Blessings dear friends. Since the 1980s, when I first learned about the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, I have felt drawn to make a pilgrimage there. It has taken over 30 years, but this autumn I am going! Our Lady seems to have had a hand in the arrangements as it all came together quite quickly and easily. There is even a pilgrimage group leaving from the city I just moved to, so what can I say but thank you Mama! Fiat!
Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In the army, everyone has a duty to fulfill. Some are strategists, some are foot-soldiers, some are mechanics, some are medics, some are support staff. All are important. All are needed. This is the time to discern carefully where we are called to serve in the spiritual battle that is escalating all around us. We don’t have to do it all, but we are, each of us, made for these times and entrusted with a unique mission and the grace needed to fulfill it.
Certainly in this battle against “principalities and powers” penance is needed more than ever. Our Lady has told us so herself in every modern apparition, how urgently it is needed. As a reader of this blog, it is safe to assume that you too feel called in some way to answer Our Lady’s call to do spiritual battle through penance.
Dear friends, as providence would have it, less than a week after my blog post on praying for those who may die suddenly or unprepared, Jim, my own dear husband of 42 years passed away after a chronic illness. The fingerprints of God, his graces and blessings, are all over this event. I am so grateful for those graces, most especially, the following…
+ That I had time to pray a Divine Mercy chaplet in his presence at the hospital unaware that he would not be coming home the next day.
+ That even thought he was not Catholic, in the months leading up to his death, we prayed almost daily together the prayer to St. Joseph and anointed our foreheads with St. Joseph oil from Montreal.
+ That I woke early that morning and, as I often do when I wake early, repeated this prayer several times: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, spread the effect of grace of Thy Flame of Love over Jim and over all of humanity, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” As it turned out I was praying this prayer in the final hour of his life. Blessed Mother! Oh Mama! What a gift and sign!
+ Not least of the graces was the grace of those of you who prayed for the souls who would die suddenly or unprepared. You helped my husband in the hour of his death. God bless you!
God is with us, little children! Let us place all our trust in him. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, we love you. Save souls!
“And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6:5)
By the grace of God, I am involved in music ministry in our parish. I have no voice training, so I am always amazed at people who can harmonize, seemingly without effort. It occurred to me recently that these people, by singing “wrong” are vastly enhancing the beauty of the piece. There is a lesson here for all of us, who even on our best days have only weakness to offer God.
“Then I said, ‘Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” (Psalm 40:7-8)
“Remember—death is never convenient.” Those were almost the first words I said to my replacement when I retired from my job as parish secretary recently. “Everything stops for a funeral.” I told her that this was probably God’s design, as death is meant to disrupt, to dislodge us from our schedules and plans, to give us pause, and to point us away from what is mortal and towards eternity.
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.’” (Matthew 23:1-4)
Do you notice how much more you have to pay for torn blue jeans these days? What used to be seen as a sign of abject poverty is now elevated to a status symbol, a fashion statement. I think this can be seen as a metaphor for the spiritual poverty of our age, a sign of the times. It seems many are no longer ashamed of their spiritual poverty, but wear their spiritual dysfunction as a status symbol, a fashion statement. Their spirit may be in tatters, but they’re too cool to care.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
We all have crosses. And indeed, as Franciscan penitents, we are exhorted to take the words of Christ to heart and live them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24) Knowing that this is our call and living it, however, are two different matters. How often, when a cross is given to us, do we turn our faces, pray for deliverance, tell the Lord, “Not this cross, Lord. It is much too heavy for me! I will carry a cross, just not this one.” How fickle and frail we are! I was struggling last week with a cross of my own when I felt led to pick up the writings of Luisa Piccarreta. Here is what I read:
John 15:4-5 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
One word keeps popping up for me lately, and when that happens, I know I have some pondering to do. The word is “deliberate” in the context of being more deliberate in my actions, more mindful and intentional. So often our actions throughout the day are automatic. We are not present to our actions, but like horses bolting for the barn door, our minds race on to other things. We do things impulsively or rashly, we fail to ponder. We neglect to live in the sacrament of the present moment, and in so doing, we lose the joy and grace unique to each moment.
Isaiah 12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Global tensions are on a seemingly exponential uptick. Yet the utter importance of joy has been coming to me again and again. The above Scripture passage can be read in two ways, a passive way and an active way. The passive way implies that joy is what we are filled with after we are saved. Very true. But the active reading of this passage tells us that joy can also be the “bucket” we can use to draw water from the wells of salvation. Joy therefore becomes an instrument of salvation in the hand of the Christian.
If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
Some 20 years ago when my son was a teen, one of the things we used to do together was watch the TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. One episode in particular keeps coming to me these days. In that episode, the Starship Enterprise had gone through a temporal rift that shifted them into an “alternate reality”, a much darker one. Some who were dead in the previous reality now were not dead. Friends were now enemies and enemies were now friends. No seemed aware of the shift, except for the intuitive bartender, Guinan, who somehow knew and kept repeating, “It’s not supposed to be this way.”