Confessions of a Convert

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It was all bright lights and glory.  I feel like Our Lord and Our Lady enticed me into the folds of the Church. There was no drama and no misunderstandings. I desired Him and His Church.

Nearly 12 years later and I’m a bit annoyed. Frustrated. THIS was what you had in mind? THIS is really your plan?  Don’t mind me as I thwart it some more.

What shall I render unto the Lord: In my heart of hearts I breathe: Everything.

Everything Lord. Everything I will give back to you.

But I know that is a lie. I know because when I kneel down during the stations of the Cross and I pronounce those words that proclaim my adoration for your suffering, I feel all that I lack, all that I am not.

And when again, I say aloud with all the gusto of a half-hearted creature that like Saint Alphonsus, I love you more than I love myself, I know that I am nothing but a hypocrite.

And when we pray in atonement for all of the offenses committed against Your Sacred Heart, protect me from the lie that those offenses are outside of my own heart.

Forgive me dear Lord for my unwillingness  to take up your cross of thwarted plans, lost friendships, and stubborn desire.

And give me the grace to desire all that is You.

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How waiting in lines sanctifies us

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Not just lines. I’m talking parking lot lines. The kind that makes your blood pressure rise and the only possible release you can think of is screaming at the top of your lungs (not to mention unmentionable phrases that seem to creep out of an unforeseen vocabulary you had no idea you were capable of).

Is this really the here-and-now reality of Christmas?

Alas. Perhaps the culture has it all wrong when Christmas ends on December 25th and there is a mad dash between Thanksgiving and Christmas in all the stores. But there’s something about the Advent-turns-Christmas-secularity that sanctifies us all. And I found it this Advent waiting in line. At the grocery store. In rush-hour traffic. Waiting for my favorite local latte.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. The way that Mary waited for 9 months. The wait in finding a place to give birth- in the most humbling of places. The waiting it takes to discover God’s will for your life.

This whole blessed life is one lifelong journey of waiting. Waiting to be forever united with the One who created us. And this Advent He has shown me how much He is present in the waiting itself. And in the joy of Christmas don’t let me miss the hidden places You are waiting for me.

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Holiness, Lack and Divine Mercy

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Holiness:

One highlight of convent visits is meeting and observing holy men and women. During my latest come and see excursion I found myself at table in a rectory surrounded by a handful of people including sisters, friars, lay men and women and the parish priest.

One young friar stood out when he was introduced. I was taken by his holy gaze. I saw only potent innocence and humility in his eyes. There was no question he had been my brother in Christ all our lives, and hope was present of our sibling-hood for all eternity.

We did not talk at all. I saw him again a few days later and asked one of my sisters his name. Of him she said, “Some people live on Earth with one foot in Heaven.”

Lack:

In light of this particular friar’s example and inclination to holiness I saw my lack. This moment was awful and beautiful, (and lets be honest- something I should be thinking about a bit more often).

I saw that I lack because I am already full. I am full of the wrong things: desires and distractions that amount to focusing on my will not God’s will for me. Being aware of this lack and striving to empty myself from being full of the wrong things reminded me of words from Genesis, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (…it seems it took all of Lent and most of the Octave of Easter for this Ash Wednesday message to sink in).

Divine Mercy:

Regardless of this belated realization, seeing this deep need for help and mercy came on a really good day: the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday! The invitation is clear: surrender all to Jesus and ask Him to pour the streams of His Divine Mercy onto this struggling emptiness.  I can do nothing else but ask, trust and hope to one day be such an example of innocence and humility, living on Earth with one foot in Heaven, as my brother friar was for me.

Divine Heart of Jesus- Have mercy on us

Saint Faustina- pray for us * Saint John Paul II- pray for us

Love and Truth will Meet: The Journey to Emmaus

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In today’s gospel reading the disciples speak about their hearts burning within them while they were listening to Jesus interpreting the scriptures on the road to Emmaus.

It is only when Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread that the disciples realize their experience of this in astonishment and joy- Were our hearts not burning within us!–  Jesus was in their midst! Their hearts were burning from the truth coming from the mouth of the Lord and the love Jesus had for them to live it- the Truth flowing from the Love found in the Word of God.

Their hearts were burning within them. Their hearts were burning in the presence of the Word of God. Jesus was in their midst! Our hearts were made to burn in this way. To burn out of desire to be close to our Lord. Our hearts desire to burn in this way, and this is the best of desires.

Jesus is in Our midst! He is daily revealed in the words of scripture and breaking of the bread. Be astonished and joyful in His presence! Let your hearts burn within you.

Entering into the Triduum

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Soon all will be quiet, vastly quiet with a determined finis on Good Friday. It seems we could be swallowed by the depth of emptiness. Entering into the silence of Good Friday is well contemplated at the side of Our Lady who pondered these mysteries in her heart as the Mother of our Savior.

Thankfully by Jesus Christ the Victory has been won and there is no end- only promised Light and Life. It is only by his wounds that we are healed. During these solemn days we can silently contemplate his wounds with sorrow, and confidently with great hope!

“..but he was pierced for our sins,

crushed for our iniquity.

He bore the punishment that makes us whole,

by his wounds we were healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,

all following our own way;

But the LORD laid upon him

the guilt of us all.”

– Isaiah 53: 5-7.

Come and See…again! Preparations for a Convent Visit.

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Tomorrow I am going to NYC to spend a week with the CFR sisters on my second come and see visit.  I have been extra vigilant in wanting to prepare for this visit.

Because this is currently what I call a discernment blog I am going to share a few of my experiences dealing with preparation- and lack there of- leading up to this visit.

Lack there of preparation:

1) I have been acting crazy.  In “striving” to prepare for visiting the CFR sisters, I decided to make an effort to be more silent and a little more contemplative during the week leading up to the visit.  The opposite happened.  After day one not only did I give up and forget about this effort, I was also a mess.  It was a rough week (for those around me).  I admit (in humility) that the selfishness (and loudness) level on my part was through the roof for those who (graciously) had to experience this particular week of my life.

2) I have been acting crazy In addition to being the worst person to live with, I was also a super grumbler.  During the week that I originally set aside for silence, I was a ball of anxiety while wrapping up at work, packing, etc., and I spewed my frustrations and complaints to anyone who would (and would not) listen.

Real preparation:

1) Novena to home parish Patron Saint.  My home parish is St. Joseph and to prepare for his feast day on March 19, we prayed a parish-wide novena to him. This novena “happened” to parallel my desired silent week of preparation.  It seems that since I could not be silent, Saint Joseph became a pillar of silence and contemplation for me. SO GOOD!!!!

2) Padre Pio and sanctity: We housed a relic of Padre Pio for nine days.  During this novena, one of the lines stuck out to me every day: “(we remember) the invisible halo of sweet smelling flowers that surrounded your presence: the perfume of sanctity.” I love thinking of this sweet smelling fragrance of sanctity.  The last day we had the relic (yesterday), I was volunteering at a youth retreat for high school students and one of the young ladies was surrounded in a beautiful smell of holy oil.  The smell was Heavenly and I told her about Padre Pio’s scent and that she had a fragrance of sanctity about her.  This was very encouraging as the reason I am discerning is to seek the will of God in my life because I desire to be holy, to be a Saint.  I associated smelling the “sweet smelling fragrance” with holiness, sanctity and prayers from Padre Pio.  In smelling holy oil on this kind and gentle teenager, I was inspired to seek holiness, something I should be anyway, in the midst of all this preparation.

3) God’s Mercy. After the week of craziness and waterfall of prayers from these Saints, I went to Reconciliation.  It seems I can only write about this now because of the sanctifying graces that came from absolution. These graces from God are really what has prepared me for this convent visit.

St. Joseph- pray for us!  St. Pio- pray for us!  Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and of holiness- have mercy on us!

† LDM

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“The fruit of Silence is prayer.

The fruit of Prayer is faith.

The fruit of Faith is love.

The fruit of Love is service.

The fruit of Service is peace.”

-Mother Teresa 

Chapel Sketch MCs

My Chapel sketches series continues with this drawing in the Missionaries of Charity convent chapel at their Gift of Grace House in Atlanta, Georgia.

Today’s State of Discernment

On my way out today I noted that this morning’s weather mirrored the state of my interior spiritual life, and more specifically, the road of vocation discernment I walk:

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Thank you for understanding.

Fortunately, while driving through this thick fog, I was happy to note two hopeful facts:

1) I am no meteorologist, but it seems that the fog was present because warmer weather has entered the equation  ∴  Fog = Spring!!  (I am no mathematician either).

2) The road far ahead could not be seen but driving continued because the immediate surroundings were clear enough to see.

This analogy is simple, but as I was driving I literally knew the road was present up ahead and when I got there I would be able to see, and it would not be foggy once I got there, and I had zero anxiety about that.

Now I hope to apply this zero anxiety I know it will be fine up ahead mentality to life.  My hope is this: like this morning’s foggy road ahead, on my foggy road of discernment I pray the clarity will come when it needs to, and when I get there life will look more like this:

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(but… hopefully with more leaves and less snow).

Chapel Sketches- Round two

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This sketch of Trinity Chapel continues this series of drawings from my personal journal. SCOS

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe continues to be present on Earth. I am so thankful there are many places where silence is found rich with His Presence. It is hard to escape the noise of the world, harder still when silence is found to unite my soul to the school of silence in Christ. Only by his Grace can this openness occur. I pray it does for all who seek Him and a change of hearts for all who do not seek Him in order that all may see Jesus in Heaven face to face, our deepest longing.