Wednesday, July 31, 2013

St. Ignatius, Thank You!

I LOVE St. Ignatius. He taught us how to talk with God. We were already talking AT God, but Ignatius, guided by the Holy Spirit, took it a up a notch and made it a conversation.

Through The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, he teaches us how to recognize heart movements throughout our day, including desolation and consolation. A soldier, he lays out a battle plan for following our leader, Jesus, and counteracting the movements of the enemy in our lives.

I remember the first time I felt consolation during my prayer time. It blew me away. It obviously wasn't the first time I'd talked to God, but it was the first time I recognized Him talking back!  I was having a conversation with God! How unbelievable cool is that???

I also remember the first time the enemy slipped into the conversation. Not so cool. Sometimes he was obvious, like when I received a mimic of consolation over a thought that was not leading me to Jesus (there's a reason he's known as the Father of Lies), but just as I'd laughed off his clumsy efforts, he got me through a technique so subtle I shudder to think how I might have followed if I hadn't had an excellent spiritual director who pointed out the errors.

He taught us Discernment to help us do God's will. The choice between good and bad are obvious, but what if you need to choose between two goods? Which one is actually God's will?

He also gave us the Daily Examen, a structured reflection on the day and plan for tomorrow to keep us on track. It begins with gratitude for all gifts received, and when you regularly go through your day and find these gifts, it becomes easier to notice them "ïn the moment". Then you petition God to help you review your day, because you need His grace to do it properly. Then it's on to a review of the entire day, noticing God's movements and your reactions to them--your choices. Then you ask for forgiveness for your sins, which you'll have seen in your review.  Finally, you plan for the next day, asking for the graces you need.

And he teaches us detachment--from worldly things to events in our lives. It's difficult to not mind whether you are rich or poor, sick or healthy, but Ignatius taught that acceptance of whatever God sends us would set us free. On a practical level, when things don't go right, I try to open myself up to the possibilities of this new situation. What is God asking me to do?

Example. I have a doctor's appointment and I'm feeling particularly rushed. The doctor is late. Instead of getting angry, I remain detached. I wind up listening to someone in the waiting room who really needed an ear. God put me exactly where I was supposed to be to serve Him.

And the whole process, from the Spiritual Exercises to the Examen, will only work if you are completely honest with God. And that's just how He likes us.

Ignatius also founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, who were largely involved in the Counter Reformation, and for that we must thank him, too. The Jesuits are involved in everything from helping the poorest of poor to teaching. And yes, I know there are fringe groups, but aren't there always?

St. Ignatius, pray for us!  And thank you!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What's the Difference Between First Friday and First Saturday Devotions? And are They Important?

As a revert to the Catholic Church after many years absence (thank you, God, for calling me back) I have some catching up to do. Like many children raised in the 70's and 80's, my catechism kind of, er, lacked fullness. As Father Robert Barron pointed out in one of his talks, the Church was (and still is, in places) in a Happy Clappy stage.

When I heard about First Saturday devotions, I thought I was mistaken. Wasn't it First Fridays? That sounded more familiar. Turns out it's both.

(Note: the First refers to the first Friday or Saturday of the month.)


First Saturdays is an act for the reparation of offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as requested by Jesus.  The devotion was given to us at Fatima, and we've seen the consequences of Catholic ignorance of this practice.  Fatima was all about the conversion of sinners, including the consecration of Russia to stop the spread of communism and persecutions against the Church. Just open the paper (or read online) and you can see that persecutions are on the rise, and our own government promotes the three most evil isms--communism, socialism and Marxism.

Catholics need to get serious about honoring First Saturdays.

There are four acts to complete the devotion. On the first Saturday of the month, we must:

1. Attend Confession
2. Receive Holy Communion
3. Recite five decades of the Rosary
4. Spend fifteen minutes meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary

All four acts must be done in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and though there is some leeway, it's supposed to be a sacrifice, so don't get lazy.

If you are unable to attend Reconciliation that Saturday, attend as soon as possible, preferably within eight days. Using Sunday obligation as your Saturday Mass doesn't really cut it.  That's like saying, "I'm allergic to dairy, so I'll give up cheese for Lent."  It's half-hearted.  Look up your local Mass schedules, and you'll find that many parishes have a Saturday morning Mass.

In Santa Clarita, St. Clair of Assisi has a 9 AM Mass, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help has 8 AM Mass and 8:45 Confessions. They also say the Rosary.

(Note that neither Mary nor Jesus, in their revelations to Sister Lucia--one of the three children present at Fatima--said anything about five First Saturdays.)

After reading up on First Saturdays at Fatima Family, I believe it is a very important act, and that Catholics should get off their lazy butts develop a habit of carrying out this devotion.


First Fridays is a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is made by receiving Holy Communion on nine consecutive First Fridays.

From the writings of St. Margaret Mary:

"On Friday during Holy Communion, He said these words to His unworthy slave, if I mistake not: I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that its all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on nine first Fridays of consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they will not die under my displeasure or without receiving their sacraments, my divine Heart making itself their assured refuge at the last moment."
My own home is consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It's like having, with respect, a "Beware" sign up for Satan. 
Both revelations are private revelations. Public revelation is binding on all Catholics and ended with the death of the last apostle, but one need not believe in a private revelation. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the role of private revelations is to help us live more fully by Christ's definitive revelation in a certain period of history. The Church recognizes and welcomes revelations that constitute an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church, as long as they don't surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment. 
Bottom line, Jesus' first words in the Bible are a call to repentance, so a call to confess and make reparations makes sense. 
The Catholic faith is beautiful, with much more depth than I'd ever dreamed, and devotions are a special call to holiness.   As I discover more of these riches, I'll be sharing them. 

Do you have a favorite and fruitful devotion? I'd love to hear about it. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

God ADD...The Moment the Dinosaurs Start Eating People

My name is Jackie, and I...have God ADD.  (Dramatic pause filled with murmurs of solidarity from my fellow ADD folks.)

To live a Christian life, God must be at the center of all things, all the time. There's not enough room for God and me, so I must defer. There are specific moments in my life when God assumes His proper place. When I''m worried, or scared, or sick. Then, miracle of miracles, God becomes my focus as I pray, beg, or just pour out my heart.

It's more difficult to remain focused when things are going well (because I'm busy enjoying myself), though I often take time for a big, heartfelt Thank You, but the hardest time to avoid God ADD is when  life plods along at it's usual pace. When nothing too exciting or too stressful is happening, I find myself SQUIRREL!

These are the times I turn on the autopilot, when my subconscious thought is "That's okay, God. I'll take control for now."  And that's when the dinosaurs start eating people.


"You never had  control!

 That's the illusion!"   

Jurassic Park

First thing in the morning, I hand everything over to God and ask Him to make use of me. But how can I keep that promise in mind all day without OOH! SHINY!

St. Ignatius came up with the helpful Examen. If you've never studied Ignatian Spirituality, it might seem complicated at first to look for God's movements in your life. This Ignatian site is very helpful and filled with videos and articles. It's like a spiritual candy store! (As someone who's going through the exercises, I can't stress enough: Don't attempt them without a spiritual adviser!)

Here is an uber-simplified version of an Examen.

1. Be aware of God's presence.
2. Be aware of any offenses I've committed.

3. Be grateful for any gifts I've received.

4. Ask God for the grace I most need.

Don't hesitate to get specific. "God, give me the grace to talk to my eight-year-old's obnoxious teacher without snapping her head off."

A good evening Examen is offered by the Jesuit site, Pray-as-you-go.

I find it helpful to perform an Examen several times per day to help me adjust my course.  It's still difficult to keep my tiny mind from toddling away from a God-centered life, but practice makes perfect, ri--SQUIRREL!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Lord's Prayer -- "Our"

A while ago, I saw blogger Sarah Reinhard take apart the "Hail Mary" word by word on The Snoring Scholar.  I LOVED the idea, and I want to do the same thing with "The Lord's Prayer".  Taking each word, one at a time, not only slows down the prayer to a thoughtful, reflective pace, but it forces us to delve deeper into the rich meaning behind each and every word.

Just about everyone knows the prayer, but just in case, here it is straight from St. Luke's gospel, Chapter 11, versus 2-4 (NAB). I've chosen this version with the five petitions rather than the version found in Matthew's gospel, which is a more developed version with seven petitions, because it's believed this shorter version may be closer to Jesus's actual words.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.

And so we begin with "Our". 

It is unbelievably awesome that Jesus would have looked at the apostles and told them to address God as Our, not My Father.  Jesus is pretty generous with His family, as we saw when he gave us His Mother Mary on Calvary. I wonder that the apostle's didn't faint. Maybe they did but opted not to report it because they thought it would make embarrassing copy. 

Our.  Not my. 

So every time I'm tempted to refer to God with a proprietary air, I must humbly recall that Our includes everyone. He is Father to us all. And that's where it gets tricky. It's an all-inclusive word in a world that prefers to segregate between us and them.

That person on Facebook who regularly annoys me with hateful comments and political commentary?  God's his Father too. And that fanatical Muslim killing Coptic Christians in Egypt? And that woman screaming "Hail Satan!" at abortion protesters?  He's their Father, too.  Refusing to acknowledge your Father doesn't make you an orphan. 

If we look at, say, that abortion protester and realize she's a child of God, it makes it easier not to condemn her.  We're all sinners who struggle against our human nature, and she's just losing the battle. Hopefully, it's a temporary setback, and that's why she needs our prayers.

Remember when your sibling would do something wrong and you'd be ready to mete out punishment? And your parent would say, "I'll take care of it." And sometimes you'd be incensed because you felt they got off lightly? It can be the same situation with God, but it's His prerogative to judge people, not ours. We may judge actions--murder is wrong--but we don't get to judge people. And isn't it a relief that it's not our job?

Our. Yours and mine. Humility is remembering the yours  part. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Celebrating Kateri Tekakwitha's First Feast Day as Saint Kateri!

Mural at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church
 On July 14th, we celebrated the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha at her namesake Catholic Church in Santa Clarita!

This was especially exciting because this is her first feast day as a saint.

Statue of Saint Kateri at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church
Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri Tekakwitha was born an Algonquin-Mohawk in New York in 1656. As a child, she survived smallpox, but was left an orphan, her face marked with scars from the disease. She irritated her guardians by refusing to marry, saying she had taken a vow of chastity. Shunned by her tribe, she left to live in a Jesuit mission village in what is now Canada. She began her catechism, and was baptized into the Catholic faith.

Upon her death at 24, her smallpox scars disappeared.

She gives us several excellent example to follow: chastity, living with an affliction, and living together with nature.

Saint Kateri is the patroness of the environment and ecology.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Pray for Us!

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, patroness of the Carmelite Order and patron saint of Chile.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is popularly associated with the Brown Scapular, a sacramental worn as a sign and a pledge to emulate Mary, who is a perfect model of the interior life of prayer and contemplation, a model of virtue, and the person who was closest in life to Jesus Christ.  Mary always points Christians to Christ, as she did at the wedding at Cana with the words, "Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you."

Any Marian feast day is worth noting, because to honor Mary is to honor Jesus. It was her simple "yes" to God that began Jesus' mission of Salvation.

How many times does God speak to us, but we're so busy with schedules and lists and "important" tasks that we put Him off or ignore Him completely?

We must first learn to listen, and we do that through the study of His Word in the Scriptures and by taking the time to speak with Him. There is time enough in the day to eat, to work, to socialize, to watch television. There's also enough time to pray.

"Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, help us to imitate you in your love for Jesus. Help us to listen for God throughout our day, and give us the strength and integrity to say yes to Him."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Simple, NOT Stupid

Simple is sweet!

I met Martha (made up name) at Bible Study. She was as sweet as God makes 'em. And kind. Beautiful inside and out. She was and still is a devout Catholic who loves Jesus, Mary, and all God's children. (That would be you and me.)

Born in Mexico, she moved to the US with her husband, and on this day we were celebrating her hard-won US citizenship.  From her infectious laughter to her impish smile and beautiful accent, she radiated simplicity.

I can hear the cynics saying that only such a simple woman could be a devout servant of God. If she had a finely developed intellect like, say, the intelligentsia found on campus colleges alongside of professors who view their female students as a corral of potential breeding mares, then she wouldn't be drawn to such a simple formula as GOD + me. She'd choose the smart person's option of GOD = me.

Back in Mexico, sweet, simple Martha was a lawyer.

It's not intellect that gets in the way of faith. It's pride.

It really is that simple.