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Prayer For Ash Wednesday

1 Mar

Today is Ash Wednesday, one of the most popular holy days in the church year. Most of us will try to get to church during the day to receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. If you are unable to do that, use this prayer service to begin Lent.

Gather with your family or in a communal space in your building or with other friends and neighbors. You can create ashes by burning some palm from last year’s Palm Sunday, or a small piece of paper or fabric. All you need for the prayer service is someone to lead and someone to read the scripture.

prayer-symbolLeader: Loving God, be with us as we begin the holy season of Lent.
All: Loving God, be with us.
Reader: St. Paul tells us “God has sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit urges us from deep inside to say, ‘Abba, my father.’ We are no longer slaves. We are God’s sons and daughters.”
Leader: During Lent we want to grow closer to you, Abba, our father, and to be more loving to one another. These ashes are a sign of the commitments we make to keep Lent.

Pass the dish of ashes around. Each person dips his or her thumb in the ashes and makes a cross on the forehead of the person on his/her right, saying:

__________ you are a child of God. Make loving choices during Lent.

Ask if people wish to share their commitments. Sing a simple song everyone knows to conclude your prayer.

Merry Christmas!

22 Dec

merry-christmas

Jesus makes incarnate the heart of God, full of creative and merciful love that never stops calling us into the communions of family and church. We make a gift to you of the creative work of two of our sisters who taught and inspired us. Blessings on you and yours.


The Ox and the Donkey’s Carol
poem by Sister Alice Smith, CSJ ~art by Sister Madeline Schimanski, CSJ

ox-and-donkey-001The Christ child lay in the ox’s stall
The stars shone great
and the stars shone small,
but one bright star outshone them all.

The cattle stood in the cleanly straw,
and strange to them was the sight they saw.
The ox and donkey watched with awe.

The shepherds ran from the uplands wide,
the sheepbells tinkled, the angels cried
joy to the dreaming countryside.

The three kings bowed at the stable door,
their raiment trailed on the dusty floor.
They saw the sign they had journeyed for.

The kings came last in a lordly throng.
The shepherds ran in the space of a song,
But the beasts had been there all night long.
Noel     Noel     Noel

Happy Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe

12 Dec

our-mother-who-art

You, Lady of dark visage,
Warm mother of the earth-in-sky,
Radiant as the sun,
Standing on the moon.
Scoop up your children of
Earth’s rich color who grapple
with the earthly chores
All for our comfort-and-joy.
Fold them into your mother’s embrace.
Hold them safe.
Teach us all to hold holy
Your Son-under-our-feet.
Amen.

Poem and artwork by Gertrud Mueller Nelson

O Anthiphons

14 Oct

 

o-antiphones-calendar-3

The O Antiphons are the Church’s prayer for the last days of Advent. Beautifully illustrated by Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ, each card has a visual and a prayer poem by Joan Mitchell, CSJ. The original antiphon and its scriptural sources on the back. Click here to view a sample.

Only $15.00 per set (price includes shipping!).
Order online today!

Simple Prayers

12 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Ashley Rose

Photo via Flickr user Ashley Rose

Praying can be intimidating because, well, God can be intimidating. If we have not established a regular prayer practice, that first prayer in a while can feel forced, awkward, inauthentic, or riddled with guilt. Whatever do we say to God? Where do we start?

I usually start by remembering that prayer does not have to be talking, on my knees with my head bowed and my hands crossed. Enjoying things we love–really good reading, music, food, company, exercise etc–can be prayer. Basking in creation is prayer. Action is prayer. Our lives are a prayer to God. I also try to remember that prayer goes better for me when I start not with talking, but with listening. To learn to pray, we must first learn to listen.

Yet, at some point, finding words in prayer is meaningful for me. Speaking words of prayer change my spirit and overflow to my life. Maybe God knows my words before I speak them, but the act of speaking is a way of showing up in God’s presence. Lately, I have circled back to Anne Lamott’s simple words of prayer: Help, Thanks, Wow. It is a helpful framework, a good start that invokes vulnerability, gratitude and awe, three things I want to cultivate in my life. If you find your prayer life is at a loss for word, give it a try.

Help:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
–Psalm 22:1-7,11
Thanks:
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
–Psalm 118:21-29
Wow:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. –Eph 3:14-21
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National Day of Prayer

5 May

National-Day-of-Prayer-1

God, Prayer, and Parking Spaces

22 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Long Thien

Photo via Flickr user Long Thien

“God is not in the business of opening up parking spaces for you,” my theology professor often reminded us.

My professor’s voice, speaking this line, comes back to me often as I struggle to find words in prayer. It’s hard to know what to pray for, how to pray. It’s so easy to slip into simply reciting a laundry list of wants and desires for God. Things that will make us happy and forward the life that we envision for ourselves. When we get what we want, then, we give God thanks and proceed, thinking our system of prayer air tight. Until we don’t get what we want. Then the bottom drops out.

My professor was saying that prayer is more complex than praying for life to be easy and comfortable. It’s not a simple transaction that makes our lives more convenient. God is more interesting than that, and our relationship to God is more varied.

Yet, is it wrong to state our desires in prayer? Isn’t there value in that, too?

I have wanted something particular to happen for a few years now. In the last few months, I recommitted to that desire and spent more intentional time expressing that desire to God. It felt good to honestly claim what was in my heart. It made me feel vulnerable and closer to God. I told my friends what I wanted, too, and they prayed with me. I felt their love, energy and prayers with me, strengthening me. I found myself coming to peace with getting or not getting what I wanted. Waiting felt lighter. I thought about how long Abraham and Sarah waited for God to fulfill God’s promise. I reminded myself that God never promised to make me happy. God never agreed to make sure there would always be a parking spot open for me in the lot.

Meanwhile, my friend’s dad got sick and moved into the hospital. She, too, prayed to God for what she wanted. She wanted her dad to get well and return home.

Within weeks of each other, I got what I wanted and she didn’t.

This is where prayer becomes I mystery. I was not praying harder. My faith is not stronger. God does not love me more. My desire was in no way more pure. In isolation, I’d like to believe my prayer made a difference, but put alongside my friend’s prayer that seemingly went unanswered, that just stops making sense to me. This line of thinking leads us to our bewildering thoughts about God, thoughts of God being unfair and inconsistent and cruel.

I flew out to spend a few days with my friend. She was so sad, so angry, so confused. “I believe in heaven,” she said. “I know he’s happy, but I’m not. I want him back with me.” She didn’t know where God fit into her pain. She didn’t know what prayer meant anymore.

The easy response is to say that we should not pray for what we want, but pray for strength to handle what happens. I told my friend, however, that I think it gives God honor to show her anger and say plainly what she wants. It will not bring her dad back, but it is her coming to God with authenticity, vulnerability and honesty. We agreed to keep muddling through this life together, praying as we go.

 

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Springtime Prayer

3 Apr

Prayer

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

St.-Joseph

Lent encourages us to slow down so we can recognize what drives us and to fast from food and fashion that consumes us. As Sisters of St. Joseph we celebrate the feast of our patron on March 19 and take a break from Lent for festivities. Joseph is also the patron of the universal Church, so March 19 is a feast we can all claim. Joseph gives us an example of an ordinary husband and father who faces extraordinary challenges. Here is a prayer to him.

Joseph, most ordinary, on this your feast,
help us listen to our dreams with compassion and openness as you did.
Help us stretch, hold, and deepen our relationships.
Open our embrace of the future
as you opened your arms to a child not your own.
In these hard times may we, like you,
dream compassionately, provide wisely,
and build community that can hold us together.
We ask this through Jesus, whom you claimed and named.  Amen.

Christmas Mercy

24 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Martin Beek

Photo via Flickr user Martin Beek

Lord Jesus, Mary and Joseph were turned away at many places before they found a stable to rest. This Christmas, be with those who are searching for home or a safe place to rest.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you were brave enough to come to us as a baby. This Christmas, help us to pay attention to the babies in our midst and remember how little and vulnerable you once were.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you were born in a stable. This Christmas, help us remember to look for your beautiful presence in unexpected, unbeautiful places.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you were born to two people who loved you dearly. This Christmas, help us be thankful for those people who love us, help us celebrate the family and communities we have. Give extra love to those who need it right now.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, a bright star appeared in the sky to help the shepherds and wise people find their way to you. This Christmas, may the stars in the sky inspire us to live a life that seeks you.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you came to be a light in the darkness. There is still a lot of darkness in our world. This Christmas, shine brightly where there is war, fighting, poverty and hurt. Help us be a light to others with our thoughts, words and actions.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

 

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