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for our dear departed ones… where it will be their bliss

26 Nov

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The petitions that the monks prayed at morning Mass were so lovely, oozing with beauty and grace. I caught just a glimpse of the cover of the book from which the brother was reading the prayers. After breakfast I bumped into one of the monks at the seminary dining room, and I asked him – he extended a greeting first – about the petitions and the book. “The monks at the monastery write them, and bind them into a book. It is not available to others,” as he smiled an “I’m sorry” kind of smile. The person at the seminary “scholar shop” confirmed what the monk said. I pulled off the shelf a book of petitions that was for sale, and, behold, it was the same cover. The monk that morning had read from this book! There was one of the shelf. It will be on its way to Milford with me tomorrow morning.

Curious about the petitions? Here they are:

That the sober consideration of the final realities of life and how quickly everything earthly passes away may help the church focus on the kingdom of God and shine in her witness before the world.

That the rulers of the earth may come to understand that the only everlasting kingdom is the one that God will set up in Christ Jesus, and channel their decisions so that they may be acceptable to the King of kings.

That we may hold fast to the anchor of our hope in Jesus and remain calm in the upheavals that will precede His coming, keeping our eyes fixed on Him.

For young people and students, that they may learn the truth about what is temporary and what lasts, and cast their lot in life with Jesus and His kingdom of love.

For our dear departed ones, that the angels and hosts of the Lord may bring them into heaven, where it will be their bliss to praise and exult God above all forever.

an imperfect perfect act of contrition

26 Nov

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“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they have offended Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.”

That “act of contrition” that I memorized as a child is the one that I still use. I am grateful to whoever it was that made me memorize it way back when. It is so ingrained in me that I will probably be able to say it for as long as I am able to remember anything. The way were schooled, as we learned it, there must have been someone who listened to every syllable until we got it perfect. We must have tried it again, and tried it again, and tried it again, until someone said, “Perfect.”

We were also taught in my day that there was another meaning to “perfect,” when it came to an act of contrition.

When we were sorry for our sins, because we were afraid of the punishment we were going to get from God because of our sins, that is, because we were afraid of going to hell, it was enough to get our sins forgiven, but it was an “imperfect” act of contrition. If we were sorry for our sins, not because we wanted to stay out of hell, but because we loved God and didn’t want to do anything bad, because it would hurt God, which we really didn’t want to do, because we loved God so much, that was much better. That was a “perfect” act of contrition, because it was made out of love, not out of fear. We were told that it was better to work toward perfect sorrow, while we knew that we always had imperfect sorrow as a backup and safety net.

So, which is it for you, perfect or imperfect?

I got a bit of a chuckle when I looked up the exact words of the act of contrition that was taught in the Baltimore Catechism, the catechism from which I was first taught. I noticed that, in my memorized version, which is printed above, I say a couple words wrong. Where I should have memorized, “… because they offend Thee,” I say, “… because they have offended Thee.” Oops. But I am pretty convinced that I am sorry for my sins because I love God, and not because I am am afraid of hell. So, I guess I say an imperfect “perfect” act of contrition. (You are supposed to be smiling now.)

Thanks be to God that it is not a particular set of words that magically convince God or force God to forgive us. Whatever act of contrition we have memorized, or whatever version of words or set of words we use to express your sorrow to God does not matter as much as the fact that we are sorry and that we say it. God just wants us to love and to be sorry for our sins, even when we do not get anything perfect. God just wants to forgive, which God does perfectly!

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25 Nov

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One of our St. Andrew parishioners, unbeknownst to her (yes, Chris, you), introduced me to this “Litany of the Holy Spirit” blog by Franciscan Father Richard Rohr.

I brought the litany with me on retreat, with the intention of following Father Rohr’s note: “Instead of a verbal response to each title, I recommend that you take a calm breath in and out while reciting each sacred name.”

The ones on which I paused were … never mind … which ones took your breath away?

From here on comes from Richard:

I have become convinced that rediscovering the power, gift, and meaning of the Holy Spirit is the key to the recovery of the contemplative mind and heart. Instead of writing a long theological article which few might read, I offer you an old style Catholic litany to teach the mystery experientially—which is how the Spirit teaches! Instead of a verbal response to each title, I recommend that you take a calm breath in and out while reciting each sacred name. These are metaphors to help describe the Holy Mystery Within, and to begin the constant and conscious breathing called prayer. Many of them are based on images found in John’s Gospel and Paul’s Letters. Hopefully, you will find more metaphors of your own inside this precious realization.

Pure Gift of God
Indwelling Presence
Promise of the Father
Life of Jesus
Pledge and Guarantee
Eternal Praise
Defense Attorney
Inner Anointing
Reminder of the Mystery
Homing Device
Knower of All Things
Stable Witness
Implanted Pacemaker
Overcomer of the Gap
Always Already Awareness
Compassionate Observer
Magnetic Center
God Compass
Inner Breath
Divine DNA
Mutual Yearning Place
Given Glory
Hidden Love of God
Choiceless Awareness
Implanted Hope
Seething Desire
Fire of Life and Love
Sacred Peacemaker
Non Violence of God
Seal of the Incarnation
First Fruit of Everything
Planted Law
Planted Law
Father and Mother of Orphans
Truth Speaker
God’s Secret Plan
Great Bridge Builder
Warmer of Hearts
Space Between Everything
Flowing Stream
Wind of Change
Descended Dove
Cloud of Unknowing
Uncreated Grace
Filled Emptiness
Through-Seer
Deepest Level of our Longing
Attentive Heart
Sacred Wounding
Holy Healing
Softener of our spirit
Will of God
Great Compassion
Generosity of the Creator
Inherent Victory
One Sadness
Our Shared Joy
God’s tears
God’s happiness
The Welcoming Within
Eternal Lasting Covenant
Contract Written on our Hearts
Jealous Lover
Desiring of God

You who pray in us, through us, with us, for us, and in spite of us

Amen! Alleluia!

from monastery to me

25 Nov

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Here at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Meinrad, home to Abbey Press, I have found a set of small booklets that begin with life in the monastery and end with insights into living life everywhere: “Notes from a Monastery: the Sacred Way of Everyday Life.”

These titles were the first to draw me to read them:

– A Guide to Lectio Divina: God’s Word Made Alive
– Living in Gratitude: Reflecting on Benedict’s Caution against Grumbling
– Anchoring Your Life: Stability in a Moving World
– Making Our Work Holy: Reconnecting with God the Creator
– Moderation in All Things: A Path to Peace Beyond Measure
– Searching for Balance: Finding Hope in the Face of Contradiction

Which one beckons you?

never, always, again, now

25 Nov

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We bow to the altar in church. We bow our heads when we pray. The monks bow whenever they sing the “Glory Be.” At the name of Jesus every head must bow, or so the Bible tells us so.

Bowing before God we are trusting, humble, grateful and hopeful.

Trusting: I am in the presence of One who will never do me harm or hurt me. Never do I need to be alert or look about in fear – never.

Humble: I rightfully acknowledge that this One is greater than I am, so I hesitate to let my eyes look into those eyes – always.

Grateful: I position myself so it is easier for a familiar hand of blessing to be laid upon my head – again.

Hopeful: I wait to feel that warm, familiar and gentle hand of care and comfort resting on the back of my neck – now.

Never?

Always?

Again?

Now?

a Sunday driver

24 Nov

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It was a perfect day for a Sunday afternoon drive in the country. Any drive in this part of southern Indiana is a drive in the country! Near to the Abbey is the farm where Abraham Lincoln lived from the time he was seven until he was twenty-one, those crucial formative years. His mother died when he was nine. At her grave I found myself thinking of my kids at St. Andrew who are in their formative years without the benefit of having their mothers with them.

Even closer is the town of Santa Claus, Indiana. It seemed so not right to see a dead deer lying on the side of the road. But it did seem right that the Catholic Church is St. Nicholas.

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directing at night

23 Nov

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I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.

kindness, kindness, kindness

23 Nov

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“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

[How odd, I think, that the first time I ever see these words of Mother Teresa I see them on the wall of an Amish restaurant, right alongside the dessert room. Hey, that’s one of ours! She’s Catholic. If I remember correctly, the Girls Scouts have a saying, “Always leave the place better than you found it.” Mother Teresa makes it bigger: let every person leave you better and happier. May they – and you – be happier and better for your having met.]

Do not let my lying foes
rejoice over me.
Do not let those who hate me unjustly
wink eyes at each other.

[And the devil laughs. When we fall back into those old sins, when we seek satisfaction and pleasure and relief and escape and distraction in those old ways, and when we find that once again the hope-for benefit is short-lived, that we have short-circuited our growth once again, and that we feel worse than we did before, for giving in once again to seductive, additive and nonproductive ways, the devil winks at us, smirks and laughs. They didn’t work – again. He tricked us once again.]

“You know this day is different than my previous days,” Benedict said in a soft, German-­accented Italian. “I will simply be a pilgrim on the last stop of my pilgrimage on this earth.” He then uttered the last words of his papacy: “Thank you and good night.”

[Now that is the way to retire.]

“Pope Francis’ grandmother’s reaction [to his entering the seminary] pleased him most. She told him that if God called him, it was a blessing. But, crucially, she added, ‘Please, don’t forget that the doors of the house are always open, and nobody is going to criticize you if you decide to come back.’”

[Every time my dad drove me back to the seminary he told, “You always have your room at home.” Dad told me later that, every time he and mom pulled away from the seminary, mom cried all the way home. He had to take her out for supper to get her to stop.]

“While in seminary, he once was ‘dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle’s wedding … I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance . . . and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while. I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing. I was still free because I was a seminarian, so I could have gone back home and that was it.'”

[You gotta love Pope Francis. As I walked up the aisle at my diaconate ordination with its pledge to celibacy, there was a young blond woman, in the end seat, on the right, one third of the way from the back. I remember seeing her and asking myself, “Rob, do you know what in the world are you doing?” I thought I knew. I found out that I didn’t exactly know. But apparently God knew for me. It has been 38+ years. I love our Francis for his honesty and transparency.]

“In the end, he tapped his desire to be a missionary in his work at home. In 2000, he preached in a homily to catechists, ‘Are we going to stay home? Are we going to stay in the parish, locked up? . . . Catechists, to the streets! Go spread the catechism, go search, go knock on doors. Go knock on hearts!'”

[Francis knew great physical pain, the removal of a lung and the dashing of his dream to be a foreign missionary. But he did not give up – and he did not give up his missionary spirit. We are all winning because of what he lost.]

in 1854

23 Nov

St. Meinrad Abbey has its beginnings in the same year that our St. Andrew parish was founded: 1854.

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Our Lady of Einsiedeln, pray for us.

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made “on the hill”

23 Nov

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… and the homemade coffee cake, made “on the hill,” as they say here at St. Meinrad Abbey, didn’t hurt the situation either.