All of you who feel heavily the weight of the cross . . .

All of you who feel heavily the weight of the cross, you who are poor and abandoned, you who weep, you who are persecuted for justice, you who are ignored, you the unknown victims of suffering, take courage.  You are the preferred children of the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of hope, happiness and life.  You are the brothers of the suffering Christ, and with Him, if you wish, you are saving the world.

This is the Christian science of suffering, the only one which gives peace.  Know that you are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless.  You have been called by Christ and are His living and transparent image.

Sound like something from Pope Francis?  Wrong.  This is an excerpt from the Second Vatican Council closing speeches.  There are some things in the Church that just do not change.

Coming to the end of ourselves

Jerry Sitter, in his outstanding book on loss, A Grace Disguised, writes about the sudden loss of his wife, his daughter, and his mother, all in one tragic car accident.  We all suffer loss and Jerry writes so well about what is common to all of us in our losses.  Here is one sampling:

Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness.  Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being.  It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs.  In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.

But in coming to the end of ourselves, we can also come to the beginning of a vital relationship with God.  Our failures can lead us to grace and to a profound spiritual awakening.  This process occurs frequently with those who suffer loss.  It often begin when we face our own weaknesses and realize how much we take favorable circumstances for granted.  When loss deprives us of those circumstances, our anger, depression, and ingratitude expose the true state of our souls, showing us how small we really are.  We see that our identity is largely external, not internal.

Finally, we reach the point where we begin to search for a new life, one that depends less on circumstances and more on the depth of our souls.  That, in turn, opens us to new ideas and perspectives, including spiritual ones.  We feel the need for something beyond ourselves, and it begins to dawn o nus that reality may be more than we once thought it to be.  We begin to perceive hints of the divine, and our longing grows.  To our shock and bewilderment, we discover that there is a Being in the universe who, despite our brokenness and sin, loves us fiercely.  In coming to the end ourselves, we have come to the beginning of our true and deepest selves.  We have found the One whose love gives shape to our being.

Praying for you, that through whatever loss you are experiencing right now, that you might know the fierce love of God for you.

Call out to Mary

“O you, whoever you are, who feel that in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land, if you do not want to founder in the tempest, do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.  When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of temptation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary.  Whether you are being tossed about by the waves of pride or ambition or slander or jealousy, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary.  When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering the skiff of your soul, gaze up at Mary.  When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary.  In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt, think of Mary, call out to Mary.  Keep her in your mouth, keep her in your heart. Follow the example of her life and you will obtain the favor of her prayer.  Following her, you will never go astray.  Asking her help, you will never despair.  Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.  With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.  With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.  With her leading you, you will never tire.  Her kindness will see you through.” (Bernard of Clairvaux}

 

As a general rule

A quick method of discerning what to do with those agitating, discouraging thoughts:

“As a general rule, you ought to regard as coming from the enemy any thought which agitates you, throws you into perplexity, which diminishes your confidence and narrows up your heart.  The best thing in such cases is just to put the matter that perplexes you out of your mind, saying to yourself, ‘When I have the opportunity I shall ask the solution of this difficult from some priest,’ and then go on in peace as you were before.” (Dom Marmion)

I’m sure Dom Marmion would allow the substitution of “a wise person” for “some priest,” someone who is spiritually mature and whose discernment you trust.

Remember Amy Carmichael’s wonderful advice as well:

“The reason why singing is such a splendid shield against the fiery darts of the devil is that it greatly helps us to forget him, and he cannot endure being forgotten.  He likes us to be occupied with him, what he is doing (our temptations), with his victories (our falls), with anything but our glorious Lord.  So sing.  Never be afraid of singing too much.  We are much more likely to sing too little.”

I offer this stretch of path

I would like to introduce you to a Professor of mine, Dr. Antony Lilles.  (“Catholic theologian, married father of three, living in Colorado since 1992.  Having completed doctoral studies in ’98, his research is dedicated to the wisdom of the saints and mystics of the Church.  He has recently published Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, Omaha: Discerning Hearts (2012).”   You can follow him on his blog: Beginning to Pray.

Dr. Lilles is currently walking the Way of St. James in Spain.  Here is one of his reflections, written yesterday.  In it he gives some excellent examples of how to intercede in the midst of daily life:

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Faith on the Way

What does a pilgrim find in Spain?
A land of paradox.   Extremely modern communist style apartments can rise above very ancient and warmer architectural forms on the same street.  Miles of the old primitive path are interrupted by brand new roads or in other places bordered by electric fences (a deterrent for livestock or pilgrims or both).   Beautiful silence is sometimes swallowed by the droning of “power generating” windmills.  The spirit of Don Quixote and the spirit of materialism, idealism and cynicism, faith and skepticism, ancient Catholicism and new religions of drug culture, simplicity of rural living and the complexity of over technologized souls, joy and sorrow; all of these movements one picks up on while treading the via primitiva.
Asturias was very beautiful but the chapels and sanctuaries were all locked or else in ruins.   This made finding a place for daily mass very difficult and, really, our greatest hardship.  Now in Galacia, chapels and masses are a little more available.
The other hardship which we are still contending with is the walk itself … About 18 miles a day.  The body adjusts to this.   And there are only two days to go.  Still, more than half way and drawing closer to Santiago, I still find the last three miles always a little more difficult, but because of that, the very best for prayer.
It is not a deep mental prayer of insight, or or delving introspection, but a prayer of intercession that comes easiest, “I offer this hundred yards  in reparation for the scandal I caused in the hearts of others…please let them know your love and draw them close to you even in the face of my failure to witness- because no matter how great my sin, your love is greater.”
Or else “remember my friend who died.  His life was filled with so much ambiguity and difficulty, but you were with him through it all. Now, as he stands before you, let this little act of love I offer with my feet open up the floodgates of your mercy on him.”
Or again, “I offer this stretch of path in thanksgiving for all the blessings you have lavished on meand my family.  I did nothing to deserve them.  But you blessed us anyway.  Let these steps be for your glory …”
The one phrase however that returns time and again is “Into your hands I commend my spirit.  With this step, I give myself to you completely, I abandon myself to you, with all the love of my heart, with total confidence, for you are my Father.”
As I wrote this reflection in the Albergue, in the room next to me, graduate student Lucy Ridsdale’s voice echoed over the 1970s pop song playing on the local radio. It was paradox: sachrine tunes suddenly overshadowed by something deeper and richer, and more fully human.  Everyone stopped.  The radio was turned off.  One young man broke down in tears.
I will post that recording in the future but here is a rendition of the chant dedicated to St James, sung in Santiago almost 800 years ago, when Saint Francis trod this path during another age of paradox and contradiction, penance and renewal: O adiutor omnium seculorum

About all those shadows we live with

I haven’t reposted from Ann Voskamp recently.  Probably because I figure that you all follow her.  But just in case, you don’t, here’s the latest:

I take the kid that fell off the rip stick and broke his foot back to the doctor.

He may or may not have laid an afternoon or two on the kitchen floor, wailing that I had ruined his life.

Because I had the audacity to not let him and his cast go drive a tractor or jump on the trampoline or swing down the zipline. Yeah, I’m sorta old fashioned and ridiculous like that.

The doctor says one more week of cast swinging. I think the kid may become a happy human pinwheel on crutches, flipping all the way out the doctor’s office.

I get pink eye.

And then youtube how to unclog a toilet so I don’t have to bother the Farmer who is putting in 24 hour days back to back in the field, because yeah, nobody wants to drag their dirt-crusted selves in after 48 hours on an open tractor only to meet a reeking toilet.

You can read the rest here.

Seeds need darkness

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“The directions on the packet of flower seeds read: ‘Seeds need darkness to germinate.’  It makes me think of myself.  I want to grow.  I want to become more than I am.  Yet, so often my self-guided efforts leave me feeling empty, looking for Something More.  The ‘germination,’ the better life that I seek, must start in darkness.  Lent is that darkness.  It is not something dreadful or depressing.  Rather, Lent takes us back to what really matters in life.  We return to the beginning.  You are here.  Why?  Did you bring yourself about?  Is your life a reward from some accomplishment?  No.  You have been loved into existence by Someone.  Why would that Someone want to bring you into being?  The answer to all the dissatisfaction and unrest we experience every day is to be found in the love that acted (and acts) to give you life.  In the darkness of Lent we meet again this Someone whose love whispers to us, ‘It is necessary that you exist.’  In that desire of the divine heart we discover our truest worth.  Which sets us free.  We belong to this One who constantly speaks to our wounded heart. . . who constantly calls us in our darkness to come out of our darkness.  Lent is for leaving behind our distractions, our delusions.  We go into the darkness of Christ’s tomb.  What happens there to him will happen, too, to us.”  (Father Peter John Cameron)