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Blessings in the New Year














And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

– Minnie Louise Haskins, 1908

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Storm Season

Sometimes, when we are battered by literal storms such as Harvey or Irma or the figurative storms of life, we feel like praying with Job:

    I cry to you and you do not answer me;
    I stand, and you merely look at me.

    You have turned cruel to me;
    with the might of your hand you persecute me.

    You lift me up on the wind, you make me ride on it,
    and you toss me about in the roar of the storm.

    (Job 30:20-22)

Other times, while still suffering, we may find it easier to trust in the fidelity of God:

    Be merciful to me, O God,
    be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;

    in the shadow of your wings
    I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.

    (Psalm 57:1)

We can be confident that both prayers are treasured in the heart of God.


[Photo is my own.]

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The Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle has been prayed in various forms and translations over the years. In today’s world, where the tumult around us may draw us away from interior stillness and deafen us to the peaceful voice of God, and where the powers competing for our adoration may try to turn us away from the love of God, the following form of the collect seems especially timely. And of course we don’t have to wait for the Mass to pray it. It’s a good prayer in any season, whether we are together or in solitude.

O God,
who enriched the Blessed Virgin Mary
with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
as she prayed with the disciples
in the Cenacle,
grant, we beseech you,
that earnestly cultivating
interior silence of heart,
we may be able to prefer your love
to all else,
through Christ our Lord,

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Come, Holy Spirit!

All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer,
together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus,
and with his brothers. (Acts 1:14)

In these days leading up to Pentecost, we remember the little group gathered in prayer in the first Cenacle: the Upper Room in Jerusalem. We too pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on ourselves and on our world, which sorely needs the peace and joy of the Spirit of Jesus.

Here you will find reflections on the beautiful Pentecost sequence. So we pray...

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Prayer for the New Year


O God, as you once gazed on all you had made and found it good,
look now on us, your weak and cherished people,
created in the beauty of your own image.

Have mercy on us as we begin a new year.

We have fouled your creation through heedlessness and greed.
We have defaced your image by making war.
We have reached out, not for you, but for possessions, honors, and power.
We have hearkened to the noise of our fears, instead of to your gracious and transforming silence.

O divine Mercy, have mercy on us.

Consider our woundedness and heal us, for we are helpless to heal ourselves.
Consider our smallness and comfort us, for we have known sorrow.

O Love, fill us and teach us.

Teach us again, as a child is taught,
that peace is found by resting in your ample heart,
that bounty flows through love of neighbor,
and that while perfect security in this life is an illusion,
we need not fear,
for you hold us, always and for all eternity, in your everlasting arms.

We pray through Jesus Christ,
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Solitude of the Heart

One of our old Cenacle prayers included a petition asking that we might love the "solitude of the heart" (or translated more literally from the Latin, "the retreat of the heart").

But what does that mean? Solitude of the heart is not the same thing as physical solitude, although I believe we do need to carve out some space and time for physical solitude as well.

In truth, solitude of the heart is a particular way of being in the world. Listen to what the Quaker Thomas R. Kelly says:

"Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself…

"A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into the inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and its fitfulness and recreates it." (A Testament of Devotion)

This solitude of the heart allows us the freedom, by God’s grace, to begin to see with the eyes of God and to know with the heart of God, rather than with the eyes and heart of Microsoft or the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or the next-door neighbors. Through this way of being, we are drawn toward a truer vision of other people and of creation as a whole.

I believe our Eucharistic worship can facilitate this kind of solitude together — a solitude that doesn’t isolate us, but paradoxically unites us with others.

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Ignite Our Hearts

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created; and You shall renew the face of the earth.

    – Traditional prayer (Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium)

Pentecost Praise

Come, Holy Spirit,
impart to us your fiery blessing.
When we forget that we are yours,
we are afraid,
and the flame of our hearts settles into ash.

Ignite our hearts,
remind us of what we have forgotten,
and teach us what we have not yet known.
Make us unafraid to love as you love,
and open our lips to speak boldly
in words that all will understand.

Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created,
and you shall renew the face of the earth.


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You might also like to read a series of reflections on the Pentecost Sequence.

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The "Pentecost Praise" image above is my own.

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Joy Out of Darkness
(The Easter season continues...)

When we consider the first Easter, we realize that Easter joy does not come like a cuddly bunny with brightly-colored eggs. Easter dawns bright, but out of the darkness of injustice, political oppression, torture, grief, and death. We might imagine, instead of flowers bought at Home Depot, our Easter lilies blooming out of flame.

Forever after that day of days, the reality of Easter is present whether or not we can perceive it, for it is intrinsic to our own lives and inherent in all of creation. Like that first Easter, it may more often than not be unnoticed, and it may be experienced, for now, in the context of pain. But the Day of Resurrection bears with it the presence of God who shares with us our own pain and sorrow, confounding common stereotypes of how the divine should act, and showing us that this God who is Mystery refuses to allow darkness to have the last word.

We are given hints of the presence of Christ risen—hints of that joy which surpasses the horrors of news reports and the sorrows of our own life. We are granted these hints, for example, in the longings that have been implanted in our hearts, those longings which on the surface may seem to indicate an absence: the longing for the More, the longing to see the face of God, the longing for union with God.

We have hints of the reality of Easter in the glimpses we are granted of goodness, of beauty, of love, of peace, indications of the Beyond that is already and always in our midst.

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb."

(John 20:1)

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“Lily Out of Flame” image by Rose Hoover, rc
Fractal flame created with Apophysis and edited with Photoshop
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The Mystic as Flame

Bernardo Olivera, speaking of the great 12th-century mystics, uses a dramatic but very beautiful image to describe this journey of the Christian life.
Thus, mysticism is the reality of grace accompanying the whole life of the believer, transforming him or her from dawn into midday and from an individual burning coal into an all-consuming fire.
The Sun at Midnight (Cistercian Publications)
Through the abundant grace of God, may we too be transformed from dimness into an all-consuming flame of love in God.
For more, see "The Mystic as Flame," on Caught Up in God (Cenacle Journal).

Fire photo with fractal by Rose Hoover, rc

(Fractal created in Apophysis)
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What Do You Want???
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?"  John 1:38

What would you say if Jesus stood before you and asked you the question, "What are you looking for?"  Would you stand there in amazement, too awestruck even to respond?  Or would all sorts of requests come floating forth from you?  What would you ask for?  Would you request miracles and answers to all your problems and concerns?

Anthony De Mello, S.J. tells a story in Free Flight about a woman who dreamed that Jesus was a salesman in a market-place.  when she asked him what he sold, Jesus told her that she could have anything her heart desired.  She excitedly requested things like freedom from fear, peace of mind and heart, and the end of pain and struggle in her life.  When Jesus heard this, he responded to her, "Oh, no, you've got me wrong.  We don't sell fruits here, only seeds."

I've often thought of how much I want God to zap away every difficult thing from my life.  Instead, God gives me "seeds" like wisdom, courage and faith so that I can grow and mature through my life's events.

Dear God, today I will pay attention to the "seeds" that are waiting to be watered and tended.  I will sap looking for instant solutions to problems and be more aware of the opportunities for growth.  
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