Friday, March 29, 2013

I'm Like Pontius Pilate

April 12, 2011 - Lenten Reflection – The Passion

As I have been meditating on the sorrowful mysteries, I am struck by many things. 

Jesus asked only one thing of his disciples during His passion.  Stay awake!  Stay awake for 1 hour!  Ahhhh!  We cannot comply even with this simple request.  Oh, poor Jesus.  Accused or denied at every turn.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  Sweet Jesus, please show us how to stay awake for You.  If denying the flesh is the only way to make it stronger, please show us those things that have a hold on us, so that our flesh is as willing as our spirit.

The second, I want to scream at Pontius Pilate, “Where is your backbone?!”  How can you so easily command that Jesus be scourged and then say you are innocent of His blood?!  The reason for my animosity is twofold.  #1 - He gives the final word to put Jesus to His death.  #2 – I am like him.  I want to please people, just like Pontius Pilate.  So much so that I would put my Savior to death?  I have not seen much in my life to prove otherwise.  I have silenced my tongue so as not to offend unbelievers or other Christians, even.  I don’t want them to think I am persecuting them.  Is this not the same thing?  In an effort to “placate the crowd”, Pilate’s vanity put Jesus on the cross.  What if Pilate had not been influenced by what the people thought?  The people tried to kill Jesus multiple times on their own, yet, they were unsuccessful.  God used someone with influence, but who silenced his tongue, to give his power and means to the masses.  He acquiesced.  Oh, Lord, please take my vanity away from me!!!  

Lastly, I think about Mary.  How much did she know ahead of time?  It is easy to think the Passion was easier for her, if she “knew what was coming.”  But, how much did she know?  She didn’t know Jesus was in the temple, even after searching for Him for days.  So, going forward, I imagine her watching Jesus, just as I imagine watching my own son.  At each turn, she must have thought, “Please, let this be the end, Lord.  How much more can He bear?”  When they placed the reed in His hand, I think about his fingers opening to receive it.  For so much of the Passion, Jesus seems to passively receive his torture, “like a lamb being led to the slaughterhouse”.  But through this, we see His active participation in it.  He accepts it, only to have the accepted, mocking reed ripped out of His hand and hit on His newly crowned head with it.  Oh, Lord, please forgive us!  Be merciful to us and give us Your courage, patience, and perseverance!

God, forgive us.  Mary, pray for us.  Jesus, be with us.  Let us remain with You.  Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Jesus Saw When His Sweat Became Like Drops of Blood Falling on the Ground

Today is Holy Thursday.  The day we remember and commemorate the Last Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist, and our Lord's Agony in the Garden.  For me, it is easy to glide over our Lord's agony in the garden.  It is covered in a single paragraph, and the details are scanty.  What we do know about it offers very little visually, except for "his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground" (Luke 22:44). There is nothing in Scripture that describes what Jesus actually saw or felt during that hour and a half.

We know there are a lot of gaps in Scripture, and often find in the Catholic faith, incredible detail to fill those gaps, made known in personal revelations by Christ Himself.  As a Catholic, it is not required that we believe these accounts, nor is it encouraged to consider them as historical fact.  The Church simply makes a thorough assessment of what has revealed, and offers approval (not to be confused with promotion), if there is nothing that contradicts Church teaching (which began when Christ gave Peter the keys to the kingdom).

With that, there was a woman named Anne Catherine Emmerich who lived from 1774-1824.  She bore the physical wounds of Christ, called stigmata, in her own body.  Many, many details of the spiritual life and the Lord's Passion were revealed to her.  In the Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, she commits 27 pages to what was revealed to her of Christ's agony.  I am going to boil it way down, because I have to communicate something of what she's seen to you.  I am going to summarize where possible, and quote where it is impossible.

The first agony in the garden:  Jesus saw and bore all sins, of all humanity, for all time.  Then, satan tempted Him with all potential (not actual) sin in His life, where human suffering was caused because of His actions:

"satan reproached Jesus with having been the cause of the massacre of the Innocents, as well as of the sufferings of his parents in Egypt, with not having saved John the Baptist from death, with having brought disunion into families, protected men of despicable character, refused to cure sick persons, injured the inhabitants of Gergesa by permitting men possessed by the devil to overturn their vats, and demons to make swine cast themselves into the sea; with having deserted his family, and squandered the property of others; in one word satan, in the hopes of causing Jesus to waver, suggested to him every thought by which he would have tempted at the hour of death an ordinary mortal who might have performed all these actions without a superhuman intention...

The second agony:  Jesus "beheld the enormity of the debt of sin that He was going to pay and the suffering required to satisfy Divine Justice" while harassed and tempted by satan, "Takest thou even this sin upon thyself?  Art thou willing to bear its penalty?  Art thou prepared to satisfy for all these sins?"

The third agony:  "Jesus having victoriously resisted all these assaults by his entire and absolute submission to the will of His Heavenly Father, a succession of new and terrifying visions were presented before his eyes, and that feeling of doubt and anxiety which a man on the point of making some great sacrifice always experiences, arose in the soul of our Lord, as he asked himself the tremendous question:  'And what good will result from this sacrifice?'  Then a most awful picture of the future was displayed before his eyes and overwhelmed his tender heart with anguish...

The frightful visions of the future ingratitude of the men whose debt to Divine Justice he was taking upon himself, continued to become more and more vivid and tremendous.  Several times I heard him exclaim: 'O my Father, can I possibly suffer for so ungrateful a race?  O my Father, if this chalice may not pass from me, but I must drink it, thy will be done!'"

The soul of Jesus beheld all the future sufferings of his Apostles, disciples, and friends; after which he saw the primitive Church, numbering but a few souls in her fold at first, and then in proportion as her numbers increased, disturbed by the heresies and schisms breaking out among her children, who repeated the sin of Adam by pride and disobedience.  He saw the tepidity, malice, and corruption of an infinite number of Christians, the lies and deceptions of proud teachers, all the sacrileges of wicked priests, the fatal consequences of each sin, and the abomination of desolation in the kingdom of God, in the sanctuary of those ungrateful human beings whom he was about to redeem with his blood at the cost of unspeakable sufferings.

The scandals of all ages, down to the present day and even to the end of the world...

It was also revealed why Peter, James, and John were chosen to stay and watch with Him:
After Jesus woke them from their sleep, John saw the condition He was in and said, 'Master, what has befallen thee?  Must I call the other disciples?  Ought we to take flight?'  Jesus answered him: 'Were I to live, teach, and perform miracles for thirty-three years longer, that would not suffice for the accomplishment of what must be fulfilled before this time tomorrow.  Call not the eight; I did not bring them hither, because they could not see me thus agonizing without being scandalized; they would yield to temptation, forget much of the past, and lose their confidence in me.  But you who have seen the Son of Man transfigured, may also see him under a cloud, and in dereliction of spirit; nevertheless, watch and pray, lest ye fall into temptation, for the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak'...

Dear Jesus, I am sorry for my sins.  I am sorry for my ingratitude.  Please help me console Your Sacred Heart.  I will try to live my gratitude for Your sufferings and death in everything I do.  Please give me the grace never to offend You again.  I love You, Jesus.  Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Blind Man On a Busy Street

A couple of days ago, I saw a blind man cross Villa Maria at a stoplight.  If you don't live in my neck of the woods, it is one of the busier streets, and my least favorite to drive on, much less walk across with my 20/20 (very corrected) vision.  I could not believe my eyes.  Actually, I thought it was impossible that he should be at a busy intersection. alone. in the darkness. with nothing but a stick.  So, I watched him very carefully, looking for any sign that he could see even a little bit. 

The traffic stopped at the red light.  He proceeded across, waving his stick up and down so as to be seen.  When he got to the other side, he stopped abruptly (like you do in the dark when you bump into something), put his stick down and zigzagged it across the ramp into the parking lot.  He successfully navigated around the young man on the corner spinning his big "We buy gold!" arrow, and he disappeared from my view.

I still can't get over it.  All I could figure out was that he must live nearby, and have every step counted between his house and the grocery store.  And how do you shop at the grocery store, by yourself, when you can't see?!  Now, that I think about it, he wasn't carrying any bags.  So, I wonder what he was after?  Could he have just been going for a walk?!  Could that possibly be relaxing?!  Could the benefits from the exercise outweigh the risk from the stress?  Goodness!

Seeing him made me wonder if there is a blind person on the face of the earth who doesn't believe in God.  They have to trust to survive.  Every step is a step of faith; it is not optional. 

I am dying to run into this man again sometime.  Maybe I should set up camp at that intersection and wait for him.  A little stalker-esque, but I am pretty sure I would never be the same if I could hear his story.

I wanted to write to you about him when I got home that day, but I was pretty sure "I saw a blind man cross a busy street." post would have been lost on you, and I didn't know what else to say.  Until now.

This morning's meditation in God Calling connected the dots for me.

I AM with you to guide you and help you.  Unseen forces are controlling your destiny.  Your petty fears are groundless.

What of a man walking through a glorious glade who fretted because ahead there lay a river and he might not be able to cross it, when all the time, that river was spanned by a bridge?  And what if that man had a friend who knew the way -had planned it- and assured him that at no part of the journey would any unforeseen contingency arise, and that all was well?

So leave your foolish fears, and follow Me, your Guide, and determinedly refuse to consider the problems of tomorrow.  My message to you is trust, and wait.     ~Jesus

Ok, we know God is good, but isn't He GOOD?!  I am ecstatic that this reflection is the perfect follow-up for yesterday's post about self-imposed suffering, and that it reminded me of another illustration about God as our guide - the One who knows the way because He planned it!

When God makes Himself the guide of a soul, He exacts from it an absolute confidence in Him, and a freedom from any sort of disquietude as to the way in which He conducts it.  This soul, is urged on without perceiving the path traced out before it...When you are conducted by a guide who takes you through an unknown country at night across fields where there are no tracks, by his own skill, without asking advice from anyone, or giving you an inkling of his plans; how can you choose but to abandon yourself?  Of what use is it looking about to find out where you are, to ask the passers-by, or to consult maps and travelers?  The plans or fancies of a guide who insists on being trusted would not allow this.  He would take pleasure in overcoming the anxiety and distrust of the soul, and would insist on an entire surrender to his guidance.

Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

At the risk of making this post entirely too long, I want to end with some Phineas and Ferb lyrics that stuck this morning when I was helping my youngest pick up the pile of toys in his room. 

Not Knowing Where You're Going

It's so much fun not knowin'
where you're goin'
Take a left or a right and just go in
without really knowin'...
There's no surprise in life, if you know
where you're goin'

So walk around like a monkey with a blindfold on...

Sometimes I think it's fun not to know where I'm going, and sometimes I don't.  In fact, last year I went with some girlfriends on a "Mystery Bus" tour.  Not knowing where you were going was the whole point, and it was a blast! 

Anyway, none of us know where we're going.  For eternity?  Yes.  But, daily, weekly, or monthly?  Not so much.  Whether you like it or not, we're on an adventure full or surprises, and we have been assigned a Most Excellent Guide. 

Dear Heavenly Father and Earthly Guide, You are so AWESOME!  Thank you for the blind man and the example he gives that he knows nothing about.  Thank you for being our guide.  You know our trust issues.  Maybe because we can see, we try to see too much.  Help us to take each step, in faith.  There are such things as groundless and foolish fears.  Thank you for convicting us of that, again.  Sorry to be so slow in getting it.  Please give us the grace to see life as an adventure, and the courage to sing with Phineas and Ferb, "It's so much fun not knowin' where you're goin'!"  I love you!  You never cease to surprise, encourage, and love me.  Thank you.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Self-imposed Suffering

Today, in my women's study on suffering we learned there are three causes of self-imposed suffering, according to Fr. Richard Gill:

1.  A victim mentality - We see ourselves as victims and are always looking for someone else to blame.

2.  A fantasy view of human life - Adopting a romantic, "Hollywood" view of the world that is bound to disappoint us when it doesn't come true; thinking that life is beautiful and that it ought to be that way.

3.  Self-pity - Feeling sorry for ourselves, being obsessed with our own weaknesses and defects, comparing ourselves unfavorably to others, not taking responsibility for our own personal growth.

Then we considered the question, "Is there any suffering in your life that is not part of God's will for you?" 

It is a question worthy of reflection.  It makes plain emotional and psychological sense to minimize suffering when possible.  It also hinders the fruitfulness of the suffering God intends.  So, figuring out whether you are suffering unnecessarily is time well-spent. 

According to Jacques Phillipe in Interior Freedom, "People who haven't learned how to love will always feel like victims; they will feel restricted wherever they are.  But people who love never feel restricted...We feel a natural revulsion for situations we cannot control.  But the fact is that the situations that really make us grow are precisely those we do not control."

In The Promise, Fr. Jonathan Morris details three means by which we can suffer in seven ways:

Means by which we can suffer: Physical (through our senses)
                                                   Emotional (through negative emotions)
                                                   Spiritual (through perceived distance from God)

Seven ways we suffer: 
1.  Trifles (discomfort, annoyance, boredom)
2.  Failures and personal limitations (include victim, fantasy, and self-pity mentalities here)
3.  Lost love
4.  Sickness
5.  In face of sin and wickedness
6.  Meaninglessness and depression
7.  Death

Okay, I'm all "talked" out on the anatomy of suffering for today. 

In a nutshell, there are a lot of ways we can suffer, and some of those ways are self-induced.  If we are suffering in ways that God does not intend us to suffer, we need to stop it.  We need to be aware of the three trap mentalities, which are simply living ideas that hold partial truths.  Be completely truthful with yourself.  I know Hollywood has more influence than I want to admit...

If you fall into victim-mode, fantasy, or self-pity, shake hands with reality and shake off all untruths.  Write down the truth and carry it around with you if you need to.  Ask God to show you where you've been duped.  The devil is sly and content with any small deviation from truth.  In fact, he prefers small deviations; they are less likely to arouse suspicion.  2+2 = 4.  Don't settle for 3 or 5.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for time to gather with other women and delve into Your Word and Your Truth.  Thank you for the promise that the Truth will set us free.  Lord, give us the courage to look within and truly see the errors of our heart.  In our insecurity, it is easy to look around or use reality TV as a measuring stick.  Sometimes, it is hard to know what is influencing our thoughts and actions, because we're influenced before we give our permission.  Please be with us Lord.  We want to be free, so we want to know and live the Truth.  Give us the grace to know what that looks like for each one of us.  Increase our love, so that we may never be victim to another.  Increase our faith, so that we may trust You in every circumstance.  Help us to live in reality at all times.  Thank you for all.  Amen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Plug Your Ears

I didn't get up early for my prayer time this morning, so I sat down to pray after I got the big boys off to school.  I realized I was just going through the motions, and that the noise coming from the TV in the other room was "helping" me go through the motions.  In hindsight, I could have asked my son to turn the TV down, but I didn't think of that, so I just plugged my ears. 

Instant transformation. 

I could hear the air going into my lungs and immediately remembered the quietude I dwelled in during my 3-day-silent retreat.   A silence where I "heard" God speaking throughout.  Not with an audible voice, but rather a movement of my heart - an inspiration, conviction, or idea, accompanied with the energy that comes with "I have a great idea!", and palpable peace. 

Daily, I create silence in my home or my car, but often find my brain to be very noisy with to-do lists, menus, and whatever activity is on tap for the day.  Prolonged silence is the best way for me be quiet enough to listen well.  Unfortunately, that only happens once a year for this lady.  Otherwise, I get an hour of quiet in Adoration every week, but that, too, is such a short time.  I want more.

I'm going to try to remember this "power" silence method.  I think plugging your ears, and listening to the sound of your own inhalation and exhalation, is the best reminder that the most important things in life are not seen nor heard.  Without the unconscious silent breath, we cease to live.  Without our silent and unseen souls, we become zombies.  Without the "silent sound" or "still, small voice" of God, we are lost. 

"Then the Lord said:  Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord - the Lord will pass by.  There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord - but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake - but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire - but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound*. 

When he heart this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?" I Kings 19: 11-12 (NAB)

*also translated as a still, small voice and tiny, whispering sound

This is the final week of Lent, and the week of our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection.  I feel like I usually do this time of year, which is, I haven't been a good enough companion to Him during this "desert time".  I want to keep in step with Him between today and Friday, when He takes His final step to lay down on the Cross.  If you see me this week, and I'm plugging my ears, you'll know why -- I'm trying to listen to Him.

Dear Jesus,  Thank you for giving Your life for me.  Please forgive me for perpetually abandoning You.  I want to accompany You during this Holy Week.  I want to remember You at all times.  Please help me to remember the importance of silence in my relationship with You.  Help me to hear You when You have something to say.  I don't want to miss it.  I want to return love for love.  I know You have not and cannot fail me, please give me the grace not to fail You.  I love You.  Amen. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Your Cross Is You

"Remember, you are only an instrument.  Not yours to decide how or when or where you act.  I plan all that.  Make yourself very fit to do My work.  All that hinders your activity must be cured.

Mine is the Cross on which the burdens of the world are laid.  How foolish is any one of My disciples who seeks to bear his own burdens, when there is only one place for them - My Cross.

It is like a weary man on a hot and dusty road, bearing a heavy load, when all plans have been made for its carriage.  The road, the scenery, flowers, beauty around - all are lost.

But, My children, you may think I did say, "Take up your cross daily and follow Me."

Yes, but the cross given to each one of you is only a cross provided on which you can crucify the self of yours that hinders progress and Joy, and prevents the flow through your being of My invigorating Life and Spirit.

Listen to Me, love Me, joy in Me.  Rejoice."

Jesus, in God Calling

Today, in my women's study, On The Christian Meaning of Suffering, we reflected on the life of a woman named (Saint) Gianna Beretta Molla, who voluntarily gave her life at age 40 for her unborn child.  Upon discovering a large ovarian cyst during her second month of pregnancy, she refused an abortion or complete hysterectomy, both of which would have spared her life at the expense of her child's.  Instead, she chose surgical removal of the cyst, which would not compromise the baby, but would leave her vulnerable to further complications.  "A few days before the birth, anticipating that the delivery might be dangerous, she said to her husband, "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate:  choose the child - I insist on it.  Save him!" She had a healthy baby girl and died one week later.  She already had 3 children, ages 6, 5, and 3. 

Our room full of mothers took a collective deep breath, and followed it with "Well, she must have known her family would take good care of her children..., But...".  We admired her conviction but felt reasonably sure we lacked the same.  "I don't know if I could do it." echoed around the room.  There was a palpable weighing of consciences and the discomfort which always follows coming up short.

In the conversation that followed, we discussed our awareness of God's grace, and the fact that it only accompanies real situations.  Most of us have not been given that grace, because that situation is not our own.  Abandonment to Divine Providence offers the perfect advice at this uncomfortable juncture. "If it [the soul] should feel neither attraction nor grace to do those things that make the saints so much admired, it must, in justice to itself, say, 'God has willed it thus for the saints, but not for me.'"

We are all called to shoulder different crosses because we are unique, and the part of ourselves that "hinders progress and Joy" is what needs to be crucified.  However, most of us focus our attention outwardly, instead of focusing on what needs to change within.  We live in fear and wait for the next big cross to be lashed to our back.

 Etty Hillesum, a 29-year-old writer who died in Auschwitz, said, "Man suffers most through his fear of suffering."  "Reality is something one shoulders together with all the suffering that goes with it...But the idea of suffering (which is not the reality, for real suffering is always fruitful and can turn life into a precious thing) must be destroyed.  And if you destroy the ideas behind which life lies imprisoned as behind bars, then you liberate your true life, its real mainsprings, and you will also have the strength to bear real suffering, your own and the world's."

We throw away our peace in times of calm, when all is well.  We feel justified in skimming over the joys of today because we're "waiting for the other shoe to drop".  We want to be ready!  We're not sure for what, but we want to be ready. 

Instead of borrowing suffering, let's borrow a page from the diary of Sister Faustina, "I regard the time of peace as a time of preparation of victory..."

The Lord has already carried His Cross.  He is proven.  He is calling us to follow Him.  "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25).  Let's climb out from under our cross, and get on it.  It's the only way we can be like Him, and it's a lot easier for Him to carry.

Dear God of All That Is Good, Thank you for the gorgeous weather and so many opportunities to experience You.  Thank you for God Calling, and continually revealing Yourself and Your plan to us.  Thank you for the examples of the saints, and people who model heroic charity and courage.  Thank you for the reminder that real suffering is always bearable, because Your grace is abundant in reality.  Help me to destroy imagined suffering in my life.

 Lord, please give me the courage to climb upon my cross.  Help me to see and know those things that hinder my progress and Joy, and to do whatever is necessary to remove them.  Please give me and all others who are pursuing You, the grace of knowing when we are comparing our relationship with You to someone else's relationship with You, and spare us the confusion and feelings of inferiority that come with that comparison.  Thank You for making our burdens light and for the rest we find when we come to You.  Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Break Revelation

It is humbling to be a parent. 

Generally speaking, everyone in our family gets along well-enough most of the time, that there is no real reason to take a hard look at the family dynamic.  Until we were halfway between Natural Bridge Caverns and Enchanted Rock. 

Something was plaguing my middle son.  I don't know if his black cloud was brought on by the flu he had at the beginning of the week or what.  All I know is that whatever it was, was very ill-timed. 

The day before, we spent the morning walking through the first real cave my boys have been in, and it was magnificent besides.  We spent the afternoon playing in the spring water at a New Braunfels park, had a great dinner, and spent the night at a hotel, which was a major highlight in its own right.  The negativity ebbed and flowed from my middle son, and was checked by us at its peaks.

The negativity started ramping up again the following morning, and came to a head in route to Enchanted Rock, (where after we camped last Spring Break, vowed to spend every Spring Break thereafter).  He was talking about what a boring life he had and I'm pretty sure there was something about wishing he lived with a different family.

My husband pulled the car over and they had a conversation which didn't require any words.  We decided that if he wasn't able to pull his bad attitude out of the gutter between where we were and where we were going, he could stay in the car with me, and the rest of the family would spend the day hiking as planned.  His choice. 

He got it turned around.  But, just as he did, my oldest took cover under that same black cloud.  I would have loved to have seen (and squished) that little black crab, hiding in that black cloud, jumping from one to the other.  Damn thing.  On our ascent of Enchanted Rock (the same rock they climbed and conquered and have been talking about for a year), my oldest decided we were his enemies, and he wasn't going to climb all the way up because his legs were too tired.  Oh, boy. 

I'm thinking, "This is fun!  Now, I'm pretty sure I have some of the most spoiled kids in this park, which makes me one of the worst parents in this park, etc..."

We finished climbing, and once we got to the top, all was well.  It ended up being a great day and the black crab must have hopped families.  Interestingly, I saw a father gripping his son by his arm on top of that same rock, giving him the "attitude" talk.  I'm just saying... 

But, I was not unscathed.  On the way home, all the kiddos were sacked out from a full day of climbing and sun.  I asked my husband, "Do I need to be doing something differently?"  If my kids can be so ungrateful and negative in such great moments, I feel like I must be doing something wrong.  He said something like "Kids only have kid's perspectives.  They can't really appreciate anything because they've never known anything else."  They have everything they need and a lot of what they want.  Don't get me wrong.  Our kids only get gifts for Christmas and birthdays.  Otherwise, they buy what they want with their own money, saved from special occasions or earned from chores.   But, they are "spoiled" because of the lack of balance in their life.

Basically, they have more than they need coming in (free time, attention, pleasures, stuff), and less of what we need going out (gratitude, respect, work, positive attitude).  So, I changed our current protocol to produce different and satisfactory results - Decrease what is coming in, and increase what is going out. 

Feeling very pleased with this assessment, I sat down and made a list of daily jobs for each boy, in conjunction with a handy "three-strikes-and-you're-out" check mark system for all the behaviors and attitudes we don't want to see.  I covered it with the boys over dinner and relished briefly in the feeling of regaining a sense of balance, control, and peace.  But, then I realized... I've done all this before.  There is nothing new here.  Just a re-commitment to doing what I've already committed to do - Raise children who Love.  Appreciate.  Respect.  Serve.   

It is humbling to be a parent.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the beauty of Your Creation and time to enjoy it.  Thank you for Spring Break as a time to recover from the flu and see something new.  Thank you for the humility demanded in parenthood.  Thank you for new inspirations and moments of clarity.  Please grant us wisdom, as we raise our children in this wealthy country, where we want for nothing.  Lord, help me to be the mother you intended me to be, before you granted me the gift of motherhood.  Help me to talk less and act more. Thank you for the gift of a partner in the difficult journey of raising children.  Please sustain those who have to do it on their own.  Thank you for so many chances to get it right and help us extend Your Mercy to those who live under our own roof.  Please bless our children with hearts like Yours.  Help them to be meek and humble of heart, so that they may enjoy Your Presence for eternity.  Amen. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Peek Into Rehab

Someone I know and love is in Rehab.  My family went to visit her yesterday for the first time since she checked in 22 days ago. 

Second only to every Walmart experience I've ever had, I have never been around so many people who were visibly struggling with their flesh for their soul.

I am reminded how important family and people are to one fully engaged in this very real battle - That we "belong to each other", as Mother Teresa says.  I am reminded that we are all engaged in this same battle, only some are winning and some are losing.  I am reminded of the need for our intercession in prayer.  These people cannot get themselves out, by prayer, or any other means.  They need the "body of Christ" in a very real, and tangible way. 

Yesterday, I experienced the lack of hope that the world gives.  My "person" was telling me about the people who have been discharged, only to come back in two day's time.  They are putting their hope in themselves, and "themselves" are not capable of coming through.  She was telling me about a boy who was sitting close by, who had to have "skin checks" every day, because he makes continued attempts on his life by cutting himself.  I would never have known by looking.  All I saw was a boy with hair in his eyes, surrounded by people who clearly loved him.  I was reminded that you cannot presume anything about anyone, especially by looking. 

As I learned yesterday, the first step in a 12-step program is admitting that your life is out of control and that you are powerless over it.  Secondly, that there is a higher power - something bigger, greater, and more powerful than you.   

It is scary for me, even for a few moments, to think as if I were the biggest, greatest, and most powerful force in my life.  I can see how the daily pressure would be too great, and can imagine the temptation to succumb to the unremitting appeal for an essential, life-preserving escape.  This is exactly what God is telling us when He says that we are strong in our weakness.

"'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'  I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me."  2 Corinthians 12:9

If we know we need God above all, and are subject to Him above all, all will be well.  Only then, can our relationships be properly ordered, and we can take our proper place, in humility.

When I used to work with the poor with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, I heard a great analogy:  Imagine you have a garage full of boxes and stuff that has accumulated for years.  You want to clean it out, but there is no obvious starting point.  You feel so overwhelmed by the big, seamless mess, that the best (most peaceful) course of action seems to leave it, as is.

When one lives a life of poverty, or addiction, their whole life feels like that.  It is not just one room in a house.  These people need us. 

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for a car that works to bring us to those in need.  Thank you for the beauty of your Creation.  Thank you for the privilege to participate in another person's life.  Thank you for family, and for those people who give us glimpses of your unconditional love.  Lord, thank you for being a God of order, and for putting us directly under Yourself in that order.

Lord, I beg you to draw near to those who live on the edge of despair, the sin against hope.  Lord, please comfort them, and grant them the grace of wisdom - to know where to begin to sort through the years of accumulated mess.  Please grant them the grace to forgive those by whom they have felt betrayed or abandoned, and to look only to You for fulfillment.  

Please grant those of us You have sustained with your grace, an extra dose of compassion for those who need our intercession.  Help us to take seriously our responsibility to pray and ask graces for those in need, especially because they are incapable themselves.  Help us to extend the mercy we have been granted.  Amen.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Four Supremely Important Questions

"Redemption, salvation for every individual, consists in doing the will of God, no more and no less."  Fr. Walter Ciszek, He Leadeth Me

Redemption and salvation are THE two most important things for any human life.  Consequently, it is supremely important to understand what the will of God looks like in our daily lives, if that is the means to obtain THE two most important things.

But, "It's hard to know what God wants!"  Right?


According to Fr. John Devlin (one of the retreat masters from my silent retreat), "We must choose between the reign of Christ (loving God and others) and the reign of the devil (whatever increases self and creates distance from God)."

Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24 tell us, "No one can serve two masters."  Fr. John agrees, yet points out the reality in our daily lives. "Sometimes, we serve two masters within the same hour."  Can you identify with this?  For most of us, we are constantly choosing self or battling to resist.  We often have an internal struggle on our hands.

He reminded us that after following the Ten Commandments, fulfilling the duties of our state-in-life (spouse, parent, single, religious) is our primary pathway to holiness.  As good as other opportunities and activities are, they must not interfere with the calling we have already received, and the duties which accompany that calling.

So, a few practical questions are very helpful as we navigate our daily lives:

1.  Who am I serving?
2.  Will this get me closer to Heaven?
3.  Am I doing what I should be doing right now?
4.  Is there anything better that I should be doing?

I have found the answers to these questions, throughout a day's time, to be very illuminating.  Since returning from my retreat and pondering these questions, I have changed several things in my life that previously I did habitually and unconsciously.  Specifically:

1.  I silenced the text alert on my phone, so I am not continually being distracted by it, and interrupting what I have already determined needs to be done.  (Instead, I check it and catch up in a quiet moment when I am not otherwise engaged).

2.  I took Facebook off of my phone.  Way too easy to kill a minute, or 5, or 10, several times a day.  Now, I only get on Facebook when I intend to, because it requires me to plop in front of the computer (which I don't like to do).

3.  I stopped checking blog statistics in between posts.  I am writing for God, and to God I am leaving the results.  I was "stealing time" for something that belongs to God anyway.

4.  I am keeping one day commitment-free and limiting the length of other engagements, so that my schedule reflects that my family is my first priority, after God.  I was not doing anything to safeguard the time that is necessary to fulfill the duties relating to my state-in-life, as a wife and mother:  Housecleaning, planning well for meals, jumping on the trampoline, building Legos, and just "being"...

God can also lead us by the circumstances of any given moment.  Often, what we should do next demands to be done, and involves no thought at all.  However, Fr. John reminds us, "We do not answer to the circumstances of our lives.  We answer to the Lord."

"He [God] writes His own Gospel in the hearts of the just.  All their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.  The souls of the saints are the paper, their sufferings and actions, the ink.  The Holy Spirit with the pen of His power writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on the day of eternity.  Oh! great history!  grand book written by the Holy Spirit in this present time!  It is still in the press.  There is never a day when the type is not arranged, when the ink is not applied, or the pages are not primed." Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for this sunny day, time with the women in my women's group this morning, priests who devote themselves to You for the salvation of souls, and for any clarity we gain on our salvation journey.  Thank you for extended quiet where You are most easily heard, and for all of the lights, graces, and consolations You bestowed upon me during those 3 days of silence. 

Lord, please help me to be honest with myself, so that I may be honest with You and others.  Help me to know myself well, so that I may cling to You ever more tightly, and to my own pride, less and less.  Thank you for being so gentle with me, and revealing areas of weakness in times of abundant grace.  I love You.  Amen. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Confrontation for Christ

I've been praying for the courage to be bold for Christ for two years now.  Today, I got some. 

My husband had to work today, so I was at Mass with my three boys.  One section over, slightly in front of where we were sitting, were two beautiful, college-aged girls.  The beautiful girls were wearing shirts that left their backs and shoulders completely exposed, animal-print bra showing, and at best, a skirt that landed mid-thigh.

I was shocked at their lack of discretion, but also remembered being ignorant of affecting others with my clothing choices in my youth.  I found them to be a continual distraction through Mass, and felt more and more certain that I was being called to "fraternally correct" these girls.  So, after receiving communion, I wrote them a little note that went something like this:

Beautiful Girls,

When I was your age, I did not know that bare skin was a distraction and obstacle for men.  (I wish someone had told me).  In an effort to help them praise and worship their God, please consider dressing more consciously for Mass.

I only communicate this for love of God, your beautiful selves, and the Body of Christ.

Thank you for your consideration. (end)

I exited my pew and handed it to one of the girls in the aisle, saying "Here's something for your consideration."  She looked at me suspiciously, and I walked away. 

I felt nervous, but was pretty sure I had done the right thing by all.  Until they caught up with me in the parking lot as I was getting into my car (they were already in theirs).  Then, they let me have it.  Their comments went something like...

"So, you had to write it down;  You couldn't tell us to our face?  You must not have been paying attention in Mass if you were writing.  You were too busy judging us.  Some women can't wear whatever they want.  We can wear whatever we want.  This is why some people don't even come to Mass.  You are the only one who had a problem with it.  No one else said anything..." 

I listened patiently (although I was shaking inside).  I tried to explain that I thought they were beautiful, but that the men had to work twice as hard to pray and worship because of the distraction.  They told me how fake I was being.  So, I walked away, and they peeled out of the parking lot. 


Suddenly, I wasn't feeling so confident in my decision.

My boys were already in the car and privy to all that transpired.  "Mom, were those girls being mean to you?!"  I said "Yes.  I wrote them a note encouraging them to dress more respectfully when they come to God's house, and that made them mad."

I was expecting a chorus of disapproval because my boys hate confrontation (like me!).  But, my oldest said, "Mom, I think God would be very happy for what you did."  Whoa.  He took my breath away.  This is the kid who finds fault with almost everything I do, so the weight of his timely compliment was tremendous.  I was and am extremely grateful, and made sure to let him know.

I was aching for some reassurance, but am really trying to lean on God alone this Lenten season, so I said a little prayer.  "Lord, I really want to share this with somebody, but I want to trust in You more.  So, if you want me to talk to someone about it, please have them call me." 

Crickets.  That's what I was afraid of. 

Fortunately, we had a wonderful afternoon at a friend's house, celebrating her baby girl's baptism, and I was able to keep mum on the whole thing.  I did share with my husband when we got home, and he said he was proud of his "soldier".  I thought he was going to be embarrassed, but instead just laughed that I pulled the "When I was your age" card.  So, I'm feeling better about it as the night winds down, but might reconsider praying for courage tomorrow. ;)

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for another gorgeous day, for new souls added to the Christian family, for great-grandmothers who have 10 children, 29 grandchildren, and their wits.  Thank you for the example of the Christian families who are open to life.  Thank you for the Eucharist and the priests who make celebrating Mass and receiving You possible.  Thank you for answering our prayers.

Lord, please bless those beautiful girls and all who are tempted to use their God-given beauty to draw others to themselves.  Please convict them of Your love, and grant them wisdom, prudence, and modesty.  Please help them overlook my faults, so that they may know the good that You intend for them.

Lord, I hope I pleased You today, as I made three people very uncomfortable.  Lord, please continue to give me the courage to act for You, and out of love for my brothers and sisters.  I believe it is true that you call us to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  Please grant me wisdom and charity, Lord.  I never want to be a stumbling block for those who are seeking You.  Please help me to rest in Your opinion, alone.  Amen.