Monday, May 27, 2013

Time Before the Lord

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

A brother asked Abba Sisoes, “What am I to do?”

He said to him: “What you need is a great deal of silence and humility. For it is written: ‘Blessed are those who wait for him’ (Is. 30.18) for thus they are able to stand.” 


Abba Sisoes said, “Let yourself be despised, cast your own will behind your back, and you will be free from care and at peace.”

I think, yes, I need these things right now.

I am going away for a few days, and I hope to spend some good quality time with the Lord.  That is all I want. I have been so…drained. Despair looms, and that is not a good thing.

But the Lord awaits! I am not able to spend much time before the Blessed Sacrament where I live. I could, but it takes much effort not to be offended by the surroundings. I’m not that strong. In fact, I am very weak.

So off I go, to pray, to meditate, to be healed by the Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The State in Which We are Found

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

A brother asked Abba Sisoes, “What shall I do, abba, for I have fallen?”

The old man said to him, “Get up again.”  

The brother said, “I have got up again, but I have fallen again.”  

The old man said, “Get up again and again.”  

So then the brother said, “How many times?”  

The old man said, “Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in the state in which he is found.”

I have an abba who says this, too...more or less. It’s pretty sound advice, don’t you think? It follows along the line of forgiving one’s brother “seventy times seven”, I think. We must forgive ourselves just as we forgive our brother. After all, God forgives us (when we ask).

Sometimes when I fall into sin, I realize what I’m doing, and I am able to immediately repent and ask God’s forgiveness. Oh! I pray I can do that more often, and fall into sin less often, because who knows the day or the hour when he will be “taken up”? I want to be taken up in virtue. Or at least, not in sin!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Drawn by The Father

In the Divine Office for Matins of Ember Wednesday in the Octave of Pentecost, the Gospel was from John 6:44:

… Jesus said unto the multitudes of the Jews No man can come to Me, except the Father, Which hath sent me, draw him.

The lessons were from a homily by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (26th Tract on John).

I’ll summarize a little… St. Augustine was saying that some might question how it is that we have free will if the Father draws us. “How can my faith be willing, if I am drawn?” such a man might ask, says the saint. He answers, “Thou art not drawn as touching they will, but by pleasure… ‘Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart’ (Ps. 36:4). There is pleasure in that heart to which the Bread That came down from heaven is sweet.”

He adds that

…pleasure, which so draweth, is not a necessity, not a bond, but a delight. How much more strongly, may we say that men are drawn to Christ, who delight in truth, who delight in blessedness, who delight in righteousness, who delight in life everlasting, since truth and blessedness, and righteousness and everlasting life are all to be found in Christ?

Give me one who loves, and he will catch my meaning; give me one who longs, give me one who hungers, give me a wanderer in this desert, athirst and gasping for the fountains of the eternal Fatherland; give me such a one, and he will catch my meaning. If I talk to some cold creature, he will not…

St. Augustine says that God draws to the Son those who believe in the Son, those who believe that God is the Father of Jesus. Whoever realizes this is being drawn to the Father; those who do not recognize that Jesus is the Son of God are not drawn by the Father. For example, says Augustine, Arius was not one who was drawn by the Father, because he believed that “the Son was made” and

… such a one knoweth not the Father. What sayest thou, O Arius? What sayest thou, O thou heretic? What is thy profession? What is Christ? “He is not,” saith Arius, “Himself Very God.”

Then, O Arius, the Father hath not drawn thee. Thou hast not understood His dignity as a Father, to Whom thou deniest His Son… 

We are drawn by the Father because we love the Son, says Augustine:

If we are to be drawn, let us be drawn by Him to Whom one that loved much said “Draw me, we will run after the savor of thy good ointments” (Cant. i. 4).

We are drawn by pleasure – the pleasure of loving the Lord. Jesus entices us toward him because of who he is. And as we are drawn toward him we are drawn to the Father.

Show a sheep a green bough, and thou drawest him. Let a boy see some nuts, and he is drawn by them. As they run, they are drawn, drawn by taste, drawn without bodily hurt, drawn by a line bound to their heart. If, then, among earthly things, such as be sweet and pleasant, draw such as love them, as soon as they see them, so that it is truth to say, his special pleasure draweth each, doth not that Christ, Whom the Father hath revealed, draw? What stronger object of love can a soul have than the Truth?

We love him, because he first loved us.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

St. Rita of Cascia

Today is the feast day of St. Rita of Cascia. She’s one of my favorites, one of my special adopted saints, because she is the patroness of impossible cases.

St. Rita, from an early age, desired to enter a convent, but instead her parents arranged a marriage for her. Sadly, her husband was not a good man, but one filled with anger and violence. He abused Rita and passed on his evil ways to their children. Rita, for her part, was a good wife and mother, despite her circumstances.

After 20 years of marriage, the man’s unholy ways caught up with him; he was stabbed and killed. He did repent before his death, though, as Rita had been praying for him all along.  Rita’s two sons wanted to seek revenge on the murderer who had taken their father’s life, but Rita attempted to dissuade them. They were intent on their purpose, though, and so she prayed to God to prevent them from committing their own act of murder. Shortly thereafter, the two sons both died, before they could fall into mortal sin.

Rita still desired to enter a convent, but was denied. Miraculously, she found herself transported into the Augustinian convent at Cascia in Umbria – to the great surprise of the nuns there as well! She was allowed to remain there as a nun.

Here’s the prayer I pray to St. Rita:

O Glorious St. Rita, thou who didst so wonderfully participate in the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the grace to suffer with patience the pains of this life, and protect me in all my needs.

Glorious St Rita, please obtain for me the grace faithfully to fulfill the duties of my state in life.

Glorious St Rita, please obtain for me the grace to be satisfied with the lot in life to which God has called me.

Glorious St Rita, please obtain for me thy spirit of patience and strength in adversity.

Glorious St Rita, obtain for me entire detachment from the things of this world and fix all my affections and desires on heavenly treasures.

Glorious St Rita, please obtain for me health of soul and body.

Glorious St Rita, advocate of the impossible and patroness of desperate cases, please obtain the favors I ask through thee.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Prayers of the Old Mass

I was reading through the prayers of the extraordinary form of the Mass today as I made my spiritual communion.

There’s one prayer that often makes me melt. It’s in the prayers after the consecration; in the little red Latin-English missal it’s under the heading “For Blessings”. It says:

Humbly we beseech Thee, almighty God, to command that these our offerings be carried by the hand of Thy holy Angel to Thine Altar on high, in the sight of Thy divine Majesty, so that those of us who shall receive the most sacred Body and Blood of Thy Son by partaking thereof from this Altar may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing: Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

I love thinking about the holy Angel carrying our offerings up to Heaven, right into the sight of King of the Universe. I love thinking about “every grace and heavenly blessing”.  It just really does something to me.

Also from the little red book is an after-Mass prayer from St. Bonaventure. I especially like the first part:

Dearest Lord Jesus, pierce the inmost depths of my being with the sweet and wholesome pang of Thy love, with true and tranquil and most holy apostolic charity, so that from sheer melting love and desire of Thee my soul may ever faint with longing, yearning for Thee and for Thy dwelling-place, asking only to be released from the flesh and to be with Thee.

Today when I read that, I thought also about how we must always strive to keep our souls cleansed of sin by confession and penance, because if we are released from the flesh, we want to go to Heaven quickly, with a minimum amount of time in Purgatory. And thinking about that made me think about the sins I had already committed today, and inspired me to beg forgiveness for them.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Private Devotional Prayers

I pray a lot of little devotional prayers from my favorite prayer book. I have them marked with little sticky tabs so that I don’t forget to say them, and I even have a set order for them.

Sometimes I wonder if I am too obsessive-compulsive about this. It’s true that I tend to start saying a prayer, as one might for a novena, and then I keep saying it well past the allotted time. I figure if it’s good to pray it for nine days, it must be good to pray it…forever.

The trouble is, I end up with a lot of prayers to pray that way. Some days I don’t want to say them all. But I’m afraid I’ll hurt one of my saint’s feelings if I skip the one to him or her! (And when I was a young child with a bed full of stuffed animals, I sometimes wished there were more room for me, but I didn’t want to toss any of my little friends out and make them feel bad!)

But today, it was a blessing to have those prayers. I didn’t really want to pray…not anything. Those depression demons… Anyway, I did pray the Divine Office, because it is in my Rule to do so. I thought perhaps I would excuse myself from praying all the private devotions. Then, I found myself praying them anyway. And wouldn’t you know it… they seemed so much more meaningful to me today than they have in a while.

Pray without ceasing. I guess there’s a reason for that.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sacrificing One's Child

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

One of the inhabitants of the Thebaid came to see Abba Sisoes one day because he wanted to become a monk.

The old man asked him if he had any relations in the world. He replied, “I have a son.”

The old man said, “Go and throw him into the river and then you will become a monk.”

As he went to throw him in, the old man sent a brother in haste to prevent him. The brother said, “Stop, what are you doing?”

But the other said to him, “The abba told me to throw him in.”

So the brother said, “But afterwards he said do not throw him in.”

So he left his son and went to find the old man and he became a monk, tested by obedience.

Of course, there is the similarity to the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, but there is some personal meaning here for me.

I have a daughter. She’s an adult, but not married, still living at home. She hopes to be married in the next year or so, and of course children will come along after that, according to God’s timing. I wonder often what my responsibility is as a grandmother.

So, suppose it happens – she marries and becomes pregnant. The question in my mind goes like this: if my husband precedes me in death, am I free then to pursue the vocation that seems to be mine – that of a hermitess? Or should I remain as I am, as a helper to my daughter and her family?

Sometimes it seems to me that I should make myself available to help my daughter, especially as more children come along. Other times, I think that, well, she is an adult; she will have to make her own way.

I put the question to my spiritual director. I told him I thought that because of certain issues in my past, it seemed to me that it might be the right thing to stay close to my daughter and help her as needed, as a sort of penance for my own failure to be open to life. But he said he thought it was a distraction from my vocation. He said that as long as my husband is alive, then yes, I am in this lay state of life, married; therefore, doing what we can to help our daughter is appropriate. But if I become a widow, then the door is open to the vocation that has been pursuing me for almost a decade.

I know that I would struggle with the decision, though. 

God’s will be done.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our Blessed Mother

I was remembering the other day what it was like when I was not a Catholic. The memories were brought on by someone sharing an email message with me from a person who was a baptized Catholic but had fallen away and taken up with a Protestant church. The person even said that “Mary is seldom referenced”.

That struck me. I remember those days! Of course, in my Protestant church, we all knew who Mary was…but who thought about her except at Christmas time?

Now I cannot imagine my life without our Blessed Mother! She is always there, I am always talking to her, asking for her help. I have pictures of her everywhere.  I pray the Rosary daily. I ask her to watch over and guide my family members.

Sometimes I think I even confuse her with my own (deceased) natural mother! I think of “Mom” and realize I am really thinking of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. No matter. My mom was a good mom, and if she has made it into Heaven by now, I’m sure she is still watching out for me. Perhaps she sits at Mary’s side and says, “Yes, grant that request for her, Blessed Mother!” or “Oh no, if you give her an inch, she’ll take a mile!”

Well, whether such conversations take place or not, I do know that I am loved and cared for by Our Blessed Mother, and it gives me a sense of security I didn’t know as a Protestant.