Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Changing Hearts And Minds

Today [January 22nd], is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children - a day our Catholic Church has deemed for prayer and penance to combat the results of the Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in our country 41 years ago. I have been participating in the 9 Days for Life novena from the USCCB website. Even though every year I redouble my prayers for the preborn children during this week, I still succumb to the feeling that this is a battle we may never win. But in saying that, I realize it is because I do not trust in God’s omnipotence, and I have not converted enough to help make a change.

It is no coincidence that my prayer group this week read a reflection that directly relates to the subject of converting the world: "The reformation of the world and the transformation of others must begin with ourselves. The life of Christ must first increase to such an extent in you that the graces and good accepted by you cause the conversion of others." [1]
Even this statement can be overwhelming for me – especially when seeing how I lack the gumption to overcome my weaknesses. I also get paralyzed by the enormity of the problem -  millions of babies dead due to abortion – that I forget that I can begin my conversion just by admitting that I lack the gumption to change. By standing in the truth and admitting my weaknesses, God can begin the process of purification. Of course as I have stated in previous blog posts, I would never be able to do this on my own.  Only with the Blessed Mother will I be able to stand in the truth, admit who I truly am, and ask for God’s mercy. Only with her will I desire conversion. Only with her will I start to adhere to Christ and begin to affect this horrific tragedy happening in the United States.

The reflection also talked about how St. Francis of Assisi helped change the “decline of morality” in Europe during his time. I offer the following passage to help you see how the minds of saints differ from my mind - yet it is exactly these saintly minds that are needed to change my heart and mind, and the hearts and minds of the citizens in the United States, as we allow this genocide to continue year after year. We need saints to help change the hearts and minds of our media that champions a woman’s right to choose an option that ends an innocent human being’s life. We need saints to change the hearts and minds of those connected with the billion dollar abortion industry, the politicians who support this industry, and the medical staff that carries out this fatal law. We are all responsible in some way – let us all begin by begging our Lord for our own conversions, thus starting our journey to becoming the saints that can bring our country back to being one that respects LIFE at every stage.
"Francis never criticized anyone. He believed that if evil was all around, it was he, and not others, who must first be converted. If such great abundance of wealth and debauchery was rife, then it was though his fault. It was he who must become radically poor and pure. Saints differ from those who create heresies because heretics want to convert others, but do not want to convert themselves, whereas saints turn all the cutting edges of criticism toward themselves; they strive to be converted so that the world can be better.
     The more rot and scandal that St. Francis saw around him, the more he desired to conform to the image of Christ and history proved that he was right. For when Francis was converted, when he became so ‘transparent’ to the Lord that the image of Christ could be reflected in him, Europe then began to heave itself up from its fall.
    By the power of Francis’ sanctity Christ raised His Church from the “death” of its faith. The world was enriched by his sanctity, not so much in the way of learning about a man who actualized the spirit of the Gospel in an extraordinary and heroic way, but in the way of the system of connected vessels, since his sanctity affected people that he never came into contact with. The light of faith lets you see that, through Baptism, you belong to the Body of Christ, that you are incorporated into the system of connected vessels of this Body. This Body so greatly needs the converted and the saints. It is in great need of your conversion and your sanctity. Thanks to the light of faith, you come to know that the reformation of others should always begin with yourself."[2]

[1]Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 177.
[2] ibid 178-179.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Consolation in the Dental Chair

Through Baptism it is as if a new, supernatural organism is grafted into human nature.  A new life is grafted into one’s life.  If a scientist were able to successfully transplant animal life into something that previously had only a vegetative life (for example, a plant), the world would be greatly amazed…..Meanwhile, this transplantation brought about it in the sacrament of Baptism is, beyond all imagination, much more significant that the above mentioned fictional transplantation of a new type of life…..Baptism…is the discovering of God’s call to be united with Him and to live with Christ in Him. (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. (Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012), 170.

When I read this passage over the last week or so, I was struck by two things: (1) We were celebrating the Baptism of Jesus Himself just this past Sunday, and (2) I just had gum tissue graft surgery last Friday, and am still in recovery.  God certainly had my attention!  So, as I sat and reflected, I asked God, “What are you trying to tell me in this?”

I had been postponing my consultation with the periodontist for some time.  My dentist had been keeping an eye on my receding gums for nearly 20 years, but now it was finally time to get them reinforced.  I awaited the day of surgery with absolute dread.  Not exactly my first pick in how to spend a small fortune. But alas, the date had been scheduled and I begged prayers of family and friends.  They did not disappoint!  I was pleasantly surprised that my body was not shaking from the usual nerves I experience when waiting in a dental reclining chair.  I was absolutely certain that grace was flooding me, as I waited in shock for an anxiety that never came.   

For this Control Freak, I am often overly consumed by ideas of pain, discomfort, or the unknown.  I am more worried about what I am going to lose, or what trials I have to face, rather than freedom I will gain, joy I will experience, or new life I can embrace. But the very definition of “graft” is “a piece of living tissue that is transplanted surgically” (www.oxforddictionaries.com). I think what I forget about is grace.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 1996 explains that “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.”  “The graces of Baptism are given to us for a lifetime.  Nevertheless, we often squander them by submitting to evil.  However, if we desire to progress toward sanctity, then by going through various stages of purification, we can once again reach this particular state of immaculateness that we have wasted by being unfaithful to the graces of Baptism.”  (Ibid. 171).

Regarding the surgery, I was afraid of the pain, the discomfort, the price. I had forgotten about grace.  But because God loves me as I am, He supplied the grace anyway!  I experienced God’s mercy in that chair, and I believe He is calling me once again to remember the grace of my Baptism…to ask for the graces so readily available each moment to choose Him, to choose to respond to His love, to love His will.

But in order to ask for the graces, I need to desire them!  How blessed I am that God revealed something else to me.  After the surgery, I was to refrain from brushing near the surgical site for a time.  The wound was covered by a common dental dressing, which gradually falls off as the tissue regenerates.  Let me just say that even under normal circumstances, the mouth is not often a pleasant place regarding fragrance.  Add to that the odors of surgery, and from time to time I panicked as to how I was going to wait two weeks for the sutures to be removed.  I felt an overwhelming desire for cleanliness and healing.  I became very aware of my physical stench, but am wondering about the stench of my soul.  I wonder why I am not as consumed with the healing of my soul, for desire for cleansing, for desire for eternal life.  Just as two weeks seemed interminable, and yet so desired, how do I look at eternal life?  Am I using this time on earth to be purified and detached from everything but God alone?   “Progress in our interior life depends on an ever stronger desire to actualize the graces of Baptism – graces of being molded into the image of Christ….Baptism is a mission for us that will not be completely fulfilled until the moment of our union with Christ.  Then we will be able to repeat the words of St. Paul: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). (Ibid. 171-172)
I guess when all is said and done, I see the purpose of my life as communion with Christ - of becoming aware of my weaknesses with a sense of gratitude so that I can see my need for God, and discover the abyss of His merciful Love.  I thank my parents and godparents and Christ Himself for the gift of my Baptism, initially a gift given almost 40 years ago, but also, and most importantly, a continuous gift for each and every day.  I thank Him for so graciously grafting His life into mine.  And I thank Him for knowing my needs so well that He introduced me to His mother. I beg her to remind me to return to the vast supply of graces provided at the moment of my Baptism, so that I can remain in Him. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Loving, Teaching and Forgiving

It was 3 pm, the hour of mercy, when the Little One requested me to read her a story.  I knew the risk. I inevitably have to nap after reading in the late afternoon. This particular day I decided to sit in a chair to increase my odds of staying awake. Well, I got through half the book before I was nodding off. She noticed. She said it would be okay to finish at bedtime. I thanked her and told her I had to rest for a little bit. She cheerfully said okay and started heading downstairs when I yelled out after her “Remember, don’t play on the Kindle!” (She had played, watched and read on it her allotted time already earlier in the day.) She looked back at me and said “I won’t.”

It wasn’t as restful of a sleep as I hoped for. It was too quiet. How come the Little One wasn’t doing her usual singing or monologue while playing with dolls? Hmm? After 10 or so minutes I decided to head down to take a look, and found the Little One on the couch with…you guessed it…the Kindle!  It was slammed shut at the first sight of me and she went running away. What could I do? I told her that since she did something I didn’t want her to do that she would now have to do something I wanted her to do – which was to help me empty the dishwasher and fold her laundry.

“No!” she said. Wow. That seemed bold. I didn’t take kindly to this response. With a huge pout on her face she began heading to her room to escape the atonement.  I took the bait and got into the power-struggle. I threw out the worst threat –the COUNTDOWN. “If you don’t get to my side to help me with this dishwasher by the count of 10, then you will not be having dessert for the next 5 days!” (Yes, I really escalated that quickly.) She shouted “NO! Don’t count!” paralyzed on the stairs in disbelief that she would be forced to such a choice. She did not make it…she did not choose to help me. I started clearing the counters and cupboards of all accessible candy (Christmas had extremely multiplied the quantities of sweets in our house). The Little One escaped to her room in tears.

Calmed down, I said a prayer entrusting us both to Blessed Mother, then I went in for a visit. I asked the Little One, “Do you know why I was upset? Do you think it was because you used the Kindle?” She shook her head “no.” “Was I upset because you didn’t want to help me?” She shook her head “yes.” Then she rushed into my arms.  I hugged the Little One tight. I know that hug was a twofold Christmas miracle – Blessed Mother using my arms to love a child She helped to be contrite.

A mentor a long time ago shared that there is no recipe to raising children, but we can follow three points:  1) love them, 2) teach them, and 3) forgive them.

I am so grateful for this experience with the Little One. There have been so many lessons for her: She can make bad choices (we are in day 2 and she’s had 4 melt downs for not being able to eat sweets); she wants to be the leader (a role her mom and dad were entrusted with, not her); she lacks trust in her mom (pride takes root so young); and she has a crucial need for hugs!

There are so many lessons for me:  How often do I tell my LORD “I firmly intend with the help of your grace to sin no more,” and then leave the confessional to do just that – sin more?; I have a huge fear of losing control, which means I totally lack trust in God’s mercy; and, the most important lesson of all, I need to be in Blessed Mother’s arms constantly when I parent!

It was a good day to discover truth.

In an unusual way, the parable of the prodigal son depicts the depth of the twofold truth about God and man. This parable says that God loves you in and with the actual truth about you. He loves you as you are and not as you should be. He loves you with all of your muck, filth, grime, and even wretchedness. In turn, you have to abolish the pedestal of your pride in order to stand in the naked and acknowledged truth before Him the truth that, in this state of being closed, you are incapable of loving Him, and the truth that you should constantly receive this freely-given love until a complete change is brought about in you. Thus you must stand in the truth the naked truth. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 35.)