Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

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.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Being Connected Through Faith

Yesterday my daughter entered the Dominican Order of Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She did not want her dad and me to make the trip, as she wants us to come in October instead when we can have two visitation days with her. As a mom, it was hard for me to let her go on her own. But God took care of her, and me. My husband’s sister lives just minutes from the convent. She was able to pick up my daughter from the airport, keep her overnight, and attend the entrance ceremony the next day. She took pictures and I was able to see how beautiful the chapel is, and see my daughter during the ceremony. The Sisters also posted pictures on Facebook so I could see the other Postulants that will be starting this journey with her.
I am thankful for such consoling graces, as it is a bittersweet experience to have her leave. We are very grateful for her vocation, and couldn’t ask for a more perfect “spouse”, but our human side has us family members a bit sad about the loss of constant contact with her. She was my best “texter”, so I will miss her daily messages. She has a wonderful sense of humor, so I will miss her wit. She is a kind soul, so I will miss her care and concern. I am envious of her new “family” who will get to experience these special traits now on a regular basis.
Even though she will have limited contact with me, I do feel we will be connected through receiving the Eucharist, Adoration, and prayer. Spiritual graces seem to transcend time and space, and just at daily Mass today I felt a joy receiving the Host knowing that she too, receives this special grace. Looking at Jesus in the Monstrance will be looking at her chosen spouse, so will unite me again to her.
The Order’s motto is to Jesus through Mary. So we will also bond through the Blessed Mother. Being a mom and not free to share in her concerns/trials, it is very comforting knowing she is in an order that entrusts themselves to our most blessed Mother, who will, and has always, taken special care of her.
So it is no coincidence that God has me reflecting on the section in the spiritual book that I am reading about accepting our sufferings with joy. I have had a lot of tears the past few weeks, but have called them happy tears, for how can I begrudge my daughter’s choice to be Christ’s bride?
“Let us go even further and say that happiness and suffering are inseparable. Some fear to make such an affirmation, because the world would look upon them as fools. How can we say that happiness and suffering are inseparable? Is it not just the other way around? It is not I who say this, but Jesus in the Beatitudes. Open the Gospel to the Sermon on the Mount. [Cf. Matt. 5:3-12] What does He tell us? Blessed are those who weep; blessed are the poor; blessed are those who suffer. There, then, is the affirmation that true happiness and suffering are inseparable.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Picturing My Kids as Future Saints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Desiring to Be Merciful

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Discovering My Vocation

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