Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Before Her Tomb Weeping:A Moment with St.Catherine of Siena

The Tomb Of Saint Catherine of Siena- Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Roma

     Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena. There has been much talk recently of sainthood in light of the canonizations of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. Sainthood and the veneration of these holy men and women is often misunderstood and interpreted as 'misplaced' glory or some form of 'idol worship'. It is important, and rather crucial to rid of this misunderstanding.
    To honor these holy men and women of God is to give praise to God. It is to praise the manifestation of His grace and His greatness through such humble and lowly cooperative servants of Christ. To venerate the Saints is to recognize our personal call to holiness as His faithful, and to also understand the sanctity of living hidden in Christ. In a recent interview, Cardinal Collins spoke of the saints and their significance as models of virtue. "all of us are called to holiness and we can always look to the models of the great saints".
   My interest in the lives of the saints began with a gift from my nonna when I was nine years old. I was much too young to fully grasp their importance, and my Italian too poor at that time to understand what it was my grandmother was trying to share.

Gift from Nonna
    It did not take long to explore this book and learn about these holy men and women of God. Naturally being named Catherine (Celeste, being my middle-name) I was drawn to the list of St. Catherines found in the book. St. Catherine of Siena was definitely one of my 'top favourites'. At my young age I was horrified reading on about the other Catherines, I realized that St. Catherine of Alexandria's manner of martyrdom was much too much for me! And though still very young and ignorant of what Saint Catherine of Siena had done, I spoke often to her in prayer.
  Many years later and sadly increasingly ignorant of the faith, it was God's grace that awakened me to return to this former practice of prayer and also to include Saint Catherine of Siena among my intentions. Over time as this continued I found myself growing in love toward many saints, but particularly seeking to know more about this young woman of Siena. I threw myself into her writings, finding great comfort and inspiration. 
    Her active life in the Church and the immense impact that she made was accomplished in her young adult life, which were also to be her final years as she went Home to our Lord at the age of 33. She was lively and confident, bold for the faith, and stood up for what was right and just without being self-righteous. I am sure to quietly pray to her before writing and keep a tiny statue of her beside my computer before blogging.

The Statue

      This year brought particular affirmation to me about the power of devotion to our saints, of God's grace, and of the friends we truly have in these holy men and women. In January I came across an advertisement from the Pontifical Council for the Family about an event at the Vatican on Saint Valentine's Day where Pope Francis was calling together engaged couples from around the world for an engagement blessing. At the time this seemed to be something far out of reach and quite frankly 'crazy'. 
  To leave Toronto for a weekend and fly to Rome? Who does that? Well, maybe Cardinal Collins, but he definitely has important things to do!  Anyhow, I kept this between God and I, (did not tell my fiance), sent an email to the PCF and prayed.
    While keeping this to myself, I did feel rather at peace with entertaining the idea of going to Rome and began researching flights and times, accommodations, and also looking into my school board's voluntary unpaid leave of absence days. Thank God for those days, because the idea of heading to Rome for a Papal blessing and calling in 'sick' to work is probably a sin that I'd end up having to confess!
   Eventually I did inform my lovely fiance (now husband) about what I had been up to. At first he was caught off guard, but not entirely because he was well aware of my stubbornness with ideas, and also of what happens with an ounce of determination and a whole lot of prayer. I translated his lack of a clear "NO" and a deep exhaled breath to mean "Let's do this"(......poor guy). He left my house that night and as I retired to bed I quietly prayed .... 
"Saint Catherine, you brought the Papacy back to Rome, now help us get to Rome and receive a Papal blessing"!
   Carmen and I quietly planned our trip together, sorted everything out, and though to be only one couple among thousands, to us it was worth it. There were apparently no tickets for the event and it was to be held in St. Peter's Square, 'first come, first serve' sort of event. I assured Carm that if necessary we would be sleeping in the square (poor guy...again). To my amazing surprise departure day February 12th. 2014 I received this prior to our flight

"Gentili Signori,
 Vi scriviamo in merito all’udienza dei fidanzati che si terrà il prossimo venerdì in Piazza San Pietro. Volevamo comunicarvi che abbiamo riservato al vostro gruppo un numero di  2 BIGLIETTI per il sagrato (parti laterali a destra e a sinistra del palco dove si trova il Papa).
Vi chiediamo gentilmente se un referente potrà venire a ritirarli  la mattina del 14 dalle ore 08.00 alle ore 09.00 davanti la Porta Sant’Uffizio(colonnato sinistro della basilica, ingresso Aula Paolo VI). Troverete una postazione del Pontificio Consiglio della Famiglia con degli incaricati che vi distribuiranno i biglietti.
  In attesa di un vostro riscontro vi porgiamo cordiali saluti,

Pontificio Consiglio per la Famiglia"

  .......Which, basically says that there are now two tickets reserved for us and that we are to come to get them on the morning of the event! I had no idea how this happened but I was even more excited and grateful to God. One part I should add is that February 12th, 2014 was less than a month to our wedding day (march 8th, 2014)! There was a lot going on. When I received this email I was sure to also pray in thanksgiving to Saint Catherine of Siena, just in case she had anything to do with this! We were off....

Me, So very happy at Pearson

The 'Poor Guy" saying to himself "My fiance is crazy"!
We arrived in Rome, ate really good pizza, checked into our accommodations, and found the nearest Church to pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God! 

He was excited, I promise, just a tad exhausted (ha)

                         "I woke the next morning and said 'Carm, it's Pope day let's move!"

Got the Tickets!!!!

Got close, awaiting Il Papa!!
We also met and got to know yet another wonderful priest from the Archdiocese of Toronto while visiting and the fun continued.

Fr. Owen

   Listening to Pope Francis and being so close to Him and his presence truly affirmed God's presence and the humble and hidden life of Christ that he lives. His advice to us as engaged people remains etched in my soul and are those that I often reflect upon, especially in times when I need to be reminded about what the vocation of marriage is. Marriage is a Sacrament meant for holiness, not for happiness. But it is in striving toward holiness that we undoubtedly find joy beyond measure; a pursuit well worth more than any worldly merit.. Now, back to Saint Catherine of Siena!!
   On February 15th, 2014, following our wonderful day at "The Joy of Yes Forever" event, Carmen was set on heading to a store called Gammarelli's in order to buy a requested gift for a dear friend back in Toronto. In fact, what this man wanted specifically was a mini Cardinal biretta for his desk! Apparently these mini birettas are sold around the installation time of new Cardinals in the Church. I hope he enjoys this gift because we had to walk half way across Rome from where were staying to get it....God had grace in mind!
   In walking through Rome Carmen and I often took the chance to pause and visit many Churches. On this day; following the mini biretta moment, something amazing happened! We were both pretty exhausted. Carmen saw some Roman ruins and was eager to check them out, but like the good and faithful man that he is he agreed with my plan instead (poor guy). 
  I spotted a Church while walking and really wanted to go into it and pray. And so we entered  Santa Maria sopra Minerva . The beauty of what followed stems from my complete ignorance and God's amazing grace. We walked around the Church casually apart from one another and took personal time for prayer. The side chapels are captivating, like most Churches in Rome and it is easy to spend time taking it all in. After making my way to the main altar I could see that there was a tomb beneath it and some people gathered there in prayer. 
   This Church that we casually walked into to pray is the home of Saint Catherine of Siena's Tomb. I knelt and wept. I wept, and I wept. Carmen stood beside me, prayerful and then comforted me while handing me Kleenex after Kleenex. He was well aware of what this moment meant to me.

St.Catherine of Siena, and me, Catherine the sinner!

  In my reading of Saint Catherine of Siena, I never did read about where her tomb was or what happened at the end of her life. Given that she was from Siena I had made the assumption that her tomb would be there. This moment has remained one of many profound moments that Carmen and I experienced while in Rome.  Saint Catherine of Siena not only interceded by aiding us to get to Rome, but was also quite adamant that I knew she was listening.

Today on her feast I am brought to reflect upon a 'crazy' last minute, four day trip to Rome, receiving a Papal blessing, and being before the tomb of a beloved Saint who brought the Pope back to Rome, and me to the Pope!

To God be the glory!!! Saint Catherine of Siena......pray for us.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Belonging to The Cross: C.C.

"Sharing Christ's life is the path to the fulfillment of the needs and desires of the heart. What does it mean for the man Jesus to be the Son of God? What does it mean for us to be "sons in the Son"? It is a matter of the nature of belonging. Do we experience belonging as a threat to our freedom, or as a fulfillment of our identity? Is to be human to live for a reality greater than we, or is it to live for ourselves? (Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete)

The Pascal Triduum faces us with the reality of what it truly means to follow Christ. We are reminded that the freedom one can experience through their belonging to Jesus means that one too belongs to the suffering of the Cross. 
   To be free begins with being bound. We are bound not to despair or suffering, but rather bound to the Cross and to our Lord. Through Him we can be led to a purposeful understanding of our sufferings and a steadfast hope and trust in His love. Pope Francis on Twitter yesterday spoke about this reality. "It is not easy to follow Jesus closely, because the path he chooses is the way of the Cross." We look upon this choice Jesus made for us most throughout the Easter Triduum. We can ask ourselves the questions posed by Msgr. Albacete in order that we may grow in our acceptance of what belonging to Jesus truly means. "What does it mean for the man Jesus to be the Son of God?" What can such a gift of God becoming man and dwelling among us, for our salvation, and to die for us mean in our lives? Do we become obsessed with the joy of Jesus, with the love, with the compassion, with his unconditional care, so much so that may we forget the suffering; forget His message to us in these times? The joy of the Gospel is most evident in the Cross, this choice of love to provide such joy and freedom for us. Jesus chose the Cross so we could make sense of the crosses in our lives. To be 'sons in the Son' is to be bound to the Lord, to belong to Him, and thus to face the Cross within our own lives and in various circumstances. We must remember that we do not face our cross alone. 
  Pope Francis reminds us of the difficulty in following Jesus closely, because eventually, and unavoidably we encounter struggle. Granted these challenges and Crosses in life are presented to all of us. It is part of the human condition to suffer. Many look upon this truth and see no reason for following such a God. No purpose for embracing Him and His Cross if we are 'doomed' to have our own. This thinking leads to imprisonment and further disillusion in regards to what it means to be free. Faith shows to us that we are free because we have first been created and found by a God who loves us despite of ourselves and our brokenness. He meets us within our struggles and teaches us the way to be free.  
   Belief in our Lord and trust in His mercy and love leads us to trust that He too bears our Crosses with us. It is not a means for us to escape the reality of our human condition, but to live our condition well and to dwell within this world with great purpose, with hope, and with an understanding of our suffering. To set our gaze upon the Divine reveals to us the reason and purpose for our humanity. "There is no neutral ground: either we belong to God with Jesus and are truly free, or we belong to the Father of lies and are overpowered by death" (Msgr. Albacete). 
   I have chosen to follow Jesus. It a choice that I am faced with daily. This choice has not made me numb to the reality of life, or my brokenness, but has affirmed the purpose and meaning for such a life in friendship with Christ. In belonging to Him we recognize that everything is good. We turn to the Cross today as we are;with our love, with our faith, with our wounds, with our sins, and with our doubts. For through the Cross there is life, and there is joy. In Him we come to experience the fulfillment of our identity and an understanding in times of  trial. (C.C) 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Reflection. By: C.C.

"Good Friday is the condition of Easter Sunday. The Crown of Thorns is the condition of the halo of light. The scourged body is the condition of the glorified body. You die with him, you rise with him. In other words, he conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory." (Ven. Fulton Sheen)

   God's radical love for us is most revealed by the Cross. This gesture of self denial and complete sacrifice is one that we can only begin to partially comprehend. These words from Sheen are those in which we relate to by the very fact that we have been born within a time that allows us to know the joy of Easter Morning and the glory of the Resurrection of Christ.
  Today we are all called to remember and acknowledge the unimaginable sights, sounds, and emotions that plagued those who witnessed what our Lord endured. We are called to stand at the foot of the Cross. 
    The Crucifixion of Jesus is very difficult and painful for us to fathom. The sufferings He experienced are those beyond our own human understanding. There is a part of us that wishes to look away from this event as we battle to accept and fully recognize what this Cross demands of us in our lives. Rather than looking at the demands, we must also recognize why He took the Cross to begin with and what this love and mercy means.
     Through the Cross we come to know love; God's love for each of us, despite us. We witness this unconditional love. Jesus truly hoped to free those who loved him, those who judged him, and those who did not know him by taking the Cross. 
   May may we pause and take the time to reflect upon what this event would have been like for Christ's first followers. Place yourself there beside Our Lady, and beside our Lord. (C.C.)

"Jesus, remember me when you come into Kingdom"(Luke 24:32)


A Look Down From The Cross: By C.C.

A Look Down From The Cross.
By: C.C.
It was on Mount Calvary
   where I showed my love for thee.
Those who loved me,
those who judged me,
all who mourned there
I hoped to free.
And though wounded
my heart grew faithful
for my Father to welcome me;
into His Kingdom
where I would wait for
those who loved me;
in Eternity.
And I see my children struggle.
My followers cling to me.
I look now down from Heaven
with grace and mercy to set them free.
And though times they may seem trying,
I am here to take you by the hand...
do "this in memory of me"
that you may understand.
I have not left you
But I remain
Body and Blood.
I call you to remember
for you to know my love for you.
 Turn your ear to hear my voice
I offer myself for you in love.
Upon this Cross and looking down
So that you may set your eyes on the Eternal.
So that you may know where all is found.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Reporter For The Lord & A Lesson from Lectio In Evangelization: By: C.C.

"That's your job and my job, to give reports about Jesus. To share an account of our own meeting with the Lord....it's for us to spread the word of the mercy of the Lord, of His presence, and of our own experiences of Christ's presence in our Lives...we are to be reporters of the Lord." (Cardinal Collins)

    I am often invited by a dear friend of mine to attend Lectio Divina led by Cardinal Collins at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. However, sadly I have not yet been available to attend. I have thus become rather grateful for these evenings being recorded and made available online so that I can 'keep up with Cardinal' and bring these meditations into my home and into the solitude of prayer. His most recent Lectio Divina offered some rather important sentiments about the idea of evangelization and our duty as Catholics, and followers of Christ to report the Good News to others.
    Evangelization is unsuccessful if it is rooted solely in what we can do, what we can accomplish, or in the ministries we seek to establish. We are not to simply conjure up the means to share the Lord, but are called to invite God into our hearts more deeply and allow Him, by our surrender to share Himself reflected through our deeds and the witness of our life. Evangelization is much less we and much more Christ. We can fail by making a god out of serving God and in this our service to Him is ineffective and misguided. We are able to succeed when we think less of how to share Christ and spend more time with Christ in prayer. By prayer we come to see and recognize the ways that we are individually called to share the Gospel and the reason for our hope. In prayer we can incline our ear to the Lord's voice and allow Him to tell us how we are to serve; how our Lord's given gifts and graces can glorify Him in our life.
   As Cardinal Collins shared, "we are to be reporters of the Lord". To understand more deeply what this means I found it fitting to familiarize myself with the qualities of a good reporter and was pleased to come across a list of 18 essential qualities that a good reporter should have. I have chosen to highlight only some of these qualities and relate it to evangelization. I thank Cardinal Collins for the inspiration!

1 ) Credibility is something that every good reporter should have. In other words, a reporter must exhibit characters and behaviors that make him or her to be believed and trusted by people.

 Credibility and trust are important if we are to be good reporters of Christ. If we desire to share the joy of our Lord and the Truth of His message, we must not invite people to believe in us, but to deepen their recognition of Christ in us by our works and by our virtue. 
  To be a good reporter for the Lord requires us to exude the characteristics of the Gospel. The power of a strong witness to inspire others goes beyond what can be taught in books. It is a personal, genuine, and authentic account. To be credible in evangelization is to surrender oneself completely to the Lord, so that the trust and credibility we may acquire from others only serves to glorify and proclaim the truth of our Lord and the reason for our faith.

2)A good reporter should be courageous and confident. Without courage and confidence it is difficult for a person to be a good reporter. Timidity on the part of any reporter will get them nowhere.

A good reporter for Jesus is courageous and confident. It is important that this courage is grounded in God's providence and not in our own over-zealous desire. Timidity may have no part in the life of a reporter, however humility is an important virtue in the life of a reporter for the Lord. We must work to have a courageous confidence in Christ and for Christ. 
A good reporter should be able to gather facts in a very careful and accurate way.
When reporting on things of the Lord and sharing with others, it is important to know the 'facts', and to take time to learn and familiarize oneself with the Church teachings. We must pay careful attention with great responsibility to the message we are giving to others and ensure that our reports stem from sound teaching of the Catholic church and not our own opinions. 
Must be good at asking the right questions at the right time.

Good reporters need to ask questions to gain more information. If we are to be credible, courageous, and well informed we must know when to ask for guidance and clarity on anything we may be unsure about. We can present our questions to the Lord in prayer and entrust them also to those we deem to be sound teachers of the faith and of our Lord. The more informed we are the better we are able to deliver and share the message of faith effectively. 
A reporter should be a good team player and be capable of working with other reporters.

Unity is an important aspect of successful evangelization. To be successful we must work well with others to help us foster and grow in our faith. If we are incapable of working with others then we really need to call into question who our work is truly about. We must remain focused on the divine Person we are serving, recognizing in others the way that our Lord makes Himself visible to us.
A good reporter should be able to take corrections and criticisms in the course of performing their job.

We must remain humble. If we are to be corrected and critiqued let us allow these moments to lead us toward a deepening of prayer, growth, and preparation.

Let us take the time to listen to our Lord. Spending time before Him to know how we are called to serve Him, and what type of reporter we are called to be.  (CC)

"Christ draws people to Him and we as His disciples need to draw people to us, and through us to Him"(Cardinal Collins)



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Perfect Timing: By: C.C.

"Faith in God includes faith in His timing." - Neil Maxwell

    We are wired for more. We are created for much more than what we can accumulate through merit, and receive through consumption. We have been created by a God who loves us unconditionally and is worthy of our complete trust. There is a hunger within each of us that can only be satisfied by Him. "God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself "(Bl. John Paul II) It is God's grace that awakens us to the reality of our need for more than what we may seemingly want, and provides the fulfillment of our deepest desires. It is through the gift of our free-will that we are able to pursue the path that we choose for ourselves or the path set before us by our Lord. We are presented with an invitation of love and not one rooted in fear. 
   When we seek the Lord's will above our own, we discover that our longings and deep desires have been placed lovingly into our hearts by Him. The choice to follow His path and live in accordance with His ways provides for us the clarity to recognize and experience fulfillment in the way that God intends for our life. 
  Through faith we are not only called to have trust in His providence, but also to patient endurance and acceptance of God's timing.  There are moments in our lives when trusting God's love and providence is easier than others. We are faced with many challenges and trials that can leave us in a state of impatience and unrest. We can be led to question the 'whereabouts' of this God who loves us, when our circumstances seem to be everything but loving.
   It is in these moments of apparent absence that our Lord is ever more near to us. His presence does not cease to be despite what we may feel or perceive. Faith is a continual practice of reaffirming our belief in God and not altering this with the changes that we  may encounter in our lives. Despite the fluidity of our experiences and circumstances, we are called to 'steadfast hope, prayer, and faith' in God.
    "Faith in God includes faith in His timing". Through further practice of prayer and through an openness to God we are able to cultivate a trust in our Lord that can encourage us to accept everything we are to face with a sense of peace. By remaining rooted in our Lord we do not sway with the 'winds of change' but remain ever fixed and grounded in Him who truly sustains us and provides. 
  Our Lord has created us for a purpose, and He has called us. We are not to fear what may come, but to leave everything trustingly in God's hands. Let us patiently strive to endure what comes and seek to remain in the present moment rested in Him. His timing is truly best. We can be assured by faith that wherever we are called to serve, and in whatever state of life we find ourselves, The Lord prepares us in His time, out of love for us, for His will, and His glory.(CC)