Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yesterday, Today and Forever

There is a saying that some people often quip, "The only constant thing is change." It's a paradoxical statement, how we all yearn for something constant and unchanging yet on earth all we seemingly experience is change. Many times we don't want change and we fear the possibilities it might bring. Other times we are dying for change and fear the possibility of stagnation. The measure of time marks what changes on the earth. Time marches on. People are born and they die. Empires rise and fall. The sun rises and sets. And on it goes.

Pope Benedict XVI Yet, in all this change, we yearn for something eternal. Today was the last day of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. One of the names he is now officially referred to is "Pontiff Emeritus." Tears of sorrow, solidarity and gratitude flowed down my cheeks today as I watched the frail yet adept Holy Father leave his papal residence in Rome, enter into a helicopter and fly over the city in a quiet but marked exit from his authority as the Vicar of Christ on earth. This man pledged his respect and obedience to the new Pope and promised he would not abandon the Church but begin his last stage as a pilgrim on Earth, praying for us and offering the rest of his life in service of God.

His Holiness repeatedly mentioned these last few days that the Church belongs to Jesus, it is His Church and the Church will go on. Somehow, in spite of all of our broken humanity and sin, Jesus does not leave us orphans and He is the only Rock upon which we build. Jesus is the only Person who doesn't change. St. Paul reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) How amazing that the Timeless One builds in history upon finite creatures. How amazing He is.

Because Jesus is timeless, He can enter into every aspect of our lives. He is with us when change brings sorrow- when a loved one is lost, a child dies or a dream is seemingly shattered. He is with us when change brings joy- a new birth, a new marriage or a dream finally realized. He comes to heal the sick and bind up broken hearts and He never, ever leaves our side.

Even when things seem out of control and we shake with fear or anger, God still has a plan. Even when we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, God still has a plan. Even when anguish seems to threaten our hearts and lives, God still has a plan. He loves us. He sees us. He already sees everything and He knows everything. God does not live captive in our time, He lives in eternity, He sees everything at once. He sits gently beside us and holds our hearts.

In this time of change, in the Church, in the world, in our personal lives; let us call upon Jesus to pour out His graces upon us. Let us offer our prayers for Benedict XVI and for the Cardinals who will select the new Pope. Let us pray for conversion for our own hearts- that we may turn away from sin and lies and turn toward the One who is Truth and Life- the One who unceasingly loves us. Let us be "simple pilgrims" on the path to the heart of Christ.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Intimacy Beyond Measure

The following is a beautiful reflection written and lived by a dear friend of mine, Josh Johnson, from the diocese of Baton Rouge, LA. He will be ordained to the Deaconate in May.

The Living Stations: 10th Station- Jesus is Stripped

Jesus, I will forever be grateful for the day you invited me to be stripped of all the lies I believed about myself and about you.  It was about five years ago and I was hanging out at the Seminary with a friend I had not spoken with in many years.  As we were catching up on each other’s lives, my friend shared with me that four months after his wedding day, his bride suddenly went deaf.  He took her to see their family doctor to find out why she suddenly went deaf and their doctor found tumors all over her body.  Soon after this discovery, she went into surgery to have the tumors removed and after the tumors were successfully removed, she became paralyzed.  In the midst of his tears, he shared with me how he never expected that this was how his marriage would turn out but how he nonetheless loved his wife and so he chose everyday to feed her, bathe her, and provide for all of her needs because this was his vocation. 

After we finished talking, I ran to see You in the chapel and I fell on my face before Your Eucharistic Presence.  I asked You this question, “God can I love you the way my friend loves his wife?”  There was some silence, and then I heard you speak very clearly and You asked me, “Josh, will you let Me love you the way your friend loves his wife?  Will you be that intimate with Me, that vulnerable with Me, that stripped with Me?”  After You asked me this question, I became very uncomfortable and I told You no.  I told You that I would not allow You to get that close to me, I did not want to be stripped, to be vulnerable, to exposed with You.  I thought that if I allowed You to strip me of my many barriers of protection, then You would see me in all my sin, pain, shame, and wounds and You would not want me to discern the priesthood anymore.  I wasn’t ready for that kind of rejection from You.  However, Your love does not reject the beloved.  You continued to pursue me in the months that followed this initial conversation and You would come to me in the way in which the Book of Revelation speaks about You.  “Behold, I stand at the door of your heart and knock.”  Yes, You would knock at the door of my heart all the time, and I would always tell you, “No, You may not come in.”  Then you would come back the next day and ask the same question, “May I come in?” and I would stubbornly tell You, “No, You may not.”  Like a gentleman You did not force Yourself into my heart, but You persistently came over and over again and requested that I allow You into the depths of my heart.  

 Finally, after running from Your love for what seemed like an eternity, I allowed You into the home of my heart.  I was okay with You looking at my good deeds that I had done throughout my life for you and my fidelity to prayer. I even found consolation in gazing into Your eyes as You looked with delight upon me in my virtuous actions.  But then You asked me to allow You into the room of my heart that contained all of my sins, pains, shames, and wounds.  I told You that You really did not want to go in there.  You asked me again, “May we go into this room?”  I finally decided to allow You into this room of my heart that I so dreaded, because I just knew that once I was completely stripped before You and You gazed upon all of me, You would not want me anymore.  We walked into this room of my heart and I had my eyes cast down in shame.  I was afraid to look up and see Your eyes change from being so in love with me to not wanting anything to do with me anymore.   

As I reluctantly took my eyes off of the ground and raised them to Your eyes, I was shocked by what I saw.  I saw You looking at me with the same loving gaze that You had on me in my virtuous acts, my good deeds, and my fidelity to prayer.  In the midst of my sins that I committed and the sins that had been committed against me, You still looked upon me with Love.  You still desired me!  And You told me these words, “Josh, I love you and I created you for no other reason than for you to be a saint, I want to be with you for all eternity!”  Wow!  Thank You Lord for loving me, all of me, and for stripping me of the lies that I believed about myself and about You and for calling me with Your intimate love into freedom from my sins and wounds. 

I guess Your desire to strip me could have stopped there, with that beautiful experience of Your love in prayer because of the awesome freedom I experienced in my relationship with You.  But with You there is always so much more.  Once I began to live in freedom, to discern the priesthood in freedom, I began to experience a deep dryness in prayer.  At the same time, I began to experience a deep dryness in my relationships with my closest friends.  By Your grace, I recognized that I had become so attached to the many gifts that You had shared with me throughout the years and particularly the healing grace of seeing Your gaze upon me.  Rather than fixing my eyes upon only You, the gift Giver, I began to fix my eyes on the gifts that your had shared with me, the gift of being healed, the gift of my holy friendships, and the gift of experiencing consolation in prayer.  

 In Your justice You stripped me of all these gifts so that I could fix my eyes on You and only You, the One Who gives the gifts.  I understand now that Your stripping of my gifts, was what was best for me to grow closer to You, to reach out to You, and to not fix my eyes on the gifts of God, but rather, to fix my eyes on You my God and only You.  Thank You, I love You, and there is no place I’d rather be than in Your Presence, even if I cannot ever feel You again, I just want to be stripped where You are.  


Monday, February 18, 2013

Cardinal Dolan's Audio Link To Press Conference

Cardinal Dolan shares a few words last week on the resignation of the Holy Father-

Thank You Vancouver

I just wanted to express my heartfelt thanks for all the kindness of the people who came to the teacher's conference and the One conference this past weekend in Vancouver, BC. You are all in my prayers!

The Matt Maher concert was awesome! May God continue to bless Matt and all of you.


Fr. Barron Comments on the Resignation of the Holy Father

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our Beloved Holy Father To Resign

Obviously the whole world has heard about this. I will write more later....

Understanding Our Lives...

The following is a beautiful Lenten reflection from Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, our General Superior-

Understanding the Story of Our Lives – A Lenten Reflection
It is a positive fact that one day all of us will leave the bounds of time and enter into the limitless realms of eternity.  The light of heaven will reveal to us things that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and the mind of man has not conceived.
But while we live in time our lives are probably best characterized  by the kind of story they tell, or at least have begun to tell.  They can be small stories or great stories, subplots that weave in and out of greater narratives.  The beauty of a story is that it develops over time.  And while it is yet being written, the plot evolves, characters change,  conflicts surface,  challenges are faced, good and evil wrestle, heroes are born, villains are conquered and new adventures are begun.   Heroes may  fall.    But even if they fall many times yet rise again to greatness, our hearts  thrill just as they do when villains are converted.  Until the last chapter is written suspense works in us and hope keeps vigil, while we strain to the greatness we are created to live.

Every person's life is really a unique story, one which can be read in different ways.  A life can be understood in the context of family, or of an even greater history, whether that be a history of the Church or the world, or God's ongoing relationship with man in creation, salvation and glory.

Jesus' life has been called:  "The Greatest Story Ever Told," and our life story becomes especially exciting when we begin to see and understand it in the light of Jesus' own life.    Our life then becomes another story of God's infinite and unwearied love for us.  At the same time,  God's love gives to the story of our lives a participation in His own Life, and a special work, a mission we alone can fully accomplish.   Part of the adventure of living is discovering our unique mission and playing out our beautiful, and irreplaceable part in the much greater drama of God's undying love for mankind.

This  drama is the Lord's but it is ours too.  It is divine but human too, a mingling of splendid creatures made from ash and mud, living in communion  with angels and saints  whose respective worlds, heaven and earth, the flesh and the spirit, interpenetrate each other even now.

We are all meant to be unique heroes in this great epic.  The saints are true heroes and we are called to this same heroism, a heroism that has as many possible expressions as there are people born into the world, because it can only be lived and expressed in a personal way, in our particular relationship with God.

Christ Victorious
There is no real narrative thread outside God, nothing with the power to give meaning, to unify and integrate the complexities of the human heart or explain the struggles and yearnings that inhabit the depths of a soul and that steer the course of our history, our story as a people.  Man tends toward God by His very nature.  And this will always lead him outside himself in a quest to be a part of something greater, something transformative and transcendent.  The awakening of a living Faith  in our lives draws us into a real adventure with the Triune God, with our loving and provident Father, with Jesus our Savior and Brother, and with the Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Guide.  They fill our lives, our stories, with the best of all characters, a Mother like no other, and brothers and sisters who surround us with unending help.

When time shall be no more, this drama of Faith, written in the great voluminous Book of Life, will be read in heaven over and over again to the delight of its citizens.  All will have played an important role, whether  obvious or hidden, in the grand story that ends in the triumphant  victories of Christ and the communion of God with man for all eternity.
Charles Dickens famous story, “David Copperfield” opens with this line:  “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
Lent is a time to sharpen the focus of our own life  narrative.  It is a time to take the editor’s pen to the bad ideas, the bad habits, the bad attitudes, the bad writing, that makes us mediocre or worse.  It is a time to strengthen the character of the hero that lives in us, and to come into conformity with the life of the greatest Hero ever (Christ), by aligning our lives more closely to His and adopting His Spirit in the vicissitudes of life, whether they be joyful, sorrowful, luminous or glorious.  We must always be aware that the course of our story, our life, will in turn affect the course of countless other stories, lives that interface with ours, for better or for worse.
The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the end of time: 
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him Who sat upon it; from His presence earth and sky fled away and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Also another book was opened, which is the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.”  Rev. 20: 11:15

May our Lenten exercises during this Year of Faith, become a source of grace for some of the greatest chapters of our lives, masterpieces in their witness to the great mystery of God’s love for mankind.

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
General Sister Servant