Monday, March 21, 2011

Gathering Together To Meet Christ

The topic of this reflection in Lent and Easter , Wisdom from Thomas Merton is  sacred liturgy.

"Liturgy is a work in which the Church collaborates with the divine Redeemer, renewing on her altars the sacred mysteries which are the life and salvation of mankind, uttering again the life-giving words that are capable of saving and transforming our souls., blessing again the sick and the possessed, and preaching His Gospel to the poor." (page 24)

The question I am asked to reflect upon is, "What do you love about celebrating the liturgy with your faith community?:

My faith community is "family."  We gather to share our life experience.  We offer each other support.  We are on the Journey and we know it.  It is one of life's treasures given and accepted as reality!  For me it is affirming my belief that I have been redeemed, once for all by our Savior Jesus Christ.  It is a celebration of life and eternal life.  I have a "genealogy" that takes me to the root of salvation and I am privileged to share that with other believers in praising God.

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Peter's Denial

The reflection today comes from The Women of the Passion by Kathleen Murphy. She invites me to enter the courtyard where Peter is asked to affirm his loyalty to Jesus and instead denies him three times. 

All Matthew's Jewish listeners and readers would have understood the deep significance of the fact that the denial was threefold, that it became more adamant each time, and that the final witness to it was a man.  Having been brought up in the Jewish culture, they would have known that the testimony of a woman would have been viewed as implausible.  The word of a man posed no problems.  One man's evidence was believed to be more trustworthy than that of a multitude of women (page 10).

I have chosen to reflect on this short passage not so much because of Peter's denial but because it depicts a reality that even today is true.  It suggests that the marginalized, women, children and even men, have no voice.  And then I am asked, "[Am I] genuinely committed to living the gospel  consciously, not just during the few weeks of Lent but holistically and through the whole  of life's journey?" (page 13)  Am I willing to leave my comfort zone and take a stand for these children of God?

I want to say that I am consciously living the Gospel every day of the year.  I hope that I can continue to be a witness to the values Christ has instilled in me.  I am like Peter though.  I have failed on many levels.  I do enjoy my comfort zone!  It is hard for me to take risks.  I am frightened!  But you know, when I least expect it the Holy Spirit does guide me in the right direction.  There is still a lot of Peter in me.  But, through the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit I am able to reflect on the failure and find solace in the fact that I am love by God as one of his creations and am forgiven.  And being forgiven I will again step forward and do God's will.

Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Penitent Heart

I read and was amazed by the clarity with which I was able to understand today's reflection. I've been struggling with the reflections until today.

Thomas Merton says in Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton :
"The Call to 'do penance' is based not on the fact that penance will keep us trim, but on the fact that 'the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' Our penance--metanoia--is our response to the proclamation of the Gospel; message, the Kerygma which announces our salvation if we will hear God and harden not our hearts. The function of penance and self-denial is then contrition, or the 'breaking up' of that hardness of heart which prevents us from understanding God's command to love and from obeying it effectively."
I have known that penance is a reparation for my sins...but somehow three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys and a good Act of Contrition just seemed too easy, simple, not quite as demanding as I considered it should be. And then I read, "The function of penance and self-denial is then contrition, or the 'breaking up' of that hardness of heart which prevents us from understanding God's command to love and from obeying it effectively." God's command to me is to love and obey the Gospel. That is not simple, easy and it is demanding.

So when I write about the Journal question today I do so in humility. For God is good and has shown me the true meaning of penance through Thomas Merton. I've been asked, as part of the Journey today, to share my last act of "charity" and why I did it.

Yesterday one of our patients, an elderly lady, arrived to see the doctor in a state of weakness caused by several days of epistaxis (bleeding from the nose). She had been to the emergency room twice for it, the most recent visit that morning. She was exhausted and very anxious. For the first time in 12 years I met her husband. She always came alone for she drove herself. Yesterday she could not. This lady who was always neatly dressed came in her nightgown and robe. Laying her head on the table she looked weary and exhausted. She was frightened and when the bleeding hadn't stopped she took out the packing. It was annoying and she didn't think it was working. When she went back to the ER they put in a drain and made an appointment for her to see a specialist, but not until today. After seeing the doctor, who consulted with another doctor who was the otolaryngologist (ENT) she will be seeing today, he was able to reassure her that with the treatment the other doctor would provide the bleeding would soon stop. Be assured that the patient was not hemorrhaging or having frank bleeding. She was frightened because she was so weak.

As she was getting into the wheelchair, she said, "Cathy, pray for me." A assured her I would. But what she said after that made me thank God for her and her presence in my life. She said, "Thank you. You always offer me such consolation when I come here."

Praying for others is an act of charity. I often forget that because it is an easy way to "care" for others. There is no monetary value. There is no physical labor required no special equipment. But is is the most powerful tool I own! And I did it out of love and concern for this dear lady. It became a time for me when my hardened heart became softer and more tender because of this encounter with Christ. (Matthew 25: 31-40)


Thanks be to God!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Thomas Merton by jimforest

Thomas Merton a photo by jimforest on Flickr.

I've been reflecting on the medication from Thursday now for three days.  First, I haven't heard the word "compunction" for years!!!  And then I tried to remember how it was that I had learned about it.  Well, I can't remember.  So, I'm thinking this is a new lesson I need to learn.  

According to Thomas Merton...

Compunction is a baptism of sorrow, in which the tears of the penitent are a psychological but also deeply religious purification, preparing  and disposing him for the sacramental waters of baptism or for the sacrament of penance.   

He goes on to say...

The acceptance of reality is always a liberation from the burden of illusion that we strive to justify by our errors and our sins.  Compunction is a necessary sorrow, but it is followed by joy and relief because it wins for us one of the greatest blessing: the light of truth and grace of  humility.

The question posed for the reflection asks, "What are the illusions in my life that I accept as my reality?"

I tried considering things in my life that I see as reality that are just illusions.   An analogy came to mind this morning.  I was reminded of the time I had a facial.  My goodness it was wonderful and relaxing.  It lasted an hour and I really felt better afterward.  The illusion, to me, is that I really look so much better and that I might indeed just look a few years younger.  The reality is I am still 64 and younger I am not.  The reality too is that I did feel better.

So compunction is the facial.  Time must be taken to cleanse and refresh.  This may not be as pleasant as the facial had been but it is required of me if I am to experience the joy of true penance for my sins.  This means I must be serious about my sins...Yes, admit it you SIN, Cathy.  You are not so holy!  In many ways I am the Pharisee  In the front of church thanking God for my "holiness," when I should be the sinner in the back asking for forgiveness.   

I'm still sure I understand it completely but at least I've spent time seriously reflection on it.  More time in reflection might just bring about even more understanding!

Thanks be to God! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Unnamed Woman

Today one of my reflections has come to me from The Women of the Passion by Kathleen M. Murphy. The first chapter of the book relates to Matthew's Gospel about the "Unnamed Woman Who Anointed Jesus at Bethany" (Matthew 26: 10-11)  It places me in the house of Simon the Leper.  I can witness the entire event.  Jesus is anointed by a woman who is obviously an outsider and worse yet a sinner.  She enters without invitation and then to the shock and dismay of the other guests bathes Jesus in beautifully aromatic oil.  It's expensive and even to the Apostles it seems to have been wasted for it could have been sold and the money used for the "cause."

But Jesus aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. (Mt 26:10-11)

The illustration here is meant, I think, to cause reflection on how, in my life, I have cared for the poor, neglected, or marginalized.   Do I spend more time in acquiring my "wants" and fail to consider the "needs" of others?

I am often saddened by the tragedies in this world.  Though I contribute regularly to causes for the poor and marginalized and pray for them, is that all I can do.  I guess what I need is guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead me to better see the road I must take in becoming more sensitive to the needs of others personally.

Thanks be to God! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Journey with Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton by jimforest
Thomas Merton a photo by jimforest on Flickr.

This Lent I am spending time daily with Lent and Easter, Wisdom from Thomas Merton, compiled by Montaldo at the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living and published by Ligori Press.  There are a number of texts in this series and all are good.  But I chose to start here.  The source of the reflections come form his book of essays Seasons of Celebrations.

Lent is our "Holy Spring" as Catholics and as part of the journey I have been asked to keep a Lenten Journal.  This is the beginning.  Thomas Merton says, "...Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.   It cannot be otherwise, as if forms part of the great Easter cycle...Lent is not a season of punishment so much as one of healing." (pg. 2)

And so I am asked:  "In what ways do you consider Lent to be a 'a season of celebration?'"

As I thought about this I remember my childhood and the Lenten practices we share as family.  There was of course the standard "offering up" of CANDY.  Now we seldom got candy at my house except at Christmas or Easter, but know that I could not have it still instilled in me the focus on what is important in our lives.   OH!  Don't forget, no ice cream.  Yes, ice cream was always in the freezer!  It was and is a celebration!  I celebrated then as now how we did more things as family.  There was evening Bible reading.  Wednesday night was benediction with a short homily and Friday night was the Stations of the Cross.  I really never felt punished during this season, but I was challenged more to behave in a manner that was more charitable.

Today, that challenge to celebrate is considerably more difficult for me.  I don't have Mom and Dad to monitor my journey.  They aren't here to nudge me in the right direction.  I have to rely on my own will to "celebrate" the journey and traditions that bring us to ultimate celebration, the triumph of the cross! I am guided through Holy scripture, taken by the hand and lead to the ultimate celebration at the Resurrection, the Day that saved the world and gained for us all Eternal Salvation!

Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lenten Journey with Providence

Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is the day many celebrate with feasts and celebration before the austerity of Lent begins.  It's been a time for me when I cleanse the house of all the temptations that would cause me to break my Lenten Fast.  That usually means ridding the house of ice cream, cookies, candy, and chocolate.  For you see, I always thought that getting rid of the temptation would allow me to be better able to say, "no" to that which I desire.

This year I had a revelation.  I will not get rid of all those things that tempt me.  I will leave them in place to assure my resolve.  Ice cream is still in the freezer and cookies are still on the shelf, especially all the Girl Scout cookies...

Let the temptation remain.  Through the grace of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit I hope to prevail over these temptations.

"And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting my not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." ~Matthew 6: 16-18

So this evening I will have a wonderful dinner just as always, without the usual gluttony that occurs when I try to get eat all the temptation before tomorrow.  I will make every effort to relax, pray, and avoid the temptation that will continue to be there.  This will be my resolve this Lent.  Perhaps, I'll even be more successful in this fast.

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

And Valiently She Went Home...

 Sister Mary Alice Zander, SP with 
Sister Mary Mundy, SP at small gathering
of Providence Associates of SW IN

Yesterday a gentle woman of Providence went home.  After suffering from cancer since 2009 she completed her Journey of Providence.  Sister Mary Alice Zander was and will be a model of tenderness, generosity and love.  She showed us how to live with adversity.  She lived her faith in the Almighty.  It has been my privilege to have met her and to have experienced her devotion to discipleship in her work with the Providence Associates.

   Sr. Joanna, Sr Mary Alice, Sr. Mary, Fr. Bernie, Connie, Ann Kevin, Cathy
Sr. Dorothy and Sr. Diane
September, 2010

Let us beg our Lord to choose for us
that which will unite us more closely to him;
and beseech him for the light, the grace, 
the strength we heed to do in all things 
his adorable will.
~Saint Mother Theodore Guerin~

Thanks be to God!