Sunday, January 31, 2010
I will go into the Liturgy of the Hours in more detail later... but before retiring for the night I would like to leave you with an explanation of what Compline means to me. Here is Compline for Sunday:
Psalm 90 (91)
The protection of the Most High
He will shade you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night.
He who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells under the shade of the Almighty.
He will say to the Lord:
“You are my shelter and my strength,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will free you from the hunter’s snare,
from the voice of the slanderer.
He will shade you with his wings,
you will hide underneath his wings.
His faithfulness will be your armour and your shield.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day;
nor the plague that walks in the shadows,
nor the death that lays waste at noon.
A thousand will fall at your side,
at your right hand ten thousand will fall,
but you it will never come near.
You will look with your eyes
and see the reward of sinners.
For the Lord is your shelter and refuge;
you have made the Most High your dwelling-place.
Evil will not reach you,
harm cannot approach your tent;
for he has set his angels to guard you
and keep you safe in all your ways.
They will carry you in their arms
in case you hurt your foot on a stone.
You walk on the viper and cobra,
you will tread on the lion and the serpent.
Because he clung to me, I shall free him:
I shall lift him up because he knows my name.
He will call upon me and for my part, I will hear him:
I am with him in his time of trouble.
I shall rescue him and lead him to glory.
I shall fill him with length of days
and show him my salvation.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Ant. He will shade you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night.
Reading Apocalypse 22:4-5
They will see the face of the Lord, and his name will be marked on their foreheads. There will be no more night: they will not need sunlight or lamp-light, because the Lord God himself will shine upon them. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord, God of faithfulness.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Canticle Nunc Dimittis
Guide us as we stay awake. Watch over us, as we sleep. That awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in His peace.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace.
Your Word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness;
the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Guide us as we stay awake. Watch over us, as we sleep. That awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in His peace.
Let us pray.
Today we have celebrated the mystery of the Christ’s resurrection, and so now we humbly ask you, Lord, that we may rest in your peace, far from all harm, and rise rejoicing and giving praise to you.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
May the almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.
Now, Compline and Lauds are my favorite hours of the Office. Why? Because Lauds brings joy for a new day and Compline brings peace for a new night. This is a prayer of gentle trust and holy resignation. It is a prayer of hope and beauty. But most of all, this is a prayer that brings peace.
The Gospel Antiphon (Guide us Lord, as we stay awake...) is my favorite of all. It summarizes the purpose of our lives... to keep watch with Christ while we are awake and sleep in His peace when we must rest. To chant these lovely words is to me as a mother's lullaby is to her child... it brings me great peace and comforts all confusion in my mind and in my heart. It helps me realize that my troubles are nothing and He will always care for me. It eliminates worry from my mind.
After this beautiful prayer we sing a song to the Blessed Virgin... bringing her motherly love down upon us to watch over us through the night. It is that time when, in monasteries, the great silence begins. No one speaks, and God communes with the soul in silence and in peace. When I enter the monastery I think I will wonder how I ever managed to sleep outside its doors...
"I bring you with reverent hands,
The books of my numberless dreams"~Yeats
How can you accept,
My life of dreaming dreams?
How can your heart receive,
My half-written book?
How can your eyes seek,
My path of numberless visions?
How can you tread,
The clouds of my imagining?
How can you be warmed,
By the sun of all my hopes?
How can these hands,
Raised reverently to you,
Beg you to accept?
A sweet poem written for the above quote from W.B. Yeat's poem "A Poet to His Beloved." Can you guess what it means?
I saw this in Michael's blog Reach Paradise. He has done a meme of sorts and is asking his readers to answer this question: If you could witness any moment in Christ's life, what would it be? You get to choose three. This is a wonderful meditative exercise.
Here are the rules:
- To make this a bit easier, you can choose 3 one-hour time periods. (Your "top 3", if you will)
- To make things harder, you cannot choose His birth or any time period from the Last Supper on.
- If you have a blog, post this question and rules and answer it there. If you would rather not spend a post quenching my curiosity, or if you do not have a blog, feel free to post your answer in the comments section here.
- Put a link to your post in the comments section of this post and/or in the post in Michael's link so we can all share.
- Tag 3 other people to do the same.
Jesus' Prayer After a Day of Work
I would like to be present as Jesus prays at night after a day at work in the carpenter shop... any night of His 29th year. I would like to hear what He says and see His eyes. I would like to see how His devotion is as strong on an ordinary day as it is any other day of the year. I'd like to see what words He says in prayer about His Mother. I'd kneel down next to Him and watch His emotions and feel the aura of His Love in the silence of the night...
Jesus Teaching About the Beatitudes
I would like to be sitting near Jesus as He tells about the Beatitudes... I'd like to hear His message of love and kindness and hope as He shows us the perfect way of life. I'd like to watch how He looks at the people... and see if His eyes reflect Fatherly tenderness. I'd like to watch His Mouth and His Smile as they fervently release the fire of His Divine Spirit. I'd like to listen to His Voice and see if I can detect a tone of everlasting friendship. Then, I'd like to feel the intense goodness of the message I've received from the mouth of Christ Himself.
Jesus Calming the Storm
I want to be in the boat as it rocks and turns in the storm... I want to sit right next to Him as He sleeps. He must have been very tired. I want to see the look of exhaustion on His Face after He spent so much time teaching. I'd like to be soaked with the rain of THAT storm. If the rules allow us to touch Him, I'd lay my hand on His Cheek to wake Him up as the disciples cry out. Then, I'd watch His Face as He calms the earthly elements! Can you imagine? It must have shone divinity, love, compassion, and strength... I'd like to watch His Hand as He raises it in command... I assure you my faith in Him would be so strong at that moment I'd die of it! I want to see the skies and seas calm... I'd like to feel that peace, and watch His eyes at that moment, before the disciples have shaken out of their surprise enough to even speak.
My heart is beating wildly from considering the life of Jesus... I am so glad I read that post Karinann.
You've been tagged!
From a letter by St. John Bosco, priest.
Epistolario, Torino 1959, 4, 201-203
First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfill their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always labored lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal. And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.
My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.
I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts. They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.
See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.
Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.
This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.
They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.
There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.
In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.
I post this letter because there is no better way for me to describe the loving care shown by Don Bosco. He was a father to the children and sought always to be holy so that they to could learn from him and be holy themselves. He is a model for fathers and teachers, yes, but so much more! He is a model of Christian Charity to all.
In this letter, one can see genuine understanding of Truth and Charity. One will also note that by directing these at young people, Don Bosco's love is kindled even more brightly. Christ asked us to be as little children, for to such is the kingdom of heaven... does this not make it even more apparent that kindness burns even more greatly for children? Children require great patience... and yet, that serves to strengthen the bonds of real love. St. John Bosco achieved sainthood by showing Charity to children, and allowing it to grow and bear fruit in himself. His wisdom was made genuine through this love, and we our wise in our discernment if we accept him as a model for ourselves.
I just returned Mass and assist-teaching religious education... all morning I've been coming up with possibilities for this morning's post on my blog. Now that I am home, however, there is only so much I can write. After writing some letters to my friends, I've decided on the perfect topic.
In the second reading this morning at Mass... St. Paul's famous text on love to the Corinthians was read. Then, the fourth grade class I was assist-teaching today learned about St. Paul's preaching trip, particularly his mission to the Corinthians. St. Paul loved the people he led to Christ as a man loves his own child or brother. His teaching is the exhibition of the beautiful reality of Christians during that time. What was this reality? It was their love.
Many, many people were converted to Christianity by seeing the example of Charity in the Christians. They used to say of the Christians: "See how they love each other..." Truly, our personal holiness, faith, and love draw people to Christ. We must let the fire of fervor be lighted in us, so that our actions will show how truly wonderful God's love is. In today's world, especially, one who is an example of true Christian Charity will draw people to Jesus in waves, wherever he goes.
My last comment seems odd, doesn't it? Today, when there seems to be so little good... how could I think that one could draw people wallowing in a sinful world to Christ simply through his holy example? The world is full of living souls thirsting for Christ's love... the hearts of people today are touched by even small acts of kindness because of how little it is shown... so, truly, this is a prime time for us to BE Christian Charity! We must represent our Church for what it truly is, and show to the world the flame which is in the Catholic Church.
In the Gospel messages this week and last, we hear Christ speaking about how prophets are never accepted in their native lands. Many messages can be taken from this, but I would like to point out that Jesus speaks of the universality of the Church. St. Paul was called the Apostle of the Gentles because his heart was open to those farthest away from the Church. Christian Charity must include people from all ends of the Church... people we know and people we do not know... because only then is it TRUE Charity.
I mentioned that I decided on the topic I would discuss after writing some letters to my friends... why? When I write, my heart is filled with love for the one I am writing to. My words reflect great tenderness and care, my penmanship shows considerate and loving movements of my hands, and the little pictures I draw in each letter are unique and, though simple, deeply reflect some concept of our faith. Why do I describe in such length the beauty of my letters? It is because these letters are both to people I know well and to people I have only just met... I think of all of them with equal tenderness. It is our vocation to let all our movements, and all we touch, to receive the love of Christ as fully as we can offer it.
This is the gift of the Mystical Body of Christ. We, the Church, have one heart... and it contains all people. Those near, far, living, dead... those we know, and those we don't... through the heart of the Mystical Body we love them all. It is for this reason that the Christians of the Early Church shone with such light!
It is our vocations as people of the Church of Jesus to draw others to Him. Through love we reflect to the world an unknown beauty, and initiate a strong pull to Christ. Our faith, also, draws others to Him. What greater witness to the truth of Christ can we offer than to show complete faith in Him? All hearts long for truth... but many have not received the gift of faith and cannot see the truth. We cannot spread Christ and His Teachings to the world if we do not believe them. We cannot speak with sincere conviction on something we do not have faith in. We like to forget, sometimes, that hearts can sense a lying tongue... but hearts can also sense deep faith and truth... we must make sure it is the latter that others sense in us.
Many were converted in the early Church by the martyrs. They were brave, they were heroes... but they were heroes of faith. So greatly did they trust God that they willingly, even eagerly, gave their lives for His Truth. If one has fully let Faith into his heart, his witness very powerful to the world today. He is a living light of hope and security, and he reflects the truth of God. People do not know what to believe, they do not have the courage to try to find truth through faith, but they are drawn by this courage in us to Christ.
Finally, if we further our own personal holiness we share Jesus to the whole Church. If we kneel in the quiet of our rooms and pray for our own conversion... if we bring ourselves close to Him and ask Him to come into us... if we build our own faith and love in dedicated silence... our lives will bear great fruit. There is no better ground for humility and genuine goodness than silent prayer, alone with God.
Our lives can BE living flames. Our example gives the light of Christ to all that are near us. The teacher I was assisting this morning said: "The Church has been called a sleeping giant... if all Catholics were to rise up in the fervor which the Church's fruits initiate, the world would convert." If nothing else, Christ would fill us ourselves.
write a story.
What you wrote was new.
Pray a prayer,
What enlightened you was new.
Read a book,
imagine an image.
What you imagined was new.
See a child,
laugh at a thought.
What you thought was new.
dream a dream.
What you dreamed was new.
Fall in love,
be touched by emotion.
Your emotion was new.
Think of Jesus,
envision His face.
What you envisioned was new.
Feel all alone,
The comfort you found was new.
Live life fully,
leave no regrets.
The life you lived was new.
Whatever you do, think, or feel,
Each person has a life that is all his own... a life that is New... remember that your identity is shared by no one else, and live each new moment with a pure heart and joyful eye that glories in the wonders of God!
I know how sometimes the seasons seem to come and go very quickly... Sometimes I myself miss their beauty. However when I look, I can see that I live in a lovely place. I felt I had to share some of the loveliness with all of you, in the only way I know how. I confess I cannot write, but what better place to share beauty than here where written beauty begins? So I'll paint for you a picture... and hope that your intelligent and critical eyes will look past my poor grammar and see what I see during special moments when God's beauty shines on my small farm:
Its getting ready to rain outside... the sky is impressive with enormous dark-gray clouds and vast expanse showing all its power. The wind is blowing the colored leaves off the trees and making the grass dance the ballet. The ground beneath the sturdy but gentle giants outside is sprinkled with red, yellow, brown, green, and other colors which are undefined. The rustling trees are beginning to show their branches in chilly nakedness and are bending their great trunks beneath the pressure of the gusts of wind. The horses look like the woolly bear caterpillars that sprinkle the ground, and the chickens are worriedly flapping their wings and settling on their roosts for the night. Excited squirrels run for cover and the goats huddle close. The rabbits crouch in their hutches and my pup hugs her pillow. Complaints can be heard both from the deep abyss of sky and the birds who inhabit it. During this whole ceremony of nature before a rain I sit just by an open window, with a book open, feeling the breeze touch my skin and blow my hair as twilight penetrates my room. Anticipating the refreshment that will soon enliven the parched and worried earth, as it has done since God created the earth and will do until the end of time.
Only for a moment, such a special moment, I saw the air white with snow. As I sat there in the warm, peering out the window, something was beginning; an advent of fantasy; an advent of wonder. It was just for a second, in which I saw, the wind blow torrents of unimaginable beauty into the breasts of clouds. In great distress, a cloud sent up a piercing cry, releasing tiny white feathers which filled the tops of trees. Somewhere in the distance, in its profound astonishment, a great light mysteriously dimmed. It was then that I heard, even in that moment, a whisper and a scream from I know not where. All in that moment, I realized it was true. Winter has begun, and it won’t be over soon.
This I can see from the blanket of pure white silk which has drapes the meadow. This I can tell from the mournful naked trees who toss and turn in the clear brisk sky. Thus I say: “It is no lie, that winter has finally come”. For proof is even clearer now, as I stride along the earth, for I tread as if on fresh clouds and smell immaculate air. Pure beauty meets my eyes as I experience the mysterious feeling of cold. Can I not hear as well, singing in the air? Ah! Now I know… there are angels there! Hence the soft snow, like a carpet of red, is a place for angel steps. And oh the smell and taste must be the pure clean air which surrounds the heavenly sanctity! Can you not feel it? Heaven here on earth! Perhaps I only dream, for this is how it seems to me when lovely winter comes.
Never overlook the beauty of the seasons!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I will not go into the nature of purgatory, or rather the nature of the purification one receives there, but I will say that it is an acutely disconcerting experience for he who suffers it. By virtue of the Mystical Body of Christ, however, we can work off their debt for them, to some extent. Just as the saints help us from the glories of heaven, so too can we help those suffering in purgatory from our opportune situation on the earth. Can you think of a kinder act than to release a soul from the pains of Purgatory into the utter happiness of heaven?
This is the prayer of St. Gertrude... Jesus Himself promised that each time this prayer was recited 1000 souls would be released into Heaven. What a wonderful feeling, to save 1000 suffering people with a single prayer! I have gotten into the habit of reciting this prayer during Mass, before meals, and other times simply because I am so grateful to God for this opportunity.
Should our love of people through Christ stop at those still living on earth? Absolutely not... we can love the souls in Purgatory also because they belong to our family of faith. It is our vocation to love others as God loves them and to help the Mystical Body when we can, just as It helps us. So, let us offer to the Almighty the gifts of good works and prayers to be given to these dear souls in reparation for their sins.
I would like to share my favorite prayer with you... the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. This prayer has long been my favorite, and has set the guidelines for what has become the central motive of my life. This prayer of blessed humility and great love for God and His World outlasts every age and every culture. To bring peace to others out of love of Christ without thinking of oneself is the most freeing and most beautiful act of love and friendship. For, peace is the most beautiful fruit of love.
I invite you to listen to this song. The voice of these words echoes the song of my heart, and it echoes the voice of peace. There is no greater comfort than to bring peace to another through love, and no more worthy purpose in life than to further Christ's love and peace in the world. For love and goodness radiates peace, and peace begets love and goodness.
The words of this prayer are within the image at the beginning of this post, but I will post them again:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
Is there any more perfect way of furthering peace than to humble oneself? To make oneself holy through concern and love of others in Christ? Truly, Francis knew the secret of peace. If we are the ones to forget ourselves and our pride and give to others only Jesus, we shall ourselves receive a great capacity for love and peace which brings unspeakable joy to our hearts, which thirst only for these things of Christ. Jesus was gentle, kind, and supremely loving during His life on earth.... His was the way of peace and His was the greatest love, even unto death. Let us imitate Him always!
The title of this post is "baby steps" and rightly relates to my comments above. When I revealed to Mother Abbess and Mother Vicaress at Bethlehem Monastery that I felt called to enter there, I was surprised by Mother Vicaress' joy! She told me that when I enter I get to be a little child again as I begin to move forward with my vocation. I have often spoken of a vocation as a lifelong calling, as well as the more specific calling of Christ to a certain state in life. Mother Vicaress' words helped me to realize that when I am answering God's call to a certain state in life, I will be beginning with baby steps as I, newborn, make my way to my Vocation.
What does this have to do with my posts on this blog? Everything! Discernment is a time of spiritual formation as one prepares to follow God's Will. To lose sight of the base principles of our Faith and of spirituality can cause spiritual confusion and collapse. It is as if one forgets to walk by running so long, and when his legs grow tired they fall out from under him. It is like one who has spent so long staring at words that he forgets his abc's, or is so deeply into complex mathematics that he cannot add, subtract, or count; all the learning falls to pieces until this basic knowledge is restored. Or it is as if one has built a tower of blocks and removed the foundation blocks. Our faith cannot be built on nothing, we must have a consistent understanding of the principles of our faith if we are to live our vocation as God desires.
Throughout our entire lives, specifically through our discernment and where our vocation is concerned, we must take the baby steps very seriously. Even Jesus specifically grew in His Jewish religion to show us how we must prepare and build our towers of faith on a strong foundation. When we forget some specific teaching, or understanding, we must patiently go back and review the basics. Every word of our faith can sprout up into many concepts, but if we forget the word itself the concepts are worth nothing.
It is a favorite saying of mine to say "the moment we stop moving, we die." This is true especially for spiritual growth! We must expect to be constantly learning, constantly taking baby steps to Christ, and constantly renewing those footsteps we have forgotten.
These "baby steps" tie directly into the concept of the forever moment and the forever movement. We must always perceive the present as something we can make perfect. Let me share with you an anecdote that I once shared with a friend:
We walk in a desert, leaving only footprints in the sand. Our hope is to reach an oasis, but we cannot see it. We never seem to be making progress as we leave each footprint, nor do we appear to be progressing towards our destination. But God looks at each footprint and takes either delight or sorrow in it. He watches with loving kindness as each footprint is made, and sees them even after the sands have covered them up and we can see them no longer. We must strive to make each footprint perfect for Him. The more perfect our footprints become, the more complex and beautiful we make them, the more we perceive the oasis. For the oasis is not in the distance, it is always there hidden by a veil. As we grow in perfection, we do not move nearer the oasis... rather, we become more and more aware of it in the midst of the desert.
Let us always take care that we progress during each moment, and leave behind us a lovely footprint. That, slowly, as we grow in skill and care, we may see more clearly through the veil in faith as we suffer in this desert. One day it will not be the eyes of faith, or the eyes of the soul, that see the Oasis... it will no longer be hidden through a veil and the desert will transform. Take care that your footprints are made perfect through Christ... for you can never reach an oasis in the distance, you must grow in the perfection so that your sight of the Omnipresent Oasis may become whole.
It is our human nature to desire to pay homage to someone... be it God, man, or a mythical creation of power, we worship. This has been proved time and again as every generation since ancient times has worshiped the Deity or deities. As Christians, we believe that worship belongs to God and God alone, and rightly so. We follow the first commandment inasmuch as we say "All praise and adoration belongs to You and You alone." However, there is a very common mistake that we fall into which causes us to neglect these duties severely.
What is this mistake? This mistake is forgetting the meaning of worship and why we worship God. Not misunderstanding it, but simply forgetting. Sometimes, we forget it by overriding our adoration of Divinity by sensing a "human connection" with God... but I will touch this in a minute. First of all, allow me to offer definitions of adoration and worship taken from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Worship: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power
Adoration: the act of worship; profound love or esteem.
Why do we adore God? Because He was here before the first movement of any being... because He is almighty and all knowing... because He is our Creator... because He sees all things and is intimately aware of each happening, even in the depths of our souls... because He is King of Heaven and Earth, our Supreme Ruler... because of His care for us throughout the ages and His constant love... because of His Justice and Goodness and our fear of these... because He is infinitely greater than we can fathom.
We do this every week at Mass. You may be wondering now what point I could possibly be making... and this is it: When we see Jesus Christ in the Host at Mass and we watch the priest's deep gestures of worship... are we simply watching a ritual or are we participating in Divine Worship? Are we aware that we are in the presence of this great Being I just spoke of, or do we simply think we are in a church with many other people? If not, aren't we exhibiting a mockery of what we truly believe? Are we not crowning Him with thorns and robing Him in purple and bowing down for Him with no purpose of really giving Him worship?
In one of the readings of the Divine Office, yesterday, I noted a singular thing... man forgets to be grateful! When Jesus cured the ten lepers, only one returned. In the Old Testament it was often spoken of about God's peoples' lack of gratefulness. We begin to take God for granted, and begin to take what He did for us for granted. We get so used to looking at the broken Figure on the Crucifix that we begin to FORGET what exactly He went through, and what He still does for us. We receive the Blessed Host so often that we forget that God is coming to us... that He is coming to reside in our own souls! Should this not be something that we are constantly remembering and renewing within ourselves?
I will return to my former mention of this mistaken "human connection" with God. God is all good and loves us all with absolute divine love. He is Mercy and He is our Friend. Not everyone falls into this failure to adore God... but some begin to recognize these gifts of God's Supreme Love as something they deserve. We begin to think that our understanding of Divinity and Spirituality is whole and complete... and that we are God's partners! Think about this for a moment. I am not speaking of intimacy with Christ, I am speaking of a false look at oneself and a lack of humility. Jesus, who comes to us intimately and directly relates with our human nature through His Own, IS Divinity. He is greater than all our understanding... He loves all of us with absolute love, not just some of us. The moment that we begin to look at ourselves as worthy, we begin to lose some understanding of Divinity. The minute we begin to consider the understanding of Divinity as our personal capacity, we are lying to ourselves very stupidly. We can only be intimately connected with our God if we adore Him as Divinity with every inch of our being, and to do this we must be constantly aware of His Greatness and our own not-so-greatness.
We can never find perfection, nor follow our true vocations faithfully, if we cannot even recognize the first commandment. "I Am the Lord your God" let's take Him at His word, shall we? Let's always recognize this first part of the first commandment as what should be foremost in our minds. Let us always recognize all that He has done for us, and how unworthily we receive His Gifts, and be grateful to Him with our whole hearts. Let us use His Gift of our inheritance, of our intimacy with Him to further our adoration of Him and gratefulness to Him, to further His Greatness on earth, not to attempt raise ourselves as Lucifer and the hypocrites did to His level. Let our adoration always be pure from ulterior motives, and let us offer true and impersonal worship freely, admitting our shame and lowliness, whenever it is called for. Let us never attend the Miracle of the Mass without at least attempting to realize the magnitude of what we must be grateful for and adore.
Blessed be God!
Blessed be His holy name!
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man!
Blessed be the name of Jesus!
Blessed be His most Sacred Heart!
Blessed be His most Precious Blood!
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the alter!
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Consoler!
Blessed be the great mother of God, Mary most holy!
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception!
Blessed be her glorious Assumption!
Blessed be the name of Mary, virgin and mother!
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse!
Blessed be God, in His angels, and in His saints!
The Divine Praises, which we say at Benediction, have a singular quality that deserves recognition. The last six lines are blessing the creations and wonderful works of God. We honor the angels, the saints, and God's acts throughout the ages because they are the works of the Most High! God contains all Good. All that is and all that has every been is the work of His Hands. We cannot truly worship and adore Him without recognizing His wondrous works. By loving and adoring Him in and for Himself, we must love and adore all that is contained in Him and all that He has seen fit to do. So great is God that we honor those who have worshiped Him... we honor those who have brought Him glory... for they have furthered the Divine Cause. We honor Mary because Jesus loved her very uniquely and desires us to honor her as our Mother (fourth commandment and His words at the foot of the Cross). So absolute must be our adoration that we must worship God in all His Works and all His servants.
I hope that you all find intimacy with Christ... that His Love and Mercy fills you. I hope you will all be filled with the gratitude for His works that increases understanding and love and closeness to Him. I hope that you will recognize your littleness in the face of God's Greatness, that by so doing you may be granted His Personal blessing as His children. I hope that your fervor for God is always so great that you see the saints as heroes for His Cause and deserving of great respect, for this brings Him joy and thus brings saintliness to you yourselves. Finally, I hope you will never forget the greatness of Divinity and that our adoration must be absolute, so that you may be admitted kindly to the Beatific Vision by showing through your life the desire to see and adore Him infinitely. This is our true vocation, which will last forever. God bless you.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Leah awoke, gently, to the realization that she had drifted off to sleep. With her sleep had come some dark clouds which covered the sky like velvet blankets. They had completely blocked out the sun and she could no longer see the friendly white clouds that were there before. In fact, the clouds had come in so thick and dark that they looked like many mountains covering the earth from above.
The wind picked up and Leah began to shiver... there was no sun now to warm her. The trees swayed and the scent of rain began drifting through the air. There were no longer any birds in the sky either... well, perhaps one or two were fluttering towards the ground. Her gaze, which had been for a moment on a descending bird, was captured momentarily by some small creature running down the limbs of the naked branches of a tall tree, only to dive into a little hole at its roots. Leah wondered to herself if he would curl up into a little furry ball and sleep in the warmth beneath the soil.
However, soon Leah's full attention was directed at the magnificent piles of clouds. Small droplets of rain had begun to fall, and it crossed Leah's mind to retreat to the house, but she could not tear her eyes from the magestic layers and plush shadows. The greatness contained in this darkness seemed to surpass even the endlessness of blue from a short while before. "It is a wall separating the world from the blue infinity" she thought to herself...
The rain had now begun to fall harder and Leah's face was shiny with the water running down her cheeks. Her blanket was in her arms in moments and her book gently wrapped in it and tucked under her arm. As she turned her eyes, finally, to the house... she realized that the air was now warmer and cozier. "No," she said to herself, "it is not a wall... it is just a warm mantle, beneath which the earth is nourished."
For some, including myself at certain times, the resource is work. Sometimes untiring determination overrides depression. At low points in my life I have set very high goals for myself and then set out to reach them. These goals have included driving, working, and studying religiously for A's in college courses. Sometimes responsibilities put off depression until it is no longer an issue. At times in my life my responsibilities have been so great that to stop for a moment out of self-pity would turn others' lives, and my own, upside down.
However, my idea of the ideal resource for combating depression is faith. We are human and go through phases. Some of these phases are zeal and great love... at other times, however, we forget what we are fighting for or where we want to go. It is these points in time that we must work for Faith. If you have ever been in a large crowd, like that at the March for Life in DC, you know how important it is to keep some landmark or sign in sight in order to stay with the group and not be carried away by the numberless crowd. You can't see the people you are trying to stay with, at times, but you rely on this landmark or sign to lead you to them. So also is faith important to keep one from getting carried away by the waves of depression.
In the Old Testement this concept appears to be clearly understood. Moses' last words to his followers included "The Lord will go before you and deliver you into the land of your inheritance"... or something like that anyway... but is this not the same faith I am speaking of? The Israelite's knew of the Lord's Promise and through all their trials and blindness allowed Him to be their sight. This is how we must act in the face of depression, when our own minds and hearts fail us.
Another interesting concept I noticed in the readings this morning was that the Old Testement clearly understood the phases of men. We have phases of zeal and hard work as well as those of exhaustion and desolation. It is for this reason, this understanding of our "phases", that the Lord ordains the seventh day as our day of rest. The Chosen People also had many customs for days of feasting and days of rest, as does the Liturgical Church of today. Why do I mention this in a discussion about depression? It is because it is important to remember that we go through phases such as this, but that we must have faith in the Lord in spite of it because He does not go through phases. We must believe that He will lead us to our inheritance, even when we cannot believe in our ability to find it. He requires obedience from us to follow His lead in spite of our difficulties precisely so we can rise out of them.
I speak of faith and understanding... but when one is depressed, a far greater issue arises. This is purposeless and lack of motive. One who is depressed might say "I don't care if I have faith or not... I don't see any reason to put any effort into maintaining this faith if it might bring me to nothing." Truly, it is faith that brings one out of such thoughts, for one must believe before he can expect to be redeemed through his belief, obviously. While looking from the perspective of God and others, one can see the necessity for faith. From the perspective of a person who cannot trust himself do to the disease of depression... faith is merely that landmark he knows will bring him out of the waves of troubles. He must have some movement, some strength, even when he has no motive; because at the moment we stop moving we die.
I will speak more on the Office at a later time... but here I must mention daily prayer also. Why do Catholics have such structured prayers? It is because of these phases. Man needs some sense of structure, something to follow when he does not know his way. We need to know what to pray for when we are not even thinking straightly enough to know what we ourselves need. The Office is a perpetual prayer, as is the Mass... no matter how many years will pass, the Church must maintain this liturgical year for the safety and security of her flock. By praying in such a structured way, we are walking even when our legs are tied with fear and doubt. We are steadily walking, steadily working, and most importantly steadily making progress with the Lord through these prayers. We do not stop our efforts, even when all motive and hope is covered by a veil of depression.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Few people are unfamiliar with Thomas Aquinas. He was a man of great faith and learning and his teachings on spirituality, specifically, look at some central parts of doctrine in a new light. Thomas was not immediately famous for his learning, however. By humbling himself in contemplation he raised his writings to the height of the spiritual sphere, and his wisdom came from the Fount of All Wisdom. As my pastor put it this morning, we are called to share the fruits of contemplation with others. Thomas, by spending hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, was filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, which later radiated through his writings.
However, Thomas' humility was not hindered by his amazing perception and understanding. He thought of himself as a "Dumb Ox" and looked at his powerful writings as bits of straw in comparison with the Divinity. Truly, this realization is what made this man so great. He obviously perceived the Mystery, he perceived what he didn't know. Only by perceiving our smallness can we speak of greatness. So severely did he consider himself below writing about the Divinity, that he once banged his head on the Tabernacle and cried out "Lord, help me!" There is no greater wisdom than that which emits humility.
Thomas' faith and love of Christ Jesus were so strong that they became the base and the purpose of his wisdom. His contemplative heart and faith allowed him to consider faith and reason side by side in a way blessed by God. He is a perfect example of one who is first holy himself, and then helps his fellow man. His brilliant mind put into words the gifts of wisdom obtained in contemplation. In his world renowned writings he solved misunderstandings of the Faith by combining his deep faith with a mature reason and understanding. His words “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” show us how deeply he understood human nature, the Mystery, and the need for faith.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Because of the poorness of this drawing, I will explain what I have depicted here. This is me, and my book of human knowledge, completely confident and completely determined to get where I want to go. To my left is my long-suffering guardian angel begging me to slow down and have faith in God. This picture revolves around patience and my lack thereof.
Patience... well, this is not one of my voluntary virtues. If I had my way, patience would only apply to how I deal with someone else... not to how I lead my own life. You may or may not have noticed that my story is one of significant impatience. Because of this, there is no better way for me to touch this subject than to speak from experience. I give you full permission to laugh...
I'm going to take you back to when I first decided to become a nun... between eight and ten years old. In my story books, saints entered monasteries and became heroes. It looked to me like the perfect life, and you get human respect in the end to boot! Here it was, the highest ambition, and it was open to me. It didn't take long for me to decide that I would enter a cloister.
At this young age I was not severely beset with impatience, however, something happened years later, when I was becoming impatient, that showed me how much patience I would have to have. I was old enough to write letters and start planning how I was going to get into the best monastery I could find. I wrote monasteries from France to Washington in the hope that I could enter some illustrious community, or at least find the perfect community. All seemed to be going as planned, and I was going about my career in a very adult way. However, my foolish confidence soon took a hit when a nun from a Carmelite community in WA wrote me this letter:
We will pray for your vocation, but it is important to understand that a vocation is a call from God which is received in the silence of the soul. It is not necessarily the fruit of a childhood dream, nor is it the item that you ‘buy’ after shopping around and looking into ‘all’ the different possibilities. It is, therefore, God’s choice for the soul and she must remain docile beneath His guiding light. May He lead you to port!
*ahem* well... here was the first big blow to my vocation. When I first read this, years ago, I could have cried from the hurt it caused me. All my motives and efforts in respect to following my vocation became as nothing. This, and a few other occurrences that I will not mention here, caused me to realize that I had no reason to suspect that God owed me a religious vocation just because I wanted one! So... what should I do now? I started from the ground up.
Well, I'm certainly not one to sit around. I resolved to do it right. I tried, for the time being, to be satisfied with my life and to proceed patiently with my discernment. That lasted a short time.
In spite of this new found conversion, I still desired the convent with all my heart and did not forbid myself to consider it possible to obtain. During my period of patience I made a lot of discoveries and grew rapidly in my spiritual life, as if my heart had suddenly been opened to God's Word. But I simply had to pursue my vocation if I was to remain sane. I began to realize that I might have to go to college and wait a long time before entering the convent. Even more disturbing, I realized that I may have to wait to find out if I really did have a vocation to the religious life.
Like usual, I immediately accepted the situation and began trying to reform it to where I would like it to be. I "opened my heart" to other vocations, began looking into college, concentrated very hard on my studies, and took on an attitude of "I want it, but if He doesn't want me to have it, I don't want it." My determination at this point to move forward in my efforts lasted my entire tenth grade year. It was also during this time that I started to console myself by seeking understanding of the "current vocation" which we all live at each moment of every day. But I wasn't going to stop there...
In January 2009 I made several resolutions: 1. go to college/work faster in school, 2. get my driver's license, and 3. get a job. By February I was enrolling in a community college, had my driver's permit, and had two jobs. If I had to go to college before entering the convent, I was going to get started! If I had to get a taste of the world before entering a religious community, I was going to work and drive like any other "adult". I signed up for scholarship programs, started looking into universities, made plans for completing high school, and thought seriously about how I would go about following other vocations if God desired it.
It should not be surprising that by June last year I was losing some of my stamina. I began to realize that absolutely nothing could satisfy me like the convent... that I wanted it with my whole heart... and that I didn't deserve it. Patience? Wait? Go to college? These thoughts were torture to me. During this time I had grown so much, and came to the realization of the magnitude of the gift of a vocation. I was overcome with a longing for the religious life that was seemingly the consummation of all my efforts and hopes and disappointments. Thankfully, God is merciful.
While my friends supported me in my constant longing, God finally relieved some of my fears. While attending a Dominican retreat He told me that I would get what my heart desires, a religious vocation. This brought me such joy and peace! I no longer needed to consider the vocation of marriage or trying to make my way through life without being intimately near Him. In my joy I bought a little ring to wear... in truth it would probably be called a chastity ring, but to me it was a reminder of His promise.
Although this brought me some peace, it did not relieve my yearning to enter the cloister. So many years could possibly pass before I found it! With a heavy heart I continued to "discern" and learn. By this time I was beginning to realize how much I had grown through all the waiting... and how much joy I had brought Him through my perseverance and my "patience." But, I waited for my visit to Bethlehem Monastery (first week of January this year) with some sense of expectation. My reasons for looking forward to this particular visit are a bit ironic. I figured that once I visited I could "check the Poor Clares off my list" and move another step closer to my vocation.
I will not go into details about this visit now. I came home with the surprising, but firm conviction that God is calling me to Bethlehem Monastery. I suddenly said "this is it, this is it" and was filled with the greatest peace and utter happiness! In fact, for a week after I returned from the monastery I could not even speak without my heart overflowing from gratitude. Which explains my profuse writing and great love as I share the messages of my discernment. Telling Mother Abbess of my new found certainty brought with it my most recent disappointment "Mother Vicaress and I were thinking that you need to be just a little older..."
Surprisingly, although I could have cried when she said those words, I realized that I was not impatient. My longing for the religious life and espousal to Christ has not ceased or lessened... if anything it has grown... but I'm ready to wait and prepare because I have finally learned that God teaches me through this patience, and that it is a great way of showing Him my love and fidelity. Jesus spent forty-days in the desert preparing for His work... and it even brings me joy to follow suit. Patience is essentially faith in God... that even if it takes time, He is guiding us to what is best for ourselves and to the work we are to do for Him.
I will, no doubt, write about patience again another time for the more direct benefit of my readers... but I wrote this account because I think that sometimes seeing how another has learned something often helps one to learn it himself.
This song echoes the current cries of my heart... When I need Him, He is there to cradle my head in His arms and dry my tears, for He is my Beloved. When He needs me, I want to be there for Him, and go where He leads me at the slightest whisper of His wishes. And wherever He leads, I will hold His people in my heart. When I decided to make this blog, I was answering "Here I Am" to just such a call... and as I type, I type with love in the knowledge that He is giving to others through my efforts. My words here echo His call to you. Truly, this song captures the essence of a vocation... and though one may listen to it a hundred times over... its meaning never leaves it, for it tells of the sublimest purpose which our heart yearns to fulfill.
If you are seeking your vocation... or even have a question as you live your vocation... then I suppose you know what I mean when I say "I want God to answer me. I want Him to tell me what to do, and soon." When we are seeking answers from God, we often fall into a sad misconception...
I can remember searching for an answer, asking for an answer with all my heart, and then saying "Thy Will be done." I can remember praying to Jesus and asking Him to give me specific instructions, and then saying to myself "If He doesn't answer, I can always do this..." Is it surprising that I did not receive an answer when I asked for help in this way? I showed a severe lack of faith... I didn't even expect an answer, because I "knew" I wouldn't hear it, and I was prepared to figure it out myself.
We all want the sky to break open, a light to shine forth, and God's voice to speak as It did to Saul on the road to Damascus. What we fail to understand is that God expects us to listen with faith. How do you do this? First of all, we all know that God ALWAYS answers our prayers. Sometimes we do not recognize His answers right away, but when we need Him, He is there. When we kneel down to pray, we must expect Him to speak to us... or we are not listening properly. We cannot listen without full faith that there is Someone there Who wants to speak to us.
Secondly, we must recognize that God knows the prayers we truly want to be answered. A person may kneel before Him and say "God, show me my vocation," and listen with faith for the next hour... and leave with patience. This is fitting, for patience must come before the sincere desire to do the Will of God. A woman may kneel in her room and say "what must I do for my child who has gone astray?" She may leave her recollection and prayer with seemingly nothing more than the fortitude to love her child in the midst of his wanderings. God does not force us to do good... He fulfills our simple needs and then gives us the opportunity to show our love for Him through our actions and decisions.
Although I speak of accepting whatever answers God gives you... there is another, far more important reason for listening with faith. Many times, God does speak to us. His whispers in our ears sometimes tell us things we did not expect or want to hear. If we are not listening with faith that He will give us an answer, how are we ever to identify His voice? Rather, one who habitually prays with perfect faith will know when God is whispering to him. He will also have strength in his decision according to the answer, because he knows that God will guide him.
I could finish writing now... but if I did so, I will leave the question many of you are asking unanswered. Because of this, I must specify that faith is not presumption. When I speak of listening with faith of receiving an answer... I do not mean that God is at our beck and call... that we should always expect implicitly that He should obey us. Faith is far deeper than this. Faith is trusting God so far that we know He is guiding and counseling us even when we cannot see anything at all. Faith is trusting that when we come before God in prayer, in need, He never fails us. Faith is trusting that when God gives us one tiny resource, and bids us walk, that He is watching with a smile as we grow closer and closer to Him through our efforts. Faith is to never, not even for a moment, think that we are on our own. Until we have Faith in Him, we can never identify His Voice, no matter how many times we hear it.
Listen with faith, for He always answers your prayer. He is our One Resource, and does not ask that we walk alone.
While I was reading my Office this morning, I realized that what I read tied directly into what I had hoped to write of this morning. In the Proper of Saints I discovered some words by Angela Merici that deserve attention:
"For Augustine said: 'love, and do what you will.' It is as if he was saying 'Charity cannot sin'. For a good tree cannot bear bad fruit."
Why do I mention these lines specifically? No matter what our vocation, it is our calling to first purify ourselves and then to do for others what we are inspired to do from holy Charity. For, if one speaks in Charity, the Holy Spirit speaks through him. If one works with the hands of Charity, the Holy Goodness is his every movement. This is the only strength of a religious... to be close to God and thus bring others to Him.
Sometimes it takes awhile to grow in true Charity, and we often must begin with willful Charity; that is, the decision of the will to love all people through Him, even if our hearts do not love. We are not all born with a sincere love of God and man... we are not all utterly willing to give our lives for the smallest chance to save the life of another... but Charity is very important for a religious. Our Charity is our motive for deciding to do right, even when we do not know it to be right. One who has charity and does all things for sincere love of Christ and His children will do good. Can you imagine that someone saying to Christ "I am following this vocation and doing these works for sincere love of You and my neighbor, I hope it pleases You" will not be tenderly guided by God to his true vocation?
One who is living a religious vocation must also have faith in God's presence at all times. For, if he does not have faith who will? How can one help others who does not listen to the whisperings of Christ, himself? Therefore, first and foremost on a young person's list of preparation for a vocation must be analyzing of his own faith. If he has faith, he will not be concerned about where his path lies... rather, his whole being will be concerned with God's Will only and he will accomplish much more. At this very important time in one's life, it is essential to say "Amen" with decision, and follow Christ's teachings with perfect obedience founded in faith.
Jesus knew this very well... He often "went alone to pray" to show us how we must act. If we are to do good in our vocation, we must first pray in silence for holiness. Jesus said to His disciples that the servant is greater than the master, and does this not touch directly on increasing personal spirituality? For a servant has the opportunity to practice obedience, is disciplined, and strengthens himself in body and soul through meek service of others. This does not merely teach us to be humble, it shows us where our strengths lay. Though he is not "great," one who has humbled himself can access the greatness of God. The disposition of a servant to do for others and humble himself is fertile soil for virtue.
In the old testament... the strong and brave Judith got all her strength from her prayer. While reading about her this morning I took notice of her constant going to pray, alone. How pertinent this is! A religious can do nothing without God. If we begin to think ourselves fully mature and grown, we will slowly wilt from separation of our need for constant spiritual growth and will no longer have the power to help others. In the Imitation of Christ this is touched specifically:
Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection
We should enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what others say and do, for these are no concern of ours. How can a man who meddles in affairs not his own, who seeks strange distractions, and who is little or seldom inwardly recollected, live long in peace?
Why were some of the saints so perfect and so given to contemplation? Because they tried to mortify entirely in themselves all earthly desires, and thus they were able to attach themselves to God with all their heart and freely to concentrate their innermost thoughts.
If you do not overcome small, trifling things, how will you overcome the more difficult? Resist temptations in the beginning, and unlearn the evil habit lest perhaps, little by little, it lead to a more evil one.
If you but consider what peace a good life will bring to yourself and what joy it will give to others, I think you will be more concerned about your spiritual progress. (Imitation ch. 11).
If you were to read the remainder of this chapter, you would notice that it tells that we must never falter in our zeal... for, at the moment we stop moving forward, we die. We must make it our sincere purpose to grow constantly all our lives, even when we have seemingly obtained all that we hope for, God can give us more. Even when we have accomplished all that we imagine to accomplish, we can accomplish more. If we are to spread wisdom and goodness through word and action, we must first learn this wisdom ourselves: "God is our strength." If we don't, we do not know where to find the Fount of Wisdom. Learn this first... else you can learn nothing at all. Rather, learn first, or you cannot teach.
Therefore, what I am saying, is that all who wish to do any good at all must be contemplatives of the heart. A new mother who goes off to pray alone with her child at her feet ensures that child's growth in Christ. A religious who retreats to her cell alone to pray and purify herself is strengthening the Heart of the Mystical Body. A man who kneels in silent prayer before going off to work will find himself strong and successful. One who grows in faith and charity will accomplish great good because of their fruits.
I must also touch one other thing before I break off... and this is extremely important for one who is following a vocation. Purity of heart is a great strength. A woman who is strong in purity will be the strength of her husband when he is shallow and worn from the worries of the world. A religious who is strong in purity is pleasing to her Husband through this strength and brings Him joy. Purity is the strength of the soul... it is the great gates that block out evil and the beauty that lines the walls of the "inner rooms" with the clearest and strongest gems. Be pure and you radiate God. Only through purity of heart can God's Goodness radiate to others through you.
Be charitable, be full of faith, be contemplatives of the heart, and be pure... for in thus being, I promise you, God will do great things through you. Go alone to pray and be holy, for in thus doing, you will accomplish God's Will for you. It is our first duty to be holy.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Annabelle sat in the front seat of her convertible waiting for her father to come out of the store. As usual she was deep in thought. She was currently comparing her soul to the soul of someone else she knew. The thing about this which interested her is that although the souls were different, they both appeared the same when she considered them. She found herself looking out the window to the parking lot.
As she sat thus, her gaze suddenly divided as if she had been put in a room with many diamond shaped mirrors. The material body of each person, including herself, disappeared and she saw only souls. At first she was surprised at how alike they all were. They were all exactly like her own; they were all Annabelles. It was as if many identical orbs had replaced the bodies. But she could not help but concentrate on each individually; she had suddenly gained a thousand eyes, each of which focused on a single soul. On a closer look, she saw a world within each orb. Inside were people, places, cars, pets, and lives which she was completely unfamiliar with.
Strangely, the complexity of the vision did not confound or confuse Annabelle. She looked closer at the comings and goings within each world. One orb represented the life of a tough looking man. She saw him going to work each day and eating dinner with his wife and children. He tenderly gave them gifts, but he rarely seemed to talk. In the chapel she could see him cry. Another orb represented a stern but motherly woman. She spent most of the time in her home working quietly and reading books. Annabelle noted with surprise that the woman’s thoughts focused on subjects she had seen in her children’s homework. This woman liked to learn. One orb, representing a young girl, was full of comings and goings. There was school, parties, babysitting, track running, and many other things within her life. Annabelle was shocked that this girl had such a deep and complex spiritual life. Thus, she examined each unique orb in fascination.
Annabelle’s father came and shook her from her reverie. The girl was quiet all the way home. She was thinking about the orbs and looking at the people who passed her in cars. “All these people,” she thought, “see everything from a certain perspective, from a certain world. They are blind to the worlds of others.”
That evening Annabelle attended Mass and was again accosted by a vision. She saw, as before, the souls of each person around her. She even saw a very special Orb on the Alter. This Orb contained all life. It was full of everything, every unique world. But this time all the orbs were the same as the Orb she could see on the Alter. Each contained the earth and all within it. Annabelle realized that this was how the Head of the Catholic Church united the flock.
This is the story of the risings and fallings of a man following his vocation... discernment is often an intimidating word... and sometimes the word vocation is also misunderstood. It is a difficult to discern, especially in the teens and twenties, if one does not have great faith. This is, I admit, one of my worse poems... but the story it tells is important for others to see because this is a lonely and confusing time. One who is seeking a vocation must know that he is not alone.
Without direction, he set his course.
An eternal path he bet his honor he’d complete.
Barefoot and sightless he made his way.
In terror and in grief, the journey just begun,
He cried into the night.
A hand from the mist helped him on his way.
The thorns in his path were bent.
The stars pointed the way in the abyss,
And his tears were wiped into the night.
Still he was lost.
A phantom in the night of the dead.
A glimpse of light and his spirits rise.
He remembers his hopes and dreams, the ambition of a man.
A fantasy world beyond all bounds,
The end of the eternal path, the impossible end,
No better way could man spend his life,
Than to follow the impossible dream!
The man’s heart beats with fervor.
The light starts to fade and the path starts to wind,
He, a desperate man, could not survive the dark.
The light is gone, but he imagines its there,
He thinks of the great beyond.
Only in his mind it exists, but there it truly is.
Following a mirage, a mirror of his mind, he travels with all speed.
He tells himself of its beauty, and he lives;
On faith and hope he is driven.
In the midst of the wanderings of his mind,
The man is weak and lost.
He will not despair; his hope is too strong,
The journey must go on.
In his madness he sees a man by his side,
Soothing his tumult of mind and easing his terror of night.
In a craze he spills his heart in mindless words,
To this man, the ghost of his path.
His uncertainty is made certain.
The mysterious man who smiles and beams,
Speaks only of the dream of men,
The end of the eternal path, the mysteries of a reality apart.
Of the purest colors, he fills the man’s sight.
With stories of a lighted sphere, he absorbs the man’s mind.
He speaks of no time or space.
He sings out in joy, of mysteries unheard,
Ecstasy and contentment, peace and unity, children and men,
A place where the world is new and the sky a city of pearls.
The man lives in irrational truth and travels the eternal path.
The path is rough, the journey long,
The man tires and thirsts.
He turns from the path to the world around,
And strives to live a false life.
A king among servants, a man of horses, he progresses in his pride.
Educated and curious, intelligent and misled,
He follows the theories of thinkers and mathematicians.
His technology surpasses all that is known,
His riches are stacked in his barns.
But he does not travel, he does not move,
His being is still and wilting.
The mysterious man, he had forgotten, the path seems far away,
And yet only in his mind they’re gone.
He’s attacked and helpless, and dreams of the deep abyss,
And all his pride diminished.
How shall he begin again, the eternal journey?
Caught in the whirlwind of his own imagination, how shall he perceive the light?
Can his manhood surpass the weakness that he feels?
Can his weary limbs continue on the path he left?
Can his hazed eyes see the mysterious man again?
In a desperate attempt, he rises once more, in poorness and in humility.
A worm in the soil, a desperate man, he travels once again.
His eyes are blind, and yet he sees, his limbs are dead and he moves.
He travels persistently, knowing that the end is near.
He drinks deeply, aware of the deserts ahead.
His food he keeps within his bag, waiting for the final struggle.
His health and pride he sets aside, of his knowledge he cares no more,
How little all those riches mean, how little he needs the inspiration.
Yes, he travels without thought or meditation,
He trudges down the path again.
All earthly matter he puts behind,
All that concerned him means nothing at all.
His folly he forgets, his history he puts aside, his emotion is prey to his laughter.
Day by day, night by night, he travels with one movement,
Without fear, with only hope, he goes with one direction.
The straight path starts to bend.
Slowly he receives the consumption of all his efforts,
Slowly he forgets the eternity of the path.
Slowly all effort passes away.
Slowly the end becomes the beginning, and the circle is complete.
Now he is absorbed by light, his heart no longer beats.
The skies become the fairies’ cities,
The round world is now one constant light roaming in unending fullness.
And now he is, but travel he does not.
The pounding of drums sets the meter for one constant movement.
All earthly matter and heavenly spirit pass like ghosts through eternity.
Now are all hands joined in heavenly joy,
Now are all people made one in Charity.
A unity formed of unique rays of sun, the puzzle pieces all made one.
Eternal praises of the Trinity are sung.
As lunch time draws near, I would like to introduce you to the concept of a particular examine. This is when one chooses a specific vice to dispel or virtue to grow in and meditates upon it at a certain time each day. During the particular examine, one might see how well he has done with this specific in the morning and resolve to do better still in it during the remainder of the day. By doing this we are showing God our true love and fealty in a special way, we are trying. I am sure that this brings Him great joy, and edifies us greatly. Because we all are living our vocation it is fitting that we strive to grow in virtue and goodness. Here are some virtues you may be interested in concentrating on:
The Theological Virtues
Faith-the virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths God has revealed, on the word of God revealing them, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived
Hope-means by which we firmly trust that God, Who is all powerful and faithful to His promises, in His mercy will give us eternal happiness and the means to attain it
Charity-virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for our love of Him
Prudence-disposes us in all circumstances to form right judgments
Justice-disposes us to give everyone what belongs to him
Fortitude-disposes us to do what is good in spite of any difficulty
Temperance-disposes us to control our desire and to use rightly the things which please our senses
Religion-disposes us to offer God the worship that is due Him
Filial piety and patriotism-dispose us to honor, love, and respect our parents and our country
Obedience-disposes us to do the will of our superiors
Veracity-disposes us to tell the truth
Liberality-disposes us to rightly use worldly goods
Patience-disposes us to bear up under trials and difficulties
Humility-disposes us to acknowledge our limitations
Chastity, or Purity-disposes us to be pure in soul and body
It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.
And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father ("As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…" (Jn. 15:10) I come - longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.
I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.
I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? "Come to Me all you who thirst…" (Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.
I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.
Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.
Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul.
No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: "I THIRST…"(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: "I looked for love, and I found none…" (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. "No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…"