Category : Spirituality

Jesus Calms the Sea Eugène_Delacroix_-_Christ_Endormi_pendant_la_Tempête
Faith, Grace, Hope, Lent, Passion, Prayer, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation, Virtue
0

Having Hope in a Time of Crisis

Having hope in a time of crisis is not easy. Hope is rooted in truth, and the truth is, things are not easy right now.

Let’s be clear: having hope is not foolish optimism detached from the reality at hand. Rather, it has to do with trusting in the promises of God… which is hard… which is why it’s called a virtue (and not a given).

Hope—trusting in the promises of God—is intertwined in trusting in God’s goodness. On Friday, Pope Francis spoke about this very dynamic in his meditation on the calming of the storm from Mark 4:35-41 (full text and video here). Caught in a violent storm, the disciples, who are experienced, life-long fishermen, fear for their lives while Jesus is lays sleeping.

They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”(Mark 4:38-40)

Pope Francis honed in on the spiritual struggle so many of us have in the midst of a storm like Coronavirus and quarantine: “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.” Like the disciples, our faith in God is evident in the way we call out to God. However, in the midst of a storm so violent that people fear for their lives, sometimes we question God’s goodness. We cannot understand it and question if God cares about us. Fear threatens our trust in God’s goodness.

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/urbi-et-orbi-pope-coronavirus-prayer-blessing.html

Trusting in God’s goodness opens our hearts to hope. In a time of crisis and fear, we need to remind ourselves and each other that there is abundant evidence of God’s goodness at work.

How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.” (Pope Francis, Urbi et orbi blessing, March 27, 2020)

In the language of faith, this is the Paschal Mystery – God works with us, in us, and through us as vessels of grace to one another. Even in the midst of chaos and crisis, we can see goodness.

In the language of Mr. Roger’s Mom, “Look for the helpers.”

Mr Rogers Notice the Helpers

Name and claim the goodness and joy that you observe. Know that God is the source of all goodness. Believe that the Holy Spirit empowers us to be vessels of grace,

Recall the insight from the Raising of Lazarus: we have faith not in a God who rescues us; we have faith in a God who Redeems. We have faith in a God who is the source of all goodness; who respects our freedom enough to let things unfold… even difficult, painful, stressful things. Because our God Redeems.

God doesn’t do evil to achieve good (or to teach lessons). God doesn’t intend, rejoice in, or plan for suffering. God redeems it.

And we have faith in a God who Redeems.

Cultivating Hope

Trusting in a God who Redeems is at the root of the virtue of hope, and like all virtues, we can strengthen and grow in hope with practice.

Here one practice that we have been doing in our family to cultivate hope:

The Rose: Every night, when we gather for family dinner, we pray The Rose, which is a family-friendly, loose adaptation of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen. I have always appreciated the way the Rose allows us to hear about aspects of each other’s day that we otherwise wouldn’t.

The Rose Handout(Note: if you cannot see the image above, and/or if you would like a printable copy of The Rose, click here.)

  • Rose: Naming the bits of laughter and joy, the successes (no matter how small), the connections… Naming goodness and grace is essential to the spiritual practice of gratitude. Do it every night while eating dinner. Share your gratitude for goodness with one another.
  • Bud: For my boys, anticipation of joyful experiences is just as (if not more) exciting than the experience itself. Naming our buds lifts our spirits. However. In the time of Covid-19, when all the things we usually look forward to have been cancelled, it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify things to look forward to. Which is why it’s becoming more and more crucial to our spiritual well-bring. Yes, most of our “buds” have looking forward to upcoming Zoom calls with friends… and getting to the other side of the Coronavirus! This is going to take some effort, but it’s also key to cultivating hope!
  • Thorn: As I wrote in How Are You, it’s also important to be real about the struggles in your day. Articulating your thorn is prayer when that lament is directed to God, trusting in His goodness. Need some guidance there? Check out the Psalms.
  • Root: As a family, we join together in specifically praying for people by name… and praying for an end to this pandemic.

What are you doing to cultivate hope today?

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Philip Kromer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Faith, Grace, Lent, Life, Passion, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering
2

How Are You?

Ironically, for as difficult as it is in this time of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, at least we’re all in it together.

Be reassured: No one knows how to do this. No one knows what they’re doing. We’re all figuring it out together.

In my last two posts, I talked about needing to Reevaluate Lent and my decision to Be Real and Have Hope (with key insights from the story of the Raising of Lazarus). So here’s me being real: I’ve been going through a difficult time and things have been hard.

Here’s Me Being Real

About 9 months ago, I wrote about my son suffering 2nd degree burns. Five weeks later, I wrote one follow-up post. But nothing else because… it was just too much. It was just too hard.

While in the Pediatric ICU, the doctors said 2nd degree burns heal within 2-3 weeks. So, 2-3 weeks is what we mentally geared ourselves up for.

It was actually 3 months of daily wound care and intense restrictions. The most severe 2nd degree burns (“deep partial-thickness”) take longer to heal and leave thick, raised scars, which need another 18 months of care, including wearing compression garments for 23 hours a day. It was a lot. It took a toll on everyone, in every way.

Believe me: I’m not complaining. All you need to do is walk into any floor of Shriner’s Pediatric Burn Hospital to have every possible complaint in your life be put into perspective.

However, this was—and still is—our reality. And quite honestly, it was hard… really, really hard.

How Are You?

When we see people out and about, most of us greet each other with, “Hi! How are you?” Generally, Americans subconsciously intend this to be a surface-level, friendly greeting. Generally, in the aisles of the supermarket, we are not inquiring about the status of a person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It’s not to say that we don’t actually care about each other. It’s just… usually, if we’re genuinely interested and aware that the standard answers of “good,” “fine,” or “alright,” aren’t actually the expected answer, we’ll lean-in and give permission to be truthful with something akin to, “No, really; how are you?”

For a long time, my honest answer wasn’t, “Good!” It wasn’t even, “Fine,” (which my mother considers to be a four-letter word). For a long time, I was struggling. And my personal integrity was taking a hit by answering with anything less than the truth – because things were just so hard. Eventually, I settled on a non-answer, “Hey! Good to see you!” or with a swivel, “Busy! How about you?”

The lenten promise to Be Real was born out of this struggle. For the sake of my sanity and integrity (aka—mental and spiritual health), I eventually decided I would be real with anyone I knew would want to know… whether they were prepared for it or not. I had a lot of conversations that started with me stumbling over expressing the truth: “Good! No. Actually, I’m not good. Things are hard.”

Speaking Truth

When I started “being real” and speaking the truth, I started to open the door to unexpected love and grace.

No. Wait. Actually, a caveat: Not everyone is entitled to know the truth. And frankly, not everyone can handle the truth.

you-cant-handle-the-truth

No joke. Some people are really bad at this.

But more often than not, I found support, love, and compassion. Sometimes I’d lay out my truth with a voice-quivering, “Things are hard.” Then I’d purse my lips and shake my head—tears might fall—and I’d whisper, “Can’t talk about it. Pray. How are you?”

Speaking truth opened the door to community; I wasn’t so alone.

Yes. This is hard.

We are all struggling with this “new normal” (which is hard), for an undetermined amount of time (which is—speaking from experience here—really, really hard).

It’s been a relief to hear more and more people being real and acknowledging that this is hard.

Acknowledging that this is hard doesn’t mean you’re complaining. Nor does it mean you’re lacking in faith or trust in God.

Take a look at the exchange between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16, right after the big question “Who do you say that I am?” (v.15) and Peter’s profound confession of faith. This is when Jesus begins to get real with the disciples, predicting the his suffering and death (v.21).

When Jesus speaks these difficult truths, he’s not complaining. He’s not lacking in faith or trust in God.

In fact, it’s Peter who lacks faith and trust in the one whom he just confessed to be the Messiah! Peter refuses to hear the difficult truth and rebukes Jesus: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mt 16:22).

Jesus has no tolerance for telling himself (and others) a lie that will make everybody feel better. Because although the pain and suffering of the Passion and Death will be hard, that is not the end of the story. (More on that another day.)

We’re all in this together

There is tremendous grace in hearing others being real and speaking truth. We’re reminded that we’re not alone. We’re reminded that we’re not doing it wrong. And in the broken Body of Christ, we’re reminded that our Savior is with us in our suffering, present to us through one another.

  • Is there someone you can call (old-school phone or Zoom) and be real about the things you’re finding most difficult right now?
  • Really. How are you?

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Mama Bear kragenbar-2448071
Grace, Prayer, Spirituality, Suffering
0

Courage, Grace, and Mama Bear

Today marks 5 weeks and 4 days since Alex was burned by boiling water at Scout Camp. His healing process has been remarkable; he’s now off all medications and continues to clean and care for his wounds at home. The next healing benchmark that we’re working towards is permission to swim (and enjoy a postponed 13th birthday pool party). There are a few more stories about tremendous experiences of grace that I have wanted to write about, but haven’t yet.

And then today, Alex boiled water to make pasta for himself and Max for lunch, for the first time since the accident.

“Were you nervous?” I asked.

“Yes!” Both Alex and Max intoned together.

Yes, they were. But they did it anyway. The virtue of courage isn’t being fearless; it’s following through with responsible action despite acknowledging fears.

So. It’s difficult for me to tell this story, but inspired by my courageous 13 year-old and 11 1/2 year-old sons, I’m going to do it anyway.

Five weeks ago today we had Alex’s first outpatient wound care appointment, called the “Tub Room.”

Cleaning the burns is critical to the healing process, and it’s just as excruciating as it sounds. For this reason, great attention is given to pain management. I followed the instructions I was given: to bring the prescription bottle of Vicodin along with us and await the medical staff’s instructions to take it precisely 30 minutes before the Tub Room appointment was to begin.

I remembered this process from my sister’s experience. It was called the Tank Room, and it happened 28 years ago, but it remains as the yardstick against which I measure excruciating pain.

As I reached out to my friends and family for prayer support, I petitioned Mary the Mother of God to give me the strength to stand by my son through this. I imagined her watching her Son carrying his Cross.

Mary 4th Station

Mother Mary, give me the strength.

First, we met with the Clinic (outpatient care team) who checked on Alex’s pain management. In addition to explaining the procedure, they identified the pain management options Alex had available to him should he need. Informed and grateful, we headed down to the PICU floor, and waited for his turn. We followed everything we were told to do; Alex took his Vicodin exactly when directed, and we entered the Tub Room.

Alex lay on the table – or “Tub,” which was a metal table with sides that folded up. As the tech took his dressings off and we got our first look at the healing wounds, the air hitting his skin started to hurt. A lot. It felt better to have the warm water running over them, so as I was allowed to assist, I maneuvered the water best I could.

Mary, give me the strength to stand with my son, as you stood with yours.

Mary way-of-the-cross-2654403_1920

As the tech began to wipe down his burns, Alex arched his back and turned red as he screamed in pain.

Immediately, he stuttered a request for the “lollipop” of Fentanyl (morphine) that the Clinic had offered us.

Immediately, the tech stopped…

But somehow, there was a miscommunication.

Instead of having immediate access to the painkiller, an order for the prescription had to be placed… and we needed to wait. Instead of the lollipop taking effect immediately, we were told it would take another 30 minutes to work… and we needed to wait.

The pain of the air hitting the newly forming skin had Alex screaming for water to be run over his legs. The tech was telling Alex, “You need to calm down…” again and again.

At first I argued logically; “This wasn’t what they told us to expect.”

“That’s not the way it works. You need to calm down.”

“Please, just cover my burns…” My child was red-faced, pleading, screaming in pain, and waiting was only prolonging it.

I don’t entirely know how much time passed, but eventually I went “Mama-Bear.” But instead of biting her head off, I pulled on the courage of Mother Mary, grasped at every ounce of grace, and firmly demanded: “Just. Finish. Cover his wounds like he’s asking.”

I held his head and his hands as he screamed. And I didn’t lose it.

I stood by my son.

Eventually it was over. He was rebandaged, and we scheduled our next Tub Room appointment three days later, on Friday.

Horrific.

That was the only word I could use to describe our experience.

As we drove home, we talked. Unthinkable pain for Alex – worse than the day of the accident itself. Undoubtedly the worst day of either of our lives.

The reality was that we had to do it again in three days. And he was scared. As was I.

“I promise you it will be different. You will never have that kind of experience that again. Not only will you have the proper amounts of pain-killer, that tech won’t be anywhere near us ever again.” (Mama-bear, indeed.)

Rewind back to the day after the accident, while we were still in the PICU, Alex initially gave a polite “no thanks” to my offer of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

“It’s not just asking for the grace of physical healing from Jesus, Anointing of the Sick also offers a spiritual strengthening for the journey ahead.”

“Yeah, I know. No thanks.”

Fast forward to the car ride home from that first Tub Room appointment, stopped at the light, waiting to turn on to the highway, I asked again.

“Yes,” he replied, without hesitation. And then he drifted off to sleep.

After we got home, I called my pastor and arranged for Alex to receive Anointing before his next Tub Room appointment. I also called the hospital and spoke to the managers of two different departments, and by the grace of God managed to communicate clearly without becoming completely unglued. I was listened to… I felt heard… and by the end of the second phone call, I felt less anxious and more confident.

It would have been very easy to yell and scream under the guise of “Mama-Bear,” aptly named because it’s recognized as that instinctive force that takes over a mother protecting her child.  Apparently the intercession of Mary makes it possible to Mama-Bear with grace. I have renewed respect for Mary and a deep appreciation for the strength, courage, and grace it must have taken for Mary to stand by her Son.

The next day, both Max and I were able to join Fr. Wencil in praying over Alex as he was Anointed – on his forehead and hands. And as promised, that Sacramental grace along with my Mama-Bear phone calls managed to render a better medicated Tub Room experience that looked more like a sleepy spa day.

Alex Tub Room 2

Though there isn’t a sacrament to anoint the Mothers of the Sick, Mary is always available for intercession. There are also tearful hugs with friends (and wine and chocolate)… all of which I also took full advantage.

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Litany of Humility Feature Image
Grace, Humility, Scripture, Spirituality, Virtue
2

Reflecting on the Litany of Humility

Have you ever prayed the Litany of Humility?

Litany of Humility

The beauty and wisdom of the Litany of Humility are especially evident in the way it manages to address both sides of our struggle with humility: pride and insecurity.

Both “too much pride and “too many insecurities are unhelpful, and both are violations of truth.

From Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life, though often attributed to CS Lewis

Humility is about LOVE

Humility is about loving God and knowing that you are loved by God, fully and completely.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 10.11.48

There is no need to “desire God’s love. You already are loved by God, fully and completely. Have faith in God’s perfect love. Stand firm in the knowledge of that love.

Allow the truth of God’s perfect love to speak to any insecurities.

Anyone or anything that would give you the impression that you are not fully and completely loved by God, just as you are, is violating the truth of God’s perfect love.

Humility is about TRUTH.

Humility rejects the falsehood of TOO MUCH pride, arrogance, or self-centered ego.

Pride prevents us from honestly seeing ourselves before God.

The problem isn’t taking pride in a job well done… the problem is when we claim all glory, honor and praise for our accomplishments as our own, without recognizing that in truth, we only build upon and work with the gifts and talents God has given us.

Moreover, the problem isn’t receiving praise and honor… the problem is the desire.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.12.44

Deliver me, Jesus, from the desires of my pride.

Humility also rejects the falsehood of TOO LITTLE confidence, which feeds insecurities and dwells on unworthiness.

Our God who again and again tells us “fear not” and “be not afraid” does not want us to feel insecure. Our God who blesses us with gifts and talents so that we may be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone we meet does not ask us to dwell on unworthiness.

Humility isn’t about unworthiness.

St Theresa of Avila quote on Humility

But before getting to “unworthiness,” there’s a TRUTH-related vocabulary word that needs clarity.

What is “calumniated” and how do you even say it?

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.56.06

Calumny [CAL-oom-nee] appears in the Catechism’s section on truth, following the Eighth Commandment (Thou shall not bear false witness), and refers to misrepresenting  someone’s reputation, particularly with the intent to harm.

In the Litany of Humility, this speaks to that fear of being talked about behind your back. Ouch.

Deliver me, Jesus, from my fears and insecurities.

It’s Not About Worthiness

Far too often, we want to make our relationship with God about worthiness.

The Scripture passage about worthiness that we are most familiar with comes from the healing of the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:5-13, which we pray before receiving the Eucharist.

Lord I am Not Worthy

The Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. As Jesus agrees, the Centurion stops him with his powerful line, “Lord I am not worthy…” and goes on to express tremendous faith, “only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Read this passage closely, and you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t disagree: the Centurion IS NOT worthy.

Of course, he’s not worthy. None of us are worthy. And if you’re the kind of person who struggles with the pride and ego side of humility, sit with this for a while.

Grace, mercy, love, and healing are gifts given by God, to us, freely.  It’s not about worthiness; it’s never about worthiness. We should really stop making it about worthiness.

The Virtue of Humility

Humility is the virtue that asks you to:

  • know that you are completely and fully loved by God for who you are
  • stand firm in the truth
  • value God’s opinion of you more than the world’s
  • trust in God’s Grace and Mercy
  • use the gifts and talents that God has given you to glorify God by your life
  • recognize that you are a vessel and God is the source of those gifts and talents

Humility is not to be confused with humiliation, which is a violation of TRUTH. Humility doesn’t ask you to be a doormat, content with verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. But when you experience humiliation, the virtue of humility grounds you in the truth of God’s love, not the world’s opinion. Humility frees you to trust in God’s Grace and Mercy.

Humility asks you to keep your pride in-check. To remember that all that you have and all that you are extend from God’s goodness, love, and blessings. Humility takes all of the glory from all our accomplishments and uses it to give greater glory to God.

And in everything, humility relies upon the virtues of courage and wisdom; to courageously and wisely speak the truth with love.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.51.34

Grant Me the Grace

The Litany of Humility invites us to explore the parts of the virtue of humility that you may find uncomfortable.

Through the Litany of Humility, petition God: Deliver me from my desires and fears… and grant me the grace to desire those aspects of humility that I still struggle with.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.52.33

Please feel free to print and share my Litany of Humility graphic, available in PDF.

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Screenshot 2019-01-29 12.52.04
Book, Prayer, Spirituality
0

On Prayer

In my family of voracious readers, we refer to the list of books we have lined up to read as “the queue.” So many books have been suggested in so many categories, they line up… and generally they’ll be read in the order in which they were received. Sadly, sometimes that line is longer and slower than the DMV because… well, time is limited.

your call is very important to us

Just this week, there was a series of coincidences [read: Holy Spirit] that led me to Ronald Rolheiser’s book Prayer: Our Deepest Longing (2013).  I recognized the author from working with ACTS Retreats, because Holy Longing (2009) – Fr. Rolheiser’s incredible book on Christian discipleship – has a chapter dedicated to Paschal Mystery spirituality, which is cited in the Director’s Manual, as it is at the heart of the ACTS Retreat.  Fr Rolheiser, OMI is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, which is also the home of ACTS Missions.

ACTS & ACTSM

What happened was, Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry Continuing Education has been advertising an opportunity to participate in a 5-week online book club on Prayer: Our Deepest Longing. BC STM’s Continuing Ed Facebook page had a video of Fr. Rolheiser offering some insights from his book on Prayer. The short video had me intrigued, but my “queue” is getting ridiculously long.

But, Holy Spirit.

So, I decided to try my first audiobook on “Audible,” I figured that I could listen while cleaning my kitchen, running errands, and what-have-you.  Although the rest of the world may have known the joys of audiobooks for years (especially while driving), it’s completely new to me.

Thank you, Holy Spirit; it was exactly what I needed!  To be honest, after listening to the first three chapters, I ordered a hard copy of the book just so I can underline and post-it-flag for easy reference.  It’s THAT good!

Prayer: Our Deepest Longing is a book that has already nourished my own prayer life, and it’s one I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone seeking to deepen their prayer life – from beginners to seasoned prayer warriors.  Read it, listen to it, or even consider trying BC’s online book club!

Somehow, Rolheiser manages to be both encouraging and challenging.  He had me at the preface:

There is no bad way to pray….[There’s] only one non-negotiable rule: You have to show up for prayer and you have to show up regularly.”

I hope you find a way to enjoy Prayer: Our Deepest Longing. If you do, come back and leave a comment about your favorite insights!

From Amazon’s website:

With simple, down-to-earth language, Rolheiser illustrates the importance of prayer and offers techniques for how to pray, using examples from daily life, Scripture, and contemporary writers. He delves into the places that we fear to go with our issues about prayer, encouraging us with gentle kindness and words of hope and inspiration.

The book is divided into five sections.

  • Why Pray? Illustrates the purposes and benefits of prayer for ourselves, as well as for the broader Catholic community and even the world.
  • Why Is It so Hard? Notes how our contemporary culture conspires against taking time out for solitude and prayer, and how our own ego—with its fears, restlessness, and narcissism—can work against developing a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
  • What Is Prayer? Outlines the two basic types of prayer, that is, affective (personal) and priestly (for the world). Describes the many ways or methods for each type of prayer, such as meditation, contemplation, the divine office, the Mass, and Scripture.
    Sticking with It. This section covers the development of mature prayer, discussing ways to pray in times of boredom, disillusionment, crisis, helplessness, or after a loved one’s death.
  • Mysticism. Here we learn about this increasingly popular form of intimate relationship with God.

This is a book for all manner of believers, whether your faith is solidly rooted, wavering between childhood religion and adult faith, or just not sure what you believe—or whether you believe at all. It addresses topics such as narcissism, pragmatism, efficiency, and self-gratification that work against a healthy spiritual life. Rolheiser takes us to a place of contact and comfort, in relationship not only with God but with our true selves as well.

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