Friday, February 14, 2020

Prayer: A Pilgrimage of the Heart

Material for this blog post was adapted from similar reflections on prayer by Sister Kara Davis, D.C.: a Lenten video found here and a podcast reflection found here.

I recently had someone ask me about prayer. What is prayer and how are you supposed to pray? We know we are supposed to pray, but sometimes prayer is dry. We show up and make time for it, but then aren't really sure what to do. We can bust out some devotional prayers--the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet--or we can spend sometime contemplating scripture. We can kneel in the church and list off our many petitions, presenting our requests to God, maybe even falling into the temptation of bargaining with God, "Hey God, if you do this, I'll do this."

We give thanks when a prayer is answered, but do we still show up to prayer when God's response to our request isn't what we expected? We pray for peace, a peace that unites our hearts and minds with Christ. So how do we find that peace? How do we unite ourselves with Christ? Well, I say we need to take a pilgrimage to the heart of God.

Prayer is a pilgrimage of the heart. It is a journey that continues, deepens, and develops throughout our entire lives. The depths of God's love, God's heart, is described as a bottomless well or the depths of the ocean--a vast destination that we don't actually reach on this side of eternity, but are constantly plunging more deeply into this relationship of love. Our pilgrimage of the heart of Jesus is a journey of becoming our truest selves, living into our identity as God's beloved. The more we come to know God, the more we come to know ourselves.

I heard it said once that life is a journey from God, back to God. Our pilgrimage to the heart of God is life--how we live and how we love. As we make this pilgrimage to the heart of Jesus, we find our own.

My favorite definition of prayer is one that a spiritual director shared with me a while back. I found it helpful in entering into meditation and contemplative/centering prayer. It is: "Prayer is resting your head on God's heart and letting God love you." Prayer is the meeting of hearts.

I recall the image of the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John, leaning back on Jesus' chest during the Last Supper, seeking comfort and understanding in times of confusion. How often do I find myself in prayer seeking consolation in times of anxiety? Lean back against the heart of God. Rest in the heart of God. Be held in the mystery of God's love, which is nothing we can earn or meet, but simply receive. Let God love us and let go of anything that might be holding us back--any sense of unworthiness or the lie of not being good enough. God's mercy is abundant and overflowing, extending into the smallest areas and the hidden parts of ourselves that we carry deep within.

Rest your head. Be consumed by love. For when the two hears meet, they are filled with the same thoughts and desires. Keep walking that pilgrimage of the heart one day at a time, one step at a time; journeying more deeply into the heart of God.

Written by Sister Kara Davis, D.C.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Words Whispered in Our Ears at Baptism

Sometimes somebody important to us says something to us that we never forget: a parent or family member, a friend, a teacher. At various times and places, the words play back for us and give us insight, confidence, or pause when we are in a particular situation. Perhaps, especially, words that we have from our parents carry this special weight.

I was thinking of this in terms of Jesus and the experience of His baptism. This is the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He is just about to embark on the apostolate that will characterize His life. He has take His place on line with all the others who seek John's baptism. John does not want to baptize Him because he feels unworthy.

After the baptism, Jesus hears these words:
"You are my beloved Son;
with you, I am well pleased."

What wonderful words--words with any child would be thrilled to hear from a parent.

Now, this occurs before Jesus has done anything. He is about to start His life's work and He is affirmed in this powerful way. "You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you." Perhaps, this is the point: the Father's love for Jesus is not something that is earned, something that is won or lost, but something that is given freely and permanently and without qualification. Jesus knew that He is loved by the Father, but having it said so clearly and so boldly depends its truth on a human level. Jesus knew that He was loved. Nevertheless, it needed to be said aloud and heard distinctly.

When Jesus spoke of the Father, He spoke about Him in that deep way which reflected the Father's love for all His children. He is the welcoming parent who wants all His children to come home and be with Him forever.

What a wonderful and powerful gift it is that the Father gives Jesus on the day of His baptism: the assurance that the Father loved Him and stood by Him. At our baptism, God speaks those same words to each of us: "You are my beloved child. I am pleased with you." We need to hear those words and allow them to guide our lives, just as Jesus did. It makes an enormous amount of difference to know that the Father loves us unconditionally and forever. No matter what we do, God loves us. No matter how far we stray, God stays with us. We do not earn God's love and we can never lose it. It seems so simple to say, but it is the truth. We need to say it and hear it and believe it. It makes all the difference in the world for how we live.

When we get up in the morning and know that we are loved, the day starts out on the right foot; when we go to bed at night and realize that is was not a great day, we can tell ourselves that we are still loved by God, so how bad could it be?

The story of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us that truth in His life and what a difference it made. Let us grasp that truth for ourselves. Remember how God whispered to us on the day of our baptism: you are my beloved child, I am pleased with you. We may have forgotten that. Let us pray that our memory be jogged so that we live as and treat one another as God's beloved children. People on whom God's favor rests.

Written by Father Patrick Griffin. Originally published on FamVin.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

The month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, declared so by President Barack Obama in 2016. In addition to this, January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It is extremely important that attention be drawn to this terrible injustice. In order to "take down" this billion-dollar industry, we all must become educated to the ways in which human beings, in every corner of the world, are being exploited.

The broad term "human trafficking" is used to include forced labor, domestic servitude, organ harvesting, child soldiers, forced marriage, and sexual exploitation. Many times, the victims are "hidden in plain sight" and it takes another person who knows the signs of trafficking to report it.

Where can you start to make a difference?

  1. Educate yourself by visiting websites of organizations fighting this crime and pass that knowledge along to others! You can start at our Office of Migration and Modern Slavery website.
  2. Add the confidential, toll free human trafficking hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to your phone in the event that you suspect someone is being trafficked.
  3. Make your voice heard! Contact your government representatives. There are laws in place to protect victims, but we need stronger laws that are continually enforced. We need more programs to help those who have been victimized as healing from the trauma they have experienced takes years.
On January 11, you are urged to wear a blue ribbon to draw attention to this crime. Post a picture of yourself on social media wearing this ribbon and encourage others to do that same.

The only way to eradicate this terrible injustice is to make our voices heard! Won't you help today???

Written by Sister Mary Catherine Warehime, D.C.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Story of Mother Seton

A young mother died unexpectedly. Her death left her precious toddler scarred emotionally. A year later, the child's younger sister, barely a toddler, also died. As an adult, Eliza still recalled herself, at four years of age, sitting on the doorstep gazing at the clouds, hoping to see her deceased loved ones in the sky.

Numbed by pain from early childhood issues, Eliza felt her father's absence keenly when he was abroad for professional study. At times, she wondered if he loved her. As emotional waves surged, confusion mixed with sadness, troubled her adolescent heart. Feeling alienated and alone, Eliza considered taking a drug overdose but she decided not to take laudanum, an opiate derivative. Later, she rejoiced in her choice--not to do the "horrid deed." Hope soon dissipated her melancholy and restored her lively spirit.

Beguiling once again, Eliza met and fell in love with William Magee Seton. They married and had five children but the mature Eliza lost her beloved husband to tuberculosis. Catholic friends introduced the young widow to the Catholic faith, its liturgical worship, and personal devotions. Catholic beliefs, particularly the Eucharist and Blessed Mother, attracted Eliza. She longed for interior peace and the gift of true faith, which she discerned through reading, study, consolation, and conversations on religious matters. Friends and family argued against her considering Catholicism. The more they dissuaded, the more she felt called to religious conversation as "the earnest desire of my Soul."

Should she or shouldn't she become Catholic? Her discernment left her in a whirlwind of emotional turmoil. Hers was a heart-wrenching struggle to discover God's plan. Eliza longed for God: "If I am right, O teach my heart still in the right to stay; if I am wrong, thy grace impart to find the better way."

She sought divine truth: "I seek but God and his church and expect to find my peace in them." When the Church retold the story of the Magi following a star to find the Promised Savior, Elizabeth wrote plaintively: "Alas, where is my star?" In making her profession of faith, Eliza found her inner peace as a Roman Catholic. As foundress of the Sisters of Charity, she encouraged her sisters to: "Meditate on peace before Jesus, the sweet King and Prince of peace--let us desire it, make it a great part of our perfection, a capital point of our vocation of love."

Points to ponder:
  • What is the earnest desire of my soul?
  • What helps me discern God's will when faced with significant choices?
  • Where is my star? How does its brilliance touch my heart?
  • How shall I live my vocation of love?
Written by Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Advent - A Time of Waiting

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
No room for you in the city, Jesus
So many doors were tried and closed to you.
So many places did not warm you with welcome.

There is still a coming.
There is still a Bethlehem.
It is the city of my heart
With no room to give you welcome.

It is the manger of my inners self
Where your request is made,
Searching for an entrance
To my poor and empty dwelling.

Advent is a time of waiting.
I will wait faithfully
For slow recognition
Of the closed doors in my Bethlehem.

Advent is a time for yearning.
I will keep on longing for you.
I will try to do so patiently.

Advent is a time of hoping.
I will seek the strong stirring sureness
That it is possible to open doors.

Advent is a time of coming.
I will pray with all the church:
Come. Come. Come, Lord Jesus.
Welcome into my home of love.

And Lord, when it is time to say:
This is the Christmas Day,
I pray that you will warmly be welcome
In the Bethlehem of my heart,
Giving birth in my newly opened places.

From Sister Theresa Sullivan, D.C.