Category Archives: Prayer

Entries dealing with prayer.

In my life, how do I ‘see the fruits’ as Jesus says?

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In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), together let’s reflect on today’s Gospel reading. Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep´s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Today, we reflect:

What do grapes, thorns, figs, and thistles have to teach us about the kingdom of God? The imagery used by Jesus would have been very familiar to his audience. A certain thornbush had berries which resembled grapes. And a certain thistle had a flower, which at least from a distance, resembled the fig. Isn’t it the same today? What we “hear” might have a resemblance of the truth, but, in fact, when you inspect it closely, it’s actually false. False prophets or teachers abound today as much as they did in biblical times.

What’s the test of a true or false teacher? Jesus connects soundness with good fruit. Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living – living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20). The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin.

How do we avoid falsehood in our personal lives? By being true – true to God, his word, and his grace. And that takes character! Those who are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in God who supplies what we need. The fruit of a disciple is marked by faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance. Do you seek to cultivate good fruit in your life and reject whatever produces bad fruit?

May this be our prayer: “Lord Jesus, may I bear good fruit for your sake and reject whatever will produce evil fruit. Help me grow in faith, hope, love, sound judgment, justice, courage, and self control.”

Want to beat boredom? Become a Catholic.

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When Jesus called me back to the Catholic Church over a decade ago, I came back with my pre-conversion prejudices intact. Were they true? If so, why would Jesus want me there? I had to find out for myself everything the Catholic Church proclaimed.

"Jim and the Treasure" by N.C. Wyeth, from Robert Luis Stevenson's Treasure Island (Scribner's Sons, 1911)

“Jim and the Treasure” by N.C. Wyeth, from Robert Luis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (Scribner’s Sons, 1911)

Looking back, I realize how laughable that last statement is. There is no way in this life we can learn everything the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims even if we devoted 24/7 to the effort.

The Catholic faith reminds me of that scene in the movie National Treasure when the group of explorers finally discover the secret treasure room. They step into the dark cavernous room and see several priceless artifacts and jewels. Each picks up a different one and is mesmerized by its value and its history. One Catholic priceless jewel would be reading the teaching of a saint. You can spend hours, for example, fascinated by the teachings of St. Catherine of Siena.

But what happens next in the movie is what reminds me most of how the Catholic faith piques our interest the more we are enlightened in the Truth. The Nicolas Cage character puts his lighted torch to an oil-filled bowl and the fire zooms through canals, revealing that the room is much more massive than it at first appeared — every inch of it is filled with treasure.

That’s the Catholic Church.

Each teaching will lead you to a discovery which will lead you to a revelation which will lead you to another teaching and on and on and on. For instance, the teachings of St. Catherine of Siena reveal the beauty of Carmelite Spirituality. The beauty of Carmelite Spirituality can lead you to the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and then on to St. Therese of Lisieux and her ‘Little Way.’ Each jewel presents — in a different way — the love of God; fascinating in and of itself but revealing there is yet even more to delight, to inspire and to transform — and never ever to bore.

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.

How I learned the Good News – and then some Better News.

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Have you ever heard this one?

The Good News is: There’s a Messiah!
The Even Better News is: It’s not you.

frustratedI think I need to write this joke on my mirror, because I often feel like everything’s up to me: I’ve gotta write that email! I’ve gotta be involved in that meeting! I can’t get sick or rest, because if I do, everything’s gonna fall apart!!!

Wrong.

Recently, we’ve all gained a hero in this regard. By his abdicating what’s arguably one of the most powerful seats in the world, the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made everyone stop and think, ‘Hold on…did he really just do that?’ And yes, he did. Taking all the consequences into consideration, he decided to step down from being THE POPE. The leader of over 1 billion people. The Vicar of Christ on earth. Yes, he did it.

That decision took an almost-unbelievable amount of humility, a virtue quite rare in our modern world. Today, people give up their privacy, safety, and health for just minutes of fame on TV. In politics, business, and even schools and churches, we accept cherished leadership positions for which we’re not prepared, qualified, or to which we cannot dedicate our time. Social media, while giving voices to once-voiceless minorities, have also contributed to a culture of vanity, egoism and pride.

Where did we go wrong?

jesus-and-the-disciples-going-to-emmausUndoubtedly, you and I have responsibilities; we’ve each been entrusted with a mission from God that no other person can accomplish. He ‘calls us by name’ and sends us forth to accomplish this mission (cf. Isaiah 43:1). However, Jesus teaches us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are stewards. We have a mission, but God provides the mission and the means to accomplish that mission. To make this point, he asks his disciples, “‘When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?’ ‘No, nothing,’ they replied.” (Luke 22:35)

When we begin congratulating ourselves for what God has helped us accomplish, we start nudging God out of the picture. Certainly, we should have joy and ‘take pride’ in skills, talents and abilities that we’ve refined with hard work. But we cannot lose sight of the Source of every good thing in our lives: Our Heavenly Father.

God has taught me this lesson by allowing me to suffer greatly over the past several years, in my body, my mind, and my spirit. The pain often led me to immense frustration with God. Over time and with prayer, however, my pain helped me realize how little, weak, fragile and frail I am. I realized that I couldn’t accomplish anything without God’s help. God had given me my body, my soul, my spirit. He filled me with talents. He provided me with wonderful opportunities, a family, and friends. With every sunrise, He’s brought me a new day of life.

We cannot live the Good News without remembering “the Better News,” as the joke calls it. God lives! And despite how everything may appear to you, He is taking care of everything. So, cultivate your sense of gratefulness. Start your own ‘ritual’ of daily offering; for me, that means getting on my knees every day and saying, “Lord, I love you. I thank you, and I give you everything that you have given me. Help me serve you well today.”

Let God be God. You, be you.

I always knew that the Lord is in the ship, that the ship of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.
– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during his final General Audience

Why We Can’t Stay on the Mountaintop – Following and Resting in Jesus

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Depiction of the Transfiguration, inside Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

Depiction of the Transfiguration, inside Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

“Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray.” In the Gospels there are several moments of significance when Jesus takes Peter, John and James to be alone with him. Here, on Mt. Tabor the three apostles will witness something that the other apostles did not. They will see Jesus glorified speaking with Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the prophets. All that God had revealed to His Chosen People could be summed up in the Law and the Prophets. Now, Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah and he is above them; he is the fullness of God’s revelation, being God and man.

Mt. Tabor is unlike most of the mountains or hills in the region which are usually connected or part of a chain. Mt. Tabor is a mountain all by itself in the middle of several valleys, only a few miles from Nazareth and Cana. As a matter-of-fact, you can see Nazareth from the top of Mt. Tabor, which you reach by way of a zigzagging road which is too narrow for a bus.

Nowadays, when you arrive at the top, you see a beautiful church with three domes; the one in the center is larger and taller because it is over the altar dedicated to Jesus Christ. The one on the left is dedicated to Moses and the one on the right is dedicated to Elijah. These three domes were inspired by the words of Peter, “…let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For the moment, Peter was caught up in the ecstasy of that mountaintop experience and wanted to remain on the mountain.

Church of the Transfiguration atop Mt. Tabor

Church of the Transfiguration atop Mt. Tabor

However, if they would have remained on the mountain, they would have neglected their mission. It is a temptation for all of us to hope we will find a place where everything will be okay and we won’t have to be concerned with trials and difficulties. However, that was not real life for the Apostles and it is not real life for us. The Lord will continue to take us to places where we must depend upon him so that we can become spiritually mature and be filled with hope, even in the most difficult circumstance.

By his transfiguration, Jesus is preparing Peter, James and John for the scandal they will witness when he enters into his Passion. As they follow Jesus, there will be many things they will see and hear that will challenge their faith, so Jesus has given these three this glimpse of his glory to strengthen them.

We are beginning the second week of Lent. The purpose of this liturgical season of Lent is to renew the mission of Christ in our lives so that by cooperating with his grace, we will be reconciled to God and one another. It doesn’t happen automatically. We must make concrete choices. That is why we once again look at prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a means of surrendering our hearts to the Lord. If we do not take time to pray, if we are not generous with what we have, and if we allow our appetites to dominate us, we are far from the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ is not just a God of miracles that we look to in our time of need, hoping he will fix everything for us. Sometimes he does that, but most of all he wants a personal relationship with us that draws us into intimate and fervent prayer, that leads us to trust him completely with every aspect of our lives. This trusting relationship will free us from anxious dependency on our own resources so that we will be generous with what we have, knowing that God cannot be outdone in generosity.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves and the people we love is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus by being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. He is the one who brings peace and happiness into our lives, but on his terms because he knows what is best for us. If we do not look to God for direction as we make our plans, we are destined for unhappiness.

St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless O’ Lord until they rest in you.” Lord, you have created us to be in relationship with you. There is no other way we can reach our potential for happiness. Give us the grace Lord to love you above everything else and our neighbor as our self so that we may be happy now and for all eternity. Let our prayer be, Lord I desire that my heart should rest in you.

The Gift of Silence Can be Sweet: Lent + Valentine’s Day

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This year, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall side by side; Valentine’s Day is the day after Lent. They are dissimilar – Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and reminds us of penance, fasting and almsgiving; Valentine’s Day reminds us of lovers, sweets, flowers and feasting. The Lenten period of 40 days begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday, in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Valentine’s Day is well – one day.

Forty days is very symbolic in the Bible; here are a few references, although there are many others:

  • It rained 40 days and 40 nights during the Flood (Genesis 7: 4)
  • Noah waited 40 days after the waters receded and the Ark settled on Mount Ararat before he sent out the raven (Genesis 8: 3-8)
  • The Israelites spent 40 years “wandering” in the desert (Numbers 14: 33; Deuteronomy 29: 4)
  • Elijah fasted 40 days in the wilderness (1 Kings 19: 8)
  • Purification of Mary is 40 days after birth of Jesus (Luke 2: 22-4)
  • Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert after His baptism (Matthew 4: 1-2)

desertMy husband, Tom and I, had the opportunity to lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during Lent. Pilgrimages are journeys of faith, a time to think about God and experience the land He sanctified with His very life. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert after His baptism in the desert near the River Jordan, a 10 minute bus ride to the vast Judean Desert. Our pilgrimage includes spending 40 minutes in this desert! Our bus driver leads us off the main highway into a gravel pathway leading to an area where he parks the bus, turns off the motor…and immediately one experiences the silence of the desert. As pilgrims get off the bus and walk up the hill, their breath it taken by the view of the vastness of the desert, and most especially the silence! They are asked to take this symbolic 40 minutes (remembering Jesus’ 40 days) and experience a time of prayer and total silence. For Tom and I, this time passes too quickly! The view of the desert, realizing Jesus was in that area and spending time just embracing the silence is an unforgettable moment! Numerous pilgrims have told us how much they appreciated this experience. One man in his 40’s said, “I have never experienced a silence like this, never!” Others have commented on how this experience of silence gave them a desire to include silence in their daily lives upon their return home.

How can we choose silence in today’s world filled with noise from television, radio, traffic, music, conversations? It’s possible – it’s a choice! Consider a time in your daily schedule when there is less noise. (Early morning? Late evening? Lunch period? When children are sleeping?) What do we benefit from silence? Personally I become more aware of God’s presence and I experience a peace.

Mother TeresaBlessed Mother Teresa explains it well in a way that is called the Simple Path:
The fruit of silence is PRAYER.
The fruit of prayer is FAITH.
The fruit of faith is LOVE.
The fruit of Love is SERVICE.
The fruit of service is PEACE.

What does silence have to do with Valentine’s Day? Spending time in silence with someone we love is a gift, perhaps greater than the best chocolates or beautiful flowers. A time when one appreciates the other and experiences the ‘inner beauty and sweetness’ of that person. My husband and I enjoy sitting in swinging bench in the yard and just enjoying being with each other without conversation or outside noise to distract our moment of silence with one another.

Consider giving the gift of silence to someone you love this Valentine’s Day. Begin the Lenten Season by planning time for silence.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Soul Searching at Mardi Gras

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My family loves Mardi Gras parades. My husband, two sons and I return often to our hometown New Orleans so we can join this annual party. If you’ve never experienced a Mardi Gras parade, let me tell you it’s quite an interactive event. As floats roll through the streets, throngs of people line the route yelling, jumping and waving their hands in the hope of getting the “throws” that are tossed or more often hurled at the crowd by the masked riders. These “throws” are traditionally plastic bead necklaces, plastic cups, stuffed animals, plastic swords, and wooden spears; in other words, pretty worthless junk. I am not a fan of crowds so I prefer to stand back while most, including my family, push their way up screaming, “Throw me something, Mister!” It’s very entertaining to watch all the ways people try to get the attention of the riders and what lengths they will go to get this junk.

"Miss Louisiana" by thepipe26

“Miss Louisiana” by thepipe26

One year, an interesting revelation came to me when I noticed what often happens after the victor gains his treasure. Without even a backwards glance, the throw is tossed in a pile and forgotten. I realize that it’s not the throws but getting them that is the fun. The whole value of a throw then is the few brief seconds from when it is spotted in the rider’s hands until it makes into the victor’s grasp. After that, it reverts to junk and will soon be stuffed into a box and stowed in the attic or garage until an industrious spring cleaning day relegates it to the curb.

…which is just how Satan views our souls.

Satan will try any antic to get our attention and like a Mardi Gras throw, once he wins our souls we are tossed away never to be thought of again; left to the boxed confines of our sins. Because you see, the devil has no desire to spend eternity with us; he only wants to get us so he can make sure God does not. He hates God; we are simply a means to an end.

The good news is that the devil is not the only searcher of souls. Our Lord is there as He always is, waiting for us. But unlike that pile of beads that ends up in the trash bin, garages or storage sheds in New Orleans, He has wonderful plans for you and me. . .

I know well the plans I have in mind for you; plans for your welfare and not for woe. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Why then, if our Lord desires such great plans for us, do we more often feel as worthless as those discarded pair of plastic Mardi Gras beads?

"Christ Embracing St. Bernard" by Francisco Ribalta (16th-17th century)

“Christ Embracing St. Bernard” by Francisco Ribalta (16th-17th century)

I received the answer to that question over ten years ago when my choices had brought me to my knees lost, alone and weary from battling the grasps of darkness. My Lord came to me, picked me up, put His arms around me and loved me out of my debilitating depression. He promised I would never feel alone again as He gently led me back to His Church and my Catholic faith.

In my return to the faith of my youth that I so ignorantly dismissed as archaic and unnecessary for my happiness, I discovered that God does not want to get us, but rather He wants to be with us now and forever in the complete and continuous exercise of our free will. We cannot be passive and expect to find the joy we so desire. God wants us to want to be with Him and joins us in discovering our happiness through Church teachings, His word in Scripture, through the Sacraments and most significantly by joining our suffering with His in the Eucharistic Celebration of Mass.

God does not view our souls like cheap plastic beads to be tossed at the mercy of the rider, but rather active participants in His wonderful plans for our happiness. We have a choice in whose hands we land.

The devil could not care less whether we cooperate with him or not. Since the beginning he has lied and tricked to get his way like when he told Eve, “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil,” (Genesis 3:4-5) but failing to mention that along with the knowledge of evil will also be the desire for evil and the consequences to pay. He flat out lied when he told her you will not die. He will make any effort to grasp our souls and keep them away from God and His wonderful plans for us.

My Catholic faith has taught me that I am not to find happiness on my own and there are two good reasons why. Firstly, no matter how intelligent, educated, willing or brave any of us may be, we are no match for the cunning and sinister ways of the devil.

Secondly and so very wonderfully, that is not God’s plan for us. We need our God with us just as He has wonderfully planned, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

I look toward the floats and imagine the people clamoring for God rather than throws. I see our Lord reach down and pull people up into His arms calling each by name. He searches the crowd and when our eyes meet, He holds out His arms for me.

I run to join the party.