Blessing of Breathing

I recently discovered a prayer called Blessing of Breathing by Jan Richardson. The selection can be found in her book entitled The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief.

That the first breath will come without fear.

That the second breath will come without pain.

The third breath: that it will come without despair.

And the fourth, without anxiety.

That the fifth breath will come with no bitterness.

That the sixth breath will come for joy.

Breath seven: that it will come for love.

May the eighth breath come for freedom.

And the ninth, for delight.

When the tenth breath comes, may it be for us
to breathe together, and the next, and the next,

until our breathing is as one,
until our breathing is no more.

Amen.

School Days

Summer vacation has vanished like morning dew in the August sun. Family trips to the beach, lake, and mountains linger only as distant memories. Atlanta Public Schools began this week, and other area schools will follow soon.

During my childhood, students enjoyed a three-month summer vacation before returning to class around Labor Day. Teachers gathered one week beforehand for a mysterious rite known as “pre-planning.” During Open House, we perused the student rosters posted outside the classrooms. Teachers distributed lists of required school supplies.

My father worked for Sears-Roebuck, and his employee discount guaranteed our customer loyalty. We rode in the family station wagon to the local mall for back-to-school shopping. Sears strategically placed snack bars in the center of the stores. I still associate the start of school with the aromatic mélange of Spanish nuts, popcorn, and fruit slices.

My mother and sister spent inordinate amounts of time looking at new clothes. Three pairs of blue jeans and a few shirts met my basic fashion needs. The Sears’ “Toughskins” pants featured double-layered knees for active boys. The stiff denim emitted a chemical smell, chaffing in unmentionable places until softened by repeated washings.

I insisted on wearing Keds’ tennis shoes: “The Shoes of Champions.” Ads promised that the sneakers enabled wearers to “run faster and jump higher!” I could race the wind and win while leaping broad canyons with ease.

The school section featured aisles of supplies. We selected three-ring binders that snapped shut with the force of rat traps. Many an unwary child bore the scars of such encounters. 

Cool kids used Ticonderoga #2 pencils. No doubt Moses employed the same instrument while inscribing the Ten Commandments. We used the pencils until they were one-inch nubs that disappeared into a rotating pencil sharpener.  

Discriminating students purchased Blue Horse notebook paper, saving the Blue Horse labels to exchange for neat rewards. I do not recall ever redeeming a prize with the coveted labels, but they formed the stuff of school-day dreams.

We bought plastic rulers marked off in fractions of an inch. A zippered pencil container snapped into a notebook. We filled it with pink erasers the size of Matchbox cars. I once got a miniature stapler with a box of micro-staples and immediately mutilated a fingertip with the device.

The most important items never appeared on a supply list. My best teachers supplied me with a love of learning, thirst for knowledge, and belief in self. These dedicated educators invested their hearts and souls into their students; and the return on their investment proved invaluable.

Christa McAuliffe, the elementary school teacher who perished on the space shuttle Challenger, said, “I touch the future—I teach.” I give thanks for men and women who are teaching a new generation of students in our classrooms. May God supply their every need.

Prayers from the Ark: The Tortoise

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection comes from thoughtful musings of The Prayer of the Tortoise.

A little patience,

O God,

I am coming.

One must take nature as she is!

It was not I who made her!

I do not mean to criticize

this house on my back–

it has its points–

but You must admit, Lord,

it is heavy to carry!

Still,

let us hope that this double enclosure,

my shell and my heart,

will never be quite shut to You.

Prayers from the Ark: The Ox

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures oxwho sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection comes from thoughtful musings of The Prayer of the Ox.

Dear God,

Give me time.

Humans are always so driven!

Make them understand that I can never hurry.

Give me time to eat.

Give me time to plod.

Give me time to sleep.

Give me time to think.

Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Elephant

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures Elephantwho sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection highlights the lumbering, plodding efforts of The Prayer of the Elephant.

Dear God,

It is I, the elephant,

Your creature,

Who is talking to You.

I am so embarrassed by my great self,

And truly it is not my fault

If I spoil Your jungle a little with my big feet.

Let me be careful and behave wisely,

Always keeping my dignity and poise.

Give me such philosophic thoughts

That I can rejoice everywhere I go

In the lovable oddity of things.

Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Cat

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures catwho sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection conveys the clever, crafty, requests of The Prayer of the Cat.

Lord,

I am a cat.

It is not exactly, that I have something to ask of You!

No—

I ask nothing of anyone—

But,

If You should have by some chance, in some celestial barn,

A little white mouse,

Or a saucer of milk,

I know someone who would relish them.

Wouldn’t You like someday

To put a curse on the whole race of dogs?

If so, I should say,

Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Bee

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s beecreatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection features the busy, buzzing, bequests of The Prayer of the Bee.

Lord,

I am not one to despise Your gifts.

May You be blessed

Who spread the riches of Your sweetness

For my zeal . . . .

Let my small span of ardent life

Melt into our great communal task;

To lift up to Your glory

This temple of sweetness,

A citadel of incense,

A holy candle, myriad-celled,

Molded of Your graces

And of my hidden work.

Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Ducks

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Enjoy The Prayer of the Little Ducks.

Dear God,

Give us a flood of water. 

Let it rain tomorrow and always.

Give us plenty of little slugs

and other luscious things to eat.

Protect all folk who quack

and everyone who knows how to swim!

Prayers from the Ark: The Parrot

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. The Prayer of the Parrot reminds me of the task of preaching.

Did you say something, Lord?

Oh! I thought You were speaking to me.

You are silent?

Are You afraid I shall tell Your secrets?

It’s true I’m a little talkative

but, at times, that is useful:

Heads are thick, slow to understand,

and have to be told things again and again.

If You need me, I am your servant,

one who never grows tired

of repeating the same word again and again,

which has its power:

I may grow tedious but people listen

in spite of themselves;

and what is repeated, repeated, repeated,

stays in the memory.

When may I serve Your infinite wisdom?

Think of it Lord. Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Butterfly

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection features the flitter, flutter, flailing of The Prayer of the Butterfly.

Lord!

Where was I?

Oh, yes! This flower, this sun, thank you!

Your world is beautiful!

This scent of roses . . .

Where was I?

A drop of dew

rolls to sparkle in a lily’s heart.

I have to go . . .

Where? I do not know!

The wind has painted fancies

on my wings.

Fancies . . .

Where was I?

Oh, yes! Lord,

I had something to tell you.

Amen!