“Apparent Departure was in Truth the Beginning of a New Newness”

ascension

Pondering St. Luke’s description of  Christ’s disciples immediately after the Ascension–”[They] returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk. 24:52)–Pope Benedict XVI  commented: “That does not quite correspond to our normal psychology.”

How can it be that the disciples were full of joy when once again their Lord and Master was going where they could not immediately follow?

After the excruciating separation and loss experienced on Calvary, then three days of incomparable grief, the event of the Resurrection surpassed and conquered the sorrow within them. And for forty days the disciples walked with Him in the midst of His glory.

In what seems counterintuitive to human experience, as the Lord departed from them, His followers were ignited by joy. “Jesus has indeed gone away this time,” Benedict taught, “not into death, but into life.”

Having opened up the Scriptures for His friends, having shared the Eucharistic supper with them, and promising the presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ the Lord ascended into heaven with His disciples gazing both upward and outward.

Their hearts must have been lifted higher as they longed to be drawn closer to their Beloved, but having been instructed by Him to make disciples of all nations, their steps were quickened; the task was urgent.

Inspired by the joy of the first disciples, may we who have studied Christ’s Word, partaken in the Eucharist, and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit be faithful to the Great Commission, keeping our focus toward the Ascended Lord and our feet firmly on the ground.

And may the joy that was the identifying feature of those disciples approaching Jerusalem also be the mark we bear in the world today.

 

“Have a Firm Heart”

In his daily Mass yesterday, Pope Francis encouraged people to “have a firm heart, fixed on the Holy Spirit”.  How many of us find this difficult, but instead are swayed by every passing change, trial, or happiness in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I often subconsciously think that if I let our Lord truly be the center of my life, my heart, and let the Holy Spirit guide me, then my “fun” will be all over. I fear that He will see my attachments to things and strip them away from me, and I will be left living a life of abject misery with no joy. However, when we’re so focussed on holding onto something, it can get in the way of us truly enjoying it, because all we’re thinking about is “what if I lose it”. In surrendering all our dreams, and our hearts to our Lord, we place them in the hands of a Father who is love itself; a Father who wants to give us the whole world, but we’re too-busy to receive it because our hands are full of the fleeting pleasures we want.

Let go, though, let go, because even those fleeting pleasures will be returned to you (if they are good, and contribute to your true happiness and virtue) – except because they are now from God they will no longer be fleeting, but having been tested in His purifying love will be strong and endure. Then we can enjoy them without fear of losing them, but resting in the gift that He has given us.

Underlying all of this is the tinge of sadness that recognises that life in this world is fleeting, and good things come and go. However, that should encourage us to accept the sorrow with Whiteface_Mountainthe joy; take each moment as it comes and let those joyous moments take us to the top of the nearest mountain. However, don’t become despondent when life looks bleak and a secret sorrow burrows into your heart; have faith in a loving Father, and know that just as the Crucifixion and death of our Lord lasted for a finite time, so too, will your sorrow pass away. And we really only appreciate the deep joys when we have also known the dark valleys. Many years ago, a priest said something that, as a young child really sunk in, and I’ve never forgotten: “without Good Friday there would be no Easter Sunday”. Obvious, yet something that continually revolutionises my experience of suffering, as well as joy. When we are going through a valley, that means there must be a mountain up ahead.

Let us pray, that as Pope Francis exhorts us, we will have firm hearts, resting in the Spirit. So that come what may, we will move forward in the assurance that we are loved, and so share that love with others. Then, like St. Paul, we will be able to share the Love of God with all those around us, and hopefully bring many more to know that same Love!

Read the article here.

farming and the spiritual life

DSC04081Today is the feast of St. Isidore. The patron of farmers – not someone you hear much about in today’s day and age. Neither did I….until spending last summer working on a farm in the “hills” of western North Dakota. Then, I heard of him often, as the family I worked for prayed to him every day.

I think about farming a lot, because it’s a (not-so) secret dream of mine to farm someday. But also, because I think that the life of a farmer is one that is very conducive to a path of virtue, DSC04491and to a deeper understanding of the Gospel. Most of us grow up hearing parable after parable, and we understand them in an abstract way, but when you have spent a few months planting seeds, watering, harvesting, tending grape vines, and the myriad of things a farmer does on a daily basis, then you finally begin to understand – not just with your mind – the parables with your whole being. You see now, the constant, repeated attention and correction a grape vine needs grow in the right direction for it to be strong and healthy and bear fruit – “oh, that’s why our Lord says His father is the ‘vine dresser’ (Jn. 15:1)”.

In farming, I learned what it means to be totally dependent on something outside myself. I know it’s true no matter what my path or occupation, but when you’re on a farm you face that reality every day. Will there be enough rain this summer? Oh goodness, that hailstorm just destroyed half of our crops! Look at this bug that is eating all the broccoli. While it is essential to plan (in whatever area of life), it is even more important to recognise that our plans must always be purified, tested, and sometimes our Lord’s plans for us far surpass our meager desires. Even if what brings His plans about appears to be disaster in the moment.

DSC04527Finally, in living a life that occupies us with tending the land, working with the earth, cooperating with Nature to bring forth new life, we ourselves become more attuned to those inherent rhythms of the Earth and the seasons, which provide the basis for the liturgical year and the rhythms of our own spiritual lives. Having done this myself, I can see the great benefit to my own spiritual (and physical!) life, and I think that if more individuals, families, communities returned to an agrarian life our societal ills would be well on the road to healing.

I’ll close with a quote from our Pope Emeritus:

In Christian tradition, agricultural labour takes on a deeper meaning, both because of the effort and hardship that it involves and also because it offers a privileged experience of God’s presence and his love for his creatures. Christ himself uses agricultural images to speak of the Kingdom, thereby showing a great respect for this form of labour. -Benedict XVI (full text here)

Hope at Harvard

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Harvard SquareUsed under CC license

Growing up, I always loved our family’s occasional trips to the ivy-clad buildings of Harvard, and Cambridge’s lively streets - and dreamed of one day attending that center of learning and my dad’s alma mater. While I ended up in a college across the country, that town still has a special place in my heart. So it was with sadness that I heard of the recent atrocity that was proposed. However, reading this article filled me with such hope and joy at the faith that we share in our Lord.

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St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge – used under CC License

There, in that bastion of anti-Catholicism (from its roots in the Puritan culture out of which it sprung), a spontaneous outpouring of love for our Lord was visible to all: more than 2,000 people (including the president of Harvard, Drew Faust, who went to show her solidarity with the Catholics) walked from MIT, through the streets of Cambridge with a monstrance, then filled St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge for an hour of Adoration. The Catholics could have reacted with hatred, or disgust, but instead they reacted with love, and in consoling Jesus’ heart, they most likely consoled and gave hope to many who witnessed that celebration of love of our Lord! Such a clear example of our Lord bringing such good out of everything, even something that could have been so so terrible.

Please go read the article yourself, for an eyewitness account of the events of that evening: Victory at Harvard: Satan defeated, the Eucharist Enthroned

Our Lady of Fatima

“Mother of all individuals and peoples, you know all their sufferings and hopes. In your motherly heart you feel all the struggles between good and evil, between light and darkness, that convulse the world: accept the plea which we make in the Holy Spirit directly to your heart, and embrace with the love of the Mother and Handmaid of the Lord those who most await this embrace, and also those whose act of entrustment you too await in a particular way. Take under your motherly protection the whole human family, which with affectionate love we entrust to you, O Mother. May there dawn for everyone the time of peace and freedom, the time of truth, of justice and of hope.”
-Pope St. John Paul II (June 7, 1981)

Springtime

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Le Printemps (1874), Claude Monet

Awaking this morning to the sound of rain, I finally accept that spring has come to stay here in Ohio. For weeks, nay months, we’ve been in this strange in-between state where one day would be sunny and 75°; but the next we’d be reaching for woolens and boots following a nighttime snow-shower.

During these springtime weeks, I always feel a bit uncomfortable. Yes, I do love spring, but there’s an unsettledness that “settles” in, and I recently was wondering why. Fall I LOVE, Summer is always busy and beautiful, Winter is comfortably quiet and settled, but Spring? It’s back and forth, up and down, here one minute, gone the next…..in a word, it’s unpredictable.

Thinking about the seasons in terms of the spiritual life, I realised that each of them maps to a different sort of spiritual “place”. And springtime is that place of uncertainty, doubt, ups and downs – to put it succinctly: growth. Spring is the time where the ground is dark, wet, dirty; only to suddenly burst into the greenness of new life. It always takes me1280px-Gordale_Beck by surprise, because it seems as if you wake up one morning and everything is green where last night was shades of grey and brown. Yet, while it appeared overnight, it didn’t happen that fast. It’s a long slow process that begins as winter fades away; the trees slowly thaw and even though it’s hidden, there is growth. Growth in secret. Under the ground the seeds are sprouting, working, so that they can break through the heavy earth. It does take work. And time.

Watching Nature taught me two things: Spring is uncomfortable; and….growth is often hidden.

450px-Spring_2005It’s uncomfortable, because it reminds me of those things in my own life that are struggling to come back to life; or the seeds I’ve planted that need to finally bear fruit. In winter, I can curl up with a book and some tea; the world is sleeping….resting, and I can too. But in Spring, all of creation – this glorious Earth we call home – proclaims: “rise from sleep, move beyond the old growth of the past year, put out new shoots”! And that growth is not comfortable.

Not only uncomfortable, but it’s often hidden. Even from ourselves. We strive for detachment in this area, or patience in that; yet all we can see are the same failings repeated, the same sodden ground that looks beyond rescue. Yet, just like the seed under the ground, we must not give up – because growth is hidden, and one of these days the seed we’ve been watering, nourishing in our secret hearts will break through the ground and spring to life.

Frühlingslandschft_Aaretal_SchweizSo just for today, I’m going to try to cultivate the new life our Lord wants to see in my heart. Let it be watered by grace, fed by prayer, and grown by the free gift of the Spirit. It’s Springtime on the earth; what about in my heart? In your heart? Let us learn from the rhythms of the earth, and let Spring blossom in our hearts today!

Signs of Hope and Renewal in the Church: the CDF Provides Continued Direction to LCWR

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the CDF

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the CDF

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has just published the opening comments of Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Muller’s meeting with the superiors of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The LCWR has been placed under the guidance of Archbishop Peter Sartain and have been given the opportunity to amend their statutes based on a doctrinal assessment conducted by the Holy See. A mandate was given to the LCWR to guide the process of revising their statues and to provide a framework that would draw them closer to the Church and away from error. In the past, this organization has not only supported and advanced dissident theologians and novel teachings inconsistent with the Faith but has also failed to reflect a proper understanding of consecrated life.

The CDF has worked closely with the infrastructure of the LCWR, with no little resistance, to bring the organization of various women’s communities more fully into the life of the Church. The Cardinal’s comments, delivered on April 30, 2014, are in indication of the progress made and a sign of the Church’s deep love and commitment to assisting the LCWR.

Cardinal Muller’s commentary can be found here at the Congregation’s website. He gives specific examples of how the Holy See will continue to guide the LCWR and seek to correct past errors. In conclusion, Cardinal Muller summarizes the hope of the Church:

In the end, the point is this: the Holy See believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church. The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.

May 4 – Feast of St. Monica (old calendar)

Saint Monica was a woman who never gave up. Despite the many personal obstacles she faced, her holy example and long hours of daily prayer brought about the conversion of her husband, her husband’s mother, and her sons, Saints Augustine and Navigius, to say say nothing of accomplishing her own sainthood.

Born into a Christian family in Tagaste, Northern Africa, in AD 332, Monica received a strict upbringing from the family maid, who would not even allow her a drink of water other than at mealtime. Why? Because, as she warned Monica and others in her care, “You drink water now because you cannot get at the wine. When you marry and are in charge of your own wine cellar, you won’t want water, and you will continue your custom of drinking.”

Monica, it seems, paid no heed. Her parents would send her to the cellar to bring wine for their meals, and Monica began by taking little tastes before bringing it to the table. In time, tastes became mouthfuls, and mouthfuls, whole cups. Thus, she fell into sin, as her son Saint Augustine later wrote, “little by little,” drop by drop, as so many do.

One day the maid caught Monica drinking and called her a “wino.” Deeply hurt by this insult, Monica admitted to herself her sad condition and turned away from it. As Augustine later wrote: “Just as flattering friends can bring us down, so quarrelsome enemies can correct us.”

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.

Note: May 4 was her feastday on the old (pre-1969) calendar; it is now celebrated on August 27, the day before her son St. Augustine’s feast.

In the Mirror of Work

work,laundryAn employee at our local grocery store lives down the street from our family. Regularly, I see her walking the mile-and-a-half stretch to her job. The scene changes with the weather and time of day, but there’s one thing I can count always count on: She’ll be smiling. A big, joyful smile, not only with her mouth but with her eyes.

In her shoes, many people would be doing the opposite. She’s not going to a party, after all; she’s going to work. Alone. On foot. Sometimes in rain or snow. Yet, while I pass her in my warm car together with my loved ones, this woman who lacks visible comforts somehow bestows comfort to me. The glow of her face warms my heart. Her happiness is catching.

In the book The Mother of Christ, Caryll Houselander writes that “work…is one of the greatest of all means to human happiness as well as to human goodness.”

The woman I see walking to work seems to know this secret well.

In my lifetime, I’ve encountered thousands of workers. They’ve fixed my car, sold me shoes, served my dinner, and administered surgical anesthesia. Many did their jobs well. But a few did more than their jobs. They lived Houselander’s words. They worked, and happiness and goodness followed.

Work and Happiness

For as long as my young children can remember, we’ve taken a weekly trip to our local library. And for as long as they can remember, a librarian named O.J. has been a special part of that trip. Not just because he checks out their books, but because he makes them feel important.

As he scans their books, O.J. asks the children questions about their lives and listens with genuine interest to their answers. His smile tells them he is always happy to see them. One year, when the children told him that their birthdays were coming up, he remembered and had cards waiting for them at the desk. When our new baby was born, he was as thrilled for our family as a proud uncle would have been.

On a library shelf in the children’s section, there’s a picture book called The Growing-Up Feet. In the story, the two main characters—a young brother and sister—can’t wait for their mailman, Mr. Lemon, to come each day. Not because they want the mail, but because they want to show him things. Important things, like their new rain boots. Because they know Mr. Lemon will always be as excited as they are.

In a way, O.J. is my children’s Mr. Lemon. Both of them—the fictional character and the real one—bring others happiness through their jobs.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 says that when God enables man to “accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” A gift, not only for the happy man, but for all those he encounters in the course of his work.

Work and Goodness

Several years ago, in the early stages of my third pregnancy, a phlebotomist in my doctor’s office took my blood and talked joyfully with me about the blessings of motherhood. Weeks later, she took my blood again, this time with tears in her eyes. Quietly and sadly, she told me how sorry she was that I had miscarried.

I haven’t seen her in years, and I don’t even know her name. But even now, her tears are a part of my healing. Reaching beyond her job to meet me in my joy and in my grief, the phlebotomist used her work as, in Houselander’s terms, “a means to human goodness.”

In his encyclical Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II says that “through work man…achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes more a human being.” From what I’ve seen, that person who, through his work, becomes “more a human being,” will be quicker to recognize that very humanity in those he serves. Quicker to see those he works for as people, not just customers.

As the years fade, so does my memory. Yet etched there—easily accessible even when I’ve forgotten my own age—are the faces of people whose work taught me something about human goodness.

The furnace repairman who, when our heat went out in the dead of winter, offered to come over right away, at 9 p.m., not the following morning during “office hours.”

 The contractor who, when my daughter got injured while he was working in our house, immediately stopped and prayed aloud over her.

The church custodian who told me she prayed for all the people who sat in the pews she cleaned. And who once referred to my fussy, crying baby as “an angel singing.”

“Through work,” Houselander writes, “modern man can…restore God’s image and likeness in himself.” Workers who show compassion to, listen to, laugh with, cry with, care for, pray for, and even just smile at the people they serve, fill a job description far greater than the one for which they were hired: They reflect God’s image and likeness to the world.

They let us see His reflection in the mirror of work.

Two New Pope-Saints – John Paul II and John XXIII!!!

Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036819834)Sunday was quite a special day for the Church: two new saints! These past days have been quite thought-provoking for me, as I look back to my childhood – where the only Pope I “knew” was Pope John Paul II.

As a girl I travelled to Rome with my family, where we attended several Papal Masses in St. Peter’s Square. Looking at pictures of the canonisation – crowds spilling out of the square – brought back memories of that same square back in 2000 and Pope John Paul a tiny little speck up at the altar. Following Mass, we children all rushed the barriers trying to get as close as possible to this man whom none of us had ever met, yet we instinctively loved as Christ’s vicar on earth. As he rode by on the Popemobile, his tired face looked out at us with so much love; his weary hands raised in blessing – a moment we will all treasure for the rest of our lives.

They say that “a picture says a thousand words”, so head on over here to see extensive photo coverage of the day! I also was moved by what Joanna Bogle wrote on her blog (having been an eyewitness!) that was not noticed by the media: the piles of young people there: praying….going to confession…….being pilgrims. They were there not just out of curiosity or to see the (albeit beautiful) spectacle; they were there because these Popes were men that they loved and knew, who showed them what it looked like to have Christ’s love shining from their faces, how to be joyful Christians in a shadowy world, how to hold fast to the truth, yet always with great, great love!

Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Photo by Jeffrey Bruno, used under cc license