Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Being Grateful for an Infected Swimming Pool


Would you rather:
 

(a)    Vomiting and diarrhea

(b)   Fever and chills

(c)    Pink eye

(d)   Headaches, muscle pain and cough

(e)   All of the above.

 
Yep, all of my 5 children came down with some or all of the symptoms during the end of spring break, plus a double ear infection for the toddler, and they, of course, overlapped their illness and school absences to last about 12 days.   We had visited my sister’s family during Easter and they had so generously provided great food and entertainment.  Unfortunately (we later discovered), the new pool guy hadn’t quite mastered his tasks.  As we drove home earlier than planned, I came to find out that all of her children came down with similar symptoms, lasting about the same amount of time.  The only thing that kept us going as mothers-taking-care-of-sick-kids were our daily texts about who was the next one to bite the dust!  Trying to keep a little humor made a big difference, but still, taking care of sick kids plus related laundry and such took a toll on me.  I became very tired, very frustrated, very weak and helpless. 

 

I have been praying for some time now to be a gentler mother, a more present-in-the-moment mother.  God provided a fabulous opportunity.  Because I was so very helpless, I quite literally had to beg Him for the strength to get through each day.  I found myself amazed at how calm I was, at the strength to persevere.  I was pretty patient and was able to comfort my children quite nicely.  “Thank you, God, for allowing me to be the mother I always wanted to be,” I prayed to Him one evening.  Of course, the very next morning I had to see who I really was (short-tempered, impatient, easily irritated), in order to give all the glory to God for “my” gentleness and patience.  I saw once again ‘who I am’ versus WHO IS.

 

After being reminded once again that conversion is a life-long process and that without God I am nothing, my young daughter started to notice all that WE (Blessed Mama and me together) were doing.  She kept thanking me for every little thing – giving out medicine or cold washcloths, doctor visits, hot soup, bubbly soda for those with upset stomachs.  She noticed all the laundry I was doing, all the disinfecting, all the stories I read.  She thanked me for each movie she watched, and the meals I prepared.  She noticed all the homework assignments I helped with, and the little errands I ran.  She noticed every little thing!  I could only smile and give the glory to God.  As she complimented me on being such a good mom, I forwarded the thanks to Blessed Mama.  I already knew how frustrated I felt on the inside, and how exhausted I felt.  I smiled, too, because I was so grateful that Blessed Mama was carrying me, and that those around me got a glimpse of her presence.  I was amazed at the gratitude that my daughter expressed, and couldn’t help but ask myself, “How aware am I of all the little things that Blessed Mama does for me?  How grateful am I?”

 

And so, it is a special grace if you discover the maternal role of Mary in your life.

 

Why do you receive this grace?

This is a mystery of God’s election.

But remember, the grace needs a committed response.

You do not receive a talent in order to bury it in the ground.

You must make use of it – in accordance with the will of God –

for your own sanctification and for the sanctification of others.

Because of this, implore Mary that your whole life

may be permeated by the awareness

that you are ‘carried by her in her arms.’

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd.ed, rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 173).

 

And so, looking at these events in the light of faith, why not be grateful for an infected swimming pool?  God must have allowed it as He saw fit, knowing it would further push me into the arms of my Mother. Is there any other place I’d rather be? 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Living with Peaceful Anxiety

It may sound like an oxymoron, but I have been living with peaceful anxiety for the last year or so. I have the symptoms of anxiety that appear on the physical level, but deep inside I have the peace of living in Blessed Mother’s Arms no matter what. The psychologist calls my anxiety an illness – my spiritual friends call it a cross – my spiritual director calls it my blessed weakness.

I imagine in the spiritual life that anxiety most often represents lack of trust, lack of faith or perfectionism or all the above! It is the consequence of fear and unrest. I know what that type of anxiety is because I lived with it for 35+ years! Watching my young adult child arrive late to get ready for the confirmation where she would be sponsoring a family friend, without a gift yet, struggling to get dressed and rushing out the door unsure where she was going to meet up with the confirmand reminded me of my own 20-something life. The difference for me was I didn’t have my mom telling me, “This is who Jesus loves, the one who runs late! Offer up the truth that you are late and unprepared and ‘messy’ for the benefit of the confirmand…that Blessed Mother will repair your hurry and open the heart of your friend to the Holy Spirit!” No, that wasn’t the type of response I received on my days of running late. My mom didn’t say a word about it that I remember, but there was a rolled eye here or there.

I didn’t need my mom to give commentary on my weaknesses. I had it all in my head already. “Get up, you are going to be late. Come on – stop being so lazy!! Oh man, you forgot to do the laundry again! You have nothing to wear. You idiot! Why are you always late? I knew this would happen! Ugh! The banks are closed now. All I have is $2.00…can I give that as a gift? Why didn’t I pick up the card when I was at the store last week? I knew I should have, now I don’t have a card! Traffic! Always traffic. If I had just left earlier. Why didn’t I call and tell them I’d be late? I want out of this whole thing, why did I say ‘yes’? Here I go again, arriving in the middle of something, feeling so embarrassed. I hate myself!”

 “If we seek peace as the word gives it, if we expect peace in accordance with the reasoning of the world, or with the motivations that accord with the current mentality that surrounds us (because everything is going well, because we aren’t experiencing any annoyances and our desires are completely satisfied, etc.), then it is certain that we will never know peace or that our peace will be extremely fragile and of short duration.”1 

Before my entrustment to Mary, I was so focused on myself that an event was no longer about the event and people it involved, it was all about me! How was I going to handle it? How was I going to look? My anxiety was because I thought I had complete “control” and “responsibility” to do the right thing or what I thought was the right thing. From the example of my parents, I wanted to be this on-time person who was prepared and in line with all the proper etiquette! I wanted to be organized and loving and happy to help. Instead, I was exhausted from my desires and I often sank into self-pity and self-loathing. I didn’t have peace.

Since my entrustment, however, MOM has gently been changing my thinking and my position toward my weaknesses. She focuses me on the fact that I am God’s beloved daughter and She wants my heart to turn away from myself and toward our merciful God and my neighbor. I desire to rely on MOM’s heart which is only attached to God. Through my entrustment, I desire to rely on Her goodwill and therefore, I live with peaceful anxiety.

“The less you concentrate on yourself, the more resistance to your wounded self you will develop.”2  

When I leave late now or find myself in an unexpected traffic jam, forget to do important laundry, or am too weary to do something loving for my neighbor, MOM and I live in the truth and WE pray together:  Lord, if you want everything that I do (my attempt at good deeds, my desires for perfection, my prayer life, my efforts of any kind) to melt in my hands, then I also desire this…Lord, have pity on me, a sinner. Give me Your grace because I am sold into slavery to sin. Even more, I do not want to be set free from sin at all. My only hope is Your mercy.”3 


1. Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A SmallTreatise of Peace of Heart (New York, NY: Society of St. Paul, 2002), 14.
2. S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), p. 172.
3. Ibid. p. 162, 184. Bold and underline emphasis added.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating God's Merciful Love

My daughter went into labor on the Monday of Holy Week. Before I could pack up and drive even one hour of the five hour journey to the city she is living in, I received the text that her baby girl had been born, just a short 1 ½  hours after being admitted into the hospital! She had been considered a high risk pregnancy and we had a scare in January of a premature delivery. Prayers ensued, and miraculously [according to the neonatal specialists], she and baby held on 10 more weeks to deliver at week 35. The baby was 6.6lbs - a healthy weight for her gestation. She remained in the hospital the next 10 days to rid her jaundice and gain the weight she lost in the first few days. She is God’s beautiful creation, just how He designed her to be.

For me, it turned my final week of Lent upside down. Coming into Holy Week, I was ready to give my full attention to the special themes of each daily Mass, and then to participate in the Triduum as we do every year. Instead, I forgot to pack my prayer book, and only attended Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday Masses. My whole schedule was rearranged as I took on helping my daughter learn how to nurse and care for her baby, for I was fortunate to be able to stay with her in the hospital room. I felt uneasy during the adjustment of “not being in control” of my prayer life, exercise routine, and meal preparation. Basically I had to put aside my expectations of what the week should be, and just be! Once I surrendered to my Blessed Mom and entrusted to her my prayer, my desire, and my awaiting for Easter, I was then able to relax and concentrate on helping my daughter. It was freeing to drop my illusions of how I believed Holy Week was to be experienced. It was refreshing to acknowledge that God is in control and I only need to follow His lead. Just as my new little grandbaby required our love and care, God showed me how helpless I am and how I need the love and care of my Blessed Mom. She helps me see the truth about myself and with her WE then can call upon the abyss of Jesus’ merciful love. She helps me see how her Son died for my sins and through this merciful act rescues me. And with this Good News I may sing this Easter Season ~ Alleluia! Alleluia!
 

"An “old” person – someone who relies on his own calculations, who lists pros and cons – limits the possibility for God to act and sets limits on His love and mercy. Constantly calculating and predicting if one will be successful or not is a trait of old age. A child grasps for the moon and believes that he will get it – and God wants to give you more than the moon. He wants to give you His kingdom, but if you do not become a child, His hands will be tied."
 
Tadeusz Dajczer, TheGift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 64.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating a Birthday on Good Friday


When I was growing up as a child in our family home, birthdays were a BIG DEAL. I received lots of attention, with birthday signs and balloons, and my parents allowed me to select the menu for breakfast and dinner, as well as dessert.  Many relatives would send cards and it was one of two times a year my parents would spoil us with gifts.  I felt special.  I felt loved.  I looked forward to the date of my birthday as soon as Christmas was over!  But just as soon as it was over, I had to wait an entire year for that special day again.

A few years ago, my birthday fell on Good Friday.  My inner child was disappointed.  “So much for a birthday”, I thought, “fasting with definitely no cake.”  I knew in my head that I could celebrate a few days later, but to me it wasn’t the same because it wasn’t the actual date of my birth.  I realized I had become so attached to a day on the calendar.  However, as that particular day wore on, and certainly over the years since, I came to realize (1) I am pretty self-absorbed and lacking in faith, (2) God had provided more graces on that day than I could have ever imagined, and (3) I am special and so very loved, all the time, not just on my birthday.  That year, my birthday landed on the day of the most significant outpouring of Love of all time.

I am amazed at how God has opened my eyes to the sacrifice and significance of Good Friday over the years.  Previously, as a child and young person, I would dread all the solemnness of that particular day of the Triduum.  The day seemed to drag on and on, and I wanted to rush through it, avoid the focus on suffering, and get through the “boring” services at church.  I wanted to jump ahead to the joy (and chocolate) of Easter Sunday.  But now I have learned so much more about Good Friday.  During each celebration of Mass, we proclaim the death of our Lord (1 Cor 11: 26).  Why?  Because by His cross we were redeemed.  Good Friday is the reconciling of us back to the Father through His Son.  Good Friday is good news for all of us:  God’s infinite mercy is made visible through the crucifixion.  A great, mysterious Love.  Over these last few years in particular, in the arms of our Blessed Mama, I have been graced with an awareness of my misery.  Yes, graced, because in seeing who I am, standing in truth about my weaknesses and sinfulness, I also see the magnitude of God’s love.  I see more deeply the gift of Christ’s sacrifice, who died because He loves me and wants so much for me.   I am more grateful.  I am more in awe.  As I grow in deeper understanding of who I am versus WHO IS (Jn 8:58) , I am more able to recognize my need for a Redeemer as well as how very real is His desire for me to find my home in His heart.   I see that I am BOTH a miserable sinner AND His most beloved child.

Looking at Christ nailed on the Cross,

you will comprehend more easily

how great an abyss of evil your sins really are.

Christ’s suffering most fully reflects this abyss.

Standing at the foot of the Cross and adoring the One

                Who took upon Himself all your sins,

you will come to know all the more fully these two abysses –

the abyss of your sin

and the abyss of God’s love toward you….

Because prayer at the foot of the Cross

deepens

the vision of one’s sinfulness

as well as faith in the love of God.

Your evil was conquered and erased by virtue of the

                redemptive sacrifice of Christ.

Through the power of the One whose love for you has no limits,

                you were redeemed.

In adoring the Cross, you will realize this ever more fully.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed, rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 13, 14).


Through the power of the One whose love for me has no limits, I was redeemed.  It was a Happy Birthday, indeed.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Finding Love


Today my husband and I had a task to fulfill up in the mountains. We set our alarms for 6:30 a.m. with the goal of leaving our house at 7:00 a.m. to head off on our 2.5-hour drive. For the third day in a row, I found myself waking up before my alarm. I was dismayed to see the clock was 5:45 a.m. When my husband looked at his clock at 6:00 a.m. I let him know I was awake and asked if we should get ready. He said, “Let’s do it.” So out the door we were by 6:30 a.m., two night owls who hate getting up early.

We weren’t sure if we’d hit a lot of ski traffic or not. Our plan was to go directly to our destination as we were meeting someone. However, there was no traffic. A restroom break was calling my husband just as we were approaching the town where a priest friend lives. I knew there was a bathroom in the Church and I had to wonder, would he be offering a Mass this Saturday morning? I couldn’t remember if he usually said it at 8 or 8:30 a.m., and we were pulling into the parking lot at 7:50.  As we entered the Church we noticed the candles were lit on the altar and there was a man sitting in the front pew. I quickly asked him if there was going to be Holy Mass. He said, “Yes.” Yes!!

There was so much joy in my heart to think we could 1) surprise our friend by being in the Church when he walked out for the Mass and 2) WE WERE GOING TO RECEIVE THE EUCHARIST on a day that I anticipated we weren’t going to be able to. Taking my joy one step further, our priest friend came out and in response to seeing us in the pew said he would offer the Holy Mass for our intentions! Treat beyond treat!

During our drive before our stop, I was sharing with my husband that I believe discerning God’s will is often more of a disposition of the heart rather than the worry if I am doing the right or wrong thing. For me, God’s will is to remember that Jesus entrusted me to His Blessed Mother. In all that I do or say, I am to remember that She holds me and will hold me all the way to Heaven. When I received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist this morning, I believed that it was only thanks to this entrustment that I was in that Church at the right time. Gratitude for this gift filled my heart and I was overwhelmed with the awareness of God’s unique love for me and my husband.

What could have been a day complaining that I woke up too early, turned into a day where I found Love!

From the depth of your misery, call upon the Blessed 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.

Once you pray in this way, Mary will lift you up into her arms and, even if you still remain heavy and resistant like a brick, she will carry you where the Holy Spirit wants to lead you. She is the one who is fully sensitive to the subtlest promptings of the Spirit. She is the one who is always obedient to Him. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 146.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Entrustment To Mary = My Rescue

My husband and I attended Sunday Mass at the Cathedral in Boise, Idaho a few weeks ago. A rather large, bald headed man came down the aisle and sat right in front of us. He had a black suit coat on over casual jeans. He seemed very agitated, looking around and moving side to side. At one point he made a fist and pounded it against his other hand. I noticed he did not pray the prayers with us. In my mind I began relating him to a possible ISIS follower. I imagined he had a long machete concealed in his coat’s sleeve. I wondered if he was there to cause terror and possibly cold blooded murder. I looked over at my husband and he seemed to be thinking the same. He whispered that he did not feel comfortable and that we should move. I told him I agreed and that we should wait until we stood up for the Gospel reading before moving. When it was time, my husband pointed to a pew across the aisle and a few rows ahead from where we were sitting. I did not like the fact we moved ahead, thinking the man then saw us moving away from him. I figured if he was a terrorist, he would take offense to this action and would single us out during a rampage. I also felt guilty for in our original pew, behind us was a mother and two young girls. I felt that maybe we were supposed to stay there to be the barrier between him and them. All of the ISIS terrorist news stories I had watched in the past few weeks surfaced in my mind creating an image of what this man could do to us, the congregation, and the priest. Needless to say I was most distracted during the Mass. We noticed the man went up to receive Communion. When we were ready to leave my husband suggested we go out a side door. When we got to the crosswalk, we turned around to see the man right behind us! We walked slowly across the street so he could get ahead of us and we could quickly slip into our car where we felt safe and sound.
 
 
 "You look at the tabernacle, but do you believe that there, barely a few yards away from you, is the One who holds your history and the history of the entire world in His hands…the One on whom everything depends? In His presence you worry about various problems and how to resolve them. When you kneel before the God of impossible things and you worry about your problems, there is a kind of falsehood in this type of prayerful attitude. You are acting as if you were God and as if you yourself had to solve everything you who are who is not." [1]
 
Upon reflection of my actions that morning and reading this passage above, I realized two things. One, during that event I depended more on my knowledge and instruction from the world’s news shows, than depending and trusting on my Lord and Savior. My omnipotent God was in the Church with me, yet I let my fear overshadow my belief that He would protect all of us there. Second, I had immediately accused this man of a life of crime just by his appearance. My judgment showed my lack of charity for my neighbor. Instead of seeing Christ in him, I chose to see Satan.
 
This event is more proof of how I walk along the road of imperfection, and need my Blessed Mother’s rescue. Only with her may I look at my misery and not be ashamed. She reminds me that Jesus came to save me through His death and resurrection. Jesus trusts that He can reveal my weaknesses to me, knowing that I am held by His mother and she will be my comfort. She will help me understand His merciful love – a Love for me, as I am. She will also help me to see her Son in those around me, to look for Him in the events of my life, and to seek Him above all else.
Thank you Jesus, for giving me your mother before you died! You knew I would be lost without her. [cf. Jn 19:26-27]
 
[1] S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 81.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Being Loved as Dr. Jekyll AND Mr. Hyde


“I love you!”  “I hate you!”

“Come here.” “Go away.”

“You’re the best mom.”  “You’re so mean.”

“Thank you!” “I don’t want this.”

  


Life with five kids has me feeling a bit beat up lately.  Our household seems very up and down, but with too much drama for my taste.  Everyone seems very needy and with my husband working crazy hours, I feel inadequate to be present to them all. I have been noticing how everything is a battle:  homework, bedtime, extracurricular activities, prayer time.  I feel like a ping pong ball, bounced around to deal with everyone’s issues or defiant moods.  Why can’t we be kind to one another?  Why all the poking each other, teasing one another?  Why can’t everyone be in a pleasant mood all at the same time, at least for a few minutes or so?!  I feel like my kids can be extremely disrespectful one minute, but then completely loving the next, acting as if our conflict never even happened – like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

 

Last Saturday, it was our turn to host some friends over from our parish.  We meet as families once a month for faith-sharing and a meal.  We had planned an activity for the children about the fruits of the Spirit.  My daughter and I went to the market and picked out twelve different fruits: pineapple, kiwi, strawberry…etc. and labeled each one with a different fruit of the Spirit.  As we were preparing for the activity I couldn’t help but notice how lacking our domestic church was in terms of the action of the Holy Spirit.  Gentleness?  Self-control?  Patience?  Not lately.  Two days later it seemed no coincidence that my daughter’s prayer book of daily reflections addressed the fruits of the Spirit.  Even my kids noticed the same theme.  So, we prayed for openness to these fruits, acknowledging our weakness and need to beg. 

Later, I was reflecting on this blatant reminder to be open to the Spirit.  At first I was sad about the missing fruits in our home, feeling that I was the primary cause, as a leader in our home.  But, in our spirituality of living in Communion with our Blessed Mama, why should I be surprised? I so often treat my Blessed Mama the same way my kids treat me: begging Her to be with me one moment, and completely ignoring Her the next.  I am grateful for my entrustment on the one hand, but then I am resuming reliance on self the next.

I can see how very much I am in need of the fruits of the Spirit, but instead of feeling discouraged, I can rejoice in the fact that our Blessed Mother is the Holy Spirit’s spouse.  Instead of being frustrated, I can stand with empty hands.  Yes, our domestic church is lacking the fruits of the Spirit.  Yes, we lack self-control and are practically suffocated by our pride, but that is the very reason we must stand with Her before our Lord, with nothing to give except our misery.  We cannot take any credit for any virtue, but perhaps with our ugliness before our eyes, we can grow in humility.  Maybe then, and only then, will the Holy Spirit descend upon us and surprise us with His gifts. 

 

“It is good for the rich man to acknowledge his poverty…Let him recognize that his hands are empty so that God can fill them.”  St. Augustine

 

Our gesture of showing empty hands can be directed toward God not only in spiritual matters….but it can also indicate our attitude of awaiting everything from God.  It should accompany us in everything we do in life:  in work, in raising our children, in our influence on others, and in prayer.  The gesture of empty hands should also accompany us when looking for the greatest of God’s gifts to come – the gift of Himself for He is Love that embraces us and in which we are immersed.    (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012], 40.)