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

Gospel Reflections 800x800 gold outline

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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Worth Revisiting: Portraits of Martha and Mary

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Personally, I have always been able to identify strongly with the personality and perspective of Martha. Ingrained with a strong work ethic and desire to serve, I have been often called and always quick to step forward. Discernment and ample grace have even helped me to see how best to use my gifts to help others.  Yet, with a “Martha” disposition there can also be a temptation to frustration and jump to judgement of those not working.  Likewise while true that “many hands make light work”,  not all are being called to serve at that time.

Two different but essential illustrations of what it is to follow Christ in our daily lives are given here. An inner awareness and desire to seek to simply be with Christ as well as an outer response of that encounter with Christ provides a balanced portrait of what a full life in Christ entails. For how can we serve fully without time and prayer spent at the feet of Jesus? Without our labor being sourced and steeped in love from the One who is love itself? This is the better part that Jesus speaks of- that continual respite and turning of our hearts to God and the journey he has intended. Pulled by the pace of the day and the weight and concerns of life we may have found that we have wandered far away.

Becoming Mary

With a quick cup of coffee, light breakfast and short reflection I pause as I head out the door. Having tended to the most immediate needs of my family, I recognize all of the others things that were left undone. Laundry that needs to be folded, homework that needs supervision, and errands to be run. Very easily I could (as before) allow these loose ends to consume my thoughts and keep me from becoming Mary. What then is the difference in today? Simply, I have chosen in this moment to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen in silence. An appreciation that though the world is moving swiftly my soul is not. As the sunlight streams through my window and the trees sway in the breeze I am in utter awe for the beauty of the day. As the rain beats upon the windshield in the grey of the day I feel refreshed again. Whatever the day might bring, it is here in the place of Mary that I find rest and am able to see God in every detail. Though broken and imperfect, I am loved and this time with my beloved is beyond measure. No longer far away , though the Eucharist I find myself ever closer- intimately sharing in the very real presence of Christ. Breaking into my day, God has confirmed that I am where I am meant to be.

Active like Martha

If our journey were to remain here, I am sure that you might agree it is a graced place to be. And still, like the disciples our path of discipleship carries us out into the world to share this love that we have received. Within our families and communities there is a hunger for love and a tendency to be fed by everything that leaves us unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The need and work ahead can seem overwhelming if we go it alone. That is just it- having spent time with our Father we know we are not alone in the work that we do. Our prayer lifted, our petitions spoken, now with Martha we step ahead. With faith in the one who is always faithful, we seek guidance and strength to be attentive to the needs of others. Following Christ is not passive, but calls forth from us a response and a challenge. Though we know through scripture that Jesus spent much time in prayer he also encountered. The lost, broken, and marginalized sought, taught and healed were not to be his alone.

 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Wherever you are in your walk of Christian discipleship take time today to rediscover Mary and Martha. We have much to learn from these two close friends of Jesus, and all of the saints in discerning the path ahead.

Peace,

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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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Worth Revisting: Theology and Spirituality

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Sandra Schneiders, defines spirituality as the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.”  “Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?” Santa Clara Lectures v.6. no. 2, Feb 6, 2000.

In Schneiders discussion of spirituality, she begins with a very narrow understanding and use of the term in regards to the intensification of an interior prayer life, and communally within a guided retreat setting. As described, it seems limited in its effect where its participants seek to leave the everyday world to experience the Holy Spirit in a contained setting. This level is then expanded somewhat in a second approach to be a transformative experience intended to affect not just one’s prayer life but a lived increase of an everyday life of faith and service. The third approach encompasses both of these but redefines our prior catholic understanding of the body and emotions as something outside the realm of spirituality to include these in lived spirituality. Lastly, we have the broadest approach which also considers how one’s spirituality and life experience can and has impacted the world both politically and socially. Even to reflect that one’s own worldview, and life experience itself is a product of and affected by the historical social contexts of the world around us. In moving concentrically outward in depth of experience of spirituality, we also move from a narrow understanding given to a chosen pious group of believers to that which can be shared by all, and essential in a holistic life in the world.

For the majority of my life, I would say that I have understood spirituality primarily within the second approach. Growing up I had been given a wonderful role model of spirituality in my grandmother, whose prayer and faith life radiated not just within her own life but in all those who journeyed with her. Like her, I have desired and seek to live my faith both in prayer and within the entirety of my everyday experience. Therefore, when I attended the Cursillo retreat several years ago, it wasn’t novel- but first of all a re-commitment to give all aspects of my life to God and seek greater discernment in my path of discipleship.

It is in this discernment journey that I have begun to understand the tie of spirituality to that of the body and emotions. How can I better impart the gift of being a woman, wife, mother, and friend in the realities of life and share fruitfully the gift of love wholly? In my studies at Loyola, I recognize this approach to a lived spirituality calling me to broaden my horizons again from the microcosm of my immediate community to that of the world at large. As a hopeful “awakener” of the faith, I understand that the questions of those I encounter are ones that have the potential to allow each to find meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world.

Yet what is the dialogical relationship between spirituality and theology, and how do they impact one another? 

Very broadly, spirituality and theology appear as seekers in trying to understand the mystery of and our relationship with the Other, and in a perfect dialogical relationship can add support, understanding and indeed life to the journey. Visually, I see this as one’s left hand and right hand, which are both needed together in prayer, supporting the other in receiving communion (i.e. the Eucharist), and in reaching out and serving as communion to others. While one can perform these actions one-handed, or allowing one hand to dominate, it is in the partnership that one can embrace the fullness of the opportunity set before us. Thus, we look to the unique contributions that both spirituality and theology can provide to understand the breadth of the human experience and relationship with God.

According to Schneiders, Christian spirituality is both a lived awareness and experience of seeking God, which involves our whole self but goes beyond our finite selves, and which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. [1] This is compatible with how I also understand spirituality as a conscious commitment to seek God in all things that is dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Likewise, I would agree that although Christian spirituality is a personal experience, it also involves a community of believers.[2] This is clearly visible in the experience of the disciples and early church but is also true in the contemporary experience of spirituality.

Yet, today we can benefit from centuries of faith understandings to fully appreciate our own experience of spirituality. This is where theology can inform, inspire, “criticize”, and “challenge”[3] this lifetime journey by providing a degree of structure, points of reflection, and others’ experiences for the believer to consider. Without a backdrop or context in which to place one’s experience, how could one interpret the similarity or uniqueness of it at all?  Conversely, theology without adequate spirituality provides theoretical truths and boundaries, but lacks the witness to the Spirit continually at work in the unique experience of the individual. The role of theology should therefore be to guide and not “control” the field or “subordinate” experience of spirituality.[4] Rather, in partnering with spirituality, theology is enlivened, dynamic and transformative reflecting also the contemporary lived experience of its believers.

Peace,

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[1] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[2] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[3] Schneiders, pgs. 270-271. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[4] Schneiders, p. 273. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”

Worth Revisiting: The Sound of Silence

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Couldn’t help but revisit this post this week as Friday, I go on a 5 day silent Ignation retreat at Campion Jesuit House. Truly looking forward to the sound of silence and and some much needed father-daughter time.

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
But the word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

(1 KGS 19:9A; 11-12)

This reading is certainly one of my favorites from the Old Testament, not because of the thundering noise, or the overwhelming displays of nature but because of a whisper. A small nondescript sound, undetectable on one’s own, but always there over, under and amidst a world of noise and chaos. It’s presence reminds us of small everyday ways that God moves and speaks in our lives. So too is the reminder that if we do not stop to listen, get distracted by the things that vie for our attention , or fail to seek the Lord we very well miss the Almighty altogether.

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, grass, plant, outdoor and natureYesterday, I opted to bring my lunch outside to simply sit and share a few uninterrupted moments with the Lord. Like Elijah, I felt the cool breeze, and the sun on my face. I heard the birds and the children at play in the schoolyard. And, while all of this was quite beautiful and pleasing, it wasn’t where I had discovered God.Responding to an inner prompting, I closed my eyes..I quieted the sounds around me till all I could hear was silence.

Yet, this wasn’t the first time I had done so. Many years ago I had been given my 1st penance as a new convert, to go and spend some quiet time alone with God for one week. An unusual penance you say? True, I had been all ready to say a Hail Mary or an Our Father and move on along with my walk as a disciple. However, my very spiritually astute confessor recognized that surrounded by midterms, the law school exam and wedding planning what I was missing. That behind my words and sins of impatience and pride..was a need for silence.

Seemingly nothing, silence is not an absence of anything but a overwhelming abundance of a peaceful state of being. A stillness of body and soul, at rest with one’s self and the world. Unable to be at peace with one’s self or others, then an appreciation of silence will forever evade. For, silence demands a responsiveness and reciprocity to shed restlessness and concerns to simply receive what is there. This is why so many contemplative saints speak of an intimacy with God,because they had been ready to hear and respond to the whisper in their hearts.

If I may encourage,albeit challenge you- take time today to spend alone with God. It need not be a lengthy unbearable stay but a time set aside just to be open and present. What you may receive in doing so is beyond measure.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Living Privilege

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privilege
noun priv·i·lege \ˈpriv-lij, ˈpri-və-\

  • : a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

  • : a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud      (Merriam-Webster)

I grew up in a single parent home, the daughter and granddaughter of educators, not affluent but replete with love and the basic necessities of life. While I didn’t always like the food or the clothes I had, I never spent a day hungry or lacking shelter. Instilled in me was the understanding that despite the meager and lean times, there were always others who had so much less. I was indeed privileged.

One day when I was about 6, a young woman with three young children in tow approached the door of my house. I had recognized the two little toddlers clinging on her dress from the neighborhood, and had curiously wondered where they actually lived. Entering, they were unusually quiet and withdrawn not even wanting to make eye contact. Immediately  inviting them to take a seat, my mom got quickly to work. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, she had produced a fine meal from our dinner the night before. And using our best tableware she welcomed these new visitors as honored guests. The once shy faces lit up as they saw all of the food before them and boisterously became themselves once again.

Asking  me then to go and play with them for a bit, my mom sat down with their mother as she fed the infant in her arms. In hushed tones they spoke, their conversation forever remaining just between them. Packing up more food and clothing for them to carry with them, my mom reminded them that they could always return. This they did, though not staying for any great length of time. I asked my mom once why she gave, when that merely meant that we had less that week, or had given up that shirt she had just purchased with the tags still on it.

“This is what it means to love unconditionally”, she told me, “to care for others more than yourself. You may not understand this today but you and I have been blessed with the opportunity to share”.

This is the very definition of privilege and with it comes a tremendous responsibility to do all this with great love. Perhaps you do not feel that you have much to give or that others more able will step up to help. Yet, you have what only you can give…yourself. God knows your struggles, your needs and desires but he also knows your gifts. After all, he gave them to you. You see the world and ask why it all seems so troubling and unchanging- it begins with each of us to be the change in the world around us. One life at a time, every day anew. I promise that one life that will most certainly be changed is our own.

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them” – St. Teresa of Lisieux

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Overcoming Disappointment

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“We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’d venture to say, that each of us has experienced disappointment numerous times in our lives. There are the daily goals that don’t work out the way we had planned or expected and also those milestone moments that either shape us or rock our world. Sometimes both. Yet, how we understand and overcome disappointment is key to any way forward. For otherwise, we may find ourselves stuck in our imagined happiness rather than open to the happiness and joy that God truly desires for us. The fruits of which we might not realize until much later in life.

When my then fiance’ and I were in our undergraduate years, we began to map out and plan our life together. We knew that as an ROTC officer’s candidate that he would have a corresponding service commitment , one that we were happy to give. So we prayed for his choice of branch and active duty..well one out of two isn’t bad.  You see, active duty would have afforded a more certain path in terms of job and home security and for a newly married couple that was very attractive.    Having scored in the top percentage  for his flight school entrance exam he received his choice of branch, but to our surprise was not slotted for an active duty assignment. Wait, did they not know of our readiness to serve? Did they not see his potential to lead? Oh, and what of our prayers..why did they go unanswered?

Then it hit me..In the course of our prayers, we always ended every petition and prayer with THY WILL BE DONE. If in our faith lives we meant this prayerful intention then we had to take comfort that it truly was. God was looking at our potential and journey and rerouting us to where he knew we needed to be. Why? Because we had asked him to do so. We had invited God to the final say, and now we needed to get on board with the new coordinates and let go of what might have been. When we did so, I have to say God has never ceased to surprise us!

Oh, and through my husband’s time in the Guard and Reserve, we were given many opportunities to lead soldiers and their families in that same discernment process of time and service. Sudden deployment activation held many concerns for these men and women who had never wanted active duty status. Now unexpectedly thrust oversees in tenuous and dangerous situations, we prayed for each of them and their safety. And again at the end of every decade we prayed that it be God’s will.

Yet, don’t just listen to me..here is a bit or wit and wisdom from others..

~GK Chesterton

“Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. ” Chesterton began his writing career not as an college English major, but unexpectedly as an art student and critic. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, it is said that he suffered early on from depression and had also experienced a nervous breakdown. Renown for being absent minded,  he relied on his wife and secretary to help him with the details in life.

~Thomas Merton

“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.”  Long considered a spiritual authority on Trappist contemplation and Christian spirituality, Merton himself initially wanted to be a Franciscan. His writings advocating peace, justice  and religious tolerance remain a continual call to live out our Christian faith in the world around us.

“If we really want prayer, we’ll have to give it time. We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what’s going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves….The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not.”

~Oscar Romero

On proper focus- “If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.” Soon-to-be-saint Romero’s appointment as bishop of San Salvador is said to have been met with great disappointment by his fellow priests and colleagues. And still with ever growing unrest, poverty and violence in San Salvador, Oscar Romero heard and responded to his calling with holiness and unbelievable fortitude. With this passionate shepherd and martyr for the faith, we learn where our true hope lies.

~Dorothy Day

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Lessons Learned From My Mom

This morning as I awoke, I thought of both my heavenly and earthly mothers. With eyes closed, my lips whispered to Mary, “Thank you for your yes- to being the mother of Christ but also for remaining with me when my earthly mother could no longer do so. Please continue to guide me and all those I encounter till my own journey is done. ” Then, with a heart smiling full and complete, enveloped in love and gratitude, today I said Happy Mother’s Day to them mutually.

My mom, the second oldest of four and a high school teacher, met and fell in love with my dad within the span of two weeks. A whirlwind romance, fed by non-substantiating infatuation, they had met, married and divorced in a span of less than two years. Recognizing too late my father’s habits of drinking, and violent mood swings, there was cause for serious concern as she had discovered she was also pregnant with me. She had made the decision to raise me alone.

Mom's1st pic:
Her 1st picture as a new mom!

Though this was not what she had pictured, and despite several close friends advocating an abortion, her faith could not allow for her to make that choice. She felt that the life within her, me, was a gift from God and while unsure of what laid ahead she knew she needed to trust. That summer, as I came into the world my mom said goodbye to my father, never to be heard from again. Nonetheless, a part of my mom always hoped that he would find recovery and reconcile with me one day.

So the lessons I promised? Well, they are many but here are just a few…Mom and I:

1. Trust- not in what the world tells you are the choices before you, but in a bigger plan that only God is aware of. Though you do not have the strength to do it on your own, and when you wonder how you’ll carry on- lean on Him.

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.” (Psalm 121)

2. Love- the gifts given, delight in the surprises around you, seek God and you will most certainly find Him.

“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

As a single parent, on a meager teacher’s salary we did not indulge in big trips, but would go out exploring the world around us. Sometimes we would trip upon a free museum, pack a picnic lunch, go fishing, or drive out to the Mississippi river just to sit with our toes in the bank.

3. Share- what you have with others that are in need, both physically and spiritually. Growing up, I noticed that others certainly had more than me and yet there were so many that had less. One day, when I was about 8, my mom was approached by a young mom with several toddlers in tow asking for help. Without hesitating, she had invited the family to stop by our home for dinner. The little faces that had been downturned and suspicious in the beginning all at once beamed at all the food that lay before them. Before they left, she packed up a few containers for them to take home with the offer to come back again. Upon noticing that there were a number of items missing with their departure, my mom was neither upset nor saddened. “They are more in need of it than us Elizabeth”. To which I learned what it was to give without expectation of return.

4. Encourage- the gifts in others, even those that they fail to see in themselves. My mom was my biggest cheerleader, and my most vocal critic. Sound contradictory? No not at all. You see, she knew that life could be difficult and how easy it is to settle or give in to an easy choice. She pushed me further than I thought I could go, and always pointed to the “more” in the world that God was calling me to do. As a teacher, she inspired her students who came from very difficult and impoverished backgrounds to continue with their education and challenged them to see their gifts. I cannot count the times, over the course of her life that former students would call her or run up with a hug to tell her the difference she had made in their lives. This is the teacher that I strive to be, thank you Mom for teaching me.

 Peace, 

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