You are loved by beautiful, divine love.

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On St. Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite old hymns…and a favorite new one.

You are loved every moment!

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” – Mormon Tabernacle Choir

 

“You Are The Beauty” – Gungor

Love, love, love of mine
You have caused the sun to shine on us
Music fills our ears
Flavors kiss our lips
with love divine

You are the beauty
You are the light
You are the love, love of mine

Breath and sex and sight
All things made for good
in love divine

You are the love
Love of mine
Are the love
The love of mine

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Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Getting to Know the Holy Spirit

Angela Sealana:

Since I was sick all last week, I didn’t get a chance to update the blog. Instead, please enjoy my recent post for the Pilgrim Log!

Originally posted on The Pilgrim Log:

"Pentecost" by Titian (c. 1545) “Pentecost” by Titian (c. 1545)

Last weekend, I was privileged to assist at a retreat for teens preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Although I began working in high school ministry about eight years ago, I experienced something on this retreat that I’ve never encountered.

Our parish is involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, colloquially known for its “Pentecostal” style of prayer.  I, however, am still quite new to ‘extraordinary’ manifestations of the Holy Spirit, since I was raised without exposure to charismatic prayer, and have only recently begun attending this parish.

The teens had gone to Confession, and after celebrating Mass, our retreat had reached its climax.  Four teams of adults and youth leaders were to pray over individual retreatants, invoking the Holy Spirit.  Not five minutes after this began, I was asked to lead one of those prayer teams!

My mind became a bit scrambled. …

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Why does St. Paul say married people are less likely to be devout?

"Marriage of the Virgin" by Pietro Perugino, 1504.

Lord, have mercy, I’m ’bout to rant against Paul the Apostle.

On Friday, my spiritual director sends me a text message… a warning:

“The verse” is our second reading this weekend.

As our merciful Lord would have it, I’m the lucky lector who gets to read (UPDATE: staying home thanks to a food allergy) this delightful passage, 1 Cor. 7:s2-35:

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Listen here, Saint Paul: I know that you thought the world was ending pretty soon, but your words are still ringing in our ears almost 2,000 years later. For about 10 years of my life, I’ve wrestled with this passage of Holy Scripture.

When I was a teenager discerning whether religious sisterhood was my calling, I would sit on the floor in my bedroom, my back leaning against the dresser, staring at this passage in my open Bible.  Even before this passage entered my life, I had plans to stay single.  (Am I the only girl who never planned a wedding or dreamed of a handsome prince?)  After reading this particular passage, I felt that I was evidence for a vocation to religious life.  After all: How could I, a God-fearing young woman, possibly want to get married and risk becoming distracted from the Lord?

Since those contemplative sessions at my dresser, God has proven that His plan rules; I’m married.  I couldn’t possibly imagine being my utmost self without being married to my husband.  Yet, this Scripture seems to stand at the gates of Heaven and wag its finger at me: “All the single ladies (are more devout)!”

St. Paul, there’s no doubt that you’re a great man of God.  You said you wanted your spiritual children to live without anxiety.  I get that; I’ve got anxieties.  But the thing is: I’ve got anxieties about the things of the world AND the things of God.

There are clear reasons why I would be more anxious about worldly things vs. an unmarried virgin, who shares material things with her community.  I get that.

But I wish your words didn’t seem to say that I am LESS likely to seek the path to Heaven.  I wish your words didn’t seem to scoff at my ability to live a holy life.  (It’s tough already!)  As a matter of fact, my husband and our marriage pour graces on me that draw me closer and closer to salvation…

…and I don’t see that happening as quickly, or as tenderly, in an alternate universe wherein I’m single.

I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

I feel like this is a cop-out, St. Paul.  You’re saying that I should take your advice and be aware that I’m going to be anxious about material things whilst married?  How is this breaking news?  Instead, I feel like you’re telling me that I’m more likely to fail at life.  I respectfully disagree.  Marriage is absurdly helpful to my spiritual life.

A couple of months ago, I stopped wrestling with this passage, because I realized that it was not going to change, or suddenly fly off the pages of Bibles internationally.  I try to give St. Paul the benefit of the doubt, and keep climbing the stairway to Heaven.

(Did you like that last reference? Yes, irony. Stay classy, my friends.)

"Marriage of the Virgin" by Pietro Perugino, 1504.
“Marriage of the Virgin” by Pietro Perugino, 1504.

The Frightening Reality for Modern Christians

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.

– Blessed Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 76

How Jesus Became More Perfect

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For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 2:10

This verse struck me today. God the Father made Jesus, “leader to our salvation” PERFECT… through SUFFERING.

How could Jesus the Godhead be made more perfect?

He was perfected as our leader to salvation.

Why do we need salvation? Because of sin, suffering.

Jesus was finally able to lead us OUT of that sin & suffering when he perfectly understood our human suffering.  Jesus was made into the perfect savior, through suffering.

Wow!

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On the Importance of Coaches and Grace in Our Spiritual Lives

Pop_Sidelines

“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.

Pop_SidelinesThanks 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.

Bingo!

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.”

– 2 Corinthians 12:8

The Ultimate Personality Test

Angela Sealana:

I’ve blogged over at the Pilgrim Log about personality tests – and the best one yet. Check it out.

Originally posted on The Pilgrim Log:

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

Jordan River wilderness 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…

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How the Virgin Mary Taught Me: Seek Water, Receive Wine

medals

Wow, it’s been quiet around here….

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.

Photo I took of the church facade while running to the car after Mass.
Photo I took of the church facade while running to the car after Mass.

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???”

Obedience: Plopping myself down with this book every day.
Obedience: Plopping myself down with this book every day.

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.

12 Days to Morning Glory

No, it’s not getting any easier.

nope

Remember my Day 1 on Paul VI’s beatification day? I’m sure his prayers have kept me going. Most days I wonder how I can possibly make such an intense promise to God and his Mother.

My desire to please them and obey them is pretty high, yet the doubting creeps in constantly. I am terrified of disappointing them (…any more than I already do).

So, if I make it to Morning Glory, you people have witnessed a miracle.