Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In the Fullness of Time



A Christmas Reflection from Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT :
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the whole world is in movement.  Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census, reminding us that the world today is also traveling toward its definitive encounter with God.  The journey of the Holy Family toward the moment in which God enters the world from the womb of Mary, in the Person of Jesus Christ, for all human eyes to see, reminds us that we too are moving on our own journey through this life, in company with millions of others, to our own definitive encounter with God.

Mary and Joseph found no comfort, no welcome, no shelter, no understanding from the world on this journey.  They followed and were supported by heavenly inspirations and light, the presence of angels, and their own profound faith in God’s never-changing goodness and His ever-present Providence.   This was their strength and consolation.

We also should not expect too much help from the world on this journey.  The world has no space for God.  No time. No real interest.  It offers only distraction and a kind of movement which keeps the human heart in confusion, apprehension and vague unhappiness.  The world is full of activity which often has no ultimate meaning.  This activity spends the precious moments allotted to us to find our way home to Our Heavenly Father.

God enters our world in the fullness of time because He can no longer wait to be with us in Person.  But Christmas also comes because mankind, in the persons of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, seek God as well; because the intense, hidden longing of their souls has not been misinterpreted to them by the false prophets of the world.  Their interior has not been cluttered with distraction.  It is unfettered by illusion.  God is their inner life and moves them in a mutual, eager longing, in silence, in poverty, in simplicity, in penetrating light and redeeming love.

Mary and Joseph “walk the way of perfection” to Bethlehem because they know God and are the friends of God. They call us to follow this way with them, a way which holds difficulty, discomfort, the contempt of the world, but which brings us to be the friends of God, as the psalmist says:  “He who walks the way of perfection shall be my friend.”  -Ps 101   Jesus silently stirs our hearts and beckons us to the embrace of true friendship with Himself, promising to make known to us all that He has heard from the Father. –Jn 15:15  This happens in God’s way, in His time and by His choosing.  And it brings us the most precious gift of all, God Himself as a tiny baby depending on us to love Him, to care for Him and nurture His life in ourselves and in others.

In Bethlehem, two longings meet:  the longing of God and the longing of man.  Two longings answer each other and fulfill each other.  May our poor and lowly souls this Christmas be still as the stable in Bethlehem at midnight, ever ready to receive our Lord in humble awe, in mutual longing.  May we be the ones to be wrapped tightly with the gifts of Christmas peace, light, love and joy.  And may that Divine love which becomes incarnate in Bethlehem, radiate outward to all mankind through our oneness with the Holy Family in this sublime mystery.  May this Christmas find us and those we love and hold dear, numbered in the heavenly census, as citizens traveling joyfully forward to our celestial Fatherland.

United with all of you in the joy and light of the greatest gift of the Most Holy Trinity this Christmas:  our Savior and Beloved.

Sr. Anne Marie

Society of Our Lady

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Practice of Virtue

Happy Advent to everyone! We come again to this wonderful time of year wherein we prepare our hearts and our lives for the coming of Jesus Christ. This is a time marked by interior cleansing, reconciliation, silence and beauty.

There are many wonderful talks on www.ewtn.com about Advent and Fr. Robert Barron at www.wordonfire.org always has great resources about our life of faith and how to grow in holiness.

For us Catholics, this really is a brand new year and it begins with a deep outpouring of grace to aid us along the path. As you reflect upon the year gone by; what do you wish was different about your life? What changes would you like to see this coming year? Ask for the help of God and begin that path now.

As I was pondering this evening and practicing some music for an upcoming Mass, I was reflecting upon the fact that sometimes I really love to sing (and sometimes I don't!). And as I listen to people like Audrey Assad and Kim Walker-Smith, I surely wish that I could sing out in such beauty from the depths of my heart and soul like they do. But.....I can't. Why? Well, I may have that potential within somewhere but my voice remains untrained. I am not free to sing like that because I don't have the training or the practice to sing with such competence and glory. I see something that I desire but my voice is not trained enough to achieve it.

This is very similar to our spiritual lives. True freedom is being able to see what is good and then choose to do that good. How often we admire people who are kind, patient, hard working, courageous, brave etc., and what we may not realize is that they have had a long training in that virtue aided by the grace of God. They don't develop competency in that virtue overnight anymore than Audrey or Kim achieved a disciplined voice in one music lesson. It takes practice, hard work and sacrifice.

Maybe this Advent, you might want to look at a virtue you desire to acquire and have a conversation with God about that. Do you struggle with addiction or luke-warmness and desire to be pure and have a heart on fire for God? Do you struggle with judgment or criticism or anger and desire to be generous, kind and giving? Talk to God about that. Listen to what He says and make a plan of action.

Nothing ever happens by having only good intentions. We must choose the path of grace and dedication. And by doing so, we choose the path of freedom.

Let us pray for one another on this brief but powerful journey toward Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Healing the Heart...

This is an outstanding radio interview from Radio Maria with Dr. Bob Schuchts, a very gifted marriage and family therapist. In this interview, he talks about dealing with despair, woundedness and hope for real healing.

http://radiomaria.us/embracingyourgreatness/?powerpress_pinw=189-podcast

Check out Dr. Bob's website at www.jpiihealingcenter.org

The retreats that he and his staff lead are life-changing. See the online schedule for the next event.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Women and the Priesthood

Another gem from Sr. Anne Marie Walsh-

Women and the Priesthood

There is a question that still seems to be unsettled in the minds of many ordinary Catholics.  It is a question that comes up when people positively assess our new Holy Father but think he still does not go far enough.  The question:  Why can't women be Priests?

Many of the responses given to this question seem, in the end, to fall back solely upon authority.  Pope Paul VI said that respect for the modern mind requires more than this.

In order to shed light on the questions of the present, Blessed John Paul II often led us back to the beginnings, to reflect on God’s creation of man and woman before the fall.  It is incontestable that both man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God.  Both are equal in dignity because of this.  But this does not make them the same in every other respect.  They are two different expressions of the human person, created to live in unity with one another, via a complementarity that assists them to reflect in some respect, the inner life between the Persons of the Trinity.

Further, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great said, in one of his  many engaging teachings on man and woman, that the closer a person comes to God the more they become either mother or father.  This is because God is Father.  And both human motherhood and human fatherhood are reflections of God's Fatherhood which is divine.

So women are meant to be mothers and men fathers.  But there is a deep understanding required here.  All men and all women are meant to be mothers and fathers, regardless of whether they are married, single, religious or ordained.

This means that a woman is not a mother simply because she has born a child or has a body capable of bearing children.  She is called to be a mother because in her spirit she is maternal, and the physical realities of her body simply correspond to the deeper spiritual principle of her being.  Likewise, men are not called to be fathers simply because they have bodies capable of begetting children. They are called to be fathers because in their spirits they are paternal.  Their bodies too simply manifest the deeper spiritual principles of their being.

We know that the Church is a family, God's family.  Mothers and fathers are the essential elements for any family regardless of what the world says in its attempts to redefine family.  Unless the paternal meets the maternal, life cannot be conceived, born, nor can it be nurtured to maturity.  This is true in both the natural order and in the spiritual order as well.

In the Church, this distinction is sometimes referred to as the Petrine and Marian dimensions.  St. Peter, the Pope, Bishops, Priests are called to be spiritual fathers to the whole people of God, and therefore need to be men.  But mothers are also essential to this order and Mary, religious and all women, fill this role.  In fact, the Church herself is called mother.  It is why the Church has been stressing the importance of women so much, speaking about the feminine genius and the need for a greater presence of women and their gifts in the Church and in the world.  It is the dimension that has not been understood or appreciated as well as it needs to be.

Paul Evdokimov, a famous Russian Orthodox theologian who was an official observer at Vatican II, said that without woman God cannot be born into the world.  In the Incarnation, Jesus takes His flesh from the body of a woman.  God establishes His link with humanity through maternity.  This is a divine order that has not changed.  JPII pointed out that because of the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus links Himself with every human being who comes into the world.  And in the order intended by God, that is through the body of a woman.

We know that the Priest brings Jesus to us in the Eucharist and in the sacraments.  Yet if God calls us even before we are born (see Jeremiah) then there would be no Priests without women who give birth to them in the first place, and nurture the life of God within them.

The life of grace received from Priests in the sacraments also often needs this maternal care. A close friend confessed that before her conversion she was caught in an adulterous relationship she could not break.  She knew it was wrong and took it to Confession a number of times.  But within a week she was always back in the relationship.  She finally got a Priest in Confession who told her she needed to find someone to walk her through it, someone she could call and talk to everytime she was tempted to go back.  She befriended a religious woman, opened up to her, and after some time, was able to completely break things off.  What was going on?  She received grace in the sacrament but it was like a seed that needed nurturing and strengthening in her soul.  Once it was rooted and grew, through contact with her friend, she became strong enough to withstand the temptations. That is the maternal charism in action.  Hidden perhaps, but essential to both our natural and spiritual lives.

On one occasion I was challenged by a group of seventh grade girls on this issue of women in the priesthood.  When the reality of the Church as the family of God was explained, and when the need for mothers and fathers was spoken about, there was no further argument.  Too many of them came from single-parent families where they would've given anything to have had a mother and a father.  They didn't want their mother to be their father or their father to be their mother even though a mother can do many things a father can, and vica versa.  They wanted a family with both.  And they knew experientially and sadly that without both, something fundamental in their lives was missing.

In a beautiful passage, Blessed John Paul II says, “Mary was not called to the ministerial priesthood, but the mission she received had no less value than a pastoral ministry.  Indeed it was quite superior. She received a maternal mission at the highest level, to be the mother of Jesus Christ and thus Theotokos the mother of God.  This mission would broaden into motherhood for all men and women in the order of grace, and the same can be said of the mission of motherhood that women accept in the Church.  They are placed by Christ in the wondrous light of Mary which shines at the summits of the Church and creation.”

We must have ultimate respect for the dignity of the ministerial Priesthood.  But if women truly understood the magnificence and greatness of their own calling, and the urgent need which the world has for their gifts, they would not be interested in trading it for a false equality.

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
10/7/2013

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Father Effect

Check out this short film on the power of fatherhood. As many people in Christian circles are pointing out, one of the deepest wounds facing the world today is a lack of fatherhood. Most of us live like orphans, even in relation to God the Father. When we live as orphans, we grasp, fight and compare. When we live as sons and daughters we love, give and appreciate.



@thefathereffect

Friday, September 06, 2013

"Inside the 'Me' Vortex"....

Another great post by our former General Superior, Sr. Anne Marie Walsh.

Inside the "Me" Vortex.

Sometime ago, a woman named Nadine Schweigert (ND) married herself in a commitment ceremony where she exchanged rings with her “inner groom.”  There was an actual gathering of family and friends who were encouraged to “blow kisses to the world.”  One can imagine the theme song of her wedding with a slight variation:  “Nobody Loves Me Like I Do.”

Schweigert had been through a painful divorce in which her two children opted to live with her ex-husband.  She drank, smoked and was 50 pounds overweight, according to her own testimony.  At the suggestion of a friend, she married herself, and now feels “happy, joyous, empowered.”   She says she has come a long way from where she was.   She now takes herself on dates, in order “to invest in this relationship.”

We might ask what is going on here.  Is it pure narcissism?  Or is something else at work?   The
surprising thing is that with a bit of honest examination, we might have to admit that the only difference between Nadine and ourselves is that we haven't thrown ourselves a wedding party.  How many of us are married to our own opinions, our own thoughts, our own routines, our own preferences, likes, dislikes, ways of doing things?  She simply made visible what many of us live.

At the same time that Nadine arrived at this solution to her unhappiness, more and more young people come to a different kind of resolution:  suicide.   Almost nothing is more distressing than hearing that another young person has taken their life.   It always elicits shock and dismay.  How many times do family and friends say they never saw it coming?  The son or daughter, sister, brother, friend, had such a promising life ahead of them, and so many people who loved them.

Why is the incidence of young suicides increasing?   Why do so few young people really seem to have the joy of their youth anymore?  These are questions we must answer.  Back in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas stated categorically that man cannot live without joy.  He cannot live without joy!  When he is deprived of true spiritual joys he will necessarily become addicted to carnal pleasures.     We are not living in a society or culture that knows what true joy is.  And we are dying in myriad ways because of it.  Addictions of one kind or another have to be the most prevalent affliction of the modern age.  And it is a spiritual problem.  Addictions lead to obsession, compulsion, depression, sadness, enslavement.  These temporary joys not only don't touch the soul, but actually harm it, bind it, strangle it.

Perhaps the false bravado of many youth today is an armor against some of the most profound insecurity the young  have ever had to experience.  Maybe it's  harder than we think for a young person to believe that he is unconditionally wanted and loved; that he is a source of deep, spiritual joy to God and his own family when contraception and abortion are so freely used, so prevalent even in their own families; when an addiction of one kind or another takes precedence over his own needs or welfare; when the self- interest of parents and the adults around him eclipse all else.  Perhaps he cannot see how his life has unique meaning when it could be as much a matter of chance as a roll of the dice.  Perhaps he cannot understand how he can be genuinely connected to anything when there seem to be no absolute relationships in his life, nothing he can depend on to be there, no sacrificial love that will reveal him to himself from the outside.   One wonders what the psychological effect must be as he watches "adults" not only sterilize themselves but all creation for their own selfish reasons.

Relationally we no longer have set constellations in our lives.   There is less and less order in the universe of our interpersonal lives, fewer predictable rotations or orbits.  The universe of relationships in many lives changes before one can even map the constellations.  That is the experience of young people today.  No center of gravity.  No orderly solar system.    Just free- flying, unpredictable bits of mass crashing into other bits of mass, knocking orbits and axes off..

Perhaps youth experience more quickly that the direction of our culture leads nowhere.   It's movement does not solidify into anything stable.   It spins into self- destruction...

It took mankind centuries to understand the earth was not the center of the universe and that the sun did not revolve around us but rather we around the sun.  Scientists tell us that life on earth flourishes because of how we orbit the sun.     If the orbit were a fraction off, the planet would easily become incapable of sustaining life.  Likewise, if our personal orbit is around ourselves, or in our self- centeredness we think everything else revolves around us, we become like an earth spinning on it's axis in nothingness, with no warmth or light or atmosphere to sustain us, only cold blackness surrounding us.

We have to come to an understanding in our individual lives.  Just as the natural world has a center of gravity, so too do our lives have forces at work that move us toward or away from life, true life.  We need a center of gravity to hold the movements in balance.

If Jesus is our center of gravity and we understand Him as the center around whom we both spin and revolve, we begin to coalesce, to be defined; we become integrated.  We come to understand  who we are and how we are related to everyone and everything else.   Our world makes sense and is guided by very real rules of existence.   If we are knocked out of that orbit,  if our center is off, or non- existent, we have grave trouble.  We spin off by ourselves, into fragments of what we should be and out of relationship to all the other bodies orbiting the true center.

There is in this, also, an answer to our existential need for joy.  Pope Benedict says that real joy comes from friendship with God. Is this really possible?  Jesus draws us to Himself and calls us friends.  How many saints attest to the fact that friendship with God is not only possible, it’s a deep need.  It’s absolutely real, and in fact, the thing that centers us and holds us together.   Jesus is a real Person, and He wants us to relate to Him that way.  The Father is a real Person and He too wants us to relate to Him that way.  The Holy Spirit is a real Person Who also wants us to relate to Him.   The Heavens are filled with these relationships, from Mary to the communion of saints to the angelic hosts.  They all have a living relationship with us and long for it to be mutual.

We live in age where the whole world has been knocked out of its true orbit.  We are disintegrating, breaking apart, turning into lots of individual vortexes swirling about with greater or lesser force and causing unprecedented damage to everyone around us because self-centeredness creates of us this vortex which makes us  small, narrow, unable to embrace people or things around us without harming or destroying them.

Nadine said she was waiting for someone to come along and make her happy.  (Perhaps her husband was too busy swirling inside his own vortex.)   She must have decided that no one was coming and that she had to do that for herself.  One wishes they could warn her that ultimately this will not work either.  We just aren’t fashioned that way. An exclusive relationship with oneself has no place to go.  At the center of it is a great, gnawing loneliness, like a black hole.  “It is not good for man to be alone." If you try to save yourself ... you implode, you self-destruct,   you lose yourself.  It seems with the rise of superstorms, multiple tornadoes, microblasts, etc., even nature herself is reflecting back to us our own state.

When I hear of another suicidal youth I want to reach into the vortex within them and reset them into the orbit of Christ's love.  I want to pull them out of themselves and throw them quickly into His embrace so that they can become more than formless matter drifting about, so that they can coalesce into the magnificent being they are created to be, so that they can know true joy!  Alot of strength is required to come up against the momentum of these energies, but we know in the end, faith, hope and love are forces that can move mountains and will re-create the world, forming it into a Kingdom of love, joy, peace and justice.

There is a struggle for the spirit of man today.   He has been knocked out of orbit and now has to decide what His orbit will be?  Sports?  Food?  Wealth?  Prestige?  Fame?  Sex?  Alcohol?  Drugs? Gambling? Modernism? Materialism? Ecology? Politics? Science?  Other manifestations of self?

The drama of our age is to see whether man will realign himself.    Will  he return to his true center, and come back to an ordered rotation around the true Sun,  the Son of God Who is Light, Love and the pure Joy that is Life-giving?  Or, will he continue to blindly spin off into massive self-destruction?

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
September 5, 2013





Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Healing Power of Silence


Another beautiful article from our former SOLT General Superior, Sr. Anne Marie Walsh


The Healing Power of Silence

We live in a wilderness, a wilderness of noise.  Noise is not just about sound.  It has to do with the constant barrage of stimulation to our senses, emotions and even our intellect, (read information overload.)  The problem with all this noise, pure and simple, is that it is an obstacle to our own inner order and peace, and more importantly, to a living communion with God and with others. 
 
For some reason, many of us either seem afraid of silence, or, more likely, we have lost familiarity with the wonders of silence.  Yet it is essential to our physical and spiritual well-being. 
 
Authentic silence is not emptiness.  Things come to us in the silence.  We hear new languages. We are visited by penetrating peace, insight, God Himself, His wisdom, light, His perception and understanding.  In authentic silence we hear new sounds and enter new worlds.  In silence we come to know our own hearts.

It is interesting to note how often people observe that the sounds God has put in creation:  wind
rustling in the trees, birds chirping, the lapping of waves at the ocean, are a balm to the soul.  This stands in stark contrast to the agitation and disturbance created by the sounds of the modern world driven by mechanical energy and a volume, a pitch that does violence to one’s nerves, stressing them beyond what they are meant to endure.  Silence is almost completely exiled from our modern culture. Yet it is exceedingly important for us.

Silence in fact is so important to us that it may be one of the main reasons God has structured us to sleep a third of our days.   We know that when we can’t sleep, when our bodies and  minds are deprived of  the stillness good sleep brings, we become sick.  Anyone who struggles with insomnia knows the anxiety and frustration lack of sleep brings.  “If I could just sleep, I would feel better,” is the all too common cry.  For those saints who were able to pray the night away and not be ill-affected, it was because they entered a deep contemplative silence that so rejuvenated soul and spirit, the body was refreshed and strengthened by it...

In the Liturgy, given to us by God through Moses on Mt Sinai, and Jesus at the Last Supper, there are spaces for silence.  That tells us that silence is part of a Divine Rhythm, part of the rhythm of life in Heaven...it tells us silence is a good thing, a medium for God's communication of Himself to us.  The lives of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph, in particular, bear striking witness to the inseparability of silence from great holiness.

In those who are progressing in prayer, in the inner experience of the presence of God, silence becomes a medium for God’s deeper and deeper communication of Himself to the soul.  St. Teresa calls one of the early stages of contemplative prayer, the Prayer of Quiet.  God begins to suspend, or silence or still the human activity of the mind, the will, the memory, the imagination, the passions, so that He can communicate Himself more deeply.  And in that, the soul itself begins to be healed of its defects and weaknesses and disorder.  St. John of the Cross poetically describes this as:  “My house being now all stilled…”  He goes on to say that once there is this stillness (which comes through real purifications) the soul is now able to go out to find God without hindrance or distraction.  This, by the way, is often something one sees in those who are going through the process of dying.  They become strangely quiet in the months and weeks preceding their deaths.  It is as if they no longer have words. In the activity of God in their souls, as they are being readied to enter eternity, they often go through, all at once, the purifications as well as the sweet visitations of the Lord, that the person who prays regularly, goes through over a period of time.

We are all interested in healing these days.  This is the true healing we seek, that which comes to us from God Himself, the Divine Physician, and which heals us from the inside out and orders our inner being to bring it into communion with He Who is our ultimate bliss and fulfillment.

If we want to be healthy, we must cultivate spaces of silence in our lives.  Not the isolating silence so many live in, but a silence that nurtures peace within and communion without.  One place to begin is to keep our Churches as sanctuaries of silence, not places for chit chat.

Another concrete step is to actually set aside real time for silence.  Silent prayer.  Not vocal prayer but a prayer of presence, of being, in silence, in the presence of the Lord, even for 5 minutes a day, preferably in a place where there is no outside noise. (That may be early in the morning before the rest of the family rises.)  Simply ask the Lord to take you into Himself for 5 minutes, to be still and know that He is God.

Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori noted that children have an innate need for intervals of stillness and silence, silence for her, meaning the cessation of every movement: 

"One day I came into class holding in my arms a baby four months old, which I had taken from the
arms of its mother in the courtyard.  ... The silence of the little creature struck me, and I wanted the children to share my feeling.  ... To my amazement I saw an extraordinary tension in the children who watched me. It seemed as though they were hanging on my lips, and felt deeply all I was saying.  "Then its breathing," I went on, "how soft it is. None of you could breathe as it does, without making a sound..." The children, surprised and motionless, held their breath. In that moment there was an extraordinary silence; the tick of the clock, which generally could not be heard, became perceptible. It seemed as if the baby had brought with it an atmosphere of silence such as does not exist in ordinary life. This was because no one was making the smallest movement. And from this came the wish to listen to the silence, and hence to reproduce it." Maria Montessori  (The Secret of Childhood)


She created the “Silence Game” in which children begin practicing this kind of silence for small intervals at first (even 30 seconds), and then for longer periods. There is a joy the children, (and the teacher) experience, when they are able to do this.  They later come to ask for the Silence Game when things become chaotic or noisy, recognizing that this silence has the power to restore their inner peace and equilibrium.  Then, as a year progresses, the silence begins to happen spontaneously, within the whole group.  The children will look up when this happens, smile, and go back to their work.  The natural, contemplative spirit of the child, over time, is released.

It may seem like passivity to focus on silence when the world is screaming for answers and actions to address it's many grave problems.  Yet, "if The Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor."  Likewise, the walls of Jericho would never have come tumbling down, nor would the people have persisted in the right action, if they had not consulted and stayed faithful to the Lord's rather odd directions.

It  has become an almost urgent necessity today, to ask Our Lord and Our Lady to lead each of us to the kind of silence we speak of.  The release of a true contemplative spirit among us, one in which the Lord lives, and moves us, will, in the end, be the key to the salvation of our modern world.

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT

August 23, 2013

 

 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Monday Laugh For You...

In case you are like me on a Monday afternoon, sitting at a desk with a formidable amount of work to do but would RATHER laugh over something silly, please enjoy this link that features Amazon's funniest product reviews.

Thanks to Jennifer @conversiondiary for tweeting this out.

Shalom Catholic Media...

There is a new Catholic media network in the works that will debut very soon! Shalom Media has been hugely successful in India and now they are launching their first English speaking station later this winter! The website: https://www.shalomus.org/

Check out the promo below:



Also, if you are looking for a one-day retreat full of beauty and grace, come to one of their Shalom Festivals in a town near you! I will see you there!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Necessity of Beauty

Beauty is necessary. We need it, long for it and are made for it.

I was particularly struck by an article Archbishop Chaput wrote earlier this summer about the evidential power of beauty. In it, he mentions the power of creation in revealing the beauty of God and quotes Russian author Dostoyevsky, "Beauty is the battlefield where God and Satan contend for the hearts of men."

Indeed. And it's a battlefield for a reason.

If you read the dictionary definition of beautiful, you will find:

beau·ti·ful

[byoo-tuh-fuhl] 
adjective
1. having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind: a beautiful dress; a beautiful speech. 
2. excellent of its kind: a beautiful putt on the seventh hole; The chef served us a beautiful roast of beef. 
3. wonderful; very pleasing or satisfying.  
 
We all long for this satisfaction of seeing, hearing and thinking about what is delightful and pleasing. We are made for excellence and wonder. We are made for eternal goodness.
 
It's no coincidence that the Catholic dictionary defines glory in a similar way. Fr. John Hardon defines glory as: The recognition and praise of someone's excellence. Applied to God, the divine (internal) glory is the infinite goodness that the persons of the Trinity constantly behold and mutually praise. His external glory is first of all the share that creatures have in God's goodness.
 
Excellence and goodness. Sounds beautiful. Beauty attracts, inspires and humanizes. It does so because true beauty is a reflection of God Himself. His beauty is not the sanitized, compartmentalized, photoshopped images that masquerade today as the "ideal." His beauty is not the utopian dream that often stems from fear of suffering or a desire to control. His beauty is wild and it often interrupts and disarms us. As Stephen Webb wrote today, "beauty emerges out of and redeems, rather than opposes and destroys, the ugly." Well said.
 
We often find such glorious things in what is seemingly ugly. It is a thing of beauty when a community pulls together and helps each other in the midst of a devastating natural disaster. Its a beautiful thing when an addict, ravaged by their disease in heart and soul, cries out for mercy and help. Beauty poured from the side of Christ who was pierced for us. We so often wish to run from suffering because we were not made to suffer but within it can be found immense beauty- the beauty of perseverance, character, grace and the promise that we are never alone nor will the pain last forever.
 
If we peer even into ourselves, we will find a mix of qualities, sentiments and desires. Some are easily identified as beautiful. Some are hidden. Some are undesirable. As in any battle, the enemy attacks at the weakest point and we are all infected to a certain degree with the disorder of sin; the only thing that is truly ugly. When we see these areas within, perhaps we wish to close the door on them like we would a closet that is too overwhelming to clean. Or perhaps we condemn ourselves, hate ourselves or live in shame that others might find out about our mess.
 
Yet, somehow, as imperfect as we and this world are, beauty still pours forth. God comes in His beauty to touch, heal and reveal ours. Jesus doesn't demand that we "get our act together" before He lavishes His power, gentleness and beauty upon us. He just comes. It's mystifying but He does.
 
We need true beauty for it leads us on a path beyond ourselves to the Other. We need real excellence. We need to look at and be immersed in all that is good, true and beautiful. May we all be given the eyes to see the wonder and behold it for all eternity.
 
 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mesmerizing Beauty...

This video is incredible. The beauty of God's creation is astounding and awe-inspiring. The footage featured in the video is all time-lapse photography taken from South Dakota landscape. Wow.

video

Friday, August 02, 2013

Street Fighter: Church Edition

Happy Friday!
You know you played this game at a pizza parlor as a kid. Just probably not this particular edition..... :)



(lol, are these people for real??...)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Saint That Is Just Me...

This beautiful song by Danielle Rose brought tears to my eyes. I bet we can all relate to part of it.



"You died so I could be, the saint that is just me..."

Videos From Rio...

For those of you who were not part of the three million people at World Youth Day, here are some cool videos of various events:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/07/the-holy-father-does-rio/

What the Pope Really Said...

News came out today that Pope Francis is "changing" the teachings of the Church. Well, that's what the mainstream media intimated. Not true.

Check out the entirety of the Holy Father's comments and the context as well:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/07/in-his-own-words-what-the-pope-really-said/

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fr. Mark Toups' Blog

Sorry for the long delay in updating the blog :( I tweet more than I write.

The awesome and super-holy priest, Fr. Mark Toups, is now writing a blog- check it out here:

http://frmarktoups.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Virginity Is Sexual

This is an excellent and mature article about sexuality and virginity. Religious life is not a call to asexual living but an invitation by Jesus to live out femininity and masculinity in its fullness with Him. Imagine if all of us in religious life lived this way as well...it would change the world.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2013/05/virginity-is-sexual.html





Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Pope Speaks To Religious Sisters in Rome

More powerful words from the Holy Father. Says that consecrated religious are "mothers, not spinsters"!

http://www.news.va/en/news/careerists-and-climbers-doing-great-harm-to-the-ch

Go Out and Reach the Lost....

Another beautiful homily from Pope Francis today-

here's a highlight : "Paul teaches us this journey of evangelization, because Jesus did, because he is well aware that evangelization is not proselytizing: it is because he is sure of Jesus Christ and does not need to justify himself [or] to seek reasons to justify himself. 

When the Church loses this apostolic courage, she becomes a stalled Church, a tidy Church a nice, a Church that is nice to look at, but that is without fertility, because she has lost the courage to go to the outskirts, where there are many people who are victims of idolatry, worldliness of weak thought, [of] so many things. Let us today ask St Paul to give us this apostolic courage, this spiritual fervor, so that we might be confident. 

‘But Father,’ [you might say], ‘we might make mistakes…’ ... ‘[Well, what of it,’ I might respond], ‘Get on with you: if you make a mistake, you get up and go forward: that is the way. Those who do not walk in order not to err, make a the more serious mistake."

Read the full text here 

A Humorous Look At What The Internet Does To Our Brains

This is awesome. Watching the whole video, even though it's only a few minutes long, is an exercise of our brains in this distracted world.. Good stuff!


Live Action's 4th Video- Inhuman

People cannot continue to ignore this nor pretend it doesn't happen across our country. Here is the fourth video released today by Live Action. God help us all.


Monday, May 06, 2013

Giving Up Our Secrets...

This new article by our General Superior, Sr Anne Marie Walsh, is outstanding and so true on every level.

My prayer is that, as you read it, the Holy Spirit will work in you through it.

God bless you-




Giving Up Secrets

People seem to have a lot of secrets these days.  We could almost say we live in an age of secrets.   Governments have become skilled at keeping secrets; businesses are adept at the same thing.  Institutions, whether they be educational, medical or religious, all keep secrets for both good reasons and not so good reasons.   But this reflects people in general.  People tend to keep a lot of secrets.

There is a pressing need to recognize that secrets make a difference.  They can determine the direction of our lives, and the manner in which we pass from this world into the next.  For whatever reason, people today seem to have more secrets than ever.  They have secret activities, secret wounds, secret weaknesses, secret sins, secret fantasies, secret lives.  People have secret thoughts, secret addictions, secret jealousies, secret plans, secret ambitions, family secrets, secret judgments, secret desires…secrets without number, secrets we keep even from ourselves. 

Few of us can admit to being ready for heaven when we consider that in heaven, our insides will show on the outside.  Nothing will be hidden.  Everything will be transparent.  Transparency here would completely change our image.  And because we are often not willing to change, we keep secrets.

At the same time, even though we hide things about ourselves, we  have a certain affinity for, or attraction to the secrets of others.  There is almost nothing people like better than hearing a good secret.  Why?  There are several reasons.  One, it diverts attention away from our own secrets.  But we also love secrets because we love hidden knowledge.  We live in a state of being that is still looking for something that hasn’t been completely revealed to us yet.  We’re searching, whether we know it or not, for the one Word, so to speak, that will answer all of our questions and give sight to the vision, the understanding we seek.

The devil knows this about us.  Would that people understood that the devil has to penetrate the world of knowledge by study and observation too (albeit with a superior intelligence,) and that he perverts what he knows to his own ends.  Those ends are not full of happy consequences for human souls.

He is interested in luring people away from the real light.  He does it with promises of hidden knowledge, just as he did in the Garden of Eden.  (This is one of the most lucrative marketing techniques around.  Money rolls in when you claim to have the secret to long life, to health, to beauty, to success.  This is also one of the reasons professional gossips, psychics and clairvoyants prosper in our culture today.  People want to know those secrets.)

We on the other hand, have the source of all knowledge, the fount of pure Wisdom and Light in God Himself.  And we have been given, in Jesus Christ, and through His Church, a direct line to that source, Who is for us, our true Father (the Father of all lights). The temptations of some dark meddler should never cause us to turn our glance away from our Good Father, as our first parents did in the Garden, and as we so often do in our own lives.

Interestingly enough, Jesus mentions that the Father Himself keeps secrets from the “wise and learned” and reveals things to the “little ones.”  Why is that?  (This might have been a good question for Adam and Eve to have asked as they were being tempted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.)  We know most certainly that God never does anything without good reason, and a reason that redounds, often in mysterious ways, to our greatest benefit. 

Might it be that God protects the sacred and hides divine treasures for our sake? Anyone who has studied covenant knows that profaning the sacred is dangerous.  We can be destroyed by our profanation.  A simple look at the human wreckage surrounding the modern desecration of the gift and mystery of sexuality confirms this. 

 In other words, could it be that just as Jesus told us not to cast pearls before swine, He follows His own counsel with us?  He puts His treasure in safe places…He is careful with what is precious beyond measure.  And at the same time He is merciful to those of us who would have a terrible accounting to give for squandering a poorly understood gift, if we received it and did not really appreciate or care for it.

Secrets like this can be a good thing; in fact they can be a very good thing if their purpose is to protect a treasure (whether that be jewels or a reputation) from vandalism or theft, misuse or destruction. 

But some secrets should never be kept.  And unfortunately, people usually have more of these kinds of secrets.

We pay a price for many of the secrets we keep.  We can safely say, I think, that many of the sicknesses of our age are determined by the secrets we keep.  This is well known in the world of addiction and co-dependency:  “We are only as sick as our secrets.”  This is actually a psychology that was first explicated in the Sacred Scriptures.  Psalm 32 says:  “I kept it secret and my frame was wasted…” The distress, the groaning, the anxiety, the depression, the disturbance of so many today more often than not comes from holding secrets that should not be kept. 

St. Paul mentions this relationship between spiritual realities and physical consequences.  He says, in 1Corinthians, 11:29:  “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”  With the rising tide of illnesses in our age, we await a physician who will make this connection and diagnose the real cause of so many of the physical and psychological disorders of our day.
 
I know a woman who struggled with terrible depression much of her adult life, watched Mother Angelica faithfully, but would not take the secret of her abortion to the Confessional.  She died recently and my prayer is that before she died she finally released her secret into the loving mercy of God so she could enter her heavenly home with “joy and an upright heart.”  Her secret certainly didn’t keep her in peace or bring happiness into her life.  In fact, it brought her to the verge of a mental breakdown.

So why do we keep the secrets we do?  This is a mystery really, since we only fool ourselves in keeping these kinds of secrets.  God is certainly not fooled. There is nothing He doesn’t know about us.  The story of Ananias and Sapphira,  found in the fifth chapter of Acts, tells us exactly what can happen when we dissemble before God.  They pretended (to the Lord, as St. Peter points out) that they were giving everything to the community of believers, when in fact they retained a portion for themselves which they could have rightfully retained if they had chosen to.  After St. Peter had spoken, Ananias, and later his wife Sapphira (who arrived late and was questioned separately) both died on the spot, apparently for attempting to deceive God.

Keeping secrets from God is impossible, and it can be deadly!  If not immediately, then at our own judgments, when in our encounter with God Who is pure Love and Light and Goodness, all that is hidden will be revealed.  To our own overwhelming confusion we will find ourselves suddenly naked before the Lord, rather than clothed in the garments of grace He so freely and continually offers us, all because fear, or attachment or pride kept us from giving up our secrets.

Does this mean we should blurt out everything to everyone all the time, like they do on the tacky talk shows that seem to pollute the air waves?  No.  There is something inherently debasing about psychologically disrobing in front of millions of people.  There is something degrading about vomiting up things in public that properly belong in a counselor’s office and more often in a Confessional where the justification, relief and redemption that people are really seeking can be given.

This is really how Saints actually begin to become Saints.  They get rid of their secrets. And they don’t lie to themselves about who they really are.  That is why they are such shining examples of humility.  They know themselves in Truth, and it sets them free to soar to the heights! They give their secrets, both their sins and their treasures, over to God.  He takes the sins, and in Confession completely annihilates them, wills to remember them no more.  They are gone, gone, gone, with no more power to determine their life, and will never again reappear in accusation against them, even at the end of time.  Never! 

And then our Father does an even more astounding thing.    He begins giving them "treasures out of the darkness and riches that have been hidden away."   Isaiah 45:3   He takes miserable secrets  and begins to replace them with the secrets He holds.  What an exchange!   The saints are no fools!  They know this bargain is unmatched anywhere in the whole universe.   In the heart of our Redeemer, we are given, by way of His own sacrificial love, infinite riches in exchange for giving to Him our sinfulness, our pride, our imperfections, our self-importance. 

Great Confessors, like St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio spent themselves in this work of getting people to give up their secrets so that they could begin to know the deep things of God in their lives.   There is a reason the sacrament of Peace and Reconciliation is an Easter Sacrament.  There is a reason that the Holy Spirit, Who comes in Pentecost like a mighty wind to sweep out the secret and dark recesses of our souls and fill them with fire and light, is the culminating gift of the Easter season.

Our Blessed Mother, the most pure creature who ever lived, was without secrets of her own.  She kept only those God gave her.   And because of that, there is none more beautiful, more  radiantly transparent in the living of the Mysteries of the  Most Holy Trinity.  In Her many apparitions in the last centuries, we can hear the cry of our good Mother when she bids us return to the Sacraments and live the Gospel way of life.  One of the things She is saying with great affection and urgency, as if speaking to a little child, is:  “Run!  Run and whisper your secrets to your Father.  All of them!  And be assured that He will give treasures out of the darkness and riches that have been hidden away especially for you!”

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
General Sister Servant
5/6/2013