Let My Lifesong Sing to You

All saints day

May you have a happy and holy All Saints Day.

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Pope Francis: Pray Together as a Family

How many family problems would simply go away if families prayed together?

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Hundreds Gather to Pray the Rosary for Religious Freedom

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This is one of those heartening stories that can make your day.

More than 750 people gathered October 5 in front to of Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, Long Island to pray the Rosary for religious freedom. This is especially heartening after yesterday’s story about Marymount Loyola.

The event was organized by Catholics for Freedom of Religion. I am not familiar with this group, but it sounds like it might be a good example of leading from the pews.

From The National Catholic Register:

WEST ISLIP, N.Y. — Come HHS mandate or high water, hundreds of Catholics turned out in Long Island at a local hospital to pray the Rosary and protest the erosion of freedom of religion in the U.S. public square.

Despite the threat of a downpour, more than 750 registered participants gathered on Oct. 5 to pray three decades of the Rosary in front of Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, on Long Island.

Organized by the non-partisan Catholics for Freedom of Religion (CFFR), the 90-minute event began with an opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, and then a few speakers addressed the crowd about the U.S. tradition of freedom of religion and the threat to Catholic rights and health care posed by the HHS mandate.

The U.S. Department  of Health and Human Services’ mandate requires all employers to cover the cost of contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacient drugs in their health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The U.S. Catholic bishops have objected that the federal government is forcing Catholic employers and institutions to either violate their beliefs or cease providing health care.

“Christ must not be cast out of his places of healing,” said Richard Sullivan, chairman of the board of Catholic Health Services of Long Island, in a speech to the crowd. “No faithful person, Catholic or non-Catholic believer in the dignity of humankind from conception to natural death, should be forced against his conscience to participate in, fund or facilitate activities that they may consider illicit, immoral or evil.”

Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which includes Good Samaritan Hospital where the rally was located, is also a party to legal action challenging the constitutionality of the HHS mandate.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/long-islanders-gather-for-massive-rosary-rally-for-freedom?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-10-11%2012:33:01#ixzz2hQcLrGBk

All Work for God Begins with Prayer

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I had a small discussion with one of Public Catholic’s most faithful — and interesting — readers the other day.

I had published this post calling for prayer for persecuted Christians. This particular reader said that we need to do something about this and not just pray. It made me smile when I read that because he’s right: We need to do something.

And we will.

If we pray.

Why would anyone recommend prayer in the face of this onslaught of slaughter? One reason is that the persecuted Christians themselves ask for prayer. Every time I talk to someone who lives in an area where Christians are subjected to violent persecution, I ask them how I can help them. Invariably, they ask for prayer.

Why?

You’d think they’d ask for a rocket launcher, or at least a few grenades.

Why prayer?

I think the answer is that these people are people of faith, just like us, only they no longer carry around the burden of the accoutrements of faith that weigh us down. Every person I have ever talked to who has been through violent persecution for Christ has both a strength and a gentleness that sets them apart.

The things we think are so important have been stripped away from them as they come face to face with the question that we all wonder how we would answer: Will you die for Him?

I think that once a person looks into the reality of that question, not as a hypothetical, but as an actual life or death decision that they are making, they are changed. The fires of persecution seem to burn away the chaff of people’s lives and the ones who persist and do not yield learn what sustains in time of grave peril.

I think that is why they ask for prayer.

That is one reason to pray, because the people we want to help have asked us to pray.

Another reason is because entering into this arena of Christian persecution paints our faces on the devil’s dart board. We will be assailed and attacked, slandered and maligned for speaking out for persecuted Christians. This is the natural course of things when anyone defends God’s children. We need prayer for the strength it gives us as we do this work.

The next reason to pray is because we need direction. Not only that, but we need God to raise up Christians everywhere to fight this plague of violence. We need to pray and pray and let God work.

Prayer is the key to doing God’s will. Not that He is likely to put a burning bush that is not consumed in our paths. But that prayer keeps us in contact with grace. If we want to do something about persecuted Christians — and I hope sincerely that every one who reads this does — begin with prayer. I don’t mean one Rosary or some small bit of jingoistic something you learned as a child. I mean walking with the Lord in prayer day after day after day.

Just pray and wait. If God wants active work from you, you’ll know soon enough. If, on the other hand, He wants you to be a permanent prayer warrior, do that.

I was thrilled with what the reader said that day. Excited. Because I think he’s the kind of person who actually will do something. I do not want to stifle anyone in that. I only ask that in all the doing, we pray and wait on the Lord lead us first.

All work for God begins with prayer. That’s a truth of life in Christ as I know it.

Pope Francis and the Miracle of Peace

The Roman Catholic Bishops of the Middle East and East Africa said that the pope’s efforts for peace are changing the dialogue in their countries. They call it a “miracle.”

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Christian Persecution: What Can We Do?

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Elizabeth Scalia has heard the call.

Have you?

I’m talking about the call to prayer for persecuted Christians around the globe.

Pope Francis issued a call to prayerfor the persecuted church earlier this week.

“So many Christians in the world are suffering,” the pope said during his general audience Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square. “Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family?

“Does it touch my heart, or doesn’t it really affect me, [to know that] so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ?

Speaking directly to the crowd in the square, Francis said he wanted to ask a question, and he didn’t want people to shout out an answer but rather to ponder it in their hearts.

“How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted?” the pope asked. “Ask yourselves, do I pray for that brother or sister who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?” (Read more here.)

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, one hundred thousand Christians have died for their faith each year in the last decade. That works out to 11 Christians martyred for their faith every hour for the past ten years.

Can you imagine the outcry if this was one the groups that fashion says we should care about? Just consider the sentence 100,000 _______ were murdered because of they were ______ each year for the past ten years. Supply the name of any group whose rights we hear daily that we are supposed to care about.

Now, go back and substitute the word Christians, as in:

100,000 Christians  were murdered because they were Christians  each year for the past ten years.

See what I mean?

Christian bashing is far more popular in today’s world than defending the human rights of Christians. Every time I post on the issue, I get a spate of comments telling me that no such problem exists. There are usually a few profane and truly ugly comments mixed in with them. I delete these things the same way I would swat a fly; the same way I delete Holocaust deniers and gay bashers and woman haters; with speed and quickness.

Pope Francis is right. We need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. If you’re one of those people who has been observing this carnage and wondering What can I do? here’s you answer. Get on your knees and start praying.

I wrote a Novena for the Persecuted Church a few weeks ago. You can find it here:

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Perspective

Caretaker daughters of mothers who are going through elderly dementia shouldn’t read and review books written by daughters of mothers who went through elderly dementia.

Sometimes, things are too close.

The review I wrote about The Geography of Memory, a Pilgrimage Through Alzheimers, took a lot out of me. It left me feeling blue and disconnected; not wanting to do anything. I consoled myself by playing the piano, and now I’m going to go spring my mother from Adult Day Care and spend the lunch hour with her.

But between the piano and the decision to go get my mother, I found this video. It gives what I needed: Perspective.

Maybe it will do the same for you.

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Pope Francis and Politicians

Every year at the beginning of session, I find a note on my desk on the House floor from someone I don’t know. “I am (name)” it says, “I will pray for you every day.”

I keep these notes and treasure them. When the votes get tough and the debate gets nasty, I pull them out of my desk drawer and look at them.

I went through a bad patch in my work as a legislator a few years back in which I felt isolated and alone, at odds with the other Democrats. It was a chore just to make myself get in the car and drive to work.

I had a thing I went through while I was driving to work. I put aside all my thoughts of my life outside that capitol building. I shut down my softer emotions and focused on the job ahead of me that day. When I stepped out of my car in the parking lot, I was Representative Hamilton, or more exactly, I was District 89 and its people.

I left the rest of me to pick up later on the drive home.

All during this time, people prayed for me. Many of them I don’t know, since it was a sort of informal prayer chain. But I made speeches from time to time and often a woman — it was almost always a woman — would come up to me afterwards and said, “I heard about you, and I want you to know that I pray for you.”

I believe I felt their prayers. I know absolutely that there were times when I sent a text to one of my prayer warriors and asked for prayers and then felt peace come over me like a calming hand not long afterwards.

Prayer is a force. It plugs us into the engine that drives the universe. The help it gives extends far beyond what the person who prays sees.

Pope Francis gave a homily at morning mass yesterday that every elected official should hear. He described exactly what servant leadership is for a politician. It is not about the elected official at all. It is about the people they serve. It is about trusting God enough to jump off those political cliffs and cast the hard votes that get you clawed up and attacked simply because you know that this is what the Gospels require of you.

Politics is a lion’s den of sorts, and politicians who follow Christ have to go into it with the spirit of Daniel. They need the courage of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before the fiery furnace when they said “Our God will deliver us, and even if He does not deliver us, we still will not bow down to false gods.”

This takes, not ego, but humility. It is a humbling thing to love someone else who does not truly love you back to the point of true service to them. It is a humility of the soul to trust God rather than yourself and do what everyone, including you, knows is the stupid thing in order to follow Him.

The smart thing for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been to bow down to those idols with their fingers crossed and then ask for God’s forgiveness later. After all, they might have told themselves, being bound and tossed into a fiery furnace would just make us burnt ash, and we would be of no use to God like that. It is better that we live to serve Him another day.

But if they had made this obvious and smart compromise, they would have weakened the buckling faith of all God’s followers, everywhere. By taking the stand they did, they became a source of hope and strength.

I am sure they had no thoughts of all this at the time. I imagine that for them it was a moment of deepest humility. They laid their lives before God, “even if He does not save us,” and they took their chances.

That is what everyone who follows Christ in this life must do. It is required of elected officials that they do it over and over in a public arena where the arrows of hatred hit them from every direction.

They need our prayers. And we need to pray for them.

It is impossible to pray for someone diligently and continuously without at some level taking on their pain. It isn’t something you try to do or even want. It is a natural outcome of the grace of prayer. Praying for someone stills the demons that attack your own soul. You may not approve of the wrongs the people you pray for do, but you will not be able to hate them. Prayer shifts the whole scenario, turns the wheel, so that it is no longer about you vs this other person. It is about doing God’s will.

Praying for someone is a mercy, and like all mercy, it is, as Shakespeare said, twice blessed. It blesses the one who is prayed for, and perhaps even more profoundly, it blesses the one who prays.

Pray for our elected officials, including and most especially the ones that make you the maddest. Pray and don’t stop praying. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it is that you will never come to the end of the surprises about what God can do with a human soul.

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The Church is a Widow, Seeking Her Bridegroom

In his homily at morning mass, Pope Francis described the Church this way: The Church is a widow, seeking her bridegroom. He went on to say some beautiful things about our mother and how we should seek her,

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Book Review: Coming Home to Wholeness

To join the discussion about Atchison Blue, or to order a copy, go here

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Life is hard. 

Life for Americans is not only hard, it is usually frantic. 

We are frantic, almost driven, people. I did not realize this until I went to a country where people live by a different internal clock. The contrast was stunning. 

Americans are certainly not the only people who race from deadline to goal to commitment to task. And we have a sense of self about how we do it that is our special grace among the driven places on this earth. But living here is a tough boogie.

Life is hard and it is fractured and in some ways desperate. Our nation is divided between the drop outs who just sit, and the doers who never sit at all. In both cases there is a kind of desperation and overwhelmed thing going on. In the case of the drop outs, overwhelmed is where they live and what they do. But for the doers, overwhelmed is the demon they fight every day. 

Judy Valente, the author of Atchison Blue, is an overwhelmed fighter. She is an astonishingly high achiever who has managed to carve out a flourishing career for herself in two competitive worlds: free lance writing and human interest broadcast reporting. 

Her private demons are a nagging dread of death and the great bugaboo of everyone; family problems. The major betrayal of her life was being laid off from her job at the Wall Street Journal the year after she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Based on what she writes in this book, losing this job was an earthquake for Ms Valente, a wake-up call about trusting career to be the all-in-all of life. 

Her solution for her human woes is to seek the thing we lack in our American society: Wholeness. 

It is a simple fact that the abundant life that Christ offers us is based on a spiritual and emotional wholeness that the larger society (any larger society) can never provide. Anyone who wants to be whole must find a way to retreat at intervals from the squabbling bitterness of our workaday lives. Without these retreats, we slide into a kind of fractured insanity without being aware of it. I see this insanity quite often in the exceedingly fractured world of politics. In fact, there was a time, back before Jesus rescued me, when I was pretty sick with it myself. 

There is no permanent cure for this fractured-ness. It’s causes are so thoroughly woven into this fallen world and the way it treats people that no one anywhere can completely escape its pull. However, for overworked, over-stimulated Americans, it is particularly ubiquitous. We are a driven people. The fact that we in large part drive ourselves does not change this. 

Without retreats, stopping places, we become so fractured that the insanity of life becomes our own insanity. 

My retreat is simply going home. When I walk into my house and shut the door behind me, I leave the frantic outside world. Nobody inside those walls is going to attack me or betray me or go on the internet posting lies and accusations about me. Inside these walls, I am free of that. 

Ms Valente sought something akin to this when she went to the Benedictine monastery, Mount Scholastica, in Atchison Kansas.

I’m beginning to think that monasticism is a particularly good fit for writers. After all, writers are already contemplatives by nature and avocation long before the monastery bug bites them. 

For someone like Ms Valente, who is a poet and human observer writer, walking into the monastery must have been something akin to what I feel when I walk into my house. She must have known at some level that this was home. 

Atchison Blue is a lovely book written by a journalist-poet whose writerly skills enable her to tell the story without letting the poetry overwhelm it and still keep the romance of the contemplative life in the midst of the story. It’s a delicate balance; the kind of writing that probably comes naturally to a journalist-poet. 

Reading this book makes me want to pack my bags and head off to Atchison myself. I imagine it will do the same thing for many of its readers. 

Love stories are like that. They make you want a love of our own. 

In the final analysis, that’s what Atchison Blue is; the love story between one woman and monasticism. It is the tale of her homecoming to wholeness in the contemplative life at a Benedictine monastery. 

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The oblates of Mount Scholastica, Benedictine Monastery. Ms Valente is the one on the bottom right. 


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