Posts Tagged 'nuns'

Frailty and Temptation

During this frist week of Lent we are invited to meditate on two points: our human frailty weakened by original sin (Genesis 3), as well as to reflect on Jesus’ temptations in the desert (Matthew 4). Reflecting on these two points, Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message for 2011 states the following: “The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25).”

Recognizing our need for God’s grace implies a real struggle with the power of sin that has taken hold of our heart in manifold ways. One response that the Devil often wants to produce in us is an initial resistance to convert or change our lives. He uses fear to make us think we will loose something precious if we abandon our familiar ways of sin. However, in Christ’s temptations in the desert we are encouraged to recognize that the devil only promises distortions of what only belongs to God. In following Christ through these fourty days of penance and prayer we are strengthened in grace to turn away from sin and trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. Our frailty as human beings is not something bad in itself, since dependance on God is the way we were created to exist. However, the frailty we suffer because of the effects of original sin in our souls is a great reminder that we cannot save ourselves from sin. The latter frailty mentioned, which is caused by sin, is the clearest sign that we need to walk closely with the one who is our strength.

During this first week of the Lenten season, let’s renew our resolution to pray and fast with Christ, so that we too may overcome temptation and sinful frailty. St. Paul reminds us that “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

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Jesus’ Baptism and the Desert

How are baptism and Lent connected? There is a saying in Spanish that can be translated to read something like this “tell me who you’re with and I will tell you who you are.” This saying will help us understand the connection between Jesus’ Baptism and his time of temptation in the desert, since both have to do with who he is. In all three synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) we read that before Jesus begins his ministry he first goes to get baptized by John. After his baptism, he then goes into the desert where he is tempted by the devil. How are Jesus’ baptism and his time in the desert related? The connection between the two can be found in what happens at the end of the baptism.

In Mark 1:11 we hear a voice calling out from heaven, which says: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Likewise, in Matthew 3:17 we read that there was a voice from heaven which said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father asserts his love for his beloved son and this assertion gives meaning to everything Jesus does. Jesus is the Father’s delight and his identity is wrapped around his relationship with his Father. The scriptures tell us that the spirit lead Jesus into the desert, not despite his mission but as the very beginning of his mission. He is sent into the desert to encounter the temptations that rule men’s hearts (hunger, power and safety), but he confronts these temptations with the trust that he is loved by the Father. The period of temptation and trial is anticipated by one of grace and affirmation in the baptismal experience.

As Christians we walk the Lenten journey following Christ into the desert, but often we forget how this journey begins. It does not begin with promises of grand penances or change, it begins by asserting how much we need the Lord and the Lord asserting how much he wants to be with us. This synergy of God and man culminates in the Easter Mystery, from which we draw our ultimate hope to die with Christ so we can rise with him. In Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message of 2011 he offered the following words on what happened at the moment of our baptism: “we “become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection”, and there began for us “the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples”.

Like Jesus, let us recall the affirmation we received at the moment of our baptism, in which the Lord asserted in us the following words: “In Jesus, my son, you have become my beloved child and I will lead you into the desert of penance so that you may remember who you are meant to be.” Lent is a time of renewal to seek out our life mission based on this baptismal identity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

St. Teresa of Avila: Transverberation

In chapter 29, inThe Life of St. Teresa of Avila, we read the following description of St. Teresa’s mystical ecstasy, also known as “transverberation”. In this description we hear St. Teresa narrate her mystical experience, in which she was spiritually consumed by God’s love:

“In his hands I saw a long golden spear
and at the end of the iron tip
I seemed to see a point of fire.
With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times
so that it penetrated to my entrails.
When he drew it out,
I thought he was drawing them out with it
and he left me completely afire with a great love for God.
The pain was so sharp
that it made me utter several moans;
and so excessive was the sweetness
caused me by this intense pain
that one can never wish to lose it,
nor will one’s soul be content
with anything less than God.
It is not bodily pain, but spiritual,
though the body has a share in it–indeed, a great share.
So sweet are the colloquies of love
which pass between the soul and God
that if anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God,
in His goodness, to give him the same experience.”

Blessed are the poor in spirit…

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? I had a student who once told me that this passage meant God didn’t want us to like ourselves too much. In the Gospel of Matthew, that section in chapter 5 typically known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Being called to the vocation of priesthood or consecrated life requires poverty in spirit. But what exactly does that mean?

First, poverty in spirit is not self-pity or self-loathing. To be poor in spirit reflects back to the Old Testament notion of the “anawim” the little ones. God takes pity on Israel as His anawim, his little ones whom he loves. Israel’s poverty is also its greatest treasure, since relying on God for everything also means that God provides for all their needs. Poverty in spirit is this fundamental recognition that everything comes from God, therefore, the one who recognizes their life as a gift given by God already begins to live the blessedness of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

What a liberating freedom to know that we belong to the Lord, despite our inadequacies, imperfections and defects! He chooses us! A vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life requires a special dependence on God. This form of spiritual poverty allows the one discerning a vocation to have the space and freedom they need to follow the Lord wherever He may lead.

Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Blessed are we who trust in Him and follow Him where ever he may lead us!

Discernment- Like a pair of old boots

There was a romantic comedy film I watched a while back in which the male protagonist said to the female protagonist “you and I belong together like a pair of old boots.” In a sense, a vocation can be seen as the right paring off of the one who is called and the vocation they are called to live out to follow.

We don’t always know how the Lord is calling us to server Him, but what we are always discerning is how a vocation “fits” our particular life. Discernment is not about an ideal situation we want to live in, rather it concerns our life, seen with honesty and humility.

If we are called to the priesthood or the consecrated life, God usually provides some type of moment in which we find these lifestyles desirable, even if we had never found them attractive up until that moment. Some people feel very gravitated to the call to serve the Lord and follow Him immediately, like St. Matthew did (Mt. 9,9). For others, it is a slow process of recognition and prayerful reflection, along with insightful conversations with a priest, sister, brother, deacon or other consecrated person.

The Lord’s plan for us is perfect, so let’s prayerfully and actively search for the right “fit” for our lives so that one day we can say that “our vocations and us belong together like an old pair of boots.”

Where Do Sisters Come From?

Well, just as Elizabeth Ficocelli found a beautiful way to explain and illustrate the priesthood to young boys (see our blog post below), she has found a joyful and delightful way to help young girls understand the love of every religious sister to serve God and his people. Where Do Sisters Come From? would be a wonderful Christmas gift or catechetical resource for young girls. It is a beautifully illustrated book that can open the hearts of young girls to dream of God’s will for their life. Enjoy!



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