Archive for the ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ Category

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

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Woman’s intuition is sometimes scoffed at, but as women, we know that we possess something akin to radar when it comes to sensing the moods and needs of others. In chapter 3 of  The Authentic Catholic Woman, Genevieve Kineke draws the connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and the unique ability of women to sense hurts and needs, and offer healing. Knowing how to build bridges that heal rifts in relationships brings others closer to our Lord, making us as women agents of reconciliation (pg. 32, The Authentic Catholic Woman).

Jesus as the supreme agent of reconciliation died on the cross to take on the sins of the world. Even as He was dying, He forgave those who crucified Him (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”) and offered salvation to the penitent thief through forgiveness. The prayer which He Himself taught the apostles says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us . . .” We are required to be such agents of reconciliation in order to receive the same from our Heavenly Father. In everything we do, we are to imitate Christ, and what better way than to offer healing through our abilities as peacemakers.

We all know that family life is full of conflict, both large and small (pg. 32, The Authentic Catholic Woman). Nothing hurts more than a falling out between a husband and wife, or a parent and child. Since we are the most vulnerable with regards to members of our family, we are open to being hurt emotionally and sometimes physically. The rifts in the family (the domestic Church) are a small reminder of the disunity in the universal Church, and the pain we feel is the pain Christ knew over these conflicts. Kineke reminds us to unite our own sufferings with Christ as the work of restoration is hard, involving much suffering (pg 33, Ibid).

In the end it comes down to love versus fear, and only love can offer reconciliation and renewal. Fears of getting involved or getting hurt serve only to block reconciliation from happening. We have to step out boldly to affect reconciliation.

I have to admire my two cousins, sons of my father’s brother. For some reason which we will never know (since my uncle has since passed on), my uncle became very angry with our family after my father passed away. At the time it seemed like a small slight with regards to funeral preparations, but it blew up into a feud. It was irrational (and perhaps based on the fact that we did not reach out enough when he lost his wife to cancer years ago), but because it was irrational, I immediately let it go. There was no point in holding on to it. I was sad that he no longer wanted anything to do with us, but reaching out was fruitless.

Or was it? When my aunt (his sister) passed away, we all went to the wake and funeral. During the wake, we spoke at length with my uncle’s oldest son who is truly an extraordinary man. He decided not to involve himself in his father’s feud with us and was very gracious to us (even through my uncle tried to perpetuate the feud even during the wake!). At the dinner after the funeral, I could see how the younger son was torn between loyalty to his father and the absurdity of the feud.

Unfortunately the feud was never reconciled as my uncle was not interested in resolving it or even discussing it. But his sons continued to reach out to us and we to them with Christmas cards and lovely sympathy cards from each of them after my mother’s passing. While it was not possible to reconcile with my uncle, the feud died with him because his sons were willing to take the chance and reach out. I am eternally grateful to the both of them, and their mother would have been proud. Perhaps she, in her spot in heaven, helped to act as the agent of reconciliation between the two families. We’ll find out when we all meet again.

Remembering my brave nephews reminds me that it is always worth it to stick your neck out and try to affect reconciliation. This is what Jesus’ mission was all about and it needs to be my personal mission as well.

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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

 

The value of self-control

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been told that I have no self-control. I’ve always had a temper, fueled oftentimes by my older brother’s relentless teasing. He’d know just what hot button to push that would send me into a tantrum, screaming at the top of my lungs out of frustration. I had quite a reputation in the neighborhood and I lost my voice so often my mother took me to the doctor for treatment.

In first grade, my teacher wrote on my report card that I had a problem with self-control.

As I got older, that temper that would flare out in tantrums turned inward, causing bouts of melancholy and depression.

Age does have its benefits, one of them being that my hot temper has cooled somewhat. But aggravation is the surest hot button that sets up off, such as trying to clean mold with a potent cleaner and a toothbrush from my bathroom ceiling. The temper flared and the ranting began, loud enough such that my own family complained!

I’m a very vocal person in that I talk to myself all the time. Yes, I’m one of those nuts you see driving down the highway, mouth yapping and arms flailing as I work out a thought or emotion. When I get angry, I especially work out my feelings in that way. I never thought it would do harm to myself or anyone else. After all, I was just letting off steam.

Then, a few months ago, I got a hold of the new Confession app. This app leads you through the preparation necessary to make a good confession by guiding you through the 10 Commandments. It also has a place where you can add a customized list of sins. It was here that God first began to speak to me about my lack of self-control (aka, Venting): He prompted me to add the following: “Do I lose my self-control and give in to angry venting?”

I wasn’t really sure why I added it to my list, I just knew I was prone to it. I figured maybe it wasn’t good for me to be doing it though I didn’t really know why. Today, I finally figured it out.

Remember that bathroom I told you about and the ranting that went on with trying to clean it? That was Saturday. Today (Wednesday) I found myself in a funk; in fact, I had been in one all week. And I was spoiling for a fight wherever I could find one. It was almost like I was inviting aggravation to come to me so I could rant about it!

I also felt very distant from Jesus, like a wall had been erected between us.

I already was feeling vulnerable because my mother’s anniversary of her passing is next Friday (April 22) and I’ve started reliving those terrible weeks up to the day she died. satan (not a typo, I will never initial cap his name) saw an opportunity and took advantage of it, deceiving me into thinking that it was perfectly alright to dig into my anger and let it all out.

I was hurting myself, flooding myself with negative thoughts and feelings. It caused me to be irritable with my husband, children and even the cats. And it finally overwhelmed me yesterday such that I called the home bound woman I take communion to and told her I couldn’t make it. I didn’t want to be seen feeling the way I felt and I had lost the desire to put on a happy face.

That’s when I realized that my lack of self-control was not okay. I not only hurt myself with a tidal wave of negativity, I hurt someone else, someone who needed me.

So this morning I turned to the Lord and told Him everything that I was feeling and begged forgiveness for allowing my selfish need to vent to hurt others. I could feel Him drawing me near, offering me forgiveness, and telling me just to “be.” He would remove all the ugliness that was my anger and frustration. And slowly, throughout the day, I have felt that “crud” lifting off of me.

Now I know how important it is to stop and think before losing my self-control. That sin that I added to my Confession app list was meant to be there and will now remind me every time I feel the temptation to vent.

I am grateful to God that He has revealed this truth to me for my anger has plagued me all my life. Indeed, nothing is impossible for God!

Why does love chase away fear?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

In praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary this morning, a thought struck me while praying the first mystery: The Agony in the Garden: why was Jesus afraid and what did it mean?

Jesus was the Christ, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit – how could he know fear? But Jesus was also man and we all know fear. As a man, Jesus knew fear and anxiety in that garden that was so intense that He sweated blood and begged the Father to allow what was coming to pass.

It made me wonder: did Jesus as a man know the separation from the Father that all humanity knows, brought on by the fall of Adam and Eve? And because of that separation, did He then turn into Himself, thus coming face to face with the terrors that awaited Him? And by turning everything over to God (“not my will but Yours”) and thus turning away from Himself, is that what opened Jesus to the grace needed to face His most terrible hours with such courage?

Is fear then, self-centered, while love and trust is other-centered?

In remembering the many times I used to wake up at 4 in the morning, worrying endlessly about so many things, it certainly was all about me! I felt trapped inside of myself when that type of anxiety would grip me. Only when the sun came up and I got out of bed was I able to put a little distance between myself and my fear. When that happened, the fear would shrink and fade. The monster in the closet would disappear when a little perspective came into view.

I remember many years ago I read a book about a fire in a Boston nightclub that scared me so much I didn’t close my eyes the entire night. I broke out in a sweat and my stomach hurt. This fear was so deep that I refused to go out to restaurants. I wouldn’t go to our town library or work there for fear I would see that book. Sometimes I would see local news coverage of the event, citing some anniversary, and it would ruin my whole day. The fear was palpable, and it kept growing.

Finally I confessed my fear to my then-boyfriend-now husband. I had to pray on it for a long time, rocking back and forth in the bathroom crying until I got up the nerve to name it to someone else. After I confessed it, the fear went away – the monster in the closet was gone. I stepped away from myself, trusted God, and let it go.

I knew years later I had been successful because another terrible nightclub fire occurred in 2003 in Warwick, RI. This time, instead of running away from it, I faced it head on. It was hard, but it prevented the monster from rising up again.

Jesus faced His fear and turned it over to His loving Father. He turned away from himself and towards the Father. He could only do that because of his love and trust for the Father. And he was able to face his own monster, a real monster, and do it with grace.

Love chases away fear because love focuses on the other, not on the self. That turning away from self allows trust to happen.

Jesus tells us that fear is useless and to replace it with trust. Trust becomes easier as I come to know Jesus more intimately and fall more deeply in love with Him. Love is perfected over a lifetime and perfect love drives out all fear.

“Loving God . . . Loving Neighbor: A Lenten Transformation” Retreat Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

This past weekend (March 11-13), my partner Ann Wagstaff and I had the privilege of presenting to a group of extraordinary women at the Vita Nova Women’s retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH. The weekend exceeded our wildest expectations! The spirit of fraternity, affection and fellowship coupled with a real move of the Holy Spirit made it a weekend we all will remember for a long time to come.

Here are pictures from the weekend, and below the pictures, a description of what went on (including one of the talks that you can download).

Prayers for Detachment; time for reconciliation

After settling in on Friday, Ann and I led a prayer to help the women detach from their cares and focus solely on God. Music, prayers, candles and sweet scents lifted hearts to Heaven. Each woman wrote down their cares on a piece of paper - all the papers were put in a bag that was attached to mylar balloons that would lift the bag up to the ceiling!

After the prayer, everyone went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with 3 wonderful priests, setting the tone for a Spirit-filled weekend.

Prayer

Prayer was a central part of the retreat - the Sung Rosary was done throughout the day using a Power Point presentation with images, scripture and the music of the Sung Rosary. Here’s a sample:

Loving God . . .

On Saturday morning, the presentations began. The theme of the retreat was the Two Great Commandments, based on Mark 12:28-34 - loving God, and loving neighbor.  A strong emphasis was placed upon priorities - how important it is to love God first and allowing that growing relationship to spill over into loving your neighbor. I shared teaching  on why loving God first was so important in my talk on Martha and Mary (read the text of the talk here), and Ann proceeded to share from her life about her struggles to balance between being a Martha and a Mary, and how she is becoming a “contemplative in action.”

I then spoke about how service happens through an outpouring of grace resulting from loving God, and how that grace can equip us for difficult service (in my case, helping to care for my dying mother).

The morning session concluded with an Emmaus walk, where the women, after hearing the scripture about the disciples’ encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, were instructed to take their own individual walk around the grounds as the disciples did, conversing and listening to Jesus.

Time of  Fellowship

Mealtimes at the dining hall were a highpoint as the food was so well prepared, and everyone was so warm and friendly. There was an extraordinary move of the Spirit through all the women which created a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship. It was a taste of Heaven.

Loving Neighbor . . .

The afternoon session focused on loving our neighbor by discovering and developing our natural talents and gifts, and then becoming aware of and praying for the spiritual gifts (based on scripture from 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4) . Ann and I gave a talk tracing our time lines to see what talents and gifts kept appearing throughout our lifetimes as a way of identifying what we do well (I also traced my husband’s interesting time line which led to his vocation as a deacon). I also spoke on what I termed “hidden gifts”  - those things such as being hospitable, being a good listener, or being a good caregiver - talents our society does not value but God does.  Each woman took a written survey to dig deeper into their own gifts and talents, and small group discussion followed sharing what they found out.

The scripture on the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 set the stage for a talk on the responsibilities we have to use our gifts to serve others. Blessed Mother Teresa was held up as the best modern example of a woman who used her immense gifts to help the poorest of the poor and that her ‘secret’ to her success what that it was all for Jesus. She had a unique talent for seeing Christ in every person she saw. I shared my song about Mother Teresa, “Teach Me to Love” (click here to listen).

Afterwards, the women gathered in small groups where they read sayings from Mother Teresa about service and applied them to their lives. The work they did produced some wonderful ideas - I took pictures of all the work they did so you can see for yourself and perhaps apply them to your life:

A beautiful meditation of the Stations of the Cross (a Power Point presentation with narration) was presented in the evening.

Blessing of the Hands

Sunday morning we were treated to a beautiful mass by Father Benedict of the Franciscans of the Primitive Order out of Lawrence, MA. Afterwards, we gathered back in the gym for our sending forth ceremony known as the Blessing of the Hands. Father blessed the water and the bowl was passed around from woman to woman; each woman dipped a finger in the water and did a sign of the cross in the hand of the woman next to her as a litany was read.  Eventually the litany was opened up and women shared their own blessings. It was a very moving ceremony with many tears shed. The ceremony strongly demonstrated the spirit of love and fellowship that bound together these new friends.

More information on Vita Nova

Ann and I were delighted and honored to have been a part of this event. The Vita Nova team (all volunteer), led by Rose Marie Cussom and Shannon Best were extraordinary in their efforts; their support made it possible for Ann and I to focus solely on the content and presentation of the material. I can’t rave about the team enough! Vita Nova is holding other events - be sure and check out their website for more information.

The Temple of the Lord

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Readings for Today, The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12; Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9; 1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17; John 2:13-22

A very strong theme ran throughout the readings today about the temple of God. Originally the temple was a massive and glorious physical building in the heart of Jerusalem, first built by Solomon for the arc of the covenant. The building was destroyed about 70 years after Christ’s resurrection, but a new ‘temple’ had been established long before the building was destroyed. Christ became the new temple, and each of us, in turn, are temples ourselves, housing the Spirit of the Lord.

The first reading from Ezekiel describes a vision of the temple and how life-giving water flows in force from that building, bringing food, healing and abundance to the land.

The gospel talks about Christ clearing the temple of the money changers and the animals being sold for sacrifice. At the time it was because Jesus was infuriated that His Father’s house had become a “marketplace.” But in pondering that reading, it also occurred to me that it was too in preparation for the fact that the House of God was changing locations, from a physical building to the Body of Christ, first in Christ’s physical body, and then in those who followed him, the Church.

And in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of each of us individually as also being temples (just as Christ was Himself a temple):

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

In a podcast I listened to today, Pray As You Go, the speaker asked me, the listener, how I felt about being such a temple, housing the Holy Spirit. I felt gratitude that I would never be alone, sorrow that others that I love are not aware that they house the Spirit, and most of all, responsibility.

I thought of Ezekiel’s vision and that applied to me, as a temple of God. Living water must pour out of me. I must stay connected to the Spirit, nurture my relationship with the Triune God, and try to remain sinless, or at least, confess my sins quickly and with heartfelt sorrow. Perhaps I need to go to confession more often to help with this.

As I write this, I think about what I used to reflect upon as a child after receiving communion (this was during the era of the Latin Mass). Often I would picture the foyer of our house, swept clean with gleaming hardwood floors. The Eucharist makes me clean and helps me in nurturing my relationship with God.

Keeping up with daily prayer and reflection on the scriptures, plus spiritual reading, helps in that regard too. And as I fill myself with the good things that God provides, the river that Ezekiel foresaw overflows out of me, for how can I contain it?

And as Church, if we all pay attention to our own temples, the river will flow like flood waters out of the Body of Christ. Imagine how that would change our world!

Looking for a positive reason to go to confession regularly? Here it is

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I subscribe to a website called Catholic Spiritual Direction. All their articles are excellent but today’s really blew me away. It gave me pause regarding the idea of going to confession regularly.

In response to a question about discerning matters involving infused contemplation (click on the link to find out more about this form of prayer – St. Theresa of Avila wrote a lot on this), the first paragraph of the answer really nailed it for me:

You are certainly right to call infused contemplation a gift. It is, at base, an experiential knowledge of God. It is made possible by the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Infused contemplation requires one to have sanctifying grace, that is, to be in a state of grace. This kind of prayer brings an experience of the presence of God and of a hard-to-describe sense of the supernatural. None of this is conjured up by the soul on its own; in fact, the soul is more passive than active when involved in this type of contemplation.

I have underscored the part that really jumped out at me – the need for sanctifying grace, the state of grace that comes from having your sins forgiven. When you go to confession (also known as the sacrament of reconciliation) and receive absolution from the priest, your soul is flooded with sanctifying grace. Slow as I am, I never realized the doors that can be opened by remaining in that state of grace.

Like most of us, I find it hard to go to confession and I have to admit, I sometimes find it hard to think of sins, showing how dull my spiritual life really is. An active and deep spiritual life shines a spotlight on my sins. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to have that self-knowledge and be able to act upon it in the confessional.

The writer goes on to say other profound things:

A high level of charity is one of the surest signs that you are experiencing true contemplation. That’s because real prayer has an impact on the way we deal with others; it moves us to try to imitate Christ more and more in daily life. All of this is a reminder that genuine inspirations of God always nudge us to do something good.

This is something I’ve experienced a bit in my life. When my prayer life is going well, it does prompt me to be kinder and more thoughtful to others. My desire to be holy and to imitate Christ begins to burn in me, and my hunger for Him becomes palpable.

Here is the link to the entire post. This is something you will want to pick apart, line by line. And then perhaps, like myself, you will want to start visiting that confessional more often.