Worth Revisiting: Our Call to Become Saints

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Last year at this time, to my heart’s delight, my son Peter was confirmed in the Catholic Church as Paul. In this moment I was reminded both of the importance of this sacrament and of the journey ahead. These were my words to him..

“Welcome to the school of the Spirit, the sacrament of Confirmation…for those who want to be holy, to be saints, to be warriors of God, men and women of Spirit”

– from Rites of Justice by Megan McKenna

Perhaps, you haven’t thought about this sacrament in this light and thought of it as a conclusion to your learning in the Catholic faith. If so, let’s look again at what happens in this sacrament and what it truly symbolizes and signifies.

First, confirmation is not considered a sacrament of conclusion but of initiation into a more active participation into the life of the church. Once celebrated with baptism and the Eucharist, it highlights the reception of the Holy Spirit to empower the candidate to walk the sometimes difficult path as a follower of Christ. The sacrament is marked by a laying on of hands, anointing with chrism oil with the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”, and a sending forth by God and the community to serve as “true witnesses of Christ”.

So, there is a reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us, but also an invitation to respond to the suffering, and injustice in the world with the very witness of our lives. Therefore, this sacrament is not an end, but a challenge to go forth and to be a visible sign of Christ in the world. God confirms you as a member of the body of Christ, but then the response and the choice is yours. It is a call to a higher standard to strive for love, mercy and peace not only within the doors of the church but as saints in the world.

In answering this call..

we can look at the examples of Christian faith set by the apostles Peter and Paul. Peter, originally named Simon, was a fisherman by trade who heard the call to “come after me” and become “fishers of men”. Although Peter’s boldness put him in the wrong at times it is because of his faith that Jesus called him “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”.  In the life of Peter we learn of a man who lost courage in walking on water to Jesus, and who was taught humility of service- in being asked not once but 3 times if he loved Christ and in having his own feet washed by Jesus. Even after having denied Jesus, Peter was one of the few disciples chosen to witness the resurrected Christ. Peter lived that witness with his life, in preaching and leading the early Christian churches, and in facing a martyr’s death. Paul, who we know was previously a persecutor of Christians, encountered a vision of Christ that transformed his life forever. From then on he is known as a passionate teacher for Christ, traveling far to the east and west, establishing early Christian communities, and suffering martyrdom as well for the faith.

Likewise, there are later saints like Catherine of Siena, born in 1347, known for her care for the poor, diseased, and for the conversion of sinners, who used her “insight, passion and determination to tell the truth in the chambers and cathedrals in the larger church”. Another beautiful example, of one who courageously walked the lifelong path of discipleship is Teresa of Avila. Born in 1515, Teresa joined the Carmelite order at age 20, but realized that even in the monastery the Christian life “demands much more”- a deeper friendship with God and other Christians that aren’t always encouraged in society. Led by visions from God, Teresa was very aware of God’s presence in prayer and championed active reform of the monasteries and in the “lives of all of the people she touched- a woman who inspired and gave life”.

Looking within the past century, we are given numerous contemporary saints like Maria Faustina, and Pope John Paul II. St. Faustina, born in Poland before WWII, joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925, and soon thereafter began to receive revelations on the Passion of Christ. In these meditative experiences, Christ urged Faustina to tell others about His enduring Divine mercy and forgiveness for the sins of the whole world. . Beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, John Paul II is considered one of the most beloved popes in the history of the Church. Instrumental in the continued work of Vatican II, John Paul II worked tirelessly to encourage communication and interfaith initiatives between Catholics and other Christians, and between Christians and other religions of the world. He is both the longest serving pope and the most traveled pope having visited 127 countries.

Yet, if we should begin to think that saints are a thing of the past..

we only need to look around us to find the saints among us. In each of these stories we are witness to the “gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ” in taking our natural gifts and talents and adding grace so that so that Christ’s mission in the world may be visible to all. There is no “distinction on the basis of gender, social status, or ethnicity”and each one of us is given gifts “simply by being members of the body of Christ”.

As you can see, there are many ways God could be challenging and calling you to be a saint in the world today. And while you may not know yet what that is to be, you need only to be ready and willing to do God’s will. If you put God first, then the path is clearer.  It is now that I ask of you, what will you do today with your gifts as a confirmed member of the body of Christ?

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This hopeful saint in the making,

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Worth Revisiting: Music that Moves Us- “Take Me”

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(This post is part of a series to be found at ReconciledtoYou.com hosted by Allison Gingras featuring the music of Ben Walther. For other bloggers and songs check out #MusicthatMoves)

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”       – Sucipe, St. Ignatius of Loyola

The first time I heard this beautiful song by Ben Walther, I instantly recognized its Ignatian underpinnings. The Sucipe prayer by St. Ignatius is one that, as with Ben, speaks profoundly to a need in my own life- a need for surrender. A need to relinquish any misconceptions or desires to control situations, or cling to any gifts that I have received in my life.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”Romans 12:1

Understanding that all that I have or am comes from God does not imply a lifetime warranty or use thereof. Rather, it is accepting each gift or grace for the limited time that it may be given to me and expressing my heartfelt gratitude in these moments.Be prepared for surprises too, for God is the ultimate giver and will not be undone in love or mercy. Perhaps you have yet to discover a particular talent within, or a way to use that talent. Not to worry, when needed God will seek to bring forth the best use of that gift. All he asks of us is to “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning” Luke 12:35

God is calling us to be transformed- ready to be moved, to follow his lead and this entails letting go. Trusting that even in the most uncertain times, that the One with the map will guide and accompany us each step along the way. And sometimes we may become so certain of our place in life, of our abilities or lack of,  that we cannot see the greater opportunities he has in store. We resist taking on this new perspective, and in doing so become fearful of losing what was never ours to lay claim to in the first place.Detachment then from all that impedes our following God’s will is so essential in our discipleship.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

A once in a lifetime decision to follow Christ? Not hardly.  It is a daily turning of heart and surrendering of self (body and soul) to Christ that is being asked of us. In our doubt and trials as well as in our faith and joys our Risen Lord asks for our trust, our will, our understanding -our all.

For, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

What is promised through surrender?

There is much peace in actively and fully surrendering. In knowing, that He is God and we are not. In allowing God to be the primary mover in all that we do. In this invitation of surrender, and petition for direction we continually experience his unfailing love.

Father, when my own steps are unsure or I seek to better secure the path ahead please lead me on. For those times I rest in the grace that surrounds me when you are asking me to move, help me to find my security in you. All I am and do are because of You- and this life I live is Yours. Take All of Me.

Reflection:What if we each held onto the life we are living presently? Would we be able for God to move us where he wanted us to be..would the safety we feel be worth the treasure that awaits?

Worth Revisiting:When Words Fail

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton

In sitting down this morning to write about this, I hesitated. Such a difficult topic, and yet so needed. On more occasions than I could have thought possible, I have encountered grief. Not only through my own experience but through those expressing abandonment in their grief, and confusion on the part of those who love them. While not professing to have a perfect answer, I humbly offer the following as spiritual guidelines in beginning the journey.

  1. Speak-but speak less. Do not underestimate the gift and consolation of listening. Your presence is still needed amidst the changes in the life of the one who mourns, though perhaps in a different way. Before speaking, pause, and allow the other the space to lead the conversation. In your listening, inwardly invite the Holy Spirit into the moment to guide the direction and breadth of discussion.

“Speak only if it improves the silence” Mahatma Gandhi

There are times when silence can speak volumes, and others where we are called to do more than talk but are called into the do-ing of life. When my brother, having committed suicide, left this world my own mother was left initially in a world of silence. The suddenness of his passing left her,for a short time, unable to cope with the everyday essentials of sleeping, eating and caring for herself. This I realized was something that I was being asked right then and there to take to doing. The roles had in one swift moment been reversed. For the many countless nights she had taken care of me, I felt privileged to return in kind, albeit in some small way. With a toddler in tow, I cleaned, cooked and took care of everything I could put my hands and feet to. Then I would sit beside her and let my son do his magic. Reaching up, smiling and looking into the eyes of his grandma he connected, drawing her out of herself and into the beauty of the life before her. Though slowly she came out of shell shock, it would really be months before she could truly speak to any of the pain that she had felt. This time of silence to the experience of grief was her a much needed time of healing and reflection, one that could not be rushed or anticipated.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” Washington Irving

  2.  There is no perfect response- Perhaps the most common question that continually comes forward from those seeking to offer consolation is simply, “What do I say?” There is an honest seeking to meet the pain and loss that our loved ones are facing with some sage advice or uplifting heartfelt message to ease their suffering. And yet, our words often fall short of touching the profound pain in grief of the situation. The moment we release ourselves from the responsibility of saying just the right thing, we can embrace the other with authenticity. That is not to say, however, we should speak every word that comes to the forefront of our thoughts. Strive to avoid platitudes and clichés like, “Time heals all wounds”, “Your loved one is in a better place”, “God wanted him/her with him” or “I know how you feel”To this day, three simple words seem to be a much needed balm when spoken truly from the heart..

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty – how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.                                                -Mother Teresa

3. Love –but love more. The picture of someone that is deeply immersed in the grieving process isn’t a pretty one. It is messy, challenging, and calls forth from those that love them a willingness to get dirty in the process. It requires patience and understanding holding each death and each one who grieves in the uniqueness of the moment. Comparisons or preconceived notions of recovery fail to take this into consideration. So, for all those times when our desire to console is not well received or our small act of kindness feels unappreciated…love. When they reach for support from others, or seem to have no need for support from anyone…love. When we cannot understand what is holding them back , hold on to hope and…love.

Walking with someone in their brokenness is to recognize our own brokenness too. And in helping them to find their way, we discover both community and communion in the One who brings wholeness, love, peace, and joy in the journey.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Why I didn’t want to write..but needed to.

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Today, the advice of a good friend of mine Sr. Marie Paul, a Pauline sister by vocation, echoed in my mind. “If you find yourself at a loss of what to write or how to write what you feel you need to, just write about why you cannot write.” Why? First, it gets the flow going but also there may be something there worth exploring-the reason behind why you are feeling blocked or resistant. Doing this has helped me to see more clearly what it is that is holding me back and captive.

And so I begin..no longer a slave to fear but recognizing that it is with God , with his strength and desire that I can do all things. It isn’t that I am fearful of writing, or surrendering my inmost thoughts and feelings, but that the task of writing with and for a purpose takes both time and energy. Two things that can far too often seem in short supply. For, introspectively I understand my own tendency to give fully of myself to whatever I commit to. Not treading in the shallow, I long to see things to completion and rest only when I feel I have given my all. Yet, in my desire to serve, have I neglected my own cup that longs to be filled? Is this why I am clinging to down time, and stingy when it comes to writing lately?

And still I know that spiritually that tending to the seed of a budding question, or emerging prayer through writing is more than a facet of self expression. The fruit of which has, for me, been  a window of clarification and a path of discernment. It is an opening of mind and heart to the Spirit, a discovery of areas of needed improvement,  an acceptance of mercy and a recognition that I am loved. Even still it can be a means to encourage others in their walk of faith too, who may wonder if they are alone. In need of a Savior? Wonderful, there is much companionship in the journey!  However, for this to be possible we must be authentic-sharing equally of the challenges and successes, of the sorrows and joys and of a brokenness that is only made complete through Christ.

So, it is then that I am called to write. Hanging by a thread I cannot see the entire tapestry that God weaves. Perspective. Writing spiritually becomes a way to better see the gifts that we have and understand the why behind what we are to do. Up, down, in and out his hand guides my heart towards his purpose. With each word written and each pause placed -there is a conversation between my heart and God. A seeking and a finding, and a renewed desire to stay near when I once again have strayed. “There you are!”, I say. “I am where I have always been, right beside you.” He says.

While I initially had little inclination to write today, God knew that it was exactly what was needed. Have you considered writing as a way to move your heart, or as a means of discernment? What is holding you captive today?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Reconciled


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Not just a prettier or more approachable  version of confession, the act of reconciling is instead, a richer and more complete description of what transpires in this beautiful sacrament. For, reconciliation means“to walk together again”[1] , to reestablish a close relationship in friendship, peace, and love. Confession is just one part of this sacrament replete with mercy, grace and love.  Reconciliation then more fully represents  “what is most important, what Jesus does”. [2]

Growing up protestant, I have heard all of the following questions and consequent arguments against the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation. Undoubtedly even for those having grown up in the faith, there still lies a temptation to rest on these as a means of justifying ourselves in our walk with God. However, there is also a challenge here to really consider the effects of sin, the grace that is present here and the freedom in walking humbly with our God.

1.“My relationship with Jesus is good..I can tell him anything. Why would I put a 3rd person in the middle since Jesus is the one who forgives me?  What this question begs is a heartfelt response. Yes, there is solid scriptural basis but the person asking this is seeking to know the soul benefit in uttering and entrusting their sins in this way.  They understand the need for forgiveness and may have a very good prayer life. Coming into the faith as an young adult this was a hurdle I myself encountered. I prayed often, went to church, read my bible and asked for forgiveness daily. So what does the sacrament of reconciliation really provide that is different?

  • In confessing our sins we give voice to that which we have privately carried and share it with the community in the priest who is also representative of Christ. The weight of our sins that we have carried is lifted, the slate with our sins wiped clean and we are free to begin anew.
  • Likewise, in both our sin and sanctity we are a community and are called to help one another in the journey. Our sin which has hampered and even damaged our relationships is removed and so, as a community we celebrate.
  • Receive peace and comfort by the grace of Christ to go forth to both amend our ways and to strive for greater justice and peace in our families, communities and world around us. Our penance is an essential first step to express our commitment towards this transformation.

2. “So, where is the need for reconciliation in the bible?

  • “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
  • Parable of the lost sheep- Jesus’ story of the shepherd and the 1 lost sheep among the 99. Jesus leads us to reconciliation with God and others (Matthew 18:12-14)
  • Prodigal Son explores the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, and helps bring this forgiveness into our daily lives (Luke 15:11-32)
  • Great Commandment- Jesus’ teaching about loving God, ourselves, and others (Matthew 22:36-40)

3. “These priests are human too, how can they hear and absolve my sins, aren’t they just as prone to sin?”

  • As Catholics we believe that Jesus intended to give authority to his apostles to guide, teach, forgive and heal the followers of Christ to come. And, that they in turn in succession handed down this authority.

” And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19.

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

  • Yet, this question also points to the need for forgiveness for all of us, as a result of our human condition and our inclination to sin. St. John Paul II went to reconciliation frequently as did newly sainted St. Teresa of Calcutta who is noted for going 2-3 times a week for even venial sins.

“It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation.  Those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress, will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives.” St. JP II[3]

4. Finally, “Didn’t they just go to reconciliation? So why are they still  (*mean, rude etc.) ?

First obviously this question implies a bit of judgement of others rather than looking at our own walk of faith. Yet, to address the intended issue, does this sacrament have the grace and power to effect true and lasting change? Yes, but again we have a propensity and inclination to sin and our sins are not always exactly the same. Reconciliation is a sacrament that is intended to be received again and again throughout our lives either individually or with the community. So, it does not “end with the words of absolution”, but “in order to achieve it’s purpose it must take root in their whole lives”.[4]

In Reconciliation we are giving the opportunity to experience and celebrate God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness in our lives and in community. God isn’t as concerned with the “mistakes” but with repairing the relationship that has suffered.

Think for a moment about your relationship with your best friend.

If you think about your relationship with God, how could this be better? Have you made time for your friendship with God in prayer, answered his calls of love and grace? Have you said sorry when you realize that you have chosen to act unloving?

Remember, our choices not only hurt ourselves but effect our relationship with God, and so many others that we encounter daily. Mercy and forgiveness are waiting-take time today to be reconciled.

Peace,

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[1] McKenna, Meagan. (1997) Rites of Justice. New York. Orbis Books

[2] Richstatter, Thomas. O.F.M, S.T.D. (1990) “Ten Tips for Reconciliation: The Gift of Reconciliation”. Catholic Update. Ohio. Catholic Update.

[3] Pope John Paul II,  Conference of the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome. March 27, 2004.

[4] Kane, Thomas. Healing God’s People: Theological and Pastoral Approaches.Rite of Penance 7b.

Worth Revisiting: Finding Patience

Have you met Faith, Hope and Charity in your own life?  Intended for our youngest readers ages 4-8, Finding Patience is a very endearing introduction to these extraordinary gifts from God.  When 8 year old Faith moves with her family to a new home and school, her initial excitement fades as she encounters the daunting challenge of making new friends.  Encouraged to seek patience in prayer, Faith soon finds the love and support of her family and a new puppy to help her persevere. This time also prepares Faith with a true appreciation for what was to come next…a new friend!

As we have come to discover in our own lives, the experience of change and disappointment doesn’t begin when we are old enough to equip ourselves with ready answers or are accustomed to waiting patiently. Much less is patience something acquired once and for all, but as with the other virtues, is a gift that we are to grow in throughout our lives. This as young Faith demonstrates so well requires perseverance.

flower-1-1527160Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  (James 1:2-3)

While so often we struggle to attain even a good measure of patience in our lives, this struggle is incredibly important. For, when tested we do have a choice- to give up to discouragement  or lift up and lean into God. When we actively persevere in trusting God, in his timing and will, it is then we receive that inner strength needed to endure whatever trial we face in our lives.  Only then, do we get to enjoy in the fullness of all that God desires for each of us –true peace and love.

For most of my early life, I believed myself to be patient. Since, accepting the failures and faults of others came quite naturally. What I did not do, however, is practice patience with myself and God’s timing with my own life. Meeting obstacles by seeking to control all conditions involved, I was left with anything but peace. I thought that God would act quickly, and if he hadn’t was depending on me to do my part to move things into place. Then, when things didn’t go as planned, I felt this was only because I had failed to execute the plan perfectly.

Like 8 year old Faith, I didn’t realize right away that waiting, and practicing patience, was an active journey in virtue. Exercising patience, unlike seeking control, requires a choice of placing the situation in the hands of God rather than solely your own. It is trusting in the outcome that God has in store and finding peace in the midst of it. As Christian parents, we seek to teach our children not only how to get through life but how to discern fully and follow Christ with each step along the way. The virtues are spiritual tools to do just that. So, why not start today on this path with your child to learn and grow in virtue?

 

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Worth Revisiting: Conformity or Conversion

“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” Luke 5:33-39

This Gospel reading really struck home as just moments before I had received an unexpected call from someone about to enter a mandated rehab program. Knowing that I was to speak with this young man later, I found myself considering both the change offered in the new wine and the comfort he has found in the old wineskin. Was he really ready to accept a dissimilar mode of intoxication, a radical way of moving through the life he had been accustomed to?  Or was this opportunity to be lost, unable to be readily accepted in the worn and toughened shell he conveyed?

Whether we choose to admit it or not, his story is not unlike our own. For, so too our daily choices in life help to fashion the shape and degree of flexibility of our own wineskins to accept the transformative message of the Gospel.  The constricting nature of many of our decisions can leave us feeling either trapped in a life not of our choosing or content with an accustomed conformity with what is known.

And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

And yet, how much sweeter is the promised new wine that Christ has in store for each of us! Even though spiritual conditioning, prayer and reflection may have softened the skin, we may not be ready to accept the total conversion of heart that is required. Instead we seem perplexed when seeking to take a bit of new wine and mix it with the old it does not blend well.  Leaving us dissatisfied and wondering if we should have tried to change at all. Why is this? Well, quite simply, the life altering message of Christ does not fit into old destructive behaviors, or is it content with half-hearted measures with no conviction.  This new wine holds the assurance of new life and new possibilities that can only be received when we are willing to give up conformity for conversion.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Blessed Mother Teresa

 †     Where in my life have I become stiffened and resistant to change? Is the pull of temptation, addictions, or conformity to the world keeping me from even desiring the new life God has waiting for me? Am I satisfied with observing empty practices or am I seeking greater meaning in my life today? 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: The Gift of Retreat

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For the last two years, I have been given the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations is enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longs to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Assuming Mary

For those that have grown up in the Catholic faith, this feast is well known perhaps at times a bit too familiar. Do we stop and take the time to truly ponder the life of Mary as we celebrate this honor bestowed on a life well lived? Or do we simply take for granted Mary’s yes and assume we know her while failing to see the implications for our lives today?


Assuming Mary

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” John 19:26-27 NAB

Like all good movies, there will most definitely be a prequel and subsequent sequels to this conversational confession of my conversion to Catholicism. Yet, with the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption today, I could not bear to let this day pass without sharing my own journey of rediscovery of Mary. Not having grown up in the Catholic faith, I knew of Mary, but did not truly know her. For, while well acquainted with biblical stories, I still never fully reflected on God’s choosing, her response, or her role in the life of the Church. Beginning with an initial inquisitiveness, this path has led me through faith, scripture and onto a pursuit of heart and mind to understand who Mary is and truly wants to be, in my life today.

My confirmation day in the faith was the equivalent of suddenly finding out that you have family- all over the world, spanning centuries of belief , that are joining in on the celebration. That not only are you part this timeless, vast community, but they are to be a part of you as well, and in the struggles, hopes and joys that are to be encountered.  This is such an incredible immeasurable gift that quite honestly I feel I have been unwrapping it ever since that day! So too has been the journey of getting to know our mother Mary. No longer is she resting still in the shadows of the nativity scene, just one of the many characters of a beloved story but an indelible part of my own story as a woman of faith.

mary&babyJesus
The Manger by Gertrude Kasebier

Paramount to this animation of faith, is that in considering her as God’s chosen, I am compelled to also recognize Mary’s beautiful choice to add her “Yes” to God. In doing so, she modeled a faith so pure and trusting, expressive of her love of God and desire for service, that in this moment she became the very first disciple.  At the tender age of probably 14 or 15, she possessed an awareness of the situation before her, expressed deep acceptance and commitment, and spent a lifetime of learning and growing in faith and understanding. Isn’t this what we too desire in our own lives as Christian daughters, sisters, and mothers? Do we not want to be known by our love, dedicated lives of service with hands and feet that lead others to Jesus? Following Mary’s guidance, over the last few years, I began recommitting myself to God at the start of each new day. Before my eyes even open, and despite my inclination to stay in bed,

  I simply say “Thank you God for the gift of this new day”. Then quite deliberately before my feet hit the floor I say “Yes!”. To what you might ask? It is my yes to what God has in store for me, in the ability to accept the unknown as opportunities of grace and the choice to be a part of God’s loving plan in my life.

So too has it been in my life as a mom. With each of my three children, I have prayed, “Lord please grant me a healthy child that is loved, nurtured and is to flourish within. May I be worthy of this gift of life, and may you continue to guide me in guiding him or her in the light of your love”. (Lk. 1:39-56) For me, Mary has been a part of God’s promise to do just that- to become a constant guiding light for my children. Equally as true, she has comforted me when I have been at wits end, seeking more patience than that day had allowed. In keeping with this very thought, one of my favorite scriptures as a parent has been the finding of Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:41-52). Tangibly, I can sense the very real frustration, and “anxiety” of Mary and Joseph as they, having searched for 3 days, finally discover him teaching all present including themselves.  It is said that Mary, not fully understanding, took her Son’s words and “kept all this in her heart”. 

Yes Lord, when I have failed to understand the why I too need to keep your words in my heart.

This is no more fully witnessed than at the foot of the cross. Oh, the profound sorrow that she as a mom felt at the loss of her Son, and the love poured out for a rejecting world! Yet, here too Mary was asked to meet this both with an open acceptance, and allow God to transform the pain into the hope of salvation. Even in Mary’s life, there is transformation, for in the simplicity of Jesus’ presentation of the gift of Mary to John we begin to grasp the importance of the larger family. We are never alone, but part of an immense communion of believers. Thank you God for the hopeful promise that we like Mary will enjoy an eternity with you one day. Until then,

“Father, please use my humble hands, feet, voice, and heart to serve you as you will.”

In Christ Always,

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Worth Revisiting: CatholicMom Daily Gospel Reflections

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This reflection written for CatholicMom.com a year ago remains a reminder to me that the path of our discipleship is not intended to be an easy one…

Daily Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel: Luke 12: 49-53 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

If taken out of the context of the rest of the Gospel, today’s readings can be both startling and confusing. While Jesus spoke often of peace, his message of the Good News invoked anything but peace for those who were reluctant or unwilling to change. Our society today also misleads in convincingly promoting the possibility to hold in tandem oppositional values of hate-love, greed-generosity, inequality-justice, and indulgence-temperance.

These are the crossroads that each of us faces in our everyday decisions to choose to be transformed by the Gospel. Jesus reminds us here that we cannot pursue both paths if we are to follow him. Our commitment to Christ then is to be a marked division from that which does not embrace the truth of his love.

So too, it is a good reminder that there needs to be a passion and fire about who we are as Catholics and who Jesus is in our lives. Does this mean entering into heated arguments or distancing ourselves from those we love but who live in contradiction to the Gospel? No, then we are neither present nor a compelling witness to the Good News we profess.

What it does entail, however, is mutually opening up to the love of Christ and to the realization that we are, in fact, loved. It is to courageously and persistently witness this truth with our very lives. God is waiting on our yes, Christ is counting on our yes, and the Holy Spirit is there to embolden us with the strength needed to express our yes to others.

Ponder:

Can you remember a time when you decidedly choose between where you felt God was leading you and where others wanted you to go? Why is it such a challenge to veer from the agendas of others?

Pray:

Lord, we ask for your help to not be consumed by the things of this world but transformed by your love. And for those times when are challenged to authentically witness truth and love within our families and communities, may we choose to walk your path and keep our eyes fixed on you.

For more Daily Gospel Reflections visit CatholicMom.com.

Peace,

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