Dear Friends of Joseph House:
Picture a swiftly-moving river, tumbling over rocks, swirling with currents and eddies. Trying to swim in such a river would be a tiring, and probably frightening, experience. You would feel buffeted and pushed around by forces stronger than you. The world would seem to be rushing by. You wouldn’t know what to expect next.
Now picture yourself sitting on the bank, quietly breathing, observing the river. You now have perspective. You see the river in context: it has boundaries, it’s not all there is, and although in some places the water is swift and choppy, in others it is smooth and calm. Meanwhile the ground you are sitting on is solid. The river is moving, but you don’t have to go along for the ride.
The river can represent several different things: our thoughts, the stress of our daily activities, the endless stream of news and images on television and the Internet. It gets exhausting if we don’t take a break from it all. Thomas Merton wrote, “The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.” He was a Trappist monk, and he wrote these words more than 50 years ago. Prayerful solitude gave Merton clarity: he saw how the frenzy of modern life destroys our capacity for inner peace and hence the fruitfulness of our lives.
We increasingly live in a manufactured world, one designed to “push our buttons” and keep us distracted. To preserve the sanctity of the human soul, an excellent and time-honored safeguard is found in contemplative silence. You’ve probably felt the need yourself for some periodic down-time. For us Little Sisters, one of the benefits of our life is that we have scheduled time every day for prayer and quiet. These times are more than simply taking a break: we let go of our restless minds and present ourselves to the Lord, being receptive to His presence.
Our model is Jesus, who, as Scripture relates, “in the morning, a great while before dawn, rose and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). You may recall that the mission of the Joseph House, which you share in through your support, is “Cry the Gospel with your life!” This is part of that, being men and women of prayer. The hidden spring of our service to the poor is our silence before God.
Centered and grounded, we can respond to someone’s crisis with peace. We can mirror to that person the reality of hope. It’s also easier to give that person our full attention, a fundamental sign of respect and affirmation of human dignity.
Fred, 60, first came to see us last summer and we wrote about him in our September Newsletter. He is disabled after being hit by a car while riding his bike. Fred was able to find a part-time job he could do and worked for a few months. His pay was not much, $196/month, but it helped a lot. Now Social Security is deducting that much from his check for the length of time that he worked since he was not allowed to do it. Fred could not pay his electric bill, so we paid $300 toward the past-due amount to keep the power on in his home.
Ross, 55, is a pleasant man. You would never guess at all the health problems he has. He is currently waiting for a heart transplant. Ross depends on doing odd jobs to pay his bills, but his health is slowing him down. He used his stimulus check to pay a very large overdue water bill and a few other necessary expenses. He did not have enough for the electric bill, so we contributed $300.
Venita, 63, supports herself by being a home health aide. Many of her clients, however, are afraid to use her services because of the pandemic. Venita is barely getting by month to month. She is afraid of losing her home where she has lived for 11 years. Her most pressing need at the moment was the electric so we made a payment of $300.
Joellen, 59, is a cancer patient and receiving chemotherapy. After losing her job she had to purchase private health insurance. The monthly premium takes half of her temporary cash benefits. Joellen fell behind in paying her rent. We mailed $300 to her landlord to stop the eviction proceedings.
Eunice, 66, is also sinking under the weight of health care expenses. Poor health is a ticket to poverty—that’s what our nation seems to accept. Eunice needs to have surgery on her back. Her out-of-pocket medical expenses eat away at her very limited fixed income. She could not pay the full amount of her last two rent payments and was worried she was going to get evicted. We contributed $300 to help her catch up.
Artie, 60, lives alone and needs his car to get to work. Unexpected vehicle expenses set him back with his other bills. Artie needed help with his electric bill, but was denied assistance at another agency because his income was slightly above the poverty threshold (which is only $12,760 annually for a single person—it’s not in touch with reality). Fortunately, there is no red tape at the Joseph House and we could help Artie with $300.
Thank you for your continued support! The Joseph House depends on you.
News about our Annual Golf Tournament Fund-Raiser: Regretfully, as a precaution against COVID-19, our loyal Golf Committee has decided to again postpone our 15th Annual Joseph House Golf Tournament. Since its inception in 2006 the event has been a source of much-needed revenue, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and participating golfers, and the untiring effort of our committee and tournament volunteers. To all, we express our sincere thanks. Our hope is that, God willing, 2022 will see the return of our Golf Tournament at beautiful Green Hill Country Club!
In this “Year of St. Joseph,” patron of fathers, we wish all men blessed with the vocation to be a father a most Happy Father’s Day. And may the abundant graces of God be with you and your loved ones, keeping you healthy and safe and in good spirits. Part of our prayer time every day is spent praying for your intentions.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Our convent has a chapel, Thomas Merton had a hermitage, but every home can have a sacred space for prayer. Here are a few ideas from Fr. Edward Hays:
The typical home in the Western world has rooms for all the important activities in life. There are rooms for eating, sleeping, bathing, storage, relaxing and even a room for keeping your vehicle. While your entire home is a sacred place where you pray and journey to God in different ways, it can be invaluable to set aside a particular place for your inner exercises. . . . For a fortunate few this personal shrine could be an entire room such as an unused bedroom or a small den. But for the majority it will mean a corner of a room.
You might, for example, choose a corner of your bedroom and set it aside as your prayer place. A stone slab could serve as a small altar, or you could create one out of wood. You may also find it valuable to have a small prayer rug to sit upon only in meditation or prayer.
If you are a highly visual person, you may desire to use a variety of symbols, icons, or images to grace your personal shrine. If you are not especially visually oriented, you might want to create a space which is void of all images. The very simplicity of an empty wall can help clear your mind and heart of clutter and help open you into prayer.
You may also find it beneficial to vary the design of your personal shrine or change the images in it with each of the four seasons. Because our technological culture often separates us from a direct contact with the changes that occur in nature with each season, altering the environment of your shrine can help make your prayer more natural and in harmony with God’s creation.
And since we easily become blind to what is “always” there, the introduction of visual changes for various feasts, holidays and special occasions has the power to cleanse the eye and so open the heart. To make use of flowers or other images on holy days and special occasions will also assist in making your personal shrine a “living” place of prayer. An unchangeable prayer space can easily become a static one.
Understanding that personal tastes and needs will direct your choices in these suggestions, experiment with finding the kind of environment that can best open you to God in prayer.
from Prayers For A Planetary Pilgrim
“The soul is made not for noise but for recollection, and life should be a preparation for heaven not only in meritorious works but also in peace and recollection in God. Man, however, is immersed in endless discussion; the lack of true joy he finds in noise should more than convince him that he has wandered far from his vocation.” – Charles de Foucauld