Wednesday, July 28, 2010

God's Blessing

Dear Abbey Members and Friends:

I found the poem below on the Unfolding Light web site [] by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

Dear Beloved, God will bless you all through your life,
Love’s own gentle hand caress you, all through your life.
You are made by God’s designing, with the holy Presence shining.
Grace will be your silver lining all through your life.

Journey hand in hand with Jesus all through your life.
Walk with him who heals and frees us all through your life.
Like him may you be forgiving, generous and freely giving.
Risen, new, receive your living, all through your life.

May the Holy Spirit lead you all through your life,
guide, protect, renew and feed you all through your life.
In the light of our redeeming, with divine compassion gleaming,
be a light for others, beaming all through your life.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

This poem speaks to me and reminds me that God is ever present in my life, and is all loving. As I have been reflecting on it, this poem speaks to me of all it is that we in our Urban Abbey are called to be and do. In praying daily, we are called to remind ourselves each day the we are God’s beloved. In “journeying hand in hand with Jesus” (service), we are called to be part of Community reconciling ourselves and others, giving generously of the blessings we have received. In our study of Scripture and other Holy (God-inspired) words, we find the Spirit, and are fed and renewed. As we show fellowship and welcome in our daily walk, we can be a light for others giving them hope when that is needed, a listening ear when that is needed, being present for that other when that is needed.

I invite you to spend some time with this poem today or this week in Lectio-style reflection. Let the poem wash over you and see what speaks to you today. I invite you to share with the rest of the Community what comes to you in your meditation.

Shalom and many blessings, George

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Way of Praise

Good morning Abbey Members,

Today is the middle of the week in the middle of a busy summer schedule. With working two jobs, weekend trips, my daughter in camps, weekly lessons and guests coming and going throughout the summer, I have to admit I am tired. Also we just discovered my daughter has an allergy to the sun! Who knew that existed? But apparently this is common among Native Americans in North, Central and South America. (My daughter is adopted from Guatemala.) I laid in bed for while this morning and wondered what next? I felt overwhelmed. I eventually got up and begin my morning routine which includes reading a passage from "God Calling" a wonderful meditation book written by two anonymous listeners as they call themselves. We do not know a lot about their lives but we do know they were poor and had health issues and struggled greatly during the 1930's. They decided to come together to pray and try and listen for God. The writing that came from their listening is powerful and authentic. Time and time again I come to the daily reading and find just the perfect response to my daily worries and struggles. Today is no different. Let me share with you today's reading.

The Way of Praise

"I am teaching you both My Way of removing mountains. The way to remove mountains is the way of Praise. When a trouble comes think of all you have to be thankful for. Praise, Praise, Praise. Say "Thank You" all the time. This is the remover of mountains, your thankful hearts of praise."

I have so much to be thankful for! I live in a beautiful home, in a safe a community, with family and wonderful friends in a time of peace. The great majority of my busy-ness is created by our tremendous abundance and our ability to travel and make choices to do a huge variety of things in our life like travel and taking lessons. These small things that wear me out are totally unaccessible to the great majority of the people on this planet. I am humbled and grateful. I praise God this morning that my mountains are truly only mole-hills. I am grateful I have access to doctors, medicine and the internet to help manage my daughters sun allergy. I am grateful to be a part of a spiritual community that supports my growth and grounds me in what is most important. Thank you for being a part of my community.

Praise God!

(Yes - Seton posted this, but the text is all Angela's)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God, Work and Blessings

In my daily prayers and meditations I read a portion of the Rule of Benedict, usually with reflections or comments by a Benedictine Sister or Brother. Currently I am following reflections from Brother Jerome Leo of St. Mary's Monastery in Petersham Massachusetts. (You can find further information about the reflections at

As I read today's section of the Rule of Benedict and Brother Jerome's reflection I am struck by how appropriate and important this is in my life! As I read his reflection I asked myself "How often do I ask God for his Blessing before I start work?" Do I remember to say "Thank You" to God after a meeting that did not go quite the way I expected? Did I remember to ask for God's Blessing before starting to write this Blog entry?

The answers are between God and me, of course, but I will admit that quite often I do fail to ask for Blessings. That, however, doesn't stop from trying.

A Challenge:
Are there tools you have found helpful in remembering to ask for God's Blessing? If you spend time regularly (whether daily or otherwise) have you found something helpful you could share?

Don't hesitate, use the "comment" feature of the blog and share your thoughts with others! (If you have a private question please don't use the Comment feature, use the email tool instead. Comments will be seen by all readers of the blog.)

Now, here is Brother Jerome's posting for today, July 14, 2010:

From the Rule of St. Benedict, the portion read on March 14, July 14, November 13
Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen
An hour before the meal let the weekly servers each receive a drink and some bread over and above the appointed allowance, in order that at the meal time they may serve their brethren without murmuring and without excessive fatigue. On solemn days, however, let them wait until after Mass.

Immediately after the Morning Office on Sunday, the incoming and outgoing servers shall prostrate themselves before all the brethren in the oratory and ask their prayers. Let the server who is ending his week say this verse: "Blessed are You, O Lord God, who have helped me and consoled me." When this has been said three times and the outgoing server has received his blessing, then let the incoming server follow and say, "Incline unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me." Let this also be repeated three times by all, and having received his blessing let him enter his service.


Blessing readers and servers may strike the modern reader as a bit silly: a CEREMONY of blessing to do a no-brainer like that for a week? Ah, well there's the rub. Ancient monastics (and many Eastern Orthodox monastics even in our own day,) did NOTHING without a blessing from their elder. This results in all kinds of blessings for things we would take for granted. When the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne went as a group to the guillotine in the French Revolution, at least one of the nuns approached the Prioress and asked; "Permission to die, Mother?" The Prioress blessed her to die.

Getting a blessing, asking God's help for even seemingly trivial matters is a powerful reminder of our own weakness. It is a statement that we can do nothing without Him, that we truly are nothing that He has not given. There is a great humility in asking anyone for help. In this instance, however, humility is richest truth: we need God's help for everything. We do things only because He enables us, whether we asked Him for help or not. Our very lives would not exist without Him.

We still bless readers and servers. Short ceremony, same every week. We all pray together for whomever is serving us. Since we are small (only 7,) the Superior is often reader or server. When that happens, he kneels like anyone else and the senior monk blesses him. It's a little family ritual.

But what is its message for families in the world? For single Oblates living alone? The message is that there are no tasks to insignificant to bless with prayer. St. Benedict has earlier encouraged us to begin every good work with prayer, but maybe we have forgotten. Because the monastic is MINDFUL, careful, attuned to life, nothing is unimportant, nothing should be done "on automatic pilot." There is that healthy level of mistrust of self that will ask for Divine assistance in any endeavor. "Bless, Lord, yet another diaper." "Bless, Lord, emptying the trash." "Bless, Lord, management meeting!!"

Making dinner or washing the dishes? Take a quiet moment in the midst of either to say "Help!" and "Thanks!" Two simple, one word prayers. No matter how chaotic your household, everyone will find time for at least that. God knows the details, knows your heart and can readily fill in the blanks! We may think God needs essay-length prayers, but He doesn't. He may enjoy hearing from us, but trust me, we NEVER tell Him anything that's news to Him.

Of course, there is another side to simple things like serving table, picking up pins and the like. No one could have done anything without God's help, but ah, if one does them out of love and care! Bingo! Double coupons, so to speak! If that pin got carefully picked up because of a barefoot and running child, or a beloved pet who is prone to "tasting" whatever she can find on the floor, simplicity becomes a very much greater matter, indeed. Now it is very close to the heart of God, and that is a wonderful place to be.

Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB
Petersham, MA

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Silence & Listening

Dear Abbey Members and Friends,

You may recall that Angela, Seton, and I posted daily meditations on the Abbey Blog spot and on the Abbey YahooGroups listserve during Holy Week. We received positive feedback on that. In discussion at our last team meeting, we decided to begin a weekly posting on Wednesdays, rotating among the three of us. Our hope is that the meditations, or thoughts, we provide will be a springboard for an electronic discussion and an opportunity for all of us to grow spiritually. So we invite you to respond with your thoughts, feelings, suggestions...

If any of you who are in our physical or virtual Abbey Communities wish to share in our weekly posting rota, please let one of the three of us know. We welcome your participation.

With that prelude, let me give you my thoughts for this week.

I visited the St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, KS, web site and read a posting by their Abbot, Barnabas Senecal, reflecting on the life of one of their long-time monks, Brother Martin Burkhard, who recently died.
Following are a couple of excerpts that spoke to me,
“Brother Martin knew silence. Not only the silence that settles around a person who loses his hearing, but the silence of being alone, the silence of choice when one is listening well to another, the silence of one at prayer, the silence of sharing a moment of sadness with another, the silence of an artist who knows that inspiration comes from within, in response to beauty and possible beauty around him, and the silence of acceptance.”
“Brother Martin knew the silence of acceptance, giving rise to an ability to live with what is, not to be anxious about many things, to accept what he could not change. He allowed this to be a positive, to be a realist. He would complain, and he could say his disagreement, but that never took away what one confrere called ‘his sweetness.’”

WOW, to me this is a very powerful reminder of what it means to be in relation with God and one another. Brother Martin’s life exemplified what, I believe, we are called by God to be. To take time and really listen well to one another is one of the greatest gifts we can give. For me, this is one of the hardest things to do. My life and perhaps yours as well seem to be filled with so many worthwhile things that need to be done. In the midst of all these activities, it is difficult to slow my mind enough to be present and listen when a colleague, a friend, a spouse needs some of that time to be listened to. How hard it is in a meeting or conference when ‘gut issues’ are being discussed to REALLY take the time to listen to the speaker and not focus on our response. In our Listening Groups, it takes an effort of will to listen to what God has for us to say to another rather than the easy path of giving our own guidance or judgement. We all crave to be listened to – to be able to tell our ‘story’ to another and have that other be present for us in a non-judgmental way. When we can do this, we truly are walking in Christ’s steps. I’m successful occasionally; but, more often than not, I fail to be fully present for another. My challenge is to not give up hope, but to ‘pick myself up’ and try harder the next time. The good news is that there is great support and encouragement in our Community. I pray that we can come to the end of our days and, like Brother Martin, say that we too knew the silence of being.

Shalom and blessings, George