In Mary’s Footsteps…

pathway of stones on stonesWhen the path is not clear, we look for a guide. How to choose a suitable guide for our journey? This question easily brings fogginess to the mind, blotting out clarity, and allowing us to continue our stumbling on the path of our own feeble creation.

For a Catholic woman, there are many choices, with hundreds of saints gone before us. And also, some still with us here on Earth, yet to be beatified for their daily, humble doings unseen, for there are saints that each of us know deeply in our own lives. Although they may escape the Papal crowning, our Lord sees and honors each of them as much and more!

While we may choose any or all of these blessed women, the Mother and guide of them all is our Blessed Mother. And with this in mind, she has been uppermost in my mind for many months now, with a renewed vigor and a compelling desire to turn to her daily.

So when the announcement of the exhibition Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, was announced, I was thrilled and made immediate plans to attend and spend time with the creations of others who also loved and followed in her footsteps.

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Today’s visit found me attracted to the beautiful Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Madonna col Bambino e Sant’Anna) by Orsola Maddalena Caccia (Moncalvo, 1596–1676), pictured here. It resonated with me at this time in my life because like St. Anne, I am a grandmother and a mother.

As my husband and I stood before it, it was he who mentioned that you never think of Jesus having a grandmother. She is not mentioned in the Bible as a part of his life, so it is impossible to know exactly what part she may have taken in his life. But, I am a fan of historical fiction, so I love the idea of envisioning St. Anne watching the Christ child playing outside his home, while Mary took care of her daily work inside…I can’t wait to ask her once I meet her in Heaven!!

May the Lord and his Blessed Mother and grandmother, St. Anne, bless you especially this week as we remember His death and Resurrection.

  

The Great “Yes”

 

Annunciation Henry Ossawa Tanner

What do we say “yes” to?
Who do we say “yes” to?
Why do we say “yes”?
Ponder these questions.

When have we said “yes” and been unsure?
When have we said “yes” and regretted it?
When have we said “yes” under duress?
Ponder these questions.

Would we have said “yes” to the Angel of the Lord?
Would we have said “yes” without hesitation, in full trust?
Would we have said “yes” in obedience?
Ponder these questions.

Will we be asked to say “yes” to the Lord today?
What will be our answer to the Lord when that next chance to say “yes” in all humility, trust and complete love is presented to us?
Will we recognize the next time the question is being presented to us?
Ponder these questions.

We ask our Blessed Mother to be with us today especially so she may open fully
our spiritual eyes that we may see each opportunity
to respond in solidarity with her Son’s love and mercy.

Her secret to a humble and loving response?
Following her God daily and adhering to His words in her every action.

“I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!” Psalm 40:8

May we be so blessed. Amen.

Image “The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner

  

Another share on Charity…

As I have been trying out the living of another virtue, Charity, I have been preparing to write my own blog entry on the subject for the past week. But other people’s blogs keep seeming so appropriate and fun to share. I must say that the Lord has once again asked me to be charitable here in my own space…

Haley Stewart, writer of Carrots for Michaelmas, provided a surprising piece on the virtue cinderella castleof charity as seen in the current version of the movie, Cinderella.

Another great revelation about this story? It’s Christian foundation! Read Father Robert Barron’s great article about it here, if you haven’t already!

Its a movie I will be seeing as soon as possible for a fun night out. Imagine a product of Hollywood with no doubts about whether it is appropriate! Worth spending the money on an actual theater viewing!

shutterstock_247370791 …and in view of the virtue I am trying to live out I will pay for a ticket for the person in front of me when I go…I challenge you to do the same as a small piece of your Lenten almsgiving!

May God send you blessings…

 

  

Charity (def): Sharing something good

So we are moving on to the virtue of charity. If you know me, you will know that I LOVE perusing the Internet for luscious tidbits and I have to admit I have dug myself to the outer limits of the ethers on occasion. Always indulging my curious mind!

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As an act of charity and goodwill, I am going to share with you someone else’s writing on Mary’s ardent virtue of charity. Then I will be going to Reconciliation to repent of my envy of her wonderful blog site! Kudos Christy!

Christy from Fountains of Home, a young Catholic mother of five, finds time to love the Lord, her family and friends and shares all about the ups and downs of life in her blog. She has that wonderful humorous outlook on life that as women and moms we all need to tap into!

Last year she wrote this amazing blog on Mary’s virtue of charity…so glad I can share it with you! Hope you enjoy it!

 

  

Ashes and Sackcloth: A new meaning

 

As I live in a pile of ashes that seems to follow me through Lent this year, I have found that soulflamea flame inside me is creating them. They are ashes of sin burning away from my mortal body. They leave behind skin that is raw and painful. Denial of bodily cravings, leaving mind-numbing television behind, and dragging my feet through the mud of humility, makes me evermore aware of the the burning fire of the Holy Spirit in my soul…

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It tries to breakthrough and the burning is not quenched by any salve, but only by more time in prayer, with the Eucharist, and with my eyes wide open to the trail of the past, its revelations of where holiness may be possible.
I long for Easter and the new skin of purity to be worn through the next year, for a taste of the glorified body that will eventually be mine to inhabit.

All praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful to my soul!

  

The Rewards of Humility

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Next week, we will be moving on to another virtue, but we will not leave humility behind. Putting this virtue in the forefront of my daily life has been quite revealing and it is summed up by this verse from Galatians.

Moving through the day and deciding what tasks on the ever-growing list were pulling at me most ardently took on a new character. I found myself more aware of the fact that many of the items were strictly what I wanted to do. No one had asked me to do them, they were just things pulling at me from my endless pile of “good ideas”. This awareness actually allowed me to relax (just a little!) and sort out the real priorities.

Because we are in the season of Lent, I had lofty ideas of getting up at the crack of dawn everyday, spending a couple of hours in prayer and writing, going to Mass everyday, not watching any TV at all, and of course, eating nothing but healthy food! And I have to admit that last year this was my Lenten plan and it went very well!

white flowers

But I am in a different place this year. Last year’s Lenten observances were a practice that moved me into a deeper relationship with God leading to a fuller life in His Spirit and with His people. So this year Lent has to be for the person I am now. And she is someone that God wants to slow down and actually enjoy the life she has been blessed with. Someone that needs to learn to stop and listen and be less task oriented. Someone who needs to stop “shoulding” herself and beating herself up for the things she didn’t get done.

Why is this so important to humility? Because we are to do nothing that God has not put on our list, at least until we talk to Him about it. When we get caught up in our own “important-to-do” list and are feeling overwhelmed, it is a clear sign that we may be caught up in our own need to be important or good. Become a servant of Christ today.

  

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.

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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