Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nugget - Saint Francis de Sales

How generous God is! He is TOO generous!

As mentioned in this Sunday's reflection, lately I have been spending a lot of time examining my faults, lamenting at what I am doing wrong. After a time of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament this week when I was particularly down about my failures to love Jesus and fulfill the promises I have made Him and myself, He assured me there was something in the book Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales for me that I had brought with me to the chapel and not taken out of my bag yet.

As I flipped through the pages, I knew I was looking for a section on what to do when one is facing scruples such as mine. If you do not own this book, you must get it! The guidance in it is so practical for lay people, since St. Francis de Sales so often spoke of the ways we, too, can be holy outside a convent or monastery. Here is what I found...

from Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales: Part V, Chapter 13

The Love Which Jesus Christ Bears to Us

Consider the Love with which our Dear Lord Jesus Christ bore so much in this world, especially in the Garden of Olives and on Mount Calvary; that Love bore you in mind, and through all those pains and toils He obtained your good resolutions for you, as also all that is needful to maintain, foster, strengthen and consummate those resolutions. How precious must the resolutions be which are the fruits of our Lord's Passion! and how dear to my heart, since they were dear to that of Jesus! Saviour of my soul, Thou didst die to win them for me; grant me grace sooner to die than forget them. Be sure, my child, that the Heart of our most Dear Lord beheld you from the tree of the Cross and loved you, and by that Love He won for you all good things which you were ever to have, and amongst them your good resolutions. Of a truth we have all reason like Jeremiah to confess that the Lord knew us, and called us by our name or ever we were born,the more that His Divine Goodness in its Love and Mercy made ready all things, general and individual, which could promote our salvation, and among them our resolutions. A woman with child makes ready for the babe she expects, prepares its cradle, its swaddling clothes and its nurse; even so our Lord, while hanging on His Cross, prepared all that you could need for your happiness, all the means, the graces, the leadings, by which He leads your soul onwards towards perfection.

Surely we ought ever to remember this, and ask fervently: Is it possible that I was loved, and loved so tenderly by my Saviour, that He should have thought of me individually, and in all these details by which He has drawn me to Himself? With what love and gratitude ought I to use all He has given me? The Loving Heart of my God thought of my soul, loved it, and prepared endless means to promote its salvation, even as though there were no other soul on earth of which He thought; just as the sun shines on each spot of earth as brightly as though it shone nowhere else, but reserved all its brightness for that alone. So Our Dear Lord thought and cared for every one of His children as though none other existed. "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me," Saint Paul says, as though he meant, "for me alone, as if there were none but me He cared for."

Let this be graven in your soul, my child, the better to cherish and foster your good resolutions, which are so precious to the Heart of Jesus.

Words cannot express the comfort this passage brought to my troubled soul. I hope they bring you some help, as well, however you are suffering today.

Sunday, February 1 ~ Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Mark 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.
"His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.


Here, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, and the people do not know who He is. He does not have power or a position of authority in this world. He was not born from a prestigious family or did not receive an advanced education. So, they are perplexed when they recognize the Truth in what He is preaching. How can this man, this simple man, speak so authentically?

Then, the Lord casts out a demon. He performs an exorcism, and the demon even recognizes Him as the Lord. Only then, when evil recognizes the Messiah, do the people begin to question and wonder if He might be the One for whom they have all been waiting. They still are not sure who He is and where He gets His authority.

For me, there are two connected lessons here. First of all, we must confront evil. We cannot hide from it. It is real. Satan slips into every region of the world, trying to distract us from God. Perhaps the evil is obvious like murder and abortion. Perhaps the evil is hidden like the internal struggle we all have against temptation.

All one has to do is look to the news to see the overt evil in this world. The mainstream media seems to be obsessed with graphic depictions of Satan's effect on people's lives. There is no denying that evil exists openly if we open our eyes to see it. We must pray for the defeat of this kind of evil, because until we defeat the evil in our own lives, we cannot be effective against the greater evils of our times.
Satan attacks us at a personal level in much more deceptive ways, so it is crucial to identify how he is trying to tarnish our souls. Those who generally avoid mortal sin are attacked with other forms of temptations. One of the ways Satan attacks me personally is to overwhelm me with thoughts about how much I am sinning. He floods my mind with all of the things I should be doing to grow in holiness and prevents me from clearly seeing how to begin to improve in even one area. I am so concerned about the things I am doing or not doing that prevent me from growing closer to God, that I neglect to choose even one fault to correct.

This leads me to the second lesson. We can conquer evil in our lives and in our world around us. It does not take someone with power, authority, prestige, or education to defeat evil. In our weakness, we can allow Christ to use us to stop Satan in his tracks. We do not have to be important or even intelligent. We simply have to believe that evil exists and ask the Lord to fortify us for the battle. His authority is the only power we need.

Satan wants us to turn our backs or at least a blind eye to the evil around us. He wants us to think we are too insignificant to make a difference, that nothing we can do will help fight the adultery and envy in our society. We are not. In Mark's Gospel story today, the demon must bow to Jesus. If we call upon the name of Jesus Christ, the evils we face will bow to Him, as well!

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!!!

Silence, a Forgotten Gift

Preciousness of Silence
from Missionaries of Charity Prayer Book

"But Jesus was silent." Mt 26:63

The Silence is Meekness.
When you do not defend yourself against offenses;
When you do not claim your rights;
When you let God defend you;
The Silence is Meekness.

The Silence is Mercy.
When you do not reveal the faults of your brothers to others;
When you readily forgive without inquiring into the past;
When you do not judge, but pray in your heart;
The Silence is Mercy.

The Silence is Patience.
When you accept suffering not with grumbling but joyfully;
When you do not look for human consolations;
When you do not become too anxious, but wait in patience for the seed to germinate;
The Silence is Patience.

The Silence is Humility.
When there is no competition;
When you consider the other person to be better than yourself;
When you let your brothers emerge, grow and mature;
When you joyfully abandon all to the Lord;
When your actions may be misinterpreted;
When you leave to others the glory of the enterprise;
The Silence is Humility.

The Silence is Faith.
When you keep quiet because you know that the Lord will act;
When you renounce the voice of the world to remain in the presence of the Lord;
When you do not labour yourself to be understood, because it is enough for you to know that the Lord understands you;
The Silence is Faith.

The Silence is Adoration.
When you embrace the cross without asking "Why?";
The Silence is Adoration.

(thanks Fr. Jordi for sending this my way today; I needed it)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Small Talk? What's That?

I am officially incapable of small talk. Today I realized that unless I am given a specific topic of mutual interest to myself and the other party, at least as a starting point, I am incompetent to carry on any sort of conversation. Instead, my brain shuts down and my tongue is mute.

I have noticed this for some time now, especially since having children, but for some reason, the deficiency seems at an all time low in this great big new city. I send apologies to all women who have tried to start conversations with me where it appears I am not really paying attention or interested in talking. Your efforts in themselves are very meaningful to me, and one day perhaps we will connect on a deeper level after several of these stilted moments.

For most of my life I have been one of those people who only has a few close friends. In high school I had three "best" friends. Eventually, one became my "bestest" friend. The rest were just acquaintances to me. I make friends pretty easily, but I tend to connect with only a handful of people and stick with them, maintaining cordial acquaintanceships with others. Admittedly, since moving in September to a new state, my close friends are all thousands of miles away. It takes me time, and some good conversation, to get to know who those close friends are.

So, if you want to talk to me about the weather or have a casual discussion about a general topic, I do not recommend it. Feel free to ask me about anything that I am passionate about in which you are genuinely interested , as well. Then, I will probably never shut up.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nap or Get Some Work Done?

Is this not the biggest dilemma we face as moms during naptime/quiet time? Do we take a nap ourselves or do we get some work done with the children peaceful?

I have this dilemma today, and since it is Sunday, I am opting to nap (after this post). This post is really just a teaser for a future post on the lessons I have learned after skimming Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. While most of the problems she describes come from children committed to too much out of the home, I realized I am not protecting my childrens' sleep like I did in the past, and that does make a difference.

So, your homework to prepare for my post sometime later this week...make some notes on at least three days for each of your children. How long did they sleep in a 24-hour period (naps and nighttime combined), and how was their behavior for the subsequent 24-hour period? The most important part of this assignment is also to do this for yourself - how long did you sleep each day and how did you feel the next day? This is what I did this week, and I was amazed at what I saw! I will share soon.

Take a nap today! (with one or more of your children, if necessary)