Friday, November 05, 2010

West Virginia Institue for Spirituality

Sr. Molly Malloney from the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality asked me to write an article as one of the alumni for the Spiritual Director's Training Program. I wrote the following which is scheduled to appear in the December Newsletter of WVIS.

A Word from Massachusetts

Since my semi-retirement from my responsibilities in Saint Albans, WV, I moved back home to Massachusetts where I became a part-time priest in charge of a small historic congregation in Salem. This congregation has witnessed to the love and compassion of Christ for over 277 years and continues to do so now. We are witness to the love of God as we regard all of humanity as one in Christ; whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. Breaking the barriers of human classification that divides and enslaves us to sin is among the greatest driving forces of my life, and is a God given drive.

As I move into this portion of my life, I also must confront the realities of my own vulnerability. Prostate cancer struck me well over a year ago, and I have been living with Jesus as I always have and then journeyed through surgery and now radiation. God has given me the privilege of sharing my journey with others who gather with me in the waiting room at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. We share our joys and sorrows, our hopes and our fears, our aches and our pains.

We cheer one another along. Last week when I was called for a radiation treatment, I quipped; “My turn to shine”. My companion for the day told me that the entire waiting room erupted in laughter as I left the room. “Who is that man?” several asked. “He is my parish priest,” was the proud answer. And thus the witness to Jesus’ love and healing touch tickled those within the Cox Center for Cancer Treatment at one of the world’s great hospitals.

Inside the treatment facility, as I lay on the table with a giant metal fork rotating around me and beaming its rays within my body, I saw the hand of God and sensed a healing touch within me. I saw no vision other than the hand of science and medicine ministering to me out of the gifts God so generously bestows upon the care giving community in my home city. The beaming rays of radiation give me the gift of healing and of life, and I am brim full of gratitude.

There are still moments of irritation, difficulty and impatience. Alas that is the human condition. We journey together along life’s ways but there must be those who point to God even when are alone on treatment table.

I am very grateful for the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and for Sr. Carole Riley and Sr. Molly and the many others who helped me sharpen my skills in seeing God in unlikely places. You did a wonderful job. I am witnessing to Jesus still and as long as I am able and will sing God’s praises in season and out of season. May God bless you all.

Fr. Fred's New Book~an Introduction

Fr. Fred Engdahl Jr. has been writing prayers for years and posting them on Facebook. I often comments on those prayers out of appreciation. A devoted parishioner of his is collecting those prayers and has arranged to have them published. She asked me to write the forward. Here is what I wrote:

A Collection of Prayers by Fr. Fred Engdahl Jr.

An Introduction by Fr. Paul Bresnahan

Day by day, Fr. Fred says his prayers. He posts them on Facebook, and those of us lucky enough to call him “friend” pray with him. He reminds us that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, just as Jesus said it was. (Luke 17:20-21)

We no longer look up to fluffy clouds for a bearded gentleman, ancient of days...we’ve grown way beyond that simplistic notion. God is no longer “up there” or “out there” but “in here”. When I say “in here” I point to the human heart where Fr. Fred’s prayers are firmly planted. Like seeds that are nurtured by the waters of godly and human love, they grow within us and reach out like a vine to connect all who love God and seek to love one another.

Our connection know no boundaries. We are all one in Christ just as Jesus taught. There are no outcasts. Whatever race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation, the love of God is generous, lavish and extravagant for all. The sooner The Church learns this simple truth, the better for us all. Fr. Fred writes for us all. Fr. Fred prays with us all. Learn from these lovely and gracious prayers that they are meant for you. God loves you.

Facebook has become a gentle place to witness to the love of Jesus for many of us. It is a funny thing that many are growing closer to God through something as simple as a daily prayer posted on an electronic medium. This social network itself can be a place for God to dwell, and for Gospel moments to shine brightly in a dark world.

Fr. Fred’s creativity and faithfulness to the Prayer Book tradition are splendidly combined in this new book. For those of us with a hunger for God, and a longing for quiet streams of spiritual grace, these prayers are a wondrous contribution that satisfies the quiet seeker.

Come and search within. Look for the truth within you. Look into that mirror of the soul and see there the image of God in which you were created, redeemed and sanctified. Then look deeply into the eyes of your neighbor and you will see your own inverted image. These images are windows into the soul. There at the heart of things God lives deep within us all.

We stand as evidence that Jesus is living. Jesus is not just a two syllable word. Jesus is the personification of the love of God. Jesus is universal to the human condition as we all seek to delve into the mystery of human love. How can we love in such dangerous time? One at a time: that must be the answer. That’s how Jesus did it when he started out in such a conflicted time and in such a conflicted place. We can only love when we see ourselves and God reflected in one another’s lives. Even of our enemies, Jesus said love them. Thus to be created in the image of God means that we are constant in our prayer for the love of God and the love of our neighbor.

Did anybody ever say that this love would be easy? It was not easy for Jesus. The cost of such love and such discipleship can be costly indeed; but it can be nothing less than this; love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, and reconcile the irreconcilable.

Only through prayer are such things possible.

What makes me grateful for this collection of prayers, and for Fr. Fred’s posts on Facebook is the daily reminder that God touches our hearts one at a time, day by day, moment by moment. It is so easy to forget whose we are and to Whom we belong. We belong to God; we belong to one another. Thank you Fr. Fred. Your good and patient work is paying off!

I think you will enjoy reading this wonderful book.

Fr. Paul B. Bresnahan