Thank God for Guardian Angels

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

On October 2, the Church celebrates the feast of Guardian Angels.  In almost every faith tradition, people seek inspiration from the legions of unnamed, unknown Guardian Angels.

We all need angels, guardians, guides, protectors, messengers of good news, angels who bring us words of compassion and solace. I think of all the first responders, emergency room personnel, disaster relief workers, who showed up in Las Vegas on October 1st to attend to the massive assassination of innocent people. Those who are still responding to needs in Houston, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Too often these days, people need this kind of angel. Think of all the angels who show up when we really need them. In the midst of the horror in Las Vegas, the feast of the Guardian Angels brought back wonderful memories for me of childhood and the prayer:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide. Amen.

Angel of God, my guardian dear  Who are the angels of God for you?  Who guards you?
Who protects you from over-reacting, from over-work? Who keeps you from taking yourself too seriously?  Who invites you into your own center and who returns you to the source of God within you?   Angels of God, your friends, who (thank God) do not see you as the leader of the free world.  A guardian angel is someone who shares a meal with you, enjoys a walk on the beach with you, and goes to the movies with you.

Guardian Angels send you secret messages of encouragement, share a private joke, offer a pat on the back, give a quick massage, recall a special memory, recommend the perfect book, share a secret dream, and know your favorite food.  Guardian angels leave the light on for you when you come home at night, they look at you knowing you do not have the answers and it’s alright.

Angel of God my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here…
Commits me HERE to live in this time and this place.  Commits me HERE to see all of my sisters and brothers as children of God.  Commits me to live in the knowledge that it does not all depend on me.  Commits me to get up every morning and see the day as blessing, to see the work ahead as privilege and gift.

Ever this day BE at my side…  Be at my side when I need to say the hard thing. Be at my side when I have no idea what to say. Be at my side as anxiety grips the soul of a person in trouble and I have no words to calm her heart. Ever this day, be at my side when I realize that the person who just interrupted me is the reason why I am here and he or she is the source of God’s grace for me today.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard… To light the path that has been set before me, to guard me from the fear of diminishing resources. To lighten my heart and drink the wine of music and beauty and awe at the wonder of the stars. To guard me from myself.

To rule and guide… to rule and guide my desire for quick solutions and impatience with processes beyond my control.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide. AMEN.

Today we thank God for the angels among us.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

It’s All About the Biscuits

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

I looked back to some of my previous blogs and saw that I wrote a lot on prayer, the need for silence and simplicity when we pray. I think I might have been trying to tell myself something. Do I really pray from my heart?

I want to share a prayer that someone sent to me, maybe some of you saw it, but it is worth passing along. It is a prayer given by a farmer at a parish breakfast. Here it is:

“Dear Lord, I hate buttermilk.

Lord, I hate lard.

And, O Lord, you know I do not much care for raw flour.

But, Lord, when you mix them all together and bake ‘em up,

I do love those fresh biscuits!

 

So Lord, when things come up we don’t like, when life gets hard,

when we just don’t understand what you are saying to us,

we just need to relax and wait ‘til you are done fixin’

and probably it will be something better than biscuits.”

Not a lot of fancy words there, my friends, but a solid and deeply resounding reminder that every day we are given experiences and have encounters that draw on our souls to respond. Prayer is the best expression of that response. So look around you, see the needs, the successes, the tragedies, the triumphs, the sadness and the joy, and that is where your prayers are needed.  Have faith and you will get better than biscuits.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

So I Just Listened

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, the grounds men who mow our lawn noticed the sound of a new bird song.  They could not identify it but we all enjoyed listening to it. There are many birds in our yard and I have written about them a few times. So I went looking on YouTube to try and identify the bird and also found a Mary Oliver poem that I had tucked away.  I love her poems and she asks: is not the sound of a bird a prayer? Is not my listening, a prayer? Just for fun, listen to the bird song of a wren here.

Mary Oliver’s poems inspire me very often. This image of just listening, of holding her pen in the air is as if she is suspended in belief. Belief that the world is capable of goodness; belief that God’s Word is always being spoken.  A favorite scripture passage is Isaiah 55: 10-12.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

After learning this so many times, I realize once again that prayer is listening.  Some days it’s listening to a bird’s song. Some days it’s listening to a person share a story.  Some days it’s watching the news and hoping I do not despair of a better world.

Mary Oliver and the unidentified bird reminded me that God’s Word is always being spoken, all around me in every sight and sound. So sometimes I just listen.

Here is Mary Oliver’s poem:

I happened to be standing

Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Darkness Filled the Sky

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

So, where were you and what were you doing on Monday, August 21, from noon until around 3, depending on your time zone?

Some people paid thousands of dollars to be in planes 35,000 feet in the air; some planned their whole vacation around it and went to  Oregon or Missouri or Kentucky or South Carolina and gave a great boost to the economies of some small rural towns most had  never heard of before; some paid hundreds of dollars for a pair of special glasses, and some, like me, paid $6.99 and prayed the glasses were the right kind; some climbed mountains or went to the deserts and prayed to the gods for protection as the sky darkened more and more, and some hid as the birds stopped singing and animals became a bit confused—was it night already?

Yes, nature gave us quite a show (really awesome in “the path of totality”) and reminded us that we are such silly humans if we thought we could control all of creation. This was another reminder that we exist in nature, we do not own it. There have been total eclipses many times in history and salvation history, we just might not have been alive or in the right place to see them, but that does nothing to diminish the mystery of how it happens and why. A lot of us see nature, in all its forms, as one of God’s greatest mysteries. Many of us do try to harness her energy or divert her rivers for our own convenience, when will we ever learn….it just can’t be done. Most of us have been feeling overwhelmed by anger, sadness, frustration and disappointment over the events of the last few weeks, but Nature has given us something to revel in, to marvel in, and to be humbled by, all in of  about 2 minutes.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Charlottesville: It Is Time to Disempower and Defeat White Supremacy

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I had prepared a different blog this month, ready to hit the send button, but the events in Charlottesville, VA, this past weekend made me rethink it.

The death and injuries in Charlottesville were a direct result of white supremacists, a.k.a. domestic terrorists. No mistaking it as anything else. The legal protest was called because of the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a hero to the supremacists, and an open threat and reminder of brutality to so many others. The march was clearly a conspicuous display of white supremacy aimed at demonstrating unfettered racism and an in-your-face attack on blacks, Jews, and other minorities.

The person who drove a car that pushed another car through a crowd of counter protesters was no accident; it was a deliberate act of murder.  At least 34 people were hurt, Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed and two Virginia State Troopers, H. Jay Cullen, 48,  and Berke Bates, 40, died in a helicopter crash while on duty that day.

So much of the race problem in America was laid bare in Charlottesville. It may be legal to publicly express your views in this country, but as so many political leaders and commentators expressed it, it is unacceptable to be a white supremacist, Neo-nazi in America. This could not be more clear and I could not agree more. You should too.

Under the banner of free speech, hate speech is nothing more than hate and it not American. It is against everything we value as Americans, whether Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist and President Trump should be saying just that, clearly, and unequivocally. He is not.

White supremacy is white privilege on steroids. We need to call it for what it is and recognize that different forms of white supremacy have led to a perpetuation of inequality economically, socially, politically, in education, in health care, and under the law for African Americans since 1619.

White supremacy, a perceived entitlement, led to the violence in Charlottesville, a supremacy that the KKK uses to perpetrate violence against blacks. Fueled by an irrational fear of being overwhelmed by people who do not look like them, the KKK has been emboldened by the rise of the Alt-right, empowered by the silence of the Republican Party and by the flaccid leadership of Mr. Trump, who has said nothing to disavow the actions of the Klan in Charlottesville. These are the people who helped get Mr. Trump elected.

As people who embrace nonviolence and the pursuit of peace, we must find ways to disempower and defeat thugs who are clearly engaging in domestic terrorism. We have to treat it as a threat to national security and an assault on the fundamental values we hold of human dignity, freedom, and security.

How do we do this? I suggest two ways. First, remind yourself of the values we stand on by listening to this excerpt from the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech of Dr. Martin Luther King. You will surely remember and be inspired.

Secondly, speak up. Call, write, email your elected leaders to publicly condemn white supremacy as a hate crime and thank them if they have already made a public statement. It is time to call it like it is and prosecute the KKK and other hate groups as domestic terrorists. Urge your representatives to push for prosecution.

Being people of peace, we espouse non-violence. But nonviolence is not weakness.  It takes great courage to denounce hate and the rise of hate demands a strong clear voice that stands up for everyone who lives here no matter how they came here.

Can you sense that I am angry? Yes, I am. Today I contacted my congressional representatives and governor’s offices to thank them for speaking out against this violence (which they all have done clearly and without hesitation). I encourage you to do the same wherever you live and make the voices of peace and nonviolence heard.

Nonviolent responses to evil are not easy or swift, and we need to be in this for the long haul to disempower hate.

Posted in Wednesday's Word