Saturday, November 30, 2013

Empty Nest

Our daughter moved out on her own a couple of months ago.

I miss her…and yet I don’t miss her. It was time for her to move out, even though we share a close bond. There just comes a time, you know.

One thing I don’t miss is putting the Christmas tree up at the crack of Advent. I was not strong enough to insist on waiting, and I have a couple of excuses. It had been the practice in my own family as I was growing up to put up the tree early in December and sit and admire it and wait for Christmas (presents) for weeks. I knew nothing about Advent then; we weren’t Catholic, and we didn’t even attend church after I was about 7 years old. I knew about the birth of Jesus, but I was more interested in opening gifts. 

So it was hard not to give in to a persistent child - and boy, can she be persistent! But now, this year, Thanksgiving has come and gone (barely), and Advent has arrived. As a Catholic, I love Advent, and I all these years I have wanted to avoid all the Christmas stuff until it was actually, well, Christmas. This year will be more like that.

That’s just the stuff on the surface, though, when it comes to thinking about my daughter growing up and moving out of our home. Underneath, I worry about her. I worry that she won’t hold on to her faith. I worry that she’ll stop attending Mass. I worry that she won’t go to confession at least once a year. I worry that she won’t remain pure.

But of course there is no use in worrying. I try not to. I pray. I know Our Blessed Mother will watch out for my baby. I am grateful for all the saints in Heaven who intercede for us!
 Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Death of Faithless Loved Ones

The 3rd anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death has just passed.

He was a fallen-away Catholic. Very fallen away, if the things my sister told me were true (and I do not doubt her word). I prayed for the salvation of his soul before he died, and I continue to do so. I try not to wonder whether he escaped hell.

My sister died quite a few years before her husband did, but at least I feel more of a sense of hope where she is concerned. She was not Catholic – we were all baptized in the Episcopal Church, though. She had returned to a semblance of Christian belief in the few years preceding her death, and on her death bed she did profess a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and our Savior…though I wasn’t Catholic at the time, and both of us had a rather weak theological understanding of the issue, I think.

My brother-in-law, though…I don’t know. As a non-Catholic Christian, I once sent him a card asking him to think about Heaven and Hell, and to return to a Christian understanding of death and the afterlife. I don’t know whether that made any difference to him; we never discussed it.

I had had very little contact with him for several years before his death; in fact, I didn’t even know he had been ill (with cancer) when I received the news that he had died.  I hold little hope for the notion that he repented and contacted a priest, though, because he didn’t have a Catholic funeral, and he had been in a position to request such if he had wanted to.

When I think about him, and other people I know who died with no faith, I feel an intense horror. I think about what it’s like to die and stand before God; I think about what it’s like in purgatory, and what pain and agony those souls are enduring – but with Heaven in sight. I can barely stand to think about the ones I know who might possibly be in hell. Eternity…hell…despair… The thought makes me tremble and feel sick.

But we must always hope, mustn’t we? We must always pray. I pray for my brother-in-law daily. I hope that my prayers over many years before his death resulted in some sort of encounter with Our Blessed Mother, perhaps, as in some stories of the Miraculous Medal.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If Only I Knew

The reading for the 11th day of the De Montfort consecration to Mary is from the Imitation of Christ: Book 1, Chapter 25. It says, in part:

When a certain anxious person, who often times wavered between hope and fear, once overcome with sadness, threw himself upon the ground in prayer, before one of the altars in the Church and thinking these things in his mind, said "Oh, if I only knew how to persevere," that very instant he heard within him, this heavenly answer: "And if thou didst know this, what would thou do? Do now what you would do, and thou shall be perfectly secure."

And immediately being consoled, and comforted, he committed himself to the Divine Will, and his anxious thoughts ceased. He no longer wished for curious things; searching to find out what would happen to him, but studied rather to learn what was the acceptable and perfect will of God for the beginning and the perfection of every good work.

Well, I have often cried out “If only…”! If only I knew whether I am truly called to this vocation! If only I truly knew how to live it, having one foot in the secular world, and one in the world of "religion"!

So, I tell myself, imagine what you would do if you really did know, and do it. Easier said than done, of course; but still, we often do know what needs to be done, if we just think about it.

For myself, I have determined that the way to live the vocation I think I am called to is to…well…live it! That means following my Rule of Life more conscientiously, and not making easy excuses for the times I fail to keep it. 

This is what I strive for now, daily.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How Little We Do, Compared to the Saints

I am renewing my De Montfort consecration to Mary, and so have been re-reading many tidbits from The Imitation of Christ.

Here is the reading for the sixth day of the program (with my bolding), from Imitation, Book 1, Chapter 18:

Look upon the lively examples of the holy Fathers in whom shone real perfection and the religious life, and you will see how little it is, and almost nothing that we do. Alas, what is our life when we compare it with theirs? Saints and friends of Christ, they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations, and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ! For they hated their lives in this world, that they might keep them in life everlasting. Oh what a strict and self-renouncing life the holy Fathers of the desert led! What long and grievous temptations did they bear! How often were they harassed by the enemy, what frequent and fervent prayers did they offer up to God, what rigorous abstinence did they practice!

What a valiant contest wag I ed they to subdue their imperfections! What purity and straightforwardness of purpose kept they towards God! By day they labored, and much of the night they spent in prayer; though while they labored, they were far from leaving off mental prayer. They spent all their time profitably. Every hour seemed short to spend with God; and even their necessary bodily refreshment was forgotten in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced all riches, dignities, honors and kindred; they hardly took what was necessary for life. It grieved them to serve the body even in its necessity. Accordingly, they were poor in earthly things, but very rich in grace and virtues.

I remember the first time I ever started to read the Imitation. I was not even Catholic then. I did not finish the book that time. I found it of interest, but I remember saying to myself, “This is so depressing!” I suppose it seemed that way because I had no desire to really give up the pleasures of my daily life at that time!

When I read these passages the first time I followed the De Montfort consecration program, I didn’t find them so depressing, at least as far as I can remember. That first consecration was also before I became Catholic, but only a few months before I was received into the Church.

Every time I read these passages, I find more in them of interest and inspiration. I decided recently that it’s time to re-read the entire book, cover to cover. I’ve started, but “stuff” gets in the way. I shall persevere, though!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Hand from Heaven Pointing the Way

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

Abba Ammonas was going to pay a visit to Abba Anthony, one day, and he lost his way. So sitting down, he fell asleep for a little while.

On waking, he prayed thus to God, “I beseech you, O Lord my God, do not let your creature perish.”

Then there appeared to him as it were a man’s hand in the heavens, which showed him the way, till he reached Abba Anthony’s cave.

I sometimes wish that I could see a hand in the heavens pointing me in the right spiritual direction!

I suppose that the reason Abba Ammonus was given such a vision is that he was already, by virtue of his contemplative life of prayer and penance, in close communion with God’s will.    

Once, I lost my way while driving in a large city, trying to meet my son at a pre-arranged location. As I experienced a growing sense of mild panic, I decided to pull over and consult the GPS on my i-phone. Then the panic escalated, because I discovered that I had left the phone in my motel room! I’m embarrassed to remember how helpless I felt, as if that phone were the only thing that could save me!

After a couple of deep breaths, I realized that there was a time in my life when I had not owned such a device, and that at those times, when lost, I would simply stop at a gas station and ask for directions. Calming myself with that thought, I looked around and saw that I was not in a very good neighborhood…

Well, I had not traveled too far from the motel, and had a general idea of which direction to take, so I started to make my way back along the way I had come. But this time, I used the supernatural GPS…I prayed that I would be guided to make the right turns and that I would find a familiar landmark soon. I also prayed that if such were not to happen, that a safe-looking gas station would appear on the horizon!

There was no hand from heaven to point to the correct path, but my prayers at least brought my mind back to a calmer state that allowed me to function as a reasonably intelligent human being who was slightly lost in new surroundings! And I returned successfully to the motel, where I found a message waiting for me on my phone. It was my son, asking, “Are you lost?”


Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!