Monday, 29 August 2011

Trust in Suffering

More and more I am seeing in my own life that the troubles I experience can deepen me and draw me closer to the Lord in trust.

The Franciscan Richard Rohr has defined faith as “the security to be insecure”.

Insecure in not knowing how things are going to turn out.
Insecure at times in situations beyond my abilities.
Insecure in my experience of my own sinfulness and weakness.

Yet, in all this,  secure in God’s everlasting faithfulness.
Secure in trust in God’s providence,
God’s provision,
God’s protection for his unique child,
knowing in faith that all that we see is not all that there is!

Surrender to Christ does not weaken me, it strengthens me.

The news of the Gospel is good, wonderfully good, good beyond all our hoping.

This same Gospel encourages me: never give up, never despair of God’s grace, never stop trusting and praying and placing all in his safe hands.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Church Crisis - A Rebirth in Pain

On 4 July 1994 Vaclav Havel, poet, playwright, and peace activist,  then President of the Czech Republic, was award the Liberty Medal by the American government in a ceremony in Philadelphia.

In his speech he reflected on the extraordinary changes taking place on a global scale, changes that have only increased in the intervening years.

He spoke of death and new birth.

He said: 'Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.'

I was very struck when I came across these words recently.

They speak powerfully to the situation we are experiencing within the Catholic Church here in Ireland and in many parts of the world.

Something is 'on the way out' - a whole model of Church rooted in clericalism and authoritarianism. Before our very eyes we see it 'crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself'.

Something new is being 'painfully born', arising from the 'rubble'. But what is being born is as yet  'indistinct' for we live in a 'hinge period' in Church history.

Such a time demands courage and hope from courageous souls. We are being asked to hold firm in the trust that, despite signs to the contrary,  the same divine Spirit who brooded over the dark waters at the dawn of history drawing creation out of chaos, watches over this new work of God's creative goodness.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Waters of Mercy

Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Polish-born American rabbi, writes beautifully of the spiritual path that is the God-given potential of every person. 

In his book, The Insecurity of Freedom, he speaks of the act of prayer as - not so much a dialogue with the Eternal - but an immersion in the "waters of mercy".

It is certainly true that as our prayer deepens it grows in simplicity. We become less active, more still and receptive to the action of the Spirit of God.

This makes for hard going. We have an innate and strong desire to be in control, even of our relationship with God.  This growth in simplicity in prayer can mean letting go of particular ways of praying that have nourished our souls in the past.

The rabbi writes: "I am not ready to accept the ancient concept of prayer as a dialogue. Who are we to enter a dialogue with God!

The better metaphor would be to describe prayer as an act of immersion, comparable to the ancient Hebrew custom of immersing oneself completely in the waters as a way of self-purification to be done over and over again.

Immersion in the waters! One feels surrounded, touched by the waters, drowned in the waters of mercy."

Monday, 15 August 2011

Summer Sabbath

During these Summer days I am still reflecting on the gift of knowing how to let go of the haste and stress that can mar my daily living.

Wayne Muller in his beautiful book, Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, speaks of our need for a healthy, spiritual balance in our lives. Sabbath is not so much about a particular day as about an attitude we bring to life.

"Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop when we are finished. We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project, get through this stack of messages, or get out this report that is due tomorrow. We stop because it is time to stop.

Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished with all our work, we will never stop--because our work is never completely done. With every accomplishment there arises a new responsibility.

Every swept floor invites another sweeping, every child bathed invites another bathing. When all life moves in such cycles, what is ever finished?

The sun goes 'round, the moon goes 'round, the tides and seasons go 'round, people are born and die, and when are we finished? If we refuse rest until we are finished, we will never rest until we die.

Sabbath dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished."

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Year of St Clare

This year the feast of St Clare on 11 August is of particular importance for the Franciscan Family spread throughout the world. At this time we are celebrating 800 years since that night when this noble woman, eighteen years old, secretly left her family home and went to join Francis and his first few followers. In the little chapel of the Our Lady of the Angels in the woods below Assisi she handed her life over to God.

Clare did not know it but that simple ritual in which she knelt before Francis and consecrated herself to her Beloved was the beginning of a new way of life within the church. Before she died 42 years later there would be 115 communities of sisters in Italy and 50 outside living her Gospel vision.

That night Clare was following her heart's deepest desire. She allowed herself to be drawn by the Spirit. This woman, strong in faith and love, said a full Yes to Christ.

In time Clare was to discover, as many have before and since, that when we let God have his way with us his love works in us and through us far beyond our hoping.

Pope Benedict, speaking of Clare, wondered about the paradox of her life. Hidden within the cloister, her light shone; Clare was silent but her influence was profound.

He goes on to say: 'And this is exactly how it was, dear friends: those who change the world for the better are the holy ones, those enraptured by God's love. They transform our world permanently, instilling in it the energies that only love inspired by the Gospel can elicit. The saints are humanity's great benefactors; God's gift to the world!'

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Less Rush: Summmer Slow Down

During these summer days I am sensing even more the invitation to slow down, live in the now and enjoy all that is around me.

I know from experience that the tranquil soul savours life more deeply. 

The blessings are always there, even on difficult days. The grace is to be present so that I can taste each day's sweetness.

A little poem by Eva Merriam speaks to this desire in me.

A Lazy Thought

There go the grownups
To the office,
To the store.
Subway rush,
Traffic crush;
Hurry, scurry,
Worry, flurry.

No wonder
Don't grow up
Any more.
It takes a lot
Of slow
To grow.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Norway's Response to Hate

Norway's Prime Minister (centre) at bomb site.
 'We are going to answer hatred with love.'

Who was the speaker? Not some Norwegian religious leader but the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg speaking at a memorial service for the victims of the terror attacks that shocked us all.

In a remarkable way the people of Norway, led by their Prime Minister, have given the world a lived example of the saying of concentration-camp survivor Viktor Frankel: 'The last and greatest of the human freedoms is the freedom to choose one's response in any given circumstance.'

'The bullets struck dozens of our young people but they were aimed at the entire nation,' Stoltenberg said, speaking in Oslo Cathedral. 'I think 22 July will be a very strong symbol of the Norwegian people's wish to be united in our fight against violence, and will be a symbol of how the nation can answer with love.'

He quoted the words of a young woman who had survived the shootings: 'If one man can create that much hate, you can only imagine how much love we can create together. Violence creates violence, hate creates hate.'

In another speech the Prime Minister refused to use the 'war on terror' rhetoric, language that only increases fear and hate, and has been used to enact repressive legislation and restrict freedoms in other countries. Instead he spoke of how it was 'absolutely possible to have an open, democratic, inclusive, multi-political society, one that is not fearful and afraid of violence, and one that can still be secure.'

'In the middle of all these tragic events, I am proud to live in a country that has stood firm at a critical time. I am deeply impressed by how much dignity and compassion I have seen. We are a small nation, but a proud people. We are horrified over what has happened. But we will never abandon our values. Our reply is: more democracy, more openness, and more humanity. But never naivety.'

Speaking in parliment Mr Stoltenberg said that Norwegians need to reflect on the tone of debate within the country, on 'what we have thought, said and written.... We all have something to learn from the tragedy.' He told MPs: 'We can all have a need to say "I was wrong" and be respected for it.'

The Scriptures tells us: 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good' (Romans 12:21 ). In the St Francis Peace Prayer we ask for strength to sow love where there is hatred, light where there is darkness.

What a gift to the world to see a nation that has suffered from such dark evil and yet responds by turning resolutely toward the light.