Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Personal Encounter With Jesus

It was crowded in Jericho this particular day. News was buzzing around that Jesus would be passing through. Maybe he would preach again; I had heard him in other nearby towns. His words were always captivating and His gaze would hold you where you felt like He could see the deepest parts of you. I stayed around to see if I could hear Him again.
As Jesus approached the center of town, the crowds grew thicker. I noticed, a short distance from me, a man climbing a tree. As I got a better look at this man, I realized I had seen him before; he was Zacchaeus, one of the chief tax collectors. I found it a bit strange that this man, given his occupation, would want to hear Jesus. Well, not just hear Him, but he obviously wanted to see Jesus as well.
I began to wonder even more about why Zacchaeus had climbed that tree. After all, if he could see Jesus from that vantage point then it would be likely that Jesus would notice him. Did he really want that to happen?
I decided I would approach him and ask him myself about his reasons, but as I began to walk toward the tree, Jesus also began to walk toward it; this stopped me dead in my tracks.
What happened next was truly amazing; Jesus called to Zacchaeus by name and told him to come down out of the tree because He wished to dine with him in his home. Most of the people in that crowd knew who and what Zacchaeus was and they hated him for it. Tax collectors were not the most popular people around.
Now I had heard about people having instant changes of heart where they gave up their sorted ways, but I had never seen it happen before my very eyes before. This day I would. Zacchaeus stood before Jesus and told Him he would give half of what he had to the poor and return anything he had extorted from anyone. I had hear these stories of instant repentance before with others who had personal encounters with Jesus.
Jesus and Zacchaeus headed off for Zacchaeus' home. The crowd, still mumbling and grumbling, began to disperse. I began my own walk home and thought much on the way. I thought about my own life, my own sins, and how I wished to have a personal encounter with Jesus. I thought about how brave Zacchaeus was to not only join the crowd, but put himself in a place where he was actually showing himself to Jesus. Then I thought about what Jesus said to Zacchaeus before they walked off; Jesus told him that salvation had come to his house this day. In essence, Zacchaeus was forgiven.
Maybe that is the key to mine and anyone else's personal encounter with Jesus~ we need to have the faith and the courage to show ourselves to Him as we are with a repentant heart. Jesus always seems drawn to those who are sinful but repentant.
It is at this point that I recall earlier words from Scripture. The book of Wisdom tells us that the Lord is the lover of souls and He rebukes sinners little by little, warning and reminding them of their sins. My only response to this can be to praise Him, my king and my God.

My Dear Lord Jesus, lover of my soul, may I never be afraid to show myself to you as I am. May I always be open to the conviction by Your Holy Spirit so as to seek Your mercy and forgiveness for all my sins.
May I praise and bless your name forever.

*Reflection based on Mass readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Oasis In The Desert

I have written here more than a few times about Eucharistic Adoration. Thanks to John Paul II, this devotion has once again been strongly encouraged. Many of my readers already make a regular hour each week. I have done so for the last 7 years.
When I first began this hour with Jesus, I had a bit of a routine when I entered the chapel. I would spend a few minutes telling Jesus of my intentions for this hour, those whom I wish to bring to Him in prayer, as well as my own personal intentions. Then I would spend the next half hour saying a rosary. I know~ most people can say the rosary in 15 to 20 minutes, I need a good half hour~ I have no idea why! Anyway~ after my rosary I would spend the last remaining minutes thanking Jesus for calling me to this time with Him and for His patience in listening to me.
Now there is nothing wrong with this routine, and at times I still stick to it, but over the course of these seven years, I have come to feel more of a desire to just go and be with Jesus. What I say or don't say really is not as important to Him as the fact that I just show up and spend the time with Him. There could be 10 other people in that chapel, but I always feel that it is just Him and me. This also gives Jesus the chance to speak to me. My above routine sometimes does not let Him get a word in edgewise!
These are simply my own personal musings on my own experiences. Others more advanced spiritual souls have written much on this topic. One such soul is Mother Angelica. I recently came across one of her booklets titled To leave and Yet To Stay. Below is a small excerpt from that booklet. In this brief section she speaks about Our Lord in the Tabernacle being an oasis in the desert. She poses the question:"Why do we permit our souls to die of thirst when the Fountain of Living Water is just around the corner?"  So true!
Here is a brief excerpt; you can read more of the booklet by clicking the above link.

…He is Present in the Eucharist to show us the depth of His Love, the lengths He will go to be with us, the longing of His heart to be always near.
It is not important what we say in His Presence. It is only important that we are there—often to let His Presence penetrate our souls and heal us—to shine on our minds, to strengthen our wills, to bring peace in the midst of turmoil. We must be content to be near Him—to let Him work wonders in our souls—to silently absorb the beauty of His self-effacing love—to let the rays of His light penetrate our innermost being and change our stony hearts into hearts of flesh, our rudeness into kindness, our temper into gentleness.
If only we had the humility to realize that He alone is Goodness and makes us good. As soon as we come into His Presence in the Eucharist, our souls respond to the power before them like a sunflower turning toward the sun.
His silent Presence, hidden in the tabernacle, says to each one of us, "I love you. Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you. Come to the fountain of life and drink. Tell Me your problems. Listen to My Voice. I tug at your heart, guiding your way and smoothing your path."
There is between the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and the soul, a silent exchange of love, a sharing of pain, an inaudible dialogue between two who know each other perfectly and love each other deeply.
It is as if the soul sees itself in a perfect Mirror and knows clearly its faults and imperfections. A strange phenomenon occurs as the soul gazes at Jesus, Its own reflection becomes brighter, Its faults fade away and one day that "soul is turned—transformed into the Image it reflected." (2 Cor. 3:18)
This being true, why do we permit our souls to die of thirst when the Fountain of Living Water is just around the corner?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Apostolic Church

 As the Church celebrates the feast of Saints Simon and Jude today, I found myself feeling especially thankful for my Catholic faith which has been handed down to us from the Apostles. Simon and Jude were chosen from among Jesus' many disciples to be two of the twelve Apostles. Jesus shared His life with these twelve men in a special and intimate way, imparting faith and knowledge of God during the three years they followed Him in His earthly ministry.
We don't know much of what these two saints did after the Resurrection, but we do know they lived and eventually died for Christ as martyrs. The Apostles, with Saint Peter as their leader, laid a firm foundation so Christs Church could be built and remain solid. So while our one holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church may take its share of beatings, Jesus promised us that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
In reflecting on these two great saints, along with the other apostles, I began to think about all the riches and treasures we have been given in the Catholic faith. Yes, we have Scripture, the Word of God itself, but we also have Sacred Tradition, along with and through which Scripture should be read and meditated upon. And above all else, we have Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist. He gives Himself to us, sparing nothing for Himself so that we may come to know and love Him now and in the life to come.
May the holy company of Apostles praise God and may we praise Him along with them.
Saints Simon and Jude, pray for us!

*Fr. Mark at Vultus Christi has a beautiful post on these two Apostles and saints.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Those Falsely Accused

 The blog These Stone Walls is written by Fr. Gordon MacRae, a Catholic priest serving a prison sentence for a crime he did not commit. Father has been falsely accused of sexual abuse. For the last three weeks, he has written an enlightening series titled When Priests Are Falsely Accused.
Father Gordon is the first one to say that those who are guilty (and there are those who are) of this heinous crime should be punished; I agree wholeheartedly. However, there are a number of priests who have been falsely accused. The reasons for this vary, but money is often at the root of it. As heinous as sexual abuse is, it is also horrible when those who have not been abused say they are for monetary gain.
If you have never visited These Stone Walls, I urge you to do so. The link for this series will lead you to Part 3 of Father's series; you will find the links for Parts 1 and 2 on that post.
Let us pray for healing~ for those who truly have been abused sexually, for the innocent who have been falsely accused, for those who abuse our justice system, and for our Church.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Seriousness Of Our Faith

 OCD Sister at Louange de sa Gloire posted a homily by a Fr. Altier on the importance of being serious in our faith. The homily was given in 2001 and is important for the times we live in. The line that struck me was: "Right now, we cannot see much of a difference between those who worship God and those who do not." That line was like cold water in the face! But it is a needed one. It is very difficult at times to live our faith and have it show. We shouldn't look like everyone else; there should be marked differences between those of us who worship God and those who don't.
The other thing that struck me was where Father talks about union with God. It sounds nice, but he is right, there is nothing warm and fuzzy about achieving it.
I shared this link on my sidebar in the Worth a Click box, but felt it needed center stage as well.
Our world is in for tougher times ahead. Our faith is what will see us through to our heavenly home, but we need to take it seriously. 
Thanks to OCD Sister for posting this homily. Read and share it. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Scriptural Aha

Sometimes, most times, I am a little slow on the uptake scripturally and spiritually speaking. However, every once in awhile I have an aha moment in that area. Such was the case this past Sunday morning as I was praying Morning Prayer with my Magnificat. 
The psalm for the morning was actually a passage from 1Samuel (1Kings 2:1~10 for you Douay~Rheims readers). It was Anna's canticle. Anna was one of two wives of Elcana. Anna was also barren, but prayed constantly that God would find favor with her and grant her a son, whom she would, in return, dedicate back to God. God does grant Anna's prayer and after the birth of her son, Samuel, she prays the following:

My heart hath rejoiced in the Lord, and my horn is exalted in my God: my mouth is enlarged over my enemies: because I have joyed in thy salvation.  There is none holy as the Lord is: for there is no other beside thee, and there is none strong like our God. Do not multiply to speak lofty things, boasting: let old matters depart from your mouth: for the Lord is a God of all knowledge, and to him are thoughts prepared. The bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength. They that were full before have hired out themselves for bread: and the hungry are filled, so that the barren hath borne many: and she that had many children is weakened.The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to hell and bringeth back again. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich, he humbleth and he exalteth.  He raiseth up the needy from the dust, and lifteth up the poor from the dunghill: that he may sit with princes, and hold the throne of glory. For the poles of the earth are the Lord's, and upon them he hath set the world.  He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness, because no man shall prevail by his own strength.  The adversaries of the Lord shall fear him: and upon them shall he thunder in the heavens. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and he shall give empire to his king, and shall exalt the horn of his Christ.
As I was reading this passage, it started to sound very familiar to me. It suddenly dawned on me that similar words were spoken by our Blessed Mother in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46~54) during her visit with Elizabeth. 
Mary's Magnificat was drawn from her own knowledge of Scripture. I really should have known this, but it was only today that the Holy Spirit helped me to make the connection. This connection is also quite helpful to my own prayer as well. I have always had trouble praying the Magnificat which is part of Evening Prayer. This prayer always seemed too lofty for me to pray with any sincerity. I mean after all these were the words of the Mother of God! But when I saw today that Our Lady's beautiful prayer was steeped in Old Testament Scripture from a simple woman of deep faith, praying this beautiful prayer suddenly became easier and more meaningful.
I know Mary at the time of the Annunciation was a simple Jewish girl, but we know that she was set aside and chosen by God to be blessed among all women. Sometimes this makes it a little difficult for me to relate to Our Lady.
I thank the Holy Spirit for opening up Scripture to me in this way. I also thank God for the holy women of deep faith like Anna and Our Lady who show me through their lives what holiness should look like. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Humble Need For A Savior

My Lord and God,
May I always remember that what ever good I do, what ever prayer I utter, or religious act I take part, all begins with You. Your grace allows me to do good, all prayer is started by You, and the religious acts are for Your praise and glory.
The only thing I can do on my own is sin. Without You, I am and can do nothing.
 I need You, my Savior.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Treatise On Prayer And Meditation

I never cease to be amazed at all I can learn from the saints. It is one of the reasons you find a good number of my posts dedicated to them. As a child, their lives fascinated me. Now as an adult I find myself drawn to their numerous writings on all sorts of important topics in the spiritual life.
I am always interested in what they have to say on the subject of prayer. Teresa of Avila has written copious amounts on this topic. Her confessor and friend, Peter of Alcantara also wrote a treatise on prayer and meditation.
St Peter of Alcantara is not among the more widely known saints, but his life and the things he has written are worth reading. The actual date of his feast seems to be a bit fuzzy. In the 1962 Roman Missal, his feast is celebrated on October 19. I have found many blogs and sites remembering him today. The actual date of his feast is not all that important, what we can learn from him is.
I found an excerpt from his Treatise on Prayer and Meditation on Scott Hahn's site, The St Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Just an aside, this site has a wealth of information on many spiritual topics as well as the various spiritualities (Franciscan, Carmelite, Dominican, etc) But back to St Peter and his treatise.
There is a Monday Morning Meditation included. I warn you, it is not for the spiritually faint of heart! It is tough, but exactly what we need in this day and age. What the saints knew even before they were saints was their knowledge of the fact that they were sinners. We are all sinners. There is no way around that. But knowing this and acknowledging it can lead to deep humility. This meditation which is what most of us would call an examination of conscience, is extremely humbling if we do it honestly. Yes we are sinners, but God in His love and mercy does not wish to leave us there.
Prayer is our conversation and connection to and with God. He gave us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and to show us the way back home to Him. God has also raised up powerful, yet humble saints throughout history to help us. They do this from heaven with their prayers and intercession, and in the writings and teachings they have left us.
Thank you, St Peter of Alcantara for your teaching on prayer, meditation and devotion. May we learn from it and use it to deepen our love and relationship with God. May we learn humility by acknowledging our sinfulness, and then turn to God for His forgiveness.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All Those Pink Ribbons

 They seem to be all over the place. The reason is that October is traditionally breast cancer awareness month. Now I have no problem with making people aware of breast cancer, research for its cure, as well as what can be done for early detection. My problem, and I have written on it before, is when a foundation that is supposed to be raising awareness is handing over huge sums of money to this nation's leading abortion provider. The Susan G. Komen Foundation seems to refuse to make known or even acknowledge the link between breast cancer and abortion. The research proving this is there, yet they continue to support Planned Parenthood financially.
The purpose of this post is not for me to go on a rant, but rather to direct you to an excellent article on this topic over at Catholic Exchange.
The article also sites the statistics for the link between breast cancer and oral contraceptive use. If you have ever read Pope Paul VI encyclical, Humanae Vitae, you know that this pope prophetically wrote about how the use of artificial contraception would increase the number of abortions (see the encyclical for his exact wording; I am paraphrasing.), not decrease them as the likes of Planned Parenthood and our culture in general would have us believe.
We need to not only educate ourselves, but also our young women and men. It all begins with chastity. As I tell any group of students I speak to: "If I had been living a chaste life, I never would have found myself in the position that led me to the decision to abort my child."
Many companies support Susan G. Komen; it is not always easy to know who they are, and it may not always be possible to stop buying a specific product, but let's do what we can where we can so as not to add one extra dime to this already multi-million dollar organization.
Part of what happened to me when I returned to living my faith was that I became somewhat of an activist. I have written to Christian radio stations who support SGK, I have stopped buying certain brands of yogurt, and most recently I walked off my local supermarket's deli line when I saw their sign supporting SGK. A few short years ago I probably wouldn't have done any of this.
I am not saying that abortion and oral contraceptives are the sole causes of breast cancer, but there are definite links. The Church teaches that both of these practices are intrinsically evil and with good reason~they destroy life.
May our actions preach the Gospel of Life in the midst of this present Culture of Death.

(I will have more to say in a future post on artificial contraception and its destructiveness on so many levels.)

The Mercy Of Our Lord In The Eucharist

 As a Catholic lay woman I may never know the Mass, and more precisely, the moment of Consecration as a priest does or should. However I do stand in humble awe of it and am eternally grateful for Christ's gift of His priesthood without which we would not have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
This reflection by Fr. Kosicki recounts a mystical experience he had during an hour of adoration with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is powerful and deeply moving.
I offer this reflection on this Thursday, the day which Jesus instituted the Priesthood, in honor of priesthood and for all our priests who act in Persona Christi.

On Thursday, when I went to my cell, I saw over me the Sacred Host in great brightness. Then I heard a voice that seemed to be coming from above the Host: "In the Host is your power; it will defend you." After these words, the vision disappeared, but a strange power entered my soul, and a strange light as to what our love for God consists in; namely, in doing His will.
During this hour of prayer, Jesus allowed me to enter the Cenacle, and I was a witness to what happened there. However, I was most deeply moved when, before the Consecration, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and entered into a mysterious conversation with His Father. It is only in eternity that we shall really understand that moment. His eyes were like two flames; His face was radiant, white as snow; His whole personage full of majesty, His soul full of longing. At the moment of Consecration, love rested satiated–the sacrifice fully consummated. Now only the external ceremony of death will be carried out–external destruction; the essence [of it] is in the Cenacle. Never in my whole life had I understood this mystery so profoundly as during that hour of adoration. Oh, how ardently I desire that the whole world would come to know this unfathomable mystery!

Tell My Priests: The Words of Our Lord to Priests About His Mercy
Fr. George W. Kosicki

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Let Nothing Disturb You

 These were the words I heard today after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. These words made me think and reflect on a few things. First I thought of St Teresa of Avila, who wrote these words in a prayerful poem known as St Teresa's Bookmark. Then I thought of the martyrs we celebrate today, St Isaac Jogues, St Jean de Brebeuf and companions.These brave souls who went as Jesuit missionaries to evangelize the Native Americans knew the meaning of these words and lived them even to their deaths. In bringing the Gospel to these native people, they knew they were doing what God was asking of them, difficult though it was. On the outside everything seemed to be in chaos, but they never lost their inner peace. That peace is a gift of God's grace.
In thinking about these brave souls, I began to think about how I react to the various circumstances of my life. How often I allow my inner peace that God has given me to be shaken and taken from me. I allow so much to disturb me at times.
I often think of Jesus at times like this as well. I find myself wondering how He did it. How did He deal with the likes of the scribes and pharisees and not lose His peace? I think the answer lies in the fact that He knew who He was; not simply that He was God, but that He belonged to His Father and always did the Father's will..
I think therein lies the secret for us; the secret that the saints and martyrs knew~ we belong to God! If we live our lives in Christ in line with the Father's will for us, we will never lose that inner peace He has given each of us.
This doesn't mean that we won't ever get angry; even Jesus got angry, but for the right reasons. It means, as St Teresa's poem says: God alone suffices. At the end of the day we will know who we are and to Whom we belong.
OK~ so now I am going to begin my day and see if I can actually put this blog post into practice. May nothing disturb me; may nothing disturb you~God alone suffices!
Here is St Teresa's Bookmark
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Many Kings

I heard this song by the Christian group, Downhere. The lyrics, especially at the beginning, made me think this would be a very appropriate song for the Advent season (not that I am trying to rush things). Actually it is a good anytime song. Indeed how many kings would do what the King of Kings did for each of us.
The song's lyrics are powerful and so is some of the imagery.
And remember, only One did it all for us.

St Luke And Our Lady

Lukas~Madonna by Rogier van der Weyden

It is in St Luke's Gospel that we hear the infant narratives recounting the birth and early childhood of Christ.  It is the one gospel where we probably hear the most about our Blessed Mother. This is with good reason; Luke most likely heard these stories from Mary herself. So while he may have never met Jesus in person, he heard much about Him from the best source there could be~ Jesus' own Mother.
As we celebrate this great saint's feast day today, let us ask his intercession for the parts of our lives that are still in need of healing, be it physical, emotional or spiritual.
St Luke, physician and evangelist, pray for us.

You can read a little more about St Luke here and more about his artwork of Our Lady here. (Scroll down at this link about a quarter of the way for the story of the Portrait of Mary)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review:Weaving Faith And Experience

Weaving Faith and Experience: AWoman's Perspective by Patricia Cooney Hathaway is a book meant to guide women spiritually throughout the various stages and times of their lives.  Ms. Hathaway divides the book into four main chapters: 1. The Spring and Summer of Life 2. The Autumn of Life: Paradoxical Faith 3. The Autumn of Life: Intentional Faith  4. The Winter of Life: Trustful Faith.
Each chapter gives a thorough explanation of these stages of life supported by Scripture and writings from various saints. At the end of each chapter are discussion questions, a reflection and prayer. The discussion questions make it conducive to group study.
I have to admit, I had a tough time with this book primarily because I simply did not find much of what the author had to say resonating within my own life. This does not make it a bad book. It may be that I am just not ready for it at this time in my life. I did find the reflections and prayers spiritually edifying.
If you are looking for a way to understand you faith and spirituality more deeply as a group study or as an individual self study, this book will serve the purpose.
The book can be purchased through The Catholic Company.
Also be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts.

Note: The author of this review received only a copy of the book in exchange for the review.

Faithful Perseverance

Our faith is a gift from God. The end of today's Gospel poses the question: "When the Son of Man returns to earth, how much faith will He find?" So how have we~ how have I made use of this gift of faith? Maybe that is the more pertinent question for us at this moment.
God knows what we need, but wants us to come to Him ourselves. Our faithful persistence and perseverance seems to be a way to show God how badly we really want what we are asking. I think we need to remember that we are on God's time even though sometimes, most times we would like Him to be on ours. My faith assures me that He always hears me and answers me. The answer may not always be what we want or expect, but Father truly does know best. Sometimes He says no and sometimes He says "I have something better in mind." We as His children need to persevere in our prayer, for prayer is our constant conversation with our Creator. The best prayer we can persevere in is, "Father, Thy will be done." If that prayer was good enough for Jesus at the most difficult and painful time in His earthly life, it is certainly good enough for us.
For those times that we grow weary like Moses in today's first reading, well God provides earthly and heavenly helpers to keep our arms raised in prayer, and for those times when we can not raise our arms or our voices, those helpers will raise us to God in their own prayers.

*Reflection based on readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

St Margaret Mary Alacoque: Apostle Of The Sacred Heart

"Oh, how fortunate you shall be to be able to receive every day this divine Sacrament, to hold this God of Love in your hands and place Him in your own heart!
I desire but this one grace, and long to be consumed like a burning candle in His holy Presence every moment of the life that remains to me. For that I would be willing, I think, to suffer all the pains imaginable till judgment day, if only I should not have to leave His sacred presence. My only motive would be to be consumed in honoring Him and to acknowledge the burning love He shows us in this wonderful Sacrament. Here His love holds Him captive till the end of time. It is of this one can truly say, "Love triumphs, love enjoys/ Love finds in God its joys!"
~ St. Margaret Mary

Our Lord revealed His Sacred Heart to St Margaret Mary Alacoque. He asked her to spread devotion to His Most Sacred Heart and gave her the promises He would keep to those who practiced this devotion.
We celebrate this saint's feast day today and ask her intercession and prayers that we too may draw close to Our Lord's most Sacred Heart.

"And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source.
He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and its image should be exposed...He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor, He would pour forth His blessings and graces. This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion."..... "The devotion is so pleasing to Him that He can refuse nothing to those who practice it."
~from Revelations of Our Lord to St Margaret Mary Alacoque

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dangerous Color Of Beige

It has been awhile since I have posted anything by Fr. Robert Barron. I came across this one today where he talks about the importance of studying and knowing our Catholic Faith. Among the things he talks about in this segment are the statistics from a survey done by The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life. This survey reported that Atheists and Agnostics know the faith better than many Catholics. The problem is they are using it as a weapon against us, and because so many Catholics do not know their faith, they are unable to fight back.
You have heard it before, we are in a battle. The battle is not necessarily with the atheists and agnostics themselves, but it is a spiritual battle being waged by Satan. If anyone knows the power of the Catholic faith, he does, and he takes great pleasure in seeing uneducated and unarmed Catholics. Let us not give him this satisfaction, but rather always strive to know Scripture and the Sacred Traditions of our rich and beautiful Catholic faith. Our Lord gave His life so that we may have this awesome gift; we need to give ours over to defending it.
I'll let Fr. Barron say the rest...

St Teresa Of Jesus On Prayer

 The Ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints~ St Teresa of Jesus or as she is more commonly called, St Teresa of Avila. This Carmelite nun is responsible for the reform of the order to which she belonged. One of the things I love about this saint is that she was never afraid to stand up for the Truth and take action in doing so no matter what it may cost her. I also love the very straightforward way she talked to Our Lord, always though respectfully and reverently referring to Him as His Majesty.
St Teresa is one of the 33 Doctors of the Church. She was declared thus by the Church because of her many writings and teachings. She wrote much on prayer and the spiritual life. I will admit that I often have difficulty with her writings, needing to reread sections at a time. It has been my experience with spiritual reading that sometimes this is God's way of telling me that I am not ready for this particular writing or lesson. Often when I go back to it at a later time I find I am more open to whatever the material happens to be.
That being said, I did come across this chapter on the importance of the practice of prayer with firm resolution from St Teresa's The Way of Perfection.
While this excerpt is a bit lengthy, it is worth the read and even if you come away with one or two things to help your prayerlife, it is time well spent. If you would like to read more follow the link at the end of the post.
Thank you St Teresa for your wisdom and guidance, please pray for us!

 From: The way of Perfection Ch. 21
Do not be dismayed, daughters, at the number of things which you have to consider before setting out on this Divine journey, which is the royal road to Heaven.[16] By taking this road we gain such precious treasures that it is no wonder if the cost seems to us a high one. The time will come when we shall realize that all we have paid has been nothing at all by comparison with the greatness of our prize.
Let us now return to those who wish to travel on this road, and will not halt until they reach their goal, which is the place where they can drink of this water of life. Although in some book or other -- in several, in fact -- I have read what a good thing it is to begin in this way, I do not think anything will be lost if I speak of it here. As I say, it is most important -- all-important, indeed -- that they should begin well by making an earnest and most determined resolve[17] not to halt until they reach their goal, whatever may come, whatever may happen to them, however hard they may have to labour, whoever may complain of them, whether they reach their goal or die on the road or have no heart to confront the trials which they meet, whether the very world dissolves before them. Yet again and again people will say to us: "It is dangerous", "So-and-so was lost through doing this", "Someone else got into wrong ways", "Some other person, who was always praying, fell just the same", "It is bad for virtue", "It is not meant for women; it may lead them into delusions", "They would do better to stick to their spinning", "These subtleties are of no use to them", "It is quite enough for them to say their Paternoster and Ave Maria."
With this last remark, sisters, I quite agree. Of course it is enough! It is always a great thing to base your prayer on prayers which were uttered by the very lips of the Lord. People are quite right to say this, and, were it not for our great weakness and the lukewarmness of our devotion, there would be no need for any other systems of prayer or for any other books at all. I am speaking to souls who are unable to recollect themselves by meditating upon other mysteries, and who think they need special methods of prayer; some people have such ingenious minds[18] that nothing is good enough for them! So I think I will start to lay down some rules for each part of our prayer -- beginning, middle and end -- although I shall not spend long on the higher stages. They cannot take books from you, and, if you are studious and humble, you need nothing more.
I have always been fond of the words of the Gospels and have found more recollection in them than in the most carefully planned books -- especially books of which the authors were not fully approved, and which I never wanted to read. If I keep close to this Master of wisdom, He may perhaps give me some thoughts[19] which will help you. I do not say that I will explain these Divine prayers, for that I should not presume to do, and there are a great many explanations of them already. Even were there none, it would be ridiculous for me to attempt any. But I will write down a few thoughts on the words of the Paternoster; for sometimes, when we are most anxious to nurture our devotion, consulting a great many books will kill it. When a master is himself giving a lesson, he treats his pupil kindly and likes him to enjoy being taught and does his utmost to help him learn. Just so will this heavenly Master do with us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

They Didn't Lift A Finger

In today's Gospel (Luke11:42~46), Jesus tells the Pharisees that they did not lift a finger to touch the people, but rather imposed burdens on them.
Jesus not only lifted a finger to touch us~ He lifted a cross. He didn't burden us, but took our burdens upon Himself.
Thank You, Jesus for loving us.
Thank You for Your Cross that relieves us and saves us from our sins and burdens.
Thank You for touching us with Your precious Body and Blood.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Staying The Spiritual Course

The spiritual path has its twists, turns, hills, valleys, bumps and smooth terrain just like any other path. When I am driving, I would like nothing better than smooth roadways, but I know along the way it may become a bit rough (especially here in the state of New Jersey!). I expect this; I should also expect it in my spiritual life.
I have been in a state of blahness spiritually. Some might call it aridity, and there is some of that going on, but is also a bit of depression. Now I am not someone who suffers from clinical depression, but on occasion, what I call situational depression seems to visit. The reasons for this are varied; many times it is centered around an unpleasant anniversary date in my life.
I am always amazed how God sends me His reassuring messages just when I need them. Reading my friend Judy's post, Fake It Til You Make It seemed to be just what I needed to hear, but it went even further when I went to the link for a reflection on aridity written by her brother. What I realized after reading this beautiful reflection was that I was not suffering purely from spiritual aridity, but this minor bout of depression may be causing the aridity.
The title of the reflection is Aridity: A True Blessing in Disguise. While it may not feel like it, when you really stop and think about it, it is a blessing. As the reflection points out, God either permits or directly wills this for the good of the soul. It reminds me of what Mother Angelica says about enjoying our faith versus exercising our faith. There are times in all our lives where God allows us to sit back and enjoy our faith~ prayer comes easily, we feel consolations, we can see and feel God's presence everywhere and in everything. Then there are the times He wants to make us and our faith stronger~ prayer is the last thing we feel like doing and when we do do it, it feels like sawdust in our mouths! God seems to have turned a deaf ear to us and we can't feel or see His presence in anything. This is the time to stay the course. It is also the time for gratitude as the above mentioned reflection speaks about. It is also about getting our heads out of our bellybuttons and thinking, doing, praying for others.
I have been in this desert place before, so it doesn't frighten me. If anything it helps me to see my total dependence on God, because I know He is the only one who can and will see me through it. In the meantime, He sends me wonderful friends and family to support me.
I have always been someone who does not particularly enjoy exercise, but I do it because I know its benefits. Spiritual exercise is no different and its benefits will last for eternity!
So I will stay the course. I will continue to stick to my formula for my spiritual life; for me that is daily Mass, morning and evening prayer, and my weekly hour (or more if I can get there) of Eucharistic Adoration. I will proceed calmly and in faith until such time as God sees fit to bring me out of this dry and dusty land. He will; He always does!

Note: If you haven't read Judy's post or  her brother's reflection, please follow the respective links above. When you get to the page for the reflection, scroll down and you will find it about third from the bottom.

Saint Makers

 "Don't say: 'That person gets on my nerves.' Think: 'That person sanctifies me.'"
~ St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, #174
When I read the above quote by St Josemaria Escriva, I thought: "I need that one!" How often in the course of a day I have that thought about people~ this or that one gets on my nerves. What a great way to turn it around into something profitable for our spiritual lives; if we accept it and offer it up, we can see the annoyance as sanctifying. I have sometimes heard the people in our lives who irritate us called saint makers.
The other thought I had when I read this was a little more humbling~ how many people do I irritate? Perhaps I can make a saint out of someone else, while trying to not be irritating.
Then again, human nature being what it is, we are all, at one time or another going to get on someones nerves.
So let us continue in the quest for holiness as we all sanctify one another.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Healing Begins With Gratitude

Brooklyn Museum: The Healing of Ten Lepers (Guérison de dix lépreux)
James Tissot's The Healing of the Ten Lepers

A piece of commentary on todays Gospel (Luke 17:11~19) seemed to stand out for me. It said: that the consummation of the Samaritan leper's healing happens when he returns and falls at Jesus' feet in thanksgiving. I thought about this for awhile today. This leper's healing began when he thanked Jesus. Jesus confirms this by telling the leper that his faith has saved him.
We hear Our Lord say this to many He healed in the Gospels. It is almost as if He is telling us that He can cure whatever may ail us, but our faith in God is needed in order for true, deep and lasting healing to occur. Gratitude is a sure sign of that faith; it shows that we are aware of the Source of the healing and our knowledge that we are dependent on God for everything. Our faith and gratitude show God that we realize that all comes from Him and that we know that all is owed to Him.
Naaman in today's first reading (2Kings 5:14~17) knew this as well. His declaration of faith in the God of Israel was his thanksgiving. He even asked to take some of earth back with him so that he could always make a thanksgiving to God. We may not suffer from physical leprosy, but sin is a kind of spiritual leprosy. It separates us from God and each other. If we come to God in humble repentance, thanking Him for the gift of His healing, He will use our faith to lead us to deeper healing. He has given us the sacraments; they are channels of His grace. In the sacrament of the Eucharist we come in faith in the ultimate act of thanksgiving for God's ultimate gift of Himself through the sacrifice of His Son. Perhaps the fact that faith and gratitude seem to go hand in hand is most clear in the celebration of Mass. When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we say Amen meaning I believe or it is so. In turn Jesus gives us His healing at seeing this faith and it saves us.
Jesus never stops giving Himself to us; may we always come to Him in a spirit of gratitude for all His gifts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Lady Of The Holy Rosary

St Pius V established today's feast of the Holy Rosary to mark the anniversary of the victory in the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The victory of the Christian naval fleet is attributed to the intercession of the Holy Mother of God.
The gift of this prayer from God through the Blessed Virgin is powerful. Through it we meditate on the life of Christ through the eyes of His Mother. Those who pray it regularly know all too well the power of this prayer and how Our Lady is pleased to hear our prayers and take them to her Son.
Venerable John Paul II dedicated the year 2002~2003 as the year of the Rosary and added the five Luminous Mysteries. Here is a brief excerpt from Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae:

The Rosary, a contemplative prayer
 The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: "Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed".14 
It is worth pausing to consider this profound insight of Paul VI, in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary that show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation.

May we always pray this prayer being mindful of the mysteries and asking Our Lady's Spouse, the Holy Spirit to guide us and draw us more deeply into contemplating and meditating upon these mysteries.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Novena Prayer

My dearest Mother Mary, behold me, your child, in prayer at your feet. Accept this Holy Rosary, which I offer you in accordance with your requests at Fatima, as a proof of my tender love for you, for the intentions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in atonement for the offenses committed against your Immaculate Heart, and for this special favor which I earnestly request in my Rosary Novena:  (Mention your request).
I beg you to present my petition to your Divine Son. If you will pray for me, I cannot be refused. I know, dearest Mother, that you want me to seek God’s holy Will concerning my request. If what I ask for should not be granted, pray that I may receive that which will be of greater benefit to my soul.
I offer you this spiritual “Bouquet of Roses” because I love you. I put all my confidence in you, since your prayers before God are most powerful. For the greater glory of God and for the sake of Jesus, your loving Son, hear and grant my prayer. Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

St Bruno A Life Hidden In Christ

By your work you show what you love and what you know. When you observe true obedience with prudence and enthusiasm, it is clear that you wisely pick the most delightful and nourishing fruit of divine Scripture.
~St Bruno

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St Bruno, founder of the Carthusians. My fellow blogger, Jeffrey at Secret Harbour has a beautiful post on this saint. Since nothing I could post here could come even close to doing this great saint justice, I refer you to Jeffrey's post and wonderful blog dedicated to this saint and the order Bruno founded. Anything you want to know about St Bruno and the Carthusians can be found at Secret Harbour. Thank you Jeffrey for the beautiful writings you post there.
I will end by simply wishing St Bruno a happy feast day~ now go read Jeffrey's post; you will be glad you did!

St Bruno,
Please pray and intercede for us. 
Help us to find God in the quiet and solitude of our souls.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lessons In Choosing The Better Part

This morning as I listened to the Gospel from Luke recounting that very well known scene of Martha and Mary during one of Jesus' visits to their home, I was thinking about choosing the better part. This is what Jesus tells Martha about her sister when Martha is troubled and anxious about having to do all the serving.
I heard Fr. Robert Barron give an interpretation of this story that I had not heard before. While many Scripture scholars use this Gospel account to demonstrate the active (Martha) and contemplative (Mary) lives, Fr. Barron explained that Jesus did not rebuke Martha because she was busy, but because she was anxious and somewhat unfocused. She lost sight of why and Who she was serving. Father went further to say that even if Martha had been sitting at Jesus' feet, she still may have been anxious and troubled.
This made me think about my own times at Jesus' feet~ those times when I am before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, or after receiving Him in Holy Communion. How often I find myself anxious and troubled over many things even though Jesus is right there before me. Choosing the better part seems to have less to do with being active or contemplative, and more with how we remain focused on Jesus no matter where we are or what we are doing.
As today is also the feast of St Faustina Kowalska, I was able to see how this nun was able to live out choosing the better part in all Christ called her to do. She was busy spreading the message of Divine Mercy, but always remained focused on the One who called her to do the work.
If you have never read this beautiful saint's diary, I strongly recommend it. It is long, but very easy to read. It is one of those books I have highlighted and dog earred sections of, and go back to often.
So let us follow the example of St Faustina and all the saints who at some point in their lives learned how to choose the better part. Martha became a saint, so I am sure she eventually learned this lesson as well.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

God Is Not A Clockmaker And Our Default Question

My reflection for this Sunday is actually based on two wonderful homilies I heard over this weekend. This Sunday is Respect Life Sunday in the United States. I was asked to give my post abortion healing witness at all the Masses in a nearby parish. This is always a humbling privilege for me. However when you attend more than one Mass, you get to hear more than one homily.
The first one was given by a transitional deacon (he will be ordained in May). His homily used the analogy that is sometimes heard comparing God to a watch or clock maker. The clockmaker makes his timepiece and then sells it, never again to have anything to do with it. The deacon went on to say that some people see God in this way; they become like Habakkuk in the first reading, angry with God, wondering why He seems so detached from human affairs. But in that reading God goes on to tell Habakkuk that all will be done in His time. God tells us the same thing; all will be put right, but in God's time~not ours. It is the faith that the Apostles asked Jesus for in the Gospel that will enable us to see that God is very much interested in human affairs and His hand is at work even if we can not perceive it. In the meantime we need to take Paul's advice in the second reading and bear our share of the hardships for the sake of the Gospel. If we can do all of this, all the while asking Our Lord to increase our faith, we will see God not as a disinterested clock maker, but as a loving, caring, merciful Father.
The second homily I heard gave the analogy of how we sometimes operate as computers. Computers have all sorts of default settings. Father, in his homily, said that we often have our own default questions. We get up in the morning and our minds and hearts may be set to the "What's wrong?" default. What's wrong with my spouse, my kids, my parents, my co~workers and friends; even worse the question may be "What's wrong with me?" Father stressed the point that this last one can be quite damaging to our spirit~perhaps even breaking it. He invited us to change our default question to the positive: "What's right with my spouse, my kids, etc.; What's right with me?" Father reminded us that yes, we are sinful, but we are still to remember that we are created in God's image and likeness; that through his mercy and forgiveness, when we ask Him for it, we can begin to see what is right and good in others and ourselves.
Part of what always blows me over when I give my witness in a parish is the compassionate and positive response I get from those who have just heard me. Part of my healing was the grace to be able to not only ask God for His forgiveness, but also the grace to forgive myself. I can not accept God's love if I am still playing the shame and blame game. This grace also allows me to accept love, mercy and compassion from others.
I know God is not the clockmaker and I am slowly but surely changing my default settings.
How about you?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Guardian Angel: An Unsung Hero

The Church celebrates the feast of the Guardian Angels today. Each one of us is given the gift of one of these guides and protectors from the beginning of our lives and they remain with us until our death. This is a thought that I could reflect on for hours. Not only did God give me Himself, but He also gave me my own personal angel!
When I think about this, I sometimes smile at the thought of God our Father assigning us our guardian angel. Knowing us before we even take our first breath~ our temperament, strengths, weaknesses; I somehow see Him saying to an angel: "You are the one for him or her."
I also sometimes hope that we will actually get to meet our guardian angel in heaven, but I know that I can also begin that relationship while I am here on earth. I know this, but I often fail to follow through with it. However, in recent years I have begun to get a little better with praying to and conversing with my angel. One day about two years ago, one of the gentlemen who attends our 7am daily Mass came up to me after Mass and said to me: "Your guardian angel's name is Joy."  He said it came to him after Communion. Now I have to admit, I am sometimes a little more than a little skeptical about things like this, but in this instance there was something about the certainty and conviction in his voice that I felt inclined to believe him. Also as Divine Providence would have it, a few days before this "revelation", I had been thinking about my guardian angel and how I would like to get to know this spiritual friend and protector better.
From that day on I have referred to my guardian angel by this name. While I still often forget to pray to and thank my angel, I do find myself at least thinking of him at certain times. I ask my angel's help, along with Our Lady's  at certain times during Mass, most especially during the Offertory when I ask Joy to bring to the altar all that I am and have and then again when receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. I try to remember that my angel always stands before the face of God, constantly interceding for me.
I also know that there have been more than a few times in my life that Joy's protection has saved me from danger.
I thank our loving God for the gift of my guardian angel. I thank Joy, my guide, protector, friend and the unsung hero of my life for all the angelic protection and guidance he has provided and will continue to provide until my earthly life comes to an end.

Guardian Angel Prayer

Angel of God
My guardian dear 
To Whom His love 
Commits me here 
Ever this day 
Be at my side 
To light and guard 
To rule and guide.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Crown Of Roses

October is the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary. The Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. The word rosary means crown of roses. This beautiful and powerful prayer was given to St Dominic by the Blessed Virgin. She also made 15 promises to Dominic and all who would pray this prayer.
While I am not very good at saying the rosary daily, I do try to pray it often. It has played a profound role in my reversion and in the healing from my abortion. I like to think of my time spent praying this prayer as praying not only to our Blessed Mother, but also praying with her.
I quote Fr. John Corapi often, and do so again. He is known for saying that "In praying the Rosary we pray the Gospel; Jesus is at the center of the Rosary." Meditating on the mysteries will draw us deeper into the life of Christ.  She will guide us in our prayer and always lead us to her Son.
In our difficult and troubled times, we need this prayer perhaps more than ever. The devil hates this prayer because he knows the power of it. Padre Pio would often say to his bothers: "Bring me my weapon!" The rosary is a powerful weapon against evil; Our Lady has armed us well through her gift of this prayer.
During this month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, let us answer our Blessed Mother's call to battle. Let us take up our beaded weapon and pray for peace, for life, and for a return to God for our country.
 "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy."

Little Things With Great Love...

This is the heart of  St Therese of Liseux's  Little Way. One reason this great saint and Doctor of the Church is so popular is because her Little Way gives hope to those of us who may sometimes feel that we have to do grandiose deeds in order to please God and gain eternal salvation. St Therese explains that it is not the deed that needs to be great, but the love with which we do it. To Therese, everything was grace, even the daily humdrum chores of daily life.
Scripture backs this up, or perhaps our saint based her Little Way on scripture. St Paul's discourse on love in 1Corinthians 13:1~13 tells us nothing, even the greatest of gifts and deeds is anything unless we have love. St Paul again in 2Corinthians 9:7 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. I know in my own life I do not always carry out my daily tasks with love and cheer~much grace is lost by this. St Therese is a wonderful model and reminder of how doing things with love can transform menial tasks into tasks that have great spiritual benefit not only for ourselves but others as well.
She promised to continue her Little Way from heaven sending forth a shower of roses and spending her heaven doing good on earth. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. You may often hear people who have prayed to her for intercession say that the favor was granted and they received a rose in some way, shape or form as a sign that the favor was granted.
St Therese also had devotion to our Blessed Mother. The death of her own mother was one of the most difficult events of her young life. She took Our Lady as her Mother from that time on. The video below is from EWTN's Saints Speak archives. In it St Therese speaks about her vision of Our Lady during an episode of illness.
I have also included links to a site with prayers to the saint as well as a reflection on St Therese from Fr. Steve Grunow who is the Assistant Director of Fr. Robert Barron's Word on Fire Ministries.

Dear St Therese, we ask your intercession in assisting us in doing little things with great love. Through your intercession, may God grant us the grace to see the potential for grace in the smallest of deeds so that we may carry them out with love. May love for God and our neighbor be the driving force of our lives as it was in yours.

Related Links

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.