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My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Trinity Sunday

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

“Go therefore..” are the words of the Gospel for today.  We are embraced by God, by the Holy Trinity,  and, therefore, we feel the need as a disciple to go out and tell the whole world “the good news.”

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

People usually perceive themselves to be in the world, calling out to God. But these two words, “go, therefore,” turn that perception around. It is as though the disciples are within the embrace of the Trinity and are being sent into the world.

For forty days following his resurrection, Jesus has moved in and out of the apostles’ lives. He has appeared to them unexpectedly, enjoyed breakfast with them on the beach, and breathed into them his Spirit, giving them the power to forgive sins. Gradually he has weaned them from his daily physical presence to a new relationship with him. They will no longer see him or speak with him as they had during those three blessed years before his crucifixion and death. Yet they knew he is with them still, though in a different way. He is with them, and they are with him. He is in them and they are in him. They are becoming one with he who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Through him they also share in a relationship with the Father. They would soon be filled and anointed with his Spirit. And Jesus now exhorts them to go into the world.

What difference would it make in your life if you remembered that you are at home in the Trinity’s embrace, looking out onto the world? How would this, for instance, change your family life? Would you feel less entangled or confined or overwhelmed by what happens within relationships in your family? Would you have more options? Would it be possible to consider acting differently? Loving differently? Thinking differently?

Would you pray differently if you knew you were already in the Trinity’s embrace? Know that you are already at home, and you are already loved. You have already been given everything you need. You are already held with compassion. The striving, the frustration, the methods of prayers would melt away if you knew deeply whose you are . . . already . . . now.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of Ordinary Time in:  Ordinary Grace Weeks 1-17.

Inspiration

Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of the Wounded

This year we celebrated a new feastday yesterday, the Monday after Pentecost: Mary, Mother of the Church. Pope Francis has added it to the liturgical calendar to bring out the connection between Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and how Mary is the mother of the Church and each one of us. Like a most tender mother, Mary helps each of us in our journey to Jesus. She is with us even in our personal wounds.

“Within your wounds hide me.” That line from the beautiful prayer Soul of Christ is very evocative, even haunting. It is addressed to Jesus, and while it can be said anytime, it is often prayed after receiving Holy Communion. What does it mean?

The Gospels tell us that after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples, his glorified body bore the wounds he had suffered in his Passion and death on the Cross. They didn’t go away, but they were changed—transformed from marks of pain and death into brilliant signs of life and victory over death and sin. Those wounds were healed—he was raised to life again—but the very wounds that had caused his death now shine in glory in heaven. They are eternal reminders of his love, his wounded love.

What about Mary? Did she have wounds too? Yes! But they were not physical wounds on her body, but the pains and wounds she suffered in her spirit as she accompanied Jesus on the Way of the Cross. And just like Jesus still bears the marks of his wounds on his body, in some mysterious way Mary still bears the marks of her spiritual wounds in her soul even in heaven. They don’t cause her suffering any more, but they are glorified.

This seems hard to understand—that Mary might have wounds in heaven, even glorified wounds—but it makes perfect sense. Catholic tradition has honored Mary under the title “Our Lady of Sorrows.” I had always thought of that as honoring something that Mary had suffered on earth but was now over. Yes, the painful experience is over, but the spiritual wounds still remain in her heart. That is why she is the merciful and compassionate Mother.

So what does this have to do with Mary as Mother of the Church? She is Mother of the Church because she is not only the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, but she is also the Mother of all the members of the Church—each one of us.

Each one of us bears wounds from the crosses and trials of life,
from the effects of the sins of others
and from our own sins.
And because Mary is a wounded Mother
—though one without any sin—
she understands.
She is compassionate. She is merciful.
She is the mother of the whole Church and of each one of us.

So we can go to her with our own wounds, and we can bring to her the people we meet and may minister to, with all their wounds. How many people have been wounded by the ills of our secular culture and society! Think of family wounds, addictions, sexual sins, abortion, violence, and the list goes on. Mary understands. Though she never sinned, that doesn’t make her separate from us. Sometimes people think that Mary was so holy and sinless that she can’t relate to us. But she can because she was wounded, though without sin. On this new feast day, let’s ask Mary to cover our wounds with the glorified wounds of her heart, to bring us healing and peace.

By Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP

My Sisters Gospel Reflection

Pentecost Sunday

Tomorrow our Holy Advocate, the Holy Spirit comes to fill us with grace and blessings beyond all telling! It is the great feast of Pentecost!  The Church asks us this great question: Is your heart open to the Holy Spirit? He has been sent to us through the door of salvation opened by the death and resurrection of Christ. Yet, like the apostles and disciples who had witnessed the marvels of the life, teaching, suffering, and death of the Lord, and then the glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, we may have closed and locked our door. Why?

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

It isn’t that we don’t believe all that Christ taught, or what we have experienced of the power of his grace in the sacraments and in our daily lives. It is perhaps that our faith has been awed by the realization of what has taken place. Salvation is more than we hoped for, we who live our days in this world.

We often plod along from day to day hoping for the best. We may only have a vague idea of what that best might be. Our daily concerns and cares may cloud our vision of faith. And so, we may be hiding in fear of the stunning act of love we have just lived in the Lenten and Easter seasons. Fear is a natural reaction. We fear our very fearfulness.

Today we open the doors of our hearts and let in hope and healing, like the sun’s rays coming through the clouds. It is now that the Holy Advocate comes to fill us with wisdom, fortitude, and zeal. The Spirit will bring all these things to our minds. He will strengthen our resolve to live as true followers of Christ, and fill our heart with fire.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of the Easter season in Easter Grace.

 

 

My Sisters Gospel Reflection

Seventh Sunday of Easter – The Ascension

Tomorrow we celebrate the seventh Sunday of Easter and the feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. At Christmas we celebrate God-with-us. On Good Friday we mourn our sin, because of which we were purchased at the price of Jesus’ death. On Easter we sing “Alleluia!” and rejoice at Jesus risen from the tomb. But on the Ascension we marvel that in Christ we are already seated at the right hand of God.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

Lent looms large in a Catholic’s spiritual terrain, with its various penances and prayers, culminating in the drama of Holy Week and the jubilant alleluias of Easter. For me, however, all of this is only a prelude to the feast of the Ascension. I wait for this day expectantly every year.

We contemplate the designs of the Father’s love who wanted us to be part of the Trinity’s life and love forever. In Christ—God and man—we are inserted into the communion of the Trinity, we who are but dust and ashes. It would be like Bill Gates giving his entire fortune to a homeless person, inviting him into his family as his heir and dearest son. We are that homeless person who has been given the divine inheritance full and entire, as a gift, obtained through the obedience of Christ. We have been named the dearest, newest member of the family.

The reading from Mark helps us realize the larger picture in which we live out our lives as Catholics. We cannot take up the divine inheritance won for us and then live for ourselves. Jesus says: go out, preach the Gospel, baptize. We are commissioned to make this family of God grow. It’s not ultimately about me, but about the delirious joy of making it possible for as many others as possible to receive what we have been given. The Lord works with us as we proclaim this outlandish love of God to others. Ultimately, this is the greatest thing we can do with our lives.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of the Easter season in Easter Grace.

My Sisters Gospel Reflection

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Tomorrow we celebrate the sixth Sunday of Easter. “Remain in my love.” Jesus is in the upper room with his apostles. In a little while he will lay down his life for them, but they don’t understand. Jesus doesn’t talk too much about what is going to happen to him. Rather, he is concerned about how his disciples will cope with his death.

So what does Jesus do? He invites them to remain in his love—to make his love their permanent dwelling place. The love of the Father is his permanent dwelling place. Nothing and no one can change that—not even his impending death. But his disciples must know that the Father’s love is meant to be their permanent dwelling place too.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

Imagine! Jesus invites us to “hang out” in his love. Have you ever thought about where you regularly hang out interiorly? We actually might have several interior hangouts. Perhaps we dwell in guilt, anxiety, fear, resentment, self-preoccupation, or concern about what others think of us. In those places, our mind feeds on negative thoughts and our hearts are held captive to emotions that keep us closed in on self and unaware of God and those around us.

Jesus offers us another hangout, a place of real security no matter what the situation is around us. That place is in the Father’s love. What would my day look like if I really remained in the Father’s love? Might I be on the lookout for all the creative ways he was using to show me his love: the sunrise, the hot cup of coffee in the morning, the reassuring word of a friend, the difficult task I was able to finish, the coworker who apologized to me for a misunderstanding that happened days ago? Might I “run into his love” when I felt hurt, rejected, like a failure, misunderstood? Might I think of him more often during the day and try to find ways to let that love flow through me to others? Hanging out in the Father’s love could totally change my life!

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of the Easter season in Easter Grace.

Inspiration

The Drone Pilot’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration

So you’ve finally committed to a regular Hour of Adoration at your parish or area Perpetual Adoration chapel! Thanks for keeping Our Lord company, and for making your own heart available to him in a new way, even if you feel a bit intimidated about the prospect of spending an extended period of time in silent prayer. The fact is, if you can fly a drone, you already have a basic outline for a fruitful period of adoration.

Not all aspects of drone piloting lend themselves to the life of prayer, of course. (For example, we kid ourselves if we think we are the pilot when it comes to prayer.) But there a few of the key elements to flying that really can offer some guidance when it comes to how we might approach Eucharistic adoration (or other regular practices of prayer).

  1. Establish a home point.

This part is automatic for the convent drone. The tablet or phone is GPS-enabled and so calculates just where the craft is positioned before take-off. It even announces it: “Home point established.” After take-off, no matter how convoluted the journey, the drone can always return to home point and land there, even if I’ve completely lost it from view (been known to happen).

In prayer, I have found that having a personal “pattern” or rhythm establishes a home point for my heart. Nothing elaborate: just one or two set prayers or psalms that set the stage for all that will follow.  Just as the drone doesn’t take off from the same home point every single time, my first formal prayers of the Hour of Adoration aren’t absolutely invariable. I might use the same set of prayers for several months or in alternation with another set. But I don’t come up with something new every morning. I have a home point.

This is what the Church does, too, in the Liturgy of the Hours: the “Invitatory Psalm,” the first psalm of the day, is almost always Psalm 95, although Psalms 100, 67, and 24 may also be used. If in the course of your Holy Hour you find yourself mightily distracted, you can “return to home point” to renew your recollection and focus. Good news: a meaningful song or image can be a great “home point” for your prayer, too!

  1. Calibrate the compass.

The importance of calibrating the drone’s compass (and anything else that can be calibrated) was made clear to me when I was trying to steer the Phantom between a building and a tree. While I was definitely pushing the joystick forward, the craft was determinedly moving about 40° backward. No matter what I did, the UAV responded in an unpredictable manner. (Since I am by no means an experienced navigator in the first place, this was a serious problem!)

Both the craft and the remote controller need calibration—but the craft’s compass needs to be aligned with true north before almost every flight. This makes that calibration a good image for the daily examen recommended by so many saints (most famously, Ignatius of Loyola, one of my personal favorites). You can find online many explanations and helps for making the examen; here is one example: http://www.pauline.org/Pauline-Books-Media-Blog/ArticleID/3316/How-Does-the-Examen-Work

  1. Keep your batteries charged.

Simpler craft only have an onboard battery and the remote controller battery. Higher-end UAVs (like the convent’s Phantom) make use of additional features on a tablet or phone connected to the remote controller. Hint: you don’t want any one of those batteries to die mid-flight.

It’s too easy to say that prayer keeps our spiritual batteries charged. Fact is, sometimes it can feel as though sometimes prayer uses the interior energy you expect it to provide! (Prayer can be work.) But there is a kind of prayer that I think does work almost like a portable charger: the prayer of thanksgiving. The canticle in Daniel 3 is a great litany, inviting all of creation—starting with the sun, moon and stars—to praise God. A lovely way to charge your batteries.

“God has so arranged things that his intelligent creatures find all their joy in praising him.”
—Ven. Francesco Chiesa

Adoration gives us a chance to thank God ahead of time for the blessings we will only recognize fully in the light of Heaven. Only in eternity will I see all the grace God is showering on me right now, and I will be so overwhelmed with amazement and love that if there can be regret in Heaven it will be that we did not give God unending love and praise from earth. So let us start now!

You are all good: I praise You for Your glory.
You are worthy of all love: let Your every creature praise You.
The Almighty has done great things for me! The Almighty himself! For me!

“Give him all the praise you know; he is more than you bestow; never can you match his due!” (English translation of Thomas Aquinas’ Sequence for Corpus Christi).

  1. Be aware of other flyers.

It is a drone operator’s responsibility to avoid not only any people (or animals or property) on the ground, but above all any actual airplanes in the area. This is a serious legal (and moral) requirement for operating a UAV. You have to be aware not just of where your craft is, but of anyone else who may be nearby.

And so it is, of course, in prayer. Adoration is not a solo flight, even in those early hours of solitary vigil with the Lord. Just as we never really pray the Lord’s prayer for our own private, individual needs (Jesus took care of that when he told us to start by saying, “Our” Father), our time of adoration belongs to the whole Church. It is an extension of the Mass, the worship offered by the “whole Christ” (as St Augustine said), and the intentions of the Mass continue in our prayer of adoration even if we do not renew those intentions explicitly.

“One million, two million, ten million souls weigh upon us,” Blessed James Alberione told his earliest followers. They are relying on us to stand in their place before the Lord of the Universe. We are there for all those in our family, our circle of friends; our work and our parish; our neighborhood and our city; the people whose lives intersect ours everyday and whose daily experience may be very different from ours. We are there like the friends who not only carried the paralyzed man to Jesus but broke through every obstacle to bring that needy person face to face with the Lord. We bring before Jesus people who have never heard his name—or who have only heard it as an expletive—and people who have heard of him as children but have turned away as if from a sweet fairy tale.

You are there for all of them. Carry them in your heart.

  1. It’s OK to ditch the flight plan sometimes.

I always consider it a successful flight if I have taken the craft up, flown it around a bit and then landed without a crash or getting entangled with a tree (both of which have, on occasion, been known to happen; I carry spare propellers for a reason). Usually when I take the drone out, though, I have a general idea of where I hope to go with it, what angles I hope to see from the camera’s eye, maybe even an idea of a flight path I can save for another day or time of year so as to see the same spot in Boston’s four glorious seasons. But sometimes I come across the unexpected. So I stay there.

In Eucharistic adoration, too, it is wise to have a “flight plan” that includes the “home point” prayers and a simple pattern or method that brings one’s whole self, mind, will, and heart to the whole Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Your flight plan may include a passage of the Gospels that you are reading through progressively; a time for journaling (“calibration”); the praying of the Rosary or Way of the Cross. But that’s only your flight plan. Jesus may have something else to show you, somewhere else to take you. He’s the real pilot.

So when a phrase of Scripture or a scene from the life of Jesus (say, a mystery of the Rosary) draws you in, stay there. Hover in place, even if that Rosary takes you forty minutes instead of the usual fifteen. Return to that place of grace or that Scripture passage in your next Hour of Adoration, too,  following the Spirit’s lead as long as you find light there.

There you have it. 5 simple tips to keep you coasting freely in the presence of the Lord like the pilot you are:

  1. Establish a home point.
  2. Calibrate the compass.
  3. Keep your batteries charged.
  4. Be aware of other flyers.
  5. It’s OK to ditch the flight plan sometimes. (But have a general flight plan.)

Sr. Anne Flanagan, FSP

My Sisters Gospel Reflection

Fifth Sunday of Easter

In this Gospel of the fifth Sunday of Easter we hear Jesus say, “Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” What a marvelous promise, especially coming from God! When friends ask us what they can do for us, we don’t dare request something beyond their capability to give. But this is God asking—and God can give us anything we ask. So why does it seem that our prayers are not always answered? Jesus gives us a clue when he talks about being the true vine in the vineyard of his Father, the Vinedresser.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

One year I was in Italy right before the grape harvest, when the vines bore ripe, full bunches of grapes. I bit into a grape, and cool sweet juice squirted into my mouth. I asked someone why this vine bore such big, sweet grapes. He explained how the vinedresser pruned the vine, binding drooping tendrils and trimming off branches to focus its growth. Contemplating the grapevine, I realized that “asking for what we will” presupposes trusting the Vinedresser. If I had been there when the vinedresser was chopping off branches and tying up tendrils, I may have disagreed with his method. Yet, obviously he knew how to bring an abundant harvest to that vineyard.

The word of God trims us so that we bear fruit. Our fruit grows through life in Christ. Attached to Christ, the true Vine, we feel the sap of Scripture and sacramental life flow toward fruits being formed in our lives. The Spirit of Christ flows through us and in us. Saint Paul writes that we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (see Romans 8:26). Jesus says that we glorify God when we bear much fruit. We bear fruit when we trust the Vinedresser and stay attached to Jesus, the true Vine—who is pruned and bears abundant fruit. Through baptism we are incorporated into the true Vine. All that we do is transformed into worship—with Jesus we become Eucharistic grapes squeezed into wine to share with a thirsty world.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of the Easter season in Easter Grace.

 

Inspiration, Uncategorized

Stop these three habits and you will find freedom of spirit

I spent this afternoon cleaning up my office. Again. If I just get rid of furniture and books and papers I don’t need, I’ll feel better. The room will be clean and neat and open…. Perhaps I’ll add some plants. And yet as much as I love the clean atmosphere, it never seems to give me the inner freedom of spirit I need to carry out my online ministry with the artistic and spiritual creativity I so long for.

Something more is needed in the mix.

  • What do you try to rearrange in your own life and schedule and ambient in order to find the inner peace that might set your spirit free?
  • What works for you?
  • What leaves you looking for something else?

One of my favorite spiritual authors, the friend I’ve known the longest in my life, is Jean Pierre de Caussade. When I consulted him (after I cleaned my office and threw out everything I didn’t need), this is what he told me. I found his advice in Inner Peace: Classic Wisdom from Jean Pierre de Caussade. It was a letter he wrote to someone commiserating with him after he’d been reassigned from a very quiet and contemplative ministry as spiritual director of the Nuns of the Visitation reassigned to a number of administrative responsibilities in various institutions in the south of France. Caussade was experiencing  more and more difficulty with his eyes. He bore this blindness with courageous fortitude and in the spirit of his own great principle of self-abandonment to the will of God.

The letter that spoke to me was written during this active period of his life, after his transfer from being the spiritual director at the Visitation Monastery:

My dear Sister,

I am touched by your desire to share in my trials, but I am happy in being able to reassure you. It is true that, at first, I felt a keen pain at finding myself loaded with a multitude of business affairs and other cares quite contrary to my attraction for silence and solitude; but notice how Divine Providence has arranged things.

God has given me the grace not to attach myself to any of these affairs; therefore, my spirit is always at liberty. I recommend the success of them to his Fatherly care, and this is why nothing distresses me. Things often go perfectly and then I return thanks to God for it, but sometimes everything goes wrong and I bless him for that equally and offer it to him as a sacrifice. Once this sacrifice is made God puts everything right. Already this good Master has, more than once, given me these pleasant surprises. As regards having time to myself, I have more here than elsewhere. Visits are rare now, because I only go where duty obliges me or necessity calls me. God has given me the grace not to care how discontented people are with me for following my own bent. It is he alone who we ought to have any great interest in pleasing. As long as he is satisfied, that is enough for us all; other things are a mere nothing.

—Excerpt from an undated letter to an unknown recipient.

Ever since I first read Caussade as a new professed sister in the 80s, I’ve appreciated his teaching on holiness. We grow in holiness first through fidelity to our responsibilities in life and to the duties of our state in life, and secondly when we abandon ourselves entirely to the mysterious way Divine Providence ripens our spirit over time.

His secret is simple. Be faithful to the sacrament of the present moment. In each new moment that presents itself to us, God reveals his love, his protective care. Just as in a sacrament our eyes are not able to see what is truly happening, so in each moment we have to admit humbly that we cannot comprehend the workings of God’s divine Providence in our life. We can only believe and abandon ourselves with trust.

Here are three habits to stop doing in order to be able to live the sacrament of the present moment:

#1: Stop striving to create the most pleasant outcome and avoid unpleasant ones.

As fallen creatures, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we are overwhelmed by the intensity of our disordered passions. Attraction to what gives us pleasure and aversion to what is unpleasant become the scale upon which we weigh our decisions. It is the rare person who says day in and day out: “Even though I don’t like it, I will do it because it is right.” It’s hard, but in a letter to Sister Marie Thérèse de Vioménil, Caussade acknowledges he has no remedy to offer that might lighten the burden on her heart, but this: a simple acquiescence, a humble fiat, a yes which she may say in the depths of her heart, so deep she may not know she has said it. This, he says to her, will be enough to sanctify you. You cannot imagine how many excellent acts are contained in that yes. “It is a greater grace for you than you think.”

In this regard, I like to picture a child. There are moments when the child is completely happy to sleep in the arms of its mother. There are others when the same sweet child is throwing a temper tantrum to get what she needs or wants. Still, the mother’s love is able to encompass both realities: the beautiful and the challenging. It’s all a part of mothering. I believe it is the same for God.

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote a letter about relating to God as a child: “Abandon yourself, then, into the hands of God like a little child resting on the heart of its mother. If you knew how he loves you and wants you very close to him! Live in his intimacy… He is the Friend who wants to be loved above everything” (Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letter 186).

It’s not about Divine Providence depriving us of pleasurable things that make us happy or comfortable, as much as it is about God’s Providence gradually attaching us to what our heart most wants: God! As Caussade writes, “It is he alone who we ought to have any great interest in pleasing. As long as he is satisfied, that is enough for us all; other things are a mere nothing.”

#2: Stop trying to change others to fix your problems.

Since Eve, we humans have been experts at blaming someone else for our problems. That blame reflex deflects responsibility or guilt away from ourselves and is a powerful protective instinct ingrained since the fall in the Garden of Eden.

In the same letter, Caussade said that he went about dealing with difficulties in a different way. When things went wrong, he blessed God as much as when things went right, and then he offered his experience up as a sacrifice. Instead of seeking to change someone or everyone else, he looked within himself at the mystery of God’s presence at work within him.

I have to admit, I haven’t made much headway on this one. Imagine if we didn’t label experiences good or bad, better or worse than any other experience! Imagine if we could embrace each moment’s newness and allow it to unfold. Imagine if we let God reveal to us each situation’s deepest meaning. When we see each event within the horizons of God’s engagement with us in the world, then we don’t need to have to understand the reason for it happening. It becomes a bridge for us to worship and abandon ourselves with trust.

There’s a wise saying I once read: “If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole earth.”

#3: Stop dreaming of getting away from responsibilities in order to experience inner peace.

There are so many ways to escape the fray: vacations, coffee breaks, retreats, entering a monastery, leaving commitments…. While it is healthy to give yourself breaks and to completely get away from work responsibilities for vacation periods, and while retreats can bring us new spiritual impetus and renewal in our commitments, they aren’t a panacea. They don’t leapfrog over our personal issues and create lasting change all at once. They are only the next step in a long process of sacred ripening that takes a lifetime.

In the end, it is the way of the cross, lived out in fidelity to our daily duties and responsibilities, that helps us to find our way to the liberty our heart is really seeking. We are not helped by situations of certainty, control, and predictability, even though they are more pleasant. It is the storms, failures, and struggles that make us wake up, commit ourselves, feel the urgency of continuing the journey.

I remember the homily of a very young priest from the Society of St Paul during a Mass after our annual retreat over twenty-five years ago. He reminded us that although our annual retreat was an experience of light and glory—at the top of the mountain of Transfiguration so to speak—Jesus tells us we must go with him down the mountain, back to life, back to our problems, issues, and struggles, back to the service of our brothers and sisters, and ultimately, at times, back beside him to Calvary. If we carry all we’ve been given in moments of relaxation and prayer back to our everyday lives, we will discover that inner peace and joy can be found in the midst of the tensions and struggles themselves.

Jean Pierre de Caussade is credited with addressing the needs of those Christian laymen and laywomen who lead full, active lives, yet are drawn to holiness and contemplative prayer. Those who want something more, but are also deeply and lovingly committed to families and ministry and service through their job, whatever it may be. As we gradually stop these three ingrained very human habits we will find a freedom we never imagined possible. Like Caussade, we will be able to say, “God has given me the grace not to care how discontented people are with me for following my own bent. It is he alone who we ought to have any great interest in pleasing. As long as he is satisfied, that is enough for us all; other things are a mere nothing.”

By Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Follow Jean Pierre de Caussade’s wisdom to find your own inner peace and liberty of spirit in Inner Peace: Classic Wisdom from Jean Pierre de Caussade.

My Sisters Gospel Reflection

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Easter. In this Gospel passage Jesus tells us that the good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. He emphasizes this by saying that he lays down his life willingly. Jesus knows that in a world in which we daily face the consequences of sin, we are terrorized by what we have experienced and continue to experience. That is why he laid down his life for us—to save us from an eternity of facing those consequences.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

After showing the film Gran Torino to a group of people, I asked them how they would explain it to someone who had never seen it. One man shot up his hand and said without hesitation, “it was about Jesus giving his life for me.”

In Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski saves his Hmong neighbors, Sue and Thao, from the ongoing threat of gang violence. He confronts the armed gang members, knowing that they will most likely open fire. As he suspects, this confrontation provokes the gang members to shoot the defenseless Kowalski. After I saw the movie, I put myself in Sue and Thao’s place as they watched the lifeless body of Kowalski being placed in the ambulance. Not only were they now safe, but they also knew just how much they meant to Kowalski. They were worth so much to him that he had been willing to die for them. While it is true that Kowalski is not Jesus, stories like this can help us understand what Jesus did for us.

Jesus’ life and death are God’s way of communicating to us how much we mean to him, how much he loves us. Jesus knows us intimately because he too knows what it is like to face the consequences of sin. He knows how terrifying it is. And to save us from that, he laid down his life for us. He loves us to the point of death.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of the Easter season in Easter Grace.

Inspiration, Uncategorized

How can I know what God is saying to me?

“When we receive a consolation without preceding cause, we should pay close attention to it. Because they are certainly from God, these consolations will have some important meaning to us.” (Fr. Greg Cleveland, OMV)

I stood up and moved to the door to leave. Unsettled, unsure, I kept my gaze down. I turned as I reached the door to ask one question. “But how can I know what God is saying?”

The Jesuit who was my spiritual director at the time understood what my soul was going through. The need for certainty. The desire to respond wholeheartedly to God’s will. The torment I felt as possibilities danced before me as wisps of smoke, disappearing as I grasped them. His answer was, “Through the feelings in your heart, the movement of consolation…” I left, still unsure of what he meant, but at peace knowing that there was, somehow, a way of connecting to God.

St. Ignatius was a master of the spiritual life, and he knew the journey well—all its detours, its mountains and valleys, its consolations and desolations…. In his hands, the soul is an open book as he facilitates God’s relationship with the person, safely navigating the paths to holiness.

When I was in my mid-twenties I discovered Ignatius’ spirituality. Every year I immersed myself for several months in a book on reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by Hugo Rahner, SJ. In my thirties I rescued a binder by Joseph Tetlow, SJ, that offered another experience of the Spiritual Exercises. Order, clarity, and inner consolation were restored every time I prayed my way through the Spiritual Exercises’ meditations.

Through this reading and reflection, I slowly learned how to understand my own heart-experiences and to discern between spiritual consolations and spiritual desolations. I learned that it’s more likely I will hear the Lord speaking to me when his voice is accompanied by spiritual consolations. Ignatius describes how these feelings and experiences of consolation can come after meditation, encountering the beauties of nature, and in the liturgy. But sometimes they come out of the blue. His own experience was walking into a chapel and being overcome by a total love of the Trinity. It was accompanied by tears and a deep sense of God’s closeness to him.

Recently in a moment of raw self-knowledge, I realized I wasn’t the person I thought myself to be. The person I was presenting to others was a figment of my imagination. Deflated, I realized that I had become the person I accused others of being. Yet strangely enough, it was this moment that was a spiritual consolation for me! The painful awareness was connected to an awe at God’s loving and everlasting mercy that will hold me up forever in time and eternity, as someone who is broken and sinful and still having a place at the wedding of the Lamb. The humility was sweet as I realized that this was my true place and nowhere else. I need not pretend or strive or seek to become anything. I can hide my sinful and loved brokenness in the wounded side of Jesus, the one who loves me and gave himself for me.

In the quote above from his book Awakening Love: An Ignatian Retreat with the Song of Songs, Fr. Greg Cleveland points out that these spiritual consolations, especially consolations that are “without cause” (we could say “out of the blue”) have important meanings for us. Tracking God’s voice and call to us is not that mysterious when we learn from a spiritual master like Ignatius. Fr. Cleveland goes on, “When these kinds of consolation without preceding cause happen to us, we should pay close attention.  As they are certainly from God, we can expect these consolations to have some important meaning to us.  The experience may tell us something significant about our relationship with God.”

The other two books I referred to are now long out of print, but Awakening Love creatively pulls together the spiritual mystery of the book in the Old Testament the Song of Songs with the Jesuit method outlined in its foundation in the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive, accessible, and spiritually rich introduction to the spiritual life which responds to the deepest question of the human heart—how do I know what God is saying?—Awakening Love is your best and greatest next step.

Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP