Sunday, July 29, 2007

picture postcards

Picture Prayers

Images convey meaning with tremendous power and depth. For millennia, people have used images as a way of praying.

Orthodox Christians use icons as a way of entering into divine space—the images become portals to God. Roman Catholic Christians began using stained glass to light cathedral spaces, coloring light in ways that marked it as transcendent. Paintings and frescoes give us ways of seeing and imagining the divine.

Images can also call us to prayer. Even more than words, they can give form to the prayers of our hearts, as we lift them to God.

We invite you to find images of people or situations you wish to hold in prayer. Place them somewhere you will see them regularly.

When you pass those pictures, give your attention to God. Even without words, your heart and your eyes can convey gratitude, care and concern.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

keeping sabbath

The practice of keeping Sabbath honors our respect of God and creation -- just as Genesis tells of how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, we are commanded to honor God by working six days and resting on the seventh.

Sabbath is not just a day off. It is a way to mark our belonging in God, humility in the face of the divine, and to remember that God does the work through us (and we can't do it all on our own).

For many religious people, Sabbath-keeping begins at sundown on Friday, and extends to sundown on Saturday. Most Christians, however, celebrate Sabbath on Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection. On the Sabbath, no work is to be done (not even laundry). Instead, time is set aside for noticing and remember the things of beauty in our lives.

We invite you to mark Sabbath whenever you are able. Marking it regularly -- every Sunday, for example -- helps, but you can start anytime. Keeping Sabbath (and, perhaps, sharing a good, already-cooked meal during) works well in the company of others.

Set aside a block of time when you will rest from work of any kind. Begin your time of Sabbath by lighting a candle, and saying a prayer:

God, of your goodness, give me yourself. For you are enough for me. And I may ask nothing that is less, that may be of honor to you. And if I ask anything that is less, I am always in want. For only in you I have all. Amen. (Julian of Norwich)

Let your candle burn throughout your time of Sabbath. Extinguish it when you are done, saying another prayer:

God, for your goodness, I give you thanks. As I leave this Sabbath rest, may I remember myself always enlivened by you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


St Ignatius of Loyola taught the examen as part of his Spiritual Exercises. It is a way of connecting with the presence of God in our lives and discerning the direction in which we should go. The simplest form of the examen consists in asking two questions:
For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
These questions help us identify moments of consolation – that for which we are most grateful – and desolation – that for which we are least grateful. Ignatius expected that God would speak to us through these moments of deepest feelings and yearnings. We should aim to do more of what brings us consolation, and to listen to and respond to what brings us desolation. Done regularly over a period of time, the examen can guide our lives and help us to make wise choices.

Doing the examen
Find a quiet place where you can sit and relax. Take a moment to quiet yourself and to breathe deeply. You may find it helpful to light a candle
to remind you of the presence of God.
Ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are most grateful. Reflect on what made it so special. Stay with this moment and breathe in the gratitude and life that it brought to you.
Ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are least grateful. Reflect on what made it so difficult. Stay with your feelings and ask God to fill you with his love. Give thanks for what you have just experienced.
adapted from

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Breaking bread

The earliest Christians spent time praying, teaching and breaking bread together. Sharing common meals is central to who we are as followers of Christ even today.

When we share in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we remember how Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and shared it with others. Jesus did not invent the custom of sharing bread to mark and make community. He added new meaning onto an ancient practice.

To break bread with others is to share hospitality; to invite someone to share a meal around your table demonstrates trust and respect. The meal offers nourishment for bodies as well as friendships. When we share in welcoming and feeding others, Jesus is present.

Invite someone to dinner, who you have not invited before. As you plan what you will eat and drink, imagine that you are preparing a feast for Christ. Choose foods that have special meaning, that are nourishing, or that you love. As you prepare the meal, remember that you are setting a feast at which Christ will be present. Use this meal as an opportunity to demonstrate the love you feel toward God.

When it is time to share the meal, sit down together. Pause before you eat. Light a candle on the table, and speak a prayer aloud, such as this:

O God of us all, thank you for gathering us together around this table. Thank you for our guests today. We pray that you would remind us of your presence as we eat. As this food nourishes our bodies, we ask you to help nourish our souls as we share in your company. Amen.