Thursday, October 24, 2019

Receptivity

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

Often when I attend Adoration, I find myself splitting my time between prayer and spiritual reading. The other day the book I happened to take along to the church was my Guide to Benedictine Spirituality for Oblates. I’ve read it several times since becoming at Oblate of Saint Benedict, but never fail to pull new nuggets from its pages.  The page being held by the ribbon marker was an article entitled “Sharing the Mind of Saint Benedict.” Following each article there are questions for reflection that help you put the things you read into practice. One question hit me particularly hard: “How do you understand receptivity?” 

I don’t know that I’ve ever really paused and considered receptivity on it’s own merits before. The dictionary defines it as:able or inclined to receive especially : open and responsive to ideas, impressions, or suggestions.” So while I planned to spend the rest of Adoration reading, I actually spent it praying about this one question. The question in the book was referring to the ways we could be receptive to the teachings of Saint Benedict, and to the mind of Christ. But receptivity is something, I think, that we should be working on and fostering in many ways in our everyday life. It is something that can help us show the love of Christ. 

Think of some of the ways we block receptivity to those around us - thinking we already know all the answers and not really listening to someone who offers their help; being frustrated that someone doesn’t know as much as we think they should and becoming impatient; rash judgment of the person or situation we encounter; not taking a few minutes to listen to the young child that can’t wait to share some news or a treasure they found, or not taking seriously the problems of a teenager that seem small to you, but are huge to them; thinking of your next response instead of listening to what the person across from you is saying; or simply being too busy for the person who loves you and wants some of your time. All of these are ways that we are unreceptive to the people in our lives. 

And what about God? Do we notice the “God moments” in our day? Sometimes things just fall into place, or we are at the right place at the right time, or have the right words for a given situation. God is there and is guiding us to what we need, and providing what other people need through us. Do we notice it? Are we open to it? Do we take some time is silence each day to listen for God in our hearts, or read His Word and let Him speak to us? Many of us are surrounded by different types of noise, often of our own making, from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. Being receptive to God is something we must work at every day.

What is the solution? Well, that’s what I asked Jesus as I sat in Adoration that day. Three virtues came to mind: humility, love, and charity. As I look back over what I wrote down while praying, and what I have written here I can see how those virtues fit as solutions to the above issues. All three of those virtues encourage us to focus outward, to consider and care for the needs of others, and to love them with Christ’s love. Being receptive to the Lord and His gifts, and faithful in prayer, will help us to build those virtues, and in turn become more receptive to both God and neighbor. We will learn, as Saint Benedict instructs, to listen with the ear of our hearts. 



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.
Amen.

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.