“[P]rayer is in many ways the criterion of Christian life. Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence… proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominate counsel is “Do your best and God will do the rest.” When life is divided into “our best” and “God’s rest,” we have turned to prayer as a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted. Then even the Lord has become the victim of our impatience. Discipleship does not mean to use God when we no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.”
Seeds of Hope
This latest episode of Among Women features the faith story of Nan Balfour, whose love and faith in God led her to knowing her feminine genius .
Together we explore the gift of faith and what it means to fall in love with God, and how it changes the way we love and live. Nan Balfour shares pivotal conversion moments in her life — a life of on-going conversion — and how they led her to what she does now. Nan is a leader with the Pilgrim Center of Hope, and the conference coordinator for the Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio coming up Sept 19-20.
In our “Blessed are They” segment, we pray along with Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity — whose faith was wrapped up in love of the Holy Trinity.
Don’t miss this episode, and share it with your friends on social media, and put an announcement in your church bulletin for Among Women.
For details on upcoming conferences and retreats with me, Pat Gohn, go here.
Grant me, O Lord,
an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from you;
a noble heart that no base love can sully;
an upright heart that no perverse intention
can lead astray;
an invincible heart that no distress can overcome;
an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.
Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.
-St Thomas Aquinas-
Last year, on a date with my husband, we lingered in an antiques shop, where I found this blast from my past. I snapped the photo with my iPhone4s.
As a young child, I loved tapping out words on our family’s ribbon typewriter. Often our first loves as children translate somehow into our adult loves. I think that’s why I was drawn to take a photo of this typewriter. As a writer today, in this avocation and apostolate of writing for the Lord in the Catholic sphere of publishing and new media, I work daily with an electronic keyboard. Yet my delight never wavers to see new words appear on paper, or on a screen.
This new Catholic Photo Challenge considers darkness and light as captured in Isaiah 9: 1: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone.”
The darkness and light — the black and white of the machine and the letter keys — stands out for me as a writer. It reminds me of the joy and the responsibility of writing within this sphere of Catholic life. Ever present in my work are the silent rhetorical evaluations: are my words bringing light to darkness, joy to gloom, direction to seekers?
It is a work that is both humbling and awesome.
One of my favorite books of the bible (I have several) is 1 John. The opening sentences of that letter allude to the profound joy in meeting and knowing Jesus. And the author offers this declaration of his letter’s intent, a kind of definition of writing.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete. (1John 1: 4)
John’s phrase could easily capture my own reasons for writing. I write for the joy of the writing, sure enough, but I write that my deepest joy, my faith and life in Christ, might be seen and realized in what I say and do. In many ways, when I get to write about my own faith experiences, it wraps a proverbial bow around the gift of faith, making it complete. But in truth, the catechism teaches that faith is not complete until it finds itself in love’s action. Faith is not real faith until it is given away by words and deeds.
The apostles were compelled to share the faith, the message of the Jesus Christ. The message was “gospel” or “good news”. Indeed , their words and their witness brought light to darkness — as they shared about the fulfillment that is found in Jesus Christ, who is the object of all the longing capture in the prophet’s heart in Isaiah 9: 1!
In his very next sentence, John makes his meaning plain, revealing the echo of Isaiah and the prayer of his own writerly heart…
Now this is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (1John 1: 5.)
Last week I posted a rather lengthy reflection with several photographs I took in our yard. I tagged my pals Steve Nelson of Everything Estaban, and Maria Johnson at Another Cup of Coffee about it on Facebook because they are both camera geeks.
Since then, Steve has announced a link up using photography and Catholic themes: aka the Catholic Photo Challenge. I don’t know if I can participate every week, but I’ve got one below. Here’s the gist of the challenge if you wish to participate:
1. Create a post on your blog with the photo that represents your interpretation of the current Catholic Photo Challenge.
2. Click on the button at Steve’s blog that says “Add your link”, for example, the one on this page at Everything Estaban for week #1.
3. Paste the URL to your specific post with the photo, not the main URL of your blog.
4. Include a link back to here in your post.
5. Come back to this page and see what others have posted.
Questions? Email email@example.com
Theme: Seeing God in the Works of Nature
You’re looking at the petals of our flowering pear tree. This is an iPhone4 zoom into a single blossom. I love that you can notice the pollen and the delicate veins of each petal. You can almost feel the life of that flower as you observe the dew drops on it.
God sees us this way — up close and detailed. Intimate. He sees into us, the stuff that’s below the surface… where the real drops of life reside. Yet, we are part of beautiful whole of creation. We might be tempted to think that we might be overlooked when you imagine us amid all the other blossoms out there… like this wider shot of the pear tree:
But no. We are not lost. We are not overlooked. We are unique, just as the blossom’s position and veins and hairs make that it unique. God loves us and knows us intimately. He breathes life into every thing he has made, from least to greatest. From majesty of the steadfast mountains and fathomed oceans and the vast cosmos… to the littlest blossom that lives for just a few weeks and then falls to earth. It is His delight.
Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you…
-Luke 12: 27-28-
The death of God in Jesus Christ is at the same time the expression of his radical solidarity with us. The most obscure mystery of the faith is at the same time the clearest sign of a hope without end. And what is more: only through the failure of Holy Friday, only through the silence of death of Holy Saturday, were the disciples able to be led to an understanding of all that Jesus truly was and all that his message truly meant. God had to die for them so that he could truly live in them. The image they had formed of God, within which they had tried to hold him down, had to be destroyed so that through the rubble of the ruined house they might see the sky, him himself who remains, always, the infinitely greater. We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness and the chasm of our nothingness which would grow wider and wider without him.
There is a Gospel scene which in an extraordinary way anticipates the silence of Holy Saturday and which again, therefore, seems to be a profile of the moment in history we are living now. Christ is asleep on a boat which, buffeted by a storm, is about to sink. The prophet Elijah had once made fun of the priests of Baal who were futilely invoking their god to send down fire on their sacrifice. He urged them to cry out louder in case their god was asleep. But is it true that God does not sleep? Does not the prophet’s scorn also fall upon the heads of the faithful of the God of Israel who are sailing with him in a boat about to sink? God sleeps while his very own are about to drown – is not this the experience of our lives? Don’t the Church, the faith, resemble a small boat about to sink, struggling futilely against the waves and the wind, and all the time God is absent? The disciples cry out in dire desperation and they shake the Lord to wake him but he is surprised at this and rebukes them for their small faith. But are things any different for us?
When the storm passes we will realize just how much this small faith of ours was charged with stupidity. And yet, O Lord, we cannot help shaking you, God, you who persist in keeping your silence, in sleeping, and we cannot help crying to you: Wake up, can’t you see we are sinking? Stir yourself, don’t let the darkness of Holy Saturday last for ever, let a ray of Easter fall, even on these times of ours, accompany us when we set out in our desperation towards Emmaus so that our hearts may be enflamed by the warmth of your nearness. You who, hidden, charted the paths of Israel only to become a man in the end with men – don’t leave us in the dark, don’t let your word be lost in these days of great squandering of words.
Lord, grant us your help, because without you we will sink. Amen .
“The Anguish of an Absence (Three Meditations on Holy Saturday)”
by Joseph Ratzinger
(later Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)
Lord Jesus Christ, in the darkness of death You made a light shine; in the abyss of the deepest solitude the powerful protection of Your love now lives for ever; in the throes of Your concealment we now can sing the hallelujah of the saved. Grant us the humble simplicity of faith, which does not let us stray when You call us in the hours of darkness, of abandonment, when all seems difficult; grant us, at this time when a mortal struggle is being waged around You, light enough that we will not lose You; light enough for us to give to all those who still have need of it. Make the mystery of Your Easter joy shine, like the aurora of the dawn, on these days of ours; grant that we may truly be men of Easter in the midst of history’s Holy Saturday. Grant that in the course of the days of light and dark of this age we may always with happy hearts find ourselves on the pathway to Your future glory. Amen.
Meditationen zur Karwoche,
Kyrios-Verlag, Freising 1969
Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa.
Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony.
And God made one version of you…
We exist to exhibit God, to display His glory.
We serve as canvases for His brushstroke, papers for His pen, soil for His seeds, glimpses of His image.
–Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life
This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer. This voice of his is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do whatever he asks of her. And so you can see, hearing him hurts much more than not being able to hear him… For now, his voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.
- Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle -