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Ashes to ashes, dust to dust ~ Can we rise again?

Ash Wednesday 2018

Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter is early this year ~ Sunday April 1st.

So, you may ask ~ what are ashes all about?

We Catholics like symbols.  (So does Harry Potter.)

What can they tell us about life? And death?  And reality?

When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:



So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.

Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?

Have made an ash-heap of our life

Are we sitting in an ash-heap?

Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?

If so, do we despair?

Or can we dream of re-building?

Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.

They could very well be true at any moment of our life.

I certainly can say ~ There but for the grace of God go I.

I was searching for a song about ashes and I found one by the Rock group Rev Theory in their song The Fire. 

Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics; they seem to know this:

Tell me that I’m hopeless
Tell me I’m a lost and wayward son
Tell me that I’m callous
Tell me that our life is too forgone

So take a breath and brace yourself

Tell me I’m a lost soul
Tell me I’ve one foot in the grave
Tell me that I’m shallow
Tell me it’s enough to keep you awake

So take a breath and brace yourself

Coz tonight this could be the last chance before we die
Can we rise again from the ashes?
In this final moment
Is the fire still alive?

Notice these guys are dealing with the same issues here.

Of  being lost; of needing a change.  And, amazingly, they use the metaphor of ashes and ask if the fire is still alive.

What is the fire for them?  Love?  Creativity?  The Holy Spirit perhaps?

But for us,  Lent is a season of hope that ends in new life, in risen life.

It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.

That’s what the word conversion means.  To simply do a U-turn.

Turn around and head in a different direction.

To get going again.

To CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expect different results. 

It doesn’t do a Catholic much good who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what they symbolize:  CHANGE.

And so, dear friend, don’t just give up something  for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.

I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your faith.

Make the sign Mean Something!

Let it transform you from inside out.

The question is:  Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?

So, let’s do Lent well ~ together.

During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.

Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.

And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change and enrich our lives for the better.

It seems Rev Theory are on their way to it already.

Whether you are  Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom,

some meaning for your life in these pages.  Join us as we walk the journey together

as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2018.

God of  pardon and of love,

Mercy past all measure,

You alone can grant us peace,

You, our holy treasure.  

Now here’s Rev Theory’s ~ The Fire  Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen but if you’re not used to rock music DON”T turn up your speakers. 

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer  

Thursday~ The Jesus I know and Love

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CARNIVAL! When do you let yourself have some fun?

Dear Friends,

Well, this week the Big Easy and Rio have one thing in common — one huge party! And this year it coincides with our Valentine’s Day celebration ~ so things are a bit mixed up this year, but all for more fun! And what is so interesting its very Catholic.  It’s a time to let your hair down before the strike of midnight Ash Wednesday when we  Catholics used to abstain from meat during  the six-week Lenten season.

The root of the word “CARnival is the same as the word “inCARnation”~ a word that means the enfleshment of the Son of God.  

Now here’s a bit of Carnival or Mardi Gras history for you.

A carnival is a celebration combining parades, pageantry, folk drama, and feasting, usually held in Catholic countries during the weeks before Lent. The term Carnival probably comes from the Latin word “carnelevarium”, meaning “to remove meat.”   Typically the Carnival season begins early in the new year, often on Epiphany, January 6, and ends in February on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French).

Probably originating in pagan spring fertility rites, the first recorded carnival was the Egyptian feast of Osiris, an event marking the receding of the Nile’s flood water.  Carnivals reached a peak of riotous dissipation with the Roman BACCHANALIA and Saturnalia.

In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church tried to suppress all pagan ideas, it failed when it came to this celebration. The Church incorporated the rite into its own calendar as a period of thanksgiving. Popes sometimes served as patrons.

The nations of Europe, especially France, Spain, and Portugal, gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks, and dancing in the streets. All three colonizing powers carried the tradition with them to the New World, but in Brazil it landed with a difference. Not only did the Portuguese have a taste for abandoned merriment, (they brought the “entrudo”, a prank where merry-makers throw water, flour, face powder, and many other things at each other’s faces), but the Negro slaves also took to the celebration. They would smear their faces with flour, borrow an old wig or frayed shirt of the master, and give themselves over to mad revelry for the three days. Many masters even let their slaves roam freely during the celebration. Since the slaves were grateful for the chance to enjoy themselves, they rarely used the occasion as a chance to run away.

Pre-Christian, medieval, and modern carnivals share important thematic features. They celebrate the death of winter and the rebirth of nature, ultimately re-committing the individual to the spiritual and social codes of the culture. Ancient fertility rites, with their sacrifices to the gods, exemplify this commitment, as do the Christian Shrovetide plays.  On the other hand, carnivals allow parody of, and offer temporary release from, social and religious constraints. For example, slaves were the equals of their masters during the Roman Saturnalia; the medieval feast of fools included a blasphemous mass; and during carnival masquerades sexual and social taboos are sometimes temporarily suspended.

Tomorrow: Why Ashes on Ash Wednesday?

May I suggest that  by Wednesday morning to try  be ready to enter into a deeper journey into your inner depths to discover our Lord and at the same time your deepest Self.  Be ready to experience new life, new growth for your self and for our country.

Dear Lord,

Today we let our hair down a bit and when the fun is over,

may we be ready to enter the desert on Wednesday with you

and discover how desert experiences can cleanse and purify us and make us whole.

Let us enter the desert willingly and learn its lessons well.

We ask you, Lord, to lead the way.


But, before you go, here’s a musical slide show of what a Carnival parade is like down in Rio. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen.

(Ladies: Let your husbands have some fun – um ~ it’s not exactly R-rated.)  

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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True love is faithful love ~ in God’s love ~ How true is your love?


Flagler Beach Florida sunrise / bob traupman.


Well, actually it’s not quite Valentine’s Day yet, but the 14th this year happens to coincide with Ash Wednesday, so I’m greeting you a bit early for all the romantic stuff. On Monday, we’ll begin thinking about Lent by going down to the Big Easy and to Rio for Carnival! and then off to prepare for Lent. But now back to thoughts about LOVE . . .

We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Cor. 13. And this is my final post on the subject.

Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it does not seek its own interests,                                                                        it is not quick-tempered,                                                                                                                                                                   it does not brood over injury,                                                                                                                                                           it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Romantic love wears off in a few months.  True love requires fidelity.  I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and there is still a place in my heart for them, even those who turned out to reject me.  And when I think of them I believe my prayer is able to touch them now, either living or dead and let them know I still love them.

We think we know all about love. Yet Love is  an Art and a Discipline that is only learned and acquired by trial and error.  Thus, we have to learn how to love.  Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes  or families and find people who can teach us well.  I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love.

When I taught high school seniors (48 years ago!) I had them read two books,  Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Both books still should be required reading by anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.

Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love.  Fromm — and Jesus — tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.

Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.

It is just not possible to love some and hate others.  St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.”

Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.

Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.

How often we fail.  But that’s what growth in love and Christian spirituality is all about.Sometimes it requires a heroic effort and sacrificial love ~ the love of Jesus, the Love of God for us.  And so here’s my final prayer for this Valentine’s Day . . . .

Good and gracious God,

We live in a world that gives us so few models of faithful love.

Help us to learn the art and discipline of loving.

Help us to understand that we cannot love one person ~ even ourselves ~ unless we let love ~ rather than hate ~ flow from our heart to touch and heal and nourish those around us.

Heal us, Lord.

Let us trust in You for you are the Source of all Love,

Your Love is flowing like a river giving life to everything along the way.

May love flow like a river from our own hearts to everyone we meet this day.  

And now before you go, wouldn’t you like to hear a romantic melody for your beloved?  Well, here’s a very unique one: Cold Play’s True Love  Click here. 

With love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Cor. 13)  Savor each line and see how you measure up. . . .

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;

if I have all faith so as to move mountains

but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast

but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,

Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

     I Corinthians 13

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Jilted lovers ~ or Joyous love?

mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman. 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Our society finds it quite acceptable for people to hop into one relationship after another or just satisfy their needs by “hooking up”.

How many times have young people thought that this was the person of their dreams and been dumped by a rude text message ~ or done the dumping themselves?

How many marriages have ended when one spouse showed up in the kitchen and announced, “I want a divorce!”  No discussion.  No attempt to work out problems.  No mercy.  No forgiveness.   It’s over.  Done.

And what happens is that a person may add one unsuccessful relationship on top of another.  As a result, our heart can become more and more wounded. And less and less trusting, less and less capable of loving .  . . unless we somehow find a way to believe again, to hope again.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the truth and the transforming power of St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 13 we’re reflecting on in this series “What is Love?”

LOVE . . .

. . .  it is not rude,                                                                                                                                                                                  

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,                                                                                                                                                        

 it  does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

it bears all things.                                                                                                                                                

believes all things,                                                                                                                                          

hopes all things.                                                                                                                                                  

endures all things.

Love never fails.

We just have to learn to love anyway! If we’re hurt, keep on loving!

At least, that’s what St. Paul is getting at “Love does not brood over injuries.”

In the Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic book written in 1956, consider his statement that will blow most of us out of the water:

Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person:  it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love.  If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment  or an enlarged egotism . . . If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world; I love life.  If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say” I love in you everybody.   I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”~ p. 39.) (When I taught Seniors in high school, this little book was required reading, along with Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.)

This is, of course, the heart of Jesus’ message, but many, if not most of us who say we’re his followers still don’t get it.

 As tech opportunities for “communication” proliferate the less we communicate.  We communicate more and more on a superficial level.  You can’t really know someone through texting or on Facebook or in an email.  A person can present a false persona. The only real way to communicate with someone is to be in their presence using all our senses.

We need to learn, once again how to come to true intimacy ~ the coming together of two or more persons who have the courage open themselves to the transformative power of love.

If you are one who seeks that, I’m with you.   That’s what my writing is about.

Our final blog of this series will turn this subject around to consider “The Transformative Power of Love.”

Good and gracious God,

we ask you to heal the hearts that are broken.

Help us to see even in the midst of our brokenness the depth of Your Love for us.

And may we see our brokenness when we reject Your love.

We may feel we cannot take the risk to open our hearts once more.

Give us the courage and strength to stop destructive patterns that lead only to more pain.

Give us hope, Lord.

Instead of seeking to find our true love,

let us simply become persons who love —

. . . whomever we’re with,

. . . to grow in our capacity to love

so that we can reach out to the whole world

as You do at every moment,

in every time and place.

To You, God of our understanding,

we give You praise, now and forever.


Now I suggest you take a second look at that tree weathering the mountaintop at 8000 feet.  It has been jilted by the weather.  But it still stands nobly and proudly — broken, gnarled and twisted; it’s a fine lesson for us of the meaning of life.

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) once again.   Savor each phrase and see how you measure up. . . .

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.   And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains  but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous. Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered,  does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  So faith, hope love remain, these, but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13

Now before you go, here’s a music video for you. Click Here.

Erich Fromm Art of Loving / Harper and Row – 1956

With Love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

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St. Paul’s Ode to Love ~ How do we measure up?



Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers,  intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones.

Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.”   And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they?

There’s a bit of a damper on this “holiday” this year as February 14 is also Ash Wednesday. For many Christian  it’s  the beginning of Lent and is a day of fasting and abstinence for us Catholics.

So let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?

I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest have chosen  St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.

It has got to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.

Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.

. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,                  

I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;

if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It is not jealous,

Love is not pompous,

it is not inflated,

it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.

~ I Corinthians 13 

Dearest God,

You are Love itself.

We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.

We rejoice in them and remember them in love.

But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.

Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.

May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.

To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.


Before  you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song  I’ve always favored ~ one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I want to say here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day!  It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.

 I’ll be publishing two more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love this week and then on Monday we’ll have some fun on Carnival! from Rio and get ready for Ash Wednesday and the  Holy Lenten Season.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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St. Paul: A Vessel of Love filled with fire ~ What fills You with fire?

January 25th, 2018 ~ The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity–thus, he worked as a tentmaker wherever he went.  After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because, as I tried to learn from him . . . .

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

~ Philippians 4:13

Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, “I persecuted this Way (i.e. Christians) to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.) Or the alternative version given in the Mass readings below (Acts 9:1-22).

I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, in the early church says about Paul in the divine office for today . . . .

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable.  Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him.  He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.”  (There’s a lesson for us here, isn’t there?)

I never paid much attention to Paul until my later years.  And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite the passages that show his Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .

Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important point of all is . . . .

St. Paul knew himself to be loved by Christ.  Enjoying this love, he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and yet the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love than be among the great and honored.  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, the present and the future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. (Another lesson for us?)

A few years ago, a priest-friend sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and still sits on my dining room table that I often glance at.  As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive illness it means a great deal to me . . . .

My grace is sufficient 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, it is then I am strong.  

              (2 Cor. 12:9-10) 

You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord ~ or rather to realize in tears of joy that Jesus loves deeply and richly ~ as I am, weak and sinful.  He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor ~ if in no other way.

And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you know it or not.  Our God is love!  Know that–despite whatever else you’ve been taught, despite how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are.  YOU ARE LOVED!  THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE! And if you want, call me and I’ll try to help ~ 904-315-5268.

We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word that really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word.   Amen.  Amen!  

And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.”  It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.

And here are all of today’s mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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Roe v Wade at 45 ~ Where do you Stand?

Late this past week, multitudes of people from throughout the United States assembled in our nation’s capital to pray and peacefully protest against legalized abortion. It was the forty-fifth such March for Life, which has been held annually to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The event raises questions about the approach of a Christian believer to life and how such a belief should be lived and expressed.

Are Christians only concerned with abortion? Do we champion the cause of life only until it’s born?

With an assault on people with terminal illnesses, special needs, the poor, migrants and refugees, minorities, and others, the call of the Christian to defend and advocate for life is real. Questions about capital punishment, euthanasia, war, torture, and other life issues are pressing and need clear answers.

How can the believer take action if the mission to protect life is ambiguous?

In an attempt to provide an answer to these questions, some have promoted a “consistent life ethic,” a type of seamless garment theory that was once taught by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

The theory is not without its problems. Contemporary versions of the theory, therefore, have retrieved the rich doctrine of solidarity from the Catholic tradition. Such a creative use of solidarity is helpful, since it shows a general unity within the teachings of social doctrine as well as a universal care and compassion for all people, especially those inflicted by each and any of the diverse social ills of our day.

In order for solidarity to be lived, which is an active effort to fulfill our call to be true brother or sister to our neighbor, we need subsidiarity. Subsidiarity exhorts us to allow moral teachings and social action to be coordinated and completed by the most appropriate social level possible [. . . .] and enhances practical discernment of needs, summons neighbors to reach out to one another, and develops a heartfelt and holistic sense of the common good among citizens and believers.

In answer to the question about the Christian’s specific mission to serve and advocate for life, subsidiarity shows us the obvious: Before we can advocate about any other life issues, we must have life itself. The first and fundamental right that must be argued and defended, therefore, is the beginning of life.

And so, we must oppose abortion without confusion or uncertainty. It stands as the primary and perennial issue for the person who cherishes and respects life.

While not a single issue, since it’s the first of many life issues, our opposition to abortion calls us to a solidarity with life. Such a solidarity compels us to care for the poor, the migrant and refugee, the person with special needs, and others who are helped by our attention and service. Such a solidarity urges us to work for peace, champion the rights of minorities, oppose capital punishment, and seek social harmony however we’re able.

None of these issues, however, are equal to abortion but all of them are connected to the dignity that abortion offends and they call for our intervention and action. They call us to solidarity. Our opposition to abortion, therefore, leads us into a solidarity with life and guides us in our fight against other social ills.

The above explanation can help the Christian who wants to be true brother or sister to all people, without falling into moral ambiguity, or who wants to accompany and serve those who suffer, without being entrapped in only one issue. Each of us, as believers or as people of good will, are called to welcome life – defending it at its beginning – and cherish it by living peacefully with all men and women and advocating for all those who suffer.

And so, we are called to solidarity and subsidiarity. We are called to be a people of life from the womb to the tomb, and everywhere in between. 

(Credit: Article in Crux by Father Jeffrey F. Kirby  Jan 21, 2018)

And now I begin my prayer as I always do , , , , 

Heavenly Father,

I praise you and thank you for the gift of life

and of love that you share with me ~ with us.

On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children,

please allows us not to judge anyone who has had an abortion,

but to reach out with compassion to all with love and understanding.

And now,before you go, here’s Psalm 91 in song “On Eagle’s Wings.” Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer