Thursday, March 28, 2013

Afflicted God-Man, Be My Support

'O suffering God-Man,
I beg You with all my soul,
never let me
take my eyes from You.
If I keep on trusting in You,
You will inflame me completely.
I will try with all my strength
to come back to You
and to fix my eyes on You.
I want to be continually
returning to You
and travel the ways
of the Passion
and of the Cross...

'O afflicted God-Man,
be my support.'

Blessed Angela de Foligno

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Whose Debt You are Paying

'Oh Jesus, 
You were led to death
like a lamb, like a sheep 
that does not open its mouth
before its shearers. 
You utter no word of complaint
to Your Father Who sent You,
nor against the men 
whose debt You are paying.'  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sin. A Serious Thing.

'Oh, what a serious thing sin is, for it was enough to kill God with so many sorrows!  And how surrounded You are by them, my God!  Where can You go that they do not torment You?  Everywhere mortals wound You...

'What extraordinary ingratitude, my King!  That we serve the devil with what You Yourself gave us!  ...Oh, my God, how much You suffer for one who grieves so little over Your pains!'

                                                                                                                               St. Teresa of Avila 

 Painting:  James Tissot, The Grotto of the Agony
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Monday, March 25, 2013

He Took Upon Himself

'Christ did not suffer because of some accident or another, but really took the whole history of mankind into His own hands. 

'His suffering for us is not merely a theological formula.  To see this and then to let ourselves be drawn by Him to HIS side, and not to the other side, is an existential act. 

'In meditation on the Way of the Cross we realize:  He is really suffering for us. 

'And He also took upon Himself MY cause.

'Now He is drawing me to Himself by seeking me out in the depths of myself and bringing me back to Himself.' 

- Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World, Ignatius Press, 2010,  pp. 36-37

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Ask You

I have grabbed onto the 'ropes,' allowed God to help me through walls that kept me from Him, I've made the climb.  It has taken cooperation on my part, but I can now concentrate better in prayer.

Sometimes, it's as if a door opens and my heart suddenly recognizes the One I've been seeking.

Is what I find worth my efforts? 

I ask you.  

This is part of a 'mini-series' of posts on walls. To continue, click here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Grabbing the Ropes

Picture Attribution
I am a needy person.  I'm in great need of God.  Yet, knowing that He has "thrown down" numerous "ropes" to help me scale walls between Him and me, I often turn away from His helps and let myself remain needy.  And, frankly, very stubborn.

"Lord, help me," I beg.  And then I forge ahead under my own steam.  I think of the joke (we've probably all heard it) about the man on the roof of his house as flood waters rose all around him.  He prayed and trusted God.  People called out to him from boats and a small plane, offering aid.  Nope, said he - God will save me. When the waters swept over him and he went to meet his Maker, he asked God why He hadn't come through.  "But I did come through," he was told.  "I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

What ropes are before us today, just waiting to hoist us into the Presence of God on earth?  He has provided oh, so many aids!  There is the amazing Sacrament of Reconciliation to pull us out of serious sin.  There is His Presence in the Eucharist, where we can adore and even receive Him.

As we discussed a few days ago, there are ropes to pull us toward God in personal prayer... aids He has provided to snatch us out of the grasp of distractions so we can concentrate on Him.  Thus we'll be able to "hear" more clearly His guidance for our everyday lives.

Ah, but there is an enemy of our souls, one who'd like nothing better than to cut every one of our  ropes.  Or at least to convince us that we shouldn't use them, we don't need them, they're silly, we should be stronger and more intellectual than those who might need such things. 

The Sacraments.  Scripture.  Holy music.  Sacred art.  Holy reading.  The rosary.  Various devotions that the Church has found worthy of approval.  Stations of the Cross.  These have been "dropped down," as it were, through the merits of Our Lord's death and resurrection.  These are of much more value than all the ropes mankind ever made.

I will admit it.  I'm a needy person.  I need the Sacraments.  I need Scripture.  I need holy music and sacred art and saints and my guardian angel and lots of devotional reading.  I need helps to keep me focused in prayer.  I want nothing more than to stay tied tightly to my Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am a needy person.  So I'm grabbing the ropes.


This is part of a 'mini-series' of posts on walls. To continue, click here.

With God's Help, I Can Scale Any Wall

You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sometimes We Need a Little Help

There has been a breakthrough in my personal wall of ‘distracted prayer.’  I’ve found a door.  But can I describe it?  We’ll see.  This may not be all that easy, so I beg your patience as I try.

After reading a recent comment, I was hit with it.  I've been feeling as if I'm running from God when I don’t look forward to prayer time.  Not a pleasant thought at all.  I have felt lazy, undisciplined, and unloving.  Ouch.

Then one of you said something that opened a floodgate.  Because of this I suddenly saw myself sitting in my ‘prayer chair,’ Bible or Breviary in hand.  There I am (in my mental picture), settling in to pray.  In march the distractions, as they always do.  

The thing is:  once my mind makes any attempt to 'quiet,' then every stray thought that's been lingering around snaps up that golden opportunity to hop on in and demand its share of attention.  I can count on it.

Ah ha, there it is, I thought today.  'I can count on it.'  I've begun to associate sitting in prayer with feeling beaten up, bedraggled, worn down, defeated, and ashamed of being “lukewarm.’  Ah ha!

It’s not the Lord Himself I’ve been avoiding!  It is that persistent, nagging, dragging war with distractions. 

But what to do about this problem?  Stick to it, fight it out, trudge on upward, scale that wall of distractions unaided?

I'm sure God is pleased by such efforts.  However, I think He understands when we sometimes need a little help.  A spiritual director once asked me (when I was having trouble praying as I once had) 'well... what CAN you do?'  Start with that one thing (I was told), and begin to build on that. 

Today I went back to that suggestion.  I gave myself permission not to beat myself up, permission not to climb a ladderless wall with my bare, worn down hands.  I took one thing I CAN do and asked God to help me build on that.

The one thing (today) was music.  I remembered that I haven't been using it in my prayer time lately.  It has often helped me 'shake the dust of the world' out of my soul before, so I tried to find a CD.  Couldn't.  I'd moved them around.  

Then I got distracted by my laptop sitting next to me.. but instead of fighting that, I actually picked UP the laptop and clicked on a few holy songs (I knew just where to quickly find them).  Before long, I was absorbed in the music and singing along. 

There were pictures also, as these were YouTubes, so suddenly two senses were engaged.  One photo was of an incenser; I got distracted by thinking of how much I love incense.  No problem, I have a jar of it right next to my chair.  I opened it and the aroma gently filled my prayer space.  Three senses engaged.

I picked up a rosary (four senses), began to pray it, but before doing so I told God what and whom I wanted to pray for.  Soon I was thanking Him for one thing, and another... and, well.... what do you know!  I was talking with God, totally undistracted, unconcerned about anything other than Him and Him alone.  It was as if the whole entire world had disappeared. 

Well.  What do you know.   

'Come, O God of my heart,' wrote St. Gertrude, 'gather together my scattered mental powers and fix them upon Yourself.'

Thanks be to God.  He did.


This is part of a 'mini-series' of posts on walls. To continue in chronological order, click here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Wall of Distractions

I'd like to come back to the subject of walls.  It seems we'd just made our way through the doors of one wall, then another...  when suddenly we were "walled in prayer" for those inside the Sistine Chapel.

The doors opened, our new Holy Father emerged, and we have all been getting to know him.  Like our Sisters and Brothers behind monastic walls, we've allowed ourselves the mid-Lenten fun of white smoke, pealing bells, joyful greetings, maybe a bit of online reading (I wonder how many times our new Holy Father's name has been "googled" in the last two days?), and distractions of a prayerful kind. 

Now maybe we're returning to normal routines, going about our day-to-day lives.  Which brings me right to the next wall that I (personally) encounter most frequently when I'm trying to move closer to God in prayer.

This wall has doors, and they're right in front of me.  All I have to do is open them, but you know, it's funny.  When I get to these doors, it's like I forget why I came here.  My prayer today provides solid evidence of this fact, and if you'll forgive me for putting it as follows, I prayed something not too different from this:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mailbox, which is where the book I ordered should arrive today, which is my goodness Friday already.  Oh, and I forgot to write down the time of the Easter lunch so I'd better go get my calendar while I'm thinking about it, and that reminds me, I need to call my friends and tell them the movie night needs to be rescheduled..."

I'd be willing to bet there are others out there who've had similar experiences. 

"Even our distractions can be helpful," writes Tim Gray, "as they show us what we're attached to and can signal subjects that we should submit to God." 

Lord God, thank You for showing me my attachments.  I ask you to continue shedding light on all that keeps me from moving forward in prayer.  Draw me on, in spite of and through the wall of distractions.  Help me remember that, on the other side of that wall, is a deeper encounter with YOU.

"Your Face is all lovely and Your Heart all inviting, but my thoughts alas! go wandering far from You.  Come, O God of my heart, gather together my scattered mental powers and fix them upon Yourself."  St. Gertrude


Painting: Théo Van Rysselberghe; Portret van Marguerite van Mons

This is part of a 'mini-series' of posts on walls. To continue in chronological order, click here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Prayer for Pope Francis

Michelangelo, Separation of the Earth from the Waters

'Lord, source of eternal life and truth, 
give to your shepherd Pope Francis 
a spirit of courage and right judgement,
a spirit of knowledge and love.  
By governing with fidelity 
those entrusted to his care,
may he, as Vicar of Christ, 
build your Church into a sacrament
of unity, love and peace for all the world.'  

Prayer for the Pope, from The Catholic Prayer Book, Servant Books, 1986, p.183 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We Pray for Light

Sistine Chapel, God Dividing Light from Dark

'The light shines on in darkness,
a darkness that did not overcome it.'
John 1:5

Father, we pray for Your Cardinal Electors 
to be filled with the Light of Christ

Monday, March 11, 2013

Give Ear

Jeremiah by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

'Give ear, listen humbly, for the Lord speaks.'  
Jeremiah 13:15

May each Cardinal in the Conclave hear the Voice of God

The Hush Approches

click this link for photo attribution
I have been (as you know) thinking about walls.  My mind was originally on personal walls: both the kind that block our path to God, and the kind that keep us from roaming outside His will.

Now I am aware of an entirely different kind of wall.  As the Conclave of Cardinals is about to begin, I'm thinking of the walls these men will be going behind.  They will be cut off from the rest of us; no information in, no information out.

The Cardinals will be, in the strictest sense, cloistered.

Their ears will be closed to the world's input, so they can hear as clearly as possible the Voice of God in their hearts.  Once the doors have been shut on the chapel, every Cardinal inside will have the responsibility of listening intently for the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

During the Conclave eight years ago, I felt as if a hush had fallen over the Church.  Once again, as I write this, I feel that hush approaching.

'Quiet, world,'  I want to whisper.   'Shhh; our Cardinals are listening.'   And we, in the midst of our lives and duties, have the high privilege of praying that they hear clearly.  May they listen as one, as with one sanctified 'ear,' with obedient spirits, with purity of heart.

Speak, Lord, Your servants are listening.

And Your Church shall await the sound of Your Voice.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Wall of What Ifs

As we continue drawing closer to God, asking Him to order our lives, we just might come face to face with a wall we hadn't expected. 

We've made a commitment to try to please God and to avoid sin.  We meant it when we said "God, I want to be totally Yours."  Perhaps we've prayed something along the lines of: "God I abandon myself to You completely.  Let me live as You wish, not as I want.  Do with me whatever You will......"

"Do with me whatever You will."  Most of us, when saying this, will get at least a twinge of fear.  A  touch of the what-ifs.  It's natural to feel this way.  It is part of being human. Thoughts tumble across our paths, sometimes like pebbles, sometimes with the force of a rockslide.  I want God to do with me whatever He wishes.  However,

What if He gives me a cross I can't bear?
What if He calls me to go evangelize on the other side of the earth?

And of course I could list many more, but we all know them.  What I am asked to do now is go forward in spite of anxieties, not letting fear of "what God will ask of me" throw up a wall that blocks my path. I cannot go on my own, nor do I have to. 

Jesus is the Way through the wall of what-ifs.  Going forward, I take His hand....

"If you live according to My teaching, you are truly My disciples:  then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  (John 8:31-32)

"O Most High, when I begin to fear, in You will I trust.  In God, in whose promise I glory, in God I trust without fear; what can flesh do to me?"  (Psalm 56:3-5)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

"Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  (Psalm 23:6)

"Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.  Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.  Then God's own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7)


This is part of a 'mini-series' of posts on walls. To continue in chronological order, click here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Other Side of That Wall

If I have repented of sin, I've made more than a giant leap toward God.  I have allowed Jesus to break down walls between us and to carry me swiftly into His Presence.  

Today's post is a slightly edited version of one I wrote here over a year ago, for these words of St. Faustina give us a glimpse into what has actually happened.  If I've repented of sin, I may or may not feel any different, but the truth is:  I have been met with great love.

"I saw that God was well pleased with me and, reciprocally, my spirit drowned itself in Him.  Aware of this union with God, I felt I was especially loved and, in turn, I loved with all my soul….   And the Lord said to me, ‘You are the delight of My Heart; from today on, every one of your acts, even the very smallest, will be a delight to My eyes...'  My earthly body was the same, but my soul was different; God was now living in it with the totality of His delight.  This is not a feeling, but a conscious reality that nothing can obscure.”  (St. Faustina, Diary) 

God will not be outdone in generosity.  If I've taken even one step toward Him (no matter how timid the step, no matter how faltering), I can be sure that He is reaching out to receive me.  I am enfolded, encompassed, and totally embraced by Love.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lord, Free Me of Sin

The picture of the wall on this post is not "pretty."  It isn't supposed to be.  It is here to represent the thing that walls us off most fully from connecting with God, and that thing is unspeakably ugly.  It is so ugly that our Lord Jesus suffered an excruciating death to free us from it, to break through the wall of it, so we can enter the presence of God.

I am speaking, of course, of the wall of sin.  The thick, dark, grungy wall of sin.  The sin that separates us from God, darkening our minds to the light of Christ and causing us to flee from that light as we might from a searing blaze. 

Hopefully, we are not experiencing a wall that thick as we read this.  However, I daresay many of us have known it, at one time or another, and many live in such bondage today.  It can be hard to even want to get out of it.

Such a wall, can, in time, begin to feel comfortable.  We fool ourselves into thinking of it not as the place of danger it is, but as actually something of a "safe place."  If I cannot perceive God because of this wall, maybe it works both ways (I tell myself).  Maybe He can't see ME.  Maybe He'll forget all about me, and then He won't notice that I'm living in sin.  Maybe there isn't any such thing as sin; I mean, all I have to do is turn on TV to know that "social norms" seldom recognize its reality.

I can do a lot to hide that pesky wall.  Add a bright coat of paint, plant some ivy, maybe even put up a hedge so I don't see the wall at all, in time. Sin can be made to look quite attractive and normal.  Just a spray of denial and a dulling of conscience, and I'm all set.

Except that I'm not.  I'm not set at all.  I'm walled off from God; and in my moments of honesty, I am miserable. 

If I find myself in such a spot as I read this, I don't have to stay there.  If I am in serious sin, I daresay I know it.  I might have tried fooling myself, playing some "everybody's doing it" games in my head.  But I know.

The great thing is that I don't have to break down this wall myself.  There is a hole in it.  It is not a wide hole, but it's large enough for a person to get through.  It is a hole the size of a cross.

photo attribution

"Jesus, uttering a loud cry, breathed His last.  At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom."  (Mark 3-38)

"It is in Christ and through His blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven.:  (Ephesians 1:7)

"If we confess our sins, He who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong."  (1 John 1:9)

Lord Jesus Christ, I confess to You that I am a sinner.  In particular, I ask forgiveness for these  transgressions___________.  I am so sorry.  If my sins have been grave, help me get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Give me the strength to turn away from sin and temptation, and to avoid occasions that would lead me into sin.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy.  I ask You to break down any walls of sin that keep me from You.  Jesus, I trust in You.  Amen.

"I am more generous toward sinners than toward the just.  It was for their sake that I came down from heaven; it was for their sake that My blood was spilled.  Let them not fear to approach Me; they are most in need of My mercy."  (Jesus to St. Faustina)


This is part of a 'mini'-series' of posts on walls.  To continue in chronological order, click this line.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Let's Go In

I have been thinking about walls.   I woke up today dreaming of one in particular.  I was going around and around and around it, looking for the gate in, because inside was the "interior cloister."  But somehow the gate was hidden.  My first thought was "oh no... am I outside the will of God?!"  I really didn't think so.  Not in the sense of serious sin, anyway.

But then I thought of what it truly means to be a cloistered heart.

"The word cloister speaks of total consecration..." I wrote some years ago.  "Compromise does not fit well in a cloister, nor does lukewarmness, nor does complacency.  The cloistered life is absolute."

Compromise.  Lukewarmness.  Complacency.  Have these crept into my life?  After all, I live in the world.  I interact with it daily.  And "the world is persistent in its tugs on the heart trying to live for God..."

Being one who is called by God to live in the world, am I ever at risk of becoming too attached to the multitude of distractions it offers?  As I spend time with others, when I look at a newspaper or movie or TV, am I in danger of being infected by attitudes that are in actual conflict with the will of God?  These are, of course, rhetorical questions.  I think we know the answers all too well. 

Over the next few days, I would like to look at some of the things that can wall us off from growing closer to God.  More importantly, I hope to find the way to get through those barriers.  I know "walls" have been a theme here for the last week or two.  That was unintentional on my part. 

I'm beginning to think it may not have been unintentional on God's.

"The Good Lord willing and Internet connections don't fail," I'll see you back here tomorrow.  No matter where we are on the journey, we can have stronger faith, deeper prayer, more zealous love, greater virtue, higher joy.  With such blessings as these available, why would we want to spend one more minute lazing around in the tepid waters of lukewarm faith?

God is calling each one of us into the FULLNESS of His love. 

Let's go in.

"Ask, and you will receive.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and it will be opened to you.   For the one who asks, receives.  The one who seeks, finds.  The one who knocks, enters..."  (Mathew 7:7-8)

Painting: Karl Julius von Leypold, Wanderer im Sturm

This is part of a 'mini'-series' of posts on walls.  To continue in chronological order, click this line.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Unscheduled Wall

Our Internet connection has been down this afternoon.  Again I have felt as if I’ve been locked out of my blog house, and again the feeling is a strange one.

I wonder how Pope Emeritus Benedict feels today.

We humans make our plans.  We schedule blogs, lents, jobs, marriages, careers, retirement, and what we’ll have for dinner.  And each of us can point to bumps in the roads, probably in many areas, at various times in our lives.  Sometimes it feels as if a wall pops right up in the middle of our path. 

But God has given us a promise.  

Looking through the grille is seeing as God directs us to see – not as our mere human instincts dictate.   So I've been holding the following “piece of grillwork” before my eyes as I've been locked outside my bloghouse...

"We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His decree.”  (Romans 8:28)

I pray - and I am even seeing - that being "locked out" has resulted, in fact, in being walled more fully inside God's will.  

Caspar David Friedrich painting 

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