Let your clay be moist

It is not thou that shapest God
It is God that shapest thee.
If then, thou art the work of God,
Await the hand of the Artist who does
All things in due season.
Offer Him thy heart,
Soft and tractable and keep the form
In which the artist has fashioned thee.
Let the clay be moist
Lest thou grow hard
And lose the imprint of His fingers.–St. Irenaeus

Often times I can get the idea that I need to stay strong, but often my efforts at strength result in rigidity. When that happens my clay is no longer moist and I begin to lose the imprint of his fingers. I’ve often had trouble seeing and recognizing grace in my life. It’s easiest for me to see grace in a gentle rainstorm. It is that rain that moistens my clay.

Peace.

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored
.–Friends Committee on National Legislation

These four lines are something that I have long admired about the Society of Friends. The Quakers have had an ongoing witness for peace since 1660. Franciscans helped to end the Crusades and have been an effective witness for peace since the Renaissance. Originally Secular Franciscans were not allowed to take up armaments. The following is a story that is told well by Jim Forest, a well known author.

“Among the well-attested stories in Francis’s life is his meeting in 1219 with one of Christianity’s chief opponents, Sultan Malik-al-Kamil. It was the time of the Fifth Crusade, shortly after a Crusader victory at the port city of Damietta — modern Dumyat — on the Nile Delta. Francis, who opposed all killing no matter what the cause, sought the blessing of the Cardinal who was chaplain to the Crusader forces to go and preach the Gospel to the sultan. The cardinal told him that the Muslims understood only weapons and that the one useful thing a Christian could do was to kill them. At last the cardinal stood aside, certain that Francis and Illuminato, the brother traveling with him, were being led to die as martyrs. The two left the Crusader encampment singing the psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

Soldiers of the sultan’s army captured the pair, beat them, and then brought them before Malik-al-Kamil, who asked if they wished to become Muslims. Francis replied that they came to seek his conversion; if they failed in their effort, then let them be beheaded. According to legend, Francis offered to enter a furnace to demonstrate the truth of Christ’s Gospel; whether or not he made such a proposal, going unarmed into the enemy’s stronghold was analogous to leaping into a fire.

For a month Francis and the sultan met daily. Though neither converted the other, the sultan had such warmth for his guests that not only did he spare their lives but gave them a passport allowing them to visit Christian holy places under Muslim control and presented Francis with a beautifully carved ivory horn which is now among the relics of the saint kept in the Basilica of Assisi. It is recorded that “the two [Francis and Malik-al-Kamil] parted as brothers.”

Here is a link to the entire article.

Peace.

Humility

“Perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore;
to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing
done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises
me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a
blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the
door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace,
as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about
is seeming trouble.”–Andrew Murray

This quote hangs near my desk at my work place. Many folks define humility in other ways but to me these few sentences distill what humility means to me. A perpetual quietness of heart. What practice would produce such a condition?

Peace.

Glory Road

Diane and I went to see “Glory Road” tonight and we weren’t disappointed. It’s a great movie with a great message. The majority of Americans alive today have no idea what our “separate but equal” society was like and what our society was like in the years after segregation officially ended. Lately its been popular on the right to talk about how America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. The folks that talk about this fantasy either are ignorant of institutional racism that existed in this country or are choosing to overlook it. This movie is story of how a team of young men came together to fight for a national basketball championship and at the same time overcome social injustice. This is a movie you’ll want to take your family to.

Make me an instrument..

Yesterday was busy and I didn’t get much chance to think. Sometimes I allow the people at work to get on my case. Yesterday I let the accusation of one such person to leave me troubled for more than I should have. I have problems remembering that all people can get spiritually sick from time to time. I forget that dealing with spiritually sick people is like dealing with any sick person. I have to give them their space. I try to follow the Lord’s Prayer in dealing with resentment, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I’m sure that I can be a load for some people as they are for me. I appreciate forgiveness and I so I must forgive those who wrong me.

Last night we drove to watch our son play college basketball. His team lost after having a five point half time lead. It’s tough to watch someone you love lose. He works very hard at being his best. He’s a tri-captain this year and this is his senior season. Going to these game is bittersweet. Soon his college career will be over and it’ll be on to suburban leagues, Gus Macker tourneys and whatever. It’s been a dream come true for he and us to watch him on the hardwood the past four seasons.

Today I’ve been helping others with my business. I’m a freelance technology consultant in addition to my full time position as a school district technology director. I try to practice spiritual principles wherever I am and that includes my business. I have a good reputation and ever increasing number of clients. My approach to business is guided by Gospel principles. Today I helped an old friend with a laptop that she recently purchased following my recommendation. Later today I helped my neighbor who’s been suffering with another bout of spyware on an aging Windows 98 machine. After fixing myself some lunch I’m finishing up a Linux install for my neighbor and I hope no more spyware problems for he and his wife. Later I’ll put together a new computer system for Holy Peace Friary. My life is a gift and I try to be a gift to others. I try to live the St. Francis Prayer. It’s my guide along with the Gospel of St. Matthew 25:34-40.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis-God’s Fool

It has been said of St. Francis of Assisi that he looked at the world while standing on his head. Which is to say that his view of life and living was upside down to view of most of the rest of the world. I read a great book about five years ago given to me by a friar friend. It is called St Francis and the Foolishness of God. The book blew away many of my pre-conceived notions about the plight of many other citizens of our planet and like Francis it stood me on my head.

Soon after I began attending Mass at Mt. Irenaeus I began to volunteer to help Brother Joe with some of the upkeep of the place. I volunteered to weed gardens, split wood, mow lawns and even shovel manure. Brother Joe asked me what my family and friends thought of my regular visits to Mt. Irenaeus. I told him that many of them thought I was a little crazy traveling thirty miles every Sunday to attend Mass and the other liturgies. Through that conversation Brother Joe helped me to see that the nuns who had taught me as a small boy had helped to form in me a Franciscan heart. Maybe I already had a Franciscan heart and they provided the keys that opened it. Many times in my life, my views have run counter to the status quo and at those times I’ve wondered why. That day Brother Joe provided the answer or at least the affirmation of a life long journey. I didn’t know then that the journey would continue to lead me and that in time I would become a Secular Franciscan and that my life would continue to grow and change and that I would be drawn ever closer to the poor man of Assisi and Lady Poverty.

Peace.

Band of Brothers

This has been a very busy day with lots of thoughts. The Edith Stein book continues to ruminate. I donated it to the high school library where I work. I thought about the story a lot today and the similarities of what is going on in our country right now. I read in the paper today that in two years we must all have National IDs in order to visit Canada which is only 50 miles north of us. I love to visit Ontario. They have some of the most beautiful parks and flowers I’ve ever seen. There is a lot to like about Canada. I’ve encouraged my children to emigrate there. I don’t know if they will but I’ve encouraged them because Canada is lovely. The national ID thing got me to thinking of the serial numbers that were tattooed into the skin of Jewish people during the holocaust. How much will our IDs be like tattoos? It’s frightening that our government is branding us. A peaceful border for nearly two-hundred years is being closed off to us without an ID. Who would think of such things. An executive mandate. No options for us or our representatives. Wow!

Tonight I read a very moving article written by Ron Kovic, a brother indeed, a fellow veteran. Ron went to Vietnam. I didn’t. Some of the guys I went to high school with died there. One of the guys rode my bus the other was in a study hall. One was a helicopter pilot. The other was a grunt, an infantryman. I served as a Hospital Corpsman, but never got to ‘Nam. Nonetheless, whenever I hear chopper blades I think Medevac. It’s part of me. I get teary eyed when I think of Vietnam and that generation of Americans who fought and died there. I think too of the millions of Vietnamese who died there. A whole generation is missing on the streets of Vietnam. Maybe one our guys or one of theirs had the cure for cancer or aids in his head. I ate in a Vietnamese restaraunt a couple of months ago. Very good food. Thirty years ago they were the enemy. They were ‘charley’, ‘gook’ or simply ‘the enemy’. When I went through boot camp no one ever referred to them as “the Body of Christ”, but that’s what they are. Imagine that, killing the “Body of Christ.”

Today in the deserts of Iraq, in the shadow of the “Garden of Eden”, we kill our brothers and sisters and they kill us. Billions being made by the war merchants. Sixteen thousand crippled American soldiers, sailors, marines. Another 2,200 or so dead Americans. Tens of thousands of dead Iraqis. The Body of Christ being bombed, shot, strafed, burned, napalmed, and willy peted. St. Jude carried the Gospel into what is now Iraq. There are thousands of Iraqi Christians. Our brothers in Christ and we’re killing them.

I hope you take some time to read what Ron Kovic writes here, The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq.
I often wonder what can I do and all I can do is be peace. I run for peace. Today I ran 5 miles before the workday. In the still of the morning on a running track in our local gym. It’s a time to pray. My running is a prayer to end the madness of war and celebrate the peace of Christ.

One of my favorite authors is a survivor of the Vietnam war and a peace activist. He is a gentle Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. He is nearly 80 years old. He has some very gentle words which give me hope in all the darkness.

“Our world is something like a small boat. Compared with the cosmos, our planet is a very small boat. We are about to panic because our situation is no better than the situation of the small boat in the sea. You know that we have more than 50,000 nuclear weapons. Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. “–from “Being Peace”–Thich Nhat Hanh.

Peace and all good.

Edith Stein

I just finished reading a book I found difficult to put down. It’s the life and death of Edith Stein or Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross as she is also known. I had heard of her before and even been at Mass on her feast day, but knew nothing of her story. A very gripping story indeed of a mystical woman who was killed in a very frightening time. In some ways I think today is an equally frightening time. As a young boy I was confirmed by the bishop. In those days the bishop would slap us on the cheek with his gloved hand as a reminder that someday we might have to suffer for our faith. At the time I used to listen to the Allegany Franciscans who taught me speak of missionaries in far off places who had to suffer terrible fates, some almost worse than death. The thought of such ends frightened me as it would almost any child.

“Will you remain faithful to the Crucified?, she asked. ‘Consider carefully! The world is in flames the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise. Taking and renewing vows is deadly serious business.”–St. Edith Stein–September 1939.

I recommend, Meet Edith Stein by Cynthia Cavnar

Peace.

Deep Peace to you…

I took a long drive today and along the way I stopped at Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York. I spent some time in their chapel. It’s a beautiful and very quiet place. It’s one of my favorite haunts. I’ve only been there a few times in recent months. Some years I go more often. Today is of course a national holiday commemorating the life and work of Dr. King.

Outside the Abbey of the Genesee is a statue of Our Lady of the Genesee holding the infant Jesus, but it could easily be anyone including me. I often reflect on the image of the Lady holding me and us in her arms. Ave Maria.

Dr. King was a man of peace and in that spirit I’m offering the following prayer which is from a somewhat different tradition, but still within the spirit of his life.

Deep Peace of the Running Wave

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ, the light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you.

Peace.

We adore you..

“We adore you, most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. “

I have the San Damiano Cross hanging in my prayer space. This crucifix has come to have a very special meaning for me in my Franciscan journey. Today following some morning prayers I reflected over and over again on the prayer at the top of this post. What does it mean to be redeemed? Who am I redeemed for? Following the readings this morning the parts of Psalm 34 came to me, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.