Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I keep a prayer list on my desk. A random sampling:

Fr. P. Lamb
CB and sister, upcoming trial
Lucy, Pakistan hospice
Ross and Allen
Christine L.s father-in-law, close to 100% dementia
Sr. Mary Fidelis
H, 12-year-old, Guelph, cancer
Patti and Pam
Caroline C.
Joyce M.
Karin E., mother
N.Davis's mother--cancer
Lizzie--London, 8-day silent retreat
Lydia, Jean P's friend, physical problem
BP: fidelity to vows.
R., marriage
Molly M.

I've never met most of the people who read and/or comment on my blog. The relationships aren't "enfleshed."

Prayer is a way of enfleshing them.

You can't argue about how well you're living out the teachings of Christ. You can only be crucified by them.



  1. Heather, your prayer list is a reminder to keep my list close at hand:) I also love the photos of your Hens and Chicks. Being I don't see them here in Montana often I am wondering do they turn those colours in the fall? I always thought they stayed forever green? They are awesome.

    1. Aren't the hens and chicks incredible, Maureen? Not all of them turn in the fall, but these certainly seem to have...it took me awhile to "feel out" the seasons of Southern Cal, but we have them for sure...

  2. "You can't argue about how well you're living out the teachings of Christ. You can only be crucified by them."
    That just hit me right between the eyes. Isn't it just so?
    Thank you.

    1. I can't be the only one who lays (lies?) awake at night thinking, Am I going to be able to give any account of myself AT ALL on Judgment Day. As G.K. Chesterton said, "It is not that Christianity has not been tried. It has been tried and found difficult." This haunts me...

  3. Toward that end, prayer, solitude, selflessness [at least in the sense of taking time apart from external activities and proclivities that feed the nature side of self, the fat religious ego] the Vatican in partnership with the American Bible Society this week releases, "Pray With the Bible, Meditate With the Word" and the book has a decent price point.

    And...whoa, brilliant extrapolation of MacLuhan's core message. I feel like, duh, why didn't I make that application before? Probably because of the implications you mention.

    And...I forget where I read this fairly recently, in so many words, "You can't argue about how well you're living out the teachings of Christ. You can only be crucified by them."? Maybe in the Liturgy of the Hours? I forget but oh my, I needed the reminder.

    Thank you, dear Heather.

  4. Correction - maybe the Lectcio book mentioned in my previous comment is a reprint. On searching the ISBN to get a copy to give as a gift, the edition noted appears to have been published in Dec.2010 and the usual online sellers and re-sellers only have used copies. Sorry for any confusion caused by, well, me.

    1. You rock, OS, no matter what the name of the book

  5. Thank YOU, dear folks. We tend to want to argue about whether EVERYONE ELSE is following the teachings of Christ. That cannot be what the God who has given us flowers, trees, birds, and a whole world of other broken, wounded, people in need of compassion is inviting us to....

    I am working myself up to more deeply explore Pope Francis's recent call to broaden our horizon beyond two or three "issues"....

    Our HEARTS are enfleshed, I'm thinking this morning. So that does make us a community...

  6. I think whether it is a community or not is, ironically, a matter of individual choice...it can be a community to the degree I share myself with honesty; in being accountable/ vulnerable in what I share, even in this small comments section reacting to the blog post. On the other hand... I have had the thought "what will others think of what I am writing" and I can really then hide behind words in a desire to seek approval. It's a little more difficult to hide in a place where I am living face to face with people. I have to laugh at myself because there have been times when I've thought... "hmmm, Heather commented on someone else's comment, but not mine... " In that case, the "cost" is not very much... just a fragile ego. But I do often feel a kinship with the ideas that are being expressed and the sense of shared love of Christ and desire to live out the Gospel among readers here that occurs, and that sometimes DOESN"T happen sitting in a more "natural" setting of community. So I like to think it IS a community, and Heather, I agree that your writing often is like a fragrant little snippet of beauty that you are eager to share with others that brings this community together.

    1. Thanks so much, Steve, yes, there is a real vulnerability to this thing!

      And for me, consummate worrier/angst-ridden people-pleaser, a constant process of discernment as to whether and how much I'm able to respond...I've learned (with many (ongoing) mistakes) to make firm emotional and spiritual boundaries with correspondents of various kinds, often I'm sure coming off as short or even rude. I'd rather be seen as short than to foster unhealthy dependencies--but I'd way rather everyone feel invited and welcome...not always possible, perhaps, but I'm so so glad YOU feel welcome! Thanks as always for your readership and insights...

  7. Was reading some Emily Dickinson today and the final lines of "A Man may make a Remark" connected for me to your post, Heather. What say?

    "Powder exists in Charcoal -
    Before it exists in Fire -"

    1. I say that Emily Dickinson never ceases to amaze...Here's the poem, folks--

      A Man may make a Remark -
      In itself - a quiet thing
      That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
      In dormant nature - lain -

      Let us divide - with skill -
      Let us discourse - with care -
      Powder exists in Charcoal -
      Before it exists in Fire -

      Thank you, dear Owen!

  8. Beautiful pictures! They remain me of artichokes; maybe because I love them.
    In this technological era, maybe the word community needs to be redefined or new meanings added to it. I would have never placed a blog in the category of a community... until now. Is not necessarily that we meet the persons and do things with them, but that we share in common a search for God, a love for Christ, fresh interpretations of His word. Thanks, Heather for be the enabler of this online community.

  9. Your statement about evangelism reminded me of a similar thought given by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith."

    1. Thanks, George, I was thinking this morning how I'm always straining to come up with a kind of unified string theory of the universe...I'll think, "I totally get it, we're all called to chain ourselves to nuclear weapons facilities and spend the rest of our lives 'witnessing' in prison." Then an hour later, I'll realize "People are DYING of loneliness, depression, angst...nobody's going to be in shape to go to prison unless we first devote our lives to ministering to them with unceasing corporal and spiritual works of mercy"...Then I'll realize all over again that my little thing, really the only thing I'm remotely fit to do, is write...Then I'll finally take a look around my room and realize..."What I really need to make my bed and take out the trash"...

      Truly, prayer--the prayer to which Bonhoeffer alludes--is everything...

  10. At a meeting yesterday I spoke with a friend about my correspondence with her son and with my own children via e-mail and text messaging. As I talked to her I found myself articulating what I believe about sincerely written messages in this media. Whereas, face-to-face encounters inject the complications of the body with its annoyances, displeasures, and affinities, written encounters can be a pure extraction of soul that communicates one's essence.
    For example, when my daughter and I visit in person there can arise all the old baggage of mother-daughter relationship that the body refers to--differences in style, taste and generational values as well as the dismay that aging thrusts upon the senses including pheromonal disgust; but when I receive texts or e-mails or even the more labor intensive hand-written cards, I hear the loving child I've always known expressing clearly her regard for me. I hope both of my children find this to be true in my own communiques when they receive them. For my son and me perhaps the physical baggage is less obvious because we are already differentiated as individuals by gender, but the same phenomenon occurs in his spirited writing as in my daughter's. I hear their souls and I recognize their love.
    I have often told people that I am a better writer than I am a speaker. This is probably true because writing affords the opportunity to edit oneself, to be precise, to seek the freshest nuance of self so that others may share one's mind, one's heart. Writing reveals the will, the will to love. Spontaneous speech, on the other hand, can prove selfish or self-conscious, witty or shy, attentive or bored, energetic or fatigued, tempered or moody--all of the ramifications of the bodily shell that encumber the spirit.
    So rather than fear a no-touch world due to the rise of social media and technology, I welcome the deeper use of writing because it promotes the baring of the soul. Of course, people create fantasy selves and project falsehood all the time on the Internet, but even one's fantasy self is about the will to create reality. The famous 12-step program motto, "Fake it till you make it," encourages behavior to follow will. Our creation, our art comes from our unique vision and expresses and participates in the Divine. To create words of love, then, we enter most fully into the imitation of our Maker. Done enough we become the prayer at the center of our being and the prayer we trust will be answered. Jesus, I trust in Thee. 9/11/10

    1. "Pheromonal disgust"--love it, Tish! This is how I increasingly feel as I age...no wonder I hide behind cover of a blog...

      No seriously, what a delightful, carefully thought-out, well-written comment! There IS a kind of epistolary element to blogging except that the post itself usually has to stand as my end of the correspondence...I would love to be able to respond to every comment but time, energy and financial considerations (I do need to make a living) militate against. It's always fun when my schedule opens up and I'm able to acknowledge people individually--then there are the times when a lax opinion obtrudes...that's another instance when I'm sometimes moved to respond...

      I'm not nearly as writerly as you, and my posts are more conversational than literary. People often tell me I write the way I speak (which may or may not be a compliment)--but for better or worse, you all more or less get the unvarnished me, minus the swearing and (I hope) the extreme impatience.

      Fake it till you make it to me means to participate in whatever way you can even though it feels scary, awkward, vulnerable, and messy--even though (if you're me), you would always ALWAYS rather be alone in your room reading. The blog is one what often feels very unsettling, very perilous way to participate. I'm more grateful for it than I can say...

  11. Trish, this "rather than fear a no-touch world due to the rise of social media and technology, I welcome the deeper use of writing because it promotes the baring of the soul." is so counter conventional thought as to the now so-called new-media that it bears reflection.

    What we most often here is that online communication is not as true or real as in person communication because the face cannot be seen and the tone not heard - hence the desire for emoticons and CAPS or colours or other typographic enhancement not to mention the myriad of SMS text messaging shortcuts and the "age old" criticism that new-media communication often isn't, communication but superficial.

    I share an experience similar to your own relating to our adult children who have moved out on their own. Whether the relationship is good or not so good I can also attest to the blessing of e-communication both putting aside, if not actually breaking down, barriers and baggage with a carry over into actual in-person times.

    In contrast to the above which is positive, my own blogging, sharing of my story or thoughts on whatever, has dramatically reduced as to be nearly non existent. This is also true of the blogs or other online sources I follow and is accentuated when extended to those I still read and share in combox conversation. Why the difference in this media, for me? Because I have found the conventions mentioned above to be true of blogs and comboxes and forums. So much posturing, yelling, pulpitering [may have made a word up there] and proving ones point of view as absolute, right over wrong and so little true engagement, listening, learning, discussion and grace. Far too much new-evangelization seems to be coming out of the end of a canon. I find it wearisome.

    The other thing that cemented my departure was a very strange troll who was leaving inappropriate comments on my blog and pushing that to email. I shut him down with silence but the encounter troubled me and made me ask, in my case [and I am not suggesting anything to anyone else here] it made me decide to simply focus on my site as a place for share my artwork and I do dare to offer my attempts at poetry, the odd quote or other thought.

    I also realized how much time I was spending online and became convicted, as in go-to-Confession-convicted about how I was squandering the gift I and happily others say I have in creating art. I had become a bad, lazy steward. No wonder I wasn't creating, I wasn't nurturing my self, my self in-Christ. Duh. Dead. When one fails at that one is left with a vacuum and what often happens then, to fill the void, one spends time spewing that nothingness out on others rather than doing the harder work, the better work.

    I'm riffing here and mostly based on myself. Not telling or yelling. :) [see that smiley?] ;-)

    I've pretty much retied [retreated?] to my private journal and reading books [fiction, non fiction, religious or otherwise and including a reawakened love of poetry] and the less I comment online the less I feel the need too. That said, I would certainly miss Heather's blog were she to also retreat.

    This comment alone means I probably won't feel compelled to say much anywhere for some time - to which some may say, Amen and amen.

    1. Owen, bless you--I started thinking the other day, Would I have a blog and be on FB if I didn't need to earn a living? And I can't be sure, but I thought very probably no...that I don't have husband, kids or extended family out here does free up more energy and time than might be true for others with family obligations and I do strongly feel, for now at least, that the blog is one way to give...I'd also worry if I didn't have an actual flesh-and-blood community with its own set of responsibilities and obligations...

      Still, your considerations are very valid. I, too, have received emails from "trolls" like the ones you describe-deeply unsettling, especially somehow as a single woman of freakin 61 years of age (speaking of vulnerable).

      So, step by step, day by day discernment. Solitude and silence for prayer is what I guard most fiercely. I always feel best when I'm going to daily Mass, as I mean to do this afternoon. With Adoration after...

    2. Heather, trusting your time in Adoration was like a breath of air in the north country on a bright Autumn day.

      Yes, yes "an actual flesh-and-blood community..." is vital. Both/and is good but online as stand-in for in person community is not good. I had to laugh at us here today or perhaps with us here today when I read a note about how Emily Dickinson's primary communication became [one might offer, was reduced to] writing letter from her room. She'd perhaps be a holy terror if she lived today.What might she have done with Twitter and the like? Maybe written less poems. Ah, now that would be sad.

      Speaking of poems, I wrote one a week or so ago and as it happened to be "on-topic" with this thread I thought I'd go ahead and post it to said "my site" http://owenswain.com/oh-my-universal-blogosphere/ ;-)

    3. And, speaking of en-fleshed community:

      In a week and a few days, after nearly two years of discernment I will be making my First Commitment as a Basilian Lay Associate [BLA]. The Basilians are a not large, and not that old an order of professed religious [as it happens, all male; priests]. Roughly 30 years ago the lay movement, now represented in several countries, began right here in the city in which we live. A renewal of the BLA is happening in this birthplace; exciting.

      I mention this at all to note article #35 in the Basilian Way of Life [the "rule" or primary constitution of the Order and the Associates] which so beautifully states:

      ""You did not choose me; I chose you." We do not choose our confreres; they are given to us by God. We are called to live with them as brothers, finding in them the presence of Christ among us, compassionate with their faults as God our Father is compassionate, and refusing to judge or condemn them. At the same time, we realize that we too are chosen by God and given to our brothers. We must search our hearts continually for ways to overcome our natural selfishness and to make Christ who is present within us a real influence in our community life and work. In his love we will cherish the times of silence that are essential in our life together, yet speak whenever love calls for speech; in all circumstances he will show us the way."

      I leave possible applications to you and your dear readers.

    4. ha ha, thanks for the poem, Owen, and this is beautiful you'll be making your First Commitment as a BLA. Many rooms in my Father's mansion...I, for one, wish I could inhabit them ALL! I think that was a bit of what Therese was getting at when she said, "My Vocation is Love"...blessings and prayers to you.


I WELCOME your comments!!!