THREE PARABLES FOR LIFE


PARABLE I - AT THE WATER'S EDGE

At the waterís edge I found a cocoon of a butterfly.
One day a small opening appeared.
I sat and watched the butterfly for several hours
as it struggled to force its body through that little hole
. Then it seemed to stop making any progress.
It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
So I decided to help the butterfly.
I took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily.
But it had a swollen body
and small, shrivelled wings.
I continued to watch the butterfly because
I expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge
and expand to be able to support the body,
which would contract in time.
Neither happened!
In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life
crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings.
It never was able to fly.

What I, in my kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Godís way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.
If we were allowed to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us.
We would not be as strong as what we could have been.
We could never fly!
I asked for strength ...
But I was given difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom ...
But I was given me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity ...
But I was given brain and brawn to work.
I asked for courage ...
But I was given danger to overcome.
I asked for love ...
But I was given troubled people to help.
I asked for favours ...
But I was given opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted ...
I received everything I needed!

----  This parable came through the e-mail its original source is unknown to me.

PARABLE II - THE DIET OF WORMS

        The wind quickly hugged it's way across the landscape, like a glove being slipped over a hand. Suddenly, far below, there was movement; then nothing. Circling, the proud-breasted robin closely scanned the ground knowing she would again detect the movement. After all, wasn't that her function in life? To seek out and provide food for her young?

        There, again, the movement. This time, before losing sight of it she swooped down with agility and silence. Seeing it was a worm, she relaxed and landed a few feet away. `That worm has neither the speed nor the agility I have,' she thought, `Why, he can't even fly.' So she stopped and watched to see which way the worm, was going.
It is hard to tell head from tail with these creatures, you know!

        Presently, she bobbed over to it on her spindly, but sure legs. Sneaking up behind, just as she was about to pluck the worm from the ground, it spoke. "Hello," the worm said. The robin froze,
"How is it you speak?" the bird shouted. (As one sometimes does when you speak to someone from another country!)
"How is it you speak?" replied the worm.
"I never thought about it, I just did it. But how did you see me, I sneaked up from behind you?"

 "When I saw you swooping out of the sky, I decided to play a trick on you," the worm said, "so I started going backwards."
"That isn't fair!" said the robin.
"But sneaking up on me to pluck me from the earth is?" "At least you have seen that things are not always as they seem."
"Well, now I'm going to eat you," the robin told the worm.
"That would be fine," the worm replied causing not only surprise but great wonder in the bird.

 "You --- you don't mind that I'm going to eat you and take you home to feed my young?"
"Not at all," said the worm. "But I would ask of you one thing. Would you mind eating one half of me?"
"Just one half?" exclaimed the robin, "but why?"
"If you eat just one half, then I will be able to grow strong and big again."

 "But what if I decide to eat all of you? You really don't have much choice."
"You're right on that, but I trust your judgement in realizing that if I am willing to give of myself to you, then you will be willing to give to me by only eating half and allowing me to restore myself and live."

----- the story up to this point was created by Graham Garret
who gave it to me to use in any way helpful
At this point the story can go in many different directions.

How would you finish it if you were writing this story?


Here is an example done by Karen McCanch.

        "Alright," said the robin, and she ate half of the worm and flew back to her nest.
As she was feeding her young and they were all pecking and squeaking at her for their share of the food the young robin thought to herself, 'This is crazy!' and she jumped onto the edge of the nest and whistled loudly at her young to silence them.
"Quiet!" she squawked at the little birds. "I will give each of you your share if you will stop pecking at me so much and give me a chance to catch my breath."
Just then the robin realized what the worm had taught her:

A Prayer for Wisdom

Spirit of my living God,
please grant me the strength
and grace to give willingly of myself
to those in need,
and the wisdom and sensitivity
to not take from others
more than they can give to me,
allowing them the chance to be whole again.
Amen.
(Karen is a single mom with two lovely children.
If we allow the story time to do its work on us, something very special is revealed.)



 

PARABLE III - TRAPPED BEAUTY

        One day I was walking through an open field and in the distance my eye caught sight of something in the pasture grass, some movements. As I approached nearer and nearer I noticed a great, big monarch butterfly fluttering its wings frantically. It was caught, but the sad and strange part about it was that its beauty -- its wings -- were holding it down, captive. Three long strands of grass loosely connected at the top enclosed it, but because the wings were so huge these three tee-pee forming blades of grass were enough to keep the butterfly from escaping into the open spaces and using its most beautiful attributes. If it would only calm down and slowly walk away from this very loosely knit cage it could fly away forever and be free.
Calm down, butterfly.
It is your beauty that is keeping you captive,
your beautiful large wings.
Calm down...and walk away...then fly, fly, fly ...
 ----- written on July 13,1986 by the late Ray Desgroseilliers, sj

AWRITTEN MEDITATION ON SCRIPTURE

1. How shall I call upon God? The first step in entering upon the meditation is to reflect upon how God appears to you in the passage to be contemplated. What name or image do you wish to use in your personal dialogue? Great Spirit, Teacher, Healer, Life, Light, Mother, Suffering Servant, Beloved, Friend, etc? Addressing the Holy One by a personally chosen name begins to focus your thoughts and feelings and establish a sense of presence.

 2. State the heart of the matter. Write a brief, general statement of what is happening or being expressed in the passage. Try to capture the overall tone or quality and the essential point of the passage.

 3. Describe the context, background, and inner feelings -- involved in the situation in greater detail. Allow your imagination to freely create an environment and a historical background to the scene. This allows for subjective feelings, memories, and associations to consciously or unconsciously become part of this prayer exercise. Respect the facts, but don't be afraid to elaborate on them creatively.

 4. Ask for what you want. What I want to understand more deeply is ... What I desire to be freed of is ... For example, "Divine Friend, help me to understand my own blindness (paralysis, pharisaical hypocrisy, etc.) and heal me of it."

 5. Looking and Listening. Focus upon different aspects of the passage such as physical details, persons, words, the event of healing, forgiveness, death, etc., and let thoughts, images, feelings, and other associations present themselves. Keep returning to the word, image, or event. As you concentrate on these, what presents itself to your mind? Record what comes to you in writing. Sometimes the connections are obvious and direct. At other times they are more obscure. Record them all without judgment. Be aware of symbolic connections. For example, is there a storm in my life? Am I like the leper, or Lazarus, or the blind man in some way? The point is not to analyze, but to make associations and connections as they arise.

 6. Dialogue. Feel or imagine God's presence and then begin to speak with one another in a totally open way. Say what is on your mind, and then allow God to speak to you. Sometimes it may help to imagine what God would say as you give space for God to speak with you. Record the dialogue as it comes to you.

 7. Remembering and evaluating. Review in your mind the sequence of feelings, freeflowing thoughts and experiences involved in this prayer exercise. Record these. Then re-read the whole meditation and note the emotions that arise as you read and also how you feel about the experience as a whole.


Late Have I Loved You

Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new!
Late have I loved you
And behold, you were within, and I without, and without I sought you.
And deformed, I ran after those forms of beauty you have made.
You were with me, and I was not with you, those things held me back from you,
things whose only being was to be in you.
You called, you cried, and you broke through my deafness.
You illumined, you shone, and you chased away my blindness.
You became fragrant and I inhaled and sighed for you.
I tasted, and now hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me and I burned for your embrace.

--- a prayer from St. Augustine


 

A WRITTEN MEDITATION 

ON A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

1. How shall I call upon my God? The first step in entering upon this prayer exercise is to reflect upon how you wish to address God at this time. What name or image speaks to your present experience? Friend, Beloved, Healer, Teacher, Mother, Creator, Life, Light, Father, Rock, Saviour, Suffering Servant, Shepherd, Holy One, Unknown One, or some other name or image from scripture or your own experience? Addressing God by a personally chosen name begins to focus your thoughts and feelings and establish a sense of Presence.

 2. State the heart of the matter. Briefly write a general statement of what you intend to dwell upon. What's on my mind is ... What I would like to talk about is .., For example, you may wish to focus upon a relationship with another person, an event that has significance for you, a feeling of anger, grief, joy, anxiety, fear, hardness of heart, control, need to forgive, pain, etc.

 3. Describe the context, background, and your own feelings -- about the situation in greater detail. Begin to fill in the overall picture. It all started when ... It took place at ... My feelings at the time were ... My feelings now are ... This should be done freely and without censorship or judgment. "Irrational" feelings are not to be excluded.

 4. Ask for what you want. What I want to know is.. What I need your help with is ... For example, "Lord, give me insight into this relationship. Heal me of the hurt and bitterness I am experiencing "

 5. Waiting and listening for what presents itself. After focusing your desire, wait in stillness for whatever comes to mind. What images, feelings, memories, or thoughts present themselves? Record without judgment whatever bubbles up from within, Keep returning to what you desire and then wait for whatever appears. Don't follow long chains of associations. Keep focused on the matter at hand. For example, you might imagine the content of the meditation as the hub of a wheel.

        The thoughts, images, and feelings are like spokes connected to that hub. After each spoke presents itself, return to the centre or hub and wait for another association to arise. Some of the associations may be understood, others may seem strange and obscure. Some may clarify at a later time. At this point the important thing is simply to gather thoughts, feelings, and associations without judgment as these occur. Forming connections, seeing patterns, or achieving insight may well happen, but one should not feel anxious if this does not happen.

 6. Dialogue. Feel or imagine Jesus present with you (or God or saint or wisdom figure). Begin to speak with one another in a totally open way. You may be helped by including the person whom you have been praying about and allow them to enter into the dialogue. Say what is on your mind, and then allow Jesus or the other to speak to you. Record the dialogue as it happens.

 7. Remembering and evaluating. Review in your mind the sequence of feelings and experiences involved in the meditation. Record these. Then re-read the whole meditation and note the emotions that arise as you read and also how you feel about the experience as a whole.


crazy
let me be crazy with you, lord...
crazy, in love with you,
and spend some time
alone on the roads
that lead to the sun and the stars;

 let me sing, let me dance,
let me rest in your arms,
let us be, let us share,
let us run with the wind.

let me be me
and be crazy with you,
totally crazy, in love with you, lord.

 let me jump on your shadow
let me blow on your ear,
let us dream, let us touch,,
let us laugh through the tears.

let me be crazy with you , lord...

 totally crazy and in love with you,
totally crazy, in love with you.

--- Ruth McLean

"JUST AS IF I WERE THERE"

 On Gospel Contemplation

(This explanation may help you to appreciate better the method that Ignatius suggests for most of the Sp Exs. This method is called by various names such as Gospel Contemplation, Method of Contemplation, Ignatian Contemplation. It makes use of guided imagery and active imagination within the framework of a gospel passage of Jesus' life.)

        It happened one morning in an 8th century Italian monastery. On waking, the monks all dressed in their cells and then filed down the corridors to a central meeting room. There they sat quietly until a monk, standing at a lectern, began to read a passage from the Gospel of John. He read clearly in a leisurely manner verses 13-22 of chapter 2. He paused for 30 or 40 seconds.Then he reread the same passage in the same clear, leisurely manner. Again, he paused for half a minute, then read the same passage a third time.

        When he paused this time, some of the monks began to return to their cells in order to pray over the passage. Others waited for the fourth reading and even the fifth before they, too, left for their cells.

        What was happening? These repetitive readings saturated their imaginations with a Gospel scene of particular energy and colour. This saturation would, of course, minimize distractions, and encourage a frame of mind and heart conducive to prayer. Perhaps it would enable a monk to identify with some particular person in the Gospel episode, and even to discover the inner feelings of Christ. The mystery of the gospel event would so take hold of the person at prayer that the past would become present through the instrument of the imagination and memory. The memory of the person at prayer would be influenced by the memory of Jesus present now to the person praying.

This is how you can enter into the life of Jesus through prayer:

1. Select a short concrete/action passage

First, from one of the Gospels, select an action passage, preferably fast-moving and colourful in detail. When you first begin to use this method do not attempt to pray a parable or a sermon.

2. Relax and settle into God's presence

 Ask for a particular grace that you are seeking or the particular gift you need at this time - perhaps to know Jesus more intimately, or to become more compassionate, or to be healed in a particular area of your heart etc.

3. Read aloud the passage several times pausing half a minute or so between each reading while the gospel episode takes hold of you.

Slowly read the passage once - aloud, if circumstances allow. Then for 30 seconds or so look up from the page and let the scene sink into your imagination. Do a second oral reading, noticing details which you missed in the first reading. Again look up from the page for 30 seconds or so, until these new details fit into the total scene in your imagination.In the third reading, you will see more details for the first time, also insights, questions and interpretations will begin to occur to you. Use a half-minute to let them settle into your memory. Then read a fourth or even a fifth time until almost all the distractions have disappeared, and the Gospel scene totally saturates your imagination.

4. Now place the bible aside and let the scene happen

Do nothing to promote it except to stay alert to its developments. As you let yourself sink into the scene, you will tend to lose the sense of yourself and to identify with the situation. Suppose, for example, that you have read about Jesus quieting the storm on the lake. You may imagine the wind howling, the boat pitching, the apostles struggling at the oars. If this identification deepens, you will find yourself in the boat, e.g., at the oars, or you may find yourself to be in Peter or Philip. Sometimes you will discover yourself drifting in and outof the scene, in and out of various people of the scene.

5. Allow yourself to take part in the scene which is now present to you

Be as passive as possible while being as alert as possible.In fact, let everyone else control the event: Jesus, Peter, Mary, Martha, John. You merely interact with the persons, listen and reply to their words, take part in their activity - conversing with them, accompanying them, helping them in their occupations, in whatever ways you find yourself as part of the event that is present to you.

6. Do not moralize or try to make applications

Don't moralize (for example, "I should be more spontaneous like Peter when I am with my friends ...") or draw theological conclusions (for example "Notice how the three temptations of Jesus parallel the temptations of the Israelites ...") or try to make clever applications ("It's amazing how the Pharisees are so much like the people I am working with ...") By losing yourself in the persons, words and activity of the gospel event your whole being is affected and influenced. You won't need applications because you will notice what happens to you either in the period of reflection after your prayer or, more subtly, in the effects in your life as almost by osmosis you begin to put on the mind and heart of Jesus's Spirit.

7. After your period of prayer comes to an end make a review for a few minutes by reflecting upon what took place during the prayer.

What happened in you during this prayer exercise? What did you notice as standing out even slightly? Is there something you should return to in a later period of prayer? Give thanks to the Lord for being with you during this time.


LECTIO DIVINA 1

        Lectio Divina (Latin, lek-see-o de-vee-na) is the one method of prayer fostered by all traditions of Christian spirituality. Sometimes this method is translated as `meditative reading' or as `spiritual reading'. This method would better be called Prayer of the Listening Heart, because many people who first used this method in the early Christian times, couldn't read! It goes back to ancient times and was used constantly by the early monks many of whom also couldn't read!The "lectio" of Lectio Divina is a listening with the heart, as one does quite naturally and spontaneously while appreciating a sunset, or when pondering with fondness any touching human experience. One listens with the heart also when one reads slowly, with pauses and `relishes or drinks in' the words of scripture or any other special writing. By thus listening with the heart one is led automatically to reflection upon the experience, or writing, or event. From this reflection one is led automatically to respond and in time one becomes more and more open to the influence of God's Spirit.

LECTIO DIVINA APPLIED TO READING
The reading is done slowly, pausing periodically to allow the words and phrases to enter within you. When a thought resonates deeply, stay with it, allowing the fullness of it to penetrate your being. Relish the word received. Respond authentically and spontaneously as in a dialogue.
LECTIO DIVINA APPLIED TO SOME REMEMBERED EVENT
Recall the experience and stay with it before God. Let the feelings and thoughts associated with the experience well up in your heart as you ponder to find deeper meaning or understanding or a different way of seeing things. Respond authentically and spontaneously as in a dialogue.  2



 
 

HEALING OF MEMORIES FOR ONESELF

        Sometimes we experience a lack of freedom in ourselves, an inability to cope with something, an inability to forgive, a fear, a problem with uncontrollable anger, or something like that. No matter how we pray or what we do, nothing seems to help. The first step is to discover the root of the problem. Very often it helps to talk it over with a spiritual guide. Sometimes our weakness or unfreedom is a result of an inadequate prayer life. Sometimes it is a result of an unwillingness to face the truth, or to let go of something we want, or a lack of discipline in our lives. Sometimes it is because we are too busy or too tired. Sometimes it's because we have not forgiven another. In instances like these, what we need for healing is repentance not prayer.

        There are times however that the issues are rooted in the past, even in the time we were being carried in our mother's womb or in the process of birth. No matter how loving our home life has been, no matter how happy our childhood, it was not perfect. During the various stages of growing we have experienced the oppression of others as well as that of institutions and structures. So we carry in ourselves the wounds of bad experiences, some of which we have not thought about in years.

        There is a way of praying for the healing of past experiences. It is sometimes called `healing of memories, ' sometimes `psychological healing.' It rests on the fact that Jesus is the Lord of all time, past, present, and future, that he can even change the effects of the past.

        Some time ago a woman in Joseph's community said to him in passing that he had a lot of bitterness in him. Joseph was busy at the time and busy afterwards with a lot of things, so he did not do anything about it. From time to time her remarks reoccurred to him, and he did realize that occasionally a sharpness would develop in his tone of voice, a certain harshness would colour his relations with others. He would ask forgive-ness when he could and move on. Finally he did learn to pray over these experiences and experienced through prayer a great deal of healing.

The following is his record of healing through prayer:

        "(Finally) ...I had occasion ... to use my prayer time to be healed of the effects of bad experiences in my past. I began by settling quietly in God's presence, and after reminding myself of God's perfect love and desire to heal me, I asked God to bring to my mind the memories of the experiences which were at the root of this buried bitterness. The first memory came back almost at once. I saw myself on the stairway of my high school the first day of my freshman year. I was a fat little twelve-year-old between two much larger boys. It was a scene that I had not thought about in over 25 years. I saw their faces clearly and I even remembered their names. A priest walked by and I said, `Hello.' I had served Mass for him many times. The other boys did not know the priests and began to ridicule me for trying to `get in with them'. I was both hurt and confused. I wanted very much to be friends with my classmates, but it looked as though I was getting off to a very bad start. I really couldn't understand why saying hello was so misunderstood. At that point in my recollection I forgave each of them. Then in my imagination I walked back into that scene with Jesus by my side. I could imagine each of the boys becoming self-conscious and confused as they saw Jesus. I could see Jesus forgiving them and urging them to be more loving and understanding. Then he turned to the little boy (me) and he let me know that what I had done was all right, that the other boys were wrong in what they did and they were sorry. I really felt his love. I could see the little boy begin to smile, and then we walked out of the recollection. In the course of a week's prayer I had about fifty experiences like that, and I find that much of the bitterness and harshness has disappeared from my behaviour. Praise God."
The elements of such prayer are simple:

  1. Recall God's love and power.
  2. Ask the Spirit's help in recalling the memories of the bad experiences of the past which affect you now.
  3. Be quiet and let them come to mind.
  4. Walk back into those recollections with Jesus and imaginatively reconstruct what would happen.
  5. Thank Jesus for his love and healing.
        Sometimes this must be done more than once. You know when you are healed when the child or person in the memory is smiling and happy because of the presence and love of Jesus.


"The ability to risk can be a sign of healing!"3

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risk must be taken, because ....
the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing
and is nothing.
One may avoid suffering and sorrow, but one simply cannot learn,
feel ... change ... grow ... love ... live.
Chained by one's certitudes, one is a slave,
that person has forfeited life.
Only a person who risks ... is free.


 

 
 

caught 4

 caught in the vortex
of a swirling web
i am paralysed
snagged
unable to move.

 invisible spiders
wind their film
about my arms my feet
my mind;
around my thoughts my prayer
my life.

 confused and bound
i lie in trance.

 the weakness of my humanness
the frailty that is born of me
well up
and snare
my vague attempts
to mount the dock
of reasoning
to cease the whirling
of the threads.

 fumbling and sightless
i cannot unsnarl the lines
immobilized
by gathering winds
i cannot fight.
helplessly i exist
and start to grow so very tired.






 
 

1. The material on Lectio Divina is based on the presentation of Vincent Dwyer, Cistercian, in the film, Many Paths to Prayer, originally put out by Multi-Media, Inc. In his presentation the point is made that the technical language needs to be re-expressed and re-integrated in a different way. Thus, Lectio Divina, literally translated as sacred reading, - should be expressed as Listening. Meditatio, literally translated as meditation - should be expressed as Reflection with the Heart which includes both feelings and thoughts. Oratio, literally translated as prayer, - should be expressed as Responding with the heart and conversing back and forth with God. Contemplatio, literally translated contemplation,is the fruit of the natural process of listening, reflecting, responding - should be expressed as Being caught-up-with-God which experience is God's gift and the outcome of the above openness. For the complete text of Many Paths To Prayer click here.
Back to this document

2. Thus the Prayer of a Child, the Written Meditation on a Personal Experience, Praying over One's Blessed History are all forms of Lectio Divina. Back to document

3. This quotation is with thanks from Myrna M. Small. The reading that follows is adapted from an unknown source that has been making the rounds of meetings and workshops. Back to document

4. By Ruth McLean, this poem could be used very helpfully to express the sense of separation of theComposition of Place, for the First Exercise of the Sp Exs. Back to document


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