Prayer: it’s my jam! Saint Francis de Sales is a Doctor of the Church and his book Introduction to the Devout Life is a guide to the spiritual life for in-the-world, busy, laypeople like us. Continue reading “Prayer According to Saint Francis de Sales in Seven Steps”
I learned several things about my Grandpa after he died. Most importantly, he was prepared. Although his death seemed sudden to us, he had everything in order. In the months before his death he worked harder than his heart could take. He must have had a premonition. He was a few years older than my Grandma and had always talked as if he would die first. Because of this, he tried to make sure she was taken care of after he was gone. He had a list of tasks to complete before he died, including selling their house and getting a more manageable condo.
Ready for Death
On December 1st, 2017, my Grandpa checked the last thing off on his list. He and my Grandmother signed a loan to borrow money for some repairs they wanted to make to their new condo. After going to the bank and doing a few errands, their last stop was the grocery store, where my Grandpa stocked up on his favorite gluten-free treats. On the way home he began complaining of indigestion.
“Sal, you’ve had more indigestion in the last week…we’re going to the hospital.”
“No, no Aggie, I’m fine. Just mix me up my apple cider vinegar drink when we get home.”
My Grandma got in the house first and started fixing his drink. She heard the door open and then a loud crash. She ran to him. When she saw his mouth hanging open she knew right away that he was already gone.
Death did catch him by surprise
Most families experiencing an unexpected death would be dealing with a nightmare–no will, trying to find the essential paperwork. My grandparents had bought their condo about three months before this. They barely had any furniture because the floors had been redone. But, in the closet was everything we needed–organized and clearly labeled. He had a will, funeral plans, old taxes. He made sure everything would be taken care of and especially that his wife would be taken care of. For example, he chose to receive a smaller pension during his lifetime so that she would still have an income after he passed away. He thought of everything.
Grandpa the writer
We discovered something else as were going through his files–he was a writer. We found a folder full of poems, most of them dated in the early fifties, when he was in high school. They were filled with themes you would expect from a teenager–loneliness, darkness, trying to find meaning and purpose–but they were pretty well written. He even seemed to express anger at God in some of them. We were surprised by this because he had such strong faith. Later, my grandmother told a story that shed some light on this. “When he was a kid his parents let the doctors do some experimental surgery on him. He couldn’t play sports or do the things he loved after that, so he became angry with God.” I overheard this from another room and shouted, “That’s why his poems are so dark.” There were sounds of revelation from everyone. His anger at God somehow validated my own. It made it okay for me to say to God, “I want him back. Why did you take him away?”
My favorite piece of his that we came across was entitled “Growing Up Italian.” He wrote it for a high school English class. I began reading it outloud to my family but stumbled when I came to a word in all caps that seemed like gibberish–MED-E-GONES. I read it several times– MED-E-GONES, MED-GONES. “Try reading in an italian accent!” “Oh, Mericans!”
Death comes suddenly
My Grandpa was a faithful husband, father and provider. He also served the Church as a deacon in a quiet, humble manner and we are only beginning to learn about all the people he served and touched. Sometimes he would send me his homilies, which were insightful, but accessible. HIs last, and best homily was his death. Although it seemed like the worst timing ever, God’s perfect timing was not lost on me. Two days after he died was the First Sunday of Advent. In the Catholic Church, Advent is a time to remember Christ’s first coming, but also to look forward to the second. It is a time to ask: am I prepared to meet Christ? When Christ refers to his second coming he warns us that it will take us by surprise. The Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent contains one of these warnings: “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”
WIth his death, Grandpa showed me what “suddenly” means in a visceral, concrete way. He was not caught sleeping, but going about his work. He was ready. I just didn’t realize how suddenly, “suddenly” would come.
The Feast of Christ the King, which we celebrate today, is a fairly recent addition to the liturgical calendar. It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. The encyclical Quas Primas (On the Feast of Christ the King), explains the reasons for establishing this great feast and explains the different aspects of Christ’s kingship. Pius XI realized that secularism was beginning to poison the hearts of the faithful and that more than ever, people were giving things other than God primacy in their lives. His message is unfortunately relevant to the current state of society as well.
We are constantly reminded of the fact that God’s plans and man’s plans are often as different as night and day. This is especially true for the idea of kingship. Jesus blew the Israelite idea of kingship out of the water, and for that many of them rejected Him. Jesus is the ultimate servant leader. He lived in poverty and died the death of a criminal. He was exalted through the ultimate sacrifice; his throne is one of suffering. His crown was a crown of thorns.
King of the Universe, King of all Hearts
This part of Quas Primas stuck out to me: “He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his “charity which exceedeth all knowledge.” And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ.”(7)
Jesus longs to reign as king of your heart. While most of us don’t worship other gods today, there are more subtle idols we worship every day – money, sex, popularity. What has a hold of your heart and is keeping you from giving it fully to the King of hearts?
Originally posted 2012-11-25 19:17:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Everyone has their own concept of heaven. What do the scriptures tell us awaits for us in the afterlife? A Wedding Feast!
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.”
Many refuse this invitation. Some think it is too good to be true. Still others simply resent the Father and Son – they resent that everyone is called to the feast. (You could be with that person in heaven for all eternity.)
Others don’t even know about the feast. Why would they go to a wedding banquet for someone they don’t know? How can people respond to the invitation if they don’t know what awaits them at the Feast? How will they know it is worth leaving everything behind? This is why the Father sends us, his servants out to invite one and all to the feast. The Father is always calling “come to the feast!” Heaven sounds boring until you fall in love with God. Then, you want to spend all eternity praising Him.
What is the kingdom of God? Thy will be done. Those that refuse the invitation are those that refuse to do the will of God. “They made light of it” (his will) and went back to their own plans. They made light of getting to heaven, of their eternal salvation.
What is the real reason that people do not come to the feast? Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of laying down their own plans, of not being in control, of being dependent on another. If I lay down my plow or leave my business for this wedding feast, what will happen? So, controlled by fear, we refuse the food and drink that truly satisfies. We go back to our work, work that provides finite food that will always leave us hungry. We flee from morality. Death is the gateway to heaven and that is the big unknown of our lives, the one thing we can’t escape from or control, no matter how hard we try.
Finally at the third beckoning of the Father, we respond to the invitation. He has invited all to come. Who is the bride of his Son? We find to our astonishment that we are. All of those who have refused to come have said no to the proposal of the Son, they have refused to come to their own wedding. We also discover that although everyone is invited, each must be prepared in a special way for the wedding feast. A bride cannot be without her dress. Heaven is an eternal marriage.
What is this wedding garment that we must be clothed in? We discover that this wedding banquet is in fact a Passover meal. The lamb has been slaughtered and its blood spread on the lintel of our bodies. The wedding garment is not so much our good deeds and the ways we have striven to be perfect, but the blood of the lamb which covers us, transforming us into Himself. We could never be cleansed or atone for our sins on our own, so our betrothed has stepped in for us, laying down his life so we can enter the heavenly wedding banquet.
Ultimately, how are we called to the wedding banquet? Through the cry of the Son – “I thirst!” His desire for us awakens our hunger for him. What is our deepest hunger? To be loved. Mere bread will not satisfy this hunger, so he gives us his very self for our food, his very blood for our drink – saving the best wine for last.
Are you ready to start living with your eyes focused on heaven?
The vineyard is the spiritual life of the Christian. The Lord has prepared the ground by removing stones and tilling, planted her in fertile soil and given her all she needs to be fruitful. At the first sign of fruit, she is pruned, channeling all of His grace, all of the growing energy into the fruitful branches.
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.
Originally posted 2009-06-27 21:10:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This exact question is asked of Jesus two times in the gospels, by two different people, and he gives them different answers.
Originally posted 2017-06-11 20:48:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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…Mary knew Jesus more intimately than any human. If we want to get to know Him wouldn't it make sense to ask for her help? Click To Tweet
I will be using 33 Days to Morning Glory to renew my consecration starting July 13th. Will you join me?
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Originally posted 2012-07-07 22:53:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day. I would like to offer you some points to meditate on while preparing for this holiday.
In light of our unhealthy obsession with autonomy and individualism, why are we celebrating independence and division?
Originally posted 2013-07-03 13:38:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
“…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!