Posted by: wordofthevine | December 14, 2017

Incompatibilities: A Necessary Part of Holy Marriage

I often gain so much from the examples of the Saints. My husband found a video of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen discussing marriage.  Fulton Sheen spoke about going on retreat with Dominican priest, Father Felix Leseur, O.P., whose wife is Elisabeth reportedly asked God for some physical suffering that she could offer for the conversion of her atheist husband, Felix. She experienced painful Chron’s Disease and finally breast cancer which claimed her life. While she lived, she never saw the fruit of her daily offering for her husband’s soul but God gave her a word of knowing. She told him before he died that he would one day become a Dominican priest, a thought that Felix shrugged off until he read her diary after her death. He returned to the practice of his Catholic faith after he realized how she had offered her suffering for his conversion. While on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, he also, according to Sheen received the perfect gift of Faith, to know clearly without wondering, what God was asking of him and wanting in the moment. He became a Dominican priest in 1923 at the age of 62, nine years following Elisabeth’s death.

With the insight of Fulton Sheen, and the example of Elisabeth and Felix Leseur’s lives, we see that certain incompatibilities in marriage are absolutely necessary so we can have something to offer for our spouse, family and Church. The Lord wants a whole-hearted offering for others from the core of our beings, an offering that costs us something so we learn to get ourselves, our selfish focus out of the way.

I was reminding myself this when I was out to dinner recently with my husband, John. He is a wonderful man but quiet. During this dinner, even though we were celebrating our anniversary, he was quiet and hardly spoke. This is somewhat the norm. John is quiet. I enjoy verbal interaction. My offering is to move away from what I’d prefer to relish who John is. I’m not going to change him, nor should I desire to do so. What about you? Where is God showing you that you can offer your experiences for the good of another, the world and the Church? Join me live on Wednesdays, January 3- February 7, from 7-8 PM CST as we discuss this further using my book, Awakening a Life-giving Heart: Insights for Women Who Pray for the Church. ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 13, 2017

Have a Blessed Life like St. Joseph this Christmas!

Over coffee one day, my eighty-five year old friend, Lorrenne, a beautiful, white haired, genteel woman, leaned forward and said with a gleam in her eye, “Mary, I really have had a blessed life.” In the next breath, she continued, “You know, it has not always been easy. Remember the story about my son, John, who had severe migraine headaches, which not even treatment at the Mayo Clinic helped. What jumped started my deep trust and faithfulness to God, was when one night a prayer group at my parish sensed that God wanted them to pray for John. They gathered around him, laid hands on him, asked God to heal him, and He did! For those people, God was real, and was someone who made His will obvious to them when they prayed. From then on, over time, I watched for patterns where God acted which helped me be more sensitive to Him and learn to act with confidence in what God was asking of me.”

Lorrenne, shows us that miracles, not coincidences, can happen when we learn to recognize God’s will and fulfill it in the moment, like another St. Joseph. Servant of God, Luis Martinez, (1881-1956), the late Archbishop of Mexico City, and talented spiritual director, in Meditations for Christmas, suggests that for Jesus to be born in our hearts this Season, the Father wants us to know that “He is the one who gives the orders, for we are mere instruments. To be faithful, then, we need to never want or look for anything but the holy will of God.” Instruments, like St. Joseph, are docile to the one guiding them.

Ask yourself what you would have done, if you were St. Joseph in a cold damp cave when an angel woke you up, told you to load your wife and newborn son on a donkey and head for Egypt. Would you have been practical and waited until daylight? Martinez relates that St. Joseph “did not necessarily understand why he had to hide the Child and flee Herod. He did not try to understand many things, but always said, ‘This is how God wants it.’ If we were that faithful and had as our sole norm of life the holy will of God [and not our own well made plans], the Father would entrust Jesus to us.”

 

To have the blessing of Jesus alive with us this Christmas, we can cultivate the faithfulness of St. Joseph by becoming sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within us as it comes with the ups and downs of life.

 

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 12, 2017

Mother Teresa and Fear of Aging

One day I took a break in doing spiritual writing to try on a new foundation for my Avon order arrived. I applied the new foundation and then studied my face in the mirror. Did this new color blend in with my natural coloring? Did I look younger? After I wondered back to the computer, I wondered! Is that the goal, now that I’ve arrived at mid-life…to look younger and minimize wrinkles, the signs that I carry of having lived life?

I don’t think so. I am trying to give up trying to look younger and am following a new philosophy: of age enhancement rather than “age cover up.” I’m wondering if Mother Teresa felt the same way. Google an image of her and you see her beautiful and well wrinkled face. She challenges us to have faces alive. She writes, “Be the living expression of God’s kindness, kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”  

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 7, 2017

God…I Don’t Feel I Measure Up to Others!

I can sense that my perspectives are changing. On one hand, I feel happier with life, more peaceful than I can remember. On the other hand, I don’t see life as an unending expanse before me. Maybe it is because I am more mid-life or maybe it’s because I work as a chaplain confidant of people who have life limiting illnesses on a daily basis. I want make the moments of everyday to count for something. I guess I seek significant moments of connection with others to meet their needs and with life.

At the same time, I am aware on a daily basis that I can be quite critical of myself in what I say to myself. I can expect a lot more of myself than I do of others. I was walking today, trying to get my 10,000 steps in, when I started reflecting to myself, “Well, Mary, you certainly have not been very social this week. You have come home from work and plopped in the chair after dinner rather than phoning your friends.” I felt a sting of shame and turned to God. I asked God in the quiet of my heart, should I have been more generous and reached out to my friends more this week? What came to me was real! A memory surfaced when I was looking ahead to this week. I had thought about arranging a social event with our adult friends, when I remembered that our college aged kids were arriving home. I made the decision to be available to them rather than traipse out for dinner with our friends. God affirmed me by taking me to the core of my life calling and reminding me of my conscious decision to be available. God brings me back to the truth in me!  What about you? Do you sometimes feel that everybody else has a vast array of friends and social events? Can you relate to feeling like you don’t measure up to what others seem to be living? ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 6, 2017

How can Jesus be born in our hearts this Christmas?

Being prepared for Christmas is much more than buying a tree and gifts! While Our Lord wants us to prepare, to prepare our hearts so the outward tasks of the season will be ways we love others, He wants something more. Jesus wants to be born in our hearts this Christmas, for this is our real human destiny: to be alive with Jesus from within!

Venerable Luis Martinez (1881-1956), the late Archbishop of Mexico City, and talented spiritual director, breaks open this mystery for us by saying, “We not only remember that night in Bethlehem, but moreover, we recognize that this mystery is truly happening in each well-prepared soul through the grace of the Holy Spirit.”  He seeks not only to be “born in the hearts of saints, but also in imperfect souls; where nothing will hinder Jesus from being born in them as long as they do what they can to purify themselves.” His admonition to us is for our hearts to become mangers for Jesus.

Mangers are in stables or rather little caves, which are usually cold, damp places that most people overlook unless they are shepherds or farmers. Where Jesus was born, Martinez described was “not the Bethlehem depicted on prayer cards, surrounded by doves and angels with everything neatly and artistically arranged. Rather it was a shelter for animals, a very common place. He was born in a very poor, very humble, smelly and dirty place. He, therefore, will not mind being born in our poor hearts.” Like seeds that sprout in the dirt, human life and growth can be messy for it happens down in the earth of our everyday life.

Now, what do mangers and hearts have in common? They both need cleaning up. Mangers need to be empty so they can hold what the animals need. Mangers attract. Animals approach a manger to eat, while a farmer/shepherd does too to drop the sweet hay and grain there. Our hearts need to be empty of self-preoccupation to become quieted by an awareness of our own shortcomings. We have to smell the native aroma of our hearts so we reach towards heaven for our fullness as we live, which is in God and not ourselves.

While we must try as hard as we can to tidy up, what hope do we have to have hearts clean enough to receive the King of Kings on our own efforts? Martinez encourages us “not to worry for, stables may be tided to a certain point, but they cannot be changed into marble palaces.”

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 5, 2017

A Christmas Gift with Eternal Benefits!

Our culture really seems to drive us to be self focused when it comes to Christmas gift buying. Now, don’t get me wrong, many of us are really focused on others, particularly many women. Just early this week, I found myself laying in bed awake, concerned about a situation with one of my kids. What’s missing is an awareness of how to draw our lives into a working whole, to cultivate meaning and well being so it makes a practical difference for others. We have to learn how to use the crosses that come to us so we grow in holiness ourselves and generate graces for others by connecting these moments to the Cross. What gift this Christmas could help you grow in this way?

Ask your husband, your family or your friends to purchase, Awakening a Life-giving Heart: Insights for Women Who Pray for the Church, and plan on joining us as we process the book live through facebook. We will be together through facebook live on Wednesdays, January 3-February 7, 7-8 PM, CST. Start your New Years resolutions for holiness this year~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 30, 2017

Having an Eye For Beauty!

I have been reflecting on the spiritual gifts of women lately, especially through the writings of Saint and theologian, Edith Stein or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross as she is also called. I wish I had reread my own book before Thanksgiving. With the larger family gathering, I let myself react to some old hurt feelings and while my behavior was alright, I suffered in my heart when I had to interact. Now, with a day of time to myself, I wish that I could have just shrugged off the relative’s grouchiness towards me and stayed more my positive self. I needed to remember that I may have come along to help transform the situation and touch the grouchy one with God’s grace.Well, one positive is that I also learned what irritated this relative in my behavior.

In my book, Awakening a Life-giving Heart: Insights for Women who Pray for the Church, I summarized Edith Stein’s thoughts and wrote, “Women more often saw life as an integrated whole and sought to formulate a total picture of things so that they can create beauty and harmony around them.This vision for order and harmonious interaction seemed to call forth a profound inner strength and give her (Edith Stein’s) female students an eye for beauty that sustained them, even in the midst of suffering.”

What about you, have you been able to keep your eye on this goal of enduring suffering in the pursuit of harmonious relationships? Have you noticed a greater awareness of beauty around you that sustains you? Maybe this can be our goal today, to endure the difficult interactions that we may encounter to draw those around us to harmony and beauty? ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 16, 2017

Reality, a Necessary Part of Thanksgiving Day!

I’m remembering one Thanksgiving Day when our extended family got together at a relative’s house. My family of six young kids, along with my punctual husband came late for the celebration. I don’t remember why but it was probably due to me trying to pack too much into my time and my food wasn’t ready to take. My relative who was hosting was always really organized and really frustrated (rightly so) with my different way of being. We arrived 25 minutes late and her dinner was cold, along with her reception of my family. We had an uncomfortable interaction and my mood was not thankful from that point on. We often, as family members, experience life very differently from each other and arguments can happen, even with the best cooked turkey.

When I think about having a thankful attitude this holiday, I realize that it has to come from having a prayerful approach to living and welcoming the challenges. I’m reading a wonderful and short booklet entitled, Prayer, by Phyllis Zagano, a senior Research Associate in Residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. She shares, that “the healthiest prayer we can utter is saying yes to what is real in life. I was told by a wise woman once that holiness means simply dealing with reality.Reality, in life and in prayer,is where we find our holiness and our trust in God tested daily and often and well (32).”

Let’s keep this in mind this holiday. Enjoy reality in each other in the ups and downs and remember that in this holiness is one step closer to us. ~Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 13, 2017

Snatching Holiness: Moment by Moment

You know, when you write a book, you write it over time. Lately, I reread my book, Awakening a Life-Giving Heart,a book that I wrote for women (and for men) to help them realize that their own growth and maturation can awaken others and the World to goodness. Simply slowing down, noticing the needs of others around you (and your own) and learning to receive practical help from God. Holiness is not something stuffy or boring or something just to get yourself to heaven. It is dynamic, alive leading each of us that seek it to the luxurious living out of God’s graces through the cross.

In my book, I wrote, “Most women (and men) have not considered the importance of formulating a systematic plan for holiness, although they desire God very much. They also underestimate the power and spiritual significance of their lives (99).” Think about it. Do you rush through life without considering that you and the life you live can make a difference for those you care about and for the world? Watch the evening news, watch your kids or neighbors. Do they seem to grasp that God loves them, and do you consider this for yourself?

When the challenges come or the obstacles, do you think like the holy ones, like Venerable  Elizabeth Leseur that “suffering hollows out the channel through which the great river of grace flows on its way to others (260).” Next time, today, when you experience difficulties, utilize them as a way to unite closer to God for those you care about. Glance at God, even it it is not something you’re accustomed to and experience God’s presence. He will do the rest in making the moment a fruitful offering for that lady next to you who may cut you off or the co-worker who is grouchy. ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 11, 2017

What Love Is!

I am having a ball with a friend’s lhasa apso puppy. He is 12 weeks old and at my house to assist his growth. He loves loving and actually slept really well last night considering he’s in a new environment for a time. For the better part of two hours this Saturday morning, starting at 5:15 AM he has been jumping around and fussing when I put him down after I give him attention. Right now he is quiet and learning how to be comfortable alone in his little run. I suggest that for us, in many ways, we are like him, Chance, the puppy.

We are called to grow up continually, even once we are adults. We have to develop an inward flexibility where we learn to move in sync with the deepest goodness, the Holy Spirit alive within and our own needs. We are to remain centered in a deep awareness of God’s love within us, respond to our own needs and learn to love others. We do this even while, sometimes, we have needs that clamor for our attention. We want what we want, when we want it and find it hard to set this aside to pay attention to what others need. Maybe we have a wound from lost love that keeps drawing us to it’s “well.” Many times, we live off centered focused on our own needs. Grace can reorient us, heal us and allow us to love.

As I think about these things, I glance over at the anniversary clock on my mantle. (I gave this clock to my husband when we were newlyweds for our third anniversary.) The brass clock apparatus inside was beautifully spinning back and forth off of a fulcrum in the center, keeping time. For us, our fulcrum is the Cross and the sacrificial love of God. We have to experience this reality as real, something we return to and live from. We are to learn to love unselfishly over time.

“Love is,” according to my book, Awakening a Life-Giving Heart,is active. Love involves the struggle to know oneself and freely love another in a sacrificial way, in the midst of mutually competing needs and demands (67).” What about you? Did you start off your day like Chance the pup, clamoring for your own needs or do you see you may be making strides with inner flexibility in movements of sacrificial love? ~ Mary

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