I offer this stretch of path

I would like to introduce you to a Professor of mine, Dr. Antony Lilles.  (“Catholic theologian, married father of three, living in Colorado since 1992.  Having completed doctoral studies in ’98, his research is dedicated to the wisdom of the saints and mystics of the Church.  He has recently published Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, Omaha: Discerning Hearts (2012).”   You can follow him on his blog: Beginning to Pray.

Dr. Lilles is currently walking the Way of St. James in Spain.  Here is one of his reflections, written yesterday.  In it he gives some excellent examples of how to intercede in the midst of daily life:

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Faith on the Way

What does a pilgrim find in Spain?
A land of paradox.   Extremely modern communist style apartments can rise above very ancient and warmer architectural forms on the same street.  Miles of the old primitive path are interrupted by brand new roads or in other places bordered by electric fences (a deterrent for livestock or pilgrims or both).   Beautiful silence is sometimes swallowed by the droning of “power generating” windmills.  The spirit of Don Quixote and the spirit of materialism, idealism and cynicism, faith and skepticism, ancient Catholicism and new religions of drug culture, simplicity of rural living and the complexity of over technologized souls, joy and sorrow; all of these movements one picks up on while treading the via primitiva.
Asturias was very beautiful but the chapels and sanctuaries were all locked or else in ruins.   This made finding a place for daily mass very difficult and, really, our greatest hardship.  Now in Galacia, chapels and masses are a little more available.
The other hardship which we are still contending with is the walk itself … About 18 miles a day.  The body adjusts to this.   And there are only two days to go.  Still, more than half way and drawing closer to Santiago, I still find the last three miles always a little more difficult, but because of that, the very best for prayer.
It is not a deep mental prayer of insight, or or delving introspection, but a prayer of intercession that comes easiest, “I offer this hundred yards  in reparation for the scandal I caused in the hearts of others…please let them know your love and draw them close to you even in the face of my failure to witness- because no matter how great my sin, your love is greater.”
Or else “remember my friend who died.  His life was filled with so much ambiguity and difficulty, but you were with him through it all. Now, as he stands before you, let this little act of love I offer with my feet open up the floodgates of your mercy on him.”
Or again, “I offer this stretch of path in thanksgiving for all the blessings you have lavished on meand my family.  I did nothing to deserve them.  But you blessed us anyway.  Let these steps be for your glory …”
The one phrase however that returns time and again is “Into your hands I commend my spirit.  With this step, I give myself to you completely, I abandon myself to you, with all the love of my heart, with total confidence, for you are my Father.”
As I wrote this reflection in the Albergue, in the room next to me, graduate student Lucy Ridsdale’s voice echoed over the 1970s pop song playing on the local radio. It was paradox: sachrine tunes suddenly overshadowed by something deeper and richer, and more fully human.  Everyone stopped.  The radio was turned off.  One young man broke down in tears.
I will post that recording in the future but here is a rendition of the chant dedicated to St James, sung in Santiago almost 800 years ago, when Saint Francis trod this path during another age of paradox and contradiction, penance and renewal: O adiutor omnium seculorum

About all those shadows we live with

I haven’t reposted from Ann Voskamp recently.  Probably because I figure that you all follow her.  But just in case, you don’t, here’s the latest:

I take the kid that fell off the rip stick and broke his foot back to the doctor.

He may or may not have laid an afternoon or two on the kitchen floor, wailing that I had ruined his life.

Because I had the audacity to not let him and his cast go drive a tractor or jump on the trampoline or swing down the zipline. Yeah, I’m sorta old fashioned and ridiculous like that.

The doctor says one more week of cast swinging. I think the kid may become a happy human pinwheel on crutches, flipping all the way out the doctor’s office.

I get pink eye.

And then youtube how to unclog a toilet so I don’t have to bother the Farmer who is putting in 24 hour days back to back in the field, because yeah, nobody wants to drag their dirt-crusted selves in after 48 hours on an open tractor only to meet a reeking toilet.

You can read the rest here.

Seeds need darkness

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“The directions on the packet of flower seeds read: ‘Seeds need darkness to germinate.’  It makes me think of myself.  I want to grow.  I want to become more than I am.  Yet, so often my self-guided efforts leave me feeling empty, looking for Something More.  The ‘germination,’ the better life that I seek, must start in darkness.  Lent is that darkness.  It is not something dreadful or depressing.  Rather, Lent takes us back to what really matters in life.  We return to the beginning.  You are here.  Why?  Did you bring yourself about?  Is your life a reward from some accomplishment?  No.  You have been loved into existence by Someone.  Why would that Someone want to bring you into being?  The answer to all the dissatisfaction and unrest we experience every day is to be found in the love that acted (and acts) to give you life.  In the darkness of Lent we meet again this Someone whose love whispers to us, ‘It is necessary that you exist.’  In that desire of the divine heart we discover our truest worth.  Which sets us free.  We belong to this One who constantly speaks to our wounded heart. . . who constantly calls us in our darkness to come out of our darkness.  Lent is for leaving behind our distractions, our delusions.  We go into the darkness of Christ’s tomb.  What happens there to him will happen, too, to us.”  (Father Peter John Cameron)

“Blessing the darkness”?

We’re always questioning the darkness in our lives.  What good is it?  Why does God allow it?  Here are Ann Spangler’s thoughts:

Larry Crabb says that we find God only when we need him. Simple words, but true. It’s like looking for the light switch in a dark room. No one goes searching for it until the sunlight has gone. Similarly, darkness can impel our search for God.

Several years ago I met the last survivor pulled from the wreckage after the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. During our time together, Genelle Guzman-McMillan told me a story about flirting with faith but choosing to live without it. Then, on September 11, her world fell apart and she found herself in complete darkness, buried alive under a mountain of rubble

You can read the rest here.

When the thread snaps

If you feel things are out of control in your life (and even if you don’t), this is for you:

Hanging By A Thread

 A week ago, I thought I had things under control.  My blog post was up on Monday and I’d jotted down thoughts for another two; my upcoming classes with senior executives were planned; my beard was trimmed.
On Tuesday, I ate lunch with a friend I’ve been out of contact with for a while.  He gave me inscribed copies of his two most recent books, which I started reading that day.  Then, it all changed.
We brought our eight year old, Jopa, to the MD’s office that afternoon.  She’d been showing signs of what we thought was an infection.  We were wrong.  It was Type I diabetes.
One day her pancreas was producing insulin.  The next it was not.  Her life, and ours, changed forever with the mysterious shutting down of her relevant cells.
She and my wife went to the hospital, where they remained for three days.  And, that was the least of it.  She’ll be pinpricking her finger and giving herself shots for as long as she lives.
Something similar happened to a parishioner who was healthy and living a normal life on Friday.  Saturday, he slipped on the ubiquitous ice, cracked his skull, and underwent emergency brain surgery.  He is in critical condition, fighting for his life.
Read the rest here.

Trials of trust

This is for you who are going through times of great darkness and/or suffering:

“Hope and trust grow and increase only by trial, suffering, danger, sorrow, and even if it comes, horror.  For this reason, darkness is an essential part of the spiritual journey–darkness of many kinds.”

“Some have called this trust the greatest act of worship we can perform, because it unites us in a more realistic way with the mystery of Christ.” (Fr. Benedict Groeschel)

I thank all of you, on behalf of the Church, all of you who are offering the trials, dangers, even horrors to God as an act of worship.  May God sustain you and give you hope.

The temptation of temptations

“So go forth very bravely with perfect trust in the goodness of him who calls you to this holy task.  When has anyone ever hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?  Mistrust of your own powers is good as long as it is the groundwork of confidence in God’s power; but if you are ever in any way discouraged, anxious, sad, or melancholy I entreat you to cast this away as the temptation of temptations; and never allow your spirit to argue or reply in any way to any anxiety or downheartedness to which you may feel inclined.  Remember this simple truth which is beyond all doubt: God allows many difficulties to beset those who want to serve him but he never lets them sink beneath the burden as long as they trust in him.  This, in a few words, is a complete summary of what you most need: never under any pretext whatsoever to yield to the temptation of discouragement, not even on the plausible pretext of humility.”  (St. Francis de Sales)