"The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel"
— Revelation 8:4
Incense has long been used in worship of God. In the Book of Exodus, chapter 30, God instructs Moses to construct an altar for burning incense. In Luke's Gospel, Zechariah was burning incense at the altar when an angel revealed to him that his wife, Elizabeth, was pregnant with their son, John (the baptist).
My mind has been calmed by a bookmark, by a simple prayer.
I learned the prayer the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 15 -- the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila. Among those Catholics in the Discalced Carmelite order -- be they priests/friars, nuns or lay seculars -- the 16th-century Spanish nun is known by her name in Carmel, St. Teresa of Jesus. Even more fondly, she is called Holy Mother, for indeed she reformed the Carmelite order, nurtured it and loved it, gave it the direction Carmelites enjoy pursuing today.
For the last several months, I have been sharing what has been accomplished and what remains ahead in the four main priorities of the Alive in Christ! Mission Advancement Initiative. While the Archdiocese of St. Louis embarks on an exciting new beONE vision for the work of all parishes, schools, agencies and families, the Alive in Christ! goals are still of vital importance.
Soon, American families will gather in the yearly Thanksgiving Day rituals. Like every year, many of us will share a meal, conversation, memories and a few jokes.
For some, our common table of gratitude will be full of traditional turkey meat, bread dressing, mash potatoes, cranberry sauce and more. Others will complement this "American" traditional meal with distinct ethnic foods like "tamales," "samosas," "pancit," "couscous," "schnitzel," "empanadas," "halupki," and "alcapurrias" -- to name but a few.
As Pope Francis traveled in the United States in September, he offered remarks and undertook actions that are a profound source of reflection not only for 70 million American Catholics, but for Catholics around the world. People will be thinking about, discussing and acting upon his inspiring visit for a long time to come.
The little book somehow surfaces when you need it most -- manna for the multi-tasker, solace for the stressed. You stock up on it to give to others, to slip in Christmas stockings, to pay it forward. Spiritual directors recommend it again and again: Father Jacques Philippe's tiny paperback with the nondescript cover, the one that delivers everything its title promises: "Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart."