Trust in Him

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Modesty

Modesty exhibits the dignity and beauty of a woman,
It is a precious sign that Christ dwells within her.

Modesty is not easily learned in today's culture. The rules of the Church seem so old fashioned, so impossible, and are very difficult for us to obey. Indeed, according to the Church tradition it is forbidden for women to wear pants. When nearly every woman in the world has grown accustomed to wearing such clothing, and those who adhere to "modest" dress are considered oddities, how is one supposed to accept this extreme? For some, this is a topic they'd much prefer to leave alone... they have tried to re-define their consciences to reject this teaching of the Church in favor of public opinion. Those who's consciences still trouble them seek some common ground, but they are unable to find anyone who can help them come to a decision because all they meet are either totally indifferent to modesty or totally dedicated to upholding it. This is why: one cannot be immodest and modest at the same time.

The Church teachings, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, are easily summarized. Women must not wear clothing that shows their form, or is thin enough that it can be seen through. Necklines can extend only two fingers below the throat, and skirts must fall far enough below the knee that the knee is not visible while sitting. The shoulders and upper arms must be covered, even when it is hot. These wise teachings of the Church are meant to protect her children from sin, and their reasons are very obvious. When a woman exposes her body, she loses the dignity that belongs to her, and to God. She leads men to lustful thoughts, and then falls easily into greater sins of immodesty, followed by impurity.

Today women have a far different idea of beauty than women did years ago. Their legs and arms must be smooth and well shaven, and carefully tanned. Their backs and upper chests must also be attractive. If their bodies are not enticing and nice to look at, they feel that they are not beautiful, and are in fact subject to the judgmental thoughts of those around them. The fashions that call women to abandon their dignity also call them to self consciousness, and lack of femininity. They draw men to themselves, and then are flattered when a man is unable to keep his eyes off of her. The actions of such a woman who has such freedom to move and expose her body may only consist of athletic antics and pretty poses at first, but later develop into flirtation and impurity. This is not because the women themselves are evil, it is because they have betrayed their greatest protection against concupiscence and allowed others to lose respect for them.

Modesty is not only a matter of dress, not even mainly a matter of dress. The way a woman behaves must reflect a pure soul within which Christ can dwell, this is modesty. She must not be vain, or filled with impure desires, but rather adore her Lord in submissive respectfulness for herself and others. Rather than seeking to draw attention to herself, she should instead seek to exhibit a beautiful personality through virtue and concern to others. This is modesty, and modest in dress and purity are it's main supports.

Now that I have established the nature, purpose, and statutes of modesty... I will go on to give an explanation of how I interpret it in my own life. It is not my intention to direct you, I have no right to do that, but it is my hope that I will increase your understanding and open your mind to seeking modesty in your own lives.

As a future bride of Christ, I am very attentive to the Divine jealousy which urges me to cling to the blessed state of purity. My Beloved has made me woman, He has loved me woman, and therefore I want to be woman to Him... in the same way that His mother was woman. For His sake I retain a personal dignity, a dignity that refuses to allow others to claim evil thoughts on my behalf, or to allow what He has made sacred and hidden to be exposed and misused like trash. I needed little guidance to show me how this end was to be obtained, my instinct told me the privilege I have in being a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and how it should be treated. It did not take me long to resolve to live for Jesus, to save myself for Jesus, and thus to give myself completely to Him and retain the full extent of the sacred gift He has given me.

Those who see me regularly will quickly identify a few characteristics in my dress and manner. I am always dressed in clothes that adhere to Church tradition, often they are very feminine and pretty, such as flowing skirts and light colors. Often, but not always, I wear a headscarf... it holds back my hair (now just below shoulder length) and gives a sense of mildness to my dress. I generally wear warm clothing, more by preference than by design, and like to wear shawls, with which I cover my shoulders in a spirit of humility and gentleness. Although I will play games, run, and have fun... I am reserved, always, because Christ is foremost in my mind. I strive to be polite, but accept, often too much, the attentions people give to me, naturally; pulling out my chair, getting me something to eat or drink, watching their tongues in my presence, etc. I like to think that the reason I inspire this effect in others is because of my modesty, and because Christ is visible in me.

I have just described my normal dress, my personal preferences, but what are my beliefs? Unlike most people who think as I do, I am not adverse to women dressing in pants. If for some reason I felt that I would be hindering the work of charity by my dresses, I would wear pants in good conscience, though it be a sacrifice for me. While I cover my head in church, I accept the embarrassment I feel when my head is uncovered when it is necessary for me to attend Mass without a veil, still in good conscience. However, I cannot in good conscience wear bathing suits, or shorts, or sleeveless shirts and shirts with low necklines. My entire person refuses to expose myself in such a way, to abandon my womanly dignity, for comfort or attractiveness. I respect and love the Church's teachings, but my intuition and conscience tells me that only pride could urge me to trip around daintily in a dress, when I could be far more useful (or safe, as in the case of hiking and farm work) in decent jeans. When I become a nun, forever dressed in the habit of Christ's choosing, I will have a dignity that cannot be made selfish and shameful by such a situation, but that is protected and blessed by God. I do not insist my understanding is correct, perhaps it is not, but I rely greatly on God's direction, and therefore trust my own judgment.

It is essential for us, today, to take care that we do not fall for the fashions and immodesty that enslave women to misuse that which is most precious to them. We must recognize and admit our own weaknesses, and strive to heed the warnings of the Church and the saints who tell us time and again that if we are immodest in dress, we will be immodest in action. Take care that your lives are virtuous, and exemplify the pure life of Christ. Carefully evaluate your motives, your thoughts, for any signs of vanity or impurity. This is no mild sin, but mortal sin we are discussing, and if it advances to impurity they will be compounded mortal sins. Remember that Christ is our true goal, and that He sees when we misuse the body that He has made sacred. Let us strive to imitate Mary, pure and beautiful, and ask her guidance in our pursuit of modesty and holiness. After you have asked her, if you like, please comment and add your thoughts on this subject, in which I still have much to learn.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Happiest Day


Ever since I was a child I have heard stories of the brides of Christ, living in a garden of flowers. My romantic heart longed to cross oceans, to give all, just to be among those in that blessed place. Young though I was, the mystery that draws a woman to a man, a virgin to Christ, was well known to me. I learned of St. Catherine of Siena, who received a ring from Jesus Himself, and the possibility of a marriage to God became very real to me. I learned of St. Benedict, with his monasteries fostering peace, protection, prayer, work, virtue, silence, and intimate concentration on Christ. And finally, I learned of St. Clare... and her poor brown habit and bare feet, her life of utter poverty and discipline, and the smile... that joyful smile that lingered perpetually on her face.

The happiest day of my life will be the day that I vow to forever more live in the House of Christ. The moment that my bond with Christ is made unbreakable, the moment that my sacrifice is irreversible, will be the moment that I have lived my whole life to have.

During a visit to the monastery, I clearly recall sitting in adoration in peaceful prayer. I was dressed in a very beautiful blue skirt, with decorations and embroidery on it, which I liked very much. I sat up straight and smoothed it out, hoping to look pretty for Jesus... you might say this was the moment He asked for my hand, and gave me a promise, if not a ring, of engagement. If it were anywhere else in the world, His voice would quickly be silenced by my thought, but in this place I heard Him clearly. He expressed that I was beautiful, and that He loved me. I looked at my dress, and the bare feet I had slipped out of my sandals, then I looked at the alter where a Poor Clare was walking gracefully performing her duties. At that moment I realized that the most beautiful gown in the world was the old brown habit she wore, and the most precious and lovely complexion was her face, adorned in smiles in the midst of poverty.

I have mentioned often the sacrifice of the Poor Clares, the poverty and loneliness that they suffer. Indeed the monastery is a place of sacrifice, and spiritual and physical trials await all who enter. Yet, it is a place of love. There may be sorrow and heartbreak, but what sorrow, and what heartbreak! Sorrow for sin, sorrow for suffering in the world... the heartbreak of compassion for others, and the ever increasing longing to console Christ. The Divine Bridegroom protects His brides jealously, instructing the Church to care for them and keep them from sin and distraction. The consolers of His heart, those chosen to serve Him in Himself, those who share Mary's place at His feet must be ever attentive to His voice. They fast from food and pleasure, they come away from the noise of music and tv's and chatter, they put aside hobbies and activities, and they listen to Him, they think of Him, they concentrate on Him. They observe the strict monastic rule so that their work may revolve around their prayer, and so that they will never become too busy to give Him their everything. Yes, they give up much, but they give it up that their lives may be fully holy, that they may receive the King of Kings in readiness at every moment of the day.

In receiving my vocation, it is as if I have been granted a special understanding of the secret convenience of the cloisters. The simplicity of the rigid rule gives the sisters the ability to be as the birds of the air, and the flowers of the field, without worry or fear as to whether they shall eat or prosper. Rather than working tiredly through the day, without respite or nourishment, they eat at regular hours and their days are broken by prayer seven times. The Mass, prayer, spiritual reading, and Adoration make each of their days another special day alone with Christ. Even their work, and diligence, is another way of telling Him "I love you". To me who, living even in my small and comfortable life, the world is loud and obnoxious... so many distractions break my prayer, so many luxuries hinder my discipline, so many worries disturb my peace, so many unpredictable changes distort my life... the convent looks to me like an oasis. For it is there that I shall find Jesus, the one who will not change, who will not disappoint. I shall find Jesus and He will direct my heart, showing me what to do and where to go, while I simply love Him and accept all pain freely. I shall smile not just because I am surrounded by joy, but because the one whom I love, the one who lives within me, the one who will bring me to eternity is perfect love, perfect joy, and worthy of all my trust.

The vocation of a cloistered religious is rare, but what joy to those who receive it! The world may look and see all they have given up... family, friends, careers, luxury, "fun"... but to she who lives this life the overpowering reality of what she has received fills her with thankfulness. The beauty, the simplicity, the love, the joy of the cloister are truly precious. The enclosure itself.. the walls, the grates, the curtains... they are only signs of the enclosure with Christ that is within her heart. The rule is her protection, she clings to it for it keeps her with Christ. Her love, a love extending to all mankind, is her undying purpose which is ever fulfilled in the heart of Christ. Yes, the happiest day of my life will be the day that this promise of Christ, and my promise to Him, is eternally unbreakable.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To what purpose?


Many are in the habit of walking without direction. Rather than a definite idea of their purpose on earth, they have only a hazy understanding of what others have told them their purpose should be. Would it not be easier to find holiness if we could define it? For what end are we fighting? What is our final goal? We may never learn to ask these questions, but some will find them essential to peace of mind. In addition to this, perhaps we are not even seeking the ideals that our intellect has told us should be sought.

In the world today there are many extremes, but I will focus on three in particular. The first is to achieve heaven, holiness, and eternal life. Though this is contorted and misunderstood, it is probably the most common. The next is not so definite. This philosophy is held by professed agnostics, and that is to never put your hope in afterlife, or in what you can't understand, but rather to focus on the present as the great moment. Again some will discern this differently... one may say that in that moment you should make a difference, an impact on the world, while another might say that moment should be spent without any thought of the future, in enjoyment and fullness of life. The final extreme is this: to disregard any hope of an afterlife, and focus on this world alone. Evolutionists and atheists are the most common to hold these views, and thus naturally have a completely different take on life than most people. In their eyes life begins, and life ends, in a cycle of science and change.

I am not going to go into each of these points individually, although I thought it essential to explain my understanding of each of them. My main intent is to share my own insight in this matter. As humble as it may be, it is completely developed from spiritual intuition and my exposure to the wisdom of the saints. I have formed an ideal which I pursue without reservation, and it is an ideal that cannot fail, at least not for me, because of the direct implication of the Divine Compassion, in which I have absolute faith.

St. Therese is well known for her "Little Way." It is a way of life, even a state of being, that puts us into the hands of God to be used and guided as He pleases. It is true that one factor that enabled St. Therese to live this life was her great faith in God's goodness, but her desires were not focused on her reward, which she could never doubt she would one day receive. No, Therese's desires were absolutely unselfish, to the point of foolishness. She spoke of herself as the ball of the Child Jesus, which He could play with or set in the corner at His pleasure. Towards the end of her life she revealed the interior disposition of not even desiring heaven, for it would seem that to be happy she must cease to give Jesus pleasure and consolation through suffering. While this statement is actually contrary to the eternal love and fullness that must be present in heaven, and in the union of the Trinity, it does give us a major insight into what ideal we could pursue that puts us utterly and completely into the hands of God.

My goal in life is simple: to give myself entirely for God and others, whether my person could bring them good and pleasure in the end or not. I am not so presumptuous as to say that I am the tool that, through my sacrifice, will bring many souls to heaven. Nor do I lack the faith that the Good Jesus can and will do it through me. I do not think myself so perfect that my love and life will give pleasure to God, nor do I distrust His insistence that it does. I know that God's work in me alone is what achieves any good, therefore I claim no inheritance or reward, but at the same time I do not doubt that I will receive it. None of these factors waver my decision to give myself wholly and entirely to God, for His sake and the sake of others. Why? Because I have given my will as well, I have called Him God, and I know by the virtue of Charity that He deserves all things, and all others deserve infinitely more than I. Justice itself has justified my purpose, therefore it cannot be swayed.

You must not mistake this frame of mind as unconcern or indifference. My goal, the end I hope to achieve, does not double as my way of life. My goal, to be completely God's and retain nothing for myself, is yet to be reached. Indeed, one who has dedicated herself to God, given herself to God unconditionally, does not sit idly in His possession. God has shown me that love is the greatest good, and therefore I pursue love before all else... first love of God, then love of all my brothers and sisters. For the sake of this love, I seek personal virtue and holiness, so that I may cease to give God pain and give Him only what He wishes to receive from me. For the sake of love, I pray with the faith of expectation. I am unworthy, I hope to one day be utterly detached from all selfishness, and yet I pray for the consolation of others knowing the outcome of my prayer will bring them good. But finally, the greatest sacrifice, I admit my inability to obtain perfection and tendency towards failure. I acknowledge the sad truth that I am not my ideal, I do not even earnestly desire it (that alone would make a saint), therefore I can not give to God and others my great gift... but a poor one, one unable even to give.

I remind you that I am speaking of purpose in the sense of destination. The motivation of love could hardly be covered in this post. In simple words, I am seeking heaven, but what is my heaven? My heaven is true good, true love... it is not happiness, or possessions, or relaxation. My heaven is an eternal effort of justice, to give God the perfection He can only find in the human heart which He has created. My heaven is perpetual saintliness and virtue... on earth it can only be through pain and suffering, but in heaven it need not even be troubled by discomfort to be pure. I do not wait, I do not put off my goal... but I achieve it with every moment. How? Christ is always the same, always this heaven. The moment I cloth myself in Christ and leave myself behind is the moment I find myself in His arms, in eternity, immersed in the greatest good that I seek with all my heart. I seek, and I am, because who could truly know Jesus, even when He is present with them? He is an ocean of perfection, of mystery, which we could never exhaust. There will always be more in Him for us to find, even when our everything is complete.

I thank Jesus for my gift of my humanity... oh how heartily I thank Him! For in my sinfulness, my inadequacy, I find the only way to achieving my goal. I could never reach Christ, I could never satisfy the eternal desire He has placed within me, I could never tread the abyss of mystery that draws a gap within my heavenly soul, so Jesus comes to me. Everything that I am tugs the heart strings of God, I need only say that I love Him, and I shall have everything. I need only deny that I am anything, I need only put aside everything I seek, and grasp for God, whom I could never reach. I need only admit my limitless fault and weakness, my unstable determination, and cry out that I love Him. Who is to say He will then deny me anything!? How beautiful is humankind.

If it only remained with me, if my purpose went no further than myself, how could it be a purpose at all? If I loved, and received everything, what would it be if I have only loved He who is infinitely lovable in Himself? There is merit in this, by decree of eternal justice, but the human heart has been made to seek even more. It is not only God that I love, but others as well. And what love? A love prepared to be emptied and filled, used and grown, dead and living.. for any other infinite being on this earth. I did nothing to obtain it, but it is present. I am too weak to contain it, or to use it... I am too weak to allow it to make me a saint, virtuous and beautiful. Yet it is present, through the blessing of God, as long as Jesus remains present in us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Describing Angels


While I don't claim to know angels as well as this, it occurred to me that even a small understanding of the angelic persona, some small indentation on our perception of them, would be helpful in showing you how to know and trust them. It is a shame that some walk lonely in the world, unsure of who to go to, when an angel walks by his side. Ready to listen and to guide, always gentle and compassionate... I've become aware of the sad truth that few take notice of their seemingly silent friends. You may look upon this short work as fiction, but take care to pay attention to your own angel.

Living freely as the light, treading on nothing, they follow in our steps.
No time or space their thought confines, yet still our lives they share.
No hapless shapes, no wandering hordes, but true and simple like a bell.

Before the world began, He was. God, great and glorious, lived perfection in nothingness. Yet in His wisdom He sought to create the choirs of spirits. Like light, like Him, they were born. Given a choice, some chose to serve, and the blessed hosts remained with Him. Their will, their choice, now infinitely good... they heard His every word. So powerful, so wise, they were were always less than God. Not ruling, not judging, they lived in harmony.

Made for eternal love and holiness, no jealousy they sought.
Given a trust by God most High, they looked upon the world.
There shone His creation, new and great, a soul within a body.

God made His young and perfect world. His voice resounded, and matter exists. His wisdom acts, and time holds it in place. The angels, his trusty servants, love without reserve the people destined to sit in the light of His face. Now the moment of eternity contained a world, a chain of life, and their new eyes saw time. Danger and change disturbed the peace, each of them awaited one into whom God would press a spirit, that one to protect and guide.

At the time of his birth, by his cradle's side, stood a silent guardian.
The guardian protects, the guardian guides, long before he takes a step.
His heart is known, his tears are seen, strong shoulders receive his fall.

The angel sees with joy the conception of one truly loved by God. By the side of the child at the moment of birth, God's command is his silent vow: never to leave God's precious one. His lasting vigil begins, at the side of the cradle that first night. The babe's time becomes his own, his fight become his fight, his good becomes his goal. The darkness he shields with his wings, as his fiery eyes take on form with his purpose, on the command of God.

The angel is by his side, immovable, through the hours, days and years.
Through the Lord's compassion, the angelic heart is pierced by every tear.
Angelic resolve, and timeless compassion, wavers not at the sight of sin.

God's eternal commands are known to the angels, and should be known to men. Through tireless effort, the angelic bodies match time, and remind their weak trusts of the strength of good. The greatest sorrow pierces them as their charges first find evil, and their strengths are intensified by love as they pinpoint every temptation. Numberless dangers they remove, and only reluctantly do they allow the tests, the price of God's chosen heritage.

Smiling, the angel looks on in the midst of trials, ever near.
His eyes shine like light, and he is ready to hear his voice.
Within the heart and mind he waits, offering verbal advice.

The angel is not distant, but remains ever near, prepared to speak a word of peace. A messenger from God to earth, the angel travels while never leaving his charge alone. His wings needn't move, for he is in the kingdom, and he is in the world. His voice can be heard, his smile can be felt, as the warmth of his being surpasses human barriers. He is God's servant on earth, his looks upon God and resides in heaven, yet he walks the walk with us.

Unselfishly the angel keeps watch, hopefully he faithfully intercedes.
Never judging, he knows God's wrath, and beseeches for every fault.
He needs no reason to love, for the angel's heart is ever fully aflame.

No matter how many times we fall, they'll always be there to raise us up again. We never see the stones that we never have time to trip on, but the silent duty of the angel continues. They rejoice at our salvation, and strive against our ruin, hoping that we shall meet in heaven. They are our teachers and kingly guards, for they know that we will one day sit before the throne of the Almighty. With God they rejoice in ecstasy as on the day of our death we enter the Chambers of light.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our Treasury

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6: 19-21

In my recent post "Justification" I have explained that we rely on Jesus for our redemption, and without Him we are worth nothing at all. It is only by His own merit that we merit anything, let alone eternal life. While this is unshakably true, God has given us a holy heritage, and we care for this heritage even while still on earth. The world will pass away, our lives come and go, but that is when our real existence begins. Is it not, then, possible for us to lay up treasure in heaven, and profitable to do so? Jesus was wont to speak of infinite and mighty truths in words we would understand, it is natural to suppose that there is far more to "heavenly treasures" than this.

So, what is this... heavenly career? God, Creator of the universe, eternal perfection, must always be our focus. In heaven, there will be no mistaking that He is God, and there will be no hesitation in praising Him as there is on earth. Therefore, it is reasonable that the first and foremost thing we ought to do is seek Heaven, the Kingdom of God, and obey and listen to He who is, and always was. We are human, we are weak, but we must desire and pursue perfection. In looking first to heaven, and counting this life as secondary, we place our hearts in the hand of God.

Jesus looks upon our worries with some pity and sadness, for He knows that they distract the greatest concern. We spend our lives trying to accumulate resources and comforts to make our lives more pleasurable. We seek success and fame so that our lives are memorable. These thoughts in our minds result in worry, worry over the millions of little things in the world... and fear over the dangers that assail us here. But in Jesus there is no change. If our lives are virtuous, our souls are pure, then our eternal security remains constant. Can you imagine what it would be like if we all grasped this truth fully? To know, to trust, that though the past has gone, and tomorrow is not a surety, there will always be a present for us, eternal life in heaven? If we remember this, then the terms of life change.

The catechism tells us that our purpose on earth is to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him in the next. These are the terms of life, and who would desire their own unhappiness so much as to change them? The more we offer God in our lives, the more virtue and sacrifice and love we give to Him, the more we fulfill His wishes and the more abundantly He desires to reward us. Not only for eternity, but for this life also we receive a closer and closer association with God. Good follows us wherever we go, because there is good in our hearts, and heavenly grace is ever available as our strength in trials. Therefore our charity should be abundant, and our willed denial of self and determined sacrifice should be our way of life.

Let us desire the better gifts. Let us seek first to honor God, and next to increase in virtue and goodness. Let us be wise and charitable that our exposure to the wondrous Mystery of God may increase, and we ourselves may come to a deeper union of love with Him. This is our eternal vocation, the one for which we first conceived in the mind of God, and He wills that we should find it so that He can share with us an ocean of goodness in the eternal halls. He has promised, and He will do it, He longs to do it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pulsating--The Eucharist

I have loved you with the greatest love,
I am the Bread of Life.

What love was in the heart of Christ on that holy night? As He sat there, looking upon the faces of His friends, what did He have in mind? He said that He had longed to share this meal, He held in His sacred hands a gift, and passed it to all of us. He place upon our tongues a mystery we did not understand. He spoke these words: "This is My Body, This is my Blood." and we did not know the love with which He spoke them. God, Lord, Lamb, Savior... Jesus has so loved the world that He has given His Body as true food and His Blood as true drink.

The steady beating of Jesus' human heart quickened, tears fled to His human eyes, for His Divine love is all surpassing. He saw with pain the one who would betray, and all who would receive His Gift and betray. The burning realization of His Sacrifice, the sight of lonely Tabernacles and deadened souls, only increased the love with which He gave. Yes, time was too long, He could not be away from those He loves: He must remain. He raised His eyes to heaven shared His love with God, as a Son to a Father, breathing out His passionate love for us. "I will find love in them, I will reside in them, we shall never be apart..." He passed to each of His friends plain bread and plain wine, the glimmer in His eyes revealing their true nature, and the beating of His heart revealing His passage into each soul.

The supper He has longed to share is shared, the Gift He has longed to give is given. An old man, a girl, a woman, a boy... all receive a mystical miracle, and are filled with life. What love resides now within them, what heart beats in their bosoms? A light more immense than the universe, a life more potent than all life and death combined; the Lover has come. Bread and wine transfigured, food and drink now spirit, beneath the crusts of bread and sweet bitterness of wine waits the God of eternity. Jesus now living within, breaths and loves and dwells, His heart pulsating in time with the heart in which He lives.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When to Answer God's Call

How long I am to be here depends on him. As to what will happen then, it is not for me to concern myself. But it is necessary to pray much, in order to remain faithful come what may. -St. Edith Stein

We speak of "God's time", of waiting and prolonged discernment, and sometimes it is unclear when we are actually ready to make a move. In time, discernment can become oppressing and foreboding. More and more today we see people who are drifting around looking for their place in the world, and the person with whom they will spend the rest of their lives. However, responding to God's call is just as important as waiting patiently for a vocation to be realized, and God chooses a time that we need to learn to recognize.

I was told once about an elderly religious sister who, rather than leave her bed easily, would literally jump out of bed as soon as she awoke. She used to say that she did this to show the Bridegroom that she was willing to answer His beckoning immediately, without taking time to wipe the sleep from her eyes. While most of the time it was not really the call of the Bridegroom, but the community bell... she knew that it was worth being ready for Him when He did call. Like this sister, it is important to always be prepared for a journey, and ready to follow Him as soon as He calls. To be in the habit of surrendering ourselves, our belongings, our careers, our academic potential, our hobbies, and all the other things we posses at the feet of Christ... to be ready to leave everything at a moment's notice and follow Him, as one might prepare for the unknown moment of death, and to habitually renew the resolution to go where He guides no matter where it may be, is the first step to knowing God's time.

For most of us who are discerning the days, weeks, months, and years seem very long... until they have passed. Therefore patience is essential to discernment. Learning to live our lives for Christ, and to walk blindly towards the vocation He has chosen from us, builds us in faith and instructs us in how to follow God's will. Drifting from option to option, walking down one path and then down another, gives us a greater understanding of how we are to offer our days and moments to Christ, and shows us how we can touch others' lives by following the course Jesus has laid before us. Because time is unstoppable, we most often learn this lesson first. We cannot rush God, and we must learn patience and blind acceptance.

How do we know when God has finally answered us? When do we know that He has finally opened the door and called us through? This is determined by our relationship with God. If we know His voice, if we have learned to pray in silence and respond to His words, then we will just know in our hearts that the time is right. If our consciences are well developed, and in line with the will of God, we will know when we are circumstantially ready to make a decision, and morally obliged to do so, and will simply pray for guidance when we follow a vocation. If we have maturity and decision we will know that we are mentally ready to make a choice and stick to it, and will most likely take that option. If we have great faith we will come to a point where waiting seems cowardly and useless, and we will simply walk in the hope that God will guide us. Whatever our personality and character attributes, there is always something, some hint or circumstance, that triggers us into action.

So what are these "hints"? We can see how we will make a decision, but why? Let me offer a few examples, beginning with my own vocation. I was in high school, but so eager to get on with my vocation that I began taking college courses. I had opened my heart to another vocation, but the longing for the monastery was and is dominant in my life and irrepressible. I was prepared to make a decision, with only the slightest push, and had been careful to loosen all ties that could keep me from my vocation. Then, in prayer, I was simply convinced and at peace with my decision, so there was nothing to keep me from making a move. As you can see, the "when" of my vocation became very clear to me, and I had no doubts.

Circumstances vary with different vocations, so I will mention another scenario of a religious vocation. Perhaps a woman had finished high school, and moved on through college, finding enough in this life to keep her happy. But then, as she pursued her career, she found no spouse and had no one to care for. She would be at a turning point in her life, when she would feel in the depths of herself that something had to be done, and therefore the circumstances of her life would provide suitable incentive for a vocational decision.

I will give one final example. Say a young man was in college, actively seeking his vocation. Perhaps he had considered the priesthood, but just wasn't sure. If a young woman came into her life and he fell in love, or if he became convinced in prayer that he was called to the priesthood, he would probably choose the end of his college semesters to make a decision and then, when nothing was holding him back, would be free to pursue his vocation. In all these examples, the circumstances of the person's life provided that "open door" that they needed. Whether they were sure of their vocation or not, they were free to pursue it. Circumstances such as these, combined with a gentle nudge from heaven, are all that is needed to provide the "when" of a vocation.

Whatever your vocation might be, it is important to remember that patience must be combined with willingness to answer God's call. Patience is important, it gets us through the day to day of our discernment and builds us in faith, but the opportunity to serve God should be striven for to the extent that when everything is ready, you are also ready. Prudence is necessary, and proper discernment of God's call, but once you have an idea of His wishes, or think you do, you must not wait lest the opportunity pass you by. Knowing when to follow our vocations is almost as difficult as knowing our vocations, and this is why we must be courageous in taking that "leap of faith", trusting that God will always catch us in the palm of His hand and bring us home.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Justification

I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given Himself up for me.
I do not nullify the grace of God: for if justification comes through the law,
then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2)

I am always astonished by the depth and truth of the teachings of Scripture and the Holy Catholic Church. Every time I make a new discovery, it is as if I had never before seen my own faith with open eyes. A recent trend in the Liturgy, which I did not even know existed last year, has given me abundant material with which to make a very important point about our faith, and the judgment. The claim I am about to make on the nature of the Judgment is clear in the title of my point: justification comes to us through the mercy of God.

Until just over a year ago I was under the impression that life's purpose was to earn the love of God. For me, to be good was a means of causing God to love me more. I felt that I, myself, had to be lovable and amiable in order to receive the love of Christ. Had I persisted in this ideology, I would no doubt be despairing now. A friend revealed to me the arrogant, proud, and false thought that lay below this idea: the idea that I could ever be worthy of the love of God. The love God offers, the life He has given me, the mercy and forgiveness He has flourished upon me, are all given in His mercy to an otherwise meaningless wretch.

In the second letter to Galatians, Paul speaks of the mercy of Jesus Christ. He indicates that we never could have saved ourselves by observance of the law, that to think that through our own good actions we are saved from sin is a delusion, and that we must admit Christ as Savior and Redeemer. I was recently reading a small booklet titled "I Wait for You", which was written by a visionary by the name of Josefa Menendez (an extract from "The Way of Divine Love"). While the content of the booklet was extraordinary, I was most touched by one thing: whenever Josefa would apologize for her faults, cry, and kiss the floor in repentance... Jesus would answer her "yes, you are a poor miserable wretch, a sinner. Kiss the floor, you have sinned. You are forgiven by my infinite mercy." While this is not verbatim, it brings to light a truth that often goes unrealized. Oftentimes we flatter ourselves with the belief that Christ singular sacrifice of love is a tool by which we can redeem ourselves, when really His mercy is perpetually necessary and we ourselves have no power to obtain salvation.

Although it is true that we are justified only by the mercy of God, and Christ's sacrifice of love... Jesus tells us that He did not come to abolish the law of the prophets, but to fulfill it. If we did not have faith in Jesus Christ, and if we did not accept the merit of His Sacrifice, we could never be reconciled with God. The law alone could bring us no salvation. God has given us far more than we can repay, therefore He has every right to command without offering reward, but it is His intention to offer a great and eternal reward. However, the sacrifice of Jesus was not to free us of our duty towards God. On the contrary, He so longs to have our willful fidelity that He has made this sacrifice of love that we might be freed of the restraints of guilt. It would be impossible for us to be with Him in love if He had not paid our debt, now that it is possible He longs for us to love Him and become obedient to Him, that we might be His.

Because Christ has fulfilled the law, He has also beautified and elevated it. Rather than giving us laws and commands, as would be given to slaves or creatures, He has called us to be perfect, as God is perfect. Through His constant and undying mercy, His acceptance of our faults and His continuous effort to help us, He gives us the opportunity to be perfect. While God is a God of Justice, a God of commands, and a God of surpassing Majesty desiring order, in the person of Jesus, who has been ordained judge, He is also a God of mercy, compassion, and love. How wonderful that the judge given to us has the supreme bias of a lover for his beloved, a father for a son, a brother for a brother! He takes each of the good things we do and gives it infinite merit, and repays us a hundredfold on earth, and infinitely in heaven. He seeks out all that is good in us and brings it to light, and battles the evils within us that could bring us pain and death, finally abolishing them and freeing us.

To God belongs all glory, laud, and honor... to Him belongs love, obedience, faithfulness, trust, and all good things. But He, in the person of Jesus, has laid aside all claim to His inheritance in order to do what we could not. We were waging war on God through sin, a war that could only end in our annihilation, so He sacrificed His life in order that we might be reconciled. Through His mercy and love alone are we justified, and through His work in our hearts we become perfect, and arrive at the lasting abode of the Trinity.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Song to Jesus - Part Five


Fifteenth Devotion

I dream a dream of my Beloved,
Our lovely bridal home.
My heart swells with joy,
My spirit burns with love.

Here the Beloved waits for me,
All is carefully prepared.
I, the bride, say goodbye to the world,
I make haste to your embrace.

The forest, hills, and seas make way,
As hurriedly I come.
I seek the palace of my dreams,
My eternal home with you.

Mary clothes me in a gown of white,
Catherine clothes my soul in red.
Therese places a lovely rose in my hands,
Anthony encircles my soul with lilies.

I don a smile of content,
They crown my head with thorns.
My heart is pierced and open,
Your love enters in.

Dressed thus I move into your presence,
I long to kiss your face.
I reach your majesty and see your love,
I fall and kiss your feet.

Sixteenth Devotion

The morning has passed away,
I see the high noon sun.
The heat oppresses, the sight still more,
Of your blessed feet walking.

Torn and bleeding, covered in dirt,
Your feet tread o’er the stones.
Drops of your blood fall unhindered,
On the way of Calvary.

You reach the Cross, my eyes are open,
Your blood is spilled in abundance.
Oh that I could stop the flow,
Or catch it in a bowl.

They glisten on your brow,
Flowing freely as a river of wine.
Your Body is thus anointed,
With the substance of your veins.

The Cross’s color is tainted,
By living water it is moistened.
You are poured out upon the earth,
No drop of blood is left.

I see the spear that pierces your side,
Your Sacred Heart is opened.
The soil is moistened by your life,
Water dilutes its potent taste.

What precious wine, fragrant and strong,
How pleasant its bitter taste.
As the drops of your blood are gathered up,
And to my lips are placed

You are the desire of my heart,
Your life beats in my heart.
Your love has enthralled me,
I am a captive of your heart.

Let me tell you, Jesus, of my love,
My blood I shed willingly for you.
A martyr’s death I’ve already died,
My only life is yours.

Seventeenth Devotion

Lord Jesus, Food of my soul,
Hear my cry to you.
Savior, Holy Bread Divine,
See my need for you.

My body approached the grove of death,
My spirit failed within me.
I walked every day in the storm,
My enemies surrounded me.

Precious Lamb, Blessed Son,
Your love has made me strong.
Coming from power into the world,
Your robe was purest white.

Led to the slaughter, living for death,
You meekly bowed your head.
Your hands were bound, your body broken,
No part of you was free of pain.

The table is prepared, the bread provided,
A banquet, a heavenly meal.
By love you are defined, Holy Sacrifice,
To be with us for all time.

You come within, you melt the heart,
You reside within the soul.
By your Body I am saved,
By your Soul I am sanctified.
You have been broken that I may be whole,
Lamb of love, grant me mercy.
You, Dove of Purity, Holy God of Might,
A meek and beautiful Sacrifice.

Bread of angels, Food of my heart,
Make me worthy of you.
With your left hand bid me come to you,
With your right cleanse me from sin.

Sacrifice of Grace, Prayer of Calvary,
Accept my humble payment.
Myself I give wholly to you,
That in your wounds I may reside.

You are my love, and life,
My food and drink.
You are Lord, and Lamb,
Holy Sacrifice.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thought And Sanctity

Contemplation

Oftentimes we hide thoughts and feelings within ourselves, allowing them to grow and develop in secret, and merely defining ourselves by our actions. Something I heard yesterday put the final piece into my puzzle, so to speak, concerning thought. A man was giving a sermon, or talk, recorded on tape... and said "We say the same thing of all saints, that they remind us of Jesus. Why? They spent their entire lives thinking about and imitating Jesus." Thought is more powerful and influential in our lives then we would like to believe, and the rewards of pursuing sanctity of thought are very great.

A few days ago the gospel message in Mass was this "Your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and pharisees. If you are angry, be reconciled, do not foster jealousy or hatred in your hearts." While this is not word for word from Scripture, it is enough to see that Jesus wanted more than good acts, He wants us to be good within and without. He tells us that lust in the heart is already a sin, and that hatred within us is also sinful. We may never let these thoughts become actions, and still they are harmful. Why?

Say, for a moment, that you are very angry with someone for something they did to you. Perhaps you will speak within your heart: "I hate him! I wish he was dead! Oh, how I'd get back at him to show him how he's hurt me if only I have the chance..." Perhaps you don't have the chance to "get back at him", but are you able to love him? Maybe you say you forgive, but could you embrace him? But, what of this? It would seem that it is not important if you are never this fully reconciled... after all, you could just break off the friendship and never speak to this person again. Jesus has told us differently, we are to love each other as He loves us, and if we do not, we are unable to love Him fully.

No matter how secret our thoughts and dreams are, God knows them and we know them. By hiding a darkness in ourselves, by pulling it farther and farther from the light, we allow it to take hold of us and corrupt us from where we are most susceptible: from within. Maybe we doubt the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and think in our hearts that we doubt, and thus receive Him as a mere formality. Maybe other areas of our faith have been scrutinized and rejected in our hearts, though we continue attending Mass every Sunday, we fall away. Perhaps we think about lust, impurity, demons, evils of all kinds... we hurt ourselves, we begin to feel caged by law, and we allow this corruption to control us. Evil never remains in the heart, what we are within will show without sooner or later.

We are called to be saints, to be perfect as Jesus is perfect, and therefore we must try to be saintly in our thoughts. St. Paul tells us to desire the better gifts, for if we desire them, we shall have them. Jesus tells us that to love God is the greatest commandment, and to love our neighbor is next. If we claim to love, say that we love, we shall truly love and shall discover the God who is love. St. Thomas Aquinas says: "What does it take to be a saint? Will it." If we desire to be saints, truly desire to be saints, we can become them.

If we pray the rosary, meditate on the Scripture, study God in our hearts, and participate in the Mystery of the Mass, we will become more and more like Christ. If our orientation is on heaven, and we want holiness, these thoughts, these desires, will become our active pursuits. If we dream of Christ and of Heaven, we will increase in the virtue of hope, and will find peace, a peace which others can recognize in us. By cleaning our hearts of evil, and filling them with good, the darkness that could enslave us comes more and more into the light... and we find, to our joy, that we are freed of the confines of evil which hinder our spirituality and willingness to do good.

My whole vocation has been a living example of this principle. I was still very young when I read my first saint books, and decided that I too would like to be a saint. I grew up reading their lives, learning from them, and trying to imitate them. For a time my actions were poor imitations of theirs... I prayed, practiced certain austerities, pursued a religious vocation, tried constantly to love Jesus, and sought to be an instrument of peace. Then I found a greater pursuit: union with Christ. I saw the Mystery, and wanted it, and my vocation is a fruit of this desire. I would not be so bold to say that if God had not so tenderly guided my young mind, my thoughts and my desires, I would be where I am today and pursuing the vocation I am pursuing. Even someone like me can find this great good, if only I seek it. I will try my whole life and never reach the greatness of the saints, I will still be weak and unable to achieve perfection, but by merit of my intent and desire to be good, Jesus' mercy will accept me into the throngs of the blessed.

Let us pray then that our thoughts, as well of our deeds, are always in active pursuit of sanctity. This is what it takes to be a saint, and to disregard our thoughts is dangerous.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Know God


To view the horizon is a wondrous thing. To see something greater than yourself, something magnificent and beautiful, makes the smallness of your person rise to a greater nobility. On a rainy day, one’s feelings become immersed into peaceful and composed brilliance of the mountains of grey stretching on forever, and hiding eternity behind their folds. The sound of the rain beating off leaf and stem, the continuous melody of descending drops, sparkling as they extinguish into a lake, fills the memory until it seems the only song one has ever known. To view the horizon is a wondrous thing, a thing that can silence time and make a moment as immortal as the sea of sky.

Jacinta sat on a grey stone, watching. Her clothes were soaking wet, her hair lay curling around her round face, her eyes blinked away the rain as she smiled into the sky. She, only eight years old, was in the midst of a greatness far beyond her. In the sky swirled doves with broad wings, circling a light like the sun. It was as if their own efforts caused a growing whirlpool to form in the sky, until the sky could no longer separate earth and the heavens. Deep pinks and brilliant yellows and angelic blues painted in the clouds a magical portrait of eternity personified. In Jacinta’s eyes, a mystery of God, before unknown, was slowly becoming real.

A tall man with a gentle smile stood next to Jacinta. He was wearing a one piece garment of grey. When he looked at her, a tear, or a raindrop, descended his cheek from his eyes. His hands were masculine and strong, but his facial expression was peaceful and soft. Jacinta looked at him; he was her angel, John, and he had been with her all her life. Looking back to the horizon, and wiping the rain from her hair, she said softly: “Every time I look around me, every time I pray to Jesus, it is as if I am seeing or hearing something that none have seen or heard before me. In this vast expanse I am nothing, and yet all that happens to me seems special. Can one know God more than another has known Him? Will life ever be anything less than a mystery to me? I feel I shall never grow old, and I shall never learn or do anything, when I glimpse heaven this way.”

John never spoke vocally, but Jacinta always heard his voice in her heart. There were no words, but only thoughts, and thus Jacinta had always understood his words to be inexplicably soft, without the coarseness of language. She understood him, and voiced what he said to herself, so that she may have the delight of hearing their melody in her ears. She let out a sigh as her oldest desire again sent pangs to her heart. In all her life, as long as she could remember, she had wanted nothing more than to spend a few moments with Jesus, God made Man, and to have a conversation with Him. Without the word she looked back to the horizon, and sat silently.

***
With the regal billows of cloud watching over her, and the rain gently rolling down her face and beating upon her warm shawl, Jacinta grew neither cold nor tired nor hungry. Why should she? Not a moment passed as she sat there, for in the steady rhythm of the rain there could be no time. It was as if she was born then, and still eight years old, all at once. Her mind was not disturbed by thought, for one easily retains silence of the mind for one moment, and her life, her family, her friends did not exist in that moment of reality. That supernatural happiness and peace that arrives and quickly passes away in the turmoil of our minds remained with her, unchanged and uncorrupted. The world levitated, just in that moment. The clouds were close at hand, and Jesus was before her, His eyes level with her own.

Jacinta’s eyes looked into those of Jesus, and in that moment their mutual gaze communicated a love that Jacinta did not know she had. Nothing else mattered now, in the depths of His eyes, in His visible emotion, all other things were subdued and set aside. Jacinta left her rock and sat back on her heels, pressing deeply into the now dry grass. Here was Jesus, in the reality of His presence she did not even need to ask if this was a vision or a dream, for Jesus was here. Had He left her to do as she wished, there would have been no words, save those silently communicated between their two hearts. But Jesus knew what her desire had been, He knew that she had questions to ask. Jacinta’s dreamy perception became alive, and she spoke:

“I’ve been looking all my life… Sometimes I find you, and I think I know you, but then I am discouraged and confused again. You do not remain real and alive to me, therefore how could I ever have known you? Can I truly say that I love you, if I do not know you? How can I speak of you, when you are such a mystery to me? Sometimes it seems as if…”

Jesus put His finger to her lips, for He could see that the questions in her mind awakened memories that disturbed her peace. After all, she did not need to tell Him. He knew her heart, and it was precious to Him. He would have her understand how she should see Him, how she loved Him, and so much more. He would have her see His feelings for her.

“Dear Jacinta, I am a mystery to you, but you are no mystery to Me. Look into the sky for a moment, what do you see? Your heart is pure, so you see nothing but the mystery of Me in them. You see God, you see heaven. Look at me, what do you see? I am a man to you, but much more, I am love, life, and purpose to you. You see everything in Me. Now…”

In His hand Jesus held the precious Host, the Holy Eucharist. Jacinta’s eyes filled with tears as a great sensation radiated from the bread. Then her mind became blinded by a light whiter than she had ever known, as grace seeped into every part of her being from the Host in His hands. She opened her mouth and received Him, only to be surprised by a deep burning within her. She felt as if her entire person were consumed by painless fire. Her face ignited with a shining joy, and she glowed.

“You have never before received my gift of love to you, but now you shall receive it forever. I am Man, I am God… I am love, I am divinity, I am life, I am and have always been. Do you hear me in your mind? It is my voice. Do you feel me in your heart? That is my heart. Is their life within your soul? That is my life. You do not know yourself, but I know you. You do not know Me, but I know all things. You see, feel, and love me. Jacinta, you know Me. Whenever you see Me, whenever you glimpse the Mystery, you know Me. Your eyes shall open, and they shall not be closed. Your gaze shall be steady, and your view shall increase. You know Me, and the longer you look the more you shall see. You love Me, yes, you love Me with all you are and your love shall only grow. One day, there will be no Mystery of love for you. I will invite you into my Divine Heart where the Trinity resides.”

Jacinta was not astounded, nor overcome. What Jesus had said to her was perfect, and she knew in her heart that He spoke truth. They were there together a moment? An hour? A day? She hardly knew. But she was sitting on her rock again, looking at the horizon, and listening to John’s gentle lullaby. She slipped her bare feet into her sandals and walked home through the rain. Behind her stretch the clouds in their pool of delight, in their colored expanse, in their serene magnificence. The trees stood tall, the grasses bent slightly in the breeze, and time began to move again.

The more one comes to know God, the more he perceives what he does not know. As he looks into the sky, into the endless clouds, he sees everything at the same time as he sees nothing. He sees that there is an everything, and in the midst of his limited sight, he comes face to face with the entire mystery of life. At the moment that time ceases, and the melody of life is continuous, the mystery of time unfolds. One finds the mystery in the horizon, one finds the mystery in God, but only one who can look on in silence with an unassuming eye can grasp the truth that he can only come to know a little, while an ocean of those things he does not know stretches before his reach. Meanwhile the rain drops fall, and raise the ocean bit by bit.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Light of the World

You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Just before He said these timeless words, Jesus had just given us the eight beatitudes, the crown jewels of the saints. A thrill of excitement and wonder must have begun to circulate through the crowds. Jesus was speaking to us as intelligent children, with filial love and confidence. He seemed to have hopes that we might become friends of God and heirs to His kingdom, and was preparing us for our great heritage. He was revealing to us a more perfect way, teaching us to desire the better gifts, and promising an eternal reward beyond our comprehension. In making this distinction in us, however, He called us to continue the work of God on earth; to be an expression of His teaching.

Most people approach this privilege to be a light to the world from an exterior point of view. By examining our actions, our associations with people, and by the visible outcome of our lives we measure how purely our light is shining. But light is first interior, and then exterior. God does not come to us from outside, but knocks first on the doors of our hearts. Our hearts must ignite first with love, and then our spirits must become oriented on sanctity and goodness. Only when we have sought holiness and self-denial, only when we ourselves have sought Christ, only then can our flame become visible to others.

Those who love will suffer the most, and those who pursue righteousness nobly will thirst even more with a thirst that cannot be satisfied. Our good lives can only be an expression of a high morality within. Our expressions of love and acts of charity must be simply a sign of a charity that burns within us. Outward sensitivity to the feelings and conditions of others is apparent only when there is an inward tenderness. Therefore it is imperative that we seek first holiness in ourselves, and then, while being an example to others, speak the good news.

It is an extraordinary responsibility that God has given to us. He calls us to be good, to pursue the heavenly kingdom, but also to bring as many souls there with us as possible. "Preach the gospel, use words if necessary." These inspired words are an example of how our lives themselves should be a light to those in darkness, how we are called to BE the Gospel. There is no "half-way" in our journey. We must be ready to lay our lives upon the line, and put every drop of our faith into what we believe. If we are not, how can we convince others that it is worth believing? Our words should reflect the wisdom of our religion, therefore we must humble ask the Holy Ghost to speak to others through us. If we ask that God will help us to be His servants, that He will make us holy so that we may in turn bring others to Him, He will quickly and graciously make us His children.

Let us pray with St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
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;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


In thus fostering peace in our lives, and charitably seeking the good of others, we will be a beacon of our faith to all we meet. Let us pray that they may see the good that we do and give glory to God. Let us pray that by obtaining inner holiness our entire persons witness that we are children of God. For such is our heritage, and such is our vocation.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Amen---The Eucharist

In honor of the Feast of Corpus Christi I am re-posting this for you.

The word "Amen" means "truly" or "I believe." Jesus said this word many times, and we do as well quite often. This word has always been very important to me... when I say that I believe something, or that something is true, I mean it with all my heart. When I hear the words coming from Christ's Mouth containing this word, Amen, I am filled with a trusting that only that single word can offer. Faith in truth comes long before understanding... believing in truth is seeing truth... for before He can reveal to us the greatness of God, Jesus must know that we are prepared to hear and believe what we do not understand. For who could truly love Him and not believe His Word? By loving Him and believing Him implicitly, we mature spiritually and come to a greater wisdom than all human pondering could offer. Until we have had faith in small things, we cannot come to see greater things.

If you have not read "The Pearl City",then I suggest you do so before reading this next portion of this post. I want you imagine for a moment that you are in The Pearl City... the city is not our concentration, but the King. If you were standing before Christ Himself, what would you do? What elaborate feelings do you think you would have? Imagine, for a moment, what you would do if He suddenly appeared to you in a vision? If the King of Heaven and Earth... the Son of God... the Beloved... the Man of Sorrows, who died on the cross for our sake... the Perpetual Sacrifice... if suddenly, this Divine Man appeared to you, what would you do? Would you cry? Would your heart burn with fire? Would you repeat over and over that you love Him? Would your reaction be like Rebecca's in The Pearl City?

Jesus is ever present spiritually... but our human persons cannot always grasp this. Often, our hearts grow used to His presence... and our communion with Him is no longer as deep as it might have been when we first underwent our conversion of heart. But, amen, He IS present in the Blessed Sacrament... He is just as real and physically present as He was to Rebecca in The Pearl City. He is just as there, perhaps more so, than He could be in a vision. When we walk up that isle to receive Him, it is the same as in "Flower Petals" when the girl was wedded at The Foot of the Cross. He knew that the world would not last long with an invisible God... so He is truly physically visible.

When we kneel before the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we are kneeling before Jesus Himself. But this is not all... we are also witnessing that sacrifice of so long ago! We are witnessing the perpetual sacrifice of Christ for our salvation. No, He is not a far away Deity... He is present, He is real, He has our nature of humanity... When we kneel in Eucharistic Adoration we are kneeling before Him in heaven. When we receive Him in Holy Communion... He is truly in us and we in Him... do you mean it when you say "Amen" when the priest raises the newly consecrated Host and Chalice? Do you truly understand, do you truly see Him there? The light of grace, too pure for us to see, is traveling directly into each of us at that moment. At the moment that we tell Him we believe, we truly believe, He is filling us with the purity of the heavens in order to prepare His home in our souls. My Lord and My God, by Thy Most Precious Blood You have redeemed the world! Let the eyes of your soul see these rays of light, let the eyes of your soul recognize your God there... for His Presence is His greatest gift to us.

When Jesus sat down with His disciples at the Last Supper... preparing for His Passion and preparing to give Himself to us and for us... He said "I have longed to eat this meal with you." Look at those words for a moment, and see what they mean. How great is His Love for us! Each Mass, hear these words again "I have longed to eat this meal with you." For every "Amen" say in your heart: "I believe, my Jesus, I truly do!" Do not be afraid, let this realization of Christ's Presence hit you full and strong. Who, after saying Amen with full realization of its meaning, does not tremble with feeling while approaching the Alter to receive Him?

What are your feelings when you receive Him? I will share mine with you. As I kneel there and say "Amen" I am preparing myself to meet Him... I am looking at my soul as if it were a Tabernacle, and preparing it for Him. I pray to the Blessed Mother to strengthen me and make me pure with her purity. Then, kneeling there, I begin to tremble and my heart is full of love. The moments before receiving Him are both torturous and sweet. As I walk to Him, the Church transforms before the eyes of my soul. I am no longer walking on carpet, but flowers. I am no longer approaching a host, but Jesus. The Alter has become the heavenly throne, and the crucifix has come to life. As I kneel down to receive Him nothing could explain the expression of my eyes, for I am seeing for a moment my Jesus entering into me.

As I kneel again in my pew, my faculty of "soul-sight" is working fully. I can feel Him very near, and my soul is very warm. I close my eyes "Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me..." and I no longer hear or see the Church... rather, an image of Jesus, always a different one, becomes clear to my mind. One day, long ago, He was the sky with clouds. The day I discovered my vocation He was a light shining in the body of St. Clare, teaching me. One day, it was His Mother comforting me as I saw her Son, the Man of Sorrows. These moments and images are sweeter and more meaningful to me than can be described. It is my way of engaging in my heartfelt "Amen" and showing Him that I truly believe He is there.

So when you receive Jesus, real and present... when you receive the God whom you adore... what goes through your mind? When you speak the word Amen, when you say that you believe, do you believe fully enough to see? Is your heart so strong in faith that Jesus' words "I have longed to share this supper with you... Amen, This is My Body... This is My Blood" echo in your heart like the sweetest trickle of the harp? Are you filled with gratefulness and love when you look upon He Who Died?

But, this is not the end of it. For if we could only feel Him near within the chapel, we would never have strength to leave. I could not leave the Church, I could not leave the Adoration Chapel, if I did not have His sincere promise "I will be with you, and My Spirit will come to help you." This nourishment and short period with Him in the Monstrance would not be enough to sustain me if I could not trust Him to remain near me within and without His Church. When the Light of Grace comes into us, it never has to leave, although Jesus may physically drift away. He loves us, and He wants to be intimately close to each of us at all times.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Cup Almost Full (Poem)


No greater mystery is there to solve,
Than a cup all but full.
An emptiness not quite dry,
A satisfaction incomplete.

Who runs to a stream and takes a sip,
Ceasing before the throat is wet?
What kind of root lives in moist earth,
And withers dry and coarse?

As a bird on the wing views no horizon,
So is a person who drinks not his fill.
Just like the deer who frolics not from fear,
So is a person who embraces not a gift.

One picks the fruit of a bush of many berries,
He leaves the bush with only one.
A tree freely gives of its surplus branches,
But clings to what is green.

No greater mystery is there to solve,
Than a cup all but full.
An emptiness not quite dry,
A satisfaction incomplete.

What kind of cup pours out its contents,
But parts not from a single drop?
What kind of man gives everything,
But clings to one small thread?

A thimble fills from an abundant spring,
But retains a bubble of air.
A man can freely accept all things,
But empty not himself.

The golden chalice filled to the brim,
There is no room for air.
When emptiness has replaced all things,
There is fullness of another kind.

No greater mystery is there to solve,
Than a cup all but full.
An emptiness not quite dry,
A satisfaction incomplete.

A man who drinks from God's abundance,
Can cease any moment he wishes.
One cannot fill with immortal God's existence,
And retain his mortal failings.

A good act bears continuous fruit,
Unless the good is stiffened.
One cannot truly give anything,
And keep some for himself.

The pitcher will pour and only awaits,
The closing of our hearts.
Our cups may fill and overrun,
Or remain almost, not full.

No greater mystery is there to solve,
Than a cup all but full.
An emptiness not quite dry,
A satisfaction incomplete.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Confession


Perhaps one of the most difficult concept to grasp is contrition and reconciliation. While it may be apparent to us that we owe God an apology, that we are full of faults and must be cleansed, it is often difficult for us to understand how we can do this. The sacrament of Confession, instituted by Christ, is very helpful in this regard... but even the sacrament itself can take a long while to understand, and many people never learn to receive this sacrament in its fullness. The Almighty God, full of goodness and perfection, deserves our repentance and could, in His justice, condemn us to death. However, in the midst of His perfection, He has shown us the greatest love to mercy. He has called us His sons and daughters, and called us by name to stand before Him and receive grace and light.

The perspective I give on this may, perhaps, seem slightly odd to some of you; but I still have hopes that it will help you to understand the beauty of our relationship with God. I cannot speak on this subject without going back to the beginning... We were created to love God, and to participate in God's goodness, but we were too concerned with our own success that we reserved from God what was do to Him, and began our journey to seek in the dark what could only harm us. Our weaknesses grew, and the evil of our ways beat upon us pitilessly, and God was moved to compassion. He would not let us, whom He loved, suffer the consequences for our faults and be lost to Him forever. Instead He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, the Blessed One, to bear our burdens and die our deaths and in so doing lead us to light and happiness. He allowed us to slash Him with whips, press thorns into His head, place upon Him the greatest weight, and hammer nails into His hands and feet.

Wait a minute... was it really we who did these things? We say that by our sins we have put Him to death, that we are guilty of His blood, but in reality, practically, how could we have killed a man who lived so many years ago? Perhaps He died in the first place for our sins, as a sacrifice, but obviously He must know that we are the "good" ones, not the evil ones who lived back in those days and spilled His precious Blood. And yet, so often we attribute the nailing of His hands and feet, the pressing of the thorns, and the swinging of the whip to the action of our own hands. How is this to be understood? What Jesus suffered meekly was betrayal, the force that mutilated and tore Him was betrayal, the act that finally took His life was betrayal. He suffered this to save the very ones who betrayed Him... and we are them!

The severity of sin is hardly understood, and our perception of its evilness is cloudy. Before we existed, God was. By God's choice alone were we created, and everything was given to us by Him from His own abundance. All justice cries out that all glory, love, and honor belongs to Him alone... the very nothingness of our origin commits us to recognize that only through Him we are everything. Therefore any detraction from what is due to Him alone is foolish and detestable. The gross and immoral use of the gifts that He has given us, the refusal to obey His commands, passes from negligence to insult. The destruction and immoral use of our own bodies and the bodies of others, the gross misuse and mockery of love, the indulgence of luxury and pride turn us away from God completely and lead us on the path of evil. No longer are we sons of God, but we become worse than the animals for we trample the dignity of our human nature in the mud and betray the divine image of God in ourselves, we betray the love by which He unites Himself to us.

Can there be any doubt, then, that we displease Him daily in even those sins which may seem petty to us? Yet God, in His surpassing goodness, gave us a far greater gift to betray. He gave us Himself, His very life... He came to us a lamb among wolves, and willing sacrifice of love. Even as we betrayed Him He spoke of love and forgiveness, even when we had His Blood on our hands He offered us the love and heritage of the Trinity. He, pitiable beyond belief in His sorrows and pain, had compassion on us and infinite charity. Not once does He forgive us, but over and over and over again... He forgives us as soon as we commit the sin, and only asks that we allow ourselves to be made worthy of Him. Even while on earth He offers us the gift of Himself, His whole being and His divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament. Without reservation, with no end to His patience, He awaits the conversion of those who have caused Him the greatest pain.

But, how can we, while always on the side of treachery and betrayal, ever dare to love Him? How can we call ourselves His servants, and His friends, if we ever must be among those who hurt Him? I am human, I am a person who has betrayed Him, have I not, by my very nature, merited a place of repentance, perpetually on my knees receiving His forgiveness? Am I not ever the soldier with the whip in my hand, pleading with His blood on my hands to forgive me? Is not my imperfection itself reason enough that I could never be a blessed one like Him, that I could never be on HIS side in the act of redemption, that I could never be the loyal angel at the foot of the Cross? How sorry am I if I cannot ever become His trusted friend, one who suffers with Him instead of being the reason for His suffering!

Jesus sees my desire, and He does not wish me to always be oppressed by my unceasing guilt. He tells me that His mercy is infinite, and that if I only approach His mercy and confess my fault, He will make me beautiful and sinless. He knows that I will fall again, and offers me grace to keep me from evil and to help me stand again when I have fallen too low. In the Sacrament of Confession He gives me the chance to do something about my plight, to do something about my guilt, and to thus feel the refreshment of being born again. He offers me the means to obtain the greatest gifts ever known, the gifts God offers to His friends.

The more thoroughly and sincerely I confess my sins, the more carefully I examine my conscience and perceive how I have offended Him, the more genuinely sorry I am and the more firm my intent to reform... the more the dark spaces in my soul are cleared and filled with the grace and peace of God. Therefore Confession should not be merely a ritual which I perform to free myself of grave sin, as with a key of a chain, and thus go my way without oppression. It should instead be a very deep and personal communication between myself and God through the person of the priest, an act of love. Love itself presupposes depth, sincerity, and a painful openness or surrender of those defenses which we keep on our hearts. The words of the priest reinforce my commitment, in the assurance that God listens and holds true to His promise, revealing to me the greatest mercy and, by raising his hand in blessing, bestowing on me the most precious grace.

It does not end here, however. Jesus is a very demanding lover... once we have opened the gates of our hearts, freed ourselves of the danger within, and invited His mercy into us... He immediately takes the initiative to proclaim His love to us. As with a dance, He takes us by the hand and flourishes upon us every gift of love He has to offer, and therefore the fullness of love in every way. He leads us to where we can be with Him. Any normal person, with a correct perception of these endearing movements of God, would be immediately infatuated and wish to give God what He has given to them, to make the love bestowed by God mutual. Therefore we are given the privilege of standing with Him, instead of against Him; of being His friends instead of His enemies. If we are like God, if we are His sons and daughters, if we have been given the heritage of the Trinity, then by our own virtue and choice we will follow Him on the way of the cross in atonement for sins and for the sake of love.

There is no greater joy than to follow Christ, and to imitate His virtue and blessed meekness. To suffer with Him, to carry His cross, to give good and peace to others in His name, and to finally die with Him and claim a crown of the Kingdom is a vocation that gives to us the dignity of humanity AND union with the love of the Trinity. To retain our sins is the utmost foolishness, to refuse the Sacrament of Mercy is the greatest mistake, so let us accept with open arms the gifts of God and thus find His goodness.