Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Anointing of the Sick


By being in the right place at the right time today, I received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  

At this morning's Mass, Father Rafael officially received for our parish the Holy Oils that were blessed at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral yesterday.  A friend told me afterward that it is his custom on this day to offer to anoint anyone present who is either sick or qualifies for anointing because they are elderly--which means anyone 65 and older, which I am.  I considered not going up because I am not sick, but then I thought, "why pass up an opportunity to receive the graces of a Sacrament which you may need--because you could be sick and not even know it yet!"

Happily, about a dozen people went forward so I was far from alone.  It was extremely moving.  He had us line up in front of the altar, and then he placed his hands on our heads first, going down the whole line.  Then, he went down the line again, anointing us with the Oil of the Sick on our foreheads and hands, accompanied by this prayer:  "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." 

Since I have never received this Sacrament, I did not know about the hands (I had my hands folded and my eyes closed), so he had to push my hands apart to do it, which was slightly embarrassing, but not too much.  Frankly, thinking about all of it now makes me tear up, because it was so very beautiful.

I wanted to stay in the church longer afterward, but workmen were noisily tightening screws on the kneelers, so I gave up and left... but when I got to the car, I carefully wiped off the Holy Oil from my hands and forehead with a Kleenex, and then folded it up with the oil residue inside.  I am keeping it, and it is now on the little shelf under my crucifix.  

Dear Lord, what a lovely blessing you have given me today! +

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Is Not Recycling a Sin?


A couple of times this week, I put an item in the trash when I could have recycled it.  I did not think about it at the time, but tonight for some reason, I did.... and I have concluded that not recycling when you can, has to be a sin.  Not a huge sin, but a sin, nonetheless.

The reason why, I think, is because any time you do not do what you know is the right thing--because you are too lazy--cannot possibly be pleasing to God.  He knows about and cares about everything that happens on Earth;  it is His creation, and because it is His creation--if we love Him--we must love the Earth too. 

Actually, anything you do deliberately that is objectively not good, has to be sinful, because you are falling short of the perfection to which those who love God aspire.

When I go to Confession tomorrow, I hope Father Rafael does not laugh at me when I confess that I did not recycle :-)


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Living With Jesus


Living with Jesus has opened up life to me in a way I never imagined.  First, there is the pure joy of loving Him, which, once you discover Him, you will do, because you cannot help it.  His tenderness and love make you love Him: being loved the way He loves you is irresistible, because you have never before experienced anything like it. Total acceptance.  Total forgiveness, no matter what you have done or will do. Total freedom to really be yourself at last. 

Then, there is the newly-found"wideness" of the world.  You used to think that there was nothing but what you could touch, see, hear or feel--but you were wrong.  There is another dimension that is indescribable, and yet palpable, once you have opened yourself up to Him.  Jesus is really there, right there, with you, and you will know it once you start learning to pay attention to what is beyond your senses... and yet, what nevertheless can be sensed in some way you can't explain. 

After a time being with Him and knowing Him--if you decide you really want to give Him everything you have and to devote your life to Him--there comes the profound joy of doing what you know He wants you to do, which is simply loving, loving, loving others to the maximum degree possible... because in loving them, you are loving Him--and you adore Him so much, that is what you want to do, because it brings you so much joy!  You are not doing it because you have to, or because you hope to get a reward either on earth or in eternity... no, you do it simply because you love Him so much, you don't care anymore about any other reward than the joy of returning His love by loving your neighbor.  When He prompts you in your heart to be generous or kind, but you think you are too tired or too busy to do what He asks, nevertheless you trust Him and do it anyway-- and the joy you get makes you forget you were ever tired or busy, and you find yourself thanking Him for asking you, because loving as He loves makes you feel wonderful!

Every day of your life now is a new adventure, because you have no idea what He will ask of you today, but you know you will learn and grow from it, and it is thrilling to see and feel your heart expanding to encompass even more love, filling you with an almost unbearable ecstasy.  You will even find joy in the things that are hard or unpleasant or painful, because you know they have meaning beyond this world, because He shares all of them with you:  He is right there bearing them with you, and He understands exactly how you feel as no one else can.    

There is a sense of sublime peace in your heart because you know you are part of something huge and eternal that goes far beyond the universe you know, and this new plane of existence on which you live will never end, even when you die--it will just get better because at last you will fully understand your place in all of it, all that is beyond human history and beyond human understanding.  It is a longing we all have whether we admit it or not, which cannot be fulfilled any other way than by living in Jesus, giving yourself totally to Him--all that you are and all that you have. 

Once you have tried living this way, I promise you that you will never go back to being the way you were.  +

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Miracle Unfolding in My Life


This is almost more than I can take in.

Knowing it was impossible, I nevertheless asked God to do the impossible for me--if it was His will--and He has done it.  I will never doubt again, or hesitate to ask Him for anything I feel is worthy, no matter how much it seems as though it could not ever happen.

I came back to the Church on November 19th, which was an incredible joy:  however, I knew that I was going to have to bear the secret sorrow of knowing that I was meant to live a life consecrated to Him, but that it is simply too late and nothing could be done about that. It is entirely my fault that I am not living in a religious community right now, and I would have to accept the consequences and carry this Cross until death. I took a little comfort in knowing that my life would not go on that much longer--I will be 69 next week--and that the important thing is that I love and adore Him, and I am following Him to the best of my ability under my present circumstances.

Nevertheless, as I wrote the other day, the pain was so great, I finally could not resist asking that if there was any way I could live a consecrated life even now, would He please show me--and that I would do whatever He willed.  After making this prayer for 2 nights, on the 3rd day while I was at Mass, when I knelt for the Consecration, I looked down and there was a piece of paper on the pew right in front of me which said SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH OF CONCORDIA KS at the top of it. Since I learned about the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Saturday night, I have spent many hours praying about it, and I am simply unable to believe that this is not His answer to me:  it was too much to be mere coincidence.

I have now met with one of their Vocation Directors, and she strongly encouraged me to consider joining their Community.  I felt completely comfortable with her, and she with me: I think I could be my true and honest self living among them--which was definitely not the case when I was with the Nashville Dominicans.  At that time, I was aware that I was remaking myself in order to fit in, and it took me nearly six years to accept that this was not right, not what God would want. 

One of the things that I have come to appreciate so much in my relationship with Jesus, is that I do not have to pretend with Him at all.  No self-censoring, no worries about how He might react to what I need to say to Him, no wondering if He is tired of me telling Him how much I love Him, no fear that if he really knew me He would reject me:  because he DOES know me--totally--and He loves me anyway!  Sister Dian talked to me today about the analogy to this in religious life, and she is so right:  this is the essence of what God wants for you in consecrated life as well:  for you to be able to live your life fully, as your deepest and truest self--because it's impossible to be afraid and happy all at the same time--those two emotions are simply not compatible.

I now know what the path forward would be, in order to become a member of their Congregation.  I am going to follow it, hoping that when I meet the leaders of the community in Kansas in June, that they will be willing to accept me for candidacy and I can begin preparing to make the vow of fidelity to that Congregation as an agrégée Sister*.  If anyone is reading this, please pray for me.  +

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An Answer to My Prayer?


OK, this is kind of interesting.  

I have continued to feel as though I was called to religious life, despite the fact that I blew my vocation 25 years ago and was afraid to try again.  Still, I cannot shake the conviction that God wanted me to belong to Him exclusively, so lately I have been praying about this, asking Him to please show me what He wants me to do with my life, and promising that I will do whatever He wants... THIS time!  I could not resist asking that if there was any way I could live a consecrated life even now, would He please show me--and that I would do whatever He willed. 

At Mass tonight, while I was kneeling for the Consecration, I noticed a piece of paper on the pew in front of me, facing toward me so that it was completely easy to read.  It was introducing a woman, apparently a member of my own parish, who is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas.  

I was recently talking to a friend in my prayer group about the importance of paying attention to the little signs that God gives us, which are easy to overlook--and having said that to her, it reminded me to be that sensitive as well.  So, I could not help but wonder if by any chance this might be God's answer to my prayers about my life.

I looked up the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on the web when I got home, and discovered that they have a very unusual (or at least I've never heard of it) category of consecrated member, called an “agrégée sister."  They say this about it on their site:  
In reaching back to our roots in 17th century France, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia discovered — and revitalized — a second form of religious life for women known as “agrégée.”  ....  Based on research into the original constitution and rules for the congregation, written by founder and Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre Medaille, the sisters now recognize that in addition to canonical members of the order, there were also “agrégée sisters,” from a French word meaning “attached to” or “aggregated with.”  An agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — did not make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but she lived according to the rules of the Sisters of St. Joseph through a vow of stability, and was recognized by the local people and the local churches as a Sister of St. Joseph.
In the past decades, the modern Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia studied our origins and our original spirituality, and have revived that early practice based on what we learned. The Senate of the Concordia congregation approved agrégée membership in 2006.... Agrégée sisters profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not governed by Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation and is governed by policies. It also means that the agrégée does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her. Agrégées do not leave behind their outside lives. Instead, they meet with mentors and study around their regular work and life schedules. Once they have professed their vow, they continue in their work and life schedule and participate in the ordinary gatherings and committee work of the community.

This is nothing like what I had in mind when I thought about resuming some kind of consecrated life, but on the other hand, I can see how it might be the perfect answer, since I am financially stable and independent, but not free to leave the care of my parents and the cats.  Plus, if it is God's will for me, I have promised to obey Him this time.

All I know at this point is that I need, deeply need, to give my life to Him completely.

I emailed their Vocation Director, giving her a link to the story of my conversion:  there was no point in concealing any of my past life, since I would eventually have to tell them the entire truth anyway.  To my surprise, she read it and emailed me back very quickly, asking me to call her tomorrow, so I am going to do it.  I have no idea what this might mean, if anything.  But Your will be done, Oh Lord--that is all I want. +

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Sin of Gluttony


I can't believe it, but I have just uncovered a new sin I have been committing for a long time, and I never even knew it:  GLUTTONY!  

On January 1st of this year, I began fasting every Friday in reparation for the sins of my past life.  Although there are some points on those days when I feel bad (which is partly the point!), I have had no problem carrying on my normal activities, even without eating.  The hardest thing has been remembering not to eat, because I normally do it so mindlessly, and always have.  I think a lot of Americans do this, frankly--as if it's our God-given right, LOL!

This finally drew my attention, and I started thinking about eating in general.  The purpose of eating has to be to fuel your body so that you can live, right?  So I suddenly wondered whether eating when you are not really hungry could possibly be considered sinful.  I looked it up (thank you, Internet!) and guess what?  YES, it comes under the category of gluttony.

I was totally shocked;  I always thought gluttony was eating to terrible excess, such that you practically made yourself sick:  I never knew that what I have been doing for my entire life is also gluttony.  What a revelation!

When I consecrated my life to God in November, right after returning to the Church, it caused an incredible transformation in me:  I am on fire for the Lord, to the degree that it is almost unbearable.  I now understand what the evangelicals mean when they use the phrase, Born Again, because that is exactly how I feel.  One of the results is that I am unable to knowingly sin, so now that I realize that what I have been doing with food is sinful, I have to stop--and I have already.

It is going to take a great deal of concentration in order to avoid this sin, because I am not used to ever thinking about whether I am really hungry or not---but I hope that in time, it will become second nature and I won't have to be constantly vigilant about it.  +