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Planet Earth hisses with unquenchable fires of greed, rage, pride, lust, gluttony, envy, and sloth. I know, having experienced all of them, the eruption of instincts gone wild. Seldom is there enough. Needs for more pleasuring, more status, and more security eviscerate spirits, jaded and empty like back alley dumpsters. Whatever is trending at the moment catches excitement and maxed-out credit cards.

Such excesses compel hospital chains to construct still more facilities to accommodate technological advances, to woo the sickly with promises of health, to strip insurance plans of substance. Strapped upon Procrustean beds, the numbers must look right.

Such excesses impoverish families of basic necessities, over stimulate sensory receptors that frustrate learning, enervate intimacy, and obliterate traces of uniqueness. Sleep deprived, robot-like trudging from sunup to sundown, body breakdown accelerates aging and leers at change.

Such excesses drain leaders of courage, compel them to adhere to the tried and true, and compose windy legislation that serves no one. On all levels, violence continues eroding the ground we stand upon.

Such excesses have even besmirched church sanctuaries run like corporations to stay afloat, hobbled aging pastors of zest and watered down their homilies—Their sole purpose, to retire when permitted by their bishops or boards.

No wonder that Covid-19 threatens Planet Earth with its sputtering half-life, with its feverish weather cycles. Certainly, we’ve never seen the like. Lest overwhelmed, I resort to my inner world and sink within silence. Therein likes the antidote to this global Bedlam: the purifying flame of Spirit.

With the Psalmist we pray: Send forth thy spirit…and renew the face of the earth. Let the refining fire begin with our willingness to change. We’re not alone.

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me—Petition that concludes the Spiritual Exercises (1522-1524) of St Ignatius of Loyola, and one I used to pray during retreats, both in the convent and at Gloucester.

 My return to this radical prayer of self-giving challenges previous life reviews and invites deeper contemplation of Creator God, to whom I owe my eighty-four years of life.

Indeed, I have been fearfully and wonderfully made as reflected in Psalm 139:14—No matter the decades of rheumatoid arthritis and nasty obsessions that harrowed my spirit, unearthing pride’s minions with their infections. Such upheavals have compelled my dream work since 1988, as well as prayer with the Psalmist, Create, O God, a clean heart within me.

The resulting psychic changes, I see clearly now, reflect the vital process of actualizing my birthright. Where there were only bits and pieces of this and that in my psyche, internalized in desperation from others, there is now substance: memory, understanding, will, all that I have and possess companions my days through end time. Their uniqueness bathes my daylight hours with vibrant colors.

It has been said that life is a Gift. I feel this in every fiber of my being and with wordless praise return this Gift to Creator God, with my thumbprints. Thy love and thy grace… are sufficient for me.

Within the dense viburnum shrub outside my study window, an orange-red flicker caught my attention until breezes hid it from view. I waited until the leaves again parted to reveal a female cardinal nesting her clutch. Beneath her long tail was the cone-shaped nest of leaves, stems, and twigs. She seemed content, her pointed feather crest bespeaking her authority as mother. For at least two weeks, her body warmth will facilitate the hatching.

This experience of nesting also recalled the Italian sonnet, “God’s Grandeur” composed by the mystic Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877, the year of his ordination as a Jesuit. In the octet he discounts the evils of Liverpool’s Industrial Revolution dulling the sensitivities of the residents: “…all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil/and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell…” Yet for the spiritually adept in the sestet, Hopkins images the Holy Ghost “…over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.”

In view of global disease and unrest challenging our way of life, these images afford critical protection and care, there being evil intent upon rocking our foundations and disseminating fear. No one knows the outcome of this upheaval, how it will look like or when it will occur. Within quiet cloisters of our hearts, we watch and wait and pray. In the religious history of the world, there has always been a remnant that has survived and told the story to those willing to listen. Perhaps this will be our experience.

However this crisis works out, we’re always sheltered from harm like fledglings warmed by nesting birds, both natural and supernatural. Such is our God-given faith.

 

 

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