Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, October 31, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Facing The Tricks And Treats On The Way To Sainthood

With it being Halloween as well as All Saints Day, I thought I would share two “candy” graces that have come my way. First, a dear friend’s husband received the Sacraments of Initiation just a couple of weeks ago. Sweet graces, as he is dying of pancreatic cancer and it does not seem like he has much more time left here on earth. I have been praying Divine Mercy chaplets for his conversion, and it brought me such joy to hear he had opened his heart to Jesus and received the Sacraments at this critical stage in his life.
The other special grace was being able to visit my daughter who has entered the Order of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. My husband and I made the trip last weekend. It was nice to see her joyful face that matched the happy and content-filled letters we have been receiving since she left a couple of months ago. During the visit she remarked how much time she has in a day without being connected to a cell phone, computer, and TV. She has read a few books already about various Saints during her free time. Although we shared a teary goodbye, we felt good about her new “home” and grateful for her chosen vocation.
So as you can read, I have had a few spiritual “treats” this Halloween. But in reflecting more on All Saints’ Day - I praise God with gratitude for my entrustment to Mary, as I can always count on her to help me face the tricks and treats that come along my path on my way to sainthood.
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 of 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, OpenWide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005) 150.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Repair of My Distorted Image of God

I was introduced to the spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through His Blessed Mother about 14 years ago.  Fortunately, I was rescued from my previous path of trying to grow in perfection before I had kids, because I still struggle today with passing along a distorted image of God’s love to my children, even with my attempts to live in our Blessed Mama’s arms. 

Even though I want my children to experience God’s pure love through me, I am so often times an obstacle.  Because of my own pride, I still have high expectations about their obedience and behavior.  About 5 years ago, I prepared my children for their own entrustment to the Blessed Mother.  Although we talk about asking Blessed Mama to carry them in Her arms to help them be more united to Her Son, I am often unsure they personally see the value and the gift and the need for Her.

Recently I have been butting heads with one of my daughters.  Although sweet in nature, she has been struggling with lying.  As my natural inclination is to be a Control Freak, I struggle with continuous forgiveness and being loving as I teach her the value of standing in truth.  She continues to lie, so I must be creating some sort of fear in her to tell the truth (fear of getting in trouble? fear of a less-than-perfect image of herself? fear of surrendering her own will?).  I am in serious danger of teaching her the attitude of the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son: 

Rather than being like the prodigal son who exposed the nakedness of his misery to his father, and received generous and gratuitous forgiveness in return, I follow the path of the older son.  The older son was convinced that his father loved him because “all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders” (Lk 15:29).”….We are constantly tempted to follow the path of the older son and create a false image of God’s love….If we consider the prodigal son’s father as a symbol for God, then, by imitating the attitude of the older brother and desiring to be alright before God, we unconsciously do not want to need God’s forgiveness.  Here, then, is where the unconscious resistance to grace is born of us, and we ask ourselves, Why does God have to forgive me?  I prefer to be perfect…

…God, the Merciful Father who loves me as a sinner, slowly disappears from my life.  In His place appears a false image of God who loves me because of my deeds and merits. I trudge further along the path of the older brother – the path that closes me to the truth about Redemption….(S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2006] 23, 24, 25.)

"The Virgin Mary is a tender mother to all who love her son:
we can turn to her and rest in her love at any time"
by Elizabeth Wang, T-07930-CW © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk
How terrifying that I am teaching my children that they do not need God!  We had a moment of grace yesterday, when my daughter apologized to me for lying that morning.  She explained that she literally could NOT tell the truth in that particular moment.  She wanted to, but felt physically unable to.  I was inspired to remind her how joyful that very moment was!  She was able to recognize her helplessness and true need for God and His grace.  I shared with her that I wasn’t able to see my helplessness as anything but joyful until I was almost 40 years old!  What a gift, that God could reveal this to her at such a young age.  I reminded her about the gift of her entrustment to our Blessed Mama, and she could finally begin to see her actual need to be rescued from her pride.  I shared with her, that whenever she felt helpless again, she could simply hold out her hand and beg quietly within her heart, and ask Blessed Mama to tell the truth, with her, through her, for her.

As my daughter began to smile at this revelation, I personally grew in hope that all can be repaired.  God can work around any obstacle (me!) and love my daughter, His daughter, and reveal His mercy to both of us. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = A Real Solution to Live in Hope

“Mooom-mmmyyyy” the Little One kept calling. She had gotten herself into a stubborn pickle. She was unable to exit the car because something didn’t go exactly the way she envisioned after I pulled into the garage. When I went out to see why she wouldn’t come in, she made some crazy excuse about needing my help to do something that she was completely capable of doing. She just needed me. But, how did I respond?

As I walked back into the house (leaving her in the car still), my conscience was tugging at me. I had used a harsh voice. I had piled on top of the existing problem issues from earlier – clearly letting the Little One know that I hadn’t forgotten her tantrum from this morning. My own “tantrum” seemed to be intensifying this power struggle.

“MOOOOOMMMM” I cried in my head! I had gotten myself into a stubborn pickle! Blessed Mother began to soften my heart by reminding me what the Little One’s day was like. “I forgot my tennis shoes for P.E. again; AND, today was my show and tell,” were the first things she shared with me when I picked her up.  And then it came out she forgot her library books too! I had spent the beginning of our drive home going on about how if she hadn’t spent so much time this morning complaining about what socks she wanted to wear all this wouldn’t have happened.  Hmmm…perhaps all she needed was a big hug when we got home? But, I walked away.

I, like the Little One, started searching hard for a way out of this mess. Her solution (help me get out of the car and I will feel better) was one I was too stubborn to give in to. So I asked my Not So Little One if he’d mind playing the role of the “good cop”. Blessed Mother’s love was ready and willing in him. It worked. The Little One came in with red circles under her eyes from crying, but she was smiling now. By grace, my tantrum had subsided too, and I wanted desperately to hug the Little One.

This tiny episode had a valuable lesson for me. Because of Blessed Mother’s action through the Not So Little One, the Little One and I were able to get over our prides. I need the saints, the angels, my friends, my family to help when I am stuck and unable, on my own, to step over my pride. In a special way, I need Blessed Mother! What HOPE there is in my home now that I have a support system - this spirituality - that validates that GOD loves me as I am and there is a purpose to my life.  In addition, this spirituality helps validate that GOD loves my children just as they are and they have a purpose in this life too! We fail each and every day, but because of Blessed Mother’s arms, we can get up! My Little One can find help – she can still scream “Mom!” and I have a solution when, before, I felt so helpless. I now can yell “MOOOOMMM!” too! When I am stuck, I am not left unaided. I can be wrong and immature, but still have a place where I can be held and comforted. This is a REAL SOLUTION for all the trouble in this world:

Shortly before Jacinta went to the hospital where she was to die, she said to Lucia: "In a short time now I am going to heaven. You are to stay here and say that God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. . . . Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that they must ask them from her. Tell them that the Heart of Jesus wishes that by His side should be venerated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask for peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; God has placed it in her hands." (Message from Our Lady of Fatima)

…Imagine St. Juan Diego’s very difficult situation, and then you will know how to cling to Mary’s back and how to snuggle your head between her shoulders. It will be as if you are immersed in her so that your heart clings to her Immaculate Heart, and your heart and Mary’s heart become one. You will live in union with the Mother of God. In this way, no barriers will be able to come between your two hearts. In turn, your eyes will gradually become as if Mary’s eyes – your ears; her ears – your thoughts; her thoughts. For can the one whom Our Lady of Guadalupe takes into her arms, so that he does not become lost on the difficult path to the Only Lord, live in any other way? (S.C. Biela, The TwoPillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 38-39.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Giving Up Relying On My Bank Savings

I don't know if it is because my dad was a banker, but I have always had a tendency to put my security in our monetary savings. Being the "Scaredy Cat" that I am, has me shackled to fears of not having enough money to pay our bills. Yet, God has always been faithful in allowing us to cover our expenses.
I attended a retreat one time and the speaker said he was glad his sons did not have extra money to keep in a savings account, as he thought the boys would put their trust in the money saved instead of in God's helping hand. That struck a chord with me, as I have always put my trust in our savings, and in the extra cash I keep in our checking account, so that we have a surplus on which to depend.
Just this week my husband suggested we help our daughter with some debt she had accumulated while being out of a job. I had extra money in our checking account which I was collecting for our big property tax bill due in November. I was happy to be able to help our child, but I also had a twinge of uneasiness as I transferred the money over to her account. It was a wake-up call showing me just how attached I am to the security I place in money. Another alarm is my apprehension over my husband's approaching retirement date at the end of this year, fearing we will be limited due to a fixed income.
How do our savings serve us? It seems that they constitute an 'accumulation of manna', becoming an illusory source of security that prevents us from relying on God and His will. If we allow our reliance on these surpluses to replace our faith in God - and such is our human nature - then we are living an illusion. In contrast, when we lack savings, we are forced to live from day to day, and by necessity, we have to rely more on God. The way in which we readily rely on surpluses reveals the feebleness and fragility of our faith. Such weak faith is unable to protect us from fears and anxiety about the future.
When we gradually begin to lose our illusory reliances, which up to this point have been the main source of our security, we will be convinced that there is no need for us to have so many surpluses. Then, to our amazement, we will discover that we become happier when we are poorer. S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011) 25.
So, I have another reason to entrust myself to my Blessed Mother. She trusted in God and His will, not in worldly security. I need to allow her to lead me to letting go of my reliance on money, and to grow in trust in Her Son to take care of me and my family - as He has always done. The money belongs to God, and He has been very generous in sharing it with us so far - but even if He takes away the surpluses, it sounds like I would become happier, and that is a much better feeling than being afraid!


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating the Role of the Sheep

After auditions for the annual local production of The Nutcracker, my young daughter was anxiously awaiting the posting of the cast list.  She hoped to acquire the role of one of the party girls, or perhaps be cast in the Chinese Tea dance. As she heard that not all dancers would even get a role, she eventually just hoped to get any part.  Finally, a week or so went by and the list was posted at the dance studio.  I drove her over and she ran inside and came back after a few minutes.  She looked a bit down, and I was trying to prepare a little encouraging speech in my head, preparing for the worst. 

“I’m a sheep,” she announced, disappointed. She went on to say that it felt like a babyish part and felt, once again, like people treated her as much younger than her eleven years.  I decided to overlook her negativity and congratulated her on getting a spot in the production!  After all, she did get what she wanted, a chance to participate and enjoy all the related festivities.  As we drove home, I asked her what she remembered from last year about the part of the sheep.  As she described the role, I remembered being enchanted as an audience member by those dear sheep.  I recalled that there were only 4 sheep total, compared to the 15 or so dancers on stage for the party scene and the Chinese Tea.  I also remembered that the song went on for quite some time, 2 and half minutes compared to a minute or so for the Chinese dance, and the role required actual ballet technique, compared to other parts where the dancers just walked prettily or jumped around. “Wait a second,”  I said.  “Do you mean to tell me that you are disappointed over a role where the casting director trusts you to actually dance, for quite awhile, with only 4 others (Bo Peep and the 3 other sheep) on stage at the same time?”  She started to smile a little smile, and her excitement over her role grew and grew….

It reminds me of S.C. Biela’s description of the helpless sheep in his book, In the Arms of Mary.  At first thought, this sheep without a shepherd doesn’t seem to be something to be desired.  But, spiritually speaking, Jesus is moved by these helpless sheep: 

Those who recognize their own weakness and helplessness

and trustfully await everything from God

are likened to, in the Gospel, the “sheep without a shepherd.”

the relationship of Jesus to such persons is very special –

since going out of His way in meeting their expectations,

the Good Shepherd is disposed to make for them

an additional effort,

and even to perform miracles.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed., rev.[Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 59)

St. Mark’s Gospel (Mk 6: 30-34) describes Jesus wanting to get away and pray, but the people were coming in great numbers, hurrying after Him, and his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. He taught them and eventually, because of their trust and thirst for Him, even performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes for them. 

I have been struggling with my spiritual attitude lately….neglecting my prayer life, relying on myself to accomplish the tasks of the day, getting my responsibilities done, but not always with love and charity, so therefore rendering them worthless.  As I reflect on my daughter’s initial response to being a sheep, and how it transformed to one of great joy, I find a renewed desire to be ok with being the helpless sheep.  In fact, I am learning that in trying to be the strong sheep, I do not call out for Christ or attract His attention at all.  I am encouraged by the direction I find here:

Try to begin the day with the prayer of the helpless sheep:

kneel before the Lord and in the presence of the Crucified

Jesus, or before another of His images, pray with the prayer

of empty hands or with a focused gaze directed at the

Cross.  Remain in the presence of Jesus with the attitude of

the helpless sheep.  This prayer should accompany you

throughout your whole day….

…You are the last one, dragging yourself – your prayer is so poor, you are accompanying Jesus in such a terrible manner.  It does not matter!

It is critical that you put your hope totally in Him,

                        when in response to your attitude, God fills you with His presence, then,…

                        …you await everything from Him…

                        …You can also discover more fully the truth that God really loves the

                        sinner in a special way,

                        and the truth about the lost sheep whom the Shepherd carries on His shoulders.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed., rev.[Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 78)

Surely I will view the Nutcracker performance this year in a whole new light, especially watching Bo Peep and the little sheep in Act II!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Being Taken Off My Pedestal

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

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