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Poem of the Week

11 Aug

August 15 is the summer feast of Mary.

Read this poem aloud to bring back to your heart all the ways we have learned to praise the Mother of God and our mother.

Lines for a Feast of Our Lady
by Alice Smith, CSJ

What shall be added to your praises?
The lip-worn, love-worn, heart-worn phrases
centuries out of choir and cell
and field and vineyard praise you well.
Like bells over the spinning earth
hour upon hour they tell your worth.
You are the Mother of Delight.
Over the sea you are the bright
star shining.  You are the ivory tower,
the ark of gold, the immortal flower
blossoming on a mortal root,
the good tree bringing forth good fruit.
You are the cloud raining the Just One.
Fair as the moon and bright as the sun,
out of the desert light of day
terrible as an army in array,
you come—the Gate of Heaven to heaven’s gate.
What can be added to your state?
The vast, uncountable choir of voices
down aisles of centuries rejoices;
in endless litany proclaims
the fertile flowering of your names.
Hell will not thank you nor death raise
its voice.  Only the living praise.
Then shed your grace upon the mind
that we here in these deeps may find
the words we seek, that like a vine
with strong roots in the soul may shine
the litany that climbs and grows
upon the lattice of the Rose.


View our religion programs at goodgroundpress.com.

Celebrate Easter!

10 Apr

Visit goodgroundpress.com to print these pages of Easter prayers and reflections. Treat yourself and those you love to all seven weeks of Easter. Carry the prayer mantra in your pocket or purse to keep your heart happy and at peace.

We pray for each of you this Easter. May you be blessed with hope in God’s promise of new life. ~ Sister Joan

Lent Retreat – Week 4

23 Mar

The fourth part of our Lent retreat features the man born blind and the one who healed him. Click here for the poster and Sister Joan’s reflection.

Lent Retreat – Week 2

8 Mar

This Lent artist Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ, and Sister Joan are praying the Gospels in words and images. You can join them by going to our homepage, goodgroundpress.com, and clicking on the Sunday Gospel images there. This coming Sunday is the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. Share this retreat with your parish by printing goodgroundpress.com in your church bulletin.

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.

41 Ways To Celebrate Lent

13 Feb

Make Lent a time of love in your family. Visit goodgroundpress.com to print this free poster and hang it on your fridge. When members of your family do any of the loving and thanking actions, highlight or circle those words. By Easter you will have a 40-day history of love.

41-ways-to-keep-lent

The Wisdom of Vulnerability

22 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

The Christmas story is full of vulnerability– God becoming a human baby, Mary saying yes to a child that will change her life, Joseph agreeing to raise a child that is not his. Even the Magi show great vulnerability in their star gazing and quest to find and worship Jesus.

Part of an Epiphany prayer in Women’s Uncommon Prayers reads:

If there had been three wise women…they would have asked for directions, arrived early, delivered the baby, cleaned the stable, cooked the dinner, and brought practical gifts.

The Magi’s visit may have lacked practicality, yet the visitors still earned their descriptor of wise. If we take a close look at their journey, their wisdom lives in their vulnerability and faith.

They leave the comfort of their homes and lives. They travel on a whim without assurance. Instead of giving into the darkness all around them, they look up to the heavens to see the light of a star. They show up. They come prepared with gifts. They understand that the child is not just king, but holy and divine, deserving of worship. And they are in tune enough with their dreams to take an alternative route home instead of reporting back to King Herod. Through the entire story, the Magi are open to God’s leading, humble enough to go where they are called.

How many of us, when given the chance, stay warm in our homes instead of venturing out to see God out in the world with our own eyes? When nights are filled with darkness, we often forget to look up at the stars for a sign, for light. We are so filled with cynicism and importance that our hearts can become closed off to the adoration and homage required of us to worship. How many of us fall asleep with a brain too busy to hear God in our dreams?

The Christmas season brings us back to the wisdom of vulnerability. We can choose to be like Herod, who wants to know about Jesus, is worried how his power might interfere, but is not willing to leave home to find out more. Or we can choose to be like the wise men, who are vulnerable enough to venture out into the darkness on God’s provision of a savior, not quite sure how it will all work out, but hoping the path will lead us to the one worthy of our adoration and worship. May this Christmas season fill your hearts and homes with the wisdom of vulnerability!

Merry Christmas!

Practicing Advent, Free of Fear

16 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Joathina

Photo via Flickr user Joathina

A dear friend of mine is a pediatrician who specializes in palliative care. That means, essentially, she helps children die well. It’s vocational work that is demanding of her body, mind and spirit. Because of the grueling hours and the deep sadness, she needed to find a hobby that would encourage her to sit still and rest in her time off. She started knitting. Specifically, she started knitting warm, beautiful sweaters for all the babies being born in her life. My son has one of these sweaters, and another will come soon once my second is born. At first she saw her knitting as a way to trick her body into being still and resting while still feeling productive. Creating something tangible also soothed her mind. Now, she realizes that, maybe most importantly, it is a spiritual practice. When she is not at work with children who are dying, she needs to be celebrating the children in her life who are healthy and thriving, welcoming them into the world. The knitting brings her balance and hope, one stitch at a time. It keeps her from slipping into fear and becoming paralyzed. It helps her show back up at work to sit with people in their sorrow.

Many people are speaking to the palpable fear washing over our society. Fear separates us from God and has the toxic ability to paralyze us. When I hear talk of this fear, I think of my friend, quietly knitting, creating, claiming hope, subversively choosing light over fear while continuing to work in the center of sorrow. She is practicing Advent.

We read in our Advent Scriptures the angels saying over and over again, “Fear not!” As I marvel at my friend’s courage and strength, we marvel at Mary’s ability to nod and courageously let go of fear and accept light and life.

Fear not, for a child is coming. Babies are precious and sacred in their ability to offer love and beauty, hope and life without asking for anything in return. They are fresh and new, full of possibilities we don’t even know. They help us dream, they invite us to wonder. Who are you little baby? The world is better because you are here!

God decided to become a baby. We often think of God as big and powerful and strong. God saw that more than big power we needed simple love. We need hope and light. God wants us to dream and wonder and sit in awe of things that are beautiful and precious. God came as baby Jesus, a little, cute, fragile baby that needed people to take care of him, nurture him, and love him to keep him alive. He is a light that starts out as small as a newborn baby and gets as big as we can dream it to be. We celebrate a how clever God is, to come as a baby, so that we know that God wants our attention, adoration and love.

That is what is so tragic about my friend’s work in pediatric palliative care. That is what is so hopeful about her knitting. She lives in the thin space where she experiences both God’s saving power that brings heaven to this place and God’s saving power that offers us life in the place to come. Creating as a knitter and working as a doctor helps her let go of fear and live in the light of Jesus, now and in the time to come. She is practicing Advent, and inviting me to do the same.

Fear not. A child is coming.

Birthing God

9 Dec

The days are getting shorter still. The nights are dark and the days are gray. We bundle up, hunker down, light candles, and wait. Advent is upon us, yet again.

Our bodies signal to us to slow down, turn inward, and hibernate. Yet Rumi, in his poem “The Body is Like Mary,” invites us to resist the urge to shut down altogether. He asks us to acknowledge that we, along with Mary, are in holy labor. There is work to be done. There is beauty to share. There is life and love to offer. There is a God within who needs to be born:

The body is like Mary, and each of us has a Jesus inside…

God is really there within, so innocently drawing life from us with Her umbilical universe–infinite existence…

though also needing to be born. Yes, God also needs to be born!

I will have a child in the next few weeks. I will, once again, go through the painful and sacred process of labor to bring life into this world. Yet even while I wait, there is other birthing to be done in the twilight of Advent. In the quiet darkness, we can tap into the desire to create beauty through a loving touch, a simple gift, a safe space of active listening, or a piece of art.

Christ is in all of us. We are co-creators, offering God’s light to the world around us. In these moments of Advent, when quiet reflection leads to a gentle birthing, sprinkling love and light, we know that yes, Jesus is coming and yet yes, Jesus dwells within.

Gospel Reflection for October 9, 2016, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

5 Oct

Sunday Readings: 2 Kings 5.14-17; 2 Timothy 2.8-13; Luke 17.11-17

Jesus asked, “Weren’t ten lepers cleansed? Where are the other nine?” – Luke 17.17

In Sunday’s gospel only one of the ten lepers Jesus heals returns to thank Jesus. The passage prompts us to practice gratitude to God and to one another. Being alive calls us to appreciate the Creator. Evolution deepens the story of God’s creative love in which we live. We see with eyes that have evolved over millions of years in creatures that sought light. Our stem cells contain the memory of God’s love unfolding. To be part of giving life gives parents their moment in the evolution of all that is. The birth of a child takes them to a place of awe and closeness to God. The child immediately breathes in the oxygen that plants and trees make every summer day out of sunlight. Our lungs tie us to the outside world we share with all that squirms, flies, blooms, and in each of us says than you. Our hearts tie us to one another.

What are 10 things you are grateful for today? Use the question every day.

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