Monday, December 30, 2013

Time for Transformation


          'So this year has disappeared into the abyss where all the others have gone.
          How desirable is eternity when we consider these miserable and fleeting changes!
          Let the time pass by as we, little by little, run with it to be transformed
          into the glory of the children of God.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting of Mary Magdalene, in public domain

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Pattern for my Pebbles

In the third century, Tertullian wrote that 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 all began 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 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:  Giorgio Vasari, Martyrdom of St Stephen

In honor of today's feast, this was a re-post from our archives

Thursday, December 19, 2013

If Christmas Finds You Hurting

It's a bad time of year to be hurting.  Not that there is a good time for pain, of course, but the weeks around Christmas and New Year's can be particularly poignant for some.

I know of what I speak.  While sparing you my life story (for now at least; consider such sparing a temporary gift), I will say that I've had a couple of Christmases in which I just wanted to hide away to wait out that year's crop of holly-jolly songs and plastic bows and ho-ho-hos. 

I suspect many of us have had such seasons.  Times when we can't be with loved ones, or a parent or sibling or close friend or spouse has died, or we've suffered a miscarriage, or we're sick, or we've lost our job, or there is illness in the family.  Even the time of year can make us feel blue.  Here in the northern hemisphere, night falls early in these months of bleak midwinter (I personally never adjust well to the long long long long dark).

I am thankful to be celebrating comfortably this year.  But for anyone reading this who is sad, in pain, or maybe just wishing the holidays would be over and gone - know that you're not alone.

In fact, you are so "not alone" that I'm going to ask a favor of everyone reading this.

Could we each take just a minute and offer a little prayer for anyone coming across these words who might be hurting?  If this gets to a number of people, that could amount to quite a few prayers.

May God lift burdens, heal pains, comfort loneliness, and soothe hearts.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, I pray... 

'We beseech You, Lord and Master, be our help and succor, save those among us who are in tribulations, have mercy on the lowly, lift up the fallen, show Yourself to the needy, heal the ungodly; convert the wanderers of Your people, feed the hungry, release our prisoners, raise up the weak, comfort the fainthearted, let all nations know You are God.'  (St. Clement of Rome)

'Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for You.' (1 Peter 5:7)

Painting:  Karl Ferdinand Sohn

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Monthly Linkup

Monday, December 16, 2013

On the Morning of Confession

'When our Lord is with us, 
light is poured abroad
on life's path, 
light is shed around
in the house of our soul,
His own living Tabernacle.... 

'On the morning of Confession, 
show Him round the house; 
show Him what needs repair;
show Him where thieves 
break in and steal; 
be busy telling Him all, 
and beg of Him the grace 
of perfect contrition.'

(from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, p. 223)

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is There Room?

Sometimes, at this time of year, a question drifts into my mind.  It's always the same. 

"Is there room in Your heart for Me?" 

I immediately think of innkeepers.  I think of a house in Bethlehem where travelers once lodged, where no room was found when the time came for Jesus to be born.

Christ is in my heart; this I know.  But sometimes I wonder.  Am I providing a place of welcome and adoration?  Or could it be that I've allowed my heart to become cluttered with so many other things that I have little room in my life for Christ Himself.

The inn in Bethlehem was not filled with "bad" people on the night Mary and Joseph arrived seeking shelter.  It had no room for the holy family only because others had gotten there first.

Does Jesus find little space in some of my days simply because the hours fill up with everything else first?

Do I get up in the morning and put off prayer until I get one thing accomplished, and then one more thing - and do I ever find that the day has sped by without my spending any time at all in communication with God?  I am deeply ashamed to admit that more often than I care to mention, this has been the case.

My heart seems, today, like a manger filled with clutter.  Sometimes it's as if there's no room in it for the most important Person in the universe.   Just imagine the "logic" of that.  And so I come today to Jesus, asking HIM to clear out all the distractions.   I ask our Blessed Mother, who so tenderly prepared a place for Jesus, to help prepare my heart to be a fitting refuge for my Lord.  May she re-arrange my priorities as one might arrange pieces of straw in a manger.

As my Christmas gift this year, I ask that the same be done for you.  I ask that all our hearts be prepared as places of loving refuge for the King and Messiah Whose birth we are about to celebrate.

The world did not welcome Him when He came to earth as an infant; it does not welcome Him still.  You and I have the opportunity of welcoming Him in a world that does not do so.

May our hearts prepare Him room.

This post is a slightly edited version of one first published on The Cloistered Heart blog in December, 2011.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Perfect Temple

'Blessed is He 
Who dwelt in the womb,
and wrought within it 
a perfect Temple
so that He might dwell in it,
a Throne 
so that He might be seated in it, 
a Garment 
so that He might be arrayed in it, 
and a Weapon 
so that He might conquer through it!'

St. Ephraem the Syrian

A hat tip to Melanie at the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers, where I found this painting.  Original source unknown.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Though I Do Not Understand

                         'In pastures green?
                         Not always; sometimes He
                         Who knoweth best, in kindness leadeth me
                         in weary ways, where heavy shadows be;
                         out of the sunshine, warm and soft and bright,
                         out of the sunshine into darkest night.
                         I oft would faint with sorrow and affright,
                         only for this:  I know He holds my hand.
                         So whether in green or desert land
                         I trust Him, though I do not understand.'

                  (from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, p. 227)

Painting:  Vasnetsov Snegurochka; in US public domain due to age

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Letter to St. Nicholas

Re-blogged from The Cloistered Heart, 2011: 

Dear Saint Nicholas,

My wish this year is not like what I’ve asked for before.  I'm not writing to ask for candy or trinkets.  This year I have but one wish:  I want to be a candle.

I want to stand tall and firm, carrying the Light of Christ even when winds and storms lash about me.  You see, good St. Nicholas, the world has grown terribly dark.  We talk of peace and sing of peace, yet rumors of wars swirl all around.  We’re busy and distracted, we have no time left over to pray.  We get confused about what is truth and what is not; we redefine sin and call it “choice” and “entertainment,” and there is more darkness around than I could tell you about.  In fact, there’s more darkness than I can even see.  It can be hard to peer into darkness, and I feel sometimes like a child at night who wants to cover her head with blankets and wait for morning light.  I need the light; the world needs the light.  So I want to be a candle.

Like a pillar of flame standing beside the Tabernacle in a monastery, lifting firelight fingers high in adoration, I want to offer praise to God.  Like a sanctuary light gently calling attention to the fact that Jesus is with us, I want to keep vigil by His side and call attention to Him.  I would like to flicker softly, as a gentle reminder of His presence, no matter where I may be.  So I want to be a candle.

I know I am asking a lot.  I know that in order for the Flame to increase, a candle must decrease.  A candle gives itself for the Fire; it gives its all.  That’s okay.  You see, I want to live my life for God.  I am not so good at the doing of this, but with the grace of God I’m getting better at the wanting. 

And I want to be a candle….

“The light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were wicked.  Everyone who practices evil hates the light; he does not come near it, for fear his deeds will be exposed.  But he who acts in truth comes into the light, to make clear that his deeds are done in God.” (John 3:19-21)

reblogged at

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

public domain photo 

Monday, December 2, 2013

What To Do When Envy Bites

                           'In this land of exile, when our path is often steep and rugged,
                           a word of encouragement... is an untold treasure.
                           Let us then be quick to see the good done
                           by those with whom we live,
                           especially in the case of those whose talents and attractions
                           are superior to our own.
                           Maybe we have basked in the sunshine of approval and appreciation
                           till another comes along and puts us in the shade.
                           Let us beware, then, of envy with its killing power,
                           its positive fury, the sharpness of its tooth, the depth of its bite....
                           When we feel we are put on one side,
                           and another who takes our place is much more loved and appreciated,
                           let us not only love and thank God for it all,
                           but pray fervently that God will bless that other,
                           and make her work a great success for His glory.'

(from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, pp. 110-111)

Painting: Degas, danseuses