Worth Revisiting: A Purposeful Path

How Far Can You Go With $30, A Bus Ticket, and a Dream?

Ever wonder where God is leading you and yearn to discover or explore your own vocation in life more fully? In Fr. Casey’s A Purposeful Path (Loyola Press), we are invited to do exactly that. By opening ourselves up to being vulnerable and embracing uncertainty we are then able to give way to trust. As a Jesuit novice, Fr. Casey takes us with him on a journey of a lifetime, on his pilgrimage of discerning his identity, vocation and purpose in life.

—-→Who and whose are we?

Our fundamental identity as God’s beloved children, made in the image of our Creator, is our simplest most profound identity in life. From this place we recognize that all other gifts and identities we are to later be given, while important, are lesser than our calling and love experienced as a child of God.  In what is described as a “convergence of heaven and earth”, Fr. Casey finds the words and experience of Maya Angelou resonate deep within his soul reminding him of this infinitely divine love. This is to set the stage in his own journey of transformation and acceptance of God’s plan for him.

—-→The notion of a pilgrimage..

While often we think of a pilgrimage as a journey to a place, it implicitly involves in our humanity a relational connection, compelling a response from us and deeper meaning. The idea of making a pilgrimage acquiesces itself to our identity as a people of God on the move towards both accompaniment and relationship. Though Fr. Casey feels that his pilgrimage is to lead him to a chance meeting with Maya Angelou, he is unsure of how that is to happen or how well he is to be received. Meanwhile, all that he is given to begin the journey is $30 and a bus ticket.

—-→Discerning our path

Fr. Casey’s own pilgrimage leads him first to the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, where he bonds with fellow pilgrims on the trail, and then to the Wake Forrest Campus where he encounters it seems everyone else but Maya Angelou. Dejected and feeling as if he had failed, he then heads to Washington DC. Where again, he meets others with whom he shares commonalities in service and who seem to be directing him back again to an encounter with the poet. Yet, he recognizes that he has a choice does he stay where he is to be of service or let go and let God lead him the rest of the way. To do this requires an unconditional trust in God’s provision and a vulnerability to ask others for help.

—-→How do we meet and traverse the crossroads in life?

Fr. Casey suggests and indeed illustrates that an indelible part of the journey is to continually move forward. Our timing and God’s timing are seldom the same, and while we might not understand the diversions from our perceived destination, this too is important. Learning that none of us are perfect but are perfectly loved, and faithfully provided for, is the start of finding our purpose with hope and joy.

“All my conscious life and energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own”    Maya Angelou

*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

 Peace,

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The Coming of the Spirit

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” Acts 2:1-4

I had always wondered what it would have been like to have been in the upper room. To have been present as the Spirit rushed through filled and imbued with a holy fire to witness the love of Jesus Christ to the world. Courage to proclaim drawn from strength beyond our own united in divine communion with the Trinity and with one another. Here in this place to be overtaken wholly- the recipient and bearer of healing, peace, joy and courage. This weekend, I would wonder no more.

As part of a group of over 100 students and chaperones joining almost 4000 more at Steubenville East, an intense faith immersion youth conference, I anticipated the Spirit’s arrival. Hurried meals, record setting temperatures, lack of sleep and other logistical challenges had affected many that Friday and early Saturday. Yet, as all of this was gathering steam, so was the Holy Spirit in preparation for adoration. And like a tremendous rain cloud that suddenly opens, grace rained down.

I was surprised to see her there- making her way up the stairs of the arena and though I had met her only once before we had instantly connected. Southern by birth, we shared both a love for our childhood home as well as a recognition of a given purpose to bloom where we had been planted. So when in a voice quite clear  I heard the inner prompting  to ask her to sit beside me, I joyfully responded.

Ushered in with upbeat music and guided on by prayer we prepared for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that was to come.Up and down each aisle of the coliseum Christ was processed, stopping momentarily to turn and reveal Him to all surrounding. Seeking healing, desiring intimacy,  hands reached towards, as if to touch the hem of His robe once again. As he drew near, stopping beside us,the light that shone was all encompassing and darkness could not help but surrender. The warmth that flowed permeated every part of my very being, and I felt loved, held and adored.

Suddenly beside me, what began as soft tears moved to a deep profound sobbing. Healing. My beautiful new sister in Christ was being slain in the Spirit. Putting my arms around her I prayed.

“Lord, help console and heal the pain that life has brought her. Help her to feel the magnitude of your love”.

Then, in a grace-filled release of body and soul, she fell backwards into my arms as if floating atop the ocean’s deep waters. Suspended from the past and buoyed by love the hurt that she had felt gave way to peace and a smile that truly radiated from within. Warmth. Though she could hear my prayers, she was in a space almost between worlds awaiting the joy that would come. The gift of laughter. Holy joy, caught her and she laughed- uninhibited by anything around her conversing with the Spirit in words known to God yet unrecognizable to me. The gift of tongues. In utter amazement and gratitude I continued to pray,

“Oh my Lord, you have allowed me to witness this graced moment with her, to see and proclaim your greatness, mercy and love.”

Two and a half hours had passed during this time, all of which were spent on my knees and none of which I felt any pain from. As she came to, she expressed her slight embarrassment for the scene that she imagined others to have glimpsed. “There was nothing you could have done to control any part of it, nor would you have wanted to..it was beautiful!”

“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” 1 Cor. 12:7-11

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Still Waters

In the past year since this post was written, I have received such grace and strength from this moment in prayer. Now, during the periods when I thirst for true fulfillment, I find comfort to return to this resting place beside the still living waters.

Anyone close to me knows that despite sometimes bemoaning my busy schedule, I am indeed blessed and appear to thrive on chaos. On my already full plate there’s been ample room to take another helping of “Would you be able to join us?” , “Oh, and another thing”, or “I cannot be there.”  Yet over the last few weeks ,   I have felt the pressing need for a break -a respite to  gather my thoughts and silence to find my peace in the midst of the all that I am being asked to do. With my head swimming with service commitments, recordings, preparations, and conversations, the question of just when I would take this break was weighing on me too. That is until the answer came to me in prayer once again.

What began quite simply as a bodily sigh, gave way to a petition, and then to a surrendering of my very self.

“Lord, I need you… You have graced my life with so many wondrous opportunities to love and serve you. And while I cannot believe that you have called me, and given me the gifts necessary to answer that call, I am in need of some time with you alone. I want to be joyful in all that I do, not just simply go through the motions. I want to be close to you, so that others can come to know you through me. Come Holy Spirit..”

Then closing my eyes, I sat in silence in recognition of  that which had kept me busy, my deep desire to serve  and God’s ever presence through it all. Suddenly, I became aware too of the missed moments I had failed to take advantage of, glimpses of God inviting me to sit a spell and simply be.  No sooner was this acknowledgment expressed, than was God’s beautiful gift to me revealed. The vision that now lay before my still closed eyes was that sanctuary that I had pleaded for. Waters so tranquil and glassy that they could not help but reflect the beauty of the heavens that stretched across the bright blue sky.  There was truly no separation between the two, and I understood that this was his lesson as well.

You are my vision..

As St. Ignatius of Loyola’s own experience has shown, if we are to reflect God’s love, joy and beauty in our world this time of contemplation with our Creator and loving Father is essential.  In our surrender, the ripples of fear and doubt are dispelled , and our self reliance gives way to a peace that can only come from the One who has created and ordered it all. So, yes the One who set the sun and stars in motion also set aside for rest and serenity. And, this time need not always be extensive but as was the case here, just a cursory foretaste of what awaits when our time here on earth is done.

For the remainder of this week, whenever I have needed a short break, I have returned in prayer to find God ‘s invitation still present. So much so, I know that the smile and joy that breaks forth has been more than visible to others.  If this were not enough, God whose generosity is not to be outdone, has spoken to me again in Word and song. No surprise here, the responsorial psalm that I led with the children for this Sunday’s liturgy  was …

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul… (Psalm 23:1-6)

The invitation is there for you as well..to be led beside still waters. Are you in true need of a break in your life? Have you found God calling you to spend some quality time with Him today? He’s there..already waiting for you!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Spiritual Friendship- Love & Salt

“You and I are here and I hope that Christ is between us as a third. Yes most beloved open your heart now and pour whatever you please into the ears of a friend. Gratefully, let us welcome the time, place and leisure” 

Aelred of Rivaulx, Spiritual Friendship.

What is Spiritual Friendship?

It is a bond between souls – one that cannot be created or induced but is the very knitting together by our Creator from whom all love flows.  This is a friendship that mirrors the love that God has for each of us, a give and take of our very selves, without thought of risk or gain. It is an opening of our hearts to one another, willing to share difficult truths and sorrows as well as joys.  Challenging us to grow, it inspires us to be more like Christ in crossing into one another’s lives through and for the sheer reason of love.

In Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters we are welcomed into the lives of Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith. Two women from very different backgrounds each felt led to take  a creative writing class that would truly be the beginning of an incredible spiritual friendship. While initially there would be a concealment of their own admittance to and searching for faith, their paths with one another would lead to a true discovery of self. Through letter writing they spanned the distance apart, and like Ruth and Naomi realized that they indeed could walk this path together.

For Jessica it was the faith of her childhood which “brought religion to life in a way that theology never could” , through a visible lived faith experience that seemed to permeate everything.  Battling doubts as to Amy’s choosing of her as Confirmation sponsor, Jessica was hopeful that she could help guide Amy into the faith in her own return as well. Meanwhile, continually unfolding the layers of grief of her mother’s death and father’s alienation, Jessica sought to understand her own new vocation as mother.

For Amy, her path from a secular upbringing to conversion was more of a “long crescendo”, an accumulation of experience that spoke to this decision that felt called to make to become a Catholic. Approaching faith initially from a position of trying to prove its truth, she conceded that there was in fact a “leap of faith” beyond reason that was required. When Amy encountered the initial joy of pregnancy to the experience of delivering Claire as stillborn their spiritual friendship was what carried Amy through this difficult time.

Through the sharing of these daily struggles, small and large, and their profound moments of deep questioning they experienced a connection that went beyond a simple exchange of friendship. They had found the freedom and friendship of faith and love that bound them  together like Ruth and Naomi.  Unraveling what it is to have faith, in the midst of grief and through the ups and downs of life, buoyed by the God given companionship in one another.

Have you experienced a friendship like this? Is there someone in your life whom you feel privileged to carry their burdens as well as their joys? If so, take a moment today to say “Thank you” to God for this priceless gift of love.

Peace,

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The Scent of Her Presence

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“An awareness of smells can illuminate our present. It can help us live more mindfully and gracefully. It can help us recognize that God’s goodness saturates the world, in scents that are both obvious and subtle.”

Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Taste and See ( Loyola Press)

Early morning dew, the scent of grateful peonies and roses greet me.
The aroma of homemade strawberry rhubarb and blackberry pies cooling midday meet me.
Nighttime breezes carrying a day well spent at play, leave me ..the promise of yet another summer day in the South.

My Grandmother’s house was my favorite place to be as a child, particularly in the summertime.  What might appear as lacking in structure or activity, each day was abundant in hidden treasures that could only be discovered by a slower pace and ready spirit. All this I too might have missed had I not been seeking- albeit anticipating- God’s respondent grace and presence. Grandma’s hard work in the garden wafted through her small home as she baked and canned the fruits of each day’s gifts. Receiving the present she also prepared for the future, when these would not be as easily gathered. Mindful also that nothing given should ever be wasted.

Indeed, there are so many indelible memories forever tied to the smells of my childhood spent with my Grandma. Sunday mornings brought an even more unique scent- as my Grandma readied herself for church service. Not accustomed to wearing makeup or perfume during the week, grandma was on this day a delightful combination of Ivory soap, Jergens lotion, Covergirl makeup and Emeraude perfume. How I loved this smell, so much so that I would take it all in as I cuddled close before church. Infused with the understanding that Sunday’s were intended to be special, she put forth her best for God.

Many years later I would smell that smell once again, over 1, 400 miles apart. Then 33 and in my third trimester I could not travel as she feel seriously ill this time. My heart was nonetheless with her, and almost without pause I found myself praying for her throughout the day.

“Lord let her know how very much I love her, let her know that though I cannot be there in person that I am truly beside her. If I could carry her as she carried me all these years, I would.”

God heard my prayer, and knew the close bond he had established between us would not end in death. Only moments before the phone rang, God gave me an otherwise inexplicable gift-my Grandmother visited me. In the shower, I suddenly and overwhelming experienced the all enveloping scent and presence of my Grandmother. It was all around me, permeating every space with love and memories. As tears of joy and grief streamed down my face, I said my goodbyes- for now, fully embracing the gift of being with her again. Profoundly aware that God was allowing me to experience this sacred moment of my Grandmother’s passing from this world to the next.

Then just as suddenly as she had come, she was gone. Though I tried to recover the scent for an instant, I knew that she was no longer there. As the phone rang, with my cousin who had been sitting with her in these last few moments on the line, I knew her words before they were spoken.

“Liz, Grandma just left us..”
“I know..she was here..and just left too.”

I then shared with her how I knew and the unbelievable love that I had felt in these last moments.Together we cried tears of joy for the gifts given to be with our grandmother all these years. Though eleven years have now passed- the fond memories of growing up through every season infused with the scent of her presence will forever remain, evidence of the world unseen .

 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Walking the Road of Peace

This was written a year ago as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was first issued and with tensions at their peak. Perhaps today we have attained a measure of distance from the issue- to listen better and speak less and to witness through our lives rather than instruct through a sharp tongue.

For as long as I can recall, God has placed deep within me a compelling summons to see and walk the road of peace in the midst of heated disagreements, and to mediate when necessary.  Yet, not a diplomat in a shallow sense, I see the people behind the conflict, and the far reaching consequences of the steps we take today. It is not an easy path, and at times diplomacy entails being disliked by both parties, but the cause of peace and respect for the human person within the human family is worthwhile enough to pursue.

As some may have noticed this past week, I have been noticeably silent as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was proclaimed.  While unwavering in the sanctity of marriage as a sacrament in our faith, I also understand the real need for compassion and active listening. This polarizing issue, which has turned our Facebook profiles rainbow, and overlaid with the Vatican flag for Catholics and non-Catholics alike is a visible expression of the division we have been experiencing as a people of faith.  Many have felt that the need to take this visible stand, and though I understand your need to do so, please consider why I have not.

Most notably, with emotions on the issue at an all time high, a majority of people are responding reactively. Finding ourselves in a position of either defending our beliefs, or asserting alternative ones few seem to be in a position of listening. The immediate consequence that I see is that we begin to alienate whole groups of people by our actions that we choose going forward. I have personally witnessed people selectively removing others that have chosen to bear either flag from their contacts. Where do you go from there, if there is to be true dialogue possible?

I am not arguing for a compromise in values, but instead a time of prayerful discernment in choosing our words and actions. So many things are being spoken from positions of fear, judgment, and righteous indignation without full consideration of their effect. When the dust settles from all of this, we as a people of faith will be truly in want of reconciliation and healing. Given the long breath of our church history, we have been here before as a Church.

Still there may soon come a time when there will be a need to consciously and conscientiously attend to a line drawn by secular intrusions on the practice of the right to religious freedom. That is why this time is so very important. Before we speak, pray. Pray for our shepherds who have been called to lead, that they do so attentive to the teachings of our faith, and pastorally to the people they are to tend to. Pray that everything we do is with the eyes of Christ, and everything we say is spoken with love.

Peace,

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31 Days of St. Ignatius: Feast of the Senses

This month Loyola Press is inviting each of us to “explore ways of encountering God through using the five senses, inspired by the new book, Taste and See by Ginny Kubitz Moyer”. This celebration culminates on July 31st on the feast day of St. Ignatius. So please  join me along with other Catholic bloggers and authors these 31 days of St. Ignatius,for a month long Ignatian feast of the senses!

Today’s challenge:

Read the excerpt below and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and inner movements of gratitude for the gifts God has given. Afterwards ask yourself, Were there people or things that I had previously overlooked or even taken for granted in my day?

The First Principle and Foundation
(St. Ignatius of Loyola, as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J.)

“All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God’s deepening his life in me.”

Peace,

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