Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Grateful for Diaper Changes

When I was on one of my first retreats related to the spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through Mary, I arrived with my firstborn son, barely one year old.  I recall meeting a gentleman, and while I was speaking to him, I became aware of my son’s need for a diaper change.  I excused myself, and as I was leaving, this gentleman pointed out how quickly I noticed my son’s need to be cleaned up and took care of his mess.  He gently explained that our Blessed Mother does the same for each one of us, even more so, with great love and attention to detail. 

For some reason I am recalling that conversation today, and perhaps it brings me comfort as I reflect on a recent visit by some family members.  I was excited to welcome my sister and her five children for a week, but as the days passed, I grew in my fatigue and my need for some good old introverted down time.  Having 10 kids in the house (ages 11 years old down to 1 1/2) was overwhelming for this Control Freak.  I noticed my impatience (directed toward my own children) as I anticipated more meal preparation and cleanup.  I allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the chores I was neglecting during the visit, rather than surrendering to the grace of the moment and God’s loving presence stamped on each interaction with my loved ones.  God allowed me a small humiliation to remind me to stop relying on my self, on my own strength and patience (which was obviously lacking!):  I barked at my daughter about the messy spaghetti napkins she was dropping all over the floor, but as she turned around to face me, I discovered my “daughter” was actually my niece, with the same cute ponytail in the back!  Up to that point, I had been trying to be kind to my guests, but as I saw my niece’s surprised and slightly scared face staring back at me, I recognized how very ugly my tone had been directed toward my own children all along.  I apologized to my niece, who seemed forgiving, but I am ashamed of my selective “charity”.  At the same time, in Blessed Mother’s arms, I am grateful for God’s mercy in exposing my great need for Him.  I see how very much I need His grace to be kind and gentle and present to my children. 

This small humiliation shows me how very gentle God is.  Many times He allows me to see the truth about myself without showing that truth to others.  In this case, I suppose I needed to hear this truth loud and clear.  My embarrassment about my tone with my niece is a gentle way for God to speak to me.  And as I recall the conversation with the gentleman on the retreat so many years ago, I am comforted by the fact that my Blessed Mama is near me, and I am so very grateful to her for cleaning up my messes with great love and repair. 

The best news is this: 
Your astonishment will be wonderful when you see that He is not disgusted by your uncleanliness.  You are the one who is so ashamed of your dirt, and you are the one whom He embraces with His love saying, “Do not worry, I love you just as you are and I will purify you with great tenderness. (S. C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 16)

So thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weaknesses, and how that calls upon the abyss of Your merciful Love!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Finding "Joy" in My Weakness

This week’s life events’ theme:  We (by this “we” I mean I and many of my friends) are trained to despise weakness. We parent to follow rules out of duty rather than out of love. We live to please fellow humans while learning to despise God. And then, we are taught to avoid this truth at all costs!

Sound negative? That’s what people tell me. I am told I focus too much on my sinfulness and weakness. But, if that truly were the case, I wouldn’t call myself “High Hopes!”

You see, WE (by this “WE” I mean I and Blessed Mother) can very willingly look at the truth about myself:
·  I despise weakness.
· I taught my kids to obey in order not to disappoint me, rather than because it is a way to love Christ.
· I choose not to say something to a friend about something he is doing against the Lord, to keep the friendship, while sacrificing the graces I could have received for being persecuted in the name of my Lord….or worse yet, the graces my friend could have received to know the Truth.

But, thanks to communion of life with Christ through Mary, WE follow each revelation with the prayer: 
“I have only my sins,
but You love me Lord
thank You.”1

I know that it is a miracle that I am able to say this prayer. It took years of spiritual direction, spiritual reading, meditation, regular confession, and daily Eucharist for this slow poke to begin desiring that this prayer be my response. There is no way I could have trusted its truth without being reminded to be faithful in small things2 time, after time, after time. And, I still continue to need this same advice! But now, I am beginning to listen to the message that WE need to rejoice when I see my misery! This is a whole new way to live from how I was raised. There really is joy being immersed in the truth about my misery and how it calls upon the abyss of God's merciful love! Thank goodness Blessed Mother is not intimidated by these “deep waters.” She reminds me, I was never meant to swim alone.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus tried especially to take advantage of various situations in order to lower herself before God. She said that she wanted “to remain a little child before God.” But according to her, to be a small child meant “to recognize our nothingness, to [await] everything from God…it is not to become discouraged over one’s faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.”22 It is possible to imagine that, on the shore itself, St. Thérèse immediately assumed the spiritual “position of a swimmer.” She did not wait until the water became deep; she lowered herself into the shallow water of tiny failures and swam rather than wading with her feet on the bottom. That way of moving is safer and faster. Furthermore, it is unimportant how deep the water might be beneath us. Even when we are far from shore, we remain safe because we do not rely on the sense of support that the bottom gives us. When we are far from the shore, we allow the water to carry us. This happens, however, under the condition that we deeply humble ourselves and trust in the power of God’s action. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006),58)

1 S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 10.

2“Faithfulness in small things” when used in this paragraph means faithfully trying to obey my spiritual direction to remember to be grateful that I am loved as I am, with all the truth about me. It is a small thing, but can have amazing results!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Being Grateful For Spiritual Benefactors

Just when I thought I was getting low on blog material, God graced me with trials at work severe enough to lead me to resigning from my position. Actually, the trials had been simmering for over 3 years, but the crescendo occurred two weeks ago, having me end 15 years of employment this week.

I am grateful for the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through the Blessed Mother for it emphasizes the importance of looking at trials through the eyes of faith, and discovering what God is saying through our every day events. And yes, I discovered quite a bit about myself through the difficulties I had at work.

My boss was my spiritual benefactor. He was God’s instrument to help purify me of my ego and pride. His lack of accolades helped keep my conceit in check. His conflicting personality helped me beg Blessed Mom to carry me through my work day. His suspicious nature helped me see it is only in Jesus I must trust. God also used him as a mirror for me to see my weaknesses, as we shared many– desire for human regard, desire to be understood, and desire to be right – to name a few.

Working so many years in one place was leading me to putting myself up on a pedestal as someone special who was irreplaceable.  As I trained my replacement this week, God helped me see that I am not the special “someone” in the office; that there soon will be another person carrying out the duties  - most likely in a better and more efficient manner.

Do not yearn to be irreplaceable - recognize that you are an 'earthen vessel'. The fact of standing in the truth before God in this way will set you free - then God will become for you the first and the most important. You will always desire to showcase Him, and you will understand that it is not the 'earthen vessel' that is important - but only He who is served by it.
S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed. rev. (Ft. Collins, Co: IAMF, 2005), 146-147)
Excessive attachment to one's job functions is a significant obstacle in striving for sanctity. If ever you do your job with attachment to it and without being disposed to renounce it in favor of others, your sanctification may be made impossible. Ibid, 146.

Being entrusted to the Blessed Mother has brought consolation during this trial, for in her arms WE can accept this transition in my life. With her WE can be grateful for the 15 years of employment and WE can face the new roads of purification and trials God has waiting for me, as He molds me into the saint He knows I can be, with His love and mercy guiding me along the way.

God calls many persons to imitate the hidden life of Mary. Perhaps He is also calling you to this kind of union with her, so that you also may slowly disappear, and that with joy you may give up your place to others, in such a way that nobody may ask about you... Ibid, 133

Friday, June 7, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Asking Jesus to Dine With Me

My son and I were recently going over the Beatitudes as part of his religion homework.  He was working on memorizing them, but I wanted to make sure he understood them as a way of life, too.  As we went over the first one, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of God is theirs,” he, of course, wanted to know what it meant to be poor in spirit.  As I was trying to explain that a poor in spirit is a beggar before God, being convinced he needs and depends on God for absolutely everything, I saw for myself how very much I was “immersed in the distant kingdom of temporal things.”[1]

Oh boy, do I ever feel far away from the Kingdom of God.  I feel my days are running into each other without being truly lived.  I feel so lost in the kids’ activities, the household work, and my own boredom with the ordinary.  I feel frustrated with my own lack of connections with each of my children as we go about our day, one moment to the next, with me awaiting the moment they are in bed so I can have some time to myself.  But it all feels so empty, because when they are asleep, I miss them and plan all kinds of interesting ways we can pray, or create, or bake, or play.  But with each new morning, I feel so self-centered again that all I want to do is enjoy my coffee with my ipad.  I feel so sad over this wastefulness.  Last night I watched a Dateline NBC special, featuring a family with 5 children all diagnosed with heart disease.  I only watched this program because my husband works for the hospital providing the healthcare.  I do believe it was God’s grace that led me to that program, for I could see that although the trials were great among this family, they were sustained by grace and hope.  Only God could provide for them, on a day-to-day basis, as these parents awaited a heart for a much-needed heart transplant, or dealt with one very sick child while another was in surgery.  I could see that the parents were depleted of any strength of their own, and yet they were so filled by the grace of God to provide optimism or encouragement for each child in need.  I could see very clearly how they were “poor in spirit”, for the Kingdom of God seemed to be with them.  Their family appeared to be very hopeful, and very filled with joy amongst their fears and concerns.  I was in some ways envious (and yet the Control-Freakness in me knew I did not have that kind of trust or deep-rooted faith to handle such a situation). 

It reminds me of the Scripture verse of God desiring us to be either hot or cold:  “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16).  Although this sounds harsh, being blessed with this spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through Mary, I can read that without being (too) afraid.  I know God loves me and wants Everything for me.  This family, with the trials they are facing, are gifted with a road to total abandonment to God.  The TV program made me uncomfortable with my recent indifference, an indifference I didn’t really realize I had.  I thought that I was living a spiritually rich life, but I can see how very spiritually miserable I am.  And so I turn to the One Who loves the truth. 

“When you discover and then acknowledge that you are incapable of having faith and trust, of praying, or of serving God on your own, then you will begin to turn your heart to the only Lord and Giver of all gifts…..God loves the truth…..He wants us to see and acknowledge that we stand before Him as beggars who have nothing of our own, and who are always in need of spiritual alms, such as the gifts of prayer, faith, hope and good will…he does not count on himself;  he counts only on the One who constantly wants to enter his miserable quarters and who promises to dine with him….Therefore, he counts only on the gifts that God’s love brings to him.”[2]

With the closeness of our Blessed Mama, I come before my Heavenly Father with empty hands, or rather, hands full of only my spiritual misery.  With her, I desire an end to my indifference, without fear of what must come to lead me to the place where I am dependent on God for everything.  All I know is that I am tired of living without Him.  Please, Lord Jesus, come dine with me. 

[1] S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 34.
[2] Ibid 34, 35, 36, 37.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Giving GOD the Glory

Over the last few weeks I have had the beautiful experience of answered prayers, even without my praying the prayers!  What I mean is that I didn’t even know to ask for things from my Good Lord, but He provided for my needs just the same. I knew to be immediately grateful for these “answers” and that it was due to Blessed Mother’s care and concern for me that the graces were provided.  I thought I would share an example in this blog.

My son needed a larger bed and I became motivated to replace his old bed with a larger one that could be used by company. We had company coming and the deadline to replace it was getting close. I spent a lot of time complaining to my husband “we have to get a bed!” to no avail. I never thought to pray for it to happen, I just kept complaining. Then, a week before we needed it, a friend called out of the blue and said “I remembered you wanting a bed and, in 30 minutes, I have my new bed coming and I hired them to take away my old bed, but if you can come pick it up – it’s yours!” You bet we got that bed! I couldn’t believe how easy and how perfect the bed worked out for our needs. If I had been more proactive in buying a bed, I would have missed this terrific deal. Blessed Mother knew the big picture…She got me the bed. I’m convinced!

My habit prior to wanting to live the spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through Mary was to overanalyze everything. One of the consistent advices from my spiritual director is “Do not overanalyze!” It has been hard for me to follow this advice because it is second nature for me to think too much. I am beginning to “get it” though. By overanalyzing, I am promoting self-absorption, which offends my Lord deeply. I am to give my whole heart, mind and soul to HIM. If I want to trust that I am in Mary’s arms, then I must believe that all that happens to me is GRACE!

My complaining to my husband over the bed issue used to lead to increased anxiety, and normally would have had me so absorbed in what I was NOT doing and what I thought I needed to do.  But, through Communion of Life with Christ through Mary, I was given the grace to instead take each day as it came.  Yes, I resort to complaining instead of praying – this is the truth about me, I am not denying it. However, MOM is watching out for me. She lets me see my truth and helps me grow in contrition over it, but She is also obtaining the necessary graces for my fulfilling GOD’s will. It sure looked like GOD’s will was for my friend to give me the bed, for I was given the graces NOT to be proactive to get one prior to the week before I needed it. Each day of forgetfulness was full of grace. And now, GOD is the one who gets all the glory for the gift!

"We must stand in truth about our spiritual misery before God, so that the grace of God completely penetrates our souls. When this happens, we will become instruments that God will be able to use for the realization of His plans, not only for our dear ones, but also for those whom we will never even know. We will become instruments that will change the world."  (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 174.)