Sunday, May 24, 2020

Finding Joy in the Sorrow


It struck me the other night that all the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary I usually pray are about Jesus’ conception, birth, and childhood.  Is there no joy in adulthood?  But I DO recall that He said unless you have the heart of a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.  You need that level of complete trust, as a child does, and that is living in joy.
My Jesus, I trust in You.
When Mary appeared to some children in Rwanda Africa in the 1990’s, she taught them to pray a different rosary with her, a rosary which meditates on HER seven sorrowful mysteries.  Of course, most of Mary’s sorrows mirrored those of Jesus’ Passion, His sorrows caused deep sorrow in her, but three of her sorrowful mysteries centered on Jesus’ childhood.  Two of them, the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple, and the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple are also listed among the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary we have prayed so often.  From one point of view, those childhood events were great joyful events we pray about and celebrate, but from another, they were deep sorrows for Mary.  The Presentation had the baby taken to the Temple, His Father’s house, a great joy, but there Simeon prophesized His later sufferings, which gave Mary great sorrows.
When the 12-year old Jesus stayed at the Temple to speak to the elders after the feast day, when she discovered Him missing, Mary thought He was lost; she thought she had failed in caring for Him, and was deeply disturbed until He was found, and even then she heard echoes of future sorrows.
As these Joyful and Sorrowful events show, sometimes joys and sorrows intermix, depending on the viewer, but often those sorrows are a focusing on the unknowns of the future, as Mary did.  Jesus Passion came soon enough, THEN Mary’s sorrows were truly united with His.
Perhaps that is how things are meant to be in these times, the scary, sorrowful times of today.  Look for the joys, remember the blessings we have and give thanks to God.  And if deep, unavoidable sorrows are to come, unite those sorrows with His, that these great sorrows may lead to great joys, even as His death did.  God’s mercy is endless.  If greater sorrows are to come, I will be sad, even as I pray for His Mercy, and trust in Him to bring great joys out of these sorrows.
Blessed be God Who comforts us in all our trials.  2Cor 1:3
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I said a few posts back that I’d likely be further quoting from Stinissen’s book, This is The Day the Lord Has Made, and today’s meditation from there (May 24) is worth sharing:
Step by Step
God didn’t create the world and humankind complete, once and for all.  God creates the universe in an evolution.  He creates humankind so that our insight grows and deepens little by little.  Only by and by do we find out what is right and true.
This evolution is part of creation itself; it is contemplated by God and part of his plan.
God doesn’t wish for a child to act and think as an adult.  The child has a right to be a child.  There are phases in the evolution of both the individual as well as humankind as a whole, and each phase holds its own truth.  God doesn’t require you to be now what he may want you to become later.  But in each phase of this evolution you are given a certain measure of light and insight in order to keep growing.  You must take the necessary steps from where you are to where God calls you.  The old is never wasted if you proceed according to what you now know is right.
It is not fair to judge your past from what you know now, but didn’t know earlier.  And even if you should have acted earlier against your own better judgement – not following your conscience and insight – you can put everything right by doing what you now know to be right.
The possibility of living according to God’s will is always open.  From time to time, it may even be God’s will that you don’t know what to do to move on.  In that case, surrender your uncertainty to him, accept being temporarily in the dark.  If you are completely honest with God and yourself, you will know what to do, when the time comes.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Wake Up!


I wrote this book review in 2015.  Apparently, no one in the world cared.
Review:  The Second Greatest Story Ever Told
These weeks of Lent and Easter we’ve heard much about how the Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ.  This book walks through the words of the New Testament, apparitions, inspirations, and martyrs who foretell of Christ’s second coming, and how we should prepare for it.
In the book’s conclusion Fr. Michael Gaitley writes:
This book makes a bold claim.  The greatest story in the history of the Church (the second greatest story after the Bible) is that surrounding the life and witness of St. John Paul II.  The story begins in the 20th century, the time of greatest evil and suffering in the history of the world, right in the place that bore the worst of it:  Poland.  And the story ends with St. John Paul II’s witness:  Now is the time of mercy … Now is a time of unprecedented glorious grace.
In 1917, Our Lady prophetized at Fatima that wars would come, but in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.   In that same year in Rome a young seminarian decided to form “an active society that would engage and conquer the kind of evil he saw,” and 3 days after the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, formed the Militia Immaculata … “to convert sinners and win the world for God” by consecrating their lives to Mary:  “Our Mom, is the instrument of God’s mercy, not however of His justice.”  Through their consecration, Kolbe’s followers would act as instruments of Mercy.
A small convent of sisters provided the printing press Kolbe used to publish a monthly newsletter --- four years later Helen Kowalska would enter that convent and take the name “Faustina,” and Jesus would begin talking to her.  By 1938, Kolbe was printing 1 million copies of his monthly letter, along with a daily newspaper.  Then WWII began.  No country lost a greater portion of its population than Poland; Kolbe had prepared them for their suffering.  And a young seminarian read Kolbe’s papers, survived the war, and would later become the first Polish pope, and would dedicate his papacy to Mary.  And although at Fatima it was predicted that a pope would die, he survived a bullet aimed at his heart, because, as he believed: Now is the time of mercy.
I’ve read and written much about our world today and this post-Christian society.  I wrote about “The Rise of Atheism” and what we might do about it.  Just last weekend I attended a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville on “Challenging the Secular Culture.”  And I read each day about the increasing slaughter of Christians around the world, and I wonder:  “Where is God?  What can we do?”
Fr. Gaitley’s book says, with much data and reasoning:  “We can pray.”  We can pray to Mary not to hold back God’s justice for this sinful world, but to speak to Him as only a mother could, and say on our behalf:  Have mercy.  Kolbe, Faustina, and JPII have been declared to be saints, those chosen by God.  They said we need to dedicate our prayers to the Mother of God --- and our Mother --- and plead:  Mercy! These are the end times.  Will these times last centuries, decades, years, or only hours from now?  Our is not to know, but this book gives you much to think on, and pray on: today.
Even as a bullet predicted to kill a pope was deflected by the hand of God, the future is not cast in stone.  Through prayer we can change the future, and through love of neighbor be part of God’s mercy in these times of terror, and together survive even as Poland did in WWII.
Pope Francis said:  “We have been living in the time of mercy for 30 or more years, up to now.  It is the time of mercy in the whole Church.  Pope John Paul II instituted the feast day of Divine Mercy.”  Starting in 2015, Pope Francis has declared a Year of Mercy, and the focus of prayer for the entire Catholic Church.
Read this book.  Pray for Mercy.
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Now a personal testimony about this book:
I spent Holy Thursday night as I usually do, in the Adoration Chapel of my church.  On this night Jesus was alone --- His followers had fled.  A number of years ago, in part to atone for those years when I had fled His Church, I resolved to never let Jesus be alone that night again:  I would be there with Him, with Him in His sufferings.
This Holy Thursday night I had decided to read the four Gospel passages on the Passion.  I wanted to imagine what happened, be there, and feel the pain Jesus bore for me.  But despite my intentions, I felt no such sorrows.  As I read the words saying “This man is innocent,” and of how He was beaten, and mocked, and spat upon, I had a reaction I could not shake:  I was mad, and with each Gospel reading my anger only grew.  I tried to change my mood, my feelings; I wanted to feel sorrow for His sufferings and my sins.  But I could not overcome the growing anger, and I didn’t know why.
Then I began to read the book I had brought with me to church, one randomly picked up from my stack of “to-read” material.  It was Fr. Gaitley’s book.
I thought I knew much about St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fatima, St. Faustina and the life of St. John Paul II, but like the disciples on the Road to Immaus, I had much to learn.  Fr. Gaitley opened my eyes to recent events and New Testament descriptions of Christ’s Second Coming, and the most important role Mary plays in pleading for God’s Mercy. 
And suddenly I perceived the meaning of the anger I had felt earlier.  I was seeing the events of the Passion through the eyes of God the Father.  The abuses of His Son could only make Him angry.  And reading Gaitley’s book, and of the abuses that His Son and His Church bear today, I realized that this anger must be the Father’s feelings again, today:  After all His Son had done for this world, this is the result?  This is how His people behave?  And I perceived His righteous anger at the world today and could agree:  This calls for Divine Justice, even as it was administered to Sodom.
Fr. Gaitley’s book explains the events of today, and how very holy and intelligent people describe these as events of the end times which call for God’s justice, and which also call for our prayers for mercy.  In one of His appearances to Sr. Faustina, Jesus described a picture of Himself He wished her to paint, and under it to put the words:  “I Trust in You.”  A copy hangs in my kitchen.
This book is titled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told” --- a bold claim.  But so it its claim that we can change the future of the world, even as a bullet was turned in its path to miss the heart of a pope.
You need to read this book, and pray on what it says.  And put the book on the shelf, to read again and not forget.  And like the disciple on the Road to Immaus, then say to Jesus:
Stay with us, because it is towards evening,
And the day is now far spent.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion,
Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Caregiving


Each evening I read and meditate on tomorrow’s Gospel.  Tonight, in error, I thought tomorrow was May 14, so I read the Gospel for the Feast Day of St. Matthias, apostle, which is John 15:9-17.  There were many great reflections in the book, The Better Part, I was reading.  And at the end I happened to glance at my bookmark there:
I had just read those words on the bookmark; I don’t believe in coincidences.
“As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” begins that Gospel of John.  It later emphasizes: “This is my commandment:  love one another as I have loved you.”
The meditation on the Gospel notes that “this is the last time they will be gathered in this way (at the Last Supper) until they meet again in eternity.”  The author notes that “everyone on their deathbed has their final words … to leave as their legacy.”  Jesus’ final words here were: “Love one another as I love you.” 
“Jesus, God Himself, teaches us the nature of love.  Love is self-giving; the greater the self-giving, the greater the love.  ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.’  When we put our lives at the service of others, when we live in order to give and not to take, when we are willing to suffer so that someone else can rejoice, then we may call ourselves His disciples.”
To me, those words describe caregiving.  I have known many saintly caregivers.  I admire each one.
My life changed when I began caring for my mom.  It began subtle, and then became very real.  My love for her, my actions for her, far superseded anything I wanted for myself.  My thoughts, my plans, my ego fell by the wayside.  In caring for my mother, God showed me what love really is, in a way I had never known.  It is the love He has for us, and He wanted to teach me how to: Love one another as I love you.”  It was a lesson learned late in my life.  The words of St. Augustine still haunt me: “Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.  Late have I loved Thee.”  If I had known such a love earlier in my life, what wonderful things I could have done, with all the blessings God gave me.
But, as I recently posted in a picture done by a friend for me, God is not “I was” nor “I will be”, He is I AM.  Regretting the past or worrying about the future are things WE do, but He is I AM, here right now.  So, whether we are in a caregiving role now and learning, or have learned from past caregiving, we too are learning to live in the now, in love.  And our life, and the world, will be better for it.
If you have ever been a caregiver, you have learned “to give and not to take, … to suffer so that someone else can rejoice.”
You have learned the lesson Jesus died to give us.