Thoughts and Action

Prompt our actions with your inspiration, we pray, O Lord, and further them with your constant help, that all we do may always begin from you and by you be brought to completion.

The above words come from the collect for today’s liturgy on this Thursday after Ash Wednesday. As we begin this Lenten journey, there is so much in need of constant help.

The wars raging in Ukraine and so many other parts of the human family.

The cries of Earth as temperatures rise and our planet’s ecosystem struggles to keep up with harm caused by human activity.

The cries of people who are living in poverty or otherwise on the margins, wondering how they will provide just the basic necessities for their loved ones.

The divisions between and among us that deny human dignity and prevent us from treating each other as the beloved of God we are.

This is the context as we begin Lent. And we are called to begin the Lenten journey in our own hearts.

Purify my heart!
May every word, every thought!
Every motive, every intention!
Be pleasing in your sight O God!
Be pleasing in your sight O God!

This song by Jess Ray, based on Psalm 119, rings true of my heart’s desire for this Lenten journey.

May my heart, my every, word, every thought, every motive be pleasing to God. A high order, but all things are possible with, through, and for God.

In our CSJP Constitutions we say that prayer leads to action, while action leads us to pray. As we hold the many needs of our world crying out for help, may our heartfelt prayer lead us to actions for peace through justice.

Amen

Learning to love, give, and weep in 2022

I prayed this morning with this song by The Porter’s Gate: Teach Us Your Ways.

Such a fitting prayer as we lean into 2022 and all it will hold. A prayer that we will:

Learn from one another.

Learn to love each other.

Give ourselves for one another.

Weep with one another.

There will certainly be lots to learn this year, lots to give, and tears to be shed. This is life. And we are learning, this is life in times of uncertainty and ambiguity.

May we live into it all with love.

Living Joseph every day

The Year of St Joseph ends today.

It was unexpected when Pope Francis declared a year dedicated to Joseph last year. I had already spent significant time with my friend Joe, having just finished the manuscript of my book (My Friend Joe: Reflections on St. Joseph – available as a paperback or ebook) the month before.

Joseph is always there for us, with us. He doesn’t need a special year or day. He can be our friend every day.

He can also be a model for us as we navigate this thing called life.

In my religious Congregation we consider him to be a model of peace in times of struggle and uncertainty.

Check. That would be many times, but certainly now.

He can inspire us to dream. To take risks for those we love. To act justly. To serve God. To work creatively. To love always.

Today and everyday.

Waiting … a radical attitude

Advent is a season of waiting. We wait with Joseph and Mary for the coming of the Christ child. We wait for the inbreaking of God into the human family. We wait, radically, in a culture that prioritizes control and instant gratification.

In the words of Henri Nouwen:

“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

(Excerpt from “Waiting for God” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing, 2001)

Advent Thoughts

You might be forgiven for thinking that it is Christmas time. Shopping, lights, carols and the general hustle and bustle of a commercialized holiday season are already upon us.

The Church year however begins on Sunday with a different season … Advent.

It is a time of expectant waiting for the coming of God with us. A pause. An opportunity to be.

I don’t know about you, but I especially need Advent this year. My spirit yearns for the rhythm.

The candles of the Advent wreath each symbolize something we need: hope, peace, joy, and love. Each of these are desperately needed in our wounded world.

And so we pray in hope. We work for peace. We celebrate joyfully. And we live in love..

Let it begin…

Introducing … My Friend Joe

Just in time for the end of the Year of St. Joseph, I am excited to share the news that my little book of reflections on St. Joseph has been published by Kenmare Press: My Friend Joe: Reflections on St. Joseph. It is available for purchase as a paperback ($8) or ebook ($1) from the Kenmare Press Online Bookstore.

Description:

St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, is central to the Christian story. Yet, so little is known about St. Joseph, either as an historical figure or as recorded in scripture.  Much of what we understand about Joseph comes to us from tradition, art, and the lived experience of the faithful over the centuries.   Sister of St. Joseph of Peace Susan Rose Francois reflects on her growing spiritual friendship with St. Joseph, who she affectionately calls her friend Joe. Inspired by photographs of Joseph taken by the author, she reflects on her personal encounters with Joseph in conversation with church tradition around this saint.  Through art, prose, history, and prayer she encourages the reader to discover, or deepen, their own spiritual friendship with St. Joseph.

Read more about the book and view the pictures that inspired it here.

Mystery Reading

This vacation week I brought a pile of novels, literary fiction, and mysteries to read. Turns out all I read were the mysteries, from cozy to popular to the more literary variety.

Why? Certainly not because I am enamored of the violent acts that need to be laid out in order to be solved.

Rather, as I reflected on my selections this week, I settled on two reasons: humanity and resolution.

I’ll start with the last, resolution. So much in my ministry of leadership is unresolved. Just when you think you have a situation sorted, another curve ball comes. These days of uncertainty and disruption mean that the chaos only feels constant. When I begin a mystery, I know at the end it will be resolved. If it is a series, I get the satisfaction of knowing that the sleuth I am coming to know once again will sort it all out. I find comfort in that.

The other reason? Humanity. In mysteries the various aspects of life, good and bad, are considered. Grief, anger, love, guilt, forgiveness, even sometimes redemption. There are patterns to be put together and puzzles to solve, yes, but they are always human patterns and puzzles.

My 2021 summer vacation reading 📚

I am – a video prayer

“I am,” a new-to-me song by Jill Phillips, speaks deeply to me of the invitation to let God be God. So I did what I do, and made a video prayer.

Lyrics by Jill Phillips:

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest,
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast, but I will stay
The same through past, the same in future, the same today

I am constant, I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy, I am wise
I’m the only one who knows your hearts desires
Your hearts desires

Oh weary, tired, and worn
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold, ’cause mine is light
I know you through and through
There’s no need to hide
I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest

Resting in God – a photo journal

With all happening in our world this past week, from Afghanistan to extreme climate events to challenging events in the lives of some folks I know, this was an interesting time to be on retreat. I don’t think I fully understood, until I got to the spot of grace and beauty that is Mercy by the Sea, how very tired and weary I have been. I wasn’t entiretly surprised, given the past year and a half in the time of COVID. Plus the fact that I just finished a six and a half year term of leadership for my religious community and have started a second term. What was suprising was the depth of my need for rest. Lucky me … a whole week to rest with God. A privilege really. A luxury. The grace and beauty of this time, for me, has been God’s abundant presence. And my own presence to the wonder of God’s creation.

I usually have so many words rumbling around my head. It can make it harder for me listen for the voice of God. Sixteen years ago, on my first silent directed retreat, the invitation was to let go of the words and focus instead on images. Ever since, on retreat, I feel drawn to pay attention to the beauty of creation through a contemplative photography practice. Resting my eyes on signs of God’s creating presence, God’s love.