Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Becoming Aware of Not Only Being Loved, But Also Longed For

The other day, a friend posted on Facebook a quote from Mother Teresa: 

Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?…The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes – to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you.  This is a danger for all of us.  And so sad, because it is completely the opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you.  Not only that He loves you, but even more – He longs for you. 

This quote really resonated with me because I think often times, when it comes to Christ, I “know” Him in my head, and not so much “know” Him with my heart.  I keep Him at a distance.  As Pope Francis warned us recently, there is a danger of “becoming a disciple of ideology”.  “In ideology there is no Jesus:  his tenderness, love, meekness.  And ideologies are always rigid,” the Pope said.  “In every sense: rigid.  And when a Christian becomes a disciple of ideology, they have lost the faith;  they are no more a disciple of Jesus, they are a disciple of this attitude of thought, of this…”…”Why does a Christian become that way? …It is simply one thing:  that Christian does not pray.  And if there is no prayer, you will always close the door.”[1]

I have been blessed with a spiritual director for the last 11 years.  And he continues to advise the same thing all these years:  prayer.  Meditate for 20-30 minutes a day.  Well, for the last 11 years, I have struggled with just stopping and praying.  Always making excuses.  Always waiting until the end of the day, when I am too tired and too tempted to just turn on the TV and turn off my racing mind.  I shared with my spiritual director about how touched I was with Mother Teresa’s quote.  He advised me to respect that desire for a deeper relationship with the “real” Jesus, revealed to me by the Holy Spirit.  To sit down and see what changes I could make in my daily schedule.  To allow myself to be led to a greater aliveness in the Word/Gospels.  To avoid neglecting my friendship with Christ (through prayer, the Word, meditation), otherwise this will lead to a domino effect of increased anxiety.  I am reminded in The Gift of Faith by Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer that “the Holy Scriptures are also inspired text and a source of revelation;  therefore, our relationship with the revealed text should primarily be a personal one.  In fact, the Bible is not a “thing” but, above all, it is “Somebody.” ….When reading the Holy Scriptures, you encounter the living and true Christ through the gift of faith, which He Himself gives to you.” (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012), 214).
I often wonder how different my life would be had I been obedient to his advice of daily meditation all these years.  Where would my faith be today?  I know that my laziness in my prayer life is connected to my struggles today, and I also know that I should not remain sad in this.  As Mother Teresa reminds me, He longs for me. 

I think what sparks my increased desire to know and fall in love with the “real” Jesus is because of my desire and hope for what my children’s relationship with Christ could be.  I want them to fall in love with Him.  I want them to pray, not to recite prayers.  I want them to be aware of His presence with them, all day long.  I want them to trust Him and His will for their lives.  I know that I cannot control them or force Him upon them, so the only thing I can do is fall in love with Him myself.  Perhaps with Blessed Mama’s help, they will experience God’s love through me and know that they are longed for, too. 
After all, just as I am motivated to see my children give their hearts over to Christ, our Blessed Mama is even more motivated to bring me (and all her beloved children) to her Son.  Thank you, God, for loving us so, so much.

[1] Esteves, Junno Arocho.  “Pope Francis:  ‘Becoming A Disciple of Ideology Closes the Door to Faith’”, Vatican City, http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-becoming-a-disciple-of-ideology-closes-the-door-to-faith (October 17, 2013).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Sobering Up

I was reminiscing today about a previous stage in my spiritual life when I was given an abundance of drawing graces, defined as graces given to me to draw me into relationship with Jesus and Mary. I remember feeling spiritually “intoxicated”! Everything seemed so easy – meditating, reading spiritual books, turning off the TV, sitting at Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying the rosary.  These graces were heavenly and I “drank” them up! The more the better! I could talk for hours into the night with other spiritual friends on the same “high” as me! 

Looking back, I have to laugh at myself. My reaction was definitely not that of Elizabeth’s: “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43). No, I think I must have subconsciously imagined I deserved it somehow. My reaction was more like the Pharisee who saw when someone else WASN’T praying! In my intoxication, everyone else’s “exterior” spiritual life was magnified and obviously needed fixing! And, what was worse was that I often doubted my dear ones could convert!
My White-washed Tomb!

Oh, to waste such beautiful graces! But, it is true. I did. I used God’s drawing graces against Him by living as if I was the master of these graces, up on my pedestal of “holiness” looking down on everyone else as if on their own they should be able to do more to grow in faith. It was so deeply subconscious that it is only now that I see it – over 10 years later.

But, praise God for His master plans and for HIS MERCY! Eventually the drawing graces were limited, and more and more “humble pie” was served to me! The drawing graces were special and needed – without them, I may never have started a prayer life or seen the value in all the Church has to offer. Without all the grace from that time in my life in which I grew quickly in relationship with Christ through Mary, I may not have survived the deeper misery they wanted to show me. During the necessary stage of initial conversion I wasn’t getting the full message of how tremendously God loves.

Now I understand better why it is so emphasized in our spirituality to look upon my dear ones as the saints they WILL BE in Heaven, and not to view them in the “stages” of spiritual life I think they are in. Just as I was drawn by grace into relationship with my Savior and His Mother, why should I doubt that my dear ones will have the same opportunity? WE (Mary and I) believe that my conversion and deeper realization of how I am loved as I am will benefit those around me more than my words, persuasions, or judgments.

“Therefore, we should always look upon our dear ones, as well as those who are away from the faith, as God looks upon them in His mercy. God looks at them as saints, even though they may convert in a year, maybe in ten years, or even – as in the case of the good thief – only at the last hours of their lives. “ (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011), 41.)

“The person who concentrates on God and on fulfilling His will does not get too discouraged by his own failures, even when it comes to testifying to the truth. If others are not open to his words, his arguments, or his attitude, he tries to remember that faith is a grace, which these people perhaps have not yet received. Also, when he sees that he himself continually forgets about the truths pertaining to interior life, and when he does not see any of the fruits of his interior struggles, he tries to remember that God, in order to realize His will, can hide these fruits from him.” (S.C. Biela, Behold, IStand at the Door and Knock (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 59.)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Entrustment To Mary = Not Limiting God's Graces

A year ago I was a bit down in the dumps at my job and one reason was due to being the only employee. I thought how it would have been enjoyable to work in an office with others. Watching the TV sitcom The Office helped increase the desire to have co-workers. I resolved myself to believing it would never happen in my life, as I figured my current job would be my only career. Little did I realize then, that a year later I would be hired into a new position that has me in a clinic connected to a hospital with plenty of employees and patients to share my day. I am totally amazed by God’s generous love which has brought me to this change in my life, and given me this gift of something I have longed to experience.

Because all of my children had graduated from High School and we had hosted my daughter’s wedding, I figured the visits from extended family were probably coming to an end. To my delight the following year my sister and her family stopped by our home on a trip they were making to a relative's wedding. I smiled to myself that God would prove to me how limited my thinking is when it comes to His big loving graces that He desires to bestow.

Just last week my daughter shared that she and her family, who now live out of the country, are thinking about coming to our home for Christmas. Again, I had to chuckle to myself on how closed I am to God’s ways which are incredible, for I presumed we would not see them this Christmas season.

This same closed attitude of mine relates to my entrustment to the Blessed Mother. I limit the graces that flow from this union because I am always thinking in human terms, and setting up defenses against hurt feelings. I presume events won’t occur so I won’t be disappointed, when in actuality, God is ready to bestow so many more spectacular graces if I would just be open to them.

An example of such an extraordinary grace is Holy Father Francis consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary this Sunday, October 13th. For me, it is God using a world event to remind me how my entrustment to the Blessed Mother is exactly the path I need to take to make it through this world on my journey to Heaven. I look at this Consecration as affirmation of the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary. And I see how I have not trusted in this gift I have been given. Jesus entrusted humanity [including me] to his mother from the Cross. Therefore, I should never doubt that Mary is my spiritual mother. I need to remember I am in her arms with her forming me as she guides me to her Son. I need to trust that she will help me to stop thinking in human ways as she leads me to being open to receiving God’s unimaginable graces. She is my rescue, just as she is the world’s rescue.
“When Jesus told His mother [Jn19:26]: ‘Woman, behold, your son’ it was as if He was telling her: My Mother, from this day on you will care for all people and you will ‘carry all of them in your arms’ as your children in the same way that you carried Me. And the words addressed to John: “Behold, your mother’ [Jn 19 :27] can be interpreted as: John, from today you have the special right to benefit from the privilege of being Mary’s child – this privilege consists of being ‘carried in the arms of My mother’ who is also your Mother.” S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 170.
“That Mary ‘carries us in her arms’ is an objective truth that does not depend on your faith. The words of Christ’s testament pronounced on the Cross are, in fact, an objective truth on the maternity of Mary in relation to all men. Her maternity does not depend on our recognition of it nor in our belief in her. Independently, whether or not you believe it, whether or not you remember it, you are ‘in the arms of Mary’. The recognition and acceptance of this truth can become an opportunity to open oneself to God and to His mercy.” Ibid 171. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Joy in My Newly Painted Family Room

When we moved into our new house last summer, my husband and I were dissatisfied with the bold paint color in the kitchen and family room.  We lived with it for a year, until my husband suggested last week that we finally pick a new color and soften the room. 

The new choice in color ended up being exactly what we had envisioned, but it’s funny how the newness of the paint showed deficiencies in the rest of the room.  All of sudden, I was hesitant to re-hang the window curtains, which looked faded and yellowed.  The fireplace paint looked dull, and the carpet a tad bit worn.  I started to notice the accumulation of dirt in the sliding glass door tracks, and my kitchen towels did not really match the new tones of the walls. 

I tried to look at the situation through the eyes of faith, and was reminded of how tempted I am to view my spiritual life as making progress.  Not too long ago, because I started to become aware of my need for God, I was a daily communicant, facilitator of a small faith-sharing group, encouraged in my role as primary educator of the faith to my children, and regular caller to my spiritual director.  I was reading spiritual books and hungering for frequent Confession.  I look at my life today, and the first thing that comes to mind is that I am falling apart!  I unfairly blame my active two year old for me not going to daily Mass, and my meditative prayer life is almost non-existent.  I am constantly tempted to rely on my own strength, and I succumb to anxiety, stress and haste almost all day long. 

It is very easy to succumb to the illusion that the successive stages of our journey to sanctity are like the progression from one grade level to another.  When a child is promoted to the next grade level, he knows that a certain stage of education is now behind him, even if he critically evaluates his achievements.  He will never have to repeat the curriculum of the previous level because there will be a new program in the next grade….
(S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 7)

I look back at that woman from not too long ago, and wonder what happened.  But, I find hope as I read:

With successive revelations of the interior of your soul, you will see that the process of graduating from one grade level to another cannot be applied to the idea of progressing toward perfection within your interior life…..By seeing your interior in a clearer light, you will gradually come to discover who you really are….Perhaps you will have the impression that you are becoming worse and worse and regressing in your interior life….But do not succumb to doubt or despair – nothing bad is happening.  It is only the Light that is knocking, the Light to whom you opened the borders of your kingdom….(Ibid, 12, 13)

Exposing the interior….is an unceasing process in spiritual life…This Light is showing you the sick parts of your soul in order to heal them.  (Ibid, 19).

The new paint is teaching me a few things:  (1) gratitude for a lighter room (God’s knocking Light),  (2) awareness that remodeling (at least with our budget!) is a process, not a one-time-deal (just like my on-going conversion), and (3) the dirty carpet/faded curtains do not have to steal my joy over the new paint color (as the Light shines and more of my misery appears or resurfaces, God wants me to trust that He does not stop loving me). 

Perhaps God is reminding me that He does not love this weaker, more miserable version of myself any less than He did the one who was discovering the joys of the sacraments.  And perhaps I am not even weaker than I was before, only more aware of my need for God all along.  And perhaps in all of it, God is reminding me of this path He has designed for me: the arms of my Blessed Mama. 

To someone who abandons himself to Mary, it will be easier for him to have the attitude of a child of God; the attitude of a child who, in believing that it is loved and fully accepted, guards in every situation the dignity which is proper to him. (S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed. Rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005] 160- 161)