Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Seeing God’s Bestowals in the Ordinary Events of Life

First off, Happy Easter! I love that Easter is a 50 day party! In addition, today is my “entrustment day”. Each month on the date that I was first consecrated to Mary, WE (Blessed Mother and I) celebrate the occasion somehow, some way. I never really know what the grace will look like, but it is always endearing and helps me to have a keener awareness of how much I am God’s beloved daughter.  Today was FULL of grace:
  •           I was woken up by the Little One between 2-3 a.m., which made it really hard to get out of bed this morning. So, I just stayed put and was able to pray first thing instead of rushing around.
  •          Thanks to my new smart phone, I was distracted during my prayer time in bed and read an article about Blessed John Paul II. In reading about his extraordinary ways, I was reminded that yes, he is a saint, and no, I am not…and THIS is why I was entrusted to Blessed Mother in the first place!
  •          My hair didn’t turn out okay, and the shirt I put on for church was wrinkled with no time to change – gifts because I’ve been so vain over the last week that it has been quite the distraction.
  •         I made it to Holy Mass…late. (I am and always will be the limping last sheep1 and this is why I am entrusted to Mary!)
  •         The Little One didn’t complain about going to church today!
  •         After lunch, I experienced an exhaustion that was so draining, that I had to lay down. The Little One allowed me to read a book while she read her books next to me.
  •         My begging prayers to Blessed Mom to help me out of my low were answered by a delicious homemade cold mocha drink. The graces attached to the caffeine got me to the library where the Little One was so excited to get new books and her very own library card, followed by a grocery store trip with no melt downs and actually not forgetting anything needed for dinner.
  •         While out driving, for a brief moment, Blessed Mother shared with me HER hunger to love…HER hunger for my surrender…it didn’t last long, but I experienced it. It was obvious to me that on my own such a task would be impossible, but with HER…it will happen, some day!
  •         The Little One wanted to help me with dinner and it was a help!
  •         Dinner actually turned out tasty, not just to me either!!
  •         My husband didn’t come home for dinner, but all the kids were in good moods and we actually hung out at the table chatting for an hour.
  •         My husband surprised me by doing a needed car repair before coming home!
  •         I got laundry done today.
  •         It was my husband’s night (not mine) to put the Little One to bed!
  •         I was left with the dishes…and had energy left to do them from my afternoon coffee drink (remember – grace was attached)!
  •         I had time to make breakfast for tomorrow for my teens who have sports after school – such an unusually motherly thing for me to do – must have been “WE!”
  •         I remembered to write this blog.

 Thank you, Mary, for carrying me so gently and so lovingly today, and every day!

"In St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ life, one may say that she had a certain passion for tracking down God’s gifts. She desired to thank God for everything. For her, everything was grace. She saw the love of Jesus progress to the point of folly.* Her binoculars were constantly directed at Jesus with such passion that it was as if nothing else existed for her. She seemed to be possessed by God. Even more, her sister by birth called her the one who was possessed by God." (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 91.) *Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, 3rd ed., trans. John Clarke (Washington, DC: ICS, 1996), 200. Translation of Histoire d’une âme: manuscrits autobiographiques (Editions du Cerf and Desclée de Brouer, 1972) Citation is from Manuscript B, 5vº, Letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. – Ed.

"The expression that ‘God loves’ means that He bestows. If God is love, then this means that He lives in order to give. This gift is unceasingly poured out upon us, regardless of the circumstances. It calls forth gratitude.
People, things, and events take on the proper meaning in the light of faith. They stand before me not only as part of the world to which they belong, but also as God’s messengers, as manifestations of God’s Loving presence, and as letters that speak to me about the grace that He, the Lord, unceasingly pours out on me. The things surrounding us and the situations in which we find ourselves also speak to us about our need for deeper contrition and gratitude – the two intertwined pillars of interior life." (The Two Pillars., 8.)

1 “The helpless sheep wants to follow Jesus, even though nothing works out well for it and the efforts that it makes do not have results. It believes that the Good Shepherd sees its desire to follow Him, and its effort to advance at least by a few steps. It believes that in the eyes of the Good Shepherd it is not important how much distance it has successfully taken but only the extent and greatness of its desire and effort to be obedient to Him.”  (S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed,rev. [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 74.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Entrustment To Mary= A "Good" Lent

So here we are - we have made the journey through Lent and are ready to rejoice and sing Alleluia to our resurrected Lord. As most of my Lenten seasons go, I tried to carry out my sacrifices on my own, which led me to see a lot of my misery and come once again to the same conclusion that I can do nothing without Jesus - my Savior.

This year it was interesting how I was handed two temptations in the realm of my chosen fasting foods and on both occasions I failed - at least in the world's eyes. First, when I ordered a taco from a food cart I asked the server not to give me the chips that came with the meal. When my dinner basket arrived it included the chips. I looked at them as a special gift from God, and started to munch away. Then when I contemplated what had happened, I realized it could have been a good opportunity for me to ask Jesus to help me refrain from eating them.

Second, a patient's wife bought for me a big delicious looking peanut-butter cookie. Not wanting to hurt her feelings by refusing it, I gobbled it up. Then I reflected on how much I worry about offending humans over offending my God. Surprisingly for me, in both instances, with grace, I did not walk away sad, which usually my bruised pride prompts me to do. But instead, with my Blessed Mother, WE asked for mercy on my self-centered soul, and thanked God for his unconditional love.

So, I can say this was a good Lent. Through numerous humiliations, God trusted me to see my weaknesses and gave me the grace not to run away like this Scaredy Cat normally would do. With God's grace along with my entrustment to the Blessed Mother, a small crack has formed in my hardened heart, allowing Divine Mercy rays to penetrate through in order to rescue me. Yes, this was a very good Lent indeed!

If at least a fissure appears in the armor of your distrust, then God, Who is always fighting for you, will try to take advantage of it. He will use this fissure to build an entry way into your firmly fortified world. Your egotistical reign is closed before God because you continually fear that He will diminish the reign of your I and that He will limit your lordship. That is why even the existence of the smallest Divine fissure is important because it can eventually be enlarged so that there will be more and more space in you for the light of Divine grace that saves you. [1]

For the time being, the light is faint. Even this faint light, however, shows us certain fragments of the truth - the truth about ourselves in relationship to God, to ourselves, and to the world. Even though amid shadows one cannot see much, this experience is already shocking and painful. In one's gradual discovery of the difficult truth about himself, one can see God's great gentleness and love for the soul that could otherwise become terrified and rebel. God trusts that we will not run away from this light, but rather accept it as a gift. This gift is difficult to receive, but God must give such a gift in order to rescue the beloved soul from the unconscious lie in which it is living. When we begin to see the truth about ourselves in the Divine light, we will also begin to understand that the perfection, which was the source of our self-satisfaction, was an illusion. [2]
[1] S.C. Biela, Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock, (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 11.
[2] Ibid, 9.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Seeing God's Mercy on the Ruined Kitchen Table

Lately it seems that everywhere I look, I see the carelessness of my children:  broken closet door, ruined ipad cover, ripped books.  The croquet set has been abandoned and left out in the rain, and my children yank out towel racks from the wall as they practice their monkey bar skills. 

“What were you thinking?”  I criticize.  “Why don’t you respect our stuff?!”  I grumble.  Not only does it take money that we don’t really have to fix, to replace, to restore, but also, I am not a handy person.  My husband surely is, but his time with our family is worth its weight in gold.  I hate to see it “wasted” on repairs.

As I sit back and reflect, I see that my Father surely loves me.  For just recently, I decided to remove my first and only shellac manicure at home with acetone purchased from the drugstore.  I had never done this before, but figured it would be quite simple.  I laid out some paper towels, soaked my fingertips for ten minutes, and gently dried them on the paper towels.  Piece of cake!  As I went about cleaning up, I had to tug on the paper towels. No!  But, yes.  The paper towels were stuck on the black laminate of our new-to-us kitchen table. In at least 3 separate spots, the wood is damaged and the paint worn off.  I couldn’t believe it, and quickly started calling myself an idiot and apologized profusely to my husband.  My husband is a gem, and told me to stop calling his wife an idiot.  He laughed as he explained that now he’d need to sand it down and paint it.  He pointed out that it was only “stuff”.  Who cares?  Stuff doesn’t last forever. 

I went upstairs so disappointed in myself, just as I am so often disappointed in my children.  But how blessed was I to see God’s mercy through my husband? 

In the arms of Blessed Mama, I see this humiliation as a gift.  I fell into the same weakness that I was previously judging someone else.  In the Our Father, I pray that I be forgiven my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.  In my situation, God was so merciful to me, gracing me with an outpouring of mercy despite my failure to be merciful to my children.  This humiliation encourages me to be less judgmental of my loved ones, and to be grateful for my undeserved gift of God’s mercy. 

I now see the “distressed” kitchen table as a reminder to be gentle with my children, who are really God’s children entrusted to me.  This incident has helped me see the value in being an instrument of God’s mercy.  The kitchen table is the focal point of our family life.  Our days come and go around this table all day long.  This humiliation is in plain sight, and lucky for me, I am reminded rather regularly of God’s merciful love for me.

This Lent has been successful in that I see my need for my Redeemer.  I have struggled with my own perfectionism and my high expectations of my loved ones. I was not strong and faithful in my attempts to pray more, give more, fast more.  But I have seen time and time again my helplessness and weakness and my true, desperate need for my Savior. 
Some think that to be holy means to feel like you are perfect.  In reality, however, it is entirely different;  a saint see that he is pure ash, pure sin.  Saints most fully recognize their own misery, and they have the most complete image of Jesus tormented by their sins.  A saint see Christ suffering and considers himself the greatest sinner, the only perpetrator of all of His wounds.  He knows that even if he were the only person to ever have lived on the earth, Jesus would still have had to suffer as much as He did. 

On your way to holiness you too will see more and more clearly Who loves you and whom He loves.  On this path, there are no prospects that you will be able to consider yourself perfect one day.  On the contrary, you will be convinced that, if God did not hide the truth about you from others, then everyone would turn away from you, from such misery and lack of faith.  Only when part of this reality begins to get through to you, will you begin to see better how unusual this Love, who pursues you, is.  This Love is really the Only Love on whom you can rely.  He is your only support. 
(S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2006], 96-97)

I pray we all have a very blessed Holy Week, full of great anticipation for the Joy of the Resurrection!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Seeing Lies as LIES!

In my last blog I wrote about some lessons I learned at a Lent retreat. That retreat was full of jewels and I want to share some more of what led me into Lent this year.

Lent is usually comprised of three things – praying, fasting and almsgiving. In looking at fasting, the priest gave it a twist I had never thought of. When we think of denying ourselves the priest suggested we deny Satan’s access to our souls – especially when he wants to feed me with the lies that I am not lovable, I am not loved, and I cannot love. This brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the past in which I believed all of these lies. I was a senior in college when the “I am not lovable” tortured me so much I went to the school counselor. I thought I wasn’t lovable because I was immersed in my sins. The counselor tried to convince me that my sins were nothing – that they weren’t even sins. This only compounded my unrest and anxiety. I married right out of college and a few years into my marriage, I remember being convinced “I am not loved.” Once again I ended up in a counselor’s office. I was focused on everything that was “wrong” with my husband. Another counselor, but the same message – my sins were not sins and I just needed to loosen up. Then, when children came along, I was convinced “I cannot love.” The first time my pride was challenged through my eldest, after the first “no” to mama, I saw clearly that parenting was going to be an uphill battle and after reading all the psychology books, I was left with more anxiety, clinical depression, and an unhealthy detachment from my children.

It wasn’t until I started back to the Sacrament of Confession that I learned that, yes, I was immersed in sin, but I was loved no matter what. I had a Savior who already died for these sins, and with and by His grace, I could leave these sins behind. It was through my confessor that I came to know that the Blessed Mother was a real help for me and that Jesus’ dying wish was that I behold Her and that She behold me!

What a turnaround for my life. One by one, my spiritual director is picking apart the lies that have been binding me to my sins for years. The worst of all the lies I've come to recognize I bought into so far is that I believed I would only be loved if I was perfect. I was blind to the amazing presence of my Lord, and Savior. Now,  believing in faith and through faith that I am entrusted to Mary, the lies are losing their power! The focus of my life has been changing from focusing on myself and feeling a victim of my dear ones, to seeing God’s action in every moment.

Entrustment to Mary helps me see lies for what they are – LIES!

Instead of thinking I’m not lovable, I make a conscious effort to remember I am in Mary’s arms.

Instead of thinking my dear one doesn’t love me, I ask myself – what did God want to show me in this event? Remembering that God alone suffices, that He loves me no matter what, that His love is eternal, helps me accept when others don’t love me as I wish they would.

Instead of thinking I cannot love, I beg my Blessed Mother to obtain the graces for me to love as I should. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

In Mary’s arms, I am glad it is the season of Lent. WE await what God wants to do with my soul by Easter!

Contrition – the first pillar of interior life – is born on the foundation of truth. Only in the light of the truth that you discover about Love, who embraces you, do you see sin as it really is: sin. This happens because you sin “in front of Him,” in the face of Love. You must stand completely naked before God and realize that your sin – your unfaithfulness – is always before Him. You must realize that you sin against God; you sin in the face of the One before whom you are standing at the moment of your unfaithfulness. Yet, God gives you grace, the action of which is itself the desire to be sorrowful. God gives you the light of truth, which allows you to see the distance that separates you from Him. Additionally, He gives you the light to see that, due to this same grace, this distance is overcome. You perceive that the smallest response, a crumb of contrition, suffices to close the gap, such that this distance between God and you no longer exists. (S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 3-4.)