Dear Precious One: Decisions

Dear Precious One,

There will be many times in your life where I will need to make a decision that will not only affect my life, but will also affect your life and our life together. I want you to know that I will never make one of these decisions without spending a great deal of time in prayer, seeking only God’s will for us. I promise that I will always choose God’s will over my own feelings and opinions. We might not necessarily expect the things that God has in store for us, but I know that we can rest in His plan. And I pray that you can rest in knowing that I will forever take care of you in this way.

 
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As Much as a Mother Can Love Her Child

Image:  Saint Louis and his mother Blanche de Castille stained glass window in the nave of the Saint Louis, Church, Saint-Louis-en-l'Isle, Dordogne, France

Image: Saint Louis and his mother Blanche de Castille stained glass window in the nave of the Saint Louis, Church, Saint-Louis-en-l'Isle, Dordogne, France

Not too long ago, I read a quote in the front of a book. Although I cannot remember which book, I do remember the quote. It really struck me when I first read it because it seemed so severe. But I think about it quite often.

Every Sunday at Mass, I kneel in prayer and my eyes will often gaze upon the beautiful paintings above the Altar. One of the portraits is of Saint Louis IX, King of France. Each time my eyes fall on his portrait I am reminded of the quote, which seemed so harsh at the time, but has curiously become rooted in my heart. The quote was spoken to Saint Louis by his mother when he was a child.

"I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a single mortal sin."

So many things come to mind now when I think of the profound meaning of these words of a mother to her child. I think first of the most important thing that I, as a mother, want for my child. For my child to know God, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be with Him forever in Heaven. What I want most of all, above all things, is for my Little One to be with Jesus forever in Heaven. To never be separated from Him. To be wholly His for all eternity. Indeed, a mortal sin separates us painfully, terribly from God. And yes, death would be better than this separation. I must wholeheartedly agree.

I think also of how we live in a culture that wants to minimize sin. But temptations are real, sin is real. the spiritual battle is real. What we do matters. And if we are not talking to our children about these things, then they will be unprepared not only for the world, but also for the spiritual journey. Our children need to be raised with a clear and deep understanding of sin, of Heaven and hell, of what it means to love God and do His will. Especially in an age where anything goes and sins are often celebrated.

Image:  Saint Louis Xi, King of France, artist unknown

Image: Saint Louis Xi, King of France, artist unknown

But isn’t this quote still a bit too radical? I have come to believe that we need to be challenged to greatness. We are all capable of it. The road is not easy, but our children are worthy of this great and noble call. Wanting anything less than Sainthood for our children simply wont’t do. I believe that we can all rise to the challenge, but we must be given heroic and eternal purpose, we must be pushed with boldness and daring to the heights of sanctity, we must have grand and epic expectations.

True, we love our children exactly as they are in all their brokenness, in all their sins and failures. And when they fall, we will be the first to rush to them, to be with them in the hurt, and to help them stand up and try again. We encourage them to repentance and healing, to seek forgiveness and to sin no more. We nurture them with tenderness and mercy. But we also love them too much to want anything less for them than an eternity in Heaven with our Lord. The true definition of love is to will the eternal good of the other. And what is good for a soul is nothing less than Heaven. The road to Heaven is narrow. And all the Saints have lived lives of radical fidelity until the very end.

So we must courageously say the same words to our own children as Saint Louis’ mother spoke to him. And we must do so while loving them as much as a mother can love her child. Let us pray that our children become Saints. Let us do everything we can to help them to get there.

Saint Louis IX, King of France, ora pro nobis, pray for us.

Holiness


Image:    The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

Image: The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

FROM MODEL OF HOLINESS - MARY, MOTHER OF GOD BY DEACON FOURNIER

"Holiness is not about looking pious. It is about being selfless.

In the original languages, the words in Holy Scripture which are translated into the English word "holy" mean set apart or consecrated to God's service, given over to God and His worship. We are called to be set apart for the living God, to be holy, in a world which has become steeped in sin and selfish ambition.

This happens through conversion, or "metanoia", which, in Greek, means "to change." We are called to say "Yes" to a relationship with Him. That call is not a one time event but a continual invitation. Mary is a model, a pattern, of this holiness to which we are all called through our Baptism into Christ and His Body, the Church.

The Lord has invited each of us into an intimate, personal, exchange of love with Him. Mary is a model to imitate. She walked in holiness of life and points us along the path to Her Son. Each of us can say "Yes" to God, right now, wherever we are. Each of us can respond with our entire being, with a "Fiat" of surrendered love as she did.

When we do, we can participate in the life of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters "in the Son", and enter communion with the Holy Trinity. Conversion involves the exercise of our human freedom to choose God and the fullness of his plan as revealed in Jesus Christ.

As we lose ourselves in Him, we find ourselves again, made new and completed. This holy exchange-our life for His-is the essence of the spiritual journey. It is not about power but powerlessness. It is not about increase but decrease. It is not about becoming greater but about becoming smaller. In short, true spirituality is about surrender.

Mary teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. The same God who became incarnate within her takes up His residence in us through Baptism. He invites us to live "redemptively" for others, to become dwelling places through which Incarnate Love comes alive for all those around us. We are to respond as Mary did. She is the model of holiness."


Beautiful is the Woman


Image:    A July Morning by Daniel Ridgway Knight

Image: A July Morning by Daniel Ridgway Knight

FROM THE MOTHER OF GOD - MODEL OF HOPE: ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN ANSWERING THEIR CALL TO BEAUTY BY SISTER HELEN PASHKEVICH, SSMI

“In the beginning God created Man, in the image of Himself; in the image of God He created him, male and female.

From the very beginning God spoke one Word, "person" and two expressions appeared, man and woman. They were to complement and supplement each other in the image of God their Creator: man by his fidelity to Truth; woman by her faithfulness to Beauty. Both by their response to the Mighty One who does great things in them.

Who is woman? What is she? What does it mean to be called woman? By God? By man?

Woman is a call to Beauty. To be a woman is a calling, a task to be fulfilled, not just a fact to declare. Being a woman is a vocation to be beautiful, not the kind of attractiveness that is exposed and exploited in today's advertisements that use the body of woman as a Thing, as a tool to sell their products. A woman's beauty is one of mystery, of hidden interiority, of withinness. It is a kind of beauty which comes from Goodness...

   ...in the heart that is open to kindness

   ...in a mind which seeks after wisdom

   ...in a heart that is faithful through suffering

   ...in a whole presence that is full of graciousness and a strength that comes from within.

To be a woman is to say in many different ways and yet in all uniqueness:

   I am beautiful before God

   I am beautiful before man

   and beautiful before children

   when I am most truly woman.

The task given woman by God is to be that kind of presence and inspiration through which others can find their way to the Father. This is the task Jesus gave woman--to be that kind of presence and inspiration that will lead others to God. He says of woman as He said of Mary: Behold this woman:

   Behold this mother.

   Blessed is she who does the Will of the Father, who says LET IT BE DONE UNTO ME.

   And the lines of inner beauty Jesus drew up in the Sermon on the Mount.

Image    Peasant Girl Daydreaming by J ean-François Millet

Image Peasant Girl Daydreaming by Jean-François Millet

Beautiful is the woman who is poor. Like a field of daisies, she freely gives fragrance and delight to all who come to her, never contending for the center of attention--simply wishing that others live in the gladness of the day.

Beautiful is the woman who is poor, who is a fountain that channels waters, empty of self and in her emptiness is rich with God's love for others. This is woman in her giving, possessing nothing for herself, letting others come through, and praising the gifts they have, helping them manifest potentials given them by God in their person and by their talents.

Beautiful is the woman who knows her own limitations and accepts them. Like a growing plant, she, too, is fragile but tenaciously strong, because she depends upon Someone greater than herself. And in this faith brings light out of darkness, hope out of failure.

Beautiful is the woman whose poverty echoes a liberating simplicity. such a woman is like a well-built dam that holds back flood waters of violence, hatred, resentment, anger. she is one who can change the shape of a whole situation through her inner strength; she can stem the tide of misunderstanding, take out the debris of gossip and remove the obstacles that prevent refreshing waters from flowing freely. She is the woman who continues to generate life, and her power in shaping the future cannot be measured in merely human estimates.

Beautiful is the woman who knows how to cry with others, to grieve with the sorrowful. The strength and love of God flow through her outstretched arms to others. Woman is that kind of bridge who finds God in prayer and through this relationship balances all things. I am sorry that LeeAnn Makar is not with us today. I think she is someone who answers her call to beauty extremely well.

Beautiful is the woman with a gentle spirit who can bring others into possession of themselves. She is the woman charged with sensitivity. She is the woman who can stand without defenses, because her inner strength rests not in herself but in God. Like a green-covered mountain, with its inner core of power, her values and convictions, too, are gently camouflaged with delicacy and patience.

Beautiful is the woman who can stand quietly in the midst of confusion. She is able to make decisions in the face of contradictions and lets others grow in spite of mistakes and failures. Like a tree that endures the lightening, rain, and snow, she can transform the dark and destructive into light and wholeness.

Beautiful is the woman who takes leadership in defending the helpless, the aged, the handicapped. And more beautiful is she who has the perception to see the needs of her children and her husband, her neighbor, and in seeing gives to them. Such a woman complements and supplements all she touches and all that touches her. We need to reflect on the lives of our mothers and grandmothers to realize that our church is built on the strong foundation of their faith.

Beautiful is the woman who excels in showing mercy, who can be compassionate with those that have strayed, with those who lack understanding, with those who hold a different vision. Such a woman identifies with the downtrodden, the helpless, the sinner, because she faces her own weakness and need for help from others. She is like a seedling emerging from the soil, ready to reach out tenaciously toward the light of Truth. She is the woman who listens with an open heart, and by her attentiveness teaches.

Image:  by Johann Georg Meyer von Bremen

Image: by Johann Georg Meyer von Bremen

Beautiful is she who leads others to understanding. Like a cobblestone walk she is strong and supportive, providing a solid foundation that helps others move ahead more freely in carrying their own burden of existence.

Beautiful is the woman who is pure, who stands empty before God ready to conceive Him, to give Him in every relationship, in every situation. She is the woman who can stand empty before others and let them unfold in the beauty of their essence. In standing empty, she does not count the cost of breaking, nor the pain of sacrifice. She does not seek recognition for what she does, nor keep a list of failings.

Beautiful is she because she is empty of resentment, jealousy and knows how to remain faithful with a single heart.

Beautiful is the woman who is a peacemaker, She is like leaven, whose bread of love, sympathy and care makes a difference in every home. She is that kind of bread that enlightens and raises life to a new level of thinking and living.

Beautiful is the woman of peace. Her laughter and sense of humor bring joy, a kind of gentle light over everything. she is one who never takes herself seriously, because she lives in God who is beyond the whole world and greater than everything. she is never restricted by the greatest, and yet she knows how to remain enclosed in the smallest. She is like the hearth-fire that warms the chill, warms the atmosphere, brightens the room, brings others to a relaxing leisure.

Beautiful is the woman who is a peacemaker. She is the one who can take up the opposite stands of life, and in weaving the tensions produces a whole new pattern of texture, design and color.

Beautiful is the woman who brings unity where differences existed, who knows how to dissolve bitterness with a word of forbearance. She is like the open door, extending hospitality without distinction or prejudice.

Image :    Nursing by Aurelio Arteta

Image: Nursing by Aurelio Arteta

Beautiful is the woman who gives life. She is like the earth, open, receptive, present, often taken for granted. And like the earth she, too, is capable of changing what is brought to her into something finer, richer, and more lasting. She can take the cries of little ones, the complaints of adolescents, the criticisms of neighbors, the doubts of friends, the taunts of relatives--all the debris of negativism and cynicism, and miraculously transform these cast--offs into a power of new vitality. Like the earth she brings what is needed to a thirtyfold, a sixtyfold, a hundredfold abundance.

   She is the valiant woman who makes an impact--the one called by God to bear witness to His Beauty.

   Who is woman? What is she?

She is God's call to Beauty, the one who holds a singular place in the cosmos, the one whose destiny will never occur again. God has never breathed the same breath into any woman before. And He never will again.

Father, You who created and called us to be woman, increase in us your love, made for everything small and everything great. Grant that we may continue the joy, the praise of Mary -- Woman above all women.”