How the stillness of God can help us be still….

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-2wyzu-1029519

The stillness of humility

Be still. Comforting words that we find in Psalm 46. “Be still and know that I am God.” 

For me, these words conjure up quiet moments in a sacred space or beautiful place in nature. To do “be still” I could imagine calming myself down and enjoying a heart at peace, a world at peace, relationships at peace… 

Which they are not. 

Our world is anything but in peace. Being a fallen human being not every one of my relationships is at peace. And when I try to be quiet my heart struggles to find inner rest, and my mind takes off like wild stallions. 

Be still. Our hearts are rocked at times with reactive emotions and deep storms of fear and resentment. Our minds filled with useless, cynical, and angry thoughts that like gnats destroy our peace. I can hold my Father’s hand and bow to what I cannot change, determined nonetheless to care compassionately and see others with God’s eyes, confident that I need not prove, finish, or amount to anything to be his beloved daughter. 

When You Wonder How the Pieces Fit Together: A Midlife Reflection

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xzr8y-101f9be

In his unpublished manuscript The Wound of Existence, James Moran talks about the game we adults play, the game of “happy ever endings,” overcoming every challenge, “blasting” through every obstacle. We find our consolations in the crutches of ego, predictable order and reliable control, measurements, outcomes, neat and tidy boxes where we label everything to keep it safe.

We are all in this game that is stretched out on the surface of reality and only by remaining on the surface, contrary to every heart’s call to the deep, can we stay in the game.

But life’s purpose isn’t fulfilled by games of child’s play. It is that uncontrollable twist of our life’s story that brings shipwreck to the games, casts our hearts into the nothingness of a future that we cannot control, and ultimately puts us into the arms of God. These twists and turns of our life can be dramatic or simple, but they are there to free us from illusion and deepen our joy in life…..

Prescriptions from the Doctors of the Church: Saint Jerome (c. 347-419/20)

Saint Jerome is one of the thirty-six saints who are Doctors of the Church. The Doctors of the Church are renowned for their holiness and also for their important teachings. Using the doctor metaphor, we can say that in a sense each Doctor of the Church gives us a “prescription” for spiritual growth. Saint Jerome’s particular prescription for holiness can help us in our daily fidelity in doing God’s will.

Jerome was born in Dalmatia and later went to Rome for studies. He converted to Christianity at about the age of eighteen and was baptized by Pope Liberius. Attracted by the ascetical life, Jerome traveled widely and was ordained to the priesthood in Antioch. He also studied for about two years under Saint Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople. Back in Rome, Jerome became a secretary to Pope Damasus. The pope supported him despite Jerome being an unpopular ascetic who stirred up opposition with his acerbic wit and criticisms of lax clergy. When the pope died, Jerome decided to travel to the Holy Land.

Eventually, around 386, Jerome took up residence in a cave in Bethlehem. There he focused on his writing and on Scripture studies. An expert linguist, he translated the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin. This translation, known as the Vulgate, became standard in the Church for many centuries. Jerome wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible and answered biblical questions from the entire Catholic world. He also directed a group of women ascetics and helped those in need. But for the most part, this brilliant man lived out his last years in quiet solitude, meditating on and translating the word of God.

Jerome’s Prescription: Read the Bible!

While Jerome wrote widely on many topics, he is outstanding for his work on the Bible, which is where we learn what God has revealed to us over many centuries. Jerome taught that the Bible is the Word of God and was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The human authors wrote according to their natural talents, but were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that what they wrote is truly the Word of God. Through this Word we come to know the saving truth that leads us to salvation.

No matter what you think is wrong with the world today, the Bible is the answer because it gives us the basic, foundational truth about humanity and God. If people read the Bible and put what they read into practice, many problems would disappear. Just think of the Ten Commandments, for instance. Take merely one commandment, “You shall not steal.” Imagine what the world would be like if we could feel assured that no one was going to steal what we own. No fraud, no stealing, no forgeries, etc. Not only would society be a much safer place, but people would also be able to trust each other more.

On a personal level, reading the Bible brings us into relationship with God and in particular with Jesus. Jerome famously wrote that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (From the Prologue of a commentary on Isaiah). (See Alba House book p. 121)

 If we want to know Jesus better, we need to soak ourselves in Scripture, especially the four Gospels.

How to read the Bible

Get a good Catholic study Bible and start to read it. It may be easier to start with the New Testament, which is already somewhat familiar to Catholics who listen carefully to the Mass readings each Sunday. If you read three chapters a day and five on Sundays, you can finish the whole Bible in about a year.

If your parish has a Bible study group, join it! It’s always easier to learn something together with others. Catholic online resources can also help you learn to read and understand the Bible better. For example, check out the Saint Paul Center online: https://stpaulcenter.com/ It’s best to stick with Catholic resources so you can be sure that what you are learning is according to Catholic teaching.

Some practical things to do:

  • Learn about lectio divina, a time-honored way of praying with Scripture.
  • Buy a Bible if you don’t have one. Read it!
  • Read one Gospel in one month.

Prayer

Saint Jerome, you devoted many years to studying the Bible and giving the fruits of your study to others. Pray for us that like you we may have a deep devotion to the holy Scriptures and let them illumine our path through life.

Feast: September 30

Patron: archaeologists, librarians, students, translators, Bible scholars

Selection from Saint Jerome:

On the benefits of reading Sacred Scripture:

Tell me whether you know of anything more sacred than this sacred mystery, anything more delightful than the pleasure found herein? What food, what honey could be sweeter than to learn of God’s Providence, to enter into his shrine and look into the mind of the Creator, to listen to the Lord’s words at which the wise of this world laugh, but which really are full of spiritual teaching? Others may have their wealth, may drink out of jeweled cups, be clad in silks, enjoy popular applause, find it impossible to exhaust their wealth by dissipating it in pleasures of all kinds; but our delight is to meditate on the Law of the Lord day and night, to knock at his door when shut, to receive our food from the Trinity of Persons, and, under the guidance of the Lord, trample underfoot the swelling tumults of this world.

Letter to Paula, 30, 13 as quoted in Pope Benedict XV: On Saint Jerome (Spiritus Paraclitus), no. 59. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3865

by Sr Lorraine Trouvé, FSP

Image Credit: Caravaggio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When you wonder how the pieces fit together: A midlife meditation

In his unpublished manuscript The Wound of Existence, James Moran talks about the game we adults play, the game of “happy ever endings,” overcoming every challenge, “blasting” through every obstacle. We find our consolations in the crutches of ego, predictable order and reliable control, measurements, outcomes, neat and tidy boxes where we label everything to keep it safe.

We are all in this game that is stretched out on the surface of reality and only by remaining on the surface, contrary to every heart’s call to the deep, can we stay in the game.

But life’s purpose isn’t fulfilled by games of child’s play. It is that uncontrollable twist of our life’s story that brings shipwreck to the games, casts our hearts into the nothingness of a future that we cannot control, and ultimately puts us into the arms of God. These twists and turns of our life can be dramatic or simple, but they are there to free us from illusion and deepen our joy in life.

Yesterday, Jesus urged me to immerse myself again in the life and heart of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, soon to be canonized. **

Born into a wealthy French family Charles lost his faith and his bearings after being orphaned at an early age. He barely made it through military school, was often disciplined for his behavior and for openly parading his mistress about town. He managed to pull himself together when needed as part of military operations in Algeria and it was through seeing the faith of the Muslim people there that his own journey towards faith began.

He left the military and undertook a very risky exploration of Morocco, which was closed to Europeans at the time, disguising himself as a poor rabbi and traveling with various caravans. This event aroused all the questions and yearnings of his heart as he faced his own vulnerability and witnessed up close the lived faith of Islam.

As soon as I believed that there was a God, I understood that there was nothing else I could do but to live totally for him. My religious vocation dates from the same hour as my faith.

It took him many years and wanderings before he met the one whom he called his beloved brother and Lord, Jesus. But when he finally encountered him, Charles was overwhelmed by the love of God he found in Jesus.

Charles wrote later:

“…outside events beyond my will forcing me to detach myself from material things which had so charmed me and which would have held back my soul and bound it to the earth; You violently broke these bonds like so many others. How good You are, my God, to have broken everything around me, to have annihilated everything that might have prevented me from belonging to You alone!… 

Charles de Foucauld: Life and Spirit by Carlo Carretto, page 40

Hafiz, the Sufi poet of Persia, understands the love at work in God’s breaking into our lives (or sometimes I think it would be better termed “busting into our business”), though he expresses it with humor and aggression rather than grieving over it. He writes:

“Love wants to reach out and manhandle us
Break all our teacup talk of God.
…Ripping from your grip
all those toys in the world
that bring you no joy.
…And wants to rip to shreds
all your erroneous notions of truth
that make you content within yourself, dear one.”

Hafiz starkly remarks that when we hear that God is in the mood to do us this great favor,

“Most everyone I know
quickly packs their bags and hightails it
out of town.” (quoted in The Wound of Existence Volume Two: The Heart is Deep, by James Moran, page 36-37)

When you and I look on our life we may wonder how all the pieces fit together. We might feel that there were points in our lives when nothing was left standing, when we were overturned, or we just turned a corner toward something new.

Other times we may feel we have lost everything: our possessions, our relationships, but even more painfully, our life, our self, our God.

There have been times in my life when I have entered a place of mourning where tears became exhausted. A place beyond everything. In other lengths of the journey of my life I stood confused, uncertain where to move as conflicting voices sought to win my allegiance.

Every one of us has a story filled with broken pieces, unfortunate choices, and ugly truths. It is also a story filled with turns in the road courageously taken, faith that has moved the mountains of what we had believed utterly unmovable in life and others and ourself, and prayer that has freed us miraculously from illness, exile, and the demons of our past.

Charles de Foucauld offered me some wisdom as I immersed myself yesterday in his story and his spirit. In July 1880, Charles arrived at the tiny Trappist monastery at Akbes in Syria. He had pursued the Trappist vocation because he felt that it was in this place that he could most completely love the Lord, by imitating him in poverty. It wasn’t long until he realized he had made a mistake. Though the Trappists are the strictest order in the Church, they were not poor enough to match the ideal that had so taken Charles’ heart: the desire to live the life of the Holy Family in union with Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, in complete poverty, which to Charles meant to have no more than a poor workman of the world. After three years he wrote to his long-time spiritual director Father Huvelin and his Trappist superiors that he wanted to found a new religious order: The Little Brothers of Jesus which would imitate the hidden life of Jesus and told them he had already written a rule of life for this new community. Both Fr. Huvelin and his Trappist superiors asked him to wait and not make an impulsive decision. Through the next seven years, Charles struggled with obedience to his superiors and obedience to what he felt God wanted of him. He was tense and unhappy with the community. In The Two Dancers in the Desert, Charles Pepetit offers this helpful image:

It was as if he were dancing away, trying to keep up with an orchestra’s demands. One movement took him close to the flutes: ‘Everything within me says that I should give into my wishes.’ The next took him close to the violins: ‘My father [his superior] tells me to wait….what really keeps me back is obedience.’ Then it was the flutes again: ‘Every day I see more clearly that I am just not at home here.’

Charles was slowly learning an important lesson of life: the divine Partner does not act alone.

It was He who was secretly whispering in his heart, as he followed the flute. It was He who sounded through human voices like the moving forest of bows on violins. 

If you listen only to the flutes, you cannot hear the symphony.  … Seven and a half years, then, were to pass before the voice of men and the sound of the flute were heard in unison. Eventually the superior-general of the Order advised Charles to follow his impulse. It was time.

Two Dancers in the Desert, Charles Lepetit, page 28-29

Here are five things we can learn from the experience of Blessed Charles de Foucauld to help us as we navigate the changes, disruptions, and sometimes “shipwrecks” of our life.

  1. God never acts in a hurry. In his life as a soldier and an explorer, Charles was able to do things on his own timetable according to what suited him best or what was to his best advantage. Through the seven years of waiting as a Trappist, Charles learned that God isn’t in hasty decisions, nor is God in a hurry to get something done in our life. He is in the moments as they fill our days, in the uncertainty that cracks open our hearts, in the frustrations that cause us to live in the blessed not-knowing.
  2. When we’re tempted to tell ourselves, “I’m stupid, I never do anything right,” I think the life of Charles teaches us to say to our hearts with gentleness: “What can I learn about myself from what is happening?” And “What can I learn about God from what is happening?” When we fear we’ll never amount to much, Charles would point us to what he eventually learned: that God is always bringing about good in our life, no matter how the present passing situation makes us feel. When the direction of our life is incomprehensible to ourselves and others, questions that would open our eyes and our hearts would be: “How is God preparing me in this for what he has in mind for my life?” “How are these experiences, relationships, lessons, re-creating me for what he is forming me to be for his glory?”
  3. Charles learned that there was no one voice that was God’s, a voice he had to choose from conflicting voices. It wasn’t either-or, but both-and. He felt the voice inside him strongly urging him to begin the Little Brothers of Jesus. He also heard the voice of his Trappist superiors and his spiritual director Fr Huvelin urging him to wait, to listen, to ponder, to mature. During this time he was sent to study for ordination. Although study was the least important thing to Charles de Foucauld at this point in his life, he obeyed. Over time, the voices began to speak in unison. All of our experiences can be used by God in the gradual unfolding of our response to God. The seven years were not a waste.
  4. Brother Charles’ guiding principle was: “Jesus is Lord of the impossible.” Sometimes you have to let faith lead the way even though you can’t see where it will take you (He took me by the hand, Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus, page 60).
  5. It’s important to listen to what God’s call is telling you about you. Own the fact that you are different. Perhaps you, like a delicate instrument, are tuned to a different frequency. Own that you are done trying to fit in with everyone around you. Own that what you thought was God’s will for you may at this time be something different, something more. Put your foot down and don’t let others hold you back any more.

Charles de Foucauld left the Trappists in 1887 and walked into the unknown. It had not been a straight path or even very clear for himself. But he followed the voice  within himself which kept pushing him further and deeper. This intuition led him to eventually return to Algeria, to share with those from whom he had received so much, the love of God that he had discovered.

His belief in this double presence – presence to God and presence to others – was a unifying and healing factor in his life. Charles lived this out in Algeria, which had played such an instrumental part in his conversion, and among the Tuareg people. He saw his way of presence and friendship, as well as his life of prayer, as his mission. He understood that it was not a time for conversions, and felt that his life could be about creating bonds of understanding and respect with this people. In fact, he made not a single conversion in his missionary life.

Charles was killed December 1, 1916 in the confusion of World War I, having chosen to remain among those in Tamanrasset who were too poor to flee the conflicts in the area. He had been well aware of the risk to his own life.

Charles de Foucauld had no followers at the time of his death and would have remained virtually unknown had it not been for a biography published a few years after his death by Rene Bazin (Click for full text). New religious congregations, spiritual families, and a renewal of eremitic life have been inspired by Charles de Foucauld’s life and writings.

He was beatified in Rome on November 13, 2005, and the path has been cleared for his canonization. A date is still to be set.

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.

Most people know Charles de Foucauld through his Prayer of Abandonment. It is a blessed lens through which to view our life when in the middle years we look back and we look forward and we wonder where we are:


Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

**Life of Charles de Foucauld from website The Legacy of Charles de Foucauld. Click here to learn more about his life and spirit.

Image by Finmiki from Pixabay

HeartWork Practice: Growing Compassion

Every uncompassionate action is like planting a dead tree. A compassionate action is planting a living tree that grows endlessly and never dies. It always leaves behind a seed from which another tree grows.

Below is a dramatic reading from Henri Nouwen on Compassion:

What are you experiencing right now within your heart and your soul, emotions, reactions, provocations…. What “living trees” do you want to see grow around you? Within you? What future do you want to be a part of? Where and how can you bring new life?

Image by eko pramono from Pixabay

Abandon the basic struggle of the ego

Abandon the basic struggle of the ego.

See situations as they are. Acknowledge “what is.” The light and the dark. The good and the bad. All accepted with openness and trust.

Give up your demands that life be a certain way and give you specific things.

Learn to trust that you do not need to secure your ground yourself.

Each difficult situation is a delightful opportunity to demonstrate your richness, your wealth, filled with trust and overflowing joy.

Image by Shire777 from Pixabay

Guest Post: Finding Our Way Back

Yesterday, for the first time in many months, I spent some time in my garden.

You have to understand: I’m not a gardener. I have a garden. There’s a difference. I cannot talk knowledgeably about this plant or that; I don’t have an instinctive feel for what seedlings will work best together. But last year the coronavirus challenged me to plant my very first vegetables—tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce—and so I started taking my garden more seriously.

Yesterday I began cautiously (one might even say humbly) clearing out some of the winter’s debris and assessing what’s needed for the spring. And immediately some scenes from this past year sprang to my mind. The pandemic may have inspired me to become more self-sufficient, yet as a beginner, I had—for example—no idea how many tomato plants one needs, and so I planted… well, let’s just say, quite a few! I ended up spending much of the summer delivering tomatoes and cucumbers and herbs and flowers to other people—masked, with a furtive knock on their door followed by a quick exit so we wouldn’t be within six feet of each other.

I learned a lot about growing things in this pandemic year. About how to tend to living things. About the need for water; my area experienced a drought last summer on top of everything else. About others’ needs for fresh food when scarcities happen at grocery stores.

I also saw the joy something small and living can bring to lives starved for beauty. The smile on someone’s face when I dropped off some seeds or a small plant. I’m remembering that as I consider next month—May—marks the end of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ anniversary year, declared in the hope that this year and the ensuing decade would be a time of grace—for humanity, and for all God’s creatures. It feels in some ways as if the pandemic put everything else on the back burner for a while.

And so perhaps this season is one of finding our way back.

The pandemic didn’t eliminate our need for connection. Connection to each other. Connection to nature. And as we approach Earth Day 2021, I’m remembering everything is truly all related. The pandemic taught us we don’t need to clog our highways with fuel-burning vehicles to get the best out of life. My gardening experience taught me that we can start small, with just a few plants, just an offering that’s easily shared with others.

We don’t have to join Greenpeace or live entirely off the grid to make the world better. We can start with the very title of Pope Francis’ encyclical—Laudato si’: “Praise be to you!”

How can we praise God? What energizes me is knowing we can do it in the smallest ways as well as the sweeping ones. By planting one tree. By growing one garden. By visiting an elderly neighbor. By sharing whatever we have with others. By volunteering. By praying for God’s beautiful and fragile creation. By acknowledging the economic, climactic, and health inequities of the world, and finding ways we can take steps—even small ones—toward alleviating them.

As I stood in my garden, picking up paper and plastic the wind had blown in, I felt in a small way that I was, indeed, finding my way back. What about you? How can you find your way back, in this moment, in this day?

Pope Francis’ challenge remains relevant to us all today. Do we “dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it”?

We can. By finding our way back… right now.

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Let Jesus break open your heart: An Easter meditation

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-h76zx-1015f1c

There are times when we have to deal with big questions. And then there are times when big questions sear deeply into our identity, shake our consciousness, tear our hearts with guilt. They toss us about with fear, doubt, and loneliness. The big questions seem to be dealing with us. We might stay up at night wondering where we fit in God’s plan. Questions haunt us: Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? How will I go on from here?

When we’re haunted by these big questions, we are like the apostles after Calvary’s sorrow and the collapse of their hope, when rumors suddenly swirled around that some of them had seen Jesus alive. How they must have longed to see once again the face of their Beloved Master, and yet also perhaps felt their hearts shrink in the uncertainty of what his eyes would say to them.

The forty days of Easter before the Ascension are like an educative process. After the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t engage the apostles on the level of emotion. He becomes their guide through the complexities of their hearts and the events that left them fearing what God’s plan might be. To them, Jesus asserts the authority and gentle power of his presence: Do not be afraid. It is I.

Finding Our Way Back to Friendship

For many people, 2020 was a lost year. Many of us stayed in our homes, didn’t see our families, found new ways to work and attend school and keep our wheels turning, learned all there is to know about Zoom. Still more of us lost our jobs, suffered grave illness, grieved the death of family and friends, could not pay our rent or mortgage, succumbed to addiction, even became homeless.

2020 was also the year of Laudato Si’, and it’s easy to dismiss care and concern for the earth when so many other worries and events have taken over our lives. It’s been easy to lose sight of something that didn’t feel all that immediate.

And yet, as we approach the end of the Laudato Si’ year, if we look at all these things together, we can see there’s a connection running through them that is very real and very immediate indeed. “Nothing in this world,” writes Pope Francis, “is indifferent to us.” The connection between our care for the earth and our care for other people, as well as our care for our spiritual lives, is profound and irrefutable.

It is Pope Francis who draws our attention to the model of our sense of connectiveness:

I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

Pope Francis has never lost sight of the interwovenness of God’s creation, and he calls us to remember where we came from and where we’re going. His is not a plea from on high, a homily of instruction and advice; this is someone who has lived precisely what he’s urging us to consider living.

And in a sense, one of the words that really leaps out is…friendship.

Before he was elected pope, Francis lived in a modest apartment in Buenos Aires, rather than in the archbishop’s mansion; he took public transportation rather than using a church limousine; he cooked his own food. Yes, these were symbolic gestures. But symbolism matters.

And it was more than symbolism that drove him to befriend the people he met on the streets, to listen to them, to touch them, emphasizing that the Gospel teaches charity, not hypocrisy, as he himself said, “giving to someone who cannot pay you back, serving without seeking a reward or something in exchange.” In order to truly find that peace, the pope said, each Christian must have at least one friend who is poor.

Think about that for a moment. We should all have at least one friend who is poor. Not someone we fling coins at in the street, not someone we serve at our soup kitchens… someone who is a friend. A person we consult, listen to, value.

“The poor are precious in the eyes of God,” Pope Francis says. “They remind us that that’s how you live the Gospel, like beggars before God.”

“So,” the pope continues, “instead of being annoyed when they knock on our doors, we can welcome their cry for help as a call to go out of ourselves, to welcome them with the same loving gaze God has for them. How beautiful it would be if the poor occupied the same place in our hearts that they have in God’s heart.”

How can we make that beauty reality? It begins with friendship, with doing what Sr. Thea Bowman used to describe as simply crossing to the other side of the room and engaging in the conversation there.

Once we see other people as friends, then we can start to see how all our decisions affect them, and we can start finding our way back to friendship and communion. We can start thinking of including others rather than excluding them.

It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. 

The isolation we’ve experienced as part of the pandemic has allowed us to focus inward, to our own experiences, and not have to think about others who have less and are suffering more. Human beings can never be an afterthought. Everyone on earth was made in the image of God and is beloved by God. When we pollute other areas of the world, we’re telling God that the people who live in those regions are, in our opinion, of less value than we are. By saying we don’t care, we consign them to invisible lives filled with misery.

The most vulnerable around us are the ones most affected by a changing environment, cautions the pope:

Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.

Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. 

The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming

It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.

Throughout his life, Pope Francis has extended a hand of friendship to everyone, from the most powerful to the most vulnerable. In finding our way back to friendship, we’re finding our way back to the Gospel, to the shores of Galilee when Jesus extended his own hand of friendship to all. In finding our way back to friendship, we’re claiming our inheritance as children of God, beloved of our Father, whose brothers and sisters encompass the world.

“Everything is connected,” writes Pope Francis. “Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.”

We had to deal with the pandemic. We had to change our lives, grieve and bury our dead, and find a way out of it. But it is time now to once again hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” We need to find our way back to what matters.

We need to find our way back to friendship.

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Prayer for the People of the Earth

Blessed Lord, it seems that
most often
we encounter you in a church.
which is good; we know you’re there.
But…
We sometimes forget you’re
everywhere else, too.
In the beauty of the earth
you gave us
(a gift we often have not
taken care of)
In the fragility of a flower
In the song of a bird.
You created the cosmos and the earth
and gave us each a small part of the stars
in our bodies
and in our hearts.

And yet…

We have left a life sustained
by interdependence.
We now live in the era of the self.

We have created systems that foster
innovation but promote competition
and materialism.
We see ourselves as separate beings,
experiencing our human condition
individually,
separate from everyone else.
Disasters that take place far away
hold no meaning.
We forget people who don’t
have enough to eat
when we plan our own healthy meals.

Lord, you know this well:
when we feel disconnected, we lose
our compassion and empathy for things
not directly concerned with our advancement.
We lose touch with the divine.

We all share the same human journey,
we experience the same universal
emotions, joy and grief,
pain and surprise.
We all call earth home.
We breathe the same air,
eat food grown in the same soil,
drink water from the same oceans.

Some of us live well
in solid homes with solid incomes
go on vacations, buy anything
we need.
More of us live not so well
in homes that can be devastated
by storms
by illnesses
by poverty
We don’t go on vacations.
We don’t make purchases.
Our children go to sleep
hungry.

From your hand,
our planet sustains us
gives us a place to
live and prosper.
We treat it as though there
were several other planets
we could use when we’re done
with this one.

Help us reconnect, O Lord.
Help us rediscover our first loves
love of the soil
love of each other
love of your creation in all
its forms.

AMEN.

A meeting with Jesus never ends in fear

There are times when we have to deal with big questions. And then there are times when big questions sear deeply into our identity, shake our consciousness, tear our hearts with guilt. They toss us about with fear, doubt, and loneliness. The big questions seem to be dealing with us. We might stay up at night wondering where we fit in God’s plan. Questions haunt us: Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? How will I go on from here?

When we’re haunted by these big questions, we are like the apostles after Calvary’s sorrow and the collapse of their hope, when rumors suddenly swirled around that some of them had seen Jesus alive. How they must have longed to see once again the face of their Beloved Master, and yet also perhaps felt their hearts shrink in the uncertainty of what his eyes would say to them.

The forty days of Easter before the Ascension are like an educative process. After the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t engage the apostles on the level of emotion. He becomes their guide through the complexities of their hearts and the events that left them fearing what God’s plan might be. To them, Jesus asserts the authority and gentle power of his presence: Do not be afraid. It is I.

For forty days, Jesus engages his apostles and disciples who are astonished at God’s way of acting in Christ now risen. For forty days, Jesus leads them on an educative process in which they learn to mistrust themselves, their interpretation of events, and their own evaluation of who they are before God. Instead they become convinced of the reasons for their faith, a faith so strong they would give their every moment and their very lives, witnessing to others, telling them who this Jesus is and what he’s done for them.

The Easter season teaches us anew that, in our hearts, we also have already risen with Christ and experience something even now of the heavenly Kingdom. In Baptism we have died with Christ and have received an initial grace, which is the point of departure, of gradually intensifying experiences of grace through prayer and sacramental encounters with the risen Lord. Each time we receive the Eucharist we are fed at the heavenly banquet. It is true that this interior glory, which is still mostly hidden within us, will burst forth only in the eschaton.

These days, may we learn the Easter lesson to not rely on our own experience, to trust God as our guide, and to let our souls continue in communion with God—no matter what inner storms toss our hearts.

Image Credit: Cathopic