Worth Revisiting: Doorway Into Our Souls III

Other posts on Teresa of Avila’s, An Interior Castle can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2

Persevering in our journey through the Interior Castle with Teresa of Avila we reflect on the 4th dwelling place..

Finally willing to submit and surrender to God’s working within, we have recognized that the life giving water which suddenly floods our soul is a gratuitous gift. Far greater than we could have imagined, this wellspring of grace inspires, renews and strengthens us to endure with greater patience any trial to come. It is such a gift that we desire to experience this over those things which formerly brought us joy and satisfaction. With the heart we now are drawn toward the shepherd’s voice, a soft gentle whistle that invites us further inward promising peace and love.

The Fifth Dwelling Place

As we progress in our spiritual journey, Teresa observes that we are drawn further inward to a “prayer of union”[1] with God, a ‘cocoon in which we experience a brief dying of self to reemerge reborn in Christ’[2]. In doing so, our transformed soul, like a little butterfly, is “restless” in the things of this world and unable to “recognize itself”. [3] This we see clearly in Teresa’s life experience as she sought to reconcile her contemplative life with the necessary affairs of the world. She describes this experience within the fifth dwelling place as an initial trial or a cross that is carried, when all we desire is to be in union with God again[4] Still, we are humbled when we imagine the smallness of our trials in comparison with the Passion of Christ and His suffering at seeing our offenses. [5] It is here that she also begins to speak of this time in union as courting, or brief glimpses where God grants mercy so that they might get to know the other more, and ultimately desire sole union.[6]

What is it to recognize my soul’s inner transformation in the world? Does my love for God find its intrinsic connection and outer expression with the love of neighbor?

Yet, our desire for union alone is not enough, as we discover a time of still greater trials in preparation for a spiritual engagement in the sixth dwelling place. In this time, Teresa vividly describes pages from her own journey in which she faced disbelief, jealousy, fear, illness, praise and persecution, towards the intimate spiritual favors that she received.  Praise, she notes, is perhaps a greater trial since we know that all good things come from God and our soul, aware of its faults, feels completely undeserving of such favor.[7] Even so, we are given moments of merciful “sunlight” that dispel the trials and awaken us with a resounding “thunderclap” to hear His call again.[8] Thus, when God so desires he pursues further in choosing to silence our outer senses and move our soul into eruptions of ecstasy and intense awakening.[9] Our soul is swept away in the grandeur of God, privy to the mysteries of heaven, and chosen in betrothal as God’s own.[10] This experience is so profound that it leaves a certainty in our soul, deep humility in our hearts, and abundant praise on our lips for the One who has called us into such intimacy.[11] Still, Teresa realized from her own error, that we cannot remain absorbed in anticipation of rapture that we neglect contemplation of Christ and the practice of virtues.[12]

Take a moment: Have there been intense moments of sunlight, rays of mercy in my life when the trials or challenges seemed to be the greatest?   Have I experienced an awakening to God’s intimate presence within- so profoundly that I embrace the encounter, am drawn into wonder and compelled to praise?

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Worth Revisiting: Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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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: The Wit & Wisdom of Waiting

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Psalm 130:5-6 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

This Advent, I begin again by  asking myself a seemingly simple question.. What am I truly waiting for? And while expectantly awaiting the answer, there are, of course,  a myriad of other questions that the very posing of this question precipitates.

Where am I seeking God today and what is it that which fuels my desire in life?

 Am I doing all that is needed to prepare my heart and the place for that which I desire?

So, there is, I believe, an active component to waiting, filled with hope and promise. As well as, the invitation to respond by encountering the present moment-giving our fullest attention to our God who meets us in the midst of our everyday lives.

In the words of the saints and perhaps soon to be saints..

1. Advent is a time of waiting, of expectation, of silence. Waiting for our Lord to be born. A pregnant woman is so happy, so content. She lives in such a garment of silence, and it is as though she were listening to hear the stir of life within her. One always hears that stirring compared to the rustling of a bird in the hand. But the intentness which which one awaits such stirring is like nothing so much as a blanket of silence. – Dorothy Day

2. Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you.
St. Thomas Aquinas

3. Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for… Waiting for God is an active, alert — yes, joyful — waiting. -Fr. Henri Nouwen

4. Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.”  St. Augustine of Hippo

5. 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.” Thomas Merton

6. If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it. – St. Thomas of Villanova

—–God waiting for us-

7. When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

8. He loves, He hopes, He waits. If He came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for Him, and not finding Him, might have to wait. Our Lord prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years rather than keep him waiting one instant. -St. Julian Peter Eymard

9. No one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before him, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from him what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve.”                                                 -Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis

10. The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us, and so sad, because it is completely the opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you…he loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy.

-St. Teresa of Calcutta

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Praying with Teresa of Avila Part II

In continuation of our journey through the Interior Castle with Teresa of Avila we may find ourselves approaching the third dwelling place.

Through an initial curiosity and muddling in prayer we have heard God calling us. Rather than waiting at the door we have entered to discover the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. And in coming to know God, we begin to see ourselves both as we are as well as who we are intended to be. Desiring to know how we can ever repay the love and mercy shown to us in the course of our lives, and while failing or falling short immeasurably at times we feel beckoned to trust.

Upon entering the third dwelling, we are reminded that while we are perhaps living lives free of mortal sin and practicing acts of prayer and penance, that humility and praise remain essential. In this state, we are in need of humility to guard against both satisfaction and self-criticism, and to free ourselves from attachments to material gains of this earth.[1] While the focus still seems to be on us rather than on God, this time of reflection is needed to shed that which does not bring us true happiness.

What is it that holds me back from true freedom…from following God’s will in my life?

Can I recognize the spiritual gifts that God has given to aid me in persevering?

Souls here will find it helpful to consult a mentor or spiritual director that has passed through this room previously. Teresa had several advisors and confessors, like Diego de Cetina and Francis Borgia, that provided reassurance and guidance to keep focused on the humanity of Christ and his passion.[2] This provides a greater awareness of God’s consolations, and leads us to praise that still more is being asked of us in working towards His loving desires of peace and justice.[3]

In seeking God’s will, we are then guided to the fourth dwelling place where we discover how to rely less on the intellect in prayer, to achieve the spiritual delights that Christ has for us. Up to this point, we have perhaps enjoyed consolations which begin with our determined prayerful meditation and end in God’s love.[4] Yet, in spiritual delights we begin with a desire “not to think much but to love much…. to please God in everything, and in striving, insofar as possible, not to offend him”.[5] Thus, the source of spiritual delights begins and ends in God’s love, as an abundant stream “deep within us” that “swells and expands our whole interior being producing ineffable blessings”.[6] While aware and attentive now to this experience of being in the wake of God’s love, we cannot choose when or how it occurs.[7] We therefore, should not seek these delights but rather humbly surrender our intellect to God’s voice within, to accept these gifts as God sees fit to bestow them.[8]

Am I open today to being surprised by God’s love and consolations?

Peace,

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[1] Avila, p. 60-61
[2] New Catholic Encyclopedia, pp. 827-828
[3] Avila, pp. 64-65.
[4] Ibid., p. 69.
[5] Ibid., p. 70.
[6] Ibid., p. 75.
[7] Ibid. p. 79.
[8] Ibid., pp. 78, 81.

Confirmation: Our Call to Become Saints

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This weekend, 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: Joy

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Joy is such a desired virtue and yet so often we settle for poor substitutes or temporary glimpses of happiness. Where is joy to be found and what is required of us? Let’s take a walk with the saints and soon-to-be saints today..

The following are my top 15 quotes (in no particular order) on joy.

  1. Joy does not simply happen to us-we have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. Henri J. M.Nouwen
  2. ” Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.” — St. Philip Neri
  3. Peace begins with a smile—smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at all—do it for peace. So let us radiate peace…and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power. — St.Teresa of Calcutta
  4. “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”― Pope FrancisThe Church of Mercy
  5. Be humble, be simple-bring joy to others.― St. Madeline Sophie Barat
  6. Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy..it is a net of love by which you can catch souls.. ― St.Teresa of Calcutta
  7. The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he in his goodness sends to us day after day. ―  Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
  8. Jesus is happy to come with us, as truth is happy to be spoken, as life to be lived, as light to be lit, as love is to be loved, as joy to be given, as peace to be spread.
    Saint Francis of Assisi
  9. “People are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answerto this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him.  Pope John Paul II (World Youth Day 2002)
  10. “Joy is the most infallible sign of
    the presence of God.”
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  11. How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. —Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel (261).
  12. Once, when I was praying, Jesus pervaded all my soul, darkness melted away, and I heard these words within me: You are My joy; you are My heart’s delight. From that moment I felt the Most Holy Trinity in my heart; that is to say, within myself. I felt that I was inundated with Divine light. Since then, my soul has been in intimate communion with God, like a child with its beloved Father. Saint Faustina
  13. “Laugh and grow strong” — St. Ignatius of Loyola
  14. “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it’s right.”
    ― Dorothy Day
  15. “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us”-Saint Teresa of Avila

With

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Wit & Wisdom: Sacrifice

“It is by the apostolic preaching of the Gospel that the people of God is called together and gathered so that all who belong to this people, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, may offer themselves ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’.”

Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 2

With Lent fast approaching, this word sacrifice frequently looms and weighs upon our hearts as something undesired or sought after and yet something we are being asked to pursue. Could it be that we are working with a poor understanding of the rich true meaning of what it is to sacrifice? First as Christ has shown, and St. Paul reiterates, a sacrifice isn’t static or dead. In fact, rather than as an action performed it is more of a state of being. We are to be a ‘living sacrifice’, a testament to the continual love we have come to know as followers of Christ.

So, then we are brought to the heart of the matter. Sacrifice flows out of love. One cannot truly offer sacrifice without having experienced love otherwise it becomes a complaint ridden, shallow and inadequate substitute. It also entails giving of ourselves at a cost- from our need rather than our surplus. Just like the widow’s might, this is what it is to give and witness love.

As a young mom, I remember the countless sleepless nights- of feedings and changings, of fevers and nightmares, as well as, the meager availability of sleep and time. Yet, I cannot imagine making any other choice, than to give all that I am for the life and welfare of this great love entrusted to me. Sacrifice then also carries with it gratitude and responsibility. It is a graced notion of incorporation, for the needs of others can then remarkably become our own.

This Lent, take a moment to think of the profoundly beautiful invitation to sacrifice, to be a living witness to the love of a Father, the gift of the Son and of the Spirit’s renewal of hearts and lives.

Am I seeking to be transformed this Lent?

Is my sacrifice deep and life affirming? If not, what might God be asking me to do differently?

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving…Without sacrifice there is no love.” –Maximillian Kolbe

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“True love grows by sacrifice and the more thoroughly the soul rejects natural satisfaction the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes…”           –Teresa of Avila

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

 ― Thérèse de Lisieux

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. I want to see you as a sacrifice of living love, which only then carries weight before Me… And great will be your power for whomever you intercede. Outwardly, your sacrifice must look like this: silent, hidden, permeated with love, imbued with prayer.”

– Diary of Saint Faustina

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”-St. Ignatius Loyola

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”- Mother Teresa

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Those who are willing to lose their own consolation for their neighbors’ welfare receive and gain me and their neighbors…and so they enjoy the graciousness of my charity at all times. […] Then she must love her neighbors with such affection that she would bear any pain of torment to win them the life of grace, ready to die a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for their salvation. And all her material possessions are at the service of her neighbors’ physical needs.” –Saint Catherine of Sienna

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens.
If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”       –Dorothy Day

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love.”

Pope Francis

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Love Jesus, love Him very much, but to do this, be ready to love sacrifice more”. –Padre Pio

Peace,

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Review-Oscar Romero:Prophet of Hope

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As a witness to the ever growing unrest, poverty and violence in San Salvador, Oscar Romero heard and responded to his calling with holiness and unbelievable fortitude. This biography by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca is extremely well researched and informative on the recently beatified and hopefully soon-to-be saint. So much so, that its author was invited as an expert to the consideration of the cause of sainthood for this passionate shepherd and martyr for the faith. The following are quotes taken from this biography that poignantly speak of the soul of the man who will be forever remembered in the heart of the people. I highly recommend this work as a valuable resource and primer on the life and witness of Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero.

On Being a Jesuit: 

“The Exercises of St. Ignatius [of Loyola] are a personal effort to put Christianity into practice. They are not the great principles of revelation or the magisterium, but the personal conversation with God. ‘I have seen God’ Jacob said. This must be my yearning, ‘Speak to me Lord’”. (p.6)

File:MOAR 3.jpgOn Being a Priest:

Perhaps it may surprise you but as Morozzo della Rocca affirms- Blessed Oscar Romero was at his core a traditionalist. He proudly wore a cassock, was committed to the Rosary, fasting, examinations of conscience, deep prayer life, supported Opus Dei and had a profound love for the people he served.

On Being a Bishop:

Rather than a supervisory or administrative role Oscar Romero saw the role of a bishop as one who “is essentially a pastor, a father, a brother, a friend. He journeys with other people, sows hope along their path, urges them to seek peace, in justice and love, and teaches them to be brothers and sisters.” (p. 49)

Still accused by some to be a supporter of socialism, he was ardent in his opposition to the separation of the inherent connection between God and man that Communism and Marxism advocated..

On Communism:

“The serious decisive reason why Christianity will always be anti-Communist is above all that Communism denies God and Christianity affirms God” p. 15

File:Óscar Arnulfo Romero with Pope John Paul.jpgOn Vatican II:

“‘Renewal’ the Church has cried, and no one will be able to stop this renewal because the Holy Spirit is blowing… It is not just a restoration of the Church’s prestige, which convinces no one, but a firm and open minded renewal that makes the church appear simpler and more biblical.” (p.22)

“The best thing is to live today more than ever according to the classic axiom: think with the church” (p.23)

“Tradition and progress go together”… “it is not uncommon to come across people who would like a clear decisive break with the past and to meet others who with systematic resistance oppose any form of renewal or adaptation…The conciliar position is a position of integration which brings about a vital synthesis of these two forces, Tradition and liberty.” (pp. 37-38)

Conversion or Fortitude?

What some have called a conversion others close to the bishop described more as a growing awareness to the socio-historical conditions and strength or fortitude to respond to these circumstances out of a deep faith. “Because the Church was faithful to her mission of evangelizing by fostering the conscience of society and by denouncing the injustices and abuses of authority, all these things made the Church the object of persecution…I believed in conscience that God was calling me and giving me a special pastoral fortitude that contrasted with my temperament and my conservative inclinations. I thought that it was my duty to take a positive stand to defend my Church, and on behalf of my Church to stand with my greatly oppressed people.” (p.81)

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A commemoration of those killed in the Civil war in San Salvador, El Salvador

On Violence:

Romero, as della Rocca observes, was a man of non-violence, of forgiveness not hatred ..and yet equally noted is that at the time.. “neutrality was nearly impossible”. In one of his last homilies he speaks that “ It is time for reconciliation..how irreconcilable they seem the Left’s denunciation of the right and the right’s hatred of the left..those in the middle say let violence come from wherever it may, it is cruel in either case. So we live in polarized groups”. (p. 92)

On Being a Church of the Poor:

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Pedro  Casaldaliga, cc. Carolina Batista

“Let us not look for Christ in the opulence of the world, amid the idolatry of wealth amid the desire for power, amid the intrigue of the great. Let us seek God among the undernourished children who have gone to bed tonight with nothing to eat..among the poor newsboys who will sleep tonight in doorways covered in newspapers..The God of the poor has assumed all that and is teaching [us] the redemptive value of human pain- the value that poverty, suffering and the cross have to redeem the world” (p. 114)

Finally, as della Roca observes, Blessed Oscar Romero could have fled but didn’t. Instead, Romero remained “faithful to God and the mission” in the face of certain persecution and death.Signature

To Honor the Innocents

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“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”                         Matthew 2:16-18

 As Augustine noted these “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief”. In remembering them, I cannot help but also be reminded of the countless martyrs that have given their lives long after them.

This Christmas,Pope Francis spoke to the “brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis. These are “our martyrs of today,” those brothers and sisters, he said, “who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith…”

ABC News on Dec. 23, 2015 reports that Iraq’s Christian population has dropped from 1.3 million people in the 1997 census to about 650,000 now. Lebanon, who has taken on many of Syria’s refugees, is an area where according to the NY Times Christians in 1925 constituted 85% of the population now constitute less than a quarter. The recent bombings in Beruit and Paris, as well as the attacks in Mali, and Tunisia this November show little regard for unarmed or innocent citizens.

What can we do?

Pray and…work – with courage towards promoting change, real substantive change. This means having a goal that involves more than just eliminating Isis, for as history has proven, there are others that will merely step into their place. Looking at the underlying problems of poverty, unstable governments with recruitment of child soldiers, not to mention human and drug trafficking we see that there is fertile ground for violence. Are we ready not just to fight but to witness God kingdom in the world? Are we prepared to get to the work of education, justice and peace?  Then, there is also a true need for dialogue, and reconciliation.

My mom, a high school math teacher in a very poor area of the south, understood this well. Her classes consisted of students who others had already given up on, those who were absent due to fights, arrests, drugs or early pregnancies. An expected typical day or life for a student, or child was not typical for them. Many were living the only life they knew, in cycles of violence, dependence and poverty where few had ever taken an interest in their potential. That is, before my mom. Meeting with students before and after school to mentor, she also created homework and make up for long extended absences and most importantly…let them know she cared. Years later, on innumerable occasions she would be stopped by a former student, all grown up who would tell her the difference she truly had made in their life.

Though a seemingly small step, these are the actions that each of us can do in promoting peace, and justice in our communities, in living out our faith with courage. In serving as spiritual mothers and fathers we too can nurture the children we encounter and give voice to Holy Innocents whose lives ended too soon.

Peace,

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