Sunday, June 29, 2008

God's Grace in Action

Ever since reading 'Conceived without Sin,' I have been sensing God's grace more. It is not that God recently decided to grant me His grace, it's more the fact that I have become more intune with God's voice.

I do not deserve His grace, let alone his mercy, yet He grants me these in order to become more holy, more loving, and become a better person in His eyes. On Friday, God tested my obedience and granted me his grace throughout the day. It was one of the most amazing days I have ever had. It started off by me missing the first train to downtown Cleveland.

How was this a grace of God? Had I been on that first train, I would have missed 3 of God's most amazing creatures - a doe and her two fawns. The doe walked across the tracks, from one set of trees to another. The fawns loosely following her, scampered across playfully trying to stay close enough to mom, but yet exhibiting some independence. What an amazing sight! Thank you, God!

On the way downtown, I was receiving a constant urge to have the Miraculous medals I had in my purse blessed. I bought them at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine for my nieces and nephews. My intention was to have them blessed on Sunday, so I dismissed the thought. I continued saying the Rosary on the train, yet the thought would not cease. I walked into the Cathedral and sat down in my usual pew. Thought became stronger. Bless the medals. The Bishop will bless them. Go to the Confessional. Have the Bishop bless them.

From where I sat, I was unable to see which Priest is in the Confessional. Finally, I got up and walked over to the Confessional (okay, I suffer from what a good friend of mine calls 'Eventual Obedience'). The Bishop was there! Thank you, God! I asked if he would bless the Miraculous medals. He did - it was a beautiful prayer and blessing!

Mass began. It was the feast day of St. Cyril. I'm not sure about you, but I heard the name, but I did not know anything about who this saint was. The Bishop started his homily talking about St. Cyril, when he lived, and that although many of us may never have heard of him, we use his doctrine almost daily. Suddenly the thought, Mary, Mother of God, came to mind. I was not sure why, but okay. Yes, I firmly believe that Mary is the Mother of God. It is part of the doctrine of the Faith. It was not until the end of the Bishop's homily that he stated what St. Cyril was noted for - declaring Mary was the Mother of God, ending all debates about who Jesus was.

Wow! What a day to have the medals blessed! (by the Bishop, no less!) Thank you, God!

Mass continued. Give one to Jan. What? Why would I give one of the medals I just had blessed to my boss' wife? These were for my nieces and nephews. Jan was recently diagnosed with lymphoma (a form of cancer) and both she and Gale (her husband, my boss) were going through a very difficult time. Give one to Jan, ask Gale if he wants one. I was unsure if they are even Catholic! Okay, okay. I'll give one to Jan. Now, how am I going to explain this to Gale? Speak the truth.

I got to work and went straight into Gale's office and asked him if he had a minute. (In recent months, I already spoke to him about my vocation change and that it will take effect in about a year and a half. He was very supportive.) Gale nodded. I prayed a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit for the words. My explanation went something like this..."I am not sure why I need to give Jan one of these, but I do. It is a Miraculous medal. I was just blessed by the Bishop this morning. Would you like one?" He said sure.

After this, we had one of the best discussions about faith & miracles. Thank you, God!

I am unsure where God is leading me, but I know that He is right beside me. As He continues to test me and I continue trying to be obedient, my faith and trust continues to grow. I still do not understand why Jan and Gale needed a medal, but it is not my job to know. It is my job to remain obedient to God's will.

God's supreme gift of love is the Holy Spirit. Love is also at the heart of Jesus' last Commandment to us: "Love one another, as I have loved you." Love has to be the essential foundation of a moral life. Love should also be an integral part of sacrifice, like Christ's sacrifice for us. The greatest act of love is giving one's life for another. This does not necessarily mean that we have to die for another. But I think it also means that we need to sacrifice for each other, to lay down those parts of us that we hold dear and offer them to help others.

A moral life requires grace, which supplies the spiritual strength to do the right thing. Every time we overcome temptation or avoid a sin we have been struggling with, this is another time that we give our 'selves' to God. Every time we listen to God's voice and heed his words, thought we may not understand yet obey, we live for God. This means to offer up our total 'selves'; our wants, desires, temptations, joys, struggles, sorrows; our entire selves to God in order to glorify Him. It is through how we live in Christ and Christ in us that enables us to be Christ for others. We glorify God through our actions, words, works, and thoughts.

A friend once told me to put myself on the Altar at Mass and ask God during the consecration and Holy Communion to come into my heart and soul and change me. Change me to be more like Him. I need to surrender myself to God.

The dismissal at Mass is then our charge to the be sent forth on a mission to the evangelize through our bring a piece of Heaven to the world. I believe this is what St. Josemaria Escriva meant with Opus Dei. My life is God's life, my work is God's work. Everything is a grace of God. I can't give Christ to others if I do not have Jesus Christ living in me. I need to become one with the Father and the faith and radiate this out through my life.

Amy Grant's song, 'Father's Eyes,' is one that I have come to cherish.

I may not be every mother's dream for her little girl. And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world. But that's all right as long as I can have one wish I pray. When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say.

She's got her Father's eyes, her Father's eyes. Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around. Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can't be found. Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain. Knowin' what you're going through, and feeling it the same. Just like my Father's eyes, my Father's eyes, my Father's eyes. Just like my Father's eyes.

And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,Good and bad they'll all be had to see by everyone. And when you're called to stand and tell just what you saw in me, More than anything I know, I want your words to be.

In the end, I want to have my Father's eyes. Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around. Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can't be found. Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain. Knowin' what you're going through, and feeling it the same. Just like my Father's eyes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The last time God placed a book upon my heart to read, it changed my life, literally! My mom had been hinting for YEARS that I needed to read Pierced by a Sword. The hints, however, fell on deaf ears. About 5 years ago, grace came in, led me to the downstairs bookshelf at my parent's house, and encouraged me to skim through it. "Amazing sweet [it is], that saved a wretch like me!" I am not sure why I listened to grace that day, but I am very glad I did.

I knew Bud Macfarlane had written sequels, but I was not interested in reading them...until now. Grace encouraged me again, this time to read Conceived Without Sin, the next book in the series. It only took me a couple weeks to get the book from the library and start reading (compared with many years for the first book). I had planned on reading it during my trip to the Jersey shore, but plans changed. Plans may have changed, but the urge to read had not ceased. Instead of reading it at the beach, I read it on the train to & from work. Tonight I finished it.

When I was in undergrad at OSU, I would hang out with other students who attended the Newman Center and TNT (Tuesday Night Together). There was one friend in particular, L.D.. When we got together, we would get into very deep, almost theological discussions. We would often talk about the future and God's plan for us. Both of us had this overwhelming sense that we would not live our full lives (50+ years). We were unsure whether we would die due to disease, accident, or something else, but it was the 'something else' that really caught our attention and stuck with us. Martyrdom was not out of the question. We did know that our Faith in God would always be with us and His grace would lead the way. Since then, I could sense the connectedness of humanity (thus my love for the Confiteor at Mass).

Conceived without Sin brought this "intuitive feeling" back to the forefront. It reminded me how fragile life is and how much we need to rely on each other, whether that would be through physical company, conversations, or prayer. We may not always be certain of what is happening or why, but our trust in God, fully knowing that He is in control, will never lead us astray.

Recently I have been reflecting on why certain people have entered my life. For instance, Fr. V. was scheduled to leave St. Clare a year ago, why did the Bishop want him to stay another year? Had his assignment lasted the original length, I would have never met him. One person...just one person played an intrigal part in my life. Without the guidance of this Priest, I would not have continued to learn more about our Faith. I would not have had the encouragement to join an Order. I would not have begun blogging. I would not have met some wonderful, solid Catholics. I would not have my spiritual director. This is just one person. I have met thousands through work, riding the bus or the train, buying my house, going to Church in Euclid & then in Lyndhurst. And I am just one person upon whom he has had an impact. What kind of impact have others made on my life, or more importantly, what kind of impact have I made on theirs?

Some people that I have connected with, I intrinsically know that I will need in the future, or they will need me. For whatever reason, God has brought us together, although we live STATES apart!

Since I fully returned to the Church 4 years ago, one prayer continues to stay on my heart..."Lord, prepare me for who YOU want me to become. Prepare me for what is to come. Prepare me to do YOUR will." What I was not expecting was the grace I received, the rapid changes that would take effect, or the intense learning that I would absorb.

My trust is in the Lord. [He] has brought me here thus far....and [He] will lead me home.