“Praise be you, O my Lord, for our Brother Wind, and for air and cloud, calms and all weather by whom you uphold life in all creatures.” Canticle of the Creatures – Francis of Assisi
My wife and I are on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We are at my mother in laws home, for a gathering of the clan. I am sitting on a deck, a copy of Henry Thoreau’s Walden in my hand.
I am looking up into blue sky, with wispy clouds being blown across. And I spot seagulls circling above, held up by winds coming off the ocean. It is a quiet time, it is a holy time. St. Francis wanted his followers to live in simple huts, mostly as a commitment to poverty. But I would speculate that he hoped his community would be outside experiencing the beauty of God’s creation. As I was for a glorious moment. And in that moment, my soul felt renewed.
“Most high, almighty, good Lord God, to you belong all praise, glory, honor, and blessing!”
Last Friday, I was coming home from work, going down a walkway from the train platform. I just happened to look down and saw on the ground, two sticks in the form of a cross. I do not know if someone put those sticks together to form a cross; or if the sticks fell together that way. What I can tell you is that the sight stopped me in my tracks.
I must confess that my spiritual life has felt a little dull lately. Practices I have done; have fallen by the wayside. Books I have looked to for spiritual nourishment in the past, have remained unopened. Only at Sunday Mass, do I feel the spark ignite! Yet, at the sight of that little cross, I was inspired to begin to pray. It was only for moment, it was a wonderful moment!
I left the cross as it was; I have no idea if it is still there. I hope it is there for someone else to find.
The following prayer is from St. Francis of Assisi; that he is to have prayed before the San Damiano Cross:
Most high, most glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Grant me a right and a perfect charity, feeling, and understanding of you, so that I may be able to accomplish your holy and just commands. Amen!
We are currently in the most serious times in the recent life of the Catholic Church. In Rome, in the United States, and other parts of the Catholic world; stories of the cover up of misdeeds of an American Cardinal, involving Pope Francis; the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury on clergy abuse of children; and reports of sexual misconduct in an Archdiocesan seminary have filled the air ways. And we now have bishops calling for the resignation of Pope Francis.
And in the midst of all, I cannot yet put fingers to keyword, and write my own reactions, my own reflections on what is happening now! How does all this negative news affect me? Because I am, as a deacon, a member of the clergy; although our lives are divided among family, work, and service to the Church. I am not really that plugged in to the clerical culture. So how do I react, one foot in Church “culture;” the other in the “real’ world? I have not quite figured that out yet, so my fingers are still. For the moment.
An unexpected surprise awaited me when I took my seat on the morning train! This sticker was on the windowsill of my seat. Needless to say, it brought a smile to my face.
Sometimes, God scatters unexpected surprises for us to stumble upon. Whether we encounter them in the world, or deep within our soul; we should be open to them in the moment, and rejoice!
Outside my office building in the South Shore, the company lowered the American flag to half staff. It honors the memory Sargent Michael Chesna, a Weymouth, MA police officer, who died in the line of duty. Many of us, in the face of violence or disaster, will run for cover. Extraordinary men and women, like Sargent Chesna, with the duty of protecting us, will charge forward. Sadly, some do not return.
We remember their courage, we pray for, and support their loved ones that are left behind. And we also must remember the victims. In this incident, we pray for Vera Adams, shot in her sun room.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them!
Through the mercy of God, may they Rest In Peace!
There has been a school of thought that when raising our children, we need to be strict, uncompromising about standards of behavior. This “tough love” school was particularly popular some years ago. And among many parents, it still is.
I want to talk about another type of “tough” love. The type of love that Jesus calls us to have for one another. I have been deeply troubled by what has been going on both politically and socially in our nation. Racism is raising it’s ugly head. Splits between poor and rich; blue collar and white collar; liberal and conservative, are becoming more fractious and angry.
This is not completely a new thing, one needs only read about the life and incidents that occurred leading up to the Civil War. In 1854, abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner was beaten by a Southern Congressman, on the floor of the Senate Chamber itself. Fast forward, we have a Democratic Congresswoman calling for the harassment of any supporter of President Trump. And his supporters are doing the same to anyone who opposes his policies. And the social media of both sides are egging their followers on. And the country appears to be fracturing.
Jesus taught that there are two prime commandments from which all other commandments come from: You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. And the second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the “tough” love I am speaking about. A love we experience when we open our hearts, our inner selves to God. A love that asks us to change, but also to accept who we are at that moment. And if we can accept ourselves because God does; so must we accept other persons, because God loves them too. They are due at the least respect; even if they do not offer it in return. We can never dehumanize another, turning them into an object of our anger.
Now that does not mean we just standby and remain silent. We are still called to the prophetic role of speaking truth to power. We speak out against those who spread bigotry and hatred of others. But we do not use their own tactics. Look tothe work of Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Day, their movements used protests, and civil disobedience; but using non-violence, in word and action, to win people to their side.
So we are challenged by the Spirit, to be faithful to the commandment to love our neighbors; even when they are being asses. Gospel love is “tough” love.
This sign appeared recently on the platform of the commuter rail station I go to. I do not know if it’s appearance had been planned for a time, or is in response to the spate of celebrity suicides that have hit the news recently.
These suicides should be a wake up call that there are many persons out there, family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, and fellow citizens; who are deep pain. They are suffering from depression, hopelessness, and despair. They believe they are alone, and they feel they cannot bear the burden any more; and they see death as the only source of relief.
It is up to all of us to give support, and care to our suffering brothers and sisters. To let them know that they are not alone.
Some of us may have the gift of providing counseling. Some may be able to be the one who listens. A welcoming handshake, a hug, or a hand on the shoulder; could make all difference.
God will make visible those opportunities to help. The Holy Spirit will give us those gifts we will need. And Jesus will be walking with us. At that very least, we can pray for those who tempted to commit suicide; for the souls of those who have; and the families they have left behind. May the love of God dispel the darkness, and bring hope to those who need it.