Upon this Mountain: On Carmelite Prayer

Upon this Mountain provides a beautiful and succinct introduction to Carmelite prayer.  “We are never alone on this most solitary of paths.  ‘We are nudged along, taught, and inspired by so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us’” p. 7.   The author is able to simplify and bring us into Carmelite prayer.  So much of my own prayer has been about bringing myself into just the right place, time, position, attitude, to drive out all my distractions and settle into a fleeting moment of prayer.  “Teresa’s own interior liberation came when she finally stopped forcing herself…and allowed herself simply to enjoy a friendship with Christ Jesus.” P.8 .  Can it possibly be this simple?  Can I stop the searching, practicing and study and simply be in the presence of my prerequisites for a serious life of prayer are love of others, detachment at all levels and humble self-knowledge.” P. 8.

Once I have managed to simply turn to Jesus as my friend, there I will meet God in the depths of me.  I have very dear friends who I don’t hold back from.  I love them and they love me, and I am completely myself with them.  I am safe from judgement.  They listen to my feelings and musings of life with patience and love.  They are given by God as a glimpse of the friendship that I can have with Him.   I love that the Carmelite tradition encourages me to “have confidence in following the way of prayer that suits us.” P.12.  I can be alone in prayer with God himself.  I don’t need to be impatient with myself.  I only need to trust that I will find the God in me through my prayer and then I will find him everywhere; “turn our attention in faith and love to the one whose attention never leaves us for a moment … whatever is on our heart when we come to prayer can be allowed to be there, for it is already on the great heart of God and he lives its reality with us.” P. 13. 

When I realize these truths, I will come into the “same personal contact with the Lord as men had during his life on earth.”p.14.  I like how Teresa “advocates simple attention to the immediate presence of the Lord within us here and now.” P. 15.  I don’t need to find a special moment because the moment is always now to say, I see you here Lord.  I am here with you, and I am yours.  I come to do your will.  My husband and I recently had a beautiful experience of visiting my husband’s siblings who we had not seen in two years.  They live across the country from us.  We were blessed and happy to be present with them.  No expectations, only the love and familiarity between us.  That is the relationship that I have wanted with God.  It is already there for me when I turn to Him.  I appreciated the description of night as “we are plunged into darkness, not because the light is not shining but because the brilliance blinds us.” P. 18.  I do not need to fear the night.  I need to be “aware of the startling simplicity and immediacy of God’s oneness with us”. P. 18.  

Chapter two further describes prayer as relationship.  John of the Cross describes this as between Lover and beloved.  “God wants to relate to the real person that I am and the real God that He is” p 20.  He wants to engage with the real me.  This will involve really getting to know myself and pealing away layers of protection.  This is an interesting way to think of the dark night.  When I fail to see God, it is perhaps because I am not spending time in my own hidden depths where God is.  God is waiting for me to turn to Him.  In the journey, we confront our faults and weaknesses as we learn to cast off the persona we present to others and be with our God.  “We can only consent to live more and more in that light:  to know that we are naked, and not hide. “ p. 25.  “In the stillness of utter simplicity, we are one with God, because he has already chosen to be one with us.” P. 26. 

Chapter three brings us into stillness.  An elderly member of the author’s order explained how to enter into silence by “listening to the silence of the chapel”.  McCormack extends this to the silence of where we are.  We can absorb the moment of the chapel or garden or wherever we find ourselves.  Become aware of the traffic noise, the fan, and then the noise of my own breathing.  Then, repeat a simple word or phrase.  For me it is “Be still and know” or “Jesus, I trust”.  This book was rich and profound in its simplicity and depth.  “If all we can do at the time of prayer is to be there, then we must be content to sit there and just be.” P.32  In that space we meet our God.    

Family doesn’t give up on anyone.

You each have your own stresses right now. The pandemic has gone on so long. You are working long hours. Caring for little ones. Being there for family and friends. Know that we love you and we are here for each of you.

Cherish our family relationships with each other. None of us are perfect and each of us are special in our own ways. Where you are weak, I am strong. Where I am weak, you are strong. Our family is a beautiful pattern of people knit together by the love you share with us and with each other. Sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, daughter in law and sons in law, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends for life. Our family is strong because of our unconditional love, forgiveness that is granted without strings attached. Grace from God and sharing that grace with each other. Build each other up. Be patient with each other. Communicate. You are loved and valued. No one is left out and no one is left behind. We are each as close as we choose to be. God bless each and every one of you.

Love,

Mymom

See others through the eyes of Jesus

I can’t think of a person who hasn’t let me down at one time or another.  And I’m sure that I have let others down many times.  God wants us to depend on Him.  He loves us and is always there for us if we turn to Him and put our trust in Him alone.  Only Jesus who leads us to the Father and works in us through the Holy Spirit.  If we can trust God, then we are free to joyfully love others and allow them to be imperfect.  We can love who they are and not who we wish they would be.  We are all imperfect humans trying our best in an imperfect world.  Our sense of sometimes feeling let down often comes from putting too much on the shoulders of that other person to bring us happiness.  Peace comes from those moments when we let Jesus take us by the hand and show us others through His eyes.  Accept, trust, forgive, love.

Love,

Mymom

Do not let the sun go down on your anger

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4; vs 26-27. In my study bible it says – In the case of personal insults, we should strive for reconciliation with the offender before the day’s end. That is a most difficult thing. I have had many times when I haven’t been able to do this and that leads to a sleepless night or a fitful night. Always remember that we don’t have to be perfect. Indeed, we can’t be perfect but with God’s help, we can make progress and do our best. Sometimes, the best thing is to calm down, journal, pray for help and begin again. Then decide whether it is worth the conversation or not. Maybe we just need to let go and love.

Love,

Mymom

Should I join a church? Isn’t it ok for me to just attend?

One of our responsibilities as Catholics is to be part of a church community.  We attend mass weekly.  We participate in the life of the church.  We join the church and are counted as part of the community.  We support the church financially so that it can exist in our community and we can attend the church nearby our home.

When your dad and I were first married, your Grandpa, who was on his church’s stewardship commission, sat down with us and explained that we needed to find a local parish near our home, join it and support it.  It is the only way to grow our faith community and sustain it.  The light bill doesn’t pay itself. Our church needs contributions from every one of us.  We have to pay the electric bill.  We have staff members who bring life to our ideas in the form of our worship, faith formation, and facilities.  We need to pay their salaries.  We have a church mortgage. It takes each of us giving what we can to make this all work.

You participate in the church through your time, talent, and treasure.  If you are gifted with musical ability, you might participate in the choir.  If you are gifted with small children, you might help in the nursery or teach faith formation.  What about your treasure, how can you decide how much you need to give each week to support the parish?   See Deuteronomy 14:22-26 and Acts 4:32-35.  We are asked to give 5 percent to our local church and 5 percent to other charities totaling 10 percent.    Practically speaking, if I work 40 hours a week, a five percent tithe would be equal to two hours of work.

Your dad and I have varied our donations along this guideline.  We do compromise a bit and give 10% of our take-home pay.  Our reasoning is that money will some day come back to us in the form of Social Security, Pension, and Savings and we will give 10% based on our income at that time.  So let’s make this simple.  Assume that you make $20 per hour.  That means that each week, you will take home about $14 after taxes, social security, and 401K contributions for that hour of work.  You may then pledge to give $28 per week.

What if that seems like too much?   I have other monthly commitments.  I simply want to encourage you to give what you can.  Give $14 per week if $28 seems like too much.  Give God your first fruits before you budget for your fitness classes and your coffee shop dollars.  Start somewhere and increase as your ability to better budget allows you to.  Increase your giving level when you receive pay increases.  Be a good steward of the money God entrusts to you.

And what about the Catholic Services Appeal or the other charities that we are asked to give to at our weekly masses?  Those amounts come out of the other 5% of our giving which include other charities as well.  If each family gives, we make our goal.

Think about what you can give joyfully and give until it feels good.  Call your parish office about setting up an automatic withdrawal.  By doing that, you help your church staff know that there is a steady income and how to budget for paying the bills.

May your church community be a blessing to you and you to them all the days of your life.  Oh God, help us to find the local church we need to belong to.  Help us to step up and join.  Help us to contribute our time, talent, and treasure for the good of our community and to help further your Kingdom on earth.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Love,

Mymom

Now that my dad is gone

I recently posted about losing my dad.  He was 90 years old and had lived a life filled with challenges and lots of blessings too.  He was raised during the depression.  He was a teenager during world war 2.  He experienced the promise of the 1950s, he voted for Kennedy, and he voted for Nixon, and he voted for Regan, and he voted in every election of his adult life.  He saw man first walk on the moon.  He watched his children grow up.  He watched his grand children grow up.  He even watched some of his great grandchildren grow into their teen years.  His oldest great grandchild was 17 and his youngest great grandchild was one month old at the time of his death.  My dad knew hunger, cold, joy, accomplishment, love, pain, work, and faith.  My point now is that he lived a long life.  I should be happy for him that he not suffer any more and of course I am.  I still miss him.

About a week before he died, I was able to have a priest from St Anne’s church visit him.  Father Tom stopped by on a Friday morning annointing with the sacrament of the sick (which includes forgiveness for any sins committed) and bringing him communion.  That day, dad was ready to see Father Tom, unlike the June visit at the hospital when he definitely wasn’t ready.  When I called dad that day, he was happy and told me to be sure to call Father Tom and thank him.  I did send a personal thank you note a few weeks later to let Father Tom know his visit and prayer had helped my dad to have a peaceful last week.

I feel gratitude for many things.  I’m grateful for both of my parents.  I’m grateful for the legacy of church and family.   I’m grateful for the lovely funeral that we were able to have for him.  I’m grateful for the people from St Frances who helped, the funeral home, my brothers and all my family.  I’m grateful or the birthday party that we had for him in October.  I’m grateful that we could bring our sons to see my dad on New Year’s Day that week and share the afternoon with him.  I’m grateful for each family member.  I’m grateful that I could visit my dad so often, even visiting the day before he died.

My sadness comes from a place of gratitude for having been his daughter and missing that relationship.  I believe he is with Jesus now.  I believe that although he wasn’t perfect, God forgave him and welcomed him into Heaven where he met my mom and so many relatives and friends that his joy would be overwhelming.  He was my dad.  I hope that he forgives me for needing the help of a long term care facility for his care.  I hope that he is praying for each of us and interceding for our needs.  I hope he will be able to oversee our steps as my brothers and I figure out how to be real grown ups without him.   With our mom and dad with our Father in Heaven, maybe we never really need to be grownups.  We can always be God’s children.

Oh God, please alow my my father and mother  to rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.  Please bless my brothers, my sisters in law, my husband, our children and our grandchildren.  Help us to remember our parents with great love forgiving any failing as you have forgiven them.  Help us to work together to continue to be a loving family through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Love,

Mymom

Prayer overcomes evil

In a world full of sin and evil and apathy and lack of faith it is hard sometimes to see God working in all things for the good of those who love Him. He is present in every moment of every day. He is aware of every breath that we take and cares about every aspect of our lives. We are His children and we are cherished. My prayer of late is all about how we can make a difference to others through our love and our example of mercy and service. I try to remember that when I see evil, I am looking right into the face of the devil and he must be rebuked through the Holy name of Jesus.

I must pray for each person and persistently pray for peace in our day. When I pray the Our Father, the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet and my prayer intentions, God is glorified and He listens and answers according to his Holy will. I can rely on my mother Mary to guide me to her Son, Jesus. I can rely on her to intervene on my behalf.  I ask her to pray for each of us and our intentions. I can have hope in today. I can feel joy in this very moment amidst all the distractions and trouble of the world if my focus is on Jesus. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  Oh God, please help each of us to stay focused on you and your Holy Word.  Please deliver us from evil and grant us the freedom to worship you.  Please grant peace in our day and protect us from evil. Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Love, peace and goodness,

Mymom

Marriage: Be together even when you are apart

In my relationship with your dad, we see each other in the morning as we both wake and get ready for our days. We always say a goodbye with a kiss, a hug, and a prayer for the day. We greet each other with a kiss and a hug. We hold hands. We pray for each other.

Some days are so very busy. There is so little time to be part of each other’s lives when there is so much to be done. So you need to be part of each other. When we married, God brought us together. Two individuals making a marriage with God at the center. When we are together, we are complete. When we are apart, we take each other with us as we go through the day supported in our love for each other. Not together in time and space, but never apart either.

We have been married for almost 36 years. I am always conscious of my husband in my life whether we are together or apart. I go through my day independently, fully supported in God’s love and in the love of my husband.

We are away from each other 10-16 hours a day depending on our work, social, or service commitments. When we are home together in the morning, your dad makes me breakfast and we sit together for a couple moments and enjoy breakfast. In the evening we have dinner together most days although that isn’t always possible. For many years when our children were small, we would stop what we were doing after the busyness of the day, after the kids were in bed, and share time together. This is a time for rest and nurturing each other.

There are many seasons to marriage: a time to be young and dating, a time to be newlyweds, a time to raise small children, a time to counsel teenagers, a time to put those kids through college a time to help aging parents, and a time to be those aging people. Throughout these times there is always each other.

Schedule time for important conversations. I learned to keep a list of what we needed to talk about so that I could let my anger go and know that we would talk when we were both ready. I learned to listen too.

Be confident in your loved one’s love for you. When we doubt each other, our communication suffers and erodes the quality of our time together. Trust each other. Share each other with the world around you and then come back together in the intimate moments, in the sorrowful moments, in the joyful moments and in the ordinary moments.

Oh God, help us to see you in our relationship. Help our commitment, help our communication, strengthen our marriage, be at the very core of us. You are our God. Thank you for our marriage. Thank you for our time together. Help us to do your Holy will each day even when we have to be apart through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Love,

MyMom

Cursillo

I belong to a wonderful community called Cursillo. I attended a Cursillo retreat in 2010. There I found balance in my faith. I had been all about action and I learned at the retreat that I need a balance of piety (prayer), study (Word of God), and action (service). This fuels me, guides me and directs my action so that my life is grounded in Christ.

The weekend retreat is lovely and even better is the 4th day… after the retreat… becoming part of the Cursillo community group reunions. There are weekly small groups. Monthly larger group reunions and other events throughout the year. We talk with each other about our piety, study, and action and encourage each other as we live out the Gospel message in our environments.

The weekend retreat was a beautiful experience. Annually, I work a weekend so that others may experience this encounter with Christ and join in the ongoing community of Cursillo. Through working in various roles, I continue to grow in my love for Jesus and others.

Dear God, I pray for the privilege of making a friend, being a friend and bringing a friend to Christ through Cursillo. I thank you for this experience and these people who love me and help me on my Christian journey. Please help me to live out my Christian faith with grace and love and service as I continue to learn and grow in you through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

Love,

Mymom

Grieving a Sinful World

I am shocked at how commonplace mass shootings have become in the United States. Instead of a couple of times in 100 years, we now know that something will happen and it will happen soon and it will be very, very bad. We don’t even talk about it anymore. Did you hear about … isn’t even in our everyday conversation.

We have to keep talking about terrorist acts, mental illness, isolation, greed, and all the terrible things happening. The devil wants to separate and divide all of us. Republican or Democrat…. do I want to listen to you or not is what goes through our minds. Stop the hatred. Stop the blindness. Stop the separation. Stop the anger. We must love one another. Love is what we need and God is Love.

Pray without ceasing. Love each other. Pray for your enemies. See Jesus in each other. When you start to feel separated, pray “Get behind me Satan.” Recognize that the evil one is behind your feelings of isolation and run back to God. Pray. Love. Treat each other kindly.

Listen. Pay attention to each other. Put down your phone once in a while. Forgive, love, be a friend, and know that I am praying for you. Be a positive, loving, listener and voice your opinion only after carefully praying for direction.

Oh God have mercy on us for we have sinned, we don’t know where to turn, help us to turn to you first and then to each other. Forgive us Father. Love us. Help us. Bless my children and grandchildren and relatives and friends. Bless the people of Florida and people throughout the world as we cry for peace and pray for those who are mentally ill or isolated, Through Jesus Christ our Lord who is Love for the world. Amen.

Love, MyMom