Posts Tagged 'sisters'

March Madness

This time of year, college basketball dominates the news. You can’t avoid it. Even if you are not a sports fan, you get drawn in by the storylines…storyline, really. The one that captures everyone’s attention is the “Cinderella Story.” Millions of viewers cheer for the unpredictable upset when the little school topples the big-time athletic program.

Inspired by the Madness of March, let’s take a closer look at a couple of “Cinderella” call stories.

The “Cinderella” team ends up in the right place at the right time and takes advantage of every break to win the big game. This was the case for Esther. Her parents died and she was raised by her uncle, Mordecai. When the King was looking for a new queen, Esther won the “beauty contest” and was made queen. Later, Mordecai and all the people of Esther’s hometown faced execution, and she risked her life to go before the king and stop the plan. The decision to speak up was scary, but she asked for prayer and fasting from her friends to support her. The result was a stunning “upset victory” for Esther. The people of Susa survived because of her great play.

Often, sportscasters debate whether a sports team was really from a small enough program to deserve the “Cinderella” slipper. The same argument may surround Zacchaeus. He was a rich and important figure in Jericho, to be sure, but too small to see the Lord as he passed by one day. So the little guy takes a chance and goes out on a limb. Jesus takes notice, and calls him by name. “This day salvation has come to your house.” By laying it all on the line, Zacchaeus won salvation for his family.

There are more “Cinderella” stories to be written today. God continues to call the underdog. If you are willing to make the most of the breaks you have been given and step out in faith, he can work through you.

If the slipper fits, wear it.

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)

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.”

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the past three to four hundred years, many Spiritual Directors have entrusted those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion, which is composed of eucharistic adoration, reparation and consecration, has led many closer to the Lord (regardless of where their discernment has led them).

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has always been a foundational part of Catholic spirituality and devotion, as far as this particular devotion is understood to be based on Divine Revelation’s message that God is love and in the mystery of the incarnation God has loved us with a human heart (Gaudium et Spes #22). As Pope Benedict XVI stated, concerning the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “Moreover, not only does this mystery of God’s love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.” (Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas)

To adore the Lord through this venerable image of his wounded and fiery heart calling us to communion with Him is a gateway to discern how exactly the Lord wants us to serve Him. Discernment requires a true “trust” in the one we are discerning with, namely the Lord. He must have free reign in our hearts and lives in order to lead us, without bypassing our freedom. Discernment is an act of freedom to transcend one’s circumstances, limitations and inadequacies to follow the Lord wherever He may lead us. Let us commend ourselves to the Heart of Jesus, whose wounded heart calls us to trust in the abundance of His sacrificial love. “It was only the experience that God first gave us his love that has enabled us to respond to his commandment of love” (cf. Deus Caritas Est, # 17).

We’ll close with the words of Pope Pius XII:

“Consequently, it is clear that the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary brought nothing new into Catholic doctrine. Their importance lay in this that Christ Our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God’s merciful love for the human race. In this special manifestation Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times.”
(Encyclical Haurietis Aquas by Pope Pius XII, #97)

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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