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

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the lord

Immersing myself in God

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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.

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Symbols; visible signs of the invisible

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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

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The culture war, the spiritual battle

Dear reader,

I don’t normally write for my readers. In fact, this is the first time that I am. I write this because we’re at war; we’re in the midst of a spiritual battle whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Will you fight with us (God, the Queen of Heaven, the Angels, the Saints, the Holy Souls in Purgatory, the Souls here on Earth)?

Before today, I never thought much of the ‘spiritual battle’. I think little of the ‘culture war’. I thought of it as someone else’s concern.

A few days ago, I watched Dr. Peter Kreeft give a compelling presentation on ‘How to win the culture war’. While I enjoyed listening to what Dr. Kreeft had to say, I still did not think of the culture war as a very real thing, it felt abstract and something that is distant to me.

Today, however, I came across a set of photos that depicted Our Lady and Christ in the form of cute little kimmidolls. At this moment, I realised how real and close the spiritual battle really was. The evil one would have us believe that Christ and Christianity are cute playthings that are only for little children and to be grown out of. But nothing can be further from the truth!

Let us always remember to never treat Our Lady as a “soft, sugary, sweet, fragile, harmless object of devotion for little old ladies and little old men”. She is “God’s greatest and most formidable weapon against [Satan]. The new Eve who reverses the sin of the old Eve, and whose offspring crushed the head of the serpent [Satan]”.

Let us always remember that Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity is truely and most literally present in all the tabernacles in the world and at every single Holy Mass that is celebrated.

Let us always remember that Christ is risen and reigns supreme with the Queen Mother always close by His side!

The battle is already won, which side will you choose? Be brave! Be bold! Be confident! Forward, into the breach!

I’ll ‘see’ you on the battlefield.

May the Divine assistence be always with you,

Kecil

Humility and submission

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Nature is not willing to die, or to be kept down, or to be overcome. Nor will it subdue itself or be made subject.

Grace, on the contrary, strives for mortification of self. She resists sensuality, seeks to be in subjection, longs to be conquered, has no wish to use her own liberty, loves to be held under discipline, and does not desire to rule over anyone, but wishes rather to live, to stand, and to be always under God for Whose sake she is willing to bow humbly to every human creature.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

I have recently read ‘The Different Motions of Nature and Grace‘ by Thomas a Kempis in his work ‘The Imitation of Christ‘. While Thomas a Kempis wrote about the topic in paragraph form, I wanted to put what he wrote into a table for future reference.

My dear husband loves the idea as well and asked me to print out the table so that the next time I behave badly I can identify which aspect of ‘Nature’ I gave in to and what the corresponding aspect of ‘Grace’ is. I like this idea a lot because it makes identifying the source of and antidote to my ‘problem behaviour’ so much easier! The purpose of this is course is to work towards sanctification. What I’ve come to realize is that self-knowledge is crucial to progressing in holiness. It is when I’m aware of my sins and my weaknesses that I’m able to ask God for help and to accept the Lord’s aid.

Today, I want to reflect on one aspect of ‘Nature’ and the corresponding aspect of ‘Grace’ (see the quote above). There have been many times in my life where I was not ‘willing to die’ or ‘be made subject’. Daily I struggle with this. When I see that Mum needs help, I experience a desire to hide away somewhere else and engage in activities that give me more pleasure. Or, when my husband asks me to fetch him a drink, I feel bitter for ‘having’ to serve. With this in mind, I try to remember the antidote to this aspect of ‘Nature’; to ‘resist sensuality, seek to be in subjection, long to be conquered,’ to not ‘wish to use my own liberty’, to ‘love to be held under discipline’, and most importantly, ‘to live, to stand, and to be always under God for Whose sake I am willing to bow humbly to every human creature’. Of course, this is only possible by God’s grace.

I want to have the freedom for excellence to love my Lord with all my being! And so I love the laws of the Lord and the rules that my husband puts in place that help me on the road to sanctification.

For the freedom of indifference, objective rules, orders, and disciplines are problematic, for they are felt, necessarily, as limitations. But for the second type of freedom (the freedom for excellence), such laws are liberating, for they make the achievement of some great good possible.

– Bishop Robert Barron

The Different Motions of Nature and Grace

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The Imitation of Christ. Book Three. Internal Consolation (cont). 54. The Different Motions of Nature and Grace.

The Voice of Christ
My child, pay careful attention to the movements of nature and of grace, for they move in very contrary and subtle ways, and can scarcely be distinguished by anyone except a man who is spiritual and inwardly enlightened. All men, indeed, desire what is good, and strive for what is good in their words and deeds. For this reason the appearance of good deceives many…

This grace is a supernatural light, a certain special gift of God, the proper mark of the elect and the pledge of everlasting salvation. It raises man up from earthly things to love the things of heaven. It makes a spiritual man of a carnal one.

The more, then, nature is held in check and conquered, the more grace is given. Every day the interior man is reformed by new visitations according to the image of God.

Nature Grace
Crafty and attracts many, ensnaring and deceiving them while ever seeking itself. Walks in simplicity, turns away from all appearance of evil, offers no deceits, and does all purely for God in whom she rests as her last end.
Not willing to die, or to be kept down, or to be overcome. Nor will it subdue itself or be made subject. Strives for mortification of self. She resists sensuality, seeks to be in subjection, longs to be conquered, has no wish to use her own liberty, loves to be held under discipline, and does not desire to rule over anyone, but wishes rather to live, to stand, and to be always under God for Whose sake she is willing to bow humbly to every human creature.
Works for its own interest and looks to the profit it can reap from another. Does not consider what is useful and advantageous to herself, but rather what is profitable to many.
Likes to receive honor and reverence. Faithfully attributes all honor and glory to God.
Fears shame and contempt. Happy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.
Loves ease and physical rest. Cannot bear to be idle and embraces labor willingly.
Seeks to possess what is rare and beautiful, abhorring things that are cheap and coarse. Delights in simple, humble things, not despising those that are rough, nor refusing to be clothed in old garments.
Has regard for temporal wealth and rejoices in earthly gains. It is sad over a loss and irritated by a slight, injurious word. Looks to eternal things and does not cling to those which are temporal, being neither disturbed at loss nor angered by hard words, because she has placed her treasure and joy in heaven where nothing is lost.
Is covetous, and receives more willingly than it gives. It loves to have its own private possessions. Is kind and openhearted. Grace shuns private interest, is contented with little, and judges it more blessed to give than to receive.
Is inclined toward creatures, toward its own flesh, toward vanities, and toward running about. Draws near to God and to virtue, renounces creatures, hates the desires of the flesh, restrains her wanderings and blushes at being seen in public.
Likes to have some external comfort in which it can take sensual delight. Seeks consolation only in God, to find her delight in the highest Good, above all visible things.
Does everything for its own gain and interest. It can do nothing without pay and hopes for its good deeds to receive their equal or better, or else praise and favor. It is very desirous of having its deeds and gifts highly regarded. Seeks nothing temporal, nor does she ask any recompense but God alone. Of temporal necessities she asks no more than will serve to obtain eternity.
Rejoices in many friends and kinsfolk, glories in noble position and birth, fawns on the powerful, flatters the rich, and applauds those who are like itself. Loves even her enemies and is not puffed up at having many friends. She does not think highly of either position or birth unless there is also virtue there. She favors the poor in preference to the rich. She sympathizes with the innocent rather than with the powerful. She rejoices with the true man rather than with the deceitful, and is always exhorting the good to strive for better gifts, to become like the Son of God by practicing the virtues.
Is quick to complain of need and trouble. Is stanch in suffering want.
Turns all things back to self. It fights and argues for self. Brings all things back to God in Whom they have their source. To herself she ascribes no good, nor is she arrogant or presumptuous. She is not contentious. She does not prefer her own opinion to the opinion of others, but in every matter of sense and thought submits herself to eternal wisdom and the divine judgment.
Has a relish for knowing secrets and hearing news. It wishes to appear abroad and to have many sense experiences. It wishes to be known and to do things for which it will be praised and admired. Does not care to hear news or curious matters, because all this arises from the old corruption of man, since there is nothing new, nothing lasting on earth. Grace teaches, therefore, restraint of the senses, avoidance of vain self-satisfaction and show, the humble hiding of deeds worthy of praise and admiration, and the seeking in every thing and in every knowledge the fruit of usefulness, the praise and honor of God. She will not have herself or hers exalted, but desires that God Who bestows all simply out of love should be blessed in His gifts.

Designed for Love

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If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat… but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.

– Thomas Merton

I love this quote by Thomas Merton because it gets to the heart of what questions you need to ask if you really want to get to know someone.

Essentially, there are two questions that could be asked; 1. What are you living for? 2. What is keeping you from living fully for the thing you want to live for?

I think these questions are also helpful to get to know myself; to grow in self-knowledge and self-awareness. Also, asking these questions regularly would be a good check up on my soul.

  1. What am I living for? To be united with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; to be united with God who is Love itself.
  2. What is keeping me from living fully for the thing you want to live for? Myself, my concupiscence, my self-love.

As a Catholic, I believe that I am designed by God for Love; to fall in love with the One who is Love itself, to strive to be united with Love (by relying on God’s superabundant grace) and to eventually be in perfect communion with the Most Holy Trinity. These major landmarks are like courtship and engagement (on Earth and in Purgatory), and marriage (in Heaven) where I am the bride and the Lord is my bridegroom.

I would say that Catholic evangelization… ought to be based upon the Eucharist in which case it’s really about falling in love in stages. It’s sort of like courtship, engagement and marriage.

Dr. Scott Hahn

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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A passionate love

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The Voice of Christ:

My child, My grace is precious. It does not allow Itself to be mixed with external things or with earthly consolations. Cast away all obstacles to grace, therefore, if you wish to receive Its infusion.

Seek to retire within yourself. Love to dwell alone with yourself. Seek no man’s conversation, but rather pour forth devout prayer to God that you may keep your mind contrite and your heart pure.

Consider the whole world as nothing. Prefer attendance upon God to all outward occupation, for you cannot attend upon Me and at the same time take delight in external things. You must remove yourself from acquaintances and from dear friends, and keep your mind free of all temporal consolation. Thus is blessed Apostle St. Peter begs the faithful of Christ to keep themselves as strangers and pilgrims in the world (1 Peter 2:11).

– Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, Book 3, Section 53

When I read this passage from Thomas a Kempis’ work, Imitation of Christ, one of my first thoughts regarding this section was that some people may think it unnecessarily harsh. This thought was soon followed by the question “why?”. Why would this passage be considered harsh?

It is commonly known that the demand of love is great. As a thought experiment, I tried reading this passage again but this time from a point of view of one lover to another. When I did this I realised that this passage is not harsh at all. Instead, I saw that it describes the requirements of a passionate love; a love desires absolute communion with the other, not out of need or desperation, but out of a sheer willingness to be a gift to the other.

Would we say that it is harsh to expect our spouse’s full attention when we’re out on a ‘date’ night with them? Would we think that it’s too much to ask for our spouse to have their hearts fixed on God and on us instead of desiring other women or pleasures of the earth? I certainly don’t think that it’s too much to ask, rather, it is the demand of love that is tenderly and passionately met.

I (try to) fix my gaze on my Lord first, my husband second, and my children (if I have any) third. Why? Because of a passionate love.

Reverence

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Today is the feast of the epiphany of the Lord. Mass at my local parish was said in a solemn and reverent way. The way Holy Mass was said, the readings, the priest’s homily, and the writings of St. John Chrysostom that was featured in today’s parish bulletin really touched my heart and instilled a greater desire for expressing reverence towards my Lord and all things holy.

I find that I want to express the life of my soul physically through symbols, hymns, postures, prayers, etc. One example is wanting to veil during Holy Mass because of an increasing sense of awe and reverence for the Real Presence of my Lord Jesus Christ in the blessed Sacrament.

Likewise, what I do with my body affects the life of my soul. For instance, if I pray kneeling down I feel a deeper sense of reverence than if I prayed while lying on my back.

Today, because of an increasing desire for reverence for my Lord, I want to start addressing the Lord in my silent prayers with royal titles like ‘my Lord’ and ‘Your Majesty’. Since my soul recognises that He is King, I feel compelled to address Him as such.

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