Soul Stories: The Energy and Healing Power of Our Words

The soul is among other things a reservoir for our emotions and storytelling, especially in
the oral tradition, as it allows the person telling it to share their unique emotions with the listener. The shared emotions will evoke a response in the listener that brings them into the story. A good writer can do this also. As we tell our story, we have an image in our mind and when we listen to a story we create images in our mind to illustrate the words. The emotions combined with the images give the story meaning outside the bare words hanging in the air.

Our emotions expose the soul’s urgent appeals to pay attention to our spiritual nature. They may fall or rise with the soul’s emptying and filling. We can embrace the times of splendid fullness as our union with God. St. Teresa of Avila would call this consolation. The times of emptiness are desolation, a lack of feeling the closeness of God even though our intellect tells us God is certainly there. In fact by our Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit places God within us at all times. We just forget. We are human and need reminders.

conversation

People describe these empty and full times through the stories that accompany them. It is in this way we can heal ourselves and lead others to their own healing. As a therapist, I listen to stories. Deep personal stories of despair, loneliness, anger, hurt, and hopelessness, the telling of which brings forth the emotions from a soul desperate to be cleansed and nurtured with love. The old chapters begin to instead be just a preface to life’s new chapters told with hope and belief that there can be happy moments and deep joy.

As Catholics we read stories in the Scriptures. We recognize the Old Testament was “written” by people of the Jewish faith and these writings remain their Scripture today. These stories though were first spoken and passed down through the ages as revered family history important to life centered on God. Currently the role of the maggid is being revived and recognized as important especially in our technology focused society. A maggid is more than a storyteller, they are someone whose mission is to bring the people to God.

Jesus preaching JoN

Christ would have been seen as a radical maggid. People brought their fears and doubts and He told them stories or parables that were a lesson for living. Imagine hearing Christ proclaim these first stories! They form the most important parts of our New Testament. Emotions of all kind were evoked by his storytelling! He challenged them to listen with spiritual ears of the soul so their lives could be healed of sin.

As we journey through Lent, allow the stories of the Passion to enter your soul and release the stories you need to tell, if only to yourself and God, so that true healing can take place.
Then with renewed energy, tell others about your joy in Christ and invite them to share the experience!

  

An Interesting Thought About Lent…

field of flowers and church

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

Just a simple thought to ponder today…the day after Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, the start of promises we have made about fasting, prayers, and almsgiving.

Did you know that Lent is about abundance?

For how can we purposely fast unless we have enough to eat?
How can we give unless we already have enough money, time, energy?
And how can we pray unless we have the gift of knowing there is a God to pray to?

“God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
- Phillipians 4:19

And because this is true we must remember that God works through the abundance he gives us as we share it with others.

In the words of my Pastor, Fr. Henry Kunkel…”think about it, think about it”.

May you be abundantly blessed today!

  

Mary’s Lesson for Us on Humility

I promised you last week that I would write today about how the Blessed Mother serves as our greatest model of the virtue of humility…and I must say, I really needed to do this lesson for myself! It is a virtue that we tend to learn through recognizing its absence, for when arrogance, pride, and self-importance make themselves known in others, we likely feel an urge to turn away and discredit any good works the person may be doing. Ahhh…here again is the Evil One at play!

AnnunciationWhen Mary gave herself to the Holy Spirit to become the mother of Christ, I must wonder if she had any idea what was happening to her. If she did, would she have accepted so readily? Without a deep relationship with God, probably not. Her Jewish heritage showed her the way of blessings was through obedience,  so when the angel Gabriel appeared, even though frightened, she gave her consent because she loved God so much.

Her humility was shown throughout her life in that she was in constant, prayerful communion with God, listening for His direction. She did not make decisions on her own without consultation in prayer and a knowledge that the action she took was guided by God’s will for her. What we know as ego, was probably very subdued in this woman of God.

In our world, there is temptation to be successful and popular. This temptation is easily used by the Devil to lure us into believing that because our idea has to do with work of the Church or ministry to others for Christ it is okay. Well, let’s take a minute. What are our real motivations? Money, to be known by many, promotion of our own visions and ideas? These are so hard to sort out!

Again, take a look at Mary. Nothing she did took higher priority than that which God had Mary with Elizabethplanned for her, but she did not let the other duties of her life go by the wayside. One example is that she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, at a very difficult time in her own pregnancy, a time where she could have easily been shamed and left behind by Joseph. She could have hidden herself. Her willingness to charitably support her cousin led her to an experience that would confirm the angel’s message and calm her fears, and the verification that she indeed was carrying the Savior.

If we wonder why there is not more about Mary in the Scripture, there are many speculations, but one is that the most important things she did are revealed to us. We may be quite curious to know more about her, but the interactions recorded in the Bible are lesson enough for us.

Br. Alexis Bugnolo in Franciscanum, the official blog of the Franciscan Archive gives us a list of ways to put our good works ideas to the “test” for humility.

1. Does it stir up our pride or vanity?
2.  Will its accomplishment require us to neglect the other duties of our life?
3. Will its fulfillment put us in the way of those sins to which our nature draws us most easily?
4. Will the works bring the conversion to the ignorant and/or consolation of spirit to the faithful?
5. Do the works increase our virtue and lead us to hear God’s true call to other work to be done for Him?

stainedglassmaryqueenIf what you are longing to do can pass these tests and you have been brought to them by prayer and sacrifice in order to see clearly, forge ahead!

If you are having difficulty in discernment, seek the advice of your pastor or a spiritual director.

I hope this is a help in your path to holiness. Be blessed as we enter into the Lenten season.

 

  

More Lenten Preparations

As you know I have been writing about humility and working on incorporating this virtue into all aspects of my life.  Today I am practicing this virtue by not writing my own thoughts and sharings of knowledge, but by offering you a resource which will be a gift to you as you prepare for Lent.

Dan Burke, author and now commentator on Divine Intimacy radio, has prepared 3 radio programs for us to use as we get ready for a very important liturgical season.

I hope it bears spiritual fruit for you…

DivIntRadioPREPARING FOR LENT – DIVINE INTIMACY RADIO

You can copy and paste the link below into your browser if clicking the link above does not work…

http://spiritualdirection.com/preparing-lent-divine-intimacy-radio

  

A Humble Voice Sings the Litany of Humility

Well, I’m still working on the virtue of humility. It’s hard! So I thought a different approach may be uplifting…here is the Litany of Humility from the album “I Thirst” by Danielle Rose.

Enjoy! And join me in trying to be more aware of areas to be more humble. I’ll get more in depth next week and talk about some ideas of how and touch on how the Blessed Mother shows us the way.

  

Lenten Preparations

Ash WednesdayI don’t know about you, but to me it feels like it was just Christmas and now we will begin the season of Lent in just two weeks. Ash Wednesday is on February 18th this year. A fact about Ash Wednesday that I heard on the Catholic Channel yesterday…it’s not a holy day of obligation! This only means you do not have to attend Mass on that day. I guess it may be a good thing because more people will likely show up for a shorter service to receive ashes.

As I was thinking about what to write today, it came to me that the decorations of Christmas add such a feeling of being in a different time during the days between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. There is a constant reminder that something is happening. There is something to celebrate.

While Lent is traditionally a time of deprivation and sacrifice for most Catholics, the past couple of decades have seen a trend toward fulfilling the mission of the Church through acts of kindness and mercy. Instead of giving up chocolate, we give of ourselves at a soup kitchen or volunteer to read to underprivileged children. In this way we act as Christ so others can see Christ in us and we see Christ in them. We show them love.

This change in practice is fitting as Lent is the time to celebrate the most loving thing God ever did for us. He became one of us in Christ and allowed himself to be tortured and killed for our sins while in his human form. He felt the pain and the agony. He was not in some divinely protected state, it was horrific suffering. HE DIED FOR US. HE SUFFERED FOR US. For you. For me. For the people we love and the people we despise. For everyone because everyone was created by God.

And this is to be celebrated.

I encourage you to decorate your home for Lent. Not in any gaudy way. Leave the bunnies Home altar 2and eggs for Holy Week. Home altars are encouraged in our Catechism (2691). So consider designing an altar in your home. A place that honors what Christ did for you. Pick a place that will be seen frequently, mine is in my foyer. Use a Bible, holy cards, candles, statues, pictures, icons…whatever makes the connection for you.

Allow its creation to be a family project. Children can add their own special touches allowing them to be engaged in the love of Christ. Encourage the family to say a short prayer together at this altar. Make liturgical changes in your altar. At Lent, I add three iron nails and a small grapevine wreath to represent the crown of thorns. After Easter Vigil, they are removed and replaced with a cherished statue of the Risen Christ.

Your altar is a silent, but powerfully comforting place in your home. A reminder that our homes are where the Church lives day in and day out.

Enjoy this creative and prayerful process…and if you like, post a picture of your altar!

  

Praying for humility

mary humility 1Prayer is the foundation of developing a virtuous life. It is the key that opens the door in our soul to seeing with our spiritual eyes.  As I read this prayer today, the urge to shut that door was strong! I have been working so hard to be a good person Lord! But there are so many areas that I need to clean up!

So I start this prayer with a loud groan and crying out to you Lord for your mercy and grace as I continue this path each day, having to start over so many times, even within a day.

To think about:  Where in my life do I need to take a second look? When do I forget that it is not me, but our Lord, who has ensured my successes? Do I think myself better than others and forget each of us is created by God? 

The Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
 
provided that I may become as holy as I should…

May your day be blessed with ease of being a steward of the mercy of Christ!

  

Learning to Live a Virtuous Life

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues: hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance. – Augustine of Hippo

humility-will-felixTo my readers: Over the next year I will be focusing frequently on the living the virtues of Mary in our everyday lives. As St. Augustine so aptly stated above, it is important for me to start my journey with humility. I have much room for growth and I hope you will enjoy taking this journey with me. May our Blessed Mother guide us and keep us close to her heart, bringing our wishes to serve her Son to his feet that He may make us ever aware of our unique purpose.

My realization of the necessity of the virtue of humility began last year during my preparation for a presentation at the Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference  at Mt. Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, I partook of the process of consecrating myself to Mary. I had purchased the book, 33 Days to Morning Glory by Michael Gaitley,  a few years before, but the upcoming event prompted me to search for it.

Here is another God moment share:  I actually found the book (this is no small feat in our queenship of maryhome that could pass for a public library) and as I flipped through its pages I found a list of Marian feast days on which are appropriate to end the consecration. Surprise, surprise. The conference was the weekend of October 11, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary (of course if you google “Marian Feasts” you will see that virtually every day of the year is a feast day for Mary!)   Not only that, but on the day I found the book, I counted back 33 days from the feast, and found if I started on the next day I would finish on that feast day. Coincidence? I think not. I was just listening carefully to my soul’s message to engage the spiritual powers of Mary while I prepared my talk. Fear (or rather pride) will do that.

Now, each morning begins with a Hail Mary before I get out of bed, with a Rosary from my iPhone app  while I do morning stretches. My friend, Mary, is with me throughout my day and the Hail Mary is an antidote to worries and brain chatter. She refocuses me on her Son, Jesus Christ, and brings me out of my own little world to a more humble state of mind.

My favorite saint, Teresa of Avila, defines humility as living in the truth (“andar en la verdad”). Humility is knowing the truth of yourself, seeing yourself clearly, especially our deeply hidden shadows, many of which we have learned to hide even from ourselves, and presenting them for the difficult, but rewarding process of healing. Our Blessed Mother had no shadows, but she did have trials and tribulations. She handled them with the trust placed in her heart at her Immaculate Conception.

humility-is-a-precursor-of-successThe process of my consecration journey revealed surprise shadows…not happy surprises, but their revelation brought a joy of knowing I am in good hands in transforming them to spaces of light. As we move forward through the month of February, I will share my journey and the steps we can take together in building our foundation for virtuous living.

Hail Mary, full of grace…be with us each moment connecting us with the graces of unconditional mercy your Son offers for our healing.

  

Be still and know I am God

Today is day three of a vacation with my husband, Gary, in the Poconos. There is snow on the ground, the air is crisp, and there is a natural stillness and quiet brought by the blanket that has been spread over the hills.

We are happy here at the Crescent Lodge and Country Inn. Right now we are sitting in the dining room with an incredible view and a yummy breakfast prepared by Harry who has worked here for 26 years. On our first night, Jill, got us settled into Devonshire, our own private little getaway with a fireplace, jacuzzi, and a canopy bed…a little piece of heaven and peacefulness…

snowflakeSo, why is it a constant effort to turn off the chatter in my brain? I have looked at every Poconos brochure in the lobby, researching what to do, where to eat, how to have fun. All the while, craving the peace and quiet to do just what I want…to settle in by that fire and read my book for as long as I want. Yesterday God intervened as the Northeaster approached and we had snow all day. I thought to myself, yes, if I could design my own Heaven, this would be it, a book, a cup of tea, a fire, snow blowing outside and my husband to cuddle up with.

BUT, today the weather is clear and the mind chatter is back…so my vacation goal is to learn to live with the chatter as a part of my natural drive and creativity and how to tame it when it is time for relaxation. I am accepting my humanness and examining the good in it, while loving the fact that I can relax with morning and evening prayer, do a little journalling, read some Scripture and spiritual reading and gaze at the gift of my husband for 7 days before reentering the world…hopefully, recharged to serve Him more energetically and creatively. (Oh, yes, I must admit I am going to catch up on Season 4 of Downton Abbey !!)

As for worries about distraction and brain chatter, here is a snippet of the December 10, 2014, post from Word on Fire  ‘St. Thomas explains that our merit rests primarily on our original intention in praying. It isn’t broken by accidental distraction, which no human being can avoid, but only by intentional and willing distraction. This also should give us some relief. We need not worry too much about distractions, as long as we don’t encourage them. We realize something of what the Psalmist says, namely, that God “pours gifts on His beloved while they slumber” (Ps 127:2)’

Thank you St. Thomas Aquinas! Now back to my vacation…may you all be blessed today!

  

Respecting Life: Laws and Prayer

One of my most vivid memories of my eighth grade year was learning what an abortion was. I had barely learned what sex was. Even at 13 years old, it sickened me to think that a mother would kill her baby. In small ways, I became involved in the ProLife movement and remained active for many years.

After awhile it became tiresome. Not that I had changed my belief in the sanctity of life. If anything the gift of my four children hardened it into my soul. Over the years, I became aware of the myriad arguments on both sides and came to know women who had experienced it, if not once, but several times, for many reasons.

At first I was ashamed about not showing up for the meetings, the human chains at highway intersections, and the annual March for Life. What would people think? And that is a whole other post…

christ holding a babyBut as my spiritual life was deepening, I became truly aware of  the Presence of the Holy Spirit in my life to a degree that it was an ever present life raft. There was something more vital and life-giving that the Lord was asking me to do. It hit home at a Deacon and wives conference where Helen Alvare was the keynote speaker and the Rachel’s Vineyard organization had an information booth.

At the time I had just finished my Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University. And here was God’s mission opportunity for me in the field of respect for life. During all those “active” years that were very public, I saw the worst aftermath of abortion. The soul-killing regret, shame, and depression of the mothers (AND fathers) that had aborted a child. No one had ever told them about that side effect.

As a licensed counselor, with a specialty in allowing faith in God to guide the healing process, I could sit with these parents and guide them back to a full life with God’s merciful love and full forgiveness.

Today, while we fight over laws about respecting life and abortion, God is present trying to get His message of mercy and love through to us. When we rely on God’s grace we understand that He can heal any situation of life, whether it be helping a woman to see that an unborn child’s life is precious not only now, but for future generations, or assisting a dying person in seeing  the beauty of each moment of their life.

Do we need the public activity in the fight for respecting life? Yes, awareness keeps us on our toes and gives us direction for our prayers. But, it is these prayers and our willingness to speak freely about God’s love for us that will change the hearts of those looking to end lives by their own decision so that there will no longer be any business for the abortion clinics, nor need for measures to end one’s life early. 

May the peace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you.