The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ Can You “exalt” the crosses You carry?

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.)

Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because we’re celebrating a favorite feast day of mine.  It’s the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; it’s special to me because as my long-time readers know, I had close affinity to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia that’s nestled upon the western shore of the Shenandoah River and against the edge of the first mountain of the Blue Ridge chain until the two Abbots I knew well have now gone to the Lord.

Many of us might shudder and quake in our sneakers at the thought of Dying to Self. 

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

It goes against everything our American culture often tells us we should do—Look Out For No. 1.  There had been talk about the “Me Generation” since the Seventies and a Time magazine had an issue in May 2013, “The ME ME ME Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents: Why they will save us all.”

Patricia Greenfield, a psychological scientist at the University of California in Los Angeles, used the Google Ngram Viewer to scan more than 1 million books. Her findings, which were published in Psychological Science, showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as “choose,” “get,” “feel,” “unique,” “individual” and “self” and a decrease in community-focused words such as “obliged,” “give,” “act,” “obedience,” “authority,” “pray” and “belong.”

No sign of Dying to Self here, it seems.  Let alone the Cross. 

I wonder what will happen to young people when they hit on hard times? If their climb toward success begins to crumble?

This is the Paschal Mystery.  The Pasch / Passover / Passage / Transition / Transformation / Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives as it is celebrated throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.  Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery in your own life.

If the girl that they’ve fallen head-over-heals in love with cruelly rejects them? Or as I just read in The Writer magazine, after five years of marriage, the successful screen-writer Brendan had grown tired of arguing with his wife, also a writer–insecure and jealous of her success, told her he’s moving out?

What happens to any of us when life does not turn out as we planned?  When we suddenly lose our job? Or are diagnosed with cancer?  

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

Think about or name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years . . . How did you deal with them? How did they affect you?

And what about Dying to Self–For others?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.)

Does this make sense to you?  For you?

In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . . .

 If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?         (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)

Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions.

A dear priest friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.

II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

III / When I am powerless, then I am strong.

What is a koan, you might ask?

A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices:

To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution will often come suddenly

So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world–power, prestige and possessions–why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idly waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I sometimes have been!

In December 2010, the Arise issue I wrote was about Philippians 2:6-11, known as “The kenosis passage.”  Kenosismeaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .

And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross.I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!

 Lift high the cross 
The love of Christ proclaim, 
Till all the world 
Adore His sacred name

Led on their way 
By this triumphant sign, The hosts of God 
In conquering ranks combine. 
Refrain: 

Each newborn servant 
Of the Crucified 
Bears on the brow 
The seal of Him who died. 
Refrain: 

O Lord, once lifted 
On the glorious tree, 
As Thou hast promised 
Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.
So shall our song 
Of triumph ever be: 
Praise to the Crucified 
For victory. 
Refrain: 

If you’d like to listen to a great YouTube version, copy this link into your browser . . .

This is my alma mater–Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

*  *  * *  *

Bob Traupman, 2014

904-315-526

arise7@me.com

www.spirit7.com

blog http://www.bobtraupman.com

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Blessed is She who trusted and we who trust! ~ The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Blessed is She who trusted and we who trust!

IMG_0495
        Our lady breast feeding Jesus ~ Shrine of our Lady of La Leche ~ St. Augustine, Florida                                                               (Image taken in March 2006 by Bob Traupman)

I ‘ve had a filial devotion to Mary all of my life, though it has gone through various stages. In my youth, devotion to Mary was more real for me than Jesus. I had a Marian altar in my room, often with fresh flowers. In the seminary, the image of a young knight devoted to his queen helped me relate to her in a charming way. It still does.

A few years into my priesthood, my relationship with our Lord Jesus developed; today, he is my elder Brother and my intimate companion. But Mary’s still there because she’s my best friend’s mother.  I celebrate Eucharist on the Marian feast days.  I have an icon of our Lady high upon my wall in my room, (the famous Vladimir icon) with fresh flowers and a votive candle.

As I reflect on the life of Mary from my present level of faith and theological understanding, Mary stands out as a model of discernment. 

(To discern is to judge well, to seek, for clarity and understand.)   Discernment is a method, a process by which we try to figure out whether or not we are moving towards a future which is in union with God’s will or plan for us.)  

I’d like to share with you my reflection on St. Luke’s story of the Annunciation (1:2-46) that uncovered for me some astonishing insights about Mary’s process of discernment.  It has profoundly influenced my life.

The story begins with the greeting of the angel: ‘Rejoice, 0 highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” Tradition has it that Mary was a young girl when she discovered her awesome vocation.

We might well ask how a teenager would receive such a message. Luke then tells us “She was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what his greeting meant.”

Put yourself in her place for a moment.  Think her thoughts and feel her feelings.  Consider what you might think or feel if you thought an angel was appearing to you! Surely you would be bewildered. Confused. Scared.  “Is this really happening?” you would ask. “Am I imagining this?”  “Am I crazy?” 

The fact that the angel appeared to Mary was probably not initially consoling to her. On the contrary, it brought on some weighty problems!  To be highly favored by the Lord does not mean that one is to be treated like a princess and to have a smooth, uncomplicated life. If we reflect on how the life of Mary unfolded with many sorrows, we can see that hers was anything but an easy life. But let us stick with our story.

The angel then announced, “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus.” Then Luke has Mary question the angel. Mary dares to question God: “How can this be since I do not know man?”

A pious spirituality would look upon daring to question God as blasphemy. Nevertheless to question even God himself is one of the rules of discernment that many of us overlook. We should never be too sure of visions or voices from within.   They do occur more frequently, I think, than we are led to believe. But every prompting should be tested. Mary is showing us that in this beloved story. In other words, the healthy thing to do is to question our sources of discernment; the unhealthy thing is to jump in and act too soon!

When I myself receive a prompting or an inspiration I delight in it for awhile, muse about it, yes, but then stuff it back down into my inner spirit to see if it surfaces again.

When it comes up a second time, I will test it to see if it is stronger than before and then I will stuff it down again—even a third or a fourth time. Those inspirations that have God as their source will be strengthened; those promptings that are not of God will be whittled away.

The story of the Annunciation tells us clearly that even for Mary, the mother of God’s only Son, discernment was not an easy thing. Every human being should exercise a certain amount of caution, doubt and distrust of one’s reasoning process. None of us has direct access to divine knowledge. This was true for Mary, as the story under consideration here suggests. It is also true for Jesus who emptied himself of his equality with God and became as human beings are(Phil: 2:6). So we cannot get away with saying “Mary is special.” Actually, she learned about God’s will for her in the same way that we do.

Confirming the message.

There is another characteristic of discernment we can learn from this story. The angel offered Mary a way to confirm the message. He suggested that she visit her cousin Elizabeth and there she would have his message verified.

So, too, with major inspirations we might have in life: We should look for confirmation. If we wait some weeks or months, oftentimes something will occur that confirms and reinforces the message we received. All this suggests that we need to be patient with the discernment process. It takes time – even years – for a prompting to unfold. In the meantime we need to be willing to live with ambiguity – to live with the questions. Back in 1980 I thought I was being called to be a writer. I had to abandon that idea for some years because of life circumstances. I only saw the confirmation of that initial prompting twelve years later in 1992.  I made a major career shift with all the risks involved to go back to school to get a Masters degree in writing.   It meant moving to Towson, Maryland and bringing my father with me.  Inspirations or promptings should be treated carefully and reverently – neither giving too much attention to them nor dismissing them outright, but keeping them in the back of our mind until they either clarify themselves or go away.

So what happens if you do confirm an inspiration or vision? What next? When the angel left Mary, she was left with a huge problem!   Though the angel also appeared to Joseph, the two of them were still left with the sticky wicket of what to tell their families.

Though God sometimes intervenes in our lives (with virginal conceptions, for example) he leaves it up to us to work out the details.

We can only imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph during the months that intervened between her conceiving and giving birth to Jesus. We do get a glimpse of the problems that the couple had in the story of Jesus’ birth.  Mary had to make the uncomfortable journey on a donkey to Bethlehem towards the end of her pregnancy. We are told there was no room at the inn and the baby was born in a manger.  And Matthew tells us that the couple then became political refugees as they were forced to flee for their lives into Egypt.

In none of these circumstances are we told that the angel intervened directly.  They had to work out all these problems on their own. I do believe that there are ordinary promptings that do come from God. These, I’m sure were available to Mary and Joseph as well.  I’m usually prayerful and reflective about most small decisions as well as the big ones. I pray for discernment in the words I write and the topics I choose.  But there are decisions in which proper discernment may be critical.

For example, the process of selecting a doctor for major heart surgery may be very critical indeed. I recommend prayerful discernment for all major and minor decisions one has to make. Inserting prayer and reflection in our decision-making process allows God a chance to participate in our lives.  Thus, we seek God’s wisdom to help make the best decisions possible.

One step at a time. 

The point I glean from the Annunciation story is that God reveals his will to us one step at time. He does not give us a tour of the master plan. First Mary formulated her response to the angel. Then she went to visit Elizabeth.  Then she and Joseph had to figure out what to tell their families. Then they had to go to Bethlehem because of the census. God did not reveal any of these problems to them nor suggest their solutions.

And in this I find my greatest point of admiration for Mary. Luke puts it this way in the words of Elizabeth“Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45).  These beautiful words are the reason that I hold Mary in such great esteem today.  She was willing to trust.

How often am I not willing to trust!  How often am I not willing to risk. Mary took to heart the words of the angel, and when he was gone, she trusted. She trusted the words she heard him say.

How often do we fail to trust in the inspirations, the promptings, the dreams that break into our life every once in awhile?  Very often we don’t give them a chance. We don’t trust that they will come true. So, think of this young girl’s – young woman’s – courage.

Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.  Blest are we who trust that the Lord’s words to us will be fulfilled.

To want to be a discerning person is to want the best for ourselves and for these whose lives touch ours. To want to be a discerning person is to trust that God still speaks to his people – to trust that God can and does speak to me. And that with my consent and cooperation, I can help God make a difference in our world. Without Mary’s trust in the words of an angel, the world would be a different place

I believe that God still gets involved with the affairs of his people. I believe he still shows glimpses of possibilities to us as he showed Mary a glimpse of what could happen when God and even one human person chooses to intertwine their wills. Remember that God could not have acted without Mary’s consent.

Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled. Blest are we who trust that the Lord’s words to us will be fulfilled.

Advent is a time to Listen.  To ponder Mary’s story.  To say Yes to what we hear as she did so lovingly.  To let Jesus be born – this day – in our lives and our world.

To say with Mary:

“Yes! I am a servant of the Lord.

      Be it done unto me

            according to Your Word.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart  and try to love     the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Now, before you go, here’s the “Hail Mary” set to music. Click here.

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Labor Day 2022 ~ Remembering the gift of work

LABOR DAY 2022

This Labor Day, I’d like to reflect on the meaning of human work from a spiritual perspective.

Way back in the beginning of the bible you may remember that as God cast out Adam and Eve from the Paradise of the Garden of Eden, he told them . . .

“The ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it

It grows thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains,

By the sweat of your brow

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

Then Israel spent 400 years in hard toil in the flesh pots of Egypt in slavery to the Egyptians until the day came when God had Moses deliver them..

Then came Jesus who was raised in a home at Nazareth at the side of his father Joseph, a carpenter, a skilled tradesman, and Jesus learned that trade and stayed in that home until his adulthood.

St. Paul was also a tradesman, a tentmaker, and prided himself on making his own way as he travelled all over the coasts the Mediterranean.

Fast-forward now to American industry in the late Nineteenth Century. The steelmakers, meet packing, electrical, auto and food industries just gearing up. American workers were, however, not being treated justly or fairly. Events connected with the Industrial Revolution profoundly changed centuries-old societal structures, raising serious problems of justice and posing the first great social question — the labor question — prompted by the conflict between capital and labor. In this context, the Church felt the need to become involved and intervene in a new way . . . .

The Catholic Church’s American bishops had been on their side since so many of them immigrated to the U. S. decades before. Enter Pope Leo XIII and his encyclical Rerum Novarum—(Concerning New Things) on May 15, 1891 –the very first of many Catholic social encyclicals.

(An encyclical is an apostolic letter or document.)

Rerum Novarum lists errors that give rise to social ills, excludes socialism as a remedy and expounds with precision and in contemporary terms “the Catholic doctrine on work, the right to own property, the principle of collaboration instead of class struggle as the fundamental means for social change, the rights of the weak, the dignity of the poor and the obligations of the rich, the perfecting of justice through charity, on the right to form professional associations”. (By the way, listening to President Biden speak this evening as I’m writing this (Thursday, September 1st, 2022, about “the battle for the soul of the nation” in his address in Philadelphia at Independence Hall, well-read Catholic that he is, he pretty much reiterated the message or Rerum Novarum.

Following the Stock Market crash in 1929, Pope Pius XI again addressed the issue. At the beginning of the 1930s, following the grave economic crisis of 1929, Pope Pius XI published the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. The Pope reread the past in the light of the economic and social situation in which the expansion of the influence of financial groups, both nationally and internationally, was added to the effects of industrialization. It was the post-war period, during which totalitarian regimes were being imposed in Europe even as the class struggle was becoming more bitter. The Encyclical warns about the failure to respect the freedom to form associations and stresses the principles of solidarity and cooperation. The relationships between capital and labor must be characterized by cooperation.

Quadragesimo Anno confirms the principle that salaries should be proportional not only to the needs of the worker but also to those of the worker’s family. The State, in its relations with the private sector, should apply the principle of subsidiarity, a principle that will become a permanent element of the Church’s social doctrine.

The Magisterium recognizes the fundamental role played by labor unions, whose existence is connected with the right to form associations or unions to defend the vital interests of workers employed in the various professions.” Unions “grew up from the struggle of the workers — workers in general but especially the industrial workers — to protect their just rights vis-à-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production”.[667] Such organizations, while pursuing their specific purpose with regard to the common good, are a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life.”

The Church’s social doctrine recognizes the legitimacy of striking “when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit”,[663] when every other method for the resolution of disputes has been ineffectual.

That relationship between the Church and labor has been ongoing in America today. Richard Trunka the head of the AFL/CIO until his untimely death last year was a devout Catholic.

As we pause this weekend for the last holiday of the summer, may we reflect on the gift of work.

But we do so, conscious of all those suffering the loss of not only their jobs, their paychecks, but also their homes and almost everything dear to them as the result of this pandemic, and the natural disasters that have plagued our country in recent years–some as a result of climate change.

We pray in solidarity with them and reach out to them with love and with whatever support we can offer as we consider our own gift of work. And so, I invite you to pray with me . . . .

Good and gracious God,

the teachers who form our children’s minds.

We thank you, Lord, for the gifts and talents you have given us

We are interdependent in our  laboring, Lord.

We depend on the migrant workers who pick our lettuce and our strawberries,

you told us from the very beginning that we would earn our bread by the sweat of our brow.

the nurses’ aids who take our blood pressure,

that allow us to earn a living and contribute something positive to our world.

We pray, dear Lord, for those who are without work.

Sustain them — us — in your love.

Help us to realize that we have worth as human beings.

But that’s hard to get, Lord.

 Our society preaches to us that our worth comes from success,

of being better than the Jones’.

But our worth comes because You made us.  We are Your children, no matter what,

job or no job.

You love us and you call us to love and support each other.

We pray, Lord, for those who do the dirty work in our lives, Lord,

those who break their backs for us, those who are cheated out of even a minimum wage,

those who don’t have access to health care,

those who cannot afford to send their kids to college.

Help us to bind together, Lord, as a community, as a nation

because we depend on one another — the garbage men,

the police, the folks who stock our grocery stores,

the UPS driver, the airline pilot, the 7/11 clerk, the ticket-taker on the turnpike, 

the plumbers, the accountants, the bank tellers, the landscapers, the lifeguards,

those who clean our houses, the cooks, the waiters, the steel workers, the carpenters,

the scientists, , our doctors and nurses and yes, we, the writers.

Help us to realize this weekend how dependent we are on one another, Lord.

We are ONE!  We are family!  We need each other.

May we give thanks for each other this Labor Day weekend, Lord.

Help us to celebrate and give thanks for each other and appreciate the value, the dignity, the contribution

that each one makes to keep  our country, our cities, our lives going.

And in tough times, help us remember the words of Jesus. . . .

Come to me all you who labor

and are heavily burdened

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you . . .

for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

(Matthew 11:28)

And, finally, this prayer of Cardinal Newman:

O Lord, support us all the day long

until the shadows  lengthen and the evening comes,

and the busy world is hushed,

and the fever of life is over,

and our work is done.

Then, Lord, in thy mercy,

grant us a safe lodging,

a holy rest, and peace at the last.

AMEN!

Finally, may I suggest this weekend that you might think about the people who’s work makes your life go better.

The next time you talk with them, tell them you appreciate them!

Two words have great power:  THANK YOU!

If only we would use them often, we would ease each other’s burden and energize each other.

and we would make trying times just a little bit easier for us all.

We call that: Love!

And before you go, here’s a spirited version of the great Celtic hymn “Lord of all Hopefulness” about the blessing of our work. Click here.Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

  Enjoy.  Have a great weekend! And please be safe!

With Love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Mary as Queen of the Universe

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary–Monday, August 22nd, 2022

He asks why the first fourteen hundred years of Christianity fell so deeply in love with such an ordinary woman. We gave her names like Theotokos,Mother of God,, Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Universe (here in Orlando), Notre Dame, La Virgen of this or that. Unere Liebe Frau, Nuestra Senora, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of just about just about every village or shrine in Europe.

I’m taking this material about Our Lady from Richard Rohr’s outstanding book The Universal Christ and a chapter entitled, “The Feminine Incarnation.” (pp.121-129.)   (I trust he wouldn’t mind me quoting liberally from his book as I don’t have time to ask permission by tomorrow morning.)

A week ago, on the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, at the end of my blog, I mentioned that sometimes I take Mary shopping with me. She found my condo for me in Lauderdale Lakes fifteen years ago, and I signed the papers for it on her feast day. Last week, I said I needed a new car and asked for prayers to help me find the right one. I was searching for a hybrid with all the new safety features that would help prevent an accident—not an easy find on my priest’s pension, as hybrids are selling right now like ice cream at in mid-summer carnival.

Well, the search on several online sites was found on cars.com and led me to the Hyundai store in downtown Orlando. It’s a 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid and it’s spotless inside and out. The color is a dark red with grey leather seats and all the safety features. I am incredibly thankful, which is leading to this follow-up blog on our Lady. I had it blessed after Mass today—Sunday.

And my favorite nearby in St. Augustine, Florida in small chapelOur Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk—it’s a small statue of Our Lady breastfeeding her child, on the grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios on the shore of the  Matanzas River. I lived in St. Augustine for two years and I would go there often to pray—sometimes to cry, imagining she was my mom and comforting me on her lap—other times to stand in the back as her priest asking her guidance. The chapel was recently honored as a National Shrine.

The Madonna is still the most painted and sculptured image in Western art (and I think in Eastern art as well.)  Thus, Mary is an archetype*of Sophia or Holy wisdom (see Proverbs 8:1ff:

Carl Jung, whom I quoted in the Assumption blog last week, believed that humans produce in art the inner images the soul needs in order to see itself and to allow its own transformation.

The LORD formed me from the beginning,

before he created anything else.

I was appointed in ages past,

at the very first, before the earth began.

And Wisdom 7:7ff

Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

{ . . . }

10 I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,

And again, in the book of Revelation (12:1-17) in the cosmic symbol of the woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.

There are countless images the world-over of a beautifully dressed Lady offering for your admiration or adoration—and hers—a usually naked baby boy.

She is offering us Jesus, God incarnated into invulnerability and nakedness.

Feminine receptivity handing over her Yes.

And inviting us to offer our own yes.

We liked her because she’s one of us and not God.

Much of the human race can more easily imagine unconditional love coming from the feminine and the maternal more than from a man, especially if you are a Protestant or a Republican. (Please excuse my dig—but is there not some truth here? See footnote.**)

Humans like, need and trust our mothers to give us gifts, to nurture us, and always forgive us, which is what we want from God. (Not my Mom; I found it difficult to love her. She was tough and rough as sandpaper. My image of her as a baby was being washed on a cold kitchen countertop and my head scrubbed with her knuckles. I received my nurturing from my aunt—her sister, instead.) And my relationship with my mother, has caused me to struggle at times with my relationship with Mary, though, outwardly, I have been devoted to her since childhood, always having fresh flowers for her every day, as at the Vladimir icon I have of her high across from my computer desk at this moment.

Father Rohr continues that what humans want and need and like from their mothers is to give us  gifts, to nurture us, and always to forgive us. His years working with men’s groups have convinced him of it. He said he once counted eleven images of Mary in one Catholic Church in Texas—cowboy country.

In the same way, Mary gives women a dominant feminine image “to balance all the males parading around up front.”

Also note. Rohr says, that it’s always Our Lady, Our Father, Our Lord—never my Lady, my Father, my Jesus, my Lord. Liturgical prayer is always communal, lifting up everyone, at least in the historic churches.

And this is hugely important as was mentioned by Carl Jung in last week’s blog who said that the definition by the Church of the doctrine that Mary’s body was taken up into heaven “was the most significant theological development of the twentieth century.

Why? What does this mean for you and me? It means that not only souls go to heaven but our bodies as well! Your body and mine along with Mary’s!

Rohr: The Mary symbol brought together the two disparate worlds of matter and spirit, feminine mother and masculine child, earth and heaven. The unconscious got it. Consciously, many fought it, because much of the world sees Christianity as hopelessly patriarchal, both Catholics and Protestants and most everyone in government in almost every country—some more dictatorial than others. Contrast Russia’s Vladimir Putin with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, for instance. Or Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II. Or former President Trump and now President Biden.

Father Rohr continues to the main point about the relevance of Mary. We like her because she is not God. She hasn’t done anything heroic. Her “big thing” is that she said YES! to God, and has become the model for us to also say yes! to God.

In our world today, we have been searching for “the mature feminine at every level of society. In politics, in business, in our own psyche, on the Internet, our disparate cultures, our patterns of leadership, our theologies.  Rohr says we have become terribly unbalanced and I absolutely agree and have written about this in the past. We have become increasingly violent with mass-shootings, threats of violence around elections, guns carried in churches, school children having nightmares about all this. What’s happening to us?

Here are some of the woman-influencers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (not in any particular order). . .

Malala Yousafzai

Angela Merkel

Jane Goodall

Oprah Winfrey

Christine Lagarde

Sheryl Sandberg

Maria Shriver

Judi Dench

Meghan Markle

Queen Elizabeth II

Ellen Degeneres. ..

Serena Williams

JK Rowling

Michelle Obama

Rachel Maddow

Melinda Gates

Janet Yellen

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Mary Barra

Mother Teresa

Florence Nightingale

Eleanor Roosevelt.

Katharine Hepburn    

Marie Curie

Princess Diana

To sum up, then, “Mary is the Great Yes that humanity forever needs for Christ to be born into the world,” says our author. If Christ and Jesus are the archetype of what God is doing. Mary is the archetype of how to receive what God is doing and hand it on to others.

In Mary, humanity has said our eternal yes to God.

A yes that cannot be undone.

A corporate yes that overrides our many noes.

________

Footnotes:

*Archetypes are universal, inborn models of people, behaviors, and personalities that play a role in influencing human behavior.

** After the sixteenth century when Westerners became more rational and literate, most of us stopped symbolically and allegorically. In doing so, we lost something important in our spiritual, intuitive and nonrational understanding of God and ourselves. We lessened the likelihood of inner religious experience. The Bible became an excuse for Not how literature “works.” Catholics were on symbolic overload; Protestants reacted and became symbolically starved.

Now before you go, here’s a nice hymn to Our Lady. Click Here.

And here are the readings for today’s Mass, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

Richard Rohr The Universal Christ /Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK)

Great Britain 2019 / Copyright Center for Action and Contemplation, Inc. 2019

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer


 

 

 

The Feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven ~ The Exaltation of Womanhood

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THE FEAST OF ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

AUGUST 15th, 2022

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,

In my God is the joy of my soul;

for he has clothed me with the robe of salvation,

like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,

  like a bride bedecked with her jewels. (Canticle of Isaiah) 

Through the power of his Resurrection,

Christ has adorned Mary with the robe of his own glory and majesty.

In years past, the image I’ve chosen for Mary on this post was a strong one following her title from Revelations, ” A Woman Clothed with the Sun”, but this year, I’ve selected a softer one that connotes the Eastern Rites’ emphasis on the “Dormition” of our Lady or her “falling asleep”, and then being taken up into heaven.

Here’s a bit about this Feast (or Solemnity, as we call it in the liturgy.)

First of all, it’s a celebration of the body and an exaltation of womanhood.

In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma of the church something that we Catholics have believed throughout the church’s history ~ that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul,  to sit at her Son’s side for all eternity.

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven makes clear to us that there is room for our humanity in heaven. Mary’s Assumption assures us that what Jesus accomplished in rising from the dead was not limited to his own Person—even though we are not divine, we too are meant to be in heaven with the Incarnate Son, in his home with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Blessed Mother’s birth into heaven generates in us “ an ever new capacity to await God’s future.” (Saint John Paul II). Just as grace does not destroy but perfects our nature, so the glory of heaven will include our whole humanity, body and soul! “That transformation of our mortal bodies to which we look forward one day has been accomplished—we know it for certain—in her” (Msgr. Ronald Knox).  ~ From the Magnificat liturgical magazine / August 2019 – p. 202.

Everyone was quite startled when the distinguished psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was not a Catholic,  said that this declaration about Mary was “the greatest religious event since the reformation.”  And by the way, Martin Luther believed in the Assumption of the Virgin.

Here’s the entire text of what he had to say.  You ought to read this; what he says is truly amazing coming from a psychiatrist and a non-Catholic!

The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and  the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process. But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work …One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the ‘Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.’ For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.

The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning. How could Protestantism so completely miss the point?

I was amazed and thrilled when I discovered this text and again when I’ve just now re-read it.

And I’ve always loved to pray and sing these words from the preface of the Mass of the day:

Today the virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven

as the beginning  and the image

of your Church’s coming to perfection

and a sign of sure of hope and comfort for your people

on their pilgrim way.

Mary is the first disciple of her Son.

She is the one who said Yes!  “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”

Each of us who bear witness to Christ give birth to him in our own way.

May we honor Mary on this wonderful feast day and enjoy this late summer day and exalt the women in our life as well!

On August 22nd, the octave of the Assumption we celebrate a minor feast ~ the Queenship of Mary.  I honor her as my queen.  Now this may sound a bit odd, my friends, but I take her shopping with me.  Right now, I need to find a new car because my beloved shiny red mustang went “caput” and I want to get a Hybrid to help the environment and save gas. And you know what? I’m finding they’re hard to find right now; folks are buying them like hot cakes.  You might say a “Hail Mary” that I find one on my priests’ pension, if you wouldn’t mind.

Now, from ~ and in honor of ~Notre Dame de Paris ~ (may she rise again from her ashes,) here is a the Magnificat sung led by a choir boy with congregation responding.  Click here. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative writer

St. John Vianney, simple parish priest, yet patron of all priests.

image

Today is the feast day of St. John Vianney. I’ve always had an affection for him because I grew up in St. John’s Parish in St. Pete Beach, Florida, though I didn’t know much about him until I entered the seminary and we often gathered together for some summer fun around his feast day. We only called the parish “St. John’s” back then—only recently do they call it by the Saint’s full name.

Fr. Vianney is known as the patron of all priests, so this day is also the feast day of all priests.  When I went searching for an image for him on Pinterest.com (a site that creative people go to find images and artwork for almost anything and anyone under the sun), I discovered images of him with many interesting words of wisdom. His story can inspire folks who don’t have much education as he didn’t gain his wisdom from book-learning; he struggled in the seminary and almost wasn’t ordained because of it.

He was born at Dardilly, near Lyons, Frances on May 8th,1786, and was baptized the same day. His parents, Matthieu Vianney and his wife Marie (Belize) had six children, of whom John was the fourth. The Vianneys were devout Catholics who helped the poor. By 1790, the anticlerical Terror phase of the French Revolution forced many loyal priests into hiding from the regime in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. Even under these dangerous circumstances,  the Vianneys traveled to distant farms to attend Masses celebrated on the run. Realizing that such priests risked their lives day by day, John began to look upon them as heroes.

He received it in a neighbor’s kitchen during a Mass at the age of 13, the windows were covered so that the light of the candles could not be seen from outside.

The Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, resulting in religious peace throughout the country, culminating in a Concordat.  By this time, Vianney was thinking about his future vocation and longed for an education. He was 20 when his father allowed him to leave the farm to be taught at a “presbytery-school” in the neighboring village of Ecully, conducted by the Abbe Balley. The school taught arithmetic, history, geography and Latin. Vianney struggled with school, especially with Latin, since his past education had been interrupted by the French Revolution. Only because of Vianney’s deepest desire to be a priest—and Balley’s patience—did he persevere.

John’s studies were interrupted in 1809 when he was drafted into Napoleon’s armies. He would have been exempt, as an ecclesiastical student, but Napoleon had withdrawn the exemption in certain dioceses because of his need for soldiers in his fight against Spain s.

One day, he went into a church to pray, and when he came out he found that his unit had already departed. A young man offered to help him catch up with his unit, but instead led him to a group of deserters. He wasn’t able to rejoin his group and remained with the deserters for fourteen months during which time he opened a school for village children until an imperial decree granted amnesty for all deserters the following year. He was then legally free to go back to Écully and resum his studies. He was tonsured (a ceremony of cutting of hair signifying one’s entry into the clerical state) in 1811, and in 1812 he went to the minor seminary. In autumn of 1813, he was sent to the major seminary at Lyons.

Considered too slow, he was returned to Balley. However, Balley persuaded the vicar general that Vianney’s piety was great enough to compensate for his ignorance, and the seminarian received minor orders and was subsequently ordained a deacon in June 1815, and ordained priest on August 12, 1815. He said his first Mass the next day, and was appointed the assistant to Balley in Écully. He was 29-years-old when he was ordained. (I was 26.) It seems his schooling from 1810-1815 was six years—at best; today’s seminarians get four years of college and four years of post-college, usually with a Masters’ degree.

In 1818, after the death of Abbe Balley, Father Vianney was made the parish priest of Ars, a village not far from Lyons. It was in exercising the functions of a parish priest in this remote French hamlet that as the “curé d’Ars” he became known throughout France and the Christian world. A few years after he went to Ars, he founded a sort of orphanage for destitute girls. other countries. As early as 1835, his bishops forbade him to attend the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of “the souls awaiting him yonder”.

During the last ten years of his life, he spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. His advice was sought by bishops, priests, religious, young men and women in doubt as to their vocation, sinners, persons in all sorts of difficulties and the sick. In 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. Quite distinguished persons visited Ars for the purpose of seeing the holy pastor and hearing his daily instruction. His direction was characterized by common sense, remarkable insight, and supernatural knowledge. He would sometimes divine sins withheld in an imperfect confession. He used simple language in his instructions, filling them with imagery drawn from daily life and country scenes. He especially breathed his faith  and his love of God and  his own life principle which he infused as much by his manner and appearance as by his words, for, at the last, his voice was almost inaudible.

In his article “How does the Church Respond to Suicide?” Shaun McAfee references an incident described in the book Cure of Ars:

“…a woman…told….Vianney that she was devastated because her husband had committed suicide. She wanted to approach the great priest but his line often lasted for hours and she could not reach him. She was ready to give up and in a moment of mystical insight that only a great saint can receive,…Vianney exclaimed through the crowd, “He is saved!” The woman was incredulous so the saint repeated, stressing each word, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition.[15]

Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena. Vianney regarded her as his guardian and erected a chapel and shrine in honor of the saint. During May1843, Fr. Vianney fell so ill he thought that his life was coming to its end. Vianney attributed his cure to her intercession.

A couple of other loose facts: Vianney yearned for the contemplative life of a monk, and four times ran away from Ars, the last time in 1853. He was also a champion of the poor as a Franciscan tertiary (associate Franciscan) and he was a recipient of the coveted French Legion of Honor.

On August 4, 1859, Vianney died at the age of 73. The bishop presided over his funeral with 300 priests and more than 6,000 people in attendance. Before he was buried, Vianney’s body was fitted with a wax mask.

On 3 October 1874 Pope Pius IX 4 proclaimed him “venerable”; on January 8, 1905, Pope Piux X declared him Blessed and proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy. In 1925 John Mary Vianney was canonized by Pope Pius XI, who in 1929 made him patron saint of parish priests. His feast day is (now) August 4th.

The testimony of his life makes it clear that he always remained devoted to his prayers and that not even the duty of hearing confessions or any other pastoral office could cause him to neglect them. “Even in the midst of tremendous labors, he never let up on his conversation with God.”

Father Vianney composed a simple prayer that reflects his deep religious feelings, which were praised by Pope John XXIII: “The thing that keeps us priests from gaining sanctity”—the Cure of Ars used to say— “is thoughtlessness. It annoys us to turn our minds away from external affairs; we don’t know what we really ought to do. What we need is deep reflection, together with prayer and an intimate union with God. “

The prayer is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  

Here are the words of the prayer

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.

I love You, O my infinitely lovable God,

and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.

I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally…

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You,

I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

As I have spent the day and evening researching and writing this story about this simple yet great priest, I have two thoughts to share.

The first is that I have struggled at times with my studies—especially math. I often joke “I have two masters degrees but can’t add the tip right on my Denny’s check. And I’ve had six years of Latin and four years of Spanish and can hardly remember any of either. So, I feel a bit consoled by Father Vianney’s life and story.

But the point is: You should too! Whatever your skills; how mediocre your faith, it’s Okay. Just think about what he says in the image at the top of this post.

And now, I bring you back to my parish in St. Pete Beach. My father, who’s name is also John was maintenance superintendent for this large parish plant for 25 years who taught himself English by reading the Sunday funnies, could do just about anything electrical, mechanical. Who went to school to learn how to take care of the parish’s extensive air conditioning and supervised all the cleaning of the church, auditorium, cafeteria and school. A very simple man.

So, dear brothers and sisters, and dear brother priests, let’s all do the best we can.

And brother priests: HAPPY FEAST DAY, too! And now, before you go, here’s a song I think Father Vianney would’ve liked if he were with us today–“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”. Click here

Credits: I relied on two sites for my research: Wikipidia.com and the Catholic Encyclopedia, now known as New Advent.com

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

St. John Vianney

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Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, composed his prayer to Jesus in the 19th century. The prayer reflects Vianney’s deep religious feelings, which were praised by Pope John XXIII: “The thing that keeps us priests from gaining sanctity”—the Cure of Ars used to say— “is thoughtlessness. It annoys us to turn our minds away from external affairs; we don’t know what we really ought to do. What we need is deep reflection, together with prayer and an intimate union with God. ” The testimony of his life makes it clear that he always remained devoted to his prayers and that not even the duty of hearing confessions or any other pastoral office could cause  him to neglect them. “Even in the midst of tremendous labors, he never let up on his conversation with God.”

The prayer is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  

Here are the words of the prayer

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.

I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.

I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally…

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

St. Mary Magdalen ~ Apostle to the Apostle ~ Saint for all of us!

July 22nd has always been her “Memorial Day”, but our dear Pope Francis honored her by elevating this day liturgically to a “Feast Day.” In the introduction to the Mass in my Magnificat prayer magazine the author included a poem written by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, o.c.d. (Jessica Powers):

 “One can surmise she went to Calvary

distraught and weeping, and with loud lament

 clung to the cross and beat upon its wood 

till Christ’s torn veins spread a soft covering 

over her hair and face and colored gown. 

She took her First Communion in his Blood.”

Magdalene’s love enabled her to remain faithful to the very end. And so with the Blessed Virgin she courageously stood at the foot of the cross. Her love for her Lord gave her the strength to remain there that she might witness how great a price was paid for her sins and how unfathomable is God’s love for all of us. She was privileged to accompany the body of the Redeemer to the tomb, and she remained there until all the others had gone. The inconsolable love of Mary Magdalene would not permit her to leave; she remained outside the tomb, weeping. Turning away, she saw someone standing nearby. But distraught with grief and blinded by her tears, she did not recognize him even when he said: Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? Mary answered: Sir, if you have removed him, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away. For an answer she heard only one word: Mary! The love with which it was uttered pierced like lightning the dense fog of her grief. Recognizing him, she flung herself in transports of joy at his feet: Rabboni! Master! The risen Savior charged her to go to the apostles and tell them what she had seen. Thus he made her the first official witness to his Resurrection. She became the Apostle to the Apostles–and Saint for all of us!

She heard only one word: Mary! The love with which it was uttered pierced like lightning the dense fog of her (Lk 8:2), Mary Magdalene became one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. Indeed, excepting the Blessed Virgin, there has been no saint of the Christian Church who for twenty centuries has made so profound an impression on literature, art, and morality as she has done. To those of us who are tempted to discouragement because of our repeated falls, how eloquently does Mary Magdalene speak of the loving-kindness of the Savior; of God’s mercy that is without limits; of the astounding power of divine grace.

Father William R. Bonniwell, o.p.

Father Bonniwell († 1984) was a Dominican priest and a highly regarded preacher and historian.

July 2022 Magnificat pp. 324-5. Used by permission

For my prayer for this Feast Day I offer part of the Preface of the Mass . . . .

He appeared in the garden and revealed himself to Mary Magdalene, who had loved him in life,

witnessed him dying on the Cross, sought him as he lay in the tomb,

and was the first to adore him, newly risen from the dead.

He honored her with the office of being an apostle to the Apostles,

so that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth!

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Host! Heaven and earth are filled with your glory!

Now, before you go, here’s the glorious hymn “For All the Saints” Click here.

And here are the readings for the Feast

Wikipedia has much more on Mary Magdalen that’s very fascinating.

You can check it out here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Reimagining Rockwell’s Four Freedoms for our day

This Fourth of July, I’d like to reflect on the Norman Rockwell paintings “The Four Freedoms that were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt eleven months before Pearl Harbor.

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses Congress in an effort to move the nation away from a policy of neutrality. The president had watched with increasing anxiety as European nations struggled and fell to Hitler’s fascist regime and was intent on rallying public support for the United States to take a stronger interventionist role. In his address to the 77th Congress, Roosevelt stated that the need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily–almost exclusively–to meeting the foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.

Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

After Roosevelt’s death and the end of World War II, his widow Eleanor often referred to the four freedoms when advocating for passage of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt participated in the drafting of that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations 1948. 

Article Titled: Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks of Four Freedom– November 16, 2009 by History.com Editors  

The original Freedom of Worship, the five figures on the left are all white. The people of color,” the author says. “That’s what institutional racism is, when you fail to notice things like that.”

Democracy is a fragile thing; we could easily lose it, if we do not carefully safeguard it.

Now below you see the second of the Four Freedoms–Freedom of Speech.

Melinda Beck illustrated Freedom of Speech with a strong, embellished silhouette style. “I believe in speaking truth to power. That’s why I got into this business,” says Beck. “I create a lot of political illustrations, and thanks to the freedom of speech, I can do that in this country and not be jailed.

We know that’s not quite true. Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter, was killed by the Saudis; Ellsberg was imprisoned because he released the Pentagon Papers as was Chelsea Manning.

The remaining two–namely–“Freedom from Fear” and “Freedom from Want” take on a more social justice /social action role than the first two–as is also noted by the song I’ve chosen for this blog, Arlo Guththrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Freedom from Fear is by talented graphic artist Edel Rodriguez , who brings an immigrant’s perspective to Rockwell’s classic. “This is where people come for refuge,” he says. “When you see a family at a detention center maybe you will ask, ‘Why do I have a dislike of immigrants?”

And finally, photographer Ryan Schude recreated Freedom from Want in his sister’s dining room with members of his own family. “Rockwell’s paintings were idyllic,” says Schude. “That’s his style, but it was also his time. That was the kind of image that people wanted. I took a more realistic approach. There’s a little bit of tension.”

In these last two Freedoms, we see a distinctly social justice issue. In the one above with the migrant family, the issue of fear for the parents for their children and themselves would be something they would feel in their gut and indeed in every pore of their bodies constantly. Only people with strong faith and hope would survive such conditions.

And finally, here’s a little piece I clipped from the weekend edition of the 1440 blog I enjoy most mornings.

Happy Birthday (Eve Eve), America
Congratulations, America—Monday marks the 246th commemoration of the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. The Congress actually voted to separate from Great Britain two days earlier, and possibly didn’t sign the document until August. Some argue the US didn’t really become a country until we began operating under the Constitution in 1789.  Still, since then, the country has grown from 13 colonies with about 2.5 million people to 50 states and 14 territories with a population of more than 330 million. The economy has swelled to roughly $24T. Advances in public health—public sanitation, the germ theory of disease, and more—have cut the child mortality rate from more than 45% to under 1%, and our citizens live 35 years longer on average.  We’ve built almost 4 million miles of paved roads and more than 5,000 public airports. More than 2.7 million miles of power lines electrify the country, with about 85% of households having access to broadband internet and 92% having at least one computer. In 1800, 95% of the population lived in rural areas, and now about 83% live in urban areas. The US has also been responsible for more than 800 human visits to space—the most of any other country with a space agency. While there will always be challenges to face and improvements to make, we’ve come a long way since the beginning. So grab a hot dog and your drink of choice—here’s to the next 246 years.  
From 1440 .com published on Saturday, July 3, 2022

And so we come to the song, Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, that had become one of the great protest songs for the Sixties and Seventies. He wrote two verses that were left out of the recorded versions that were too controversial. Here’s the song. sung by Bruce Springsteen Click here

And the lyrics of the entire song:

This land is your land, and this land is my land
From the California to the Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

According to Joe Klein,[6] after Guthrie composed it “he completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.” (Since there is a March 1944 recording of the song, Klein should have said “four years”.)

Original 1944 lyrics[edit]

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Note that this version drops the two verses that are critical of America from the original: Verse four, about private property, and verse six, about hunger. In 1940, Guthrie was in the anti-war phase he entered after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact, during which he wrote songs praising the Soviet invasion of Poland, attacking President Roosevelt’s loans to Finland in defense against the Soviets, and ridiculing lend-lease aid to the United Kingdom. By 1944, after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Guthrie returned to vigorous support for U.S. involvement in Europe and a more nationalist tone.[7]

Confirmation of two other verses[edit]

After we built the Coolee Dam we had to sell the people out there a lot of bonds to get the money to buy the copper wire and high lines and pay a whole big bunch of people at work and I don’t know what all. We called them Public Utility Bonds, just about like a War Bond, same thing. (And a lot of politicians told the folks not to buy them but we sold them anyhow). The main idea about this song is, you think about these Eight words all the rest of your life and they’ll come a bubbling up into Eighty Jillion all Union. Try it and see. THIS LAND IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME.

– Woody Guthrie, from 10 Songs of Woody Guthrie, 1945

A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. This version was recorded the same day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several archivists for Smithsonian who were interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History – Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.[8]

Woodyguthrie.org has a variant:[9]

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

It also has a verse:[9]

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Courage of the Signers ~ where is our courage?

Dear Friends,

On  July 4, 1776, the men portrayed in the painting above, and their families supporting them published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence,
that created this country.  At its conclusion, they said:

FOR THE SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION
WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON THE PROTECTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
WE MUTUALLY PLEDGE OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES AND OUR SACRED HONOR.

Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality.
They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  Their signatures, bound to their lives, fortunes and honor, created the United States of America.

We need to return again and again to that moment.
We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.

We honor the sacrifices of the women and men and their families who have served in Iraq and in Afghanistan  in the service of our country and those who serve now throughout the world.
Many of these men and women had to sacrifice their physical and emotional lives and those of their families.

But the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little.  We need to ask the same courage and leadership in our President and in our Congress and vote for leaders who show it.  Consider the brave people of Ukraine who are now fighting their war for independence and freedom. They are teaching us–if we have hearts and souls to grasp and heed–what the price of freedom really is: We might easily lose what we have in this country if we are not vigilant.

I received an email some time ago from a friend that showed what happened to many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife; she died shortly thereafter.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

We go on with our complacent lives, untouched by the swirl of politics.

May we not take for granted what we have here in America for we could lose what we have. 

May we not let some try to divide us for we are one people under one flag and a God who respects all people.

May this Fourth of July be a time for us to take stock of ourselves.

John Kennedy said:

“Ask not what our country can do for you;                                                                                                              Ask what you can do for your country.”

I have pleaded for years that we need to be willing to enter a path of personal transformation for the sake of transformation of our country.

And so again today, I invite us to pray for God’s help in that transformation.

Good and gracious God of our understanding, we thank You for the courage and vision of our founding fathers and mothers.


May each of us be willing to transform
our hate to respect for all people, our reliance on material things to reliance on You, our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion


May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us have been experiencing
bring us to You, God of our understanding, for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.
May all our actions show Your wisdom and love.     

For we declare that we are:                                                                                                                                   “ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”                                                                   
Amen.

Now, before you go, here’s the Star Spangled Banner like you’ve never heard it before. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers,  Click here.

And if you’d like, here’s Celine Dion singing God Bless America with a wonderful slide show that just might give you some goosebumps! Click here.  And again, be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

A Prayer for the Fourth of July 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial.
The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.

As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart–as I have done for many years.
Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own.
Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country.
What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America.
But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far away from this vision.
We don’t realize that we must constantly re-birth America — for good or for ill.

It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to revisit that moment of our founding.  And imagine what it was like.

Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world.
Imagine the courage they had.
Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these.
They are sacred because they reflected divine reality.
God blessed these words of Thomas Jefferson.   And our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.

When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old, I would go often and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine and ponder the vision of these sacred words.

I’d like to share with you, once again, what was going on in my head and my heart 42 years ago and today in America in which we are so in much in need of unity and healing–in a country very much divided against itself.

They are faith-based thoughts.
I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world, a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comatose society.

As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have?
What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?

Dearest God,

I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL
AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS.
AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

As a Christian among other God-fearing women and men.
I address You and love You as my God.
You are my God.
But this means that You are not just my God, but the God of all those you have created.

It is my belief that You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will;
Therefore, we are all equal in your sight.  We are all persons.
You conceived and created each human being from the very beginning in Your mind and heart with a unique identity, a body and soul, and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, dear God.
And that makes us sisters and brothers.
Help me to embrace Your children on this planet in my heart.
Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me –
a little place to call home,
simple food to nourish my body,
a decent education
and decent health care.

Help me, God, to recognize and support the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own.
Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs,
but to realize that We Are All One Family.

Yet we are torn apart by hatred and violence and bigotry and brother still kills brother.  Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.

This is my daily prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace in some small way to help bring that about.
To you, dear God,
all honor and praise and thanksgiving,
now and forever.
Amen!

IMG_0256

The Jefferson Memorial

This, dear friends, is my prayer for the world in which I live.
It has ever been such since my lazy summer  of ’79 in Washington and always will be.
I do not expect you to use my words as you pray.
I just invite you to make your own prayer.
Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals.
We need God in our world today as we face the effects of covid 19 that continues to plague us and as we face the vagaries of the Supreme Court decisions and the mid-term elections,

And then there’s the double plague of racism that we also have to look into ourselves and see how each of us is infected by this virus that has been with us for so a long time. And it’s about time we faced up to it.

But we rely on ourselves and not on God.  Capitalism, by definition, can create that illusion.
I urge you to rebirth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2022.
We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, indeed, very often from the mightiest to the lowest of our land.
And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal,
we will lose what we have and are.
Great civilizations before us have collapsed because of their complacency.

Nevertheless, it is my sense that God will transform us if we pray and bind together!

Before the hotdogs and the baby back ribs and the fireworks, let’s be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July.

Ask God for guidance.  Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted.
We need God to bring us through these critical times.

And now, before you go, here’s a powerful song with Reba McEntire “Back to God” that completes my prayer perfectly. Click here

Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  Enjoy your celebration for we still have a beautiful land.

  (There will be several more posts to reflect on following this one.)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer