Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Will Come to You in the Silence

"I will come to you in the silence,
I will lift you from all your fear.
You will hear my voice,
I claim you as my choice,
Be still and know I am here." ~
Your Are Mine by David Hass

How soothings these words are to the soul.  I have recently began working on what is known as "Centering Prayer," which is a form of silent prayer that helps us to receive the gifts of contemplative prayer.  This type of prayer helps us to experience God's presence within us. 

I have a lot of energy and for a long time, I have struggled with being internally silent or even sitting still sometimes.  However, I noticed that whenever I went to adoration, sat quietly in a church or a quiet place in my home or outdoors, with my eyes shut and body relaxed, after a few minutes, I could feel a sense of comfort and even a soothing peace (even if just for some brief time).  As I started to learn more about "Centering Prayer," I began to realize that this feeling was the presence of Christ.  Christ in these moments was coming to me in the most intimate and silent of ways. 

I was recently listening to a talk on "Centering Prayer," (I have fallen in love with audiobooks where you can even download lecture series!) by Fr. Thomas Keating.  In his talk, Fr. Thomas discusses how centering prayer is what Christ meant when he said “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." (Matthew:  6:6-8).  Immediately upon hearing this, I made the connection that in a small way, that is what I had been trying to do, but never quite knew it was a form of "Centering Prayer."  I realized that by quieting my inner noise, I could truly feel Christ's presence in a more profound way and as Fr. Thomas states, begin to learn that the deepest part of myself is God and begin to let go of who I thought I was and be who I was made to be.  Healing also can begin to take place during "Centering Prayer" or what Fr. Keating refers to as "the divine therapy."   Fr. Keating also suggests a few guidelines for "Centering Prayer," such when finding a quiet place, to choose a word as a symbol as your consent to God's presence.  For example, sometimes I simple say the word "Jesus" or "Jesus grant me your peace."  By saying this several times, you are calming your mind and surrendering and inviting Christ to be with you.  Sometimes my phrases change, but they always are rooted in peace and Christ.  Another guideline is to be sure you are comfortable and when your thoughts veer, to restate the words you've chosen as a symbol of God's presences, in this your words are acting as an anchor.

As I work on this form of prayer more and more, I walk away feeling refreshed and that I can be of better service to others around me.  Some of the worries that were there before, are put in better perspective for me.  I also feel a sense of inner warmth that I just cannot fully explain, almost as if during this silence, I am feeling Christ's love and peace more than any other part of my day.  I am seeing this bares fruits of the Spirit, such as self control, love and peace.  I notice that the days I take the time to quietly engage Christ through silent prayer, I am more patient with myself and others and I feel a better sense of trust than I did before. 

Fr. Murray Bodo, in "The Way of St. Francis," also talks about silencing the heart and mind in prayer.  He talks about how Francis himself would spend enormous amounts of time in hermitages.  He recalls how Francis ascended to Mt. Subasio and spent a long period of time in cave there and as a result, became a more "interior" person, seeing the world differently than before. Fr. Bodo also shares how Francis told his friars to take their inner cave or sell with them on the road, so that they could enter into that quiet, silent part of themselves to commune with Christ while they were being of service to others. 

It seems as though several mystics, such as Francis, understood this need for silence in order to commune with Christ and really "hear" him.  I see "Centering Prayer" as means for us to do just that.  We are so very busy in our daily lives, that we need to focus, we need to prioritize what relationship comes first, before all others.  I know in my own routine I can get so consumed with daily life and my ever running "to-do list" and can forget to take a few minutes a day to quietly spend time with Christ, but when I do take the time, he reminds me how much better my day is, how I can handle things with more ease, walk along side him during my day and even ask him to carry me when I am tired.  I almost feel like these words I am writing are not doing any justice to the gifts of "Centering Prayer" or simplifying spending ten quiet minutes with Christ daily, where you are not talking or asking for anything, you are just being, you are in the moment with him and Christ wants us to live in that present moment!

I encourage you to add some silent time with God to your normal prayer routine.  You will be amazed that the more you do it, the more you yearn for it.  And when you don't do it, you'll notice something is missing from you day and that is your intimate encounter with Christ.  So be still and know Christ is near! 


Bodo,  Murray.  The Way of St. Francis

Haas, David.  You Are Mine.  Retrieved February 23, 2011 from:

Keating, Thomas.  Centering Prayer.  Retrieved February 23, 2011 from:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Overcoming Ourselves

"Above all the grace and gifts that Christ gives to his beloved, is that of overcoming self." ~ St. Francis of Assisi

I have often pondered this quote in thinking about my own trouble in surrendering to Christ. I've even asked priest, therapist, close friends, family, "what does it mean to surrender to Christ?" "What does it mean to let go and let God?" I guess in my blindness and desire to hold on to my will, I could not even conceptualize nor put into action these questions and thoughts.

I have struggled with anxiety for most of (if not all) my adult life. Having anxiety can be hellish. You are literally a prisoner of your own thoughts, that just keep repeating themselves, basically like a tape recorder. You worry about the future and if it will be like this or like that. You think that by worrying about, you have some sense of control, you can somehow get in front of it and fix it. However, that is a false sense of control. What happens is that, anxiety is incredibly habit forming and it can spread to almost all aspects of your life.

At the beginning of 2010, I decided to do something simple, yet in some ways profound, in order to help overcome some of my anxiety. I gave up caffeine. Now, I know this may seem trivial to some, but for me, it was a HUGE deal! I realized that by not having caffeine, I had to let myself be tired when I was tired. I always noticed a severe tightening in my chest not occurring as frequently. In a sense, a year and almost two months later, I feel a little more sober. I noticed that in not having caffeine to keep me pumped up, I was in a small way not feeding my anxiousness. I also noticed that my mind was a little clearer and other negative habits and behaviors of mine were brought to my attention. I could start to honestly look at myself and sort out where some of this anxiousness was truly coming from, now that I could not blame it on caffeine.

In same ways, I view giving up caffeine as a fast (one that will probably be a life long fast). Fasting is so difficult, because us humans are so incredibly weak, but, I am starting to see that the fruits of it are entirely worth it! In one of our Lady's messages in Medjugorje, Mary states to the visionaries, "Through fasting and prayer, one can stop wars, one can suspend the laws of nature." Wow! How amazing these rewards are! I think Mary means that through fasting, we can stop the wars also within ourselves, we can work towards overcoming our own self occupation and start surrendering ourselves to God. As Fr. Slavko Barbaric states, "it is by prayer, of course that we attach ourselves to God, but it is by fasting that we detach ourselves from the world."

Part of my new goals for 2011 have been to start fasting once a week. Some weeks have been better than others, but I am determined to keep trying. I noticed last week, during one of my better fasting days, that it was very difficult, but I knew that it was a way to carry my cross that day and bare the slight inconvenience of hunger, a sacrifice for God that would turn into a later spiritual fruit and grace. When I awoke the next morning though, I felt a sense of peace, energy and I noticed later in the week when I was met with difficulty, I was a little more patient, my responses to others were more gentle and I even started in my prayers to take time not to speak, but sit in silence and listen.

Sometimes, I do not think we understand how are habits can keep us away from God and prisoners of ourselves. Again, Fr. Slavko Barbaric speaks of this when he states, "Fasting is a call to conversion directed to our body. And as we free ourselves from things outside of ourselves, we also free ourselves from the passions within us that are keeping our interior life in chains."
We all have things that we need to detach ourselves from. Fasting can help us, because it places are reliance not on us, but on Christ. I am starting to slowly see that this is part of the answer to how we can surrender. First we do need to die to ourselves and the practice of fasting, helps us to empty ourselves so that we can do just that.

Let us remember that this ancient Christian tradition is more needed in our society of individualism and self analysis more than ever before. Remember, fasting has the power "stop wars." With this, I encourage you to think about fasting for a spiritual gift, a family member, friend, or for a special prayer intention. Why not even fast for your enemies? Someone you struggle with in your life? You can even start small. This being said, I leave you with this beautiful, simple and humble prayer:

"Lord, as I fast unto You, replace the source of my joy, peace and gentleness with You. Purify my character so that I rely on continual surrender to Jesus instead of the contentment of the flesh." Amen.


Beyer, Richard. (1993). Medjugorje Day by Day. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

Bruursema, Kevin. The Value of Fasting: Spiritual Discovery. Retrieved February 16, 2011 from:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

“The oldest trees often bear the sweetest fruit”

Growing up, I remember being very excited when I got to stay the night at my Grandparents house. Of course, in part it was because I knew I was going to get spoiled rotten, but there was also something else. My Grandparents are incredibly devout Catholics and there home always (and still does) have a profound sense of peace. You feel love as you walk in the door, you feel at home. As I have grown into my thirties, I still feel the same way walking into my Grandparents house. However, now, I am not looking to get spoiled with outings to miniature golf, movies, ice cream and toys. Now, I am spoiled with their spiritual fruits, which are so sweet! I am often amazed at how self educated my Grandparents are. They are avid readers and they too are "in search of." They are in search of building the kingdom of God in some way (even be it small) here on earth. They take the time daily to pray, to study, live and share their faith. Every time I see them, I am guaranteed a simulating conversation that challenges me and strengthens my faith.

I would have to say that outside of my Mother and the Franciscan nuns that taught me in high school, my Grandparents had one of the most predominate impacts on my Catholic faith. I think in some way, they too sensed that I was "in search" of something that this world simply could not satisfy. I say this because in the spring of 2001, they gave me a priceless gift, one I've thought about every day since. This gift was a pilgrim to Italy (Rome, Assisi and Cascia--the place of St. Rita) and Medjugorje. I remember being simply elated when they approach me to ask if I was interested. I was exuberant! I went to Italy first without my Grandparents and they later met me in Medjugorje. It was a long trip from Italy to Bosina, into the hamlet known as Medjugorje. Our bus had broken down and we arrived in the wee dark hours of the morning. When I arrived to the house we were staying at, I could not stop with the others and eat, I had to see my Grandparents. I remember tears filled my eyes as I banged on their door, I was so excited to see them! I couldn't believe I was going to share this special time in this holy place with them. I knew I would never forget it and to this day, I recall this experience and instantly a deep sense of love and joy fill my heart. Again, my Grandparents demonstrated the "sweet fruit" of their faith, God-centered life and generosity.

As mentioned, the first part of this journey began in Italy. This was my first time in Europe and I essentially felt like a stranger with the rest of the pilgrims. However, that sense of being a stranger only lasted but a moment. Some of my Grandparents friends had gone to Italy as well and instantly took me under their wing. One older man in particular befriended me, his name was Larry. I instantly could tell he was set in his ways, however, he got a kick out of his own sense of humor, and I thought that was funny. He reminded me a lot of Walter Matthau in the movie "Grumpy Old Men." However, little did I know that ten years later, this dear man would still be such a close family friend. Larry became someone I would visit on a regular basis upon my return home. Our conversations about faith and life gave me a lot of comfort and still do, even though our visits now are a little fewer. Larry always encouraged me to pray. He often would send me prayer cards or share them with me during our visits. I know that God brought him into my life for a reason. He too is a "sweet fruit" that has shown me that we must place our trust in God, regularly participate in the sacraments and take life in stride.

Most recently, I have once again been blessed in befriending an older woman named Adele. This simply had to be fate. Upon a priest hearing my confession, he recommended I meet her. I gave the priest my phone number to give Adele and did not think too much of it. However, within a week's time, Adele called. It was amazing that over the phone I could sense a profound peace of soul within this woman, literally a "sweetest." She asked if I wanted to come to her home one Wednesday morning in June and I openly accepted her invitation. Well, it is now February and most Wednesdays of the month, I have a standing appointment with Adele. I cannot begin to tell you what a treasure this woman is. She is a Franciscan (which I thought was too funny, since I had contemplated become a Secular Franciscan myself) and she truly lives the message of St. Francis. Adele constantly challenges me to love, even when I can't. She challenges my normal responses and suggests I consider others' perspectives. She sees my goodness, when I can't see it. Her voice is gentle, her soul is sweet and when you are in her presence, all is well with the world and it is better because she is in it. I did not see it at first, but now I am starting to see, that Adele is challenging me to be who God made me to be, not what I think I should be. She is challenging me to be love. It is so simple, sometimes I struggle to get it. She is teaching me to see my talents and not be my toughest critic. She is so gentle, but at the same time lives this bold life and I love it!

Overall, I can see an evolution. The Lord has put these "sweet fruits" in my life to call me back home, to call me to love, to call me to transformation from the self I thought I should be to the self he made me to be. Unfortunately, in our American culture, we do not appreciate our elderly like others do. For example, we do not have the Chinese value of filial piety, where we hold our elderly in the highest regard and take care of them. No, we want to send them to a home or in some cases suggest the practice of euthanasia. What is a society if they do not value one of the sweetest parts of it? The elderly are invaluable. I will never be able to be the gift to my Grandparents, Larry or Adele that that they have been to me. They have contributed more to society and God's plan here on earth than I have or possibly ever can. I am simply humbled before them. They get life, they get that all you can do is surrender to God and joyful trust in him, even in the suffering.

Thank you God for the gift of the elderly! Thank you for unfolding part of your will for my life through these wise men and women. They are forever in my heart and I am utterly thankful that I have gotten a taste of their "sweet fruits!"

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." Proverbs 16:31


Monday, February 7, 2011

Now is the Acceptable Time

I was recently introduced to some of the works by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest you does a lot of writing and speaking on what he refers to as the "true self" and the "false self." In a series of talks on "Healing Our Inner Violence," Fr. Rohr made that point that "how you do anything, is how you'll do everything." He went to elaborate on this, meaning that how we interact and respond to others and our own selves today, is essentially how we will do it tomorrow and the next day. That basically, the future will always stay the same if we do not allow God to change the present, meaning transform us in the now.

I have to say that hearing this was not only powerful, but profoundly personal. I wake up every day, and try to be better than the day before. I try to leave my rush to judgement, my impatience, stressfulness, and overall bad habits behind me. However, I am no sooner confronted with a situation, where I do not act out of what Fr. Rohr calls "the true self," the self that is in total commune with God and every person they meet. Instead, I quickly jump to anger. I can get easily offended when someone does not respond to me in the way I think they should. I can get irritated with the grocery checker who is taking too long to ring up people in line. I mean doesn't she know, I have things to do! Doesn't she know how valuable my time is! Or what about the person who cuts me off on my way to class or drives so flippin' slow! Don't they know, I'm stressed! Don't they know I am juggling multiple things over here! Maybe I should I tell them, that's it, I let them know how unimportant they are and how very important I am by loosing my cool. Oh my, yes, how I do anything, is how I do everything! And, this is hard to admit, but it is also an important realization. To look at yourself and embrace that you are weak, that it is your ego who is telling you that you are so important, that you have created this image of yourself to control and protect yourself, but you slowly and yet, suddenly see that this is not you and you can change the present, with the Lord's mercy and grace and by letting go.

Fr. Rohr talks about letting go as falling through your life. I found it so relatable that he says this process feels like dying. I think when we are struggling to hold on to parts of our "old" and "false self" it does feel like dying. We are so use to the way we do things, we are creatures of habit and the more we act out in a negative and false way, the more comfortable we are and it becomes automatic and we even justify it. So when we are challenged to see life differently and it strikes a resounding chord in us, it is painful, there is some suffering involved in transformation. There is an admitting that we are not perfect, life is not about us, that I cannot control everything, that I have no choice but to surrender a little more each day and trust God. I think this has been one of my problems. I often feel like I have to take on so much, either for my own vision of success or because I feel as though if I don't take care of it, who will? How will it get done? This is me putting too much importance on myself and not really any on God, or any trust in him. I think this is where I get negative, judgemental, obsessive and in Jesus' words, the opposite of faith, which is "worrying about many things."

Fr. Rohr reminds us that as it states in 1 Corinthians, "Now is the acceptable time" (2 Corinthians 6:2). It is challenging and humbling to examine how we respond to others, how we seek control in situations out of fear and the need to be important, right or justified. However, we must remember that, "for when I am weak, I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). He will take up our yoke, his burden is light. But, this will only happen with dying to ourselves. I think this is what St. Francis of Assisi meant when he said, "Above all the graces and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved, is that of overcoming self." We don't have to wait, we can overcome ourselves now and fall into our new life. Hopefully each today we are up to this challenge.

Rohr, Richard. (2002). Healing Our Inner Violence. St. Anthony Messenger.