When the Cake Becomes the Cross

cake

Today, while my hubby cleared spaces of dried brush and old wood, our 6-year-old ran around enjoying the sun and the chill air; I planted seeds. “As soon as the ground can be worked”, said most of the packets. This was as good a time as any to get started. I’ve had one heck of a Lent, how about you?

Lent means withdrawing into silence, to spend time in communion with our Lord, to listen most of all. And yet this year, out of that silence, many of us were drawn and challenged to speak, almost against our will, like Simon of Cyrene.

The past weeks, we have been hit with news and issues ranging from pizza to cake to the RFRA to Obergefell vs. Hodges, Patricia Jannuzzi, the PCUSA, Archbishop Cordileone, to Dolce and Gabbana, to Ryan Anderson, to divorce. And as we fight here for religious liberty, elsewhere fight for their very existence.

Stepping back and surveying the landscape, these questions appear at the base of the chaos. What is marriage? What is family? What is love? The world asks us to define these things, but no longer is the Christian answer taken at face value, for we have failed. Confronted with horrible examples of this once-respected institution, too many people now look askance at our definition of marriage and family, because it lies in stark contrast to what they live with and see around them daily. It has become more difficult to speak in truth and with charity, because even our truth and charity are suspect. We may speak the same language, but the words come off as gibberish. Our words ring empty and we can’t seem to reach each other’s hearts.

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI said,

It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character.

I watch as others try to grapple with these issues. Fr. Zuhlsdorf and his commenters offer some ideas, as do Marvin Olasky and his readers.

Whether we can arrive at one answer that works for all remains to be seen. Sometimes cake is just cake; sometimes the cake becomes the cross. As when the Pevensie children got pulled into Narnia without warning, it feels like we are hurtling into something dark and unknown. We want more time to plan out our responses, put together a plan of action, but the time is denied us, because tolerance is over. And yet despite feeling powerless, we crouch down on the ground, kneeling, planting seeds, praying that we’re still making a difference somehow. Let it not be said that we didn’t do or say anything, especially for the voiceless and the persecuted.

As a Catholic homeschooling mom, I look for teachable moments. And this Lent, we have had a hundred thousand of them. But not every moment is a teachable moment. As the seed packet reminded me today, the seeds need to be planted “as soon as the ground can be worked”. Much of the ground we have to work with these days is either yet untilled, or lie frozen under the snow. Some of it will warm up naturally with the sun, others will require more gentle, maybe even rough, digging.

This pithy comment struck me, from King Prawn, over at Ricochet:

The natural question will be: what are we to do now that the ship has sailed? I agree entirely that marriage as understood as a permanent, exclusive, and complementary relationship between a man and a woman fulfilled by the bearing and rearing of children could never have been attacked by gays if it had not already been dismantled almost entirely by straights. Now that we have done this to the institution it sometimes seems a lot hypocritical to man the barricades against assault by those who simply want to share in the despoiled social convention we are only now so protective of.

The world is hurting, begging to know what love is, and all they can see are fragments of truth here and there, with no cohesion or integrity. The message of the Cross seems blurry as of late. Like some I beg for more time, or at least more wisdom. But as Archbishop Chaput reminds us, now’s the time. We hurriedly plant these seeds and point to Christ’s cross, its shadow cast on the ground, in the magnificent light of His Resurrection. Perhaps right now, that’s all we’re called to do. The seeds will grow in His most perfect time.

French Onion Soup / Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinée

Reposting from my old blog.

frenchonion11

Onion soup is a lovely thing to make right after the onion harvest at end of season, when the weather’s just starting to cool down. Onion soup is also a lovely thing to start love stories with. Like ours, which certainly didn’t begin with onion soup, but has seen its share of this dish through the years. Our first real date (though with a group) was at the now-defunct 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant in St. Louis. My then-suitor invited me via a sweet 2-page note, hyping up the view of airplanes taking off and landing as “romantic”. I didn’t see anything romantic about airplanes doing what they do, but whatever. Well, everyone ordered this starter served in a crock like the one in the last photo. I fell for the crocks.

frenchonion7

Now ubiquitous, French onion was in vogue at the time, served in a crock at the (also defunct) Famous-Barr‘s basement restaurant on Kingshighway and Chippewa in St. Louis. St. Louis Bread Company chose to serve it in sourdough bread bowls, crowned with golden melted cheese flecked with brown. You take the bread lid that’s served on the side and dip it in the soup, then you eat the soup, then you eat the bowl it came in. Scrumptious and brilliant.

frenchonion6

As a newlywed, I burned my hand making Julia Child’s version (in The Way to Cook) in our apartment one monthiversary. The soup had just finished its short foray into the broiler to melt the cheese and when I pulled the sheet bearing the cups (we didn’t have crocks) a bit too quickly and sloshed the boiling liquid right onto my wrist. My hubby promptly got butter and ice and ice water in a large bowl, and I ate dinner with one hand in the bowl and one hand holding my fork. Yeah, romantic indeed.

Our children all love French onion soup, and it’s one of our emergency meals, the closest SLBC (now Panera) a mere 5 minutes away. The homemade version, of course, is so much better, cheaper, and customizable. To make it, you’ll need:

frenchonion5

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 large onions, sliced thin (red and yellow combo is nice, as are Vidalias, and no need to get too fanatic about slicing evenly)
2 large pinches sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup wine, red or white (almost any dry wine will do, or sherry or French vermouth)
2 tablespoons flour (gluten-free instructions below)
1 French baguette, sliced and toasted
2 quarts beef broth or stock, or as some will debate, water
Grated Gruyere, I prefer Swiss over French, but your choice
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino or Grana Padano), optional

frenchonion4

Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring every once in a while, until onions are limp and just beginning to brown.

frenchonion3

Add the sugar, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are caramelized nicely, 20 minutes or so. Add garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. I just stick the thyme sprigs in there — if you want to go through the trouble of picking the leaves off the stem, be my guest, but I don’t usually bother as the leaves tend to fall off anyway in the cooking and I can fish out the stems easily enough later. Cook a few minutes more. Add wine and bring to a boil by turning up the heat. When boiling, reduce heat and simmer until wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over, and cook about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef broth and bring back to a boil. When boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes more.

While soup is cooking, toast bread slices and grate the cheeses.

frenchonion2

Fish out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and you’re done! Ladle into crocks or individual soup bowls, top with toasted bread slices and sprinkle on the cheeses. I prefer Swiss Gruyere and try to find the real thing as I find locally produced ones too salty. I do like the touch of Parmigiano on top. You can also use use grated or sliced Swiss cheese (holey or not), or any yellow melty cheese for the top, like Mozzarella or Provolone.

Amusing trivia I found while researching for this post: the French/Swiss Gruyere Cheese war.

Broil for 3 minutes or so, just until cheese is melted and top is golden.

frenchonion1

Gluten-free note: If you wish to make this gluten-free, besides subbing gluten-free bread slices for the bread, omit the flour and thicken the soup instead, right before ladling, with some tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in some water. Bring the soup to a boil again and stir the starch mixture in to incorporate and cook a few more minutes. Taste to make sure the soup doesn’t have any raw starch taste before serving.

The Lyon(s), France version of this is known to be particularly thick and rich, so preparing this dish would be a great way to celebrate St. John Vianney‘s Feast Day on August 4.

It’s also perfect for our meatless days during the Lenten season.

The Plan for Lent 2015

Credit: SaintJohnWellesley.org
Credit: SaintJohnWellesley.org

– Commitment to daily Mass whenever we have a car at our disposal. (This sentence was very hard to type with it being 1 degree F outside. UGH. Please pray for me.)
– Confession every two weeks.
– Adoration on Wednesday evenings.
– Mom’s Reading Material: Sheen, Magnificat, continue/finish up current books. New attempt at reading/singing the Filipino Pasion.
– Nino’s Reading (with Mom): My Path to Heaven
– Yena’s Reading: Holy Bible, finish up Following the Holy Spirit, 9 Words (reread)
– Migi’s Reading: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
40 Bags in 40 Days.
– No music on Fridays. (One teen is not happy with this.)
– Maundy Thursday “Visita Iglesia”.
– Mom’s Lenten Resolution: Write letters to the people on my “apostolate” list.
– Nino’s “Good Deeds List” (choose one a day)

  • No whining.
  • “Right away” obedience.
  • Give up your 30-minute show for the day, or your Thursday game.
  • Clean your toys yourself.
  • Help with a chore.
  • Learn a new prayer.
  • Lead a decade of the family Rosary.
  • Color a Lenten saint coloring page.
  • Color a stations of the cross page.
  • Write a letter to Papa and Mama.
  • Write a letter to a sibling.
  • Donate clothes or toys.
  • Pray for babies.
  • Pray for persecuted Christians.
  • God Picks My Lenten Penance

    I suppose jumping right into the writing part will have to be good enough for now.

    I’m reading another book and having another blog conversation this year. I asked my friend to pick this year and he picked St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul, which has been on my to-read list forever.

    This Lent, however, started with a bang and I have yet to catch my breath. Since Ash Wednesday, I’ve had an infection on my thumb (now healing nicely, it’s rather fascinating to watch the new skin emerge, like baby skin, and the old skin peel off, crisp like parchment), sore throat being passed on back and forth in the family, skin infections on 2 of the kids, a heartache rippling out into several others, a car dying and having to be towed, and this morning, an almost-accident while I was driving Migi to his OGTs. But hey, who’s counting?

    I’ve long stopped picking a specific penance to work on and just chant Pray, Fast, Give to myself all through Lent as a constant reminder, because like Jenn who lets God pick her penance, I just let Him pick mine. One year it was a stiff neck/back pain that lasted a couple of weeks, another year it was a sprained ankle. He knows what I need.

    Right now I need a nap. So I’ll hit PUBLISH on this one, snuggle next to the napping hubby and read “Divine Mercy” until I fall asleep.

    A blessed Lent to all.

    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.

    Mushrooms and Kale in Garlic

    kalemushrooms

    2 tablespoons coconut oil
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    1-inch gingerroot, peeled, minced (optional)
    12 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin
    3 cups baby kale
    1 tablespoon soy sauce, or wheat-free tamari if you’re avoiding wheat, or several pinches salt if avoiding soy
    pinch sugar (optional)
    splash sake or mirin (optional)

    As you can see, this is a very flexible recipe, but a very easy and healthy side dish one could prepare in minutes while the kids set the table.

    Heat oil in wok or large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, and ginger if using, and sauté for a minute or until fragrant and garlic is just beginning to color. Add in mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until juices have rendered. Add kale and soy sauce (or tamari or salt), sugar and sake or mirin if using. Continue cooking a couple minutes more until kale is just wilted but still a sprightly green. Serve immediately.

    This would make a lovely vegetarian meal served over steamed brown rice.

    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.