The Ritual of Taking Medication as Prayer

"Regular ingestion of prescribed medications — something that was tremendously difficult for me in the beginning — became a kind of prayer of the hours. Taking those medications several times daily required a sort of concentration and attention that seemed almost like listening prayer. The rhythm of a day punctuated by times of taking pills was oddly reminiscent of a day marked by praying Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. The living God who is with us in all circumstances and through all passages began to be surprisingly present in these altered patterns of daily life. So, the rudiments of a new rule of life began to appear in the midst of the wreckage of a life shattered by acute illness. Those rudiments were found in the living with the illness, in the daily recognition of myself as one weakened and afflicted, yet also upheld and sustained by God."
Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness

Praying for Awareness of the Fragility of Life

"One of my favorite prayers from The Book of Common Prayer contains this line: 'Make us, we pray, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life.' When you stop and think about it, that's a pretty strange prayer. Most of us don't like to be reminded how easily a life can end. But living with illness can force us to face the shortness and uncertainty of human life, like it or not. We know in our bones that we could, like the autumn leaf, fall at any moment, and naming that and experiencing our feelings around that awareness are essential."
Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness

Acquiring a Taste for Vulnerability

"Vulnerability is a fruit for which we need to acquire a taste. Most of us have very little practice in being appropriately vulnerable. When we do open up a little to God and to one another, relationship that is real and resilient starts to take shape. We don't invest so much energy in keeping the proverbial 'stiff upper lip.' Honesty, tenderness, and vulnerability go hand in hand — three qualities that are much needed in living with illness."
Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness

Reflecting on Regimens of Medicine and Treatment

"Practice adding intercessory prayers to your medical regime. These can be short and to the point: 'For all of those who live with this same illness. For all of those who need these medicines and cannot acquire them. For all of those who brought this medicine into being.' How does this practice affect your own experience of taking the medicines?

"Some medications are literally taken by people all over the world (insulin, for example). Before taking your medication, allow yourself to pause and remember all the others who are connected to you in this way. Make note of your changing awareness as you practice this prayer of connection."
Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness

The Body is Not the Betrayer

"Illness is without a doubt disconcerting, disturbing, perhaps cause for despair. Illness can also serve as a means to awareness. Reflecting on the ability of the body to heal, to keep going in the face of chronic ailments, to repair after chemotherapy and radiation, may lead us to become aware that this body truly is called to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul put it. Our perception may shift. The body is neither the betrayer nor the machine but a sacramental sign of the creating, redeeming, sanctifying work of God. We become aware that our bodies are not in our complete control; at the same time we have a call to be good stewards of these bodies, to care for them as good gifts from a good God — even when the bodies are afflicted and pain-stricken."
Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

Encountering your Body

"Kindly focus your awareness on [one organ] of your body, adding this prayer: 'I will thank you because I am marvelously made' (Ps 139:13). For example, perhaps your attention has rested upon your kidney. Breathing slowly, let your awareness focus on your kidneys, while repeating silently or aloud, 'I will thank you because I am marvelously made.' There is no clever formula for matching the words to the breath; just let that happen as naturally as you can.

"As your attention remains with one particular organ, notice if you have any feelings, fears, misgivings, anxieties, questions, or thanksgivings. What memories come to you? Concerns? Associations? Allow yourself time to pay attention to images or colors. Perhaps a line from a hymn, or a song, or a poem will come to you during this time of focusing."
Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

Reading a Scar

"Gently trace the scar with your fingers. Let your fingers rest on the scar tissue as you return to the gentle breathing and praying of 'My body shall rest in hope.' After several minutes, continue touching the scar, and listen. Notice what emotions, associations, and memories come to you. Bless the scar tissue with a simple prayer of thanksgiving for the body's ability to grow new cells: 'Thanks be to God for a body that creates new tissue.' You may want to sign the scar with a cross or perform another gesture, ritual, or prayer that is more fitting to your circumstance and body. The point is to become aware of the body's injury and its capacity to knit together."
Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

Massage Therapy

"It may be helpful to enter into massage therapy, if this is appropriate for your physical state and is supported by your doctor. Therapeutic or healing touch can help you hear what your body is saying as it allows the release of hidden grief or other deep emotion. And using massage therapy to support meditatio can continually ground you in the reality of the experience of your illness, helping to screen out received interpretations of the illness that are either wrong or invasive. The prayerful practice of massage therapy can be a form of anointing for healing, supporting body and soul in living with the illness."
Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

Lectio Divina with Medicines

"This practice is intended to help you become aware of the medicines [that you take] consciously and to bring them into prayer. . . .

"Begin reflecting on others who take the same medication. Pray for them.

Recall the researchers whose efforts resulted in the medicine. Pray for them.

Recall the pharmacist who filled the prescription. Pray for her/him.

Recall those who need the medication and cannot afford it. Pray for them.

"Finally, note in your journal what you might have noticed or discovered in your meditation. If this needs to take a creative form in paint or gesture or movement, allow that to happen. If you have received an insight about a prayer to accompany the ingestion of your own medication, write it in your journal and use it as you take your medicines.
Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

What Illness teaches Us

"Illness teaches us to approach time differently. Within the context of illness, we may discover what Abraham Heschel called 'holiness in time.' In the midst of tests, blood work, CAT scans, hospitalizations, physical therapy, there may be an unexpected inbreaking of grace and mercy, of beauty too exquisite for words, of tenderness and friendship that stir us with sighs too deep for words.

"Beginning again because of illness precludes a perfect outcome. But a perfect outcome, thank God, is not the point. What is? The point is to listen ever more deeply for the living Trinity within and through the circumstance of your illness."
Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

The Lives of the Desert Mothers

"The lives of these desert mothers, while often seeming strange and completely at odds with the lives of women today, happily challenge and subvert many of the cultural norms that impede women's spiritual growth. They offer the comfort that discomforts. The example of their lives, when reflected upon, leads us to ask questions of ourselves as women and of our larger culture. The sayings they have left us, though far fewer than the recorded sayings of the desert fathers, nevertheless direct our gaze away from surface reality. We have collections of sayings from three ammas, Sarah, Syncletica, and Theodora. We have mention of a woman named Amma Matrona. While these four names may lead us to believe there were few women in this movement, a contemporary historian tells us that there were twice as many women as men living in the desert. These figures are not to be understood as census data; they point to the fact that women were more numerous than men in this way of desert spirituality, and that the practice of the desert way attracted many women as a genuine expression of Christian life."
The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness

God's Mercy

"One of the most startling aspects of the spirituality of these desert mothers was their insistence on not judging the actions of others. In our society, where the judging of others is constantly encouraged and practiced, this refusal to judge seems almost absurd. The desert mothers based their insistent refusal to judge their neighbors on the merciful love of God revealed in Jesus. They perceived that God's mercy encompasses all human failure and that if God is willing to be merciful, then so should we."
The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness

Staying in the Cell

"Our ancient mothers knew that when boredom threatened, it could very well be the outward and visible sign of God's secret, hidden, inner work within the human heart and soul. Consequently, they emphasized staying in the cell, in the little room of daily living, and letting that cell be their teacher. . . .

"Staying in the cell, or 'sitting on the eggs,' means noticing our appetite for overstimulation. The cell teaches us to slow down, to be less of a slave to our impulses, to notice what is right in front of us. The wisdom the desert mothers offer us is that by staying with ourselves, with our inner ups and downs, with our hurts and our fears, we will bring forth the new life that God is creating within us. The cell teaches us to trust in the Presence even when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. The cell helps us to see that skipping from one activity to another, from one interest to another, from one focus to another results in never putting down roots, never getting to deeper meaning and purpose, never going beyond surface reality."
The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness

Living with Discernment

"The practice of living with discernment invites us to slow down and to reflect. One way to begin incorporating discernment into your life is to practice a prayer of recollection daily. This is a simple way of reviewing the day's events, remembering what happened in a twenty-four-hour period and prayerfully noticing what might have been overlooked. A prayer of recollection allows us to bring eyes to see and ears to hear to the dailiness of our lives. By taking the time to 'collect' all of the bits and pieces of our day, we receive what we have been given. We have an opportunity to notice moments when we failed to be kind, to be forgiving, to be generous, to be hospitable. And we notice when we were the recipients of kindness, forgiveness, generosity, hospitality. We allow God to tell us the truth of our day."
The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness

There is no Moment When God is not with Us

"All of life is an ascetical practice. What do I mean by that? Very simply, I mean that the entire fabric of our lives is woven together with God's life. There is no moment, no hour, no day when God is not with us. The ascetical practice for those of us who are not monastics, while of the same Spirit, is different in expression. We are called upon to practice love in the lives we already live. We are invited to be alert for the opportunities to notice the Presence that is with us every moment, in every place. We are invited to bring a different intention to our relationships, to our work, to our leisure."
The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness

Soul Friends

"Each of us needs the counsel and friendship of someone who knows us well, someone who can encourage us to notice behaviors that are destructive to ourselves and one another. Each of us needs a soul friend, an anam cara (Irish) or periglour (Welsh), who will guide us in growing in the likeness of God. As we grow in the likeness of God, our life, both as individuals and as communities, is marked more and more distinctly by faith, hope, and love. We grow in self-control. We exhibit the joy that is birthed only after deep sorrow. We know that with endurance we gain our souls. We trust that nothing is ever beyond the reach of God's mercy and healing."
Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings — Annotated & Explained

Thin Spaces

"The Celtic Christian tradition speaks of 'thin spaces' — geographical contexts in which the interdependent nature of heaven and earth is keenly sensed. Upon encountering a thin space, we are greeted by the ever-present community of angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. The material world is shot through with intimations of divine presence. In some landscapes, the veil between the earthly sphere and the heavenly sphere is very thin."
Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings — Annotated & Explained

Prayer is an Expression of Joy

"Prayer in the Celtic Christian tradition is, at its core, an expression of joy. In part this is the result of the influence of the Gospel of John, in which Jesus speaks so clearly of his desire that his followers know joy (see John 3:29, 15:11, 16:20, 17:13). It is also a cultural predisposition, despite difficult and disastrous economic, social, and political circumstances. In these Celtic prayers we encounter a vision of God who joys in creating, joys in loving, joys in receiving us at the end of our earthly lives. It is a vision of humanity created for joy."
Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings — Annotated & Explained

Bless to Me

"The formula 'bless to me' is found throughout the Hebridean prayers. It recalls the language of the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 1:3). 'Blessing' describes God's own life and vitality, and these prayers are a means of awakening to the blessing offered at every moment. In this petition, blessing is asked upon body and soul, belief and condition. In other words, blessing is asked upon the whole of life, singularly lived and uniquely experienced."
Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings — Annotated & Explained

Soul Friendship

"Celtic Christianity is distinctive in this insistence on soul friendship. With a soul friend, true vulnerability is possible because this friend wills all good and all blessing for us, even when — especially when — we are in error and stand in need of correction. A soul friend will not shy away from speaking the truth in love. When counsel is offered with true kindness, we are able to receive the strong medicine of truth — words that both offer renewal and restoration and honor God's light and life already present within us."
Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings — Annotated & Explained

God is our Mother

"In her theology of hope and steadfast love, Julian declares that God is our mother. During the medieval period, it was not unusual for monks and nuns to write about Jesus as a mother who feeds us with his own body, just as a mother feeds a baby with her breast milk. Julian takes this one step further. She focuses the work of divine grace in declaring Jesus (and therefore God) to be our mother. As we shall see in the texts that follow, Julian states that we come forth from God's own life, and we are made new by God in Jesus's Passion, rebirthed in joy through Jesus's self-offering. Motherhood, for Julian, is the primary way of articulating the Incarnation and redemption shown to her in Jesus on the cross.

"Throughout her writings Julian offers the reader sound spiritual direction, for she expands our images for God and rejects any residual notions of God as an avenging, angry presence. She leads us to open our minds, our hearts, and our imaginations, so that we may receive the divine love that makes, sustains, and cares for us. When she hears the words 'all shall be well,' she receives them as words offering eternal hope from the One who is mother, father, friend, spouse, and love incarnate."
Julian of Norwich: Selections from Revelations of Divine Love — Annotated & Explained

The Vision of the Hazlenut

"The hazelnut was a common food [during the time of Julian of Norwich], so the image would convey something homely and ordinary to the reader.

"In this vision of the hazelnut lying in the palm of one hand, Julian is given an inspired sense of God's infinity that frames much of her reflections. God is to the created universe as Julian's hand is to the hazelnut. In other words, the whole of the created order — galaxies, suns, planets — is held within God's hand. This image also echoes a scriptural motif found in Isaiah 40:12: 'Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?' "
Julian of Norwich: Selections from Revelations of Divine Love — Annotated & Explained

God Secretly Works to Draw us Toward Mercy

"God secretly and steadily works to draw us toward mercy and grace, always seeking to bring us life and love. For that reason we need to be honest with ourselves, recognizing the ways we act to dishonor the image and likeness of God in one another. As we focus on our own propensity to hurt others and to thwart the divine love in all things and in all places, we do realize our need for forgiveness. It can be deeply sobering to emerge from our spiritual fog and clearly see the ways in which we have forgotten that we are always in God. Deep within us, God is working toward the peace that passes all understanding."
Julian of Norwich: Selections from Revelations of Divine Love — Annotated & Explained

God Loves All That is Made

"God loves all that is made, both in general and in particular. Julian's breathtaking insight is that just as God yearns for all of humanity, so God yearns for every single person. If I assume that God's love for me does not extend to others, I have failed to grasp the truth. Julian sees and understands that God delights in each and every person, and only when our hearts and souls accept this truth does the true compassion of God move within our lives. Further, because God makes, loves, and keeps each person, and we all come from that same love, we are joined to one another as part of a vital, intricate whole."
Julian of Norwich: Selections from Revelations of Divine Love — Annotated & Explained