Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dear Seminarian. By: C.C.

"Your wish to become a priest, or at least your wish to discover if you are being called to be one. And so the question is a serious one, because you have to prepare thoroughly, with clear intentions and an austere formation." (St. John Paul II)

As a married woman I can never completely understand the radical call to the priesthood. Or the severity of being called to lay down one’s life to serve Christ and lead many souls to sanctity. It is undeniably a massive sacrifice and one that has arguably been more challenged by our modern society in the western world.

I have been reflecting on this lately as a friend recently shared that she had encountered some seminarians who are very tempted by the vocation of marriage.

I am sure that some men validly do have an honest struggle and need more discernment when evaluating their vocation, or could be in fact called by God to the vocation of marriage (shout out to Bobby Angel).

Yet, part of me is naturally drawn to conclude that some of their struggle is a temptation to flee the cross of Christ, and the fascination with belief in some illusion of a fairy tale life that does not exist.

Again, I do not suggest this is the case for everyone. I am assured with good spiritual counsel from one much wiser than me these issues are properly discerned, or these men should seriously take a one week candid retreat at a young married couple's house and watch the presumption of fairy tale smash entirely before their eyes, I digress.

Sacrifice does not feel good. If it did you can be assured that you are more about following yourself than our crucified Lord. To serve under Christ is to get over oneself daily.

Perhaps this is where myself and my seminarian brothers can have a moment of understanding.

This call of shedding oneself motivated by an authentic love of God is the same for all of us as Christians; it must be present in both married life and the vocation of the priesthood.

To renew ourselves in this love daily is to remain present to where God has called us and orient our thoughts and minds in a way that we can be attentive to God's true will for us.

The call to embrace the cross out of love for love should lead each of us as individuals. This temptation to flee and to find something beyond the horizon more alluring and captivating is a challenge that arises in any state of life.

Temptation manifests and confronts us daily in the most cunning simple ways, it challenges and test our hearts. This tension aids in purifying our intentions and prepares us thoroughly for where God is calling us to serve.

It is dangerous when we abruptly assume that this tension we are facing or allurement of some other life is a concrete sign of God’s will.

God will shake us and rattle us, this is the birth ground of great virtue and sanctity, we respond appropriately by surrender not escapism.

Satan will do anything to stop us from glorifying God. There is nothing more important for the transcendence of faith than the witness and presence of holy priests.

How threatening this is to the evil one who would prefer nothing else than to destroy the Kingdom of Christ!  Married life is not free from the same threat. There would not be a Synod to discuss the fragile reality of the family and the threat it is under universally if this were not true. An understanding of the celibate life is sharpened by a healthy and genuine understanding of the true symbolism of married love. As a seminarian is often challenged by the image of married life, the engaged man, or young espoused may be drawn to the reality of single life and things of bachelorhood. Such is the consequence of a society largely focused on self gratification in many ways.

When we are pulled by the flesh to flee commitment and sacrifice we can be comforted that this is not of God’s will for us.

We embrace true love of God when we commit ourselves deeply to sacrifice.

Christ needs us where He has truly called us. Let us pray daily for the eyes to see and the heart to love Him above all. May we always find the strength to remain patient during God's pruning and hold steadfast in our faith. (CC)

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”.