sacrifice

Fooling Ourselves

September 9, 2011

How do we know good works are pleasing to God?  Are we just pleasing ourselves when we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into tasks that we enjoy even when they bring good to others?

Discernment of God’s will must be a lifelong process if we are to avoid fooling ourselves and getting sidetracked by willfulness.  Fortunately, we have ways to test our impulses as to whether they be of God or ourselves.  Father Gabriel of Mary Magdalene, OCD, writes about diligence in Divine Intimacy, and in the process shows us how we can tell if what we are doing is of God:

A negligent person goes to his work unwillingly, slowly, and with needless delay, whereas the diligent man hastens to it cheerfully, with promptness and concern.

The prompt doing of a thing that should be done, even when it would be more convenient to do something else, is the fruit of diligence.

Above all, one who is bound to a definite rule of life, either privately or in a community, must observe it punctually and exactly. [Married people, mothers and fathers, have a rule of life that applies, too.]

In fact, any rule which has been approved by one who represents God, is, for the soul who is bound to it, a manifestation of the divine will, which must be carried out without delay or postponement.  Punctuality exacts self-discipline and detachment; it often asks us to interrupt some interesting, pleasant work in order to give ourselves to another kind, perhaps less attractive or less important.  However, it would be a great mistake to esteem our duties and to dedicate ourselves to them according to the attraction we have for them or according to their more or less apparent importance.

All is important and beautiful when it is the expression of the will of God, and the soul who wishes to live in this holy will at every minute of the day, will never omit the slightest act prescribed by its rule of life.

To prolong what we are doing beyond the prescribed time, or to dispense ourselves from a duty without a serious reason, is to abandon the will of God; it shows an attachment to our own will, and often enough, to our own convenience.

This is how we often fool ourselves into doing our own will and miss chances to grow in the love of God and neighbor. The answer is simple: do our duty diligently and perform it with a joyful heart.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Friday, September 9th, 2011 spirituality 4 Comments

Sabbath Moments

May 14, 2011

Awareness of God

Thanks to Colleen at Thoughts on Grace, we can gain inspiration from fellow bloggers who recount Sabbath Moments – those times during the week when we place ourselves in the presence of God and be rather than do.  Other Sabbath Moments are seeing God in the ordinary.

This week I had a lot of being and not much doing because I developed a really bad cold that went into my chest.  Have you ever thought that those commercials for cold remedies were baloney?  I sure have.  Getting a cold flattens me for days on end and all those remedies that are supposed to be so great don’t do a thing for me.  However, the misery is excellent for offering up cheerfully the pain and suffering God sends me. I am comforted by the thought that He really needed my offering this week for something important or I wouldn’t have felt so bad.  It’s good to know that not one second of misery is wasted when we say “Thy will be done.”

The iris peaked this week and the peonies came into bloom.  I clipped some of each twice this week to make into a bouquet for hubby and me to enjoy.  May is my favorite month because it belongs to Our Lady and the lovely spring flowers always remind me of her.  When I was little we used to gather flowers to lay at the feet of her statue in the parish church all throughout the month. Surely heaven will be full of gorgeous flowers that won’t make me sneeze!

Being sick gave me extra meditation and prayer time plus guilt free time I spent visiting Catholic blogs on scripture and doctrine.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Saturday, May 14th, 2011 Sabbath Moments, spirituality 3 Comments

St. Simeon Stylites – A Hermit on a Pillar

January 5, 2010

St. Simeon Stylites icon, 1465 A.D., Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For about 600 years in the early Church, God called certain followers of Christ to be hermits in the north African and Middle East deserts.  St. Simeon Stylites was one of them.  Stylos means pillar in Greek, and stylites is a person supported or standing on a pillar.  Hence his name, Simeon Sytlites.

Today we can hardly imagine what it would be like to fast from food and water in the desert for the forty days of Lent, but St. Simeon did that and more.  The average person would be dead in a week or so.  Most of us can’t imagine being hermits at all, although God is still calling people to this vocation and you can find them in many dioceses in the United States and other countries. The 1983 Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church provides vows and rules for the eremitic life.

St. Simeon Stylites received extraordinary graces to live the way he did because only God can keep somebody alive under the blazing desert sun, in sweeping dust storms, through cold nights and rain, fasting and praying always.

He was born in northern Syria in 388 where he tended sheep.  Before St. Simeon was sixteen, he joined a monastery but horrified his fellow monks with his extreme asceticism. He quit the monastery and went to live in the wilderness where eventually he took up life at the top of a pillar adoring and praising God day and night.

Column Remains of St Simeon The Stylite topped with boulder, Syria, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As happened with many of the desert hermits, people flocked from miles around to ask for guidance to live in a holy way. St. Simeon prayed, preached to the crowds that came, wrote letters we still have today, and advised his disciples from the top of his pillar which was always exposed to the weather.

Although his manner of living seems extreme, God is teaching us a lesson: no matter how unusual a person’s calling is, we cannot judge God’s work in their heart. We should never interfere with someone’s vocation or criticize his path, especially when the person is under spiritual direction.  God has a special job for each of us individually, a job He prepares us for often over many years without us realizing it. We can imitate St. Simeon Stylites by seeking God alone in all that we do.

If you’ve ever felt that you were banging your head against the wall with regard to your spiritual life, it means you are trying to do it all yourself rather than letting God lead you as St. Simeon let God lead him. Stop.  Climb the spiritual pillar in front of you and get away from the incessant demands pressuring you.  Be silent and contemplate the Lord.  He is with you and will never leave you.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 penance, religion, spirituality 4 Comments

Wrongly Accused and Imprisoned

November 3, 2010

Crucifixion, 1524, Breu, Jorg the Elder, b. 1475/76, Augsburg, d. 1537, Augsburg, Wood, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

We have all been deeply saddened by the actions of guilty priests and bishops in the sex scandals of the Catholic Church.  When the media sensationalism dies down in one country it picks up with new scandals elsewhere. This year Ireland, Germany and Belgium have come to the fore.  The filth, as Cardinal Ratzinger referred to it on Good Friday of 2005 seems to be everywhere, and indeed it is.

But what if a priest has been wrongly accused and is totally innocent? What if others who are guilty remained silent when their testimony could have exonerated the priest?  What if those who do speak the truth are discounted as liars without cause?  What if the bishop presumes guilt on false testimony and does nothing to uncover the truth?  What if the bishop uncovers the truth and still does nothing?

These things and much more are documented at the site These Stone Walls – Musings from Prison of a Priest Falsely Accused. The sufferings of Father Gordon J. Macrae paint a horrifying portrait of injustice and persecution few of us could think of enduring.

Prisoners are the unseen and forgotten in our society.  Some of them deserve to be there and some don’t, but they all have souls in need of grace. Please visit These Stone Walls to read Father’s story, what is being done to free him from many years of imprisonment, and inspirational blog posts about how God is working in a New Hampshire prison. Keep Father Macrae in your prayers and pray also that justice be done for him.

V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 blogs, suffering 5 Comments

The Heart of Personal Holiness

May 5, 2010

Usually I wouldn’t create a long post, but Bishop Slattery’s landmark sermon at the Solemn Pontifical Mass April 25th on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s ascension to the chair of St. Peter fits so perfectly with the purpose of this blog I include all his words. Celebrated at the Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, the Mass was a work of exceeding beauty, glory and praise, with a lesson to all who call themselves Christian.  This homily will go down in the history of the Catholic Church in America as one of the most profound and spiritual ever given by a bishop.

We have much to discuss – you and I …

… much to speak of on this glorious occasion when we gather together in the glare of the world’s scrutiny to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne of Peter.

We must come to understand how it is that suffering can reveal the mercy of God and make manifest among us the consoling presence of Jesus Christ, crucified and now risen from the dead.

We must speak of this mystery today, first of all because it is one of the great mysteries of revelation, spoken of in the New Testament and attested to by every saint in the Church’s long history, by the martyrs with their blood, by the confessors with their constancy, by the virgins with their purity and by the lay faithful of Christ’s body by their resolute courage under fire.

But we must also speak clearly of this mystery because of the enormous suffering which is all around us and which does so much to determine the culture of our modern age.

From the enormous suffering of His Holiness these past months to the suffering of the Church’s most recent martyrs in India and Africa, welling up from the suffering of the poor and the dispossessed and the undocumented, and gathering tears from the victims of abuse and neglect, from women who have been deceived into believing that abortion was a simple medical procedure and thus have lost part of their soul to the greed of the abortionist, and now flowing with the heartache of those who suffer from cancer, diabetes, AIDS, or the emotional diseases of our age, it is the sufferings of our people that defines the culture of our modern secular age.

This enormous suffering which can take on so many varied physical, mental, and emotional forms will reduce us to fear and trembling – if we do not remember that Christ – our Pasch – has been raised from the dead. Our pain and anguish could dehumanize us, for it has the power to close us in upon ourselves such that we would live always in chaos and confusion – if we do not remember that Christ – our hope – has been raised for our sakes. Jesus is our Pasch, our hope and our light.

He makes himself most present in the suffering of his people and this is the mystery of which we must speak today, for when we speak of His saving presence and proclaim His infinite love in the midst of our suffering, when we seek His light and refuse to surrender to the darkness, we receive that light which is the life of men; that light which, as Saint John reminds us in the prologue to his Gospel, can never be overcome by the darkness, no matter how thick, no matter how choking.

Our suffering is thus transformed by His presence. It no longer has the power to alienate or isolate us. Neither can it dehumanize us nor destroy us. Suffering, however long and terrible it may be, has only the power to reveal Christ among us, and He is the mercy and the forgiveness of God.

The mystery then, of which we speak, is the light that shines in the darkness, Christ Our Lord, Who reveals Himself most wondrously to those who suffer so that suffering and death can do nothing more than bring us to the mercy of the Father.

But the point which we must clarify is that Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ’s command that we take up our cross and follow Him. Suffering by itself is simply the reminder that death will claim these mortal bodies of ours, but suffering in Christ is the promise that we will be raised with Christ, when our mortality will be remade in his immortality and all that in our lives which is broken because it is perishable and finite will be made imperishable and incorrupt.

Crucifixion of St. Peter, 1600, Caravaggio (b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole), Oil on canvas, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

This is the meaning of Peter’s claim that he is a witness to the sufferings of Christ and thus one who has a share in the glory yet to be revealed. Once Peter grasped the overwhelming truth of this mystery, his life was changed. The world held nothing for Peter. For him, there was only Christ.

This is, as you know, quite a dramatic shift for the man who three times denied Our Lord, the man to whom Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Christ’s declaration to Peter that he would be the rock, the impregnable foundation, the mountain of Zion upon which the new Jerusalem would be constructed, follows in Matthew’s Gospel Saint Peter’s dramatic profession of faith, when the Lord asks the Twelve, “Who do people say that I am?” and Peter, impulsive as always, responds “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Only later – much later – would Peter come to understand the full implication of this first Profession of Faith. Peter would still have to learn that to follow Christ, to truly be His disciple, one must  let go of everything which the world considers valuable and necessary, and become powerless. This is the mystery which confounds independent Peter. It is the mystery which still confounds us: to follow Christ, one must surrender everything and become obedient with the obedience of Christ, for no one gains access to the Kingdom of the Father, unless he enter through the humility and the obedience of Jesus.

Peter had no idea that eventually he would find himself fully accepting this obedience, joyfully accepting his share in the Passion and Death of Christ. But Peter loved Our Lord and love was the way by which Peter learned how to obey. “Lord, you know that I love thee,” Peter affirms three times with tears; and three times Christ commands him to tend to the flock that gathers at the foot of Calvary – and that is where we are now.

Peter knew that Jesus was the true Shepherd, the one Master and the only teacher; the rest of us are learners and the lesson we must learn is obedience, obedience unto death. Nothing less than this, for only when we are willing to be obedient with the very obedience of Christ will we come to recognize Christ’s presence among us.

Obedience is thus the heart of the life of the disciple and the key to suffering in Christ and with Christ. This obedience, is must be said, is quite different from obedience the way it is spoken of and dismissed in the world.

For those in the world, obedience is a burden and an imposition. It is the way by which the powerful force the powerless to do obeisance. Simply juridical and always external, obedience is the bending that breaks, but a breaking which is still less painful than the punishment meted out for disobedience. Thus for those in the world obedience is a punishment which must be avoided; but for Christians, obedience is always personal, because it is centered on Christ. It is a surrender to Jesus Whom we love.

For those whose lives are centered in Christ, obedience is that movement which the heart makes when it leaps in joy having once discovered the truth.

Let us consider, then, that Christ has given us both the image of his obedience and the action by which we are made obedient.

The image of Christ’s obedience is His Sacred Heart. That Heart, exposed and wounded must give us pause, for man’s heart is generally hidden and secret. In the silence of his own heart, each of us discovers the truth of who we are, the truth of why we are silent when we should speak, or bothersome and quarrelsome when we should be silent. In our hidden recesses of the heart, we come to know the impulses behind our deeds and the reasons why we act so often as cowards and fools.

But while man’s heart is generally silent and secret, the Heart of the God-Man is fully visible and accessible. It too reveals the motives behind our Lord’s self-surrender. It was obedience to the Father’s will that mankind be reconciled and our many sins forgiven us. “Son though he was,” the Apostle reminds us, “Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.” Obedient unto death, death on a cross, Jesus asks his Father to forgive us that God might reveal the full depth of his mercy and love. “Father, forgive them,” he prayed, “for they know not what they do.”

Christ’s Sacred Heart is the image of the obedience which Christ showed by his sacrificial love on Calvary. The Sacrifice of Calvary is also for us the means by which we are made obedient and this is a point which you must never forget: at Mass, we offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ, who offers Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. We make this offering in obedience to Christ who commanded us to “Do this in memory of me” and our obediential offering is perfected in the love with which the Father receives the gift of His Son.

Do not be surprised then that here at Mass, our bloodless offering of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is a triple act of obedience. First, Christ is obedient to the Father, and offers Himself as a sacrifice of reconciliation. Secondly, we are obedient to Christ and offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus the Son; and thirdly, in sharing Christ’s obedience to the Father, we are made obedient to a new order of reality, in which love is supreme and life reigns eternal, in which suffering and death have been defeated by becoming for us the means by which Christ’s final victory, his future coming, is made manifest and real today.

Suffering then, yours, mine, the Pontiffs, is at the heart of personal holiness, because it is our sharing in the obedience of Jesus which reveals his glory. It is the means by which we are made witnesses of his suffering and sharers in the glory to come.

Do not be dismayed that there many in the Church have not yet grasped this point, and fewer still in the world will even dare to consider it, but you know this to be true and it is enough, for ten men who whisper the truth speak louder than a hundred million who lie.

If then someone asks of what we spoke today, tell them we spoke only of the truth. If someone asks why it is you came to this Mass, say that it was so that you could be obedient with Christ. If someone asks about the homily, tell them it was about a mystery and if someone asks what I said of the present situation, tell them only that we must – all of us – become saints through what we suffer.

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Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 Catholic Church, suffering 2 Comments

Mother Teresa a Political Philosopher?

Normally I would not deal with political issues in this blog, but since the subject of Mother Teresa was brought up by Anita Dunn, a White House media strategist, I am making an exception.  It seems that Ms. Dunn gave a talk this spring to some high school students in which she stated that her two favorite political philosophers are Mao Tse-tung and Mother Teresa.  In the clip shown on Glenn Beck’s show and which is available on YouTube for the entire world to see, Ms. Dunn continued her address by extolling Mao to the students and elaborating on his philosophy.

 I am not going to address the myriad issues here of how a communist sympathizer came to be addressing impressionable youth, nor why the students are being exposed to uncritical and positive remarks about communism and a brutal communist leader who was responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese and a total degradation of the people of his country.  Instead I want to correct the falsehood that Mother Teresa was a political philosopher.  She was no such thing any more than Jesus was.

 Granted, we all tend to filter reality and information through our areas of expertise.  Mathematicians and scientists apply their knowledge to events through their scientific filters, musicians and artists through their aesthetic filters, and politicians through their power filters.  It is no surprise that a person as deeply involved in politics for her total career as Ms. Dunn has been would interpret Mother Teresa’s words and actions from within her own political construct. 

Mother Teresa gave her life to bring Christ to others.  She started every day with several hours of prayer and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  She went into the streets of Calcutta and brought back the sick and the dying to care for them and honor their dignity as a human being.  Many times she said that she always saw Christ in the faces of the poor she ministered to, and that she was aware that she was bringing Christ to them.  Mother Teresa was never a political force.  She was a moral force, accomplishing what she did by the grace of God. 

By the power of God Mother Teresa was able to establish so many charitable foundations in over 700 countries.  Bishops from all over the world contacted her and invited her to bring her Missionaries of Charity to their dioceses to help with the poor and the sick.  Governments welcomed her foundations because she could do what the state could not – inspire many young women and men to give their lives selflessly for the good of others and care for the poor. 

As for herself personally, Mother Teresa lived her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience daily.  She attracted wealth from many different sources and used it all for the people she so lovingly cared for.  Once Pope Paul VI gave her an expensive automobile that had been given to him for his trip through India.  Mother Teresa and her sisters raffled it off and used the proceeds for the poor.  She slept on the floor wherever she stayed and always lived simply.  She required her religious community to live among the poor they served. 

When Mother Teresa spoke out on abortion and other life issues, she was not speaking politically but morally.  The power Mother Teresa wielded was a power of moral character, and what she wrote and spoke about were the simple teachings of Christ.  She did not seek out heads of state, they sought her out.  She accepted the Nobel Prize in the name of the poor. 

Many politicians are, for the most part afraid of moral authority because it cannot be manipulated, it’s message is consistant, grounded in truth and the Natural Law, and it is selfless.  Often they undermine or minimize moral authority not by direct attack but by politicizing the behavior of people like Mother Teresa so they can co-opt it for their own ends.  And then there are the overt spittle-spewing ravings of politicians and their supporters directly attacking a person with moral authority in an attempt to take the audience’s focus off their own nefarious doings.  Witness Palin Derangement Syndrome
 
Today, the Missionaries of Charity are thriving and continuing to live in the example of their foundress.  Those of us who are unable to engage in the kind of active apostolate the Missionaries of Charity have may still help them by offering up our difficulties in life for their continuing faithfulness to Christ and their vows.  The work they are doing, the sacrifices they are making, the lives of prayer and service illustrate true Catholic social teaching which is not about politics but about the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

When most politicians look into the eyes of the people, they see votes and an opportunity to advance their personal agendas.  When Mother Teresa and her sisters look into the eyes of the people, they see Christ.

 

 

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 Catholic Church Comments Off

He Made Us; His We Are

“From the beginning and before the world was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him.” Eccl. 24:14.

Catholics praying the Divine Office will find this Biblical quote in the hour of Lauds from the Saturday Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is a favorite of mine because not only does it apply to Our Lady, it applies to every person created.  In this one verse God tells us that we are in His mind from all eternity, and that we will live forever after death, worshiping and praising Him. 

I am constantly struck by the love God has for each person – that He made us and His we are. (Ps. 99:3)  When we are struggling with pain and illnesses of all types we can sometimes forget that One greater than we has us in His heart.  Often we are so preoccupied with just getting by under our own power we forget to surrender to His power – to stop and ask what He is asking from us.

With the culture of death gaining greater ascendance daily, it seems to me that we must practice our Faith ever more diligently and especially to pray for the conversion of others.  (We must pray daily for our own conversion, too, but that is another topic.) 

For those of us who cannot do much in the physical realm, there remain the intentions of the heart: the unseen sacrifices we make in union with Christ.  The value of these sacrifices cannot be measured in earthly terms.  We will only know their true worth at the Last Judgment.  Fortunately, we have great examples to follow from Our Lady to our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone on before us.  Saints such as Catherine Laboure, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. John Cantius, and Blessed Herman Joseph of Steinfeld – all spiritual giants who called no attention to themselves but left us the example of quiet holiness and the desire that all come to know and love Our Lord.

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 Blessed Virgin, Culture of death, Divine Office, pain Comments Off

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