“Look at Him, even just for a moment”

Life is extremely busy. I’m taking another parish nursing online course and my days are filled with family/work/school/volunteer commitments. There’s never enough time.

When the calendar is overflowing, it’s easy to rush through prayer, or worse, stop spending time in quiet prayer. These days, I have to force myself to be still before the Lord.

Providentially, a friend gave me this piece of writing from St. Teresa of Avila. Her wisdom is exactly what a busy person needs.

220px-Claude_Mellan_-_Face_of_Christ_-_WGA14764

“I’m not asking you now that you think about Him or that you draw out a lot of concepts or make long and subtle reflections with your intellect. I’m not asking you to do anything more than look at Him. For who can keep you from turning the eyes of your soul toward this Lord, even if you do so just for a moment if you can’t do more?

He has suffered your committing a thousand ugly offenses and abominations against Him, and this suffering wasn’t enough for Him to cease looking at you. Is it too much to ask you to turn your eyes from these exterior things in order to look at Him sometimes? Behold, He is not waiting for anything else… than that we look at Him. In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him.”

St. Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection, Ch. 26:3

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Palliative Care from a Catholic Moral Perspective

stethoscopeOn 6 February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on physician – assisted suicide. The subsequent federal laws that will determine the provision of medical aid in dying will impact the delivery of palliative care. For this reason, it is important for Catholics to understand end-of-life issues including the provision of palliative care measures. This subject is very broad and among faithful Catholics there is some confusion regarding what measures are acceptable.

Palliative care, especially end-of-life care,  is near and dear to my heart. On my blog at Catholic Insight, I wrote an article that explains end-of-life care from a Catholic moral perspective. Here’s the link, if you’d like to read it.

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com

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The Promise of the Paschal Candle

Also posted at Catholic Insight

640px-DeaconsingingExsultet2007At the beginning of the Easter Vigil, when the congregation is engulfed in darkness, the entrance of a single source of light from the Paschal candle signifies hope, salvation, resurrection. It is the light that we follow into the darkened church, the only light that illuminates our way. As the gentle flame draws us in, we are reminded that our Saviour, through His death and resurrection, has set aflame our new life within Him.

This year, the Paschal candle held new meaning for me as I became the godmother of two of my parish’s RCIA elect,  sisters whose long journey home to the Catholic Church has been challenging. The sisters had never before been to the Easter Vigil; had never experienced the grandeur of the Sacred Liturgy so beautifully celebrated; never fully participated in the Eucharistic celebration; never before received the grace of being a full member of the one Holy Catholic Church. As I sat between the sisters, so grateful to be there with them, and so thankful for our faithful priests who gave of themselves so tirelessly during Lent and the Easter Triduum, I had to stop myself from embracing them and asking excitedly: “See? Isn’t this awesome? You’re part of the Catholic Church now! Isn’t God great?”

The Easter Vigil homilist asked passionately: ” Christ has risen in each and every one of us. Can you feel it? Do you know it? The life of Christ in us that we love more than all else. The life of Christ that burns within us. Would you willingly die for that life?”

The prayers of  Consecration which had not been prayed since Holy Thursday brought a deep sense of comfort that our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament had returned to our parish. But it was the Paschal candle burning brightly that continued to draw my attention.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote of the Paschal candle:

“This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the Paschal mystery of Christ, who gives Himself and so bestows the great light…

We should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves…. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which  God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that He may grant us to experience the joy of His light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of His light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world.” (Homily, Easter Vigil, April 7, 2012)

We godparents lit the baptismal candles for our newly baptized and the gesture of passing on the light of Christ to them was very clear. Receiving and passing on the flame holds great responsibility. The godparents, in lighting the baptismal candles and handing them on to the elect were in effect promising: I pass on to you the light of Christ. I promise to help you grow in your life of faith, and I promise to be a bearer of the light of Christ for you.

In receiving the lit baptismal candle from their godparents, what the elect were saying is this: I receive the light of Christ through my baptism into the Catholic Church. I promise to continue to grow in my life of faith and in my turn, to be a light of God’s goodness to all I meet in the world.

And the congregation that stood in witness were not merely spectators. They promised to live the life of Christ bestowed upon them at their baptism.

The Paschal candle that remains lit until the end of the Easter season symbolizes Christ resurrected in all of us. As it burns it asks the same questions demanded by the homilist: Do you know that our resurrected Lord lives within you? Do you love the life of Christ in you more than anything or anyone else? Will you be the light of God’s goodness and righteousness in a darkened world? Do you love Christ totally and are  you willing to lay down your life for Him?

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

Photo: “DeaconsingingExsultet2007″ by Błażej Benisz – WSD Ołtarzew, http://www.wsdsac.pl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DeaconsingingExsultet2007.jpg#/media/File:DeaconsingingExsultet2007.jpg

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God’s Basin

Jesus washing of the feet

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

(From: The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels by Pope Benedict XVI)

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). God loves his creature, man; he even loves him in his fall and does not leave him to himself. He loves him to the end. He is impelled with his love to the very end, to the extreme; he came down from his divine glory.

He cast aside the raiment of his divine glory and put on the garb of a slave. He came down to the extreme lowliness of our fall. He kneels before us and carries out for us the service of a slave: he washes our dirty feet so that we might be admitted to God’s banquet and be made worthy to take our place at his table – something that on our own, we neither could nor would ever be able to do.

God is not a remote god, too distant or too great to be bothered with our trifles. Since God is great, he can also be concerned with small things. Since he is great, the soul of man, the same man, created through eternal love, is not a small thing but great, and worthy of God’s love.

God’s holiness is not merely an incandescent power before which we are obliged to withdraw, terrified. It is a power of love and therefore a purifying and healing power.

God descends and becomes a slave; he washes our feet so that we may come to his table. In this, the entire mystery of Jesus Christ is expressed. In this, what redemption means becomes visible.

The basin in which he washes us is his love, ready to face death. Only love has that purifying power which washes the grime from us and elevates us to God’s heights. The basin that purifies us is God himself, who gives himself to us without reserve – to the very depths of his suffering and his death. He is ceaselessly this love that cleanses us; in the sacraments of purification – Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance – he is continually on his knees at our feet and carries out for us the service of a slave, the service of purification, making us capable of God. His love is inexhaustible; it truly goes to the very end.

Forgiving Tirelessly

washing of the feetLet us add a final word to this inexhaustible gospel passage: “For I have given you an example: (John 13:15); “You also ought to was one another’s feet” (13:14). Of what does “washing one another’s feet” consist? What does it actually mean?

This: every good work for others – especially for the suffering and those not considered to be worth much – is a service of the washing of feet.

The Lord calls us to do this: to come down, learn humility and the courage of goodness, and also the readiness to accept rejection and yet to trust in goodness and persevere in it.

But there is another, deeper dimension. The Lord removes the dirt from us with the purifying power of his goodness. Washing one another’s feet means, above all, tirelessly forgiving one another, beginning together ever anew, however pointless it may seem. It means purifying one another by bearing with one another and by being tolerant of others; purifying one another, giving one another the sanctifying power of the  Word of God, and introducing one another into the sacrament of divine love.

The Lord purifies us, and for this reason, we dare to approach his table. Let us pray to him to give to all of us the grace of being able to one day be guests forever at the eternal nuptial banquet. Amen!

Homily, April 13, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI. (2009). The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels. Maryland: The Word Among Us Press.

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“Not My Will, But Yours”

apostles asleep in gethsemane(from The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI)

The three Apostles – Peter, James, and John – were asleep [in Gethsemane], but they awoke intermittently and heard the refrain of this prayer of the Lord: “Not my will, but your will be done.” What is this will of mine, what is this will of yours, of which the Lord speaks?

“My will” is that He should not die, that He be spared this cup of suffering. It is the human will, human nature; and Christ felt, with the whole awareness of His being, His life, the abyss of death, the terror of nothingness, the threat of suffering. Moreover, He was even more acutely aware of the abyss of evil than are we who have a natural aversion to death, a natural fear of death.

Together with death, He felt the whole of humanity’s suffering. He felt that this was the cup He was obliged to drink, that He himself had to drink in order to accept the evil of the world, all that is terrible, the aversion to God, the whole weight of sin.

And we can understand that before this reality, the cruelty of which He fully perceived, Jesus, with His human soul, was terrified: My will would be not to drink the cup, but My will is subordinate to Your will, to the will of God, to the will of the Father, which is also the true will of the Son. And thus in this prayer Jesus transformed His natural repugnance, His aversion to the cup and to His mission to die for us. He transformed His own natural will into  God’s will, into a “yes” to God’s will.

Man of himself is tempted to oppose God’s will, to seek to do his own will, to feel free only if he is autonomous. He sets his own autonomy against … obeying God’s will. This is the whole drama of humanity.

But in truth, this autonomy is mistaken, and entry into God’s will is not opposition to the self. It is not a form of slavery that violates my will, but rather means entering into truth and love, into goodness.

And Jesus draws our will – which opposes God’s will, which seeks autonomy – upwards, towards God’s will. This is the drama of our redemption, that Jesus should uplift our will, our total aversion to God’s will and our aversion to death and sin, and unite it with the Father’s will: “Not my will but yours.”

In this transformation of “no” into “yes,” in this insertion of the creaturely will into the will of the Father, He transforms humanity and redeems us. And He invites us to be part of His movement: to emerge from our “no” and to enter into the “yes” of the Son. My will exists, but the will of the Father is crucial, because it is truth and love.

General Audience, April 20, 2011

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

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Jesus, the High Priest

Jesus praying in Gethsemane(from The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI)

The Letter to the Hebrews gave us a profound interpretation of this prayer of the Lord [in] Gethsemane. It says: Jesus’ tears, His prayer, His cry, His anguish, all this is not merely a concession to the weakness of the flesh as might be said. It is in this very way that Jesus fulfilled His office as High Priest, because the High Priest must uplift the human being, with all his problems and suffering, to God’s heights. And the Letter to the Hebrews says: Will all these cries, tears, prayers, and supplications, the Lord has brought our reality to God (see Heb 5:77ff)…

It was in this drama of Gethsemane, where God’s power no longer seemed to be present, that Jesus fulfilled His role as High Priest. And it also says that in this act of obedience, that is, of the conforming of the natural human will to God’s will, He was perfected as a priest.

Furthermore, it … uses the technical word for ordaining a pries.t In this way, He truly became the High Priest of humanity and thus opened heaven and the door to the resurrection.

If we reflect on this drama of Gethsemane we can also see the strong contrast between Jesus  – with His anguish, with His suffering – in comparison with the great philosopher Socrates, who stayed calm, without anxiety, in the face of death, which seems the ideal. We can admire this philosopher, but Jesus’ mission was different. His mission was not this total indifference and freedom; His mission was to bear in himself the whole burden of our suffering, the whole of the human drama.

This humiliation of Gethsemane, therefore, is essential to the mission of the God-Man. He carries in himself our suffering, our poverty, and transforms it in accordance with God’s will. and thus He opens the doors of heaven. He opens Heaven: This curtain of the Most Holy One, which until now man has kept closed against God, is opened through His suffering and obedience….

Dear friends, we have endeavored to understand Jesus’ state of mind at the moment when He experienced the extreme trial in order to grasp what directed His action. The criterion that throughout His life guided every decision Jesus made was His firm determination to love the Father, to be one with the Father, and to be faithful to Him. This decision to respond to His love impelled Him to embrace the Father’s plan in every single circumstance, to make His own the plan of love entrusted to Him, in order to recapitulate all things in  God, to lead all things to Him….

Let us also prepare ourselves to welcome God’s will in our life, knowing that our own true good, the way to life, is found in God’s will, even if it appears harsh in contrast with our intentions. May the Virgin Mother guide us on this itinerary and obtain from her divine Son the grace to be able to spend our life for love of Jesus, in the service of our brethren.

General audience, April 20, 2011

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

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The physical effects of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus

Jesus is nailed to the crossIn last year’s Lent 2014 issue of Catholic Insight Magazine, I wrote an article about what our Blessed Lord would have physically experienced during the scourging and crucifixion. The article was based on the book, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Enquiry, by Dr. Frederick Zugibe. Dr. Zugibe is a forensic pathologist, a past Chief Medical Officer for Rockwood County, New York, an adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University, and the President of the Association of Scientists and Scholars International for the Shroud of Turin. His book is extremely thorough.

The article is also available on the Catholic Insight website. I invite you to read it here and to ponder what our Lord suffered for us.

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Works without faith

file0002002610567In the March issue of Catholic Insight Magazine, a letter to the editor opined that Holy Mass is only a “start” to following our Lord’s teachings. The letter writer stated that while many Catholics “tend to treat” Holy Mass as the “principal and only action required of them” he thinks that “Our Lord is more concerned with what we do outside the edifice.” He sees Holy Mass as a “community service” and that lengthy services are “superfluous.”

Obviously, I don’t agree with the letter writer so I wrote a response to the letter on my blog at Catholic Insight. Here’s the link to my blog post.

Copyright – free photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com

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“Keep Watch”

Garden of Gethsemane(from The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI)

Having the left the upper room, [Jesus] withdrew to pray, alone before the Father [in the Garden of Gethsemane]. At that moment of deep communion the Gospels recount that Jesus experienced great anguish, such acute suffering that it made Him sweat blood (see Mt 26:38)

In the knowledge of His imminent death on the Cross, He felt immense anguish at the closeness of death. In this situation an element appeared that was of great importance to the whole Church. Jesus said to his followers, “Stay here and keep watch.”

This appeal for vigilance concerns precisely this moment of anguish, of threats, in which the traitor was to arrive, but it also concerns the whole history of the Church. It is a permanent message for every era because the disciples’ drowsiness was not just a problem at that moment, but is a problem for the whole of history.

The question is this: In what does this apathy consist? What would the watchfulness to which the Lord invites us consist of?

I would say that the disciples’ sleepiness in the course of history is a certain insensitiveness of the soul with regard to the power of evil, an insensibility to all the evil in the world. We do not wish to be unduly disturbed by these things; we prefer to forget them. We think that perhaps, after all, it will not be so serious, and we forget.

Moreover, it is not only insensibility to evil, when we should be watchful in order to do good, to fight for the force of goodness. Rather it is an insensibility to God: This is our true sleepiness, this insensibility to God’s presence that also makes us insensible to evil. We are not aware of God – He would disturb us – hence we are naturally not aware of the force of evil and continue on the path of our own convenience.

General Audience, April, 2011

Source:Pope Benedict XVI, compiled by Thigpen, P. (2013) The Faith: Reflections on the truths of the  Apostles’ Creed from the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor

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Contemplating Christ Crucified

the-Crucifixion1(from: The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospel by Pope Benedict XVI)

A verse of John’s gospel … refers to a messianic prophecy of Zechariah: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (John 19:37). The beloved disciple, present at Calvary together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and some other women, was an eyewitness to the thrust of the lance that passed through Christ’s side, causing blood and water to flow forth (19:31-34). That gesture by an anonymous Roman soldier, destined to be lost in oblivion, remained impressed on the eyes and heart of the apostle, who takes it up in his gospel. How many conversions have come about down the centuries thanks to the eloquent message of love that the one who looks upon Jesus crucified receives?

In the encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, I wished to emphasize that only by looking at Jesus dead on the cross for us can this fundamental truth be known and contemplated: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). “In this contemplation,” I wrote, “the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move” (12).

Contemplating the crucified One with the eyes of faith, we can understand in depth what sin is, how tragic is its gravity, and at the same time, how immense is the Lord’s power of forgiveness and mercy.

… Let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality. Looking at Christ, we feel at the same time looked at by him. He whom we have pierced with our faults never tires of pouring out upon the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love.

May humankind understand that only from this font is it possible to draw the indispensable spiritual energy to build that peace and happiness which every human being continually seeks.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, pierced in spirit next to the cross of her Son, to obtain for us a solid faith…. May she help us to leave all that distances us from listening to Christ and his saving Word.

Angelus, February 25, 2007

Source: Pope Benedict XVI. (2009). The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels. Maryland: The Word Among Us Press

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