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Love her like a sister: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

We are holding hands as we walk together along a rocky path on a hot July evening. We are talking about this and that. She asks me questions, listens thoughtfully as I talk about my life. She has a lot going on too, these days, and she unburdens her heart to me about her work, about her children. I squeeze her hand and we pray together as tears gather in her eyes. I know she works hard for her children, and prays constantly for their needs, for their good, for their souls. I am glad she will talk to me about things that concern her, that she finds my company a comfort at times. We lapse into comfortable silence. 

She gathers up the brown skirt of her habit a little as we reach an incline, and I smile that she is barefoot like me. Of course she is. 

 People say we resemble one another, especially around the eyes. All of Carmel shares the family resemblance to Mary, our sister, as we share everything else with her. 

Some might say that ours is a curious Marian devotion, this Carmelite love of Mary not only as mother and queen, but as sister.

Carmelite Marian devotion is primarily about the imitation of Mary.  We see ourselves as “the other Mary,” and we view our Carmelite life of prayer and simplicity of heart as a reflection of the interior life she lived and still lives.

More than reflecting on Mary, we tend to simply see through her eyes, to love Jesus with her heart, to share in her hidden work in the world; in the silent drawing of her Immaculate Heart of all peoples toward her Son.

Siblings share confidences, and understand each other in a special way. They tell each other everything. In intimacy and cooperation with Mary, we receive a double portion of Christ’s spirit, because she magnifies the Lord, and together with her, we treasure His words and His life continually in our hearts, in union with her.

 A sister can share our lives, walk beside us, trust in us, and we in her.

Mary doesn’t have to knock; she practically lives at our house. When she comes over, she might even fold some of our laundry with us. 

We are always welcome at Mary’s house, too. We are allowed to pick the roses in her garden. She doesn’t mind.

Gloire de Dijon
photo by Fr. Gregory Ross, O.C.D.

Living with her as a sister keeps us in touch with the precious, pure humanity of Mary. It keeps her close by our side, walking with us in a familiar, loving way.

We are less likely to only look up to her, but more likely to unconsciously reflect her- maybe around the eyes, yes, certainly in our ways, surely in the joyful depth of our inner lives in Christ.

As we walk, I notice more and more that there are many others around us. I recognize that it is the craggy path of the ascent of Mt. Carmel we travel with our many brothers and sisters, following Jesus with Mary, our sister, in our midst. She is smiling, enjoying the company, glad we are following her Son all together.

On the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (July 16,) the family of Carmel invites you to love Mary like a sister.

If you’ll be her brother
She’ll kiss you like a sister
She’ll even be your mother for now…

I will be her brother
Kiss her like a sister
Come and be my mother forever.

~ Sixpence None the Richer from their song,  “Sister Mother”

 

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Carmel Sauce: What does a Discalced Carmelite Secular do?

I thought I would give you a glimpse of the answer to that question by sharing the letter I wrote to the Council of my O.C.D.S. Community shortly before my “Definitive Promise” in Carmel after my years of formation and at least three years after my “First Promise” to the Order. In this letter I was to answer a series of questions about how I was living out the life of an OCDS, and how I saw it having changed me, and what my spiritual life was like. I made my final promise March 13, 2011. A lot has happened since then. I feel I am not as good at this stuff now, though I know I have grown immensely. In any case, this should give you an idea how an OCDS might live his or her daily life as a Carmelite in the world. 

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my breviary and some tea

During my years of Carmelite formation, and through my time since I made my final promise as a Discalced Carmelite Secular, my spiritual life has changed immeasurably. I feel  I could say, as Alice did to the caterpillar, “I really don’t know, Sir! I’ve changed so many times since this morning, you see.”

I sometimes wonder if I have a spiritual life anymore – it is so different to me than it was. But then I ask myself: “Is there any other kind of life that I have?” No.

I have wondered further whether I really love God or not- because my love is so different now. But then I ask myself: “Is there any other kind of love?” No, there isn’t.

photo by Renee Bork

I used to identify more with Psalm 63. I felt big feelings and had great longings and dramatic experiences in prayer. Then I think I had a few early stays in Purgatory over the years, and nowadays I feel closer to Psalm 131.

“LORD, [I hope] my heart is not proud; nor my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.

Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.

Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever. “ 

I have been with my Carmelite Community a long time. They have all been patient with me and my drama and my often childish (bratty) personality such as it is. (I have been known to throw skittles during meetings.)

I don’t know what I would do without their love, support, wisdom, forgiveness, and tolerance- not to mention their amazing example to me of what it looks like to radiate the love of Jesus. That love is clear in all of their faces.

All of them have challenged and loved me and shown me new things, so often relieving my heart and clearing my mind of one silliness or another. I feel very satisfied and happy with them. I would never want to leave them or go very long without seeing them. They are a family to me. I love them. I feel I need them all and that somehow they need me.

Our monthly meetings are days beginning with communal silent prayer, then formation classes, a lively lunch, afternoon study and discussion, business and such, and then Evening Prayer, ending with singing the Salve Regina. Sometimes it is hard for me to break out of my every day life and go to Austin to be with them for these. But I know I am always overjoyed to see my Carmelite brothers and sisters, and for some reason they are unfailingly glad to see me too. My husband, Bob, once asked, after seeing the beautiful way they each greeted me,  “Are they always like that?” I laughed and said, “Yes. They are always like that!

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Some of my Carmelite Community (and me)

 

Part of our daily life as Carmelites includes spiritual reading. I try to always have a spiritual book that I am working on reading, especially whatever we are reading together as a Community, or the writings of the Carmelite Saints, or others who enrich my spiritual life.

Each of us must try to make daily mass every day we can. As I was a daily mass go-er before I even became Catholic twenty – six years ago that was not hard for me to adjust to.  That is just part of my life. I feel like that is where I get my strength and my daily bread. I like daily mass better, really, since it is more quiet, simple and intimate. I usually go to St. Mary’s for daily mass. I like to sit in the balcony, and the 5:30 mass is perfect before I go home to cook dinner.
Secular Carmelites also pray Morning, Evening and Night Prayer from The Liturgy of the Hours. My breviary is always in my backpack along with my journal and Bible. As my kids grew up I prayed Morning Prayer with them before school, and Night Prayer with them before bed. Evening Prayer I have always prayed alone which is good since evening is the busiest time of a mother’s day.  I needed the re-centering before everyone came home and everything started.

After a while I noticed that the Psalms of the Divine Office and its’ readings became the language of our hearts. They come often into my personal prayers and thoughts and even conversation among us as a family. We laugh about that- about being “programmed.” I can see why it is such a good practice to pray the Psalms day after day. They often come to mind in situations that are appropriate or keep me out of trouble when I am tempted.

Interior prayer is an important part of living as a Carmelite. I try to spend at least half an hour of Meditation/ Mental Prayer daily in silence and solitude.  After years of practice, it is just part of my day now. I used to do this in the afternoon as my sanity time before picking up the kids from school. Now, dusk is my favorite time for this. I have a room at home that I use as an oratory. I usually sit there as the light from its windows gently phases from honey to blue, to gray, to black.  I don’t often use any particular prayer method like I used to do. I don’t know how to describe what I do, but I am quiet and still and I promise I’m not sleeping.

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photo Shawn Chapman

I am drawn into meditation or recollection or just some kind of quiet centering often during my day for no particular reason. I’m glad because I think that helps me stay sane. Sometimes I use Lectio Divina or go slowly over a memorized passage, pray St. Teresa’s Prayer of Recollection, or just see what God wants or… nothing in particular as I mentioned above.

Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. ~ Our Holy Mother Foundress, St. Teresa of Avila

Prayer has just become a way of being these days. What I strive for is a constant awareness of God’s indwelling. Simple. Quiet. Absolute. Carmelite Brother Lawrence called this striving The Practice of the Presence of God. Our Father, St. John of the Cross, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites, wrote about “naked faith,”  and the“…secret and peaceful and loving inflow of God.”  To me, God is in the dark quiet center of my soul: love solid and real, that I have constant access to. That is where I have learned to seek Him on the simple, well trodden paths of Carmel.

A spontaneous meditation I am always doing is pondering in my heart what God is saying in my everyday life all the time in every situation and everything I see or hear. Maybe it sounds weird but, as people often wonder what our dreams mean and what God may be telling them in dreams; I think: “If this situation was a dream what would it mean? What would God be saying in this event?” God’s Word is written all over life, in everything and everyone and all the time. I often think “this is God.”

 

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photo Shawn Chapman

A natural ministry of a Secular Carmelite is to share Carmelite spirituality in the world. I am more likely to do this in informal ways. Mostly I just try to be it, to listen with the Heart of Mary when others are in pain, to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, to reflect Jesus and the joy of loving Him, to make all I do be to His worship and for the good of the Church.

I end up being a spiritual companion often and sometimes even something like a midwife for a soul opening up to God. I usually don’t find out I am doing that at the time. I find out later. Sometimes I am conscious of it and it is a great joy “to form Christ in others.” When they are ready for Him they seem to show up in my life. This is good because God knows I’m a bit lazy.

My prayer life leads me grow in helpfulness. I try not to miss a chance to perform an act of service with love, even though it is more natural for me to be oblivious. Most of all, I try, as St. Therese the Little Flower talked about, “to be love in the heart of the Church.”

St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) said that our prayer lives are for the purpose of, “Good works, my daughters, good works.”

I try to serve as an Extraordinary Minster of Holy Communion whenever I can. It is an active ministry that feels like prayer to me.  I usually have an Adoration hour at St. Mary’s as well.

I try to go to Confession regularly and to make frequent visits to what St. Teresa called,
“the room of self knowledge” in my soul. This is difficult and I am good at not doing it. But
over all, I do.

I try to live a simple life so that I have more time just to be, to pray, to read, and so I can be available to God and the people in my life. With kids, even ones that are out of the house now, this simplicity can be difficult to achieve. But this is what I’m trying to do.

 

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photo Shawn Chapman

 

Part of the tradition of our Order is to emulate the life of the Prophet Elijah, who lived on Mt. Carmel. Elijah was a man who listened deeply to the inner voice of God in stillness. But he also could be very pointed, to say the least, about faithfulness to the love of God, and about justice and right. Sometimes being a daughter of Elijah means confronting injustice and speaking up. I do this gently, if I possibly can, sometimes boldly and pointedly when I think God wants me to. This is hard for me, but I am getting better at it.

 

“With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord, God of hosts.” ~ the Prophet Elijah (this is the Carmelite motto)

 

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photo Shawn Chapman

Mary is Mother, Sister, and Queen of Carmel. When I think of what I want to tell you about Mary in my life, a phrase from Paul about letting “ the Word of God be on your lips and in your heart” comes to mind. That is the way Mary is to me: on my lips and in my heart. She is a living part of me. I would not want to live without Mary. I would never have come to Christ if it were not for her and she immeasurably intensifies my experience and knowledge of Him.

We are to try to do something each day to honor Mary and the most formal way  I do this is with a daily rosary (often prayed as I walk my dog, Flower), and by keeping roses at her statue at home.

I try to imitate her in everything and to ponder God’s word in my heart as she did.

And, of course, I wear her scapular. Plus it is tattooed on my back along with her Heart and the Heart of Jesus.

Carmelite Crest and Motto

 

For more about Discalced Carmelite Seculars check out:

Our Provincial web site: http://www.thereseocds.org/home.html

Visit us on Face Book. “Austin Community of Secular Discalced Carmelites”

*the featured image for this piece is of the ruins of the original Carmelite Monastery on Mt. Carmel

 

Lesson from Elijah: a prayer story

When I answer the door, a wild- looking old hippie guy standing on my porch asks me for some water and a sandwich. I don’t actually have much food in the house right now, as it’s a few days until Pay Day. I’m trying to think what to give him, remembering I am down to the last scrapes of peanut butter, when, seeming to read my mind, he says that I won’t run out of either bread or peanut butter until the next time I get paid. “Just make me a sandwich,” he says in response to my incredulous stare.

In my kitchen, I open a cabinet and find my jar of peanut butter unexpectedly full. I also find a loaf of bread. So I make him a sandwich.

“Should I know you?” I finally ask. “Yes. I’m the prophet Elijah.”

I ask him, “Aren’t you supposed to appear in the end times?” * He looks at me sharply with an expression of terrible ferocity, sadness, tenderness, radiance, and when our eyes meet, I feel exposed to the vastness of space, and I know even that vastness to be flying by, nothing at all. I know myself to be dust, less than dust. Both the prophet and I are dust in the wind together.

time lapse photo of stars on night
Photo by Jakub Novacek on Pexels.com

I find myself on a mountainside next to him. I don’t look at his face, but I watch his feet in their dusty sandals as I follow him up. The path is rough, steep, and though well worn, it is still difficult. We climb on and on in silence. This must be Mt. Carmel. Suddenly I take a thoughtless step, sliding and falling backwards down the narrow path, and then over an edge I didn’t notice before.

He catches my wrist, and as soon as his hand closes tightly to catch me and stop my fall, I see what fills the pit I almost fell into- the charred remains of little children, so many, too many to count. The full horror of this scene chokes me. As I hang over this terrible place in Elijah’s grip, I hear the Scripture, “it is not against flesh and blood that we are at war, but with the powers and principalities of darkness,” and the words of Jesus, “Satan is a murderer and he was a murderer from the beginning. “

Suddenly I am back on the mountain path with Elijah, trying to recover my calm. I look at him, his face covered with angry tears, and I remember the priests of Baal he was up against, and I feel I understand the extreme zealous intensity of Elijah. It wasn’t only the worship of an idol, offensive as that was, it was all that this led to, and ultimately, it was the Evil One beneath it all, and who is still our real enemy.

The little children sacrificed to Baal* don’t suffer anymore. It is God who feels it forever, God who is horrifically wronged, the order of the world distorted by every scream, because He is Love and Truth itself, and we are made in His image, to love and to be loved. There is only one way evil can have any effect on God; through the harm or the betrayal of those He loves.

Unfaithfulness to Him inevitably leads the human heart to ruin and darkness and worse. “All who worship them will become like them.”

That pit. I shudder. That place was strangely familiar. I know it signifies much. I will be sorting out its’ implications for a long time.

Elijah seems tired as we continue our climb. “Thank you,” I breathe, feeling that he can hear me, and that he knows I am thanking him, too, for his life of powerful witness to God, of jealous love for Him.

“Zelo zelatus sum,” I think to myself, as we duck into Elijah’s cave. “With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts;” Elijah’s words, and the motto of all Carmelites.* This is why we live, this is why we pray: “As the Lord lives, in whose presence I stand,” that He come through us into this world, that we might arise and burn like a torch in the spirit and power of Elijah against the spiritual forces of darkness, the idols and injustices of our time, with “a double portion of [his] spirit.”

We sit watching the ravens bringing us food from afar. I want to explore the cave, but the prophet’s eyes are closed, and I know we are supposed to pray now, as the sun sets. Just before I close my eyes, I see in the distance, over the sea, a small rain cloud coming up over the water. I understand what this means. “He shall descend like rain on the meadows.”  Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.

I am aware of the profound, incomprehensible tenderness of God in the “still small voice” within Elijah and myself. We cover our faces, and we say His name, the Name of God.

“The fire from the Lord consumed the sacrifice… and the people fell on their faces saying, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”icon_elijah_02_in_a_caveNotes:

  • Elijah’s life is in 1Kings chapters 17- 21,  and 2Kings 1- 2:18
  •  *Elijah and the end times http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/10Mar/030407sm.htm
  • *Baal worship involved child sacrifice.
  • *Carmelites see Elijah and the Virgin Mary as the exemplars of our Christian contemplative life.
  •  The direct Scriptures quotes italicized and in order of appearance, areEph. 6:12, Jon. 8:44, Ps. 115:8, 1Kings 19:10, 1Kings 17:1, 2 Kings 2:9, Ps. 72:6, Rev. 22:20, 1Kings 19:12, 1Kings 18:38

A Meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Biblically, the heart is the center of the human being, the seat of decision, the place of prayer to which one withdraws. It is where God comes to make His home in us. The heart is the place of longing, and spiritual thirst, the place of encounter, the place of union.*

Incarnate in Jesus, God now has a human heart, at one with His divine nature, a Heart which we call “The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Some version of this representation of Him adorns nearly every Catholic Church and home. Usually the image is of St. Margaret Mary’s apparition of Our Lord with a visible Heart which is on fire with divine love, radiant like the sun, surrounded by the thorns that symbolize His suffering and death, and topped by the cross, the symbol of His victory.

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This is a very dearly loved image of Jesus, and one of great power for us. Jesus’ heart is the center of His being, the seat of His human consciousness, the abyss of His Divine love, mercy, and compassion.

We find in the Scriptures, and we experience, in the practice and grace of prayer, that Christ has thirsted for us, has loved us first. He can easily be found by our withdrawing in prayer into our own hearts, where we are, where He is.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one in love with the sacred heart of you, the sacred heart of me, our hearts reflecting His, and His ours, living within one another. We need only be conscious of this to make this truth part of our lives of love, prayer and service, and to look for and find Him in every human heart. 

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Christ living within us has experienced our loves, humiliations, rejections, our own sufferings, deaths and resurrections. We, living in Him, as His Body and Bride, the Church, have experienced His life, too. The Sacred Heart in religious art can also be seen as a symbol of this solidarity and union, this communion and humanity we share with Christ, as well as the mystical union we have with His divinity. More obviously it is a symbol of His love for us, which is the heart of prayer, which is the Heart of our lives.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that Jesus suffers with us and takes our pain upon Himself. In the midst of the extremes of life’s suffering love, we need to know that His tears are mixed with ours, that we have a God who knows sorrow, a God who is Love, a God who wants to give Himself to us in the Eucharist, and share with us His divine life in the Trinity forever.

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In my times of deepest pain, it does not help much to ask why. It helps a lot more to “look” silently at the Sacred Heart of Jesus, into the tender darkness to which I withdraw, into the ruins of my heart, made sacred by His dwelling there, so it can be re-built to His purpose. In that gaze, “why” doesn’t matter, as much as Who this is Who loves me, and is my God. That’s where trust comes from; accepting the Heart of this Lord, Who is Love. What else is there? What more could we need, than to know and live in this Heart, allowing Christ’s Heart to live in us.? What more could we give anyone else, than the knowledge, by our love and presence, that this is so, and that the Heart of Jesus lives in us for them and in them for us? What more could we give our beloved Lord than to “Return love for Love”  as He asked us through St. Margaret Mary, by being attentive to His holy presence in our hearts?

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Jesus took up the cross, the Scripture says, “for the sake of the joy that lay before Him.” It’s easy to think about His joy as His future Resurrection and glory with His Father in Heaven. But we forget sometimes, that part of the joy that lay before Him, was ourselves. Being with us was worth it to Him. After all, this is also why He came to begin with, from the glory He had from the beginning, to take on our humanity, to be with us, to capture our hearts, to transform,redeem and raise us, to be one with us, that our hearts might burn with divine fire. May we  be willing to wear the crown of thorns that love often requires of us, until we share in the victory of the cross, and in His divine life itself, bringing many with us.

Let’s withdraw into the silence of our hearts and find His own beating there as often as possible. We can do this in the moments of recollection we can find through the day, and in the time we set aside to give Him, in silent love, especially before the Blessed Sacrament.  May we grow always and everywhere in awareness of His indwelling, nurture His presence in us, love Him better, be His joy.

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Happy June, month of the Sacred Heart.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised, adored, and loved, in the tabernacle of every human heart, to the end of time, and forever in the the life to come! Amen.

 

*see CCC Section 4 “Christian Prayer”

Also by me regarding the Sacred Heart: Jesus, give us Your Heart! Make us strong to love!

A Meditation on the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In contemplating the Heart of Mary, we enter into her interior life, symbolized by the beautiful image of her heart. It is often depicted as pierced with a sword, in flames, wreathed with roses or with the crown of thorns of her Son. Mary’s pure and open heart is the reflection of our beautiful Christian life of union with God; a reflection of sacrificial love for Him and all humanity, on fire with the Holy Spirit, flowering with every grace, blessing and virtue.

“Draw us after you in the fragrance of your holiness.” *  Following in her heart beats, we are to be directed by the the love of God: wholly pure, wholly given, fully human. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God,” because when we are pure of heart, all we see is God. Her heart is utterly pure beyond our comprehension, pure as Eve’s before the fall; then made even more beautiful by Mary’s heroic merits, her sacrifices, her complete alliance with God, her total love, and her compliance with His will and plan. Oh the willingness of this heart to  trustingly suffer in order to love Christ bravely, to grow in love and go on loving even to it’s own destruction! She believed all things, she endured all things, she hoped all things! Therefore she received all things.

How can we imitate Mary by heart? We are so often unlike her inside.  Sometimes we seem hopelessly off track. Mary’s heart’s simplicity and hidden life in Christ are hard to cultivate, but this is what true holiness is, loving God as she did; in stark faith, hope, and love, in simplicity of heart.  We walk with Mary in simple faith and learn Christ from her. We listen, we let go and let God, trusting in His grace that He will complete the good work he has begun in us. It all began with our Most Holy Mother saying, “I am the littlest of the servants of God. Let it be done to me as you have said.”  And Jesus was conceived in her.  This is what happens in the spiritual life if we allow God to work with us, and Mary to teach us. We become more and more attentive to His Word  in our lives. We learn to be in silent communion with Him in the quiet of our hearts and we become more and more aware of His indwelling. It takes training ourselves to be quiet and commitment to spend time with God every day in whatever way we are capable of. We can entrust our formation to Mary.

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She is the perfect model of the spiritual life of a Christian. And because she intercedes for us as Queen Mother we can do more than consider her heart and wish we were different. We can become  closer to what she is by her prayers for us, by grace, by attempting to follow her example, by being willing, by praying. In companionship with Mary and inviting her into our lives, we become more like her . She never keeps anything for herself though. She brings us right to Christ and intensifies our experience of Him. He seems to like to see us in her company, entrusting us to her “school of prayer.” *
With her let us “set out into the deep”*  as she did in trusting receptivity and self -giving love, in  prayer of the heart. In this way the Blessed Trinity will come to dwell in us fully and truly. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is an icon of the heart of prayer in its perfection.

Let us  allow our hearts to be cleansed by being willing to be shown our mixed  motivations and inner secrets and to let go of anything that keeps us from God, allowing ourselves to be transformed little by little as we learn to let God in.  May we be receptive to Love and in being possessed by God, possess God. As Mary allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her, may we be open to His movements in our souls with courageous love.  May our Holy Mother pray for us that we can mirror her heart with our own. May we too be simple , humble and free of heart for Him, that we may run lightly in His paths and wear the gentle yoke of Jesus with a joyful humility.

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We are so busy and so was she. Mary practiced prayer of the heart, I imagine, in the midst of family life: as she swept floors, chased her toddler when he ran out the door as all toddlers must, while she was cooking or working outside in the fields, kneading dough or bringing in water, helping a neighbor or wishing it would rain.

Her feet were often dirty and her hands were calloused with work. Maybe sometimes Joseph came in from the shop silent and far away, mentally working on some problem the way husbands will at times, and she had to be patient as every wife does, until he seemed ready to communicate or ready for a hug.

She had to have laughed when funny things happened . She was obviously astonished that her Son could seem so inconsiderate as to be at the Temple for three days while she worried so terribly. Sometimes she didn’t understand what was happening.

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looking and looking for Jesus

I am certain she had to stay up late or get up early to have any quiet time at all. She was and is fully human, and she understands our life. She will come and sit with us when we are crying. She will smile with us. She will teach us how she did it, how hers became the model for the praying heart amidst life’s work , sorrow and joy.

Maybe we could start a new phase of our relationship with Mary, Fetch get your favorite image of Our Lady and have a quiet cup of tea with her and see what happens. I did. It was nice.  You might try it.

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Let us pray: O Mary I consecrate my heart to yours that I may love the Father with your heart, listen with your heart, respond to grace with your heart, accept suffering and sacrifice lovingly and freely with your heart. Pray for me, that I may follow the way of prayer and service as you, His most worthy daughter have done before me.  Be with me and pray that I  serve with devotion and compassion, that I pray until  prayer becomes love and love becomes prayer.

May my heart be conformed to God’s merciful will in every way.  

May I learn from you, Mary, to live continually in God’s presence, whatever I am doing, “For the language He hears best is silent love.” *

Jesus, thank you for revealing the Immaculate Heart of Your Mother to the Church that we may grow in simply loving you,  letting ourselves be loved and opened and inhabited by you as Mary has exemplified.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Thy well beloved Spouse*” Teach us the heart of prayer. 

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*Mary’s “school of prayer” John Paul II in Rosarium Virginis Mariae

*”Draw us after you in the fragrance of your holiness,” is an antiphon from The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

*”Set out into the deep!” – John Paul II

*”The language He hears best…”  St. John of the Cross

*This “Come Holy Spirit” is a prayer I learned from a friend years ago. We say it all the time at our house.

Living the sacredness of Ordinary Time

My daughter, Maire, got in trouble at her Catholic middle school for wearing green nail polish, which was against the rules. (Only clear or light pink nail polish allowed, if I remember right.) When asked about her indiscretion, she said, “It’s for Ordinary Time!”

I laughed hearing about that. At least she remembered what season we were in as Church, and it meant something to her.

We have just begun Ordinary Time, that big section of green, the liturgical color of the current Church  season, that fills most of the wheel illustrating the Liturgical Year.

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We have special things we do at other seasons in the Church year. What about Ordinary Time?

Ordinary Time has it’s own feel. I associate its’ post Pentecost beginning with that first breath of cool air from the church door as I step into the intimate hush of daily Mass on a hot Summer day. This season is a contrast of calm and peace after the penance of Lent and the holy fire of Easter and Pentecost. It’s a return to the simple holiness of daily life. 15039609_10211644917782949_4725375496342074872_o

 

One of our family albums is titled, “Ordinary Time.” It is a scrapbook of our family life during a few months of Summer and Fall. Into it I recorded our daily “rule of life;” (or sometimes not-so-rule,) song lyrics to music we were listening to at the time, the every day prayers we prayed, the silly things we did on the spur of the moment like a spontaneous family dance in the middle of dinner, as well as our little celebrations of the feasts of Ordinary Time, such as the Nativity of Mary (September 8.)

We always made Mother Mary a birthday cake. “Chocolate. What other kind of cake would she eat, right?” the caption  says in green ink.

We remembered this part of the Church year by keeping green candles on our family alter. We prayed a “kid version” (when the kids were younger,) of the Liturgy of the Hours I put together for family prayer, which always reflected the current season.

Ordinary Time in Dubina
Ordinary Time at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Dubina

At Mass, the vestments and alter cloths will be green or have green trim. My mom, always the gardener, used to say this was because “green is the color of life.” In Ordinary Time, the focus shifts from the culminating moments in the life of Christ and His Church; the birth of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and then Pentecost, to the space in between where most of life is lived.

 

“Ordinary” comes from the word, “Order.” So we enter into the daily order of the Church at this time of year, and the emphasis of the Gospel readings is on the ministry of Jesus; His preaching and healing, His daily encounters with people, His conversations, his journeys.

Ordinary time can be a time we pay special attention to our own encounters, conversations, and the events of our own lives, and how God speaks to us in these. How does the life of Jesus unfold in your own?

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What do you do every day? I know I spend a lot of time coping, and sometimes I need to cultivate more conscious awareness of life so it doesn’t just happen to me and I miss it.

I am not by nature a very rule or schedule oriented person. But I do know paying attention to my loosely interpreted cadenza of a life, makes it more of a little holy rule instead of a stream of consciousness in which I might forget to practice the presence of God. * When I can lightly observe the rhythm of the day with holy intention, I feel peaceful and connected.

Ordinary Time is a great time to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to read the daily mass readings, (or maybe just the Gospel each day, as my youngest adult daughter and I do.) It’s a good time to get in the habit of sanctifying time by stopping, or at least pausing, in our day, to pray, even for a moment. It’s a good time to remember to look around and notice how beautiful God is, and how He is everywhere represented and speaking to us.

Now is a great time to carry Jesus into the work we do, and to consciously do all we do as it truly is; through Him, with Him and in Him. We can try doing every task with gentleness and love. Whether we sit, or lie down, or are talking to our children, whether we are in our house, driving our car, doing the shopping or at work, when we are sitting with friends, or going for a walk, we can try always to be remembering the nearness of God, even in our breathing.

“God is alive. I am standing in His presence.” ~Antiphon from The Carmelite Proper for the feast of Elijah the Prophet (July 20)

We can each day seek to understand how it is that His yoke is easy, His burden light, His Heart meek and humble. We can slowly begin to incorporate that lightness, that easiness, that meekness and humility of heart into our lives as we become more aware of the sweet companionship of His spirit every day.

This is how we enjoy life as people who consciously live in God; by bringing the remembrance of Him into the sacred Ordinariness of our time.

from my out door reading grove :)

“See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.

~ Revelations of Divine Love by St. Julian of Nowich

* The Practice of the Presence of God is a term coined by the Carmelite mystic, Brother Lawrence, and is the title of a collection of his writings.

on our family land outside of College Station
Green, the color of life

 

 

 

Mary, Mother of the Church

What I want to do is fall to my knees at her feet, to take hold of, and touch to my face, the hem of her long blue skirt. But I can tell she doesn’t want me to do this. What she really wants is some help in the kitchen.

She motions to me to join her in what she is doing. As my mother did when I was young, she hands me my own ball of dough to roll out with my own rolling pin.

She’s busy. She doesn’t want to talk, but to have me do what she does. So I watch her and together we roll out several large, oblong pieces of flat dough. She hands me one of my mother’s biscuit cutters (where did she get that?) and together we make small rounds of all the dough, placing each circle on a long baking sheet.

When the first batches are in the oven, and we have mixed more dough, she puts the kettle on, and motions for me to sit down at the kitchen table.

I look around with interest at the house we are in. It is a plain, comfortable house, probably built in the early 60’s, a combination of wood, brick and worn linoleum, a small window over the kitchen sink, honey suckle vine growing across it. There is a stack of books on the round kitchen table, next to a flowerpot with ivy spilling out of it.

She sets down a cup of a spicy black tea in front of me, and sits down with me. She seems thoughtful as she sips her tea, looking out into the back yard at her garden.

I notice that the books on the table are copies of the various documents of Vatican II.

I tell her I’ve been reading Lumen Gentium and that it is my favorite Vatican II Document. She smiles.

I ask her about Chapter VIII, which was written about her in the life of the Church. She said that as we grow as God’s children, we will see her, in clearer and clearer light, as the Holy Spirit leads the Church. She says that in different ages, different emphases are needed for us to grow in our faith, and understanding, and therefore, love.

 

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I am thinking about this as the kitchen timer rings.

It’s time to take more bread out of the oven and put the next batch in. Fortunately it is a big oven, and this is our last batch.

She makes me a sandwich, pats my shoulder, and goes out to clip some roses from her garden. She then arranges these in the box she packs the now cooled little rounds of bread into.

She washes her face, straightens her kerchief, and motions for me at the door, to come put my sandals on as she is doing.

Soon we are walking down the front path with the boxes of the flat little circles we have baked and crossed on the top.

We head through the neighborhood and then turn onto a down town street. We find a small, simple Catholic Church. (Did that sign really say St. Everyone?) The Church office is closed for lunch, but the door is open, so we leave our boxes inside.

She wants to pray in the main church, so we head back out and around the corner. A side door is open. I whisk my veil onto my head, she pulls her mantle up over her kerchief, and we walk into the cool silence, genuflecting. When she stands up to look at me, I notice a slight glow from the tabernacle and then I glance at her, standing still in the middle of this little church. She is gazing at me, her hands out, the growing glow from the tabernacle illumining her, until she seems made of that light.

In her dark and lovely eyes, I am suddenly lost in a mighty ocean. I understand the immense capacity of her heart to praise and love God continually. In the thundering roar of waves and the groaning of the deep, I understand her longing for her children to know the joy of Jesus and the conversion of their hearts to Love.

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I close my eyes, and it seems she takes me through the whole world. Together we move like a gust of wind among people of all ages and races and nations; the suffering, the unfairly treated, the persecuted, the poor, the imprisoned, the used and abused the addicted, the mentally ill, the troubled, the sick, the ignored, the unloved, those who know not how to love, the violent, the hateful, the selfish and the weak, the afraid, the judgmental, the prideful and the powerful. Together we touch them all. Sometimes she takes my hand and touches people with my fingers. The cool, sweet wind of the Spirit blows around us and through us, blessing us, blessing those we walk among.

“Jesus is Love, Jesus is Life. Jesus is Peace. Jesus is Truth. Jesus is the Way,” she says. “My children, pray. Pray. Pray.” She presses small crosses into each hand. Her heart glows with that same light I saw flowing from the tabernacle at the little church, the light of Jesus, who is the Light of the Church, Light of the World.

This Divine Breeze, as well as this humble touch and presence of Mary, too, transforms and unites everyone in Christ, bringing all toward His Love, Redemption, Mercy. This is what she does all day. This is her dream for us.

 

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Now we walk along with the  people of God, a holy nation, the Christ light of the world, as they are praying, working, being sanctified and sanctifying the world in all they do.

Then with  flashes of lightening and with peels of thunder I see Mary standing on the moon, her crown of stars on her head, clothed with the sun. I hear her wailing in the pains of childbirth and I realize I am crying out with her.

And then we are again standing in this little church, two women of small stature, each a little dusty with flour, in spite of our best efforts. But people are coming in to mass now. I try to recover myself, and breathe normally. I shake my head to clear it.

“If you went to Mass, where would you sit?” I ask her, looking around, wondering what to do.

“I do come to Mass. And I sit with everyone else. Today I will sit with you.”

We sit near the back, and she attends devoutly, listening carefully to the Word of God, saying the responses and making all the gestures with us. She receives Holy Communion with quiet devotion, and prays intensely afterwards. She sings all the hymns with us.

She holds my hand.

I had recognized the bread we had made as it was consecrated and changed by the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) into His Body and Blood.

I am beginning to understand Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium as it has unfolded in our day together. She squeezes my arm.

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We greet people as we walk out into the fresh air and sunshine. She kisses the hand of the priest and he lets her, humbly. Does he know who she is? I wonder.

She puts her arm around me as we walk home. I reflect on the fact that she is the greatest woman who ever was or who ever will be, yet she is also a simple servant of the Lord, walking beside me in worn sandals.

I fall to my knees at her feet. I take hold of the hem of her long blue skirt, touch it to my face, and kiss it.

 

This time she lets me, though. And she laughs.

 

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O God, Father of mercies, whose only Begotten Son, as he hung upon the Cross, chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, to be our Mother also, grant, we pray, that with her loving help your Church may be more fruitful day by day and, exulting in the holiness of her children, may draw to her embrace all the families of the peoples. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen. ~ Liturgy of the Hours for May 21 Morning Prayer

Happy first ever Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church. 🙂

Pentecost Novena Day 9

Let them give glory to the LORD, and utter his praise in the coastlands. 
The LORD goes forth like a hero, like a warrior he stirs up his ardor; He shouts out his battle cry, against his enemies he shows his might: 
I have looked away, and kept silence, I have said nothing, holding myself in; But now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting. 
I will lay waste mountains and hills, all their herbage I will dry up; I will turn the rivers into marshes, and the marshes I will dry up. 
I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them.

~ Isaiah 42:12-16

Holy Spirit, we have come to the end of our novena. We waited and persevered in prayer and You have come.

Release Your power into our lives like a mighty wind that fills the house. Send down Your Fire of Wisdom and Love and send us forth on a new journey, guiding us by paths unknown. Increase in us faith, hope, and love, that as on that first Pentecost those have been afraid will become brave, those who have been weak may become strong, those who have lacked speech or understanding may be set free to utter the Divine Praises and to radiate Your glory and grace. Grant to us Your seven gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe in Your presence .

According to our holy faith, Your presence within us is so very real that this is how we will rise from the dead. Anything that is degenerated can be regenerated in Your light. Create us anew.

Fill our souls, minds and bodies with Your Spirit and Life, fill us with courage and hope, increase our faith. We believe, Lord. Help our unbelief. Inspire us to set out with determined determination* and in a spirit of love and renewal. Lift all saddened spirits to a new joy they has not yet known.
Give us hope for the future. Help us to recognize Your Voice wherever and whenever we hear it. Grant to all of us the knowledge of Your holy will for us and the power to carry it out. *

Mary, present with the disciples at Pentecost praying with them and for them, Our humble and compassionate Queen Mother, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, accompany us with your prayers. Intercede for us that we may ponder in our hearts the glory of God and with you magnify His love and presence in this world. Intercede for us with your Son.

Come, Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Thy well beloved spouse. ~Mary’s locutions to Fr. Gobi

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Oh God, You have done all things for us and given us such joy. You have provided for all our needs. You have made all things new. You have made us strong and courageous and full of faith and love. O God, we praise You, We adore You, we bless You.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever!

In the Name of Jesus we make this and every prayer, asking the Angels and the Saints to add their petitions to ours, offering them before the alter of God in Heaven.
May our prayers rise up to You O God, like burning incense in Your sight. May they be sweet to You and give You joy.

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Amen. Amen.

 

* 11th Step of AA

** “determined determination” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

 

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Pentecost Novena Day 8

Come Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Consoler, the Teacher, the Paraclete who walks with us. Come, Spirit of Love proceeding from the Father and the Son as Jesus promised us at his Ascension.

Holy Spirit, the disciples did not really understand but they waited for You in prayer in Jerusalem for nine days. We have waited these days in prayer in their company. We do not understand. But we believe that You will come. We do not know what You will do but we know You will do something. You are compassion, You are Love, You are Mercy itself. You are present within us, present in the events of our lives, present with us until the end of time and forever. Receive our prayer and infuse us with Your Divine Grace. Conform our hearts to Your holy will, “which is love and mercy itself,” and we will be at peace. 
Grace us with a sense of Your life in us and the assurance of Your love. Help us to understand all that we need to understand for our welfare and to choose the right paths in our lives.

Bless and inspire us, grant to us a new hope and may our hope not be disappointed.

Holy Mother Mary, Bride of the Spirit, you waited with the disciples for the coming of the Promised Advocate. Your heart was broken at being parted from Your Son again and yet your heart could not want what God did not want.* Pray that our hearts may be fully tuned to the Song of God as yours always was even when you did not understand what was happening or why. May we too always say yes to God in the events of our lives. This is love. This is peace. Show us the way. 
In the Name of Jesus,
 Amen.

*“Her heart could not want what God did not want,” St. Faustina

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