Worth Revisiting: Lenten Love Notes

Fair to say that when we remove the unnecessary, that we are more prone to notice the essential.  So too, it is in this intentional, purposeful consecration of time and space during Lent, that God’s voice can be so clear. Still, as we do not live in isolation, there remains a number of unavoidable interactions and temptations that inevitably seek to pull us away from our Lenten promises. And, I would be remiss not to call it for what it truly is-the devil at work. For, the closer we seek to walk with Christ the more determined Satan is to pull out all the stops.

Oh how prideful we can be to ever think we could accomplish any virtue on our own! What an open door these hard lessons can be for Satan to enter in with reminders of failure, guilt, suspicion and exhaustion. This voice can be so deafening that we might tend to forget that we are not alone on our Lenten journey. Or that in following Christ, we too would be tempted to abandon our faith and challenged to choose God’s ways over the world’s.

This Lent has proven not unusual in this constant barrage of testing and time of trial. Though, what has been remarkable is that God has given me the awareness to see it plainly. In disengaging from conflict, giving voice to the struggle, and going to prayer I can see my part and that of others. Regardless, however, there will always be moments missed or inadequately handled. And this is where God’s faithful love never ceases to amaze me.

In the upturned days of confusion and uncertainty , are the often missed reminders of his promises. In striking out on our own we may think it is too late to ask for guidance or call out for help. Yet, God is merely waiting for us to call on Him.  Here in our experience of frustration and loss, He meets us with intimate notes replete with love, mercy and peace.

In just a few words, and in just a mere motion of the heart much is conveyed. If but aware, the answer sought in prayer finds its homecoming in the most surprising ways.  Perhaps through a scripture passage, a conversation, a song, or creation’s beauty we glimpse God’s love laid bare for all to see.  And still, we know that these Lenten love annotations are indeed intended just for us.

Reflect:

Take a moment to write down on one side of a piece of paper the challenges you have encountered this Lent. Then on the other side, make a list of God’s promises, or answers to these challenges also experienced. Be creative in seeing God’s love spoken to you in these times of trial and testing.

Peace,Signature

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The Perfect Anchor

Marriage as a Sacrament

Life is full of so many joys, but also ups and downs, twists and turns and at times an all out storm that can bring us to our knees. Our faith, if we choose to embrace it can be that life line that tethers us when tossed about by either our own will or the circumstances that life brings. Quite often this connection to Christ is the only certainty which keeps us from going adrift altogether.  For the grace that so readily flows is available to strengthen, heal and renew us in and within all of our relationships.

Why choose a Catholic sacramental marriage?

When my husband and I were asked to speak to a group of about 24 Pre-Cana couples about what it means to live a sacramental marriage, we felt honored but also cautiously optimistic. How do we convey the permanency and faithfulness of a vocation, in a world that values instant gratification and self fulfillment over sacrifice? How do we encourage fruitfulness in a culture that seeks to limit life and the witness to life?  That this call from God to live our lives in a certain way is intended to be a dynamic collaboration between you, your spouse and God? A daunting challenge to accomplish in a mere span of 20 minutes. Yet, one most definitely worth undertaking if only to be the first to plant a seed.

Within each of the sacraments, God is doing something remarkable. Taking the ordinary stuff of life: water, oil, bread and wine , and even our vows to transform what is there to be extraordinary. Unlike other sacraments where it is the priest who is the minister of the sacrament, here it is the mutual consent to one another to accept and live this gift from God. Your full yes is the Permanent, and Faithful part of this vocational call.

A sacrament is a visible sign, we say, of an invisible in-working of grace. However, the sacraments are more than a solitary event, but rather an invitation to encounter God daily in a very intimate way.  As a church, while we have done an incredible job at promoting the initial reception of the sacraments, we haven’t been as good at imparting what to expect after. When this happens, it is as if that grace goes unnoticed, or lies dormant awaiting our yes to God’s action in our lives.

Why including God makes all the difference!

Though from the very beginning my husband and I realized the importance of God as the foundation in our marriage, it has been through the beautiful mess of life that we have experienced this grace most abundantly.  The year our youngest son was born, was to be undoubtedly one of the most challenging years of my life. In my third trimester,  my grandmother who was a both a pillar and close confident passed away suddenly from pneumonia. Unable to physically be present, I sobbed as I packed the bag I knew I could not use as travel was not in my near future. Taking the bag from my hand, my husband held me as we prayed our goodbyes together. Then 4 weeks after Thomas was born, my mom flew in welcome the latest addition. Only, that is, to discover that she could not breathe and upon a doctor’s visit that she had stage 4 lung cancer and given but a month to live.

Meanwhile, our house was being re-sided with vinyl and new windows put into our antique home. Truthfully, I felt much like that old house- stripped and vulnerable to my core with but my husband, children and God as my only shelter. In order to help my mom and settle details of the estate, my husband stepped up to take on both a full-time job and mine as well. Our marriage was not a 50-50 split at this point but 100-100 as each of us were giving more that we could ever imagine possible. That is, because God was in the middle of it all, working alongside and enabling us to do the impossible.

That Spring, we would soon discover that it would be my turn to take the reins as we received news of his imminent deployment to Iraq and selection to fly the Apache right into the worst of it. We made the necessary preparations and continually prayed that God would work it all out for good. And did he ever! My husband leaned into God, praying the rosary that each of these men and women under his command would go home if it was God’s will. One by one all but two were released, when my husband fully lifted up his own deployment status. Standing in front of the flight surgeon with the deploy stamp in hand, his shoulder x-ray was examined again. Given the choice to have the tear repaired there or return home to Boston, he knew God had intervened.

So many times things don’t go as we have planned, and others where we discover God’s plan is so much better than our own. Including God enables us to love and carry beyond our own abilities, desire to want what is best for one another and to remain faithful as God has proven to be. 25 years later, how thankful I am that God is part of this journey and vocation in life!

In Christ,

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Worth Revisiting: Waking Up to Lent

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

A purple sky gradually taking on the coral, rose and gold tones of the break of day, what  a spectacular sight to behold. Since I was quite small, I have cherished the soft warmth of a sleepy awakening nestled under the protective covers of a new morning. It is where the day before has been put to bed and the new day awaits to be discovered. Hushed stirrings of hope and a renewed resolution to seek a will other than my own. Where my heavenly Father has my undivided attention, and discernment takes shape in the freedom to surrender any preconceived notions of completeness.

And while it may be so tempting to remain where we are, undisturbed by the demands of others, our Father calls us onward constantly to a graced life of encounter. Eyes opened to see Christ in one another and hearts prepared to experience the deep contrition for our failure to love. Here, we are called to live out our discipleship not cloistered away but in the very midst of community. Where knees are made firm, hearts rended and hands strengthened for the work ahead.

In these moments Father, you are lovingly and continually recreating me.

Lent comes to us in the drowsiness of winter and beckons us to be awakened recreated anew.  “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die..”   And still to do so, we must take this essential time with God to search our hearts and steps, to even see the need for change.  To embrace this given space to delve into the commonplace, the habitual, and the un-examined parts of our life to reveal the invitation for conversion. To unearth the sin from the darkest corners that has slowly made its home, to be restored to what God has created us to be. For, “everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

Now is the time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving…

Prayer:

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions… be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Prayer is a light that reveals, and directs that without it we are truly without a compass in our desire for change. Using this time set apart to pray is likewise an opportunity to reconnect with God. Who, in the hustle and bustle of life may not be our closest companion in our journey.

Fasting:

Why fast? Scripture has a lot to say about the practice of fasting and the benefits of doing so. First of all, it expresses a desire on our part to offer sacrifice and penance for wrongs committed. Yet, it is also proven to be a quickening agent to prayer, providing the perspective to see God’s direction and will. And if done with also an awareness of community, it can lead to the directed efforts to offer the allocated money for food to others who may be in greater need.

Almsgiving:

The giving of money, time, and talents to assist the poor is to be a outward expression of our inner desire for charity. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Therefore, the Christian understanding carries with it more than just helping one another, but in doing so we actually are serving Christ. In this way, it becomes a visible witness of love in action. You need not travel far to identify ways to answer this call to charity.  In the inspiring words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, ” Stay where you are, find your own Calcutta…”

Reflect:

Is there a need in my life to wake up this Lent? Where might God be calling me to grow or serve?

Peace,

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