Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Playing on the Lord's Day


My husband has been extremely busy lately, training for a ½ marathon, discerning a change in employment, visiting ailing parents, and balancing his “free” time with getting enough sleep and focusing on our 5 children and their needs and activities (and me, too, his wife!).  I have been carrying a heavier load, trying to balance his load out.   Needless to say, he agreed with me when I shared my desire for some time to myself.  Recently, after a busy week and busy Saturday, he suggested I take some time on Sunday, after Mass, while he took all the kids to visit his parents in the city. 


Although I appreciated his offer, I felt a tugging on my conscience about spending time by myself on a Sunday, especially one after we’d all been so busy and needed to reconnect.  I have been hearing through various spiritual readings and conversations how very important it is to honor the 3rd Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Just as God “rested” on the seventh day, we, too, need this day to rejuvenate and be renewed in God’s Love.  To just stop and reconnect with family.  To rest. To nap. To play.  To eat together. To visit. 


It was a moment of truly discerning God’s will for me, and my whole family.  As tempted as I was, I didn’t feel God was calling me to a day of shopping or the movies by myself.  After Mass, I decided to go with my family to the city to visit my in-laws.  At first I chose the visit out of guilt, trying to trust in God’s commandment, even though I didn’t “feel” like honoring it.  On the drive over, my husband suggested some sight-seeing with the kids before visiting his house-bound parents.  I perked up a bit, for as much time we spend in the city, most of it is spent in the living room of his parents. We arrived, and I have to say I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and Love.  We had an amazing afternoon with our kids….walking by the beach and wharf, enjoying freshly baked bread, strolling through art museums, savoring chocolate sundaes.  The kids enjoyed all the people-watching, and we held hands throughout the day, enjoying each other’s company.  Afterwards, we visited their grandparents, and were pleasantly surprised by an aunt and cousin who also stopped by unexpectedly. 


By the end of the day, I was truly humbled by God’s generosity.  Not only did He arrange a very special outing, but He showed me once again how His ways far exceed my expectations, and how His ways bring much JOY.  I so often struggle with my old image of God, but He continues to be patient with me and reveals His all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing pure GOODNESS. 


Both our work and our leisure time are given to us so that we may deepen our bond with God and seek our support in Him.  If we try to see God and to seek His will in everything that He bestows upon us, then our time for rest will strengthen our faith in God’s omnipotent love. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2011] 18)



Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weakness, and how it calls upon the abyss of Your merciful love. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Falling, If It Leads to God’s Mercy

Last week the Little One was suffering a virus which kept her up at night. In the afternoons she would fall into a deep sleep from which it was difficult to wake her up. The first afternoon I tried, I was confronted with angry resistance and a monotonous cry that just wouldn’t stop. I tried my best to be loving (grace obtained by Blessed Mother, I'm sure), but I am not the most patient and I seldom think outside the box. My husband got home from work and, thanks to his entrustment to Mary, and good sense of humor, it wasn’t long before he was carrying the Little One down the stairs smiling, and ready for dinner.

Flash forward to day two of the deep naps. I decided to use the same “tricks” that worked for my hubby. Well, it must be in the delivery, because I met with the same resistance, anger, kicking, and annoyance as day one. I thought I would trump all tricks this time and made a delicious smoothie to coax my tired girl into a better mood. No luck. My feelings were hurt! Why was I being treated so poorly? I hadn’t done anything wrong…what was UP?!

I retreated, leaving the smoothie at the bedside and called my husband in a fit of panic. My “plans” were being foiled. Pacing outside I shared my dilemma: “I’m just not mature enough to handle her bad attitude!” He told me to relax, that he was almost home. To ease my burden (I had an important work conference call that same evening) he was going to pick up the Little One and go out to eat with her leaving me free to get my call done.

I returned to the bedroom to find the Little One drinking the smoothie, but when her eyes caught mine she returned to her grumpy disposition. So, sitting down a good distance from her I simply said: “Dad’s almost home. He will take you out to dinner so I can do my work. You need to get ready to leave with him.” She got up and started toward the door, but instead of leaving, she turned and looked at me, stretched out her arms for a hug, and said in a gentle voice “I’m sorry.”

Wow. All my animosity and panic left instantly and I hugged her so tight! “I forgive you,” was my response.

Later that night it occurred to me. The whole UGLY episode was totally worth it since it led to the Little One experiencing contrition, and it led to my understanding God’s way of loving a little better. No longer was it about what I deserved or how she behaved, but it was about the beautiful spirituality of events that led us both to discover in a deeper way contrition and gratitude. I was now thankful for something that had brought me a lot of grief. Once again the Little One is Blessed Mother’s instrument to show me just how wonderful God’s love is. My lessons are gentle, in the privacy of my home and not in the public’s eye. How blessed I feel to be so small that the tiniest problems can lead me to the deepest truths!

When you sin
or you are saddened,
you do not trust God
and you are not grateful,
you are making yourself similar to the lost sheep.
What does the Good Shepherd do then?
In response to your infidelity
He searches for you,
and immediately when you show contrition,
He takes you in His arms,
showing you this gesture, that He pardoned you already.
He wants you to know
that He loves you constantly,
even
m o r e
than before your fall.
That is when He loves you more than ever.

(S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 83.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Facing The Tricks And Treats On The Way To Sainthood

With it being Halloween as well as All Saints Day, I thought I would share two “candy” graces that have come my way. First, a dear friend’s husband received the Sacraments of Initiation just a couple of weeks ago. Sweet graces, as he is dying of pancreatic cancer and it does not seem like he has much more time left here on earth. I have been praying Divine Mercy chaplets for his conversion, and it brought me such joy to hear he had opened his heart to Jesus and received the Sacraments at this critical stage in his life.
 
The other special grace was being able to visit my daughter who has entered the Order of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. My husband and I made the trip last weekend. It was nice to see her joyful face that matched the happy and content-filled letters we have been receiving since she left a couple of months ago. During the visit she remarked how much time she has in a day without being connected to a cell phone, computer, and TV. She has read a few books already about various Saints during her free time. Although we shared a teary goodbye, we felt good about her new “home” and grateful for her chosen vocation.
 
So as you can read, I have had a few spiritual “treats” this Halloween. But in reflecting more on All Saints’ Day - I praise God with gratitude for my entrustment to Mary, as I can always count on her to help me face the tricks and treats that come along my path on my way to sainthood.
 
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 of 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, OpenWide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005) 150.
 
 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Repair of My Distorted Image of God



I was introduced to the spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through His Blessed Mother about 14 years ago.  Fortunately, I was rescued from my previous path of trying to grow in perfection before I had kids, because I still struggle today with passing along a distorted image of God’s love to my children, even with my attempts to live in our Blessed Mama’s arms. 

Even though I want my children to experience God’s pure love through me, I am so often times an obstacle.  Because of my own pride, I still have high expectations about their obedience and behavior.  About 5 years ago, I prepared my children for their own entrustment to the Blessed Mother.  Although we talk about asking Blessed Mama to carry them in Her arms to help them be more united to Her Son, I am often unsure they personally see the value and the gift and the need for Her.

Recently I have been butting heads with one of my daughters.  Although sweet in nature, she has been struggling with lying.  As my natural inclination is to be a Control Freak, I struggle with continuous forgiveness and being loving as I teach her the value of standing in truth.  She continues to lie, so I must be creating some sort of fear in her to tell the truth (fear of getting in trouble? fear of a less-than-perfect image of herself? fear of surrendering her own will?).  I am in serious danger of teaching her the attitude of the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son: 

Rather than being like the prodigal son who exposed the nakedness of his misery to his father, and received generous and gratuitous forgiveness in return, I follow the path of the older son.  The older son was convinced that his father loved him because “all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders” (Lk 15:29).”….We are constantly tempted to follow the path of the older son and create a false image of God’s love….If we consider the prodigal son’s father as a symbol for God, then, by imitating the attitude of the older brother and desiring to be alright before God, we unconsciously do not want to need God’s forgiveness.  Here, then, is where the unconscious resistance to grace is born of us, and we ask ourselves, Why does God have to forgive me?  I prefer to be perfect…

…God, the Merciful Father who loves me as a sinner, slowly disappears from my life.  In His place appears a false image of God who loves me because of my deeds and merits. I trudge further along the path of the older brother – the path that closes me to the truth about Redemption….(S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2006] 23, 24, 25.)


"The Virgin Mary is a tender mother to all who love her son:
we can turn to her and rest in her love at any time"
by Elizabeth Wang, T-07930-CW © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk
How terrifying that I am teaching my children that they do not need God!  We had a moment of grace yesterday, when my daughter apologized to me for lying that morning.  She explained that she literally could NOT tell the truth in that particular moment.  She wanted to, but felt physically unable to.  I was inspired to remind her how joyful that very moment was!  She was able to recognize her helplessness and true need for God and His grace.  I shared with her that I wasn’t able to see my helplessness as anything but joyful until I was almost 40 years old!  What a gift, that God could reveal this to her at such a young age.  I reminded her about the gift of her entrustment to our Blessed Mama, and she could finally begin to see her actual need to be rescued from her pride.  I shared with her, that whenever she felt helpless again, she could simply hold out her hand and beg quietly within her heart, and ask Blessed Mama to tell the truth, with her, through her, for her.

As my daughter began to smile at this revelation, I personally grew in hope that all can be repaired.  God can work around any obstacle (me!) and love my daughter, His daughter, and reveal His mercy to both of us. 





Friday, October 17, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = A Real Solution to Live in Hope

“Mooom-mmmyyyy” the Little One kept calling. She had gotten herself into a stubborn pickle. She was unable to exit the car because something didn’t go exactly the way she envisioned after I pulled into the garage. When I went out to see why she wouldn’t come in, she made some crazy excuse about needing my help to do something that she was completely capable of doing. She just needed me. But, how did I respond?


As I walked back into the house (leaving her in the car still), my conscience was tugging at me. I had used a harsh voice. I had piled on top of the existing problem issues from earlier – clearly letting the Little One know that I hadn’t forgotten her tantrum from this morning. My own “tantrum” seemed to be intensifying this power struggle.

“MOOOOOMMMM” I cried in my head! I had gotten myself into a stubborn pickle! Blessed Mother began to soften my heart by reminding me what the Little One’s day was like. “I forgot my tennis shoes for P.E. again; AND, today was my show and tell,” were the first things she shared with me when I picked her up.  And then it came out she forgot her library books too! I had spent the beginning of our drive home going on about how if she hadn’t spent so much time this morning complaining about what socks she wanted to wear all this wouldn’t have happened.  Hmmm…perhaps all she needed was a big hug when we got home? But, I walked away.


I, like the Little One, started searching hard for a way out of this mess. Her solution (help me get out of the car and I will feel better) was one I was too stubborn to give in to. So I asked my Not So Little One if he’d mind playing the role of the “good cop”. Blessed Mother’s love was ready and willing in him. It worked. The Little One came in with red circles under her eyes from crying, but she was smiling now. By grace, my tantrum had subsided too, and I wanted desperately to hug the Little One.

This tiny episode had a valuable lesson for me. Because of Blessed Mother’s action through the Not So Little One, the Little One and I were able to get over our prides. I need the saints, the angels, my friends, my family to help when I am stuck and unable, on my own, to step over my pride. In a special way, I need Blessed Mother! What HOPE there is in my home now that I have a support system - this spirituality - that validates that GOD loves me as I am and there is a purpose to my life.  In addition, this spirituality helps validate that GOD loves my children just as they are and they have a purpose in this life too! We fail each and every day, but because of Blessed Mother’s arms, we can get up! My Little One can find help – she can still scream “Mom!” and I have a solution when, before, I felt so helpless. I now can yell “MOOOOMMM!” too! When I am stuck, I am not left unaided. I can be wrong and immature, but still have a place where I can be held and comforted. This is a REAL SOLUTION for all the trouble in this world:

Shortly before Jacinta went to the hospital where she was to die, she said to Lucia: "In a short time now I am going to heaven. You are to stay here and say that God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. . . . Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that they must ask them from her. Tell them that the Heart of Jesus wishes that by His side should be venerated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask for peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; God has placed it in her hands." (Message from Our Lady of Fatima)

…Imagine St. Juan Diego’s very difficult situation, and then you will know how to cling to Mary’s back and how to snuggle your head between her shoulders. It will be as if you are immersed in her so that your heart clings to her Immaculate Heart, and your heart and Mary’s heart become one. You will live in union with the Mother of God. In this way, no barriers will be able to come between your two hearts. In turn, your eyes will gradually become as if Mary’s eyes – your ears; her ears – your thoughts; her thoughts. For can the one whom Our Lady of Guadalupe takes into her arms, so that he does not become lost on the difficult path to the Only Lord, live in any other way? (S.C. Biela, The TwoPillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 38-39.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Giving Up Relying On My Bank Savings


I don't know if it is because my dad was a banker, but I have always had a tendency to put my security in our monetary savings. Being the "Scaredy Cat" that I am, has me shackled to fears of not having enough money to pay our bills. Yet, God has always been faithful in allowing us to cover our expenses.
 
I attended a retreat one time and the speaker said he was glad his sons did not have extra money to keep in a savings account, as he thought the boys would put their trust in the money saved instead of in God's helping hand. That struck a chord with me, as I have always put my trust in our savings, and in the extra cash I keep in our checking account, so that we have a surplus on which to depend.
 
Just this week my husband suggested we help our daughter with some debt she had accumulated while being out of a job. I had extra money in our checking account which I was collecting for our big property tax bill due in November. I was happy to be able to help our child, but I also had a twinge of uneasiness as I transferred the money over to her account. It was a wake-up call showing me just how attached I am to the security I place in money. Another alarm is my apprehension over my husband's approaching retirement date at the end of this year, fearing we will be limited due to a fixed income.
 
How do our savings serve us? It seems that they constitute an 'accumulation of manna', becoming an illusory source of security that prevents us from relying on God and His will. If we allow our reliance on these surpluses to replace our faith in God - and such is our human nature - then we are living an illusion. In contrast, when we lack savings, we are forced to live from day to day, and by necessity, we have to rely more on God. The way in which we readily rely on surpluses reveals the feebleness and fragility of our faith. Such weak faith is unable to protect us from fears and anxiety about the future.
 
When we gradually begin to lose our illusory reliances, which up to this point have been the main source of our security, we will be convinced that there is no need for us to have so many surpluses. Then, to our amazement, we will discover that we become happier when we are poorer. S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011) 25.
 
So, I have another reason to entrust myself to my Blessed Mother. She trusted in God and His will, not in worldly security. I need to allow her to lead me to letting go of my reliance on money, and to grow in trust in Her Son to take care of me and my family - as He has always done. The money belongs to God, and He has been very generous in sharing it with us so far - but even if He takes away the surpluses, it sounds like I would become happier, and that is a much better feeling than being afraid!
 

 
 
 
 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating the Role of the Sheep


After auditions for the annual local production of The Nutcracker, my young daughter was anxiously awaiting the posting of the cast list.  She hoped to acquire the role of one of the party girls, or perhaps be cast in the Chinese Tea dance. As she heard that not all dancers would even get a role, she eventually just hoped to get any part.  Finally, a week or so went by and the list was posted at the dance studio.  I drove her over and she ran inside and came back after a few minutes.  She looked a bit down, and I was trying to prepare a little encouraging speech in my head, preparing for the worst. 


“I’m a sheep,” she announced, disappointed. She went on to say that it felt like a babyish part and felt, once again, like people treated her as much younger than her eleven years.  I decided to overlook her negativity and congratulated her on getting a spot in the production!  After all, she did get what she wanted, a chance to participate and enjoy all the related festivities.  As we drove home, I asked her what she remembered from last year about the part of the sheep.  As she described the role, I remembered being enchanted as an audience member by those dear sheep.  I recalled that there were only 4 sheep total, compared to the 15 or so dancers on stage for the party scene and the Chinese Tea.  I also remembered that the song went on for quite some time, 2 and half minutes compared to a minute or so for the Chinese dance, and the role required actual ballet technique, compared to other parts where the dancers just walked prettily or jumped around. “Wait a second,”  I said.  “Do you mean to tell me that you are disappointed over a role where the casting director trusts you to actually dance, for quite awhile, with only 4 others (Bo Peep and the 3 other sheep) on stage at the same time?”  She started to smile a little smile, and her excitement over her role grew and grew….


It reminds me of S.C. Biela’s description of the helpless sheep in his book, In the Arms of Mary.  At first thought, this sheep without a shepherd doesn’t seem to be something to be desired.  But, spiritually speaking, Jesus is moved by these helpless sheep: 


Those who recognize their own weakness and helplessness

and trustfully await everything from God

are likened to, in the Gospel, the “sheep without a shepherd.”

the relationship of Jesus to such persons is very special –

since going out of His way in meeting their expectations,

the Good Shepherd is disposed to make for them

an additional effort,

and even to perform miracles.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed., rev.[Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 59)



St. Mark’s Gospel (Mk 6: 30-34) describes Jesus wanting to get away and pray, but the people were coming in great numbers, hurrying after Him, and his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. He taught them and eventually, because of their trust and thirst for Him, even performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes for them. 




I have been struggling with my spiritual attitude lately….neglecting my prayer life, relying on myself to accomplish the tasks of the day, getting my responsibilities done, but not always with love and charity, so therefore rendering them worthless.  As I reflect on my daughter’s initial response to being a sheep, and how it transformed to one of great joy, I find a renewed desire to be ok with being the helpless sheep.  In fact, I am learning that in trying to be the strong sheep, I do not call out for Christ or attract His attention at all.  I am encouraged by the direction I find here:



Try to begin the day with the prayer of the helpless sheep:

kneel before the Lord and in the presence of the Crucified

Jesus, or before another of His images, pray with the prayer

of empty hands or with a focused gaze directed at the

Cross.  Remain in the presence of Jesus with the attitude of

the helpless sheep.  This prayer should accompany you

throughout your whole day….


…You are the last one, dragging yourself – your prayer is so poor, you are accompanying Jesus in such a terrible manner.  It does not matter!

It is critical that you put your hope totally in Him,

                        when in response to your attitude, God fills you with His presence, then,…

                        …you await everything from Him…

                        …You can also discover more fully the truth that God really loves the

                        sinner in a special way,

                        and the truth about the lost sheep whom the Shepherd carries on His shoulders.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed., rev.[Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 78)


Surely I will view the Nutcracker performance this year in a whole new light, especially watching Bo Peep and the little sheep in Act II!