Tag Archives: music

All this miracle and light – Retreat Notes

One of the most life-giving parts of my year is the time I am lucky enough to spend on retreat.   Most years I get away for a week of sacred silence for a silent directed retreat.  I never cease to be amazed at the gifts God presents us each and every day, especially if we are able to pay attention.

Retreat is a luxury and a responsibility.  Luxury because there is nothing else to do but pay attention to the goodness that comes from God, all around you (except of course for the distractions and worries that hover in the shadows).  As I wake each day on retreat, I give thanks for this opportunity and promise to share the gifts I receive.

It’s also a responsibility because taking this time away from the many things I should be busy about is important.  I/we need to tend to the relationships that matter most, and what is more important than my/our relationship with God?  The regular time I spend each day in prayer with my sisters and on my own is key to this relationship, but so too is particular time away just to nurture that relationship and ourselves. 

 As we say in our CSJP Constitutions:

Personal prayer deepens our desire
to be united with God in faith,
enabling us to see God’s presence and action
in our lives and in the world.
We commit ourselves to daily prayer.

We nurture our life of prayer
by reflective reading, particularly Scripture,
by periods of solitude and silence,
and by an annual retreat. (CSJP Constitutions 29 & 30)

This year I returned to Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT, a retreat center sponsored by the Daughters of Wisdom. I was last here on retreat when I was a novice, and it was a joy to discover things that remain the same and things that have shifted and grown, both at the retreat center and within myself.  Natural beauty abounds here, and I spent some quality meditative time walking around the grounds and nearby sights with my camera.

The result is this video prayer, set to “Magic” by the duo/collective Gungor (the music is a new-to-me discovery and gift of the spirit to match the movement in my heart this week):

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Click the picture or this link to watch the video prayer on YouTube.

The words of the song say it all I think, and with a catchy tune:

All this miracle and light
All this magic
There is nothing left to hide
Bring your sadness
Bring your disbelief
Bring your tambourine
You can dance and sing
Here in the magic

Come breathe the air
Feel your skin
Come play your drum
Feel the beat within
Love everyone
Everything
La lala la la la

Come breathe it in the air
Feel it on your skin
Come play it on your drum
Feel the beat within
Love like a mystic drug
Filling everything
La lala la la la

Amen

 

Storms

Even though today is the beginning of the last week of Advent, and we actually have a full four weeks of Advent this year, I must admit to being a bit liturgically mixed up.

For one thing, I’ve been experiencing a lot of waiting and expectation these past few months, so on the one hand I feel like my Advent has been much longer than usual. And given that some of the expectation will continue into the new year, my Advent will also continue.

Next Sunday is of course Christmas, but I’ve not gotten much into the spirit just yet. This will be a simple and easy Christmas spent with community in a much needed low key kind of way.  Spiritually, I am ready to welcome God with us, Love incarnate, and to remember and share that miracle through ritual and prayer and celebration. Christmas is good, even if I’m not super into all the festivities this year.

Then there is the rhythm of ordinary time, which we won’t take up liturgically for a while but in our lives is part of the every day mix, some good, some bad, all of it part of life.  I’ve been reflecting a bit on the storms of life, both literal (we had a minor winter storm yesterday that has turned to mild rainy weather) and the figurative ones in our lives that rock our world from time to time.

The other day, a song popped up on my play list on my music player in the car. I’ve been avoiding Christmas songs, trying to stay in the Advent mood, so the other day I listened to a play list I created for retreat a few years ago.  It included a song I’ve not listened to much, by singer songwriter Amy Speace – “How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat.” Her words and music really spoke to my heart and where I’ve been a bit lately, seeking peace in the midst of the storm. The song has helped me to bring that to prayer, and today I spent some time in prayer creating a video prayer set to her words and music.

It’s not necessarily liturgically appropriate for the fourth Sunday of Advent, but life is pretty stormy right now for many people I know and even more I don’t know, so I offer this as a pre-Christmas gift in case it is helpful on your journey.

Peace

Retreat Prayer – Love is the Way

I found myself in the company of the disciples on this retreat, sometimes caught by their bumbling attempts to get the message of Jesus, as told in the scripture.  For example, Thomas in the Gospel of John when he does not know where Jesus is going, so how can they know the way?

This retreat in many ways was simple, in the gentle ways that God was present to me and the movement of the heart.  Yes I bring my anxieties and worries and wonderings and vulnerabilities and insecurities and challenges and realities and unknowns to the mix. Yes I often do not get it. Yet my loving and persistent and patient God is there. And the answer is simple … Love. Love is the way.

Words again don’t do the movement of the heart justice, hence this video prayer set to “Perpetual Self” by Sufjan Stevens.

Retreat Videos – I Shall Not Want

Here’s another video I made on retreat pairing my photos and videos of God’s creation with Audrey Assad’s beautiful prayerful music. Enough said. I’ll leave the rest to her words, inspired of course by Scripture and tradition.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

Retreat Videos – You Speak

Sometimes on retreat I read. This year, I barely cracked open a page. Instead I read the pages before me of God’s creation and took oodles of photographs.

I was also recently introduced to some new to me music, thanks to the wonders of internet algorithms which accurately (and a bit spookily) suggested music I might like.  That is how I discovered the Catholic singer-song writer Audrey Assad. I spent a lot of time during retreat listening to her independent release, Fortunate Fall. It’s available on Amazon Prime, although I highly suggest downloading your own copy.

I made a few videos matching my photos with her words and music.  I’ve shared one of them above, set to “You Speak” by Audrey Assad.

You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos

From the chains of a lesser law you set me free.

In the silence of the heart, you speak.

And it is there that I will know you and you’ll know me.

You satisfy me till I am quiet an confident in the work of the Spirit I cannot see.

In the silence of the heart, you speak.

And it is there that I will know you God.

In the silence of my heart, you speak.

Her words so beautifully capture the desire to listen to our loving creator God and trust in the movement of the Spirit.  I found myself singing her words as I watched the sun rise and the birds fly and the waves crash.

Enjoy some of your own quiet time with the beauty of God’s creation speaking in your own heart.

Shared Responsibility

dontcarryitallThis morning I woke up feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by everything. Not just everything on my own proverbial plate, but the situation of the world, of people I care about who are suffering, about the unknowns of the future. You know the drill, we all I am sure have our own versions of these moments.  But I got out of bed, drank my coffee, put on my gym clothes and went to the gym where I heard a song on my music mix that helped to lift me out of the overwhelmed overresponsibility blues … “Don’t Carry it All” by the Decemberists.

So raise a glass to turnings of the season

And watch it as it arcs towards the sun

And you must bear your neighbor’s burden within reason

And your labors will be borne when all is done

And nobody, nobody knows

Let the yoke fall from our shoulders

Don’t carry it all don’t carry it all

We are all our hands and holders

Beneath this bold and brilliant sun

A message that speaks to me of community and trust and love, in the people I am called to share the journey with and ultimately in my good and gracious God. We carry our share in love and hope, but we don’t carry it all. And that my friends is a blessing worth remembering indeed.

We each have responsibilities born of promise and commitment, whether that be a parent to a child, between spouses, in religious community, or in common work and friendship. But part of the beauty of being human is that we are inherently social beings and we share that load even as we face the future together in gratitude and hope.

Video Prayer Reflection: Be Not Afraid

This Easter Friday morning, I found myself praying with this song – “And Jesus Said” by Tony Alonso. Here’s a little video prayer reflection I made a little while ago to this beautiful song.

And Jesus said
Don’t be afraid
I’ve come to turn your fear to hope
I’ve come to take you through the deep
To be your friend
Until the end
And give your troubled heart to sleep

Write Your Story: A Video Prayer Reflection

So I had lots of plans for today. Lots and lots of plans to do lots of important things. But first I went for a long walk and had a little conversation with God, as I’m apt to do on long walks.  That’s where the poem I posted earlier today came from. When I returned home and turned on my computer to start working on Chapter 6 of my thesis, instead I felt an overwhelming urge to make a video prayer reflection set to “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli.

A little bit of background. I’d never heard this song or the artist (it’s not one of my regular musical genres) until this summer when I was planning a retreat for Catholic Sisters in their 40s with some friends from Giving Voice. My friend Rejane suggested this song for one of our prayer experiences during the retreat, where we were also going to invite folks to write a six word memoir (which is an excellent exercise by the way–try it!).

On the first listen, I wasn’t super excited about the song. But it got stuck in my head. And my heart. And so I listened to it … again, and again, and again. As it happens, about this time I was invited by my community to discern something pretty huge that seemed beyond anything I could imagine for me right now, but which at the same time seemed like maybe what God was in fact inviting me to next. At this point, it would probably help if you heard the song I’ve been praying with since July:

Listening to the song, I can’t help but be reminded of Jeremiah 29: 11: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Of course, just a couple of chapters earlier Jeremiah realized he had been “duped”!)

Discernment is about listening to your heart. But discernment is also about listening to what God has written on your heart, and opening yourself up to what has not yet been written. It’s all well and good writing those words here, or even discerning something huge. Then comes actually stepping into the new chapter, taking a deep breath and learning to trust.

Apparently that was what I needed to do today, take a deep breath and sink into God’s love, because all day turned out to be an unplanned prayer day. Or, at least unplanned by me. The mischievous Holy Spirit may have had other plans. I trust that what needs to get done, my many plans for important things, will get done.

I mentioned the exercise we did on retreat where we invited folks to write their memoir in six words. Here’s mine:  Nonstop brain. Opened Heart. Seeking Peace.

She had the music in her

Me an Mom, circa 1973
Me an Mom, circa 1973

Today would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. The title of this post comes from a song that’s been stuck in my head today as I’m remembering the gift my mom was in my life and to the world–“You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals.

You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget you only get what you give

It’s a wee bit ironic, because my Mom was basically tone deaf in the musical sense. But she was very in tune with the needs of the world around her, from her own family, to her local community, to our wounded world. She was in tune with the gifts that God had given her and she shared them with a big heart and a belief that things could be better.

My mom raised five children and made it very clear to us that we are supposed to work to make the world a better place, in whatever ways we can.  She loved being a grandmother and how her own kids passed on the dream of a better world.

My mom cared for her own parents through great sacrifice. She modeled the power of presence.

My mom was an equal partner with my Dad, both at home and in the wider world where they were community builders and active participants on behalf of the common good.

My mom campaigned for justice, advocated for the needs of people who were poor, worked on Capitol Hill to help constituents access government resources, and accompanied men and women in prison so that they could rebuild their lives after their release.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over eleven years since she died. A lot has happened in my own life since then, including the decision to become a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. Yet I feel her presence and know that she is smiling about the many and varied ways her kids have grown, changed, and done their best to make the world a better place.

In the words of the song that’s stuck in my head as I remember her (not that she would have liked the song, especially not the few “bad” words):

“You’ll be ok follow your heart.”

A wonderful lesson that I learned from my mom’s life, witness, and love.