Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

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!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Realizing that Not Everything is “Okay”

The Little One started school a few weeks ago. She started a full-day kindergarten program. I am happy to report that she is enamored with her new teacher and wakes up eager to return to the classroom each day. You can imagine how exhausting a full-day program is for her. One night she fell asleep before dinner at 6 pm and didn’t wake up until the next morning. She is learning a lot and adapting to the new responsibilities. However, she is not always able to remember what she has to do, and when. While this was a major stress for me as a little girl, the Little One likes to say “that’s okay” each time she realizes she missed a deadline or forgot her PE shoes.

At first I was pleased with her lack of stress and ease at dismissing her “failures.” I thought perhaps the Blessed Mother was trying to show me how I should live and look at things from that angle. But, after a week of daily “that’s okay!”s I started to get concerned. Something wasn’t sitting well with me in what was starting to sound like a flippant response. I tried to explain that it isn’t really okay to forget our library books each week and that we are required to bring our PE shoes for every PE class. When it is her turn to bring in an item for “show and tell” then she should bring an item on that day, not another day.

Because I often think like a human being and not like God, I took the matter to spiritual direction. What a grace! Through the instrument of the Spiritual Director Blessed Mother was able to help me see through the fog! The issue isn’t that the Little One is forgetful; the issue is that she doesn’t see the need for contrition in these events. She wasn’t seeing the need to ask me to help her to remember, to help her to do the best she can do.

No doubt, Blessed Mother was trying to show me how I should live and look at things through this little event with my daughter. Blessed Mother wanted me to remember her rolemy life and that I need Her to help me to remember what is important and what I need to do each day. Right away an example came to my mind - daily Mass. Over the years I have come to know that living daily by the Eucharist is a top priority in the spiritual life. However, lately I have been saying to myself, “it’s okay,” when I choose not to attend some days. The issue isn’t always did I attend or not attend…the issue is do I ask for the graces from Blessed Mother to remember to hunger for the Eucharist each and every day? Do I have contrition when I don’t make it to Holy Mass when perhaps I could have made it there, if it had been my TOP priority and/or if I had asked Mary to help me remember?

Nothing compares to the purifying and healing action of the Eucharist. There is no other cure like it for our spiritual diseases. When you await the fruits of the Holy Mass you are already purified to a certain extent because you meet with the Eucharistic Christ through faith and hope….
At the beginning of the day, during your morning prayer, you can entrust yourself to Jesus, through Mary. During this time, you may ask Mary herself to immerse you in the Redemptive Sacrifice of her Son. If you see that you lack good will and you do not want to live by the Eucharist, ask Mary to await the Holy Mass in you, ask her to thirst and quest for the Lord in you, and ask her to live with a hunger for God according to the example of her Son….If you do not ask for her intercession, then how can she help you? She does not want to take away your freedom. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 76 and 77.)

At night for prayers we are helping the Little One to say her “sorries” for when she forgets to ask us for help. In addition, we are teaching her to ask for Mary to help her remember for the next day. As for me? Oh, Blessed Mother, be my contrition for today’s messes, and thank you for hungering in me and for me for my daily Bread!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Being Taken Off My Pedestal

My faith sharing group started up again last night. The theme was Human Pedestals and how God loves us so much to the point of knocking us off our self-contrived ones so to save our souls to be with Him for all of eternity. In reflection, I remembered back to 2nd grade being knocked off a "good student" pedestal I had constructed for myself. Our teacher was going around the room making comments on the personalities of each student and their good and bad behaviors. I figured she would not have any negative comments to make about me, but when it came to my turn she pronounced that I was a busy-body, and talked to my neighboring students too much during class time. I was crushed. Now I can see it was God's love that had toppled my pedestal. The humiliation had let me descend so to see that I was on the same level as my fellow classmates who I wanted to judge as lower than I. God was saving me way back then, from losing sight of Him with the elevation separation I was creating.
I have erected several pedestals during my life using my family, work, Church. In every aspect of my existence I have put myself above others at some point, believing I am a special "somebody" deserving praise and recognition. But God has always showed His loving mercy by collapsing these platforms in order to save me from my own self-interest. A priest friend suggested I keep my pedestals low to the ground so when God has to knock me off it won't hurt so bad!
This image of pedestals has helped me visually see how quickly I can build myself up in the temporal world, and the image of crushed edifices helps me see God's loving rescue. How hopeful it is to know He won't let me remain far away from Him on my self-absorbed throne, and that He gives me His Mother to pick me up out of the rubble and set me again on level ground.

Our contrived greatness - our self-invented pedestal - has nothing in common with the truth. It is as phony as stilts on which a circus performer shows off in front of an audience.
How we perceive ourselves demonstrates that all of us are, to a greater or lesser degree, seated on some kind of pedestal. Contrition is what demolishes the fictional pedestal and the illusions that prevent us from standing before God in the truth. In order for contrition to become truly deep and authentic, a person must stand in the truth - on the ground. A person must see himself as he really is before God. He must descend from his pedestal with a contrite heart. If an individual resists this, however, then the pedestal must be demolished.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Rescued From My Pride Over Chips & Salsa

After acting so very childish tonight, I was amazed to read the following words:

Just as she did in the case of St. Juan Diego, the Blessed Mother places you too on her back and carries you through your life as someone defeated by your own pride.  While carrying you on her back, she unceasingly adores her Son, Jesus Christ, your Savior who constantly blessed both her and you whom she carries as her beloved child.  You should not forget why you are being carried:  you lost the fight; you could not manage on your own.  Without her you would have never advanced from the point of defeat. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2006],  37).

I had been so very fed up with the at-the-drop-of-a-hat temper tantrums of my three year old that I threw one of my own.  These past few weeks with everyone back at school has worn me out, and it seems this introvert (Control Freak) has yet another strong willed child.  As soon as his third birthday hit, he forgot how to use his words and has replaced most conversation with full-blown screaming.  Not good in the car, not good at the dinner table, not good at bedtime, and at most other moments throughout the day.  So, when my husband so considerately offered to bring home dinner tonight, I texted our Chipotle order to him as he had requested.  As we unpacked our meal at the dining room table, I noticed he had forgotten the one item that I personally was looking forward to – the chips!  After the last few 100 degree days and nights, I had been looking forward to a cold diet coke and chips and salsa.  Needless to say, I overreacted with criticism and disappointment at his honest mistake and made a fool out of myself in front of my children.  So embarrassing to admit, but I actually left the house to go back to buy the chips myself.  Sad to say, but not quite the good example I had in mind to teach my kids about gratitude!
"The Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, prays for us continually, and helps those we entrust to her care" 
by Elizabeth Wang, T-01513-OL, © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk"  

While driving in my car, I felt so very frustrated.  I knew it really wasn’t about the chips.  I had been feeling so tired and unappreciated by everyone in my household and was throwing a little pity party for myself.

But - mostly I was frustrated by my pride.  My pride pushed me out the door to buy the chips and show my kids how unappreciative I was of their father’s generosity.  My pride was separating me from a family dinner.  My pride was feeding feelings of entitlement to some quiet time and yet, I couldn’t shake it.  I really didn’t even want the chips anymore, but I felt so lost I didn’t know where to turn.  It is like the quote above:  I was defeated by my own pride.  At that point, I was completely helpless and couldn’t advance without Blessed Mama.  I didn’t recognize her intervention until I reflected on that quote.  Because of her, I now see that I was able to come home with ice cream to celebrate her feast day of the Most Holy Name of the
Blessed Virgin Mary.  On her back, I was able to apologize to my husband.  I think she picked me up and placed me there.  I don’t think I was even able to climb up there…she had to do even that for me.  And I am so very, very grateful. 

I see how ridiculously weak I am, complaining about chips.  But God revealed to me once again my need to be rescued from my own pride, especially in the ordinary, everyday events, and sent in my Mother to help.  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, September 5, 2014

Entrustment to Mary Does NOT = Being Free from Trials

A common misconception I’ve run across is that if you are entrusted to Blessed Mother it means your life will begin to look prefect and trials will cease to exist. I lived with that way of thinking for a long time. When bad things happened in my life, or to those around me, I would think “if only I stayed in MOM’s arms more,” or “if only that person entrusted themselves to Mary.” But is this really true? Am I really running from Mary’s arms when I encounter trials? Is it Mary’s role to work like a magic genie in my life, taking away all bad things?

Looking at the life of St. Peter this week has helped me to realize that God is still with me when I fall or fail at something. In fact, He even predicts and warns me when it might happen. Last Sunday’s Gospel was when Jesus had to say to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”(Mt 16:23). Jesus was right there with Peter when this happened. Peter faced our LORD and thought as a human being. At the last supper Jesus predicted Peter would deny him…and Peter did. Wasn’t this the grace for Peter? Wasn’t Jesus, who loved him fully, trying to help Peter live a deeper calling?

Meditating on Peter’s journey is helping me to realize that Jesus and Mary do not have the same expectations of me that I have. I am the one who lives in this illusion that I won’t fall or experience injustice as a Christian. This illusion is why I am constantly disappointed and anxious about my life. This week, I have several emergency-type deadlines and in addition, I am empathizing with multiple friends whose lives are truly in trial mode. Everything in me wants to allow myself to wallow in anxiety and justify lethargy as a solution to escape the responsibilities. But to be a Christian isn’t about removing it so I can function. It is about functioning while living it. I’m discovering that living in the Arms of Mary isn’t about being free of these things; it is about learning to know myself and coming to expect my falls and the injustices all around me. It is about becoming small enough to call out for the miracles and rely more on Christ’s power than my own.

"Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk’” (Acts 3:6).

Peter spent three years with Jesus, who helped Peter learn how God truly loved him for who he was, not for any false perfection. In turn, Peter became convinced of this truth so that he realized he was never apart from Christ, which in turn enabled him to give Christ to others. I believe this is my journey too. My entrustment to Blessed Mother is helping me to live in the truth of who I am and who God really loves – and more importantly, HOW God really loves. I don’t think I can truly desire pure love for others until I experience this true love – and that is what Blessed Mother’s arms are helping me with. My entrustment is helping me to utilize my trials for a greater good – to reach out to others that they might know THE True Love.

"During our storms and our trials of faith, we must also never forget about the continuous presence of Mary who is close to us as the Mother of our abandonment to God. Let us ask her to allow us to share in her abandonment to God, so that we may stop trusting ourselves, things, and people, and that we may perceive the continuous presence of her son who is close to us and is our only security. We ask Mary that, following her example, we trust exclusively in the Lord: Mother of Great Abandonment, I offer myself to you without reservation – to the end." (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 125-126.)