Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, July 25, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Living with the Weeds

After a week away on vacation, and lots of watering and rain, I came home to weeds, weeds, and more weeds!!  I can’t help but be frustrated. This is the second year we’ve had this particular garden and it was so beautiful last year.  I don’t have a natural green thumb, so extra work in the garden isn’t on the top of my to-do list. However, last year, with the fresh start, we kept up. We weeded and even enjoyed it. We took great satisfaction in keeping the yard looking pretty and eating the delicious bounty.

So how has it gone this year? It just overwhelms me. I want all the beauty and deliciousness without being in charge. What are the weeds in my garden helping me to see?  I’m getting a big dose of “the truth” about my spiritual life.

I sort of thought living a spiritual life would be like a beautiful and tasty garden. Having received many drawing graces at the start of my conversion, it was easy for me to do all the spiritual practices that are taught to be good for growing in the spiritual life. Meditation, daily Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession, spiritual reading…my “garden”was getting lots of watering, fertilizing, and pruning. From the outside, it looked quite nice! I thought it would just stay that way – as if frozen in time.

I didn’t want to focus on the fact I had to keep persevering. Like in my garden, when I pull weeds without getting to the roots, I find that my spiritual problems resurface over and over again. It just overwhelms me.

But, thanks to my Entrustment, when I see the same “weeds” growing up again (for example anxiety over my spiritual laziness) I am reminded that I am NOT in charge – that I am in Blessed Mother’s arms exactly for this reason. It is because I wasn’t born with a natural “green thumb” that I was entrusted to Her care by Jesus Himself.

I really don’t like looking at the messy garden in my backyard, but I have to accept the facts – if I don’t work on it, it is going to look ugly.  I can choose to work on it or not, but I have to remember I am not alone when I garden - I can garden with Blessed Mother! I can remember I am in Her Arms and beg for graces to get the job done.

When I see the mess of my spiritual life, however, I get to look at it a different way. This situation isn’t mine to fix. Because of my entrustment, I'm learning to allow Blessed Mother to take control! She shows me my weakness and helps me live in the truth – to see who I am and who God loves. My spiritual mess is an opportunity to give God the glory for He already redeemed me from it through the blood of His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ! My ugly spiritual life helps me continue to desire a deeper communion with Christ through Mary. Maybe one day my spiritual life won’t look as bad as today – maybe one day WE (Blessed Mother and me) will get to the root of my “weeds” … but by then I will know it is only because of Mary’s humility and perseverance for my soul. Right now, I want to keep my focus on Mary’s faithfulness and to remain in gratitude for God's amazing love!



“When you entrust yourself to her, [Mary] can obtain everything from God. She can even ask for a miracle, such that you will begin to be poor in spirit, as someone who lives with the hunger for God and His holy will.” (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 132.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Jesus, I Trust In You!

Each of our four daughters has a major event happening this summer. In June our oldest delivered our second grandchild. Our second oldest is getting married this next weekend. Our third is entering the convent at the end of August. And our baby just celebrated her 21st birthday. A lot of wonderful graces abound, but as is my usual response I am an emotional wreck.
 
The secular world would consider me a “head” person, for I do a lot of thinking. In fact I over analyze, and create many trials in my imagination. So instead of just taking everything in stride, I create different scenarios of each event, some good, some bad, and some just utterly ridiculous. I can really get myself into a tizzy. When I started to feel a burning in my stomach I realized I was NOT trusting God. I was in Church and noticed the Divine Mercy painting and decided I need to use the “Jesus, I trust in You!” phrase as my prayer mantra, especially when I start to feel anxiety, stress, or sadness, for I am not good with change or major events. With change, I get melancholy looking back on the way things used to be. With major events I enjoy the preparations and the event, but afterward become overwhelmed with mourning that it is over.
 
So when my daughter is travelling the 7 hour car ride to the wedding by herself with the newborn and toddler, instead of fretting I will repeat = "Jesus, I trust in You!"
 
When we pack for the wedding which is in a town ~5 hours away and I want to worry about not forgetting anything = “Jesus, I trust in You!”
 
When we gather all of our daughter’s items needed for her entrance day and we say our goodbyes = “Jesus, I trust in You!”
 
When my baby heads to the bars for some fun = “Jesus, I trust in You!”
 
There is such comfort in these words. I want to give all of my worries, anxieties, and emotions over to Him but I have spent too many years repeating my mantra “Scaredy Cat I trust in you,” that I cannot depend on myself to repeat this prayer. I must stay in my Blessed Mother’s embrace and have Her speak the words for me. For as a mother, She had major events that went way beyond those happening in my life, and through it all She trusted in her Son and in God, as well as being an open vessel to the Holy Spirit. There is no better solution for my human weaknesses and no better rescue from being crushed by my human emotions than living in Communion with Her!
 
All human systems of security cannot be perfect since they are based solely on our plans or calculations; that is why they have to fail, and then a crisis comes. If you trust in yourself, in your abilities, in your possessions, or in people with whom you are connected, sooner or later you will have to be disappointed.
In order for our faith to be reliance on Christ and entrustment of ourselves to Him, we have to accept Him as our only sure security. Flowing from faith in Christ’s Word, complete abandonment to Him is the only adequate response to His unfathomable love for us.
Tadeusz Dajczer, TheGift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 30-31.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Freedom Via Insomnia


The last few days have been ridiculous in terms of my sleeping patterns.  I am not sure if it is related to the fact that my kids are off for the summer with a more relaxed schedule, but I have been experiencing horrible insomnia.  I try to go to sleep, but end up tossing and turning for over an hour or two.  I try to pray, but my thoughts distract me.  All of the days’ events, Facebook postings, email correspondence, conversations, weaknesses, examination of conscience, failures…etc flood my brain.  I get up and have a snack, try to watch a TV program.  I am awake for a few more hours and finally get to sleep around 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning. 

 

Because of this pattern, I am reminded of the 3:00 Divine Mercy hour.  Not sure if it applies to the wee early morning hours of 3:00 as opposed to the 3:00 in the afternoon, but I can’t help but think of an invitation to pray a chaplet or spend some time praying for an unknown intention.  I end up falling asleep reflecting on Jesus’ mercy. 

 

The good news is that I brought out my copy of the Divine Mercy in My Soul:  Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.  Every time I read the bold print lines (indicating the words of Christ Jesus Himself to St. Faustina), I am touched with a great awareness of how Christ is inviting me to know Him.  And it seems that unless I spend more time making an effort to know Him, I won’t really grow in love for Him and with Him.

 



As we celebrate our nation’s independence this weekend, I hope and pray that you and I can also spend some time in celebration of the freedom we find in our Redeemer.  Instead of beating myself up at night reliving my miseries of the day, in the arms of my Blessed Mama I can grow in contrition, and most especially, in gratitude for God’s MERCY.  In paragraph 1588 of the Diary, Christ speaks to St. Faustina: 

 

In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people.  Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world.  I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart….[1]

 

And paragraph 1572:

 

I remind you, My daughter, that as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.  In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice.[2] 

I invite us all to take up Jesus’ invitation to open ourselves to His mercy – for ourselves, for our country, for our world.  As He says, mercy is opened wide for every soul.  With it, we can obtain everything.  It is there for the asking.  Happy Independence Day!   

     


[1] St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 3rd ed.. (Stockbridge, MA:  Marian Press, 2007) 563-564 (parafraph 1588).
[2] Ibid 558 (paragraph 1572)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Positive Feelings and No Feelings

When I was first drawn into the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary I was given an abundance of easy & effective graces. I was easily motivated, single-minded, and didn’t understand when others weren’t as enthusiastic about spreading the spirituality as I was. Oh, those were the days! I was very serious about this business of doing all that I could to be of use. Little did I know I was subconsciously building the business of my pride!

It was hard to see my pride when I was being fed intravenously with positive feelings. It wasn’t until years later that I now see the tower of ME I was building. How did I finally get to know? It was in describing to my spiritual director my lack of feelings and the response of slothfulness it was leading to. For more than 10 years I had been faithful in small things regarding a job that I have.** However, over the last few months, I have started to push everything to the edge. I choose playing on my smart phone or a TV show over work. I've starting letting things go…not for a day, or a week, like I could justify in the past, but now a month, or even a year. Deadlines don’t have the power they once had in my life. I push the deadline. I accept the late fees. I “file” the paper on top of the pile that never goes away. Not only do I see this in my work, but also at home. When company comes, less gets cleaned. The words “I’m sorry, I forgot” are more commonly used.
After sharing with my spiritual director just how bad it was getting, he simply asked me, “Are you surprised by this inability to do a good job?” I had to answer truthfully – “YES! I am surprised it can get this bad!” Then he laughed at me, in that all-knowing, empathetic way that has been his custom when I reveal to myself who I really am. He helped me understand that it is a trap to think that “I am faithful.” I know I was given adequate warning through the materials, conferences, and retreats, but I inevitably have to live it before it hits home.

Yes, I thought I could be faithful in small things. I thought I could entrust to Blessed Mother in all things. But, my current slothfulness is helping me to see that even the desire to entrust to Mary is a grace and I cannot posses it.  What now? I am called to more contrition and gratitude, more begging, and a deeper awareness of God’s mercy. It can be so easy to believe I am loved when I am successful, but as the failure, it is only in and through faith that WE (Mary and I) believe it. This is an opportunity for me. WE can choose to see this event through the eyes of faith or I can try to whitewash it by reading more articles on organization and how to do better in life. WE (Mary and I) choose to live with “High Hopes!” WE choose to believe that this is who God has loved all along, and if He desires, He will allow MOM to animate me once again – but when it happens this time, maybe (I have to be honest – it is only a maybe) I will join Blessed Mother and be full of gratitude for that special grace and give God the glory for faithfulness in small things.

The first chapter of the book The Two Pillars by S.C. Biela is titled “Human Pedestals.” WE just reread it in amazement on how it applies to my current situation. I’d have included the whole chapter in this blog if I could, but it will just have to suffice to share this paragraph: 

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, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 7.)
**Even though during these years I used the phrase WE (Mary and I) were faithful together, internally, deep within, I must have believed it was “I” – alone. It was so subtle. It is still thanks to my communion of life with Christ through Mary that WE can see this truth today. She never abandons me. She is always faithful to “small” things – such as helping me to live in truth and
bringing me closer and closer to Her Son!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Acknowledging I Can Do Nothing Without Christ

Humility is so important because God is ready to give everything to a person who credits nothing to himself. If you live in the truth and acknowledge that you can do nothing without Christ, it is as if you are beckoning to Him: Come and live in me. It is only then that Christ comes. Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO. IAMF, 2012), 259-260.

I experienced this message in the above quote just last week. At work we were changing computer programs. We had to load all of our patients' information onto the new program before their appointment times. My coworker and I were working overtime. I really wanted to be a helper to her for I saw she was very stressed by the changeover. I made a decision to input the patients' new ID numbers a certain way. I went to lunch quite proud of myself believing I was such an asset to our office and to her. When I returned, my coworker informed me she had devised a "better" way to input the ID numbers and that was the way we were to do it. My ego was crushed and my pride bruised. I became dejected, but also perturbed that we have to always do it her way. I sulked as I finished my work day. At home I felt depressed thinking maybe I am not cut out for the job after all, for my nerves were fried and I was full of anxiety. Becoming emotional, I offered supplications to God, Jesus, and the Blessed Mother - to rescue me, help me, and comfort me. Then, with bestowed graces, I could look back at the day's happenings and see I had wanted to be in control, and my pride had wanted to be successful. I had not asked for heavenly help during the day as I had wanted to do it all on my own. In my Blessed Mom's arms, WE could stand in the truth admitting who I was and could ask for God's mercy.
 
The next day was a complete turnaround. The office setting was peaceful. I could see that the way my coworker had inputted the numbers was better than mine. I was surprised to have my boss give me my first performance review, and it was very positive. Christ gave me "everything" that day, but only after I admitted I could do nothing without Him. The complete clarity of this event again shows me how much I am loved for the bungler I am. Thanks to my entrustment to my Blessed Mother, God can trust me to see my weaknesses, ask for forgiveness, and with Her pick myself up and begin anew.

 

 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Focusing on My Children Being Loved, Not Improved


‘Tis the season of graduations/promotions/awards ceremonies!  Playoffs, end-of-season parties, final exams.  On the one hand, I celebrate, but on the other, I find myself getting caught up in desiring the successes of the world for my children.  As a frequenter of Facebook, I find myself nearly hyperventilating as I struggle with comparing my children to those posted on-line with all of their accomplishments.  I see children getting awards, giving speeches, making all-star teams, going off to college, getting scholarships…etc.  What’s a mother to do?

Growing up, I desired to succeed in school.  Most likely because it was the one area I had “control” over.  I wasn’t outgoing socially, was physically small for my age, and just average in terms of athletics and musical ability.  I could, however, determine how well-prepared I was for an exam, how well I paid attention in class, how much time I spent on writing a paper. I also wanted to please my parents with my accomplishments, and thus developed extremely high standards for myself.  In hindsight, I see this all linked to how I viewed my own value.  Back in high school, I was not graced with the awareness of seeing myself as a beloved child of God, loved as I am.  No, it was more about growing in my own perfection so that I would be lovable. 

good-example.jpg (320×316)What is our reaction to the disappointments in the lives of our children?  Our usual reaction is to not accept these disappointments, a response that arises from our inability to accept our own failures.  Then unfortunately, when our children undergo failures, we neglect to provide the love for which they hunger and yearn. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd Ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012], 38-39.)

It is so very tempting to go back to my old ways of thinking and viewing the world.  I am so very fortunate to be reminded, as needed, to look at the world through the eyes of faith!  I am definitely most blessed through this spirituality of communion of life with Christ through His Blessed Mama. Recently I was sharing with a priest about my struggles with my high expectations of my children.  The following insights came from our discussion:  “Yes, you have imperfect kids.  If you [Control Freak] are a repeat offender against the Love of God, why are surprised if your children fall? Instead of criticizing them, be merciful to them and to yourself.  Find new ways to convince them of the merciful Love of the Father.  Otherwise, they will become withdrawn.  Don’t tense up when things/challenges/disappointments occur, but set a certain tone about the beauty of life.  It is not about ‘improving’ your children, but encouraging a genuine relationship with Jesus!  Then, leave the results up to God.”

Yes, leave the results up to God. 

If, as mothers and fathers, we really want to rely on God, then we will do whatever it takes to fulfill in our children what is important for them.  We will want them always and everywhere to believe that God loves them forever and unconditionally, regardless of whether they are successful in a particular field or experience repeated failures…

As long as parents rely on their son or daughter to fulfill their own expectations, they paralyze the child.  The only rescue is to seek reliance on God, undertaking this battle in order to convince their child about the unconditional love of the Heavenly Father.  Then the child will be able to learn how to get up after each fall, listen to the Creator, and enter into a dialog with Him.  When the teenager becomes convinced of the unconditional love of God, he will want to seek God’s will and be obedient to Him. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd Ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012], 38, 39.)




Friday, June 6, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Loving the Truth

“What do you mean you didn’t ask him? How are you going to get a ride if you don’t ask? … When will you ask? … We told you to ask an hour ago? Your generation is crazy – ok, just text him! DON’T TALK BACK TO ME LIKE THAT!...” My voice just kept escalating. My arguments just kept getting stronger with less negotiation and more dominance. I must convince him that I am right! I MUST!!! 30 minutes later – he wasn’t convinced. 30 minutes later – I was tired. 30 minutes later – I had reason to go to confession!

"In the book, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis states that 'It is better to avert your eyes from what distracts you from your purpose. Quietly leave each person to his own opinion and avoid contentious bickering.' It is easy not to quarrel in a discussion when we see that the person with whom we are speaking is right. It is very hard, though, to leave another person with his opinion when you are convinced that the person is wrong. It would be important then to be reminded how our Almighty God treats us when we are the ones who stray away and are in the wrong. Does He pressure us or stop loving us?" (S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 83.)

Oh, how grateful I am for the Sacrament of Confession!

Days later I got to listen to a priest give a talk based on John 16:13, “The Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” This priest always has a twist on a subject that I don't see coming. He started off by asking us “Do you ever find yourself disappointed?” (Hmmm…me? Daily!) He said that our disappointments are the path to lead us to the truth, which in turn shows us what we are to love as God loves. In other words, when we are disappointed, it is a sign we are living in a lie - or that we just don't understand the truth. We often stay in the pool of disappointment instead of using it as the segue it is meant to be – to lead us to the Truth. He helped us to understand that usually we want to love the illusion of our dear ones, our circumstances, or our state in life. We often miss that when people or events disappoint us, it is God showing us the illusions we have built up. He said we have to walk from the illusion, through the disappointment, to the TRUTH. Later in his talk, the priest asked, “How do you respond when you disappoint yourself?” He surmised that we get angry with ourselves. We all agreed! He then reminded us that this disappointment in ourselves is also the chance to be led to the truth of who God loves – He loves us, as we are! Once we are in the truth, we have an opportunity to ask Christ to help us to love the truth as He does, for example, to love our dear ones or ourselves with all the truth about us.

“Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. …Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n. 3).

During the talk, the priest reminded us how Jesus told St. Peter that he would deny him (cf. Luke 36:31-35). Jesus didn’t tell Peter in a way that showed disappointment. He knew Peter. He wanted to help Peter to stand in the truth. When Peter actually denied Jesus, Jesus still loved him. Jesus was pleased that Peter now lived in the truth, and could fully comprehend who Jesus loved!


I saw after the talk how I do not imitate my Lord when dealing with my dear ones. When I had the 30 minute argument trying to convince my son about something, I wasn't imitating Christ. No, Jesus simply told Peter he would deny him. He didn't spend the rest of the night digging into Peter shaming him into being convinced he was wrong. Instead, he let Peter continue in his illusion. Then, when Peter did deny Jesus, Peter was fully aware of who he was. Since my last confession, when I want to convince someone I am right, I am repeating to myself:  "I am not right, the Truth is right." I’m trying not to worry about convincing someone else about whatever - but instead I’m trying to let go, and to Let God. To think I am right is a slippery slope that often leads me to pride. I can agree with the Truth - which is always right - but it is not up to me to convince anyone about the Truth, it is up to God’s grace.  When I see that I am the one who is in illusion, I am asking MOM to love the truth in me and for me. No doubt, Mary lives in the truth. My communion with her will be my way to love the truth too.