Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, August 22, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Picturing My Kids as Future Saints


My youngest daughter had the opportunity to go to Montessori pre-school last year.  My husband and I chose this school for her based on her excited response to the school’s hosted open house.  Month after month we were amazed at just how much she enjoyed learning, how quickly she absorbed new subject matters, and at how well she retained what she had learned!  Although her teachers presented the subject matters, she had much freedom in exploring her interests.  She expressed such joy when talking about what she had discovered – which was, sadly, different from her older siblings. 


As I have written about in the past, I am trying to home-school my children in the Catholic faith as they attend public school.  So often I find myself anxious about whether they are learning enough, or how far behind we are in their lesson plans. Although I do want to focus on faith sharing with them, I do tend to worry about whether they have properly memorized the Ten Commandments or know the Corporal Works of Mercy.  But really, all I want them to do is fall in love with their faith!

I have recently been paying attention to their interest levels while we are attending Holy Mass.  I found myself worrying about how much heart they were putting into the responses, how attentively they were listening to the readings, and how joyfully they were singing the hymns.  I wondered just how spiritually prepared they were to receive the Holy Eucharist after fighting with each other in the pews about who was invading whose space, or who squeezed whose hands too tightly while giving the Kiss of Peace.  But really, all I want for them is to know how very much they are loved by our Redeemer, just as they are, and to respond to that Love in return! 

I brought up this issue with a priest – Just how concerned should I be as a parent about my kids’ interest levels at the Mass? 

He reassured me that I shouldn’t really be concerned at all.  Although it is a good to have an awareness of wanting that for my children, he reminded me that all I can do is prepare the ground for God, and allow the seeds to grow in each soul.  Going deeper, or having a greater desire for the Eucharist…those are conditioned by individual situations, where we/they can be led to seek God’s grace or see how the Eucharist provides salvation for us.  He did suggest that I apply what is happening in their lives, at home, or school, or with friends and equate that to the Lord saving us from our fears or concerns.  He suggested that as a parent, I make Mass as positive as possible and reiterate that above all, Church is a place of (1) safety and (2) sacredness.  In referring to the Mass, I can always paint the Church with an aura of safety and sacredness. 

It’s kind of like the Montessori method:  as a parent, I can present the topics, and lead them to the Sacraments, but I must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them, based on their situations, their temperaments, their interests. I am thinking that if I approach their religion lessons and our participation in the Sacraments in this way, they might discover true joy for themselves.  It is not so much in the “how”, but in begging for graces to be attached in our faith formation, despite me being an obstacle as the “Control Freak.”  J


As a parent I can trust that God is very present in our lives, especially because of my entrustment to my Blessed Mama.  He comes to my rescue as His littlest child.  He is the one Who has placed this desire of sanctity for my children in my heart.  Therefore, I can trust that He will fulfill it!  




God truly desires that we anticipate, with faith and hope, the fulfillment of His plans toward our environment and us.  Therefore, we should always look upon our dear ones, as well as those who are away from the faith, as God looks upon them in His mercy.  God looks at them as saints, even though they may convert in a year, maybe in ten years, or even – as in the case of the Good Thief – only at the last hours of their lives.  The best way for us to help others on their way to conversion is to better appreciate God’s purpose connected to their lives, rather than trying to rely on them excessively. 


It is crucial for us to place our reliance on God.  At the same time, we must cooperate with His grace and anticipate, with great hope, what we have not yet received, but which we deeply believe is in accordance with God’s designs.  In this way the results of our reliance on God can also be the salvation of others. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2011], 41-42).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Desiring to Be Merciful

I just started writing this week’s blog with the intention to write about being merciful. I actually had just typed out the words “I have watched with amazement how Blessed Mother has formed me over the last 14 years to desire to be more merciful.” No sooner were the words on the page typed when my 5-year old daughter pushed the lever on my office chair causing it to lower toward the ground. My button was pushed and I snapped! Like Marshmallow in the movie “Frozen” I increased in size and probably sounded like I was roaring my disapproval. My heart is still pounding from that momentary episode.  What for, MOM? What for?

My blog was headed in the wrong direction, obviously! When I talk about mercy I have to see it from all its aspects – and to really ponder the question, do I only think “mercy” is when I am allowed to look good in my own eyes? Am I only experiencing “mercy” when I am given the grace not to overreact? Perhaps “mercy” is something much broader – something much deeper and amazing. Perhaps “mercy” is when Blessed Mother helps me to see who I am so that I call out for “Divine Mercy” – so that I can realize the depth of needing a Redeemer, Her Son, my Savior!

The process of my entrustment to Mary has been this road of discovering just how deep Divine Mercy really is. Some have claimed my road is self-centered. I don’t think this is necessarily true. The last 14 years I have been getting a good view of my misery – and being reminded that I am loved as such. Until I am convinced of this, I believe that my ability to give mercy will be greatly limited. It has come from the depth of understanding who I am that I have just recently started accepting others for who they are. This grace, however, is not something I can ever possess. Instead, it is something I constantly have to await. No longer do I simply desire to “fix” myself or others. Now, my desire is that I (and everyone!) believe in TRUE LOVE!

Gratitude to God is born on the foundation of the truth about God’s forgiving love. It is also born on the truth about humility, which is the truth about us. Humility is the truth that tries to remove from our hearts the poisonous influences of the faith that we have in ourselves. The conviction that everything is “given” to us, that everything is a gift, can be born on the foundation of the truth about God’s unceasingly bestowing love and the truth about ourselves as people who need everything from this bestowing love. A cry of gratitude comes forth from the depth of a heart that is full of awe before the reality of God’s bestowal. (S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 7.)

WE, Blessed Mother and I, have started a fundraiser for a friend in need. You can click here to read about it. Please consider participating in this mercy-raiser! My experience has been that I more easily discover God’s mercy through tangible acts of kindness and love – through a priest, family member, friend, co-worker, stranger…a PERSON!  I hope that my friend will get the message of mercy from the generosity of those MOM uses for that purpose! Please, at least say a prayer for her and her daughters today, and pass on the information. Thank you!! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Discovering My Vocation

I thought I had my life in pretty good order. I had received my Associates of Science degree at a community college and was transferring to a university to get a Bachelor's which I would be able to obtain in 2 years. I had a great part-time job at an elementary school for their after-school program. Once I finished school I would begin teaching in a local preschool. I was looking for Mr. Perfect so I could get married and start my own family. The problem was Mr. Perfect was nowhere in sight and I was becoming very frustrated. One Thursday night at the university's Newman Center (Catholic Campus Ministry), after their weekly 8pm Mass, we began to sing this song "Everything that I am, everything I long to be, I lay it down, at your feet" (Lay It Down by Matt Maher). A sense of surrender came over me and I wanted to give everything to God. I was tired of seeking my own will and being disappointed when my expectations weren't met.
 
The following year I decided to go on a "dating fast", which meant spending the year NOT looking for a boyfriend or constantly browsing Pinterest for future wedding ideas, children's names, etc. I was going to concentrate on developing my relationship with Jesus, and spend time in prayer asking God what He had planned for my life. Throughout that year God revealed my calling to the religious life. It was hard to accept at first because that meant I had to give up my dreams of being a wife and mom. But the more I prayed about it and understood what religious life really is, I was filled with joy! God has chosen me to be His! I began to see the desires He placed in my heart and I realized they could only be fulfilled through life as a religious sister.
 
I became overwhelmed when I began searching for the community to join. There are so many out there and I didn't know where to begin. Three Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist visited the Newman Center and they shared that their apostolate is teaching. I understood then that God gave me a love for children and teaching because He was calling me to join that Dominican order. This decision was further confirmed when I visited them for a retreat. As soon as I had arrived at their convent I was overcome with a sense of peace and a feeling that this was "home".
 
When I wanted to stop seeking my own plans and do what God was calling me to do, it took a lot of humility and trust. Day to day He calls me to do things I would rather not do like love my roommate who doesn't do the dishes or have patience with a kid at work who refuses to do his homework. It's when I say "yes" to these little things, that saying "yes" to the big things, like giving up everything to join the convent, becomes easier.
 
There is someone who can completely understand this surrender and that is our Blessed Mother Mary. "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Her "yes" brought the Son of God into the world. I ask for her help everyday especially in times of doubt or uncertainty. She reminds me that I am a beloved daughter of God and He loves me as I am. So it is not surprising that God would lead me to an Order of Dominican Sisters whose motto is to Jesus through Mary.
- Sister Jamie
 
 
Perhaps, when you hear God calling, you do not realize how much He wants to bestow upon you. By proposing to you His own will, He desires to free you from all your wounds, disappointments, and difficulties, which are the result of seeking your own will. When you agree to let go of the steering wheel of your life and hand it over to a Father who loves you, then you will be freed from many fears and stress, as well as from the torment of responsibility, which flows from the faith you have in yourself. God does not want you to be so tormented. He desires to lift this weight from your shoulders and replace it with the sweet burden of His will. You only have to surrender to Him, and He will lead you. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 150.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Walking By Faith, Not By Mood


I recently heard a twist on the familiar Scripture quote “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  It is:  “for we walk by faith, not by mood.”  Now there’s something to think about.  I don’t think of myself as a moody person – as long as things are going just the way I want them!  Yes, this is Control Freak once again, a small, helpless, self-centered child who has so very much to learn. 

Seriously, one of the things I’ve noticed about myself lately is that I can seem hospitable, generous, kind….as long as it is on my terms, in my timing.  Recently a good friend came to visit with her small children.  I welcomed them with good food, fresh sheets, a listening ear, a dip in the pool with popsicles on a lazy summer evening.  I was happy to have good conversation and time to re-connect.  That is, until I needed them to leave so I could prepare our family for a long trip.  I was so disappointed with myself at the lack of charity in my thoughts.  I started to get anxious about all the errands I needed to run, the laundry and ironing, the to-do-list items to cross off.  Seriously, my friend traveled so far to visit, and yet I was again thinking of myself, not of God’s will in this moment.  Fortunately I have learned to pray as a beggar from this spirituality. I felt so helpless to change my attitude on my own.  I begged God that my ugly thoughts would be hidden from my friend.  I begged Him that I would have charity in my heart to extend most purely to my guests.  Only God knows whether she felt my anxiety and lack of hospitality.  And only He can repair the damage that I cause with my self-centeredness.

I see once again my need for Blessed Mama to forever purify my intentions and actions to give honor and glory to our Father.  I see how very moody I am.  I see that my desire to do God’s will is so lacking, as I become aware of my personal desires to be comfortable or in control.  I see how cranky I become when things don’t go according to my plan just like a two-year-old.  I see my honest-to-goodness need for this spirituality, especially during these moments of self-awareness that aren’t so pretty.  I am again reminded of God’s love for me, as I am, as a moody child.  Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weaknesses, and how they call upon the abyss of Your merciful love.    And please, God, I ask for the grace to walk by faith, no matter the mood, in the arms of my Mother.

Mary, carry me in your arms like your own child.  Please allow me to become light like a balloon carried by the wind of the Holy Spirit, docile to carrying out God’s will and free from attachments.  I do not want to know where this Divine Wind comes from or to where it will carry me.  I do not want to impose my own plans and visions on God.  I want to be docile like you.  (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 146.)


Friday, July 25, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Living with the Weeds

After a week away on vacation, and lots of watering and rain, I came home to weeds, weeds, and more weeds!!  I can’t help but be frustrated. This is the second year we’ve had this particular garden and it was so beautiful last year.  I don’t have a natural green thumb, so extra work in the garden isn’t on the top of my to-do list. However, last year, with the fresh start, we kept up. We weeded and even enjoyed it. We took great satisfaction in keeping the yard looking pretty and eating the delicious bounty.

So how has it gone this year? It just overwhelms me. I want all the beauty and deliciousness without being in charge. What are the weeds in my garden helping me to see?  I’m getting a big dose of “the truth” about my spiritual life.

I sort of thought living a spiritual life would be like a beautiful and tasty garden. Having received many drawing graces at the start of my conversion, it was easy for me to do all the spiritual practices that are taught to be good for growing in the spiritual life. Meditation, daily Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession, spiritual reading…my “garden”was getting lots of watering, fertilizing, and pruning. From the outside, it looked quite nice! I thought it would just stay that way – as if frozen in time.

I didn’t want to focus on the fact I had to keep persevering. Like in my garden, when I pull weeds without getting to the roots, I find that my spiritual problems resurface over and over again. It just overwhelms me.

But, thanks to my Entrustment, when I see the same “weeds” growing up again (for example anxiety over my spiritual laziness) I am reminded that I am NOT in charge – that I am in Blessed Mother’s arms exactly for this reason. It is because I wasn’t born with a natural “green thumb” that I was entrusted to Her care by Jesus Himself.

I really don’t like looking at the messy garden in my backyard, but I have to accept the facts – if I don’t work on it, it is going to look ugly.  I can choose to work on it or not, but I have to remember I am not alone when I garden - I can garden with Blessed Mother! I can remember I am in Her Arms and beg for graces to get the job done.

When I see the mess of my spiritual life, however, I get to look at it a different way. This situation isn’t mine to fix. Because of my entrustment, I'm learning to allow Blessed Mother to take control! She shows me my weakness and helps me live in the truth – to see who I am and who God loves. My spiritual mess is an opportunity to give God the glory for He already redeemed me from it through the blood of His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ! My ugly spiritual life helps me continue to desire a deeper communion with Christ through Mary. Maybe one day my spiritual life won’t look as bad as today – maybe one day WE (Blessed Mother and me) will get to the root of my “weeds” … but by then I will know it is only because of Mary’s humility and perseverance for my soul. Right now, I want to keep my focus on Mary’s faithfulness and to remain in gratitude for God's amazing love!



“When you entrust yourself to her, [Mary] can obtain everything from God. She can even ask for a miracle, such that you will begin to be poor in spirit, as someone who lives with the hunger for God and His holy will.” (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 132.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Jesus, I Trust In You!

Each of our four daughters has a major event happening this summer. In June our oldest delivered our second grandchild. Our second oldest is getting married this next weekend. Our third is entering the convent at the end of August. And our baby just celebrated her 21st birthday. A lot of wonderful graces abound, but as is my usual response I am an emotional wreck.
 
The secular world would consider me a “head” person, for I do a lot of thinking. In fact I over analyze, and create many trials in my imagination. So instead of just taking everything in stride, I create different scenarios of each event, some good, some bad, and some just utterly ridiculous. I can really get myself into a tizzy. When I started to feel a burning in my stomach I realized I was NOT trusting God. I was in Church and noticed the Divine Mercy painting and decided I need to use the “Jesus, I trust in You!” phrase as my prayer mantra, especially when I start to feel anxiety, stress, or sadness, for I am not good with change or major events. With change, I get melancholy looking back on the way things used to be. With major events I enjoy the preparations and the event, but afterward become overwhelmed with mourning that it is over.
 
So when my daughter is travelling the 7 hour car ride to the wedding by herself with the newborn and toddler, instead of fretting I will repeat = "Jesus, I trust in You!"
 
When we pack for the wedding which is in a town ~5 hours away and I want to worry about not forgetting anything = “Jesus, I trust in You!”
 
When we gather all of our daughter’s items needed for her entrance day and we say our goodbyes = “Jesus, I trust in You!”
 
When my baby heads to the bars for some fun = “Jesus, I trust in You!”
 
There is such comfort in these words. I want to give all of my worries, anxieties, and emotions over to Him but I have spent too many years repeating my mantra “Scaredy Cat I trust in you,” that I cannot depend on myself to repeat this prayer. I must stay in my Blessed Mother’s embrace and have Her speak the words for me. For as a mother, She had major events that went way beyond those happening in my life, and through it all She trusted in her Son and in God, as well as being an open vessel to the Holy Spirit. There is no better solution for my human weaknesses and no better rescue from being crushed by my human emotions than living in Communion with Her!
 
All human systems of security cannot be perfect since they are based solely on our plans or calculations; that is why they have to fail, and then a crisis comes. If you trust in yourself, in your abilities, in your possessions, or in people with whom you are connected, sooner or later you will have to be disappointed.
In order for our faith to be reliance on Christ and entrustment of ourselves to Him, we have to accept Him as our only sure security. Flowing from faith in Christ’s Word, complete abandonment to Him is the only adequate response to His unfathomable love for us.
Tadeusz Dajczer, TheGift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 30-31.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Freedom Via Insomnia


The last few days have been ridiculous in terms of my sleeping patterns.  I am not sure if it is related to the fact that my kids are off for the summer with a more relaxed schedule, but I have been experiencing horrible insomnia.  I try to go to sleep, but end up tossing and turning for over an hour or two.  I try to pray, but my thoughts distract me.  All of the days’ events, Facebook postings, email correspondence, conversations, weaknesses, examination of conscience, failures…etc flood my brain.  I get up and have a snack, try to watch a TV program.  I am awake for a few more hours and finally get to sleep around 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning. 

 

Because of this pattern, I am reminded of the 3:00 Divine Mercy hour.  Not sure if it applies to the wee early morning hours of 3:00 as opposed to the 3:00 in the afternoon, but I can’t help but think of an invitation to pray a chaplet or spend some time praying for an unknown intention.  I end up falling asleep reflecting on Jesus’ mercy. 

 

The good news is that I brought out my copy of the Divine Mercy in My Soul:  Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.  Every time I read the bold print lines (indicating the words of Christ Jesus Himself to St. Faustina), I am touched with a great awareness of how Christ is inviting me to know Him.  And it seems that unless I spend more time making an effort to know Him, I won’t really grow in love for Him and with Him.

 



As we celebrate our nation’s independence this weekend, I hope and pray that you and I can also spend some time in celebration of the freedom we find in our Redeemer.  Instead of beating myself up at night reliving my miseries of the day, in the arms of my Blessed Mama I can grow in contrition, and most especially, in gratitude for God’s MERCY.  In paragraph 1588 of the Diary, Christ speaks to St. Faustina: 

 

In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people.  Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world.  I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart….[1]

 

And paragraph 1572:

 

I remind you, My daughter, that as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.  In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice.[2] 

I invite us all to take up Jesus’ invitation to open ourselves to His mercy – for ourselves, for our country, for our world.  As He says, mercy is opened wide for every soul.  With it, we can obtain everything.  It is there for the asking.  Happy Independence Day!   

     


[1] St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 3rd ed.. (Stockbridge, MA:  Marian Press, 2007) 563-564 (parafraph 1588).
[2] Ibid 558 (paragraph 1572)