Tag Archives: Jesus

Be seen and heard

Shh.

Be quiet.

Don’t speak.

Be seen and not heard.

Make yourself small.

Cower in the corner.

Become invisible.

Keep the little girl inside you little.

This is my beloved Son; listen to him, God said of Jesus.

Did God say of me, This is my beloved daughter; listen to her?

But who can hear me when I am being quiet?

How can you listen to me when I am not speaking?

If I remain tucked in the corner, trying to be invisible,

how can I spread God’s message of love and forgiveness?

God whispers to me.

Think big thoughts.

Speak up.

Make yourself seen and heard.

A poem on retreat

One of the requirements of the Internship in Ignatian Spirituality is a silent retreat (at least five days). I have gone on silent retreats for more than thirty years, but several of the people in the program had not. Last year, one of them, Amy, happened to sign up for retreat the same time as I was going to be there, so I offered to meet her before we entered the silence and give her an orientation to the retreat house, the grounds and the neighborhood (for walks). Amy returned to Manresa Retreat House for retreat this year and sent me this poem she composed while on retreat, which she dedicated to me. I am so touched and honored.

Summer Solstice Psalm

For Madeline who introduced me to Quarton Lake

All creatures of our God and King,

Lift up your voice and with us sing.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

 (William Henry Draper with inspiration from St Francis)

May you open your self to the light like the lily that blooms in muddy water.

(a gem from my yogi friend, Sharon)

Light beams.

Geese swim.

Robins sing.

Fish flop.

Wood ducks lift

and land

and flap.

Herons stalk

and jab

and fly

with wide wings

oh so low.

Cottonwood fibers sail past on the breeze.

Metallic blue fireflies mate in midair.

A painted turtle soaks up the sun.

Walkers chat on a gravel path and side step               the geese.

In the surrounding neighborhood,

homeowners weed

landscapers mow

and earth movers dig.

Drills whirl.

Saws spin.

Roofers pound.

Huge houses emerge.

Down at the water’s edge, a pilgrim rests.

She spies a tiny black insect on a white petal.

Consider this lily

that bobs on the water

with the deep joy

that nudges our hips to sway

when we hum spirituals.

Amy Fryar Kennedy

June 21, 2022

Art outside museums

Throughout my travels in France, I visited several art museums, and I also noticed art in some unexpected places. The main street in Barbizon, for example, featured mosaic reproductions of works by artists who lived and woked in Barbizon in the 19th century.

Barbizon-Art-France
Barbizon-Art-France

Barbizon-Art-France

Honfleur sits along the northern end of the Seine River and this outdoor wall art is representative of the nautical feel of the town.

Honfleur-travel-France

In Angers, this artistic garden in what had been the moat around the castle drew my attention.

Angers-France-travel

This mural in Lyon covered an entire building.

Lyon-France-travel

I was in Lyon during Holy Week and came upon these Stations of the Cross. The juxtaposition of this modern interpretation of the Passion of Jesus on the ancient pillars was striking.

Lyon-France-travel
Lyon-France-travel

Lyon-France-travel

Leaving my losses at the foot of the cross

Jesus-sorrows-healing

In the early 1980’s. while working at University Lutheran Church at the University of Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to go on a Palm Sunday weekend retreat with the Taize brothers from Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. I felt privileged to be among this group of pilgrims preparing for Holy Week. The retreat house was in rural Maryland, and signs of spring were all around us.

The small chapel where the brothers led us in Taize prayer services was dominated by a large wooden cross, and we were invited to meditate on the cross.

I remember sitting in front of the cross on Saturday afternoon and imagining the scene on the day Jesus died. I imagined Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalen (my patron saint) at the foot of the cross, overcome with sorrow, crying out in anguish. In my imagination, I joined them at the foot of the cross and looked up at the dying Jesus. I gasped at the sight of Jesus in agony.

As I sat with Mary and Mary Magdalen, I joined in their questioning the scene before them. Poor Mary, recalling the prophesy of Simeon that her heart would be pierced. How right he had been!

Poor Mary Magdalen, losing the only man she truly loved, the man who had given her hope and loved her into wholeness.

How could this be? Where was God in all this? How could God abandon Jesus and us?

Even though Jesus had suggested bad things would happen in Jerusalem, we had no idea he meant this bad. I wondered how I had missed the signs, how I had misinterpreted what Jesus had been saying. How blind I had been, how comfortable in my denial.

As we watched Jesus dying and heard him cry out to God in his abandonment, my heart broke, and I wept along with Mary and Mary Magdalen.

Tears streamed down my face as I thought of the losses in my own life, of times when things did not go as I had hoped, of unmet expectations and crushed dreams. I joined Jesus, Mary and Mary Magdalen in the depths of despair. I questioned God’s love and care for me.

And then, one of the Taize brothers approached me and gently invited me to lay my burdens at the foot of the cross. “Lay them down,” he said, “and walk away.” He told me to trust that Jesus would take up whatever was weighing me down.

What? Just let go of the hurts I had been carrying around for so long? Let go of those losses that had shaped me? Those painful events that I had survived and carried as a badge of honor?

The brother sensed my hesitancy, my resistance, and reminded me of the resurrection. God did come through. God is faithful.

By the time we left that retreat house on Sunday afternoon, I felt ready to enter Holy Week, believing that God’s love would transform my sorrow into resurrection joy.

Originally published in Manresa Matters, Spring 2022.

A message from art

I love to travel, and last week, I visited friends in Ireland. When I travel, I try to be especially mindful of my surroundings and pay attention to what I notice.

My friend and I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and there we saw, among other great works of art, The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio, which had apparently been hiding in plain sight above a mantle in a Jesuit house in Dublin for many years.

The Taking of Christ is full of emotion, and I stood looking at it for a while. What caught my attention, though, were Jesus’ hands, which were clasped loosely in front of him and looked like a sign of acceptance or surrender. His face had an air of resignation; his hands confirmed it. Jesus was not going to put up a fight; he would be led to his execution.

Jesus-mindfulness-prayer
‘The Taking of Christ’ by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Later, I came upon The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes by Giovanni Lanfranco, and I again noticed the hands in the painting more than anything else. There are hands raised in supplication, hands being used as support and hands pointing. Most of the hands are empty and outstretched, waiting for bread.

I wondered why the hands in these paintings were grabbing my attention. Is there something in the position of the hands that might hold some meaning for me? Am I being invited to a deeper level of surrender? How am I like the people in The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes? Am I grasping for some nourishment?

Jesus-mindfulness-prayer
“The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, ” Giovanni Lanfranco, Italian, 1582-1647

I also wondered what my hands might be saying about me—do they convey a message about what is going on in my life? Is there something in the way I position my hands that reveals something about me?

My friend did not notice the hands in these paintings. She noticed the expressions on the faces in The Taking of Christ and the people more generally in The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, so I know there is some invitation or message specifically for me in my noticing the hands in these paintings.

Last month, I saw an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Art called By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800. Perhaps that set off some sort of fascination with hands in art, although I don’t remember being particularly drawn to hands in any of the paintings at that exhibit.

As I walked through the National Gallery, pondering the possible message of the hands in those two paintings, the words of St. Theresa of Avila came to mind: “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet but yours…” How am I using my hands? How might I use them to benefit others?

My spiritual director recently reminded me that God speaks to us through all sorts of channels—prayer, scripture, people, rituals, events, art, etc. These two works of art spoke to me, inviting me to pay attention and to be open.

Lent reimagined

I have lived through many Lents, and I have my usual ways of observing the season, focusing less on giving up something and more on doing something different.

This Lent, I read of two Lenten observances that were new takes on Lenten practices.

The first was a walking Lenten observance. Since I love to walk—both for exercise and as a meditative practice—this suggestion appealed to me. It came from a Lenten blog called Walking the Path of Lent with Friends which offers different ways to walk through Lent.

One suggestion was to walk with Jesus—that is, to walk 90 miles, the distance Jesus walked from Nazareth to Jerusalem. The idea of intentionally calling upon Jesus to walk with me during Lent intrigued me, and so I began inviting Jesus to walk with me on my daily walks. I tried to look at my surroundings through Jesus’ eyes, to view my neighbors and nature as Jesus might see them.  

Almost immediately, I was aware that my walks are all circular—I start and end at my house— while Jesus was walking toward a destination, so I adjusted my idea of walking to think more of the path I am walking, because my path has a greater possibility of forward movement, of going somewhere.

What path am I walking? Where is Jesus leading me?

Lent-God-prayer
j

Then I read an article by Brother Tom Smyth, CFC.  He writes:

This past Lent I decided on a different approach; focusing on my gifts rather than my failings.

About a week into Lent, and after some reflection, I identified a number of gifts that I feel I have and printed them up on 8” x 4” placards. I taped them on the wall, in a circle around the crucifix. Putting them there helped keep me focused on why I was doing this, to recognize the abundance in my life that has come through God’s gifts. A few weeks further into Lent, I came across some files containing worksheets from vocation meetings….Instead of identifying the gifts we saw in ourselves, participants identified the gifts they saw in others. I added those gifts to those I had placed around the crucifix. It was powerful, not just to read what others had seen in me, but to recognize that God has truly gifted me, in abundance…After considerable time in reflection, I realized that there is a whole other side to this gift thing. It’s the why. Why has God been so generous to me? My response became, “It hasn’t been for me; we are gifted for others.” We are called to use our gifts in the service of others. The abundance is given to us so that it can be shared.

I like the suggestion of naming my gifts and displaying them. Also, the idea of being gifted for others has been a recurring theme in my prayer. God gives abundantly for us to share abundantly. How am I gifted for others?

Lent-God-prayer

Where is Lent taking you?

Called by name

Jesus calls the twelve (Mark 3:13-19), and he gives three of them nicknames: Simon, he calls Peter (the Rock), and James and John, the sons of Boanerges (thunder). How playful, I thought, and how descriptive. What did he see in them that prompted those nicknames?

I imagine Jesus saw something in Peter that seemed steadfast and unmovable (like a rock), but Peter faltered on more than one occasion. He had flimsy filters and blurted out things that caused Jesus to say, “Get behind me, Satan” and call him a “stumbling block” (Matthew 16:23). Ouch.

In the end, Peter denied knowing Jesus and fled the scene as Jesus died. Not very steadfast.

James and John must have been wild and high-spirited or just plain loud to be called “sons of thunder.” I wonder if their chests expanded when Jesus nicknamed them—proud to be seen as raucous—or if there was an edge to the nickname, a hint they may need to tone it down. That is the thing about nicknames—they can be taken in different ways.

What nickname would Jesus have given me, I wondered.

Fr. Shawn Tracey, O.S.A., once introduced me for a retreat talk, comparing me to the dark clouds swirling around the October sky. Just as he made this comparison, the sun shone through, and he added this to his description—how I could light up a room.

God-Jesus-name

Fr. Tracey knew me well. He knew my dark moods and my stubbornness. He also knew my passion, my love of laughter and my desire to grow.

Would Jesus also consider those characteristics in coming up with a nickname for me?

As I prayed with this reading, wondering what nickname Jesus would have given me, I remembered the Baptism ceremony and how parents are asked, “What name do you give this child?”

My mother had chosen Marlene for her first-born daughter, but my aunt beat her to it and so I became Madeline (Magdalena in Polish), and I have always felt connected to Mary Magdalene (my confirmation name is Mary). She has inspired me by her love of Jesus and her dedication to him. I wonder if Jesus had a nickname for her.

Growing up, I was sometimes called Magda by family, and in my twenties, I was known by a shortened version of my name—Mad. I used to wonder if that was a nickname or just a descriptor, because I was quite angry in my twenties. At some point, though, people started calling me Madeline, and I remember thinking I must not be so mad anymore.

A few people called me Boss, when I was their boss, but I have never had a nickname the way Simon, James and John did, something they were always called.

I think Jesus could have called me Rocky or Thunder, because I am loyal/steadfast and can be quite loud, but might something else also work?

Do you have a nickname? Have you ever wondered what nickname Jesus would give you?

On retreat–I had hoped

On the sixth day of my retreat, my spiritual director suggested I pray with Luke 24:13-35, the Road to Emmaus. The story is that two disciples are walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. They are sad and disappointed.

Then Jesus is walking along with them, but they don’t recognize him. He asks what they are talking about, and they relate what has happened in Jerusalem and what happened to Jesus. “We had hoped…” (Luke 24:21) they said.

Those three words jumped off the page at me, and I repeated them a few times. “We had hoped.” Then I personalized it to, “I had hoped.”

What had I hoped?

I had hoped…

  • To be loved, cherished, valued and respected;
  • To stop the negative messages in my head;
  • To go to college after high school;
  • To visit Poland again;
  • To live in l’Arche for the rest of my life;
  • To reconcile with a friend from Winnipeg, and on and on.

It turns out I had a fair number of dashed hopes. Like the disciples who were feeling let down, I also had hoped and been disappointed.

After a few hours of creating a list of my unfulfilled hopes, I went back to my Bible and finished reading the Road to Emmaus story in Luke.

Jesus says to these two disciples, “How foolish you are and how slow to believe…” and then he explains what happened to him from a different perspective; he reframed the situation.

What Jesus says to these two disciples on the road to Emmaus is that their hopes and their vision were too narrow, too small. The resurrection was bigger than anything they could have imagined or hoped.

Jesus says the same thing to me, too—my vision is to narrow, my hopes are too small, and what I need to do is broaden my vision, to get a different perspective. I need to think big thoughts, to focus on God’s abundance and to remember all the good things that have happened to me.

I thought back to the litany of blessings I had done a few days earlier and how I call myself “the luckiest girl in the world.” It is true that I have had unrealized hopes and dreams; it is also true that I have had opportunities beyond my wildest hopes or dreams.

God’s vision for me is much bigger than I could ever hope or imagine.

Being healed

Do you want to be healed? Jesus asked the man sitting near the pool (John 5:5-15).

Reading that passage, I thought, “What kind of question is that?” Who doesn’t want to be healed?

Can you imagine someone asking you if you want to be healed and you would say, “Hmm, let me think about that.” Rather, I think most of us would answer without hesitation, “Yes, I want to be healed.”

So why does Jesus ask that question?

Perhaps because we may want to be healed in theory, but in reality, we get some benefit from being unhealed. Maybe it is sympathy for our suffering or a familiarity and comfort in our identity as one who suffers. Perhaps it is just that we don’t even know that we are holding onto something that needs healing, let alone how to let go and be healed.

The answer to Jesus’ question might often be a “Yes, but…”

Yes, I want to be healed, but I also want to hold onto some of the identity associated with what ails me, to stick with what feels comfortable.

Yes, I want to be healed, but I do not want let go of all of my anger, resentments and fears.

All kinds of things can cripple us or bind us—old hurts, low self-esteem, insecurity, grief—things we need to work on or through.

That work can be challenging, and the changes might not be evident for a long time. Not every healing happens the immediate way it did with Jesus.

God-forgiveness-healing

I have wounds that go way back to my childhood—and then additional wounds on top of those. Some are more traumatic than others, and some have been healed just as new hurts occurred. It seems to me that healing is the work of a lifetime.

Jesus desires that we be healed. He showed that many times throughout the Gospels, from healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38-41) to the paralyzed man lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-20) to the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 5:25-29). He healed people of all ages and from different backgrounds. He brought Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-42) and Lazarus (John 11:1-44) back from the dead.

He wants us to be healed and live full lives. He wants us to leap up like the man healed by Peter in Acts 3 so that we, too, are “jumping and praising God.”

Oh such joy! Who wouldn’t want that?

Maybe Jesus would ask follow-up questions like, What is stopping you from receiving healing love? What is blocking the path to living more joyfully? What is one thing you can let go of that will make you freer to give and receive forgiveness?

God-forgiveness-healing

I have been thinking a lot lately about seeing people as God sees them, and I believe God sees each of us as our best self, and God’s desire is that we grow into that image, to become the person that God created us to be.