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)


A Native American Prayer

This week we’re praying a beautiful Native American prayer. I find it to be especially meaningful in the Easter season, when we celebrate the earth’s renewal and all things being restored by Christ.

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The world before me is restored in beauty.
The world behind me is restored in beauty.
The world below me is restored in beauty.
The world above me is restored in beauty.
All things around me are restored in beauty.
My voice is restored in beauty.
It is finished in beauty. Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

On this Good Friday, we hope that these posts, which include music, art, and fiction, help you to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and the coming hope of resurrection.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Today You Shall Be With Me in Paradise” via The Lent Project, Biola University (a reflection for Good Friday involving Scripture, art, poetry, and music)

The Stations of the Cross via Pádraig Ó Tuama (a guided meditation for Good Friday)

Holy Week via Duane W. H. Arnold, Ph.D. (a brief history of Holy Week and looking ahead to hope)

Ubi Caritas via Joel Clarkson and Joy Clarkson (an arrangement of Ubi Caritas, which commemorates Jesus washing his disciples’ feet)

Gethsemane via Simon Parke (an extract from Parke’s novel, Gospel, Rumours of Love)

Easter Flight: Crucified in the Middle Seat via Leslie Leyland Fields (“This week, Friday, many of us will watch a man take that middle space for us, the place no one wants…”)


A Prayer for Holy Week: Caryll Houselander

A prayer for Holy Week from Caryll Houselander (1901-1954), an English Catholic mystic, poet, and author:

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By Your heaviness and fear
in Gethsemane,
comfort the oppressed
and those who are afraid.

By Your loneliness,
facing the Passion
while the Apostles slept,
comfort those who face evil alone
while the world sleeps.

By Your persistent prayer,
in anguish of anticipation,
strengthen those
who shrink from the unknown.

By Your humility,
taking the comfort of angels,
give us grace to help
and to be helped by one another,
and in one another
to comfort You, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Source


“I Trust That I Can Soar”– An Excerpt from The Seeker and the Monk by Sophfronia Scott

Last week, author Sophfronia Scott released her new book, The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton. Scott mines Merton’s private journals for guidance about life and faith. I love the way she converses with Merton, asking him questions, giving him advice (from time to time), and learning from the monk’s faith and foibles.

Today, I’m featuring an excerpt from this book for our community. In the passage below, Scott describes how she began to pray the Daily Office in the Episcopal Church and, through it, learned to soar.

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Merton recognized his prayer life was often grounded—unable to take off, let alone soar. Though he had time alone in his hermitage, he found the quality of his prayers could still be disrupted by his own lack of focus. Just as any of us can be distracted during prayer and meditation, Merton no doubt had a lot on his mind—schemes for his next publication, communications from his friends, how much wood he needed to chop for his fire, whether the dermatitis he sometimes suffered from on his hands would ever heal.

It’s like his wing-flapping was woefully ineffective and he knew it: “I realize now how weak and confused I have become—most of the time I have simply played around and daydreamed and am sadly unequipped to take a real uprooting. Hence the need of prayer and thought and discipline and the self purification.”

How does one strengthen a prayer life? Maybe we can take a cue from professional athletes: quality practice. Just as they have to practice well to play well, if we cultivate a strong prayer life, we will be strong in prayer. It starts with the discipline of routine. Merton maintained the practice of praying the schedule of the Daily Office as he did in the monastery. He knew walking in the woods and being in solitude helped foster his communion with God, but he would still be subject to daydreams and distractions. In his routine, the discipline of reading his prayers aloud helped him stay on point: “Solitude—when you get saturated with silence and landscape, then you need an interior work, psalms, scripture, meditation.” Note that he’s talking about sacred text, not philosophy or theology. Reciting the Psalms was of particular importance to Merton. Among the belongings he left behind was a tattered copy of the Psalms in Latin, the pages so well thumbed that they are crumbling and the cover has separated from its binding.

I have to admit, for a long time I never understood the point of praying with prewritten prayers or of reciting Scripture to oneself alone in a room. Then, in 2011, I joined the Episcopal Church and learned about the Book of Common Prayer. The church defines the book as “a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity.” Every day, churches and individuals around the world pray the same words from this book for Sunday services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals, in addition to a Daily Office of morning, afternoon, and evening prayers.

I decided to experiment with reciting Morning Prayer daily on my own, sitting on the cushions in front of a lit candle in the small meditation space I keep in a corner of my home office. As my practice went on from days to weeks and from weeks to months, I noticed something different about my thoughts, about the material my brain happened to access in any given moment. In the same way that a song might come to me that I can hum or sing, I now had words of prayer in my mind’s playlist. Instead of thinking, in a tough moment, “It’ll be OK,” I hear, “The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.” Or I hear this, one of my favorites, when I’m getting ready for the day or to speak at an event: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.” I can’t tell you how comforting it is to feel these words, like an invisible security blanket wrapped around my being.

The apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). I believe walking around with words of prayer imprinted within me is a way of doing that. And I understand why it’s important: Because the work of God is ongoing—creation is ongoing. I’m praying to figure out my role in that creation. A wonderful story that explains this well comes from the book The Shack and its film version. The story is about a man whose life and faith are shattered after the murder of his youngest child. He has an encounter with God during which he expresses his anger—really giving God what for—and demands to know why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. God, embodied by the actress Octavia Spencer, explains she doesn’t make these things happen, nor does she stop them. But she is constantly working to make something of what has happened. She also wants us to know she is always here—especially when the horrific events happen. We are never alone.

Praying without ceasing reminds me of who I am and to whom I belong. And because I remember this, I can trust the air that upholds me when it’s time to glide. I trust that I can soar.


From The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton by Sophfronia Scott copyright © 2021 Broadleaf Books. Reproduced by permission.

Lenten Prayer: Rachel Marie Stone

This week, we’re praying a prayer written by contemporary author Rachel Marie Stone. It looks ahead to the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

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Lord God,
You sent your Son into the world,
And before his hour had come,
He washed his disciples’ feet.
You had given all things into his hands.
He had come from you, and was going to you,
And what did he do?
He knelt down on the floor,
And washed his friends’ feet.
He was their teacher and their Lord,
Yet he washed their feet.
Lord God, help us learn from his example;
Help us to do as he has done for us.
The world will know we are his disciples
If we love one another.
Strengthen our hands and our wills for love
And for service.
Keep before our eyes the image of your Son,
Who, being God, became a Servant for our sake.
All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.
Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope you enjoy this round-up of posts that will help you pray, praise, flourish, and write.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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A Simple Prayer Marking One Year of Pandemic Life, for All Ages via Traci Smith (a unison and responsive prayer)

Praise on Pi Day via Lisa Rosenberg (a poem)

How Prayer Can Prepare Us For Death via Kara Bettis (an interview with Douglas McKelvey, author of the Every Moment Holy liturgies)

Flourishing Together: When Racism Affects Us All via Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (“Let’s walk together and treat each person like an image bearer of God to be treasured”)

How 2020 Disruptions Have Led to Relational Innovations via Dorothy Littell Greco (how some people are creating something new during the pandemic)

Prompts To Get You Writing via April Yamasaki (some questions and reflection prompts to get your creativity flowing)