Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Common Temptation

'We should never postpone a good work, no matter how small it may be, with the thought of later doing something greater. It is a very common temptation of the enemy to be always placing before us the perfection of things to come, and bringing us to make little of the present.'  St. Ignatius of Loyola

Painting at top: St.Joan of Arc

Painting of mother and child: Henri Lebasque

Painting of woman carrying hay: Camille Pissarro

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bells, Bells, Bells...

Morning in the monastery:  it starts with a bell.  

Come to think of it, most activities in the monastery start with a bell.  Time to rise:  the bell rings.  Time to pray, eat, study, work, have recreation: the bell rings.

Anyone who has spent time in a monastery knows the bell as at least a background.  

Monastics look upon it as the voice of God.

In the dark silence of our monastery morning, the bell calls.  It may not be all that welcome.  It shatters our darkness and our dreams.  If we don't live in a physical monastery, our bell might be a baby's cry.  Or the insistent bleep of an alarm clock.  And oh, our slumber has been so comfortable.  Go away, we think as we slap at the snooze button; give me just a few more minutes.  Let me have time with this dream.....

But the monastery is not a place for idle dreaming.  There is discipline in monastic life.  I, for one, am drawn to that idea - even while I run from it.  Being by nature an undisciplined person, I long to have schedules imposed upon me.  And I balk whenever they are.  I don't want to be awakened by a bell; I want to indulge myself in dreams.

Monastics, whether nuns or monks, pop out of bed when the bell rings.  Putting aside dreams and throwing off  covers, they think of God immediately.  A sign of the cross, a mental aspiration, a word or two of praise for this new day - these are (ideally) the first things in their minds and hearts.  It helps me to realize that they probably didn't react like this in their first days of monastic life.  It took time and PRACTICE for this to happen, and after many years it may still be a struggle

I don't usually think of God the second I awaken.  I'm sorry to say that I don't automatically think to pray.  So I help myself out a little.  I use reminders.  I put holy pictures where I can see them, and in fact I move them around (because if I have something in the same spot for too long, I stop "seeing it").  I have even resorted to writing the word "PRAY!" on paper and sticking it to my door or mirror.

Now I'm at least at the point where I generally remember to utter a word of praise to God, and / or to make the Sign of the Cross before climbing out of bed (or as I do so).  It is often at that time when I make some kind of "morning offering," committing the day to God.  Sometimes, for me, this is a formal, verbal prayer.  At times it is more spontaneous.  But at least it's a commitment, a beginning.

My own "monastic day" has begun. 

"To You I pray, O Lord; at dawn You hear my voice.."  (Psalm 5:4)

"O Lord my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see You, where and how to find You."  (St. Anselm)

What helps you turn to God as you awaken?  


To continue reading "Our Monastic Day," click this line...

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Artistry

Painting: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, 'Admission of Holy Clare to the monastery in 1212'

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Flame, When Constantly Fed

'A flame increases when it is constantly fed.  

'So prayer, made often, with the mind dwelling ever more deeply in God, arouses divine love in the heart.  

'And the heart, set on fire, will warm all the inner man, will enlighten and teach him..
making him like a flaming seraph, always standing before God within his spirit, 
always looking at Him within His mind, 
and drawing from this vision the sweetness of spiritual joy.'

St. Dmitri 

Painting: Mönch, 1830s

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Revisiting Joy

God's will is always for my good. While I realize that enclosure in God's will is 'confining,' I must also recognize that it is for my ultimate good.

I cannot lose sight of this truth. God's will is not for my destruction. Yes, He wills that sin be destroyed in me, that evil be destroyed - but this is because sin harms me.  God's will shall bring me joy. This does not mean it will bring me pleasure at every moment, but ultimately it will lead me into the fullness of joy.  

No illness, financial collapse, or political circumstance can take Jesus from me. Nothing can remove Him, for He is in my heart. I possess the very satisfaction that all are seeking and that no one can really find without finding Him.

In cloistering my heart, I must remember that cloistered life is meant to be a life of joy as total as one can find on earth.  

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.'


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Strong Weakness

Emergency services were called to my home a few weeks ago, simply to get me up and out of a reclining chair. Since my latest physical challenges at Eastertime, my muscles have weakened and I'm relying on various aids to help me get around.

Not that I "get around" all that much. I now spend a lot of time in the new electric lift-chair that we bought to replace "the recliner-from-which-I-could-not-stand-up."

I recently talked with a friend about this, remarking that I sometimes feel frustrated at not being able to do anything. My friend swiftly reminded me that oh, I can do many things. I am blogging and writing more than ever, and I'm praying, and I'm gathering bits of saintly inspiration to share here, in this little corner of cyberspace. 

"You're touching people across the earth" said my friend, "and you're doing it from a lift chair!"

Indeed that is something to ponder. Especially in those moments when I feel as if I'm not contributing much to God's work, I find it helpful to recall what I can do ... even from what appears to be a position of helplessness. I sit back in the lift chair, my little computer on a lap desk stretched from arm to arm across it, and I type out words written centuries ago by a saint. Meanwhile, a woman half a world away needs some encouragement. I do not know this, but God does; He knows and loves this lady, and He can inspire me to pick something especially for her as I sit back in my lift chair and pray about what to share.

My new chair is a welcome gift and tool.  The muscle weakness that makes me need it, however, does not feel at all like a gift. I'd be more likely to label that a thorn in the flesh. 

"I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me" wrote St. Paul of his own thorn. "But He said to me, 'My grace is enough for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

I don't like to call attention to my weaknesses. I prefer to deny them, pretend they aren't there, ignore them altogether. St. Paul, however, reacted differently. He boasted about his weakness, so that the power of God might reside in him. He was content with trials for the sake of Christ. He accepted and embraced the Lord's truth that God's power is made perfect in weakness. 

Maybe it's time to shout from the housetops that when we are weak, God's power can reach perfection. Maybe I should proclaim the truth that God can keep us content in spite of muscle weakness, serene in physical discomfort, and able to evangelize from a lift chair. 

His grace is more than enough.

"I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched then in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: 'Whoever is a little one let him come to me.' The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus, and for this I have no need to grow up, but rather I have to remain little and become this more and more," And so she abandoned herself to Jesus and her life became a continual acceptance of the will of the Lord." (St Therese of Lisieux's Life at Carmel, Society of the Little Flower)

Painting at top: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Louise Tiffany Reading

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Radiance

'Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Light. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be only a radiance of Yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul with whom I come in contact may feel Your Presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You, dear Jesus.'

(from The Living Pyx of Jesus by A Religious, Pelligrini 1941, p. 421)

Painting: John Henry Frederick Bacon, Suscipe me Domine (detail)

Friday, July 7, 2017

In Search of Holiness?

Great holiness consists in carrying out the little duties of each moment

St Josemaria Escriva

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Revisiting My Call

God calls some people to give themselves fully to Him in Religious life. As for me, I've been called to the married vocation, to the blessings of children and grandchildren, and to serving in the midst of the world.

So as far as a making a total gift of myself to God, does this mean I'm off the hook?

Oh, I should certainly hope not.  A total gift of self of God is one 'hook' I want to be on; it's a source of unspeakable blessings, it is a 'brass ring' on the ride of life.  I would hate to miss out on it.  And God, in His goodness, would hate for me to miss out on it too. With great love, He calls you - and He calls me.

Those who embrace Religious life have felt tugs so strong they just couldn't ignore them. Have we not felt God's tugs as well?

Are we not called to a life of total (not just partial, but absolutely total) commitment to Him? I provide the following as a tiny bit of evidence of our own calls to live fully for God, right in the midst of the world...... 

"I beg you, through the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship.  'Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.' " Romans 12:2

"I have loved you with an everlasting love... I am constant in My affection for you."  (Jeremiah 31:3)
"I am the Good Shepherd.  I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, in the same way that the Father knows Me and I know the Father; for these sheep I will give my life."  (John 10:14-15)

"The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men.  It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ."  (Titus 2:11-13)

"Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.  After all, you have died! Your life is hidden now with Christ in God.  When Christ our life appears, you shall appear with Him in glory.  Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth:  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust which is called idolatry....  What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator."   (Colossians 3:2-10)

"You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket.  They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your Heavenly Father."  (Matthew 5:14-16)

“Do not lay up for yourselves an earthly treasure.  Moths and rust corrode; thieves break in and steal. Make it your practice instead to store up heavenly treasure, which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal.  Remember, wherever your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

"Out of love, place yourselves at one another's service."  (Galatians 5:13)

"May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Through it, the world has been crucified to me and I to the world."  (Galatians 6:14)

"I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping My eye on you."  (Psalm 32:8)

For more about commitment to God, click this line

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, July 2, 2017

My Faithful Superiors

A friend shared the following from Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel. It's 'very cloistered heart,' said she. 

I could not agree more.

'We, the ordinary people of the streets, know very well that as long as our own will is alive, we will not be able to love Christ definitively. We know that only obedience can root us into His death. We would envy our religious brothers and sisters if we too could not die to ourselves a little more each day. 

'However, for us the tiny circumstances of life are faithful 'superiors.' They do not leave us alone for a moment, and the yeses we have to say to them follow continuously, one after the other. When we surrender to them without resistance we find ourselves wonderfully liberated from ourselves. We float in Providence like a cork on the ocean waters. 

'From the moment we wake up these circumstances take hold of us. It is the telephone that rings; it is the key that won't work, the bus that doesn't arrive or arrives full, or doesn't wait for us. It is the person sitting next to us who takes up the whole seat, or the vibration of the loose window pane that drives us crazy. It's the daily routine, one chore that leads to another, some job we wouldn't have chosen... It's the people we meet and the conversations they choose to start...

'Life becomes a film in slow motion. It does not make our head spin. It does not take our breath away. Little by little, thread by thread, it eats away at the old man's frame, which cannot be mended and must be made new from the ground up.' 

Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel

Painting: Henri Lebasque