Friday, July 31, 2015

the kind of writing I want to do when I grow up

Crabapple holding in arms

what almost has
selvage and leaf-lavish open.

Pumpkin seed in the hand,
lick the salt after.
What remains, after.
Bowl fill with woodpecker’s shavings of cedar.

Door of the beak, release attic.
Voice remain fragrant.
Love hold the lungs again open.

By the bed, here.
By silence and whiteness,
by staying.
Carved scent of orange-oil, open.

By rise of the woodpecker’s question,
of crabapple fruiting,
clasp now this room that is given.

Open with flood what is given,
once again fragrant and here.

       ~Jane Hirshfield,                                                  
“Spell to Be Said After Illness”                        

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I’m a big fan of Heather King’s writing.

I’ve mentioned this exceptional Catholic writer before, but just in case you missed it… check out her blog here, and go here to read about Redeemed, my introduction into Heather’s writing.

It’s not just Heather’s quality of thought and of writing—which is, indeed, brilliant.

Perhaps what I enjoy and appreciate the most is Heather’s ability to take an intellectual concept (or an academic idea, or a conceptual artistic expression), and in genuine Ignatian fashion, deliberately and honestly explore, question and challenge herself -- until she discovers and is able to describe God’s presence there.

It’s the type of writing I want to do when I grow up.

It seems fitting, therefore, on this feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, to connect once again with Heather’s blog, a place where I so frequently feel invited –and provoked – to experience God, day by day.

From one of her blog posts last week:

"There is a custom which I have met only in Thailand, whereby a person composes a small cookbook before her or his death, so that it can be distributed as a keepsake to the mourners attending the funeral.

The recipes, typically no more than a score, are likely to be those which the deceased especially enjoyed. They need not have been composed or used by the deceased, but often are. Sometimes they incorporate little anecdotes and attributions. . . .

The idea is attractive. With what better keepsake could one depart from a funeral? What other would equally well keep one's memory green among friends?”

“Funeral Cookbooks” by Alan Davidson,

Check out the rest of her blog post—and Heather’s personal recipe for Tuscan Rosemary and Pine Nut Bars—here!

What an interesting idea, to create a keepsake of recipes for the mourners at my funeral. What would you put in yours? 

My Funeral Cookbook would definitely have to begin with a good paella recipe... and plátanos maduros... and Cuban rum cake...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

self-care is not selfish

One of the scribes... asked him, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied... 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. 
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”~Gospel of Mark, chapter 12: 28-31
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“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet. “
~Mahatma Gandhi
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One of the unforeseen blessings of my autoimmune condition has been the necessity to learn how to focus on myself—my needs, my wants, and what I can and need to do to take care of myself.

I’ve been in the midst of a flare up recently, and everything has slowed once again because of necessity… including writing for the blog!

Today I gave myself permission to stay in my pajamas—and to read and write in bed.

I have always been a caretaker of one sort or another. It’s a role I play well, and one that is very familiar and comfortable for me. Coupled with my innate intuition, even as a young child, I instinctively knew how to evaluate the needs of those around me and jump in to take care of them.

Imagine my surprise when I first realized that, not only is caretaking not necessarily a positive trait, it can also be a form of self-destructiveness!

Please don’t misquote me. I’m not advocating here any sort of self-absorption or narcissistic, obsessive behavior. Far from it.  Yet for me and others like me (you know who you are!!), thinking about self is something we have to do consciously, deliberately.

It’s like the flight attendant points out in every flight… you have to put the mask on yourself first, before you have the oxygen and wherewithal to put the mask on those around you.

In truth, I am still a caretaker, and I assume I will always be one. But I’m getting better at learning to notice when I carry caretaking to the extreme—and to the exclusion of self-love, self-awareness and self-care.

And as soon as I do, I lay that, too, at the foot of the cross

Thursday, July 16, 2015

word of the day: Carmel!

There are certain geographical places where the veil between heaven and earth is so thin, that my spirit experiences with certainty and clarity the holy untouchable. Without words or logical explanations, the presence of God wraps around me like a warm blanket.

Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean, is such a place for me. 

Elijah's Grotto, within the Church of Stella Maris 
statue of Elijah
The first time I visited the Church of Stella Maris in Haifa, I felt like a character in an old Charleston Heston Bible movie.  There I stood, where hermits and pilgrims have walked for over 3,000 years. There I knelt, praying at the cave where the prophet Elijah built an altar to God.

According to the Book of Kings, that altar on Mount Carmel ["Carmel" means "garden" in Hebrew] --is where Elijah challenged 450 Baal prophets to declare whose god was truly in control. Historians point out that the mountain has been a sacred, holy place for believers since at least 15th Century B.C.!

And most importantly, it is at this specific site, Elijah’s grotto, where the Carmelite Order was founded in the year 1210.

I have always felt a special, unique connection to the Carmelite saints, in a particular way with St.Therese of Lisieux, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and of course, Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. [Note: to read more about Edith Stein, I recommend this great biography! :-)  ]

On this feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, may the holy saints of Carmel pray for us!

[this is a repost from July 16, 2014]

Saturday, July 4, 2015

happy 4th of July!

photo source here

God of all peoples and nations, 
you have called those who live in this land 
to pursue your vision of freedom, justice, 
and peace for all. Keep us faithful to your gifts, 
that we may use them for the world's good 
and the good of our own nation, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
                                   [from today's Morning Prayer]

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

if I open my hands... surrender and mercy

open hands by Joseph Gurney
“Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb… and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength.” 
~Book of the Prophet Isaiah 49: 4-5, 
today’s first reading 
on the Solemnity of John the Baptist

Have you ever poured yourself into a project (or a direction in life) that keeps getting harder and harder, but instead of lifting up your head to see if God is showing you a different way, a change in direction, you instead decide that the answer must be to simply try harder!?

Then one day, maybe years later, the bell goes off and it becomes as obvious and tangible as a hot cup of coffee… if I open my hands all the way, the Lord will take my hand and show me the way, a new way—His way.

Seems like a Camino lesson I have to keep re-learning.

Thank God He never gives up on me.

Not only that, but in God's eternal and abundant mercy, even that which I then come to consider useless and for nothing becomes glorious when I offer it back to God.

“It is you, O Lord, who are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, since my youth.
On you I have leaned from my birth,
From my mother’s womb you have been my help.
My hope has always been in you.”
~Psalm 71: 5-6, 
from today’s Morning Prayer

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Are you in Buffalo for the Catholic Media Conference? 

Join me tomorrow morning, Room 107, for Morning Prayer!

Monday, June 22, 2015

the beautiful mess, better than a Hallelujah!

“Beautiful, the mess we are… the honest cries of breaking hearts,
are better than a Hallelujah

It’s not a new song, but I invite you to listen and to pray with the lyrics to Amy Grant’s hit single, “Better than a Hallelujah”

God loves a lullaby
In a mother's tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

God loves the drunkard's cry
The soldier's plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

The tears of shame for what's been done
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

official video, "Better than a Hallelujah"

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This week I’m in Buffalo, New York, to attend the annual Catholic Media Conference. It’s my first time in the city, and I’m already enjoying the view from my room – such remarkable architecture, history. 

If these walls could talk… so many stories, life tales, peaks into distinct moments in history...

May we bring to Jesus our honest cries, the beautiful mess we are, today and everyday. Amen!