Monthly Archives: May 2013

Far to Go: Growing in My Faith as a Convert

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Dirt Road with Maple Trees in Winter Sunrise

“But GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

THE STARTING POINT FOR GROWING in the knowledge of our Lord is the understanding that we still have very far to go.

No matter how many times we attend Mass, how well we know the Bible, how many degrees we have obtained, how many “Hail Mary”s we recite, how holy we think have become…really? Spiritual growth is an ever-evolving process. Do we ever fully know Jesus?

As a new convert to Catholicism, it is easy to slip into self-judgment about how much I have to learn; feeling like I need to run to catch up with those who have been in Holy Mother Church all their lives.

It is at times like this that I feel God’s presence whispering that I am loved exactly where I am; and, despite my many faults, exactly as I am. And so I relax, opening my heart and mind to allow God’s grace to grow me, in His own time and in His own way. But each day it is my responsibility to set my eyes on our Lord who will make straight my path through the Holy Cross.

Heavenly Father, let me not become like the Pharisees, so smug and certain in their knowledge, that they did not recognize the Savior standing before them. Help me to begin each day in the understanding that I know nothing and that by myself I can do nothing.

The Mystery of God’s Plan

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This Mother’s Day I received a Mother’s Day greeting card in the mail.  A few words written in the card:  “You have countless children that all love you very  much.”

You see, I have had no children of my own.  My husband, Tom and I tried everything under the sun that is faithful to God’s law.  Yes, even adoption – five times and each time the door closed.  Oh yes, I can write pages of our experiences, the tests, the waiting, praying and hoping.  This November we will celebrate 35 years of marriage!  In the first few years of our marriage, so many asked “do you have any children?”  Or “how many children do you have?”  And when they learned that “we were trying to get pregnant”, many expressed their sympathy or wanted to pray over us, some wanted to give us remedies to try.  We understood their responses and were touched by their sincere concern. 

 One person had the perfect answer.  It came when I became a “spiritual mother” to a young woman whom we met through a social worker; she had been living with friends, abusing drugs and became pregnant by someone she couldn’t remember.  She decided to give her child for adoption.  I became her ‘labor-coach’ and was present during her long delivery.  I was the first to hold her newborn son in my arms.   That is when the “answer” came, it penetrated by heart.  I heard the Lord tell me in my heart – “You see, you have come a long way, as you hold this child in your arms, this is beautiful – but I have other plans for you.”  Immediately I sensed a deep peace while at the same time, I shed many tears.  They were tears of sadness, but there were also tears of relief because the Lord gave me the grace to let it all go. 

 Many pages can be written on the opportunities God has given us to nurture others.  We could not have done this without the grace of God. 

 There are many married couples unable to bear children of their own.  While it can be difficult, they can be consoled with the love for each another and for those around them.  God will lead the way and always provide opportunities for them to nurture others with love. 

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Next time you meet a couple trying to get pregnant – Tell them you’ll pray for their intention and then rejoice with them in their love for each other. 

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.”          2 Corinthians 1:304 

How I Met Your Mother

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Even though I returned with fervor to the Catholic faith following my “Mary Magdalene” conversion, I could not understand one of the Church’s pinnacle teachings – the importance of the Blessed Mother in our spiritual growth. I didn’t grasp why a devotion to the Blessed Mother was necessary to draw closer to our Jesus. He was the one that rescued me from the edge of despair and He was all I needed.

The women in my first group Catholic faith study made me question if I was missing something. As a wife and mother, I loved listening to how their faith helped them tackle the daily struggles of raising a family. It became apparent that the women who were most fulfilled and content spoke of their devotion to the Blessed Mother. Why?

I wanted to know so I asked her Son, “My Lord, if you want me to know your Mother, please introduce us.” Immediately Jesus made it very clear to me, He wanted me to meet her. It seemed that Mary, the ever virgin and Mother of God was the subject of every Catholic TV show, radio program and article I came across over the next few weeks. Following a program I watched that spoke of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter titled Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), I looked up the letter myself on the Internet.

In it I read in words what I witnessed in these women,

“In light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love, the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows, limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement.”

"Christ on the Cross with Two Marys and St. John" by El Greco (1588)

“Christ on the Cross with Two Marys and St. John” by El Greco (1588)

No wonder these women are so content, I thought. This letter speaks to the dignity in all the roles we women hold; and I can achieve that in light of Mary?!

The pope goes on to write how our Lord gave His Mother to us at His Passion:

…we perceive the real value of the words spoken by Jesus to his Mother at the hour of the Cross: “Woman behold your son” and to the disciple: “Behold your mother” (Jn. 19:26-27). They are words which determine Mary’s place in the life of Christ’s disciples and they express the new motherhood of the Mother of the Redeemer: a spiritual motherhood, born from the heart of the Paschal Mystery of the Redeemer of the world.

This letter convinced me how important it is to Jesus that we know His Mother and that meant it became important to me. I went to the ‘go to’ way our Catholic faith teaches to meet and spend time with her: the daily rosary.

What I soon discovered is that walking with Mary in her ‘rosary garden’ is a twenty minute visit with the woman who best knows Jesus and who never tires of revealing her Son’s love for us. It is never about her; that’s not her style.

J.K. Huysmans writes, “She soothes us and places us in the hands of her Son; but her hands are so light, so delicate, so soft, that the soul touched by them feels nothing.”

During May, if you have yet to open this gift, then take advantage of this month of Mary and meet your Mother.

Authentic Christianity: What does it look like?

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Triptych by Duccio (1308)

Triptych by Duccio (1308)

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and Paul “…strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.'” They did not tell them that God would make things better for them in this life; the focus was on eternal life, the salvation of their souls. As we know, some disciples gave up everything to be in the company of the Apostles and follow the “New Way” of being in relationship with God. Many disciples were persecuted and some were martyred.

This message from Peter and Paul was not only for the Christians of the early Church, it is also for us today. It is expected that our faith will influence all the important decisions we make and sometimes those decisions will be difficult. Are we willing to make sacrifices and put other people’s needs before our own desires? Jesus himself tells us we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. We cannot allow our appetites and desires to dominate our life. If we live only for our self, we close our self off to the graces God wishes to give us and are destined for unhappiness. If our lives are not ordered to God, they are disordered.

What are some of the hardships you have endured? What is your most difficult trial? These come to all of us naturally; we don’t have to look for them. No matter how bad we had it on our worst day, there will always be others who will have had it much worse. Some will allow their trials to overwhelm them. They continue to look at their problems and in their imagination they become bigger than reality and they become bitter and depressed. Others, instead of dwelling on their trials look at Christ on the cross and find the strength to persevere. Those who draw close to Christ can even experience joy in the face of adversity.

The challenge is to experience our hardships in the light of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. If we unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ it becomes redemptive for us, and others as well. Not only that, Christ also lessens the weight of our burdens just as he promises. Hardships are necessary because they help us to become dependent upon Jesus Christ, to discover “his strength in our weakness.” There are some people who would never have turned to Christ except for their hardships.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” When Jesus tells us we must love one another he makes it a new commandment because he says we must love one another as he has loved us. In other words, we must love with a supernatural, sacrificial love. It is only possible to love in a supernatural way if we love God first above everything else, because He is the source of all love and everything that is good. If God is our first love, it will be possible for us to reach our potential in loving ourselves and others.

We can only love as Christ has loved us if that is the desire of our heart. If that is our desire, we ask for the grace to be faithful to what has been revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We make a commitment to pray every day, to live the sacramental life and to continue to be formed in the Faith.

God has great plans for all of us that require us to surrender our will to His will. In His will, we experience unconditional love and mercy which lead to happiness now and forever. If our will is in opposition to His will, we are destined for unhappiness.

Lord, give us the grace to put our total trust in you so that you may be our hope in adversity and victorious in our struggles.