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"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." – Luke 2:19 (RSV)

Month

November 2015

Everything is grace

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My Lord has been teaching me that everything is grace. I will place my trust in my Lord instead of in myself.

This way of thinking is so different from what I have been used to. Society tells us that we need to believe in ourselves and trust ourselves. But my Lord has been showing me a different way. He teaches me that it is more beautiful to believe in Him rather than myself, and to trust in Him rather than myself.

Every day I learn this in a new and beautiful way. The Lord always shows me my weaknesses and frailty and how I cannot depend on myself, and then with infinite tenderness He shows me how I can just trust in Him to be the One who will form my soul.

So I believe that everything is grace from God. Everything good that I can do is a grace from God. On my own I can do nothing good. Nothing. It is so clear. It is so freeing. Why? Because now that I acknowledge that I can do nothing good on my own, I can now just focus on accepting the graces that the Lord wants to pour out upon me. All I have to do now is to choose in every moment to do the best that I can and trust that the Lord will form my soul in His time and in the way that He deems best.

Some say that we are the sum of our strengths. I see truth in this but I cannot completely agree with it. I believe that our dignity and what defines us is not what we can or cannot do, but the simple truth that we were, are, and always will be loved into existence by the One who is Love itself. Nothing can change this because “who is like God” who can undo what the Lord has done? No one.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us.

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Resignation without reservation

Ansigni. Detail from Madonna with Child, 19th Century

The Voice of Christ…

Some there are who resign themselves, but with certain reservation; they do not trust fully in God and therefore they try to provide for themselves. Others, again, at first offer all, but afterward are assailed by temptation and return to what they have renounced, thereby making no progress in virtue. These will not reach the true liberty of a pure heart nor the grace of happy friendship with Me unless they first make a full resignation and a daily sacrifice of themselves. Without this no fruitful union lasts nor will last.

I have said to you very often, and now I say again: forsake yourself, renounce yourself and you shall enjoy great inward peace. Give all for all. Ask nothing, demand nothing in return. Trust purely and without hesitation in Me, and you shall possess Me. You will be free of heart and darkness will not overwhelm you.

Strive for this, pray for this, desire this — to be stripped of all selfishness and naked to follow the naked Jesus, to die to self and live forever for Me. Then all vain imaginations, all wicked disturbances and superfluous cares will vanish. Then also immoderate fear will leave you and inordinate love will die.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Recently I have been reading ‘The Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis (Translators: Aloysius Croft & Harold Bolton). The assertions in the book are very simple but they are challenging to put into practice.

I will admit that I have been half-hearted at applying the principles described in the book to my life because it is painful to let go of earthly comforts. It is painful because they are what I have known for most of my life; I hardly know life apart from them.

So I have to rely solely on the Lord to form my soul. I fall often daily in almost every hour, but like St Therese the little flower says “to not become discouraged over our failings, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.”

The Blessed Sacrament

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O Sacrament Most Holy,
O Sacrament Divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving
Be every moment Thine

Today I realised how much the physical presence of my loved ones makes a huge difference to me. I carry my loved ones with me even when they are not physically by my side, but just having them physically in the same room with me makes a world of a difference.

One of the benefits of unemployment on the part of my dear husband and I is that we rarely have to be physically apart. My husband only works outside of the home 2 days a week and nowadays I am home 7 days a week. Today was one of the days where my husband had to work outside home. I missed him so much when he was away, I only realised how much when we were physically together again. The longing that my heart felt is difficult to explain fully.

This longing felt by my heart is infinitely more for my Lord Jesus. I am so grateful therefore to have the great fortune of being a Catholic. In most Catholic Parishes there is a tabernacle that houses the consecrated hosts that is the Blessed Sacrament which is the Real Presence of my Lord Jesus.

Today I am so fortunate to live a mere 8 minute walk away from a Catholic Church that is unlocked during school hours on weekdays and Mass times on weekends. So today when my heart was troubled and my mind had great difficulty concentrating, my dear husband commanded me to talk a short walk. While I was preparing to do just that, I thought to myself, why not sit in front of the tabernacle today to pray and study until my husband finishes work in 2 hours? Why not sit in the physical presence of my Lord if I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to do so? So I did.

I sat 3 meters away from the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of my Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe to pray and study; and I loved every minute of it. While I know that my Lord is always with me wherever I am, it made such a huge difference to me to be physically present with my Lord, my Beloved, and the One whom I am designed to love above all else.

Love and sorrow

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Ah, Lord God, my holy Lover, when You come into my heart, all that is within me will rejoice. You are my glory and the exultation of my heart. You are my hope and refuge in the day of my tribulation. But because my love is as yet weak and my virtue imperfect, I must be strengthened and comforted by You. Visit me often, therefore, and teach me Your holy discipline. Free me from evil passions and cleanse my heart of all disorderly affection so that, healed and purified within, I may be fit to love, strong to suffer, and firm to persevere…

The noble love of Jesus spurs to great deeds and excites longing for that which is more perfect. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low. Love wishes to be free and estranged from all worldly affections, lest its inward sight be obstructed, lest it be entangled in any temporal interest and overcome by adversity…

One who is in love flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free, not bound…

Love is never self-seeking, for in whatever a person seeks himself there he falls from love…

there is no living in love without sorrow. He who is not ready to suffer all things and to stand resigned to the will of the Beloved is not worthy to be called a lover. A lover must embrace willingly all that is difficult and bitter for the sake of the Beloved, and he should not turn away from Him because of adversities.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

In recent times, the Lord has been changing my heart and shaping my soul. In a span of a few very short weeks, my heart and what it desires has been dramatically changed. The progress and change is so quick that I am still adjusting to it.

As my soul is progressively reordered towards God, I feel an increasing sense of loneliness. It is so difficult to express what my soul experiences without the Lord’s help.

As I am changing, I grow to understand my husband more and more. I see with new eyes now. I can now appreciate more fully his wisdom and love of God.

Today I was crying out in sorrow to my Lord Jesus. I felt so lonely to the point of physical pain. My husband knew this and commanded me to go take a walk in the sun to clear my head. I didn’t believe that it would help at the time but I obeyed him anyways. To my great delight, my husband surprised me by joining me.

We took a short 10 minute walk to our Parish which has a tabernacle. The Church was locked so we sat at its gate; it was as close as we could get to the tabernacle which contains the Blessed Sacrament. All the time, my husband spoke to me and engaged me in a loving conversation about matters of God.

I learnt many things today. I learnt that my husband understands me more than I thought he did. I learnt that he loves me beyond my comprehension. I learnt that my purpose as a wife is to push my husband towards God, and his purpose as a husband is to push me towards the Lord. I learnt that I am not alone because we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses in heaven and on earth. Most of all, I am not alone because the Lord is all I need and He will never leave me.

Obedience

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Sometimes I get very upset about the disorder in the world. It is everywhere whether people recognise it or not. I get enraged by it and want to do something about it. Then I realise that my own will will accomplish nothing, and it is only God’s will that will bear lasting fruit.

Instead of discouraging me or making me despondent, this fact allows me to relax because I understand that everything is in God’s hands. All I have to be concerned about is obeying my Lord as best I can. If my Lord wants me to do something, He will make it clear to me. I just have to be attentive to Him. If my Lords invites me to participate in His work, He will give me the strength to do it. All I have to do is rely completely on Him.

I am continually amazed by the parallels between the relationship God calls me to have with Him and the relationship I have with my husband.

Wisdom and knowledge

Love

The free man is not he who thinks all opinions equally true or false; that is not freedom, but feeblemindedness.

The free man is he who sees the errors as clearly as he sees the truth.

– G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Everything is grace. If I understand anything it is because of the grace of my Lord Jesus. In recent times, I have been seeing things much more clearly than I have in the past.

I have also learnt that wisdom alone doesn’t bring peace, and knowledge alone doesn’t bring joy. The Lord alone is the one my heart desires. He alone can truly satisfy my needs. What good are wisdom and knowledge if they don’t bring me closer to my Lord? What good are they to me if I don’t possess the One my heart is designed to love?

My soul aches for the Lord. Without Him, wisdom and knowledge offer no lasting comfort.

Procrastination

Addiction

In the past few days and especially today, I have been procrastinating turning to God. Instead, I desperately try to substitute the Lord with earthly comforts (wealth, pleasure, honor, power). It doesn’t work of course, no matter how much I wish that it would. I have many years of experience with addiction so I know what it feels like. The scary thing is that I feel the addiction to these earthly comforts coming on.

Being addicted is to not be able to say no even though you want to. It’s the stripping away of freedom, the binding of the will in chains.

I am terrified of addiction. So I try to turn to my Lord and my husband to help me avoid it at all costs.

The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 2 – Reflection

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Stanza 2:

Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.

Commentary:

… in this verse the soul does no more than disclose to the Beloved her need and suffering. The discreet lover does not care to ask for what she lacks and desires, but only indicates this need so the Beloved may do what he pleases…

There are three reasons for this: First, the Lord knows what is suitable for us better than we do; second, the Beloved has more compassion when he beholds the need and resignation of a soul that loves him; third, the soul is better safeguarded against self-love and possessiveness by indicating its lack, rather than asking for what in its opinion is wanting.

– St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle

I know that I have needs that are unfulfilled. Often times though I do not know what they are. The Lord knows my needs more than I do. And so, I do not trust myself to ask the Lord for specific things. All I want is His will, so all I ask is for that. I know that the Lord’s will is for me to be fully alive, for my needs to be met. So I trust in His will alone and not my own will.

Bishop Robert Barron mentions in this video that repressed needs will not go away, they will simply resurface in a distorted way.

What areas of my life are a disordered manifestation of repressed needs? The earthly goods of wealth, honor, pleasure and power. I procrastinate turning to God in order to indulge further in these earthly goods. As a result, a disordered desire for these goods grow and grow because I become more and more convinced that they can fill my needs. I need more and more of them because they can never meet the needs that I have. And so these can become an addiction; I can’t turn away from them even if I wanted to.

Sanctifying the Present Moment

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Nothing is more individually tailored to our spiritual needs than the Now-moment; for that reason it is an occasion of knowledge which can come to no one else. This moment is my school, my textbook, my lesson…

The University of the Moment has been built uniquely for each of us, and in comparison with the revelation God gives each in it, all other methods of learning are shallow and slow…

To accept the duty of this moment for God is to touch Eternity, to escape from time. This habit of embracing the Now and glorifying God through its demands is an act of the loving will. We do not need an intellectual knowledge of God’s plan in order to accept it. When St. Paul was converted he asked merely: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” We can be warmed by a fire without knowing the chemistry of combustion, and we can be cured by a medicine without knowing its prescription…

God cannot seize our wills or force us to use our trials advantageously, but neither can the Devil. We are absolute dictators in deciding whether we wish to offer our will to God. And if we turn it over to Him without reservation, He will do great things in us. As a chisel in the hands of Michelangelo can produce a better statue than a chisel in the hands of a child, so the human will becomes more effective when it has become a liege of God than if we try to rule alone. Our wills operating under our own power may be busy about many things, but in the end they come to nothing. Under Divine Power, the nothingness of our wills becomes effective beyond our fondest dreams.

The phrase which sanctifies any moment is “Thy Will be done.” It was that fiat of our Saviour in Gethsemane which initiated our Redemption; it was the fiat of Our Lady which opened the way to the Incarnation. The word cuts all the guy ropes that attach us to the familiar, narrow things we know; it unfurls all our sails to the possibilities of the moment, and it carries one along to whatever port God wills. To say and mean “Thy Will be done” is to put an end to all complaining; for whatever the moment brings to us now bears the imprint of the Divine Will.

– Venerable Fulton John Sheen

I am like a little child who is given a task by my loving Father. Every moment is a task for learning and growing.

I am so little and I often can’t carry out the task because I don’t know how or I don’t have the strength to. So I look up to my Father and with confident arms I reach to Him knowing that He will help me in an instant, holding my hands to do the task that He has set.

He guides my hands rather than completing the task all by Himself because He allows me the joy to participate in His work and creation, all the while lovingly teaching me what He wants me to learn.

He asks nothing of me but my love and my fiat. He will provide everything else.

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