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Living the Rule of St. Benedict in Daily Life

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"care for creation"

Earth Day: Many Ways to Pray for Creation

Seeing the beauty in nature is the first step in taking action to protect it. Our planet needs all the love, prayer, and protection it can get. Celebrate creation this Earth Day by sending positive energy and intention into the universe through some creative and prayerful practices including contemplative photography, nature meditation, Visio Divina, Soul Collage® and Lectio Divina. There are many ways to pray!

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Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all. — Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude

Practice contemplative photography

Contemplative photography is a prayerful practice of seeing with new eyes. With camera in hand, I have learned to slow down, be more aware of details, be less goal-oriented and more process-oriented, to enjoy the beauty of simple things, and take more time to appreciate the surprises of a new country road or the change of seasons. This sense of adventure brings a deep joy in capturing a scene that will never quite be that same way again. It is when silence, solitude, creativity, and nature collide into an oneness that can only be received, not pursued.

On the Road collage

The great Catholic writer Ernesto Cardenal in Abide in Love observes: “Everything in nature has a trademark, God’s trademark: the stripes on a shell and the stripes on a zebra; the grain of the wood and the veins of the dry leaf; the markings on the dragonfly’s wings and the pattern of stars on a photographic plate; the panther’s coat and the epidermal cells of the lily petal; the structure of atoms and galaxies. All bear God’s fingerprints.”

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Go for a walk and look for God’s trademarks. Better still, use a camera to document evidence of God’s fingerprints in nature. Source: Earth Day: 12 Spiritual Practices to Honor the Earth

Praying with Art—Visio Divina

Visio Divina is like Lectio Divina, but instead of using the words from a page of Scripture to pray with, you use an icon, a sacred image, a work of art, or even a sunrise or sunset.The Flowers Are Burning… Oceans A Rising: An Art and Climate Justice Exhibition” was to have taken place at Holy Wisdom Monastery, a Benedictine monastery in Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate the 50th Earth Day. Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, the poignant collection of eco-inspired watercolors painted collaboratively by artists, Helen Klebesadel and Mary Kay Neumann, will instead be offered digitally.

Capture

“Using their artworks as a source of strength in the face of adversity, they call upon the power of beauty and love to guide us towards taking action to protect what we love and care deeply about…The artists believe deeply that humans must embrace the reality that we are all connected to nature…that what happens in the Ocean, on Earth or to any life forms above and below the water, is happening to us as well. Everything is related and we can no longer go forward believing in the superiority of human life over all other life, if we are to survive. The artists sense of urgency is born out of their love of the natural world and the desire to protect and preserve what is left before it is too late.” Source: Warning Signs—A Powerful Earth Day Exhibit Goes Digital. Continue reading “Earth Day: Many Ways to Pray for Creation”

Stewardship: Using Our Gifts as Co-Creators

September Lectio Divina and Oblate Discussion

SourcesLectio Divina, Matthew 25: 14-30 The Parable of the Talents; Always We Begin Again-The Benedictine Way of Living, Stewardship, pages 49-51, John McQuiston II

Our Lectio Divina discussion focused on The Parable of the Talents viewed through the lens of stewardship. In the reading, three people are given talents of varying amounts.

The two servants who had received five and two talents had increased their talents two-fold. They were praised, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Mt. 25:21)

The one who buried his talent was scolded, judged as wicked and lazy, and his one talent was taken away. “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

We assume wealth has to do with money. Often, we see talent and gifts as economic gains or monetary contributions. Advertisements encourage us to buy more, of course, but we seem not to know when what we have is enough. In the Rule of St. Benedict, everyone should get what they need, but this requires understanding the difference between needs and wants (RB:34). Sadly, our culture says the more we have, the better off we are. We desire what another has—in possessions, money, time, relationships, almost anything, afraid that someone is getting something more than us—but the talents in this story were not equally given—two, five, one.

Continue reading “Stewardship: Using Our Gifts as Co-Creators”

The Birds Are Still My Prayer

Our favorite pandemic pastime has been sitting on the deck in our backyard. We enjoy the sights and sounds of nature regardless of the weather. Nature has been healing for us, even if it means bundling up with coats, hats and mittens and plugging in a few outdoor heaters. We enjoy home-cooked meals, whiskey tastings, long conversations, and an occasional cigar (for one of us.) As Covid cases decrease and more people are vaccinated, we are encouraged to return to life as usual, but I find that given the option, my favorite entertainment is still in my own backyard.

May be an image of Teresa Kretz and Joe Gehr, people sitting and outerwear

Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all.

— Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude

One year ago, I wrote, “Birds chirping, frogs croaking, raindrops meeting their “splat” on the flowerpots and patio chairs, wind rustling in the trees—the simple sounds suggest that all is well with the world.” I feel the exactly the sameall is MOST well when I am attentive to the sights and sounds of nature, when I witness creation unfolding in my own backyard.

A few weeks ago (April 29, 2021), we noticed the resourcefulness of this mama robin who had built a nest on the downspout of our neighbor’s house. A bird’s home is its castle, as seen from our deck.

A few weeks later (May 14, 2021), we see the first feeding of the baby birds.

Continue reading “The Birds Are Still My Prayer”

The Light Shines in the Darkness

We are still in the Christmas season.

During Advent, we wait in darkness for the light of Christmas Day. We circle around the Advent wreath, igniting another candle each week.

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Advent is about longing for the God that breaks into time and space as a baby in a manger. Advent is about cultivating patience and not rushing to the Incarnation. Advent is the ultimate “vorfreude”, anticipating the joy of God becoming one of us, that God in his humanity has shared with us his divinity.

“God became human so that his divine life might flow into us and free us from our mortality and impermanence…to fulfill the deepest longings for transformation and the healing of lives.”

Anselm Grün, A Time of Fulfillment

The Advent wreath symbolizes the coming of the birth of Jesus, the light of Christmas drawing near and the anticipation of the Christ-light breaking into our life and world. With each passing week, the candle represents our hope that light will dispel the darkness.

So it is with us. We circle around the same issues, questions, and problems in our lives, struggling with the dark and light within us and around us. And we pray that God breaks in, that the light will prevail.

Light and Darkness: our life is filled with both. WE are filled with both.

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Spending time creating collages during the Christmas season is prayer for me. Consider some creative possibilities with Sanctuary, an free online retreat.

 “When we come to understand that everything in our world, including its darker aspects, derives from God, we begin to realize that much of what we perceive as “bad” is, from the divine perspective, simply another piece of the sacred whole…that which appears as darkness to us may very well be the beacon to our redemption.”

Niles Elliot Goldstein, God at the Edge

The beauty of the Advent season is recognizing and honoring this darkness in ourselves, in others and in the world.  This darkness that we prefer to deny, flee from or quickly fix is actually the beginning of something new and hopeful happening in ourselves.  The darkness can bring a great light.  “We see the darkness and we forget even darkness is light to God.” (Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing)

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2)
A collage creation during Christmas season.

The expectant and hopeful waiting in Advent when Jesus is in the womb, where possibility of new birth is upon us in the waiting and tender honing of our patience, is where we must begin. We begin in the womb.

Consider creating a SoulCollage® card or journaling with the following questions:

So what is it that needs to be birthed within us? In our world?  

How do we accept and forgive the darkness in our selves and others while nurturing and encouraging the positive?

What can we bring out of darkness and into the light?

What gives us the strength to wait in patience, to trust that our circling around will bring us into the light?

“I am one who” is a prompt to begin to speak from and about the images that intuitively come together. Using all three of the collage creations on this post, I write:Advent dark and light

I am one who walks through rough and rocky terrain.
I am one who dances gracefully in the light.
I am one who casts shadows. I am one who gets stuck.
I am one who circles around and around, sometimes feeling a little lost.

I trudge reluctantly… or tread carefully… or move forward faithfully.
I am one who, with open arms, embraces both dark and light: in myself, in others, in my world.
I see the light and the darkness, the gold and the shadows, the smooth and the rough.
I go through all…the white sand, the gold dust, the smooth and rocky, the hard and broken, the shadowy or the illuminated, the gray, the light, the dark.

I am one who is filled with hope. I pray. I am one who feels hopeless too.
Eyes open, door ajar, I glimpse the light.
I am one who closes my eyes, sometimes trusting and at times in denial.
I dance the dance of light and darkness.

I stretch out my arms in surrender to the moments, layers, phases, experiences that are light and darkness intermingled;
Darkness that seems like it will never pass and pure, unadulterated light that never ends.
I am one who believes that the Christ-child covers both light and dark, in me and in the world.

I hope, I pray that I hold the two in balance; honoring both, recognizing both, knowing I am both, knowing others are both.
I surrender to rebirth, to a new way of being and seeing and accepting.
I am one who holds together the dark and the light.

“…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1-1:5

May the darkness of Advent, the light of Christmas, and the new insights of Epiphany be with you. By holding the sufferings and joys of our life together, may we come to see Christ in new ways.

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Waters of Peace: Psalm 23

November 2020 Lectio Divina and Oblate Reflections

Topic: The Psalms

Sources: Psalm 23; Study Guide for The Rule of St. Benedict, pages 90-97, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB

St. Benedict used the Psalms extensively in writing his Rule and suggested that we ought to pray all 150 Psalms at least once a week. This is a tall order for the average person, but perhaps we pray a psalm every day, contemplating its meaning in our hearts as a start. Psalm 23 is one of the most loved and most known of the Psalms, a comforting Psalm for our challenging times.

 For our Lectio Divina, we used the following translation of Psalm 23.

Our November 2020 Oblate meeting had participants both in person and via Zoom. This is the version of Psalm 23 with which we practiced Lectio Divina .

There were many words and phrases that resonated with us:

Phrases from Psalm 23 that resonated with us.
Continue reading “Waters of Peace: Psalm 23”

Every. Good. Work.

Every. Good. Work.

St. Benedict instructs that “every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.” (RB: Prologue vs. 4)

Embedded in the guidance from St. Benedict in his Rule is that we must both pray and work, ora et labora. The prayers offered by religious at the Democratic National Convention embody the longing for peace and justice that, as Americans, we hope for and work towards. The prayers offered must not be declared only once but be the prayer of our hearts and in our every breath.

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My Benedictine Oblate friend, Gloria, invited me to pray with her each day the prayers that Sr. Simone Campbell and Fr. James Martin, SJ shared at the DNC. Her suggestion gave me the idea to invite all who desire peace in the United States of America to also join us in daily prayer.

I share below the text and video of the prayers offered by Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK and leader of Nuns on the Bus; Fr. James Martin, S.J., editor at large at America Media; Rabbi Lauren Berkun of Shalom Hartman Institute of North America; and Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid from The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood.

Sister Simone Campbell

“The very first paragraph of the Scripture that informs the three Abrahamic traditions tells us: The Divine Spirit breathed over the waters of chaos and brought forth a new creation. Encouraged by this promise that a new creation can come from chaos, let us pray:

O Divine Spirit!

During the weeks and months ahead, stir our hearts and minds that we might fight for a vision that is worthy of you and your call to honor the dignity of all of your creation.

A vision of who we are as a people, grounded in community and care for all, especially the most marginalized.

A vision that cares for our earth and heals the planet.

A vision that ends structural racism, bigotry and sexism so rife now in our nation and in our history.

A vision that ensures hungry people are fed, children are nourished, immigrants are welcomed.

O Spirit, breathe in us and our leaders a new resolve…that committed to this new American promise, we will work together to build a national community grounded in healing, fearlessly based on truth, and living out of a sense of shared responsibility.

In the name of all that is holy, O Spirit, bring out of this time of global and national chaos a new creation, a new community that can, with your help, realize this new promise that we affirm tonight.

With profound hope, let we the people say: Amen!

Father James Martin, S.J. Continue reading “Every. Good. Work.”

God’s Grandeur: Praying with Poetry

The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, was born July 28, 1884. I spent time in prayer, the practice of Lectio Divina, with his poem “God’s Grandeur.”

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God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. Continue reading “God’s Grandeur: Praying with Poetry”

The Prodigal Son: Where Art and Beauty Run Rampant

“The artist Rembrandt was born on this day in 1606. When the soul is heavy and the work seems futile, a visit to an art museum––where art and beauty run rampant and meetings, proposals, finances, and debates have no place––revives the heart and makes it soft. Then going on seems possible; then life has vision again; then going on seems necessary.” ––from A Monastery Almanac, by Joan Chittister

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Lectio Divina:

Insights one can gain by practicing Lectio Divina with Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32—The Parable of the Lost Son or Visio Divina by spending time with Rembrandt’s famous painting are manifold. Continue reading “The Prodigal Son: Where Art and Beauty Run Rampant”

The Way The Wild Flowers Grow

June 2020 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic: Involvement or Detachment?

Sources: Matthew 6: 24-24; Study Guide for The Rule of St. Benedict, pages 119-123, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB

The focus of our June Oblate Zoom meeting is to explore our attachment to the world. A challenging question: How much are we to involve ourselves in improving our present world, while we are waiting and praying for a better world to come? We consider what St. Benedict teaches us about a balanced approach to the world that he was living in and about our outlook on living with the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide outcry for justice and end of racism.

We begin with morning prayer followed by sharing the challenges and blessings of living in this moment in time. Our challenges are many—because of the pandemic, it is difficult to not see others and we are missing our family and friends (and hugs!), there is uncertainty about how to reach out to others, and some of us suffer from PTSD, paranoia, negative thoughts, or anxiety. It is a time of letting go for many of us—there have been deaths, transitions in relationships and an adjustment of moving from old to new ways of doing things.

Life is different now. We live in uncertainty and some fear, not knowing what precautions to take—what is too much or too little in protecting our health, or what might offend another who responds to social distancing differently. We desire a middle way— to be in the world, carefully, but not looking at other people as a big germ. Finally, it is a challenge during this time of unrest, protest, and anger to see the world as it is, not as I want it to be. It is an opportunity to listen to how I am to respond to systemic racism, to withhold judgement and defensiveness, to educate myself, and to recognize there are things broken in the world. Evaluating how am I to respond and staying hopeful is essential. Continue reading “The Way The Wild Flowers Grow”

Hearts Burning Within Us

May 2020 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic:  The Emmaus Story, Creating a Peaceful Environment

Sources: Luke 24:13-35

After a successful inaugural Zoom meeting in April, the Oblates of Christ the King Priory were excited to meet again “virtually” as we continue to physically distance and adapt to the uncertainty that the pandemic brings. We began our morning with introductions, personal prayer intentions and Morning Prayer from the breviary.

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The Emmaus Story painted by Josef Mahler of Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia

 

Our Lectio Divina reading was Luke 24:13-35, the Emmaus Story. At St. Benedict Center, adjacent to Christ the King Priory and our typical oblate meeting place, all who enter are greeted with a mural of the Emmaus Story. It is the hope of the monks that visitors to the Center may have an Emmaus experience. “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke?” (Luke 24:32) Just as Jesus opened the Scriptures, revealing himself in the breaking of the bread, so too can those on the spiritual journey meet the living Christ.

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Rich in meaning, there are many words and phrases that resonate with our group:

emmaus story

Stay with us. Initially, the disciple’s eyes were prevented from seeing the Risen Christ when encountering him on the road. They are talking, debating, and rehashing the events of the last days. They are downcast; disappointed, that the one they had hoped would redeem Israel was crucified. They are incredulous, sharing that the women of their group had reported that Jesus’ body was gone. The stranger promptly gave them an Old Testament lesson— “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” The disciples ask the stranger to stay with them. In the breaking of the bread, they see him. Isn’t it interesting, an oblate shared, that the disciples were not put off with Jesus immediately vanishing? He vanishes, and yet now they recognize him. It is a paradox that he is gone, but also present. Continue reading “Hearts Burning Within Us”

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