Insight: Praying at the Computer

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down at the computer to work, knowing that someone else is spending their time doing the exact same thing. It reminds me of my university days where any number of my peers would be at their screens researching, procrastinating and sometimes writing their essays.

In quiet celebration of this awareness, I bring it into the present moment by a small ritual: I light a candle and play some reflective music. I offer my efforts in prayer and I feel the presence of the other, keeping me company in her own work day.

Keeping CompanyAs we sit down today and work at our computers, may God’s blessings and Spirit guide our hearts, minds and bodies to do what we have to do.

Amen.

Performing simple but sincere acts can often bring us to an awareness of the Divine Presence. Where have you been conscious of another’s company? Do you have a small ritual that you can use to remind yourself that you are at any given moment – in this present moment – and always in the holy presence of God?

Another Side of Romance

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In light of upcoming Valentine’s Day, Vinita Hampton Wright reflects on:

…What happens to a person willing to be swept up in love.

Romance requires an open heart. Whether you are lifted out of yourself by a kiss or by a prayer of deep contemplation, neither can happen before you say yes to the possibility. Yes sets in motion new relationships, new conversations, and new avenues for showing others care. You don’t get to the kiss before you allow your eyes to meet another’s. You don’t get to the gifts of friendship until you say yes to the talk over coffee. You don’t get to that sense of the Divine until you say, in some part of yourself, yes, even though you have no idea what you’re saying yes to.

Romance is risk. It’s difficult to experience romance of any kind while you are fearful and self-protecting. So, whether or not February 14 signals to you the celebration of a significant other, I believe that God wants to see real romance in your life. Divine Love wants you brave and joyful. If you don’t feel particularly brave or joyful, be willing to get there. That’s a start.

For me, what’s important is our openness and ability to make space on our hearts for love. Sometimes we might say out loud that we love one another, but perhaps more often, talk about having love for another (“Do unto others…”) in our regard for the other. Yet children express it so freely, even though it is known to the adult: “I love you to the moon, around the sun and around the world 500 times and back.” Why might that be?

Perhaps it has to do with a child’s innocence; not naiveté but innocence. Love is so important to them. Expressing it is so important. And therein lies the fort of being,  waiting to be unlocked with the key of courage.

You don’t get to that sense of the Divine until you say, in some part of yourself, yes, even though you have no idea what you’re saying yes to.

Romance is risk. It’s difficult to experience romance of any kind while you are fearful and self-protecting.

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Reflection:
• In prayer, do you allow for romance with God’s love?
• “Only by loving and being loved does one become truly human.” -William Johnston SJ

Insight: The Slow, Patient Love (Omid Safi)

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Too often, at least from personal experience, busyness gets in the way of forming and sustaining bonds. Yes, we are busy, however we are robbed in the process, of something fundamental to life: intimacy.  Omid Safi shares his thoughts on this, in this article.

What kind of love do we show? Can we be more present? More attentive? More sincere?

God is our Faithful Companion

From Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI:

Faith promises no magic pass-cards.

What it does promise is that God will be with us so that we do not have to walk through loneliness, sickness, violence, anxiety, fear, and death alone. We have a hand to grasp, a love to embrace, a truth to cling to, and a power to sustain us (even through death itself). We walk in the same world as everyone else, but, like a young child holding on to her mother’s hand as she walks into school for the first time, we are not alone, a trusted, sustaining, guiding love walks with us. God doesn’t remove us from what can hurt us, but walks with us amidst it all.

Perhaps it is because tonight I needed to hear these words in my heart that I feel it, but God really is our Faithful Companion.

When family and friends and plain old ‘good fortune’ seem to fall away, faith is knowing that no matter the storm, God is always with us, Emmanuel.

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Insight: Peacemaking Calls for Courage

We recall the words of Marie Madeleine: “Have courage and confidence, but above all, great confidence. “. Today, with thanks to the Redemptorists of Australia & New Zealand’s prayer app, Bread 4 Today, we have a prayer for peace offering the following insight that peace ultimately calls for courage.

Peacemaking calls for courage to say:

  • ‘yes’ to encounter and ‘no’ to conflict;
  • ‘yes’ to dialogue and ‘no’ to violence;
  • ‘yes’ to negotiations and ‘no’ to hostilities;
  • ‘yes’ to respect and ‘no’ to provocation;
  • ‘yes’ to candour and ‘no’ to deceit.

It is a long, hard road!

Peace Road, Saudi Arabia | Keeping-Company.com

Image: ‘Peace Road’ sign in Tabouk, Saudi Arabia by ChrisVSWorld, via Flickr.com.

Let us take time to not only pray for peace, especially in the Middle East, and for all who suffer the effects of war and hostility the world over, but also to ponder how we render peace in our lives. How are we courageous men and women,  in order to become peace?    

Living Courageously

I received a lovely email from a sister wishing me a blessed time on the upcoming pilgrimage, which ended with: “…may you be gifted with much ‘courage and confidence, but above all great confidence.’ -Marie Madeleine.”

Henri Nouwen has the following to say on courage:

“Have courage,” we often say to one another.  Courage is a spiritual virtue.  The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart.”  A courageous act is an act coming from the heart. A courageous word is a word arising from the heart.  The heart, however, is not just the place where our emotions are located.  The heart is the centre of our being, the centre of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions.

To live courageously then is to live from the heart; impassionedly, authentically and humbly.

For Reflection:
• How is your heart? Describe its colour, weight or feel. Is it light or heavy? Does it feel full and vibrant or sunken in and wary? Perhaps there are pebbles resting at the bottom, and you only notice their rattling if you let your heart be moved. Do you know what feelings, qualities or attributes lie in your heart at this moment?

• When did you last have a ‘heart-to-heart’ conversation with a friend or loved one? When did you last have one with God?

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Heart via 'Google Image Search'

Thomas Merton: On Pilgrimage

The story of man’s pilgrimage and search has reached the end of a cycle and is starting on another. It is clear that there is no paradise on earth that is not defiled as well as limited, and yet the piligrimage must continue because it is an inescapable part of man’s stucture and program. The problem is, for his pilgrimage to make sense, it must represent a complete intergation of his inner and outer life, of his relation to himself and to other men. The Bible has always taken men in the concrete, never in the abstract. Our task now is to learn that if we can voyage to the ends of the earth and there find ourselves in the aborigine who most differs from ourselves, we will have made a fruitful pilgrimage. That is why pilgrimage is necessary, in some shape or other. Mere sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves – which is the same as saying that we find Christ in him. | Thomas Merton

image Excerpt transcribed from Thomas Merton’s Mystics and Zen Masters, from the radio show, Paul Elie – Faith Fired by Literature, (20 February 2014). Click here to listen to the recording.

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In just over a week, I will begin a pilgrimage to France ‘In the Footsteps of Marie Madeleine’, with an international group of people associated with the Faithful Companions of Jesus, including Companions in Mission, staff from our schools and other associates. Kindly remember us all as we embark on this journey, and together we pray for all those travelling, on pilgrimages of some kind, and for those who are forced to move for their safety and welfare through no fault of their own, such as asylum seekers and nations displaced.

From the Archives: Mary came to Jesus in the dark

Originally published 1 April 2013. Reposted 20 April 2014 for your reflection.

Easter Moon Photo: Geralyn Anderson, “Easter Moon Through the Trees” on Easter Sunday Morning (2013)

The Rev David Lewicki has the following reflection to read on the reality of Easter. He makes the point that the women who went to the tomb did so in the dark.

Biblical scholar Raymond Brown is quoted:

In this [John’s] Gospel, where light and darkness play such a role, darkness lasts until someone believes in the risen Jesus.

Yet it is also true that faith travels in darkness. Many people will not experience the lightness of Easter or the hope it proclaims. Illness, disease and malady are in our faces. Death and destruction continues. But still we are challenged as people of the gospel, “to walk by faith and not by sight,” as the song goes. There is darkness around. It is still dark. But nonetheless, our beloved friend in Jesus still needs us, wants us and calls us out of ourselves to bring light and truth in the world.

And so I share some symbols of Christ’s light from a dawn service I attended over Easter.

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Keeping Company

May the courage of Mary be ours, may she show us the ways of joy and peace. And may our goings-out be in the warmth and gentle glow of Christ’s light. Peace.

Insight: The Personification of Ignatian Identity: Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ, Jesuit Priest Killed for Staying with People

It was in the middle of the night when I found out that Dutch Jesuit priest, Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ was shot dead by a masked gunman in Syria. The news was like something out of an action movie. I had read about this priest a few months ago, when he made headlines for refusing to leave the besieged area of Homs, so long as there were still people there who were suffering. Having lived in Syria since 1966, van der Lugt was said to have been well respected by the community around him. Spokesperson for the Vatican, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ is reported to have said of Fr Frans’ death:

“This is the death of a man of peace, who showed great courage in remaining loyal to the Syrian people despite an extremely risky and difficult situation.”

I personally stand in sorrow at the death of such a man, but also with great admiration and encouragement. Though our brother-Jesuits have lost one of their own, though the people of Syria have lost an ally and a friend in Pater Frans, the Church and the world have gained in him, an examplar of faith, courage and fidelity to God.

As I thought about the loss – and it is indeed very much that – I remembered the words of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus to which Fr Frans belonged, and spiritual father of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. In his Principle and Foundation [SPEX #23] we have a teaching on indifference (better understood as non-attachment), application of which does not come so automatically to our human nature:

Frans van der Lugt: Keeping-Company.com Yet we have in Fr van der Lugt, an immediate and real-life example of this ideal, personified. In his life of service and ministry, we see how his actions came from a deep conviction of God’s call to love, and in his death, we see a man who devoted his whole life to the greater glory of God. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

May we remember in our thoughts and prayer, the memory and repose of Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ; the people of Syria to whom he served and for all who are affected by war and civil unrest. We also pray for ourselves as members of the faithful, to be in the world, in like example of Fr Frans and St Ignatius before him, as lovers of peace, restorers of justice and people for God.

Insight: The Pope’s Tweet on Teaching Children to Pray & A Young Mum’s Response

Many people find great comfort in prayer, especially those who seek to deepen their spiritual life. Pope Francis in a recent tweet, exhorted all parents to teach their children to pray, which I, as a mother, took to heart.

Keeping-Company.com |@Pontifex Pope Francis Twitter

Immediately I thought of my own parenting and how my children have been exposed to the faith tradition and to prayer itself. I thought of the prayers my children say and of how they behave during Mass. I thought of their eagerness to help out where they can, as welcomers, collection ‘taker-uppers’, ministers of the Word, offertory processors and altar servers. I thought about their openness to prayer, and how my husband and I, in our own ways, foster this environment. And I gave thanks.

But I am all too aware how rare this is in families, especially in the young families of today’s more secular age. It can be a challenge for parents to teach their children to pray, period. (What’s this pope guy talking about?) But if I may offer something from my own reflection on what Pope Francis means in his tweet, perhaps the task of praying with our children might not be as daunting or dare I say it, boring.

As a matter of practicality, simple tradition and ritual aid this task, as many childhood prayers involve the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, beginning most fastidiously with the Sign of the Cross and ending with a dragged out “Aaaaahhh-men”. Encouraging communal prayer out loud at routine times is also helpful, such as before meals or before bed. That seems to take care of the first bit: “Teach your children to pray.” Yet Pope Francis goes further by encouraging parents to do as they say, namely, to actively pray with their children. Simple right? Easy peasy…

Keeping-Company.com

Just your everyday to-do list…

Yes, and no.

Enter stage right, slight reluctance to attempt the pope’s latest challenge, because the adult can’t remember the last time they prayed. Add in a list of obstacles and maybe some guilt too, with thoughts like, “I’m not good enough, who am I to teach them to pray?” The adults are not kids anymore and the day is too busy to stop and pause before lunch (often in public) to give thanks for food. They know that asking Jesus to give them sweet dreams before bed won’t stop the nightmares. They even missed Mass, twice in a row already. Yikes.

So to my fellow parents who’ve found themselves in a similar situation, how then, does one get around this?

On deeper thinking, I looked more closely at the pope’s words. I offer here, my version:

Keeping Company | Pope Francis on Prayer, Children

Dear parents – teachers, leaders, carers, guardians and every member of the faithful – teach your children or friends, students, neighbours and those in your care how to pray. Pray with them.

In other words, we can teach each other not only to pray, but also how to pray. By talking about experiences of prayer, be they graces or doubts, and opening up the topic for conversation is a good place to start. But it is also as much as in the doing that our lessons are passed on. In our daily actions and attitudes of kindness, compassion and peacemaking, by speaking politely to one another and by cursing less and blessing more, we can also be teachers of prayer by example.

And in our roles as parents, teachers, faith leaders, mentors and caregivers, we give our children the priceless gift of living prayer. By ourselves being open to God and open to encounters with God, we inevitably give by example, accompaniment in faith and support to the faithful. As has been said before, “when you pray, you are never alone.”

Let us all, regardless of whether we have children or work with children, teach one another to pray (by being open to prayer), how to pray (by our living example) and in doing so, be companions to one another in our praying with.