A Fresh New Start…

forgiveness blog

What is your first reaction when you wake up in the morning? Is it, “Good morning God!” or is it “Good God… it’s morning…five more minutes!”  Either way it’s morning…what matters I suppose is our attitude towards a new day!

But there are many times when we wake up in the morning and all of our cares and trials just zoom into our head like a racecar and we are not sure what to do with them, or where to put them.  A priest once said that we need to jump out of bed…(or roll out!) get on our knees right away, and give our day to God totally and completely!  That means we are giving to Him all our thoughts, words, actions struggles, anxieties, joys, virtues, everything…even our sins.  Yes.  God wants our sins too.  He wants us to look at Him with humble hearts and admit that we “fell in the mud” again!  It is easy for us to get discouraged and to really be hard on ourselves for the mistakes of the past.

This time of COVID has been a trial for many people.  It is forcing us to slow down and look in ourselves and see that our true worth, value and purpose is not in what we do here…it is who we are.  We are children of God…and God loves us.  The lockdown procedures of COVID are also forcing us to really examine our lives, and that can be a cause of joy, but also a cause for anxiety and stress.  We might look at the past and question: “why did I waste so much time worrying about little things?”  “Why did I treat this person that way?”  “Why didn’t I just tell the truth?”  “Why have I taken so much for granted?”…”and the big question… “Have I truly forgiven myself and others for the mistakes of the past?”

Forgiveness…  It is a reality that describes the very heart of God.  How many times in the Gospels have we heard it said: “Your sins are forgiven you.”  Remember the words of Jesus on the Cross: “Father, forgive them.  They know not what they do.”  Forgiveness is at the core of love.  You know you love when you can honestly say to another person, or even to look in the mirror and say, “I forgive you!”  Forgiveness is not an emotion…it is not a warm and fuzzy feeling we have for ourselves or another person.  Forgiveness, just like love, lies in the will.  We must choose to forgive…even if we still feel angry and hurt…we must choose to forgive.  Why?  We only need to look at a crucifix and see the answer…our Lord forgives me, I must also forgive and love.

When you have love for someone, sometimes it is hard to show it because it means that you are taking a risk.  We are worried about getting hurt…  That is understandable.  When we have been hurt, we want to close in on ourselves and put a guard over our hearts.  Yes, we do that to be safe.  The wounds go deep, but I have learned that one of the greatest ways to show love is through forgiveness.  Wounds go deep, but the merciful waters of forgiveness can cleanse that hurt and begin to heal the wound.

One day, I found the Litany of Forgiveness.  I hope that praying this Litany will help bring healing in your lives, especially during this pandemic time.  We will resume our study of the Dark Night of the Soul next week.  God Bless you and stay strong during this pandemic!!!

Litany of Forgiveness

By: William Rabior, 2001

Excerpted from Prayers for Later Years

Scrupulous Anonymous Vol 56. #2, February 2019.  Viewed this website on January 20th, 2021.

For the times I lacked compassion and concern for

others—forgive me, Lord.

For my failures to pray and take the time to talk to

you—forgive me, Lord.

For not sharing my resources: my time, talent, and

treasure—forgive me, Lord.

For holding grudges and refusing to have a forgiving

heart—forgive me, Lord.

For the times I have criticized and gossiped—forgive

me, Lord.

For not caring for myself physically, emotionally, and

spiritually—forgive me, Lord.

For the ways I misused nature and damaged the

environment—forgive me, Lord.

For my prejudices, biases, and deliberate acts of

discrimination—forgive me, Lord.

For the misuse and abuse of the wonderful gift of

sexuality—forgive me, Lord.

For failing to see your face in the homeless and the

helpless—forgive me, Lord.

For believing I could save myself—forgive me, Lord.

For not living fully for you—forgive me, Lord.

For my lack of faith, hope, and love—forgive me, Lord.

For doubting that you can and will forgive me

unconditionally—forgive me, Lord.

For doubting that you love me with an everlasting

love—forgive me, Lord.

Amen.

Source: Excerpted from Prayers for Later Years by William Rabior (807596). Copyright © 2001, William Rabior. To order, visit Liguori.org or call 800-325-9521

© 2019 Liguori Publications. All rights reserved. Policy on copying or distributing: Individuals may download, print, copy, and/or share issues of Scrupulous Anonymous provided 1) you don’t remove this copying/distributing policy and 2) you don’t seek or accept payment for the copies. Nonprofit organizations may quote SA in publications offered at no cost as long as you identify Scrupulous Anonymous as the source and include the issue number or date and the publisher (Liguori Publications, ScrupulousAnonymous.org). For commercial or other purposes, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of Liguori Publications. Liguori Publications, a nonprofit corporation, is an apostolate of the Redemptorists (Redemptorists.com).

Never Alone…

flower in darkness

Have you ever been in a house…alone??  For some of us, it is a really thrilling experience!  You get to jump on the cozy bed of your parents and they don’t even know.  You can blast the music and sing at the top of your lungs without fear…you can make as much popcorn as you want and eat it all just because you can…(not that I have done any of these things of course!)…yes being home alone can be a thrilling experience.

Being in a house by yourself can also have the opposite effect which I like to call the “spooky effect”…especially if you are in the house at night.  All of a sudden you begin to hear sounds that you never heard before…little “pitter patter” and “creeky” sounds that just make your heart beat out of your chest.  Then your imagination goes wild and you scream, cry or hide… or you do all three.

When we are experiencing a dark night, we have a tendency to think that we are alone.  We are never alone!  We have the whole army of angels helping us…our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer.

Happy New Year to all of you and welcome back to our 2021 Blog posts.  For those of you who are new to the blog welcome, and for those of you who have been reading you are awesome and keep reading!  We are going to continue the study of the Dark Night of the Soul getting into our explanation of the Dark Night of the Spirit…so fasten your seatbelt…get cozy… and here we go!!

The purpose of the dark nights as we previously spoke about is really to purify our love and to help us have purity of soul ready for union with God. St. Therese says, “I know that He is better pleased to see you stumbling in the night upon a stony road, than walking in full light if day upon a path carpeted with flowers because these flowers might hinder your advance.”  She makes a good point…when everything is sunshine and daisies, it is harder to grow in virtue…but when the way is paved with stones and thorns…that is when we learn how to love…really love.   The dark nights are a mercy…God is permitting those who travel through the dark night to have their purgatory here on earth, so that we can be running into the arms of God when our time here has come to an end.

So now that we have spoken in detail about the night of the senses let us now talk about the night of the spirit!  Are you ready?

St. John of the Cross points out in Book II of the Dark Night of the Soul that the soul does not go into the dark night of the spirit immediately after the aridities and trials of the first purgation.  He describes the new state the soul is in as “proficient” (illuminative way) and it seems that in this new state, “the soul is liberated from a cramped prison cell, the soul goes about the things of God with much more freedom and satisfaction…” (Dark Night of the Soul. Bk II chapter 1. Par.1.). He goes on to say that at this stage, the soul readily finds in its  a very serene and loving contemplation and spiritual delight.  However, since the purgation of the soul is not complete yet, the soul still experiences certain aridities, darknesses, and conflicts.

So the senses are more purified at this stage, and prayer is simple, infused and consoling.  There is occasional dryness and other weaknesses in the soul.  At this stage there are other imperfections that need to be spoken of in the state of “proficient.”  The imperfections are both habitual and actual.

The habitual imperfections are “imperfect affections and habits still remaining like roots in the spirit…” (Bk II Ch.2 par 1).  The sensory purgation (night of the senses) could not reach the spirit and so, St. John of the Cross describes the differences of each purgation by saying that the difference between purgation of the senses and purgation of the spirit: it is like the difference between pulling up roots (purgation of the spirit) and cutting off a branch (purgation of the senses). (Bk II Ch.2 par 1).   Have any of you ever planted a garden?  I remember we were pulling up weeds in the garden and there was this one really hard weed to get out of the ground…I tried with all I had to get it out… and my whole body just flew back (you are probably hearing the Chariots of Fire music in your head right now…don’t worry it is in my head too!)  It was pretty epic!

Roots are hard to pull out!  St. John of the Cross describes the purgation of the senses as the gateway to the purgation of the spirit…meaning the purgation of the senses is like digging in the ground for the roots…  (Bk II ch.2. par 1.).  Yet, when the roots come out, that weed is gone and something new can be planted…something beautiful like roses…I love roses!

Now, let us talk about the actual imperfections.  This is the time (do not be afraid) but this is a time where the devil can impress upon souls apprehensions and feelings where the soul needs to stand their ground and defend themselves through faith!  There are times where the devil can tempt the soul to lose holy fear in God, be drawn by vanity arrogance, feeling too secure in oneself due to spiritual feelings… (Dark Night of the Soul Bk II. Ch 2. par.3) Just ask our Blessed Mother Mary to crush his head…she will!!

In order to reach union, the soul must enter the dark night of the spirit.  In this night, the sensory and spiritual parts of soul are despoiled of all delights and the soul is made to walk in dark and pure faith which is the means to divine union…

Beauty is Lovely…

'ADORATION OF THE MAGI'

Happy New Year Everyone!!  The SOLI Sisters pray and hope that God will bestow upon you many graces and blessings in this new year!

As our Sisters were driving around looking at the Christmas lights and seeing the beautiful snow covering the fields, I was thinking about the beauty of God.  God is beautiful!  Imagine, the three wise men gazing upon the beauty and innocence of Jesus Christ as a little baby!  Imagine their joy and astonishment at looking into the face of God…what a sight!!

In light of thinking about beauty, I thought that you all might be interested to hear this very beautiful piece of music!  We are still within the Christmas Season and contemplating the Incarnation!!  Please listen to the Carol below by clicking on the link entitled “Chesterton Carol.”  I hope that you enjoy it!!

Chesterton Carol

Piece By Piece…

pieces

This year, we have been talking a lot about the spiritual life!!  We have looked at St. John of the Cross in detail…and it is not over yet!! So, once we have made it through our discussions on the Dark Night of the Soul and the Living Flame of Love…we will discuss…well I am not sure yet…I am taking suggestions if you would like to leave them in the comments box…it will be a surprise for me too!!

I want to leave you with this wonderful dialogue written by John Roedel (thank you Mr. John!)  I think that there is a message in this for everyone, and especially since we are discussing the Dark Night of the Soul, there may be some interesting insights to take into the New Year.

The dialogue below is by John Roedel, author of Hey God. Hey John.  Here is a link to his book and Facebook page.

Me: Hi God.

God: Hello…

Me: I’m falling apart.  Can you put me back together?

God: I would rather not.

Me: Why?

God: Because you aren’t a puzzle.

Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down into the ground?

God: Let them stay there for a while.  They fell off for a reason.  Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.

Me: You don’t understand!  I am breaking down!

God: No- You don’t understand.  You are breaking through.  What you are feeling are just growing pains.  You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back.  You aren’t falling apart.  You are falling into place.  Relax.  Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don’t need anymore to fall off of you.  Quit holding onto pieces that don’t fit you anymore.  Let them fall off.  Let them go.

Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?

God: Only the very best pieces of you.

Me: I’m scared of changing.

God: I keep telling you…you aren’t changing!  You are BECOMING!

Me: Becoming who?

God: Becoming who I created you to be!  A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion.  I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear.  Let those things fall off of you.  I love you!  Don’t change!…Become!  Become! Become who I made you to be.  I’m going to keep telling you this until you remember it.

Me: There goes another piece.

God: Yes.  Let it be.

Me: So…I’m not broken?

God: Of course not!-but you are breaking like the dawn.  It’s a new day.  Become!!!

Author: John Roedel

 

Pull Up Our Socks…Time to Get Into Shape!!

pull-yr-socks-up

I heard a really beautiful story recently about a five year old girl who went with her family to see a relative who is a Nun in the Cloister.  The family was speaking to the Sister and to their amazement the five year old girl started to climb up the grill, and she asked “How do you get in there?”  The Nun replied with a smile, “You have to want to get in!”

I suppose this is similar to our Spiritual lives.  In order to be in union with God, we need to want it!  God will provide everything we need to be in union with Him, and God is ultimately in control.  All we need to do is say “yes” and cooperate with His grace and God will send us everything we need in order to be united to him.

We have been talking about various aspects of the dark night of the senses.  People can have various experiences with the dark night.  It may depend on the degree of love that God wishes that person to have.  It could also depend on what sins and imperfections we have had in our life.  It may even depend on a person’s strength of soul. I found a quote by St. John of the Cross who says, “God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

The information that I will be providing in this post is from a course I took entitled Introduction to Christian Asceticism in St. John of the Cross.  The professor based the course off of St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul and has given me permission to use the information from the course pack that was provided and I am very happy to share it with you!

The more strong a soul is, the more quickly they will be brought to perfection in their life experience.  Strong souls will undergo clear and pronounced dark nights that they receive with gratitude and peace of heart.  They know that plunging through this dark night will bring them to God and this is very consoling.  Strong souls will also experience trials that are typically more severe.  For example: severe temptations against chastity, and other purging of the senses.  They may even suffer severe scruples and interior trials.  They might experience external trials of misjudgment by people they love, persecution for doing good and physical trials.

Weaker souls are brought more slowly to perfection through their experience of the dark night.  They experience the dark night for a longer period of time, but every once in a while God will bestow consolations on them.  Their perfection will come at the end of life.  We need to persevere!!  We need to persevere and not turn back!!  It might be in the end that we reach perfection!  Do not lack courage!!

Souls who never reach perfection in this life are souls who occasionally receive the night of the senses in order to remain humble.  They rarely or never receive infused contemplation.  God will grant them Divine consolations so as to prevent them from returning to the world.

I really recommend speaking through these trials with a spiritual director because the trials we are experiencing do have spiritual elements to them, but they could also be a result of an emotional, mental, or psychological difficulty that needs to be addressed by professionals.  Sometimes our trials can be the result of experiences in the past that we need healing from.  Do not automatically assume that it is just a spiritual trial you are having.  Speak with a spiritual director and they will help you discern the next steps!

I know you are reading this and probably thinking: WHAT??  Why can’t the road be easier??  Why can’t God just zap me and make me a saint right now!  The truth is God can zap you and make you a saint right now if He wanted to.  However, this is typically not the way it works!  God chose the way of the Cross in order to redeem us…so we also have a “way of the Cross” to help us on our way to the kingdom of heaven!

Think of it this way: let’s say you are preparing to run a marathon.  You know you need to exercise and “get into shape” in order to run it successfully.  Otherwise you would be huffing and puffing and you will feel like you are going to die!  Exercising and stretching…that all takes work and self- discipline too!!  You might need to eat more healthy (goodbye chocolate chip cookies… hello vegetables!!), you might have to get better rest…all of these things are difficult and hard.  It is going to test everything you have!  But in the end (spoiler alert!!) it is going to make you a stronger person…because it is not only about the running!  The preparation will teach you discipline, perseverance and how to give your all!  This preparation can teach you life-lessons about commitment, respect and how not to give up on God, yourself, or others.  And…the bonus…you will be in shape!!

You may say “I don’t feel like exercising, and stretching…and I hate green food…but I still want to run the marathon.”  You need someone to say to you: “Honey, stop crying…pull up your socks… and do whatever it takes to prepare well…it is worth it in the end!!”  In the end, you will be so happy that God permitted you to endure what you did.  Had you not endured it, you would not be the person you are today.  You would not have grown stronger…you would have stayed swimming in a sea of pride and arrogance.  This can be a hard lesson, especially in times when the suffering is very great.  But if we make the decision to trust in faith then we will move forward with confidence and trust in God.

The saints knew that their suffering was not a waste…that it was actually strengthening them in virtue!  Let’s not waste our suffering…let’s offer it humbly to God for our own growth in holiness and for the holiness of others.  Any suffering born patiently and out of love is worth more than we can ever imagine!  Suffering can be a proof of love.  We can learn so much about ourselves and others when we suffer.  When I was a teenager, I was at the “cool stage, and at the “cool stage” it is easy to be arrogant and rude.  I remember a few times my mom telling me: “I carried you in my belly for nine months!  Don’t forget that!”  Our mothers have done so much for us!  When we were babies and crying at night, they were the ones getting up and feeding us.  Our moms changed our diapers…yes…it was nasty…. and they did it!! It caused them pain…but because they love us, it was worth it!  Thank you mom!

Jesus Himself said: “Greater love hath no man than this, then to lay down his life for a friend.”  St. John of Cross says, “The road is narrow. He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly be resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.”

Suffering actually purifies our love for God, for others and even for ourselves.  Suffering can help our love to become more like Christ’s love.  I think it is equally important to realize that you are not alone in your suffering.  God is present entirely!  He is holding you and embracing you like a good father.  We can get angry and tell Him to go away…but he won’t because He knows that His place is right there with you.

So what do we do when we are experiencing the dark night of the senses?

  • Complete and loving submission to the will of God, accepting with patience and resignation the painful trial of the dark night for as long as God decrees i.e. the soul abstains from seeking consolations.
  • Perseverance in prayer in spite of all the difficulty purely out of imitation of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane with absolute trust in God.
  • In prayer, the soul must remain in peace and quiet, content simply with a loving gaze on God, without any particular consideration and without any desire for delight or sensation.
  • Docility to a prudent and experienced director if available, if not, God will use other means to guide the soul.

If you are going through a dark night, do not be afraid.  Jesus is with you.  He has your name in His Sacred Heart, and He is carrying you through!

 

Smile!!! There are Benefits!!

smile

We all want benefits!  I am sure that in your places of employment that is one of the first things you ask…what are the benefits that my family receives if I work here??  I know my family was always very happy when there was coverage at a workplace in order to go to the dentist.  I always found the dental profession very interesting…spending your time looking into people’s mouths and poking at their teeth with sharp objects…what an interesting profession!!  We need to be healthy in soul and body…that includes our teeth!  Thank you dentists!!

So…back to the topic of benefits.  You might ask Religious Sisters or priests: “what are the benefits you have received in embracing this call from God?”  I would say the great benefit of being a priest or Religious Sister is that we have embraced a life where God is to be our everything.  We are striving to have a life, where everything is centered on God and loving God.  But to say that we have embraced a life where God is our everything means that we are striving to be holy and that means embracing the joys and beauty in the life.  It also means embracing the Cross when it comes.  You might ask: “Sister, you are actually saying that carrying the Cross is a benefit…you mean that the Cross is actually something valuable?”  The answer is “yes” provided that we carry it with our Lord in a spirit of Faith, Hope, Charity and I add with patience and humility.  Embracing the Cross can help you become a great saint!  The Saints became saints because they carried their Cross with love.  We can do that to!

So what is the benefit of the dark night in our souls…well there is not just one…there are about three that I can think of.  Firstly, we have a greater knowledge of self and our own misery that leads to respect and reverence toward God, spiritual humility, love of neighbour and obedience and submission to others.  Someone who has gone through the dark night sees they are totally dependent on God and they need to have an awe of God and true self-acceptance.  Having spiritual humility involves recognizing our sinfulness, but also seeing and loving that God has set His merciful gaze upon us.  We see that as we go through the dark night our compassion and love for our neighbour increases.  When we look at our neighbour, we no longer judge them as we used to do, but we just see God’s mercy when we look at them.  Finally, obedience and submission to others, especially to parents, Superiors, teachers etc… gets easier as we make our way through the dark night.  Obedience comes easier when we realize we are not the center of the universe and that we don’t know everything!!

The second benefit that I can think of is that the dark night helps us to grow in virtue and uproot vices.  In our unconscious there are things that need to be rooted out.  Our initial virtues begin to become strong virtues.  We no longer seek the delights that we received from spiritual exercises.  We are more aware of our sinfulness and we move towards unity with God and love God through the aridity.

Finally, the third benefit to having the dark night of the soul is that there is a purity of love that happens.  The soul grows in love for God and begins to love God for Himself.  After the dark night the devil is vanquished (yes!!)  The soul is now full of zeal…now the soul needs the night of the spirit.

What is interesting is that we are not all called to the same level of holiness as each other.  God calls some to higher levels of sanctity.  Not all souls have the same starting point…some begin their road to conversion later in life.  However we all need a purgation…we all need a cleansing…just like our teeth need cleansing once in a while (thank you again dentists!) …so does our soul need cleansing and the more open we are to God’s work the more shiny and beautiful our soul will be before the throne!!

I once heard a priest talk on one of our annual retreats in the summer time, and he talked to us about heaven.  He said that when we get to heaven, there will be no jealousy about the holiness of another saint.  Our conversations will be much like: “Oh!  What a great degree of holiness you have!! That’s awesome!!” and the other will reply, “Your degree of holiness is awesome too!!”  It was super funny when he was explaining it.  He was making the point that we will not have the same degree of holiness as each other in heaven…but the important thing is that we will be there together for all eternity!!

 

 

A Time to Hope…Not to be Stubborn!

hope

Have you ever noticed how little children know how to get what they want?  I remember hearing a story about a little girl who threw a tantrum because she wanted something…she wasn’t getting her own way.  Her father, observed her jumping up and down screaming!  He went up to her, took her by the hand and started doing the exact same thing she was doing: jumping and screaming…she was so embarrassed that her dad was doing that, she never threw another tantrum again.  Obviously, he was trying to prove a point…to help her to see how ridiculous she is being by being so stubborn.

Sometimes when we don’t get what we want…or we just don’t understand if we want something that we know is good, why doesn’t God allow us to have it?  Some things will remain a mystery…hidden… but in eternity we will know.  Maybe what we did want was not the best thing for us at the time…or maybe God wants us to have that good thing, but He is asking us to be patient and wait…or maybe there is something even more wonderful just around the corner and God is whispering: “Wait until you see what I have for you!”  But we can be so stubborn and needy…God challenges us to trust…and wait…but not just to wait…to wait in hope!

Waiting…that reminds me…Happy Advent everyone!!!  We are so blessed to have a time of preparation and waiting for the Saviour, yet our waiting is with joy-filled hope!  Jesus is our hope!

As we have been discussing in these blog posts the seven deadly sins and how to grow in our relationship with God through them, I hope that it has helped us to see that we are weak and that we need God.  However, I hope that it has also instilled hope inside of you because if God allows you to pass through the dark night, it means He wants you to be a great saint!  This is certainly a reason to hope!!

It is very important to be able to distinguish between the signs for discerning the dark night, and the signs of us just being stubborn!

First of all, we need to understand the need of three signs that we have entered the dark night.  The first sign is that the soul experiences no satisfaction in creatures.  In the dark night, prayer becomes hard, and performing works of mercy and charity becomes extremely hard.  God is purging the soul of spiritual consolations and delights and so the soul does not find satisfaction in creatures.  The soul seeks for God alone!  The second sign is that the memory ordinarily turns to God with solicitude.  This means that the soul may think and feel that it has turned away from God yet, this is not the case at all!!  Their desire for God is so great…they do not feel like praying for example but are still committed to prayer.  A stubborn soul (lukewarm) is one who does not feel like praying and then stops praying because they just don’t feel like it!  A lukewarm soul does not long for God because God does not seem to be communicating through their senses.  The third sign is that the soul will have an inability to meditate.  They experience a type of “dry thirst” during meditation, yet the spirit is strengthened through it all!  The soul must persevere and be content with just remaining in the presence of God and offering to God their poverty, and “empty hands” during meditation.

So how should a soul conduct themselves during the dark night?  There are three ways that the saints explain how a soul can do this!

First, a soul must stop discursive meditation and remain in the presence of God.  They must simply wait in the stillness of God.  Secondly, a soul must persevere with patience.  Prayer will seem like a trial and a cross, however perseverance is very pleasing to God!  Thirdly, a soul must have a loving and peaceful attentiveness to God.  The soul must lose any concern about how they feel and must learn to let go of control.

The saints know the dark night!  Take hope in the words of St. Mother Teresa: “God speaks in the silence of the heart.  Listening is the beginning of prayer.”

A Good Cup of Coffee…

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If you were to go out to coffee with a saint, which saint would you go with?  Maybe Our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel…maybe St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi or St. Peter?  Perhaps St. Agnes, St. Mary Magdalene, or St. Lucy??  Let’s say that your favourite saint, or the saint that you have a great devotion to, asked you to go out for coffee, what would you talk about?  Would you ask them questions?  Would you seek their counsel?  Would you just be happy to enjoy each other’s company?  Or would you be like one of those people that says, “Oh my goodness…I am your biggest fan!!!”

I have found that the saints are wonderful helpers, and our friends.  As we close this month of November, I just want to acknowledge the presence of the saints in our lives, the fact that they are with us…always!

The saints are men and women who have lived every mystery of our Lord…the joyful, the sorrowful and the glorious.  The saints discovered that if we are going to find God, we need to make an effort to go within and have a strong interior life.  They knew that their prayer time with the Lord was time well spent and totally immersed themselves in their relationship with God.  They LOVE THE EUCHARIST!!!  THEY LOVE ALL THE SACRAMENTS!!!  They also knew that purification is needed: to be pure in heart and intention.  Even when the trials came, the saints know: “God has been loving me all along.”  Just as the saints were tested, so must we be put to the test too.  God calls our love to be purified.  We discover during the test that people or things cannot fill us entirely…we are drawn in so many directions…is the Lord the main one I am drawn too?  The saints lived lives of joy….even when they were suffering…really suffering…they still had joy, because they kept their eyes on God.  They knew the joy that they hoped for was coming to them…the joy and happiness of heaven!

When we look at the lives of the saints, we see that they knew their great poverty.  They experienced loss, temptation and trial just like all of us, and so they learned compassion and self-sacrifice.  They saw that when God took away things that are not Him, this was a great mercy in order for them to belong completely to God alone.  The saints teach us that sometimes we need to say “no” to someone or something in order to say “yes” to God.  In order to do this, the saints knew that they needed to be so confident in this truth: someone cares about you…someone thinks you are special…and what needs to be most central in our thoughts is that God is that someone who loves us.

Many times we think that in order to show someone we love them, we need to talk and talk and talk.  I am learning that the deeper love grows for someone, the less that needs to be communicated.  I believe, just from reading St. John of the Cross and other authors that as we grow in relationship with the Lord, there will be times when just being with Him in His presence will be enough in that moment.  “Lord, I just want to be with you.”  However, the Lord does want us to bring our needs and intentions before Him in simplicity and confidence of a child: “Father in heaven…please, please, please, please???”

Our love needs to become REAL LOVE…not a love that is based on “what can you give me” rather a love that says, “I love you so much that I want to see you in heaven with God for all eternity…I want you to be so on fire with love for God…I want Mary, our Mother to always take care of you…and I am willing to pray, and sacrifice so that God will be your everything…”

The saints knew the power of prayer and penance.  The saints knew the test of FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY.  When someone says, “please pray for me,” take this request seriously, just like the saints did.  Make room in your prayer life for that person.  They are counting on your prayers!  Understand that we count on the faith of others when our faith is weak.  A saint never gives up on anyone!  If there is someone in your life who you are very worried about or you see them going down a dark path I say this to you…NEVER STOP PRAYING FOR THEM!!!  NEVER STOP SACRIFICING FOR THEM!  God sees your tears and fears.  He knows the love that you have for them…and HE will work miracles!

So the question is: “What am I desiring apart from God?”  “Am I content with God alone?”

So the next time you have a coffee in the morning…invite your favourite saint.  Talk to them as you would talk to any one of your friends…ask them to pray for you and the people you love…ask them to give you guidance and help…ask them to help you love Jesus as they love Him…make sure you ask them to have coffee with you again!!

To tell you the Truth…

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Truth speaks to the heart…it has a way of penetrating the heart so deeply that it transforms you…

People are not just hungry…they are STARVING for the truth.  Sometimes hearing truth can be painful, but there is a freedom when truth is known and loved.  I once heard about a priest who gave a homily and I am sure that those who heard it will never forget it.  He read the Gospel at Mass and paused for a minute… Everyone was eager to know what he was going to say.  Then the priest said… “When are you going to start being honest with yourself?  You are hiding something aren’t you?  You know what it is…maybe it is sin you have committed, or something you are ashamed to admit. Are you so afraid to mention it in Confession?  It is time to cut the nonsense.”  Then he sat down.  The priest who told us the story said that afterwards there was a big line-up for Confession!  It did not necessarily mean that people had serious sins on their soul.  But questions like this can penetrate the heart so deeply and speak a truth to us… because we don’t really know ourselves.

At times, it is possible to be afraid of the truth.  Sometimes there are things that we are hiding that we are either too embarrassed or too afraid to bring into the light.

We are not really free when we try to hide the truth.  We are not free when we try to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.  We fear the consequences…we fear being judged…we fear not being loved.  We can start to believe this lie: “If they really knew the truth…they won’t love me anymore.”

So what do we do?  First, we need to acknowledge our pride and remind ourselves that God never stops loving us.  God is Love itself!  Are our sins and mistakes so big that God stops loving us?  No that is ridiculous!  God can never stop loving us!  God is love!

Second, we need to accept ourselves and slowly learn how to forgive ourselves…especially for mistakes of the past.  This is extremely difficult, especially for someone who is experiencing the memory of betrayals and regrets of the past….and as a result it is possible to get angry.

Sometimes the emotion of anger bubbles over in us and we are not sure how to handle it.  We need to decide how we are going to handle our anger.  Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and count to 10, or sometimes there are wounds that are so deep that it takes time and perhaps some additional help from a spiritual director or counsellor to learn how to forgive the mistakes of the past… live in freedom in the present…and accept the events of the future as they come.

It is so easy to see our brokenness and be angry at ourselves.  We can enter a certain type of “spiritual anger” where we feel angry that we are not having the consolations in prayer like we used too.  We can call this an “immoderate desire for spiritual gratification.”  If we only have consolations in prayer, it is possible to get the false impression that we are perfect already and fall away from our desire to love God more.   Our founder, Fr. Ryan used to say, “We cannot love God enough…we must want to love God more!”

It is also possible to have an anger that arises because we see the virtues in other people.  Yes, we can become bitter that someone else is growing in virtue.  We see the virtue in another person and right away it is possible to get angry and seek out something that they are lacking in order to relieve our own emotional anger and make us feel better about ourselves.  How do we combat this?  Be thankful for the virtue you see in the other.  Give a prayer of thanksgiving to God for that person in your life!

As much as we hate to admit it, it is easy to be angry with the fact that we are not perfect!  We lack patience with ourselves and so this is a display of our own pride.  We make resolutions and commitments and it seems that the more resolutions we have, the more we break them.  We need to pray for meekness and gentleness of heart for ourselves and others.  We need to be more compassionate to ourselves!  God knows our brokenness, mistakes and failures, yet He still wants a relationship with us!  Take courage because some of the greatest sinners turned into the greatest saints: St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalene and the list goes on.  How did they become saints…after their lives of sin?  They repented and came back to God.  We can go to Jesus too, through the Sacrament of Confession.  It is easy to go to Confession angry and embarrassed because we are not perfect.  We need to go to Confession with a disposition of sorrow, and humility and try our best to be open and honest.

Do not let anger over the past damage the love that you can bring in the present!  You have so much to give…so much love to give.  That kind word you gave to that person who annoys you…that listening ear to that person who really needed a shoulder to cry on…choosing to look at people’s virtues as a gift from God are little ways that we can give glory to God.

So, stay cool everybody!!

A Test of the Heart…

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“More torturous then all else is the human heart, beyond remedy who can understand it?  I the Lord explore the mind and test the heart… (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  The Son of God has a Heart.  His Sacred Heart inflamed with love is also a wounded heart.  His Heart is wounded by sins of ingratitude…sins against faith, hope and love.  Yet His Heart still burns for us…

I once heard a story about Brother Juniper that you can find in the book entitled: The Flowers of St. Francis.  Brother Juniper, in his innocence, at times made people angry.  There was one time at Christmas where a poor woman asked Brother Juniper for alms.  He saw that the cloth on the altar had some costly bells on it.  So, Brother Juniper cut the bells and gave them to the woman in need.  The sacristan in anger took the cloth to the Superior General who then corrected Brother Juniper with severity.  Brother Juniper delighted in being corrected (yes delighted) and wanted to find a remedy for the Superior General’s hoarse voice.  So, he went to town to buy flour and butter to make a pudding to help soothe the Superior’s hoarse voice.  Brother Juniper made the pudding, and upon waking his Superior General at a very late hour he said, “Father, when you reproved me today for my faults, I perceived that your voice grew hoarse, and I thought it was from over-fatigue.  I considered what would be the best remedy and have had this hasty-pudding made for you…I pray you eat of it…for it will do you good.”  After the Superior angrily refused because of the lateness of the hour, Brother Juniper said, “Father, since you will not eat the pudding which was made for you, at least do this for me: hold the candle for me and I will eat it.”  Then the general, seeing the piety of this friar answered, “Well, since you will have it so, you and I will eat together.”

I really like this story.  Brother Juniper was so free…even though people were angry with him and did not understand him, he was so free.  He did not allow the anger of others to take away his peace, nor did he turn in on himself getting discouraged and upset that he made a mistake.  Brother Juniper knew that he had good intentions for why he responded to the woman’s request…and so he was able to be at peace, no matter what the other Brothers, or even the Superior thought of him.  Brother Juniper used this opportunity to love…to really love.

Our hearts are also wounded.  We have had times where we have been hurt…sometimes very hurt.  And what is our reaction on a natural level?  Anger.  Yes anger.  We have all been angry have we not?  We have allowed emotion and passion to get the better of us!  There are times where we have lost our temper, for things small like: who did not pick up their socks?  Who left these dishes in the sink?  We lose our temper over bigger things, like when someone has cut us off from traffic, or when do not get what we want.  We are angry when we lose someone we really care about…and we grieve…and we want to blame someone…sometimes we blame God…sometimes we blame ourselves or others.  When we lose someone we torture ourselves and live in a state of regret and guilt: “If only I would have had the opportunity to tell them how much I cared about them…if only I could have had the courage to say that I was sorry…if only I could have been able to speak the healing word to them…if only I would have thought before I acted…if only I could have just loved that person, for who they are instead of who I wanted them to be…if only I could go back in time, and fix what I have broken…and the list goes on and on and on.  Living in a constant state of regret and guilt is making us look at ourselves…we are not looking at Christ! There is something disordered there…we are afraid to accept our own brokenness and we are afraid to forgive ourselves…and so we get angry.  We are angered when someone offends us very much…when someone says something, or does something that leaves a deep wound…a deep scar, that can only be healed with love and the grace of forgiveness.

For those of us who are perfectionists, we tend to get angry that everything is not perfect…including ourselves!  We tend to get upset that the people around us are not perfect.  We imagine that we ourselves our perfect, and are not able to accept others who do not meet our standards.  What is the cause of our misery?…I hate to break it to you…WE are the cause of our own misery.  We are bringing it on ourselves…we are allowing ourselves to be angry and freely choosing to live in a sea of pain and regret.  What can be done?

Let’s look at the life of Jesus.  He suffered people’s jealousy, ignorance, the pain of not being understood or accepted even in his own country.  Yet, what does Jesus do?  He forgives and He loves them so much that he died for them.  The Son of God would rather die then spend eternity without us.  Is the love I have for those who have hurt me like the love of Christ?

When we are angry, our heart is tested.  The love in our heart is put to the test.  Are we willing and able to feel the injustice and pain of the hurt and still forgive?  Jesus is with us in the pain, and loneliness…Jesus is attracted to brokenness.  In imitation of Christ, we must make reparation for the people who have hurt us.  This means we must be able to offer our prayers, works and sacrifices for people who make us angry or who are angry themselves.  We can only defeat evil through love!