My dear Friends in Christ,
Greetings of Love, Peace and Joy in Christ from Fr Zevi HGN
As I have invited or requested you to share some inspired stories of each one of you I would here like to offer some general observations about how the parish might assist lay women and men to deepen their experience of God in everyday life.
Lent – Day 1
The Holy Spirit remains with the whole body in a dynamic and influential way. Today we could be using the life experience of believing Christians, as individuals and as communities, as the starting point of theological reflection.
The world of reality exists for all just as the beautiful exists for all, not just for the artist or the poet. The word that first- and second-world persons often use to describe their lives in a high-tech or hyper-digitalized culture is ‘fragmented’. We are frequently overwhelmed by speed and choices and possessions. And then comes a moment when all the pieces stop rattling, and peace replaces the pieces. For a brief moment, the conveyor belt stops and we are lost: lost in music, in another person, in a scene of nature. These may be brief, transitory moments, but they are unforgettable, and they signal another way of being in life.
How have hyper-digitalized culture changed us, the younger generation, and the world around us?
How can you direct this change into your personal experience of God’s Presence?
What is your unforgettable experience in your day-to-day Life?
Lent – Day 2
The spiritual life is of vital importance to ordinary people, and is in fact available to many. The men, women and children could easily have been in Evelyn Underhill’s mind who wrote ‘Practical mysticism’ whose original subtitle was ‘A little book for normal people’. She addressed her little book to the men and women who are neither learned in ascetical theology nor particularly devout. Practical mysticism was written for the much larger group, men and women who are a little shy, or somewhat repelled by ‘churchiness’, but who wonder about God and about the spiritual life, and especially wonder if it has anything at all to say to one’s loves and disappointments in the family, the town, or the work place.
The knowledge of the ultimate reality we call God–is the result of discipline, concentration, and education of human consciousness. We can learn to redirect our attention so that we can see that to which we have been blind.
‘Are you willing that your participation in Reality shall depend wholly on these incalculable visitations, on the sudden wind and rain that wash your windows and let in the vision of the landscape at your gates?’
Lent – Day 3
Nature – Handwork, Glory, and Mystery of the Creator
One could keep those windows clear by turning one’s attention that way, by learning to look out of them. A life crisis or conversion often redirects one’s gaze but more often, one lumbers on, gradually clearing the windows.
Many testify to windows cleared both by sudden visitations and by patient, disciplined cleansing. Although the circumstances of their lives varied greatly, certain common themes emerged. One theme is that nature continually reveals the glory and mystery of the Creator. A ten-year-old boy said, ‘Yesterday I saw a robin let a worm go. That’s like God’. A Lady who works in hospital after saying about touching God in the patients she cleans and feeds, and receiving second-hand clothes for her children ‘as if from the hand of God’, describes the pure joy of rainbows which serve as objects of meditation for her at the end of a hard day’s work. Another person notes, ‘Where I live in the city I observe ten crab-apple trees in their different stages and seasons . . . they remind me of Christ’.
Lent – Day 4
The family as the primary place for Encountering God
Another almost universal theme is that of family, a place of comfort and acceptance, but also of challenge and deep sorrow. No matter. In both the brokenness and the solace people feel and know that God is present in their family life. Parents of special Down’s Syndrome children feel blessed by their gentleness. Others says of burying their children and how that form of crucifixion rooted them more firmly in the mystery of God.
Teenagers and older persons view babies as special signs of hope. Husbands and wives cherish their small, everyday sharings that are so much like rituals in the flow of a day. Widows and widowers are universally grateful for what has been, and move through their grief to a new kind of waiting. Some experience God when they tap into surprising courage to leave a destructive marriage. Adult children of alcoholics describe the new energy that comes from forgiving their parents. Grandparents tell about kissing immortality when they embrace their grandchildren. The broader consultation confirms the family as the primary place for encountering God, day after day.
What would happen if God came to our Western Grays Harbor and Clallam Bay Counties? What if He came to your front door? How would you feel? What would you do?
Lent – Day 5
The parish as the Place of the Divine Presence
After family, the parish is most often cited as the place where people experience the divine presence. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are thresholds whereby men: and women often cross over into a deeper and fuller experience of God. Some identified their return to Mass and communion as the beginning of a total life-conversion that includes care for the poor and discernment regarding the use of money. Some credit the sacraments with increasing their sensitivity to the social and structural sins in society.
A significant number of people deplore what one man calls ‘unthought-through homilies or the tacit message that the pastor is not to be disturbed’. But for every spiritually/emotionally remote priest, people named dozens whose homilies have spoken to their hearts at critical moments, especially when they were near despair. Many people credit pastors with guiding them to Alcoholics Anonymous or in some other way giving them courage and enough self-esteem to change the course of their lives. Post-Vatican II lay participation in the ministry of the parish is deeply cherished.
The Church today is a real force in the world, not so much because of politics, but because people really seem to be more caring …. to be doers of the word, not just hearers. I love the Church today. I’m proud to be part of it’. Lay persons say in a most unself-conscious way about their ministry and service. As people visit nursing homes, care for invalid spouses, serve as Extra-ordinary Eucharistic ministers or as prayer group leaders or as catechists, their experience is that of receiving from the bounty of God. They are living evidence that Jesus was right when he said that in giving we receive.
Lent – Day 6
The Work as a Means of Knowing God
Following family and parish, the work place or work itself is most often mentioned as a means of knowing God. One young man in his late twenties described his work environment as stressful but through prayer and meditation he is beginning to enjoy it. Another part-time college student and worker views his daily labor with the contemplative eye. ‘Sometimes while cleaning furnaces in dark and lonely cellars, God presents himself to me in the intricate designs of the spider webs, the fire from the furnace or the friendly cat.’
Teachers, nurses and child-care workers say most often about their work, its challenges and opportunities for growth. These workers are very conscious that their material is human and that their daily encounters are steeped in the spiritual. These are but a few of the stories of death and resurrection that I have been privileged to read. Many of the stories are break- through kinds; the boy and the worm for example. But others are clearly shaped by discipline. The theology of these stories is markedly incarnational, concrete, and decidedly this-worldly.
Lent – Day 7
The practice of meditation, contemplation and prayer
Very often the inertia and repugnance which characterize the so called ‘spiritual life’ of many Christians could perhaps be cured by a simple respect for the concrete realities of everyday life: for nature, for the body, for one’s work, one’s friends, one’s surroundings etc. A false supernaturalism, which imagines that the super- natural is a kind of Platonic realm of abstract essences totally apart from and opposed to the concrete world of nature, offers no real support to a genuine life of meditation and prayer. Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life.
The practice of meditation, contemplation and prayer in general with the continuing appreciation of the whole of life is our gift from God. Life and prayer are of a piece. And so the practice of meditation enables one to see more clearly and to live more consciously. ‘to find the real world is not merely to measure and observe what is outside us, but to discover our inner ground’. worship is the path to that discovery. ‘Worship purifies, enlightens and at least transforms every life submitted to its influence . . . not merely in the ethical or devotional sense. one of the functions of worship and prayer is to win our wills to God’s will. It is what could be called ‘adherence’. And from this adherence there develops the habit of the centrality of God in our lives, and from this paramount fact follows the love of our fellow humans.
How do we come to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to reach out to those who in themselves seem unlovable?
Could we be maintaining the priority of God in our lives?
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