Sunday, December 30, 2012

Urgent Prayer Request

Yesterday, I learned that a devoted and humble servant of Christ is facing a grave diagnosis.  Her name is Maria and her family has requested prayers.  I felt called to begin a novena for Maria to my beloved late friend Father Jim Galligan, OSA, a most devout and pious friar who passed away last December.    Father was devoted to the Divine Mercy, up until his last breath.  It would be fitting, I think, to ask that if you are willing to pray for Maria, that you do so by offering the chaplet for her and ask Father Galligan to intercede on her behalf.

A most moving aspect of God's infinite mercy is that He hears and answers our prayers, regardless of how faithful or obedient we've been to Him.   May His Will be done!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

True Humility

Gustav Dore's The Publican and the Pharisee
If you listen, Christ  will speak to you.  I heard Him very clearly when He told me what I must do to become truly humble.  The minute you give in to the temptation to judge another, you have squandered an opportunity to demonstrate true humility - that was the message delivered as I sat on a hard pew in a cold chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, early in December.

There is a saying that if a child is raised with criticism, he learns to be critical, and this is certainly true of me.  I won't delve into the particulars but suffice it to say that the only compliments I ever got growing up were of the left-handed variety.  Even now, I am particularly sensitive to the ticking glance of someone in search of any flaw or imperfection they can find in make-up that is not perfectly applied or a haircut that is not entirely even or clothing that does not fit as it once did.  At some point, you either don't want to be around the perfectionist or you choose to ignore the litany of  faults that the person feels compelled to hand you each time you are in the their company.

This past September I endured what was surely one of the more difficult trials of my life.  I survived intact only with the grace and strength supplied by God, the support of family and the never-ending prayers and daily messages of hope sent to me by a dear friend who once experienced a similar trial.  One must  live through such a thing to know what it is like.  Yet as difficult and wholly unexpected as this was, I realized I was being given a special gift, a cross few ever carry,  an opportunity to stand falsely accused, to be despised and unwanted and to stand in silence rather than engage the accusers.  I did not emerge from this trial unscathed, but if it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger,  this enterprise surely had that effect on me.

In the end, I was able to walk away, vindicated, and the worth that had been overlooked in someone's haze of resentment came to be recognized.  There is nothing quite like being brought low to enable one to see one's own shortcomings.  Rather spending my energy trying to justify or defend myself, I made a conscious decision to turn inward and assume, even if only briefly, that there was an element of truth in the laundry list of faults I was presumed to have.  Admittedly, my first reaction was nothing like this.  My immediate response was to want to return the favor in kind by pointing out the faults of the accuser.  Thankfully, I turned immediately to Christ to beg His help in weathering this storm.  His Presence, while It could not be felt, was assured.

As St. John tells us, if we say we have no fault, we have deceived ourselves.  I know that while I can fool myself for awhile, I cannot fool Christ.  I decided the best way I could honor Him in all of this was to overlook the faults of others - to ignore the speck in their eyes, in other words - and mind the log in my own.    Every single time I felt impatience with someone's slowness of wit or action, I bit my tongue.  Each barb fired at me verbally or in an email was responded to with overwhelming sweetness.  If people were going to think the worst of me, I would do nothing to validate their beliefs.  And I would look for the best in them.

Perhaps the greatest gift that came out of all of this was gratitude for all the things I have taken for granted, from an imperfect husband who loves me unconditionally to a friend I seldom see but whose prayers and words of consolation kept me afloat.  I also came to appreciate exactly what St Therese meant when she said that without Christ, she could do nothing at all but be little and weak.

With God's grace, I chose to accept this trial as an invitation to become a better disciple, one who might, in the end, more closely resemble her Beloved than herself.

It is humbling but necessary to realize that any worth we have comes not from ourselves, whatever the temptation to pat one's self on the back may be.  This trick of pride is most insidious.  We know better, yet we succumb to the temptation to think ourselves superior to someone else because we kneel for Holy Communion or we say our Rosary without fail or have no difficulty getting to Mass every First Friday.  We may not confess to others how much we want to congratulate ourselves every time we think we have overcome some spiritual weakness.  As St Faustine wrote in her diary, without Christ's help, we would not even be capable of accepting His graces.  Why then, would we ever take credit for any spiritual progress we've made?

The greatest threat to humility is pride, and it is pride that leads us to believe we can and should judge another.  I am grateful for this epiphany and beg God's help that I should never forget it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Greetings!

For those who still link to this blog, and those who happen upon it by chance, Christmas blessings to you and yours.  May the peace of the Christ Child and His Holy Mother keep you in the coming new year.

Well, I never did get around to joining the Third Order, and at this point in time, I don't know that I will.  First, I have to go back to school, whether I want to or not.  I simply don't have the job flexibility that I need until I get this done and out of the way.  Second, every time I think I'm ready to take the next step, I discover a new saint that draws me, just a bit, from the Carmelites.  This year, it has been St Magdalene of Nagasaki and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, both Augustinians.  So for now, I think it is best that I continue to pursue a life of prayer and forego becoming a tertiary.

I have decided to resume blogging, though probably not with the same frequency as before.  And I will also be changing the name of the blog.  The term "unprofitable servants" from Luke 17 has been stuck in mind from before Advent began, and so I will be going with that and doing a little work behind the scenes to update the site.

I look forward to the journey.  Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are in mine.