Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gregorian entrance



The Lord in His infinite wisdom has chosen the feast of Pope Gregory the Great for my entrance this Saturday. I just learned that Saint Gregory the Great had a major influence on Teresa of Avila, and so I know it is good and fitting that we seek his intercession as I take this step in the way of perfection. Saint Gregory the Great, pray for us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Taking up your cross: Lessons from Sts. Monica and Augustine

I have been anxiously awaiting the feasts of Saints Monica and Augustine this Saturday and Sunday. There is something so special about this mother and her son, which gives them a special place in my heart. Monica is my confirmation saint, whom I also refer to as my patron. And Augustine was a big influence on St. Teresa of Avila, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns- the religious order I am entering in one week!
Although I have been confident in recent years that the Lord chose her specifically for me for a reason, I didn’t really have a good reason for choosing St. Monica as my confirmation saint at 14 years old.  I remember there were cards with saints on them that everyone was looking through in class. I think I was looking for a name that I liked, and Monica stuck out. I also saw that she was the patron of alcoholics, and apparently I already knew how much I liked the stuff ;)  When Monica was little, her parents would have her run down to the wine cellar to fetch them a bottle. She had gotten into the habit of taking little sips while she was down there. One of their servants called her out, and from then on Monica gave it up. So maybe we should pray for Monica’s intercession as I give it up to enter Carmel J
But more importantly, she is patron of wives and mothers. And I still appreciate that, because even though I may not become one in the natural sense, it is extremely important for me to become one in the spiritual sense. We can learn so much from St. Monica about marriage and motherhood; about patience, perseverance, and prayer.
Her parents arranged for her to marry a 40-year old pagan named Patricius when she was 22. He was a character. I don’t think he was the nicest to her or very faithful. And on top of it, the mother-in-law lived with them and gave Monica a hard time as well. But she stayed faithful to God’s will for her and tried to live out her vocation in love. Her and Patricius had three children, Navigius, who seemed to be a good son, Augustine, who was very intelligent, and Perpetua, who joined a religious order. Monica did have the consolation of her husband converting to faith right before his death.
But there’s no rest for the weary. It was around this time that she was given yet another cross to bear. Her eldest son Augustine not only left the faith and was living in sin, but became a heretic. He moved in with a girl who bore him a child. Then, being tortured by the problem of evil, Augustine, in default of solving it, acknowledged a conflict of two principles and joined a Manichean sect that held that view.
When Augustine returned from his studies in Carthage with his concubine and son, Monica had to decide whether to let them into her home. She didn’t want to condone his Manichaeism. But she allowed them to stay after having a dream in which an angel told her that her son would be with her. When she relayed this to her son, however, he tried to convince her that the dream meant she would give up Catholicism. She quickly corrected him because the angel had said he would be with her, not the other way around.
It would be nine more years before Augustine’s conversion. And Monica continued to pray, fast, and weep on his behalf. She implored the local bishop to help her win back her son. He told her that it would be in God’s time, and finally said "go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish."
Then Augustine wanted to move to Rome to teach rhetoric. His mother, still worried about his conversion, was determined to accompany him. He tricked her by telling her he was leaving in the morning, then took off that night while Monica was praying in the church. Did she let that stop her? Nope, she traveled on her own to Rome. And when she got there she found out her son had gone to Milan. So she went home. Just kidding! She followed him to Milan.
In the meantime, Augustine had already met the influential Bishop Ambrose. He first started listening to him speak to get ideas from his rhetoric. But then the content rang so true that Augustine started questioning his beliefs.  By the time Monica arrived, Augustine had renounced his Manichaeism, but had not yet become a Christian.
Monica became friends with Saint Ambrose, who gave her direction. She led women in prayer and in charitable works there in Milan, just as she had in North Africa. She was obedient to Ambrose’s counsel when he told her to give up certain customs practiced by Christians in Africa that were actually derived from pagan rituals.
Augustine had to undergo a period of conversion of the mind and of the will. I think of him and his inner struggle in the first reading for this Sunday’s mass:
Reading 1 Jer 20:7-9
You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

To be intellectually honest and true to his heart, Augustine necessarily was led back to Christ. I love this quote of his that characterizes the pursuit so well:

To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement.

As he moved towards the faith, he had to live that out in the moral dimension as well. When Augustine converted, so did his concubine of 15 years. She left their son with Augustine, and Monica arranged for her return to Carthage, where she lived out the rest of her life in a convent. My friend Mallory asked me if this woman, Augustine’s concubine, is a saint. I don’t think she’s officially declared, but she must be a saint to have that kind of docility and faith.
When Augustine finally converted, Monica felt like she had fulfilled her mission, her reason for living. She died shortly after, and Augustine went on to become a Saint and Doctor of the church.
Just think how different the church would be if these souls would have refused to take up their crosses and follow Him. If Monica had grew weary and given up hope for her son. If Augustine wouldn’t have persevered through his search for Truth. Let us take these great saints as an example. Let us think of them and seek their intercession as we take to heart this Sunday’s readings which implore us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, to let Christ transform us, and to take up our own crosses and follow Him. Then and only then will we truly live.
Reading 2 Rom 12:1-2
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Gospel Mt 16:21-27
Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
"God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."
He turned and said to Peter,
"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life"
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breaking the alabaster jar

After a beautiful send-off from my DC friends, and my parents coming to romantically scoop me up and bring me home, I am here now in Bloomington. But I can't say the same for my cell phone- somehow it didn't make the cut. My roommates have all my clothes now, so you guys might as well keep the phone too! (Just kidding, please send ASAP. I may need to detach from the things of the world, but not yet.) It's a month away- my entrance date is September 3rd. I am both anxious to enter Carmel, and looking forward to this time with family and friends before entering. As I was researching St. Teresa of Avila this afternoon, who I will be presenting to the Dead Theologians Society at St. Pat's of Merna this Sunday, I ran accross this video on the vocation to the cloistered life.



I wanted to share it, because I think this young lady says it better than I can. And I love the reference to Mary Magdalene, who has had a pround impact on me and whose feast we celebrated on July 22nd. Her feast day came at an important time for me, because I think last month I had been feeling particulary unworthy of the call which I am pursuing. But Mary Magdalene shows us that love covers a multitude of sins. A week later, we celebrated her sister Martha's feast day, who is known as the one who served our Lord. This feast day again had perfect timing, as this was the day that not only I was packing up to move, but all my roonmates were moving to a new house as well. We were indeed being Marthas and cleaning ALL the things.



As I grew tired of cleaning all the things,


I thought about how Jesus didn't scold Martha because she should have been at His feet like Mary. He scolded her because instead of focusing on Jesus and humbly accepting God's will for her with a joyful heart, she was worried about what others were doing and upset that Mary wasn't helping her. Little did she know that Mary was right where she was supposed to be, and so was she. So here I am in the world praying for the grace to be generous of what He asks of me this month. But I for one can't wait to break open that alabaster jar for my Lord if that is that is His will for me.



PS- What else am I excited to do?


(edited artwork courtesy of Mallory Quigley :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The contemplative par excellence

On this Memorial of the Imacculate Heart of Mary, I have been thinking about Mary, the contemplative par excellence. In today's reading, when they found Jesus in the temple, it says she kept all these things in her heart. She was just trying to raise her child, but how do you mother your Lord and Savior? And yet He was obedient to her, and loved her. She had been contemplating these profound mysteries since His birth-- we are told at the nativity that she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And at the presentation of the child Jesus, Simeon told her a sword would pierce her heart too, so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare. When we bring things to Mary, she gives them to her Son. So here is the second chapter of Luke, where we read about the nativity, presenttion, and finding Jesus in the temple, and learn from Mary how to keep things in our hearts and contemplate Jesus:

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child;
and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,
he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan'u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity,
and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom;
and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances;
and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions;
and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."
And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
--Luke 2:16-51

Friday, July 1, 2011

Written on our hearts

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The second reading spoke to my heart, especially this verse: "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us."

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.
--1 Jn 4:7-16

Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.
I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.
I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.
Amen.
--St. Margaret Mary Alacoque



 
This line hit me: "Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee. I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart." I imagine our initials and the outline of a heart written like lovers do: "Jesus + Rebecca 4Ever." But a declaration of God's love is much more permanent than carving in a tree. His Love is written on my heart, my name on His Sacred Heart.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Love Story

I have great news to share: I have been accepted to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in St. Louis, MO. This is the desire that the Lord has put on my heart; the invitation that He's extended to me, and given me the grace to respond with my "fiat."



As corny as it seems, I've often found myself relating to this song in a profound way. My journey and my vocation are ultimately a love story-- this is all about one Person, Jesus Christ. It's not merely that I love Him, but that He first loved me. And that Love has so overwhlemed me, that I can do nothing less than consecrate myself to Him entirely; to give my whole life to Him, as little of a gift as it may be. And therein lies my happiness, to be with my Savior not just in this world, but for all eternity.

"Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. "Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer." --Isaiah 54:1-8