Thursday, September 25, 2014

giving Him our time and relinquishing control

I have written about my conversion to Catholicism before. I am very aware of my perspective as a convert, and sometimes I feel the need to share some thoughts on being that ex-prot/non-denom/evangelical. Now is one of those times.

I may have mentioned that just being raised non-Catholic, I was taught either directly or indirectly, negative things about Catholics. Whether it was my mother, who went to Catholic school ( I don't really know if she also was baptized or raised Catholic) talked about having to switch her writing hand from left to right, or make remarks about the Catholic families on our street; or if it was other things said by bitter lapsed Catholics I have known, I managed to unconsciously collect some misinformation along the way. All the usuals; statues being false gods, "working their way into heaven", the "worship"of Mary. and of course, the old, "they are followers of man made rules instead of followers of Jesus" thing. I did notice that most who would say that last one had found themselves on the wrong side of one of those rules and were unwilling to consider the Church's remedy. But anyways.
 The few Church rules or teachings I have been thinking about recently are, the Sunday Mass obligation and the Rosary.

Sunday Mass.

 Some have wondered why this is required and is a mortal sin if missed  *unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. " (~from the Catechism)

 What makes sense to me about this, is that God knows our human weakness and tendency to be lazy. He knows how important it is for us to be in His presence, how much we need to be taught His Word and fed by His body and blood. How much grace we receive for our daily lives just by being at Holy Mass at least once a week.

It has been purposely made easy for us. There are multiple masses at any Catholic church in the world, offered beginning on Saturday evening going until Sunday evening. Most will only spend less than an hour at church. We have enjoyed, while traveling, masses in different places. It always amazes me, the true universality of the mass, and the brotherhood of Catholics.

So, the Church requires that we give God at least this small sacrifice of our time. That we prioritize and set aside some time for Him each week. He loves us, died for us, redeemed us, and we owe Him this act of love and respect in return. In short, He asks for some of our TIME. Time spent on on Him now that deposits His grace to live in a way that we might spend all time and eternity in heaven.

As much sense as this makes to me, I also realize that the gift of faith plays a part. the gift of gaining a perspective other than my own. Or at least be willing to do so. To not have to have all things be my way or bend to my own will. To be obedient, humble, docile to the Lord. Or at least, be willing to be made so.

The Rosary.

It is not required that we pray the Rosary. It is an optional practice.

 I have heard it compared to the "meaningless repetition" referenced in Matthew 6:7. Critics often state that it is not heartfelt nor original to the individual, therefore, less authentic.

My criticism of the criticism is this:

1. The words of the rosary are taken from the Gospels. Unless you are ready to put the words of the Gospels in the "meaningless"category, I suggest further consideration.

2. Repetition. Yes, we do repeat the prayers. While doing so, we meditate on the Mysteries, which are all about the life of Jesus. By doing this we are doing two things, spending some TIME in prayer, and going beyond our own thoughts. Gaining a perspective that is not our own. Generally, five decades of the Rosary takes about 15 minutes. So, I give to God this fifteen minutes talking to His Mother, asking for her intercession.
 If left to myself,  a few minutes in prayer and I would be distracted, my focus on Jesus difficult to maintain. The wisdom of the Church in offering a fifteen minute prayer, gives a us a framework to spend this time with God. Jesus, on His part, longs for us and we have this beautiful opportunity to give Him fifteen minutes in which He has our focus. Again, TIME.

 I once heard someone say that praying the Rosary daily changed his life. I took that as a challenge. Now, I can't tell you how many times I have arrived at the end of a Rosary with some clear thought or direction, or some peace about a problem. I have not achieved perfection in the daily praying, but I never stop working towards it.

3. Being original is not all it's cracked up to be, and almost 100% of the time, what we think is original to us, is not. Check in with Ecclesiastes sometime.
I once wrote about this idea here. Just so I am consistent! (tongue is in cheek).

4. As far as being heartfelt, that is something that can wax and wane. Some days, a person can approach prayer with true passion and emotion, and others, not so much. The beauty of praying the Rosary, indeed, taking the TIME to do so, is that we offer ourselves in prayer whether or not we feel like it. If we allowed our feelings to dictate when and how we prayed, I fear prayer would become nothing more than a vent session with God.

5. Vent sessions with God are also fine. And needed. And if I can speak for God, welcome. Spontaneous prayer, ie;, just talking to God all throughout the day is a wonderful thing. Precious. Indispensable. I know this because God is a father, and as a parent, I know that we want to hear the heartfelt thoughts of our children. Their fears, hopes, requests. everything.

But, I submit to you, that praying the Rosary, and any of the prayers offered by the Church, (such as the Divine Mercy Chaplet), help to put us in a better frame of mind, to gain that heavenly perspective outside ourselves, with which to approach Him all the rest of the day.

So, I challenge you. Pray the Rosary and see your life change.

Also, consider giving Him some of your time. Make Mass a priority, Know that it will involve sacrifice, however small. See what comes of it. Trust God, and trust the wisdom of the Church.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

the seasons of life

Being a woman of a certain age, and also a lover of the fall season, I was pondering the correlation between the two.

However you may break them up in your own mind, our lives do go through the same seasons as the earth. Beginning with Spring, our earliest growing and blooming; Summer, when we enjoy warmth and vigor, but don't give much thought to the future seasons. Fall, when colors blaze, temperatures cool and we can't deny the onset of Winter any longer;  and then Winter, with its bareness and cold, but also its singular beauty. Not surprising that it bears the title Old Man Winter.

I feel that I am very autumnal in my age and also my perspective. I haven't quite lost my color yet, but the signs are there. Some days, I am refreshed and energetic, and in some, I feel the oncoming aging. But mostly, I see the beauty that is everywhere. I feel comfortable with myself, as the cooling temperatures also are comfortable. Things I might have missed in the hurtling around of earlier times. The slowing that I must succumb to allows more time for reflection. I can see better the benefit and blessings of the trials and tribulations, and conversely, the  comparative emptiness of many of my youthful pursuits. I notice the slowing of my inner motor that pushes me to strive at things instead of accepting and appreciating where God has me today.

And yet, I still feel quite young in my heart, and I look forward to the days to come. I can just glimpse the oncoming horizon, and I am thankful I can prepare myself and still have time, God willing, to adjust to the idea that my Winter will arrive. I pray that I can live every day, whether with physical vigor or not, to the full, and accept the place where God has me. I hope to continue growing until the last, and to experience His grace always.

Everything is grace

~ St. Theresa of Lisieux

Thursday, September 18, 2014

7 quick takes to demonstrate that I am still breathing

Yes I am still breathing air.

1. The update:

 It has been a challenging couple months. Many things are happening in and around our family. My Mother-in-Law has been bouncing back and forth between the hospital and nursing home since July 4. Currently, she is in a stabilizing trend and has been able to stay at the nursing home for several weeks. Your prayers for her would be appreciated!
 We are hosting a Chinese girl who is attending a Catholic high school in Northeast Philadelphia. Unfortunately. she will be moving to a new host home this weekend, because her school is out of range for bus transportation. So, every day, we have been crossing the city with all its regular rush hour traffic, not to mention the ongoing construction on 95. It's my new hangout. Can one have an address that's also a major interstate? (And here I thought the local Acme was my home away from home. Now that it carries beer, it is at least still a good friend).

Anyway. we are supposed to get another girl in January that will go to the same school as my daughter. Until that actually occurs, I am going back to my old job at Women of Hope, as a mental health worker. (Which ultimately will mean my own mental heath may take a hit).
My own physical and emotional health actually already have been kind of rough. I have this lovely recurring virus-depression /anxiety loop that, when it flares up, is hard to break out of. I _think_ I am on the upswing, but it's been a tough couple months. I think my stubborn refusal to become its long term victim has been one of my more effective tools.
 And as families will do, my own is providing me with some large challenges. I just have to keep reminding myself that God is on His throne and He is not overwhelmed. And sometimes reminding Him that I am. Overwhelmed, that is. I don't even have a throne.

2.  The Revelation:

Well, it's only a Revelation with a capital R if you care. But anyways.
I have been attending a Nar Anon group for about a year now. I just got my first coin. What took me there and what is keeping me there are different things. Well, they overlap. I first went because of concern for someone I love who may have a substance addiction. My concern is still there, but the principles of the group have become almost universally applicable to my entire life. If you are familiar at all with the 12 steps, those are what I am referring to. Yes, all of it -- the slogans, the Serenity Prayer, the Hi, I'm Kelly..."hi, Kelly!"...
I find I am most comfortable with the program because it reinforces my faith in God and gives a platform for listening and talking with others who struggle in similar ways. It humbles, challenges, comforts, exhorts and reassures. I have met some truly heroic people.
I hope to share more of my thoughts on this in future posts.

3. The Observation:

However obvious.

The anticipation of a thing dreaded is so many times, so far off from the actual thing. Every time this happens, I say to myself, "now see? you could have saved all that worry and anxiety energy and done something else with it! Like paint the house or lift a car! you dummy! don't do that again!" and I answer myself, " okay. good idea!" Then a different thing looms that I either know or think I won't handle well, or even one of the same things, annnnd. Back to the coda.

Here is a partial list of things that cause me to experience heart palpitations:

driving on a busy highway that has no shoulder
driving on a busy highway that has no shoulder and concrete cattle chutes
driving on a busy highway that has no shoulder, concrete cattle chutes and aggressive truck drivers blowing by or hemming me in
(I sense a theme)
doing any of the above in the rain

please note -- I just spent many week of the summer driving hundreds of miles through all kinds of places *without trouble. I get home in late July and BAM. I am now trembling my way up and down 95. so. no sense.
*  "without trouble" does not include the incredibly steep, unpaved drive at the top of my brother's mountain home in the Appalachians. I mean. c'mon.

the dentist
the dentist when I am having any problem
having to get a root canal, which I have never had, but think it will happen every time I have any pain in my teeth.


*I just started back at my old job where to avoid confrontation is a good thing with the residents, but rears its head nevertheless

Speaking the Truth in Love, which is the Christian version of Confrontation. 

anything I hear on the news

So, yeah, a little window into my mind, Scary, isn't it?

4, The dreaded  Insights about my own sins:

Ugh. Has to happen. Needs to happen. Not a pretty picture. 

Thanks be to God.

5. The other spiritual insight take:

Which is also completely mundane and unoriginal, but to me this one always seems like a fresh revelation straight from God:

Everything can be a prayer. Hanging out the laundry. Washing the kitchen floor.  Scooping the litter box. Enduring difficult people. Enduring myself. Eating peanut butter. 

It all can be offered to Our Lady for whatever she sees in the world as the most pressing need. Because she kind of has a better perspective up there on top of the world with her foot on the head of the serpent.

And, yes, I know, Opus Dei and Brother Lawrence and all.

6. Just one more small spiritual thing:

It goes with the latter part of number 5.

After I receive the Eucharist, I like to offer this snippet of a prayer taken from DeMontfort's Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary:

"Amen, to all that you are doing in heaven,
Amen to all you did while on earth, and
Amen to all that you are doing in my soul."

There is a much longer and very beautiful prayer around this, but this is a good summation and also short enough for me to memorize.

7. I must revive my old format of ending my blog posts with a funny story. I now have cats, so watch out, you who do not find cats funny.

 But today, I am going to end with a note of thankfulness. All the external circumstances, all my wounds, weaknesses and sins, all things are overcome by God.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I can't begin to express how thankful I am that I do not have to reinvent the wheel when I go to prayer, when I go to God. He has given me His Church, where there is a steady rhythm, constant as a heartbeat, where I can go and immerse myself. I do not have to think about what I should do next, I have been given the liturgy, the saints, confession, adoration, the Eucharist. How blessed we are, that God has provided this anchor for us to hold on to in rough seas.  A wise priest once said that in our worst times to "let the rite carry you." Just to hold your rosary when you are unable to pray. Go and sit before the Blessed Sacrament. These things are such a comfort and consolation when I sometimes don't know how to go on in any given situation.

I pray that you all come to know this Jesus, who  himself is love and peace.