Tag Archives: prayer

St. Edith Stein, pray for us … a Saint for these times

I have long been haunted by a quote by Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite nun, Jewish daughter and sister, philosopher, one time atheist, convert, contemplative, martyr of Auschwitz .

“Nowadays I always feel transported into Napoleonic times, and I can imagine in what tension people lived then everywhere in Europe. I wonder: will we live to see the events of our days become ‘history’? I have a great desire to see all this sometime in the light of eternity. For one realizes ever more clearly how blind we are toward everything. One marvels at how mistakenly one viewed a lot of things before, and yet the very next moment one commits the blunder again of forming an opinion without having the necessary basis for it.” Edith Stein: A Self-Portrait in Letters, quoted in the People’s Companion to the Breviary.

This quote is included in the office book published by the Carmelites of Indianapolis. It is the reading for Week IV, Friday, evening prayer. The first time I heard this read during community prayer when I was a candidate back in 2005, my heart stopped. I didn’t know much about Edith Stein, except that she had been killed in a concentration camp. But it led me to learn more about her, which only made the quote that much more powerful.

When she was a professor of philosophy she studied the problem of empathy. Writing in 1925–the same year that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published–she proposed that the capacity for empathy ensures “openness among human beings” rather than separation or alienation. She engaged in her philosophical study of this capacity for empathy because she believed it “to be descriptive of human reality and the foundation needed for productive action” for life in the human community.

Now, on this sad day almost 100 years later, a day which our nation’s present leader has chosen to round up children, women and men–largely of one ethnic group–transporting them to camps, separating families and causing terror to thousands of people, I cannot help but ask for her intercession.

Nowadays, I sometimes feel transported to her times. And it is a scary time to be, one that rocks one’s faith in humanity and causes one to cry out to the heavens. What tension we live in today. Are we complicit? Are we bystanders? Or do we stand on the right side of history, crying out “Not in My Name,” and acting on behalf of human dignity?

And then of course there is today’s Gospel reading, the Good Samaritan, which makes it crystal clear what we are to do. What sad twisted irony that the raids against our immigrant brothers and sisters are set to begin today when this Gospel is proclaimed in churches across our nation. Of course, no doubt, many families are staying away from church today, afraid that they might be swept up, no matter what their legal status. And others listen with deaf ears.

Today, the Carmelite Nuns of Great Britain shared a quote from Edith Stein on their Twitter account in which she reflects on today’s Gospel reading.

“‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This commandment is valid unconditionally and without qualification. The neighbour is not the one whom I ‘like’ but any and every human being with whom I come into contact, without exception.”

Without exception. Unconditional. Without qualification.

When Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 in the chapel of her monastery in the Netherlands and taken to a transit camp for deportation, eventually to Auschwitz, she commented: “I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. … I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress.” 

When she arrived at Auschwitz, she ministered to God’s people in distress, even as she was one among them.

“It was Edith Stein’s complete calm and self-possession that marked her out from the rest of the prisoners. There was a spirit of indescribable misery in the camp; the new prisoners, especially suffered from extreme anxiety. Edith Stein went among the women like an angel, comforting, helping, and consoling them. Many of the mothers were on the brink of insanity and had sat moaning for days, without giving any thought to their children. She immediately set about taking care of these little ones. She washed them, combed their hair, and tried to make sure they were fed and cared for.” –Edith Stein,  A Biography, quoted on Carmelites of Boston website.

And so I pray.

St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, you who studied empathy, lived a life of compassionate love, pray for us. Inspire empathy, respect for human dignity, and action for justice. Lead those of us who might become bystanders instead to solidarity and compassionate love. Help us to pray for conversion of heart in those who wield their power without enough apparent capacity for empathy or neighborliness. Most of all, be with those who suffer. Comfort the mothers, fathers and children facing inhumanity in these dark times. Pray for us all, that our hearts may become wider, wide enough to encompass all our neighbors, unconditionally and without exception. Amen.

Kiss of the wind

Sometimes you need to sit

with the trees and listen

to the whistle of the leaves,

so that when

you

turn your head

you feel

the kiss of the wind

on your cheek,

just so.

The sunlight shining through the bare branches of the winter trees,

yearning for spring,

ready in hope for the

fulfillment of the promise.

The birds sing,

and suddenly you know

once again you remember,

all of this is love.

God is love.

Love.

Flourishing in the new year

My prayer at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 plays in my head with “Flourishing (Psalm 119)” – a song by Sandra McCracken – as its soundtrack. So I did what I do and made a video prayer set to this beautiful song with some of my photos from 2018.

May we give thanks
for all the ways we lived and loved in 2018
from our best selves, for the best of everyone

May we remember
those times when we weren’t so able
to be good and kind for whatever reason
and resolve to try again

May we honor
those we love and all we hold dear
through our words and our actions
for the common good

May we recognize beauty,
Live gently, and flourish together
as we walk in the way of peace.

Amen

Even when

Even when twilight approaches and the clouds pepper the sky

And the trees stand firm and tall as their leaves show off their new bright colors preparing for their downward fall

Even then …

the sun peeks through the tiny spaces to shimmer and make the leaves glow as if from within

while the wind blows through the all of it, adding a symphony of sound to the moment

Even then, I stop in wonder and awe and gratitude, adding my Amen to that of creation

Global Sisters Report: The Hour for ‘Our’ is Now

GlobalSistersReportMy latest contribution to the conversation has been published over at Global Sisters Report: The Hour for ‘Our’ is Now

Our Father. Our daily bread. Forgive us as we forgive. Lead us. Deliver us.

This prayer that for decades I have said desperately at my most lonely hours calls us to be community. It is not a prayer to my Father for my daily bread and my forgiveness or deliverance. It is a prayer for the whole. As I have prayed this prayer anew in these days, I haven’t been able to get this sense of the collective out of my heart and mind. The hour for “our” is now. …

What would happen, I wonder, if instead of spreading negative energy in our conversations that contribute to the toxic levels of our current civic discourse, we practiced loving even those bits of the whole we struggle with? Speaking the truth in love, standing in solidarity in love, acting for justice in love.

Maybe this would lead us to deliverance, provide our nourishment and sustain us, help us to listen deeply for that which binds us together, no matter how small, in the sea of division.

Visit Global Sisters Report to read the whole reflection.

These days

These days are not easy.
Not easy to be
peaceful
joyful
grateful.

Easier to be confused or worried or angry or sad.
All of which are ok–don’t get me wrong.

Righteous anger, after all
led that Jesus guy to overturn the tables.

Speaking truth to power
and standing with those on the margins
also led to the cross.

Those days were not easy either,
to be peaceful, joyful, grateful.

We humans have a way of making life complicated.

And yet the sun will rise this morning, I am sure.
Babies will laugh and puppies will snuggle.
Mothers and fathers will struggle to feed their kids
and keep them safe in this world.

And I will do my best to stay engaged,
and hopeful,
facing what’s what,
but also looking to what can be.

I open myself to God, who is Love.

In the words of Carrie Newcomer (Help in Hard Times, a great song by the way):

“And I believe in something better, and that love’s the final word,
and that there’s still something whole and sacred in this world.”

So my prayer this morning
before the sunrise
is that I may love
into these days and trust
that this is enough.
Amen

before sunrise

Morning prayer (in early spring)

Morning sunshine beckons:

Sit here a while on the back steps.

Birds singing their hopeful song-

Spring is (maybe) here.?!

In other parts of the world near and far the hope seems farther away. Bombs dropping, visits to the oncologist or a family member in detention. Life.

The birdsong fades as police sirens sing in the distance.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Peace. Hope. Mercy. Love.

Pain and promise, mixed in this thing called life.

And the sun continues to shine.

The birds sing louder.

And I hope.

Bring me back my heart – a Holy Saturday Reflection

It’s Holy Saturday, a fitting time and space for prayer these days, when we often seem to find ourselves in the Holy Saturday moments of  our lives.  There’s so much suffering in the world,  yet even more there is so much love in the world (f we can just remember that!), and here we are called to live into the promise, in between the already but not yet.

This morning I found myself praying with Mary, friend of Jesus.  She had stayed with her dear one to the end, through the suffering that she was powerless to stop, even standing at the foot of the cross in witness to love and life. She was there as his body was laid in the tomb, and the stone rolled across its entrance.  The others departed then, but as Mathew’s Gospel tells us, she stayed there, unable to leave just yet.  Another friend kept her company as they sat together with their memories and grief and uncertainty.

“But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb”

We too keep her company.  We face the tomb.  We love, we remember, and we live into the promise of Easter Sunday, even in our Holy Saturday moments.

And so I share with you this video prayer reflection, the fruit of my contemplation this Holy Saturday, as we await the Resurrection.  Peace.

 

Best Intentions & God’s Patience

I had the best of intentions at the start of this Advent season, hands down my favorite liturgical season.  And then …. life happened and I responded with my little human ways.  You know the drill, anxiety and busyness leads to stress and grumpiness and less patience and less compassionate responses to the folks in your own life because of course you are busy and stressed.  Maybe you don’t know, but it’s a familiar pattern for me unfortunately, and one I fell right back into the past couple of weeks.

Thankfully, this past summer when I was on my annual directed retreat I made a commitment to schedule some mini-retreat time this December.  I tend to take the most beautiful photos when I am on retreat, and so when I saw a listing for a Contemplative Photography retreat in Advent, I signed up right away.  For the months since, I have guarded this weekend on my calendar, knowing I suppose deep down that by now, I’d need it.   And I certainly did!

While the retreat itself was excellent, especially the experiences of guided visio divina and the opportunity to pray with the photos taken by the other retreatants, really it was an opportunity to reset my own best intentions.  Adapting today’s second reading from the 2nd Letter of Peter, I pray:

I can no longer ignore this one fact,
I am beloved, and so are those around me and all of creation,

and with God one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
God’s promise is not delayed, as some think of ‘delay,’
but God is patient with me,
not wishing me or you harm 
but that I would return & center myself on love.

Since everything is grounded in love,
what sort of person might I be
living with a spirit of gratitude and compassion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of love in our midst.

That is of course the kind of person I want to be, to see with God’s eyes the beauty and love and light and hope in the midst of the busyness and anxiety and sorrow and uncertainty.  My best intentions may not seem like enough, but they are because God is patient and there is always today to return to the center and prepare the way for the incarnation of love, reflecting God’s love for us to the world.

 

Advent Reflection

lady-in-waitingAdvent begins on Sunday, and with it the season of waiting.  This year, it feels like we are waiting at the edge. I reflected on this theme in my latest column on Global Sisters Report: Advent Waiting at the Edge.

Advent is not a time to despair or become overwhelmed by all the turmoil and woe, but rather, watchful and alert, to prepare God’s way joyfully. In the midst of it all, the surprising call we hear on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is to rejoice: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks … Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” We are invited to rejoice, even as we stand on the edge, recognizing that life itself is gift in all circumstances and that our actions, no matter how small, can make a difference.

On the one hand, this message is so simple, and yet life can seem so very complicated even on the best of days. We know the promise of the good news, yet like Mary, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves pondering, “How can this be?”

Mary’s question to the surprising news of the angel Gabriel always comforts me. I find myself with lots of questions; the biggest one these days is how to be the presence of love in such a mixed-up world.

Advent gives us the much-needed opportunity to pause, step back from the chaos, and wait on the edge during these in-between times.

Head over to Global Sisters Report to read the rest.

Blessings of Peace!