Monthly Archives: June 2016

Doing what I love

At the end of a rather extended dream this morning, someone asked me, “Why are you so cheerful?”

“Because I am doing what I love,” was my immediate response.

What I love I have the blessing to be able to do. This doesn’t mean that it is always easy nor that I do it well. But my love guides what I do and gives me joy.

As I reflected on this, I noted that I didn’t answer that I do what I love. What comes first for me is the love.

I know there are many people stuck in dull, dreary, and onerous work. They at times come to find joy in what they do. They grow accustomed to what some might seem monotonous, tiring, boring, or hard labor. But in some way they begin to find love in what they do.

I remember encountering in the 1990s a woman working in Ross Hall at Iowa State University. She did cleaning as well as waxing the floors of the offices and halls in this building filled with professors with PhDs. I don’t know how much formal education she had, but she had something that many of us over-educated professionals lack. She loved what she did and took great pride in it.

On day, I was in Mary Sawyer’s office which she kindly shared with me when I was teaching a class that semester. The woman came in and explained that she was going to do a deep cleaning and waxing of the floor.

The pride she took in her work was evident. She was not just doing a job; she was making the world a better place.

I feel bad that I don’t know her name, but I see her as one of the many anonymous people who hold our world together by her loving labor.

She loved what she did but even more I think she did what she loved – not merely cleaning and waxing but helping to transform the world and make it beautiful for others.

I think she found joy in doing what she loved.

I pray that I may continue to cherish what I love – the service of God and God’s people – and that I may continue doing it, with joy.

A late diaconal vocation

Ordained a deacon late in life, St. Ephrem the Syrian declined the priesthood and escaped being ordained a bishop by feigning madness.

I like him. God willing, on July 15, I will be ordained a deacon late in life – 69 years old. And I will resist any efforts to being more than a diakonos, a servant.

13434782_1175030119187411_8094246067143087954_nI like Saint Ephrem for other reasons.

He instructed the people in the faith with words but also with songs. He knew the value of music and how it forms us. So he composed a number of hymns that are still used in the Syriac liturgy.

A month before his death he left his cave and went to help the victims of a terrible famine.

He was a diakonos, a servant of the Word, the Altar, and charity. What all deacons should be.

But what I most treasure from Saint Ephrem are his prayers, especially this one which I encountered in 1975.

I had sent a donation to the Catholic Worker and received a thank you card back. On it is written this prayer of St. Ephrem, taken from Helen Waddell’s Desert Fathers:

   Sorrow on me, beloved! that I unapt and reluctant in my will abide, and behold winter hath come upon me and the infinite tempest hath found me naked and spoiled and with no perfecting of good in me. I marvel at myself, O my beloved, how I daily default and daily do repent; I build up for an hour and an hour overthrows what I have builded.
At evening I say, tomorrow, I will repent, but when morning comes, joyous I water the day. Again at evening I say, I shall keep vigil all night and I shall entreat the Lord to have mercy on my sins. But when night is come I am full of sleep.
Behold, those who received their talent along with me, strive by day and night to trade with it, that they may win the word of praise and rule ten cities. But I in my sloth hid mine in the earth and my Lord makes haste to come, and behold my heart trembles and I weep the day of my negligence and know not what excuse to bring. Have mercy upon me, thou who alone are without sin, and save me, who alone art merciful and kind.

I still have that card and occasionally pray this prayer. I keep the card in a book of the Grail translation of the psalter, at Psalm 51, the psalm of repentance.

As I prepare for ordination as a permanent deacon, I think I need to pray this prayer even more. For even though some will say at the ordination day that “He is worthy,” I know that I am in continual need of the mercy of God who alone makes us worthy.

Another blog post on Saint Ephrem, with his Lenten prayer, can be found here.

Image taken from a Facebook post of the Catholic Peace Fellowship.




The medicine of mercy

Today, the Spouse of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy…
Pope Saint John XXIII

Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the sign of God’s infinite mercy to us.

At times, mercy seems in short supply in our world – and even in our Church. It is easier to blame others for their failings and for the problems of the world than to see where God’s mercy has been poured out to us and where we can spread it.

Last night, reading the Vespers hymn for the feast in Benedictine Daily Prayer, I came across this stanza:

O Jesus, Savior of the world,
You gave Your life that we might live,
That we might show Your love divine
With those who have no love to give.

The love, the mercy of God, has been poured out on us so that we might share it.

As I am preparing for my diaconal ordination on July 15, I had to think about vestments. I had a stole made by the Tucson Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and asked them to put this image that comes from Blessed Charles de Foucauld, which expresses my sense of calling – under the shadow of the Cross to show the mercy of the Heart of Christ Jesus.


Lord, let your mercy surround me and all those I seek to serve here.

As Pope Francis wrote in the bull to introduce the year of the Jubilee of Mercy,  Misericordiae Vultus: The Face of Mercy (12):

The Church has the mission of announcing the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person.