The Sacramental Dimension: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, by Guercino
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, by Guercino

The Sacramental Dimension

The last part of the book is dedicated to discussing the Sacraments and how they relate to living the Be’s. There is a reminder that the “plan” for deep conversion and deep prayer is

a combination of divine grace and our cooperation with it.

On the Sacrament of Reconciliation: it is a sacrament for GUILT, not for mere feelings or mistakes,

there is no free will in a mere feeling.

What we do need to confess to the priest are things we can control but do not.

One of the reasons we should not confess non-guilt items is that they distract us from what we can and should correct: real guilt, real sins.

An admonition follows on how to properly approach the Sacrament of Confession. Where there doesn’t seem to be real, permanent change,

the “firm purpose of amendment” part of genuine sorrow, sincere contrition, seems to be absent.

There cannot be a sacrament of Reconciliation unless real guilt is confessed.

This might be a good time to review with the kids. They should know this, but it never hurts to reiterate.

Fr. Dubay re the dwindling numbers at confession: 3 explanations: 1) a loss of the sense of sin; 2) doctrinal and moral dissent among some theologians and priests; 3) the widespread and unmet need for conversion, deep conversion.

As we were telling the kids, there was a time in our marriage when we never went to confession. I guess at the time we thought we were perfect people, or perfect enough that we didn’t need the sacrament. Only by the grace of God, I’m sure, were we able to survive those years without falling apart. And only by the grace of God have we been brought back to this beautiful Sacrament.

And then another timely reminder, which Fr. Dubay addresses to religious leaders, but that’s particularly useful to us, as we’ve had parenting issues to deal with the past few weeks:

To lead in this context means, of course, to lead first by living an example of deep contemplative prayer and then to teach what they themselves are living. Our best people are thirsting for this quality of leadership.

Yes.


Prolixity, a new word.

I refer to penitents who take undue amounts of time in what they have to say to the confessor.

The rest is a review of what is, and how it should be approached. At our parish, at least, this doesn’t seem to be a problem, as everyone seems to be cognizant of the proper length of time spent at the confessional. We’ve rarely experienced a delay at the waiting line caused by someone spending too much time with Father.


Among all worldviews it is the gospel alone that produces the beauty of the saints. Nothing else does. They are deeply converted, and therefore utterly in love with triune Beauty.

Yes, this truly has been my most fruitful Lent ever. I will be on my knees thanking the Lord, these Holiest Days of the Year, the Easter Triduum. This is going to be one tremendous Easter.

hallelujah

Be Humble, Specific, Persevering: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

tunnel

It’s been difficult to write the past week or so. Three kids have gotten sick so far, and I’m starting to feel the beginnings of a bad cold/cough. Not a bad ending to Lent at all. 🙂

I finished the book last week but here are my last reflections for the next “Be’s”.

The Fifth Be: Be Humble

Humility is complete honesty — not just partial candor, but full.

This Lent for me has been about clarity. It has been about opening up my heart to the Lord — no holds barred — and allowing His light to shine into its innermost spaces, the corners full of cobwebs, the nooks that I’m afraid to let even Him see. At the beginning of Lent, I was hoping He’d look into some of those nooks and say, “Don’t worry about it; you’re doing okay.” Instead He took some of my most precious possessions and told me frankly, “This doesn’t belong here.”

I have to admit I’m still not holy enough as to resist completely the urge to bargain with Him, to remonstrate, to follow up my “Yes” with a “but, Lord”… but the grace He grants me daily gets me through, somehow. I have to work on my humility to trust more consistently that He knows best, not just some of the time, but all of the time.

The very best scholars, whether they are physicists or theologians, have a good grasp of how much they do not know even in their own field, let alone those outside of it.

We may acknowledge that we have made some progress in holiness, but most likely there are some remaining egocentrisms. And all of us have experienced failures and made many mistakes.

No argument here.

Everything you and I have that is beautiful, insightful or successful is a gift of God. To be acutely aware of this is to be humble and grateful.

Humility invites light, divine light that we otherwise would not have.

To choose wisely in the multiplicities of life we need the light given in the virtue of prudence, and this light the Lord loves to give to the humble, the little ones.

This quote and the subsequent paragraph were extremely helpful to me. That word, prudence. It’s the HOW of things, of how I live my life, daily, hourly, in the moment. The choices I make, both large and small.

The Sixth Be: Be Specific

The spiritual life is, as Job 7:1 reminded us, a warfare. Vague wishes go nowhere. This is why many of the wise religious orders retain the practice they call particular examen…. the person focuses special daily attention on one fault to be corrected or one virtue to be acquired or improved upon: gossiping, overeating or bursts of temper, for example; or gentleness, humility or truth telling.

Extremely valuable lesson here, and one I need to apply better myself as well as emphasize to my children. So many times in the past when making resolutions (and I make them often, usually at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of Advent, of Lent, or the schoolyear, or after a break or sickness), I’ve made the mistake of overwhelming myself with a list of changes I need to make in my life. Then I look back at those lists months later and find that nothing much has changed, or that any progress that I’ve made hasn’t stuck. On the other hand, certain habits that I’ve really focused on to develop, such as praying the Morning Prayer and the Office of Readings first thing in the morning when I wake up, because I had made it a priority over other things for several weeks, are now habits, and I feel incomplete on days when I fail to pray them. Once again, my hubby’s rule of “one thing at a time” serves me well in this endeavor.

The Seventh Be: Be Persevering

And very few indeed will sacrifice comfort and ease for years on end — unless they are deeply in love, real love.

Implementing the Be’s means

a) a personal weekly checkup to ensure the seven Be’s aren’t forgotten.
b) periodic accountability to confessor or spiritual director.

Spouses in an ideal marriage could agree to be accountable to each other — even to the point of gently calling the other to task when such may be helpful.

🙂 Gratefully and by God’s grace, we are here.

A new word for me: monition: an agreed upon and welcomed admonishing of one another done in a spirit of mutual love, and at a mutually suitable time and place.

The seven Be’s feed off of each other.

We are then less likely to permit ourselves to forget any of the Be’s or to take our eyes off Jesus and his salvific message, the mainspring of the entire enterprise.

A Leap of Faith: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

rosary

Continuing my Lenten reading/reflections on Fr. Thomas Dubay’s excellent book.

The ninth motive for embracing our entire surefire program may surprise you: people who are profoundly intimate with their indwelling Lord are never bored.

This is so true. I find that on those days when I am thoroughly focused on God’s presence in my life, when I am constantly seeking to hear His voice as I go about my daily tasks and dealing with my challenges , that’s when I have the most energy the most motivation. Consequently, that’s also when I accomplish so much. These are the moments when God becomes the be all and end all of my existence. These are also the moments when I am most joyful about everything that come part and parcel of who I am as wife and mother. These are the moments where I find the greatest harmony and peace.

Our tenth reason for taking the path to lofty virtue is that it equips the person to handle suffering profitably and even happily.

Our final motivation for resolute determination is that by it we are building up our primary community: marriage, priesthood, consecrated life.

Outsiders can do us harm, but far greater damage is usually brought about by spouses who refuse to get rid of their sins.

Life is far more harmonious and happy among people who readily renounce their egocentrisms. By giving up everything, they gain everything.

The past seven days have been life-changing for me for so many reasons, many of which I can’t detail here. But I need to write down what has happened even if it has to be in general terms because once again, the Holy Spirit has been amazing. Not only did He lead the Cardinals last week to elect our new Pope. I am convinced that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s grace has touched not only the Cardinals but so many of us who have been praying, “Come, Holy Spirit!”.

I took a leap of faith on Thursday that I had been so petrified of taking for the past several months. I’ve wrestled with the Lord on this, begged Him to give me an easy way out, begged Him to give me strength, constantly cried for His Mercy. But I knew that the ball was in my court and I needed to say yes to Him before anything else could happen. I said Yes on Thursday. What happened on Friday, on Saturday, on Sunday, on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, and finally today have all been nothing short of miraculous. I could almost hear Him saying, “What were you so afraid of?” I can almost laugh about it now. It has been bittersweet so far. Rending the heart and excising it of anything that is not in accordance with His will can be extremely painful and can bring about many tears, but the peace that such a leap of faith brings is priceless.

The Fourth “Be”: Be Committed to Daily Meditative/Contemplative Prayer

… the main source of deep conversion is to fall in love with endless Beauty. A genuine person will gladly sacrifice for real love. Christic martyrs are in love.

I don’t have much to say about this, other than I am more in love now with Jesus than ever before. My heart is full.

There is an intercausality between deep conversion and deep prayer. Each one brings about the other.

People intimate with God resist with all their might not only deadly sins, which kill the relationship, but also venial transgressions which, if deliberate, cool it.

Fr. Thomas Dubay then gives several examples from the Gospels and Acts. Our Lord was in the habit of spending extensive time in prayer. And Mama Mary is often found in contemplation as well.

Luke 5:16 But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.
Mark 1:35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.

I have been greatly blessed to have witnessed two men in my life who spend their first minutes of the day in prayer. I remember waking up in my parents’ bedroom (we subscribe to the family bed 🙂 ) early in the morning, around 5 am, when it was still dark outside, to my father’s silhouette as he sat up in bed, praying. How long he would do that each day I really don’t know, as I’d drift in and out of sleep watching him pray. When I got married, what a beautiful surprise that my husband is the same way.

Luke 6:12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Luke 2:51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

And the apostles:

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

If we desire to become saints, why should we not aspire to follow the model provided by our Savior, His Mother and the Apostles?

Living Authentic Lives: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

authenticity

He makes the weak of this world mighty only to the extent that they cooperate with a determined and resolute repentance.

Might comes from cooperation with God’s divine will. I’ve found this to be true in confronting venial sin in particular. When I do my best to cooperate with what I know to be God’s will, it is only difficult at first, as I wrestle with following my will vs. His. Once the wrestling is over and I’ve embraced God’s will, I am immediately strengthened, ready and almost eager to battle the next challenge.

Being vibrantly concerned is the first step toward a strong determination to do something about the problem.

Awareness, knowledge of oneself and one’s weaknesses, is essential for any real change to happen.

committing them to rote memory

Fr. Dubay talks about the seven reasons he enumerates in Chapter 6, why deep conversion and deep prayer are key to becoming a completely loving, happy and fulfilled human person. I’m listing them here to help me remember:

1. happiness and fulfillment
2. real love
3. unobscured sight and insight
4. ecumenical effectiveness
5. purification of venial sins
6. inexpressible joy
7. eternity

He then adds four more; here’s the first:

apostolic effectiveness is increased…. lay men and women witnessing to truth, love and beauty by the example of their lives… spouses in their homes witnessing to each other and to their children and their extended families and friends. To bring people closer to God, competency and clarity are important, but they are not enough. Of themselves they do not touch hearts deeply. Personal sanctity and goodness do. It is the saints who light fires.

Every time I read that line, I think, “I want to be that saint who lights fires!!! Help me be that saint, Lord!!”

He also quotes from Frank Sheed’s The Church and I

… for ideas which could call upon a man to change his life, lucidity is not enough. The self of the teacher has to make contact in depth with the self of the hearer.

If we are going to bring people closer to God in work and life our own deepening conversion is indispensable.

This is so true. Just over the weekend someone was seeking my advice — she needs to help someone become holier (she didn’t put it that way, but that’s basically the goal in a nutshell). I pointed out that while she’s helping her loved one, she needs to be working on her holiness herself. And likewise, while I’m giving advice to her, *I* need to be working on my own holiness.

… if husbands and wives really love each other and their children, the best and most effective proof that their love is not mere words is to get rid of their major and minor selfishnesses and to deepen their prayer lives.

And again. I cannot inspire my husband to greater holiness unless I’m working on my personal holiness. I cannot teach my children to be less selfish if they can see that I’m being selfish myself. And I cannot teach them to deepen their prayer lives, when they don’t even see me praying or see the results of prayer in my own life and in my dealings with them.

There is no substitute for authenticity.

True that.

Authenticity, honesty, sincerity, integrity. REAL. A fusing of who we are in our minds, our spirits, our hearts, and our external selves.

Be Concerned: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

thorns

I don’t have a much of a reflection today. I’m not even going to quote from the book.

There’s a lot on my mind. My daughter’s health. Actually, everyone’s health… but I’m not going to detail here. Just, I guess as a mom and a wife, these things are always on the top of my list of concerns. I don’t think that’s going to change. I do my best to not let these things overwhelm me, and I’m okay most days, just happy to let God be in charge. And then there are days when they get to me. While this is not one of those days, I’m still in this limbo-haze state, and my mind is somewhat fuzzy, so I’ll share this song instead.


This Lent, I’ve finally identified what this “thing” is that God put into my life: it’s a thorn. I’ve long suspected that it’s there to keep me humble, but I wasn’t sure. It certainly brought me to my knees and reminded me that I am not invincible after all. Some days I’m able to rise above it. Other days I just shake my head at myself and wring my hands and say to God and Mama Mary, “I tried. That’s the best I can give it today.” Months ago I prayed for the thorn to be taken away, but for whatever reason, God has seen fit to have it remain there. The benefit of having one is that I am no longer ever complacent. It brings a constant awareness that wasn’t there before. No complacency here, because it’s not like I can un-know what I know now. In giving me this thorn, He took away my biggest source of pride. There is no turning back; I can no longer say, “Yay Me!” There’s no room to hide. I have to admit, the thorn has kind of “grown on me”…. hm. Like a fungus? 😀 No. More like an unrelenting reminder that I am so helpless without God’s grace. Yet He still loves me… some days, it’s hard to get my brain to accept that as fact, but I try to take Him at His word. And I think He takes me at mine. And so I thank Him for the thorn.

… and I guess that’s how it is
When I let you move
Because you take me at my word
and now I know
That faith is not a fire
As much as it’s a glow
… A little burning ember
In my weary soul

PS I just found this. It’s helpful.

Love Means Forgiveness: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

inexcusable

we do not react to evil with more evil.

Need to remember this, especially in those moments when I’m fatigued, and that’s the moment when a child chooses to throw a tantrum, or talk back, or just plain be obnoxious. THAT is not the time to react with anger. That’s the time to take it to prayer. Or at least breathe out a “Jesus, help me!” or “Come, Holy Spirit!” before saying or doing anything I might regret later. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I still have those moments when I could have held my tongue or acted more like the adult I’m supposed to be.

blessing our persecutors, we react to something wrong with something good

”If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His Blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but even prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also. Let him remember that when he says the Pater Noster, every day, instead of asking pardon for his sins, he is calling down vengeance on himself.” – St. Philip Neri

This is a lesson I need to master before I get back to engaging online. In the two years we’ve been battling it out online against anti-lifers, the greatest difficulty always has been determining how to proclaim the Truth out there without making things worse, without pushing people to the point where they just shut down and won’t hear another word, without inciting more anger and hatred. It gets very frustrating and exhausting to try and hash it out with people on Facebook or Twitter, when the minute you mention God or religion a door is automatically slammed in your face and you’re branded a bigot. How do we bless these people? How do we react to it with goodness and kindness? After two years I’m afraid I still don’t have any answers besides prayer. I pray that they get to the point where they are at least open to hearing an opposing opinion once again — especially coming from those who look at everything with the eyes of faith. When the walls come tumbling down, that’s the only time when real conversation, real dialogue, real conversion can happen. And it’s not going to be because WE are right and THEY are wrong, it’s going to be because we helped each other get to the TRUTH.

unlimited forgiveness

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. – St. John Chrysostom

Talk about sainthood!!

We recall that this forgiveness is an act of the will which we can control with grace. It is compatible with continuing to feel hurt….

And there’s the catch. Continuing to feel hurt is a human response — it’s natural. What I’m called to do is to reach out DESPITE THE HURT, to go BEYOND the hurt, because THAT’s where holiness is, that’s where LOVE is. When we cross the bridge from “I don’t want to get hurt” to “I will get hurt, but I still choose to respond with love” — that’s when we begin to make a difference. That’s when we show the face of Christ to others. Until that moment, we wear nothing but masks.

If the offender is also trying to live the gospel, he welcomes the admonition (which should be offered gently and be motivated by love). Hopefully he does not explode with indignation (Prov 9:7-9). Each one genuinely listens sympathetically to the other’s view of the matter. They both change for the better. People who are deeply converted live this way.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
– St. Francis of Assisi

Throughout this whole book, I must admit to being a bit frustrated with the way Fr. Thomas Dubay presents marriage. I can’t help but think sometimes — we’re past this. Hubby and I haven’t fought in YEARS. We have disagreements now and then, sure, but nothing that lasts more than a few hours. After being married this long, we’ve both come to the conclusion that some things are just not worth fighting over. Plus we really really like enjoying each other’s company. I also had great examples in my mom and dad. But I can see how so much of this teaching is necessary today. Ten years ago, we certainly weren’t the people we are today. Spiritual maturity is like a ladder, and my husband and I have been climbing it together. Had we not been through the struggles of the previous rungs, we might not be able to endure the kinds of crosses we are asked to bear now. Deep conversion had to happen years ago in our marriage, so that today we can move forward and carry our crosses, individually and together, with dignity and grace, instead of falling apart.

Unity of Mind: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

maryjoseph

…. together drink from the same fountains of unity.

… unity is always caused. It never happens by random chance.

… a divided community — in marriage, parish, religious community — is worldly and immature.

Therefore, unity, oneness of mind, harmony, is a choice.
The question is, where there isn’t unity, oneness of mind, harmony, WHY are the parties involved NOT making the choices necessary to achieve oneness of mind?

It is amusing how scientists, when they find a written text amid ancient ruins, are immediately certain that the author of these ideas or laws was no mere animal, but rather an intellectual being, a man or a woman. Yet it must be either philosophical incompetence or extraordinary stubbornness that would lead them to deny that an endlessly more complex reality like a living cell comes from an intellectual being. The reason cannot be science. It is a philosophical monism, a dogmatic materialism.

When husbands and wives, when members of any primary community learn from the same sources of truth, understandably they possess the same basic truths. No one is forced. But once again, the beautiful unity happens only as a result of sincere inner change.

That’s why it’s so important for husbands and wives to be on the same page. If not of the same faith, it helps to tolerate and respect each other’s beliefs and practices (or non-belief). At least this is what I’ve witnessed even in households where husband and wife are not of the same religion. They’ve come to an agreement, often before the wedding, that their children will be raised a certain way spiritually, and that there would be no opposition from the other. It is also in these same households where I’ve seen conversions to the faith happen.

… this happy wisdom, largely unknown in other worldviews, comes from divine revelation.

So it’s important not only that spouses have a unity of mind WITH EACH OTHER, but a unity of mind WITH GOD. A shared vision is essential, especially when it comes to how married life should be, what influences are allowed into the home (whether through books, music, television, relatives and friends), what the goals are for the children in terms of spirituality, worldly success, education, etc. It would save the couple a lot of grief when these things are ironed out early on, or revisited when necessary. These are things that cannot be swept under the rug, lest bitterness and resentment take root. These will eat away at a marriage from the inside, and at some point the couple may find that all they have left is an empty shell of a relationship, and by then it may be difficult to prevent a falling apart.

A town or household split into factions cannot last for long (see Mt. 12:25). Contemporary evidence abounds that shows he is right again. The very word divorce means breaking or splitting up, sundering apart. Polarized religious institutes have been declining at an alarming rate for some decades now, and not a few are either on the brink of disappearing altogether or have already vanished.

I Think I Finally Know: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

viadolorosa

Pages 82-84.

… the gospel ideal of “one mind” cannot be forced. Nor does it arise out of the blue because good people want to be “united in mind and heart” (Acts 4:32). Yes, sensible people want this. But mere wishes and velleities are not the same thing as profound conversion.

Those who have a real love yearn to be of one mind with the beloved. If I do not care what you think about the most important realities, I should admit that my love is close to zero.

This applies, whether the BELOVED is a child, a friend, a spouse, or Jesus Christ Himself. If our goal isn’t ultimately to be of one mind with our Lord, to will what He wills, our love is nothing but wishful thinking, or a facade.

The second condition for shared vision to happen is a real love for truth, that is, for things as they actually are.

Thirdly, attaining an interpersonal unity of mind requires that both parties welcome correction (which of course should be both honest and gentle).

… this rare humility requires no little conversion.

Yet Jesus makes it plain that we do not have his wisdom unless we are innerly transformed.


A few thoughts swirling through my head:

Something a dear friend said years ago…. about God picking our Lenten penance.

annunciation

I made my Consecration to Mary on December 8, 2008. I had but one prayer, that God use me through Mary in whatever way He wanted to use me. Aisa made her consecration, on the Feast of the Annunciation, when Mary gave her fiat. Aisa was born on March 24, Palm Sunday, a day before Mary’s Feast.

I’ve been thinking on these things the past few days.

There is no greater suffering than that which Jesus went through, for us.

But no matter how much I may want to, I cannot carry my child’s cross for her.

I think I finally know what FIAT truly means.

Image Credit:  Michael Azucena
Image Credit: Michael Azucena

Humility and a Shared Vision: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

shared

Continuing to read Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer. Pages

The second main root of conflict is seldom even noticed in our day. It is called illuminism. – emphasis mine

I like to call this form of the aberration the privileged-pipeline-to-God idea.

It is clear that disagreements with an illuminist spouse, relative, friend, fellow worker or parishioner will go nowhere until humility enters the picture — and that requires conversion.

The final root of suffering in communal life is a lack of what the New Testament calls having “one mind”, or as we now term it, a shared vision about the main issues of life: God, religion, why we exist at all, the principles of morality, the nature of one’s state in life and its obligations, a balanced use of money, chastity, raising of children, what real love is and is not.

Saints do not fight at all (in this sense). Once again the New Testament therapy alone works adequately. The conflicts of which we are speaking in this chapter are fully healed or case only when deepening conversion happens.

The gospel picture of beautiful human community is not only largely absent from secular thinking, it is not nearly as prominent in our popular Christian milieu as it ought to be.

Some thoughts to take away from all this:

Humility is key in any relationship.

– I don’t have all the answers.
– I readily admit to the fact that I could be wrong about this.
– I am open to your ideas and new possibilities.
– Just as I seek to be understood, I also seek to understand.
– I try to see things from your perspective.
– I try to put myself in your shoes.

Shared vision is essential.

– We can work on this together.
– If we can’t agree about this now, let’s set it aside and talk about it again tomorrow.
– Where do we see this issue, and ourselves, 5, 10, 15 years from now? How do we get there together?
– What is our ultimate goal here? Let’s not lose sight of that.
– Your ideas and my ideas, put together, can be beautiful, cohesive, exciting.
– Shared vision means we can come to an agreement that works for both of us. And that means we come out of this stronger, wiser, closer. Shared wisdom is also a good thing.
– The world has enough strife. Let’s not allow it to conquer us here. Home is our haven from all that.

From Selfishness to Simon of Cyrene: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

simoncross

Yesterday, my young adult daughter had to face a tremendous cross of her own. I tried to be as strong as I could be and didn’t shed any tears until later when I was alone. She handled it by running to Adoration as soon as she could. As soon as she walked in the door I wanted to hug her and offer some hopeful words, but she wasn’t ready for them, which is fine. I know when she needs to be alone to deal with her pain. An hour later she emerged from her room, smiling. A friend just happened to tell her about the cross she (the friend) was carrying. It made my daughter’s cross just the wee bit lighter.

While we don’t rejoice over other people’s suffering, it helps when we know that others have crosses as well. And it helps us become kinder, gentler people, to know that the friend who can be short with us at times, or come off as cold, or even cruel, has his/her own cross to carry.

Yet from all available evidence, the most basic healing of our deepest wounds comes from contemplative intimacy with the indwelling Trinity and the deep conversion that makes it possible. This last sentence is far from obvious to everyone.

Yes.

… human hurts are not caused by states in life. Marriage is not faulty; husbands and wives are the problems.

We are born into this world utterly self-centered, and it is only after long struggling that some of us manage to get rid of it, partially or wholly. In theology we call this fundamental wound original sin.

This egoism shows itself in myriads of suppositions, minor and major: “I won’t be patient with your ways of doing things and your faults, but I expect you to be patient with mine . . . You must accommodate my desires and preferences, but I need not accommodate yours . . . You should understand my idiosyncrasies, but I need not understand yours . . . When we disagree, I need not be gentle and amiable and open-minded, but you must be all of these.”

From Selfishness to Simon of Cyrene

Selfishness is usually bred in the family, at least from what I’ve seen. We get into patterns of behavior that are hard to grow out of, and we carry it into adulthood and into marriage. The great thing about marriage is that it’s the best school for growing up….. if we are prepared to grow up. When we hold on to the selfish patterns we developed in childhood or youth, we cause suffering for our spouse and our children without even realizing it. But for the cycle to stop, we have to be the one who says, it stops WITH ME. I will let it go no further than this.

A lot of adult selfishness and resentment, I think, is rooted in a wrong sense of “rightness” — because I have experienced (or continue to experience ____ ), my response is _____. I refuse to change because a) that’s the response that has worked for me in the past, b) that’s the response that makes me feel good. It doesn’t matter whether that response is actually a selfish response that perpetuates the cycle instead of stopping it.

What I need to do is look at what I’m doing, at various moments in the day, and ask myself, is this the selfless response? No matter the stimulus, no matter the old memories or resentments that resurface, can I change my response to a LOVING one?

Sometimes it’s easy to think, I don’t have it in me. I was born/raised this way, and this is how I respond. I’ve heard people say exactly that. It takes a degree of maturity, and perhaps time, to say, “It doesn’t matter. My spouse/child/co-worker/colleague/friend can treat me as selfishly as they want to, *I* will respond in an unselfish fashion. *I* will go against the tide and stop selfishness in its tracks because I refuse to respond selfishly.”

And granted, there are still many days when I am not able to live up to my own expectations of myself, when I know I could have done better, could have done more for the other, could have loved more, but I chose to be selfish or lazy.

Lent provides me with another opportunity to change things. By allowing myself this time to detach from things that are not of importance, I am able to see where I can make little changes in my life that turn into big changes: the moments when I say yes to the toddler more than I say yes to me, the moments when I choose to start dinner 30 minutes earlier than usual so that food is on the table earlier and there’s more time for hubby to relax later, the moments when I offer a child a hug instead of waiting for them to ask for one.

During Lent, the prayer most repeated often in the Liturgy of the Hours, is “Come, let us worship Christ the Lord, who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.”

I was meditating on this sentence last night and was struck by this simple truth: he shared our temptation and suffering, AND YET, he didn’t give in to temptation… moreover, He still had to suffer… for us! We, on the other hand, give in to temptation and still complain about the suffering, when more often than not, the suffering comes to us via our own responses to temptation. What selfish beings we are!

I also realized the past few days, as I was called on by loved ones, for various reasons, to share their crosses a bit here and there, that while some of us appear to have lighter crosses than others, we are closest to imaging our Lord in our loved ones’ eyes while they are in the midst of suffering. We are told that we need to see Christ in those around us because that’s the only way we can love them as they need to be loved. There is no moment more suited to this reality than when we look at our loved one face to face as they carry their cross. It is then that we are both stripped bare of everything and can gaze at each other in our raw, naked state — heart to heart — child of God to child of God.

As we prayed the Rosary last night and meditated on the Sorrowful Mysteries, I got to thinking about friendships and relationships that got built around adversity and suffering. I sometimes ask the Lord where my cross is, but perhaps those times when I feel like I’ve been spared one, I could instead be the disciple who stays up with Jesus to pray at the garden of Gethsemane. I could be the disciple who prays that the whip won’t hit too sharply as Jesus is scourged at that pillar. I could be the disciple who prays that the crown of thorns doesn’t dig too deeply into my Lord’s head. I could be Simon, who helps carry the Cross even if it’s just part of the way. I could be the disciple who begs for our Father’s mercy as I stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross.

“Make Yourself a Capacity, and I Will Make Myself a Torrent”: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

josephmary

Nor do all couples fight — many do and a few do not. What is hellish are marriages in which the spouses are not living according to the divine plan, or they are not deeply converted from their sins, mortal and venial.

I’ve been putting off writing this post because I’ve written a lot lately about how great my marriage and my husband are. One of the things brought up at the forum was other moms’ hesitance to be so vocal about their happy marriages — because being vocal somehow may offend others or make them feel bad if their own marriages aren’t as happy… or it could be misinterpreted as bragging. I do agree there is that factor to consider and I vacillate as well when I make these posts. But then I go back to the 50% divorce rate so often quoted in articles, and I don’t think that muting ourselves is the answer. I don’t think we are doing marriage any favors when we keep quiet about how and why our marriages work.

p. 63

Jesus himself plainly said that it is by our love that the world will come to know that we are his disciples (Jn 13:35). A saint is homilist without saying a word, a powerful proclamation of revealed truth and splendor.

I am reminded anew of a friend’s reassurance that the way we help promote the culture of life is just by living the way we live. If we live lives of authentic love, we can change the world.

Saint Catherine of Siena (in her letter 368) remarked that “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” Saints do indeed light fires — and the reason is the title of this volume.

p. 64, on deep conversion and deep prayer:

They are not merely juxtaposed, one next to the other. Each one helps to bring about the other. The more we are rid of our egocentrisms the more we are opened to the divine infusions of love and intimacy.

why profound conversion? It triggers inexpressible joy. If one doubts this, let him try it.

– LOVE LOVE LOVE this quote.

While I can’t say I’ve been 100% converted (still have a lot to work on obviously!!) I’ve found that the more I commit to following Him the more I experience REAL, OVERFLOWING JOY in my life. It doesn’t happen every day, but I notice that it happens most often when I put Him and His will FIRST above all else.

It is difficult to believe that advocates of abortion do not see that any sin is pro-choice, or it would not be a sin. The rapist is pro-choice, or it would not be a sin. The rapist is pro-choice, and so are the thief and adulterer and the liar.

Genuine love is self-sacrificial.

Genuine love means, “I desire your well-being… and all that that implies.” Lord, help me to live this every single day, and help me to love everyone that You put in my path, with a genuine love.

He is always endlessly lovable even when the neighbor is ugly, hurtful or an enemy.

Oi. I need to remember this often, esp. these days when anti-life people, or even some of the ones close to me, are being petty or whiny or just plain not-as-lovable as other days.

But the supreme example, the matchless exemplar of real love, is Jesus being slowly tortured to death on his Cross out of nothing but a total self-gift for you and me. The Crucifixion and all that went before it is, in our universe the supreme horror and the supreme beauty.

Sigh. Speechless before this Truth.

This too:

Real love is uncommon in our world because full conversion is uncommon.

And this:

The Lord’s statement to Blessed Angela of Foligno applies likewise to all of us: “Make yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent.” With his grace we open ourselves by deep conversion and he eagerly pours out by his Spirit a deluge of love (Rom 5:5).


Two posts/articles today that caught my eye — they both write about how beautiful marriage can and ought to be:

From Leila, who is reading through Casti Connubii, over at Like Mother, Like Daughter:

Husbands: Your wife is making a sanctuary for you, as well as all the other things she does. Your home. This sanctuary is hidden from most. But it is your delight. Belittle this gift at your peril.

Wives: Your husband is making it possible for you to be a maker of a sanctuary, the heart of what you build together. If you tear it down with your own hands, you are tearing out your own heart. (Proverbs 14)

And, like my husband, this guy gets it: I’m a Guy and I’ll Never Badmouth My Wife.

Here’s my challenge to the real men out there; it’s very simple. If you have a good marriage, talk about it.

Unless those of us who love our wives (and thus, our lives) make a conscious change to the way we speak of them, unless we begin choosing to elevate and praise our spouses instead of denigrate, we will be letting an incredibly corrosive self-perpetuating societal meme destroy the very institution that defines our lives.

Yup, he gets it.

His Grace is Sufficient: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

Saint John of the Cross uses the sevenfold imagery of Saint Teresa’s mansions.

Interesting that these are the two saints I’m most attracted to and whose works I’m also currently reading (Interior Castle and Dark Night of the Soul)

If a man remains faithful . . . the Lord will not cease raising him degree by degree until he reaches the divine union and transformation . . . .

I can’t remember if I had mentioned it before, but in the recent past I was struggling over something and was at my wit’s end how to get over the hurdle. All I wanted to do was give up the struggle and just, if you will, embrace the sin — I felt totally helpless. But I knew HOW I ought to pray, and I prayed the words, asking God to pluck me out of the situation because that was the only way I could fight back. Left to my own devices I didn’t have the strength of will to walk away. I left the prayer at His feet and tried to rest in the consolation that He would do something if He wanted me out of there. And that’s exactly what He did. It wasn’t the saintliest thing I could have done, but I really didn’t have it in me to be saintly in those moments. Once I was out of it, however, I was so grateful for having been given the grace, first of all, to pray as I ought, even though my heart wasn’t in it at all.

The whole experience reminded me of this quote, which I can’t really find in Scripture, but it’s a good one.

bring

… and which brings to mind 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

no matter what slime of sin he has descended in the past, he is still called to the very heights of prayer.

Training in prayer is so very helpful, because I can tell the Lord EXACTLY what I NEED, and ask Him to help as He sees fit, even when I don’t WANT His help. Recognizing also what we need — salvation — as opposed to what we want — temporary, fleeting pleasure, an easy time of it, a “good feeling”, etc. — can almost be salvation in itself. We KNOW we’re not supposed to be inside the pit, even if the pit is lined with gold and diamonds, or supplied with food and water. At that point, the instinct for survival takes over; it’s what makes us yell for help even when we’d really just rather stay in the pit. And guess what. The Lord responds!!

of splendid men and women being tortured to death loving and praying for their persecutors, all in fidelity to truth and goodness.

i hope that if I’m ever put into a situation like that that i would at least know how to pray and what to pray even if my knees were shaking and even if my instincts were telling me to bolt and save myself. i hope i can remember that the only real salvation comes from Christ.

Saint Ambrose comments on this verse that the grace of the Holy Spirit knows no delay.

Every time I let laziness win, I am delaying God’s grace from blessing others, and from blessing me. Procrastination has no place in the life of a saint. An apt reflection and great timing, as the weather of late has been too conducive to curling up in bed and napping.

heroically holy people unite in themselves virtues that seem to many peope to exclude one another: magnanimity (aspiring to do great things for God and our neighbor) and humility, warm love and chastity, contemplation and action.

I love the way Fr. Dubay has juxtaposed these things: I can be magnanimous and still be humble. I can love everyone warmly and still be chaste. I can be a contemplative even while engaging fully with the world around me — that these things aren’t mutually exclusive is very encouraging and enlightening to me, I don’t have to be either-or, I can be both-and.

Getting to Know God: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

More scraps of meditation while rereading:

Page 32.

stripped of [their] belongings, knowing that [they] owned something that was better and lasting

I’ve only ever been in two situations where I felt so terribly alone and couldn’t cling to anyone else but God. The first was many years ago when we first moved to the US and I was forced to give up everything that was familiar. Life changed and I had to grow up, pronto.

The second one was ~10 years ago when I had to deal with a situation I was totally unprepared for. I remember being on the bed, curled up in a fetal position, and crying out to God to just take it all away. I looked and felt pathetic. But it was another instance of having to grow up quite suddenly.

I could, I suppose, resent those times when God allowed the rug to be pulled out from under me. There have been moments I’ve wallowed in that resentment. But I cannot begrudge Him the seeds that He planted in my heart, of faith just waiting to bloom. They are in full bloom now. But I’m sure there will be other moments of uncertainty, of loss. If I can manage to cling to Him, I know He’ll be there for me yet again, ready to plant more seeds.


Page 33.

This sublime sanctity is not of this world; it has a divine stamp on it.

The only way to sanctify ourselves is to remember at all times that our possessions, our very lives, are temporary. Everyone and everything that we have can be taken away in a heartbeat. If we keep this in mind, we will also realize that the only constant, the only forever thing in our lives is God and who we are in relation to Him.

Further on, in the responsorial Psalm 81, we read that the Lord wishes to feed us “with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”

Very much like the saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force him to drink. All that we could possibly need or want to grow our faith is already here…. apps, books, people, churches, charities, radio, blogs, etc. But it takes US actually using these things, reading the books, listening to the shows, interacting with people, to progress spiritually. I have a handful of people who are near and dear to me, and I wish I could shake them sometimes by the shoulders and get them to just ENGAGE. I am out of ideas how to turn the light on for them — so I just pray. If you’re reading this and are moved to prayer as well, please pray with me.


My favorite Catholic apps — these are only the ones I’ve used myself, either on our old iPod Touch (that now belongs to the 16-year-old), my tablet, and lately my phone.

divineoffice
Divine Office

imissal
iMissal

ipieta
iPieta

ibreviary
iBreviary

laudate
Laudate

myyearoffaith
My Year of Faith

catholiccalendar
Catholic Calendar from Universalis


That said, my husband’s example proves one thing: you don’t NEED any of the above-mentioned apps to get closer to God. He’s been constant in his scripture-reading, his prayer life, his Mass-going, his partaking of the sacraments, for years. That’s how he knows God intimately. More than access, it’s really COMMITMENT that’s key.

Brain Dump: Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer

You know you need a brain dump when your co-retreatant starts asking how you’re doing. 😀

The last couple of days were really crazy. I jotted down thoughts on and off during the day, but didn’t have the energy to put them together into a cohesive whole by evening, both days. So here I am brain-dumping, and I hope I don’t drive anyone crazy by my disjointed musings. Perhaps one day when we’re back in Ordinary Time I can reread this post and gather some nuggets to keep me going on the journey. Here we go…


page 62

Uh-oh. Relevance. Warning bells. Bad Catholic. 🙂


Rather we now envision a lack of moral perception in people who would shrink from serious crimes, but do not see anything wrong with idle talk or acting with mixed motivation in lesser matters.

I bet my friend is happy now. Fr. Thomas Dubay just referred to The Closing of the American Mind. 😀

Wow. I am just disgusted at the statistics he quotes: $49B on makeup, cosmetic surgeries, etc!

on bodies that are soon to age and then disappear. Can one imagine what these huge sums could do for the emaciated bodies of the poorest of the poor still living in Haiti, Calcutta and elsewhere?

Having been involved with the pro-life movement for several years I find this to be such a depressing statement. And though I hardly ever spend money on beauty products, I know there are things in my life I should have thought twice before purchasing. It would be nice to be able to put all the blame on anti-life organizations for the continued march towards death, but the fact is, I am blameworthy as well.


Lukewarmness… some thoughts. I have taken comfort in knowing that I have grown spiritually, and quite steadily, since I started owning my faith. AND YET. Now that Fr. Dubay brings these scripture readings to my attention, it’s clear that lukewarmness isn’t just one point in the journey. Lukewarmness can come at anytime that we start thinking we’ve already arrived at our destination. As Christians/Catholics we are constantly, continuously challenged to move on to the next step, further up and further in, as C.S. Lewis would say. We find ourselves on dangerous ground any time that we stop and think the journey over, or postpone moving forward because it’s actually comfortable here… or because we think we’re on a higher plane than others, and can therefore afford to take it easy for a bit.


Rereading CCC 388-421:

If an angel can become a bad angel, even more so I, who am mere mortal.

The rest of today’s reading saddens me no end. In the past couple of years I’ve been made aware that many are suffering in their own family lives, relationships and marriages.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’ll come back to this page/thought after I reread and digest better the last 30 pages.


When Lent began, there were behaviors I was SURE I couldn’t possibly give up, just from knowing myself, from previous years and previous failures. But God has been really gracious to me this Lent, and with constant prayer, grace, and perseverance, I find that my 2nd week into giving up those behaviors aren’t too bad. I am not suffering withdrawal symptoms (yet?) . (And having said that, watch as I now get hit by 10x the temptation. :D)

Twelve days of stretching spiritual muscles is doing me a lot of good. Just like a fitness program where I doubt the results before I get started, where I really don’t feel like pushing through because I anticipate that the results will be less than satisfying, Lent is the same way.


The beauty of aspiring to be a saint is that I don’t have to be like anyone else. I sometimes think, well, if only we had early on learned to be pro-life like so-and-so, we’d have 8 kids now instead of 5. I’d be closer to heaven. The reality is, of course, that I am called to sainthood WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW.

We each of us are called where we are. We each have our own unique set of circumstances that keep us from heaven. Both rich and poor may have a materialism problem — one because he has too much, the other because he has too little. The challenge remains the same: to take our eyes off the material, and fix them instead on the spiritual.


Dialing Down: Deep Conversion Deep Prayer

So. I just realized as I was doing my reading tonight that I am now on page 62 of the book, though I had planned to be around page 36 by this time. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the next few days I’ll spend rereading the past 30 or so pages and meditating on them more closely — nice and slow. I will also be rereading CCC 388-421 and The Hidden Power of Kindness and perhaps sharing some pertinent selections here.

Some interesting things that have happened so far this Lent though that I thought worthy to note here.

The day I posted about my kids, they acted almost bratty that whole day.
The past several days I’ve been posting about how great my hubby is and how he’s ahead of me spiritually, and yesterday and today, he SNAPPED AT ME. Two days in a row. Now THAT is very uncharacteristic of him, and I called his attention to it.

This is interesting to me because I know that the devil is not omniscient. He cannot read my thoughts. He can only see what I’m doing, and observe my tendencies, and tempt me based on those. He can also do the same thing with my family members. Now that my thoughts are OUT THERE, he can act on those. He’s either tempting my family members more, or he’s tempting me to see them in a different light. We talked about this at the dinner table. It’s no laughing matter, but the fact is, we’re onto him. And we’ve agreed to keep each other covered in prayer especially this Lent.

The little one has also recently been developing quite rapidly in his spiritual life. He almost has the Sign of the Cross down perfectly, and he now leads us in saying the Table Blessing before each meal. He’s talked about having to die to get to Heaven. And his favorite books right now include The Clown of God, I Sing a Song of the Saints of God, and The Children’s Book of Virtues. So dear reader, if you’re inclined to, please keep Nino in prayer. It’s one of those periods of childhood that I am thrilled to witness. God is good.