Thank You—The Perfect Prayer

I don’t often feel like a millionaire, in fact I probably more often feel like just another descendent of immigrant grandparents who is blessed with many gifts, i.e. an education, a roof over my head, healthy food to eat and a faith that tells me life is good. Despite this general feeling of well-being, I don’t often say thank you. I need times like our annual Thanksgiving rituals to remind me to do so.

Tania Luna did not experience life so good. At the age of six, as a refugee from the 1968 Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident she dreamt and hoped for a piece of of Bazooka bubble gum. Ten years after arriving in the United States, she decided to celebrate by returning to book a room at the first hotel they stayed in on coming to the U.S. only to find out it’s a homeless shelter. Tania’s July 2012 TED Talk, How a penny made me feel like a millionaire, reminds me to say thank you.

According to Beliefnet, Meister Eckhart (1260–1328) a mystical Dominican theologian said: “If the only prayer you say in your life is “thank you,” that would suffice.” (Passionists will note that St. Paul of the Cross was a follower of John Tauler (1300 – 1361) who was greatly influenced by Eckhart. Wikipedia tells us further that Tauler followed Eckhard in his work with pious lay groups called Friends of God, probably not unlike the Passionist Partners of today.)

Today, I will take the time to say thank you. Thank you to my family, my friends and my faith, all of whom support me and give me love, hope and a life filled with many blessings. Thank You!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Let’s Dream

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

One of my favorite pieces of literature is Don Quixote, the Man of LaMancha by Miguel de Cervantes. I remember reading it as a student at De Paul University in a remote corner of Alumni Hall in the 1960’s. It is the only classic that I remember really enjoying which of course says more about me than the “classics”. I totally identified with Mr. Alonso Quixano as he went after windmills and damsels in distress. He knew how to dream.

Dan Pallotta also knows how to dream. Born in 1961, he is an author, public speaker, entrepreneur and humanitarian activist. He is also married to his husband and together they are raising their three children.  In 1961 such a description would most likely have banned him to a life of obscurity. The above credits belie such a fate and suggest to me Dan learned how to dream. His talk demonstrates that well.

Pope Francis is a dreamer. The Catholic News Agency reported Pope Francis’s dream. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pope Francis said: “I have a dream…”, this one for a unified Europe, this past Friday May 6, 2016 as he accepted the Charlemagne Award. He joined the ranks of other famous unifiers like, Pope John Paul II, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, King Felipe of Spain and a host or other winners. That’s quite a litany of dreamers.

Guess I’m not the only one who liked Cervantes’ work either. Dale Wasserman’s famous 1965 play, Man of LaMancha is based on Cervantes’ work. That play inspired the 1972 Movie by the same name. Both feature one of my favorite songs, The Impossible Dream with lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh.

Think I’ll join Don Quixote, Dan Pallotta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pope Francis and dare to dream another word for prayer, the second definition in Dictionary.com. Want to come along?

 

Stop! Look! Go!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

On a Fall evening in 1963, I was sitting in the refectory (dining room) of the Passionist’s Novitiate in St. Paul Kansas (yes Kansas) listening to a fellow novice read an article from The Sign Magazine by Fr. Andrew Greeley entitled “Grace, the Sacrament of the Present Moment”. Today, 53 years later, I remember well what Fr. Greeley wrote, basically, if you are waiting for life to happen, forget it. It is happening here and now in the present moment. That thought changed my life’s direction then, and continues to inspire me today.

Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast repeats that same message in his June 2013 TED Talk, “Want to be happy? Be grateful above. He further gives us a simple formula for doing that, living gratefully. After explaining the relationship between being happy and grateful, brother tells us if we do three simple things we were taught as children, Stop! Look! Go! we will be happy not only in the good moments but the challenging ones as well.

For me, it is also important to Stop! Look! Go! in community with at least one other person, but better with a small intimate community. In a National Catholic Reporter April 12, 2016 interview of Sister Diane Guerin, Justice Coordinator-Mid-Atlantic Community of Sisters of Mercy by Sister Camille D’Arienzo, Sister Diane tells how she prays:

I most often pray in images generated through readings of Scripture, poetry, headlines, nature. I share these experiences and reflections with other sisters and those close to me. For over 40 years I’ve been part of a small group of sisters, priests, lay women and married couples who have shared life together. We meet socially but also pray deeply together. As we age, and some have moved on to their heavenly reward, we meet less frequently but there remains a strong bond among us.

So here I am still trying to live one moment at a time, sharing those moments with the people I love, praying. I am lucky to have a small group called the Community of Passionist Partners. I hope you have a similar group.

 

My Prayer

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

Saint Augustine of Hippo in (354 – 430 A.D.) started a spiritual quest that would last his lifetime and lead him to become a priest, bishop and doctor of the church with a very unusual prayer: “Lord make me pure and holy, but not yet.” He later summed us his life’s work with a piece of advice. (He gave a lot of advice, directions and explanations) “Love and do what you will.” His prayer and his consequential advice seem to me to be compatible and easily flow one into the other.

I am about to celebrate my seventieth birthday and as I look over my life I think I have often had the same prayer. Make me holy God eventually, but for now, I can wait. Who knew it would work?

I think I’m holy now but maybe you think I couldn’t be because I’m obviously conceited you’re finding it hard to see my self-defining humility. Well, I’m claiming to have learned and put into practice non-judgment. In viewing the world and myself without judgment I see a unity and holiness in the world and myself I had no idea existed.

What a beautiful sight to look upon my enemy and realize that’s his problem.

My prayer: Thank You Jesus!

Pray and Work–That’s What it’s All About

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

The cross can happen even in the life of a child younger than three years old. If you doubt that, then I dare you to watch Noy Thrupkaew’s TED selection for today’s post. I think it might change your mind. As I listened to Noy’s presentation I recalled reading Harville Hendricks who postulates in his Imago Therapy that we spend a great deal of our life grappling with our childhood issues. We even choose our friends and intimate partners based upon this inner drive.

 

Noy discovered this in her life when she ended up in therapy. What she did with this realization is the story of the cross and resurrection today. Yes, as she says, it’s messy and unfinished. More importantly, she’s begun the task we all have of transforming our lives, and by doing this transforming the lives of all those around us.

 

In his Encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis recounts the life of Saint Benedict, the father of Western Monasticism, who eventually summed up his Rule of Life in two words, Ora et Labora (pray and work). Reflecting on Noy’s talk as well as my own work experience, I think maybe the problem with our 21st Century American way of life is we’ve entirely left our the first of these, prayer, and completely vilified the second, work. I think we could all benefit by prioritizing the prayer and work in our lives. I love what Pope Francis says regarding work:

 

Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.

(Francis, Pope [2015-06-22]. ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’: On care for our common home: Green encyclical on the environment. [Kindle Locations 958-959]. . Kindle Edition.)”

Going Nowhere

 

“If I want to change my life, I best start with changing my mind.” Words of Pico Iyer in today’s TED Talk selection. This world traveler and travel writer tells us of the importance of going nowhere in our lives.

 

For years I’ve know of the importance of sitting quietly and doing nothing, i.e. meditating, but in all honesty have excused myself from the activity with the excuse that I didn’t have the time. Lately, I’ve been taking the time, sitting quietly doing nothing and going nowhere after 15 minutes of prayer and I’m amazed at the new sense of serenity and direction it has given me.

Can We Offer What We Do Best

 

 

If you ever doubted the effectiveness of the contemplative life, we now have the definitive answer, Brown University has initiated a program that studies contemplation from many different aspects declaring it valid and relevant to 21st Century people.

 

I never doubted its effectiveness; actually I never thought to question it. As a high school student at the Passionist Prep in Warrenton Missouri, we spent 15 minutes a day meditating, that is kneeling (ok, half kneeling and half sitting) quietly reflecting in the chapel as a community. While I don’t remember waiting for that time like I often found myself waiting for lunch, dinner or to just get out of the classroom, I do remember feeling very much at peace and connected to those around me while there. I don’t ever remember wishing not to be there even though the smell of dinner being cooked down the hall often assaulted my senses persuading me to reflect more on what was in store for dinner than on the reflection I just read to start my meditation time.

 

It’s good to see Brown University, Stanford University and others getting on board and discovering the value of something contemplatives like the Passionists have been and continue to do for centuries. I suppose it’s good to know how the brain functions while meditating and the beneficial physical effects etc, but deep down I believe it’s just something you do, like eating and breathing.

 

Why do I bother to post this then? While watching the video I couldn’t help but be taken by the young college students who shared their positive experiences with the program. The children of the people I hang with will probably never go to the prestigious Ivy League Brown University. I suspect though, like the students at Brown, they might be interested in learning more about meditation and contemplation, things we Passionists are pros at. Maybe I can plan some introductory information on these practices and invite the young people in my world, whether I know them or not, to come and experience for themselves these life giving practices.