Monday, May 28, 2018

Our Daily Bread, Literally. By:C.C.

"Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions."

It is only from a place of privilege, it may seem, that these questions can be asked: "How can I choose poverty?"  "How can I grow purer in heart to rely on God's provisions?"  "How can I use what I have received to serve,and to give Him glory?" More so, to be willing to give even from our sense of poverty is the increase in understanding of where our wealth rests, in God alone. We risk being empty, to discover our soul's poverty and to recognize the way that our Lord fills us and supplies for our needs. 

When our sense of want exceeds honest sense of our need is when we have great unrest, this is fertile ground for growing hard of heart. This is the risk of making objects our god. To know God's provision we must declutter from the possessions we have made our gods, and risk being uncomfortable, to recognize that what most holds us together and sustains us is not the latest fad or purchase but an eternal God. 

I can admit, in comparison to others in society, that I know very little of authentic poverty in regards to basic needs. I sit in a furnished home, with the air condition on for comfort, pantry full of food, this laptop to write on, and other such things that in beginning to list them makes me feel quite uncomfortable. Discomfort from the honest sense of having prompt access to a series of items that I have seemingly unmerited, easily acquired, none of them that I will take with me, none of them define me, or proclaim worth. 

How can I choose poverty? This question is one that encouraged me to leave my job (temporarily so) after the birth of our first child. It was a decision that truly shook things up a bit. Including our home at first as my husband looked at me asking his most common question "Catherine, are you nuts?"  "Yes, Yes, I am , and God is so good."

What has flowed from this decision is the humble recognition of how much is needed and how much is truly unnecessary. This has made me appreciate and better understand the way that God provides and the fragility of true wealth , even the eternal riches, woven in the temporal that surround us daily. We cannot perceive them swamped in things of the world, with an appetite solely for material goods. I am not suggesting people to strip down naked and run through the streets, leaving their place of employment and give everything to the poor, but I am suggesting an honest risk of deciding even in minor ways daily to choose to be poor, to fast from a luxury, to sacrifice and go without beyond the time of 40 days in Lent. 

On May 5th, just some few weeks ago, I was given a deliberate view into how God often provides quite noticeably so, making Himself apparent and known. It is a moment that still makes me chuckle and fills me with awe. 

When the babies sleep about 12:30 I usually workout at home, if the husband is home then I go for a run in the neighborhood, Anyway before leaving for my run, my husband said "I'll barbecue for lunch today, but we need bread so when you're back can you please go buy some?"

While I was on my run the wind was gusty (we had a terrible storm on the 4th) and right before me caught in the grass but not blowing away is a $5.00 bill. No one around. And I'm like "Man, God is so good. Bread money!" 

Then I reflected so much on how our Lord is the bread, yes, but by knowing this then we're secured that He truly has our needs fulfilled, an enforced providence to sustain our needs, thank You Jesus! I was more joyous to share this with my husband because now I had a beautiful way of showing God's love to and for us in a tangible way to my husband, who has become the sole "breadwinner" now which poses it's own daunting task and pressures at times. 

So I ran home excited....and I find my husband and said humorously, but obviously in a profoundly serious way too.
"Jesus says keep running the good race and He'll always help provide your daily bread, here's 5 bucks, go buy your daily bread" 
The husband was pretty moved  "that's amazing." And I reassured him,  "You see, I'm not crazy! "

Anyway the bread that day was $3.49. 

Our Lord gave a small glimpse to me of His sustaining hand.

The next day was Sunday, and though we are monthly Family of Faith tithers at our parish, I was feeling quite moved by the fact that the money on the ground belonged to someone, not to us. I made my daughter put a $5.00 bill into the collection that day.

I recognized that when God gives us what is unmerited and not ours, but so incredibly His, we cannot help but feel impelled to give back and serve Him in some small way. 

That God provides is certain, what we make of His providence makes certain our share in the Eternal riches. 

May we all grow to be poor in a society that suffocates us with the need to be materially rich, finding there the opportunity to serve from any wealth received for His glory and the good of others. (CC)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Persevering in Vocation: Monks, A Mouse, A Snake, and Embracing The Cross By:C.C.

photo from Catholic Courier- 24 Hours of Prayer
Retreat has been on my mind as I am preparing to head back to the Abbey soon. In this reflecting on my upcoming retreat, also returning to my mind are the lessons I took home with me last July, primarily that of persevering in vocations, and a deepening of understanding the necessary purification greeting us along the way.

I assure you the curious title will make sense by the end of this.

My most recent insight on the reality of enduring in vocations and fulfilling what God asks of us have brought me to consider the way that we can have a tendency to become enamored with the point where He calls us. That day of His seeming proposal filled with jubilation and love, ignorance of all crosses to come, vowing to embrace their reality, but still too entrenched in the fantasy that it's resonance evades us. Even the crosses within us that we carry in the hidden places of our hearts often remain obscure to us.

This is a gift though, we need to taste the depth of this joy to know it exists, it affirms blatantly God's goodness, but in advancing and enduring the blows and marks of time it becomes evident that the point is greater than this. The marking of all vocations is the Cross and only a deep love of God can endure this.

We can delude ourselves in longing for that joy born in ignorance,chasing a sensation over an eternal reality. When we consider loving another for God's sake alone it seems to be the only thing that makes sense. in fact loving only makes complete sense by loving God. For no one possesses enough good to turn us from sin, it is not by another's good, surely not even our own good that we remain strong in ourselves.

The fleshy inclination will always be to call most good the baseness of some passion, it is a flight of descent. It is by our being truly possessed by good, complete goodness, and the measure that we allow God to possess us that we can persevere in the task of our vocations. In religious life or married life alike.

To neglect this necessity of personal radical love for God is to neglect knowing the depth of love in the goodness of the other. Even the young seminarian or priest who vows to a life of loving God and serving for love of Him is only ever as good and sustained to the degree He is motivated by a deep love for Him and desire for the Cross.

Sustenance is not in the joy of the call, but the point of discovering why we remain. To remember why we remain is the sobering balm. Because if we endure out of love for the Cross then we are sustained. Remember why you remain and for Whom you do. It is only this that can take us out of ourselves long enough to grow in virtue of love of Him and persevere in loving.

Defeat is in willing lesser loves. The obscurity is in the middle where we can't fully rest yet in the Cross and know the pangs of the lower options. We're won over by consenting to the Cross and to be made strong in the weakness of our will desiring to do opposite. God takes the struggle of our will, if we take it to Christ and brings tremendous richness.

I experienced a mirroring of this lesson in a small capacity over the course of my four days in Genesee last year. It was time much different than the others. Primarily because, it was quickly evident that my peaceful expectations of what my retreats were most recently normally filled with, would be tested greatly by exterior disruptions and presence of my greatest temporal fears.

I am afraid of very little. Mice and snakes are the two things that make me shudder. Thankfully I managed to reach 30 years without having to see a mouse, a living one scurrying at least, and only ever had to see a tiny little snake in my youth.

However, my first night I was greeted by a mouse, he lingered just long enough to stare me dead in the face before heading off. The kids were already in bed, I alone. Suddenly fear overcame me, embarrassingly, and I realized then how the simplest and even insignificant events can test our sense of interior peace. How could such a small thing cause me such great disturbance? There was much more to learn.

The following day, I felt stronger, as if I had conquered my little squeaky friend and could move on, but, while returning home again just to the side of the house there bathing in the sun was a snake. Hanging out in the clear day , and it was then I realized that I was in for a much different stay. I believe at that point I uttered something like "You're funny Lord" before praying a couple Hail Mary's recalling she crushes them, but I truthfully felt less disturbed, at the sight of this frightening reality I somehow had an understanding brewing about detachments. I took a photo of my slithery friend for reference of this day, while my daughter gently said "what's that mama, can I touch it" Pretending to be calm, explaining it was sleeping *and secretly hoping it was. This turned out to be a pleasant encounter though, the snake stayed put completely at peace in the sun.

zoom in, frightening thing!

In a sense I had every reason to flee, seeing my two biggest fears however small they may be in comparison to others, it took a lot of remaining focused on the most important to remain there and lovingly so. I had a fantastic time. And perhaps learned the most profound lesson. Here below are my reflections written there the morning after the snake sighting...

I learned more from a mouse and a snake on this retreat than I have learned in any book or spiritual counsel here. Ironically following seeing the snake I had my greatest sleep here and I have remained rested ever since.

I awoke the following day on July 13th at 2:30 a.m. Unable of course to go to vigils having the kids sleeping in the house, I joined in as I often do from home and meditated further upon this lesson. It brought me to think more about the monastic life, about what leads men here, about what can discourage them, and of course Who it is that keeps them.

I am sure in the beginning of postulancy there is overwhelming consolation from God, an almost addictive attractiveness to the peace that the monastic way of life seems to ooze out of those men who persevere in their vocation amidst the immense seasons of change within the soul. This too is reflection of the joy and eagerness of newlyweds as they approach their wedding.

The grounds alone boast of God's Beauty. The humming of tireless joy-filled birds, imbued with Heavenly hymns can soothe the heart and reflect boldly the Majesty of God. 
This beauty is necessary, for this pulls at us and invites us to desire the Creator of all these good and lovely things.

And yet, the vastness and beauty of this isolated setting eventually becomes a great source of necessary desolation and disenchantment. The allure of a hidden life in Christ is purified and tested over the course of time, exposing the weakness of our feeble will, and the true intention of our hearts in coming here.

So too this is in marriage, though an active vocation in the world, we cannot hide from encountering the depths of hidden places within our hearts, disordered longings, and the need to always purify our attachment and understanding of why we too have chosen to come to the Altar and vow to a life of love of another out of love for God.

One is wrong to assume that monastic life will silence the noise in their life, this is true to some degree, as The Rule will prevent partaking fully in worldly communications as before, but there is greater noise that greets the starry eyed postulant, or the fairy tale newlywed, and that is the noise within the soul and the wrestling of wills. 
So many people walk around deaf to this noise, afraid of encountering what it says of them and most importantly avoid facing the reality of Whose they are. It is no way to live at all.

The more attentive we are to the inner noise and the more earnestly we seek to be a student of silence and obedience, the peace emerges, even if ever so slowly. 
This touch of grace is enough for us, it keeps us and affirms us as we cling to our cross, as we cling to Christ our Lord.

You can hide from the world, but you cannot hide from God, nor the truth of yourself before Him. Retreating from the world and all of the freedom that it seems to propose only faces us more deeply and more intensely into the encounter of God. We consent to be held captive by Christ where there is found freedom like no other.

The difficulty experienced with the passing of time and the pruning of our pathetic human weakness serves to aid us in attaining the peace that attracts us initially to this way of life to begin with. We need only consent to always being made new, to strive to be better and to live perpetually captivated by Christ.

It is not for everyone, and for such reason Jesus reminds us many times of the difficulty faced if we desire eternal life.

Courage is needed, and an unwavering trust and love of God.

No greater love for us could He show to us than by the grace of revealing how so desperately we need His love,revealing it upon the Cross, by inspiring us to seek Him deeply, earnestly, and perpetually so that we can remain with Him as He resides in us. So that we may hope to find ourselves at that moment of final perseverance before his glory, finished the battle, won the race, and surrounded consumed in His love.

The beauty of this retreat was a deepening of detachment and an understanding of persevering through fear and even learning to to appreciate the Cross in a new way. Our Lord was filled with surprises of consolation this day. And it unfolded as a gift for me as I prepared to pack up for home. At 5:30 in the morning, while the kids were sleeping, before heading off to Mass ,I began to load up the van for our departure

As I stepped back from my van, facing the Abbey, I saw a deer about 100 ft in the distance, the most beautiful delicate deer. I love deer tremendously. And ironically my first retreat to Genesee I saw them each evening, and would just gaze at their beauty. Had I seen the mouse and the snake, I probably would never have come back. it is love that prepares our embrace for the Cross. Just behind the deer was a little fawn.. that is when I began to weep. A mother and child. It was a warming and consoling good bye gift. 

and today as I finished writing this in the morning a dove showed up on my deck :)


I know not what will be encounted this time in Genesee, I admit to being taken back for a moment in fear at the thought of seeing my squeaky and slithery friends. But I am more assured this time of God's grace, more aware that all things sent to us are for our good. 

Our love in Him alone encourages our perseverance..and all of it must be oriented toward the Cross if it is to endure at all.(CC)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

What's In A Name? Feast Day of St.Celestine V, By:C.C.

Pope Celestine V
Information below aided by a film found at Formed.Org "Saint Celestine: The Pope Who Quit"
and my Nonna
The extent I knew of my middle name, Celeste  in 2011 when I opened up this blog, was that it's meaning is "heavenly" and that I share a middle name with my paternal nonna, and also with my godfather whose middle name is Celestino. 

Beyond this, I had no deeper care for meaning. However, it did seem all the more appropriate to be using this "heavenly" name as I blogged the experience of attempting to draw nearer to meriting heaven (still stumbling and typing away). 

Celeste stuck, and I grew to like it. Although in learning Catherine means "pure" I was quite drawn to that too. Too bad I wasn't made aware of the meanings of my first and second name before many falls..names better suited then would have been impure and hellish, I digress. 

Over time, I became more interested in origin, precisely listening to my grandmother share stories of her hometown Sant'Angelo, Limosano in Molise, Italy. My father was born there. It is good to learn our history, there are lessons and wisdom to unearth. 

I recall speaking to my nonna some years ago about our shared name, she went on to tell me that her nonna was also named Celeste and many others down the line in her family also had the masculine name of Celestino. It's not uncommon in Italian tradition to be passing down names, so it wasn't completely unnatural to see this pattern. However, one day she told me that this name came from a Pope born in her town. I was quite confused, primarily because I hadn't heard of him, and secondly because her recollection of the history was very scarce as well. I dug deeper. And in digging deeper I discovered a fascinating man, a holy man, who desired a quiet life of solitude as a hermit, and ended up briefly serving as Pope before resigning. He is also the patron saint of Sant'Angelo.

His life, I came to learn was one of mystery. Even the exact town and date of his birth are argued over. There are two places in Molise that claim to be his birthplace, Isernia and our hometown of Sant' Angelo in Campobasso. Obviously, I choose to claim him as belonging to Sant' Angelo....shamelessly. 

Saint Celestine was born Pietro Angelerio, also known as Pietro of Morrone. in arguably 1209 or 1215, he was the 11th of 12 children and came from a farming family. He was not poor so was able to have his studies paid for. 

He felt called to enter the Benedictine order, as he felt strongly drawn to ancient tradition and especially a call to detach from the world. He sought to live alone in caves and other very solitary places removed from the world. 

A professor from the University of Verona, named Paolo Golinelli stated that "Pietro felt life should be articulated by prayers and very little sleep" He longed for living a life of simplicity and austerity. He also lived in a very turbulent time of the Church history. Between 1217 and 1270, five crusades were announced and several chaotic situations arose from there, including a great deal of heresy.

Pietro's quiet life in the caves and mountains surrounding Molise became noisier as people were made aware of his apparent holiness. People flocked to visit with him often, and he would soon then quicken his steps to flee seeking the solitary and prayerful life in a new secluded place. 

He was considered then a living saint, and also attributed to being a "miracle worker" people claimed being healed by him in various ways.  Golinelli said that "his miracles were very peculiar , almost as a type of rural and country healer" He was also very cautious about company with women, and never wished to see them, if they should have required his aid for healing then the husbands of these women were sent to see Pietro on their behalf. 

He had grown a small following of men who desired to live his way of life, a way of life based on the traditional Benedictine order, with an even more intense austerity than what was observed being lived by him. It is noted as being similar to the Cistercians, even in dress. I found this point to be most intriguing. For me, the Cistercian charism has been one of great inspiration and has helped form me. 

There seems to be scarce information about what the life of his order was like specifically, making it difficult for me to draw definitive differences or concrete similarities. But the depth of reverence for silence and solitude from the world and prayer is woven within both. 

Pietro wanted to escape the political current of his time, while also mindful of it's reality and his desire to establish his order securely he walked to Lyon, France in 1274, travelling 1200km to speak with Pope Gregory X ,and to take part in the "Council of Lyon in hopes to get his order approved. Because it was not possible to found new orders.During the Fourth Council of the Lateran, a special decree had already been issued : ne nimia monacorum 'Let there not be too many monks" ..limiting the proliferation of orders, but his order is included in the Benedictine tradition, for this reason it is not a new order, but rather a particular version of the Benedictine monasticism."

Through such Pietro was able to have his order secured, they would become known as the Celestines, following his acceptance of the Papacy and him taking the name Pope Celestine V, an event which came about in the oddest of fashions. 

The Church was in a complete mess. There was a struggle between the powers of Roman families and the Cardinals within the Church, and for nearly 28 months at the time there was no Pope in Rome. 

Pietro wrote a letter to the Cardinals in the conclave and expressed great concern for the misfortune that this is bringing upon the Church in not being able to elect a new pope. 

Essentially the cardinals unanimously chose Pietro to be Pope! 

It was noted in the documentary that reasons for this included the facts that he was not involved in the power games of the royal families, nor did he enjoy great prestige, and that he could be a great calm to the storm. 

His tone of humility and poverty was amplified when he rode into L'aquila (the place of his coronation ) on a donkey and not a white horse. It was said that he wanted to deliver a message of poverty and a truly Christian lifestyle of holiness into the church of his times. 

He was also most inspired by St.John the Baptist, and chose the day of his martyrdom to be the one of his papal coronation. It was noted that over 200,000 pilgrims came to this event, yes, even before the world of twitter and social media, that is quite profound! Even Dante Alighieri was in attendance from Florence! People were so hopeful for renewal in the Church by the hands of this new hermit holy Pope.

A month into his papacy he appointed twelve new Cardinals and wanted to quickly weed out influences of noble Roman families. 

The documentary spoke of a letter he wrote in his acceptance of the papacy, where "he references the beheading of St. John  the Baptist, and compared his tiara to the scimitar on the saints neck" meaning that he would sacrifice himself for the unity and forgiveness of the Church. For Celestine, the greatest sin is the separation, the schism within the Church."

He resided in a castle in Naples, and demanded to live in an underground , damp cell, opposed to the luxurious apartment prepared for him. He sought to maintain as much as possible his life as a hermit. That is what he most desired to be, praying and meditating. It was evident during this time that resignation was on his mind, however there naturally arose the question, "Can a pope resign?"

The man who would become his successor, Pope Boniface VIII, came forth with a solution 

"When a cardinal agrees to become Pope , then he gives his consent to the election of the Pope. Therefore, he may withdraw this consent without being influenced by anyone but his own will. "

In Decemeber of 1294, St.Celestine summoned the Cardinals, and announced what has become historically known as the "great refusal"

Fr. Quirino Salomone of Studi Celestiniani ,shared that "Celestino did not refuse , but rather gave up, he resigned. Celestino did not refuse the papacy he accepted, and then resigned."

People were very disappointed in this. The faithful were hopeful in him for change in the Church, and to put an end to the "material church".

As for Pietro , the humble monk , he returned to a cell, although this time as a prisoner of Pope Boniface VIII, who feared he would become an antipope, and held him in the castle of Fumone, where he resorted again to a life of prayer and meditation. 

He passed away on May 19th , 1296.

As for the Celestines, they are no more. But as for me, I find great comfort in coming to learn of this holy man and saint from my father's hometown.

I am equally thankful that the message of needed holiness is alive in the Church today. 

Celeste, has now become a name of greater value to me than it was before. In speaking with my godfather today, in light of my recent learnings, I assured him someday we would venture to Sant'Angelo and the surrounding areas to pay homage to a humble holy monk from our ancestral home and the reason for our sharing of middle names. (CC)

St.Celestine , pray for us, and for the holiness of our Church.