Friday, March 31, 2017

Beyond Whims and Fancies

'We must have a real living determination to reach holiness. 
I will be a saint means I will despoil myself of all that is not God; 
I will strip my heart of all created things; 
I will live in poverty and detachment; 
I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims and fancies, 
and make myself a willing slave to the will of God.'

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Painting: Ferdinand du Puigaudeau, The Wayside Cross at Rochefort-en-Terre

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Revisiting Rose

The following from our friend Rose remains our most popular post of all time:

'I had this idea that prayer, holiness, and the spiritual life were for the religious vocation and hidden behind high, thick brick walls. I longed to find a crack in that wall so I could have just a tiny taste of the spiritual life I once knew.  

'Then the Holy Spirit brought the Cloistered Heart to me.  The Cloistered Heart allowed me to squeeze through a tiny crack in that big brick wall. 

'I long for the fullness of all of God's promises for those who love Him to the heights. And if that sounds presumptive, then so be it, because I know that it is meant for us all. Not just the Religious or the saints, but for all......"(Rose)

Rose was once a novice in a religious order and discerned that such was not her vocation. She went on to marry and have a large family.  

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'  

Monday, March 27, 2017

God Beneath the Surface

'Many a time, face to face with nature, I come upon the manifestations of His power, His wisdom, His beauty. 

Sunset, and flowers, and the sea, and moonlight, and morning star are so many reminders of God beneath the surface, the Great Reality sustaining all, holding the universe in the hollow of His hand.

Often alone, undistracted by men, untroubled by things, I look into my soul and find Him there, the Hidden God, ever good and patient towards me, ever gentle and loving and divinely merciful and infinitely generous...'

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini, 1941, pp.149-150)

Painting: Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Italian Girl with Flowers

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Behold the Handmaid

"In Mary we don't find the slightest trace of the attitude of the foolish virgins, who obey, but thoughtlessly. 

"Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn't fully understand, and asks about what she doesn't know.  

"Then she gives herself completely to doing God's will: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.'"

St Josemaria Escriva

Painting: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Annunciation, 1861

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Go and Find Him

"Go and find Him when your patience and strength run out and you feel alone and helpless. Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel.

"Say to Him, 'Jesus, You know exactly what is going on. You are all I have, and You know all things. Come to my help.'

"And then go, and don't worry about how you are going to manage. That you have told God about it is enough. He has a good memory."

St. Jeanne Jugan

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Revisiting the Real Jesus

Recently I read something touting a "politically correct" (but unmistakably warned against in Scripture) lifestyle as being something Jesus would applaud. 

I immediately thought:  "Oh, really?"  

Just who, I asked, is this jesus of whom the writer is speaking?  It's definitely not the Jesus quoted and taught about in Scripture and 2,000 years of the Church.  The real Christ clearly taught against what the author was endorsing.

This is extremely important.  Nothing in our lives could be more important.  If we intend to respond to the world through the "grillwork" of God's will, a knowledge of the real Jesus is critical. 

If I am going to see the world through Scripture and the teachings of the Church, I must have a working knowledge of what these are. I cannot make them up for myself. And certainly I can't invent my own jesus, one who will approve of everything I do.. even sin. The real Jesus loves me; He genuinely loves me. He cares enough about me to correct my missteps.  

The real Jesus does not overlook the cliffs I'm blindly frolicking about on. He is not afraid of warning me about them lest He interrupt my fun. Because He loves me, He wants to protect me from the enemy of my soul

"We can make the mistake of trying to make hard truths so palatable," writes Dan Burke at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction, "that we end up presenting half-truths or even worse, untruths (implied or actual).... Yes, we can and must say “come as you are”; but we must also proclaim that the God of Love who meets us where we are, loves us too much to leave us there.  He calls us to union with Him where we will find the Truth that sets us free to know and live an abundant life in Him."

How do I get to know the real Jesus? How do I get to know Truth?
We have a gift in the Official Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is clearly laid out and indexed.  In this treasured resource, I can find out what the Church actually teaches on a specific subject.  The Catechism is accessible, clear, and easy to understand.

Most importantly, I get to know the Real Jesus proclaimed in Scripture. For those who aren't accustomed to reading the Bible, I suggest beginning with the Gospel of John.... reading straight through, taking it slowly and prayerfully (definitely prayerfully).  Matthew, Mark and Luke reveal more and more of Him. And in the epistles, I learn what St. Paul and the other writers teach about living totally (not just partly) for Christ. 

"When someone comes preaching another Jesus than the One we preached, or when you receive a different spirit than the one you have received, or a gospel other than the one you accepted, you seem to endure it quite well."  (2 Corinthians 11:4)

May such a thing never be said of us.

Text not in quotes

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'  

Painting: Palma il Vecchio, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our Lenten Habit

'Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.

Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel  of peace.
In addition to this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.'

Ephesians 6:10-17

Painting: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Divine Guest of my Soul

"He is with us always, within the depths of our souls always, listening to us and asking us to speak to Him, at least at intervals. 

"Is this quite true? Yes, the Eternal God, my Loving God, is within me, He is the Divine Guest of my soul. I must live my life with Him as much as my weakness, my misery, my meanness, my lukewarmness, my cowardice will allow. 

"This will not deter me in my other occupations nor separate me from others; it will take only a moment of time; only instead of being alone, I will have a Companion in my work and in my duties. 

"Now and again I will lower my eyes to my heart and remain in recollection for a few seconds, thinking 'You are here, my God, and I love You.' Thus I will develop the habit, and I will end by always feeling the sweet Companionship of the God of my heart."

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini, 1941, pp. 208-209)

Painting at top: Henriette Browne
Painting at bottom: Gifford Beal; Elevated,Columbus Avenue, NY, 1916

Saturday, March 18, 2017

But a Great Gain

'To persist 
in prayer without returns, 
this is not time lost, but a great gain. 
It is endeavour without thought of self  
and only for the glory of the Lord.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Painting: Nicola Consoni

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Above and More Than Earth

'In those soft tones which are so usual to them, the nuns bade us goodbye. As we came away, the Mother Superior said quietly, with a subdued and gently resigned fear lest we might not look upon the convent as it shone in her eyes and lived in her spirit: 'it is all very old fashioned and plain, but we love it. It is our home on earth and' (hesitating again) ' we think it is a little above and more than earth.' (A Story of Courage; text slightly edited)

Reading these words, I see my own call.

I am to live on earth, obviously, and I'm to interact with others, and I'm to be part of the world around me. All the while, however, I am called by God to rise above the persistent pull of sin. I'm to fix my eyes on Jesus, and to consistently choose His way above all that is contrary to His will.    

Perhaps this is why the idea of a cloistered heart so draws me. I cannot live behind the walls of a monastery, for that is not my vocation. But living fully for God in the midst of the world? That IS my vocation. 

'You put it so perfectly,' I wrote to a friend some years ago, 'when you wrote of returning from your retreat at the monastery feeling disoriented and like someone who had to be convalescing after a long illness. We have a taste of consecrated life and we are never the same - never the same. The 'Motherhouse' of monasticism calls to us while we are out in the world 'on mission.'  It is in some way, purely and simply, home. We are like those in a foreign land, having become acclimated enough to speak the language and to love the people. But sometimes, in the quiet of our hearts, we begin to long for others who can speak our native tongue. We are like refugees who love to meet those of their homeland, to share our cultural stories and sing the anthems of home.' 

'Those experiences were so intense and holy to me,' writes a woman who spent a brief period of time in monastic life, 'that I have never been comfortable in the world since.  It seems to me to be similar to what soldiers experience after being deployed into life-and-death combat in a foreign land - something so alien to our normal existence that it can never be fully explained in words to people who have not had that experience, nor can its imprint ever be erased from the soul.'

My friends have experienced life in a place that is a little above and more than earth. As for me, when I left a monastery after my first cloistered retreat, I wished I could bring the bricks and stones with me. Which is not what I truly wanted to hold onto, of course. I wanted to bring back a world centered on and revolving around Christ. I wanted to bring home a steady routine of prayer. I wanted to bring back others who could share stories of God's goodness, and who would sing with me the anthems of Home.

In my everyday life, I continue the struggle to live fully for God, and I know you do as well. I pray that God will help each of us live fully for Him, whatever our states of life.

I pray He will teach us to live a little above and more than earth.

'From this valley of tears, turn your gaze continually to God, ever awaiting the moment when you will be united to Him in heaven. Often contemplate heaven, and fervently exclaim: 'What a beautiful abode there is above! It is destined for us!' Sigh longingly after its possession. Sometimes say....  'Nothing on this earth pleases me; I no longer care for anything but my God. Yes, I hope, yes, I wish to possess Him, and I hope this is the mercy of God, through the merits of my Saviour's Passion and the dolors of my good Mother Mary.'' (St. Paul of the Cross).

Text not in quotes

This is a slightly edited repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prayer on the March

'A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration, even though made on the march and with sword in hand, are prayers which, short though they may be, are nevertheless very pleasing to God... 

Let him then think of God as much as possible so that he will gradually become accustomed to this little but holy exercise; no one will notice it and nothing is easier than to repeat often during the day these little acts of interior adoration.'

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

Friday, March 10, 2017

O God, Forgotten By Many

"I fear there are few souls who constantly remember the Indwelling Holy Spirit. Far too few, indeed! 

Here and there, a great saint; now and again, some simple, loving, obscure disciple. But by the many, He is neglected and forgotten...

But the consciousness of that Divine Presence in the soul, the gracious influence of the Indwelling Spirit, make those who remember grow steadily more and more like You. In their lives, one sees ordinary men and women reflecting the sublime beauty, and the splendid wisdom, and the perfect holiness, which belong to God Himself. 

O God! forgotten by so many, I will strive to remember You....

What a long series of claims You have upon my loyalty, You, Who made me! Who redeemed me! Who saved me not once, but repeatedly, from the fatal consequences of my own foolish and wicked conduct....

Help me, dear Lord, to find a lasting source of joy in the thought of Your Presence within me! 

Help me to keep the eyes of my soul opened, and the ears of my soul unstopped, so that, from morning until night, I may be always on the alert to please You by doing Your Will. May I always say, like little Samuel, 'Speak, Lord! Thy servant heareth.'"

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini, 1941, pp. 203-204

Painting: Herbert James Draper, The Golden Rays

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Revisiting A Gradual Courage

Hero: someone admired for great courage. Thus says my dictionary.
Heroic saints: those in Heaven who had the courage to get there. Which is everyone who IS there. Thus says me.  
Yes, that second is my own definition and it's cumbersome, but I believe it's accurate.
After all, it takes courage to...
1. admit I am a sinner in need of a Savior
2. put my faith in Jesus Christ, especially when the world around considers Him insignificant
3. choose to believe Scripture
4. choose to believe 2,000 years of authentic Church teaching
5. choose to live according to Scripture and Church teaching
6. choose to live according to the teachings of Christ, no matter what
7. overcome obstacles to living for Christ
Every saint we've ever read about, every Christian martyr, has had this kind of courage. They became saints because they lived heroically. Some were martyred on scaffolds, or by stoning, or in lions' dens. Some endured imprisonments for their faith. Some led the most ordinary of lives, caring for those around them, unnoticed by the world.   
Not one of the saints we read of was born with heroic, saint-making courage. The courage most often came gradually, step after baby step, followed sometimes by a defining leap or two. Along the path there were missteps, moments of caution, roadblocks. Each saint grew in courage, step by step by step.
"Francis' conversion did not happen overnight. God had waited for him for twenty-five years and now it was Francis' turn to wait. Francis started to spend more time in prayer. He went off to a cave and wept for his sins. Sometimes God's grace overwhelmed him with joy. But life couldn't just stop for God. There was business to run, customers to wait on. One day while riding through the countryside, Francis, the man who loved beauty, who was so picky about food, who hated deformity, came face to face with a leper. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis nevertheless jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper......" (from Catholic Online)
St. Augustine "spent many years of his life in wicked living and false beliefs.... he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terribly ashamed of himself. 'What are we doing?' he cried to his friend Alipius. 'Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling in the mud of our sins!' Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself into the garden and cried out to God, 'how long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?' Just then he heard a child singing, 'take up and read!'  Thinking that God intended him to hear these words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life...." (from Catholic Online)    

In the tiny, hidden, day to day circumstances of our ordinary lives, imagine becoming "heroic!" It sounds presumptuous, doesn't it? But it isn't. It is not presumptuous at all.

Everyone in Heaven is a saint. So do we really want to be, eternally, anything less? 

"Make up your mind to become a saint," said St. Mary Mazzarello.

I'm taking another step, today, toward heroism. I am making up my mind.

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Fundamental Truth

Lent stimulates us to let the word of God penetrate 
our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: 
who we are, 
where we come from, 
where we must go, 
what path we must take.  

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Cloistered Heart

"The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live ... the heart is the place 'to which I withdraw.' The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully." 

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2563

Painting at bottom: Vlaho Bukovac