Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Accepting Injustices

First of all, we are almost to the middle of Lent – how are we all doing? I have had to chuckle how the Lord has given me subtle and not so subtle humiliations in order to help keep me “off” my pedestal. I have made mistakes at work and at home that have me relying on Blessed Mom’s arms and her acceptance of all things - as my gut reaction to such humiliations is to rationalize, make excuses, and look for a scapegoat. So I guess I could say I am having a “good” Lent seeing my weaknesses and then calling upon the Lord’s most merciful love! J
Next, I have been meditating on Christ’s Passion and how unjust it was in human terms. An innocent man convicted and killed due to the pride and arrogance of other men. I have been battling with an injustice, although small in nature compared to Christ's passion. Part of the reason for me leaving my job was due to the disagreements I was having with my boss over the weekly bulletin. I figured I had 15 years of experience with this production and could not understand why all of a sudden my work in this area was being scrutinized. Now when I read the current bulletin being created by my replacement, I am surprised and a bit offended by the lack of editing as it is produced with misspellings, odd formatting, and lack of pertinent information. Why is her work not being examined like mine had been? It just seems so unfair!
Then I happened to read the following in the book In the Arms of Mary:
By praying before the Crucified Christ, you will receive the answer to the question: Why do I suffer injustices in my life? You will understand that God can permit something unjust, from a human point of view, to happen to you – because God sees things differently than men. The human injustice that you confront may be something just in God’s eyes. When you do not experience any injustice, you cannot understand with depth what Christ went through, whose death also had something to do with the injustice He experienced. [1]
So I was comforted in knowing that the injustice is another way God is feeding my soul the nourishment it needs to be united with Him. My pride and arrogance is similar to Christ’s adversaries, and is hard to keep in check. But looking at the injustice as a loving act from my merciful Savior, helps me to again step off my pedestal.
I also, shared this passage with a person who had lost her loved one in a car crash caused by someone who was texting while driving. I hope and pray that she too, can feel a loving answer for the tragedy she is experiencing, an injustice way beyond the scope of mine.
Someone who is condemned justly – like the good thief – can find a rational motive to accept suffering. However, someone who is unjustly accused and suffers despite his innocence, can only turn to the Cross of Christ for his motivation. Only when you resort to the Cross of Christ can you be grateful for the injustice that you suffer:  I give thanks to You, my God, for sharing with me Your most precious treasure. Thank You for permitting me to understand better the mystery of Your Cross.
On your way to sanctity you may not expect that God will preserve you from injustice, and that nothing will happen to you, from a human point of view, that you do not deserve. [2]

[1] S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 32-33.
[2] Ibid, 33.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Being Loved When Acting Like a Two-Year-Old

My two and ½ year old son is driving me crazy these days.  Lots of screaming for this or that.  Lots of “no” coming out of his mouth.  Lots of “You’re mean, Mommy” when he doesn’t get his way.  My days seem long!  My husband and I were recently on a vacation while my parents watched our children.  My mother reported that he was an angel!  Calm and playful and joyful!  He took his naps peacefully and ate his meals quietly in his highchair.  I was so excited to learn about the changes in his temperament and hoped for a continuation of his pleasantness after their departure. 

Not so, although my husband reports that our son is just fine when I am not around.  For some reason, he has quite a lot to protest while I am with him.  I know, having been around toddlers for many years, this will pass. And I know that some of his behavior might be the consequence of interrupted naps and boredom from time to time. But I started reflecting upon what his behavior might tell me about my own behavior and attitude. 

While on vacation, my husband and I enjoyed time to play, to pray, to rest, to eat.  I was so very grateful for simple pleasures, like only getting myself ready for the day, or relaxing by the pool without worrying about little ones.  I noticed that it was so much easier to only deal with one other personality on the trip, rather than six on a daily basis.  As an introvert, I enjoyed my time to myself while my husband went golfing.  It was easy to be grateful and joyful and prayerful and at peace.  After a few days back at home, I noticed how cranky I am and easily irritated at everyone else’s demands, emotions, needs.  It is like I am my own two-year-old son:  happy as a clam when I receive ‘easy’ graces, but unappreciative and ill-tempered when the graces are ‘difficult’. It seems that I tell my Father “no”, or “You’re mean” when my will is not done, or life gets more uncomfortable than I would like.

It’s funny, though, that while on vacation, my husband and I seemed to notice all the times kids were around, watching them enjoy a late dinner at a taqueria after a Little League game, or observing them while at Mass.  I knew in my heart that as much as I enjoy my quiet time, God’s will is for me to be with my little ones.  My prayer is that I remain joyful when I do not get my way, or when my plans are interrupted.  Hopefully I, too, will grow out of this cranky phase in the arms of my Blessed Mama, or at least trust that I am loved as such.  In the book In the Arms of Mary by S.C. Biela, I am grateful for this reminder:

“The Lord does not have to explain to His subject why He gives him ‘candies’ or nourishes him with ‘bitterness’. 

A servant of Him
who is Love,
will never ask why?
Mary did not ask this question,
neither during the Annunciation,
nor at the foot of the Cross of her Son….

If you believe
that in everything that God does
there is an expression of His love,
you may not expect special explanations.
You may not analyze
why sometimes you were particularly honored
and at other times – divested of everything.”
(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, (Fort Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005), 148, 149.) 

I see that I so often want what I want, and that there is unhappiness when I don’t get it, just as with my son.  But I am looking out for my little one (ie. avoiding too much sugar, getting enough rest, learning to share), just as my Father is looking out for me:

Perhaps, when you hear God calling, you do not realize how much He wants to bestow on 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. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Fort Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005), 150.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Seeing God in Passive Mortification

I went on a Lent retreat last weekend and would love to share a couple of the jewels I received. Like the advice given to Scaredy Cat, focusing on humble means was the theme of the retreat.  What are these humble means?

At the retreat we learned about active mortification verses passive mortification. In Lent, we usually lean toward active mortification. The “what should I do or not do?” mortification. Should I give up coffee or TV or Facebook? Should I say a rosary every day or some other pious activity? Usually, the goal in what I choose is to pick something I can be successful in doing. But, does this keep my focus on what Jesus Christ did for me on Calvary? If I am successful in my Lenten practices, do I come to know I need a Savior? Do I experience the desire to follow Christ to the end because I have been amazed by His tremendous love for me? We were encouraged to think about this. I was motivated to choose something that I know there is no way for me to accomplish, so that when I fail, I can remember I need a Savior. On the other hand, if I succeed in this impossible Lenten sacrifice, I will be convinced that it was only by Grace that I did!

When seeking the humble means, though, I find passive mortification is more valuable. The priest shared how the road to Calvary for Christ was a road of passive mortification. He did not choose what was to happen to Him, it was chosen for Him. He was condemned to death. He was scourged. He was made to carry the Cross. He was put to death. Jesus’ response to passive mortification was to say “yes”. He said to the Father: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 42:22). I was encouraged at our retreat to see what God would choose for me this Lent and to try to accept this. In doing so, I might begin to die to myself, to my own will. It was explained to me that my cross was to become more aware about the truth of my being torn. Like the image of Jesus on the Cross – arms outstretched, torn apart – I am torn between what I want to do and what I do. I want to be patient, but I see my impatience. I want to measure up, but I constantly fall short. Then, my entrustment to Mary can be described as dying in Her Arms. She will carry me through the death of the old man in me. It is not always easy to accept what comes my way from God. Like today’s exhaustion when I have so many things to do to get ready for a trip; or yesterday’s experience when the Little One kept asking me to play and I could barely muster a smile; or having to make dinner for the family on a night I am not hungry or could survive on a bowl of cereal.  WE (Blessed Mother with me) try to see in these events God knocking on the door of my heart. WE try to see how He desires to help me through these events. I need the comfort of Mary’s Arms – remembering She loves me as I am. Passive mortification helps me to see God’s action in my life - in every moment.

I want to tell you, Mary, my Mommy, that I am grateful for everything, even though this gratitude is so meager and pathetic that it seems to barely exist within me. …
I am grateful for this ongoing interior war, for the never-ending battle in me between the old man and the new, because it constantly weakens me so that You may be my strength.
I am grateful for the unceasing tension. Because of it, when I feel like God, I immediately fall apart, and You can piece me back together the right way. But this does not last for too long because this story of my departures and returns never ends. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 122.)
Every moment of our lives is permeated with the Presence that loves and bestows. To live in faith means to be able to see this loving and constantly bestowing Presence. Because of faith, Christ gradually becomes a light that shines through a person’s whole life and that shines through the world. He becomes a living, active presence in the life of his disciples. Every moment of our lives brings us His presence. Time is the Presence written with a capital “P.” It is the presence of Christ in our lives. It is the personal presence of God, revealing Himself as the One who expects something from us. God reveals Himself to us through His will. But what is His will? It is always that which is best for us because God is Love. Every moment of your life is a moment of meeting with the Presence that is loving you. (Tadeusz Dajczer, TheGift of Faith3rd. ed. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 5-6.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Choosing the Humble Means

After I shared with my spiritual director my ideas of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving for the next 40 days, he suggested I reread the chapter in The Gift of Faith on humble means. He proposed that I “fast” from my pedestal – meaning my desire to be acknowledged, admired, and esteemed. {And I thought candy, cookies, and chips would be hard to give up!} He recommended I go to my adoration time in the arms of the Blessed Mother, and keep the posture of the tax collector not the Pharisee during the 10 minutes I had decided I could try to allot each day. He didn’t specifically address my idea of thoroughly cleaning my house during Lent, but I am guessing that would go under fasting from my pedestal; for knowing my personality, if I end Lent with a clean sparkling home, I am sure I will take all the credit and bask in the glory of a job well done.

What I appreciate about the spirituality of communion with Christ through the Blessed Mother is how it has helped me see how selfish I have been when deciding on what to do for Lent. For example, I like giving up sweets so I can lose a few pounds. The spirituality has also helped me release my narrow perception that fasting is only from food, praying means only rosaries, and almsgiving is only donating to an organization in need. I now realize charitable giving can mean more than dollars donated. It can mean giving a "smile" to a coworker who is having a bad day. Or offering my “time” to listen to a patient explain their ailments. Praying can be continuous, all-day-long, short ejaculations of praise or petitions for souls in need or just a grateful look to heaven for God’s generous bestowals. These are the humble means that cannot be measured and most times not seen so as to gain recognition from others.

I have also learned that before starting any Lenten sacrifices I must first stand in the truth and admit I cannot do them on my own, but only with God’s grace and through my entrustment to the Blessed Mother may I try. And most importantly, God loves me even if I fail.
                                               Rich Means vs. Humble Means
Jacques Maritain divides temporal means that may be used for spiritual ends into two categories: rich temporal means and humble temporal means. Those means which are visible and can be statistically analyzed Maritain calls rich means. They are tangible things like organizations, meetings, marches, church architecture and decoration, audio-visual and mass media. A characteristic trait of rich means is their influence on one’s self-love because their effects and results are apparent. This has the danger of our claiming these results and our own and, as a result, adopting an attitude of triumph.

Humble means are marked with the stigma of the Cross and express one of the most profound truths in the Gospel: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). In humble means, a true paradox of the dynamism of faith can be observed: the poorer they are – that is, the more destitute, the more insignificant in themselves, and the less visible – the more efficacious they are. As opposed to rich means, these humble means are not dependent on tangible success, and they do not have any internal need for temporal success. Humble means is the acceptance of suffering out of love for God. You encounter such means when your knees hurt during prayer, when you deny yourself something, when you question who you are and, at times, live in great calmness, silence, and contemplation. Nothing much is known about these things; they are invisible means. They cannot be measured by any sociological statistics. However, these are the humble means that, in the light of faith, prove to be the deciding factor in the fate of the world.
Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 147-148,150.