Friday, July 31, 2020

Have You Fallen Victim to Fake News about God?

(This essay was written as a devotional column in my local area's newspaper)

“Fake news” is a term that has crept into our vocabularies these past few years. While the concept itself is not new, we’ve now become aware of how pervasive fake news can be in many different forms of the media we consume. Many of us, at one time or another, have fallen victim to believing a piece of fake news that an acquaintance posted to social media. But did you know that you might also have been holding onto fake news about God?—fake news that has been perpetuated for years, and continues to be believed by the skeptical masses, even though the Bible’s portrayal of God is starkly different?

Many people have a primary view of God as a dour, fuming figure in the heavens, meticulously counting up all the ways we’ve sinned, and ever ready to start throwing down thunderbolts of judgment. God is portrayed as a perpetually-frustrated father, always disappointed in you, or as a vengeful judge, more interested in keeping people in line with his personal system of rules than loving or accepting them. Sometimes we feel that we cannot, no matter what we do, ever please God.

Guess what? It’s fake news. That’s not God, not really. But like most fake news, it baits the hook with hints of truth—for instance, the Bible does say that God is the great Judge of all things, that we will have to answer for the way we’ve lived our lives, and that the consequences of sin are serious business—eternally serious! But when we think about it, that’s not actually a darker picture than even the most basic common sense would dictate. Our own system of living in society shows us that being under the rule of law is actually a good thing. The opposite of being accountable to rules and laws isn’t freedom, it’s a dangerous form of anarchy where people get hurt. So I don’t believe we’d actually want a laissez-faire God who shrugs off sin, who cares nothing about the ways we injure ourselves and each other. We would want a God who cares deeply about us—deeply enough to get involved.

And that’s the kind of God that the Bible says we have. When the Bible describes God as the Judge of all creation, it doesn’t view that as a bad thing, as if the threat of looming wrath is all we have to look forward to. No, the coming of the Judgment of God is sometimes even portrayed as a joyful time, when all creation breaks out into choruses of praise (see Psalm 96:11-13). Why? Because a judge is a good thing—he’s the one whose job it is to set things right, to take broken and hurtful things and restore order and truth to them. Though lots of people have a stereotype of God in the Old Testament as being angry and vengeful, the most common portrayal of him there is found in this beautiful refrain, repeated many times throughout Scripture: “God is slow to anger and rich in love.” And when God is described as a father, it’s not a disappointed, frustrated figure—rather, it is a father who loves us beyond what we can imagine, who is pleased with us.

Did you know that God delights in you? That he feels for you the same joyful wonder and pleasure that a good parent feels when looking at their child? The clearest picture we have of the character of God is Jesus Christ himself, and in Jesus, we see a God who can be as tough as nails against hypocrisy and the abuse of power, but also compassionate and full of grace for our failings. In Christ, we receive the wonder of living as a beloved child of God. We get to give up the fear of our justly-deserved consequences for our sins, and to walk instead in the joy of God’s delight. In Christ, we find that the good God of all eternity has been waiting to lavish his love on us.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Julian and Catherine





“God is love.” – 1 John 4:16b

Julian of Norwich: Basic Facts

- Julian lived in the mid- to late-14th century in Norwich, England. She was an anchoress attached to the church of St. Julian, where she lived a life of prayer in her cell. 

- At the time, Europe was being ravaged by the Black Plague. At least 50% of the people in the area of Norwich died as a result. It was also a time ravaged by a series of peasant revolts and bitter wars with France. Many people interpreted these difficulties as punishments from God.

- She claimed to receive a series of visions from God, which she wrote about in her classic book, Revelations of Divine Love (or The Showings).

- In answer to the question of why such evils and sorrows were abounding in her time, Julian stressed the love of God and the full, future revelation of that love at the end of time.

- She often refers to Jesus as “our Lord of blissful cheer.”

Quotes from Julian of Norwich:

"He showed me a little thing, about the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it and thought, 'What can this be?' And the answer was generally thus: 'It is all that is made.' I marveled at how it could possibly survive, for I thought it might suddenly fall to naught on account of its smallness. And I was answered in my understanding: 'It lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it.' And so everything has its being only in the love of God."

"Here I saw that if He showed to us now His joy, there is no pain in earth or in any other place that would aggrieve us; but all things would be to us joy and bliss….And this is why He allows such things to happen: He has ordained, in his goodness, to make us higher with Him in his joy; and for this pain that we suffer here, we shall have a high endless knowing in God which we could never have without that pain. The harder our pains have been with Him in His cross, the more shall our worship be with Him in His Kingdom."

"Then said Jesus, our kind Lord: 'It is a joy, a bliss, an endless satisfaction to me that I ever suffered pain for thee; and if I could suffer more, I would suffer more.'… For every man’s sin that shall be saved He suffered; and every man’s sorrow and desolation He saw, and sorrowed in His kindness and love….When He was on earth He suffered and sorrowed for us, and now that He is risen and in heaven, still He suffers with us."

"It is God’s will that we have true enjoyment with Him in our salvation….For we are His bliss, and in us He finds joy without end, and so shall we in Him."

"We needed to fall, and we needed to see it. For if we had never fallen, we would not know how feeble and how wretched we are, and we would also not know the marvelous love of our Maker. For we shall see truly in heaven, without end, that we have sinned grievously in this life; but notwithstanding this, we will see that we were never diminished in His love, we never lost any of our precious value in His sight. And so, by virtue of this falling, we shall have a high, marvelous knowing of the love of God, without end. For strong and marvelous is that love which may not, and will not, be broken for trespass."

"He said: 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'…And in these words I saw a marvelous mystery hid in God, which He shall openly make known to us in heaven; and when we know, we shall see why He allowed sin and pain to come. And in this seeing we shall endlessly rejoice in our Lord God….All manner of things shall be well: for He wants us to know that the least things will not be forgotten."

Catherine of Siena: Basic Facts

- Catherine lived in the mid- to late-14th century in Siena, Italy. Siena was also hit hard by the Black Plague, and lost 60% of its population. Catherine dedicated herself to a life of celibacy and prayer as a girl, and eventually became a member of the Dominican tertiaries. 

- She devoted herself to serving the sick and the poor, and to a ministry of teaching. She developed a wide reputation for holiness. She helped arbitrate peace in the Papal-Florentine wars and was instrumental in bringing the papacy back to Rome from its exile in Avignon, France.

- She is most known today for collections of her letters and her book, The Dialogue.

- Catherine passed away at 33 years old, but her impact was extraordinary. She is honored as a patron saint of Italy.

Quotes from Catherine of Siena

"I am inviting you, in this blazing charity, to plunge into a peaceful sea, a deep sea. I have just rediscovered the sea—not that the sea is new, but it is new to me in the way my soul experiences it—in the words 'God is love.' And just as a mirror reflects a person’s face and as the sun shines its light on the earth, so these words echo within me that everything that is done is simply love, because everything is made entirely of love."

"So I beg you, I command you: always be conscientious about consuming all the dampness of selfish love, of indifference, of foolishness. Let the fire of boundless holy desire grow, till you are drunk with the blood of God’s Son. Let’s run like people famished for his honor and the salvation of his creatures."

"I don’t want you ever to stop throwing wood on the fire of holy desire—I mean the wood of self-knowledge. This is the wood that feeds the fire of divine charity, the charity that is gained by knowing God’s boundless charity. Then we become one with our neighbors as well, and the more fuel we put on the fire, the more intense grows the heat of our love for Christ and for our neighbors."

"If you are who you should be, you will set the world on fire."

"You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love."

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Evangeliad (16:24-30)


Section 16:24-30 (corresponding to Mt. 13:3-9; Lk. 8:5-8; Mk. 4:3-9)

"A planter went out to his field one day
And sowed out his seed to drop where it may;
So down on the hard-packed path fell some seed,
To be eaten by birds and trodden by feet.

And there amid rocks still other seed fell,
And when the seed sprouted, it did not grow well.
Its roots had no depth in earth shallow and dry;
When struck by the sun, it wilted and died.

Other seed fell among brambles and thorns;
Both crop and thorn at the same time came forth.
But while they sprang up, the thorns choked the seed,
And nothing came of those plants amid weeds.

But other seed, good seed, fell on good ground,
And after it came up, here's what was found:
A thirty-fold, sixty-fold, hundred-fold crop!
So if you have ears to hear, listen up!"

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Photo of the Week

How wondrous great, how glorious bright must our Creator be,
Who dwells amidst the dazzling light of vast eternity.
Our reason stretches all its wings, and climbs above the skies;
But still how far beneath thy feet our groundling knowledge lies!
While all the heavenly powers resolve eternal praise to sing,
Let faith in humble notes adore our great and wondrous King.

- adapted from a hymn of Isaac Watts

Monday, July 27, 2020

Quote of the Week


Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, stanzas from his poem "A Psalm of Life"

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Synaxis



Christ the Life of all the living,
Christ the death of Death our foe,
Who Thyself for us once giving
To the darkest depths of woe,
Didst Thou die for me to win
Rescue from the bonds of sin:
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be
Bless├Ęd Jesus, brought to Thee.

- adapted from the hymn "Jesu, Meines Lebens Leben," 
by Ernst C. Homburg, 17th cent.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Rivers of Living Water

(This piece was originally written as a devotional column for my local newspaper)

For much of the spring and early summer, we had exceptionally dry weather (at least by Maine standards). There were regular notices of fire hazards, and warnings of moderate drought conditions that might even dry up wells. It’s not often that we have a lack of water here in Maine, between our melting snowbanks, our annual “mud season,” and the profusion of lakes and rivers around us. But this year has proved a reminder of just how precious and important our water is to us. It nourishes, brings life, purifies and cleanses, and without it the world becomes parched, withered, and life is tremendously difficult. Another place I lived and worked for awhile was in the deserts of North Africa. The life-giving power of water was dramatically evident there: it was only in the narrow strips of land beside rivers that you could find any greenery at all; everything else was lifeless sand, rock, and wind-whipped dust storms.

For Christians, we are promised access to “the water of life,” “living water,” such that we will never thirst again (John 4:10-14; 7:37; Rev. 21:6)—the gift of God’s love through Christ Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit, in which the deepest longings of our soul are forever satisfied. But the Bible doesn’t just stop there, with a picture of us receiving this magnificent gift; it also teaches that we will become vessels by which God pours his blessings into the lives of others. In John 7:38, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” It’s clear from just a glance at that verse that it shows a beautiful image of Christians being fashioned into fountainheads of God’s life-giving grace. 
In the immediately following verse, John tells us that this is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit, pouring out through Christians’ hearts. But the metaphor Jesus is using in this verse also has a deep and meaningful biblical tradition behind it: the image of “rivers of living water” would have called to mind the intertwined Old Testament stories of the Garden of Eden and the Temple. 

In Genesis 2, the Garden of Eden is described as being the source for the major rivers of the known world, and its waters went out to bring life to all the surrounding territory. This image of life-giving rivers at the center of creation is picked up again at the very end of the Bible, with the vision of God’s New Creation (the union of the new heavens and new earth) in Rev. 21-22, where we see the river of life at the center, with the trees of Eden growing on its banks. When Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow from his followers, one of the meanings wrapped up in those words is that God’s New Creation is beginning in his people’s hearts, and that its blessing will flow out from them until the day when he restores all things: our hearts as the new Eden, where God dwells with us.

It’s also a Temple image—you may not immediately associate Temple imagery with rivers, but it’s a prominent aspect of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision: a river flowing out from the Temple and watering the nations (Ezek. 47). The way Jesus phrases his remark also points toward a Temple-oriented meaning: “living water” was the technical description used in Israel for the kind of water needed for ritual purifications. “Living water” could refer to rivers, streams, or any facility in which the water moves through without stagnating (we would probably say “running water”). This kind of water was required so that you could become ritually pure before you worshiped God in the Temple. And that is precisely the kind of water that Jesus says will flow from his followers’ hearts: water that purifies, that draws others toward holiness and closeness with God. As Christians, one of our callings is to be the channel through which God pours his life-giving love and grace, his invitation to the adventure of pursuing him in holiness and truth. Let’s let him use us, like a nourishing river, to bless our world with beauty, love, and the fullness of life in Christ.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Thomas Aquinas





“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  – Romans 1:20

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  – 1 Peter 3:15

“So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”  – Matthew 7:12

Thomas Aquinas: Basic Facts

- Thomas (1225-1274) was born into a privileged family—his father was the Count of Aquino, Italy, and was related to the reigning dynasty of Holy Roman Emperors. His family was ashamed of his decision to become a Dominican friar.

- “St. Thomas was a huge heavy bull of a man, fat and slow and quiet; very mild and magnanimous but not very sociable; shy, even apart from the humility of holiness….[He] was so stolid that the scholars, in the schools which he attended regularly, thought he was a dunce.” – G. K. Chesterton

- He is perhaps the most prominent scholar and philosopher in all of Christian history. He wrote 60 books totaling 25,000 pages, the most influential of which was his Summa Theologica. He forged a union of Christian faith and classical Aristotelian philosophy.

“He was one of the great liberators of the human intellect.” – G. K. Chesterton

The great Albert Magnus, a lecturer at the University of Paris, proclaimed to his class about Thomas (one of the students): “You call him a Dumb Ox; I tell you this Dumb Ox shall bellow so loud that his bellowings will fill the world.”

Thomas' Philosophy:

Thomas’ method of philosophy is characterized by: 
     - A profound regard for the God-given abilities of reason
     - A belief that firm knowledge of God can be gained from the nature of the world around us
     - Personal humility and respect for one’s opponents

Five Proofs for the Existence of God:

1.) The universe as we observe it requires an “Unmoved Mover” to be understandable.

2.) The universe also needs a “First Cause”—there is nothing that we know of that is completely uncaused, so the fact that things exist suggests there must be a First Cause.

3.) The universe also needs a necessary, non-contingent grounding.

4.) The fact that we recognize degrees in values—noble/nobler, good/better, holy/holier—implies that there must exist a perfection of those values (noblest/best/ holiest) in order to make them understandable.

5.) The Teleological Argument—it is manifest that all created things fulfill a purpose and seem designed in order to achieve that purpose—therefore, there must be a Designer.

Quotes on the Nature of Mankind:

“A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.”

“Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.”

“The things that we love tell us what we are.”

“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.”

Quotes on Philosophy and the Knowledge of God:

“All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, has its origin in the Spirit.”

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”

“If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way.”

Quotes on Humility and Relationships

“Beware of the person of one book.”

“How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.”

“To bear with patience wrongs done to oneself is a mark of perfection, but to bear with patience wrongs done to someone else is a mark of imperfection and even of actual sin.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Evangeliad (16:19-23)


Section 16:19-23 (corresponding to Luke 8:1-3; Matt. 13:1-2)

Jesus continued his practice those days,
Of going through Israel's cities and ways,
Preaching the Father's good news unto all,
The endless grace of the kingdom's call.

And with him walked his twelve, and still more:
Devoted women who followed their Lord;
Having been healed of demons, disease,
They helped to support Jesus' ministries.

Among their number was one called Susanna,
And the wife of King Herod's steward, Joanna,
And Mary Magdalene, whom Christ had released
From seven spirits; now she was free.

Then Jesus went out and sat by the shore,
And crowds gathered thick, still more upon more,
So he pushed off a bit to preach from a boat,
While people thronged close to hear as he spoke.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Photo of the Week

Praise be to His glorious name forever;
May the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.

- Psalm 72:19

Monday, July 20, 2020

Quote of the Week





"The study of God's Word, for the purpose of discovering God's will, is the secret discipline which has formed the greatest characters."

- J. W. Alexander, 19th-century American Presbyterian pastor and author

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

Stir me! oh stir me, Lord, till all my heart
Is filled with strong compassion for these souls,
Till that compelling "must" drives me to pray,
Till Thy constraining love reach to the poles,
Far north and south, in burning deep desire,
Till east and west are caught in love's great fire.

- Bessie Porter Head

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry-Prayer Journal

                              Lord, you alone know my heart.
                                   So teach me a little about it now and then,
                                        Because I don't really understand it myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: The Waldensians





After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals.”  – Luke 10:1-4a

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  – Luke 12:32-33

Peter Waldo & the Waldensians: Basic Facts

- Waldo of Lyons (1140-1218), later to be known as “Peter Waldo,” was a wealthy merchant living in southern France during the High Middle Ages. He was a faithful Catholic, but at some point his life was changed radically by a personal faith-encounter with Christ. He sold all his possessions and began living a life of poverty, started preaching publicly about his transformative spiritual experience, and promoted the idea of translating the Bible into the local dialect.

- Waldo’s followers, the Waldensians, created a vibrant network of small-group fellowships, supported by their own ministers. Despite being persecuted and discriminated against for centuries, the Waldensians persisted in their faith, eventually breaking with the Roman Catholic church during the 16th-century Reformation.

Timeline of the Waldensians:

A mass execution of Waldensians
1160sWaldo undergoes his conversion and devotes himself to living the Christian life according to the New Testament alone, and especially the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) 

1170s - Although some of Waldo’s ideas originally gain support from the Pope, the local bishop eventually opposes Waldo because of his preaching (in Catholicism, only priests had authority to preach). He is expelled from Lyons.

1200s – The followers of Waldo, known in this era as “The Poor,” expand their evangelistic activity. Their leaders, ministers known as barba (“uncles”) travel out in twos to preach and encourage laypeople to read the Bible for themselves. Even so, they still faithfully attend their Catholic churches in addition to these activities. The Waldensians soon have groups of believers across northern Italy, but they are declared heretics and come under fierce persecution. In 1211, more than 80 Waldensians are burned to death in Strasbourg. The new churches only survive by retreating into remote valleys in the Alps.

1300s & 1400s – Despite persecution (including an extermination order signed by the Pope in 1487), the Waldensians continue their missionary activities, expanding into the Danube River valley. There many of them join with the followers of Jan Hus, another early reformer.

1526-1532 – With the Protestant Reformation now in full force, the Waldensians make contacts with some of the Swiss reformers. Both groups share a deep focus on studying the Bible and living out its principles, and both reject certain Catholic doctrines like purgatory and transubstantiation. In this period, the Waldensians are even able to go where the Protestants cannot, carrying the Bible-centered Gospel message deep into heavily-Catholic Italy itself.

1555 – In a momentous step, the Waldensians choose to follow the example of the Protestants and separate completely from the Roman Catholic church. They build their first church building and begin holding independent services.

1560-1561 – In northwest Italy (the heartland of the Waldensians), the Waldensian communities decide to stay put rather than emigrate to Protestant areas. The Duke of Savoy decides to crush them militarily, and they resist in heroic fashion, winning against incredible odds. So the Duke is forced to grant them the right to practice their own faith as a minority (the first such decision of its kind in European history). Unfortunately, at the very same time, a religious purge was being carried out against the Waldensians in southern Italy—more than 6000 were killed or sold as slaves.

1655 – After a century of living in their Alpine villages under the constant burden of discrimination, tragedy breaks out again. When the Waldensians refuse an unfair court order to give up all their possessions gained in the past century, the armies of Turin and France march in and carry out the infamous “Piedmont Easter Massacre,” killing 1700 Waldensians, and torturing, raping, and looting many others. The news of this event sends shockwaves rippling through Europe. But once again, the Waldensians regroup and come back, organizing a guerilla military resistance that ultimately wins back their homeland.

1685-1686 – With the rise of Louis XIV’s Catholic empire in France, the Waldensians face their greatest challenge yet. They are targeted in the “Wars of Religion,” and are faced with the choice between execution, emigration, or conversion to Catholicism. Many decided to emigrate to Protestant countries (and some were forced to march out through the bitter Alpine winter), but a few choose to resist, and despite their heroic measures, another great massacre ensues.

1689 – Aided by their Protestant allies in northern Europe, a group of 900 Waldensians covertly make the journey through the mountain passes, 130 miles through enemy territory, back to their own homeland. Despite heavy losses, they make it through, and reclaim their homes in the midst of the enemy. This is known as the “Glorious Return,” and although they still felt persecution, they have never again been forced away.

1700s-present day – The Waldensians are still a vibrant church community, serving as one of the most active Protestant voices in Italy.

John Milton's Poem about the Piedmont Massacre (1655):

Avenge O Lord thy slaughtered Saints, whose bones 
Lie scatter’d on the Alpine mountains cold,
Ev’n them who kept thy truth so pure of old
When all our Fathers worship’t Stocks and Stones
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep and in their ancient fold
Slayn by the bloody Piedmontese that roll’d
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubl’d to the hills, and they
To heav’n. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O’er all th’ Italian fields where still doth sway
The triple tyrant: that from these may grow
A hundred-fold, who having learnt thy way
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Evangeliad (16:11-18)


Section 16:11-18 (corresponding to Lk. 8:19-2111:27-28; Mt. 12:46-50Mk. 3:31-35)

Then called a woman from out of the crowd:
"O teacher and Lord, how bless'd and how proud
Are the womb and bosom that bore and nursed you!"
But Jesus responded, "This I tell you:

Those blessed indeed are all those who hear,
And then not only receive with their ears,
But put into practice what they have heard."
Then came a man toward him, speaking this word:

"Your mother and brothers are standing out there,
Waiting to speak, but they cannot come near,
Because of the crowd pressing in on all sides."
"Who are my mother and brothers?" said Christ.

He pointed to his disciples and friends.
"Behold my mother and brothers!--these men,
And women, and all who God's will seek to do,
Are my mother, sisters, and brothers true!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Photo of the Week




O Splendor of God's glory bright,
from light eternal bringing light,
O Light of light, light's living Spring,
true Day, all days illumining:
Come, very Sun of heaven's love,
in lasting radiance from above,
and pour the Holy Spirit's ray
on all we think or do today.

- Ambrose of Milan

Monday, July 13, 2020

Quote of the Week




"It is a ridiculous thing for a man to seek to fly from other men's wickedness, which is impossible, while not flying from his own wickedness, which is both possible and necessary."

- Marcus Aurelius (adapted), 2nd-century Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, from his Meditations

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Saturday Synaxis

O Thou by whom the worlds were framed, Redeemer of our fallen race,
O God of love, and Light of light, the brightness of the Father's face--
What moved Thee, Savior, to descend and make our mortal flesh Thine own?
What called Thee forth, for Adam's sin, our second Adam, to atone?
'Twas love, the mighty love which made the starry sky and sea and earth,
Took pity on our woes, and broke the bondage of our sinful birth.
O Jesus, in Thy heavenly heart, let that same love forever dwell,
And endless mercies to mankind stream from its unexhausted well.

- from The Augustine Hymn Book, 19th century.

Friday, July 10, 2020

A Selection from My Poetry-Prayer Journal

Lord, you have seen fit to shield this Thy servant
     From all temptations and traps
          Of wealth, fame, and worldly success.
               For this I thank you.
Thank you for granting me the grace
     Of a far superior station in life,
          In which I am neither in plenty nor in want,
               But gratefully resting in your faithful provision
                    And of your people's generosity.
Thank you for letting me use my gifts
     To bless the few and the broken,
          And for preserving me from the pride
               Of catching the attention of the many.
You, O Lord, are far too good to me.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Heroes of the Faith: Francis & Clare





“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  - Philippians 4:4

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10

Francis & Clare: Basic Facts

- Francis (1181-1226) and Clare (1194-1253) both lived in the town of Assisi, Italy. Both became founders of new religious orders centered on the practice of radical poverty—Francis of the Friars Minor (Franciscans), and Clare of the Poor Clares.

- Out of all the figures of church history, Francis’ popularity has never waned. He is noted for his rampant joy, his delight in the natural world, and his simple, poignant sayings.

- Clare remained a close friend and advisor of Francis until his death. She lived a life of prayer and contemplation in her abbey of San Damiano. She described Christian communities as “mirrors”—on the one hand, reflecting the beauty and glory of Christ, and on the other, giving the outside world a chance to see itself as it really is.

- The Franciscans became a missionary force throughout much of the world. Francis himself went and preached the Gospel to a Muslim sultan in the Middle East.


Quotes, Songs, and Prayers

“I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.” 

“To the servant of God nothing should be displeasing save sin.”

“Preach the Gospel every day; and when necessary, use words.”

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

“All the darkness in the world can't extinguish the light from a single candle.”

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”

Clare: “The Lord frequently reveals what is best to the least.”

Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun” (Abridged): 

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my worshipful Brother Sun, who brings the day; you give light through him. He is beautiful and radiant in his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

Francis’ Peace Prayer:


Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
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. 
          Amen.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The Evangeliad (16:7-10)


Section 16:7-10 (corresponding to Matt. 12:43-45Luke 11:24-26)

You asked for a sign, while I've been here healing,
And if you all, my healing receiving,
Choose not to repent, it will be like
A man delivered of a demon inside--

Yet after that demon, expelled, goes forth,
And finding no rest wherever it roams,
It returns to that man, its former home,
And finds the place clean, but empty, alone;

Out it will go, call seven spirits more,
Worse than itself, then return to that home,
And so that man will be worse in the end--
So too shall be this generation!

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Photo of the Week

I waited patient for the Lord; He bow'd to hear my cry;
He saw me resting on his word, and brought salvation nigh.
When I’m afflicted, poor and low, and light and peace depart,
My God beholds my heavy woe, and bears me on his heart.

- Isaac Watts

Monday, July 06, 2020

Quote of the Week



"All men come from noble origin... If you consider your beginning, and God your Maker, no one is base unless he deserts his birthright and makes himself a slave to vice."

- Boethius, early medieval Christian philosopher