Lectio Divina

“Lift High the Cross” by Callie Nowlin

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Steps to Lectio Divina
Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God’s word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.

The Scripture
From the Second Reading for September 14, 2017, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. (Philippians 2:6-10)

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.the-crucified-christ-with-the-virgin-mary-saints-and-angels-the-mond-crucifixion-raphael


The great hymn in Philippians is the earliest recorded hymn of the Christian faith.

I love this hymn because of a specific word that is used, “exalted.” In the hymn, it states that Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this God greatly exalted him.” Because of Jesus’ humility, God raised Jesus up from this lowered state.

In today’s feast, we celebrate the triumph of the Cross of Christ, we lift Him high in victory and in worship. When we sing “Lift High the Cross,” we are singing in worship of Him and his triumph. For us to exalt Him, to raise Him up above our heads, is an act of worship. But for Jesus to be raised by the Father means something completely different, for God does not raise Jesus above Him, but to Him, as his Son.

Both for the ancient church and for us today, this hymn from Philippians is proclaimed in the context of the Mass. This context is important because in the encounter of the Mass, we are reminded of our humanity but also of the transcendence of the godhead. To put it another way, we are reminded that we are not God and that we belong to Him. In the very raising of Jesus, above our heads in triumph, which incidentally the cross-bearer does at the beginning and end of every Mass, we affirm these same truths: That He is God. That we are not. That He is triumphant in his cross and resurrection. That we belong to Him. And this is the God whom we worship.

These are jarring and life-changing truths. I invite you consider these truths anew with me today as the Church celebrates her Lord’s victory on the sacred wood of the cross, calling to mind the true and living God to whom we all belong.


Originally Printed in the NTC.

Lectio Divina

“Sacred Heart of Jesus” by Callie Nowlin

As I was preparing reflections for the feasts of this season, first for Corpus Christi and now for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have been so utterly struck by something so very simple. I have alluded to this in a previous writing but both of these feasts can be seen in light of the analogy of a man courting a woman.

I am intrigued how the church decided to plan the feast of the Trinity, Corpus Christi…and now the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the beginning feasts of this stretch of Ordinary time. Each one so clearly a statement for Jesus of who He is … each one more intimate after the other… each one its own invitation.

The first is an opportunity to reflect on his nature as part of the godhead, three in one. (Divinity) The second, Corpus Christi is a time to reflect on His presence in the sacrament and in the body of Christ, the church as well.  (Sacramentally) It is also an invitation to receive Him, in faith, in the sacrament. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in a way is now an invitation to be received by him as we consider him as one who loves, and loves in a fully human manner. (Humanity) It is as if Jesus is standing before us, saying “Here I am.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus Catechist Callie Quote

In the feast of the Trinity we hear him say, “Here I am as a member of the Trinity.”
In the feast of Corpus Christi we hear him say, “Here I am, present among you sacramentally.”
But in the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we hear even more directly, “Here I am.  Here is my very heart.”


intentional living · Laudato Si

“How Pope Francis Changed my Fashion” by Callie Nowlin

It wasn’t the fancy red Italian leather shoes that traditionally are worn by the Pope. (I am not kidding these are gorgeous!) Nor is it the yards of white linen that he wears. No, rather it is who he is and what he teaches.

pope red shoes.jpg

I would not normally call myself trendy or even fashionable, and while there is nothing particularly wrong with either in themselves. I just don’t historically give a whole lot of thought in what I wear every day. And for me “not thinking about it” means that I had a closet busting full of clothes that I never wore, didn’t fit, and didn’t work together.

Fast forwarding to this past year, I participated in a book study on Laudato Si with some colleagues and at the end of each session someone would inevitably ask how they could possibly apply what we read to our lives. These are lofty concepts for wide reaching problems, so far beyond our individual reach.  That being said something unexpected happened. The words of the Pope stuck with me, as did it’s principles.  The results of that study kept popping up in surprising areas of my life. And for example, I would find myself staring at my closet as lines of the encyclical would echo in my head.

Follow your dreams (1)

Did I mention my closet was bursting at the seams? Clearly, something wasn’t right. That combined with a growing slight jealousy of my students who got to wear a uniform every day and I eventually knew things needed to change.

So, I started reading articles about the capsule wardrobe trend. It’s based on a concept that people should be intentional with one’s wardrobes to maximize the number of outfits with less items. Some quite extreme. But often these capsule wardrobe posts I would find were just another excuse to buy more and expensive things (every few months!) because they would also incorporate each seasons ridiculous tends. Clearly the poster had priorities that were different than mine.

This STILL didn’t address the issue I was having in trying to simplify life, living less “self-centered and self-enclosed” and still being accessible in my everyday life. While I admire Steve Jobs every day wearing the same shirt and pair of pants, that just didn’t seem like a good fit for me. Let’s be honest, if I literally wore the same thing every day, I would get more than the isolated odd glance.

Capsule wardrobes at this point seemed either confining or excessive. Once again Laudato Si echoed … “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of obsession with consumption.” (222) Deep enjoyment free of obsession with consumption was what I wanted. It was clear that I needed to pray.

And pray I did. Not about clothing, or closets, or shoes.  I prayed as I gathered all my clothes and asked a few hard questions, which I hope to discuss later. What resulted, however, in addition to donating three fourths of my wardrobe, was a dramatic change in how I approach this room of my house as something more than just a holder of my things.

“Nevertheless, self-improvement on the part of individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation facing our world today.” (219)  The point here isn’t self-improvement in isolation, but to approach one’s individual circumstances with the wider community in mind. Sure, I could save money if I didn’t waste it. And sure, I can share more of my creative energy if I do not expel it on my choice in clothing each day. But even more than this, to live life prayerfully and with intentionality, this is the better thing.