Posted by: wordofthevine | March 8, 2018

Why is Sustainable Living Part of a Plan for Holiness?

When we cultivate a fascination with cultivating health by eating healthy, whole foods that we take part in producing or making, we become more able to integrate all aspects of our life with the fullness of God. God created us for such a worthy purpose. With a modern fast paced lifestyle, many times we have lost sight of our true potential for well-being grounded in creating.

While we all live in different situations and settings and have unique lives and gifts, tapping into the creativity  that is part of our gift of life will look different for each of us. Genesis 1: 26-31 describes that God made human persons in his image and gave them a charge to be fruitful, to multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth and every tree with seeds in its fruit; you shall have them for food…I have given every green plant for food. And, it was so. God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good.”

What are we to do with this? Start taking time to learn how to cook more whole foods and how to cultivate a starter garden. If you don’t live where you have garden space, try a container garden on your patio. Check out farmers markets this Spring where you can purchase organic produce. Let yourself be amazed with the peace that surpasses understanding that comes from gardening and from cooking. In doing so, you become a truer steward of God’s gifts to us on the earth. Holiness is something real that has roots in welcoming all aspects of life, even eating and procuring food, as a gift to us from God. Cultivate this sense of gratitude in living right now! ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute  (Certified Chaplain and Spiritual Director & Registered Dietitian.)

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 4, 2018

Baking Bread: A Spiritual Exercise

I’m so excited to bring together my passion for closeness with God and the priority I feel in living a simple, healthy life. Maybe it’s because, before being a theologian and a spiritual director, I was a dietitian with a degree in Nutrition as well as a mother of six kids and a wife. My family is so important to me.

When we live close to God, we are also close to that life-giving essence of life, maybe as gardeners or wanna be, or as cooks or physically active, healthy people. When we nurture our prayer life, we naturally want to be good stewards of God’s gifts and the fruits of this world. We can learn how to do this practically. It’s fun to try something our grandmothers or great grandmothers did and be successful at it. You can learn how to bake bread even when you are already busy and find it fun. Real bread that is flavorful, crunch and full of nutrition is so much better tasting and satisfying than the fabricated Wonder Bread that we can buy in the store that really doesn’t satisfy our cravings.

To get started, try a simple recipe that’s ready in one hour. Taste and savor it to see if what I’m proposing is true for you. Eating real locally grown or homemade food satisfies us at a deep level and doesn’t have to be time consuming.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

1 pkg of active dry yeast                         2 1/2 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup warm water                                1/4 cup margarine or butter or oil

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed                3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon salt                                      4 cup all-purpose white flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. Use your mixer with a dough hook or in your bread machine (you can often find a bread machine at thrift shops for only a few dollars and use the dough cycle to mix this bread.) Stir the brown sugar and salt into the lukewarm water. Add yeast mixture, oil or butter, whole wheat flour and one cup of white flour, beat with your dough hook for three minutes to develop the structure and then stir in remaining flour until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Using your dough hook, beat for 3 minutes more.(This dough should have a slightly sticky feel but not stick to your finger.) Place the dough in a warm, not hot, place until it raises about double the size. Punch the dough down by plunging your fist into the dough and folding the sides into the center of the ball of dough. Cut the dough into three pieces, and shape the loaf by flattening the dough into a rectangle and rolling it into a loaf shape. Seal the seam and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Let each loaf raise until it doubles in size and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes. Let the bread cool before cutting for best results if you can.

Blessings, Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute. Making this bread is a spiritual exercise.


Posted by: wordofthevine | March 2, 2018

Sustainable living: a Backbone to Practical Holiness!

You might not know this from my blogs but I am a whole foods, sustainable living guru in addition to being a Catholic chaplain and a spiritual writer. Each week, I bake my own bread after grinding my own organic flour. I prefer to eat low on the food chain focusing what we eat in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains with some low fat meats. Now don’t get me wrong. I bake cookies on occasion when my kids come home from college but right now I have a green house set up in my basement with new seedlings for my garden. I try to can all my own tomato products and savage from my neighborhood, apples, peaches, pears and berries that my neighbors grow but do not process.

You might not think that you have time for all this but actually it’s easy to work in and really part of a contemplative lifestyle for holiness. I think of this every time I read Genesis that we have been given every kind of vegetation and fruit bearing tree as a gift from God. Modern life has moved us away from a secret to contemplative peacefulness and health. When we are healthy, we pray better and are more charitable. We don’t want to squander God’s gifts to us and short change our well being. It only takes some creativity when you come home tired after a long day at work or with young children.

For the next month, as we approach the growing season, I want to focus my blog on some practical ideas to promote this simple, minimalistic sustainable living for holiness! Believe me, I am practical when I suggest this as I have six kids who were closely spaced by our choice. That’s all for now,for I am going to go shape my bread dough, but stay tuned. You will have a ball with me as we explore these simple healthy ideas for contemplative living and health! ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | February 21, 2018

When others slight or hurt us, what’s another way?

Maybe I am too sensitive. I seem to remember hearing that growing up somewhat regularly. Even now, I can’t say that I don’t cherish the times that I am noticed or praised for who I am or for what I’ve done. It feels good.  While this is part of our human nature, in reading the Saints writings, I see that I am invited into new vision and understanding about the “downer moments” of life.

While I’m not talking about staying in an unsafe situation, ordinary humiliations can be extra ordinary teachers for us on the path of holiness and mature living. When grace percolates through us from a real and personal relationship with Jesus, we become capable of beautiful growth. In a certain sense, we can lose a self focus to gain a docility to the Spirit that brings us and others through us, true life.

Venerable Concepcion Cabrera, “Conchita” who I have regularly read and wrote about for the almost twenty years wrote, “Humiliations in the autumn of the soul are indispensable for her to be happy; they constitute her food, her delight and her repose. she feels miserable and hungry when she is not given this bread. The unfavorable judgments of others no longer touch or move her, because she has experienced her deformity, has felt her weakness…she has contemplated herself a great deal through glasses that never lie, those of humility, being happy in her poverty and ever trying to submerge herself in the deepest forgetfulness of self, which is where the Beloved is found!” from Seasons of the Soul, p. 31.

While her language seems to be from another era, I’m not suggesting that we work to hate ourselves. I am inviting us to learn to welcome humiliations as opportunities to mature into fuller self forgetfulness and ability to love others. We always will encounter challenges at the hands of others for we are not in heaven yet. Maybe this Lent, in the course of ordinary living you could grow in real time holiness! ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | February 20, 2018

New Habits this Lent that will Transform us!

Consider this Lent if there are practices that really could help you grow and unearth daily habits that might be weakening your spiritual vitality. I have decided that I am going to practice being creative in scheduling more daily Mass. For the last 15 years or so, I have been a daily communicant, most days. I noticed recently, when my schedule became more harried, that I wasn’t attending daily Mass as often as I had in the past.

Part of my changed daily pattern was that I wanted to be making attendance at daily Mass a response of loving God rather than something that comes from my will power. I wanted to want more deeply to be with God in the Mass. I developed a pattern of extended daily personal prayer and daily exercise part of my response to God. As I pulled back from some daily Mass, I noticed my desire to be there growing. I wanted God to help move me from within to worship God at Mass.

What about you? Do you go about your day fulfilling your duties? Or, are you letting yourself be moved by God and by the plight of people around you to alleviate suffering around you? Try today to be cultivated, to feel from within that motivates your devotions and outreach to others. What the world needs is to experience the transformative power that is evident when others truly love us from the inside out! ~ Mary, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | February 2, 2018

Living with the Light of Christ: Venerable Concepcion Cabrera

We have to have greater expectations that we, women and men living ordinary lives can experience union with God. God has designed each of us to love him and be united from within with Him. This union is not just for Saint John of the Cross or Saint Teresa of Avila but for all of us if we pursue holiness generously like Venerable Concepcion Cabrera did.

To all who saw her on the street or with her children, Venerable Concepcion Cabrera looked ordinary. Inside she describes a beautiful relationship with Jesus that transformed her and ushered in a wonderful mission for her in the Church. She was the foundress or co-founder of the Five Works of the Cross. In her journal from January 12, 1907 she writes, “It is really difficult to explain what I am feeling precisely. [The union with Jesus] is like one hand is inside the other… I am filled with light inside my soul and body. This light invades me, illuminates me.”

How profound! Jesus wants to be so close to us, to invite us into his thoughts and light. What is one way you could make yourself more available to receive the light of love and faith from God today? ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | February 1, 2018

What the Virtues Teach us About Holiness.

For me, often when I hear about the virtues, I sometimes tune out. How exciting. Sometimes, they have seem more life the dos and the don’ts of the spiritual life rather than something so real and impactful. While I know we have to be resolute for holiness and often structure holiness by ordering our practical choices so we can better manage our behavior, we have to practice the good choices, we also receive the inspiration and capacity to make good choices through particular graces.

Venerable Concepcion Cabrera, Mexican mystic, wife and mother received a lengthy teaching from the Lord called, Of the Virtues and Of the Vices.  In this collection on the virtues, Concepcion receives the words, “In the harmonious union of these virtues is where interior silence rules, a silence that nothing can disturb, the tranquility of a would empty of its own love, that doesn’t think anymore except in terms of loving of sacrificing itself for the beloved. The Holy Spirit blankets it, feeds it and gives it life. In this tranquil calm of the divine garden or field of the virtues, this is the place where the soul, emptied of all that is not God, tends toward Him and intimately unites itself with Him. It is here the ego finds its total fulfillment , and the soul, through sanctification of love, breathes only God.”

Think about your own life and approach to being virtuous. Do you actively seek good habits so you can radiate the loving presence of God to others, or does the spiritual life seem like a process of just following the rules? For more, join us for a discussion on February 7, 7 PM, CST on facebook live with Word of the Vine facebook page. ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | January 29, 2018

The Power of Getting Organized for God!

If you are like me, you go to work, you care for family and do the ordinary activities of daily life. To find God, we have to be intentional. In the spiritual life, we don’t want to just wing it and give God the left overs of our lives. He wants to be center stage and frankly, we feel best when we order our lives around God. There is a part of us that is “restless until it rests in God” as St. Augustine writes.

Servant of God, Elisabeth Leseur formulate flexible daily goals, weekly goals and a monthly practice of a day of reflection. For example, without leaving her bedroom, she picked a day each month to slow down, to pray more and to reflect on her relationship with God and his guidance. In this way, step by step, Elisabeth became a master at radiating Christ to others without speaking directly about him, while she quietly offered the suffering they may have caused for their very conversion.

Think about your own way of relating to others. Are you a blessing to others in the way of Elisabeth Leseur, or could you begin to be today~ To learn more about how to take this the next step further, join us for facebook live using my book, Awakening a Life-giving Heart, Wednesday evening, 7 PM, CST through February 7. ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | January 26, 2018

Venerable Concepcion Cabrera: Living Heart to Heart with Jesus!

So often when we think about Saints, we think of priests and nuns. I hope this is changing in our present era when the Spirit seems to be moving withing the lay person to give us poignant examples of holiness. Venerable Concepcion Cabrera, a wife, a mother and a mystic is a woman who show us the power of ordinary life in the world as a means of union with God and holiness. I have had a devotion to Venerable Concepcion or “Conchita” for a number of years. Maybe it’s because I also am a wife and mother and serious about my spiritual life that she has become a trusted friend. I know that so often, I benefit by reading how God broke through her ordinary life to inspire her to truly fulfill her role.

Saint Thomas Aquinas coined the idea that “grace builds on nature.” This means that God breaks through our ordinary moment to transform us, to inspire us and to raise up what we do here and now to lead us to holiness. He did that for Conchita.

In reading the Cuenta de Consiencia or her journal in Spanish from January 11, 1907. She writes about being concerned with arranging schools for her children arranging their clothing and expenses but in the midst of this sensing God calling out to her with divine interior touches that were living and that she felt with a force in her soul. That night, after her family was settled down, she sensed God touch her heart to heart with an extraordinary effect. She wrote, “In my soul there is an uneasiness for perfection. I am happy in this life of obedience. My soul has thirst or desire that my will be united with God.”

When I read her diary, I feel a fire burn within my soul to give God everything in my life also so he can act through me in unison with me as I interact with my family. What about you? What do you notice inside when you read the words of Concepcion? Find God with you in the midst of your ordinary moments. ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

Posted by: wordofthevine | January 25, 2018

Is My Life Enough? How Holiness in Everyday Life Leads to Heaven!

I often hear this question from people who are dying, as their hospice chaplain: Is Heaven that I’ve been believing in real? And, have I been faithful enough to God and others to reach Heaven? While we want to look at our lives head on, being honest with ourselves to identify patterns of living that can deaden our spirits, most of us underestimate the power of our simple human choices to love and do the next most obvious thing. Holiness in everyday life involves the mundane choices of everyday life.

If we look at the writings of Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur (1866-1914) we see the impact that our simple choices to be loving in the midst of the moment. She wrote: “It is only in heaven that we will realize how wonderfully God made use of the labor of these little workers: the multitude of small duties, the daily acts of self-sacrifice, the acceptance of pain offered to the Heavenly Father, poor worthless metal transformed by God into gold for others, that pure gold of love enriching others and ourselves.”

To hear more of this discussion, join us on Wednesday nights, 7 PM, CST for facebook live through Word of the Vine facebook. Ask yourself, what are the daily acts of self-sacrifice that God is asking of you? ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate institute.

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