trust in God

The Lord is My Shepherd…

April 18, 2015

The Good Shepherd Russian icon 19th centurySince I am a supporting friend of people going through very difficult life situations and experiencing a great deal of turmoil, I thought Father Jacques Philippe’s book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart would be a help to me and them. This is indeed a great treasure full of short meditations from Scripture and words of the saints and I recommend it to anyone who wants to help himself or others through the sometimes very rough patches of life, especially when tempted to despair and give up on the spiritual life.

We are simply not going to be able to overcome the evils of hard times without a strong spiritual life, and yet the first thing Satan tempts us to abandon when suffering greatly is our relationship with God. Just because we may be up to our derriere in alligators doesn’t mean we should abandon God who is the very One to help us drain the swamp.

I found particular inspiration from meditation #8 on Psalm 23. Father Philippe says in regard to this prayer that

…God leaves us wanting for nothing. This will serve to unmask a temptation, sometimes subtle, which is very common in the Christian life, one into which many fall and which greatly impedes spiritual progress.

For example, I lack good health, therefore I am unable to pray as I believe it is indispensable to do. [Change the word “health” to any other perceived detrimental situation.] Or my immediate family prevents me from organizing my spiritual activities as I wish. [Operative words: “as I wish.”] Or, again, I don’t have the qualities, the strength, the virtue, the gifts that I believe necessary in order to accomplish something beautiful for God, according to the plan of a Christian life. [Operative words: “I believe.”] I am not satisfied with my life, with my person, with my circumstances and I live constantly with the feeling that as long as things are such, it will be impossible for me to live truly and intensely. I feel underprivileged compared to others and I carry in me the constant nostalgia of another life, more privileged, where, finally, I could do things that are worthwhile. [I, I, I, I…]

We often live with this illusion. With the impression that all would go better, we would like the things around us to change, that the circumstances would change. But this is often an error. It is not the exterior circumstances that must change; it is above all our hearts that must change.

Happy are those hearts purified by faith and hope, who bring to their lives a view animated by the certitude that, beyond appearances to the contrary, God is present, providing for their essential needs and that they lack nothing….They will see that many of the circumstances that they thought negative and damaging to their spiritual life are, in fact, in God’s pedagogy, powerful means for helping them to progress and grow.

The essential question to be asked in hard times is, “What is God teaching me here?” We can fall into the “if only” trap all too easily, filling ourselves with desires which on the surface may be laudable but upon closer examination reveal that we are not accepting God’s will for us at this time.

For about 15 years now I’ve been asking God to give us the money necessary to move out of this diocese. I gaze enviously at the neighboring Tulsa diocese where the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has a parish, the Benedictine monks at Clear Creek have a thriving foundation, and the bishop is doing all sorts of things to stir up the spiritual life of his flock and ask, “Lord, why can’t You get us out of here and let us move there? If only I could be there my spiritual life would be so much easier…” Whine, whine, whine.

Last fall in front of the Blessed Sacrament I got my answer. The spiritual situation in this diocese is improving somewhat but God made me understand clearly that all pain, suffering, and longing is given to me to endure for the sake of the diocese I’m in – the old saying, “Bloom where you’re planted,” we have heard. That “Aha!” immediately freed me. I have my purpose, my assignment. He wants me to witness here and He will take care of the rest. Why He kept me in the dark for so long is gradually becoming clearer, but it is all part of His plan for me and everyone else I come in contact with, and for the spiritual growth of this diocese.

The fundamental problem is that we employ too much of our own criteria as to what is and what is not good and we don’t have enough confidence in the Wisdom and Power of God. [Bingo.] We don’t believe that He is capable of utilizing everything for our good, and that never, under any circumstance, would He leave us lacking in the essentials – that is to say, lacking anything that would permit us to love more. [That is the bottom line, isn’t it?] Because to grow or to enrich one’s spiritual life is to learn to love. Many of the circumstances that I consider damaging could, in fact, be for me if I had more faith, precious opportunities to love more: to be more patient, more humble, more gentle, more merciful and to abandon myself more into the hands of God.

Let us then be convinced of this and it will be for us a source of immense strength: God may allow me to occasionally lack money, health, abilities and virtues, but He will never leave me in want of Himself, of His assistance and His mercy or of anything that would allow me to grow increasingly ever closer to Him, to love Him more intensely, to better love my neighbor and to achieve holiness.

What more could we possibly ask?

Image: The Good Shepherd, 19th century Russian icon, private collection, via Wikimedia

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, April 18th, 2015 spirituality 2 Comments

Summer Vignettes

August 12, 2014

Sharing the Harvest

Between a wonderful two week vacation staying with my sister in northern Michigan and managing the garden, this has been a busy summer. God has been very good to us with our harvest of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers and beans. Best of all, a neighbor and I have gotten together a couple of times to make salsa and tomato sauce. The conversation over chopping, scraping, mixing and seasoning has been joyful and grace-filled. The secular world would never understand how freeing it is to be able to thank God directly and out loud when we get news that her daughter and husband have arrived safely from a day long drive home. It would not appreciate our acknowledgement in conversation of how God has been so generous this year with the harvest. Most people would think we are stupid Bible beaters. But somehow I think the kitchen is filled with angels and saints rejoicing over the praise and good example we are giving her children.

Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible

A trip with the Bible

On the way up to Michigan and on the way home my husband and I listened to Steven Ray and Scott Hahn Bible presentations. I particularly liked Hahn’s discussion of the “Our Father”, and how it is a prayer we offer within the context of being members of the Father’s family. Moreover, his comments about how we are not home until we join God and the rest of our family in heaven highlighted for me the fact that we are surely in exile here.

I also took my Ignatius Study Bible with me on vacation so I could keep up with the online New Testament study I’ve been doing. Both the Bible and the sacred liturgy of the Church are God’s ways of continually drawing us to Himself and making us long for the day when we can leave everything behind and come to our true home.

Hell in Africa and the Middle East

With those ideas as a backdrop, consider the plight of the many Iraqi Christians and Yazidis driven from their earthly residences by ISIS. Consider that both Iraq and Syria, also in turmoil with ISIS, have been the home of continuous Christian communities since the beginning of Christianity. Facing the choice of converting to Islam (the ISIS version of it), paying the penalty tax for being Christian, or dying, these Christians made a fourth choice – to flee and affirm Christ. How many of us could abandon all we have and leave with only the clothes on our backs to go to a strange place, not knowing where we will eventually end up? This forced detachment can only be met with peace of heart by understanding that heaven is our only home. Not minimizing the hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and illness that people are suffering in the heat of the desert, only by focusing on our final destination can we survive should the same thing happen to us here. Let these events and the suffering of those affected by war be a lesson to us. Meanwhile, those of us who are temporarily exercising stewardship over what God has given us must pray fervently for all those courageous Christians in the Middle East that they will be cared for and remain steadfast in the Faith, and that all the others will find Christ amidst the chaos.

It’s tempting to make political comments as to how the world got to where it is today, but I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll say that I know that God has blessed those of us who are not being driven from our homes, sold as sex slaves, beheaded, crucified, and mowed down with bullets as our fellow men are. His gift of our being unmolested at this point carries with it a heavy responsibility to live up to our calling as Christians, behaving morally responsibly and unhesitatingly speaking God’s truth when we are called upon to do so.

The atrocities in Africa and the Middle East have distracted me from writing this blog. I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that things aren’t as awful as they really are. Because I feel connected to all on earth and see every person as someone Jesus died for, I feel guilty about writing on spiritual matters when men, women, and children are being killed right and left by a satanically inspired bunch of completely degraded people. This is not what God has called us to be as human beings. This is the 21st century. Aren’t we supposed to have advanced beyond all this? But today’s comments here are to acknowledge the uproar and devastation so that I can move on and return to my spiritually oriented writing. I’ve learned that it’s easy to get side-tracked by the violence and lose focus on my mission. Wars will always be with us because men will always be motivated by greed and power to set themselves up in the place of the one, true God and to act as though power exists so as to destroy all who won’t submit to it rather than serving, as Jesus said at the Last Supper, all. It is in faithfully serving that we make ourselves last and thus be made first in the kingdom of God. So now I will get back to posting more often. Jesus rules and that will never change.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 Catholic culture, jihad, spirituality 4 Comments

Performance Anxiety and Prayer

June 13, 2014

Old Woman With a Rosary, 1896, Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK

Old Woman With a Rosary, 1896, Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” “Do it right the first time.” Did you grow up with these sayings? Are they possibly influencing or controlling your prayer life? Do you then criticize and accuse yourself or give in to despair and run the other way when you even think about starting a Rosary or other prayers?

The merit in these sayings is that they point toward meeting a standard of excellence parents want children to aspire to. The demerit in them is that they can be unreasonably applied and, most of all, direct us to believe that it is solely under our power and control to meet expectations defined by others. They also lead to the belief that there is only one right way to do anything. Thus it contributes to a tendency to make ourselves and our performance the focus of all that we do.

Fear of not meeting expectations leads to performance anxiety such as seen with intelligent students who freeze on every test and fail, or with people who approach even the most mundane tasks in life with trepidation. We may think that some nebulous judge is out there who will criticize and grind us into mincemeat; our stomachs churn and our brains freeze. God is not in the picture at all, yet He is the one without Whom we cannot lift a finger, think a thought, or comprehend the great spiritual mysteries He has revealed to us. The sayings exclude the trust and surrender to God’s will that we must have before starting anything, even as we resolve to do our best.

To this day these sayings occasionally pop into my mind, disturbing the peace of heart God desires for all of us. I have performance anxiety in particular areas of life, worry about whether I will get something done “right”. I catch myself secretly worrying that my prayers aren’t good enough or that I haven’t prayed enough or said the “right” prayers, although my rational mind knows that objectively speaking it is impossible for anybody to be perfect in anything, even prayer, yet we are to strive to be perfect. But who defines perfection? We or God? Of course it is God, and we have Sacred Scripture and Tradition to guide us. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, residing in our soul, is there to guide us, strengthen us, and help us in all that we do, including prayer. We are not alone, ever, in anything.

In his Treatise on Peace of Soul, Dom Lorenzo Scupoli gives excellent advice to those of us who are occasionally troubled about our prayer life:

Strive not to limit yourself to so many prayers, meditation, or readings, neither neglect nor limit your customary devotions. Rather, let your heart be at liberty to stop where it finds its God, having no misgivings about unfinished exercises if He is pleased to communicate Himself to you in the midst of them. Have no scruples in this regard, for the end of your devotion is to enjoy God and as the end is accomplished, the means have no significance for the present. [So, if we are praying the Rosary and we become caught up in the mystery of the Nativity, for instance, it is right to pursue meditation on this and not worry about whether we get all five decades completed. The point is that God is leading us, our eyes are on Him, our heart is with Him, and we are not failing in prayer. St. Teresa of Avila would concur with the good Dom Lorenzo.]

God leads us by the path that He has chosen, and if we oblige ourselves to precise execution of exercises which we fancy, we are imposing imaginary obligations on ourselves; and far from finding God, we are actually running away from Him, pretending to please Him, yet not conforming to His holy will. [In fact, we are obsessively conforming to our own will.]

If you really desire to advance successfully on this path and attain the end to which it leads, seek and desire God alone; and whenever and wherever you find Him, there stop, go no farther. While God dwells with you enjoy His company with the celestial peace of saints; and when His divine majesty pleases to retire, then turn again to the quest of your God in your devout exercises.

We are so blessed as Catholics to have centuries of saints and spiritual directors who have left us sane writings to guide us through the numerous traps our fallen nature and Satan lay for us, especially in our prayer life. In the end, we can do no better than follow these wise words which are practical applications of the many exhortations Jesus Himself gave us in the Gospels.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Friday, June 13th, 2014 prayers, spirituality 8 Comments

Obtaining Peace of Mind

April 26, 2014

Compassion, Bouguereau, 1897

Compassion, Bouguereau, 1897

Many people I know are enduring some great challenge or other to the point of sleepless nights and nervous exhaustion. Being by nature a Mrs. Fix-it, I would like to take all these trials apart for them, sending these friends off with a cheery “Have a good day”, but such is not to be. In fact, the best I can do apart from listening and giving solid advice is to pray for them and trust that God will help them sort things out. This is probably how our good contemplative monks and nuns approach the many troubles we bring to them. Yet I am constantly tempted to worry excessively about people I care about.

One thing I’ve realized as more distraught souls find me – and I’m not out there looking for them by any means – is that if I don’t keep my own house in order I’ll never be any good to them. I get it that God’s will is for me to be present to them and to point them in practical ways towards solving their earthly problems while helping them come closer to God. I also get it that I’m no good to anybody without constantly working on my own spiritual life, especially maintaining my own peace of mind in the heart of Christ, and that’s wherein lies the challenge. My prayer life and spiritual reading become full of distractions over concerns for others. Mrs. Fix-it just has to intrude on my quiet time with God. Fortunately a very old book of spiritual direction has become an aid.

St. Francis de Sales’ (1567-1622) favorite book was The Spiritual Combat. He carried it around with him and read from it whenever he could snatch a moment here and there from his many duties as bishop of Geneva. The author, Father Lorenzo Scupoli, gives most useful spiritual advice to those of us struggling to live a God-centered life in an increasingly abusive and murderous world and to live rightly loving our neighbor.

Father Scupoli in chapter 25 of his book remarks:

Our peace of mind when lost demands every possible exertion for its recovery. We actually never can lose it or cause it to be disturbed except through our own fault.

True. True. God is teaching me through helping others that I have to depend on His power, grace and mercy for them and never become agitated over not being able to solve their problems for them nor to be impatient with how long it takes them to act. In fact, overstepping my bounds will lead to a dangerous pride and get in the way of them learning the lessons He has in mind for them as He perfects them.

…Our compassion for sinners and sadness at their destruction must be free of vexation and trouble, as it springs from a purely charitable motive….

Making my friends’ trials my own and letting them overpower my God time is not putting God first. If God is not first I become like a man struggling in quicksand. Sooner or later I will go under because I don’t see the rope extended to me to drag me out of the pit.

These trials and events occur at the design of our Master; the severest tribulations of this life bring His will to our aid, so that we can march with a calm and tranquil soul. Any disquiet on our part is displeasing to God. For of whatever nature it may be it is always accompanied by some imperfection, and it always has a tendency towards self-love in one form or another.

Disquiet when we are concerned about friends, family, or the trend of life in general should be an alarm bell calling us to question what is behind the agitation. For myself, I inevitably find that I want more power than I am entitled to. Although I quietly pray for those I want to help and watch for the signs of God’s grace in their lives, I am often stuck in a fantasy of how I think things should be and what I think they should be doing to end their pain. In other words, I think I’m smarter than God. After reflecting on this for awhile, I saw the pitfalls and resolved to change. Now disquiet becomes a trigger for me to pray that God be with them and that they submit to His will, whatever that is.

I am convinced that, if the heart is troubled, the enemy is ever able to strike us, and as much as he wishes. Moreover, in that state we are not capable of discerning the true path to follow, the snares that must be avoided to attain virtue.

You will find it greatly advantageous to preserve a calm mind through all the events in your life. Without it, your pious exercises will be fruitless.

The enemy detests this peace. For he knows that this is the place where the spirit of God dwells, and that God now desires to accomplish great things in us. Consequently he employs his most devilish means to destroy this peace. He suggests various things that apparently are good. It is a trap; you will soon discover that these desires will destroy the peace of your heart.

The devil slithers in under the cover of us desiring to do good to others and disturbs our very necessary time with God. This is the key problem with giving in to our emotions, our feelings of fear and anxiety both for ourselves and on behalf of others. God gave us the capacity to reason and think and He means for that to rule our feelings, not the other way around. Part of our self-discipline is to be able to hold feelings at bay while reasoning things out. If we cannot do this for ourselves with the help of God’s grace, how are we to really help our friends who are in emotional turmoil?

Father Sculpoli goes on to say that even when we discover that the desires we have to do a good are truly from God, we must “deter execution until our eagerness has been mortified.” Preceded by mortification he tells us, our work is more pleasing to God.

Finally he tells us:

Let us raise our hearts to God. Whatever He wills, without exception, should be received with the firm persuasion that every cross He wills to send shall prove an endless source of blessing, a treasure whose value one may not appreciate at the moment.

After pondering this chapter I have concluded that obtaining peace of heart and practicing it faithfully is a prerequisite for helping the many people God puts in my path who have little to no peace of heart. Whereas before I jumped right in to problems without sufficient reflection on the spiritual aspect of a friend’s trials, now I am asking myself how God is blessing them through their pain. In addition to making suggestions and observations that can help them, now I ask myself how God is providing for them in their trials and ask them what they think God wants from them. Doing this helps Mrs. Fix-it to help them better and always to point them to Christ. Most of all, I now can share with them that not knowing exactly what God is doing with them is no cause for disquiet, but rather an invitation to trust in Him and place themselves in His hands while doing all that is reasonable and allowable in His eyes to endure their trials and solve their problems.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, April 26th, 2014 Spiritual reading, spirituality 14 Comments

Misery Is a Choice

March 6, 2014

Potter Working Thrower, Wikimedia

Potter Working Thrower, Wikimedia

Do you know people who are truly miserable? I am not speaking here of that great percentage of the world who live in poverty and disease, in war-torn countries, victims of natural disasters that destroy lives completely, or where people face a choice of convert to this or that religion or die. I am also not speaking of sexually and physically abused children nor of those who have been trafficked for financial gain of others, nor of the many other evils in the world. That temporal misery is forced upon persons by outside powers for evil and selfish purposes. I am speaking of misery of heart and soul – an invisible misery that manifests itself outwardly most particularly by sins of the tongue, angry outbursts, rash judgment, destruction of property and/or relationships. The kind of internal churning misery that repels others and perpetuates itself both in oneself and in others in our lives with whom we interact.

We all know the constant complainer, the super-critic who is pleased about nothing, the selfish controller of others who continually resorts to manipulation to get what he or she wants. We all know our share of Chicken Littles for whom the sky is falling almost every day. Their lives are full of constant drama, singularly joyless. And who has not known active alcoholics and others addicts of all types? They live in a continual torment and spinning of fears, often using addiction as a way not to face the demons inside themselves. Maybe, just maybe, we can apply these descriptions to ourselves at one time or another in our lives.

Now that we are beginning Lent, a time when we put extra effort into growing closer to God and giving deep consideration to the passion and death of Christ as the great act of our redemption, perhaps we can look at our internal misery index. Perhaps we can face the fact that we may be stuck in the past, chained to events that still affect our choices today, and resolve with the help of Jesus to step out in trust and change something about ourselves that makes us miserable. The fact that we can change the way we look at things, the way we perceive others, means that misery is a choice.

In every case, if we challenge ourselves, we will see that the root of our misery is some form of selfishness. Others have failed us. Others have betrayed us. Others have truly wished us dead, or at least gone or living like a toothless tiger. We have been slighted, disrespected, ridiculed, bullied and even hated for no good reason. When we get down to it, each of us can own up to the fact regarding ourselves that it is all about me and how I see myself. Who am I really? Who defines who I am? The answer to that is…well, later.

A recently convicted and sentenced prison lifer told his adult daughter that he could understand if the Christians he knew didn’t want to have anything to do with him. After all, Christians don’t associate with criminals. When she told me that I said, “We are all criminals in the eyes of God because we are all sinners. Every Confession line is full of repeat offenders. Christians of all people ought to understand criminals.” And, in fact, the Pharisees criticized Jesus for having dinner with tax collectors and sinners, to which He replied, “They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill.  Go then and learn what this means, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners” (Matt. 9: 11-12). If we mean to imitate Jesus, we will not shrink from a criminal who seeks healing relationships.

I bring up this example because although we are all criminals, we are much more. Grasping this one point and considering it over time can help us overcome misery we create for ourselves. That point is:

We were each created by God out of love. We are His children, broken by the effects of Original Sin, but loved so greatly that Jesus died for us. No generalities here. Each one of us is loved by God individually. Our sins hurt us and hurt others, but Jesus in His mercy heals us if we turn to Him. By turning away from ourselves and seeking a relationship with Him, we gain a perspective that allows us to make choices that lead us to joy and not misery. As the best Father, God wants us to be happy with Him forever. We find out who we really are only in relationship with God.

 Of course, having a relationship with God means getting to know Him. Getting to know someone takes time, peace and quiet, listening, studying his actions. What better place to start than with the New Testament where we have the words and actions of Christ to light the way? But that gets us into knowing about Jesus. We can’t stop there. We need to spend time with Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament or at least in quiet prayer thinking about what He taught us and asking to know Him better. The amount of time we give to these two things is relative to our internal misery index. More time with Jesus means less misery because we are focusing on Him and not stuck in our own self-centeredness. We will reduce the number of criminal actions (sins) against God and our neighbor by doing this, and instead bring the healing love of Christ to others. We reduce misery in our hearts by conversion.

We also need to get to know Mother Mary better. She always points the way to Jesus and can help us to reflect Him to others. Once we begin to experience more joy in these relationships with God and the Blessed Mother, we cannot keep it to ourselves. Joy is one of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit and the more selfishness we get out of the way, the easier it is for the joy in us to come out naturally and brighten other people’s lives as well as our own.

As we consider the season of Lent, let’s look at our misery index. What permanent changes do we want to make to become more like Jesus? What choices do we need to make to let more joy into our lives? Who is God placing in our lives to help us? Are we making the best use of Confession?

St. Benedict tells us, “Prefer nothing to Christ. In all things glorify God.” St. Paul wrote: “All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17).

We are all a work in progress, the Great Potter shaping us in love. Let us surrender to Him, let go of the past, live in the present moment, and look to the future of everlasting life and joy.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Thursday, March 6th, 2014 joy, spirituality 8 Comments

The Benedictine Oblate and Christian Perfection

January 24, 2014

Clear Creek Abbey Solemn Profession, 9/7/13, used with permission of the Abbot

Clear Creek Abbey Solemn Monastic Profession, 9/7/13, used with permission of the Abbot

Poverty, chastity, and obedience are called the three evangelical counsels, the counsels Jesus recommends in the Gospel for those who desire to do more than the minimum to get to heaven, and to aim at Christian perfection (Mt. 19:16-22). By Christian perfection we mean that extremely elusive condition of perfect charity, love of God and love of neighbor, that we will enjoy for all eternity and which we seek, by the grace of God, to reach in this life, sinners that we are. In fact, if we don’t work at it consistently and generously in this life, God will have a lot of polishing to do on us before He admits us to heaven when we die.

The vast majority of religious communities of priests, brothers, and nuns take these three as vows when they make their commitment to belong to their community forever. Through practicing these vows they witness to the world a higher reality. They declare through all of what the counsels imply that there is indeed something more enduring than this world. As laity, we can practice these counsels according to our state in life, too. The more we desire to reach Christian perfection out of love of Jesus, the more we can look to these three counsels to guide us in our daily choices.

The Benedictine difference

St. Benedict did something different in his Holy Rule, though, that expresses the evangelical counsels in a different way. Benedictines are known for their charism of work and prayer (sacred liturgy), of hospitality, of peace, and of keeping in mind “that in all things God may be glorified”. What most people don’t know unless they have looked into it is that Benedictines don’t take vows of poverty and chastity, although much of the rule makes specific demands for a life of poverty. The Benedictine professes instead the vows of  stability, reformation of life (conversion of morals), and obedience. Poverty, chastity and more are implied in these vows.

The layperson who is attracted to Benedictine spirituality as I am, finds great peace in these three vows. Stability is what keeps us from constantly falling for the temptation to fantasize that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence in every aspect of our lives – marriage, our commitment to the Church, the living of our Baptismal promises, the spiritual life, our focus on Jesus.  Regarding our Oblation to a particular monastery, we are “adopted” into that particular family of monks. We share in their spiritual benefits and they in ours. We do not wander around joining other religious orders as Tertiaries, although we may find much value and fruitfulness in our spiritual lives by applying certain of their charisms to ourselves. In fact, we cannot be both Oblates of a Benedictine monastery and Tertiaries of another religious family such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, etc. The other orders have similar rules. This stability allows us to focus on living the Rule without distraction, and it is why a person who desires to be an Oblate must complete a certain amount of time as a novice before making a formal oblation to a particular monastery. The monks have to agree to accept us into their monastic family as someone committed to living our lives in accordance with the Rule and doing what we can for the benefit of the house.

Conversion of morals (I really like that phrase – it makes me think hard about what I’m doing, activities I engage in) or reformation of life is a beautiful way to describe how we daily come closer to Christ. Jesus is the center of our life, the predominant figure by which we measure our actions. G.A. Simon writes:

The one who tends to perfection, indeed, renounces all that is not God; all of that is to be dead for him; at least, he must strive to make it so. He mortifies the flesh, the love of pleasures, the love of riches, the love of honors, the attachment to his own will – that the Lord Jesus may be the sole Master in him. Is not that, moreover, what our Savior has demanded of us: “Let him who will be My disciple carry his cross and follow Me”? St. Benedict wanted only to implement the Gospel; and by following in the footsteps of the holy Patriarch we are but following Christ with him, carrying our cross.

The Oblate profession

The world has always been topsy-turvy, at enmity with God. It seems, though, that today’s world has removed all bars to every manner of depravity and evil. Lies, subterfuges, and attacks on the Body of Christ seem more venomous than ever before and affect everyone on the planet. Shame no longer deters what others want to parade in front of us, whether it be evil deeds against a neighbor or self-indulgence of all kinds. I, for one, need the stability of the Benedictine Rule, the constant reminder of conversion of morals and of obedience to the will of God. I need that sense of belonging to the monastery family, knowing that I am part of something bigger than I am that glorifies God.

The day we become Oblates we have taken a huge step forward in our quest for holiness. We have pledged ourselves to pursue Christian perfection in the company of our monastic family using the efficacious means the Church provides us. First and foremost is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and all the other sacraments. Then we have the Divine Office and Lectio Divina. We have the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we perform out of the love of God. We have numerous approved devotions designed to develop our relationship with our Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and all the saints and angels populating heaven.

The day we turn away from these means is the day we cease to advance and begin to go backwards. We turn away from God and turn back to creatures who can give us nothing of lasting value. But in professing our oblation we pray in full confidence that this will not happen:

Uphold me, O Lord, according to Thy word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my hope (derived from Ps. 118:116).

G.A. Simon writes this about the Oblate profession:

By our Oblation, indeed, we give ourselves to God, we give Him the whole nothing that we are. Suscipe me Domine [Uphold me, O Lord]…. We give ourselves to Him with complete confidence…non confundas me [let me not be confounded, that is, let me not end up in hell]. For He has made promises to us…secundum eloquium tuum [according to Thy word]. In return He will give us His life, et vivam; His life, that is to say His grace, that is to say finally Himself living in us. May we never recant, never take ourselves back. We should then lose all, we should lose ourselves and we should lose the Infinite; we should lose God.

Anyone who wishes to do that “something more” that the young man in the Gospel sought and then turned away from because he was too attached to earthly things, can find it through associating with one of the religious communities of the Church. Through discernment God will lead you to the place that’s right for you.

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R. Now and forever!

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Friday, January 24th, 2014 religion 5 Comments

Sabbath Moments

November 16, 2013

Awareness of God

Awareness of God

Welcome to Colleen’s meme hosted at Thoughts on Grace. Please join us.

This week I’m working on getting back into the groove of participating in Sabbath Moments. Sometimes life events throw us off our mark and we can get pretty scattered instead of focused. In the past month a couple of friends have needed quite a bit of attention. Please pray for them in their need.

Civic adventure

For 9 years, since I became disabled, we’ve been receiving help with light housework from the county office on aging. Several weeks ago we were told that they were going to stop our service because they added a financial means test and we are over their very low numbers. The newspaper ran an article after we went to our state rep for our county and we will be working with him to see if we can correct the situation since many seniors are getting kicked out of the service we all need.

When this service started 12 years ago, those founding it knew they were going to run out of money but  did nothing to make it sustainable. It is tax supported and they think they will be able to raise taxes to keep it going. Not happening. Hubby and I are now up to our necks helping our rep address this issue and to determine what can be done to make the program sustainable. I’ve spent a lot of Sabbath Moments praying about this situation and putting it in the hands of God.

I thought I was finished with activism of any kind, but the good Lord has other plans, it seems. This is a situation that is affecting many seniors negatively and we can’t wait for Somebody Else to step up because he is just a figment of the imagination.

God’s way of giving grace in our vocations

In Meditation #76 of Divine Intimacy Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. talks about religious, priestly, and consecrated in the world vocations. I think what he says also applies to all the baptized, including those called to married life.

There is nothing static about vocation, not even on God’s part, because, adapting Himself to our nature, He calls us in a progressive way. If we are faithful to His first invitation, others, increasingly pressing and definite, will follow, which will bind us more and more to our divine Master.

Basically, there is but one call to the priesthood, the religious life, or consecration to God in the world; but God, through the various circumstances of life, and especially, through new occasions for sacrifice, repeats this invitation more precisely, more definitely, each time letting the soul see how far the gift of self must be extended in order to reach the plenitude of its consecration.  If the soul is faithful, and answers these progressive calls generously, God will continue to send new invitations, which will open up wider and more luminous horizons, until the soul lives its consecration in a perpetual renewal of fervor and love.

This meditation reminds me of St. Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians: All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Col. 3:17).  Really, this old lady would just love to lie around and loaf, goof off, and let concupiscence take over instead of running off to meetings, helping a friend in prison, or otherwise becoming involved in other people’s lives. But if I am to extend the gift of self and live as an authentic Christian, I don’t get to decide what God’s invitation is at this time, I only get to decide to accept it. Then when I am drowning in stuff I never wanted to do in the first place, I get to make acts of faith, hope, and love and curb my selfish willfulness. Again, as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta showed us, it’s not about feelings, it’s about directing our actions by our will to the things God asks of us.

The truth is, there will be no end to His invitations until death when we will get our final invitation if we have given of ourselves as He has asked, “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). And just in case we try to fool ourselves that we are able to do anything He asks of our own power and start to think how great and wonderful we are, He proves to us through our own weaknesses of body, mind, and spirit that He is the one who bestows the power upon us to do what He wants and who opens the doors to accomplishing His will.

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 Sabbath Moments, spirituality 9 Comments

Sabbath Moments

August 17, 2013

Awareness of God

Awareness of God

Welcome to Colleen’s meme at Thoughts on Grace. Be sure to visit her and join us.

Being ill

In spite of the dry cool weather God sent us this week, which is absolutely wonderful for sleeping with the windows open and enjoying the night sounds of tree frogs and crickets, I was feeling progressively weaker, more tired, and in increasing pain. For several days I thought I was moving into fibro flare, a place nobody wants to be. How many times did I say to the Lord, “What’s going on? What am I doing wrong? Why am I so tired and why do I hurt so much? Well, Thy will be done.”

It turns out that there is some kind of virus going around and the symptoms were from the little critters gaining hold. It took me until Wednesday evening to figure out that this malaise was only temporary rather than being a long, drawn out affair with months of recovery. One of my Latin students told me she had the virus creep up on her and described the symptoms exactly. What a relief.

Today I am much better and can say that the habits I formed while struggling through fibro flare came to the rescue. Zoning out and praying the rosary, offering up everything for the salvation of souls, and thanking God for the excuse to just be quiet made me feel useful to Him. One day I took Audi, Filia by St. John of Avila with me and sat in the morning sun reading for about twenty minutes as part of my therapy.  Our God-given sunlight is a great healer and should be part of most people’s wellness plan.

Sabbath Moments can always be combined with wellness moments. That’s the beauty of living and looking for God’s hand in every part of our lives.

Greed in government

This week offered many opportunities to trust in God. One was the email notification from the Amazon Associates program that I was being removed as a participant effective sometime in September. It seems that the state of Missouri has decided to join other states in demanding that taxes be paid by Amazon for internet sales that originate in that state. In the three years that I’ve been blogging and linking  recommendations to Amazon, I’ve earned somewhere around $30 in commissions, so this is no great loss, but I can imagine that others do much better and this will interfere with income they may be counting on. I am in full sympathy with Amazon. The bookkeeping is a nightmare and would add extensively to their cost of doing business as well as probably making the Associate program unprofitable.

Also this week I received a call from an organization that notified me about a bill coming up in the state legislature to tax prescription drugs. I contacted my representative and was relieved to learn that he opposes it. However, that does not mean it won’t pass.

Missouri is not trying to cut the profligate spending, fraud and corruption in state government. Therefore, the legislature must think up new ways to extract money from citizens to fund their schemes and enable the scammers and fraudsters who know how to game the system to have yet one more way to suck people dry. I don’t know a single legislator in Missouri or in Congress who has to worry about paying bills. They really can’t identify with the average person who is trying to live honestly and simply and manage money wisely.

As senior citizens living on Social Security and little else, we are really feeling the pinch of increased taxation of telecommunications, increased energy costs and taxes, exorbitant grocery prices, and anything else you can think of to throw in there.

My husband and I have always lived below our means on purpose, not doing things others take for granted, but every year things are getting tighter and tighter. Our health permits neither one of us the luxury of getting a regular job, even part time, to compensate for the income loss, so we must trust that God will provide. He does, in fact, by letting me earn a little money through teaching Latin and doing copy editing and proofreading jobs, though those come along sporadically. As long as I am physically and mentally capable, I will do every odd job that comes my way.

This is not a rant or a whine. I don’t feel sorry for myself. We’ve done the best we can over the years to be responsible people and we are grateful to God to be able to have a garden in the summer and enough to share a little with others. We are grateful that God allows us to keep our 13 year old car running and afford to care for our dog. We are glad that He has provided us with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to nourish our spiritual life and for the friends and family that brighten our lives. We are particularly glad for our Catholic faith.

In these times I am reminded of Jesus’ admonishment in Matt. 6:34: Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Some things never change.

It is a very good thing that we are living in the times of Divine Mercy. Perhaps the present and future economic trials the world will face will help many realize that there is a God who truly loves them, that they need Him, and that He is waiting to welcome them and care for them.

Now I’m heading to the garden to plant my male kiwi vine so that two years from now we can have little kiwis to enjoy and share.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, August 17th, 2013 Sabbath Moments 6 Comments

Bear One Another’s Burdens

August 8, 2013

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

French peasant women tilling soil circa 1917-1920, public domain photo image enhanced

French peasant women tilling soil circa 1917-1920, public domain photo image enhanced

When participating in Sunday Snippets this past week, I came across Michael’s post at “To Love and Truth” titled Listening to God’s Soft Whisper. One great thing about the Catholic blogging world is the opportunity to participate in spiritual observations of others, and this post really made me think. The post began:

 We often thank God for sending a particular person into our life.   God blessed us through that person.  It is easy to see God’s action in those He sends into our life in response to our prayer.  It is more difficult to be the person who God sends in response to someone else’s prayer.  [My emphasis.]

I am often very conscious of my own needs, aware of the constant pressure points against body, mind, and soul, preoccupied with my own problems, worries, hopes, etc. Sometimes this can cause me to close off others, to be blind to their needs. Yet Jesus expects us to bear one another’s burdens, and in fact not to be anxious over what we shall eat or wear, or anything else because our Father takes care of all our needs (Matt. 6:25-32).

Forgetting of self to be present to others implies being open to God’s call to be the person He sends to someone else in need. If we are to be God’s gift to someone else, we must constantly be corresponding with His grace to grow in the direction He wills, a scary thought when you come right down to it. We all know how fragile and imperfect we are if we’re honest with ourselves, and how we neglect to follow the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in us.

To be a gift to others means that we must be constantly growing in virtue because, as Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene writes in #267 of Divine Intimacy,

Bearing one another’s burdens also means enduring the faults of others calmly and kindly. [How often are our sins and faults the cause of our burdens? Don’t we regularly shoot ourselves in the foot and thus need someone else’s help? We want others to bear with us calmly, patiently, and kindly. We must be prepared to do the same to our neighbor.]

Charity always believes in the good will of others, even though it may be accompanied by faults; it always hopes in the good which it knows how to discover in every creature, although it may be eclipsed by many deficiencies. What is more important, charity supports everything, never finding any burden too heavy….Charity feels that it must stoop with love to take up the burdens of others, particularly those burdens which all avoid because they are troublesome.

We must not shy away from God’s call to be His gift to someone else through false humility or aversion, or weariness of mind, body, and spirit, but rather embrace it as another opportunity for our sanctification and that of the ones in need. His grace always comes along with the task. The task is always a challenge to trust in Him and stay close to Him, a daily adventure never ending but always fruitful unless we say “no” and walk away.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Thursday, August 8th, 2013 spirituality 3 Comments

Abba, Father

July 23, 2013

And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:36)

Digital oil painting by Barb from photo by Michelle M. from freedigitalphotos.com

Digital oil painting by Barb from photo by Michelle M. from freedigitalphotos.com

“Abba”, that beautiful Aramaic word spoken by a baby as his first word for “father”, has an equivalent in every language. In English it is “daddy”. In Korean it is “Appa”. In Italian, “babbino”, “papá”, “papino”. In all languages it expresses childlike innocence, trust, intimacy, and affection. In pre-Christian times “Abba” grew from solely a baby’s expression to mean “dear father”, an expression grown children would use to address their fathers.

When Jesus cried out these words during His agony in the garden, He spoke for all mankind, first as a Jew and secondly as a Gentile, as Mark wrote first the Aramaic word and then the Greek for “father”. Abba is for all of us. St. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 8:15:

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.

By this we know that Jesus means for all of us to have that same relationship with His Father that He does, the child with the strong and loving protector and provider who watches over us with the greatest of care. This is His will for us.

Two things follow from this:

  1. Not developing this child-with-daddy loving relationship is contrary to God’s will, and
  2. Having this relationship means docility and surrender on our part.

Maybe we need to refocus on our relationship with the Father. Perhaps we might ask ourselves:

  • How often do our lives seem to spin out of control?
  • Are we just giving up and giving in to the pressures of this world or others because that is all we see at the moment?
  • Have we taken ourselves out from under the strong wings of our Abba and are acting as if everything depends on us, not giving Him a second thought?
  • Have we forgotten that our destiny is heaven and become caught up in daily struggles as if now is the only place we will ever be and our personal power is all there is?
  • Do we walk in constant fear of those we perceive as being stronger than we, forgetting that our Abba is the strongest of all?
  • Do we expect to understand everything about what is happening to us right now, or are we willing to wait in serenity until God sees fit to show us?
  • Do we understand that we must be patient with Him, trusting Him to place everything in order in His time for our good and the good of others?
  • Do we recognize His mercy in our lives? When will we learn to say to God, “I don’t get it Lord, but I’ll follow You anyway.”?

Because Jesus told us to address His Father the same as He, “Abba, Father” we can accept the words beautifully written by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene from Divine Intimacy meditation #249:

Our hope, our confidence in God can never be excessive or exaggerated, because it is founded on God’s mercy which has no limits.  If we sincerely try to do everything we can to please God, we need not fear that our hope in Him can be too great.  His helpful power and His desire for our good, for our sanctification, infinitely exceed our most ardent hopes. This blind, unlimited hope is so pleasing to God that the more hope we have, the more He overwhelms us with favors: “the more the soul hopes, the more it attains” (J.C. AS III, 7,2).

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, making this thought her own said: “We can never have too much confidence in the good God who is so powerful and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for” (St, 12).

Let us not, then, hide behind an excuse that our earthly fathers have been absent or disappointing, perhaps cruel and neglectful, and so we must live as if we are victims making excuses for our sins and abuse of ourselves and others. Instead, let us claim what Jesus has given us, what He intends for us: sonship with the perfect Father in an eternal happiness that does not have to wait for death, but that we can begin here and now in this world, step by wobbly step as a child of our Abba.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 hope, spirituality 1 Comment

St. Augustine on Poverty and Hope

July 22, 2013

Every now and then we humans forget Who’s in charge. We start acting as if everything depends on us. We’re told to “take charge” of our lives and inevitably end up making ourselves a mess because we are doing everything without consideration of God’s will for us. One of the things that that endears St. Augustine to sinners is his frank admissions to this behavior in his own life. His prayer becomes our prayer and a light shines in the darkness for us.

Almighty, omnipotent Lord, show me my poverty so that I may confess it.  I said that I was rich and that I needed nothing; I did not know that I was poor, blind, naked, wretched, and miserable.  I believed that I was something and I was nothing. I said, “I shall become wise” and I became foolish; I thought that I was prudent, but I deceived myself.  And I see now that wisdom is Your gift, that without You we can do nothing, for if You, O God, do not keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it.  You taught me this that I might know myself; You abandoned me and you tried me…so that I would know myself.  You had hardly gone a short distance from me when I fell.  Then I saw and knew that You were guiding me; if I fell, it was my own fault, and if I rose again, it was by Your help.

How many things in my life do I claim as having by my own power? What frustrates me? Am I living in partnership with God, conforming myself to His will, or am I living the self-made man life alone and puffed up with myself? Am I fearful of many things because I am trying to get along on my own? Is my heart screaming, “Why aren’t You helping me!!!!!?” when in silence He is already answering?

O my God, I could despair on account of my great sins and my innumerable negligences…but I dare not because I, who was at one time Your enemy, have been reconciled to You by the death of Your Son; and not only reconciled, but I have been saved by Him.  That is why all my hope and the certitude of my confidence is in His precious Blood which was shed for us and for our salvation.  Living in Him, trusting in Him, I hope to come to You, not because of my justice, but through the justice which comes to me from Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, in the weariness of this struggle, I raise my eyes to You, Lord Jesus.  Let the enemy do what he will to me. I shall not fear because You are a strong defender. I have good reason to hope in You, for I shall never be confounded.

Now, as long as I am in the body, I am far from You, since I journey by faith and not by vision.  The time will come when I will see that which I now believe without seeing and I shall be happy.  Then I shall see the reality which I now hope for. I live content in my hope because You are true to Your promises; nevertheless, because I do not possess You as yet, I groan beneath the weight of desire. Grant that I may persevere in this desire until what I have promised comes to pass; then my groaning will be over and praise alone will resound.

Here is the beautiful “Ich freue mich in dir” (BWV 465), one of Bach’s sacred songs from the famous Schemelli Gesangbuch, putting music to the sentiments of St. Augustine’s prayer in a most childlike way.

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R. Now and forever!

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Monday, July 22nd, 2013 hope, spirituality 1 Comment

Islamic Jihad on the March in Africa

March 22, 2013

Central African Republic, via Wikipedia

Central African Republic, via Wikipedia

In case you are thinking you are having a particularly bad day, the Bishop of Bangassou has a few words to say as reported by Agenzia Fides, the communication arm of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Bangassou is on the southern border of the Central African Republic toward the eastern end of the state, just across the river from the Democratic Republic of Congo. After reading what happened in his diocese I’m not complaining about anything. Emphasis mine.

Mgr. Juan José Aguirre Muños, Bishop of Bangassou, sent to Fides Agency the following testimony on the conquest of the Central African city on behalf of a faction of the rebel coalition Seleka (see Fides 12/03/2013). [The Seleka coalition are jihadists and mostly mercenaries. The situation in Central African Republic is similar to Mali, but news agencies are not reporting on it.]

The rebels of SELEKA arrived in mid-December from the north of the Country. Many Chadians, others Sudanese, all speak Arabic and want to overturn the government to create an Islamic republic. They have already conquered five dioceses and more than 10 cities.

They entered Bangassou on March 11 after having clashed with the few Central African forces who were in town. They stole a dozen mission cars, of the minor seminary of the second parish in Bangassou. They destroyed the home of the Spiritan Fathers, of the Franciscan Sisters, then they stole and destroyed the rector’s house of the diocesan minor seminary, the carpenter’s shop, the internet center, the Catholic college, the pharmacy, the new surgery block. They brutalized the people, fathers and nuns. They have a list of people to hit: I am the first, followed by my vicar then the prosecutor and others. They destroyed the town hall, the general hospital, throwing the patients who had an IV in the arm on the floor to steal the mattress. They respected only mosques and Muslim traders to whom they gave our goods to sell.

Then the rebels left on 15 vehicles packed with stolen goods and headed towards Bambari (400 km away), leaving a brutalized population and afraid, that is dispersed in the forest. Along the way they occupied one mission after another, camping in the house of the missionaries. Now except for the 3 missions in the East, the other 8 are in their hands.

To the east we have another rebellion, the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), that for 7 years is raging on civilians. We have witnessed the horrors of every kind: murders, children torn from their parents and taken into the forest, burning of villages, rapes, people’s rights trampled on ruthlessly. Now we have the Seleka rebels and I do not know how long they will stay. We just have to pray to the Lord. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 21/03/2013)

We tend to be preoccupied by the things affecting our lives most immediately, and rightly so because we have duties and obligations to those around us. But all over the world our brothers and sisters in Christ need our prayers, and we need perspective. What is happening in Africa reminds us that the demons of hell aren’t wasting any time trying to destroy the Church and all of mankind for that matter.

Nearly all of Africa is a powder keg. Everywhere on the continent Muslims are hiring mercenaries to go into country after country, kill the Christians and steal all that supports the Church. They are serious about establishing Sharia law which is not only anti-Christian, but totally against the basic fundamentals of human dignity.  It is perfectly easy to get recruits when a faction can go into an area, brutalize the people, rape and pillage, taking money for the spoils for themselves, all under the banner of the Koran. This is pure, aggressive, and unjust war. But there is more to this than meets the eye because religious differences are the convenient excuse to mask a mad desire for material wealth and power.

The Central African Republic is rich with mineral and other resources including crude oil, gold, diamonds, and arable land. It is one of the poorest countries of the world and among the ten poorest in Africa according to Wikipedia.

As a Catholic I care very much about what is happening to the Church everywhere in the world. The structures set up by the Church to care for the poor are being destroyed in nation after nation on all continents. In Africa by blood, in America by law. As we approach Good Friday, let us keep our African brothers and sisters in our prayers, and beg God for the grace of the conversion of the Muslims.

May Pope Francis, the Pope of the Poor, strengthen the bishops, priests, nuns, and laity of all Africa, confirming them in the Faith.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Friday, March 22nd, 2013 Catholic Church, jihad 1 Comment

What is Trust?

September 10, 2012

The trust of friendship

This past week a friend was asked, “Trust is a state of mind, isn’t it?”  I thought the subject was worth exploration because we use the word freely in conversation, but do we really understand what it means?  Does everybody see trust the same way?  Considering trust during my meditation time and considering it from the Catholic perspective, I concluded that trust isn’t a state of mind at all; trust is an act of the will.

Trust also isn’t a feeling.  If it were, it would not be a matter of choice governed by the intellect but something that could arise and dissipate for no apparent reason as feelings often do.  Acts of will are renewed and reflect a deliberate intention on our part.  That’s why, even when we don’t feel like trusting God, we will ourselves to trust in Him.  The more we submit to God’s will, saying “Yes” to Him even in disagreeable circumstances, the more we practice the choice of trust, knowing that the all-good and all-loving God has our best interests at heart – our salvation.

Trusting in people

Willing to trust in people is another matter altogether.  Jesus is the only Person (and here I imply the Holy Trinity as well since they are distinct but inseparable persons) who will never disappoint us.  He is the only one who is perfect and can fulfill the needs of our restless hearts.  So it follows that others will, from time to time and to some degree, disappoint us because they are not perfect.  Yet it is possible to will to trust another based on that person’s track record in relationship with us.  The best litmus test of trustworthiness is the extent to which a person acts according to the teachings of Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn. 14:6)

Trust is earned by another’s sincerity, honesty, willingness to sacrifice getting one’s own way for the good of another, following through on promises, and accepting another person as he is without trying to control him.  Readers might identify additional behaviors that contribute to inspiring trust in others.  Being Christlike as Jesus revealed Himself to us makes us trustworthy. Actions rather than words are the chief instigators of trust from others.  Actions are how we live the Gospel.

Provisional acts of the will

Great saints always give us the example of giving another person the benefit of the doubt.  When we do that, our act of will to trust is provisional.  We are in a “wait and see” mode, refraining from the deadliness of rash judgment and continuing to relate to another person normally but watchfully.  After a period of time and observation we will be able to say unequivocally that we trust that person or we don’t, based on his actions. If we trust, we will proceed in our relationship based on the belief that the person, although fallible, is fundamentally trustworthy.  We will also be ready to forgive occasional breaches of trust, understanding that none of us is perfect.

Betrayals

It is difficult if not impossible to trust someone who does not act based on Christian principles because all other bases lack truth to some degree.  Repeated breaches of trust, which are typically seen by us as betrayals, signify deep problems in a relationship and often become the justification for breaking off or drastically reducing interactions. 

It is not rational to attempt to have a close relationship with people who consistently betray us, most especially when we have made our feelings known, because the betrayer has no incentive to amend his behavior.  Betrayal is an abuse of trust and allowing someone to continually betray us at one level or another enables that individual to continue acting uncharitably towards us.  That makes us complicit in his sin. 

Forgiveness and charity

Often the greatest act of charity towards someone as well as ourselves is to refuse to continue the relationship as is or break it off entirely.  These actions on our part in and of themselves don’t signify a refusal to forgive.  Our intentions are what count.  We can forgive and move on, and most importantly, pray for the person who has betrayed us and desire his salvation.  That is true charity.

Remaining mired in a relationship where one cannot will to trust drags us down physically, mentally, morally, emotionally, and spiritually.  And we must understand that we can’t “fix” somebody else.  Only God, with the person’s cooperation, can bring someone closer in conformity to the example of Christ.

Peace of heart/soul

If there is one universal desire in the heart of man, it is peace.  The end result of choosing to trust others who are trustworthy, is peace of heart.  Some would call it peace of soul.  Genuine peace of heart/soul in its highest degree comes from our relationship with God. 

We pray for the faithful departed, “May they rest in peace.”  We have perfect peace when we get to heaven.  There all relationships are perfect.  Earth is not heaven.  We will always have various levels of disruption in relationships and various breaches of trust we must deal with in this life.  But being able to trust others brings us a certain amount of peace of heart/soul in this life, freeing us to fulfill our duties to God and our neighbor with greater joy. 

We can, then, consider that trust is an act of will aimed at our desired state of peace of heart/soul in relationships, beginning first with God and then extending to others.  Anything that disturbs that peace is cause to examine our will to trust and take appropriate action.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Monday, September 10th, 2012 spirituality 7 Comments

Sabbath Moments

August 25, 2012

Awareness of God

Welcome to Sabbath Moments, the meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace.

Recommended book for the busy and time-challenged

This week I hauled out a book I bought some years ago and began using it for quick spiritual reading in addition to what I ordinarily do every day.  Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey with Our Spiritual Companions is great for a quick reading about the saint of the day and finding inspirational snippets of the writings of that saint.  I highly recommend this for those who want to find a few wonderful Sabbath Moments in the midst of a busy schedule.

Weather and veggie notes

We are still in the midst of a great drought where I live, but this week we’ve had some cooler days with temps in the 80s and 90s.  Today it’s overcast with a promise of rain, which we will be very glad to see.  The day I pulled up several tomato plants, I lacked the strength to pull a few others, so I trimmed off most of the branches.  Well, lo and behold!  The remaining puny branches have blossomed and there’s a good chance of new tomatoes!  The pepper plants, while producing small fruit, are still doing well and I am going to pickle them in a delicious Korean pickling recipe.

God has been very generous to us, even in  this drought, by giving us a decent harvest and ways to enjoy the veggies well beyond the season.  With the increase in grocery prices sure to occur due to both the drought and EPA regulations that are forcing utility prices through the roof for everyone, we are most blessed.  Preparing the food, pickling it, and all the effort involved are all Sabbath Moments for me.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, August 25th, 2012 Sabbath Moments 3 Comments

Sabbath Moments

August 4, 2012

Awareness of God

Welcome to our Saturday meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace.  Be sure to visit her to read other bloggers’ Sabbath Moments.

An untimely death

Jay (not his real name) didn’t know when he awoke on August 2nd that he would drown in the lake before six that evening.  We have never known anyone with as much drama in his life as Jay had. 

Hubby and I first hired him to help us with landscaping and yard projects in the spring of 2011.  We found him to be a hard and capable worker who would do anything to please.  A single father, he had a severely autistic 19 yr. old son and an 11 year old daughter who was born without a palate and had many surgeries to correct the problem.  He lived for those kids.  We got to know them a little, too, when he brought them with him to work a few times.  Just a couple of weeks ago I placed his boy’s name on an international prayer list for autistic children, but hadn’t had occasion to tell Jay.  He would have really appreciated that because he was a strong Christian, although not Catholic, and was a good example of living with trust in God.

Many people will feel the loss of his cheerful and kind presence.  He would help anybody do anything, and was especially good with older people like us because he was raised that way.  Several times he told us of how his mother would send him and his brother down the street to help an elderly lady with her garden.  Although poor himself, he often gave items to a charity organization in the next town.  Things people would give to him that he didn’t need but thought others could use.

This May was the last time we saw Jay.  He came to finish repairing a retaining wall and said his mother had fallen and broken her collarbone and wrist.  Of course, he was in the middle of everything shoring up the family.  There was no one else healthy enough to step into the breach to take care of the little things that always pop up in a situation like this.  His brother is on borrowed time suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and Jay frequently packed the kids up and drove about an hour to help him out whenever he called.

I was worried about Jay’s mother and tried to call him a couple of times in May to learn how she was doing, but had to leave voice messages that weren’t returned.  Several times we drove by his trailer, but he wasn’t there.  Something was really wrong, I thought, and I was right.  His mom passed away as we discovered this morning when we were searching for news of Jay’s funeral. 

It turns out no services are planned for Jay.  Probably because there isn’t any money in the family and he was poor with his only assets being the small trailer he lived in with his kids, his truck, and an old 1991 Acura somebody gave him for a few hundred dollars.  He put everything he had into caring for the kids and lived on the edge.  It looks like the county may bury him.

When I read the news article about the drowning, it said that Jay was intoxicated, went swimming, went under and didn’t surface.  Fortunately his kids were with the maternal grandmother and weren’t at the lake to see their dad die.  We only learned about his death because Jay’s nephew called us – ours was the only phone number in his truck – to see if we had the grandmother’s or the ex-wife’s phone number.  We didn’t so we suggested he contact the police department for help.

Why God chose to call Jay at age 47 with heavy responsibility for his kids we can’t know.  Certainly Jay violated the common sense rule that alcohol and water don’t mix, but I’m guessing he had done this before at the lake, although never did he show up drunk for work.  Those of us who knew Jay are most concerned about the children.  They will need many prayers because their dad was the center of their lives.

Please pray for the repose of  his soul and for the children.  I thank God for having known Jay because he showed me that no matter how economically tough things are, a person can be joyful and trust in God’s care.  He truly lived that way.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Saturday, August 4th, 2012 Sabbath Moments 7 Comments

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