Guardian Angels

Today is the feast of the Guardian Angels and I found these two posts to be the best explanations of what Scripture teaches us about these wonderful helpers. Thank you, Lord, for my guardian angel!

http://lifeteen.com/blog/to-protect-and-serve-the-truth-about-guardian-angels/?utm_content=bufferf09dc&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

 

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Interior Struggle

This is a very insightful post. I highly commend it to my readers because the author knows something about struggles and I’ve seen him grow as he tries to accept them in faith.

Interior Struggle.

Shrove Tuesday

Lest I forget, here’s my favorite verse for this day of feasting before our days of fasting (“There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven…” Ec 3:1, NJB)

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine
There’s music and laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

Hilaire Belloc

 

 

Too Much Tuesday

I have decided I’d like to try blogging about when there’s too much of something in my life. Here’s a prime example:

“The worst way of speaking is to speak too much. Therefore speak little and well, speak little and gently, speak little and charitably, speak little and amiably.”

St. Francis de Sales

So, for Lent I am going to give up my habit to let my jaws start flapping the instant there’s an audience for whatever is on my mind and it feels like my head will explode if I don’t immediately share the idea, inspiration, information, or just plain old issuing forth on whatever subject is currently on “play”–a.k.a. rant mode (son’s nomenclature). In essence, I will be fasting from such frequent freedom with my tongue. This will be tough. It may even be laughable to those who know me best. I know I was surprised to find, upon meditation, that this was the direction the Holy Spirit was nudging me in. But be that as it may, I will give it my best shot. The downside for you, gentle reader, is that I am not placing that fast on my writing. So if I become even wordier and take longer than usual to make my point, I apologize in advance; Lent only lasts six weeks.

I am sure this will be the hardest thing I’ve ever given up for love of my Lord’s immense sacrifice for me and all of mankind, but it also will be a huge blessing to my family if I can even remotely pull it off (plus they provide built in accountability!).

Lord, have mercy!

At Ease in God

“Let God be the air in which your heart breathes at ease.”

St. Francis de Sales

Wowzers! What a difference that would make in the life of those of us who struggle with—okay, are plagued by—constant anxiety and/or depression, self-doubt, a lack of purpose, etc. I can barely imagine that as I’ve had anxiety issues all my life but only recognized them for what they were during the past few years. Whether they are neurological in origin or related to trust issues (with God and/or other people)—or a need to control or have everything perfect—anxiety issues will suck the life right out of you without you even realizing it.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a loving family member or friend who can help you to see this and you get help, things will get better. I promise. But you will always have to work at it, because that’s just the way anxiety is. It’s not going to give up its hold on you because it doesn’t want to and in a way you don’t want it to either—it’s probably your modus operandi, your coping mechanism, your safety net. You somehow convince yourself if you just think enough about these things—especially all the things that might happen—it will somehow help. Let me assure you that it won’t. But if you work at not being anxious, you will learn to be less anxious.

Here’s the best authority I know on the subject. Jesus told us,

“I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?…So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Mt 6:25-27, 34

Interesting “coincidence”: when I went to my new Bible–not one that’s been opened to favorite passages yet–to verify my reference and flipped forward to Matthew, being pretty sure it was there in the Sermon of the Mount–it opened immediately to the page for chapter six; I love it when that happens!

I’ll also share a couple of my favorite authors’ writing on this topic because they are also worriers who have learned many valuable lessons from their own struggles and have been willing to share them with others. The first is my choice of spiritual reading for this Lent. It may seem like an odd choice for that purpose but I believe the more practical we are in applying our faith the faster we can grow in union with Christ. The second choice is by a well known author who has also written extensively about ADHD, which also often comes with anxiety, as do bipolar disorder, depression and other mood disorders, something I know about firsthand.

For Lent I’ll be rereading writing coach, novelist, and general all around great guy Marshall Cook’s excellent How to Handle Worry: A Catholic Approach, along with its companion workbook, HTHW: ACA—praying your way through anxiety. As Marshall says in the introduction:

“If you’ve been suffering for a long time, change may seem impossible. By yourself it would be. But with God, all things are possible. Use this book as a guide as you surrender yourself—including all those worries—more fully to God.”

Disclosure: from what I recall from my first read a few years ago—as a convert to the Catholic Church from Protestantism 10 years ago—this book and its workbook can certainly be used by non-Catholics. There are just occasional times when there will be references to faith practices which differ.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Handle-Worry-Marshall-Cook-ebook/dp/B005F1Q7U6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1423158101

The second book, Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition—Turn chronic worry into a positive force in your life, is an excellent read in its own right by the wonderful writer and well-known psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell and concludes with a wonderful chapter on “50 Tips on the Management of Worry Without Using Medication”—not that the author is against medication, as he is not, but he brings a whole person approach to the problem because that is what it as well as other neurologically based conditions require.

http://www.amazon.com/Worry-Edward-M-Hallowell-Md-ebook/dp/B004JHYRQI/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1423159941

I hope you will find something in the above that will help you to breathe more easily in God.

“The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns”–A Review

As it’s been said before, “We don’t have a lack of vocations; we have a lack of people willing to say “yes” to their vocation[s].” So, what could be more unexpected in this day of bizarre reality shows than an honest, balanced look into the lives of five young women who are pursuing discernment to religious life?

http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/the-sisterhood-becoming-nuns

If you thought it couldn’t be pulled off, the popularity of “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns” and the beloved “nunnies” in each of the three religious communities has proved you wrong! One of the nunnies, as I believe online social media maven Sr. Helena Burns dubbed them, is so popular that the folks clamoring for another season are also interested in her having her own show (Sr. Beth Ann, Vocations Directress at The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Chicago). Who would have thought that?

For starters, the five young ladies couldn’t have been more different; they were a delightful representation of godly young women with a wide range of backgrounds, talents, and, of course, personalities. This is exactly as it is in a religious community and the producers of the show did a fine job of selecting a vibrant group to follow over the six episodes (way too few!). They went on a six week journey visiting a total of three convents of different religious orders to give them a glimpse of whether they are ready to begin official discernment, the first step toward becoming a nun.

During their time they hear of others’ vocations stories, realize that women living together *is* really hard–one nun remarks that she’s “surprised there’s never been a murder”<g>–nuns actually take the time to disrobe from habits into swimsuits and go swimming to relax, blow off steam, exercise, and/or just have fun together. Of course, once back into their habits, they also have fun dancing and doing all the normal kind of things “normal” people do. But seeing a nun out of her habit was something they weren’t prepared for; I’m not sure any of us viewers were! 🙂

The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, the second convent they visited, is located in urban Chicago, quite different than the first Carmelite house in Germantown and the final community in Kentucky. At the Chicago house they take care of people with special needs, have a soup kitchen, and walk the downtown streets passing out bags of food to people who live in dire poverty. Once a week there’s a trip to the South Side Chicago markets to “beg” for food for those they care for, as part of their trusting in Divine Providence to meet the needs of their mission.

As Sr. Beth Ann responded to the question “how do you know if you have a vocation?” with her own answer, given to her from no less than–wait for it–Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta decades before: “You sit with Jesus in Adoration for 10 minutes a day for two weeks and let Him love your heart. Then you’ll know.”

I’ve had some communication with Christie Young, one of the young women who I was drawn to before the show began airing because of her use of social media and because she felt like, if I may say so, a bit of a kindred spirit. I’m old enough to be her mom but feel as young as she is because I too have a great passion for living as it’s so obvious Christie has. Her love for Our Lord is transparent and at times causes her deeply intense experiences that others don’t always “get”—perhaps because they have not her temperament nor personality nor charisms. The bottom line is that it appears God may be calling Christie to be His bride and she is radiant with expectation as any fiancée would be. She is not without her own issues to work out, as are we all, especially when seeking our vocations, but she’s quite open and honest.

Here’s a look at Christie’s story. She’s 27, born into a Catholic family and she still follows the traditional tenets of the Church, the only girl with several brothers. She’s been engaged but realized it wasn’t God’s plan for her life and laughingly jokes that she probably couldn’t not be in (chaste) relationships without the convent–not that she deliberately seeks them out, they just end up “happening”. She has a number of special interests and talents: writing (poetry, song lyrics, et al.); reading; being part of a country music band; having fun; and, I venture to say, generally loving being alive! She has a zest about her and has been discerning on and off for about nine years.

***Spoiler Alert***

If you have not finished the series then stop right now if you don’t want to know how things stood with each of the girls by the end.

Francesca is ready to continue living a life in the world but not of it for now, but has a strong connection to the Carmelites and had some of them over to her home to meet her family and is keeping in touch with them. She recently just got her own apartment; congrats, Francesca! Originally Stacey, who broke up with her boyfriend to pursue discernment, was conflicted and thought she’d try the Sisters of St. Mary of Providence with Christie but since the show was filmed last summer got engaged to her old boyfriend so she has found her vocation: marriage. Congrats to Stacey and her fiance! Eseni and Darnell are back together and are planning their own future, which I’m sure will be another beautiful vocation of marriage.

Claire requested and was accepted into planning to discern with the The Sisters of St. Joseph of Mercy in Kentucky as she knew while there that it was just the place for her. She is currently finishing her college degree in music. Finally, Christie decided to pursue her vocation as a nun and the series was filmed this summer and now she is now beginning initially as an aspirant and then move onto being a postulant with The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence today, the feast of St. Antony, Abbot (founder of monasticism); congrats, Christie!

P.S. The good sisters in Chicago have allowed her to enter before she paid off all her college loans so if you’d like to help pay off Christie’s debt you can do so online here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/Convent4Christie

You can also send it direct to the convent and and just let them know it’s to help pay off her debt.

The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence

4200 N. Austin Ave.

Chicago, IL 60634

BREAKING NEWS: The show premiered in the U.K. today; a coincidence? I think not! 🙂

Please keep all these young women in your prayers. Becoming a nun is no easy task; neither is remaining one. But if it’s your calling, you won’t be satisfied with anything less. The most moving book I’ve ever read about religious sisters is the novel by Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede.

In This House of Brede

In This House of Brede

Buy from Amazon

I highly recommend it as a follow up to the Lifetime tv series.

Holiday/Seasonal Suffering

Whether it’s illness (depression, anxiety, pain, etc.), the common triggers of departed loved ones departed and family separated from us by distance or even various unexpected changes in life, the holidays are, for many, a time full of suffering. I know this year I’m just feeling worn out in general and although I’m not having a bad Advent it’s not the one I had hoped to have. So much for more time for reflection on the meaning of the life Christ came into this world to bring us. It’s not over just yet but it seems there’s only been little bits and pieces of that woven through our Advent wreath prayers and O, Antiphons and my eclectic Advent/winter music mix (and those Christmas hymns that I think of as good year-round).

Then there are circumstances that make gift giving more challenging this year and, as always it seems with me, right down to the line, so there’s the additional pressures of meeting deadlines when one is suffering and thereby slowed down. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the material things of the world and frustrated that I can’t be more focused on the spiritual things of life. But then I serendipitously came across these words of one of my personal heroes, Vincent van Gogh, during a time when he was working as a teacher and feeling pretty overwhelmed himself it seems. His letters from that period are “packed with long quotes from the Bible, poems, and hymns about struggles, sorrows, lost dreams, and his faith in God.”

Must man not struggle here on earth? You must have felt so when you were ill. No victory without a battle, no battle without suffering…No, being ill and being supported by God’s arm and acquiring new ideas and resolutions, which couldn’t occur to us when we weren’t ill, and acquiring clearer faith and firmer trust during those days, no that’s not a bad thing.

Letter 95, Isleworth, October 1876, Van Gogh’s Inner Struggle: Life, Work, & Mental Illness; Secrets of Van Gogh, Vol. 2, Liesbeth Heenk, p. 9.

And you know what? He’s absolutely right! My struggles this Advent have been helping me acquire a clearer faith and firmer trust in God, even though my feelings don’t always match my head’s assessment. So to all of you who are struggling–and I’m sure the majority of you have struggles that make mine seem trite, just as there are those below me on the ladder of suffering who feel the same way regarding mine–let’s remember what Scripture instructs us:

“If one member suffers, all suffer together.” 1 Cor 12:26a RSV-CE

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