Rain

Minutes of prayer

Before hours of sleep

Maybe this should be

Reversed.

Here in the darkness

There is light.

The sound track tonight

Is rain

Heavier by the moment.

It sounds right

It rings like tears for

Realities deserving of wrenching sorrow

Righteous anger

An unending search for Justice

And his sister, Peace.

A man in his twenties killed by almost 5 shots for every year he lived

A 78-year old gentleman moved by his family from Mexico to live more comfortably his later years

Dead by gunfire

At an Independence Day parade, where

A 2-year old boy becomes in a bloody instant parent-less.

In the darkness here, in the heavy darkness

The heavens weep, without comfort

But in this room, in scant moments of prayer

There is light.

Yet what will the light reveal?

Do I dare to look?

A birthday week reflection II: a prayer

Faithful God.

That’s the title I offer you in praise this evening. It’s the one that says it best as I pause to celebrate 65 years of this life. Throughout, even through the many times I have not, you Lord have been faithful. Faithful to your Word. Faithful to your promises. Faithful to this, your unworthy and unfaithful servant. Always, faithful.

I remember, it seems only yesterday, celebrating our Mom’s 80th with the family. She asked me that evening, “How did this happen so fast?” I begin to know what she was asking.

And yet, really it doesn’t come fast at all. The planet turns at its accustomed rate. The hands of the clock as they have since the first clock was wound. Your timeless love continues to embrace the world, embracing and healing all the contests we humans put before you.

I can remember with clarity my habit, as a child and a teen, of every so often proclaiming to myself that I was ‘turning over a new leaf.’ I don’t know how I first heard the phrase or understood it in my childish way. But on an irregular basis, many more times than once, I turned over a new leaf. I began again. I declared a season of renewal, either about one part of life or about the whole. And begin again I did.

Those moments gave me hope. What was most renewed was my sense of purpose. And so I continued to grow. And to come to know you better Lord, and to know your love, and to learn to love you in return.

I remember at some point reading somewhere or hearing at church or having a conversation with someone older that allowed me to know one of the wonders you build into the human world. A double wonder. That most of the time in most of our lives our love for you is expressed in our loving care for others. And the reciprocal truth that most of the time in most of our lives we experience your love for us personally through the loving caring eyes, faces, hands, and gestures of the people you give us to meet, to come to know, and to be loved by.

So I remember my Nana and Papa who lived five minutes from us growing older and having problems getting around and doing things by themselves. I remember realizing that at the same time we kids were growing older and more able, and so we were well-placed by love (that is to say, well-placed by you) to be of loving help to them in those years of their lives. And that experience would be repeated, even more powerfully, a generation later with our Dad and Mom. They loved us through their years of strength with every ounce of their being, with all their will and all their capacity. And later on, they needed us to lean on. And we could. Because we had learned – from them – to love. That is to say, we had learned You from them.

Photo: Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

Over these six and a half decades, dear God how many people have I crossed paths with? The number is beyond my counting, constant, and over several continents of your world. Only you know. And you know too that it was really never just a crossing of paths. The potential for something much deeper – for friendship, for a lasting connection, has so often been there already in first meetings with one another. You have made that possible, Lord. You have been right there, every time. Sometimes I was even (dimly) aware of your presence and action – mostly because I was so often so blown away by the magnificence of these human creatures, made in your image. The creativity, the intelligence, the beauty, the faith, the potential and the achievements in them! The gentle, deep and unique spirits in them. Again and again to this moment, I marvel at your creation – and most of all at the persons that have come to be in you – and whom I have been privileged to meet and know, to study and serve with, to laugh and mourn with, to become connected to at a depth beyond description.

Lord, I do wish I had a better memory. There are many incidents that remain with me, true. But when I am together with those with whom I have shared life in Boston, in New York, in Italy, in Scotland and Ireland through all the years, they ask if I recall when we did this or that or when I said this or that? Inevitably, I never do remember. But, you, Faithful One, have had them remember, and share the stories with me. Every time, I am delighted from my toenails to the crown of my often-empty head.

Dear God, I do not announce today, to myself or anyone else, the turning over of a new leaf. I have hopes and desires for sure. But I simply place them from my heart into yours. We can hold them at heart together. That is more than enough for me. For whatever happens or doesn’t happen then is entirely your doing, and so entirely perfect.

I only ask you to take this sinner, this tripping bumbling servant who is grateful to you and to your people for all that has been. The best I can do, with the love you have taught me, is to place the remainder of my life – along with the hopes and hurts of those who confide in me, and with the memories of all those whom I love – into your hands. As Saint Ignatius taught so well, take it all for all has come from you. As Saint Charles de Foucauld gave me words of prayer, whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me.

Thank you for this very happy birthday Lord. It has been marked with tears of joy, much more than most of its predecessors. And its name is hope.

Amen.

A birthday week reflection I

Saint Therese of Lisieux reminds me, “ Accept and embrace your own littleness.”

Saint Ignatius of Loyola tells me, “Keep doing the work of discernment until you arrive.”

Saint Charles de Foucauld urges me, “Carry on day-by-day faithfully, even when – especially when – you cannot see the way ahead.”

Thomas Keating, OCSO counsels me, “Above all else, pray faithfully.  Place yourself quietly in the Presence always.”

Saint Francis of Assisi says, “Know the grace of God is flowing into your life every moment; your job is to be open to the gift.”

Saint Benedict of Nursia assures me, “Keep listening.  Always keep listening for the Word as it comes.”

Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

These are my companions and patrons on what feels sometimes like a fool’s errand, but feels always like an invitation to follow no matter how circuitous the route or pitted the path.  

Early in 2021 a call that had murmured at the foundation of my soul, a message that had whispered from the back stacks of the library of my life spoke out loud.  The words were simple, “Now are you ready?”  Ready to seek community, prayer, service, shared life in a community of faith, in a dedicated community of others who heard the call in their own manner and answered.

I have come to recognize this call is so profoundly basic to my being that the question of whether to answer it in the Roman Catholic communion of most of my life, or in the Anglican Communion of these latter years, or in another place that I have not seen myself is a secondary question.  The primary question is community, is a life of prayer, is service, is shared life, and yes, is silence too.

I reached out with energy newborn to those who could help in the Catholic Church, in the Episcopal Church, and to new friends hearing similar calls and seeking new ways to answer it together.  I spoke with and visited monastic communities where I have visited for lengths of time in the past and found myself at home in a manner that I have known nowhere else.  I have received encouragement and discouragement in about equal measure.  The encouragement comes from voices that seem to hear the echo of something real in my voice when I speak of this call.  The discouragement comes principally from obstacles of course, which are more than one.  But the single hardest one is the general agreement that I am asking, looking, searching too late in life.

The several religious communities who have responded in that way have, no doubt, good reason for saying so, coming out of other experience with candidates beyond a certain determined age (which varies) who have come and not settled and sometimes caused disruption and often left again with both their individual lives and the life of the community unsettled.  I can see and understand that.

But the voice which asks “now are you ready” continues to ask, even as the ‘now’ both slips into the past and remains ever new with the rising of each sun and the changing of each season.  And I continue, and I will continue – taking all the counsel from my saintly companions above – to respond with the most profound Yes I ever have spoken.  A Yes rooted so deeply in my origin and identity, soul and spirit, that it is bigger than, and as well embraces entirely, the joyful Yes I spoke to ordained service decades ago.  

I trust that the God whom the desperate and exhausted Elijah met again at Mount Horeb, the God who both refreshed the prophet and then set him on his way again, will continue to show me the way, if only I show a daily willingness to follow wherever the way leads.  And I pledge, as sure as the God of daily graces lives and gives, that I will.

And I place no limits on how this call might find its answer.  Limits are not my business here.  Whatever Christian communion it might be in, whatever spiritual family following whatever ever-fresh charism from past to future, whatever monastery or abbey or friary or house of prayer; whether the community be numerous or few, whether the group be growing or shrinking, whether I find my place in an established community or help establish a community, or become a solitary linked to other solitaries across the miles, or an anchorite living by the side of church in prayer and bonded to the parish community there – whatever be the path and whatever be the point of arrival, as long as I have breath I will continue and walk on willingly. 

“I do not ask to see the distant scene, – one step enough for me.” And another step as the following day begins. Accepting my own littleness. Discerning what the days are teaching me. Carrying on, in prayer. Life thrown open to the pouring fonts of grace, head thrown back and mouth open to drink the rain pouring down from heaven. And always listening. Listening for the voice of the living God in all the ways that voice faithfully speaks.

Perhaps even in your voice, dear reader, as you read and respond?

Barnabas

I don’t know when I first checked the settled date of ordination to priesthood and noticed it was Saint Barnabas day. I do know that I was heartened when I was reminded of the meaning of his name. He is the encourager, the one who gives courage to others. Barnabas is the son of encouragement.

At a significant moment in life like that, I (at least) recognize significance, meaning, in apparently simple, apparent coincidences like that. I wanted to take Barnabas as a patron from that day in 1983 always. I prayed that I and my friends ordained that day could be sources of encouragement for the people we would be blessed to meet and to serve over years to come. I prayed that we would be sources of encouragement to one another as well.

Today marks 39 years since that day of inaugurating a call to many things, ‘encouragement’ a good description of many of them. I know that I have failed to be a Barnabas much more readily and often than I have succeeded. Principally that has been due to a deafness and blindness in me, a lack of readiness to listen and a lack readiness to see the grace of God placing invitations to act as Barnabas would in front of me day after day all through the years.

I am grateful beyond words for the times I when I have readily listened and seen and responded. Most often what has been experienced in those moments has been mutual encouragement. As is so often rightly said, I have received more than I have given.

As this anniversary arrives, I think of the friends ordained June 11, 1983 who no longer live in this life, but have gone forth through the door of death. I give thanks for them. Among them are those whose words and deeds and friendship encouraged me more times than I could count. And that courage brought me to new places, new thresholds and new possibilities. My heart is full of gratitude tonight.

I’m grateful too that there are days remaining still to follow after Saint Barnabas. I cannot know the number of those days. They are fewer, of course, than those now past. I don’t know where they may be spent either. But I trust that they may be even richer in encouragement than the days gone by. This, of course, due to the enriching faithfulness of the One that we in 1983, and Barnabas 20 centuries before, agreed to serve with joy.

Onward.

June 11, 2022