Marked as Christ’s Own Forever: A Coptic Practice – Br. Kevin Hackett
What In The World Are We Doing? – Br. David Vryhof
In Our Hands – Br. Mark Brown
25th Anniversary of the Boston Chinese Ministry – Br. David Allen
During the last years of my life as a Harvard undergraduate I had as my confessor and spiritual director Father William Hoffman of our Society. Father Hoffman taught me two intercessory prayer practices which I have found very helpful over the years. He emphasized the importance of responding spontaneously to a perceived need for prayer. For instance, when you see or hear an ambulance go by, you pray for the crew and the patient, or, when you go by a hospital, pray for those in the hospital, and so forth. It is the same when you read a newspaper or a letter from someone sharing some need. Father Hoffman also strongly recommended keeping an intercession list, which I have always found helpful. Praying using an intercession list has the very human element of keeping us in touch with people whom we might otherwise forget. I suggest keeping a person on your list until you come to a point where you can no longer see their face in your mind’s eye, then let them go. Or if you have been asked to pray for somebody, when you forget either the circumstances or the person who asked for your prayerful intercession, well then, stop.
A recent article in the Boston Globe described the town of Ridgewood, New Jersey, an affluent suburb of New York. The people of Ridgewood take a competitive attitude to their work and play, and speak proudly of living in an “alpha town.” Mothers and fathers charge hard on Wall Street, then come home and encourage their children to show the same “go-go” spirit in their activities. French lessons can begin as early as the age of three, resumé building at six, and some children play on as many as five sports teams at once. “Parenting,” the article goes on to say, “has become the most competitive sport in America, and winning gold means getting into Harvard, Princeton or Yale.”
You may not have grown up in Ridgewood, but we have all been affected and formed, or maybe ‘deformed,’ by the rampant, competitive individualism of our society. So how strange it is, how counter-cultural, to come across a place like this monastery, a community where men have come together, having given up a degree of personal autonomy, to live together as brothers.
Hands are a miracle—a 16 billion year miracle. There isn’t anything else in the known universe that has more capacity to do things. Most of what gets done in the world gets done by hands. We might pause to admire the sheer intricacy of hands—the capacity of hands to get things done. An amazing system of coordination of muscle, tendons, bones (27), cartilage, nerves, and blood—flexors and extensors and an opposable thumb. And all intimately linked to the central nervous system of the brain. A crowning touch of nature.
And the way God gets things done in the world. Most of the time. If the Lord binds up the injuries of his people and heals their wounds, if he heals the broken hearted, if he lifts up the lowly—it is with human hands. If the Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, tearing down walls and building bridges, it is with human hands. If swords are turned into pruning hooks, it is with human hands. Even the deaf can hear—with human hands. A crowning touch, the hands are. Intimately linked to the brain, the mind and heart and soul—and intimately linked to the very heart of God.
The impulse to heal, the impulse to build, to lift up—the impulse to build and rebuild Jerusalem – is the Divine Compassion living and active in us. The impulse is God’s. The hands are ours.
If the human heart is a tabernacle of the Divine Presence, so, too, are our hands. As St. Teresa reminded us, they’re the only ones he has now.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. And, to a very great extent, in our hands.