Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Visitations

I often reflect upon Mary's visitation to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56).  I think about the fact that the original scene probably attracted little attention from observers.  Two women, two relatives, greeted one another.  It was something that happened all the time.   

No one watching would have shouted out: "Quick!  Come see!   Here's a scene that will be written about in the Bible!"  

Mary visited Elizabeth because both had first BEEN Visited - Mary in a totally unique way, of course.  She came to Elizabeth carrying God Himself within her.  

What particularly strikes me is that while I do not carry Jesus in the same way Mary did, I can indeed carry Him in my heart. 

“Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you..” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

"We may well tremble to think what sanctuaries we are, when the Blessed Sacrament is within us."  (Frederick William Faber)  

Imagine.  The Lord of the universe within us, within me.  Imagine.  

And I have the opportunity to "carry Him" to everyone I meet. 

What might happen if I make a conscious effort to go through today "on visitation?"

What if I first visit the Lord in prayer, and then specifically visit every person I encounter with the love of Christ?  This does not mean I have to say or do anything that will draw attention.  It may mean that I pray a silent aspiration for the letter-carrier, smile at a harried store clerk, relate to family members with patience.  I might write a note of encouragement, call a lonely relative.

My visitations will be simple and unnoticed.   

But as I carry the love of Christ to those around me, I have a feeling that all of heaven will rejoice.

Painting:  La Visitation, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

Portions of the above were previously posted on The Cloistered Heart blog in 2012.

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Joy Shadowed Forth

"A child is a pledge of immortality, for he bears upon him in figure those high and eternal excellences in which the joy of heaven consists, and which would not thus be shadowed forth by the all-gracious Creator, were they not one day to be realized."     John Henry Cardinal Newman  

Painting: Karl Witkowski, Happy Days, 1909 

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Than the Great and Famous

'The great saints took such keen delight 
in little acts of simplicity and humility
in order to hide themselves and defend themselves from vainglory.  
Such acts were found more pleasing in God's sight 
than the great and famous deeds
of many others, performed with little love of God.'

St.  Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God Book II, chapter 5

Painting:  Jakub Schikanede Plecka (1887) 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Holy Trinity, Glory to Thee

'The Father is my trust, 
the Son is my Refuge, 
the Holy Ghost is my protection..
O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee.'

6th - 8th century prayer

Saturday, May 25, 2013

No Changes in Weather

'Blessed be God, we shall find no changes in weather in eternity!'

St. Teresa of Avila

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And Wish Them Well

"During Holy Mass, I saw Jesus stretched out on the Cross, and He said to me, 'My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering.  Do good to those who hate you.'

"I answered, 'O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me.'

"Jesus answered, 'It is not always within your power to control your feelings.  You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well.'"   

St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul #1628; Marians of the Immaculate Conception

Painting:  The Penitent Magdalene, the Venetian School

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

To be a Setting Sun

Thinking of what has formed me spiritually, I take one more look at the martyrs. These holy ones inspire me not because I like suffering (which I definitely do not), and not merely because their intense gift of self to Christ is challenging (although it is). I think I am enamored of them because their accounts pull me out of self-pity when I'm feeling arthritic, headachy, unable to find the car keys, or when it's raining for the ninth day in a row.

A witness of, say, an Ignatius of Antioch can hush my whines at such times.  And fast.

"Now is the moment when I begin to be a disciple," proclaimed St. Ignatius as he was on the way to be fed to lions. "May nothing seen or unseen distract me from making my way to Jesus Christ.  Fire and cross and battling with wild beasts, their clawing and tearing... let them assail me, so long as I get to Jesus Christ.... How glorious to be a setting sun - setting on the world, on my way to God!"

I hope to remember these words tomorrow, when I'm on the verge of grumbling about allergies and that load of laundry I must fold.

Painting:  The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer

Saturday, May 18, 2013


The painting on this post is one I will also be using on my other blog for the feast of Pentecost.  I love letting this one appear in a large format, so that it crosses the sidebar.  I love seeing it break through boundaries, burst past neat edges.  I can think of nothing more appropriate for this Feast. 

The events of Pentecost did not fit into neat, tidy categories.  Suddenly, the world the apostles had known was bursting at the seams. 

'When the feast of Pentecost came it found them gathered in one place.  Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard all through the house where they were seated.  Tongues as of fire appeared; which parted and came to rest on each of them.  All were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.'  (Acts 2:1-4)

My prayer for all of us on this feast is that we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit of God.  

May He fill the hearts of His faithful. 

May He cause us to know and love Him. 

May He break through barriers of sin and darkness, and renew the face of the earth.  

Pentecost painting by Jean Restout 

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Pattern for the Pebbles

Close to the base of my "spiritual family tree" stand those who have suffered for Christ, those who've given up lives, health or comfort for love of God.

It is only appropriate that such heroes are seen (by all of us) as basic to the faith, for they are exactly that.  As Tertullian said in the third century, the blood of the martyrs is seed for the Church.

It was seed that God planted from the beginning.  St. Paul endured imprisonments, beatings, stoning; St. John was exiled on the island of Patmos; St. Peter was allegedly crucified upside down.

It had all begun with Stephen.

"Those who listened to (Stephen's) words were stung to the heart; they ground their teeth in anger at him.  Stephen meanwhile, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked to the sky above and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand.  'Look!' he exclaimed, 'I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand.' The onlookers were shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears as they did so.  Then they rushed at him as one man, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him.  The witnesses meanwhile were piling their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As Stephen was being stoned he could be heard saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'  He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'  And with that he died."  (Acts 7:54-60)

Surely his acute view of reality buffered Stephen's agony as stones were hurled at him.  He was given grace appropriate to the situation, just at the moment he needed it.  I like to remember this.  When I face a trial, God is there.  He gives me just the glimpse of Him that I need, exactly when I need it.  I know this through faith, and I know it from experience.  God stands ready with what I need.

I have never been pelted with physical stones, but I've endured a few pebbles.  Smirks and snickers and snubs for living and speaking the truth of God.  I like to remember that Jesus told us to expect nothing less.  "You will be hated by all on account of Me."  (Matthew 10:22).

I pray to remember the example of Stephen.  What a grace that the words of this first Christian martyr were written down:  leaving, in effect, a pattern for all who would come after him.  He looked at God, not at the situation.  He prayed.  He forgave.  And his actions were witnessed by one who would turn, in time, to God.

Stephen's pattern for dealing with stones is just as much a pattern for the pebbles.

Look to God.



And God stands ready with what we need.  

Painting:  Bernardo Cavallino, Martyrdom of St. Stephen 

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This Sweetest Water

Into my basic spiritual formation (which is Scripture) have been stirred the 'flavorings' of various saints.  These bring more than mere flavor to my personal spiritual stew.  They provide nourishment of their own.

Such richness is always consistent with Scripture and the teaching of the Church.  Is it important that there be this kind of complimenting?  Absolutely.  Just as we would not toss marshmallows into beef stew, we don't ladle conflicting teachings onto our storehouse of treasured scriptures.  Such mixtures could result in everything from an unpleasant taste to (depending on the added ingredient) something harmful to our physical or spiritual health.

Looking back over my mix of holy influences is turning out to be a marvelous exercise - sort of like tracing my spiritual family tree.

Taking stock of some of the saints whose writings first formed me, I find (very close to the 'base')  St. Teresa of Avila.  When I discovered her Spiritual Autobiography and Soliloquies in the 1980s, I felt I had found a friend for life.  

'O Lord my God,' wrote this wise, mystical, practical Doctor of the Church, 'how You possess the words of eternal life, where all mortals will find what they desire if they want to seek it!  But what a strange thing, my God, that we forget Your words in the madness and sickness our evil deeds cause!  O my God, God, God, author of all creation!... bring it about... that my thoughts not withdraw from Your words.'  (Soliloquies)

'Lazarus did not ask You to raise him up.  You did it for a woman sinner; behold one here,  my God and a much greater one; let Your mercy shine.  I although miserable, ask life for those who do not want to ask it of You.'  (Soliloquies)

'O Life, Who gives life to all!  Do not deny me this sweetest water that You promise to all who want it.  I want it, Lord, and I beg for it, and I come to You.  Don't hide Yourself, Lord, from me, since You know my need and that this water is the true medicine for a soul wounded with love for You.' (Soliloquies)

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Living Idiolect

I am finding it a challenge and an (enormous) inspiration to take inventory of my 'spiritual idiolect.'  What persons and teachings have formed me over the years, I ask myself... what ingredients make up my own 'spiritual stew?'

One thing I know for sure is that it all starts with Scripture.  The word of God, as taught through the Church, is the foundation upon which all else in my life rests.

No:  not 'rests.'  Grows.  My spiritual idiolect is not a static thing, set into place like a lump of immovable concrete.  It is living, active, growing day by day.  Even the parts of scripture that inspire and challenge me are not the same as time goes on;  I am drawn to ponder different ones as situations shift and bend with the passage of time.

There are verses I have clung to as to a life raft; they've carried me through trials and kept me afloat.  There are some that seem to sing with the very voice of God, reminding me that scripture is indeed living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)

Tonight I look upon my Bible - my worn, tattered, thirty-five year old Bible - with reverence.  How much we have been through, this priceless friend and I.  I find I want to hug it (it wouldn't be the first time), and definitely I want to thank God for the gift of it.  Yes, it is a sharp sword, but I love it for the sharpness.   It has divided light from darkness, pierced through my blindness, challenged and comforted and corrected and inspired and taught..... 

"I have come to rate all as loss in light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ.  For His sake I have forfeited everything; I have counted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth."  (Philippians 3:8)

"I put no value on my life as long as I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God's grace."  (Acts 20:24)

"We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His decree."  (Romans 8:28)

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth."  (Psalm 34:2)

"Though the fruit tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.  God, my Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet swift as those of hinds; He enables me to go upon the heights"  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Thank God for the gift of scripture.  I cannot imagine being "formed" without it.  May it ever be the basis of my life.

Painting:  Guido Reni, St. Matthew and the Angel

Thursday, May 9, 2013

and we shall SING!

The idea of a 'spiritual idiolect' (as written of by Connie Rossini) is one I find personally intriguing.  I say this as a person whose vocal accent has been formed by such varying things - where I've lived, teachers in my earliest years, family, friends, and numerous et ceteras - that often people cannot tell what part of the US I hail from.  Professor Henry Higgins would surely find a challenge in me.

I now find myself comparing my blend of regional accents to my personal mixture of spiritual influences.  I am thankful that Scripture is primary among them.  Also primary is the teaching of the Church.  And then there is that (thank God for it) harmony of notes sounded by saints throughout the centuries.  Each has his or her own voice to add into God's heavenly blend.  I envision these, together, as a grand chorus of praise sounding throughout the Heavens, finding echoes in the praises and actions of those yet on earth.

Over these next days, I hope to look into a sampling of Scriptures, quotes, saints and charisms - particularly (but not limited to) those that form my own 'spiritual idiolect.'  I am intrigued by this fresh way of looking at the heavenly chorus into which I - and you - are invited to blend our 'voices.'

We have been called by God to tune our lives to the music of Heaven.  We hear, we are drawn; we echo.

Each one of us is called to participate.  Each one has a specific, irreplaceable, part to sing.

'There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God Who accomplishes all of them in everyone.  To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.'  (1 Corinthians 12:4)

'It is one and the same Spirit Who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as He wills.'  (1 Corinthians 12:11) 

Painting:  Thomas Webster, A Village Choir

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A New Blog on the Block!

picture from Wikimedia Commons
There's something new and wonderful in Blogtown!  I join with Connie Rossini and a number of others in announcing the "official" launch of Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network.  As someone who blogs almost exclusively on the spiritual life, I am thrilled to find a network of bloggers with similar calls and goals.

Connie Rossini of Contemplative Homeschool is founder and administrator of this network, and I share with you some of her introductory words:

"Everyone has an idiolect--a collection of personal speech habits that is different from anyone else's. Have you ever thought about your spiritual idiolect? Since your soul is unique, you have a personal way of speaking to God that no one else completely shares. Today I am announcing the creation of a new blog that will help you find and fine-tune your spiritual idiolect.

"Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network is a community of Catholic bloggers who have come together to promote growth in Christ....God has a specific plan for your spiritual life. He will always lead you in accordance with the teachings of the Church.... " (click here to read the rest).

I'll be back here in a day or two to share a bit about my own "spiritual idiolect."  In the meantime, see you at the new blog in "Town."

Monday, May 6, 2013

He Chose This Path For Me

'He chose this path for me.
No feeble chance, or hard,
    relentless fate,
but love, His love, hath placed
    my footsteps here.

'He knew the way was rough
    and desolate;
knew my heart would often
    sink with fear,
yet tenderly He whispered,
    'Child, I see
    this path is best for thee.'

'He chose this path for me,
though well He knew sharp thorns
    would pierce my feet,
knew how the brambles
    would obstruct the way,
knew how my feet would falter
    day by day;
and still the whisper echoed:
'yes, I see
this path is best for thee.'

He chose this path for me.  What need I more?
This sweeter truth to know,
that all along these strange, bewildering ways,
O'er rocky steeps and where dark rivers flow,
His loving arms will bear me all the days.

A few steps more,
I myself shall see
this path is best for me.'

(from In Love With The Divine Outcast, compiled by A Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1934, pp. 186-187)

Painting:  Caspar David Friedrich, A Walk at Dusk (detail)

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Interior Glances

"When you are physically or mentally occupied, while fulfilling the duties of your state in life, renew as far as possible, again and again, your 'yes' to the will of God.  Cast frequent interior glances on the divine goodness."      St.Francis de Sales

Jules Breton painting in US public domain