Stripped of Everything Except Love

Jesus CrucifiedThere is Jesus upon the Cross, “stripped of everything except His love”, as our Foundress, Saint Magdalene of Canossa would say. The dipiction of Christ is what compelled me to take my vows, wanting to follow in the footsteps of the Crucified One. This past Sunday we celebrated much more than Superbowl; in the Church we commemorated Jesus being presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, and their meeting of old Simeon and the prophetess Anna, and the astonishing things they said about the child. The Church shares this day with all men and women who have taken vows of consecration: chastity, poverty and obedience. It led me to reflect on my own consecration and a prayer:

In my consecration I gave all to Mary and I stand before Jesus stripped bare. No merits to show. No clothing to make me attractive. Nothing by which to hide my flaws. All is revealed. This applies too to my daily life. All the graces I experience are from God. All successes in my ministry is from God. Any signs of love I demonstrate is from God. I have nothing. All belongs to God and I entrust it to Mary. All I hope for, I pray, is God’s grace and that I may love with a heart like Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

UntitledFather,
You willed that Mary
be at the Foot of the Cross
sharing in the Sacrifice of Your Son.
Grant us, through her intercession,
to bear within ourselves
the image of Christ
Crucified and Risen,
and to spend ourselves
with untiring Charity
for the good of our brothers and sisters. Amen.

(Said every morning before Lauds by Canossian Sisters around the world).

A Request for Prayer

Every six years, the Canossian Sisters convoke a “General Chapter”, a formal body comprised of our Sisters from all around the world. The Sisters nominated, will meet this coming spring in Rome. Prior to that, each of our 19 provinces is conducting their own Chapters through which they feed issues for discernment into the preparation for the General Chapter. The Sisters of the North American province of Cristo Rey will be meeting from November 11-19, during which we will review our journey and plot the course for the next six years. We will also elect from among us a Chapter Sister who will represent the Province in Rome at the General Chapter in the spring.

All is done with the words of our Mother Foundress Saint Magdalene of Canossa in mind: “see to it that the spirit of the Institute is handed down in all its entirety and perfection to those who come into it after you.”

It is a time of intense prayer and discernment. Will you join us?

Icone St JosephI invite you to join us in prayer as we continue our preparation, using this beautiful prayer to Saint Joseph:

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me.

[I ask for the success of the Provincial Chapter of the Canossian Sisters of North America (November 11-19, 2013), may the Sisters be open to the Holy Spirit and have courage to speak the truth, for the good of the whole Institute and for the poor they serve.]

Saint Joseph, Pray for us!

Saint Magdalene of Canossa, Pray for us!

Saint Josephine Bakhita, our Universal Sister, Pray for us!

Venerable Fernanda Riva, Pray for us!

Saint Francis of Assisi, Pray for us!

Saint Cajetan, Pray for us!

 

Related Posts:

All the Saints Pray for Us

Patron Saints

Seven Sundays Remembering St Joseph

The Path of Love

Today, in commemoration of my ten year anniversary of profession, I break retreat for a brief instant to share my gratitude that God would take me to be His own.

No words express my sentiment better than those of our Foundress; she writes in her memoirs:

“I have to tread the path of love ( I must do this!), so I took courage and began as usual to give in to some expression. Gradually, my old desire for the glory of God swept over me. As I repeatedly offered myself to the Lord, it crossed through my mind that this might be the right moment to pronounce the vow of perpetual chastity. Then, with all the affection I could muster, I pronounced my vow. The thought of belonging wholly to Jesus Christ overwhelmed me to the extent that I could think of nothing else. I simply told our Lord, that henceforth, He would be my very own, and I begged Him to take care of everything.”
Saint Magdalene of Canossa
Foundress, Canossian Sisters

So, rejoice with me today, that God loves us in such a way that He, the Maker of the stars of heaven, would stoop down  and espouse Himself to a mere creature such as myself.


Note: back to retreat now. I’ll re- emerge Sunday. Holding the intentions of my readers in my prayers. God’s abundant blessings upon each of you! Sr. Lisa Marie

Prayer and the Priesthood – Updated

An update, with a video of a priest, Fr. Michael Rodriguez, defending the position of the Church on the definition of marriage at a city council meeting in El Paso, Texas:

h/t Father Z (follow the link for another video of the same priest celebrating Mass).

Let us continue to pray for our priests, that they may always remain close to the font of wisdom that comes from the Lord. And from this union with Him, they will be filled with holy courage to speak the truth with love so to strengthen the whole family of God.

If you so desire, a novena for priests.

Prayer is our only defense. Let us persevere in it.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, hear our prayers.

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Today began as one of those days where I wanted to shout (actually, I did!) halleluiahs in answer to prayers for a priest. Today ended, tainting that joy with the announcement of John Corapi, that he would no longer be an active priest. But first the good news:

A friend and I have been praying for months for a particular priest, who, coming into a new parish found his orthodoxy was not well received. He is a young, yet experienced priest placed in a little parish in an obscure town that has not had a permanent priest in six years…we were praying in hope that he wouldn’t be another transient priest, but would have the strength to endure the poorly catechized parishioners, and stay for the long haul. Today was a defining moment for him.

Today, was the first time after months of structural repairs to the Church, it was re-opened for the celebration of the Mass. Parishioners came in, almost falling over themselves with the immediate realization that the Tabernacle was no longer on the side, but was front and center below the life-size Crucifix. He explained in his homily how in role of Pastor he must call his flock to the Shepherd by orienting them to Jesus Christ, both Jesus on the Cross, and Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist.  He pointed to the fact that he had uncluttered the sanctuary, leaving nothing but the essentials (Cross and Tabernacle), explaining how our lives are so cluttered, and how in all the clutter we have, we get disoriented from what is important. Pointing again to Jesus on the Cross and in the Tabernacle he said, “This is what is important. This is what we are here for.”

My heart carries praise to God for this sign — this wonderful sign — of the priesthood.

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As night approached, and I was finishing some last communications, I saw the “announcement” from Father (now Mister) John Corapi, “I’m not going to be involved in ministry as a priest any longer…”

Many others are reporting on this, but in light of my experience earlier today, I ask that we all pray for him. Having heard his conversion story many years ago at our Parish mission, his announcement today sounded as a denouncement of that story. His conversion story was one filled with grace and gratitude…I can’t say the same with his latest. This incongruent message leads me to pray. Let us pray for John Corapi. Let us pray for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) to which he belongs. Let us pray for the Church leadership who are involved in the investigation. Let us pray for all who have benefited through the years from Corapi’s homilies and catechetical messages, that they will not be harmed or scandalized.

In the Gospel of  Luke, Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan desired to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 23:31ff)

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, you have chosen your priests from among us and sent them out to proclaim your word and to act in your name. For so great a gift to your Church, we give you praise and thanksgiving. We ask you to fill them with the fire of your love, that their ministry may reveal your presence in the Church.

Since they are earthen vessels, we pray that your power shine out throught their weakness.

In their afflictions let them never be crushed;
in their doubts never despair;
in temptation never be destroyed;
in persecution never abandoned.

Inspire them through prayer to live each day the mystery of your dying and rising. In times of weakness send them your Spirit, and help them to praise your heavenly Father and pray for poor sinners. By the same Holy Spirit put your words on their lips and your love in their hearts, to bring good news to the poor and healing to the brokenhearted. And may the gift of Mary your mother, to the disciple whom you loved, be your gift to every priest. Grant that she who formed you in her human image, may form them in your divine image, by the power of your Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

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UPDATE: What Priests are Saying:

Fr. Joseph Jenkins asks, Black Sheep Dog or Black Wolf?

 reflects On the Bigger Issue

Father Zuhlsdorf shares some observations about our times, and about Corapi’s mortal soul.

Other bloggers offering prayers:

Deacon Bill at Deacons Today: Dalmatics and Beyond encourages us to pray.

Gerard M. Nadal at Coming Home extends a message to Fr Corapi, and No Room for Black Sheepdogs.

Ancient Soul: Hold FATHER Corapi (once a priest ALWAYS a priest) in prayer.

Other Commentary:

ThePulp.it has a roundup of to-date commentary.

The Anchoress has a good list of other commentary, and updated.

Deacon Greg also has a list of blog comentary and updated.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS  is leaving room pondering, could it be a hoax, now that it’s not a hoax .

About Spiritual Motherhood

Simcha Fisher at National Catholic Register wrote a post exploring her own understanding of what spiritual motherhood is about:

“This notion (spiritual motherhood) gave me hives for many years, since I was already fully surrounded by my offspring before I started to feel really comfortable or confident in my role as mother. Maybe my problem was that I was expecting to feel motherly right away…once I started to feel it more for my own children, I took my responsibility toward the motherless people of the world much more seriously.”

She goes on to ask, “…if you, like me, had to learn to adapt to this role, what helped you get there? Do you still struggle? If you don’t have physical children, do you feel that you’re fulfilling this vocation?”

In reading Simcha’s post, I could relate with her on many points, even though I have never given birth to children of my own, I have had to grow into my own ‘motherhood’.

Ever since I was a small girl, I had an aversion to barbies and dolls, preferring to care for animals instead. Maybe it was because the dogs, cats, rats, rabbits and hamsters were really living, breathing things, rather than plastic and immobile objects. Yet, I also remember the first time I held a real baby, my little brother Michael. I was afraid I would drop him, and so instead of holding him with love, I held him in fear.  On the other hand, I had from a young age an affinity for Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I remember my first introduction to her when I was seven. I was sitting in my Nana’s playroom, and of all the toys she had in the closet for us, I would always go to some books in the corner of the room, a series of them had a section on countries and cultures. One day, the book I picked up was featuring India and the story of Mother Teresa. What struck me was, in fact, her caring for the broken human beings she encountered with great tenderness and compassion. The story made me ponder how was it that she could care so deeply about these whom she didn’t know. What was it that made her pick up that first dying man on the street? Was she afraid she would ‘drop him’? That he might die in her arms rather than get well?

Sr Lisa in Indonesia

My ‘awakening’ to my calling to be a mother to others first came the summer after my first vows, in 2002. I was helping with the summer program for Catholic youth in Vimercate, Italy. I was playing futbol (soccer) with the children, and managed to score a goal. The boys started cheering, “Madre, Madre, Madre!” I was looking around to see who they were talking about – who is this ‘Mother’ they were shouting for – sheepishly remembering that is the title the Italians use for religious women – Madre. Mother. It was a moment of reconciling for me, both my call as a celibate who, under a vow of chastity, chose to follow Christ in this way, offering my own motherhood to God and in doing so became a mother to God’s children, all humanity.  It is an overwhelming thought.

After ten years of professed life, I am still discovering what it means to love those who are not my own, and in the process understanding more deeply my own vocational call to religious consecrated life. As Simcha mentions in recalling her own experience, it was – and continues to be for me – a growing into motherhood. The key to its success is not our inbred feminine disposition for nurturing (although I imagine having it, makes the motherly role come more naturally), but more important is one’s steadfastness in their living out their vocation. This makes sense reading Simcha’s words, “I was already fully surrounded by my offspring before I started to feel really comfortable or confident in my role as mother.”  These words ring true in my own experience, the importance of living faithfully our calling goes way beyond one’s feelings: it is commitment.

This idea of commitment plays out so true, recalling my own childhood, being one of seven children. We were a handful for my mother, that much I remember, often teasing each other to tears.  I often wondered what superpowers my mother was endowed with by God, by the very fact she did not lose her sanity in the process of raising us. When she said her ‘yes’ in marrying my father, that yes meant accepting the fruit of their marriage – children. The late nights caring for us when we were sick; and later picking us up from detention after school. The sacrifices to the things she would have liked to have had so that her children would have opportunities. Now that I am grown, I often reflect on her motherhood as an example for my own. I am sure there were times she was fed up with us and our craziness and wanted to get away, yet she stayed the course, loving us even when we showed little or no signs of appreciation. This is the motherhood that I strive for.

Here are some ways I celebrate my spiritual motherhood.

On one hand, I think of the desert Fathers and the many who would come out to the desert to pray with them and find sound counsel. In this way, I see myself a spiritual mother when I take someone under my wing to help them in their spiritual journey, by sharing from my own experiences the workings of God. I also feel I am a mother in this sense as I carry in my heart all who ask for my prayers; my heart is burdened for their concerns, their sufferings, and my heart rejoices with them in their successes. This plays out big time in the classroom, teaching catechesis, working with youth; the need to be attentive to the heart of those in my care.

Sr Lisa in Tanzania

I am also a mother by my call to availability, to be willing to interrupt my day when I encounter someone in need. It happens from time to time that I am stopped along my way by others because of my habit – the exterior sign of my consecration – and asked to talk with them, or pray with them. These are pinnacle mother-moments. Where through being present to these strangers, I present them to the Heavenly Father, and Jesus, His Son. Some of these moments hold me in dread, not knowing how to respond, much how I felt when I was five years old, holding my little brother in my lap.  Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes my companion, that God’s word may reach the soul in front of me, that I might be given words to say to him. These encounters have strengthened my desire to take each person who I encounter and love them, realizing that their Heavenly Father would want it so.

Who do We Give our Hearts To?

A new friend of mine from the Newman Catholic Center at Cal Poly University shared with me a little story that I thought is a good lesson for all of us:

Ever since she was a young girl, she knew she would one day meet the right man and marry. She spent her time and energy waiting for that day, looking for the right man, and eventually, joyfully finding him.

Then, all of her attention went into the planning for the wedding, to mark the first day of their lives together as special. Invitations were sent out, guests arrived to the beautifully decorated church, and the bride, with her heart fluttering in excitement, was almost ready.

The maid of honor helped her into her exquisite dress. The bride was radiant, her joy was mirrored back to her when she took one last look in the mirror before making her way to meet her soon-to-be husband. Only….

There, in the corner of the bridal suite, in the shadows, sat Jesus weeping. The bride’s heart was full, and had no room left for Him.

___

Many may think this is a story to encourage one to think again about giving themselves totally to Jesus through becoming a religious sister, brother, or priest.

But in truth, the moral of the story is so much more.

We do this to Jesus, shut him out of our lives, every time we fill our hearts with other desires before first making our hearts the home for our King. Was the young woman wrong to desire to find a worthy spouse? Of course not. No more wrong as for one to dive head first into a calling as a religious or priest. BUT for either vocation to be successful in its entirety, the spiritual home must first be nourished with the Divine love that makes us whole in both body and spirit; the in-dwelling of the Holy Trinity.

It is in this wholeness, that we are equipped to give ourselves fully to another. It is only then, the bride who runs to meet her bridegroom will be found carrying more than her beauty to the union; she will be bringing the gift of God himself.

The Bittersweet of a Vocation

Last night, fellow blogger Punk to Monk tweeted the following message to me:

Message via Homboy McCoy

His blog post (no longer available since he “unplugged” to follow his dream!) relays the good news that he has been accepted to begin his postulancy – the beginning of formal instruction towards vows – in August. Apparently, the good news turned bittersweet when his family had a date in front of them. As if to say, “Wow, he’s really going to do this!” Which, of course, brings to the forefront the first of many ‘letting go’s’ in the life of a religious.

I recommend reading the post which tells the straight-forward truth that one’s religious vocation is also part of the family’s vocation. There is a need, on the part of the family, to ‘get used to the idea’, which later they will find it to be a blessing for the whole family. Such is the reality of God’s providential love… which is so very wonderful to see unfold when one gives himself to follow God through an act of self-giving.

For those who are thinking of taking the plunge into religious life (and if you haven’t considered it, let me invite you to at least pray about it), here are some helpful scripture passages:

Purpose of Call
Exodus 3:14; Judges 6:12-23; Psalms 20-38; Luke. 1:13-17;
1 Peter 2:9

Seeking God
Hosea 6:1-3; Psalms 27 (26); 24:3-6; 105:1-4; 42:2-5,12; 84:2-4; Isaiah 55:6-13

To Individuals
Gen. 12; Ex. 3; 19: 3ff; 24:16; 1 Sam. 3; 2 Sam.7; Isaiah 6:13;
3 Ruth; Jeremiah 1:4-10;
Matt. 4:18-22; Matt 28:16-20, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-26;
John 1:35-51; Acts 9, 1 Peter 2:9-17

Discernment
Psalms 25(24); Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 1:3-14;
1 Corinthians 2:7-12; 1 Peter 1:1-10

Communication of the Spirit
1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13; Isaiah 2:2; 42:1; John 15:16, 26; 20:22; 14:16; Mark. 3:13

Given Freely
Jeremiah l:4ff; Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians15:9-10; Galatians 1:15

Demands Faith and Obedience
Genesis 12; Matthew 4:18-22; 16:24-26; 8:18-22

Creates Newness in Person Called
Genesis 17:4-8; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-63; John 1:42

God’s Divine Providence
Exodus 19:3; Judges 6:13-14; Ezekiel 3:7-9; Jeremiah 1:7-9;
Matt. 10:1-8; Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 4:7; Ephesians 4:11

Communal Aspect
Rom. 9:7; 1 Corinthians 12:lff; Colossians. 3:15; Ephesians 4:1-12
Rewards: Matt. 19:27-29; John. 15:15; 2 Cor. 2:15-17

Prayer for Perseverance
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Mission
Is. 41:8-16; 42:5-9; 43:8-12; Matt. 28:16-20; Luke. 9:2; 10:1-9; 24:46-48;
Acts 1:8; 10:42; 5:20, 42; 6:6; 13:2; 7:1, 52-53; 8:12; 4:3;18:10; 2 Cor. 2:14-16; 1:18-19

Servant
Isaiah 42:1-8; 49:1-7; 50:4-10; 52:13-53

Poverty
Proverbs 22:1-2, 16, 22-23; Psalms 73 (72); 40:5; 18; 107; 72; Isaiah 66:1-2; 11:1-5; 61:1-4; Matt. 5:1-12; 6:19-34; 8:10-20; 11:2-6; 19:16-22;
Lk. 1:46-55; 4:18-21; 6:20-26; 12:13-21; 14:12-14; 16:1-13,19-31; 20:45-21:4;
Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35:1 Cor. 7:29-31; 2 Cor. 6:2-10; 8:1-15; James 2:1-9

Chastity
Wisdom 3:16-28; 4:1-2; Matt. 19:12; 5:38; 1 Cor. 7:1, 7-8, 32-35, 36-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:10-12

Obedience
Deut. 4:32-40; 6:4-6, 13-19; Is. 29:13-24; 53; Ps. 50 (49);
Matt. 7:21-27;
John 6:35-40; 14:21-24; 8:38-42; Acts 4:19; 5:27-32;
Eph. 6:1-10; Philippians 2:5-11;
Romans 16:25-27; 13:1-7; 1Peter 1:1-2; 2:13-19

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Be assured, Homeboy McCoy, and all others discerning religious life, you are truly held in my prayers.

God bless!

NOTE: About Homeboy McCoy, he is no longer available on the net, having unplugged his digital life to follow Christ as a postulant. Please keep praying for him. :)

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Related Posts:
That “V” Word – Vocation

From Punk to Monk

Look into Your Heart

A Moment in Crisis

Laboring in the Vineyard

One of the advantages of studying at a Pontifical University in Rome, was the opportunity to come in touch with so many seminarians preparing for the Priesthood. I have met so many awesome then-seminarians (now, awesome priests!) who made my theological training all the deeper because of their own daily profession of their calling to become shepherds of souls through the administration of the Sacraments. One such then-seminarian, now-diocesan priest, Fr. Jason Vidrine shared the following video promotion for the Norbertines of Orange (Norbertine Canons Regular in Orange County, California). We were both privileged to have among our classmates some of the young men in the video. Their charism and intensity of community life is portrayed beautifully here.

I recommend to any young man called to the priesthood and religious life to consider a Norbertine vocation.

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Prayer to Discern a Vocation

Lord, there are so many things in my life that I do not understand,
so many questions about the future that I need to ask.
What is Your plan for me?
What is the work You want me to do?

All I really know is that You love me.
Show me the road You want me to walk –
to fulfillment, to happiness, to holiness.

And if You are calling me to
priesthood or to the religious life,

give me the strength to say “yes”
and the grace to begin even now
to prepare myself for the challenge
of a life spent in Your service and
in the care of Your people.

I ask You this in Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

From Punk to Monk

A new reader of my blog, Punk to Monk, has started his own, “reflections on the transition from raucous musician to religious monastic.” Like many young adults, he tells of his wondering away from the faith of his youth, and how God somehow weaseled himself back into his ‘punk’s’ heart. He explains:

“From punk to monk–that is my story.  I was baptized and brought up Catholic but wasn’t really all about practicing it.  My mother, raising me and my brother on her own, made us go to Church and receive our Sacraments.  Because of my lukewarmness toward my faith, I of course fell away when I left for college on the other side of the country.

That’s where I discovered sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Got me a girlfriend.  Got me into alcohol and other illegal substances.  And, found I could play a pretty mean guitar.”

His story is an uplifting one of youthful angst meeting sober reality of coming of age, and the longing for something more than he was finding. You can read it in full here.

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Let us remember to keep this young man, and others, in our prayers as they discern a life of self-giving through the consecrated life:

Lord God, grant to Your people health of soul and body. Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, may we grow in Your likeness and increase in the humility that marked her life.

Convinced of Your greatness and our lowliness, we ask for many vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. May You be praised in the raising up of these new servants for Your Kingdom.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Look Into Your Heart

Have you ever thought, ‘what am I going to do with my Life?’ Sister Mary Madeline Todd, OP gives us some splendid advice:

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That “V-word” – Vocation

Prayer to Know Your Vocation

Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you.

But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength righ to the end. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen

The Hidden Pearl – Blessed Margaret

“It is time”, Captain Parisio thought to himself. “Today, a son shall be born to me.” He long anticipated this day when an heir would be born, and his hope was dashed in finding out that not only was he not the father of a son, but that the daughter born to him was badly malformed, one leg shorter than the other, her head grossly disproportionate to her body, and blind. There, on a day of anticipated joy, Parisio’s heart was hardened, and no name was even given to this poor baby girl. One of the servants took pity on her, and named her Margaret, which means ‘pearl’.

Margaret was hidden away by her parents. Those who came inquiring about their new child were told that she was stillborn. At the age of six, she was locked away in a one-room cell added on to the small parish church. For the next fourteen years she remained there, hidden away from the world, with only the kind maid-servant who named her and the parish Priest for company. When Margaret was about twenty years old, her parents took her to a church in Castello, where they heard miraculous healings were taking place. Toward the end of the day, as they came to collect their healed daughter, seeing no change in her, they abandoned her there at the Church and returned home.

Margaret, after being hidden away for twenty years, was left to fend for herself. I recommend reading her whole story here.
* * *
The idea of parents hiding their children happens today. It is just as tragic now as it was in 1287. But something beautiful happened to Margaret while in captivity, hidden from the world. Through the kind family Priest, she learned of God, and the great love God had for her. She nurtured her heart with this truth, and made room to believe that even she, in all of her suffering and deformity, there was a purpose. In faith, she accepted this, and in being thrown out into the streets to fend for herself, her faith was tested. All who met her were struck by her kindness and her great love, even deep love she professed for the parents who abandoned her!
Margaret’s parents hid her away, ashamed that they could produce such a horrific looking child. Today, we think their actions as cruel. How cruel would they be, if Margaret was conceived in today’s climate, would she have been born at all? How would a doctor, seeing in the womb the malformed child, counsel his patient? Our society is impoverished. With all of its technology, and modern means, it chooses to embrace another kind of cruelty masked as compassion. Margaret’s life most likely would have been aborted.
Fortunately, the world has known such a kind heart as Blessed Margaret of Castello, who has given us a model of love with which to love those who wished she didn’t exist at all. She in her deformity truly is a pearl of great treasure.

The Cross and Mission

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Today, we often speak of this in figurative ways. But for many religious – including many of my own Sisters – the Cross became a reality embraced in their offering themselves to serve in mission lands. After departing for the Missions, many of my Sisters never saw their families again.

Being World Mission Sunday, I’d like to honor them – remembering that their love of Christ is not forgotten (from our bicentenary):

In Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Mission Sunday, he quotes from John, chapter 14:21: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” The Holy Father goes on to explain how it is possible to fulfill Jesus’ words:

Only on the basis of this encounter with the Love of God that changes life can we live in communion with him and with one another and offer our brothers and sisters a credible witness, accounting for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3: 15). An adult faith, capable of entrusting itself totally to God with a filial attitude fostered by prayer, meditation on the word of God and study of the truth of the faith, is a prerequisite for furthering a new humanism founded on the Gospel of Jesus.

To my Sister Missionaries and to our Lay Volunteer Missionaries, both past and present, thank you. Through your concrete witness of love, satisfied in being unsung heroes, you have made, and continue to make “Christ known and loved”.

That “V” Word – Vocation

A young friend of mine tweeted: “ahh that “V” word! Scary! Lol”. Yes, the V-word. I had just tweeted to her that St Magdalene of Canossa tells us, “God has given you a great gift by giving you a vocation…such a big grace!” Scary, to be sure.

I dedicate this post to her, and to all young women like her who are seeking to do what God wants, but with so much information and opportunity it really does get confusing along the way to hear closely what it is exactly God has in mind. I promised her I would write on the subject, and so, I wish to share my reflection of my own vocation that I shared with my Volunteers back in 2006 following my perpetual vows.

Reflecting on my vows three words come to mind that encapsulate the whole of my religious vocation: ‘here I am’. This is the response I gave at the celebration of my final vows on the 3rd of December 2006 when then General Superior, M. Marie Remedios called out my name before the Bishop Domenico Sigalini and the assembly at the Church of St Magdalene Canossa in Ottavia – Rome. It was my response to a call by God to participate with Him in His plan of salvation. God called my name and I responded.

All of us are called by God but in various ways. Our Christian life is a life of learning to respond according to the state of life we live: some of us are single; others of us are married with children; others of us are religious and priests. But all of us have the same duty of learning to respond whole heartedly to God.

When we open the Bible, we find stories of many who have been invited to follow God, and how they responded. Abraham responded to God with these very words – here I am – in Genesis 22,1 when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his faith, and in his faithful obedience he became the Father of Nations (Rom 4, 1- 17). Moses too received an invitation by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and when called, responded the same way: ‘here I am’ (Ex 3,4). And so also with the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord asked ‘whom shall I send?’ (Is 6,8) Isaiah’s response was ‘here I am, send me’. What is it then to be ‘called’ by God?

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call, to summon, to invite’. Our vocation then – to the religious, singular or married state – is an invitation to live according to the will of God. And how do we know the will of God? This is the journey of each person to discover what God wants for him or her, but it is always tied to the mission of Christ who said, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4,34). The ‘work’ of the Father is redemptive, bringing about liberation for all humanity bound by sin from the time of Adam and Eve. Christ came to fulfill this plan of salvation through His life, death and resurrection. All Christians are called to collaborate in this redemptive work by bringing others to know and love God the Father through Jesus Christ. We too are called to hunger for all to know God through fully living out his will through our love.

We learn to share our faith through our experience of God; an experience that is manifested in our life of prayer. Prayer, then, is the key to knowing the will of God. A comedian in the United States was keen of saying ‘you can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to.’ In other words, you can’t have a relationship with God without making time to talk to Him and listen in the silence for His Word. I like to look to Mary as an example: the young girl from Nazareth who listened to God, and her listening prepared her heart to respond when God called her to be the Mother of our Lord, Jesus (Luke 1:28-38). In her example we see the fruit of prayer – a receptive heart ready to do whatever God asked.

When I entered as a postulant with the Canossian Sisters in 1998, I began to respond to God in my prayer where I found a desire in me to dedicate my life to service of God. Although the desire existed in me to want God’s will, I struggled constantly with my own desire and wants; I struggled with fears of letting go and failure. These are the struggles of humanity that each of us grapple with. St. Paul spoke of this struggle when he said in his letter to the Romans: “for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (7,19). One of the most important things I have learned in all my years of preparation for my final vows was that despite my sin – doing the things I don’t want – God continues to love me. Our humanity is so used to judging people based on what they do, or in religious circles, how good one is. My experience of God has taught me that despite my weakness, my failure, my small capacity to love as Jesus loves, Christ still loves me and desires me to belong fully to Him. I have found that I will never be perfect or worthy to belong to Christ Himself; but I have also found that God wants me anyway. He takes me as I am and I find that it is His love that perfects me. And slowly, with His grace which flows always through the Sacraments, I am being transformed to be more like Him and more able to love like He loves. This new awareness has prepared me to choose a life of belonging to the One who is Love, with a desire to live my life so to make Him known.

During my preparation for my vows, I discovered in myself this readiness that dares to give everything to fulfil God’s will. In my Bible the words ‘here I am’ are translated as “ready” (NAB). I had to ask myself, ‘am I ready to do this – to give everything I have, and everything I am – to give myself to God forever?’ I found within my prayer the answer: an unhesitating ‘yes’. It is a response that has taken time to mature through the years as I have discovered for myself the vastness of God’s love. I was happily surprised in the days before my final vows that I was ready, and could hardly wait to stand before the world to say, “Yes, Lord, I am yours forever.”

My word to my friend, and to all who are in the hunt for God’s will: take up the example of Mary, who ‘pondered these things in her heart’ (Luke 2:19 and 2:51). Eventually, all these ‘ponderings’ (our praying over daily events) will come together and help you know what is the path for you. And you will find that the Lord has lead you all the way.

Prayer for a Generous Heart

Father in Heaven, you have blessed us with many gifts.
You chose us before the world began,
To be your adopted sons and daughters,
And to live through love in your presence.
Give us wisdom and insight to know your purpose;
Give us courage to follow where your Spirit leads us,
Give us generosity to serve you in our brothers and sisters.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

DVC – Based on Ephesians 1:3 ff.

—Other Helps—

You may find these links on vocations helpful:

vocation.com

Canossian website

Stay close to God in His Word and in His Sacraments. These are great tools which prepare the heart to be ready for what God has in store. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament helps too.

Find a good listener to let you ponder out loud, so that you can hear the movements in your heart reflected back to you through conversation. This could be either a spiritual companion or a spiritual director.

Read the Bible daily. Let God’s word speak to you, and be attentive to the people in the scriptures that appeal to you.

You are not alone on your journey. Praying for young people in discernment is one of my favorite prayers!

___

Thanks, Sophia, for the cross-post at Always Catholic. Grazie mille a te!

God Speaks to the Heart

On the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), the first reading is taken from the book of the prophet Hosea (2,16.17b.21-22):

“Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will lead her into the desert and I will speak to her heart. She will respond to me as in the days of her youth, as when she came up out of the land of Egypt. I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.”

With love and benevolence, God unites himself to His people and thus, to each soul. He speaks intimately to each heart, in the silence of the “desert”, away from the worldly clamor.

Let St Teresa be an example for us today. She was a woman of keen intelligence, a fine career, but her heart was captured by Christ Crucified. It is only there she was satisfied – to give herself to a life of loving and studying the Greatest Love. There, in the desert of the Carmel – the cloister – did she find her greatest treasure: St Teresa Benedicta wrote:

“One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: ‘Ave, Crux, Spes unica’ (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope).”

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cruce, her sister and many other of her people were gassed. Biography

Wasted for Love – A Vocation

Today, as I celebrate nine years of consecrated life, I am posting a reflection I gave on the eve of my final vows in 2006.

Reflecting on my vows three words come to mind that encapsulate the whole of my religious vocation: ‘here I am’. This is the response I gave at the celebration of my final vows on the 3rd of December 2006 when the General Superior, M. Marie Remedios called out my name before the Bishop Domenico Sigalini and the assembly at the Church of St Magdalene Canossa in Ottavia – Rome. It was my response to a call by God to participate with Him in His plan of salvation. God called my name and I responded. All of us are called by God but in various ways. Our Christian life is a life of learning to respond according to the state of life we live: some of us are single; others of us are married with children; others of us are religious and priests. But all of us have the same duty of learning to respond whole heartedly to God.

When we open the Bible, we find stories of many who have been invited to follow God, and how they responded. Abraham responded to God with these very words in Genesis 22,1 when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his faith, and in his faithful obedience he became the Father of Nations (Rom 4, 1- 17). Moses too received an invitation by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and when called, responded the same way: ‘here I am’ (Ex 3,4). And so also with the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord asked ‘whom shall I send?’ (Is 6,8) Isaiah’s response was ‘here I am, send me’. What is it then to be ‘called’ by God?

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call, to summon, to invite’. Our vocation then – to the religious, singular or married state – is an invitation to live according to the will of God. And how do we know the will of God? This is the journey of each person to discover what God wants of him or her, but it is always tied to the mission of Christ who said, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4,34). The ‘work’ of the Father is redemptive, bringing about liberation for all humanity bound by sin from the time of Adam and Eve. Christ came to fulfill this plan of salvation through His life, death and resurrection. All Christians are called to collaborate in this redemptive work by bringing others to know and love God the Father through Jesus Christ. We too are called to hunger for all to know God through fully living out his will through our love.

We learn to share our faith through our experience of God; an experience that is manifested in our life of prayer. Prayer, then, is the key to knowing the will of God. A comedian in the United States was keen of saying ‘you can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to.’ In other words, you can’t have a relationship with God without making time to talk to Him and listen in the silence for His Word. I like to look to Mary as an example: the young girl from Nazareth who listened to God, and her listening prepared her heart to respond when God called her to be the Mother of our Lord, Jesus (Luke 1:28-38). In her example we see the fruit of prayer – a receptive heart ready to do whatever God asked.

When I entered as a postulant with the Canossian Sisters in 1998, I began to respond to God in my prayer where I found a desire in me to dedicate my life to service of God. Although the desire existed in me to want God’s will, I struggled constantly with my own desire and wants; I struggled with fears of letting go and failure. These are the struggles of humanity that each of us grapple with. St. Paul spoke of this struggle when he said in his letter to the Romans: “for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (7,19). One of the most important things I have learned in all my years of preparation for my final vows was that despite my sin – doing the things I don’t want – God continues to love me. Our humanity is so used to judging people based on what they do, or in religious circles, how good one is. My experience of God has taught me that despite my weakness, my failure, my small capacity to love as Jesus loves, Christ still loves me and desires me to belong fully to Him. I have found that I will never be perfect or worthy to belong to Christ Himself; but I have also found that God wants me anyway. He takes me as I am and I find that it is His love that perfects me. And slowly, with His grace which flows always through the Sacraments, I am being transformed to be more like Him and more able to love like He loves. This new awareness has prepared me to choose a life of belonging to the One who is Love, with a desire to live my life so to make Him known.

During my preparation for my vows, I discovered in myself this readiness that dares to give everything to fulfil God’s will. In my Bible (New American Bible – NAB), the words ‘here I am’ are translated as “ready”. I had to ask myself, ‘am I ready to do this – to give everything I have, and everything I am – to give myself to God forever?’ I found within my prayer the answer: an unhesitating ‘yes’. It is a response that has taken time to mature through the years as I have discovered for myself the vastness of God’s love. I was happily surprised in the days before my final vows that I was ready, and could hardly wait to stand before the world to say, “Yes, Lord, I am yours forever.”