Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

I haven't been on here in a while. In trying to be a good mom myself, I've had to take a hiatus as my workload mounted. But I'm popping on now just to re-post a poem to my mom and in honor of all loving mothers.

A Priceless Pearl

to my mother
Your love is a pearl in my life.

Creamy as a pearl is your love,
cream-like in color and character. 
A love both lush and live-giving.
Though mother's milk could not continue,
the cream of your love never curtailed:
rather it gushed a rich river
nourishing my soul.

Hard like a pearl,
durable as rock,
your love could not be crushed 
by contrariness or calamity.
Rather its roundness
allowed it to roll through the troubles
that rumble and roar in every life.

Precious the pearl of your love,
how precious to me;
without which I would not have lived,
sustaining me through sorrow,
enriching my soul,
and grandest of all:
engraining the image, and
mirroring in miniature,
that I might perceive
the Pearl of Great Price.

Not merely a pearl-like love,
but a maker of pearls.
For mothers are pearlmakers;
the Maker of All made them that way.
To take what to any other 
is just another
grain of sand
from an endless expanse of sands
and encompass it with affection, 
surround it with devotion,
transforming its annoyances,
coating them, rolling them
over and over in love,
and shaping that sand-speck
into a precious pearl.

And you yourself are a pearl.
When the time comes
for the shell of your life
to be cracked open,
The Great Pearl-Seeker
will dive into your heart 
and pluck out your soul.
He will hold it to the light
and admire its milky whiteness
and whisper, "Ah, priceless!"

And I must agree,
oh dearest:
my mother, of pearl.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How Close Is the Kingdom?

Jesus launched his public ministry by proclaiming, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." What does that mean? Where is the Kingdom of God?
    Of course, ultimately the Kingdom of God is heaven. But it must accessible now, or why else would He say it was "at hand"?

    The Kingdom of God is not a place. It is a way of life.

    The Kingdom exists wherever Christ reigns. It exists in the heart of every one who accepts Him as King. And it is the job of each of His subjects to extend that Kingdom.
     The first step is not to hide the fact that one is a member of His Kingdom. Rather, you start by bringing the Kingdom with you wherever you go. It means being what Paul told us we are to be: "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor 5:20).  We represent Him wherever we go.
     And then, we are to build little outposts of the Kingdom wherever we can. It's a kind of colonizing that brings only goodness and love to the natives.

     Our biggest opportunity lies where we reign. For most of us, this would be our own homes, but whether you also run a corporation or merely share a room with a sibling or roommate, everyone has some say over one's own space. 
     As ambassadors, we must each establish an embassy of the Kingdom. An embassy, remember, is a small station of its home country, lying in a foreign land. When you enter an embassy, you enter that country, even though it's surrounded by another nation. It's up to me to transform my domain into a microcosm of the Kingdom.

     The Kingdom is as close as you make it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Epiphany: Perceiving the Invisible

Everything we can see will pass away. Everything that lasts is invisible.

     Yes, the other people we see are immortal, but the immortal part of them, the soul, is invisible. What we can see, will die.
     No wonder Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for claiming to be able to see, when they were really blind. All of us are blind when it comes to the life of the spirit. Only God can give us vision. But even then, we must walk by faith.
     St. John of the Cross says the soul walks in darkness, and faith is its light. 
     It's kind of like putting aside all your worldly concerns, all your
Star of Bethlehem
personal pursuits, to follow the light of a star to a distant land, day after day, week after week, month after month, to find a king, a king who's not of your own land,
because you realize that he's the King of kings.
     May we, like the Magi, trudge on, continue the long journey, carrying our very best gifts to present Him when at last we reach Him.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mom's Remedy for the Mess

There’s nothing like orders to clean up a really messy room to make a kid feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
            Unfortunately, the experience doesn’t disappear in adulthood; it just changes shape. It might be a tall stack of papers to sort and file or an arduous, complicated project at work. Relationships and spiritual lives get messy and problematic too.
            I tell my kids not to focus on the whole mess, but just to take one step at a time. First, accept that it’s going to take a while. Then start by finding one thing that they know what to do with, and put it away. Then go on to something else.  Whenever I do that, I find that after a while, I look up and a lot more has been done than I would have expected. Eventually, the job is done, and I’m amazed that I did it.
            We can do big things—bigger than we’d think—if we break them down into smaller steps and work persistently.
            No real news here—every self-help book will tell you that. But it’s true for the spiritual life too.

Our culture, our world is a real mess right now, and the idea of any one of us getting it in order is too ridiculous to be overwhelming; it is hopeless.
          Some skeptics question why God doesn’t do something to help our ailing world. God asks us in turn why we don’t do something, indeed do the things we’ve been asked to do. We all know our own lives need some work, and that’s a great place to start. Asking Him, in prayer, for His help is also key. He doesn’t impose Himself upon us; He waits to be asked. 
            What many don’t know is that He has asked us to do more, has sent a “peace plan”—a strategy for cleaning up the world’s mess. The Lord sent it a while ago, and it’s been partly heeded, but not sufficiently. His messenger: His own Mother; the setting: Fatima, 1917.
            Now don’t stop reading because of queasy connotations you may have due to the little you know about Fatima. Unfortunately, the artwork usually associated with the Fatima message has a narrow appeal, and can be a turn-off to many others. But don’t judge the message by its “cover”.
            Don’t stop reading because anything Marian seems idolatrous. Christmas, after all, is Marian. That is, there wouldn’t be a Christmas without Mary. The Bible testifies not only that she was the one through whom we have a Savior born to us, not only did she give God the glory in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56), but also that she was a faithful disciple throughout His life, and present at His death, when most of His followers had abandoned Him.  She didn’t bother going to His tomb with the other women because she knew His body didn’t need any spices; she believed He would rise. But she was there with the disciples when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. If, as the Bible says, Jesus could appear to Saul and Ananias some years after His Ascension (Acts 9:1-19), if God could send Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch and then bodily “catch him up” and spirit him away to another district (Acts 8:26-40), why couldn’t He send someone to us in our day?
1917 Portuguese Masonic newspaper
            And don’t stop reading because you don’t believe in miracles period. The miracles at Fatima were not only stupendous, but well-documented. Some 70,000 people showed up on October 13, 1917, the day that Mary promised a big miracle. Many of them didn’t believe it. Some were journalists, prepared to scoff and publish to the world that the Fatima messages were a hoax. They ended up groveling on the ground when the sun appeared to dance in the sky and then fall toward the earth.  When the sun went back to its place, everyone found their clothes and the ground—which had been sopping wet from much rain—to be perfectly dry. The articles the journalists ended up printing were very different than what they expected. They testified to the miracle witnessed by tens of thousands.
             In addition to the testimony of thousands, including skeptics astounded to witness a miracle, there is the fulfilled prophecy. In July 1913, the three shepherd children to whom Mary appeared said that she warned that Russia would “spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church.” How could three Portuguese peasant children know about the upcoming “Red October” in faraway Russia, when Communism would erupt in the Bolshevik Revolution, three months before it happened?
by Fr. Andrew Apostoli
The Fatima story is too big to cover adequately here. There are many, many resources out there. For starters, see Ignatius Press site: Fatima for Today

The point is that at Fatima, Mary made it very clear that the individual does indeed make a difference. First, she asked for individuals to obey the Church’s teachings and live in God’s grace, to pray the Rosary daily (see my earlier blog post defending this Christ-centered prayer), and perform penitential acts for love of God and to save souls.
            There’s a big controversy among Fatima followers as to whether or not Mary’s request for consecration has been fulfilled or not. I think the focus is misplaced. It’s easier to blame officials than to recognize one’s own responsibility. There’s a pretty good case for the consecration being fulfilled. That means the missing piece is us. And there's more to it than the Rosary. Many Fatima believers (like myself until recently) may be oblivious to another related request: the Five First Saturdays.
            It can be hard to believe that something as simple as a Rosary can make a difference.  But each of those 50+ little prayers making up each Rosary, day after day, have the effect of drops of water. Even stone gives way to water droplets—if there are enough of them. The Iron Curtain rusted from being sprinkled with countless daily Rosaries and crumbled under the wrecking ball of John Paul II's consecration.
          And so, each of us can make a difference. One person praying one prayer, can lead to more prayers and more pray-ers, and thus exponentially more prayers.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mary’s Feast today—the Solemnity of the Mother of God—than by making a New Year’s resolution to heed her requests.