I Will Give You Rest

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a celebration that dates back to the 17th Century and that became part of the general calendar of the church in 1856.

The Gospel for Mass on this day is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Jesus’ words put in my mind the sole statue in the Sacred Heart Chapel on the grounds of the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh.  Traditional depictions of the Sacred Heart have never moved me; this one, however, draws me in every time I walk into that chapel:

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The peace of Christ be with you all!

St. Thomas More, Patron Saint of Lawyers

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Thomas More, known to many from the play/film A Man for All Seasons.

Thomas More is the patron saint of the lawyers.  For all of my lawyer friends – indeed, for all of those involved in the pursuit of justice,  here is the prayer to St. Thomas More:

I pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, that I, with you, St. Thomas More, may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients’ tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.

Pray for me, and with me, that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain – their good servant, but God’s first. Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

Welcoming Prayer

One of the people who see me for spiritual direction shared with me a copy of Thomas Keating’s The Welcoming Prayer.  Although in different words, it captures well the way of being Ignatius encourages in his First Principle and Foundation.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

It is a challenging prayer to pray as if we really mean it!

Living in the Fullness of Who We Are

I will leave the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh this morning, filled with gratitude for the many graces of this retreat.  It was my privilege to direct four retreatants this past week, and it is always a joy to see how God works with each individual.

Yesterday, I had the additional privilege of preaching at Mass.  The Gospel, part of the Sermon on the Mount, was the second of three Gospel segments that I sometimes think of as Jesus upping the ante – his series of “you have heard x, I tell you y.”  (You have heard do not kill, I say do not harbor anger against your brother; you have heard it said do not commit adultery, I say do not lust after another, and so on.)

I suggested in my remarks that I think what Jesus is doing here is inviting us to get underneath the literal words of the commandments to the heart of the matter.  He is encouraging us to a broader way of thinking about what it means to live in accordance with God’s standard, asking us to grapple with how we are asked to live our lives in an affirmative sense, not just to avoid the really big bad things.

That is a challenge in our world, which invites us to think in terms of minimum standards, doing just what is necessary to satisfy the literal requirements imposed on us. Being a good Christian (or any person of faith) is not all that challenging if all I have to do is meet the literal words of the “law.”  I joked about how easy it would be to do our daily Examen: we could sit with our Ten Commandment scorecard and check off, “Didn’t kill anyone today, didn’t commit adultery, didn’t steal anything.  I’m golden.”

But, what if do not kill means offering love and kindness to someone who seems unloveable rather than saying or doing something to tear them down?

What if do not steal means not taking more than a reasonable share of the world’s resources and avoiding wasting what I have?

What if do not bear false witness means having the courage to speak the truth in love in a situation where it is difficult for me to do so, but where I can do some good?

What if (to use example one of the other directors on the retreat used in his talk) not taking the name of God in vain means adopting a humility that accepts I don’t know all there is to know about God?

That is a lot more challenging. But that gets to the heart of the matter.  It is not about rules and punishment, but about a choice (Ignatius always emphasizes choice) to live in a manner befitting our creation in image of God.

And that is what Jesus is inviting us to, to embrace the fullness of who we are, to live for the greater glory of God, not just to skate by on minimum standards.

“God Is An Artist”

I’m in my “happy place” – the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh, where I am part of a team directing a retreat for faculty and administrators of Jesuit colleges and universities (members of the Ignatian Colleagues Program).

Today, and at other times over the past couple of days there have been massive storms.  This first pictures is Lake Winnebago just after the storm ended.  It doesn’t fully capture the effect of the sunlight on the moving water, but you can use your imagination.

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As we exited from our evening prayer, one of the other directors observed, looking out the window at the sunset, “God is an artist.”  No disagreement from me.  Here are two glimpses.

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Please keep the directing team and the retreatants in your prayers.

Strength, Courage and Hope

Yesterday morning we attended Lawrence University’s commencement ceremony; although Elena graduated last year, we were there to celebrate her boyfriend David’s graduation.

I have been to many college and law school graduations and am almost always disappointed by the graduation speaker.  That is not the case at Lawrence, which seems less concerned with making a splash by inviting a big-name celebrity than with finding individuals who exemplify the fundamental educational values of the university.

Last year I thought the talk given by author Lan Samantha Chang at Elena’s graduation was one of the best graduation talks I had heard.  This year’s speaker was even better.

I’m guessing Gil Loescher, an expert on international refugee policy, was not a name known to many of the graduating seniors (or most of those in the audience for that matter), despite his many years of work in this area consulting with governments, international organizations, and research institutes as well as authoring many articles and books.

Loescher spoke eloquently about the refugee crisis and the importance of immigrants – including refugees – to this country and he received much applause during his remarks.  But what touched me most was his sharing of his experience in August 2003.  He was in the office of the then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Baghdad in a meeting with eight other people.  A suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb outside the building.  Everyone in the room was killed except for Loescher.  He spend hours trapped in the debris of the collapsed building as American soldiers tried to rescue him and the others.  His legs were crushed and had to be amputated by the soldiers.

What allowed him to go on with his work?  Certainly no one would have criticized him if he folded up his tent after such an incident.  What allowed him to adjust to the new normal of life without legs, the only survivor of the horror he suffered?

One of the things he pointed to was his experience with refugees over the years.  Their strength, their courage, their determination, their hope.  Hope in the face of overwhelming odds.  He learned from those on whose behalf we are working. (I thought of our work at City House, where we always stress the mutuality of benefit between spiritual listeners and those to whom we provide services.)

Not all, or even most of the graduates Loescher addressed will make refugees their life work, but his words were an encouragement to them to commit their lives to making a difference (and we know there is no shortage of ways to do that).   His talk was an inspiring one, not only for the newly graduated, but for all of us.

Update: You can watch Loescher’s talk here. (It beings at about 1:32:00.)