Present through a Different Lens

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM September 23, 2018

How encouraging that our prayer can transcend the boundaries of space and time and offer us new ways to be in communion with the Holy.

For me, one of these ways is what I call photopraying. I have a box of loosely organized prints that I occasionally rummage through, then select one as the focus of a day’s intention. This practice lends itself just as easily to photos stored on one’s phone or on social media, photos in a frame in one’s living room, or photos on memorial cards. Simply gaze at the chosen photo for several moments, take in all the details of face and scenery, and return in memory to when and where the scene occurred. Breathe compassion for the people and places in the photo and place all in the heart of the Holy One. Sometimes a song or poem or a phrase from Scripture may be stirred up by the image before you. Pay attention to all that fills your consciousness.

Today the photo I randomly selected brought me back to the year 2000 and my third trip to Haiti. That year on the feast of Corpus Christi I was awakened at sunrise by laughter, clapping, and joyous harmonies. Hurriedly dressing, I followed the sound of excited voices outside, gasping aloud as I took in the scene unfolding before me. There the Little Sisters of St. Therese and children from the village had decorated the road with the outline of a heart, a ciborium, and a host formed by the lush, colorful petals of  hibiscus, orchid, and other tropical blossoms. I was truly fed by what was at hand, by the creativity and resources that could be summoned to the moment.

EPSON MFP image

I was struck by the gospel (Luke 9:11-17) for that feast, one of many occasions when Jesus fed a crowd. When the disciples called his attention to the reality that there were no supermarkets, no 7-11 or McDonald’s in that desolate, lonely place, Jesus told his followers, “Give them some food yourselves.” Picture the puzzled disciples hanging their heads, averting their gaze, and wondering if anyone had snacks to pool or coins to dig out of their pouches.

How different the moment captured in my photo from Haiti. In that place, on that day, the disciples–those creative neighbors who had scarcely enough food to sustain their own bodies–were undaunted by this command of Jesus, “Give them some food yourselves.” In their desire to celebrate and honor the Body of Christ, they tapped into their own creativity and imagination, offered their time and their labor, and fed me with exquisite natural beauty that both nourished and inspired my soul. All this was stored in a single photo.

EPSON MFP image

Perhaps today might offer us a call as well, an invitation to look within at what we have to offer that might feed a hungry crowd of another sort: feed with hospitality, with a spacious and generous heart, with a deepening sense of belonging and community, with the gift of our time and presence.

“Give them some food yourselves,” the Holy One invites. Can we picture it now?

Takeaway

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Place before yourself a print or image.
Notice what moves within you as you gaze at it with an open heart.
Hold in your prayer today whoever and whatever this image awakens in you.
Give thanks to the Holy One who is present in your remembering.

Images:
Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, in Riviere Froide, Haiti

NOTE:
Please hold in your prayer all who will be part of these coming days: 

October 3:  Mining God’s Dream for Us: Autumn Day of Prayer, Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA  http://www.jesuitcenter.org/2018_Calendar  

October 5-7:  Directed Prayer Weekend, Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA. I will be one of the directors for the weekend.

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Leaning into Resilience

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM  September 9, 2018

During these last lingering days of summer, a seasonal image that keeps returning to me is resilience. A dictionary might describe that quality as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; the ability of a substance or object to spring back and return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, or bent.spider.animals.sandiegozoo.org

Summer has been rather generous in providing a daily visual aid to demonstrate resilience for me. Each time I left my apartment this summer, I had to open an iron gate outside, a favorite home for spiders weaving their webs. My passing through pretty much obliterated those works of labor and artistry, undoing in seconds what had taken hours or days to build. Amazingly, by the next morning those exquisite creations already showed signs of beginning again.

But what about when life can’t be returned to its original shape, when the web simply can’t be rebuilt in its original location? When we find ourselves in the role of a modern-day Job, one daunting loss or challenge heaped on top of another? When the slip or fall shatters beyond repair? When the fire leaves nothing but ashes or the flood carries away every familiar, cherished memory? When the world of our daily lives has been pulled, stretched, pressed or bent to the point that elasticity is impossible?

When we can’t return to the same shape or space that we were in before illness or loss or circumstances changed the direction of our path, what allows us to be resilient in a new normal, a reality that calls on all our reserves of patience and tenacity and fierce determination to hold onto hope?

It may be that those are the times for leaning in.

Lean into prayer.
Cry, and wail, and shout your pain to a loving God who does not break the tender reed nor extinguish a flickering flame. Lean into prayer when the well is dry and your voice is barely a whisper. Lean into prayer when you have no words but to ask the  Holy One, “What do you want to pray in me?”  Irene Nowell’s Pleading, Cursing, Praising: Conversing with God through the Psalms, offers some of the ways you might pray when an unwelcome, unexpected new normal manifests itself in your life.letting go stars

Lean into the tribe who love and support you.
Lean into the support of friends or family, those companions who enter your life owning their inability to save or fix or rescue you. Lean into the ones practiced in deep listening and faithful companioning, the ones who know it’s beyond their power to change your circumstances or take away your painful realities, the ones who remain present, who stay with, who accompany, no matter what.

Lean into compassion both for yourself and others.
Reflect on what Teilhard de Chardin calls “the slow work of God,” an acceptance and understanding that the Holy One’s sense of time is very often different from your way of measuring or counting. Be patient with the detours you may need to take. Bring fresh thinking and imagination to making a way forward through unfamiliar terrain where the old road maps may no longer work. Use your own suffering to bless someone else whose wounds are fresher than yours.

Lean and lean and lean into the grace of God. And in that graced place, in your new normal, may you not only survive. May you thrive. 

Takeaway

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind a challenging experience of your life, present or past.
What did/does that look like? feel like?
Who or what helped or is helping you to hold onto hope?
Spend time in quiet gratitude for the faithful companioning of the Holy One in your life.

NOTE:
Thank you for returning to Mining the Now after my hiatus for my own retreat and renewal in August. I’ve missed you and am delighted to be back. 

May I ask you to hold in prayer all who will be part of this upcoming retreat: 

September 10-17:  Directed retreat at St. Mary by-the-Sea, Cape May Point, NJ. I’ll be one of the spiritual guides during these days. Thank you.

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