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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Love?

How shall I love God
as He loves me
when my own heart
is cluttered -
filled with so many things
which are not God;
when I am still
so attached to myself
and see the world
through my eyes
and not His?
How shall I love my Lord
as He loves me
when impurities
still clog the way
to my heart?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Quality of Mercy



 The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
- Portia, "The Merchant of Venice"
 
 
What is mercy?  Merriam Webster's dictionary defines it as : "compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power."  This seems as good a definition as any.  But when we speak of God's mercy, what exactly do we mean? 
 
We sin.  We offend against God's love for us.  We turn away from Him - some days we turn further away than other days.  For some people there may come a point where they do not turn back.  But God is always waiting, always ready to take us back into the fold.  We are already forgiven, for it is a freely given gift, but we must cooperate with God.  He will not force us to repent, to turn back.  We must accept His forgiveness.
 
Repentance presupposes a conversion of heart, which is brought about through grace.  "Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1989).  In His compassion (mercy), God freely offers His forgiveness to us.  He offers us reconciliation, freedom.  How many of us take Him up on that offer?  Or do we prefer to wallow in our sins, using them as an excuse to stay away from God? 
 
During this season of Lent, avail yourself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).  Repent. Turn back to God and accept His freely offered forgiveness.  There is no sin so great that it cannot be forgiven.  Meet Jesus in this most wonderful of sacraments.  Experience His loving mercy, as the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears did.  Allow him to touch you, to give you the gift he has already won for you.  But you must choose to turn back.  He is calling. 

"Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God." —Joel 2:12-13
 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Musings on Mary....

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation.  I spent some time in meditation this morning on the Annunciation:

The Annunciation has captured the imagination of artists throughout the ages.  My favorite is Henry Owassa Tanner's .

From today's Office of Readings, Responsory:  "The light filled her with fear, but the angel said to her: Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God." 
Mary, sinless from her conception, can sit in the Light even though it fills her with fear.  She not only sees the angel but believes.  And, I must presume that because of her sinless nature, she does not shrink from the Light for she is created from the moment of her Immaculate Conception to live within it.  She waits, curious, expectant - she must have lost her fear at the angel's words for not only has she listened well to the angel's proclamation that she is to conceive and bear a son, she finds her voice and asks a perfectly reasonable question:  "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" 
Does the Light fill  me with fear?  How do I respond to the Light?  How do I respond to any fear I may feel when my sins and imperfections are exposed by the Light?
And then she says "yes".  A full yes: "May it be done to me according to your word."  Confidence in her God.  Confidence in herself.  Trust and love fill her words, as she knows the word spoken to her, the Word to grow inside her womb, is from God, is of God, is God.  She knows Him already, for He has been present to Her and with her from the beginning.  Full of Grace, she has no need of perfection for her nature is already perfect.  Childlike in her knowledge of God, she accepts the power of the Most High, seemingly without question, for her answer comes without pause.  It is an immediate yes to the being of Light standing before her. 
When I am asked to carry the Word of God to others, is my response so quick?  Do I trust enough to say "yes?"  Do I cooperate with God, as He perfects my nature, or do I struggle against Him?  How childlike am I in my responses and in my trust?
I must believe that she would have run immediately to Joseph, for she would have no reason to hide this, no reason for deception.  I wonder what those first few days after this encounter with Light would have been like.  She has told her betrothed and her parents.  What is she feeling?  We know that she plans for and takes a trip to her cousin Elizabeth.  Elizabeth would understand.  Elizabeth would know what to say.  Though loved by her parents and by Joseph, can you imagine their reaction to this news?  Knowing Mary to be honest and forthright, they would want to believe her, but how hard was that belief? 
When I am presented with a mystery of the faith, or a teaching I do not understand, how willing am I to surrender myself to knowledge which is beyond me?  Am I willing to accept the truth of something even if I do not understand it?  How do I react? 
Mary sits in the Light.  She is not blinded by it, but is illuminated in its glow.  It overshadows her, she is engulfed within in, yet she emerges whole.  She accepts the word, and from her the Word will be born.  She has been touched by God and lived, indeed emerges from that touch bearing another Life.  Jesus, incarnate, the Word made flesh, begins His life because of Mary's "yes."  In what way will my "yes" bring Jesus into a world which hungers for Him? 
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rainy Days and Mondays....

I draw so much strength from the Sacraments, but Mondays are difficult.  I have received my Lord just the day before, but on most weeks will not have another opportunity to receive Him in the Eucharist until the next Sunday (small parish, no resident priest, and prohibitive to travel to another parish for daily Mass). 

O My Lord, what am I to do with this sadness?
The joy of my heart is to receive you
and now I must wait another week.
How do I transform this painful longing and desire?
I want to be united to you with all my heart.
Your are my strength.
Please strengthen me further, Lord,
that I may endure this feeling of absence.
Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Communion Plates and Holy Communion

To my Roman Catholic readers:  if you attend a Novus Ordo Parish, are communion-plates (patens)  in use at your parish?

They are not here.  There was another "incident" during holy Communion today, where (in the words of the EMHC) the "consecrated host went flying."  I was approached after Mass about this by the EMHC, and so I approached Father to ask him to consider the use of a communion-plate.  He didn't understand why it would be needed, and pretty much stated he wouldn't put one in use unless it was required.  I gently (well, maybe not so gently) reminded him that "special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed ... in the presence of the minister...." (92, Redemptionis Sacramentum), as even just this would cut down on some of our parish's issues.  He looked surprised and acted as though he had never heard that.

I think I have a small number of parishioners who are willing to back up the use of a Communion-plate.  I know my older son (THE altar server) would like one.  What is the practice at other parishes?  Redemptionis Sacramentum states that the "Communion-plate ... should be retained" (93) but doesn't say "must."  I'm just curious since I have never seen it in use.

As I was talking to Father, my 6 year old was trying to convince Sister Maria that he was old enough and ready to receive Communion.  I heard him say: "I know what to do.  First you kneel . . . . "  Is devotion to the Eucharist contagious?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Health "Care"

No one can explain to me how quadrupling the number of diagnosis codes is going to do anything other than decrease quality of care for patients - it certainly isn't going to improve quality of care.  And I wonder when the stats will come out to show how many smaller practices either had to close their doors or be "gobbled up" by a larger entity.  Didn't we go through the hospital-buying-physician-practices era already?  And didn't most hospitals divest themselves of their physician practice investments?  Are we going in this circle AGAIN?  If our doors are still open at this time next year, it will be a miracle.  The $226,000 price tag is around three times what my husband makes in a year as the physician running his own solo practice.  I figured out that last year, he made about $22 an hour.  Of course, he works over 70 hours/week with patients, paperwork, etc....  If these codes are going to increase the documentation requirements by 15-20%, I'm not sure where he is going to find the extra hours.  And we cannot afford to hire any extra staff since the new Medicaid-expansion plans pay us about 30-50% BELOW overhead (overhead doesn't include physician salary), but we need extra staff to be able to keep up with all the regulations and prior authorizations and difficulty finding offices who will accept referrals.  It is a mess, and it is only going to get worse. 

CMS has announced that it will not extend the October ICD-10 deadline for providers.  With all of the other extensions of federal health care deadlines, the steadfastness on this deadline stands out.  If you're unsure what it's all about, this summary gives the details.   

 If you ask providers - particularly smaller clinics - their anxiety about the infrastructure updates required to meet the ICD-10 deadlines is visceral.  An AMA study points to costs as much as $226,000 for the "typical small practice."   

Monday, March 10, 2014

Christi qui lux et dies (in English)

Christ, who art the light and day,
You drive away the darkness of night,
You are called the light of light,
For you proclaim the blessed light.

We beseech you, Holy Lord,
Protect us this night.
Let us take our rest in you;
Grant us a tranquil night.

Let our sleep be free from care;
Let not the enemy snatch us away,
Nor flesh conspire within him,
And make us guilty in your sight.

Though our eyes be filled with sleep,
Keep our hearts forever awake to you.
May your right hand protect
Your willing servants.

You who are our shield, behold;
Restrain those that lie in wait.
And guide your servants whom
You have ransomed with your blood.

Remember us, O Lord,
Who bear the burden of this mortal form;
You who are the defender of the soul,
Be near us, O Lord.

Glory be to God the Father,
And to his only Son,
With the Spirit, Comforter,
Both now and evermore. Amen.

Lenten Awareness

As I made the Sign of the Cross to begin my morning prayers, I clearly recognized something which has been nagging at me for awhile. 

Does anyone else feel like a fake? A fraud?  Do you look at how you are living and recognize the vast gulf between the ideal and  the actual manner in which your life is being lived?  Do you see that you are cruising mostly on cruise-control, being merely "good-enough" and not working or moving toward that perfection you shall find only in Christ?  And that this gulf seems to grow wider and deeper the more you grow in your relationship with Him? 

Maybe it's because I feel the pull of perfection, which is a painful pull because I am so far from perfect - and see more and more each day that I am even further away than I thought.  For even though I want to surrender myself to Him Whom I Love, my habits, my selfishness, my attachments to this world and my place in it hold me back.  I long so to be with Him RIGHT NOW!!  I know He is with me, but I have yet to give myself fully over to Him.

O Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief!

Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD,
nor punish me in your wrath.
Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are shuddering.
My soul too is shuddering greatly—
and you, LORD, how long…?
Turn back, LORD, rescue my soul;
save me because of your mercy.
For in death there is no remembrance of you.
Who praises you in Sheol?  I am wearied with sighing;
all night long I drench my bed with tears;
I soak my couch with weeping.
My eyes are dimmed with sorrow,
worn out because of all my foes.  Away from me, all who do evil!
The LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD will receive my prayer.
My foes will all be disgraced and will shudder greatly;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace.
 
Psalm 6

Friday, March 7, 2014

Humility

"Beware...against certain types of humility which the devil inculcates in us and which makes us very uneasy about the gravity of our past sins.  There are many ways in which he is accustomed to depress us so that in time we withdraw from Communion and give up our private prayer, because the devil suggests to us that we are not worthy to engage in it...The things gets to such a pass that a soul can be made to believe that, through being what it is, it has been forsaken by God, and thus it almost doubts His mercy...Humility, however deep it may be, neither disquiets nor troubles nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy, and tranquility...Far from disturbing or depressing the soul, it enlarges it and makes it fit to serve God better." 

- St Teresa of Avila  The Way of Perfection, chap. 39:1-2, p. 256

Some Quotes

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."     - John Adams

"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."     - George Washington

"In all these dispositions which promote political happiness, religion and morality are essential props.  In vain does he claim the praise of patriotism, who labors to subvert or undermine these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest foundations of the duties of men and citizens.  The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them."   - Alexander Hamilton

"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.  While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader."     - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jesus: The Master Evangelist

I am taking an online course titled:  Jesus the Master Evangelist.  So far it is quite good.  We are looking through the Synoptic Gospels this week to see how Jesus evangelized and what we can learn from this in our own efforts at evangelizing.

One of the first points the professor made was from Pope Pius VI (Evangelii Nuntiandi): "She (the Church) exists in order to evangelize." (emphasis mine) 

What is Catholic Evangelization?  How would you define it?  How about bringing the Good News to humanity, and through it transforming humanity from within and making it new...but, we cannot do this if we ourselves are not first transformed, if we are not first of all new persons ourselves renewed by Baptism and living our lives by the Gospel - the purpose of evangelization is this interior change.
  • not imposing, but proposing
  • change self first - must begin with me
  • who we are in Christ is infinitely more important than what we know about Him.
  • through prayer, Scripture, acts of mercy/kindness.... develop the "mind of Christ"
St Paul, Rom. 10:14:  "How are they to believe if they have not heard? How are they to hear without a preacher?"

Our supreme duty as believers in Christ is to proclaim Christ to all peoples!!

We must remember that the Gospel is not simply about Jesus Christ, it IS Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Model, Leader, and Catalyst for Evangelization.  Before we 'go out to others' we need to be modeling discipleship together as a Church:
  • study and learn from Jesus
  • examine Bible stories where he interacts with people
  • know the Gospel and how to communicate it
  • know our own story of God working in our life, articulate it in a non-threatening, enthusiastic, joyful way.
Evangelization is (should be) the thread that is woven through all the various ministries in the parish.

*****
Professor Allan Wright has written a book on this topic. I will very likely purchase it once this course is complete.

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3 Faith Formation


March 3, 2014 St Francis Faith Formation/Prayer Group     

Topic:  CONGREGATION
 
V:  O God, come to my assistance.
R:  Lord, make haste to help me.
V:  Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
R:  As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia.

Prayer for God’s Blessing (Thomas Aquinas)

 579  I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

623  Be Thou My Vision

Meditation:

I pray for the gift of gratitude for the ways God has been laboring to bring forth life in me.

Reflection Questions
Today, I pray for gratitude. At this very moment, am I grateful? If so, I give thanks and praise. If not, I speak with God about it and ask God to grant me this grace.

What, of God's many gifts to me, am I particularly grateful for today? I give thanks to God for these particular gifts.
 
The young man went away sad, having many possessions. What possessions am I clinging to? How might the grace of gratitude aid me to let these possessions go? I speak with God about this.
    Continue with Sacrosanctum Concilium:

“…efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.” (42b)
Last time I left you with the questions:  Is there a difference between community and congregation (as df by Romano Guardini)? If so, what is it and is it important?  How do we encourage both a sense of community and a sense of congregation?  Can this be achieved with a Sunday-only priest? 

Selections from Meditations before Mass (Romano Guardini) Chapter 16 & 17:  The Congregation and Injustice Rectified, The Congregation and the Church.
“as a rule, congregation exists only when its members will it.”

“if there is to be a congregation, the believers must know what a congregation is; they must desire it and actively strive to attain it.”
“A congregation is the sacred coherence that links person to person as it links God to men and men to God.”

“As long as you bear your grudge…there can be no true congregation as far as you are concerned. Forgive, honestly and sincerely, and the sacred unifying circle will close again.”
“The forgiveness of Christ is different. It means that divine love gains a footing in us, crating that new order which is meant to reign among the sons and daughters of God.  Hence when you try to fulfill the law of love for the sake of God and His holy mysteries, you make it possible for God to allow the congregation of those rooted in His love to flower.”

“The true congregation is a gathering of those who belong to Christ, the holy people of God, united by faith and love.”
“When we read the prayers of the Mass with this in mind, we notice that the word I appears very seldom and never without a special reason.”

“The real antonym of community is not the individual and his individualism, but the egoist and his selfishness.  It is this that must first be overcome…But to do this we must have solitude, for only in solitude do we have a chance to see ourselves objectively and to free ourselves from our own chains.”
“together we face God; together we are congregation. Not only I and others in general, but this man, that woman over there, and the believer next to me. In God’s sight they are all as important as I am….”

“We will consciously, earnestly pray the we of the Liturgy, for from such things congregation is formed.”
“Until now we have spoken of congregation as the Christian we in its encounter with God, the community of those united by the same faith and by mutual love…The conception must include also those outside any particular building, even outside the church; for congregation reaches far beyond.”

“congregation stretches not only over the whole earth but also far beyond the borders of death.  About those gathered around the altar, the horizons of time and space roll back, revealing as the real sustaining community the whole of saved humanity.”
“Man has a tendency to spiritual intimacy and exclusiveness, which causes him to shrink from such magnitude and grandeur. There is also the resistance of modern religious feeling to the visible Church in its realistic sense: resistance to office and order, to authority and constitutionality.”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Tassel - first draft

(I do not write short stories.  I've never been very good at them.  But in an effort to expand my limited writing ability, I will be attempting to compose some short stories.  This is based on the story, found in all the synoptic Gospels, of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' cloak and was healed of the flow of blood which had plagued her for 12 years.  This story has come up three different times in about as many days, and I was compelled to try my hand. at a story to fill in the blanks.  This is only the first draft. I'll come back to it in a few days and make modifications.  There are some parts I already want to change, but will hold off on any changes until it has sat for awhile.  I'm always ok with comments from my vast readership :-)! )
 
Four years ago today I was healed. The day is burned into my
memory. I look down at my hand and I remember. I had heard he
was coming through town, and in my hope and desperation went out
to the street. There he was. I was determined to get close...all eyes
were on him; I was not noticed. Had I been recognized the crowd
would have parted like the Red Sea around me, but in the throng
I was invisible. Quietly, I made my way forward and found myself
directly behind him...if I could but touch the hem of his garment. So with
trembling hand I reached and touched the tassel of his cloak.
I felt myself healed instantly. But he stopped, and turned
around...and I was alone in my shame.
 
I had been alone for 12 years. Anyone or anything I touched would be
legally unclean, so I was left alone, outcast, fending for myself. All the
money I had was spent on doctors, but none were able to help me. I
would be alone, a poor beggar, for the rest of my days. But then I
heard of Jesus, and He seemed an answer to my prayers, so I sought
him out. Finding him, I reached toward him, and my thoughts turned
to Ruth as she stole upon Boaz and settled in at his feet asking him to
cast his mantle over her, to protect her as a kinsman
(Ruth 3).
 
 
His tassel within my grasp, I thought of this tassel which was
a reminder of our relationship with YHWH, of His laws and our
obligation to them . . . and I hesitated for a moment, until I
remembered the 1000s of lambs with whose blood my people had
been redeemed from bondage. Was this not what I wanted - to be
redeemed, released from the slavery of my affliction? Could not the
blood of those lambs reach forward to me, and remove my shackles?
Make me whole again, physically and legally and spiritually?
So I gathered my courage and touched the tassel of his cloak,
believing that even this small gesture of faith, done in secret, could
heal me. And it did! Immediately, the flow of blood ceased! I was
healed! But then he asked who had touched him. I was ashamed,
and for a moment I hid. But my courage returned, and I came forward,
trembling and falling at his feet, confessing what I had done and why.
He looked upon me with such tenderness, and said "My daughter, thy
faith has brought thee recovery; go in peace."(Lk 8:48)

 
I stayed there, kneeling upon the ground, watching as he turned and
disappeared from view. I was not sure what to do.
My heart was leaping inside of me, but if found I could not make my
limbs obey my command. After what seemed hours, I finally rose and
went home. After the prescribed time, I did what was required by the
law for my purification, and then my new life began.

 
At first many people continued to treat me as if I were still impure. It
still happens today, when from force of habit people around me draw
back so as not to touch me. I will sometimes find that I have returned
to my old habits, then forcefully have to remind myself that I am
healed. Recovering has not been as easy as I had imagined.
My life did not miraculously go back to the way it had been before my
illness. In many ways I had to rebuild my life, find new friends, re-
establish myself in the community.


But one thing which did change dramatically and perhaps
miraculously, was my faith. I saw before me, and I touched the tassel
of, the Messiah, the Savior of my people. Of this I have no doubt. No
one other than the Promised One could have healed me as suddenly
and completely as he did on that day.

 
And so, on this day I stand here. Professing by my presence my belief
that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Waiting today with many who
have waited generations to find fulfillment in God's promises. Waiting
to be baptized into the future of our people.