Monday, July 14, 2014

adoration

encountering the God of all creation
present here
Author of truth and life
Love of my soul
You are my God.
the humiliation of the cross has given way
to the glory of resurrection
yet in all your glory, 
You choose to remain with us
humble, vulnerable; 
concealed by the appearance of bread. 
to eyes of faith, 
this bread is not bread. 
it is You - 
exquisite Beauty - 
true Love - 
infinite Goodness - 
everything.
my God, how could I not love You?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

merton

A prayer of Thomas Merton:

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me. 
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, 
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. 
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore I will trust you always, 
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, 
for you are ever with me, 
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."




Wednesday, May 7, 2014

the stars in our skies


The stars in our skies... we all have them. 

The people we love, who make our corners of the universe a little brighter, even when things feel dark and cold - kind of like standing outside on a winter's night, looking up at the stars, swearing you can feel their warmth. 

They are the ones we love, the ones we laugh with, and cry with, too. They are the ones we gladly suffer for; we would willingly walk beside them through any dark night of theirs - first, because we love them, and secondly, because they either have, or gladly would, do the same for us. 

They are the stars in our skies. Some may burn brighter than others; some may fade over time. Sometimes they are close, and sometimes farther away, but no matter what, they always remain with us. 

May we love the stars in our skies. 

Say a prayer for them tonight, and always. 

Hold them close to your heart. You never know when they may need it most.


"If we are going to love others at all, we must make up our minds to love them well." 
- Thomas Merton


Thursday, May 1, 2014

the Way

"All the way to heaven is heaven because Jesus said, 'I am the Way.'" - St. Catherine of Siena

Scrolling through my Facebook feed last night, I noticed that Fr. James Martin, SJ, had posted the above quote as an evening meditation. I think it's beautiful.

I also realize that it doesn't mesh well with the way we think about life most of the time. It's good to think about quotes like this, and see what we can learn from them - even if it may turn our perspective on its head, so to speak.

If we acknowledge that Jesus is indeed the Way, and we are truly committed to following him - then yes, all the way to heaven is heaven.

But it's not, we say. This is no bed of roses. Life is hard. It can be painful. There's nothing heavenly about that.

Or is there?

I think it goes without saying that the difficulties and pain we experience in life are not a reflection of what we believe heaven will be like when we (God willing!) get there someday. Given this, how can the difficulties and pain we endure in life in any way be the "heaven" of which St. Catherine speaks?

Perhaps because the difficulties and pains - all the suffering that is associated with our human condition - are supposed to help us get to heaven. If that is the case, then we can begin to see the wisdom in the words of this great saint.

To some extent, it comes down to whether or not we believe our suffering has meaning, whether or not we believe our suffering is worth something. And when you get right down to it, it has even less to do with whether or not we believe our suffering is worth something, and more to do with how much it is worth to GOD. In other words, is our suffering redemptive? Can God effect the work of salvation in our souls when we suffer?

If we got into a discussion of why suffering exists, and why, as children of a good God, we still suffer, we'd be here for a long time. I don't claim to have those answers. I often find myself grieving for loved ones who are suffering in some way.

I do believe that our suffering can be redemptive, though. There's a Catholic saying as old as the hills: "Offer it up!"  The idea being, when you encounter some kind of suffering - whether it's a toothache or a heartache or anything in between - that you offer it to God, for an intention you hold close to your heart, or for yourself (that "refiner's fire," purifying your soul), or someone in your life... And God, who is loving and good, can bring about good through that suffering. We already know that God can bring good out of incredible suffering - all we need do is consider Christ's death and resurrection to remind ourselves.

It doesn't mean it's easy, and it's not. But I think this is part of what St. Catherine was getting at - we know Christ suffered; if he is the Way, that means we will suffer, too, on our way to him. When we know our ultimate goal is heaven, everything we go through to get there is part of heaven - because bit by bit, it's helping us get there. It hearkens back to the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, as she suffered with tuberculosis: "Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift."


Monday, April 28, 2014

divine mercy


I had thought yesterday that I would write something about Divine Mercy Sunday, but gave priority to spending some time in Adoration, offering prayers for a few special intentions. As I was at prayer last night, I found myself considering the thought that sometimes, when we pray for others, we must understand, and be at peace with, the fact that we may never know (at least, in this life) how God answers our prayers in the lives of those for whom we pray. Of course, that should be far secondary to our thoughts, because we should be focused on praying for those in need of our prayers - but in all our humanity, I would imagine that many of us have thought about this before.

As I pondered this, I was browsing through a prayer app on my phone, and found a prayer I had never seen before. I found dual significance in both its subject, and its author - I took St. Maximilian Kolbe as my patron saint when I was confirmed several years ago. It only seems right to me to share it here. Reading this last night reminded me that intercessory prayer is itself an act of mercy, to which we are called by God - and that, as always, God's ways are far above our ways - there is nothing beyond him; he holds all of time and space, all of our joys and sufferings.

Divine Mercy, indeed. Jesus, I trust in you!

A Prayer of St. Maximilian Kolbe
The day was long,
The burden I had borne
Seemed heavier than I could longer bear
And then it lifted – but I did not know
Someone had knelt in prayer;
Had taken me to God that very hour,
And asked the easing of the load, and
He,
In infinite compassion, had stooped down
And taken it from me.
We cannot tell how often as we pray
For some bewildered one,
Hurt and distressed,
The answer comes,
But many times those hearts
Find sudden peace and rest.
Someone had prayed, and Faith, a reaching hand,
Took hold of God, and brought Him down that day!
So many, many hearts have need of prayer.
Oh, let us pray! 


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

it's Easter!

"If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; mind the things that are above, alleluia." 

I hope everyone had a blessed and happy Easter Sunday! 

It's a bit ironic that my last post had to do with silence. Ironic, because I hadn't intended to wait so long before blogging again after writing that! I'd thought I would try to blog my way through Lent - and ended up observing "blog silence" instead. 

That silence was motivated by a couple of things - first, a real - and unanticipated - need to actually be "silent" in terms of social media, limiting my Facebook and blog intake and output, and secondly, the level of crazy and busy that my life has catapulted to over the past few weeks. I'm used to things being at least a little crazy, and I'm used to being more busy than I want to be - but it really has been at an entirely new level for the past few weeks, and it's limited the time I've had for other things. 

No, it's not going to calm down any time soon, that much I can tell, but hopefully I am starting to acclimate to it a bit more. Adaptation, you know. It's important! 

In any case... Lent was truly beautiful this year; Holy Week, the Triduum, and Easter Sunday, so wonderful. It truly is all beyond words; I am inadequate to the task of description, except to say that our Lord is good and loving, and loves us far beyond our imaginings. 

True Easter joy. At home after the Easter Vigil, I found myself unwilling to go to bed in the early moments of Easter Sunday - and sitting in my living room, pondering the Resurrection, and feeling kind of like a kid on Christmas, with the best gift EVER. Resurrection. Easter. Eternal joy. 

Yet all of this Easter wonderfulness has made me think again about Lent. If the point of Lent is to strengthen our discipline and help us to grow closer to God, why are we sometimes so willing to cast aside all of our Lenten discipline as soon as Easter arrives?

Don't worry - I'm not suggesting that you should drop that chocolate bunny you're munching on right now. I'm simply suggesting that, if we who try our best to love the Lord and work toward serving him with pure hearts and minds, have strengthened our wills to do so through our Lenten practices... why do we so easily forget those disciplines when Easter arrives? 

I went to Mass tonight (eh, last night, as I am now posting this Wednesday morning) and when I walked into the chapel, I was immediately struck by how few people were there. Last Tuesday, the chapel was quite full. This evening, only a handful of people were there. 

Lent is over, I get that. What I don't understand is... Easter is here - so why did everyone leave? If we go through 40+ days of Lent, trying to grow stronger in our walk with God, why are we so willing to give up those things that helped us grow in strength, just because Lent is over??

It's EASTER, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. The season of the Lord's resurrection. Shouldn't we still be filling our churches on the weekdays, coming to receive the Eucharist, seeking that sacramental food that strengthens and sustains us? The Eucharist - truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ - is transformative. 

Do we really understand what we were doing during Lent? Why do we work to be close to the Lord for 40-ish days, and then drop the routine and go back to business as usual? 

(Note: yes, of course, I realize not EVERYONE does this... but I also realize that there are plenty of us - myself included - who have done it before!)

Lent should change our lives, should alter our way of life. I'm not saying you should give up caffeine or chocolate permanently. What I am saying is, we shouldn't only pursue self-mastery and a deeper relationship with the Lord during Lent. I think we all need a sense of Lent in our lives, all year long - because until we pass from this life to the next, we haven't run the race, we are still competing. Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it well:

"If a man is ever to enjoy communion with Christ, so as to have the blood of God running in his veins and the spirit of God throbbing in his soul, he must die to the lower life of the flesh. He must be born again. And hence the law of Calvary is the law of every Christian: unless there is a Cross there never be the resurrection, unless there is the defeat of Calvary there will never be the victory of Easter, unless there are the nails there will never be the glorious wounds, unless there is the garment of scorn there, will never be the robes blazing like the sun, unless there is the crown of thorns there will never be the halo of light, for the law laid down at the beginning of time which shall be effective until time shall be no more, is that no one shall be crowned unless he has struggled and overcome."

Alleluia! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

silence

Our world is noisy - from our phones and iPods to all of our chatter over social media and other means. We have a need, it seems, to be constantly connected to one another, to the Internet, to Facebook, to whatever. 

While I would be hard pressed to give up my iPhone, and I enjoy my fair share of social media, texting, blogging, email, and all of these things, I have to admit to a love/hate relationship with them. Maybe you can relate. Although I appreciate the benefits of modern communications, I am often the person in my circle of friends who doesn't answer the phone, or misses text messages - because I left my phone on silent, or in another room. Oftentimes, I've unintentionally forgotten to turn the ringer back on - this is true. However, it's also true that I will sometimes leave my phone in "solitary confinement," neglecting it for hours at a time, just to disconnect.

Silence is important, particularly in a world addicted to noise - in my opinion, "noise" can encompass what we hear, read, and see - as we are almost constantly bombarded with sensory messages. All that noise may keep us connected to the world, but it can also distract us from thinking about things in our lives, and it can stifle our relationship with God, who doesn't always speak in loud or obvious ways. Scripture offers a great reminder of this in 1 Kings 19, where Elijah waits for the Lord to pass by - through wind and earthquake and fire; and when He does finally pass by, it is in the silence after all these other noisy things have happened. Silence is a powerful catalyst for conversing with God.

As much as we need our connections to each other, and as important as those connections are, we need silence. We need to unplug. Go off the grid. Observe radio silence. Find God in the quiet. Pray.

"Why should we pray? Well, why breathe? We have to take in fresh air and get rid of bad air; we have to take in new power and get rid of our old weaknesses. Just as a battery sometimes runs down and needs to be charged, so we have to be renewed in spiritual vigor. Our Blessed Lord said: 'Without me you can do nothing.' Oh yes, we can eat and drink, and we can sin but we cannot do anything toward our supernatural merit and heaven without Him." - Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

seven in seven, day three: do you know your part?

Some of my readers who know me, have already heard some version of this story before. I recently shared it with the Confirmation students at my parish. I think it's worthy of a "7 in 7" post - and a week away from Ash Wednesday, it somehow seems particularly appropriate.

It was a chilly autumn evening - November 1st - All Saints' Day. I was away from home, on a business trip for the week. After what had been a rough couple of years, spiritually, personally, and professionally, I was exhausted - totally drained - so tired of trying to keep everything together. I’d reached the point at which, though I knew intellectually what I professed to believe, I was questioning its truth.

On that day, I was a lifelong Catholic who faithfully attended Mass and knew the mechanics of the Faith inside and out. In earlier years, I had definitely loved God (though not in any kind of mature way), and had a deep passion for his Church. But in those couple of years, my faith had been challenged. This wasn't something I was proud of, but it was the truth. I was tired of struggling to regain my spiritual footing - it felt like trying to hike uphill on a gravel trail, with the rocks slipping out from underneath my feet. 

And so, in a strange city, and with no human eyes watching to make sure I fulfilled my Catholic obligation, I nearly hadn't sought out a church where I could attend Mass that evening, and even then, went half-heartedly - more or less, to "check the box,” to say I’d gone, to make sure I didn’t have to go to Confession (if you're not Catholic, or otherwise unaware, Catholics consider missing Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation to be a mortal sin, which is a big deal) - or worse, die in a state of mortal sin if somehow my plane crashed on the flight home! 

I never missed Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation. 


That evening, I found myself sitting in a beautiful, Gothic-styled church, part of a small crowd that had gathered for Mass. The parishioners’ devotion for the mechanics of the Catholic faith was apparent in their behavior - their gestures, their actions - even before Mass began. Observing those around me, I realized something didn't feel right. As the Mass began, what bothered me became clear. Although the parishioners had all the polished outward signs of devotion, they were like robots - all part of a well-rehearsed routine, one in which they knew their part.

I don't claim to know the depths of the human heart. I have no idea what was in the hearts of the people I was at Mass with that night. But as I sat there, I couldn't shake the uneasiness settling in my soul, in part because I could see myself there, among the "robots" - because I, too, had always known my part. I knew it with my head, and in some sense, it was a well-rehearsed routine. It didn't require emotion, or heart... it required no love. Upset by this recognition, I almost left at the offertory. But something - a sense of obligation? or something greater? - held me in place, and I stayed in the pew. Glancing around the church again, I sensed a "moment of truth." So in my thoughts, I prayed, something like this:

"OK, Lord, look - I don't really know what I believe anymore, but I do know that if this robotic routine - is what you really want out of your followers - then I'm done. I can't do that. I can't do that anymore. And, if you are really there, if you really exist, I need you to show me. I just need to know, because I'm not sure anymore."

The rest of the Mass seemed to go almost unbearably slowly. I left as quickly as I could after the final blessing, and gave little extra thought to the prayer I'd made, not really expecting an answer. By the time I returned home at the end of the week, I'd all but forgotten it.

I had been through what seemed like some pretty rough times, and ultimately, I had forgotten that I loved God - and I’d substituted robotic participation at Mass in place of that love. My faith was on spiritual life support, and it was slipping away. Although I had been going to Mass every week and even going to Confession on regular basis, my prayer life sucked, and I was not part of a parish community that I could rely on for support in hard times. 

Do you know your part? Do you know it with your heart, or do you only know it with your head? Do you only know it with your emotions, or is it part of your being? Is it simply external, or is it part of your soul? 

Any of us who love God, whether that love is new, or a bit aged, must understand that the growth of that love will not come without suffering, but that suffering should not lead us to despair. And oh, how much easier that is said, than done. 

While it's true that God knows all, sometimes we still have to be bold before him - to paraphrase St. Augustine - we need to let God call, to shout, to break through our deafness. After I made that prayer at that Mass on All Saints Day, God truly did reveal himself to me in new ways - He got me off of spiritual life support, and helped me get out of survival mode. 

Sometimes life with Christ is a rocky road, but it's also an incredible journey.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

unworthy

Work has more or less sucked lately.

Don't get me wrong, I love the institution I work for - and I work with some truly amazing people, for whom I am grateful - but the past few weeks have been a perfect storm of frustration, stress, angst, and irritation. At times, the irritation has shifted to outright anger, for some reasons that I think are understandable - but the reasons being understandable is, perhaps, no excuse when I do not seek a more productive way to deal with the situation.

Times like these. Oh, times like these. Days and weeks like these. They remind me of the need for strategically placed vacation days(!!!!!).

Lately, they have deeply reminded me of my need for God's mercy, strength, and grace - and my own unworthiness when it comes to these - and of the grace of weekday Mass. I cannot count how many times in the last few weeks I have felt completely drained, kneeling to pray before an evening weekday Mass, and simply thanking our Lord for getting me through another day, being grateful to finally have a few moments of peace, and honest silence, to clear my head, to pray, to examine my conscience. (It also often reminds me of how grateful I should be for stable, gainful employment, even when parts of said employment make me feel like a crazy person!)

At the end of it all, I know it is all just another piece of the puzzle known as journeying (and struggling) through life with Christ. We all have our trials, our pains, our joys, our sorrows - they are all for a reason, and they are ultimately for our good.

Still, as I knelt during the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass this evening, knowing that in a few minutes I would serve as an Extraordinary Minister during Communion, I acutely felt my own unworthiness - that, in all my imperfection, in all of my failings throughout today - I would have the privilege, first to receive the sacred Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist - and then, the privilege to give the Blood of Christ to those gathered for the Mass. It is rather scary to consider receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord, knowing well my failings that day; and then, to hold a chalice and offer the Blood of Christ to the faithful? I mean, seriously. This is GOD we are talking about. Ultimate perfection - ultimate perfection that is willing to be received into a really, seriously, truly, definitely imperfect human vessel... and then to let that human vessel offer Him to others?!??

The words of a familiar hymn came to my mind, over and over, during the Eucharistic prayer this evening:

"O Lord, I am not worthy
That You should come to me
But speak the words of comfort, 
My spirit healed shall be.

O come, all you who labor, 
In sorrow and in pain
Come, eat this Bread from heaven, 
Your peace and strength regain.

O Jesus, we adore You, 
Our Victim, and our Priest. 
Whose precious Blood and Body
Become our sacred Feast. 

O Sacrament most holy, 
O Sacrament divine! 
All praise, and all thanksgiving, 
Be every moment Thine!"

Lord, I am not worthy. You know that, even better than I, because you know me better than I know myself. My sorrows and my pain are insignificant compared to those of others, let alone in comparison to your own - yet you heal me, just the same. Let me not forget that I cannot do this without you.