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Prayer


The Power of Love – Michel Quoist

A new find for me, but this will not be the last Michel Quoist post. Quoist was a French priest and activist who wrote prayer books in much the same way the psalmists did. That is to say, his prayers are short vignettes and poems about everyday life. They also are not complete prayers–they do not try to “see the whole picture”–which seems to me to be an authentic prayer. One thing seems clear in Quoist’s work: for him there is little distinction between church life and human life, religious and secular. God in Christ moves through suffering and love, and so Christ is everywhere. This one comes from a new collection, Keeping Hope: Favourite Prayers for Modern Living. 

quoist-prayers-480I was called recently to the bedside of a dying man. He was very old and his face was ravaged and distorted by illness and suffering. I watched his wife. She was leaning over him, caressing him and whispering to him such tender words: ‘How beautiful you are, my love, how fine you look!’ I was embarrassed and thought: ‘How can anyone be so blind? Love is blind!’

Then an extraordinary thing happened. As she caressed him, the old man half-opened his eyes and a hesitant smile appeared on his face. He look at his wife a long time and she looked at him. There was a mysterious communion between them. And his smile spread. It was like the sun after a storm. I saw it. I know that I saw what she saw! She was right–the old man, made ugly by suffering, was beautiful. Love is not blind–love lets us see what others do not see.

That woman was guided by love to go beyond the deep wrinkles of her husband’s suffering face and had joined someone who was beyond, far beyond, the body, someone who could not die even if his body were to crumble away in her sight and finally disappear.

Frank Lake on Praying Badly

Frank Lake on Praying Badly

From Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology, one of the original voices in clinical pastoral counseling, this passage talks about the purpose (and pitfalls) of prayer for the Christian wound up in his/her own neuroses.

One of the reasons why pastoral dialogue with men and women suffering from the common symptoms of psychoneurosis is necessary, is in order that prayer, which is their life-giving communication with God, may be re-established. When Christian people fall into despair, into bitter isolation, into depression, into separation-anxiety, or into dread of non-being, they have, to this extent, lost any clear sense of God as loving or personal, fatherly…

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Of Death & Southern Comfort: The Making of an Everyday Priest

Of Death & Southern Comfort: The Making of an Everyday Priest

Walking through an abandoned rent house and seeing the ruins of former tenants is an exercise in human connection—archaeology of life, or the privation of it. In nearly twenty years, I haven’t often found deep meaning in getting a house “rent ready,” but I find myself being taken in by the nihilistic futility of Rust Cohle as I traverse from one scene of archaeological ruin to the next. Nothing draws these connections as powerfully, though, as when the ruins are left in a tenant’s wake even though their earthly body still blocks the house’s front entrance. This just happened a…

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Devastating and Hopeful: Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent

Devastating and Hopeful: Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent

Looking through our archives the other day, I was surprised to discover that we’ve never posted an excerpt from The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by Paul Zahl and Fred Barbee. It’s a wonderful little book, really more of a devotional, and not just for those who are interested in Cranmer’s prayers or the Anglican tradition. Take for instance the meditation on the collect for the Second Sunday in Lent (this past Sunday):

The Collect: Almighty God, which doest see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; keep thou us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls;…

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“Into Great Silence”: Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer

“Into Great Silence”: Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer

This guest post comes from Mockingbird friend Michael Centore. This piece is a wonderful companion to his amazing Los Angeles Review of Books piece on the Evergetinos, which can be read here.

“The great difficulty for filmmakers is precisely not to show things,” Robert Bresson once declared during an interview for French television. “Ideally, nothing should be shown, but that’s impossible.” Reading Notes on the Cinematographer, his 1975 collection of memoranda, fragments, quotes, and aphorisms, one gathers he felt the same way about writing: that, in both media, a sense of reverence for the “secret laws” of life is best…

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An Exhausted Prayer: Get Me Out of {Into} the Woods

An Exhausted Prayer: Get Me Out of {Into} the Woods

One less-than-magical night, not so long ago, while afflicted by a monstrous spell of boredom cast upon me by the solitary confinement of the common cold, I ventured, alone, Into the Woods. Why not? I had a gift card… Honestly, as much as I jest, I wanted to see the cluster-cuss of historic fairy tales on the big screen, even though it meant sitting through over 2 hours of sing-a-long Disney tunes (…alright, I liked those too). It was electrifying; an out-of-the-blue good time; like seeing the neo-Gothic steeples of Cinderella’s Orlando castle in person for the first time all over again. More outstanding was the…

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PZ’s Podcast: Summer Rain

EPISODE 181: Summer Rain

It’s pathetic how little we know. And that’s not just some “secular” concession to the Uncertainty Principle. I’m talking about ourselves, about other people, and about what God is “up to” in our lives.

Not only do we not know a lot, but what we think we know is often wrong at root. At best it is partial.

I had an acute example of my colossal ignorance fall on my life recently — about ten days ago, in fact. Some old documents from college days dropped out of a book. They were primary sources about something that mattered to me. They revealed beyond a “Shadow of Doubt” (Alfred Hitchcock/Thornton Wilder) that I had mis-remembered something important, and mis-remembered it from stem to stern.

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. (In fact I am typing this in a cave near Lake Tahoe. But you know that.) Yet I didn’t, and I won’t. Which is mainly because the 51st Psalm was also in that book. I’ve got a place to go, my knees for lack of a better term, with some damaging new info. If I didn’t have Psalm 51 (King James Version, please), well, then I really would die. I’m actually not expecting to.

This podcast is dedicated to Adrienne Parks Bowman.

Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities

Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities

1. Part and parcel of the juvenilization we touched on earlier this week is the phenomenon UPenn bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (best name ever?!) describes as “the American immortal”, that not-so-peculiar species that devotes so much of its time/energy to prolonging life that it kills them (often before they die). Surprise surprise–underneath the aversion to growing up may lurk a denial of human limitation which is ultimately a denial of death. In the latest bit of watercooler bait from The Atlantic, “Why I Hope To Die at 75″, Emanuel challenges the notion of “compression of morbidity”, the widespread presumption that the…

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Steve Brown on the Laughter of the Forgiven

Steve Brown on the Laughter of the Forgiven

Mockingbird-favorite Steve Brown’s classic, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough (recently revised in a new edition), calls us to enter the impasse of the overcontrolled Christian, half-looking at ourselves or at others with one eye, while the other one’s uneasily flitting back and forth to the scoreboard, seeing how things are measuring up. It admits that despite our doctrinal sophistication, our born-again spiritual credentials, our good work, and/or our pursuit of holiness, something still seems to missing. Brown says we miss laughter, the normal reaction to one’s own silliness or unexpected good fortune, because we take ourselves very seriously – especially in faith…

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You Are Definitely Not Your Introspections

You Are Definitely Not Your Introspections

In last week’s Op-Ed, David Brooks asked whether or not “knowing thyself” is possible and, if it is, where it can be separated from the pitfalls and stagnation of narcissism. Self-awareness, argues Brooks, is a “perfect breeding ground for self-deception, rationalization and motivated reasoning.” This happens when we get a little too close to the man in the mirror, which often drives us to oversimplifications or “ruminations”–the despairing paralysis of one’s own fears and anxieties. Either one makes us dangerous self-perceivers. We either become nighthawk depressives or impervious bigots. The best way to “know thyself,” Brooks astutes, is to take…

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“I Shall Be Released” – Charles Wright

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From the American poet laureate’s collection, Sestets

There is a consolation beyond nomenclature
of what is past
Or is about to pass, though I don’t know what it is.
Someone, somewhere, must, and this is addressed to him.

Come on, Long Eyes, crack the book.
Thumb through the pages and stop at the one with the golden script.
Breathe deeply and lay it on me,
that character with the luminous half-life.

St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

The past few weeks have offered us a particularly difficult news cycle. A passenger plane was shot down in Ukraine. People continue to die in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And at home in America, children have crossed our borders alone and scared, longing for something less violent than the places they left.

I find myself wanting to do something, anything, to make it better. At this point I have been to all the relief websites. I know I can give money. If we knew Spanish, we could foster a child. And past that, I am basically out of options and stuck feeling…

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