We have Christ, who is our peace and our light

 

…if we look upon Christ as our sanctification, then we should keep ourselves free from all that is wicked and impure both in thought and in deed and so prove ourselves worthy to bear His Name, for we shall be demonstrating the effect of sanctification not in words but in our actions and in our lives…St. Gregory of Nyssa

When I read these words of St. Gregory in the Office of Readings this morning, I was reminded of the words that I have been using at the end of Mass: “Go in peace to spread the Gospel of the Lord.” I keep being reminded that the best way we can “spread the Gospel of the Lord” that is, to pass on the message of Jesus, is through how we live our lives – how we witness the Love of Jesus through our actions and deeds.

It might be a good time for each of us in this Ordinary Time to spend some time reflecting on what message indeed our lives are communicating to those who see us.

“What is Prayer?”

Psalm 24: “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?”

From A Catechism on Prayer by St. John Mary Vianney (1786-1859):

.…Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When the heart is pure and united with God, it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by marvelous light. In this intimate union, God and the soul are like two pieces of wax molded into one; they cannot anymore be separated. It is a wonderful thing, this union of God with his insignificant creature, a happiness passing all understanding…how often do we come to church without thinking what we are going to do or for what we are going to ask. And yet, when we go to visit someone, we have no difficulty remembering why it was we came. Some appear as they were about to say to God: “I am just going to say a couple of words, so I can get away quickly.” I often think, when we come to adore our Lord, we would get all we asked if we asked for it with a lively faith and a pure heart…

Receiving Fully The Holy Spirit

When I was from the writings of St. Catherine of Siena (her dialogues with God) today, one phrase, in particular, struck me:

“RECEIVING FULLY THE HOLY SPIRIT”

In the First Book of Kings, King Solomon is told by God to ask him for anything, and it will be given to him. Solomon asked for the gift of Wisdom/Understanding, and it was given to him. As a result, Solomon has been considered for centuries to be the epitome of Wisdom. The Wisdom of Solomon is often cited.

But, if we read further in Scripture, we find that Solomon didn’t always use this gift and, as a result, made unfortunate life decisions that distanced him from God. The influence of his pagan wife drew him away from the one true God. By not “fully” using his gift had he “received fully the Holy Spirit?”

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of a man who found a treasure/a pearl and hid it in a field he had bought. What good did the treasure–the pearl–do him hidden away in a field? Often times pearl is used in analogy for wisdom.

In Catholic theology Wisdom, along with Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Wonder, are called the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Further, in Catholic theology, we are said to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and we receive the fullness of these gifts in Confirmation. That said, if we have received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we have already received the “Wisdom of Solomon.” In Baptism and Confirmation, we have been endowed with that precious gift; we have already received the Pearl that is without price along with the other six gifts of the Holy Spirit, which flow naturally from the first gift of Wisdom.

The question remains: “Do we use them?” Have we received “fully” the Holy Spirit? It might be good that we meditate on these gifts we have received. Do we fully use them allowing them to become part of who we are? Or do we leave these precious gifts unwrapped to be opened at a later date?

When my father-in-law died, we found countless gifts under his bed and in his dresser still in their gift boxes to be used later – later never came. Is that what we are doing with our gifts of the Holy Spirit – leaving them unwrapped until later? Or do we make an attempt to understand them and make them a living part of our lives?

Gifts may be given to us, but if they are not used, they are useless. Don’t let that happen with your Holy Spirit gifts from your Baptism and Confirmation – understand them! use them! make them who you are!

Do Not Be Troubled…

“Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask Him; for He desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to Him in prayer.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church – 2737

Gate of Heaven

Gate of Heaven is another one of Mary’s traditional titles. This doesn’t mean, however, that she’s decoupaged on St. Peter’s Pearly Portal. Instead, the title refers to Mary’s role as a way through which we can enter into a relationship with her Son.

Protestants and Catholics often disagree on this point. Protestants, arguing that we can go directly to God, claim there’s no need to go through Mary. This is, of course, absolutely true. However, a story told by St. Louis de Montfort helps to clarify Mary’s role in Catholic teaching. St. Louis tells of a poor farmer who had only a worm-riddled apple to present to the king. The farmer knew the apple was imperfect, unfit for royalty. The farmer took the apple to the queen, who was his friend, and asked her to give it to the king. The queen, out of love for the farmer, cut the bad spots out of the apple, put it on a golden serving dish, and surrounded it with flowers. The king, seeing the apple in such a lovely setting, was delighted to accept it as full payment for the farm.

In similar fashion, we can take our desires and needs; however, tarnished they may be to Mary, asking her to present them to her Son on our behalf. Just as the king wouldn’t reject the apple from his queen, so too Jesus won’t turn away our requests when they’re presented by Mary.

Can we go directly to God with our requests? Of course. Do we always have to? Not as long as we have Mary as our friend.

If I could be granted one request, what would it be? Have I asked Mary to take my request to God on my behalf?

365 Mary: A Daily Guide to Mary’s Wisdom and Comfort – Woodeene Koenig-Bricker

Who is ready to stand up for religious liberty? by Sister Constance Veit

In college, I grew in my Catholic faith and had a strong experience of religious pluralism. I was involved in the Newman Center daily, but I had many non-Catholic friends and even frequented Hillel House, the Jewish student center.

Several of my Jewish friends worked in Hillel’s kosher dining room, and since they couldn’t work on the Sabbath or religious holidays, they got me and some other non-Jewish girls jobs there where we served kosher food and did the dishes on Friday evenings and Jewish holidays.

At 19 years old, I didn’t know much about Jewish traditions. My Orthodox friends took their religious obligations seriously and faithfully observed the weekly Sabbath, or Shabbat as I learned to call it. I tried my best to respect their deeply held convictions, even when I didn’t understand them since I didn’t want to offend either my friends or their faith. I secretly admired the courage of the Orthodox Jewish students who unabashedly proclaimed their religious identity through their yarmulkes, their food choices and other observances.

Through these experiences, I learned to approach their faith traditions with reserved curiosity and respectful appreciation. As I learned more about Judaism, while at the same time examining Catholicism in depth, I came to understand that even when we are at a loss to explain the nuances of our faith experiences to skeptics and unbelievers. this does not weaken the sincerity or strength of our convictions.

Things have changed a lot since my college days. As the Little Sisters have spent the last several years in the limelight due to our Supreme Court case over the HHS contraceptive mandate, we have received valuable support and encouragement from many sources. But we have also been the object of mean-spirited hate mail, uninformed critiques and partisan judgments of our supposed hidden agenda. The vitriol directed against us has been both disturbing and disheartening.

Remembering the mutual respect I experienced during my college year, I am deeply saddened to see our current culture’s disdain for traditional religious values, and its apparent amnesia in relation to the intentions of our Founding Fathers. For me the most jarring moment occurred last year when a major political candidate proclaimed, referring to pro-lifers, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed!”

We claim to be a pluralistic society that defends human dignity and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Such a society is committed to making room for everyone, including those whose convictions run counter to the mainstream, but who wish to live peaceably with others and contribute to the common good. This does not mean every individual will find every job or social situation a perfect fit. Nor does it mean that every employer, organization, or service provider will be able to satisfy the desires and aspirations of every person who walks through their doors.

In a pluralistic society, religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor will inevitably encounter requests for services that run counter to their beliefs, but refusing to provide such services does not offend the conscience rights of others. Nor does is constitute discrimination or bigotry. It is, rather, a means of safeguarding our personal integrity and the Catholic identity of our organizations.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl said in “Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge”: ”

There are some things that the Church simply will not do, and it is not discriminatory to say, “We will not do that.”…We must remain true to who we are. We cannot be expected to embrace error and give up our identity which inspires us to form ministries of teaching, healing, and charity in the first place.

         As we observe the sixth Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 through July 4), let’s pray that religious liberty will once again be respected as the most cherished of American freedoms. Let’s pray for the freedom to serve in harmony with the truths of the Catholic faith.

Finally, let’s pray for the wisdom to know how to contribute to a better understanding of this important issue in a way that respects all people of good will.

Sister Constance is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

This excellent article was published in the Pittsburgh (PA) Catholic, Friday, June 30, 2017

 

 

 

The Kingdom of Heaven

In these hot days of July, I thought we all might need a soothing glimpse of what St. Teresa of Avila tells us about the Kingdom of Heaven:

…The greatest joy of Heaven (the greatest among many) seems to me to be that we will not longer be tied up with earthly concerns but will have rest and glory within us – rejoicing that gives joy to everyone, peace that lasts forever – satisfaction in ourselves, a satisfaction that comes from seeing how everyone is praising the Lord and blessing and hallowing His Name, while no one offends Him. Everyone love Him. Each soul has no wish other than to love Him: it cannot stop loving Him, because it knows Him truly…

What is your glimpse of the greatest joy of Heaven? Does St. Teresa’s glimpse help you as you contemplate the joys God has prepared for you?

Meditation Starters

We are encouraged by Holy Mother Church to meditate, but sometimes it is hard to know when or how to begin. I offer the following as being perhaps helpful places to start.

Are you a sinner who doesn’t know how to love God?

Or

Are you a lover of God who falls into sin?

1 John 4: Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is Love.

St. Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Matthew 7:1: Stop judging, that you may not be judged….for as you judge, so will you be judged.

Deliver me, Lord, from the murky waters.

Psalm 34: I sought the Lord and he answered me, delivered me from all my fears.

Judith 8: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God who, as he tested our ancestors, is now testing us (for these ordeals are intended to search our hearts)…a warning inflicted by the Lord on those near his heart.

The Rock of Rocks

The Rock of Rocks

Air Carraig nan al,

Sith Pheadail is Phail,

Sheumais is Eoin na baigh,

Is na lan ionraic Oigh,

Na lan ionraic Oigh.

 

Sith Athar an aigh,

Sith Chriosda na pais,

Sith Spiorad ban gras,

Duinn fein is do ‘n al ta og, 

Duinn fein is do ‘n al ta og.

 

On the Rock of rocks,

The peace of Peter and Paul

Of James and John the beloved,

And of the pure perfect Virgin,

The pure perfect Virgin.

 

The peace of the Father of Joy,

The peace of the Christ of Passion,

The peace of the Spirit of grace,

To ourselves and to our children,

Ourselves and our children.

 

Source:

Essential Celtic Prayers assembled by Thomas McPherson

 

Grief

A few years ago I read The Shack, a remarkable story of loss, pain, anger, vengeance, love, sorrow, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Last night I watched the movie The Shack based on that book. I highly recommend both the book and the movie, It could change your life.

Oddly enough (or maybe not so oddly) this morning I read a meditation by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker entitled Grief (365 Mary). The connections between the movie (book) and this meditation are so real that it could not have been coincidental.

The Shack takes us on a father’s transformative spiritual journey following the tragic death of his young daughter, chronicling this father’s crisis of faith as he questions the existence of God and the purpose of life.

Koenig-Bricker speaks to us of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, and finally peace. Kubler-Ross asserted that everyone who is grieving a loss, big or small, goes through similar stages.

To quote Koenig-Bricker:

Of all the losses we experience, the death of a loved one is by far the most devastating…Once we have experienced death in all its horror, we’re changed forever. It’s at that moment that we can begin to recognize what grief is: God’s analgesic for what would otherwise be literally impossible…as anyone who has lost a loved one, no matter how prepared you are, grief still rips your heart and makes you feel as if you too could die.

The main message that I have received from The Shack and Grief is the overpowering and overwhelming realization once more that we are never alone; that God loves us as if we were the only one; that God’s arms are around our shoulders through everything on our journey; that we can make it through only with God’s hand; that even at our lowest, saddest, most impossible times, God’s love will enfold us and give us peace. The only caveat: at some point in our journey we must realize and accept these truths; the only ones that matter.

MAY GOD BE PRAISED!

The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack directed by Stuart Hazeldine

365 Mary by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker