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The Illusion Of Easy Happiness: Spiritual Exercise 01/09/23

Happy New Year! We pray that 2023 is filled with many joyful blessings for you and your loved ones. Please join us Monday 01/09/23 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MST (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm EST).

Click on Zoom: https://us05web.zoom.us/j/4537185699?pwd=emRVOEZwMTY1eGN1bzYrU2VldWhiZz09

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

The Illusion Of Easy Happiness

A recent article by Taylor Penley reported on members of Generation Z (born between the late 1990s and 2010 and also known as zoomers) reacting to the recent Dobbs Decision from the Supreme Court, which sent the issue of abortion and abortion restrictions back to the individual states. A young University of South Dakota junior, Lexi McKee-Hemenway, said, “I want to leave the country [after graduating].” I have a lot of mixed feelings: rage, fear, disappointment… Most of all, though, I have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that this is the United States now …. It’s a really scary time to live here,” she said.  She probably does not realize that every country in the world, except 2, has more restrictions on abortion than we do. We are not like Sudan and Afghanistan, but rather we are like Russia and China, with our current laws allowing abortion for any reason, up until birth.

Some respondents in the article indicated they would move to other states where abortion was accessible without restrictions. Though Generation Z seems to have fewer unwanted pregnancies and alcohol use and is more concerned with doing well in school and finding good jobs, they are also the first generation to grow up with the internet and digital technology from the time they were little. And they have never known a time when abortion wasn’t legal.

Pope St. John Paul II, speaking to young people, said: “You, dear young people, be brave and free! Do not let yourselves be taken in by the deceptive mirages of an easy happiness. Follow the way of Christ: he is demanding, certainly, but he alone can help you to savor the full meaning of life and enjoy peace of heart.”

It is probably true that almost no one would say that they want the right to kill their babies. They don’t usually speak of abortion that way, even when they call it a right and couch it in health care terms for the mother (certainly not the baby.). But they are saying they want the right to be sexually active without responsibility, responsibility to their partner, and the child they may conceive together. And they are deceived into believing they cannot be happy without this. Rights have become conflated with easy happiness even though for the last 50 years of “legalized” abortion, people have become less happy and more confused. They discover the hard way there is no such thing as free love. “Rights” do not guarantee happiness. And rights without responsibility do not elevate “free” sexual expression to any kind of fulfilling experience. This is a deception that, unfortunately, can lead in the opposite direction to bondages, brokenness, mental health issues, and even deeper unhappiness.

Generation Z can hardly be blamed for its resistance to religion and attachment to ideas that have been fed to them since they were children. They have been wounded by the lies they have been fed. Yet, God is at work with them in their struggles to find the truth. If you are able to view the reactions of a group of “zoomers” as they watch the series “The Chosen,” you see that they have grown up living all the effects of a broken culture that focuses on rights over gifts and responsibilities. Out of 9 in the group, hardly one comes from a stable family. Several have suffered abuse, some from Church elders, and a number have genuine identity and mental health issues and struggles. Yet the group was open, resilient, and so ready to let Jesus touch them where they had resisted before. Looking for the key to happiness and fulfillment and perhaps discovering for the first time that Jesus is the One who can and wants to give it to us is the breakthrough we all need to make.

Questions for silent reflection:

1. In the midst of your own suffering, do you believe that Jesus wants to make you happy? How do you reconcile that with the sufferings and crosses that come into your life?

2. “The Chosen” presents a portrayal of Christ that emphasizes His humanity while also depicting the miracles He worked in exercising His Divinity. The series has been wildly popular. Why do you think people today are finding healing in this kind of portrayal of Jesus?

3. Pope St. John Paul II once said that the youth of today do not need extra penances in their lives because they have a lot of moral and spiritual suffering already from the breakdown of family and the dehumanizing trends in the culture. What other kinds of suffering particularly mark the world we live in and how can we help each other through them?

4. One of the greatest sufferings in the world today is rejection, isolation and loneliness. What do you see as some of the roots to this and how can you witness in hope to God’s intentions for real relationships with and among us?

 


The Dawn From On High: Spiritual Exercise 12/12/22

Happy Advent and early Merry Christmas to you all. Our next session falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and in anticipation of that, we will not hold our regular online meeting. Please rejoice in the following spiritual exercise as we prepare to welcome our Savior Jesus Christ. God Bless you and may you embrace the hearts of Mary, Joseph and the sweet Christ Child into your heart with overwhelming JOY this Christmas season!

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

The Dawn From On High

From the moment Jesus was conceived and then born into the world on Christmas night, He began repairing the ravages of sin upon humanity. He started by spending nine months in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a mystery from the Heart of God almost wholly unfathomable. There He sanctified His own Mother’s womb in a singular way, along with the wombs of all women who would give this sacred space within their own bodies to new life. At the same time, He made reparation for the millions of women (and men) who would violently reject this life-giving partnership with God.  

The tiny Babe in the Stable also began making up for the sins we so easily commit through our senses. He chose to be born in the cold, in the un-fragrant smells of the earth, in the rough bed of a manger, as a gentle reprimand to the unbridled drift of our nature toward comfort and pleasure, toward materialism and possessiveness, toward indulgence of every kind. As a sign of contradiction from the beginning, He rejected the trappings of honor and power choosing to be born in obscurity, a powerful remedy to the corrupting influence of our own pride and egoism. The profound simplicity of His entrance into our lives was in direct contrast to the superficial complexities we create in service of our own hubris.

This night’s pure angelic joy and glory also stand against the complicated mix of emotions we now build into Christmas, self-centered moods, and feelings that can threaten the blessings of family gatherings, gift-giving, and rightful expectations.  From the beginning, Jesus comes in self-sacrificing service and love. We see the little Babe already at work from the manger, saving the world, reaching to the marginalized first, both the foreigner (the Magi) and the least regarded (the Shepherds), while relying on the alert attention and protection of Joseph and Mary against the so-called powerful of the earth.

The major sufferings of the world today, the destruction of innocence, the fomentation of hate and the explosion of violence, the loneliness, the isolation, the anxiety and fear of our fellow man, the poverty and hopelessness of those who are used as political tools for the power-hungry, the godlessness that destroys the foundations of our communion with one another and leaves structures of sin in its place, are all man-made. But these sufferings have a destiny of encounter with the newly born King of Kings and Prince of Peace.  At the appointed time, the reign of this Child will fill the earth, and the Child Himself, fully grown, will fight and win the ultimate battle against the overarching arrogance that stands against God and blocks our eternal happiness.

Amid the darkness that surrounds us, our souls, like the stable holding the Divine Child, are meant to house heaven within, to be a transit point for the traffic of heaven, and to contain the life-giving food of the Savior Himself where others can come to be fed and filled with hope.  

The key to conquering the sin and suffering in our own hearts is found in the quiet of the Stable, in the silence of our own interior. The key to peace in the world is hidden there, also. 

This Christmas, “Light’s glory is to dispel darkness. Christ has illumined you with wisdom and the fire of his presence. It has been sparked and kindled in you. Let it blaze.” ―( Carryll Houselander) 

Questions for silent reflection:

  1. How would you describe your own soul in light of the Christmas story?  Like the stable?  Like the crowded inns? Like the palace in Jerusalem where the King, surrounded by wealth and finery nonetheless, was anxious about the potential threat to his power? 
  1. What other contrasts do you see between the First Christmas and the way we celebrate it today?
  1. Can you recall Christmases where you can say you experienced the authentic spirit of the first Christmas?
  1. What is the deepest yearning of your heart that you wish to bring to Jesus in the manger this Christmas?

Felicem Natalem Christi from all of us at Facing Our Immortality and Domus Trinitatis

Advent Prayer to be like Mary

Blessed Mother,

Mary, as we reflect on your yes to bring the Savior into the world, we ask that you be with us as we strive to bring Jesus to all those we encounter.

In this season of joyful hope, we turn to you for guidance. May we imitate your loving example, and steadfastly bring peace and justice to our world.

When we are tempted to distance ourselves from another, give us the grace to say yes to charity.

When we are frustrated, let us listen with our hearts to our neighbors.

When we are disappointed, help us seek new solutions as you did when the Inn was full.

Let us embrace our own need for poverty and humility in order to work toward creative solutions for our world as we await the coming of Christ.

Amen.

Copyright © 2021, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.

Good Directions: Spiritual Exercise 11/14/22


Please join us Monday 11/14/22 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MST (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm EST).

Click on Zoom: https://us05web.zoom.us/j/4537185699?pwd=emRVOEZwMTY1eGN1bzYrU2VldWhiZz09

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

Good Directions

In the past, people used to carry cards in their wallets that read: “I am a Catholic. In case of accident, please call a Priest.” These days it might be wise to re-institute that practice. It may be wise to think about leaving a set of spiritual directives in the same way we leave medical directives for the hospital and for our families to follow.

Recently, while on a home visit, I found that one of our neighbors, growing up, had had a stroke and was placed in hospice. She was like a second Mom to the kids in the neighborhood. Her husband had already passed away, and so her two children were left to attend her. But one was unable to do much because of a long-standing drug problem, and the other only managed to see his Mother once because of anxiety issues and a fear of seeing his Mom “like that.” Neither child thought to call a priest, put a scapular on her, ask people for prayers, or do anything other than wait for her to die. They did not plan a funeral Mass for her but just a simple service at the funeral home, after which she was cremated. I was afraid to ask what they did with the ashes.

I took it upon myself to visit her several times, pray with her, put a scapular on her, call a priest to anoint her, and have Masses said for her. I did for her what I would want people to do for me, especially as one is about to step into eternity. Yet, this scenario is becoming increasingly frequent because grown children are no longer practicing their faith and do not think about the spiritual needs of their dying loved ones. Even those practicing the faith have fallen into the bad habit of neglecting the spiritual needs of both the dying and those who have already died. We put everyone in heaven, not remembering that many souls need the purifying fires of Purgatory. The saints tell us that the holy souls actually place themselves there to be worthy to stand before the purity and goodness of God’s spotless love for us. Once a soul experiences this all-encompassing love, there is nothing else they long for. And it is indeed heartless on our part to fail to help them.

Maria Simma, a mystic who received many visits from the souls in Purgatory, said the biggest complaint of the souls who came to her asking for prayers was that their families, their relatives forgot about them and never had prayers or Masses said for them. Sometimes all they needed was one or two Masses so they could be released and finally be with God in heaven, their one overwhelming and burning desire. Maria felt it was, at the least, neglectful on our part and, at the most, cruel to forget them this way since what they suffer in Purgatory is so much greater than we can imagine, and we can so quickly obtain relief and deliverance for them. They cannot help themselves because the time for meriting is passed. But we can help them from here. And they are so grateful that in turn they do much to assist us in return by obtaining special graces for us.

Do not forget to pray for the Holy Souls who are detained in Purgatory from their final beatitude. And seriously consider leaving instructions for your own passing, for Masses and prayers to be said. Nothing will go to waste. If our relatives or we no longer need prayer, Our Lady will apply them to other needy souls. And they will express their everlasting gratitude by imploring all the graces needed in our own lives.

Remember that arriving promptly and unerringly at a destination often depends on the directions we give and receive. This will apply in eternity just as it does here and now.

Questions for silent reflection:

  1. Do you have a clear idea of what you would like to have in place for your own transition into eternity? Have you written it down and shared it so that it is implemented at the proper time?
  1. How do you think about Purgatory? Do you think you can avoid it? Or do you see it as inevitable?
  1. Praying and offering things up for the Holy Souls is an act of charity for which they are very grateful and will offer assistance in return. Choose at least one prayer or practice to do for them daily.
  1. Do you pray regularly and have Masses said for your own deceased relatives and ancestors?

Some additional prayers that can be used:

  1. When blessing oneself with Holy Water: “By this holy water and Thy Precious Blood, cleanse me of my sins Dear Lord and deliver and relieve the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”
  2. According to tradition, St. Gertrude the Great was told by Our Lord that each time she piously recited the following prayer, it would release 1,000 souls (or a vast number) from their suffering in purgatory
    • “Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home, and in my family. Amen.”

Thank you for visiting us. May God Bless you in abundance.

The Triumph Of Truth: Spiritual Exercise 10/10/22

Please join us Monday 10/10/22 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MT (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm ET).

Click on Zoom:https://us05web.zoom.us/j/4537185699?pwd=emRVOEZwMTY1eGN1bzYrU2VldWhiZz09

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

The Triumph of Truth

Imagine you are a farmer and own 500 acres of the best land in the region. This land bears the highest yields and the best produce. But imagine now that every time you tell a lie or are dishonest, a piece of your land, small or large, depending on the size of the lie, goes to your neighbor. Your neighbor is an unbelievably bad farmer. His land never produces anything but thistles and thorns. This alone should induce you to become one of the most honest people in the county so that your land remains firmly and securely in your hands.

This is very much like the challenge we are engaged in every day. The devil, the father of lies, owns vast amounts of territory. And every time we lie, we increase the size of his territory because he owns all dishonesty and falsehood. Depending on our commitment to one or the other (the truth or dishonesty), we can reach the point where the “land” we farm no longer truly belongs to us. It is in the domain of and under the power of the evil one. And the fruit that comes from this land is definitely rotten. History bears this out unequivocally.

Why is this important? Because even little lies amount to territory surrendered to the evil one. And that can add up to a condition wherein one becomes unwilling or unable to see the truth, especially in the face of much larger lies.  

If you ask yourself what the greatest lie ever perpetrated in human history is, many answers come up. But with each of them, one is always left with the same question. How could people have believed that? How could Adam and Eve have believed the lie of the serpent?  After ten years of war, how could the people of Troy have believed the Trojan horse was a gift and not a trick? How could anyone have believed the Nazi propaganda that demonized a whole race of people with the intent of exterminating them? How can people believe that abortion is a right and that a baby is merely a clump of undefinable cells?  

And the greatest lie ever perpetrated? Jesus crucified! How could anyone have believed that Jesus, who went about doing good and freeing the oppressed, who was pure goodness, love, and mercy, deserved to be executed? The very people who had experienced His mercy, forgiveness, healing, teaching, and miracles suddenly find themselves shouting: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

The Jewish Virtual Library states that “Hitler and his cronies orchestrated what they called “the Big Lie.” This theory states that no matter how big the lie is (or, more precisely, because it’s so big), people will believe it if you repeat it enough. Everyone tells small lies, but few have the guts to tell colossal lies. Because a big lie is so unlikely, people will come to accept it.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great anti-communist dissident, noted that living by lies begins when we accept “without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state compels its citizens to affirm—or at least not to oppose—to get along peaceably under totalitarianism. Everybody says that they have no choice but to conform and to accept powerlessness. But that is the lie that gives all the other lies their malign force. The ordinary man may not be able to overturn the kingdom of lies, but he can at least say that he is not going to be its loyal subject.” 

As we look at the world today, grave dishonesty seems to have penetrated into everything from education to medicine to advertising to politics. The Big Lie is used more and more frequently to convince people that what they actually see is not the reality. Yet, says Solzhenitsyn, “a single person who stops lying can bring down a tyranny.”

In his book, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, Rod Dreher says: “It is up to us today to take up this challenge, to live not by lies and to speak the truth that defeats evil. How do we do this in a society built on lies? By accepting a life outside the mainstream, courageously defending the truth, and being willing to endure the consequences.”  “The kind of Christians we will be in the time of testing depends on the kind of Christians we are today.” 

Questions for silent reflection:

  1. Have you encountered any problems with the Truth in your experience with the medical world since being diagnosed with cancer? Do you notice any problems with honesty in the way people are diagnosed and treated?
  1. Has truth ever become an issue in the way you relate to family and friends around the subject of illness?
  1. Fear often becomes a reason for lying and for going into denial even with oneself.  What do you think is the greatest antidote to the kind of fear that causes us or others to want to be untruthful?
  1. What makes the truth beautiful and desirable?  Why would we want to strive for honesty (with charity) in all things?

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The Better Part: Spiritual Exercise 09/12/22

Please join us Monday 09/12/22 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MT (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm ET).

Click on Zoom:https://us05web.zoom.us/j/4537185699?pwd=emRVOEZwMTY1eGN1bzYrU2VldWhiZz09

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

The Better Part

Several years ago, the biography channel ran a number of stories on near-death experiences. One story involved a man, Matthew Botsford, who had traveled to Atlanta for business meetings and was killed in a drive-by shooting outside a restaurant.

After dying, this man found himself closed inside a terrifying darkness, confined to a cell where he couldn’t move to the right or the left and couldn’t move up or down. He heard screams and dreadful noises all around him. He knew he was in hell, and he did not question that he should be there. He understood that love didn’t belong in that place and that he was being kept there and would be there forever. He experienced an “incredible evil pressing in” on him, along with great terror and fear. For Matthew, this was torment. And yet, he was not what the world would consider a bad person. He was a successful businessman. But he understood that he had put success in business, in his projects, in his work, above everything else, above God and his family. He was completely materialistic, and for that, he knew he was where he merited to be.

He explained that at the time, he did not even know the name of Jesus and, therefore, never thought to cry out for help or to express sorrow. 

During his dying experience, he had been rushed to the local ER, and they had worked frantically to bring him back. He had been shot in the head, and after 4 minutes without a heartbeat, his chances of survival were almost zero. But his experience on the other side was one of suddenly seeing an immense hand slowly reach down from above and grab him while he heard a voice “like the roar of mighty waters,” tell him it was not his time. At this point, the doctors were able to restart his heart. But Matthew had gone over 5 minutes with no heartbeat and now had massive brain damage. He was not expected to survive the night. So, the doctors began seeking consent to harvest the organs of this otherwise perfectly healthy 28-year-old.

His wife, who had flown in immediately upon hearing what had happened and seeing his condition, began praying for him, asking God to restore her husband as she knew him. She rightly feared that his survival might be compromised by grave disability from brain damage.  But she refused to terminate life support and promised God she would stay with him. She stayed by his bedside for 27 days when he began to come out of his coma.  

Matthew slowly recovered though he still has the bullet lodged in his brain and suffers certain effects from the shooting. But none is as deep as the realization that hell is real and this life is meant for far more than accumulating wealth and success by the world’s standards. His wife recognizes that God changed Matthew’s heart. He exudes peace and anticipates the life to come now that he knows what the real focus is meant to be. He devotes himself to God, his family, and to helping others understand that every choice here impacts our eternity. He has chronicled his experience in a book called “A Day in Hell” and continues to emphasize we will spend forever in one of two places:  heaven or hell.  

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once lamented the amount of suffering in the world that is wasted because it is not united to the redemptive suffering of Christ. This man discovered that work also can be wasted when we are not working for things that will last. The world may greatly admire us for our energy, industriousness, our successes, and our productivity. But, as Jesus said:  To whom will all your built-up treasure go?  

The “better part” that Jesus spoke of has to be found in each of our lives. And then it has to be embraced as the true treasure that gives us a pledge of heaven and the unimaginable life God has prepared for us. It is profitable to remember that the devil also has a place prepared for us, and where we end up is a consequence of our choices along the way.

Questions for silent reflection:

  1. This story shows the great love and mercy and goodness of God.  In sending Matthew back to his life here, God’s mercy and light extend through Matthew to others here who may be unaware of which direction their own lives are going in.  How has God’s love and mercy come to you and affected your own direction in life?
  1. If we all have to choose the better part, what does the better part look like for someone who has a serious illness or chronic suffering?
  1. How has suffering helped you prioritize what is most important in life?  Are your priorities different now than before you were sick?
  1. Interior peace, peace of soul, (not complacency) even in the midst of struggle, is usually a sign that we are moving in the right direction. Agitation and anxiety often clue us in to areas we need to examine and work on. What is your experience of navigating the challenges of life in the light of eternity? Is there anything right now demanding your attention?

Thank you and God Bless you. We will see you again on Monday, 10/10/22

The Work Of Suffering: Spiritual Exercise 08/08/22

Please join us Monday 08/08/22 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MT (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm ET).

Click on Zoom: https://us05web.zoom.us/j/4537185699?pwd=emRVOEZwMTY1eGN1bzYrU2VldWhiZz09

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

The Work of Suffering

Is there any real purpose to suffering? Why is there so much of it? What good can possibly come from it? These are questions humanity has asked almost from the beginning of time. No one goes through life without experiencing suffering in one form or other many times over. Sorrow and woe are woven into our existence here whether we like it (and most don’t) or not. But what good is it? Are we meant to do more than endure it? Does it have any power to change things for the better?

One of the newest young people on a path toward beatification, Carlotta Nobile, has a surprising answer to these questions. Carlotta was born in 1988 in Rome and quickly became noticed for her extraordinary musical talent. She was one of the most popular young violinists of her time and became the artistic director of Santa Sophia Academy Chamber Orchestra in Benevento at the age of 21. She won many awards for her music and was involved in many different outreaches and programs for the support of the arts.

At 22, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with melanoma, a cancer that had already metastasized. She endured many treatments and surgeries. During this time, she was deeply touched by a sermon Pope Francis gave to young people in which he told them not to be afraid of the Cross but to embrace it with joy. This is precisely what she strove to do. Her understanding of her illness in the prime of her life, and with so much promise in her future, was recorded in a blog for cancer patients, which she began writing and sharing anonymously. She communicated a remarkable degree of Faith and extraordinary insight into the workings of suffering in her life:

“I don’t even know how many centimeters of surgery scars have been drawn on my body, but I love them all, one by one. Every single centimeter of etched skin which will never be healed! Those are the starting points of my wings. “

“… there’s an Afterwards you’ll never stop fighting for. Because nobody can keep you away from the certainty that – despite all the scars, surgeries, needles in veins, tests, contrast liquids, therapies, and sorrows – there’s a unique happiness waiting for you, there’s your greatest dream which keeps looking at you from the future and can’t wait to reach you. Because you know that all you’re living now will be given back to you.”

Perhaps her most extraordinary understanding is revealed in the following words:

“…in a moment, you understand that the cancer can HEAL YOUR SOUL, restore the balance in your life essence and give you Faith, hope, self abandon, consciousness of finally becoming who you really wanted to be in all your life but never were: a PEACEFUL WOMAN. …in your strengths and weaknesses, it leads you to savour each moment, each smell, each flavour, each perception, each word, each sharing, every little fragment of infinity condensed in a very common and very precious moment. You understand that it’s cancer with its torment and aggressiveness, with its brutality, to bring you the LIGHT in the end. »

Her very last post (she died at the age of 24) witnesses the accomplishment of the work of suffering in her life:

“I’m healed in my soul. In an instant, in an ordinary day, as I awoke from a crisis. I opened my eyes and I found I was a new person. And that’s a miracle. “

— Carlotta Nobile, Il Cancro E Poi_, April 5, 2013

Pope St. John Paul II witnessed the same thing in his own life:

“It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.”

What if we were able to look at suffering in the same way? What if we could understand all that happens or is allowed to happen as a means that God will use to heal our immortal souls and prepare them for eternity? If we can see differently, see in Faith, the Cross will begin to lose its terror and shame and become something to embrace for the sake of the joy that lays before us.

Questions for silent reflection:

1. What do you think of the possibility that illness can heal deeper parts of us in the midst of our suffering?

2. Have you experienced unexpected graces from cancer and your own experience with it?

3. If you could live your life over again without cancer, and without suffering, would you choose that? Why or why not?

4. What wisdom from your own suffering would you want to share with others?

Finding The True Peripheries: Spiritual Exercise 06/13/22

Please join us Monday 06/13/22 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MT (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm ET).

Click on Zoom: https://us05web.zoom.us/j/4537185699?pwd=emRVOEZwMTY1eGN1bzYrU2VldWhiZz09

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen

Finding The True Peripheries

From the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis began speaking about the Church’s call to go out to the peripheries in its evangelization efforts. Even before he was elected, Cardinal Bergoglio had said, “The church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents and of all misery.” He noted: “Mercy is the first thing the Catholic Church is called to bring to those peripheries.”

One thing that seems to escape attention in the commentaries is a better definition of terms. Peripheries are defined by their center. To know the peripheries, the center has to be identified first. If, for instance, your center is well-being and prosperity, then all those farthest away from prosperity, the most impoverished and destitute, become the periphery. If your center is security, then the peripheries would be made up of those with the least security, protection, or chance of living in safety. If power is at the center, then the most powerless would make up the peripheries. 

But if we look at the work of evangelization, we see one center. And all the considerations mentioned above would flow from it. That center, of course, is Jesus Christ and the Gospel message. 

If Christ is the center, then the peripheries have to be understood somewhat differently. The fringes then become those farthest away from Christ. This means that a secular city like Seattle, which may have a higher number of affluent people and prosperous businesses, could be more on the peripheries than a similar-sized city in the Philippines where the people though poor, are living a vibrant faith, exercising a living relationship with God amid their daily struggles for survival but closer to Christ overall. This does not dismiss the call we have to exercise charity and justice in relation to the materially needy. But it is not the same as reaching to the peripheries in this sense.

When Christ is at the center, the peripheries cease to be defined geographically or socio-economically. The arena instead becomes the human person. As Pope Francis has reminded us, mission is not a foreign location. It’s the human person. “Today…every dimension of the human being is mission territory, awaiting the announcement of the Gospel.”  We see this clearly with the latest horrific tragedy in Uvalde, TX and the massacre of 19 innocent children and two teachers. There are “peripheries” in this country we are not reaching.  We will go to a foreign country more easily than reaching to the brokenness in people who live right next to us.

We see many dioceses closing Churches because of a lack of vocations. We see attendance numbers dropping significantly. The “nones” (no religious affiliation) are increasing, and the number of those who have become either agnostic or reject religion altogether is startling. “The field of mission seems to expand every day, with men and women in desperate situations…there is need of you, of your missionary courage, your willingness to take to all the Good News that liberates and consoles.” Pope Francis. Oct. 6, 2016

The literally poor and societally marginalized will never be left out. If we are genuinely linked to Christ, the poor and marginalized will be cared for as a central part of the Church’s outreach. Every day, the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, shelters, and educates more people than any other organization in the world. 

At the same time, Jesus died to save everyone, including those who may be fortunate by the world’s standards but poorest by the Lord’s standards. The measure that we use has to be Christ and the Blood He shed for all souls. In trying to reach to the “peripheries” of today, it is necessary to see oneself in a new light:

“I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing, and freeing.” (Evangelii Gaudium).

That may mean that the “peripheries” in your own life are within your own family or even within your own soul. 

1.  Pope Francis echoes a sentiment of Catherine de Houek Dougherty who said:  “today the field of mission is the broken heart of man where no one wants to go.”  What do you think is the biggest wound in the hearts of people today?

2.  What do you think your particular mission is?  Why did God set you into this time?  What do you bring to God’s people?

3.  How does knowing your own brokenness help you reveal Christ to others?

4. Why is it hard to talk about Jesus to people you know or meet? Why does it take courage today to work in the mission of Christ?

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! Psalm 34:3