It is often said nowadays that the present century thirsts for authenticity. Especially in regard to young people it is said that they have a horror of the artificial or false and that they are searching above all for truth and honesty.
These “signs of the times” should find us vigilant. Either tacitly or aloud — but always forcefully — we are being asked: Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching. Precisely because of this we are, to a certain extent, responsible for the progress of the Gospel that we proclaim.
“How was your Advent?” asked my spiritual director during our recent meeting.
The answer explains why I didn’t blog much. I’ve also submitted it as evidence in the case Insanely Frantic Culture vs. Sealana:
A. Busy. I spent Advent flying from one task to another. I watched House Hunters International while cooking and hand-washing our dishes (dishwasher’s been broken for months), cleaned like a maniac, spent breaks looking for a new apartment, bathed my hands in gallons of lotion, and flew through Dr. Edward Sri’s Dawn of the Messiah (papercuts to prove it), which was supposed to be my spiritual reading but may be more accurately described as a Soul-Stirring Hurricane of New Testament Exegesis.
B. Zombielike. I spent most of my time consuming — Netflix, real estate listings, holiday meals, etc. — and made little to no time for reflecting or creating. This is what Emily Stimpson considers zombie behavior; when we fail to live the Theology of the Body and deny our being made in God’s image, isolating and obsessively amusing ourselves. My daily Rosaries were miracles in the midst of this chaos, but they also suffered from my severe distraction.
C. A Learning Experience. Speaking of Mary, this Advent was my first, long, post-Marian Consecration period. I learned that Marian Consecration doesn’t seem to make my life magically easier, but I have also sensed extraordinary graces. Example: I have trust issues; my best friends know this well. Yet, as a result of my Marian Consecration, I have not dedicated a single Rosary to any specific intentions. I’ve trusted Mary to intercede for me in the distribution of graces. “How seemingly insane!” I remarked to my spiritual director, “Not long ago, I had no relationship with Mary, and now she’s the first one I trust!”
That’s how things have been.
Thanks be to God for spiritual directors. Like Gregg Popovich knows his basketball players, Father quickly described what would happen if I tried un-zombifying myself:
1. You will attempt to master all the necessary virtues at once.
2. You will fail miserably.
3. You will become intensely frustrated with yourself.
I strongly re-iterate my previous recommendation: If you don’t already have one, pray about finding a spiritual director. He or she needn’t be a clergy or religious, but having someone competent enough to help you take appropriate time-outs and tweak your game plan for sainthood is extremely beneficial.
A good coach will have the God-given ability to pick up on your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and potential. You will train and work knowing that Coach is on the sidelines, rooting for you, and observing your play. Coach will know when and how to teach you humility. Coach will also know how to explain the game plan to you in a way that you’ll understand; speak your language:
Now that I’ve come away from the huddle, I’ve learned that God offers everyone sufficient graces to become a saint. (Some of us need more help to recognize and accept them.) Matt Maher and Saint Paul are right.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Have you ever taken a personality test? They ask you a few questions, and then “reveal” something about who you are…
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Which Color Are You?
The 5 Love Languages (9 million copies sold)
Keirsey Temperament Sorter
Strengthsfinder 2.0 (Wall Street Journal #1 and BusinessWeek #1 bestseller)
I used to gleefully spend hours taking personality tests. Some were even school course requirements. While they can offer some helpful insights, personality tests can also – especially for Christians – distract us from where we should find our identity.
John the Baptist’s Test
My fellow pilgrims walking to the site of Christ’s baptism, in Jordan.
In November 2010, I remember walking through the tall grass of the Jordanian wilderness, accompanying my fellow pilgrims to the site of Christ’s baptism. We were privileged to trek there, rather than the typical Jordan River ‘pilgrim stop’ in Israel which is busy and…
Since the last blog post, I did – indeed, miracle of miracles – consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary on November 21.
“SO HOW WAS IT???” you ask.
You know what? It was very ordinary.
I’d had all these dreams (literally) about my Consecration Day: I’d be wearing something beautiful, and I’d stand a few feet from where I’d been baptized, in front of some beautiful depiction of Mary, and my husband would be there to witness it, and I’d maybe cry a little, and get “ALL THE FEELS” when it was done.
Here’s how it actually happened: That morning, I did indeed make a pilgrimage to the church where I was baptized. The church, however, was locked. It was super-humid and raining. My husband and I scurried around the church perimeter looking for Mass, and we found it in a tiny, virtually unadorned Adoration Chapel that I’d never visited. Then, we ran some errands, and I went to work.
After clocking out for the day, I walked down the hall from my office, entered the familiar chapel, and read the consecration that I had written on a plain piece of copy paper. Not a tear was shed. I experienced neither apparitions nor music of angelic choirs.
My thirty-three days of preparation were ordinary.
To top it off: After nearly a week of ‘consecrated life’ (ha), I can confidently say that I feel no additional ‘fuzzy feelings’ toward the Blessed Mother.
I’m extremely grateful for it.
My Marian Consecration was completely driven by my will. In fact, people would ask me, “How’s your consecration [preparation] going?” and I’d answer, “Ehhh… pretty rough.”
Then they’d give me a puzzled look, like, “Aren’t you supposed to be gushing about how great Mary is, and how she’s leading you SO much closer to Jesus, and your whole life is changing for the better, and you WISH you would’ve done this years ago???”
My rough preparation and ‘ordinary’ consecration taught me an important lesson: Emotions are meant to be like the wine of our spiritual lives. I have a hunch that, if my consecration prep / day / aftermath had been a GRAND + exciting!!! + eMoTioNaaal experience — I might’ve lived differently for a good period, and then maybe had a spiritual hangover… and moved on to the next thing.
On the flip side: Uniting our will with God’s will is the water of our spiritual lives; it is essential for growth, nourishment, and development. Obedience is simple and unadorned. It is not fancy or glam. It is very necessary.
True enough: just as at Cana, our Lord can choose to turn our water into wine when we’re in need of it.
But we can’t live on all wine. If we do, we’ll get sick.
When I was just a few days away from Consecration Day, I wrote to my spiritual director. I was genuinely concerned that I had not felt a gazillion warm fuzzies — well, not even ONE. What about — I wondered — all the people I know who’ve done this Marian Consecration already? They seem to speak about it with so much enthusiasm, and they glow when they speak about Mary. I didn’t see any of that happening in myself, in the least.
Father wrote back late at night with these words: “Don’t seek consolation.”
Those words were exactly what I needed to hear. They reminded me of our Lord’s words:
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. – Matthew 6:33
Maximilian Kolbe’s words also reassured me:
Never worry that you do not feel this love. If you have the will to love, you already give a proof that you love. What counts is the will to love.
So, if your spiritual life is feeling a little bland, don’t fret. Mary taught me that we should first seek water; seek to unite our will to God’s will. At the right time, he will transform the water we provide for Him into the gift of wine; graces of consolation.
Seek first to provide a willing heart; He cannot work miracles without it.
Forgive me for not having written in two weeks. I didn’t forget you. I just needed time to ponder, like Mary, the gift of my consecration.
I’m on Day 13 of my preparation for Consecration to Jesus through Mary. As you may recall, my last blog post was on Day 1. I laugh at the naive lady I was on Day 1.
She had no clue what was coming to her.
Monday, I had a minor operation on my foot. The doctor needed so much anesthesia to get my foot to sleep, I’m truly surprised I can still feel it. Since then, my very unprofessional footwear has been announcing my impending presence at work by an obnoxious slap slide, slap slide.
I can just see our Mother going down a To-Do list for Jesus…
Healthy dose of physical pain – check.
Minor humiliation – check.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for our Dear Mother to have me begin praying a nightly Rosary (which I consider a miracle already), but for the past two weeks that Rosary has been accompanied by the cleaning and bandaging of my ugly wound. It’s almost uncanny, how she timed all this to last nearly the entire length of my preparation.
Affront to her vanity – check.
Now, if it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. Promise! But I truly had no idea what was coming to me 12 days ago. The foot situation has been the least of my problems. The past two weeks have been physically and emotionally exhausting.
Reasons to keep her from being lazy – check, check, check.
Testing her patience – check.
Extraordinary trials – check.
This school of Mary is no kindergarten. Quite honestly, though, I’m in awe of her. I’ve never seen her signature as clearly as I’ve seen it over the last 12 days.
I feel like I am slightly more than myself. Life hasn’t been easy on me, but Mary has sweetened everything with graces.
That’s a mother, alright.
P.S. Does anyone know who wrote this gorgeous icon?
As you may know, a person is proclaimed “Blessed” (beatified) after a lengthy process which includes a thorough examination of his life and of a scientifically unexplained miracle attributed to his intercessory prayers. With another such miracle, Blessed Paul VI would be canonized as a saint.
I have a story that may not get him canonized, but has testified to his recent intercession in my life.
First, you have to know: I have never had a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary. She has always been a lovely figure, a distant figure, a mystery, in my life. Too pure, too good, too unlike myself. Sure, I’ve prayed the Rosary. I sometimes wear a Miraculous Medal. I appreciate the approved Marian apparitions from around the world – at Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Kibeho, etc.
But for whatever reason, Mary has never seemed close to me.
For the past few months, I’ve complained about this to my Spiritual Director. (Poor guy.) My spiritual director suggested the book 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. 33 Days is a modernized version of the original Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary by St. Louis de Montfort.
On my spiritual director’s initial suggestion, I resisted.
He suggested again…this time more of a recommendation than a suggestion. My excuse was our strictly-segmented family budget. It would have to wait for another paycheck.
Had to use the paycheck for other things.
Next paycheck. Ordered the book online.
In mid-September, the book arrived. I psyched myself up, sat down, and read the Introduction. It was all sounding good. I was thinking, “Yeah…I can do this.” Then, Fr. Gaitley includes a chart to determine when one should begin the Preparation process, so as to make one’s Consecration on a Marian feast day.
“WHAT?!” I exclaimed, reading by a nightlight while my husband slept soundly. “I HAVE TO WAIT A WHOLE MONTH??”
Yeah, I had gotten psyched up for – apparently – nothing. I complained, “Lord, I’ve waited all this time, and now you’re making me wait a whole month for this??”
Well, I soon regretted my complaint.
At a staff retreat a couple Thursdays ago, my colleagues and I were reading through Rosarium Virginis Mariae by Pope St. John Paul II. I was not exactly excited about this.
As we read the Introduction, John Paul II says,
Among the more recent Popes who, from the time of the Second Vatican Council, have distinguished themselves in promoting the Rosary I would mention Blessed John XXIII and above all Pope Paul VI, who in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus emphasized, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Rosary’s evangelical character and its Christocentric inspiration.
My boss took this opportunity to mention that Paul VI would be beatified soon. She couldn’t remember the date of the beatification, so I jumped in, “…on October 19.”
We continued reading. Suddenly, two and two came together:
October 19 would be the first day of my 33 days. I would begin my preparation for Marian Consecration on the same day that Paul VI, an exemplary son of Mary, was to be beatified.
Stunned, I shared this with my fellow staff.
“Wow! You’re going to begin with Paul VI!” they exclaimed. We laughed.
I asked the Lord to forgive me. All this time, He had a plan. (Clearly, I have issues trusting in that divine promise.)
So, today I begin walking a Marian road with Blessed Pope Paul VI – a man who was already instrumental in my study and promotion of evangelization & media. I already loved him. Now, he reciprocates that affection from Heaven.
P.S. Did you all catch this special moment? Right at the conclusion of today’s Beatification Mass, Pope Francis looked up at the image of Paul VI and made the Sign of the Cross. As camera pulled away from the image of our newly-beatified Holy Father, a single white dove flew right across the shot. Watch it here.
“Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love.” – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
“Never let your heart to be weakened because of a fault committed. Distrust self and trust only and continuously in God, persuaded that not able to do anything by yourselves, you can do all with His grace and powerful help.” – St. Jane Frances de Chantal
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” – St. Paul to the Philippians 4:13
The Heart of Jesus is our Nike “swoosh”… only a million times more powerful. Look at all that has been accomplished through this Heart. What obstacle stands in its way?