Whose shoulders do you stand on? Every November as we celebrate the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls Days, it is a fitting time for us to remember the dear ones who have helped us to become who we are. Naturally, I (Ron) cherish my parents and was inspired by their going to Mass every morning and praying the family
rosary every evening. (It is noteworthy that our friends knew not to knock on the door too early after dinner for us to come out to play, lest they be invited in to join our family rosary in progress.) The faith of my parents deeply shaped me in my religious education. I learned from their values around the way we treat each other and their social consciousness of the needs of those around us. I was also deeply shaped by the influence of one of my Spiritual Directors, a Trappist monk who taught me Centering Prayer. He taught me that the most important thing was being faithful to this time of quiet and let the distractions float by like clouds in the sky. Francis and Clare of Assisi and Catherine of Siena are also important hero and heroines of mine as their spirit lives on.
While my parents were a positive influence on my spiritual upbringing, it my (Jean speaking here) paternal grandmother who comes to mind as an especially inspiring. I recall her love of ritual…the small holy water on the wall near the front door, with the water being sprinkled around the house as protection during a thunderstorm, her love of the rosary and the clicking of the beads (I can still hear Cardinal Cushing’s unmistakable voice over the radio leading us all in the many decades.) I was fascinated when that ‘voice’ eventually confirmed me. Nana attended daily Mass, often staying for a funeral if there were too few mourners present. I recall her rejoicing in the changes of Vatican II and her insistence on attending Sunday Mass in her own parish. It wasn’t until my later years, that I understood her deep appreciation of being a part of the community in a way which was beyond my previous experience. She was buried in her Franciscan robes and her prayerful 3rd Order way of being a woman who embraced the way of Francis and Clare has been a part of my spiritual formation. Together, Ron and I are experiencing the spiritual mentoring of John Philip Newell and finding it deeply meaningful. John Phillip’s Celtic Consciousness which sees everyone and everything around us as sacred is in synchronicity with our way of being in the world.
This Sunday we will use the readings of the Feast of All Saints. I (Ron) am so struck by the First Reading from the Book of Revelation: “I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation comes from our God…’” The inclusiveness of the vision speaks to my heart, everyone is welcome—there is room for everyone. It reminds me of an old joke: A Protestant and a Jew die and go to heaven and St. Peter is giving them a tour of heaven. As they are walking along they come to a huge white building and St. Peter asks the new arrivals to be quiet as they walk by. When they get past the building, St. Peter explains, “The Catholics are in there. They think they are the only ones up here.” In today’s political climate where many demonize those who are different and want to close our borders, it is important to remember God’s Vision that all are welcome, there is room for everyone, everyone has something important to contribute.
As we join with others in mourning the death of the 11 women and men whose lives were taken as they sat in prayer at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, we pray for those who have died or injured, those whose lives are torn apart in grief, and for all of us that we might know our part in perpetrating violence in our world and seek peaceful solutions to bring it to an end. We find solace in the prayerful eloquence of Rabbi Naomi Levy:
A Prayer for the Dead of Tree of Life Congregation by Rabbi Naomi Levy
We are devastated, God,
Our hearts are breaking
In this time of shock and mourning.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God,
To grieving family members.
Send healing to the injured,
Send strength and wisdom
To their doctors and nurses.
Bless the courageous police officers who risked their lives
To protect innocent lives.
Shield us from despair, God,
Ease our pain.
Let our fears give way to hope.
Lead us to join together as a nation
To put an end to anti-Semitism, An end to hatred, An end to gun violence.
Teach us, God, to honor the souls we have lost
By raising our hands
And voices together
In the cause of peace.
Because Torah is a Tree of Life
And all its paths are peaceful.
Work through us, God.
Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can
Rise up from this tragedy
And banish the hate
That is tearing our world apart.
We must never be indifferent to the plight of any who suffer.
We must learn to care,
To open our hearts
And open our hands.
Innocent blood is calling out to us.
God to the brokenhearted,
God of the living, God of the dead,
Gather the souls of the victims
Into Your eternal shelter.
Let them find peace
In Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended
But their lights
Can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always
And illuminate our way.
During these troubled times when we see so much suffering in our world, we are increasingly grateful for the many ways in which we are personally blessed. If you are feeling likewise grateful, we invite you to consider joining us on Monday, November 19th at 7:00pm for the annual Thanksgiving Service offered by the Weston Clergy Association. We are grateful to have been invited this year to join the association and to participate in the service. All are warmly welcome!!! The service has been designed with a focus on the plight of refugees, and a representative from the International Institute of New England will speak briefly and an opportunity contribute to the important work of this group will be offered. You might like to visit their website: https://iine.org/boston which in part states: “The Boston site serves refugees, asylees and immigrants throughout Greater Boston through a core of common services essential to our mission: refugee resettlement, case management, health services navigation, employment, education and literacy, and skills training programming.”
At The Spirit of Life, we work together in prayer and companionship to loosen the attitudes and brokenness which can hold us bound. We believe that God’s desire for us is that we be “Whole” and thus “Holy”… full of life , unfettered by life-destroying prejudices and free to move openly as the Spirit calls us. Our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.
Abundant Blessings of healing and hope,
Ron & Jean