WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. BRENDAN THE NAVIGATOR

May 16 is the Feast Day of Brendan the Navigator, a 6th century Irish saint. This week’s prayer is said to be uttered by Saint Brendan before he set off on an adventurous and perilous journey.

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Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home?
Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?
Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honour?
Shall I throw myself wholly upon you, without sword and shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on?
Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under your yoke?
Shall I pour out my heart to you, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks?
Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?
Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict?
Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean?
O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?
O Christ, will you help me on the wild waves?

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope this week’s roundup will give you an opportunity to reflect on God’s goodness and our life of faith.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Makoto Fujimura Sings with God, Carries His Cross, and Awaits the New Creation via Joel Clarkson (the renowned Christian artist’s insights on faith and creativity)

Catherine of Siena to Her Confessor via Jane Greer (a poem based on the life and letters of Catherine of Siena)

As the world reopens post-pandemic, how will we find our way in it? via Stephanie Paulsell (finding a guide in St. Theresa of Avila)

Plum Harvest via Laura Cerbus (what does it mean to receive a gift we haven’t chosen?)

The Year of Madeleine via Haley Stewart (motherhood and writing as acts of co-creation)

The Unmaking of Our Biblical Womanhood via Michelle Van Loon (“what if we finally stood together, united by our belief in Jesus instead of divided by arguments over power and authority?”)


Meditating on Scripture With Medieval Maps

Today, I’d like to introduce a simple visual exercise to help us meditate on a passage from Scripture. The image we’ll be using is a world map made around 1300––the Hereford Mappa Mundi. This and similar medieval maps formed the focus of my first book, and I still turn to them because they teach me so much about the Christian faith. Sometimes, they even provide a way into Scripture.

One of my favorite Scripture passages comes from the book of Hebrews. Encouraging God’s people to hold fast to their faith, the author of Hebrews writes:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . . (Heb 12:1–2 NIV)

In this passage, the author of Hebrews gives a direct command to followers of Christ: fix your eyes on Jesus. When you’re hindered, fixate on him. When you become entangled in sin, fixate on him. When you grow weary of running the race, fixate on him. When you can’t fix your world, fix your eyes on on the one who can.

This seems like such a simple directive. Yet how difficult it can be! When I try to fixate on Jesus, I quickly become aware of just how hindered and distracted I am. So many things compete for my time, my attention, my love.

The Hereford Mappa Mundi, made to hang in a chapel in Hereford Cathedral in England, is like a picture of my world—distracting, busy, and crammed full of things. In fact, the map contains some two thousand pictures and inscriptions. Many are completely fascinating. As in my own life, it’s easy to get lost in this world.

The Hereford Mappa Mundi. Image: SirFlemeingtonz, CC BY-SA 4.0
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One place, however, helps us get our bearings when we feel lost and distracted. At the center of this bustling world lies the city of Jerusalem, with a ghostly image of Christ on the cross rising from the city. Notice how the circular city of Jerusalem echoes the larger circle of the earth.

The city of Jerusalem, detail of The Hereford Mappa Mundi

Now for our exercise. First, find a reproduction of the Hereford Mappa Mundi (you can use the image above or do a Google search to find many images of the map). Spend some time with the map. Let your eye wander over the world, from the Garden of Eden at the top to the Pillars of Hercules at the bottom. This is fun to do, because there is lots to see and discover!

Second, after you’ve explored the map a bit, let your gaze come to rest at the center. I’ve learned that when I peruse the Hereford Mappa Mundi, my gaze is always drawn to the center. In fact, I can’t look at the map for long without my eye coming to rest on the cross of Christ. I’m willing to bet that this is also the case with you. The mapmakers designed it this way because they understood the power of the center.

Third, read the passage from Hebrews I quoted above: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:1–2 NIV).”

Finally, look again at the map. Find the center of the world––the city of Jerusalem––and fix your eyes there. Notice how, on the map, Jesus is at the center of all things. He is the author of all things, and he holds the entire world together.

After completing this exercise, take a moment to realize that you’ve just put the admonition of Hebrews into practice. You have fixed your eyes on Jesus! You have focused on him and gazed at his beauty. You have, even if only for a moment, cut out the distractions of the world.

I encourage you to try this exercise when you’re feeling busy, distracted, or overwhelmed, or perhaps when you’re having trouble finding a way into Scripture. It’s a simple yet profound exercise that leads us to practice the words of Hebrews. I hope you find it as meaningful as I do. Visual contemplation using this map helps me get to the kernel of what it means to fix my eyes on Jesus. Through it, I gaze on his beauty and remember that he’s always at the center of my world.

To find out more about medieval world maps and how they can help our walk of faith today, check out my book, A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps.

WEEKLY PRAYER: JULIAN OF NORWICH

The English mystic Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) is remembered on May 8 in the Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches and on May 13 in the Catholic Church.

This week, let’s pray a beautiful prayer attributed to her.

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In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Savior.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week we have a beautiful roundup of posts we hope will help you on your quest for peace, silence, resilience, and faith.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Hollowed via Emily Polis Gibson (a poem about keeping vigil)

Outward Noise; Inward Silence via J. Brent Bill (the silence that feeds our spirits says, “Don’t just do something, sit there”)

We have to be willing to begin again via Kathleen Norris (when you experience failure in writing, in faith, and in life itself)

The Final (or Possibly Second-to-Last) Frontier via Amanda Cleary Eastep (on facing change and crossing the next threshold)

A Law of Deceleration: How I dumped the internet and learned to love technology agai via Paul McDonnold (on living a life of greater peace and stillness)

The Hobbit! via Malcom Guite (indulge in some comfort reading–listen to poet Malcom Guite reminisce and read aloud from The Hobbit)


Pilgrimage of the Heart: Why Pilgrimage Matters Even If You’ve Never Been On One

Last week, my friend Carl McColman, a lay Cistercian, contemplative, and prolific author and speaker, invited me to write a guest post for his blog. Not surprisingly, I chose the subject of pilgrimage, but I approached this topic from a contemplative angle. What do history’s mystics and contemplatives tell us about pilgrimage, and how do we go on a journey when we’re still (largely) stuck in our homes? I invite you to read my guest post to find out!

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I’d like to begin with a confession: I natter on about pilgrimage whenever I can, recently wrote a book about pilgrimage, and was invited by my friend Carl McColman to write for his blog on the subject of pilgrimage . . . yet I have never taken a pilgrimage. This might seem surprising. You may be wondering how someone could have so much to say about a discipline they haven’t experienced.

Although I’ve never walked a long and dusty road, history’s monks and mystics have taught me that pilgrimage is primarily a spiritual journey—in fact, a spiritual state, one that characterizes the contemplative life. An open and seeking heart turns a person, even a sedentary one, into a pilgrim. Spiritual seekers are always on the move.

Continue reading this post at Carl McColman’s website!


WEEKLY PRAYER: CATHERINE OF SIENA

April 29 is the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), a mystic, reformer, and adviser to popes. This week, we’re praying one of her beautiful prayers.

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O Holy Spirit, come into my heart;
by your power draw it to yourself, God,
and give me charity with fear.

Guard me, Christ, from every evil thought,
and so warm and enflame me again
with your most gentle love
that every suffering may seem light to me.

My holy Father and my gentle Lord,
help me in my every need.
Christ love! Christ love!

Source


WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. ANSELM OF CANTERBURY

This week’s prayer is from St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109), a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher, and theologian. St. Anselm’s Feast Day is this Wednesday, April 21.

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O my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You,
where and how to find You.
You are my God and You are my all and I have never seen You.
You have made me and remade me,
You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
Still I do not know You.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You.
I cannot seek You unless You teach me
or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire,
let me desire You in my seeking.
Let me find You by loving You,
let me love You when I find You.

Amen

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! We hope this Friday finds you enjoying the birth of spring and clinging to the promise of resurrection in all things. Enjoy these posts and podcasts as part of your reading and reflection time.

With love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Pietà via Matt Schultz (a poem)

Thank God for the Poets via Margaret Renkl (poetry reminds us that life is our birthright…read this opinion piece for the many links to wonderful poems)

Bray & Keane: A Primer on The Book of Common Prayer via The Laymen’s Lounge (a podcast episode providing an introduction, overview, and step-by-step guide)

Making Space for Each Other’s Grief via Michelle Reyes (grief can bind us together if we resist the urge to judge how others grieve)

A Specific Love via Courtney Ellis (finding love–and God’s love–in the small and specific)

How Does an Introvert Emerge from a Pandemic? via Afton Rorvik (an introvert’s guide to venturing out once again)


Restless in Spring by Prasanta Verma

In a Midwest spring, the sky hangs low and gray, with muted sunshine. The grass transitions slowly to a bright green when the snow finally recedes.

April is a season of change, a transition from one extreme to another, in this part of the country. Winter winds blast us from the north, and drenching seasonal rains fall during this in-between time. While spring in the south is already dotted with lacy flowering trees, spring is still sprouting its legs in the colder Midwest.

I find the same is true for my life: it is constantly in the midst of one change or another. I discover something new emerging, changing, transitioning, growing, and dying—sometimes, all at once. There is always something to remember, and something to forget, something to cry about, something to laugh about, something buried, and something resurrected.

New tomato and lettuce seeds are sprouting in paper cups, sitting in front of a window. They can’t be transplanted outdoors until after Memorial Day, when a cold freeze won’t endanger the seedlings.

One of my kids will be headed to college, and I watch a different kind of growth and flourishing. I see an image of a branch with leaves and blossoms, and somehow I feel this represents my children. They are growing and branching away, soon to be off on their own, with hopes and future dreams tucked away and taking root.

I want to remember what is good and true and what is useful to remember, and forget what needs to be forgotten. I can’t seem to throw off memories as far as the east is from the west, though, but thankfully, God can take care of the parts that I can’t. Each day holds enough dirt of its own—the good and bad kind—soil which is nourishing and warm, and the dirt of something broken and shattered.

April tussles between winter and spring, a restless season, like a tug-of-war (do kids nowadays even know what tug-of-war is?) Perhaps it is just as well. It is another change.

I feel more changes coming on. I dig my heels deeper in the ground, cognizant of the soil around me. During this past year, with all the vagueness and uncertainty, I’ve experienced long stretches of restlessness.

“God, our hearts are restless ‘til they find their rest in you.” – Augustine

Where has my heart been? I know it is prone to wander. Perhaps this is part of the secret for restlessness?

Something new is growing. A new side of my voice, just as spring breaks forth unexpectedly out this frozen tundra. It was always there, this voice, but maybe it was the wrong season before, and maybe now the time has come.

Perhaps something new is growing in your life, too. Spring is like that—reminding of newness and sprouting hope where tears have fallen. It may sound trite and cliché, but I always look forward to learning this lesson anew each year. I need these reminders that Someone bigger than me is in charge of all that changes and all that stays the same. Hope blankets the world in a sea of green in this season, and it is exactly what my soul needs.

Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants. – Deuteronomy 32:2

Photo credits: unsplash

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Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.