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I'm working on a short guide to prayer with Liturgical Press. You can order a copy of Prayer, Biblical Wisdom for Seeking God here.

 

"Michelle Francl is the guide the world needs... with her help, we can find the mystery in the quantum structure of a burning atom, the human meaning of dirty dishes, or the poetic history of dust on a desk..." - Dr. Kimberly Belcher, Prof. of Liturgical Studies, Notre Dame University

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Secret History of Water
BMC Alumnae Assoc.
4 November 2021
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St. Genevieve Parish
1 December 2021
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SUNY Albany
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Hildegarde of Bingen: A Practical Mystic
IHM Conference Center 18 January 2022

A Chemist's Cup of Tea

Until quite recently I hadn’t thought about Wilhelmina Green in years. I first met her over a pot of my favourite tea while reading The Chemical News in the Othmer Library in Philadelphia. This was, of course, a meeting very much in the metaphorical sense because you certainly can’t have a cup of tea at your carrel in the Othmer Library and because Wilhelmina’s white porcelain pot of tea rested within the pages of her 1885 paper, ‘On the infusion of tea’.

 

What do 21st century chemists know about making tea? Quite a lot it turns out. In 1946, George Orwell wrote a short essay, A Nice Cup of Tea, offering eleven opinionated points on the making of tea. I offer you but seven points, perhaps equally opinionated, but with supporting references from the scientific literature. No disinformation here.

Reheat at will. I confess. I reheat cold tea in the microwave. Because I agree with Dunya Mikhail in her poem ‘The Iraqi Nights’, tea grown cold is worse than death. So I suffer the scum that develops on the top and the odd cloudiness that develops. The scum, I learned, is composed of organics and calcium and magnesium carbonates, altogether too reminiscent of hard water rings in the bathtub to spend much time contemplating. The turgid clouding is called creaming, which Green also noted in passing in her paper. It is the result of the precipitation of low solubility compounds upon cooling; using distilled water and adding a chelating agent can help reduce it. So definitely insist on lemon for the citrate — or centrifuge out the solids.

See the full article in the March 2020 issue of Nature Chemistry to read my exploration of chemists' relationship with that other necessary caffeinated beverage.

Prayer Prologue

 

At its core, prayer is the act of turning toward God, responding in love to the One who created us. In prayer not only do we call out to God, but God endlessly calls out to us, ever enfolding us in mercy, drawing us close in love.

Why do I pray? You might as well ask me why I breathe. I breathe so I can sing. I breathe to pause. I breathe, awake or asleep, whether I’m aware of it or not. So, too, do I pray. I pray like I breathe, that I might live. Prayer is, as St. John of the Cross said, the “breathing of God in the soul, of the soul in God.”

Yet unlike breathing, prayer is something we must learn and—again and again—choose to do. The Scriptures have much to teach us about prayer. The passages and commentary contained in this small book barely touch the surface. My only hope is that these brief reflections will encourage and support those who seek the face of the Lord and long for him (Ps 42:3), those who wish to breathe in Christ.

Of course, it is not enough to read about prayer. We must practice it. And when we are anxious about prayer, worried whether we are “doing it right,” pastor and spiritual director Daniel Ruff, SJ, has reassuring advice: “The only way to go wrong in prayer is not to do it at all.” All the wisdom of Scripture, saints, and sages can be summed up in a single word of instruction: pray.

 

-- From Prayer: Biblical Wisdom for Seeking God, 2021