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

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States of being vs. emotions

St Therese glide

I’ve recently come to realize that inner peace and joy are independent of the emotions that I experience. What I mean to say is that nowadays, I seem to be in a state of inner peace and joy regardless of the emotions that I experience. Being sad doesn’t take away from the joy that I feel. Likewise, being happy doesn’t add to to joy that I feel. I feel like I’m standing on an island of peace and joy while I watch with (mild) detachment as the waters of emotions swirl around me.

What does effect the inner peace and joy that I feel is my spiritual life. Relying more on the Lord adds to the peace and joy that I enjoy. Likewise, relying more on myself instead of on the Lord takes away from my inner peace and joy.

I think that to be fully alive is to live with a peace and joy that is as pervading, consuming and deep as the Lord has designed it to be. To be fully alive is to be absolutely free to love the Lord with my heart, my mind, and my soul.

For now, I’m not yet fully alive. I’m stumbling in the dark and tripping over my own vanity and pride. So, I ask the Lord to hold my hand and never let go. He alone can form me and teach me the freedom to love Him with all of my being.

These are a few of my favourite things

When I’m down, I like to think/do things that give me comfort/pleasure. Doing these things don’t help with my low mood but they do give me small measures of joy that I cling to until my mood ‘normalizes again.

So, these are a few of my favourite things (in no particular order, just off the top of my head)…
1. The Sound of Music
2. Dutch braid crowns
3. Ribbons in dutch braid crowns
4. A good Roman Catholic book
5. Gregorian chants
6. The Blessed Sacrament (in tabernacles, during Holy Mass, during Eucharistic adoration)
7. Latin (such a beautiful language)
8. Mantillas (chapel veils. esp the lace ones.)
9. Lots of cuddles and tender kisses
10. Praying the Rosary

The Real Presence of our Blessed Lord

Holy Mass.jpg

Who, indeed, can humbly approach the fountain of sweetness and not carry away a little of it? Or who, standing before a blazing fire does not feel some of its heat? You are a fountain always filled with superabundance! You are a fire, ever burning, that never fails! 

Therefore, while I may not exhaust the fullness of the fountain or drink to satiety, yet will I put my lips to the mouth of this heavenly stream that from it I may receive at least some small drop to refresh my thirst and not wither away. And if I cannot as yet be all heavenly or as full of fire as the cherubim and seraphim, yet I will try to become more devout and prepare my heart so that I may gather some small spark of divine fire from the humble reception of this life-giving Sacrament.

Whatever is wanting in me, good Jesus, Savior most holy, do You in Your kindness and grace supply for me, You Who have been pleased to call all unto You, saying: “Come to Me all you that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you.”

I, indeed, labor in the sweat of my brow. I am torn with sorrow of heart. I am laden with sin, troubled with temptations, enmeshed and oppressed by many evil passions, and there is none to help me, none to deliver and save me but You, my Lord God and Savior, to Whom I entrust myself and all I have, that You may protect me and lead me to eternal life. For the honor and glory of Your name receive me, You Who have prepared Your Body and Blood as food and drink for me. Grant, O Lord, my God and Savior, that by approaching Your Mysteries frequently, the zeal of my devotion may increase.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Recently, I have been reflecting on what it means to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament either exposed or hidden in the tabernacle, and what it means to receive Holy Communion. As a Catholic, I believe that the consecrated hosts are literally our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This has really profound implications.

What this means is that our Blessed Lord is literally and physically present in every Church that has a tabernacle that contains consecrated hosts. What this means is that in Eucharistic Adoration, our Blessed Lord is literally and physically exposed to us just a few meters away from us. What this means is that when I receive Holy Communion, I am receiving through my mouth very literally the physical Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord along with His Soul and Divinity.

The more I think about the implications of this doctrine, the more I realise that we can never be too reverent in celebrating Holy Mass, we can never be too reverent in Eucharistic Adoration, we can never be too reverent in receiving Holy Communion, and we can never be too reverent when we step into a Catholic Church that has a tabernacle that contains the consecrated hosts.

All the genuflecting, kneeling, and veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament are forms of showing reverence to our Blessed Lord. At this point then, I am not bothered by what people think about me veiling in the presence of our Blessed Lord in the most Holy Sacrament. Let people think what they want. Meanwhile, I will do everything that I can to show reverence to my Blessed Lord, King of the Universe, the One who Is.

Boredom is a spiritual problem

Pope Francis saints.png

True obedience to the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals, does not make one rigid or oppressed, but faithful and free. Yes, free, in the same way that the bird is free to fly in the sky above because it obeys the laws of aerodynamics.

womb and the cloud

Dr. Peter Kreeft said in one of his presentations that “boredom is a spiritual problem”. I agree with him.

I have noticed that before my conversion a couple of months ago (when I read ‘a Story of a Soul’), I was very frequently bored. Sure, the demands of medical school filled my time but once I got free time to myself, I was more often than not bored. It wasn’t that I didn’t do anything with my free time, I often spent it in entertaining myself with movies and books, with learning a new language or playing games with my husband. Without our Blessed Lord as the center of my life, all these earthly pleasure tasted like ash in my mouth. While my pursuit of pleasure was enjoyable it wasn’t fulfilling and the restlessness of my heart never went away.

After my conversion, I have been increasingly striving to become a saint (not necessarily a formally recognized one, recognition by the Church doesn’t mean anything to me). This means that I accept as my vocation the journey of sanctification, to be united with our Blessed Lord, for that is what we are designed for. Since that day, the only boring moments that I experience are those times where I take my eyes of our Blessed Lord and turn my gaze back towards myself.

Ever since I met God I wasn’t able to enjoy my favorite things in the same way. Before I knew God, they were everything to me. They were all I had. But now they were no longer ends in themselves, but pleasant occupations along a journey to a bigger destination.

– Sr. Helena Burns

Accepting the journey of sanctification as my vocation has been such a great adventure that is always interesting and captivating and not at all boring. Boredom only comes when I turn towards my own ego and away from Christ.

I think that boredom in this life is a foretaste of hell where souls are eternally bored and possibly driven mad by it.

 

 

Vanity

St Elizabeth Ann Seton
St Elizabeth Ann Seton

During Mass today I really struggled with vanity. I usually do struggle with vanity but today was particularly difficult for me. I was so devastated that my vanity caused me to not be able to place my mind and heart before God during Mass. I felt sorrow because of this; like the sorrow of being too preoccupied with something else to really engage with my husband in conversation but amplified.

In a way, I am thankful that I had this experience today. It is a really sobering reminder that I can’t place my trust in myself, only in God; that without God, I have no virtues and all my merits come from God.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us.

Active, conscious and full participation

mysteries of the rosary.jpg

Today I read Peter Kwasniewski’s article ‘How the Traditional Latin Mass Fosters More Active Participation than the Ordinary Form‘. It is a really refreshing read and the best explanation on this topic that I’ve come across.

It is also a pretty wordy (but succinct) article so I made a little summary for myself:

The Extraordinary form of the Mass fosters more active, conscious and full participation than the Ordinary form.

Active/actual participation: The Extraordinary form of the Mass fosters more active participation than the Ordinary form because it, to a greater extent, fosters an environment of active receptivity where the mind and heart are more free to place themselves before God in prayer.

Conscious participation: The Extraordinary form of the Mass fosters more conscious participation than the Ordinary form because it, to a greater extent, is so obviously directed to the adoration of our Blessed Lord in the most Holy Sacrament that lukewarmness is not an option.

Full participation: The Extraordinary form of the Mass fosters a fuller participation than the Ordinary form because it, to a greater extent, throws the worshipers into the worship body and soul.

When I was constructing this summary, my thoughts also turned to how I can participate more actively, consciously and fully in my life.

Active participation: In order to foster a more active participation in life, I can strive to create an environment of active receptivity where my mind and heart are more free to place themselves before our Blessed Lord in prayer.

Conscious participation: In order to foster a more conscious participation in life, I can strive to direct my life to the adoration of our Blessed Lord in a way that makes lukewarmness not an option.

Full participation: In order to foster a fuller participation in life, I can strive to worship our Blessed Lord not only with my soul but with my body as well.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us.

Immersing myself in God

Mother Teresa prayer.jpg

I sense the urgent need for me to use my University holidays to immerse myself in God; to cast myself into Christ.

It feels urgent to me because once my semester starts again in 2 weeks, I will have to be on placement from 7am to 5pm, Monday to Friday for 18 weeks. This means that I won’t have the opportunity to go to weekday Mass anymore, I won’t have the privilege of visiting the Blessed Sacrament in tabernacles Monday through Friday anymore.

I get the sense that the spiritual battle is about to get more intense when semester starts, when the stress hits and the time in front of the Blessed Sacrament decreases. So the seriousness and importance of preparing for this time of more vigorous battle is very much impressed upon me.

When I go back to school again I want to continue to pray always; to adore the Lord in my heart always, even when I don’t have free time on my hands. In order to do this I need to practice praying always now, when I have few obligations and duties.

I know that without God, I can do nothing good. I can’t place my trust in myself, so I place my trust in the Lord.

Mary, Star of the Sea, pray for us.

Symbols; visible signs of the invisible

tradition the counter revolution.jpg

These days, the idea of submission to the authority of her husband is frowned upon, to put it mildly. But it shouldn’t be, once we realize that the bridal veil signifies the submission of this particular woman to the loving care of her husband. It signifies her trust, her confidence in his Christ-like leaderhsip. It signifies that she has chosen to follow him as a loving partner and companion. It also signifies that he has been specifically consecrated to handle that sacred vessel – to safely touch that ark – and that’s something mysterious and beautiful.

But that doesn’t explain why little girls would wear a veil, does it? It doesn’t explain why professed virgins, nuns, religious sisters would wear veils, does it? Obviously, the mystical symbolism of a veil goes far, far beyond the relationship of one particular woman and one particular man. What does it mean? What sort of a mystery is presented us when we see a woman veiled before the altar?

It’s a very great mystery. Like Our Lady, every Catholic woman, as a woman, is a living icon of the church. So when she veils herself here, in the presence of Our Lord, it’s a visible reminder for all of the spousal relationship – the bridal relationship – between the Church and Christ.

That relationship between the Church and Christ is a very deep mystery, indeed. So whenever we see a veiled woman here, before the altar, be she six or be she sixty, it’s a visible reminder for all of us of this spousal relationshp, this bridal relationship between Christ and His Church.

And because the veil also signifies the submission of the bride to the loving care of her husband, it means that the veil of a Catholic woman is also a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the church to the loving rule of Christ.

The veil is a visual sermon, it’s a visual statement, it’s a public proclamation before the Lord that He IS the Lord and that we love Him and that we are ready to obey him. It’s a totally counter-cultural statement proclaiming obedience in the midst of a culture that is totally permeated with this attitude of “I will not serve.”

That, in any age, but especially in ours, is a very great mystery indeed.

The Theological Significance of the Veil

As I was driving today, a question came into my mind. How can we as human beings made of body and soul fight in a spiritual battle that we cannot ‘see’? The war that is being waged all around us is a war against the principalities and powers of wickedness and high places; this is the realm of the spiritual, of the invisible. Well, in fighting a battle that is invisible, it only makes sense where we can to make the invisible ‘visible’.

It is often said that symbols are a visible sign of the invisible. Therefore, powerful symbols are a crucial part of the spiritual battle. Since the Tradition of the Catholic Church is packed full of symbols in the forms of beautiful Cathedrals, art, and practices such as veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (just to name a few), it is so important that we treasure and preserve the great Tradition of Mother Church.

St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man; to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do.” Symbols are a powerful visible reminder of these three things.

To dismiss the symbols in the Tradition of the Church as out of date or irrelevant is to remove the visible signs of the invisible battle being waged around us.

Fight with verve and joy and gladness because this war against the principalities and powers of wickedness and high places is the one absolutely just and therefore absolutely beautiful war in the universe. Hold your head high, it’s a glorious war.

– Dr. Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War

rosary weapon

The spiritual battle

mary jesus.jpg

The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2729

I have been noticing that even during Holy Mass, the most powerful prayer available to us, I am distracted. Some days are better than other of course but distraction is usually present. I admit that I have fallen into the ‘trap’ of trying to hunt down these distractions with the intention of getting rid of them on my own. What I have discovered is that this never works. What does work is when I turn my heart back to the Lord and offer Him my heart to be purified. The more I pray, the more I realise that I can do nothing good on my own. Instead I have to rely on the Lord’s strength alone and forget myself on the journey towards sanctification.

How extremely necessary to me, O Lord, Your grace is to begin any good deed, to carry it on and bring it to completion! For without grace I can do nothing, but with its strength I can do all things in You…

Let me find grace in Your sight, I beg, Lord, for Your grace is enough for me, even though I obtain none of the things which nature desires. If I am tempted and afflicted with many tribulations, I will fear no evils while Your grace is with me. This is my strength. This will give me counsel and help. This is more powerful than all my enemies and wiser than all the wise. This is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the consoler in anguish, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nourisher of devotion, the producer of tears. What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?

Let Your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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