With Awe and Anticipation

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Old fashioned Candy: Growing up, I am blessed to say that I was given a beautiful gift of understanding anticipation. My mom seemed to truly come into herself during advent season. Each day had purpose and though we had little, what we had seemed ample and even brimming desiring to be shared. Handcrafted ornaments and embroidery projects, while seeming to encapsulate every spare minute, also engendered joyous expectation of their future reception. A new tin of old fashioned candy, a bowl of mixed unshelled nuts, the smell of homemade fudge and fresh bread, days spent rediscovering our favorites and making memories together.Mixed nuts

One of my first lucid memories of anticipation took place one advent when I was about 6 years old. Having spent the afternoon with my older brother, my mom had taken the opportunity to do a bit of Christmas shopping. With a gleam in her eye and an urging that she not be disturbed, she turned to carry the small bag of purchases into the bedroom. So curious, I strained to peek in the crevice of the door only to see light dancing around the room. What could it be that could catch and reflect the light so beautifully? Sounds of a flurry of paper and tape and the sparkling stopped.

File:Snowdance.jpg
A Performance of The Nutcracker ballet, 1981 by Rick Dikeman

Then suddenly music played, the tune of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, setting my mind racing again.   I had seen a performance of the Nutcracker just days before on a televised Christmas Special and instantly it filled my imagination that I too might dance one day.  That night and every one after it that season, I spent dreaming and anticipating what could be in those two little boxes underneath the tree.

 

Although I had accumulated many ideas as to what they enclosed, I was not prepared for the fullness of the gift itself.  Christmas morning came and I ran into my mother’s bedroom hardly containing my joy to find my mom already awake enjoying a quiet moment and a cup of coffee. There she sat, proudly wearing my gift to her, brightly colored floral embroidery work I had wrought on the neckline of a shirt she had sewn. She too had anticipated this moment and hurriedly went to retrieve the last gifts under the tree. Slowly I unwrapped the small rhinestone tiara, intended to commemorate first place in the local beauty pageant held just months earlier. As the community was not wealthy, and I was in the youngest division they had presented me with flowers instead.

Placing it atop my head, and looking up at my mom tears of joy filled her eyes. She was looking at me as only a mother could, as she had in all of my 7 years prior, with profound love seeing the beauty within. I could not hold it in any longer, I had to tell her of my stolen glance, of the light dancing, and of the nights of endless anticipation. But what of the music, what of the familiar song I had heard? With a furrowed brow but smiling she responded, “Open your next gift Elizabeth and you shall see!” Peeling the paper away, I uncovered to my delight a music box- marvelously gilded with fleur de lei and a ballerina performing her pirouettes flawlessly.

So much thought and love put into each of these gifts and yet my mother’s gift went beyond that which was wrapped. She had given the gift of Pointeanticipation not just for what I would open that day but for who I could be. Years later, I did take dance classes and remember clearly the day I advanced to Pointe and tried on my first toe shoes. While I never became a gifted ballerina, I learned the connection between anticipation, hope, patience and the experience of beauty and gift of a mother’s love.

Peace,

Signature

An Engaging Faith: 11/30-12/4

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of
Spiritually Able by David and Mercedes Rizzo (Loyola Press), River of Grace by Susan Bailey (Ave Maria Press) or God With Us by Greg Wolfe (Paraclete Press),
Drawing runs 11/20-12/ 4 Click to enter..


David and Mercedes Rizzo of Spiritually Able , Susan Bailey with River of GraceGreg Wolfe with God With Us 

and  Margaret Felice rounds off our week with a Catholic round table of discussion with Felice Fridays!

Monday:David and Mercedes Rizzo, David is a physical therapist who works with children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. He is the author and presenter of a professional rehabilitation seminar entitled “Autism: Where neuroscience meets clinical practice.” David and his wife Mercedes have four children, one of whom, Danielle, has autism and is non-verbal. Dave and Mercedes developed picture-based materials and activities to explain the sacraments to Danielle to help prepare her for Holy Communion. This was featured on the Diocese of Trenton television program The Catholic Corner and in the Our Sunday Visitor magazine. They are here today to share their journey and to speak to their latest book Spiritually Able.

Tuesday:Susan Bailey, is a blogger, musician, and speaker who frequently contributes to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. Her work has also appeared on Catholic.net, and Catholic Online. Bailey blogs at Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. She also writes a monthly column for The Catholic Free Press called Be as One.  A professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released three CDs, performed on EWTN and CatholicTV and at World Youth Day in 2002. She joins us to discuss her book River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times.

Wednesday:Jacqueline O’Toole  owner of Sea el Cambio and ONE enterprises created to work in close collaboration with artisans in Nicaragua to transform lives and provide handcrafted fair trade products. Translated from Gandhi’s quote “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Sea el Cambio encourages customers to “be the change.” All products are ethically sourced through long-lasting partnerships with Nicaraguan artisans. Sea el Cambio works with these artisans to design handmade jewelry, pottery, bags, and paper goods. By increasing market access, our artisans have a reliable and steady source of income to support their families. Sea el Cambio donates a portion of its profits to FNE International who is working within the artisans communities to improve their living conditions.

Thursday: Greg Wolfeis editor of Image, one of America’s leading quarterly journals. He serves as Writer in Residence and Director of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program at Seattle Pacific University. His literary imprint, Slant Books, is published by Wipf & Stock. Wolfe’s books include Beauty Will Save the WorldIntruding upon the Timeless, and The Operation of Grace. He has served as a judge for the National Book Awards. He is here with us today to discuss God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, a book he is co-editor of along with Greg Pennoyer

Felice Fridays!: Margaret Felice, Boston College alumnae and faculty member of Religion and Performing Arts at BC High in Boston MA, Opera Singer and blogger joins us for a fun an engaging talk about all things Catholi

Worth Revisiting: Spiritual Sisterhood

While not an old post, this week I have been giving a lot of thought to the gift of spiritual sisterhood. When I consider all that I am thankful for I cannot help but include all of those women in my life that continually uplift, guide, pray for and challenge me each day. They inspire me by their own witness to offer all that God has given me as a friend, mother, teacher,  and sister in Christ to all those I encounter.

  I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.         Philippians 1:3-8

A few months ago, I attended a small gathering of women in the Northeast area for a  Blessed is She Brunch held in Boston’s Public Gardens.

With varied ages and backgrounds, careers and vocations we shared where God had led us and how he continues to both surprise and hold us through the challenges in life. Why spend a few hours with women you may have never met before? Simply, for the opportunity to pray and share true Christian fellowship..and in doing so, experience joy, share sorrow, and  peace.

At this time I wish to express my gratitude for all of the spiritual sisters that I have in my life- in no particular order and most certainly there are more…

Kristen :  :  :

Peace,

Signature

Pope Francis: “Wake Up!” Album Review

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Winner: Sara Babbs

In Wake Up!, a soon to be released Vatican approved pop-rock Latin  infused compilation, we encounter Pope Francis’ words in a new but charismatic way. With songs produced and directed by Father Giulio Neroni, we are beckoned to listen attentively to Francis’ homilies and prayers spoken in Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese. Quite often conveyed in his native tongue, we are awakened to the concerns of poverty, the environment and peace then called to action, accompaniment and communion.

How refreshing it is to hear the ease and the passion in which Pope Francis speaks of these essential principles of Catholic social justice. His personality and conviction truly shine in this CD, amid the joyful cheers of those gathered.  No doubt his message is challenging, but I believe it has and will continue to inspire countless faithful, young and old alike, to reassess the need to witness and serve.

This CD in partnership with Believe Digital features a booklet with song lyrics and translated prayers and homilies to better enable the listener to follow along.  My personal favorites are 5. “Non Lasciatevi Rubare La Speranza!” (Do not Be Stealing the Hope)  5. “La Iglesia No Puede Ser Una Ong!” (The Church is Not an NGO) 8. “La Fa Es Entera, No Se Licua!”  (The Faith is whole, not watered down) It was my definite pleasure to review this album and I hope that it will be a blessing to you as well.
Wake Up! Tracks  To Preorder CD: Believe Digital

1. “Annuntio Vobis Gadium Mangum” Vatican City on 13 March 2013
2. “Salve Regina” De Janiero, Brazil July 25 and Cagliari Italy on 22 September 2013
3. “Cuidar el Planeda (Laudato Si)  Rome, Italy on 20 November 2014
4. “Poe Que’ Sufren Los Ninos” Manila, Philippines, on 18 January 2015
5. “Non Lasciatevi Rubare La Speranza!” Vatican City on 7 June 2013
6. “La Iglesia No Puede Ser Una Ong!” Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 25 July 2013
7. “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!” Asian Youth Day South Korea 17 August 2014
8. “La Fa Es Entera, No Se Licua!” Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 25 July 2013
9. “Pace! Fratelli!” Vatican City on 8 June 2014
10. “Per La Famiglia” Vatican City on 27 October 2013
11. “Fazei O Que Ele Vos Disser” Vatican City on 31 May 2013

 

An Engaging Faith:11/23-11/27

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

This week I am thankful for..the gift of friendship, my vocation, and the invitation to serve!

John and Terri Bosio join us to discuss how to truly enrich our marriages,  Ed Ensley with how to Love your Neighbor:Praying Your Way to a Better Life

And a three Encores with Jane and Ellen KnuthSue and Tim Muldoon and Margaret Felice to celebrate Thanksgiving! 

Monday: John and Terri Bosio- John  is a former marriage and family therapist, director of religious education, and diocesan family life coordinator. He worked for 23 years in international human resources in various corporations. He is the author of three books and a number of articles on marriage, including Why Get Married in the Church: The Lifelong Blessing of a Catholic Wedding. Teri Bosio is a former diocesan family life coordinator, director of adult faith formation and RCIA, and director of religious education.While retired they remain active in parish and family ministry, serving parishes and dioceses around the country and leading couples retreats and workshops.They have produced several parish-based marriage enrichment programs: Six Dates for Catholic Couples and The Beatitudes: A Couple’s Path to Greater Joy and Joined by Grace.

Tuesday: Eddie Ensley ,a Catholic permanent deacon from the diocese of Savannah, GA  is on staff at St. Anne in Columbus, Georgia. He also teaches spirituality at Josephinum Diaconate Institute of the Pontifical College Josephinum. Deacon Ensley is a NCCA licensed clinical pastoral counselor with a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University with a doctorate in clinical pastoral counseling from Cornerstone University. He has authored a number of books including Everyday Mysticism: Meeting
God Face to Face, Healing the Soul: Finding Peace and Consolation When Life Hurts,
and Step-By-Step Spirituality for Deacons. He will be joining us to discuss his latest book, Love your Neighbor:Praying Your Way to a Better Life.


Wednesday: Jane and Ellen Knuth, will be joining us to discuss Love will Steer Me True. Jane has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 15 years. She is also an eighth-grade math teacher. Jane and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan. Ellen recently returned to the USA after 5 years in Japan. Having already been an English teacher, a singer in a rock band, a dairy princess, a MC, and a newspaper columnist, Ellen now works as a university relations manager for a study and intern abroad company. Settled (for now) in Clinton Twp, MI, she travels extensively, writes occasionally, and sings constantly.


Thursday:
 Sue and Tim MuldoonSue is a graduate of Boston College with degrees in Theology and Psychology, and has a Master’s degree in Counseling with a focus in Christian Counseling from Franciscan University. Her experience includes serving as the Director of Counseling Services at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA and as a therapist at Center for Family Connections in Cambridge.  She has also co-authored, with husband Tim,  Six Sacred Rules for Families  Asked to be a presenter at the WMOF, Sue spoke on healing damaged relationships.

Tim Muldoon is a professor and has authored and edited several books. He served as chair of the department of religious studies, philosophy, and theology at Mount Aloysius College for many years before being named the inaugural director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College. He currently serves in the division of university mission and ministry at Boston College, and teaches in the university’s college of arts and sciences. He and his wife Sue are the parents of three children.


Felice Fridays!: Margaret Felice, Boston College alumnae and faculty member of Religion and Performing Arts at BC High in Boston MA, Opera Singer and blogger joins us for a fun an engaging talk about all things Catholic

Worth Revisiting: Fill My Cup Till

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

What a privilege it is to carry the prayer intentions of those God has placed in our path! Pulled out of our own self-absorbed overly scheduled lives, we are given an opportunity to walk with one another. Not only are we refocused but refilled, given the very life sustaining nourishment we need. Next time someone asks you to pray for them, consider taking these intentions with you to mass or adoration. If you know ahead of time, even offer to pray for others – you just might be surprised by God’s grace!


Coffee Date 2: Fill My Cup Till..

                                         Getting ready this morning I knew I needed to be there. Sure, there was an essay to write, laundry to be done, emails to send, yet that all would have to wait. Listening within, I felt an inner pull that I was being asked to put aside these things today to pray. Seeking direction, I quickly queried my friends and family to see if they had any special intentions.  So with prayers to carry and filled with purpose I opened the door to my church. Though I had written them down, I realized as I knelt that I had left them in my car. Beautifully, however, they each one by one came as a bright light in the darkness. Every prayer intention had a face, a name and a desire of the heart.

 

As I lifted each up in prayer there was an inner pause, stillness I have found only in God’s presence. “Be still and know that I am God” .

Yes, you have this all Father, all within your loving hands. There is a great awareness here, a knowing that you still the winds, calm the seas, and yet enkindle our hearts and minds to love and see as you do.

By no coincidence the readings today spoke of an attentiveness needed in fixing our eyes on what God is asking of us. With so many things to occupy our every day, I know I can easily find myself engulfed in the daily demands upon my time.                                         Today, Jesus I heard your voice and what an incredible gift to have been entrusted with these prayers this morning. Whatever else I could possibly do today, I know that this was where I was meant to be.

With the homily, a scene was painted of a sailboat and its captain on the open waters. With an eye on the horizon and hands ready, he notices and adjusts to the change in the direction of the wind. A hasty decision isn’t necessarily needed but an awareness and discernment as to the soundest course to proceed.

Jesus, you are my guiding light, the certain wind to carry me where you need me to be. When I seek you, and trust I am never truly lost. For you are The Way, the path of surest love from the Father to each one of us. And when our focus is on what is behind us, or we think that we can no longer see the path ahead, you light our hearts and call us Father, (farther) onward.

May your cup overflow with peace- goodness, and mercy as you seek God’s presence and direction in your day!

Signature

Will They Know Us By Our Love?

Over the last few weeks since Pope Francis’ departure, there has been a noticeable divisiveness within the world of Catholic social media. From Ross Douthat’s letter of critique of Pope Francis in the New York Times, to the response of theologians, priests, and Douthat again- we see firsthand a visible polarization. Yet, disagreement and dialogue in and of itself should not be disturbing. For, as Cardinal Dolan has so aptly noted of the most recent synod, “[for] Francis, and those who know better tell me so, that this is part of Ignatian spirituality: a mess, confusion, questions are a good thing.” [1] What is personally disconcerting, however, is the manner in which our discourse is taking place.  Repeatedly, I am seeing a promulgation of an article, or op-ed piece posted on social media in which the dialogue takes on a very ugly, often misinformed and even discriminatory tone having left the realm of discussion altogether.  Quick to respond, we find ourselves at the ready to wage war or nod our heads in agreement when we do not even have a full grasp of the situation.  This is neither productive nor enlightening, which is as I understand it is the goal of honest dialogue. Accordingly, if I might suggest, that we remember in both our virtual and face-to-face conversations the importance of:

Prayer

Before we tweet, post, share or comment let us take a moment to pray. For, if we consider the medium of new media as a tool for evangelization, then I believe, we must address the witness that we are so ready to make accessible to others.  Our online presence then should make our witness to Christ clearer, and the message conveyed expressive of the mercy, love and compassion of our Lord.  Yet, for those times we fail, we are reminded that we are also a “church in constant need of forgiveness” who, through the “sacrifice and self giving” of one another in community, finds strength and freedom from sin.[2]

For those times when I seek to be less than compassionate in responding…Lord help me to see you in others.

Openness

Christianity began in encountering Jesus in community and is a product of dialogue and translation embracing cultural, linguistic and religious differences.[3] For, through St. Paul’s experience we are clearly made aware of the pastoral needs of the community, and the necessary translation in witnessing to the Gentile community. While there needs to be a clear idea of what it is we believe in our expression of Christianity, without error,[4]  this need not encumber dialogue. This past week Fr. Rob Ketchum observed that “we [Christians] are sometimes more aware of what we are against and of what we fear than of what we are for and what we love”. [5]   Fear does not engender strength, or a convincing witness and does not exemplify love. As Pope Francis so eloquently remarked, “unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey”?[5]

Listening

True listening requires a humility and sincerity to respect one another-to accept change even our own. Few among us embrace change easily and for this reason we tend to romanticize the past.  Yet, if we look back historically, we can readily identify that change and disagreement are nothing new for us as a people of faith. There has been a natural, although sometimes painful, working out of our faith through the many complicated issues that have arisen over time.  Our tradition serves as guide and witness to a wealth of experience expectantly working towards conversion and transformation of the heart and situation to the mission of Christ. If the dialogical engagement is real and substantial then there is always the beautiful possibility that all involved will grow.

When we encounter a position that is different from our own, are we truly seeking to meet it with love or with pride?

While some may view this as naiveté,  I truly believe, that there can be a fruitful sharing and transformation in evangelization when there is openness, humility, and prayerful consideration of one another. This isn’t something to be feared, but as Christians our conversion of heart and mind is to be constant turning and transformation to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. Therefore, we ask ourselves, have we as a community grown from our interactions and dialogue with humanity at large? Are we engaging, and responsive to the Holy Spirit at work in the world? This I believe is truly “an ideal which [we] can identify and to which [we] can commit [our]selves with enthusiasm and lasting zeal”.[6]

Peace,

Signature


[1] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/15/new-york-cardinal-dolan-sees-light-amid-the-synods-confusion/
[2]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2002, p. 105
[3] Gaillardetz, Ecclesiology for a Global Church: A People called and Sent.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum,  1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
[5] Reese, Thomas, “Pope Francis ecclesiology rooted in the Emmaeus story”. National Catholic Reporter. August 2013. http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/pope-francis-ecclesiology-rooted-emmaus-story
[6] Gleeson, Brian, “Images, Understandings, and Models of the Church in History: An
Update”. Australian E-Journal of Theology, 12. ISSN 1448-6326. 2008

An Engaging Faith: 11/16-11/20

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of
Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality by Carl McColman (Ave Maria Press), 
Drawing runs 11/16-11/22 Click to enter..

Finding God within, and encountering the world without!

Carl McColman of Befriending Silence:Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality , Teresa of Avila: An Interior CastleTony Agnesi with Finding God’s Grace in the Everyday , Encore of Mark Hart, aka The Bible Geek and  John Zmirak with Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind

Monday:Carl McColman, is the author of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Answering the Contemplative Call, and his latest Befriending Silence:Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality. Carl also writes for Patheos, Huffington Post, and Contemplative Journal. He also has his own popular website and blog devoted to Christian and world mysticism. McColman is a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a contemplative community under the spiritual guidance of Trappist monks. A Catholic in full-time ministry as a retreat leader and speaker, McColman frequently leads workshops and retreats on contemplative spirituality at churches, seminaries, monasteries and retreat centers. He was trained in the practice of Christian contemplation through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC. He received training in spiritual direction from the Institute for Pastoral Studies in Atlanta. He lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Tuesday: Teresa of Avila: An Interior Castle,  Yearn to take an inner pilgrimage, or encounter God in a life changing way? Then, I invite you to join my friend and companion, saint and mystic Teresa of Avila for a time of intimate discovery. Join me for a walk through Carmelite spirituality and a discussion on how this young 16th c.nun still speaks to us today.

Wednesday: Tony Agnesi, who is Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life is the Senior Vice President of Rubber City Radio Group, WQMX, WONE, and WAKR in Akron and WNWV in Cleveland and member of Radio and Television Hall of Fame. A relentless storyteller, his Sunday blog and Wednesday podcast have an International audience in over 70 counties and has been translated in over 40 languages. Tony and his wife Diane have two adult sons and are members of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Wadsworth, Ohio.

Thursday:Mark Hart serves as Executive Vice President for Life Teen International. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a twenty-year veteran of youth ministry, Mark Hart is one of the most sought-after speakers serving in the Catholic Church, today. The author (or co-author) of over a dozen books, including best-sellers “Blessed are the Bored in Spirit”, “Behold the Mystery”, “Ask the Bible Geek”, “100 Things Every Catholic Teen Should Know” and “The “R” Father”, Mark’s writing style is humorous yet deep, accessible to and enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Friday: John Zmirak a composition teacher at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, John has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention and been Press Secretary to Louisiana Governor Mike Foster. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in many publications including ” “USA Today,” “”The Atlantic,” “The Intercollegiate Review,” and “The National Catholic Register”. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of “Faith & Family Magazine” and a reporter at “The National Catholic Register.” He works now as an editor for several publishing companies. He joins us today to discuss his latest book, Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind

Worth Revisiting: Examen-ing Motion

Our lives can be so busy and overwhelming at times. Saturated with appointments and dotted with to do’s we may wonder when we will get the chance to come up for air. Yet, finding time to breathe- to prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit into the craziness of life is exactly the antidote needed! St. Ignatius suggests beginning with scripture, allowing ourselves to be part of the story, to dialogue with God and then simply rest in the peace of his presence.


Examen-ing Motion

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Fast-slow, ebb and flow sensing the pace of life,

Thoughts-prayer I find You there amidst the joy and strife,

 

 

In-out without a doubt my every breath You fill,

Start-rest this beating heart lest, peace escape me still.

 

 

Far-near there is no fear for You come when I call,

Doubt-hope a brilliant strobe-light dispelling all.

 

 


Offer-receive your gift and believe your grace is always there,

Hold-release me to please by trusting in your care.

By: Elizabeth A. Reardon


A Doorway Into Our Souls: Praying with Teresa of Avila Part IV

What is it to experience a mystical union with God and is this only reserved for a select few?

No, as Teresa would be the first to point out, this unity and grace is available to each of us as fruits of our baptism. Yet, do we have the temperament and conditioning to sit and be still with God? Are there also external expressions to our spiritual union with God’s love to meet the challenges we see in the world today?

Led onward to the centermost dwelling place of the soul, Teresa describes a space filled with a “cloud of majestic splendor” and a beholding vision of the Trinity.[1] No longer are our senses suspended, and we come to understand “a most profound truth…that what we hold by faith, it understands, we can say, through sight”.[2] It is a perception of the presence of God always wedded within our soul, and a passion to serve our spouse faithfully.[3] Likewise, the little butterfly of our soul no longer is separate and restless, but has found its eternal rest in Christ.[4] There is awareness that whatever we do, even in daily routine, that a part of our soul, like Mary, remains at Christ’s feet. [5] Yet, there is also great humility in recognizing, the magnitude of the call to service and how minute our efforts seem to be. We come to understand, however, that in drawing our strength and joy from Christ all “fruits” of our labors are ‘pleasing and loved’ by God. [6] In this final dwelling place is where we finally discover Teresa, who began The Interior Castle at age 62, and had experienced for five years such a blessed spiritual union with Christ.[7]

While the intended audience for this text was the Carmelite sisterhood, I wonder if she ever conceived how well her experiences would later be received by those outside the walls of the convent…

That is not to say, that everyone will describe or understand this journey in quite the same way.  For, The Interior Castle is Teresa’s own “lived experience of faith” [8], a journey towards the mystery of the Trinity, revealed in Jesus and communicated within her very soul.[9] Yet, there is promise that through prayer and openness to God within that one can be transformed in Christ and that union is possible for those that are attentive to hearing God’s call. Teresa entreats us not to stand outside ourselves, but to be open and seek God deep within our “spiritual core”[10] Further, we are summoned to be attentive to the path of prayer and humility that leads to that “ultimate reality” of spiritual union with our Triune God.[11] For, it is through our trials that we are humbled, come to understand the suffering of Christ, and in times of dryness to desire to be near God all the more.

There is much consolation here in knowing that while Jesus suffered so greatly, that our own need for healing, and reconciliation is completely understood.

One of my most profound experiences of this came through the witness of our youth and their encounter with the Blessed Sacrament at conference one summer. As the Blessed Sacrament processed slowly, up and down the walkways of the convocation center, thousands of hands reached towards Him, as tears of contrition and joy flowed. Afterwards, our own group of girls resolutely committed themselves to reconciliation, despite the long lines, and the certainty of missing dinner. So, we sat in quiet fellowship together, thoroughly enjoying our bagged dinners, and preparing for that closeness with Christ again.  Likewise, it is in these moments of intimacy, peace, and joy that we also come to understand the desire to greatly live lives of service, “cry out and spread the news abroad about who this great God of hosts is”. [12]

Thus, Teresa’s journey reemphasizes that while there is an essential inner component to spiritual development that we cannot dwell only in the mystical. For, our lives were intended to give honor and praise to God by “striving to be the least and the slaves of all, looking at how and where you can please and serve” others.[13] This highlights Teresa’s dynamic discourse on humility and passion in understanding ourselves in ministry and in the midst of everyday realities. God’s magnificence and love shown through our suffering Lord leads us to humility, not just contrition, but in serving with passion the “great God who created our soul in His own image and likeness”.[14] So often I feel that spiritually we find difficulty reconciling humility and passion in our own lives, yet that is exactly what we witness in the life, ministry and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have come to know God, and of the great desire He has to draw all souls near to Him. Therefore, as Teresa beseeches let “this fire of love in you enkindle their souls, and with every other virtue you will be always awakening them”.[15]

Praise be to God, Amen.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Avila, Teresa. The Interior Castle. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez. Introduction by Kieran Kavanaugh. Preface by Raimundo Panikkar. The Classics of Western Spirituality series. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979. p.175.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., p. 179.
[5] Ibid., p. 176.
[6] Ibid., pp. 181,195.
[7] Kavanaugh, p. 16.
[8] Principe, Walter H., “Spirituality, Christian”. In The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Edited by Michael Downey. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1993, p.932.
[9] Schneiders, Sandra M. In The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Edited by Michael Downey. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1993, p.395.
[10] Cousins, Ewart. “Preface to the Series”, in Christian Spirituality I: Origins to the Twelfth Century. Edited by Bernard McGinn and John Meyendorf. New York: Crossroad, 1985. p. xiii).
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., p.139.
[13] Avila, p.191.
[14] Ibid., p. 196.
[15]Ibid., p. 193.