Trust in Him

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Tribute to Hope (poem)

Oh precious pearl,
Oh sweetest gem,
Oh freshest birth,
Oh closest horizon,

One of loving nature,
One of consoling brow,
One of tender hands,
One of glowing eyes,

Giver of many gifts,
Giver of greatest peace,
Giver of brightest light,
Giver of enduring strength,

Knower of living mysteries,
Knower of Divine wisdom,
Knower of mankind's future,
Knower of highest heaven,

Finder of hidden treasures,
Finder of smallest children,
Finder of magnificent rapture,
Finder of ends to pain,

Maker of straight paths,
Maker of perfect conclusion,
Maker of desperate lands,
Maker of eternal imagination,

Your touch is sweet,
Your intention pure,
Your advice is right,
Your words sincere.

Scrupulousness

When I was a little girl, in my preteens, I suffered for a number of months from intense scrupulousness. I do not remember this period of time entirely, but certain things do stand out in my mind.

During this time I remember reading about St. Catherine of Siena and St. Rose of Lima, and feeling how much I deserved to suffer for my many faults. As a result, I lived a life of more austerity than a 12 year old should. Every time I saw a new prayer, I felt obliged to recite it every night. During this time I prayed a rosary each night, among many other little devotions, and I only rarely missed a night. I also practiced mortification and was very strict with myself where morality was concerned, covering my head with cloth whenever I went someplace where I would be seen and sometimes kissing the ground (in private) when I had committed a "fault".



These material answers were caused by much greater spiritual sorrows. I felt so guilty, no matter what I did, I felt guilty for it. I was afraid, and wished that I could suffer for every little thing I ever did then and there. I remember being at a neighbors one day, and I did something that I feared was a very serious sin. I quickly made an excuse to leave and ran all the way home (about half of a mile) to ask my mother if it was sinful. She quickly reassured me that it was not. Throughout this period of scrupulousness I went to confession at least once per week, when I could. A time or two I went to private meetings with a priest, and once I went to confession the day after I my last one because I had forgotten a sin.

One night, as I felt myself overcome with sorrow, and as I looked at the crucifix, I wrote something. I no longer have the paper, I believe I threw it out not too long ago, actually, but I can still see it in my mind and remember the day I wrote it. I took a little piece of paper and I drew a round orb. Then I blackened it, and drew strange designs over it. Then I wrote something to the effect of "My soul is covered with a dark crust, and blackened beneath, but deep within there is a light that shines. Please remove the blackness, and let only good remain, so that my soul may be a beautiful palace for you. Mary, grant me some of your purity and allow it to clean my soul and make it beautiful for him." Although I have long since recovered from my scrupulousness, I have said variations of this prayer nearly every time I received the Holy Eucharist ever since.

I continued to pray every night, of course, and one of the most difficult situations I ran into concerned my daily rosary. Unhappily, I mentioned to a priest in the confessional one day that I prayed a daily rosary... "Very good! Keep it up!" he replied, good naturedly. I took him at his word, I thought it was a demand. I prayed my rosary every night, but forgot three nights, and was very afraid that I had disobeyed a holy priest. As soon as I could after this negligence, about a month after the "command," I went to confession again, but to a different priest. I explained the situation to him, and asked him if I was bound to say a rosary each night, and confessed my negligence... he assured me that it was merely a suggestion by the other priest. I left the confessional, only to find myself dissatisfied with this assurance, and made plans to go again to the priest who I had told of my daily rosary. I went, and he told me, apparently mystified in his effort to remember the occasion, that it was only a suggestion. I stopped saying the rosary every night after that, although I've continued the practice again at different times later.

My "condition" was getting critical, however. I had overcome my understandable fear of confession, and confession to priests who knew who was behind the curtain, and confession of uncomfortable circumstances, and embarrassing uncertainty within confession, and the fear of confessing a bad confession... yea, there was a far deeper trial, like a knife in my heart, that made these little things as daisies in a field. But I was not ignorant of God's love and mercy. Although I suffered such scrupulousness, I understood that it was wrong, and that I was forgiven for everything I ever did.

I prayed a novena to St. Therese each night, promising that if she would help me, I would buy her statue and put it in my room to remind me that she is my friend. It was my childish way of making a promise, and she answered my prayer in an equally gentle, childlike way. The day came when my worry was extinguished, and my sorrow for my sins did not concentrate on me and my faults, but on Christ whom I injured. I came to understand how to distinguish sin from temptation and mistakes. My fear was turned to love, and my worry was turned to the desire to share in His Sacrifice and give Him everything. I was ready to accept that I myself am lower than the worms for my sins against His grace, and that the only way to live with this fact was to allow Christ to live in me; to realize that "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" and be at peace.

Why do I tell this story? Because I am not the only one to suffer the destitution and pain of scrupulousness. I know how hard it can be to distinguish good from evil, and to be satisfied with God's forgiveness when we deserve such punishments. Even if you know, as I did, that God is merciful and forgiving... it does not prevent scrupulousness from occurring. When it first begins, we don't realize it... we think that it is an expression of our love for Christ and our sorrow at His death. But as it continues, it becomes more and more centered on ourselves and our imperfections. Indeed, my period of scrupulousness was not a result of humility... it was pride. I thought I could be so much better than I was, and that the way to attain that end was to see myself as worse than I was. It was a sickness, one which I understood needed healing; but to combat it myself meant to acknowledge another fault and increase my discomfort.

Scrupulousness is remedied by true humility. It is remedied by trusting God, accepting our faults, and being humble enough to refocus our thoughts on Him. Thus, we can have peace as we strive each day to follow Him and hope on our journey to heaven.

Bearing Affliction


"I am exhausted with my groaning,
every night I drench my pillow with tears;
I soak my bed with weeping.
My eye wastes away with grief;
I have grown old, surrounded by my foes."
(Psalm 6)




We all have our trials to bear, as a result of the first sin on earth, we are vulnerable to all kinds of evil. Some of us experience more trials and suffering than others... but nobody escapes it completely. But God is goodness itself, and He can bring evils to good. Which is why we cry "Oh happy fault! Which has won for us so great a Savior!" Even in our affliction we are drawn closer to our heavenly Father in love.

Shortly put, there are two ways which we can bear affliction. The first is virtuously, and it is not only honorable, but also brings us greater rewards for our pains. To bear trials virtuously, one must have great faith in God and seek to please Him through patient perseverance, trusting in God's promise to save him. One who bears affliction in virtue is a person of great Charity: a person who forgets himself in his love of God and neighbor, forgiving all his enemies. He is also prayerful, for he looks to God for strength, begging the Most High to deliver him from those trials which he is not strong enough to bear. He takes all suffering in stride, calmly accepting all that comes. A virtuous person not only bears affliction, but he uses it to bring himself closer to the Supreme Good. He smiles, prays, and loves even when he is most destitute, and trusts in God even unto death.

The second way one bears affliction is the way that most people do. Rather than having extreme faith and working towards the greatest virtue, we simply live through our difficulties. We cry and bemoan our anguish while alone and with others. We beg God to make it stop, and wonder when it will end, waiting, not so patiently, for our deliverance. We try to bring ourselves out of our troubles, and generally have a sense of anxiousness, fear, or depression about us as we encounter things we cannot change. We are patient and persevering because we have to be in order to live, unintentionally seeing bankruptcy, suffering, and death as ends to be avoided at all costs. In our minds, we are running from the shadows of our greatest fears, or mentally crying our "I can't take it anymore!" Thus, this method of bearing affliction is much more discomforting mentally, spiritually, and even bodily than the virtuous method... but when our troubles finally pass, we generally feel a sense of growth, growth we had not realized during our sufferings.

What is this growth that comes from suffering? Temporally we mature and gain experience and perseverance. Unless we have lost the fight and have been driven back into the terrain of demons, we also grow in goodness and mental strength. Spiritually, we gain much more. When Jesus Christ made the Supreme Sacrifice, He gave us the opportunity to share in the merits of this sacrifice. When we suffer (if we suffer well), we are directly linked to Christ in His Sufferings and become heirs to the Fatherly pleasure with which God looked upon His Son's sufferings. We also become closer to God in love. For what person could not love more when his loved one is in pain or danger? God is no exception! When we share in Christ's sufferings we have a sense of empathy between us, a love that passes deeper with understanding.

In our pains, we are strengthened by the remembrance of saints who have suffered. Indeed, there are many we can turn to in our troubles! St. Paul suffered fatigue from long missionary journeys, sorrows from straying sheep, pain from stoning and scourging, long imprisonment, and finally martyrdom. St. Therese suffered spiritual trials of scrupulousness, longing, fear, sadness, and great darkness of soul. St. Francis suffered grave illness in the flower of his youth. St. Margaret Mary suffered paralysis and family struggles.
St. Thomas more was a victim of politics, struggling to keep his beautiful family from harm, he was beheaded because his opinions differed from the king's in favor of his Catholic faith.

St. Damien spent many years ministering to a dirty leper colony before dying of leprosy himself. St. Isaac Jogues was brutally martyred by the Indians he loved so much. The first American Nun, Lydia Longely, lost her family in a brutal indian raid, and was taken into slavery. St. Collette had to leave the shelter of her anchorage to save the hurting Franciscan Order, suffering from life on the waves of a world in turmoil. St. Catherine of Siena suffered from great penances in reparation for the sins of the world. St. Augustine suffered from grave sin. St. Maria Goretti was stabbed 14 times and lay in anguish before dying hours later. St. John Fisher, tired after many long years of service to his people (he was a bishop), was martyred as an old man. These good people and many others suffered great tribulation... and found God's goodness and love as their reward. We can take their lives as our example, and use them to ignite our hope when we suffer.

If you are suffering afflictions, fear, or spiritual troubles... have faith and hope, for many others before you suffered and were saved by Christ. Be glad that you can suffer, for greater rewards await you than you could ever have dreamed. Offer your sufferings to God, pray to Him and ask Him for help, and He will help you. He will make you strong and guard you. Remember that your angel is near, taking care of you, and thank him, asking him each night to guard you as you sleep. Earth lasts such a short time, and all things pass away, but Heaven is forever, and God's eyes can see that our joys will far outweigh our sufferings.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My Brother's Visit (Poem)


Smiling Sweetly, with head bared,
he came to visit me.
Without even a first bonjour, just after our sign of peace,
we jointly praise God's name.
I kneel at his feet for him to bless me,
with his gentle hand.
A man of peace, and simplicity,
he asks the Lord to grant me grace.
I speak to him, of the dreams of my heart,
he offers wise consolation.
Face of holiness, glowing eyes,
his troubles he humbly tells.
Gentle man of God, with a heart of bold male pride,
his shoulders were broad and strong.
But kindness and respect he flourished,
on my smallish form.
Pleading with a humble soul,
he asked for MY advice.
As if inspired, I spoke to him,
compassion on my breath.
My love was true, my sweetness shared,
with him who I called dear.
Tears filled his eyes, to the ground he falls,
and I sit on my heals.
We talk to each other with love out poured,
God smiles down on us.
I wish him strength and courage,
he promises his prayers.
His poor robe of woven brown,
his cord around his waist,
Are patched and mended, just like mine,
he's my Franciscan brother.

Friendship of the Saints

If our angels are near us always, and Christ lives in us through the Eucharist, then it is not surprising for me to wonder how we might obtain the companionship of the saints. Heaven, as I have said before, is not a distant place… it is a place that is here, now, but is hidden by a veil of materialism and time. If this is where the saints are, if they look upon the Beatific Vision outside of time, while still awaiting the final Resurrection, then they must hear our prayers just as Jesus does.

The saints are special to mankind for several reasons. For one thing, they long to bring as many of us as possible to Christ in heaven, so they pray for us constantly. They also empathize with us, with our lives, for they too are human… and often guide us tenderly through our trials, without us ever seeing them. Some of the saints, like St. Therese who promised to spend her heaven doing good upon earth, died with the intention of serving people even after their deaths. Finally, because they are so deeply loved by God for their goodness, by honoring them we are honoring God, who we adore above all else.

We imitate the saints and learn from them… because if they have made it to heaven, then living our lives as they lived theirs is certainly a good place to start our journey. They are examples of peace and love and wisdom in this world, and we should find great joy in their lives because it brings us hope for ours. Their experience, and now their opened eyes in heaven, has so much wisdom to offer us.

When I have been lonely, in need, or afraid in the past… I have found the friendship of the saints to be very consoling. To read about them and to pray to God through them has made me realize that we are all a family. The Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, which contains the Church militant, suffering, and blessed… is a family. The saints are, therefore, our friends… our sisters and brothers and fathers and mothers. They are kind and helpful and loving. And, like the older brother who gets his kid brother out of a mess at school, they often get us out of trouble.

When they were on earth, many of the saints spent their lives organizing institutions, rules, or books that would help us to follow the ways of Christ and reach heaven. Now that they are with Him in heaven, they continue the work they did on earth by helping people to follow faithfully in their footsteps with the means they left for them. The religious say: our father St. Francis, our mother St. Clare, our father St. Benedict, our father St. Dominic… because they know the fatherly and motherly love and guidance of their founders.

Thus, we must not take for granted our family in heaven, and strive to be closer and closer to them. They will help us if we come to them asking their intercession. They will show us wisdom, guide us, and guard us. It is a great consolation to know that there are saints looking out for us!

St. Mary, virgin and mother, pray for us.
St. Therese, the little flower, pray for us.
St. Francis, giver of peace, pray for us.
St. Benedict, father of monasticism, pray for us.
St. Thomas Aquinas, seeker of wisdom, pray for us.
St. Collette, daughter of faith, pray for us.
St. Philip Neri, persona of joy, pray for us.
St. John of the Cross, lover of Christ, pray for us.
St. John the Apostle, closest friend of Jesus, pray for us.
St. Maria Goretti, flower of purity, pray for us.
St. Catherine Labour, child of Mary, pray for us.
St. Margaret Mary, receiver of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.
St. Isaac Jogues, missionary and martyr, pray for us.
St. Rose of Lima, beautiful and brave, pray for us.

The Vow of Enclosure


“I will live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life in your presence”
(Psalm 27)


The vow of enclosure is the seal on a woman’s self-gift to God. There are many beautiful books written on this subject, and thousands of ways to describe it, but in this short post I will attempt to explain what this vow actually does for a nun.

In marriage, a man and a woman are joined together with a ring, signifying their lifelong bond. They give themselves to each other, and each possesses the other. When a new couple have been married they go off on their honeymoon… oftentimes it is someplace where they can be alone, and fully realize their love for each other now that they have become one heart and one soul—two halves of a whole joined together. Then, they go to their home where they will live together and raise their children.

When a bride of Christ has been joined to Him, she wears a ring to show this undying bond of love. She gives herself to God, and God gives Himself to her. In a mutual unity she lives in Him, and He lives in her. The self-gift of a cloistered bride is the promise to be the direct servant of Christ, and to serve only Him. The place of her honeymoon is chosen, a place where she and He are completely alone, and where she waits on Him day and night without rest, devoted in her intense love for Him. But unlike the bride and groom in human marriage, she never leaves this place of love and beauty and intimacy. This is her beloved cloister, the house of her Lord, and to her it is the most beautiful place in the world, it is their home. To one with the vocation of a cloistered nun, this is paradise, heaven on earth, for it is a place of love.


In the cloister, the bride of Christ becomes like the tree that falls in the forest and is heard by no one. She is separated completely from all worldly and material bonds, and from all worldly recognition. She is unknown, and she ceases to be “Miss –--“ and becomes simply an insignificant bride of Christ. No one knows her, sees her, or touches her except her Beloved. She empties herself, and within the cloister her emptiness is filled by Christ. She is in a place that fosters humility, precious happiness, gentle beauty, burning love, and limitless virtue. She has given herself to Him and asked Him to form her into whatever He would like her to be.

The bride of Christ takes all persons in the world as her children. Her contemplative heart reaches out to them and she prays and works for them tirelessly. She does penance for them, she beseeches God in their names, and she feels all their struggles strongly. She takes their burdens on herself, she prays for them when they will not pray, and she spends her whole life trying to bring Jesus’ beloved children to eternal happiness. Her work is very real and well accepted by He who loves her. What Bridegroom would not look upon His lovely bride’s sacrifices with love and pity and accept them? From her beloved cloister, the bride united with Christ reaches out to all ends of the world.

An eternal union,
A longing thirst ever unquenched,
A desire to love more than is humanely possible,
A wish to be within Love Personified,
The wish of a perfect bride, a loyal servant,
To live in the house of the Lord,
All the days of her life in His presence,
To bear numberless children,
The longing to give all she has and is,
To be a vine of limitless fruit,
To make the gift of ultimate sacrifice,
A bond with the heavenly Lamb.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fasting


"Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

When Jesus spent forty days in the desert, in fasting and prayer, the devil tempted him to turn a stone into a loaf of bread... and this was the Savior's answer. Why did Jesus fast in the desert? He was preparing Himself, body and soul, for His ministry. He was also setting an example to us to deny ourselves so that we may better partake of heavenly food. During Lent, the Church calls for fasting specifically. She believes that this method of preparation is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the most sacred sacrifices man has to offer God.

Fasting is a form of prayer and penance that brings abundant graces. When one fasts, he abstains from food to dispose his body and soul to give something to God and to receive something from God. When we fast, we do so to recognize that only God fills... only the Bread of Life will bring us sustaining life that will not pass away. Fasting also frees us from ourselves and our gluttonous desires. By denying ourselves of food we discipline our bodies so that they do not dominate our lives, and this frees our spirits to come closer to our Lord. As the Catholic Encyclopedia so brilliantly says: "Every rational creature is bound to labor intelligently for the subjugation of concupiscence."

Fasting does not just have temporal value, however, it has spiritual value as well. In this denial of ourselves, in this giving of ourselves to Christ, we are giving Him an act of love. Fasting also enhances spiritual hunger for Christ through the bodily hunger we experience, disposing us to pray and to receive the sacraments. It gives us the opportunity to be poor in spirit and to apologize for our many faults in a tangible way. Through fasting we obtain strengthening graces that help us in both bodily and spiritual trials. Thus, fasting during Lent is not only a required practice, but one which should desire for our own wellbeing.

If You Love Christ, You Love Mankind (Journal Entry)

If one loves God, who is love, he cannot help but love all persons with an intense and dedicated love. This is why those who are most intimate with Christ pray day and night for the world, why the saints were so loving and cried so many tears for those who are lost, and why Christ Himself has asked us to love others as He has loved us... For love is both selfless and desiring to possess all love. If we truly love Him, then we truly love each other.

My Jesus,

If my love for you is true, it is utterly impossible for me not to love all my brothers and sisters, all persons on this earth with my whole heart. How readily and earnestly I would kiss and embrace them! How tenderly would I hold their feet to my chest! How willingly would I suffer and die for any one of them to show my love! Sweet Jesus, my prayers flow forth for them like the tears streaming unhindered down my cheeks! My heart burns with the desire to show them I love them, and to display Your intense goodness to them! To think of their bodily suffering is like a thousand knives in my side, and to see their spiritual suffering is like thorns in my eyes. Indeed, my Jesus, I could sweat blood as I see how they destroy themselves and their happiness by despising your perfect love. Oh, my precious love! How I would take each of these as my child and guide them to you. My love for you hungers constantly to love them more, to give you to them, and to save them by taking their burdens, all of them, on myself. Please console my burning and wretched heart by allowing me to love you, and them, by allowing me to give, over and over, all that I have and am. Sweet Jesus, if you love me, hear my prayer!

Giving Him All


Those who are truly in love with Christ wish to give Him all they have and all they are. In fact, love is not even necessary for this desire to be present, for we were all created to adore Him for eternity. But what have we to give? Everything we have and are was given to us by Him! Really, we are simply giving back...

If God has given us our lives, the ability to grow, the capacity to learn and work... then in order to completely return these to Him, we must fulfill them. Impossible you say? Yes, it is impossible... but it is an impossibility made possible by Christ. By living each moment for Him and offering all new endeavors to Him, we are perfecting our efforts and acquiring His help in reaching the fullness of our lives through this perfection. Our hardest efforts, greatest sacrifices, and very breath should be expressly for the purpose of presenting a perfect offering to God through Christ's timeless oblation.

There are, however, some gifts of our own that we can give Him: our love and free will. It is true that we would not have even these if not for His gift, but we ourselves can nurture these gifts and make them more... like the servants in the parable of the pounds, we can invest and produce more from what He has given us. These gifts are like seeds that He has planted, but that we grow into great trees. They are like flames, first ignited by Christ, but fed by our thought, our souls, and our identities. If we use the capacity to choose, and the capacity to love, to love Christ... if we allow these to bloom in His goodness and feed them with our eager gratitude for His great gift... then they will flourish in abundant growth and bear much fruit.

The greatest gift we can give to Him is love, and the choice to serve Him. All we have and all we are is His, so let us take care to offer each moment and each action to Him with Christ's Sacrifice so that it may be perfect. Let us remain young and vibrant in our love for Him all the days of our lives, and say that it is no longer we who live and act, but Christ who lives and acts in us. Let us take care that our words and actions fully exemplify this union... and thus come to give Christ full possession of ourselves.

A Duty, Not A Feeling

I have often heard people say that they no longer go to Mass because they can feel as close to God outside of Church as they do within it. A friend of mine, also, had the misfortune to suggest that if he switched unconsecrated hosts with consecrated ones we would still have the same "sensations" of Adoration.

Although God often gives us feelings of love and peace as gifts, or communicates to us expressions of His goodness through bodily or spiritual sensations, this is NOT the reason for us attending Mass and adoring the Eucharist. As Catholics, we believe in Transubstantiation, which means that the substance of the bread and wine is changed to the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ while its appearance of bread and wine remain the same. God has commanded us to adore Him and to keep holy His sabbath day... this is why we go to Mass. Jesus has commanded us to receive the sacraments, because He knows they are necessary for our salvation, this also is why we go to Mass. We firmly believe that Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine after Consecration, and for this reason we adore Him in the Eucharist.

God owes us nothing, and we owe Him everything. Intimacy with God leads us to and better reception of His love and goodness within us, and an increase of faith in His presence, but these should be accepted as undeserved gifts. When we pray and adore God, we do so simply because He is deserving of all love and praise. Therefore our prayer should be God-centered, not centered on ourselves and our emotions. In fact, love is an act of free will! There is emotional love, of course, but when we decide to love and serve and honor God... this is an action of our will and needn't have any spiritual or temporal feelings to be absolutely honest, unless our motives themselves are not pure. So, do not be lead astray by the magnitude of the gifts God offers us, or the reality of the spiritual, to come to think of yourself as deserving... rather, be constantly and completely focused on Him.

Posture During Prayer

This morning our parish priest brought up a point well worthy of mention here. Because we are human, body and soul, what we do with our bodies DOES affect the dispositions of our souls. In the Jewish religion, and in monasteries today, traditions of prayer postures are well used. Some of these include: standing, genuflecting, kneeling erect, prostration, hands folded, and arms crossed on the breast. In most places, many of these positions are neglected, but we must never forget their importance.

Because our religion is such an intimate one, and our God so loving, we often overlook our duties to Him. Kneeling and prostration are very tangible expressions of Adoration. If we become accustomed to slouching during our prayer, our spirits too will also become prone to slouching; certainly we do not want to slouch when we approach Jesus in heaven! Crossing our arms on our breasts, or beating our breasts are beautiful expressions of love and repentance which should not be taken for granted. Likewise, folding our hands during prayer shows that we are doing with our hands what we are doing with our minds... praying. Jesus certainly appreciates our efforts to please Him, and by making an effort to maintain reverent positions during prayer we DO please Him.

Although it is important to assume correct and respectful postures at Church, it is, perhaps, more vital to do so at home. We do not do this to be seen doing it, we do this to show God the reverence and adoration He deserves for His sake alone. If we do this in the Church, let us also do it at home in our private oratories... during our morning and night prayers... and thus we can become closer to Jesus Christ. Likewise, let us always take care that our bodies and our actions reflect our Adoration of Christ by remaining pure and maintaining proper attitudes. By doing thus with our bodies, we are actively disciplining our souls to show God spiritual reverence at all times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Last Days (Journal Entry)

"In the Last Days, the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills and all nations shall flow to it" (Isaias 2:2)

Divine Master,
You have declared a time when you should be truly known. You have declared a Church encompassing all peoples. For so long your people awaited the days they called "the last days," the days of Jesus Christ. Long they awaited the time when you would show yourself to the world, and long they awaited the days of the Church. The days when you would head an army of your people who would preach of your goodness to the nations.

Yes, your people have long awaited a time when you would show your light to the world, when you would offer the fruits of your wisdom to the ignorant, foolish, and blind. A time when you would save your people from their own stupidity and enlighten and refresh them with truth. A time when those who have become slaves and dependents of pride can be freed by their adoration of you. Perhaps they even dared to hope for a time when you would empathize with humanity and be our Father and Brother.

They waited for the days when the harsh covenant of Moses, the heavy discipline of your wrath, and the pain of outcasts should pass away. They waited for a day when the darkness would pass, and the plagues retreat and be hidden. They waited for a time when evil would be openly combated throughout the earth, and good triumph. They waited for a time when your word would pass through the ears of the deaf, and when your wonderful works would be seen by the blind. They waited for a day when when they could look towards you and not die in their guilt.

But they could not have known what the last days would bring. They could not have known the love that you brought. They could not have seen the great triumphs of your Church, nor the illuminating light that shines upon all your servants. They could not have imagined the Fatherly embrace you have freely offered to all peoples. They could not have imagined the mercy and goodness of your new covenant! No, they could not have seen the life and fruit that the Spring would bring.

Dear Master, you are the expression of compassion. Your love and goodness are the most precious treasures of all the world. You have instituted a covenant of compassion and release, a call to love first and then freely to obey! You have taken a human nature... and through your Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection you have brought infinite consolation and mercy to your people. Yes, it has been your desire to shed infinite blessings on all who breath!

You have sealed your love with your death on the Cross, and have come to set us free. You have given us yourself through the Eucharist, and have forgiven all our faults. You have led us to peace and life giving waters, and have named the meek and humble and good "blessed." Now all nations adore and exalt you, and you head your army of soldiers armored in goodness to overcome evil. You have heard our prayer, and lovingly called us your children.

Indeed, your eternal covenant has been realized and your promises fulfilled. No longer does life pass away, no longer is humanity desolate, no longer have you shown yourself as a distant Deity... the Kingdom is at hand, and the beauty of God is blooming before our eyes. All sorrows, trials, and darkness have become roadways to your light, which has pierced even these. Now you guide us to yourself, so that we may each come to the fullness of life by uniting with your love in death. Oh! How happy is the one that serves you!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oasis

I refer very often to my metaphor of the oasis in the desert, and did so in one of my most recent postings. However, I am afraid that this metaphor is not as clear as it could be, and therefore I am going to illustrate this concept in its entirety with a brief story followed by an explanation. In future I will refer you back to this post whenever the "oasis" is mentioned.

Reina looked around her, all she could see were endless waves of sand. She looked above her, and all she could see was the relentlessly beating sun. She looked at herself, but she had begun to even cease to care what she looked like, and she was no longer any different than the sand. Still, her mind was strong, and she walked on with a determined stride. She focused her gaze directly in front of her, deciding to ignore all else. Doing this, she was sure she would reach an oasis sooner or later.

Time passed, but it did not matter to her... all she could consider was the future and this constant, untiring movement forward. Perhaps she had begun to walk in circles, perhaps she had let herself become dirty and unkept, but she did not care.. there was something she wanted, and until she reached it nothing else mattered. Once or twice, in spite of herself, she looked back... and when she did, there were no footprints where she had tread, no break in the endless waves of sand.

But the day came when she was too tired and footsore to move onward. She began to forget what she was looking for, and began to fall into the belief that all there is to life is the endless movement of the sands. She began to slow down and look around her... a fresh breeze hit her face. She glanced at herself and pulled the hair back from her eyes, and a gentle shower of rain fell on her forehead. She took a moment to think about the rain, and her mind was refreshed with memories. She moved onward... but instead of gazing straight ahead, she began to concentrate on the impressions she was making in the sand. She wiggled her toes until her feet had gone into the cool sand underneath the surface. Instead of trying to move forward as quickly as possible, she took great care to make a perfect impression in the sand with each step. But it was no longer sand... She looked around and saw the oasis.

The beginning of this metaphor speaks a person in a desert, which is meant to translate to a person on earth. The beating sun is meant to be the external conditions of life. The person, Reina, is discouraged in her journey by the sun and the endless desert. Through sheer power of the will she moves on to one destination, meant to indicate a vocation.

The next paragraph shows time passing, and Reina beginning to forget the things that used to matter to her as her concentration becomes wholly engrossed in this destination. This, of course, indicates the relentless pursuit of a vocation and/or heaven... the hopes and dreams to be better than one already is... and the neglect of the present. Reina's look back concludes the effects of this constant pursuit, as the lack of footprints leaves her destitute in an unchanging environment. This concerns our perspective of a past which no longer matters, or a past which brings us only pain, because it has taken place in the desert and not in the oasis: where we have not reached our fulfillment of life in our vocation rather than during our vocation of marriage, etc.

The final paragraph concludes Reina's journey. She begins to realize she cannot find what she is looking for, and returns to the realization of the present. Each step indicates an opening of her eyes to something she had not seen before, and the appreciation in some sense of her current situation. As she begins to focus on each footstep, and making it absolutely perfect, she becomes aware of the oasis.

This final paragraph is a description of our "living" vocation. It is a vocation which is part of our identities and lasts as long as our souls. This vocation, which is destined to love God in its own special way as its final goal, goes beyond the committed states of marriage or virginity. It is a vocation which is fulfilled in each moment of the present. Reina's awareness of the present and care in each movement, without concern for either past or future, opens her eyes to an oasis that was always there. We cannot reach God by pursuing Him in the distance, it is essential to recognize that we are to spend the here and now in constant closeness to Him. Likewise, heaven is not a destination to which we can draw a road map, rather, it is always present and we simply become more aware of it throughout our lives until the veil of materialism is completely drawn with death.

God can see the footprints that are covered by the sand. He does not look in the distance for a time when we will be good, and wait until then for us to please Him... but rather asks for an instant conversion and constant effort to please Him. We can never become worthy of this oasis, and He knows this, but He is willing to give it to us anyway so long as we love Him and lead good lives. For this reason we must never despair, and must always consider the present moment more than we consider our futures on this earth. We must appreciate every moment of life as if it were our last. Ask yourself: "If I died two minutes from now, would I have fulfilled my vocation?" If, in those two minutes, you have loved God... then the answer is yes. Time does pass, and we must go through life and reach destinations, but we do so by traveling in the present. If our intent is to constantly please God, then we will live our vocations to their fulfillment and find our perpetual vocation of love in heaven.

Practical Lives

The religious vocation is a very practical vocation. It recognizes the need for each to do his own work in the Mystical Body of Christ as he seeks heaven for himself. So, the Church has religious orders set aside for all different vocations. Some serve the poor, some work on farms, some study and counsel, some serve Catholic communities directly as pastors and teachers, and others strengthen the Church through prayer. In fact, the religious orders are perhaps the most reasonable part of Catholicism from a worldly point of view!

The contemplative's lifestyle is designed to give her an unconditional opportunity to pursue heaven by a very direct path and to bring others to heaven also. The structured prayer, scheduled work times, and other disciplines are essential to her doing this successfully. Monasteries are not only "heaven orientated," but also very human and very intimately involved with humanity's joys and sorrows.

St. Francis was probably the most paradoxical person in the history of mankind. His immense dream was both absolutely practical and absolutely impractical. For instance, Christ gave us the beatitudes to show us how to live perfect human lives and become saints... well, Francis brought the beatitudes to life. Selling all possessions, living in absolute poverty, working hard for people who could not pay them back, paying no attention to human praise and orientated completely on pleasing God... well, you can't follow the beatitudes any more completely than that. Likewise, St. Francis' efforts to follow in Christ's footsteps and put prayer at the center of everything was equally spiritually practical. However, giving up all possessions and living in absolute poverty? Working hard and never making/saving money, relying on Divine Providence for the very necessities? This is totally impractical by worldly standards.

Therefore, the religious orders of the Church are indeed very practical institutions. Some live the very radical, absolute, and paradoxical practicality of St. Francis and St. Clare which is directed at yielding spiritual fruits and following in Christ's footsteps very literally... others live the practical lifestyles directed at caring for the sick, teaching, etc. It is possible to be both spiritually and materially practical, and that is what the religious orders achieve. The Church stands on them as on so many pillars of stone, and through them rise fruits that keep the Church flourishing for all its members. Through these institutions families are cared for, children raised, wisdom spread, poor fed, sick healed, and nations kept together in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Consolation of Omnipresence


When I was a little girl, I took what I read in my saint books very seriously. When I saw that the different saints were very close to God and the saints while on earth, and how commonplace visions were for some of them, I had absolutely no doubts about the mystery of omnipresence. It was not hard for even my young mind to grasp the wonderful truth that the spiritual world is outside of space and time, and that heaven is present and not far away up in the sky. It was years ago when I made the metaphor of an oasis in the desert... one that cannot be reached by many steps, but which is always present and of which we simply become more aware of as the veil between the material and spiritual lifts with increase of faith and holiness. This implicit belief in the perpetual presence of heavenly beings has given me an astounding amount of consolation throughout my life.

Not only did this help me to understand how intensely wonderful the Sacrament of the Eucharist actually is, but it has put me in constant awe of how close Christ actually is to each person and how deeply He feels for each one. There at our sleeping, there at our waking, there at our praying, there at our working, there at our playing... the understanding of this brings with it the amazing realization of His love and sufferings as He lives through each of our trials with us; even those who displease Him constantly partake, at least in part, in this presence.

With this understanding, one can pray with much deeper faith and be consoled in even the most bitter trials. Likewise, with faith in the presence of heaven, we can feel a very personal friendship with angels and saints. For instance, when I was a pre-teen I sometimes felt the need to cry... and I would cry into Mary's lap, just by praying for her to be there and feeling her comforting touch. Another example is how close I feel to my guardian angel: I appreciate all that he has done for me over the years and can ask his help and advice as confidently as I would a friend. This faith in heavenly presence reaches even higher than personal levels, however. When we believe that the Holy Spirit is present guiding the Church, our trust of even earthly things skyrockets above the natural course of things.

If one believes that God, His angels, and His saints are always able to listen and assist... if one believes that heaven is not distant and that Christ is living in the world today through the Eucharist... then he will find great consolation and faith as a result of this, a faith which is rewarded time and again. Heaven is more "real" than earth itself... because it is Heaven that never ends and exists without death and corruption. So why should we believe that earth is our only reality? Why should we believe that the things of the earth are more real than the things of heaven, and more accessible? Heaven is our final destination, so we should remember to consider the earth as temporary and Heaven as the forever reality. Even as we live in these material bodies and associate with a material world, we remember that the spiritual can access the spiritual (technically our souls are trapped in our bodies, but they can still communicate with and partake of the spiritual). This is why Jesus teaches us to pray and to store up spiritual treasures.

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Have mercy on us.
All the angels and saints: Pray for us.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wait and Pray

Although I have spoken on patience, and patience is certainly necessary for waiting, this concept of which I am about to speak is not patience. Many times God answers our prayers about our vocations with a continual "wait and pray." Why? Why not just tell us our vocations? The answer seems simple enough, but it is not always thoroughly understood.

If you as young people of today about their vocations, most will tell you that they are waiting... waiting for what? Waiting for God to tell them what to do, for some opportunity to arise that will make their vocations obvious, waiting for faith and strength to make a decision... many things. But is it right to call this waiting? Many of the saints did not find their vocations until they had spent years waiting and praying. For instance, St. Benedict lived as a hermit before he realized his call to monasticism. Does that mean that they lived their vocations for only part of their adult lives? Of course not... only by waiting and praying can we reach the immense heights of sanctity which only God can bring us to. Therefore, there is more to waiting and praying than we first acknowledge.

What is waiting? Waiting is following daily the path of a currently undefined vocation with the hope of reaching it. Likewise, praying in this case means to put our trust in God, that He will guide our lives and show us our vocations when we are finally ready. This is a form of "current vocation"... a non-committed vocation. If you are seeking your vocation but find that the only answer God is willing to give you is "wait and pray," recognize that He is not asking you to be dormant by negatively refraining from activity, but rather He is asking you to make a positive effort to wait and pray, for that is your current vocation and is quite as important as your committed one.

During Lent God calls us to wait and pray for forty days, just as He does quite often during our lives even after we are in a committed vocation. We don't know the future and, in spite of all our plans, have no idea where we stand and where we are headed. It is important to utilize times, such as this season of Lent, to remember the importance of waiting and praying. We must always be ready to make a positive effort to walk in God's providence, even unto the unknown. For instance, perhaps we have no idea how our prayer, fasting, and penances now will affect us later... but we pray that it is accepted by God and used for our personal betterment and for the help of others.


May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
~An Old Irish Blessing

Sincerity

St. Anthony was a very meek and humble man, but when he preached, his words touched many hearts. A man who maintains genuine integrity, lives and communicates with guileless sincerity, and has unfeigned humility is a man of great peace. St. Anthony was just such a man. Of all the virtues for which we should strive, these peace-bringing virtues are both the gentlest to own and the hardest to maintain. Our human nature often views knowledge and understanding as reason for rising "above" these virtues and determining, in our own mind, what others should hear us say. Such considerations are very unfortunate, for they cause us to lose our sincerity... and in so doing we lose peace of mind and doubt the sincerity of others.

How are these virtues lost? The causes begin externally, but reach critical level within ourselves. I will use spirituality as an example, for the loss of spiritual sincerity is the bane of saints. When we have come near to God and begun to spread Him to others, we become intimately involved with the greatest, deepest, most joyful and lovable mystery in the universe. When we hear the praise of others for this intimacy, we begin to think that it is we, and not the mystery, that have these qualities. We become confident and prideful in them, and indirectly destroy our own sincerity. For even if we have the best of intentions, as soon as we begin to think we are something more than the nothing loved by God that we are, we are deceiving ourselves and cannot help but begin to deceive others.

The loss of sincerity extends to many levels. Most often, the first reached is the loss of truth, which is rooted in the spiritual deception of our high consideration of our own worth. However, this level is not often recognized because of how quietly it takes place. The most noticeable is outward confidence in our own spirituality. When we cease to maintain meekness and earnestness, and rather begin to throw facts around in the name of God without any spiritual foundation. This is almost always directly linked with the consideration of the perspectives of others... as soon as we begin to lose the direct consideration of God, we begin to speak in words that we believe others want to hear. These of course lead to the very obvious faults of being preachy, condescending, hypocritical, proud, envious, and judging. This is why saints are most greatly pained when they are spoken of highly, and receive the greatest satisfaction in being humiliated.

It is obvious that sincerity is of very great value, so how can it be maintained? We must seek personal holiness and closeness to God before all else... in secret we must advance our own spirituality as far as possible and pray earnestly that God will help is to truly grow closer to Him. We must humbly admit our faults and attribute all good in us to God, and recognize how little we truly know, thanking God for showing us knowledge day by day and keeping our minds from emptying themselves in our own human stupidity. We must speak from our hearts and pray constantly that God keep our motives pure, as if the very fact that we are the mouth and action of His wisdom fills us with fear of our own unworthiness. We must view others' words and actions with generous consideration, and upon seeing their faults or doubting their sincerity, considering our own faults and sincerity more deeply. By thus protecting our sincerity and carefully keeping God first in our minds, we may maintain the great gifts of peace and trust which true sincerity affords.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Pearl City (Holy Ghost Version)


Her eyes were bright and distant as two stars that day as she left home. She wasn't going very far, just to the chapel nearby. She was dressed in a light pink dress, and her head and shoulders were covered with a lovely cream colored shawl. Her stride was not long, or even quick, there was no need for it to be either... it took her only moments to arrive at her destination. She carefully opened the door: yes, she was right! He was there waiting for her! Her heart was light as she walked gently down the narrow isle to the step of the alter. There was no one there, except Him. She gazed upon Him for a few moments, and then looked around at the tiny chapel she was kneeling in... the alter was only ten feet in breadth, and the area of the pews was no bigger. Just herself and Him and quiet... the air smelled of angel's incense and she could hear the sound of distant song.

She lost all sense of space and time, and two hours passed by her unnoticed. Then she was awakened by an opening of the wall directly behind the alter. A pure white dove with flaming wings hovered in the center of what was now a deep blue sky. The three remaining walls of the chapel passed out of her memory as she dared move a little nearer. She did not rise, but still she moved nearer the Living Tabernacle, as if on air. The flame of the great dove's wings warmed her pale cheeks into a deep red flush, and her blood heated within her until her body bloomed with a deep pink.

Whether she moved forward, or the chapel drifted away, she did not know. The sky became open all around her, and still the flaming dove had not moved from before her face. She was no longer kneeling on the wooden alter step, but a cushion of blue marble. No longer did the dark chapel surround her, with the smell of burning candles filling the air, but she was kneeling in the midst of a great palace made of clear blue pearl and her nostrils were filled with the strong scent of incense which seemed to be emitted in the dove's breath. She sensed the light of millions of seraphs surrounding her, but she could now see nothing, for the immensity of the flaming God before her had absorbed all her senses.

All sense of time deserted her, all life seemed as nothing, as the pierce of the Great Dove's eye enveloped her. She burned as her lips, her heart, her very soul were purged with the deep blue fire that the ignited pearl had now become. In a moment she could see God, heaven, earth, and all things. In a moment her mind could think all thoughts and know all knowledge as the Dove became as air and entered into her. The intensity of her feeling reached the highest limits of pain and she felt that she herself would explode into rays of light. But she saw the fiery dove retreat into the invincible palace of her soul and reside there, and she was freed of it's fire.

Still she kneeled there, in her pink dress and cream colored shawl, absorbed in prayer in the little chapel. The priest walked in and gave her and those kneeling all around her Our Lord's Benediction. She made the sign of the cross without much thought, and her hour of Adoration had ended. Returning to her home, she glanced at the sky for a moment and caught a glimpse of a city of blue pearl diminishing into the air.

Veni, Creator Spiritus

"VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora."

"You have not chosen me, it is I who have chosen you." Yes, it is He who has created you, He who has chosen to bestow His gifts upon you. It is He who seeks to come to you and enlighten you, He who seeks to consume you with His love. He has desired to bring you to the fulfillment of life, and to your true vocation. Indeed, He has heard the cry of the life within you and has desired to satisfy it's need.

"Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti."

This has long been one of the most meaningful hymns for me. It was played in a movie I watched during the clothing ceremony of a young girl entering a Benedictine Cloister. It was at that time I realized what this calling of the Holy Ghost meant to me. A calling of God to come inside of me, to enlighten and to protect and to beautify me and make me perfect. All call for guidance and for wisdom. A desire to be within the light of God. Indeed, I have long associated this song with my vocation. It ignites again and again the fire of my yearning for God, and constantly reminds me that the Holy One, the Most High, the eternal Triune God has called me also to be holy, to be close to Him forever in Heaven.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Call to Sainthood


"I want to be a saint, but I feel so helpless..." ~St. Therese

There is no person on earth who is not called to sainthood... that is the purpose for which we were made. There is no hand that God has not tenderly guided, no heart that He has not carefully disposed to receive Himself, and no soul upon which He has not shed His limitless graces. Heaven is filled with thousands upon thousands of unknown saints... mothers who spent their lives for their children, fathers who worked hard for their families, kings and princes who were honest with their people, and children who lived only a few short years on earth. I sometimes wonder how many unrecorded visions and miracles there are... the supernatural seems so commonplace that its almost natural. To think that every individual has a guardian angel, and every individual is loved wholly and known completely by God, brings a whole new light to the population number.

Sometimes this seems hard to believe when one has spent time in the company of worldly and indifferent people, but it is true that even these people are called to be saints. We are all given vocations chosen specially for us by God... but even if we fail to recognize these vocations which could bring us to the fullness of life, we can still become saints by remaining in the state of grace. After all, all God wants is that we trust Him and let Him come to live in us so that He can bring us to eternal happiness with Him.

Not too long ago my nearest and dearest friend was describing me to someone else: "She's like a baby, she doesn't know squat... but then God tells her stuff, or I do." My friend wasn't kidding, she was 100% correct; in spite of my seemingly confident posts, I am rather dumb most of the time. She was explaining that people aren't just born with the ability to discern what is right and wrong on every occasion, they aren't born knowing many things or with magnificent intellects capable of figuring them out, they need someone to guide them until they can somehow stand on their own two feet. If I were to think for a moment that the way I am or the things I know is what is going to bring me to sainthood... I'd lose all hope. It is the same with most people in the world, we are helpless in reaching the heights of sainthood unless we abandon ourselves into God's hands and allow Him to guide us.

How do we abandon ourselves into God's hands and allow Him to bring us to sainthood? Good question... the first step is allowing ourselves to believe in Him. Closely following this is praying for/having faith in His promises. Then we must allow Him to love us, we must listen to His word with open hearts and the desire to follow His advice, we must pray for our own enlightenment and accept that we are not all-knowing. Finally, we must live our lives according to His Will and strive to give Him our whole selves. We must accept His gifts of grace and the sacraments, because they will make us strong. If a person does all these things with the firm intent of gaining eternal happiness, he can become a saint.

All our callings differ slightly. Some of us are called to do great and amazing things for God... others of us, like dear St. Therese, are called to simply give ourselves to Him in our own small way... but all of us are called to be saints, to be happy forever with Him in heaven.

Clothed in Wool (Poem)

And you, my daughter, shall be white as snow.
Your tender body clothed in wool,
your delicate hands enfolded in purest fleece.
At your feet shall be the sun,
And many flowers shall bloom before you.
My angels shall lie among the roses.
Your halo shall shine like many bright stars,
And doves shall adorn your head.
Your tender smiles and brown glowing eyes,
Shall be my constant delight.
Your hair will be veiled by the coats of heavenly sheep,
More velvety than the seraph's song.
Your graces shall shine with unceasing splendor,
The soles of your feet like celestial moons.
The rays of light extending below and above you,
Shall flow like fresh spring water.
Your face shall be anointed with the sweetest oils,
Your countenance reflecting your innocence.
And you, my daughter, shall be white as snow,
Your tender body clothed in wool.

Moses

The story of Moses is very significant... He was born Hebrew, the pharaoh sought his life, his mother set him on the water to drift away, and the daughter of the pharaoh found him and had pity on him, taking him as her own. He was raised as a prince and a ruler, but knew his Hebrew origin and chose to be loyal to his brothers and their God rather than his foster family and their pagan gods. He gave up riches and power, and fled to the land of Midian, where he married and had two sons. He lived there until God called him.

We also are set adrift the waters of faith and baptism amidst a land full of evils and demons seeking to destroy us. We are like strangers in a foreign land, growing in a place away from our true home in heaven. But when we are grown enough, we turn back to our true home with longing and loyalty. In Confirmation we agree to make the pilgrimage back to our Father in the company of the Church. We seek to live a good life and learn to use our own reason and free will in godly ways. When we are ready, God reveals Himself to us and calls us to a certain vocation.

Our heavenly brothers and sisters, like Moses' kinsmen, seem to have it pretty tough. Jesus died on the cross, many of the saints suffered martyrdom and great penances, the Church has been oppressed by worldly evils of doubt and ignorance... truly, following the path of righteousness is equivalent to heavy labor, and the dangers of the wayside equivalent to a restless scourge. It takes faith and decision to put ourselves into God's hands and receive His goodness... and it was never meant to be easy. But if we prove ourselves good and faithful sons and daughters, He will free us and lead us by the hand to the Promised Land. Remember, we are dust and to dust we shall return... but our souls will not be left among the dead... when we have reached the end of our pilgrimage we will drink from the waters of grace and receive a reward a hundred times all our efforts.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

40 Days for Life

I don't like to think about how many children are killed each day... it is especially hard to imagine the magnitude of the number of these little souls who are never given a chance to follow their vocations today, on my own birthday. 40 Days for Life is a prayerful movement directed at saving the lives of our children. Hundreds and Thousands of Catholics are praying during these forty days of Lent and drenching heaven with their tears for the youth sacrificed in abortion, as well as for all the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to this mass homicide.

Please join good people all over the world in saving the children. God has great compassion for children and their mothers... He will certainly hear our heartfelt prayers and aid us. We must also ask His mercy, for we, with our pro-choice brothers and sisters, are responsible for this horror, and it pains Him to see them die more than it could ever pain us. God bless you for your charity to those young ones so dear to us!

LITANY IN RESPONSE TO ABORTION

By Fr. Frank Pavone

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father, Creator of the world, have mercy on us. RESPONSE: Have mercy on us!
God the Son, through whom all things were made,
God the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life,
Lord Jesus, the Beginning and the End,
Lord Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
Lord Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life,
Lord Jesus, Eternal Word of Life,
Lord Jesus, living in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
Lord Jesus, Lover of the poor and weak,
Lord Jesus, Defender of the helpless,
Lord Jesus, Bread of Life,
For every sin against life,
For the sin of abortion,
For the daily killing of innocent babies,
For the bloodshed throughout our land,
For the silent screams of Your children,
For the killing of Your future disciples,
For the exploitation of women by abortion,
For the silence of Your people,
For the apathy of Your people,
For the co-operation of Your people in this tragedy,

For our pre-born brothers and sisters killed by abortion, RESPONSE: Lord, hear our prayer.
For our pre-born brothers and sisters threatened by abortion,
For our brothers and sisters who have survived abortion,
For mothers who have had abortions,
For mothers tempted to have abortions,
For mothers pressured to have abortions,
For mothers who have refused to have abortions,
For the fathers of aborted babies,
For the families of aborted babies,
For the families of those tempted to have abortions
For abortionists,
For all who assist and cooperate in abortions,
For doctors and nurses, that they may nurture life,
For government leaders, that they may defend life,
For the clergy, that they may speak up for life,
For the pro-life movement,
For those who speak, write, and work to end abortion,
For those who help provide alternatives to abortion…
For those who promote adoption,
For national and local pro-life groups,
For unity in the pro-life movement,

For courage and perseverance in pro-life work,
For those who suffer ridicule and rejection for their stand for life,
For those imprisoned for defending life,
For those who have been injured and mistreated for defending life,
For legal professionals,
For courts and judges,
For police officers,
For educators,
For media professionals,

In thanksgiving for the babies saved from abortion,
In thanksgiving for the mothers saved and healed from abortion,
In thanksgiving for the former abortion providers who have become pro-life,
In thanksgiving for all those who take a stand against abortion,
In thanksgiving for the call to be part of the pro-life movement,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us,
O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Let us pray,

Almighty and ever-living God, You have created all things through Your Son Jesus Christ. He trampled the power of death by His Paschal Mystery. May all who acknowledge You promote the sacredness of life and always serve You faithfully, through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

"I'd Like to Be a Nun"

My Family

Today is my seventeenth birthday. The fact that my birthday falls on the day after Ash Wednesday is strangely significant... and it gives me a chance to meditate even more on my new beginning than I already do during this season of Lent.

This morning, as I knelt praying before Mass, I was watching the lector on the alter preparing to announce the start of Mass. Suddenly, I thought to myself that I'd very much like to be a nun... as if the idea had never crossed my mind before. Because of the nature of this day, and its meaning for me, this realization about my vocation... which appeared as clearly as it did when I was a small child reading my saint books... has a very powerful meaning for me. It means that I am still a child, still seeking, still growing more and more... and that I know nothing, and can learn everything. All that I have learned over the years about saints and Catholicism and Jesus cannot deter me from learning it all again afresh. All that I have felt, enjoyed, and wondered is still available to me in my future.

When one first begins to seek a vocation, he receives many gifts. He is mystified at the immensity of God's gifts and filled with zeal, gratitude, and the rapid fire of growth and love. In time, however, he begins to forget... to move on to what he considers to be higher understandings, higher callings of prayer and knowledge, and loses the simplicity of the childhood of his conversion. But we must remember that this "beginning" can be made at any time of any day, and the freshness of new life can be felt again, by simply remembering those first precious fruits of God's grace that we received and pursuing them.

This thought, "I'd like to be a nun," brings back in remembrance and in reality the beauty of the saints, my dreams of the religious life and union with Christ, and the power of Christ's virtue. The very freshness and genuineness of this thought brings my memories to life and causes the heavenly reality of life to fill whatever small dark depressions time had eaten into my soul. Nothing that is of heaven need ever pass away.. and the good we experience in our search for our vocations is meant to last forever.

I thank God that I have been given life, a life with which I can serve Him and suffer for Him and love Him at every moment of every day for as long as life exists. I thank God for my mother and father who have so patiently raised me, and for my brothers and sisters who I love very much. I thank Him for all the people I have met, and for all those who I have not met who my prayers and love reach to even now, and most especially for my friends who have been so loving and kind, and who have given me far more by their friendship than I could ever repay. If I have received such happiness by my seventeenth birthday, what awaits me in eternity? I thank God for accepting me as His child, and keeping a place for me in heaven.

Preparing the Way for Redemption

"I will put emnities between thee and the woman,
and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head
and thou shall lie in wait for her heel"
(Genesis 3:15)

The sin was committed, the debt made known, and its payment promised by the One who had been sinned against.

"Behold thou dost cast me out this day from the face of the earth,
and I shall be hidden from thy face,
and I shall be a vagabond and a fugitive on the earth:
Everyone, therefore, that findeth me shall kill me."
(Genesis 4:14)

Man felt his guilt and was terrified, losing hope in God's loving promise and despairing to the ways of the trapped and hunted, choosing to live alone, hidden, and sinful.

"Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity,
a wicked seed, ungracious children:
they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed
the Holy One of Israel,
they are gone away backwards."
(Isaias 1:4)

Man drifted away on the tides of temptation, forgetting what is good and wallowing in evil.
God was untiring in His efforts to bring His people back to Himself.

"Who knoweth the power of thy anger,
and for thy fear, can remember thy wrath?
Return, oh Lord, how long?
And be entreated in favor of thy servants."
(Psalm 89:11-13)

Man, afraid, learns of the goodness of God and entreats Him not to forget His promise. He prays and beseeches God to hear him in his weakness and save him. He waits, fearfully, for the coming of the Savior.

"Behold, the day of the Lord is at hand.
Make ready the way of the Lord."
(Zephaniah 1:7; Isaias 40:3)

Finally, the day of the fulfillment of the promise arises. Man is called upon to hear God's word, prepare His way, and accept His perpetual gift.

****

As we begin Lent, let us remember the history of Redemption, the goodness and justice of God, the gift we have been blessed to receive, and prepare our hearts to receive it.

February 18th (Journal Entry)


Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart,
and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.
(Matthew 22:37)

And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
(Mark 12:31)


Thus far my journal entries posted here have been written primarily for the benefit of others. Today I am posting one of my more private journal entries which I think will inspire some good Lenten thoughts in my readers. You will notice the "letter formatting," this is characteristic of my journal entries. I write them as a would a letter, with introductions, discussions, and "goodbyes." For the most part this is unedited, so you will not find much profoundness in these words, but you still may consider the thoughts here worth the read.

Dear Jesus, It pains me more than anything else to think of when I have not loved You. I feel the greatest sorrows when I consider that some of those for whom I pray have not known the deep joy of loving You. My heart cannot fathom what is contained in the gift of Your Love, and still I have felt sorrow for those who have thought this perfection of devotion to be above their reach.

To You I now offer the whole gratitude of my heart. I offer it for Your perfect and undying love, which is crucified again and again for my sake, even when I am least deserving. I offer it for Your empathy with me in my fickle ways, and for Your understanding when my tears flow in my weaknesses. I pray now for those who are seeking Your Love; and who I, with You, love so deeply. I know that the most precious gift You could receive is the gift of love. If I could bring just one heart to You, I would feel as great a gladness as if I had given You my poor heart a million times over.

If only I could put into words for my dear sisters and brothers how truly lovable You are, and how profound and perfect a love is Your love which ended in death on the Cross. Such words would bring them running to the fires of Your peaceful heart.

My sweet and adorable Jesus, while loving You each moment seems to stretch into the peaceful sunset of eternity. Each warming of the sun, blowing of the wind, rustling of snowflakes, whispering of leaves, dancing of the clouds, and twinkling of the stars resembles the living peace of Your love.

It seems there is no way my humble pen can describe the goodness of this most perfect virtue. It seems I am helplessly unable to dry Your tears of longing thirst; unable to stem the tide of scorn for Your perfect love; unable to bring the peace of Your love to all those who suffer in emptiness. I have given my heart to You, indeed I had hardly begun to raise it in my hands up to You before You snatched it away, and now my love for You will cause me to feel the perpetual pain of Your longing thirst for love. Help me to be constantly nourished with more love of You, and to somehow bring other people, people who I care for so deeply, to Your Love.

Jesus wants so much to be loved, He died on the cross for love, and He begs, with many tears and a tormented heart, that we love Him more
.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let There Be Light!


And God said: Be light made. And Light was made.
And He called the light Day, and the darkness night;
And there was evening and morning one night.
(Genesis 1:3,5)

It amazes me how much SENSE the Catholic Church's teachings make once I have given them some thought. The Church begins the Lenten season with this powerful definition of life and death... the age-old question: "What is life?" is answered a few words on this day: "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return." With these words we embark on our Lenten pilgrimage, signifying our earthly pilgrimage closely, and we travel with holy hearts to the springs of life at Easter, which closely signify our new life in Heaven. Unlike our earthly travels, however, where our feet pass over the road... the paths of time constantly pass beneath our feet. In this pilgrimage we must be sure to move towards the light of Easter so the paths of time do not sweep away from us unnoticed, and death and new birth come upon us unaware.

In the day that God created man, he made him to the likeness of God.
He created them, male and female; and blessed them.
And the days of Adam after he begot Seth were eight hundred years:
And he begot sons and daughters.
(Genesis 5:1-2,4)

I have a dear friend who is currently attending a Catholic College. Last Ash Wednesday she commented: "Its very interesting to see hundreds of students walking around with ashes on their heads!" It is indeed interesting. After I received my ashes this morning, I realized that all of us in the Church... young and old, weak and strong, beautiful and homely... we were all wearing the same mark. Each and everyone of us was born human and remains human, just like every other person on earth. We share this humanity with Jesus, and it has been blessed. However, we all must die someday... in that we all are alike. We cannot choose the date and time of our deaths, and it must come. How foolish is pride! We have been made of dust, and remain dust, and the only light within us is the light of Christ, the shard of spirit that is our likeness to God.

And He said: Behold Adam has become as one of us, knowing good and evil.
(Genesis 1:11-12)

Lent is a time to realize our sins, and our guilt. We are no longer innocent, but have chosen the dangerous path of evil. Now there is are vipers before us, behind us, and to both side of us waiting to bring us evil and death. We ourselves have often chosen to be like those vipers... to be toxic and evil in our thoughts and deeds. With the men who crowned Christ with thorns we have spit at him and mocked him for his goodness, and said that we have desired evil and scorned His love. But He has forgiven us and begged with open arms and many tears that we come to Him and walk in His light. He has asked us to listen to His word with open hearts, so that our minds can be enlightened, our hearts filled with joy, and souls at peace on His lighted path. He has come to us, turned his face to the sun in the distance, and pointed at it, longing to have us live there. We must go to Him and ask Him to heal us and make us strong, to guide us as we pay for our sins, and to carry the burden of our guilt for us so we will not be overwhelmed. He will help, but we must try to renew ourselves and follow Him.

And He said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb,
And the earth brought forth the green herb,
And such yielded seed according to its kind,
And the tree that beareth fruit.
(Genesis 1:11-12)

My pastor explained at Mass this morning that Lent is translated as "Spring." We have traveled through a long dreary summer, a busy fall, and a winter of hardships... and now is the time for us to bloom and be born again. All that we have done in our past lives we are sorry for, and we forget. Now we restart, and make an attempt to start as a child does... we have left behind our pride, malice, laziness, and other sins to begin again with innocence and virtue. The rust on our souls and on our minds is now scraped off and the raw thought behind it is fresh again. The path of salvation has been pointed out to us, we have seen life and death for what they are, and now we can grow and bear fruit. Picture in your mind a bright smile, rosy cheeks, an innocent mind, a humble heart, a desire to suffer and do penance, and a pure soul burning with love. This is our spring, and this is our chance to start again with the firm intent to never sin again and live saintly and virtuous lives. May you have a Blessed Lent!