Tag Archive | devotional



yellow flower

(late summer blooms)

“The only way to know God, the only way to know the other is

to listen.”


“Listening is reaching out into that unknown other self, surmounting your walls and theirs.”


“Listening is the beginning of understanding, the first exercise

of love.”

(from Father Joe, by Tony Henderson)

Palm Sunday


I looked out my window on Palm Sunday morning and saw this cross “shadowed” on the rock in our backyard.  I posted the picture on Facebook, and my good friend Jane responded with a poem.  Here it is:

In my garden

A cross shaped tree-limb shadow

Lies on the cold hard stone,

Which has not yet unsealed

The opening to Spring.


In my garden

X marks the spot

Where hopes and dreams are buried,

Until  green leaves and trumpeting blooms

Announce a Resurrection.


In my garden

A point where two lines meet

Show Earth and Heaven intersect,

In dreary places here below

As we reflect the Light.

Jane Cronkite


Ash Wednesday


Good to begin Ash Wednesday with a reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”   Today many will kneel at altar rails around the world.  Today many will hear these ancient words as pastors, with the ashes of last year’s palms, mark the sign of the cross on their foreheads:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation.

Not difficult these days to remember that I am dust, that we all are dust and that to dust one day we will return.  Recently, I have watched loved ones and friends coping with intense physical and emotional pain.  I have been measuring out my own days in mere teaspoons of activity with the weakness of my CFS/ME.   As I’ve listened to the evening news, I have tried to imagine the agony of a young Syrian mother giving birth in a refugee camp after fleeing from all she had ever known and loved, or the distress of an Afghan father worried about finding money to bury his young son who had frozen to death in a Kabul shelter the night before.  With all that’s going on in my life and in the life of the world, I truly have to struggle some days to remember that God has indeed begun a good work in me, in all of us.  Struggle to believe that God is still at work to accomplish that good work and bring it to completion.  Easier these days—often—simply to feel the dustiness, the grittiness, the muddiness of life rather than to be aware of any glory of the divine at work within me and within our world.

Yet, as I kneel today and hear the beautiful words of the Ash Wednesday prayer, I find myself realizing that God is indeed at work in all our lives…

  • enabling us to trust as we grope our way through pain and weakness…
  • enabling us to keep hope alive amidst all the ugliness and fear so rampant in our world…
  • enabling us to see and cherish all the beauty that still shimmers and shines amidst the gloom…
  • enabling us to love and care for those who need our hearts and our hands.

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation!

The Ringing of the Angelus

“The Angelus”

Jean-Francois Millet (1857)

I’ve always loved this painting—peasant man and woman, as they hear the ringing of the Angelus bell, humbly pausing near the end of a long day in their fields, to acknowledge the Source of the goodness they are reaping, even though that goodness seems rather scant, given the size of the tiny basket of potatoes at the woman’s feet.  In spite of this, the peasants pause, and the quiet humility of these two, heads bowed, man holding his cap in his hand, woman with hands held prayerfully together, becomes itself for me the gentle chiming of a silent bell that calls me to a deeper reverence.

I’ve always assumed the couple was praying a simple prayer of thanks and sending up a request for help in all their labors.  But recently I’ve learned more about the Angelus bell, and that has made me re-think my assumption.  The ringing of the Angelus bell dates back to sometime in the 12th or 13th century, and it is a bell that calls for the faithful to remember the visit of the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary to tell her that she was to give birth to God’s son.   In some places (contemplative monasteries, e.g.) the Angelus still rings even today, at 6 a.m., at noon, and then again at 6 p.m.

So Millet’s peasant man and woman are not simply saying “thanks” and “help”; they are most probably praying a prescribed litany written to help them recall the annunciation story and to help them hear anew Gabriel’s “blessed are you” and then Mary’s “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  I hope as they reflect and re-imagine this story of old, these hard-working peasants are also able to put themselves into the story, able to hear God’s word spoken, not just to Mary, but also to them as well: “blessed are you, you workers weary at the end of a long day of toil; blessed are you, for God’s grace surrounds and fills you, and truly God is with you, even as God was with Mary.”  We cannot see their faces, but I like to think they are quietly smiling, truly happy and humbled as they listen to this gracious benediction.  Their bearing certainly suggests that their response to God’s blessing of them is an echo of Mary’s submissive response to Gabriel: “Here we are, God, your servants; let your will be done in our lives.”

I don’t live where I can hear the chiming of any Angelus bell.  But I think I would do well to listen to an inner Angelus, maybe even three times a day(!), to listen and to pause in my labors to recognize God’s presence and God’s gracious blessing in my life.  Pause and offer thanks that God continues to be with me and to overshadow my life with God’s constant attention and care.  Pause as well to reaffirm my desire and my intent to say with Mary, “Here am I, your servant; let it be with me according to your word, and let my life give birth anew to Christ’s love for those around me.”

Recently I’ve put a small copy of Millet’s “The Angelus” on my desk.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t ring 3 times a day to call me to reflection and prayer, but I look at it often, and I pray—often—that I will learn to live in the quiet reverence of Millet’s peasant farmers.  They make it look so easy!  But I think we all know it’s not.