Archive for the ‘Face of Jesus’ Category

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.

Enjoying this blog? Subscribe by email and never miss
a post! Receive also updates on Susan’s ministry.

 

 

Prayer in the midst of distraction

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

In my reading of Thomas Dubay’s book, Fire Within, I have come upon the chapter describing St. Teresa of Avila’s seven mansions. As a preliminary to the discussion of the mansions, Fr. Dubay described her teachings regarding vocal prayer.

Letting go of old habits

As a pure beginner in contemplative prayer, I have felt confused of late as to whether I should be using my imagination to conjure up images during prayer, or think of concepts. From my reading I have gathered that my imagination falls very short of what is possible just by letting go of everything human and allowing myself to be drawn into God’s presence.

Being a creative sort, and a visual learner, putting aside my imagination has been hard to say the least. I have found some wonderful consolation in prayer doing such things, and have also pondered many wonderful ideas. These things aren’t wrong, but they just scratch the surface. God is inviting me to go much deeper and to do that, I must put aside these primitive ways of praying.

Concrete suggestions

Bless St. Teresa and her innate understanding of human nature. She offers concrete ways to enter into this prayer, and I tried one this morning amidst an array of distractions.

She suggested focusing on a favorite image of Jesus and I have an icon I treasure that hangs on wall across from the rocking chair in our bedroom where I will pray and write. It’s pictured to the left.

I began to pray my rosary and focused on the picture. Now mind you, there was an unusual amount of noise and chaos going on around me – the roofers had arrived promptly at 7:30 am and were tearing our roof apart! Shingles were falling like rain!

Peace in the midst of chaos

In the middle of the rosary, one of the workman knocked on the door, needing to get into our basement to access the chimney. I calmly let him in and resumed my prayer.

My son then came in and we discussed plans for the day. I continued to remain calm and returned to prayer as if nothing happened.

This has never happened before!

Interruption to prayer always entailed frustration, aggravation, irritation. Yet this time I managed to stay in the presence of Jesus and remained calm. My peace was not disrupted.

Gazing upon the face of Jesus

The only thing I can think of that I did differently was to keep my focus on Jesus and just gaze upon Him.

My spiritual mother daily sits in her rocking chair and just contemplates the face of Jesus. I was in awe of that and envied her.

Now I have a taste of what she experiences.

Possibilities

It’s possible for me, and it’s possible for you too. Fr. Dubay reminds anyone who will listen that we are all called to deeper communion. St. Paul reminds us to “pray always.” It can be done.

And the more you taste it, the more the desire will grow.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

In the last post I talked about holiness and how it creates an inner light. Mary was holy and she had that inner light. She must have been so beautiful to behold. That inner light, that holiness, made it possible for her to accept God’s will without question. Yet there must have been some preparation in her life for that moment. A farmer doesn’t just drop seed on the ground – it wouldn’t grow. The ground has to be prepared, tilled, aerated, watered . . . so that the seed can germinate and grow. How did Mary prepare? How can we prepare?

Tradition has it that Mary was raised in the temple. Certainly in the temple she was trained in prayer and scripture. She likely had a thorough knowledge of the prophesies regarding the Messiah and was obviously grounded in prayer. Notice that the angel Gabriel did not need to explain much to her for her to understand the implications:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary only asked one question – how would it happen? She understood the rest. The lifelong cultivation of her spiritual life through consistent prayer and study of scripture had prepared her to hear the words of Gabriel and accept them. Her eyes didn’t need to be opened by any explanation – they were already open.

Keith Fournier in his book, The Prayer of Mary, (chapter 2, The Way of Beauty, pages 9-14) maintains that Mary was beautiful because she grounded herself in this lifestyle. The angel declared that she was “full of grace” and Fournier says that makes Mary “beautiful.” She radiated a deeper, spiritual beauty flowing from her relationship with God (remember my example of our new real estate in the last post?). This inner glow was her beauty.

Fournier gives the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, a woman who was not physically beautiful by any means but who radiated joy and love in such a way that she became known internationally for her spiritual beauty. Grace does not change our physical appearance as much as it changes us from the inside out.

Fournier then goes on to explain specific ways that Mary was beautiful:

  • Her ears, because they were open and attentive, allowing her to hear a message so profound that it would change the world.
  • Her heart, because she emptied herself and allowed it to fill up with God’s grace. She also allowed it to be broken so that God’s ultimate will of saving of us all could come to pass (consider Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta statue)
  • Her feet, because she brought the glad tidings of her pregnancy to her cousin Elizabeth immediately after she heard (see Isaiah 52:7).
  • Her arms and hands, because they caressed the Christ. Imagine for a moment holding the dear baby in your arms, knowing that you are holding the Son of God . . .
  • Her face, because she saw God face to face.  Remember how Moses, after his encounter with God, had to wear a veil because the glow was so intense. 2 Corinthians 4:6 states the the Glory of God was revealed in the face of Christ, a face that Mary saw daily for 33 years! Imagine how her face must have reflected that glory.

If you see paintings and icons of Mary from different cultures, you will see that she is depicted in many races and many forms. Why is this? Because Mary’s beauty transcends every cultural definition – her beauty is reflecting God who transcends all.

How do you suppose Mary’s beauty played out in daily life? In my next post, I will consider portions of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, where she gives numerous examples. Here’s a tease – it involves leading a sacramental life . . .

*******************************************************

Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

 

Learning true humility (part one)

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I am extremely blessed to have 2 wonderful people in my life who act as friends and spiritual advisers – Deacon Dave from Delaware and my spiritual mother. The other day, they both gave me a powerful affirmation on the need and meaning of true humility.

It had occurred to me at the last confirmation retreat that I assisted on that I was very rigid in my routines. As God is prone to do on occasion, He shone a bright spotlight on this issue, but this was not what He was trying to show me as this was just a symptom. What became clear to me as I observed others on the retreat who lived their faith so openly and radically (and who loved so well), I was containing the Holy Spirit through micro management. I knew I was into control but I had no idea how much!

I began to deeply desire letting go of this tendency to micro manage but had no idea how to do it. This past Tuesday, God showed me how and it was a very obvious answer – prayer.

Prayer. Duh. But as my deacon friend pointed out, it could not be prayer that I dictated (which was one of my rituals). God had to direct the prayer. This meant I had to face up to a fear I had of being alone with God and quiet.

I have felt the pull to do this for quite a while. I am very dependent on technology as a tool for prayer and scripture reflection, using my iTouch extensively for everything from listening to podcasts and music, to using the new Confession app (an excellent app by the way, I highly recommend it) and various rosary and prayer apps I had downloaded. These tools work well but I was using them to avoid letting God direct my prayer.

This pull from God began to reveal a more root problem – fear of failure and a relationship based on trying to please God rather than just learning how to BE with God. This was tough stuff!

Because of all the times I have tried to be quiet with God and failed (either the mind races or I fall asleep – happens every time I go to adoration), I was afraid to try again.

Deacon Dave exhorted me to try and laid out a basic formula for it. I avoided it. My spiritual mother described how she did it which so affirmed Deacon Dave’s exhortation, and that helped. And she gave me a very wise piece of counsel – you can’t fail if you are with God. You simply do the best you can – He accepts you exactly as you are.

Yesterday was the first time I tried it but it was certainly not in a place I would expect it to work! I had spent much of yesterday putting together a PowerPoint presentation for the Sung Rosary using the Sorrowful Mysteries. Over the course of many hours I poured over images of my dear Jesus, tortured and crucified for all of us, for me. It was work at the time and I wondered why I was not moved more by the images. Later on in the day, that would all come flooding back.

I went to the gym to work out on the elliptical and proceeded to read as I always do. I was very distracted by the noise around me and realized that would not work. I plugged in my iTouch and began listening to one of my favorite classical pieces, Bach’s Cantata 140. The power of the music immediately triggered an intense period of prayer like I have never experienced before. All the images I had poured over earlier in the day flooded my mind and 2 in particular haunted me. I found myself attracted to a very physical and human Jesus as well as a powerful and divine Christ and I longed to be with Him, to touch Him. I kissed His feet and re-enacted Mary’s public devotion of washing His feet with precious perfume and drying them with her hair. I begged for Him to lift the veil and let me see His face, all while working the elliptical harder than I ever had before. There was something about the physical sensation of the running, the grunting, the panting, the sweating . . . I imagined myself like St. Paul, running the race with Jesus right beside me, just as Deacon Dave and my spiritual mother had said. For true humility is having Jesus right beside you, not behind or in front of you. Beside you, as He was with the disciples at Emmaus, opening their hearts to the scriptures and the truth.

There is more I want to write about this discovery of humility that I will share in future posts. But needless to say, this first true experience of prayer that was controlled by God left haunting memories and a deep desire to go there again. My spiritual mother was right – you can’t fail, and especially if you let God lead the way.

What do you see in the face of Jesus?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 9:9-13) told the story of Jesus’ call to Matthew the tax collector to follow Him. Many people who were considered serious sinners were deeply attracted to Jesus. What was it about Him that they found attractive? Was it because He was a miracle worker? Was He a curiosity factor? Was He a safe haven? What was so compelling about Him that tax collectors and prostitutes would flock to Him while the ‘righteous’ only tried to destroy Him? What did they see in His face?

What do you see?