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Prayer

The Flowing Grace of Now

“Winter, spring, summer, and fall are mulch for each other. The seasons of our lives are like that also. We learn from the layers of life. Our joys, sorrows, regrets, hopes, miseries, and enthusiasms are mulch for each other.” The Flowing Grace of Now, Macrina Wiederkehr

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Book Review by Jodi Blazek Gehr—
“The Flowing Grace of Now,” Macrina Wiederkehr 

Our storehouse of personal experiences can be our greatest teacher as we move through the seasons of life. The lessons we have learned through good and hard living can give us insight to navigate our worries and fears, to help us find answers to hard questions, or to let go of the questions altogether, and to, ultimately, help us make peace with our past, present, and future.

seasons Continue reading “The Flowing Grace of Now”

You Are Free

I’ve written before about choosing a “Word of the Year.” This year, I chose a phrase to serve as my spiritual mantra—three life-changing words that came as a gift of grace when I felt torn between two possibilities and needed to make a difficult decision.

For me, the process of discernment, especially when I have strong feelings or attachments, often begins with compulsive mental role-playing. I replay conversations—what was said, what was meant, what could have been said, and now what? Once I am able to slow down my thoughts, create some space, and breathe, I can face a decision more calmly and with a spiritual perspective. I write out my thoughts and feelings, ask questions of myself and God, and listen to what might be beneath the words. I write as prayer, knowing that, so often, an answer is revealed.

The decision I needed to make felt particularly heartbreaking. Feeling desperate, I reached out to a spiritual companion and asked for prayers.

Asking for prayers was admitting I needed help.
Asking for prayers was an act of vulnerability, humility, and surrender for me.
Asking for prayers helped me to be even more prayerful about my situation. I surrendered to God for the answer that my obsessive thinking would not bring.
Asking for prayers opened me for the words that came. Continue reading “You Are Free”

Benediction of the Trees

Profoundly impacted by the lyrics and vocals of “Benediction of the Trees”,  written and performed by Derek Dibbern, I share his music and also images of trees I’ve taken through the years in different seasons and from various states and countries.

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Derek and I met at St. Benedict Center several years ago and our paths continue to cross–we’ve been in the same space for Zen meditation, Catholic Mass, my school classroom, as well as local bars and coffee shops where he has performed. Deeply spiritual and always seeking, Derek is a student of inspirational and recreational tree climbing at Tree Climbing Planet in Oregon. He dedicates the song to his teacher, Tim Kovar, and “the many woodland creatures that have held us aloft in our arboreal adventures.”

This song is a prayer. It is recognition that Nature blesses us with trees for our healing, enjoyment, leisure, and protection. Our very breath is dependent on the Benediction of the Trees.

Benediction of the Trees

Continue reading “Benediction of the Trees”

Images of Faith: My Grandma and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Images are so powerful. They tap into the pool of memories, both personal and universal, that are deep within us. One image can be understood in so many ways—for different people, faiths, and cultures or for the same person over time.

Recently when the Sacred Heart of Jesus popped out in my Facebook newsfeed, memories of my grandma came flooding back. 

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She had a framed image of the Sacred Heart between her living room and her kitchen. As a young child, I remember wondering why the heart had fire and blood on it…and, quite honestly, I was a little afraid of the image. I never asked about it and she never said anything either. Same with the rosary on her nightstand (pictured below). Or the prayer cards on her dresser. But I remember them. Those images communicated a deep faith in Catholicism and belief in and devotion to Jesus that I intuitively knew she had.

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We didn’t talk about faith much, but she always encouraged her sons, their wives, and grandchildren to go to Church and she was so proud when I received my First Communion and Holy Confirmation. Her faith in God was important to her but she didn’t have to use many words to communicate that.Communion Confirmation Continue reading “Images of Faith: My Grandma and the Sacred Heart of Jesus”

O Holy Spirit, You are the Mighty Way

O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which everything that is in the heavens, on the Earth, and under the Earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness. -St. Hildegard of Bingen

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“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place….All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.”—Acts 2:1

They came from many different places and, yet, they understood each other. They were connected as one in Spirit, united in understanding by the One and Holy Life-Giving Breath of God. Despite their diversity, each person had a uniquely mystical experience. Their different languages were not erased, yet unity was accomplished.

It’s as if for this one day, in this one place, God blessed our diversity and showed that our differences need not divide.  It’s as if for this one day, in this one place, it was “on earth as it is in heaven.” All people understood what the other said. They saw themselves as a part of the whole, that their God—the Giver of Life, the Great Communicator and Unifier—resides in them and the other. Continue reading “O Holy Spirit, You are the Mighty Way”

Embracing the Cross

Sometimes there is a lot on our plate. Sometimes it is just too much what we have to bear. It is then that we realize what Jesus meant when he said everybody has to carry his cross,” begins Fr. Mauritius Wilde in his blog post, Embracing the Cross.

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There are times in our lives when we feel that we have reached our limit, that what we have to bear seems more than we can cope with. It may be an overwhelming sense of loneliness, or grief, or seemingly insurmountable challenges, an accumulation of daily frustrations, or doubt, fear, anger, disappointment, or betrayal.

It may feel like a total exhaustion of mind, body, and spirit.

Sometimes these burdens are carried for some time and then, finally, come glimpses of light, a bit of relief. Other burdens may last for long periods of time, even a lifetime. We call these burdens, “our cross to bear.” Often, we make these exclamations melodramatically, but other times we know this is our truth—it isa cross. It is everyone’s truth.

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But how do we manage our burdens? How do we willingly carry our cross? Continue reading “Embracing the Cross”

Many Ways to Pray: Walking a Labyrinth

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

There are many ways to pray—in song, spoken or written words, silence, creativity, nature and movement, just to mention a few. Paul recommends to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which is only possible if we are able to connect with our Creator in a variety of ways. We are meant to engage our senses, our whole bodies, in prayer.

I’ve come to appreciate this about the Catholic Mass, even if visitors might think there is a lot of up and down. We genuflect, sit, stand, kneel and bow. These gestures, postures or movement help to bring our whole being into prayerful expression—raising our hands when saying the “Our Father”, making the sign of the cross or receiving the Eucharist allows us to use our bodies in prayer.

lab signIn addition, walking the stations of the cross or a labyrinth, taking a nature hike, or practicing yoga or tai chi are prayerful forms of movement that engage our bodies while quieting our mind. Going away on retreat is an opportunity to explore and practice various forms of prayer.

St. Benedict Center is building a labyrinth modeled after the famous labyrinth in the Cathedral of Chartres, France.  “When the Holy Land was closed to pilgrims in the Middle Ages, labyrinths abounded in the churches of Europe.  They were used to symbolically represent the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Our life is a pilgrimage, a journey to our eternal home with God in heaven.” –Father Thomas Leitner The labyrinth will be completed in late summer or fall. 

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This summer I had the opportunity to pray in many ways while attending an eight-day Ignatian retreat at the Creighton University Retreat Center. Each day, for about an hour, I met with a spiritual director to receive guidance and to share my faith journey; the remainder of the day was spent reflecting on these discussions and praying. One of the ways that I prayed was by walking a labyrinth.

“A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is a symbol of life without meaning, it is an agent of confusion, deception with dead ends that lead you nowhere. But a labyrinth is a symbol of a life of deeper meaning, an on-going sacred journey leading us inward, outward and to greater wholeness.” –Carrie Newcomer Continue reading “Many Ways to Pray: Walking a Labyrinth”

Prayer during Lent (and other times too)

March 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topics: Lent for Benedictines; Ways to Pray

Source for discussion: Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict with Reflections for Oblates and All Who Seek God, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB
Readings in the Rule of Saint Benedict: RB 48:14-15 THE DAILY MANUAL LABOR, RB 49:1-10   THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT

St. Benedict states that the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent  (RB:49). St. Benedict in his wisdom knew few would have the strength for this, so he has other suggestions. Fr. Volker Futter, Oblate Director, shared two important ideas:

  1. Lent is self-offering, not denial, it comes from the heart.
  2. We need to acknowledge  the presence of God then we can do sacrifice.  Sacrifice can be giving up something specific like food, TV or internet, or we can give a positive sacrifice.

Oblates shared that “giving of your time is priceless—you can’t get it back”.  So a short visit to the nursing home, or a visit to a neighbor or sending someone a long overdue card—that is your gift of time. “This may sound simple, but one of the hardest things for me to do is find that priceless gift of time for others.  It really is a sacrifice.”

A definition of compunction of heart was requested.  Compunction of heart is when we have an uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience because of something we may have done that may have caused worry, fear, etc. in someone’s heart.  When we give this up we receive more in return. Continue reading “Prayer during Lent (and other times too)”

Begin Everything in Prayer

February 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic—Prayer; Rule of St. Benedict, Chapters 8-20, 52.

The Divine Presence is Everywhere, RB 19:1 We believe that the divine presence is divine-presence
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and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked. (Prov 15:3). 2. But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office.

“It is also held that even work can be prayer. Any occupation undertaken through obedience, offered to God and accompanied with short invocations frequently renewed would in itself be prayer. Thus, only by sanctifying one’s daily actions can one pray without ceasing.” – Maria-Thomas Beil

Lectio and Discussion

Scripture for Lectio Divina: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

After reading the Scripture out loud, we contemplate, consider and reflect on what we have heard. The Scripture is read again. After some time of silence, we are welcomed to share a word or phrase that speaks to us. What I love most about practicing lectio divina with a group is what resonates with each of us is so different. We bring to the table a variety of ways to understand what we’ve read; we learn from each other.

Inner room.      Deliver.     Do not babble.    So that others may see them.    Received they reward.      Sees in secret.          Thy will.         Us.          Forgive.           Your Father knows what you need. 

 What resonates with you from this reading?  This is what resonated with us:

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There’s more to prayer than making words. Continue reading “Begin Everything in Prayer”

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