“Not my will but Thine be done.”

The Sorrowful Mother © GodAloneSufficeth.com 2012

“Christ’s dear mother to behold” © GodAloneSufficeth.com 2012

One of my favorite Lenten devotions is the Stabat Mater. Whether I’m praying this beautiful prayer or listening to its musical composition either by Giovanni Pergolesi or in the traditional Gregorian Chant, I always find that my soul is uplifted as I contemplate my sorrowful Mother. Today on the second Saturday of Lent, I am going to use this post to reflect upon our sorrowful Mother and her radical response to the Call to be the “Stabat Mater Dolorosa.”

As we gaze upon the crucifixion scene and see Our Blessed Lord hanging from the Cross “all with bloody scourges rent,” we cannot help but to empathize with Mary. Standing at the foot of the Cross and witnessing Christ’s entire gruesome martyrdom, one cannot possibly begin to imagine the depth of dear Mary’s anguish.

If any other ordinary mother were made to witness the scene from the perspective of The Blessed Mother, the trauma would incapacitate her.  Yet as we continue to contemplate the Crucifixion, we see Mary neither tearing out her hair nor pleading with Our Lord’s tormentors nor hallucinating. In contrast, she remains prayerfully calm  drinking in the passion of her Divine Son with excruciating composure. She continues to stand with  miraculous courage at the foot of the Cross, silently weeping, praying for her dying Son and uniting her heart to His.

Where does this miraculous strength come from? What special grace has she received? The answer lies in her vocation as a virgin.

The French Carmelite priest and martyr Comite Pere Jacques explains this mystery best in Conference 6 (“Virginity in God and in Mary”) of his 1943 retreat which he gave to the Carmelite Sisters at the Carmel of Pontoise. He says:

“Let us gaze upon Mary especially during the tragic hours of the Passion. You will not see her dramatically displaying her sorrow, as many mothers would. The Virgin Mary is there, walking along her Son and sharing all His sorrow, but utters not a word, not a rebuke, not a plea aimed at diminishing the suffering she sees. She totally embraces the will of God, as it unfolds in the brutal treatment of her child. She acts in complete accord with her role as a creature and does not try to alter the divine plan. She is a creature, pure and simple; she is a virgin. Although time does not permit us to dwell on the point, this virginity and this characteristic of a pure creature, grounded in obedience, is Mary’s special grace of prayer (Listen to the silence: a retreat with Pere Jacques, Trans. & Edt. Francis J. Murphy, P. 43).”

Mary’s grace comes in response to her vocation as a virgin. Her purity and simplicity allow her to fully exercise her role as the “Stabat Mater Dolorosa.” She accepts this role with the same radical obedience with which she accepted the Call, from the Angel Gabriel, to be the Mother of the Incarnation in the first place.

We are not all called to a life of virginity, but we are all called to live lives of pure and simple obedience to the voice of God – just like our Blessed Mother. We often view this sacred season of Lent as a time of “giving up” yet it is also a time for “doing.” Let us strive to use this Lenten Journey to grow in our obedience to our Loving God. May we too be given the grace to say with Mary: “Let it be done unto me according to thy Word.” May we too be given the grace to say with Our Lord: “Not my will but Thine be done.”

Posted in Great Carmelite Saints and Feast Days, In Honor of Our Blessed Mother, Saturday devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Immaculate Mary we sing thy praises with joy

Our Lady of Lourdes © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Notre Dame University © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Ave Maria! Today is Saturday, the day of the week on which we, in the Catholic tradition, honor the Blessed Mother! On Monday, we will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In anticipation of this great feast, I will focus on Our Lady and the Lourdes message as the topic for this post.

In 1858, Our Lady appeared in the Grotto at Massabieille to the young French maiden – Bernadette Soubirous. “I am the Immaculate Conception:” this is how “the Beautiful Lady” identified herself to St. Bernadette. At Lourdes, Our Lady brought to us a message of hope and healing as well as a stern prophesy for St. Bernadette and all who truly committed to Christ: “I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.” Today most especially, we must cling to this same message and promise.

Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Notre Dame University © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Notre Dame University © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

We are all wounded children. With the exception of the Old Testament Adam and Eve, Christ the – New Adam – and Mary – the New Eve, we have all been conceived in Original Sin. Yes, the Sacrament of Baptism does remove Original Sin from our souls, but it’s effects are still present in our fallen world. Our wills are weak, our spirits are wounded. Sooner or later we fall, driving deeper the thorn into our flesh. When we find ourselves bogged in this quagmire of sin, let us call on Mary “the Immaculate Conception,” for it is through the Mother to the Son! Let us ask her to “scrub us clean” so that we may most worthily present ourselves to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As part of our fallen nature, we seem to instinctively be drawn to the easy wide road. If we let our guard down, we find that our feet, seeking happiness, effortlessly glide down the path to destruction. Now, I am not saying that our search for happiness is intrinsically bad, as indeed it is not. It is only when we hush our consciences and choose sin – which on the surface gives the appearance of happiness – over God – Who will bring us true Joy – that we find our search to be painful, disappointing and fruitless. We must remember that happiness flows from true Joy, which only God can give. If we search just for the fruit of Joy –  happiness – without making any effort to find God who will give us the tree – true Joy – then we will find our pursuit unfulfilling. This is why we should “strive to enter the narrow gate” and take the path which is difficult and requires our constant relying upon the Lord. We would do well to remember Our Lady’s promise: “I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.” Let us not join or continue in the frivolous quest for fleeting, earthly happiness. Rather, let us set our sights on the true Joy of Heaven – the Beatific Vision.

Sweet Mother, please help us your wounded, devoted children. Help us to not seek after the fleeting things, of this life but rather lead us to the Joy of your Son.

Forgive your children whose hearts have been hardened and whose consciences have been dulled. Remove from us our error, may we not persist in it.

Thank you for the continued help you offer us each day. May we open our eyes and hearts to accept the guidance and strength.

“Immaculate Mary your praises we sing. You reign now in Heaven with Jesus our King. Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave, Ave  Maria.”

Thank you for singing the praises of Immaculate Mary with me, and please remember to offer her little acts of love on this her special day.

Posted in In Honor of Our Blessed Mother, Saturday devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

March for Life–2013 (a week and a day later)

Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception© GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception© GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

This post may be slightly overdue by a couple of days; nevertheless, I still think it bears relevance. Well, I finally did it! I finally attended the March for Life in Washington D.C. It was an awesome experience! Alas, 8 days later and some of the excitement “of the moment” has worn off. Yet, no length of time will be able to completely erase the indelible impact this experience has left upon me. In this post I am going to talk about two events that occurred on the March for Life – namely the Vigil Mass for Life in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception and the actual March itself – and how these experiences are still exerting their influence on me today.

Let’s start with the Vigil Mass for Life.

Having never been to Washington D.C. before, I was totally unprepared for just how “big” everything was. I will forever remember when I first saw the Washington Monument from my bus window. It was huge! I had of course seen it in pictures, but gazing upon it in all of it’s towering glory was an awe-inspiring experience. The same feeling of awe pervaded me when I first looked upon the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception. It too was “huge” (for lack of a better word).

What was equally amazing was the size of the crowd in attendance for the Mass. To give you an idea of it’s size, consider that we arrived there almost two hours before the Mass began and already the crypts, and all of the alcoves and aisles of the Main Church were packed. During the two-hour wait, even more people somehow managed to find a place to stand.

The Mass itself was unspeakably beautiful! The entrance procession alone took over 45 minutes, there were so many clergy (5 Cardinals, 42 Bishops, 395 priests, 80 deacons and 520 seminarians). I joked, seeing so many seminarians, that it was hard to imagine that we had a clergy shortage! On a more serious note, it really was a heartening experience to see and be a part of the Mystical Body of Christ in action, full force, worshiping Him who created all “Life.” It was better than being a part of any other crowd or “movement.” I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would have rather been that night.

Despite the fact the I was tired and my feet were numb, I was in jubilation. No matter how long I live, I’ll never forget that Mass.

One of the moments that left the greatest impact on me was during the Homily, delivered by the Main Celebrant, His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley. One particular quote of his really stuck out: “The society that allows parents to kill their children will allow children to kill their parents.” Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on the frightening truth of this statement. How many thought that abortion on demand in this nation would be impossible? How many think that Euthanasia on demand is still impossible? Don’t be deceived! The Culture of Death is a vicious cycle, what goes around comes around again.

Now on to the March for Life.

One word pervaded the entire event – “solidarity!” Roman Catholics, Eastern Rite Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Baptists, numerous other denominations and even those with no religion whatsoever – 650,000 total persons took to Constitution Avenue to protest this Nation’s legal protection of the Culture of Death. Yet this was far more than “just another demonstration” or protest. This was a procession and we were martyrs in the truest sense of the word – we were witnesses to the Sanctity of Life. We told the President, Congress, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Nation and indeed the whole world that “Life” begins at conception and ends with natural death. We demanded an end to that the illegitimate “legal” protection given everything done to tamper with, inhibit or destroy the lives of both the pre-born, the born and most especially the most vulnerable citizens of these United States.

Wow! You think this is amazing! Equally amazing is that such a unique event –  the largest Civil Rights “demonstration” anywhere – is deemed not news worthy by the public media. Sad, so sad to see how fast this country is loosing our footing. We call ourselves the “Land of the free and the Home of the Brave.” Yet, it is home to so many “cowardly slaves” who apathetically comply with the status quo of the Culture of Death and by their complacency advance this Culture’s aggressive agenda. 

The “take home moment” from the March occurred for me, though, when we wound our way with the crowd onto Constitution Ave. As we turned a corner, there was a large projector screen flashing some of the most graphic pictures of abortions. It reminded me of the pictures of the concentration camps and the Nazi Holocaust. I only lingered there for 30 seconds at most, but that was all the time necessary. Inwardly, I promised myself and God that anything that I could do to save any of His littlest ones, I would do!

So, a week and a day later, what have I done to make good on my promise? Well, in the eyes of the world, and even in the eyes of someone solely concerned with activity, I’ve really done nothing – except for educating myself a little. Yet, God sees deeper and I know that my ever-increasing prayers to end these evils will not go unheard.

So next year, if the unjust laws of this country remain, and we have to return (which we most likely will have to do), please consider joining us. For while the March for Life is indeed a protest against abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and other Culture of Death-promoting practices, it is even more fundamentally a celebration of the intrinsic value and Sanctity of each and every human LIFE. Let’s send a million people down Constitution Ave., and see if the world can ignore that! God Bless You!

Posted in Personal Reflections, Discernment, and Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mini cyber-retreat – Day 3 “Charity”

Sacred Heart of Jesus © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

“Sacred Heart of Jesus – I love You!” © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Today is the third day in our mini cyber-retreat. I will be reflecting on the Theological Virtue of Charity. Please join me in prayer and contemplation.

Day 3 – Charity

“And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.”

“Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822).” Charity is Love; the highest form of Love. Charity is a mutual self-giving, an emptying – freely and without reserve – of the depths of one’s own self towards another. This virtue is most perfectly expressed in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross by which He redeemed us.

Charity is the greatest virtue because it is the only one that will last eternally. While faith and hope are vital for us here on earth, when this world passes away, they will pass away as well. Recall, faith enables us to believe and trust in the Lord, even when we cannot understand with our finite intellects. Hope is the anchor of our lives, it tethers us and prevents us from being carried away in the storms of life. Yet, when we die and enter the presence of Almighty God, all the unknowns will pass away and all the storms subside. With these trials overcome, faith and hope will no longer be necessary.Yet Charity will still remain. For all eternity we will stand in the Lord’s presence. We will Love Him with all our mind, all our soul and all our strength – freely and without any reserve. He will Love us right back, with Charity so intense it can never be outdone.

An eternal exchange of Charity, how beautiful. This thought alone ought to spur us on to that goal. It also impels us to practice this virtue in it’s imperfect form here on earth, amongst our brethren.

Oh Love Divine,

You are Love! Make our hearts like unto Your own! Help us to Love; teach us to love with your love! Amen.

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Mini cyber-retreat – Day 2 “Hope”

Anchor © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Anchor of Hope © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013 Photo courtesy of EAU

Today is the second day in our mini cyber-retreat. I will be reflecting on the Theological Virtue of Hope. Please join me in prayer and contemplation.

Day 2 – Hope

“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit… (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).”

“The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of Heaven; it keeps man from abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (CCC, 1818).”

Hope has been traditionally symbolized as an anchor. Like an anchor, hope gives us something to which to tether our lives when the storms of life roughen. Hope enables us to keep faith, even when the world seems to be crashing down around us or when our course becomes uncharted and we cannot locate the safety of the harbor. While hope doesn’t take away the storm or fog, it nevertheless gives us the courage, strength and aspiration to make it to the other side safely. 

Oh Lord,

Please grant unto us hope. There are many obstacles and the storm rages fiercely around us, help us to drop anchor in the harbor – which is your Sacred Heart – until the squalls subside. We know that with you at the helm, the ship will not go down. When we once again do get underway, help us, guide us through the uncharted course until we at last reach the eternal port of Heaven. Amen.

 

Posted in Personal Reflections, Discernment, and Prayer | Tagged , , ,

Mini cyber-retreat – Day 1 “Faith”

Schoenstatt Cross © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2012

Sacred Cross! © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2012 Photo Courtesy of GMU

Well, ‘tis been quite some time since I have posted some real substance to this blog. So, I am going to try to make some small amendment. For the next three days, I’m going to compose a kind of mini cyber-retreat about the three Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Each post will take the following form:

  • A Scripture quotation or quote from a Saint or the Catechism of the Catholic Church (depending upon what the Lord leads me to) concerning the respective Virtue.
  • My own thought’s concerning the respective virtue
  • A concluding prayer or meditation (again, either or as the Lord sees fit)

The Theological Virtues are “the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it it’s special character (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1813).” It is vital, in these times of moral stagnancy, for Catholics to live these virtues with enthusiasm and boldness. Sadly, all too many of us have shaky foundations, because of ignorance in the way of these virtues. Let us together cast out into the deeper recesses of our Holy Catholic Faith as together we seek to grow deeper in the Theological Virtues.

Day 1 – Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not (Hebrews 11:1).”

“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe in all that he has said and revealed to us, and that the Holy Church proposes for our belief, because He is truth itself (CCC 1814).” Faith is the virtue that empowers us to believe. Having Faith enables us to trust in the promises of Our Lord, even when they seem mysterious and when we don’t fully understand. We live in an imperfect world, and our lack of faith is a contributing cause of our brokenness.

We, in our modern arrogance, feel that we must completely comprehend anything to believe it – and this attitude is most obstructive when developing a strong, Christian relationship with Our Lord. He has purposely hidden much in mystery, not to confound us, but rather to bring us closer to Himself. You see, we can be children of the Heavenly Father only if we first learn to accept what we cannot fully grasp with our feeble human intellects and yet, to still believe with all our heart. As St. John of the Cross so eloquently says: “All apprehension and knowledge of supernatural things cannot help us to love God so much as the least act of living faith and hope made in detachment from all things (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, iii).”

Oh Lord,

You who so often said “Go in peace, your Faith has saved you,” please teach us to have Faith. Grant us the peace of believing in you, even when we cannot understand you. Indeed, our finite minds can never fully comprehend You the Infinite God. Nevertheless, do not allow our imperfections to bar us from believing in your perfection. Teach us to believe! Amen.

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“All the kings of the world shall bow down in worship.”

The Wise Men © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

The Magi © GodAloneSufficeth.com, 2011-2013

Praise God! This is my first post of 2013! I am so grateful to God for another year and  eager to continue to be a part of the New Evangelization. I also deeply appreciate the kindness of those of you who have taken the time to offer an encouraging word about this blog, whether by comment or by word-or-mouth. Your support means more than you can ever imagine. Our family remembers all of you in daily prayer.

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany. We commemorate that glorious day when the Holy Family was visited by the Magi. This solemnity always has held a special place in my heart. We would do well to heed it’s striking message.

The Magi were men of great prosperity and power, they were probably even royalty. Yet the greatest treasure which they possessed was neither frankincense nor myrrh, nor even gold, but rather wisdom. The Magi understood that everything which they possessed: their kingdoms, their power, their affluence and yes, even their wisdom were gifts from God. With the enlightenment that wisdom brings, they knew that God deserved a “thank you.” The Magi followed Wisdom’s Holy Light, right up to the very rail of the crib of the Infant Jesus. There, they presented him with earthly tokens of their gratitude.

This ability to recognize that one’s talents and position in life have been benevolently bestowed from the Almighty, is itself a gift from God. The humility of this position is especially difficult to grasp when one’s level of authority and political status catapults him into the headlines of day-to-day news.  Yet, the Magi were able to comprehend this and gave us a stellar example to emulate. They were able to subdue all the pride and the other temptations that accompanied their station in life. In all humility, the Magi were able to prostrate themselves before the Baby Jesus and thank him for His many gifts.

Their humility and generosity contrast sharply with the other powerful wealthy player in this account. King Herod was so consumed with his wealth and power that wisdom could find no place in him. His pride so stiffened his knees that he could not kneel before the Baby Jesus. With Lucifer, he too shoutedI will not serve.” Herod became a mad man and would stop at nothing, not even murder, to save what he perceived to be “his.”

The magi could have very easily gone down the same path, but they chose to seek and to follow rather than to lead and destroy. They allowed the wisdom of God and gratitude for His many gifts to consume them. As we celebrate the Epiphany this weekend, let us make note of the Magi’s example and seek to give thanks to God for His many gifts in our lives.

Most of us are not royalty, nor do we possess great power and wealth.  We cannot present the Baby Jesus with gold, frankincense or myrrh. Still, as grand as those gifts may be, they simply are not what the Christ-Child asks of us. Putting in a kind word for a friend rather than gossiping behind his back, patiently putting up with fussing little children or grumpy older adults, always bearing a joyful, humble smile on our faces, these are the gifts we will present to the Baby Jesus. As St. Therese of the Child Jesus teaches, these little acts done with great love are valued beyond gold, silver, or riches by our mighty Infant Savior. So armed with these acts of love, above all, let us strive to welcome Him and the Light of His Wisdom into our souls on this Epiphany.

Posted in Feasts, Solemnities, Memorials, and other Great Celebrations | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments