Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Seeing the Need for a Spiritual Director

I'm typing in the car on a road trip with my husband and kids, ranging in age from 3 to 17. The youngest one (her name will be "Little One" in this blogis currently asleep in the car seat - what bliss!  Nothing like a sleeping child to get those extra miles behind you.  All in all she's been a good traveler. 

Last night after stopping for dinner, I was encouraging the Little One to get into her car seat in a hurry. She wanted to do it herself, as is expected from a 3 year old. I grabbed her arm to help her up and I guess I wasn't gentle enough and accidentally hurt her arm. She started crying. It was a cry that was doubled by exhaustion and made you feel really guilty.  I apologized and gave lots of kisses, but I had no influence on the tears. Then, out of the blue, she stopped and said "My brother told me not to cry in the car."   And, then, she stopped crying. I was amazed at how willing she was to follow her brother's advice.  

This made me reflect on how absolutely wonderful it is to have a spiritual director. Look at how much easier it was for the Little One to stop crying when she remembered she had made a "promise" to her brother not to cry. She was motivated not by her own idea, but by the advice she received from someone she trusts. 

This is true for me too. Because of living in Blessed Mother's arms, I desire to view my spiritual director as Her special instrument to guide me and help me find the shortest way to union with Her Son. I don't trust my own thoughts on how to deal with certain situations, so I bring my "misery" to my spiritual father and I await the next move. Maybe I'm told, "the next time you find yourself crying, ask yourself, are your tears because your pride was wounded, or because you wounded Christ?"  If I remember this when I'm crying next, then this advice becomes a tool that helps me get closer to the truth about myself. If by grace I see that my tears were flowing over my wounded ego, then I can ask Blessed Mother to change my motivation. I can desire to stop crying for myself. [1]

It's not always easy to follow advice that goes against my own will. However, in Blessed Mother's Arms, I have the hope that She will mold me and soften my heart to follow Our Father's will. In the meantime, I am so grateful because GOD loves me as I am.

[1] "And I would like to say that this invitation continues to be valid for all -- priests, consecrated persons and laypeople -- and especially for young people -- to take recourse to the counsels of a good spiritual father, capable of accompanying each one in profound knowledge of oneself, and leading one to union with the Lord, so that one's life is increasingly conformed to the Gospel. We always need a guide, dialogue, to go to the Lord. We cannot do it with our reflections alone. " (Benedict XVI, General Audience 2009-09-16 http://www.zenit.org/article-26879?l=english). 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Entrustment To Mary = Doing Chores For God’s Glory

I moved my daughters this past weekend into a new apartment. I was a bit appalled by the grime and scum in the bathroom of their old place. I came to learn that they had maybe cleaned the bathroom a handful of times over the past 9 months. I wanted to give them a lecture - but in taking mental inventory of my own cleaning habits I realized I do not complete my chores regularly either.  In fact, since my children have left the nest and I am on my own for cleaning, the house does not get a good scrub but once a month – if that!  As I pondered this reality, I came to the conclusion that I do not like doing chores and instead of offering it up [as my mom used to tell me] I just choose not to do them. Sad to say, I have passed this attitude on to my children.

When I do clean it is usually due to expecting visitors - with me wanting them to believe I keep a tidy home. This desire for human regard leads me to high anxiety and to yelling at my family members to get things picked up in time.[1] I also become critical and unsatisfied with my home believing it is not as nice as I wish it could be and this leads me to become ungrateful for everything I own.[2]

Through God’s mercy He gave me the grace to see a new way to look at doing chores, which is, doing them for His Glory. I should do them as a “thank you” to Him for giving me a home to live in with many comforts.  I should do them to show respect for His gifts He has given to me and my family. I should do them as a sign of my appreciation for the dear friends and family He has blessed me with who come to visit.  I need not worry what others will think, but only concern myself with glorifying God who is the only One who matters.

I think this new perspective will help me be more positive about house cleaning. But knowing my weak nature, it will be short lived, if I do not ask the Blessed Mother for constant help:  Mary, you did everything for the glory of God. You lived an ordinary life, and had many chores to tend to. You were faithful in completing your duties - without complaint. Help me to desire to put aside my negative outlook towards housework. Help me to embrace a new attitude of maintaining a home that celebrates my Lord by caring for His gifts.

God loves me as I am = slothful when it comes to housework.[3] I need to respond to this amazing unconditional love by thanking Him for all He bestows, and entrusting myself to His Mother who will lead me to glorify Him through completing my chores with a grateful heart full of love for my Creator.[4]

[1] “At the basis of your decisions is not the desire to be open to God’s will, but rather, the pride of human regard. This pride rules over you. You become a marionette moved by the strings of its own pride. Such a puppet considers securing its own honor and good name as the most important thing in life. Sometimes such people torment their spouses with various demands because they want to make sure that everything goes according to their schedule, so that they appear successful before other people. They may even terrorize their children to act in ways that fulfill all of their expectations.” S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 51.

[2] “If you know that you should be giving glory to God with your work, that it should be like a prayer – a time to be in God’s presence and to fulfill what He is expecting in a specific moment – then you will realize that what you do most frequently is forget about God. You will realize that what you do does not serve to adore God, but rather serves to worship yourself.” Ibid. 14

[3] “The truth is that you do everything for your own glory. However, despite this, the Heavenly Father does not stop loving you.” Ibid., 15

[4] “The entrusting of oneself to Mary leads to a special relationship with her. Through Christ’s death, God pours His unfathomable love, fatherly and motherly love, over the world. He wants it to reach the very depths of our hearts through the heart of Mary.  This great grace requires a response. The response that God expects is your entrustment to Mary, which is expressed in living this special relationship with her.” S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed,rev.  (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 158-159.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating My Children's Misbehavior

I remember when my oldest son was two years old.  I was trying to watch him at Mass by myself, and he was all over the place….toddling, touching, talking and curious about absolutely everything.  I remember being envious of those parents whose children were of an age to be able to control themselves and sit quietly during the liturgy. 

Being the control freak that I am, I was restless and frustrated and beside myself trying to get him to “behave”.  I was so upset and it must have showed, because a gentleman approached me after Mass.  “Your son is fine.  He is a child.  He is not a bother like you think he is.”  Doubtful, I looked at him and he reassured me.  “If others are disturbed by him, they are not focusing on what is most important.  Here at Mass, their focus should be on the Eucharist.  If their hearts are in the right place, nothing should distract them from what is taking place on the altar, from their prayer.  And, even if they are distracted, that is their issue with God.  It is not of your concern, nor is it your responsibility.” 

You would think, eight years and 4 more children later, I would have let that sink in by now.  I remember his words so often, and yet – I so often worry about how others view me as a mother. I am irritated and feel entitled to my time at Mass.  I worry about dirty looks and our family being a distraction. I worry that my children are lacking in faith when they are not fully attentive during the homily or during the consecration.  It only goes to show how very inattentive I am for paying more attention to my children's behavior than the homily, or readings, or Eucharist myself! 

I know in my mind that the Holy Mass is a joyful, celebratory time!  A prayerful and community-oriented time!  A slice of heaven here on earth, graces abounding, glorious praise with the angels and saints and entire Body of Christ!  I want my children to feel welcomed and most at home around the Holy Table.  But I am Control Freak.  And I struggle with my own perfection and thus the perfection of my loved ones.   

I often feel so frustrated during the Holy Mass because of so many distractions by my children:  the squirming; the whispering; the bickering over seating arrangements; being poked; being asked for a tissue, or a snack, or a hug; the tantrum of my three year old; the fussiness of the baby.  I used to think, “If only I went to Mass by myself…then I could pray, then I could be at peace.”  Not too long ago, God heard and answered that prayer.  I did go to Mass by myself and you know what?  I couldn’t keep my eyes open!  I was distracted all by myself.  I didn’t need my children to distract me.  The truth is, if it were not my children, then someone or something else will distract me. At least with the children I can focus on returning to a state of attentiveness, desiring to hear the words and being filled with God’s grace.  So praise God for these misbehaviors! They make me hungry for Him and encourage me to call upon the Blessed Mother.  “Blessed Mother, please love these children through me, so they recognize You.  Please be gentle with them through me, because on my own, I want to punish them for disrupting me.”  As I go up to communion I pray:  “Blessed Mother, please desire the Holy Eucharist for me. [1] Await with me.  Receive and be received with me. [2] Please catch all the graces that I waste and put them to good use.  Please be the reverence for me that Your Son truly deserves.” 

I must say I received somewhat of a wakeup call on a retreat some years ago.  The priest was giving a conference on parenting.  And he was discussing the idea of mercy.  Our God is merciful.  He is awaiting for me to be open to it, so He can unleash His flowing fountain of mercy upon me.  I will see one day the extent of how I wound Him, and yet He sent His Son to be my Redeemer.  I cannot earn heaven.  Will I trust in His mercy?  This priest said it should not be my goal to have perfectly behaved children.  It was better for my children to misbehave and yet learn to trust in my merciful love for them so that they could practice being open to God’s mercy.  He said it was a great danger for children to feel loved only when they behaved, when they were “perfect”.  Otherwise, at the moment of their death, they could very well reject the mercy of God, convinced that they did not earn salvation.  Yikes!  Instead, I should only (1) love them, (2) teach them, and (3) forgive them.  What a gift to hear these words….priceless teaching for the souls of myself and my loved ones!

So here’s to being imperfect – may I grow more in trust of my Heavenly Father’s loving mercy – right here, right now. 

Happy Father’s Day, Abba, Father!

[1] “When you strive to lessen the Self-humiliation of Christ by asking Mary to receive Him for you and through you, then you give praise to the kenosis of the True God and True Man.  You link the attitude of humility, an attitude of acknowledgement that you are a sinner, with faith in His incredible love for you. (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith3rd. ed. [Fort Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 212.)

[2]  “John Paul II said that in Holy Communion you do not receive Him as much as He receives you;  He accepts you as you are.  He receives you, which means He accepts and loves you.” (Ibid. 205.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Facing My Sugar Addiction

My addiction to sugar began at a very early age. I should have suspected something was unusual when I found the Helms bakery glazed doughnut covered in dirt in our yard and decided to brush it off and eat it, or when my sister’s boyfriend told me to kiss his toes before he would share a treat – and I did! I come from a family who fed this addiction with M&M and See’s candies at every occasion, and dessert served every night. So each Lent I choose to give up candy and cookies – my two biggest temptations to gluttony. I am amazed how good I feel when I lose the extreme sugar consumption – I have lots of energy and am more productive throughout the day. This extra boost even leads me to more prayer time and desires to be more charitable. Life is good without sugar.
Then Easter Sunday arrives and the fasting is over for it is time to celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection. I notice I get a bit apprehensive thinking about returning to sugar. I say to myself, “Why not stay off it! You feel so good! It is healthy for you!” Yet, soon I find myself in the store buying candy. I try to rationalize that the kids “need” Easter baskets full of delectable chocolates, as I purchase my favorite pieces, knowing it won’t all fit in their baskets so some will be left for me. Every year I give in and celebrate the Resurrection with an over consumption of sweets. I especially felt supersaturated with sugar this year. And even though I was bilious, I continued to gorge on treats for the next 50 days of the Easter Season. 

In reflection on my sugar addiction, I want to reason that it is the extra graces that come with the Holy season of Lent that help me overcome my weakness to candies and cookies during those 40 days. Although, this is true, in reality there are also graces during the “ordinary” days of the year that can help if only I would call upon them. 

Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the rich young man who leaves Jesus because he cannot follow him for he does not want to give up his material goods (cf. Mark 10:17-20)  made me stop and think - would I give up my candies for Jesus, if He asked? Could I leave a scrumptious dessert to follow His call? Most likely not, but I am learning that Jesus loves me anyway, so I must not turn away sad, but instead look at Him and say, “Lord, I cannot leave my gluttony by myself, I need You to help me.”  I have learned that standing in the truth of who I am, and admitting it to Christ is what He wants, for then He can rescue me. If I try to rid my addiction on my own I will always fail.[1] If I ask for the Blessed Mother to help me then I have the power of Her intercession and grace which is strong enough to triumph over my temptations.[2] I also know that I have to continually ask for this grace – daily, in fact. For as soon as I think I have conquered my addiction, it seduces me again, and if I am not begging for spiritual help, I soon give into its enticement. Another great defense against my addiction is offering it up during the Consecration of the Eucharist at Holy Mass, and since I am able to attend daily Mass I have the opportunity to do this often.[3]

I have resolved myself to the fact I will always have this addiction in some form in my life. It is God’s way of reminding me how much I need Him.[4] What I am coming to understand is that God loves me no matter how many cookies or candies I eat. He also loves me by sending me graces through His Son, the Eucharist and through the Blessed Mother so I may confront my cravings – for He knows how good I feel when I am not over consuming refined sugars and He wants the best for me – and being entrusted to His Mother I am learning to want that too!

[1] “Upon seeing your helplessness, trustfully call out to the Giver of everything to rescue you. He wants to do all things for you because He loves you and He sees that you cannot live without His love.” S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 252. pg. 85

[2] “It is necessary for you to ask Mary as often as possible for Her intercession. She, your Mother, intercedes for you, even when you do not ask her to do so. But, when you do ask her, when you give her your consent your “yes,” it is as if her hands are freed. When you entrust yourself to her, she 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." Ibid. 132

[3]The Holy Mass is the center of our spiritual life, the answer to all of the questions and doubts that torment us. It is the rescue from our afflictions and difficulties. It is the perfect cure for every evil.” Ibid. 80

[4]When you begin to seek help in your helplessness, you will hear the knocking of the One who, upon crossing the border into your world, desires to rescue you. God desires that you seek nothing other than Him. Because of God’s desire, His knocking is present in your failures, disillusionment, and disappointments. He brings them about or allows these events to happen so that you can see that His will should be everything for you.” Ibid. 192

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I’m Entrusted to Mary, Mother of God - Reason 1

I decided to do a series on the “why” I’m entrusted to Mary. I’m not going to go in any type of chronological order by importance…I’m just going to think and blog about one reason at a time.

Reason 1:  Because I am so deadly serious!

I was flying on Southwest Airlines with my teenage daughter, flipping through the magazine I picked up from the seat-back pocket in front of me. There was an article about how playing like a child can help one improve her life. To start off there was a short quiz to determine my playfulness. I took the test. It told me “you are all business.” I got only 1 point on the playfulness side. My daughter was scandalized to find out my answer to one of the questions:  “If you saw a kitten playing with a string you would…1) distract the kitten and start a new game with it, 2) think that you haven’t changed the cat litter box, or 3) start playing with the string yourself.”  My answer? Think I haven’t changed the cat litter box. Staring at me my daughter shook her head and said, “You wouldn’t want to play with the kitten??”

I’m all business. 

I remember MY being scandalized freshman year in my high school religion class when my friends from 8th grade answered a survey that what they look for first in a friend is a sense of humor. No wonder they didn’t invite me to sleep-overs any more…it was obvious, I had very little sense of humor. But why?  It was the one thing so important to so many people in my life…and yet the one thing I could not compete with. My brothers and sisters were all so funny. Laughs were so valued. The more I stressed over it, the more serious I became.

Little did I know at the time, but my seriousness was a form of narcissism. I took myself so seriously, and the world around me so seriously, because I was focused on myself. I was focused on how I perceived the world and how the world perceived me. Completely lost in this analysis, I didn’t believe I was lovable, nor did I know how to love. Despite my Baptism, I lived for myself. Even all my catholic practices were a form of self-love since I was trying to look better in my own eyes. I didn’t know God, so how could I serve Him? I didn’t understand His mercy, so how could I love Him?

How can one so serious change? How can one go from focusing on herself and her sins to focusing on God’s love and His mercy? How can one go from depression to calling herself “High Hopes”?


I am absolutely convinced that this way is the easiest way to help the narcissist get over herself/himself!

Why THIS way?
  • I had already tried my own human power – it wasn’t working.
  • “The easiest and surest way to arrive at falling in love with God is to fall in love with Mary first. When you fall in love with Her, you will want to disappear and to die to yourself like She did. You will desire that the false image of your ego in your heart be replaced by God’s image.  Likewise, you will then desire to be incapable of your own action, and instead you will desire to fulfill God’s will, just as Mary did.” (S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock [Fort Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 63.)
  • “[Mary’s] deepest desire is that Christ may grow in you in a way that there is no longer any place in your heart for yourself but only for Him and for His will.” (S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. [Fort Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 169.
  • “The awareness that Mary ‘carries you in her arms’ will enable you to remain in God’s presence with unfaltering faith in His love.” (Ibid. 172)
  • “The arms of the Mother of God are the special place/ in which you can rise again from every sin.” (Ibid. 175)
  • Mary helps one obtain the virtue of humor, which “enables you to attain the proper perspective between the two realities: God and yourself. In this way, the virtue of humor cleanses your faith of egoism and strengthens it. It will show you with great clarity that only God is really important in your life.” (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith3rd. ed. [Fort Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 101.)
  • Because THIS way is so loving and gentle.

Mary (in and through my spiritual director, my confessor, my faith-sharing groups, my husband, my children, in Scripture, in the events and in the books on the subject) has helped me to see my weaknesses and my insecurities and my desire for acceptance from others as my NEED for Her. Instead of these truths leading me to depression like they used to, they are bringing me joy because they lead me to say to Mary “I need You more!” Because of the graces She is obtaining for me, WE (Mary and me) desire together to focus on God’s mercy more than my sins.  WE have a sense of humor, especially regarding my failures and weaknesses. This is truly amazing for a person who is deadly serious! Thanks be to my Lord, Jesus Christ!