Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy Abandonment and an Advent Prayer

On a previous post, a commenter recommended a book – Holy Abandonment by Dom Vitalis Lehodey. I bought it and have begun reading it.

I don’t have the book handy, so won’t quote from it right now, but I can say I was quite taken even by the introductory remarks. In the preface, it is noted that we all seek happiness – we can’t help it. And true happiness is found in doing the will of God. Why? Because God wills only what is good (even if we cannot see the good at the time an event is occurring) and because anything that is good must be willed by God.

I pray so often to be able to abandon myself to Divine Providence! But it seems like I am so seldom successful. This book Holy Abandonment seems to be laid out in a way that may be helpful to me in seeing just exactly what is meant by “God’s will”. Already the author has made the distinction between God’s signified will – the Commandments, precepts of the Church, etc. – and God’s will of good pleasure, which we are not aware of until hindsight gives us the benefit of our experience.

If we are doing our best to remain in God’s signified will, we’ve made a good start. What helped me in that regard was realizing that my Rule of Life is part of God’s signified will because it was approved by my spiritual director, and because I made a personal, private vow to live by it. I signed my profession to do so on the altar of God.

And actually, this realization that that Rule signifies God’s will is a relief to me, and a reassurance that I’m on the right track.

In conjunction with being made aware of the book, I was also made aware of a “novena” that runs from the feast of St. Andrew (today, November 30) through Christmas Eve. I saw it first on Face Book, I think – “pray this prayer 15 times per day till Christmas for your intentions”.

Well…sometimes I’m skeptical about such things. Yes, I do pray novenas, but I don’t like seeing them advertised as a sort of “wish list” or “rabbit’s foot” that will bring me good luck. It’s like those email “forwards” that amount to some sort of “spiritual” chain letter – “Pray this prayer, and pass this on to 7 people, and your prayers will be answered. If you don’t, you will die.” Okay, they don’t say anything quite that dire, usually, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the second time I saw the “Christmas novena” was on the blog of “Tantamergo”. I gave it some more thought, and re-read the prayer, and thought I might go ahead and pray it. 15 times a day? Well it’s short, but I asked myself why 15 times. I decided that it’s probably just to make sure that one spends some time meditating on the content. It is a perfect prayer for Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Our King.

Well, as I mentioned, I had started reading Holy Abandonment, too, and was feeling determined to really consider, contemplate, reflect on, and otherwise seek to abandon myself to God’s will. I decided that that would be the one thing I would pray for. In fact, it seems like the only thing really worth praying for!

So I copied the prayer from Tantamergo’s blog along with part of the commentary from the friend who had sent it to him. Here’s what I copied and pasted:

Begin on November 30th, the Feast of St. Andrew, until Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
Pray it 15 times a day:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires. (Mention your intentions here) Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother. Amen.

This prayer is very efficacious! It has helped many, many souls achieve not only specific intentions but also to grow tremendously in Grace and union with the Divine Will.

And it was only in re-reading it after I’d printed it out for myself that I really saw what that last sentence said – that many souls “…grow tremendously in Grace and union with the Divine Will.”

Of course, that’s exactly what I want.

So I’ll pray the prayer, from now till Christmas. It’s not difficult to pray it 15 times per day; I just pray it before and after each hour of the Divine Office. And I have found just in this first day that it is helping me to focus on the coming celebration of the birth of the Our Savior.

I think this is going to be a good Advent.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Be Vigilant and Trust in God

I like this saying from the Desert Fathers [1]:

A brother said to Abba Cronius, “Speak a word to me.”

He said to him, “When Elisha came to the Shunamite, he did not finder her busy with anyone else. So she conceived and bore a child through the coming of Elisha.” (2 Kings 4)

The brother said to him, “What does this mean?”

The old man said, “If the soul is vigilant and withdraws from all distraction and abandons its own will then the spirit of God invades it and it can conceive because it is free to do so.”

I especially like that the brother asked him, “What does this mean?”!! I often want to ask that myself as I read through this book.

But apart from that, I like the explanation. I want my soul to be vigilant and to withdraw from all distraction. It is so difficult to do that when you are a wife and mother! My circumstances allow me to do that much more than most, though; I should be more grateful than I am.

I also want to abandon my will. God knows I try to do that daily, sometimes hourly. Every now and then I feel I have actually done it – for a few fleeting seconds, at least. Why is it so hard to abandon myself to Divine Providence? I KNOW God’s plan is better than mine; I KNOW that He wants the best for me. Why don’t I trust him? Why do I cling to my own will?

[1] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward, SLG

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Death and the Love of God

Two things have been on my mind a lot lately: death, and the love of God. Every morning I pray this prayer:

“O my Jesus, Thou knowest well that I love Thee, but I do not love Thee enough. Grant that I may love Thee more. O love that ever burnest and never failest, my God, thou Who art charity itself, enkindle in my heart that divine fire which consumes the saints and tranforms them unto thee.”

This afternoon, I saw the following quote on Face Book, taken from St. Therese of Lisieux. It touched me more than any other quote I have read from St. Therese (which, I admit, does not include a whole lot of quotes…).

"Deign, O Lord, to grant me the experience of true love before You take me from this life, for it will be a great thing at the hour of my death to realize that I shall be judged by One whom I have loved above all things. I shall be able to meet You with security, certain that I shall not be going into a foreign land, but into my own country, for it belongs to the One whom I have loved so truly and who has loved me in return."  

I want to make that my prayer, too.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Where Is the World Headed?

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation.

They said, “What have we ourselves done?”

One of them, the great Abba Ischyrion replied, “We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.”

The others replied, “And whose who come after us, what will they do?”

He said, “They will struggle to achieve half our works.”

They said, “And to those who come after them, what will happen?”

He said, “The men of that generation will not accomplish any works at all and temptation will come upon them; and those who will be approved in that day will be greater than either us or our fathers.”

Now, I do not presume to say that I understand what this “saying” means. Some of the things I read in that book leave me scratching my head!

Nevertheless, this little story makes me think of the times we live in now.  The faith seems to have become so watered down in so many ways! In our times, we certainly see a church full of shepherds who do not accomplish any works at all, even though they are supposed to be leading us to holiness. We see our leaders succumb to various temptations, and the laity follows.

I have thought before that the holy monks and nuns of old were capable of much more suffering and prayer and penance than we are today. We are so soft! We cannot bear much discomfort. I should speak for myself, I suppose, and not the rest of the world, but I really do think that, in general, what I have said is true. Of course, there are people – bishops, even! – who do “accomplish works”, who at least direct us toward holiness.

Well, perhaps it’s always been that way…you know, we see the worst in ourselves as we compare ourselves to an idealized past.

Things are looking pretty bad these days, though. In my diocese, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of centralized plan for the Year of Faith coming from the Chancery; there wasn’t much direction for the “Fortnight For Prayer”; there does not seem to be any awareness that we are just a slipshod bunch of semi-Catholics going through the motions at Mass.

Even amongst the more active bishops and priests, I see mostly words, not actions. “We must” remember this, and “we should” study the Vatican II documents, and the Year of Faith “is an incredible opportunity”.

Sometimes I wonder how many of the “faithful” even know there IS a “Year of Faith” happening!
Ah well. I must start thinking more about what I myself can do to further the growth of my own faith…and holiness.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  

In the current Divine Office, it’s been reduced to a third-class feast, but I have decided to celebrate Marian feasts as real feasts in my chapel! So I sang the hours according to the older Antiphonale Monasticum, which has it as a second class feast (not that I really understand all those little distinctions, but I have a general idea, and I can follow what the book says!).

The fourth reading for vigils (matins) was the following, which I found really touched me:

Reading 4
From the Book Upon the Orthodox Faith, written by St John of Damascus.Bk. iv. chap. 15.

Joachim took to wife that most eminent and praiseworthy woman, Anne. And even as the ancient Hannah, being stricken with barrenness, by prayer and promise became the mother of Samuel, so likewise this woman also through prayer and promise received from God the Mother of God, that in fruitfulness she might not be behind any of the famous matrons.

And thus grace (for such is the signification of the name of Anne) is mother of the Lady (for such is the signification of the name of Mary.) And indeed she became the Lady of every creature, since she hath been mother of the Creator.

She first saw the light in Joachim's house, hard by the Pool of Bethesda, at Jerusalem, and was carried to the Temple. There planted in the Lord, the dew of His Spirit made her to flourish in the courts of her God, and like a green olive she became a tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. And so she raised her mind utterly above the lust of life and the lust of the flesh, and kept her soul virgin in her virgin body, as became her that was to receive God into her womb.

I just love those highlighted parts, especially “she became a tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches”. When I read that last night during vigils, I just had to stop and ponder it for a moment.

And she “kept her soul virgin in her virgin body…” I don’t know that I have ever considered that a soul might not be kept virgin even if the body is, but as soon as I read it, I knew.

"The dew of His Spirit..." ahhh...yes...may I receive some of that dew, too!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rule of Life

On November 15th, I marked the 8th anniversary of my Rule of Life.

Even though the Rule has remained the same, my life has changed much. I’ve had many spiritual adventures – not all pleasant!

I have decided to read through my Rule very carefully and make any changes that are necessary. I have learned that the Rule is the goal, and I often fall short. Sometimes, I’m told, when a person finds that some part of the Rule is just not working, it should be changed to reflect reality. Not that we give up on the ultimate goal, but perhaps the steps toward it need to be adjusted.

Most of what I have committed to do in my Rule will remain the same: praying the Divine Office in the monastic rite; fasting on certain days; some private devotions; etc.

I haven’t really started the review and revision process…but I did find one thing I had forgotten was in there: half an hour a day of silent prayer before the altar and (empty) tabernacle in my chapel. That needs to start afresh! Even though the Blessed Sacrament is not there, I have experienced that tabernacle, with its door slightly ajar, as a sort of “portal” to all the other tabernacles in the world that do hold Our Blessed Lord. And even though He is not there, I “pretend” He is – I try to behave as if the Blessed Sacrament is there.

In fact, I see my chapel as a “chapel of reparation”: I try to do everything as correctly as possible – changing the altar antependium according to the feast and liturgical color of the day, and making all the signs of reverence required when one enters a sacred place – in order to make reparation for all the liturgical abuses that go on in my parish, diocese, and beyond.

I offer it all to His Majesty.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fighting the Good Fight

…Or trying hard, anyway.

The last few days have been very stressful for me, for a variety of reasons. I could feel my blood pressure rising frequently, resulting in a feeling that my head would burst.

It occurred to me that this is not a good thing! Not spiritually, and not physically.

This evening, I finally took the correct steps to deal with it. I prayed...I realized how much God has given me. I thanked Him for EVERYTHING. I abandoned myself to Divine Providence (at least for a few seconds). I thought about my confessor’s recent comment that the people I find stressful are all put in my life to help me grow in virtue. I asked God for the grace to respond to that. Things are better now.

I do this periodically – get very upset, wonder why I am such an awful sinner, feel hopeless to change, etc. , and then realize that God is just waiting for me to ask for – and then accept – His help.

Usually, I do a lot of asking, but I don’t accept what He offers. I guess I don’t think I deserve to be helped. Or maybe I think I’m beyond help. Or maybe I just want to feel sorry for myself. I do that last one very, very well! But after a while, it’s extremely wearing.

I have had this experience many times. Why can’t I learn?! Well, it feels just enough different each time, when I am in the thick of it, that I don’t recognize the situation. But when I do…what a relief!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts on the Election

It’s been a week since the election. I think maybe people are starting to recover from the shock of Obama’s re-election. We should have seen it coming.

The readings for the Office of Matins for Wednesday, November 7, included verses from Ezekiel. That would be the first Office following the bad news that our nation has plunged off the edge of the cliff.

Here are the verses, simply copied and pasted from the Divine Office website:

Ezek 7:1-13
1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
2 And thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God to the land of Israel: The end is come, the end is come upon the four quarters of the land.
3 Now is an end come upon thee, and I will send my wrath upon thee, and I will judge thee according to thy ways: and I will set all thy abominations against thee.
4 And my eye shall not spare thee, and I will shew thee no pity: but I will lay thy ways upon thee, and thy abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and you shall know that I am the Lord.
5 Thus saith the Lord God: One affliction, behold an affliction is come.
6 An end is come, the end is come, it hath awaked against thee: behold it is come.
7 Destruction is come upon thee that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of slaughter is near, and not of the joy of mountains.
8 Now very shortly I will pour out my wrath upon thee, and I will accomplish my anger in thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and I will lay upon thee all thy crimes.
9 And my eye shall not spare, neither will I shew mercy: but I will lay thy ways upon thee, and thy abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and you shall know that I am the Lord that strike.
10 Behold the day, behold it is come: destruction is gone forth, the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.
11 Iniquity is risen up into a rod of impiety: nothing of them shall remain, nor of their people, nor of the noise of them: and there shall be no rest among them.
12 The time is come, the day is at hand: let not the buyer rejoice: nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the people thereof.
13 For the seller shall not return to that which he hath sold, although their life be yet among the living. For the vision which regardeth all the multitude thereof, shall not go back: neither shall man be strengthened in the iniquity of his life.

I don’t know why it should amaze me that those prophetic words should appear the night after the election. Actually, I think they are more descriptive than prophetic. As it says, “wrath is upon all the people”…now.

But there is always hope.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Just For a Moment

 For a moment, I was there…I was consecrated, casting off the “old man” and taking on the habit and a new name and becoming a bride of Christ.

I was sitting in my little chapel, praying. I don’t know what I was praying, really – it was just a reaching out of my heart-felt desires to Our Lord. There were some words, but not many…it was just the yearning for Him.

And then it happened. I just “knew” - for one nebulous moment - what it was to be consecrated to God alone. Just for a second or two… It was powerful. It was immense. It was momentous. It was forever. 


If it turns out that I am never able to be officially consecrated in the Church, at least I will have had a teeny tiny taste of what it really means.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

If Only...

I know I shouldn’t do it, but sometimes I just can’t help it.

I wonder what would have become of me if I’d been born in a different time, in a different place…what if I had grown up in an age and a place where it was more common for women to enter religious life? When people – men and women – were known to purse the eremitic life, in the wilderness. The real wilderness.

I think if I’d been born into a pious Catholic family, I would have become a nun. I remember as a child feeling very much aware of Jesus. Not that I would have said it that way. We were Episcopalian; I didn’t like going to church because I didn’t like wearing a dress.  

Still, there was a draw toward Jesus. I think if I’d been born into a pious Catholic family when the Traditional Latin Mass was the only Mass, it would have made a difference. I would have discerned a vocation to religious life.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, someone gave my younger sister a book…it wasn’t a Bible, but it had page after page of religious art. I remember being fascinated by the pictures of the Crucifixion. I thought Jesus had died because of the pain of those nails going into his hands and feet; I had no idea what the physiology of death by crucifixion involved till well into my adulthood. I didn’t like church, but I liked that book.

If only…

Well, that’s all just idle thought that leads nowhere and serves no good end. I was born when, where, and to whom God willed! I am where I am now because God allowed me to make decisions out of my own free will. He guided me, and sometimes I listened, but often I did not.

I wish I had listened better…earlier…ahhh… It’s no use! I must stop! Now!
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I love the fall season, especially on days when the clouds come and go, and the colors are bright... It makes me want to live in the mountains.

I missed a lot of good photo ops today, but captured these a few days ago:

If only I could take some photos without wires in them!

I took this one today, as we drove down the freeway at 65 mph, in the late afternoon: