Christ Desires Mercy and Charity

This past Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we once again heard the Gospel passage about the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). She was thrown in the dirt, cursed and condemned; a reminder of the division and destruction of sin. The Mosaic Law called for her stoning and many people stood over her willing to end her life. Jesus very calmly and deliberately approaches the situation. He knows full well the force of anger and hatred which lies in hearts grown cold. He asks who among the crowd is without sin, for they may cast the first stone at the woman’s body. It’s a reversal and calls all of us up short in periods of anger and condemnation in our own lives. This is not some notion of tolerance, rather, it is a reminder that judgment for sin rests with God alone. This section of Scripture is also a glimpse into the New Law which is found in Christ. The New Law in which mercy, charity, and true justice reign supreme.

There are times when you and I are the people holding stones ready to strike. We get caught up in the emotion, tumult, and passion of a situation and desire our own form of justice. We believe, whether consciously or not, that we are better than this woman and so we have a right to be her judge. Instead, what we have done is fallen into grave sin ourselves. We have hardened our hearts and forgotten the serious sins or even the daily venial sins in our own lives, which are the cause of Our Lord’s death on the Cross. Jesus is reminding us of His mercy and that He requires our mercy. Proper justice cannot be exercised without charity and mercy in mind.

At other times, we are the woman caught in adultery. I don’t necessarily mean we are adulterers, but we might have committed a sexual sin, pride, envy, avarice, idolatry, theft, anger, etc. which can be just as destructive or even more so, as adultery. It is no secret that our culture is obsessed with sexual sin, but in reality, while these sins are grave matter within the proper situation, anger and pride can be even more deadly. In those moments of sin, we often feel internally like this woman. Our sins may not be as “public”, but they still reverberate throughout the Mystical Body and the world.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

Monday Beauty Theme: Quiet Places

The last few days have been very busy. I have been going almost non-stop. We also found out that my brother-in-law is very sick with what appears to be meningitis. So it’s been a hectic and disconcerting time. When I sat down to do this week’s beauty theme the word that came to me was: quiet. I decided to search for images that depict quiet to me, or at least I would sense quiet if I were where the pictures were taken. None of these pictures are mine and all were taken from Google Images.

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31477de 6890719-mountain-top-wallpaper cathedral-inside-large dscn0286_2-600x450 eucharistic-adoration-wallpaper-high-resolution great-mountains-cloud-and-bench-wallpaper,1440x900,61918 ken__brigid_willis2-canoe-at-sunset-on-small-alke.small_ landscape-photographer-6 misty_mountain_top_by_palombasso-d4nbafl misty-mountains-130619 sunrise-on-big-moose-lake-bwca-minnesota-photo2

Why Baptism during Lent?

This past Sunday’s readings were a strange connection of Baptism and the desert (for the Western Church).  We heard about the flood when God wiped out the evil of the world and saved eight righteous people.  Yes, the narrative is a pre-figurement of Baptism.  The waters of the flood cleanse the earth. We also see that the penalty for sin is death.  After hearing about Noah, we then hear that Christ was driven by the Spirit out into the desert for 40 days (notice 40 in both Scripture passages) to be tempted.  The reading did not include the fact that this occurred after Jesus’ own baptism.  So the question is, why is the Church talking about Baptism alongside Jesus’ temptation in the desert?  After all, isn’t Lent about being in the desert?  To answer these questions we need to take a look at what Baptism does to the believer.

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Baptism is a renunciation of sin that is caused by God. God infuses us with the supernatural virtue of faith so that we may desire to abandon sin and follow him.  He moves us to change and we choose that change.  We must choose to conform our lives to Christ and be so united in the mysteries of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  God gives us the grace to do so.  We cannot act until he acts. What is Christ doing in the desert?  He is showing us how to turn away from sin so that we may follow him.  The three sins Christ is tempted by are related to his three divine offices of priest, prophet, and king.  These are the very same offices that we share in when we become members of the Mystical Body (I will write posts about this in the future). Jesus is the High Priest who offers the pure sacrifice to the Father of his body and his obedience. He is the High Prophet who comes to share and reveal the Father.  Finally, he is the King of the Universe.  He reigns over all.  By our Baptism we are called to share in these offices of Christ our king, prophet, and priest.  In order to do so, we must do battle with sin.  We must reject Satan, just as Christ has done in the desert and through the Cross. Christ does battle with Satan after the Baptism in the Jordan.  We must battle Satan in this life after our own Baptism.  So Christ is showing us how to follow Him.  The sanctifying grace of Baptism allows us to begin that journey.

jesustemptedinthedesert

Lent is a reminder of our spiritual struggle.  In that wrestling we are reminded of our Baptismal promises and the promises given to us by Christ.  We already possess living water within us, even as we wander in the dry heat of the desert.  At Easter we will renew our baptismal promises and once again renounce Satan, just as Jesus does in the desert.  That means that our Lenten journey is inextricably linked to our Baptism.  Lent is a time for us to renew our battle stance against Satan and to enter more fully into the mysteries of Christ’s life, namely his temptation and then his eventual Paschal Mystery.  I will focus on Baptism and the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week.

What I want us to keep in mind is that Lent is not just about giving up something.  It is about going into the desert and doing battle, just as Our Lord did.  It is to constantly say “no” to Satan, just as we did (or our parents did) at our Baptism.  When we entered into the Mystical Body of Christ, we were saying “yes” to Christ.  That “yes” also includes entering into His death.  For now, we need to once again focus on our death to sin.  We have chosen life over death. This side of the veil is a desert of sorts, but Christ has torn open that veil and conquered sin and death.  We must persevere.

figure-walking-in-the-desert

Throughout this Lenten season, the Church is reminding us that Satan has been conquered.  Through our Baptism we are united to Christ.  The desert of this life is flowing in abundant springs through our Baptism.  Even though we are in the desert of this life, we always proclaim love and hope.  The battle is won.  Let us remember as we do penance, pray, give alms, and fast that this is a time of renewal.  It is a time for us to be strengthened against Satan.  Through the grace of our Baptism, we are able to reach the ultimate goal, which is Heaven.  On first glance the desert and the flood seem at odds, but in actuality they reflect the deepest reality of the Christian life.

Some recommended reading:
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Life of Christ by Ven. Fulton Sheen

Stopping Division in Our Church Communities

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The biggest struggle in Church community is overcoming ourselves. There is a current within ministry, community, and other aspects of the Church that works hard to cling to power and stomp out opposition.  This is tied to fear and our own immature understanding of living a life of virtue and in communion within the Mystical Body of Christ.  We all do it from time-to-time. There are some things that all of us are going to have to confront in order to overcome the obstacles, hostility, and pain division causes.  We have all experienced disagreements or conflict within the Church.

First, we need to know ourselves.  We need to understand what sets us off and what fears we carry.  Then we need to examine whether or not we project those fears on others within our parish or community.  Human beings cling of counterfeits.  That is the nature of sin and the driving force of concupiscence.  Most of all we cling to power.  Power is a false sense of security for us.  In clinging to power, individuals or groups can begin to focus more on power than living the Gospel.  Any “power” that we have within the Church is from Jesus Christ.  If we are leader, it is a position of stewardship and service.  It is not meant to be used to squash others and create some form of authoritarian rule.  Obedience is never about power.  Power also tends to feed on fear of how things look.  In fact, an overemphasis on caring about what people think is toxic to the Christian mission.  People will reject us.  We must accept that.  We have no power over other people’s choices.   It is about understanding that Christ is King and we are not.  This is an easy temptation for all of us.  We are called to serve and share the message, the rest is up to God.  Let’s keep that in mind.

Second, we need to get a firmer grasp on what love actually means. Love is not sentiment, it is not feelings.  In fact, I can wholly dislike a person and still love them.  I have to do it.  We all do.  Love is action.  As St. Thomas Aquinas defined love, “it is willing the good of the other.”  That means I love when I choose the good for a person.  This can in fact include punishment which is linked to justice; however, love never includes vengeance, pay-back, or answering upset feelings.  In fact, a decision to love cannot be based on feelings.  Feelings are largely involuntary and can be driven by the Passions.  That means we must overcome our feelings to choose to love, even the unlovable, and the difficult.  It doesn’t mean our feelings change per say.  It just means that we choose to overcome those feelings.  Love is an act of the will.

Third, gossip is grave matter and usually results in mortal sin. Yes, that is right: a mortal sin.  Why?  Gossip very quickly turns to denigration, division, character attacks, and causes deep hurt.  It is always the result of half truths or imagination and does not allow for a person to defend themselves. It is an attack against the virtue of justice.  We all fall into it, but it is time we start to understand the seriousness of gossip.  We can chat with our friends and work through problems, but we cannot divulge private information, provoke character attacks or personal attacks, launch plans for revenge, and we most certainly cannot use gossip to cause division and hostility.  This is the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are meant to overcome the world and that includes the natural inclination to gossip.  Gossip usually results in back-stabbing.  Gossip within the Church community needs to stop.  If we have an issue then take it up with the individual and deal with it like the adults we are supposed to be.  Once the issue has been talked about, we move on.  This is a problem for women more than men.  We all need to stop poisoning the well against others.

Fourth, we need to start to recognize the different gifts of each person.  This is tied to power and pride.  Each person is a unique body and soul created in the “image and likeness of God”.  That means that God created me to be me and you to be you.  You may not have the same talents, gifts, interests, etc. as I do.  You may be better at prayer, service, or hospitality, while my gifts are largely intellectual and in teaching, with some hospitality.  We are all meant to work together to bring the Good News to the world. We cannot do that when we are too busy trying to tear others down.  We need to stop fearing or trying to control other people’s gifts.  We need to embrace them so that we can learn something that may be lacking within ourselves.  We need to trust in God’s mission for each one of us and stop scrambling for some worldly prize or control.  Embrace everyone’s gifts!  We are all infants on the spiritual journey and we need to learn from the people God puts in our path.

Fifth, we need to accept that conflict will arise.  It is inevitable that conflict will arise at various times.  Even priests and religious have conflict. Gasp!  They are human too. That is how human interaction works.  What we need to do is resolve conflict quickly and move on.  Punishment may be necessary as long as it conforms to justice, which many times it does not because of a lack of understanding of justice.  We need to be mindful and make sure that our choices conform to the virtues.  We work through it, forgive, and move on.  That is the point of the Our Father and Jesus’ call to forgive.  Frequent Confession can also help in dealing with conflict.  The longer we hold on to anger or rage the more likely it starts to destroy groups within the Church community.  Conflict may mean changes in relationships, but it does not mean that sinful anger should be given free reign.  Sinful anger very quickly escalates to mortal sin.  The more I study theology, the more I realize just how easy it can be to fall into mortal sin.  This is very true when dealing with one another within the Church.  Sinful anger that turns to rage is a great threat to The Mystical Body of Christ.  I know.  Anger is something that I struggle with at times.  If this is an issue, go to Confession for healing.  And keep going because some sins are stubborn.

Sixth, everything should be centered on Christ.  All of our actions, choices, movements should reflect our love and service to Christ the King.  The Church is our guide on the path to holiness.  Holiness is the goal.  If all of us set that goal a lot of conflict will begin to disappear.  When holiness is not the primary goal, conflict escalates and grows.  Serving within the Church is not meant to fulfill some desire for recognition or pride.  It is meant to be a self-giving act of love.  That is the same for leaders in ministries as well as other members of the Church.  If that is why we are serving, then we may need to consider a break.

Seventh, burn out is inevitable.  Serving in many groups will eventually lead to burn out, especially when we have families to raise.  When that time comes, it is time to take a break.  “No one else will do it”, we tell ourselves.  False.  We are not indispensable that is the devil feeding our pride.  We cannot serve if we are tired and depleted.  We cannot share joy if we feel exhausted and dead inside.  If you get burned out, then take a break.  It doesn’t matter if people get upset or are angry with you.  After loving God, we are told to love ourselves.  Christ’s command to love others is based on our love for ourselves.  If we do not love and take care of ourselves, then we cannot love and serve others.  Take a break when you need it.  You can replenish your spiritual life and return to serving within the Church when you are ready and God calls you back.  Even Christ went up on the mountain to pray and replenish.  He did so not because He needed it, but because we do.  I made this decision earlier this year.  I needed it so I did it.  It worked out because God called me to work on my Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy while I take a break from leading ministries.  Take a break when needed!

I have written this because I have either done or been the victim of all of these items.  I know the pain and damage that they cause.  I have seen a lot of these things within my own faith community over the past few years.  These are problems throughout the Church because we are sinful. We struggle, but we are called to overcome these struggles.  If all of us can agree that holiness is our calling, then the rest of these things will disappear over time as we work in holiness.  As always, I recommend frequent Confession in order to help us heal from our own iniquities.  The more we go to Confession the more we realize just how stubborn sin is within us.  Do you have any thoughts?  God bless.

Second Sunday of Advent Reflection: Lonely vs Lowly

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Last night I went to the Saturday Vigil Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent. A part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist really struck me. I actually misheard our priest who has a Nigerian accent and that mishearing really hit me. During the anaphora, or Eucharistic Prayer, there is a portion in the preface that says, “For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh…” I actually heard it as “he assumed the loneliness of human flesh”. This mistake got me thinking.

All human beings experience loneliness. It can be loneliness because we are physically alone and have no one to turn to, it can be psychological because of mental illness or other struggles, or it can be a sense of abandonment during a difficult time. This abandonment creates a loneliness and a feeling of isolation from God. So I heard the priest wrong, but perhaps I didn’t. Perhaps I needed to think about the Incarnation in a new way.

Christ came and assumed our weak, human form, including our loneliness. He was completely alone and uttered his abandonment from the Cross. While he was God, he also felt our desolation. He knows what it is to be alone, and perhaps in my own struggles, I have forgotten that Christ truly understands my sufferings.

This is a difficult time of year for a lot of people. I think that we forget that fact in the busyness of the season. Many people struggle with depression, myself included, or are lonely this time of year, many are mourning the loss of loved ones. It is the darkest part of the year. It reminds us that we are truly alone in the final analysis. We have to make the final journey alone. Christ, while He was God, went to the Cross alone to show us the way.

It is important that we reach out to our brothers and sisters this time of year and all year long. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta warned us that there is a great loneliness and feeling of being unloved in the West. We must encourage and lift up those around us who struggle and who are alone. We are the Mystical Body of Christ, we are a community, we are an organism. When one part suffers the whole body suffers.

Do you pray for the lonely, depressed, mourning,, or struggling? Do you reach out to the people in your community who are mentally ill? Do you suffer from depression yourself? Consider Christ on the Cross. He knows your loneliness and pain. Meditate on how Christ took on our lowliness, but he too understands our loneliness.

There is something of this loneliness as we wait for Our Lord to come both at Christmas and in the Second Coming. We long for Him. ‘Our souls pine for him like a deer longs for streams of water’, to paraphrase the Psalmist. Advent reminds us that we are not home. We are not reunited with the one who created us. We must always keep in mind that we wait in “joyful hope” even in our struggles. So as we wait for brighter days and lighter burdens, remember that all things pass away, and Our Lord has come to save us. I pray Our Lord blesses you during this Advent season. St. Dymphna, pray for us.

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Saying “No” to Santa

I am going to open up this can of worms for the second year in a row. I am having an honest struggle with Santa Claus. I was raised with my parents doing Santa Claus. I can remember thinking that I heard sleigh bells when I was five years old, waiting in anticipation for Christmas morning. My parents did a great job of making Christmas a special time. That is why I am shocked that I am struggling with the decision to do Santa Claus or not. The Easter Bunny is already a big no for my husband and me.

Here’s my struggle. I believe that Santa Claus overshadows the birth of Jesus Christ in our culture. I also do not think that the Santa Claus of today is St. Nicholas, that heretic fighting, children loving, Bishop of the Church who spent time in prison for the Faith. A man living in the North Pole with a bunch of elves, who sometimes is an elf himself, is more like the story Twas’ the Night Before Christmas than St. Nicholas. I know there are people who would debate this with me, and I respect their opinion. I just don’t see the resemblance these days.

St. Nicholas, defender of the Faith.

St. Nicholas, defender of the Faith.
Anymore I associate rampant materialism with Santa Claus. A story that taught children basic morality has turned into a “give me stuff” mentality. It is no longer tell Santa the one thing you want for Christmas. It is now tell Santa everything you want for Christmas, so your parents can go trample one another on Black Thursday….Friday. Call me cynical. I know a lot of it is how you do it in your own family. There are plenty of Catholic families who do a nice temperate job with Santa Claus. That is great.
Does this really look like St. Nicholas?  Is Santa Claus serving Jesus Christ these days?
Does this really look like St. Nicholas? Is Santa Claus serving Jesus Christ these days?
Here is my biggest question: If we get the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World on Christmas, then why do we need Santa Claus? I am a great lover of the Communion of Saints, by the way, but like I said, I barely see the resemblance between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. In fact, if Catholics are honest they will see that historically Santa Claus was created to deflect a Catholic Feast Day. I do not believe that the Protestants who created the character had the current Santa Claus in mind, though. He has evolved through story-telling in the elite quarters of the last couple of Centuries.
The interesting thing is that my Protestant friends are less likely to do Santa Claus in their home than Catholics. My Protestant friends outright condemn the materialism that Santa Claus has created and are vehemently opposed to lying to their children. I find Matt Fradd’s post, a Catholic apologist, on this is topic to reflect how I view the situation. He quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church on lying. I highly recommend you read his thoughts on Santa.
But, once again, my biggest struggle is that Jesus Christ should be enough. If we want to celebrate St. Nicholas, then December 6th is the best day to do it. That is what we do in our home. We remember the generosity of this great defender of the Faith by giving small gifts, oranges, and candy. In my mind the wonder and joy of Christmas, the “magic” if you will, should come from God, who created all things and became man to save us from sin and death. Like Matt Fradd said in his post, ‘if we are losing the magic of Christmas when Our Savior was born, then we are doing it wrong.’
The true joy, wonder, and awe comes into the world to save us.  That is Christmas!
The true joy, wonder, and awe comes into the world to save us. That is Christmas!
I am not condemning folks who do Santa Claus, so please do not misunderstand me. I am merely pointing out that some honest reflection should be in order. If you can balance Santa Claus and the birth of Christ in your family then that is wonderful. If you start to think about it and see that Santa is more important than Christ, then some changes should be made. If like me, you don’t see the need for Santa Claus and don’t like lying to your children, then consider getting rid of Santa and focusing on Jesus Christ. All joy stems from Him.
I have had some pretty nasty responses to my questioning Santa Claus. I have heard that I will ruin my daughter’s childhood, to I am committing the sin of scrupulosity, to I should just do Santa anyway. Well, I have to do things based on my informed conscience. I had this struggle last year, when our daughter was a one year old. I never thought I would be here, but then again, I never saw myself where I am spiritually either. My husband thinks that God has given me this struggle for a reason. Perhaps he wants me and my family to focus solely on Him during the Christmas season and that is why he has placed this in my heart. We honor St. Nicholas on his day, but focus on Jesus Christ on the Feast of the Nativity. We still exchange gifts to celebrate, but they are from us and our family. My husband wants us to do gifts on Epiphany. We are still debating that one.
My daughter will have plenty of wonder, joy, and “magic” in her childhood. She gets to celebrate throughout the year as we live the Church calendar. She gets two birthdays, her actual day of birth and her Baptism anniversary when she was made a new creation in Christ. She also gets to celebrate Easter, Marian Feast Days, and our family patron saints. She will be introduced to Narnia, Middle-Earth, A Wrinkle in Time, and other great works of fiction that will engage her imagination. There will be no shortage of awe in this home.
What are you thoughts? What do you do in your home? Do you live liturgically? Have you thought about getting rid of Santa? Please keep it charitable. Advent blessings!

Jesus Christ Leading Us Into the Deep

” Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
 After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,* he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I;* do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
 But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith,* why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:22-33

A lot of the spiritual life is about being led out into the deep.  I was thinking about St. Peter walking out on the waves as I prayed my Rosary Sunday evening.  I was thinking about it because I lack the courage to step out of the boat a lot of the time.  To be led deeper into God, towards God. It takes great courage.  It is something that a lot of us intentionally avoid.

St. Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and starts sinking.  He and I are so similar that way.
St. Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and starts sinking. He and I are so similar that way.
We all like to be comfortable.  We want to feel good in our spiritual life, but faith is  not about feelings.  In fact, the journey to holiness requires us to get out of the boat and serve others outside of our comfort zone.  I am learning this by doing the ministries I have been called to.  Being a Eucharistic Minister to the sick, was not my doing.  Our Lord called me there to minister to his faithful who are on, or carrying their Cross.  It is deeply uncomfortable.  Why?  Well, I struggle with fears of death, I have to walk into strangers’ rooms where they are suffering greatly (haven’t done that since 9-11), I am a deeply empathetic person, so it is really hard for me to see people suffering.  Even with my struggles, He blesses me as I bring Him to those in need.  In doing this ministry I am serving “the least of these” in His name.  I am actually walking into the deep.
I am also teaching junior high religious education this year.  Teaching is a gift God has given me.  I have taught for years.  It just happens that I believe junior high is the hardest age group to teach.  It is a difficult time.  I hated junior high.  It is an awkward time period.  I really like my students.  They don’t know it, but I offer up Masses, Rosaries, and prayers for them weekly.  But, more than anything, I want them to have a personal encounter with the Risen Christ.  That is my prayer for them.  All I can do is give them the tools, they have to choose to answer His call.
Being a catechist to this age group requires great patience on my part.  I can have a tendency to be too theological at times and that is not what this group needs from me.  I can save that for Lay Dominicans.  What they need is to see the joy that stems from the Christian life.  They need to know that Our Lord loves them and is calling them to follow Him.  They need to know what a gift the Church is to us.  What an incredible gift we have in the Sacraments.  The world does not understand us, in fact, it is hostile to Christ and His Church.  It has been that way since the beginning.  We need to give these kids the tools to help them live out the mission.  I have had to acknowledge my own limitations.  I am not these kids’ parents.  It is their parents’ job to teach and raise them in the faith.  Something that is sorely lacking and that is why I pray so much for them.
Christ the King of the Universe.  Is it bad that I told our students that is is not Obama?
Christ the King of the Universe. Is it bad that I told our students that it is not Obama?
When Christ calls us to serve, He is calling us into the deep.  We are to keep our eyes on Him and trust that He will lead us.  St. Peter could walk on water, until he took his eyes off of Jesus.  I know it is the end of the liturgical year and we just celebrated the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe, but trust and a deeper relationship with God were on my mind.  Probably because no title reminds of God’s awe-inspiring Creation, power, and authority than Christ the King of the Universe.  It reminds me of how truly small I am.
To be quite honest, ministry is much easier for me than deepening my spiritual life through prayer.  Yes, I pray Lauds and Vespers, as well as a Rosary every day as I prepare for a secondary vocation as a Lay Dominican.  When I enter into deeper prayer, I get the feeling like I need to catch my breath.  Like I am not ready for the deep end of the pool.  I can only describe it as a sense of the Numinous that CS Lewis writes about.  I get a sense of awe that is accompanied by dread.  Going deeper into the heart of God is not easy.  Look at the Saints.  It comes with joy, but also great trial and suffering.
This monk is not running from the Numinous.
This monk is not running from the Numinous.
My tendency is to want to stay in my comfort prayer zone.  I do my prayers, I read the Scripture often, I read theological books, but I tend to turn and run from anything resembling contemplative prayer.  When I read the mystical prayer experiences of many of the Saints my first thought is, that is just not for me Lord. Okay, so I won’t be levitating anytime soon and that is not what I am afraid of.  It is more a fear of the unknown.  Part of it is the darkness of sin that I see on me, which is why I go to regular Confession.  There is nothing in this life that will remind us of our sinful nature like prayer and Confession.  I feel I am not worthy of a deep encounter with God.  I have to get over this and be humble, but not self-pitying.  Part of it is fear of the unknown, especially the Numinous.  Some of it is my fear of suffering.
The Crucifixion must come before the Resurrection.
The Crucifixion must come before the Resurrection.
The great paradox of joy is that it only comes from God.  It is not happiness.  It  is something so much deeper and more profound.  I have experienced real joy only a few times in my life: during the reception of Sacraments to include my wedding day, the day my daughter was born, and the day she was Baptized.  But joy only comes when we are fully open to it.  It also seems to come to us once we are in our vocation, receive a Sacrament, or some other grace.  That is my personal experience.  In order to more fully receive joy, we must free ourselves to God’s call in our lives, including that call to follow him into the deep,  and that inevitably means the Cross.  There is no Resurrection without the Cross.  I know this and that is why I struggle with moving forward at times.  I long for God, but I allow my own fear to win out sometimes.  I know the Cross is conquered, but I still have to go through my own Cross (I carry it daily) and death some day.
Gave up her life to serve the poorest of the poor.  Her countenance? JOY
Gave up her life to serve the poorest of the poor. Her countenance? JOY
Lived under the Communists.  Became Pope.  JOY.
Lived under the Communists. Became Pope. JOY.
I have to wonder if that is why we distract ourselves so much these days.  We do everything we can to block God out.  We have TVs, computers, radios, tablets, cell phones, etc on constantly.  It’s as though we do not want to hear that still small voice calling to us.  It makes us uncomfortable.  He requires change from us.  He requires we give our all to Him.  He calls us on the path to Sainthood.  That is the meaning of life: to be a saint.
How many of us stay in our comfort zones in how we serve Christ?  How many of us push back against a deeper encounter with God in our prayer life?  How many of us rely on good feelings rather than a genuine faith in God?  Do we really want joy?  Will we give up everything to attain joy?
Two men who radiate Christ's joy now.
Two men who radiate Christ’s joy now.

Amazed and Thankful

 

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I know that I am doing something right in moments like the one I experienced this afternoon.  My two year old daughter came up to me and handed me a cross shaped piece of pumpkin vine.  She pointed to it and said, “Jesus”.  My heart melted and I was so proud.  These are moments that strengthen me in my vocation.  It is easy as a parent to look out at the Fallen world and feel like it is impossible to keep our children committed to Christ.  I think that Our Lord reminds me through my daughter that I must persevere and by His grace she will walk the path of holiness to Sainthood and the Beatific Vision.  What a blessing my daughter is and I am so thankful that God chose to give her to me, as unworthy as I am.  Happy Saturday!

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for Miscarriage

I started praying the Rosary this evening and started feeling a pressing of the Holy Spirit to share some thoughts on each of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for families who experience the pain of miscarriage.
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The First Sorrowful Mystery-The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting.  When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm.  Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died.  The waiting begins for the miscarriage to begin, or be over.  After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside.  You wait  to feel joy, peace, or even whole again.  So much waiting.  It can be difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort.  With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting.  I was waiting to bleed out my child.  It was agonizing for me.  Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified.  Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.
Look at what Scripture says about the Agony in the Garden. Matthew 26:36-46 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Look at how Our Lord felt.  He was overwhelmed with sorrow.  Isn’t that how it feels to lose a child?  Don’t you too want someone to keep watch with you in that hour of loss?  The pain is unbearable.  Lift your pain and suffering to Christ.  He knows how you feel.  He wants to comfort and wait with you in that hour of need.  He always wants to be there for you.  It is hard, but try.  I know how hard it is to just give the grief over to Him.  You may feel anger, betrayal, or incredible sadness. Or, like me, you may feel all of these emotions.  Give it all up to Him.  Every single emotion, thought, feeling, action.  Ask Him to sit with you in your agony.  Ask Him to welcome your child into His Kingdom.
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The Second Sorrowful Mystery-The Scourging at the Pillar
Our Lord was brutally tortured before he was taken to be crucified.  Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion has caught a glimpse of what Our Lord endured for us before his death.  Miscarriage can be deeply painful physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Depending on the severity the physical pain can be unbearable.  As difficult as it is, offer up each cramp or wave of pain to Christ.  He knows extreme physical and emotional pain.  There will be moments when the grief alone will feel like torture.  Give it over to Christ.  Share with Him your burden.
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The Third Sorrowful Mystery-The Crowning of Thorns
In a great moment of humiliation and torment, Roman soldiers crowned Our Lord with a crown of large thorns.  It is deeply difficult to be crowned in loss.  We may intellectually know that suffering is a part of this journey, but none of us is prepared for the heavy burden of loss, especially losing a child or children.  It is a crown no one wants to wear, but when we lose a child in miscarriage we are given our own crown of thorns.  Unite that loss with Christ.  When someone says something insensitive to you about your miscarriage, remember that Jesus was humiliated as He died for us.  Ask him to help you endure the crown of loss.
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The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery-The Carrying of the Cross
This is the longest portion of the journey.  We must carry the Cross of miscarriage with us for the rest of our lives.  “And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha.” -John 19:17.  Christ had to carry the Cross and we are assured that we must follow Him.  We must bare the pain and anguish.  It may lessen its sting over time, but it never truly goes away.  We must remember anniversary dates, see other people having babies, or miss the children we never got to hold.  Ask your children in Heaven to pray for you as you carry this Cross.  Ask Christ to help you shoulder the burden. Remember how He loves you. In your moments of despair ask Him for help. He is always there, especially in the darkest moments.  He is there helping us put one foot in front of the other.  He whispers to us that we can go on and he helps us carry the Cross.
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The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery-The Crucifixion of Our Lord
The darkest moment in human history came before the brightest.  Our Lord died on the Cross to bring about our salvation.  Miscarriage comes with the death of a child.  Or for many, multiple children are lost over time.  We must learn to give those children back to God.  They are His.  It is deeply painful.  It is hard to let go.  We must unite our own loss and suffering with the power and pain of the Cross.  The Lord who offered Himself up for us will take good care of our babies.  They are, and always were, His.  I struggle greatly with this truth.  In our moments of deep grief, pain, and agony, we must give it up to Christ who died on a Tree.  We can also ask His Mother to pray and comfort us.  She stood by and watched her Son die.  She knows the terrible pain of losing a child.  This is especially helpful during the miscarriage and also while dealing with the grief.  This life is the Cross, but remember the battle is won.  We are a Resurrection people.  We hope in the life to come.
The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are the perfect prayer for women and families dealing with miscarriage.  Prayer may be difficult.  The nice thing about rote prayer is that it can help get us through the really tough times.  It guides us when we feel like we cannot go on.  Ask Our Lord to comfort, heal, and strengthen you.  Ask Our Heavenly Mother to guide you through the grief back to Her Son.