Lifting up the world….in Him

Today is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, my most beloved heavenly friend.  This post combines some of her wisdom with my own thoughts about the last presidential election.  I thought it might be appropriate to re-visit it today.  Blessings to everyone on this beautiful Feast of the great Virgin and Doctor of the Church,  Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, OCD.

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It has been reported that 50 percent of Catholics overall, and 42 percent of Catholics who regularly attend Mass voted to re-elect the current president.  I was astounded by the latter number in particular.  How can this be?

It is sad but true that many good people simply accept abortion as a “necessary evil,” one which they would not choose to participate in, but which they accept as an option for others. This same attitude of relativism is driving the tolerance and even approval of so-called same sex “marriage.” I know some of these people. They attend Mass, but ignore much of the Church’s teaching on social issues. The Church is, after all,  “extreme in these matters…and hopelessly out of date….”   As am I.

Over the past few days, I have been wondering, “What can I do Lord?  How can I make a difference?”

Then I read Evening Prayer for today, and the power of God was pulsing through every line of Psalm 46:

God is for us a refuge and strength,
a helper close at hand, in time of distress,
so we shall not fear though the earth should rock,
though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea;
even though its waters rage and foam,
even though the mountains be shaken by its waves.

And I was uplifted.  God is with us.  Of course He is!  He always is…..

Then in the Reading which followed the Psalms, I found the future….so far removed from our world engulfed by sin and darkness.  I saw the future which God desires for each one of His children:

I saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: “This is God’s dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them.” I saw no temple in the city. The Lord, God the Almighty, is its temple — he and the Lamb. But nothing profane shall enter it, nor anyone who is a liar or has done a detestable act. Only those shall enter whose names are inscribed in the book of the living kept by the Lamb.  (Revelation 21: 2-3, 22, 27)

One day, I hope to dwell in this holy place with all of my brothers and sisters.

And God brought to mind what I could do.  I thought of the Angel of Peace, who appeared to the children of Fatima.  I remembered the prayers that He taught them, and I particularly remembered the brief intercessory prayer, so simple, so perfect:

My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love Thee! I beg pardon for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.

This prayer from Heaven was entrusted to the innocent souls of little children. But, we can all pray it, sinners though we may be. We can pray for those who may be far from God, and not even aware of it, or worse, not even care.

But God is so Good and so Merciful, and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has won for us an Infinite Treasury of Graces from which our prayers may draw down pardon, light, a change of hearts…even miracles.

In the words of the “greatest Saint of modern times,”

The Almighty has given them (the saints) as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with the fire of love. And it is in this way they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.” Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of ST. Therese of Lisieux (3rd edition, by John Clarke, O.C.D.), p. 258.

LORD, send us Your Holy Spirit, that our prayers may “burn with the fire of love,” so that like St. Therese, we may lift the world up to You, so that one day all people will believe in, adore, trust and love You.

“Be still and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme on the earth!” (Psalm 46)

(All Scripture verses are from the Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer II, Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran)

(First posted on November 9, 2012)
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Tuesday adoration….why am I here?

ChildofChrist

Why did God create you?  Do you ever think about that?  I do.

Many years ago while on retreat, I wrote across the top of the first page of my journal:  Dear God, what is my purpose in life?  Who am I supposed to be?

I prayed all weekend for an answer, bringing my question continually before the Lord.  But I never heard an answer…and I was somewhat disappointed.

But, now years later, I realize that I didn’t hear the answer because I was listening for the wrong kind of answer.  I wanted something specific and concrete.  I wanted to leave my retreat with a plan…maybe even a list which I could check off.  Here is what God has sent me to do.  Here is how I will make a difference in the world.   I wanted a mission.

But as the years passed, and life moved on with its sorrows and its joys, I began to hear the answer I sought.  It is always the same, and it takes root deeper and deeper in my heart, and the joy it imparts is a reassuring certainty.

Today, I heard a young woman describe her very first visit to the Eucharistic Adoration chapel in her parish.

She went in, not knowing what to expect.  And to her amazement, she saw a type of vision…one which arose within her imagination.  She saw a large tree and beneath it she was seated with Jesus.  To her great surprise, Jesus carved His initials and hers in the tree, and then He drew a heart around it.

He looked at her so tenderly and told her, “You could never understand how very much I love you.  Fall in love with Me.  I so much want you to fall in love with Me.”

Then she went on to say that God  always knows just what we need to hear, and the way we need to hear it.

And, I understood.  So many times in the adoration chapel, I have had a similar “vision,” only in mine, I am a little girl, all dressed up with ribbons in her hair, and I am snuggled in the arms of Jesus, or sometimes standing on his lap, looking into His eyes, or hugging His neck so tight.  And….I am so very peaceful, both in the scene, and as I quietly sit there being loved.

Getting out of the car, after hearing the young woman’s encounter with Jesus, I looked up at the blue sky and the trees in their tender spring leaves.  I listened to the bird songs of some cardinals nearby.  I gazed at all of this and with wide-eyed wonder, marveled that the God Who had created it all, and Who sustains a world teeming with life and beauty, would so love me, and you….would so love us above all of His material creation combined.  Yet, I know that He does…because He told us so.

This is the answer I have been hearing for so long…in the quiet of the adoration chapel, in the writings of the mystics, in the longing of my heart which nothing on earth can fill.  The answer is the echo in the restlessness of my soul which yearns to be totally accepted, completely understood, unconditionally loved.  The answer is in my quest to rest in ravishing Beauty which will never fade, never end.

Yes, God answered my question on that retreat so long ago, but His answer was too wonderful, too beautiful, too perfect for me to hear at the time.  But He has repeated it over and over until at last I began to listen:

I created you so that I could love you.  And, I made you in My Own Image and Likeness so that your soul would be so beautiful in its resemblance of Me, that I would thirst for you to love Me in return.

It is really that simple.  We were created for Love. God is always loving us, always giving Himself to us, never turning His gaze from His beloved.  And we, at every moment, can be loving Him in return, whether in thought or deed or absence of malice.

And we can grow, moment by moment, in that love for Him…the more we forgive, the more we give, the more we  forget ourselves….always inviting Him to refine His Image more visibly within our souls.

O Jesus, what a glorious “mission!”  What a sublime purpose for my life….to be Your Heart’s desire!   Teach me to surrender myself to Your Love….and grant that I may love You in return by doing all that I can to imitate You.  Amen.

 “Jesus make me resemble You…”  prayed St. Therese.

“For in reflecting upon it carefully, Sisters, we realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight.  So then, what do you think that abode will be like where a King so powerful, so wise, so pure, so full of all good things takes His delight?  I don’t find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity.  Indeed, out intellects, however keen, can hardly comprehend it, just as they cannot comprehend God; but He Himself says that He created us in His own image and likeness.”

The Interior Castle, Study Edition: pp. 33-34, nos. 83-84.
St. Teresa of Avila
ICS Publications
Washington, DC

(a personal favorite from the archives, as we await Corpus Christi Sunday)

Lay me down, my Jesus……

I am re-posting this little prayer/poem from two years ago, because I need it this week…just as I did when I wrote it in Adoration a long time ago. Lying down on the Heart of Jesus is sometimes the very best prayer.

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Jesus, my All,
lay me upon Your Heart,
for I am so very weary.
May I rest awhile in You,
in Your Heart so Pure,
in the Shelter of Your Love?

Lay me down my Jesus;
draw me close to You,
where I will find again
all life seems to have
used up in me.

Everything I thought lost
is not really lost at all.
Both my joys and sufferings
Are but instruments for good
in Your Sacred Hands.

Ah, how kind You are,
I know it well.
You are the Love I yearn for.
My poor little life
is precious to You,
and that so charms me,
O King of kings!

I am free and loved,
because there is nothing
I could possibly give
or do for You.
You want only my heart,
my gaze fixed on You.

How Pure is Your Love!
The world tugs and pulls me,
but You gather me up
How sweet and peaceful is Your Love.
I long for You, my unseen,
Beautiful One.

Lay me down upon Your breast,
my sweet Jesus.
Let me pass what remains
of this life
in the safe and loving warmth
of Your embrace.

Self-Offering to the Holy Spirit….

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Holy Spirit, God of Love,
be present to me;
accept the offering of myself
which I make to you.
Receive these hands, these feet, these eyes,
this tongue, and all my senses.

Receive
my memory, my will, my understanding,
my desires, my sighs, the longings
and the aspirations of my soul.
Receive my every hour, my every moment,
and all the happenings of my life.

Holy Spirit, God of Love,
knit my soul to you.
Let your love possess my whole being
my senses, my powers, my affections,
my very life.

Let your love rule my labor and my rest,
my going and my staying,
and move me as it pleases.
Let your love disquiet or comfort me,
humble or exalt me,
and burn away all my faults.

Holy Spirit, God of Love,
draw me to yourself.
Do with me what you will.
Nothing will cause me fear
if only your love enfolds me.

Devotions to the Holy Spirit
Brian Moore, SJ
Copyright 1976, Brian Moore, SJ
Pauline Books and Media

When there is only God…..

Jesus holding woman

On a few occasions in my life, I have been aware of only God and me.  This has almost always been during times of intense suffering.

About a week ago, on a Sunday morning, I re-visited that rare place again.  I was in the throes of the worst hours of a severe stomach virus.  I was alone in the house as my husband had gone to Mass.  But I was glad to be alone.  Even a comforting presence at those moments of such suffering would have been too much stimulation.  I could bear nothing but my own being, alternately fighting and then surrendering to the misery.

I was burning up with fever, suffering from dehydration, shivering and engulfed in waves of nausea that seemed never to end.  My insides literally felt as though they had melted to gether, and my mouth was agonizingly dry..  I remember thinking how much I would like to escape from my body.  And I also thought, “What must it be like to actually die?”

My dehydration and swollen tongue brought to mind Our Lord’s Suffering in His Passion.  I thought of how unbearable His misery must have been.  He was not only dehydrated,  much more so than I was, but He also had the beatings and the heavy Cross to carry and the nails driven into His Flesh, the hours hanging on a Cross, unable to breathe, and He bore all of this for an evening and the better part of a day with not so much as a drop of water, while He lost immense amounts of blood and sweat.  And He chose to bear it.  He could have stopped it at any moment, but He did nothing at all to comfort Himself or to relieve even a tiny pang of His Agony.  How great is His Love for us!

Perhaps that is why the Saints can bear so much suffering, because they love so much…like Jesus.

At my lowest moment, I crawled back into bed, trying to just hang on from minute to minute.  I turned my eyes to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hanging on the bedroom wall, and I begged His help.  But mostly, I just looked at Him.  I was grateful for the grace to remember Him in my own little suffering.  But I did want it to end.

It was just the two of us in that bedroom during those few moments….nothing supernatural, but I knew He was there.  I knew I wasn’t alone.  And in a short time, I felt a little better, enough to know that I could bear the rest.  I thanked Him.

I thought about how much He is always there.  He is just waiting for us.  And often when we feel healthy and are going about the business of life, we don’t notice Him.  Or at least, we can’t feel how close He is, because there is too much else swirling around us both within and without.  And He is in the quiet, the whisper. He peers through the lattices of our life.  (Song of Songs 2:9)

I am grateful that I was reduced to experiencing my own nothingness for that brief time last week, for painful as it was, that suffering brought me into the stillness where there was only God.  And He was the only One I wanted, the only One Who could help me, the only One Who mattered.  Oh, if it could only always be like that!.

Maybe if I can find a way to reach that place of nothingness more often, where everything else is stripped away, maybe I can find Him so close, so loving, so real, in such fullness of Presence just waiting for me again….and again.

Meditating….on me!

JesusMary

I went to the Way of the Cross last night, but I had to apologize to the Lord for my attitude.

Until about two years ago, the nearby parish used a beautiful, scripturally based version of the Stations of the Cross.  The priest led the opening prayer for each station, and that was followed by a beautiful meditation from the Old Testament, and then a prayer addressed to Jesus, in which His Suffering along the Via Dolorosa was remembered.  Each station ended with the traditional Stabat Mater.

Then we got a new pastor.  He introduced a contemporary format of the Way of the Cross.  To put it quite simply: It is dreadful.  Instead of meditations on the Sufferings of Jesus, we are led to focus on a  lesson from the Life of Jesus as applied to our own lives.

For example, it is briefly mentioned that Jesus was cruelly treated, but the meditation is on how we treat others, and is followed by a prayer that we might be more charitable, etc.

This in itself is not a bad thing.  But somehow it does not draw me into thinking about all Our Lord suffered for me and my sins.  And, I really want to think about that.

I remember often being moved to tears when using our former Way of the Cross booklet.  Last night, instead, I was actually annoyed the entire time, and found myself not even wanting to pray along with the congregation, for the prayers were all about us, and I so wanted to think about Jesus.

Even the words of the beloved Stabat Mater were changed to be in keeping with the “me” theme.

My husband did not accompany me last night.  He stopped going two years ago, after about two weeks of the new Way of the Cross booklet.

I realize that a better person than I would have done their best to keep their eyes on Jesus no matter what.  I know that I could have offered up my dislike of these particular stations. But, I am so very tired of everything having to be about us, and so little about God. Couldn’t we at least focus on Jesus, and Jesus alone when commemorating His Passion?

And, I have noticed the dwindling numbers who now attend. The rich passages from the Old Testament which were used in our former booklet were such food for meditation, and anyone, at any stage of prayer or the spiritual life could have found meaning and beauty in them.

After last night, I realize that I must drive an hour to our parish in the city, and attend the Stations there next Friday. I know they will be about Jesus, and not you and me… and my husband will once again attend as well.

Does anyone else have this problem? What form of the Way of the Cross does your parish use?

My favorite will forever be my Catholic School booklet by St. Alphonsus Liguori, with the beautiful color pictures of Jesus.

I can still hear our hundreds of children’s voices echoing:  / I love You, Jesus, my love; / I repent of ever having offended You. / Never let me separate myself from You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

Three minutes is all it takes…..

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My friend Joyce at The Unprofitable Servant had a wonderful idea that will bring much joy to Our Blessed Mother’s Heart.

It’s quite simple really, and will only take three minutes of your time each day, if you decide to participate.

Joyce is trying to organize a Rosary group, in which each member will commit to saying just one decade of the Rosary on a daily basis.  You can choose your own mystery, or Joyce will assign one to you.  The intention of everyone’s decade will be for all the needs and prayer requests of everyone in the group.

What a wonderful way to receive the graces and benefits of an entire 20 decade Rosary, and all you have to do is promise to pray your decade daily at your convenience.

Please join us!  We need several more people.  You can read more about it and sign up at Joyce’s blog.  Thanks and God bless you!

A voice that speaks of peace……

On this day of memories of the attack on our beloved country, the following Psalm seemed so appropriate as I prayed Morning Prayer. It is always amazing how the LORD provides so much food at just the perfect moment. And in praying this Psalm, I thought not only of 9/11, but also of the current state of our nation as we enter the approaching elections. I truly believe that nothing will go well for us in the economy, jobs, energy, etc., until we repent of our moral failings. Many Americans dismiss the “social” issues as minor compared to financial woes. But which matters more to our LORD? Which matters most to you…and to me?
His help is near for those who fear him and his glory will dwell in our land.

PSALM 85
Morning Prayer
Liturgy of the Hours
September 11, 2012

O Lord, you once favored your land and revived the fortunes of Jacob, you forgave the guilt of your people and covered all their sins. You averted all your rage, you calmed the heat of your anger.

Revive us now, God, our helper! Put an end to your grievance against us. Will you be angry with us for ever, will your anger never cease?

Will you not restore again our life that your people may rejoice in you? Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and give us your saving help.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends and those who turn to him in their hearts. His help is near for those who fear him and his glory will dwell in our land.

Mercy and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced. Faithfulness shall spring from the earth and justice look down from heaven.

The Lord will make us prosper and our earth shall yield its fruit. Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps.

The roaring lion hates prayer…..

I awoke with a bad headache this morning, and so I put off praying Morning Prayer.  Instead,  I sat in the recliner with an ice pack, and distracted myself with the TV Food Network.

After an hour or so, I was feeling better, and decided to check my e-mail.  While on the computer, it occurred to me that if I was up to checking e-mail, then I should be able to pray the Divine Office without making my headache any worse.

That’s when the clanging and banging in my head began…right away!  It wasn’t the physical pain returning, rather it was a litany of reminders of all that I still had to do yet this morning:  the bed needs to be made; the breakfast dishes are in the sink; the house should be put in order before my husband returns from his appointment, etc., etc., etc.

All the while I had been watching TV, and during the time I was checking e-mail, I had been peaceful.  I’m used to these chronic headaches and so is my husband.  Sometimes things get done off schedule, and sometimes they don’t get done at all on a particular day.  Usually, I can accept the inevitable.

But let me think of praying….let me reach for my breviary or rosary, and immediately the  “noise” starts.  The devil truly hates prayer.  I know this, and yet I still fall prey to his distractions sometimes.

He knows, of course, our weaknesses, and just what to tell us to entice us to delay or put off prayer altogether for a while.  But sometimes, he is just so obvious….and I caught him in the act today.  Thank You, LORD!

I dispatched a quick prayer to powerful St. Michael, and clicked over to DivineOffice.org.

And what did I find in the first Psalm prayer?

Lord, send your mercy and your truth to rescue us from the snares of the devil, and we will praise you among the peoples and proclaim you to the nations, happy to be known as companions of your Son.

We are all vulnerable to different “snares.”  We need to know what they are, so that we can recognize the voice of the destroyer of souls when he presents himself to us.  There are few things he hates more than prayer, so we must be alert and wise as serpents…

Morning Prayer today was a special blessing.  God is so Good!  He rewards the least effort with His everlasting Kindness.

They laid a snare for my steps,
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my path
but fell in it themselves.

My heart is ready, O God,
my heart is ready.

I will sing, I will sing your praise.
Awake, my soul,
awake, lyre and harp,
I will awake the dawn

(From Psalm 57, LOH, Morning Prayer, August 2)