He Calls Me!

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“I can love You more when You condescend to increase my virtue, but I can never give You what You deserve. Give me then, Your most ardent love by which, with Your grace, I shall love You, please You, serve You, and fulfill Your commands.” – Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.  

Finally, the end of the shift! The day was over, the deeds were done, and all was calm. It was time to punch out and so I gathered my things dismissed myself and headed out of the Hospital wing. My patients were well and content . . . at the moment. But as is customary, I glanced into every room as I walked the hall toward the elevator; just for the sake of confirming that all was well. When I reached the end of the hall, I came to the final room where two women were staying. One was sound asleep while the other sat in her wheelchair beside the open window quietly looking out *Sigh*. All was well? My instinct was to move on and go home because All was well and my deed was done for the day! But my heart was saying, “Jesus is calling.”

Jesus comes to us in distinct ways. Some ways being more strong and clear than others which tend to be more gentle and subtle. If we are not sensitive to our surroundings, his presence can seem almost absent. His invitation to unite us to his presence can be missed or ignored. It is usually in the moments we run through or unconsciously live in, in those routine moments of life where we become senseless and motion filled.

“I know mine and mine know me” says Jesus. He means to say that He recognizes those who recognize Him. Do we recognize him in our lives? Do we? When we pick up that fallen box for our neighbor, or give a ride to a friend, lend a hand around the house, who do we see? who did we make that act of charity for? Jesus? or mere man? Lets look at the world through the eyes of grace! lets take Brother Lawrence’s advice: “Its enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God . . .I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world.”

He calls us at every moment of our lives. Jesus wants us for himself even In the midst of the hectic everyday stuff. This call is not reserved for those in the convent, hermitage, cloistered, or monastery. These institutions and communities serve as a beautiful example of what a life of prayer and contemplation may look like, the greatest capacity of union with God is available to them and they are wonderful reminders of our capacity too but His call does not end there. Jesus is calling everyone of us in a very personal way to participate in his love. He yearns for you and me, do we yearn for Him?

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Brother Lawrence reminds us that at every moment Jesus draws us and our response should be one of recollection: “above all, get in the habit of often thinking of God and forget Him the least you can.” Let us look at those who are in our everyday lives and be more conscience of their needs and desires, see them through the eyes of faith, Jesus is present and he is in them. Keenly be present to the moment, whatever it may be. He is there and He is calling. Will we respond . . . with love?

Conqueror!

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Poem: Divine Conqueror

The desert was before him,

And the Spirit drew him in.

Surrounded by still silence,

Jesus, without blemish without sin.

 

Evil lurked around Him,

Tempter of tempters ruled the earth,

Our Pure and sinless Jesus,

Gazing heavenward, knew his worth.

 

Stepping forth in victory,

The Father by him stood.

Prepared to bring salvation,

As was promised he would.

 

With palms at hand, we greet him,

With hardened hearts we sought him,

In jubilation received him,

With mangled thorns we crowned him.

 

Yet, in remembrance he broke bread,

Drank wine with his apostles

Breathe life into the sacraments

Now called priests who were disciples.

 

In the stillness of the night

He led them to the garden

Pleading their prayers with tender love

Their response he pardoned.

 

The kiss of death was given him,

Received in resignation,

For the time had come, the hour here

Jesus, my hearts Salvation. 

 

Upon his shoulder lay the cross

Eyes lifted high to heaven.

Dear Father, your will be done,

I freely chose this burden.

 

Torn and mangled, flesh exposed.

Lifted on the cross he rose.

Beloved John in woe drew near,

As Jesus entrusted his mother dear.

 

“It is finished” the son has spoken,

The Father gazed at child,

Embracing him with mercy,

He who was tortured and reviled.

 

In stillness all was silent

The promise seemed no more.

O my Lord why have you gone,

We question as we mourn.

 

Suddenly the light shined forth

Arise my Holy One,

The Father in the Spirit,

Now United with His Son.

 

Risen and triumphant,

From the depths of earths dark vale,

Our purest sacrifice,

Has conquered and prevailed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PASSION!

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“Suppose that by revenge you might destroy one enemy; yet, by exercising the Christian’s temper you might conquer three- your own lust, Satan’s temptation, and the enemy’s heart” – John Flavel

The father of lies can tempt us, cause us pain, provoke a torment of the mind and heart, it can initiate the doubt of a saint and the consideration of a hardened heart for evil plots. But the worst Satan can do is kill us! The only thing this brings about is our entrance into eternal life.

Consider what we see in the middle east. Syria, Egypt, Aleppo and many other surrounding areas. How the enemy torments! He exiles the innocent! Inflicts the heart of the persecutors with evil thoughts and actions! “Remember in your prayers the Church of Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me” -St. Ignatius of Antioch (107 A.D.). 

Passion Sunday, or Palm Sunday as many are familiar with, is the commencement of Holy Week. The initiation of a time that highlights the story of hope, the story of salvation, the strength of Syrians. Christ, freely embraced the painful fate of many Christians in the land of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Entering Jerusalem he embraced the praise and acclamations of love and just as quickly he was greeted by religious condemnation. How can these syrian men, women, and children who have been, and are being tormented, reach out to Jesus with hope, while their families are being consumed by hate and death?

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am you may also be” (John 14:3).

Jesus was condemned by those who were of “faith” those who used the words of truth to justify the crucifixion of Truth himself. The Middle East, now, in our present time, in our midst, at this very moment has fallen victim to the same sting of hypocrisy. They have now entered into the heart of Christ’s passion. Truly, they are united with Jesus in his pain. They have stepped into the very heart of Christ. The crown of thorn is theirs but the victory awaits.

Let us remember Syria during this holy week! The purification of the heart, of the mind, of the soul depends on the descent into the inflicting depths of painful sorrow but is accomplished by the victory over death.

Stone Does Not Love, But It Also Does Not Hurt!- Purity of Heart

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Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Mt 5:8

By: Kimberly Osborne

This beatitude always seemed to draw me. There is something special about purity of heart that makes me desire it. Indeed the promise attached to this beatitude is nothing less than the sight of God…heaven. Yet, even the blessedness of purity of heart seems to draw me almost as strongly as what it promises. This lead me to question “what exactly is purity of heart and what does it look like? No one can see it, so how do I know I am on my way to it?”

Being a lover of words, I naturally started by breaking up purity of heart into it’s two elements: Pure and Heart. I began to ask myself, what is meant by heart. It was not long before the Lord lead me to a scriptural passage:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ez 36:26

A new heart is what the Lord desires to give me. The heart he will give me will be a heart of flesh and not of stone. Naturally, this heart of flesh will love our Lord with the utmost tenderness and not be hardened to his grace. But something else is required for a heart to be flesh: it is vulnerable (woundable). Stone does not love, but it also does not hurt. Stone protects, guards, makes safe. And I have always wanted to avoid heartache. I built up my walls to protect my heart and in so doing had drawn myself away from my ideal of a pure heart.

I need to regain a true heart, a heart of flesh. To have a heart of flesh, one must leave behind the security and protection that comes from stone. Not only in regard to God, but also in regard to other fallible human beings. If I desire a pure heart, it must be a heart open to all the pain that comes from rejection, sorrow and trials. I cannot be immovable like stone. A pure heart does not guarantee a life of joyful bliss. Indeed, it ensures the exact opposite, but that is the paradox of the Gospel. In the sorrow and rejection, true joy is found. I unwittingly found myself in the beatitude that I wanted to avoid: Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. But that is a topic for another time…

Jesus was meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29) and assuredly has the purest of hearts. Thus, He gives us the very model of what a pure heart should look like: the Sacred Heart. It is a Heart that is not only vulnerable, but wounded. I knew then that if I truly desired a pure heart, I would be wounded. However, this wounding becomes a source of grace and mercy for others. From Christ’s side poured blood and water, the fountain of life for the Church. He desires to use my heart to draw others in, my woundedness (my weakness) is what He uses to bring others closer to Himself.

Now that I know what a pure HEART would entail, I dove deeper still. It was time to tackle what purity is. Everytime, I think of purity, I cannot help but think of it in terms of being untouched, unsoiled, like a beautiful white statue of the Blessed Mother. But, I already knew from looking at the heart that this state of being “untouched” would not fully lead me to the truth.

So I began to look at other things we call pure besides human beings. Afterall, when we speak of purity among human beings we typically are speaking of sexual purity and as important as this is, I was looking for something deeper, more encompassing, more radical. The first thing that came to mind was water. When I call water pure, or clean, I do not mean that it has not been touched or used. Rather pure water, is nothing else but water: there is no dirt, no chemicals… nothing but water.

Another challenge for me suddenly loomed up. To be pure means to be nothing other than me…fully me…as God made me to be. I am not called to be another St. Therese, another Blessed Mother. What made them pure is that they totally opened themselves to God, allowing Him to reveal themselves as He created them to be: a unique reflection of Himself.

God does not desire an army of clone saints. He creates each person to be unique. If I want to be pure, I must allow myself to be myself (with all the weaknesses and strengths that go along with this).

This is a difficult thing to accept. I began to realize that I not only want to protect myself with stone, I also want to be something other than who I am because this seems somehow safer and easier. To have a pure heart is a two-fold challenge: I must not only be open to rejection, but rejection of me. Any rejection is made that much more potent for anyone who rejects me would be truly rejecting me, not some image of myself that I created and put forward. Yet, God promises us that He will not leave us alone. He promises that if we leave behind the safety of our stony fortress with our facades, that He will be Himself our strength.

Thus, I daily strive to strip away the walls I’ve built and to strip away the false images I have of myself. Each day I sit before the Lord and ask Him how He created me to be. I open myself to this world as a heart of flesh, standing before each person simply as I am. This vulnerability is hard. Too hard to do on my own. And this is why I must rely daily on God to grant me the grace of a Pure Heart.

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Kimberly Osborne, a young woman seeking to follow God’s will for her life, is a Catholic University of America student that strives to live her faith in all aspects of her life. She currently works at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine welcoming visitors and pilgrims.

Sinners Anonymous: 12 Steps To Holiness

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Step 12: Self-Denial and Love of the Cross

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24)

I love You Jesus!

I desire You Jesus!

I need You Jesus!

I will Follow You Jesus!

I give myself to You Jesus!

The way we fulfill these aspirations is by embracing His way.

Father Andrew Apostoli once said that most of our crosses get their bitterness from our resistance to them. “I don’t want it” is the motto of a self-seeking cross bearer.

There was a group of pilgrim men who picked up their cross one day and began their journey toward the destined land. The piece of wood was awkwardly large in size. The weight of it tested their bearing yet was bearable nonetheless. After two days of walking in and out of the wilderness and the valleys one man allowed the thought of relief to enter his mind. “What if” he asked himself, “I saw an end off of my cross, I will have greater rest on the journey”. He did just that. On and on he convinced himself that one more chunk would do no harm to the success of his pilgrimage. Finally, the destined land was in sight, just over a fissure in the canyon. One by one the men began to lay down their cross over the earths division. Stepping onto, what was now a bridge, they walked the final steps of their journey with stride. But with a cross too short to use for the crossing, what became of the well rested man at the fissure?

Our earthly journey at times leads us to the foot of the cross and the invitation of Jesus impels us to take it up. Jesus himself entered this mortal world with a deep love for the cross because he knew its symbolic worth. Human eyes cannot grasp what the eyes of faith have identified, that the grace of God rests on the cross.

“By patience in bearing the crosses of life we make a perfect sacrifice to God” (Alphonsus 185). Jesus is our sure guide in this endeavor. He resigned to God’s will by picking up the cross given to him by the Father. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Patiently he walked and patiently we too must walk the way of loving acceptance which most often takes the form of life’s circumstances.  If Jesus who is God, endured the pains and trials of life how can we go through life justifying our goodness apart from his. It is as if we walked on a road parallel to his without ever receiving the grace to walk with him in unity.

Likewise, an overly zealous person might deem it just to pick up a burden too heavy to carry yet, resigned to please God, he drags it along unapologetically. The merit of his life’s endurance is carried out in vain since the sacrificial offerings were not those requested by God.

Two things: Patience and Resignation to God’s Will!! it is that simple.

If any other path is taken the trials and burdens of life will become bitter and  unbearable.

I guess we can return to St. Paul for the purifying truth of our undertaking. Because the symbol of the cross, as mentioned above, has worth. LOVE! “Love is patient” and with the right disposition, “love bears all things” (1 Cor. 13:4,7). Love requires sacrifice and sacrifice indicates oblation and oblation includes selflessness thus virtue. Patience then tries our virtue when exercising our love for God.

If the sufferings required of us are physically weighing us down due to an ailment or chronic sickness preventing us to pray altogether then St. Alphonsus Ligouri says “The best prayer you can say is to resign yourself to the will of God in the midst of your sufferings, uniting your pains to the pains of Jesus Christ and offering them as a sacrifice to God” (Alphonsus 193).

Another source of patience that can be practiced is that of aridity. When the desert lies before us and water does not seem to quench our thirst. Prayer seems fruitless and Christ seems distant. Our roses become thorns, our rivers now dry lands, our love now barren, our life now abandoned. This is the pivotal moment of love freely given. We demonstrate the greatest love for God at these moments when all seems lost. Those who are dearly loved by God will be called to enter into, what St. John of the Cross described as, the dark night as a means of purifying every vain sacrifice, desire, thought, deed, word, emotion of love offered to the Father.

And when the hour of death arrives, we will be prepared as were the pilgrims who laid down their cross at the fissure, to cross into the promised land of God, Heaven. There our hearts will be forever pure and we shall see God face to face.

“O Lord, permit me to die that I may come to see Thee face to face and enjoy Thee forever ‘where eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love him'” (1 Cor. 2:9).