Saturday, April 25, 2015

Belief and Action. By:CC

"How you act reveals what you believe. How you act will tell you if you truly believe you are born from above. You want to know what you believe, see how you act. Even better accept input from others who will not flatter you. The new self reveals itself precisely at those limits when we must choose to keep the unredeemed ego, the old self in place or let go and let the walls and defenses crumble. If I still cultivate the old self. If I guard it, protect it, protect turf, wall myself off from the claims of God or others – how can I really say that the new self is alive in me? How would anyone know that there lives in us the new life in Christ unless we were ready to die to self?" ( Abbot Gerard D'Souza- Homily April 14th. 2015)

    Our faith may dwell intimately within us and our prayers are often privately proclaimed in the sanctuary of our hearts- appropriately hidden from the gaze of others. Through faith we are invited to allow God to transform us. 

   A life surrendered to Christ is one of perpetual surrender. It is a constant and continuous offering of ourselves to God in complete awareness of our lowliness. Much of our spiritual life occurs in the hidden interior of our hearts. Our Lord calls us outside of ourselves to proclaim the Good News and live our lives as an example of virtue. It is beyond faith alone. If we proclaim to have faith and if we humbly pray in the hidden places of our hearts then this should indeed manifest itself in all of our outward actions. 
"How you act reveals what you believe" if this is true then ideally our every action as followers of Christ should be radiant and Christ like. Yet, we stumble and we fall. Our actions fail to consistently reveal what we believe because our faith at times is inconsistent.
  In these shortcomings we are humbled and we are called to examine our hearts and the depths of our belief. We are tested and forced to the 'limits' when we must make a choice to act in accordance to our belief or to be controlled by the temptation and resort to the old self. 
  The new self, if alive in us takes great work. It is this self that demands cultivation and protection.  A life of prayer safeguarded by the Sacraments. It is the new self that brings forth new life by death. The authenticity of our faith, the goal of our spiritual lives is to have all that we believe, say, and do harmoniously united in Christ.- CC

Monday, March 30, 2015

Humility in The Desert. By:C.C.

"Where then is the man so stubbornly and mistakenly presumptuous of his own sanctity as to refuse to undergo the cleansing action of the remedy of penance? (…) I only wish, my dear brethren, that we, in our sinfulness, had the same humility as the saints have in their virtue."(William of St Thierry, On Contemplating God II)

   If we genuinely commit ourselves to our Lenten observances then the awareness of our sinfulness should come to us as a gracious blessing. Here is found the opportunity to do penance, to seek forgiveness, and to reconcile with our Lord. Through our fasting and alms-giving we undoubtedly stumble and fall. We may fall short of climbing the spiritual heights we vowed to pursue on Ash Wednesday as we entered the desert with our Lord.
   This experience of failure can increase our dependence upon God and the awareness of His providence if we approach it with humility. When we acknowledge ourselves as imperfect and among the sinful we can recognize our need for our Lord's love and mercy in a more profound way. We can better understand Christ's sacrifice on the Cross when we begin to walk the desert daily without presumption of our own sanctity. -CC

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Conditioned by Christ. By: C.C.

"For most of us sensitivity of soul is just not there for it has been loaded over with cares and concerns often far removed from integrity and truth. Our hearts are conditioned by the society in which we live far more than by the Gospel. It is what the Fathers call the clouding of the Image of God in the soul by the passions; and what we might describe in contemporary terms as the evident loss of integration in the human heart." (John Anthony McGuckin)
   Becoming attune with the life of our soul and acknowledging the counter Christ conditions that society imposes upon us takes great work. It is a task that we are called to as followers of Christ living within the world. It is not a work that should leave us overtly bitter or critical of our surroundings.  It is through the increasing awareness of our soul that we become equipped to recognize our place of responsibility as God's beloved in the world which He created out of love for all. 
   It is potentially easier at times and tempting to become cynical and bitter as we are faced with surroundings lacking integrity and truth. Giving into these temptations only highlights what McGuckin shares as a "clouding of the Image of God in the soul by the passions". These passions, often lead one toward judgement and do not help foster the Gospel message in our world. We cease being a light of hope and instead become darkened by pride and other vices that further cloud the Image of God, and fail to cultivate a culture of Christ within our society.
   The Gospel reminds us that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." (John 3:16) We can not serve Christ by hating the world that He served out of love for His Father and for all. Despite the condition of our society we are encouraged to turn fervently toward our Lord and live out the Gospel message of love. We must make integrity and truth our main care and concern and leave those things that cloud our hearts aside. If our ministry and mission is not driven by love then it is most likely clouded by self-centred concerns and not centred around Christ.. 
   The Lenten season invites us to a deeper awareness of the soul. It is an appropriate time to take the required space from our multitude of responsibilities and keep our gazes upon the Lord and His teachings. Let us continue this Lenten season aware of God's love and welcome the transforming graces that may come. (CC)

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Reality of God's Presence. By: C.C.

"There can be so much escapism in our striving for a "spiritual life". We often flee from the concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with God's presence to an artificial existence that corresponds with our own ideas of piety and holiness but where God is not present. As long as we want to decide for ourselves where we will find God, we need not fear that we shall meet him! We will meet only ourselves..." (Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D. +2013

    The path toward holiness is one of humility and surrender. The desire to have greater union with God and to lead a life of service to Him requires that we step outside of ourselves and allow the Lord to slowly transform us the way that He wills- void of our own wants and selfish needs. 
  We can often make the mistake of thinking that we need to pursue holiness the same way we do daily tasks and goals. This approach can lead us to an artificial experience of God and one that is much rooted in our own need for control rather than in humble surrender. As Fr. Wilfrid reminds us, "we often flee from the concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with God's presence". 
    To encounter God and allow His grace to mold and guide us requires our perpetual consent.It is not about finding an escape, but in opening ourselves more fully to the Lord and creating an entrance way.
  A spiritual life does not entail escaping the conditions of our reality, but demands that we become increasingly aware of God's extraordinary presence in our day to day ordinary existence. (C.C) 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Remembering Rome By: C.C.

     It is hard to believe that a year has almost passed since departing Toronto to attend the 'Joy of Yes Forever' event for engaged couples in Rome. I have decided to re-post highlights from the beautiful experience. 
   Last January I came across an advertisement from the Pontifical Council for the Family about an event at the Vatican on Saint Valentine's Day where Pope Francis was calling together engaged couples from around the world for an engagement blessing. At the time this seemed to be something far out of reach and quite frankly 'crazy'. 
  To leave Toronto for a weekend and fly to Rome? Who does that? Well, maybe Cardinal Collins, but he definitely has important things to do!  Anyhow, I kept this between God and I, (did not tell my fiance), sent an email to the PCF and prayed.
    While keeping this to myself, I did feel rather at peace with entertaining the idea of going to Rome and began researching flights and times, accommodations, and also looking into my school board's voluntary unpaid leave of absence days. Thank God for those days, because the idea of heading to Rome for a Papal blessing and calling in 'sick' to work is probably a sin that I'd end up having to confess!
   Eventually I did inform my lovely fiance (now husband) about what I had been up to. At first he was caught off guard, but not entirely because he was well aware of my stubbornness with ideas, and also of what happens with an ounce of determination and a whole lot of prayer. I translated his lack of a clear "NO" and a deep exhaled breath to mean "Let's do this"(......poor guy). He left my house that night and as I retired to bed I quietly prayed .... 
    Carmen and I quietly planned our trip together, sorted everything out, and though to be only one couple among thousands, to us it was worth it. There were apparently no tickets for the event and it was to be held in St. Peter's Square, 'first come, first serve'. I assured Carm that if necessary we would be sleeping in the square!!. To my amazing surprise on departure day February 12th. 2014 I received this email prior to our flight....

"Gentili Signori,
 Vi scriviamo in merito all’udienza dei fidanzati che si terrà il prossimo venerdì in Piazza San Pietro. Volevamo comunicarvi che abbiamo riservato al vostro gruppo un numero di  2 BIGLIETTI per il sagrato (parti laterali a destra e a sinistra del palco dove si trova il Papa).
Vi chiediamo gentilmente se un referente potrà venire a ritirarli  la mattina del 14 dalle ore 08.00 alle ore 09.00 davanti la Porta Sant’Uffizio(colonnato sinistro della basilica, ingresso Aula Paolo VI). Troverete una postazione del Pontificio Consiglio della Famiglia con degli incaricati che vi distribuiranno i biglietti.
  In attesa di un vostro riscontro vi porgiamo cordiali saluti,

Pontificio Consiglio per la Famiglia"

  .......Which, basically says that there are now two tickets reserved for us and that we are to come to get them on the morning of the event! I had no idea how this happened but I was even more excited and grateful to God. One part I should add is that February 12th, 2014 was less than a month to our wedding day (march 8th, 2014)! There was a lot going on. 

Me, So very happy at Pearson

The 'Poor Guy" saying to himself "My fiance is crazy"!
We arrived in Rome, ate really good pizza, checked into our accommodations, and found the nearest Church to pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God! 

He was excited, I promise, just a tad exhausted (ha)

                         "I woke the next morning and said 'Carm, it's Pope day let's move!"

Got the Tickets!!!!

Got close, awaiting Il Papa!!
We also met and got to know yet another wonderful priest from the Archdiocese of Toronto while visiting and the fun continued.

Fr. Owen

   Listening to Pope Francis and being so close to Him and his presence truly affirmed God's presence and the humble and hidden life of Christ that he lives. His advice to us as an engaged couple  remains etched in my soul and are those that I often reflect upon, especially in times when I need to be reminded about what the vocation of marriage is. 
   Marriage is a Sacrament meant for holiness, not for happiness. But it is in striving toward holiness that we undoubtedly find joy beyond measure; a pursuit well worth more than any worldly merit.
   In pausing to joyfully remember our experience in Rome, I rejoice in God's providence and His aid in our early experiences as a married couple. Valentine's day will always have an important central focus around the love of God in our lives. The words spoken to us by our Holy Father in Rome will continue to ground us in striving to better understand and live out this vocation.(CC)

"Cari fidanzati, voi vi state preparando a crescere insieme, a costruire questa casa, per vivere insieme per sempre. Non volete fondarla sulla sabbia dei sentimenti che vanno e vengono, ma sulla roccia dell’amore vero, l’amore che viene da Dio." (Pope Francis)


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another Year. By: C.C.

"Here we are at the end of the old year; tomorrow will be the beginning of the new. We must bless the Lord for the many graces we have received. May it please God that by means of these fleeting years we may happily arrive at the permanent year of a blessed eternity! Let us make good use of these small passing moments, living them out in that kindness and humility which Jesus, right from the time He was a child, taught us."-St. Francis de Sales (Letters 883; O. XV, p. 315) 
   The end of another year often brings about a particular self examination. Our sentiments and ways of assessing the successes and down falls of our year will vary immensely in accordance to our diverse values and expectations.
  Do we pause and bless the Lord for the many graces we have received? Or have some events left us hard of heart? 
    It is by setting our gaze toward the infinite and recognizing that these passing and fleeting moments are only a shadow of the brightness of eternity that we may gain proper perspective. 
   We are able to arrive at a more pleasing acceptance of our experiences; seeing all the "good, the bad, and the ugly" as part of a beautiful divine plan. Through faith we come to understand that the arrival of a new calendar year does not carry any more importance than the breaking of a new dawn. The gift of every new day brings us closer to the opportunity to love and serve God, and to live our lives with a humble kindness as we strive to achieve our goals. 
   Our joys and our new beginnings do not reserve themselves for midnight on December 31st. Our loving Father peperpetually pours forth His loving kindness, unconditional love, and His mercy.
   As we pause and reflect at the end of this 'old year' may we come to recognize the value and gift of the small and passing moments filled with the immensty of God's grace. May we begin 2015 in thanksgiving to our Lord for the gift of another moment and opportunity to experience His love by sharing this love with one another. (CC)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lessons From a Monastery: Christ is Enough. By: C.C.

"Still as we all know, even we monks who ostensibly have decided that Christ is enough for us. That is why we have locked ourselves in the monastery and thrown away the key at solemn profession. It is easier said than done. It is a lifetime of conversion, even in the monastery, to accept that Christ is enough for us. That in choosing Him we are choosing everything. That we are losing nothing. That nothing is slipping by us as we keep our eyes on Him. It does not feel that way and that is why we, even in the monastery, start making up for lost time or taking up the very things we had left behind because we find Christ too narrow and too boring. The problem is not Christ. It is our own unconverted hearts that are divided and are weak in faith and want to have our cake and eat it too. This is the cause of the most unhappiness in monasteries as well. That Christ is not enough for us. We come to find Him and then start looking 
elsewhere."(Abott Gerard D'Souza)
  The humble simplicity of a surrendered monk reveals the beautiful complexity of Divine mystery and intimacy with God. It allows one to reflect upon the meaning of true joy and true peace. It invites one to renew a once burdensome idea of solitude as loneliness and find instead the radical fulfillment of the greatest human need. It is not an easy way of life and ultimately the idea of life as easy in any state that one may find themselves is not authentically living but settling for a disillusioned sense of reality.
    The monastery is a place that models the importance of overcoming oneself in order to experience a relationship with the Lord Himself who desires our love, our trust, and our full surrender. If one is open there is a lesson on attachment and dependency;welcoming the embrace of complete reliance on God.  We see that our lives are most rich in the blind giving of ourselves into the service of God. It is a willing and beautiful surrender made out of love for the greatest Love of all time.
     My first encounter with the Abbey of the Genesee, some years ago, was one that called me to question the notion of surrendering to God and how I  lived this out in my own life. Though I live outside of a monastic enclosure and my life differs in many ways, the one unifying reality shared with all of these men is that of belonging to the love of the same Father through faith.
   In a radical way these monks have decided that "Christ is enough". To many who battle with this idea then the monastery may seem more like a prison than a sacrificial paradise. It leads one with a worldly lens to measure happiness and freedom based upon material aspects, financial gain, and self chosen liberties.
  The secular focus of the holiday season can often highlight the reality of consumerism and material consumption. We may forget that the reason for the season is Christ, and lose sight of Him within our families, our celebrations, and our shared time with those we love. 
   By choosing Christ let us strive to acknowledge that He is enough, and through this may we come to believe that "in choosing Him we are choosing everything. That we are losing nothing. That nothing is slipping by us as we keep our eyes on Him." -CC