Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Toward Gratitude: The List that Never Ends....

With it being Thanksgiving, which for some turns into Black Friday, which for some turns into hectic travel, which for some turns into anxiety and fear of falling behind, we decided to give you a quote from one of S.C. Biela's most beautiful books The Two Pillars.  This book guides the reader toward contrition and gratitude. There is still time for us to stop and remember that we are utterly and completely immersed in LOVE!

“It is necessary to open our eyes and our hearts widely, to look at our lives as far back as we can remember to childhood and try to see how much good, love, care, and forgiveness is in everything that the Loving Presence gives us. The gift contains the interior call to respond to it. The gift demands gratitude.

What if we overheard a prayer lifted up to the Blessed Mother by a young American student who calls herself tiny (crumb)? This prayer is so simple, yet simultaneously astonishing, in the way it shows how she perceives God’s gifts in the areas of life where God’s bestowals are corroded by routine and, therefore, normally illegible for us. Perhaps our lack of discretion will be forgiven us if, because of it, we begin to discover bestowals whose dimensions can reach the size of a continent a continent of bestowals.

Dearest Mommy,
Thank You for everything:
For sitting with me on the subway as we returned from school.
For brushing my teeth with me.
For cleaning with me.
For giving me the grace of loneliness, so that I can better understand how You love me so much.
For my entire past and for everything that has led me to this moment of grace, thanks to which I constantly remember about Your loving presence.
For allowing my pride and my illusions to crush me to the point of depression, such that now I can understand and desire Your love and truth.
For Your constant friendship, even when I still didn’t know where You were.
For the fact that I do not have to try to achieve anything in the eyes of this world.
I thank You for the fact that I am constantly rejected by others, so that only You can be the Queen of my heart.
For laughing with me when I stumble and fall on this way because of my weaknesses.
For crying with me when I helplessly tried to understand, instead of simply entrusting myself to Your love.
I thank You, Mommy, that I am not tall and that I cannot see a lot of things because of this.
For all of the girls in the dormitory who look at me and giggle because I do not drink or sleep with boys.
For gathering up all of the graces that I receive and for safeguarding them with Your care so that they are not wasted.
For preserving me from so many sins because You know that without You I am capable of doing the most heinous and evil things.
For everything, Mommy, I am grateful.
For the abyss of my spiritual misery and for the abyss of Your love that fills it.
For the tininess of my entire being and for Your greatness.
For being my only home and refuge.
For our communion of hearts.      
For simplicity.
For silence, but also, for noise.
For the ocean of mercy that is outpoured over the earth.
For taking me and carrying me in Your arms anew, even after I wound You and Your Son.
For loving me so much that You desire my sanctification.
For showing me that, on our path of life, everything is and always will be grace.
Mommy, I thank You that this list will never end
Your beloved, little
(S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 71-73. Used with permission.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Entrustment To Mary = Gratitude Diffuses Discouragement

Why is gratitude so important? St. Therese of the Child Jesus emphasizes that it is
gratitude that attracts God's grace the most. On the other hand, ingratitude, according to St. Augustine, is "the root of all spiritual evil, a windstorm that burns out and dries up every good." The desire to show gratitude to God should be born in us each time we notice how we have experienced His love. It is precisely this gratitude that will build in us an image of God that is close and closer to the truth. It will build in us the image of the One who is Love and who continually takes care of us. [1]
With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I thought a reflection on gratitude might be in order. I have learned through the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through the Blessed Mother that being grateful is the rescue for my discouragement and anxiety.
For example, after I was hired for my current job, I noticed in the newspaper an onslaught of new employment opportunities. I started to second guess my decision to accept my position which is less than part-time and came without benefits. I questioned myself, wondering if I should have held out for an appointment that would have been more hours and thus more income. Then I recalled how I had given God the credit for giving me the job as the interview had been scheduled for the mercy hour. I also remembered how grateful I was when I saw my work hours still allowed me to attend daily Mass three times a week. My anxiety released as I thanked God again for blessing me with my job. Also, God sees the bigger picture. At this workplace I have been able to take a week off to make a trip to celebrate my grandchild's 1st birthday. In my limited human way of thinking, I never would have guessed I could be leaving for a vacation so soon after being hired. Of course, I will not be paid for the time off, but God had everything fall into place so my duties would be covered. Again my heartfelt gratitude came pouring out for my Creator's merciful love.
But what about being grateful for what the world would perceive as negative events? I have been witnessing how ready I am to shout grateful praises when all is going my way, but lose the desire to do so when life takes a downhill turn. This is where my entrustment to Mary becomes my saving grace. When I cannot be thankful, or do not want to be grateful for so called "negatives" I remember I can turn it over to Blessed Mom and ask her to be my gratitude. Just the action of admitting my helplessness diffuses my discouragement or anger, for I know she is all powerful with God's grace and will help me through whatever adverse situation I am facing. Like just this week I had to ask her to help me remain appreciative for the 7+ years we have had a renter, even though when she moved out she left a mess, poorly painted walls, a cut doggy door, and took two weeks longer than a potential replacement renter could wait!
I also need her gratitude for my hearing disability which brings many humbling moments. It is hard for me to be grateful when I misconstrue what someone says, or I have to ask for a person to repeat themselves. If I truly believe God gives only the best gifts for my soul, I should be appreciative that my poor hearing brings purifications for my sanctification. Yet my stubborn pride keeps my "thank you" hidden under pursed lips. Fortunately, God knows best the burden of my nature, so He gave me his Mother to take care of me, and to make up for what I lack. She leads me to understand that it is easier to have gratitude when I am following God's will and not my own. She helps me remember that everything God bestows and desires is for my eternal happiness.
If you were grateful for all the graces you receive, then you would see God's presence and His intervention in your life much more clearly.[2]

[1] S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 74.

[2] Ibid 85-86.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Seeking Protection for My Children's Souls

One of my fears about our move to a nicer, “safer” and more bubble-like neighborhood relates to my children (and myself) adopting a sense of entitlement. Yes, I am so very, very grateful that I am not worried that my front door is going to be kicked in by intruders at 10 o’clock in the morning anymore, but there are other dangers to be concerned about here in our new city.  Day after day, going to school or playing sports with young children who seem to have everything and then some, can slowly poison our thinking about what we need vs. what we want.  I spoke with my spiritual director about my concerns, and he readily agreed that my concerns were valid.  It seems these days I have more concerns over the safety of their souls than the safety of their physical bodies. 

I am amazed at how God can hear the quiet prayer of my heart and answer my unspoken prayers.  Just last week a Catholic Relief Services representative from Kenya spoke to the young people at our parish.  My husband took our two oldest children, and when they came home to discuss all they had learned, my heart was filled with gratitude for the Holy Spirit teaching my children about gratitude.  Even though my husband and I try to teach them gratitude here at home, at times it is much more effective for them to hear the message elsewhere. The speaker’s personal story about near starvation moved my children’s hearts with compassion and planted a seed of awareness more quickly than anything I could have shared with them.  The speaker suggested that at this time and place in their lives, they could help by (1) being grateful for all that God had blessed them with, (2) do their best to avoid waste, and (3) offer their personal prayers.  The next day, they reflected that they looked at their meals a bit differently and felt a different sense of gratitude, but they still felt a bit helpless and a bit guilty for all that they had. The very next day, during a morning reflection reading, Jesus spoke to us all about not feeling guilty for all that we had been blessed with, but to be thankful and to see the truth that no one deserves anything from Him. “My kingdom is not about earning blessings.  And life with Me is not some sort of game in which you earn points to buy prizes.  Good behavior doesn’t buy blessings.”[1]   I did, however, notice that the reflection pointed out that this was a time of plenty in our lives, and that we should enjoy this time as His gift to us.  A time.  Hmmm…there is no guarantee it will last forever, nor that it will be good for my soul if it does last. Only God knows. 

“The person who wants to acknowledge his dependence on God in everything will have to agree to accept material poverty.  Otherwise, this desire to be dependent on God will only be a theory. ….In addition, even if our spiritual maturity is such that we are able to be detached from rich things, a comfortable life style, and a well equipped house, who can guarantee that our children will also be detached from these things?  Who can guarantee that they will not feel superior to those who are less fortunate?  The pressure of the environment pertaining to material reliance is so great that if parents do not give a believable testimony from their own lives, no amount of moralistic discussions will suffice to equip their children to withstand such pressure.”[2] 

And I wonder, how attached am I to a comfortable lifestyle?  Am I really detached and dependent on God for everything?  What am I modeling to them?   After hearing their recap of the Catholic Relief Services speaker, I thought differently about turning on my water faucet, and about leftovers in my fridge.  I see how much I take these gifts for granted.  "Since this detachment to prosperity does not come easily, we must attempt to stand in truth, admitting to our enslavement.  Then, with humility, thank Jesus for loving us as we are and for desiring to be united with us."[3] 

“When we look at our family’s material situation, we must always take into consideration the most important goal of our lives, that is, our sanctity and the sanctity of our children.  If we think seriously about holiness, then money is equivalent to garbage.  Money has value only to the degree that it serves us according to God’s will.”[4]  This is such an anti-cultural message and being the Control Freak that I am, I fear that my children will not embrace the gift of faith.  I fear that they will rely on themselves and live as if God did not exist.  But I cannot control them – at all.  The only thing I can do is seek deeper communion of life with Christ through His mother.  I need to ask her to repair the damage I do with my poor examples.  I can only entrust each interaction and each conversation with them to our Blessed Mama, and allow grace to be attached to carry them closer to our Lord.  I beg God to love them through me, so that His Presence will permeate their souls (and mine!) and draw us unto Himself.

[1] Sarah Young, Jesus Calling:  365 Devotions for Kids (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2010), 331.
[2] S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2011), 25.
[3] Ibid., 26.
[4] Ibid., 26.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Learning Simplicity from a Child

The last few early mornings I've been woken up by the Little One crawling into bed needing to be held. “HUG ME!” she says.  I usually have to roll over to face her, and I sleepily put my arm around her. She much prefers the two armed hold, but will accept my attempt, especially if it’s still dark outside.  If I’m too asleep to respond, she has no trouble waking up my husband with the same demand. It has got me thinking…how much do I need to be held by Blessed Mother?

The spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through Mary emphasizes childlike trust and humility. I have come to believe that one of my Little One’s roles is to teach me the proper disposition to have in front of my Mother and ultimately, my Father in Heaven.

So my reflection and prayer today is what does MOM (Blessed Mother) want to share with me through the Little One’s desire for being held?

It is in the mornings, when the Little One finds herself alone and in the dark, that she seeks out my arms or my husband’s, but not only then. She asks to go to sleep in our arms too. During the day, she comes to us regularly asking to be held. If the walk is too long, she starts stretching her arms high, whining “hold me!”  When she gets a boo-boo, she runs to share the news with us…hoping for kisses and hugs. When she eats, she prefers to sit on our lap. When she is cold and/or tired, she snuggles into our embrace. I find she seeks me out when she is bored, and/or when I am distracted – wanting to make sure I still remember she is there. She runs to us to share her good news, as well as her bad news. She comes when she doesn’t understand something, and/or when she finally gets it! She often seeks out our arms at the Holy Mass – when she is overwhelmed by her lack of patience and/or distractions. 

Entrustment to Mary, submission to her, and being in her arms are your source of life. Outside of these arms everything appears to be threatening, the world seems hostile, and you encounter the worst things. And it would be so if Mary did not pick you up, embrace, cuddle, and hold you within her merciful arms. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 77.)
And, what does MOM want to tell me through the Little One’s desire NOT to be held?

It is always when the Little One wants to exert independence that she doesn’t seem interested in being held. When we pick her up to keep her from something is when she flies out of our arms quickest. She screams when her siblings pick her up and won’t let her down – when she feels trapped and when it isn’t her will. She stays away from us when she wants to be in control, or when she doesn’t trust us.

The words, I am afraid to turn everything over to God, hurt like a slap in the face because they are as if you were saying to God, I don’t trust You; I do not know what You are going to do to me. … Distrust, in a certain way, is worse than sin because it is the root and the source of sin. If you do not want to trust, if your enemy is able to engraft distrust in your heart, then consequences will have to follow – fear, the feeling of being threatened, and the suffering associated with it.  Only through the consequences of this evil will you see how far you have strayed. … You will continue to carry the burden of fear until you are converted, until you become like a child who simply entrusts himself into his loving father’s arms. “A patient should be treated for as long as it takes until he learns to pray,” wrote L. Szondi. This does not refer to repeating simple prayers. It refers to an attitude of deep prayer, the trusting prayer of a child who surrenders himself fully into the arms of the Father. (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 63.)
Childlike trust and humility, what does it mean for me?

I guess, in simplicity, it means I need MOM’s arms always:

The arms of Mary, where we can find security and happiness, are in reality the arms of God Himself, who completely permeates the one whom the Church calls the Vessel of the Holy Spirit. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd. ed. [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011], 137.) 
©2012-2013 CyanoScarlet

Friday, November 1, 2013

Entrustment to Mary = Acknowledging God In The Workplace

Someone who is poor in spirit stands before God in truth and does not hide behind the masks of perfection and self-sufficiency. He believes that God loves him just as he is. Consequently, he is willing to admit to his limitations, fallibility, weaknesses, and misery, even in matters pertaining to work. S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 114

I have almost completed working one month at my new job. When my interview for the job was scheduled for 3PM – the mercy hour - I figured it was a sign from God that He wanted me to have this position. I started praying every morning before work entrusting myself to the Blessed Mother and asking for graces to be able to do the work required of me. I would pray not to be a super employee, but just to be competent in learning the job’s duties. Then I would proceed to go through my work day totally forgetting about relying on God’s graces. I would become anxious and upset at every new aspect of the job that would come my way. To problem solve, I relied only on my experience and knowledge. I became stressed and overwhelmed. Driving home one night I realized this pattern, and asked God’s forgiveness for trying to do it all on my own. I admitted to my Lord that yes, I actually wanted to be a super employee.   

The next day I prayed to remember to rely on God’s graces during the work day. I remembered to ask for the Blessed Mother’s help for the various situations that arose. I did not become a “super worker”, and I made mistakes, but there was a calming peace that penetrated my being that can only be described as God’s merciful love. It has been a hard transition leaving a position that I was proficient at and becoming the new hire with limited knowledge and competence. There are a lot of humbling moments. But experiencing the peace that came that day when I stood in the truth and admitted my nothingness and asked for God’s helping graces, gives me hope that I can be content in this new employment knowing that God is a part of this environment and He wants to guide me on this path as long as I am open to following Him. And I can only be open to following Him if I continuously entrust myself to the Blessed Mother’s care.

Another grace God has bestowed during this time of transition is having me reach the section in my current meditation book Open Wide the Door to Christ that speaks about keeping God in the work environment. I believe there are no coincidences, just God’s love for me and my soul. I have included some of the helpful reflections below.

God wants to use your work, the people with whom you come in contact at work, and the difficulties that arise during work, as instruments in forming your soul. A large part of your adult life is spent at work and this time should serve you on your path to sanctity. If you look at your job without faith, then you shut God out of an important part of your life. Ibid 110-111

When you are excessively absorbed in what you do, you behave as if you have forgotten that you are God’s child and that you have an immortal soul, which your Heavenly Father wants to feed with His love, even when you are at work. Ibid 111
When you experience difficulties, you lose a sense of security. In turn, anguish overcomes you. Therefore, you should always seek reliance in God’s will. By seeking reliance in God’s will, you will cease to feel estranged and isolated. In addition, you will stop fearing people and circumstances. You will cease to be excessively preoccupied with what other people think about you. Peace will begin to reign in your heart – a peace that comes only when you seek to rely on God and follow His light. Ibid 97