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 http://www.archtoronto.org/confession/ .
   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)  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Consecrated Virginity; A Beautiful Witness

"Receive the ring that marks you as a bride of Christ."
This past weekend I had the privilege of being an attendant to my dear friend Enza on her Consecration day. It was a beautiful witness of faith and an experience that undoubtedly enriched the faith of those gathered. I was asked to offer a few words at her reception and felt to share them on my blog as a means of bringing further awareness and insight into this wonderful vocation.

     We have gathered to bear witness to the beauty and richness found in God’s love alone, and to celebrate this great gift to the Church. In a world that is growing increasingly secularized and over-sexualized, the Consecrated Virgin's life shines forth the truth, the joy, the fruitfulness, and the freedom to love found only through self- sacrifice and an undivided love for Christ.
    One of Enza’s strengths, among many, is her attentiveness to detail in planning. However, we can give praise to our Lord the Master Planner, for providing her with the grace to respond to His call by receiving this consecration to the Sacred Order of Virgins one week prior to the Church entering the "Year of Consecrated Life."
    In a very special way we too are blessed by witnessing such an occasion. We have prayerfully journeyed beside Enza throughout her life in various ways; as parents, as siblings, as a beloved niece, as family, as friends, as dear sisters and brothers in Christ, as fellow youth ministers, and lastly, but certainly not least, as Shepherds. 
     Though, we have been invited to share our love for Enza here tonight at this Banquet, we are called to reflect upon the Eternal Banquet of our Lord and how this vocation makes visible the incredible reality of Christ among us and His infinite love for each of us.
    Enza, “By witness alone” you already live your life in servitude to Christ and His Church through the constancy of your ‘yes’ and service to others. You move with gentle humility and are always willing to lend a hand, or attempt to grow another one if it means helping someone out! I have witnessed the stirring of Christ’s love and Our Lady’s grace within your heart as we have grown closer and I am blessed to call you my friend.
  I still recall the quiet and humble joy you had as your shared news with me about your initial days in formation; together we journeyed. I, in formation toward the Sacrament of Marriage, and you to the Consecrated life. It is through this shared journey that I came to understand how the Consecrated Virgin reflects the primacy of God and models the importance of recognizing the centrality of Christ in all things, regardless of one’s state in life. She shows to us an image of the Blessed Mother, the model of purity through Whom we are able to receive an outpouring of grace to embrace purity and the virtue of chastity.
   The Consecrated Virgin does not present us with an out of reach or rare ideal, she invites us to encounter the real presence of Christ and the depth of His fulfillment by remaining authentically open in surrender to Him.
    Your willingness to espouse Christ inspires us as the faithful to reflect further upon the providence of our Lord and also the implications of this essential relationship in our lives. St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians explains that “the virgin has time to attend to the Lord without any hindrance”(Fr. Harold Fuchs)There is an exchange of sacred undivided attention to God which manifests in the giving of love and service to others. I pray that you will carry out this service with the aid of grace that you have received today.
   May the oil in your lamp never empty, and as such my sister Enza, may you forever have an undivided and perpetual attentive love for Christ. May your witness shine forth the love of our Lord and the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven. I pray that you continuously strive to imitate the virtues of our Blessed Mother after Whom this way of life is modelled. And May you find comfort in these closing words from St. Ambrose as you continue this journey. (CC)
    "Imitate her, my daughters. . . ![117] Let Mary's life be for you like the portrayal of virginity, for from her, as though from a mirror, is reflected the beauty of chastity and the ideal of virtue. See in her the pattern of your life, for in her, as though in a model, manifest teachings of goodness show what you should correct, what you should copy and what preserve. . . She is the image of virginity. For such was Mary that her life alone suffices for the instruction of all. . .[118] Therefore let holy Mary guide your way of life.”( Sacra Virginitas)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Peace in Plenty & in Want. By: C.C.

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)
 St.Paul's assertiveness in his contentment and ability to be at peace in all circumstances stems from the awareness of the One to whom he most belongs. It is through this essential relationship and confident surrender to God that we can all find the 'secret' that St. Paul has learned. It is an ongoing work that requires continual trust and the renewal of faith. 
   Through this letter we are not being instructed by one to whom all was glorious and joyful. We meet St. Paul as he addresses the Christians of Philippi while imprisoned.
    From this captivity we hear the voice of true freedom and true joy found through Christ alone. We read these words today through our modern gaze and our perception of contentment is called into question. It is here our ideals can be challenged, and the boundaries of our self created prisons destructed. 
   Let us entrust ourselves entirely to our loving Father and strive to attain the peace of St. Paul by lowering ourselves in humble joyful service to God. We can do all this through him who gives us strength. To be at peace and upright of heart does not stem from only knowing prosperity; true peace and true joy is birthed in us through knowing God.  (CC)