Called to be Joyful – Part I

What a joy and privilege it was for me to lead this retreat on how we are called to live JOYFULLY in a world that is hungry for happiness. If you like the conference, or insights on the topic, please leave a comment. Or, consider visiting our Lay Canossian blog. It’s going to be a great year with a challenge to live in the heart of the world with the joy of the Gospel to guide us.

Have a blessed day!

Lay Canossians

Our Lay Canossians in Albuquerque held their annual retreat, choosing for their theme, “Called to be Joyful in a Joyless World.” This year’s retreat was recorded so that it could be shared with our brother and sister Lay Canossians in other areas of our Province.

Here is a brief introduction. You will find the audio link below. Enjoy!

The purpose of choosing the theme, on joy, came about due to several things:

  • At the last General Chapter of the Canossian Sisters set their plan for the next six years to journey with the theme, “Joyful and Prophetic Witnesses, so that the World may Believe.”
  • At the time the Chapter Sisters were finishing their sessions, Pope Francis’ encyclical Evangelii Gaudium was released. These themes truly appeared to be the work of the Holy Spirit in their timing, that the Sisters were able to tie into their post-chapter work some of the encyclical’s encouragement…

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Reel Love Video Challenge

What makes lifelong love possible?

Why is it worth the effort?


These are the questions Reel Love Video Challenge is asking in their first annual video contest, sponsored by The Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund.

The contest rules are simple:

– young adults, aged 18-30, married or single, male or female, in college, out of college, or never been anywhere near a college

– submit 30 second to 3 minute videos on the Reel Love Challenge website answering either or both of these questions: What makes lifelong love possible? Why is it worth the effort?

videos must be received by February 1, 2011.

The rules page leave it pretty open to the creativity of the participants: “You can interview your parents or grandparents, or give your own ideas. The videos can be professional looking, or just done with a cell phone camera. We are more interested in content, thoughts, and ideas, than Hollywood production quality.”

This contest emphasizes, the young people of today are the ones that will shape the landscape of marriage in the future:

“Marriage will be what your generation makes it. Divorce, adultery, even incest are all over the news. I urge all emerging adults to take matters into their own hands and begin to create a culture of fidelity and love.”

So now is your chance, you young twenty-somethings! The shaping of tomorrow’s culture on marriage is up to you. Have your say! For full contest details, go here.

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Video contest asks young people to speak about lifelong love (EWTN)

Love is…


Night Prayer

An ancient practice of Christians is to end their day with the Lord in Prayer. Let us join the monks of Ampleforth Abby to give our last praises of the day to God (the words to the prayers are below the video):

0:05 Hymn at nightfall
1:00 Scripture reading
1:20 Responsory
1:37 Canticle of Simeon
3:10 Short litany & Our Father
4:08 Final prayer & blessing
5:22 Marian antiphon (Salve Regina)
☼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ A Ω ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ┼ ☼

_____Hymn at nightfall_____________________

Before the light of evening fades,
we pray O Lord of all;
That by your love we may be saved,
from every grievous fall.

Repel the terrors of the night,
and Satan’s power of guile.
Impose a calm and restful sleep,
that nothing may defile.

Most Holy Father grant our prayer,
through Christ your only Son;
that in your Spirit we may live,
and praise you, ever One. Amen.

_____Scripture reading______________________

But you O Lord are among us, and your Holy Name is called upon by us; forsake us not O Lord our God.
Thanks be to God.

_____Responsory________________________

Guard us O Lord as the apple of your eye – beneath the shadow of your wings, protect us.

_____Canticle of Simeon___________________

Antiphon: Save us Lord while we are awake, protect us while we are asleep, that we may watch with Christ and rest peacefully.

┼ Now Lord, you have kept your word, let your servant go in peace;
With my own eyes I have seen the salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people.

A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people, Israel.

Glory be to the Father…

Antiphon: Save us Lord…

_____Short litany & Our Father_______________

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Our Father…

_____Final prayer & blessing_________________

The Lord be with you – and also with you.

Let us pray.
Visit, we beseech you O Lord, this house and family,
and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy.
Let your holy angels dwell here that you may keep us in peace,
and let your blessing be always upon us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit; one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord – thanks be to God.

May the Almighty and Merciful God; ┼ the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you.
And our absent brethren. Amen.

_____Marian antiphon (Salve Regina)__________

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
ad te clamamus exsules filii Evae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.

Eia, ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

Hail, Queen, mother merciful
Life, sweetness, and hope of ours, hail.
To thee we cry, exiles, children of Eve.
To thee we sigh, mourning and weeping
in this tearful valley.

Quick then, Advocate of ours,
those thy merciful eyes to us turn.
And Jesus, blessed fruit of womb thine,
unto us, after this exile show
O clement: O loving: O sweet Virgin Mary.

All the Saints of God, Pray for Us

What a vision to behold…to imagine…the Saints, the holy ones of heaven! And today, that is exactly what the liturgy concentrates on; To recall the great gift we have in the many luminous examples of the Christian Life that have gone before us to share in the heavenly reward with Christ. It is often argued, no one knows for sure who is in heaven and who is not. In her wisdom, the Church has put forth good examples from every walk of life of holy men and women, so to inspire the faithful towards holiness.

I mention only a few who have been beacons of light in my life.

Blessed Chiara ‘Luce’ Badano, pray for us

Deep union with the Lord in her suffering.

___

Blessed Margaret of Castello, pray for us

Loving her parents who didn’t want her.

I propose her to be patroness of the unborn.

___

St Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us

Gave her life for the birth of her child. I propose her to be patroness of expectant mothers.

St Josephine Bakhita, pray for us

Canossian Daughter of Charity known for forgiveness.

When we are persecuted, let us learn forgiveness.

___

St Magdalene of Canossa, pray for us

Foundress of the Canossian Daughters of Charity, Servant of the Poor

Let us learn from her zeal for our Lord in His passion.

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St Augustine of Hippo

Patron of those struggling with vices.

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The list could go on forever…St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Paul of the Cross, St Francis Xavier, St Dominic, St Catherine, St Francis, St Clare, …

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, today we rejoice in the holy men and women of every time and place. May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

May all the Saints of heaven, pray for us. Omnium Sanctorum, Orate pro nobis.

If you have a favorite saint, why not add it in the comments. Let us honor them today. Here are some suggestions from the comments:

Assorted Joys added:

St Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for Us!
St Anthony of Padua, Pray for Us!
St Jude, Pray for Us!

Greg added:

St Pio of Petricina, Pray for Us!
St Therese of the Child Jesus, Pray for Us!
Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati, Pray for Us!

Ellen added:

St Thomas More, Pray for Us!
St Philip Howard, Pray for Us!
St Edmund Campion, Pray for Us!
Ven Elizabeth Lesseur, Pray for Us!
Ven Pierre Toussaint, Pray for Us!

EricaTwitts added:

St Bernadette Soubirous, Pray for Us!

Sylvie adds:

St Brother André, Pray for Us!

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More ways of honoring the Saints:

Gardenia shares a way of honoring the Saints, making stained glass candles at My Little Flower.

Charlotte made a St Bakhita costume for her daughter at Waltzing Matilda.

The Anchoress shares some beautiful pictures of Saint statues from St Peter’s Basilica – Rome, and the difficult reality of the Christian Life – Syrian Catholics killed yesterday in Baghdad during Mass.

Colleen Hammond reminds us of how our prayers during the month of November can obtain indulgences for the faithful departed souls (November 2nd is the Feast of All Souls).

If you’re interested in knowing where to add your favorite Saint in the Litany of Saints, Adoremus has a post on that.

At the Foot of the Cross

Sometimes our lives don’t seem to make sense and our concerns overwhelm us. It is at moments like this, our faith is tested…it is time to cry out – Jesus, I need you. I found this video a while back by Robert Galea. Enjoy:

Robert Galea is a Catholic seminarian from Malta who will be ordained to the Priesthood this November 5th, 2010. Please keep him in your prayers.

Late have I Loved You

A question on the Twittosphere today by NoWealthButLife: “What do you think is most romantic line in all of literature?”

Right away to my mind come the words of Saint Augustine from his book, Confessions:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

These words for Augustine are thought after living a life involved with much pleasure seeking, trying like many young people today, to find his happiness in what the society of his day offered. He had a live-in girl friend, he partied, and had a child out of wedlock.  He was educated at some of the finest universities of his day, and was recognized as an intelligent young man. He allowed his ‘wisdom’ to get the best of him, and fell into error of the Manichæans, all the while dismissing the Catholic faith of his childhood as being intellectually lacking.

His quest for truth was confronted in listening to a sermon by Bishop Ambrose of Milan, noting how the bishop reasoned his case for Christ without contradiction. This won the young Augustine to question more deeply the faith of the Christian life under the instruction of Bishop Ambrose.

This pattern is confirmed too in the words of the late Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et ratio:

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves”

The Confessions is a book in which Saint Augustine describes this process of coming to know himself through reconciling his understanding of God, and how that reconciliation led him to give his life in service to God and His Church. May we today live these words of Saint Augustine, and may we too ‘hunger and thirst for more’, and find ourselves won over by God’s immense love.


For You, Jesus

What does one say to a couple who has just heard that their seventeen year old daughter had a rare and painful form of bone cancer? Test after test, they tried to find a way to beat it, and their hearts sank more with the results of each treatment. I have dear friends who have lost their children to disease, and even after many years the pain is just as raw. A father told me once, conveying the loss of his son, “I don’t know how non-believers live through it. The only thing that makes me get up in the morning and go on is knowing I will see my son again.” There is the sorrow of journeying with a loved one who is suffering. And oh, how very much we need examples in our society to remind us that our suffering is not in vain.

One such light is becoming well known – Chiara ‘Luce’ Badano, the seventeen year old Italian was diagnosed with a painful form of bone cancer. When she was told the news, she didn’t cry, but instead within that half hour she decided, “Se lo vuoi Tu, Gesù, lo voglio anch’io” – If you want it, Jesus, so do I! This became her motto for living each day with the growing pain, and the weakening of her body. It is said that when her hair fell out due to the chemotherapy, she held up the strands in her hands and said, “For you, Jesus.”

What was it like for her parents? Her father, Ruggero describes their experience during the beatification:

“We lived exceptional moments being with Chiara. We lived in an atmosphere that you cannot explain. These two years (of Chiara’s suffering) have been the most beautiful of our lives, the most blessed by God, because Jesus made us live in a supernatural dimension that raised us from the ground. Like when you are on a plane, and from the window you see the earth, the clouds far below you. All of our pain and those of Chiara that were even greater, we saw them there, below us, not touching us. This was the fruit of the love of many people who prayed and supported us.”

Let us pray remember to pray for those who are suffering from illness, and also to pray for their loved ones, that they may be sustained in their sorrow by our prayers. And, if the moment comes when God calls a loved one home, may the family have the strength to issue the words of Chiara, “For you, Jesus.”

Prayer

Oh Father, source of all good,
We give you thanks for the admirable
testimony of Blessed Chiara Badano.
Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit
and guided by Jesus’ luminous example,
she firmly believed in your great love,
determined to respond to it with all her strength,
faithfully abandoning herself
to your paternal will.
We humbly pray: grant us too
the gift of living with you and for you,
As we dare to ask you, if it is your will,
The grace of…
for the merit of Christ,
our Lord.  Amen.

 

To know more about this beautiful soul of Chiara ‘ Luce’  Badano, here’s the website.

Foundations and Safety Nets

Today, many of us look upon our faith as a safety net – something to fall back on; rather than what faith should be – the foundation upon which our Christian lives are built.

The Gospel of  today sets up the question to challenge us:

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival…You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Luke 12:37, 40)

We’ve all experienced it. We’re expecting a friend or relative, and they arrive much earlier than planned. We find ourselves scrambling to accommodate them. We feel uncomfortable – out of our element. Naturally, our friend/relative is gracious, and lets us off the hook  pretty easily. But in reading today’s Gospel, several questions came to mind: Am I ready for the day of the Son of Man’s coming? What if the Lord came today? Or in my sleep? Or while I’m at the grocery store? Would I be ready to receive Him?

A growing mentality in our society approaches such questions like a trapeze walker with a safety net. She knows if she falls, her injury will be limited, and she will be able to climb up the tower and walk again the fine line. Do we live our faith in this way? Society tells us to do what we want, what feels good; what is convenient. For instance, the media propagates, “go ahead, have sex”; “worried about pregnancy – use  contraception”; “what? got pregnant anyway? there’s always option of abortion”.   And when an so-called “inconvenience” becomes a consequence of our choices, society gives us a solution for that – anything to allow us to get back on the tightrope and enjoy the “good life”.

The problem with such a way of thinking, is that our actions always have consequences outside of ourselves. There is more damage done than the so called “problem” at hand. Something that, unfortunately, not even our national leadership understands. This safety net mentality has stretched beyond societal issues, but has become a modus operandi for how many approach their relationship with God. At times of trouble, we get on our knees and turn to God for assistance. We see examples of this on large scales (Churches were full after 9/11; and people in Haiti put aside their voodoo practices and sought out the “Big God” of their fallen away Catholic faith following the earthquake). We see it on the individual level too, when serious illness strikes, or a loved one is in an accident, our hearts turn to God begging for his help. In these moments, we are shaken from our apathy, but overtime we find ourselves reverting back to the way things were before. It is not enough to turn to God until things seemingly get better; this only makes God a safety net – not your foundation. What must we do to strengthen our foundation of faith?

As anyone who has built structures will tell you, you build a shoddy foundation, you get a building that may be beautiful, but will not hold up under stress. A good foundation takes time and effort. So it is with building a firm foundation in faith.

  • Prayer. Talk with God often. Daily. Hourly. Like any relationship, our relationship with the Lord must be cultivated. Use simple prayers, one-liners, to accompany you throughout the day: “Jesus, I Love you” works well. As does, “Have mercy on me, Lord, a poor sinner.” The point of these small prayers is to turn our spiritual compass back back towards the Cross – the Spiritual North, which leads our feet closer to the Lord.
  • Read the Bible. Know the Lord through listening to His Word. This becomes a way to know what is pleasing to God, and to become more aware of His Divine purpose for your life. The Sacred Scriptures are also a good prayer manual, full of words to instruct the heart; edify the soul; teach the mind the way of prayer and praise.
  • Become Sacramental. Go to confession and communion often. These two fountains of grace will assist you in unexplainable ways to grow in your spiritual life. Be attentive of the presence of Christ in the sacraments, and make small acts of faith, such as, “Jesus, I do believe  you are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar”.
  • Become Marian. Mary is the perfect example for the Christian life, having embraced so fully in her own life the Will of the Father for all humanity. Mary taught us obedience in her words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) When we pray, asking Mary to intercede for us, we have a strong advocate on our side, who prays according to the will of the Father.
  • Read/Watch wholesome stuff. This goes hand in hand with saying small prayers. We progress on the path of true holiness with the rate we feed our minds and hearts and souls with good, nourishing Christian food, in images we see, dialogue we hear, words we say.

Little by little these small things will open the door of the heart, so that it knows how to embrace what is good and reject what is evil. And a byproduct of these efforts to grow in our faith will be an increase of our openness to the workings of the Holy Spirit directing us, helping us to construct a foundation that will withstand the toughest of storms.

Many today won’t take up the invitation to give themselves over to Jesus until tragedy strikes close to home. They know that God is there when they need Him. It is true, God showers his gifts upon the good and the bad (Luke 5:45). But it is also true that the day of reckoning will come when we least expect it – “like a thief in the night” Saint Peter tells us (2 Peter 3:10).  But if our feet are not firmly planted on a foundation of faith on that day, we can hope all we want for our safety net to catch us. This is a pretty presumptuous position isn’t it? Yes, too often we presume God is there for us, but we are only fair whether friends in reverse. We are the grown child who only speaks to his father when we need something from him. What shall our inheritance be in the end? Are we sure our safety net will save us?

Which Way to Holiness?

In many spiritual writings I am often struck by the paradox involved in our call to holiness. Words often used to describe this quest linger in my mind: progressing, striving, climbing, self-discipline, reaching heights or levels, with each of these expressions of action able to mislead us. They suggest a physical movement, an effort we make to obtain holiness through our deeds and acts of piety. If we are not careful, we can leave our ‘ascent’ towards God at this level – a self-made, false, holiness and forget the true source of our sanctity which lies outside of our human grasp.

Let’s use the scene from Luke, chapter 18 as an example. We have the Pharisee on one hand, who was probably a model citizen, well respected, and externally a tower of piety. He gave to the poor, fasted and prayed, was honest in his dealings with others, and yet, he fell short before the eyes of Jesus. Our culture today, like the Pharisee, often determines one’s worth by his accomplishments and status. It is easy to look upon others, such as the publican, who externally seems less, with contempt or simply presuming they ‘got what they deserved’.  But how does Jesus see the publican? He doesn’t look at him on the basis of his status in society, nor in the eloquence of his prayer, nor by the works he has done, but solely in his reverence of God and his humility before the Almighty. “O God, be merciful to me, a poor sinner”. No eloquence here. The publican sees the truth of who he is in the light of God, and clings to God’s mercy as his hope. This is the power beyond our own capacity; we remain small and allow God to be great.

Imagining these two figures in a dark room makes their contrast a stark one. The publican is bathed in light as he ‘humbly ascends’ towards God. The Pharisee, only feet away, is stumbling in the dark trying with all his might to illumine his own greatness so that others may see how high he has ascended. As was a common theology of his day, the Pharisee believed that his obedience to the law and man-made perfection equate with sanctity. The thrust of Jesus’ praise of the publican’s prayer opens a before-concealed door to the heart of God; it reveals how much God doesn’t want us to be self-made saints, but rather made holy through Him who is refuge and mercy.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that perfection passes through the cross and that there is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (CCC 2015). Renunciation is evident in the publican’s display of humility. It was once described to me that the spiritual battle as filled with often imperceptible barriers which mask themselves under the name of virtue; a virtue that in the end deceives us into climbing up the rungs of the wrong ladder disguised in our prayer and works of mercy. The problem with going up the wrong ladder is when we meet with obstacles of fatigue and unpleasant situations, we have nothing solid to stop our fall – it crashes down like a house of cards. We begin to think like the Pharisee that believes he has done everything right, so “why is this happening to me?” Our failing in these circumstances lead to discontent, envy, and maybe even despair. These feelings are signs we are going in the wrong direction. The right direction is pointed out to us by the publican whose prayer is focused solely on God, and who was perfectly comfortable to admit his lowliness.

It is in moments such as these, we can choose to be the Pharisee and cling to our external shows of piety, hoping all will notice our virtue. Indeed, the world will congratulate us for our ‘goodness’. We have a choice, and can dare to follow the publican’s ascent down, off the ladder of external practices and perfectionism, into the depths of true humility where we risk to lose position and esteem before others. It is here, before God, we are not afraid to cry out, “Have mercy, O God, I am a sinner” and be wrapped in his grace. Here we can place ourselves before the Lord, in His light which reveals how truly small and broken we are…and not be afraid to be home there.