Journey with us...

Journey with us...

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Little Virtues: Humility

Another aspect of Salesian Spirituality which we are amazingly challenging are the "Little Virtues".  The little virtues are humility, gentleness, and simplicity.  These three virtues form a sort of basic groundwork for our charism and our way of life. In reflecting on these virtues, I found myself thinking of them as three basic relational steps:

  1. Embrace your true self (humility)
  2. Embrace others as they are (gentleness)
  3. Interact with genuineness (simplicity


Each of these little virtues has great deal of depth and so I would like to simply focus on one at a time.


Humility

Might as well get this tough one tackled first!

So many of the saints speak of this virtue and each one highlights a particular way of looking at it.  It can be seen as looking at all your bad points, or interpreted as being sure you are never thought well of.  But these ideas are not the truth of what any of the saints is saying!  St. Francis de Sales speaks very clearly of our need to know our faults and failings, but also to know our gifts and talents.  Humility, as St. Vincent de Paul (a close contemporary of Holy Father) says, "is nothing but truth and pride is nothing but lying".  Our Holy Father would certainly agree as he encourages us to see ourselves as God sees us.  Humility for St. Francis de Salesis (in my own words): To see ourselves, both the good and the bad within us, as God sees us and to embrace it! 

While beginning to prepare this post, I was amazed to hear what was being read in the refectory about this (now past) Sunday's Gospel (Luke 14:1,7-14):
"We often say that we are nothing, the worst of men, the world's refuse.  But we would be sorry to have someone take us at our word or spread our own account of ourselves.  On the contrary we make a show of retreating and hiding, so that someone may run after us and seek us out; we pretend to want to be the last, seated at the foot of the table, but only in order to move 'humbly' to the head.  True humility makes no pretense and speaks no tone of humility.  For it desires not merely to hide the other virtues, but first and foremost to hide itself... let us not cast down our eyes without humbling our hearts, let us only seem to wish to be last if we have the real desire for it."
I thought to myself, boy! This sounds perfect for the post I am writing.  It is just what St. Francis de Sales would say.... then the reader said "And that was taken from Introduction to a Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales" (Book III, ch 5).   So the Lord really seems to wish this little post to come to you now and Holy Father has even provided us with his own words to sit with.  What could I possibly add to that?!

Just one thing, an oft-quoted phrase of our dear St. Francis de Sales:
"Be who you are and be that well" 
AMEN


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Meditation

In looking through some papers in my cell (the monastic term for your bedroom), I came across a few notes from the book, Live Today Well, by Fr. Thomas Dailey, O.S.F.S.  (See the video below to learn from Fr. Dailey himself about this book)

These notes, I thought, would be perfect for a blog post!  We will see how the Lord leads... but perhaps more than one blog post will stem from his insights!

First, I want to share a simple way to approach meditation, Salesian style!! Father has broken the process down into 5 main steps: Presence, Imagination, Consideration, Affection, Resolution.

Presence
This is a brief period to put your mind in the correct place.  Think about the reality that God is everywhere... God is within you!  Yes, God is really and truly there with you as you begin your time of prayer.  It can be helpful to picture Him sitting beside you, sitting in your heart, or gazing upon you from Heaven.  Find an image that helps you to simply place yourself in the presence of God.

Imagination
Now that you have God with you, enter into a scene with Him.  Perhaps this is a Bible story or something going on in your own life.  It really is easiest to place yourself into a Biblical story and take note of what is happening. This will encourage an encounter with God, which is the main goal of meditation.

Consideration
Now that you are in the scene with God, consider more deeply your surroundings.  How are people reacting?  What is God doing? What are you doing? What sounds do you hear?  Sights do you see? How do you react to the situation?

Affection
In your own reaction, look more deeply at how the scene is affecting you.  Are you inspired?  In what way?  Do you have an emotional response?  What does this response teach you about God or about yourself?

Resolution
Finally, how can you make this interaction with God into something concrete to take through your day?  Perhaps you were standing there as Jesus raised the little girl from the dead.  What things in your life will you allow Jesus to resurrect today?  How can you act in such a manner as to help someone else "get up"?

While this is a very abbreviated version of how to meditate, I find it quite helpful.  Depending on how much time you have to pause for prayer, each of these "steps" can be shorter or longer.  You may find that even in a 10 minute space of time the Lord will speak and show you a little "flower" (remember our spiritual bouquets?) you can carry through your day.




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Behold

Behold!!

What do you think of when you hear this word?  Behold the Lamb of God... Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world...

I am currently looking more in depth at the Gospel of St. Matthew from a Visitandine lens.  This little interjection caught my attention because Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary, "Behold this Heart". In Matthew it is first used to introduce the appearances of the angel to Mary and to Joseph. These moments were huge!  Mary becomes the Mother of God, Joseph allows his heart to be moved to take Mary into his home and to be the foster-father of Christ, to take his family to Egypt, and to bring his family home to Nazareth.

Joseph respond to these "behold" moments immediately.  It brought me to think of the movement of my heart when Jesus says, "Behold this Heart"  this Heart which "has so loved men".  One of our sisters was given an opportunity to go the Paray le Moniel for a conference on the Guard of Honor (a few years ago) and one of the speakers highlighted the depth of this phrase.  Jesus, your Love, your God, has come before you holding out His Heart and begging you to love Him because His Heart is burning with Love and burning with desire to be loved in return.

Imagine, if you will, your spouse (or someone with whom you are very close) coming to you with a pleading look in his or her eyes.  They look at you with an intensity of suffering and desire.  They say to you,
"[your name] I love you!  Look!  Look at my heart (at this they reach into their chest and pull out their heart, beating visibly before your eyes), Look at my heart which does so love you!  Will you love me in return?"   
How would you respond to this?  Of course you love them, so why such a deep plea?  Why?  Because for Jesus so many to whom He pours out his love do not love Him in return.

Therefore, for a Visitandine, for any lover of the Sacred Heart, each time we see this word, "Behold", our hearts should see that beating Heart of Christ, longing for our love in return, longing for that immediate response to His call just as Joseph responded to the message of the angel and Mary respond with her famous "Fiat".  So too shall we respond with that immediate love.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Standing with St. Mary Magdalene

You may be wondering what happened that is has been almost two weeks since my last post.  Well, I was on my annual retreat!  This is a time of solitude given to each sister to refresh and renew her as she sits with God alone in the desert.  A time for God to speak and us to listen.  A time to unwind from duties and tasks and to simple be still before the Beloved.  I hope to share a bit more on what it means to go on retreat here at the monastery as it can be hard to grasp how a cloistered nun could need such a retreat.  I know, myself, I used to think that the very life is a retreat so why would one ever need a "break"?

But I shall leave you in suspense as I want to take this chance to share with you a poem I recently came across in honor of tomorrow's feast: St. Mary Magdalene.  This beloved saint is so dear to my heart as her radical love never let her stop short.  We of course don't know for sure if she was the one to have 7 demons cast out of her, the prostitute at Jesus's feet... but we do know she had great love which made her break a jar of oil over our Lord to anoint Him, she clung to Him after the resurrection, she stood with Him at the Cross, she wept with Him over Lazarus...

I want to touch on her standing at the foot of the Cross.  She stands there as a witness, as a woman moved by love, as a disciple, as a servant, but most of all as a friend.  She wanted to be with Jesus no matter what the cost and this desire, this fervent love was undeterred by the mocking guards, the merciless crowds, or the angry pharisees.  One of our holy sisters in France, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart Bernaud, wanted to enliven hearts to stand with Mary Magdalene, John, and the Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross and saw these three as forming a sort of honor guard for Jesus.  A guard for His Heart to shield, protect, comfort His Heart particularly at this moment of great pain and rejection.  She invited all people (laity, religious, priests) to join this holy trio to stand guard and offer Jesus our love at that hour of suffering and pain.


This began what is now called the Guard of Honor.  Each member of this Association registers for one hour during which they will place themselves spiritually at the foot of the Cross to simply be with Jesus and let Him know of their love.  It it not needed to be on one's knees or in a church, but simply to be spiritually with Jesus, loving Him through whatever you are called to do externally at that moment.

So, about 2 weeks ago a number of books were donated to us and they were laid on the community room table and one with a green cover and quite old looking caught my attention: Beside the Western Sea: Poems of Marie.  Thinking it to be an Irish book of Marian poems, I picked it up and opened to the poem below.  Perhaps the Lord wanted to share this with all of you as well:



"The Guard of Honor to the Sacred Heart"

They come in still succession to keep the hour of guard,
Around his throne they linger in silent watch and ward;
They bear his badge of service as At His Feet they bow,
To pledge their font submission to breathe their solemn vow;

Well in his audience-chamber he keepeth Kingly State,
His chosen guard of honor and ranks unbroken wait.
Swift fly the summer hours, soft dies the rosy day,
And still his kneeling subjects there eager homage pay.

Ah!  why the waiting Legion? And who's the Royal Throne,
So hid in crowded cities to countless throngs unknown?
O worldling-throng insensate! O fettered the slaves of Pride!
They come to “watch one hour” the Victim-God beside.

That hidden throne is canopied by angels’ tendered wings,
That still secluded Temple conceals the King of Kings;
In Heaven's fondest worship earth takes her eager part,
When Mortals bow before him to guard his Sacred Heart.

With spotless lilies blooming before their type Divine,
With roses pouring incense upon His Holy Shrine,
With tapers sending steadfastly there upward-pointing flame,
With bells that hail His coming in silv’ry soft acclaim,-

With all that nature offereth, with all the Earth can bring,
Each heart its worship blendeth, low bowed before its King.
Love's Bloom and blessed Aroma, love’s shining altarflame,
Love’s soft and silv’ry utterance that chimes His sacred name,

the sweet soul-flowers that charm him with fresh, unfading Grace,
before his sacred portals His guarding Legions place.
They prefer fond atonement for hearts unkind, untrue,
they sigh, “Forgive them, Father, who know not what they do;”

They bring the glad thank-offering for Love’s redeeming birth,
They hail the boon celestial of a blessed ”Peace on Earth.”
They sound the ceaseless echo of Heaven’s eternal psalm
Of “Praise and benediction, and glory to the Lamb!”

O Heaven on Earth reflected by Heav’nly watch and Ward!
O servitude seraphic! A grand and glorious guard!
Be faithful blessed Legions and may the band ye bear
Of spirit-service loyal be still the symbol fair.

Within your hearts imprinted by fond, celestial art,  
Keep e’er, in sweet similitude, your Sov’reigns Sacred Heart:
The thorny wreath, the crowning cross, the flames that soar above,
The glowing hue, the open wound, the life-blood of His love.

The mystic signs thus bearing upon your pilgrim-path,
Ye shall escape the Angel's sword of stern relentless wrath;
And in Love’s fadeless Kingdom His guard shall claim their part,
And draw sweet waters from the fount of His exhaustless Heart.

For more information on the Guard of Honor: click here to visit our chapter's website

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jesus’ Bank Book

In our Catholic world, we are big on “offering it up” and “suffering for Christ”, but what does this really mean?  First, I would like to quote from the Sacred Heart talk given by one of our sisters in June:

“For many, many people today, suffering is an enigma, something to be avoided at all costs.  As Catholics, we know that suffering should not be purposely inflicted on others or on ourselves.  We do not perpetrate wrongs against others, nor do we mutilate our God-given bodies.  But when suffering does come our way, we are encouraged by Church teaching to unite our pains with the Lord Jesus Christ.  St. Paul points out in his writings, “We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:17).  Suffering well — in union with Christ — is the spiritual currency that pays tremendous supernatural and natural dividends for us and for others. Years ago I read a story that I often reflect upon.  It was of a soldier who had received life-threatening wounds and was dying alone on the battlefield.  No one attended him.  He knew his time was short and being a Christian, consciously made an attempt to place his wounds into the sacred wounds of the Lord.  After his death, one of his family members received the following enlightenment in prayer: that their beloved soldier went straight to heaven because his final action touched the Heart of the Lord who accepted his noble offering in uniting his sufferings with that of Christ.”

Each of us has his or her own sufferings, some more obvious to others and many very hidden.  I want to draw on the examples of the sisters I live with as I see them suffering with true joy and real peace of heart.  One of our sisters, about a 6 months ago had to undergo some treatments that were quite painful, with a bonus of side-effects!  She used to return home with such a smile and true joy to be able to go out to the people and spread the joy and love of Christ through her treatments.  More than this she rejoiced with sincerity in her sufferings!

One day I asked her how she was able to do this.  She looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes and said, “It’s for Jesus’ bank book!”  She explained that each pain, each trial was given to Jesus to increase His bank account.  A spiritual deposit, if you will, to be withdrawn by the Lord when another soul was in need of some extra graces, only attainable through the price of suffering.  

Even in the Sacred Heart talk, suffering is referred to as a sort of spiritual currency.  A way in which we can be united to the price Jesus paid for our redemption and, in that mysterious way of God, we can help and are even asked to and need to help Jesus to pay that price.  St. Paul states, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body” (Col 1:24)

And so my dear sister put this teaching into words we can all understand: I rejoice that my sufferings add to Jesus’ bank account, so that I deposit there what you need from Christ when the time comes.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Maxim for the day

"Receive your fullness from the will of God alone, it will not leave you empty" 

-The Life of a Visitandine 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Maxims

I wrote of creating a spiritual bouquet in my last entry.  Today I wanted to give you a little "flower".  St. Francis de Sales is known for his maxims, in other words, sermons in a sentence.  There is a wonderful resource on the website for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales which has a maxim for each day.  The Holy Spirit has led me to the one below.  Let us all soak up the amazing gifts the Lord desires to bestow upon us!

What will we do one day when, in eternal glory, we see the most adorable heart of Jesus through the holy wound in His side, all aflame with the love He bears for us - a heart in which, written in characters of fire, all of us will be inscribed? Ah! We will then say to the Savior, "Is it... possible that You have loved me so much that You have even written my name in your heart?" (Sermons 57; O. X, pp. 243-244)

Click here for a maxim for each day!