Thursday, August 17, 2017

Freedom in Forgiveness By: C.C.

"Lord, if my brother sins against me, often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times."

Every now and then there are Gospel verses that pop up and truly cut to the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are given and presented with a lofty challenge of sorts demanding deep inner work and clinging to Christ. 
We are reminded in today's Gospel of the very difficult and necessary reality of forgiveness. 
This work is as ongoing as conversion should be. 
It is impossible without great love of God. To forgive means first that we recognize our own brokenness and imperfection, and reconcile ourselves to accepting that we are but broken instruments and people with vast limitations. Yet, simultaneously we are invited to forgive, not because of what we owe another, but more because of Whose we are, and the freedom and peace which our Lord so desires all of us to have. 
A lack of forgiveness weighs us down more than the wounds that a single act, or repeated acts of hurt can create in our hearts. The heaviness can cause us to live shackled by emotions and lead us into desolation. It is not an easy predicament to be in. 
Surely there are various reasons where one is invited to forgive. The gravity of these reasons will undoubtedly vary.
I think forgiveness needs to be better understood at times though. Because I do feel we can lose many people with today's Gospel if we expect forgiveness to mean having a Sunday picnic with the individual who has wronged us. Forgiveness is essential, but can truly look different in many cases and depending upon scenarios will demand something as varying as the circumstance. 
There can be no forward motion toward union with Christ if we have a lack of forgiveness in our heart toward our neighbour. It is a barrier like no other and it is one that continues to ooze out resentment and anger, leaving little room for peace, and cultivates division. 
To forgive does not mean that we forget our worth, or to suggest that we endure dangerous circumstances. Of course good prudence is needed in what forgiveness looks like. It is an inner work. 
Jesus forgave the unimaginable. From the sufferings of the Cross he begged His Father to forgive--"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).  And yes, while this radical moment of forgiveness is incredibly difficult to live up to or imitate it is something we can look toward for helping us understand the depth of what Christian forgiveness means. 
To forgive from the heart as the close of today's Gospel reminds us requires us to offer up all of our sufferings and difficulties to Jesus. As we carry our various crosses and even feel nailed down in pain by many wrongs that may have been done to us we are invited to gaze upward to our Lord and plea for the help and peace of His forgiveness. 
We come to recognize the immense work of prayer to aid the process of forgiveness. The way to transform our heart to doing so requires that we pray more than we point blame. 
Let us be patient with ourselves and others as we attempt to forgive from our heart, so that we may one day experience the freedom of Christ centered love, and comfort found in clinging to the Cross. (CC)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wake up and Meet With God by:CC

"Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day's work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it." - St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

I begin most days very early and in prayer, not because I am overtly pious or claim to be perfect by any means, but because I recognize the immensity of God's gift of time to me. 

Beyond this, I have come to experience quite honestly the incredible way that our Lord truly gives the power to accomplish all things when we entrust ourselves completely to Him through carving out much needed time and sit at His feet in prayer.  

Today the Church celebrates the feast of a wonderful and heroic virtuous woman St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she is an example of a woman truly hidden in Christ and imbued with great strength, intellect, and a deep sense of femininity. I wrote more reflecting on her and her example over at Serviam Ministries this week, and I am sure it is a piece that will flutter some feathers, but is a necessary reflection.

When I reflect upon St. Teresa's words about letting go of our personal plans and giving the first hour of the morning to God, I can see the importance of this for acquiring balance and being able to fulfill the many tasks that lay before me throughout the day. 

We can tackle all things, even chaos when we begin our waking hours focused on God and making ourselves receptive to His will. This is not easy at first, no doubt. To discipline ourselves and to be receptive to a sense of routine and order requires obedience and sacrifice. Under the illusion of greater rest, perhaps hitting the snooze button seems more alluring. But I would almost challenge anyone "out there" to choose instead to hit the button on their alarm and rise a bit early, even if momentarily grumpy and then immerse yourself in some quiet time of prayer, collect your barrings , and slowly the beauty will emerge. 

I was not always disciplined enough to recognize the importance of beginning each day with a structured time in prayer. It was the fruit of hanging out at a monastery retreating from time to time in my early twenties. I encountered the Rule of Benedict. And obviously as a lay woman, I do not have to observe or live by this to it's entirety, it would be quite odd in fact if I did. However, something very vital and important struck me about this way of life. Something I think that leads to a healthy human formation, and great balance. It is the ordering and balance of work and prayer. Prayer being most central of course, and for all of us as faithful, the primacy of Christ should be crucial in our days as well. Wherever we are called to serve, and in whatever we may suffer, with Christ at our center, and with an obedient willingness to align ourselves to properly understanding this we will have great flourishing in our lives. I am not promising that one will merit the material and tangible things that our world has come to deem most valuable, but I am speaking of great interior peace and this, by far, will allow us to "tackle the day's work" and live more intentionally and purposefully.

Quite often when one is overwhelmed there seems to be a suggestion of taking more "me" time. Granted there is something vital in that. But, as a Christian I see "me" and "my" time, as God's time and so thus begins my day. We can make this experience  something incredibly personal. It does not have to be spent kneeling down on concrete floor reciting litanies, and wearing a hair shirt or chanting psalms. 

I spend mine with two cups of coffee (black) and reflecting upon the readings of the day before preparing food and attending to my chores, this too can be prayerful. And, I have also incorporated praying the Rosary into a morning work out, then off to daily Mass with the kids. This dedication is not the result of a life of luxury or ease or because other people take care of things for me. It is born from giving that first hour to God, and sacrificing  in order to do that. We are no better rested by avoiding time of prayer. However, to acquire routine is a process and it is a grace I believe, one that we can pray for. 

The Lord will meet us and lead us gently, and fill us up with His grace and give us the power to accomplish all things. "Let go of your plans" respond to the invitation of sitting in silence with our Lord, begin early, bring your coffee, and witness the beauty unfold. (CC)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Privilege of Poverty: C.C.

"Jesus said to his disciples:"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again,and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."(Matthew 13:44-46)

Jesus' way of having us understand the Kingdom of heaven, among many, is often through using examples that are very easy for us to understand. Surely His words are not easy to live by, nor do they require us to go at once and sell all that we possess and prance through the streets in our birthday suits. Judgement aside of course, perhaps some have found this to be exactly what they must do. 

When we look at our lives, however, for those of us living with relative comfort and met needs (arguably have more than we need) these words can pierce our hearts and have us reconcile ourselves to understanding the poverty of spirit we must live by to inherit the Kingdom of heaven. 

Before we can arrive at that point of shedding the interior self and chiseling away at the material like goods that shadow the purity of our soul, we must take an honest look at our lives and our attachments. The closer we get to Christ the nearer gratitude for the most simple things rises to the surface. We are forced ever so gently into recognizing our poverty and also the value of the ordinary blessings that become so tragically over looked amidst the endless consumption of goods.

This should not lead us to a punishing sentiment of guilt, or shame, or a feeling that to be in Christ means we must have absolutely nothing, but rather that our everything is nothing unless the primacy of Christ is at our center. In this way we come to recognize the immensity of God's blessing and the privilege we have in our "richness" to choose to be poor, or even the necessity of being so in order to see the Kingdom of heaven. 

To know the value of heaven is to know the worth of everything else, for at the sight of it the most glorious treasure, pearl, iPhone, mansion, sports car, whatever it may be carries no lasting value or substantial worth. We can implore the material gains of our lives to serve the Kingdom of heaven, they can become the vehicles of sharing the blessings of God through our charitable action. We must work to refine ourselves to seeking the most glorious pearl of great price, that is the Kingdom of heaven. 

Until Christ is all we need, nothing we think we need will ever satisfy us or give us lasting joy. 

Let us pray to find our truest treasure, making our lives a gift to others by utilizing our privilege to serve. To pray for poverty of spirit . giving rise to humility and living virtuously until we are called home. (CC) 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Lesson from Nonno's Garden. By:C.C.

"Jesus said to his disciples:"Hear the parable of the sower.The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold." (Matthew 13:18-23)

Some of my fondest childhood memories, being an Italian Canadian are from watching my nonno work in the very vast vegetable garden at his home. This was definitely a way that he kept some sense of his culture while living in a new land. From my childhood gaze it did not seem to be too much work. I would look on with amazement as he would patiently till the soil. I was excited because I knew that soon this garden would be full of life and many good things for us to eat. It seemed almost without err that every year nonno's garden was extremely fruitful and also the envy of the neighbor. This often manifested into a nonno war of sorts and it was surely entertaining to see him compare tomatoes.

This was not without great effort though, or hard work. To cultivate good soil and bear rich fruit takes sweat and sacrifice. For such reasons I have always loved this parable of the sower. As time passes in my own spiritual journey  these words of Jesus take on greater meaning. 

I can look back and view the various natures of my own spiritual soil and find how things have surely changed with the course of time and cooperation with our Lord.  I can see the presence of "rocky ground" in the early days of conversion and how much that initial joy of "hearing the word" ignited an honest desire to live in accordance to Christ's teachings. 
In that time however, I remember falling. As Jesus alluded to, with the sight of tribulation or persecution,  there I was back for His mercy and forgiveness. 

My soil needed some serious tilling then! There is great beauty in this though if one recognizes the importance of cultivating good soil, and of patiently striving to till it through all the seasons and changes of life. It is an ongoing process.

This is done through patient endurance and trust in God, but also maintaining reverence for living a sacramental life. The initial Joy of those "rocky ground" days was an essential part of the process. That joy to me was incredibly real and undeniably from the hand of our Lord, it pressed me onward to continue the work. 

I think of nonno here, tilling soil even when the blazing sun was beating against his back. Sometimes God's pruning and His means of having us truly understand His word to us can can seem to burn us internally and take us to places within that we would rather ignore. Yet, if we run then, we will never know the joy of harvest time. We will never reap the fruits of knowing how our own personal witness can aid in building up the love of God, and encourage others to till their soil. We will not see that glimpse of God's radiant unconditional love for us.

God does not leave us without help. Christ has given us His Church to aid us in growing in virtue and given us many tools to aid our garden. Taking part in Mass, receiving the Eucharist, and frequenting Confession help this process. By grace and by our willingness we can till the spiritual soil and reap great fruits. We do not persevere in this because of what may be given to us, but because what has already been done for us in Christ on the Cross. 

Before the fruits of harvest, before the sharing of the word and proclaiming of Good News, it is right that we till some soil. It is important that we do our work. This is why courage and perseverance is often used to describe the experience of those who are seasoned in their own vocations.

When I meet with a priest who has been obedient to His call for over 60 years, or a married couple who celebrates their 50th anniversary, I am aware that there are and have been many moments of blazing sun on their backs, but they have taken this to the Lord. They have tilled and worked to maintain good soil. 

Let us strive everyday to live our faith, and to be mindful of the personal work we must do so that our soil can be rich and fruitful in the vineyard of Christ. (CC)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

United in Victory by: C.C.

"God loves everyone with unique love; he wants to lead them all to perfection, but at the same time has very different paths for different people. This means that the frequency and characteristics of the inspirations of grace will differ from one person to another. We cannot force the Spirit, God is the master of his gifts. That said, it cannot be doubted that God will grant each person at least the inspirations he needs for his own sanctification."(Fr. Jacques Philippe) 

Pride can blind us from so many things. Spiritual pride is a dangerous ill that can destroy faith of those around us, and also deprive us of recognizing and being open to the grace(s) that God has given. 

To rest in the love of God and to believe that He "loves everyone with unique love" is to begin living well in accordance to His precepts. If we only received two commandments from God, and they were the first two--"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:Love your neighbor as yourself. 

Surely we have found enough in that to unpack and a great outline of sorts to living out a Christian life, for from these very important commandments blossoms the essential fruits for living virtuously and how God has called us.

We can not force grace upon another, it is not our place to judge how they are living well, or unwell in our own very limited perception. We are not God and we can not transform hearts. 

We witness well, by allowing God to transform ours. To be a sign of grace and testament to what God is doing and has done for us by simply being attentive to our own personal walk with Christ. What we all need for our sanctification is different and the way in which God will manifest this to us as individuals is as unique as we are. He knows what His children need. He knows so much better than us what will aid our sanctification and bring us to full life in Him. 

I think often of my former varsity soccer coach and how well he knew each of us. He knew us in character and disposition in such a way that he could lead us to preform to the greatest of our personal ability. To watch him navigate team meetings or conduct himself during some of our most gruesome training sessions was an art at times. He looked at his flock and he knew what each player needed, or didn't need so they could be their personal best. I, was often the victim of serious discipline, yes, ironically quite the team class clown I spent a lot of time running laps, and being victim of some serious , but indeed helpful lectures. He knew I needed that "kick" to become better though, and he knew that the docile teamate beside me couldn't respond to that, and that it would not lead her to excellence or to be her personal best, but destroy her completely. 

Now I am not alluding that my coach was by any means like God,for surely he is not. Yet, if God sees us all as players in his field of life, striving for victory and if the end goal is to live with Him eternally, then surely He knows what we each as individuals well need to finish the race victoriously. 
I have met many honest people with great zest for the faith and a toxic blazing love of God. They are seemingly "on fire" . I have also witnessed this fire become one of destruction as they blaze around demanding, or preaching, and teaching why everyone should live the faith in the way that they have come to know, and do it in the way that they do, and offer a litany of sorts on how to do it. Frankly, often they do even present papers and papers of litanies and devotions. This can be extremely overwhelming and it is not a helpful thing. 

Our personal inspirations, granted to us by God are for our sanctification. Consequently an honest obedience to what the fruits of the spirit truly offers us can flow from our receptivity of them and aid the sanctification process of another by living through the grace we are given with humility.

As teammates on Christ's pitch we strive for the same end. Let us be attentive to the gifts of God in our own lives, and let us aid our brothers and sisters in Christ toward victory by love of God.

"We cannot force the Spirit, God is the master of his gifts. That said, it cannot be doubted that God will grant each person at least the inspirations he needs for his own sanctification."

Sometimes we must bear patiently the burdens of another, and pray steadfastly until the flowering of the soul and the fruits of the spirit are made visible to us. (CC)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

When The "Good News" is Presented Badly By: C.C.

"But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15)

  Our modern technological advancements and the embracing of media as a means of evangelization has given rise to the increase of sharing faith. In many ways this is a wonderful and beautiful thing. At times it seems that there is need for more silence, reflection, thought, and most importantly reverence before one can share the 'Good News' effectively. 
I have come across many wonderful blogs, tweets, Facebook shares, and other forms of social networking that primarily focus on sharing the Catholic faith. I have sadly also come across the opposite. I say this with all reverence to Christ and void of judgement toward my brothers and sisters in faith. When 'The Good News' of our faith is poorly presented it does more to wound than heal. It does more to turn one away from Christ than to lead others toward Him. It does more for division than it does for unity. It does not reflect the love of our Lord and the 'hope' that is within. Rather, it highlights the virtue one is without and the time they truly need to spend with reverence in their heart for Christ as Lord. Scroll through many Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and blog comment sections and surely you will stumble upon professed faithful throwing the Good News around as a tool of animosity and shaming another. It seems that the old cranky lady sitting in the pew with numerous eye rolls towards those around her has seemingly found her way into the social media platform and it is truly detrimental. 
  "Be prepared to make defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you'. We must not read this Gospel and isolate this one sentence but further our reading and see that we are called to do this with 'gentleness and reverence'. Charity must be at the root of our message or it is not rooted in Christ. If we are truly yearning to build up the kingdom of Christ and reach the peripheries effectively we must see that having a bunch of domestic disputes among the gathered, doesn't appeal to the masses. Why would a church who can't keep it together, yet claim to be Universal be all that alluring? There is great responsibility to foster unity among the ordinary laity, perhaps even more so these days with the numerous platforms we can implore for the good of our faith.  
  Today we have an outpouring of instant communication. Absence of thought and quickness of speech. Technological advancements while able to contribute positively to our Catholic evangelization can also greatly wound and lead to confusion. If we claim to be a follower of Christ, if we claim to have faith, if we profess to be in communion with the Holy Catholic Church, then we are obligated, responsible, and accountable to build up and foster the fruits of what this means and cultivates in our lives. It is not about us and our feelings. It is about Christ and His Church.
  Let us place our energy and our voices first into the silence of prayer. Let us turn to our Lord , hear His voice and understand what it is He asks of us through our trusting obedience to Him and His will. If we disagree with someone let us pray first for them before we react. It is not about us being "right" it is about our Lord seated at the "right hand of the Father" who is the judge of what is "right and just".
   Let us not be victim of reacting before retaining, speaking before listening, and commenting before first comprehending. We can often realize in hindsight that if we first sought His sight and turned to our Lord with matters of faith, our concerns, and our confusions, we would gain clarity and understanding. To be a disciple of Christ, striving to evangelize we must first be a student of silence and prayer. We must patiently endure and prayerfully wait upon the Lord. 
  The old question `What would Jesus do?` comes to mind to me today. If our Lord had to tweet, blog, and facebook..what would His page look like and what response would he offer to others when called to give account? (C.C.)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pondering the Present at The Potty. By:C.C.

"The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you.If you have a child, your duty at the moment may be to change a dirty diaper.So you do it. But you don't just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child. You can see Christ in that child. (Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents)

We can often box ourselves into a prison of sorts in seeking beyond where God has called us. To rest in the present with a calm of heart requires us to remain ever rested in God, as the great St. Augustine reminds us...“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

To rest in God leads us naturally to reside in our present circumstances with an immensity of purpose. Though simple things may seem they become imbued with incredible meaning when seen in the light of God's grace to us.
There are moments perhaps of lusting for another time and place, to be somewhere beyond the "nitty gritty" and the seeming monotonous things of our days overtake the zest we have planned for ourselves just outside  our reach. In this we are victim of failing to recognize the extraordinary presence of Christ within where we are. We miss His majesty within each moment.
Refining ourselves to such an awareness is a huge spiritual work brought on through much surrender. motherhood in particular proposes such an invitation to surrender. A shedding of self and pruning of virtue. Surely we must deafen the shouts and sounds of the "mom wars " circling around and hear the noise and battle within our own soul, calling us ever so gently to servitude at the Lord's feet through the service to our children and families. This is , in my opinion a forgotten art, a forgotten treasure and viewpoint ripped apart by illusions of pro-women ideologies. 

Children invite sacrifice, in fact if you are a stranger to it, sacrifice comes like a thief, or cry in the night and shatters self so beautifully, or destructively depending on your perception of course. 

The closer we live to God and away from self the easier, or more peaceful this transition can be. There is incredible grace, for we are used to living for Another, because of Another. When we can have reverence for our own existence then being a parent, being a mother is a divine task.
But surely we are victim to a generation of "stuff" marketed to "aid" women in their task of motherhood from contraptions to tools, to some of the most outlandish and expensive items, which in turn fail to praise and identify that the most irreplaceable most essential of all aids comes from what a mother's love can alone achieve. 

I wish we sought more to build up and highlight the power and immensity of a mother's touch instead of sending them reaching out for items. Reaching them past the universe of divinely given treasures within them and out in the battle zone of moms.... moms who have "this" and have "that". The judgments are outlandish and how destructive it is to see the supposed "War on Women" being spearheaded by other women! True femininity is a radical hiddenness in the heart of Christ and the bosom of our Lady. To reconcile ourselves to this hiddenness is the revealing of the most beautiful mystery.
Void of God, all of us, each of us, from moms to dads, to grandmoms, have essentially nothing. 

Most recently I began potty training my daughter. Simultaneously, and rather appropriately, I also took one of Catherine Doherty's books off the shelf and immersed myself in reading. Naturally, as a Catherine I am drawn to her.....oh, perhaps a bit biased in it, but she has been a source of tremendous wisdom. 

Nothing has prepared me for patiently awaiting each "doodie" in potty training, like her teaching on the "Duty of the Moment". Quite frankly, potty training has attuned me to be present in the moment like nothing else. My restlessness in sitting at Eliana's feet in the early days of training (literally sat there for what felt like an eternity in the first day) revealed to me how distracted I was from the present moment most days. How much I was truly like Martha. It is amazing how much meditation on the foot of Cross is made possible at my daughter's feet on the potty! 

I recognized so quickly, that even though I am home with her each day and tending to her needs and the immense needs of up-keeping the home and the kitchen,I often forget the power of just sitting with her. Distracted by what may seem to be the "Duty of the moment", and looking past the most important. 

I am reminded of Jesus' words to Martha, and the witness of Mary (Luke 10:38-42), this has reconciled for me the call to stillness, to silence, to presence before those we serve and to truly listen for Christ speaking to us in these most simple things.

Imbued with great love of God nothing is void of meaning or purpose. Even the potty, even the dirty diapers within our lives show to us the numerous blessings of Christ. (CC)

By God's grace potty training has gone very well. :)

Here is a video of her in all of her potty joy, excited for her potty reward of strawberries....and no she did not dive in the bowl, a timely cut off indeed!!