Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tune our Hearts to Brave Music

"God of our life,
there are days
when the burdens we carry chafe
our shoulders and weigh us down; 
when the road seems dreary and
endless, the skies gray and threatening;
when our lives have no music in them, 
and our hearts are lonely, and 
our souls have lost their courage. 

"Flood the path with light,
turn our eyes to where the skies
are full of promise.
Tune our hearts to brave music; 
give us the sense of comradeship
with saints and heroes of every age;
and so quicken our spirits that we
may be able to encourage the souls 
of all who journey with us on 
the road of life,
to Your honor and glory."
                 (St. Augustine)

(painting: The Fern Gatherer by Charles Lidderdale, 1877)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life, Sanctified

William Paxton "The Housemaid"  In US public domain
"It all depends on our intention, by which we can sanctify the least little thing!
It can transform the most ordinary acts of life
into divine acts.
A soul that lives united to You, my God, performs nothing but supernatural acts.
The most commonplace actions, instead of separating it from You,
bring it all
the closer to You."
    (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Gift of Right Now

Last night I had what I would call an "awakening." Feeling that I've given too little time to God over the course of my life, too little time to prayer, too much time to trivialities, I experienced a different reaction than I've had to such thoughts in the past.

Rather than my usual "woe is me, I've wasted too much time, I'll never 'make up for it..,'" last night I felt a gentle whisper of hope.  If I could put it into a sentence, it was as if I sensed the words: "but you have right now."

I have right now.  Knowing this in a kind of "flash," I realized that I could not turn back the clock and re-live minutes of years ago, last week, or even yesterday morning.  However, I had the moment of right then.  I could pray at that very instant, talking spontaneously to God, and I did so.  I could choose anew to live for Christ, in that moment, and I did so.

I have forgotten to pray more often than I'd like to admit during the course of my life; sometimes I find prayer a struggle.  But in each moment, I am given a new opportunity.  A fresh, shining, precious chance to at least speak to God when I think of Him.  A moment in which I can connect with Him, offer a word of thanks or praise; a moment in which I can start anew.

"Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, only to pass on and plunge into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made it."  (St. Francis de Sales)

I have Right Now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Treasure in the Old Bookshop

The shop was long and narrow, dimly lit by naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling. It was a shadowed, solemn, wondrous place, tucked away in a dusty corner of the city where shops didn't sparkle like the department stores over on Main. Mysterious and musty it was; filled with rows and racks and piles of volumes.  Used hardbacks, yellowing paperbacks, comics... all stacked haphazardly and ready for a rummager's quest.

I'd step out of the light of day and onto the squeaky wood floor in search of buried treasure. 
It was my own personal library, and the best part was: I could read the books and then - I could keep them!  No need to keep close tabs on them, no stamps inside warning that this was a "14 day book," no falling in love with a whole fictional family only to have to dump them on a counter at the end of the month.

I was allowed to buy all of the books I could carry, pretty much.. and this because of the kind man who took me to the bookstore: my father, who (okay, I'll admit it) spoiled me.  Rather than leaving me home on a Saturday so he could go rummage for his own treasures at "our bookshop," he patiently took his bubbly little buddy and shelled out who-knows-how-much for mystery stories I would stay up much too late reading.  I think back now and imagine the one sided "conversations" he had to endure on the drives home, as I cradled newfound treasures in my arms (no putting them in a bag for me, no sir) and rattled on about this being the EXACT Nancy Drew I've been looking for and oh LOOK at the green cover on this book it looks JUST like leather and omigosh I once got this one from the library and then couldn't find it ever again and oh Daddy isn't this just the best BEST day?

Today I live surrounded with shadows of our bookshop.  Shadows of a good kind, as I savor the comfort of books lining almost every wall of my home.   Shadows of a better kind, as I thank God for a father who was generous with
his attention and his time.  These shadows of the better kind are ones I hope I've passed along to my own children, and now to my grandchildren as we share games and books and make-believe.  I pray to be generous with my attention and my time, helping them make memory-shadows of their own.

And I live with shadows of the best kind, because the generosity and attention of my earthly father was, itself, a dim shadow of the attention of my Heavenly Father.  

I can only imagine how HE looks upon me when I accept with joy His outpouring of gifts.  Think of how it must please Him when we bubble over with thanks and praise!

There are treasures all around, if I just look for them.  I might spend today doing some counting, and some thanking.   And who knows?  I might even bubble just a bit....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bunny is Six

Bunny is six.  My oldest grandchild, born one and a half minutes ago (it seems to me), born so petite that she needed preemie clothes, is now a tooth-losing, word-spelling, bike riding, pony-loving, story-writing little lady of six.  And what a lady she's becoming.  A lover of tiaras, tutus, flowers, glitter, princesses, tea parties, and all things purple and pink.

More importantly, she's learning to mix honesty with kindness.  A spontaneous gift-opening-response of "oh, this isn't the doll I wanted" is followed by a swift "but thank you, GaGa - I like her hair!"

Most importantly, Bunny is learning to follow Jesus.  Seeing cartoon bullies in a movie recently, she assessed the situation by pronouncing gravely: "they don't know God."

I will admit, at this milestone in Bunny's life, to experiencing more than a trace of nostalgia.  She has a charming curly-haired brother and a sister whose smile lights up a room, and about each one I am utterly and hopelessly ... well, gaga.  But Bunny was the one who turned me into a grandma, and then gave me "my name" when "Grammy" proved too much for a tiny tot to say. 

I feel winds tickling the edges of our horizons.  School will be at home, at least for now, and Bunny's social life is still mostly family and church and ballet class and swim lessons....

But with that little puff of breath aimed at six birthday candles, I could swear the back of my neck felt, for just the briefest moment, a tiny prickle of change.

Bunny is six.

"When we learn to see life through the eyes of a child, that is when we become truly wise."  (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta) 

(painting of La Fillette aux canard by Alfred Stevens, 1881)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Living Solely For...

"I need 
the closest
possible union
with Jesus, 
as if I were
spending my
whole life before 
His tabernacle... 

I must think of myself 
as living solely 
for the Sacred Heart of Jesus." 
                      - Blessed Pope John XXIII

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Want to be a Saint?

 "Do you really want to be a saint?  Carry out the little duty of each moment,
 do what you ought and put yourself into what you are doing"  (St. Josemaria Escriva)

(painting by Ernestine von Kirchsberg; in US public domain)

The True Bread of Life

"We believe this truth and this mystery which, along with the Incarnation, is the greatest and most hidden of all.  Because faith teaches it, we believe that Jesus Christ is in this Holy Sacrament, body and soul...  this truth may contradict our senses, which perceive nothing of its reality.  Yet we believe it - and believe it with even greater delight the more our senses fail us here.  Certainly we ought to make a thousand adorations each day to this divine Sacrament in thanksgiving for the love with which God dwells among us." (St. Francis de Sales)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

From Those Dark Plantings

Looking over some of my stored-away "breadbox letters" recently, I came across a copy of a letter I sent to friends some years ago.  This came right on the heels of the darkest period of my life... 

"This winter I forgot how to hope for Spring.  Not only was I in grief over the death of a loved one, but I felt that God Himself had moved far away.  He had not done so, of course - my perception of His distance was only a feeling.  Jesus was near, even though I had no awareness of His presence.  I loved God simply by an act of will.  I found myself face to face with every word I'd ever written or spoken about choosing to love the will of God. 

I've begun to see God's wisdom in allowing me to go through such profound darkness devoid of any sense that He was with me  As a result of this desolation, I now know that even in the harshest of spiritual winters, we can choose God.  We can, no matter the depth of winter, choose to live for Him.  We can do so in consolation and we can do so just as freely in spiritual barrenness.  There is great freedom in such realization.

I write this on a day bursting with the beauty of Spring.  Just last night I stood in a meadow filled with fireflies. These glowing creatures flickered in trees around and the effect was magical; I felt like a child in a wonderland.  The scent of flowers overwhelmed me - honeysuckle and clover and various unidentified varieties of weeds.  The entire world seemed to have burst into such exquisite beauty that it was almost too much for five little senses to bear.  I was surprised to find myself wondering what this same meadow would have been like in February, with trees barren and stark, with ground ice-encrusted, with no sign of fireflies and no pungent scent of flowers.

Plants need their seasons of dormancy as much as they need the warmth and sunlight of summer.  I've thought in recent weeks of how a seed might feel (could it do so) during long months with no sign of the sun.  Nothing would appear to be happening.  All might seem empty and hopeless.  Yet the appearance of such lifelessness would be far from the truth.  The truth is:  'unless the grain falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain.. but if it dies, it produces much fruit.'  (John 12:24).  The burial of a seed in the ground is not the end of the plant - it is a beginning.  The seed must lie hidden beneath the soil before a plant can spring forth, and then time must go by before that plant produces leaves... flowers... fruit...

It would appear that God's seasons are part of His "lesson plan."  I have begun to see His cycles of planting, budding, growing, blooming, fruit-bearing, dormancy and new growth as an unmistakable parable...."

I pray to plumb the depths of this parable and bring forth fruit for my Lord Jesus Christ.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Already Begun

"You don't know how to pray?    
Put yourself in the presence of God,  
and as soon as you have said
 'Lord, I don't know how to pray!'  
you can be sure you have already begun."
                                                                                                   (St. Josemaria Escriva)

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Plan of Action

"Now, if you want to drive away a wicked thought or desire, just grasp this little piece of advice I am going to give you, and stick to it.  

"Do not argue with perverse thoughts or evil desires, but when they attack you, occupy your mind vigorously with some profitable plan or meditation until they vanish away.  

"No thought or intention is ever expelled from the heart except by some other thought or intention incompatible with it....

"Nor must you be afraid that impulses or thoughts of this kind will be imputed to you as sin, so long as your will in no way entangles itself with them..."
                          (from a letter of St. Anselm, 1095)