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

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trust

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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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

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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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

Suffering

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I have been thinking about suffering a lot recently. I’ve been worried about going through suffering in the future; the suffering of infertility and the suffering of being physically separated from my husband.

During Mass and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament today I prayed a lot about the topic of suffering in my life and thought of St. Therese. I will drink from the cup of suffering if my Lord offers it to me because I trust Him.

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

 

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.

Why I love the Extraordinary (Latin) form of the Mass

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I love the Latin Mass so much! It is surprising to me that I do because the whole Mass is in Latin and I don’t understand Latin at all. But this is precisely the reason why I love the Latin Mass.

Because I cannot understand the prayers that are being said during the Mass, I can say to Jesus “I want to pray what the priest prays”. And just like a child who is unable to speak, I can spend the Mass in silence uniting myself with the prayers of the priest and allowing Jesus and Mary to form my soul.

In the Latin Mass I am able to be more childlike than in the Ordinary (English) form of the Mass because I don’t understand the language! I just have to trust the priest, Jesus and Mary to lead me in prayer to a greater extent than if I did understand the words being said.

And because I can be more childlike, my soul is able to accept more readily and eagerly the graces that Jesus wants to pour out on souls especially during Holy Mass.

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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