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Start the Day Off Right

We are Christians, yes? Yet we are human and we can often think, say or do things that, when we examine our conscience at the end of the day we may ask ourselves, “Why did I do/say/think that? I’m sorry Lord.” And that is good.

Just as necessary as ending our day resolving to do what is right, we must also resolve to start the day off right. Today’s short reading from Morning Prayer gives good insight for our daily living (Tobit 4:15a. 16a. 18a. 19):

Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing. seek counsel from every wise man. At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.

Try reading this passage every morning before leaving home to begin your day. Be aware of how God will open your eyes to see the needs around you. And, when the day comes to a close, use the same passage for your examine of conscience at the end of the day.

Let us thank the Lord now, for he will make us new creations, according to his heart.

Have a blessed day!

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The Path of Repentance

Many times in our rushed day-to-day existence we have the tendency to rush along, and in moments of grace we lift our eyes to heaven with desire to walk closer with God. It is these moments that our hearts are open to reform our lives.

For those of us who work in pastoral ministries, we encounter souls in these moments. When we do, we can point them on the right path with a little help from Saint John Chrysostom. In his homily, De Diabolo Tentatore (2,6: PG 49, 263-264), he writes:

Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven.

A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified. For this reason, too, the prophet wrote: I said: I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and you forgave the wickedness of my heart. Therefore, you too should condemn your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again. Rouse your conscience to accuse you within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

That, then, is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Do you want to know of a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful and comes from the heart.

If you want to hear of a fourth, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching. If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins.

Thus I have shown you five paths of repentance: condemnation of your sins, forgiveness of our neighbor’s sins against us, prayer, almsgiving and humility.

Do not be idle, then, but walk daily in all these paths; they are easy, and you cannot plead your poverty. For, though you live out your life amid great need, you can always set aside your wrath, be humble, pray diligently and condemn your own sins; poverty is no hindrance. Poverty is not an obstacle to our carrying out the Lord’s bidding, even when it comes to that path of repentance which involves giving money (almsgiving, I mean). The widow proved that when she put her two mites into the box!

Now that we have learned how to heal these wounds of ours, let us apply the cures. Then, when we have regained genuine health, we can approach the holy table with confidence, go gloriously to meet Christ, the king of glory, and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today, let us take courage then, and take up Chrysostom’s path of repentance. In our own walking of this path we may find others on the road who will take up the journey too because of our example.

Have a blessed day.

Related posts:

Confession
Miserere
Why Go to Confession
Stumbling Blocks

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Trusting God in Suffering

It seems that of late the Lord has sent a lot more prayer requests my way for people suffering from serious illnesses and disease, particularly of advanced stages of cancer and lymphoma. I hold them in a particular place in my heart and in my daily prayer; perhaps because I have lost three loved ones to cancer. Perhaps because I also know the power of prayer in having members of my family who are cancer survivors. No matter what the illness, it places the family in the crucible of anguish and uncertainty; wanting to trust in God and hope in him, and at the same time, the waiting gives time for our fears and worries creep up to haunt our faith.

In these very moments where faith is attacked by the violent churning of doubt and questioning, our best defense is the simple utterance (perhaps it takes every drop of energy we have):

“Jesus, I trust in You!”

One of my go-to scripture passages when the siege of or worry waits outside my door:

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests by made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

That one’s a bit long for me to remember verbatim, but I have memorized this shorter one from the Prophet Isaiah 26:3:

“You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind rests on You, because he trusts in You.”

HEALING THE MAN BORN BLINDThe word of God in the Bible never promises that the faithful will not experience hardship and suffering. We can just open to the Book of Job and find the contrary to be true. Job in his faithfulness was allowed by God to be tested and tormented by Satan. In order to understand our own sufferings we need to ask why this was so. Jesus himself gives us the answer in this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of John 9:1-41, a narrative of Jesus healing a man blind from birth:

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

It is only natural when one is has no choice but to deal with an infirmity to ask, “why me?” In itself, this is not a bad question, but it needs to be placed in a broader context, that of an invitation by God to be part of the revelation of His divine glory, so that the works of God might e made visible through him. This requires an attitude of abandonment to God; a reaffirmation that he truly knows every hair on our head, and our every ache and pain we feel.

There is no guarantee in our abandonment that God will heal us the way we wish, but his invitation is a great opportunity to do a couple of things:

  • A purification of our own fidelity. Affliction is a great lens for knowing how to prioritize our lives. It helps us to see where we need to heal broken relationships and where we need to spend our time and energy.
  • Our attitude in our affliction can be very inspiring for others. Look to the saints and see how they dealt with their affliction. They used it to glorify God, sing his praises, and point others to the hope of eternal salvation.

One example is the life of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, a vibrant teen fully living out her Catholic faith, was struck with an aggressive form of cancer. When diagnosed at the age of 17 with osteosarcoma, she spent hours in silence, only to emerge from her ‘garden of Gethsemane’ saying, “If you want it, Jesus,  so do I.” She lived the remainder of her short life as a sign of God’s love with radiant joy.

Her words, in a way, reflect the words of Job when he was stripped of everything he had:

Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshipped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all of this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-21

This prayer of Blessed Miguel Pro could be made our own, or at least inspire us in our own encounters with suffering:

Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with afflictions? Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so. If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. Love without egotism, without relying on self, but enkindling in the depth of the heart an ardent thirst to love and suffer for all those around us: a thirst that neither misfortune nor contempt can extinguish … I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith … Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.

Related:

Sunday reflection: John 9:1-41, by Ed Morrissey, reflects how affliction can be a blessing.

 

Salvifici Doloris, by Blessed John Paul II

 

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It’s Going to Be a Great Journey This Year!

We’ve survived the first couple of days of 2014, and from the look of responses received on my post on journeying in the new year with a Patron Saint, it looks like a good number of you are off to a fantastic start! I mentioned in that post how Saints sometimes choose us when they want to help us in certain circumstances (that’s how we sometimes end up with more than one at a time). Sometimes others choose for us, and, in the case of our religious communities, it is by lottery. Prayer cards are placed upside down on a platter and one by one we choose a card from among them.

I thought I would report back on the results of some of our communities’ ‘lottery’, resulting in Patron Saints for this year.

Our Canossian Sisters in Sacramento, CA:

MollaSister Jenny received Saint Gianna Molla, married with children, a doctor, and known to offer her life if it came to a choice between herself and the child in her womb. She is the Patron of mothers, physicians, and pre born children.

Challenge:  Can you pray with her in these words: “Jesus…I come to you to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will…”

Feast Day: April 28

JPIISister Elisa received Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla became  the 264th Pope in October 1978, and the first non-Italian pope in 400 years. One of his key teachings, the series of addresses on ‘The Theology of the Body’ continue to touch the lives of young people today. He was also an ardent defender of Human Life, and challenged the world to adopt a climate of forgiveness.

Patron of World Youth Day

Challenge: Do not try to advance in wisdom outside of faith. Blessed John Paul exhorts you to consider: “Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which he soars to the truth.”  – Pope John Paul II

Feast Day: October 22

TofAvilaSister Teresa Celine received Saint Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of the Carmelites and considered the foundress of the Discalced. She was known as a woman of deep prayer, discipline and compassion. Her famous works ‘the Way of Perfection’ and ‘The Interior Castle’ still inspire many. She is the Patron of headache sufferers. 

Challenge:  When you feel you are weighed down with difficulty, take to heart Saint Teresa’s encouraging prayer:  “Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value.”

Feast Day: October 15

JohnXXIIISister Linda received Blessed (Soon to be Saint) John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, becoming the 261st pope on October 28, 1958. He opened the 2nd Vatican Council in 1962. He is the Patron Saint of Papal Delegates.

Challenge:  Blessed John XXIII would encourage you to prioritize your life, and keep focused on the important things:  “What counts the most in life is blessed Jesus Christ, his holy Church, his Gospel, truth and goodness.” 

Feast Day:  October 11

Our Sisters in Albuquerque, NM:

ClairvauxSister Kay received Saint Bernard of Clarivaux, French Abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order. He is the Patron of candlemakers, beekeepers, and wax workers. That might seem like a strange Patron! I think Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI can help us from his Easter homily in 2012: “…the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.” Therefore, let us ask St. Bernard to help us to lead a life so to emit the radiance of Christ.

Challenge:  St. Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here? and then remind himself of his main duty – lead a holy life.

Feast Day: August 20

JohnofCrossSister Connie received Saint John of the Cross, Co-Reformer of the Discalced Carmelites, and was known to be a great spiritual director. From the midst of his greatest experiences of suffering we have today the Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ. He is the Patron Saint of mystics. 

Challenge: St. John of the Cross will tell you: “What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom — your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won’t find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you.”

Feast Day: December 14

DamienSister Rosetta received Saint Damien of Molokai, a priest of the Sacred Heart Fathers. He gave his life serving the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii. He is considered a “Martyr of Charity”. He is the Patron of those who suffer from Leprosy and HIV/AIDS.

Challenge:  What do you seek after? What is your goal? Saint Damien would challenge you saying, “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.”

Feast Day: May 10

JohnXXIIISister Natalia also received Blessed John XXIII (to be Canonized April 17 with JPII). Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became the 261st Pope on October 28, 1958. He opened the 2nd Vatican Council in 1962.  He is the Patron Saint of Papal Delegates.

Challenge:  He would tell you, “What counts the most in life is blessed Jesus Christ, his holy Church, his Gospel, truth and goodness.”

Feast Day: October 11

MollaSister Josephine also received Saint Gianna Berretta Molla, married with children, a doctor, and known to offer her life if it came to a choice between herself and the child in her womb. She is the Patron of mothers, physicians, and pre born children.

Challenge:  Can you pray with her in these words: “Jesus…I come to you to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will…”

Feast Day: April 28

CajetanSister Elizabeth received Saint Cajetan, Founder of the Theatines, and was known for his concern for the corruption of priests, and for the sick in hospitals. He is the Patron of the Unemployed.

Challenge:  Consider our disposition to receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: “Do not receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament so that you may use him as you judge best, but give yourself to him and let him receive you in this Sacrament, so that he himself, God your saviour, may do to you and through you whatever he wills.”

Feast Day: August 7

TofAvilaSister Josie also received Saint Teresa of Avila, who in establishing her new foundations was constantly on the move.

This is an appropriate saint for Sr Josie, as she travels the four corners of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to care for the spiritual needs of the incarcerated. May she have the untiring fire of God’s love burning in her like St Teresa!

Feast Day: October 15

AlphonsusSister Felicity received Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Founder of the Redemptorists and known as a good confessor. He is the Patron Saint against arthritis, scrupulosity, confessors, vocations, and final perseverance.

Challenge:  At a young age, Saint Alphonsus vowed never to waste a moment of his life. In this challenge, he invites us to make the best of every opportunity we have to please God.

Feast Day: August 1

FrancisSister Cristina received Saint Francis of Assisi, Founder of the Franciscan Order. He rejected his wealth in order to live the Gospel. He received the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side. He is the Patron Saint of animals, merchants, and protector of the Canossians (Our Foundress, Saint Magdalene considered him her Spiritual Father).

Challenge:  No matter how hopeless things seem, carry Christ’s light to others. He said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

Feast Day: October 4

BakhitaSister Antoinette received Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian Sister, and the first African woman to be Canonized. She was born in Sudan, kidnapped as a young girl and sold into slavery. She was brought to Italy where she learned of Jesus, was baptized and became a Canossian Sister. She is recently featured in a the film, From Slave to Saint which captures her virtue very well. She is the Patron Saint against Human Trafficking, and of Sudan.

Challenge:  When you face opposition, or are maligned for your faith, take the words of Saint Bakhita to heart: “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know him. What a great grace it is to know God!”

Feast Day: February 8

LutgardisSister Marisa received Saint Lutgardis (What?!?), a young woman with a fondness for worldly things, who was sent to the convent of the Benedictines when she was twelve  because her father blew her dowry on a bad business deal. Around the age of eighteen she receives a vision of Christ showing his wounds. Her heart melts and her desire and vocation was firmly planted in that encounter. She entered with the Benedictines and later transferred to the Cistercians because she desired a more austere religious life. She is the Patron Saint of the blind, disabled, physically challenged, and childbirth.

Challenge:  Saint Lutgardis teaches us to seek a perfect union with God: “Our openness to God working in our lives, no matter who we are, is the first step down the road of perfect union with Him.”

Feast Day: June 16

FernandaSister Marilu received Blessed Fernanda Riva, a Canossian Sister sent as a Missionary to India when still a novice. She was known as the “Missionary of Joy” and was very good with helping the Youth to know and love God. She is a good intercessor for the needs of those who work with youth, teachers, and for those battling depression (because of her ever-present joy).

Challenge: Keep in mind the people in your life who look to you for an example and guidance, and imagine them giving testimony of you one day in these words: “Our gracious Mother Fernanda loved us very much and we looked to her as our guide and strong support…a beacon that guided our way.” B. Anthraper (one of her students).

Date of Death: January 22, 1956 (does not yet have a feast day assigned; that will happen when she is eventually beatified).

Mary UndoerSister Lupita received Mary, Undoer of Knots! Those who have been following our new Pontiff Francis would know this is one of his favorite devotions. Some background: artist Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner painted Mary Undoer of Knots in late 1600’s. Since 1700, his painting has been venerated in the Church of St. Peter in Perlack, Augsburg, Germany (it was here that Pope Francis was introduced to the devotion and took the devotion back to Argentina with him). It was originally inspired by a meditation of Saint Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyon and martyred in 202) based on the parallel made by Saint Paul between Adam and Christ. Saint Irenaeus, in turn, made a comparison between Eve and Mary, saying:“Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it”. She is a good Patron Saint for those who find themselves in impossible situations that seem to have no way to unravel themselves.

Challenge:  How much trust do we place in the intercession of Mary to her Son Jesus? Let us meditate on the grace the world received through Mary (Christ), and how her willing participation ‘undid’ the slavery of sin we received through Eve. “For what the virgin had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.” – St. Irenaeus

Feast Day: September 28

JPIISister Betty also received Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul (featured above). His writings and speeches continue to instruct and inspire the Church in its constant call to fidelity to its past and an eye to the future. Reading his first encyclical, the Redeemer of Man, sets the tone for his whole pontificate to the dignity of the human person.

Challenge: Read the prayer of his feast day on October 22:

O God, who are rich in mercy 
and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second 
should preside as Pope over your universal Church, 
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, 
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, 
the sole Redeemer of mankind. 
Who lives and reigns.

MarthaLastly, I received Saint Martha (the sister of Mary and Lazarus) who busied herself with the pots and pans when Jesus stayed with them. She knew the love of Jesus, and showed her strong faith in her dialogue with Jesus following Lazarus’ death. She is the Patron Saint of cooks and servants.

Challenge: think about the care with which Martha served Jesus, and consider how we serve the less fortunate. Dorothy Day would relate this image to us: “Do you think that Martha thought that old and chipped dish was good enough for her guest? It is a privilege to help Christ.” 

Feast Day: July 29

Well, I do feel challenged by all of these wonderful saints! What about you? Do you have a Patron Saint for 2014? Who chose you?

RELATED POSTS:

Elizabeth Scalia tells of her three Patrons for this year.

There are a lot of good Saints mentioned in the comments of my post on letting Saints pick you.

If you haven’t received a Patron Saint yet, Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator is available to help you find one.

Habemus Papam!

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran stood at the Loggia looking out over the very large crowd at Saint Peter’s and declared to the world, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! HABEMUS PAPAM!”

Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Giorgium Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem Bergoglium, Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum!

3-13-13-Pope-Francis_full_380With the whole world, I offer the Lord praise and thanksgiving for the gift of  our new Roman Pontiff, to guide us through the rough seas of our times.

Thank you, Holy Father Francis for accepting this cross, for the love of God, and for the salvation of the whole world. May our dear Lord be your strength as you pick up the Cross and follow after Him, with Saint Peter to help you.

Let us pray:

O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. He is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, he is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervor the sacred Victim of love and peace.

Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savor of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in unison with him.

Whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may befar from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in His hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say to the people over the Chalice of benediction yhese words: “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with new and manifest power. Amen.

– Pope Leo XIII

 

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An Invitation by Cardinals to Pray

The Cardinals in Rome propose that today’s afternoon’s session be dedicated to prayer in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and they invite the whole Universal Church to join them – wherever we may be – at 5:00pm Rome Time.

The structure of the Cardinals’ prayer will include the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, Solemn Vespers and the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with a time of Adoration.

Vatican Radio will be video broadcasting live from Saint Peter’s.

EWTN will also be broadcasting live.

Bernini's Baldacchino
Credit: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-st-peters-basilica

When?  5pm Rome Time | 11am EST | 8am PST

Many of us in the States will be working at that hour, but that doesn’t mean we cannot unite our efforts for the sake of the Cardinals’ intentions for the Universal Church. 

What an opportunity to stand together and pray for the coming Conclave!

Commit to pray at that hour in some way. What way will you choose?

A Day of Prayer for Pope Benedict and the Church: Updated

ImageToday Pope Benedict XVI will vacate the Office of Peter at 8:00pm Rome Time, and the doors will be sealed.

It will be the last morning we will hear his name recited in the Eucharistic Prayer, and in the days to follow until a new Pope is elected, the phrase will be omitted.

It is a time for reflection of the gratitude for Benedict’s leadership of the Church, and for much prayer. What can we do to live this day in a spirit of prayer and gratitude?

You might want to follow the day live:

Radio Vaticana or EWTN live cam. His schedule:

Pope Benedict’s Farewell to the Cardinals:  11:00am Rome / 2:00am Pacific
corrected:  3:00pm Rome / 6:00am Pacific

The Pope’s move to Castel Gandolfo:  5:00pm Rome / 8:00am Pacific

Update: Benedict XVI’s Pontificate Ends:  on Radio Vaticana 7:45pm Rome / 11:45am Pacific

Attend Mass and pray for Pope Benedict.

You can join a worldwide Rosary at the hour of the Pope’s Benedict’s Pontificate ends, 8:00pm Rome / 11:00am.

If you are on Twitter, you can post a message of thanksgiving with the hashtag #ThanksPontifex.

Or, perhaps just reflect on these words from Pope Benedict’s sermon, Palm Sunday 2009:

“An upright life always involves sacrifice, renunciation. To hold out the promise of a life without this constant re-giving of self is to mislead. There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice.

 If I cast a glance back over my whole life, I have to say that it was precisely the moments when I said yes to renunciation that were the great and important moments of my life.”

Or pray for him with this indulgenced prayer.

Papa Benedetto, Papa Ratzi, we are with you.

Pope Benedict Chooses a Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Robert Frost’s famous poem was instrumental in the shaping of my early adulthood. It seemed to me a mystical thing to stand at a crossroad and look down each fork as far as one could see, deciding which of the two to choose. This image is the one I looked to in carving out my own religious calling.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

I could have chosen a great number of things, and as I whittled through my choices, I found a wanting to follow the Lord. The first steps down that path seemed well worn by the many who had gone before me. Yet it seemed more edgy and rough compared to the path of my friends; an uncertainty hung there that frightened me and yet compelled me to look at it more closely.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The evening I entered the Canossian Sisters, I recall how new everything seemed. A new page was indeed beginning as I learned how to live in a community of women of different cultures (my first community comprised of one Filipino, one Chinese, One Mexican-American, three Mexicans and myself of deep California-American roots). Just as Frost hints at the starting down that un-trodden path, my stepping the threshold of the Postulant house left me changed.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There is one mistake I made in my own estimation of this first step. I thought the hardest part of my journey was the decision to enter. What I have learned – what should have been obvious – is the first turn off the beaten path was only the first of many choices; the journey only begins with that first step where the undergrowth is thickest.

God woos each of us, His beloved, slowly and gently pulling us by the hand at our own pace to wade ever deeper into His love. My journey to follow Christ more deeply into the abyss of His love has so far to go. Thankfully, God is patient to present the invitation to each of us to enter the Portal of His love in our life of prayer, Sacramental life, and community.

As we watch Pope Benedict in the final hours of his Pontificate, he is preparing for the plunge into God’s love.  He has heard the Lord call Him even more into quiet, to become less so that God can be more; to a place where God can become everything.  This is difficult for even religious to understand, and we must understand this from the perspective of our cloistered brothers and sisters who live their lives as a hidden sacrifice of praise to God and prayer for the world. Mother Maria Angelica explains:

“When he lives this monastic lifestyle, his prayers will reach those who maybe were unbelievers during his papacy,” said Mother Maria Angelica, of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria del Rosario. “I’m absolutely sure of this, of the value of his prayer and of his silence. And it will reach the whole world, even where it wasn’t previously able to reach. . . .  [Even unbelievers] will feel the effects of [a cloistered person’s] prayer.”

benedictatprayerIt is a very generous act.

One where Pope Benedict’s impact on the world is just beginning.

And that will make all the difference.

Please read The Anchoress’ take on Pope Benedict’s call to that which is essential in the life of the Baptized.

 

 

 

But reality is …

But reality is different. Silently, with no voice to speak for them, even at this time of confusion, the simple faithful carry on fulfilling the Church’s true mission: prayer, bearing daily life with patience, always listening to the word of God. But they do not fit into the picture that people want to see; and […]

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Forty Days to Walk with God

walkwithGod copy“In the forty days of the preparation for Easter, we endeavor to get away from the heathenism that weighs us down, that is always driving us away from God, and we set off toward him once again. So, too, at the beginning of the Eucharist, in the confession of sin, we are always trying to take up this path again, to set out, to go to the mountain of God’s word and God’s presence…  We must learn that it is only in the silent, barely noticeable things that what is great takes place, that man becomes God’s image and the world once more becomes the radiance of God’s glory. Let us ask the Lord to give us a receptivity to his gentle presence; let us ask him to help us not to be so deafened and desensitized by this world’s loud outcry that our receptivity fails to register him. Let us ask him that we may hear his quiet voice, go with him, and be of service together with him and in his way, so that his kingdom may become present in this world… We imitate God, we live by God, like God, by entering into Christ’s manner of life. He has climbed down from his divine being and became one of us; he has given himself and does and does so continually… It is by these little daily virtues, again and again, that we step out of our bitterness, our anger toward others, our refusal to accept the other’s otherness; by them, again and again, we open up to each other in forgiveness. This “littleness” is the concrete form of our being like Christ and living like God, imitating God; he has given himself to us so that we can give ourselves to him and to one another.”
 
– Pope Benedict XVI, Many Religions – One Covenant, Israel, the Church and the World, p. 81, 82-83, 87
 
Let us Pray:
Prompt our actions with your inspiration, we pray, O Lord,
and further them with your constant help,
that all we do may always begin from you,
and by you be brought to completion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.
Collect, Thursday after Ash Wednesday
 

Miserere: A Penitential Prayer

Miserere, by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), is a setting of Psalm 51: It is the best known of the seven Penitential Psalms; the others are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, and 143. These prayers are essential to our prayer life, leading us to reflect on God’s mercy, and our need to turn back to Him and be welcomed like the Prodigal Child when he recognizes his need for His father.

Take a moment and reflect on the Miserere (Psalm 51):

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. *
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt *
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them; *
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned; *
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence *
and be without reproach when you judge.
O see, in guilt I was born, *
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart; *
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean; *
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness, *
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face *
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God, *
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, *
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help; *
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways *
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper, *
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips *
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight, *
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. *
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion: *
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice, *
holocausts offered on your altar.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, 1669

Ash Wednesday – A Prayer

Sr Josie, Canossian Sister, distributes ashes during Ash Wednesday service.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Amen.

(collect – Ash Wednesday)

Helpful Lenten posts:

Father Zuhlsdorf breaks down this powerful prayer/collect for us here.

Fasting and Abstinence – Some gentle reminders and scripture passages for the season.

Join the conversation – what is your Lenten practice?

Lenten Preparation

Lent. It’s just around the corner, and now is the time to consider what you desire to get out of it…

I don't own the rights.

Our Lay Canossians (tertiaries) have been talking at our February meetings about the upcoming weeks of Lent, and how they might make the best of this ‘Spiritual pilgrimage’ of the Church. The conversation started because one of them mentioned how meaningless it is to just ‘give up stuff’. So, we are taking another look at the Lenten experience, one that requires a deeper Christian maturity. Come, share your thoughts with us at our fledgling blog!

Update: There are some good ideas in the comments!

A Day of Penance and Prayer

“The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as “good news” to the people of every age and culture.”
– Bl. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 1

“The bishops of the United States have designated today as a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.”

In keeping with having today a Day of Prayer and Penance, what can we do?

– Go to Mass
– Peacefully praying outside of an abortion clinic
– Fasting
– Praying a rosary or chaplet for the unborn
– Praying for those who have been wounded by abortion
– Visiting and praying before the Blessed Sacrament
– Reading and reflecting on Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae in full
– Becoming involved with a pro-life group
– Write about, or share posts on the issues of life, and post it to your blog,
facebook and/or twitter

What are you doing today, to witness to the gift of life?