Words of Wisdom
While traveling in Germany and Holland I was fascinated by other people’s lives and their ways of being in the world. I want to share with you three observations that speak to the generosity of the heart.
First, in Holland, I needed the assistance of a dentist. It was almost 6 pm when my family called a local dentist in this neighboring little Dutch town. The dentist invited me to arrive close to 7:30 pm. In a most friendly manner, she repaired my tooth and asked for Euro 23.00 ($25.30).
Second, in Munich, I visited my childhood friend, Ursula, who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. We spent the day together. That evening while sitting across from her at dinner, she turned to her husband and said she planned to call me tomorrow since she had not seen or spoken to me for the longest time. Her husband pointed out that I was sitting across from her. I realized my visit was meaningful for her only at the moment rather than as a memory we both could share.
Last, Ursula’s son Daniel, a physician, was taking a leave of absence, interrupting his professional commitments and opportunities so he, his wife and their daughter could tend to the needs of his aging parents. They seemed to be the happiest people on earth. I was reminded of the saying: “Never let a hardship be lost.”
So much more to share …
Many folks are walking the Camino. Did you know there is also a Hildegard of Bingen Pilgrimage by foot? It is a journey of 85 miles through meadows and hills.
We were reminded of Thomas Merton’s SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN
Massimo Faggioli, PhD
If it weren’t being used by the pope, “Pontifex”— Latin for “bridge builder”— would be an apt Twitter handle for church historian and professor Massimo Faggioli. The Italian-born theologian and Vatican II expert helps the different worlds of European and American Catholicism understand each other.
After years of study at the universities of Bologna and Turin, research in the Vatican archives, and teaching in other countries, Dr. Faggioli came to the United States during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was promptly tapped to write articles for European audiences, explaining the religious aspects of US politics, and for American audiences, explaining the qualities unique to Catholicism in this country. That task continues.
“Having had a more universal experience of Catholicism, I try to cast light on ideas that are distinctly American, some of which may be worth questioning,” Dr. Faggioli says.
The 2013 election of Pope Francis catapulted Dr. Faggioli, then a faculty member at the University of St. Thomas, back onto the international stage. He provided expert commentary for respected US and European media outlets, and has continued to do so since coming to Villanova in 2016.
In addition to bringing his European perspective to the classroom, Dr. Faggioli draws upon it as he writes what will be a trilogy of books on Francis’ papacy. Unlike many scholars in the US, he “follows what the pope says and does directly from Vatican sources, without having to rely on translations. It’s fascinating.”
SR. Ilia Delio, OSF, PhD
With doctoral degrees in Pharmacology and Theology, Sister Ilia Delio is eminently qualified not only to speak authoritatively about two distinct fields but also to show that, contrary to popular opinion, science and religion can work together. Since fall 2015, she has pursued this calling as the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Christian Theology at Villanova.
Sister Ilia has deep roots in both fields. The Newark, N.J., native had been researching a drug for diabetic neuropathy when she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Francis. The community sent her to Fordham University, where she earned her second doctoral degree, this one in Historical Theology. The convergence of her interests in cells and souls transformed her. “I was like a fish who had finally found water.”
In her various posts at prestigious institutions, most recently, Georgetown University, Sister Ilia has developed new ways of understanding how God is present and active in an evolving, dynamic universe. Her awardwinning books go beyond academia to show people how they can “reclaim a living God for a living world of change and complexity.”
More than anything, “Avengers: Endgame” is about the redemptive power of human imperfection
We have just received a new bronze plaque quoting Richard Niebuhr’s advise:
GOD, GRANT ME THE SERENITY
TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE,
COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN,
AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
Image to follow soon…
Until you are ready to make every day sacred you will probably miss the Easter moments. https://mythguidedlife.org/p/cr7C
We though many are one body in Christ.
Love bears it out even to the edge of doom.
Early in the morning, on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…
Mary stooped to peer inside…
…the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first…He saw and believed.
John 23: 3-4
LET US SING A NEW SONG, not with our lips but with our lives..
We welcome this Papal document to accompany us on our Christian pilgrimage…
Ron Rolheiser OMI writes in his May 1992 blog that “To be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Scripture, everywhere and always, makes this point.” Read the full reflection below.
There’s a Jewish folk-tale which runs something like this:
There once was a young man who aspired to great holiness. After some time at working to achieve it, he went to see his Rabbi.
“Rabbi,” he announced, “I think I have achieved sanctity.”
”Why do you think that?” asked the Rabbi.
”Well,” responded the young man, “I’ve been practising virtue and discipline for some time now and I have grown quite proficient at them. From the time the sun rises until it sets, I take no food or water. All day long, I do all l do all kinds of hard work for others and I never expect to be thanked.
“If I have temptations of the flesh, I roll in the snow or in thorn bushes until they go away, and then at night, before bed, I practice the ancient monastic discipline and administer lashes to my bare back. I have disciplined myself so as to become holy.”
The Rabbi was silent for a time. Then he took the young man by the arm and led him to a window and pointed to an old horse which was just being led away by its master.
“I have been observing that horse for some time,” the Rabbi said, “and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get fed or watered from morning to night. All day long it has to do work for people and it never gets thanked. I often see it rolling around in snow or in bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I see it get whipped.
“But, I ask you: Is that a saint or a horse?”
This is a good parable because it shows how simplistic it is to simply identity sanctity and virtue with self-renunciation and the capacity to do what’s difficult. In popular thought there’s a common spiritual equation: saint=horse. What’s more difficult is always better. But that can be wrong.
To be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Scripture, everywhere and always, makes this point.
For example, the sin of Adam and Eve was, first and foremost, a failure in receptivity and gratitude. God gives them life, each other and the garden and asks them only to receive it properly, in gratitude—receive and give thanks. Only after doing this, do we go on to “break and share” Before all else, we first give thanks.
To receive in gratitude, to be properly grateful, is the most primary of all religious attitudes. Proper gratitude is ultimate virtue. It defines sanctity. Saints, holy persons, are people who are grateful, people who see and receive everything as gift.
The converse is also true. Anyone who takes life and love for granted should not ever be confused with a saint.
Let me try to illustrate this: As a young seminarian, I once spent a week in a hospital, on a public ward, with a knee injury. One night a patient was brought on to our ward from the emergency room. His pain was so severe that his groans kept us awake. The doctors had just worked on him and it was then left to a single nurse to attend to him.
Several times that night, she entered the room to administer to him—changing bandages, giving medication, and so on. Each time, as she walked away from his bed he would, despite his extreme pain, thank her.
Finally, after this had happened a number of times, she said to him: “Sir, you don’t need to thank me. This is my job!”
“Ma’am!” he replied, “it’s nobody’s job to take care of me! Nobody owes me that. I want to thank you!
I was struck by that, how, even in his great pain, this man remained conscious of the fact that life, love, care, and everything else come to us as a gift, not as owed. He genuinely appreciated what this nurse was doing for him and he was right— it isn’t anybody’s job to take care of us!
It’s our propensity to forget this that gets us into trouble. The failure to be properly grateful, to take as owed what’s offered as gift, lies at the root of many of our deepest resentments towards others—and their resentments towards us.
Invariably when we are angry at someone, especially at those closest to us, it is precisely because we are not being appreciated (that is, thanked) properly. Conversely, I suspect, more than a few people harbor resentments towards us because we, consciously or unconsciously, think that it is their job to take care of us.
Like Adam and Eve we take, as if it is ours by right, what can only be received gratefully as gift. This goes against the very contours of love. It is the original sin.
“Being Trees in Autumn”
by Stephen Garnaas-Holmes
These trees in Buddhist saffron robes,
becoming naked without fear,
in wind that is a part of them,
disclose a beauty in this death,
become new shapes, interior.
To live they cannot hoard;
this losing, too, is growth.
New shapes emerge,
new vision clears.
Surrender strengthens in the soul
This emptying is confidence
in spring, but more – a faithing
in the growth that’s come before,
a counting of the gifts
and then releasing one by one,
so as to give again,
knowing growth is not a season,
but is in the root of things.
This is no losing,
but a becoming.
Coveting such openness
of limb and heart and hand,
such bareness in the singing,
I only now discover that I want
this wind, blowing where it will,
Even as I continue to search for answers I become more certain the radical call is to our humanity.
I like Walter Brueggeman’s concept of “calling” which he articulates in the dedication (to his new grandson) of his collection Prayers for a Privileged People:
“We are born into some privilege, and invited (called) to a life of reflection, yielding, and glad obedience.”
Reflection on the ultimate questions… Who am I/who are we… Why am I here/why are we here.
Yielding… to the reality that we are not our own… we are the Creator’s people.
Glad obedience… to the Creator’s large, deep oaths and purposes…
Thank you to Stewart Meagher for sharing his thoughts. What does it mean for each of us to be gladly obedient, to yield to the reality of our givenness? We are not our own…
The tree of life is a powerful Christian symbol, representing both our pristine pre-fall condition and Christ’s cross.
Pope Francis has said: “What counts is being permeated with Christ’s love, allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit, and grafting one’s own existence onto the tree of life, which is the Cross of the Lord. . . .”
Recent discoveries and insights are leading scientists to envision life on earth as a tree with several trunks and all the varied life-forms growing as limbs from these trunks. This vision began with Charles Darwin, who wrote that the “great Tree of Life fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.” (For more, click to read “Scientists Unveil a New ‘Tree of Life'” in The New York Times.)
So the tree of life may be seen as a symbol for all life; it is also an archetypal symbol appearing throughout the world’s religions; and, for Christians, of course, it is a testament to the ever-growing, timeless love of God. Christ’s cross is the tree our hope hangs on.
The tree of life is the love of God.
-St. Isaac the Syrian
Glass is a miraculous substance: a liquid turns to a solid but in its solid state can be as transparent as the clearest water. Made of silica, the primary component of sand, glass is manipulated in its viscous molten stage—it may become a window, a graceful bowl, a piece of art.
Glass, highly fragile, and beautiful, might be seen as a symbol for the fragility and beauty of human nature. When our fragility rests with God, though, it rests in God’s nature, and reflects strength, not weakness. We are fragile beings, but we’re not alone in our fragility.
If we toughen ourselves and cannot admit our fragility, our beauty may be hidden from others, for fragility is intertwined with human beauty. Allowing ourselves to be fragile, too, can open us more fully to God; when we admit to our powerlessness, we invite God’s healing, saving power.
The Gospels are full of stories of our fragility: Jesus shepherds the wandering and weak sheep, he takes pity on the suffering and on the sinner. The strong, the wealthy, the winners among us are not motivators for his compassionate action. The truth is, we are all fragile, we only imagine sometimes that we are not. Ironically, it takes strength to admit it.
“When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” (Mark 2:17)
“Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
“When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:11-13)
“Your fragility is also your strength.”
– Pina Bausch, German dancer
The ephemeral beauty of a delicate flower, of a tiny bird, of a humble man or woman imbued with God’s peace inspire wonder and admiration. A stained glass window gracing a church is beautiful in part because of its fragile nature.
Creator Mundi’s new glass pieces bring together beauty and fragility, reminding us of our reliance on God.
Let their love be a seal upon their hearts,
a mantle about their shoulders.
Bless them each morning, each noon, each night!
Walk with them and send Your angel before them.
The Covenant Cross, above, can be found here.
We set stock by the steps we take between life’s seasons. Kids graduate from preschool and move on to kindergarten. Teens graduate from high school and go on to college or career. Adults might graduate from childlessness to parenthood. We graduate from one job to another and then many of us graduate into retirement.
In our spiritual lives, we hope to graduate from infant’s milk to solid food (Hebrews 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 3:2). We graduate by the grace of God and our own yearning and cooperation. Father Thomas Keating tells us “The chief act of the will is not effort but consent.” Let us consent to each of our graduations as we walk the journey of transformation.
Do we need to graduate from fear to trust?
How about graduating from lack of confidence to confidence in God and God’s purpose for us?
Maybe we yearn to graduate from an ankle-deep religion to a life-changing, loving commitment?
Keating tells us God wants “our consent to his love of us.” This is the key to our transformation.
Graduation is a movement forward, even when accompanied by uncertainty (let us consent to trust!).
We love to mark life’s transitional moments. Let’s celebrate life’s graduations, big and small. It’s been said that we do not ask enough of God. Let’s ask God for a lot. Pope Francis has said, “Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” Dream big, dream with God.
– – – – – – – –
The Grace Presbyterian Church logo was designed by Rev. Matthew Syrdal in the spirit of the Celtic tradition. Matthew’s desire was to capture the power of the icon, what is known in many traditions world-wide as a mandala (a quadrated circle)–a symbol of wholeness and a pedagogical tool for a Celtic and Reformed theology of creation.
The cross inside the circle is a symbol of Christ as the archetypal self, the soul of the cosmos. The four cardinal directions represent the four seasons of spring, summer, fall, winter, as do the four “leaves” emanating from the central “tree of life.” The four directions also represent the life cycle of human development through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elderhood. The four leaves contain within them an ichthus or “fish,” symbolizing the four gospels and the feeding of the four-thousand, bringing spiritual sustenance to the four corners of the world.
The tree is also the chalice of the sacramental life of communion, the body and cup of the mystical Christ at the heart of creation, forming a labyrinth to the center of the Godhead. On the right hand side, between the leaf and the chalice is a “mistake,” an open area signifying the beauty of imperfection.
This logo is in the center of the cross above the chancel in the sanctuary at Grace Presbyterian Church in Highland’s Ranch, Colorado, as a witness to the fullness and wholeness of the journey of discipleship on which we are called.
Last week some of our Creator Mundi staff attended the Los Angeles Religious Congress, an annual gathering of Catholics from all continents and many countries. As in years past, we had been asked to exhibit our symbols of faith, anticipating that some of the 40,000+ attendees would find us in the large convention exhibit space.
People came in droves, complementing us, thanking us for continuing to offer authentic symbols of our Christian faith made by artisans who receive just compensation for their work and who work in safe environments. Some have visited us for many years. I commented that we had grown older (old) together. We received many gestures of love and respect, hugs and kisses, blessings and encouragement, dinner invitations and more.
Along the way, some of our customers performed miracles:
We invited Father Chris for dinner. He and some of his guests joined us for the evening. We were totally surprised when we found out that he had arranged with our waiter beforehand to treat us.
After an intimate conversation, Ray, a Professor of Theology, left saying: “You are so good to me.” Later in the afternoon he returned: “This is my favorite candy, please accept this.”
One mid-morning I noticed among our displays what I thought did not belong there. “Whose bananas are these?” I asked. Guia, our longtime friend and helper, beamed. “Fr. Pat brought them . . . and coffee.”
Bishop Barnes in the booth next to us greeted us warmly every morning with a solid handshake, which became a hug before long. This L.A. Archdiocese, its people and guests, is awesome, one big family–all races and nationalities together. Everybody is invited to participate in journeying along with the presenters, the bishops, the clergy, exploring fresh ways of being church, of receiving God’s love. Our customers were from Ireland, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, Brazil, France, Greenland, Japan
. . . will you come next year?
P.S. Father Pat’s Twitter address is @mythguidedlife.com
Hildegard established Creator Mundi in 1987 and continues to find joy in discovering distinctive sacred art and gifts for Creator Mundi’s followers.
Pope Francis has declared this a year of mercy. We all need mercy. And we need images of mercy and comfort that remind us of God’s constant forgiveness, love and presence.
Pope Francis:“Etymologically, ‘mercy’ derives from misericordis, which means opening one’s heart to wretchedness. And immediately we go to the Lord: mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God’s giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive. Jesus said he came not for those who were good but for the sinners. He did not come for the healthy, who do not need the doctor, but for the sick. For this reason, we can say that mercy is God’s identity card. God of Mercy, merciful God.”“The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way. The important thing is always to get back up, not to stay on the ground licking your wounds. The Lord of mercy always forgives me; he always offers me the possibility of starting over. He loves me for what I am, he wants to raise me up, and he extends his hand to me…. For as long as we are alive it is always possible to start over, all we have to do is let Jesus embrace us and forgive us.”
Just as He extends his hand to us, we extend a hand to others, we embrace and forgive others.“Jesus sends forth his disciples not as holders of power or as masters of a law. He sends them forth into the world asking them to live in the logic of love and selflessness.”
- Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy