Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Thought from Father Don

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Below is today's reflection by Fr. Don Talafous, St. John's Abbey, shown at left. I was really struck by his holding up before us how much of an impact we, as individuals, can have on the lives of those around us --family, friends, people we meet in living our life. We can truly be a gift or help in another person's life--we to a certain extent can control that.

He shows us how to live out the 4th tenet of our Rule of life: "...and Show Fellowship with a welcoming heart, seeking Christ in everyone I meet, offering comfort and celebration. "

Shalom and many blessings, George DeFilippi

Father Don says, "After years of looking for someone else to blame for all our deficiencies there seems to be more appreciation today of accountability and responsibility. In fact the former word may be in danger of taking its place with other overexposed words like diversity and codependency. This new trend could encourage us to see the value of our life, our words, our example for our family, our friends, our neighborhood, our world. What we do or do not voluntarily do in the way of worship, love, honesty does strengthen or weaken the character, the tone, the texture of the community of which we are part. For our little part of the world and for many people around us we are irreplaceable; without the things we do or say they are diminished. Our lives, words and actions can build up or tear down. Our encouraging words or gestures help someone else through the day -- or the night. Our sympathy and listening tell others they are not alone, have worth. The respectfulness or dignity we bring to what we do helps others believe in the worth of living. What we do in response to our conscience is vital to the world around us and is our way of responding to the call of the Lord in the here and now."

Read more here: http://www.saintjohnsabbey.org/

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent Quiet Night Dec 2

Last week a small band of Abbey members gathered in the Rhodes Room at St. George's for our annual Advent Quiet Night. The event was preceded by a simple soup and salad supper, topped off with some fabulous desserts, all contributed by members of the Abbey.

Missie Burman and Marlee Norton presented a thoughtful program focused on what it feels like when your life suddenly veers off in a new direction, as it did for Mary and her relative Elizabeth. We enjoyed long moments of silent contemplation on this theme and a shared reading of a simple Scottish story about three little trees whose lives also turned out differently than they'd expected.

Many thanks to all who attended, contributed food, helped out in many ways, but especially to Missie and Marlee for designing a wonderful program.

May your Advent experience this year be a peaceful one.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Hi everyone!

All who participated in the Urban Abbey retreat at Shrine Mont, Oct. 31-Nov. 2:

The serenity and beauty of Shrine Mont that we experienced during the Abbey retreat remain a vivid memory for me, and perhaps for you as well. A highlight was the joyful celebration of the Eucharist in the outdoor shrine on Sunday morning. We were made to feel very welcome by St. Anne's of Reston, as were five other church groups. The sermon by Jim Papile, rector of St. Anne's, gave us a new way of looking at the Beatitudes, and the essence of his message is reproduced below, so that we can return to it from time to time for additional insight.

Other Abbey members and friends:

I wish you all could have been with us at Shrine Mont for the Abbey retreat. Donna Crocker did an excellent job of organizing a retreat for us that provided generous amounts of time for personal prayer, study, and meditative walks during a weekend of ideal fall weather. And we were blessed to have our own Marlee Norton celebrate the Eucharist for us on Saturday morning. As with any good blending of Urban Abbey and Shrine Mont traditions, the weekend also included observing the daily office and convivial times of "porching", games, and just enjoying each other's company.


The sermon offered an interpretation of the Beatitudes that I'd like to share with you (below). It aims at an understanding of who we are, rather than who God is.

Explanatory note:

Most of the following text is based on The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson. The one exception is the word for "blessed". The Scottish theologian, Neil Douglas-Klotz, tells us that the Aramaic word that Jesus would have used has the meaning of "ripe", in the sense of being ready. Jesus addresses his companions at a moment of expectation, saying, in effect, you are the fruit that is ripe; you are ready to seed the love of Christ in the world.


Take your favorite Bible translation and open to Matthew 5: 3-12. For each verse, read first your translation, and then the corresponding paraphrase below.

Matthew 5:3-12 3 You’re ripe when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4 You’re ripe when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5 You’re ripe when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That is the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6 You’re ripe when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

7 You’re ripe when you care. At the moment of being “care-full”, you find yourselves cared for.

8 You’re ripe when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9 You’re ripe when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 You’re ripe when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11 Not only that—count yourselves ripe every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.

12 You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

I found that many of these verses came alive to me in a new way, as they did also for other Urban Abbey members at Shrine Mont that day. I hope that, as you read the same passage, there will be understanding and blessing for each of you as well.

In peace, Wayne

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Below is today's meditation from Fr. Don Talafous of St. John's Abbey. Being a "type-A" person his message really resonates with me today. For us as Abbey members, his admonitions to "watch and wait" and "be present for those who need us" have great application especially in today's troubled times.

Shalom, George

While praying in the garden the night before His suffering and death Jesus said to the disciples: "Wait here and watch with me" (Matt 26:38). He didn't send them off to importune the local bureaucrats for another hearing, to get reinforcements or to organize a protest. Many a contemporary of ours would consider His words too passive; why not tell them to do something rather than just wait and watch? It is difficult for people raised in our culture just to sit and watch. We feel we're being judged by our peers on how proactive we are, how able to do something. Part of Jesus' point is that in some circumstances the best thing to do is to wait, watch, be present. The friends of Job who harangued him in his suffering finally did the right thing when they shut up and sat with him in his misery. Beyond this the words of Jesus admonish us to question the value of our frenzied activity. We are so busy getting somewhere that we often have no time to be anywhere. In our pursuit of education or of advancement, of business opportunities, we need to learn just to be, to be present to those who need us. Our silent presence cannot have a price put on it; yet it's often worth more than our fumbling actions. "Wait and watch." — Don Talafous OSB 12/05/08