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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Confession: Continuing to Prepare The Way. By: C.C.

"Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts." (Fr. Edward Hays)
    As we continue our Advent journey and reflect upon our interior preparations for welcoming the Lord, we are encouraged to acknowledge the 'deep, dark corners of our hearts' for those things that keep us at a distance from the Lord and our neighbours. 
     We take great care in preparing our homes for company throughout the holiday season by patiently cleaning out each room to ensure that everything is presentable. We must do the same within. We must take the time to clean out the inner rooms of our heart and soul in order to make a welcoming abode for our Lord.  It is important that we clean up the clutter and mess around our heart and soul so that Jesus can truly dwell within us. We must take this time and continue to inwardly prepare ourselves.  
    The Sacrament of Confession is a time for us to cleanse within. It is a time to break through the clutter that prevents us from properly receiving Christ. Confession is an opportunity for us to allow Christ to remove the burdens that hold us prisoner within ourselves. Confession is the beginning of a great process in our healing and our freedom.
   Advent provides the perfect avenue for beginning again. 
      On Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 parishes across the Archdiocese of Toronto will open their doors for a Day of Confessions. You can find the schedule  and helpful information here .
   For those of you living outside the Archdiocese of Toronto may your hearts be open to The Sacrament of Confession and may you seek the opportunity this Advent to prepare within!
    Lord I pray that You continue to help us prepare the way for the birth of Christ within us. Help us to acknowledge and bring the "dark corners of our hearts" to light. Provide courage to those who have fallen away from the Sacrament of Confession. May each one of us seek to clean out every room of our soul so that You may fully dwell within us. Lord thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. Thank you for the gift of reconciliation. 
    Watch over our Priests Lord and provide them with Your wisdom to guide those who are seeking counsel and peace. Give them the patience, understanding, and strength to endure the long hours of Advent confessions. May we all continue to reflect Your light this season and share our joy with those around us. Amen. (C.C.)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Preparing with Prayer. By:C.C.

"Advent is a season of penance, it is traditionally a time of fasting and self-denial, a kind of pre-Christmas purification from guilt of sin and of practical measures to arrive at inner detachment from the pleasures that bind us to those activities that are distracting. To enter into this season of Advent means to focus our desires and use our energies and time in the service of the Gospel message that our God comes to save us. In Latin the meaning of the word ‘advenit‘, from which our English ‘Advent’ derives, is ‘he comes.’ May we so participate in this season that we are ready to welcome him with desire and firm faith when he arrives in our midst and takes up his abode in our hearts at Christmas" (Abbot John Eudes Bamberger: November 28th, 2010)
      As we journey through our Advent season it is important to take the time and prayerfully place everything into proper perspective. As the commercial reality of the holiday season invites material consumption, we are called to remember the true focus of Christmas and to prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord. As challenging as it may be we must strive during this Advent season to be consumed by Christ and not consumerism. 
We are called to keep Christ as the center of the season.
   Fr. John Eudes Bamberger reminds us of the importance of making an effort to grow in our faith during the Advent season and to prepare ourselves interiorly for the coming of Christ into our midst. He calls us to a deepening of our prayer lives and self denial in order to cultivate an "inner detachment from the pleasures that bind us to those activities that are distracting".  There are numerous distractions that are presented to us during the Advent season. By committing ourselves to special periods of prayer we can remain focused on our Lord and the reason for our joy this season. 
  Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas we are reminded of the simplicity of the gifts we are to give and share with one another. Let us strive to recognize the gifts that our Lord has given to us and in turn give ourselves more fully to Him. It is through this giving of ourselves to the Lord with love that we will be able to present ourselves as a gift to others and share the light of Christ this season. Let us continue to prepare the way with prayer. (CC)