Rescuing Lent……

THANK YOU to everyone who so kindly expressed thoughtful concern and promises of prayer upon the sudden illness and death of my sister. I will be forever grateful for your goodness and generosity. I hope to respond to each comment individually over the next day or two.

Below is a post about one of my “favorite” Lenten seasons. Each one is different, as you know. This one was shared with a friend. I call it my Lent of “flowers.”

How is your Lent going?  Are you keeping all of those penances and promises?

As I see the mid-point of Lent fast approaching, I realize that I have not been as faithful and consistent as I had hoped, with all of my Lenten resolutions.  In fact, I can only remember one Lent when I felt I made it to the finish line, keeping all of my promises.

I call it my Lenten Springtime, or the Lent of flowers.

About 15 years ago, I met someone who had recently returned to the Church after an absence of over 30 years.  He was very excited and on fire with his re-found faith, but was a bit intimidated by Lent, and had no idea what he might do for penance.  He wanted to choose something very difficult…almost to punish himself, it seemed, for his years away from the Lord.

So, I suggested that together, we offer an extra 1000 prayers and/or sacrifices to Jesus throughout the 40 days of Lent.  That meant a total of 25 offerings each day between us.  He was delighted with the idea of one thousand sacrifices, and we decided to express each offering by a flower of our own choosing.

Making an extra holy hour for example, could be a beautiful long-stemmed red rose, or a magnificent white orchid, while saying an extra decade of the rosary might earn a sunny yellow daffodil.

My friend and I soon became ingenious at collecting our daily tally…..we left food unsalted,went thirsty for an hour, took cool baths/showers, etc.  We scored gorgeous roses with sacrifices like holding our tongue when treated unjustly, or going out of our way to be nice to someone we didn’t especially like.

We thought up so many penances as well as good deeds to accomplish, that I’m quite sure our guardian angels must have gotten in on the fun.

Each night, we exchanged emails recording that day’s bounty of flowers.  As Easter approached, we were filled with joy, seeing that our goal was in sight.  We worked extra hard during Holy Week to be sure that we would not fall short at the last moment.

When Easter morning finally arrived, we printed out our very long list of well over one thousand flowers of all kinds, colors and fragrances.  With great joy and excitement, I received Jesus in Holy Communion, and presented to Him this lovely spiritual bouquet.

It was a simple Lent, a joyful Lent, a Lent shared with a friend recently renewed in his faith.  Yet, the prayers, the sacrifices and penances had all cost  us….but we hadn’t felt it so much, since our focus was on gathering the most beautiful flowers for Jesus.

Like every season of life, each Lent is different.  But that Lent seemed just about perfect to me.  In a way, it reminds me of Therese who as a little girl, liked to count her sacrifices on a string of beads.

Sometimes when attempting all of those grown-up, demanding and challenging Lenten practices seems to weigh us down, burden and discourage us, it might be a nudge from the Lord to return to the simple things of a child….like gathering flowers.

So if your Lent is in need of a bit of “rescuing,” there is still plenty of time to assemble a truly gorgeous bouquet.

But you can be sure that even if you can only manage a bunch of wildflowers, He Who numbers the very hairs of your head will receive them with the greatest Joy!  And one day in Heaven, you will see those very flowers, eternally fresh, fragrant and beautiful at the feet of Jesus.

(First published March 12, 2012)

Prayers urgently needed…

PLEASE PRAY!

I received news earlier today that my older sister, who lives on the other side of the country, is in a coma and not expected to survive.

I am still in shock, as she was well the last time we were in touch.  This all happened suddenly.  She went into cardiac arrest last night, and is now on full life support.

Thank God she is in a Catholic hospital and I was able to contact them and ask that she be anointed.

This dear sister of mine was raised Catholic, but has not practiced her faith in many years.  But, she is a good person with a very tender heart, and I have great faith in Our Lord’s Mercy.

So, that is what I ask here:  you prayers for His Mercy on her soul.

I am grateful that she survived the night so that my other sister and I could request prayers for her and call a priest.  What a tremendous comfort this is to us at this difficult time.

We are praying for a miracle, but mostly we are praying for God’s Mercy on her soul.  If you would join with us in prayer, we would be most grateful, and I will remember each of you who pray in my holy hours of Adoration throughout the rest of this year.

May God bless you, and may He have Mercy on the whole world!

Jesus, I trust in You!

The day I met the King…..

The new movie, Son of God, opened last weekend. I had to go see it. You see, movies about Jesus remind me of a long ago spring day when I first met the King. You can read about it in a re-post from two years ago below.

I first met the King of the Universe in a movie theater when I was twelve years old. And I still consider it one of the great graces of my life.

Mom worked in retail downtown in New Orleans.  Adjacent to the store where she was employed was a movie theater.

It was magical.  It had a lovely balcony, and in the ceiling were tiny lights that twinkled like stars.  Grecian inspired statues posed elegantly on pedestals nestled against luxurious drapery that ringed the theater ceiling to floor.  And it was huge.  Row after row of seats stretched across several aisles before the huge screen.

One glorious spring day, I accompanied my mother to work, so that I could meet a friend to have lunch and shop at the five and dime store nearby.  But my friend wasn’t feeling well, and couldn’t meet me.

Mom was going to send me home in a taxi, but then I looked up at the marquee on the magical theater and read the words:  King of Kings.

“Mom, there is a movie about a king playing next door.  Can I please go see it?”

And so, I bought my ticket for the eleven o’clock matinée.  Those were the days when movies ran consecutively, without pause to empty out the theater…so you could stay as long as you liked.  I settled into the end seat on a side aisle, with my popcorn, and waited for the movie to begin.

From the moment I heard the majestic music, and saw the title flash on the screen in imposing letters, I realized that this would be a movie about Jesus.  He was a King, wasn’t He?

I didn’t consider myself to be very religious.  I had book knowledge about God from my Catholic school, but I didn’t know Him at all.  In fact, I was rather afraid of Him. Yet, for as long as I could remember, I had always felt a strong attraction to this mysterious God, and would sometimes catch myself daydreaming about Him, most especially, Jesus…the Crucified One.

But, I certainly had no intention of falling in love with Him while watching a movie. Yet, when Jeffrey Hunter appeared on the screen as the adult Christ, my heart soared….not for the handsome actor. Even then, I knew the difference. No, it was the Person of Jesus Christ Who attracted every fiber of my being. I was mesmerized as I watched Him gently hold in His arms the foaming at the mouth demoniac.  And when He visited John the Baptist in prison, I wanted to grasp His hand and hold on the way John did.

I loved Him for defending that poor woman caught in adultery,  and I imbibed every peaceful, loving and challenging word of the Sermon on the Mount. I wept with Him in His Agony in the Garden, and could barely watch the scourging and crucifixion. And then it all ended…. with only His shadow on the sand and those awesome words: ” I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”

If ever there was a movie I didn’t want to end, it was this one.  And yet the screen went dark…for a few minutes. But then it all began again: the music, the title, the Story…and I stayed. I stayed and watched the second viewing of this three hour long movie.

I was alone, in an empty part of the theater, yet I did not feel alone. I felt warm and joyful and hopeful inside…and yes, even loved.   I followed Jesus throughout His life again…this time focusing more on Who He was than what He did.

Jesus came alive for me on that screen, as He never had in my religion books or sermons I’d heard, or even the Bible stories we read at school. He knew I had needed to “see” Him.

And although it would be 13 more years before we sealed that first encounter, I never forgot our “first” meeting.  He was always with me…calling me, reminding me of His Love.  Although I fell into sin, and even stopped attending Mass for a time, He was always there. He was unforgettable.

In the theater, the third showing had begun, and I desperately wanted to stay…to stay forever, but I knew my parents would be waiting for me.  I stayed as long as I could, about an hour, and then slowly left the theater, fighting back tears.

Mom and Dad were amazed that I had spent the entire day at one movie, but they didn’t ask any questions. And I was grateful for that, as I had a need to be silent in that way that we do when we have felt the Master’s touch.

Since then, other more sophisticated and refined productions of the Life of Jesus have been produced, and I have seen as many as I heard about.

But superior though they may be by critics’ standards, none have ever transformed my life like that day I spent at the movies with the King of all kings.

Jesus, You are so beyond words…even the tongues of angels cannot praise You as You deserve.  Thank You for capturing my heart when I was twelve.  I didn’t realize at the time the depth of what I had experienced.  It would lie buried within for the next several years, but I knew You and I never ceased to desire You, even when I was running away from You.  O my King, may we never be separated again!  I love You!

How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
upright and true are all Your ways,
King of nations.
Who does not revere and glorify your name, O Lord?

For you alone are holy,
and all nations will come and adore you
for the many acts of saving justice you have shown. (Revelation 15: 3-4) NJB

Come walk with Jesus…

Let us walk with Jesus on this Lenten journey.  He is, after all, the Way, and there is no other way to Eternal Life.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word  was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him, nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14) NAB

jesus-looking-from-sky

I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE

Adoring the Holy Face of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus.  It always falls on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras.)  I can’t help thinking that this Feast of reparation falls on this day at least partly because of all the sins committed during the Mardi Gras celebrations.  (I grew up in New Orleans, so I know….)

I hope you will visit this link to my post featuring the history of this feast, as well as the Golden Arrow Prayer which Jesus Himself dictated to a Carmelite nun….a prayer to bring delight to His Heart.

But I also wanted to celebrate the Beauty of the Face of Jesus today.  I substituted at Adoration yesterday, and found myself meditating much on His Sacred Humanity, and how irresistible the Face of Jesus must be.

I cannot imagine such love and compassion, such kindness, tenderness, majesty and power, such goodness and glory all shining forth in one Sacred Countenance.  Truly, one could not see Him as He is and live!

I remember the words of St. Faustina:  Jesus, who will paint You as beautiful as You are?

faceofchrist

O Most Beautiful Face
Of my Savior,
I adore Your Divine Beauty,
Hidden from me now,
Yet known somehow
In the depths of my soul.
I sit before You,
Beneath Your Loving Gaze.
I gaze back,
Seeing
Only the Sacred Host,
Yet knowing
That it is into the
Eyes of my Beloved Savior that
I see,
Endlessly.

For an outstanding article on the Holy Face, visit: http://vultus.stblogs.org/index.php/2014/03/look-to-him-and-be-radiant/

Help, my soul is cluttered!

clutter

I hate clutter.  I have it stashed in closets and spare drawers all around my house.  I tackle a pile whenever I have time, but somehow more always seems to accumulate.  One of the great goals of my life is to one day own nothing that I do not truly need, or do not enjoy for its beauty.

Today, I learned that there is a worse place to collect clutter than in your house.  It was during confession this afternoon that Father mentioned to me that we should all try to declutter our souls this Lent, because they are truly the house which God most cares about.  I immediately knew that God was answering my prayers about what I should concentrate on this Lent..

On the way back to my car, it occurred to me that tackling the piles of clutter in my house would be the perfect penance to join with my spiritual decluttering.  As I sort through clothes, photos, vacation mementos, stacks of greeting cards, religious articles which arrive in the mail (and I can’t bear to throw away), etc., I can meditate on the comparisons between household clutter and spiritual clutter.

When clutter is visible in my house, it detracts from the beauty and order of my home. A big stack of mail and catalogs on the kitchen counter is stressful to see. Clutter which I have stashed out of sight still disturbs my peace.  I know it’s there, waiting.  If guests are staying over, I sometimes dash off to the guest room to see if any clutter needs to be removed and reassigned.  :)

And, there’s always forgotten clutter, like when you open a seldom used cabinet and find a stash of paper napkins and salt and peppers packets from long ago take-out dinners.

Do you ever move clutter from place to place?  I do.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.

The bottom line is that no matter how clean my kitchen may be or how sparkling the bathrooms are, the memory of clutter somewhere else never allows me to truly feel like I have everything done and can totally relax.

And, what if I should die suddenly!  Oh my!  Someone else would have to go through all my stuff….maybe even my super clutter-free sister-in-law.  Gasp!

I see so many parallels here to what the clutter of petty faults, neglected duties, self-absorption, concern with the world, time wasted, etc., can wreak in our souls.

All of these things disquiet us, steal our peace and keep us distracted from God.  Just as it is more difficult to relax in a cluttered home, it is also much harder to be with God in solitude and silence in a soul which is littered with “stuff.”

Years ago I used to stop at a church to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This church had a golden tabernacle, but I was annoyed that it often seemed dusty on top. “How can they allow all of this dust to accumulate on Jesus’ house?”  I would complain to myself.

One day, God seemed to say to me, “I don’t mind that dust nearly as much as I mind the dust on your soul.”    Of course that was true!  I was worrying about dust that mattered little to God, when His Own dwelling place in my soul needed much more attention.

I am going to take an in-depth inventory of my soul this Lent.  I will ask God to show me where the most clutter is hiding, and I’m going to be sure to write it down so that I can remind myself often.  I am not talking so much about sin, but rather more of its underpinnings…those little habits and attractions and distractions which keep us less centered on God.

And, I will also make a list of clutter projects to tackle around the house for the next 40 days….the clutter I’ve been avoiding the longest.

I will ask the Immaculate One to help me with my project.  She, who is without the slightest stain, is the perfect one to clearly see where the overlooked dust and clutter reside in my soul.  I also think she will be happy to help me better organize things here at home.

Yes!  It is time to declutter!  Anyone else out there want to join me?  Spring cleaning for  houses and souls….not in that order!

In her spiritual classic, The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila gives the description of a soul in the state of grace:

It is that we consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places.   …..We realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says he finds his delight.  (Interior Castle, Chapter 1, no.1.)

I pray that this Easter, our Risen Jesus will  find in your soul…and mine too, a most pure and sparkling diamond in which to dwell!   May His Radiant Light shine clearly in and through us, and out to the whole world!

If your would like a more intensive preparation for Easter, with lots of great suggestions, please check out my friend Cristina’s delightful blog.  She has been writing about preparing for Lent all week over at fillingmyprayercloset.com

Begging for Jesus

I thought I would re-visit this post today, in memory of Sylvia, who passed away about two weeks ago. Sylvia was the coordinator of the Perpetual Adoration chapel at my parish. As such, she was always “begging for Jesus.” It was her responsibility to be sure that each hour at the chapel was filled by a committed adorer or substitute. Sylvia herself regularly substituted for those hard to fill hours between midnight and 6 AM.

A beautiful brunette with a loving husband and family, she went home to the Lord on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I imagine that after years of spending so many hours of making sure that Jesus was never alone, Sylvia surely received a most loving welcome from the King of kings.

As much as Sylvia would be grateful for your prayers for her soul, she would be even more concerned with asking, “Could you not spend one hour with Jesus?”

Eucharistic_Adoration_-_Monstrance

I stopped by the adoration chapel today while I was out running some errands.  A lady came in with a container of books and prayer cards.  The noon hour in our adoration chapel is covered by parishioners who come to spend an hour in prayer for priests, and for an end to abortion.

Assuming that I had come to participate, she greeted me very warmly.  I quietly explained that I had to leave to pick up my husband.  She said, “Oh, I guess it will just be two of us then,”  referring to the other lady who had just arrived.

As I drove away, I couldn’t help reflecting:  Isn’t that how it always is?  So few people show up when prayer is the focus.

We have 3000 families in my parish, but every week the chairperson of our perpetual adoration chapel has to go begging in the bulletin for more committed adorers.  It only takes 168 people to fill all the hours in a week, but there is always a need — even though some adorers commit to more than one hour each week.

People love to drop in when it’s convenient, but most resist signing up for a weekly hour.

I used to be that way too.  For years, I enjoyed the benefits of  perpetual adoration at my former parish, but I just couldn’t bring myself to commit to a specific hour.  Surely other things would always be coming up and I would need to get substitutes and oh well I just don’t think so.

But then, I took the plunge, about 20 years ago.  A slot opened at 1pm on Mondays.  Since at that time I attended the noon Mass, it was easy to run for a bite to eat and make it back to the chapel on time.

Oh how Jesus rewards our little efforts!  Here He waits, the King of kings, the Lord and God of all.  Here He lovingly waits upon us to see if we can fit some time into our schedules for Him.

But when we do, He goes to work on our hearts, and we are never the same.  All the adorers I know are “addicted” for want of a better word.  They anticipate their hours with Jesus with great joy, and regret when they have to miss for a necessary reason.

No matter if we are fighting sleep or distractions or if our hearts are as dry as desert sand, Jesus still works His Divine Charm upon our souls.  And we may not know it at the moment, but we find His handiwork later in the week or month or year as we overcome with ease a previous struggle, or find an insurmountable problem suddenly resolved and on and on.   He is full of surprises.  And He will never be outdone in generosity.

Yet, it is so sad to sit in the chapel alone with Jesus, and hear the distant laughter of hundreds of people at the parish fair.  But, not even one comes to visit the King.  What must He feel?

When we have a “giving tree” in our parish at Christmas, people rush to strip it bare to buy gifts for the needy, but when it is sign-up weekend for adoration, so few stop by the table.

I know that Jesus wants us to buy presents for the poor and raise money at the parish fair, but how much He would love to be included as well.  But He waits, and waits.

Will you come?

“Behold this Heart which has loved man so much, but Which is loved so little in return.”

(Words of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary.)

The Dream……

(Because I am in the midst of a storm, and need to snuggle close to Jesus on the rough waters of life, I share this post from 2011.)

Then it began to blow a great gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But He was in the stern, His head on the cushion, asleep. Mark 4:37-39

I especially love Mark’s account of the calming of the storm on the lake, because it includes the lovely little detail of Jesus resting His head on the cushion

O Son of God, asleep in the boat, Your Sacred Head resting upon a cushion – like us, You sought a bit of comfort. 

O how beautiful You are, Divine Jesus.  I love to sit and contemplate Your Holy Countenance at rest.  Sweet and Innocent Lamb of God, You are breathtaking, and I cannot turn my eyes away.

Gently, I reach out to brush back your damp hair so that I may drink in all the Beauty of Your Face.

I find myself wondering what You are dreaming about.  You look so peaceful.  O, I hope it is a lovely dream.  Perhaps You are dreaming of all who will one day love You and sing Your praises forever.

Are you dreaming of the great Saints and Martyrs who will live lives of heroic virtue, and even die for love of you?  Are you dreaming of Your Home in Heaven?

My Jesus, do I dare hope that You are dreaming of me?

The wind has picked up and a huge storm is moving into my life, but I must not wake You.   I recall Your words to Your disciples:  “Why are you frightened?  Have you still no faith?”

Increase my faith, O dearest Jesus!

“I sleep, but My Heart is awake.” (Song of Songs 5:2)  Your Heart hears my unspoken prayers.

Our boat is tossed about.  I can scarcely hold on.  I come closer, and snuggle next to You, resting my head upon Your Heart.  I close my eyes.  The waves wash over us.  I feel Your Closeness.  “I will not wake Him,”  I whisper to myself.  And I too drift off to peaceful sleep…….

“His left arm is under my head,
His right embraces me.” (Song of Songs 2:6)

 ………Some years ago, I often liked to ask Jesus what He dreamed about while on earth.  I never expected an answer, of course.  But one weekend, I went to a huge Marian Conference in New Orleans.  There were thousands of people there praising and worshiping God.  The Masses were beautiful.  There was an adoration chapel set up, and Our Blessed Lady was honored with beautiful words, prayers and an abundance of flowers.

I felt I had died and gone to Heaven, but the best was yet to come.  On Sunday evening, suddenly I heard the steady ringing of bells from a distance while the choir began to exquisitely sing “Crown Him with many Crowns.”  Then I saw the procession of white vested priests start down the aisle, amidst clouds of incense, and as the bells grew louder, I saw Him.  He was being carried in a ciborium swaddled in white, surrounded by candles.

But what took my breath away were His people.  As the procession passed each row in this immense conference center, all of the people bowed to the ground.  Row after row fell on their faces before Him.  As I watched with tears filling my eyes, awaiting His approach, I thought, “Oh, this must be what Heaven is like.”

And, unexpectedly, astonishingly, I heard a clear and tender voice whisper to my heart,

THIS is one of My Dreams! 

A Valentine, and a wish granted by the Divine Bridegroom…

A dear friend posted this picture on Facebook yesterday, and when I saw it, I thought:   Now, this reminds me of the kind of “Valentine” that God sends to us at every moment of our lives.   And, considering all the snow which has fallen in many areas of our country recently, the words on the picture also brought a smile to my face, as I remembered something St. Therese once said.

Jesusheart

Therese had completed her postulancy in Carmel, and was about to be clothed in the holy habit of Carmel on January 10, 1889.

In those days, the taking of the habit was a magnificent ceremony in which the postulant was dressed as a bride, just as she would be to marry an earthly spouse.  Only in the case of a religious, it would be the last time she would wear secular clothes.

Therese, barely 16 yeas old, is reported to have been a vision of loveliness as she was escorted to the altar on her father’s arm.  She wore an exquisite velvet dress, with appliques of the Alencon lace which her mother so beautifully made for many years before her death when Therese was four-years-old.

On her head was a veil with a crown of roses and on her feet, white satin shoes.  I have seen these shoes, and Therese did not have small feet. :)   She was actually quite tall for her time, measuring five feet, five inches.

Everything was perfect except for one tiny wish Therese cherished in her heart.  She wanted it to snow on her clothing day.  She loved snow, but this had been a warm and balmy January, and snow was not in the forecast.

But now, I’ll let her tell the story of the snow in her own words, from her autobiography, The Story of a Soul:

That January day, the weather was so mild, snow seemed unlikely. However, upon returning to the cloister, the first thing that struck my eye was the statue of ‘the little Jesus’ smiling at me from the midst of flowers and lights. Immediately afterwards my glance was drawn to the snow: the monastery garden was white like me! What thoughtfulness on the part of Jesus! Anticipating the desires of his fiancée, He gave her snow. Snow! What mortal bridegroom, no matter how powerful he may be, could make snow fall from heaven to charm his beloved?”

I love this story.  It reveals the tender charm of our Great God Who did not think it too much to grant His most pure little bride the snow she so longed for.

And, let us remember His Words in the picture above, to St. Teresa of Avila:  I would create the Universe again, just to hear you say you love Me.

We can be sure that He says the same to you and to me.  And I can’t imagine a more beautiful….or romantic Valentine…..can you?

And what will we offer Him in return?