Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Golden Leaf of Forgiveness

Benedictine Monasteries are known as such because they follow the 5th century rule of Saint Benedict. The fourth principle of that community rule is that the monastery must cultivate a spirit of forgiveness among the brothers. Forgiveness is the glue that prevents the community from devolving into divisions and even violence or dissolution. 

Does it matter whether monks live this way? For sure, as monks are supposed to be living examples that it's possible for all of us to live harmoniously and in the Gospel-way of Jesus. At the heart of Jesus' way is forgiveness, probably the hardest requirement of Christian living. That's why I'm calling it the Golden Leaf: in a nasty world, dropping resentments and getting on with loving people is golden

Forgiving the offender does't mean, "Hey, no problem, don't worry about it. Let's go on a cruise together." On the contrary, being cheated, slandered, abused, neglected, tricked, manipulated, lied to, ripped off (we get the picture) is a problem. So then what does forgiveness mean? 

Forgiving someone means: "From the bottom of my heart (and I may have to reach down as deep as that to find it) I simply wish you well. I wish you all good. I wish you health, peace, change of heart, growth in goodness, salvation, success..." To wish this for anyone is loving.

And if I can't do this, but at least want to be able to wish someone well, I have made a start. We grow, with God's help. It's important as well to remember, that I'm as vulnerable and as capable of error and folly as the next guy. Indeed, some of us have a keen awareness of our own errors over the years and having been the recipient of someone else's forgiveness. In which case, forgiving someone is just a variation on the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. 

The Golden Leaf: Dropping resentments and extending forgiveness: "I wish you well."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Intercessions ~ Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Pharisee has only negative opinions of the Publican in the Gospel today./ We pray for the Church/ and that we would welcome,/ know,/ love and serve each other well./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is the Jewish Feast of Sukkot,/ when Jews pray for the world in all of its need./ We join them,/ aware of the those places where there is great suffering and pain,/ disharmony and fear./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of St. Evaristus,/ fourth Bishop of Rome,/ successor to St. Peter./ We pray for Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict./ For their safety,/ health and strength./ And for pilgrims to Rome/ as the Year of Mercy will soon end./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who do evil things./ For anyone who is blood-thirsty,/ deceitful/ or who loves war./ We ask for the healing of our country,/ and for the well-being of family,/ friends and children everywhere./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have nothing to celebrate,/ no happy or good memories./ We ask blessings for peacemakers,/reconcilers and advocates of mercy and justice./ For the sick,/ the elderly and the poor./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask gifts of healing for all who live in active addictions./ For those who need new strength for a struggle./ For those who are overwhelmed with despair/ or who long to feel forgiven./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for those who have died/ to be assisted by the prayers of the Virgin Mary and the saints./ And that we would recognize the help God gives us for our own salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shh! Stop and Consider!

I'm just back from a few days at the Benedictine Monastery of Mount Saviour in Elmira, New York. There are ten hardy monks there, on their feet and hanging on, who still keep the traditional seven times chapel-gathering for prayer, starting at 4:45 in the morning.

The monastery is indeed at the top of the mount. The road heading in is a steep enough climb to require a stop or two to catch your breath. And right at the top, just before the monastic buildings come into view, there is this marvelous tree, now bright orange with yellow-leaved wild grape vines underneath. 

"Stop and consider the wondrous works of God," we read in Job 37:14. God's imagination: trees that change color, to delight us!

And in the monastery there are other wondrous things to observe and consider:

The tables in the refectory (dining room) are U shaped with the prior (head-monk) sitting at the center so to lead the blessings. But splaying out to his left and right are the guests. The monks sit further away along the U, only after the guests are seated and served. Even at Mass, the guests receive Holy Communion first; the monks follow. There are some good Gospel verses about living this way of others first.

And while there is no vow of silence, the monks speak really only about necessities. The guests find it very hard to carry this over to the guest house where there is usually too much talking. The witness of quiet monks is important, maybe especially these days, bombarded as we are with advertising and constant talk shows and "Breaking News." 

Wouldn't it be something if the  Christians were identified more by our quiet interiority than by our outward shows. That we were the ones who didn't get into all the stupid talk. Father John says: "Where there are many words, sin cannot be avoided." 

We might find a bronzy-orange, flame-tree today somewhere, or imagine stopping along the monastery road shown here, and in silence, just consider.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Prayer Before The Queen of Peace

The monks of Mount Saviour end their day of rhythmic work and prayer, in the crypt of their chapel, where the pilgrim discovers this tender statue of the Virgin Mary with her Holy Child. The image was likely created in 13th century France and given to Father Damasus when he founded the monastery in the early 1950's. The monks have titled her: Queen of Peace.

Look! Mary carries Jesus off her left hip, as mothers do. She plays with his foot, while he tugs on her veil with both hands. The statue was originally painted, indeed, bits of color remain on the folds of her mantle, dress and hair. Mother and Child smile at each other. Silly to call those centuries, the Dark Ages. 

Notice the ceiling ribs converging over her head. She is a prayer-locus. Here's my own prayer, but you can zoom in on the photo for a closer look and write your own. Prayer springs from our breathing and from our hearts, the doorway to which is silence.

I arise today ~
Mary's smile
and that of her Child.
In her playful carrying,
and her locked-on gaze.
In her crowned elegance,
and sparked prayer.

I arise today ~
whispered to 
and enfolded in mantle.
Gladdened by wonder
and the Infant's climbing.
Protected and defended,
against the un-doing.

May I live this day ~
Hopeful in darkness,
Still standing in confusion,
Patient with weakness,
Good-hearted with ignorance,
Thawed by the death-news.