Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jesus Hung Between Two Thieves

Every Lent something very simple strikes me in a powerful way.  While praying before the Monstrance, the realization that the Son of the Living God died between two common thieves struck me like a bolt of lightning. Humility  and mortification until His dying last. Associating with sinners right until the end. 

One day while preparing for confession in front of a life-sized crucifix, I thought of my sins and said to myself, quite in error:
Christ died so I could do these awful things. 
And a voice corrected me, saying:
No, He died because of these awful things you did. Show your love by resolving not to do them again. And if you give in to human weakness and fragility yet again, remember that He fell 3 times on the way to Calvary. Ask for His help and pick up your cross. 

A Note About Comments

Please know that I read and appreciate every comment. Publishing them is a source of pride for me so please understand why I read them but don't publish them. If you would like a personal response please provide your email. I assure you it will not get published and I will respond to you personally as soon as I'm able. 

Thank you and God bless you! 

Distractions During Prayer

A reader left me a comment asking what they could do to minimize distractions during prayer, and especially while praying the Rosary. I have taken this problem to confession on the occasions where I thought I did not work hard enough to focus and lift my mind as well as my heart. One of my confessors, who is in his late 80's, told me he hadn't found a way yet to overcome distracted prayer during the Rosary. Another confessor likened distractions to a pile of debris floating down the river.

"Don't poke a stick in the pile," he told me. " We have this need to take a stick and poke apart whatever makes up the pile. That's exactly what we do every time we chastise ourselves for giving in to distraction. Let go of it as quickly as possible and return to your prayer. "

Sometimes if I am saying the Rosary versus praying the Rosary, I can almost hear a voice bringing me to a halt and asking:  Is this how you address My mother?

It certainly isn't the way I want to pray the Rosary and so if I find this happening to me a lot there are a few things I do.

One, I have a lovely book of chaplets that includes a beautiful set of mediatations for every decade in the original 3 mysteries. It takes a little bit of juggling but I read the fruit of each mystery at the start and then each of 10 thoughts or meditations for each Hail Mary in the decade.  The book was compiled by Patricia Quinallanti and is available through Leaflet Missal Company.

For instance, the first sorrowful mystery is Christ's Agony in the Garden. Each Hail Mary honors some aspect of what took place in Gethsemane.

-to honor Christ's desire to be comforted by an angel
-to honor the beads of sweat and blood that poured down His face
-to honor the love He had for Peter, James and John in bringing them with Him to the garden
-to honor His haste in healing the ear of the servant

And so on.  If you pray these meditations often enough they will be easy to call to mind.

Another thing to consider is where you pray. I'm not an advocate of multi-tasking while praying the Rosary, such as cooking or doing other household chores.  To each his own but it's not something I'd make a habit of. I have found that it is impossible for me to pray a Rosary before bed. It's a struggle to stay awake until the end and feels like something I squeezed in instead of making the time to pray it right. I might pray an extra Rosary this way but again I don't personally find it something I want to do on a regular basis.  I also don't find it is efficacious to pray the Rosary in the car unless I have a CD to pray along with, like the one I bought last year from St John Cantius in Chicago. One of my numerous shortcomings is yelling at other drivers who act like fools on the highway. I don't really want to interrupt a Hail Mary with "get in your own lane you (fill in the blank)!"

The place I am least likely to be distracted is before the Tabneracle or Monstrance, particularly if there is a Crucifixion scene above them.  This is not always possible and for some of you it may be a rare opportunity, depending on where you live. I am fortunate that I live in a city where there are a number of chapels or churches that offer adoration. If you don't have access to such a chapel, find a quiet corner in your home. You can also find Eucharistic Adoration on the Internet.  When a priest I knew could no longer make it to chapel, he kept his computer open to a perpetual adoration chapel that had live streaming. 

I have no shortage of religious statues, etc and I find it is much easier to pray while at home if I have one of these images before me.  You could even print an image you like from the Internet. 

Perhaps the thing that helps me most of all is pleading for Jesus and Mary to assist me to pray with focus, reverence and devotion. I also try to clear "the tape that keeps running in my head", as one priest described it, well before I get to the chapel.  

I wouldn't fret too much about distractions and I certainly would never let them deter me. I have come to understand that nothing prolongs distraction like self-attachment, so cleaning up one act will help to clean up another, so to speak. 

St Teresa of Avila likened distractions to bees. You wave them away and then you carry on. Souls are depending on us. Let's continue to labor for them and, ultimately, for Jesus. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Pharisee in All of Us

If I were going to be completely honest, I would have to confess this: I have erroneously identified with the humble tax collector and not the Pharisee. It would take a marvelous effort on my part, aided by the Divine hand of God, to ever make it possible for me to burn every Pharisiacal tendency I have once and for all.

If we feel inclined to look smugly at other Catholics of any ilk, we're guilty. I don't get off the hook because I admit my faults and someone else doesn't. The moment we make a judgment about someone else or their motives, we've blown it. Time to get on our knees and plead for mercy. I wonder when I will ever learn.

Sometimes I want to ask God to take away my ability to see, hear and speak.   That way I'd never sin again. But what merit would there be in that if I never had to choose to do the right thing?

There is, I believe, another lesson to be learned from the tax collector and that was also the Psalm response at Mass today.  God desires mercy, not sacrifice.   If we are separated from Him by mortal sin, He cannot reside within our souls. But He will wait unceasingly for us to beg for His loving mercy.

There seem to be two polar opposite versions of mercy and each depends on which extreme political wing you ask. On the far left, mercy is patting a sinner on the head and assuring him that God understands and accepts all behavior unless it involves murder. Confession is for the overly-scrupulous and charity is working in a soup kitchen. On the far right are those pre-occupied with the letter of the law, all the while violating the heart of it. Charity is ripping your brother a new one - in plain sight of everyone. And -  getting your hands dirty to care for the under-privileged is nothing more than surrender to pangs of liberal guilt and not necessary in the plan of salvation. 

Somewhere in the middle of those opposing views is the truth. The key to getting it is humility. We need to practice it in every aspect of our lives.  None of us will ever be worthy. More importantly, we will never be denied. The more we look within, the more we will see our own faults and realize where we need to improve.  Jesus eagerly desires that we should come to Him as often as possible to seek His mercy. Then He expects us to extend it to others. If you leave the judgment to Him and extend only the invitation, He will do the rest. 

I think it was Mother Angelica who said that it is a kind of sin against God to believe that there is a sin greater than His mercy.  We must never condemn Him by rendering judgment on another member of His Body. And we must never condemn Him by assuming another member of His body is beyond His salvation. 

As St Faustina wrote of Jesus in her diary: I do not reward for good results but for the labor and suffering undertaken for My sake. 

And as St Monica said: No one is far from God. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Beg For This Grace"

"...I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation. 

...your duty is not only to write about and proclaim My mercy, but also to beg for this grace for them, so that they too might beg for My mercy."- St Fautina's Diary (1166)

Two of the greatest women the Catholic Church has ever known - St Therese and Blessed Mother Teresa - both understood very well that the words Jesus spoke from the Cross did not refer to physical need. When He cried out, "I thirst!", He did not do so for want of a drink of water. In nearly the final gasp of His Passion, He pleaded for souls to come to Him to slake His parchment. 

Everything about Our Lord's Passion points to His love for poor sinners and His desire for us to glorify His mercy.   

I read some excellent comments on Abbey Roads regarding this very subject, which is our obligation not only to beg for mercy for ourselves but for the entire Mystical Body of Christ. 

Remember the Gospel where the ungrateful servant is forgiven his debt but then has his fellow servant thrown headlong into prison for his inability to pay?

Can you imagine a mother who only cooked enough food to feed herself, and then left her children to fend for themselves because they left their rooms a mess or would not bathe? What kind mother would say: "Oh well, soon enough they'll die of starvation and then I will have the nice, neat house I've always wanted"?

Isn't that what we do when we give up on people because we can't get them to do what they should? Anyone can parrot the rules, but it is love for Jesus Christ and the desire to satisfy His thirst that compels us to reach out and not give up. 

We don't have to compromise the teachings of Holy Mother Church to try to win souls for Jesus. And I say again that if you want to win converts for Christ, you have to act like Him. Bitter, ugly and angry never won any cause worth fighting. 

Remember that bumper sticker? Smile - it will make people wonder what you've been up to

That's what kind of Catholics we have to be in the world. Joy can be infectious. If we don't appear to be happy in the spiritual life, how will that intrigue outsiders or make them want to know more?  If to be Christian means being another Christ, who on earth would want to imitate us if instead we repel people? 

This does not mean we don't take seriously the grip sin has on our society. But if our faith appears to be a burden, and we give the appearance that it is, who's going to want to be like us?   

While we're busy plucking specks, lets not forget the help we need with our beams. And all of us need that help, no matter how holy we think we are. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Holy Communion

"See, I have left My heavenly throne to become united with you. What you see is only a tiny part and already your soul swoons with love. How amazed your heart will be when you see Me in all My glory. But I want to tell you that eternal life must begin here on earth through Holy Communion. Each Holy Communion makes you capable of communing with God throughout eternity." - St Faustina's Diary (1811). 

Sometimes when I am kneeling at the altar rail at Holy Communion, I fix my mind on the notion that I will soon encounter the living Christ. And I think of how this meeting will not be for the purpose of judging my soul but instead to fill it with Divine Love. Some day it will not be so. 

The truth is that as I read Faustina's diary again during this season of Lent, I am reminded of how poorly I receive Jesus. He has to compete with the debris which I have sinfully allowed to enter and which never fails to make an appearance at the most inopportune times. You can receive Him, but giving Him a compelling reason to stay is another story altogether.  
I know from personal experience that the more you are in His Presence, the more He will illuminate your soul. But recognizing our sins is not enough. The desire to change must be powered by His grace obtained through the sacraments.  Of all the virtues, humility may be the most important in the struggle for Christian perfection. 

Last night before I turned in, I had to make a painful but necessary admission to myself which I promptly brought to confession. As humble as I or others may think I am, I'm really not, and pride has even seeped into aspects of my spiritual life. But I will not let this deter me.  The "you shouldn't receive the Eucharist today because you're no good" spiel is the voice of a liar speaking to you. Unless you're not in a state if grace, do not permit the liar to talk you out of receiving  your Eucharistic King. 

Go to Mass and Holy Communion every chance you get. Heed the words He spoke to St Faustina and prepare your soul for the day it will see Him in all His glory. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Unfathomable Mercy of God

"I saw the Blessed Virgin Mary, unspeakably beautiful. She held me close to herself and said to me, I am Mother to you all, thanks to the Unfathomable Mercy of God. Most pleasing to me is the soul which faithfully carries out the Will of God. Be courageous. Do not fear apparent obstacles but fix your gaze on the Passion of my Son and in this way you will be victorious"- St Faustina's Diary (449). 

What did Christ do from the Cross?  In the throes of His final agony He pleaded with His Father to forgive His torturers and executioners.  He didn't condemn anyone and even opened Paradise to the thief who hung next to Him. 

One of the centurions who witnessed the events on Calvary confessed: Surely this Man was the Son of God. 

Mercy. Even from the cross. Especially from the cross. 

No my children, it is not some cheap grace, as a few of our brethren would have you believe. Mercy is the difference between divinity and human misery. Our first response to injury is seldom mercy and forgiveness, but too often the condemnation and judgment some have mistaken for fraternal charity.

Can you imagine a Passion of Christ where Mary would assail the people who put her Son to death? 

Pray for us sinners, not those sinners. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Cause of Our Falls

"The cause of your falls is that you rely too much on yourself and too little on Me. But let this not sadden you so much. You are dealing with the God of mercy"- St Faustina's Diary (1488)

One of the toughest things for me as a mother was letting my children walk down the street without holding my hand.  I'm pretty sure my son was nearly 10 before he was able to convince me that he really could negotiate the sidewalk without his hand in mine.  God forbid the poor kid should trip and fall. I would go off.

"See!  If you were holding my hand you wouldn't have a bloody knee."

When I first read the above passage, I had an image of trying to walk across a minefield with Jesus walking behind me, wanting to reach out and grab me before I stepped on an explosive and blew up my soul.  But as much as He wants to take hold of us, He can't.  He patiently waits for us to reach out for Him.

When we fail at the same thing over and over we really do have to ask ourselves: did I ask for God's help with this, or did I imagine that all by myself I am capable of battling evil?  Sometimes I think I look for excuses to commit the same sin repeatedly because I really don't want to let Christ change me.  In my stubborn wickedness I cling to my vices and foolishly think I can overcome them on my own.  I know if I did the right thing, which is to depend totally on Him, I could change.

With total dependence on Jesus, which is what He desires of us, we submit to His will and abandon our own.  He supports us along the treacherous paths that trip us and cause us to fall.  We admit that we are weak little nothing's made something's only by the worth He gives our words and actions.

It's difficult to submit when by doing so we are acknowledging our weakness.  When we get a little too confident in our own abilities it is easy to see how Jesus might permit us to fall.  If His mercy wasn't infinite, I would have been bound for Hell long ago.

What are some ways we can rely totally on Him?

By not allowing ourselves to be gripped by anxiety.  By embracing the thorns as much as we would the roses. By learning how to take delight in being humiliated, forgotten or even mistreated.  By refusing to let stress get the best of us because we know He is in control. By making prayer our first resort in any situation. By thanking Him in every way possible for His mercy and goodness. By suffering in silence. By keeping our triumphs and success a secret from everyone but Him. By imitating Him by also being meek and humble of heart. By tuning out the world.  By glorifying His mercy.

"As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Amateur's Advice on Learning to Love Adoration

Last summer I was invited to join a group of faithful Catholics interested in getting more people to commit to making a Holy Hour once a week or even just once a month. Each individual had excellent ideas, some of which we even implemented with positive results. The organizer wanted us to make phone calls to every member of that parish as well as to former adorers who had dropped out of sight. My own preference was to speak to people personally, especially after weekday or Saturday morning Mass 

I noticed that while we seemed to have "regulars" at certain Masses, particularly on Saturday mornings, very few of them stayed for adoration afterward. When I got a chance to engage them in conversation I was shocked to learn how little some of them knew about adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

As a token of appreciation for making a weekly or monthly commitment it was decided we would give a lapel pin depicting a ciborium with the Host raised above it to any new volunteers who signed up. Thus far I have given away exactly one pin. That's OK because I have many more people to talk to about the fruits of Eucharistic adoration. 

I approached one gentleman who shares a pew with me every Saturday morning. He said he would be glad to think about it but asked: What do I have to do? 

For some people the notion of sitting still without speaking for an hour seems like a daunting challenge. Others don't know if they can pray for that long a period of time. I tell new-comers to try commit to 15 minutes at first.  But still they ask: But what do you do?

First, you don't have to do anything but offer your heart to Jesus. You can talk to Him, you can just be there for Him, or you can pray. You can do a combination of all 3. 

I am a proponent of rote prayers like the Rosary and Chaplet to St Michael. The Rosary takes an average of 18 minutes to complete.   Sometimes I make a mental list before I begin of all the intentions and people for which I have been asked to pray. Then I pray a decade for each of them. Thus only one set of mysteries will rarely suffice. One could also make a written list of intentions and refer to it as necessary. If you pray 3 sets of mysteries with focus and reverence you will have prayed for close to 60 minutes. That, my friends, is a Holy Hour. 

Another method that works for me is going in with a plan. That might sound like too methodical and trivial an approach to spending time in the Real Presence. Don't worry about it because spiritual exercises lead to spiritual fitness. When the biggest challenge to you is filling up an hour's time, it's OK to create a structure.  Jesus will supply the grace if you make the effort.  Soon, you will be so focused on your prayers that you won't pay any attention to time. 

So what do I mean by a plan?  Think ahead of what you will pray and who you will pray for. If you pray the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and maybe a Chaplet, you will have prayed for close to an hour. You want to have some free time to make your introductory prayer as well as take enough time to thank Jesus for the privilege of being able to sit with Him. 

I know from personal experience that before long, you will need more than an hour a week in His Company. 

I  not a fan of spiritual reading during Adoration with the exception of Scripture. II think it would be very efficacious to pray the Psalms in the Real Presence. You could also pray the Liturgy of the Hours before the Blessed Sacrament and thus you would help to develop in yourself two spiritual habits at once. 

The one person to whom I gave a lapel pin is a daily communicant who never gave a thought to a Holy Hour before I approached him.  His profession keeps him busy but he told me it will never keep him from his new-found pleasure. 

"I can't believe how much I look forward to my hour every week and how quickly it goes by."

He is now spreading the word to his friends and family so they can reap the benefits as well. 

Start with 15 minutes focused on Jesus and before long you will be able to make a Holy Hour. Make prayer part of your daily routine so that when you do have the opportunity to visit Him in Adoration, you won't have to fret about how you can "last" for an hour. 

"Could you not stay awake with Me one hour?"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

More Mother Than Queen

St Therese once shared that although the Blessed Virgin Mary is both queen and mother, she is more the latter than the former.  As a child, I think I probably saw it more the other way around. Now that I have children of my own I have discovered a beautiful bond with the Mother of God. 

For although she was conceived without sin and herself gave birth to the Son of God, she understands completely our concerns as  flawed mothers of children who are not perfect. She knows before we even plead for her intercession what trials we face as parents and our heartaches are hers as well.  She is perfect and we are not but she never let's that stand in the way of bonding with her as a motherly confidant. 

That is why I go to her with complete confidence that she will lend me speedy and visible assistance. I go to her not as the Queen of Heaven and Earth but as the mother who understood and accepted the magnitude of her role in salvation history.  I never have to say much. I simply ask for what I need and her motherly heart neither demands or requires an explanation. Although twice God made her wait 3 days for relief - once when she lost Him to the Temple and then when she lost Him to the tomb- she spares me a similar anguish.  Believe me when I say I am not worthy.  

I'm not sure if I ever shared this with you before but I met a woman who underwent a lung transplant. She told her story of growing sicker and sicker as she languished on the transplant list. One Friday night, she was too sick and too weak to climb the stairs to bed. She stayed on the couch, convinced she might die that night.  She prayed Rosary after Rosary. Suddenly, she stopped midway during the Our Father and with a combination of desperation and exasperation she cried: "Mother of God, talk to your Son! I can't take anymore!"

"I didn't mean to sound fresh, but I had reached the end of my rope."  She couldn't pray anymore. She just lay on the couch completely helpless and exhausted.  A short time later, the phone rang with the news that a donor had been located - a young woman left brain dead after an auto accident - and that she should come to the hospital ASAP. 

The reason she shared her story with our group was two-fold: one so we would pray for the soul of the donor and two so we would never forget what a powerful intercessor we have in Mary and how she can melt her Son's Heart with just one word on our behalf, if only we would remember to ask.  What mother does not live to hear from her children?

Return her generosity and love by your devotion to her Divine Son and to her through faithfully praying her Rosary and offering penance on behalf of poor sinners, especially those with no one to pray for them. 

If you can, resolve to complete the First Saturday devotion to her, not just on 5 consecutive Saturdays but on every Saturday for the rest of your life, so long as you are able.  If Jesus Christ does not refuse what she asks of Him, how can we?  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fight for My Kingdom

"Go, fortified by My grace, and fight for my kingdom in human souls; fight as a king's child would and remember that the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them the possibility of earning merit for Heaven. I expect from you My child a great number of souls who will glorify My mercy for all eternity" - St Faustina's Diary(1489)

I don't think we should ever give in to disgust with fellow Catholics. Disgust in terms of faith might be close to despair if you think about it. 

Sheep can be pretty disgusting but the shepherd doesn't see it that way. He has a commitment to his sheep no matter how much dung they produce or how many flies they attract. It would be pretty tough to stay close to his herd if he could be deterred by dirt, odor, stubbornness and disobedience. 

There is no more powerful weapon at our disposal than frequent reception of the Sacraments which fortify our prayers and penance with untold graces.  If we can't muster the energy to get to Mass and Adoration as often as possible, how hard are we fighting for His kingdom in human souls?

I expect no more from those who answer to me at my job than that which I demand of myself. So I am not urging the impossible from you in terms of the spiritual life. Some days are easier than others to get to daily Mass and Adoration. Just when you think you are pushing yourself, you come to the realization that Someone else is doing all the work. And He showers so many graces upon you and those you hold dear that pretty soon, it gets easier and easier, and your soul wants more and more of Him. 

You don't want to keep the treasure of His grace only for those who love you. You want it for everyone, so you don't allow yourself to be so disgusted by dirty sheep that Christ is no longer recognizable in you. What is a Christian if not an imitator of Christ?

So many Catholics today speak of martyrdom. While they wait for it to happen, they sometimes stop imitating the Christ Who never gives up on us and Who will never refuse us His mercy. How dare we refuse it to others?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

God and I are a Majority

I never really got this observation from St Teresa of Avila until today when I was left alone to deal with a problem with no assistance. And those who withheld their help could not disguise their glee. 

When you ask Him to be in your corner, you can never be outnumbered.  When you have God, you have everything. 

I will resume (hopefully) mediations on the Divine Mercy with the next post. 

As for my novena to Glorious St Joseph?  Just like last year, he chose the day after his feast to give answer.  In thanksgiving for his favors, remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory in his honor. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

TLM in Honor of St Joseph

Forget the zeppole - on his feast day, I want a Solemn High Mass offered in honor of St Joseph. I got my wish this evening. While 25% or more in attendance were from my Latin Mass Community, there were also those who belonged to the parish where the Mass was offered and came for their own reasons: curiosity, nostalgia, gratitude, devotion to St Joseph.  I invited a couple to go with me ( I also invited my husband, but I digress). Neither had ever assisted at a TLM but are daily communicants with a longing for a more reverent liturgy that rightfully holds Christ at its center. Only the wife was able to make it and her awe at the beauty and solemnity of what she witnessed made it worth the harrowing ride there in a tsunami. 

Tonight's Mass was one where you could literally hear a pin drop during the Canon. The silence permits the faithful to give rapt attention to the Sacred Mystery taking place at the altar. It facilitates the recognition that Christ will permit us to encounter Him without judgment.  It is truly the Grand Silence because there is none greater than the One Who emerges from it. 

It saddens me at times that what my friend witnessed tonight for the first time is still the exception and not the rule but I am nonetheless encouraged.  She will tell a friend. She will nudge her husband to go with her to a TLM and unlike 5 years ago or so, she will have a choice of parishes to visit that offer The Old Mass. The more Catholics who assist at a TLM, the more that will have the courage to ask their own pastors: why not here at OUR parish?  A few weeks ago a First Saturday TLM was offered at a Novus Ordo parish where a Tridentine Mass hadn't been offered in more than 40 years. Guess what happened as a result?  Some first-timers who assisted at that Mass came to our TLM this past Sunday. I can guarantee you it's just the start of their devotion to the Extraordinary Form. 

I wouldn't worry so much about the so-called Francis Effect.  The horse has left the barn my friends and she isn't coming back. Thank you Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 

Happy Feast Day dearest St Joseph.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sanctity of Suffering

"The more you will come to love suffering, the purer your love for Me will be." - St. Fautsina's Diary (279)

Who among us striving to be holy wouldn't want to have an ever-more pure love for Our Lord?  But if you are like me, you may have days when you are tempted to ask:  "Dear God, don't I already love You enough that You had to send me this?"

St.Therese referred to the sufferings Jesus sent her as "choicest", a word I might use to describe a spotless piece of fruit or a good cut of meat.  What are some choice sufferings that we endure without ever considering their worth?

The unkind word of a spouse of child when we least feel up to hearing it?

False accusations or suspicion about our motives?

Being mortified in public in one way or another?

Watching helplessly as someone we love is injured by another?

Watching our children suffer physical and/or mental anguish?

Favoritism that costs us attention, a promotion or even a job?

Being left out?

Getting taken for granted and never shown an ounce of appreciation?

Only being acknowledged when someone wants something from us?

Watching someone else take credit for our idea or an accomplishment that came about because of very  hard work?

An illness that isn't serious yet causes anguish just the same?

Going back to the "one night in a bad inn" observation of St. Teresa of Avila, I tell you that I have often to remind myself that this kind of misery is a temporal punishment, and the more that is heaped upon me, the less I may have to suffer the flames of Purgatory.  When I have grown up spiritually, I hope that I will not think of my own gain, but of the consolation my suffering might give to the Heart of Jesus and the graces it may win my children, both those I brought into the world and those I have adopted spiritually.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Of all the places in the Holy Land, I think the one I would most like to visit would have to be Mount Tabor.  I'd like to see what path leads to its height and imagine the conversation, if any, Peter, James and John had with Jesus as they made their ascent.  I think of how they must have been overcome when He revealed His glory to them.   I think I probably would have fainted.

I have often said on this blog that the Transfiguration is one of those luminous mysteries that reveals the surpassing generosity of Christ. Knowing what He is about to suffer, He permits the apostles to preview His divinity to help bolster their faith when they later see the Son of God handed over to be mocked, beaten and crucified.

During the Canon of a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the subdeacon conceals the paten beneath the humeral veil until just before Holy Communion.  I asked one of the priests in our TLM rotation why this is done and he said it's meant to represent how Christ hid His glory from the eyes of ordinary men.   Perhaps it is to remind us that the only path to Heaven is by way of the Cross.

"Do you see these souls?  Those who resemble Me in the pain and contempt they suffer will be like Me also in glory. And those who bear less resemblance to me in pain and contempt will also bear less resemblance to Me in glory."- St Faustina's Diary (446)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Who Are You To Judge?

Perhaps if Pope Francis had asked this question instead of "who am I to judge"? there'd be a lot less consternation and gnashing of teeth. As an ordained priest with faculties to hear confessions and absolve sins, the pope is in a position to judge when you think about it.  As for the rest of us?  We would do well to consider that when we take it upon ourselves to hold others in judgment, we are appropriating that which is the exclusive property of God and the laborers He called to His vineyard.

I would not recommend that the princes of  the Church comment "bravo" when someone exits the proverbial closet unless they immediately follow that remark with "now that he has openly admitted to having a disordered passion I pray he will seek God's help in overcoming it and he has my prayers for the strength to seek forgiveness and amend his life".

We still have people who would reduce Christ's church to a homogenous country club open only to those who fit their description of what a Catholic Christian looks like.  One has only to look at the rag-tag band of 12 Our Lord chose to follow Him to realize He offers salvation to all who are willing to  conform to His Holy Will. It was Jesus Himself who reminded us that the well have no need of a physician, only the sick.   But in a culture that seeks its own pleasure and puts itself above the Creator it is critical to weigh every spoken word with the utmost care.  Society only hears what it wants to hear so ambiguity can be a very dangerous thing when you're trying to save souls.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Virtues of St Joseph

As we approach his feast day, I hope you have been able to make a novena to St Joseph. I am going to divert from the subject of Divine Mercy just for a post to share with you the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St Bridget of Sweden about her most chaste spouse. 

"St Joseph was so reserved and careful in his speech that not one word was ever issued from his mouth that was not good and holy, nor did he ever indulge in unnecessary or less than charitable conversation. He was most patient and diligent in bearing fatigue; he practiced extreme poverty; he was most meek in bearing injuries; he was strong and constant against my enemies; he was the faithful witness of the wonders of Heaven, being dead to the flesh and the world, living only for God and for heavenly goods, which were the only things he desired. He was perfectly conformed  to the Divine Will and so resigned to the dispositions of Heaven that he ever repeated:'May the Will of God be ever done in me!'  He rarely spoke with men but continually with God, whose Will he desired to perform. Wherefore, he now enjoys great glory in Heaven."

Unlike his spouse, St Joseph was not conceived without original sin, yet he was well-endowed with God's grace and perfectly conformed to His Divine Will. There is much to emulate in him. 

St Teresa of Avila said of her patron:"Would that I could persuade all men to be devoted to this glorious Saint."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One Night in a Bad Inn

This is how St Teresa of Avila described our exile on earth as we wait to gain our Final Reward. I try to remember this when the going gets rough. 

"I do not reward for good results but for the patience and hardship endured for My sake."-St Faustina's Diary (86)

Some days are easier to remember this than others.  But continuing on St Faustina's confession that for Jesus, she did everything possible for ungodly people, let's consider those individuals or situations that push our buttons. I like to think of the immense pleasure and consolation it gives Our Lord when we suffer for His sake in these situations.  Consider also how very few people in this world give Him even a second thought and you will realize why we need to push ourselves as long as we're able to work for His Kingdom.

I also don't think Our Lord is telling us that some effort is equal to our best effort. I deluded myself about this for quite some time.  He waited patiently for me and truth be told, I still have days when I'm sure my sloth and slipshod effort must leave Him exasperated.  Fortunately for me, His mercy endures forever and I am permitted to try again. 

Even in the throes of her illness, St Therese remarked: "I can still stand on my feet and so I must go about my duties". 

Lent is a time for us to work especially hard to save souls, including our own!  By all means practice acts of mercy and alms giving. But prayer and sacrifice joined to it are the means of receiving the graces necessary to sustain us in battle. 

One week into Lent, it's tempting to allow ourselves a certain sense of satisfaction if we've successfully stuck to our resolutions. But as He reminded Faustina, without His help we're not even capable of accepting His graces.  Pray for the strength to sustain you. Who knows how many souls you may save in the process?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

If You Haven't Forgotten, Have You Really Forgiven?

"My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you"- St Faustina's Diary, (1628)

Well, how about it? If we can't forget the wrongs that have been done to us, can we really forgive?  Is this the type of mercy we'd like God to show us?  What would it be like if instead of seeing His creature that He loves beyond comprehension, God saw the sum of our sins every time He looked down on us.

What's more, remembering the wrongs, the hurts, the insults, the slights, the injustices - remembering all that baggage is yet another form of self-attachment.  If we're attached to ourselves, we put up a barrier that precludes us from union with Christ.

In the face of terrible tragedy, nothing is more stunning than unconditional forgiveness.  But it is not necessary to forgive in such a grand gesture to give pleasure to Our Lord. In fact it's quite possible that quiet reconciliation or dismissal of past injuries done in His Name might gain even more graces than a pardon granted with much attention. We simply don't know.

Maybe the hardest thing for us is to see in the unloveable the face of Jesus Christ. Let's admit the truth here: it's hard too see His face when someone is spitting in yours.  Still, He beckons us to Himself in His desire for us to be part of Him. He doesn't promise it will be easy, nor does He say we can do it on our own.  It's not meant to be easy because the reward is beyond measure.

"Oh my Jesus, You know what efforts are needed to live sincerely and unaffectedly with those from whom our nature flees, or those who, deliberately or not have made us suffer.  Humanly speaking, this is impossible. At such times more than others, I try to discover The Lord Jesus in such a person and for that same Jesus, I do everything for such people."- St Faustina's Diary (766)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Make Every Thought Word and Action Count

"Involuntary offenses of souls do not hinder My love for them or prevent Me from uniting Myself with them.  But voluntary offenses - even the smallest - obstruct My graces and I cannot lavish My gifts on such souls." - St Faustina's Diary (1641)

Guilty as charged.

How many times do we squander opportunities to be without fault?  Faults left unchecked lead to sin and sin drives us away from Jesus.  Sometimes it's easier to give a person the shirt off your back than to keep an opinion or criticism to yourself.  We should ask ourselves what purpose an untoward word or act will serve.  If it in any way makes us feel better because we'll be getting the last word or providing a sense of smugness we should forget about it.   There's an awful lot of of sin happening under the guise of charity. All of us have seen it, said it, thought it and done it.

Next consider the relativism that sneaks up on us all.

"Oh well I use profanity but I confess it"

"So what if I had a laugh at someone elsrs's expense, it's not as though I killed somebody"

"I sure put him in his place and he deserved every word I said. It's his fault if he's so sensitive and got his feelings hurt. He needs to toughen up anyway"

"God knows my good intentions so it's OK if my mind wanders during Mass. Hey, He's lucky I even came to Mass today with all I have to do."

"Oh Lord, here comes so-and-so. Let me act like I don't see her before she goes off on a tangent about all her problems"

Perhaps the most common reason for a sense of self-satisfaction is contentment with just being good enough. We make just enough effort not to fall into mortal sin. Meanwhile we're swimming in a vat of venial sin. We're content with C's when effort might earn A's.  In doing so we refuse His graces and grow stagnant in the spiritual life because we're just plain too lazy to want to grow in holiness.

God made no one else in His own likeness and image but us.  I don't want to refuse His generosity by stubbornly clinging to the status quo. Neither do you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Greatest Obstacles to Holiness

"My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety.  These will deprive you of the ability to practice virtue." - St Faustina's diary (1488)

A recurring thought I have had of late leads me to question: if I died today, would my soul be fit to stand judgment and be deemed worthy of gaining entrance to Heaven?  

When Celine, St Therese's beloved sister shared this same concern with The Little Flower, she was reminded by Therese that the only way any of us can make it is with God's help. She reminded Celine that His Hand is always there to give us the support we need, if only we would ask. 

We will always encounter people who seemed to have achieved a greater sanctity than we have, just as we will always meet those people for who even the smallest degrees of holiness are a constant struggle.  Let us not concern ourselves beyond emulating the former wherever possible and rejoicing when the latter take even the smallest steps toward greater union with God. 

Some of us, myself included, lead lives that barely resemble those of our past. We should not dwell on past mistakes and failures but rather remember that the laborers who arrived late to the vineyard received the same compensation as those who toiled from the earliest hour.

"Behold I make all things new."

How wonderful is Our Lord that He means to do this with us, no matter how wretched we are?

"As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy" (1488)

It is a trick of the devil to have us constantly second-guessing and doubting.  It is also a form of self-attachment. These obstacles can be overcome and the more we will seek sanctifying grace through prayer and the sacraments the more equipped we will be to get past them. 

No one is able to run a marathon without first learning to run a mile. Soon one mile becomes five and after time and training, the endurance and conditioning is there to run the distance.

What is your mile?  Is it learning the discipline of daily prayer?  Is it learning to silence the judge that sees not the beam but reaches for the speck?  Is it the form of self-denial that comes with making an honest, blunt and brief confession that does not seek solace from the confessor but rather admonition for sins committed?  Is it sitting still for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament?  Is it putting up with that person who always manages to get under your skin without responding to them in kind?

Train for the marathon by learning to be faithful to running whatever it is that makes up your first mile. And if you are left gasping and out of breath, look forward and resolve to try harder the next time.  Rejoice for those who finish ahead of you and pray for those who trail behind. Keep your eyes on Christ. And remember that no matter how many times you quit running or fall down, He will still be there waiting for you and always ready to lavish His mercy on you.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Back - At Least for Awhile

Dear Friends,

Some of you have reached out to me privately asking me to write again. I am going to give it another go at least during Lent. If just one person is helped it is worth shaking off the dust and the rust.

What I am up to during Lent is striving to become more like St Joseph in talking less and praying a lot more. It's a work in progress for sure.  I am blessed to have not just one but 3 different churches that offer evening Mass during Lent.  One of those churches also offers an early morning weekday TLM and it is just a few miles from where I work so I have no good reason not to get to daily Mass each day. My new-found home however is the Church of St Peter the Apostle which also happens to be home to the National Shrine of St John Neumann. Imagine an orthodox Mass offered on an altar in whose base the holy relic of a Saint is enclosed. The Redemptorists Fathers who run the place offer daily confessions and the lower church also has a small but lovely Adoration chapel.  Such a spiritual gem right under my nose that I overlooked for so long.e

I once read that 30 minutes of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament can gain one a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions. So imagine the power of a Rosary prayed before the Tabernacle.  I hope you take advantage of such riches as often as you can.  Remember that for most of us there are no good reasons but lots of excuses about why we can't be faithful to the bare minimum devotions.  We're not required to pray the Rosary every day but I can think of almost no one who doesn't have 20 minutes to set aside for a prayer most pleasing to Mary. I personally find that I am much more likely to pray the Rosary with focus and reverence if I do so before the Blessed Sacrament and if that's not possible before a Crucifix.

I have also become a spiritual mother to a priest who does not know who I am and whose identity I have promised not to reveal. As there are still over 200  Philadelphia-area priests who have not been adopted I would urge any women reading this blog to consider saying yes to a much-needed ministry. Visit prayformypriest. org for more information.

Now, about this blog....What I have decided to do is simply offer a meditation each day on this blog. I have a tendency to write too much about me and not enough about Him. I appreciate comments but please know that I won't be publishing them though I will certainly read them and respond privately if warranted.  I know you understand.

The Church does not demand that we accept private revelations. I happen to be a client of St Faustina and I do accept what she wrote about Divine Mercy. Therefore do not be surprised if I offer a meditation from her diary.  Whether you accept her revelations or not there is nothing that is not Christ-like about the thoughts attributed to Him.

By the way, about this weather we're having - my mother believes Hell just might be freezing over and she doesn't mean that in a good way. Abomination is the new normal in America. How much longer?

One more thing - I have to write from a mobile device so no pretty pictures.

So for today's Lenten meditation ponder these words of Our Lord when He appeared to St Faustina stripped and scourged and covered in blood and spittle:

"The bride must resemble her Betrothed"