Monday, August 29, 2011

Content in Ignorance?

Recently, I felt compelled to respond to a post on a website that had published a link to an online class being given to high school students to learn about various approaches to the Bible and different religious charism, if -you -will.

I was astounded and shocked (and saddened) to see that instead of listing "Catholic" as a subtopic, our Faith had been labeled as "Romanism".

Initially, I responded to the writer of the post to let her know that this is considered a highly derogatory and offensive term; and, as such, is defined as just that in many dictionaries.  I suggested she look up the word in an online dictionary where she will most likely find a definition similar to: Romanism ~ An offensive term used to describe Catholicism.

The incident grew more troubling in nature, when I downloaded the suggest online class and proceeded to find page five (the section on "Romanism") to be wrought with inaccuracies and falsehoods about Catholic beliefs and teachings.

All was written with intermittent grains of truth, thereby skewing the underlying falsehoods unless a trained and observant reader (such as a devout Catholic or one who has studied the Catholic faith at-length) would be able to pick up on them.

I ended up writing a post on my personal blog, Benmakesten, and you can visit there if you'd like to read more about that particular story...but what I'd like to discuss here in our new Catholic Community is this:

Why is it that many people seem so "content in their ignorance"?  Here are some questions that I'd like you to share your thoughts about, please:

1) Why are so many so inadequately educated about Catholic belief? Is it because they were raised and taught falsehood? Is it because our Church has done a poor job in explaining Her beliefs to the world at large? Is it because people would rather assume an explanation than take the time to do some leg work and really research a topic...or simply ASK a reliable source?

2) Is it just me, or do others notice that it seems to be more prominent (misconceptions, false assumptions, inaccurate teaching) with regard to the Catholic Faith more than other faith backgrounds?

3) Are we not responsible, as Christians (no matter what our specific affiliation might be) to make sure that when we are teaching others or writing in a public forum, that we have our facts straight?

4) Finally, how can we help to correct this seemingly growing problem?  I can't get the high school students who have taken this class out of my mind...I wish I could contact each one of them (which probably numbers in the hundreds if not thousands) to let them know that they have been taught incorrectly regarding Catholic belief.

I am so thankful for this blog and the community of believers who visit and write here. I look forward to reading your replies to this post:)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pope Wanted to Stay at Rain-Drenched Vigil

Father Lombardi Confirms Benedict XVI's Enthusiasm

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 21, 2011 ( Benedict XVI decided to remain at the vigil at Cuatro Vientos this Saturday despite the sudden cloudburst that prevented him from giving the speech that he had prepared.

This was reported today by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, in comments to Vatican Radio.

The Pope was "struck" by the young people's enthusiasm, he explained.

Even if the vigil had not been able to follow the program that had been planned, the Jesuit priest observed that it provided an occasion to give "a further message, because the way of dealing with this difficulty demonstrated enthusiasm, decision, the desire of the young people present to continue – without losing the least courage -- their celebration of faith."

The Pope, Father Lombardi added, "was absolutely one with them in being absolutely decided to continue, to be present."

"During the storm he was asked twice whether he thought that he should leave and instead said: ‘No, I am staying. We are staying.'"

It was evident that Benedict XVI was "very struck by this enthusiasm and this participation by the young people."

For the Vatican spokesman, one of the most intense moments was during eucharistic adoration: "Yesterday evening -- with the storm that naturally brought a little confusion in some moments -- it was perhaps hard to expect recollection and such complete participation and so quickly in the moment of the prayer of adoration."

"It seemed to me, instead," Father Lombardi said, "that this was one of the most extraordinary aspects of yesterday evening's vigil."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Praying the Psalms

"The revelation of your words sheds light, gives understanding to the simple." (Psalm 119:130)
I used to think the psalms were rather boring. I cringe inside to hear myself say that. But other than the responsorial psalms at Mass, I paid little attention to them.
Then I went to Pecos Monastery in New Mexico to take their Spiritual Direction class. The monks there prayed the Liturgy of the Hours 4 times a day and I prayed with them. I chanted the psalms with them everyday, day after day, for a month.
And something inside of me changed.
I began to really listen to the words. Soon I was not just saying words, I was truly praying them. Verses would stay in my thoughts and heart and I would pray them for days. I truly fell in love with the psalms.
Every feeling I can think of is expressed in some way in one or more of the psalms. There is pain and anger and fear and love and praise and gratitude and loneliness and sadness and joy.
Loving the psalms led me to read the Word of God with a different eye and hear it with a different ear.
It was like I had been sitting in the dark and God turned the light on.
Thank you and praise you, Lord, for revealing yourself to me through Your Word. Help me to understand it and learn from it and share its Light with others. Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keeping the Silence of My Heart with Greater Care

From Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, No Greater Love:

We cannot find God in noise or agitation. Nature: trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, moon, and the sun move in silence. What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.

Silence of our eyes.
Silence of our ears.
Silence of our mouths. the silence of the heart
God will speak.

Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere - in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.

If we are careful of silence it will be easy to pray. There is so much talk, so much repetition, so much carrying on of tales in words and in writing. Our prayer life suffers so much because our hearts are not silent.

I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Into the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I have been a pray-er all of my life.  I enjoy talking to God in many different forms.  I have found that my preferred forms of prayer have changed throughout my life. There are many constants, but I always have a fall back position, so to speak.

In recent years I have really loved Lectio Divina which basically is reading a piece of scripture, perhaps several times and reflecting on it.  For me, that reflection is usually with writing.  I have learned wonderful things and heard God's voice in Lectio Divina.  It is a conversational style of prayer.

But lately, I have been less drawn to that conversation with God, if you will.  Lately, I have been drawn to a prayer form that used to be really hard for me.  I have been drawn to comtemplation.  Specifically, as I was meditating upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus one day, I was drawn more and more into the Heart of Jesus.  I imagined myself inside the Sacred Heart of Jesus, washed by His precious blood.  I began to let myself go to that iamge, that place in prayer more and more. I can feel the pain and the joy as I am surrounded by the love of Christ.  My meditation is less words and more an experience, more of a feeling.  I can't even describe the peace and consolation that I feel while surrounded by the love of Christ.

Because this meditation/ comtemplation is so new to me, I discussed it with my Spiritual Director this week.  She encouraged me to continue with it.  Perhaps if I have a point in all of this, it is to try to experience God in new ways, at least sometimes.  It is an adventure in prayer.  It was just what I needed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ode To Mary: Guide to the Trinity

This beautiful prayer to Our Lady comes from our guest author, Isaac.

To Thee, our Mother, do we have recourse,
Thee whom we praise through the Angelic discourse.

We beseech thee O Mother of Heaven above,
To guide our lives and fill them with love.

Protect us from evil, the demons of pride,
And envelop us in you mantle, for in you we may hide.

Mary our Protector, lead us to your Son,
He our Lord Christ for Whom victory has been won.

O Queen of the Cosmos outstretch
your hand
to your loyal subjects awaiting your commands.

You command us well
to fast and to pray,
So that one day in heaven, be with you we may!

Guide our steps on the path of life;
Bring us safely through the toil and strife.

O Mary ever Virgin pray this day,
That one day in heaven, we may triumph all the days.

Finally O Mary lead us to the Three~
Father, Son, and Spirit… Almighty Glory Be!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Great Enabler

Modern psychology in analyzing destructive relationships identifies "enabling" as a way of helping a person with bad tendencies to continue his hurtful behavior. The Church has always taught that God writes the natural law on every heart, and places in the center of every man the desire for Him. So while on the human side enabling is bad and leads to all sorts of evil consequences, on the supernatural side, enabling by the Holy Spirit, the Great Enabler, is good and leads to our sanctification.

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. writes in Divine Intimacy:

Although our soul is supernaturalized by sanctifying grace, our powers [intellect and will] strengthened by the infused virtues [faith, hope, and charity], and our actions preceded and accompanied by actual grace, still the manner of our acting always remains human, and is therefore incapable of uniting us perfectly with God, of bringing us to sanctity.

This sounds pretty hopeless on the surface, but let us kneel before God in all humility and listen further:

In fact, our intellects, although invested with the virtue of faith, are always inadequate in regard to infinite Being, and are always incapable of knowing God as He really is. Even following the truths of revelation, which tell us that God is One and Three, the ideas which we form about the Most Holy Trinity, the three divine Persons, and the perfections of God, always remain far short of the reality.

As long as we are on earth, we shall know God "through a glass darkly"; only in heaven shall we see Him "face to face" (1 Cor. 13:12). [If St. Paul struggles with this, why should we be surprised at our own limitations? Or worse, how can we ever be over-confident in our own perceptions?]

The inadequacy of our knowledge of God extends equally to our ideas of sanctity; the same short-sightedness that characterizes our view of divine things affects our notions of the way of perfection. In many cases we cannot even discern what is more perfect, and despite our good will, we often make mistakes, believing some things to be good and holy which really are not. [Man's capacity for self deception seems to be infinite. It is the reality of being human.]

However, complete union with God, which is sanctity, requires a perfect orientation toward Him, according to the first and greatest commandment of Jesus: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind" (Mt. 22:37); we have seen that this perfect orientation exceeds our powers, precisely because our knowledge of God and of the way which leads to Him is far too imperfect.

"Must we then renounce sanctity? Not at all! God, who wants our sanctification, has provided us with the means of attaining it: He has given us the Holy Spirit.

I like to think of the Holy Spirit as "The Great Enabler" because He takes the desire the Father has written on our hearts from the moment of conception and facilitates our moving toward sanctity - union with God. He knows what we need far better than we do and He prompts us in the stillness of our hearts. He is indeed the Comforter Christ promised us before ascending into heaven. He is the divine life within us.

When we are anxious, confused, heartbroken over adversities or in spiritual darkness; when we think we will never be good enough for heaven or when we think God has abandoned us and we don't really matter to anyone, we can pray with St. Augustine:

O Love of the eternal God, sacred communication between the omnipotent Father and His blessed Son, all-powerful Paraclete, most merciful Consoler of the afflicted, penetrate the innermost depths of my heart with Your powerful virtue; brighten with Your shining light any dark corners of that neglected dwelling of my soul. Visit it, fructifying with the abundance of Your dew, all that a long period of drought has dried up and choked. Pierce with the dart of Your love, the depths of my soul; penetrate the very center of my enervated heart and inflame it with Your salutary fire; strengthen Your creature by illumining, with the light of Your holy fervor, the inmost depths of my mind and heart.

I believe that each time You come into a soul, You prepare there a dwelling for the Father and the Son. Blessed is he who is worthy to have You as Guest! Through You, the Father and the Son establish their dwelling in him. Come then, most benign Consoler of suffering souls, Protector in all circumstances and Support in tribulations. Come, Purifier of faults, Healer of the wounded. Come, Strength of the weak, Restorer of those who fall! Come Master of the humble, rejecter of the proud! Come, O charitable Father of orphans, merciful Judge of widows! Come, hope of the poor, strength of the weak! Come, guiding star of sailors, harbor of the shipwrecked! Come, O unique beauty of all the living, and only salvation of the dying!
Come, O Holy Spirit, come and take pity on me! Clothe me with Yourself, and graciously hear my prayers, that, according to the multitude of Your mercies, my littleness may be pleasing to Your greatness, and my weakness to Your strength, through Jesus Christ, my Savior, who, with the Father, lives and reigns in unity with You, forever and ever. Amen."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let's Talk Scripture

*I quote Judy and Victor in this post, You can visit their individual blogs by clicking their names under Blog Authors on this blog's sidebar.

One of the things I love about the Catholic blogging community is the good spiritual dialogue that often goes on in the comments. I experienced a bit of this during this past week on my own blog and I thought I would share it with all of you here.
The first dialogue began with a post I wrote titled, The Way To Approach Jesus in Prayer, on last week's Gospel about the Canaanite Woman. Judy, who keeps several blogs of her own and is also a contributor here, commented on my post and said she was a little conflicted about Jesus' response to this woman. Judy asked if she could "tap my brain" on this one. Here is Judy's comment and my response:

JudyYour post is very interesting.

This story has always intrigued me, also...but in a rather different way and I would LOVE to know your thoughts about it. When I read this (and also the story of the woman who was pestering ("persisting") the judge) I am always a bit taken aback.
It seems that the "persistence" is rewarded and I "get that" part. What throws me is this: If I were up close and in person to Jesus Christ and believed that He was the God...and I asked Him for something...and He replied in the "negative" as it seems, at first that He does in this story...I would bow low and say "I'm so sorry to have troubled you my Lord" and then run off and hid somewhere to cry. So too, if the judge would have told me "no"...I would have gone away and not come back. In this regard, we teach our children to accept the answer as "no" when we give it...and you know all the cliches that go with that "Because I said so" or "I do not owe you an explanation", etc.
How is it then, that these women "persisted" and did not feel as though they were being disrespectful, whining, or pestering in their pleas? Sorry to take up so much room here in the comments...but this has perplexed me for some time and I thought that your post provided a good opportunity for me to "tap your brain" about it. In other words, how do we know when God's answer is "no" as opposed to when we are supposed to "persist" and ask again...and again...and again? To me, that seems as though His first answer "wasn't good enough". 

My response:
You raise some very good questions/points in your comments. Now of course I have no definitive answers for you, but my feelings and thoughts are these: First, I probably would have done as you would and thanked Our Lord for His time and walked away, but I think this is exactly what Jesus wants to see if we will do at times. Not to be mean, but to test how badly we think we need something and to test our persistence in prayer. I guess you could liken it (in an oversimplistic way) to one of your children asking you for something, you tell them no and they leave it alone, or they keep asking, your older children may even have some good arguements as to why you should grant their wish- just as this woman did for Jesus.
Now this woman had the advantage of having Jesus right in front of her; she could see His expression, hear the tone of His voice. There must have been something that made her believe she should keep begging for the Master's help. She knew that He could heal her daughter. Back to your kids- would you stop at one doctor who said "Sorry can't help you." if one of you precious children were sick? I know you wouldn't. (Sorry to make it personal) We do not have Jesus in His earthly human form in front of us, so it's back to the silence and listening to Him there. Praise Him that He has given us Himself in the Eucharist; we can sit before Him and plead our case and beg for His help, and like the Canaanite Woman, if we truly listen for Him, we will know whether we should persist in our prayer, or go away in humble acceptance of God's silence or His "No". I still feel it is better to err on the side of persistence if we are not sure. I hope my speculation helped. This side of heaven we can't really know Jesus' reasons for why He did what He did or why He does what He does (or doesn't do.
This post seems to have given you some food for meditation; perhaps you should stay with it for awhile and pray with it, maybe journal with it as well.(My spiritual journal entries are always in the form of letters to Jesus-it makes it more conversational to me.)
Thanks for your thoughts on this, Judy and for starting some good dialogue on it.

Judy raised some very good points and questions. This Gospel passage often has many of us scratching our heads wondering about why Jesus remained silent and then rebuked her. This side of heaven we may never know the answer for sure, but what we are to take from it is the example of this woman's persistence in faith and prayer.

The second bit of dialogue went on between Victor of Time for Reflections, and another contributor to this blog. Victor commented on my post in honor of the feast of the Assumption, The Assumption and the Promise of Things to Come. Victor wanted to know if I could shed any light on whether or not Mary actually died. Now despite Victor's compliment to my knowledge, I really am not (I just read a lot :). I told Victor about how the Orthodox and other Catholic rites (Byzantine for one) refer to this feast as the Dormition of Mary, the term dormition meaning to fall asleep. My dialogue with Victor went on beyond one comment so you can read our entire conversation by clicking the above link for my post and then go to the comments.

I wanted to share the thoughts of these two fellow blogging friends for several reasons: 1) both Judy and Victor raised some wonderful questions and expressed some valid points. 2) I wanted to open this dialogue to others who may be able to share their insights on one or both of these topics, and 3) I think this spiritual dialogue is what the comboxes are all about. Having traveled around the Catholic blogospere over the last two plus years, I have seen some nasty goings on in several of them. It is easy to get caught up, either in a positive or negative way, in the comments that are made or not made on our blogs. Yes, they are places where we can encourage and compliment each other, but they should also be places where we can learn and grow spiritually from each other. That starts in the posts we write and the comments can be an extension of that. However, it all starts with prayer and writing for God's glory not our own.
I know I am preaching to the choir with that third point, but you never know who will stumble across one of our posts.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and any of the related posts. Please feel free to offer your own insight on either Judy's and/or Victor's comments.

Related Link: Persevering Faith & The Lord's Mercy (video at Deacon Pat's blog. Thanks for that link Victor)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suffering: The Best Gift by St Gemma Galgani

The previous beautiful post by Sue Elvis regarding being the mother of Thomas reminded me of this quote from St Gemma Galgani:
Learning how to sacrifice and suffer out of love for God

Gemma writes "This evening at last, after six days of absence of Jesus, since it was Thursday, I began my hour of prayer, thinking of Jesus on the Cross. Then it hap­pened. I found myself with Him suffering and I felt a great desire to suffer and asked Jesus to give me this grace"

Another time she writes- "Will I ever really love Jesus? I have a strong desire to love Him, yes, I would like to languish with love for Him, but ... Many times I have asked Jesus to teach me the true way to love Him and Jesus seems to show His open wounds to me and He says to me: "Look, my daughter, see how much I have suffered. See this cross, these nails, these thorns? They are all the work of love. Look at me and learn how to love." Sometimes He says to me: "Look, my daughter, the best gift that I can give to a soul that is very dear to me is to send it suffering."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stories of Grief Love and Hope.

Today's guest writer is Sue Elvis.

Some years ago, I used to say, “I’m ready to do Your Will, Lord but please don’t send me any suffering.” Perhaps this wasn’t much of an offering. I knew suffering would involve much pain and I was afraid.

Often when I try to push fears to the back of my mind, God arranges matters so that I have to face whatever I feel I can’t deal with. And this was the case in 1999 when, for the first time in my life, I was plunged into a sea of suffering like nothing I’d ever experienced before. One day I was in full control of my life, the next, my world was in pieces and I was choked with the feeling that I wouldn’t survive. Finding out that our unborn baby was unlikely to survive after birth was a very frightening, distressing feeling and I was full of panic as I looked ahead to what should have been a happy event in our lives.

The next five months were a mixture of calm as I tried to place my trust in God, and despair as I contemplated holding our dead child in my arms. How could a mother be expected to survive the death of her own child? I prayed so much during those months asking God for a miracle of healing for our child.

Thomas was born and it was soon obvious that God had not healed him. There are not enough words to describe our pain and suffering. We watched Thomas been wheeled away to the intensive care unit, seconds after his birth, and our first look at him came hours later: a tiny body hooked up to a life support machine. Thomas lived 28 hours and that time seemed like months. We arrived back home 48 hours after setting off for the hospital and it was inconceivable that we had been away for such a short time. Our lives had been changed forever and it was difficult to come home and pick up the threads of everyday life…

This is the start to one of my Thomas stories. It comes from my book Grief, Love and Hope.

I started writing my Thomas Stories quite a few years ago. At first I just wanted to record our son’s life. He lived for only a fleeting moment and I wanted to say, “I have a son. His name is Thomas. He didn’t live very long but his life was valuable. And we love him so very much.”
Later a friend suggested I share my stories so that I could connect with other bereaved parents. Grieving is such a lonely existence. Sometimes we feel we are going crazy. Does anyone else feel like we do? And does anyone survive the deep sorrow of losing a child? By sharing we can encourage each other, give hope and lessen that feeling of isolation.

I wrote my first Thomas Stories for a homeschooling newsletter. Then I gathered these stories together, and added some more: my book Grief, Love and Hope came into existence.

After the publication of the book, I was very surprised to find I had still more to say about Thomas. He might have lived only for one day but he has affected our lives forever. I am continually amazed how our son works his way into my writing. So more Thomas Stories were written and I have been posting them on my blog Sue Elvis Writes, as well as on The Apostolate of Hannah’s Tears blog.

But now I feel my stories need a home of their own, a blog just for Thomas. So I have created Stories of Grief, Love and Hope.

I will be gathering all my Thomas stories together and posting them on this new blog. Some you will find in my book Grief, Love and Hope. And some have been published on other blogs. I am sure Thomas will keep on inspiring new stories so there will probably be entirely new posts too.

I would also like to write about the experience of miscarriage after losing seven little souls much too early.

Maybe you have experienced the sorrow of losing a child yourself, or you might be supporting the bereaved, or maybe you’d just like to learn more about the experience of grief.

If you would like to share my stories of our precious son, please visit my new blog, Stories of Grief, Love and Hope. I would feel very honoured if you read my posts.

And if you know of anyone who is suffering and might want to connect with another bereaved parent, I would be grateful if you told them about my blog.