Sin prevents us from knowing God as much as we should.The more we are purged of sin the more we come to know God and ourselves. We are always being purged and healed, each and every day, provided that we cooperate with God's graces. However, this cooperation is key. Without it, our souls stagnate and eventually backslide. A person cannot stay in one place spiritually, we either move forward or backward. Responding to the graces God gives us is crucial. He knows the condition of our souls far better than we do and guides us in the areas where we need to progress. And what constitutes progress? Simply this...growth in virtues. If we see this growth we know we are progressing.
Sins often "ride upon the back" of other sins so it's useful to understand which deadly sin is the "kingpin" in your life and tackle it in a powerful way because when you overcome one that's a troublemaker for you it makes it easier to overcome other sins. Sort of like knocking the front pin down in bowling - if you hit it just right it will take down others with it.
One of the deadly sins that seems to be a particular problem for many people these days is greed.
Most of us live in a time and place where it's difficult NOT to be greedy. We live in a society that breeds discontent. Companies promote a "must have" mentality through their advertising and sales tactics. What used to be "wants" have become "needs" and people are often judged today by what they have rather than who they are. While there is nothing wrong with having a few extras, do we really improve the quality of our lives when we add the "latest, greatest, thing" to our households? Or are we trying to distract ourselves in some way?
What might we be hiding behind the sin of greed?
Greed is the inordinate desire for money or earthly goods. We see manifestations of this capital sin everywhere we look today, a good example being the avarice that gripped our large financial institutions a few years back to such an extent that they needed government bailouts to stay afloat. An article I read when this happened said the downfall of our financial institutions was "bad banking decisions" but the truth is that greed was the culprit here and many of the banks have continued basing their banking practices on greed rather than using money justly. Good old common sense tells us where this will land us once again.
A hunger for power may be one of the more dangerous manifestations of greed. We can see the damage dictators have wrought in our century but ordinary people can be "little dictators" too. Some folks lord it over their families and run their household with an iron hand that brooks no disobedience. Right or wrong is not the issue here because a "little dictator" does not respect the free will of others. Greed and pride make a volatile mixture. If gluttony causes a narrowing of the spirit, the mixture of greed and pride bring about a deadly spiritual rigidity that is difficult to pierce. Pride believes it is always right and greed walks all over others to get what it wants. And after it gets what it wants... it wants more. They are very dangerous partners.
Greed is often fear based and uses the goods of the earth as a "physical" blockade of the heart. Greed does not trust God or others. Nor does it trust itself. It uses "stuff" as protection and "lording it over others" as proof that it is self-sufficient but once these things are taken away it becomes obvious that this is not the case. Greed is the refusal to entrust oneself into God's hands... which stems from fear. The problem is that we must learn to trust God totally. The more greedy we are, the more painful our separation from this earth at death will be because dying well requires an complete abandonment of ourselves into the hands of God. If we trust things more than God this poses a big problem, doesn't it?
Greed is unhappy because it confuses "having" with "being". Because it confuses these two it always seeks more because what it has is not enough to fill what can only be filled by God.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of greed:
~ lack of trust in God
~ a distrust of others
~ a dissatisfaction with one's life
~ a pessimistic outlook on things
~ being manipulative
~ a worldly outlook and a spiritual dullness
~ stinginess (tightfisted with money and goods)
When tackling greed it's helpful to ask the Holy Spirit to root out and heal the fear, the lack of trust in God and others, and the feeling of being unworthy and unlovable that may be lingering beneath this deadly sin. It's interesting to note that when a person feels a lack of self worth they may surround themselves with things of worth to offset these feelings of unworthiness within themselves. The things they surround themselves with become the standard by which they measure both themselves and others. A yardstick of this sort is doomed from the start. We need to understand that our worth is not in what we have or what we do but in who we are as children of God created in His image and likeness. Greed's opposing virtue is easier to practice when it flows from the certain knowledge of our own innate worth as children of God. The understanding of our dignity as His sons and daughters helps remove the physical blockade of "stuff" we have constructed as a barricade to the heart.
Greed's opposing virtue is liberality (generosity). The generous giving of one's time, money, or goods to those in need is the way to overcome greed. Praying for an increase in the virtue of charity is key when tackling this vice. I also find praying the Rosary and reading Scripture very helpful when it comes to greed as it helps combat the spirit of worldliness that we carry. Focusing on Scripture passages (such as Luke 12:22-34, John 3:16) that speak of God's love and trustworthiness will help heal the inner wounds that have allowed greed to gain a foothold in your life.
(Isn't it great to have archives to steal posts from? This post is a combination of three different posts from my series on the Seven Deadly Sins. You can find more by clicking on Nov. and Dec. 2011 in my archives.)
I recently ran across a great video series that speak of the Seven Deadly Sins as distress symptoms of emotional wounds. The speaker, Christina King, offers some fascinating insights on these sins and exposes some of the underlying wounds which may provide these sins fertile ground to take root in. I highly recommend watching them. Here's the link for those of you who are interested: Christina King on how the Seven Deadly Sins Correspond to Our Deep Emotional Wounds.
God has been very good to me. Unfortunately, I have to admit that at times I have the bad habit of focusing on my flaws instead of God's mercy and kindness. Do I really think that my human imperfections matter more than the greatness of the Lord? No, but it can be easy for me to get caught up in this negative type of introspection.
Every flaw looks magnified when inspected up close.
The world becomes a very small place indeed when we focus on ourselves to this degree. I know better than this but still catch myself doing it. There's nothing that imprisons a person as much as being overly preoccupied with yourself does. When it comes to spiritual matters, self-absorption is downright dangerous.
I'm quite sure we impede the work of the Holy Spirit when we worry about our spiritual progress. It's as if we were saying to the Lord, "I can't trust you with my sanctification. I am worried about my holiness because I don't quite believe you are powerful or loving enough to take care of this for me." Or perhaps we think he'll let us down and that we won't reach the impossibly high standards of holiness that we set up for ourselves with our fallen natures that (of course) know better than God what holiness is.
In other words...
...I am convinced that our own idea of holiness and God's are different. Very different.
Sooner or later everyone must get rid of the false gods they have set up for themselves...and the most difficult one to boot off the throne is the god of self. It's been a problem since the Garden of Eden and is no less of one today. The apple doesn't fall far from tree. Those who think they have escaped this aspect of the fall of man are deceiving themselves. The saints didn't think they were saints; they understood the depths of their fallen nature and their total dependence on God's mercy. They knew they were sinners in deep need of salvation. Once self has been kicked off the throne it becomes very clear that this is true in our own lives as well. One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a saint is thinking you are one already. The humble KNOW they are sinners but this doesn't bother them to a great degree because:
Humility is God's Anesthesia. Where humility reigns so does trust in the mercy of God. This trust goes a long way toward smoothing the path of life. Though the humble may suffer as much as other people, they are not as troubled by it. Their hearts stay peaceful.
Those who "pick" on themselves are playing God. It's like saying to God, "I know what's wrong with me more than you do." Which isn't true, of course. He knows us through and through. No aspect of your being is hidden from Him. The difference between accusing ourselves and the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin is like night and day. Some of the signs to watch out for are these:
Scrupulosity - Definitely not of God.
Confusion over sins - The Holy Spirit brings clarity.
Despair or hopelessness - Satan's doing the accusing here.
Depression - This is an odd one. We know there are cases of physical depression so this is a bit harder to discern but depression can have spiritual roots as well. For those who don't normally battle depression this can be a clear sign that we are trying to "outrun" the Holy Spirit rather than waiting for His light.
Frustration - "This is ridiculous! It's impossible not to sin!" Well, of course. And God well knows this. Even the saints fell.
When we see these things at play then we know it's a good time to step back and reevaluate our spiritual lives. The signs I mention above are good clues that we have not yet ceded control of our lives over to God and are depending on our limited human understanding rather than the wisdom that comes from above.
When I catch myself acting as my own "judge and jury" I try to put a check on it before I get carried away and I turn my focus toward God instead. (And I learned this the hard way!) I have come to the realization that it's always best to wait for the Holy Spirit to bring things to light because He is far gentler than we are. Trying to outrun the Holy Spirit almost always leads to a lack of peace and joy. It's important that we accept ourselves, wherever we are in our spiritual walk. God is patient and we should be as well.
No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart. St John Cassian
I added to my post, The Game Changer, to give my readers a better idea of why these illuminating moments are so important to our spiritual lives. They have the ability to completely change a person from the inside out.
game changer: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way (The Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Don't you just love "AHA" moments during prayer? I call them "game changers" because they tip your spiritual life on its head and shake loose all that isn't useful anymore in your walk with the Lord. As your spiritual life progresses certain prayer habits impede growth if we cling to them and we must be able to let them go and follow the Holy Spirit's lead instead. Usually these changes first come about during periods of illumination as God begins to direct the spiritual life of the individual to ever greater degrees. God gently tugs the reins of our lives out of our hands and takes them into His own and oh what a difference this makes in our lives! One of its most beneficial effects is a steady inner peace, along with a greater trust in Divine Providence.
Here are a few of the game changers that have had the greatest impact on my life up until this point:
- God's love is everything. And the key to the spiritual life is not spending your time frantically searching for this immense love that supports all life but in realizing that you are already in it. His love completely encompasses us and pervades our very existence. Our biggest struggle stems from a loss of awareness of this love. Sin darkens the understanding and we lose the sense of being in God's presence though we are as much in the Divine presence as we were previously - it is not really possible to hide from God since He is omnipresent. (Yes, that means we sin in His presence.) The love is steady and consistent on God's end - He loses no awareness of us, it is we who lose our awareness of Him. The soul is asleep and needs to be awakened. And many, many souls are asleep these days. Prayer helps wake us up to the knowledge of "God with us" again. Over time, prayer often becomes a "sinking into" or a "resting" in God's love as we once again experience His presence and realize that our words are getting in the way instead of helping. Some people think that God does not "speak" to them. I do not know whether to laugh or cry whenever I hear someone say this. The truth is...God never shuts up. It is we who close our ears, hearts, and minds. I am not joking...the Lord never shuts up. Often, it is simply that we are too distracted to hear Him. It's pretty hard to multi-task you know. We have gotten so good (or bad, rather) at juggling numerous tasks and "commitments" that we have forgotten the biggest commitment of all... putting God first. If we were to do this, all the other aspects of our lives would fall into place. And if we would learn to quiet down and pay attention we would all "hear" God. His ways of speaking are endless. God does not have to speak out loud in order to communicate with us, He has direct access to our souls and can impress his words right onto our hearts. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many of us have "spiritual" ADHD. Think about it. Our poor brains and our hearts are pulled in so many directions at once that we cannot possibly focus enough to pay attention to God. Plus we are hyperactive. If I were to give anyone a piece of advice on prayer it would be:
Remember to quiet yourself and listen. If you do this, God will do the rest.
- Love comes first. By this I mean that first we experience God's love and then that love bears fruit in our lives. If you attempt to live life by a performance-based measure instead of a love-based measure you'll always struggle spiritually. Love comes first and everything else flows from this foundation. I spent years thinking I had to earn God's love (this is one of the results of living in a performance-based society, sadly) only to find that I was living in this love the whole time. Another huge game changer. The world has it backwards in its extreme focus on productivity as king. The truth is that work matters because people matter and not the other way around. Knowing this simplifies life to a great degree because you begin to know what is worthy of your attention and what stems from greed and excess.
- Life or death...it's a win-win situation. When we are alive on earth we live in Christ's love, when we die we live in Christ's love. This one was a huge game changer for me because it took away a large portion of my fear of death. Death is a doorway between time and eternity. We leave time, we enter eternity...God's love encompasses both. I often think of this earth as a "womb" God's womb, where He is preparing his children for their REAL life...their life in eternity. Yet, we dash madly about, not understanding that we are completely encompassed in the love of God. We fight against suffering, our "birthing pains" here. Were we to embrace them with grace and courage we might be able to quiet down enough to see that death is simply a doorway and not to be feared. For those who have loved, and loved deeply, death is as easy as walking from one room to another. It's the ultimate act of abandonment to the Divine Will. We do no work at death...God does all the work at this time. Just as a baby is born with no help from himself, so it is with us at the time of death. We simply "let go" and release ourselves into the tender hands of our Father in heaven.
- It's okay to pour your heart out and lay it at Christ's feet. God knows everything that's in there anyway: the good, the bad AND the ugly. Nothing is hidden from Him so it makes no sense to hide what's in plain sight. This is very freeing once we move past the shame and sorrow of having sinned right in front of Him so often. It also helps us realize just how great a gift the Sacrament of Confession is.
One of the things that causes a number of people to hold God at arm's length is fear. For the most part, the four game changers I wrote about above strip away fear and allow us to embrace the Lord and his Will for our lives more fully.
All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
St. Julian of Norwich
"It is not enough for me that God has given me grace once, but He must give it always. I ask, that I may receive; and when I have received, I ask again. I am covetous of receiving God's bounty. He is never slow in giving, nor am I ever weary of receiving. The more I drink, the more thirsty I become."
Cars run on gasoline, people run on grace. Without God's grace we would stall and break down daily. Grace is everything and everything is a grace. All of it. Every single thing in life can be a stepping stone to the Almighty God if we allow it to be. I have a little booklet that I like to leaf through now and then called The Healing Flame of Love and one section of this booklet speaks about how grace works in our lives. The author's words are in italics, mine are in bold.
a. Grace is completely available. There is not just one thing to do at each moment, or I fail to do God's will; there are a multitude of actions presented to me by grace. Different ways to act are as available as different items in a supermarket - yet appointed for my needs with great care. This is something that always confused me before I read this book. Was there one "perfect" God-willed thing that I should be doing each minute of the day? Was I doing God's will or my own? Some things are common sense such as taking care of one's family or working, but what about the rest of the day? The idea that there are a multitude of actions presented to me at any given time and that they were in line with God's will for me relieved my heart and mind.
b. Grace gives us the physical ability to do the things necessary for salvation.
c. Cooperation with grace puts me in touch with a tremendous power. If we believe that we are and can do nothing, we must believe there is a power that can do everything. This power is, of course, God. Cooperation with His ideas, acceptance of His plans can make the power available. Example: You cannot push a freight train, yet a small movement of the throttle and the whole train starts to move.
d. Grace operates below the level of consciousness. Wonderful things - like the operation of grace, God speaking to us, the Spirit moving us, etc. - are continually causing changes in our soul. We are unaware either of their action or their significance. Example: Consider what happens in Baptism, etc., or what happened when the prodigal son said, "I will return..." We can't "see" grace, but we can often see the results of grace. It is impossible not to notice the work God has done in me over the years. Were I took look day by day, the effects grace has had on my life may be imperceptible but if I look over a period of ten years they are profound. I shake my head in amazement at God's power. Yes, I have a long way to go, but I have also come a long way.
e. God will not sanctify me against my will, but He can change my will to make it agree with His desires.
f. Grace is a receiving. The really important thing to understand about grace is that we receive it as a gift. We do not earn it or receive it because we seem to have done something to deserve it. If we are at all interested in arriving at a high degree of prayer (in order to increase our output) we must appreciate this function of grace, for in contemplation our activity is a receiving. I love this one. Grace is unearned and unmerited. It is a pure, free, gift given by a loving God. Every person on this earth is a recipient of God's grace though they may not realize it.
Have you ever lost your taste for all things spiritual for a while? Or for years? You read a book about the saints and it seems dull and flat, as if you were reading a dictionary. No leaps of the spirit while reading the Bible...no, it's as if you were reading through an encyclopedia, or worse, a boring medical tome. It feels as if you are spiritually deaf and blind to boot. Prayer is so dry that it feels as if you are reciting the Gettysburg address rather than addressing the God of all that is.
You wonder if your mind and heart have gone on vacation. And have forgotten to let you know they were leaving.
You can only hope that they haven't vacated the premises permanently.
Why is God allowing this you ask? Wouldn't it be better if we could pray with our hearts on fire every single day? Or if God's light illumined our hearts and minds to such a degree that prayer always flowed smoothly with nary a distraction? Ever.
"You know, Lord, so I can hurry up, become a saint overnight and do your will. If we could simply get all the "yucky stuff" over with I'm sure things would be better all around."
Yeah...right. Fat chance of that happening.
Well, it was worth a shot in the dark, anyway.
Dark being the key word.
After years and years of these periods of aridity, or worse, desolation, you begin to realize that all this
"yucky stuff" is actually the good stuff. It is during these times that much of God's hidden work is being done.
Perseverance is important during periods of aridity or desolation. Here's a helpful link: The Way to Heaven. The entire book is online but I linked specifically to the pages on aridity and desolation. It will give you some relief to know you are in good company!
If this doesn't help, try St. Joseph. He has never failed me when all is dark.
Navigating the interior life is not always easy and many of us can use a bit of help on our journeys. With this in mind, Connie Rossini , a Catholic writer who blogs at Contemplative Homeschool (and the administrator of Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network) has authored an illuminating new e-book called Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. This short e-book is broken up into 5 chapters, or lessons, with each lesson focusing on an important aspect of the spiritual life.
In a clear, engaging manner, the author guides her readers through lessons based on the teachings of the Carmelite saints. Each chapter begins with a reflection and finishes with practical applications for living the lesson out in your daily spiritual walk. If you are searching for concrete advice on how to navigate the waters of the spiritual life this book is for you. The e-book also provides links to articles on her blog where you can find more information on prayer and Carmelite spirituality.
This is an excellent book for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. FiveLessonsfromtheCarmeliteSaints That Will Change Your Life will be available for download at no cost on June 11th at Connie's faith-based education and Carmelite spirituality blog, Contemplative Homeschool.
I get a lot of e-mails from readers asking about my post on intercessory prayer gifts. Most ask if I can provide a more detailed article on the subject so I edited my previous post on this subject and added information that might be of interest to those who have written to me. I have broken down some of the "signs" that point to a call in this area and have added some suggestions that may be useful.
Intercessory prayer is "standing in the gap" or bringing others to God through your prayers. Anyone can and should intercede for others, especially those who are in trouble spiritually and cannot or will not pray for themselves. We, as Christians, are called to pray for our brothers and sisters in this world.
We are all called to intercede for our brothers and sisters, however, for some, the Lord has given the gift of intercessory prayer in a special way. Not because the person is "special" (we are all equally loved by God) but simply because it is a particular "mission" that God wants them to focus on and to do for Him. Each person is unique and has certain gifts that stand out more than other gifts and it's good to be able to discern what particular gifts the Lord has given to us so that we can better understand how to use them to help others.
This prayer charism, intercessory prayer, is the primary focus of this post. General intercession is also important and is one of our duties as Christians but this post is about discerning the particular charism of intercessory prayer which differs from interceding in general.
Intercessory prayer opens the floodgates of God's mercy and releases torrents of grace upon the one we intercede for. Why is this manner of praying so powerful? Simply because God has willed it to be so. God is love and intercessory prayer is a prayer driven by love Himself.
The Holy Spirit gives the gift of powerful, intense prayer to the intercessor. It is a burning prayer, forceful, and impossible to ignore. The Holy Spirit will bring the person that He is calling you to pray for to your heart and mind along with the overwhelming urge to pray for this person. It seems as if you are before the Mercy Seat as the Lord shares with you His love and mercy for the one you are praying for; it may even bring you to tears, as the Lord's mercy is a thing of incredible beauty. It is a deep all-encompassing prayer, it feels as if it is being pulled out of you. You are left feeling awestruck at the depths of God's mercy. This is completely the Holy Spirit's work; the person praying is simply the vehicle as a member of the body of Christ. This charism, as with any, grows stronger when the person cooperates with the Spirit, when he or she becomes more sensitive to the working of the Holy Spirit within them.
Oddly enough, God may bring total strangers to you before drawing you into this prayer. The Holy Spirit moves the person's heart to open up to you and they will often pour out their problems even though they do not know you. It's actually kind of strange when this happens, as it is unexpected. Other times you may just be praying in general and the Holy Spirit draws you into intercessory prayer. Sometimes it is out of the blue, but it is enough to understand that He is doing it for a good purpose and it can help others immensely.
In these times the Lord is calling for intercessory prayer in a powerful way. Differentiating between our duty as Christians to intercede for others and the charism of intercession can help one understand whether they are called in a special way in this area...and many are. I believe this is one of the more common gifts. The question is:
How do we know we are called to this type of prayer in a special way?
Also, are there signs that the Lord is calling us into deep intercessory prayer? How are we to respond?
First, I'd like to clearly state that we each have spiritual gifts and we all share in the gifts of others. They are used to build the Mystical Body of Christ, of which we are each a part. Some have healing gifts (Father DiOrio comes to mind here), others have supernatural gifts of wisdom (such as Blessed Mother Teresa), words of knowledge, prophecy, teaching gifts, discernment of spirits - the list goes on and on. These gifts are extremely useful today because of the spiritual burden we are under due to the increase of sin in the world.
I'll start with the first question. How do we know we are called to intercessory prayer in a deeper way?
Those who have the gift of intercessory prayer tend to have deeply compassionate hearts. It may seem to others that they are overly sensitive but this is a necessary aspect of the gift. Without this sensitivity of the spirit to both God and others the gift cannot develop to the degree God would like it to. Others may consider intercessors to be "overly emotional" and impractical people. They may have mood swings and they may seem to "suffer" more than the average person because a prayer burden can be...well...a burden. Physically and mentally, because what affects the spirit can also affect the body.
Intercessors tend to have a strong "pull" to pray for others. It may even feel like a strong pressure upon the soul. Passages in the Bible such as Moses intercession for for the Israelites during the battle with Amelek stand out for them. "As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amelek had the better of the fight." (See Ex. 17:8-13). The passage where Abraham intercedes for intercedes for Sodom tugs at their hearts (See Gn. 18: 16-33) as well as other passages in Scripture such as Jesus' weeping, His Agony in the Garden, His pleading with the Father on the Cross, " Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Passages such as these burn like a fire in their hearts. They are being called to "stand in the gap" for others.
As for the second question, are there signs that the Lord is calling us to this in a deeper way? Yes, I believe there are. Here are some of the signs:
~ Your heart feels heavily burdened despite the fact that things in your life are running smoothly and there seems to be no valid reason for the burden. It makes no sense...your heart feels weighed down and you can't figure out why. That is a very common sign of a "prayer burden". Especially when the burden comes upon you suddenly. For instance, you are driving in your car and a feeling of grief or sadness comes over you when you were fine just moments before and there is no logical reason for the heaviness in your heart. If this happens to you often try this:
Start praying and offer the prayers to God for those in need. Continue until the burden lifts. You'll know when it lifts by the feeling of peace that comes over you.
~ You seem to suffer more than the average person and yet there seems to be no logical cause. Why? I believe this gives you a hint about what to pray for.
~ You have pain in the pit of your stomach that comes and leaves after heavy-duty prayer.
~ You get bodily symptoms that make no sense. They come and go. (Here we are stepping into "words of knowledge" and this can be useful in discerning what you are called to pray for.) God
has to signal the need for prayer in some way or another and this can be one of them.
~ Names and faces come to your mind over and over again. We should pray when this happens.
~ You have unusual dreams about people or dreams in which you are battling forces of evil.
~ You wake up during the night and someone is strongly on your mind.
~ You feel a burning or sensation of heat in your body and an inexplicable yearning to pray comes over you.
~ A sense of emergency (like a spiritual 911 call) comes over you. It doesn't let up except through prayer. Once it lets up you can stop praying.
~ Offering up Masses and going to Adoration relieves the "spiritual burden" as these are powerful sources of obtaining grace for others.
~ At times it feels as if "the veil of heaven" has parted and you are standing before The Mercy Seat. Intercessory prayer can feel as if you have stepped into "The Holy of Holies" at times. It can be a very powerful experience for the intercessor.
~ Tears for no obvious reason. For example, you are doing the dishes, a face or name comes to mind, your eyes well up, and a feeling of great compassion comes over you. This is a call to prayer for that person.
No doubt there are other signs but the ones I listed above are very common. If these things happen to you then you can be assured that God is calling you strongly as an intercessor. The answer is to pray, pray, pray.
God sometimes asks for someone to intercede in a more direct manner (for example: a vision of someone in danger, through words, etc..), especially in an emergency. The key is to pray until peace or a feeling of joy comes over you. This peace is a sign that your job is done, at least for the time being.
Those who are interceding for others can also fast and offer up small sacrifices to the Lord during the course of the day. Over time, intercessors grow in the ability to discern "calls to prayer" and are able to respond to the Lord in a more timely manner.
I'd also like to mention that during these periods of intercessory prayer it is important to refrain from any personal petitions that you may have. Bringing your own "stuff" into the mix seems to interfere greatly with intercessory prayer. It's best to wait until your personal prayer time to bring
anything else before the Lord.
I hope this post has been helpful!
Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to share in the love and mercy you have for your people.
In a major development in the case of wrongly imprisoned priest, Father Gordon MacRae, the nation's largest newspaper has once again taken up this story. Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist on The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, published a riveting article on the Father MacRae case on May 11/12, 2013 entitled, “The Trials of Father MacRae.”
Thank the Lord for saints. The entire world is blessed through them and their lives reverberate through the ages. They are like a mighty river flowing all through the earth watering everything in its path. Such is the strength of God's grace that flows through them. They knew that:
Everything matters. The smallest word, the tiniest action...it all matters.
The saints used every aspect of life as a stepping stone to God.
The spiritual territory of a great saint can be very large. Saint Pio comes to mind here, as do many other saints. So great is the light of God pouring forth from these great souls that it gives light to others. We NEED grace-filled souls like these here on earth, especially in these days when so many people are in a state of grave sin. No light spills forth from a soul in mortal sin, only darkness. This is why it's so frightening when many, many people around the world are in such a state - they have given their spiritual territory over to Satan. I'm not sure they understand how dangerous this is. Every person who lives in mortal sin harms others, knowingly or unknowingly. One mission all people have in common is that we were meant to be a blessing to one another and when a person stands in enemy territory, when they live in darkness, the gifts that God placed in them become blocked. Like a stream that is dammed, the water pools into one place and stagnates, polluting themselves and others around them.
Everyone matters. Every person makes a difference.
The reason for this is that human beings are like pieces of an interlocking puzzle and each piece is unique in that it adds something beautiful to the picture that forms once the puzzle is complete. When pieces of a puzzle are lost, damaged, or incomplete much of the beauty of the picture is lost. Take families for example: we often see this type of incompleteness in many of the families of today's world. Families are broken and this takes a heavy toll on both present and subsequent generations.
"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." These words were spoken by the great John Paul II and truer words were never spoken. Human families were meant to form a tapestry of love from which blessings flow.
The things we do or fail to do matter. Because we are spiritual beings as well as physical our words and actions have spiritual ramifications as well as physical ones. Take words for example: words can have a powerful effect on others. Our words can bless or curse. You cannot really separate the physical from the spiritual. A parent's careless or unloving words to a child affect the child physically AND spiritually. Since the spiritual effects are not as obvious to our eyes we may downplay them or ignore them but they are still there. Even things done in secret with no one around have spiritual ramifications, both for the good and the bad. Thus, a hermit who rarely has contact with the outside world can bring about immense change.
It all matters.
God knows this. The saints know this.
Even satan knows this but his pride resists it.
Pride looks down on things or people that it considers smaller and less important than itself.
The humble know differently:
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest thing right and doing it all for love.”
From Connie Rossini at Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network:
Everyone has an idiolect--a collection of personal speech habits that is different from anyone else's. Have you ever thought about your spiritual idiolect? Since your soul is unique, you have a personal way of speaking to God that no one else completely shares. Today I am announcing the creation of a new blog that will help you find and fine-tune your spiritual idiolect.
Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network is a community of Catholic bloggers who have come together to promote growth in Christ. Each of us....
Remember the post I did on aridity and dryness in prayer? Well, things haven't changed all that much since I wrote it.
I was reading through the comments on my post about aridity, Desert Dwellers Unite, and I couldn't help but laugh at some of the hilarious comments left in the combox. For example:
"Who are you and how did you get into my head?"
"Oh, I claim the first one (tree)...the one with no leaves!"
"If you can claim THAT tree I think you're in pretty good shape! Count your blessings...that one looks to me as if it will catch on fire at any second now :) Once we catch on fire a good "dousing" will surely follow, right? Right? RIGHT?
"Oh, I get a "perk" now and then... but it comes from the coffee pot."
"Sheesh! You know things are getting really bad when you feel you have to fanny the Lord."
"We can all chow on a few tumbleweeds together while we eat our slices of humble pie."
"Being an ocean girl myself, the thought of being in a place with nothing but sun and sand scares the bejeebers out of me. I can feel my mouth frying up as I write this!"
"maybe if I get a tattoo of the Holy Spirit dove on the entire back of my right hand that I use to type comments to blogs etc. I might remember to pray Come Holy Spirit and try to be quiet?"
" When we meet St Peter I'm sure he will not check whether our knees are callous through endless prayers and Rosaries."
But after the laughter passed I realized that mixed in with these funny comments were some very insightful words:
~ "As long as you are still concerned with doing what is pleasing to God and still can say *I love you* without any feelings attached, and still pray, distracted and dry as it it, you do not need to blame yourself for being in the desert. God permits it many times to test our love...it's in the desert He truly speaks to us."
"On the other hand, if you are cutting corners with prayer time, falling back into venial sin or habitual faults and really not making an effort in your relationship, then I would say, you have placed yourself in the desert."
~ "If God chooses to keep me there for awhile, then that's where trust and surrender come in- not easy in a place like this, but this desert can bear much fruit in our souls."
~ "If anyone feels up to it, reading St. John of the Cross's Ascent of Mt Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul will help to give many insights into this dry and empty place on the spiritual journey."
"The Carmelite mystics advise us to just be faithful to prayer..even if it means sitting there for the entire prayer time and just telling the Lord how hard it is to pray. The big temptation is to get frustrated and cut back on prayer time."
"It may mean constantly having to return to God's presence after being distracted or to a scripture verse or spiritual reading during prayer, but the faithfulness IN the dryness is so much more pleasing to God. It may mean God is calling some to a quieter, less forced prayer too. I disagree with St. Pio (yikes...don't strike me!)...it is apparent throughout all the Carmelite readings (three of which are Doctors of the Church) that it can be permitted by God and is even considered a great grace...as long as we remain faithful...that is key."
~ "It's only a tree tested by dryness that can be truly set ablaze."
~ "The more that is purged the more light the soul is capable of receiving. As the dross is burnt off the yearning for God also increases in intensity as He prepares the soul for its complete transformation in Him."
~ "If we are still praying, reading, etc., and not cutting corners, then God has brought us to the desert. If not and we see that we are truly cutting corners, then the good news is there are things we can do to get back on track."
~ "I agree with the desert having wonderful times - it seems to show up 'worldly' things as just emptiness and our love for God seems to grow stronger."
Lady, the night is falling and the dark
Steals all the blood from the scarred west.
The stars come out and freeze my heart
With drops of untouchable music, frail as ice
And bitter as the new year's cross.
Where in the world has any voice
Prayed to you, Lady, for the peace that's in your power?
In a day of blood and many beatings I see the governments rise up, behind the steel horizon,
And take their weapons and begin to kill.
Where in the world has any city trusted you?
Out where the soldiers camp the guns begin to thump
And another winter comes down
To seal our years in ice.
The last train cries out
And runs in terror from this farmer's valley
Where all the little birds are dead.
The roads are white, the fields are mute.
There are no voices in the wood
And trees make gallows up against the sharp-eyed stars.
Oh where will Christ be killed again
In the land of these dead men?
Lady, the night has got us by the heart
And the whole world is tumbling down.
Words turn to ice in my dry throat
Praying for a land without prayer,
Walking to you on water all winter
In a year that wants more war.
Two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As of right now 2 are dead and dozens wounded. Please pray for those who have died and for the injured. Another bomb may have exploded at the JFK library but information is limited. Please pray.
"Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy."
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen
Day 8 - Friday (I won't be home tomorrow morning so I am putting this up a bit early. Please scroll
down for Day 7 - Thursday. Thanks! )
"Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice."
Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.
"Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy,
and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death."
Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:
Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.
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. I favor humble souls with My confidence.
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.
"Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church,
and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion."
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son's Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.
"Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy."
Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
"Today bring to Me all Devout and Faithful Souls, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were a drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness."
Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.
"Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind."
Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service, that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard -- upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.
The Divine Mercy Novena begins today. I pray this Novena each year and will carry the entire Novena on my blog. It's a favorite of mine. I pray the daily intentions followed by The Divine Mercy Chaplet.
First Day (Good Friday)
"Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me."
Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.
At the base of The Mount of Olives lies Gethsemane, the garden where Jesus suffered His agony. An intense spiritual agony beyond human comprehension. The word Gethsemane means "olive press" and it was in this garden that Mercy was pressed to the fullest limits. An interior crushing so severe that Our Lord "fell to the ground and prayed if it were possible the hour might pass by him". And so begins the ultimate struggle with darkness as the weight of humanity's sins fell upon Him. A seemingly endless parade of human sin and corruption closing in upon Him. Pressing. Crushing. What did He see in this dark hour? Did He see the very depths to which human nature could sink? The pit of depravity, perversion and vice upon vice? Likely He saw this and worse, for the pressure grew so great that He sweat blood. Hematohidrosis.
Jesus suffered in his humanity, because it was human nature that needed redemption. And yet, despite the intensity of his suffering He still prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done." And Our Lord drank the cup of staggering to its very dregs, knowing that by the acceptance of this chalice even greater suffering would come upon him . Then, strengthened by an angel, He stood up and went to meet his betrayer.
In my eyes, the two greatest sufferings of Jesus were His Agony in the Garden and on the Cross when He felt completely forsaken by the Father and endured what one might call, "a living hell", for love of us. He became sin and took on all the sins of the world for our sake. That is why it is so horrifying when someone refuses the salvation that He gained for them; it's like a slap in the face of Pure Mercy.
Most merciful Jesus, I thank you for everything you suffered for us all. May all souls open their hearts to receive the mercy you long to pour upon them. May your sufferings in Gethsemane obtain the grace of repentance for all souls caught in the grip of mortal sin, for it was here in Gethsemane that mercy was pressed to its limits and it was here in Gethsemane that we learned that this mercy has no limits. Amen.
The "cup of staggering" is a term used in various biblical translations of the O.T. and refers to the Lord's wrath. In this post I used it in reference to Isaiah ch. 51 where the Lord speaks about the ransom of His people. See also The Cup of the Lord verses 17-33 . This "cup of staggering" is also mentioned in other books of the Bible. Jesus, Himself, took this cup from our hands and drank it to its bitter dregs.
I'm sure most of the readers of my blog have come across articles on the internet that rely heavily on the use of snark. This includes a number of popular Catholic blogs. Snark is a combination of the words snide and remark and has become a common vehicle used to get a writer's point across to his or her readers. It's sarcastic and at times humorous.
Or it's supposed to be humorous. Very often snark fails on Catholic blogs because it steps out of the terrain of mild sarcasm and treads into the territory of mockery. Mockery has no place on a christian blog. Catholic writers who are liberal in their use of snark may claim that they are using it for good purpose but their comboxes tell the real story: it's offensive to a large portion of the Catholic population. It repels others away from the Faith instead of drawing them in.
Mockery treats others with derision; it's contemptuous, not humorous.
In the Catholic blogosphere I've seen this derision, thinly veiled as snark, take down entire subgroups of the Catholic population. In many cases the writer has a valid point but the point gets lost in the midst of the "trash talk". It's like trying to find a gem in a garbage heap. The gem may be there but it's so covered with muck that it has become unrecognizable to the readers.
I'm all for writers who are blunt but honest. Peter Kreeft is a good example of a writer who cuts to the chase and tells it like it is. But this is not snark. As shocking as his words may sometimes be you can see the truth in them. They are acceptable because of the charity behind them. Snark has a peculiar kind of dishonesty behind it that says "I care more about how many readers I get than whether the readers see the truth of my words." You can smell its pharisaic qualities a mile off.
So what is so wrong with too much snark?
It promotes an "us against them mentality"
It promotes group evil (For an example of group evil we need only look at the crowd mocking Jesus on the cross. People get caught up in it.)
And most of all...
...it harms those who are already wounded, the very ones we want to help.
Don't forget to vote for "These Stone Walls" at About.com's 2013 Reader's Choice Awards. A win would make the online Catholic community (and hopefully my diocese!) stand up, take note and perhaps help pave the way for a new trial for Fr. Gordon MacRae.
Some of you may have read this article by Dr. Peter Kreeft already but today is the first time I've seen it: The Winning Strategy. As you may know, I'm quite fond of people who are blunt-spoken and very few are as straightforward and blunt as Dr. Kreeft. He tells it like it is and, in a world obsessed with being politically correct, I appreciate not having to wrestle with too much "fluff" to get to the meat of an article. No worries with Dr. Kreeft; you won't get pandering here.
In his article The Winning Strategy, Dr. Kreeft says something that really caught me off guard because I have become so used to people tiptoeing around the issue of sin, softening the blows in order to please the crowds (who do not want their comfort disturbed by something as ugly as sin or the eternal loss of souls).
"I don’t mean merely that Western civilization will die. That’s a piece of trivia. I mean eternal souls will die. Billions of Ramons and Vladamirs and Janes and Tiffanies will go to Hell. That’s what’s at stake in this war: not just whether America will become a banana republic, or whether we’ll forget Shakespeare, or even whether some nuclear terrorist will incinerate half of humanity, but whether our children and our children’s children will see God forever. That’s what’s at stake in “Hollywood versus America.” That’s why we must wake up and smell the rotting souls. Knowing we are at war is the first requirement for winning it". - See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2011/01/kreeft-the-winning-strategy/#sthash.yrBdPAos.dpuf
You can't state things much more bluntly than this, can you? And Dr. Kreeft is right. We need to understand that we are in the midst of the greatest spiritual war in the history of humanity.
And the "casualties" of this war could be our children.
Yes, Dr. Kreeft, it's time for America to wake up and smell the rotting souls.
If you'd like to adopt a cardinal to pray for as the College of Cardinals meets to elect a new pope in the coming weeks you can do so here. I will be offering prayers for His Eminence Philippe Cardinal Barbarin , Archbishop of Lyon, France. A big "thank you" to Karinann and Nancy for letting me know about this opportunity to offer extra prayers and sacrifices for a specific cardinal along with my prayers for the Conclave.
I just finished reading a powerful post written by Fr. Gordon MacRae called Giving Up Resentment for Lent: Calisthenics for your Soul and couldn't help but think that not only is it my own Church (even sadder...his too) that treats Fr. MacRae in such a dehumanizing manner ...it's my own diocese.
Why can't they at least listen to what he has to say? How will it hurt them to simply hear him? Especially with all the new evidence that has come to light in this particular case. Isn't "visit the imprisoned" one of the Corporal Works of Mercy?
On a brighter note, Fr. MacRae's blog is a finalist for Best Catholic Blog at About.com. If you'd like to vote for These Stone Walls please click here. You can vote once every 24 hours.
We have the eyes to see and the heart to know that things have gone terribly wrong in our world today. Terribly, terribly, wrong. I would be a fool if I ignored what is staring me right in the face. On the one hand, God would consider me worst than foolish if I deliberately ignored the signs around me. On the other hand, the world would consider me a fool for believing and writing about the dangerous times we live in.
Given the choice, I choose to be a fool in the eyes of the world and to step out in faith and warn people that the time for mercy is now and that we would do well to use it wisely.
This is not about apparitions, false apparitions, seers, prophets, false prophets...though many of these are out there. This is about seeing what is right in front of us and acknowledging the truth of it before God. He has been warning us in many ways for at least a century now. While many may be able to overlook what people say about our times, can we really ignore what's clear as a bell and right before our very own eyes?
I'm going to say something that won't make me very popular:
Those who are ignoring these signs are the foolish ones.
Here are words of warning from a very wise man who clearly saw what was going on:
"We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church . . . must take up."
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II didn't speak these words simply to hear the sound of his own voice, he understood the terrible gravity of our times.
And so should we.
Because, seriously folks, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better.
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account." Heb. 4:12,13
Purification. A word that sets me trembling if I'm being honest. I like it... but hate it. I'm glad God cares enough about us to do this for us... though I have to admit that it is painful at times. Especially when He is dredging up the muck from the unconscious mind, the "stuff" that's below our immediate level of awareness.
It goes something like this:
God will pour light on certain unconscious behavior patterns, you begin to realize WHY you have been acting in certain ways for most of your life and you wonder "why wasn't this obvious to me" before now.
Everything becomes clear as a bell. It was hidden from you until now.
And it's a long, slow process. Most of the time, at least.
Years ago, when God first began to do this work in me, I was very resistant to it because I didn't understand what was going on. Was I really relating to others through the lens of the past? Through the scars of my upbringing?
Yes, I was. Still am no doubt. Everyone does this to some degree or another. There are no perfect families and everyone has wounds that they hide and behaviors they use to cover them or to protect themselves. We just aren't aware of them.
Until the Holy Spirit makes us aware of them.
Even though some of these behaviors began as coping devices and may have been crucial to our survival growing up, not only are they no longer needed but they are detrimental to our spiritual health. If we refuse to let them go, our spiritual growth seems to come to a grinding halt. I've been "stuck" more than once due to my refusal to see. It's hard at times because these are unconscious habits so when they are brought to your attention by the Holy Spirit your first response is often: "Say what?? What do you mean I'm defensive? I'm not defensive!" (Lol. This is just an example...uhm...I think.)
Many of these less than lovely traits have to do with the way we relate to others and they need to be healed so we can love well.
Whenever I am going through a time of purification and I sense a lot of resistance on my part I turn to Mother Mary in prayer. I've found that Our Lady is a great, great help during these times. She sweetens even the most painful processes.
Her "ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace".
The early church fathers weren't afraid to tell it like it is. Unlike today, they had no problem with the term "devil (s)". I love how forthright St. Athanasius was: Devils take great delight in fullness, and drunkenness and bodily comfort - They delight in excess of every kind. When we are "fat" with vice this prepares quite a "spread" for the evil spirits. They feast on vices. This includes "spiritual excess" because it is often pride based.
Fasting possesses great power and it works glorious things - Fasting and prayer can free us from oppression and demonic harassment far more quickly than prayer alone can. It also sets our hearts on the things above.
The end result: To fast is to banquet with angels Devils take great delight in fullness, and drunkenness and bodily comfort. Fasting possesses great power and it works glorious things. To fast is to banquet with angels. St. Athanasius
Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down from the papal office. To say I was shocked is a bit of an understatement. Here is the full text of his declaration:
Dear Brothers, I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three
canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for
the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before
God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are
no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well
aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried
out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by
questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque
of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are
necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the
extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the
ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of
this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of
Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April
2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of
Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new
Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it
is. Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with
which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.
And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our
Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the
Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme
Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church
of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer. From the Vatican,
10 February 2013
So, I woke up this morning to 2 feet of snow. Not having anything pressing to do (other than hours and hours of shoveling) I decided to visit a few of my favorite blogs and this is what I found: Me? I'm Elvis' Wife.
One of the spiritual difficulties I've struggled with over the years and still battle against is passivity. The problem with passivity is that it can look so good on the surface but it can keep you from taking direct action to solve a problem. This excessive passivity sometimes excuses itself under the guise of "surrendering things to God". It talks about problems but struggles when it's time to take action because it is apathetic and doesn't really want to disturb itself or because it is overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start.
So, what exactly is passivity? And why is it such a negative thing at times?
The Free Dictionary defines passivity as:
The condition or quality of being passive; inactivity, quiescence, or submissiveness. Some of its synonyms are: spiritlessness, numbness, apathy, indifference.
Submissiveness doesn't sound too bad, right?
Well, it all depends on who or what you are submitting yourself to. We can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that we are "turning the other cheek" when the truth may be that we don't want to get ourselves involved in a difficult situation. Satan happens to love inertia. He can create a little hell for families or a nation just by convincing people that passivity is a good thing through things like:
"It's best not to disturb the waters because it may start a fight."
"If I just leave the situation alone it will resolve itself."
"One person can't make a difference anyway. What's the point in trying?"
And sometimes the "situation" resolves itself right into chaos simply because no one is willing to do something about it.
Apathy and sloth often clothe themselves as passivity. After all, passivity sounds better, right? It excuses its own behavior. "I'm just a passive person by nature" sounds so much holier than "I'm just an apathetic person by nature". We all need periods of prayer, rest, and quiet but this is to prepare us for activity not for more passivity. A trap I've fallen into many times is excusing my lack of action by saying, "Well I prayed about it, didn't I?" The problem being is that the prayer needed to be followed by an action. At times I have taken "let go and let God" a bit too far and sinned by omission instead of commission.
God is active, not passive. Grace is active. It's important that we have an active, living faith not a dead faith that slaps everything into God's hands and goes its own way. Passivity is rarely surrender
to God, passivity is usually a surrender to self. When you look at the lives of the great saints you will see surrender to the will of God but very rarely an excessive passivity. Saints accomplished a lot. And some of them didn't even have to go very far to do this!
Here is an example of the difference between surrender to God and apathy/passivity: I (Mother Teresa) had the most extraordinary experience once in Bombay. There was a big conference about hunger. I was supposed to go to that meeting and I lost the way. Suddenly I came to that place, and right in front of the door to where hundreds of people were talking about food and hunger, I found a dying man.
I took him out and took him home. He died there. He died of hunger. And the people inside were talking about how in 15 years we will have so much food, so much this, so much that, and that man died. See the difference? (Words to Love By - Mother Teresa)
The people at the conference thought they were helping to solve world hunger by their speaking (or praying) about it when action was what was needed in this man's case.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who believe they can do it all, take on too much, and fizzle out within a few days. I've done this too and I believe that God allows us to fail in our endeavors sometimes because we are working from a place of pride.
If we do see these traits in ourselves what can we do about it?
We can pray AND act, but with prudence and love. It's all about balance. Mother Teresa in Words to Love By explains it like this: I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time.
Just one, one, one...
She goes on to say that this is what we are to do also. Begin with one. We can apply her words to other areas, it doesn't have to be feeding the hungry.
I like Mother's way because she understands that each person is special. They are not nameless faces but individuals who deserve her undivided attention. By looking at others and seeing who they are she brought healing to both their bodies AND souls. She treated both the hunger for love and the physical hunger.
May God kindle within us an active, living faith this Lent. A faith with a fire so bright that it
kindles the same flame in the hearts of others around us. One by one by one...
You go to pray: to become a bonfire, a living flame, giving heart and light. St Josemaria Escriva
We look around the world today and think how crazy the world seems. It can be overwhelming to realize what we are up against these days:
"What's the point? What difference can just one person make anyway?"
Have you ever heard these words spoken to you? Or spoken them yourself perhaps?
I have heard them too many times to count over the years and I've even heard them come out of my own mouth now and then.
The problem with this type of mindset is that it sets us up to lose before we've even begun. Imagine if the saints thought like this? All we need to do is look at what Mother Teresa did during the span of her lifetime and we can see that she did not allow herself to fall prey to this kind of thinking. One person can make a huge difference if God is in the equation. Think of what each of these people accomplished during their lifetimes:
Moses + God = the liberation of an enslaved people
Mother Mary + God = the salvation of the entire human race
Peter + God = the birth of the Church
We cannot say, "Yeah, but they were saints!" Moses was not a saint - he killed a man. St. Peter
was simply a fisherman - a fisherman who denied Christ three times.
I love this example: Therese + God = Doctor of the Church...with millions following her "little way" and she accomplished all this without ever leaving the convent or its grounds. (How's that for amazing?)