Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Kissing the Cross

I had the most interesting dream this week. I dreamt that I was being attacked by some ferocious four-legged animal. It had an awful snarl and huge teeth. I was holding its muzzle shut for a while, but realized it was too strong and too big for me to keep my grip on it. I was going to panic, but interiorly Blessed Mother was telling me not to be afraid – to let go and She would protect me. So, I let go. The “beast” snarled one last time, but then jumped up and gave me a friendly lick on the cheek.

I found it fascinating that I had this dream the night before reading the Families of Nazareth Movement’s Easter readings reflection that I use in a small faith-sharing group. One of the themes from this week’s reflection was fear and the feeling of being threatened. In Fr. Dajczer’s book The Gift of Faith he says:  “Fear, as well as the feeling of being threatened, becomes a part of the Redemption. Jesus, dying on the Cross, redeemed us from fear and from the feeling of being threatened, just as He redeemed us from sin.”[1]  He continues, “How are you to fight this fear that surrounds you? If you fight it directly, it will end in a fiasco. There is only one unfailing way:  open yourself up to the redeeming action of Christ through faith like that of an evangelical child.** You must believe that Jesus redeemed you from everything that threatens you, that you are truly free.”[2]

"Woman, Behold Your Son"
by James Tissot
I could really relate these words with my dream. I felt threatened by this beast. I felt there was no hope for survival when relying on my own strength. How true this is in my everyday life! I find “beasts” all around me! It’s bad enough just to read the news, but sometimes they come in an email that shares my friend is having another miscarriage, or a text that my friend left the seminary, or a phone call that my friend’s father has to have surgery for cancer, or the news of a friend’s divorce. Sometimes the “beasts” threatening me are my own thoughts and desires for perfection – stemmed from my eyes being opened to the truth that I waste so many graces, that this Lent was torture, and I don’t even want to sit through the long Triduum services.

Thank goodness I had a scheduled call to my spiritual director this week! What a grace it was when he picked up the phone and was there to listen as I described all that was threatening me.  How on my own can I be open to trust? How on my own can I see the Cross as Divine Mercy? I can’t! That is why I am entrusted to Mary. Mary wants to lend me Her eyes so that I can start to see the abyss of my misery and the suffering and evil all around me in the light of the abyss of God’s divine mercy and love!  All that I see has already been redeemed…and so WE (Mary and I) can go into the Triduum with joy. My entrustment to Mary is helping me to trust that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).

**What is an “evangelical child”? The Little One showed me this week. A week before Good Friday she remembered that she was going to get to kiss the cross today. Never has she been so excited to go to church. Strangely enough, our pastor decided to have us adore the cross from our seats and wait to venerate the cross after the service was over.  The Little One was so patient until she finally got to go up. When it was our turn, we literally ran up together and she smiled and reached for the cross to give it a big kiss. I joined her, more grateful this year than usual. Yes, Mary is molding hope in my heart!

[1] Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 60.
[2] Ibid

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Appreciating My Guardian Angel


CCC #336: From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [angels] watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

I have had recourse to observing my guardian angel’s protection. One night I pulled the car into the garage and accidentally left it running as I was distracted with listening to the radio program. The car ran all night in the garage. The next morning, as I came into the room next to the garage, I could smell the exhaust and heard a soft humming noise. Opening up the garage door I nearly choked on the gaseous fumes. I was amazed the garage hadn’t burst into flames for it is a small one-vehicle sized space, with lots of combustive materials in storage. I got on my knees and thanked God and my guardian angel for keeping us safe from what could have been a catastrophe.

A few months later I got up in the morning and when ready to leave the house I couldn’t find my keys. After lots of searching I finally discovered them outside still in the door lock. I had unlocked the door with hands full of grocery bags, so had gone straight inside without removing the keys. Never returning outside, I never noticed them. Again I was very thankful for my guardian angel keeping our home safe from this open invitation for anyone to enter, or to steal the keys and the car!

Just a month ago we were getting ready to rent our duplex to a couple, whom we did not know. We had been paid the monies needed to move into the apartment and thought all was settled [although we found it a bit curious how the couple paid us the $1100 in cash]. We received a phone call from the renter that same night saying his mother had become fatally ill and they would be moving in with her to help take care of her. We were disappointed as any landlord is in losing the income.  Yet the next day, when reading our local newspaper, we noticed in the police blotter section the name of our potential renter who had been arrested for parole violation. We do not know her crime, but we were again thanking our guardian angels for keeping us protected from possible sinister behavior.

Just as my guardian angel keeps me physically safe, I believe the Blessed Mother keeps me spiritually safe. By entrusting myself to her, I believe she becomes my soul’s guard – protecting me from spiritual collapse. Sure I create my own spiritual misery, but like my guardian angel, Blessed Mom does her job of guiding and protecting me along my way.

I am sure most of you readers have your own guardian angel stories to tell. It would be nice if some of you would share them in the comment section. It helps us realize how loved we are by our God, that He sends his angels to protect us and to keep us safe. I am sure my guardian angel will have plenty more stories to share with me when we finally meet!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Following Pope Francis' Lead

Lately I have been more than a bit overwhelmed.  It is a busy time of year for me, with taxes due and continuing education to complete.  I have visitors to arrive in a few weeks, and the kids’ activities have me driving here, there and every which way.  Homework, projects, religion classes, baseball season, constant laundry, ailing relatives who need attention and care, not to mention a toddler who loves to climb but has no balance!  I have found myself frustrated at my children, who seem to be bickering constantly.  However, when I stop and reflect, I have only myself to blame.  I have heard so many times that the mother in the household has a lot to do with the overall mood of the home.  The more tense and loud the house becomes, the more I want to flee!  But I often yell instead, perpetuating the problems. Yikes! 

For Lent I had desired a renewed prayer life, one of daily meditation specifically. I was hoping for 30 minutes daily, but would be pleasantly surprised with 15-20.  Right now, I am lucky if I make 5-10 minutes.  I know that prayer is my only rescue, and yet I find myself resisting to just stopping. Just stop and pray. I am frantically trying to catch up, and feel if I stop, I just might not get back up. Or I always push it for later when things are settled down in my household (but by then I am just praying myself to sleep!). 

Yesterday, I watched the election and announcement of our new Holy Father.  It seemed I was waiting forever for him to come out and make his appearance.  But I was deeply moved by the reason for the delay.  I read that our new Pope Francis had stopped in the Pauline chapel to pray alone before greeting the people.  That single fact was most significant to me.  This man was humble enough to realize the weight of the vocation that lay before him.  At that moment, I had such HOPE for our Church and Catholic faith.  I was so excited to see our leader, our Father, turn to the Head of our Church for guidance.  He was allowing himself to be an instrument of God’s wisdom and grace right from the start!   Today it hit me that there must be a mile-long list of tasks, activities, responsibilities he will now face.  How will he ever be able to do anything? My own list seems pale in comparison.  And so I was reminded today to follow Pope Francis’ lead:  prayer!  I recall one of my favorite sections in “The Gift of Faith” by Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer:

If you look at yourself in the light of faith, you will understand that the more suppressed you are with activities, the more time you should dedicate to prayer.  Otherwise you will be empty; you will have the impression that you are giving something, but this will only be an illusion.  You cannot give what you do not have.  In the light of faith, the most important activity in our day is prayer…Contact with God determines the value and importance of our work….One thing is certain:  if we do not pray, no one will need us.  The world does not need empty souls and hearts.
Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 225-226, 227
Blessed Mama, I beg you to share with me your desire for prayer.  I pray for our new Pope Francis – may he continue to turn to prayer and humbly lead the Church in the ways of your Son, Who was the ultimate example in retreating in prayer and solitude while here on earth.  Thank you, God, for loving me so, so much and for Your continuous invitation to unite myself to You in prayer.   

Friday, March 8, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Seeing the Lesson in Potty Training

The Little One turned 4 years old a couple of weeks ago. She still wasn't potty trained and the siblings were getting pretty anxious about it. We had been dealing with the Little One’s extremely strong will for over a year on the issue. We tried a lot of logical book learned techniques and used the proper language. It didn't seem to help. One suggestion found on the Internet was to completely give up talking about it and wait until it came from her. It said that her need for independence was overcoming her ability to accept the idea if it was “our idea”. So, I went with this theory and shut up.

She turned 4 and nothing improved. I was still changing diapers. I was also going through a trial of faith with some health issues, which had my resistance down. My irritability levels were high and my patience levels were low. My weaknesses in all areas of life were shining brightly for not only me to see…but my whole household.

It was in this “hour of darkness” when the “miracle” took place.  It was morning and we headed upstairs to change her diaper. Ugh, I thought. We were out of diapers. I simply showed the Little One the empty bag. Her response? “It’s okay Mommy, I’ll wear underwear.” She knew where it was kept, picked a pair out, and put it on.  Of course I was thrilled, but skeptical just the same since we’ve gone down that road before. The real test was getting her to go in the potty!

As anticipated, she refused to go and held it for the rest of the morning, into the afternoon, through her dance class. When she refused to sit on the potty there, I was rushing home praying we could get there in time before an accident. And, we did. She made it and she went in the potty! The look of delight on her face as she practically screamed “Mommy! I’m a big girl now!”

Why am I sharing this story? Because it occurred to me that a person’s conversion can happen in an instant! I faith share with so many people and we spend hours, days, weeks, years worrying about the conversion of our children, nieces, nephews, husbands, wives, parents, siblings, friends…but we so often forget that conversion can come in a moment--just like how it happened for the Good Thief. That “moment” may not happen according to our plans, but when we put our trust in the GOD who IS, we can trust and have faith that it WILL happen. And, when we struggle with that kind of trust and/or faith…we can give it to Blessed Mother and beg Her to have the trust and faith in us and for us to move the mountains!

“You should assume an attitude of contrition and gratitude, especially in your relationships with others. Do you want to be a channel of grace for others? If so, then acknowledge that you are who is not. Contritely acknowledge your evil and be grateful for every grace that you experience. Then God will be able to pour out the most priceless of His gifts through you.” S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 85.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Fasting During Lent

I think about this scripture verse frequently during the holy season of Lent. It reminds me of how weak I am when it comes to fasting. For example I do not give up all treats, just my most favorite ones = candy, cookies, and chips. Well soon enough I am replacing these with nuts, sweetened cereal, and popcorn.

Over 15 years ago I went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and started the recommended bread and water fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays. The “better” I was in doing the fast the “meaner” I became to my family. During that time I had small children at home, and I was quite the opposite example of a Christian mother on those two days. My hunger had me out of humor and patience. Instead of retreating to prayer begging for emotional strength, I escaped to my bed to sleep away the hours so the fast’s end would come sooner. I was trying to fast all on my own power. 

It was God’s saving grace that led me to the spirituality of the Communion of Life with Christ through Mary. One of the truths I learned is that I cannot fast on my own. It is only God’s grace that sustains my fasting during Lent. When I forget this truth, is when I fall into temptation of thinking I am greater than God. I also have learned that failing at fasting is “ok”. It shows me who I am not, and who God is. It brings to light the words of Jesus who said: “...without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). My pride doesn’t always like this truth, but that is from years of believing that some day on my own I will be perfect in the spiritual life.

With this spirituality and being in Blessed Mom’s arms I am releasing this illusion of perfection. What I must not forget is that even though I am a small “nothing” compared to God, He still wants me to rely on His grace and to desire to follow His will. He also asks me through the Church to try to offer the sacrifices and fasting during Lent, but doing so knowing that He loves me - even when I fail.

Our powerlessness and sense of total dependence on our Creator in all areas of our lives should become a norm for us – when we are completely permeated by the words of Jesus who said: “without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Nothing – this means not even the smallest thing.                       S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd. ed. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011), 62-63.