Fr. Robert L. Keane, SJ (CAPT, USN, Ret.), shares a Veterans Day prayer in this short video.

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November 10, 2014

While it’s easy to think about the Examen as being oriented to the past, this prayer helps us to pay attention to where God is in the past, present, and future. The prayer begins with God in the present: God is with me, here and now as I pray. God is in the past, throughout the day that I have been reviewing. And I can trust that God will also be in my future and pray out of that sensibility. In this way, the Examen always ends with hope.

lone flower on the beach

Thomas Aquinas defined hope as the stretching forth of our desire toward a future good, even if that good is difficult to attain. In other words, hope means choosing to act in ways that lead me closer to what is good and loving, even though the future is often unknown and beyond my control.

Why should we hope, even in the midst of personal struggles and difficulties? Why not succumb to despair when we cannot see our own way out of pain and suffering?

One great reason for hope for the future is recalling how God has been with us in the past. We cannot see into the future and know exactly how God will bring good out of difficulty. However, we can remember when and where God has brought good out of past suffering. This is the centerpiece of the Gospels and the heart of the Christian story: the transformation of the suffering and death of Jesus into the Resurrection and new life. It’s also how God continues to act in our own lives. For example, I can recall how working through marital difficulties later brought my husband and me to a new depth of closeness as we grew in mutual understanding. A friend shared that the loss of his job and six months of unemployment led him to consider a different avenue of work, one that eventually led to much more personal growth than his former job. A broken relationship might not be repaired, but it can open up possibilities for learning about ourselves and others.

We also hope because God is with us, right now, encouraging us to love wherever we are. Hope is an action for today, stretching into tomorrow.

What are your reasons for hope?

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November 10, 2014

acorns

This fall, my two-year-old niece has taken up a fascination with acorns. She clutches as many acorns as she can possibly hold in her toddler-sized hand, leaving one hand free for picking up more. She calls them her “treasures.” As I watch her carefully turn over in her hand each acorn—studying it, delighting in it, proudly presenting her collection to me, and then eagerly looking for more—I feel invited to join her in harvesting treasures of my own.

The cornerstone practice of Ignatian prayer, the Examen, could be reimagined as a harvest of sorts. Like my niece gathering acorns, each of us is invited to notice the ways in which God is present in our everyday experiences—to see these moments with wonder, to turn them over in our hearts and minds, to hold them dear, and to rummage for more. Just as the Examen calls us to review the places in which we experience closeness or distance from God, autumn invites us to harvest what is life-sustaining and to release that which should fall away.

Perhaps this autumn we can prayerfully harvest the delights, gifts, and surprises of the past season and treasure them. We can harvest treasured moments of laughter, joy, and connection and give thanks. Perhaps we can harvest even the challenges that have stretched us, the difficulties that have sharpened us, and the struggles that we sit with for a time; maybe someday we will learn to treasure these too. Maybe this autumn we can let go of the compulsions that grip us; we will let those fall away. We let fall away our stuck places, our entrapments, and our clutching. In prayer, we clear out that which holds us back and we make space for what is to come.

May we trust God’s invitation to harvest the abundance of this season and to treasure what we find there.

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November 6, 2014

gold brick road

Matthew Warner shares a list of some good goals in life and remarks:

All of these are good things. And because they are so good, it’s easy to justify letting them consume us. After all, they’re good! And can you really do too much good?

Well, yes you can, if the good distracts you from why you’re here. When all those good things become the end goal in themselves, rather than simply a means to our ultimate end, they become bad. They become only busy-ness.

Consider the tools of discernment as you read the full post, “How Good Things in Life Can Be Dangerous.”

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November 5, 2014

Elisabetta Piqué— internationally respected journalist and friend of Pope Francis—was interviewed by ABC’s Bob Woodruff recently. Piqué wrote the new book Pope Francis: Life and Revolution. She shares here how she met the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, her take on his message of mercy, and a bit about his personality—he’s reserved but has a great sense of humor.


More ABC US news | ABC Health News

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November 4, 2014

welcome mat

Hospitality is much more than a simple welcome or an offer of food or drink. Hospitality is an attitude of heart that opens us to others and receives them on their own terms. Henri Nouwen speaks of hospitality as a move from hostility to friendship:

“Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. . . Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”

The challenge is to offer friendship without binding the guest and freedom without leaving them alone. “The real host is the one who offers that space where we do not have to be afraid and where we can listen to our own inner voices and find our own personal way of being human.” It means providing space where new life can be found and everyone’s gifts can flourish. To do so, we have to be at home ourselves and be willing to lay down our fears of change. We have to be willing to be vulnerable and open to new ways of doing things. We have to let go of our narcissism and exaggerated individualism.

Hospitality means openness to what guests and strangers bring to us. We receive a revelation from the guest which can change us and enrich our lives and open us to new possibilities and ways of thinking and living.

Hospitality implies attentiveness to the other and to the needs of others, even anticipating their needs. As Gula explains, “The key to hospitality is ‘paying attention.’ . . . When we pay attention, we divest ourselves of self-preoccupation. To be hospitable we have to get out of ourselves and become interested in the other.”

Often our lack of hospitality is simply the failure to notice and acknowledge others and their needs—the needs of the larger world and the needs of those closest to us. Jesus models that attentiveness. He noticed the sick, the excluded, the hungry, those that others passed by. God continues to be attentive. As we contemplate the ministry of Jesus, we are called to heighten our awareness of others so that we can carry on the ministry of Jesus.

—Excerpted from Putting on the Heart of Christ by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

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November 3, 2014

On this day of Halloween, it might be helpful to consider what we’re talking about when we mention the devil. Pope Francis references the devil often, and here Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, explores some of those references and what the pope means by them.

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October 31, 2014

5 Fresh Ideas for Renewing Your Prayer - people exercising as one example

Prayer is a cherished time to come to know God and to reflect, yet prayer can become rote. Even if we do pray daily we may at times find it fruitless or notice impatience within ourselves. Cultivating prayer routines is very valuable, but sometimes we need to shake up our prayer a bit. Like any relationship that needs rekindling, our relationship with God may need some freshness. Here are five fresh ideas for renewing your prayer.

1. Focusing on a Sense

God gave us our five senses. Select one and simply notice how that sense is being engaged. If you pick hearing, you may notice the hum of the refrigerator or the quiet breeze outside. If you choose touch, you may notice the pressure on your body from the chair or an itch on your neck. Pray with one sense, and recognize it as a gift from God.

2. Water Offering

One of my favorite kinds of prayer comes from Rachel Naomi Remen’s book My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. Remen suggests filling a bowl slowly with water, letting the water represent the various “contents” of your life: your health, your gifts, your weaknesses, your family, your triumphs, your possessions, and your history. Place the bowl in a special place and offer it to God. Like the Suscipe says, “All that I have and hold…to you, Lord, I return it.” At the end of the day empty the bowl into the earth.

3. Slow Prayer

Choose a prayer you know well, like the Our Father, and recite it very slowly. Go one word at a time, without rushing, letting the individual word speak to you. Relish its meaning. Let it touch you. Then move to the next word. It’s okay if you spend the entire prayer time on just a single word!

4. The High-Low Prayer

In this shortened form of the Examen, ask yourself what the high point of your day was and why. Then ask yourself what the low point was and why. Share these two moments with God, and engage in a conversation with God about them.

5. The Prayer of Doing

Many spiritual directors will tell you that prayer is not about doing. However, why not make something you already do into a prayer? For instance, if you exercise, notice your body movements. Acknowledge how God animates you and gives you life. If you’re cleaning the house, be present to the work as if each action of wiping or organizing glorifies God. If you’re cooking, pay attention to the foods’ colors and smells, and receive them as God’s gift.

Just as you may go out with a friend for coffee one week and bowling the next, it’s okay to experiment with various kinds of ways to have an encounter with God, our closest friend.

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October 30, 2014

You are a child of God too - swirl design

Last night, my seven-year-old son struggled to fall asleep. He came into our room about a half hour after we tucked him in to let us know. He asked my husband, “What is it you told me to do when I cannot sleep?”

My husband replied, “When I cannot sleep, I talk to God about my day. I let God know all I am thankful for, and I talk to God about all that concerns me. I often find it helps me relax, because I know God is listening. That’s what we talked about last week. You could try talking to God when you cannot sleep.”

I added, “Remember God is always there to talk to you. God loves you very much, and God loves you even more than Dad and I do.”

My son replied, “I know, Mom. I know I am a child of God.”

Assured of a plan to try to help him sleep, my son gave us both hugs and turned to leave our room. On the way out, he paused and looked back at me and said, “Don’t forget, you are a child of God too, Mom.” Then without another word, he made his way back to his room.

A smile broke out on my face. I spend many hours in my work as a spiritual director sitting with people and reminding them of God’s unending love for them and God’s intimate involvement in their lives. How often, though, I forget to take to heart my own message of God’s love for me!

The unexpected reminder from my son that I, too, am a child of God, caught me by surprise. His words penetrated to my core, as they were words that I needed to be reminded of last night. Yes, I, too, am a child of God. God is intimately involved in my life too—and yours.

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October 29, 2014

clipboard

Rebecca Ruiz writes that the Suscipe (“Take, Lord, Receive” prayer) has helped her to trust God. She says, “…when we really trust Him and allow Him to work, in His time, He makes things happen that are better and beyond anything we could plan – even with detailed lists and hours of planning.” The full post is at the Encourage & Teach blog of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

Are you a planner? Has the Suscipe made a difference in your prayer life?

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October 28, 2014