Archive for the ‘Reflections on Scripture’ Category

Duty is not a dirty word

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Today is Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.

For the last ten days, my parish (St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA) has been praying the nine-day novena to the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this novena, a 40-hour devotion was held in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I tried to live up to my duty and participate fully in this prayerful time but fell flat after the fifth day of the novena. Still, I was looking forward to mass this Sunday in my church.

However, duty called.

King George VI understood about duty, despite his stuttering which made speech making nearly impossible.

Attending to my duty

As some of you already know, my husband Rich is a deacon in the Melkite Church which is Eastern Catholic. The liturgy is celebrated in the Byzantine tradition. It is a beautiful celebration that touches greatly upon the mystery that is our faith.

My feet of clay

I am not always up to the lofty state of mind that one needs to be in to attend these liturgies. It requires that you stand for pretty much the whole hour. This is a challenge for my bad feet and sore back.

The liturgy is entirely sung. Everyone sings which is commendable but the singing isn’t always good. Unless I am caught up in the Spirit of God, the singing can prove to be quite distracting.

I am not proud of the fact that these minor matters get in the way of worshipping God during these liturgies. But they do.

I really wanted to worship at my parish where the music can soar. But duty came first.

Saying goodbye

Rich had told me earlier in the week that a longtime and key member of his church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), Corinne, was leaving the state to be near her children. This woman had served Our Lady of Perpetual Help for 30 years and would be sorely missed.

Corinne had been one of many at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who had welcomed me as one of their own.  I wanted to say goodbye and wish her well.

Duty called, and I chose to attend liturgy at my husband’s church rather than our own.

Where duty led me

Each morning I dedicate my day to God with a prayer that Henri Nouwen prayed. In part it says, “I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

I attended the liturgy. As a result, I experienced a gentle outpouring of the Spirit which I know I would have missed had I not done my duty.

The Spirit brings life

It began during the homily as Fr. Paul spoke of different times in the Scriptures when the Spirit was mentioned. He recalled Ezekiel 37 when the prophet Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones come alive again into living, breathing people because he did his duty by obeying God and prophesying over them. A valley of bones rose to new life as a result.

The Spirit promises

Fr. Paul also mentioned Joel 2:28 and the promise of the Spirit:

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.

What had the Spirit done for me?

It was then that I began to reflect upon the remarkable yet quiet transformation that had been going on in my life since I lost my mother two years ago.

In thinking about those readings, I realized that I was like those dry bones in the valley, brought back to life. I was dreaming dreams again. All of this because of the outpouring of the Spirit into my life.

Personal Pentecost

I began to experience a personal moment of Pentecost, becoming suddenly very aware of God’s presence pressing in on me from all sides. Rather than feeling oppressed, I felt liberated, deeply loved, and grateful for the wondrous gift God had bestowed on me in the wake of my grief.

And all this I was privy to because I had opted to do my duty.

Duty can be beautiful

Doing one’s duty is the most basic reason for doing anything. But as frail humans, sometimes it’s all we’re capable of at that moment.

How wonderful God is that He will bless my performance of duty! Because I had demonstrated to Him an openness to whatever He had in mind for me, I was able to receive His blessing.

Duty had opened the door.

I had prayed it that morning and performed it through my duty: “”I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

The beautiful heart of St. Paul

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Reflection on today’s readings (May 23, 2012) Acts 20:28-38; Psalm 68:29-30,33-36, John 17:11-19

Many women do not like St. Paul. I am not one of them.

Ever since I asked St. Paul to intercede for me for a special need (more on that in a moment), I have found myself reflecting on his life, his writings, and his enormous contribution to Christianity.

From Acts Chapter 20

Today’s reading from Acts moved me deeply. I found myself welling up as I imagined Paul’s impassioned plea to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus. Knowing they would never see them again, they wept openly, throwing their arms around him and kissing him.

Saying goodbye

Any mother knows the pain of an empty nest when the son or daughter leaves home for the last time. You struggle to hold it in so you won’t embarrass yourself and often times you just can’t help it. I had said what I thought was the final goodbye a few times to my son, first when he went off to college and lastly, when he moved to a neighboring town. That last time was especially hard. Now he is moving out of state at the end of the summer and I haven’t dared to begin thinking about that yet!

Paul’s attributes

What I love about St. Paul is his commitment, love and fortitude. This man emptied himself each and every day out of love for his Lord, but also for love of the people he was sent to minister to. There was never any hesitation. He never pulled back, never worried about what others would think of him. He was focused only on pleasing his Lord.

Knowing who you are

Paul was fully aware of what he had been. He had been forgiven of some pretty horrendous sins and he never forgot to be grateful for the privilege of carrying the Good News. That gratefulness acted like gasoline on the fire of his love.

A special intercessor

I especially love St. Paul’s focus and the example he uses of the marathon runner with the eye on the prize. About a year ago, for some reason, I asked  St. Paul to intercede for me for a very specific intention. I asked him to run beside me whenever I found myself stuck in traffic when I desperately needed to relieve myself. Because of a medical condition, this happens frequently. The pain is unlike any I’ve known and the emotional distress makes the pain more acute.

At the first sign of trouble, I call upon St. Paul to run beside me and we run together. Taking on his focus, my emotions are controlled and the pain is less acute. As a result of these encounters, I have developed an affection for St. Paul which has caused me to read more carefully the extraordinary writings which built on the foundation of our faith.

Empty, and beautiful

It is no wonder that the presbyters at Ephesus felt such a strong connection with Paul who, for 3 years, had spent his life for them. Each day, he was empty, and beautiful.

And I think of that man, that saint, running beside me, comforting me in my little trouble. How good our God is to provide these wonderful saints for us!

Matt Maher, a Christian singer and songwriter, recorded a wonderful song about St. Paul that he called Empty and Beautiful. As you watch the video below, think on today’s reading and the man who knew exactly who he was and what had been given to him. He knew too what to give back and why.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhaHB1Cad_4

From Provincial to Radical: Getting Below the Surface

Friday, May 18th, 2012

I am currently re-reading Henri Nouwen’s last book, Sabbatical Journey The Diary of His Final Year. I read it years ago and found his honesty and vulnerability very moving. There is a journal entry for each day of his sabbatical, and each one sparks reflection.

from http://tennoshima.com/Events.html

In the entry from Tuesday, September 9, Nouwen mentions the occasional retreats he gave with friend Jonas and how Jonas could play the Japanese bamboo flute. He writes, “The amelodic music he plays on the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, allows people to experience God’s spirit in ways that words cannot express.”

Learning to stretch

In my reading of the gospels over the past year, I have been struck by a recurring theme: Jesus’ insistence that we get beyond our preconceived notions. As the great Spiritual Doctor, He diagnoses humanity with the affliction of narrow-mindedness: we practice our faith by clinging stubbornly to ritual, all the while being oblivious to the actual meaning. It’s easier (and safer) to blindly follow the rules rather than digging deep to understand their intent.

Jesus challenges us to be radical lovers and thinkers; He means to stretch us.

Leaders bound to ritual

This is evidenced by His repeated confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees, the most learned of the people. Despite their knowledge, these leaders adopt a provincial view of life through their observance of the Law. They flawlessly fulfill the rituals yet have no clue as to how the Law applies to their inner lives. It’s all about outward performance and it fuels their pride and arrogance, blinding them to the Son of God who stands before them.

Talking to myself

Rituals affect prayer too. I can use a parochial approach to prayer, doing my fifteen minutes a day mindlessly reciting my rote prayers and feeling a sense of accomplishment at performing my duty. I might as well be saying the prayers to myself. Jesus is waiting for me to sit at His feet and be with Him and I don’t recognize Him standing there before me.

Following the Spirit’s lead

In the book of Romans Paul writes, “the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26). In essence, prayer without the Spirit’s help accomplishes nothing.

Be, not do

The prayers we’ve been taught are good, reinforcing what we’ve learned. They prepare the heart. It’s the next step that requires a more radical approach and that involves acquiescing to the Spirit. My only task at that point is to allow Him to lead me.

It takes effort and fortitude to quiet myself and allow the encounter to begin. Then all effort ceases. And that’s when I sometimes wonder if, in fact, I am praying.

Is it prayer?

Sometimes a wave of peace and gratitude will flow over me.  The result is a sense of love and well-being that wells up inside. It surpasses words and instead, produces tears.

Other times I experience intense pain and swirling confusion, leaving me floundering and helpless.

If during those moments, I turn and face Jesus, they become prayer.

Music as a means to prayer

Nouwen’s description of Jonas’ music reminds me of how easily music leads me to these encounters. I feel almost guilty letting my collection of spiritual and classical music shuffle through my iPod as I drive into work. It’s too easy, there’s no effort.

And that’s when the encounter begins. It’s not my effort that produces prayer but the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

The preparation

Music prepares my heart and soul with a rhythmic kneading, softening what was once hard. I am then prepared to stretch out my hand and allow the Spirit to grasp it, leading me into the inner sanctum.

The experience

In there I could experience a myriad of things: the sense of being loved, deep sorrow for my sins, insight, consolation, maybe even nothing at all. No matter what I may or may  not feel, Jesus is as close to me as my own breath.

Openness to the gift

What a wonderful gift our Lord gives us through His Spirit when we open our minds and hearts and step outside of ourselves. This was the gift He longed to give to the Pharisees but they could not let go.

But like the cripple who, after being healed by Jesus, throws away the crutches and walks freely, I too can employ that same trust, knowing that God will extend His hand and lead me deeper into His heart, and closer to paradise.

Rising to new life

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Lord Jesus, lift me from the death of sin to new life!
Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

Reflection on readings for May 5 – Acts 13:44-52, Psalm 98:1-4; John 14:7-14

Acts 13: 44-52: Paul and Barnabas had preached the Word of God to the people and many were receptive to the message. But the Jewish leaders were resistant and stirred up trouble, inciting prominent women and leaders to create an atmosphere of persecution. Scripture tells us the Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy when they saw the crowds, to the point of violence.

What was pushing their hot button?

Being Chosen

For generations the Israelites were known as the Chosen People. One could get accustomed to that, being chosen. It could be clung to as a title; one could take pride in it.

One could say that because they were chosen, others were not. A sense of superiority and entitlement could rise up as a result.

Leaders of the Chosen

The Jewish leaders were not only chosen, they were also appointed as leaders over the chosen, making their position even more important. Leadership mixed with pride created the perfect breeding ground for jealousy, and for a closed mind and heart.

Unmoved

Now these leaders were witnessing their people being swayed by the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. If the people came to believe in Jesus, the leaders could lose their power and position.

The leaders desperately clung to their power. Pride blinded them to something so much greater. For leaders, their vision was small indeed.

In danger of clinging

What am I clinging to that blocks my vision? Am I proud of my accomplishments and am I ambitious for more? Are there things in this world that I love so much that it competes with my love for God and His people?

Tug of war

In the last couple of years, the Lord has lead me into reading and writing. I had not read on a regular basis since I was a child and now suddenly I live to read. Reading has born its fruits in a new love for writing. I find myself hungering to immerse myself all the time in these pursuits. I take pride in all that I am learning.

And yet, I feel the tug of competition between my new passion and my love for the Lord. I schedule time in the morning to read and reflect on the scriptures, and also to pursue my new passion. I feel that urge to “hurry up” with the scripture study so that I can get to what I “really” love.

And yet God gave me this new love! What sense does this make?

Worshipping the gift or the Giver?

Like the Jewish leaders being blinded by their love of power and position, denying themselves eternal life with Jesus, my passion for reading and writing can do the same. Even if the gift came from God, the gift can never become a god in and of itself; it must be lorded over by the only true God.

Lift me up

And so I pray for Jesus to offer his hand and lift me from this sin as He lifted Adam and Eve out of Hades and to new life  as shown in the above icon.

I ask Him to help me bring all the pieces of my life together into one whole, fully integrated so that there is no competition.

Nothing must compete with the only thing that truly matters – a growing, vibrant loving relationship with Jesus.

What’s blocking your vision?

 

Paul’s dilemma

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Reflection on the readings for Friday, May 5: Acts 13:26-33, Psalm 2:6-11; John 14:1-6

Radical conversion

Today’s reading from Acts struck me. Here was Paul, newly converted, preaching the very Gospel he had tried to snuff out. A zealous Pharisee, the once-named Saul made it his life’s mission to persecute Christians as a means of defending the Jewish faith.

Struck down on the road to Damascus by the One he truly persecuted, Paul’s heart was changed as well as his mission.

Hidden demons

Yet as I read his perfect preaching of the Gospel in a nutshell, I sense between the lines the dilemma he must have faced and the demons he had to put down to preach.

Paul’s regret over his past life must have tortured him at times, most especially when he preached. How many times must he had felt unworthy to even say the name of Jesus after the way he had treated His people!

Love conquers all

His love for Jesus had to be overpowering to overcome such regret. His faith in the Spirit to lead him away from his guilt which had been forgiven had to be very deep.

Paul’s thorn

While it is known that Paul had a thorn in his side (perhaps a medical issue), surely this guilt that haunted him again and again, was a thorn also. It was a thorn perhaps even more painful than the one he wrote about.

No excuses

Nobody had more reason to shrink away from preaching the Gospel than the man who had so cruelly persecuted the disciples of Jesus.  And yet, that memory of  and faith in the forgiveness graciously given to him by Jesus was the means by which he could preach.

What’s mine?

What excuse, therefore, do I have to shrink away from sharing Jesus with others? I am a sinner. I may not have persecuted Christians, but I have been ashamed of the Gospel, caring more for what people thought of me than sharing my love of Jesus with them. When I listen to Christian music at work, how often do I instinctively turn it down, or off, when a co-worker comes into the office? Why do I do that?

Eyes fixed on the prize

Paul was running a marathon on the strength of his love of Jesus. He would not stop until he reached the finish line. He had heaven fully in his sight and never took his eyes off of it. Being with the Lord overrode any leftover guilt or weakness.

My guilt is no less and therefore the forgiveness offered is no less powerful. St. Paul, run with me and remind me that if you were able to overcome your demons because of your love, I can too.

One life and how it changed so many

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Yesterday I began my vacation. I enjoyed an exquisite kayaking trip up the Sudbury River in Concord, MA to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Reserve. The day ended with a wonderful family dinner to welcome home my brother-in-law as he visits from California.

I remember sitting in my kayak, looking at the scenery and thinking,  “It doesn’t get more beautiful than this.”

Yet after today, that beauty paled in comparison.

My favorite day of vacation won’t be the glorious kayak trip or the family reunion dinner.

It will be a funeral.

Today I witnessed something so beautiful that I couldn’t stop weeping. I was not sad; I was overwhelmed.

The essence of Henry

A very special man had died. He was a member of our parish family and our town for several decades. His wake was crowded and the funeral mass nearly full. Our pastor summed up the story of Henry this way:

“Henry was a gracious receiver.”

What in the world does that mean? Monsignor Mike used the gospel reading as the key.

The story of Henry

Monsignor had chosen John 13: 1-17 where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. It was a different choice for a funeral mass. But Henry was a most unique man.

Henry had fallen prey to a mental illness when he was 19 and spent many years institutionalized. Years later he was placed in a new experimental program where he would live in the community, and he moved to a small apartment in downtown Westboro, MA where he was to live out his days. He joined our parish, St. Luke the Evangelist, and began to use his special gift.

At first people were put off by Henry’s odd mannerisms and ways. But as eulogist Charley O’Neil pointed out, it didn’t take long for those same people to count this dear man as their friend.

A simple life full of love

Henry loved people. He exuded joy and made it a point to meet and greet as many people as he could. He never forgot a name nor a face. He was a fixture at daily mass, loving our Eucharistic Lord most passionately. He prayed his rosary regularly and became known as a powerful prayer warrior.

Henry was also a man who recognized his needs and weaknesses and never hesitated to call on parishioners for help. Charley remarked that once Henry asked you for help, you were a member for life of his little community!

His gift of “gracious receiving” enabled a large part of our parish family to be more like Jesus.

Henry taught us how to receive

Monsignor Mike pointed out Peter in the gospel, how he first refused the Lord’s offer to wash his feet. When Jesus told Peter that he could not be a disciple unless he received this gift, Peter understood and allowed the Lord to wash his feet. In turn, Peter would care for many of the flock throughout his life with greater love than he could have imagined.

Monsignor explained that Henry did that for people. He asked for help and received it graciously. As a result, Henry was Jesus to many and allowed others to be Jesus to him. He helped people live the verse from the parable of the Last Judgment: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me, sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36, paraphrased)

Charley O’Neil as a key member of  Henry’s beautiful community of friends, driving Henry places and each year, hosting a big birthday party for him at his home. I imagine that each year, the guest list got longer.

Henry taught us how to love

And Charley reminded us that Henry indeed represented the least of us, a man disabled who had to depend on others for his needs. Henry was a man who would normally be shunned and forgotten, but he refused to play that role. His great joy and fearless love, fueled by his devotion to the Eucharistic Lord, enabled him to achieve the kind of legacy we could only dream of. (read Henry’s obituary here; read a letter to the town of Westboro about Henry here)

Surely Henry is “free of his demons” as Charley said, and “rests in the arms of the Lord.”

What Henry taught me

And why could I not stop weeping? Because, here was a man with a heart so big and so full that, despite his “demons” was able to change so many lives for the better.

Only this week the Lord has been showing me the painful truth of my small heart which I liken to the Grinch who stole Christmas. So small and stingy. So afraid.

Today I was exposed to a heart and a life that was lived fearlessly, in great joy. Henry’s light was so bright and although I barely knew the man, his funeral and life story would change me forever.

Henry understood the delicate balance of receiving and giving. “So simple,” said our pastor, and yet so profound.

True beauty

Today I saw a beauty and a truth that reminds me yet again that there is nothing in this world that can even begin to compare to the love of our God.

I may have kayaked down one of the most scenic rivers in the world yesterday. I may have enjoyed a wonderful dinner with family, full of laughter, love and stories.

But all of that paled in comparison to the truth of God’s love as shown through the life of “the least of these.”

Henry, you’re in heaven now and I bet your giving has just begun. You gave me a most precious gift today. And I will continue to ask you to pray for me that God will grow my heart to be as big and generous as yours. Rest in peace.

 

 

In honor of the Virgin Mary and her Assumption into Heaven

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Today on this feast of the Assumption, a simple post: letting pictures and songs tell the story of Mary. We can gaze upon the beautiful faces of Jesus and Mary and thank  God for all the blessings we have received in our lives. We can lay down our burdens at the feet of Mary and ask her to take them to her Son for He will refuse her nothing.

Gaze upon the tender love shared between the two, knowing that we too are included in this intimate circle.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Readings for the Day:
Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab, Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16, 1 Cor 15:20-27, Luke 1:39-56

 

 

 

The price for taking one’s eyes off the prize

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Today I read two very different things that hit me in a big way.

Quote from classic literature’s favorite mother

The first was a quote from a biography I am currently reading on the life of Abba Alcott, “Marmee” of Little Women (Marmee, the Mother of Little Women by Sandford Meddick Salyer). This quote hit me right between the eyes:

From Abba Alcott: ” ‘Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth’ is a safer principle than that degree of caution which does little on faith and less in love.”

Balking at His call . . .

Yesterday I balked when the Lord asked me to do some ministerial work. An event was being proposed by a dear friend, someone I have worked together with several times, and our work has always born good fruit.

Excuses, excuses . . .

Yet yesterday I found myself filled with misgivings about the offer and I wrote back, citing a full calendar due to my commitments to the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester as its new chairman (and our upcoming women’s conference, Gather Us In 2011), plus a confirmation retreat happening the weekend after the proposed event.

I wrote back my friend, citing the long drive to his church, the time away from my family, the fact that I don’t have the stamina I used to have, etc., etc., etc. . . .

I even wrote, “I hope this doesn’t sound like copping out (maybe it does).”

What about love?

That’s why Abba Alcott’s quote hit me right between the eyes. All my misgivings were all about me. I wasn’t even giving God a chance to lead me through it. My heart was small, like the Grinch who stole Christmas. The last phrase, that degree of caution which does little on faith and less in love.” hit me with a thud.

Needless to say, I wrote back to my friend today and told him I was interested.

Walking or sinking?

Then today I read an outstanding meditation from the RC Catholic Spiritual Direction blog, using the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Matthew 14:22-33. It’s the story of Peter, walking on the water. The title is “Why Do We Doubt?” and it maintains that we don’t keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

Hmmm. That sounds like something I was unwilling to do in accepting the proposed event from my friend. At least Peter gave Jesus a chance! I didn’t.

God’s bright, probing light

During my ride into work today I suspended my usual routine and just listened to music so I could reflect. God took that time to shine that bright-but-painful light into my inner self, revealing a spirit of cowardice, a lack of faith, a heart that is still too small, and a life still stuck in the mud.

A firm and loving message

While that bright light was harsh, it was also loving. Throughout the examination, I felt the presence of God encouraging me to continue on and not allow myself to get discouraged. His presence was firm and His desire was clear – keep my wandering eyes and heart fixed on Him! He alone is worthy of trust – He is the Prize.

Be like Peter – accept the invitation to walk on the water. But don’t be like Peter too – never take your eyes off the Prize.

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Lay down your burden

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I just loved the homily given on Sunday by our pastor, Monsignor Mike Foley. He shared a true and compelling story of how he applied the above verses from the gospel reading to his own life.

Several years ago, Monsignor Mike was pastor to the largest parish in our diocese, St. Ann’s in Milford, MA. With approximately 3500+ families in the parish, St. Ann’s at one time had 5 priests to serve. Back in the early 2000′s, the death of a pastor caused the bishop to effectively “shuffle the deck”, redistributing pastors and promoting an associate to pastor to fill the various needs of the diocese. Monsignor was at the bottom of the deck. In the end, he was left alone at St. Ann’s without even the help of a deacon because the deacon was sick. He would not be able to get extra help for at least 3 months. On top of everything else, it was during the height of the sexual abuse scandal which rocked Boston and surrounding communities.

Monsignor knew he was in trouble. He described the various ways he could have reacted:

  • Get angry with the bishop
  • Work himself to death
  • Or turn to the Lord in prayer

He decided to turn the Lord in prayer. At at time when one would think more hours would need to be devoted to work, Monsignor Mike took 2 extra hours (together) out of his day to spend time with the Lord in prayer. He confessed his need and allowed the Lord to give him rest. He took the will of God (His yoke) on his shoulders, surrendering his own will for what he thought ought to be done, and surrendering the will and expectations of others.

In the end,  God showed him how to prioritize his work, helping Monsignor in his decision making, and ultimately, remaking the vision of the parish.

Monsignor Mike really shared from his heart. At one point, standing in front of the altar, he pointed back to the gospel book stating, ” I know that it works to allow God to carry your burden. I’ve lived it!”

All the while I’m marveling at the fact that this holy priest would spend 2 solid hours in prayer. As always, he, in essence, fertilized the desire already in me to deepen my prayer. It’s so helpful when God sets before you such wonderful examples like Monsignor Mike. We at St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA are so fortunate!

Reading between the lines regarding detachment

Monday, June 27th, 2011

I have just begun a book that will mostly likely be my summer companion. It’s called Fire Within by Thomas Dubay, SM. It’s a thick volume with densely packed type on an intense subject: contemplative prayer, based upon the writings and lives of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Happily this book was also available as an eBook which I promptly downloaded onto my ipod. Because I can adjust the size of the type, somehow the book seems less intimidating. :-)

The need for contemplative prayer

I could not have read this book even 6 months ago. Contemplative prayer demands a surrendered life and had God not prepared me with The Prayer of Mary: Leading a Surrendered Life, I could not have handled this book. It was recommended to me by a confessor (thank you Fr. Moe!) after he listened to me talk about the fear that permeated my life. He knew I needed to surrender my life and tap into the power of contemplative prayer.

Learning to detach

I haven’t even gotten into the “guts” of the book yet but I know I’m going to have to learn how to detach. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll detach from my possessions, from money, from the desire to have my own way, ” etc., etc. But I’m finding it’s more than that. I have to detach from my family, my friends, my interests, ambitions, desires, and especially my feelings. For example, I’ve known for a while that I need to detach from my grown children. A reminder today from my daughter and her “I really want to strike out on my own and not be tied to my parents all the time” attitude told me to back off and give her the space she wants until this time passes. I remember feeling that way at her age and it does pass eventually. She’s an adult now and I must let her go.

Feelings can do you in

Then there are those feelings that come up over matters so trivial yet they can have a profound affect on my attitude. My weakness is aggravation and the Enemy knows it. I have a wicked temper and he knows just how to set it off. Until recently I used to believe it didn’t matter if I spouted off when I got angry so long as I did it privately but I learned from God that in fact this was not so (see previous post, The Value of Self Control). It builds a thick barrier between myself and the Spirit, and I find it hard to pray or to love, and it sure snuffs out joy and patience!

So what got me so mad? Ever tried vacuuming a pool? We have an above-ground pool and the vacuum consists of the head (which does the scrubbing and vacuuming), a long pole that the head is connected to, and a very long hose that is connected to the pump. When vacuuming goes smoothly, I rather enjoy it as I love doing anything with water. BUT, when it goes wrong as it did yesterday, it can be an extremely frustrating task. That vacuum thought of every way to possible to malfunction in the form of detaching the hose from the pump, or the head from the pole, or the hose from the head. It must have happened in one shape or form about a dozen times and I was beside myself with aggravation by the time the job was done. Needless to say, my self control went right out the window!

The anger grows . . .

Anger like that lasts and builds on itself. Later on in the day while preparing dinner for my son and his new girlfriend, the microwave kept tripping the circuit breaker. Somehow I got the potatoes to cook but not without a lot of aggravation.

Prayer to the rescue!

When this cycle continued into this morning I knew I was under attack from the Enemy. This is actually the first time that I’ve ever recognized an extended period of aggravation as an attack and I applied the one foolproof defense against it: prayer. I prayed the rosary this morning to try and prepare my heart to hear the scriptures, and then listened to the readings of the day. The first reading from Genesis, chapter 18, verses 16-33 recounted Abraham’s petitioning to the Lord to not exact punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah if there were just a handful of innocent people. The psalm’s response, “The Lord is kind and merciful,” summed it up perfectly. And in reflecting on that thought of being kind and merciful, how could I possibly be either with all this anger inside, especially over such stupid stuff?

I entered into a quiet space with the Lord and relayed my desire to let go of this anger and knock down the barrier it created. I found myself sitting next to Jesus on a dock, and my ankle had a chain around it. The chain was connected to a large barge. With Jesus’ help, I unlocked the chain and we both pushed the barge away with our feet and watched it slowly sail down the river and out of sight. Just as slowly my peace returned and I felt the anger dissipate. And I am happy to report, the attack has ended.

I can see that I have much to learn about detachment!  As in all things in the Christian life, there is so much more in between the lines.

A prayer of surrender

Here’s a wonderful prayer of surrender courtesy of The Catholic Spiritual Direction blog:

Loving Father,

I surrender to you today with all my heart and soul. Please come into my heart in a deeper way. I say, “Yes” to you today. I open all the secret places of my heart to you and say, “Come on in.” Jesus, you are the Lord of my whole life. I believe in you and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I hold nothing back.

Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ. I surrender all to you: my time, my treasures, my talents, my health, my family, my resources, my work, relationships, time management, successes and failures. I release it and let it go.

I surrender my understanding of how things ‘ought’ to be, my choices and my will. I surrender to you the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep. I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to you. I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my sexuality. I especially surrender ______ (Here mention other areas of surrender as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.)

Lord, I surrender my whole life to you, the past, the present, and the future. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to you. (Remain the Lord in a spirit of silence through your thoughts, a heart song, or simply staying in His presence and listening for His voice.)

I encourage you to read more on this wonderful site – the  Catholic Spiritual Direction Blog.