Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Facing Misery in the Light of God's Love

Misery. Such a miserable word.  Avoiding misery was the program of my life. Many want to continue to support me in this program – “Oh, what an awful day! You deserve a glass of wine.” Or “That stinks, let me treat you to a Starbucks!” or “You’re such a good person, don’t feel bad. You didn’t mean it.” Even worse, some “friends” try to convince me that I am “right” when I share how I treated my child, or friend, or co-worker the way I did. They can be so convincing that I can fall right into the trap of it all again – AVOID MISERY!

Is it any wonder Jesus told us “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life” (Mt 7:14)? Right before this he said “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many” (Mt 7:13). Not only do I see that on my own I’d be on the broad road to destruction– but sometimes, I see that without Blessed Mother, I push my dear ones onto this road with my criticism and nagging.

A priest recently shared with me that the devil spends enough time making people feel guilty and emphasizing their sins that we Christians don’t have to do this for one another. It wasn’t soon after this that I began to realize how critical I am with my dearest ones. Every sentence out of my mouth at home seems to be a dagger ready to plunge into the nearest victim. I try to hide it (sometimes) by making a joke about what a kid or my husband hasn’t done, only to hear the response “why are you being so sarcastic?”  My “holy” motivation?  I don’t want my kids or my husband to be miserable of course! I want them to see their huge pride so that they will be weak and rely on Mary. Ha! What a crazy twist in logic. The real truth, however, is that I don’t want their misery to affect me!

So – what am I getting at? Well, it was my misconception that I would “get better” through my entrustment to Mary. I thought it meant I would always be “good.”  No. Entrustment to Mary means I will get to see the truth of who I am…more and more.  But, this is not for nothing! The more I see how miserable I am, the more real God’s love is becoming for me. His love encompasses my misery with His mercy when WE (Mary and me) give it over to Him in confession or at the Holy Eucharist. Each layer of truth Blessed Mother helps me see uncovers a new layer of God’s unconditional love. This is amazing and worth the challenge!

My spiritual friends are the ones who listen to my discovery of misery and then remind me that I am loved as such. Interestingly enough, through the process I see I am not always a friend to myself! I can see my misery and fall to discouragement and lack of trust in God’s mercy. But, over the years, and thanks to the grace of a wise spiritual director, I am starting to be a true friend to myself. I attribute that to Blessed Mother’s work. She, in me and for me, reminds me of God’s love and mercy. Thanks MOM! Now, with Her grace, I pray that WE will follow this lead and WE will love my dear ones as they are...miserable, like me.

“I believe that I am deeply and personally loved by the Triune God with the whole truth about me, and
that, because I am a person of a little faith and weak love, Jesus entrusted me to His Mother at the hour of His death in the person of Saint John the Apostle, who represents all of us, thus showing His particular fondness for me, His most beloved child.” – Paragraph 1. of the Creed of the Families of Nazareth Movement, USA

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Joy On The Journey

Right now I am in the middle of the winter blues. The excitement of the holiday season has come to a close and our weather has been bitter cold [subzero temps]. The gray days have me in a gray mood. When I reflect on what Our Lady of Guadalupe said to Juan Diego: “Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy?”  - I have to stand in the truth and answer her “no”.  Actually she leads me to the only source of true joy, but I seek false joys.

I seek a joy that comes from losing a pound on the scale - which has not been happening lately as I have an injury so I am off exercise but not off the over consumption of sweets I started at Christmas time. I seek the joy of a good hair day, which rarely occurs so I begin my day in a funk. I seek the joy of being esteemed by my husband and boss, which certainly does not happen routinely to produce daily happiness. I seek the joy the world tempts me with- beauty, praise, and monetary security. But God knows better – He knows how easily I would forget about Him if I were to get lost in these material idols.

There is human peace and human happiness, both of which are short-lived and temporary. On the other hand, there is Christ’s peace and Christ’s happiness, which are born in us as a permanent reality when based on faith. What is this human peace and human happiness? It is something we obtain from people. We obtain it as though it were given to us out of pity from another person. In other words, looking for this kind of peace and happiness is like begging for scraps. These small bits of human esteem, a hint of praise, a compliment or someone’s positive perception of us, are simply scraps on which we want to build our peace. Sometimes a person manages to get what he wants; he gains others’ esteem or becomes successful, and gains this common human scrap that gives him some satisfaction. This is the human peace, begged for, which the world gives. But how fleeting this peace is! It does not take much for our human peace to dissipate and for our happiness to vanish. It is enough that someone is rude to us, is vindictive, or gives us a suspicious glance. There is no longer peace within us because the scraps we begged for are taken from us.

The peace of Christ comes as a result of your choosing him. This basic choice, which is called the fundamental option, is the most important one. Is Christ really of the greatest value to you? He redeemed you on the Cross and was raised, giving you the opportunity to gain true peace and true happiness. This kind of peace evoking permanent joy is within your grasp, thanks to the sacrifice on the Cross and the resurrection. You, however, must make a choice. You have to choose Christ with his peace by taking advantage of the fruits of the Cross and the resurrection. This should be a process of your acceptance of Christ. You cannot choose peace and happiness if you have not chosen Christ. However, he himself helps you with this choice by taking away whatever hampers and enslaves you. He overthrows your idols. When you accept that, then this will be your choice your declaration for peace, happiness, and freedom. It will be the choice made by your faith.
Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 129-132

I do not always choose Christ as my greatest value, and this is what causes my sadness. Christ knew I would not always walk His way, so from the Cross He asked his mother to take care of me (cf John 19:26), and she accepted this entrustment and will always be faithful to it. And that truth is my hope for eternal joy!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Being Loved When the Pot Calls the Kettle Black

Over the holidays, my husband and children and I traveled to spend some time with my parents and our extended family.  We were staying there for New Year’s and I asked my mom about the celebration of Mass on New Year’s Day, the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.  Ever since living the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary, I have enjoyed celebrating this Feast more than before.  My mom explained that there was only one Mass offered at her parish, as the Diocese was temporarily waiving the requirement for Catholics to attend Mass on this day.  I recall expressing my disappointment over this waiver, as I thought Mass would be a great way to start off the New Year, not only for myself, but for the whole Church.  I did not understand the purpose of the waiver, and thought of it as permission to ignore this holiest of days.  I agreed it would be somewhat of a challenge to get up that morning, the day after New Year’s Eve, but asked my mom to wake me in time to rally everyone to get ready on time.

Well, little did I know that my previous sore throat would turn into a full-blown head cold AND my little daughter would come to me in the middle of the night, burning up with fever and a croupy cough.  By the time my mother woke me, I could barely open my own eyes, let alone wake 5 young children and a husband.

My mom must have recognized this, because she suggested that she and my dad go to Mass and pray for all of us.  She asked me what my kids’ favorite types of doughnuts were and off she went.  As I laid my head back down, I couldn’t help but see the irony in the situation.  Here I had been, critical in my judgment about the waiver of the obligation, and now I was benefiting from that very waiver.  It turned out to have been a rough night for my husband dealing with our infant son, and so even though one of us technically could have rallied for Mass with our healthy children, it was a gift also to rest and recover from our difficult night without worrying about the obligation. 

As I sit and reflect, I see a few things about myself.  I see an obsession for following the letter of the law and a need to celebrate the spirit of the law.  I see judgmental tendencies, rather than distrusting my own human thinking and trusting in God’s all-knowing plans.  I can picture Him gently smiling at me while I criticized away, knowing all along that I would be missing Mass the very next day.  I see how I was unknowingly judging myself, as I turned out to be in that category of people who would not attend Mass on this Feast Day!    I see how I know nothing.   I am so quick to only see situations from my own perspective, somehow convinced my mind and heart have been so well-formed to know what is best.  What arrogance! Yikes!  And yet – this is whom God loves. I will tell you that I was humbled that morning, and yet so very loved.  My parents came home from Mass, cooked up a hot breakfast, surprised my kids with their favorite doughnuts, and shared the readings and homily of the morning.  God loves each of us, gently and uniquely.  As for my weakness, I am comforted by these words:

In the light of faith, try to look at your own imperfections in such a way that you are not saddened by them:  Christ accepts you as you are.  You can go to Him with all your imperfections and weaknesses.  He will repair what you have done wrong and complete all that you lack….

…One should not “become discouraged over one’s faults,” said [St. Therese of Lisieux], “for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.”  Therese of Lisieux truly liked to entrust her faults and infidelities to Jesus.  She said that, in this way, she wanted to attract His mercy, since He came to sinners and not to the righteous.  How important all this is to us who are saddened by our falls.
Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012), 81, 82

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Being Loved As Grumpy

Our family got a gym membership for Christmas. Our children are involved in sports and we live in a cold climate so it made sense to offer them an opportunity to get their exercise and practice in a gym since our driveway is covered in ice. What about me? Well, I am not the exercising type. I can sit for long periods of time without getting antsy. I give myself lots of excuses about what I cannot do instead of keeping the positive perspective of what I can do. I desire to be athletic, but ...

One day a week the gym has open court for playing volleyball. My husband and kids really like it. I soon realized that to please them, I should at least attempt to play. The day came and I found myself to be a total grump! I was in no mood to do anything with anyone and it was the day after Christmas so my stomach had its own workout consuming an obscene amount of goodies. It was impossible! The mood was so consuming that I felt utterly defenseless. By the grace of GOD, I made it to Holy Mass at 5:15 pm. I was even grumpy that my husband joined me! (Now, understand, I usually am thrilled  that he would be interested in something spiritual. That just reveals how HUGE of a grump I'm talking about!)

I found myself in a battle at church again. Tears were streaming down my face. I was capable of realizing that there was no reason for my mood – I couldn’t blame anyone. I wanted to say it had something to do with the fact that it was shortly after my father’s birthday – the first one since his death. But inside of me I knew that this was a stretch, and that even if that was true, it gave me no rights to be grumpy with my husband and children.

No. This situation was an opportunity given to me as grace and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I sat defeated in the pew – but not in discouragement. Instead, I was reminded that I was loved, even when grumpy. I was reminded to rely on MOM (Blessed Mother).  I began to beg for her comfort and help. Miraculously, I began to pray for a good mood as a gift to my husband and children. It was the first time I wasn’t asking for this gift for “me.” Normally I want to do better so that I am better in my own eyes – so that I am not humiliated. This time, WE (Mary and me) relied on the truth about my weakness, and my self-absorption and asked for the gift of charity. Wow. The results were amazing.  I made it to the gym after dinner and played 5 games of volleyball – laughing and sweating and making lots of errors, and having fun. On the drive home it hit me - my prayers were answered. While playing volleyball, I had forgotten that I specifically prayed for that grace. 

One of the images given to me to help me realize just how in need I am of Mary’s arms was to think of myself as a person without arms and legs in the spiritual life. It helps me remember just how desperate I am in fighting my pride on my own. Can a person without arms/legs run a marathon? Well, the spiritual life can often seem like a marathon to the soul. It takes a lot of effort to work on virtues such as patience, love my neighbor as myself, hope, charity! My soul fights against these things. I have the desire to be loving, similarly to my desire to be athletic. I just don't have the will for it. That is exactly why I am entrusted to Blessed Mother. I am so grateful for this way, for MOM's arms.

"Nothing is impossible for someone who remains before God with a spiritually childlike attitude. The building of communion of life with Mary will become your way to sanctification." (S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 165.)