hope in a Time of Crisis

Having hope in a time of crisis is not easy. Hope is rooted in truth, and the truth is, things are not easy right now.

Let’s be clear: having hope is not foolish optimism detached from the reality at hand. Rather, it has to do with trusting in the promises of God… which is hard… which is why it’s called a virtue (and not a given).

Hope—trusting in the promises of God—is intertwined in trusting in God’s goodness. On Friday, Pope Francis spoke about this very dynamic in his meditation on the calming of the storm from Mark 4:35-41 (full text and video here). Caught in a violent storm, the disciples, who are experienced, life-long fishermen, fear for their lives while Jesus is lays sleeping.

They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”(Mark 4:38-40)

Pope Francis honed in on the spiritual struggle so many of us have in the midst of a storm like Coronavirus and quarantine: “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.” Like the disciples, our faith in God is evident in the way we call out to God. However, in the midst of a storm so violent that people fear for their lives, sometimes we question God’s goodness. We cannot understand it and question if God cares about us. Fear threatens our trust in God’s goodness.

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/urbi-et-orbi-pope-coronavirus-prayer-blessing.html

Trusting in God’s goodness opens our hearts to hope. In a time of crisis and fear, we need to remind ourselves and each other that there is abundant evidence of God’s goodness at work.

How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.” (Pope Francis, Urbi et orbi blessing, March 27, 2020)

In the language of faith, this is the Paschal Mystery – God works with us, in us, and through us as vessels of grace to one another. Even in the midst of chaos and crisis, we can see goodness.

In the language of Mr. Roger’s Mom, “Look for the helpers.”

Mr Rogers Notice the Helpers

Name and claim the goodness and joy that you observe. Know that God is the source of all goodness. Believe that the Holy Spirit empowers us to be vessels of grace,

Recall the insight from the Raising of Lazarus: we have faith not in a God who rescues us; we have faith in a God who Redeems. We have faith in a God who is the source of all goodness; who respects our freedom enough to let things unfold… even difficult, painful, stressful things. Because our God Redeems.

God doesn’t do evil to achieve good (or to teach lessons). God doesn’t intend, rejoice in, or plan for suffering. God redeems it.

And we have faith in a God who Redeems.

Cultivating Hope

Trusting in a God who Redeems is at the root of the virtue of hope, and like all virtues, we can strengthen and grow in hope with practice.

Here one practice that we have been doing in our family to cultivate hope:

The Rose: Every night, when we gather for family dinner, we pray The Rose, which is a family-friendly, loose adaptation of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen. I have always appreciated the way the Rose allows us to hear about aspects of each other’s day that we otherwise wouldn’t.

The Rose Handout(Note: if you cannot see the image above, and/or if you would like a printable copy of The Rose, click here.)

  • Rose: Naming the bits of laughter and joy, the successes (no matter how small), the connections… Naming goodness and grace is essential to the spiritual practice of gratitude. Do it every night while eating dinner. Share your gratitude for goodness with one another.
  • Bud: For my boys, anticipation of joyful experiences is just as (if not more) exciting than the experience itself. Naming our buds lifts our spirits. However. In the time of Covid-19, when all the things we usually look forward to have been cancelled, it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify things to look forward to. Which is why it’s becoming more and more crucial to our spiritual well-bring. Yes, most of our “buds” have looking forward to upcoming Zoom calls with friends… and getting to the other side of the Coronavirus! This is going to take some effort, but it’s also key to cultivating hope!
  • Thorn: As I wrote in How Are You, it’s also important to be real about the struggles in your day. Articulating your thorn is prayer when that lament is directed to God, trusting in His goodness. Need some guidance there? Check out the Psalms.
  • Root: As a family, we join together in specifically praying for people by name… and praying for an end to this pandemic.

What are you doing to cultivate hope today?

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Lent, Prayer
2

Reevaluating Lent

There was a great tweet the other day from Andy Crouch (@ahc): “Honestly hadn’t planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.”

Screenshot 2020-03-21 17.18.04

I have to agree. When the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston responsibly suspended the public celebration of all weekday and Sunday Masses, my heart ached. Of course, I understood, but truly, my heart ached.

I had plans for Lent that were good for me and (more importantly) good for my relationship with God. Daily Mass was one of them…. as was eliminating overindulgence (of food, drink, and FaceBook), as was a practice of morning silent prayer, as was an evening Examen, as was the simple practice of making my bed every morning.

Presently, I am (mostly) managing an evening Examen and making my bed at some point every day. And I have to be ok with this. 

Given the circumstances of Covid 19, with social distancing, with my kids doing Montessori schoolwork at home without materials, with my husband sharing our home office all day long with daily 9am telecons, and with all the adjustments that go along with living in the time of a pandemic, I have to be ok with this.

It’s more important that I be patient, calm, encouraging, understanding, kind, loving, generous, and compassionate than it is for me to follow through on promises made in a different time, in a different world. And sometimes an extra homemade chocolate chip cookie with an extra glass of wine helps me do this. And right now, I have to be ok with this. 

For me, reevaluating Lent is practicing mercy with myself, which in turn, helps me practice mercy with others. I’m doing what I need to do, to love the people who are always in my house right now. I’m doing what I need to do to love, support, and protect the medically vulnerable, the caregivers, the medical professionals, and all those who we rely upon to staff the grocery (and liquor) stores.

Amid the craziness, negativity, panic, and hoarding, I want God’s peace to dwell within me, so I’m reevaluating my Lenten practices, and I invite you to do so as well.

Here’s one way to guide yourself in making those adjustments:

  • What grace do you want to ask for, from God, right now?
  • Is there some positive thing you can (realistically) do to help yourself be more aware of – and receptive to – God’s grace (which is already at work in your life)?
  • Within your reflection, consider practices that will help you love God more fully, especially with yourself and others in this time of social distancing, be it through more self-care, more patience, and/or more generosity.
  • Pray about making this a daily lenten practice. In your prayer, ask God if you are being called to make this shift.

In my next post, I’ll explain my lenten commitment to practice both Being Real and Having Hope.

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Mama Bear kragenbar-2448071
Grace, Prayer, Spirituality, Suffering
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Courage, Grace, and Mama Bear

Today marks 5 weeks and 4 days since Alex was burned by boiling water at Scout Camp. His healing process has been remarkable; he’s now off all medications and continues to clean and care for his wounds at home. The next healing benchmark that we’re working towards is permission to swim (and enjoy a postponed 13th birthday pool party). There are a few more stories about tremendous experiences of grace that I have wanted to write about, but haven’t yet.

And then today, Alex boiled water to make pasta for himself and Max for lunch, for the first time since the accident.

“Were you nervous?” I asked.

“Yes!” Both Alex and Max intoned together.

Yes, they were. But they did it anyway. The virtue of courage isn’t being fearless; it’s following through with responsible action despite acknowledging fears.

So. It’s difficult for me to tell this story, but inspired by my courageous 13 year-old and 11 1/2 year-old sons, I’m going to do it anyway.

Five weeks ago today we had Alex’s first outpatient wound care appointment, called the “Tub Room.”

Cleaning the burns is critical to the healing process, and it’s just as excruciating as it sounds. For this reason, great attention is given to pain management. I followed the instructions I was given: to bring the prescription bottle of Vicodin along with us and await the medical staff’s instructions to take it precisely 30 minutes before the Tub Room appointment was to begin.

I remembered this process from my sister’s experience. It was called the Tank Room, and it happened 28 years ago, but it remains as the yardstick against which I measure excruciating pain.

As I reached out to my friends and family for prayer support, I petitioned Mary the Mother of God to give me the strength to stand by my son through this. I imagined her watching her Son carrying his Cross.

Mary 4th Station

Mother Mary, give me the strength.

First, we met with the Clinic (outpatient care team) who checked on Alex’s pain management. In addition to explaining the procedure, they identified the pain management options Alex had available to him should he need. Informed and grateful, we headed down to the PICU floor, and waited for his turn. We followed everything we were told to do; Alex took his Vicodin exactly when directed, and we entered the Tub Room.

Alex lay on the table – or “Tub,” which was a metal table with sides that folded up. As the tech took his dressings off and we got our first look at the healing wounds, the air hitting his skin started to hurt. A lot. It felt better to have the warm water running over them, so as I was allowed to assist, I maneuvered the water best I could.

Mary, give me the strength to stand with my son, as you stood with yours.

Mary way-of-the-cross-2654403_1920

As the tech began to wipe down his burns, Alex arched his back and turned red as he screamed in pain.

Immediately, he stuttered a request for the “lollipop” of Fentanyl (morphine) that the Clinic had offered us.

Immediately, the tech stopped…

But somehow, there was a miscommunication.

Instead of having immediate access to the painkiller, an order for the prescription had to be placed… and we needed to wait. Instead of the lollipop taking effect immediately, we were told it would take another 30 minutes to work… and we needed to wait.

The pain of the air hitting the newly forming skin had Alex screaming for water to be run over his legs. The tech was telling Alex, “You need to calm down…” again and again.

At first I argued logically; “This wasn’t what they told us to expect.”

“That’s not the way it works. You need to calm down.”

“Please, just cover my burns…” My child was red-faced, pleading, screaming in pain, and waiting was only prolonging it.

I don’t entirely know how much time passed, but eventually I went “Mama-Bear.” But instead of biting her head off, I pulled on the courage of Mother Mary, grasped at every ounce of grace, and firmly demanded: “Just. Finish. Cover his wounds like he’s asking.”

I held his head and his hands as he screamed. And I didn’t lose it.

I stood by my son.

Eventually it was over. He was rebandaged, and we scheduled our next Tub Room appointment three days later, on Friday.

Horrific.

That was the only word I could use to describe our experience.

As we drove home, we talked. Unthinkable pain for Alex – worse than the day of the accident itself. Undoubtedly the worst day of either of our lives.

The reality was that we had to do it again in three days. And he was scared. As was I.

“I promise you it will be different. You will never have that kind of experience that again. Not only will you have the proper amounts of pain-killer, that tech won’t be anywhere near us ever again.” (Mama-bear, indeed.)

Rewind back to the day after the accident, while we were still in the PICU, Alex initially gave a polite “no thanks” to my offer of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

“It’s not just asking for the grace of physical healing from Jesus, Anointing of the Sick also offers a spiritual strengthening for the journey ahead.”

“Yeah, I know. No thanks.”

Fast forward to the car ride home from that first Tub Room appointment, stopped at the light, waiting to turn on to the highway, I asked again.

“Yes,” he replied, without hesitation. And then he drifted off to sleep.

After we got home, I called my pastor and arranged for Alex to receive Anointing before his next Tub Room appointment. I also called the hospital and spoke to the managers of two different departments, and by the grace of God managed to communicate clearly without becoming completely unglued. I was listened to… I felt heard… and by the end of the second phone call, I felt less anxious and more confident.

It would have been very easy to yell and scream under the guise of “Mama-Bear,” aptly named because it’s recognized as that instinctive force that takes over a mother protecting her child.  Apparently the intercession of Mary makes it possible to Mama-Bear with grace. I have renewed respect for Mary and a deep appreciation for the strength, courage, and grace it must have taken for Mary to stand by her Son.

The next day, both Max and I were able to join Fr. Wencil in praying over Alex as he was Anointed – on his forehead and hands. And as promised, that Sacramental grace along with my Mama-Bear phone calls managed to render a better medicated Tub Room experience that looked more like a sleepy spa day.

Alex Tub Room 2

Though there isn’t a sacrament to anoint the Mothers of the Sick, Mary is always available for intercession. There are also tearful hugs with friends (and wine and chocolate)… all of which I also took full advantage.

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Book, Prayer, Spirituality
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On Prayer

In my family of voracious readers, we refer to the list of books we have lined up to read as “the queue.” So many books have been suggested in so many categories, they line up… and generally they’ll be read in the order in which they were received. Sadly, sometimes that line is longer and slower than the DMV because… well, time is limited.

your call is very important to us

Just this week, there was a series of coincidences [read: Holy Spirit] that led me to Ronald Rolheiser’s book Prayer: Our Deepest Longing (2013).  I recognized the author from working with ACTS Retreats, because Holy Longing (2009) – Fr. Rolheiser’s incredible book on Christian discipleship – has a chapter dedicated to Paschal Mystery spirituality, which is cited in the Director’s Manual, as it is at the heart of the ACTS Retreat.  Fr Rolheiser, OMI is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, which is also the home of ACTS Missions.

ACTS & ACTSM

What happened was, Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry Continuing Education has been advertising an opportunity to participate in a 5-week online book club on Prayer: Our Deepest Longing. BC STM’s Continuing Ed Facebook page had a video of Fr. Rolheiser offering some insights from his book on Prayer. The short video had me intrigued, but my “queue” is getting ridiculously long.

But, Holy Spirit.

So, I decided to try my first audiobook on “Audible,” I figured that I could listen while cleaning my kitchen, running errands, and what-have-you.  Although the rest of the world may have known the joys of audiobooks for years (especially while driving), it’s completely new to me.

Thank you, Holy Spirit; it was exactly what I needed!  To be honest, after listening to the first three chapters, I ordered a hard copy of the book just so I can underline and post-it-flag for easy reference.  It’s THAT good!

Prayer: Our Deepest Longing is a book that has already nourished my own prayer life, and it’s one I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone seeking to deepen their prayer life – from beginners to seasoned prayer warriors.  Read it, listen to it, or even consider trying BC’s online book club!

Somehow, Rolheiser manages to be both encouraging and challenging.  He had me at the preface:

There is no bad way to pray….[There’s] only one non-negotiable rule: You have to show up for prayer and you have to show up regularly.”

I hope you find a way to enjoy Prayer: Our Deepest Longing. If you do, come back and leave a comment about your favorite insights!

From Amazon’s website:

With simple, down-to-earth language, Rolheiser illustrates the importance of prayer and offers techniques for how to pray, using examples from daily life, Scripture, and contemporary writers. He delves into the places that we fear to go with our issues about prayer, encouraging us with gentle kindness and words of hope and inspiration.

The book is divided into five sections.

  • Why Pray? Illustrates the purposes and benefits of prayer for ourselves, as well as for the broader Catholic community and even the world.
  • Why Is It so Hard? Notes how our contemporary culture conspires against taking time out for solitude and prayer, and how our own ego—with its fears, restlessness, and narcissism—can work against developing a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
  • What Is Prayer? Outlines the two basic types of prayer, that is, affective (personal) and priestly (for the world). Describes the many ways or methods for each type of prayer, such as meditation, contemplation, the divine office, the Mass, and Scripture.
    Sticking with It. This section covers the development of mature prayer, discussing ways to pray in times of boredom, disillusionment, crisis, helplessness, or after a loved one’s death.
  • Mysticism. Here we learn about this increasingly popular form of intimate relationship with God.

This is a book for all manner of believers, whether your faith is solidly rooted, wavering between childhood religion and adult faith, or just not sure what you believe—or whether you believe at all. It addresses topics such as narcissism, pragmatism, efficiency, and self-gratification that work against a healthy spiritual life. Rolheiser takes us to a place of contact and comfort, in relationship not only with God but with our true selves as well.

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O Root of Jesse
Advent, Article, Prayer
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December 19 – O Root of Jesse

December 19
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

19 O-Root-of-Jesse

O Radix Jesse: O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. Isaiah had prophesied, But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (Isaiah 11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in Davids city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).  (From Catholic Resource Education Center)

In case you missed, December 17 begins the O Antiphons, with  O Wisdom. While working on a project for St. Mary’s Press, I came across artwork by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey that captures the vibrant and joyful anticipation of Advent in the O Antiphons.  These images and reflections from the Catholic Resource Education Center are so beautiful, I needed to share!

The O Antiphons are seven brief sentences that highlight a title for the Messiah and a prophecy of Isaiah about the coming of the Messiah.  Part of the liturgical tradition since the very early Church, these beautiful theological statements are prayed in Vespers, or evening prayer, during the last days of Advent, from December 17-23. For more information about the artwork, visit the McCrimmons, a UK  Publishing Company.

 

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