God also asks us to “shelter in place”

In the United States over 70 million are in lockdown under the government’s orders. Across the world, government officials are pleading with people to stay home. We all have at least a tinge of anger at the students and adults who have crowded the beaches, some of whom having now returned to colleges and universities are testing positive for coronavirus and are infecting others.

“Stay inside!” officials are pleading. “Stop going to the beach, to the park, to the bar….”

In his letter to the Cistercian communities, the Cistercian Abbot General Fr. Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, reflects on our difficulty in heading this call to stop flinging ourselves into work or pleasure:One stops only if one is stopped. To stop oneself freely has become almost impossible in contemporary western culture, which is globalized, for that matter. One does not even really stop on vacations. Only unpleasant setbacks manage to stop us in our breathless race to take ever greater advantage of life, of time, often also of other persons. Now, however, an unpleasant setback like an epidemic has stopped almost all of us. Our projects and plans have been annihilated, until we do not know when.”

In Psalm 46 God himself asks us to “be still,” we could say “to shelter in place in the inner shrine of our heart.” This invitation is a healing word to a people constantly running, entertaining ourselves, always throwing ourselves toward some future! It is a word of meaning. A call to pull ourselves away from the superfluous to what is of true value.

Anxiety can make it hard to stop. I mean, this is a “hard stop.”  We aren’t just changing directions or occupations or locations. We’re not taking a breather before throwing ourselves anew into life as we have known it. The world has stopped. Activities, the economy, political life, trips, entertainments, sports have stopped, as well as public religious life. It is when we are forced to stop that we discover how we still run inside. That we were holding on to something that suddenly doesn’t appear to be quite as important as it was. Yet to drop the dramatic investment we’ve created in it, is to admit that we don’t know who we are without it. As long as we are running inside, in our thoughts and fears and feelings and demands, we will not stay home unless there is a guard at the door. And we certainly will not stay “home” in the inner shrine of our heart.

“Be still,” God says, “and know that I am God” (Psalm 46).

Fr. Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori reflects further:  “God asks us to keep ourselves still; he does not impose it. He wants us to stop before him and remain freely, by choice, that is, with love. He does not stop us like the police who arrest a fugitive delinquent. He wants us to stop as one stops before a beloved person, or how one stops before the tender beauty of a newborn who sleeps, or at a sunset or a work of art that fill us with wonder and silence. God asks us to stop in recognition that, for us, his presence fills the whole universe, is the most important thing in life, which nothing can exceed. To stop before God means to recognize that his presence fills the instant and thus fully satisfies our heart, in whatever circumstance and condition we find ourselves.” 

When we get to the other side of this pandemic, and we will, this newfound silence of soul in the overwhelming power of divine presence is what we should keep alive always. A sense of our frailty. Of our child-like dependence on our Creator. With the “capacity to renounce what is superfluous to safeguard what is more profound and true in us and among us, with this faith that our life is not in our hands but in the hands of God.”

As we struggle through the anxiety of not knowing the consequences of this pandemic in our own lives and in our society, we are not left alone, as a child is not left alone by a good parent. “God enters into our trials, he suffers them with us and for us, to the point of death on the Cross. Thus he reveals to us that our life, in trial as also in consolation, has an infinitely greater meaning than the resolution of the current peril. The true peril that looms over our life is not the threat of death, but the possibility of living it without meaning, of living it without being directed toward a greater fullness of life and toward a greater salvation than health.”

So as you shelter in place, stay home, or perhaps put your own life at risk on the front lines of essential services and medical care, let these words of God bring your heart peace. “Be still, and know that I am God, exalted over nations, exalted over earth!” (Psalm 46) This pandemic is not more powerful than God who holds us all in the palm of his hand. Having “outward stillness” imposed on us through “lockdowns” gives us the opportunity to search for the tiny flickering lights of inner stillness, the relieved sighing of our exhausted hearts that we are not alone, that the darkness has never and will never overcome the divine plan at work in the world’s history. “A time of trial can make people harsher or more sensitive, more indifferent or more compassionate. Fundamentally, all depends on the love with which we live them out, and this above all is what Christ comes to grant us and to awaken in us with his presence. Any trial whatever comes and goes, but if we live it with love, the wound that the trial cuts into our lives will be able to remain open, like that on the Body of the Risen One, like an ever surging spring of compassion.”

Let us find through all of this, the love that will give us meaning, so that we will delight in being still and in cherishing what is of true value.

ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE? HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 6 ways you can join me on the journey:

  1. Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST
  2. Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
  3. Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Enroll in the free 5-day email series introducing Reclaim Regret.
  4. Enroll in courses on Midlife, Contemplative Prayer, and a do-it-yourself downloadable Surviving Depression retreat
  5. Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

 

Surviving Depression – A Marian Devotional (The Annunciation)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-yafiq-d47a67

We are continuing a series of six Podcasts looking at Light and Darkness – Courage and Faith – Healing and Hope through a Marian Lens. Each episode features an event in Mary’s life and a particular image we have chosen to prayerfully reflect on together. This Podcast Series accompanies the launching of the Third Edition of my book: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach. In today’s episode we explore how our distorted thought patterns can make us more vulnerable to depression and together do an exercise to tack our spiraling automatic thoughts. We lean into our Marian lens by reflecting on the Annunciation.

This is today’s image:

1024px-Henry_Ossawa_Tanner_-_The_Annunciation.jpg

Image Credit: Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898 Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Image is in the public domain.
Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach (Third Edition) available at www.paulinestore.org

 

 

 

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.

Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.

Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.

Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.

Become a part of the HeartWork Community, A blend of spiritual guidance, mentorship, and counseling, the HeartWork community is a place where you learn to explore, love, open and nourish your heart, your deep heart where God is dwelling within you.

Peace in the Pandemic

I remember during Hurricane Katrina the story of several Vietnamese families who were trapped along with 16,000 others who had sought refuge in the Louisiana Superdome in 2015. People recall seeing them continuously praying the rosary. Peaceful. Kind. And when everyone was being evacuated they quietly held back, still praying, offering to be the last to be rescued from the refuge that had come to be described as a “hellhole.” In the midst of chaos, violence, and everyone fighting to get what they could for themselves, they have always been a testament to me of who I’d like to be if I were ever in an emergency situation.

The crisis over the worldwide spread of the coronavirus pandemic is such a crisis. As I write this I’m sitting in our Los Angeles convent. After leading one more retreat Saturday, I’ll be boarding a plane to return to Boston Sunday night. Uppermost in my mind is getting on that plane and returning home before I’m stranded here. In other words, uppermost in my mind is “me.”

As the regular pattern of my life is disturbed, I discover that I really don’t have the control over everything that could adversely affect me that I once thought I had. I also am not as selfless and giving as I once thought I was. Fear does funny things to us.

This virus peels back the self-protective layers we’ve put on to hide our inability to protect ourselves at all. To protect ourselves from each other. From the weather. From accidents. From financial fall-out. From a virus that started its devastating march through the world from within a little-known city of China.

Wild fears stoked by continuous headline news make it even more difficult to find the ground of faith and the fire of love that burns within our souls as followers of Christ baptized into his death and risen with him.

This past couple of days I’ve been seeking a place of silence in the storm. An inner heart-space that is deeper than the thoughts and feelings that are swirling in my mind these days. A place where I could immerse myself in Christ, in his way of living the pandemic, in his absolute promise to be with us. A place where I could surrender everything into the hands of the Father.  I’d like to share with you a meditation I’ve been using that you may find helpful.

 

 

Below is a prayer of Pope Francis that we can say in union with the Church:

O Mary,
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Translation done by Catholic News Service of the prayer Pope Francis recited by video March 11 for a special Mass and act of prayer asking Mary to protect Italy and the world during of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

Lockdown – There can always be a rebirth of love

I found this on my Facebook page. It reminded me of a video I saw yesterday of a neighborhood in Italy where people were standing on the balconies of their apartments, singing together, waving, laughing, enjoying the glory of the silent streets, the relaxed neighborhood, and the happiness of creating music together.

Lockdown
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.
–  Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th, 2020

Surviving Depression – A Marian Devotional (Introduction)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-564h7-d47a55

We are starting a series of six Podcasts looking at Light and Darkness – Courage and Faith – Healing and Hope through a Marian Lens. Each episode features an event in Mary’s life and a particular image we have chosen to prayerfully reflect on together. This Podcast Series accompanies the launching of the Third Edition of my book: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach. Today’s episode is an introduction to depression and an introduction to our Marian Devotional gaze.

This is Today’s Image

 1280px-1__Ugolino_di_Nerio__The_Deposition_1324-25__London_NG.jpg

Image Credit: Ugolino di Nerio [Public domain]  1280-1330

Image is in the public domain.
Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach (Third Edition) available at www.paulinestore.org.

 

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.

Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.

Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.

Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.

Become a part of the HeartWork Community, A blend of spiritual guidance, mentorship, and counseling, the HeartWork community is a place where you learn to explore, love, open and nourish your heart, your deep heart where God is dwelling within you.

We are Infinitely and Forever Loved by a God who Won’t Let Us Down

This past weekend, because of being just after Valentine’s Day, my thoughts have been about love. I saw a couple of Facebook posts describing in one instance a young boy, in another a gym coach,  handing red roses to every girl in their school because they wanted every girl to feel special on that day. An imaginative way to open the windows of a stuffy commercially driven celebration! These two individuals—and I’m sure there were others—shifted the center of their attention from what pleases them to what benefits others. Such a simple gesture, although I’m sure the roses were quite an investment. A gesture that will last a long time in the memories and hearts of these young women.

A woman on a retreat I was leading shared how she used to buy a small bouquet of flowers whenever she went to the grocery store. She would write on the little card: God loves you! After she paid for her groceries, she would turn and hand the bouquet to the person behind her, no matter who it was. Years later her son in Florida heard a woman on the radio relating how she had unexpectedly received a bouquet of flowers in a grocery line. When she had loaded the groceries into the car and slipped into the driver’s seat, she opened the card and read the simple message about God’s love. The woman was in tears: that message had meant the difference between life and death for her. When the son called his mom to tell her what had become of just one lady who had received one of her flower bouquets in a grocery line, she knew that in some mysterious way this simple gift, so small and hidden, a gift for which no one was able to thank her directly, had assured people they were loving, lovable, and infinitely forever loved by a God who would never let them down.

It is so easy to “sleep” through our days and nights. I have done it. I have objectified others and objects in the name of efficiency and right-thinking, right-doing, law-abiding righteousness. Not on purpose. Perhaps it is a stage we all go through as we embrace responsibility, mature into generativity, and at the same time juggle the judgment-laden atmosphere around us. It could be that middle years open windows to our spirit that wash our younger-aged beliefs and thoughts and judgments gently with ointment and anoint us anew as a child of God, hid with Christ in God, breathed into life through divine breath, and loving with the breath of love that created us.

In a recent survey we asked what struggles people wanted us to address. In the light of this love and this amazing story of the gift of flowers I’d like to speak to four comments that we received:

  1. God wants more of me, but I’m not sure what I should do. Books could be written on this, but I’d say for starters, begin with the life you have. Turn around and give bouquets of flowers to someone. Speak to Jesus when you go to Mass and ask him to tell you clearly what he desires of you. Find someone who can be a spiritual companion for at least a few conversations to jumpstart the journey into the unknown invitation. Follow your curiosity and read a book. Learn how to pray with Scripture. Basically, God is already leading you into the “more” he is giving you. You don’t have to figure it out, achieve it, possess it, maintain it. Take advantage of the next step, whatever it may be, in your life as it is, and through that step he will lead you step-by-step to the “more.”
  2. I struggle with forgiveness and the endless thoughts recirculating the pain over and over. I know. It is the nature of the mind to hang on and hang on to what has hurt us or was unjust, unfair, or just not right. These days for me the words of Flannery O’Connor ring true: “I do not know You, God, because I am in the way.” In the spirit of the “bouquet of flowers” I’ve noticed a new sister in the community showing love and kindness to persons I have felt hurt by. That act has touched me deeply to explore with Jesus why I am still hanging on. What I’m getting out of it. How this resentment is keeping an illusory sense of self alive. It is not my identity as a child of God and a beloved of the Father. Such simple acts I observe, yet they have meant much to my heart. As for the nature of the rat-race of thoughts in our heads see the next number.
  3. How to reduce busyness and embrace what has true value. The busyness of our life, or most especially of our mind, helps us sustain an image of ourselves, a “me” that is important, needed, useful, good, or whatever. Reducing busyness for me has started often with reserving a time period a little longer than usual to just be alone. I may need to organize myself very carefully to carve out this very needed and precious time. I go there with a couple of books, a Bible, and a journal. I go there to listen to God, to others through their written words that I read, to my own heart. I take walks, drink coffee, and pray. I follow the thread of what Jesus begins to show me through my journal notes. I learn what is of true value. It is here I touch that part of the little “me” that is resentful, that hasn’t forgiven, as we said above. In this sacred space I let God touch me. That divine touch melts that meaner “me” so that I realize that it isn’t my true identity. When it melts, all that is left is a loving tenderness. When I choose this as all I want, it becomes easier to confess and repent of resentful memories and withholding love to others who have hurt me.
  4. The healing of our fragmented inner space. Our “inner space” can feel fragmented and divided into a million pieces, particularly if we don’t carve out some sacred healing space. I’m seeing a growing number of articles about people saying they tried to do everything they (and others) thought they should do to be the best at what they do, and respond to every expectation and need. Finally, they just decided they could do it no longer. Some of these authors were people who didn’t have a great amount of responsibility for others and could easily walk off toward a blissfully quiet horizon. But some were people who carried responsibility for families. Here are some of the things that worked for them and for me: talk to others around you about how you can carve out this sacred time for your inner spirit. Discuss how this will affect the whole, what accommodations will need to be made, what things on the to-do list aren’t really that important to do at all and could be dropped, what are the highest values of each one in the group who will be  affected, how can you create a win-win situation for everyone, where is the stretch-area that will help everyone grow in respect and love for each other, what is the breaking point, how can you create a “format” for your sacred time to make it truly restorative and healing (watching TV and surfing the net, reading email and social media aren’t as restorative as other activities and without a “plan” your free time could degenerate into wasted time).

The time you preserve and protect for your deepest self will translate into a happier, more harmonious, and self-less living and giving if you do it right. You will be less likely to get caught up in resentful reactions, and more likely to focus on what is of true value. You will also find it easier to help others do likewise.

ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE? HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 6 ways you can join me on the journey:

  1. Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST
  2. Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
  3. Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Enroll in the free 5-day email series introducing Reclaim Regret.
  4. Enroll in courses on Midlife, Contemplative Prayer, and a do-it-yourself downloadable Surviving Depression retreat
  5. Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

 

A Powerful Practice to Melt Away Negativity

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-tkkkg-cdd6cc

Today is our final reflection on ways to live the new year in a new way, to seek the new you in the present, every present moment of the coming year. We’ll talk about a practice I began to address the negative thoughts that I find myself thinking…. And did I discover how many negative thoughts I had! Jeannette and I talk about how quickly things start to change when a simple practice gets put into place that catches our mind whenever it is engaged (or kidnapped may be better) by a negative thought.

ENJOYED THIS PODCAST? HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at touchingthesunrise.com.

Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST.

Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.

Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace.

Become a part of the HeartWork Community, A blend of spiritual guidance, mentorship, and counseling, the HeartWork community is a place where you learn to explore, love, open and nourish your heart, your deep heart where God is dwelling within you.