Unique and Precious

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People show love to each other in different ways: words, little sacrifices, signs of affection.

We can show love for God in different ways too. We worship, adore, choose His Will over ours, do works of service.

Yet there always remains something very hidden between God and the soul, something invisible to everyone else. This hidden love for God in the heart is something very intimate and so very special.

It is also completely unique.

This is something I’ve been realizing more lately. No two souls are alike. No one can give Jesus what you can give Him. No one can love Him like you do. The way you look at Him, speak to Him, the way you adore Him – it is something fully known only to God, and something that sets you apart from everyone else who has ever lived or will live.

Never in the history of the world would your soul be repeated. There is only one of you, and Jesus longs to have YOU, specifically. No one can love Him in the same way.

Since God knows us so intimately, even better than we know ourselves, we can trust Him with all our emotions and struggles. He already knows our hearts and understands them perfectly, and He knows the hidden parts of us that we are not able to express.

As Jesus looks into our hearts, let us not turn away in fear, but meet His gaze – so gentle and kind, and give Him any brokenness that needs to be healed. He always looks into the heart with immeasurable tenderness.

No matter how ordinary or insignificant you may feel in the world, there is only one of you for Jesus. He knows your face and your voice from all the others, and He longs for your unique and unrepeatable heart.

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Resting with Jesus

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Sometimes life can get very busy. Besides work, duties, vocal prayers that I need to finish somewhere in between, – it’s so easy to forget to just BE with Jesus.

Yet I think this is something so healing, and something that He really wishes for.

I have been thinking recently, what are the desires of His Heart.. Fears and anxieties can be very paralysing yet God doesn’t intend for us to live that way. Though we have crosses to carry, I believe He wants us to carry them with trust and abandonment to His Will, not stopping at resignation.

Yet sometimes, a mere effort of the will isn’t enough to receive this grace. We need to spend time with Jesus and let Him work in our hearts and help us to open up to Him. Time spent in mental prayer or Adoration can be a chance to just rest with Jesus and let the transforming radiance of His light and love permeate our souls. Is this not the meaning of contemplation – to forget all else except Jesus, look upon Him and love Him. I’m sure if we could see Him with our eyes, we would not ever want to look away!

What does Jesus want?

Often I want to give something beautiful to God. But in certain moments I feel I have nothing really to give. We can give Him that nothing… And one thing I’m beginning to realise is that in that moment, Jesus delights in GIVING to us.

Its a great mercy from God when He receives our little gifts. What must be the Mercy of His Heart when He simply gives to a soul who has nothing? In those times we feel we have only sins, failures and anxieties, but we no longer pretend.

And what’s even more amazing is that Jesus doesn’t only generously give to us, but inexpressibly DELIGHTS in that!

In those moments when He just wants us to forget all things and love Him (is His desire for every moment to be like that?) am I still clinging to my anxieties, attempts at vocal prayers, or trying to prove my worth to Him? Yes there is a time to give to Jesus, to prove our love. Yet even in this, we need Him, we need grace.

Maybe Jesus just wishes I would let go and not escape His embrace any longer. He wants a time of nothing but love between Him and my heart – a time that would allow Him to act freely.

As I consider that this is a time of great consolation and delight to Jesus, I wonder how much have I understood His Heart? How can it be that God would have such joy not just when we give to Him, but when He gives of Himself to our poor little souls? Do I ever delight with Him about my nothingness, or complain about it?

It astounds me to think that Jesus isn’t only the “beggar of love” as some have called Him. His humility is so deep that He begs TO love. It is rest to us, and to Him. And He knows that in our pride, distrust, or fear – we may still say no to this greatest and most free gift.

The Garden (an allegory)

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Inspired by the writings of St Therese of Lisieux

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily

do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.

If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” ― St Thérèse of Lisieux

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Day after day, enormous azure waves crashed against a towering cliff that overlooked the sea. The sea shone with bright turquoise and gold under the sun. The cliff was white and dazzling as it rose from the waters. At first, nothing particular could be seen on the cliff except a flat, barren plateau of rocks. Yet if one were to look very closely and in just the right place, they would happen to see a tiny flower growing in a bit of soil between the rocks. It was light blue and it often felt forgotten and alone, because there were no other flowers on the cliff.

On the other side of the cliff, there could be seen a fragrant green valley with many wondrous gardens and meadows. The little flower spent its days gazing at the valley and watching the other plants. It could see towering trees with their many branches swaying in the wind and their leaves casting intricate patterns of sunlight and shade on the ground. The flowers it could not count, for they were as numerous as the stars in the sky. Thousands of them could be seen, interweaved in a dazzling mosaic of blue, yellow, lilac, crimson, and other vibrant colours. Bright streams ran through the valley providing it with water, colourful butterflies fluttered above the meadows, and mountains with their glimmering peaks shone in the distance. A soft breeze brushed through the valley, rustled the leaves, and carried a lovely fragrance to the top of the cliff.

Captivated by all this beauty, the little flower gazed on the valley, but there was Someone dearer than all others that it eagerly awaited to see each morning. With each sunrise, shining with light more radiant than the rays of the sun, the Lord and Creator of the garden would walk through His creation. In fact, He had made everything that there was, but the little flower did not know this. All throughout the night, the little flower awaited His coming. Upon seeing Him, its little heart was pierced by both joy and sorrow. How kind and tender He looked! Longingly, it wished that He would visit it too, but this was not to be… The cliff was very far from the valley and very high up. Often, the little flower wondered why it was created to be so lonely and placed so far away from the other plants. It could see other little blue flowers that grew in cheerful little groups, but it was all alone, surrounded only by sharp rocks. It had no one with whom to share its pain and it spent its days and nights hoping for the Lord to come and visit it and this was the greatest happiness that it could imagine.

The little flower watched the Lord as He walked among His flowers in the most beautiful garden. It was filled with magnificent roses, lilies, lilacs, tulips and magnolias. The apple orchard was in full bloom and its little white blossoms filled the air with a light fragrance. The Lord delighted in these flowers, and held the delicate roses in His hands and they scattered their petals before Him on the path where He walked. The path was strewn with beautiful red, rose, white, and yellow petals. How the little flower wished to scatter its little petals on the path, even to give all its petals, though they were so few, just to see the Lord smile and delight in its love! It thought it could surely love just as much as the tall gorgeous roses and the pure white lilies. Then, more than ever, it grieved to remain on the rocky cliff. Sometimes, one of its little blue petals would fall on the ground, and the little flower wished for the wind to catch it and carry it to Him. It watched as the Lord then walked to the lilies and rejoiced in their purity and innocence. They bent to the ground before Him and He blessed them.

The little flower observed the Lord walk among His other plants. The tall majestic cedars offered Him their shade, and as He lay on the grass in the meadow, the little violets and daisies delighted Him. Again the little flower wished to give such comfort and love to Him but it could only send its love from afar. Did Jesus hear it at all? Did He know about this little flower, all alone on the cliff, hoping against all hope to be one of the flowers in the valley? It watched as the Lord smiled at the flowers and longed so much to be among them that its heart almost broke.

During the nights when a piercing cold wind blew from the sea and stars could be seen sparkling in the heavens, the little flower would ask the birds that perched on the tall rocks to fly into the valley as it lay shrouded in twilight and describe what they saw. Eagerly, it awaited to hear about the Lord, but when the birds returned, they only described the sleeping flowers and the silent, tall trees.

Sometimes, a deep mist covered the cliff and isolated it entirely from the valley and even the sea. Then the little flower was tossed about and torn in the wind, often covered with dirt and mud, and could not even see through the mist to watch its Beloved Lord. At these times, it was no longer sure if it had ever seen Him or if it was only a very beautiful dream. Sadly, it wondered if it had ever seen anything other than this dense darkness surrounding it. It hoped that at least the Lord had been real, and it no longer even cared if the valley had been imagined, as long as He really existed. Sometimes it was tempted to think that the Lord did not care or love the little flower, and in these desolate times, it could not figure out why it had been placed in this distant, lonely place. It tried to imagine Him as He was, walking through the valley in His white robe, with a radiant crown of light on His Head, smiling and blessing the flowers as they bowed before Him. Most of all it tried to remember His kind eyes and tried to imagine what it must be like to look into them. Thus day after day, year after year, the little flower remained alone, feeling forsaken under the deep night sky and cold distant stars, shivering in the freezing wind that came from the sea, and exhausted from struggling against the storms that tore its little petals.

One evening, the little flower was thinking of the Lord as it did always, and being deep in thought, it did not notice the lonely figure walking on the plateau towards it. The figure was bowed down as in grief, and did not look at the evening sunlight glimmering on the sea, or the birds flying overhead, or the valley. The figure was that of a man, and he barely walked but had nothing to help or support him. He stumbled over the rocks and the sharp stones pierced his feet painfully. As the man came closer, the little flower was shocked to realize that his whole body was covered with wounds and blood ran from his head which was pierced with sharp thorns. The blood had soaked his garment and hair and was dripping on the rocks as he walked. Tired and worn out from the journey, the man collapsed on a rock right near the little flower. He was barely moving but his hands were shaking. The little flower felt such sorrow for this man and wished with all its heart that it could help him. But what could it do, being so tiny? It raised itself a little to look at the man’s face, and as it did so, it felt as if the world had stopped…

The man’s face was covered with blood and dirt, but as the little flower looked at his eyes, it recognized the unmistakeable eyes of the Lord it had so often watched in the valley. Its little heart fluttered so quickly that it could not speak. It was truly Him! It would surely know His eyes anywhere.

Now, tears fell from His eyes to the ground, but they were still just as kind and beautiful as when He had blessed the flowers. As the little flower was contemplating this, one of His large tears fell on its petals. Then, drops of His blood began falling on the flower. Yet the whole time, it was only glad to see Him, though overcome by sorrow and helplessness. It saw as one of its petals fell right near the Lord. It was no longer blue and looked very tattered, as the little flower had endured a terrible storm the night before. But with all its heart, it offered this little petal to Him and wished that like a tree, it could offer its leaves to wipe the blood from His face and cover the hard rocks on which He lay. It thought of the other flowers in the valley, and how they probably did not know what had happened to the Lord and how they would have wanted to comfort Him if they only knew. Why was He here, on this desolate cliff, all alone?

Suddenly, the Lord looked at the little petal, picked it up and laid it on His hand. The little flower saw that both of His hands were pierced through. The petal covered one of the wounds on His hand. The Lord turned then and looked at the little flower. He looked upon it with such compassion and love, and despite His pain, He was smiling. “Thank you”, He whispered.

The little flower did not at first understand. “Dear Lord, for what do You thank me? If I had been like one of the roses or the beautiful flowers in the valley, I could have done so much more to help You”. And the little flower bowed down sadly until it touched the ground.

“My very little one.. Do you know why I have placed you here? I know you often felt so forgotten and alone. But I never stopped thinking of you and supported you when you knew it least. And now you have consoled Me.”

The little flower still could not understand. What has it ever done? How had it ever consoled Him? It raised itself to look into His eyes.  He looked back with immeasurable kindness yet did not at first answer. The little flower gazed at the wounds on the hands that were stretched towards it. It thought of His weariness and loneliness as He was walking on the cliff, as if carrying the weight of the world. Then, it remembered… the cold, the storms, all the nights of wishing to see Him, wishing that He would visit the cliff. Oh, what were these sufferings compared to His? And yet only on this cliff and only through these nights, could it know and experience for itself at least a part of His pain. With Him, it had suffered and loved…

The little flower could not speak. In its amazement, gratitude, surprise and joy, it almost did not realize as the Lord picked it up with its roots and held it in His hands. “Share now in the joy of your Master”, He said. Amazing, beautiful rays of light came from His Heart and fell upon the little flower. It felt immersed in an infinite ocean of love and light, and completely overwhelmed with joy. His eyes were so kind, shining with such compassion and tenderness, that it wanted to be lost in Him forever. Somehow, without words, it understood that He wanted its love too, that He desired and longed for it, even more than it had longed for His love. It could almost not believe that this was happening. In this unspeakable joy, the Lord held the little flower in His wounded hands and carried it to His most beautiful garden.

St Rose of Lima

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Today is the feast of St Rose of Lima in the traditional Roman calendar.

St Rose was born in Peru on April 20, 1586. Her birth name was Isabel, but she was later called Rose and was confirmed with this name.

As a young girl, she wanted to follow in the footsteps of St Catherine of Siena and began to do penances and fast. She spent many hours in contemplation and had a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

She wanted to consecrate herself to God, and took a perpetual vow of virginity and became a Third Order Dominican. She is a great example to those who are seeking a consecrated life in the world.

St Rose faced great opposition for her decision to vow herself to God and for her way of life. She continued living in her parents’ home and spent many hours praying in her room, and slept only two hours a night so that she could pray more. She also helped the sick and the poor and sold her hand made lace and embroidery to care for them. In addition, she sold flowers and needlework to help support her family.

St Rose is often portrayed with a crown of roses. In her life, there is an account of how in her youth, she was taken to various social events. She was given a crown of flowers to wear, however, in penance she wore a “crown of thorns” underneath the roses.

St Rose also went through many interior and exterior trials, and had a great love for the Cross. She had a mystical marriage to Christ and wore a ring inscribed with the words that He told her: “Rose of My Heart, be My spouse”.

Words of St Rose:

“Oh my God, You can increase the sufferings I endure, for in this way You will increase the love I have for You”

“We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions”

A life lived with Jesus

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“Prayer is nothing more than spending a long time alone with the one I know loves me” St Teresa of Avila

“This is the only reality. I love you and I take care of you” Jesus to Sr Mary of the Holy Trinity

Faith is a mysterious thing.

I really believe we wouldn’t be able to live this way if it wasn’t a supernatural gift. I am trying to imagine what it is like for us, and for Jesus.

You go through your day, at times speaking to Jesus silently in your head, where no one else can hear. He is the witness of all your emotions, thoughts, and experiences as they are lived from within you, rather than as a totally outside observer. You tell Him about the various problems and concerns, and the line-up that’s making you late for something, and the struggles so particular to you that other people would probably not really understand. He sees the things you don’t put into words but that are there: the wonder of the sunset you saw through the bus window, or the hurt after someone’s remark that resurfaces throughout the day, as you’re trying to do other things.

Throughout all this, you have the sense that God is really, undeniably there. There’s a real assurance about this, yet how it is there you can’t quite explain. You don’t always feel Him… but it’s something deeper, like you just know.

It is very consoling, to have Someone so close to you, to be actually in you, aware of absolutely everything that is going on. Even such little things. Someone who knows the entire reason not just for the big habitual struggles, but the tears that almost came to your eyes, even just one tear. Someone who watches every beat of your heart. With time, you begin to get an interior sense of what He is like.. you begin to recognize Him.

How to describe Him? You don’t know how. But sometimes, when He’s closer, you begin to feel a recognition, a joy, and then you find a deep and new love within yourself. You begin to feel like you are in contact with a Person who really means something to you. And then, He begins to mean quite a lot. You find yourself thinking more and more of Him, as you’re just going through your day. No one around you is aware of these secret thoughts as you are simply drinking coffee or walking through the grocery store. It strikes you one day that if they knew, they would probably think you are very strange.

With a sudden love you never knew in the past, you want to give yourself entirely to Jesus, and you are surprised that you could feel this so strongly. It takes an act of trust to do this, because somewhere deep inside we are afraid of this kind of vulnerability or absolute commitment. But Jesus immediately responds too, and you feel like no human love could ever compare. It is like a secret in your heart, between you and Jesus.

It is amazing that we can know something without seeing it or receiving it through the senses. How do we know He is there? Yet He is. We don’t see Him, and that’s how it would be for most people. But the gift of faith gives a deep certain sort of knowing.

Yet is also true that sometimes we want more. We would want to see, even though we don’t ever dare to ask this. We are amazed reading about the mystics who experienced God so powerfully. There’s something painful in being this close to Someone without being able to perceive the presence more directly. We can take a walk with a friend, talk to them, see them, hear their voice, reach out and touch them. But Jesus, who is in the deepest part of our being, whose Presence secretly permeates our whole life, remains invisible. Perhaps occasionally we feel or hear Him in our hearts, but sometimes when we wish that He would speak He chooses to remain silent. We go through times of spiritual dryness.

There is a longing in our hearts that only Heaven would be able to satisfy. The most significant moments in our lives would not be able to be replayed enough times, for us to stop seeking. Even experiencing God’s presence ends up increasing this longing. We would feel it until the moment we see God face to face, as He is the infinite Source of everything we have ever sought.

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There are moments when we are just desperately holding on to faith. We are faced with trials everywhere, but it seems like Jesus is asleep in our souls as He was in the boat with the Apostles. At that moment, you can’t remember anymore what it was like when His Presence was felt. The previous life feels so distant, and you are caught up in a storm that you don’t know how to handle. Your faith tells you that He is still there, and is upholding you by His grace, because without His grace, you wouldn’t be going on. Somehow, you keep going, but you also lie awake at night wondering what is happening, and where He is, and you cannot shake off the terrible perception that you have lost Him.

Why has He disappeared, at this moment when I need Him most? Why would love do this? You wonder. You see yourself more for what you really are, without the previous illusions, or the illusions others have. You see all the misery inside, that no one else could even know, much less understand, and you feel alone with it.

The past stands before you in its unalterable reality. You stand in the company of sinners, not as an outsider looking in, but as another sinner. You see now what it was really like. Before, you tried to ignore, excuse or numb yourself to this sudden perception. You didn’t want to admit so much imperfection.. it is easier to hide it among the sins of others, to pretend it is not of any importance. You realize that in your weakness, you NEED God, because only His grace provides a support that is strong enough, and another foundation would crumble.

And so, Jesus sees all of this hidden interior within us. He sees you crying, worn out, or confused. You are being held, very closely, and carried, but you are not aware of this.

There are other moments too. You begin to understand something about Jesus. He is being vulnerable too. The invitations you resisted or ignored.. the love He wanted to give as you were blindly seeking it elsewhere.. the trials that He allows for our good, which we responded to by running from Him, doubting, or bitterly complaining. Jesus knows that by sharing with us what is most precious to Him… His own Cross, experienced through suffering; the most powerful and dearest sign of His love… He risks rejection from us.

Still He waits and waits, and forgets the painful wounds that we continue to inflict on His Heart, His gaze so penetrating but kind and respecting of our liberty – the liberty which we have misused to crucify Him. He looks  upon us who have contributed to His death, with such limitless compassion – as upon those whom He counted to be dearer than His own life.

Slowly, you begin to understand that no matter what happens, no matter what has ever happened, you are absolutely precious to Him, because He is Love.

Here is One who was always your Friend. Your Best Friend. Your Beloved. He was always who you needed Him to be. He has longed for you so deeply.

You see that somehow, miraculously, you are suddenly forgiven and beautiful in His eyes. He has seen you truly as you are, and loved. You know that no one would ever or could ever love you like this, nor are you capable of loving anyone in this infinite way. He simply delights in you, and this heals the pain of feeling unloved and unlovable. He wants you to not look at the trials anymore, but to just look at Him, be still and rest.

This life with Jesus is not a lesser substitute for another life we wish we had. It is not something we resort to as a second best choice because we don’t have a specific human love. No human love could be enough for a heart made for the infinite.

Let Jesus look at you. Let Him see you, simply as you are, not putting up any barriers or trying to impress Him or hiding anything. There’s a part in your heart that is really secret from everyone else, maybe even from you, and it is like a locked door. If it has always been locked, it was for this moment, to open it to Jesus alone, that He may come in.

But there is a danger of keeping it locked even from Him. Is it fear that prevents it from being opened?

Here is One who is worthy.

He will not misunderstand.

He will not back away.

He will not give up.

He will not respond with anger.

He will come as a Merciful Saviour

He wants to share your every thought, every emotion.

He wants to share Himself with you, to give Himself.

He knows what it would cost Him if you say no, but He doesn’t force His way in. He is meek and humble.

Allow Him to silently look into the very depths of your being, and simply let Him in.

His gaze is unspeakably tender and compassionate. He knows all about your heart, and what to do to heal you, and how to do it. He knows how much you can take at the given moment.

Look at Him with the eyes of your heart.

He has waited a long, long time for you, because from before the beginning of the world He knew that you would exist, and that one day He would come and find you.

 

Why veil at Mass?

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As a new Catholic, one day at Mass I felt drawn to covering my head. I have to admit I was nervous doing this, because I didn’t want to “stand out”… I eventually began wearing a headband, but only got the courage to wear an actual veil when I began attending Latin Mass. On one particularly humiliating occasion (at an unfamiliar parish), I found the courage to put on my veil sometime during the Mass, only to take it off again before the end (this probably made me stand out much more than if I had just kept the veil on the whole time!).

Reflecting on this makes me think how difficult it could be to start veiling when no one around you does it. At the parish I usually attend, veiling is very common. However if I am travelling or happen to be in another parish, it’s a different story. Sometimes I wonder if I seem “holier than thou” or if it’s something so unfamiliar that people simply associate it with weddings (which probably makes me look even weirder). It’s happened that I simply wore a scarf or a hat, but I always end up missing the veil: it somehow has the effect of making you feel hidden alone with God as you are praying.

I think my fear of standing out is not always helpful because we don’t know the effect we have on others. It happened that one family expressed that they were happy to see someone following this custom. Others might wonder “why is she wearing this?” but it might get them thinking about reverence, the Blessed Sacrament, or the traditions we have in the Church. If someone thinks its silly, I would say that’s more of an occasion to grow in humility, rather than vanity. If someone thinks I’m trying to be “holier than thou”, perhaps that’s just something to offer up.

This made me wonder: why do we veil in the first place? When I first started, I didn’t really know why. I knew it was in Scripture and it felt reverent to do it but it took me years until I found out the theology behind the veil – and I’m still finding it out.

One explanation of veiling that I remembered the most has to do with women being a symbol of the Church.

The Church is holy because of the Presence of Jesus. The Church is His Bride that will be presented to Him spotless, without any blemish.

We know that in marriage, the man represents Christ and the woman represents the Church. Veiling is an application of this mystery

We find this link of women and the Church not only in marriage but in consecrated life. It is present there in an even more direct way, as a life of perfect chastity means a fuller participation in the Church’s identity. Consecrated souls in point to the ultimate reality of the Kingdom of God (Vita Consecrata), where every soul would have a spiritual spousal relation to God in Heaven, but they start this here on earth in a way by dedicating their chastity to Him. The spousal meaning is based on a spiritual union with God.

If we add this all together: every soul is spiritually ‘married’ to Christ in Heaven; consecrated life points to this and participates in it already here on earth in a mysterious way, and earthly marriage is a sign of the spiritual reality.

The Church contains Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He is the Head of the Church. This makes the Church holy. Jesus is our Bread of Life and we receive spiritual life through the Church.

If we look at symbolism in the Church, things are covered because they are holy. For instance, the Tabernacle which holds the Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, is traditionally veiled. Veiling shows a certain mystery and evokes reverence.

A baptized woman could perhaps symbolize the Church’s ultimately feminine relation to Christ. She also has Jesus living in her. She is also able to bear life, and can be a physical or spiritual mother. Since we cover what is holy, the holiness of Christ in the Church can be represented in the woman veiling at Mass.

To me, veiling continues to be a sort of a mystery. Even after hearing the above explanation, there are still points that I do not really understand, such as the words of St Paul about veiling because of the angels. There seem to be several points about veiling in Scripture and Church tradition.

1 Corinthians 11 says that nature teaches us about veiling because a woman’s long hair is given to her like a covering. Veiling is also linked to the relation of men and women. Since in marriage a man represents Christ and a woman represents the Church, and Christ is the Head of Church, analogously the man is the head of the woman. St Paul says that any woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered, dishonours her head.

An early Church Father, Tertullian, also explains that Consecrated Virgins should veil as a sign that they are known to God alone. (This might explain why it is customary for Religious in general to veil, since they vow their chastity to God to be known only by Him).

Veiling is a sign of modesty, humility and chastity.

On a more personal note, when I veil I am reminded of several things. Wearing a veil is a reminder of our relationship with our Divine Bridegroom. It inspires to greater devotion and reverence as we are united to Him in the Holy Eucharist. When we veil we are covering ourselves from view so only God sees and knows us. I also think of being more humble before Him as He is present on the altar. The Angels veil their faces as they worship God. I am also reminded that this time in church is not like any other time. It’s a time exclusively given to God, it is about Someone Holy, and it needs to be treated that way and given more attention.

The Value of Crosses

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St Rose of Lima:

Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”

Praying for our Priests

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This blog is not usually about controversies and I wouldn’t usually write about something like the Church abuse scandal that’s everywhere in the media right now. But it struck me today how important it is to pray for our Priests.

In the 16th century, Our Lady appeared to a nun, Mother Mariana of Jesus Torres (in Equador). This private revelation is approved by the Church. Mother Mariana offered herself to God to suffer for the sins of the 20th century.

Our Lady of Good Success prophesied various events in the 20th century including attacks upon Matrimony, the Sacraments in general, decline in vocations and the small number of those who truly follow Church teaching.

“The small number of souls, who hidden, will preserve the treasures of the Faith and practice virtue will suffer a cruel, unspeakable and prolonged martyrdom. Many will succumb to death from the violence of their sufferings and those who sacrifice themselves for the Church and their country will be counted as martyrs.  In order to free men from the bondage to these heresies, those whom the merciful love of my most Holy Son has designated to effect the restoration, will need great strength of will, constancy, valor and confidence of the just.  There will be occasions when all will seem lost and paralyzed.  This then will be the happy beginning of the complete restoration.”

Our Blessed Mother also prophesied the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility.

She also spoke about the attacks on the Priesthood:

“The Sacred Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed and despised. …The demon will try to persecute the Ministers of the Lord in every possible way and he will labor with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation, corrupting many of them. These corrupted priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will incite the hatred of the bad Christians and the enemies of the Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church to fall upon all priests. This apparent triumph of Satan will bring enormous sufferings to the good Pastors of the Church….”

This prophesy from Our Lady really made me think about the Church today and that we need to pray for our good priests, and to pray also for those priests who are severely tempted. The devil attacks them because he knows that through this, he can scatter the rest of the faithful and turn people away from the Church. He can cause people to wrongly see priestly celibacy as the cause of evil, disguising the real cause. He can use the actions of some to cause suffering to good and holy priests who are faithful to the Church.

I think as lay people, we need to commit to praying for all our priests and also offering reparation to God. We shouldn’t lose faith, but see the current events as an attack on the Church. Losing faith is exactly what the enemy would want. This is not to downplay the horrible things that have happened, but precisely because they have happened, I believe prayers and sacrifices could be used by God to bring a solution. Mother Mariana generously offered herself as a victim for the sins if the 20th century – though the sight of them was so terrible that she needed a miracle to live. Not all are called to be victim souls, but we can all offer reparation and sacrifice and thus be faithful children of God in this generation.

Despite the sad events that are happening in the Church, it is still the Church and the gates of hell have not prevailed against it. The Church has gone through much in the past 2000 years and it was not destroyed. As humans we are flawed, but Our Lord is present in the Church, and He can help us if we trust Him in this time.

More about Our Lady of Good Success

Purity: the difficult virtue – part 2

+JMJ

In the last post, we looked at the origin of our human struggle with purity. At times, we might not have a deep understanding of sin and its effects and simply thinking that “it is a sin” is not enough to win the battle. In order to have a true rejection of sin that goes deeper, it can help to reflect on the nature of the sin and its effects, and the importance of the opposite virtue. What are some reasons for purity? Perhaps we can also ask – what is the effect of sins of impurity on the soul?

1. Purity illumines the mind to know God. Conversely, impurity dulls the mind and brings it to what is earthly and worldly.

As human beings, we were created to know God. The world is not enough to fill our hearts, which have been made for an infinite happiness. A dog may be happy simply having a good meal, because it was created for a natural happiness and it does not know anything else. However, God has placed a desire in our hearts for Himself and for the supernatural. Simply natural happiness does not satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart.

Prayer, Sacraments, and other ways given by God through the Church, allow us to know Him. What we do with our bodies affects the souls, since we are both physical and spiritual creatures. Impurity of the body has an effect on the soul where it destroys the life of grace, but also makes a person generally less responsive to spiritual things. If we want to really grow in our prayer life or get to know God deeper, we need to cultivate purity, – as painful and repetitive as the struggle may be. Purity allows us to contemplate the truths of the faith with more light and helps us to raise ourselves more to Him in prayer.

2. Purity allows us to love the other person, whereas impurity objectifies them.

Marriage was created by God and it is an image of the union of Christ and the Church. It is not just a piece of paper, but an act of complete self-giving till death. This allows the intimacy of the spouses in marriage to be directed towards love and a gift of self, rather than selfishness. Intimacy outside of marriage takes place outside of a commitment that should accompany it. Christian marriage has the added dimension of being a Sacrament, which means that the spouses receive God’s grace through the marriage to help them become holy.

Impure actions however, belittle the other person and eventually risk treating them as an object. Without a total commitment and a gift of self to the other person through marriage, the end of the relationship becomes one’s own pleasure.

In the end, it helps to consider what love is. Love is not a “feeling”, but an act of the will for the other person’s good. Marriage centers a relationship of a man and a woman on love and sacrifice. If we consider the relationship of Christ and the Church, the meaning of marriage becomes more clear. The husband loves the wife truly if his love is sacrificial and he gives of himself to serve his family, as Christ died for the Church.

3. Purity honours our person as a temple of the Holy Spirit, while impurity defaces it.

If we are baptized, we have been set apart as a dwelling-place for the Holy Trinity here on earth. If we have confessed our grave sins and are in a state of grace, God dwells in us in a unique way, distinct from His presence in His creation. This is a really astounding reality and reflecting on it shows the depth of God’s love and also the dignity of a human being.

We were created in God’s image. God is the Holy Trinity, – one God in three divine Persons. As the Father knows Himself, His knowledge is so perfect that it leads to another Person – the Son, who took on a human nature – Jesus Christ. Our intellect is a reflection of God’s intellect. God also has a will, and as the Father sees His perfection, He loves it and this leads to another divine Person – the Holy Spirit. As complicated and mysterious as the Holy Trinity is… (I don’t pretend to understand it!) – considering how we are made in God’s image shows that we are not just animals. We have eternal souls, and our faculties (such as intellect and will) are meant to reflect and glorify God.

Considering this, maybe the ugliness of impurity can become more apparent. Some people might think that as long as we don’t commit any external impure acts, it’s not so bad. Yet it all starts in the heart, and interior purity needs to be cultivated as well. Our Lord said that anyone who only looks at another lustfully has already committed adultery. Sin is in the will, whether externalized or not.

Mortal sins are those that cause grace to leave our souls and place us in a state of spiritual death. Since sins of impurity are against the Commandments and are always grave, any sin of lust fully consented to is a mortal sin. However, venial sins are serious too. (Those are “smaller” sins that don’t cause us to lose grace).

We all have to start with just fighting mortal sins.. but eventually, when mortal sins are more or less under control, it is important to also consider venial sins. A venial sin is already an infinite offense against God. I read of a Saint who saw the reality of a venial sin and the horror of it almost caused her to die. It is a great mercy of God that He forgives venial sins so readily even without Confession, unlike mortal sins which we need to confess to a priest.

Venial sins against chastity are serious in that they also dishonour God in our souls. If we think of ourselves as a temple of God, meant to be a “home” for Him on earth to give Him glory, we can maybe see the effect more clearly. If mortal sin is like taking God’s presence out of a church, venial sin is like throwing garbage on the floor or otherwise dishonouring His Presence there.

Just a note for those who tend to scrupulosity and anxiety.

God knows that we are weak. We do not surprise Him with our frailty. He looks at the heart and the effort, and if despite your best effort you still commit 50 venial sins against chastity every day, don’t forget that He loves you. He is still in your soul, helping you, giving you graces, and rejoicing in your every effort. In fact, your brave efforts can win many merits for you.

Some tips to live purely:

  • don’t rely on your own strength. It’s not about just will-power. No one would make it then. We NEED God’s grace.. the more we go to Confession and Communion, spend time in prayer, especially mental prayer, the more we trust in God and hope in His help, the more success we would have in the long run
  • DON’T GIVE UP. This one is really important. Fighting impurity can be exhausting, repetitive, and without much visible success at first. The sign of our spiritual growth is found in how quickly we “come back” with patience and trust in God, instead of wallowing in our discouragement. Have hope! God created all things and upholds all things, and He can take care of your soul. Entrust it to Him.
  • Flee temptations. Don’t try to fight them directly, – that only tends to increase them. Avoid occasions of sin. If something is tempting you, give it up. Don’t fill your mind with impure images and stories. Put God first and He will reward you with more graces.
  • Go to your Angel. Each of us has a holy Angel of God whose only duty is to help us! Ask him to help you with purity.
  • Go to the Saints. There’s a Saint for everyone. If you’ve fallen in the past, you might be encouraged by Saints who fell too, but then lived a holy life.. for example, St Mary Magdalene, St Margaret of Cortona, St Augustine.

Purity: the difficult virtue

+JMJ

Warning: this is a challenging topic. It challenged me to think and write about it. There is perhaps nothing that seems more personal or sensitive to discuss. It may be difficult for some to face the Church teaching on purity because of past sins or a current lifestyle that causes a deep sense of shame.

We try really hard to suppress this shame and convince ourselves that there’s nothing to worry about, that such prohibitions are out-of-date and that we as a culture have “evolved” beyond them. The culture certainly doesn’t help. Who wants to be labelled as old-fashioned, prudish, fearful, immature, abnormal, etc.?

Perhaps before we talk about purity something should be said about impurity. Where did this come from, if God made our human nature?

When God first created Adam and Eve, they had a certain integrity of person. Their will was fully submitted to God, and their physical nature was fully submitted to their will and reason. They did not experience this conflict and attraction to sin that we have now, which we call concupiscence. However since the fall, everything became out of order. Self-will and pride took the place of God’s Will, and we lost grace, which is a participation in God’s own life. As baptized persons, this original sin has been taken away and we were placed back into a state of grace. Every time we sin gravely we lose it again, but can recover it through Confession.

However, the concupiscence still remains in us after Baptism and Confession. In a person who is trying to live according to God’s law, it presents a daily battle, one which perhaps we did not notice before. From this comes the struggle for purity. This struggle can be intense and painful… no wonder Our Lady of Fatima told the children that “more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason”.

A life of purity requires often painful sacrifice against our inclinations and sometimes repentance is difficult. We almost convince ourselves that it’s not a sin, yet at what cost? The conscience is deadened and sometimes there can even be a strong reaction against the Church, because deep down, our conscience is still trying to warn us. An attachment to sins of impurity can manifest itself through ridicule of chastity and anything contrary to the sinful habits is experienced as almost a personal attack and a denial of one’s freedom.

The question is.. does impurity truly lead to freedom? Is the Church teaching on chastity just something that is used to control? The next post would be about some reasons why the Church teaches chastity as a virtue. In the end, true interior freedom could only come from God and from obedience to His Will and how He created us and the world.