Spinnaker Sails and Ocean Waves.
In my late 20’s, I was stationed in a city bordered by a large lake, and several members of our community lived on the lake. I was determined to learn to sail and water ski, and
they gladly offered to teach me both.
But, first things first. I had to learn how to swim!
See, I was a farm kid. Once, as children, we had the luxury of a week of swimming lessons - but we never got back to the pool much to practice. So I grew up fearful of water. So much so that even now, if you throw me in the pool today, I look like I’m drowning (all that flailing about!). It’s not pretty. . .
Fast forward from my childhood 20 years, to the lake. I’m determined to waterski, but I have to overcome my still-present fear of the water. The lifeguard teaching us was so patient, and the pool water was not even over my head. So I gained confidence and prowess: I learned the American crawl, the side stroke, and the all important if all else fails, you’ll float if you just lie on your back ‘stroke’!!
Soon I was ready for the launch onto skis. I could snow ski – but unhappily, I discovered that for unknown reasons I wasn’t cross-transferring that skill.
Countless attempts - each ending in failure.
Countless failures - I couldn’t stop flailing around. There was nothing to stand on,
there was no pool with a concrete bottom.
Why couldn’t I ski on the water?!
My hosts politely decided that I should try sailing. I could wear a life jacket--- right?
Oh boy! I’d always wanted to learn to sail! Who wouldn’t want to know how to steer your boat with the wind, to move by the grace of God’s gentle breeze?
We criss-crossed the vast lake many times, with me at the wheel and all the jargon coming my way: “Ahoy mate”, “Coming around”, “DUCK!”
Then Greg, the father, brought out the most beautiful sail EVER. The specialist sail: the spinnaker. It’s the large, usually colorful sail one puts up to go full speed, to capture completely all possible wind, to fly across the water as if powered by the heavens.
Up came the beautiful sail, and the command “Dale, take the wheel!”
But in a matter of seconds, out came the storm clouds. Their sudden, renegade power filled and fuelled our spinnaker - and it was impossible for me to control the boat.
We almost capsized!
So I can relate to Peter. Peter – whose name means “rock”: and rocks sink in water.
I too sank, with my fantasy of waterskiing – my version of walking on water.
And I nearly sank, with my fantasy of sailing – skimming the water.
I was saved from disaster, just in time, by the skilled skipper.
Today, let’s be real. How many of us, if Jesus came walking on water, would be cowering in fear? And which fear is greater: staying in the uncontrollable storm-driven boat or jumping out to greet a ghost? And if we leapt out of the boat, would we make things worse by sinking?
On March 27, Pope Francis invited the world into a moment of prayer, a truly profound prayer, as the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ. By the authority Christ granted to St. Peter as recorded in the Gospels, Pope Francis gave the entire world the gift of a special blessing to the City and to the World, Urbi et orbi.
Francis told people that he’s walking with us. And most importantly, that Jesus walks with us. Jesus is walking toward us in this turbulent moment, and guides us to safety. Jesus encourages us not to abandon ship and thereby sink, but to believe and hope in the future of a renewed world. Our troubled times call us out of the false sense of self-sufficiency, and they remind us we are part of a common humanity in a sick world in need of healing.
All that glitters is not gold. The spinnaker is not the most beautiful sail on the water, it is the means of God, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the world, in each one of us. Jesus is in charge, in control: and he calls us, challenges us, encourages us, enlivens in us hope that these dangerous, depleated times not last forever. The Spirit reveals that by the power of the Cross we will be saved and healed, and empowered, as the spinnaker by the wind, to chart the course of love, hope and healing that is our calling.
I wish you a week filled with peace and trust in God, who sent Jesus to walk with us in all things.
Dale Sieverding, Director of Worship
Take some time with this tried and true way to reflect on Words of Sacred Scripture
Read Meditate Pray Contemplate
Matthew 14: 22-33: Jesus Walks on Water
Skim the passage silently. If you can print it out, make a copy to take notes.
Underline and highlight the words that “jump off the page.”
Read the passage aloud.
Write down the words that challenge you.
Which are comforting words? What will you remember?
Bring your prayers of praise, petition, thanksgiving, stirred by the meditation,
to the Lord.
What conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord calling you to?
Be specific, ground your answers.
Peter said: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
When have I tested the Lord’s love for me?
What do I need to find courage to do?
When he saw how strong the wind was …beginning to sink, he cried, “Lord, save me!”
Do I need Jesus to save me? From what?
What burdens (winds, waves) make me feel like I might sink?
Why did you doubt?
When have I doubted God?
What renewed my faith and trust?
Pray slowly and meditatively Psalm 85.
You are the God of the elements: wind, earthquake, fire.
Yet your ‘tiny whisper’, your still soft voice, is not displaced by their raging noise.
Help me, in the noise of my life, to wait, to recognize you, to hear you.
You are the master of the elements: wind and wave, storm and sea.
You contain their unruliness, their power to destroy.
Help me, in the exposure and vulnerability of my life, to recognize you, to trust you.
You are the power of God before and within and beyond the elements.
You empower love, enable life, ennoble all people.
Help me, in my everyday elementary life, to recognize and respond to you, to be like you.
Creator of community, redeemer of humanity, power of unity,
I pray that through me, the richness of your life will bless many.
For an attempt at True Spiritual Growth: work through this process of Lectio Divina every day or several days this week. Pray the Gospel Prayer in conclusion each day.
Each time you listen to, study, pray with the Scriptures – it is a new experience, and you are hearing the Word of God anew – because TODAY, you are not the same person as you were LAST WEEK – because of your encounter with the moments you have lived in the past week.
There is solid evidence that the COVID 19 virus is airborne and is expelled from the mouths of people who are contagious whether or not the person has symptoms. In singing and public speaking, it is known from those who study this, that we expel and aerosolize micro-droplets that can hang in the air for a very long time (3 hours or more). It has been determined that singing in public, speaking loudly in public, yelling (like at a sports event), and other activity is a fertile ground for super-spreading of the virus.
Therefore, to protect the health and safety of our community – priests, parishioners, volunteers and staff, the County guidelines allowed churches to reopen provided that singing by the congregation be stopped for the time being. We will one day sing again with full voice in the church, and I have spent more than 30 years working as a liturgist and pastoral musician. I want people to sing, it has been my vocation, but now, until there is a vaccine or the virus passes, we cannot sing in public.
The Church offers many different types of prayer: liturgical prayer, devotional prayer, meditative prayer, personal piety devotions.
The Liturgy of the Hours is one of the official Liturgies of the Church and consists in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer daily – centered on praying the Psalms, hearing a short word of another Scripture passage, some intercessions for the needs of the Church, our local needs, and needs of the world, the Canticle of Mary (The Magnificat), The Lord’s Prayer and conclusion. What is the benefit?
Sometimes when we don’t have the words to pray, or can’t find the words we need to express to God our sorrow, rage, anger, love, thanks, joy, sadness, overwhelming gratitude, love or love lost … the Psalms can help us find the visceral language with which we can be Honest To God: series of lectures last year on the Psalms provided our community with more background on their composition, their purpose, their use throughout the Church’s history.
The early Christian Church prayed the Psalms, as they prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed and knew well as a good Jew. On the Cross, the words of Psalm 22 were on his lips, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. In the hearts and minds of the early Christians, these were the songs of Israel that they knew and continued to pray. And in another place, Jesus is the stone which the builders rejected, now become the cornerstone/keystone.
The praying of the Psalms – singing them -- developed into a ritual of prayer, morning, evening and used at the Eucharistic celebrations and thus became the backbone of the Church’s Liturgical Prayer.
The Liturgical Press as been gracious to offer the resource Give Us This Day to the Church during this pandemic as a free, downloadable resource. It is also available on an app for your phone, so you could have it available wherever you are and have time to pray. Have a look today, and let this become part of YOUR ritual of daily prayer, when you do not have the words to speak.
Communion with God is our ultimate goal in life – with prayer, celebration of the Liturgy, study and meditation on Scripture, retreats and spiritual growth opportunities. We believe that Christ is present in bread and wine, made Body and Blood of Christ through the Eucharistic Prayer of the Community, lead by the presider (priest or bishop) acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). We believe that our Communion with God through the Eucharist is so powerful and intimate that we believe we consume the Body and Blood of Christ by eating and drinking as the Lord commanded.
During this time when we are unable to receive the Eucharist physically, Pope Francis invites us to make a Spiritual Communion – that is to invite Christ in to our hearts, and ask that Christ come close to us, and that we come close to Christ. We do this in moments of prayer following the Communion Rite at Mass, with the following prayer:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
We also join ourselves to the Body of Christ, and Pope Francis invites us specifically to join ourselves with the Body of Christ suffering the most from the Coronavirus epidemic – those afflicted, those who have lost their lives, the doctors, nurses and entire medical community caring for patients. St. Paul writes: When one member of the Body of Christ suffers, the entire Body suffers. We are one Body, one Spirit in Christ.
Here are some resources to understand better the concept of Spiritual Communion and the importance of inviting Christ into your heart and soul.
St. Monica has responded to the problem of continuing racial prejudice and brutal treatment and killings and violence against our brothers and sisters in the black community in a number of ways. The prayer below was sent us by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and definitely the power of prayer to bring us together by our common belief in Jesus. A recent webinar that several of participated in from Georgetown University with Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington on the presentation. He proposes that racism is a virus, as insidious as the Coronavirus, and as destructive that has lived for too long in this country. With this prayer, we pray for unity because we are better together.
The blessing offered to us by Pope Francis a few weeks ago, is the Urbi et orbi blessing to the City of Rome and to the World offered all of us listening the Plenary Indulgence.
From time to time, people will ask what I am reading—what gives me inspiration, fills me with the presence of God, guides my Camino. The following are a few books that I am currently reading or using in ministry.
Thank you to Dr. Neil Quinly, Elementary School Principal for sending me this suggestion: a short essay by Sr. Judith Best, SSND entitled Mentors for Life during COVID 19: Mom, Dad and Merton – may speak to the moment we are experiencing. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our ordinary, it may be helpful to reflect on it in light of others who have worked for authenticity and personal transformation. Merton wrote about his early days in the monastery, “I do have a past to break with, an accumulation of inertia, waste, wrong, foolishness, rot, junk, a great need of clarification of mindfulness, to push on to the great doubt. Need for the Spirit.”
Good Leaders never stop trying to learn – an essay on Personal Renewal by John Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare with President Lyndon Johnson.
This is an address given in 1990 to a gathering of McKinsey consultants. I bring it to your attention as a great 7 minute read for you who aspire to personal growth.
What is Lectio Divina? - A Short video by Fr. James Martin, SJ
A resource put together as a gift to our Church for moments of prayer toward the end of life, especially useful for us as we accompany a loved one who may be in hospice, or near death when a priest cannot come to celebrate the Anointing of the sick.
Strong in the Face of Tribulation: The Church in Communion – A Support in Time of Trial.
This is a book (free digital download) just released by the Vatican Library and the Dicastery for Communication – it is a collection of Pope Francis’ homilies, prayers and messages to the people of Italy, and the entire world during this time of the pandemic IT offers prayers that can be lead and said by lay people for the sick and suffering.
Give us this Day – Daily Morning and Evening Prayer and the readings for every day Mass
This excellent resource is being offered as a free digital download for anyone during the months of April and May, published by The Liturgical Press at Collegeville, MN. I highly recommend this as a prayer companion, not just for this time of the pandemic but to give structure to a life of prayer. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer with the Psalms are the “hinges of the day” according to the Liturgical documents. Praying with the Psalms gives us a rhythm, and puts us in contact with some of the most salient poetic and sung scripture texts composed to help the people of Israel speak to God in prayer – there are Psalms of praise, thanksgiving, lament, fear, anger, distress, in moments of great joy and moments of great sorrow.
It may be praying with the Psalms during these days would help you through this moment of great upheaval. It is available as a download to your mobile device or computer and is also available as an app for the iPhone and Android platforms.
by Diana Macalintal
This is a great collection of inspired prayers that Diana, a good friend, wrote and I have used them to open meetings, close meetings or just begin the day.
by Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB
Short 2 page reflections on a variety of well-known and oft used Scripture texts.
by Joseph F Schmidt, FSC (Christian Brother)
This one was assigned to me be my Spiritual Director, but I have to say—the first couple meetings after he gave it I had to confess that the dog (Sparta) ate my homework. I just couldn’t find the time to read. The good thing about this book is that it turns our notion of prayer around, to see that the moments of our lives, are different kinds of prayer. And Spirituality, is no great secret, it is how you live your life in relationship to others, yourself and to God.