JOY…at 5:50 am in the Morning… and in Community Life!!!

Sunrise in Glen Morris

This is the sun coming up at Annunciation Motherhouse in Glen Morris…at 6:00 am in the morning!!

How do you get up so early? (5:30 am)?! I struggle to get up even at 7 am! Is there anything that helps you to get up early, and to keep going when you’re tired during the day?

This is a great question!

Love can make us do crazy things…even wake up at 5:30 am!!  One of our Sisters says it is one of her great joys in Religious Life to ring the bell and knock on the doors to wake us up for Chapel!!!  We see this as “God’s call” to us.  When we hear the bell or hear the knock, we are called to respond immediately, “Thank you!”  Some communities say, “Deo Gratias” which is fine to say too!  In saying “Thank you” we are not only saying thank you that it is a new day, but we are also saying “Thank you” that God has called us to a fresh new day where we can love Him.  In the Gospels, we hear a few times how Jesus would pass through the whole night in prayer to His Heavenly Father.  Jesus offered the sacrifice of sleep to the Father, so out of imitation of Jesus we do the same.  Also, we wake up early because we love our Spouse and we desire that the whole day be sanctified through, with and in Him.  Waking up is a sacrifice which we offer to God for the salvation of souls.  Jesus’ question “Will you stay awake and watch one hour with me?,”  can be accompanied with “will you rise up early out of love for me?”

What gets me up in the morning is remembering that Jesus is in the tabernacle waiting for me, and I don’t want Him to wait too long!!

With all that said, in Religious Life, we need to take care of our spiritual needs (our life of prayer and sacramental life) as well as our bodily needs.  Having enough sleep at night, eating healthy, exercising are all very important elements of our life that help to keep us in balance.  Balance is so key in Religious Life!!   Of course, we might feel tired during the day, but that is also an offering that we can make to God for the salvation of souls.  Jesus got tired too!  Remember the Gospel account where He was sleeping in a boat during a storm…remember Him carrying the Cross in His Passion…but He kept going out of love.  Sometimes it is a good idea when we are really tired to just take some time of silence throughout the day, open up the Scriptures and meditate on it for a few minutes.  That can really help in energizing us to keep going!

The main thing is to remember that as Spouses of Christ we are seeking union with our Spouse.  Love always entails sacrifice and a giving of oneself and so in the morning, we hear that bell, or the knock and our response is one of love: “I am coming Jesus!!!”

How does one learn to live in community, with all the tensions and different dispositions? I know at times it can be difficult, but what helps you live community life faithful to your call? What helps you in times of conflict/misunderstanding with your dear Sisters?

This is a wonderful question!!!

It might be helpful if we begin with the reasons why Religious live a common, community life.  Remember that Jesus called 12 men and lived with them for three years!  They all got to know each other really well!  And I am sure that it was not all cherries and cream…however they persevered because they loved the one who called them.  In the same way, we love the one who has called us and we are all on the same journey, union with God and we are in it together!!!  In community life we have the ability to have an intense prayer life private and communal.  I really believe our prayer life is intense because we desire union with God and also for the graces we need just to live together!  Also, community life provides us with a social life and a support in living the Evangelical counsels.  Believe me it is wonderful to have support from your Sisters!  These are wonderful women who are trying to give their lives for God as well as they can through living poverty, chastity and obedience.  Community life allows us to strive to live an authentic Gospel life in imitation of the first Christians!  Our community life should be a life of joy, because the Gospel itself is rooted in joy!  Finally, living community life is a witness to the world, but not only that, we Sisters are witnesses to each other.  When people see us, they should see love and when they see love, they see Christ.  But we are also a witness to each other.  There are times where we learn from each other…and our witnesses of Christ to each other in our prayer and work.

You are absolutely right that just like in any family, tensions and conflicts can arise.  This is due to our fallen nature.  It is good to come to Religious Life knowing that we are not perfect…and that our Sisters in community are not perfect.  Just knowing this fact can really help in those times of tension.  I also think it is important to remember that we are all on the same journey…we are all trying to follow the Lord and love the Lord as best as we can so we need to cut each other some slack!!!  Also, if a tension or conflict comes up, it is a good idea to pause and think about what is good and beautiful in that Sister, even just the mere fact that she is created as a beautiful daughter of God and that God has been merciful to her just has He has been merciful to me.  Prayer is a very good idea as well…we should pray for our Sisters in community every day…that we will all have the grace of forgiveness, no matter what.  The words “I am sorry” should come up frequently in community life, and just as frequently, the words: “I forgive you.”  Also, having a good confessor and spiritual director can help you to speak about hurts that have come.  Finally, learning about different temperaments is very helpful!  That way you will discover patterns in your Sisters: what they like, what they don’t like…how they speak…what it means when they don’t speak…what makes them laugh…or cry….understanding all those things can really help!!

I really believe it is essential to pray everyday for a greater love for our Sisters in Community.  Jesus, help me to love my Sisters…help me to see them as you see them and to love them as you love them…Amen!

 

 

What are you Wearing? My Wedding Dress!!!!!!

 

Sr. Mary Pio

 

Why do Sisters where the habit? Do you ever feel awkward or uncomfortable wearing it?

Good question!

Hearing this question brought to mind a story from one of our Sisters who was on a school visit.  One of the students in kindergarten, who had never seen a Sister wearing the habit before, raised their hand and asked her: “Are you Mary?” and she responded, “No, but I am one of her daughters!”

Wearing the habit is a sign of our consecration to God.  Consecration means to “be set apart.”  As Sisters, we are set apart in order to belong completely to God as Brides of Jesus Christ.  The habit is a sign of our love for our spouse…a complete and total surrender to the Lord.  The habit is our wedding dress…and we get to wear it everyday!!!!  In the Vatican II document entitled Perfectae Caritatis 17, the Church explains the habit in this way:

“The religious habit, an outward mark of consecration to God should be simple and modest, poor and at the same time becoming.  In addition, it must meet the requirements of health and be suited for the circumstances of time and place, and the needs of the ministry involved…” (PC 17)

As Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate, we wear a blue habit out of love for our Blessed Mother Mary.  Often in Catholic art, the colour blue symbolizes heavenly grace, so it is so fitting that artists would clothe her in blue!  Blue is her colour!

Crucifix

We wear the crucifix around our neck as a sign of love for our Bridegroom and our willingness to carry our cross everyday with the Lord in imitation of our Blessed Mother.

Rosary Belt

One of the most beautiful parts of the habit, and one of the most exciting parts to put on is the rosary belt!  It is a sign of our devotion and love for Our Lady, and also our devotion to prayer and contemplation.  Since we pray the full rosary everyday offering it for the salvation of souls, the rosary is a significant part of our spirituality.  Just as our Lady “kept all these things pondering them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19) we too ponder the life of our Spouse, Jesus, in imitation of her.  Just as knights would carry their swords on their belts going into battle, we as Sisters go into the spiritual battle with our rosary on our belts.

Veil

Just as a Bride wears a veil on her wedding day, so is the veil a visible sign that we are Brides of Christ now and for all eternity!!  The veil is to be a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the Church to the loving rule of Christ.  It is also a sign of our life of chastity, that our hearts are focused on Christ, that we belong to Christ alone.  It is also a sign of our Spiritual Motherhood, that because we belong to Christ, we are called to pray and do penance for the salvation of souls.

Scapular

As Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate, we are dedicated to Our Blessed Mother Mary.  Wearing the Scapular over our belt and tunic represents her protection over us…since Her Son is our Spouse and we are consecrated to God.  It is a sign of her motherly protection over us, that we will always have God’s grace.

Tunic

Modest, yet lovely, our blue tunic is a sign of our total commitment to Christ.  Our tunic has long-sleeves and it reaches all the way to the floor!!!  It is a sign of purity and modesty, showing that we belong to Christ: body and soul.  Wearing the tunic also honors our Lady who is the most modest and pure of all women.

White Collar

Our habit does have a white collar, not for a fashion statement, but as a sign of purity.

RING!!!!!!!!

THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!  We have reached the climax!!!  Wearing the ring is a sign of our total consecration and commitment to Christ, now and for all eternity!  He is our Beloved Spouse and we are His Beloved Brides!!!  The ring is also a sign of the great gift our vocation is and is a sign of our “yes” to God to be His forever!  The ring is a sign of Christ’s eternal love for us and His deep intimate call to be united with us forever!

It is so beautiful!!!!

I love wearing the habit!!!  I love seeing how people’s minds automatically turn to God and the Church when they see us.  Sometimes, people will come up to us and ask for prayers, or will even start to tell us about the days when they had nuns as teachers!!  Also, there are those who may feel awkward or upset to see us, but that too is a grace…it is an opportunity for us to imitate Christ and to pray for them, and maybe in some cases to pray with them.   I really do believe that wearing the habit is a way in which people can encounter the love of God.  They know when they see a Sister, they will see love.  Wearing the habit also shows the world the beauty of purity and chastity!  It is a gift to wear the habit!  I love wearing it!

Keep your questions coming everybody!!

A Simple Prayer Everyday…

jesus-carpenter

May is the month of many graces!  Especially when we consider the graces that come from the prayers of Our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph.  Of course, May is the month of Mary where we as her children sing the praises of God that He gave us His Mother to be our Mother too!  We pray that Mary will help us to love her Son just as she does.  On May 1st we celebrate the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker where we honor the call of St. Joseph, His wonderful vocation to be the husband of Mary and protector and guardian of Jesus!  We pray that St. Joseph will help all of us, no matter what vocation we are called to, that in living out our vocation faithfully God will be glorified!!  I am sure that St. Joseph thanked God everyday for his vocation.  I am sure he was grateful everyday for the gift of being able to look into the eyes of His King, Redeemer and Saviour and as His provider and guardian, love Jesus as a father.  I am sure he thanked God everyday that he could look into the beautiful, tender and loving eyes of Mary, for he could not have found a more beautiful wife to love.  He had the great honor of providing for the Son of God and His Beloved Mary!  He is such a powerful intercessor!!  Short story about him…  One of our Sisters in community said that she prayed a simple prayer everyday to St. Joseph for a while asking him to intercede for her brother to become a priest.  Dedicating his life to God through becoming a priest was not on his radar at all, however St. Joseph certainly interceded!!! He is now a priest and a Vocation Director in a Diocese in Canada.  What a miracle!!!

In the upcoming weeks, in honor of the vocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, we are going to be talking about your questions on Religious Life.  I want to hear from all of you!!!!  What, are those questions about Religious Life that are just burning inside of you that you have always wanted to ask a Sister?  Now is your chance!!!

Please submit your questions about Religious Life!!  There is a “Leave a Reply” tab at the bottom of this article so just click on it and fill out the information and submit your questions!!  In answering your questions, I will keep your name and information anonymous so no worries about that!!!  I will be looking at it everyday, so don’t be shy!!! I look forward to hearing from you!

Please don’t miss this opportunity to get the inside scoop about the life of a Bride of Christ!!!!

I am also including a link for you to pray with the Canadian Bishops the Consecration of our country to the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of Pandemic.  May she intercede for us!!!

Here it is!!!

https://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/Marian_Consecration_1_May_2020.pdf

Faces of Joy…

All saints

When I was about eight years old, my dad taught me how to play the guitar.  I remember being extremely excited!  He would carefully show me all the different chords, and how to move from one chord to the next.  I remember the guitar being very big for me (I really had to stretch my arms) and that my fingers would be very sore, but as I kept practicing it got easier.  At first, when I would strum, I would get all kinds of sounds that made us both laugh!! Learning to play guitar was one of my dreams… largely because I knew that it was something that my dad could teach me…and that he was happy to teach me.

When it comes to true Christian joy, that is something that Jesus shows us by the example of his very life.  Jesus teaches us what Christian joy is, just like my dad taught me how to play guitar.  It is the joy that is in Jesus’ glorified heart.

What do we mean by “Christian joy?”  Jesus prays about it in the Gospel when He prays to His Heavenly Father: “I have made your name known to them…so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them…” (Jn 17:24).  This type of joy comes when you know that you are completely loved by your Heavenly Father.  Jesus knows He is loved by His Father.  The love of the Father is so great for us that He wants all of us to be His sons and daughters.  Through our Baptism God’s love and grace is poured into our hearts so that we can be docile in receiving the love and joy that God has for us.  This grace and love grows in us as we receive the Eucharist with good dispositions.

According to St. John of the Cross there are two dimensions of the human personality: psychological and spiritual. In the psychological dimension which is in the lower part of the soul, we are able to experience in a profound way God’s love through everyday experiences and consolations that He grants us.  In the spiritual dimension of the soul which is the higher part of the soul, we are able experience a joy that no one can take from us, even in the midst of sickness, persecution, failure, and rejection.  A joy so real that we can honestly say we are living in the Holy Spirit.  Christian joy is compatible with human suffering and sorrow meaning that someone who possesses Christian joy is able to have joy even in the midst of affliction and struggle.  Just like when I would play guitar my fingers would get sore, I was still happy to play the guitar.  The Saints, the real faces of joy, as they carried their cross securely were the most joyful people, yet they were the most afflicted.  Love knows how to suffer and how to maintain peace in the Cross.  The saints were able to rejoice in the Cross of the Lord because of their strong interior life and love for the Lord!

Pick a Saint, any Saint, and read about their life…what were some of their challenges/difficulties and how did they respond to them?

How did that Saint pray in the midst of trial and difficulty?

Jesus, through His life, death and Resurrection, communicates to us His Father’s love.  Christian joy can turn into Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor; theirs is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they that mourn…”  This true joy comes most explicitly when we realize that we are loved and wanted by God.  As we grow in Christian joy the fruits of the Holy Spirit begin to take real shape in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, faith, self-control and chastity.  Indeed, may these Fruits of the Holy Spirit bear Christ’s image in our souls!

In the upcoming blog posts, I think we are all finally ready to explore the various stages of the spiritual life namely a general overview of the purgative, illuminative, and unitive stages.  We will also be talking about various topics that have to do with Religious Life…answers to questions that you have always wanted to know!!!!

It is going to be exciting!!!!  Don’t miss it!!!!!

Poor Thomas…

 

Jesus and Thomas

I feel sorry for Thomas.  While the Apostles were rejoicing over their Risen Lord, poor Thomas, because he had not seen Jesus yet, was not rejoicing.  Thomas was doubting.  He said, “unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25).  What was Thomas looking for?  He wanted joy.  He wanted to see the presence of the Risen Lord.  Thomas wanted to have the joy that his brother Apostles had at seeing the Lord.  It was only after Thomas saw the Lord and touched the marks in His hands, feet and side that he exclaimed with joy, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Joy exists on two levels namely the level of nature (human level) and the level of grace (Christian joy).  This week we are going to contemplate joy on the level of nature (human level) and next week we will contemplate on Christian joy.

Pope Paul VI once spoke about natural joys as “a starting point when [Jesus] proclaimed the kingdom of God.”  In calling this natural level of joy a “starting point,” he is indicating that the simple, natural pleasures of life are good, provided that we engage in them virtuously seeing them as gifts of God and not abusing them out of selfishness and greed.  We need to engage pleasures according to God’s design and not according to our own selfish desires.  It is possible for pleasures to become addictions if they are not mortified and engaged in virtuously.  Pope Paul VI says,

“Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty generating joy.  For joy has another source.  It is spiritual…Money, comfort, hygiene, and material security are often not lacking; and yet boredom, depression and sadness remain the lot of many….is it perhaps a matter of loneliness, and an unsatisfied thirst for love and someone’s presence, of an ill- defined emptiness?”

Have I ever felt empty?

Do I see that natural joys tell us something about the beauty and goodness of God?

Since we are composed of body, soul and spirit, the joys that we experience affect our body, soul and spirit.  There are three kinds of joy namely: physical joy (experience of the body), emotional delight (experience in the soul), and rational joy (experience of the spirit).  An example of physical joy would be eating your favourite meal consisting of spaghetti and ice cream…An example of emotional delight would be something that stirs up positive feelings and is exciting but passive such as: your graduation day, winning the lottery, receiving a bouquet of flowers from someone, going to a hockey game with your family.  Rational joy is an experience of mind and will.  Joy is always relational; it is the fruit of love between persons.  Rational joy is willing the good of the other. Someone who has this type of joy gives without counting the cost.  Examples of people who shared this type of joy are the saints like Saint Mother Teresa who gave all for the sake of the poor; the great Apostles like Sts. Peter and Paul who gave themselves completely in order to spread the Gospel to every nation.  But this type of joy is not meant for only a few, but is meant to be experienced by all.

We have joys that come to us every day.  We can be joyful about existence and the great gift of life that God has given us.  We can have the joy of chaste and sanctified love in marriage and family/community life.  We can have the peaceful joy of nature and silence and of being able to appreciate God’s creation.  We can have the joy of doing our work well.  We can have the joy of purity, service and sharing by conducting acts of charity and doing things for others.  We can also experience the joy of sacrifice which purifies our souls and attachments and makes us capable of greater love.

We need to be able to savor all joys…but joy on the human level can only bring us so far.

Is there a higher level of joy?…read the next blog and find out!!

Joy in Him…

Jesus and Mary

Have you ever had a moment where you were so overwhelmed with happiness?  Maybe it was when you went on that trip that you always wanted to go on.  Perhaps it was the day you received your university degree after many years of intense study.  Maybe it was the moment that you held your newborn baby for the first time.  Perhaps it was the day you got married to your high school sweetheart.  If you are a priest, I am sure it was the day you were ordained and celebrated your first Mass.  If you are a Consecrated Religious, perhaps it was the day of your entrance, and final profession day.  We all have moments where we experience great heights of happiness and joy.  If we were to have asked St. Mary Magdalene what her moment of overwhelming happiness was… I am sure she would say it was the moment at the tomb when Jesus said “Mary!”

When we read the Resurrection account, we hear that Mary did not recognize Jesus at first.  Overcome with grief that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, Mary could not recognize the Lord.  But when he said her name “Mary” (John 20:16) she was overwhelmed with great joy and did only what any woman would do…she wanted to embrace Him.  Hearing her name proclaimed by Jesus, was enough to fill every part of her with exceedingly great joy.

Do we hear the Lord calling our name? 

Do we hear God call us His sons and daughters?

Is Jesus our joy?  Do we find our joy in the risen Christ?

St. John of the Cross in his many works speaks about the joy that comes from being in union with God.  Christian joy is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  When someone has joy, they are consciously aware of possessing good which is the fundamental desire of the heart.  Blessed Pier Giorgio once said, “You ask me whether I am in good spirits.  How could I not be so?  As long as faith gives me strength I will always be joyful.”

There are two elements of joy: possessing a good and a conscious awareness.  To love or desire the good is not enough.  We need to foster the virtue of thanksgiving to God.  Many times we do not realize how much we have been given.  We are downcast at times because we are pursuing things that are lower than God.  But God has given us so much!  He has given us His very self especially evident when we meditate on His Passion and He gives Himself to us in the sacraments especially the Eucharist.

Conscious awareness of joy is necessary!  St. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Mary Magdalene and the Apostles are not joyful until they know that Jesus is risen from the dead!  Joy comes once they know that Jesus is risen from the dead.  We need to foster an awareness of all the gifts God has given us with a spirit of gratitude.

Finally, joy is a choice…like love.  Joy is certainly the fruit of love.  For this reason, we can be joyful even in the midst of the cross.  St. John of the Cross says, “if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.”  Spiritual joy comes when we are aware through Faith of God’s gifts even in the midst of the Cross.

Joy is so fundamental in the spiritual life!  We are called to be a people of joy!  Living the Gospel is a life of joy!  Let us go forth and proclaim that Jesus is Risen!

Wounded for Our Transgressions…

crown_of_thorns_with_nails_poster-r00eca8ebc0344a83b767418eab6388d0_wad_8byvr_307

 

The Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate wish all of you a very Blessed Holy Week and a Happy and Holy Easter!!!

Below is a series of passages from Scripture composing a “Biblical Narrative” of the Passion of Jesus based on the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John.  Read one verse after the other…bring it to prayer… allow the Lord to speak to you…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” (John 1:1)

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 4:16)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)

“…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself…the light is with you a little longer…walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you…believe in the light that you may become sons of light…” (John 12: 32, 35-36)

“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.” (John 1:10)

“Through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear…” (Isaiah 53: 11b-12)

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again; this charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

“He came to his own home, and his own people received him not…” (John 1:11)

“Behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of many is betrayed into the hands of sinners…” (Matthew 26:45)

“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed…” (Isaiah 53: 5)

“My, God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

“It is finished…” (John 19:30)

“But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)

“Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous…” (Romans 5:18-19)

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” (John 10: 10-11)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father…” (John 1:14)

“Peace be with you…”he showed them his hands and his side…” (John 20:21).

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him…” (1 John 4:10).

The Voice of Truth…

Jesus the Way, Truth and Life

I grew up hearing sayings like: “curiosity killed the cat” (poor cat) and “what they don’t know won’t hurt them!”  It is so interesting how it is built into our human nature that we want to know things.  I have a few examples of this from my own life.  I like to read…very much…and when I was working at a library during my High School years, I would pick up books to read… but I would be very anxious to know how they ended.  So…instead of reading the book, I would just read the end.  Another time it was my sister’s Birthday, and she wanted to know everything she was getting for her birthday…her birthday was just the next day…I couldn’t hold it in anymore…so I told her everything!

Knowing is so key in relationships and helps us in our interactions with other people.  Knowing people’s temperaments and how they respond to certain situations is really helpful!  Some people are very much extroverts and find joy in being around people.  Some people like their space and prefer to spend time in quiet and solitude.  Some people have a drive to get things done and enjoy a good challenge…while others prefer to take it easy and enjoy life as it comes.  Learning about each other, getting to know our strengths, gifts, and weaknesses can really serve well in the long run both in family life and community life.  We need to know ourselves before we can fully give ourselves.

Jesus is the Truth.  He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).  He told Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37).  He who lives in a web of lies and deceit is not at peace with himself or others. He who is living in the Truth is at peace.

Knowing is a big part of our relationship with God for we are created to know, love and serve Him.  We know that the intellect is made to know the truth of things and to be able to contemplate God’s beauty, truth and goodness.  St. Anthony the Great said, “The intellect in a pure devout soul truly sees God the unbegotten, invisible and ineffable, who is the sole purity in the pure of heart.”

There are various acts of the mind.  The mind gazes upon reality through the senses, makes judgements on the reality that it has perceived and it can reason by moving from one truth to another.  Let us take prayerful meditation on the Prodigal Son story as an example.  I am able to read the story as it is on the page and picture all the events in my mind.  I can see that the young man asks for his inheritance, leaves home, spends it all, and all that time his father is watching patiently for him.  As I reflect on what I read, I can draw conclusions from it: the mercy of God, God is Father, we are sinners.  The purpose of meditation is to rest in the Truth, allowing the Lord to work from within, and eventually that turns into a burst of love.

St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “What we can do and should do is to seek the truth and to serve it when we have found it.”  It is our duty to seek after truth and once we have found it, embrace it with all our hearts!  There are five ways of knowing: moral reasoning (mind is led by objective truths), emotional reasoning (the mind is led by the emotions), volitional reasoning (the mind is led by the will, for example a Supreme Court decision made), sacred reasoning (the mind is elevated by the light of faith and is led by Divine Revelation as taught and guarded by the Magisterium), finally contemplation (the mind is silent before the mystery of God and is led through the dark night by the Holy Spirit).

Since the mind has been wounded by ignorance in the state of original sin, it is prone to error in judgement.  There are various examples of this: curiosity, intellectual pride, and spiritual blindness.  Man was made for contemplation of Divine things.  Curiosity can be dangerous because it is possible for the mind to neglect the things of God and salvation and be preoccupied on less useful things.  We can be so fixated on truths that do not give life.  What can be done? Contemplation.  Contemplation communicates life to the soul by pondering the truths of God and allows us to ponder truths already known in order to be transformed by them.

Do we take enough time in our day to ponder the truths of God?  Do we waste time thinking about things that do not help us grow in our relationship with God?

Intellectual pride can also occur where someone is so confident in their own judgement and reason that they do not want to seek help or counsel from anyone else.  This mentality takes away the light of the Holy Spirit.  Heresies were born sadly because people in history put their judgement above the Church which put out the light of faith all together!  Spiritual blindness is another wound where persons lack the light of faith…they are not able to see the things of God because of intellectual pride and curiosity.  This leads into all sorts of difficulties!  Lack of faith in the Real Presence, preferring temporal goods to eternal goods (soccer game over going to Sunday Mass) are some examples.  Divine light is taken away because of repeated sins.

What purifies these wounds of the intellect?  Faith.  Someone with faith must cling firmly to the truths of the Faith on the authority of God.  With faith, we are able to judge according to the mind of Christ.  The light of faith must be animated by charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that we can be guided in all we do, think, say and avoid.  For example, it takes faith to realize that sometimes persons are brought into our life in order to help us grow in virtue, understanding and patience.  It takes faith to believe the Word of God even if we do not fully understand it.  It takes faith to accept suffering as it comes.  Faith is needed in every walk of life!  Let us pray for greater Faith in God…because greater faith will lead to greater love!

 

“Gratitude is the Memory of the Heart” St. Mary Euphrasia

Jesus and St. Dismas

I heard a story recently from a speaker about a young boy who would always be so busy playing outside that he would forget to come inside on time for dinner.  His mother finally told her son, “Son if you are late again, you will only be allowed to eat bread and drink water for dinner.”  The boy agreed and then went out again to play.  He was having such a good time outside that he completely forgot about dinner!  He ran back home only to find his mother and father with his favourite dinner before them!  What was at his place?  There at his place was the slice of bread and the glass of water.  The boy, head bent low, sat down at his place.  His father immediately grabbed the boy’s plate and replaced it with his own saying, “Son, I love you and I will take the punishment for you.”

This story explains to us the mercy and love of a father…even though the boy was guilty through his forgetfulness, the father looked upon him with mercy.  How many times in the Old Testament did the Israelites forget about the goodness and faithfulness of God…and how many times did God show mercy and forgiveness for that?  The Lord did not forget the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt!  He delivered them!  God speaks to His people “If I shall forget you Jerusalem let my right hand wither” (Psalm 137:5).  As the Israelites were engaging in idolatry (worship of idols) such as the golden calf, God did not abandon them!  As the Jews were waiting for the coming of Messiah, God did not abandon them…he sent Jesus!

How often we forget things!  How many times have we said to ourselves: “I forget where I left those keys!”  “I forgot to turn over my grilled cheese sandwich and now it is burnt!”  “I forgot to take out the trash and now there is a huge raccoon living in it!”  In this Lenten season, we should strive not to forget the most important things in life.  We should not forget the great love that God has for us in sending His Son, Jesus for us.  When Jesus was going through His Passion, He thought of you…He remembered you and He remembered me.  The good thief on the cross, which tradition names St. Dismas, only asked Jesus: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 RSV).  Jesus did more then just remember him, he said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 RSV).  Dismas only asked to be remembered and then Jesus canonized him!  That is pretty awesome!

Our memory is meant to help us remember God and His goodness to us.  In remembering His love and goodness, it initiates a response in us to want to spend more time with Him in prayer, and receive the Sacraments more often and more devoutly.  St. Mary Euphrasia, a woman who lived in a time of great political unrest and persecution once said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.”  When we are truly grateful for what someone did for us, or the very fact that the person was in our life…even for a short time, it fills our heart with gratitude and we never forget them; rather, we lift up our eyes to heaven and say, “thank you God, for bringing this person into my life…they are a gift to me.”

Are we grateful to God?  Are we grateful to others? 

In this Lenten season we are beginning to make a good examination of conscience…meaning we are looking back on our life and seeing all the areas where we have grown spiritually, but also the ways in which we have fallen into sin.  Our memory is a very useful tool because it can help us to respond in a healthy way to experiences that we have had in the past.  Perhaps memories of past hurts initiate a response of sorrow and forgiveness in us.  Perhaps memories of past joys initiate a response of friendship and acceptance. God is present in all the events and experiences of our lives.  We must strive to remember God in times when there was great joy, that he was the source of that joy, but also to remember the times of sorrow, that God did not abandon us, but was right there supporting us in our trial.

Our childhood experiences are extremely influential when it comes to forming our character.  If children come from a good home with a mother and father who love them, or if a child comes from a home that was abusive or demanding, this will affect their whole outlook on life: how they respond to God and people in authority.  Our memory of the past affects our interior life.  If we are at peace with the past and are able to see God’s mercy in it, then our interior life will be peaceful.  However, if trials of the past seem to haunt us in a sense, then our interior life will suffer.  We must pray for the gift of peace and acceptance of the past…then God’s Spirit can really work!

There can be three defects to our memory.  Remembering past sins, especially remembering sins that have already been brought to the Sacrament of Confession, can cause a renewed temptation to despair.  I once heard that every time the rooster would crow, St. Peter would weep remembering how he denied the Lord three times.  This did not make him fall into despair, but made him humble. These memories need to be purified with good spiritual direction, spiritual reading, and prayer.  One good book is St. Augustine’s Confessions where he remembers and writes about his life of sin, not out of despair but out of glory to God who delivered him from that life of sin.   Remembering past injuries to the point of unforgiveness can cause anger and resentment to build up.  Lent is a good time to pray for peace in these difficult times and to come to the Sacrament of Confession so that we can receive grace to carry those memories with peace and grace.  Remembering past sins can also make us forget the loving mercy of God.  As stated above we must recall often how merciful God has been to us.  Participating in the Holy Mass is a beautiful way to encounter the mercy of God.  The Eucharist is a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the Cross, for the Eucharist and the Cross are one single sacrifice.  The offering is the same and the one being offered is the same, only the manner of offering is different (C.f. CCC 1366-1367).

What is the remedy for purifying our memory?  The remedy is hope.  Hope purifies the memory, because it makes us mindful of God and orders our memories to God.  We learn through this virtue how to see everything in the light of God and His Providential care.  Through hope, our past memories of sin can transform into memories of God’s Divine Merciful Love.  Memories of the past through the eyes of hope can help us to have more self-knowledge, place us in a spirit of humility, and bring sorrow to our soul for having offended God.  Healing through past injuries can cause the Holy Spirit to empower us with the grace to forgive others…the way that Christ has forgiven us.  Healing that happens from the past brings joy to the angels and saints in heaven…with them we can forever sing of the Mercy of God.

The Carpenter’s Son…

Joseph and Jesus

I once heard that you can tell a lot about a man by the love in his heart and the work of his hands.  And similarly, you can tell a lot about a man by the one that he chooses to spend the rest of his life with.  Indeed, St. Joseph was a carpenter who loved to work with his hands!  How fitting that God, the Creator of the universe would allow His Son to learn a simple, humble trade.  St. Joseph would have worked with such faithfulness, gentleness and obedience that we could say he loved, worked and moved in God’s presence. What is most special about St. Joseph is that he was prompt to obey God’s will for him, no matter the difficult circumstances.  Living in poor conditions, not able to find room in the inn, and having to accept the coldness of a stable, the flight into Egypt are all examples of difficult circumstances, however St. Joseph gently accepted God’s holy will knowing that God was with them.  The fact that he chose the Immaculate Virgin Mary to be his spouse says a lot about the type of man that St. Joseph was! “How pure then were St. Joseph’s thoughts, always centered on God; how holy his desires and affections, which came from a heart filled with love; how peaceful his eyes which were never disturbed by an unholy object” (Orafferty, Discourses on St. Joseph: For the Month of March, St. Joseph’s Feasts, and Similar Occasions, 46). The humility by which St. Joseph took Mary to be his wife is outstanding!  Mary, the all-pure, all spotless Virgin had also seen something remarkably special in St. Joseph…she saw the love in his heart shine through in his faithful response to God.

How does Joseph respond to God?  He spent His life doing everything for the glory of God.  He was content with doing the ordinary.  We can imagine how day after day, Joseph would work with his tools producing work that would provide for his family!  St. Joseph is a model for us of someone who worked for God and who constantly lived in the presence of God, for he had the Son of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary living under his roof!  We can imagine St. Joseph, with great gentleness and simplicity showing Jesus all the skills in his trade.  We learn from St. Joseph that holiness can be achieved in the ordinary. I can imagine that St. Joseph had customers who were not happy with his work.  I can imagine that St. Joseph would get bored sometimes.  But in all these circumstances of life, I am sure that it made him yearn for heaven more.  I am also sure in these circumstances St. Joseph would just look at His little Jesus and say, “this is for you!”

Are we content with the ordinary?  Can we see Jesus in the day to day routine of life?  Do we see in the ordinary circumstances and duties of life that we are able to become great saints?    

It always makes me smile when we read in the Scriptures who the people thought Jesus was.  “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55).  What an honor for St. Joseph, to be known as the father of Jesus!  That is an amazing reality, that Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would humble Himself so much to be known as “the carpenter’s son.”  We cannot even begin to fathom the remarkable humility that Jesus had shown working in the carpenter shop and at the same time redeeming us.  St. Joseph’s love for Jesus was a reflection of God the Father’s love.  Let us pray to St. Joseph to continue to help us love Jesus more everyday…especially in the ordinary duties of the day.

Bibliography

O’Rafferty. Rev Nicholas. Discourses on St. Joseph: For the Month of March, St. Joseph’s Feasts, and Similar Occasions. Bruce Publishing Company: Milwaukee. 1951.