All posts by jilsy63

Jill Maria Murdy is the Director of Liturgy and Music at a large parish in Wisconsin. She has written and published many articles on Liturgical Theology, Benedictine Spirituality, and other spiritual topics. Jill Maria is an entertaining and engaging speaker, and knowledgeable in many aspects of liturgy and spirituality. She is also an active community member, and enjoys making music and performing at open mics and area venues in her spare time.

Music and Musings on the Communion of Saints

Lately, I’ve been musing a lot on how we are connected with each other. In Christianity there is a concept known as “The Communion of Saints.” The premise is that when we join together in Holy Communion, we share this moment with the Mystical Body of Christ, and with those who have lived in the past, those living in the present, and those in the future, and that we pray for each other.

In the Apostle’s Creed, which is present in many main stream churches, the following lines are recited:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Yet, I don’t think it is something we think about a whole lot.

And sadly, because of the difference in Catholic and Protestant understandings on the sacrament of communion, as well as the judgmental attitude of some of those in power, not all are welcome to receive at the table. Recently, there have been numerous articles about people being turned away from the altar because of political persuasion, or because of whom they love, or for simply not being “Practicing Catholics in Good Standing With the Church”

While theologically, I understand the complex arguments over whether the Eucharist has it been transformed from humble bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, which is a term called transubstantiation; or is the Eucharist a symbol and remembrance of that day. I know what I believe personally, but how or why is it my business about what someone else believes? Yet in any church, any tradition, since the upper room, whenever Christians have gathered to share the cup and break the bread, they have followed the words of Jesus, “Do this, in memory of me” Yes, that is it. No matter what else we believe and profess, we are to be remembering Jesus.

There have been thousands of gallons of ink spilled on these distinctions, and my simplification may be from theology 101, and while there are reasons and strong beliefs around these distinctions, the thing is this: “Joe Schmoe in the pew doesn’t know, and doesn’t care.” If you asked many Catholics if they believed in Real Presence answers would be varied. Sadly, I can’t count the number of weddings or funerals or Sundays, where family members have been upset, because they have been told they cannot receive communion. I have seen weddings where people actually printed the rules for who may and may not receive in the worship aid! And then we wonder why folks are walking away from organized religion altogether, or seeking solace in communities that they find more welcoming to those in second marriages, LGBTQ members, or many other situations.

Now, believe it or not, delving into Eucharistic theology was not my purpose for writing today. My real purpose was to say this: I truly believe that Eucharist is only one of many ways we can experience this “Communion of the Saints,” this joining with those in the past, present and future. I think there are many others, so please indulge me.

The next liturgical example would be the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church. This is prayer in perpetual motion. Somewhere, someone is always reciting morning prayer or vespers, or one of the minor hours. For example, when we pray the Divine Office, we may be praying a happy psalm when we are feeling sad, or an angry psalm when we are rejoicing. But as we gather in that sacred rhythm, we are praying for someone elsewhere in the world who needs that psalm right now. It is not about me sitting on the rocker in my bedroom praying the hours, or the religious community gathered in their chapel. It becomes a part of a prayer much larger, much greater. As the Vatican II Document Sacrosanctum Concilium said in paragraph 99, “the divine office is the voice of the Church, that is of the whole mystical body publicly praising God. ”

When I pray a psalm, or a sacred scripture, I can often recall another time that I have prayed that, and to remember what was happening at that time in my life, or what the scripture spoke to me then. The Word of God is never stagnant though. While that past experience may affect my prayer and interpretation of that reading today, I’ve been touched and shaped by new information and experiences since that time, and it may be saying something different and fresh to me today. Or it may be an amusing reminder, come back to teach me yet again, e.g. one of my favorite lines out of Psalm 32:8 “Be not like horse and mule, unintelligent, needing bridle and bit, or else they will not approach you.” (Grail Translation) whenever i see that I muse, reminding myself not to be so darned stubborn and thickheaded. And usually God and I have a little laugh about it. “Oh am I doing it again?” “Yes, Jilsy, you are.”

But there are many other ways that we commune with those who have gone before us. I’m not speaking of Ouija boards or visiting a psychic or a medium. Family members regularly go to gravesides to remember their loved ones. For me, cooking is often a way to “be” with my Mom, who has been gone for many years. Similarly, others go to special places, or engage in activities to remember loved ones.

But the most obvious thing that I can think of is the power of music. For those with dementia, music is one of the ways that people can be reached, and that often creates moments of clarity. Music therapy is also a way to help those who are in hospice find relief from pain . We all have had the experience of listening to a song on the radio, and being transformed back to the high school prom, or some other great life event. Music has a power to reach across time.

And this is where the concept of Communion of the Saints comes to mind. One of my favorite examples of this is the song “One Spirit, One Church” by Kevin Keil and Maryanne Quinlivan. In that hymn, the composers have combined “Come, Holy Ghost” which is a 7th century text, set to an 18th Century melody, LAMBILLOTTE, and then combined with a 20th Century refrain “We are a Pilgrim People.” So when we sing that hymn we are singing with those of the past, as well as those singing it today.

That is just one of thousands of examples. Every Advent we sing “O Come, Emmanuel” The verses of this song are taken from the 5th Century prayers of the Church which are different names for God. “O Key of David,” “O Emmanuel,” They were translated to English by John Mason Neale in 1861,

This year, as I was preparing for Christmas liturgies, I was doing my geek girl, and reveling at some of these details. “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” was first published in 1599. I marvel at this simple tune surviving over 400 years. Nowadays, it is so simple to transcribe music with Finale or another program, and to make recordings of songs and put them up on many formats. To think that songs like “Lo, how a rose” and others have survived this long speaks of their beauty and power.

The other morning when we sang “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” for the liturgy I was transported back to when I was 18. I sang that song in Europe with “The Montana Youth Choir.” Then, when I was at Sacred Heart Monastery, that hymn was the opening of Vespers on Christmas Eve. For many years I directed the choir at Saint Frances Cabrini singing this same song.

When we prayed Taizé on New Years, we heard scriptures proclaimed in six languages, uniting us with people around the world, and prayed and sang the chants from the community that have been shared by millions. Again, as I sang them that night, I felt like I was also singing them with the Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery, or the Benedictines in Winnipeg, where I first went to a workshop with a brother from the Taize community. I also remembered Sylvia in Virgina, and all of my friends who joined in making music at Saint Frances Cabrini. And as Sisters helped me tear down afterwards, I recalled those who were kind enough to stay afterwards and help me put things away when I was at the parish and so tired I could barely walk.

One could say, “O these are just examples of ways that music has touched you through your life. ” and indeed, that would be true. But I think it is much more powerful than that. When we start to sing along with “Journey” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” we are transformed. We are much younger, and we are once again invincible. We have not yet been broken down by the difficulties of life. Recently I played at a local club, and as a group of Sisters and friends sang along with me to Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days” we were all transformed. When I get a group of friends singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” or my gospel medely, a similar thing happens.

Music, Sacred or secular has the power to move us and to take us to places we have been in our past, or places we would like to go. It has the power to reunite friends and family whether we are separated by distance, or by death. Music has the power to transform us. Music has the power to heal us. And in that way, it is much like the Eucharist. When we share it and celebrate it, we become more than we are without it.

Rejoice and Restore


This morning I am working on setting the Entrance antiphon and verses for the third week of Advent.  Traditionally, that third Sunday is known as “Gaudete” Sunday and features pink vestments and candle in the Advent wreath.  Gaudete is the Latin word for “Rejoice,” and the antiphon of the day is Philippians 4: 4-5

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Indeed the Lord is near.”

I think that is a well known and beloved scripture line, but I love the wisdom of the ages that pared it with these verses from Psalm 84:

You once favored, LORD, your land,
restored the captives of Jacob.
You forgave the guilt of your people,
pardoned all their sins.

You withdrew all your wrath,
turned back from your burning anger.
Restore us, God of our salvation;
let go of your displeasure with us

Will you be angry with us forever,
prolong your anger for all generations?
Certainly you will again restore our life,
that your people may rejoice in you.

Show us, LORD, your mercy;
grant us your salvation.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning,
is now and will be forever, Amen.

What struck me about the psalm was God’s amazing mercy and love in the psalm.  Along with forgiving guilt and pardoning sins,  it uses the words “restore” three different times!  God is always there, always constant, and will restore us.   Maybe not in the exact way we were before, and maybe not like Dorothy tapping her ruby slippers together and saying “There is no place like home.”

Anyone who has restored an old piece of furniture, or a house, or a painting knows how much work goes into the process.  Some of it may be overall gutting the place, and big rough steps, as well as mundane things that are just part of it, and fine details.

Perhaps God will restore us, but we need to make difficult amends, or major changes in our lifestyle.  Perhaps we need to ask for help, or acknowledge failings.  We need to trust and believe that God can do these things, but then we need to do whatever we can to help accomplish them.

It is not time to sit back on our hands and wait for the magic to happen.

As the psalm says, “Show us your mercy, and grant us your salvation.”   Teach us O Lord the way we should act.

Great Books

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. Tag other book nerds—and that would include me. I want to know who’s read what.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – X
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – X
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – X
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling – X 5 and 1/2
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – X
6 The Bible – XXXXXXXX
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell – X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman –
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – X
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott –
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy –
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller – X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – Well some of em…
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier –
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – X
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk –
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger – X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger-
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot –
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell – X
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald – X
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens –
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – X
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – X
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky –
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck – X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll- X
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame- X
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – X
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens -x
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – X
34 Emma-Jane Austen – X
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen – X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis- X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – X Movie was good too.
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres – on my list
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden – X
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne – X
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell – X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown – X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez –
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving-X
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins –
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery- X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy –
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – X
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding – X
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan-
51 Life of Pi – Yann Marte-X-
52 Dune – Frank Herbert –
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons-
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – X
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth –
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon –
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens – X
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley – X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon–
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez –
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – X
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov-
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold – X
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas- X
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac –
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy –
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding- X
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie – X
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville – X
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens- X
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker –
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – X
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson –
75 Ulysses – James Joyce – (and the Iliad) – X
76 The Inferno – Dante- X
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome –
78 Germinal – Emile Zola –
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray-
80 Possession – AS Byatt –
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – X
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell –
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker- X
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro– X
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert –
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry –
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White – X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom– X
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton- X
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad –
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery – X
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks –
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams- X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole –
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas – X
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare- X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl – X
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo- X

Healing Prayer for Sexual Abuse

I wrote this several years ago as part of a healing prayer service for sexual abuse.   Besides being a wound from my own childhood,  I believe speaking out openly and honestly about it has allowed me to help others and to heal.

The larger prayer service was published in a now defunct liturgy magazine, and won an award from the American and Canadian Catholic Press Association.

PDF FORM Healing Prayer Service for Abuse CELEBRATE March April 2007

Excerpts from Psalm  55      


Give ear to my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my supplication. Attend to me, and answer me; I am troubled in my complaint.

There are many reasons why abuse may remain hidden.  An abuser may manipulate, bribe, coerce or threaten a child to prevent them from telling anyone about the abuse. Depending on their age and stage of development, a child may not be able to communicate what has happened to them, or they may fear they will not be believed. They may be convinced that the abuse is their fault and, if they tell anyone about it, they will be punished. They may fear that they or the abuser will be removed from the home, or suffer other consequences. They may feel ashamed and want to keep the abuse (and related family problems) secret to avoid being stigmatized or have their sexual identity questioned.[i]

My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.

 It may sound strange, but people sometimes have trouble recognizing that they are being abused. For example, Sometimes people have been abused but don’t think of it that way. Recognizing abuse may be especially difficult for someone who has lived with it for many years. A person might think that it’s just the way things are and that there’s nothing that can be done about it. People who are abused might mistakenly think they bring it on themselves by misbehaving or by not living up to someone’s expectations.[ii]

And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.’

One study on women’s abuse related: “Family friends and acquaintances compose the largest group of perpetrators (28 percent), followed by such relatives as uncles and cousins (18 percent), stepfathers (12 percent), male siblings (10 percent), biological fathers (10 percent), boyfriends of the child’s mother (9 percent), grandfathers and stepgrandfathers (7 percent), and strangers (4 percent).”  The researcher was struck by the fact that 10 percent were biological fathers and only 4 percent were strangers.  “Which means,” he said, “86 percent of the perpetrators were known to the family, but were someone other than the child’s father.” [iii]

It is not enemies who taunt me— I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me— I could hide from them.

“Like in the general population, child sex abuse in the Catholic Church appears to be committed by men close to the children they allegedly abuse, many appear to use grooming tactics to entice children into complying with the abuse, and the abuse occurs in the home of the alleged abuser or victim,”[iv]

 But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng.

 about the same incidence of abuse occurs among all the socio-economic classes.  “about 85 percent of the offenders [of child sexual abuse] are family members, babysitters, neighbors, family friends or relatives.  About one in six child molesters are other children.”[v]

But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he will hear my voice.

Sexual abuse is especially complicated because of the power differential between the adult and child, because of the negotiations that must occur between adult and child, and because the child has no way to assimilate the experience into a mature understanding of intimacy. Regardless of the child’s behavior or reactions, it is the responsibility of the adult not to engage in sexual acts with children. Sexual abuse is never the child’s fault.

Sexual abusers can be:

parents, siblings, or other relatives, childcare professionals

clergy, teachers, or athletic coaches,   neighbors or friends   strangers [vi]

He will redeem me unharmed  from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God, who is enthroned from of old,  will hear, and will humble them— because they do not change, and do not fear God.

Girls and boys are affected differently by abuse. Compared to boys, girls are more likely to internalize their response to violence, and experience, for example, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, low self-esteem and psychological disorders. Boys are more likely to externalize their response to violence, displaying, for example, increased aggression, delinquency and spousal abuse.[vii]

My companion laid hands on a friend and violated a covenant with me with speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war; with words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords.

We are all born innocent. Due to sexual abuse or subsequent sexual behavior, you may erroneously believe that you are bad, damaged goods, an object for someone else’s use. Let the past be past, and give yourself a healthy start. You are not strapped to the negative labels an offender may have called you or to the way you saw yourself as a result of the abuse. Now you have choice and can assert your true self with others. Old labels will disappear as you stop believing them and stop acting in ways that reinforce them.[viii]

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

[i]  Child Abuse Factsheet: Department of Justice Canada

[ii] Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

[iii]   Sexual Abuse In Social Context: Catholic Clergy and Other Abusers  citing works of  (Wade F. Horn, “Common-sense article about abuse,” Washington Times, February 6, 2001, p. E1.)

[iv] American Catholic  article on Clergy Sex Abuse, Citing the John Jay Report (

[v]  Sexual Abuse In Social Context: Catholic Clergy and Other Abusers  citing works of  (Dr. Garth A. Rattray,  “Child Month and Paedophilia,” The Gleaner, May 14, 2002.)

[vi]  Help Guide  Child Abuse

[vii]  Child Abuse Factsheet: Department of Justice Canada

[viii]  Sexual Healing  by Wendy Maltz

This compilation of Psalm 55 and facts ©2006 Jill Maria Murdy. It may be used freely as a means of helping others heal.  It is a portion of a larger prayer service that was originally held at Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, West Bend, WI. 53095.



The Failures of Youth

I remember my very first high school concert as a nervous director. I went to raise the stand a little after I already started a choir piece. The TOP of the stand came off in my hand, and the choir started snickering. I tried holding stand with left hand and directing with right for a moment, and realized that was not going to work. I stopped, spun around on one foot and held up the top of the music stand and said, “I told Mr Ding (Barbara Vieth Ding) that I felt like I was falling apart today, but didn’t mean this literally!” People laughed, I turned around, we regrouped and started the song again. Holy Man, that was in the fall of 1993….. Long time ago……


A Mamma’s Heart

Sometimes it feels strange or bittersweet as I watch friends post pictures of the first day of school, or their grandbabies, or all the bragging rights that go with being a Mom. My life path didn’t include marriage or children. Perhaps that is part of why I am crazy cat lady too…

But today I think I got to feel a bit of a Mama’s heart. The young woman who is my housemate started college today and a new job this evening. Tomorrow morning I take her to the DMV to do her driving test. She is working so hard to get it all going and I am very proud of her.

She came to stay with me for “a little while” when she was in a bind, and I was going to help her out for a bit. But that was eight months ago and for whatever reason, the odd combination works, and she is here. I often muse “so who was helping who?”

(I was not allowed to take a first day of school pic though.)

(Post script….the driving test didn’t go well… but there will be other days)

Stewards of the Earth

Pope Frances has declared today as the “world day of prayer for the care of creation.” I again find my self thinking of the lessons my parents taught me. When we would go camping on the Missouri River, kids would rush to carve their name in the white rocks. Dad was quick to tell us,”Fools names and Fools faces are always found in public places”.

I learned early on that fishing was about a lot more than catching fish. If you got “skunked” after taking the drive out to Ross’s reservoir there was no shame in that. The drive to the mountains was worth your trip.

My brothers and I still marvel at the lessons in perseverance and doing a job well done that were required to clean a hedge up to Pat Murdy standards.

Mother’s garden was a teeming example of beauty and function. The flowers there were just as important as the food. That garden fed is through out the year. Mother taught us to share generously, and we were always walking over to so and so’s with a bag of lettuce, tomatoes and cukes.

Nowadays organic and compost gardening and blah blah are such big terms. Nahhhh. You simply keep a plastic bucket under the sink. All the day’s coffee grounds, veggie peelings and dinner scraps (if such rare critters existed) were thrown in the bucket, and in part of doing the dishes was dumping the bucket out in the garden. Mom had the best soil around.

My brother would sell worms in yellow margarine cups at the local gas station. Not only were those little guys helping the garden, but they introduced Joel to the world of commerce.

Mother could run her household on a thin dime. To some it would appear chaotic, but for us it was a breeding ground for creativity and self respect, and constantly testing your own limits and life long learning.

We were taught to respect creation. The earth, the arts, and basic human dignity. I began making weekly nursing home visits in second grade, and later cut my musical teeth playing for the residents there.

Mother and Dad always mourned the infant death of their first born son, Timothy James. His tombstone and the few pictures were a thing of mystery to me as a child. I recall Mother weeping as she received a graduation announcements the year he would have graduated. There was no escaping the pain. This devastating loss as a young couple would stay with them throughout their lives, even though they were blessed to have four additional children. I learned that all of life was sacred.

Our household had a menagerie of cats and dogs, kids and frogs, snakes, guinea pigs, rabbits, gophers, and Lord knows what else. Yes our house was like Genesis, “teeming with life.”

From my dining table in town I could see cows in a field, walk 200 hundred yards and shimmy across an irrigation pipe to pick fresh asparagus. The wheat and Bear Paw mountains co existed side by side. There was no way NOT to respect creation.

In the Summer, we played outside until it was dark, and the rule was only that you had to stay “within hollering distance.” In the winter, it didn’t matter how freaking cold it was. You bundled up, and went outside and played. It may have taken you longer to put on gear then you were outside, but fresh air was important. There were no snowblowers and LOTS of snow, so you learned early how to dress for bitter cold, and how to function in it. You always did the neighbor’s walk. In a land where 20below/ 40 below wind chill was the norm, you respected the weather, and had the proper provisions.

Mother commuted 20 miles to Havre working nights. The car always had extra hats and mittens and she was always giving them away to college kids or someone down on their luck.

Some of our first pin money came from collecting aluminum cans, and I recall our grade school classes getting on a school bus, and going out along the highway picking up litter. A town cleanup day was a normal thing too. Now I laugh, thinking, “whose bright idea was to put an eight or nine year old me and a class of kids like me, out beside an open highway and moving cars?” Probably wouldn’t be legal now or would involve copious amounts of waivers and forms…..but we all survived.

On driver trips and camping trips we learned that garbage we brought in packed out. The goal was to always leave a site better than when we found it.

Nowadays we speak of “random acts of kindness” and “paying it forward.” Both are marvelous concepts, but you see, the thing is, those were just givens. That was just the way you showed respect to the people and the world around you.

Lest I paint a picture of small town eutopia, sadly there were the shadow lands as well. I and many others knew the shame of abuse from a beloved individual who should have been our protector. He betrayed the trust of my parents and many others.

Or you knew exactly whose pickup was in front of the bar too many nights last week. But one learned to be grateful for the good moments and to use the pain of an experience to help others heal,………and to again heed the call to respect creation, respect life.

Later, as I would pray the Divine Office at Sacred Heart Monastery, one of the passages that would reach me most would be singing the “Canticle of Daniel.” The mode used was very ethereal, and one choir would sing the trips, but we would come together on the refrain, ” God of Creation, We Praise you Forever.” Or as this translation says “praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.a
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.
Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
You heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you powers, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you winds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Nights and days, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Let the earth bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

You springs, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you mortals, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
O Israel, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
For he has delivered us from Sheol,
and saved us from the power of death;
He has freed us from the raging flame
and delivered us from the fire.
Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
whose mercy endures forever.
Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord;
praise and give thanks,
for his mercy endures forever!

May that be the prayer on my lips today and every day.

Childhood Television

Memory Monday! Growing up in Northern Montana we got three TV channels. There was no cable in Chinook till we were in high school. ( and when the installed they started on Utah street. We lived on Minnesota so we’re some of first to have cable. ) “Cheech and chong up in smoke” and ” the music man” were on HBO that month. But in our childhood, we watched mostly Canadian shows. Like the Tommy zhunter show or kids like “” chez Helene”, “,Mr dressup” and ” the friendly Giant.” Picking the chair as described in this scene was something my brothers and I would even fight over!

My favourite tv show when I was a kid.


First of all,  God and I have a joke about 3:16.    You’ve seen all the sports events where someone holds up a  John 3:16 sign… to signify  “For God So Loved the World…”

Well, God  usually wakes me at 3:16 am,  and in the afternoon something usually happens to turn my head to the clock.

So riding the Amtrack was no exception…


3:16 am……..dear walt whitman
Forgive me for paraphrasing…..
But all i can think of is the glorious choral setting of your poem.

And that i am destroying it.

On the train between Devils Lake and Grand Forks
And it is way too hot to sleep.
However, it appears others are not having that same problem.

For “I hear America snoring, the varied buzzings I hear
Those of old men, long and deep with a stop before resuming again,
Those rapid raspy ones from the guy who had plenty of trips to the lounge car…….”
Airplanes and greyhound bus may be good for people watching,
But nothing like 24 hours in a quasi submarine on rails
In which to observe them….

But for that Wittman gets it right.
There is my seatmate, the music major headed to minnesota..
The lady riding the train from beginning to end because hitting all 50 states before she turns 50 is on her bucket list.
The Amish clan with tow-headed boys in identical bowl cuts.
The guy w ho loves the sound of his voice.

The giggling girls, flirting with the boy in the lounge car.
I hear multiple languages
And amazing questions and comments about a land i love so much.
It is a strange and wonderful cacophany.
And feels suprisingly alright.

It is middle of the night. I have closed my eyes, played games, read and prayed.
Now i am left to my own devices, and glad just to let the brain wander…
For a couple more days before i return to lists and deadlines.

I remember reading something in a freshman English course with a dr tunic many years ago.
I dont know it by heart, but essence was this :

Traveling is important…because it is there where we switch identities or prepare for who we will be to those we are traveling to. It makes sense. People know us differently as a friend, a sister, a daughter, a coworker. As a musician, a thinker, a writer, a cook, a goofball, a friend.

It is not that these identities are a mask or a facade, but we need time to make the switch. So it is as if the car, train plane is a virtual phonebooth for us to make that change.

My dad made a comment this week how Mother loved the 20 minute drive to work because it was a time that just belonged to her.

I Hear America Singing
Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.