Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sacred Sharings From a Simple Stumbler By:C.C.

“Let me not be afraid to linger here in your presence with all my humanity exposed.For you are God –you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures.” (St. Teresa of Avila)
    Humility is a beautiful virtue. It is one most demonstrated in the life of Our Lord and Blessed Mother, it is seen through the lives of our Saints, and in the lives of those who are ultimately striving for holiness along their daily journey. Humility requires us to look into ourselves, at ourselves, and yearn for a deeper sense of self awareness. This self clarity and examination enables us to acknowledge that we are in need of our Lord's continual love, mercy, forgiveness, and also His guiding hand. 
  When we come to see ourselves for who and what we truly are, we can begin to see what we are not and where we need to improve ourselves and to grow in virtue. We can, if we will it, see who God is.We are in a world that looks upon brokenness with a sense of disgrace. There is a fascination with the wounded, not as a means of bringing about transformation and aid, but one that is aimed at exposing embarrassment and bringing forth shame. We have been conditioned and exposed through the media and the magnitude of the 'cyber world' to peer into the lives of others through lenses of judgement. Lenses that welcome our outward gaze of critique and keep us from peering into our own humanity;keeping us from acknowledging our frailties and our own continuous failures. "If God lets us experience our weaknesses one by one, it’s not so that we can devote most of our waking hours to thinking about them. It’s so that we can turn to God with all of our faults and weaknesses intact, and give ourselves to him just as we are."(Fr.Justin Sheenan) 
    As we begin to experience our weaknesses and accept our human limitations we can then be open to the Lord who is limitless and full of mercy. It is first by accepting oneself that we can begin to welcome our Lord. We find through this surrender to Him that God loves us and desires us to give ourselves completely to Him 'just as we are'. It is by working within our humanness that our Lord most shines His majesty. It is our cooperation with His transforming love that allows us to be a sign of His love within the world and in the lives of all those around us.
  Our witness to those we encounter does more for the Lord when we remain rooted in the understanding of our shortcomings and our own failures. It is the greatness of surrender that allows for God's greater glory. Let us all desire to 'linger' in the presence of God with our humanity exposed before Him without fear, and recognize the power of God's grace and mercy to help us grow in virtue. Let us give ourselves to our Lord 'just as we are' and entrust all that we will become entirely to Him.(CC) 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lifting the Veil of Disillusionment;A Reflection on Marriage: C.C.

" If it had been left to the world to choose a husband for Mary, it would undoubtedly have chosen a rich and talented man. It would not have thought of choosing a virtuous man, a man who from childhood had lived reverently before God. That is not the way the world thinks. Self-interest and purely human considerations are the motivating forces behind most marriages. The possessions which chance bestows, rather than the blessings of grace, lead to the contracting of marriages. The result is the many marriages between ill-suited partners, each of whom is the other's torment.
God permits this to happen as an earthly punishment for those who do not consult Him on so important a matter, a matter that can have a deadly outcome if not guided by Him.
He permits it as a punishment for the youthful carelessness that makes men frail to match the protestation of virtue with its practice. The choice by Mary's parents, or rather by God, fell upon Joseph, a just man , in fact the most virtuous man then living on earth and the one most worthy to be the holy Virgin's husband.
No marriage ever turned out more happily;never were two hearts more delighted at their union. What trials could ever disturb their peace of soul! Mary and Joseph were in the state of life God wanted for them.
Many are dissatisfied with their state. They suffer a great deal from it and often make others suffer as well. And the reason is that they are in a state God did not want for them." (Alexander DeRouville)
  I have had some time to reflect upon the Sacrament of marriage. I have taken into prayer the importance of understanding the role of marriage in our world and in the eyes of our faith. The more that I encounter women in troubled marriages and witness the toil of my own divorced parents, I am awakened to the reality of how many may enter into marriage without consulting God. 
       It is in understanding the reality of a distanced relationship with the Lord that one can gain clarity in recognizing that the tribulation encountered by those without this essential 'ingredient',and Person fail to persevere and endure in 'good times and in bad, in sickness and in health'. 
   Sadly married before God does not mean that one has fully consented to being married in God and through Him.There must be a fostered relationship and participation with God's will in order to endure the trials that undoubtedly come with the vocation. In saying this, our Lord's compassion and mercy does exceed our understanding and it is often through His faithful providence that many experience and receive the grace to sustain them in hardship. 
     Marriage was ordained by God and so without Him it will not be as it was designed to be. The peace of the soul that was experienced by Our Lady and St. Joseph is one that can belong to each of us by rooting ourselves firmly in God's design and plan for us.
Divorce, while seemingly representative of a human severed relationship is truly a manifestation of the brokenness of a union to the Divine. So many are disillusioned and have held passions and self-sought desires as the most important aspect of a happy marriage; but, marriage is about holiness and sacrifice. It is about surrendering ourselves completely in service, not to the one before us but completely to the Lord within us . The natural consequence of such devotion results in great peace of the soul for both partners and a fruitful marriage in the Lord by serving one another through Christ.
     The other reality present in some marriages is arriving at the point of awareness where the partners seem to be 'ill-suited' to one another, becoming as De Rouville points out the 'other's torment'. When marriages are rooted in the world and not in the Divine will these differences are those that eventually become destructive and "a matter that can have a deadly outcome."
     Another reality that I have witnessed in the married vocation is the conversion of heart to our Lord. There is often an awakening that can take place in the life of either spouse  that not only heightens ones regard for our Lord in their personal lives, but also increases an understanding of what the married vocation is truly about. 
The discovery that their marriage does not bear the fruits of the Lord can at first be very detrimental to the relationship. It is this awareness that may bring about misguided resentment toward the partner involved or also ignite the unhealthy desire to flee from the relationship and seemingly be occupied 'striving for virtue' yet remain unfaithful to their chosen state in life. Thus, ultimately living in a state of disillusioned virtue. It is a time of great learning and one that can be of great pain and anguish. Such are the pains of purification and sanctification. The danger in these moments is the inability of the partner who experiences the Lord to see this awakening as grace and a gift to them so that the union which was made previously in ignorance of consulting God can be redeemed and restored  by His mercy, and by steadfast prayer and fervent growth in relationship with the Lord. Our Lord's will is unitive and so in working toward what He has willed for us and taking up this 'Cross' we can be provided for.  
De Rouvelle shares that the hardship and trials faced by those who marry without the consideration of the Lord are permitted by God  'as an earthly punishment'..while this can appear to be rather harsh, it is not entirely dismissible.  
   When faced with the trials and tribulation of life, and in simultaneously facing the gift and knowledge of faith, we must  be reminded of our Crucified Lord. We must recall the virtuous life He led and also reflect upon the great sacrifice of Mary and Joseph. It is not about looking outward toward the other that one acquires what is needed to persevere in this vocation, it is by gazing inward and meeting our Lord within our hearts that we can endure what comes with virtue. We must be reminded that what our Lord wills for us is driven by great love, as He is complete love. 
      Let one not fret if they have entered into this Sacrament unaware. May their hearts be open to our Lord and may this conversion of heart;the pains of purification be those that result in a stronger and deeper union with our Lord. May the consequence of this be the fruitfulness of married love. Let us strive to restore marriage to be a sign of 'Divine love in the world' by restoring our personal relationship with the Lord. (C.C.) 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Faith and Scandal. By: C.C.

                                Photo taken at St. Clare of Assisi Parish, Woodbridge.

"He was the figure of the whole Church, and our Lord said to him: "Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Thus, the certain hope of the faithful, which rests not on human beings but on God, will never be destroyed."(St. Augustine)

   This certain hope of the faithful that St. Augustine speaks to us about is the key ingredient for enduring in faith and persevering in the face of trial and tribulation. As he reminds us, we are to rest not in the hope of human beings, but on God. We are to live in a relationship that is rooted in our Lord and Him alone. We find through this that our lives can be a genuine reflection of His goodness and love. We can be a sign within the world of what He intends those of His Church to be. 
  We aid in the perseverance of faith and in the life of the Church by remaining close to God and working daily to foster a personal relationship with our Lord.
   To His Church, Christ promised that ' the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". Though there has been tribulation and often difficult times in the history of the Church, and a recent sharing from Pope Francis on scandal, these realities should not sway one away from the Lord, but reaffirm and place into question where our hope and faith truly is. When we are deeply and truly rooted in God we can become, and be led toward those who are a genuine reflection of His love.  
   It is often through the moments of hardship and persecution that the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of Christ's words are made more visible to us. It is for this reason that the words of St. Augustine, a man who departed his earthen journey in 430 AD remains valid today, and the Church he served still strong.
  I believe that where there is great holiness, there too one encounters great persecution. Faith in our Lord assures us that in face of evil we are met with Divine protection and love. Forever we remain trusting and faithful, not in the frailty of our humanness and brokenness of sin, but in the Lord and His mercy. 
  May our faith, as the faithful of the Church, not sway with the commentary of the world, or alter when it is put to test. Let us seek to firmly root ourselves in the Lord. May those who have been wounded and scarred by scandal throughout the world be brought to the love of our Lord and toward the hearts of God's children on earth seeking and working to strive toward holiness. In the face of scandal may we seek more fervently the face of our Lord and trust that His Divine providence, and the honest work of His humble, surrendered servants will bring forth the fruits of His Kingdom on earth. (CC) 

St. Michael.....pray for us.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sunday's Obligation; A Privilege. By:C.C.

                                  Embedded image permalink
                                             St. Peter's Mission Church-Ninth Line, Milton, Ontario
   It is a reality of our busy lives to often overlook the simple moments that are filled with our Lord's mystery and love. We can sadly become so entangled in our duties and tasks to not only forget the importance of stopping to 'smell the roses' but, so much so that we miss the hand of God touching us and revealing Himself deeper into our hearts. 
   Sunday greatly affirmed the reality of how much our Lord truly provides for us. When we honestly, humbly, and sacrificially offer our time to Him, we are provided with the gift of right ordered time. We are provided with time infused with peace, joy, love, and the fruits of striving to live in communion with our Lord. By placing God first, everything in our lives falls into proper placing.
   It all started with a phone call to my spiritual director last week in order to discuss fulfilling the Sunday Obligation and my busy weekend schedule. I realized that I would be unable to attend my regular 9:00am Mass due to my commitments, and that I would also be unable to attend the Saturday Vigil Mass. As suggested I went on the Archdiocese of Toronto website and started to seek Mass times/locations that offered an early morning Mass. I was happy to find that the St. Josephine Bakhita parish community offered a Mass at St. Peter's Mission Church beginning at 7:30am within thirty minutes of my home. This was perfect! 
   Unknown to me at the time was the unbelievable blessing it would be to participate in Mass at this tiny mission Church filled with great faith and an even greater history.
  I arrived at the Church shortly before 7:30am and was so taken back by the beautiful setting; the door was  wide open with welcome and the light was breaking through the windows. I quickly took my phone out and took this photo in an attempt to capture the beauty of this moment before entering. 
  This Mass reaffirmed the importance of understanding the priority that our Lord should always have in our lives, and how much He is truly available to us. We have become accustomed to witnessing a society that has grown further away from our Lord and thus further from the Church. Mass can be seen at times as just another task on the list, opposed to being the most important priority enabling us to enter into our tasks most fully with the aid and divine providence of our Lord.
  This tiny mission church was first built in the early 18oo's to accommodate the Irish farm settlers in the area. In fact, most churches erected in our history are a result of great devotion, hard work, and the great faith of our brothers and sisters in the Church who needed a place to come and receive our Lord. Those with 'nothing' knew and understood that faith in our Lord was everything. Those today striving toward the emptiness of worldliness seem to lose sight that it is only in God alone that we have everything we truly need.
  I read an interview earlier last week in which Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester explained that the early settlers sacrificed greatly in order to build Churches "which were and are a concrete manifestation of how they loved God." As I sat in this 'tiny' concrete manifestation of God's great love I could not help but be moved by the sacrifice that it took to come together and build this Church. I was humbled by understanding the priority of faith that our Lord held in the lives of these early settlers; the same love that burns in the hearts of the faithful today, and the love that should be proclaimed to those who have since fallen away.
  It is not with an authoritative power alone by which our Lord places demands upon us. These are demands of love for love. Sunday's obligation is a privilege; it is an obligation to love. It is a time to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and know the immensity of being God's beloved children. We go forth from the Mass renewed and touched by grace so that we may share the light of Christ within the world, the beauty of our faith, and lead others by our witness home to Him. (CC)  


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Do You Trust? By:C.C.

By striving to be who we want to be,we may overlook the beauty of who we are presently, and where God has place us for His purpose. Trust in Him and His plans for you with hope and patience. (CC)

Discernment is ongoing. We are constantly faced with various decisions within our lives. These moments are opportunities presented to us filled with the question "Do you truly trust in our Lord and His loving providence?" 
   At times it is difficult to answer this question with a confident fullness of heart. We often wrestle with God's will opposed to resting in Him by allowing his plan for us to slowly reveal itself through faith and our surrender. This can result in further confusion and lack of clarity in our lives. This struggle does not make us a horrible Christian, but rather, it affirms our humanity. It affirms our need to continually turn to our Lord in faith, allowing Him to help our moments of 'unbelief'; our moments of doubt and wonder. 
  Our often inability to accept the will of our Lord is a reflection of our failure to die to self in surrender. We do not die to self in a way that brings about harm, we die to self so that the life and love of our Lord may live in us, enabling us to be who we were called by God to be within this world. Death to self so that Life itself may live in us more fully.
  As we are faced with the tensions between flesh and spirit let us continually turn to our Lord in fullness of faith; desiring nothing more than the peace and comfort that He alone provides. Patiently, let us learn to seek Him at all times; believing in His immeasurable love and mercy.  
  On our way to get 'where we are going' let us not overlook the true beauty of where we are and who we are in Christ. By trusting the plans of our Lord with hope, faith, and patience (primarily with ourselves) we can persevere along this journey practicing great virtue. (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 on 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)


Thursday, January 9, 2014

It Isn't About You, It's About the Eucharist;It is About Jesus. By:C.C.

"So that if you believe in that extraordinary transcendent moment of union, maybe if the homily isn't as exciting as you hoped it would be, or the music isn't as elevating as you would have liked it, you can look beyond those elements and see the heart of what is taking place, and I think Catechesis in this area is absolutely essential. There could have been other people who have had very sad experiences. But, in dialogue, in conversation, maybe we can help these people to find their way back." (Bishop Salvatore Matano)

     In order to 'see the heart of what is taking place', or rather, in order to see and experience The Sacred Heart of Jesus who loves us and yearns for us, one must first be consumed by a personal love for our Lord and have an encounter with Him; a true encounter that is not swayed by the external elements which often fail (thankfully so) to 'excite' our selfish sensuality.God alone satisfies. When we are left unfulfilled by the peripheral things it is   affirmation of our misguided gaze. By looking toward Him to whom our heart and attention most belongs we are able to partake reverently in the 'extraordinary transcendent moment of union' with great joy.  
   The Mass is an invitation to a deeper encounter and experience with our Lord. It is an opportunity to receive Christ fully present to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
  By recognizing that the 'heart of what is taking place' is more about His heart inflamed with love for us, we can each come to experience the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass with a fullness of heart. We can be consumed by the power of our Lord's presence in the Eucharist and be transformed. Only then will we be able to arrive at a place of peace and joy of love for our Lord that surpasses the capabilities and limitations of homilies, and even the power of musical elevation. 
  I once read something quite powerful from Mark Hart that furthers these important points, Hart explains "It is never about the peripheral things. They are only the glass and the face of the compass. Christ is the needle pointing us back to God. The Mass is bigger than the personalities associated with it. The Lord did not give us the gift of the church to make us miserable. Christ does not take on flesh in the Eucharist to dwell unnoticed or unappreciated in the corners of our churches. He has come to dwell in us. He is available."
  When we place the peripheral things above the importance of our Lord, when we seek alone to create great entertainment, we forget about the presence of His greatness seeking to humbly satisfy the deepest yearning of our hearts.
  Many have had sad experiences, many are misguided and unfulfilled. As the faithful, if we truly believe in that 'extraordinary transcendent moment of union' we can aid our brothers and sisters toward an encounter and experience with the heart of our Lord. We can invite Christ dwelling within us to use us as His compass and lead others back to God and into the fullness of faith. (CC)