Lord, send us.
Whenever you will it,
let us leave the house behind us
that has grown dear to us,
that was our place of prayer, of doubt, of adoration,
that was for us the stone upon which we had settled,
that was the space that knew us,
the place that sheltered us.
Whenever you will it,
let us leave behind the brothers and sisters whom we know,
whom we have loved, angered, blessed,
the saints and sinners and the middling ones
with whom we have believed and prayed,
worked and sweated,
eaten and drunk together under one roof.
Whenever you will it,
we will take leave
of the hands and prayers that bore us,
of the eyes that called us,
of the house we helped to build,
that has now become a part of us.
Whenever you will it,
we will bid farewell.
For you are calling us.
You are sending us.
And wherever we settle, you are there already.
You who have borne us, molded, guided, freed us; you are there already.
You who lead us in new and unimagined ways, you are there already.
We walk with you, encounter you, in ways we could never have believed—
for you are there already.
We set out,
and we are not abandoned—
for you go with us.
I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, and the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?
Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.
If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.
Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.
My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering! When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean. In this way, all that you do becomes a work of love.
This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.”
I am Fr Lorenzo, a parish priest. Holy Father, the faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be experts in encouraging the encounter of human beings with God. These are not my own words but something Your Holiness said in an Address to the clergy. My spiritual director at the seminary, in those trying sessions of spiritual direction, said to me: “Lorenzino, humanly we’ve made it, but…”, and when he said “but”, what he meant was that I preferred playing football to Eucharistic Adoration. And he meant that this did my vocation no good and that it was not right to dispute lessons of morals and law, because the teachers knew more about them that I did. And with that “but”, who knows what else he meant. I now think of him in Heaven, and in any case I say some requiems for him. In spite of everything, I have been a priest for 34 years and I am happy about that, too. I have worked no miracles nor have I known any disasters or perhaps I did not recognize them. I feel that “humanly we’ve made it” is a great compliment. However, does not bringing man close to God and God to man pass above all through what we call humanity, which is indispensable even for us priests?
Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would simply say “yes” to what you said at the end. Catholicism, somewhat simplistically, has always been considered the religion of the great “et et”: not of great forms of exclusivism but of synthesis. The exact meaning of “Catholic” is “synthesis”. I would therefore be against having to choose between either playing football or studying Sacred Scripture or Canon Law. Let us do both these things. It is great to do sports. I am not a great sportsman, yet I used to like going to the mountains when I was younger; now I only go on some very easy excursions, but I always find it very beautiful to walk here in this wonderful earth that the Lord has given to us. Therefore, we cannot always live in exalted meditation; perhaps a Saint on the last step of his earthly pilgrimage could reach this point, but we normally live with our feet on the ground and our eyes turned to Heaven. Both these things are given to us by the Lord and therefore loving human things, loving the beauties of this earth, is not only very human but also very Christian and truly Catholic. I would say – and it seems to me that I have already mentioned this earlier – that this aspect is also part of a good and truly Catholic pastoral care: living in the “et et”; living the humanity and humanism of the human being, all the gifts which the Lord has lavished upon us and which we have developed; and at the same time, not forgetting God, because ultimately, the great light comes from God and then it is only from him that comes the light which gives joy to all these aspects of the things that exist. Therefore, I would simply like to commit myself to the great Catholic synthesis, to this “et et”; to be truly human. And each person, in accordance with his or her own gifts and charism, should not only love the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, but also be grateful because God’s light shines on earth and bathes everything in splendour and beauty. In this regard, let us live catholicity joyfully. This would be my answer. (Applause)
My love and my law are not enough? You need a corporeal king? All right then, I will come down and be your corporeal king. I will teach you what I know—that love serves, and that a king is a servant—and I will teach you how to be a servant in order to share in my kingship. In this way, we shall be one—as a husband and wife are one—as nearly as this may be possible between what is whole and holy and what is broken. For your sake, I will become broken, too, but in a way meant to render you more whole and holy, so that our love may be mutual, complete, constantly renewed, and alive. I love you so much that I will incarnate and surrender myself to you. I will enter into you (stubborn, faulty, incomplete you, adored you, the you that can never fully know me or love me back), and I will give you my whole body. I will give you all of myself unto my very blood, and then it will finally be consummated between us, and you will understand that I have been not just your God but also your lover, your espoused, your bridegroom. Come to me, and let me love you. Be my bride; accept your bridegroom and let the scent and sense of our love course over and through the whole world through the Church I beget to you. I am your God; you are my people. I am your bridegroom; you are my bride. This is the great love story, the great intercourse, the great espousal, and you cannot imagine where I mean to take you, if you will only be faithful … as I am always faithful, because I am unchanging truth and constant love.”
“With twenty loaves of bread Elisha fed
the one hundred till they were satisfied,
and Scripture tells us there was bread left over.
Jesus did more: with five small barley loaves
and two dried fish he fed five thousand men,
together with their wives and children, all
neatly arranged upon the cushioned grass.
The awed disciples, when the crowd had eaten,
gathered up what was left: twelve baskets full.
Who then received these fragments? Hopefully,
the least (though not less favored) and the poor.
I think of those who always seem to get
the leavings from the banqueting of others,
the scraps of bread, of life, that goodness saves.
I pray that they come proudly when invited,
make merry at their meal and have their fill,
and rise up thankfully, remembering
the fragments, too, were miracles of love.”
—Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D., 1986
“The monks seem happy but are not in love with each other. If they love each other it is because they are in love with the same invisible yet apparently ever-present person. Unnamed, unseen, even unspoken-to, God plays in every scene. At first, one assumes it is the visible people who are the lovers. Slowly it dawns that they are mirrors. The love we speak of is not our love for God but God’s love for us.”
“Those who are close to God are usually hollowed out in some way. Cardinal Basil Hume delighted in the fact that monks are not there for any particular reason. We cannot make sense of their lives in terms of what they achieve. They do useful things, such as serve in parishes and run schools, but that is not the point of their lives, which revolve around the unseen God, like planets around an invisible sun. And the life of every believer will be marked by a certain void. We are incomplete, like someone waiting for the one whom they love to come home, their ears straining for the sound of steps on the gravel, of the key turning in the lock. This void may take the form of a lack of ambition for power, or a strange sort of ambition, the absence of care for money or success or reputation. Each of us must find that hollow in one’s life, which is the space in which God is enthroned. Rabbi Menahem-Mendl said, ‘My mission on earth is to recognize the void—inside and outside me—and fill it.’ Someone who was perfectly fulfilled, whose happiness and fulfillment was complete, would have no space for God. The saint is not full of herself.”
“Robert Barron described giving Communion to crowds of pilgrims in the square of St. Peter’s. People called out, ‘Over here, Father; please Father, for me please,’ waving their empty hands, almost in desperation. They were hungry for the Eucharist. They were needy, with an appetite which only the Eucharist could answer. In 304 in North Africa, when Emeritus was arrested for having strangers in his house for the celebration of the Eucharist, he justified it by saying, ‘Quoniam sine dominico non possumus‘: ‘Without the day of the Lord, we cannot live.’ In many countries people still have to walk for hours through the jungle or intense heat to attend to the Eucharist, or do so risking arrest and imprisonment, for example in parts of China. All for a small white wafer! One cannot begin to understand why until one has discovered that hungry hollow within oneself.”
—Timothy Radcliffe, Why Go To Church? (Act 3, Prologue: Recognizing Jesus)
A beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, particularly suited to today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Vergine Immacolata, aiutateci!
“WILD air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that ’s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.
I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,
Laying, like air’s fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God’s and Mary’s Son.
Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.
So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.”
Text: Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ
Music: Francesco Cavalli, Magnificat – Concerto Palatino
Cover Art: Jesson Mata, Office of Divine Worship, Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon
“Let us now return to our vocal prayer, so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at one: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion – and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord Himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly he is teaching you – and, believe me, you should stay with so good a Friend for as long as you can before you leave Him. If you become accustomed to having Him at your side, and if He sees that you love Him to be there and are always ready to please Him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send Him away, nor will He ever fail you. He will help you in all your trials and you will have Him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you?”
Source: A Seminarian Story
“Why write? Why add to the tumult of the world? Your competition is fierce … from television, film, video, all social media, from the books of other writers living and dead. There currently exists in America an insidious numbness to literature … And how have we, as writers of that literature, become increasingly alienated from the soul of our culture? How have we become so nearly unnecessary?
We are in danger, I believe, of becoming accustomed to indifference.
Many of the tenets of sainthood are also to be cultivated in the committed writer: selflessness, the death of the little self, purity of spirit leading to intensity of vision, a suspension of judgment in regard to your fellow human beings, an intimate acquaintance with ecstasy, sorrow, and revelation. Consider for a moment your work as analogous to intimate prayer in which you address God, and thereby divineness, in all matter.
We can begin with a metaphysic that recognizes a divine reality substantial to the world of things, lives, and minds, a psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine reality, an ethic placing humanity’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent ground of all being.
This divine reality is of such a nature that it cannot be understood directly except by those who choose to fulfill certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and rich in spirit … It is from these people and others that we learn of the detachment, charity, and humility essential to being immersed in the one divine reality. It is my assertion that as writers, we bring as many of these same qualities to bear in our work as we possibly can.
Enduring literature is suffused with compassion and love.
Our one great Promethean labor is to reconcile humanity to itself and to reconnect, through language, humankind to the universe.
What you have chosen is a profound vocation of healing, and your stories and poems are as sacraments, as visible blessings. Be at the heart and soul of your time, not resigned to what is safe or peripheral. Try to free yourself from attachment to results, to awards, publications, praise, to indifference, rejection, and misunderstanding. Immerse yourself in the common ground of the universe so that your true voice—not the egoistic voice that clamors vainly for power (for it will ruin you if you listen to it)—your authentic voice, supported by sacred reality, may be heard. May your words illuminate your vision, find you compassionate, attuned to human suffering and committed to its alleviation.”
—Excerpts from A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write by Melissa Pritchard.
“Give your light to my lantern, I beg you, my Jesus, so that by its light I may see that holy of holies which receives you as the eternal priest entering among the columns of your great temple. May I ever see you only, look on you, long for you; may I gaze with love on you alone, and have my lantern shining and burning always in your presence.”
—From an instruction by Saint Columban, abbot