Monday, October 31, 2011

Spiritual Direction

I once thought that only saints and religious had spiritual directors.  Reading about some of the saints, I had noticed mentions of the spiritual director's advice or guidance in their lives.  It was not something that applied to me in my ordinary life, or so I thought. In truth, I am not sure I wanted to go that deeply with someone into my faith life.  I was just fine, thank you very much, and I didn't need anyone telling me to pray a certain way or to change the way I did things in my life.  That was between me and Jesus, or so I thought.

Then one day something I call an alligator arrived in my life and this alligator was all wrapped up in the church and my family and my life.  It doesn't really matter what the alligator was, it became a spiritual crisis for me.  I was confused and angry and I could see no clear path.  The alligator seemed to be something that was derailing me from the clear path to Heaven that I was trying to follow in my life.  I had a friend or two who went to someone for spiritual direction and I had talked to them about direction.  Someone to talk through the alligator situation with was what I needed. Perhaps what I needed was spiritual direction.

Most diocese, I am told, have lists of spiritual directors.  All you have to do is ask.  Priests also serve as directors and will often serve people beyond their own parishioners.  As a woman, I decided that I really wanted to talk to a woman and I was able to find one whom I talk to monthly.  I pay her what I can.  This is not something covered by insurance. An advantage to having a priest as director is that he can hear your confession and adminster the sacrament as part of the direction session.

I suppose every director is different.  In my direction we discuss what is going on in my prayer life and my life.  Sometimes she will recommend a book or a particular way to pray.  This month she has suggested that I meditate on one of the Stations of the Cross.  She prays over me.  We meet for about an hour. Once we went to Mass together.  I have done a lot of crying in her office and laughing.  I often say, she makes me cry, but the truth is, I make myself cry as the hurts and things that I have held inside come spilling out.  Christ is there with us in Spiritual Direction.

Spiritual Direction, I heard at a conference, is a growing need within the Church.  More and more people want and need spiritual directors.  There are several programs to train more directors out there. I don't know if I would agree that everyone needs a director, but if you feel like you might, I would encourage you to seek a director out.  It is one more help to get you out of the way of the alligators who are trying to derail you on the path to Heaven. Are not we all trying to become saints?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cupcake Faith

When I was a little girl I remember eating only the frosting off of a cupcake. I thought that was the best part and really didn't care about the cake part. That was all well and good for my sweet tooth, but it didn't really fill me up.
The same could be said for the spiritual life; we often look for the sweet frosting of consolation. Consolations are wonderful when God gives them, but that feeling doesn't last. The saints as well as any spiritual director worth his or her salt will tell you not to rely and base your faith on feelings. We need to be emptied so that we can be filled with God's presence. This is what happens to us and for us in the Eucharist. Jesus makes Himself present on the altar through His ministerial priests, and we are invited to approach Him, receive Him and be filled with Him in Holy Communion.
I found the following reflection over at My Daily Eucharist. It speaks to this emptiness that we long to fill and what we should desire in filling it. Just like my childhood cupcake~faith isn't just about the frosting.

No one is on a constant spiritual "high." And many devout souls are seldom "high." God often serves the cake without the "frosting." But feeling isn't as important as filling–filling yourself with God's goodness, not yours.
At Communion time we are in the closest union with Jesus. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him," the mutual union of "Communion" (John 6: 56). In this infilling with the presence of Christ, we have an occasion to fulfill the pleading of Paul in Ephesians 3:19, "that we may be filled to the measure of all fullness of God." It is only with this total infilling with Christ that we have security against contamination or recontamination with the forces of evil. Jesus tells us that after evicting the enemy, the house is "clean but empty" (Luke 11:25)–rather than "clean and full" with the fullness of Christ. This emptiness leaves it open to "seven devils worse than the first."
Pray to appreciate more fully the truth that "you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority" (Phil. 2:10), so as to experience "the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1:23). This is the antidote to your "spiritual emptiness."
The Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure
~Fr. Michael Muller, C.S.S.R

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Narrow Gate

"Strive to enter the narrow gate, for many, I tell you will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough". Luke 13:24

The word "strive" in this verse from today's Gospel gives me incredible hope because it speaks directly to my many imperfections, my daily struggles, while also encouraging me continue to stay strong and focused on the teachings of Christ.

It is so easy to get off track everyday because we meet so much opposition to the truth. But we must pray for an increase of faith. We must believe that Christ's death was for each of us, individually. We must continue to get up every time we fall and strive to enter the narrow gate.

What God longs for us to do is to live in the truth Jesus reveals. This means believing in God's absolute, unconditional love, not in a notional way but one that transforms our attitudes and whole approach to life.1

O sweet Savior Christ, in your undeserved love for us you were prepared to suffer the painful death of the cross: let me not be cold or even lukewarm in my love for you.
Lord help me to face the truth about myself. Help me to hear my words as others hear them, To see my face as others see me; Let me be honest enough to recognize my impatience and conceit;
Let me recognize my anger and selfishness; Give me sufficient humility to accept my own weakness for what they are. Give me the grace – at least in your presence – to say. ‘I was wrong – forgive me.’
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, increase in us faith and truth and gentleness and grant us part and lot among the saints.
St. Polycarp 69-115

 Note: 1 Sister Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

Daily Grace 

Monday, October 24, 2011

A question of forgiveness.

We are told we should forgive others not just once, but several times.

But what if the person who has hurt us does not seek forgiveness, is not repentant and does not show any remorse whatsoever? In fact, what if that person revels in what they have done and boasts about it?

What then?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Quick Bytes #5: A Pie Chart

Spending an hour a day with God - daily mass, silent prayer, maybe just listening - sounds pretty Holy right? 

I mean, the average American spends 2.7 hours a day watching TV, 1.1 hours online,  and 7.5 hours working.

Surely squeezing in an hour with God is pretty good, no?

Until you realize that, if we are awake for 16 hours a day, this is what that looks like:

I never did like pie charts.

God Bless.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Refraining from Doing Good?

Today's lesson from the rule of St. Benedict speaks of doing something good with a pure intention; that is, with zeal for God's glory.

Father Gerard Ellspermann, O. S. B. of St. Meinrad's Abbey writes in his reflection for today:

Is it possible that many good people refrain from doing good simply because they experience temptations of pride in their good works?

He concludes that the answer is yes. Especially when one is talented and the work undertaken will come to notice either publicly or within the Catholic community. When the necessary work goes against the grain of the established mind set, such as the establishment of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite where it currently doesn't exist, both pride and fear of criticism can come into play. "What will people say?" has killed more than one good work.

Father Gerard goes on to say:

I am reminded of the example of St. Bernard of Clairvaux who one day ascended the pulpit to preach. He was assailed with temptations of pride, since he was an eloquent preacher. But he said to himself, "I did not begin this for the devil -- and I'm not going to stop for him." And he did preach an eloquent sermon.

I love St. Bernard's statement. If we examine our consciences concerning our undertakings, both within the context of our vocations and within the context of our duty to participate in the action of Christ for the salvation of souls, and if we can truthfully say what St. Bernard said, then we cannot refrain from doing good. We cannot refrain from doing our best in our daily duties at work or at home with a pure heart, regardless of being misunderstood or suffering from the jealousies and mean-spiritedness of others.

"That in all things God may be glorified" is the litmus test against pride and pusillanimous rejection of the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We only need to look good to God and follow in the footsteps of our Master.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A question of loyalty.

You are at the supermarket car park loading your shopping from the trolley into your car. You notice your best friend in another car not far away with a man. You do not recognise the car; nor the man she is with. It's certainly not her husband.

Suddenly, she is embrassing the man passionately. It is very obvious this is not just a friendly kiss; but something more serious.

Do you just look the other way and drive off ignoring what you saw?

Do you speak to her about it at some other time?

Do you tell her husband? 

Or do you comfront her there and then about cheating on her spouse?

What else would you do?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's About Time

Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, only to pass on and plunge into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made of it.  - St. Francis de Sales

Time. We do not seem to have enough of it. And we often forget that it is a gift. We have no idea that it is passing us by until one day we wake up and say, where did the time go?

I was recently preparing to go on a private retreat. I knew I needed this retreat. I had felt called to go for a long time but kept putting it off. I was so busy and often found myself putting prayer time at the bottom of my list of things to do.

Then two days before my retreat, my watch stopped working. I didn't think much about it. It was an old watch. It had not worked right since the last time I replaced the battery. 

So I went hunting through my stuff to find another watch. I found two of them. Neither one of them worked.
Sometimes God lets us know what He wants from us in no uncertain terms.
I went on my retreat without a watch. I am learning to live without one. And I am learning to prioritize my time better.
Every time I look at my empty wrist, I am reminded to keep God at the top of my list.
1st published in Prayer Morsels ezine Oct. 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Rose in God's Image

This past weekend we drove 18 hours total to pay what will probably be a last visit with my mother-in-law.  Rose has had Alzheimer's disease for about 17 years.  She is reaching the end of the journey as she can no longer speak or even swallow well enough to maintain her weight.  Her mind has been gone or nearly gone for a long time.  We have heard many say and sometimes think ourselves that it is a shame to live with a healthy body and no mind.

The Gospel this weekend brought some clarity to me about Rose.  It was the Gospel about give to Caesar what is Caesar's.  Give to God what is God's.  And what is God's?  We are.  We are made in the image and likeness of God.  Each face reflects God's very face.  That is the test of love to see God's face in the face that can no longer respond or love or react.  Rose is valuable because she lives and has God's face.  Only God can choose the day and hour to call her home to Him.

Until that hour arrives, we are all given the task to love.  To learn what love is.  To see the very face of God in the least of His children.

Monday, October 17, 2011

With Jesus, in the Streets

Yesterday, as often, our pastor led us out the doors of our church and into the streets of town with a Eucharistic Procession after Mass.

This particular day, my son Jacob, 14, had the great privilege and honor of being the Cross-bearer and leading us through the streets.

Just behind our pastor and Our Lord in His Holy Presence, was one of our best friends, Mr. G. who was carrying the procession flag or banner (sorry I do not have a proper Liturgical term for this item)...and just behind him...were myself and two of my sweet little daughters; Mary Clare, who is 7 and currently preparing for her First Reconciliation, and Sarah, 6, who was thrilled to be "taking a walk with Jesus".

I was overwhelmed with JOY at being SOOOOOOO close to the Savior.

As we passed by pedestrians, traffic at red lights, and people coming and going at convenience stores, I prayed for each of them; that the sight of JESUS in the streets would somehow move their hearts closer toward God...especially, the unbelievers.

Father J., our pastor, will usually stop at least 3 times during a Eucharistic Procession...he turns toward us and lifts Our Lord on high...and of matter where we are at that it the sidewalk or the black top of the Sheetz parking lot...when he turns the Blessed Sacrament to face us... WE KNEEL.

During one of our kneeling moments of Adoration, a group of teenage boys who were across the street on bicycles began to laugh and jeer and mock us. My prayers increased and grew more intense as I begged God to help them SEE HIS SON and come to believe in HIS TRUE PHYSICAL PRESENCE.

Behind me, I could hear my husband's beautiful voice, singing and praying the rosary with us. I could hear my daughter Laura's voice too...She is 16, and I noticed that her voice became just a little more pronounced as we passed the laughing boys..."Thank you, Lord",  I prayed. "Thank you, for giving her courage and the grace to NOT be ashamed of YOU".

Later, at home, a few of my kids asked if I had noticed the boys. I told them I did and that I had prayed for them. Little Mary Clare wondered aloud why they would make fun of Jesus and I explained, as gently as I could, that they do not KNOW that Jesus was truly there.

I am so glad and grateful that my children knew it...and believed it...and humbly followed their Savior through the streets...led by their own brother...on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quick Bytes #4: Overheard

Overheard at my church the other day:
"I hope this Mass isn't too long ... I really have to get home to get ready for the party ...."

Overheard in countries like India, Sudan, and Egypt the other day:
"I hope I don't get killed at Mass today."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Catholic Faith Formation Supplies

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I was led to Monica from Arma Dei Equipping Catholic Families.  She has so many creative ideas on teaching children about the beauty of the Catholic Faith.  All of her products she makes herself.  She is a seriously gifted artist who is using this gift to honor and glorify God.  What could be better than that?

I bought some of her Reverence & Awe Collector Cards and Cathletics Playing Cards to use in my first grade Religious Education Classroom.  They're perfect for instructing children on Vessels, Vestments, Sacramentals and parts of the Mass.  Her art work is filled with vibrant and eye catching colors that will draw any child.  You can get them too on her website.  She sells craft kits, cards and books that can be ordered at a very reasonable price.

Here are some pictures of her cards:

It was a happy mail day when I received them!!  I plan to use them in my class this coming weekend!!

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.          Proverbs 22:6

A question of morals.

You attend a garage sale in your neighbourhood. Looking around on the various tables at the items for sale you see a beautiful necklace priced at $1.

You immediately recognise it as a very valuable antique. You know you can sell it to a dealer for at least $500 if not more.

What do you do?

Do you buy it for $1 and re-sell it to an antique dealer or at an auction and make some much needed money for your family, especially in these difficult economic times when every penny counts?

Or do you tell the sellers the true value of the item?

You think for a while. Isn't this what antique dealings all about? You search for cheap items and using your knowledge sell them at a higher price elsewhere?

What would an antique dealer do if he were at this garage sale?

What would Jesus do?

What would YOU do?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fr. Gaitley on Women of Grace

Consoling the Heart of Jesus

Every time I catch something special on EWTN I know it is the Holy Spirit because I barely watch TV, and when I do watch TV it is usually a kids' show or a husband show.

Tonight I caught Fr. Michael Gaitley on Women of Grace.  The show is on every week night at 11:30 p.m. EST.  I think he'll be on through Wednesday, at least.  I've never heard him before, but absolutely loved his Do-It-Yourself Retreat book.  

I ordered the first copy as soon as I was in front of a computer, after my priest recommended it to me.  While visiting him he told me that this book most helped him through his surgery for colon cancer.  I did read it in a weekend, mostly while sitting alone in our Church, in front of the Tabernacle.  It got me really excited.  I also love the topically organized Diary of St. Faustina in Appendix.  There are online versions of this, but I love being able to hold and linger over the words in book format.

I bought 8 copies to give to the other teachers of the Religion School at our Church, and also sent a copy to my Dad.  This is one of the key books I loaned a friend that came back to the Catholic church this year.

Fr. Gaitley speaks with a heart that has felt the embrace of Christ and is on fire with love for God, and wanting to spread that love, and a way of living a life focused on consoling the heart of Jesus, of praising and thanking God in all things.  He has deep understanding of the theology of St. Therese, St. Faustina, St. Ignatius, St. Louis de Montefort with a few quotes from Jesus's visitations to St. Margaret Mary as well.

Johnnette Benkovic was getting really fired up too with the spirituality, and the need for us all to grab hold of these helps to make a difference and lead others to the same path.  In short, Fr. Gaitley's holy enthusiasm is contagious, thus this post!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

If I was in the Boat with Jesus.

Every now and then, as I visit many Christian and Catholic Blogs, I come accross a post that is so good that it makes me wish I had written it myself.

Here is one I have found written by JADE. I invite you to visit her by clicking on her name.

If I was in the Boat with Jesus.

The moon casts silvery light over the sea.  Stars dot the midnight sky.  After whispering prayers to the Almighty One, I would have been tucked in my cozy cot waiting for dreams to come.  But tonight there is no looking back.  The dead must bury their own dead and the living must go on living.  Rather than being blissful in some artificial dreamland, I choose to follow truthful love.

When I see Jesus step into the boat and my friends follow, doubt dims my mind.  Maybe I shouldn't be here.  Maybe I should go back home.

And then my friends shout, "Come on."

And Jesus invites me, saying, "Come with me."

So I go into the boat, still doubting.  The moon is fiercely glowing and I can smell the salty sea.  I flick a bit of seaweed off my feet and sit down to talk with my friends.

And then suddenly comes the unexpected storm.  It floods all I thought I wanted.  Everything I desired is upturned in those waves.  The boat is filling fast and I panic; where is Jesus when you need him?!

He is fast asleep.  We run to him, screaming, "Wake up! We're all going to die! How can you sleep? You mean, you're not going to help us?"

Jesus looks at us with sleepy eyes that are filled with patience and understanding.  I know he understands me, at least, the way he looks at me.  It's as if he sees a good heart that wants to know him.

With one motion of his hand, he calms the waves and all is still and quiet.  At first, he says nothing.  We listen to the swish of the boat, feel the breeze in our knotty hair, and look around at each other in astonishment.

Then he asks us why we are terrified.  "Oh, you of little faith," he says and shakes his head.  In this moment, I am first offended, and later motivated to better know God.

Finally, I prayed this prayer:

I ask for faith for the doubtful, for the ones I think might be struggling, the ones I love, and the ones I have never met.  May they stay close to the Faithful One.  May they not allow the temporary storms to persuade them to believe that they are unloved.  In the same way, may they not allow their temporary doubt to keep them away from the wellspring of life that is in Jesus.  Amen.

Friday, October 7, 2011


"It is not enough for me that God has given me grace once, but He must give it always. I ask, that I may receive; and when I have received, I ask again. I am covetous of receiving God's bounty. He is never slow in giving, nor am I ever weary of receiving. The more I drink, the more thirsty I become."
                                                                                                       St. Jerome

Cars run on gasoline, people run on grace. Without God's grace we would stall and break down every single day. Grace is everything and everything is a grace. Every single thing in life can be a stepping stone to the Almighty God if we allow it to be. I have a little booklet that I like to leaf through now and then called The Healing Flame of Love by Brother Leonard and one section of this booklet speaks about how grace works in our lives. The author's words are in italics, mine are in bold.

a. Grace is completely available.
There is not just one thing to do at each moment, or I fail to do God's will; there are a multitude of actions presented to me by grace. Different ways to act are as available as different items in a supermarket - yet appointed for my needs with great care.
This is something that always confused me before I read this book. Was there one "perfect" God-willed thing that I should be doing each minute of the day? Was I doing God's will or my own? Some things are common sense such as taking care of one's family or working, but what about the rest of the day? The idea that there are a multitude of actions presented to me at any given time and that they are in line with God's will for me relieved my heart and mind.

b. Grace gives us the physical ability to do the things necessary for salvation.

c. Cooperation with grace puts me in touch with a tremendous power. If we believe that we are and can do nothing, we must believe there is a power that can do everything. This power is, of course, God. Cooperation with His ideas, acceptance of His plans can make the power available.
Example: You cannot push a freight train, yet a small movement of the throttle and the whole train starts to move.

d. Grace operates below the level of consciousness.
Wonderful things - like the operation of grace, God speaking to us, the Spirit moving us, etc. - are continually causing changes in our soul. We are unaware either of their action or their significance. 
Example: Consider what happens in Baptism, etc., or what happened when the prodigal son said, "I will return..." 
We can't "see" grace, but we can often see the results of grace. It is impossible not to notice the work God has done in me over the years. Were I took look day by day, the effects grace has had on my life may be imperceptible but if I look over a period of ten years they are profound. I shake my head in amazement at God's power. Yes, I have a long way to go, but I have also come a long way.

e. God will not sanctify me against my will, but He can change my will to make it agree with His desires.
Yes, He did this to me. What a tremendous gift!

f. Grace is a receiving.
The really important thing to understand about grace is that we receive it as a gift. We do not earn it or receive it because we seem to have done something to deserve it. If we are at all interested in arriving at a high degree of prayer (in order to increase our output) we must appreciate this function of grace, for in contemplation our activity is a receiving.
I love this one. Grace is unearned and unmerited. It is a pure, free gift given by a loving God. Every single person on this earth is a recipient of God's grace though they may not realize it. 

We live on grace.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A question of destination.

Where do aborted babies go?

Straight to Heaven? Purgatory?



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ten Ways To Pray without Ceasing

After a long spell of prayer, do not say that nothing has been gained, for you have already achieved something. For, after all, what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and to persevere in unceasing union with Him? (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent)

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
To pray without ceasing seems almost impossible to do. However, there are ways to pray sporadically throughout the day and come close to praying without ceasing.
The problem is remembering. Our daily schedules can be so difficult and crazy that we cannot find the time, much less remember.
It should be easy for me. I work at a church office, for heaven’s sake. I think of God and God-related matters all day. However, doing office work does not always constitute thinking of God.
For example, when I am working on such things as the bulletin, my mind is thinking of type fonts and graphic images and downloads, etc. 
Of course, I try to offer it up – all of my work. But that is not the same as praying unceasingly.
So I have come up with some ideas on how to pray unceasingly – or as often as possible. (This is not a complete list nor is it in any kind of order. Also, a period of silent prayer is important sometime during the day.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

A question of time.

Imagine a person NOT at peace with God, having left the church a long time ago.

If that person is unconscious in hospital and is expected to die, and the priest administers the last rites, Extreme Unction, and the person dies without gaining consciousness.

Is that person now at peace with God and in Heaven, or Purgatory?

Technically speaking, the unconscious person had no say in the actions of the priest. So are the last rites valid?

What say you?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quick Bytes #3: Happy and Sad

One of the happiest days of my life was when I decided to make sure I thank Jesus every single day for dying for me.

One of the saddest days of my life was when I realized that was nowhere near enough ...

God Bless you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Welcome to hell !!!

Well, I hope the title of this post has captured your attention for the next minute or so.

Whatever you conceive it to be, hell does exist all right! It may be an ever-burning everlasting fire mixed with the acrid smell of burning flesh and sulphur. Or it may be just a state of consciousness in the total absence of God’s presence and love.

When I was at school, many moons ago, a schoolboy described hell as being upside-down for eternity in a pile of manure. Now, there’s an image you’d probably never thought of. 

And as sure as hell exists we can be certain that the devil exists too.

He is not just a euphemism for evil, wickedness and wrong-doings. He is a living being, with us here and now, every day, and intent on the destructions of souls.

As Christians we cannot possibly believe in God and not believe in the devil. Yet, sadly for us, and fortunately for him, he has been cleverly air-brushed away from our sermons and our churches and our lives.

When is the last time you heard a sermon on Sunday about the dangers of the devil? I haven’t for at least a lifetime!

Yet, the devil belongs to the priest’s sermon as surely as God does.

You wouldn’t expect to drive on a perilous road without any warning signs of sharp bends, steep hills, and blind corners, would you? Yet we seem happy to live our lives oblivious of the very existence of a cunning and dangerous enemy ever eager to lead us to damnation when we least expect it.

There are indeed people who believe in the devil to the point of worshipping him. Whilst I cannot understand why anyone should wish to do so, at least I acknowledge their honesty in so doing; which is more honest than the millions of so-called Christians who attend church every Sunday yet don’t know exactly what to believe.

In December 2007, I understand, the Pope issued a directive to the Church to train and appoint priest exorcists in every Diocese to combat the spread of Satanism.

Well, at least he believes in the devil and is prepared to do something about it.

Has this message reached all priests I wonder? And if it hasn’t, then surely it is evidence of the success of the devil himself.

Perhaps we should all ask our priests about this Pope’s message!

I don’t know whether we have an exorcist priest in our Diocese. Do you know about yours?

Has the Church globally heeded the Pope’s warning and taken any action?

More pertinent point, do our priests everywhere, regardless of denomination, actually believe in the existence of the devil as a living being; or do they espouse the milder euphemism of what he represents?

Do you?

Or are there millions of Christians everywhere sleep-walking their way into hell?