Many of us, I suspect, have had the experience of receiving a word from the Lord. Some thought, some command, some desire that God had planted in our hearts, and in our minds. We may not have recognized it at the time, or maybe we resisted, or dismissed it, but the seed had been planted. The sower had sown the word, and we received it. We received a word from the Lord, and eventually we knew it. We knew we had received a word from the Lord. How did we know? How did we know that this thought, this command, this desire comes from God, and is not just the product of our own wishful (or punitive) thinking? How did we know? How do we know? For God is still sowing words in our hearts, and in our minds. How do we know when it’s from the Lord? Continue reading
“Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen, who thy glory hidest ‘neath these shadows mean; lo to thee surrendered my whole heart is bowed, tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.”
Words of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274), whose feast we keep today. Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen…actually, it seems that Thomas may indeed have seen the unseen Verity, the unseen Truth, or at least some manifestation of the Divine, some kind of theophany. Continue reading
The news is not necessarily good. If you follow a newspaper or some online news source, or if you take in the news by TV or radio, you will not presume that the news you learn will be good news. NPR reported not long ago on a study which researched the relationship between being well informed with the news, and being happy. Are people who spend more time and energy getting more news more happy in life? No. It’s largely the opposite, an inverted relationship: the people with more news are more unhappy. Well, I’m not about to suggest we become News Luddites; but I am saying that good news is remarkable, because there’s so much bad news. That is as true today as it was in Jesus’ own day. Which is why the news that people heard on Jesus’ lips was compelling: because it was so good. He called it that – good news – and people voted with their feet. If Jesus had been a political candidate, we could call it an enormous swelling of grassroots’ support. They followed him in hordes. Continue reading
Paul’s Damascus Road experience had to have been important to him. It certainly was important to the writer of the Book of Acts (Luke, we presume). The story is told three times, with variations in details. Oddly, in Paul’s own writings he doesn’t dwell on this experience: there are places in his letters where he speaks of visionary experiences and one passage in Galatians seems to refer to the Damascus Road event, but even this is not explicit. Continue reading
Recently, I’ve been reading Le très-bas or in its English translation, The Very Lowly by Christian Bobin. This is the first time I’ve ever read anything by this French Catholic author. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of Christian Bobin for that matter. The Very Lowly is a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. But it isn’t like any biography I’ve ever read before. Les très bas reads more like poetry even though it’s written in prose. Honestly, it isn’t like any book I’ve ever read before.
Le très-bas is described on the book’s back cover as “exquisite and moving.” It is very much both of those things and I have found myself reading it as lectio divina. Savoring the depths of its insights as a meditative exercise while basking in its strikingly beautiful language. Continue reading
Have you ever bragged about someone else? Maybe you’ve told someone how beautiful and talented your spouse or partner is and how fortunate you feel to have him or her in your life. Or maybe you’ve boasted about a gifted teacher you once had, or about how sensitive and helpful your doctor is. Or maybe you’ve taken delight (without being too proud) in talking about your children or your grandchildren, and how truly exceptional they are. I like Garrison Keillor’s boast about Lake Wobegon: “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Continue reading
What we have just heard, which reverberates so mysteriously in our hearts, is often called the Prologue of John’s Gospel–the very first 18 verses. It is a brief, but majestic overture to the magnificent Fourth Gospel, laying out the themes of God, creation, life, light, grace, truth, humanity, Jesus. The Prologue is striking in its cosmic sweep, gathering up, well, everything: all things came into being through him. This Prologue is about everything that is, and how all things came to be. Continue reading
In our relationship with God we are always responding. God is wooing us, luring us, loving us into a more beloved relationship. How God will break through to us will oftentimes be through something that is broken within us. Our break will be God’s “break,” God’s breakthrough, God’s point of entry into our lives.
Any awareness of a need to confess our sin is already an act of preparation, God’s preparatory work in our souls. If you are sensing a need to make a confession of sin – and the fact that you are reading this suggests that, perhaps, you are – then trust that this is already a response to God’s initiative, and that is good news. God’s invitation is for you to be reconciled to God, to your own self, and to others. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful means of grace available to you. In the Anglican tradition, this is not a mandated sacrament. You have every liberty, in the privacy of your own heart and in your own words, to confess your sins in prayer directly to Jesus. In the scriptures we read, “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5-6). And from John’s first letter: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).
Another opportunity for the confession of sin in our tradition comes in the corporate confession of sin included in most liturgies. The Book of Common Prayer provides language for you to express aloud your awareness of sin “in thought, word, and deed, by what [you] have done, and by what [you] have left undone.”* With the authority Jesus gives to the Church, the priest responds to the corporate confession of sin with words proclaiming God’s forgiveness. Availing yourself of these personal and corporate practices, you may have every assurance you need of God’s forgiveness. As Anglicans, we say of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, “all may, none must, some should.” (A) And you will know when you should.
Either at a particular point in time or on a regular basis, you may need the help of this sacrament. You may be at a point of crisis, aware of some egregious breakdown on your part, or rather burdened by a tedious, repetitive sin. Either way, if left alone, you may conclude you are both unforgiven and unforgivable. You may need a very personal and powerful intervention of the grace available in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You may need certainty – certainty that Jesus has both heard your confession and assured you of his forgiveness. That will happen: “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”(B) You may need this very explicit assurance of your forgiveness, of your being liberated from an internal prison of condemnation.
What to confess?
If you have determined that confession might be the gift, the grace, that you need now in your relationship with God, yourself, or with others, the question next arises what you ought to confess. The most basic answer is: your awareness of sin. And what is sin? The Catechism describes sin as “the seeking of your own will instead of the will of God.”(C) You have been created in the image of God, to use your God-given will to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God. From the beginning, human beings have misused our freedom and made wrong choices, rebelling against God. You will likely know about this personally, as we all do, given your capacity, your proclivity, to hoard life, to act in such a way that makes you a god – it’s all about you! – in some particular or pervasive way. Some actions or inactions have compromised your will, which is only free insofar as your will acts in sync with the will of God, with God’s purposes in life. The most prominent New Testament word for sin quite literally means “not a rightful share,” that is the over claiming what is yours to have in life; the word also means “not hitting the target,” i.e., missing the mark of what you know to be right.(D)
And you do know it. You do. Confession is born from a conscious awareness of a breakdown: You either momentarily or methodically have “slipped” in what you know full-well to be right – right by you and by others – and have compromised your integrity. Or perhaps you may realize your lapse only in the sobriety of retrospect. You may have no answer to your own haunting question, “Why did I do that?” “Why did I say that?” Saint Paul makes quite a humbling confession: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15).
Oftentimes a wrong we have committed was the surfacing of some deeper character flaw or inner wound, perhaps an infected wound. Jesus calls these the sins of the heart: “fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly” (Mk 7:21-2). Sin is an experience and exercise of alienation – an alienation from our own true self, from others, and from God. A breakdown in relationship in one of these realms (to self, to others, to God, to the Creation) will affect the other. Sin goes viral. We need to be rescued by a power greater than ourselves.
Jesus has come to save us. The Greek root for the verb “to save” also means to salve and to salvage. Jesus has come to save us from living hell. Jesus has come to salve us from the wounds we have received out of other people’s hell, from others’ sin against us. We come to confession to name our own sin; however, in a tragic way, we may have colluded with how we were hurt and, in some way, replicated that hurt both onto ourselves and onto others. Alice Miller, the esteemed child psychologist, speaks of this as “the leaden rule”: “children [even as adults] do unto others what was done unto them, long before they could do anything about it.”
Should you be burdened by a sin that springs from wrongs done to you, perhaps the Sacrament of Reconciliation can offer some much-needed help for your soul. Confession becomes a way that we can unlock those prisons that may have been built before we can even remember. Turning ourselves over to the healing power of Jesus, we break the long-ingrained patterns that have bound us.
When I meet with someone to hear their confession, I always have at hand healing oil – the Sacrament of Holy Unction – because this person seeking God’s forgiveness (what the Scriptures call “unbinding”) may also need inner healing (what the Scriptures call “binding up”) from the root causes of their sin. Jesus has come to save us, to salve us, and to salvage us. Jesus has come “to seek and to save the lost”: lost hope, lost love, lost joy, lost innocence (Lk 9:10). To salvage is to reclaim what is otherwise lost and to see it made into a new and beautiful thing.
This is what Jesus is up to. Even the most appalling ravages of life can be redeemed in the most amazing ways. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, one of the experiences of grace will come through the priest’s helping the penitent sift and sort through sin: What is your own sin? What is the sin against you which you carry and perhaps replicate? What of your broken life needs to be retrieved, reclaimed, redeemed through Jesus’ intervention? Jesus tells his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost” (Jn 6:12). Hear this as a personal promise from Jesus to you, about your own life. Nothing is to be lost.
Pondering in Preparation
How you prepare for making a sacramental confession will be informed by the factors that have inspired you to undertake this:
• If this is your first confession or “life” confession, allow enough time, enough days, to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” (E)
• If the confession is prompted by some specific awareness of sin that weighs on your conscience, then allow your reflections to focus on this particular sin and others that might be connected to it.
• If you make a confession on a regular basis (perhaps quarterly) as a spiritual discipline, then allow your reflections to revisit the topics and gleanings that have arisen in past confessions.
Whether you are making a review of a lifetime, or reviewing only this past season of your life, note where your soul is troubled.
• Do you have memories that sear your conscience, be they of particular incidents or a chain of events that set off a kind of a tsunami of sin in some aspect of your life?
• Is there a recurring, damaging pattern of behavior?
• Do you have a residual experience of self-loathing or shame? Why is that?
In asking these questions, you are not “digging for dirt”; you are simply uncovering what is soiled in your soul, what you no longer have energy to conceal. The energy it takes to conceal our sin (even from ourselves) is like keeping a part of ourselves locked up in prison, where we are both the prisoner and the prison guard. You need to be able to live your whole life. (In English, the words “whole,” “holy,” and “health” all come from the same etymological root.) When Jesus begins his public ministry, he quotes the prophet Isaiah in claiming his anointed role “to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives… to let the oppressed go free.” (F) Jesus’ forgiveness is liberation, quite literally a lightening of the weight of sin, and the opening of the door to the abundant life he promises.
Praying in Preparation
Whether you take one period of time to prepare for a sacramental confession, or whether you will take many days, perhaps weeks, to prepare, here are a few suggestions to help you structure that time:
• Begin your time(s) of recollection with a prayer of thanksgiving that God’s reconciling love has already broken through to you. God is already with you in this.
• Read a passage of Scripture that gives you hope and encouragement. Here are two possibilities:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:1-11
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
• Then ask God to open the eyes of your heart for the clarity and courage to remember what weighs on your conscience, what you long to be forgiven.
• If you knowingly (or unwittingly) brought a “whip” into this time of recollection, you need to hand that over to God. Give it up. Reconciliation is not about heaping up blame, but about releasing yourself from its burden.
• At the conclusion of your time(s) of recollection, offer a prayer of thanks that God is inviting you into personal freedom, and into a more intimate relationship with God.
Selecting a lens through which to review your life
To prompt and clarify your recollection, you may find it helpful to use one of the following sets of focusing points as you examine your conscience.
I. Adapted from the Ten Commandments (G)
Where have I failed:
- To love and obey God, and to bring others to know God.
- To put nothing in the place of God.
- To show God respect in thought, word, and deed.
- To set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God’s ways.
- To love, honor, and help my parents and family; to honor those in authority, and to meet their just demands.
- To show respect for the life God has given; to work and pray for peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in my heart; to be kind to all the creatures of God.
- To use all my bodily desires as God intended.
- To be honest and fair in my dealings; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; to use my talents and possessions as one who must answer for them to God.
- To speak the truth, and not to mislead others by my silence.
- To resist temptations to envy, greed, and jealousy; to rejoice in other people’s gifts and graces; and to do my duty for the love of God, who has called me into fellowship with God.
II. Adapted from the Litany of Penitence (H)
Where I am aware of my:
Pride, hypocrisy, and impatience with life
Self-indulgent appetites and ways, and exploitation of other people Anger in my own frustration
Envy of those more fortunate than myself
Intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts
Dishonesty in daily life and work
Negligence in prayer and worship
Failure to commend the faith that is in me
Blindness to human need and suffering
Indifference to injustice and cruelty
False judgments and uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors Prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me
Waste and pollution of God’s creation
Lack of concern for the generations to come
III. A Lens for Life Confession
If this is your first confession, or a “life” confession, you may feel unfocused or overwhelmed in knowing where to begin a review of your entire life. If so, you may find it helpful to demarcate your life history into quadrants, and then use one of the above sets of focusing points as you examine each quadrant.
Quadrant 1: Your earliest memories up through childhood
Quadrant 2: The beginning of adolescence into young adulthood
Quadrant 3: Young adulthood
Quadrant 4: Later life
The Present: This past week, up to the present moment
* BCP, 267-8.
Make notes. You will most likely find it helpful to record what has come to mind as you prepare for your confession. You may be nervous when you make your confession and you won’t want to trust only your memory. If you make notes, don’t use a journal where you save your personal writing. Once you have made your confession, you will want to destroy your notes. They reflect a part of your history from which you have been freed. The end.
Finally, as part of your preparation, review what The Book of Common Prayer says about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (446), and read through the two suggested Forms (Form One, 447-8; Form Two, 449-51). The two Forms are equivalent; however you may find the language of one more inviting. When you meet with your confessor, tell him or her your preference.
The Confessor, the Setting, the Aftermath
In your confession, you will want the freedom to be transparent. Choose a confessor whom you sense to be trustable. Your parish priest may not be the best choice, not because of his or her character or experience, but because of your existing relationships with both the priest and other parishioners. Your confession could put an invisible strain on those relationships. If you don’t have access to a priest outside your parish, you might ask your priest if he or she has a recommendation for an “outside” confessor.
The priest who hears your confession will “seal” what you speak forever. “The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken.” (H) Even if you are alone with this priest at some point in the future, the content of your confession will not normally be a matter of subsequent conversation.
A confession may be heard anytime and anywhere. (I have heard confessions at the altar rail, in a private conference room, in a crowded gymnasium, on an airplane, on a hiking trail in the mountains…) The confessor and the timing may determine the setting. You may want to sit for the entire confession; you may want to sit for your confession and kneel for the absolution; you may want to kneel throughout. Carry a handkerchief with you.
A condition for receiving absolution is your contrition. The English word “contrition” comes from the Latin contritus, literally “worn out” or “crushed in spirit” by a sense of sin. You come to confession not as a legalistic duty but out of abject need to be saved, and salved, and salvaged. Implied in your contrition is your pledge for amendment of life. You do desire to change, and you are seeking (maybe desperately) God’s help.
At the conclusion of your confession, the confessor may ask you whether you forgive yourself. The confessor may ask you whether you forgive those who have sinned against you. You have come to confession asking for Jesus’ forgiveness, yet forgiving yourself and forgiving others is a necessary complement in co-operating with what you are asking of Jesus. This is the very thing we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” The great English poet, George Herbert (1593- 1633), wrote: “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for every one has need to be forgiven.”
The priest will offer words of comfort and counsel and will pray for the absolution of your sins. The confessor may also give you a “penance.” A penance is not a condition for your
forgiveness. Forgiveness is already guaranteed. A penance may simply help you grasp and appropriate the forgiveness you have already received. For a penance, the confessor may suggest, for example, that you recite the Song of Symeon, the Te Deum, the Magnificat, or a psalm. (I) I sometimes will counsel a penitent to be patient and gentle with themselves, to allow the healing to happen: “Don’t pick at the scab.” I sometimes encourage a penitent to take in something beautiful – fresh flowers, music, artwork, a soothing cup of tea.
Saint Paul writes, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:17-8). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a very powerful doorway into this discovery: recovering, restoring, renewing life in the most amazing way.
- The Book of Common Prayer (BCP), 360.
- From the “Catechism,” BCP 857.
- BCP, 845; 848-9.
- The Greek word, hamartía: a “not” + méros “a part, a share of.”
- The language of Step 4 from the 12-Step program. ** Luke 4:18-9; Jesus quoting Isaiah 61.
- BCP, 847-8.
- BCP, 267-8.
- BCP, 446.
- The Song of Symeon (BCP, 93); The Te Deum (BCP, 95); The Magnificat (BCP, 119); Psalms 63, 103, or 139.
Mark 1: 40-45
There are a number of these healing miracles in the gospels, variations on a theme. Sometimes Jesus touches the person—Jesus takes Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and she gets up, fever free, and gets a meal on. Once he made mud out of saliva and put it on the eyes of a blind man. Sometimes he heals from a distance—the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. Sometimes he uses his voice—“Lazarus, come out!” Variations on a theme. Continue reading
Enemy: someone who hates another; someone who attacks or tries to harm another; something that harms or threatens someone or something; a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war. Upon hearing this definition from the Webster Merriam Dictionary, ask yourself: Who is my enemy? Who hates me? Who is trying to attack or harm me, my family, or my community? I think most of us could think of someone or some group of people in which we could attach the definition of “enemy.” There are those of us who have experienced violence first hand or have seen another attacked or chastised by an aggressor. Others of us may only know our enemy at a distance; for instance in the social media paradigm: Who on your ‘friends’ list stands opposite you in the Duck Dynasty debate? It would be easy to see this as petty, but don’t underestimate the power of words to inflict violence and pain on those who are considered the enemy. Seeds of physical violence often germinate in the soil of language before moving to weapons that can do physical harm. Adolf Hitler certainly knew this. So, who is your enemy? Continue reading
A sermon preached on the Ninety-ninth Anniversary of the Death of Father Richard Meux Benson.
A little, crumpled old man, in a threadbare cassock and cloak, leaning against the wall of a house in the Iffley road, reading a newspaper, so blind that he was obliged to hold the paper close to his eyes, entirely absorbed in what he was reading, and evidently unconscious of all that was going on around him. He looked very poor, as poor as many a begger you might meet in the streets – emaciated, worn, and hungry and very lonely. He made you feel as if you would like to get him over to some kindly person to look after him and take care of him. He wore a shovel hat with a limp and frayed rim, green with age, and underneath there was a very white face deeply lined and seamed and furrowed, giving the impression of one who had seen a good deal of suffering and hardship, and his eyes were dimmed by very thick glasses – a figure altogether unnoticeable, almost insignificant, except for its poverty and general appearance of shabbiness.(1) Continue reading
What’s the most frightening thing that has ever happened to you? The thing which made your stomach turn over and your heart to race? For me it was having to start a new school halfway through a term. By then everyone had already got their friends, and sitting next to them. I can remember that first day, walking into a class full of children, all staring at me, and none of whom I knew. I did make friends pretty quickly, but what I suppose I remember above all, was the awful feeling of not belonging.
The first day I went to university I had the same sinking feeling in my stomach. I remember walking through the college looking for my rooms. It was staircase V, I remember. Eventually I found the door, and then…I saw it…painted carefully in small white letters above the door: G. R. Tristram. My name. I felt so happy. I really belong here! Continue reading
The crowds only grow, desperate to hear Jesus and to experience his help and healing. The crowds only grow. And what does Jesus do? It’s quite revealing. He withdraws. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last that he withdraws. Jesus would minister mightily, and then he would withdraw to deserted places – note the plural: deserted places – and he would pray. The cry is not the call. The cry for help is not one-in-the-same with our call to respond. It certainly was not for Jesus. There was always more to do. Jesus here is showing his truly-human side, without infinite resources, and he practices a kind of “life rhythm” clearly knowing when he must withdraw to pray.
Have you ever had a moment in your life when suddenly some concept has become deeper, wider, and clearer? My understanding of the first verse of today’s first reading, “We love because he first loved us,” was such a moment.
It was in my first year of Seminary in a class on the New Testament in Greek. We were reading the First Letter of John, and had come to Chapter 4.
For most of us The King James Version was deeply imbedded in our minds. Continue reading
A few days ago I was watching drops form on the inside of a window. Moisture condenses on the cold glass and forms drops, given shape by the ratio of surface tension to gravity. At a certain point the drop drops and runs down the surface at a speed determined by gravity and the contact between the drop and the glass. There are some remarkable physical laws at work in condensation, the formation of drops and the timing and qualities of their dropping.
Sometimes following Jesus can be inconvenient. In today’s Gospel narrative (Mark 6:30-44), we find the disciples in just this kind of position. The disciples have just returned from mission, and are reporting back to Jesus all they have done: they have proclaimed good news to the poor, they have cast out demons in his name, and they have anointed with oil and cured many who are sick. Power has gone out of them in ministry, and so the disciples are tired, and they need a break. Jesus perceives this and invites the disciples to a deserted place to rest. But Jesus’ fame has spread such that the encroaching crowd forbids it. The disciples ask Jesus to disperse the crowd so they can get on with their well-deserved rest, and so feel inconvenienced when Jesus compassionately commands them to feed the crowd with the meager provisions on hand. Continue reading
At Emery House, our retreat center in West Newbury, one of my favorite things to do is walking down the lane in the dark and looking up to see the stars, watching the amazing light breaking through so beautifully and naturally. I usually don’t get to see it. We have so much light in the city. So much artificial light may let us live, yet it limits what we see. Where it is most dark, light is most powerful.
These wise men who had come from the East, who are they? The New Testament Greek name for them is “magoi” or, as we would say, “magi,” which means occult practitioners, fortune tellers, wizards, priestly augurs , and magicians.[i] (The English word, “magician,” comes from the Greek, magi.) The Greek name magi also includes astrologers , and so it’s no wonder that they reportedly saw a certain star rising, knew it was significant, and followed it. What was this star? There’s been endless speculation down through the centuries, some of it based on the Zodiac; some of it based on astronomy. Maybe the star was a supernova, maybe a comet, maybe a “planetary conjunction” (some astronomers dating Jupiter and Saturn and Mars passing each other around the birth year of Jesus)? The Gospel according to Matthew makes neither explanation nor apology for asserting that they followed a star. Continue reading
“The Son of Man was revealed….” In my prayer on the scriptures appointed for today, this snippet from the 1st letter of John is what jumped off the page at me. “The Son of Man was revealed.” It almost has a game show quality to it doesn’t it? It’s as if we’re watching “The Price is Right” and Bob Barker has just asked Rod Roddy to reveal to us what is behind door number one. What are we going to see? What is going to be revealed? In the gospel lessons yesterday and today, John the Baptist is the equivalent to our Rod Roddy. John is revealing the Messiah, the long hoped for deliverer of Israel, the one spoken about by the prophets. John says “Here is the Lamb of God!” Continue reading
Today we remember Seraphim, a Russian monk who, after making vows and being ordained a priest, lived as a hermit much like the desert fathers. Word spread about him. People visited, and he received them with much charity. People remember Seraphim for listening well and sharing wisdom.