Seeking Freedom in the Cross…

the cross

I remember one of our Sisters telling us a story about a young boy who got caught for doing something uncharitable at school.  I believe he was taking food out of his sister’s lunch!  Sister approached the young boy and began to tell him all the reasons why he should not do that.  She thought she did a pretty good job!  Then, the moment of truth arrived, and Sister asked him, “are you going to do this again?”  He responded with all the honesty that a young boy could have: “I would do it again, and again and again!”

Such is our condition as human beings!  There is this constant battle inside of us that wants what we want and that’s it.  And we are experts at justifying ourselves too for the wrongs we have committed!  Vice is easy…Virtue is difficult!  It is easy to give into our passions like anger, greed, lust, envy and so on.  It is the easy road.

However, if we are to follow Jesus, we need to be ready to battle!  We need to be ready to battle and conquer these vices that so easily haunt us!  How do we battle?  The Cross.  The Cross of Jesus is how we do battle.  We take up our Cross and we follow Christ.  Yes, we might fall along the way.  Yes it is heavy.  Yes it hurts and is painful.  Real love is painful.  Why?  Because it demands sacrifice and total self-gift. Jesus shows us that the way to true freedom and true love is being willing to carry our Cross and follow Him.  This means bit by bit letting go of our vices and embracing virtue!!

Christ’s love was a total outpouring love.  I once heard a priest say, “We mean everything to God, even the blood of His own Son.”  Do we believe that?  Do we really believe that?  If I live as if this statement was true, “we mean everything to God, even the blood of His own Son,” then our lives would be transformed!  We would be less self-centered, less quick to judge, less afraid, less tormented by the past mistakes.  We would stop caring so much about what others thought of us, we would see others as children of God.  We would be totally made new!  The challenge is to live as if this statement is true: “I am completely and totally loved by God!”

When we know that someone loves us, everything changes!  Our whole life changes!  We walk around the world with confidence, because we know we are loved for who we are.  And as we live our lives, we seek to live a life of virtue, bringing to others the love that we have been given.

To grow in virtue means we need to daily reflect on the Lord’s love for us.  When we know that we are loved, it softens our hearts to look at others and even ourselves with more compassion.  When we know we are loved by God, we are able to trust God.

We cannot do anything on our own!  How often have we tried to do everything on our own and have so often fallen into discouragement and pride?  We need to receive all the “helpers” that God gives to us along the way: Jesus in the Eucharist, Mary our Mother, the Saints, the Sacraments, the Church, the prayers of other people… and the list can go on and on.

These next few weeks, I am going to be choosing certain virtues that we all want to grow in!  Hopefully you will find it helpful and interesting!

Image from:

https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/01/03/this-year-marks-190-years-of-religious-freedom-for-catholics-in-britain/

Knocking on the Door of your Heart…

knocking on the door

There is always excitement whenever someone knocks on the door!  Whenever you hear the knock at the door, what automatically comes through your mind?  Perhaps you are expecting them and you were prepared and you said to yourself: “They’re here!!” or maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I should have cleaned this room better…did I take out the garbage in that room?”  When a visitor comes, we want them to feel welcomed and loved…we want them to know that they are important and that we are grateful for their presence.  However, we can ask ourselves, are there times where we ignored the knock because we felt so unprepared for a guest to come…

Jesus is always knocking at the door of our hearts.  Many times I wonder, “How am I responding to his knock at the door of my heart?”  We can freely choose to allow Jesus into our heart, or we can choose to ignore His knock entirely.  The point is, if we let Him into our hearts, our lives will never be the same!  Our lives will have to change.  Bad habits will need to be changed, the way we think and act will have to change.  True conversion comes about in our lives when we have an encounter with Him…Jesus Christ.

A priest once told me, Sister, your name is written in the heart of Jesus…He loves you so much!  I extend to you this same word, “Your name is written in the Heart of Jesus.”  You are loved more than you know!  When you hear Him knocking, you can be assured that all He will give you is love…He will always be with you…the Creator, Redeemer and Saviour of the world loves you and comes to you.  You are completely loved!

Image from: Pintrest

https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/536843218089000358/

“Blessed are You Among Women…”

the visitation

Pictures are meant to capture significant moments in our lives.  We take pictures of all sorts of wonderful events: Birthdays, Weddings, Graduations…sometimes even funny moments like when your 1 year old somehow got into the donuts when you were not looking!  Why do we take pictures?  To capture moments…to capture those moments so that the memories will remain with us in a significant way forever!

I am sure that St. Elizabeth, the mother of the great St. John the Baptist, held that precious memory of receiving Mary, the Mother of her Lord into her home for three months.  I am sure that within her heart, she held the beautiful Magnificat that our Blessed Mother Mary pronounced, giving glory to God for the Saviour Incarnate in her womb.

Artists throughout the years have depicted the Visitation in their artwork!  They show the joy radiating from St. Elizabeth, and the calm, simple and youthful expression of Mary who is the Mother of God.  Both of these women have been chosen for a specific mission…St. Elizabeth to be the mother of the one who would prepare the way for the Lord…and Mary called to be the Mother of God.

The image above is a sculpture of the Visitation.  One blog writer reflecting on this sculpture has this to say about it:

“[Lucca della Robia] portrays Mary’s youth, beauty, and purity well, but even more powerfully the falling down before her of a much older woman. This speaks much to Mary’s crucial role in salvation which Elizabeth acknowledges by this gesture. Elizabeth leans forward and wraps her arms around Mary as if not wanting to lose this moment and its great significance for the salvation of the human race.” (Staudt, Jared. Reflecting on the Visitation through Art.)

His reflection is very beautiful!  Elizabeth certainly does not want to lose this moment…she wants this moment to be permanently in her memory!  We can only imagine the joy in St. Elizabeth when she heard the greeting of the Mother of God!

Staudt, Jared, Reflecting on the Visitation through Art. May 31, 2019. Accessed on May 31, 2021.

https://buildingcatholicculture.com/reflecting-on-the-visitation-through-art/

PTLA: Praise the Lord Anyway!

man praying

We all want to be happy!  We all want to have joy in our hearts!  What prevents us from having that joy?  Sometimes it is fear…we fear not having control over certain situations, and people.  Sometimes it is pride where we are not able to see truth.

Sometimes it is very difficult to see the good in certain situations!  Sometimes it is extremely difficult to see God’s hand in certain areas of our lives, especially in areas where there is grief, sorrow, pain and suffering.  These are the times when we desperately need to gaze upon a crucifix and realize…Jesus knows…Jesus understands.  God looks at us with compassion in these moments and it is okay to make an honest prayer to Him, “Lord I don’t understand!”  It takes great love for someone to pray, “Lord, I love you anyway even if I don’t understand.”

One of our Sisters, knows a priest who used to say, PTLA: Praise the Lord Anyway!  Everyone tends to think that praising the Lord has to mean being joyful and going around always with a smile on our face.  However, Praise the Lord Anyway (PTLA) can also take place in silence and solitude with God…especially if we don’t feel joyful.  Our simple act of humble trust in God no matter what situation we are undergoing is all that is needed for one to make a real and true act of “praise” and worship.  We can praise God in our troubled moments…in those moments where we feel lonely or afraid.  We can praise him in those moments where we are suffering and sick.  We can praise Him in the moments of grief and where life just does not make sense.  You may ask, “how do I do that?”

Firstly, it does not come immediately for all of us.  Sometimes it takes time…and it takes a lot of prayer.  We need to be so confident in God’s love for us and we need to be confident in the fact that God can only will what is truly good for us, and that everything that happens is out of His love and mercy.  Whatever suffering comes, whatever the pain, fear, loneliness, grief….this is all a result of original sin!  Sin is what causes suffering and pain…Jesus came to give us life…eternal life with Him.  He does not promise us an easy life.  But He does promise to be with us every step of the way and He has given us this time on earth to use whatever sufferings come into our life to offer them to God in reparation for our sins, and the sins of the world.  In offering our sufferings to God out of love, even if it feels terrible and painful…that is PTLA…that is Praise the Lord Anyway!

Image from:

https://aleteia.org/2019/09/14/this-prayer-is-meant-to-be-prayed-in-front-of-a-crucifix/

Take My Hand…

roses

Finally I have decided finish our discussion on the steps of love…hopefully I didn’t make you wait too long!

There is something special about holding someone’s hand.  It is a gesture of compassion, and a gesture of “quiet love” where a person feels that this person cares about them.  Jesus wants, not just to take our hand, but to to take our hearts completely for Himself.  The Father gave His own Son completely out of love for us…we are worth everything to God.

St. John of the Cross calls the ninth step of love the step that “causes the soul to burn gently” (Dark Night of the Soul Book 2. Chapter 20 par. 4).  The Holy Spirit is extremely active at this stage where the soul experiences a gentle burning inside showing the perfect soul’s union with God.  Someone at this stage sees themselves so loved by God and sees who they are in God that there is present a great depth in their love!

The tenth and last step in the ladder is “love assimilates the soul to God completely because of the clear vision of God which a person possesses as soon as he reaches it…after reaching the ninth step in this life, the soul departs from the body…these souls are extremely purged through love, they do not enter  Purgatory…” (Book 2, chapter 20, par 5).

You might be saying to yourself!  “Wow! I want to reach that stage!”  My response to you is “So do I”. So let us pray for one another to grow in holiness and let us thank the great St. John of the Cross for all of his insights to us in his work “Dark Night of the Soul.”

He Has Her Eyes…

Mary mother of God

There is something so beautiful about being a new mom!  When we see a mother hold her baby for the first time, there is something so radiant in their eyes…a joy fills the heart of the mother as she holds her little one…her little joy!

On a personal note, I remember my mom telling me when I was a little baby, I would not let anyone else hold me except her…I wanted mom and only mom and I would cry and cry if someone else tried to pick me up.  By the way, I aplogize now to anyone who suffered through my endless amounts of tears and screams when I was a baby…I couldn’t help it!

We can imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary taking Jesus into her arms for the first time when He was a baby.  One image I have been pondering on is that when the Blessed Virgin Mary looked into the eyes of her Son, she saw her own eyes.  Our Faith tells us that Jesus is a Divine person (because He is God) with two natures: human and divine.  In speaking of Jesus’ human nature, he would have looked a lot like His Mother!

When people are about to die, they normally want to share what is most important to them with the people they love: “I love you”  “please forgive me” “I forgive you…”  Jesus, in the last few moments He had hanging on the Cross chose to share with His Mother and with the whole world his last words of love: “Woman behold your Son…Son behold your Mother…”  Jesus, in His last moments on the Cross gave His Mother to all of us!

The Church is so blessed to have the prayers and interecession of the Blessed Virgin Mary!  May she always look after each and every one of us…especially all of the Church!

So how do we grow in our relationship with Mary?  A very good place to start is just by calling upon her!  St. Mother Teresa has a beautiful ejaculatory prayer that we can pray throughout the day for any special intention: “Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a Mother to me now.”  St. Mother Teresa says that this prayer “has never failed her.”

Here I have a link to a beautiful homily given in 2018 by a Franciscan Friar: Fr. Terrance J.M. Chartier, F.I. I hope it will enrich your love for Mary and bring you closer to her!

CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE HOMILY: MARY MOTHER OF CHURCH

Image from:

Truth Himself Blog Post, January 1, 2016.

http://truthhimself.blogspot.com/2016/01/holy-mary-mother-of-god-pray-for-us.html

The Pain in the Neck!

neckPainDesk-941712468-650x450

Life is tough…we have our “up” days and “down” days.  We have days where everything is going exactly as we want it to…everyone is nice to one another, the sun is out and we are just praising the Lord!

But the sun does not shine everyday…

When the sun goes away…what generally happens?  That’s right…we get cranky!

You ever have a pain in your neck that you just can’t get rid of?  Of course we can speak literally…sometimes people suffer from a pinched nerve or have “pulled something” in their back.  That is very painful…seeing a doctor would be a good idea!

I don’t know if you have ever heard the expression, “This is a real pain in the neck!”  That often refers to something or someone that is irritable, problematic, and in our mind something that we don’t want that we cannot really control.  How often we fail to see how the “pain in the neck” can oftentimes be the road to our sanctification…the road to union with God.

I think at some point we have all felt the pain in the neck, whether it be a person, a circumstance, something that is not going our way!  We have all felt it…and it is painful!  Our automatic response is to want to get rid of the pain somehow.  We will complain and complain about it until the struggle is over…then we find something else to complain about…we are not very patient…nor do we see the great merit there is in enduring our struggles and sufferings with patience.

I would like to share a story from one of the Desert Fathers that can help us understand what to do when we have a pain in the neck!

“A certain old man dwelt in the desert, and his cell was far from water, about seven miles: and once when he was going to draw water, he flagged and said to himself, “What need is there for me to endure this toil?  I shall come a live near the water.”  And saying this, he turned about and saw one following him and counting his footprints: and he questioned him saying, “Who art thou?” And he said, “ I am the angel of the Lord, and I am sent to count thy footprints and give thee thy reward.”  And when he head him, the old man’s heart was stout and himself more ready, and he set his cell still farther from that water.”  Wadel, Helen. The Desert Fathers. Ann Arbor Paperback: University of Michigan, 1957.

This old man had a real pain in the neck!  The water was so far away…it took energy on his part to get it.  His first instinct was to run away from this “pain in the neck” and to get away from it.  But I believe in this story, the Lord shows us that in enduring patiently the struggles that come to us, especially in choosing not to complain, but to cooperate with God through it, we will come to union with God!  So who or what is the pain in the neck for you right now?  We all have something that irritates us from time to time…what is that in your life?  That right there…that thing or person you just thought of is going to help you become a saint, if you endure with patience.

In other words, “God is allowing me to endure this pain in the neck, how am I going to respond?  Am I going to respond in a way that is complaining and destroying my peace…or am I going to respond with love, offering it to the Lord in peace and choose to endure it with eyes fixed on Jesus.

Image from

Easy Ways to Prevent a Stiff Neck Article: Cleveland Clinic

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/easy-ways-to-prevent-a-stiff-neck/

Why Lord?

Just trust Me

Today, knowledge is at our fingertips…literally!  When we want to know something like how to make five star steak, where do we go?  We go to Google!  Google allows us to have information instantly!  No more spending hours and hours trying to figure things out!  The answers are all at our fingertips…or are they?

Oftentimes we can get impatient in our prayer life because God allows things to happen to us and to people we love that we simply do not understand!  We try and try to have the answers in life…we ask God to provide us with answers about our life…but we just find we are empty and cannot see.  How often we ask in our prayer life: “Why Lord?  Why have you allowed this to happen?”  

There are some questions that not even Google can answer!  There are some things that can only be answered in deep prayer and communion with our Lord.  Sometimes the Lord wants us to stop trying to figure everything out!  Many times we are so focused on the problem that we stop believing that God is taking care of everything… if we let him.

Jesus once said to St. Gemma Galagani: “Do you know daughter for what reasons I send crosses to souls dear to me?  I desire to possess souls entirely and for this I surround them with crosses and enclose them in tribulation.”  This is amazing!  Through the cross we discover how to love…what it means to love and through carrying our crosses with patience we become great saints! 

I remember a time in my Religious Life where I was struggling with desiring what God wanted.  God made it so clear to me that something was not His will, and yet I could not bring myself to want what God wants.  A common question that was in my mind was: “Why Lord?  Why is it that I am desiring something that is good, and yet it doesn’t seem like you want me to have it?”  One of the Sisters told me about the above image where Jesus is asking the little girl to give her teddy bear.  He is asking her to trust Him because she could not see that He had something more amazing coming to her…a bigger teddy bear.  Sometimes, there is something that we really love and in our pride we are afraid to give it to God with the trust that He knows what He is doing and He will give us even more then we could ever imagine!  Sometimes, part of not knowing, part of being in darkness is learning to give God our little teddy bear trusting that He is going to give us an even bigger teddy bear!

If we want to have a real life example of this, look at St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.  Monica prayed for her son for 30 years that he would be converted, settle down and get married.  But God gave her more then she was ever expecting!  Augustine converted, but not only that, he became a bishop and a Doctor of the Church!  The whole Catholic Church looks to the teachings and writings of St. Augustine who after his conversion grew in wisdom and came to know truth!  This is because of the prayers and tears of a mother who just wanted her son to come back to God!  God gave her more then what she asked for!

We are a people who struggle a great deal with faith.  I heard a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas recently that made a lot of sense, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary, but to one without faith, no explanation is enough.”  We seek answers so quickly!  To remain in the silence and darkness of faith seems too risky…too uncertain.  The fact is, perhaps we need to focus more on the things that are certain, rather than the things that are uncertain.  What can we be certain about?  God loves me.  God can only will what is good for me.  God forgives me and redeems me.  God is mercy!

Much of our prayer life consists in learning how to want what God wants.  We need to make the following words real in our own lives: “Not as I will but as you will Lord.”  Only then will we  have peace…

If anyone has prayer intentions that they would like to share, feel free to write them in the comments box below.  They only come to the SOLI Sisters comment box and so they will remain anonymous and no one else can see them.  Our Sisters would love to pray for you! 

 

Image from:

TLC Website

http://tlcatholic.blogspot.com/2014/05/give-god-your-teddy-bear-and-get-bigger.html

God is not “Google”

 

rosary 2

Have you ever had something that you wanted so badly that you prayed and prayed and PRAYED for it!! I once spoke with a lady who was sad because people do not know God.  She commented on how people today can just go to “Google” and get all the information they want!”  That made me think about the fact that we cannot use God as if He is Google.  God is not Google!  God is Love!  We can know a lot about God, but do we really know Him?  Have we allowed ourselves to seriously encounter Him in prayer?

So what is our prayer life like?  Why do we pray?  I think we all know deep inside that prayer is more then just asking things from God.  Prayer is relationship!

Sometimes we do get what we pray for, and we are so happy and full of life that God answered our prayer!  Perhaps you lost something, and you prayed so hard that God would help you find that lost thing…and you find it!  Maybe you were praying so hard that God would help you find a husband, a man like St. Joseph…and He did.  Perhaps you were praying so hard for your children to go back to Church, and finally after 10 years of praying they finally tell you, “I have started praying to God again.”  These are moments where we can show gratitude to God for!  God answered our prayer!

Sometimes, we do get what we pray for…but we realize that what we prayed for was actually not what we really wanted.  For example, perhaps you prayed really hard for a certain job or position in the company with the intention of being perfectly happy…you got it, but you did not expect to be working overtime, having stress everyday with customers and employees, and having to keep up with everything.  Perhaps you were really praying hard for God to send snow…lots of snow…you think it is beautiful…and God sends it, and then you are sorry afterwards because there is a major power-outage, you have lots of snow to shovel, and everywhere is slippery with ice!!

Sometimes we do not get what we pray for…sometimes what we are praying for is not God’s will, or we are asking for things with the wrong motive.  God wills our good!  He can only want what is good for us.  Sometimes what we ask for is something that is not good for us.  We must not be discouraged when we do not always get what we want or what we ask for.  This is a good opportunity to love…even if I do not get from God what I am asking for, I will love God anyway!

Sometimes, God is asking us to wait a while before our prayer is answered.  We need to persevere in prayer and never lose heart…we need to persevere in prayer because this will help us have greater faith and trust in the Lord that He will provide.  God will take care of it!  Sometimes we can have a tendency to live in our head,  and try to make things happen the way we want them too.  This is very exhausting!  It is much better to bring our petition to the feet of Jesus and leave it at His feet, trusting in Jesus to take care of it!

Sometimes, we do not see the fruits of our prayers…we don’t always know how our prayers are helping other people.  We do not always see the conversions that are happening, the people who are turning back to God in faith.  We do not always see the fruits of bringing a soul to God in prayer and saying, “I offer up this sacrifice for this person…it is worth feeling a little pinch of suffering in order for this person to become a saint.”  St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “Love until it hurts.”

What matters most is the intention that we offer our prayers and sacrifices with.  If our intention is always out of love, we can be sure that thousands of souls are being saved.  If you do one thing today…just one thing… a small act of charity and generosity out of love, you can be sure that souls are being saved.  Cleaning a mess, offering a smile to someone when you do not feel like it, taking out the garbage are some examples of things that are unpleasant in our every day life that, if we offer them up to God, can become moments where souls are being saved.  For example, if you offer a smile to someone you do not feel like smiling to, and you offer that up to God with great love for another person, you can be sure that God takes that offering and pours out His Mercy and Grace for that person and on the whole world!

The point of prayer is not to get things that we want.  No, that would be using God as if He is “Google.”  The point of prayer is to have a deep and personal relationship with God.  God is seeking to help us want what He wants for us.  We need to understand that God can only will what is good for us!

Only at the end of our lives will we see what God did with all of our prayers and sacrifices.  Let us not waste opportunities to show the Lord that we love Him tremendously!  Let us learn to practice patience…God hears all of our prayers, He knows the desires of our hearts!

Image above from Pintrest

 

https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/470555861064615514/