Monthly Archives: July 2016

Friday Thoughts: Pray the Mass

Paul Cézanne Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) 1895-1905

Paul Cezanne, “Bathers” (Les Grandes Baigneuses), 1895-1905 

.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

—1 Thessalonians 5:17


.
Come with me. I love to go. I so love to go. The Mass in its abundant overflow.
 .
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16)
.

Come with me. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, nor what color skin your flesh happens to wear. Come. Be one with the Lord.

Pray the great prayer of the Church. Pray with sinners like me. Pray with all God’s Angels and Saints.

Pray the Mass. O, how God loves for us to share, to participate in Christ’s salvation of the world!

Living sacrifices. Gifts of bread and wine.

Come. Come. He is so very real. So much love. His Liturgy kisses each individual brow.

Begin your day by adjusting your ear…

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95)

Pray the Mass. Live it at home. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Work through the Mass as you work through your day—knowing that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being celebrated at every moment throughout the entire world.

———
 .
“The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”
.

Antiphon to Antiphon. Introductory to Concluding Rites. Let the Mass order your day.

The Sign of the Cross upon opening your eyes.

“Kyrie, eleison…”, as you rise from bed.

A morning shower beneath God’s infinite reign of mercy: “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Read. Confess. Sing. Proclaim.

Wash the dishes. Run to the store.

Always praise. Yes, always praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”

Head to work. Attend a meeting. Go for a run.

“Alleluia, alleluia”:  The Gospel Acclamation.

It’s almost high noon. Enjoy the Sun. The light of God’s face. Hear the Holy Spirit’s instruction and inspiration for the day. Hold up your wounds, pray in union with God’s Crucified Child…

Offer the Universal Prayer while waiting for the bus…

Intercede for the entire world: the salvation of souls, the conversion of sinners, a unified church, the remembered and forgotten souls in purgatorial fire…

…for the sick, the persecuted, the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry, the thirsty…for every single soul for whom God wills us to pray…

For all the intentions of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart.

———

“I believe in one God…”

Time for lunch.

Prepare the table. Acknowledge God’s goodness. Accept His gifts:

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ…”

Live. Breathe. Be free and at ease.

Let the Eucharistic Prayer flow into the core of your being:

“Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord…”

“…Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…”

Watch as angels ascend and descend…your gifts borne “by the hands of God’s holy Angel to His altar on high…”

A priest at this very moment lifts the hands of Christ:

“Through him, and with him, and in him…”

———

Afternoon arrives:

“Behold the Lamb of God.”

Ask Jesus to come into your soul. Properly position yourself at the foot of the table:

“Lord, I am not worthy…but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Jesus thirsts to enter. Learn to open wide. Beg God on bended knee. Beg Him for the grace to generously give and graciously receive:

“The Body of Christ.

The Blood of Christ.”

“Amen.

Amen.”

———

Sitting in traffic. Waiting on a call. Wanting to get home.

“Period of silence or song of praise.”

Rest beneath the external chaos, enter the internal peace of the Kingdom that resides deep within. Remember that Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity—continues to transform your entire being.

Stop and go. Almost home. Evening approaches.

The prayers the priest says quietly at the altar—pray them too—ceaselessly in the silence of your consecrated heart.

“Lord Jesus Christ…free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood…

…keep me always faithful…never let me be parted from you.”

Park the car. Say hello to a man who’s homeless. Briefly visit a confused elderly neighbor. Prepare to sit peacefully around your kitchen table. Practice patience. Hug and kiss the kids. Allow the joy of Christ to radiate outward from the eternal spring within.

At the close of supper, give great thanks, and call to mind an after-communion prayer:

“What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”

———

Now circle around and approach the end of this blessed day much like the way you began—for somewhere out there—Mass is just about to begin:

“The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”

Brush your teeth. Prepare to sleep the sleep of a most blessed mystical death. Ask Mother Mary to help you dress for the flight.

“May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

———

Kiss your wife goodnight.

Turn off the lamp.

Close your eyes in God’s perfect peace. The Mass at your right hand. Its liturgical rhythm steadily beating within your sacred heart.

Darkness descends.

“Go forth, the Mass is ended.”

The best is yet to come.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Eternal Life.

And as always: “Thanks be to God.”


.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…”

—John 3:16


 

—Howard Hain
.
.
(Note: All italicized quotations are from The Order of Mass, unless otherwise indicated.)
.

After Thoughts: Liturgy of Seasons

Maurice de Vlaminck partie de campagne 1905

Maurice de Vlaminck, “La partie de campagne”, 1905

 .

Be still, and know that I am God.

—Psalm 46:11


.

Don’t move. If you do, you’ll burst into sweat.

This is when you know it’s hot. The slightest movement brings about spontaneous combustion.

God will have His way. If the cold wont get you to sit still in front of a fire, then the oppressive heat of summer will stop you in your tracks in the middle of an otherwise busy day.

That is until modern HVAC has its way.

So much progress. So much heating, ventilation and air-conditioning.

I wonder if we’d pay more attention to the Church calendar, more attention to prayer, more attention to God in general if we spent more time within His seasonal elements. I am fairly certain we’d spend a lot more time sitting still.

Yes, modern climate control may give us more time in many ways, but that certainly doesn’t imply that we spend that time well. For we are very weak, and most additional “freedom” most normally results in increased amounts of wasted, fruitless, and spiritually-empty activity.

Besides, voluntary sitting still is very different than forced stillness. Voluntary is certainly better—in terms of us using our freewill wisely, and in terms of us positioning ourselves to “know” God’s presence—but, on the other hand, when stillness is forced upon us, we actually might do it. We actually might stop, and we actually might be more concerned with “not moving” than just about anything else. That’s a funny consequence of truly compulsory conditions, when they come about through God’s perfectly ordained plan: The more we’re forced into something by factors greater and holier than ourselves, and the more we don’t resist but cooperate, the more we find ourselves desiring the consequences of the very conditions that were “forced upon us” in the first place.

When was the last time you had to sit still for any extended period of time in front of a fire in order to keep warm on a dangerously cold night, or sit extremely still in order to fend off the truly oppressive heat of a summer afternoon?

For that matter, forget the extreme cases, when was the last time you or I didn’t have a modern source of heating or cooling within a few steps on even moderately cool or warm days?

Most of us living within this culture and during this time are no longer very dependent upon “our sister Mother Earth” to force us into life changing ways. Yes, I know of course about the big storms and floods, the fires and earthquakes—the catastrophic natural events—but in terms of day-to-day living for the great majority of people in the Western world, daily climate is not something that cramps our modern, in-control-of-everything style. It is really quite ironic when we stop and think about it, for we hear so much about climate change, and yet most of us who may ponder that very question do so while comfortably residing within temperature-controlled homes, offices, and automobiles that make us almost oblivious to natural and seasonal weather changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we should collectively trash our heating or a/c units and move back into the pre-HVAC age. I enjoy my heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning as much as my Middle-Eastern and Central-American neighbors living next door.

It’s just that I was forced into thinking about this. You see, my daughter is off from school and busy playing and making the “noises” that accompany such joy, and my wife is currently a busy little bee, walking in and out of each room, cleaning, straitening, and unpacking the laundry. I had little choice but to leave the house to get a few undisturbed moments of quiet. So here I am behind an urban two-family home, sitting within a somewhat screened-in gazeebo on a blacktopped driveway, trying not to move.

I thank God for allowing me to sweat. For reminding me of just how much I cannot control. For reminding me that exterior stillness and interior peace, although connected, are not one and the same. I also thank Him for allowing me to forget for the time being just how sensitive my feet, especially the first few toes of my left foot, are to the cold.

And now that I think about it, now that I have begun to give thanks, I’m realizing that it’s really not that bad. It’s not that hot. It’s kind of nice in fact. And I definitely notice that it has kept my writing in check. The word count of this piece has most surely been stunted, and I am very, very certain that that is for the best. I think I’ll leave it here then and wrap it up. And afterward, I’ll spend some time doing just about nothing, allowing the heat to box me in and keep me comfortably quiet.

I must admit though, I feel a bit guilty, knowing that it won’t be too long before I walk back into a climate controlled, air-conditioned environment—that is once the mosquitos begin to bite (thank God for screens!).

But maybe that’s just the point.

God’s will has its way.

His seasons, His entire world, always speaks to us.

His Liturgy never ends.

The Liturgy of Seasons cannot be stopped.

 

Happy Monday of the 15th week in Ordinary Time!

(Year: C(II). Psalter: Week 3. Liturgical Color: White. Memorial: St. Benedict.)

(Monday, July 11, 2016.)

(Hot. Humid. Partial Sunshine. Very Slight Chance of Thunderstorm.)

(Sunset 8:28 PM. Moon: Waxing Crescent, Illumination: 45%.)

.

.

—Howard Hain

.

15th Sunday C: The Good Samaritan

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

“Jewish Settlers, Attacked, Needed Help. A Palestinian Doctor Didn’t Hesitate.” That was the headline of a story in the New York Times this week. Doctor Ali Shroukh was driving from a west bank town to Jerusalem to pray at the end of the Moslem celebration of Ramadan when he came upon a car of Jewish settlers overturned after a Palestinian gunman shot and killed its driver, Rabbi Michael Mark, 46, father of 10 children. His family were injured in the incident and the Palestinian doctor treated them till help arrived.

“His response,” the Times article said, “ was an act of kindness in a conflict often bereft of it, particularly amid the violence of the last nine months, when Palestinians have killed more than 39 Israeli. Over 210 Palestinians have also been killed, many while committing an attack or intending to do so.

Who is treated and who is not, is a contentious issue.”

A story like that helps us to understand the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told in response to the question of a scholar of the law, “ Who is my neighbor?” The Samaritans were the Palestinians of Jesus’ time. Just a few Sundays ago, you may remember in our gospel story,
James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, wanted fire to come down from heaven upon a Samaritan village that refused to let Jesus and his disciples pass through. You remember what the Samaritan woman in John’s gospel said to Jesus when he asks her for a drink of water. “How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?” (John 4, 9)

Hard feelings and the animosity between the two peoples were strong. Acts of kindness between them were almost unheard of. Yet Jesus says that’s what loving your neighbor means. A neighbor can be nice or difficult, great or horrible, easy to talk to or hard to figure out, just like us or not like us at all. Jesus says you have to love them all, and that’s not easy.

When we love our neighbor that way we love people the way God loves them. Neighbors can come in all shapes and sizes. God loves them all, “the long and the short and the tall.”

Neighborhoods, too, can be bigger than the one we live in. What about the neighborhood of our world? More and more it seems our world neighborhood is breaking down into armed camps or walled fortresses. More and more it seems we are concerned, like the priest and the Levite in our parable today, with getting where we are going and ignoring anybody else, whether it’s poor immigrants fleeing from wars or economic hardship, or people without jobs and what they need to take care of their families. And what about the racial tensions that are pulling our own country apart now? We’re looking at a wounded world, a wounded country; we need to stop and take care of it.

Our gospel reading is really a direct challenge to each of us and to all of us, isn’t it? Thank God for the Palestinian doctor who stopped to care of a family of Jewish settlers. That kind of love brings healing far beyond that time and place. That kind of love is the only kind that will heal our world, and we ask the Lord to make us capable of loving like that.

Friday Thoughts: Walled Garden (2)

(Please note: This is part 2 of a piece entitled “Walled Garden”. To read part 1, simply click here: Friday Thoughts: Walled Garden (1))


pissarro orchards at louveciennes 1872

Camille Pissarro, “Orchards at Louveciennes”, 1872

.

And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

—John 19:27


.
On leaving the convent I came upon the friar I noticed on my way in. The little dog was no longer around. We approached each other as if we had met before. He was kind. He was middle-aged. He was simple. And then the strangest thing occurred. He took me by the arm, the way men stroll in Italy, arm-in-arm, during the evening passeggiata—the evening stroll.

But I had never met this man before.

Yes, it is certainly strange to have an unknown man approach you and link his arm in yours.

He led me toward a dirt path. We strolled. We spoke little. He didn’t speak English and my Italian was tiny. But it was nice. Peaceful. It didn’t feel strange. I only now use that word, for from a somewhat forced “objective” perspective, it seems that it had to be.

He was a man of God. And he saw I was too, before I had any idea God had undeservedly entrusted me with such a gift. The gift of loving God. The gift of wanting Him more than I could ever explain. The gift of being an outcast here in this world of time, a wanderer, a pilgrim, a crusading knight of Lady Poverty—of being—in yet again, some strange kind of way—a lady-in-waiting—patiently and painfully anticipating the exuberant arrival of the one and only eternal groom.


.

He brought me to what appeared to be an old foundation. I understood from what few words we exchanged that this was the remains of an abandoned orphanage. And then we began to head back toward whence we came. I remember offering him some bread that I had in my bag, purchased that morning in the city of Assisi up above. He lightly touched his stomach with one hand and shook his head “no”—a kind, polite, gracious, and utterly grateful, “no-thank-you” kind of “no”.

When we arrived at the door of the convent I understood from his gestures that he was inviting me to see something inside. It was clearly something that I had not yet seen. I motioned “yes” and we entered. We climbed a staircase and walked down a hallway. We were in an area not open to the public. The walls revealed its age. And we approached a door. A wooden door. And he unlocked it with an old large skeleton key. He opened the door and motioned for me to go inside, quietly informing me that this is Saint Clare’s cell. I entered and he remained outside. He gently pulled the door closed.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I was safe. I knew I wasn’t locked in. I was pleasantly confused. I looked around. It was small. It was literally a cell. Enclosed. All stone. A low tight arched ceiling. Bright. Dark. Cozy. Warm. Beautiful.

A tabernacle. A womb. A virgin’s womb.


 

At the end of the somewhat rectangular shaped room was a small alter-like shelf. I knelt before it. I have not the slightest recollection of what I prayed.  Of what I thought. Of anything spiritually taking place. I was just there. And I remained a few minutes. And then I left. I opened the door and I was all alone. No friar. I closed the door behind me and made my way back down from where I had come.

It seemed as if nothing extraordinary had happened. It was all so normal. So everyday. Yet it was nothing of the sort. It was extraordinary. It was an encounter. I think. Perhaps.


 

I think of little Mary. Alone in her room. I think of a gentle breeze and the sight of a bowing angel.

“Hail, full of grace…”

What a name, what a title to be given!

Gabriel holding the key that opens the door.

The young, chosen, highly-favored virgin agrees to hear his message, to walk arm-in-arm with him, to accompany him to she knows not where. She agrees to accept God’s invitation.

The Holy Spirit comes upon her simple life, her simple way, her simple manner.

The power of the Most High overshadows her daily existence.

Our Father confirms her trusting posture, her grace-filled instinct to utter the purest of prayers:

.

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

.

Jesus entered a private, off-limits room. He made His home there.

And He never left.


.

“…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret…”

—Matthew 6:6


.

—Howard Hain

.

Morning Thoughts: A Simply Perfect Quilt

Cundell, Nora Lucy Mowbray, 1889-1948; The Patchwork Quilt

Nora Lucy Mowbray Cundell, “The Patchwork Quilt”, 1919

..

As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.

—Isaiah 66:12-13.


.

I heard someone say the other day that Amish women leave their finished quilts imperfect, and that they do this purposely, so as not to commit blasphemy.

We hear lots of things. And like with most of what we hear, whether this or that is true or not, we quite often just don’t know—at least not in terms of earthly circumstance: what exactly was said, who exactly said it, or the exact context in which it was said. But also quite often, these factors simply don’t matter—at least not in terms of what we most need spiritually at that present moment.

To get caught up within the trivial details of who, what, where, and when is to lose a beautiful opportunity to receive correction, direction, encouragement, and inspiration. It is to miss a moment of grace.

God is always speaking to us. Always instructing. Always telling us what we need to hear. Even if His speech takes the form of a simple smile, or a simple piece of Amish lore. He is always right there with us, each one of us. One God. Three Persons. One clear, consistent, perfectly unified voice, continually encouraging us forward.

To me this is a beautiful case of the left hand knowing exactly what the right hand is doing. It is prophecy in real time. Moment by moment. Step by step. Stich by stich. Incremental inspiration. All toward a beautiful, comforting blanket composed entirely of grace. It is the Holy Spirit at work. It is Holy Spirit teaching.

———

We always get exactly what we need. But we must be willing to wear fleeces white as snow. For everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

Clean hands. Pure heart. Purity of intention.

Meekness. Humility. Docility to the Holy Spirit.

We must submit to Mother Church.

It is Simple. It is Holy. And Holy Simplicity simply results in simple, clear, straightforward answers.

And it gets simpler and simpler:

We simply hear what God says when we pray in the Holy Spirit and “worship in spirit and truth”. (John 4:24)

We simply become living, breathing manifestations of His glory when the Holy Spirit prays for and through us, when “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words“. (Romans 8:26)

And the Liturgy simply helps us to allow the Holy Spirit to do so.

———

For the Amish women don’t sew alone. God quilts too. His is simply perfect. Always. And to us it looks a lot like the Liturgy.

O the simple joy of being wrapped up tightly within it!

O the simple wonder of walking deeper into the Body of Christ each new day—into the greatest and most public prayer of the one, true, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church—The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—with faith and hope and an ever-increasing expectation that we will “nurse“, “be satisfied” and “drink with delight” at the “abundant breasts” of Mother Church. (Isaiah 66:11)

We receive the comforting milk of Sacrament: of reconciliation, of sacrifice, of thanksgiving, of praise, of presence, of joy, of love…

We receive our physical nourishment, our spiritual inspiration, our mercy and forgiveness, our healing and peace, our much needed correction and instruction—and for breakfast and dessert—our daily share in The Cross.

We receive “our daily bread.”

And all are welcome.

The Church invites all, serves all, prays for all…

All of us—me, you, him, her, them, every single one of us—the entire patchwork of humanity—are always welcomed and always encouraged to turn more directly into the light of God’s face. The Face of Truth, of Mercy, of Justice, of Love…

All are always and truly welcome.

Welcome to walk in the clear, crisp, clean air of God’s ceaseless and abundant reality—a reality that never deceives, that never falsely promises imaginary pots of gold lying at the end of fanciful rainbows.

For rainbows are mere optical illusions. And all sin stems from and leads to delusion. Pure faith, on the other hand, rises above all images, whether they are real or those conjured up by Satan in his constant effort to pervert and deceive.

God’s promises are true. His kingdom is no illusion. Heaven is no empty pot of gold.

“…for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin you bestow eternal gladness.” (Collect, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

All are welcome to truly come home.

Welcome to walk hand-in-hand with the Lord of the Garden:

“Wash, and be cleansed; remove the foulness of your actions from my sight.

Come, let us speak with one another, says the Lord.”

—Isaiah 1:16,18

———

Perhaps then our Amish lady friends have a good, sharp point. Maybe it is not that important to have things “just right”, exactly the way we will them to be. Maybe it is not about making everything “perfect” according to our own plans, nor about appeasing our every desire and inordinate appetite. Maybe, just maybe, happiness—true joy—resides in just the opposite.

Perhaps what makes a quilt simply “perfect” is that it is made with humble, patient, obedient hands. Grateful hands, quite aware of their own defects. Hands that need not be in constant control, nor constantly caressed.

And perhaps it is just those kinds of hands, the hands of poor humble handmaids, that simply remind us of the true purpose of a simple quilt—to keep us warm—warm enough to get us through—to get us through to the other side—to the other side of a long, dark, cold night.


.

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:7-9


.

—Howard Hain

14th Sunday C

 

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:


The section of St. Luke’s gospel, from chapter 9 to chapter 19, is called Luke’s journey narrative; it describes the journey Jesus makes from Galilee to Jerusalem where he will be “taken up.” We’re at the beginning of that journey in the gospel today as Jesus makes clearer to his disciples what our journey entails. The gospels read the last two previous Sundays, also from chapter 9, affirm that  Jesus doesn’t make this journey alone; he invites others, “all,” to go with him. They are to bear their cross each day as they follow him.

Now, Jesus adds another dimension in our reading. The journey is also a harvest. Jesus gathers others to follow him and asks them to join him in the harvesting. In today’s gospel he sends out 72 disciples ahead of him, “to every town and place he intended to visit.” They are the first; more harvesters will follow. It’s an abundant harvest, Jesus says, and the laborers are few, so “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.”

In the meantime, though, “Go on your way. I am sending you as lambs among wolves,” Jesus says.
Lambs among wolves, with no money, no knapsack, no scandals. That’s how the harvesters are sent. And they aren’t sure of the welcome they’ll receive. What chance of success do they have with directions like that, you wonder?

But the seventy two disciples come back rejoicing at their success. Satan falls from the sky.

If we find following Jesus mysterious mysterious, so does his sending us out to harvest with him raises questions in us. It’s been that way from the beginning. The Prophet Jeremiah said he was too young when God called him to bring his word to others; Abraham likely thought he was too old. We think like they do. We’re not smart enough, or holy enough, we think. Our numbers are down; there are not enough of us. There’s no use to it. The world we live in isn’t ready for a harvest.

But God tells us, “Go on your way,” no matter how young or how old or how ready or prepared we are. “Go on your way.” The harvest that’s before us is as varied as the places and circumstances we find ourselves in. Each of us has a town and place to visit.

We have a mission, a harvest waiting for us. We have a mission. There’s something we have to do in this life that’s given to no one else.

We might think in big terms or very defined terms about our mission in life, but maybe it’s better to think as the 72 in our reading today must have done. It’s looks as if their mission was a day by day affair. Like the everyday cross, maybe our mission in life must be discovered everyday. The harvest is there, each day. Let’s think about it that way:

Let’s say to ourselves that each day is new unlike any other day
For God makes each day different.
Each day God’s everyday grace
Falls on my soul like abundant seed,
Though I may hardly see it.

Each day is one of those days
Jesus promised to be with me,
A companion on my journey.
And life each day has consequences unseen:
My life has a purpose.

“I have a mission…I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. God has not created me for naught…Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never by thrown away. God does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about.” John Henry Newman.

Friday Thoughts: Holding Christ’s Hand

Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais 1849–50

John Everett Millais, “Christ in the House of His Parents”, 1849-50

.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

—John 14:6

 

If we hold Christ’s hand we cannot get lost. For Christ is the way. It is not even possible to go astray.

If we cannot get lost, there can be no doubt. If no doubt, there can be no fear. If no fear—we are in the Kingdom of God. Right here. Right now.

Hold Christ’s Hand. Fear not. You are in the Kingdom of God.

 

—Howard Hain

.