Mother Emily: Uncommon Care

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Mother Emily: Uncommon Care

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

“It is not [just] what we do but how we do it that matters. It is not different work, but a different way of doing our work that God asks of us. The habit of doing common things with uncommon care is what will make us saints.”

Mother Emily’s message on 5 June 1900 to the Community of the Sisters of the Church in their Rule as recounted in What Do You Seek? Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World by John-Francis Friendship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021) 177. This will be my last post from this book. I really enjoyed it.

In today’s Scripture, we see that Paul did not work alone. He had key people in cities and regions with whom he collaborated. Related to Corinth, it was Sosthenes. And Paul and Sosthenes wrote to those who were “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “called to be His holy people” who were part of the larger community of faith, offering them a blessing of grace and peace.

With similar tone, Mother Emily greeted the sisters, challenging them to live set apart or holy lives by doing common things with uncommon care. While it is not our work but the work of Christ in us that makes us saints, our part is to live differently, set apart for God. In so doing, He works in and through us by grace.

Recently I had asked you to pray for Dan Busby, if you visit his CaringBridge and read his 26 January 2022 post, you will hear the inspiring story “God answers prayer in a big way and then some.” Therein you will find that the hospital credited my uncommon care for his miraculous recovery. Of course, I gave all glory to God, but am hopeful that they will allow more ministers to visit the sick, despite the dangers of Covid.

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Community of the Sisters of the Church: Finding everything in God

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

“The joy of the poor in spirit does not lie in having nothing, but in finding everything in God.”

Community of the Sisters of the Church in their Rule as recounted in What Do You Seek? Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World by John-Francis Friendship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021) 119.

“Find everything in God” comes into view as not seeking to find anything here on earth.

This relates to generosity as most of us use the resources we have to search for pleasure, possessions, and power on earth. Sadly, everything we buy does not satisfy.

Pause for a minute today. Think about what you spend money on and ponder what it reveals about your own searching. And look at Jesus in your solitude.

He did not have a place to lay His head. He gave His life for God and people. We do well to travel light through life and live for God and others.

By this way we show that we have found everything in God.

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St. Vincent de Paul: Fool

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

“We should not judge the poor by their clothes and outward appearance nor from their mental capacity. On the contrary if you consider the poor in light of faith then you will see that they take the place of God the Son who chose to be poor. Although in His passion He almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews… Since God loves the poor, He also loves the lovers of the poor”

St. Vincent de Paul as recounted by Robert Atwell in Celebrating the Saints (Canterbury Press, 2016) 546.

This reading struck me to aspire to foolishness.

Now that I have your attention, think about this. Those around us should consider our stewardship as foolish. They hoard on earth; we stash in heaven. They avoid being poor at all costs; we pursue this place and posture following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hang with me. Jesus chose to be poor. Clearly this makes it clear to humanity that God’s love is for everyone. It beckons us to care for the poor and undeserving as if we are caring for Him. This requires us not to judge people.

But we tend to judge people and give only to those we think are deserving.

Sit with Jesus on this. Reflect on how undeserving you were when He lavished mercy and grace on you. Now go lavish that on others, particularly the poor. Many may call you a fool for doing this. But do it because it’s following the example of Jesus Christ who Himself was considered foolish.

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Andrew SDC: Praying personalities

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“The first and best gift we can give to the world in which we live and work is the gift of praying personalities. We must be true to our stewardship, ever seeking to raise and never to lower the standard of our life of prayer. We need to bring our spiritual consciousness to our Lord that we may learn as He does. When we reach out hands that are consecrated by wounds, we shall really be able to bear one anothers burdens.”

Andrew SDC, as recounted in What Do You Seek? Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World by John-Francis Friendship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021) 108.

I had not thought about this as my first and best gift to the world until my experience this past week at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Prayer makes a difference. But don’t take my word for it. I got this message from Don Johnson, the patient advocate who helped me get clearance to visit Dan Busby.

Don to Gary: “Hello Gary it’s Don. I’m not working today but was told left the SICU! Yesterday he went from 6L of O2 to room air! Never quite seen such a 180 and I give you much of credit. I’ll drop by to see him on Monday. I know how busy you are but I would like to share Dan’s story with upper management and I’m hoping you would be willing to write a paragraph or two of the impact visitation by family and clergy can have on the prognosis and outcome of patients with COVID-19. It’s my goal to make more exceptions to our visitation policy. Thank you and remain safe.”

Gary to Don: “I will happily do this for you. To God be the glory, but it’s a privilege to be God’s ambassador. I could not have made it in there without your help. Again God bless you. I’ll write this up tomorrow. Today’s a full day for me. And catching up on my rest.”

Don to Gary: “Thank you!!!”

Gary to Don: “23 January 2022 – Attention: Don Johnson, Patient Advocate SICU, Johns Hopkins Hospital Baltimore

I am writing to thank you for your service as Patient Advocate. Dan Busby was in a very low place when he asked me to visit on 17 January 2022. He was grasping threads of hope and contemplating end of life. In such moments, a visit from a minister who reads from the Bible and prays over the patient can release them to rest in peace or restore the person to health.

When my visit was approved on 18 January 2022. I found Dan despondent. I read Mark 10:46-52. In that text, Jesus urges the blind man Bartimaeus to take heart and invites him to ask the Lord for whatever he wants. Bartimaeus wanted to see. In Dan’s case, Dan said he wanted to recover from Covid and transition seamlessly to getting cancer treatment. So, that’s what we prayed.

Also, on my visit on the wall I saw a chart that Dan could not read from his bed. It was too small. It marked the steps to get out of there with rainbow colors. I remind him that God heard his prayer, and that he had to take steps like blowing in his toys, eating, sitting up, standing, and walking to recover. He deeply appreciated my 90-minute visit and resolved to do his part.

On the morning of 19 January 2022, I visited Dan’s wife in Winchester, Virginia, to give a report and to encourage her and pray with her. This lifted her spirits. I returned and spent nearly 4 hours with Dan that afternoon. This time we prayed for his complete healing and I anointed him with frankincense after reading James 5:13-16. The text reads as follows:

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

With each question in the text, Dan replied, “That’s me.” So, while I believe my visit deeply inspired Dan, when coupled with the great medical care he was receiving in Surgical ICU, the Lord is the One who raised him up from 6L of O2 to room air. Dan just followed the steps outlined in the Scriptures. My role as a minister was to guide him and remind him what God wanted him to do.

So, Don, when we met together on the morning of my third day of visiting, 20 January 2022, it was a privilege to thank you and to see the transformation that had happened before our eyes together. You yourself advocated for the power of a visit of a person of the cloth. I merely played my role on the team and hope other ministers can get access to do the same thing.

I am deeply thankful to the doctors, nurses, and other servants who cared for Dan and others at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in SICU. And I am thankful that as a minister I was invited to join this care team. Together we ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of Dan Busby. To God be the glory for his speedy recovery. I hope this case inspires the hospital to give others access as was given to me.

Sincerely, Rev. Dr. Gary G. Hoag”

Dan Busby has miraculously recovered and been released from ICU. Today he gets a port put in for transitioning to cancer treatment. They plan to send him home tomorrow to rest up to start chemo treatments next week. Jesus heard and graciously answered his prayer.

Father in heaven, make us into praying personalities so that our first and best gifts to the world are the ways in which we call on you to show up, to supply, and to provide in ways that bring you glory as people of prayer. Do this by your Holy Spirit. In your mercy, hear our prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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All Saints Sisters: Decide

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. Luke 9:24

“I alone can decide between giving wholeheartedly of myself and my energies or limiting my giving.”

All Saints Sisters from their Rule (1980) as recounted in What Do You Seek? Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World by John-Francis Friendship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021) 102.

Click to learn more about the All Saints Sisters who celebrate life “as having nothing yet possessing everything” and dedicate all they are and all they have to “sharing Christ.”

What if we aimed at sharing with such commitment and resolve?

Whether or not you sell everything and live in Christian community, sit in the reality that you are the only one who can define the limits to your giving. But just remember this.

If you aim to save your life, you will lose it. Only those who lose their lives for Christ will find them.

As my word for 2022 is share, or sharing, I particularly love that the All Saints Sisters focus on sharing Christ through wholehearted giving. Let’s join them in this pursuit for God’s glory.

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Community of the Sisters of the Church: The Means

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

“We are to be the means through which Christ lives on earth in adoration of God our Creator, desiring that the divine glory may be manifest, God’s sovereign rule come and purposes of love be accomplished. And also we are to offer ourselves in love as Christ did for the world’s healing and reconciliation with God.”

Community of the Sisters of the Church in “Our Vocation” as recounted in What Do You Seek? Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World by John-Francis Friendship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021) 101.

God’s desire is that you and I are “the means through which Christ lives on earth” in adoration and service to make known the love of the Father to the world.

How are we doing at that?

What I love about the various communities celebrated in this book is their commitment, their focus, their intentionality to fulfill their purpose on earth. But for most of us, life is distracted at best.

So, how do these groups stay on track?

A consistent thread I am finding is that the groups say “No” to many things so they can say “Yes” to a life of service, and they do this together.

They move toward the poor and the broken. God takes care of the rest.

To grow in generosity today, consider what you might say “No” to so that you can say “Yes” to move toward someone needing healing or reconciliation with God.

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Benedict of Nursia: Charitable and Pure

Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:4

“Let them not follow their own good but the good of others. Let them be charitable towards their brothers with pure affection.”

Rule of St. Benedict 72 as recounted in What Do You Seek? Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World by John-Francis Friendship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021) 83.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to rest and reflect today after a rigorous week of sharing and service. With Benedict, I am asking God to always make my sharing and service to others both charitable and pure.

It’s not about what I want from them but what I want for them. Does this mindset shape your sharing and service?

To be charitable is to be gracious. It means to give to people good things which they do not deserve. To be pure is to have the right motives. It means we are not perfect, but rather consistent in our sharing and service.

Father in heaven, make our sharing and service both charitable and pure following the example of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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John-Francis Friendship: A focused way to live the gospel

For if you are living in accord with the flesh, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13

“One of the appeals of monasticism is that its norms and values are clear – it presents a focused way to live the gospel and a defined way to grow in faith. It gently challenges our tendency to self-absorption and self-determination, showing the richness of a life lovingly lived for God and the benefit of others. It is, as one Religious said, ‘the only way I know by which I can offer the whole of myself to God.” It also questions the greed and desire for ‘more’ and ‘the latest fashion’ that is ruining our planet, while countering our busy-ness through a balanced life of prayer, study, work, and rest.”

John-Francis Friendship in What Do You Seek: Wisdom from Religious Life for Today’s World (London: Canterbury Press 2021) 78.

Might you consider becoming a monk? Before you balk, remember this. All it means is that you adopt a rule of life that helps puts the flesh in check so you don’t destroy yourself.

Now that I have your attention, jettison the notion that monasticism relates to a select few. It’s for everyone who desires to lives a Christ-centered life.

My time serving my friend Dan Busby in the surgical ICU ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore this week deeply impacted me. And it reminded me afresh why I am on this earth.

The nurses and staff did not know what to do with me. They acted like no one had ever visited their ward. I was like an alien with a clerical collar visiting a foreign planet.

Most asked either why I came or what I did in the room. Why? In a ward with 16 beds where the doctor said 99% of patients did not walk away, the one I visited has miraculously recovered.

So, at the #6 ranked hospital in the USA, they wanted to know my secret. I said, it’s Jesus. He was restoring Dan to health and strength again in response to the prayers of many.

I told them thousands were praying for Dan. “But who is this guy that thousands would pray for him?” They asked. I said, “He’s a beloved member of a community, the Christian community of faith.”

This opened the door for me to share about Jesus repeatedly. How does this relate to generosity? If we fearless live out our Christian faith with focus empowered by the Spirit, we can have unfathomable witness.

Starving the tendency toward self-absorption and serving others with boldness not only avoids the latest craze. It’s the only fashion that never goes out of style!

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Didache: Share without hesitation and with discretion

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 2 John 1:10

“Give to every one who asks you, and don’t ask for it back. The Father wants his blessings shared. Happy is the giver who lives according to this rule…

Do not be one who opens his hands to receive, or closes them when it is time to give…Do not hesitate to give, and do not complain about it. You will know in time who is the good Rewarder.

Do not turn away from one who is in want; rather, share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own. For if you are sharers in what is imperishable, how much more in things which perish…

Welcome anyone coming in the name of the Lord. Receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, but then, test them and use your discretion.

If he who comes is a transient, assist him as far as you are able; but he should not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. If he wants to stay with you, and is a craftsman, let him work for his living.

But if he has no trade, use your judgment in providing for him; for a Christian should not live idle in your midst. If he is dissatisfied with this sort of anarrangement, he is a Christ peddler. Watch that you keep away from such people.”

Didache, a.k.a. “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” that was viewed as canon by some thus it is included in the Apostolic Fathers. (late first or early second century). These excerpts, translated and edited by Tony Jones, come from 1.5; 4.5, 7-8; 12.1-5.

Today’s post comes explores the word “share” in an early Christian work that gives us a balanced view. We must share without hesitation and with discretion.

We must share without hesitation and without complaint because God is the good Rewarder. As sharers of what is imperishable, the least we can do is share what is perishable.

And yet, we do not do this blindly. I found the detailed thoughts related to using discretion particularly insightful. They match today’s Scripture.

In short, Christians should share by providing short term aid, by encouraging people to work, while also avoiding “Christ peddlers” who will try to take advantage of generous Christians.

This makes sense and alerts us to share without hesitation and with discretion in a way that does not give handouts that create dependencies but hand ups that build disciples.

This balanced view reminds me of the example that Dan and Claudette Busby have exhibited to me over the years. May God help all of us share without hesitation and with discretion.

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Marguerite Porete: Charity

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Colossians 3:14

“Charity obeys no created thing except Love.

Charity possesses nothing of her own, and should she possess something she does not say that it belongs to her.

Charity abandons her own need and attends to that of others.

Charity asks no payment from any creature for some good or pleasure that she has accomplished.

Charity has no shame, nor fear, nor anxiety. She is so upright she cannot bow on account of anything that might happen to her.

Charity neither makes nor takes account of anything under the sun, for the whole world is only refuse and leftovers.

Charity gives to all what she possesses of worth, without retaining anything for herself, and with this she often promises what she does not possess through her great largesse, in the hope that the more she gives the more remains in her.

Charity is such a wise merchant that she earns profits everywhere where others lose, and she escapes the bonds that bind others and thus she has great multiplicity of what pleases Love.

And note that the one who would have perfect charity must be mortified in the affections of the life of the spirit through the work of charity.”

Marguerite Porete in The Mirror of Simple Souls, trans. Ellen L. Babinsky (Paulist, 1993) 82. Special thanks to Daily Meditations reader, Bill Crowe, for sharing this with me.

Marguerite Porete was a French-speaking mystic and a Beguine. She wrote the book, The Mirror of Simple Souls for which she was burned at the stake as a heretic in Paris, 1310.

Charity is often defined as the voluntary giving of help to those in need. It is inseparable from love and impossible to extend to others without love.

Charity led me to answer a call today. It came at 7:35am. “Are you Rev. Dr. Gary Hoag?” the voice inquired. “Yes, I am.” I replied. “You have been cleared to visit Dan Busby.”

I learned it was a split vote between the doctors. The decision tipped in my favor by the patient advocate who told me that “patients like Dan turn around when visited by a person of the cloth.”

My dear friend’s life was hanging on by a thread this weekend. He had almost given up hope. Many rallied around him and we called the world to pray. I waited and the call came.

I booked a one-way ticket on the 11:20am flight, which was delayed. I finally landed at Washington Dulles at 5:45pm, jumped in a rental car, and raced to the hospital in Baltimore by 7:30pm.

The cover photo shows the place of honor they gave me in the staging room. That had my gear in it. “Put on charity.” I reminded myself.

After putting on multiple masks, a face shield, a yellow outfit, and blue rubber gloves, I was reminded of all the possible risks and dangers before entering. “Charity has no fear,” I thought to myself.

“Let’s do this,” I replied. “I want to lift up my friend.” It was sobering to walk a Covid ward with 16 beds given a 1% chance of walking out of there alive. I was escorted to “Area 51” as I affectionately called it, Dan’s room, #51, right next to the nurses station.

After undergoing further sanitization rituals, I entered his room. I think the visit really lifted his spirits. Our 90 minutes together was priceless.

He told me how hard it was sitting in the room, all alone, feeling like he was in the dark. That inspired me to read Mark 10:46-52 with him before I left. There, Jesus beckoned the blind man to come to him.

Dan could relate. He felt blind to all that was going on. I asked him the question Jesus asked Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “I would ask Jesus to help me close this chapter on Covid and seamlessly start my cancer treatment.” So that’s just what we did. It was a sweet prayer time.

Then I drove 90 miles to Winchester, Virginia, where I just checked in to a hotel. I am posting this just after midnight. Tomorrow I visit his wife to encourage her, then back to the hospital.

Dan’s excited that I am staying for a few days. “I was not sure I’d make it to the weekend,” he said. “Now I am sure I can.” All glory to God. Keep praying everyone!

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