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 :)