Saturday, April 19, 2014

Belonging to The Cross: C.C.

"Sharing Christ's life is the path to the fulfillment of the needs and desires of the heart. What does it mean for the man Jesus to be the Son of God? What does it mean for us to be "sons in the Son"? It is a matter of the nature of belonging. Do we experience belonging as a threat to our freedom, or as a fulfillment of our identity? Is to be human to live for a reality greater than we, or is it to live for ourselves? (Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete)

The Pascal Triduum faces us with the reality of what it truly means to follow Christ. We are reminded that the freedom one can experience through their belonging to Jesus means that one too belongs to the suffering of the Cross. 
   To be free begins with being bound. We are bound not to despair or suffering, but rather bound to the Cross and to our Lord. Through Him we can be led to a purposeful understanding of our sufferings and a steadfast hope and trust in His love. Pope Francis on Twitter yesterday spoke about this reality. "It is not easy to follow Jesus closely, because the path he chooses is the way of the Cross." We look upon this choice Jesus made for us most throughout the Easter Triduum. We can ask ourselves the questions posed by Msgr. Albacete in order that we may grow in our acceptance of what belonging to Jesus truly means. "What does it mean for the man Jesus to be the Son of God?" What can such a gift of God becoming man and dwelling among us, for our salvation, and to die for us mean in our lives? Do we become obsessed with the joy of Jesus, with the love, with the compassion, with his unconditional care, so much so that may we forget the suffering; forget His message to us in these times? The joy of the Gospel is most evident in the Cross, this choice of love to provide such joy and freedom for us. Jesus chose the Cross so we could make sense of the crosses in our lives. To be 'sons in the Son' is to be bound to the Lord, to belong to Him, and thus to face the Cross within our own lives and in various circumstances. We must remember that we do not face our cross alone. 
  Pope Francis reminds us of the difficulty in following Jesus closely, because eventually, and unavoidably we encounter struggle. Granted these challenges and Crosses in life are presented to all of us. It is part of the human condition to suffer. Many look upon this truth and see no reason for following such a God. No purpose for embracing Him and His Cross if we are 'doomed' to have our own. This thinking leads to imprisonment and further disillusion in regards to what it means to be free. Faith shows to us that we are free because we have first been created and found by a God who loves us despite of ourselves and our brokenness. He meets us within our struggles and teaches us the way to be free.  
   Belief in our Lord and trust in His mercy and love leads us to trust that He too bears our Crosses with us. It is not a means for us to escape the reality of our human condition, but to live our condition well and to dwell within this world with great purpose, with hope, and with an understanding of our suffering. To set our gaze upon the Divine reveals to us the reason and purpose for our humanity. "There is no neutral ground: either we belong to God with Jesus and are truly free, or we belong to the Father of lies and are overpowered by death" (Msgr. Albacete). 
   I have chosen to follow Jesus. It a choice that I am faced with daily. This choice has not made me numb to the reality of life, or my brokenness, but has affirmed the purpose and meaning for such a life in friendship with Christ. In belonging to Him we recognize that everything is good. We turn to the Cross today as we are;with our love, with our faith, with our wounds, with our sins, and with our doubts. For through the Cross there is life, and there is joy. In Him we come to experience the fulfillment of our identity and an understanding in times of  trial. (C.C) 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Reflection. By: C.C.

"Good Friday is the condition of Easter Sunday. The Crown of Thorns is the condition of the halo of light. The scourged body is the condition of the glorified body. You die with him, you rise with him. In other words, he conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory." (Ven. Fulton Sheen)

   God's radical love for us is most revealed by the Cross. This gesture of self denial and complete sacrifice is one that we can only begin to partially comprehend. These words from Sheen are those in which we relate to by the very fact that we have been born within a time that allows us to know the joy of Easter Morning and the glory of the Resurrection of Christ.
  Today we are all called to remember and acknowledge the unimaginable sights, sounds, and emotions that plagued those who witnessed what our Lord endured. We are called to stand at the foot of the Cross. 
    The Crucifixion of Jesus is very difficult and painful for us to fathom. The sufferings He experienced are those beyond our own human understanding. There is a part of us that wishes to look away from this event as we battle to accept and fully recognize what this Cross demands of us in our lives. Rather than looking at the demands, we must also recognize why He took the Cross to begin with and what this love and mercy means.
     Through the Cross we come to know love; God's love for each of us, despite us. We witness this unconditional love. Jesus truly hoped to free those who loved him, those who judged him, and those who did not know him by taking the Cross. 
   May may we pause and take the time to reflect upon what this event would have been like for Christ's first followers. Place yourself there beside Our Lady, and beside our Lord. (C.C.)

"Jesus, remember me when you come into Kingdom"(Luke 24:32)


A Look Down From The Cross: By C.C.

A Look Down From The Cross.
By: C.C.
It was on Mount Calvary
   where I showed my love for thee.
Those who loved me,
those who judged me,
all who mourned there
I hoped to free.
And though wounded
my heart grew faithful
for my Father to welcome me;
into His Kingdom
where I would wait for
those who loved me;
in Eternity.
And I see my children struggle.
My followers cling to me.
I look now down from Heaven
with grace and mercy to set them free.
And though times they may seem trying,
I am here to take you by the hand...
do "this in memory of me"
that you may understand.
I have not left you
But I remain
Body and Blood.
I call you to remember
for you to know my love for you.
 Turn your ear to hear my voice
I offer myself for you in love.
Upon this Cross and looking down
So that you may set your eyes on the Eternal.
So that you may know where all is found.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Reporter For The Lord & A Lesson from Lectio In Evangelization: By: C.C.

"That's your job and my job, to give reports about Jesus. To share an account of our own meeting with the's for us to spread the word of the mercy of the Lord, of His presence, and of our own experiences of Christ's presence in our Lives...we are to be reporters of the Lord." (Cardinal Collins)

    I am often invited by a dear friend of mine to attend Lectio Divina led by Cardinal Collins at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. However, sadly I have not yet been available to attend. I have thus become rather grateful for these evenings being recorded and made available online so that I can 'keep up with Cardinal' and bring these meditations into my home and into the solitude of prayer. His most recent Lectio Divina offered some rather important sentiments about the idea of evangelization and our duty as Catholics, and followers of Christ to report the Good News to others.
    Evangelization is unsuccessful if it is rooted solely in what we can do, what we can accomplish, or in the ministries we seek to establish. We are not to simply conjure up the means to share the Lord, but are called to invite God into our hearts more deeply and allow Him, by our surrender to share Himself reflected through our deeds and the witness of our life. Evangelization is much less we and much more Christ. We can fail by making a god out of serving God and in this our service to Him is ineffective and misguided. We are able to succeed when we think less of how to share Christ and spend more time with Christ in prayer. By prayer we come to see and recognize the ways that we are individually called to share the Gospel and the reason for our hope. In prayer we can incline our ear to the Lord's voice and allow Him to tell us how we are to serve; how our Lord's given gifts and graces can glorify Him in our life.
   As Cardinal Collins shared, "we are to be reporters of the Lord". To understand more deeply what this means I found it fitting to familiarize myself with the qualities of a good reporter and was pleased to come across a list of 18 essential qualities that a good reporter should have. I have chosen to highlight only some of these qualities and relate it to evangelization. I thank Cardinal Collins for the inspiration!

1 ) Credibility is something that every good reporter should have. In other words, a reporter must exhibit characters and behaviors that make him or her to be believed and trusted by people.

 Credibility and trust are important if we are to be good reporters of Christ. If we desire to share the joy of our Lord and the Truth of His message, we must not invite people to believe in us, but to deepen their recognition of Christ in us by our works and by our virtue. 
  To be a good reporter for the Lord requires us to exude the characteristics of the Gospel. The power of a strong witness to inspire others goes beyond what can be taught in books. It is a personal, genuine, and authentic account. To be credible in evangelization is to surrender oneself completely to the Lord, so that the trust and credibility we may acquire from others only serves to glorify and proclaim the truth of our Lord and the reason for our faith.

2)A good reporter should be courageous and confident. Without courage and confidence it is difficult for a person to be a good reporter. Timidity on the part of any reporter will get them nowhere.

A good reporter for Jesus is courageous and confident. It is important that this courage is grounded in God's providence and not in our own over-zealous desire. Timidity may have no part in the life of a reporter, however humility is an important virtue in the life of a reporter for the Lord. We must work to have a courageous confidence in Christ and for Christ. 
A good reporter should be able to gather facts in a very careful and accurate way.
When reporting on things of the Lord and sharing with others, it is important to know the 'facts', and to take time to learn and familiarize oneself with the Church teachings. We must pay careful attention with great responsibility to the message we are giving to others and ensure that our reports stem from sound teaching of the Catholic church and not our own opinions. 
Must be good at asking the right questions at the right time.

Good reporters need to ask questions to gain more information. If we are to be credible, courageous, and well informed we must know when to ask for guidance and clarity on anything we may be unsure about. We can present our questions to the Lord in prayer and entrust them also to those we deem to be sound teachers of the faith and of our Lord. The more informed we are the better we are able to deliver and share the message of faith effectively. 
A reporter should be a good team player and be capable of working with other reporters.

Unity is an important aspect of successful evangelization. To be successful we must work well with others to help us foster and grow in our faith. If we are incapable of working with others then we really need to call into question who our work is truly about. We must remain focused on the divine Person we are serving, recognizing in others the way that our Lord makes Himself visible to us.
A good reporter should be able to take corrections and criticisms in the course of performing their job.

We must remain humble. If we are to be corrected and critiqued let us allow these moments to lead us toward a deepening of prayer, growth, and preparation.

Let us take the time to listen to our Lord. Spending time before Him to know how we are called to serve Him, and what type of reporter we are called to be.  (CC)

"Christ draws people to Him and we as His disciples need to draw people to us, and through us to Him"(Cardinal Collins)



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Perfect Timing: By: C.C.

"Faith in God includes faith in His timing." - Neil Maxwell

    We are wired for more. We are created for much more than what we can accumulate through merit, and receive through consumption. We have been created by a God who loves us unconditionally and is worthy of our complete trust. There is a hunger within each of us that can only be satisfied by Him. "God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself "(Bl. John Paul II) It is God's grace that awakens us to the reality of our need for more than what we may seemingly want, and provides the fulfillment of our deepest desires. It is through the gift of our free-will that we are able to pursue the path that we choose for ourselves or the path set before us by our Lord. We are presented with an invitation of love and not one rooted in fear. 
   When we seek the Lord's will above our own, we discover that our longings and deep desires have been placed lovingly into our hearts by Him. The choice to follow His path and live in accordance with His ways provides for us the clarity to recognize and experience fulfillment in the way that God intends for our life. 
  Through faith we are not only called to have trust in His providence, but also to patient endurance and acceptance of God's timing.  There are moments in our lives when trusting God's love and providence is easier than others. We are faced with many challenges and trials that can leave us in a state of impatience and unrest. We can be led to question the 'whereabouts' of this God who loves us, when our circumstances seem to be everything but loving.
   It is in these moments of apparent absence that our Lord is ever more near to us. His presence does not cease to be despite what we may feel or perceive. Faith is a continual practice of reaffirming our belief in God and not altering this with the changes that we  may encounter in our lives. Despite the fluidity of our experiences and circumstances, we are called to 'steadfast hope, prayer, and faith' in God.
    "Faith in God includes faith in His timing". Through further practice of prayer and through an openness to God we are able to cultivate a trust in our Lord that can encourage us to accept everything we are to face with a sense of peace. By remaining rooted in our Lord we do not sway with the 'winds of change' but remain ever fixed and grounded in Him who truly sustains us and provides. 
  Our Lord has created us for a purpose, and He has called us. We are not to fear what may come, but to leave everything trustingly in God's hands. Let us patiently strive to endure what comes and seek to remain in the present moment rested in Him. His timing is truly best. We can be assured by faith that wherever we are called to serve, and in whatever state of life we find ourselves, The Lord prepares us in His time, out of love for us, for His will, and His glory.(CC)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Becoming an 'ant of God' By: C.C.

"Emulate the tiny ant; be an ant of God . Listen to the word of God and hide it in your heart. Collect plenty of food during the happy days of your spiritual summers. You will then be able to endure the difficult days of temptations during the winters of your soul." (St. Augustine) 
   The spiritual life is one of patient enduring and steadfast hope in God. It is not an easy journey and for this we are to be grateful. As we continue this Lenten season and meditate further upon the Lord's sacrifice for us, we come to find comfort in the 'winters of our soul' as a means of uniting with our Lord's suffering and ultimately a necessary experience if we long to share  in the joy of His resurrection
    The world challenges us with many contradictory messages and presents apparent 'remedies' for the difficulties that we may face in this life. These false remedies are not solutions for healing, but rather they are prescriptions of disillusionment and numbness. They are an invitation to lose sight of true Goodness and further separate us from our Lord and His plans. Those striving toward living a life in Communion with the Church and the Lord must practice their faith with great fervor and seek to be 'an ant of God'
     To become an ant of God is to recognize our limitations and the tininess of our existence in the face of our Lord's majesty and greatness. We are called to store in our hearts the spiritual food that we gather from listening to the word of God and from our prayer life so that we can endure what comes with virtue. We are called to gather the fruit of this Lenten season and deepen our awareness of our Lord so that we may persevere in our spiritual life.
   'Emulating the tiny ant' is to be made great in our Lord; and by His love we can endure all things. We are provided with true food that sustains our soul and provides a remedy for all ill. The witness of great faith and reliance on our Lord allows for many souls to see the grandeur of God and His works.Our life then serves as an invitation to others. Let us meditate upon the words of St. Augustine and  'collect plenty of food during the happy days of our spiritual summers'. May we persevere in the days of temptation and strive fervently for the Eternal feast and banquet of our Lord. (CC) 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

'Chaste' By God and Thankful. By: C.C.

   Chastity was once a word not only foreign to my ears, but a virtue that I dismissed as belonging only to 'those religious types' the people who had been 'brought up in the Church'. The people who had parents to teach and guide them along a path of sanctity and holiness. I searched for and tried to conjure up every excuse as to why I did not live my life with a regard for purity. I told myself that a life of purity was 'abnormal' and I settled instead for living a lie, I settled for this repeatedly. I settled for living a life that deadened the deepest part within me.I appropriately entitled this sharing today 'Chaste by God and Thankful' because my journey toward purity began when I could not deny the way that our Lord was calling to me, and how fast I tried to run away from Him. I am happy that He has won.
  How poorly I once judged and perceived the pursuit of purity. As I prepare to enter into the Sacrament of Marriage next weekend, I can not help but share the importance of purity and chastity with others. The gift from our Lord that I receive through this Sacrament, in marrying my best friend is reflective of the gift that God gave to me in coming to understand the importance and beauty of purity. Love is not reflected by one who desires only to hold you by touch, love is in the one who desires and strives to uphold your purity and love of God.
   Purity and chastity as a means of understanding and becoming aware of the immeasurable love and unimaginable joys that are attainable; not by a physical touch, but by something Someone much greater and more intimate that anything one could ever imagine. It is the outpouring of God's love, enabling us to recognize human love in the way that He intends for each of His children. 
  Marriage is a witness to the world of 'Divine love', and it is through the witness of a wedding I attended some years ago that God used this blessed couple to spark an awareness of the joy in chastity. 
   I met Nadia and Mike at Church in 2008 they were preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage and were also in charge of the Parish Music Ministry. It was the beginning of my attempt to return and learn how to practice my faith. It was the beginning of being 'Chaste by God'.           
     Prior to meeting them, I met the priest there in a Confessional. I do not think I even remembered how to give a proper Confession at that time. Father introduced me to Nadia. She was everything I critiqued and judged as the 'typical Church girl' but as soon as I introduced myself she embraced me with a hug. This welcome is telling of the love and reality of joy that exists in the Church. 
   I was far from being 'in the Church' I was struggling to accept myself and the life that I knew I was still victim of. A life of struggling with purity and the 'ways of the world'. I never shared much with anyone initially, this was out of my own fear of being judged and my attempt to live the illusion that I was still 'running away from God'. I became part of the choir there, working quite closely with Nadia and Mike throughout their time and preparations for marriage. I sang words that I desperately wished would enter into my heart and soul. 
   They eventually talked me into joining life-teen. I remember well their joy, their laughter, and their love. Primarily I remember their strong faith and witness of living a life centered around our Lord. Every judgement I had made about purity, everything I had perceived was thrown out the window. I could not deny the truth of our Lord's love. I could not deny the way that He too desires us to live this way. 
   Nadia and Mike asked me to sing as lead cantor on their wedding day along with another friend. I was so moved and honored, and looking back, so unworthy of this. On their wedding day they gave me the gift of witnessing a sign of Divine love. It was on their wedding day July 18th, 2009 that I realized the `secret` to their love and joy, the reason for all their laughter was because of their shared and united surrender to our Lord and His plans.
  This day left a mark within me, so deeply that as I left the Church I was in tears. These tears were of joy and also of repentance. For the first time staring me in the face was the fruits of life in Christ and the wounds within caused by my sin. It was following their wedding that the race with God really began.
   It was not easy, and it was not something that happened over night. It took great work and sacrifice to embrace a life of striving for purity. There were more tears and many more falls to come since their wedding day. But in 2010 everything changed for good.
    I committed myself to purity. Finding comfort in the Church and those around me who knew the truth of God`s love. I discovered Jason Evert, Theology of the Body, and the beauty of the Sacrament of Confession. 
   Everything that was once dead inside of me became alive, by discovering the love of our Lord; love that did not leave me despite my shortcomings and my sin. I chose to write about this today because I realize the power of being a witness of purity to others. To those who may be struggling as I once was. And for those who feel that this can not be attainable. 
  When I encounter people who knew me before `God won the race` I am further humbled by God`s majesty and work in my life. I recognize that my past has become a place of grace and encouragement to others. 
   Last year I began giving chastity talks and it is through this how I see the Lord`s hand upon every moment of my journey since Nadia and Mike`s wedding. 
   As I approach the altar with joy in my heart, with immeasurable love for my fiance, and united to him `Chaste` by God I understand the responsibility I have to share the importance and beauty of chastity with others so that they too can experience a love that is worth every sacrifice, worth every `NO` and telling of our true worth and beauty in the Lord. 
   May my wedding day be a sign to others of `Divine Love` in the world. And may all of you struggling with purity allow God to win the race. I am blessed most of all to know that Nadia and Mike will be there to witness my wedding,unaware (until now) of the gift their wedding and marriage has been to me. (CC)