Lenten Reflections 2019: Cultivating Joy- Week 7

Lenten Wisdom:

 “O souls! Seek a refuge, like pure doves, in the shadow of the crucifix. There, mourn the Passion of your divine Spouse, and drawing from your hearts flames of love and rivers of tears, make of them a precious balm with which to anoint the wounds of your Saviour.” 

-St. Paul of the Cross

Lenten Reflection 2019: Cultivating Joy- Week 6


Lenten Wisdom:

“Let us not allow this season of grace to pass in vain! Let us ask God to help us set out on a path of true conversion. Let us leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and turn to Jesus’ Pasch. Let us stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them. In this way, by concretely welcoming Christ’s victory over sin and death into our lives, we will also radiate its transforming power to all of creation.”

-Pope Francis, October 4, 2018.

Lenten Reflection 2019: Cultivating Joy- Week 5

Lenten Wisdom:

“Lent reminds us, therefore, that Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the “weapons” of prayer, fasting and penance are used. Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.”

-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 2006

Lenten Reflection 2019: Cultivating Joy- Week 4

LENTEN WISDOM:

“Lord, have mercy on me! … I make no effort to conceal my wounds. You are my physician, I your patient. You are merciful; I stand in need of mercy.”

-St. Augustine

Lenten Reflection 2019: Cultivating Joy- Week 2

Lenten Wisdom:

“Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.”

-St. Augustine

Lenten Reflections 2019: Cultivating Joy- Week 1

Lenten Wisdom:

“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing,’ it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”

-Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Cultivating Joy: 2019 Lenten Reflections

Rockaway Beach, OR


My Catholic Counselor in a recent session, asked me, “Where do you find joy?” Everywhere. . .

According to Pope Francis, “Joy is the air Christian’s breathe.” Explaining even further in his May 2018 homily, Pope Francis elaborated, ” Joy does not mean living from laugh to laugh. No, it’s not that. Joy is not entertainment. No, it’s not that. It is something else. Christian joy is peace, peace that is deeply rooted, peace in the heart, the peace that only God can give. This is Christian joy. It is not easy to foster this joy.”

But how do we cultivate this lasting joy-the Joy of Christ that breathes life into a Christian? Not fleeting happiness but lasting and unwavering joy? A Joy inspired martyrs to sing and praise God while facing brutal deaths. We practice and cultivate joy. As Pope Francis emphasises, this lasting, unwavering joy isn’t easy to foster. But practice makes progress.

This Lenten Season, I will post a series of daily reflections to inspire cultivating Christian joy which essentially stems from a greater trust and reliance in our Heavenly Father and a deeper understanding and recognition of His love for us. He created us for love. He created the earth for goodness, truth, & beauty. We need to relearn or learn to recognize the beauty that surrounds us in this life and the next. Some of the reflections came from my recent reading of Haley Stewart’s “The Grace of Enough.”

“Oh my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage, and strength to serve you. Enkindle your love in me and then walk with me alone the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it in peace.”
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

May God bless you & keep you this Lenten Season!

On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

Mists4
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

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!