Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grant that we would be freed of anxiety this Sabbath day/ so to worship well,/ preparing us for the forever-joy of heaven./ We pray to the Lord.

Sanctify and lead your Church to repentance/ and the clean heart of the Gospel,/ that in our vocation and good works,/ we would serve you truly and humbly./ We pray to the Lord.

In an election time/ we pray for God to drive far from us all wrong desires/ and that our nation would be restored to unity/ and preserved in goodness and love./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi,/ who is more rightly portrayed cleaning lepers than preaching to birds./ That we would be brave Christians./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of October,/ we pray for those who will keep birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for them,/ good health,/ safety and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who are unhappy with themselves/ or who are ready to give up./ We pray for those who live where there is war,/ and for the injured,/ the sick,/ the orphaned,/ those left-behind/ and for mourners./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember those who have died from among our own family and friends./ We pray as well for those who die suddenly,/ with no time to prepare/ and for those who are forgotten in death./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Prayer for Animals

Russian photographer Elena Karneeva has taken this photograph of a young girl with a young bear. When we are little, animals are our heroes: they have secret knowledge, they are magical and inspire our first books, we interact with them lovingly, they are friends whose company we enjoy. Then at some point, animals become the enemy, and we can start killing them, abusing and being violent with them. Perhaps this reflects the Adam and Eve story where Adam is so close to the animals,  he even names them. The story doesn't tell us, but after taking up with the tempter and eating from the forbidden tree, did he become indifferent to the animals or worse? 

Here is a prayer for the animals written by Albert Schweitzer.

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for animals who are suffering, for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful. Amen.*

*Matthew 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Healing the Demon-Seized Boy

Raphael ~ Section of The Transfiguration

This painting is part of a much larger and well-known painting of the Transfiguration by the Renaissance artist, Raphael. The larger piece is of the Apostles, Peter, James and John, over-whelmed by Christ's brightness on the mountaintop, with Moses and Elijah in conversation. We find this little sub-scene at the bottom of the image: as Jesus and his friends descend the mountain, they meet the father of a demon-seized child, hoping for the boy's release. 

It is a very moving scene, isn't it? The dad's face is full of anxiety and anticipation as he holds up the boy who is flailing about. Is that the boy's mother, who points to her son, looking to Jesus, expectantly? Other stressed-out relatives and neighbors surround the desperate family, calling out for Jesus to help. Here is the Gospel account.

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and lawyers arguing with them. As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe, and they ran forward to welcome him. He asked them, 'What is this argument about?" A man in the crowd spoke up: "Master, I brought my son to you. He is possessed by a spirit which makes him speechless. Whenever it attacks him, it dashes him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they failed. Jesus answered: "What an unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long must I endure you? Bring him to me." So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, "How long has he been like this? "From childhood," he replied, "Often it has tried to make an end of him by throwing him into the fire or into water. But if it is at all possible for you, take pity upon us and help us." "If it is possible?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible to one who has faith." "I have faith," cried the boy's father; help me where faith falls short." Jesus saw then that the crowd was closing in upon them so he rebuked the unclean spirit, "Deaf and dumb spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never go back!"After crying aloud and racking him fiercely, it came out, and the boy looked like a corpse; in fact, many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately, "Why could not we cast it out?" He said, "There is no means of casting out this sort but prayer."  Mark 9:14-29

As Jesus and the disciples arrive at the bottom of the Glory-Mountain the waiting crowd surges towards Jesus. "Runs forward" the gospel tells us. And they were "overcome with awe." And they "welcome Jesus." Can you feel the excitement? It makes me wonder if Jesus is still shining as he was at the top of the mountain or was there some remnant of his white-brightness that stuns the crowd. The attractiveness of Jesus. 

The father describes what's going on with the boy: it dashes him to the ground.  Poor boy. Poor parents who have to watch their children suffer. So many children suffer around the world. while their powerless parents can only watch and weep. But interiorly, can you name a time in your own life when you felt dashed to the ground?

Then there is this conversation the father and Jesus have about believing. I think the exchange is light-hearted; Jesus isn't being stern or indignant. "If it's possible," the dad asks with great courtesy. "Sure it's possible, if we believe," Jesus says. Sounds like Angel Gabriel in the conversation with Mary at the Annunciation: Sure it's possible! 

And Jesus doesn't reprimand because the dad admits faith is sometimes challenged or in short supply. We can imagine how vulnerable the parents felt - their child so tormented for so long and with no solution in sight. Jesus understands this and gives the gift of healing.

Then, when the boy is freed but left so weakened and down, people think he's dead, Jesus lifts the boy up, taking him by the hand. This is typical of Jesus all throughout Mark's Gospel accounts. Jesus, lifting up humankind. A hint of resurrection. How tender and solicitous. 

And Mark tells us that Jesus raised the boy to his feet. Can you name that place for yourself - when you were down-for-the-count and heaven restored you - put you back together or back on your feet? It's very wonderful.

Then finally, Jesus goes indoors and speaks to the disciples privately. Some folks only attend to the Gospel in the past tense. But the wonders of Jesus are for you and me as well, and NOW. Indoors means in our own interior lives - privately and personally. We don't even have to imagine what he said to them. What matters is what Jesus says to us. Each of us. Anything come to mind?

Friday, September 23, 2016

When Feeling Troubled

Christ-Teacher in Glory

This prayer comes to us from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. The monastic community of Bethlehem prays the blessing at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer. We might use it for ourselves and our families when feeling burdened, tired, heart-broken, sad or anxious. We might also pray the blessing over the world when we hear troubling news from far away and we don't know what else to do.

O Christ our true God, risen from the dead,
through the prayer of your all-holy and all-Immaculate Mother,
elevated soul and body
into the Glory of the Three Divine Persons,
by the power of your glorious and life-giving Cross,
by the protection of the holy Angels and Archangels,
through the prayer of the holy prophet
John the Baptist the Forerunner,
of Saint Joseph,
of the holy apostles,
of the martyrs,
of the holy monks and nuns,
be pleased to pour down your mercy upon us and save us,
for you are Good and You love mankind. Amen.