Towards the Top- Easter 2018

Verso l'alto

Holy Week and the Easter Season 2018 did not fall into my well-intended, personal plans. Instead God took me on another journey asking me to let go of the control I grasped onto over my spiritual life and the manner in which I desired to enter into Holy Week and the Easter Season. There is nothing fundamentally wrong about having a spiritual plan or goals: attending Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday Service or fasting and abstaining in a certain way for Good Friday or even baking hot-cross buns for Holy Saturday. But what if God desires something different and potentially more challenging? Do I flounder kicking and screaming against the tide of grace or do I surrender and place myself within the current wherever I may drift? Thankfully, he granted me the grace necessary to remain calm and united with Him.

This may seem an extreme description, but let’s be honest, we tend to think we can and should control even our spiritual lives- the manner and timing in which God reaches us or invites us let alone makes any sort of demand from us. God should allow me to attend the Triduum in preparation for Easter. I’m a faithful Catholic. I say my prayers. I offer up my sacrifices. I follow the letter and spirit of the law. God should rewards me not only in a physical way (allowing me to attend Mass) but should also reward me in a spiritual manner (partaking in the sacraments.) But entering into Holy Week and the sacraments isn’t a reward for good behavior. My logic is flawed.

How did Jesus spend his Holy Week two-thousand plus years ago? He entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey praised and exulted only to be sentence to a brutal death by these same individuals a few days later. He broke bread with his disciples and instituted the Eucharist knowing that they would betray and abandon him. He poured his heart and soul out to His heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweated blood all while his disciples slept. Once he was arrested, his trial involved multiple layers of Jewish and Roman involvement fueled by fear and false testimony. “The Rock” on which Christ would build his earthly Church (i.e., Peter) betrayed Him not once but three times. He experienced unimaginable and brutal mental, physical, and emotional torture all while evil taunted Him.

He drug, eventually with the assistance of Simon the Cyrenian, a monolithic cross up a hill while covered in open sores and abrasions only to be led each step closer to a tortuous death. In the midst of the ugliness, a few women and his mother, Our Lady, entered into his passion. Once nailed to the cross, where he would slowly suffocate to death by the weight of his own body, Christ still ministered to the criminals nailed beside him. One rejected him and the other embraced Him. His mother, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved apostle John stood at the foot of the cross while the other eleven apostles and many other disciples cowered in fear and abandoned him. One disciple would take his own life. His garments were gambled off. The people taunted him and his divine power and authority. In his final earthly moments, he bequeathed us His Mother as Our Own. Then he spoke, “It is finished.”

He spoke, “It is finished.” He did NOT speak, “Everything is finished. Nothing else remains.” No, his sacrificial act of love was the beginning. When God asks me to suffer in private during Holy Week, who am I to complain and question why? He asked His own beloved Son to do the same all those years before. His suffering resulted in the salvation of mankind. Am I Jesus or a savior? No. Absolutely not. But I believe in my heart that beneath my difficult Holy Week and Easter Season lies a deeper purpose and plan. A purpose and plan I may be unaware of until the day on which I am raised up and hopefully enter into the Kingdom of God.

I used the inscription by Blessed Giorgio Frassati to caption this post, because this man was a young and vivacious godly man who desire many goods in His earthly life, but died unexpectedly. An avid climber, Frassati captioned a climbing picture with the Italian phrase “Verso L’Alto” meaning “Towards the Top.” Whether God asks you to climb up the mountain or fall down the mountain and back up always strive “Towards the Top.”

How do we strive upwards? Meekness- a quiet strength. A virtue made more and more present in my life during this Lenten and Easter Season.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” -Matthew 5:5

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”- Mathew 11:29

DIVINE MERCY NOVENA: DAY 6

Intention: Today bring to Me THE MEEK AND HUMBLE SOULS AND THE SOULS OF LITTLE CHILDREN, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. Only the humble soul is capable of receiving My grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.

Novena Prayers: Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages.

Amen.

Yes, Jesus, asked us to Love His Mother!

Mary Quote

I must mention Our Lady during the week of cultivating meekness and weeding out wrath. She provides an important and beautiful example of the profound strength of a meek heart.

Are you seeking intimacy with Christ? Who is a profound example of intimacy with Christ? Who should I turn to? Who should I model? Turn to Your Mother and the Mother of God- Our Lady.

“There is no danger of exaggerating. We an never hope to fathom this inexpressible mystery nor will we ever be able to give sufficient thanks to our Mother for bringing us into such intimacy with the Blessed Trinity.”- St. Josemaria Escriva

Mary the Mother of God became our Mother by the gift of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross moments before he died. The Mother of God became the Mother of All. So do Catholics worship Mary? No, but we do venerate Our Lady by the direction of Jesus Christ.

 “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” -John 9:26

Not only is Our Lady a wonderful mother, but a powerful intercessor who cares for her children- you and I. The Blessed Virgin Mary points to her Son Jesus Christ. She always directs God’s children towards Christ never towards herself. This is why Catholics use the phrase “To Christ Through Mary.” The veneration (not worship-we don’t worship Mary) of Mary heightens our personal relationship with Jesus Christ because we learn to love Christ as his Mother did. A relationship with Mary, the Mother of God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ allows us to more fully enter into relationship with Him. Entering into a loving relationship with his Mother who nurtured him, bore him and raised him provides insight into life and love- the human and the divine. God commanded us to honor our fathers and mothers including Jesus’ mother. A woman, who on the cross with his dying breaths, he gave to us as Our Mother. That is why a relationship with Mary is profound. She is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son, and the Souse of God the Holy Spirit! How awesome is that!

Our Lady, Mother of God, teach me to love Christ as you loved Him. Help me to love you more as to Love our Lord more deeply.  -Amen

 

Cultivating the Fruit of Meekness

Does meekness equate to being a Christian doormat? Absolutely, not. Instead Christ exhibits meekness as strength with a tender touch. This word has been misconstrued and turned into a negative in our modern era, because we don’t understand what we reject.

Meekness (1)What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Where does the idea come from?

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness) and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

The Greek language is much more precise than the English language. Words capture a deeper and specific meaning than English words. For example, in English love means a wide variety of types and conditions of love defined by one word. In Greek, four- six different words capture different types and conditions of love: storge, philia, eros, and agape. The same principal applies to the term “meekness” (gentleness).

The apostle Paul uses praotes or prautes— and “meekness” is the closest translation from the Greek. What does meekness mean? To be meek means yielded, teachable, responsive, humble, gentle, patient under suffering, and respectful in our relationships with God and with others. Basically. meekness is an orientation towards God and others and not on ourselves. Meekness is quiet strength- a spiritual force to be reckoned with.

Jesus Christ himself on the Sermon on the Mount outlined, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) and “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” (Matthew 11:29) Meekness is an attribute of Christ- an attribute of Christian behavior. The meek and humble of heart will find rest. Not a peace of this world but an divine and eternal peace. Meekness is apart of the Christian mission.

How do we cultivate meekness? Most importantly by turning towards Christ in all aspects of our lives and not inwards towards ourselves. Here are some spiritual suggestions:

  1. Ask for the Guidance & Inspiration of the Holy Spirit! Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Awaken in me the Fire of your Love . . .
  2. Read the Bible- Start w/ the Gospels and take notice of Jesus’ behavior and other apostles and disciple.
  3. Reflect on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)- read and reflect on each individual beatitude and then resolve to practice that Beatitude in your daily life.
  4. Reflect on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23)- read and reflect on each individual fruit and then resolve to practice that Beatitude in your daily life.
  5. Ask for the Guidance & Inspiration of the Our Lady! She is a perfect example of meekness and wants to teach you.
  6. Ask for the Guidance & Inspiration of other Saints and holy persons! Fill your mind and heart with heroic examples of virtue.

Great spiritual ideas, Hannah, but what about some practical suggestions too? Sure. The following suggestions highlight the practice of meekness in daily life.

  1. Practice Gentleness: in thoughts, words, deeds, and actions. If it ain’t gentle ton’t entertain the thought, don’t speak the words, and don’t commit action.
  2. Be respectful: Start by Being respectful with the individuals you take for granted the most (family, spouse, loved ones, friends, coworkers, etc.) Usually, this is your family and/or significant other. Use kind and respectful words especially when you don’t want to. Try saying please, thank you, you’re welcome, and excuse me instead of mhmm, hmmm, or other non-verbal grunting.
  3. Suffer with a smile. When commuting to work and another driver does something irritating, pray for that person. Forgo the largest portion at dinnertime. Restrain yourself from fidgeting in Church. Unite your suffering with Christ’s suffering for the sake of the Church. Speak less and listen more.
  4. Learn about your faith. Dust off the books collecting dust in a stack  by your bed (like mine) and commit to reading at least one chapter per day.Inquire into whether your parish has FORMED or not. Find faith based resources to help you grown and develop your understanding of the Faith.
  5. Integrate a morning and evening prayer routine into your daily schedule. Leave time for silence. God speaks in the silence.
  6. Cultivate gratitude! Make sure you thank God for the many blessing in your life and ask Him to help you recognize more fully those blessing. If it helps, make a list daily of 5 things you are grateful for.
  7. Abstain from having the final say or the first stay in a conversation. Abstain from mean or hateful words. Abstain from cussing, sacrilegious, and indecent words. Abstain from using the Lord’s name in vain or other holy words.

May God bless you and keep you now and always!

Preparing Your Garden

I wanted to share some Lenten Inspiration. My theme for Lent this Year is preparing Your Garden for the Lord- weeding out vice and planting seeds of virtue. May your Lent be transformative and informative!

White Rose
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

In the cool of the day
You come and meet me
All the blue fades away
The stars are winking

Your love’s so strong
I can’t recall
What was this thing
They called the fall?

And You walk with me
You never leave
You’re making my heart a garden

Oh, why would I hide
Away from Your face
When the light of Your love
Illuminates?

Your hand in mine
A steady line
Drawn on my heart
And deep in my mind

And You walk with me
You never leave
You’re making my heart a garden

Lenten Virtue Challenge- Preparing Your Garden

God works in mysterious ways. This Lenten Virtue Challenge came from an Instagram post showing “weeds” and “seeds” or vices and virtues with a caption suggesting which weeds would I pull and which seeds would be planted during the Lenten Season. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, I decided to elaborate on the idea and create a Lenten Virtue Challenge- Preparing Your Garden.
Flowers by the Shore
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography
This is a evolving challenge. And as my friend and I work through the vices and virtues each week, we will learn, grow, and modify where needed. Having someone to keep me accountable is a tremendous blessing. Each Morning begins with invoking the Holy Spirit. Deliberately inviting the Holy Spirit into our day/heart/mind/soul and asking for the graces to remove a specific vice and plant a seed.
Holy Spirit Prayer:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. 
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
[Example: We ask you to grant us HUMILITY and turn away from PRIDE, etc.]
Throughout that week, we will focus on living out that specific virtue and removing the taints of vice in our everyday lives: our thoughts, words, and deeds. I’m hoping to find bible verses or saint quotes to help us gain insight into authentic virtue and rejecting vice. Below is the tentative schedule.
 
SCHEDULE
Lent- Week 1 (Feb. 18-24)
Weed: PRIDE
Seeds HUMILITY
Lent-Week 2 (Feb. 25- March 3)
Weeds: GREED & SLOTH
Seeds: GENEROSITY & DILIGENCE
Lent- Week 3 (March 4-10)
Weed: LUST
Seed: CHASTITY
Lent- Week 4 (March 11-17)
Weed: WRATH
Seed: MEEKNESS
Lent- Week 5 (March 18-24)
Weed: GLUTTONY
Seed: TEMPERANCE
Lent-Week 6 (March 25-31)
Weed: ENVY
Seed: CHARITY
Please, join me in this Lenten Virtue Challenge- Preparing Your Garden. I’m hoping and praying this year will lead to more development and guidance in improving this Lenten Reflection. Please, let me know if you have any suggestions. You are all in my prayers!

Alms . . . What? Almsgiving.

This Lent I decided to move my serious almsgiving deliberation into deliberate action. Though I still have student loans incurred at a Catholic Institution and an active member in my parish, I’m not a child anymore. My faith needed to grow in a practical manner.

According to the USCCB (United States Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops),

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving,” which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and  “a work of justice pleasing to God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462).

This may be an unpopular statement for my non- Catholic Christian brethren, i.e. sola fide. Are we saved by good works? Yes and No. Do we earn our salvation? No. But our good works flow from our relationship with Christ- our inner disposition makes us act out based upon our faith. Christ performed acts of charity and good works while on earth. And thus, we as Christians are called to perform good works and acts of charity too. Our faith is alive in our works, actions, thoughts, and deeds. Our faith needs to be salt and light to the world or it’s dead.

Want to learn more about faith and works? Click here. 

During Lent, three pillars support Lenten practice: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This year I made a deliberate attempt to practice almsgiving. I’m unable to contribute in grand ways, but that isn’t the point. In Mark 12:44, the widow gave all she had. She has a whole bible heading named after her: “The Widow’s Offering.” During the time of Jesus, widows were considered the poorest of the poor including other woman and children. Society did not look after widows. It is no coincidence that Jesus used the widow’s offering as an example of almsgiving.

This Lent I decided to curb superfluous online shopping and practice almsgiving instead. The practice of almsgiving is designed to help me became a more generous person, a more grateful person, and a more Christ-like person.

Please, Holy Spirit, help me to be a more generous person.

Amen.

What Did You Give Up For Lent?

“What Did you Give Up for Lent?”

My friend asked me at choir rehearsal last night. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure. In the past few years, I opted for adding virtuous practices and moved away from the usual rubric of “giving up” or abstaining from things. Yes, the scandal of it all. I still consume chocolate during Lent.

My trend of opting in versing opting out started in college five years ago. I added rituals, prayers, or reflections to my daily life during the Lenten 40 Days. I figured that whole premise about developing or breaking habits with 30 days included spiritual habits too. Lent provides not 30 but 40 days to develop a new habit.

There isn’t anything wrong with giving up or abstaining for Lent. Giving up or abstaining develops perseverance and wisdom. With certain health problems abstaining from certain things like caloric intake really isn’t a healthy option. Regardless, I have a whole load of spiritual, mental, and emotional things to work on.

Five years ago I created a list . . . a list of gratitude. How often to we thank God for our many blessings or even ponder the blessing ourselves? That Lent I wrote 40 things, people, feelings, emotions, gifts, crosses, etc. I was grateful for and thanked God. Did I loose five pounds or run five miles daily? No. But I honed a deeper sense of gratitude. That deeper sense of gratitude had lasting affects on my daily life, health, wellness, hope, and Trust in God.

So every year since that first list I opt in and develop a behavior during Lent amid abstaining too. Last year, my beloved and I prayed Compline each night and still pray Compline whenever we are between novenas and special prayers. That was a lasting, positive change in our spiritual life.

This year we’re adding another spiritual practice: praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. As an individual, I decided practice deliberate almsgiving. Today I’m discerning how best to approach almsgiving this Lent, and asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to Trust God more and mammon less.

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Happy Feast Day of St. Andrew!

The St. Andrew Christmas Novena or the Christmas Anticipation Novena begins TODAY, November 30th and goes until Christmas Eve, December 24th. The novena prayer is prayed 15 x’s per day. This novena is a medieval novena with a legacy. Stories and legends surround this novena. Tradition states that woman through the ages petitioned Our Lord the Christ Child for assistance in finding a husband. But the novena can be prayed for many reasons.

st-andrew-christmas-novena

.