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

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saint augustine

To You I lift up my soul

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Jesus was in one of the towns when a man appeared, covered in leprosy. Seeing Jesus he fell on his face and implored Him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘If You want to, You can cure me.’ Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him and said, ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once.

– Luke 5:12-13

During Mass a few days ago, Luke 5:12-16 was read as the Gospel reading. It really jumped out at me and captured my heart. Since then, I’ve been pondering over it and savouring it. The more I reflect upon it, the more I fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, whose mercy is so tender and love is so generous.

I think of my own soul and how it’s sick with sin; how it’s leprous. Sin prevents me from loving the Lord with my whole heart and soul, and I detest it because of this. I yearn to be united with my Lord but because of my inclination to sin, I am not free to love Him single-mindedly, single-heartedly. So I cry out to my Lord ‘If You want to, please cure me!’. And I know that He will always say ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’. Now the limiting factor in this healing process is my cooperation with the Lord. I do not dare to put my trust in myself, so I put my trust in the Lord. I ask the Lord to show me the way to recovery and then to give me the strength to obey and to hold my hands all the way.

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself

– St. Augustine

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Removing my sandals before the sacred ground of the other

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Christians, as missionary disciples, must practice the ‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.

– Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 169

What I have recently found over the past couple of weeks is a growing reverence and love for the Real Prescence of our Lord in the Mass. Flowing from this development is a growing sense of reverence for other people for the sake of my Lord. What I mean is that because the Lord loves every single soul, I also am learning to love them. I love who and what my Lord loves, I want what He wants.

As I notice the Lord working in my soul, I also grow in understanding that any soul that God works in is ‘sacred ground’. Only the Lord knows which souls He is working in. From what I understand about my Lord, He will want to work tenderly and passionately in any soul that allows Him to. So, to me, every person’s soul is ‘sacred ground’.

If I acknowledge every soul as sacred ground, that is where God works, then the natural response is to remove my ‘sandals’ when I am communing with them. I suppose what this means to me is to put my pride aside; to acknowledge that without God, I am nothing and I can do nothing good, and that all my merits are because of God’s grace and tender mercy. When I do this, I become free to love the other as my brother/sister, as someone searching for the same thing as I am, Love itself. I recognise that the other is also, like me, restless until our heart rests in God (St. Augustine). And so, I feel a tender compassion for the other as someone who is in the same boat as me. Most of all, I feel a great joy because I know that the person and me are both loved passionately, tenderly and infinitely by God who is Love itself.

2016 Resolutions

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Today I read an article titled ‘How to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolutions‘ by Hudson Byblow.

Step 1: Stop aiming to change your actions.

Instead of simply trying to change your actions, aim to change your heart. If you open your heart to God’s grace, your heart will be changed, and your actions will follow suit.

Step 2: There is no step 2. Step 1 is all you need to do… over and over and over again.

When we aim to modify our hearts, we can shift our focus from saying “NO” to “stuff” to saying “YES” to God…

We become who we practice to be; we become a further entrenched version of who we are today. It’s that simple…

And here I am today, making the resolution to open my heart to Christ fully—and to no longer pretend that putting a Band-Aid on a bursting dam will solve the leak. Today I rebuild the dam, one YES at a time.

These are my “little victories,” and by the grace of God, they have helped me become who I am today.

As for resolutions? Just one.

– Hudson Byblow, How to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolutions

My Dad also suggested that we make 4 resolutions this year as a family activity. Each person would make 4 goals that they want to work on in 2016 and share them with the family if they want to. The 4 goals will be based on the 4 pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  1. Study (Part One: The profession of faith)
  2. Sacraments (Part Two: The sacraments of faith)
  3. Service (Part Three: The life of faith)
  4. Prayer (Part Four: Prayer in the life of faith)

While this is a wonderful family activity, I think that asking people to change their actions without changing their hearts is a less beautiful approach than asking people to change from the inside out; that is, to allow Christ to change their hearts and therefore their actions.

I am reluctant to make these 4 resolutions now because I don’t know what is best for me. But I know that God does! So I’ll leave it up to Him to bring me where He will and to form my soul the way He wants. All I ask the Lord is to tell me what He wants me to do, and then help me on every step of the way.

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself

– St. Augustine

Childlike trust

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When I read ‘Story of a Soul’ by St. Therese of Lisieux, I was captivated by her childlike trust in God. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to imitate her Little Way. Fortunately, my Lord has been teaching me how to.

At the moment, my understanding of having childlike trust in the Lord is to place my trust in the Lord and not in myself; it is to be so full of trust that I can fall asleep in God’s arms.

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself

– St. Augustine

 

Finding a hobby

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St. Augustine of Hippo

You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.

– St. Augustine

For years I have been searching for a hobby that sticks around. Often I’d try something thinking that it would be my new hobby because it’s exciting in the beginning, but after a short while it dies off. The reason why it dies off is because it doesn’t satisfy my restless heart. I’ve tried so many things, reading fiction, writing fiction, knitting, playing the flute, colouring, drawing, cycling, running, sewing, etc.

Finally, I found something that sticks; because it satisfies my restless heart. I guess my hobby is to immerse myself in the rich tradition of the Catholic Church. I love reading the beautiful writings of the saints (my favourite so far is ‘a Story of a Soul’ by St. Therese of Lisieux). I love thinking about God and praying always by imitating Our Lady in pondering things of heaven in my heart. Most of all, I love going to daily Mass. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do this especially since I live a mere 8 Min walk away from my parish and am currently unemployed and on Uni holidays.

My heart is restless until it rests in God.

Routines

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Today I read an article titled ‘St. Francis De Sales’s guide to starting your day right‘ and it got me thinking of routines and how they relate to my spiritual life and my marriage.

The routines that my husband and I set in our total power exchange are many. But in the end, they all have one purpose, to help me call to mind the dynamic of our marriage.

In a similar way, routines in the spiritual life have the purpose of helping me call to mind how I am designed to be loved by God and to love Him in return. These routines, should I choose to adopt them, remind me that “You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You”. Routines in the spiritual life help me to be fully alive (St. Irenaeus said “the glory of God is a human being fully alive”).

A routine that I have the privilege of practicing now that I’m on uni holidays is going to daily Mass. I used to take Mass for granted in the past but now that I appreciate it more I treasure every opportunity I get to attend. I have noticed that the routine of attending daily Mass has made a huge difference in my life. When I go for Mass in the morning, the rest of the day is more likely to be ordered right. Being able to receive the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion is such a precious opportunity and it makes every morning a blessed one.

One of the routines that I have been really drawn to is praying the Angelus when I wake up. The Angelus is such a beautiful prayer and I’m so grateful that I had been introduced to it a few days ago. It is so quick to pray but yet captures the very heart of Catholicism; Jesus’ incarnation and Mary’s fiat.

 

A hungry heart

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Today the Lord taught me that nothing will satisfy my hungry heart apart from Him. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee.”

My husband took me out to dinner and to go shopping for shoes tonight. What I learnt was that despite having more than enough to eat and despite not being in financial strife, I was not satisfied. I knew that what my heart was hungry for was for the Lord and as long as I do not keep my sights on Him, I will be aching and longing for Him.

I think I am still in the habit of trying to substitute God with wealth, pleasure and honor. I have to keep trying to break this habit…

Happiness, Aristotle & Catholicism

Obviously, the “positive” emotions are more enjoyable and easier to life with, but it’s perfectly normal to be occasionally engulfed by waves of grief or sadness, and stymied by feelings of despair, doubt or disappointment. All those emotions have something to teach us about ourselves and, without them, we’d never know what happiness is.

But it all depends on what we mean by “happiness”, so let’s start at the beginning. The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that the ideal life was the life of eudaimonia – a word usually translated as “happiness”. But Aristotle was not talking about a life of sensory pleasure; nor was he endorsing a life detached from reality by the delusion that things are (or should be) better than they actually are.

His idea of happiness comes much closer to our word “wholeness” than it does to the often self-indulgent, pleasure-based feeling we call “happiness”. For Aristotle, eudaimonia was about living in accordance with reason; fulfilling our sense of purpose; doing our civic duty; living virtuously; being fully engaged with the world and, especially, experiencing the richness of human love and friendship.

– Hugh Mackay, ‘Why we sometimes need to be sad’

I came across this in my reading today and found it a fantastic explanation of what Christian joy is.

For a long time I had been struggling to articulate what “Christian joy” means. I hear the term used all the time but didn’t really know how to speak about how Christian joy compared with the “joy/happiness” that people can experience without Christ. So I went and googled it in search for some way to articulate the difference. I didn’t manage to find an answer so I decided to leave it up to the Lord to reveal it to me if it is His will.

When I read this article, I realised that Aristotle’s explanation of “happiness” could be used to describe “Christian joy”

So here’s how I would articulate what “Christian joy” means to me:

Firstly, let’s talk about what Christian joy is not…

Christian joy is not a life of sensory pleasure, nor a life detached from reality by the delusion that things are (or should be) better than they actually are. 

Christian joy is not the self-indulgent, pleasure-based feeling society nowadays call “happiness”. 

Now, let’s talk about what Christian joy is…

Christian joy is living in accordance with reason. To me, living the life Christ calls us to live as Christians is very logical exercise. It’s a series of if this is true/not true… then naturally/logically I would respond in this way… For example, if Jesus is who He says He is, if He is indeed God, then it is only logical that I need to center my life around Him. On the other hand, if Jesus is not who He says He is, if He is not God, then He’s not a nice man, He’s a dangerous fanatic, and therefore I would do well to avoid centering my life around Him.

Christian joy is living in a way that fulfills our sense of purpose. As Catholics, we believe that our hearts are designed for union with God. This is the purpose of our existence that is inscribed into us; to love God and to be loved by God. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” And so, when we live in a way that we were designed to live, we experience a pervading joy and peace that the world cannot give. St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” In other words, to be fully alive is to be who we are meant to be.

Christian joy is living virtuously. The Catholic Church teaches us that there are 7 deadly sins and the antidote to these are the 7 lively virtues. The 7 deadly sins are exactly what they are, they are deadly; they prevent us from being fully alive and thereby prevent us from participating in the fullness of Christian joy. The 7 lively virtues on the other hand are antidotes to the 7 deadly sins; they set us free to experience a deep joy and peace beyond our wildest dreams.

Christian joy is being fully engaged with the world. As Catholics, we believe that to be fully engaged with the world, we have to understand objective truth. Only when you understand something can you engage it as it is. Objective truth is a big topic and of course the Church’s teaching on what the truth of things is very extensive. What helps me to understand the world is the fact that our hearts are designed to love God and to be loved by Him. Therefore, everything we do is ordered to satisfy this desire whether we recognise it or not. If we repress the desire for God, it doesn’t go away, rather, it comes up in a distorted way. If we don’t turn to God to satisfy this desire that is hardwired into us, we try to substitute God with wealth, pleasure, honor and/or power. C.S. Lewis in his work ‘Mere Christianity’ said, “Human history… is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Christian joy is experiencing the richness of love and friendship with God. Ultimately, Christian joy comes down to one thing, being who we are made to be; in communion with the Holy Trinity. We are designed by God from the beginning to participate in the Divine love and friendship of the Holy Trinity. When we are able to do this fully, we experience the fullness of Christian joy; this happens in Heaven. However, the good news is, we can still experience an extent of Christian joy right here and right now on earth to the extent by which we participate in the love of God (that is to the extent by which we allow God to love us and love God in return).

So in a nutshell, Christian joy is living in accordance with reason, in a way that fulfills our sense of purpose, living virtuously, being fully engaged with the world and experiencing the richness of love and friendship with God. 

The journey Home

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We are designed to be united with the Holy Trinity. That is our home; where our hearts find rest. We are only pilgrims on this earth. Saint Augustine said, “You made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

I read this article today and it touched my heart. When I finished reading it I realised in a new way that we all need to be continually converted to Jesus. Whether we’re Catholic Christian or no, we most likely are not completely united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (unless we are already Saints on earth).

There are many paths to this communion with God, but not all of them are the most efficient or easiest paths. The path that supplies us with the objective truth of things would logically be the quickest path; like using a GPS that has the most updated map instead of an outdated one.

As Catholic Christians, we believe that the Catholic Church is the most updated GPS map and therefore the most efficient and accurate way to union with God (that’s why Jesus gave the key to Saint Peter). However, while we have access to this up to date and accurate map, we might often choose to disregard it or disobey its instructions. Fortunately, the GPS will always recalculate the fastest route to our destination no matter how many times we stray. With the most up to date map we can trust that we will be instructed to drive along the most efficient way towards our destination; union with the Lover of our souls, the Holy Trinity.

If we trust an outdated map (the analogy is for one that is not in full communion with the Catholic Church), then we would naturally run into road blocks or take unnecessary detours. We would probably end up at our destination eventually but it would take a much much longer route then is necessary.

Fortunately, we can easily update our GPS with the most up to date map if we choose to. All it takes is to stop the car, pull out our gear and update the map.

The objective truth is out there, it is accessible, it is simple. The one objective truth is made available to the world by the Catholic Church that continually tries its best to present it in its fullness, we only have to approach it with a prayerful and humble heart asking the Lord to help us understand it in His time (not ours).

Often times even Catholics with the best intentions can not fully understand the truth presented by the Church. I think this is because the Lord reveals truth in its entirety to humble and little hearts who are open to it (as He has said so many times before in the Gospels).

Sometimes we are unsure if the map we are using is accurate because there are so many different version of maps out there in the world. Sometimes we want to see if others who used the map we are using arrived at their destination efficiently and in the best way possible. Fortunately, this can be verified by reading the writings of those who have completed the journey and have safely arrived at their destination. Reading the writings of the early Church fathers, the Saints who have walked on this earth would certainly be one way to do this.

A book that helped me update my map 2 months ago was Saint Therese’s ‘Story of a Soul’. I had been a Catholic my whole life but I was using an outdated map before I read her book. After I read what Saint Therese the Little Flower wrote, I was able to search for the most updated version of the map and update my GPS. After I did, I saw how congruent the Bible, the teachings & traditions of the Catholic Church (eg. Holy Mass, the Holy Rosary), and the writings of the Saints (eg. St. Augustine, St. Therese, St. Fatima, St. John Paul II) really were. But what delighted my heart even more was how relevant all of these were to my soul’s journey to union with my Lord. I started seeing tangible, consistent, and sustained change in my life since I updated my map 2 months ago, and I am continually amazed at what a difference using an updated map made in my soul’s journey to its home in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This is just a short expression of my thoughts on the subject of objective truth and how it is so crucially relevant to my life. Great minds have written books and books on this topic, so this is but a drop in the ocean of thought on the subject.

My prayer is that all souls (Catholic Christian or no) on this earth and in purgatory will be united to the most Holy Trinity, a purpose for which we are designed for since the beginning of time.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

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