Once upon a time, a time called “forever now,” there were some beautiful old roses that could talk in hidden ways through a special root system they had underground. They looked as if they were planted far apart but really under the soil their roots were intertwined and they heard everything each of the others said in that silent language that roses have.
So when you see the white rose nodding… quietly in the wind you will know she is getting a message… and she says, “Yes, I have felt that way myself many times,” only she doesn’t really say anything. The others just know in their roots. And that is how it is with roses. They just know. It’s that simple. In the dark they go on whispering in their sleep as they wait for sunrise at dew fall, all together knowing when the first ray touches the first petal.
And roses never worry about anything else. All they know is now. All they know is love.
I was a young widow running through the house kicking toys out of my way, spilling my coffee, responding to a loud crash at the other end of the house. I had been cooking, having invited somebody over for dinner, (what was I thinking,) my toddler was running from the scene of the crime, my five year old was screaming, and my dog ran by with a piece of cornbread in her mouth. “OK,” I said to myself. “OK.”
I stopped. “OK.”
I set my coffee down. I took a breath. I looked outside at the juniper tree by my front porch. I noticed a thin branch trembling from the hesitant hops of a sparrow along it. I closed my eyes, felt the wood of the floor under my feet, breathed a silent prayer.
It was a centering moment.
I let the toddler get away. I hugged the outraged five year old. I attempted to salvage dinner. Life went on; just with a little bit more clarity, renewed meaning, and divine order.
The word Selah appears 71 times in the Psalms, and 3 times in Habakkuk. It often appears between stanzas of the Psalms, as if to tell the reader to pause and reflect. The precise meaning of the word is unknown, though some of the educated guesses are, “Pause,” “Lift up,” “Praise.” It could have been a musical term similar to our “rest” sign. It may have been a direction about how to read the verses, as in where to stop and take a breath.
In my life, “Selah” has become a practice of putting a pause on exterior and interior clamor and connecting to the Real, to lift up my heart, my situation, the world for a moment, to praise God by an act of mindfulness of His holy presence.
Eventually, developing this habit can lead to a greater general awareness of God at all times, and a natural continuous turning toward Him, in His outward expression and presence in the created world, and in His indwelling in the human heart.
Selah, as “stop and listen,” helps me deal with overwhelming emotions, fearful thoughts, angry rants I discover raging in my mind, to stop or at least slow the wheel of worries that can spin on its own mysterious power for disconcerting amounts of wasted time. Sometimes Selah is just a quiet moment of gratitude in the middle of a busy or even not so busy day.
The meaning of Selah as “lift up” may have been a reference to the scales used at the time. An object was weighed by being lifted on a scale against a counter weight. So Selah can also mean to weigh, to evaluate. Selah as “lift up and weigh” helps me place all things in the balance of God, lifting up my mind with all its wild beating of wings against its imaginary cage, when it needs to be set free to fly in Heaven’s peaceful skies, even for a moment. Grace can do that if we let it.
Even a tiny fraction of a second that we open ourselves to God is enough time for Him to do all that is needed.
An instant of conscious contact with the holy changes us, whether we feel it or not. We invite Him Who is all good, into ourselves, and into the world through us. God can do anything. He isn’t limited by time, that’s us. We can use time to drive ourselves crazy, or we can use as much time as we can to help God help us, and to open ourselves to be channels for the outflow of His grace into the world.
Selah as praise helps me accept what is, as where God has me in the moment, whatever is happening, and to step into my inner chapel, to build a little alter, a temple in the day.
During a difficult day, this can even be necessary in order to hold onto the strength that comes from God. I heard a priest at a San Antonio Marian Conference say once that when we adore God, nothing evil can touch us. I never forgot it, because I found it to be true. Adore the Lord in His holy court,says Psalm 29. It’s what’s going on in Heaven all the time. We can join in at any moment, and the grace of praise, which Psalm 8 says foils the enemy, is ours, grace that the Scriptures say God inhabits.
But You are holy, O You that inhabit the praises of Israel. Ps. 22:3
So how do we practice Selah in the ongoing Psalm of our day?
Selah. Pause.This is simple but not easy. We forget. We get busy, or in a hurry. We freak out. We don’t notice ourselves or what is around us because we are worried or sad, or scared, maybe mad, maybe caught up in the constant wild flow of the negative distractions of the world. Maybe our minds are flying down the rapids of our thoughts and experience, without direction or control.
Sometimes it helps to stop, and notice the sky, to be mindful of the wind, of the sounds around us, of the feeling of the grass or the floor under our feet, the feeling of our own breathing. Getting grounded helps us connect to God. When we stop being carried away by the whirlwind of our worries and busyness, we can dip into an undercurrent of peace. Try stopping and just noticing your environment, tune in to your senses, and then, if you can, go deeper within yourself where it is quiet and God waits for you.
I found myself unconsciously putting up a hand in a one handed prayer pose as a kind of “Selah” in personal sign language. Sometimes coming up with a simple, unobtrusive gesture to myself can really help my state of mind. I still do that hand gesture sometimes without thinking, and it can bring about the inner calm and readjustment of attitude I need without saying anything or particularly thinking any word.
Selah: Lift up. Especially when I am feeling overwhelmed, I try to think, “What is going on?” Sometimes something is really bothering me, but I don’t realize it. Prayerfully accounting for my inner state with God often helps me to step out of my anxiety, to get organized inside, gain perspective. I can lift the whole thing, and myself to God and in this way give over to Him any and everything that is a mess, inviting Him into it to arrange it to His will. Sometimes I have to repeat this step. OK, I almost always have to repeat it several times. When I can let go and let God, he sets me on a high rock, so I can see.
Maybe I just want to hug God, for no particular reason. A little Selah can help me stop and do just that.
Prayer is, for me, an outburst from the heart; it is a simple glance darted upwards to Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and of love in the midst of trial as in the midst of joy! In a word, it is something exalted, supernatural, which dilates the soul and unites it to God.
~ St. Therese, the Little Flower
Selah: Praise. It seems to me that it is a praise of God to focus on Him, to be grateful for His beauty and presence, to focus our attention on Him, to love and acknowledge Him. We can praise God by a simple glance in His direction. Sometimes I say, “ The lot marked out for me is my delight because it is You Yourself Who are my prize.” Sometimes it is easier to say than others. Sometimes I don’t say anything. I just place myself in His light and do my best to adore.
A good way to do this is to imagine Jesus with you. Really, this isn’t your imagination because it is the truth. You are just tuning into it.
Or remember that the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, fills the universe, and is Love Itself, always drawing us into the life of the Blessed Trinity. You are a part of that vastness that is filled by the Spirit of God, along with the sky and the sun and the stars and planets beyond them, and every bug, butterfly, and blade of grass or drop of rain on the planet. The Scripture says that all of it praises God.
Let yourself join in the praises of Heaven and Earth just by remembering what you are: a child of God, a little brother, a little sister, of Jesus. All these things are good to think about.
Or think of God speaking to you through your senses. Because He is. Let tuning into your senses quiet your body, your heart and mind, and then step further, inside that quiet, to be with God in your soul.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity said the name she wanted in Heaven was “Praise of His glory.” St. Paul says in Ephesians 1:12 that this is what we are. Stopping and listening puts us in touch with this. It’s about just being for a moment. It gives us a glimpse of divine perspective.
…that we may be unto the praise of his glory.
Pause. Lift up. Praise.
St. John of the Cross said, “With what procrastination do you wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart.”
Sometimes, that’s all it takes. A stop in the path. This very moment.
A few mornings ago, sitting at the table with my coffee, looking out over the meadow, I noticed with a smile, the moon in the brightening sky.
It was a rich gold, shining out momentarily as the sun came up, and then, as the light from the sun intensified, changing to it’s usual white. Slowly it became translucent. It faded away like the Cheshire cat, leaving a grin behind, eventually disappearing all together as morning filled the sky.
The whole thing was enchanting. It was prayer without “praying.”
There are times when the human soul is in a state of recollection and communion just by being what it is, by living, and being receptive when it is given silent brightness.
Holy mindfulness, the Sacrament of the Present Moment, and the Practice of the Presence of God are usually thought of as actively cultivated. However, perhaps these are graciously given, as well, and become the way we receive and experience the minutes and hours of daily life.
It seems in the quiet moments of the day, we can be deeply in tune with the loveliness of being, the loveliness of God, by being receptive, and just by being.
Maybe this is because we live in God’s presence, are made in His image, and the kingdom really is in our midst, and truly within us.
“…the Father and I will go to him and make Our home within him.” John 14:23b
In our gentle appreciation of beauty, in our every day task of making food for the people we love out of the beautiful carrots, onions, and garlic he has given us and that human hands have grown, we can be recollected spiritually without necessarily even thinking about it. I think, but I’m not sure, that is what the indwelling of the Trinity might feel like. After all, this indwelling is true and real in each of us.
When you lean down to hug your dog and a warm breeze comes rushing by, embracing you both, and all is still inside as you close your eyes; maybe this is what “the morning star rising in [our] hearts,” is like.
When the coffee is hot and good, when someone you love very much is sitting silently at the other end of the table with his coffee and his cigarette, as the morning light turns from blue to pink to gold to white, sometimes it isn’t necessary to form any words of love, or even really to think about anything at all. Your heart is already praying just by being there, and being what it is.
When everything seems quietly alive, as if even the inanimate in creation joins us in silent praise, and it’s no big deal, it just is; it could be there is nothing very strange or esoteric about that.
Maybe when Jesus said, “the pure of heart shall see God,” this is because with Him we are pure of heart, and when we are pure of heart, all we see is God.
Maybe when the heart is open, it automatically is filled with a receptive “heartfulness,” singing God’s name, without words, without thoughts, all the time.
When you are in a time of intense suffering; grief, dread, or emotional overload, when you are walking around the house just staring at things, when getting through the day seems impossible, and you don’t know what to do with yourself, read this:
1. Do the next right thing. This might be eating a sandwich, sweeping the floor, going for a walk. Do one thing at a time. Do the task, and then do the next one. My mother used to say, “Wipe your table, sweep your kitchen floor, make your bed, and call me back.” It works.
2. Section off the day into manageable pieces.
You don’t have to suffer the way you feel, or the situation you are in forever, only for today. Divide the day up into sections. Think of something you are going to do at the end of each time period to mark its end and transition into the next one.
I have used:
calling a friend
reading a daily devotional or thought for the day
a novena prayed every hour instead of once a day
praying the Liturgy of the Hours through the day
a short walk
These little things are anchors and dividers in the day to help re-center, reground, and chop a long, difficult day into chunks you can manage. This helps a lot.
My mom used to say, “Brush your teeth, wash your face, say your prayers, and start your day over again.”
“You can start your day over again,” she would say, “any time,” and as many times as you need to.
3. Master your thoughts. In times of crisis the mind becomes crowded with speculative, negative, or questioning thoughts that are very unhelpful.
These thoughts might be about blaming yourself or others, trying to figure out how or why something happened, why or whether God allowed it, or going over and over possible outcomes to a frightening situation you may be in.
These lines of thought, and others like them, are tricks of the well meaning brain, trying to problem solve, predict the future, or give us a sense of control or order.This not only wastes precious energy, it overloads us emotionally and mentally, and can block us from accessing real wisdom and strength which would help us to peace. As my dad says, “There’s no truth in those thoughts.”
When you find yourself spinning your wheels this way, try to catch yourself and dismiss unhelpful thoughts. Don’t be mad at yourself, don’t be mean about it, just say to the mind, “Nope. Not today.”
Routinely stopping and observing your surroundings, and saying a set, short prayer, might help you let go of the offending train of thought.
I like to imagine putting all my fears and problems into the hands of Jesus, or putting them in Mary’s lap to pray over for me.
If you dismiss unhelpful thinking over and over, it works surprisingly well to help you feel better, make room for grace, and give you a sense of true empowerment.
4. Be your own best friend. It’s hard enough feeling horrible, but you can make it so much harder by being disappointed in yourself, and by what psychologists call “negative self -talk.” One day I was so mad at myself for not being further along in my grief (whatever that means,) for not getting anything done, for being a wimp.
I felt that the Lord asked me if I would treat my friend, Jocie, that way if she came over feeling like I felt right now. “No, I would never talk to her like this.” I would love her, encourage her, and take care of her. I understood that this was how Jesus wanted me to treat myself for His sake.
Please be kind and accept yourself. Be sensitive to yourself. Understand that some days you’re doing well just to make it through the day and let it be that kind of day, if it is that kind of day. Do for yourself what you would do for a best friend. Think of it as a way to practice surrender and humility. Because it is.
5. Pray. You will feel like you can’t pray sometimes. The 11TH Step of Alcoholics Anonymous mentions prayer as “conscious contact” with God. That is always possible. It’s OK if you don’t feel prayerful. Today, focus on what St. Therese called a “simple look toward Heaven.” Some things I have done in times of shock, fear, trauma, or grief, are: clutching my Bible to my chest simply holding a rosary making some physical gesture of prayer without forming any thoughts or words offering my pain to God in union with Jesus on the Cross visualizing putting my head against Jesus’ chest just being in the darkness, knowing, with “naked faith” (St. John of the Cross) that God was with me.Holy music can really help. Try playing spiritual music that centers you, on these kinds of days. This is setting up and environment of prayer for yourself.Strangely, prayers of praise in the midst of suffering can be a powerful catalyst for peace of heart.
“Blessed be God.Blessed be His Holy Name.”~ The Divine Praises
May God’s transforming love be with you in your suffering, as we, the Church, are with you, and may the Holy Spirit comfort you and give you peace. Right now. Today.
The invitation said “Shawna’s Day of Silence.” When we arrived, her house was open, breezy, and, obviously, quiet.
My friend had set up areas to be comfortable to think, read, journal or pray or even nap. There were candles burning, and an array of books on various tables; spiritual reading, art books, a Bible. Art supplies and paper were in the kitchen with snacks and coffee. I brought a basket of rosaries to set on the coffee table. A note encouraged us to go for a walk, or do whatever quiet activity we liked.
I remember walking in her beautiful garden, scribbling in my journal on her couch, smiling at my friends, just hanging out. People came and went as they pleased or as they had time.
Shawna was going through a hard time in her life then. It is beautiful that one of her responses to her spiritual growth during her suffering was to open her home for us as a refuge of silence and acceptance.
You would think such a gathering would feel awkward, but, especially among good friends, it was not awkward at all.
I was inspired, some years later to hold a “day of silence” at my house. I decided to punctuate mine with times of communal vocal prayer.
People could come and go, similar to Shawna’s day, but they would know that at various times we would gather to pray together.
My friend Jocie came early to my “Day of Silence,” and made memorable breakfast tacos for everyone.
I set up an environment similar to the one Shawna had.
We then gathered for Morning Prayer form the Liturgy of the Hours in the room in my house we had set aside as our family oratory. (I called it my chapel but I know that is not actually correct terminology.)
Then everyone could do whatever they liked.
We had a tree house rosary at noon, Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3, and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours on the trampoline at 6.
It was a great day. One of my fond memories of that day was wandering into the “chapel” and seeing my friend Molly in there with a bucket of soapy warm water and a towel. She asked me to sit down and she washed my feet!
It was very touching.
* (You may ask where my kids were that day or how did I got them to be quiet all that time. Answer: My kids were there some, but mostly at a friend’s house that day- otherwise it would never have been a day of silence!)
I have hosted days of silence and reflection on other occasions, but they have been shorter. They were more like a come and go open house with communal prayer at the beginning and the end for a few hours, and food and coffee and tea, of course.
I have also tried a “day of silence” with my fiancee. In our schedule we made, we set times for walking, reading, quiet prayer togetherandjust open quiet time. We broke silence for meals and for going out for coffee.
At three o’clock, we washed one another’s feet, and anointed one another with oil.
The day was the first anniversary of my brother’s suicide which had unfortunately marked most of the duration of our relationship with trauma and the various crises that emanated from that event. It was important that we have a healing day.
When we washed one another’s feet, we also told each other how grateful we were for each other’s strength and wisdom, faith and resilience, acceptance and presence.
In the evening, we prayed Evening Prayer together from the Liturgy of the Hours, and went out for a special meal.
Consider hosting a Day of Reflection or a Day of Silence at your own home, your Domestic Church. There are so many ways to serve others without a lot of “doing.” You can be open and accepting to others, your house like the open heart of Jesus.
You don’t have to make small talk or worry about how you are doing. Just be like Joseph and Mary when they opened the stable at Bethlehem for the Shepherds, for the wise men, for whoever wanted to come to be with Jesus and with them under the light of the Star.
We all have so many Christmas parties we go to. We have shopping and cooking, baking and decorating, travel and other plans.
Take a moment. Let the fresh air of the Spirit come into your house, the sweetness of silence with Jesus permeate your home and your friendships.
You could have different kind of Christmas party, one that cultivates peace and gives refuge to your friends in the middle of all their intensified seasonal activity and holiday stress.
Put on the coffee pot. Light the candles on your Advent wreath. Set out some good food, some spiritual reading, maybe some art supplies.
Then open up your home and your heart.
The fruit of silence is prayer… The fruit of prayer is love The fruit of love is service The fruit of service is peace ~ St.Teresa of Calcutta
With constant developments in the news about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, and constantly breaking political news, these are extremely stressful times. How do we keep some equilibrium so we can be any use to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters in these dark, difficult and divisive days? Every day it seems like there are more bomb shells. How do we sustain them?
I messaged a friend the other day, “How ARE we going to keep calm these crazy days?” She wrote back:
“I’m going to be drinking! You don’t drink, so you shall have to pray, I suppose. :P”
I do plan to pray a lot, in whatever way I can, but most of all, I plan to pray in ways that simply keep me connected to God.
As a Carmelite, I have a strong belief that cultivating a constant, loving awareness of the presence of God within is a service to the world, and that it has a gracious effect on everything, and everybody.
I believe that when I am recollected, and in conscious contact with God, I have opened the fountain of living water in my soul. By doing so, I become a channel of grace for the world.
Unsealing the living fountain of the Holy Spirit in my own soul mysteriously helps others do the same, and somehow they are helping me as well. To me, this is part of the Communion of Saints.
“Let us draw from the springs of salvation
for our selves, and for the entire parched world.”
~ St. Edith Stein
Also, staying connected to God helps me to keep closer to His perspective when things get a little crazy.
It also reminds me that whether there is the earthly appearance of what I think is justice or not, God is going to win in the end, win in His kind of way, and that His win lasts forever. My sister in Carmel, Pat Thompson says that God’s will is always love. Whatever happens, I can trust that will of love is still at work.
So, in these days of fear, anger and chaos, grief, division and anxiety, I hope to remain connected and recollected.
I know I will have to be focussed about this commitment to myself, to God, and to the world. Sometimes I might become overwhelmed with what’s going on. However, I hope to make a consistent effort to draw myself back to the center every time; that center of my soul, and the center of the whole of existence, where God is. Here are some tips about staying on track for inner peace during your day.
Make a plan for your day that cultivates peace.
Plan, whether you are at work, or at home today, and the days ahead, to cultivate serenity. It’s not going to help anything or anybody for you to freak out, right?
It may be a good idea to limit your engagement with what’s going on during the day, and to limit your media consumption, to the minimum.
Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Even popping in for a few seconds helps. If you can’t get there, here is adoration live.
Plan some stopping points at certain times to settle down and re-center, and make a simple plan for what you will do. Sometimes you just need a few minutes with some calm music, a view of nature, something nice to drink.
Go to mass if your schedule permits.
Plan to pray The Liturgy of the Hours; however many of the set hours you can pray. (Morning, Mid Morning, Midday, Mid- afternoon, Evening and Night Prayer.) Universalis is a good site to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for free. You may also like The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on-line, a Marian version, so to speak, of the Liturgy of the Hours. Also free. Check in with the Liturgy of the Hours any time, and pray with others all over the world.
Plan to do acts of kindness and/or sneaky good deeds. You will feel great. Leave someone a flower. Pay it forward at a drive through. Give something to a homeless person or engage him or her in conversation. Do a chore for someone else in your household or at work, to lighten their load. Here is a list of acts of kindness if you can’t think of anything.
Make time in your day to interact with your pet. Even a quiet moment spent petting or brushing your dog or cat can raise your spirits and calm your heart.
Look at art that uplifts you. Plan ahead to do this, or check out I Require Art on Face Book. I love looking at that page. It is also on Twitter.
Have coffee with a friend and catch up. This does wonders.
Just for a Day
Pick one of these to do now and then. You can do something for a 24 hours period that would be overwhelming to do for a lifetime. But it is great training!
Hug people today, whenever possible. Seriously. This helps them and you.
Just for today, no fighting with anyone. Fight tomorrow. Not today. You can do it just for your waking hours in this next 24. Have a day like that now and then.
Have peaceful things to read that are helpful to you, comforting, or don’t get you emotionally stirred up. Don’t read anything else, just for today.
Plan to be extra caring with the people around you today. Remind yourself often that this is your intention today: to be kind. All day.
If you have a baby or a little kid in your family, read with him, cuddle with her. Spending time talking with a little kid can be healing. Plan on it. Make it part of your day today.
Eat comforting foods. It’s one day. Don’t worry about it. Plan comfort food meals for your family. Try to limit dinner talk to peaceful topics. Just for today.
Make peace your highest priority just for one day.
“Let nothing steal your treasure.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila
If you become overwhelmed, here are some quick ways to calm down:
Push your palms together for a moment.
Close your eyes.
Shake out your limbs.
Breath in through your nose slowly (count five) and then out through your mouth (count five.) Keep going with this for a while if it helps you.
Stop what you are doing- especially stop interacting with whatever or whoever is upsetting you. Turn off the T.V. Get away from that person. Get off social media. Whatever it is, stop it.
Tune in to the moment: Feel the floor (of whatever you are standing on,) hear the sounds far away, the sounds near you, the feel of whatever you are touching. Be conscious of your breathing. Look out of the window, at the sun, at the sky, at the trees or whatever is around you. Notice what’s going on in this present moment.
Go for a brisk walk. Pray the rosary or inwardly repeat the Holy Name of Jesus, or the sweet name of Mary as you walk. Let your inner, prayerful repetition fall into rhythm with your steps and your breathing. Pray with your whole body, mind and eventually, heart.
If you can’t pray the rosary, just hold it. Think of it as holding Our Lady’s hand.
Slow down your responses to anything agitating that people say. Think before you respond back. A good thing to remember before you speak is, “Is [what I am about to say] true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
Intentionally tense different muscle groups, and then release them. It’s very calming.
Make a list of five things you are grateful for, of five people you love, and even what you love about them.
Do a simple task you do all the time, but do it mindfully. Sweep the floor patiently. Wipe the table. Brush your hair. Water plants.
Wash your face, or sprinkle cold water on your wrists and dab it behind your ears.
Call a sympathetic, or light hearted friend. Say you don’t want to talk about current events. You want to talk about turtles or something.
Watch something funny (as long as it is not snarky, sarcastic or mean spirited.)
Litanies are awesome. My mom swore by these. She kept a notebook of them. “When you’re crazy, walk the floor if you need to, and pray a litany. Litanies are great when you’re crazy.”
When we talk we can do a lot of good sometimes. When we pray we don’t do anything. We stop doing. Instead we meet one another in the Heart of God. We bring ourselves, and our difficulties before Him in good will and open-ness of heart. What is there to argue about then?
It is a truth I often point out to my daughters, that God will not force solutions on us. “Remember all the times you brought broken toys for me to fix? I couldn’t fix them if you wouldn’t give them to me. God can work with your problem when you trust Him with it and let go.”
We don’t know what God will do but we do know that God responds to prayer, especially humble, open- hearted prayer, and we know it pleases Him when people set aside their differences and come together to seek His will, willing to be changed by Him.
Authentic prayer always brings out the best in people. It brings them to recognize their own littleness and broken-ness before God, Who is all love, at once perfectly just, full of mercy, and utterly mysterious- thus requiring our open-ness and willingness, for Him to reveal Himself to us. This is when we can come to know the power of His transforming love.
On the day of Pentecost in the midst of the believers gathered in prayer the gifts of the Holy Spirit undid the language barrier, the curse of Babylon. People who heard them when they prayed understand now, in the Spirit, no matter what language each one speaks.
God can hardly help Himself, I think, responding when anyone prays with trust and hope. Surely He will bless the prayers of His children who don’t want to fight anymore and don’t know what to do to stop.
How can we pray through conflict together in our lives? I think it is of special relevance in families. There is a lot of pain and love in families. There are always issues that need to be brought to the light of the Holy Spirit for forgiveness and unraveling. We don’t always know what to do. Sometimes we have talked and talked or we have tried not talking. We have tried forgetting, avoiding each other, pretending nothing happened. What if we came together in honest prayer and let God begin the healing in His own way?
What if our first reaction, when we had a conflict with someone, was to pray about it with him? Imagine how this might look on social media if people with differences stopped arguing for a minute and prayed together humbly instead?
Praying through conflict can help make difficult decisions people are in conflict about. When my first husband, Blaze, wanted to move back to his native Wisconsin, I knew it was fair since he had been in Texas with me so long. However, I could not help my grief, and he was upset that I was upset. Our talking about it was not doing any good. We were advised by someone wise to pray about it. Our prayer was to be, “If we are supposed to move to Milwaukee, give Shawn peace about going. If we are to stay in Texas, give Blaze peace about staying.” He got peace about staying and we stayed. It was the right thing.
Once my dad had read about something and wanted to try it. He wanted to sit down on the couch with me and have us look into each other’s eyes for nine silent minutes. So we turned off the stereo and we sat on the couch and we looked at each other right in the eyes in silence. After the first awkward, anxious moments of wanting to laugh or run away or cry were over, my heart felt such peace and quiet and love.
“What did you think?” my dad asked when the long beep of the kitchen timer let us know our nine minutes were up.
“I think I saw you the way God sees you!”
My dad just smiled.
Let’s go together and look into the eyes of Our Father without words or agendas of our own. Maybe we will finally see each other, and maybe even see God.
“Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelations 21:5)
My daughter, Maire, got in trouble at her Catholic middle school for wearing green nail polish, which was against the rules. (Only clear or light pink nail polish allowed, if I remember right.) When asked about her indiscretion, she said, “It’s for Ordinary Time!”
I laughed hearing about that. At least she remembered what season we were in as Church, and it meant something to her.
We have just begun Ordinary Time, that big section of green, the liturgical color of the current Church season, that fills most of the wheel illustrating the Liturgical Year.
We have special things we do at other seasons in the Church year. What about Ordinary Time?
Ordinary Time has it’s own feel. I associate its’ post Pentecost beginning with that first breath of cool air from the church door as I step into the intimate hush of daily Mass on a hot Summer day. This season is a contrast of calm and peace after the penance of Lent and the holy fire of Easter and Pentecost. It’s a return to the simple holiness of daily life.
One of our family albums is titled, “Ordinary Time.” It is a scrapbook of our family life during a few months of Summer and Fall. Into it I recorded our daily “rule of life;” (or sometimes not-so-rule,) song lyrics to music we were listening to at the time, the every day prayers we prayed, the silly things we did on the spur of the moment like a spontaneous family dance in the middle of dinner, as well as our little celebrations of the feasts of Ordinary Time, such as the Nativity of Mary (September 8.)
We always made Mother Mary a birthday cake. “Chocolate. What other kind of cake would she eat, right?” the caption says in green ink.
We remembered this part of the Church year by keeping green candles on our family alter. We prayed a “kid version” (when the kids were younger,) of the Liturgy of the Hours I put together for family prayer, which always reflected the current season.
At Mass, the vestments and alter cloths will be green or have green trim. My mom, always the gardener, used to say this was because “green is the color of life.” In Ordinary Time, the focus shifts from the culminating moments in the life of Christ and His Church; the birth of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and then Pentecost, to the space in between where most of life is lived.
“Ordinary” comes from the word, “Order.” So we enter into the daily order of the Church at this time of year, and the emphasis of the Gospel readings is on the ministry of Jesus; His preaching and healing, His daily encounters with people, His conversations, his journeys.
Ordinary time can be a time we pay special attention to our own encounters, conversations, and the events of our own lives, and how God speaks to us in these. How does the life of Jesus unfold in your own?
What do you do every day? I know I spend a lot of time coping, and sometimes I need to cultivate more conscious awareness of life so it doesn’t just happen to me and I miss it.
I am not by nature a very rule or schedule oriented person. But I do know paying attention to my loosely interpreted cadenza of a life, makes it more of a little holy rule instead of a stream of consciousness in which I might forget to practice the presence of God. * When I can lightly observe the rhythm of the day with holy intention, I feel peaceful and connected.
Ordinary Time is a great time to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to read the daily mass readings, (or maybe just the Gospel each day, as my youngest adult daughter and I do.) It’s a good time to get in the habit of sanctifying time by stopping, or at least pausing, in our day, to pray, even for a moment. It’s a good time to remember to look around and notice how beautiful God is, and how He is everywhere represented and speaking to us.
Now is a great time to carry Jesus into the work we do, and to consciously do all we do as it truly is; through Him, with Him and in Him. We can try doing every task with gentleness and love. Whether we sit, or lie down, or are talking to our children, whether we are in our house, driving our car, doing the shopping or at work, when we are sitting with friends, or going for a walk, we can try always to be remembering the nearness of God, even in our breathing.
“God is alive. I am standing in His presence.” ~Antiphon from The Carmelite Proper for the feast of Elijah the Prophet (July 20)
We can each day seek to understand how it is that His yoke is easy, His burden light, His Heart meek and humble. We can slowly begin to incorporate that lightness, that easiness, that meekness and humility of heart into our lives as we become more aware of the sweet companionship of His spirit every day.
This is how we enjoy life as people who consciously live in God; by bringing the remembrance of Him into the sacred Ordinariness of our time.
“See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.
~ Revelations of Divine Love by St. Julian of Nowich
* The Practice of the Presence of God is a term coined by the Carmelite mystic, Brother Lawrence, and is the title of a collection of his writings.
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