Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Entrusment to Mary = Believing In A Love That Brings Joy


I attended a retreat a few weeks ago. During a conference the priest mentioned that “joy” comes from knowing you are loved. I had been feeling pretty “joyless” lately so this topic peeked my interest. The priest went on to say that if we truly believe God loves us for who we are right now with all of our flaws and weaknesses, then we should have an inner perpetual joy. He suggested reflecting on how children are full of joy which comes from knowing they are loved by their parents.
 
There was my answer to why I have spent my adult life without this perpetual joy. I can’t believe God can love me for who I am right now. Once I am more holy, and I have overcome my sinfulness, and I am closer to being perfect, then I can start believing I am loved. I also realized I do not unconditionally love myself, and only feel a fleeting joy when I have accomplished a temporal or spiritual feat.
 
So once again I see how God has rescued me from my skewed image of His love with my entrustment to my Blessed Mother. For I may turn to her with this new awareness, and with her, WE can accept God’s love for “who” I am now, instead of who I think I need to become.  With her, WE can let go of my belief that I have to earn my right to be joyful…and just be joyful!
 
"Mary is continually with you and takes care of your integral development. In a special way, she takes care of your spiritual growth. She is Mother and Teacher of your interior life.

Her deepest desire is that Christ may grow in you in a way that there is no longer any place in your heart for yourself but only for Him and for His will.

The most important element is your openness to the love of God – the attitude of abandonment, simplicity, and the humility of an evangelical child."
S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 169.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Letting God Love Me This Lent


I was introduced to the idea of spiritual direction about 15 years ago.  I had been grieving over miscarriage after miscarriage, begging God for a child, frustrated with my lack of control over my greatest desire - to be a mother.  I did not ask for spiritual direction.  I did not seek it.  It was a gift.  My mother arranged a meeting with a certain priest for confession, and encouraged me to be open as this priest was known for adding spiritual direction within the Sacrament.  It was the beginning of a transformation, as I have been blessed with this priest as my spiritual director for all these years. 

God knew what my soul needed before I did.  He generously provided and continues to provide His grace through His instrument (the priest), surprising me with His wisdom and helping me to look at the events of my life through His eyes.  Trusting that this priest is an instrument of Christ Himself, I find myself pouring out in great detail my struggles, my fears, my joys, my frustrations, my questions.  I am honestly surprised with some of the answers I receive and the answers bring me such joy, reminding me that God’s ways are not my ways. The direction reminds me to take a rest from over-analyzing my ways. I am continually shown how when I do not discern His will, I can be an obstacle to God using me to share His love.  Thanks to God's grace, I can stand in truth in the Sacrament of Reconciliation with someone who knows my soul.  It’s funny, I can spend so much time talking with this priest while confessing my sins, seeking guidance, asking questions, only to discover I have nothing much to say when we walk out of the reconciliation room.  I really trust that it is Christ reaching out to me in those moments, that the priest is truly His instrument.

I am a shy and introverted person, and many times spiritual direction is provided on the phone.  I put off scheduling meeting times for various reasons: I don’t want to bother the priest, I haven’t made any “progress” since our last talk, I don’t know what to talk about.  But I find that God continues to seek me out, as many times, the priest will email me, asking how I’m doing.  Or he’ll happen to be in town.  Or my mom will suggest calling him about a certain issue I may be struggling with.  I truly believe Christ is expressing His great love for me when He is present in the guidance I receive.  I feel so humbled that this gift was provided for me by God Himself.  I know many search for a spiritual director and are unable to find one.  God shows His love, as He searches me out.

As a Control Freak struggling against tendencies toward perfectionism, I am tempted to distrust God’s love for me.  And I am finding out that the less I accept God’s love for me, the less I am able to share it with my loved ones.  I find myself loving so conditionally, criticizing weaknesses of my loved ones, holding them to high standards.  I find myself dissatisfied with myself, and so I know that God uses spiritual direction to remind me of His great Love for me.  A favorite Scripture verse of mine is 1 Jn 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”  I tend to ignore Him, reject Him, distrust Him.  This Lent, my hope is that I will allow God to love me.  Within the arms of my Blessed Mama, I ask for Her grace to help me accept God’s pure Love for me.  God recently arranged a phone call with my spiritual director, and I discussed my thoughts about what I could be doing for Lent – giving up sugar, praying more, going to more daily Masses…etc.  He reminded me that Lent meant “slow down”.  Instead of my grandiose plans, he suggested that I be more present to Jesus loving me, pouring His mercy upon me.  This Lent, I can ask myself, to where am I rushing and why? Instead of rushing I can think of ways to slow down.  I am reminded to relate everything to Redeeming Love.  Quite simply, I can SIMPLIFY this Lent.   
I cannot give what I haven’t accepted.  So, in the arms of Our Mother, I ask Her to help me let God love me (as I am).

Monday, February 9, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Learning to See with the Eyes of Faith

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I believe that when we die we will get our new eyes from which we see Jesus; we see Mary; we see the truth about ourselves in the Light of God’s mercy.  Meanwhile, before our death, we have the opportunity to grow in faith to such a degree we can begin to see God’s action in our lives as if we had those new eyes already. It is a road, and I believe it is my road with Blessed Mother that is helping me to see things through the eyes of faith.

Today we had the reading from the book of Job. Our pastor reminded us about the story of Job. How he was an example for us of what it means to persevere in the midst of trials. The timing of this reading was amazing to me because in my life I see nothing but crazy trials being given to my dear ones. Things I couldn’t imagine happening are now happening in the lives of those nearest and dear to me. A priest friend often reminds me not to ask “why?” when confronted with these trials, but rather to ask “what for?” Job must have wondered, “What for, LORD?” And the answer was given to us in the Scriptures – he was given the trials to be an example for us that GOD alone is GOD and GOD alone suffices.


I find myself asking, what does that look like in my life? 

For example:  I came home from a vacation a few weeks ago on the day of my child’s birthday. I wanted to celebrate with him, so my husband and I picked up cake and ice-cream on the way home from the airport. We were in good moods, ready to surprise him. When I arrived home, however, I discovered dirty counters and dishes that were there when I had left 5 days before. My spirit of joy quickly turned into a spirit of resentment. I wasn’t able to keep from verbally attacking my birthday boy when he walked into the house after us. Were my reprimands so important that I needed to spoil the birthday celebration? My husband didn’t think so! By focusing on my own feelings, I allowed that negative spirit to spill onto everyone in the house.

The next day, the counter was still a mess and I was still upset. Even though I had taken my resentments to the altar at Mass that morning, I wasn’t able to control my reactions when I saw my son again. Only this time, I allowed my assumptions to come out – I made a huge generalization and said “you did nothing while we were gone!” Oh, my, my, my…I fell right into the trap! Now, I forced my son to share how he spent an entire afternoon doing laundry from a fruit fly infestation in the bathroom hamper. He had done something – and he hadn’t wanted to complain about it – but my pressing and pressing pushed his pride into desiring rescue.

What for, Lord?

This simple trial got me to remember I am not GOD and I cannot rely on anyone other than GOD. 

Who am I? Figuratively, I am the Ebola virus, ready to destroy all spiritual good GOD gives me. But, more importantly, who is Mary? Mary is the direct action of GOD in my life. She is holding me exactly because I am full of pride, lack trust, and, if left on my own, would never learn from my past mistakes. Before my entrustment, I would have justified my resentments and my reactions, and I would have solicited the same support from my husband and friends – thereby keeping myself at a distance from God’s mercy and, in a way, diminishing the spiritual lives of my dear ones. Since entrustment, I see the whole thing differently. I see that GOD allowed this event. Unlike Job, I do not persevere in faith; I am quick to fail when presented with adversity. I am not shown this to become discouraged, though, but rather to make use of this very weakness. When I use my weakness to climb back into the arms of Blessed Mother, She can obtain from God the transformation of my spiritual misery into a happy fault. She is able to immerse me once again in the Redemption of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And when I beg for repair, She is the figurative antiviral drug, obtaining the graces to heal all my (and Her) dear ones I wound along the way.

A child of God being led by Mary is certain that God loves him in spite of the abyss of one’s evil. He believes that the abyss of God’s Love exceeds in an infinite way even the deepest abyss of human nothingness and of sin. (S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 162.)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Entrustment To Mary = What To Await From God


“We obtain from God exactly what we await from him.” [1]

This quote from St. Therese of Lisieux has had me reflecting on what I await from God?
 
I can imagine what I “should” await from Him, and that is goodness, love, mercy, hope, peace, joy, and miracles. But reverting to my old ways of thinking I see I mistakenly await justice, punishment, negative consequences, doom, and gloom. Because I am not perfect I figure I do not deserve good things to happen. Because I cannot give God a statement of good works, desires, deeds, I figure I have not earned His special bestowals. Even though I have experienced event after event to prove this theory wrong, I still get stuck in its mixed up rationale.
 
For example, with my daughter’s high risk pregnancy I don’t believe that we deserve the miracle of God keeping the baby safe in the womb until she is full term. Nor do I completely trust in God’s care of her if she were to be born prematurely. Although I want to, my stupid way of thinking goes back to me not deserving such special graces for I see how quick I am to deny God’s omnipotence, so why would He want to help such an unbeliever!
 
I have been told that the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through the Blessed Mother is the path of imperfection. This road of imperfection sounds good to me as I see daily how I never will be perfect. I see how lost I would be without my entrustment to Blessed Mom to rescue me from my old behaviors and thought patterns which I return to in a vicious cycle.
 
Jesus said he did not come for the healthy but for the sick, and that He wishes to be my Divine Physician. Only with Blessed Mom will I learn to believe this truth. Only with Her will WE shed my desires for perfection and become satisfied in being loved, forgiven, and accepted as a wayward soul.
 
On the road of imperfection, I may never be able to admit my nothingness as I am called to do. Therefore, I entrust myself each and every day to my Blessed Mom. Through my entrustment, WE can await everything from God, and in doing so, obtain everything from Him as well. WE then can joyfully await a beautiful baby girl knowing that God will take care of her and her mom, giving them all that they will need according to His divine plan.
 
 
 [1] S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 70.
 
 


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Learning How to Pray All Over Again


When my kids were little and I was balancing a newborn, toddler, and preschooler, people would comment to me how easy parenting was at these young ages.  Sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, I would inwardly completely disagree and look forward to the days when my children were more independent. 

Now, though, I see the truth in those comments.  Instead of worrying about whether everyone had been fed, bathed, and interacted with, I worry whether my older children are embracing their faith, being good friends to their peers, and making good choices that will affect their future.  I noticed that as a parent, I, too, was protected and carried.  Being so exhausted all of the time, I prayed constantly, sought out the Sacraments, celebrated little joys and didn’t pay much attention to distractions like social media and shopping, for which I had neither time nor money to address.  Sleep deprivation and social loneliness were my spiritual benefactors:  they pushed me straight into the arms of our Mother, who carried me to Our Father. 

Now, I struggle with making time for prayer.  I get a decent night’s sleep, but I am restless in my spiritual life.  I am so distracted in my prayer life, or avoid it all together, and am tempted to rely on myself instead of our Lord.  I become easily discouraged by my sinfulness, especially in the areas of mothering, and am frustrated that I am not making “progress” in my spiritual life as noticed by still confessing the same sins over and over.  I am lukewarm and recently felt the need for something to polarize me:  to make me choose between hot or cold.  To drive me into the loving arms and a continuous conversation with our Savior.

In the midst of birthday party preparations for my young daughter, I received a phone call from my mother.  Thinking she was calling to wish her granddaughter a Happy Birthday, I was quick to pass off the phone.  My mother cried out that she had called to talk to me, and went on to share the news of my father’s chest pains and imminent cardiac procedure.  Whoa.  Here it is, I thought.  Here’s God calling out to me for deeper union.  Although concerned, I didn’t feel fear, which is my usual response.  I asked her to keep me updated, and went about the birthday celebration a bit detached, and yet still in the moment.  No longer was I worried about a perfectly clean house before our guests arrived, or whether we had any party games to keep our guests entertained.  I interacted with everyone, but felt connected in prayer with our Lord. 

A few hours later, my mother called again, to tell me that it looked like God didn’t have plans for my father to come home.  What????!  She sounded so calm, and so grateful that I was immediately confused.  My heart sank, thinking he didn’t make it through the procedure, but then she explained that “home” actually meant “Home”, meaning eternal life.  God did preserve his life here on earth.   And so I, too, felt immense gratitude, to be able to enjoy my father’s presence here for a while longer.  But I was struck with the realization that I was not ready to handle funeral arrangements and grief, for change and loss.  I am not strong enough nor faith-filled enough to handle a life-changing, polarizing event. 

So where do I go from here?  

Admit That You Are Incapable.

When standing in the truth, you ought to admit that you reduce the time devoted to prayer because you do not know how to pray, and furthermore, at times you do not even want to pray.  Usually, it is difficult for you to dedicate even a fragment of your time to God.

In spite of what you have discovered, try to talk

                                sincerely with Jesus:

 

                Lord, You see that I do not know how to pray.

                You know, Lord, that I do not have the attitude of the tax

                collector –

                contrite and trusting in Your Mercy.

                I realize that every moment my thoughts are far from You.

                Nevertheless, I believe that You will not reject me.

                I believe that in Your presence

                my seemingly useless efforts have value.

(S. C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd. Ed, rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 18-19).

 

For now, I am recognizing my need for prayer and yet my unwillingness to cooperate.  I am asking our Blessed Mother to teach me how to pray.  To begin simply as suggested above.  To not doubt God’s working within my soul in new ways and new seasons.  To await His miracles as I grow in acknowledging the depth of my misery and allowing Him to love through me and in me.  I suppose that’s “progress” after all.

 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = The Fruit of Imperfection

As much as I was trying hard not to let it happen, anxiety started creeping into my Christmas break as January got closer and closer. I knew January was going to be a busy month work-wise and kid-wise. I was fighting hard not to lose the joy of Christmas, but as usual, when “I” fight something “I” eventually lose!

To battle the obvious scenarios I had in my over-analyzing brain, I started praying. I prayed every day that I wouldn’t let January get me down, that I wouldn’t experience anxiety and late nights and stress. It seemed that as soon as I left the church, I would be talking to someone and hear myself saying how stressed I was. Ah, ye of little faith! Each time I admitted to my anxiety, I was made aware of my lack of trust. I didn’t believe my prayers would or could be answered by my All-powerful God. I went to confession on just this point.

But, there was something else Blessed Mother wanted me to see about myself. It wasn’t only my lack of trust, it was the more deeply hidden truth that I want to be perfect. I was praying not to be stressed – but why? What was my goal? Was I seeking God’s glory in my prayers? No, I was seeking a way to mask my weakness. It was so subtle, but my prayers were actually using the “spirituality” against itself. I was “admitting to my weakness” (anxiety, lack of trust, self-centeredness…) but not so that God’s mercy could embrace me. No. My goal was to be relieved of my weakness so that I wouldn’t be humiliated by it. I was begging to climb the road of perfection!

The road I am on, through communion of life with Christ through Mary, is NOT the road to perfection. It is the road to childlike trust and humility. I am specifically on this road because I am imperfect; I am a sinner; I am full of pride! I tried on my own for years to conquer my weak tendencies and I failed. Then, the words from Scripture touched me very deeply:  “Behold, your mother.”  My heart was opened toward this new way for me – a way in which Blessed Mother picks me up and carries me toward her Son.


It should have been no surprise to me that I was manipulating my prayers, because I still am imperfect. I still am a sinner. I am still full of pride. My surprise confirms this! But, the surprise exposes once again my BLESSED WEAKNESS that is my ticket to the Arms of Mary. This reminder is the fruit of my entrustment. When I start to climb the hills toward perfection, it is absolute grace that knocks me down and reminds me who I really am. Thank you Blessed Mother for rescuing me – all praise and honor be to my Lord, Jesus Christ!


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 blesses 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.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Entrustment To Mary = Starting The New Year By Celebrating Our Blessed Mother

God has enlightened me this year into recognizing how special it is that our Catholic Church starts the New Year off celebrating the feast day of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God … Mother of us all. It is a great reminder that she is our Mother and she indeed wants to take care of us!
 
For my family 2014 was a rollercoaster of emotions. To recap the past 6 months: we had my husband’s mother pass away, a granddaughter born, a daughter enter the convent, another daughter get married, pregnant, and served divorce papers all within 3 months -  and now is having a high risk pregnancy that could lead to a preterm delivery; my other daughter’s family received notice they have to move across the U.S. for her husband’s next work project; I strained my wrist in October and it still hasn’t healed;  and my husband officially retired at the end of the year.
 
The only way I am surviving this multitude of graces is through my entrustment to Blessed Mom, allowing her to carry me through my sadness, anger, and despair.
 
I have shared how my daughter entered the Dominican Sisters, Mary, Mother of the Eucharist Order. This chosen vocation is a beautiful grace, yet, I still grieve the loss of having her close-by and being able to talk to her whenever I want. Feeling the loss especially on Christmas Eve, I was pleasantly surprised on Christmas morning to see her on the cover photo for the Order’s Facebook page. It was a most special present, for which I thank Blessed Mom. I believe she understood my motherly sorrow and interceded for that consoling grace.
 
I have felt anger with the events surrounding my daughter’s marriage dissolution. I have been unjustly accused and demonized by her husband. Once again I have had to flee to my Blessed Mom’s arms for she is also understanding in these matters. We have received graces showing us the need for compassion for this young man who in our eyes is emotionally wounded. These graces have helped diffuse my anger and resentment toward his actions.
 
With the risk of my daughter having a preterm delivery I have had a feeling of despair. As a mother, I am overwhelmed with what she has had to face during the past few months, and this additional trial seems almost too much to endure. But again I think of how God does not give us anything we cannot handle, as long as we bear the burden with Him. So, I climb into my Blessed Mother’s arms and entrust the trial to her, and with her WE can ask God for His merciful rescue.
 
Blessed Mother is really a SUPER MOM, always ready to carry us to her Son, so we may be loved, rescued, and consoled. Celebrating her on January 1st is a great way to remind myself how only through my entrustment to her will I be able to face the graces that lay ahead in this New Year!
 
“The heavenly Mother is continually ‘at the disposal’ of each of her children; she is disposed to help every time they call upon her." S.C. Biela, InThe Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005),168.
 
 
“That Mary ‘carries us in her arms’ is an objective truth that does not depend on your faith. The words of Christ’s testament pronounced on the Cross are, in fact, an objective truth on the maternity of Mary in relation to all men. Her maternity does not depend on our recognition of it nor in our belief in her. Independently, whether or not you believe it, whether or not you remember it, you are ‘in the arms of Mary’." ibid, 171.