The Gift of the Sea

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100_0419.jpgAnn Morrow Lindbergh wrote A Gift from the Sea. I do not intend to rival her insights, but God has given me the Gift of the Sea.  Recently I moved my residence from the mountains to the shoreline. As a young girl, growing up in St. Louis the River always fascinated me. My father would take us down to the levy to watch the boats and go up and down the River, Old Man River, or the Mississippi River, the Father of Waters, as the Native American called him. My brothers and sister and I would eat M&Ms and be captured by a world that was far from any reality we knew or had experienced. The power and the strength of the River is what fascinated me. Huge trees would come floating down stream and be tossed  by the River as easily as my brother skimmed stones on the River. All of this is by way of prelude to say: I have a fascination with water.

 

This recent move to the shoreline has about it a quality of unreal-ness, even though I've spent two nights here. The incomparable beauty is more than anything I could have imaged. I walk down the street from our little house to  steps that take me to another world! The world of the sea! I walk the sea wall, transfixed by the persistent surge of the Sound on the shore. I wonder at the play of light dancing on the water. I hold my breath; I pray.

 

100_0424.jpgImagine the first time this Midwest girl so the rush of the tide running in, filling up all the nooks and crannies of tidewater pools! What a thrill! What power! What strength!  I am amazed! Isn't this what God does for us? He fills up all those nooks and crannies in us? He heals all those wounds that we, perhaps, weren't even aware were there?

 

 I stand and hold my breath the glazed look of the Sound as the sun reflects off of it like ice. Too much! Too much beauty to take in and my soul falls in adoration. My God, I adore, I hope, I love You. I pray for those who do not know You, do not love You and do not serve You. Is this reparation? Filling up the lack of love in the world? I hear the call to fill up, to fill up the lack of love. To bring the love of His Heart to those I meet day in and day out. Is it always easy? Do I always feel like doing it? No, but words uttered so many years ago compel me now as they did them to answer love for love to the One Who is LOVE. This is what it means to be an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To proclaim the love of the Heart of Jesus, to reach out to those in need, to build up the Kingdom of God!

 

May God continue to soften our hearts as He washes us daily with His love. May all that keeps us from Him gradually erode away and we are carved out as one great openness, ready to capture the power and strength of His love and share it with others. Peace!

 

Sr. Cora

What's It Like to Be a Sister?

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"What's itr_DSC8256 CORA.jpg like to be a sister?" I asked this question of Sr. Jerome so many years ago, when I was a junior at Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis. I don't remember her answer. I do remember the question. Through that question, God was calling me. That question, that possibility stirred something within me. Through it I recognized the call. Something in me could not resist...something in me was drawn. Quite simply--I fell in love with God!

My first felt memory of this was at Eucharistic Adoration. My eyes were inexorably drawn to the King of Love, contained in the frail host. I refused to utter the sentimental words we were given to pray. In my heart I looked with love on the One who looked with love on me. That was enough.

"What's it like to be a sister?"
The reflection below captures what is the heart of our life and the heart of our life is Jesus. To enter for any other reason is not just foolish, but a mistake.

Religious Life grows into a spousal relationship. We tease at home--in the convent--"I have the best spouse of all!" And I do. He is always faithful, though I am weak. His love is constant, though I often miss the mark. His love is eternal and all I can do is as St. Therese taught--borrow His love, so I can love as he loves those He loves. 

This may or may not answer the question: "What's it like to be a sister?", but it gives you a glimpse into our way of life.

Peace be with you!

Sr. Cora




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How great is your love, O Jesus! 

Your love's so strong; it captures some!

Though their feet are planted here;

Their hearts beat in heaven with yours!

No permanent home, no spouse, no children!

 

"Come, my beloved, my lovely one, come!"

They hear and generously respond,

Like the gospel  widow who tossed

Her last two coins into the Temple treasury:

Giving all, holding nothing back!

They give their lives to you with joy:

Their hands, their voices, their hearts are Yours;

Because you have need of it!

You Alone are their all,

 

Joyfully they pray:

"Do with me what you will!

Just let me know  you;

Let me love you; let me follow you!

What sacrifice is too great?

What love can compare with your love?"

 

Choosing poverty, chastity and obedience,

They bind themselves to you

Who had no where to lay your head,

Who emptied yourself to fill us,

Who wedded yourself to a sinful people,

To make of us a Priestly People,

A Holy People, God's own People!

 

These our sisters and brothers, ordinary people,

Live hidden with You in God our Father;

Shine joyfully before the world, foreshadowing

A new heavens and a new earth.

 

You have so captured their hearts!

They trust in You with their all;

They lean not on their own understanding;

And you, the ever Provident, ever Loving,

Make their paths straight.

 

What words to sing of you,

save what you sing in us:

"Love one another as I have loved you?"

With hearts on fire, they strive to do as you do:

You the First Giver, the First Gift, Fire of Love!

Their gift of enduring love, a tiny drop,

In the Ocean of your Heart!

All they can do is follow you with joy,

The Divine Lamb, wherever you go!

For you call and they are Yours.

 







What a great gift we have in the Sacrament of Matrimony! This was revealed to me by the way my parents lived this sacrament. I share this reflection with you that together we may thank God for all the love He pours into our hearts through our families and most of all through the sacrifices and love of those out of love for each other gave life to us.

Together let us pray for our parents as we pray for the strengthening of the family in our world today.

Sr. Cora
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How great is your love, O Jesus! 

At the dawn of creation

You and the Eternal Father called

Forth Adam from the dust of the earth.

So great his loneliness,

In compassion, You created Eve

From his side: Flesh of his flesh

And bone of his bone.

 

Made in your image and likeness;

Called to love as you love:

To be one-- A man and a woman

Generously pour themselves out

For their spouse and their family,

Joining together in sacred friendship,

Forming a family with you at the center.

Opening wide the arms of their heart,

They  reach out, so all may find a home;

a place at the table. They tell the old stories

And laugh at the old jokes.

 

You who give yourself to us

In simple gifts of bread and wine at table.

We lowly ones need to see:

Again and again, couple after couple,

Your love revealed in their pledge of love:

I promise to be faithful to you

In good times and in bad,

In sickness and in health,

Till death do us part.

 

Their gift of enduring love reveals

To us Your face, O Jesus! In them we see You!

Their laughter, echoes your joy;

Their tears, a part of your sorrow.

They are our mothers and fathers,

Our brothers and sisters.

They give life by being who they are.

Plain spoken; they try not to impress.

But bless us with their presence.

They are who they are: Good people, solid people:

The Salt of the earth!

How great is your love, O Jesus!



A Eucharistic Congress to be held September 11-12, 2009

All are invited to attend a Eucharistic Congress on September 11-12, 2009 in Washington, DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Congress, entitled Sacrifice of Enduring Love, is sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR). There is no charge for admission to the two-day event that will explore three vocations in depth -- the Priesthood, Religious Life, and Marriage. In addition to other displays, a piece of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego will be exhibited. For more information about the Congress, visit www.cmswr.org or write: P.O. Box 4467, Washington, DC 20017.



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All are invited to attend a Eucharistic Congress on September 11-12, 2009 in Washington, DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Congress, entitled Sacrifice of Enduring Love, is sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).

There is no charge for admission to the two-day event that will consist of: celebration of the Liturgy, conferences and catechesis, Eucharistic adoration and procession, and other activities focusing on the Eucharist.

Three vocations will be explored in-depth -- the Priesthood, Religious Life, and Marriage. Speakers include: Justin Cardinal Rigali, Seán Cardinal O'Malley, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, Rev. Eduardo Chávez, Rev. Bernard Murphy, CFR; Rev. David Toups, STD; Mother Ann Marie, OP; Sr. Maria del Cenaculo Perez, SSVM; Terry Polakovic, Executive Director of ENDOW; Rev. Thomas Rosica of Salt and Light Television; Laura Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and her husband Giuseppe Pannuti; Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; Drs. J. David and Angela Franks, Cecilia Sone, and others.

In addition to other displays, a piece of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego will be exhibited.

For more information about the Congress, visit www.cmswr.org or write: P.O. Box 4467, Washington, DC 20017.


Here is a reflection on the vocation of the Priesthood written for the Eucharistic Congress. As we celebrate this Year of the Priest, let us pray for priest and thank God for the gift of who they are to us. May this reflection lead you to prayer and to a deeper knowledge and love of His Heart.

 

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How great is your love, O Jesus! 

You give to us those who so closely

Follow you that when we hear them,

We hear you! They are your priests!

You use them to touch our hearts,

To heal us, to draw us closer to your own Heart.

 

Jesus, we pray for our priests,

These men, your brothers

Who sacrifice marriage, a spouse

And children to be your presence!

They do it willingly! They do it lovingly!

 

Their love for you is seen in their love

For us, your people.

Some arise at all hours of the night

To anoint and confess one who is about to die.

Others teach our children and ourselves,

Helping us think through those hard decisions

We need to make. They feed us on your Word

And nurture us with your Body and Blood.

 

They, though weak and human as we,

Trust so totally in you that they take up

What no one would dare take up on their own:

To be your presence, in persona Christi!

This is a mystery we barely understand!

We, baptized into your death and resurrection,

Share in your roles as Priest, Prophet and King!

By ordination your priests identify and personify

You, the only High Priest, we have!

 

You give to us the gift of Holy Orders

So we who live so many years

After you walked this earth

Can still encounter you, the Risen Lord Jesus!

We meet your love and your healing,

We hear you speak words

Of kindness and forgiveness in them.

 

In complete love and total dedication

These men, our brothers, commit

Themselves to you and to the service of the Church;

So all may know you, love you and serve you!

Each day they offer for us, your people,

Our thanks and praise to the Almighty

And everlasting Father in the Eucharist,

Your own gift of enduring love for us!

As they consecrate the bread and wine

into your Body and Blood;

Consecrate them and us

so that we, too, may be your presence!

 


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All are invited to attend a Eucharistic Congress on September 11-12, 2009 in Washington, DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Congress, entitled Sacrifice of Enduring Love, is sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR). There is no charge for admission to the two-day event that will explore three vocations in depth -- the Priesthood, Religious Life, and Marriage. In addition to other displays, a piece of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego will be exhibited. For more information about the Congress, visit www.cmswr.org or write: P.O. Box 4467, Washington, DC 20017.

 

Below is a reflection on the Eucharist that I wrote for the Eucharistic Congress. As you read it I'm sure that you will see the Sacred Heart Spirituality. May this reflection lead you to prayer and to a deeper knowledge and love of His Heart.
 


EUCHARIST

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How great is your love, O Jesus! 

Out of love you became one of us:

Emptying Yourself to be as we are;

You laid down your life and told us:

Greater love has no one than this,

That he lay down his life for his friends.

Even that was not enough!

 

The night before you died,

You emptied yourself even more!

You gave your very self to us

Under the appearance of bread and wine! 

How great is your love, O Jesus! 

 

You, the sinless Son of the Father,

You, the Son of Mary most Holy,

Became sin, destroying the devil's hold on us,

Setting us free to be daughters and sons of the Father.

Jesus, your sacrifice is more than we can ask or imagine!

Our words too weak grow great with thanks

Before your enduring sacrifice of love!

How great is your love, O Jesus! 

 

United with you we give thanks to the Father

For sending you, His only Son, to us.

We proclaim your death and resurrection!

We trust you even when all seems dark,

Because you, the Light, shine in our darkness!

We are your people!

We are the People of the Eucharist!

 

Your Heart burns with love for us

Ever ready to light our path

and show to us the way to the Father.

Even that was not enough!

You give us your own Spirit,

The Living Spring, the Living Fire,

To open our eyes to see you in each other;

To open our ears to the cries of the poor;

To open our hearts to respond

with a strong Yes! to all that the Father asks of us.

We do not fear, for You are ever with us;

We know: We are not alone!

 

Palm Sunday

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What's that in Latin?

 

For God so loved the World

that He Sent His Only Son!

 John 3:16

 

 

The Lord has give me a well-trained tongue,

that I might know how to speak to the weary

a word that will rouse them.

 

These words we read from the Prophet Isaiah the Church applies to Jesus. He came to speak to us, the weary, the tired, the burdened--"a word that will rouse" us.

 

Sometimes words are not enough and we need deeds--ACTIONS! The Second Reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians reveals the depths of love in the Heart of Jesus. We read:

 

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God

As the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity

 

Did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at.

He did not hold onto His divinity

 as a miser does his gold!

 

Rather, He emptied himself,

Jesus lowered Himself; He became as we are.

 

Taking the form of a slave

Taking on our flesh and blood!

 

Coming in human likeness;

Becoming fully human yet fully divine!

 

And found human in appearance,

As the Son of Mary and the Son of God!

 

He humbled Himself,

He stooped down to us as it were.

 

Becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus did what love requires.

He died to show His love for us even to the point of execution on the Cross.

 

 

My mother use to tell me: 

Actions speak louder than words! All we need do is look at what Jesus did!

He died so we might live!

 

Jesus taught: Greater love than this no one has that he lay down his life

for his friends and I call you friends.

 

 

Mark's Gospel reveals in great detail the lengths Jesus' love takes Him. His Passion and death are a Love Story! His love for us and His call to us to join our sufferings and our troubles with His own suffering, so that together we might change our world and draw others to His heart.

 

As we enter this Holiest Week of the year each night before we sleep or the first thing in the morning, let us read a few lines of the Love Story and listen in our hearts to His special words for us. If we listen we will hear just the words we need to grow and become the person His love calls us to be. Peace be with you!

 

Father, as we enter more deeply into the Mystery of your Son's Passion and Death, help us as too experience His pain and suffering!

 

We believe in you. We trust in you! Lead us from our present sorrow to the full Joy of Easter.

 

May all who see us; see your Son living and loving in us! Amen.

 

I ask myself: What is the quality of my friendship with Jesus? How close are we?

 

Father, Forgive Them!

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"Lord, by the grace of this sacrifice may we who ask forgiveness be ready to forgive one another."  These words startled me. Did others hear what I heard? The congregation was focused on the celebrant. After mass I looked in the Sacramentary. There I read: "Lord, by the grace of this sacrifice may we who ask forgiveness be ready to forgive one another." 

 

Could God be challenging us to forgive, to let go of those hurts we hug to our hearts? Could God be challenging us to be at peace now? How do you live in peace? Does respecting others, especially those with whom we live and work, really build a world of peace? Is peace a verb or a noun? Is peace something we do or is it something we are? Does peace begin the moment each of us looks into our own heart and confronts the evils that dwell there?

 

We cannot change the world, but we can change ourselves. We cannot sign peace treaties and grant amnesty, but we can meditate on these words. This is the challenge! Person by person, we can change the world; we can heal the world, if we examine our own attitudes. Do we treat others as if we were God and want everyone else to bow down and worship? The challenge is to name our own sin; acknowledge our own woundedness and ask forgiveness. Only when we accept the forgiveness, which flows from the Heart of Jesus, will we be able to forgive others. 

 

0c on the cross.jpgWhile dying on the cross Jesus taught:

 

"Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing."

 

Can we accept the forgiveness and the love of Jesus? Can reach out to others in forgiveness? As children of our heavenly Father we are called to make a difference in the world. We can think thoughts of peace, while in the midst of war. We make peace with ourselves; we take responsibility for past failures and forgive ourselves, knowing God has forgiven us. Peace will only be a part of our world, when we begin to forgive. Hard enough to forgive in times of peace, it's doubly hard in times of war.

 

 

As we make peace with ourselves, we repair those relationships, which are wounded; we call family members with whom we haven't spoken for years. Person by person, we ask for forgiveness. We let go of grudges, remembering Jesus taught:

 

"Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you hold fast, they are held fast."

 

Our call to forgive is the call to make peace. Jesus' words on Easter night give us hope:

 

"Peace be with you."

 

Then He showed them his hands and side. As if to say: "This is the price of peace." It is by His sacrifice we can forgive. Alone we could not do this. God gives us the courage to look beyond "our hurts" and "our wrongs" to the real need that binds us together as a family and as members of the human race. We acknowledge that we need each other. Our call to holiness is the call to enter into the Mystery of Salvation by extending the forgiveness and the Peace of Christ to each other.

 

            Is peace a dream for Pollyannas? Or is peace the bedrock need of every person? Do we need peace to be the person God calls us to be? Each of us must answer these questions for ourselves. How we answer will determine how we live and how we die. How we answer will catapult us into a world of peace or a world of fear. May the grace of God be with us as we ponder the price of peace.

 

Why Did I Enter the Convent?

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            Why am I a sister today? It was not to "save my soul" nor was it to teach or to nurse. I entered religious life and I am a sister today, because Jesus Christ is real to me.  The one thing I knew at eighteen years of age and that which I am even more convinced of now, many years later, is I AM LOVED. This one central conviction continues to compel me, urge me, and draw me today to be a sister even more than it did so many years ago. At that time I did not know what vows were; I had never heard of them, but I did know the love of the Heart of Christ. This love pierced the darkness of my ignorance and the shallowness of my thoughts. It called me to live "differently" from others. I did not understand what this meant, because I wasn't even sure if God was calling me. I only knew I had to give God a try, an opportunity to be number one in my life. I entered not so much to "do" as to "be." I wanted to "be" for Christ Jesus; I wanted to be the Love of the Heart of Jesus for others as my parents and teachers were for me. Entering religious life for me was all about loving.

 

            Religious women and men make vows, or promises. The vows for me are a "means to an end." Poverty, in and of itself, holds no attraction for me. My vow of poverty reminds me that I place my identity not in what I have or possess, but who I have been called to be from the very moment of my existence. Poverty's not about dollar and cents; it's about a willingness to share who and what I am. Poverty's not just a state of mind; it's an openness of heart, a willingness to love those who do not love me or are incapable of loving because they are in so much pain. Poverty's more than a promise to be with others in their pain; it's a presence, a power to be make present God's love here and now in the midst of my own pain. Poverty's the power to consecrate through the power of God -- the nothingness, the void within, and to create community... friendship... peace. Poverty's an emptying of self and the experience of my own emptiness. "Though He was as one with God, He did not deign equality to God something to be grasped at. Rather He emptied Himself and put on the nature of a slave." Poverty's the freedom to be Christ for others as others are Christ Jesus for me. Poverty's acknowledging, yes, even embracing the limitations that I have so that God can fill them. So when I act, it is God moving and acting in me.

 

            How did I come to discover this relationship? How did I come to know that I was loved? By listening. The vow of obedience teaches me to listen, to be sensitive to God's presence in every moment of my life. Obedience's a listening, an opening of self to God and others. Obedience is more than the fulfillment of laws and directives; it's a commitment to listen with the whole self to the voice of God in myself and in others. Obedience's a leap in faith into the unknown. It's doing what I never thought I could do; it's being who I never imagined I could be. Obedience is finding my identity in Christ Jesus who found his identity in relationship to the Father.

 

            I discover I am a daughter who is called to change her mind, to open her heart to allow the Word of God to speak in her and through her. The Word resonates in my life, in all the events of my days. Silent music permeates my veins; a hidden harmony calls me to a cadence that I would not have chosen. Yet my heart is enchanted, is fascinated by the subtle beauty, the deceptively simple rhythm: "If you want to be perfect, come follow Me." Hearing the Word, finding the Word, sharing the Word, consecrating the world with the Word by my life and example seals my share of Christ's priesthood given in Baptism. I make the Heart of Jesus present as does the priest in the consecration of the bread and wine. I offer the wine of my days and the bread of my life so that others may come to hear and know the voice of Christ Jesus. My vow of obedience draws me into these relationships. I do not speak for myself; I speak for Him who speaks through me. My heart is fastened on God alone. In all the disparate events of my days, I hear one voice, one rhythm, one song. A unity exists in my life. I find God's voice, God's presence as much within myself as in others. I am at peace. Life becomes simple. God is one. I am called to love as God loves. This is the vow of chastity.

 

            Chastity's the courage to love others rightly, purely, wholly for who they are -- not for who I want them to be. Chastity's about giving life and nurturing life. Chastity's the Father's look of love to the Son and the Son's answering love of the Father poured out in the Spirit of their love on us. Chastity's the  mystery of this love within me; most of all it's the struggle to put on the mind and heart of Jesus so as to love with Jesus' Heart and proclaim His love to all. This is the life of the vows.

 

            This is Religious Life, a life intimately a part of the life of the Church and rooted in that Baptismal relationship established between God the Father and each of us through Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit. At Baptism we each "put on Christ Jesus." We entered into a love relationship. Religious Life is one way to live that love relationship. A call echoed and echoed in my being and continues to resonate even today in my heart; so that for me the only way I can be true to myself and true to my experience of God's presence within me is to be a religious woman, to live this life of the vows. Could God be calling you or someone you know to Religious Life? Probably. God's love is everlasting; God's love is constant. God continues to call out to us across the confusion and distress of our days to say: "YOU ARE LOVED." God still needs people to proclaim this love by their lives as God needed Mary of Nazareth to give flesh to the Christ Child. Could God be calling you to be His love to others as God calls me? You must decide this for yourself.

 

An Unexpected Encounter with God!

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         Last Sunday I was driving home during a snowstorm. I had an unexpected encounter with God. As I got off the interstate I realized the road was slushy, so I dropped into the lowest gear possible. All was well until...

 

          "Oh my God!" I cried, as the car started to skid into the oncoming traffic. Turning the wheel as quickly as I could to avoid crossing the divide, I held my breath. The next thing I knew the car was spinning uncontrollably. I didn't know what was going to stop it. The car bounced off the guard rail and finally stopped with a lurch. Taking a moment to breathe and collect myself, looking up I saw two cars appear from over the hill and approaching me at a snail's pace. One man looked at me funny as if to say: "What are you doing facing the wrong way?"

 

                Gingerly I turned the car around, thinking: "No other car is involved. I don't have to call the police." My head was swimming: "Let me just get home. The car hit the guard rail, but where?" Cautiously I drove the last mile home, not attempting to drive up the sharp incline of parish drive way. Taking my time, I drove into the parking lot, circled the rectory and finally pulled into the garage.

 

                With a sigh I got out of the car. "Where did I hit the guard rail?" I walked to the front of the car: "Nothing!" As I gazed at the rear end of the car on the driver's side, I held my breath, the car was totally smashed into the frame. My eyes widened as I realized I'd missed the gas tank by inches. "Thank God!" I exhaled. "How close I've come to death!"

 

                How often our life seems "out of control!" We react to life more than we thoughtfully respond.

 

                "Who can respond? Who has time?" I can hear you ask. "So many things come at us... so fast! What do we do?"

 

                We stop. We pause. We breathe. We slow ourselves down. We give ourselves five minutes to pull ourselves together. We stop to give ourselves the gift of time. We stop to aleve the pressure, the stress we put on ourself. We stop so we can be quiet and reclaim our deepest self. We recall the words of St. Paul: "Do you not know that you do not belong to yourself? You have be bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ." (1 Cor 6: 19)

 

                We recall: We don't have to do it all. We're not God. God Alone is God and He is taking care of the world. All we need do is put in our piece of the puzzle and trust God to do the rest.

 

                Easy? No! Not at all! To do this is to walk a dark path, to walk in darkness not knowing where we're going. It's the way of trust. It's the way of the saints. It's Jesus' way: "Into your hands, Father, I entrust my spirit." To do this is to know in the  deepest depths of yourself the Father's care and providence; to know with all your might He's watching out for you; to know most of all: I am loved!

 

                Stopping to breathe, stopping to reclaim ourselves, stopping to remember we are loved releases fear, releases stress, releases us from our own agenda and makes us open... AVAILABLE to be who it is God is calling us to be and needs us to be right here, right now in the messiness of our life. How did we get here? By stopping! By breathing! By remembering!

 

                My prayer for you: May you take time to stop and breathe, because you hear His call amid all the confusion and noise:

 "Come to me all you who are burdened and find life tiresome. I will give you rest." Matthew 11: 28.

 

 

Postlude: The Purgative Way

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29650D.jpg     Robert Benson in The Friendship of Christ has a lovely description of the beginning of the Purgative Way.

 

The initial stage of the Friendship formed with Jesus Christ is usually one of extraordinary happiness. For the soul has found for the first time a companion whose sympathy is perfect and whose Presence is continuous. It is not, necessarily, that the soul consciously attends every instant to this new intimate, so much as that she is never wholly unconscious of him. As she goes about her ordinary business, paying to each detail of it as much attention as ever, the fact that He is present within her is never entirely forgotten: He is there as is the sunlight or the air, illuminating, freshening and inspiring all that she experiences. From time to time she turns to Him with a word or two; at times He speaks gently to her. She views all that she sees from His standpoint, or rather from her standpoint in Him; lovely things are more lovely because of His loveliness; painful things are less distressing because of His consolation. Nothing is indifferent, because He is present. Even when she sleeps, her heart wakes to him. (Bension, 1912, __ )

 

Benson describes well the experience of the one first captured by the love of Christ; everything is changed: "...lovely things are more lovely because of His loveliness; painful things are less distressing because of His consolation. Nothing is indifferent, because He is present." This awareness of Jesus even is operative in sleep: "Even when she sleeps, her heart wakes to him." Benson continues to describe the various stages one must go through; each of these may be summarized as a stripping, a kind of dying to which results in one having great knowledge of Him who is Truth, Goodness and Beauty. The dynamics of the Purgative Way embrace the first two beatitudes.

 

These first two beatitudes, the first two steps on the journey, may be compared to the Purgative Way as Thomas D. McGonigle, O.P. discusses in The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality (1993):

 

The task of the purgative way is to come to the accurate knowledge of one's self and to a true understanding of God's call to ever new life in Christ so that one can leave behind whatever attachments keep the individual from a deeper commitment to the Christian life. Meditation, in which one tries to reflect on Scripture and to allow the word of God to be the horizon with which attitudes and patterns of behavior are reformed in accord with the gospel, is understood to be the principal means to this end.  ...The attempt to put on the mind of Christ towards one's life and one's world involves the constant struggle to overcome the attitudes and patterns of behavior that tend to draw the individual away from a life of holiness  and service. (McGonigle, 1993, p. 801)

  

In the above statement McGonigle succinctly summarizes the goal of the first two beatitudes. The first two beatitudes work in tandem, the first beatitude prepares us to practice the second beatitude. Knowing our need of God prepares us to "leave behind whatever attachments keep the individual from a deeper commitment to the Christian life." How do we do that? "... one tries to reflect on Scripture and ... allow the word of God to be the horizon with which attitudes and patterns of behavior are reformed in accord with the gospel..." God is drawing us closer to himself; He is calling us to a life "of holiness and service." God is purifying us through our living of the first two beatitudes.

 

 

Benson illustrates how this purification takes place.

 

There follows, however, a third stage before the Way of Purgation is wholly passed. The soul has learned that external things are not Christ; that internal things are not Christ. She has become "disillusioned," first with the frame of the picture, and next with the picture itself, before she has reached the original. She now has to learn the last lesson of all, and become disillusioned with herself.

 

Up to now she has always retained a belief, however faint and humble, that there was something in herself, and of herself, that attracted Christ towards her. She has been at least tempted to think that Christ had failed her; now she has to learn that it is she who, all along, in spite of her childlike love, has been failing Christ; and this is at once the real essence and object of Purgation. She has been stripped of all her coverings, of her ornaments and her clothes; now she has to be stripped of herself, that she may be the kind of disciple that He wishes.

 

 

This is the rudest of awakening! To know that God does not love us because of who we are or what we do or what we have is a shock. To know in the depths of one's heart that there is no good within us that comes from us is, also, to discover that any good we have is a gift of Him who loves us. Benson describes the stance of one who has passed though the Way of Purgation: "She sees for the first time that there is no good in herself apart from Christ; that He must be all, and she nothing." Until we discover our very real need of God; until we discover and name our secret, hidden sins; until we mourn what we are leaving behind, we cannot enter the School of Love.

 

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