Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, February 22, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Home-Schooling with Blessed Mother

As I have mentioned in a past blogpost, our family moved to a new city, resulting in a new home, new parish, and new schools for the kids.  This is my first experience with public schools, and I have been supplementing with home-schooling resources for religion classes for each of my older children.  I had visions of pleasantly sitting down with each child 4-5 times per week, making sure they were not missing the benefits of Catholic school as much as possible.

Well, 4-5 times per week is not exactly going as planned.  Multiply by 3 children and that is 12-15 times per week that I need to make time for, and with two other little ones underfoot, it is nearly impossible!  But I will say that home-schooling religion has become much more of an opportunity for faith sharing.  And I noticed the difference this past week with my oldest son. 

Previously, we had been going over the lessons as outlined, and I would review with him to make sure he understood the material (the purpose and methods of prayer, the holy days of obligation…etc).  But this past week, we were going over the chapter covering the significance of the Cross.  I was trying to help him see the value of our trials and little sufferings as a way to be open to grace.   And I suddenly realized that I did not want to approach our religion classes as classes.  It dawned on me that I did not want my son to simply “learn” the material.  I wanted him to embrace the material!  It was so clear in that moment how very much faith is a gift.  It cannot be learned.  It must be nurtured!

Now that we live in a so-called “safer” neighborhood, the kids at his school are not lacking in material goods.  In fact, there is a dangerous sense of entitlement that I worry about.  I could sense that the value of little sufferings and sacrifices would not make much sense in this new environment.  I knew then that I must beg our Blessed Mother to take care of her son, my son, and I silently begged her to lead him to her Son.  I stopped the lesson and simply faith-shared.  I stopped and asked my son to share his thoughts.  I saw in that moment that for my son’s personality, he needed to experience God’s love in order for this to make any sense.  All of his peers live so comfortably that I could see a danger in not recognizing one’s need for God.  I recalled how as a child and teenager and college student, I followed Church teaching out of duty and a sense of responsibility.  God later showed me that faith is a love relationship.   I do not want to lead my son (and other children) down that same road of rule-following (frankly, my children are very strong-willed and are not wired that way anyway!).  I sensed that my son would first need to see God as Love in order for him to relate to any of this material. So I led us in prayer, asking that Mary help him fall in love with her so as to fall in love with God and His will.[1]  The details of our faith are secondary and would hopefully be a natural love response to our experience of God’s loving touch (ie. Instead of just learning which days are holy days of obligation and that he needed to go to Mass, I would hope that he look at these days with a desire to go to Mass to celebrate these significant Feasts and core of our faith!  Yes, I have high hopes for a sixth-grader!). 

I am so very grateful for this time to spend in concentrated moments of teaching and sharing the Catholic faith.  I see the value in faith sharing, as opposed to just merely faith teaching, and I am glad that as his mother I can do both.  I also see how very helpless I am in controlling whether my son embraces his faith.  It scares me and yet it doesn’t.  My communion of life with Christ through His Blessed Mother gives me hope.  In my helplessness, I turn to Blessed Mother, and beg her to nurture my son’s faith through me.  In that way, my son will hopefully experience authentic love, just as he is, right now. 

[1] “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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = A More Fruitful Lent

Lent is off to a great start! I let my compulsions get away from me and in my “strength” decided to 1) give up coffee, 2) give up sweets, 3) give up tortilla chips, 4) go to daily Mass, 5) fill the Rice Bowl this year with monetary sacrifice, 6) sign-off from Facebook until Easter, and try to be an all-around loving sweet human being! Ha!! What am I thinking? Am I out to prove my spiritual prowess? Do I think I need to be an Olympian at Sacrificing? What spirituality am I following?

Fail, fail, fail! I’ve encountered my weaknesses in triple-fold and we are only on day 2.

But, is it really failure? If I choose to regroup and follow the spirituality of communion with Christ through Mary, then I have a lot of truth to gaze upon and a lot of Love and Mercy to benefit from!

In 2 short days I have discovered some amazing truth.

Coffee.  I am physically addicted to caffeine. I have been going through withdrawal symptoms for the lack of my morning pot of coffee. I hate to let you in on how bad I am, but the truth be told…I’ve given my heart to coffee. I await coffee every morning more than I await the Eucharist. I make sure I have supplies of coffee beans and half and half in the house when I might let slide having foods in the fridge for my kids’ school lunches.  I dream of holding a to-go cup in my hand, something that happens rarely because we don’t have the funds for it. I rely on it, instead of God’s grace, to get me through the day. It might not be my whole heart that I’ve given to coffee, but the large piece dedicated to it takes from giving my whole heart to the Lord.

Holy Mass. There were years when I was a daily communicant. Now that I have a young one again, I am not as frequent of an attendee. For Lent, the pressure was supposed to get me going again. Truth revealed? Thursday morning, I get up to make the kids’ breakfast in plenty of time to eat my own breakfast  before morning Mass. Distracted and lethargic (remember no coffee) I don’t start eating until 7:15 am. Mass begins at 8 am.  I somehow get looking at emails and my mind loses track of time. I look at the clock, which reads 7:40 am. Between eating and reading, I had plenty of time to dress and get the Little One ready to go to Holy Mass. What kept me from going was the selfish outlook that I only go if I can receive the Eucharist. I don’t go to Mass to celebrate with the Body of Christ the greatest prayer of the day! Oh, blessed weakness! I have not given all my mind to the Lord.

So, who needs Blessed Mother? I DO!!

Yes, these are just two examples of how awesome my Lent has started (no sarcasm intended). In the past these would have been enough to cause me to forget it was Lent altogether. But, thanks to Communion of Life with Christ through Mary, I am just more convinced of my need for Our Savior, and my need for the Blessed Mother to carry me always. She has helped me see that even my good desires are often a mere reflection of my ego. But, at the same time, She is convincing me that even before I saw this truth God loved me; and, now that I see this truth, His love is all the more amazing to me! It helps me desire to call out to Her more often, so that perhaps She will rescue me before I fall and set my eyes on Her Beloved Son!

If you see your spiritual misery with faith in God’s love, then this truth will not threaten you. If, however, you start to doubt God’s mercy, then newly discovered misery could lead you even to despair. Doubting God’s mercy could provoke you to close the door of your heart before Him, thus directing you to commit even worse sins. But if you try to remember that you are being carried in the arms of Mary, the Mother of Christ, you will be fully open to God’s love. In Her arms, you may be shielded from your faults and unfaithfulness; you may experience peacefulness and even happiness when God reveals the contents of your whitewashed tomb to you in a fuller light.
S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 28-29.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Blessed Weaknesses

Being in good physical condition, being in good spirits psychologically, or being in great ‘spiritual condition’ (our own perception) – all this is fleeting. Everything gradually has to be taken away from us some day so that we can cling only to God.
                        S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd. ed. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011), 62

I have a hard time accepting “blessed weaknesses”. God has recently given me a few to contend with. Here’s my list: Carpal Tunnel surgery, trigger thumb, a wart under my big toe, plantar fasciitis, and mole removal requiring stitches. The carpal tunnel surgery went well and alleviated a lot of pain I was having in my arm especially while in bed at night. The trigger thumb was resolved with a cortisone shot. The wart was first frozen then burned out. The plantar fasciitis is still in healing mode, causing me to back off my usual exercise routine. The stitches were removed with the scar not being too hideous and the mole was benign.

These were all small “taps” on the door of my heart to remind me to rely only on God. Yet I have a hard time accepting and thanking Him for these weaknesses. Sure I am appreciative that they were not fatal diseases, but I find it hard to be grateful in moments of suffering. Instead I become annoyed that my routine has been disturbed. Only when the problem has been resolved or injury healed - am I truly grateful.

When explaining this attitude to my spiritual director he used the analogy of comparing God to a doctor who is going to do surgery on me. Do I question the instruments and procedure the doctor will use? Even if I do, most likely I will accept it. I need to look at God as doing surgery on my soul, preparing it for eternal life with Him. I should not question his method or the tools He uses, but should accept it gratefully for the outcome will be the best for me ~ Heaven.

Entrusting myself to the Blessed Mother helps me to be more open to acceptance. She did not question or ask for explanations, but humbly followed God’s plans for her. Together with Blessed Mom, WE can ask for the grace of acceptance and gratefulness of the weaknesses God gives me. Together with Blessed Mom, WE can rely only on God.

God will definitely work miracles in our lives if we allow Him to enter our lives, at least to some extent. The best situations, then from a spiritual sense, are those in which, in the midst of our weakness and powerlessness, we begin to beg for God’s mercy, being convinced that the Creator loves us as we are. Ibid

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Hugs from God

Today I participated in my new parish’s women’s retreat. I had earlier decided to go as a means to meet new people, and to feel connected with this new community.  I was also in need of some quiet time for prayer.  Upon arrival, I was greeted with a gift bag and ushered to a gourmet breakfast.  This mother-of-five was feeling rather pampered after only five minutes!  But I was treated to much, much more as the day progressed.

The theme was “Strength for the Journey” and the program began with heartfelt, deep prayer.  Musicians shared songs inspired by the Holy Spirit, written especially for this retreat.  I was pleasantly surprised that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist had been included in the schedule!  I was given the chance for meditation and personally reflected on my own temptations to be my own strength, rather than relying on God as my Everything.  Living the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through His Blessed Mother, I was touched by women sharing about the significance of Mary being their mother, too.  It was as if God was reassuring me that this was my new home.  I had been comparing this parish to my previous one mercilessly, and now I was finally open to recognizing God’s presence and will that I be at peace here.

But most of all, I was touched deeply by the vulnerability of the guest speakers.  They shared their stories in such detail and openness that I was humbled to my core.  I have not experienced such grief (not even close), and I was absolutely amazed at the strength of God’s grace.  I was reminded of how close God is to me, to each of us.  I was overwhelmed with the awareness of how God loves us each uniquely and with such attention to small details.  I was amazed that, despite the deep pain, the faith of these women was strengthened.  In their weakness, they discovered God’s strength.  They were in need of His grace, His love, His mercy - and He delivers again, and again, and again.  And I sensed their gratitude. 

Being Control Freak, one of my mixed reactions was fear – fear of a similar situation happening in my life.  I know that my faith is not strong.  I want to say, “Lord, let it be done to me according to Thy word,” but I am too weak!  So as I reflect on this more, I turn to the arms of my Mama, and ask her to carry me.  As I prayed I was directed to the following:

….”Because of gratitude, you can begin to perceive the entire world surrounding you as God’s arms embracing you.  Maybe in the light of faith you will see a discreet inscription on the things around you:  A gift from the Lord God” or “A gift from the Loving Presence.”  …The deeper your gratitude becomes, the more you can begin to hear…how the world around you speaks of Love.  After all, all of God’s gifts that surround you whisper, repeat, and call out:

I love you as you are.  Therefore, I am with you.  I take care of you.  I give you everything that you need every day.  If you need the bitter pill of suffering, then I give it to you, but only because I know that it is the most priceless gift that you may receive at this moment.  When you need a sweet candy you receive it, because without it, My dearest, you cannot manage on your own.
                                    S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars (Ft Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 73-74

So in our Blessed Mother’s arms, I am at peace and I am grateful.  I received a lot of sweet candies today…the biggest being the awareness of how intimately God loves you and me.