Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
After returning to the faith, I slowly began to rebuild my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I started visiting Adoration and soon found myself returning every week, then signing up for a Holy Hour. My first time in the Confessional was full of anxiety going in...but coming out I was walking on clouds amidst God's mercy. I yearned to be close to God...yearned for His endless love and dreamed of the day that I would lay my head on Jesus' chest, like St. John the Evangelist, listening to His heart beating, fully knowing that it was the heart beat of God. Confession and the Mass became my weekly renewal with our Lord. I would attend daily Mass at the Cathedral and once a week, maybe every other week, I would go to Confession. The graces I received were so fruitful that when I looked back, I couldn't believe how much I had grown in my faith. One of the Priests at the Cathedral remarked one day that I was trying so hard he didn't know how I wasn't exhausted. It was God - not me - He was the one changing me into the person He wanted me to become.
However, in the past month and a half, my relationship with God has been strained. I longed to feel His embrace after Confession...but no matter how hard I tried to examine my conscience, nothing came. I prayed to the Holy Spirit to enlighten me, to show me my sins...nothing. I listened to tapes by Fr. Larry Richards and Vinny Flynn....nothing. My heart ached to feel God's presence again but all I felt was a black abyss... nothingness. I was teary-eyed during the Mass, especially during the Confiteor and the prayer before Communion...'Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and I shall be healed.' I wasn't worthy...yet I knew God in His intimacy would heal me before I received Him.
This morning I was made anew. I felt and understood God's mercy in a whole new way. I arrived at the Cathedral early, thinking I could pray before Mass. But as I walked into my usual pew, I noticed that the door to the Confessional was open and no one was in line. Without thinking, I walked over, expecting Fr. E. to be there (his usual morning to celebrate Mass). God sent me Fr. J.
I walked in, closed the door, and explained how I used to go to Confession every week. I rejoiced in receiving God's graces through the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. I explained how I yearned and ached to feel God's love, His presence. Fr. J. and I talked, he suggested reading Romans 8 (the entire chapter). Then he suggested absolving me from my sins.
I rebuttled that I couldn't....I have not prepared...I tried but could not prepare. I could not accuse myself of my sins, I had not done a full examination of conscience. But Fr. J. gently explained that I have been trying, I have been at Mass regularly, I prayed for insight and God already knew my sins, even those of omission. He asked me to say an Act of Contrition. I looked at him, tears forming in my eyes. How could God grant me mercy for sins that I can not voice? I didn't understand.
'O, my God, I am heartily sorry...' my voice started shaking, tears now streaming down my face. I suddenly felt God's presence...His mercy...His love. I didn't deserve any of it, yet He gave it freely. I had to stop several times to gather my composure before I could continue. I acknowledged my own sinfulness in a way I had never before experienced. No, I do not deserve God's mercy and tenderness, yet He knew that, which is why He sent His only Son. I recognized myself as weak and entrusted my entire self to God.
Pope Benedict XVI once remarked that it is most important in the Sacrament of Penance, no matter the sin committed, if the sinner recognizes the sin humbly and entrust themselves to the Priest-confessor, they will always experience the joy of God's forgiveness. God strengthens us through this Sacrament, to live a new spiritual life, to grow in Him and restore communion with Him and the Church.
One day a pastor of a Church in Germany asked what was most important about the Sacrament of Confession. Answers came from the congregation: 'Telling your sins to the Priest,' 'Being sorry for your sins,' 'Examination of Conscience.' Granted all of these things were important, but they were not the most important. A little girl raised her hand and said, 'It's what Jesus does!'
It's what Jesus does!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I loved what this had to say and I thought I would share it. It is written by Fr. Scott Detisch.
What Makes a Holy Family?
Would you consider your family holy? You might be inclined to answer immediately: 'No way! We argue too much. We have too many problems and issues. Plus, we aren't spiritual enough.' People who would respond in this vein are equating holiness with perfection. But that is not what holiness is about. Holiness is a lifelong process of striving to live more and more in sync with God. It means being grasped by the love of God in such a way that we desire to be the persons God has made us to be. Yet, we recognize that we will stumble and bumble along the way to becoming those persons.
All the great holy ones in our Church - the Saints - stumbled and bumbled along the way. Look at St. Peter and all of the Apostles. They denied and abandoned Jesus at His hour of deat; yet they eventually surrendered their lives to what the love of God called forth from them. This did not happen all at once. It took years to unfold. The same is true with us and with our families.
Our families may not seem as if they are holy, but if we are truly opening ourselves up to what God has called us to be, then our families are holy because we are allowing the process of surrendering to God to unfold. What could help our families open up more to the process of holiness? Here are a few suggestions:
- Pray together as a family before meals
- Parents: talk with your children about your own experiences of God and Christ as a real presence and power in your life. Encourage your children's questions and wonder about the things of God
- Celebrate the Eucharist every week with the larger parish family as a way of receiving what Christ offers to every member of the family; love, forgiveness, wisdom, challenge, strength, hope, healing, and joy
- Have family night every week to share what is going on in each person's life and also to have some fun together and delight in each other. [Parents: this might mean having to say 'no' to your children's requests to be involved in everything that interests them.]
- Adopt some form of service to the needs of others as a year-long family venture
- Adopt language of affection, support, and forgiveness in the home. Do not hesitate to use the powerful words: 'I love you,' 'I am sorry,' 'You are forgiven,' 'You can tell me anything,' 'You are wonderful.' Our children begin to live the words they hear from us.
Please note: there is NO feast of the Perfect Family!
Fr. V, of Adam's Ale fame, set up a get-together (basically a 'come-and-see' weekend) for some of the bloggers to all see the Vatican Splendors exhibit in Cleveland. Included in this amalgamated group was Adoro, Uncle Jim, Fr. S., MJ, and CK, as well as others around the area. Some of the moments I will cherish:
- Beaker's version of the Tarantella (as well as other Muppets, including Animal)
- Hawaii is a U.S. State SW of California (although surrounded by water)
- Give one for the Gipper (who was an actual person)
- Bocce Ball
- Sharing stories with Uncle Jim & Aunt Rozann
- Walking on top of the Church (others went into the Bell Tower) (I am afraid of heights, but I can skydive...go figure!)
- Tour of the Shrine where I met CK, Adoro, and Fr. S. for the first time (luckily I knew Fr. V.)
- Mass with everyone, celebrated by Fr. V. and then Fr. S.
- Knowing my nephew thought Fr. V. and Fr. S. were 'cool' and 'normal'
- Thinking to myself how lucky I am to have such great friends!
But most of all, the memories of friendship, laughter, and love for our Lord will always be in the forefront. Thank you all! I will miss the freedom to blog or hop in the car to meet you (my blogging days are limited). Just know, lots of prayers will be coming your way!
Friday, July 18, 2008
My sister works with Georgianna's father. This is an amazing story of love, hope, and miracles. (I also know Fr. Dave Woost, from Divine Word, in Kirtland. He is an amazing and holy Priest.)
Read the rest of Georgianna's Choice (by Heide Aungst).
Thursday, July 17, 2008
My nephew recently bought a new cell phone and created the above (in red) as his voicemail message. My sister had heard him set it up. When she called him a couple days later, she had forgotten the set up and started talking as if he was live. In fact, we've all fallen for his message. Teenagers! *grin*
We have become so dependent on being 'connected' through technology (cell phone, text messages, email, voicemail, call-waiting, caller-id, web-cam, and even blogs), that we have actually become disconnected. We are constantly using technology to talk to each other that person-to-person contact is becoming a rarity. For example, I rely heavily on the computer and email at work due to the nature of my job. I am also contacting my customers via phone. In other words, I am in constant contact with my customers through technology. I find even the meetings I attend are becoming shorter, time-wise, and packed with so much information that it is often difficult to get beyond the meeting agenda. It can become so easy for me to only use email and my computer rather than the phone (which voicemail itself can become annoying) or personal visit.
Gone were the days of visiting others in their offices or even at lunch or after work. Even if we try to use the phone to contact other agencies or companies, many companies will try very hard to prevent customers from connecting with a live person and we get stuck in automated voicemail hell.
Can you imagine if God answered our prayers through automated voicemail? It may have options such as this:
To request prayers, say 'Supplication'
If you need specific help with your life, say 'Subvention'
If you are seeking general help, say 'Assistance'
If you need comfort, say 'Consolation'
If you would like to thank and praise God, say 'Thanksgiving' and we will immediately direct you to one of God's angels.
Yet, this technology has been a blessing. It enables people from other cities, states, and countries to contact each other. Friends and family who are thousands of miles apart can talk and see each other like never before. Through a web-cam and microphone, the internet connects father to son, daughter to mother, and husband to wife. Even those away at war can connect with loved ones back home. Before technology was prevelent, this contact was only through 'snail mail' letters and photographs. Technology has provided the means to create a smaller world, so to speak. But it has also created a crutch for those working or living in the same city or even neighborhood. It has provided a way to communicate without connecting.
Prayer is our person-to-person connection to God. 'The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is He who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; His asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.' (CCC 2560) The Catholic Church heavily relies on person-to-person contact, which God desires each and every day. Prayer is what keeps us connected to Heaven. In fact, the Mass is actually a very long series of prayers, thus one reason (but not the main reason) why some call it 'Heaven on Earth.' Mass teaches us how to pray...contrition, listening, praising, thanksgiving, and requesting are all part of the Mass.
Our prayer keeps us connected with our Lord and Savior, and He will only accept person-to-person calls. A friend of mine asked me about my email address, what 'kneemail' meant. 'Knee mail' is prayer. My 'prayer-mail' to God on my knees. It is my direct contact with the One who made me and desires to know me, personally. I am certainly glad that God desires a personal relationship with each one of us. Can you imagine trying to request a miracle through the automated voicemail.? *grin*
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Then God sends me little signs. A dear friend calls them 'Christ-incidences.'
Today was one of those days.
A colleague and good friend told me she did not think I would make it the 18 to 20 months of waiting before I could profess my temporary vows. She thought I would change my mind and stay in the job I am in currently. Maybe adopt a few children and start a family. Don't get me wrong, she is a dear friend and is only looking out for my best interest. Also in her defense, she did remark that of all of the people she works with, I am the only one she could see entering religious life.
However, her best interest may not be God's best interest for me.
After our little morning chat, I started doubting whether I was cut out for the Convent. Is this where God really wants me? Is this my calling? So I said a little prayer and went about my day...meetings! Ugh! (That leaves more work for me when I get back to the office).
The first Christ-incident happened about noon. One of the Sisters of the Order I am applying to enter called me. She left a message to call her. I thanked God that she called since she always brings up my spirits. She has such a zest for life and loves to laugh and make everyone else laugh. I couldn't imagine what she wanted to talk to me about since we just saw each other on Saturday, yet it sounded urgent. Ugh! Another meeting. Couldn't call her back. (more work piling up)
I finally had a chance to call her around 2:30, but she was on her way to Adoration and could not talk. *sigh* She asked me to call her around 6:00 this evening. So after my meetings and doing some paperwork, I left for the day. When I arrived at the train station, I decided to call her before I started my way toward home. We had such a wonderful chat! I loved hearing her voice and truly enjoyed our time. (nothing urgent).
The second Christ-incident was after I arrived home. I received a package in the mail from another dear friend. Inside were hand-written thank you notes from young adults (I guess I really can not call them kids since they were in 7th grade).
My friend, their PSR teacher, asked several of us to talk to her class last year about vocations. I talked about my change in vocation from being a single working adult to one of religious life, what made me change, and my favorite Saint - Saint Maximillian Kolbe. It was a lot of fun to talk to these young adults and watch their faces when I talked about St. Max.
The following week, my friend had asked the students to write thank you letters to all the people who came to talk. She then placed them in her bag to take home. It was the last class of the year and when she got home, she put the bag in a corner. She forgot about the letters until this week when she was getting ready for this next school year - oops! She gathered the letters and sent them snail mail. They came today.
As I was reading them, one letter caught my heart.
'Thank U Miss [LM]' it read on the front.
'Thank you Miss [LM] for coming and telling us ur storie
your stay made me think alot about being a nun
I will put alot of thought into that'
'From [student's name]
Jesus loves you'
Why I ever doubted, I'm not sure. God certainly has a way of letting us know His will...if we only stop to listen.
I just received a phone call from my Aunt (my dad's sister). She is helping some friends of mine and I create something for a special friend of ours. Anyway, she mentioned something on the phone that was another Christ-incident.
Last year when my Uncle (my dad's and Aunt's brother) was dying, I called her to give her updates on his condition. She told me today that she wondered then why I never considered being a nun. Little did she know, back then, I was!
I'm being called to be a bride of Christ.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
About 4 months ago, I left a charismatic group because of difficulties with the leaders. Being subjected to confrontations in front of the entire group and false accusations were things I found disturbing. When I talked with the leaders no apologies were made and I left feeling heavy-hearted. It did not take long for bitterness and anger to envelop my entire being. I tried to pray but it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, it was fruitless. I hated seeing them in Church. How could they come to Mass, receive the Holy Eucharist, and think this was all okay? The bitterness and anger continued to swell.
With guidance from my family, friends, and spiritual director, I was told to pray for them. Pray for healing, pray for peace, pray for the Spirit. I also prayed for me - for God to change my heart and increase my charity and forgiveness. I found it very difficult to forgive someone who deliberately hurt me, but Jesus calls me to this. I pondered on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I put all of us on the Altar at Mass. It seemed that no matter how hard I prayed, I was left with a hole of distrust, anger, and bitterness. How do I get rid of this? How can I forgive someone that hurt me so much? And then I look at the Cross, the nails in His hands and feet, the Crown of Thorns on His head, and the Cross He had to bear for my sake. He forgave the soldiers. How? He forgave the elders of His own faith. How? I could not understand how someone could forgive those who were deliberate in their actions. I wanted Him to teach me. Teach me to forgive. Teach me charity.
There are some who say 'be careful what you pray for.' I on the other hand say, 'be thankful for what you pray for.'
About two weeks ago, Sunday, I was sitting with some friends at Mass. Their 6 year-old was sitting with me. She would ask questions during the celebration and I would answer them as honestly and simply as I could. I explained about the Consecration, what the Priest was doing, and how God and the Holy Spirit changed the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. What happened next was unexpected.
As we knelt for the remainder of the Eucharistic Prayer, I pondered on the explanation, praying for a change of heart, for God to take anything in me that was not of Him and place it at the foot of the Cross. I then asked God to place the parts of Him that I needed in me to fill the void. A deep sorrow swept over me. Holding back tears, as the Priest lifted the Consecrated Body and Blood to God, I lifted my eyes to Jesus on the Cross, behind the Altar. I had to forgive them. In order for me to grow in Christ, I had to move on...but how? I needed help. I had the model right in front of me...literally directly in front of me, on the Altar. But, I thought, He is God, He had no sin, He had direct contact with God. Me, on the other hand, am a simple sinner, incapable of goodness. Inside I was sobbing. We came to Communion and as I uttered, 'Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,' I understood what this meant. I was so unworthy to receive our Lord. Tears filled my eyes as I finished the sentence. He could make me clean...like the woman who touched His cloak thought. She knew who Jesus was. She knew He was God. Jesus, clean me, please. Enable me to receive You.
I continued praying. I went to Adoration on Monday night and joined in prayer with the Cenacle. I also finished Scott Hahn's book Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace. I decided to put some of the Opus Dei beliefs into action and dedicated the next day to God for healing and peace. Wednesday, I saw them at a function and a bitterness swept over my entire body as I saw them enter the room. Please God, not now. Not today. I couldn't face them. The anger was not gone..it had festered so deep inside that I had just scraped the top off the past Sunday. There was more, so much more.
I went home, visited with relatives who came into town, and then went to bed to pray. Please God, teach me how you forgave your captors. I prayed the 'Our Father' and I couldn't finish it. I was stuck on 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those...'. If I wouldn't forgive them, then God would forgive me in the same way! This is not what I desire. I want God, I want to live. Please God, teach me to live in freedom, Your freedom. I'm tired of this bitterness. I'm tired of this pain. Please take it away. Take it all away.
Love them as I love them.
See them through My eyes. They are also my children.
That was not what I expected to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. I had been praying for them, but had I been praying for them with love?
This Sunday, a guest Priest celebrated the early morning Mass, a very holy Priest and one that I have met before. His homily was on faith. Keeping the faith through trials and tribulations, and focusing on God throughout. Thank you, God! God never said it would be easy. In fact, Jesus did not have it easy. But I am to 'Love one another as I have loved you' (John 13:34). This was Jesus' new Commandment to His Apostles. It was no longer 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' but 'Love one another as I have loved you.' Christ asks us to love each other as HE loved us (and still loves us).
I continue this journey of faith and love, and as I continue to ponder on this new Commandment, especially at the Consecration at Mass, I believe that the heart-hole is being healed and filled with God's love. As I continue to pray for them with love, I noticed that the bitterness and anger dissipate. I have a long way to go. Only God knows how deep I let this into my soul, but He is the only one who can heal me. Through God and continued prayers, I will finally reach the goal of being one with Him who made me.