Thursday, May 31, 2012

Visits With Our Mother

Raphael's: The Visitation

Ten years have gone by since the day I made the decision to accept Our Lord's invitation to return to Him. It happened on today's feast of the Visitation. It took some time for me to see how this feast was being played out in my own life. Once Our Lord and His Mother come to you, if you accept their presence in your life, life is never the same, and for me, as for many of us, that is a good thing.
I describe the meaning this feast holds for me in Visitations, which I wrote two years ago. Since that first visitation in 2002, whenever I feel myself struggling in my spiritual life, I seem to hear Jesus whisper: "Let My Mother help you." And like Elizabeth, I find myself asking that same question: "Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" But she does.
I don't always show Our Lady the devotion that she deserves, but I know that she does come to me, and she always brings me closer to her Son. I have been showered with many graces that have aided in my healing through our Blessed Mother.
I just wanted to take this day to thank her for them, and ask her to continue to bring me closer to Jesus. I know this is a request she never refuses.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Gift Of The Priesthood

Ordination 2012 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Newark, NJ
(photo courtesy of The Star Ledger)

Jesus gave us the promise that He would remain with us always on that first Holy Thursday. He chose to do this through the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. The Apostles were, in a manner of speaking, ordained as our first priests on that night. And so it has been ever since. Jesus is made present on our altars every hour of every day somewhere in the world, and it is only through our Catholic priests that this life giving and life saving miracle occurs.
I am always edified this time of year as I read of all the new priests being ordained. This year the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ ordained 16 new priests. They are of various ages and cultural backgrounds. I had the privilege of giving my post~abortion witness to this class last month. (The priest who teaches the Reconciliation class is a dear friend of Rachel's Vineyard in our archdiocese.) I could see then in speaking with some of them afterwards that we were truly blessed to have these men serve our archdiocese.
Please join me in praying for them (pictured above) as they begin their priesthoods.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, grant Your Church many and holy priests.
Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for priests.

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest 
(unknown author)
  We need them in life's early morning,

We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek them when tasting life's woes.

  At the altar each day we behold them,

And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness;
Their dignity stands all alone;

  And when we are tempted and wander,

To pathways of shame and of sin,
It's the hand of a priest that will absolve us,
Not once, but again and again.

  And when we are taking life's partner,

Other hands may prepare us a feast,
But the hand that will bless and unite us
Is the beautiful hand of a priest.

  God bless them and keep them all holy,

For the Host which their fingers caress;
When can a poor sinner do better
Than to ask Him to guide thee and bless?

  When the hour of death comes upon us,

May our courage and strength be increased,
By seeing raised over us in blessing
The beautiful hands of a priest.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spirit Driven

Jesus, in His humanity was Spirit driven. At the Annunciation, He is conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. When He arrives at the Jordan to be baptized by John, the Spirit is there, and immediately after that Scripture tells us that Jesus is driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit. These are just a few events in Scripture where we hear about the Holy Spirit's presence during Jesus' life. The truth is, this third Person of the Trinity was always with Him as was the Father. The Trinity is inseparable~where One is, so are the other two.
This isn't just true in the life of Jesus; it is true for us as well. If we avail ourselves to the sacraments and remain in a state of grace, the Trinity dwells within us. Jesus comes to us in a special and unique way in the Eucharist, and He leads us to the Father. The Holy Spirit is there as the unifying gift of their love~for each other and for each of us.
As the Spirit led Jesus to love the will of His Father, if we allow Him to and follow His promptings, we too will be Spirit driven. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be enlivened in us, bearing the fruits of those gifts, leading us to live a life of virtue in accordance with the will of God.
The Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, breathes life into our Church and into each one of us.

Verses for a Pentecost Novena
by St Edith Stein (verses 4 and 7)
Are you the spirit's fullness and the power
By which the Lamb releases the seal
Of God's eternal decree?
Driven by you
The messengers of judgement ride through the world
And separate with a sharp sword
The kingdom of light from the kingdom of night.
Then heaven becomes new and new the earth,
And all finds its proper place
Through your breath:
Holy Spirit victorious power!

Are you the sweet song of love
And of holy awe
That eternally resounds around the triune throne,
That weds in itself the clear chimes
of each and every being?
The harmony,
That joins together the members to the Head,
In which each one
Finds the mysterious meaning of his being blessed
And joyously surges forth,
Freely dissolved in your surging:
Holy Spirit eternal jubilation!

*The prayer can be read in its entirety here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Changes Inside and Out

Obviously I have made some major changes to the look and layout of this blog. The outer changes really come from some changes that I have noticed within.
Since returning from retreat this year, I have felt God sort of nudging me to simplify things. The sense of quiet I took part in on retreat I have been trying to maintain where possible in my daily life. Now I haven't become a hermit or anything that extreme~just trying to remove the clutter from daily life.
I have felt the need to simplify this blog as well. I like the simplicity of this template; it puts the focus on the writing, which I always pray gives glory to God and not me. The sidebars are hidden off to the right. If you hover on the black tabs you see to the right, my blogrolls and Catholic links show up, along with a few other gadgets.
The final change will begin June 1. I will be closing comments. This is not because I have received anything negative from anyone, or because I don't feel like reading comments. Once again, it goes back to the simplicity and taking the focus off me. I have always wanted those visiting to feel like they can come and go without feeling like they should comment. Come, read, and take whatever God gives you from what you have read. That being said, if you would like to comment, I have set up a separate e-mail account that you can use. You will find it in the "Contact Me" link under the header. Those of you who have my personal e-mail may still use that if you'd rather.
I know these changes seem somewhat radical~they truly are. I have felt the Holy Spirit doing a little spring cleaning in my soul and I am not resisting (for once in my stubborn life).
I thank my long time readers for their patience with these changes. For those who are new to the blog~ Welcome, and well, you don't know anything has changed :)
As we approach Pentecost, I thought this was a good time to let the Holy Spirit breathe new life, not only within me, but in this blog as well.

Learning To Pray In Scripture

Sacred Scripture is God's gift to us. More than that, in some ways it is His love letter to us. If we want to hear what God has to say to us, one of the ways to do so is to open up our Bibles.
While reading the passages or hearing them at Mass is good, it is not enough if we really want to hear God speak to us through Sacred Scripture. We need to read prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit's  guidance. This what is known as Lectio Divina. It can be a daunting exercise.
Stephen J. Binz has written Lectio Divina: Learning to Pray in Scripture. In the Introduction, he outlines five steps that will be used throughout the book to take the reader more deeply into the Scripture passages presented. First, you read, aloud if you can, the passage. This is the Listening step. Next, a comprehensive commentary is given to help the reader Understand the passage and encounter God more deeply there. In the Reflection section, a series of questions are posed with space to write your responses. This helps to apply God's message to our world today. From there, the reader responds to God with Prayer from the heart; a brief prayer is also given by the author. Finally, in Acting, the reader is asked to look for the concrete ways the message God has given can be applied to daily life.
The selections from Scripture take us from the Prayers of Israel's Heroes (Moses, Abraham, Hannah, and David to name a few), to the Prayers of the Prophets, the Psalms are next. From there the author moves into the New Testament with the Prayer Life of Jesus and the Prayer of the Apostolic Church.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to go more deeply into Sacred Scripture in a prayerful and meditative manner.
Let's not just read God's Word~let's pray it.

*This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Lectio Divina Bible Study: Learning to Pray in Scripture. This is also a great online Catholic store for all your religious shopping needs, such as gifts for Confirmation and gifts for a baby baptism.

**This reviewer received nothing in exchange for the review except a copy of the book reviewed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Appointments With Mystery

I am going to break from my usual format for my Sunday Meditations where I usually reflect on the Sunday Gospel and readings. This week I would like to share a reflection I wrote while on retreat. It is based on a writing of Thomas Merton where he talks about keeping our appointments with Mystery.
In my last post, I spoke about clearing out clutter in our souls. Keeping those appointments with Mystery through prayer, meditation on Scripture and good, solid spiritual reading are some ways to do this.
Our God~ Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is Mystery itself. Let's not keep Him waiting...

Keeping My Appointments With Mystery
When I keep my appointments with Mystery, I find myself sinking into the depths of myself to that place in me where You my Lord and God, Mystery Itself, dwell.
And my soul, finding You there, can only find itself praising You.
In this wordless praise my heart is calmed and heavenly peace fills me. 
This peace that only You can give is a peace that can reign no matter what is going on around me.
This unconditional peace, born of silent interior praise of You,
 is mine and remains with me when I keep my appointments with You,
 Divine Mystery.

*Photos taken by K. Searson: St Joseph by the Sea, S. Mantoloking, NJ; May 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spring Soul Cleaning

I returned from my six days of silence by the sea on Thursday. I didn't realize how much I needed these days away until I was home. I needed the physical rest and down time, but more than that I needed to clean out the spiritual clutter that had over some time begun to fill the corners of my soul. It happens much like material clutter happens~ very slowly and gradually to the point you don't really notice until you step back and take a good look at your surroundings.
So these days with Our Lord were days of some spiritual spring cleaning. With His help and by His grace, I was able to see the parts of my spiritual life that needed a bit of tidying up. Some things simply needed to be put back in their proper place like regular spiritual reading and saying a Rosary more often. Other things I saw needed to be just plain old thrown out! Case in point here: Leaving the blasted television on just for the sake of doing something or more to the point~ nothing. I don't miss it while I am away, so I certainly don't need it when I am home. That time can be spent reading, writing, praying or getting up off my duff for a walk.
I am truly blessed in that I am able to take these days for silent retreat once or twice a year; not everyone can, I know. However, you don't have to be on a retreat to check the tidiness of your soul~after all, it is God's dwelling place within each of us. We have to check every now and then to be sure the clutter we allow in is not squeezing Him out.
So I have returned to my life here at home, but I have been trying to keep the spiritual routine of the retreat as much as possible. When I am home and not at work or in any situation where I have to deal with the world, I am keeping the silence (since I live alone this easier for me than for the mom or dad with kids around). In the three days since I have arrived home, I see the difference this is making already. With Our Lord's continued help, I will be able to continue. It is a lot easier to deal with the clutter, material or spiritual, as it starts rather than wait until it has become unbearable.
So no matter what your state in life, go ahead and open up the windows and let the Holy Spirit breathe His fresh air into your soul.

*For those of you not tired of my pictures of sea and sky, the slide show of the few pictures I did snap is on my right side bar. It takes a few minutes to load.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sea, Sand and Silence

Sunrise: Taken on my retreat in 2009

I am off for another week of retreat. This is truly a gift; I usually only manage one retreat a year. My job this year has been extremely busy and extremely stressful. I decided in February to use my second week of vacation for another retreat. St Joseph by the Sea offers these silent retreats four times a year~ May being the last one. I watched their website for the exact dates and sent my deposit in as soon as the dates posted. I figured if they had room, then that was God's way of saying I could and should do this.
God always seems to spoil me rotten during these days with Him and this Daughter of the King is expecting no less this time :)
I am looking forward to the silence and the sea; the two go so perfectly together and are extremely conducive to prayer.
As I write this I am not sure what my reading material will be. I have some Bernard of Claiveaux that I haven't read yet that may be good company.  Last September I brought Thomas Merton's Book of Hours; I may use that again for Morning and Evening Prayer. We will see what the Holy Spirit recommends.
I will keep you all in my prayers during this week by the sea. I will return next here next Sunday with another Sunday meditation post~perhaps something God and sea inspired.
To all of the mothers who read and follow this blog~ a very Happy Mother's Day to all of you.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Way Of The Christian

I Am the Way: Danny Hahlbohm

Back in the early days of my return to my faith, my friend who was largely responsible for that return asked me one day: If I were to sum up my faith in one or two sentences, what would I say? I remember my answer to him, and I remember that it came almost without a split second's thought. I responded with the line from today's Gospel (John 14:1~6) where Jesus tells us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life...
If you had asked me then why I had responded that way, I am not sure I would have been able to answer, but after almost ten years, I have seen the answer revealed by Jesus ever so slowly and gently (although not always easily). He has shown me that the only way to peace, true freedom and real joy is His Way; the only Truth is He Himself and it is an absolute Truth, and if we follow His Way and believe in Him as Truth, then we are led to the only life that matters~ Life in and with Christ.
In his homily at Mass today, the priest posed the question as to whether Jesus said these words to Thomas as a matter of fact, or as a means of trying to convince the Apostles. My thoughts on that are that in reading the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus never minced words, and He did not need to convince anyone of anything. So while I see His words as definitely a matter of fact, I also see them as an invitation. He invites us to Himself and ultimately to the Father by telling us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
A line from today's meditation in Magnificat sums this up quite nicely: "The Christian life is a journey in communion with others in Jesus Christ." (Fr. P. Dalmazio Mongillo, O.P.)
We can accept Jesus' invitation or not, but if we do we will find that He is there, along with our other Christian brothers and sisters, walking the journey with us.

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.