Updates

Anointing Of The Sick: Spiritual Exercise for 10/14/19

Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm mountain (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm eastern).

  1. Call Uber Conference  at 720-735-7025  
  2. Online at uberconference.com/facingourimmortality

Sr. Anne Marie will lead us in prayer prior to our session.

THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK from the Catechism of the Catholic Church                                                                      

The Christian Mystery
CCC “By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.”98

I. ITS FOUNDATIONS IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION

Illness in human life 

1500 Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death. 

1501 Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

The sick person before God

1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing.99 Illness becomes a way to conversion; God’s forgiveness initiates the healing.100 It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: “For I am the Lord, your healer.”101 The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others.102 Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness.103

Christ the physician

1503 Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited his people”104 and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins;105 he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of.106 His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: “I was sick and you visited me.”107 His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.108 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,109 mud and washing.110 The sick try to touch him, “for power came forth from him and healed them all.”111 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.

1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”.112 But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world,”.113 of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion. 

“Heal the sick . . .”

1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn..114 By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: “So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”.115

1507 The risen Lord renews this mission (“In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”116) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name.117 These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly “God who saves.”118

1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing119 so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.”120

1509 “Heal the sick!”121 The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health.122

1510 However, the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”123 Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments.124

III. HOW IS THIS SACRAMENT CELEBRATED?

1519 The celebration of the sacrament includes the following principal elements: the “priests of the Church”133 – in silence – lay hands on the sick; they pray over them in the faith of the Church134 – this is the epiclesis proper to this sacrament; they then anoint them with oil blessed, if possible, by the bishop. 

IV. THE EFFECTS OF THE CELEBRATION OF THIS SACRAMENT

1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.135 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will.136 Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”137

1521 Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ’s Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior’s redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.

1522 An ecclesial grace. The sick who receive this sacrament, “by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ,” “contribute to the good of the People of God.”138 By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, though the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.

1523 A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing).139 The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.14

Please reflect silently on these questions. We will then go around and share our thoughts prior to discussion.

  1.  What is your own experience with the Sacrament of Anointing?
  2. Do you know anyone who is afraid of the Sacrament?
  3. Why do you think it was important to Jesus to leave us with this sacrament?
  4. What is it, do you think, that Jesus is doing when He heals?

God Bless you all and thank you for joining us. We look forward to seeing those of you who are joining us at Domus Trinitatis October 17-20. Our next spiritual exercise call will take place November 11, 2019 (2nd Monday).

In the Heart of the Blessed Mother

Sr. Anne Marie and Denise Archuleta

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Cancer Retreat, Monthly Spiritual Exercise Group, Posts and Updates

UPDATE NEW RETREAT DATES: Embracing God’s Dream For My Life.

We need to let you know there has been a change in the retreat dates for our upcoming retreat. We have moved the dates from September to the month of October. Our next retreat will be October 17-20, 2019 in Carroll, Iowa, land of beautiful rolling fields and fresh air. Domus Trinitatis, Home Of The Trinity Retreat Center, has two houses and a hermitage located on beautiful expansive countryside property. We sincerely apologize for this change but Sr. Anne Marie must address some unexpected health issues at this time and it is better to move the retreat to October.

”Embracing God’s Dream For My Life” is an exceptionally significant topic for all of us, but especially more for those who have been suffering with life threatening illnesses.

Important details are listed below:

Dates:  October 17-20, 2019

Times:  We will start approximately 4:00 pm on Thursday the 17th, and conclude after lunch on Sunday the 20th. Exact details are still pending.

Address: 24750 Noble Ave, Carroll, IA 51401

Contact Phone: (720) 892-5817. This is a google voice number, FYI 🙂

Cost:  Min $50 deposit per person is required. The Sisters welcome your generosity and prayerfully request $50 per night per retreatant to cover food etc. The total cost is $150 per person.

Travel: If enough people are interested, we will explore ride share and other group transportation options.  We want to make it easy.

If you are certain to be attending, please complete the registration form right away. Space is limited.

Step One: Complete the registration form. Each attendee must complete.

Step Two: Submit your deposit.

Please submit your payment by linking to SOLT at The Society of Our Lady of The Most Holy Trinity. Please specify that your payment is Mission/Vocation specific.

State that the payment is for “Facing Our Immortality Fall 2019 at Domus Trinitatis/Iowa“.

We will contact you shortly, via email, following the submission of your registration form to answer your questions.  We will email the itinerary details as soon as they become available.  Please also call Denise with your questions as we want you to feel comfortable and fully prepared to enjoy your time at Domus Trinitatis.

Peace and Blessings,

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh and Denise Archuleta

720-892-5817

facingourimmortality@gmail.com

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Updates

Giving Up Secrets: Spiritual Exercise for 09/09/19

Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm mountain (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm eastern).

  1. Call Uber Conference  at 720-735-7025  
  2. Online at uberconference.com/facingourimmortality

Giving Up Secrets

Our session will begin with prayer, led by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh Of SOLT.

We live in an age of secrets. Governments, corporations, educational, medical and religious institutions are all skilled at keeping secrets both for good reasons and not so good reasons. Media definitely keeps secrets according to the agenda it pushes. But this reflects people in general. People tend to keep a lot of secrets.

There is a pressing need to recognize that secrets make a difference. They can determine the direction of our lives, and the manner in which we pass from this world into the next.

Jesus tells us in the Gospels that everything that is hidden will be revealed. Secret activities, secret wounds, secret weaknesses, secret sins, secret fantasies, secret thoughts, secret addictions, secret jealousies, secret plans, secret ambitions, family secrets, secret judgments, secret desires, in fact a secret life, all of it will be revealed. That is unless you have taken care of any sin in your secrets, by going to Confession where God annihilates the sin and wills to remember it no more. Then they will never ever be brought up as a testimony against you.

Ironically, we hide things about ourselves but at the same time have an attraction to know the secrets of others. There is almost nothing people like better than hearing a good secret. Why? There are several reasons. One, it diverts attention away from our own secrets. But we also love secrets because we love hidden knowledge. We live in a state of being that is still looking for something that hasn’t been completely revealed to us yet. We’re searching, whether we know it or not, for the one Word that will answer all of our questions and give sight to the vision, the understanding we seek.

Interestingly enough, Jesus mentions that the Father Himself keeps secrets from the “wise and learned” and reveals things to the “little ones.” Why is that? We know most certainly that God never does anything without good reason, and a reason that redounds, often in mysterious ways, to our greatest benefit.

Might it be that God protects the sacred and hides divine treasures for our sake? Anyone who has studied covenant knows that profaning the sacred is dangerous. We can be destroyed by our profanation. A simple look at the human wreckage surrounding the modern desecration of the gift and mystery of sexuality confirms this.

In other words, could it be that just as Jesus told us not to cast pearls before swine, He follows His own counsel with us? He puts His treasure in safe places…He is careful with what is precious beyond measure. And at the same time He is merciful to those of us who would have a terrible accounting to give for squandering a poorly understood gift, if we received it and did not really appreciate or care for it.

Secrets like this can be a good thing; in fact they can be a very good thing if their purpose is to protect a treasure (whether that be jewels or a reputation) from vandalism or theft, misuse or destruction.

But some secrets should never be kept. And unfortunately, people usually have more of these kinds of secrets.

We can safely say, I think, that many of the sicknesses of our age are determined by the secrets we keep. This is well known in the world of addiction and co-dependency: “We are only as sick as our secrets.” This is actually a psychology that was first explicated in the Sacred Scriptures. Psalm 32 says: “I kept it secret and my frame was wasted…” The distress, the groaning, the anxiety, the depression, the disturbance of so many today, more often than not, comes from holding secrets that should not be kept.

I know a woman who struggled with terrible depression much of her adult life, watched Mother Angelica faithfully, but would not take the secret of her abortion to the Confessional.  She died recently and my prayer is that before she died she finally released her secret into the loving mercy of God so she could enter her heavenly home with “joy and an upright heart.”  Her secret certainly didn’t keep her in peace or bring happiness into her life.  In fact, it brought her to the verge of a mental breakdown.  

At the end of our lives, we will have an encounter with God Who is pure Love and Light and Goodness and Truth. And all that is hidden will be revealed. To our own overwhelming confusion we could find ourselves suddenly naked before the Lord, rather than clothed in the garments of grace He so freely and continually offers us, all because fear, or attachment or shame or pride kept us from giving up our secrets. Great Confessors, like St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio spent themselves in this work of getting people to give up their secrets so that they could begin to know the deep things of God in their lives.

Our Blessed Mother, the most pure creature who ever lived, was without secrets of her own. She kept only those God gave her. And because of that, there is no one more beautiful, more radiantly transparent in the living of the Mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity. In Her many apparitions in the last centuries, we can hear the cry of our good Mother when she bids us return to the Sacraments and live the Gospel way of life. One of the things She is saying with great affection and urgency, as if speaking to a little child, is: “Run! Run and whisper your secrets to your Father. All of them! And be assured that He will give treasures out of the darkness and riches that have been hidden away especially for you!” Is. 45:3

For the full article please see: http://www.missionaryinthemodernworld.blogspot.com

Questions For Silent Reflection

1. What is your experience of secrets?
2. Have you ever seen or experienced the effects of holding bad secrets?
3. Do you think some secrets can actually make you physically ill?
4. What do you think God wants from us in our secrets? Remember that nothing is hidden from Him?

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Updates

A Life Freely Lived: An Evening Retreat With Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT.

August 12, 2019

Good evening everyone. Tonight we will go over the upcoming retreat in Iowa and spend some time talking about “A Life Freely Lived”. God Bless you. To join our call:

  1. Call Uber Conference  at 720-735-7025  
  2. Online at uberconference.com/facingourimmortality

We will say a brief prayer before the spiritual exercise begins.

From the perspective of eternity, there is really only one urgency:  the salvation of souls. Birthing souls into eternal life is a labor that is perhaps the most hidden, and yet, most valuable labor of all.  This is not the kind of work many people ever think of or even consciously involve themselves in. Yet when the weight of what is at stake is felt, and an eternity of either endless happiness or endless torment is understood within the depths of a soul, great hearts are moved in the likeness of Jesus’ own heart to do whatever they can to keep even one soul from being lost.

A century ago, a group of men called the One-Way Missionaries, freely chose to serve that urgency by purchasing one-way tickets to remote parts of the earth where the Gospel had not yet been proclaimed, or where the Good News was treated with life-threatening hostility.

Those who volunteered to go did not expect to return, and most of them didn’t.  They packed their belongings into a coffin meant for their own burial and set off to strange lands, willing to pay the highest price so that their forgotten brothers and sisters might know the surpassing greatness of Him Who calls us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

One of the most famous One-Way Missionaries was a Scotsman named A. W. Milne who volunteered to go to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific to live among tribal headhunters. He knew when he left, that these tribes had already killed every missionary sent before him. And yet, something must have stirred Milne’s heart with graces of Divine appointment and courage. He must have been able to utter the words of St. Paul about himself:  “I no longer live but Christ within me lives.”  When that happens, the fire of Christ’s passion for souls takes over and drives a person to go where they would never go otherwise.

Milne was the right missionary for the right time and place.  He lived among the tribal peoples for 35 years, and when he died, the people buried him in the center of the village and marked his grave with the following epitaph: “When He Came There Was No Light. When He Left There Was No Darkness.”

What sentence would capture the story of our lives and reveal the level of our involvement with things that really matter?  Can we win souls for Christ if every difficulty, every set-back, every tough battle causes us to whimper, to complain, to become discouraged, to crumble? Doesn’t the enemy like to see soldiers who run, who hide, who desert because they don’t believe the battle is worth the blessings it will obtain?  

If the highest currency in the economy of Redemption is a love freely willing to lay down its life for a brother or sister in danger of being lost eternally, how rich are we really?  And how free are we really if we can’t make the sign of the Cross in public or pray at a restaurant before eating because of what other people might think?  Self-interest doesn’t get us far in eternity.  “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.”  Lk 17:33  Wrong choices lead to unhappy endings not just for ourselves but also for those that follow us.

On the bright side, it is possible to bring many souls to eternal happiness simply by loving them as best you can. A smile that pierces through the oppressive fog of loneliness, a friendly inquiry, a genuine assist in difficulty, a non-judging, concerned presence; these can be life-changing moments for people because they break through the dismal experiences life has taught them to expect, and stir hope, giving signs that life has better possibilities. Loving like this is not always easy.  It can involve real sacrifice.  But sacrifice is love in action and proof of its authenticity.  

The real mission of Christ, of the Church, of ourselves, is not necessarily somewhere far away in a foreign land. Some will be called to foreign lands. But even for them, the real mission, as Pope Francis says, is the human person.  “Today…every dimension of the human being is mission territory, awaiting the announcement of the Gospel.”  Christ’s mission is all around us.  

A soul that becomes able to completely lay down its life for others, in whatever form that takes, walks straight into heaven at the end of this life. Nothing holds it back or weighs it down.  It goes immediately to its source in the Heart of God because it has already tasted and drunk freely of this life-giving love in its own life.  This love is what changes the world and secures beatitude for all those who come in contact with it and receive it into themselves.

The Church and her mission of salvation will never lose relevance and will never be conquered.  We either fight with her and for her through every storm no matter how severe or frightening, or we abandon her and ensure our own demise.  Jesus doesn’t ask us to spread the kingdom and fight for our brothers and sisters only if things are easy and perfect. He asks us to fight and stay faithful precisely because they aren’t.  He will do the rest.

  1. What determines my life?  Can I still be truly free even in the midst of illness or suffering?
  2. How do I lay down my life for others?
  3. How have I experienced God’s call to mission in my life?

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Posts and Updates, Updates

Imagine Your Eternity

Hi from Denise.

I thought I might post a little bit about some of the thoughts people shared during our most recent evening retreat with Sr. Anne Marie Walsh. You may have noticed I started naming our spiritual exercise group “evening retreats with Sr. Anne Marie”. I don’t know about you but when we are all together with Sr. Anne it feels like a mini-retreat.

During our evening retreats we have a refreshing opportunity move away from ourselves and closer to God. Because our world is filled to capacity with distractions it takes enormous effort to say “no” to the subtle temptations of our society.

July’s spiritual exercise was about how we feed and nurture our souls. Are we attending to activities which are “life giving”? She asks “Are we eating from the Tree of Life or from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Everything we do can either prepare us for salvation or make obtaining our salvation more difficult.

Sr. Anne’s voice is comforting and strong, like that of what we may imagine would be heard from our Blessed Virgin Mary. Her demeanor offers a safe space where we can honestly address our needs, because it is not always easy to be willing to take a clear look at how we nurture our relationship with the Holy Trinity.

If most of us were to take a blank piece of paper, draw a line down the center, and on each side list that which sustains us and prepares us for our eternity or that which takes us away from where Jesus lives, we would see more clearly what God sees. God sees everything, He sees our soul, the love in our hearts and he can also see where there is an opportunity for each of us to live in true Joy. That is what He wants for us. He wants us to have true happiness!

At some point during our journey to eternity we begin to automatically reject that which does not feed our souls. During our session, many of the participants, including myself, expressed that they find it challenging to always make “life giving” choices. For some it is not just the choice itself, but are we making that choice with Christ’s Love at the center? Another big challenge is pain. When we are in severe pain it is as if we need to sit and just absorb things that facilitate some sort of simple distraction. Merely existing seems impossible. But God knows all these things and He loves us the more for enduring that which reflects His Passion.

This is not about berating ourselves for “not doing enough”. Jesus sees us where we live, where we are, and He knows where He intends for us to be. We just need to open our hearts to Him and let Him in. He is our Father.

If you are overwhelmed with illness and have not yet created a daily habit that feeds your soul, from the Tree of Life, (like daily Mass or the Rosary), consider some visualization. Turn off the electronics, find a quiet place and for 5 minutes literally imagine eternity. Close your eyes and let go. Maybe start with the photo above so that you can imagine the vastness of God’s Creation.

Keeping the vision of our eternity front and center is especially helpful for those who literally have physical and emotional suffering in our lives. I was so grateful to get to Mass this past week because for a few Sundays I was literally too sick to go. My RA has been beating on my body and would sleep until 6:00 at night. I went to confession for a few things followed by Mass, I got back on track, praise God. As Catholics we are so blessed to have the Sacraments! Being in church, in Mass, and receiving the Eucharist give us life in Christ. We are called to Holiness.

Obviously time with Jesus in adoration is probably the best way to visualize our eternity. Spending time in the Chapel, kneeling in front of the Crucifix and praying can take you there. Ask our Heavenly Mother for guidance. This way when you close your eyes you feel more present with our Heavenly Father and in your imagined eternity. This is so valuable because we tend to automatically see images of what we could have done “better” or “problems” or “conflicts”. Let God take those conflicts away from your heart and use your suffering for His Will.

Nobody knows what eternity looks like but in our minds we can create an image that is ours. Consider it a gift from God. Pray for the Holy Spirit to descend upon you so that this vision will be in union with God’s likeness and image. We are all together in eternity.

Between now and our next evening retreat, take a few moments each day to imagine God’s eternity, your eternity, our eternity. Heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. Jn 3:16

Please post comments below after doing this visualization or if you have completed the spiritual exercise called “Discernment In The Modern Age”, dated July 8, 2019.

God Bless You,

Denise and Sr. Anne Marie

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Monthly Spiritual Exercise Group

Discernment in the Modern Age (An evening retreat with Sr. Anne Marie)

July 8, 2019 at 6:30 pm, mountain time.

Please Call 720-735-7025 to join the conference about 5 minutes ahead of time. You can also join from your computer https://www.uberconference.com/m/facingourimmortality

OPENING HEALING PRAYER Led by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT

“We humbly approach you O Most Holy Trinity as we beg for your healing. You are Our Father and we trust in your goodness as you draw us daily to become what you call us to be. We humble ourselves before you as we acknowledge your greatness and your infinite mercy. Please dispel within us any form of idolatry that we may truly worship you with all our being, as Mary our Mother did. 

Jesus, our eternal shepherd, we come to you like the many sick and the infirm that approached you. We beg you to fill our hearts and our souls with the faith of the Centurion who only asked you to say but the word, and he knew that his servant would be healed. Or like the woman, we come to touch your garments with great confidence that your healing power will flow through this cloth to the one it is placed upon now. For those of us who struggle with believing in your power to heal, we pray that you help our unbelief. 

Holy Spirit, we rely on the humility that you give us as we bring our request before your presence. We often do not know what to ask and how to ask. Often we struggle with knowing what God’s will is for one who is sick. Yet we know that it is your love that can enkindle the flame within our feeble hearts. Help us to accept the healing that comes from your love; so that we may praise the glory of your Name! 

We ask you Mother Mary to intercede with all the angels and saints for God’s healing of those who are sick. Cast your mantle of healing over them and restore them to wholeness and health.”  

“Our Father, who art in heaven…”

“Hail Mary, full of grace……….”

“Glory Be, to the Father ……….”

“Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity! Pray for us.”

Presentation:

One of the banes of modern life is the ubiquitous presence of bad entertainment, bad both in the sense of poorly crafted and in the sense of poisonous content. It’s an observation that can be applied to books, movies, music, TV, and other forms of leisure activity as well. What constitutes healthy food for the mind and soul? We have great concern for the health of our bodies and our environment. And we feed them and protect them accordingly. At the same time, we seem to have much less conscious concern for what goes into our minds, our souls, our spirits. We simply consume whatever is offered, no longer recognizing the difference between junk food and delicacy, nutrients and toxins.

This can be very dangerous. It’s a lot like seeing a glass of cold, refreshing water, after coming in on a hot, dusty day. The reaction is immediate, and almost overwhelming. We would, without thinking, take the water and drink it. But if someone told us that despite it’s inviting appearance, the water actually had e-coli in it, we would not approach it, much less drink it, no matter how thirsty we were, knowing it would be hazardous to our health.

This is very much like what happens when we indiscriminately read or watch whatever is the latest rage, whether it be fictional stories, movies, TV shows that mock God, believers, our faith, or current book marketings of pornography (now particularly targeting women’s readership). So many times people say: “it’s not so bad. It’s just a little sex, or just a little violence, or just a little language.”

The reality though is that it doesn’t matter whether the poison is hidden in small amounts. A little poison will kill you just as dead over time. When our emotions, our passions, our senses, apart from our intellect, make our decisions for us, we are capable of drinking to the dregs whatever contaminant is presented to us. And today, very deadly poisons abound. Our culture prizes acceptance, tolerance and open-mindedness. It has been noted though that the danger comes when people become so open-minded their brains fall out. Pope Benedict mentioned that knowledge for its own sake only leads to sadness, and sometimes to much worse things.

This is not a new problem. The young St. Teresa of Avila had an attraction to the romance/adventure novels of her time, until she realized that the illusions, vanity and worldliness they sowed in her were a great obstacle to her life in general and to her relationship with God in particular. They did not help her live in reality and especially in the reality of her dignity as a woman, a beloved daughter of God with a great destiny, a great part to play in the life of the Church and the world.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Jesuits, also had this problem before his conversion. He is famous for realizing how the books he read affected the movements of his soul, for better or worse. While recovering from a serious battle injury, he began to recognize that the worldly books he was fond of, and which also fed his vanity, gave him a feeling of excitement which quickly passed and left him feeling discontented and restless. On the other hand, when he read books on the lives of the saints and their great deeds, he found himself inspired and filled with a desire to follow their example. These feelings did not change. From this simple observation St. Ignatius developed his principles for discernment, which are now indispensable teachings for anyone serious about the spiritual life.

We of course need discernment in many areas of our lives. And because we live in a complicated age, it is good to look for some general direction. One place to find this is back at the very beginning. God gave some very simple directions for life in the Garden, and repeated them again after the fall, through Moses. He told Adam and Eve that they could eat from the Tree of Life and the other trees in the Garden, but not of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Later, He reiterated this directive again to the Israelites in Exodus, “Choose life that you may live.”

In all honesty, when our question becomes: “Is what I am about to say or see or do, life-giving to me and those around me” we are able to frame issues in a new light. This is not the only question we sometimes need to ask. But it is a very good place to start and finish. Is this life-giving or is this poison to me, to my relationships, to my own dignity or someone else’s dignity? It is a question that can be used with many of the choices we should make today with more deliberation than we do. And it is a question that avoids the dissembling of moral relativism. Something is either life-giving to all involved, or it is not. If it is not, it is to be avoided.

God’s commandments and the Church’s counsels are not meant to cramp our style or dampen our fun. They are simply meant to protect us. God knows what is good, what is healthy for us. And He also knows what will make us sick in body, mind and spirit. Technology and the creative powers of mankind in many different fields have the potential to serve life or to bring death, both physical and spiritual death, depending on how they are used. If we truly want to live and live well the abundant life Jesus promises us, then we have to stop starving our own souls and start discerning how to eat more plentifully from the Tree of Life.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Where in my life am I eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead of the Tree of Life?

2. What kinds of things does a person dealing with serious illness need to discern? Physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically?

3. What feeds me emotionally and spiritually when I am suffering or deeply challenged by life?

4. Have I ever sensed the mission and purpose of my life? If so, how have the challenges of illness and suffering impacted that?

5. Has illness or suffering changed my vision of what is life-giving and what is not?

Our next call will take place August 12, 2019.  We will not be meeting at Lourdes Parish.  Thank you and may God Bless you abundantly.

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