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Created Good

Robin on nest in Cenacle courtyard

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
(Genesis 1:31)

“It was very good.” All creatures are good and valued, including ourselves who are made, amazingly enough, in the divine image.

We are told that God’s “compassion is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9).  As we live and love from the life of the One in whose image we are made, we too have compassion for the creation God proclaimed good.

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Photo: Robin on nest in Cenacle courtyard, by Sr. Rose Hoover

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Questions Worth Pondering

As young children who felt Lent needed to be made interesting – and not just like a punishment— my classmates:

• went to the priest who gave the biggest, darkest cross of ashes;

• did not eat candy but did save every bite that came their way;

• went to the Stations ceremony during school rather than after;

• and competed to win the “I gave the most” alms contest.

 
The Church still calls us to Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — but not to win contests or prove how good we are.

So we ask ourselves:
Why then are we invited to these practices? What do they give us? How do they make us more aware of the Christ who redeems us and whose love is shot through our lives?

These are indeed questions for pondering.

 

I will sprinkle clean water upon you,
and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will remove from your body the heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put my spirit within you…
(Ezekiel 36:25-27a)

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God Revealed in Mercy

God’s being God is revealed in his mercy. Mercy is the expression of his divine essence.
Walter Kasper,
Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life

 

Eugène Burnand, 1900

Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, as we human beings tend to think.  God, we learn, expresses divine power not by getting even with us when we do wrong, but by forgiving us: “[You] manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy” (Collect, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time).

What about us? How do we live out of the divine mercy poured out on us? How do we witness to the divine life dwelling in us?

Do you not know
that you are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
(1 Cor 3:16).

One of the most important ways is to show mercy — to live out of the merciful love which we cannot claim to merit.  And we remind ourselves — in our weakness, in our reluctance to forgive — that we are always wrapped in the tender and merciful love of God.

Oh, Mercy! … Wherever I turn my thoughts, I find nothing but mercy.
(Catherine of Siena, Dialogues, 30)

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Art by Eugène Burnand, "Heimgefunden" (Home Found), 1900

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For more reflections on mercy, go to "Caught Up in God."

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    On the Mystery of the Incarnation

    It's when we face for a moment
    the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
    the taint in our own selves, that awe
    cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
    not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
    to no innocent form
    but to this creature vainly sure
    it and no other is god-like, God
    (out of compassion for our ugly
    failure to evolve) entrusts,
    as guest, as brother,
    the Word.

    — Denise Levertov, The Stream and the Sapphire


Nassau Book of Hours, circa 1467-80, BrugesWhat a mystery the Incarnation offers us. We are so wonderfully loved that God longs never to be separated from us, in spite of the worst we can do – and too often choose to do. Unworthy though we are, yet God becomes one of us.

And so, because God becomes and remains human, “all theology,” as Karl Rahner says, “is eternally anthropology.” And a corollary to this is that we must not devalue ourselves or other people, because we “would then be thinking little of God” (Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith).

The incarnation also reveals to us our call and our hope as human beings. “By the mystery of this water and wine,” prays the priest during the Preparation of the Gifts at Mass, “may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

God becomes one of us, so that we “may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).  The gift of the Incarnation is the gift beyond all gifts.

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The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.
    Lamentations 3:24

    But as for me, I watch in hope, I wait for God my savior;
    my God will hear me.
Micah 7:7

Waiting can be tedious, a dreary time, a time in which we grow impatient. Preoccupied with ourselves doing the waiting, we do not expect much to come out of our waiting.



Waiting can be an invitation born of awareness that we are are called and promised God’s presence. Do we need more reason to hope – really hope – not with just a desire for what makes us feel good but a hope born of courage and profound trust?

The first Sunday of Advent readings remind us  that we do not know when the appointed time will come….  So we are to:

“Be watchful! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33)

Stay awake?

What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13: 37)

As Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., says: “Advent … warns us; hopes can be dangerous but for that reason we are not to suppress nor compromise them. The Lord will come suddenly, beyond our dreams and control. Advent, therefore, advises us: wait, pray, be patient and persevering. The Lord will surely come.”

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A New Heart

“A new heart I will give you,
and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will remove from your body the heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.”
(Ezekiel 36:26)

Photo by Rose Hoover, rc (with the kind help of NASA)It is never out of season to pray for the promised new heart. Lent, however, gives us a special opportunity to focus on God’s desire to transform our hearts into the heart of Jesus.  Thus may we “become participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). It is a breathtaking thought, but true: God invites us to share the divine life. This is our call.

It has been said that we become what we contemplate. So this Lenten season, we may ask for the grace of beholding the beauty of Christ in our daily lives, realizing of course, that our vision is limited and our attention will often stray. But each time we are distracted let us turn back, allowing the Spirit to transform us, for we read:

“All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

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By the way, if you are in the Chicago area, you might check out the Lenten Retreat I will be leading the weekend of March 10-12. The theme is: “Resting in the Heart of God.” You can find information here.

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The photo, "Christ the Heart of the Universe," is by Rose Hoover, rc, with the help of NASA's public domain space images.

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Center of Our Heart

 

“The more we draw near to God, the more we desire to draw near; the more we are united with God, the more we desire this union, because we understand more and more that God is the center of our heart and that God alone can fill them and make them happy.”

— Saint Therese Couderc,
Letter to Mother de Larochenégly, August 7, 1867

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The image is by Rose Hoover, rc, with the help of Apophysis software.

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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,
Amen.
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Understanding Laudato Si

"Understanding Laudato Si" is an excellent series of videos on the encyclical by Pope Francis.  Visit YouTube for these presentations by Franciscan Father Daniel P. Horan, OFM.  The first of the series is called "Models of Creation."

 

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Going Deeper

When my brother and I were children, we liked to dig wells in the back yard. It sounds impressive, I know, but for us digging a well was a simple process:

1. Take a piece of aluminum pipe about six feet long and an inch and a half or two inches in diameter. (This was usually leaning against the wall in the garage.)

 2. Grab the pipe with both hands and drive it into the ground as hard as you can.

3. Pull it up and bang it on a tree to knock out the dirt.

4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until you have a neat and narrow hole several feet deep.

This being Florida, with a high water table (at least in those days), we would reach water-bearing sand a few feet below the surface. How exciting it was to see the first drops of water in the sandy soil brought up by our pipe!

Now this was not exactly a well you could drop a bucket into and bring up a cool drink. For that we would have had to go much deeper. But back then we were more than satisfied with these shallow wells and the sandy water they gave.

In the realm of the spirit, however, there is something in each of us that continually calls us deeper—beneath the sand and the pollutants, beyond the murkiness of our hearts to that living stream where the water is pure and flows freely.

Strangely enough, though, when we think we have arrived there, and after we have rested a while, we hear again the call, “Go deeper.” We respond by letting ourselves be drawn—and there we may find ourselves in what seems like the dark. We may feel as if we have lost the light of God, but this may be because we had mistaken our own light for God’s, and our own light is no help here.

(Notice that in this journey it can be very helpful to have a skilled spiritual director.)

Then, once again, when we have grown accustomed to the new depth, we hear again, “Come deeper”—and this time it may be a call to move beyond the fear that keeps us focused on ourselves and the unlove that imprisons us. We are called always deeper toward that place in our hearts where perceiving distinctly with our human eyes seems less important than it used to, for Christ is light and God is all in all.

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