The Silent Creed

What a comfort it is to know that our faith exists within a community! According to Scripture, God does not only save individuals—God saves his people. The great covenants of the Bible—the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant in Christ—are not made with individuals but with the Israelite people and then with the entire world. Although it is true that God is eternally and devotedly focused on each one of us—to the point of counting every hair on our heads!—it is also true that God creates and loves each of us as members of communities: our families, our Church, our world.

A friend of mine once told me a powerful story about a difficult time in her life. She had just given birth to a baby girl, and the little girl was struggling to survive. Devastated, distraught, exhausted, and totally stressed, my friend went to Mass. When it came time for the Creed, she couldn’t speak. She was empty. She wasn’t sure what or if she believed.

What happened next both surprised and sustained her. As the voices around her professed the Creed, my friend felt lifted up. Their unwavering, believing voices were like strong arms lifting up her heart, her mind, her body to God. Was she struggling to profess, to believe? No matter. The community believed on her behalf, and she let them.

I tried this myself on Sunday. I was silent during the Creed; I listened. All around me voices rose up. I had never thought of my parish as particularly robust, but they were loud and strong! I looked around at all of the faces and bodies. I knew how different we all are, how even when we say “I believe,” we are thinking, meaning, believing slight variations on the themes of our faith. But these were my people, speaking “I believe.” These were God’s people, the ones of the covenant.

This weekend when you go to Mass, I encourage you to stay silent during the Creed, just this once. Listen, be lifted. Be reminded how strong is the faith of our Church. Be reminded that your brothers and sisters believe for you when you feel empty or you cannot speak. They are loud enough. They are strong enough. Let their voices lift you like arms. These are your people.

We are as interconnected as these water droplets on a spider web. Photo by Mary Weems. Used with permission.

We are as interconnected as these water droplets on a spider web. Photo by Mary Weems. Used with permission.

Bear with Me . . . A Personal Update

Dear Friends and Readers,

You may have noticed that I’ve been away for a while! Life has been full, but I can honestly say I’ve missed writing for you and being with you on this forum.

I’d like to offer a personal update to explain why I’ve been away from the blogging desk, and to explain why my blogging and retreat-directing may be a bit sporadic in the near future!

As many of you know, I’ve been working for the past year and a half as associate editor at Little Rock Scripture Study. I’ve enjoyed this work very much. Several months ago, the director of Little Rock Scripture Study (Cackie Upchurch, who has become a mentor and friend to me) surprised me and my colleague Lilly Hess with the news that she was planning to retire. To make a long story short, two things have come about since then. First, our longtime publishing partner Liturgical Press has purchased Little Rock Scripture Study from the Diocese of Little Rock and is now the sole owner of LRSS. And second, Liturgical Press has invited me to take on the role of director of Little Rock Scripture Study. I have some amazing shoes to fill!

My history with Little Rock Scripture Study goes back much farther than just the past year and a half. Some of you may recall my blog post about my first parish job: Sr. Blanche’s Desk. Well, I can tell you that as I sat at Sr. Blanche’s desk, the bookshelves behind me were lined with every Bible study that Little Rock Scripture Study had ever published. They say that Sr. Blanche was a Scripture scholar in her own right. She knew what she was doing. And she chose the best. And as those first years of ministry passed while I sat at Sr. Blanche’s desk, the Little Rock Scripture Study group at my parish met faithfully on Tuesday nights in the school library, breaking open the Word of God, breaking open their minds and hearts, faithfully reading, studying, learning, and being transformed together by God’s Word. What a witness they were to me, and what a wonderful sign of the power of study in community.

Sitting at Sr. Blanche’s desk with those books behind me, I had no idea, of course, where God would lead me or what direction my life would take. But looking back, I see the path. I have a feeling that many of you can relate to that experience—the way so many things become clearer when we look back.

As the director of Little Rock Scripture Study, I will continue working remotely from my home office in Connecticut (now my employer is Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota rather than the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas). I hope to continue teaching for the Hartford Catholic Biblical School as well as occasionally at Sacred Heart University. I will also continue my column at Catholic Digest and will take up other writing projects as they come. There will still be retreats and talks (and blogs!), but they will be less frequent.

Of course my family is also keeping life busy! Our oldest daughter is going into her senior year in high school, so the college search is on. It’s hard to believe that she’ll be flying the coop a year from now. And then our second daughter a year later! Fortunately, Ono and I will still have the boys here for a while to keep us in line. Please keep our son Julian in prayer as he’s had some health challenges in the past several months. But nothing stops this kid physically, mentally, or heart-ily!

Thank you for reading, and thank you to many of you who have encouraged me to keep writing, no matter what. I’m sure going to try.

O God, the path before us is unclear. The path behind us tells a story. The story is about your abiding presence and your guiding hand. We know you are always with us, abiding and guiding. But we say the words, we ask—abide with us, guide us on the path ahead!

Love and blessings!
Amy

Arkansas Catholic: “Associate editor will be LRSS director for Liturgical Press”
For more about Little Rock Scripture Study, visit our website: www.littlerockscripture.org.
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So proud to call these two ladies my friends: Lilly Hess (middle) and Cackie Upchurch (right). They’ve given so much of themselves to LRSS in service of God’s Word.

So proud to call these two ladies my friends: Lilly Hess (middle) and Cackie Upchurch (right). They’ve given so much of themselves to LRSS in service of God’s Word.

A Prayer in Times of Stress

My new book is out, and the topic is . . . stress! Finding Peace: Letting Go of Stress and Worry is a new title in Little Rock Scripture Study’s Alive in the Word series. Each short book in the series explores three Scripture passages on a single theme, helping individuals or groups pray with the Word and apply it to their lives. Finding Peace is available on Amazon or at bulk rates for groups at Little Rock Scripture Study or Liturgical Press.

Below is an excerpt from Finding Peace—a prayer I wrote for stressful times. Feel free to share it with anyone who might like to have it. I wish you peace!

And speaking of peace, thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement that many of you sent my way after my rather fragile Easter blog. As Scully once said to Mulder, “I had the strength of your beliefs.” Easter in us!

 
A Prayer in Times of Stress

Lord God, you have promised
that you are never far away, even when I feel alone;
that you will never leave me, even when I feel abandoned;
that I will never be overcome, even when I feel defeated;
that there is beauty where I do not see it;
that there is music where I do not hear it;
that there is life where I do not feel it.

Whatever I am going through,
whatever the future may bring,
whatever questions I have,
whatever bad news I hear,
whatever pain comes my way,
whatever I cannot control,
be with me, my God, and this will be enough.

Whatever I lose,
whatever I have lost,
whatever is said,
whatever is done,
whatever is broken,
whatever won’t heal,
be with me, my God, and this will be enough.

Whatever decisions I struggle to make,
whatever pressure weighs down on me,
whatever I regret,
whatever I confess,
whatever I remember,
whatever I forget,
be with me, my God, and this will be enough.

Fill my restless spirit with your presence, and this will be enough.
Fill my tired mind with your peace, and this will be enough.
Fill my aching heart with your love, and this will be enough.
Amen.

Amy Ekeh
© 2019 Little Rock Scripture Study

 
 

Easter Fragility

I have a Word document called “Blog Ideas 10” on my desktop. It is 74 pages long and 27,909 words deep. I’ve used this same document to write my blogs for so long that I don’t even remember another document, though there must have been a “Blog Ideas 1,” “Blog Ideas 2,” etc. Those, apparently, are ancient history.

In “Blog Ideas 10” is a very long string of blogs—some that have been published and some that never made the cut. There are quotes and ideas and concepts I’ll never develop. There’s even a story about looking for a dime on the floor of the library that I thought was very funny, but when I tested it out with my mom, she said, “I don’t get the point.” That one went where all mediocre blogs go to die: page 72.

Today on pages one and two of “Blog Ideas 10,” there are five blogs that I have started to write to you and have stopped. Some of them were Lent themes, but Lent has come and gone. One was for the Triduum, which has also come and gone. Here are their names:

·       I Will Hug It
·       I Will Spit You Out of My Mouth
·       God Is Lover Not Protector
·       A Note to My Fellow Smelly Sheep
·       It Is My Joy to Tell You to Hope

Perhaps it is more fun for you to imagine the contents of what those blogs would have been. Perhaps I’ll finish them. But it might be a while.

For now, swirling around me is so much bad news—and at Eastertime, a time of joy. A world struggling, friends struggling, a country and a church divided, strangers in comas, people moving away, death and dying, time flying. I’m not usually one to give in to melancholy, but lately, I admit, it’s tempting.

And so this melancholy has brought me to a place where all writers stand from time to time. The place is: “Everything has already been said.” The echo through the centuries: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The downtrodden (but wise) author of Ecclesiastes developed the theme: “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us” (Ecc 1:9-10). The cycles of life and death have been established. Is there anything new to think or experience or say?

As my children sat at the Easter table dyeing eggs, my son Julian broke three of his ten eggs. “I keep dropping them,” he said. Easter eggs have been breaking for ages preceding us. Easter can be a fragile time.

Friends, family, and those of you who are strangers to me, I pray for you today. I don’t pray for your happiness or your protection. I don’t know how to pray for those things right now. But today I see in your heart the fragility of Easter, and I hold it as gently as I can, like an egg I dye with my children. As others have done for me in the ages that preceded us.

* * * * * * * * * * *

 
“Inspire in us to let go of whatever brings no life. Easter in us, Holy One.” — Jesse Manibusan  An egg dyed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Meriden, CT.

“Inspire in us to let go of whatever brings no life. Easter in us, Holy One.” — Jesse Manibusan

An egg dyed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Meriden, CT.

 

Why Do We Fast?

Happy Shrove Tuesday!

While we all know that the most important kind of fasting we can do during Lent (or anytime!) is to fast from hurtful behaviors such as gossip and greed, we might be wondering if there is still a place for “traditional” fasting in our spiritual lives.

Can’t the two types of fasting go together? Of course they can! Anything we do with our bodies is not meant to stop there. Fasting with our bodies—if done thoughtfully, with meaning and purpose—can change our hearts. And our changed hearts can change the world.

I hope you will enjoy my Lent article “10 Reasons to Fast This Lent” in this month’s St. Anthony Messenger, available online here. The print magazine includes some creative ideas for fasting.

And for those who are local, I hope you will join me, Sr. Virginia Herbers, and Deacon Art Miller as we team up with Peter DeMarco and the Saint Ann Choir for a One-Night Lenten Mission on March 13 in Hamden, CT. Details are below.

Lenten blessings!

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