Suffering: Mess or Masterpiece?

Is suffering a messy canvas splattered with a mishmash of random paint splotches? Or is it a masterpiece of order and beauty, full of meaning and inspiration? It all depends on how you look at it.

It has long been a teaching of the Church that suffering, whether minor or debilitating, should be received as a gift. I’ve read countless spiritual works that put suffering in this proper perspective, and the concept sounds beautiful and glorious. At times I’ve even been inspired enough to want to experience the cross in a “big” way [You know, all those little annoyances throughout the day are piddly, but the BIG stuff — THAT can move mountains (Read with a high degree of sarcasm)!].

In reality, though, I think suffering is more like a magnificent painting. From afar, depending on how people approach it, suffering has the potential to be beautiful, moving and inspirational; but when you get close, it looks like a mishmash of random paint splotches, strewn about in random order — sloppy and very ugly.

Recently, our family has experienced the messiness close up. In the midst of doctor’s appointments, medications, fears, expenses and just the inconvenience of living with a new most likely permanent medical condition, we’ve had several discussions about how much this has renewed our sympathy for others who have endured suffering, and the amazing examples that we’ve witnessed through our lives. My husband’s father was one of those inspirational examples. He passed away nearly ten years ago, after a painful battle with bone cancer.

Because of the admirable way my father-in-law approached his final days, he has become for us an even greater hero than he was. As a dairy farmer, this man woke before the crack of dawn and worked until late at night seven days a week. Yet for all his toughness, he never forgot the Source of strength, and was devout in his faith, keeping a weekly holy hour for over 50 years, participating as much as possible in parish life and always sharing a prayer-centered relationship with his beautiful wife. In the end, despite his debilitating pain, he was joyful, grateful, loving and — most endearingly — childlike. With every shot of excruciating pain, rather than cursing, he’d call out his devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. He held fast to his rosary and prayed fervently during his waking hours. As we stepped back from the splotches, we could see that he was a magnificent portrait of the Christian life (and death).

In our current political climate, activists have set their sites on erasing all the splotches. They want to eradicate suffering on every level, to the point of promoting abortion to the moment of birth, expanding euthanasia for any reason, as well as promoting many other evils that seek to rid our culture of the magnificent beauty and saving power inherent in the sacrifice of suffering. By erasing all the splotches, they destroy the masterpieces of life that God Himself has offered for our good.

Despite a culture of death that insists suffering be eradicated at all costs and by any means, we must remember that as long as suffering is approached with resignation and not bitterness, it can be redemptive and leads to greater union with God. As C.S. Lewis said,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Saint Teresa of Calcutta said,

“…remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.”

Blessed are those who suffer — how counter-intuitive in today’s society!

Well, after my little pep rally above, here we sit. In the midst of suffering. Our pom-poms may not wave quite so high behind closed doors. But we are learning slowly but surely how to be grateful. And having witnessed role models like my father-in-law certainly helps. The question is, will we stand too close to the painting and focus on the mess of “splotches”? Or will we stand back and appreciate the masterpiece that our current situation truly represents? With God’s grace as the paintbrush, we’re hoping for the latter.

Recently I read some encouraging words by Lorenzo Scupoli. Perhaps I should post them around the house as a reminder —  both for us and for our children:

Now that you are in a position to please Him more than ever, speak from the fullness of your heart and say: “[This] is the will of God that is accomplished in me. From all eternity God’s love has chosen me to undergo this suffering today. May He be blessed forever!”  – Spiritual Combat, pg. 74-75

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Artwork: The Crucifixion by Diego Velazquez (from Wikimedia Commons)

Giving up the Fight

Who among us had not endured pain so excruciating that at the time we could not even whisper our Lord’s name?  It is in those moments that we most willingly lift our hearts to Him.  When we can do nothing else, we offer whatever we have left. We surrender.

Ahem. I am a fighter.  Had I been on the Titanic, I guarantee you I would not have been the picture of peace, praying the rosary on the promenade deck.  I’d have been 1024px-Christ_Falling_under_the_Cross_MET_DP805728scrounging up wood to build a raft.  I might have gone down, but I would have gone down fighting.

In some ways, my fighting spirit has been invaluable to me.   When I was young, I overcame what some would call “difficult circumstances” to become the first person in my family to graduate from college and obtain a master’s degree.  Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I had a promising career as a marketing manager for an innovative division of a giant telecom company.  And today? Well, at this moment I am wading my way through life with four teenagers and two high energy little ones, and have been homeschooling for the last 17 years (which definitely takes a bit of resolve).

All well and good.  But frankly, while determination has served me well in this world, having a fighting spirit makes for a pretty crummy spiritual life at times.

You see, I’m a doer.  If I have a problem, or if anyone I love has a problem, by golly, I won’t rest until I solve it.  And if I don’t have the necessary knowledge at my disposal, I will go to the ends of the earth to find it.  Or Amazon.  Which is probably the same thing.

If you could see my selection of spiritual reading books, you might think you’d entered your local Catholic book store.  And believe it or not, I’ve read most of them.  But putting them into practice? That’s another subject altogether.  Every book I have ever read on the spiritual life has advised me to “Be.”  Be present.  Be silent.  Be open.

Essentially, surrender.

Surrender is not something I do well.  That is unless I’m laid out on the floor with nary a breath left in my body.

And then?

Well…and then…it’s beautiful.  There are no words to describe the peace that accompanies true surrender.

I have a feeling I’m not alone.  Who among us had not endured pain so excruciating that at the time we could not even whisper our Lord’s name?  It is in those moments that we most willingly lift our hearts to Him.  When we can do nothing else, we offer whatever we have left. We surrender.

I think the most poignant description of this experience I’ve seen comes from Fr. Walter Ciszek, who spent some 23 years in Russian concentration camps during and after WWII:

I had talked of finding and doing his will, but never in the sense of totally giving up my own will.  I had talked of trusting him, indeed I truly had trusted him, but never in the sense of abandoning all other sources of support and relying on his grace alone.  I could never find it in me, before, to give up self completely.  There were always boundaries beyond which I would not go, little hedges marking out what I knew in the depths of my being was a point of no return.  God in his providence had been constant in his grace, always providing opportunities for this act of perfect faith and trust in him, always urging me to let go the reins and trust in him alone.  I had trusted him, I had cooperated with his grace – but only up to a point.  Only when I had reached a point of total bankruptcy of my own powers had I at last surrendered.  

That moment, that experience, completely changed me.  I can say it now in all sincerity, without false modesty, without a sense either of exaggeration or of embarrassment.  I have to call it a conversion experience; it was at once a death and a resurrection. (He Leadeth Me, p. 78)

Which of us does not desire with all our heart to experience the resurrection?

I would venture to guess that most, if not all of us would give anything to unite ourselves so closely to Christ.  So the question becomes, Why must we endure such excruciating pain before we can simply and without obstacle, raise our hearts to God?

According to scripture, …unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. – John 12:24-25.  Or, as one priest used to summarize it, “No cross, no crown.”

Father Ciszek experienced this mysterious truth in a profound way: …it was at once a death and a resurrection.

Usually, I’m unwilling to die.

Except for those times when the suffering is so acute (whether physically, emotionally or spiritually) that death doesn’t sound like such a bad alternative.

Thankfully, as I get older, I’ve noticed those times come more frequently. For me, desperation has not so much come from physical illness – more often I’ve been blessed with other types of battles.  Regardless, with age has certainly come the wisdom to know that all the fighting in the world will not solve some problems.

So, while I have a long way to go, I do see a ray of hope in the distance. Eventually, I’ll either learn to give up the fight, or I’ll have all the fight knocked out of me.  Either way, at that point (God willing), my surrender will be complete.  In this world, many may consider that a cause for concern.  But in the beautiful, complete and perfect world of God’s grace, it will be a good thing.

 

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Art: Christ Falling under the Cross by Charles Nicolas Cochin II (Wikimedia Commons)

Christ comes from Heaven to Host: We Must Meet Him There

He came unto His own—that is, He comes as far as He can—from heaven to the Host, and down to the altar rails. Further He cannot come.  The rest of the way must be ours.

coram sanctissimo

Coram Sanctissimo
by Mother Mary Loyola

X
Neglect

He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
(John i. II.)

 

How strange it seems, O Lord! For You had been promised so long.  You had been so ardently desired by the best and noblest of our race; so gloriously prefigured, so set forth in prophecy, as to awaken the keenest expectation and enkindle the most glowing love. How was it, then, that Your own received You not?  How is it that even now You come unto Your own and are not welcomed, are not wanted, are left alone, not through the night only—that perhaps was to be expected—but through the long day hours, with Your so-called friends, and the weary and the heavy laden within a stone’s throw of Your door? Ah, Lord, the outrage and the sacrilege that mark the hatred of Your enemies are less to be wondered at, less to be deplored, than the coldness of those You call Your own.  You are not given to complain.  But when along the ages a meek remonstrance does break upon the silence, it is always the same—the protest wrung from You by the desertion of those You love.  “Behold…my familiar friends also are departed from me…My brethren have passed by me”(Job vi).  Do you now believe?  Behold…you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone” (John xvi).  How Your Heart felt the desolation of abandonment; how, to speak human language, You feel it still—You made known in that cry of unrequited love, “Behold this Heart which has so loved men and is so little loved by them.”

Who would have thought that God could upbraid so tenderly, or that men could hear such reproach without being touched and won!  If not to make great sacrifices for Him, if not to give up all, at least to go a few steps in order to keep Him company in His loneliness, and sympathise with Him in His sorrows—surely He might have looked for this!

Dearest Lord, one would have expected You to be in such request upon the altar; expected that there would be crowding and crushing in Your presence as in the days of Your earthly life; that we should be seen flocking to You early and late, to show our appreciation of Your love, and to pour out our troubles into Your willing ear.  Where is our faith to leave You thus deserted?  “Do you believe?  Behold you shall be scattered every one to his own, and shall leave Me alone.”

He came unto His own—that is, He comes as far as He can—from heaven to the Host, and down to the altar rails. Further He cannot come.  The rest of the way must be ours. We must meet Him there in Holy Communion, or His loving journey to us will have been in vain.  He will not force our free will.  But He does so want to come.  Shall we disappoint Him? Oh, if our own love will not draw us to Him, at least let us have compassion on His!  If we think ourselves at liberty to deprive ourselves of our communions, surely we are not free to deprive Him of His.

You long, O Lover of my soul, to come to me.  Your delights are to be with me, cold, inhospitable as I am.  Come, then; come, Lord Jesus, and in satisfying Your own desire, enkindle mine.

 

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Thank you so much to St. Augustine Academy Press for cooperating with this endeavor! If you are interested in this or other works by Mother Mary Loyola (as well as many other great books for spiritual growth and meditation), please check out their website.You will find many wonderful treasures from which to choose!

 

 

Janusz Korczak: A Hero of the Holocaust

If you were to walk through the entire cemetery, gazing upon stone after stone after stone, you would find only one engraved with a name. That name, is Janusz Korczak.

“God, give me a hard life but let it be beautiful, rich and aspiring.” — Janusz Korczak, Prayer from his youth, recorded in the Warsaw Ghetto Diary

The name Janusz Korczak may not ring a bell for many Americans. If you’ve heard of him at all, you probably read The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman. But even there, Korczak was one of many stories featured tangentially alongside the feature story of the Zabinskis, a husband and wife team of zookeepers in Warsaw who used their property to hide Jewish refugees, protecting them from the Warsaw Ghetto and from unspeakable concentration camps once the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Or perhaps you read about him in The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman, which is the autobiographical account of Szpilman’s own years in the Warsaw Ghetto. In both books, Korczak is but a side story, an annotation on a central plot. You may have even read right past him amidst all the other compelling tales. But in Europe, Janusz Korczak’s story is legendary. In fact, in Europe, Janusz Korczak is as well known as Anne Frank. There is a monument to him at Yad Vashem in Israel, another in Warsaw and a memorial stone dedicated to him at the concentration camp in Treblinka, where he died.

By education, Janusz Korczak was a pediatrician in Poland at the dawn of the twentieth century. His passion for writing and for children catapulted him to fame in another area, as the author of several books for and about children, which are still available to Polish families today. In 1912, his love for children resulted in his establishing an orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw. Korczak, himself, was the director. When the Warsaw Ghetto was opened in 1940, the children were ordered to abandon their home and relocate within the heavily guarded walls of this 1.3 square mile living hell, along with 400,000 other Jews. Korczak was offered refuge on the “Arian side” of the fence, but he chose to escort his children into the Ghetto and to remain with them there.

For three years, Korczak devoted all his energy to creating some semblance of home for his children amidst the atrocities of the Ghetto. He treated each child with dignity and respect. He ran his orphanage like a democracy, with a court system run by the children themselves, teaching them always to show kindness and consideration toward others. He begged for food for the children for hours each day, if only to bring home a few crusts of bread or a bit of watery broth to share. And then in 1942, there were rumors that Ghetto residents were to be rounded up and placed on a transport to the Treblinka Extermination Camp. Shortly before the transport arrived, Korczak directed his children in a play about a little boy that dies. At the moment of death, the boy sees a radiant light, feeling immense joy and happiness for which there could be no parallel in this world. Many have claimed that Korczak chose this play because he wanted to prepare the children for what was to come. He had a great desire to protect them from fear.

In early August 1942, troops arrived and transport carriers stopped outside the Warsaw Ghetto. Along with thousands of others, the children were requested to board the trains. Again, Korczak was offered an escape via the Polish underground. Instead, witnesses watched, amazed as he and all 196 children exited the orphanage, dressed in their best clothes, each child carrying a favorite toy. There were no tears. There was no distress. Korczak, along with his children – some as young as two or three years, with the oldest being no more than thirteen –  walked peacefully together, hand in hand, toward the train. They boarded together. Once SS officers slammed the doors shut, Korczak and his children were never heard from again. Later, it was confirmed that they had been executed together in the gas chambers at Treblinka, along with hundreds of thousands of others; Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz for its number of executions.

If you were to arrive at Treblinka today, you would find an awe-inspiring memorial to all those who lost their lives in that horrendous place. There is a symbolic cemetery set up to honor hundreds of thousands of Jews who were killed in the gas chambers there. In the “symbolic” cemetery, there are 17,000 stones standing erect, representing persons, families and populations of entire towns that were destroyed at the Treblinka death camp. But if you were to walk through the entire cemetery, gazing upon stone after stone after stone, you would find only one engraved with a name. That name, is Janusz Korczak.

It is puzzling to think that of 70,000 stones, only one is engraved with the name of a person. Is that perhaps because, amidst the hundreds of thousands of victims, this one man very clearly, at every turn, before and during the atrocities of WWII, sacrificed himself and his safety and security for the most vulnerable of all? Could it be because Korczak did not have his life taken from him, but rather that he laid down his life for the weakest, most defenseless of his “friends?”

korczak stone

We call this, this life, sans wealth, sans freedom, sans accolades, given over for the most vulnerable and ending in a gruesome death that did not have to be – this life that placed God before self and served others on His behalf – we call this sacrifice.

 

The Jews, our older brothers and sisters in Christ, have a tradition which states that in every generation, there will be 36 Just Men, whose shoulders bear the weight of salvation. These men, through the purity of their souls and the righteousness of their lives, provide a foundation on which rests the security and the future of the world. It is widely held that Janusz Korczak was one of those precious 36.

 

 

NOTE: Be Alarmed: I share the above story in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which has been designated for observance this entire week (4/12-4/19).  Sadly, it seems that fewer and fewer Americans are being educated about the Holocaust at all. Thursday an alarming survey was released  showing that a full 41 percent of American adults do not know what Auschwitz was – this figure includes 66 percent of Millennials. In fact, 22 percent of Millennials had never even heard of the Holocaust. Be vary wary – those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

We need to help our children and young adults to learn more. There are so many books to help readers to gain some understanding of that time period in history – education need not be limited to “boring” textbook accounts. Check out some of these harrowing stories, mostly nonfiction, some historical fiction, that will hopefully inspire further curiosity about this unbelievable time in human history:

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson….(autobiographical account of the youngest Jew saved by Oscar Schindler)

Night by Elie Wiesel (about his experiences at Auschwitze and Buchenwald concentration camps with his father from 1944-1945, at the height of the Holocaust)

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Diary of a Jewish girl in hiding for two years during the German occupation of The Netherlands)

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (true story about a couple that owned the Warsaw Zoo, and saved over 300 Jews on their property through the war)

The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 by Wladyslaw Szpilman (inspiration for Oscar award-winning movie, The Pianist)

Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (award-winning novel and inspiration for the movie by the same name; based on detailed testimony of “Schindler’s Jews” – demonstrates beautifully the courage and cleverness of Oscar Schindler and his ability to work agains his own to save over 1,200 Jews from certain death)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (pure fiction, but places you right in the setting of WWII – on both sides; this amazingly well-written novel follows a blind French girl and a German boy through their parallel experiences during WWII – Pulitzer prize winner with great historical accuracy; does not focus concentration camps, but rather the chaos of the war, and the evil that begat it)

Lord, Come and See!

Come to my heart, this dull cold heart of mine,
All irresponsive to a love divine;
What lacks it to become Thy hallowed shrine?  
Lord, come and see!  

coram sanctissimo

Coram Sanctissimo
by Mother Mary Loyola

IX
Lord, Come and See!

(John xi. 34)

 

Come to my heart as unto Bethl’hem’s grot,
A hovel-home that love despises not:
Can love transform it to a pleasant spot?
Lord, come and see!

Come to my heart as once to Bethany:
A brother’s grave is there, and piteously
Are tears and supplication calling Thee:
Lord, come and see!

How flocked of yore unto Thy blessed feet
The sick, the sad, Thy mercy to entreat!
I too have needs Thy pitying eye to meet:
Lord, come and see!

Come, lay Thy hand upon each leprous stain;
Come with Thy word of might the fiend to chain;
The open festering sore, the hidden pain,
Lord, come and see!

Come to my heart, this dull cold heart of mine,
All irresponsive to a love divine;
What lacks it to become Thy hallowed shrine?
Lord, come and see!

Happier by far than in the olden days
Judea’s glorious Temple—what delays
Its song and sacrifice, its prayer and praise?
Lord, come and see!

Perchance, like Temple Courts, doth sinful stain,
The world’s loud trafficking, the greed of gain
Thy Father’s house, the house of prayer profane:
Lord, come and see!

Come, Holy One, I yield myself to Thee;
E’en scourge in hand, come, Lord and Love, to me.
What change shall make me Thine, Thine utterly?
Lord, come and see!

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you so much to St. Augustine Academy Press for cooperating with this endeavor! If you are interested in this or other works by Mother Mary Loyola (as well as many other great books for spiritual growth and meditation), please check out their website.You will find many wonderful treasures from which to choose!

 

 

Make My Heart Perfectly at Ease With You, Lord

What should I have to say were I in the presence of the one I love best in the world; with whom I am quite at my ease; my friend par excellence; to whom my trials, difficulties, character, the secrets of my soul are known…

coram sanctissimo

Coram Sanctissimo
by Mother Mary Loyola

VIII
Looking Through the Lattices

(Cant. ii. 9.)

 

But meanwhile the Beloved is behind the wall.  And He is there with all the sympathy for our difficulty which His perfect knowledge of it enables Him to have. “Jesus…needed not that any man should tell Him…for He knew what was in man”(john ii).  He knows the weariness of praying on against apparently unanswered prayer; against the pain of physical restlessness, the labour of thought, the irksomeness of concentration, the perpetual gathering together of the forces that are playing truant in a thousand fields, recalled for a brief space only to be off again more wayward for their capture. All this He knows.  And our remedy is to remember that He knows it.  He Who has appointed prayer to be the channel of grace, means such prayer as we can bring Him. He does not ask impossibilities.  He does not place us amid distracting work all day long and expect us to shut it out by an effort of will the moment we kneel down to pray. Nor even to shut it out by repeated efforts.  He would have us turn our distractions and weariness not so much into matter for self-reproach, or humiliation even, as into a loving, trustful plea for His pity and His help.  This is prayer.  Lay the tired brain, the strained muscles, the aching head—lay them all down at His feet without a word, just for His eye to rest on and His Heart to help and heal.

There are times when physical lassitude, cold or heat, an importunate thought, a trial with its sting still fresh, baffles every effort to fix the mind on the subject of prayer, and concentrates the whole attention on what for the moment is all-absorbing.  Times harder still to manage, when mind and heart are so absolutely vacant and callous that there is no rousing them to action.  This reflection will sometimes be helpful then: What should I have to say were I in the presence of the one I love best in the world; with whom I am quite at my ease; my friend par excellence; to whom my trials, difficulties, character, the secrets of my soul are known; that one in whose concerns and welfare I take the deepest interest; whose plans and views are mine, discussed again and again together; in whose company time flies and the hour for parting comes too soon—what should I find to say?

Say it, make an effort to say it to Him Who is in the tabernacle yonder.

O Jesus, hidden God, more friendly than a brother(Prov. xviii), I believe most firmly that You are present, a few feet only from where I kneel. You are behind that little wall, listening for every word of confidence, and love, and thanksgiving, and praise.  Listening when my heart is free to pour itself out to You as the brook to the river in the days of spring.  Listening more tenderly when the stream is ice-bound; when I kneel before You troubled, wearied, anxious about many things—about many souls perhaps—yet dry and hard, without a word to say. Make my heart so perfectly at ease with You, O Lord, that it may be able to turn to You even in its coldness and inertness; to confide to You naturally all that most intimately concerns it; to be content with this, when discontented with all else, with self most of all—that You know all men and need not that any should give testimony of man, for You know what is in man (john ii). 

 

 

 

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Thank you so much to St. Augustine Academy Press for cooperating with this endeavor! If you are interested in this or other works by Mother Mary Loyola (as well as many other great books for spiritual growth and meditation), please check out their website.You will find many wonderful treasures from which to choose!

 

 

A Beautiful Reflection on The Hidden God

There is no use denying that with the exception of rare intervals, our intercourse with God in this life is more or less laborious and difficult. This is only saying that Heaven is not yet come.  Faith was meant to be a trial, and a trial it certainly is. 

coram sanctissimo

Coram Sanctissimo
by Mother Mary Loyola

VII
The Hidden God

Vere Tu es Deus absconditus!
(Isaias xiv. 15.)

 

 

There is no use denying that with the exception of rare intervals, our intercourse with God in this life is more or less laborious and difficult. This is only saying that Heaven is not yet come.  Faith was meant to be a trial, and a trial it certainly is.  The evidence of sense is against us; the levity of imagination is against us; the inconstancy of our desires and of our will is against us when we kneel down to pray.

“Behold He standeth behind our wall”(Cant. ii).  We know He is there, close as the priest in the confessional, with attention to every word we say.  Yet, for all that, the words and the confidences come slowly.  It is hard to prolong a conversation that is all on one side, and this, so it seems to us, is the case in prayer. Useless to tell us that our faith is at fault.  That in the presence of the Pope, or the King, we should be all attention. Where the conditions are so different, there can be no parallel.  The voice, the look, the question and answer, the surroundings—all these are wanting.  Such admonitions irritate us by their injustice, and we look away wearily for help elsewhere.  But where to look?  We cannot alter the present state of things or fix our wandering thoughts and unstable heart.  No, but we can accept all things as they are in truth, and in the truth find a remedy.

“Behold He standeth behind our wall.” But the barrier between us is not a drawback, an obstacle to union with Him—inseparable indeed from the present condition of things—yet an obstacle for all that.  It is distinctly willed by Him as a necessary part of our trial, a wholesome discipline, a purification of love.  It has in it all the privileges, advantages and blessings that in this life belong to pain, and can be won by pain alone.  It is a present blessing as well as a pledge of blessing to come.  “Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.”(John XX)  It is a pledge of that full clear vision, “reserved in heaven for you, who, by the power of God, are kept by faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.  Wherein you shall greatly rejoice, if now for a little time you must be made sorrowful…That the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen you love; in Whom also now, though you see Him not, you believe, and believing shall rejoice with joy unspeakable” (1 Peter i.). 

“We see now in a dark manner: but then face to face”(1 Cor. xiii). “I shall see Him, but not now” (Numbers xxiv).  How will that face to face vision be the brighter and the sweeter for the dimness now! How will the joy of that moment when we part for ever with faith be intensified by what faith has cost us in the past!

O days and hours, your work is this,
To hold me from my proper place,
A little while from His embrace,
For fuller gain of after bliss.
That out of distance might ensue
Desire of nearness doubly sweet,
And unto meeting when we meet,
Delight a hundredfold accrue.
In Memoriam 

 

 

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Thank you so much to St. Augustine Academy Press for cooperating with this endeavor! If you are interested in this or other works by Mother Mary Loyola (as well as many other great books for spiritual growth and meditation), please check out their website.You will find many wonderful treasures from which to choose!

 

 

Come to Me, Everyone!

Beneath His glance, as snow ‘neath sunny ray,
Some of my cares dissolve and melt away,

coram sanctissimo

Coram Sanctissimo
by Mother Mary Loyola

VI
Venite ad Me Omnes

(Matt.  xi.  28.)

 

“Come to Me, heavy-laden ones, come all!”
I hear, I rise, I hasten at His call;
‘Neath burden bent, across the threshold steal,
The curtain lift, and in His Presence kneel:

There loose my load—and wide, With none to check nor chide,
Scattering, a sorry sight, on every side,

They fall—pains, troubles, cares—lying, how meet,
About the weary, way-worn, wounded Feet;
Under the Eye of yore bedimmed with tears,
The Heart Gethsemane oppressed with fears,

The Heart that sore afraid Strong supplication made,
And with a sweat of blood the Father prayed.

Beneath His glance, as snow ‘neath sunny ray,
Some of my cares dissolve and melt away,
And some He takes and smoothes a little space
The less to chafe, and lays again in place.

‘Tis mystery to me How some He smiles to see,
And how on some His tears fall tenderly.

One I hold up to Him, and pleading pray,
“This, Lord, just this, in pity take away!”
And ever comes His word with cheering smile:
“A little longer, trust Me yet awhile;

Each pang of keen distress, Each prayer, I mark and bless,
Each in its hour shall show forth fruitfulness”.

That, my life’s woe,
against a bleeding Side Is pressed, and lo!
transfigured, glorified, It glows as crystal flushed with rosy ray.
“O gem unprized!  Restore it, Lord, I pray;

As costly gift from Thee Dear shall it be to me”;
And in my heart I hide it lovingly.

A lightened load He lays on me, all sweet
With words of love—and thus I leave His Feet,
With steadier step to plod on day by day,
With stouter heart to climb the upward way

And when anew life’s strain Frets me with weary pain,
I take my load and go to Him again.

 

 

 

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Thank you so much to St. Augustine Academy Press for cooperating with this endeavor! If you are interested in this or other works by Mother Mary Loyola (as well as many other great books for spiritual growth and meditation), please check out their website.You will find many wonderful treasures from which to choose!

 

 

Has Your Child Left the Church? You are not Alone, but Elisabeth Leseur Can Help

In a recent homily, our parish priest discussed the staggering fact that 80 percent of baptized young people are leaving the Faith before they are 25 years old.

In a recent homily, our parish priest discussed the staggering fact that 80 percent of baptized young people are leaving the Faith before they are 25 years old. He was sharing the findings of a newly published study conducted by St. Mary’s Press, in conjunction with Georgetown University. The report —  Going, Going, Gone! The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics — discusses the self-reported reasons Millennials give for leaving the Church. Our pastor mentioned three:
  1. They do not believe in God
  2. The Church is full of Hypocrites.
  3. What the Church has to say about morality (particularly sexual morality) is diametrically opposed to what the culture is teaching Millennials.
Elisabeth intuitively recognized and understood each of these reasons, and sought to eradicate them through the only productive means possible —  personal transformation. May each of us be inspired to adopt her resolutions, that His light may be encountered by every soul we meet:
Elisabeth_LeseurIt is not in arguing or in lecturing that I can make them know what God is to the human soul. But in struggling with myself, in becoming, with His help, more Christian and more valiant, I will bear witness to Him whose humble disciple I am. By the serenity and strength that I mean to acquire, I will prove that the Christian life is great and beautiful and full of joy. By cultivating all the best faculties of my mind, I will proclaim God is the highest Intelligence and that those who serve Him can draw without end from that blessed source of intellectual and moral light. The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 10

 

Elisabeth Leseur, Pray for us!

 

Important Note: The brief reflection above was written for a wonderful website promoting the cause for Elisabeth Leseur’s canonization – an effort I pray will be fruitful, as there is so much we can learn from this holy woman. Please check out elcause.org for more information and join EL Circle of Friends!

 

Don’t Shy from Adoration Because You Get Distracted in Prayer – Take Your Cares to Your Lord!

Some of us, maybe, are deterred from visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by a false conception of what a visit should be.  We suppose that the occupations which fill our heads and our hands from morning till night must all be laid aside at the church door and sternly forbidden entrance, much in the same way as we bid our dog lie down in the porch and wait for us. 

coram sanctissimo

Coram Sanctissimo
by Mother Mary Loyola

V
What Things?


“Art Thou a stranger and hast not known the things that have
been done
in these days?” To whom He said: “What things?”
(Luke xxiv. 18, 19.)

 

Some of us, may-be, are deterred from visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by a false conception of what a visit should be.  We suppose that the occupations which fill our heads and our hands from morning till night must all be laid aside at the church door and sternly forbidden entrance, much in the same way as we bid our dog lie down in the porch and wait for us.  We read that St. Bernard thus dismissed all secular thoughts, and we conclude—though his biographer does not say so—that they returned at the end of his prayer, and not before. Self-mastery such as this demands an effort to which few of us feel equal.  Do what they will, the mind of the doctor and the lawyer will run more or less upon their anxious cases, the student’s head will be full of his examination, the mother’s of her household cares.  These thoughts, if indeliberate, will be at least persistent, and if quite deliberate will become sinful.  In either case they render prayer an impossibility—hence we stay away.

Now do we find this view of prayer borne out by the practice of God’s servants?  Of David in perplexity and trouble we read: “And the Philistines coming spread themselves in the valley of Raphaim.  And David consulted the Lord, saying: Shall I go up to the Philistines? and wilt Thou deliver them into my hand?  And the Lord said to David: Go up, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into thy hand…And the Philistines came up again…And David consulted the Lord: Shall I go up against the Philistines?…He answered: Go not up against them.”(2 Kings v. ) 

Of David in a mood of joy and thankfulness we are told: “And King David came and sat before the Lord, and said: Who am I, O Lord God, that Thou shouldst give such things to me?” (1 Par. xvii.)  

See, too, the simplicity and confidence of Ezechias on receiving the threatening message of Sennacherib: “And Ezechias took the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it, and went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.”(Isa. xxxvii.) 

A common complaint is that daily worries and anxieties so invade our minds that our prayer has no chance.  But is this our feeling about a talk with a trusty friend—a man of sound judgment, wide experience and influence, on whose interest in all that concerns us we can count with certainty?  Should we say: “I had half an hour with him this morning, but my mind was so full of that affair I could find nothing to say”; or: “I had it all out with him this morning, and am ever so much better already”?

Why not deal thus familiarly with our best Friend?  If Ezechias could spread out his letter before the Lord in that old Temple, which was but a shadow of the better things to come, why may not we carry our good news and our bad before the pitying human Heart of Christ, with us all days on purpose to hear every day—and, if we will, every hour of the day—all we have to tell Him, and hearing all, to help in all?

Had our Lord said to us: “I will prosper any spiritual concerns that you commend to Me, but really you must look after your own temporal affairs, and I shall count it an irreverence if you bring such things into My presence”—had He said this, there might be some excuse for the pains we take to shut Him out of the cares and business of everyday life.

But has He said this, or does all we know of Him go to prove the exact contrary?  Did He count it an irreverence when the sick were thrust upon Him at every step; when a paralytic let down from the roof and laid at His feet stopped His teaching; when messengers came one upon another to draw Him here and there for some temporal need: “Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick”(John xi); “Lord, come down before that my son die” (Ibid. iv)? Did He refuse the invitation at Cana?  And if, for a brief space, He delayed the miracle designed from all eternity to manifest His tender interest in the joys as well as in the sorrows of home life, was it not obviously to show how Mary’s heart beat in unison with His, and to honour His Mother’s prayer?

“Lord, come and see,” said the weeping sisters as they led the way to the grave.  Look at Him between them, listening now to one, now to the other, as they tell the history of the past three days—how they had watched and waited for Him, and counted on His coming, and He came not. See their tearful eyes.  See the eager Heart, longing for the moment when He may reward their trust and turn their mourning into gladness.

What should we have felt and said that day at Bethany if, after raising Lazarus, He had turned to us and made Himself our listener, placing Himself, as was His wont, at the complete disposal of the one who wanted Him?  Should we have felt shy of trying to interest Him in the details of our life, in our little joys and troubles?  Or would our hearts have opened out to Him, and simply emptied themselves in His presence?

Do we want an ideal visit to Christ?  Let us seek it in Nicodemus’ talks by night; in the centurion’s urgent pleading for his servant; in the unburdening of soul that we see in Zaccheus and in the sisters at Bethany. And let us frame our own visits on such models.  If a big worry threatens to invade prayer, why not take it straight away into prayer, giving it the place and time it wants, making it the subject-matter of our intercourse with God, and so turning a hindrance into a help!

Of course we must do all this with reverence and a certain amount of watchfulness, or our prayer will be no prayer at all, but distraction pure and simple.  But if we put our case before our Lord and talk it over with Him, representing our difficulty, asking His advice, listening to His whispered word in answer, our time of prayer will be what He wants it to be—a time of rest, and light, and strength.

Some may say that this so-called prayer is very unsupernatural, and that the results of such a compromise between prayer and distraction will not be very satisfactory. It may be so; we can only reply that there are times without number when this is the only method of getting results at all, and that our Lord’s method of dealing with His own and theirs with Him was eminently natural. 

No, surely, our difficulty is not due to want of sympathy on the part of Christ our Lord.  It can only come from our failing to recognise the full purpose of the Incarnation and its bearing on every detail of human life.  Had His act of Redemption been His one motive in coming amongst us, He might have come straight from His throne at the right hand of the Father to the cross on Calvary.  But the proof of love greater than which no man can give did not satisfy Him.  He wanted, as “Firstborn amongst many brethren,”(Rom. viii) as Head of the human family, to place Himself in intimate communication with it on every side—to touch, as far as might be, every point, every experience of human life, entering personally into its mysteries of joy, and fear, and love, and sorrow.  And so we have the years of infancy and childhood and youth, and—precious above all— the blessed years of the public life, when “the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us,”(Acts i.) proving by every word and act His desire to be associated with us His brethren, His right to His name of predilection—the Son of Man. 

He it is Whom we find waiting for us when our turn comes to pass across the short stage of life on earth.  He calls us to Him, calls us by our name, one by one.  He bids us take Him to our hearts as the nearest and dearest of our friends, Who alone can stand by us when all others fail.  He bids us cultivate His friendship, and try it and prove it.  And He promises that we shall find Him what all have found Him who have put their trust in Him—what Martha and Mary, and Paul and Bernard, and Teresa and Margaret Mary have found Him—the “Faithful and True,”(Apoc. xix)  “Jesus Christ yesterday, and to-day: and the same for ever.”(3 Heb. xiii) 

 

 

image001

Thank you so much to St. Augustine Academy Press for cooperating with this endeavor! If you are interested in this or other works by Mother Mary Loyola (as well as many other great books for spiritual growth and meditation), please check out their website.You will find many wonderful treasures from which to choose!
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