Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating Sacrifices Not Asked For This Advent

The day before the season of Advent began, our family was strolling about Costco, trying to find some flameless, LED candles to use for our Advent wreath.  A moment later, my husband received an unexpected call from his sibling, with the news that his father was passing away from this life on earth.

It has not been an ordinary Advent.  But our ears have perked up and are listening more intently to the Word of God. The next morning, the First Sunday of Advent, the extended family gathered and heard the words of Jesus: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”  The following days the Gospel encouraged us to “be like a wise man who built his house on rock, “ (Mt 7 :21,24 – 27), and to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mk 1: 1-8).    We were promised “a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3: 8-14)

We went on to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, later that night holding a vigil and Rosary to pray for the dear soul of my father-in-law and asking our Blessed Mother to be with him and accept God’s merciful love on his behalf.  The next morning, the feast of St. Juan Diego, we celebrated the funeral Mass of the Resurrection, followed by a graveside ceremony.  My heart ached at the sadness of my husband, and my children grieved aloud for the loss of their beloved grandfather. 

Although we did not choose it, this is the Advent our Father has planned for us. Mary did not choose the path God had willed for her, but she said yes and allowed God to work through her. In this way, our Father hopes to draw us closer to Himself.  This is the setting in which He wills us to hear His invitation to hope in His promises, to find joy in the Nativity.  Although this Christmas will be quite different than years past, with grace and faith, in the arms of Our Blessed Mama, we look to celebrate the true gift of love that God offers to us by becoming one of us.  We can participate in the Eucharistic celebration and be united with the communion of saints, meeting our Abuelito (grandfather) around the Table of the Lord. 

I pray that this year, in our more vulnerable state, we will find ourselves hungering more deeply for eternal life.  I pray we are more open to the healing God wishes to bestow upon us, by allowing the events of this particular Advent season.  I see that God loves us each uniquely.  I am seeing more and more my misery, my real need for the gift of our Redeemer.  Little by little, I am more and more grateful for the Christ Child, as I see my personal Rescuer.  I pray that I might not focus too much on my wounds, my misery, but on the truth that God wants to heal me of something.  He is seeking me out, with a profound and mysterious love.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = More than Baking Cookies!

The priest commented, “Wow, these Christmas cookies you made look amazing! I bet you put in a lot of time and effort to make them.”

“Yes!” I responded. “They have only the finest ingredients, and I used recipes that have been passed down for generations!”

“That sounds wonderful. So, did the process of preparing them draw you into a deeper relationship with Blessed Mother? Did you become more aware of Christ’s presence in your life while you baked them?”

“Hmm, to tell you the truth, I didn’t think much about that. I guess I didn’t think much about Christ while I baked them at all.”

The priest took the whole plate of cookies I had prepared him and tossed them into the trash can saying, “Then they are worth garbage!”

Harsh, you say? Well, this event didn’t actually happen to me, but something similar did to someone else and now I am the benefactor of her shock and amazement – as I have recently been shown through the example just how useless my actions can become when I am following my own will or acting as if God does not exist.

Each and every aspect of my day can either be full of me or full of GOD. I get to choose.

“The entire world is not worthy of a man’s thought, for this belongs to God alone; any thought, therefore, not centered on God is stolen from Him.” ~ St. John of the Cross, Maxims and Counsels

I have read this line from St. John of the Cross many times, but somehow the example of the cookies that are only worth garbage has drawn out the reality of what he was trying to say. All my actions are garbage if done without being focused on the One who created me, the One who saved me, the One who desires to fill me with His power and love.

Faced with this truth, what can I do? I am so immersed in my will that it seems impossible to believe I could ever fulfill the great command to love God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind (cf. Mt 22:37). But, then I remember I am entrusted to Mother Mary. Jesus says to me again, “Behold, your mother” (Jn19:27).

Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer reminds us in his introduction to S. C. Biela's book God Alone Suffices that when faced with difficult situations, or what we perceive as impossible to change: “we can choose the way of faith, trusting that the endangerment is the opportunity leading us to Jesus, who controls the situation, or, on the Marian way, to Christ through Mary. If it is she who is in control, then we only need to find shelter under her mantle and already we become calm and safe.” (God Alone Suffices, p. xviii. Bold emphasis added.)

Our Lady of Guadalupe's words to St. Juan Diego can become the words she says to me:

Listen, put it into your heart,
my youngest and dearest [child],
the thing that afflicts you, is nothing.
Do not let your countenance,
your heart be disturbed. . . .

Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not the source of your joy?
Are you not in the hollow of my mantle,
in the crossing of my arms?

Do you need anything more?

(Antonio Valeriano, “Nican Mopohua: Original account of Guadalupe,” in A Handbook on Guadalupe, ed. francis Mary Kalvelage, trans. Mario Rojas S├ínchez and Janet Barber (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2001), 200. Italic and hard return emphasis added.)

Now, the Christ-mas cookies have value – more value in the garbage than on the plate. This Advent, instead of thinking of and hungering for cookies, I am asking my MOM to hunger in me and for me for what truly matters...Her Son. My Savior.

“Thank you God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weakness, and how that calls upon the abyss of your merciful love!”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Being Grateful For Everything

Only a person who has faith is able to be grateful for everything. This gratitude will be visible on your face as joy, for everything may be changed into good. [1]
It was easy to thank God when my husband and I survived driving the wrong way down a three lane one-way road. Miraculously the cars we were facing dispersed and we were able to turn 180* and head in the right direction, praising God as we did so.
It is easy to thank God for His blessings of a warm house, food to eat, employment, and family visiting during the holiday season.
It has not been easy to be grateful for my daughter being served divorce papers after only four months of marriage.
Although I am a person who has faith, it is not so easy for me to be grateful for everything. I do not always appreciate difficult trials; nor am I thankful for my weaknesses. I am currently reading the book How to Profit from Your Faults. It is based on the writings of St. Francis De Sales and discusses the positive side of one’s faults and failings. I am learning to have gratitude for my weaknesses as it is through them that I come to see how much I need God and His mercy. It is through my humiliations that I grow in my awareness of “who” I am not. It is when I can see my misery and stand in the truth and admit my unfaithfulness to God that I become open to allowing Him to rescue me. And who wouldn’t be grateful for that!?

The seeing, admitting, and opening myself up to my God is not easy for me. That is where my entrustment to Mary comes in, for on my own I cannot, and would not, admit the truth about myself. But in my Blessed Mom’s arms WE can thank God for everything, for WE can trust that everything may be changed into good!
Jesus is never sad when looking at your life that may be filled with failures, problems, conflicts, unfulfilled plans, everyday difficulties, and spiritual difficulties. He is joyful because He expects all those things to bear fruit. He expects that you will take advantage of them and you will be joyful and grateful for everything He gives you.[2]
[1][2]Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 13.

On behalf of High Hopes, Control Freak, and Scaredy Cat we wish all of our readers a most blessed Thanksgiving and Advent Season. Thank you for sharing in our revelations of the many ways God loves us all as we are!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Playing on the Lord's Day

My husband has been extremely busy lately, training for a ½ marathon, discerning a change in employment, visiting ailing parents, and balancing his “free” time with getting enough sleep and focusing on our 5 children and their needs and activities (and me, too, his wife!).  I have been carrying a heavier load, trying to balance his load out.   Needless to say, he agreed with me when I shared my desire for some time to myself.  Recently, after a busy week and busy Saturday, he suggested I take some time on Sunday, after Mass, while he took all the kids to visit his parents in the city. 

Although I appreciated his offer, I felt a tugging on my conscience about spending time by myself on a Sunday, especially one after we’d all been so busy and needed to reconnect.  I have been hearing through various spiritual readings and conversations how very important it is to honor the 3rd Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Just as God “rested” on the seventh day, we, too, need this day to rejuvenate and be renewed in God’s Love.  To just stop and reconnect with family.  To rest. To nap. To play.  To eat together. To visit. 

It was a moment of truly discerning God’s will for me, and my whole family.  As tempted as I was, I didn’t feel God was calling me to a day of shopping or the movies by myself.  After Mass, I decided to go with my family to the city to visit my in-laws.  At first I chose the visit out of guilt, trying to trust in God’s commandment, even though I didn’t “feel” like honoring it.  On the drive over, my husband suggested some sight-seeing with the kids before visiting his house-bound parents.  I perked up a bit, for as much time we spend in the city, most of it is spent in the living room of his parents. We arrived, and I have to say I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and Love.  We had an amazing afternoon with our kids….walking by the beach and wharf, enjoying freshly baked bread, strolling through art museums, savoring chocolate sundaes.  The kids enjoyed all the people-watching, and we held hands throughout the day, enjoying each other’s company.  Afterwards, we visited their grandparents, and were pleasantly surprised by an aunt and cousin who also stopped by unexpectedly. 

By the end of the day, I was truly humbled by God’s generosity.  Not only did He arrange a very special outing, but He showed me once again how His ways far exceed my expectations, and how His ways bring much JOY.  I so often struggle with my old image of God, but He continues to be patient with me and reveals His all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing pure GOODNESS. 

Both our work and our leisure time are given to us so that we may deepen our bond with God and seek our support in Him.  If we try to see God and to seek His will in everything that He bestows upon us, then our time for rest will strengthen our faith in God’s omnipotent love. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2011] 18)

Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weakness, and how it calls upon the abyss of Your merciful love. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Falling, If It Leads to God’s Mercy

Last week the Little One was suffering a virus which kept her up at night. In the afternoons she would fall into a deep sleep from which it was difficult to wake her up. The first afternoon I tried, I was confronted with angry resistance and a monotonous cry that just wouldn’t stop. I tried my best to be loving (grace obtained by Blessed Mother, I'm sure), but I am not the most patient and I seldom think outside the box. My husband got home from work and, thanks to his entrustment to Mary, and good sense of humor, it wasn’t long before he was carrying the Little One down the stairs smiling, and ready for dinner.

Flash forward to day two of the deep naps. I decided to use the same “tricks” that worked for my hubby. Well, it must be in the delivery, because I met with the same resistance, anger, kicking, and annoyance as day one. I thought I would trump all tricks this time and made a delicious smoothie to coax my tired girl into a better mood. No luck. My feelings were hurt! Why was I being treated so poorly? I hadn’t done anything wrong…what was UP?!

I retreated, leaving the smoothie at the bedside and called my husband in a fit of panic. My “plans” were being foiled. Pacing outside I shared my dilemma: “I’m just not mature enough to handle her bad attitude!” He told me to relax, that he was almost home. To ease my burden (I had an important work conference call that same evening) he was going to pick up the Little One and go out to eat with her leaving me free to get my call done.

I returned to the bedroom to find the Little One drinking the smoothie, but when her eyes caught mine she returned to her grumpy disposition. So, sitting down a good distance from her I simply said: “Dad’s almost home. He will take you out to dinner so I can do my work. You need to get ready to leave with him.” She got up and started toward the door, but instead of leaving, she turned and looked at me, stretched out her arms for a hug, and said in a gentle voice “I’m sorry.”

Wow. All my animosity and panic left instantly and I hugged her so tight! “I forgive you,” was my response.

Later that night it occurred to me. The whole UGLY episode was totally worth it since it led to the Little One experiencing contrition, and it led to my understanding God’s way of loving a little better. No longer was it about what I deserved or how she behaved, but it was about the beautiful spirituality of events that led us both to discover in a deeper way contrition and gratitude. I was now thankful for something that had brought me a lot of grief. Once again the Little One is Blessed Mother’s instrument to show me just how wonderful God’s love is. My lessons are gentle, in the privacy of my home and not in the public’s eye. How blessed I feel to be so small that the tiniest problems can lead me to the deepest truths!

When you sin
or you are saddened,
you do not trust God
and you are not grateful,
you are making yourself similar to the lost sheep.
What does the Good Shepherd do then?
In response to your infidelity
He searches for you,
and immediately when you show contrition,
He takes you in His arms,
showing you this gesture, that He pardoned you already.
He wants you to know
that He loves you constantly,
m o r e
than before your fall.
That is when He loves you more than ever.

(S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 83.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Facing The Tricks And Treats On The Way To Sainthood

With it being Halloween as well as All Saints Day, I thought I would share two “candy” graces that have come my way. First, a dear friend’s husband received the Sacraments of Initiation just a couple of weeks ago. Sweet graces, as he is dying of pancreatic cancer and it does not seem like he has much more time left here on earth. I have been praying Divine Mercy chaplets for his conversion, and it brought me such joy to hear he had opened his heart to Jesus and received the Sacraments at this critical stage in his life.
The other special grace was being able to visit my daughter who has entered the Order of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. My husband and I made the trip last weekend. It was nice to see her joyful face that matched the happy and content-filled letters we have been receiving since she left a couple of months ago. During the visit she remarked how much time she has in a day without being connected to a cell phone, computer, and TV. She has read a few books already about various Saints during her free time. Although we shared a teary goodbye, we felt good about her new “home” and grateful for her chosen vocation.
So as you can read, I have had a few spiritual “treats” this Halloween. But in reflecting more on All Saints’ Day - I praise God with gratitude for my entrustment to Mary, as I can always count on her to help me face the tricks and treats that come along my path on my way to sainthood.
Perhaps, when you hear God calling you do not realize how much He wants to bestow upon you. By proposing to you His own will, He desires to free you from all of your wounds, disappointments, and difficulties, which are the result of seeking your own will. When you agree to let go of the steering wheel of your life and hand it over to a Father who loves you, then you will be freed from many fears and stress, as well as from the torment of responsibility, which flows from the faith you have in yourself. God does not want you to be so tormented. He desires to lift this weight from your shoulders and replace it with the sweet burden of His will. You only have to surrender to Him, and He will lead you.
S.C. Biela, OpenWide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005) 150.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Repair of My Distorted Image of God

I was introduced to the spirituality of Communion of Life with Christ through His Blessed Mother about 14 years ago.  Fortunately, I was rescued from my previous path of trying to grow in perfection before I had kids, because I still struggle today with passing along a distorted image of God’s love to my children, even with my attempts to live in our Blessed Mama’s arms. 

Even though I want my children to experience God’s pure love through me, I am so often times an obstacle.  Because of my own pride, I still have high expectations about their obedience and behavior.  About 5 years ago, I prepared my children for their own entrustment to the Blessed Mother.  Although we talk about asking Blessed Mama to carry them in Her arms to help them be more united to Her Son, I am often unsure they personally see the value and the gift and the need for Her.

Recently I have been butting heads with one of my daughters.  Although sweet in nature, she has been struggling with lying.  As my natural inclination is to be a Control Freak, I struggle with continuous forgiveness and being loving as I teach her the value of standing in truth.  She continues to lie, so I must be creating some sort of fear in her to tell the truth (fear of getting in trouble? fear of a less-than-perfect image of herself? fear of surrendering her own will?).  I am in serious danger of teaching her the attitude of the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son: 

Rather than being like the prodigal son who exposed the nakedness of his misery to his father, and received generous and gratuitous forgiveness in return, I follow the path of the older son.  The older son was convinced that his father loved him because “all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders” (Lk 15:29).”….We are constantly tempted to follow the path of the older son and create a false image of God’s love….If we consider the prodigal son’s father as a symbol for God, then, by imitating the attitude of the older brother and desiring to be alright before God, we unconsciously do not want to need God’s forgiveness.  Here, then, is where the unconscious resistance to grace is born of us, and we ask ourselves, Why does God have to forgive me?  I prefer to be perfect…

…God, the Merciful Father who loves me as a sinner, slowly disappears from my life.  In His place appears a false image of God who loves me because of my deeds and merits. I trudge further along the path of the older brother – the path that closes me to the truth about Redemption….(S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2006] 23, 24, 25.)

"The Virgin Mary is a tender mother to all who love her son:
we can turn to her and rest in her love at any time"
by Elizabeth Wang, T-07930-CW © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk
How terrifying that I am teaching my children that they do not need God!  We had a moment of grace yesterday, when my daughter apologized to me for lying that morning.  She explained that she literally could NOT tell the truth in that particular moment.  She wanted to, but felt physically unable to.  I was inspired to remind her how joyful that very moment was!  She was able to recognize her helplessness and true need for God and His grace.  I shared with her that I wasn’t able to see my helplessness as anything but joyful until I was almost 40 years old!  What a gift, that God could reveal this to her at such a young age.  I reminded her about the gift of her entrustment to our Blessed Mama, and she could finally begin to see her actual need to be rescued from her pride.  I shared with her, that whenever she felt helpless again, she could simply hold out her hand and beg quietly within her heart, and ask Blessed Mama to tell the truth, with her, through her, for her.

As my daughter began to smile at this revelation, I personally grew in hope that all can be repaired.  God can work around any obstacle (me!) and love my daughter, His daughter, and reveal His mercy to both of us. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = A Real Solution to Live in Hope

“Mooom-mmmyyyy” the Little One kept calling. She had gotten herself into a stubborn pickle. She was unable to exit the car because something didn’t go exactly the way she envisioned after I pulled into the garage. When I went out to see why she wouldn’t come in, she made some crazy excuse about needing my help to do something that she was completely capable of doing. She just needed me. But, how did I respond?

As I walked back into the house (leaving her in the car still), my conscience was tugging at me. I had used a harsh voice. I had piled on top of the existing problem issues from earlier – clearly letting the Little One know that I hadn’t forgotten her tantrum from this morning. My own “tantrum” seemed to be intensifying this power struggle.

“MOOOOOMMMM” I cried in my head! I had gotten myself into a stubborn pickle! Blessed Mother began to soften my heart by reminding me what the Little One’s day was like. “I forgot my tennis shoes for P.E. again; AND, today was my show and tell,” were the first things she shared with me when I picked her up.  And then it came out she forgot her library books too! I had spent the beginning of our drive home going on about how if she hadn’t spent so much time this morning complaining about what socks she wanted to wear all this wouldn’t have happened.  Hmmm…perhaps all she needed was a big hug when we got home? But, I walked away.

I, like the Little One, started searching hard for a way out of this mess. Her solution (help me get out of the car and I will feel better) was one I was too stubborn to give in to. So I asked my Not So Little One if he’d mind playing the role of the “good cop”. Blessed Mother’s love was ready and willing in him. It worked. The Little One came in with red circles under her eyes from crying, but she was smiling now. By grace, my tantrum had subsided too, and I wanted desperately to hug the Little One.

This tiny episode had a valuable lesson for me. Because of Blessed Mother’s action through the Not So Little One, the Little One and I were able to get over our prides. I need the saints, the angels, my friends, my family to help when I am stuck and unable, on my own, to step over my pride. In a special way, I need Blessed Mother! What HOPE there is in my home now that I have a support system - this spirituality - that validates that GOD loves me as I am and there is a purpose to my life.  In addition, this spirituality helps validate that GOD loves my children just as they are and they have a purpose in this life too! We fail each and every day, but because of Blessed Mother’s arms, we can get up! My Little One can find help – she can still scream “Mom!” and I have a solution when, before, I felt so helpless. I now can yell “MOOOOMMM!” too! When I am stuck, I am not left unaided. I can be wrong and immature, but still have a place where I can be held and comforted. This is a REAL SOLUTION for all the trouble in this world:

Shortly before Jacinta went to the hospital where she was to die, she said to Lucia: "In a short time now I am going to heaven. You are to stay here and say that God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. . . . Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that they must ask them from her. Tell them that the Heart of Jesus wishes that by His side should be venerated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask for peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; God has placed it in her hands." (Message from Our Lady of Fatima)

…Imagine St. Juan Diego’s very difficult situation, and then you will know how to cling to Mary’s back and how to snuggle your head between her shoulders. It will be as if you are immersed in her so that your heart clings to her Immaculate Heart, and your heart and Mary’s heart become one. You will live in union with the Mother of God. In this way, no barriers will be able to come between your two hearts. In turn, your eyes will gradually become as if Mary’s eyes – your ears; her ears – your thoughts; her thoughts. For can the one whom Our Lady of Guadalupe takes into her arms, so that he does not become lost on the difficult path to the Only Lord, live in any other way? (S.C. Biela, The TwoPillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 38-39.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Giving Up Relying On My Bank Savings

I don't know if it is because my dad was a banker, but I have always had a tendency to put my security in our monetary savings. Being the "Scaredy Cat" that I am, has me shackled to fears of not having enough money to pay our bills. Yet, God has always been faithful in allowing us to cover our expenses.
I attended a retreat one time and the speaker said he was glad his sons did not have extra money to keep in a savings account, as he thought the boys would put their trust in the money saved instead of in God's helping hand. That struck a chord with me, as I have always put my trust in our savings, and in the extra cash I keep in our checking account, so that we have a surplus on which to depend.
Just this week my husband suggested we help our daughter with some debt she had accumulated while being out of a job. I had extra money in our checking account which I was collecting for our big property tax bill due in November. I was happy to be able to help our child, but I also had a twinge of uneasiness as I transferred the money over to her account. It was a wake-up call showing me just how attached I am to the security I place in money. Another alarm is my apprehension over my husband's approaching retirement date at the end of this year, fearing we will be limited due to a fixed income.
How do our savings serve us? It seems that they constitute an 'accumulation of manna', becoming an illusory source of security that prevents us from relying on God and His will. If we allow our reliance on these surpluses to replace our faith in God - and such is our human nature - then we are living an illusion. In contrast, when we lack savings, we are forced to live from day to day, and by necessity, we have to rely more on God. The way in which we readily rely on surpluses reveals the feebleness and fragility of our faith. Such weak faith is unable to protect us from fears and anxiety about the future.
When we gradually begin to lose our illusory reliances, which up to this point have been the main source of our security, we will be convinced that there is no need for us to have so many surpluses. Then, to our amazement, we will discover that we become happier when we are poorer. S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011) 25.
So, I have another reason to entrust myself to my Blessed Mother. She trusted in God and His will, not in worldly security. I need to allow her to lead me to letting go of my reliance on money, and to grow in trust in Her Son to take care of me and my family - as He has always done. The money belongs to God, and He has been very generous in sharing it with us so far - but even if He takes away the surpluses, it sounds like I would become happier, and that is a much better feeling than being afraid!


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Celebrating the Role of the Sheep

After auditions for the annual local production of The Nutcracker, my young daughter was anxiously awaiting the posting of the cast list.  She hoped to acquire the role of one of the party girls, or perhaps be cast in the Chinese Tea dance. As she heard that not all dancers would even get a role, she eventually just hoped to get any part.  Finally, a week or so went by and the list was posted at the dance studio.  I drove her over and she ran inside and came back after a few minutes.  She looked a bit down, and I was trying to prepare a little encouraging speech in my head, preparing for the worst. 

“I’m a sheep,” she announced, disappointed. She went on to say that it felt like a babyish part and felt, once again, like people treated her as much younger than her eleven years.  I decided to overlook her negativity and congratulated her on getting a spot in the production!  After all, she did get what she wanted, a chance to participate and enjoy all the related festivities.  As we drove home, I asked her what she remembered from last year about the part of the sheep.  As she described the role, I remembered being enchanted as an audience member by those dear sheep.  I recalled that there were only 4 sheep total, compared to the 15 or so dancers on stage for the party scene and the Chinese Tea.  I also remembered that the song went on for quite some time, 2 and half minutes compared to a minute or so for the Chinese dance, and the role required actual ballet technique, compared to other parts where the dancers just walked prettily or jumped around. “Wait a second,”  I said.  “Do you mean to tell me that you are disappointed over a role where the casting director trusts you to actually dance, for quite awhile, with only 4 others (Bo Peep and the 3 other sheep) on stage at the same time?”  She started to smile a little smile, and her excitement over her role grew and grew….

It reminds me of S.C. Biela’s description of the helpless sheep in his book, In the Arms of Mary.  At first thought, this sheep without a shepherd doesn’t seem to be something to be desired.  But, spiritually speaking, Jesus is moved by these helpless sheep: 

Those who recognize their own weakness and helplessness

and trustfully await everything from God

are likened to, in the Gospel, the “sheep without a shepherd.”

the relationship of Jesus to such persons is very special –

since going out of His way in meeting their expectations,

the Good Shepherd is disposed to make for them

an additional effort,

and even to perform miracles.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed., rev.[Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 59)

St. Mark’s Gospel (Mk 6: 30-34) describes Jesus wanting to get away and pray, but the people were coming in great numbers, hurrying after Him, and his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. He taught them and eventually, because of their trust and thirst for Him, even performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes for them. 

I have been struggling with my spiritual attitude lately….neglecting my prayer life, relying on myself to accomplish the tasks of the day, getting my responsibilities done, but not always with love and charity, so therefore rendering them worthless.  As I reflect on my daughter’s initial response to being a sheep, and how it transformed to one of great joy, I find a renewed desire to be ok with being the helpless sheep.  In fact, I am learning that in trying to be the strong sheep, I do not call out for Christ or attract His attention at all.  I am encouraged by the direction I find here:

Try to begin the day with the prayer of the helpless sheep:

kneel before the Lord and in the presence of the Crucified

Jesus, or before another of His images, pray with the prayer

of empty hands or with a focused gaze directed at the

Cross.  Remain in the presence of Jesus with the attitude of

the helpless sheep.  This prayer should accompany you

throughout your whole day….

…You are the last one, dragging yourself – your prayer is so poor, you are accompanying Jesus in such a terrible manner.  It does not matter!

It is critical that you put your hope totally in Him,

                        when in response to your attitude, God fills you with His presence, then,…

                        …you await everything from Him…

                        …You can also discover more fully the truth that God really loves the

                        sinner in a special way,

                        and the truth about the lost sheep whom the Shepherd carries on His shoulders.

(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed., rev.[Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 78)

Surely I will view the Nutcracker performance this year in a whole new light, especially watching Bo Peep and the little sheep in Act II!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Realizing that Not Everything is “Okay”

The Little One started school a few weeks ago. She started a full-day kindergarten program. I am happy to report that she is enamored with her new teacher and wakes up eager to return to the classroom each day. You can imagine how exhausting a full-day program is for her. One night she fell asleep before dinner at 6 pm and didn’t wake up until the next morning. She is learning a lot and adapting to the new responsibilities. However, she is not always able to remember what she has to do, and when. While this was a major stress for me as a little girl, the Little One likes to say “that’s okay” each time she realizes she missed a deadline or forgot her PE shoes.

At first I was pleased with her lack of stress and ease at dismissing her “failures.” I thought perhaps the Blessed Mother was trying to show me how I should live and look at things from that angle. But, after a week of daily “that’s okay!”s I started to get concerned. Something wasn’t sitting well with me in what was starting to sound like a flippant response. I tried to explain that it isn’t really okay to forget our library books each week and that we are required to bring our PE shoes for every PE class. When it is her turn to bring in an item for “show and tell” then she should bring an item on that day, not another day.

Because I often think like a human being and not like God, I took the matter to spiritual direction. What a grace! Through the instrument of the Spiritual Director Blessed Mother was able to help me see through the fog! The issue isn’t that the Little One is forgetful; the issue is that she doesn’t see the need for contrition in these events. She wasn’t seeing the need to ask me to help her to remember, to help her to do the best she can do.

No doubt, Blessed Mother was trying to show me how I should live and look at things through this little event with my daughter. Blessed Mother wanted me to remember her rolemy life and that I need Her to help me to remember what is important and what I need to do each day. Right away an example came to my mind - daily Mass. Over the years I have come to know that living daily by the Eucharist is a top priority in the spiritual life. However, lately I have been saying to myself, “it’s okay,” when I choose not to attend some days. The issue isn’t always did I attend or not attend…the issue is do I ask for the graces from Blessed Mother to remember to hunger for the Eucharist each and every day? Do I have contrition when I don’t make it to Holy Mass when perhaps I could have made it there, if it had been my TOP priority and/or if I had asked Mary to help me remember?

Nothing compares to the purifying and healing action of the Eucharist. There is no other cure like it for our spiritual diseases. When you await the fruits of the Holy Mass you are already purified to a certain extent because you meet with the Eucharistic Christ through faith and hope….
At the beginning of the day, during your morning prayer, you can entrust yourself to Jesus, through Mary. During this time, you may ask Mary herself to immerse you in the Redemptive Sacrifice of her Son. If you see that you lack good will and you do not want to live by the Eucharist, ask Mary to await the Holy Mass in you, ask her to thirst and quest for the Lord in you, and ask her to live with a hunger for God according to the example of her Son….If you do not ask for her intercession, then how can she help you? She does not want to take away your freedom. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 76 and 77.)

At night for prayers we are helping the Little One to say her “sorries” for when she forgets to ask us for help. In addition, we are teaching her to ask for Mary to help her remember for the next day. As for me? Oh, Blessed Mother, be my contrition for today’s messes, and thank you for hungering in me and for me for my daily Bread!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Being Taken Off My Pedestal

My faith sharing group started up again last night. The theme was Human Pedestals and how God loves us so much to the point of knocking us off our self-contrived ones so to save our souls to be with Him for all of eternity. In reflection, I remembered back to 2nd grade being knocked off a "good student" pedestal I had constructed for myself. Our teacher was going around the room making comments on the personalities of each student and their good and bad behaviors. I figured she would not have any negative comments to make about me, but when it came to my turn she pronounced that I was a busy-body, and talked to my neighboring students too much during class time. I was crushed. Now I can see it was God's love that had toppled my pedestal. The humiliation had let me descend so to see that I was on the same level as my fellow classmates who I wanted to judge as lower than I. God was saving me way back then, from losing sight of Him with the elevation separation I was creating.
I have erected several pedestals during my life using my family, work, Church. In every aspect of my existence I have put myself above others at some point, believing I am a special "somebody" deserving praise and recognition. But God has always showed His loving mercy by collapsing these platforms in order to save me from my own self-interest. A priest friend suggested I keep my pedestals low to the ground so when God has to knock me off it won't hurt so bad!
This image of pedestals has helped me visually see how quickly I can build myself up in the temporal world, and the image of crushed edifices helps me see God's loving rescue. How hopeful it is to know He won't let me remain far away from Him on my self-absorbed throne, and that He gives me His Mother to pick me up out of the rubble and set me again on level ground.

Our contrived greatness - our self-invented pedestal - has nothing in common with the truth. It is as phony as stilts on which a circus performer shows off in front of an audience.
How we perceive ourselves demonstrates that all of us are, to a greater or lesser degree, seated on some kind of pedestal. Contrition is what demolishes the fictional pedestal and the illusions that prevent us from standing before God in the truth. In order for contrition to become truly deep and authentic, a person must stand in the truth - on the ground. A person must see himself as he really is before God. He must descend from his pedestal with a contrite heart. If an individual resists this, however, then the pedestal must be demolished.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Rescued From My Pride Over Chips & Salsa

After acting so very childish tonight, I was amazed to read the following words:

Just as she did in the case of St. Juan Diego, the Blessed Mother places you too on her back and carries you through your life as someone defeated by your own pride.  While carrying you on her back, she unceasingly adores her Son, Jesus Christ, your Savior who constantly blessed both her and you whom she carries as her beloved child.  You should not forget why you are being carried:  you lost the fight; you could not manage on your own.  Without her you would have never advanced from the point of defeat. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2006],  37).

I had been so very fed up with the at-the-drop-of-a-hat temper tantrums of my three year old that I threw one of my own.  These past few weeks with everyone back at school has worn me out, and it seems this introvert (Control Freak) has yet another strong willed child.  As soon as his third birthday hit, he forgot how to use his words and has replaced most conversation with full-blown screaming.  Not good in the car, not good at the dinner table, not good at bedtime, and at most other moments throughout the day.  So, when my husband so considerately offered to bring home dinner tonight, I texted our Chipotle order to him as he had requested.  As we unpacked our meal at the dining room table, I noticed he had forgotten the one item that I personally was looking forward to – the chips!  After the last few 100 degree days and nights, I had been looking forward to a cold diet coke and chips and salsa.  Needless to say, I overreacted with criticism and disappointment at his honest mistake and made a fool out of myself in front of my children.  So embarrassing to admit, but I actually left the house to go back to buy the chips myself.  Sad to say, but not quite the good example I had in mind to teach my kids about gratitude!
"The Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, prays for us continually, and helps those we entrust to her care" 
by Elizabeth Wang, T-01513-OL, © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk"  

While driving in my car, I felt so very frustrated.  I knew it really wasn’t about the chips.  I had been feeling so tired and unappreciated by everyone in my household and was throwing a little pity party for myself.

But - mostly I was frustrated by my pride.  My pride pushed me out the door to buy the chips and show my kids how unappreciative I was of their father’s generosity.  My pride was separating me from a family dinner.  My pride was feeding feelings of entitlement to some quiet time and yet, I couldn’t shake it.  I really didn’t even want the chips anymore, but I felt so lost I didn’t know where to turn.  It is like the quote above:  I was defeated by my own pride.  At that point, I was completely helpless and couldn’t advance without Blessed Mama.  I didn’t recognize her intervention until I reflected on that quote.  Because of her, I now see that I was able to come home with ice cream to celebrate her feast day of the Most Holy Name of the
Blessed Virgin Mary.  On her back, I was able to apologize to my husband.  I think she picked me up and placed me there.  I don’t think I was even able to climb up there…she had to do even that for me.  And I am so very, very grateful. 

I see how ridiculously weak I am, complaining about chips.  But God revealed to me once again my need to be rescued from my own pride, especially in the ordinary, everyday events, and sent in my Mother to help.  Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weakness and how it calls upon the abyss of Your merciful Love.