Tag Archives: praying

How an ancient prayer renews my faith

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I recently read a similarly titled blog post (An Ancient Prayer Saved my Faith) and was inspired to share my won reflection on the Collect for Purity. This prayer (above) is used at the beginning of worship in the Anglican tradition. The prayer originates from an ancient prayer, and was translated from Latin and included in the original Book of Common Prayer.

My interest in the history of the prayer aside, I didn’t realize that others had had similar experiences to what I felt when I first heard this prayer. I remember the first time I heard this prayer on my first visit to an Episcopal Church in 2009. I had never heard a prayer that expressed an innate desire to worship God, while simultaneously admitting that to God, all that was within us was known and yet we were all being called to worship and stand as one before God. In my life, I’ve met plenty of people who think that their failings would make them not welcome in church, or have made God not interested in them. Nothing could be farther from the truth…and this prayer brings it home.

Upon hearing this prayer, and every week when I hear it in worship, my faith is renewed in knowing that regardless of my faults, God calls me to worship and to be in community with the Church universal. Thanks be to God!

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St. Mary Magdelene

Mary of Magdala near Capernaum was one of several women who followed Jesus and ministered to him in Galilee. The Gospel according to Luke records that Jesus “went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the goods news of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out … ” (Luke 8:1-2). The Gospels tell us that Mary was healed by Jesus, followed him, and was one of those who stood near his cross at Calvary.

It is clear that Mary Magdelene’s life was radically changed by Jesus’s healing. Her ministry of service and steadfast companionship, even as a witness to the crucifixion, has, through the centuries, been an example of the faithful ministry of women to Christ. All four Gospels name Mary as one of the women who went to the tomb to mourn and care for Jesus’s body. Her weeping for the loss of her Lord strikes a common chord with the grief of all others over the death of loved ones. Jesus’s tender response to her grief—meeting her in the garden, revealing himself to her by calling her name—makes her the first witness to the risen Lord. She is given the command, “Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). As the first messenger of the resurrection, she tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18).

In the tradition of the Eastern Church, Mary is regarded as the equal of an apostle; and she is held in veneration as the patron saint of the great cluster of monasteries on Mount Athos.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

–Excerpted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints, copyright 2010 by the Church Pension Fund.

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Walking the Labyrinth

The spiritual exercise of walking a labyrinth is something I have heard about for years, but never decided to try until today. I’ve visited many, many churches and other spiritual places that have labyrinths, and have stared at them thinking “someday”, but today I actually decided to try it. I am amazed at how focusing it was to my prayer and my spirit.

The labyrinth that I decided to walk was in Jackson, Wyoming at St. John’s Episcopal Church. I’m here on vacation for a few days, and had passed this labyrinth (just off the main street of the town) several times over the last few days. This afternoon, after spending some time with a good book and a cup of cold brew coffee, I decided to divert some time to prayer and to walking the labyrinth.

Before I began my walk, I sat down at a bench on its perimeter. I thought to myself “Hmmm, there are lots of people on the street walking by that might look at me and think I’m nuts.” And I thought, “How long will this take?” The more I sat there and wondered if I should or shouldn’t, the more I thought to myself “Just do it.” I tend to overanalyze everything, and after realizing that, just got up and started.

As I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth, I began with my favorite prayer by Thomas Merton, which begins “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going…” And I decided to use one of my favorite Bible verses as a mantra during my walk…I chose Micah 6:8b (What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?). As I began, I quickly noticed how what I expected to be the path (a very straightforward, predictable path) actually wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I continued saying my mantra. A toddler who had been playing in the grass nearby wandered into the labyrinth. I continued saying my mantra. A few passersby approached the labyrinth and looked at me. I continued saying my mantra. A man came into the labyrinth circle and sat down and watched me. I continued saying my mantra. When I reached the center, I paused, stood still, and thanked God for the moment. I turned around and walked the same path back out while simply focusing on my breathing.

The practice was surprisingly calming. As I encountered the slight distractions along my way, I couldn’t help but think of the symbolism in my everyday life. Every day, distractions can pop up, but I can’t let those distractions get to me or hold me down or suppress my spirit. I must continue to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. It is only with God’s help that I can achieve anything in this world. And it is only with God’s mercy that I can love and be loved in this world. As I continue in my life, my prayer continues to be that God lead me by the right path, and for me to acknowledge that God does not let me face my perils alone.

It’s a beautiful thing, what I feel after having walked the labyrinth. I’m not sure why I ever waited so long to give it a try. It was remarkably centering to my spirit. I look forward to my next labyrinth walk!

The labyrinth at St. John's Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming.

The labyrinth at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming.

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Feast Day of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

– Collect for the feast day of Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader and Martyr, from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints.

On this day, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church commemorate his life and legacy. King was certainly a modern day prophet, whose vision of freedom for African Americans transcends race and time and speaks to all oppressed people. All of us can be inspired and moved by King’s words. Especially moving to me is his last Sunday sermon, entitled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” which he preached at Washington National Cathedral on April 9, 1968. If you’ve never listened to this sermon, I highly recommend you do so. An audio recording of it is available here.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., for speaking out against oppression and injustice. Our entire society has more hope and is better because of you.

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Advent Reflection – 9

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’ (Matthew 3:1-3)

What does “repentance” mean to you? When you think of the word, do you think of religious gobbldygook? Or do you think of fasting or making a personal sacrifice in your life? Or do you think of going to confession? Or do you think of saying a prayer to God and asking for forgiveness? Whatever repentance means to you, it is something that is meant to bring us closer to God, to bring us closer to who Christ calls us to be. In whatever form is meaningful for you, periodically consider how you might repent and be closer to God in your life. And most importantly as you repent, see your joy and love for God increase as you grow in your faith.

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For the safety of children…

Be vigilant witnesses and make sure that we are not going to stop until….the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate guns. It is the only unregulated consumer product, and it kills 30,000 people a year. We regulate toy guns and teddy bears, and we don’t regulate guns that kill thousands each year.

The above is an excerpt from a moving sermon given at Washington National Cathedral by Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She reflects on the words of Jesus in Luke 18, and imagines a nation where we care more about the safety and future of our children than our own obsession with guns and violence.

Click here to watch the sermon.

Click here to watch the entire service.

Marian concludes her sermon with this prayer:

O God, help us to prevent and transform our nation where small children suffer from hunger, quite legally. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation, where toddlers and school children die from guns sold quite legally, and often illegally. O God, forgive us, and help us transform our rich and powerful nation that lets children be the poorest group of citizens quite legally. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich nation, that lets the rich continue to get more at the expense of the poor, quite legally. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation, which thinks security rests in and missiles and bombs rather than in mothers and in babies. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich nation for not giving you sufficient thanks by giving to others their daily bread. O God, help us never to confuse what is quite legal with what is just and right in your sight.

Marian Wright Edelman

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A Reflection on “The Way of the Cross – A Walk for Justice”

Today, on Good Friday, I observed the stations of the cross in a unique way. I attended an event that, for its sixteenth year, has marked the stations by reflecting on them through the lens of social justice today. The event, called “The Way of the Cross – A Walk for Justice”, is organized by a group of several Christian denominations (Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, etc.), and walks the streets of downtown Louisville, Kentucky while stopping periodically to reflect on one of the sixteen stations.

The words of the stations reflect the passion in a way that the writers of each reflection approach the gospel call to care for the people of the world who are abandoned, abused, oppressed, or forgotten. The words are designed to create a sense of compassion and attention to those whom society easily forgets, but the words also call us to faithful responses to Jesus’s call to solidarity with all of God’s people and creation.

One station’s reflection that particularly spoke to me was the reflection for station VI, “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.” I share this particularly moving reflection with you below:

A Reflection on the Suffering Caused by Inadequate Healthcare

Today Jesus is one of the working poor earning minimum wages without health insurance. He has heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, or HIV. And he is being denied the tests and treatments necessary to save his life.

Robert*, who is HIV+, developed cancer and needs a specific type of chemotherapy to treat his cancer. Manufacturers, putting profit before people, limit the amount of this chemo produced, and make it extremely expensive. If he had insurance paying for the treatments it would not be so bad. But Robert works for minimum wage, isn’t sick enough for disability assistance and has no health insurance. He can’t receive the treatments that would save his life.

It’s the same with the CAT scans he needs to monitor the spread of the cancer. Without health insurance his options are to pay 70% up front of the cost and get the scan in 2 weeks or wait 7 to 9 months if he can’t pay up front. In 7 months an undetected development could be fatal. The average cost of a CAT scan is $1500. For Robert, 70% up front (approximately $1050) would consume nearly six weeks’ total take home pay, and eliminate money for rent, utilities and food for his family.

Lack of healthcare means lack of life, while Wealth equals Health in our economic reality. Today we are called to be Veronica and offer comfort to Jesus by supporting healthcare justice for all people.

A prayer in response:
Loving Healer, you show yourself to those who are vulnerable.
You stayed in the homes of the poor, tired and weak of this world.
Give comfort to all who struggle to stay healthy and provide for all their needs.
Open the hearts of all the legislators who can help us.
Give courage to all who fight for justice and who are dying because of lack of good health care.
Unite us all as one as we fight the disease and fear of all who suffer from HIV/AIDS, poverty and inadequate health systems. AMEN.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Written by Jacqueline Aceto, SCN, and Celeste Anderson. Sr. Jacqueline’s community “The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth” serves the sick including those with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and four other countries. Ms. Anderson is a counselor with AIDS Interfaith Ministries of Kentuckiana, INC (AIM).

Find out more about this event by reading this news article.

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