It is hardest to trust God during the storms of life. Right now, our country is experiencing literal storms and many wonder where God is. He is right in the midst of the storm. Natural disasters display God’s power like nothing else. With all of our technology, nature is one thing that human beings are still powerless against. I think this scares us the most because we love being in control.
A few years ago I witnessed my first hailstorm which was part of a tornado or that swept through the state. My town was hit the hardest and it seems as though half the trees in the area have been struck down. As I stood at the window watching the storm wreak havoc, fear and awe were struck into my heart. There was nothing we could do but listen to the ding of hailstones as they battered our house and hope the old tree in our backyard didn’t come crashing down. We stood in what we imagined to be a safe-haven and hoped that the angry would storm would not penetrate our four walls, which seemed flimsy and insubstantial.
And as I stood in fear and awe it occurred to me that the storm was very much like the presence of God. We cannot control God and it is utterly useless to fight against him. He has awesome power but can also strike fear into our hearts. When God sends a hailstorm often all we can do is trust Him and let the hail fall. Where we are powerless(literally and metaphorically), he is all powerful.
Amidst the lengthy chronologies and Lord of the Rings-esque descriptions, there are gems to be found in the Old Testament (pun intended). One example of this is God’s directions for building the tabernacle, which are incredibly intricate. It is meant to be modeled after the heavenly kingdom, so there is a goldmine of symbolism to be found in everything that God commanded Moses to build.
As Catholics we do some pretty weird things. We eat flesh and blood as the central act of our worship. We venerate the body parts of Holy people. We walk around one day a year with ashes on our foreheads.
But the thing that most non-Catholics do not get is our love for Mary. Mary, Queen of Heaven, immaculately conceived. Mary, Queen of all Hearts.
What’s the big deal?: Marian Consecration
Why is Mary so special and why should she be an important part of our spiritual lives? To answer this, I’m going to call on St. Louis de Montfort. I owe my love and knowledge of Mary to this guy, who the Holy Spirit led me to when I felt very far away from God.
He wrote a few books, but the most famous details the True Devotion to Mary. Montfort boldly claims that Mary is the easiest and best way to Christ. Therefore he was inspired to formulate a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Before you close the computer for even reading such sacrilege, think this through logically. How did Jesus come into the world? Through Mary. God obviously did that for a reason and thought Mary was very special. The first time I made my consecration according to Montfort’s preparation, it changed my life. I truly believe asking Mary to walk with me has deepened my relationship with her Son.
The Dawn of a New Day
Since then, I have discovered 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. He begins with Monfort, but doesn’t stop there. His “retreat” is a simple and accessible way to learn about and prepare yourself for Marian Consecration. He looks at Mary and our relationship with her through the lens of Maximillian Kolbe, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.
Jesus chose to come into the world as a completely helpless baby. He had to rely completely and totally on Mary for nourishment. If he thought that was necessary, in our pride do we think we’re above that? Perhaps he wants us to rely on His mother as He did. Mary, who is full of Grace, always leads us to Jesus and God. Montfort makes this very clear distinction in his writing, so as to avoid any accusations of heresy. I like to think of it as Mary accompanying us to the throne of God. I imagine it’s very hard for Jesus to say no to His mom…
“…Fear no one…do not be afraid…so do not be afraid…”
We get it Jesus! He tells us not to fear 3 times in 7 verses and this is just a small taste of how many times some version of “do not by afraid” appears in scripture.
Why? What are we so afraid of?
The same thing Adam and Eve were afraid of when they ate the apple: that God wouldn’t provide for them and that he was holding out on them.
“Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.” CCC 397
What is the answer? Like most things with God, I have to keep relearning what causes me to be overwhelmed by fear and how to trust him again. While pondering this gospel it hit me: “…you are worth more than many sparrows”.
Unlike the similar verse a few chapters earlier (Are you not much more valuable than they?), this is not a question. It is a firm statement of the truth: you ARE worth more than many sparrows.
Now how in the world do we get ourselves to believe this???
The root of our fear is mistrust in God’s love for us. We have a hard time believing that he sees us as precious and worth caring for, let alone worth dying for.
I thought I was doing pretty good with learning to trust the Lord and not letting fear keep me from abandoning myself to him. Then he asked me to leave the convent. This is something I had been deathly afraid of. Whenever someone left in a state of peace and joy, I couldn’t understand how they could be so happy about leaving.
The moment I got my fears out in the light by talking to my superior, they all magically disappeared. A burden was lifted off my shoulders and freedom like I have never experienced flooded my soul. In that moment I knew what God wanted and I was freed to say yes wholeheartedly.
Now that I am back to dealing with “worldly” matters, my trust is being put to the test. This past week, I was almost panicky with stress over money, finding a job, going to school. I felt out of control. And this is precisely why I am so afraid: I want to be in control and I certainly don’t want to give it to God.
I have to look out for number one, because no one else is going to.
Trust takes time
I think we forget sometimes that God wants a deeply personal relationship with us and that relationships take time. Due to the fall, we have a hard time trusting God, and it takes our whole lives to repair that trust.
Since leaving the convent, I have definitely not been living the life of a nun. It’s so easy to abandon prayer and the spiritual life when I don’t have structure provided for me. One day, I was feeling ashamed and apologizing to God for being so lazy and basically ignoring him. His response blew me away: “it’s okay. This is a relationship and I’ve just done something that makes it hard for you to trust in me. I knew what would happen when I asked you to leave. I knew it would take time for you to trust me again.”
“Perfect love casts out fear.”
I used to think this meant that if I loved God perfectly then I wouldn’t be afraid. But, in the words of St. John: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us…”
“But how is it possible to live fearlessly? Saint John tells us that perfect love casts our fear. The love that Jesus Christ offers us is so perfect and total that even all the hairs of your head are counted.’ Through our embrace of the overflowing, ‘gracious gift of Jesus Christ,’ we can live unafraid.” – Magnificat
Knowing that God loves me perfectly is what casts out fear.
What keeps you from trusting God? Alternatively, what helps you trust in his goodness? These aren’t rhetorical questions, I really want to hear from you!
The Father has prepared a wedding banquet with food and drink that satisfies our deepest hunger. The Father begs us to come to the feast. He has prepared the choicest food and has saved the best wine for last. The food at this banquet will never run out and we will never hunger or thirst again. He implores us “come to the feast.”
My heart sank when I saw these words in my office book on Pentecost:
“The Easter Season ends with the conclusion of Evening Prayer.”
The sweet consolation of Easter, basking in the glory of the Resurrection, my patroness (my religious name was Sr. Magdala Marie) popping up all over the place: it was all over. Then I realized that Ordinary Time is ushered in by a series of solemnities to wean us off of desserts, Alleluias and perhaps even his felt presence.
So what did we learn from the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe? Perhaps, the fact that millions of people were converted following the appearance of Our Lady was no coincidence. What if Our Lady is the key to the New Pentecost?
I know a few years ago when I was pondering the new Pentecost needed in our Church I was very focused on the externals. I think expressing our love for God and praising him with full heart and voice is very important, but I’ve come to realize that there is something more basic going on.