Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, February 28, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Encouragement for the Discouraged

The blog post written by High Hopes last week has had me thinking.  It was an extremely timely post for me personally, and I kept reflecting on the fact that I, too, was entrusted to our Blessed Mama “in advance”. 

When that post came out, I was a very discouraged soul, wondering why I couldn’t keep my misery, my weakness in check and under control.  I had allowed my discouragement to keep me from praying, from turning back to God, to reaching out to my spiritual director.  Instead, I found myself turning to sweets, TV, Facebook, and naps.  I had forgotten about what growing in holiness truly is:  growing in awareness of how much I need God. 

So, when I read that post, I was actually very much ENcouraged!  Yes, there is a reason why I was entrusted so many years ago.  I so very often trick myself into thinking how strong of a person I am and/or need to be.  No.  The truth is, I am not strong.  I am weak.  I am in need of my Redeemer.  There is no shame in recognizing this truth.  The tragedy is in rejecting my Savior’s loving mercy. 

I had been meaning to reach out to my spiritual director, but my thoughts were a jumbled mess and even I didn’t know what I was going through.  So, I avoided emailing him and avoided praying about it.  I am SO amazed at how God wouldn’t have any of that, not for long, anyway.  This past week, I got a very unexpected phone call – from my spiritual director.  It turned out that he would be in town and would be able to meet with me in person.  No phone call.  No emails.  In person.  Tomorrow.  God loves me so much He arrived via my spiritual director at my front door.  Because He loves me as I am – weak and confused.  “Remember that the Father does not stop waiting for you, not even for a moment.” ((S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 20).

I thank God for my entrustment, because my initial reaction to the phone call was to make excuses as to why he shouldn’t come (Control Freak likes to have time in advance to clean, plan meals, figure out what to say…etc).  But, because of His grace, I said yes in the arms of my Mama, and allowed Her to make the arrangements.  Because our meeting was in person, I was able to go to Confession to a priest who knows my soul.  What a blessing!  And what a blessing my gentle penance was:  before you go to sleep, spend 3 minutes in silence to take in God’s love for you. I share this with you, because of how it relates to this very blog.  I was encouraged to just allow God to love me as I am. What joy!  I was reminded that God sees my heart, sees my efforts, sees the state of my soul over my whole lifetime, not just in a few weeks’ worth of apathy.  I was encouraged to return to My Father via the arms of my Mother and say, “I am Yours, my Jesus.”  And I thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weaknesses, and how it calls upon the abyss of Your merciful Love.

The important thing is not to become discouraged.  If you get discouraged then you will resemble a child who tries to destroy a mountain with a pick ax.  But, seeing how little progress he makes after a few attempts, he despondently looks at his father and sadly puts away the tool.  When it becomes difficult for you, try to remember that those efforts, although not very externally effective, are very pleasing to God.  Perhaps the Lord will receive them as an invitation to enter through the door upon which He knocks.  In this way, your meager efforts will allow God to enter into your life with His grace because, after all, only the power of that grace can grind to dust the massive rock formation of your pride. (S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 42-43).

If you see your spiritual misery with faith in God’s love, then this truth will not threaten you.  If, however, you start to doubt God’s mercy, then newly discovered misery could lead you even to despair.  Doubting God’s mercy could provoke you to close the door of your heart before Him, thus directing you to commit even worse sins.  But if you try to remember that you are being carried in the arms of Mary, the Mother of Christ, you will be fully open to God’s love.  In Her arms, you may be shielded from your faults and unfaithfulness;  you may experience peacefulness and even happiness when God reveals the contents of your whitewashed tomb to you in a fuller light. (S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 28-29).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Road to Humility

I was recently listening to a homily about how Blessed Mother is the true help for the most lost souls. The priest was encouraging all of us to entrust our dear ones to Mary. Those who are far from the Church, who are so lost and as if unable to return as prodigal sons and daughters, who even despise God, these are the ones to entrust to Our Blessed Mother – “Virgin, most merciful”…“Refuge of sinners.

As I was listening I started to think about my entrustment and it occurred to me – I was the lost one. I was the prodigal daughter. I was the one living as if God did not exist. I was the one entrusted to Mary.

This was a very profound moment of truth. It has been over 10 years since I was entrusted to my Blessed Mother, consecrated to Her entirely for the service to the Church. I was told at the time of my entrustment that it “was in advance”. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant at the time, but I figured it meant I wasn’t completely aware of my misery yet. Definitely, that was and is the case. But that “in advance” prescription has been absolutely critical for my growth in faith and humility.  I believe that, without being given the gift of Blessed Mother’s arms to carry me I would not be on this road to humility at all.

There are many I know who believe they have a deep relationship with Christ. I talk to them about Mary, and I can see them turning their ears off as if I am one of those teachers from Charlie Brown “Waaaa, waaa, wa, waa, wa wa….”  It confuses me, but I have to respect God’s timing. After all, there was a time I thought I loved Christ with my whole heart too. I thought I was okay and only sinned a little bit. I remember being in a Bible study thinking I was the seed that fell on the rich soil, maybe yielding thirty-fold (cf Mt 13:8)? 

Why did I receive my entrustment to Mary before I was at the foot of the Cross? I think it was because I never would make it to the Cross without Her. If the priest had waited until that moment of truth – that moment of seeing all that I am and all the reasons Christ died on the Cross for me, it may have been too late for me to accept His mercy and His gift of MOM.  Maybe because the road to pride that I was on was so attractive and getting me so lost, the priest saw the only hope for me was to plop me into Mary’s arms. “Quick” he must have thought – “grab her MOM! Rescue her! She knows not what she is doing and how lost she is becoming – take her and never let her go.” 

All I can say is “THANK YOU!!!!” for my entrustment.

Blessed Mother does not put up a wall between me and my Savior – She is the bridge over the abyss of my pride that leads me to His Sacred Heart. 

I was wondering once why Our Lord so dearly loved this virtue of humility; and all of a sudden – without, I believe, my having previously thought of it – the following reason came into my mind: that it is because God is Sovereign Truth and to be humble is to walk in truth, for it is absolutely true to say that we have no good things in ourselves, but only misery and nothingness; and anyone who fails to understand this is walking in falsehood. He who best understands it is most pleasing to Sovereign Truth because he is walking in truth. (Teresa of Avila, “Sixth Mansion,” in Interior Castle, trans. and ed. E. Allison Peers [New York: Image Books / Doubleday, 1989], 196. From the Critical Edition of P. Silvero, de Santa Teresa, Las Moradas [“The Mansions”].)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Eternal Benefits

I have had a whirlwind of a week. If you remember reading previous blog posts I had changed careers in October. My new job has me working “casual” hours, so a normal week is only 18.5hrs. Occasionally I work longer, but last week I worked full time due to my superior leaving for training. I have never worked full time before and I admit it had me worn out. Then this week I told a friend I would train at her office to help them out while they looked to hire a replacement for their head office position. So I went from “casual” status to overtime - working two jobs for over 10 hours a day for a few days. I discovered I am a wimp. I was completely exhausted. But this exhaustion had me begging for the Lord’s help. I could not depend on my own strength, nor mindset. I kept a mantra going in my head, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy”.

It seemed my only rescue would be my friend hiring the person they had scheduled to interview. Being the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes that same day, I begged the Blessed Mother to intercede for us for these requested graces – if it be God’s will, of course. Well, the next morning when I went to their office there was the new hire! I praised Blessed Mom and God for such a great relief. I have continued to train, so I can be their “back up” person, but my body has been less stressed now that all the learning is not only on my shoulders. I have been full of encouragement for the new gal, as she has taken on my anxiety knowing she will be in charge come Monday. And now when I go to my other job, I feel positive about what I have come to learn there in these past four months.

This trial was an interesting lesson for me to see “who I am”. I had thought it was time for me to start working full time to earn more money for my family. But as soon as God gave me the chance, I became a wreck. I liked the fact that my weakness led me into begging mode, being able to see I can do nothing without heavenly graces. I appreciated the fact that I also saw that being able to have extra time for my family and my husband all these years has been a very special benefit from God. I used to complain that my 15 year run at an office job had “no benefits”. Maybe in the world’s eyes it didn’t, as it offered no paid vacation, nor pension plan. But now I see that God gave me the benefit of being flexible, and in doing so I was able to be present to my family, husband, and spiritual life. During all those years I was able to attend daily Mass, retreats, and Church devotions without work interference. God knowing best, bestowed eternal benefits. I thank Him for allowing me to “see” this now, and for giving me the grace to understand temporal benefits will never bring the peace and joy that comes from His eternal ones.

"A cry of gratitude comes forth from the depth of a heart that is full of awe before the reality of God's bestowal." S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 7.
"God desires to liberate us from this torment of possessiveness, from seeking support in everything that is insecure, temporary and unsettling. He points out to us the path of poverty, which is the only path on which we can find peace and freedom."
S.C. Biela, OpenWide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 9.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Allowing Her to Love My Friends

One of my dearest friends turned the big 4-0 this past weekend and had invited my husband and I to join her and her husband, along with another couple, for a weekend get-away.  I had been looking forward to this weekend for months, although I was a bit curious as to how the conversations would go.  You see, the wife of the other couple was a self-proclaimed atheist, and I knew from her Facebook posts that we have polar-opposite views on many, many topics. 

Being in this spirituality, I desired to entrust it all to Blessed Mama.  I would jump out of her arms from time to time, worrying about the topics of conversation, or whether I would revert back to the crippling shyness of my youth.  I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the chatting around the dinner table the first night, and found myself on her team while playing a board game. 

On Saturday, while the men went off to golf and us ladies enjoyed the spa (yes, I was totally spoiled), I found myself praying for both ladies during my back massage.  There would be a time when my acquaintance and I would spend some time together alone, while my dear friend was receiving a different beauty treatment.  Although I was originally anxious about how we would fill the time, the prayer time soothed my soul and I was able to re-entrust our visit to Our Mama.  As we lounged on the deck, she asked me if I was planning on having any more children, and I found myself smiling and not at all defensive like I imagined I would be (this question was coming from a woman who, when bringing me a hot meal after my fourth child, told me she hoped this was the last one, because I was overpopulating).  I just shared the story of how overwhelmed I felt when I first discovered I was pregnant with our fifth child.  But the very day we discovered his existence, a friend of my husband’s called, begging for prayers as his 13 year old son was dying from cancer in the hospital.  At that moment, my so-called “trial” was flipped 180 degrees into the greatest blessing.  I shared about my gratitude and what a gift our son was to each member of our family. 
My conversation with her reminded me that I am called to allow God to love me and love through me.  I am not to worry about which words to use, or what the end result will be, but just to share my experience of God’s love.  Regardless of whether she had a name for God or not, she recognized His presence in my story; she recognized Love.  She could identify with gratitude.  

I see so many signs of my own weakness during the weekend:  anxiety, lack of trust, trials of the imagination, neglecting God’s will in my leisure time..etc, but I love this quote by Rev. Tadeusz Dajczer in the Introduction of In the Arms of Mary by S.C. Biela:

Our sinfulness does not stop God’s action in us.  By experiencing interior conflict as a result of sin, we can open up, like St. John the Apostle, who also experienced weakness and sin, to the words the Savior said to His beloved disciple and to all of us:  “Behold, your mother” (Jn 19:27).  John, entrusted then to the Mother of God, “took her into his home.”  We, too, can discover in those words the call to self-entrustment to Mary as we invite her, who formed the earthly face of Christ, to form also this face in us. (S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd.ed, rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], xxxviii - xxxix).

As a close relative pointed out as I shared the details of my weekend, nothing is wasted.  Even in what I perceived to have been a very secular weekend, through my entrustment, I brought Blessed Mama’s presence regardless.  Only she could love them through me without commentary, bringing Christ to them purely.  On my own, I can only bring garbage. But our Blessed Mother can love all her children even through the weak vessel that I am.  It is not up to me to see any fruits, but I can desire that no matter where I go, I go in our Mother’s arms.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Surrendering to the Unknown

I recently developed some unusual physical symptoms that led me to seek a doctor. It took 2 months to finally make the appointment – trust issues, mostly. I wanted a doctor that was recommended or at least had a good reputation in the area of specialty I needed. Everyone who was recommended to me was not accepting new patients, and so my symptoms persisted. I did a lot of research on my own and was pretty sure my self-diagnosis was spot on. All I needed was a doctor to verify it and give me the correct remedy to heal it. Meanwhile, friends shared having similar symptoms and gave various advice that I did or did not take depending on how I viewed their expertise and/or how much I agreed with their approaches.

Eventually, I picked a doctor our insurance covered, with no recommendations or reviews, because he was available in the time frame that interested me. I started to pray for this visit. I prayed that the doctor would get to the bottom of things and that Blessed Mother would use him as an instrument in her hands.  The appointment was quick and sweet and I was scheduled for a full-blown analysis of my insides. Another two weeks to wait, but answers were being sought and I could live with my symptoms for that much longer.

The day before my big exam I started to have trials of imagination. My self-diagnosis faded in the background and a scary, more serious condition seemed inevitable.  I started to wonder if I could live with the bad news. After all, why shouldn’t I receive bad news? I am on various prayer chains and I know that bad things are happening all the time to people just like me.  I melted that afternoon. In tears I ran to my room and started to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I was begging my Mommy (Blessed Mother) to help me. I didn’t know God’s will, but I knew that I wouldn’t have a chance of accepting it without her helping me. Without her carrying me through it and obtaining for me the graces necessary to carry my cross.  As soon as the chaplet was over, a peace came upon me. I was reassured that I was not alone and that I did not have to bear the burden on my own. I was reassured that without Christ, I would foil all of God’s plans for my life, but that with Him all things are possible (cf. Jn 15:5, Mt 19:26, and Lk 1:37).

How easy it is for me to run to Blessed Mother when it comes to my physical/mental suffering. In these areas I find it easier to fall to my knees and NEED my Mother.  But, when it comes to the spiritual things…how long do I wait?  When symptoms of my sinfulness pop up do I start planning my trip to the “doctor?”  Do I start by making an appointment to talk to my spiritual father, confessor or spiritual mentor? Or do I start by self-diagnosing my motivations? Do I choose first to go to the Internet or to rely on my interpretations of the writings of the saints? When faith-sharing with others about their paths and experiences, do I seek only someone who will agree with me, or do I listen to the Spirit in and through my spiritual friends? Do I pray for my spiritual father to have the graces to properly diagnose me?

In the end, do I see that when it comes to spiritual things I have no other choice than to accept my lack of knowing – my blindness – my NEED for Mother Mary? 

Usually I exhaust all human problem-solving attempts before I drop to my knees in the spiritual life.  What a waste of time! Blessed Mother is waiting for me at the beginning of my recognizing the symptoms. In fact, couldn’t it be that she is the one helping me to see the symptoms in the first place? Since living life in communion with Christ through Mary, I have the grace to know that she is waiting for me right now! I don’t even have to get trapped in sin when I remember to go to her so that she can remind me of all her Son can do for me.  Running to my room, falling to the floor, I can beg her right away to carry me through my spiritual trials, to obtain the graces necessary for me to carry my crosses.  Wow! Thanks MOM. Thanks for your “yes” to helping me obtain Heaven. Thank you for your “yes” in loving me with all the truth about me. Thank you for assuring me that without Christ, I will foil God’s plans for my life – but with Him, all things are possible.

As we discover each new symptom of the sickness of our soul, we have to bring it to Christ, our Divine Physician, who is the only one upon whom our hope rests. If we called upon Him each time to liberate and heal us, we quite possibly would not have to be sick. By His suffering on the Cross, Jesus redeemed not only the sins that we commit, but also the sins from which He prevents us. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd. ed. [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2011], 146.)