Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Timing is Everything

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Christmas blessings to all as we continue to celebrate the joy of the Christ Child's birth during this Christmas Octave.  This is often a time of basking in the warm glow of the present-moment with family and friends as the holiday continues, and taking inventory for the new year that is right around the corner.  Last evening I happened to watch the movie Joy with Jennifer Lawrence. I did not know anything about it, but enjoyed this account of how this woman seemingly trapped by familial circumstances, was able to reclaim her identity, and pursue her invention of a self-wringing mop that would eventually change her life along with the lives of women around the world.  

This was captivating in and of itself, but I was most intrigued by the line in the movie about some cicada species who hide underground for 17 years before being ready as nymphs to come out into the world, make music, and begin a new cycle of life.  

Their life cycle is described as follows: 

"Cicadas begin life as a rice-shaped egg, which the female deposits in a groove she makes in a tree limb, using her ovipositor. The groove provides shelter and exposes the tree fluids, which the young cicadas feed on. 

Once the egg hatches the cicada begins to feed on the tree fluids. At this point it looks like a termite or small white ant. Once the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig until it finds roots to feed on. Once roots are found the cicada will stay underground from 2 to 17 years depending on the species. Cicadas are active underground, tunneling and feeding.
After the long 2 to 17 years, cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. Nymphs climb the nearest available tree, and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. Free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid and their adult skin will harden. Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their brief adult life.
Adult cicadas, also called imagoes, spend their time in trees looking for a mate. Males sing, females respond, mating begins, and the cycle of life begins again."

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This was a metaphor for this young woman and her life thus far. She was searching to find that little girl in herself who sought to create and make a difference. Where had she gone? She had seemingly been crushed by her parent's divorce, a failed marriage of her own, financial concerns, and the burden of taking care of family members who had opted out of life in one way or another.  She was at a point of great tension as this appeared to be untenable. Something had to give, as we would say in modern parlance.  She recognized herself in the cicada - one who had hidden underground and was operating in the dark of hibernation under the earth. She felt as if her true self had all but died, with just a few wisps of sparks from her soul operating beneath the brittle earth of life.  

But alas, she was able to gather these sparks into a tiny flame that enabled her to climb out from beneath the layers of dirt that had buried her, and begin to push forward towards recouping her broken self and hidden dreams. 
As a Christian, we know that we do not accomplish such a resurrection moment on our own, but instead it is grace and our cooperation with it that enables healthy change to take root in our lives. It is listening to the whisper of the Holy Spirit who speaks to our souls, this innate voice within, that moves us towards change in His own perfect timing. Although seemingly sad and a waste of time, I would argue that Joy's time of crushing and lost hopes and dreams enabled her to become the the best version of herself. We know that for all those who love God, all things work together for the good.  Does that mean Our Lord wants us crushed and living unfulfilled lives? Absolutely not. But it does mean that He can use all circumstances, most especially our brokenness, for His Glory and plans for us. 
Sometimes this hidden period in life is necessary to catapult us to come out of our shells so to speak or to rise to the surface in order to accomplish what has been intended for us all along.  It is so often the timing with what is required in the present moment that determines various cycles that vascillate between the behind the scenes work that must be done before a more overt work is accomplished. Such concealed existence can result in the eradication of one's spirit on the one hand, or the strengthening of it to prepare to overcome obstacles so often associated with noteworthy successes that touch and change the lives of others. 

We are reminded in Scripture that there is a time and season for all things. Let us remember that even the behind the scenes times in our lives, and seemingly useless periods of inactivity, difficulties, etc. are not a waste as God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. 


Wheat Harvest



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Having the Light and Eyes of St. Lucy to See Clearly during Advent

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate yet another young heroine who gave her very life in order to remain faithful to her promise to Our Lord Jesus to devote her life to Him as His virgin spouse.   Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan, so Lucy devised a plan to convince her mother that her commitment to Christ was God's Will and preferable to such a marriage.


After several prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, Lucy saw the saint in a dream. St. Agatha told Lucy her mother's illness would be cured through faith, which Lucy used to persuade her mother to give the dowry money to the poor and allow her to commit her life to God.
While Lucy and her mother were grateful to God, the rejected bridegroom was deeply angered and betrayed Lucy's faith to the governor Paschasius. The governor attempted to force her into prostitution, but the guards who came to take her away were unable to move her, even after hitching her to a team of oxen. According to later accounts, Lucy warned Paschasius he would be punished. When the governor heard this he ordered the guards to gouge out her eyes.  When her body was being prepared for burial, they discovered her eyes had been restored. [see http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=75]
Lucy's name means 'light' and during this time of increasingly shortened and dark days, such light is what our souls long for and are reaching towards as we approach the last week of Advent before Christmas.   Various studies have confirmed that light or the absence of illumination can shape our moods and our emotional well-being.  When we are ensconced in darkness we more readily experience fear, uncertainty, depression, and confusion. Once one experiences light, one's mood often changes to a more joy-filled, energetic, and lucid frame of mind.  Ask anyone who lives in the Arctic regions or Alaska about the winter months, and they will share how difficult it is, as the body just begins to hibernate and slow down. The proclivity is to hide away physically and emotionally until the light returns. 
The phenomenon known as the aurora borealis is a perfect example of beauty found when light penetrates the darkness.  The bright dancing lights of the aurora are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.  Such a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors enlivens the spirit and the contrast between darkness and light penetrates the soul and calls it to attention. Such stark and dramatic beauty in the midst of darkness jolts the very fibers of our being. 
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Photo Taken from http://www.boredpanda.com/northern-lights-photography-joni-niemela-finland/
Perhaps this is why the imagery of brilliant light shining in the darkness brings such hope of fulfillment and future possibilities and promises. Indeed, references and contrasts between darkness and light are plentiful in Scripture. The Book of Isaiah tells us, "The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them." [9:2] Aahh. The long-awaited promise of the Messiah is foretold in terms of light penetrating the darkness of humanity.   Once the time arrives, it is signaled by a noticeably bring star shining in the cosmos and the glory shining forth from the angels announcing the birth of Our Savior to the shepherds in the field. 

St. Matthew's Gospel recounts this story of the Magi who journey by following this star as follows,   
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[c] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[d] and have come to worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [Chapter 1] 

Thirty years later,  Jesus tells His followers, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.(John 8:12) Yet again, "For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.  While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light " [Jn. 12:35-36]

St. Lucy understood the light of truth and devoted her whole self to serving that Truth who is Our Lord. She saw clearly, as the spiritual eyes of her heart were open. Even in the darkness of prison and a seemingly impossible situation, she never stopped being faithful and believing. She became a daughter of Light, as Jesus invites all of us to do.  May we have the eyes to see clearly even in the darkness of the world. May we walk towards the Star of Bethlehem in these last days of Advent, with eyes wide open in anticipation. Amen. 

4. A STAR. [by St. Therese]

Sometimes, when all the skies are black 
With gloomy clouds, and no stars shine, 
Our little Jesus grieves alone, 
— He craves your love, yes, yours and mine. 
Then give to Him the light He wants, 
Be like a bright and shining star; 
And let your virtues, like a lamp, 
Shed welcoming radiance near and far. 
So may your rays lead souls to heaven, 
The sinful souls for whom He died. 
This Child Divine, our Morning Star, 
Asks you to be His star, His bride.
 Taken from THE LITTLE DIVINE BEGGAR OF CHRISTMAS.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

St. Andrew Invites us to be Evangelizers



JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

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Today the universal church celebrates the Feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle.  Andrew was a fisherman, along with his brother Simon Peter. We are told that he was initially a follower of John the Baptist, but upon hearing the exhortation of the Baptist, "Behold, the Lamb of God!", his eyes were immediately opened and he recognized Jesus as the Christ and became Jesus' first disciple.  Andrew then invited his brother to meet this Jesus, the Messiah, and follow him. Ultimately, in the Gospel of Matthew, it recounts Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee when He saw Andrew and Simon Peter fishing, and then asked the two to become disciples and "fishers of men."

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I always love this Feast Day, because it signals the beginning of Advent. By tradition, the feast of St. Andrew marks the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of a new year with the start of Advent. In fact, the Sunday that falls nearest to St. Andrew’s feast day on November 30th is always the first Sunday of Advent.  

I also associate it with the beautiful Christmas Novena Preparatory Prayer which goes like this:


St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen
But  I want to look at the role that St. Andrew played in bringing his brother, the very 'rock' of the Church, to the feet of Jesus.  What if he had not done this or had lacked the courage to invite his brother to come see this Jesus? What if he had not been open to receive the proclamation of St. John the Baptist, pointing towards the 'Lamb of God'? What if he had been unwilling to leave everything behind and follow Our Lord?  Talk about being the first Christian evangelist! He was open, vocal, and inviting. He was willing to speak with others about what touched his heart.  In this era referred to as the new evangelization, St. Andrew serves as an exemplar of one who demonstrates conviction, faith, and steadfastness.
I ponder the Andrews in my own life who have invited me to move out of my comfort zone, to grow, to commit, to say 'yes' to the Lord's invitation to come follow Him and ultimately come closer to Him. It is astounding how much my faith has grown due to the encouragement of others who have shared their love and experience of Jesus Christ with me. For example, more than 13 years ago I was invited to attend a Small Christian Community by someone at my parish to learn more about Holy Scriptures. After attending, I then learned more about Our Lady and was invited to pray the Holy Rosary and deepen my understanding of Her role as our spiritual mother. This allowed the Virgin Mary to begin to invite me to deeper conversion and cultivate the desire to attend daily Mass, frequent the sacraments, and pray in Adoration. After furthering my commitment to this, I was invited by a mother and daughter who attended daily Mass to attend the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. [OCDS], and would ultimately join and become a vowed member over the course of more than a decade. 
Thanks to the evangelists Our Lord put in my life [Helen, Linda, & Megan, to name a few], my spiritual journey has been shaped, molded, and further strengthened.   In turn, St. Andrew's natural inclination to invite his brother, also leads me to take inventory of how I can be a voice of love and encouragement for others who may not yet know Christ or have forgotten Him, to come to know and treasure Him in their hearts, homes, and daily lives. 
The US Conference of Bishops wrote of this call in their encyclical of 2012 entitled Disciples Called to Witness
The New Evangelization is a call to each person to deepen his or her own faith, have confidence in the Gospel, and possess a willingness to share the Gospel. It is a personal encounter with the person of Jesus, which brings peace and joy. The New Evangelization provides the lens through which people experience the Church and world around them. The New Evangelization invites people to experience God’s love and mercy through the sacraments, especially through the Eucharist and Penance and Reconciliation. Evangelization is the essence of the Church’s identity: “The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the holy Spirit.” Pope Paul VI reawakened the Church’s evangelizing mission, Blessed John Paul II championed the call for the New Evangelization, and Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed the need for the New Evangelization. (See http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/upload/Disciples-Called-To-Witness-The-New-Evangelization.pdf)
Let us ask St. Andrew during this Advent season and beyond to assist us in answering the call to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and to give testimony to His unfailing action in our lives.  In examining the lives of St. Andrew and all the apostles, we see that Jesus does not call the qualified, but instead qualifies the called. Let us have open hearts and minds to hear and see the Lord's presence in our midst, and then to share with others. Amen.  
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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Twelve Degrees of Silence

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
I weave a silence...
I weave a silence on to my lips,
I weave a silence into my mind,
I weave a silence within my heart.
I close my ears to distractions,
I close my eyes to attractions,
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me, Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Still me, Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me Lord in your peace.

-Anon.
A Prayer from the Celtic Tradition
In our current world, silence is hard to come by.  Everyone seemingly wants to weigh in this political season as to who is right and who is wrong, make suggestions on domestic and foreign policy, and vocally share what is going on in their life, with their families, etc. We have a need to be constantly stimulated and entertained with a variety of modalities to accomplish this. Our world  is certainly in need of vocal witnesses to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, His message, His Hope, His Merciful Love, and His Light amidst the darkness in our culture of despair, depression, and death. But I find that as the societal atmosphere gets more heated up and vocal, I am becoming increasingly silent. I have checked my heart on this several times, and asked myself, "Are you being cowardly? Are you committing sins of omission? Are you opting out of your duty to proclaim truth in this present era and call of the new evangelization?"  Well, it is certainly possible. There have been times when I could have said more, been more forthcoming or articulate for sure. But what I am observing within is a need for silence and to the listen to the Holy Spirit for direction and guidance. I am very certain that most Americans and Catholics have heard the arguments for life, for protecting the dignity of every human being including the unborn, the immigrant, the poor, women, minorities, etc. in this election. I really just don't believe that there is anything else for me to say or add. Furthermore, I feel a pull to draw me inwards towards the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in fact, the Holy Trinity, as St. Elizabeth of the Trinity so eloquently proclaims as abiding within our souls. The only way to accomplish this is through silence.  

To assist me in cooperating with this tug towards silence, I purchased and read a book entitled, The Twelve Degrees of Silence, written by a French Discalced Carmelite nun named Sr. Marie Aimeé de Jésus, ocd [1839-1874].  In this brief encapsulation of her spirituality and what Our Lord Jesus revealed to this mystic in prayer, Sr. Marie Aimeé outlines the degrees of silence that correspond with deepening degrees of sanctity when done  in humility and unity with the movements of the Holy Spirit in union with Jesus Christ. Our Savior told Sr. Marie Aimeé that by practicing ever deepening silence, that she would become transformed into "a pure current that flows in God, into the torrent dissolved without trace." In this naked spirituality, she followed St. John of the Cross' way of 'nada' to become devoid of any personal ego, preferences, or attachments in order to be molded into "the most pure temple" where "there exists no noise, all is silent, peaceful and contemplative" and she gives "only God's life" [See The Twelve Degrees of Silence" p. 30] 

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Furthermore, He would use her increasing degrees of silence to refute a great heresy promoted by Renen in The Life of Jesus which promulgated the idea that Jesus was not divine. Sr. Marie Aimeé wanted to defend Our Lord, but was not to do so through vocal words, but through written words. Hers was a silent and written defense of the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, which would be approved by her superior and learned spiritual directors, who themselves recognized that it was Our Lord Himself who was granting the simple Sr. Marie Aimeé the profound insights and illuminations that she was expressing in her response to this heretical published doctrine. 

So impressed was St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] concerning Sr. Marie Aimeé's schema in accomplishing this total abnegation and purging of self, that she wrote an essay dedicated to her spirituality.   St. Teresa Benedicta recognized that this privileged soul knew how to keep the secrets of the King from a young age, and that perfecting this silence would be Our Lord's path to sanctity and union with this most pure soul.  [See The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations & Spiritual Texts, Essay II.4]

So, what are these 12 degrees of silence?  In the interior life, they are as follows:

1. Silence in Words
2. Silence in Actions
3. Silence in One's Imagination
4. Silence with One's Memories
5. Silence with Others
6. Silence with One's Heart
7.Silence to Self-Interest
8. Silence of the Mind
9. Silence to Judgments
10. Silence to the Will
11. Silence towards Oneself
12. Silence with God

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Of course, attaining these levels of silence takes profound prayer, surrender and abandonment to God's abundant graces and mercy. It is a daily task and a moment by moment abiding with the Holy Spirit, to listen to His promptings and to learn self mastery.  I continue my feeble little steps in cooperating towards this, but am reminded on a daily basis that it is Our Lord who does the heavy lifting in such an endeavor. 

Sr. Marie Aimeé eloquently shares, "Our Lord has been so graceful towards me; He has so abundantly perfected in me his blessed love and all the other virtues that I do not recognize myself anymore. I find myself in this awakening after the union with my God, and my transformation in Him, like one who falls asleep as a little or sick child, and wakes as a perfectly grown adult." 

In a world of constant noise and banter, Sr. Marie Aimeé shows us another side to the new evangelization. A side that is hidden and silent. One that focuses on the transformation of self in the hidden recesses of one's soul, through the purifying action of the Holy Trinity. One that can then radiate out the truth of Christ, His Gospel of love, repentance, and hope.  

"I want to sing a song for you composed of whispers in memory of your blessedness and my faults...O my Lord, what shelter have you prepared for a soul so feeble as mine, so that, independent of this incumbent body, she might elevate herself to Her Creator and her All? "

May it be so accomplished, through the intercession of Sr. Marie Aimeé. Amen. 

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

How to Suffer Gracefully in the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!


Suffering is definitely a word most people want to erase from their consciousness and their vocabulary, especially when describing one's own life or those dear to us. Yet, we all know that life entails suffering and it is inevitable.   People can have all sorts of material possessions, seemingly glamorous lives, or live in beautiful surroundings, but are still unable to escape the reality of being crushed in some way by life's circumstances, by the unexpected.  Suffering finds us all, regardless of wealth, status, genetics, connections, faith, race, nationality, gender, etc.  And  suffering is unique to each individual and comes in a myriad of forms.

Fortunately, Christians have been given a roadmap for how to embrace suffering and behave in such moments. Jesus tells us,  If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"  [Mt 16:24-26] Jesus guarantees suffering in this life, but also promises eternal reward.  St. Peter explains it further in his First Letter, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." [1 Peter 2:21]

Yet, when push comes to shove, when we find ourselves suffering due to grief and loss, physical and/or emotional pain, mental or physical illness, loneliness, unemployment, dysfunctional relationships, etc. it can be hard to know how to proceed and succeed in our call to carry our Cross. For me, I have had some time these past few months to ponder the true meaning of this call and  believe that the saints who have walked the journey before us, give us the blueprint to suffering gracefully and joyfully. 

I turn to the most recent saint in our Church, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who suffered spiritually, physically, and emotionally for nearly 50 years. She saw such abject poverty and rejection of those dying in the streets. She experienced all of these scourges herself in so many ways in the dark night of her soul, in her own poverty, and the constant need to beg for the needs of her sisters and her patients. Yet, she never gave up and saw suffering as a great gift from God. She tells us, 

Today the passion of Christ is being relived in the lives of those who suffer. To accept that suffering is a gift of God.

Suffering is not a punishment. God does not punish.
Suffering is a gift—--though, like all gifts, it depends on how we receive it. And that is why we need a pure heart---to see the hand of God, to feel the hand of God, to recognize the gift of God in our suffering.

Suffering is not a punishment. Jesus does not punish.
Suffering is a sign—--a sign that we have come so close to Jesus on the cross, that He can kiss us, show that He is in love with us, by giving us an opportunity to share in His passion.
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Christ came to share in our suffering. Christ allows us to share in His suffering. Whatever we suffer He has suffered. He understands our suffering. And our suffering that is shared with the innocent suffering of Christ on the Cross is a gift of God. How is our suffering a gift of God? Suffering becomes a gift when we have the courage to accept whatever God allows, permits, sends or gives with a smile. When we can still smile through our suffering, it means that Christ is still with us. And we do not become frustrated, resentful, angry and/or bitter. That is a gift of God. It is also a blessing because our trust in Christ and our patient endurance of suffering encourage others to face and accept with courage their own suffering with Christ. We need to remember that when we share in Christ’s suffering we also share in His glory. So, we must never allow our suffering to fill us with so much sorrow and bitterness as to make us forget the joy of the risen Christ. Indeed, suffering can become a means to greater love, greater empathy and greater generosity.

She offers more insights into how to suffer illness or desolation: "Those of you who are sick, when things are hard, take refuge in Christ’s heart. There my own heart will find with you strength and love."  

"Suffering will never be completely absent from our lives. So don’t be afraid of suffering. Your suffering is a great means of love, if you make use of it, especially if you offer it for peace in the world. Suffering in and of itself is useless, but suffering that is shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift and a sign of love. Christ’s suffering proved to be a gift, the greatest gift of love, because through his suffering our sins were atoned for. Suffering, pains sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that He can kiss you."

"At the moment of death, we will not be judged by the amount of work we have done but by the weight of love we have put into our work. This love should flow from self—sacrifice and it must be felt to the point of hurting."  

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Surrender is true love. The more we surrender, the more we love God and souls. If we really love souls, we must be ready to take their place, to take their sins upon us and expiate them. We must be living holocausts, for the souls need us as such.
(The Love of Christ: Spiritual Counsels, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 103).              

"The important thing, is not to waste suffering. Join it to the suffering of Christ; offer it up with his suffering. Don't waste suffering ."

To recap the wisdom of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, we must remember the following in the midst of sufferings:

1. Recognize suffering as a gift;
2. Accept whatever God allows or sends to us with a smile;
3. Take refuge in Christ's heart;
4. Do not waste suffering, but surrender to it;
5. Give of self to the point of hurting - take the place of others

May it be so.  St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us! 

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Musings from an Inefficient Bystander

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

These days, I am reminded every moment of my dependence upon God, for my very breath, my life, my every step, literally. Since I have extensive nerve damage in my legs from neurological Lyme Disease, when I go out of the house, I usually do so with a wheelchair tucked in the trunk of the car.  Through the kindness of countless family members, friends, and even strangers, I  navigate through the outside world on wheels right now, sitting just a little bit lower than every one else, and depending on the goodness of so many to get me to where I need to go.  In other words, I am not my self-sufficient self. Wow ! What a revelation! What a humbling, glorious experience!  

In Psalm 131, we read in the ascent of David, 
LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.a
2Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
       weaned is my soul.b 

Indeed. You want to talk about simplifying. This is it. I am seeing the world through different eyes - the eyes of a child because there are so many things I just can't do right now. Just to clarify, this isn't about having a pity party, and this isn't about giving up hope. I have every expectation that I will recover from this or at least have enough healing to not need the use of a wheelchair, God willing. However, for the time being, it is a very new and in some ways liberating experience. You know, the chance I have to realize that not only was I never perfect, but I never will be. The experience that teaches me that I don't need to have every detail of my day planned, or be able to handle whatever comes my way. I can actually surrender and give some control to others, to God maybe even.  To trust Him, His journey for me, and the process.  Hmmm. Lip service is so much easier than the real deal, isn't it? 

Anyway, I just wanted to write some observations and graces that I have received this summer, during this unusual time.  I am still able to drive limited distances which is a great blessing, enabling me to transport my daughter when needed since she is still 15, and to get to Mass.  One morning, as I was getting ready to get on the highway to go those two short exits, I was talking to myself, "Oh no. I forgot to text one of my friends to wait and meet me in the parking lot so that I can get wheeled into church."  I heard a voice within me say, "Candida, don't you know that I am arranging everything for you? Don't worry. Everything you need will be taken care of. Trust me."  Just as Our Lord promised, as soon as I arrived in the parking lot and got situated in the handicapped space, a dear friend was walking right there in front of the car and came over to offer help in getting the chair out of the back and transporting me in. I was truly humbled and amazed. As if this were not enough, after Mass a gentleman I had never seen before came over and asked me, 'What can I do for you today and where do you want to go?' Well, I had been secretly pining to stay after Mass and not only pray the Rosary, but then stay to pray in front of the Tabernacle. I asked this kind ruggedly handsome man if that would inconvenience him. He told me he had nothing else planned for the day, and was happy to wait for me so that I could pray. After my sacred time of prayer, I signaled to him and he got me to my car and on my way. I never saw him again. 
Lesson: God really never disappoints and is always good to His promise and then some. He arranges all things if we let Him. 

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Whirlwheel by Olivia Wise See oliviawisestudio.com

I've have some adventures just being on wheels, so to speak. My playful 18 year old son decided that he wanted to have some fun in the airport and ran with me at break-neck speed down all of the ramps in order that we could pick up some speed and maybe break some world records, while barely missing some people and their luggage in the mix. Wow! That was exhilarating and definitely out of my control! My daughter on the other hand, was wheeling me around the mall for some back to school jean shopping a couple of days ago, and came to an uphill ramp. Ugh. She was trying to run up that ramp and keep the momentum going so she could get my 120 pound body up that incline. In the meantime, a woman very slowly walked in front of us with a huge green live parrot on her head. It was odd and very funny! It was hilarious to see these amidst the struggle of my dear daughter, on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. I felt very child-like in those moments, amidst the humility of it all. 

And as a side note, children are very curious when you are in a wheel chair. I mean they want to ask questions and know the nitty-gritty of why this has happened and what's wrong with you. Parents - note to self. Let them. It's no secret to the person in the wheel chair and it is better for kids to learn that people with handicaps of all kinds have thoughts, feelings, emotions, and can very often communicate just like they can!
Lesson: Child like fun and simplicity come in moments when our hearts are open and we are able to receive, not when we've necessarily got it all together.  

One last observation, about a woman who lives on the streets and shows up for daily Mass at another church in our area every morning. She looks worn and has all of her possessions in a grocery cart, yet every morning she manages to get to 7AM Mass in order to pray and honor God.  Sometimes her mental illness seems to be flaring up, and she is talking out loud or flailing her arms, walking towards the altar at inappropriate times, or hiding underneath the pew. There have been a few unusual outbursts of behavior, but she is always there and she always approaches the priest in the Communion line for a blessing. The priests and the nuns all expect her, as well as the congregation, and treat her with gentle kindness and love.  One morning in the springtime, I was there and was sitting in the far right side section of the church, behind a grandmother and her grandson. The little boy was full of smiles and just beautiful in every way.  This homeless woman spotted him from her usual front row spot on the left side of the Church, and her face became elated and I saw pure joy. She came over right in the middle of Mass, her face radiant and shining with pure delight, and her smile so genuine. She was absolutely taken with this infant child, and I watched as she became transformed at that moment from someone suffering mental illness into exactly who she was as a person, and her love spilled out of her. I spied something of God that day through this woman, that baby, that grandmother. It was very unexpected, very raw and spontaneous. It was the revelation of His love and His Divine Presence within each person and each circumstance. It was the gift of life and love that connects all peoples to one another, and makes us brothers and sisters. It is how God "writes straight with crooked lines" [Gen 50:20]. How He will write with you and me, in all of our infirmities, inefficiencies, and handicaps. He loves us as we are and meets us where we are at. All we must do is say 'yes' and be ready for the adventure.  
Lesson: God writes straight with crooked lines. 

In closing, don't let the sun go down without praising Our Lord for what He has done for you in your life and continues to do. Things might look and feel messy and broken, but He's got us in the palm of His hand. Let us let go of our self-sufficiency to find out what magnificent plans He really has in mind for our lives. Let us embrace being inefficient by-standers every once in a while.  Amen. 

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