Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Your Guardian Angel Misses You!

 Staying at the Daughters of Saint Paul convent for a week last Spring was an absolutely wonderful experience. The pre-scheduled rhythm of life, prayer, Mass, meals, and friendly and welcoming sisters were all an absolute joy. Yes, life in the convent was absolutely perfect…and then I showed up. 

When we pulled up to the convent and saw one of the sisters holding the front door open for us, I shouted, “Hi! We made it!! It’s so great to see you!!!”, which would have been fine if it wasn’t nearly 10:00 pm with most of the sisters trying to get to sleep after a busy day. The next day, after coming back to the convent at night, I arrived at the door of my room only to realize I had locked my keys inside when I left earlier. This time, instead of waking everyone up by shouting, it was a 10:00 pm text for help that roused a sister to come to my rescue. 

And if all that wasn’t embarrassing enough, my final act was accidentally kicking a doorstop  holding open a hallway door out of it’s place. That may not sound like a big deal, but that particular doorstop had probably been in its place for years without ever being moved, because when we tried to put it back in to hold the door open, we couldn’t figure it out. The door continually overpowered the small rubber stop with each new attempted placaement, leaving us all puzzled with how we were going to get this door propped open again. 

I’m guessing I’m not going to be getting any invitations to your home after reading all of this…

As we continued to struggle with the doorstop, I had the idea that we should probably pray for help with the situation. I mean, we were in a convent after all. Immediately, two sisters who were watching this whole ordeal unfold dropped to their knees and began praying. You can probably guess how the story ends. As soon as they said “Amen”, the doorstop held the door open as it had done before and all was back to normal. I mean, we were in a convent after all.

One of the sisters mentioned something along the lines of “My Guardian Angel never lets me down!” Like a lightning bolt, I was struck with by the sad truth that I have been neglecting my Guardian Angel for a really long time. Don’t get me wrong, I still pray the Guardian Angel prayer with my kids every night before bed; you know the one: 

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide.

But outside of that prayer, I never really think of asking my Guardian Angel to help in my daily life. Imagine that! An angel, the angel, assigned to me personally by God, at my side every single day of my life from conception to now, and I haven’t been asking for their help?!

What a missed opportunity! What a whole bunch of missed opportunities!!

Thankfully, God is so gentle with us. He uses simple situations, like trying to get an old rubber doorstop back in place, to wake us up to realities that have fallen asleep inside us. He uses seemingly meaningless accidents and odd situations to pull us closer to Him and to remind us of the truth of Heaven and the power of prayer. He uses simple things about us, like my clumsiness, to remind us that we are loved and cared for in ways beyond our imagination.

So if it’s been a while since you’ve reached out to your Guardian Angel, take this as your reminder that they care about you, they miss you, and they want you to say hi! 

Monday, June 3, 2019

A Reflection on the Luminous Mysteries

Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here! 

Ever since my conversion to Catholicism I have been determined to love the Rosary.  I struggled, questioned and studied my way into a relationship with the Blessed Mother, but even through that process I was drawn by the Rosary which was clearly, as John Paul II said, the prayer of the Gospels. That said, my devotion to it sadly ebbs and flows. I would love to tell you that I pray it daily, but all I can honestly tell you is that I want to pray it daily. Sometimes I have a good run, sometimes there’s several days in between. Thankfully our parish prays it during a Holy Hour three times a week and that keeps me on track when I otherwise probably wouldn’t fit it in. I have also taken to putting a handy “marker” on my rosary, so I can pray a decade when I have time, mark where I left off, and pick it back up where I left off at the next opportunity.

I also fight distractions in the Rosary, which seems to be a common problem. I recently listened to a talk by Brant Pitre that renewed my love of this prayer, and taught me quite a bit that I didn’t know. (I don’t get a thing if you buy that talk, I bought it myself, think it’s incredible and highly recommend it.) Clearly, my relationship with the Rosary has had it’s high and low points, but I still love the prayer and am determined to stick it out even at the times when it’s hard. And as Meg Hunter Kilmer said in her blog post about her relationship with the Rosary - our God is a God of surprises, and sometimes He will speak to you clearly when you least expect it. Recently I have been studying on the argument of some Protestant believers that God works alone and we shouldn’t talk to the Saints, have a ministerial priesthood, etc. and the way the Catholic Church counters those arguments. This was clearly (subconsciously) on my mind as I picked up my Rosary a couple of Thursday’s ago to pray the Luminous Mysteries. What I’m going to share with you here is simply what I heard as a result of my meditation on those mysteries, in hope that it might prove fruitful to you as well.

First Luminous Mystery - The Baptism of the Lord
John the Baptist was clearly a part of Christ’s salvific mission in many ways, but very directly here when Jesus “baptized baptism.” John was clearly hesitant, and seemed to feel unworthy to do what Jesus asked of him, but Jesus was persistent in His call and John responded and baptized his Lord. Jesus could have instituted Baptism any way He wanted (he could have baptized Himself even!), and He chose to do so with the assistance of John the Baptist.

Second Luminous Mystery -The Wedding at Cana
This is one of my top three favorite Rosary mysteries - alongside the Visitation and the Agony in the Garden. Mary’s participation in God’s plan is apparent from the Incarnation, but we see it so plainly here when she, out of love for the couple at the wedding, becomes a catalyst so to speak, for Jesus launching His public ministry. Again, He could have began His ministry in any way, with any miracle, but He chose to do so at the request of His Blessed Mother instead of acting alone.

Third Luminous Mystery - Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
Jesus literally sends out His disciples to spread His teaching and proclaim the Kingdom of God. He didn’t do all of the work Himself, He included us, through His disciples. He also didn’t expect them to work alone - He sent them out two by two.

Fourth Luminous Mystery - The Transfiguration
Jesus knows that the mission He has called His disciples to will not be easy. He leads His inner circle up the mountain and blesses them with a glimpse of His divine nature, providing them with an experience that will encourage them in the hard times to come, and giving them an assurance, especially through the appearance of Moses and Elijah, that they are a part of God’s plan and that He will be with them through it all.

Fifth Luminous Mystery - The Institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist
We see very clearly here the Lord’s intent to not work alone, but through His Church, and through us. He institutes the ministerial priesthood, who is our source for the Sacraments right up to today and also the Sacrament of the Eucharist - the source and summit of our faith. In the Eucharist we also see Christ literally fulfill His promise, through His priest’s ability to confect the Eucharist, to be with us always until the end of the age.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Invisible Realities

Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here! 

Halfway through my third year studying theology I have noticed that there are a few key items that are going to come up in every liturgy class, every catechetics class, and every Sacraments class - attendance is low, Sacraments aren’t taken seriously, or people leave Mass early.  In every one of these particular classes I’ve been in at least one, and usually all, of these subjects come up. Considerable time is spent analyzing why this is the case, sometimes ideas are proposed that prove to be successful, and other times not. In recent months I’ve ran across a few things that lead toward, if not a resolution to these things, at least a reasonable explanation for them.

I recently read a new book that explains the difference of being a “fan” or a “follower” of Jesus in an incredibly relatable way. The consensus is that you can learn everything there is to learn about the faith, but if you are not living it and applying it to your life, it’s kind of all for naught. The whole point of learning about Jesus is to live more like Him. When we miss that point, and simply collect knowledge the way we would collect other objects, we miss the mark. Saint Maximilian Kolbe said: “When you kneel before an altar, do it in such a way that others may be able to recognize that you know before Whom you kneel." Everything we learn should lead us closer and closer to Christ, so  much that we should be living examples of discipleship. Not that we should be trying to be noticed for our holiness (Jesus had something to say about that) but it should be obvious to those in the Church around us that we know Whose Presence we are in.

I’ve also been closely following Father Harrison’s thoughts on Sacramentality, and how it is lacking today in the Church. There seems to be either a lack of knowledge or a lack of reverence for the fact that Jesus is truly present in the Sacraments. Our souls are physically changed - infused with grace - by our participation in the Sacraments, and not just in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit, no doubt about that. We know, as Catholics, that we do not consume bread and wine during Communion - the bread and wine is no longer present in spite of what we see with our eyes.  We consume the physical Body and Blood of our Lord. What incredible grace comes from that.

Grace also comes in other ways through the Mass - such as the penitential rite at the beginning. When we pray the Confiteor and “Lord have mercy” our venial sins are forgiven. They are physically removed from our souls. We can’t see it, but it happens. At the end of Mass when the priest gives the blessing - which you miss if you leave after Communion! Stay! It’s important! 😊 -  he is performing a solemn act that calls upon and invokes the aid of God upon the people, that we may be strengthened to go forth, spread the Gospel and resist evil in our lives. The priest, by his authority to act in persona Christi, is bestowing Christ’s blessing on us. Again, so much grace comes into our souls. We can’t see it, but it’s there.

The same thing happens in the other Sacraments. Baptism literally washes the stain of original sin from our soul. It isn’t just a symbol; invisible realities are taking place in our very being. At Pentecost, after Peter had preached to the people they asked him what they should do. He said: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He didn’t tell them to be baptized as simply a sign of their conversion, he said that Christ would forgive their sins. This speaks of a real and tangible, albeit invisible, reality. The same also rings true for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When the priest says the words of absolution we can not see the sins leaving our soul and an abundance of grace taking their place anymore than we can see the wind when it blows, but it’s every bit as real.

These invisible realities are present in every Sacrament, every encounter with our Lord. Living sacramentally means to intentionally acknowledge the presence of Jesus and to let Him work in you and through you to change your life and the lives of others. Things that we can’t see are happening all around us - every prayer you say makes a difference in the mystical Body of Christ. Every time you fast or offer something up, you are assisting the larger Body of Christ. More than one Saint has acknowledged that the invisible realities around us - both good and evil - are more real than the visible world that we can see and touch. As Catholics we are called to fight against evil in the world. This is ultimately a very real spiritual battle, which requires spiritual armor. We may not be able to see it, but it’s the strongest protection that exists - and it’s available at your nearest tabernacle.

A non-Catholic visitor to a  New York City Catholic Church is quoted as saying to the priest “If I believed what you believe - that Jesus is there in that little golden box - I would crawl in here on my hands and knees to worship Him. Yet your people walk out as if nothing special is here. Do they not believe?” Maybe it’s time we, as the Universal Church, pause and intentionally acknowledge the reality of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords physically in our midst, along with the seriousness of the words of Saint Luke in his Gospel: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Saint Luke, ora pro nobis.