Friday, April 29, 2011

My Nature Is A Fire

"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
— St. Catherine of Siena

How simple, yet profound St. Catherine's words are.  We often miss the simple things.  We sometimes have a tendency to over complicate who we are and who God is.  All God calls us to is to be ourselves, which is a likeliness of his love.  Could you imagine what the world would be like if we all accepted this radical and divine truth?  If we weren't so concerned with obtaining, possessing, achieving and striving for things outside our means or reality, we'd would set the world on fire! We would be alive in the moment in love, where all things are possible.

St. Francis also shared the same sentiment as St. Catherine.  He would  pray to the Father, "God who are you and who am I?"  Wow!  What a humble and genuine thought.  To come to the realization of St. Francis and St. Catherine, that all we are is what God made us to be and that is a bellowing fire of love, if we only accept it and let it transform us. I think that when we get to this point of recognition, acceptance and communion, there is a discovery and freedom, because we've finally accepted the divine indwelling and can discard our false sense of self.  All we have to be is who we are, no more, no less.

So as St. Catherine of Siena said, let our nature be fire, God's fire!  Let us especially keep this in mind as we draw near to the Feast of Pentecost, when the Father poured out his Holy Spirit in flames among Mary and the Apostles, further igniting their fire of love within.  From this point, the Apostles were able to go out and be of service to Christ, because they accepted who God made them to be and they therefore, spread the Good News and truly set their world on fire!

My Nature is Fire
Prayer 12 (XXII)*

In your nature,
eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire,
because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind
a share in this nature,
for by the fire of love
you created us.
And so with all other people
and every created thing;
you made them out of love.
O ungrateful people!
What nature has your God given you?
His very own nature!
Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing
through the guilt of deadly sin?
O eternal Trinity,
my sweet love!
You, light,
give us light.
You, wisdom,
give us wisdom.
You, supreme strength,
strengthen us.
Today, eternal God,
let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth
in truth,
with a free and simple heart.
God, come to our assistance!
Lord, make haste to help us!
~ St. Catherine of Siena


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Judas, Peter and Simon of Cyrene ~ We've All Been There

During this Holy Week of our beloved Church, I cannot help but think of these three characters and the role they play in our Lord's passion.  Each individual is unique and through their own actions and choices, serve a distinct purpose in the amazing drama Christ is about to undergo.  More importantly, if we examine these three individuals carefully, we see some paradoxes and perhaps various sides of our own personalities or at least situations where sometimes we've acted like Judas, Peter and Simon of Cyrene.

I have to admit that I have always struggled with Judas.  I've posed the question to both religious and lay people, "Well, didn't there have to be a Judas?"  "Didn't Christ have to be handed over?"   "Isn't Judas essential to the paschal mystery?"  Through this struggle of mine, I am beginning to understand that even without Judas, Christ coming to die for us would've occurred, because that was the Father's plan.  It was Judas who had free will and rejected the love of God, a grave sin against the Spirit.  After all, Christ says it would've been better that Judas was not born instead of making this deathly free choice.  Yet, haven't we all rejected the love of God at some point in our lives?  Have we betrayed God by our actions?  Have we betrayed those we love or say we love?  Have we looked out solely for own agenda at the expense of someone else and as a result, caused them pain and suffering?  I would imagine that if we did some serious soul searching, we would have to admit that we can answer "yes" to some, maybe even all of these questions.

Then comes Peter.  Peter who loved Christ so much and swore he would never deny him, fulfills Jesus' prophecy:  “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times" (Matthew 26:34).  Again, haven't we all been Peter?  So on fire and committed to Christ, but when the time of trial set in, we abandoned God and his presence in our lives.  Or, even perhaps in certain circles of friends, colleagues and even certain family members, we water-down our love of Christ so that we don't rock the boat or "offend" anyone.  We deny Christ sometimes to fit-in and even become luke-warm in our faith.  We cast Christ aside when we succumb to sins of the flesh.  We deny him when we say we are Christians, but our actions do not show that.  We are also, Peter and Jesus knows that and still loves us in spite of it.

     Lastly, on Good Friday, we see Simon of Cyrene.  Yes, on the road of Calvary he is told by the Romans to help carry Jesus' cross.  Several things about this are profound, one is that Simon does not try to argue his way out of carrying Jesus' cross.  He does not say he is too busy with this or that, he stops in his tracks and comes to Jesus' aid.  Second, Jesus, Christ himself in his human frailty needed another humans help.  Therefore, if Jesus was not prideful, why are we sometimes in rejecting others help in carrying our crosses?  Jesus truly humbled himself in this moment with Simon.  In this scene we can take on may roles and apply it to our lives and reflect on how we live.  Do I help others carry their crosses?  Am I there for my family, friends, co-workers and strangers or am I too busy?  Do I ask others to help me carry my cross or am I too prideful?

In this holiest week of our dear Church, we get to take part in Passion of Our Lord. It is not a time for us to passively engage in the Triduum.  It is time for us to seriously contemplate the gift Christ gives us everyday, forgiveness, mercy, his life and our salvation.  It is time for us to see ourselves in these three individuals and allow the Resurrection to transform us according to the Lord's will.

Become passionate about the Lord's Passion over the next several days.  Don't let this Holy Week pass you by!

Peace and All Good Things,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Lord You're A Little Too Late!" What St. Martha Shows Us About Ourselves

The more I read about St. Martha, Lazarus' elder sister, I cannot help but see myself in her and perhaps you do too.  I can't say that this is necessarily pleasing to me.  For example, the Lord on an occasion of visiting Mary, Martha and Lazarus did chastise this sister when she was busy in the kitchen and lamenting about her work by saying, "Martha you are worried about many things" (Luke 10:41).  I feel like the Lord is constantly saying this same sentence to me.   Martha is also interesting in that she confirms that Jesus is the Son of God in this past Sunday's Gospel (John 11:24); however, she seems disappointed that he took so long to come to her dear brother, Lazarus' bedside.  Why did he wait?  Where was he?  Did he not love Lazarus after all?  Martha tells Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21). 

I am a person that wants things done yesterday!  I have struggled with this my whole life.  I have the hardest time when things don't go according to my schedule or something unexpected happens.  I feel like saying, "Come on God, you know I am busy."  "You know my anxiety cannot take this, you know I am tired and over-worked!"  "Where are you!"  "If you were here and taking care of me, this would not be happening!"  "Why Lord?"  So, just like Martha, I too feel like God is sometimes a little too late.

In reading through a Lenten reflection, this was said about Martha and this situation, and I think it is good for us "Type A" personalities to seriously and prayerfully think about:

"But Jesus reassures me as he reassured Martha:  'Look, no matter when I seem to get there, I've been with you all the time, and I can pull life out of anything.  I can do that with your sins...things that are your fault.  I can do that with tragedy.  I will do it with the crucifixion.  I can do it when things happen because of the sins and failings of others."

"That is the lesson of Lazarus' rising.  If I can believe that Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, it makes all the difference.  I never loose hope.  I can always put my faith in Jesus.  I can respond to situations (even sin and violence) his way, and know that he can pull life out it. It is a powerful belief.  As we approach Easter, I can catch the spirit of this Gospel and live this belief.  This belief will change my whole life if I really accept it and trust in the Lord."

So, let us take a lesson from the meaning of this story and trust in the Lord, through sin, violence, turmoil and inconvenience.  It is harder for some (like me) and easier for others, but as we get closer to approaching Holy Week we can trust knowing that the Resurrection is on it's way.

Dear Lord, let me see how you pull life out of everything, especially through my daily trials, struggles and inconveniences.  Amen.

Peace and all good things to you.


The Little Black Book:  Six-minute Meditations on the Sunday Gospels of Lent (Cycle A).  (2010) Edited by Catherine Haven.  Diocese of Saginaw.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Righetous Is Not a Four Letter Word!

Today's readings expose the irritations that the wicked or those who have either fallen away from God or do not see need for him in their lives feel about the "righteousness" of others.  Essentially, the wicked or those who have no to a limited need of God, tend to make their own path, because they have lost all sense of who God is and their lives are not guided by the Spirit, but the flesh.  To see someone attempt holiness (which is what we are all called to do) is truly irritating for them.  Perhaps it is because in today's environment the word "righteousness" is basically considered a "four letter word" and has such a negative connotation, sort of a "holier than thou" description.  However, it is unfortunate that the word "righteousness" has become a sour taste in some people's mouths.  Righteousness does not mean that one thinks they are above others, it means that they choose to do something!  It means one is choosing to embark on the journey and hold steadfast to the virtues that they have in the Lord, in the Holy Spirit and the Cross.  Righteousness need not be judgemental, instead it can be an example of not settling for mediocrity or indifference to the presence of God in our lives.

Regarding today's reading from the book of Wisdom (2:1a, 12-22), Fr. Gary Caster makes a profound point stating, "that the wicked cannot see the innocent soul's reward, because holiness is 'obonxious' to them, and 'knowledge of God' a hardship."  Wow!  Can we see this in today's society or what!  Where innocence is trampled on and preserving it is deemed as foolish and taking the straight and narrow way is hard, so as a result, many abandon it or don't want to "rock the boat" or project their virtues on others by appearing "self-righteous." So, as a result they remain silent and refuse to take a stand and defend Christ.  But, we need to remember that Christ reminds us that we are to, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it" (Matthew 7:13). 

F. Gary Caster goes on his reflection of today's reading in stating that the wicked underscores errors in judgement.  One of them being that they feel "threatened' or "judged" by the righteousness of others.  He states, "If we find goodness of our neighbor to be distasteful, then we have probably lost our hunger for God."  He continues to say that this should not be viewed as an affront for our love of God, but a hope that we too can grow in holiness.

Of course, we never want to think we've reached some religious or spiritual pinnacle like the Pharisees, they were certainly self-righteous and did not act in the wisdom and humility that comes from a close and love-filled relationship God and subsequently with neighbor.  However, we are to remain firm despite our failings, sinfulness and that our desire to have a close relationship with God may irritate others.  We are not to compromise our beliefs in our faith to accommodate other's insecurities, irritations or false perceptions of our motives.  For we must put God first and again, Christ warned us that this may cause division at times (Matthew 10:34).  Therefore, we have nothing to fear, especially if our efforts are humble, genuine and true, because he assures us that once this is done, all other things will fall into place, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33).

Seeking God, having an inmate relationship with him and living that out can be a hardship at times, after all, it is the way of the Cross.  Living this life with God is counter to settling for mediocrity or a culture of indifference or doing whatever we "feel" is good at the moment, essentially making our own path that strays from the narrow one we are called to walk.  But do not settle for this, do something!  God even asks us to do something about it when he calls us to rejoice when we are put down by others for his sake (Matthew 5:12).  And, Bl. John Paul II calls us to action to in saying:

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.
Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."


Fr. Gary Caster. (2010).   The Little Way of Lent:  Mediating in the Spirit of St. Thereses of Lisieux.  St. Anthony Messenger Press:  Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A "Little" Quest Towards God's Will in the Spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux

"Let it be done to me according to thy will" (Luke 1:38).  I have always struggled with this surrender.  When I think of Mary's complete trust and then later Christ's trust in the Garden of Gethsemane, I am always left feeling amazed, humbled and frankly saddened and embarrassed that I cannot echo their prayer in my own.  I realize that God's will is what is best for me and his master plan, but I must admit that I have a hard time trusting it.  Does he really know all the details?  Maybe not, so I should remind him in prayer constantly of what I need.  Wow!  This is the opposite of faith, but I still want to tell God what to do!  What if his will is not mine?  Then what?  I want certainty and security, but wait, God never promised certainty and security.  This is my immature, under developed thought process.  Then I must recall what Christ has promised, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

I mention this, because several weeks ago when I was in Adoration, as I quietly settled in and closed my eyes, I decided that I was not going to "ask" God for anything, I was trying to slowly rest with the fact that he does know what I need before I even ask.  As I quietly sat, I heard a thought say, for Lent ask only for HIS WILL, just try it, just for a few weeks and see.  So, I thought alright then, fine, you win God, I will try for the remainder of Lent to ask let it be done unto me according to thy will.  I must admit this has been the most difficult prayer and I have stumbled and had to shut myself up and recite this sentence and renew my commitment often.  What I started to say at the beginning of each day is, "Dear Lord, let your holy and most perfect will be done in my life this day."  I must admit, over the last several weeks since I have been saying this, my days have been a little unpredictable and sometimes things I do not want to be pulled into are attracting their force/attention my way, but I do feel a little more led by the Holy Spirit and in certain situations where I usually am not calm, I have been.  Surrendering is still very hard and I will probably struggle with it my entire life, but this is my "little way," again in the words of St. Therese of Lisieux to break my will.  In a beautiful Lenten reflection book I have on St. Therese, one of the prayers quotes her as saying,

"I made a resolution to give myself up more than ever to a serious and mortified life.  When I say mortified, this is not to give the impression that I performed acts of penance.  Alas, I never made any...My mortifications consisted in breaking my will, always so ready to impose itself on others, in holding back a reply, in rendering little services without any recognition, in not leaning my back against a support when seated, etc, etc.  It was the practice of these nothings that prepared myself to become the fiancee of Jesus."

When I read these words in Adoration about a week after my commitment to only pray for God's will the rest of Lent, I was awe struck and move to tears, especially when re-reading the line, "My mortifications consisted in breaking my will, always so ready to impose itself on others, in holding back a reply..."  because I felt like God was speaking in that moment directly to me through this thought of St. Therese.  It also touched me, because it served as confirmation and reminder of the previous inner voice I heard and moved me that the Saints also struggled with dying to God's will too!   I felt a sense of communion in that moment and humility.  And finally, because the Saints, such as St. Therese, "The little flower" loved Jesus so much that she was willing to surrender everything to his divine purpose, even if it meant through daily on-going sacrifices.  What fidelity to Christ!

Thus, I will continue my "little" quest, "Dear Lord, let your holy and most perfect will be done in my life this day." Despite the fact that this is probably the hardest sentence this control freak has ever said!  So even when I struggle, I will recall this reflection of St. Therese and call upon her intercession.  I am so thankful I became reacquainted with this "little flower," a Doctor of the Church, in a more intimate way this Lenten Season. 

With this, I leave you with a beautiful prayer of self-abandonment I came across and have started to carry with me:

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
~Charles de Foucauld


Fr. Gary Caster. (2010).   The Little Way of Lent:  Mediating in the Spirit of St. Thereses of Lisieux.  St. Anthony Messenger Press:  Cincinnati, Ohio.

Prayer of Abandonment. EWTN The Global Catholic Network.  Retrieved Saturday, April 2, 2011 from:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lent: Pilgrimages Where Are You on The Journey?

Thus far, this Lenten Season has been one of the most meaningful "Lents" that I have experienced in quite some time.  However, it is not because I have been "perfect" in my day-to-day interactions, I've actually fallen on my face several times with some of the things I decided I was going to work on.  Yet, despite this, I have been surprisingly more engaged in this year's Lenten Season and despite some set-backs, I overall still feel joyful, even after my major screw-ups!  I think it is the simple fact that the more we put into something, even when it is difficult, the more we get out of it.  Sometimes we have to do this even when we do not feel like it. For example, when I did not want to do something as a child, such as play with my other siblings, my Mother would tell me, "Do it and the feeling comes later!"  Wow, was Mom right!  This has actually become one of my mantras throughout life and I find myself telling this to my students quite often!

This being said, I think it is important as we reach the half way point through Lent to reflect on what it was we wanted to work on several weeks back at Ash Wednesday.  What did you sense that God wanted you to try to improve, to purify, to transform and heal through the Holy Spirit?  Have we taken more time to pray and quietly be with our Lord each day?  Have we been working on acts of mercy?  Have we taken up any opportunities to be more engaged in Church services, such as Mass (maybe trying to go one or twice during the week in addition to Sunday) Adoration, Stations of the Cross, perhaps your parish hosts a Lenten Retreat or does Friday Soup Nights or Fish Fries?  I think this mid-point is a time for self-reflection and renewal, we must continue to carry the Cross!  For those of us that may already feel defeated because we did not accomplish thus far in Lent what we set out to, remember, it is not about gaining merit and it is ok if we are weak and struggle, that is part of the Cross.  As St. Therese of Lisieux said, "Many souls say:  I don't have the the strength to accomplish this sacrifice.  Let them do, then, what I did:  exert a great effort.  God never refuses that first grace that gives one the courage to act; afterwards, the heart is strengthened and one advances from victory to victory." 

We can renew our commitment to Lent through what St. Therese of Lisieux called the "little way,"  we just need to put forth a renewed commitment with "great effort."  We can do very simple things throughout our day with great love and sacrifice, such as taking the time to smile at a stranger when we walk by, being kind to the grocery checker or bank teller, letting someone go in front of us in line or in the lane while driving, being more patient with a member of our family. Perhaps you can try fasting and if not from food, maybe from television, the phone, email, social networking, etc.  Perhaps these little transformed habits with great effort will stay with us after Lent, which is what Christ wants.  The Lenten Season is a gift to us.  A gift to transformation, a gift for the true self to shine and live the Gospel message, which is love itself.

In order to know more about how to live the Gospel message, we must be purified and open to receive it, this is why Lent is so profoundly important.  This is why Lent calls us to sacrifice and retreat from the busy-ness we experience normally in our daily routines.  As Christ said to his Apostles, "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little" (Mark 6:31).  There is still time to do this, no matter where we are on this Lenten journey. 

Therefore, in words of Blessed John Paul II, let us remember that Lent is a time for transformation through love:

I exhort you in the words of Saint Paul: “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5, 2). The season of Lent that we are observing is a special time of pilgrimage, a time of walking in Christ’s love. … You are remembered in my prayers; you are in my heart. We are all pilgrims on our way home to our heavenly Father. Let us walk in the way of love. Let us walk with faith. Let us walk in Christ Jesus. 
Bl. John Paul II

Peace All Good Things To You!


Franscesco Productions.  John Paul II Quotes.  Retrieved Saturday, April 2, 2011 from:

Fr. Gary Caster. (2010).   The Little Way of Lent:  Mediating in the Spirit of St. Thereses of Lisieux.  St. Anthony Messenger Press:  Cincinnati, Ohio.