Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Being Connected Through Faith

Yesterday my daughter entered the Dominican Order of Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She did not want her dad and me to make the trip, as she wants us to come in October instead when we can have two visitation days with her. As a mom, it was hard for me to let her go on her own. But God took care of her, and me. My husband’s sister lives just minutes from the convent. She was able to pick up my daughter from the airport, keep her overnight, and attend the entrance ceremony the next day. She took pictures and I was able to see how beautiful the chapel is, and see my daughter during the ceremony. The Sisters also posted pictures on Facebook so I could see the other Postulants that will be starting this journey with her.
I am thankful for such consoling graces, as it is a bittersweet experience to have her leave. We are very grateful for her vocation, and couldn’t ask for a more perfect “spouse”, but our human side has us family members a bit sad about the loss of constant contact with her. She was my best “texter”, so I will miss her daily messages. She has a wonderful sense of humor, so I will miss her wit. She is a kind soul, so I will miss her care and concern. I am envious of her new “family” who will get to experience these special traits now on a regular basis.
Even though she will have limited contact with me, I do feel we will be connected through receiving the Eucharist, Adoration, and prayer. Spiritual graces seem to transcend time and space, and just at daily Mass today I felt a joy receiving the Host knowing that she too, receives this special grace. Looking at Jesus in the Monstrance will be looking at her chosen spouse, so will unite me again to her.
The Order’s motto is to Jesus through Mary. So we will also bond through the Blessed Mother. Being a mom and not free to share in her concerns/trials, it is very comforting knowing she is in an order that entrusts themselves to our most blessed Mother, who will, and has always, taken special care of her.
So it is no coincidence that God has me reflecting on the section in the spiritual book that I am reading about accepting our sufferings with joy. I have had a lot of tears the past few weeks, but have called them happy tears, for how can I begrudge my daughter’s choice to be Christ’s bride?
“Let us go even further and say that happiness and suffering are inseparable. Some fear to make such an affirmation, because the world would look upon them as fools. How can we say that happiness and suffering are inseparable? Is it not just the other way around? It is not I who say this, but Jesus in the Beatitudes. Open the Gospel to the Sermon on the Mount. [Cf. Matt. 5:3-12] What does He tell us? Blessed are those who weep; blessed are the poor; blessed are those who suffer. There, then, is the affirmation that true happiness and suffering are inseparable.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Picturing My Kids as Future Saints

My youngest daughter had the opportunity to go to Montessori pre-school last year.  My husband and I chose this school for her based on her excited response to the school’s hosted open house.  Month after month we were amazed at just how much she enjoyed learning, how quickly she absorbed new subject matters, and at how well she retained what she had learned!  Although her teachers presented the subject matters, she had much freedom in exploring her interests.  She expressed such joy when talking about what she had discovered – which was, sadly, different from her older siblings. 

As I have written about in the past, I am trying to home-school my children in the Catholic faith as they attend public school.  So often I find myself anxious about whether they are learning enough, or how far behind we are in their lesson plans. Although I do want to focus on faith sharing with them, I do tend to worry about whether they have properly memorized the Ten Commandments or know the Corporal Works of Mercy.  But really, all I want them to do is fall in love with their faith!

I have recently been paying attention to their interest levels while we are attending Holy Mass.  I found myself worrying about how much heart they were putting into the responses, how attentively they were listening to the readings, and how joyfully they were singing the hymns.  I wondered just how spiritually prepared they were to receive the Holy Eucharist after fighting with each other in the pews about who was invading whose space, or who squeezed whose hands too tightly while giving the Kiss of Peace.  But really, all I want for them is to know how very much they are loved by our Redeemer, just as they are, and to respond to that Love in return! 

I brought up this issue with a priest – Just how concerned should I be as a parent about my kids’ interest levels at the Mass? 

He reassured me that I shouldn’t really be concerned at all.  Although it is a good to have an awareness of wanting that for my children, he reminded me that all I can do is prepare the ground for God, and allow the seeds to grow in each soul.  Going deeper, or having a greater desire for the Eucharist…those are conditioned by individual situations, where we/they can be led to seek God’s grace or see how the Eucharist provides salvation for us.  He did suggest that I apply what is happening in their lives, at home, or school, or with friends and equate that to the Lord saving us from our fears or concerns.  He suggested that as a parent, I make Mass as positive as possible and reiterate that above all, Church is a place of (1) safety and (2) sacredness.  In referring to the Mass, I can always paint the Church with an aura of safety and sacredness. 

It’s kind of like the Montessori method:  as a parent, I can present the topics, and lead them to the Sacraments, but I must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them, based on their situations, their temperaments, their interests. I am thinking that if I approach their religion lessons and our participation in the Sacraments in this way, they might discover true joy for themselves.  It is not so much in the “how”, but in begging for graces to be attached in our faith formation, despite me being an obstacle as the “Control Freak.”  J

As a parent I can trust that God is very present in our lives, especially because of my entrustment to my Blessed Mama.  He comes to my rescue as His littlest child.  He is the one Who has placed this desire of sanctity for my children in my heart.  Therefore, I can trust that He will fulfill it!  

God truly desires that we anticipate, with faith and hope, the fulfillment of His plans toward our environment and us.  Therefore, we should always look upon our dear ones, as well as those who are away from the faith, as God looks upon them in His mercy.  God looks at them as saints, even though they may convert in a year, maybe in ten years, or even – as in the case of the Good Thief – only at the last hours of their lives.  The best way for us to help others on their way to conversion is to better appreciate God’s purpose connected to their lives, rather than trying to rely on them excessively. 

It is crucial for us to place our reliance on God.  At the same time, we must cooperate with His grace and anticipate, with great hope, what we have not yet received, but which we deeply believe is in accordance with God’s designs.  In this way the results of our reliance on God can also be the salvation of others. (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed. [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2011], 41-42).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Desiring to Be Merciful

I just started writing this week’s blog with the intention to write about being merciful. I actually had just typed out the words “I have watched with amazement how Blessed Mother has formed me over the last 14 years to desire to be more merciful.” No sooner were the words on the page typed when my 5-year old daughter pushed the lever on my office chair causing it to lower toward the ground. My button was pushed and I snapped! Like Marshmallow in the movie “Frozen” I increased in size and probably sounded like I was roaring my disapproval. My heart is still pounding from that momentary episode.  What for, MOM? What for?

My blog was headed in the wrong direction, obviously! When I talk about mercy I have to see it from all its aspects – and to really ponder the question, do I only think “mercy” is when I am allowed to look good in my own eyes? Am I only experiencing “mercy” when I am given the grace not to overreact? Perhaps “mercy” is something much broader – something much deeper and amazing. Perhaps “mercy” is when Blessed Mother helps me to see who I am so that I call out for “Divine Mercy” – so that I can realize the depth of needing a Redeemer, Her Son, my Savior!

The process of my entrustment to Mary has been this road of discovering just how deep Divine Mercy really is. Some have claimed my road is self-centered. I don’t think this is necessarily true. The last 14 years I have been getting a good view of my misery – and being reminded that I am loved as such. Until I am convinced of this, I believe that my ability to give mercy will be greatly limited. It has come from the depth of understanding who I am that I have just recently started accepting others for who they are. This grace, however, is not something I can ever possess. Instead, it is something I constantly have to await. No longer do I simply desire to “fix” myself or others. Now, my desire is that I (and everyone!) believe in TRUE LOVE!

Gratitude to God is born on the foundation of the truth about God’s forgiving love. It is also born on the truth about humility, which is the truth about us. Humility is the truth that tries to remove from our hearts the poisonous influences of the faith that we have in ourselves. The conviction that everything is “given” to us, that everything is a gift, can be born on the foundation of the truth about God’s unceasingly bestowing love and the truth about ourselves as people who need everything from this bestowing love. 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.)

WE, Blessed Mother and I, have started a fundraiser for a friend in need. You can click here to read about it. Please consider participating in this mercy-raiser! My experience has been that I more easily discover God’s mercy through tangible acts of kindness and love – through a priest, family member, friend, co-worker, stranger…a PERSON!  I hope that my friend will get the message of mercy from the generosity of those MOM uses for that purpose! Please, at least say a prayer for her and her daughters today, and pass on the information. Thank you!! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Discovering My Vocation

I thought I had my life in pretty good order. I had received my Associates of Science degree at a community college and was transferring to a university to get a Bachelor's which I would be able to obtain in 2 years. I had a great part-time job at an elementary school for their after-school program. Once I finished school I would begin teaching in a local preschool. I was looking for Mr. Perfect so I could get married and start my own family. The problem was Mr. Perfect was nowhere in sight and I was becoming very frustrated. One Thursday night at the university's Newman Center (Catholic Campus Ministry), after their weekly 8pm Mass, we began to sing this song "Everything that I am, everything I long to be, I lay it down, at your feet" (Lay It Down by Matt Maher). A sense of surrender came over me and I wanted to give everything to God. I was tired of seeking my own will and being disappointed when my expectations weren't met.
The following year I decided to go on a "dating fast", which meant spending the year NOT looking for a boyfriend or constantly browsing Pinterest for future wedding ideas, children's names, etc. I was going to concentrate on developing my relationship with Jesus, and spend time in prayer asking God what He had planned for my life. Throughout that year God revealed my calling to the religious life. It was hard to accept at first because that meant I had to give up my dreams of being a wife and mom. But the more I prayed about it and understood what religious life really is, I was filled with joy! God has chosen me to be His! I began to see the desires He placed in my heart and I realized they could only be fulfilled through life as a religious sister.
I became overwhelmed when I began searching for the community to join. There are so many out there and I didn't know where to begin. Three Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist visited the Newman Center and they shared that their apostolate is teaching. I understood then that God gave me a love for children and teaching because He was calling me to join that Dominican order. This decision was further confirmed when I visited them for a retreat. As soon as I had arrived at their convent I was overcome with a sense of peace and a feeling that this was "home".
When I wanted to stop seeking my own plans and do what God was calling me to do, it took a lot of humility and trust. Day to day He calls me to do things I would rather not do like love my roommate who doesn't do the dishes or have patience with a kid at work who refuses to do his homework. It's when I say "yes" to these little things, that saying "yes" to the big things, like giving up everything to join the convent, becomes easier.
There is someone who can completely understand this surrender and that is our Blessed Mother Mary. "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Her "yes" brought the Son of God into the world. I ask for her help everyday especially in times of doubt or uncertainty. She reminds me that I am a beloved daughter of God and He loves me as I am. So it is not surprising that God would lead me to an Order of Dominican Sisters whose motto is to Jesus through Mary.
- Sister Jamie
Perhaps, when you hear God calling, you do not realize how much He wants to bestow upon you. By proposing to you His own will, He desires to free you from all 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. God does not want you to be so tormented. He desires to lift this weight from your shoulders and replace it with the sweet burden of His will. You only have to surrender to Him, and He will lead you. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 150.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Entrustment to Mary = Walking By Faith, Not By Mood

I recently heard a twist on the familiar Scripture quote “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  It is:  “for we walk by faith, not by mood.”  Now there’s something to think about.  I don’t think of myself as a moody person – as long as things are going just the way I want them!  Yes, this is Control Freak once again, a small, helpless, self-centered child who has so very much to learn. 

Seriously, one of the things I’ve noticed about myself lately is that I can seem hospitable, generous, kind….as long as it is on my terms, in my timing.  Recently a good friend came to visit with her small children.  I welcomed them with good food, fresh sheets, a listening ear, a dip in the pool with popsicles on a lazy summer evening.  I was happy to have good conversation and time to re-connect.  That is, until I needed them to leave so I could prepare our family for a long trip.  I was so disappointed with myself at the lack of charity in my thoughts.  I started to get anxious about all the errands I needed to run, the laundry and ironing, the to-do-list items to cross off.  Seriously, my friend traveled so far to visit, and yet I was again thinking of myself, not of God’s will in this moment.  Fortunately I have learned to pray as a beggar from this spirituality. I felt so helpless to change my attitude on my own.  I begged God that my ugly thoughts would be hidden from my friend.  I begged Him that I would have charity in my heart to extend most purely to my guests.  Only God knows whether she felt my anxiety and lack of hospitality.  And only He can repair the damage that I cause with my self-centeredness.

I see once again my need for Blessed Mama to forever purify my intentions and actions to give honor and glory to our Father.  I see how very moody I am.  I see that my desire to do God’s will is so lacking, as I become aware of my personal desires to be comfortable or in control.  I see how cranky I become when things don’t go according to my plan just like a two-year-old.  I see my honest-to-goodness need for this spirituality, especially during these moments of self-awareness that aren’t so pretty.  I am again reminded of God’s love for me, as I am, as a moody child.  Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the truth about my weaknesses, and how they call upon the abyss of Your merciful love.    And please, God, I ask for the grace to walk by faith, no matter the mood, in the arms of my Mother.

Mary, carry me in your arms like your own child.  Please allow me to become light like a balloon carried by the wind of the Holy Spirit, docile to carrying out God’s will and free from attachments.  I do not want to know where this Divine Wind comes from or to where it will carry me.  I do not want to impose my own plans and visions on God.  I want to be docile like you.  (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005], 146.)