God’s Voice Brings True Peace…

godsvoice

This month of June is the time that we thank God for our Spiritual Fathers.  At the end of this month of June, I would like to end with a message that was given on Good Shepherd Sunday from our spiritual Holy Father Pope Francis!!!   

I hope that his message helps all of you on your faith journey as much as it has helped me.    

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The fourth Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate today, is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. The Gospel says that: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:3). The Lord calls us by name, He calls us because he loves us. However, the Gospel says, there are other voices, that are not to be followed: those of strangers, thieves and brigands who mean harm to the sheep.

These different voices resonate within us. There is the voice of God, who speaks kindly to the conscience, and there is the tempting voice that leads to evil. How can we recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of the thief, how can we distinguish the inspiration of God from the suggestion of the evil one? One can learn to discern these two voices: they speak two different languages, that is, they have opposite ways of knocking on [the door of] our hearts. They speak different languages. Just as we know how to distinguish one language from another, we can also distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the evil one.

The voice of God never forces us: God proposes himself, He does not impose himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but transient. At first it flatters, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then it leaves us empty inside and accuses us: “You are worth nothing”. The voice of God, instead, corrects us, with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope. God’s voice is a voice that has a horizon, whereas the voice of the evil one leads you to a wall, it backs you into a corner.

Another difference: the voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past — the enemy does not want the present — it brings to surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, … many bad memories. On the other hand, the voice of God speaks in the present: “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can forego the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. It inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present: now.

Again: the two voices raise different questions in us. The one that comes from God will be: “What is good for me?”. Instead the tempter will insist on another question: “What do I feel like doing?”. What do I feel: the evil voice always revolves around the ego, its impulses, its needs, everything straight away. It is like a child’s tantrums: everything, and now. The voice of God, however, never promises joy at a low price: it invites us to go beyond our ego in order to find the true, good peace. Let us remember: evil never brings peace. First it causes frenzy, and then it leaves bitterness. This is the style of evil.

Lastly, God’s voice and that of the tempter, speak in different “environments”: the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, and gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, and sincere transparency. The enemy will say to us: “Close yourself up in yourself, besides no one understands and listens to you, do not be trusting!” Goodness, on the contrary, invites us to open up, to be clear and trusting in God and in others.

Dear brothers and sisters, during this time many thoughts and worries lead us to turn inwards into ourselves. Let us pay attention to the voices that reach our hearts. Let us ask ourselves where they come from. Let us ask for the grace to recognise and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, who brings us out of the enclosures of selfishness and leads us to the pastures of true freedom. May Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel, guide and accompany our discernment.

Special Thanks to the Vatican Website for Providing us with this message:

http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2020/documents/papa-francesco_regina-coeli_20200503.html

Happy Solemnity of the Sacred Heart!!

sacred heart of jesus

Happy Solemnity of the Feast of the Sacred Heart!!

Let us thank God for His amazing love manifested to us in the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  Remember what Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary?  “Behold this heart which loves so much yet is so little loved.”  Have we hardened our hearts?  Are our hearts open to practice charity?  Wait…what is charity?

In order to develop the truth about charity, we must recall what we know already.  We know that “God has created man through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27).  Just ponder on that for a moment!  God created us because He is love and it is His love that holds us in existence.  Yet, we are weak, and fallen, yet out of His great and infinite love He sends us a Saviour to redeem us.  Jesus says: “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  God humbles Himself, becomes one of us, like us in all things but sin, in order to redeem us.  That is love.  Jesus’ gift of Himself was total…He held nothing back, He gave everything!  That is love…that is true charity.

There are times where we can mistakenly think of charity using Gollum’s theology.  For those of us who are familiar with Lord of the Rings, we remember that Gollum is a creature who represents sin, and the effects of sin.  His theology of charity is as follows: “We’ll be nice to them (the hobbits), very nice if they’ll be nice to us…”  Poor Gollum, he is a creature representing the effects of sin.  Purely attached to the ring of power, and purely obsessed with his own desire for it, we see in his definition of charity a very selfish way of thinking about love.  However, it raises some questions: Is “charity” and being “nice” the same thing?  Is charity about only being nice to others if they are nice to us?  In short this is bad theology…sorry Gollum!

Compare Gollum’s definition of charity with our own Catholic definition of charity.  Charity is the supernatural virtue infused by God into the will, by which we love God for Himself above all things and ourselves and our neighbor for God.  St. Giuseppe Moscati, a saint who was a doctor said this about charity: “Let us practice charity, let us not forget to make an offering of our actions everyday, every moment, doing everything for love’s sake.”

So what are some essential elements of charity?  Practicing charity means communicating the divine goodness that is present within us to those who are both sinners, and faithful people.  The desire to give love, to share the divine goodness that is inside of us, is something that we must will.  We must will the salvation of all, including those who hurt us.  Gollum, on the other hand, only wanted to help Frodo and Sam so that he could eventually steal the Ring…not the Christian form of charity!!!

Finally there must be a willingness to both receive and give of the Divine Goodness.  We cannot give what we do not have ourselves.  Our love must be a desire for good for ourselves and an ability to receive and give love.  Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”   Receiving and giving love is both founded and rooted in charity.

So what are the means for growing in charity?  How can we receive this Divine love that is called to be poured into our hearts?  By engaging in lectio divina, we are able to awaken God’s love through holy reading and mental prayer (a loving heart to heart conversation with Christ whom we know loves us).  Also, by the sacraments, (Eucharist etc…) so that we are able to respond to God’s love through sacramental graces.  I find it so interesting that Gollum does not eat the lembas bread (filled a man’s stomach with just one bite).  The lembas bread represents the Eucharist that sustains us.  Gollum could not receive the lembas bread because his heart was not disposed to receive…he was too consumed in his life of sin and darkness.

Not only this, but we are called to love God in return and our neighbor in God through liturgical praise and worship.  At Mass we come together as a community of faith to give God the worship that is due to Him, and to come as one united body.  By practicing a purifying love for the Cross of Christ, we can learn to embrace a love that is sacrificial for our neighbour.

Indeed, charity is the most excellent of the virtues.  First, it intimately unites us to God.  Faith helps us to know God, hope prepares us with union in God, but a life of charity means we begin to live a life of divine perfection, meaning a life where the Fruits of the Spirit are lived out: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, modesty, self-control, generosity etc…  The great Padre Pio once said: “Joy with peace is the sister of charity…serve the Lord with laughter.”

As we ponder on the Sacred Heart, let us keep in mind the intense love the Lord has for us!  Let us also keep in mind this wonderful virtue of charity.  Charity is more then being nice.  Charity is a gift of self to God and to others.  Please ponder on this Scripture passage today:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…So faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13).

Are We There Yet???

family road trips

“Are we there yet?”  “Are we there yet?” “ARE WE THERE YET???”  This is the most common question that children ask their parents on when they are on long car rides on summer vacation.  Annoying as this question might be to parents (especially if it is continuous) it does imply a certain excitement, wonder and awe: “we are heading towards somewhere fun, exciting and I WANT TO BE THERE NOW!!!”

Indeed, as Christians we know that where we are heading is the destination where we will find true joy and true fulfillment, more than we could ever imagine!!  Heaven is eternal beatitude with God where we are totally embraced by love itself!!  We cannot even begin to imagine what that is like!!!  The Scripture tells us “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)  We need to embrace the HOPE that one day we will be with God for all eternity!!  Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms!”  A house with many rooms…that must be a MANSION!!!!!  I went in a mansion once… it was HUGE!!  I went in and I thought to myself, “oooh… a game of hide and seek would be so fun in here!!!”  Imagine, Jesus says that His Father’s house has many mansions and that He goes to prepare a place for us!!! (John 14:2).   That is awesome!!

Do I take enough time to think about heaven?  Am I excited about heaven?

Do I make acts of hope throughout the day?  Am I often discouraged, worried and stressed…do I turn to God in these moments?

So, what is hope?  Hope is the theological virtue (remember we receive three at Baptism: Faith, Hope and Charity) infused in our will which we desire God as our beatitude (true happiness) and trusting in his mercy we are confident in reaching union with God!!  To have hope requires a two-fold act of our will.  God purifies us of our desires and helps us to see all our desires in relation to him.  For example, I desire ice cream and pie for dessert today.  This desire can bring my mind to God and make me desire God more: “God knew what he was doing when he inspired someone to make apple pie and ice cream!!”  Apple pie and ice cream is so good, but it does not even compare to the infinite and loving goodness of God!!  When we grow in hope, everything begins to be put back in right order (God first, persons second, things third) and we begin to see everything as God sees.  Secondly, trust and confidence in God grows as self-reliance diminishes.  What does that mean?  Well, sometimes we believe the lie that we can merit heaven without God.  This is not true!!  Our redemption is through Christ.  “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7).

Indeed when we are beginning the spiritual life, we see that our hope is not yet perfect.  In the beginning, the purgative way, we have a desire for God and salvation…along with many other things.  In other words, our hearts are divided, and our desires for things need to be purified which means putting them in right order.  This is done through prayer and acts of self-denial and mortification.  When our hearts are focused on things, we worry more.  Padre Pio says, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!  Worry is useless.  God is merciful and he will hear your prayers!”  Secondly, in the purgative way, beginners’ trust in God is very imperfect so we sway between despair (taking eyes off of the mercy of God and just focusing on His justice) and presumption (focusing just on God’s mercy and not enough on His justice).  Despair is basically saying, “All is lost!  I will never be a saint!  I will never get to heaven!”  Presumption is “I am saved already!  I’ve got my ticket to heaven, I don’t need to grow in my relationship with God, I am a good person and so I am saved already!”  Despair and presumption are indeed the two great sins against hope.  In order to combat them, we need HOPE and a pure belief in God who is both merciful and just.

A person who is a bit more advanced in the spiritual life, souls in the illuminative way, desire God alone and their own personal sanctification.  They trust only in the merits of Christ and are confident that God will eventually make them saints.  St. Therese the Little Flower once said, “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”  They rely consciously on the merits of Christ and not on themselves.  One of the nice things about a person in the illuminative way is that they are not shocked or surprised when they fall into temptation or even sin.  They just simply seek pardon and reconciliation through the Sacraments and continue on.

Perfect souls, those who have reached the unitive way, have a great hope and confidence in God, so great that they desire to be united to Christ crucified for the salvation of the world.  They desire universal salvation and are willing to offer everything in order for souls to enter eternal life!!  What an amazing gift!!  These souls have grown in charity to such a high degree that the glory of God and salvation of souls is everything!!  A quote that is attributed to St. James the Apostle is, “let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)  These are souls who have great peace, because their hope is so great that even in the midst of ridicule, calumny, injury, misfortune, nothing takes away their peace and nothing discourages them!!!  Their heaven begins on earth because their hearts are already in heaven!!  This is interior freedom…we all want this and we must pray for it!!

So the next time you are on a family trip and your child asks a billion times: “Are we there yet?,”  remember the virtue of hope.  Perhaps in that moment make an act of hope!!  There are so many things that we hope for everyday: that our family members would come back to the faith, that we would hear from that person that we have not seen or heard from in a long time.  We can hope for a new beginning in relationships, meaning that instead of them being based on selfishness and the unholy trinity “me, myself, and I” they can be based on trust, humility, openness and transparency.  We can hope for a new beginning!!  Everyday is a new beginning and that should give us tremendous hope!  I think our lives would not look as dark and grey and stormy if we would all, myself included, take more time to ponder heaven!!  Our greatest hope must be eternal union with God and to hear the words of Jesus, “Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master!” (Matthew 25:21).

Opening the Doors of Faith…

door-opening

We open doors everyday!  Just think about it…we open so many doors everyday!… the doors to our house, cars, office buildings, and churches.  Doors are everywhere!!  Indeed, open doors say a lot…when someone has an opened door, it is usually to say, “welcome!”  “Come on in!”  “Happy to see you.”  But it is also possible to close doors…lock them…or even slam them!…  Jesus is steady knocking on the doors of our hearts.  How do we respond?  Do we welcome Him in with open arms…or do we lock the doors of our hearts.  How do we open the doors of our hearts?  Through faith.

I once heard a priest say a few words that had a big impact on me. I will never forget what he said on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  He said “obedience leads to faith and faith leads to healing.”  When we obey God and his commands, it brings life to our soul and increases our faith in Him as a loving Father who wants the good for us.  Faith leads to healing in our lives.  Jesus, before performing a miracle of healing would ask: “Do you believe I can do this for you?”  Our response of faith moves the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  When we open the door to faith, the Holy Spirit can really act in us, bring us peace and transform us so that we have the love of Christ.

As I was looking at the various comments for this Blog on the comment board, I was asked to elaborate more on the blog post entitled “The Voice of Truth” which was written in March.  Perhaps I may speak a bit more about faith.

Faith opens the door to Christ.  It enlightens us in our spiritual journey and helps us to see God as Father.  Faith is a journey which begins with our Baptism and ends in death.  Through our Baptism, we entered into a home, the Church.  Faith is also an encounter with a Person.  YOU ARE LOVED BY LOVE ITSELF and God comes to meet you.  Coming to this truth, and this encounter with the Lord we can say with boldness: “I am loved…my life has meaning…my life is a gift and I rejoice that I have existence…”

Faith has two objects namely the formal object and the material object.  The formal object is God Himself whom we encounter and He reveals to us the secrets of His heart.  The material object would be the Divine mysteries which the Church articulates in the articles of Faith professed in the Creed.  We can think of the material object of faith as the truths in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Doctrine.  When we profess our faith we encounter God and help others to do the same.

There are some truths that are known through objective evidence…to deny them would be to deny reality… for example: fire is hot, grass is green, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the best hockey team (just kidding to the last one!)  But there is another way of knowing that is a free choice: the mind is moved by the heart.  This is a knowledge that is based on trust.  I trust the testimony of certain people.  Let’s take Marriage as an example.  Marriage is based on Faith.  The spouses do not know what the future will hold, so they must have faith in God that he will take care of them.  Hopefully, couples will come to know each other well enough and are able to trust each other before they are married so that they can trust each other to be faithful until death.  They believe and trust each other, because they love each other.

God our Father has taught us many truths.  We believe them because love moves our mind to assent to these divine truths.  The Heart moves the mind to assent to the truths.

Faith is very obscure.  It entails believing in certain supernatural mysteries that are above our comprehension.  It is almost like teaching someone born blind what colours look like…it goes beyond their comprehension…because they cannot see.  Man normally comes to know things through His senses.  However, the mysteries of Faith like the Trinity and the Incarnation go over and above our senses.  Our mind is always restless because we want to see God.  Our mind must humbly submit to what we cannot see and our heart must look forward to the day where we will see.  St. Augustine once said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”  God has revealed that He is infinitely good and he wants to share Himself with us, so he calls our heart to move our mind in assenting to the Divine Truths that he has revealed to us.

Overall, we need to trust God who is our loving Father.  Union with God is our goal for He is the first cause of all things, keeping all of our souls in being.  Our obedience to Him is a loving obedience that animates our soul with God’s own life.  We receive a supernatural union through grace where the soul is able to take on the likeness of God.  When we are fixed on God and detached from all creatures, we experience the transforming power of love in our lives.  In order for this to happen, we need to encounter the Word who is Jesus Himself and have confidence and Faith in all that He has revealed to us.  There are times where we will have questions about what we believe and why we believe it.  We must pray, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief!” Jesus normally asks in the Gospels before he performs a healing, “Do you believe I can do this for you?” We need to believe in the love and mercy of God…then miracles happen.  He has given us everything when He sent Jesus into the world!  Our hearts must turn over to the Lord: “I believe Lord because you are Truth.”

So will you open the door of your heart to Jesus today?…

Forever and Always…

ring on bible

I am learning about the vocation to consecrated virginity (to live as a consecrated single in the world). I realize that religious life may not work out for everyone, due to health or other circumstances. Yet what if God is still calling a soul to special consecration – to belong only to Him and to a life of prayer and penance. Do you have any insights about other forms of consecrated life? They too, would be a living out of a spousal relationship to Christ, right?

This is a great question!!!  Indeed, the Church is so beautiful!!  All vocations are so beautiful, because when lived well, they bring great glory to God!

After doing a little bit of research into the life of someone who would live Consecrated Virginity within the world, I was able to really see the beauty of this life!

There are a few points I would like to make about Consecrated Virginity taken from the Code of Canon Law and the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity.  According to the Code of Canon Law, one called to a life of Consecrated Virginity is betrothed mystically to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church.  She enters a public state of consecrated life in the Church and she lives her life individually under the direction of the diocesan Bishop.  Her time is meant to be spent in works of penance and mercy, apostolic activity, and in prayer in accord with her state of life and spiritual gifts.  Once she is consecrated, she has the grace of manifesting the love of the Church, the Bride, for her Bridegroom, Christ, and the grace of foreshadowing the heavenly wedding feast of Christ and the Church.

The virgin does not consecrate herself as the religious does through the profession of the evangelical counsels, rather, she presents herself to be consecrated by the Church.  And the Church consecrates her whole person, thus she is set apart as a sacred woman in the Church.  There are a few conclusions that can be made regarding the consecration of the virgin:

  1. Her consecration is a sacramental with the force of conferring the lasting identity of a Bride of Christ
  2. A living sign of the love of the Church for her Bridegroom
  3. And is a sign foreshadowing the Heavenly Wedding Feast of Christ and the Church.

These words clearly identify who a consecrated virgin is:

The consecrated virgin offers the gift of her physical virginity to Christ, as a sign of the dedication of her entire being to Him. Through the Rite of Consecration, the Church receives the gift of the virgin and calls down upon her the grace of the Holy Spirit that she may never fail in her resolve to live in perfect continence for the sake of Christ and His Church. [Taken from Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, “Vocations to the Consecrated Life,” St. Louis Review Online, August 13, 2004]

If you would like to read further about this beautiful call to Consecrated Virginity, there are a few resources that you could access. There is a book called: Volume One: An Introduction to the Vocation of Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World which was compiled and published by the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.  I used this resource while writing this blog!  There is also a really good website by the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins that I would recommend.  Here is the link: www.consecratedvirgins.org

I hope this helps!  Thank you for your question!

What is the hardest part of living Religious Life? 

Wow!!  This is a very interesting question!

We who are Religious have been called to a life of love in imitation of our Spouse Jesus Christ.  We are called to live our life as He lived His by living the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.  This is a life of sacrifice…a life that is a total self-gift, a life where we place ourselves completely in the hands of our Heavenly Father.  We have accepted the invitation of Christ to follow Him in a special way just as the Apostles did.  We live our lives in community where we live a specific Rule of life, and in living this Rule of life that is blessed by the Church through the diocesan Bishop, we believe that living out the Evangelical Counsels and our Rule is our path to holiness.

Having said all of this, what is the hardest part of Religious Life?  Self.  My sins, my imperfections, my fight with wanting to do my own will, my struggle because I realize that I am not perfect…yes indeed, putting up with my own self is the hardest part of Religious Life.  However, with all this said, our struggles, trials and imperfections are not an obstacle to our vocation to our growth in holiness, rather they purify us and humble us in order for us to make a more complete gift of self to God.  It is a great mercy from God that He shows us those areas of our life that are holding us back from full union with Him.  If we do not know these areas, we cannot grow in union with God.  In Religious Life we are striving for holiness, striving to overcome our lives of sin and be united to Christ.  This is intense!  In order to be united to Christ, we need to be purified of those things that are holding us back from this deep intimacy with the Lord.  This is a lifelong journey…yet it is exciting, because we know at the end of our journey, there Jesus will be, with open arms, and we will know how He has been loving us every step of the way.  Until that day, he sustains us in the Eucharist, giving us the strength to keep trying everyday.

Thank you so much for all of your questions!  I hope that this has helped you understand Religious Life a bit better.  In the month of June we are going to be addressing some really exciting topics on the Spiritual Life…you won’t want to miss it!!

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!!