Saturday, December 28, 2013

Anchored to The Lord. By: C.C.

"As a vessel that has no anchor is tossed about by the wind, so our mind, when not anchored to Faith, is continually agitated by the wind of human opinions and doctrines." (St. Gregory the Great)
In order for us to not be tossed about by the wind of human opinions and doctrines we are invited to seek the will of our Heavenly Father. We must desire to be anchored to Him in faith. It is an act of our own will to desire this and it is also a struggle that we will encounter daily as we remain in the face of human opinions and doctrines. To remain anchored to the Lord in faith demands of us a continual return to the Father despite the trials and tribulations that we face as we journey through our daily responsibilities and tasks.
   The Lord is unchanging, He is steadfast, and He awaits us always with an immeasurable amount of love. Being anchored to our Lord enables us to live amidst these trials with peace and virtue. Living our lives of faith within the world faces us with many challenges and persecutions. We can often be blown about by the winds of various circumstances. We will encounter agitations and many emotions. We are human. By faith we recognize that Our home is not here and we can learn from the witness of St. Paul through his own experience of the constant thorn in His side ...
 "Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; For whenever I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12: 7-11)
 These 'thorns' do not go away. Faith in the Lord does not free us from the challenges of our earthen journey. It is not a quick fix solution; but, through faith and the continual anchoring to our Lord we, like St. Paul, can be thankful for the thorns in our lives. We can see the winds of human opinions and doctrines as an invitation to rest more fully in Christ. We can come to recognize that God's 'grace is sufficient' for us and that it is all we need to endure all things. Let us strive each day to remain anchored to the Lord with great faith. (CC)

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Manger of Mary's Heart. By: C.C.

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke1:38)

Picture taken at The Abbey of the Genesee.
     Before our Lord was born in a manger, He was conceived within the virginal heart of Mary. Throughout the Advent season it is fitting to contemplate the ways that we have prepared the manger of our hearts to receive Christ. Have we created within ourselves an interior fitting for our Lord?
    By journeying with Mary throughout the Advent season we are not led away from the focus of Christ's birth, but called to a deeper understanding of Christ's majesty and significance in the fulfillment of God's plan for our salvation. One can not pass through the Advent season without reverence toward the pure earthen Vessel through which our Lord entered into the world. We are called to a heightened regard for the depth of reverence and  preparation necessary to receive our Lord most intimately.This preparation was first lived by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the hidden places of her heart. 
   There is a dilution of meaning and significance when the Christmas season is regarded as a means of glorifying the isolated moment of our Lord's birth; overlooking the wondrous mystery and humble cooperation that was shown by Our Blessed Mother to fulfill our Lord's plan. The same is often done with The Resurrection of our Lord. Many want Jesus, but not the Cross. There is longing to embrace baby Jesus with rejoicing, but disregard Our Blessed Mother's witness. Our Lady teaches us a lot about our spiritual journey and shows us the way to fully receive Christ into our hearts. Our Blessed Mother leads us loving toward her Son.   
   By meditating upon the virtues of our Lady, and through reading today's Gospel from Luke we come to understand the ways that we too should prepare the manger of our heart. May we soften our Lord's residing place within us by striving to live with humility and love. Let us keep our gaze upon the Lord desiring that His will be done. May our daily surrender to our Lord birth fruit that is most pleasing to Him and be an encouragement to the hearts of others. 

By your yes we have our Savior
with your answer we know our Lord.
Through your fear, Mary you trusted.
Blessed be your Holy Womb.
I am sure that some have doubted
Your importance to our faith;
but your 'fiat' gave us Jesus
and your sacrifice helped pave our way.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our Lord's Mercy, A Faithful Priest, And A Long Confession By:C.C.


    The Sacrament of Reconciliation helped to ignite my desire to live a life of faith within the Catholic Church. It was a moment that I hold very dear to me within my spiritual journey and one that I know could only come from the grace of an all loving and faithful Father. It was after taking the step to reconcile myself with the Lord that I was provided with the grace to begin a journey back into the Church and heal some of the deepest hurts that were within me. Returning to the Confessional allowed me to return to our Lord. 
  As years go on and I strive in my brokenness to live a life of faith and surrender to God I am often brought to remember the moments of grace that helped to encourage me to further cooperate with our Lord's will. In respect for the Sacrament and the identity of the priest I will withhold certain details of this story. The reason for my sharing is so that others may be encouraged and understand the joy, liberation, and healing that comes from this beautiful Sacrament and why it is such a gift to us.
    As we continue to prepare our hearts for the Lord throughout this Advent season it is an appropriate time to clear our hearts and souls of the things that keep us from fully receiving our Lord. It is an appropriate time for Reconciliation.
       It was a time in my life that I remember well. There was a pull inside of me for something more and the awareness that I too was made for more than what I had settled for living. This aching within was present for quite some time and I often tried to neglect it's presence by continuing to commit myself to things that would only temporarily distract me from reality of the emptiness that was there. It never worked. Nothing that I then sought could paralyze or pacify this feeling. 
     I had been attempting to practice my faith more at this point, but I was still very divided. I was playing "hokey pokey" with the Church in some ways. I had my right foot in and then I took my right foot out and danced in the world a bit until I recognized that this divided dance would not, and could not lead me to any sustaining peace. Our Lord does not want only a part of us. He wants a unified dance "cheek to cheek" , or rather 'eye lash to eye lash' which is Reconciliation. 
    At the end of 2009 a friend of mine had been accepted to Queens university and was on her way to completing  a graduate program there. I valued our friendship and more than ever her being far from Toronto made me see the journey to Kingston as one that allowed me to physically run from and remove myself from the noise and confusion that was present in my life at the time. It was a Saturday and around mid day  my friend and I had arranged dinner plans for that night with some of her friends from school. Prior to dinner I asked if she knew where the closest Catholic Church was to where she was living and she directed me to one in the area that was unfortunately locked. Outside of the Church a lady told me that there was Mass taking place at a Catholic Church not too far from where we were. 
My friend selflessly agreed to drive me to the Church. 
     The Mass was just ending and I was slightly disappointed because I wanted to go to Confession and felt as if I missed the opportunity. Our Lord truly does provide though. I walked toward the Sacristy and the priest was there with a kind face. He was getting ready to remove his vestments and I said "Father, I'm not from around here and was just wondering if you'd hear my confession?". I'm sure he was probably tired and wanting to eat and that Confession times were scheduled regularly at parish for a reason, but he saw and recognized my need for the Lord and put that first.  He kindly agreed and directed me toward his confessional and told me that he would be there in a few moments. 
  This Confession was the second one I had following having never gone since my Confirmation. It was however the most open and in-depth baring of my soul. There were many tears and many emotions as I presented everything before our Lord. The priest was patient and helpful. He did not rush me, he did not judge, he showed me Jesus. The heaviness I had felt was becoming much lighter. I knew that I had a lot of spiritual work to do but at the same time I knew that through this Sacrament of Reconciliation I could slowly work toward holiness and a deeper relationship with our Lord. I could have the peace that I had longed for.
    I did not walk away from the Confessional completely changed. This would take time and an honest commitment to living out my faith. It would take returning to the Confessional many times, not because of guilt, but because of the immensity of love that our Lord shows us there. Because there is nothing that can satisfy the heart and sustain us fully as our Lord can.  
     I often encounter people that are so 'afraid' of Confession. The confessional for many is a place of 'doom' and one that is 'laden with guilt'. It is this misconception that not only keeps one further away from the grace of our Lord, but also entrapped within the shame, guilt, and heaviness of sin. To become self aware and to have the clarity to see that we are in need of reconciliation is a grace. It is something that the Lord gifts us with so that we can identify our need for His healing, and begin a surrender  to His desire to transform our hearts and free us from our self created prison. Reconciliation is not about self-loathing and self-hate, it is about self-awareness, surrender, healing transformation and our Lord's immeasurable merciful love. (CC)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

A Helpful link from the Archdiocese of Toronto: Frequently Asked Questions

Saturday, December 7, 2013

St. Ambrose and My Baptism. By: C.C.

"Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you. For I cannot seek you unless you first teach me, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to me. Let me seek you in longing and long for you in seeking. Let me find you in love, and love you in finding." (St. Ambrose)

    I recently came across a posting  by Josh Canning entitled Thank God for Baptism from the Canadian Catholic blog where Canning shared an account of his daughter's recent Baptism. Canning briefly explained the beauty and the importance of this Sacrament in our lives. It made me reflect upon the grace of Baptism in my own life. Today is the first day that I privately celebrated the anniversary of my Baptism which was 27 years ago. 
    As a "revert" to the Catholic faith I find myself being awakened to the immense beauty of Catholicism more and more. Over the course of time I have reflected upon the immense grace that God has given to me through being born into a Catholic family. Though my parent's faith life at the time of my Baptism was one of a seemingly cultural Catholicism and not practising, I remain forever and eternally grateful for their consent to the Baptismal promise. 
   I am currently preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage and part of this journey is the reason why I have become aware of when my Baptism was. Before marriage in the Church one must obtain a baptismal certificate from the parish where the Baptism took place. This led me to St. Roch's Roman Catholic Church to discover, for the first time in my life, that my Baptism took place on December 7th, 1986. I sat in the Church for a while that day when I picked up my certificate and it was very powerful for me. I am sure that the Church looks much different today than it did at the time of my Baptism, but there was still something so profound about returning to this Church years later. 
   I relived many experiences and reflected upon the moments of God's many graces in my life since the day that I entered into The Church. I had so much gratitude in my heart for God's immeasurable love and mercy. For His tenderness and compassion upon me in the years that I had lived away from Him. I was grateful for "Him revealing Himself to me when I sought Him, and for teaching me to seek Him." 
    When I returned home later that evening I decided to get on Google and search the Saint of The Day for December 7th. As I stared at the computer screen seeing the name St. Ambrose before me I was grinning uncontrollably. Throughout my early days of "reversion" to the faith I was very much influenced by the writings of St. Ambrose, which I had been led to after reading St. Augustine. These two Saints have inspired me very much and aided my deepening of faith.
   I found great comfort and power in St. Augustine's writings and about his conversion aided by encounters with St. Ambrose. In my heart I know that it is no mistake that I entered into the Church on the feast of one who would become for me an intercessor and aid throughout my conversion and along my spiritual journey many years later. (C.C.) Glory to the Father and to The Son and to The Holy Spirit......