Thursday, March 26, 2015

I don't think I'm cut out for twitter...

But I do like to connect my experiences to my observations... so here goes :)

I have one of those anonymous-ish profiles... because all I really wanted to do was have a place to share all the things I read and liked without harassing all my friends by flooding their inbox.

And I like the chance to connect with Catholics all over the world. And it's all fine and good, these digital relationships. Until there's conflict.

Like today... as I spent an hour debating an atheist on one thread and a traditionalist on another. Yeah... strange combination, go figure. Both exchanges, though mostly respectful, just left me saddened.

It started a couple days ago when the traditionalist (i.e. the chair of Peter is empty- sedevacantist sort) messaged me on twitter. For some reason, that's one group that I really don't understand. I understand that they are frustrated by some of the abuses they see in certain parishes, or the ignorance and opposition they see among Catholics to Church teachings. But I don't understand their reaction... to withdraw from the Church in anger and bitterness. Everything I read from their sites is so austere and terrifying, that I don't see how God is present in it. I suppose my biggest problem is that they claim to know so much that I don't understand how they miss what I see as the big picture.

It might be overdone and nearly trite in the saying, that God is Love. But the message doesn't get any easier to follow the more often we hear it. Loving is really, really hard. And loving in the online world is starting to seem to me to be nearly impossible.

But as I pondered that a bit, it led me to some interesting thoughts. Firstly, we're not made to just communicate with each other, so much as to have relationship with each other. When conversation and talk occurs with no relationship, when conflict arises, it's really easy not to see what we are reading on a screen as having come from the mouth of a person, who we are called to love. So we see angry comments and tirades that 15 years ago, few people would have ever said to anyone, let alone a perfect stranger! And worse, still, we are starting to see this sort of reaction slip into everyday life as well. It's not as common yet, but it's there. The selfishness of wanting only our own opinion to be heard. Of not caring for the person so much as our point.

The other thought I had is that this type of online interaction very much resembles our interactions with God when we check out for the relationship part. When we only turn to God in times of need- when we want to talk to Him, then the relationship isn't strong enough to withstand the conflict. When we start to think that reading about God, or talking about God, or even thinking about God somehow is a worthy substitute for having a relationship with Him, then the times we do border on that relationship are awkward and forced. It's not that reading and talking and thinking about God are in any way bad- they're very, very good. And if we are investing in a relationship with Him then those things will help that relationship to deepen and strengthen. But we have to get past the surface.

I'm starting to think I should add a disclaimer to my blog on its level of randomness. These are just my thoughts... unconnected and unedited as they may be. Read at your own risk :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Laying my expectations on the altar-February 6, 2015... An older post and some random thoughts

I listened to a talk last weekend about surrendering expectations. Because holding on to an expectation really isn't putting faith in God. So I've been pondering that over the last week.

And I've realized a couple things. Saying I believe isn't enough. Because faith doesn't manifest from the desire to accumulate. It's manifest in how we give, and receive. It's manifest in how we love.

And there's where I've been struggling. I've been struggling to love. Not just how to love those around me, but even more basic than that, how to love God.

Because the expectance of getting what we want, of Him fulfilling all of our expectations, that isn't really love. Faith should be our response to His love. Faith is born of trust, of realizing that He only wants the things which are truly good for us and trusting, without expectations and conditions, that He will provide those things for us.

But it can be really tough. It can be really tough to pray "thy will be done" and not put expectations on it. It's tough to accept that He knows better than I do what I actually need.

But it's also comforting. I look back on the last ten years, and I can see those footprints where He carried me. Even more- I can see that He used that journey to shape me into the woman I've become. To shape me, and strengthen me, and let me see more clearly.

I realized tonight that I'd fallen in love with God. It sounds weird to say, but that's the only way I can describe it.

Being in love with God means choosing to love Him- and choosing to let Him love me. That means choosing to trust. Choosing to have faith. It means realizing that I am weak and that I can only do anything through Him. That I should seek always to be with Him.

I realized today, on the Feast of St Dorothy, that God is mine. And I am God's. And... stranger still... I realized tonight that His proposal, hearing in my heart "Will you be my bride?", was another push toward the vocation of marriage, and still not a denial of a vocation to religious life. Lord, I am yours. I trust in You.

Finishing up this post six weeks later...

And through strange turns of events, He let me realize that when I most needed to know it. When I wanted to stay in the church and pray, and left to get to a family dinner, only to discover my car blocked in by no less than eight other cars! In that moment, He gave me what I most needed. time with Him. Time in the quiet. Time to contemplate. And then I was able to get my car out, and in the drive back,  realized I didn't need to be in the church, so much as to trust in His providence.

It's now March 23. And last week, I had the opportunity to hear a Mass celebrated by an older priest in the diocese, one who looks at Christ with so much love and devotion, who is so careful with His Body, that it is impossible to watch and not know Who he is holding. In his homily, he referred to a movie about St Thomas Moore, and a particular exchange from it:

Sir Thomas More: I forgive you right readily.

[he gives him a coin]

Sir Thomas More: Be not afraid of your office; you send me to God.

Archbishop Cranmer: You're very sure of that, Sir Thomas?

Sir Thomas More: He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.

--A Man For All Seasons

This exchange is fictional... but I think it is also a good reminder that God is always pulling us toward Him. When we seek Him, He does not refuse us. When we seek Him, He does not allow us to remain separated from Him-- even when we have built up so many roadblocks, He helps us to tear them down, and runs out to greet us. 

There are so many quotes that one who prays the rosary daily cannot remain in a state of mortal sin- either he will give up the sin, or give up the rosary. And it is so very true. It's impossible to meditate on the mysteries of Christ's life and not be changed by Him. 

I'm getting closer to renewing my consecration, though I'm actually waiting until this weekend to do so. Palm Sunday may not be a Marian feast... and I would have liked to do it on the 25th, but I'm not quite ready. Contemplating Mary's experience of Palm Sunday isn't something I've done before... but it is something I'm starting to wonder about. When I realized that I would have to wait until Saturday to renew my consecration, Palm Sunday seemed so fitting. 

When Simeon told her of the sword that would pierce her heart, how much did she know? In those 33 years that followed, of holding things in her heart, what did she gather. Where was she on the day of Christ's triumphant procession. Surely, she was there, watching. Did she, too, see what it was foreshadowing? What were Mary's expectations of her life?

Before the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her, she surely had expectations. Yet she laid them aside immediately in her Fiat. She took on faith that God's will was higher than hers. That His thought's were higher than her thoughts. Oh, to have that faith! And to act upon it!

To lay down my expectations on the altar.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How a speeding ticket was the answer to a prayer

Let me start by saying that this Lent has been really, really hard. Not in specific penances I picked. Not in physical circumstances. But this Lent for me, more than any others has been a constant battle to surrender my will.

It started on Ash Wednesday. I normally really enjoy attending Mass. I look forward to it all day when I'm going in the evening, or surrender some morning sleep time if that opportunity affords itself. And Ash Wednesday has always been one of my favorite days of the year. The mark of a fresh start. I was excited for Lent this year, and had chosen over several weeks what things to put in place for this particular Lenten season- what spiritual growth I was going to work on, what small sacrifices I could make, and what type of almsgiving would be my focus for this season.

Ash Wednesday this year though found me in a sour mood... internally struggling all day even to convince myself to go to Mass. Fasting... but doing so without a cheerful heart. Not a good way to start the season. And it continued this way... I would catch myself mourning the loss of some small thing, a soda or coffee, or that 4th tab on my internet browser, or some such thing and rather than offer up that sacrifice, dwell upon it.

I went on a retreat that first weekend of Lent and I renewed my resolve a bit. But I still failed. On a daily basis, I was realizing over and over again that my heart wasn't in the right place at all.

During this time, I'm also renewing my consecration to Jesus through the Heart of Mary on the Feast of the Annunciation. This will be my two year anniversary of consecrating myself to Mary. This year, I'm using a daily devotional book published by Montfort Publications. It has broken each day down quite nicely with the reading, a reflection from St Louis de Montfort and then a question or two to ponder and the prayers for the day.

This morning, the topic concerned obedience. Particularly, St. Louis De Montfort pointed out that Christ was obedient to His mother for thirty years. For thirty years, He obeyed His earthly parents and lived a quiet life with them in the family when He could have been performing miracles and converting the world through sermons and works! Clearly, His ways are not our ways. He spent the bulk of His time here on earth as the simple son of a carpenter, dwelling with his family in a home full of love. Being obedient to Mary, Joseph and to His Heavenly Father.

The question for today that got me? "Are you obedient? Or rebellious?" Oooooh. Yikes. I have never found obedience easy. Especially obedience rooted in faith, without the answer to my incessant "why". So, I asked God to grant me the desire to be obedient, and for the Blessed Mother to pray that I may have the strength to follow her example of obedience to God. That was at 7:00 in the morning.

Fast forward to 9:00 am, and I'm on the side of the road, with flashing lights behind me. The sign said one number, I chose to ignore it because "clearly I know better than the sign, right?" Not so much.

What had really taken place though didn't hit me until I was meditating on the rosary this afternoon. The Joyful mysteries. Which I realized today, all deal with obedience. The 4th mystery, when Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple, has always struck me as a beautiful sign of their obedience to the Law. Even as they are holding God Himself in their arms- an excuse if ever there was one to ignore the ritual, they follow it. And in doing so, allow for the Law to later be fulfilled. But the other mysteries, too, I realized today all centered on obedience- Mary's yes to God, her immediately leaving to visit Elizabeth- becoming the first evangelist, her then bring Christ to the world through the nativity, and lastly, the obedience of Christ when, after as a 12 year old, adult male, He is found in the Temple, He returns to be obedient to His parents.

Not once, do any of these examples ask the "why"? Nor do they question the importance of obedience.

So how does a speeding ticket fit in? Because that ticket, in a small way is teaching me obedience. Following the speed limit on an empty road might seem arbitrary to me. But that doesn't mean it is. There are, chiefly, good reasons for that limit to be in place. Safety reasons. Respect of Life reasons. And while for some reason, it's easy to convince myself that a speed limit isn't really much of a law... it is still just that. A law. And a just law. Christ said to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" and that certainly pertains to far more than taxes. So... I may not know the why. And I may not like the rule. But I will be obedient to it. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it! Help me to be obedient in these small things.