Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 2/14

Our daily "Pause" usually directs prayer from our hearts to God.
Today, the tables are turned!
Here are ten Valentines from God sent to all of us and each of us.
Perhaps you'll forward or share this post with others who might be grateful today for reminders of how much they're loved.  (And if you want to send a Valentine to God, see this earlier post.)

God's Valentines to You 

  No one has loved you longer than I do:
        I loved you before you were born or conceived,
           I loved you before time began... 

  No one holds you closer than I do:
         I'm right by your side 24/7/365,
            I'm truly your Best Friend Forever...

  No one loves you more faithfully than I do:
         my love for you is unfailing,
            I love you with no strings attached...

  No one loves you more wisely than I do:
        I guide you through all of your troubles,
           my wisdom and truth are your peace...

  No one loves you more mercifully than I do:
        I freely forgive you and forgive you again,
           I will never walk out or give up on you...

  No one loves you more deeply than I do:
        I dwell in your heart of hearts,
           I'm right at home in the depths of your soul...

  No one loves you more joyfully than I do,
        I delight in the person I made you to be,
           I love you more than you know or imagine...

  No one loves you more passionately than I do,
          I gave my Beloved out of love for you:
            now I call you my chosen, my child, my own...

  No one loves you more graciously than I do:
           I love you more than anyone else ever has,
              more than anyone else ever could or ever will...
No one loves you more fully than I do
         for indeed, I Am Love: I abide in you
           and you in me, for ever and ever.  Amen.   


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A Valentine for the One who IS love...

Ever thought of sending a Valentine to God - who IS love?

The Lord deserves our love on every day of the year but since February 14 is a day for special greetings, we might consider the following.

Here is a beautiful musical setting* for St. Augustine's prayer, "Late have I loved thee..." (For those not familiar with Latin, the translation of the first three lines is found in the fourth and fifth.)

Sero te amavi,
pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova.
Sero te amavi!

Late have I loved thee,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,

late have I loved thee.

I was searching all around me; you were all within.
I grasped at your beauty everywhere
and longed to have and hold what can but be beheld.
Sero te amavi!

You attracted, I, distracted, did not see
the Giver of all gifts was gracing me.
Sero te amavi!

You called, you shouted – piercing through my deafness;
You flashed, you shone – dispelling all my blindness.
Sero te amavi!

You breathed your fragrance on me,
I drew my breath and now I am breathless for thee.
I tasted your sweetness and now I am famished for you –
you touched me; now I am burning for your peace.
Late have I loved thee, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new!
I was searching all around me; you were all within.
Sero te amavi! Vero te amavi…

(Late have I loved Thee!  Truly have I loved thee...)

* from Schola Ministries, translated and composed by Kathleen Deignan, CND


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Pause for Prayer: 2/13

Lent Mercy 2016

On several days a week during Lent you'll see the image above when our Pause for Prayer will focus on how we might "clothe ourselves in mercy."   If you'd like one of the pocket Crosses with the verse about mercy, click here.   For previous posts in this series, click here.)
I'd like to clothe myself in your mercy, Lord,
but I'm guessing that first I'll need to name
how and when and and where and why
I need your mercy.

I'll need to name my weaknesses and faults,
my wrongdoing and my sins...

I know I'm not a saint, Lord 
so why's it so hard for me to call myself a sinner? 

I know I'm not perfect,
so why's it so hard for me to admit my mistakes?

I know I need to make some changes,
so why's it so hard for me to start to make them?

Of course, I'm pretty good at noticing
my neighbor's faults and flaws,

but I'm so often so blind to my own...

This Lent, Lord,
help me look at myself
and look at myself honestly...

Help me take a personal inventory
and see myself as you see me...

Help me stand in the light of your truth
and see my own faults and weaknesses:
help me see how I've failed you,
how I've failed my neighbor,
how I've failed myself...

Help me see my need for mercy
and confess what needs your pardon,
that you might clothe me in your mercy, Lord,
and free me from my sins...


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Thinking about Valentine's Day...

Image source
Special days have a way of leaving some folks feeling not so special... Holidays do this when their approach builds expectations of a joy whose arrival can't be guaranteed by a particular date on the calendar. One of those days is around the corner on this coming Sunday: Valentine's Day.

The church's liturgical calendar no longer commemorates St. Valentine and the story of how this day came to be the occasion of love letters, flowers and chocolates is historically unclear but interesting nonetheless.  

Valentine's Day may be for lovers but not all loving and lovable people will find cards, roses and sweets at their door. For some this will be one of the happiest days of the year, for others one of the saddest. Any day that puts our hearts in the spotlight will be a day of mixed emotions.  Those whose hearts are burdened or broken may look at February 14 as simply a day to be endured. 

It's unfortunate that Valentine's Day is so closely, almost entirely associated with romantic love. There are so many kinds of love that people share, love whose source and sustenance is much deeper and greater than an arrow from Cupid's bow. The Valentine industry may boom this week but soon enough the roses will droop and the heart-shaped boxes will be empty. When the trappings of the day are behind us, those who know and share a deeper kind of love will have something that cannot be bought in a store, ordered from a florist or made by Godiva.

Loving and lovable people come to this page all the time, some every day. May all of you see how beautiful you are in the eyes of the Lord, the Lover who offers you his heart and who writes these tender words upon yours:

I have loved you
with an everlasting love

I have called you
and you are mine!


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For those who may have missed Ash Wednesday... and for those who didn't... A Pause for Prayer

Ash Wednesday by Amadeo Cristobal

First a little survey... then a pause for prayer...

 Check all that apply:

___ I had no idea that February 10 was Ash Wednesday.

___ I knew February 10 was Ash Wednesday but I forgot!

___ I remembered February 10 was Ash Wednesday
        - but I was too busy to get to church.

___ I went to church on Ash Wednesday.

___ I went to church on Ash Wednesday and have been
         faithfully praying, fasting and serving the poor
            for three days now.

___ I went to church on Ash Wednesday
         but haven't thought much about it since.

No matter which one(s) you checked, you can be sure of 3 things:
   - The Lord loves you...
   - The Lord welcomes you to the season of Lent...
   - The Lord wants you to deepen your spiritual life
         in this season of renewal...

So, even if you haven't begun,
  of if you got off to a rough start,
      it's not too late to start living the season of Lent!

Take a few minutes today to decide
   - how you might be more faithful to prayer this Lent...
   - how you might give up or let go some things
         that come between you
            and your love for God and your neighbor...
   - how you might, in the 6 weeks ahead,
         be generous to those in need... 

And, now, let's all pause for prayer:
Lord, however faithful or jumbled 
   has been the beginning of Lent in my life,
I trust that you still call me to live this season
   as a way of growing in faith and love...
Keep me from being discouraged by my mistakes
   and open my eyes to all the ways
      you wait for me and want to help me grow...
Help me remember that it's no sin
   to be a few days late in beginning the season of Lent,
that the greater mistake would be to just give up
   and let this opportunity for grace pass me by...
If I've made a good start, Lord,
   make me stronger in my resolve.

If I've made a half-hearted beginning,

   jump-start my efforts.

If I've not yet begun at all,

   send your Spirit to get me moving.

O God of second chances and new beginnings,
   help me find in the weeks ahead
      a season of grace and prayer and peace.   Amen.
(If your Lent has had a rocky beginning, a great way to get things moving
would be to come to church this weekend for Mass on the First Sunday of Lent!)

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Word for the Weekend: FEBRUARY 14

Image: Tentaciones by Hermanoleon

Resolve now: Each week in Lent I will take time to study the scriptures for the coming weekend to be better prepared to hear, understand, receive and be nourished by the Lord's Word in my mind and heart on Sunday!

(For more on the image above be sure to read through the whole of this post...)

The scriptures for the First Sunday of Lent and commentary on them can be found here and hints for helping youngsters prepare to hear the Word can be found here.

In all three years of the Lectionary, the gospel passage for the First Sunday of Lent tells of Jesus' time in the desert and his being tempted by the Evil One. This year we hear Luke's account. I like the illustration above because it presents the temptation of Christ in the way I often experience temptation: in the half-light of shadows, seeming to sneak up on me out of nowhere, appearing harmless and innocent, beckoning...

The first lesson, from Deuteronomy, does not pair obviously or with great strength with the day's gospel but does offer us the heart of the Hebrew scriptures: a confession of faith based on thanksgiving for God's deliverance of his own in the Exodus. The intervening text, from Romans, serves as a call to Christians at the beginning of this holy season, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


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Tomorrow is a FRIDAY IN LENT!

... a day to abstain from eating meat.

What does that mean?
Catholics over 14 years of age 
are expected to abstain from eating meat 
on the Fridays of Lent.

Note: Individual, personal health concerns and "doctor's orders" always take precedence over regulations for fast and abstinence!

For much more info and background on this, check this earlier post!

Fast and Abstinence In Lent
All Christians are called to special prayer, fasting and caring for the poor in the season of Lent. 
Each person determines how he or she will personally live out these ancient Lenten exercises. 
In addition to personal Lenten practices, Catholics are also called to a communal practice of self-denial through fasting and abstinence.

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Homily for Ash Wednesday

Crucifix: Holy Family Parish, Concord

I invite you to turn your gaze to the crucifix that hangs over our prayer.
It’s a good thing, on this first day of Lent, to look upon JESUS
-- because Jesus is what Lent is all about.

My relationship with Jesus, your relationship with Jesus,
our relationship with this man who gave his life for us,
who suffered and died for us – this is what Lent is all about.

Lent is a time to reconnect with Jesus, the God-man
who lived 2,000 years ago, grew up in a small town,
who preached his Father’s word,
who came that we might have life and have it to the full.

Lent is about Jesus and my relationship with him.

So this day we begin a season
of growing closer to Christ,
closer than we’ve been before.

Perhaps we’ve drifted away from him,
perhaps our relationship with him is on-again, off-again,
perhaps we need to renew
what was once a strong relationship with him.

Or perhaps this Lent will be the very first time
we’ll begin to have a personal relationship with Christ.
And we’ll do that through prayer, fasting and almsgiving,
caring for those in need.

Obviously, prayer is a good way to grow closer to Jesus
because it’s talking to him, conversing with him:
placing ourselves in his presence,
pouring out our hearts to him,
waiting and hoping to hear a word from him.
Prayer is a way to grow closer to Christ.

And fasting.  Fasting is a way to come to Jesus
if by fasting we mean we empty ourselves
of other things that fill us up too much,
of things we depend on that don’t deserve our dependence.
We empty ourselves of desires that have no healthy purpose
to make room in our hearts for Jesus to make his home there.

And caring for the poor –reaching out to those in need.
That might be a monetary gift to a charity -- and that’s very good.
But it’s also looking around our own homes and families,
and where we work, and where we go to school,
in our neighborhoods and in our parish
and seeking out those who are in need of:
a friend, a word, some company, some consolation or help,
serving the needs of those who are right by our side all the time.

Our prayer, fasting and caring for those in need will all have value
if each of them draws us closer to Christ.
If our Lenten practices draw us only to a sense of self-satisfaction,
then they will have failed miserably.

We pray -- to grow closer to Jesus.
We give up things – to make more room for Jesus in our lives.
We reach out to those in need – to find Jesus
in the lives of those around us and around the world,
wherever people are in need of what we have in abundance.

May this holy season begun with the mark of ashes,
a sign of how fragile is our existence,
that we are dust – and to dust we shall return,
may this season draw us closer to Christ
who wants to draw closer to each of us.


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Pause for Prayer: Minutes for Mercy 2/11

On several days a week during Lent you'll see the image above when our Pause for Prayer will focus on how we might "clothe ourselves in mercy" in these 40 days, keeping in mind that Pope Francis has called us to live not just a season but a Year of Mercy in 2016. (If you'd like one of the pocket Crosses with the verse about mercy, click here.)

For starters, let's take a look at some synonyms for the word mercy

benevolence         blessing               charity           clemency      
compassion           forgiveness          generosity      goodwill   
grace                    leniency              pity               sympathy   
tolerance              commiseration    favor              forbearance      
gentleness             humanity            kindness         lenience
mildness                pardon               relief              tenderness

Pausing for prayer, let's ask ourselves a few questions:
- In what virtues, values or vices am I usually clothed?
   Any of the above?
  How might others answer that question about me?
- Is my heart clothed in any "garments"
     that need to be taken off?
- Is my heart clothed in armor, keeping others away?

- Looking at the list of synonyms,
    what "garments" do I need to add to my heart's wardrobe?

-  How, this Lent, might I put away any garb that burdens my heart
    and clothe myself in mercy?  What new clothes do I need?

help me take an honest look, an inventory
of the outfits I wear to costume my heart...

Give me the grace this Lent
to put away what I shouldn't put on
and to dress my heart, instead,
in the garments of mercy
and of grace
and of human kindness...



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