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Did we see Jesus?

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban's with "Homeless Jesus"

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s with “Homeless Jesus”

He’s right in front of us. All the time. There’s no denying it. We see him everywhere and in everything.

If – and it is a big if – we choose to see him. And how often we choose quite the opposite… We either willingly, or unwillingly look away.

That’s the Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, in Davidson, North Carolina. Father Buck and his parish community, through a donation, installed a replica of the controversial “Homeless Jesus” statue originally created by sculptor Tim Schmaltz. In full disclosure, I know David Buck and have been to St. Alban’s; I was present when he and a dear friend of mine were married a few years back.

Today’s Gospel is the one that inspired the statue, Matthew 25. This famous chapter can be Continue reading

The Work of Your Hands – Part Two

macalintal-work-of-your-handsWelcome to part two of my interview with Diana Macalintal, author of The Work of Your Hands. Part one, which includes a review of the book can be found here. Today we finish up the interview, learning a bit more about Diana and about her work as a professional liturgist and author of many prayers and more than one book… with more books to follow!

At the end of this post you will find a video that Diana refers to in her reply to the first question for today. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch it; the video left me quite teary eyed. The video, which includes a spoken version of one of her prayers, is truly moving.

I’m grateful to Diana for her generosity in replying to these questions with such joy and candor! Now, on to our interview…

Q. Did any prayers or blessings end up “on the cutting room floor?” And will there be more books to follow?

There were a lot! The editors at LitPress really wanted a collection that could be used for personal, individual prayer. Therefore, many of the prayers that were more focused on parish life or on more specific historical events didn’t make the cut. One of my favorite prayers, “Prayer after the Earthquake in Haiti,” is perhaps my most popular prayer. I was moved to write it almost immediately after the news broke on January 12, 2010, and I posted it on the Diocese of San Jose liturgy blog. Soon, I started seeing it everywhere on websites, parish bulletins, homilies, and other media (a young adult group in New Zealand made a video prayer montage of the text, and Louis Cantor, a music minister and composer in the United States set the prayer to music). It’s even been translated into Spanish and French. A year later, when an earthquake devastated Christchurch in New Zealand, the prayer found life again and was adapted by Christians in New Zealand. I was sad to not have it chosen for this collection—the title, The Work of Your Hands, comes from one of the lines in the Haiti prayer, but I’m hoping LitPress will invite me to provide another collection of prayers. I guess it all depends on how well this first collection does!

Q. What was the best part of publishing this volume? And the worst?

The best part was searching through all my files and putting all my prayers together. It was the first time I had them all collected in one place. There were prayers not just from the magazine but also from my own work throughout the years when I needed a special prayer for a particular liturgy or blessing as well as from some dabbling in poetry and poetic reflection. It was really encouraging to see so much of the original work I had done over the years and to feel proud of it. I think the next best thing was reading through the final proof before it went to print. I was so struck at how much Scripture flowed throughout the text and has influenced how I personally pray myself. I don’t think of myself as someone very adept with Scripture, but I can see how the liturgy has certainly imbued me with a scriptural spirit.

I’m not sure there’s a worst part to this adventure. I feel so blessed to have been invited to do this and to receive so much support and encouragement from friends and people I have admired for so long—great pray-ers whom I have tried to follow! I guess the worst part will be trying to follow it with another collection and wondering if I can provide something new and inspiring. For a procrastinator, it will certainly be a challenge!

Q. Your book is dedicated to your grandmother Irene, now of blessed memory. +Irene died the day that the book was published. Although your forward speaks beautifully about her, and her influence on your own life of prayer, would you be able to tell us something else about her?

The book officially reached the warehouse at LitPress at the end of January, and I think the first copy shipped the first Monday of February. My grandmother died early in the morning on Thursday, February 6. I think I was so close to her, even though I didn’t really get to spend much time with her as an adult, because she, with my aunts, raised me for the first two years of my life. When I was born in the Philippines, my parents only had a few months before their visas would expire that would allow them to immigrate to the United States. They would be the first of our family to make the move to the U.S. So about two months after I was born, my parents handed me to my grandmother and my mom’s sisters to raise me for the next two years in Manila while they began a new life in California. My Lola (Tagalog for “grandmother”) and my aunts, in many ways, were my first family. But I am so grateful for my parents who made that very difficult decision to leave their first-born because it gave our entire family over the next several decades the opportunity to live in the U.S. and become citizens of this amazing country.

Q. What’s the next big thing for you?

Locally, the Rite of Election is always a big and joyful event here in the Diocese of San Jose, and I’m getting the liturgies ready for that. After that, I’ll be travelling in mid-March (along with about 30,000 other Catholics!) to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim. This year, I’ll be doing several things there: I’ve been commissioned to write the opening proclamation that will take place during the Friday opening prayer. Then I’ll be presiding and preaching at the Saturday Evening Prayer. Finally, I’ll lead a workshop on Sunday on prayer and will be using a lot of examples from my book.

Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal

Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal

In terms of publishing, Liturgical Press is currently editing a manuscript my husband, Nick Wagner, and I wrote late last year. The plan is to call it Joined by the Church, Sealed by a Blessing: Couples and Communities Called to Conversion Together. It’s a resource book for parishes to help them model their wedding preparation process after the principles of adult formation found the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In it, we try to help parishes take seriously the church’s statement that the baptismal catechumenate is the model for all catechesis. Basically, we show parishes how to stop preparing couples for marriage and start preparing them for lifelong discipleship as married persons. Now that one was really, really difficult to write because my husband is so not a procrastinator! But God helped us get through the writing process, nonetheless. We’re looking forward to seeing it in print hopefully later this year or early 2015.

Thank you again to Diana Macalintal. Remember that you can order this book from Liturgical Press, getting either the ebook, the paperback, or the bundle which includes both. Or – order a subscription to Give Us This Day for yourself or as a gift, and receive a free copy of the book!

Here is the video of her prayer for the earthquake in Haiti, but used after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Work of Your Hands – A Review and Interview, Part 1

8998c3abdc34dd462fc47e74a589d9d1My first conscious knowledge of the work of Diana Macalintal was a few years ago. Fr. Austin Fleming posted a prayer to his blog that Diana had written regarding a tragedy at that time. Earthquake? Hurricane? I don’t recall. I do recall loving the prayer, and wanting to share it widely. After that, I started to “see” Diana online in various places, and eventually came to know her on Facebook.

Diana Macalintal

Diana Macalintal

Diana is the Director of Worship for the Diocese of San Jose – and so much more. (See that link for details.) She is one of the most engaging and enthusiastic Roman Catholics, a person full of joy for the work of all of our hands as the people of God.

Her most recent book is, The Work of Your Hands, Prayers for Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments of Grace, from Liturgical Press. Today I present a review of the book, along with offering the first part of an interview with the author. (Part two of that interview will be posted tomorrow.)

Every now and then a book comes along that you know will become a dog-eared and well-worn companion. Although my copy is brand new, still redolent with “new book smell” I can see it becoming beat up due to frequent use.

Many of us who work in any form of ministry often need to have a prayer or blessing at hand. If you are someone in this situation, I am guessing that you may use various resources, beyond the internet, such as a the Book of Blessings, or Prayers for the Domestic Church.

Whether or not you use these resources, please add this resource to your list – The Work of Your Hands is a slim volume that overflows with prayers for all kinds of situations. Some of you may recall that I recently posted Diana’s Valentine Prayer When Your Heart Is Broken.

There are many other unique and heartfelt offerings. One of my favorites is the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of Saint Expeditus. There are prayers for all kinds of things, from when our animal companions are dying, to blessing for brains, and for when the experience of being at mass and feeling empty.

Even for those who are not ministers, this book is full of comforting, wise, and useful words, that will console and enliven you, and to help you do the same for others. As Christians, we are called to be Christ, and this book will be a wonderful companion along the way.

Feb2014CoverSmall enough to fit in your pocket or purse, this book is diminutive in size, but large sized in blessings and grace. It has a great price point, of $7.95, or $5.99 for the ebook. You can also take advantage of the bundle to get both editions for only $9.49. That is a great deal! You can also get this book, as long as the offer lasts, when you subscribe to Give Us This Day.

If I have one complaint about this book it is this… Make it longer please! I want more prayers and blessings. Perhaps there will be a second volume?

And to find out if there will be more prayers – plus a lot more, let us turn to our interview. Here is part one, with part two posted on Tuesday.

Q. Diana, how did you end up as a liturgist and liturgical minister?

You can see a bit on how I got started in liturgical ministry here. This was an intro video that the Midatlantic Congress had asked me, as a keynote speaker, to prepare for last year’s conference. So that’s how I began in ministry.

But all through my childhood and high school days, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, and I participated in music ministry because it was a way to play music and sing in front of people. But when I got to college and participated in the Newman Center liturgies at UCLA with the Paulist Fathers, I discovered how liturgy, well-prepared, changed people and changed their lives. It gave them hope and courage and a bigger sense of mission in the world. That’s when I began to be interested in knowing how to be more than just a musician; I wanted to know how the liturgy worked and how to get people participating more in it. Because the more they felt engaged in the liturgy, the more they would engage in doing the work of Christ in the world. My boss at that time, Fr. Tom Jones, CSP, told me that if I wanted to know anything about the liturgy—and even more so, if I wanted to do any serious work in the church around the liturgy and have the respect of those I work with—I had to read and know the liturgical documents of the church. He gave me my first copy of the Vatican II documents, and he sent me to local liturgy workshops and national conferences and institutes to make sure I got the training I needed. Once I left the Newman Center seven years later, I knew being a liturgist was absolutely what I wanted to be.

Q. You have packed a remarkable breadth and depth of prayers and blessings into 72 pages, was this difficult to do?

Actually, it was easy for me because I had been writing those prayers over the span of several years. For many years, I was a freelance writer for a magazine called “Today’s Parish.” Originally, I wrote short articles on liturgy. But after a while, the editor asked me if I could write prayers that didn’t exist in any official ritual book but were needed in today’s world. So I began writing at least two original prayers for each issue. So when Liturgical Press asked if I would consider putting a collection of prayers together, I already had almost 100 prayers to share. I think the editors at LitPress had the harder task of deciding which prayers to include and which to leave out.

Q. Some of your prayers and blessings concern unique, yet widely lived circumstances, such as Prayer for When Mass Feels Empty, or the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of St. Expeditus, or the Blessing of Brains; what drew you to create these and other unusual prayers and blessings?

When the editor of “Today’s Parish” asked me to write original prayers for the magazine, he asked me to write prayers that didn’t already exist. At first, I thought of basic church events, like First Communion preparation. (I think my first original published prayer was a blessing of First Communion candidates.) So even though I was given a pretty broad mandate, I still stuck close to the usual themes for prayers. But after a while, it started getting harder to come up with ideas…until I started looking at my own life and the concerns I had from day to day and those of my friends. What needs did they (and I) have when it came to prayer? Once I made it more personal, I found so many ordinary, daily life things that called for prayer.

For example, I love collecting interesting images, icons, and retablos of saints. At the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress one year, I found a retablo of Saint Expeditus, the patron of procrastinators. I did a web search on him and actually found a novena in his honor! But I am such an excellent procrastinator, and the words of the novena didn’t quite speak to me. I knew my procrastination was a troublesome habit, but I also knew that it didn’t make me a “bad” person. I just worked differently than others, but there are certainly parts of my work style that could use a lot of improvement too. Yet, I trusted that God uses all of us, our strengths and weaknesses to accomplish his work on earth. So I thought of some of the stories in the Bible. Who were the great procrastinators there? I thought immediately of Jonah who did everything to put off doing the thing he didn’t want to, and the workers who arrived late in the day but got paid the same as the early comers. So that “Prayer for Procrastinators” is really a prayer I wrote for myself.

So my own experience gave me lots of themes to play with. So did the liturgical year. “Prayer with the Woman at the Well” is one such prayer that came out of my Lenten reflection one year and the question of what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to that woman.

But most of all, I got my ideas from paying attention to what was happening in the news or in my friends’ lives. I had and still have friends dealing with cancer. What prayer could be theirs in that struggle? I know people who feel inadequate to be a godparent, but said yes anyway. What words could encourage them? Thankfully, I’ve never had to do it, but many of my friends have lost beloved pets. I saw how devastating it was for them, and thought surely the church has a prayer for that. But all I could find was a blessing of animals, and even that blessing didn’t capture the unique and intimate relationship humans can have with their pets. So I wrote a prayer to try to help soothe my friends’ heartache in that moment of saying goodbye to their animal companion. I still get notes and emails from complete strangers who tell me they prayed that prayer the same morning they put their pet to sleep and how it brought their family such comfort in a difficult time.

I think if we just look around us and pay close attention to what people really need in their lives to have hope and trust that God indeed cares for them, we can find many things for which to pray and lift up in prayer.

To be continued tomorrow…

Lenten Resource Giveaway Winners

RoPaxman_We-have-a-winnerThanks to one and all who read the blogs and commented. We have our winners, who have been contacted.

If there was one goal to this series, it was to try to help clear the way for each of you to find a way to have a meaningful Lent.

In the meantime, I will be posting reflections here, and I welcome any of you to consider doing the same. If you are interested, please contact me about submissions.

I took the names from all the blog sites, for a particular post, and put them in a hat, book by book. They were drawn out, and the winners are as follows:

  • The Living Gospel – KB
  • Everyone’s Way of the Cross – Bridget
  • Change Our Hearts – Christine
  • Not By Bread Alone – Diane
  • The Ignatian Workout for Lent – Peg

Thank you again, one and all! Blessings to you for Lent!

Resources for Lent – Book Reviews and Round Up Coming Soon

sign-for-lent-with-integrated-crossThis week I will post some reviews and a general round up of Lenten resources. Lent is only a couple of weeks away, and I am behind in posting this! You should still have time to order what you need, and you may even end up winning a copy of one of the books!

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Books that will be reviewed include, although not necessarily in this order:

Plus, I may have some other surprises for you! If you are not already a subscriber or follower of this blog, this may be a good time to do so. Also, you can follow the parish on Facebook to get your updates. Thank you!

Hello? Is anyone here?

-1So things have been pretty quiet here at the blog, haven’t they? Let me explain why.

Well, truth be told I have been sick off and on. Overall, I will be fine, but I have been working through some health things. So that has taken up some of my time, and taken away some of my energy.

Add to that, one of my slowest periods of writing is always after the new year, up until Lent begins. While I have written some things for my personal blog. Many times, I will just cross post things over here, but recently I have begun to wonder if this blog is well rounded enough for the parish. We have some other writers, during Advent and Lent, and at some other intervals, but I do need to restart efforts to find other contributors on a regular basis. If anyone is interested in writing, please let me know.

In the meantime, all is well, but things may stay quiet until Lent, when near daily posting should take place! All are welcome to read my personal blog, There Will Be Bread, although that’s been pretty quiet, too!

In the meantime, peace and good to all!

Hard hearts

HardHeart“They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.”

These are the last two lines of today’s Gospel from Mark. For whatever reason, I don’t feel as if I have ever read them before. In fact, I felt shock when I read them earlier today.

“They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.”

This makes me think about how we live in the midst of grace and miracles all the time, but we frequently do not understand, and our hearts are hardened as well.

What makes us so quick to judge?

If the Church does this or that, if the Pope says this or that, if a popular Catholic writer or blogger says this or that, if our priest, bishop, or someone else we know from church says this or that, many of us tend to want to circle around that person in admiration. Of course, just as often, we want to circle around that person to deride, judge, or attack.

How do we allow Jesus to thaw our hearts? Are we even interested in such a thing? Do we want to be justified? Or transformed?

Today I hope to see the miracles and grace that are all around me. Today I pray to not react with a hard heart, but to respond with the openness of grace that allows me to see God in all things.

Now what?

new-years-resolutionsWith the holidays falling in the middle of the week, the weather and whatever else, it seems that today is the proper “start” of the year for most of us.

Now what?

Resolutions do not seem to be a good thing for me, so I typically do not make them. For reasons that I don’t understand, this year has gotten off to a very different start for me. Perhaps it was because I spent most of December being sick, after having spent a big chunk of November getting all kinds of tests medical tests. The tests and the sickness seem to be unrelated, but who knows.

In any event, I seem to have used every day of January thus far, including the first day of the year, purging, cleaning, organizing and more. I do not know why. Purging, cleaning, and organizing are as unlikely to me as resolutions themselves. The idea of any or all of those actions are not unlikely to me – just the reality of doing any of them for so many days in a row!

Today is Monday however, back to work, back to life. My health is holding its own, I am ready to get back to routines. Now what? Will I be able to sustain this?

There are a number of irons in my fire right now; writing deadlines passed, book ideas in my head, retreat possibilities, and other enterprises. Not to mention the daily business of life itself, home, family, work.

c2013_r1_2014_01_01dp950The Feast of the Epiphany that we celebrated yesterday reminds me that there is always a star in the sky. It is this orientation that I begin the new year with, following that star. Yet, the question remains, now what?

Papal Patience, Holy Waiting, and An IC Advent Movie Event

4.2.7Tonight I will host a viewing of “I Would Be Called John,” a one man play about Pope John XXIII, starring Charles Durning. Written by Eugene Kennedy and shot in 1986, the show aired on PBS during September of 1987.

It was interesting to watch the film a few times in preparation, and to hear some of Bl. John XXIII’s ideas, hopes, dreams, and prayers for our Church. His life was certainly interesting, growing up as the son of a tenant farmer, then his life in the Church. He was a humble man and that humility came with him to the Vatican. Pope John XXIII’s focus was very much on how to make a faith real for people.

One thing that struck me is that he wanted hearts and minds that were fully engaged with faith and with the world – and that meant not only transforming the Church for those of us who are members of the Body of Christ, but also for the Curia and those in the Vatican. He had an almost mischievous intensity about what the Holy Spirit urged him to do, something that had been brewing in him for a lifetime of service.

So what?

This also came to mind… I am constantly amazed by the over-the-top praise (OK, I have done it myself…) and over-the-top criticism of Pope Francis. As I watched the movie and saw what Pope John XXIII was up to, I saw a connection to what Pope Francis is up to. I also saw connections to what the four popes in between were up to, as well. It is all God’s work in the world, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Each moment is but a moment, just like we are all members of the Body of Christ.

We are in this season of Advent waiting, the Holy Waiting that we are called to by God. If we think that all of this is happening on our timetable and in our lives, think again. We sit in the shade of trees that were tiny seeds entering the earth a long time ago. So it is with faith, our lives are the seeds of future growth.

This year I am experiencing a rare form of patience, one typically unknown to me. How grateful I am to have been asked to facilitate this movie night, because it led me to see Pope John XXIII in a deeper light – and Advent too. I think of him, that he must have known that the seeds he scattered back then, would take a long time to grow. What hope, what waiting, what patience! From saplings to the ancient woodland forest, God’s work is everywhere. Like Advent, seeds spread long ago, still germinating, still growing, still taking root to this day. May we all find the peace of Advent in that long arc of grace, God forever at work in this world.

(The DVD “I Would Be Called John” will be shown here at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 10 AM, hosted by Deacon Michael Melanson, and again at 7 PM, hosted by me. Viewings will take place in the Flicker Room, at the Parish Center. There is no admission, but donations are always gratefully accepted. All are welcome!)

Life & Books – Flawed and beautiful, broken and blessed

1469778_584035771669027_1808076260_nA little over a month ago, I wrote about the latest edition in the Homilists for the Homeless series, Naked and You Clothed Me; Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A. Since then we went to press, found a missing page, had to go to press again, and we are shipping. Upon shipping, we discovered the creative use of an out-of-cycle-gospel, from one of the authors… that one’s staying. Our book, life, the whole thing – flawed and beautiful, broken and blessed, right?!

Yes, indeed.

So now, broken and blessed, flawed and beautiful, I would like to tell you a little more about our book. Yes, I know – I’m in it, so I am biased. What can I tell you? I’m flawed, too. Beautiful? I’ll leave that one up to you.

ClothedMe.Cover_.Full_-e1372305936491If you are not already familiar with our series, our first book came out last year; Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C. When I was first contacted by Deacon Jim Knipper, our founder, editor, and publisher, in early 2012, he told me about his idea for a book of homilies and reflections based on the three year lectionary. What I heard was that a small book, maybe spiral bound (I have a vivid imagination, what can I tell you…) like a parish cookbook, that we could sell to raise money for charitable causes. Now Jim never said small, spiral bound, but that’s what I heard. I went along on my merry way and began to work on my assigned Sundays, and then he mentioned something about James Martin, SJ. *gulp* Excuse me, who? And then Richard Rohr, OFM. *what the what?*

I gasped for breath thinking, “Wait? You mean THE Richard Rohr who I read when I returned to church in 1990, the one that encouraged me to stay in church? THAT Richard Rohr?” Yes, that Richard Rohr. That James Martin. And me – haha – in a book together!?! Good bye, spiral binding! I soon learned of the many well known contributors, and some less known, and then me. In a book. Together. Wheee! I was humbled, terrified, grateful, and excited.

In any case, our book exceeded all expectations, selling many copies, that benefited the selected charities, and winning awards. So now we are back for the second year in the three year cycle. We have added a lot of new authors, and retained all the existing authors. Check out the photo at the top of the post to see who is included.

Please visit our new website at Clear Faith Publishing, where you will also find Christmas cards, calendars and some books by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS. Yes this is a shamless plug for our book (charity!), and for Br. Mickey’s work, but what can I tell you – as a human, I am flawed, possibly beautiful (that’s God’s work,not mine!), broken, and very definitely blessed.

Thanks for your consideration. And if you are inclined to share this via social media, please do! Thanks!

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