Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, May 30, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Accepting God's Undeserved Bestowals

I have mentioned before how I have spent most of my life believing I had to earn God's love. This spirituality has helped me realize that God loves me always and completely, even when I sin and turn away from Him. It is still hard though for me to believe I do not earn God's gifts. For example, last week when taking a trip, the flight my husband and I were on was overbooked and the airline asked for volunteers to give up their seats, offering a travel voucher plus a direct flight to a city which just happened to be our final destination. Instead of flying on a 5 hour flight then having to get on another plane for 2.5 more hours, we flew 4 hours on a direct route. Plus, the flight we were supposed to be on ended up delayed getting in 5 hours past the original arrival time. PLUS, my suitcase made the exchange of airlines, which the attendant did not think would happen. Very special graces indeed! Yet, I still tried to put myself on a "deserving" pedestal for these bestowals. On our trip back home, we were again bumped from a full flight, as our assigned seats were claimed "broken" [we were never given an explanation of what that meant] and again received travel vouchers. We now have credits for future flights, which we can use for the future trips we have planned. God freely gave us special graces, which were certainly undeserved by us, His unworthy children.

It was by no mere coincidence that God had my prayer group reading the following section in the book The Gift of Faith this week:
"It sometimes seems to us that we should win God over, that we should merit His love. But He loves you because you are His child, not because you are worthy. Agape is love that creates, that loves you not because you are worthy of being loved, but to make you worthy of it. Agape desires to create an ever increasing good in you. Someone who has received special graces from God is surprised that these graces have been bestowed on him. But agape love descends on the unworthy - descends on us all - because we are all unworthy and we all need this creative love that creates good. The anguish for God, who is love, is that He cannot pour out His love fully, that he cannot boundlessly flood the human souls with this love. God is continuously seeking open hearts on which He may pour out His infinite love without limits." [1]
God has once again shown me how much He loves me and desires to bestow graces upon me - gifts I will never - nor can ever - earn. Slowly, my skewed thinking is changing. Makes me wonder how many other special gifts I have missed out on due to my closed heart. But also, makes me hopeful, that with my Blessed Mother WE can learn from these lessons, so WE can open my heart more fully to receive God's infinite love without limits!
[1] Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 245.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Speaking Up About the Gift of Blessed Mama

Our parish women’s group offered a “Morning with Mary” last weekend.  A May crowning Mass, followed by brunch, a speaker, faith sharing and a living rosary.  I have been wanting to get to know more women from my parish and as you know, Mary is near and dear to my heart!  So, off I went to spend some time in prayer and fellowship. 

It was a blessed morning, and a lovely lady invited me to join her table (a big deal for someone shy like me).  The speaker did a wonderful job in sharing a more “real” and human Mary, a mother available to us all, rather than a distant and lifeless figure.  I very much appreciated the speaker’s thoughts, and many women were moved in seeing Her in a different light.  But I couldn’t help being so very grateful for being previously introduced to an ever more intimate relationship with our Blessed Mama. "To love Mary means to imitate her and follow her because she is the one who goes before us, the one who is an example of our faith." (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2012], 116). 

But – this spirituality of living in communion with Christ through His Blessed Mother takes me even further.  She desires that I make room in my heart for only Christ and His will.  Because of my little faith, She carries me in Her arms to lead me more quickly to the love of God.  I am too weak to even imitate Her, but I ask that She live in me, with me and through me.   

The awareness that Mary ‘carries you in her arms’ will enable you to remain in God’s presence with unfaltering faith in His love.  This awareness does not suppose necessarily emotional experiences.  Perhaps in some stages of your interior life you may not feel anything at all, but, in spite of it, this awareness will constitute an essential element of your interior life.  …

However, when, by the will of God, Mary chooses someone as her special instrument, she shows him very clearly how little he is.  She shows him that he finds himself exalted only because she ‘carries him in her arms.’  And so, it is a special grace if you discover the maternal role of Mary in your life. 

Why do you receive this grace?
This is a mystery of God’s election.
But remember, the grace needs a committed response.
You do not receive a talent in order to bury it in the ground.
You must make use of it – in accordance with the will of God–
for your own sanctification and for the sanctification of others.
Because of this, implore Mary that your whole life
may be permeated by the awareness that you are ‘carried by her in her arms.’
(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed. rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 173).

And so, there I was listening in on the large group sharing and I felt like I needed to share what I knew.  At least a little glimpse.  Being so shy, I had to laugh with God and beg Blessed Mama to help me say something.  If I kept this good news to myself, I felt like I would be wounding the very Love that rescued me.  She helped me raise my hand and a microphone was handed over.  Very simply, She helped me share what a gift it was to know that Mary is more than someone to imitate.  She does carry me, Her weak, shy, little one, so that I will know how very much God loves me.

In discovering this unfathomable love
you will want to respond to Him,
and then you can reach full union with Christ.

                        This is the greatest grace which you can be bestowed with here on earth.
(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed. rev. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 179).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Mary’s Totus Tuus!

A friend of mine recently returned from Portugal where he had the opportunity to visit a church that houses the Our Lady of Nazareth statue. I have since found the legend behind the statue, and the story of how Blessed Mother saved a hunter named Dom Fuas Roupinho from falling off a cliff 100 meters high. You can read this fascinating story about the statue supposedly built by St. Joseph when Christ was a mere infant here.  What struck my friend the most on this visit was the story of the hunter. As the horse he was riding was chasing a deer in the fog, it headed straight for a cliff and the hunter knew there was no way to stop before reaching the cliff’s edge. The hunter cried out to Mary: “Our Lady, Help Me!” Instantly, Our Lady helped him.  This hunter saw his doom and called out for rescue. This describes my entrustment to Mary perfectly. I am like the hunter – I am blind and unable to keep myself from the “cliffs of life.”  With Her protection – always available to me when I cry out from the depths of my awareness – I am saved from sure doom.

Over the last month I have been witnessing the heavy crosses of my dear ones. It overwhelms me just to know their burdens as I cannot imagine carrying the same loads. It doesn’t take much for me to land on my knees in desperate need of a rescue. It might be as simple as having to make my family dinner. Or, maybe it is to shop and buy my sons’ shoes. I had an unusual experience of depression a few days ago. It started when I went to bed on Mother’s Day and lasted until the next afternoon. I had no reason to be depressed when it hit. It was like a wave of melancholy imposed on me. Having had clinical depression in the past, I was keenly aware that depression was the symptom. I made it to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that day and wanted to ask “Why, Lord?” but the better question according to a priest friend is “What for, Lord?”

What was this bout of depression for? There was not much light until I finally got to speak with my spiritual father. In talking with him about my current daily events of life, he helped me to see that my crosses are really so little. He helped me to see that this was a direct action of my entrustment to Blessed Mother. The awareness that Blessed Mother is waiting and ready to carry me when I ask makes my cross lighter. One could even say my burden becomes “sweet” because it reminds me I have access to those loving arms.

I am aware that some souls can handle heavier crosses than I can. A good example of that is St. John Paul II. His soul was huge and because of that he could say “Totus tuus” to Our Lady. When I was first learning about entrustment to Mary I thought I could say “totus tuus” – but now I see it differently. Blessed Mother says to me "Beloved daughter, I am totally yours!" In Her faithfulness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, She gives Her all to me so as to rescue me from "cliffs" and to carry my crosses and lighten my burdens. It is thanks to my entrustment to Mary that I am protected from the heavy crosses that I truly deserve.

As the years move on, I relate more and more to a letter written to Blessed Mother by someone called "tiny" in the book The Two Pillars. Tiny's words have become my own:
I am grateful that, although my pride constantly tries to shut, lock, and barricade the door of my heart so that Jesus cannot enter, You always stick Your foot in the door so that it will never shut entirely.
I am grateful that You open me to all of Your action, especially these humiliations that wound me. Even though I know that it is what I truly deserve, it still remains difficult to accept. Therefore, I am grateful that You humiliate me and purify me in Your Gentle Arms, where it hurts the least and my burden is lightest of the possible burdens.
I am grateful that being in Your Arms sometimes seems like being in an insane asylum, because it reminds me that Your Embrace is really the Asylum of Divine Love for the mentally, spiritually, and emotionally wounded.
I am grateful that I have nothing to give You except my misery, because You transform my misery into the most beautiful treasure — more beautiful than any illusory good that I could give You.(S.C. Biela, TheTwo Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006],124.)
“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 blesses 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.” (Ibid., 37.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Entrustment To Mary = Looking On The Bright Side

Recently, God has been showing me what a negative person I am. I have been seeing that I look for the negatives in a situation rather than the positives. For example, we have a rental and every time we lose a resident a fear grows inside of me that the next boarder may be someone who won't take care of the place. I have heard horror stories about bad tenants so I immediately go there in my thoughts and emotions. We have never experienced such an episode. Rather God has always provided us with the grace of being prudent when selecting occupants and then has blessed us with positive renters, yet I still do not fully trust Him the next time.

I carry over this negativity to my children and the events they go through. I beg the Blessed Mother to wrap them up tight keeping them safe from harm's way, as I feel there is so much animosity out in the world. (Maybe I watch too many television programs which show the "bad guys" ruling the world instead of our omnipotent God.)

The spirituality of communion of life with Jesus through the Blessed Mother is the antidote for this negativity. I have learned that God is present in all situations. I have learned that entrusting myself to the Blessed Mother will allow miracles to happen as she is a channel of grace to her Son, Who only wants the best for me and my family. My problem right now is that these truths are in my head and not my heart. I have not made them a part of my whole being. By also listening to the world, seeds of distrust start to grow.

I am currently reading the book - Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady. It tells of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her relationship with the Blessed Mother. There have been some helpful lessons and reminders in her story for me. One in particular is St. Ignatius' daily Examen, where he suggests spending time at the end of each day reflecting on what God has done on this day and what gifts He has bestowed.

"We go back to recover the gifts and graces overlooked yet still active in the events of the day. Like pieces in a grand mosaic, all of God's graces are important. The Father wishes his children to be equipped with the full complement of grace and love he has prepared for them day by day. One practical way of doing the Examen is to prayerfully consider, before retiring, five gifts or blessings we have received during that day. Doing this daily, we become more aware of God's gifts, and of God himself as a giver of gifts, rather than only as a judge. We begin to see his goodness where before we saw only his supposed absence. Like Mother Teresa, we can make this Examen with our Lady, who will help us see, through her eyes, the plan and presence of God all around us. Our Lady helps us to see and experience the constant love of God." [1]
The more we see through Mary's eyes, the more we can experience with her heart. And the more we experience with her heart, the  more we become capable of seeing through her eyes on the next occasion.

This section in the book really spoke to me how important and necessary it is for me to go through my day with my Blessed Mother, and to be more grateful for all things that occur. Also, it helped me see that I must believe that all things are positive since God is present in everything. So as always, God's lessons are so very special. He allows me to see my weaknesses, but then reminds me how I am loved as His Scaredy Cat.

"A child, in entrusting itself filially to its spiritual Mother, begins to share with her its whole life, forming a communion of persons. The child has its eyes fixed intently on her, and without even knowing when, tries to imitate her fully: in her way of looking at the world, in her way of thinking, in her values, in her prayer and in her life. By imitating Mary, we unite ourselves with Christ and it is no longer ourselves who live but Him who lives in us (cf. Gal 2:20)." [2]

[1] Joseph Langford, Mother Teresa:In the Shadow of Our Lady, 66.
[2] S.C. Biela, In The Arms of Mary, 2nd. ed, rev. (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 163.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Not Being Allowed to Despise God's Love For Me

We just celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, and I am so very grateful to St. John Paul II for establishing this great feast! What a rescue for us all, especially me! 
In my last blogpost I wrote about discovering God’s mercy.  It seems I need to get the message a little more loudly and clearly. I had shared about my struggles with high expectations and perfectionism.  And as a control freak, I am now obsessed with getting rid of these weaknesses.  But there lies the rub. I will not.  Ever.  This is who I am.  I have struggled with a distorted image of God for so many, many years and I am so grateful for the gradual discovery of Who God really is.  I know in my head that He is not judging me the way I so harshly judge myself.  He does not love me for how well I avoid weakness.  He does not love me for the good deeds I do.  He does not love me best when I see myself in the most flattering (albeit, disillusioned) light.  But my heart asks how God could possibly love me, especially as I see how wretched I really am (and I am only seeing a tiny sliver of that misery!). 

As I was preparing this blogpost, I saw this repeated theme of struggling with controlling – my behavior, my loved ones, my God. 
I am more of a Control Freak than I had even thought. This is deep-rooted.  And God wants me to realize that I will not get “better.”  I have only been made aware recently that the saints were sinners who knew their need for God.   They were not strong on their own.  They did not love on their own.  They did not do courageous and generous acts of love on their own. They saw their weakness, were open to true contrition and gratitude, grew in humility, and made room for God to love and live through them, for them, with them, all for His greater glory (pretty much all of them with the assistance of our Blessed Mother at one point or another). 

As I am so obviously not a saint, I see that whenever I get a glimpse of the truth about myself, I am horrified and want to make it go away.  I want to be good.  I want to be loving.  I want to be someone God would be “proud of” (going back to my distorted image of how God loves).  But I am going about it all the wrong way, because I will only love when God loves through me.  I will only be a saint when God lives and dwells within me.  I am so busy relying on myself and pushing Him away until I fix myself that I fall deeper and deeper in this miserable pit.  Lately I have been so unhappy because I see my ugliness.  But I need to look at it in the arms of my Blessed Mama, because on my own, I become so very, very discouraged.  I am so tempted to turn away from God in shame. I doubt His love for me.  I see that in the past (before entrusted to the Blessed Mother) that my life could’ve been viewed as one very blessed and easy.  I now see how little faith I have, and God must have preserved me from difficult trials because I would’ve run away from him for good.  I can choose to look at the truth about myself now, because Blessed Mama won’t allow me to run very far or for very long.  I praise God for that. Truly.  I would be a complete mess without Her. 

You must not forget that Mary suffers with great pain the torment that your sin causes Christ.  For her, it is excruciatingly painful when you despise His love, when you abuse your own dignity and show contempt to God who loves you extremely and without end.  In spite of this great suffering, she does not let you go from her embrace.  If in this moment she would abandon you to your own possibilities – you would perish.  (S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd. Ed, rev [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 175.