Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Way To True Happiness

Sometimes you can hear or read something dozens of times but never really hear what it is saying. Such is the case for me and the Beatitudes. While I have read the Scripture passages containing the Beatitudes many times, I think I actually heard them for the first time today.
I heard the Beatitudes today through the Cross; I have never heard them that way before. Perhaps this is why they finally seemed to make sense to me in a way they never have. If you listen to Jesus as He preaches these pearls of wisdom, He does it in a way that reminds us what the world says, but then shows us His way. His way is the way of the cross. He preached it, He lived it and He died on it so that we could be truly happy with Him.
In another part of the Gospel, Jesus tells us that in order to follow Him we must pick up our cross and come after Him. I used to hear this as a "No admission to the Kingdom" kind of thing, which in one sense it is, but if we go deeper into this I think what Jesus is really telling us is that we need to accept the Cross, His and ours, as a staff that helps us to follow Him; without it we will fall.
I brought this thought into my reflection on the Beatitudes as well. In the eyes of the world, the things Jesus preaches in the Beatitudes make no sense, the mercifulness, meekness, mournfulness, and the rest are all signs of weakness. The cross doesn't make sense to the world either, but to those who listen to and hear Jesus with faith, the Cross and the Beatitudes together are what will lead us to true happiness~ maybe some here in this earthly exile, but in abundance we cannot even imagine in our heavenly home.
When God really wants to get my attention and teach me something, His timing and materials are always impeccable. The musings I recounted above came a little from the homily my parish priest preached today; he alluded to the cross in the Beatitudes, but it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who really taught the lesson for me. I am in the prayerful process of reading his Life of Christ and the chapter I was about to begin today was on the Beatitudes! It was after reading the archbishop's words that what Jesus has been trying to teach me all finally made some sense~ not just in my head but in my heart as well.
Here is a brief excerpt from that chapter. You can read more of it here, but I strongly recommend this book as part of your spiritual reading.
Thank You, Jesus for sending me good spiritual teachers and materials to draw me closer to You.

The Beatitudes cannot be taken alone: they are not ideals; they are hard facts and realities inseparable from the Cross of Calvary. What He taught was self-crucifixion: to love those who hate us; to pluck out eyes and cut off arms in order to prevent sinning; to be clean on the inside when the passions clamor for satisfaction on the outside; to forgive those who would put us to death; to overcome evil with good; to bless those who curse us; to stop mouthing freedom until we have justice, truth and love of God in our hearts as the condition of freedom; to live in the world and still keep oneself unpolluted from it; to deny ourselves sometimes legitimate pleasures in order the better to crucify our egotism-all this is to sentence the old man in us to death. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wisdom And Understanding

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever. ~Psalm 110/111:10

There are some subtly profound differences between wisdom and understanding. Along with knowledge, they are all gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, knowledge and understanding has more to do with having certain facts and having an intellectual grasp of those facts. Wisdom on the other hand has more to do with knowing what to do with our knowledge and understanding and then going out and doing it. Scripture tells us: "For wisdom will enter your heart, knowledge will please your soul, discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you." (Proverbs 2: 8~11)
St Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we celebrate today, knew and lived this. It is often said of Thomas that he realized, in all its fullness, the Dominican ideal: to contemplate and then give to others the fruit of this contemplation. He knew that all of his knowledge and understanding could not be fruitful with out prayer. St Thomas certainly knew much, but more importantly he prayed much.
While Aquinas is one of those saints I have not had much experience in reading, I can take this little bit from him. All of us, as Christians are called to bear fruit for God's Kingdom; we cannot do that without beginning with prayer. Whether it be our blogs, ministries in which we serve, or simply sharing our faith with another in conversation, we need to begin with prayer. We cannot give what we do not have, as the saying goes.
So if nothing else, let us at least take this little lesson from this giant of a saint. Let us ask St Thomas for his intercession in praying for the grace and gifts of knowledge and understanding of our faith and the wisdom of practicing it in a way that will bear fruit for God's Kingdom here on earth.
St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
Fr.Robert Barron has a good post and video on this saint and Doctor of the Church.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Way To Teach Our Girls


As an educator myself, I often find myself being critical of teaching methods, sometimes with good reason, sometimes not. When I see what society and our culture teaches, especially to our youth, and more specifically our young girls, I absolutely cringe.
I grew up with loving parents, but they taught me the ways of the world more than the ways of my faith. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know where that led me. The culture today is even more perverse than it was 30 years ago when I was a teen, and sadly many parents are still teaching according to the ways of the world. I am not trying to be critical of parents, my own or anyone else's~heaven knows their job is not an easy one. I am simply making an observation and maybe spread a little light on a better way.
St Angela Merici knew the better way. She formed the religious order of women known as the Ursulines. This group of women had no money or power, but they did have Christ, and it was their commitment to Him that enabled them to gather poor young girls off their streets and educate them. Their methods were so successful that Angela was asked to bring her methods for education to other cities. She even had the support of the Pope whose offer of a nursing position she refused earlier.
St Angela and the Ursulines had the right idea; their education practices were rooted in Christ.
Today is St Angela's feast day; let us ask her intercession in teaching our youth with her commitment to Christ. As parents and educators we can learn much from these women and our world would be a better place for it.
St. Angela Merici
St Angela Merici, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conversion Leading To Evangelization

In the Conversion of St Paul, the feast the Church celebrates today, we see Paul's complete transformation. He is not only knocked off his horse, but is literally blinded by the Light of Christ who asks Paul why he is persecuting Him.
Paul wastes no time in carrying out the orders Our Lord gave him. He repented, conversion and change took deep root in him and he went forth from that change to evangelize bringing the Gospel to those near and far.
Paul is a wonderful example for us. Conversion, I have to constantly be reminded, is not a one time thing; it is a daily and constant process. I also need to remember that my conversion and my faith are not for me to keep all to myself, but I am to go forth from this place, preaching the Gospel not only through what I say, but also in the way that I live. It should be Christ that people see, not me. Or as John the Baptist said: "I must decrease so that He may increase." 
God the Father tells St Catherine of Siena to: "Go forth from this place of contemplation and bear fruit that will last" (The Dialogue)
True conversion leads to evangelization. There are so many in our own little circles that need Jesus and need to hear His Gospel. Let us ask St Paul today to intercede for us so that we may follow his example of sharing the gift of faith that has been so richly given to us.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Devout Life

One of the first books that I read upon the return to my faith, and one that has continued to have a lasting effect on my spiritual life was St Francis deSales Introduction to the Devout Life. The important thread that runs through this work is that this saint and Doctor of the Church explains how a life of devotion~devoutness~ is for everyone. God gives the grace, and if we cooperate with that grace it is possible for all of us, not just those called to religious life, to live a holy and devout life.
Follow this link to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio's Crossroads Initiative site to read an excerpt from this treasure of a work on the spiritual life.
On this the feast day of this great saint and patron of writers, let those of us who share our thoughts and words on our blogs ask for St Francis' intercession that our words may always give glory to God.
One last note~ happy feast day to my blogging friend Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. St Francis deSales has chosen to accompany and be companion to her for this current year.
St Francis deSales, pray for us!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Big I'm Blessed

This past weekend I came off of what I like to call one of my spoiled brat moods. That's right, this daughter of the king had several tantrums and whining episodes with her Lord and Heavenly Father. I know what these moods come from~ fatigue and overwork are usually the weapons the devil uses to reduce me to the spoiled, whiny brat. But then God steps in, after letting me go on for a bit, and reminds me of His grace, mercy and love. Then like any child who really does not want to upset her Father, she tells Him she is sorry and goes on.
In the middle of my tantrums this weekend, God used the song This is the Stuff by Christian artist Francesca Battistelli. The song not only reminded me of  "how big I'm blessed", but also put a smile on my face.
Life will always find a way to get under our skin, but God can and will use that stuff to bring us to holiness~ if we let Him.
Crank it up and enjoy!

Chosen And Called

Our pastor celebrated the Mass I attended this weekend, and in his homily on today's Gospel he posed the questions: "What did Peter, Andrew, James and John see in Jesus that day by the sea to make them leave everyone and everything in their lives as they then knew it? and then, and maybe more importantly, What did Jesus see in them to choose and call them as His Apostles?"
These questions made me think and reflect on my own life in relation to this Gospel passage. What was it that I saw in Jesus eight years ago that made me almost literally leave everything and even some who were close to me at the time, and return to Him? And more importantly:What did Jesus see in me?
As for the first question, I can only say that at the time I was sitting in great darkness, and through a friend, was able to see in Jesus the great Light that He is and the Truth that He is. I saw that He, being the Way, was the only way.
The second question, well I can only surmise and speculate on what Our Lord saw in me. True, by virtue of my baptism I became His. And while my life up to the point of my leaving Him had seeds planted, it is the time of my return and henceforth I sometimes wonder about. He reveals these things to me as I go, and this enables me to be able to cooperate with His grace and His mercy in my life.
Everyone can ask these questions, and because Jesus loves us each as individuals, and because we love Him as individual souls, the answers to those questions are deeply personal ones.
Being a Christian is about an encounter and a relationship with Jesus. We have not chosen Him, but He has chosen us. Faith enables us to live this relationship. It allows us to answer His call as those fishermen did that day, to come after Him and be apostles in our own time who go and spread the Good News of His love, His mercy and the kingdom at hand.
Yes, Jesus is the Light that has come to shine on a darkened world, but there are those who still cannot or will not see it. May our lives reflect His light and life and touch those who are in need.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prayers For Life

On this day when we remember, with great sorrow and dismay, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion "constitutional" in this country, I offer you and ask you to join me in these prayers for life and pro-life efforts. Let us pray for all those who are still in need of healing from this sin that wounds so many so deeply.
Please also keep in your prayers those who are headed to Washington, D.C. on Monday for the annual March for Life.
May God forgive us as a nation for the sins committed against life and may the hearts of many be opened and converted so that we become a nation and a people for life rather than against it.

Prayer for Unborn Children
O God, our Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son into this world that He might Bless and Consecrate all life to You.
Your constant Love protected Him as the Ever Virgin Mary bore Him in Her womb for nine months.
In His mission He taught us the Greatness of Your Love and the Sanctity of Life.
We pray that we may always cherish the Life that You give us.
In a special way we ask and pray that You Grace and Protect all unborn children with Your ever caring Love.
We pray this in the Name of Jesus, Who is Lord, Forever and Ever. Amen.
Most Rev. Louis E. Gelineau, D.D.
Bishop of Providence

Prayer for Pro-Life Efforts
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Word of God came to earth as a single cell and made His abode in the most pure body of the Virgin Mary. O Cell Divine, in that hour hear the prayers that we send to you across the ages.
Welcome into Your loving care the souls of all those children who are rejected by their mothers.
Look with compassion upon those mothers who are driven by distress and delusion to seek the lives of their own offspring.
Have mercy upon those who turn their training in the healing arts to the purposes of death.
Inspire Christians everywhere to seek out and apply Christian solutions to social problems.
Bless our efforts to educate and serve. Help us to conduct them in the spirit of humility and love that will win minds and hearts to accept the truth, to minister to those in need, and to forego the resort to violence.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Simplicity In Suffering

For those of you who are subscribers to Magnificat, the title of this post is familiar if you read the reflection by Elisabeth Leseur. I was very struck by this woman's writing when I read her diary some years ago. 
In her reflection today, which if my memory serves me, is taken from her diary, she speaks about simplicity in suffering. That little phrase made me stop and think for a moment. All of us suffer in one way or another; we cannot escape it in this earthly exile we call life. Suffering though is a relative thing; some suffer more than others either in amount or degree. Sometimes the degree of suffering is in one's perception; what may seem like some small suffering to one person, may be a great hardship or trial to another.
Elisabeth asked for the grace of "simplicity in suffering"~ to be able to carry the cross of her suffering, especially those hidden ones, joyfully.
Some of the sufferings she mentioned, I found myself also having to bear. Things like the burden of material concerns, time wasted, relationships that hold no attraction, putting a smile on my face and being pleasant when I don't feel like it. She lists some spiritual burdens as well like dryness and aridity.
On the surface these things may not seem like tremendous sufferings, but to someone trying to live a holy life, as Elisabeth did, and as we are all called to do, they can be.
Her point (and mine) is that if we accept what we must endure in this life, bearing it joyfully, and knowing that it comes from God for our good and salvation and for His glory we will be given the grace of simplicity in suffering.
St Agnes, whose feast we celebrate today understood how to endure suffering simply. A young girl of only twelve suffered torture, humiliation and death with peace and joy in her heart and soul knowing that she would meet her Beloved Bridegroom at the end of it all.
Let us ask for St Agnes' intercession and pray with Elisabeth Leseur, whose cause for canonization is underway, for the grace of simplicity in suffering.

Elisabeth Leseur's Prayer
O my God, give me an adoring soul, an atoning soul, an apostle's soul, and do with me what You want  according to my pact with You.

*My blogging friend Anne at Imprisoned In My Bones also has a wonderful post and review on Elisabeth Leseur and her diary.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Glorious Servants

The words from Isaiah struck something in me today. He says that he has been made glorious in the sight of the Lord and that God is his strength. It is only by humbly admitting that our strength is in God, that we can be made His glorious servants. This is shown in today's readings in Isaiah, Paul and John the Baptist.
Isaiah was a prophet and a servant of God. He was sanctified and sent to be a light to the nations.
John the Baptist tells those he is baptizing at the Jordan to Behold the Lamb of God. He was sanctified in the womb and grew to be a servant of God in preparing the way for Christ.
Paul writes to the Corinthians as an apostle of Christ and addresses those who have been sanctified in Christ. This is all of us; we were sanctified in Christ at our baptism, and because we were, we too are called to be servants of God. We may not be called to be lights to the nations, but we are called to be lights to those around us. We, like Isaiah, John and Paul are to glorify God by our lives so that His salvation may reach everyone.
When we answer God's call to holiness, He is glorified in us and we are made glorious in His sight.
May we respond with the Psalmist, "Here I am, Lord; I come to do Your will."

Heavenly Father,
Grant me the grace to answer Your call to holiness, desiring only to do Your will. With all humility I seek You as my strength. Having been sanctified in Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, I am Your servant. In serving You, may Your salvation reach those You put in my path.  May You be glorified in me and I be made glorious in Your sight.
I offer You this prayer in Jesus' name.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God's Gift Of A Snow Day

As I listened to the weather reports the last few days, hearing that we were in for yet another round of snow, I have to admit I was a little weary. New Jersey is not exactly a place where we have a whole lot of room to put the powdery white stuff.
So while I was pretty sure I would at least get a snow day out of this, I was dreading the inevitable digging out. I was awakened by the sound of the snow plows at 4:30 this morning- so much for sleeping in on my snow day.
Well I did manage to go back to sleep for awhile, then got up and made some coffee, prayed morning prayer, then checked out the blogosphere.
At around 10:30 I decided I may as well go and get the digging over with. Since I live in an apartment complex, the only digging I really need to do is my car, but at times that is enough. I stepped out into the cold, but sunny morning and found that the storm was not as bad as predicted, at least for us~ about eight inches had fallen. It took me only about 45 minutes to dig my car out. As I walked back to my apartment, I was struck by the beauty of the day. Despite the snow, winter is really one of my favorite seasons. But God has a way of making me appreciate each of his extreme seasons. Before going back inside, I stood on my stoop and thought about this. Yeah- winter in these parts can be a bit inconvenient and difficult sometimes, and our humid summers are not always that pleasant either, but God has His gifts to give in each. I find that I appreciate the changes in season, and God's gifts in each of them. I thanked Him for the amenities that I have to deal with the little hardships of winter and summer; there are many who are not as fortunate.
For my friends who live in areas without snow, here are a few pictures I snapped with my phone as I stood outside enjoying this fine winter day.
Now back to my snow day activities~ catching up on my reading, and maybe a movie or two thanks to Netflix.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mercy At The Jordan

 Tissot: Baptism of Jesus

John was calling people to repentance when he was baptizing at the Jordan. As he was doing so on this particular day, those coming to be baptized saw him look up and stop for a moment, and then say: "Behold the Lamb of God." Jesus came to the Jordan that day not because He needed to be cleansed of any sin, but to show us how to do the will of the Father. In His humility in asking John to baptize Him, Christ shows us the mercy of God. In some way Christ was affirming what John was doing and saying. John was crying out "Repent!" Jesus' actions that day showed us how. His actions also showed us that He would be with us as we examine our lives in this effort to repent.
When we look at the various times in Scripture where Jesus healed and forgave someone, we see that He is right there with them. When the woman was caught in adultery, He walked up to her, offered her His hand in raising her up in the midst of those who would seek to kill her. He tells her her sins are forgiven and to go and sin no more. Jesus approaches the woman at the well to ask her for a drink, but is there with her as she reveals to Him the sins of her own life. He offers her Living Water, and she is able, through faith in Jesus as Messiah to repent and proclaim all that He had done for her. In every healing encounter people had with Jesus, He tells them that their faith has saved them. He tells us the same, and is with us just the same.
Jesus' baptism is a model of humility and mercy. Our own baptism brings us into life with this Mystery of Mercy. Baptism is the first sacrament we receive; it cleanses us from Original Sin. Through and because of our baptism we are given grace to live the will of the Father in our own lives. There is great freedom in this; we are free to live and do what is right in and through Christ. Baptism immerses us in this life and opens the way for us to continue to receive God's grace in the other sacraments. When we fail to live our Christian lives, we can be reconciled with God in the sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive the strength and nourishment we need to live our lives in Christ by receiving Him in Holy Communion.
Today as we hear John cry out to repent, let us remember that as we do so, Christ is there waiting for us. He will be with us as we look at our lives and help us to see where we need to change. Our faith in Him will save us and set us free. We never have to fear of looking at our sins by ourselves. When we heed the invitation to repent, Jesus is there, just as He was at the Jordan that day, with His mercy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stay With Me

 James Tissot: Jesus Feeds the Multitudes

Listening to and reflecting on today's Gospel from Mark, I seemed to hear something that I don't remember hearing before. I have heard the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes many times, but what caught my attention today was that Jesus was saying: "Stay with Me." Now he doesn't say it directly, but the Apostles want to send the crowds away so that they can care for themselves. Jesus tells the Apostles to have the people stay and then proceeds to feed them Himself with five loaves and two fish. "Stay with Me and I will remain with you; stay with Me and I, Myself will feed you." This is the message I got from the Gospel today and the will try to return to throughout this day.
Jesus didn't come just to say, "Here I am, I am the Messiah" and then just move along. His coming, the signs and wonders He manifested throughout His earthly life, and His death and Resurrection say: "I came to love and for love. Stay with Me and I will stay with you. I will feed you with My very Body and Blood."
In doing this we are able to take the love Jesus gives and go and do the same for others. Elizabeth  Ann Seton, whose feast we celebrate today, knew this. She converted to Catholicism, was married and raised five children. After her husband's death, she founded a religious order and began establishing Catholic schools in Maryland. She knew Christ's love for her, received Him and stayed with Him. She then spread that love to those in need.
Let us ask St Elizabeth Ann Seton for her prayers and intercession today so that we too may accept Christ's love, stay with Him and bring Him to others.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Prayer For The Holy Name Of Jesus

My Lord Jesus Christ,
I offer You this prayer as an act of love and reparation for all those who do not love You, or
reverence You and Your Holy Name.
Forgive those who use Your sacred name to curse and blaspheme. Forgive me for the times I have ignorantly done so.
May Your Holy Name be prayed to bring us Your power and strength, and to bring us comfort and consolation.
May we pray the holy name of Jesus with reverence and praise now and forever.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Prayer For The Epiphany

May the light that guided the wise men also lead us to Christ. 

Epiphany Prayer

O God
Who by a star
guided the wise men to the worship of your Son
we pray you to lead to yourself
the wise and great of every land
that unto you every knee may bow,
and every thought be brought into captivity
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Taking Mary Into My Home

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God today, I would like to relate a story of how I have recently taken Our Lady into my home.
In my post yesterday, I alluded to how I felt our Blessed Mother wanting to have more of a role in my life. She seemed to make this quite clear on Christmas Eve.
The story actually begins before Thanksgiving of this past year. I was at my parents' new home when my father out of the blue asked if my parish needed a statue of the Blessed Mother. I told him I didn't think they did, but was very curious as to why he was asking me this. It seems that since their move in September, the statue that was given to my parents on their wedding day 50 years ago has been riding around in my father's trunk! I explained to him that he needed to release Our Lady from this captivity and find an honorable place for her. I made the suggestion of making a Mary garden of sorts on their little terrace. He then proceeded to say he was worried about the Muslims. Now I was beginning to wonder if my dear father was having some sort of senior episode. I calmly explained to him that most Muslims have a healthy respect for Mary and that his fears were probably unfounded. He was having no part of any of this. My mother in the meantime, was not having any part of this conversation, but simply said they had no room for the statue.
I left their home that day without the statue of Our Lady hoping they would have a change of heart. My parents have never been much for practicing their faith. My Mom has at least started going to Sunday Mass when my grandfather, her father, died a year ago.
That brings us to Christmas Eve. I had my family at my home for dinner that night. My father once again asked me if I wanted Mary. I told him since he didn't see fit to remove her from his trunk, I would gladly take her. My mother wanted to know what I was going to do with her- where in my small apartment could I put her. I told her not to worry about it, that perhaps I could donate her to my parish, or maybe donate her to our retreat house where we hold our Rachel's Vineyard retreats.
As of right now, Our Lady stands next to my dresser in my bedroom. Since taking her in on Christmas Eve, I have begun to think about the history of this statue. It was blessed and given to my parents on their wedding day 50 years ago, but strangely enough, it never was in any of the homes they lived in; it remained in my grandparents' house until my grandfather died last year.  Thinking about this, I really don't think I should give her away; she should stay in our family in some way.
I have been praying that if there is something else to be done with the statue that Our Lady or her Son will let me know. In the meantime, like St John, I behold my Mother and have taken her into my home. She is most welcome here and I pray she is happy here.
Like I said in my post yesterday, I feel that Mary is trying to guide me more in my spiritual life and in my relationship with her Son. Perhaps this is a very tangible sign from them both. I have heard Jesus interiorly, on a number of occasions, tell me to let His Mother help me. I think it is time I listened.
...Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

January Devotion: The Holy Name Of Jesus

January is the month traditionally devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus. In this day and age when the most holy name of Our Lord is ignored and profaned, let us pray that hearts will be converted and proper honor and respect be paid to this most holy and sacred name.
You can find a Litany to the Holy Name of Jesus by clicking the image for the January Devotion on the left sidebar; it will remain there all month.

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.