Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stabat Mater

I had this sudden inclination today to listen to the Stabat Mater (Dolorosa), which is a Latin hymn. The title translates to, "the grieving mother stood," and the literal English translation of the lyrics is phenomenal. Truly this woman was blessed to behave as she did, feeling as she did! And what a lesson she has to teach us!

Lately in my prayers and interactions with friends, I keep finding myself returning to the idea that our situations do not cause us to act how we do, but rather WE cause ourselves to act as we do. There is such a tendency in all of us to blame anything but ourselves for the misfortunes that befall us - we can even blame God! How could He let such misery befall us?! Why is this happening to us? And yet, there is always Stabat Mater Dolorosa, eternally standing in grief, eternally modeling and exemplifying the virtue and the promise of Christ, even through the worst of all possible situations.

This woman's son, who was a blameless innocent and the Son of God, was turned over to Roman officials, sentenced to a gruesome death, betrayed and abandoned by all His friends, and was being crucified before her very eyes. Yet, she stood. Her heart was breaking, for sure, and her sufferings would have bested the sufferings of any other woman ever to have walked on the face of the planet, yet she stood. And through the sorrows of that day, through the pain and agony of watching her only son begotten of the Holy Spirit as He was whipped and nailed to a cross, she felt a deep peace and joy in her trust and faith in God. As we laud our Stabat Mater dolorosa, we also grieve with her - we rejoice for her faith and trust in God, yet we feel the same human emotions of sorrow and joy, pain and peace, heartbreak and overwhelming love.

The literal translation to the Stabat Mater is here: This woman who was so in love with God that she bore His Son was given this heartwrenching situation - much worse than anything that any of us will ever experience in our lives. Yet, we call Mary BLESSED among women! I think this is cause for a little investigation... :)

We recently celebrated Christmas Day, where we find Our Blessed Mother with her betrothed in a cramped stable, surrounded by smelly animals, with the Son of God. Both are overjoyed and filled with wonder at the appearance of three strange men coming to visit the Christ-child, and Our Blessed Mother must have been full of emotion. Imagine: you have just been given a precious gift, God's only Son, and now you must raise Him! Your every action as a mother is done for the Child of God!!! Talk about anxiety as a parent - normal parents go weak at the thought of raising a child - imagine God's only Son!!! As I approach the Nativity scene, I do so with this song in my heart: I think it conveys equally the wonder and overwhelming joy of Christ's birth, the joy at the humility and peace of Our Savior lying sleeping in a manger, and the beauty of beholding this beautiful creature whose eyes are locked on her child. She could care less where she is, or what is going on around her. The only thing that matters to her at that moment (and for the rest of the moments of her life) is this precious child that has been given to her by God. The thought of beholding such a creature brings tears to the eyes, tears of gratitude that God created such a beautiful creature out of clay, tears of wonder that He was even able to create such a beautiful creature, and tears of penitence that He would love us THAT much to give us not ONLY His only son, but also His Beloved, the new Eve, the Mother of the Church.

In that lowly stable, Mary is overwhelmed by the Spirit, filled with love for this little child, this Christ who has been given to her by the Father. Fear is replaced with love. Fear is replaced with trust and faith that God will not leave her, even through a very difficult situation, in a very difficult time, with very difficult people who do not understand where Jesus came from and what He is meant for. Mary takes all this things and meditates upon them in her heart - what a beautiful place for her thoughts to take root! The only things that she will act upon are the things that are of God, and the rest of her thoughts are discarded, upon careful consideration in her heart, as not being of God. How beautiful! She is tempted to fear, but she discards her fear, because she finds in her heart that it is not of God. Her meditation allows her to know God so intimately that she cannot be separated from Him.

Mary forgets all of herself, lost in God, and becomes the vessel through which light enters into our dark world. How can one grieve at the thought of such a light? How can one seek darkness when one's eyes are focused on the light? Truly the impossible was possible with this Daughter of God because she believed in His Word.

Cut to the Crucifixion. Different scene entirely. There is not even a manger in which Christ could rest. He is being whipped, carrying a heavy, wooden cross. People are jeering, cackling at the man who claims to be the Son of God. They call Him a falsity and a liar, mock Him as the King of the Jews. They call for His crucifixion over Barabbas, a noted criminal. He bears it all with a supernatural strength, but His very human mother remains, standing, watching all of this pass. And holding it in her heart and allowing it to take root, because it is of God. Whatever will grow, she trusts that God wanted it to be planted in her heart, and she allowed it to take root so that it would grow strong and flower into something beautiful. Yet this woman who so wisely discarded her fears before does the same again, keeping for herself all the sufferings and discarding the despair, keeping the pains and discarding the hopelessness. She finds God, hidden as He is in the situation, and clings fast to Him, her Rock in times of trouble. Truly THIS is the way to suffer, THIS is the way to suffer in Christ and with Christ! Not out of self-pity or a hatred of others, but out of love of God - to suffer because of human emotions, while maintaining the supernatural virtues of hope, of peace and love, of truth in one's heart. It doesn't make the Crucifixion any less painful, but it redeems the pain as being of God - it does not explain the sufferings, but it gives them an underlying theme of peace and love in Christ.

And if we are to imitate the Blessed Virgin, we must take our own human sufferings as they come, with the same love of Our Mother, trusting in God's Divine Providence, clinging to that which is of God, that which we know in our hearts to be true, good, and beautiful, and discarding the rest. No matter if it hurts at first - there will be peace in the pain. If you are left with a basket full of sorrows that are of God, then rejoice!!! The basket that you carry was surely made in Heaven, and will one day be used to carry even greater amounts of joy! Where would we be without such a basket? With nothing to carry our joy in, that's for sure!!! I know I don't want to be carrying away from my prayers the joy of Heaven in a dinky tin can. I want the largest basket possible - one where I can barely walk, it's so big!!! Yet, that same basket opens us up to receive more of the sufferings that hurt so badly - so what?! Our capacity to love is not defined by our situations, but rather by our willingness to receive them into our hearts - to meditate upon our lives with the diligence and persistence of Mary, weeding out that which is not of Christ and keeping close that which is of Christ.

The first complaint which comes to mind: what if I don't know what is and is not of God? The response: so what? God DEFINITELY knows what He made and what He didn't make. And often He leaves some kind of signature mark on that which He made: either a sign of peace, or love, or true joy. He knows what He wants for us, and all we have to do is know Him to know His Will.

And we don't have to be superstar mystics to understand what God wants for us THIS DAY. We don't have to see into the future, we don't have to have a five-year plan. We simply need to know, for today, for RIGHT NOW, what God Wills for us. God Willed that Mary watch her Son in agony the day of the Crucifixion, and Mary lived that moment fully. God wastes not a single moment of our lives - He uses every second to build our courage, to build our faith and trust in Him, to learn to love better and under more duress. Suffering takes on shape when it is suddenly no longer meaningless and without purpose. It becomes redemptive.

I am currently a second-semester senior in college without a job post-college, as are many of my classmates. We are all starting to feel the anxiety of a life ready to be lived. I have many friends and family members approaching marriage right now, anxious to begin a new life together. And yet, the more of my life I spend in waiting, the more I realize that our "right now" is truly the most precious gift from God - worth infinitely more than any "tomorrow" or "next year" or "yesterday" that anyone could ever imagine. God created time so that we could live moment by moment praising His glory, not so that we could attempt to change the clock by either backtracking or speeding it up. My own dreams of the future come to nothing in the eyes of the Almighty, and my little wonderings are as nothing compared to the Greatness of God. God is in the present, as I know that He has been in the past, and will be in the future. What more is there to know that is not already known in our hearts? :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Children of Christ and the Seeds of Love

There are so many instances of children of God judging one another throughout all of the Gospels. Can you even imagine Joseph's distress at the thought of his beautiful wife's dire situation of being pregnant and unmarried? And yet, he was told by an angel, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." Talk about having misread his bride-to-be.

Or look at the entirety of chapter 7 of Luke. The elders who speak of the centurion's slave assert that he "deserves" to have Jesus heal his slave, yet Jesus is truly impressed by the centurion's faith only when he sends word that he is unworthy of having Jesus under his roof. The widow cries because she misjudges that her only son is gone forever through death, and Jesus calls her son back to life. People don't understand who John the Baptist is (or Jesus, for that matter), and the Pharisee Simon unrightfully judges the sinner who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. Quite the lot of misunderstandings for one chapter!!!

But, what do we see in all these instances? How are they all tied together? Christ, in each instance, meets everyone where they are (as He did in His birth in Bethlehem, as He did throughout His life), and loves the sinner as he is. He died for sinners, not for the seemingly perfect, but rather for sinners. And the first step in claiming Jesus as our own is admitting our own sin - otherwise, how can we claim Him and His Mercy?! After all, Jesus did not die for the perfect; so if you are perfect, you are out of luck!!!

Instead, what we see is Christ's compassion in all things. He goes to the centurion although at first he is prideful, acting out of a love for the man himself that swallows the sin of his pride. He meets the widow in her despair, giving her a sign that she might believe, rather than waiting for her to come to Him. He meets the crowds in their confusion and rumors about John and corrects them with love and truth. He offers them analogies that they can understand, and acknowledges their sins while offering the hope that, in the future, "wisdom [will be] vindicated by all her children." He explains to Simon the Pharisee the difference between the repentant sinner and the one who judges her, between the one who shows great love and the one who loves little, yet He affirms Simon by telling him that he was correct in his judgment of His parable: "you have judged rightly." The question of Jesus becomes not, "who is this who even forgives sins?," but rather, "who is this who loves so greatly even those who love so little?"

Our lives are marked by opportunities to judge others and "love little." We can say that one is not "holy" when they do not attend daily Mass, or pray the Rosary every day. Yet, the tears of one truly repentant sinner are worth more than all the daily offerings of a pious Christian. But, how does the repentant sinner reach the point of tears? What moves them so much so as to cry of humility in the face of greatness? Is it not the infinite and merciful love of Christ? Before salvation, there must always be all-encompassing and overwhelming amounts of Love. It is the driving force of the universe, the origins of the earth, created by our good God at the beginning of time.

"So, where does this leave me?", you might ask. "The one trying to better my faith life bit by bit, working on being a good human being in the face of such a seemingly distant goal as imitating Christ?" It means loving others by piercing through the veil of their sin, loving others not because of the person they could be but because of the person they are. It means not wishing that others were better people so you could love them more. It means loving them so much that Christ shines through you. It means allowing that light of Christ to permeate yourself so much that others feel that light, that love, that mercy, and are overwhelmed by the love felt for such imperfection as that of human beings.

We are called to imitate Christ as Catholics, and Jesus Himself taught us to serve even the sinner. Even when washing the feet of one of the worst and most notorious sinners of all time, Simon called Peter, Jesus was told to get up and stop washing Peter's feet. He did not stop His foot-washing, however, and continued performing the Will of the Father, loving Peter through his inability to understand, which caused him to sin. And once Peter did understand, after having denied Christ three times, it was only relying on this overwhelming love that he was able to overcome his own guilt and follow in Christ's footsteps.

If you are a practicing Catholic, chances are you have at some point in your life felt the overwhelming mercy and compassion that is Christ's Love for us. Many of you probably experienced this love in Church at some point. But, what about those people who would never set FOOT in a Church? Or perhaps those crotchety people who seem to hate everyone and everything? Here's a new remedy for the problem: LOVE them. But not the kind of love that wishes they were better for their own sake. The kind of love that is accepting others as they are at exactly that point in time. Loving the crotchety for teaching patience to others, loving those who are unkind simply because they are human beings and part of the body of Christ.

This kind of love that Christ teaches is not a love that asks for anything. It hopes for everything, but does not expect anything. It gives and gives and waits for no response, confident that a seed needs water and sunlight to be given any chance to grow. It does not water the seed to see the beautiful flower, but rather waters it simply because it understands that a seed needs water to grow. It provides and does not think of outcomes, but rather thinks only of the other.

This is the love that we are called to have for everyone. Talk about a hard calling! The Pharisee in us wants so badly to say, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."
We want so badly to say that nobody understands us, that we are alone in our condemnation of the evils of the world. Yet, this acknowledgment of the evils of the world is what Jesus came to save us from!

"Simon, I have something to say to you," says the Lord. "Tell me, teacher." "Do you see this woman?" Jesus asks. "When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair." Lord, forgive me for not realizing that my brothers' sins are jewels that adorn the path to their salvation! For, you have said, "her many sins have been forgiven, hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."

Lord God, it is not just about your own mercy that you speak, but about the mercy of your children!! If we are to love others rightly, we are to offer them mercy as you offer mercy - freely and without reserve, exchanging judgment in favor of your supreme goodness. It is not possible for others to "show great love" unless we first see that your mercy is extended to other sinners as much as it is extended to us ourselves. We realize that we restrict the capacity for other sinners to love when we love them less, and that when we channel Christ's love for us, we are helping to enable them to see Christ's mercy and compassion for them. And this is our true aim as followers of Christ - to be the mirrors reflecting His Light, even onto sinners, even onto the imperfect; simply because we are loved in imperfection and sin, very much unto death.

Lord, we pray that you might teach us how to love one another as sinners, as you have loved us. We pray for strength and trust in your love, that we might not trust ourselves, but trust in your infinite mercy and compassion. We ask for eyes that are blind to the judgment of the world, and hearts that cry out to You in every corner that you have hidden Yourself in this world - in people, especially. We pray not to change others, but that You might heal and touch our hearts, so that we are better able to do Your Will and love one another as You have loved us! Lord God, grant us pure hearts this day that look not to the sin, but straight to the hearts of other sinners like ourselves - and only see there the beauty of Your beloved creations!!

Thank you, God, for the irate, for the persecutors, for the confused, for the offensive, for the people who make us uncomfortable, for the sinners, for they give all of us a reason and an opportunity to love them purely, like You love us!!! :) May we always see the blessing of the tiny seed, and nurture it with all the love that we have!!!!

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Are we there yet?

In the midst of all this paper-writing, writing a blog post is the perfect way to honor God this Sunday!

Remember that question all the kids on long car rides in movies used to ask? "Mahhh! Are we there yet?!?!" They would repeat it OVER and OVER and you would laugh, all the while wondering in the back of your mind how the parent resisted the urge to reach into the back seat and strangle his/her child.

Don't we do the same thing to God? "God, I have SO many papers due!! Are we there yet? How about now? I can't do it!" We are so good at seeing the end point, but we don't understand how long it could take to get there. Trips that were meant to be five hours become nine-hour, epic journeys due to snowstorms, getting lost, or rain. Unforeseen conditions extend the time it takes to get us to any given destination - traffic, a flat tire, running low on gas.

We are the little children in the backseat of God's car. We see beautiful forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers passing by in the window, but we get scared when we can't see anything outside at night. Everything whips by so fast, Lord! And sometimes, we don't even know where we are going - so far from the comfort of what we know as "home"! We know that You have told us some destination, like "Maine" or "New Jersey," but we don't know what it looks like, Lord! You have told us that we are on our way to Heaven, but we are scared because we don't know where our destination is!!

No matter! You are the GPS, the driver, and the one who can calm even the stormy seas, Lord! Every delay is carefully calculated by you to get us to our destination at the right time, avoiding accidents and any serious harm.

There have been several times when I was driving that I passed by an accident after getting out of the house later than I wanted. I always think, "what if that were me in that accident? What if I had left the house fifteen minutes earlier?" Suddenly, arriving late to a destination is something that I will forget about in approximately 1 hour, whereas a car accident is something that will stick with me for much longer, and perhaps have resulted in my death.

God is a Master Planner. Nothing is done without reason in our lives. So, the flat tire, the red "check engine" light, the fear of being alone in a dark back seat - all of this is meant to get us home in one piece. So, what is a child to do?

A child is to hope, to have faith and trust in the Driver and His ability to know the Way. I'm a horrible driver and have no sense of direction, so it's not too hard for me to imagine that God would be a better driver than I would be. :) But what about those of us who could actually drive? Regardless of our skill, God is always a better driver - what driver do you know that can control the weather, miraculously fix engines without even getting out of the car, and died for us to save the world?!?! None other than Jesus!!

There is a song by Ingrid Michaelson called "Are we there yet" that keeps asking the question: are we there yet? It expresses this sentiment of feeling like there is something more yet to come, but not knowing what that something is. It cries out for a destination, for closure, for something that signifies that we have made it home. Yet, at another point in the song, she sings, "And it won't be too much / 'cause this is too much for me to hold."

There is still a lot of understanding that we have yet to grasp. We understand implicity that God will never give us too much to handle, yet at times it feels too overwhelming because we heap so much on ourselves instead of giving it to Christ. In those times, we simply need to open our eyes, look into the rear-view mirror, see Jesus's smiling face at the driving wheel, and sit back in our booster seat, confident in Our Loving Father. And then we can focus on watching the scenery fly by outside the window - in the darkness or in the light - because it really is beautiful. :)

Then, the question of "are we there yet" becomes irrelevant. We are too focused on the beauty that already surrounds us to even worry about why or how we are getting to our destination. That's for Our Driver to worry about. Our trust is whole, our contentment in Christ full. Man, we have it good, huh? :)

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We use every last part!

I was struck the other day during Mass at how carefully the celebrant was cleaning out the chalice and the paten - so meticulously, making sure to get every last crumb and every last drop! None of the Body and Blood of Christ is to be wasted, and he was making sure to use every part of the consecrated host!

What a beautiful analogy for our community and our Church! Every one of us is called to communion with one another, both Communion (capital "c" - literally the Communion of the sacrament of Holy Communion!) and communion in the sense of community. We need one another, and others need us. How perfect it is that the priest demonstrates the necessity of a community that uses everything to its fullest extent!

God uses everything that He has placed in us! All of our weaknesses, our failings, and our doubts; the things that are seemingly useless to us and merely a hamper to our journey toward sanctity, all of these things are crumbs in the bottom of the paten! Christ insists that we receive every last piece of His consecrated body, that we don't waste a single moment of our lives!

He uses our pride to teach us humility, our sins to give us grace, our hurts to give us healing! What a good God this is, He who brings people into our lives - through our communities and through our travels, through our rough times and through our good times - that can help us and bring us closer toward His light! There is a bright and glorious side to every moment of darkness that we experience, and that side is the Mercy and Love of Jesus Christ.

The difficult test you think you failed, the anxiety you experience when waiting for the grade, the sadness you feel when you receive, and the true joy you feel when your best friend, as a surprise, takes you out for a coffee or an ice cream - all of this process is intended by God to create the best person in you. You can't mix up the process of failing, or else you wouldn't leave with the same appreciation for your friend. Your friend might not have the opportunity to show you how much she loves you had you not failed. You might have not seen Christ as much in your friend had she not been given that opportunity to serve you like she did. It's all part of a Master Plan that we cannot ever fully comprehend until we reach the Beatific Vision in Heaven, and what a glorious plan that is!

God uses our every moment, our every breath, our every everything to bring about the Kingdom of God, and still gives us the free will to choose what we will do! Talk about a loving God!! He incorporates OUR decisions, OUR input into HIS creation!!! And HIS Will is still always done!! This God is truly amazing and glorious!

Not only within us, but outside of us, God conserves every moment we spend with others. How many times have you fought with your siblings? But, those fights offer the opportunity to make up, to forge stronger bonds with them that you don't have with others! Why are we so opposed to fair-weather friends, to friends we never argue with? Could it be because we never have an opportunity to serve them? To allow ourselves to be vulnerable in their sight? To allow ourselves to see the merciful and risen Christ in their eyes, and allow them to see Him in ours?

Even if the crumbs in the paten of our souls, minds, and hearts seem insignificant to us, they are precious in the sight of God. They are still His Body and His Blood! If Christ could multiply a couple fish and a few loaves of bread, imagine how much more He can do with those few crumbs of goodness that we have!!

Let us, this day and every day, be reminded of Christ's ability to grow Faith out of a mustard seed, His ability to foster true passion for His Word out of a simple "yes" to His call. If we turn over these crumbs to Him, just like the boy with the fish and the loaves, He will prepare for us and our communities a feast on Earth, create for us a Heaven out of this Communion that we share with Him!!

And there will still be baskets left over as a reminder of the goodness of God, yet another reason to always praise His Name! :)

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The rules and the reason

In my opinion, one of the questions that plagues our society the most today in regards to the Church is that of rules. What do they do? Why do we have them? As a former lapsed Catholic, I know this question very well - seeing the Church as putting forth a set of "guidelines" that I can't ever possibly follow, or somehow think I can subvert those rules by "holiness," etc. Yet, people do not stop to consider the implications of dangerous assumptions such as these, and instead make them without another thought. That's a big no-no. God's love is so all-encompassing that sometimes we find ourselves unable to even conceive of it. Yet, Mary's Immaculate Conception did just that - conceived, in quite a literal sense, the love of God.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people in the Church who take pride in following all the rules and regulations to the letter, and condemning those who do not. They attend daily Mass every day, donate to charitable organizations, and are in a prayer group. Yet, they find it appalling that people don't make the same effort that they do. They are the Pharisees, the laborers in the vineyard who had been working since the beginning of the day and are given the same wage as those who come along later, the Prodigal Son's older BROTHER.

I have found myself somewhere in-between these two groups of people, both as the Catholic unable to conceive of Christ's love and mercy and the indignant Catholic acting as a Pharisee, condemning and judging others. Where is the in-between? Where is Jesus in all of this?

When we think to the rules of the Church, people often laugh incredulously when they are told that they are "freeing." "How can rules that are so 'restrictive' be so freeing?," one might ask. "How can I be expected to attend daily Mass when I have a family to feed and work to do? How can I not work on a Sunday if the only time I can get a job so that I can put food on the table for my family is on a Sunday? What about my situation, God? Why would you give me this cross if the Church already created a rule against what I am doing now?"

The answer is simple, and we can find it in Scripture: Christ came not to enforce the laws already in place but to establish a new law of love. This does NOT invalidate the rules of the Church, but rather increases their importance, and here's why.

We are fickle human beings. We say one thing, and do another. We are flakes. We cancel appointments, we always acquit ourselves of sins committed. By creating a set of rules and opportunities for grace, the Church provides us with the framework upon which to build our trust in God. We don't NEED to attend Daily Mass EVERY DAY, but it provides us with graces in the Eucharist that we would not be able to get anywhere else!

Is it possible to get to Heaven without being Catholic and having the graces of the Church? Yes. Is it likely? No.

The rules of the Church give us incentive to maintain a schedule so that we are free to LOVE GOD, and this is the ultimate aim of our lives: TO LOVE GOD and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. When we are obedient and follow the framework set out by the Church, we are free within that framework to LOVE GOD and ONE ANOTHER fully and wholly. We don't have to worry about designing our own "plan to achieve holiness," so to speak - the legwork has already been done! All we need to do is focus on loving Christ, the true work of our salvation. All the other setup and preparation has been taken care of.

One who sets off to find his own path to salvation is like a child who takes up a toy hammer and a crayon drawing he made of a house in order to build a dwelling-place. They could have the faith and spirit of good land, a good location to build, but they quite probably won't get anywhere. Maybe they'll build a cardboard box, or a lopsided, doghouse-sized wooden structure, or make a tent by throwing a sheet over a piece of rope strung up between trees. But it will never be a strong house. It will be good land used as a child's play area, and when the rain, snow, and wind come, that child will be left out in the cold with a faulty structure, the self-consolation of his "good intention" on his mind, and a wet crayon drawing in his hand.

As for those who follow all the rules without question, we often get so caught up in maintaining the framework that we forget the reason why we build the house. It is like a building manager who builds a house exactly according to the blueprints, but discovers that he has built his house in the middle of a desert, where it will soon be covered in sand. Nobody will ever inhabit that house because it cannot support life, and the manager himself will soon be faced with the temptation to despair in knowing that his life's work, this beautiful house made exactly to proportion, is worth nothing because it cannot stand, even when made correctly, according to perfect plans, because of the impossible climate.

So, what is the solution? To be the rock upon which the Church is built. To be the good land and use the perfect blueprints given to us by Christ to build His Church, His Dwelling-Place, a place for Him and His People. We have to acknowledge that sometimes, we do not have the nail we need, or the hammer, or we can't find our worktools. We move on, knowing that we will, with God's grace, find the tools tomorrow and continue working. We sometimes get scared that this building is so incomplete, that we'll NEVER finish it on time, and that when we die it will still be incomplete - God reassures us that He'll never leave our worksite, and we take heart and continue working. We sometimes think to ourself, I should cut this corner and make this part of the house out of a cheaper material. Think of Noah - that DOES NOT fly when rough weather comes and that part of the house is broken off, but God assures us that He'll help us rebuild that corner stronger than it was before.

We have an awesome, loving, and caring work manager on-site who promises to never leave us, even when we fail, even when we think we know better, even when our project is imperfect. He is the Master Builder who trusts us with the blueprints to build a house, and allows us to fail in making it, then comes in and fixes up all that we did wrong. What a God who loves us, that He allows us to make mistakes and build this house "on our own," like a child whose parent lets them get dressed "all by themselves." Then, when we finally have the humility to ask for help, God steps in and fixes everything. Sometimes, we say, "HEY! I wanted a BAY window there, not a BATHROOM!," and then we find out later how useful it is to have a bathroom in the house. Sometimes we think we didn't have to wait so long to let that faulty part of the house be blown away and then rebuilt, but we discover that had that part of the house not blown away in a storm, we would not have been able to build a larger addition in its place. Sometimes, we find we don't have hammers, and are so insistent on keeping with the exact letter of the blueprints and sticking to using the tools that we know that we stop building entirely, and God gently takes the paper out of our hands and whispers, "trust me, I know what I'm doing" to us. And, after a bit of whimpering, we pick up the electric screwdriver (side note: I'm scared to death of shooting myself with a nailgun or sawing off my finger with an electric saw, so this analogy especially applies to my fear of powertools) and God teaches us how to be safe with those tools. He guides our hands so that, although we don't know how to use the tools, somehow He teaches us how. And He keeps us unharmed and safe.

In the end, we have a house built according to blueprints that we have stumbled many times in making; that we have abandoned the blueprints sometimes and adhered too strictly to them other times. But every time, God smiles upon us, His little children, knowing that this house is something that we played a part in creating, something that God let us build out of His Goodness and Mercy. And we have confidence not in our own building abilities but in those of God, by whose Goodness the house stands at all. By whose Goodness the tools exist. By whose Goodness we are forgiven and loved, and made for eternal joy with Him forever in Heaven.

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

From another blog... AMAZING

This reflection on St. Francis is SO beautiful and REAL, I had to copy it and paste it here. It reminds us of the fragility, the brokenness, the humanness of the saints - in a way that the retelling of their lives has glazed over. The saints too often become to us these figures of unattainable perfection, yet their lives were lived in the same way that ours are - in darkness, in suffering, and in the joy of Christ.

Perhaps we should all endeavor to read the autobiographies of the saints (especially St. Therese, of course!), so that we see the real nitty-gritty behind the end result. The happy ending doesn't encompass all the agony of life, all of the work and effort that goes into the end result, and thus makes it seem easy, happy and effortless. Yet, while we are caught up in the midst of suffering, it is much more difficult to see how God will ever make anything of us. But let us trust that He will, because He has told us that He wills eternal life for each of us. :)


There you stand, O prophet of God
Placid in the sun-drenched garden
And never in the cold dank cave
Or bleeding amidst the thorns.

There you stand, poised and sanitized
Air-brushed with the birds
Who once opened their beaks to praise their Maker
And then stood silent to hear His Holy Word.

Why do you too stay silent
Exiled to sacred niche and abandoned
Upon some plaster pillar?
You who glowed naked ashen upon the barren earth
Now need vigil light and fresh white linen?

What is the weak reason everyone loves you?
And who are you, you little wounded man
That everyone crowns your weary wet head with gold?
Are you not a lion now made mascot or lapdog?

Your bitter life has been made palatable
And burlap garb soft to the touch.
Marketed for the masses
You stand sweet and surreal upon the tattered page.

How do you feel being everyone's plastic saint?
Pulled this way and that
Like puddy shaped
and shoved into the mold of many little minds.

Everyone: old-timers and new-agers,
Left wing liberals and right wing Republicans,
Industrious Amish and lazy agnostics,
Catholic school kids and Protestant preachers;

Yes, the whole lot of us who make up life;
Communists, ecologists, vegetarian, veterinarians, silver-haired hippies and bow tied bankers,

Everyone owns you as no one knows you.

Yet God knows you, you broken tiny man.
And you know Him, do you not?
Resting in crib or burning on a cross,
Hidden behind wafer and wine and Holy Word.

So, as you now stand, pale and listless
so too my poor soul,
far from the sharp thorns and the bright snow
Where you found your Christ.

Yes, you who stumbled along Assisi's stone streets,
And wept while staggering like a drunken man,
Speak to me, a sinner, who feasts on rich fare.
Speak to me of the poor God - of GOD!

Will the real Saint Francis please kneel down?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weakness and strength

What a weak bunch we all are as human beings! We can make all the plans we want, feign competence all we want, yet we always end up flat on our faces! And what a blessing, too, because it's only when our nose hits the ground that we realize how little and weak we are!

The important thing to remember when we're lying prostrate is that Christ is behind us, tapping us on the shoulder and telling us to get back up. HE is our only strength, our only joy, our only hope for forgiveness, mercy, and kindness. What a gift!!

And yet, we are not to remain down in this position! We are called to get up, after having fallen, to be brought back to fulfillment in Him who died for us! We are not to be denied the richness, vibrancy, joy, and love of our lives, but rather to fall so that we realize how precious those gifts are! We are to be encouraged all the more to get up so that Christ can again bless us with everything He has given us - a new gift, all over again!

Think of priestly ordination. As a part of the ceremony, they lie prostrate on the ground, in complete submission to God and His Will, recognizing their weakness on their own, and their strength in Christ. And then, GET THIS, they become OTHER CHRISTS when the ceremony is done! What a difference between total weakness and total strength! What an amazing conversion from nothingness to everything!!!

In our lives, when we stumble and fall, when we hit the ground face-first and our pride cries out "OWWWW THAT HURT!," let us remember that the fall is an opportunity to rise, as Jesus Christ himself did, from the Hell of our fallen and broken nature to new life in Christ! Let us see our falling down as an opportunity to arise anew in His strength, love and truth! Let us allow ourselves to rediscover the gifts He has given us from our birth, and go forth renewed by His Spirit, all the stronger for having been healed!!

God allows us to fall for one reason: so that we can arise with Him and know Him by His love! Let us learn from our falls and accept His mercy, free from the shackles of sin and death by His grace! Free to be vibrant, joyful, and full of life, able to come to the fullness of His love and truth with pure hearts!!

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A rainy day analogy for you all :)

As I was walking along on my way to class today, the sun was shining bright, but it was still a little drizzly, and the pavement was wet. I was wearing flip-flops, and my feet kept slipping on the cobblestones. Then I noticed a rough patch of concrete, and I thought, "YES! I won't slip on this!" Then I laughed, because I had just thought of the meaning that has for our lives.

We have a sinful nature, and when we are met with easy times, we slip and fall. We can get by tightrope walking our way to class, but it's tough.

Yet, when we have that rough patch, it becomes SO much easier to stay upright! We have something that the soles of our feet can really GRIP to, something to hold onto, and althought it might be an eyesore in contrast with the pretty Cambridge cobblestones, I would prefer that rough patch any day to a completely smooth street.

The same goes for our lives. Gold is truly tested in fire, so the more that we encounter rough patches, the more we should praise God, for He truly is looking out for us!! He provides us with a place to stand when the rest of the street is a danger zone by giving us a safe area. And yes, in the eyes of the world, it's an eyesore, but in God's eyes, it's a life preserver, saving grace. And who wouldn't want that? :)

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

I am edging my way slowly back into regular posting

Just wanted to share a quick thing that happened to me today in class.

Professor: Who thinks that learning the language should be required of new immigrants?
Students: (Most students except a few raise their hands, including me. One or two students raise their hands to indicate "no.")

Professor: Who thinks that gaining citizenship should be encouraged among new immigrants?
Students: (Most students except a few raise their hands, including me. One or two students raise their hands to indicate "no.")

Professor: Who thinks that the Christian religion should be encouraged, as it has been historically, among new immigrants?
Students: (I am the only one with a hand raised. There are quiet sniggers and whispers as people realize I am the only one with a hand up. Everyone else raises their hand afterward to indicate "no.")

Why is it that in a room full of what are most likely Christians, people feel the need to allow political correctness to trump truthfulness? I feel like a poll of the room asking if "under God" should be in the Pledge of Allegiance would find that several INDIVIDUAL students prefer to say that phrase, although they would NEVER "impose their views on anyone else."

We are a Christian nation, and it's time that we realized it. If we did not have the religious culture that we do, a LOT would change in the US - national politics, international relations, college policies on sex... :

The only reason why we have remained the strong nation that we have diplomatically is because of our unique foreign policy objectives, which include the spread of democracy and providing millions of dollars in aid to other countries. Internally, we struggle over issues of free speech and providing equality to all. Yet, there is a constant contrast between this culture of "democracy" and a culture of "truth" - one which asserts FACTS that are painful but true.

Our culture upholds the politically correct, but casts down the view that there is ONE truth, ONE God, ONE ultimate goal. When our goals become muddied, we emerge with public funding for abortion, removing mention of God from the Constitution of a clearly Christian nation, and a living wage that isn't actually feasibly for your average unskilled worker.

Imagine what our nation would be without the Christian NGOs, the people who fight for the things like HUMANITY that get lost in the battle of politics!!! Imagine a nation filled up with people who don't care about these things - then what happens to the homeless, the undocumented immigrants, the mentally ill?!?!?!

Think through why you raise your hands against encouraging Christianity in the United States before you do so, because "political correctness" is not the be-all and end-all of our reasons for doing things.

In Christ through Mary,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Made of Clay! :)

We're all so fascinated by clay! It can be molded to form whatever shape you want! You can spell with it, you can make bowls out of it! You can paint it! You can mush it about in your hands, you can knead it, you can roll it, you can flatten it!! It's so pliable, and it seems as though the simple act of holding it in your hand opens up so many possibilities for what you can make!!!

What a fitting analogy this is for our relationship to God! We are the clay, we are molded and shaped so as to be vessels fit to carry Christ into the world! Yet, we were given free will, such that we can choose the shape of our vessel - God did not fire us in a kiln into the hardened vessels that He needs. We are all wet clay, in various forms. Some are vases, some are bowls, some are cups. But we all have a wet, moldable shape that He gives us the power to change with our free will!!

God's Will is done regardless, and He will use wet bowls if necessary, but the water might get muddied and dirty from the wet clay. We may often think we are strong on our own because we can hold water, but we do not know the potential for strength we truly possess in ourselves until we are fired in the kiln!! If we put ourselves into the kiln, though, the sanctifying fire of His love will keep us strong and sturdy, and we are enable to be TRUE vessels of His life-giving water!! We will discover who we REALLY are in Him, and even when we regress back into moldable clay, we will understand that we were made and formed for greatness in Him.

And we were given some of this creative power, too!!! The children that grow up in families, those who are learning, those who are curious and always seeking God - we help one another to find the correct shape that best enables us to do God's Will! We understand that we are not vases because our friends teach us about bowls, and we know that we are pitchers because our family members are cups. Our communities help us to define who we are by being who they are - what a beautiful design of Our Father in Heaven!! :)

Every day, we are called to serve the Lord, Our God, and every day, we are given the clay of our time, our energy, and our CHOICE to do with as we please. Let us pray that this day and every day, we choose to create something beautiful for God, a veritable and functional work of art, so that He can fire it in the kiln of His love and use it to bring about His Kingdom!!

In the Love and Peace of Christ through Mary!,
Christina :)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Phoenix and the Dove

Lately I have been contemplating a LOT on the Holy Spirit and how we are inspirited by both fire and peace at alternating times. There are times when we are angered by injustice, times when we feel complete peace when surrounded by nature, times when we are made uncomfortable by situations and are prompted to act. This is all the Holy Spirit, but taking different forms in our lives!

Think on the phoenix and the dove. Both are birds, both have supernatural associations. Phoenixes are associated with rebirth, wisdom, fire, passion, and faithfulness. Doves are associated with meekness, peace, love, gentleness, and softness. There are times when we are inspirited by both simultaneously, times when we are aware of one but not the other, and times when neither are felt, but are still there.

I would like to argue that fire is a purifying gift of the Holy Spirit. We live in a sinful world, full of injustices and ignorance. Our hearts were made for God, and the fire of our love for Him will burn away all impurities! This is why we can often feel a sense of peace after righting a wrong, doing a good deed, or going to Confession. There is peace in the calm after the storm, in the quiet contemplation after the fire. In the charred remains of our hearts and souls after the fires of our sufferings, we find that we are reduced to the basics in our hearts and souls, and God can truly work and live in us like He did in Mary!!

Lord, let us feel the fire of injustice, let it enter our hearts that burning desire to know you and serve you!!! In its wake, we ask for the peace of your Kingdom, that you might make in us a dwelling place as you did in Mary, Our Mother and Your Mother!

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

At work in the garden!

My family lives WAY back in the woods, surrounded by 10 acres of swampland/forest, so the fact that we have a little Marian grotto by the house also means that the little Marian grotto is stormed by armies of bloodsucking mosquitoes in the humid summertime. Today, as I was doing some light weeding out there, I thought about the significance of weeding in a grotto in the woods, and what an apt analogy it is to our relationship with God!

I pulled up the leafy beginnings of a dandelion today whose root went far below the surface of the stones in the grotto. When I pulled up the rest of the root, it was HUGE compared to the leaves above it. The roots went deep, just like our sins. We can tear off the dandelion stalk, or the leaves, or pick off everything above ground, but unless we take the time to rip out the root, the dandelion will continue to flower, the weed will continue to grow until it pops up again!

This is not to say that ripping out roots is easy. Not only do we have to work to pull up the entire root from our unfortunate position in being unable to see underground how far the root goes, but we also have to put up with outside influence. One word: mosquitoes. The influence of evil in this world is not often talked about among popular media, but it's there. It's in our heads, infecting our peace and our relationship with God like a terribly contagious plague. There is a barrage of doubt, of anxiety, of despair and frustration that interfere with our ability to pull up the roots of our sinfulness, to discover where our primary weaknesses originate in our relationship with God.

And the funny thing about mosquitoes is that they love sweetness more than bitterness. Try carrying a bunch of fragrant flowers into the middle of the woods on a humid day, or wearing perfume. You know what I mean. You'll get eaten alive because you smell sweet, because the things you carry are beautifully fragrant! The mosquitoes have no need to bother with sucking out the lifeblood of those who do not smell sweet, because they are of no use to the mosquitoes. They want SWEET blood.

The same thing happens in our lives - as we get closer and closer to God, going to work in the garden to weed more and more, the mosquitoes come out. Every time. And the more fragrant the flowers we present to Christ as offerings, the more the mosquitoes are attracted to us. Demonic attacks are real, regardless of what anyone may say. That time you got extremely angry and violent and afterward had absolutely no idea why you were so upset. That time you fell into a deep despair over something trivial. That time you ripped yourself (or someone else) apart for making a small mistake. That time you wanted to do something but were deathly afraid that "people would talk." All those sentiments are not God's sentiments, so they have to have another source, and that source has to be Satan.

The mosquitoes are something that we can plan for. We can wear mosquito repellent. We can wear long sleeves to keep them from biting us. We can wear gloves - but then it gets harder to weed effectively. But we can't ever get rid of them. They are a simple fact of the garden, like weeds or bugs - they exist. What we can do is remember that they are small, they are trivial, and they only leave a bite that goes away in a few weeks with proper care. Our real work is in Our Father's Garden, and nothing can keep us away from that!!!

We must keep bringing the sweet-smelling flowers of our good deeds and sacrifices to Our Lord as offerings, regardless of how attractive they are to the demons present in our lives. Satan is going to try to screw things up always in the lives of ordinary, holy people, because misery loves company. The end. But, think: if we stay in the garden doing work through the mosquitoes, imagine how Our Heavenly Father will be pleased with us!! Not only can we offer Him the gifts of our merits and good deeds, but we can also show Him the marks on our bodies where we itch from mosquito bites, and we have a little physical reminder of the wounds of the Cross (granted they are nowhere near the suffering of the Cross, but everything is analogous, right?)!! We have little, humble battle scars to show God, and not only can we ask Him to heal them for us, but we can also ask Him to redeem us and others by them. Because just as Jesus came to teach us how to love by loving us first, God taught us how to suffer redemptively by suffering first. (Reference: Adam and Eve, original sin, Garden of Eden, the FIRST Biblical garden!).

It can be frustrating to take care of a garden, especially when certain flowers only bloom for brief periods, or when flowers die, or when the fast-growing, numerous dandelions seem much more appealing and easier to take care of than waiting for beautiful rare flowers to bloom. But if we remove the choking weeds from the presence of the rare flower bulbs, and we care for the tender shoots of virtue in our souls, what a beautiful garden we will have in our hearts!!! Simple and divinely perfect roses, sweet-smelling gardenia, exotic jasmine, humble daisies, little wildflowers, even!!! What a beautiful bouquet of life to present to Our Lord!!

This entire experience reminds me very much of the movie "The Secret Garden," in which a spoiled orphan named Mary (LOVE that name!!!), her sick, spoiled cousin Colin, and a boy who talks to the animals on the Moors named Dicken discover a secret garden, and bring life back to it (and, in the process, they bring life back to the heart of Colin's father, who fell into a deep depression after the death of his wife). They think the garden to contain a special magic, and the entire premise of the movie is that as the garden developed and grew into something beautiful, so did the children. The spoiled children became loving. That "magic" was in fact love - Christ's love. The garden died every year for many years before it was brought back to life by these three little children haphazardly sowing flower seeds in the ground they had tilled, on the land they had worked on. And then it opened up to them in the springtime like the piercing of Our Lord's heart on the Cross - an outpouring of love in Christ's creation!

May our hearts and souls forever seek to imitate the beautiful garden in the heart and soul of Mary, Our Mother, whom Jesus spent nine months perfecting and filling with the choicest gifts and flowers! May we open the locked gates to the gardens in our hearts and souls and begin to work at weeding them, however small the efforts, so that we can allow beauty, goodness and virtue to grow within them!!! May these flowers not be choked by the weeds of our sins, but rather may God help us to seek out the roots of these weeds and throw them over the stone garden wall, where they will get burned up in the furnace of His divine love surrounding our hearts and souls!! May we forever ask God's help in prayer, seeking growth and guidance in these gardens such that we can present Him with a humble but beautiful bouquet of flowers at the end of our lives!!! And may our Mother Mary be the rich soil which nurtures and cares for the delicate roots of our virtues, may she always provide the life-giving water and nutrients necessary to these flowers that they might not just survive but flourish under the warm sun of God's love!!!

Fides, Spes, et Caritas Christi per Mariam,
Christina :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Part II

I love it when there is some form of confirmation of an idea by its repeated presence in one's life!!

Check out today's reading for the Preparation for the Consecration to Mary!!:

"O most sweet Lord Jesus, how great is the pleasure of the devout soul that feasteth with Thee in Thy banquet; where there is set for her no other food to be eaten but Thyself, her only Beloved, and most to be desired above all the desires of her heart! To me also it would be indeed sweet, in Thy presence to pour forth tears from the very bottom of my heart, and with the grateful Magdalene to wash Thy feet with tears (Luke 7:38). But where is that devotion? Where that bountiful flowing of holy tears? Surely in the sight of Thee and Thy holy Angels, my whole heart ought to burn, and to weep for joy. For in this Sacrament I have Thee mystically present, hidden under another shape. For to look upon Thee in Thine own Divine brightness, mine eyes would not be able to endure; nor could even the whole world stand in the splendor of the glory of Thy majesty. Herein then Thou hast regard to my weakness, that Thou dost hide Thyself under this Sacrament."
-From Imitation of Christ

We are the lovers of Christ, who has hidden Himself in the Eucharist for us that we might know His love, in such a way that we can understand!!!

"Jesus, treasure of the faithful, have mercy on us."

Fides, Spes, et Caritas Christi per Mariam!,
Christina :)

A Reinterpretation of Pirates of the Caribbean III...

Alright, so I have to say before I begin this post that the IDEA for this post came to me a few weeks ago, but I just haven't sit down to write it out until now.

That being said, about a week ago, I went to Mass at St. Paul's and had a little under an hour before Mass started to just meditate on the Eucharist. What struck me about the tabernacle, though, was how it was shaped like a wooden box, which reminded me of that time I saw a rich depth of meaning to Pirates of the Caribbean III, but couldn't sort out exactly what that meaning was.

Please bear with my feeble attempt at making a brave analogy, here!! :)

So, I realized as I was meditating on the Eucharist within the tabernacle, that the cutting out of Will Turner's heart and placing it in this box was done of love, just as Jesus' ever-present love was concretely located in the Eucharist contained within the wooden tabernacle in front of me. A bit of a stretch, but I think it works.

Granted, the movie contains a LOT of other things that don't jibe with Catholicism/Christianity, yes, but I think that the part about the wooden chest is at least salvagable. The chest is called the "dead man's chest," and you can read more about its use in the movie here.

As a side note, I am rather astounded that there is actually an entire wiki subject devoted to this movie. But that's besides the point.

Davy Jones cut out his heart because he was scorned by his love, Calypso, so that he wouldn't have to feel the emotions of love again, and he became a monster. Consider this the sin of Adam and Eve. Davy Jones was meant to ferry souls to death at sea, but instead became a perversion of himself and forgot his purpose, his meaning. Enter Will Turner.

Will Turner's relationship with Elizabeth Swann characterized the entire Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy. His love for her was all-encompassing, and he loved her beyond every obstacle presented, from first movie (the fact that he was the father's swordsmith), to the last (the fact that they had grown distant from one another). It was HIS hand that stabbed the heart of Davy Jones, and after his death, his father cut out his heart (to save him from death) and placed it in the wooden box, delegating the responsibility of ferrying souls to his son, but also causing him to make the ultimate sacrifice in only being allowed to set foot on land once every ten years - the only time he could see Elizabeth.

Is it just me, or does this completely sound like the Crucifixion and Resurrection, with a little bit of Revelation thrown in!?! Jesus' death was a death of pure love for humanity - He redeemed man by stabbing the heart of Satan, the heart of sin, by His sacrifice. He gave us His heart, through the Eucharist, a sacrifice which Our Father called Him to make. He gave His heart to us fully that He might live eternally with Our Father in Heaven, and we await those long ten years until He can return to us, the waiting lovers of Our Dear Lord.

When I look at the tabernacle, I am reminded of the love of Jesus Christ in His sacrifice for us. I think of the suffering He endured, and the longing He must have to see us again, just as we long to see Him. His Mother remains with us on land, doing His work among us, but we await the coming of Christ like Elizabeth Swann - eager to see our lover, eager to spend that day with Him that will be for us the rest of eternity!!!

And, with that, I pray that we all might feel the longing of a lover for Jesus Christ, that we all might await His coming with the same tenderness and compassion that He showed for us in His death on the Cross and His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven!!

Fides, Spes, et Caritas Christi per Mariam,
Christina :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Another article on suffering from the Boston Pilot:

Contains an easy-to-understand analysis of how authentic Catholic suffering is shunned by a world that does not see the value of redemptive suffering.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Virgin Mary Pulls us Closer to Love!!


Mat Kearney has always been a favorite artist of mine, but check out these lyrics:

She got the call today, one out of the gray,
And when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away,
She said she didn't believe it could happen to me,
I guess we're all one phone call from our knees.
We're gonna get there soon.

WHOAH! Does this sound like the annunciation or what?!?!?! We ARE all one "phone call" from God away from ending up on our knees, worshipping before Him, once we realize His call to us!! And we're always hopeful - we're gonna get there soon!!

If every building falls, and all the stars fade,
We'll still be singing our song - the one they can't take away.

YES! Remember the post on "Magnificent" and how Mary was born to sing for God??? Well, THIS is the song that no one can take away from us!!! EVER!!! Jesus and Mary sang the perfect duet - melody and harmony.

I'm gonna get there soon, she's gonna be there too,
Crying in her room, praying "Lord, come through,"
We're gonna get there soon.

YES! Throughout all our troubles, our worries, she suffers with us, she prays to God that He might come to our aid, because we are her beloved children!!! She cries and prays with us, she's there with us praying to God on our behalf, offering up our prayers to Our Lord that He might accept the prayers of His Dear Mother!

Oh, it's your light, oh, it's your way,
Pull me out of the dark, just to show me the way,
Cryin' out now, from so far away,
You pull me closer to love, closer to love.

Mary's light and simple, loving way are what make us fall in love with her. She saves us from darkness, she is our little light in the darkness of our sinful nature!! She leads us, PULLS us away from darkness so that we can see "the way" - Jesus's way, which is also her way! So, we can imitate her in the confidence that she is God's prototype of the perfect woman! We cry out to her, and she pulls us "closer to love" - closer to God Himself!!!

I can't help but love this song! I was trying to figure out why the lyrics were so captivating, why it was considered a "Christian" song, when I couldn't see the connection. It really strikes me as a CATHOLIC song, because it talks about Our Mother!

Kearney is actually a Christian artist, and, post reading his bio, it seems as though he writes more thematically than anything. What I love about his music is that it's very relatable, very real - we can all imagine the situations that he puts forth in his music in any movie that we've seen, or any person we know, or any problem we face. His music is influenced by hip-hop and acoustic guitar, which is an awesome mix, and is popular, so his music makes waves in mainstream markets, too. He says of his music that, "hopefully there is a depth and intimacy of songwriting that goes beyond the novelty of a funky guy with an acoustic guitar. When I set out to write, I want to write something that will rip your heart out and connect with you. Great songs connect beyond genre and style." How true!!

My favorite part of his bio, though, is that he said "the roots of [Undeniable - one of his songs] are really in seeing joy on the other side of pain-of coming to know God and the undeniable nature of who He is." Joy in suffering, right there.

Kearney had a tough time in college, getting lost before finding Christ. "God found me when I was at my lowest point. That was the first time in my life when I really felt like I understood who Jesus was-it was more than just knowing about Him, I felt like He met me in that time and place." Amen. This is the wisdom of a Pope translated into the everyday language of a humble songwriter - my favorite kind of translation. :)

There's another song by Parachute called "She is Love" ( which is rather repetitive, but the lyrics go like this:

I've been beaten down, I've been kicked around,
But she takes it all for me.
And I lost my faith, in my darkest days,
But she makes me want to believe.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
She's all I need.
Well I had my ways, they were all in vain,
But she waited patiently.
It was all the same, all my pride and shame,
And she put me on my feet.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
She is love, and she is all I need.

Okay, so the "she is all I need" part is obviously false - we need GOD. But she is the path that leads to God, so I consider the song to say, "she is the only path I need to reach God, because she is the Mediatrix, the Daughter of the Father, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and Mother of Jesus."

Let us all remain ever hopeful, ever striving toward God despite our sinfulness, because His mercy is all-encompassing. Let us model ourselves after the humility of His handmaid, who waits for us patiently and accepts us, prideful and shameful though we are, into her loving arms, making us believe even more in God, making our hearts thirst for that faith she possesses.

They call her love. :)

Fides, Spes, et Caritas Christi per Mariam,
Christina :)

At the foot of the Cross...

Most times, when we meditate on the suffering of the Cross, we think about the face of Our Lord, in holy suffering, His eyes cast upward toward Heaven, His forehead wrinkled in pain, His mouth curled up in the suffering of the long hours before He would rise in glory again. Yet, do we ever consider His feet? Strange, I know, but His feet are one of the most under-appreciated, meaning-rich subjects to contemplate on during the Crucifixion.

Jesus was nailed to the Cross with three nails by His hands and feet - one nail for each hand, and one nail for both feet. Father, son, and the Holy Spirit - four words, three parts of the same being. His hands were the source of all His blessings, they were the same hands which He used to eat, the same hands which He used to work with His father, the carpenter, the same hands that He healed with, the same hands He used to wash the feet of the disciples. Yet, His feet were the same feet with which He took His first steps, the same feet that took Him everywhere to do His ministry, the same feet that Mary, sister of Martha, anointed with oil and wiped with her hair, the same feet that were nailed TOGETHER on the Cross.

We all know that, as the Church, we are the "hands and feet" of Christ. We are to do in the world as He did, we are to work and pray and He worked and prayed. Yet, it seems to be much easier for us to imagine being Christ's HANDS than His FEET, and I'll explain why.

We all enjoy the goodness that comes of going to soup kitchens and volunteering, and that feel-good feeling after helping someone we know or don't know. This is our being the hands of Christ, the direct helping of others, closest to our hearts, with a great degree of control and safety. Our hands never touch the ground. We can see in front of us dangerous surfaces that it will hurt to touch, and so our eyes can tell our hands not to touch those surfaces. We can finely tune our motor skills so that the things we do pick up are methodically held and placed back down again, all under our control. We can do many great things with our hands, we can build, we can express ourselves (I AM Italian, after all - I talk with my hands!!), we can write, we can clap, we can hold others, and we can pray.

But what of our feet? Our feet are underappreciated! Without them, we cannot walk, we cannot run, we cannot balance. We can't stand or feel the beach sand squish in between our toes. And these feet are the same feet that are dirtied by the ground, that step on sharp objects because we can't see them on the floor, that become tired from running around all day, that crack and bruise and don't heal quickly, that are less controlled and can't be used to pick things up (unless you're really skilled! :P). Yet, still we are called to be the "hands AND FEET" of Christ!!!

Think again of the Cross. Jesus's hands were pierced with two nails - I believe that scholars now claim that His wrists were in fact nailed to the Cross, or else His weight would have caused the nails to rip through His hands, whereas His wrists were more substantial. Jesus's hands were roughed up from carrying the Cross, were probably bleeding from splinters from the wood of the Cross, and were definitely bleeding from the nails of the Crucifixion. They are beautiful to meditate on - a pure kind of suffering.

But His FEET! Dirtied, bloodied, caked in the mud and dust of the road while carrying the Cross, covered in the blood of the Cross, pressed together, sweating, and curled up against the weight of His body. The blood on His feet was different from the blood on His hands - the sweat and blood was mixed with dirt, with mud. It was dirty blood, but it was PRECIOUS blood. ADORABLE and IMMACULATE blood. Blood of the same feet that had been washed in tears, anointed in oil, and dried with the hair of a penitant sinner.

Our call to be the "hands and feet" of Christ includes this image. We are to kiss His immaculate feet, disregarding the dirt and grime and sweat, because His precious blood is still there!!!

Another thing to remember is that the woman weeping at the FOOT of the Cross is Mary. She did not weep "underneath" the Cross, "below" the Cross, "beside" the Cross, but rather at the FOOT. She first adored His suffering feet before the image of the Pieta:
Before she cradled Her beautiful Son and Savior in her loving arms, before she held with her hands his torso in her lap, she adored His pierced and bloodied feet. She wept over His dirtied, bloodied feet - the part of Christ that was closest to her eye level, that was best seen by her from her view at the foot of the Cross.

So, in being the "feet" of Christ, we are called to the dirt and grunge not of a "comfortably removed" volunteer position or the ability to go home at the end of the day and forget about work, but rather the confusion, obscurity, and GRUNGE of everyday life. Helping someone in a soup kitchen seems infinitely easier than forgiving a close friend's betrayal. Participating in a big brother, big sister program seems so much easier than enduring the ridicule of friends for participating in a pro-life rally, or making sure to be a good role model to your OWN brother(s) and/or sister(s) ALL THE TIME. It looks good on a resume, AND it makes you feel good! But, we have to remember that God's goodness is needed in every corner of our lives, and we can't attend to the wounds in our hands while ignoring those of our feet!

As the "feet," we are called to the grunge work of the Cross - the dirty, confusing, often publicly scorned work that is necessary for the body to move from place to place. All the martyrs of the Church understood this - their deaths were that same work. Just like football coaches place an emphasis on the "footwork," just like a baby's first steps are taken with tiny feet, so too are our feet a central, albeit underappreciated, part of our ministry!!

Let us meditate always on the feet of Christ with wonder and mystery, thanking God for the gift of the underappreciated, the beauty of obscurity and the blessing of His mercy, that He accepts us as we are, at His feet, and He makes us holy by His blood!!!

Fides, Spes, et Caritas Christi per Mariam,
Christina :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Underdevelopment of a Developed Country

"Countries like ours are full of people who have all of the material comforts they desire, yet lead lives of quiet (and at times noisy) desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motorcars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well-balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it....... it aches!!!" - Bernard Levin

Our nation is a nation of costs and benefits, buying and selling, economic slump and economic boom. But what of our humanity??? What is our nation when we take away the price tags, the technology, the MONEY?? What do we possess?

Most people would say, well, we have American VALUES!! The hard-working, self-made man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps!! We have JUSTICE in courts. We have a fighting spirit that doesn't take "no" for an answer - it's people like that who won the Revolution!!

Yet, let's take a minute to consider these values for what they really are, which is a mere shadow of morality. The hard-working, self-made man attributes all his success to HIMSELF and LUCK, never stopping to realize that the man down the street who attempted the same process in his grab at success was unable to attain his goals. We define "success" as the "nice things" we own, the people we associate ourselves with, or the restaurants we frequent. Our possessions define our success, and even people fall under this category. Our courts define their own justice based upon personal moral opinion rather than definite moral TRUTHS, and rule according to how they FEEL rather than how things ARE.

This is NOT a society based on solid values - it is a culture of shadows!!! And, when we reach out frantically grasping for satisfaction in our possessions, in our friends, and in our lives in general, looking for contentment, for peace, for LOVE, we find that there is something missing, that our hands can't feel what we thought would be there - we're reaching out and touching the mere shadow of something greater!!!

Pope Benedict writes in Caritas in Veritate that, "In the context of cultural, commercial or political relations, it also sometimes happens that economically developed or emerging countries export this reductive vision of the person and his destiny to poor countries. This is the damage that 'superdevelopment' causes to authentic development when it is accompanied by 'moral underdevelopment.'”

It is necessary for a country to have things. Things help us, they are convenient. But it is even more important for a country to have GOD. Everything means nothing without God. God is the meaning, the love, and the light behind the shadows that we reach out to!!! We're simply blind to the Greater Being standing tall in front of us!!

Let us reach out always past the shadows of the "things" in our life to Our Lord God who loves us! Let us always pray for Our Mother Mary's guiding touch, that she might gently place her hand on top of our own, and lead it lovingly toward the feet of Our Savior!!!

Fides, Spes, et Caritas Christi Per Mariam,
Christina :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Joy in Sorrow Part 2

I have a newfound devotion for Our Lady of Sorrows, which was a natural devotion, because I have always seen the sorrowful mysteries as the most powerful mysteries to pray with (in my mind).

Cut to me joyfully discovering an entire devotion based on Our Lady of Sorrows and re-realizing / rediscovering that her devotion is a part of the five-fold scapular (!!!!!).

Our Lady is by far the most beautiful creature ever created, as if there was any doubt.

I love how this Litany begins with deep, deep pain, hurt, and sorrow and ends in glory, strength, and joy!!!! :) It is the same process we all should take in glorifying God through our sorrows!!! :)

(From Pope Pius VII):

Litany of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
-Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
-Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
-Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
-Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
-pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins,
-pray for us.
Mother of the Crucified,
-pray for us.
Sorrowful Mother,
-pray for us.
Mournful Mother,
-pray for us.
Sighing Mother,
-pray for us.
Afflicted Mother,
-pray for us.
Foresaken Mother,
-pray for us.
Desolate Mother,
-pray for us.
Mother most sad,
-pray for us.
Mother set around with anguish,
-pray for us.
Mother overwhelmed by grief,
-pray for us.
Mother transfixed by a sword,
-pray for us.
Mother crucified in thy heart,
-pray for us.
Mother bereaved of thy Son,
-pray for us.
Sighing Dove,
-pray for us.
Mother of Dolors,
-pray for us.
Fount of tears,
-pray for us.
Sea of bitterness,
-pray for us.
Field of tribulation,
-pray for us.
Mass of suffering,
-pray for us.
Mirror of patience,
-pray for us.
Rock of constancy,
-pray for us.
Remedy in perplexity,
-pray for us.
Joy of the afflicted,
-pray for us.
Ark of the desolate,
-pray for us.
Refuge of the abandoned,
-pray for us.
Shield of the oppressed,
-pray for us.
Conqueror of the incredulous,
-pray for us.
Solace of the wretched,
-pray for us.
Medicine of the sick,
-pray for us.
Help of the faint,
-pray for us.
Strength of the weak,
-pray for us.
Protectress of those who fight,
-pray for us.
Haven of the shipwrecked,
-pray for us.
Calmer of tempests,
-pray for us.
Companion of the sorrowful,
-pray for us.
Retreat of those who groan,
-pray for us.
Terror of the treacherous,
-pray for us.
Standard-bearer of the Martyrs,
-pray for us.
Treasure of the Faithful,
-pray for us.
Light of Confessors,
-pray for us.
Pearl of Virgins,
-pray for us.
Comfort of Widows,
-pray for us.
Joy of all Saints,
-pray for us.
Queen of thy Servants,
-pray for us.
Holy Mary, who alone art unexampled,
-pray for us.

Pray for us, most Sorrowful Virgin,
-That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of grief pierced through the most sweet soul of Thy glorious Blessed Virgin Mother Mary: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of her Seven Sorrows, may obtain the happy effect of Thy Passion, Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Suffering for Rejoicing and Rejoicing for Suffering!!

"What a strange concept!!!" one might point out - and rightfully so!!

Yet, when one contemplates on the Eucharist, it doesn't seem so strange! There is a BEFORE, and there is an AFTER. The BEFORE is the suffering, the Crucifixion, the sorrow of the cross, the social shame of the crown of thorns, the physical pain of the scourging at the pillar, the emotional and mental ANGUISH of the agony in the garden (which is, to me, the most suffering that was done in the Crucifixion, simply because Jesus ANTICIPATED and KNEW all that was to come, and that He had to ADDITIONALLY give his "fiat" in order for God's Will to be done!!). But the AFTER - whoah! The after is the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the Crowning of Mary as QUEEN of Heaven and earth!!!

What a contrast - there is both the most intense suffering and the most beautiful rejoicing known to man in the SAME act! We can both suffer and rejoice in receiving Communion at the same time - when we contemplate on Our Savior's suffering, it makes us want to cry in sorrow, and when we contemplate on His Glorious Resurrection, it makes us want to sing and shout to God all our praises!!! And, throughout the Crucifixion, both Jesus and Mary KNEW of the joy to come - yet it did not prevent them from feeling the intense suffering they felt. Throughout the glorious mysteries, there was great rejoicing, yet it did not erase the scar of the Crucifixion - it REDEEMED the wounds without REMOVING them.

Think of Mary, Our Mother and Most Beautiful Woman created by God. Her heart was "Pierced by a sword," as predicted by Simeon, throughout the suffering of Christ, as a cause of her blessed empathy and compassion, she felt intense, deep sorrow for her son - yet she bore the sufferings in the deep joy and peace that comes from God alone! Her suffering was the worst known to man in all of his history, yet it was met with a peaceful joy greater than any that man has known in the depths of her soul - two great titans of emotion meeting on the perfect field of Our Lady's soul!!! And they shook hands and sat down together - both coexisted in her soul not because they are enemies who had called a truce, but rather because they exist together in a marital union, because joy does not exist without suffering, or suffering without joy. In fact, not only did they shake hands, but, thinking on their marital union, they MADE LOVE in that holy of holies!!! Is that powerful enough of an image for you?! They are so at one with one another that they literally and figuratively (as if there even IS a figuratively for this term) MAKE love - they are the building blocks of what love IS at its VERY CORE!

It has ALWAYS been this way!! It has ALWAYS been that when one hand gives joy, the other one also gives suffering. When one hand gives suffering, the other one also offers joy! We are offered ALL by God!

In our pains and sufferings, God always offers us His divine, healing love. Our scars are constant reminders of His beautiful love and our sorrowful pain, but they must exist together. We can look at our physical scars and remember whimsical stories about kids climbing over chain link fences, tripping and falling on concrete sidewalks, or being chased by overly excited dogs. We can itch our mosquito bites and think of the annoyance it is to constantly have to scratch. But wounds heal, mosquito bites stop itching. Then we make new scars, new mosquito bites. It's an endless process of hurting and healing, suffering and rejoicing, pain and beauty.

Anyone who has read the Great Gatsby can attest to this not-so-strange coexistence (although you may not realize it yet - after all, we DID all read that book in like, what, ninth grade??... :) ). For those of you who want a quick refresher course (or just want to review the only thing you actually DID read in high school, let's be honest, now ;) ), here is the sparknotes cheatsheet: Daisy Buchanan, one of the main characters in the novel, is a beautiful wreck. She exists in a world of high-class facades and is married to a husband she doesn't really love - rather, he's convenient to her for a number of reasons. Her manipulative nature is balanced by a strange kind of innocence attributed to her childlike beauty and the love she has for Jay Gatsby, a young-looking, secretive, eccentric millionaire whose primary goal in life is to win Daisy back to himself. All the characters are severely emotionally crippled by their obsession with their own desires, but the love between Gatsby and Daisy serves as the underlying driving force large enough to drive the entire plot.

So, why the literature lesson, Christina? The beauty of the love between Daisy and Gatsby is ultimately doomed to failure - Daisy is married "happily," her selfish nature is a severe hamper to her selfless giving of love to Gatsby, (the list goes on...). Yet, Gatsby still loves her, because he knows that the love he feels for Daisy is TRUE and GOOD, and that truth and goodness is joy and peace to Gatsby. Our hearts are ever seeking all that is true and good, and Gatsby's awareness of that truth and beauty is enough to drive him to seek it at ALL costs. He knows of the pain involved in loving Daisy, yet he will not allow himself to stop the suffering, because stopping the suffering means stopping the love. When we stop feeling love, we allow our hearts to become hard and dried up - so, Gatsby is left with two choices. He can become an empty shell of a man with no love in his heart for anyone or anything, or he can love Daisy and allow his heart to be painfully "pierced by a sword" constantly. And he chooses the latter, as most of us do. For what is life worth without beauty and joy and suffering?!?!

Gatsby's love is only one example of this joy in suffering, though. We experience this every day - when loving our parents means ignoring the fact that they just repeated a story to you for the umpteenth time in the past month, when making sure that our teeth our healthy means an often times painful trip to the dentist.

Our society oftentimes tries to separate our the pain from the beauty - get all the beauty without the pain!!! Take the pill every month, and you won't have to worry about the "pain" of having kids!!! Wear makeup and you won't have to deal with the fact that you aren't comfortable with your body and don't love the way you look!!! Go get drugs for your problems and you won't have to reopen long-standing emotional boils that cover the entirety of your psyche - that's too PAINFUL!!!!!

Yet, look at the effects this has had!!! Women whose dignity has been compromised, but refuse to think about the effects of their actions, because thinking is "painful" - the truth hurts!!! It is MUCH easier to ignore problems and the pain that comes with them rather than actually DEAL with the pain inherent in truth. What a truly sorrowful existence, though!!

It is only when we EMBRACE pain, WELCOME it with open arms, that we are able to truly and fully love, truly and fully be joyous and SING GOD'S PRAISES!!! There is a song by U2 called "Magnificent" ( that I have been obsessed with lately, and one of the lines is, "I was born to sing for you - I didn't have a choice but to lift you up and sing whatever song you wanted me to." For more wonderful and interesting analysis, please see Twisted Mystics, one of my new favorite blogs to frequent(!):

As a singer, this obviously struck me a lot. There is joy in the knowledge of the reason for our existence - to SING for GOD (think of the Virgin Mary - she is whom the song is based upon!). Yet, there is also the knowledge of the deep sorrow that goes along with that singing - the feelings of isolation from God, frustration with the brokenness of original sin, difficulties with temptations. And STILL this is all mitigated by a deep love - God's love.

Our "fiat" to God is a painful yes, and it is difficult, but it is simultaneously EXCEEDINGLY easy and simple and joyful!!! Whoah, right?! This is the greatest paradox of all time!!!

People often talk about having a "broken heart," but I would like to suggest "bleeding heart" as a better image. Our hearts are never broken unless we allow them to fall into despair - the worst enemy of any Christian's faith life! Our hearts were made to be "pierced by a sword" - they are strong and resilient, able to take a good beating and still keep beating themselves. If our hearts are not bleeding, they are not beating, and if they are not beating, then they cannot bleed. One only needs to look to the scourging at the pillar for an example of love in its purest, deepest, and most beautiful form - the emblem of truth, beauty, and goodness for all Christians!!!

Let us pray that we all might have "bleeding hearts," that we might never allow our hearts to harden to stone by the lies of a society bent on the impossibility of true joyfulness without true suffering, that we might understand that "only love can leave such a mark, only love can heal such a scar," and, most importantly, that we might always sing and magnify God with infinite praises through suffering, knowing that we were born in, from, through, and with the strength, conviction, and love of the Crucifixion and Resurrection!!!

Fides, spes, et caritas Christi Per Mariam et Theresa,
Christina :)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

No time like the present - what a gift (ZING! PUN!)!!!

A new day is dawning for all those who weep.
The people in darkness have seen a great light,
The Lord of our longing has conquered the night.

May our tears be turned into DANCING!
For the Lord, our LIGHT and our LOVE,
Has turned the night into DAY!


What a powerful song this is!!! It's always been one of my favorites - it's so upbeat, so acknowledging of our own littleness before God, yet SO AWESOME with His glory!!! His glory shines throughout this song, in such a way that it makes humble our prideful hearts and calls us to Him that we might REJOICE in His goodness!!! It basically is an all-in-one kind of song, the kind that you listen to, and realize that it's perfection goes far beyond its meaning to you at that moment - there are so many layers of meaning that it applies to MANY different situations at MANY different times, and every time its meaning evolves to fit those instances.

Again, WHAT a SONG! :D

We always seem to sleep through the Lord's call, don't we? We are always tired when we realize that we forgot to do the dishes, or feed the cat, or take out the trash - yet, instead of getting up out of bed to go do the things we forgot, we end up just thinking, "I'll do it tomorrow" instead. Then, tomorrow comes, and the opportunity to take the trash out is GONE, because the garbage man came this morning. Or someone else took care of the dishes. Or fed the cat.

But, if only we had ARISEN FROM OUR SLUMBER - ah, how precious that would have been in the eyes of God! Through sleepiness, through the weariness of our bodies, to arise and awaken to achieve God's Will at that very moment - what a blessed act! If our eyes are focused on God, the awakening becomes a part of us - our bodies are at the beck and call of a Will greater than our own, and that Will would never desire of us something that we absolutely cannot do!!!

But, it always calls us to something greater than ourselves, greater than we can ever imagine!!! So, even if we are tired, even when we THINK we should be sleeping, God calls us to AWAKEN so that we might rejoice always in His love!!!

Tomorrow may never come, and THEN where will we be? Asleep at the return of the bridegroom, with an oil-less lamp and no excuse but that we were "tired."

So, TODAY, "Let us build the city of God!" Rejoice, rejoice, for this is the day the Lord has made!!!! Arise to do His Will, that we all might rejoice in His glory!!!

Caritas Christi Per Mariam,
Christina :)