Monday, February 20, 2017

Wealthy and Empty. By:C.C.

Blog first published April,2013

"All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united." (St. Marguerite d'Youville)

Today is Family Day in Ontario. It is a fitting time to reflect upon the family and the importance of striving to live happily united. The idea of wealth bringing happiness is largely promoted within our culture. There seems to be immense importance placed upon "things" rather than our relationships with one another.

There are line ups, and even sleep overs outside of department stores when the latest gadgets are released; as if the newest technological invention will somehow add to our self-worth and joy. We have "iPods", "iPhones", and yet we have forgotten about the "I" behind them.

There are bigger homes being bought, only to house empty souls. We have not only lost the concept of living "together happily united" but we have lost an understanding of happiness, togetherness, and unity entirely.

While there are many benefits and healthy ways that we can implore the privileged access we may have to material goods and modern technology, there is a danger when these "things" take precedent over our relationships with one another; most importantly our Lord, and His gift to us of one another.

These words from St. Marguerite d'Youville offer a response to our self-absorbed and highly ambitious society. They highlight a reality that is the result of striving to attain wealth over true fulfillment that can only be found in being happily united with one another. If we spent our time seeking the wealth of relationships and love within our families over material wealth we could better understand what it means to be truly wealthy.

We must learn to value one another. We must focus on preserving relationships with our loved ones, recognizing that no amount of money or material goods can replace the immeasurable value of those dear to us.

Lord, help us understand that by only seeking things of this world we will never find true happiness. Humble us so that we can turn to You with fullness of heart, yearning to understand and appreciate the blessings that You have given to us through our health, our families, and the simple gift of another day.

Provide clarity to those who are lost, and to those who may not recognize that only you can fill the radical void within their hearts.

May those who have material wealth use this as a means of being charitable and helpful to others. May our ambitions be rooted in the desire to please You and glorify Your name.

Thank you for all that You have given and for that which You take away. May we humbly seek to live together happily united until You call us home. Amen (C.C.)

Saint Michael, pray for us
Saint Joseph, pray for us
Saint Jochaim and Saint Anne, Pray for us
Holy Family, strength for all families, intercede for us.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Cross is Life By: C.C.

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?" (Mark 8:34—9:1)

As we prepare ourselves to enter into the season of Lent we should be especially mindful of the call to sacrifice and self denial.The Gospel readings these past days have offered us great clarity on what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. 
Though we are an Easter people, we are first called to embrace Christ crucified. We are to face the Cross.Our Easter joy and exalted Alleluia is properly celebrated and proclaimed by first being  prayerfully attentive at the foot of the cross.
This is hard.
 Denying oneself goes against the will of the flesh and human desire. "For desire is drawn towards three things: the pleasures of the flesh, vain self-glory, and the acquisition of material plunges the intelligence into darkness and prevents it from looking towards the truth. He who has acquired a spiritual understanding of this truth will share, even here on earth, in the kingdom of heaven and will live a blessed life in expectation of the blessedness that awaits those who love God". ( St. John of Damaskos). Spiritual understanding of this truth that St. John alludes to naturally leads us to the reality of suffering. 
Embracing suffering is not incredibly appetizing to us.We are not groomed by the culture to be self sacrificial in our daily lives. We are fed the Gospel of the world , a diluted message that promises fulfilment , but leaves us empty. We are groomed for material gain. The call to pick up our cross and follow is as hard of a reality for us today as it was in the time of Jesus. Many jeered at what He proclaimed, choosing instead their own way. 
Our self denial must be ongoing. It is not an isolated moment or decision that we make. To take up our cross and follow Jesus is a perpetual consent to embrace the tribulation so that we may have true life. Jesus speaks to us of our eternal home in heaven , this reality may seem too difficult , too far away . But when we live as we are called by our Lord we begin to see this hidden reality before us. We shouldn't look or search for the elaborate miraculous moments, but live humbly surrendered and allow God to show us His glory in the most mundane and simple things of life. Our present life becomes imbued with great meaning , purpose, and joy when we take up our cross.
Our Lord affirms the call to true life, to authentic freedom, and to what endures forever.  Our gaze though naturally fixed on the temporary is invited to look beyond. I vividly remember my first retreat at the Abbey of The Genesee. It was my first witness to the monastic life. To see these cloistered men beaming with radiant joy helped to confirm the reality of eternal life and our shared call to self denial.
Regardless of one's state in life, to live any vocation fully there must be the emptying of self.To endure in marriage self denial must be a part of every day. To persevere as parents , self sacrifice must be embraced. As a priest one must radically lay down their life daily. All of this is only made possible by loving patient endurance through suffering and eyes fixed on Jesus.
The Gospel today challenges us to evaluate our desires and what drives us. We are invited to recognize Who it is that truly fuels us. It is here we reflect upon whether our faith is rooted in fluffy sensory ideals or the reality of a crucified Savior who embraced his cross and shed His blood so that we may have Eternal life.(CC)

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Compost For Christ. By: C.C.

“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:14-23)

Wednesday's Gospel reading made me think of the composting process. In our composts we place a lot of muck; our food scraps, things that are "wasteful", and through these scraps, these discarded items evolves fruitful soil where new life can be born.

If we view our hearts, our souls, our minds, and all that is within us as a compost for Christ we will be able to grasp some more understanding of the parable that Jesus presents us with in this Gospel reading.

Can we take that which is seemingly defiled and turn it into new soil? Can we bring forth new life from that which seeks to break us? Surely we can if we remain rooted in our faith and continually seek union with Christ. Regardless of what is thrown at us from the outside we can conquer it within by striving for a purity of heart and ongoing desire to follow Jesus. We can bring forth new soil and encourage new life around us.

Today's society throws many counter Christian ideals at us. It is undoubtedly difficult to remain rooted and to protect ourselves entirely from the exterior temptations that confront us. It is unnatural though, and even spiritually immature to want to hide or live in some Heaven infused oasis while here in the trenches of our temporal earthen journey. These are the grounds for working out our salvation, this reality is where we are invited to witness Christ and all that it entails.

 If we as Catholics only ever sought to exist together without the chance to encounter others then we would definitely be living in some disillusioned reality, and arguably one that isn't very Christian at all.

Yes, fellowship is essential, but from there we must go out proclaiming, even if just by deed the reason for our joy and our hope!We must encounter the mess, it not only tests our spirit but affirms us in our convictions. Our encounter with the messiness and ugliness of sin also exposes our human weaknesses that we are called to take into prayer and fight with supernatural aid.

Jesus entered the mess. He walked amidst the sinners, ate with them, spoke with them, and healed them. He shows us in this way that by being united to God and rooted strongly in Truth that we are aided in facing that which can defile and turn it into new soil.

We are simultaneously called to guard that which is within, by keeping near Christ through the Eucharist. We should also make a habit of emptying our interior compost bin at the "sin bin" (a.k.a. the confessional) time and time again to renew ourselves by keeping all the muck in check. (CC)

A Disciplined Disciple by: C.C.

Image result for discipline for christ
This blog post originally appeared at Serviam Ministries on February 1st, 2017
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;” (Proverbs 3:11-12)
For those of us living in the Western world the idea of going without certain comforts may appear to be unnecessary. It seems as if anything we want we can attain, and that personal advancement, including fulfilling our goals and desires is something often owed to us for hard work and a little bit of perseverance.
Amidst the noise and consumer driven reality surrounding us it is seemingly easier to neglect the life of the soul. The spiritual life is something that belongs to “the disillusioned”.  Why would one ever want to subscribe to some belief system that “robs them of their freedom and happiness; a system of rules and responsibilities”?
Today’s first reading from the book of Hebrews boldly proclaims the discipline belonging to those in pursuit of Christ and the path of virtue. Quite often the spiritual life can be dismissed as some disillusioned fairy tale filled with fluff and nice ideals, something for the weak.  The life of a Christian is not a Sunday walk in the park but rightfully a call to heroic discipline and an intensity of spirit that is everything but something left to the weak and the disillusioned.
Due to the comforts of our society we are more inclined to toil for the reality we can see rather than prepare ourselves for the invisible reality that Christ has promised us.
We are surrounded by a generation of entitlement. As an educator I witnessed this reality in my classroom on many occasions. It seems respect and accountability are rarities, and that rules are mere suggestions implemented for protocol opposed to anything that should be obeyed. It is quite alarming. Lack of discipline surely leads to chaos and only feeds entitlement all the more. There can be no authentic personal advancement and growth without a bit of toil and discipline.
To perceive the Christian faith as a system of rules to be obeyed, without being made aware of the loving God who has our best interests in mind limits our understanding immensely. This passage from the book of Hebrews that the Church focuses on today draws a beautiful parallel between the discipline of God and that of a loving parent; a loving Father.
Though I did not grow up with a traditionally Catholic upbringing, as the daughter of an Italian hardworking father discipline was something enforced within our home regularly. It was not pleasant to adhere to the many rules or expectations. At the time,  I recall resenting my dad for being so intense and demanding, perhaps even a little unrealistic. In the ignorance of my  youth I would rather do whatever I wanted and go wherever I pleased. Eventually I entered the world of competitive soccer, this spirit of discipline proved to be fruitful. The same pattern of my resenting the discipline emerged again. Perhaps it is natural for us to shun that which stretches us beyond ourselves. On a larger scale in a varsity soccer setting the idea of discipline and balance was even more crucial. This was probably the first time that I began to see some fruitfulness of the discipline enforced by my father throughout my childhood. In hindsight I could see that my father’s emphasis on reasonable discipline was an act of love and not disdain—fulfilling what has been proclaimed to us At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it”.  It would take much time before I reconciled myself to living my faith in the same way.
By the grace of God I was brought to the point of recognizing that all of the appearances of comfort and happiness of the world was empty. Through maturing I was faced with the unavoidable reality of God’s call to obedience as a means of true joy and authentic fulfilment.
I could see the danger and deception in being groomed by worldly ideals and a spirit of comfort. I am reminded of the words from Pope Benedict “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” The cost of greatness is sacrifice and discipline enforced by a divine love both an unconditional love of God for us and our own unwavering love of God. “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines”.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Among the Sinners By:C.C

......."So Jesus addressed this parable to them.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same waythere will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repentsthan over ninety-nine righteous people" ( excerpt from today's Gospel Luke 15:1-10)

There is something very humbling in this scripture and perhaps even more challenging to digest. Quite often what keeps many "lost sheep" away from the rest of the flock is a presumed arrogance and righteousness on part of the faithful.

As a revert to the faith and one once so very far from the flock I find myself often grazing the outskirts of the Church. There still lingers within me at times the feeling that it is a me versus "them" type thing. I look upon these families rooted in the faith, attending Mass together, and even routinely making trips to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I encounter a void, as if time was lost from my youth without God as a central part of my life. 

I'm reminded, as we should all be that Jesus does not look upon us this way, He does not place us in judgement against another, but searches our hearts, weighs our intentions and our actions through His love. He is undoubtedly just, but He is merciful. Our Lord so actively searches for us and reaches into the most dark and seemingly hopeless of occasions calling us toward Himself and renews us. We are not to think of the years spent without devotion to Him, but rather seek to live each day well in His presence by striving for virtue. We must be aware of His mercy and forgiveness so that we come to experience the consolation He longs to provide. We must not dwell where He has brought grace, and surrender to Him in all things. 

As the year of Mercy comes to an end it is appropriate to see the value in this proclamation of mercy. It reaches beyond the confines of parish walls, youth groups, and close knit parish socials and it calls to the outskirts, to the peripheries where Pope Francis has emphasized great need.

The Universal Church is built up of sinners striving for sanctity, and yes, it too has some righteous sheep prancing around.  Let us not become so blind to our own sin, and the state of our soul that we become neglectful of virtue and love of our neighbour. We have great responsibility as the faithful to remain united in Christ, for love of Christ, in reflection of Christ's love for us. 

If we are honest with ourselves, and humble before the Lord we will join St. Paul in proclaiming that we should only boast about our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31) we can rid ourselves of judging our brothers and sisters in Christ and even find ourselves among the sinners welcomed by the Lord. (CC) 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Embrace of Ongoing Conversion by: C.C.

The interior room is never completely clean. The corners and hidden spaces will not remain forever polished. The freshness and eagerness of encounter that follow the soul's authentic meeting with Christ can lead one to pursue and respond to the  mission of transformation. 

There is initially a zest for new life and desperation to rid self of the dust and residue of a self absorbed life laden with sin.

To sacrifice seems joyful because the remembrance of Christ's loving sacrifice and mercy is ever so near, looming with a gentle caress. There is warmth, there is comfort, and there is consolation. It's purpose is not so that we remain overcome with fluffy fleeting emotion, but that we experience something remarkably tangible enough to prepare us for the discomfort that is to come.

Longing to remain in this euphoric state is an ideal that suits itself more to those with a worldly desire for self gratification than the reality of faith which demands and requires ongoing metanoia.

True transformation in Christ, for Christ, in order to remain eternally with Christ is a great tireless work. It is life long, yet, so are the pangs of eternal damnation, so blessed is the soul who responds actively to the call of the Lord.

One must guard the interior room with a surrendered willingness. Not always looking to keep it clean, perfect, and tidy, but to be ready to accept the mess that undoubtedly arises patiently. 

As the desire for the caress of Christ looms around there must be the assurance that it is ever present, even in the discomfort of change and mess;... quite possibly it is more intensified in the moments of difficulty, but we are more accustomed and willingly inclined to respond to gentleness. 

Ongoing conversion invites the soul to find residing place in the trenches of transformation that are not always pleasant, but crucial. This extends beyond optics and feelings and requires a shedding made possible through the person of Christ. 

We must strive to remain in Christ, and thus we must perpetually work with God's providential grace and see that actively returning to Him is also remaining in Him.

The Eucharist is our sustenance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation our aid. One will undoubtedly begin to see that the path appearing to be filled with the most resistance is indeed the one with divine assistance. 

May we strive to walk the narrow way with the freshness of initial conversion, with the willingness to embrace difficulty, as to prepare ourselves more fully to live with Christ eternally. (CC)

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Can You Love a Little More?" By:C.C.

                       Image result for love christ

This question repeats in my mind since hearing it in the confessional on Saturday. "Can you love a little more?"...Beyond the seemingly fluffy sentimentality of such a question is the fundamental aspect of what our faith is essentially all about. By choosing to love in radical measures we surely avoid the occasion of sin and act in favour of service and charity toward those around us. 

Jesus came into the world out of love from our Heavenly Father, reflective of His radical love for each of us. He came in such a way that would orient our minds and hearts toward a love greater than what had once been experienced and known. He penetrates the divisiveness of class and belief systems, of sinners and those who think themselves saints. His witness proposes the question, even at times silently, "Can you love a little more?"

In my marriage I am often confronted with the temptation to choose against love and give into the rise of petty annoyance and judgement. Faith reminds me and demands a greater love, a call to live selflessly and pursue virtue.

In every state of life it is by remaining true to this fundamental love taught to us by the witness of our Lord that we can succeed in living out our vocation to the fullest. At the same time, we must be cautious to not redefine this concept of Christian love to a point where we are entirely passive to sin and consequently disobedient to God. 

Love is difficult. It is not always understood, nor can it ever be completely defined. Similar to the love of a parent for their child who at times must say "No" even though this may temporarily result in disappointment. Surely if the "No" is born from love and for the wholesome regard of the child then it is just, and here we find an example of tough love that gives rise to a greater love and greater good.

To love a little more is to open our hearts a little bit more to the love of God.This cooperation with divine love allows for grace to permeate and aid us in our living out of service to God daily. 

As we approach the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux we are again confronted with the reminder of the heroic and simple love that our Christian life should teach us. The witness of such a saint who viewed the essence of her vocation as love itself can offer us, through her little way, the grace to love a little more. 

I find it rather amusing that I share a birthday with the feast day of such a simple Saint. For I could not be further away from her humble innocence. My past indeed resonates more with a pre converted St. Augustine! Yet, in this irony I meet God's immense grace and His ongoing invitation to all of us wherever we are to love a little more in our little way, and to patiently pursue the path toward eternal life. (CC)