Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Day 2 Personal Reflections on Catherine of Siena’s, The Dialogue

Page 26 Service by Attaining and Possessing Virtue


“…-for she knew that she could be of no service to her neighbors in teaching or example or prayer without first doing herself the service of attaining and possessing virtue”(p.26)

In this section, Catherine petitions the Father for four actions, the first being for herself so she would be able to serve in teaching, example and prayer after attaining and possessing virtue. This brings to mind the words of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” When praying the Jesus Prayer, the supplicant is praying for personal mercy rather than praying for another person. Is this not a selfish way to be praying, just as Catherine petitions the Father for her own virtue before other petitions that will benefit others?

In reality, Catherine acknowledges that she cannot possess virtue unless the Father gives it to her. She recognizes that she can do nothing without possessing this God-given gift; she cannot teach, be an example of pray for others unless God gives her the virtue to accomplish these actions. James tells us that, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, NRSV). Catherine prays in the knowledge that she can do nothing or give nothing unless she receives virtue from the Father. Without God’s virtue, she is useless.

Catherine remains true to the theme of uniting with God by using the fruit of this unity for His own purpose. Without this unity, she can do nothing. “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5, NRSV).

Catherine is correct in making her first petition to be for herself so she can serve others. The other three petitions are for reform of the Church, for the whole world, especially for peace of rebelling Christians, and finally for a private petition. Catherine lives a life dedicated to bringing about these last three petitions, relying on the help of God.

Catherine’s words remind us of the importance of praying for ourselves so we will have the will, discernment, desire, and ability to serve the Almighty.

I pray, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, your servant. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, hear my prayer.

References
New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

R.J. Payne & E.H. Cousins, (1980). The Classics of Western Spirituality: Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue. Paulist Press: New York.




Sunday, February 11, 2018

St. Catherine: The Dialogue

Become One with the Almighty Through Truth

Day One, Page 25


“And loving, she seeks to pursue truth and clothe herself in it.” p.25

Metaphor distinguishes Catherine’s Dialogue throughout. Here, she clothes herself in the pursuit of truth, by which she identifies herself as a Dominican, bearing the motto, VERITAS. Each time I wear the habit or don the Dominican cross, I commit myself to truth and pursuit of truth so that I, like Catherine, clothe myself in truth. Lord, I repent and ask for forgiveness should I misrepresent the truth intentionally or unintentionally, just as I forgive those who speak falsehoods.

A difficult task presents itself in forgiving those who spoke or speak falsehoods against me, or lambs persecuted by lies, for when touched by falsehoods, I experience the pain of being touched by evil, and so I have been wounded by lies. These servants of lies work for the evil one, master of lies and deceit. I pray out, “Satan be gone.” Lord help me with this task of forgiveness for I find it most challenging to do so. Only Your help will help me deliver forgiveness that bears the fruit of truth.

The pursuit of truth encourages and allows me to follow in Yeshua's footsteps, where no deceit can be found. In doing so, “through desire and affection and the union of love he makes of her another himself (p. 25.) In truth, through humble prayer, I become one with the Holy Trinity.

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:22-23 NRSV).


References

New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

R.J. Payne & E.H. Cousins, (1980). The Classics of Western Spirituality: Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue. Paulist Press: New York.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Intro

We are quite familiar with the Parable of the Sower and have studied the lessons learned a number of times. In the parable an anonymous sower broadly scatters the seed, which is the Word of God, some seed grows fruitfully while other seed does not.
This parable contains relevant truths for this time of year and this week in particular. This is the time of year when gardeners receive seed catalogues in the mail every day. I brought one along to show you just how many seeds there are! The Word of God is like that as well. The Word of God includes many different kinds of seeds, the seeds of love, seeds of faith, and seeds of justice and on it goes.
With it being the holiday of MLK I became curious about the seeds sown by Rev. King. As it turns out, Rev. King spoke a great deal about the various seeds of the Word. I want to give you a few examples and encourage you to read his sermons which can be found online.
The greatest seed of the Word is love. Here is what Rev. King said about the seed of love.
"Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you." This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love. Remember, if I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement. Go home with this glowing faith and this radiant assurance.
But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it. Montgomery Bus Boycott speech, at Holt Street Baptist Church (5 December 1955)
Imagine the impact if Christians followed the Word and sowed the seed of love. We see people abandoning the Church and when I talk with some of these people I hear over and over that they do not see love in action. We have our petty squabbles that consume time, energy and destroy the health of the Church. Let’s turn Grace Church into one where the seed love bears good fruit.
Sometimes, we gardeners plant different seeds together. For example, a variety of salad greens grow together or a variety of wild flower seeds to grow a beautiful more natural looking garden.
Rev. King spoke about the seeds of love and justice being planted together.
Whatever we do, we must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions. But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian face, faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love
That is what the civil rights movement was all about. “Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.” Rev. King used the Word of God to plant the seeds of love and justice. Let’s follow in his footsteps sowing the seeds of love and justice to correct that which revolts against love.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Back Again and MLK

After a three year hiatus the time has come to renew my commitment to writing. Why now? Much has transpired in the three years and the time is right to make some sense of it.

We can never take our civil rights for granted. The cancer of bigotry and misogyny is alive and well in the land of the free, along with alternate facts and people of the lie. This past Martin Luther King Day provoked prayer study of his words, his life and his death. A few of these thoughts are found within this blog.

We are quite familiar with the Parable of the Sower and have studied the lessons learned from this parable a number of times. In the parable an anonymous sower broadly scatters the seed, which is the Word of God; some seed grows fruitfully while other seed does not. We have here, relevant truths for our day and age.

I am a gardener. This is the time of year when we gardeners receive seed catalogs in the mail every day. Thousands of seeds are featured for every type of  growing condition or need. The Word of God is like that as well, as it includes many different kinds of seeds, the seeds of love, seeds of faith, and seeds of justice, seeds for times of prosperity and seeds for the dry years. As people of God, we too, become sowers of the Word.

The seeds of faith and scripture sowed by Martin Luther King yielded fruit in abundance.  Rev. King sowed a great many seeds of the Word to promote justice and equality. Here are a few examples from his sermons. Here is what Rev. King said about the greatest seed of all, love. "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you." This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love. Recently, I encountered abuse of power. It's easy to hate. It is easy to go to the dark side. These are the weeds in the garden. To grow good fruit we need to meet the enemy straight on with love. That's not to say the enemy becomes a best friend. No, it means that we pray for the enemy, that if we encounter the enemy in trouble, we offer assistance.

"But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it. Montgomery Bus Boycott speech, at Holt Street Baptist Church" (5 December 1955).

Imagine the beauty own if Christians followed the Word and sowed the seed of love. We see people abandoning the Church and when I talk with some of these people I hear over and over that they do not see love in action within the church. We have our petty squabbles that consume time, energy and destroy the health of the Church. We have power figures who abuse that power to denigrate, demean and degrade the Body of Christ.

Sometimes, we gardeners plant different seeds together. For example, a variety of salad greens grow together or a variety of wild flower seeds to grow the create a more beautiful, more natural looking garden. Reverend King spoke about the seeds of love and justice being planted together. It is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith and face. Reverend King said, "Justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.” Rev. King used the Word of God to plant the seeds of love and justice even in the face of our enemies. Let’s follow in his footsteps sowing the seeds of love and justice to correct that which revolts against love.

The Yoke of Light

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28–30

Tell me of the one who is not weary and heavy laden and I will tell you of the one who walks with God. There is no doubt that life is filled with burdens of all kinds, hunger, thirst, poverty, poor decisions, straying from the path that follows God and leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. Worry about sick friends and family burden me in especially difficult ways for I am often helpless to intervene in a meaningful way. I pray for the best even though my eyes remain blind to what that may realistically look like. Too often, I lean on God and the burden remains heavy.

What of that heaviness? What about the yoke? My temptation is to shed the yoke and be free of it once and for all, to be free as a bird without a care in the world. Without the yoke I will be free to explore new ways, look for a better path, to look for a new light in the darkness. Without the yoke, I may sever the ties that bind me to responsibility, relationships and respectability. Oh, wait a minute, is that what I really desire? Without responsibility, there is nothing to give my life purpose. Without relationships, I will be a very lonely person. Without respectability, I have no standards to maintain. If I stray from the narrow path I may never find my way back and those who love me may give up on searching.   This is not the life I want or desire.

There is a yoke to carry that keeps me following the path that Jesus prepared. The light burden of this yoke keeps me moving in the right direction, one foot in front of the over. When I begin to stray from the narrow path of Jesus guided by the Holy Spirit to the Lord the yoke becomes heavier and heavier.

When life becomes burdensome, when the yoke become heavy, it is time to review my relationship with the Almighty. It is time to call upon the grace of God, examine my conscience, ask for forgiveness, pray for mercy and call upon fellow disciples to help me on the journey. In this way, the yoke becomes light and I carry it with joy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Simple Spring Challenge

Well folks, spring has finally arrived following an especially cold, windy and brutal winter in the hinterlands of North Dakota. Believe of not, there was a positive side to this long season of being snowed in from one blizzard to the next. Short days sliding into long nights gifted me many hours of reading, Bible study and contemplation while snuggled in with two dogs, a cat and a cup of hot chocolate.

Suddenly, as though someone threw open the shutters, days are warm and sunny, 14 hours long and lengthening. For the first time in 6 months I can walk around the yard and fields gazing at debris blown in like tumbleweeds and of course the miscellaneous stuff buried in the first snow of last November. Sun pours into the windows through layers of "snert" left by the aforementioned blizzards. 

Home ownership complicates our lives. Many times I mumble to myself, "I'm ready for the condo."

So, just how does a contemplative religious deal with the complexity of caring for a home
and yard while maintaining a simple life? While this is still something I am figuring out, here are a few suggestions.

1. Set priorities
My priority is living a contemplative life in prayer and service to God. Snert can wait, praying the Daily Office will not. My home will never be featured in a magazine, but it is a place of peace and a comfortable retreat for those seeking solitude.

2. Live in the presence of God
Seasonal chores have the potential to be a prayer of praise to our Creator. Raking dead leaves, cleaning flower beds and planting seeds enable one to be intimately connected to the earth, creation and the millenia of human and nonhuman inhabitants who lived on the land.

3. If it doesn't get done, it doesn't get done
We have small field on the south side of the lilac bushes that really ought to be weeded and something useful planted in order to at least prevent the weeds from growing and spreading. It is the last project of every year and quite honestly, not much gets done. I cut the burdock and that is about it. Que sera, sera. I look up to caress the lake with my eyes, cherish the birds flying, singing and swimming and thank God for the beauty of my surroundings.





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Simplicity of Buying Consumer Goods

Does it really matter where my clothes are made? Isn't it simpler to just purchase whatever is most convenient? If so, for whom is it simpler or more convenient? Surely it is not simple or convenient for the factory worker in Bangladesh who loses life or limb for working in unsafe factories. Surely it is not simpler or more convenient for the nonunion worker in the United States with no health insurance making minimum wage so we can wear cheap clothing at their expense.

Before I get on my high horse, let me say that I do not always look into the background of every item I purchase. What I do though, is make it known to retailers, when possible, that I am searching for ethically made goods. Until consumers begin to care about the people who make their clothing or household items, change will be very slow. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/05/05/shoppers-face-hurdles-finding-ethical-clothing/2124659/ 

When we neglect the workers who make consumer goods we are projecting the message, "I really do not care about your health or wellbeing; I care more about the few cents or dollars I save than I do about you."
We are all guilty. We will all need to answer to God when asked, "You were blessed with more than any people in history, so tell me why you did not care for your brother and sister in impoverished communities and countries?"

Father Richard Rohr OSF communicates the same message in his meditation blog.

If you truly love others as God loves, you will desire the same justice for factory workers as you would want for yourself. The next time you buy an inexpensive coat, suit or dress, ask the retailer where it was made and under what conditions. Let's send the message that we care, so retailers will care.