Monday, December 31, 2012

Gratitude and Blessings

My title is spiritual~ese for out with the old and in with the new. This morning at Mass, Father thanked God for 2012 and asked for God's blessing upon 2013. I am not sure I have ever thought to do that myself.
While this past year of 2012 has certainly had its ups and downs both on a personal and global level, I am thankful to God for all of it. The downs can be learning experiences, and sometimes those painful little graces of humility. It is easy to be thankful for the ups or the good things that happen, but as St Paul tells the Thessalonians: " everything give thanks..."
So as 2012 comes to a close, I will give thanks to our gracious and merciful God for the good, the bad, and the ugly and I will ask Him for his blessing upon all of us throughout the coming year.
A Happy, healthy and blessed New Year to all who come by here.

Here are some links to help us start 2013 with our hearts and minds turned to God.
Prayer for the New Year(USCCB)
Spiritual Tips for the New (and any year)

Comments always welcome at The Front Porch.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

An End of Year Award

As I have taken a bit of a blogging hiatus, the last thing I imagined finding in my combox was a blogging award. Thank you to Nancy at The Cloistered Heart and The Breadbox Letters for this award.
One of the things I like best about blog awards is that they enable us to discover some new blogs we may not be aware of.
The Catholic blogosphere has been a source of inspiration, encouragement and friendship over the last four years.
Here a few who have walked along with me during that time.

Colleen at Thoughts on Grace
Mary at The Beautiful Gate
Daily Grace
Michael at Reach Paradise

Some of my newer friends:
Patricia at I Want to See God
Caroline at The Bell of the Wanderer
Nancy at The Cloistered Heart

Thank you to these and all the Catholic bloggers who help to inspire me on my faith walk.

Here are the rules:
1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012′ Award
2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen — there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required — and ‘present’ them with their award.
3 Please include a link back to this page: — and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)
4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them.
5 You can now also join our Facebook group — click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012′ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience.
6 As a winner of the award — please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award — and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…
Yes — that’s right — there are stars to collect!

Unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once — this award is different!
When you begin you will receive the ’1 star’ award — and every time you are given the award by another blog — you can add another star!
There are a total of 6 stars to collect.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace On Earth; Good Will To Men

It has been somewhat of a tradition for me to post the following song by Casting Crowns. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is a song based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the time of the American Civil War.
As then, so it is now that our country is living through some dark times. The bells of Christmas are a sign of hope. That Hope was born in a manger over 2000 years ago. Jesus our Hope is the greatest gift we have ever been or ever will be given.
The story behind the song and the poem can be found here.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch.

Friday, December 7, 2012

One Whom Jesus Touches

“And as Jesus passed from thence, there followed him two blind men crying out and saying, Have mercy on us, O Son of David.  And when he was come to the house, the blind men came to him. And Jesus saith to them, Do you believe, that I can do this unto you? They say to him, Yea, Lord.  Then he touched their eyes, saying: According to your faith, be it done unto you.  And their eyes were opened…”  
~Matt. 9:27~30

Throughout the Gospels we read of the countless times Jesus heals someone through His touch. In today's Gospel from St. Matthew, we read of the two blind men who were healed of their blindness through Jesus' touch.
In every healing that we read about in Sacred Scripture, we see that Jesus requires the faith of the one being healed. In today's passage, He actually asks the blind men: "Do you believe that I can do this?" When they profess their faith, the healing takes place.
It is the same for us. Jesus may not be walking this earth as a man, but He is still with us. His power, through the Eucharist, through Sacred Scripture, and sometimes even through others, still has the power to touch us and heal us.
We may not suffer from physical blindness, but most of us suffer from some degree of spiritual blindness. St. Ambrose, whose feast we celebrate today, says: "...for he whom Jesus touches sees more." 
Whenever we ask Jesus to heal us of our blindness, or of anything for that matter, He asks us the same question He asked the two blind men: "Do you believe I can do this?" Jesus can do anything He wants however He wants, but He asks of our faith; He wants our participation in His healing of our wounds~spiritual or physical.
Jesus' response to the blind men's affirmation of their faith, and to ours is: "Let it be done according to your faith. The stronger our faith, the more complete the healing.
During this Advent and all through our lives, may we believe more fervently in Jesus' healing power. May we allow Him to touch our souls so that we may see more.

Lord Jesus,
I believe in Your power and in Your desire to heal me of my spiritual blindness. Increase my faith so that the scales will fall completely from the eyes of my soul so that I may see more of You and Your will for me, that I may see more of Your beauty in creation, in others and in myself.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Another Motherly Companion

Those of you who have been a follower of this blog for some time know that I have had a sort of running joke with St Ann. She was my patron for the last three years. So this year when I put my hand in the basket to choose a saint for this year, I had to wonder if this powerful saint and mother had had enough of me, or did she feel that she had more to teach me.
Well, it seems that she saw fit to pass me on to another powerful saint and mother. St Monica is my patron for this year. I find it interesting that for the last several years my patron saints have been strong mothers. St Ann has done much to help me with my own spiritual motherhood and I think St Monica will continue that task.
If you have read my reversion story, you know that as a post~abortive mother part of my healing has been in accepting my spiritual motherhood with my daughter in heaven. This is not always easy for me to do given what I have done, but having St Ann as a patron and spiritual companion certainly has helped. St Monica is an example of what the power of prayer can do. She prayed for over 30 years for the conversion of her son, Augustine. I know she will intercede for me and teach me more about how to embrace my spiritual motherhood.
Oh, and St Ann, don't think for one minute you are off the hook; I still plan to call on you too :)

If any one would still like a saint for this coming year, there are plenty left.

Comments are always welcome at The Front Porch.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Walking With The Saints

Our good and gracious God has given us the awesome gift of His saints. They are our heavenly helpers and companions. St Paul refers to them as the "great cloud of witnesses", and they surely are.
Most of us are named for a particular saint. Many if us have a favorite saint or two. These heavenly souls are powerful companions because they have lived earthly lives just as we are. They know the struggles, trials and temptations we all face. While we walk this earthly exile, we are not saints, and nether were they. What made them saints was their faith in God, their love for Christ, and their humility to ask His forgiveness and mercy when they strayed or fell. These are the same things that will help us to join their ranks someday.
Life on this earth is far from easy, especially if we are striving to follow Christ and His teachings. So a little heavenly help certainly can't hurt.
A few years ago, I began a tradition on this blog of choosing a saint for anyone who wanted one. Actually, the saints choose you. All I do is pray for the person for whom I am choosing, and ask God and the saints to guide my hand to choose who they want.
In preparing to do this, I type out a list of about 100 saints names~whoever pops into my head. There are Apostles, martyrs, religious, Popes, and laity.
The great reward for me in doing this has been the stories those of you who have participated in this have shared with me. I love hearing how this saint may have helped you in the past, or that it is someone unknown to you but you are eager to learn about him or her.
So as we prepare to enter into the season of Advent and begin a new Liturgical year, the saints are ready and willing. If you would like a saint for this year, stop over at The Front Porch and leave a comment.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Feasts and Famines


If you are a regular visitor to this blog you know that it has been awhile since I have posted anything. There are a few reasons for this. One, I simply have not felt inspired to write anything, and since I try not to post just for the sake of posting, I haven't. The other is that I have been bit a bit pre-occupied with some upcoming things in my life in general (never good for the creative process), first and foremost, an annulment hearing at the end of this month. While I really am not worried about this, it is a little bit of a cross looming in the distance. So much for the famine part.
As for the feast, well, I have recently begun praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Thanks to some gift cards, I was able to afford the complete four volume set. Learning to pray this beautiful prayer of the Church has been on my spiritual wish list for some time. I believe God has called me at this time to do so.
Since my last retreat this past May, I have felt God sort of "tilling the soil" of my spiritual life. I have felt more drawn to prayer and meditation. The Liturgy of the Hours is a virtual spiritual feast in this regard. It provides more Scripture, spiritual reading and prayers than any Christian could ever ask for. Those of you who have been praying this prayer already know that.
I also feel that God is preparing me for some changes down the road. Once my annulment is either granted or denied, I think just what those changes are will become clearer.
This feast of prayer that I have been feeding on these last few weeks, I believe is connected to the famine. It really isn't a famine, but more a being led into the desert. The famine has just been in my writing~ Besides it made for a catchier title for this post :)
So having said all this, I am going to take a bit of a sabbatical from blogging for awhile. I will see where I am after September comes to a close and perhaps start up again then. We will see what the Holy Spirit has in mind at that point.
In the meantime, enjoy rummaging through my archives if you so desire. As I am not going into total seclusion or reclusion, The Front Porch remains open if you care to drop by. You will also most likely see me visiting your own blogs from time to time. I will keep you all in my prayers, and ask one or two from you every once in awhile.
Until the King gives this Daughter the go ahead to write again~ may He bless you all.

Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart. ~Hosea 2:14

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Being Taught By God

James Tissot: Jesus Teaching at the Seashore

I love the readings for today, especially the first one from the Book of Kings. I had this comical vision of Elijah asleep and the angel coming to wake him. The angel just sort of hovering next to the prophet poking him with an angelic finger telling him to get up and eat. Poor Elijah had about had with himself and was basically saying to God: "Take me now!" Well God wasn't having any of that so the angel returns and pokes Elijah once again, but this time his command comes with an important reason: If you don't get up and eat the food God has left for you, the journey will be too long for you. This got our weary prophet's attention, and so he did as the angel said. He found that the angel was right, and that he had the strength to walk for forty days and nights to God's Mountain.
I learned a lot from Elijah today. I too at times find myself saying to God: I have had enough, I can't go on another step, I keep falling into the same sins, and the litany could go on. Well thanks be to God, He isn't having any of that from me either.
My whining is like that of the murmuring Jews in today's Gospel. Jesus stops them right then and there: "Stop murmuring among yourselves." He shows them, once they quieted down, that they were being taught by God. The reason they were there hearing Jesus was because the Father had taught them and led them to Jesus~even if they were not ready to accept Him or His message. Some would stay, and others would leave.
If we believe in Jesus, it is because the Father has led us to Him; it is pure grace. If we believe in Jesus in the Eucharist, it is because the Father has drawn us there and has given us this gift of faith.
The Father is pure spirit. He knew and knows that we would need a physical Presence as well. He gave us that in Jesus Christ. Through the teachings of Jesus, we hear the Father. After all, the Father tells us on two occasions in Scripture who Jesus is and that we should listen to Him. First at the Jordan where Jesus is baptized, and then again on Mount Tabor during Jesus' Transfiguration. This my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.
God sent His angel to Elijah to teach him; later the Father sends His Son to teach us, and to stay with us if we will have Him.
God does what any good teacher does~ He tells us what we need to know (in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition), gives us the tools to use the knowledge (grace through the Sacraments), and then allows us to go from there, but remaining close by should we need a refresher, and you know we will.
Jesus was teaching the people of His day and us that He is the Bread of Life~that food that we would need so that like Elijah, we would have the strength to make the journey(with less murmuring and whining) to God's Holy Mountain.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Facing Our Jerusalem

The Gospel for today is one that I have read and heard many times. Sometimes familiarity, especially where Scripture is concerned, is not necessarily a good thing. It can be easy to simply glance over the words, thinking that we know what it says, no need for careful reading, or if we are hearing a familiar passage read at Mass, we listen with only half an ear.
But sometimes God prevents the familiar from becoming too familiar by drawing our attention to a particular phrase. Such was my experience this morning. While hearing the Gospel where Jesus asks the Apostles who the crowds, and more importantly, who they say He is, I was drawn to the second part of the passage where Jesus tells His Apostles that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. You know what happens next~ Peter acts as Peter does most often, but maybe even more so this time. He dares to tell His Master that this could never be.
Jesus didn't say He should go to Jerusalem, or maybe I might end up in Jerusalem; He said I must go to Jerusalem. Jesus, being in total conformity with His Father's will, was able to face Jerusalem and all that awaited Him there.
This got me thinking about our own lives. Each of us in the course of our lifetimes may have small Jerusalems to face~those difficult, but in the grand scheme of things, rather small trials that we need to deal with. We may also have bigger Jerusalems to face~ a terminal illness, or the death of someone close to us. Eventually we will all face the final Jerusalem that will lead us to our heavenly home.
My thoughts in all of this led me to the question: How was Jesus able to face Jerusalem and all that would happen to Him there? The answer came quite immediately~ He saw beyond it. His Apostles could not, which is why Jesus told Peter that He was thinking as man does, not as God does.
As difficult as the trials of life are, and as difficult as our own death is to think about, if we look beyond to what awaits us if we conform our wills to God's just as Jesus did, if we think as God does and not as human beings do, we too can face our Jerusalem.
I believe this is the grace given to the martyrs. Their faith in God's promises helped them to see beyond what awaited them at the guillotine, the gas chamber, the rack or any other instrument of torture and death.
The Church celebrates today, the memorial of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). She died a martyr's death in Auschwitz during World War II. She saw Jerusalem clearly in front of her, but saw beyond it to the glorious life that awaited her in heaven.
Jesus did this, the martyrs did this, and so must we.
The things of this earth, the good and the bad, are fleeting compared to what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Glory Revealed

Mt. Tabor at Dusk

I could take you back in time over 2000 years to that day with Jesus, Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor. I could ask you to imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus manifest His glory to His Apostles that day.
Yes, I could ask you to imagine that ancient day, but I won't. Instead I ask you to recall the last time you came before Jesus in His Eucharistic Presence either in an adoration chapel, or in church before the tabernacle, or the last time you received Him in Holy Communion. You may not have realized it, but you, in those precious moments were on Mount Tabor with Our Lord. His glory veiled to your bodily eyes, but revealed to the eyes of your heart and soul through faith.
Jesus took Peter, James and John up that mountain that day to strengthen them for His fast approaching Passion and Death.
Those three Apostles must have been changed in some way that day~even strengthened.
So are we every time we come before or receive His Eucharistic Presence. Like the Apostles, and Moses before them, may we not come down from the mountain the same way we went up. Allow the glory of the Risen Lord to change you from the inside out.

A Transfiguration Prayer
Heavenly Father,
You spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and to the Apostles on Mount Tabor where You revealed the splendor of Your glory in Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Moses came down from Sinai with his face aglow from being in Your Presence, the Apostles saw Jesus radiant and never wanted to leave Tabor.
As we come before the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist may we be transformed; may we not leave Your Presence the same way we entered, but aglow with Your grace. May we become luminaries of Your splendor and glory in this world, for in Your light we see light.

May we become what we behold and what we receive.

All of this we pray in Jesus' name.

Join the conversation at The Front Porch

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our Obligation To Love Jesus

This phrase in my title came up twice within the span of a few hours in two different places in my reading and meditation. The first was on Saturday night as I was reading and praying the meditation for the day from a book of meditations on the Passion of Jesus. The second came a few short hours later just after midnight as I was keeping my hour with Jesus in my parish adoration chapel. I picked up my Magnificat and was reading the meditation for the day written by Fr, Jean Baptiste Saint~Jure, a seventeenth century French Jesuit priest, and there the phrase appeared again.
When things like this happen, I tend to pay attention since I get the feeling God is trying to tell me something.
Viewed with the eyes and ears of the world, this phrase using the word obligation, can seem to have a very negative connotation. The world tells us we should not feel obligated to much, if anything at all. A sort of "if it feels right, do it" attitude. However, seen and heard with the eyes and ears of faith, this phrase, and especially the word obligation, take on a softer and gentler meaning.
In the face of all that Jesus endured and suffered for us, we as Christians do have an obligation to love Him, but at the same time Jesus never forces His love on anyone, nor does He force them to love Him in return. This spiritual obligation is one of acceptance. Once we accept Jesus, and His love for us, most dramatically demonstrated through His Passion and Death, we feel a natural and willing obligation to love Him.
This obligation to love Jesus is also seen in today's Gospel. Over the next four Sundays, we will hear from St John's Bread of Life Discourse in Chapter 6 of his Gospel. The passage for this Sunday comes soon after Jesus has fed the multitude. The crowd once again follows Jesus, and Jesus recognizes why they were seeking Him~not for the signs He manifested, but because they were fed, physically with the loaves and fishes.
As we read today's passage, we can see Jesus preparing the people to hear those words that they will find difficult, that His Flesh is the true food, and His Blood true drink. But for right now, He simply tells them that He is the Bread of Life, and whoever comes to Him will never hunger, and whoever believes in Him, will never thirst. I imagine they felt He was speaking in symbols and parables. We know He was not. His Apostles back then knew He was not. If the people in that crowd truly believed Jesus was who He said He was, their hearts would have felt that natural obligation to love Him. I am sure some did, but many did not.
The same holds true for us today. Jesus' message about Himself has not changed. He still tells us that He is the Bread of Life. Those who believe the true and real meaning of His words know and are happy to fulfill their obligation to love Him. It is fulfilled every time we receive Him with love and devotion in Holy Communion, and in every visit we make to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
By the end of this discourse of St John we will see many walk away from Jesus because they felt they were being forced to believe something their hearts and minds could not accept or understand. Many have walked away from Jesus today for much the same reason.
When we believe like the Apostles did, that Jesus has the words of eternal life, then truly to who else would we want to go. With the eyes and ears of faith, this obligation to love Jesus becomes a gift~ His to us, and ours in return to Him.

Pay a visit to The Front Porch to comment.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Little Renovation to the Front Porch

Thanks to all my visitors, The Front Porch reached 100 comments today. Since it seems to be getting a bit crowded, I decided to build some additions so that we can move around a little. Visit The Front Porch for details. See you there!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Lady And the Battle For Souls

This battle for souls is something I have written about before. It is more than just a battle between good and evil; it is a battle over life and death, for the death of the soul is the ultimate death.
This death of the soul can occur long before the death of the body. Many are walking around today as "spiritual zombies". I should know because for a long time, I was one of them. The thing is though, if by God's grace a soul converts and turns to God before the body dies, life can return.
Jesus tells us not to fear those that can kill the body, but rather those that can kill the soul. (see Matt. 10:28) The death of an unconverted soul is a death that lasts for eternity. This is one reason devotion to Our Lady is a crucial element of our faith. We need her to intercede for poor sinners who have lost their faith and turned from God, and we need her to help us persevere in our own faith. Our faith is a gift, and if that gift is not nurtured, it can be lost.
I truly believe that Our Blessed Mother is instrumental in this battle for souls and obtaining the grace for conversion~ she certainly was in mine.
Satan hates Mary for this reason. He knows that she is a powerful force to be reckoned with because it is the power of Christ that works in and through her.
August is the month dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Much has been written about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary~ a great deal of it deals with the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima.
Fatima's messages are for our times today. The things Mary told the children at Fatima are coming to fruition in our own day and time. One of Mary's strong instructions to the children was: Pray, pray, pray! It wasn't just for them, it is for us as well, and not enough of us are doing it. So many are turning away from Christ and His Church. Devotion to Our Lady is often seen as not necessary or old fashioned piety. If you really listen to the messages of Fatima, you see that we do need Our Lady and devotion to her is not only necessary, but critical.
In looking for something to post for my monthly devotions post, I came across a website for a fairly new religious order. The Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary was formed in 1990. Their spiritual charism is  to be offerings of love and consolation to the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary by choosing in all things the perfection and splendor of love in order to give way to its triumph.
I found an article written by their foundress Mother Adela titled In the End, My Heart Will Triumph. Here is a brief excerpt from the article on why the triumph of the Immaculate Heart is necessary:
In the apparition of Fatima on July 13, 1917, Mary said, “You saw hell where the souls of poor sinners go; to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I say, many souls will be saved and you will have peace…There will be wars, hunger, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To impede this I come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and Eucharistic reparation on First Saturdays. If my desires are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors through all the world, promoting persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated …Suddenly the horizon will darken... Later, a brilliant ray of light and hope will arise…In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
In this message from Fatima, Our Lady wants to awaken our awareness to the fact that we are engaged in a battle that involves nations, societies and kingdoms, and every individual residing in them. “We cannot deny the existence in society of forces capable of great influence which act with a certain hostile spirit towards the Church. All of these things manifest the work of the ‘prince of this world’ and of the ‘mystery of iniquity’ even in our day” (Synod of Bishops, 1985, Final Report, 4).

So let us pray throughout this month dedicated to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, and always for the souls of poor sinners and for our own.
Prayers and writings on the Immaculate Heart can be found in the Pages drop down menu above~click on the August Devotions page.

Comments welcome on The Front Porch

Sunday, July 29, 2012

He Knew What He Was Going To Do

St John's Gospel today tells us that even though Jesus asked Philip what they could do to solve the problem of feeding the multitude, Jesus knew what He Himself was going to do.
He knew it then...

and He knows it now...

The Porch is open.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Saint of My Heritage

Being of half Lebanese descent on my mother's side, I often wondered as a child why, if we were Lebanese, we weren't Muslim. I remember asking my Mom this one day when my very young curiosity could rest no longer, and it was then that I learned of Lebanon's rich Christian population and history.
It would not be until my return to my faith all these years later that I would learn of 
St Charbel Makhlouf whose feast we celebrate today, and it is only very recently that I have done any reading on him. Unfortunately any books on him seem to be all out of print, but I managed to find quite a bit on line about him. Since St Charbel was of the Maronite Rite, I have also done some reading on this very rich and beautiful eastern Catholic rite. At times I feel quite drawn to the eastern rites, but have not as yet mustered up the courage to attend one of their Liturgies. Sorry for the digression...
Pope Paul VI was the pope to canonize Charbel in 1977, and had this to say about him:

"...a hermit of the Lebanese mountain is inscribed in the number of the blessed, a new eminent member of monastic sanctity is enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people. May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God..."
Many miracles are attributed to this saint and the story of the days leading up to his death on Christmas Eve 1898 is just amazing. Here is an excerpt from Fr. Mansour Awad's Three Lights From the East:

Father Charbel spent the night before Christmas, 1898 in church, following his usual custom of twenty-three years, ever since he became a hermit at the hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul on the mountain of Annays. He did not waver from this praiseworthy custom. But that last night, he was lying down, neither awake, nor praying, nor meditating; he was asleep, sleeping the sleep of death. His soul, however, was with God, quite awake, in the eternal awakening. This was the last night Father Charbel would spend in the church of Saints Peter and Paul. Contrary to his custom and for the first time, Father Charbel was lying on the floor, over the mat of hair, with his face exposed.
Please note that people never saw his face when he was alive. He always kept his head down in church, at work or when walking, always looking to the ground. He would lift his eyes only to heaven. When in church, he always faced the altar with his eyes fixed on the tabernacle. However, when he died and was Lying face upward, his eyes were closed, still not looking at anyone, exactly as in his lifetime. Holding vigil at the body of the Servant of God in church, were his companions of the hermitage, Father Macarius Mishmshany, and Brother Francis of Artaba, along with a group of monks from the monastery of St. Maron. As soon as they learned of the passing of Father Charbel they rushed to the hermitage to kiss his hands and to be blessed by touching his body while bidding him farewell. Many spent most of the night kneeling near him, praying.
You can read the rest here.
Just from doing the little bit of research for this post, I know I will be reading more about this saint of my heritage as well as adding him to my circle of heavenly helpers.
Lebanon also produced two other saints: St Rafka, a Maronite sister, and
 St Nimatullah Al~Hardini, a Maronite priest and religious who lived a monastic life in solitude. Both of these saints were canonized by Bl. Pope John Paul II.
I always love reading about the lesser known saints. I am even happier to find three from my Lebanese heritage.

St Charbel, pray for us.

Oh and for those curious souls who are wondering about the other half of my heritage... my father's family is from the island of Malta. 

Comments welcome on The Front Porch

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Ultimate Retreat

Today's Gospel passage is one of my favorites for several reasons. One is that Jesus seeing the crowd was moved with pity for them; He didn't want them to be lost, roaming around without a Shepherd. Jesus and the Apostles didn't plan on this moment. Seconds before this Jesus invites the Apostles to come away with Him to a deserted place. I sometimes wonder what went through the Apostles minds when they saw the crowd had followed them. I somehow imagine that they may have been a bit miffed at the crowd and disappointed that they were not going to get some quality quiet and alone time with their Master. This brings me to the second reason I love this Gospel passage. It gives me permission to come away with Jesus to a quiet and deserted place.
As most of my readers know, I have made my share of silent retreats over the last several years. This is certainly one way to "Come away" with Jesus. However, at this time in my life, Our Lord has not seen fit to plant me beside the ocean locked away in a hermitage (maybe someday) so I must find other ways to accept this invitation and command.
One way is my weekly hour of Eucharistic Adoration. When I first began this hour nine years ago, I figured no one else would be in the chapel at midnight on a Sunday morning. I was looking forward to some quality alone time with Jesus. How wrong I was. Many a week there are more than just a few people there. Now my soul knows this is a wonderful thing. My selfish nature struggles with those thoughts the Apostles may have had. Do they have to be here now?
I am a very distractable person. These holy souls who often join me in adoring Our Lord do not always pray quietly or they have some very demonstrative ways of praying. It is at these times I remember why God gave me eyelids. I close my eyes and retreat into my "inner room" there before Jesus and despite that there may be many around me, I still have my quality alone time with Jesus.
While having a physical place to be alone with Jesus is a wonderful treat He sometimes gives, it isn't necessary. St Matthew's Gospel tells us: "But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee." (Matt. 6:6) We can do this anywhere simply by turning our hearts and thoughts to God. So any time, anywhere, we can find ourselves on the ultimate retreat with our Master.
Today is also the feast of St Mary Magdalen. She knew better than many how to accept this invitation of Jesus. She was often found sitting at His feet listening to Him. Our Lord describes her as someone who has "chosen the better part." Let us follow her example and ask her intercession today so that we too may choose the better part.

St Mary Magdalen: Penitent

Related Posts from my Archives on St Mary Magdalen

Join me for a Sunday visit over at The Front Porch

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Watch And Pray That You Do Not Undergo The Test

Depending on the Bible translation you read, the above words are sometimes given as: " and pray that you do not fall into temptation." Jesus spoke these words to His sleepy Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His Passion and Death. Last night as I was reading a few blog posts that dealt with the coming tribulations this world will not escape, I heard these words, for the first time, as if Jesus were in front of me speaking them right to me.
Somehow, I think Our Lord wanted me to hear/remember the words He spoke to His Apostles, but He wanted me to hear them in relation to our times today.
Jesus knew everything, even as He lived His earthly life. Part of the reason His suffering was so intense in Gethsemane was because He saw and "became" every sin mankind would commit until the end of time. He knew then what is going on in our day and age now.
My friends, we are living in a state of vigil. During any vigil, we are keeping watch and praying. We need to be awake to do that. Yes we can pray that the things Jesus warned would happen won't, but I dare say that may not be the best prayer to pray. We need to pray as Jesus told His Apostles that night, and us now: "Pray and watch that you do not fall into temptation." What is the test or temptation He speaks of? Here is Jesus' Exhortation to Watchfulness from Luke's Gospel:
 "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man." 
(Luke 21:34~36)
Each of us is living in this particular day and time for a very good and specific reason. The coming days may not be pretty, and they can be scary, but as a fellow blogger reminded me, sin is scarier! So we here in this time, who love and strive to follow Our Lord, need to be vigilant in our prayer and watchfulness. God will give us the grace we need just as He did to the countless saints before us. He doesn't plant us on this earth and then just say: there you go, you're on your own. He wants us to depend on Him and trust Him. Yes, He will give the grace, but it is up to us to cooperate with it.
Here is where Our Lady is a great example. In her fears and doubts during the Annunciation, she put her trust in the Father and gave Him her "Yes". We are called to do the same~different circumstances, same principle.
We are living in the time of Christ's Divine Mercy. That is where we find the hope we so desperately need. St Faustina cooperated with the grace God gave her in spreading the word about Jesus' Divine Mercy:
 "My Daughter. Speak to the world about My Mercy; let all mankind recognize my unfathomable Mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them. (Diary 848, p.333)
So let us be like the ten wise virgins with our oil lamps filled, and wait in prayerful vigil for the Bridegroom.

O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us; I trust in You. 
( Three O'Clock Prayer)

As always, comments welcome over at The Front Porch.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Now He Has the Right Idea!

In honor of our fourth heat wave this summer, I offer you this smart fella...

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Little Help From My Heavenly Friends


Mary at The Beautiful Gate has written a wonderful post about the power of the Church Triumphant. This term refers to all the saints in heaven. Since I usually leave a post~sized comment on Mary's blog, I decided to accept her invitation to her readers to write a post of their own on this topic.
As anyone who has followed my blog for any length of times knows, the saints are one of my favorite topics. Those of you who participate in my yearly saints pick, know that I enjoy letting the saints choose who among you they would like to companion for the year. (Yes, I will be doing this again this year~ around late November as we get ready to start a new Liturgical Year.)
Like Mary, I like to follow the saints for each day. I like to ask that particular saint to assist me in my prayer for that day, especially when praying the Rosary. As much as I love Our Lady, I struggle with this prayer~my mind is always wandering! So I can use all the help I can get in praying that beautiful prayer well.
However, I do have a few that are my "go to" saints on a consistent basis. Mary Magdalen is someone I pray to often. I ask her to help me to love Jesus as she did. Also, I can relate to being a "woman of many sins" who has been delivered from those sins.
St Anne has chosen to be my patron for the last three years so obviously she is trying to teach me something. I go to her when I find my self struggling with my spiritual motherhood.
I love the Carmelite saints~especially Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. They are two heavy duty saints, not always easy to understand, but I get much from their writings and feel like they kind of hold me accountable in my prayer, as well as help me to deepen it. St Teresa is someone on some levels I can relate to; she talks to Jesus like I do sometimes~just a running conversation with Him throughout my day. Since reading more about St John of Avila as our Holy Father will be adding him to the ranks of the Doctors of the Church, I have added him to my favorites among the Carmelites. His letters are wonderful.
Finally, there is St Michael on whom I rely on for protection and help in fighting the spiritual combat that is sure to come my way during this lifetime.
Well this is just to name a few. I am so grateful that God has given us this powerful gift of the friendship and assistance of these heavenly friends. They know what is to live this earthly exile and so they cheer us on to finish the race so that we can one day join them in heaven.

We can talk more about this over at The Front Porch.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Instructions To The Remnant


The daily Mass readings of the last several weeks have really made me sit up and take notice more so than usual. Last week, the Church gave us the readings from the prophet Amos, and this week we are hearing from Hosea (one of my favorites).
These two prophets, as well as all the others, were sent by God to warn sinful individuals and nations.
However, today as I was reading the Gospel from Matthew, I felt like I was being given instructions. Jesus was speaking to me as well as all the others who are striving to stand in the breach~ those that are sometimes referred to as the remnant.
When Jesus first spoke these words over two thousand years ago, He knew what His Apostles and disciples would face after His Ascension. Jesus also knew, what those who remained faithful to Him and His teachings, would face down through the ages.
We who follow and live the Gospel are like the Apostles~ sheep sent out in the midst of wolves.
Don't believe me? Just try speaking about Jesus, or His teachings to a nonbeliever, or one who has fallen away from his faith. If you are not met with outright ridicule, you may get a long list of relativist excuses for why they don't see Jesus' teachings as relevant or necessary. But you need not go that far~just turn on the news or pick up a newspaper.
Elisabeth Leseur once made this comment in her writings: "The suffering sent by God  that I offer to Him is the fact that among all the friends surrounding me, I have no one to whom I can totally open my heart... who might understand and help me." (from Magnificat's Meditation of the Day)
 The rest of the reflection goes on to say how she puts her trust in God and that He is the one to whom she can always pour out her heart and soul.
The same is true for us. Like Elisabeth Leseur who lived at the end of the 19th century into the early twentieth, we living in the twenty first century will suffer some sort of persecution if we live true to the Gospel, but we can always be assured of our hope in Christ and the eternal reward He will bestow upon us if we remain faithful to Him.
We are living in dangerous times. Our country as well as others are becoming more Godless by the day.
Be part of the remnant and have no fear, for the Holy Spirit will tell us what we should say and when we should say it. Jesus is on our side and and  any suffering or persecution we endure for His sake and because of His Holy Name can be offered up and united to His sufferings. That, my friends, can save more souls than we may ever know.

All are invited to The Front Porch for discussion and comments.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Continual and Silent Prayer of St Benedict

Today the Church celebrates the feast of a very powerful saint, especially in the area of fighting the demonic. St Benedict has been venerated since the early Middle Ages, and consequently a medal was struck. The medal can be worn around the neck, carried in a pocket or purse or attached to a rosary. Many people put one over the entry way to their home. The medal itself is said to be a continual and silent prayer.
Over the course of the last few days, there has been a fair amount written, including my own post, about the dangers of the occult. These practices are more wide spread than many realize. We need to pray for those who fall into Satan's grip from these practices.
Let us ask St Benedict for his intercession for this intention as we celebrate his feast day today.
EWTN has an excellent article on St Benedict and his medal. Please join me in the following prayer to St Benedict, not only for our own protection, but for all those who need deliverance from these evil practices.

Prayer to St Benedict
0 glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of all virtues, pure vessel of God's grace! Behold me, humbly kneeling at thy feet. I implore thy loving heart to pray for me before the throne of God. To thee I have recourse in all the dangers which daily surround me. Shield me against my enemies, inspire me to imitate thee in all things
May thy blessing be with me always, so that I may shun whatever God forbids and avoid the occasions of sin. Graciously obtain for me from God those favors and graces of which I stand so much in need, in the trials, miseries and afflictions of life. Thy heart was always so full of love, compassion. and mercy towards those who were afflicted or troubled in any way. Thou didst never dismiss without consolation and assistance any one who had recourse to thee. I therefore invoke thy powerful intercession, in the confident hope that thou wilt hear my prayers and obtain for me the special grace and favor I so earnestly implore (mention it), if it be for the greater glory of God and the welfare of my soul
Help me, 0 great St. Benedict, to live and die as a faithful child of God, to be ever submissive to His holy will, and to attain the eternal happiness of heaven. Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Brush With Darkness

Several wonderful posts, beginning with Fr. Joseph Homick's post God and god, have been circulating around the Catholic blogosphere today relating to the dangers of New Age and the occult. (I will link the other posts at the end of this one.)
If you have read my reversion story, then you know that I dabbled a bit with the occult and things New Age. It began around the late eighties~early nineties and continued right up until my return to the faith in 2002. While I did not go as deeply as some others with this, I went dangerously close to the edge. The truth is, there is no safe range when it comes to the occult. Make no mistake, New Age and Occultism are really two sides of the same demonic coin.
In my case, I was led to the writings of Edgar Cayce. He had a lot to say on nutrition, was said to diagnose people and heal them without ever meeting them. He also wrote much about reincarnation.
Now while I don't remember being instructed in the dangers of all this during my Catholic school years, I was taught that we die once and either go to heaven or hell; we don't get another chance to try it again. As I slowly became immersed in all this, I seemed to forget my Catholic faith and all that it taught.
Around this time, Shirley Maclaine's book and TV movie, Out on a Limb came out. I read the book and watched the movie as well, and I was hooked.
I have to say that I read more about all this than actually practiced it, but the beliefs were taking root. I read everything Ms. Maclaine wrote and it all seemed to make perfect sense.
I still believed in God, but I wanted Him on my terms, not His. When I look back on this now, I see that this was mocking Our Lord. It was saying to Him: "You are not God nor a King." I was no better than those soldiers who crowned Him with thorns and mocked Him during His passion.
You see, that is what New Age spirituality does. It tells you that you are the center of everything. It replays the scene in the Garden with Adam and Eve and the devil telling them they can be gods. In one scene in the movie Out on a Limb, Ms. Maclaine and one of her new age "mentors" are standing on a beach, arms outstretched repeating over and over again: I am God. That is just plain blasphemous!
My reading would become even darker, I began to take an interest in witchcraft. I never became a full fledged witch, but read enough about their customs and rituals that I probably could have.
I believed crystals had healing power. The fact that I nor anyone I knew was ever healed by these pretty rocks should have convinced me otherwise.
What I really found enticing about all of this was that I felt that I no longer needed to fear hell because there wasn't one. My way, not God's was just fine.
It was in the middle of all this dark thinking that I had my abortion (1988). I didn't realize it at the time, but I needed something to get me off the hook for all I had done~ the abortion and everything that led to it. New Age did that.
Fr. Joseph mentions the Neale Donald Walsch books: In Conversation With God. I read these as well; they became my new "bible". The God he describes is no God at all. It is Satan in disguise saying: "Whatever works for you is just fine with me." Our God, the one true God, does not work that way. He is mercy and love, but also justice. He never condones sin. Mr. Walsch's god not only condoned it but encouraged it as well.
It is only by God's grace that I was delivered from this dark mess. I honestly do not know where I would be today if I did not receive that letter from my friend in 2002 telling me to get a Bible( a real one) and a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
It wasn't easy, especially on him; I resisted with everything I had. There was no way I was going back to that "judgemental God". My friend loved me enough and had patience enough not to give up on me. He literally re~ catechized me.
When I finally made the decision to accept Christ back into my life, on His terms now, not mine, I still had the abortion to deal with. God led me to Rachel's Vineyard where I could receive the healing from this horrible sin. I believe it did much to heal me of the New Age filth as well.
I still have to be careful. Satan knows that I love to read, and he will use this to try to put New Age material in my hands. It is all about guarding the senses. Satan knows our weak spots better than we do. We may forget about them, but he doesn't. It would be very easy to get lured back into his lair.
After I made my Rachel's Vineyard retreat, I felt compelled to attend daily Mass. It wasn't that I just felt like going~ I had to go. I believe that the Eucharist has much, if not everything to do with cleansing me of these demons.
In hindsight, I realize I had been looking for God and that personal relationship with Jesus all along; I just didn't know it. I truly was lost. I thank God and my friend for loving me and having patience with me.

Related Posts
We Are Not gods and Moira Noonan's Story by Mary at The Beautiful Gate
Full Truth and Nothing But by Nancy Shuman at The Cloistered Heart

*Both Mary and Nancy link to the Vatican Document: Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life. I highly recommend not only theirs and Fr. Joseph's post, but also this Church document.

As always, comments welcome over at The Front Porch
(However, I will be moderating them for this one,)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Embracing Our Weakness

*Reflection based on the Mass readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Embracing our weakness is not something we usually enjoy doing. It certainly is very counter cultural. In St Paul's letter to the Corinthians, we see that Paul himself was not too comfortable with embracing his own weakness at first. He prays that God will take these things from him, and God answers him with a simple, yet profound reply: "My grace is sufficient."
Everything we need in order to embrace our weakness is wrapped up in those four words. Part of our weakness as human beings is that we forget that we need God for everything, that our dependence is, or should be on Him and not on ourselves. God gives us the grace, His grace, so that we can entrust ourselves to Him in everything, but something more is required of us in this.
Embracing our weakness is part of living the virtues because it requires humility. The opposing sin to humility is pride, and it is our pride that makes us want to resist God's grace. It is our pride that leads us to say to God: "I've got this one Lord; no need for your help with this." I don't know about you, but every time I have said that or at least acted that way, I have fallen flat on my face. It has now gotten to the point that when I find myself doubting and wanting to rely on myself, I hear Our Lord speak those four words into my own heart and soul. I am always grateful for His loving and gentle reminder that He has and is what I need in everything.
When we recognize and acknowledge our weakness, relying on God to see us through the course of our daily life, we allow His grace to enter, and like Paul, find that it is sufficient. 
God sends the prophet Ezekiel to remind Israel of this same thing (although not in the same words) because God sees how resistant to Him they have become. The people of Jesus' day, those of His own town, do not recognize Him. Both of these groups relied more on their own knowledge, and saw things from their own limited perspectives. If only they had opened their minds and hearts to allow God's grace in.
Embracing our weakness also takes faith. Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith He finds in His kinsmen. Because of this lack of faith, He is unable to "perform mighty deeds there".
We can see how our faith allows Jesus to perform these mighty deeds when we look back to last week's Gospel about Jairus' daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage. Both the servant and the woman showed great faith, and it was their faith that allowed Jesus to heal the little girl and the woman. 
It is our faith in the sufficiency of His grace that allows Him to perform mighty deeds and heal us us as well.

My Dear Lord Jesus,
It is not my weakness that offends You, but rather my self reliance, my resistance to You and Your grace. Help me to trust You more, depending solely on You in everything. From here on in I will embrace my weakness and see that Your grace is sufficient. I come before You now in all humility and with steadfast faith so as to allow You to perform mighty deeds in my own life.

Feel free to join me and others for discussion on The Front Porch.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Love The Sinner

It is true that God hates sin. However, He does not hate the sinner. This is the underlying message of today's Gospel reading. (Matt. 9:9~13) The more learned of Jesus' day could not understand why He would choose to eat and be in the company of someone like Matthew. Jesus sends them off to contemplate His words: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." I wonder if they did really seek to understand what He meant? I sometimes wonder if we do too.
If we allow ourselves to get caught up in the ways of the world, it becomes very easy to judge, or more precisely, condemn others. Behaviors can and sometimes should be judged~people should not.
We all fall into the category of sinner. We may not be living in a state of mortal sin (praise God for that!), but we all succumb to our fallen natures from time to time.
Mahatma Ghandi once said of Christianity: "I like your Christ, but not your Christians." He did not find many Christians who were truly Christ~like. If we don't live our lives following Christ's example (or at least trying to), we add credence to Ghandi's statement.
What others should see in us is our kindness, our mercy toward others, and a striving to live the virtues.
So as Catholic Christians who accept Christ's invitation to "Follow Me.", let us:
Hate homosexuality, but not the homosexual...
Hate adultery, but not the adulterer...
Hate abortion, but not the abortionist, or the woman walking into the clinic...
Hate religious persecution, but not the persecutors...
This is no easy task, but Our Lord commands us to live this way, and He has given us the perfect example in Himself.
Hate the sin, not the sinner.

Comments always welcome on The Front Porch

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Solemn Fourth

Jon McNaughton's One Nation Under God

I have posted this painting by artist Jon McNaughton before. It is a powerful one, especially when you see the different figures portrayed as well as the documents lying on the steps. If you follow this link, you can hover over the painting's various parts and an explanation of the figure or document is given off to the side.
As our nation observes (I don't have the heart to use the word celebrate) Independence Day today, we are perhaps the farthest we have been as a nation from true freedom since the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were drafted by our founding fathers. The fabric of liberty and freedom are becoming more threadbare by the day.
May our prayers of supplication and reparation restore the fabric that this nation was founded upon. May we be once again, One Nation Under God.
I leave you with this prayer composed by John Carroll, the first archbishop of this country. He wrote it for the occasion of George Washington's inauguration, but it is extremely appropriate for our own day and time. Our pastor read it at the end of the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass today.

Archbishop John Carroll’s Prayer for Government
Composed for the Inauguration of George Washington

We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice,

through whom authority is rightly administered, 

laws are enacted, and judgment decreed,
assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, 
and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; 
by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; 
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; 
and by restraining vice and immorality. 

Let the light of your divine wisdom direct 

the deliberations of Congress, 

and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws 
framed for our rule and government, 
so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, 
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; 
and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for the governor of this state, 

for the members of the assembly, 

for all judges, magistrates, and other officers 
who are appointed to guard our political welfare, 
that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, 
to discharge the duties of their respective stations 
with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, 

all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, 

that we may be blessed in the knowledge 
and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; 
that we may be preserved in union, 
and in that peace which the world cannot give; 
and after enjoying the blessings of this life, 
be admitted to those which are eternal.
Grant this, we beseech you, O Lord of mercy,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 

         *If you would like to comment, please visit me at The Front Porch.

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.