Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Do not Feed the Bears"

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

When trying to cope with bad thoughts an important thing to remember is this:


This is critical.

The last thing you want to do is feed those snarling, ugly "bear" thoughts prowling through your head. No, we want to starve them not feed them. I guarantee that if they are fed they will consume far more than you think. Feed them and they'll hang around wanting more. Starve them and they'll go quietly. Well, maybe after a few growls for effect. But if you don't feed them they are all bark, no bite. They eventually go.

When I was young I fed the bears generously each day and pretty soon they grew fat and healthy and consumed almost everything, including most of my joy. Worse than that, they multiply when well fed. I mean let's face it, it's pretty hard to feel joyous when joyless thoughts are prowling through your head constantly.

And peace?

Forget about it. I had none. Or very little, at least.

And I lived this way for years. How I managed I'll never know.

But I DID learn eventually.

In my last post I brought up looking for the underlying issue that may be exacerbating the toxic thoughts, in this one I am addressing the thinking itself. If you feed or give weight to the thoughts they get worse. You don't want to AGREE with the thoughts in any way, shape or form. They are not worthy of your worry and certainly not worth losing your peace over. Thoughts are not sinful unless the will gets involved. Random "thought bombs", as aggravating as they might be, are not sinful. That is, they are not sinful unless you choose to make them so. (Note for the scrupulous - noticing the thoughts are there does not mean you are agreeing with them.) It's interesting to note that many great saints had to deal with blasphemous thoughts, sometimes barrages of them, and yet stayed peaceful, such was their humility.

 An example would be: if you are bombarded with angry thoughts, don't give your consent to them. Don't let the thoughts have any power over you. In reality, they don't - you are in charge and you decide whether or not to give these thoughts weight.

Have you ever noticed that when you dwell on angry thoughts your anger increases?

This is what I mean.

Do not feed the bears.

I can't get over how many people believe they have committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, because satan dropped a random "thought bomb" or two about the Holy Spirit into their heads. It's one of the most common questions I find in the keywords of this blog. This is NOT blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. (Truth is - I fell for this one when I was young too. Many do, which is probably why satan loves this particular thought bomb. Even Billy Graham fell for it as a young man.)

The difference between a few bad "thought bombs" (or a barrage of them) and the pattern of thinking I mentioned in my previous post is that praising God will usually get rid of the first fairly easily but the second tends to come back because the underlying problem hasn't been taken care of.

Ignoring "thought bombs" is good and often recommended.

You can also offer it up in reparation for sin.  I like this one.

I mean, you gotta hand it to the Catholic Church - nothing is ever wasted, is it?  (Grin)

Helpful tips for those under siege:
~ Praise helps
~ If you offer it up, once during a barrage is sufficient. (You don't want to give it too much attention.           Focus on the good, not the bad.)
~ You can also ignore it.
~ Go do something that requires your full attention. Often this is enough to do the trick.
~ Don't worry about it - you don't want to give it extra weight. There are other things more worthy
    of our attention.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Toxic Thoughts - Part 1

Toxic thoughts used to be the bane of my existence. Looking back, I can see just how much they affected my life. I wasn't really fully aware of them at the time. I thought my thinking was normal. The toxic thoughts were more like a background noise, subtle at times but almost always there if I payed attention. My thinking definitely leaned toward the negative side. Like a tape being played over and over again. These thoughts were like bloodthirsty leeches, slowly draining my energy, my peace, my joy. When I DID become aware of how problematic my thinking processes were I tried to do something to overcome them.

But kept failing.


Because I placed my focus on overcoming the bad thoughts without understanding that there were underlying issues feeding them. It was like trying to bail out a leaky boat with a straw. How can it work if you don't fix the leak first?

Fix the leak. Then you can bail out the water.

In my case, repressed/suppressed anger was one of the culprits fueling the toxic thoughts. I've spoken about this in numerous posts so I won't go into detail here except to say that you have a much better chance of conquering negative thinking if you deal with the underlying issue first. You can be mild-mannered on the surface and still have a lot of anger simmering deep inside. The surface mildness may just be saying that you have good control. Mine was rigid.

Even now, I have to be diligent in the area of my thought life because negative thoughts still like to creep in on occasion and if I am not careful they wreak havoc in a very short time. Anyone who has struggled with this knows how difficult it can be to overcome poisonous thinking processes. There aren't any "quick fixes", at least there weren't for me. I guess God could certainly cure a person of this in an instant but usually He doesn't work this way. It usually takes time, grace, and effort before we see lasting changes in this area.

In other words, He supplies the grace, you supply the effort. You work in tandem like a tag team.

So, the first way to deal with unwanted thoughts is to ask God to help you with the underlying issues lurking beneath the surface that may be helping to fuel the thoughts. Once these are addressed you can
start  actively working on getting rid of the thoughts themselves.

Some people may not even be aware that they struggle with toxic thoughts but it's not difficult to find out if you do. For a few days, pay attention to where your thoughts go. Don't dwell on them, just see if you can notice subtle poisonous thought patterns aimed at yourself or others. Thoughts such as:

"God doesn't really want to help me."

"I'm not good enough."

"I'll never be able to do this!"

"I can't lose weight! I'll always be fat and ugly."

These are just examples. Look for any patterns of cutting yourself or others down. Check for accusatory thoughts aimed at yourself or others. Note any patterns of despair:

"He/she (or I) will never change!"

"This is hopeless!"

"I hate my life!"

Remember, you are not looking for occasional bad thoughts that pop up, you are looking for recurrent patterns or themes. Thoughts that consistently come to mind when you aren't caught up in an activity that holds your attention. The good thing is that the thoughts themselves will give you an idea of the underlying issue.

For instance, some consistent patterns of thinking can point towards a particular Deadly Sin that may need to be worked on, so as frustrating as it may be to deal with such thoughts they can actually help you pinpoint certain areas of your life that may need work. To give you an example, if the thoughts tend toward:

God doesn't want to help me/ I am all alone and God doesn't care/ I'll probably go to hell, God doesn't love me/ God is always silent (thoughts that doubt the goodness of God) - it may be a good idea to look at sloth first.

If the thoughts tend toward:

I never do anything right/ I'm such a loser/ I can't keep up/ I hate myself (etc..) you can look for suppressed/repressed anger issues (and these thoughts may suggest that you have difficulty forgiving yourself so praying for humility may help as well).

If you DO find "negative brain tapes", don't worry.

God already knows about them and wants to open up this area to His grace.

In brief, step one is to come to terms with the underlying issue (or issues) such as anger, envy, unforgiveness, despair, (etc...) by admitting you have trouble in this area and asking for God to help you with it. Once you face the problem, you can tackle the thoughts themselves which I talk about in my next post.

Next post: Do not Feed the Bears


Monday, March 24, 2014

Time Gluttony

James Tissot: Wikimedia Commons

I suffer from a strange malady.

I am a "time" glutton.

Let me explain:

I have to force myself to be generous with my time. (Notice the "my" that comes before time.) And it doesn't come easily for me.

See, I like to cram as much as I can into as little time as possible so that each moment is ready to explode like a volcano because it is stuffed beyond its capacity.

In other words, I have a tendency to multi-task. Multi-tasking robs me of my peace and makes me feel as if I am rushing through life and using my time unwisely. And that is exactly what I am doing. I know it, I fight against it...and still catch myself stuffing each moment with too many things. Too much thinking, too much activity.

A wise use of time is to focus on the task at hand. To give it your full attention and live in the present moment.

Sadly, I often don't even notice the present moment because I'm too busy overfilling it.

Just sayin'.

It's okay if you think this is an odd thing to post about.

I think so too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Evening of the Visitation

The Evening of the Visitation
Go, roads, to the four quarters of our quiet distance,

While you, full moon, wise queen,

Begin your evening journey to the hills of heaven,

And travel no less stately in the summer sky

Than Mary, going to the house of Zachary.

The woods are silent with the sleep of doves,

The valleys with the sleep of streams,

And all our barns are happy with peace of cattle gone to rest.

Still wakeful, in the fields, the shocks of wheat

Preach and say prayers:

You sheaves, make all your evensongs as sweet as ours,

Whose summer world, all ready for the granary and barn,

Seems to have seen, this day,

Into the secret of the Lord's Nativity.

Now at the fall of night, you shocks,

Still bend your heads like kind and humble kings

The way you did this golden morning when you saw God's

Mother passing,

While all our windows fill and sweeten

With the mild vespers of the hay and barley.

You moon and rising stars, pour on our barns and houses

Your gentle benedictions.

Remind us how our Mother, with far subtler and more holy


Blesses our rooves and eaves,

Our shutters, lattices and sills,

Our doors, and floors, and stairs, and rooms, and bedrooms,

Smiling by night upon her sleeping children:

O gentle Mary! Our lovely Mother in heaven.

                                          Thomas Merton

Sunday, March 9, 2014

God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. Got it?

"See? I created day and night and it WAS good."

Some people love Daylight Savings Time - they enjoy the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.

Me? Not so much.

I never understood (barring wartime) why anyone wants an extra hour of light at the end of the day.

People who struggle with insomnia do not like Daylight Savings Time.

And you know who else hates DST?

New moms, that's who. They hate Daylight Savings Time. With a passion I might add.

And Moms with babies and young children? They hate DST too. Messes up the sleep schedules and all other schedules in the house.

You know who else hates it?

The dads who have to deal with the grouchy moms and kids.

Teenagers also hate it. (What's new?)

People who have to get up early for work hate DST - nurses, doctors, EMT's, firemen, policemen, pharmacists, etc...

The folks who work at bakeries, doughnut shops, TV news (and radio) stations hate it as well.

And dogs hate DST. They can't figure out why their human doesn't come home from work when they are supposed to anymore and why their walk and food schedules are all messed up. They have to wait at the door a lot. For nothing.

So, there are tons of people who hate DST.

And by the looks of the half-empty pews at Mass this morning we are the majority rather than the minority.

Which means God doesn't like Daylight Savings Time either. "My people, my people, what is wrong with the day as I created it? Must you control time itself?"

Yes, Lord, I guess we must. The proof is in the chocolate pudding. (Oops, of those Lenten Freudian slips.)

Man, it felt good to let that out. Been brewin' for ten tears ( THAT proves it, folks - I wrote tears instead of years by accident and the reason for that accident is because...

... my frain is bried due to Staylight Raving Lunatic Time.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Healing Balm for the Soul

An Allegory of Man

What is the cure for the soul that is weary? What is the antidote to a world stricken with vice? The remedy for the soul overwhelmed by despair?

What "sweetens" the crosses we bear?

The answer is one and the same for all of the questions above.

Virtues. Those God given helps for the soul. The beautiful "coat of many colors" the soul needs to be cloaked in...that God yearns to cover its nakedness, its poverty, with so it doesn't walk about the world completely exposed to that which seeks to harm it.

In the painting above, "An Allegory of Man", Man is being attacked by the Seven deadly Sins and Death, but is shielded by the Seven Virtues. We have really gotten away from studying and practicing the virtues in the past century and this loss is becoming more noticeable each day as the proliferation of every kind of sin and vice sweeps across humanity. Sometimes it's hard to believe that we can be so obdurate in our unwillingness to see what is as plain as the nose on our face:

The world is drowning in the Seven Deadly Sins. We all struggle with them but millions have given themselves over to them completely.

The loss of the practice of virtue in this world has had tragic repercussions. One of the effects of the Deadly sins is that they do in fact have a deadening effect on the soul. The soul grows numb and weary. It cannot function properly in the manner that it was created to - as a clean and holy temple of the Holy Spirit. It loses its sense of being closely connected to God. The soul falls asleep, you could say.

We are a people who are snoring their way into oblivion. An oblivion where no one exists except me, myself, and I. The ultimate dreamworld where the only god that exists is the god of self. A world where people have forgotten both God and neighbor. (Oh, wait, so sorry...I forgot that this "dreamworld" actually has a name. Hell, I think it's called. )

The virtues on the other hand "wake up" the soul. They have a vivifying effect on it because their source is God. When the soul is not coated in virtues it feels their absence because the spiritual state of man depends on the virtues. We have lost our understanding of the protection virtues give us, a truth which the people of past centuries understood well.

When our physical bodies are ill they manifest clear symptoms so that we know something is wrong. It's the same for our souls - they too manifest spiritual symptoms so that we may take note and apply the remedies needed to cure its ills.

And God has given us so many remedies.

 One of the greatest is Confession, which purges the soul of the poisons within it. Once the poison is cleared, the virtues have the necessary room to take root, flourish and grow. Not confessing our sins is like trying to plant a seed in rocky soil, the plant has no room to grow because the soil (of the soul) is so poor. Confession removes the rocks and preps the soil.

Prayer is the conduit through which the soil is watered.

Holy Scripture and the Eucharist feed it. (Anyone who likes gardening knows soil needs to be fertilized to produce anything worthwhile.)

The virtues protect it and cause the soil of the soul to produce fruit abundantly.

Let's turn the tide of sin and despair in our world today by praying for and practicing the virtues.

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.
                   St Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bucket of Virtues for Kids (And Adults too!)

 Keep Love in Lent 2014

Join in on the 2nd Annual Keep Love in Lent Link-Up!
Add your inspiring LENT post at one of the following Catholic Blogs:

Catholic Bloggers Network

  Equipping Catholic Families (Monica)
 Campfires and Cleats (Chris)
 Truly Rich Mom  (Tina)
A Slice of Smith Life (Tracy)
and discover NEW WAYS to Keep LOVE in LENT!

For Lent, our family usually makes a fasting cup which we fill with slips of paper that have things that we can fast from listed on them but we decided to do something different this year:

Michaela and I have been studying virtues lately and since the best way to learn is by doing I decided that a "virtues bucket" would be the best and most practical way for her to integrate the virtues into her daily life.

We used an old plastic coffee container as a bucket, decorated it, and then cut out flowers and butterflies and wrote down a virtue on each one. On the reverse side of the cards we wrote down
which vice the virtue opposes or what help the virtue gives.

Each day we will pick one card from the "virtues bucket" and will then put into practice for that day the particular virtue we have picked. At the end of the day, after our evening prayer, we will go over the opportunities we had to practice the virtue and how we can further work the virtue into our everyday lives.

The list of virtues we used can be found here (Theological and Cardinal Virtues, along with a good activity that will help kids learn about them) and here (the moral virtues).

Have a blessed Lent!

(Can you tell I just dusted? Yep, Mom is practicing "diligence" today!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Your Biggest Cross

Sisyphus: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Rumor has it that a newspaper once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, What’s wrong with the world today? And Chesterton responded simply:

“Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

This story about G.K. Chesterton is not substantiated but I sure wish it were true. Why do I wish this?

Because sooner or later every person stumbles upon one of the great truths of life. And "stumbles upon" is the right phrase because this truth sure feels like a huge stumbling block. God knows this truth, the saints knew it, the souls in Purgatory definitely know it. We may know it as well, but our pride resists it. This truth is:

We are our own heaviest crosses.

There, I said it.

And it's true for all of us.

When I first came upon this realization I thought it was only me. That I, myself, was my own heaviest cross and that this didn't apply straight across the board.

But it does. It applies to all of us. When you read the lives of the saints you see that every single one of them came to this conclusion about themselves. It's a common thread that runs through their writings and one we should take note of.

Those who say, "But my husband (insert person or circumstance of choice here) is my heaviest cross!"

Nope. Not true. You are your heaviest cross. This is a truth about ourselves that we tend to resist in an extraordinary way because pride has taken root in our hearts and we don't want to believe that one of our biggest problems just might be ourselves.

When we believe that others are our "heavy crosses" it may be one of the strongest signs that a virtue we should be praying for in abundance is the virtue of humility and maybe some charity to go with it.

It took me ten years to learn this. (And another five to accept it.)

It is part and parcel of our fallen human nature.

It's a great lesson though because as soon as we REALLY learn this,as soon as we stop resisting God's
efforts to point this oh so hard-to swallow, it's stuck in my throat fact out, we can begin to make quick progress in the spiritual life because our focus is taken off the sins and faults of our neighbor and responsibility is planted squarely on the shoulders to whom it belongs. We stop blaming others for our heavy loads and start seeing that WE are the heavy loads. This is not to say that there are not external circumstances in our lives that do not make our cross heavier. There are. But the reason the *external circumstances* are so "heavy" is because of our *internal circumstances*.

In other words, if you want to lighten your load you have to work on yourself first.

As G.K. Chesterton so bluntly puts it: Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.

Funny how some of the most obvious things in life are the most difficult to see. Not only are we seasick, we are "see sick" as well and our biggest blind spot is ourselves.

~ You cannot escape it, wherever you run. For wherever you go you carry yourself with you, and will always find yourself. Turn upwards or turn downwards, turn inwards or turn outwards: everywhere you will find the cross.                      Thomas A Kempis

~ The greatest cross of all is self.       Archbishop Francois Fenelon

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lent Meme

Victor at Time for Reflections has tagged me for a Lent Meme. This Lent Meme is very easy to follow. 

 The rules are very few:

1.   Copy/paste this post on your Blog.

2.   Contact as many other Bloggers as you like and leave them this comment: "You have been tagged for the LENT MEME on my Blog".

3.   And now the difficult bit: Do someone a good deed. Anyone. Relative, friend or stranger. Any good deed. Saying a prayer for someone in need. Helping an old person with shopping, transport, gardening. Visiting a sick person. Giving some money to charity.

Just use your imagination and do any good deed.

If you are greedy you can do more than one good deed. To more than one person. You can do a good deed every day of Lent if you wish. The minimum is just one good deed.

As soon as Victor tagged me for this meme I jumped right on it because this is probably the most meaningful meme I've seen. And I tag each person who reads this post and wants to join in. Let's go all out this Lent and place our focus on what REALLY matters: love of God and neighbor.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

As We Forgive Those...

Eduard Veith: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I've heard people say, "I cannot forgive this person but I do not wish them in hell." What they may not understand is that this is the spiritual reality that underlies not forgiving others, the condemnation of the person, and this is why God warns us about it over and over in the Bible. The refusal to forgive is your personal "judgment" on the soul you withhold forgiveness from. When you don't forgive you are in essence saying that your judgment holds more water than God's. We align ourselves with the accuser instead of the God of mercy whom we claim to trust.

I am not being harsh in my assessment of unforgiveness.  In the Bible, Jesus himself makes this very clear to us numerous times (see below). The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say regarding
"forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" :

2840 Now - and this is daunting - this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father's merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

"Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible" - this statement says so much. Who are we harming by our refusal to forgive? The entire Body of Christ, that's who. Everyone.  And mercy cannot penetrate our hearts if we refuse to forgive. Daunting, for sure. Thank you, Lord, for Confession, that beautiful Sacrament that lays bare our hearts so that we can be healed.

2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount. This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But "with God all things are possible."
. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us

2842 This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.

2843 Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. the parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.

2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. the martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.

Reading this section on forgiveness from the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes me very grateful to be Catholic. What a treasury of wisdom we have at our fingertips!

Here are two links on unforgiveness that I also found helpful:

Unforgiveness is the cause...

Human Defenses Against Forgiveness

Friday, February 28, 2014

No sir, those are my feet...

Special delivery just for you, Mary!

You know, living in the (kinda-sorta) country has its good points, I'll give you that. Lots of space, no streetlight glaring through your windows during the night, stars galore, fresh air - the list of good things could go on and on. But...

...the water here smells really funny. As in *bad* funny.

Eggy in fact.

You turn on the tap to brush your teeth and are assaulted by egg water.

I don't get it.

I got over the nighttime howling wolf thingy - they weren't wolves at all, really. No, they were roaming packs of coyotes attacking their prey with a glee that would curl your toes.

The bears? Well, the bears don't eat meat. At least not yet.

And I can accept that the (kinda-sorta) country may have a few intrinsic odors of its own. I mean, let's face it, septic systems and horse farms come with their own special brand of "fresh country scent", don't they?

So it's all good.

But the water?


 ...I cannot accept the water. I'm not even sure it IS water.

Rotten egg-scented well water?

Do you know what that means, folks?

That means you hard boil your clothes in the egg-scented water and then the dryer bakes the scent in. And if you throw in a few "fresh linen clean" scented dryer sheets? You get "fresh linen clean
egg-scented" shirts, pants, socks, sheets, towels, etc...

The problem with egg-scented socks is it results in egg-scented sneakers and egg-scented shoes. And you can't just toss your shoes each week. 'Cause that would be a sin my friend and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that fact on a Catholic blog now, wouldn't I? So you go about your days with a mild egg-scented air about you.

This is a problem. Why? Because not everyone understands that the odor is coming from your feet and when I am in crowded places and someone sniffs at the air I get paranoid. No sir, those are my feet...I swear it's my feet and not my breath. My Triple Blast Arctic Air Peppermint Fields Peel The Paint Off Your Walls Mouthwash carries a minty fresh scent guaranteed to kill 99.99% of all odor-causing bacteria in existence. 

When someone says, "You smell that? What is that?!" I cringe. Yes, I cringe. No sir, I didn't break that unspoken cardinal church rule which Catholics 9-months-old and up in pews around the world instinctively know (it's passed down in the genes methinks) that only coughing is allowed at Mass AND. NOTHING. ELSE. So I make a big production of checking out the bottom of my shoes so that the people behind me will know that I'm wondering where that foul odor is coming from too. 

It's the bane of my eggsistence.

 I know, I know, that was REALLY bad, Mary...the worst you've ever done.

Any advice out there from my fellow bloggers who live in the country who may or may not have a high manganese level in their well water? 'Cause I'm pretty sure manganese is the culprit because our feet always smelled just fine until we moved into the country and odor-eaters will only work for just so long. 

Plus, I'm not really sure if secretly rolling deodorant on your feet and in your shoes each day is a *good* thing. 

Chemicals, you know what I mean? Though, I have to let you in on a little secret: my socks are REALLY white. Just a little cleaning tip for my dingy-footed friends out there.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten Posts I Love!

I am not only a blogger but a blog reader as well. Every day I come across posts from other bloggers that stand out for me - they make me laugh, cry (or both), or they touch my heart in an extra special way. I don't always have time to comment on every post I read so I thought I'd show my appreciation by linking to some of the posts I've loved in the past couple of weeks (in no particular order).

Melanie's post Hanging By My Fingernails at Joy of Nine - I could relate, Melanie!! As a reformed control freak I could relate! (Of course, I didn't know I was a control freak at the

Nancy's post My Bells at The Cloistered Heart - Because my heart hungers for the "insistent rhythm of their voices" as well. This was beautifully written.

 Colleen's post Love Your Enemies at Thoughts on Grace - Because we all need these reminders of God's great love for us, even when we are not at our most lovable. Which is often the case for me lately it seems. (Begone Winter!!)

Heather's posts at Mama Knows, Honeychild - Every single post makes me laugh! I found this blog through the Sheenazing Blogger Awards and have been reading it ever since. This is what my daily life usually resembles!

Sue's post Letting Go of Another of Thomas' Places at Sue Elvis Writes - Her soul-searing honesty when she writes always gets to me. She is not only a very good writer, she is also the most versatile writer I've seen.

Bonnie's post What I didn't know I had lost from PPD at A Knotted Life - My heart hurt reading this post. I always felt like I "missed out" on the newborn stage of my daughter's life because of PPD, no sleep and higher than normal pain levels with the Myasthenia Gravis at the time. I needed help badly, more than any other time in my life, and was too proud to ask for it. So I rocked my beautiful baby girl and cried for three months. After struggling with infertility for so long I thought the joy of finally having a child would offset any PPD but those first few months were the: Hardest. Of. My. Life

Mallory's post Twenty Easy Ways to Become a Saint at His UnEnding Love - Because you all know how I LOVE lists! And I especially love lists on how to become a saint! I read the list and thought, "perfect".
Except for the fasting...which brings me to the next post on my list:

Connie's post Pizza and disordered attachments at Contemplative Homeschool - Well I don't even have to tell my readers why this one struck a nerve, do I? Didn't think so. Connie has the remarkable gift of making things seem: Not. So. Overwhelming. It's the way she writes - I've always been drawn to a straightforward manner of writing. Especially when it comes to my spiritual life. I mean, I like fluffy stuff too but not when it comes to my spiritual life. I'm really looking forward to reading her book, Trusting God with St. Therese when it comes out in a few months.

Victor's post No Peace... at Time For Reflections- Amen. Amen. Amen. This is what it is all about:  " We also use every remembrance to pray for the one who hurt us. We hand that person over to God as well as the hurt itself."  Beautifully said, Victor. We turn our pain into an opportunity to love.

Oh, and I really enjoyed your "History Lessons" as well, Victor! They cracked me up. (Sorry about the Roman potty habits link I put in your comment section! Mea culpa! Mea Culpa!)

Patricia's post The truly unbearable Agony of Jesus... at I Want to See God (I love the name of this blog) - This post takes my breath away. No one writes about the Passion of Our Lord like Patricia does. No one.

Okay, so maybe I lost count here. But I really enjoyed writing this post and I think I might do it regularly because there were quite a few more links I wanted to put up!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mercy - Limited or Not?

Robert la Longe - Sacred Heart of Jesus

Does mercy have a limit?

Yes and no. Mercy is limitless on God's end, it is on our end that mercy has it limits. In other words, mercy is limited by the narrowness and constriction of our own hearts. God's mercy has no limit but we can limit the expression of God's mercy by saying no to it. God is willing to forgive all of our sins but...

(There's always a but, isn't there?)

... we have to forgive others as well.

When we pray the Our Father we say, "Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us." We see here that forgiving others is one of the conditions for receiving mercy. We have to forgive others if we want to be forgiven ourselves. At the very least, the desire to forgive must be present, Jesus will help with the rest. Desire is a great thing - it leaves a large opening for God to work with.

Not forgiving others means that we want them to be held bound for their sins against us. The wound was too large, too brutal, too cruel to ever be repaired, how can I forgive?  This holding bound their sins in turn holds us bound to our own sins while at the same time it binds us in a negative way to the very person we refuse to forgive!

How can that be?! I mean, they did this brutal terrible thing and I could reap what THEY sowed? Huh?

Doesn't seem to make sense, does it?

Until we realize that unforgiveness has the potential to be one of the worst sins of all. It is not a quality from God. Ever. It has one source and the source is evil. According to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, evil is defined as "the absence of good". So, technically evil is not a something, it is an absence of something. In the case of  sin (of unforgiveness or any sin) it is the absence of virtue to some degree or another. For instance, satan is evil because there is no good in him. He is virtueless. We, on the other hand, are kind of a mixed

The definition of evil as the absence of good is an important observation because it helps us understand how to overcome both the sins of others against us and the sin we see in ourselves. For the first, we would ask for the grace to forgive, as well as the virtue of love and humility to battle against the lack of love and the pride which leads to unforgiveness. For the second, we would pray for and practice the opposing virtues of whatever vices we are trying to rid ourselves of.

Unforgiveness can lead to a hardening of the heart and if this potential for hardening is fulfilled to its ultimate capacity its end result could be the complete and utter hardening of the human heart, which grace can no longer pierce because the person has refused to allow it to be pierced. It's a total turning away from God, a refusal to love AND a refusal OF love.

In some ways, unforgiveness, if held to the end of life is worse than murder. Why? Because  unforgiveness is basically the intent to impose spiritual death. This is the spiritual intent which lies beneath unforgiveness - that a person should reap what they sowed for all eternity. Though we may not see it as such, it is an attempt to usurp the authority of God whose mercy is given to all who ask with sincere hearts. It is an attempt to usurp the justice of God as well. It aligns us with "the accuser of our brethren" instead of aligning us with the Lord, who is rich in mercy.

Unforgiveness is saying to another, "You are not worthy of mercy."

God says otherwise.

"My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of My goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace."                (The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska)

(This post has a second part because it was too long to post all at once. With Lent coming up I thought mercy versus unforgiveness would be a fitting subject to write about. The second part speaks a bit more about the importance of forgiveness and delves into what the Catechism teaches about it.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Into the Silence

Artwork: Night by Edward Burne-Jones
One foot in time

One foot in eternity

O, be still my mind

Be still my soul

For in the deepest silence

of the human soul

lies the peace which

surpasses all understanding

and in the quiet chambers

of a peaceful heart
                                                                time stands still

                                                                and eternity begins


Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.        St. Augustine

Cultivating inner silence is an important part of prayer. In the midst of the clamor of the world, which is louder than ever in our day, I would go so far as to say this silent time is imperative for most of us because it is in the silent sanctuary of our souls that we find the rest we so desperately need, it is there we find the "peace that surpasses all understanding". When we search for this peace on the surface of our lives it's hard to find but if we look at the calm beneath the storms of life, if we turn our gaze to the inner recesses of the soul, there we find God's steady presence.

Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother's lap, so is my soul within me.       Psalm 131:2

And behold, the veil in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  Mt.27:51

Thanks to Jesus we may enter the "inner sanctuary" - that place in our innermost being where God and the soul are in intimate communication.  It can be compared to the Holy of Holies in the temple. That place "beyond the veil" which we cannot see with our physical senses but become aware of with our spiritual senses.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?      1 Cor. 6: 19

The ark of the commandments you shall bring inside, behind this veil, which divides this holy place from the holy of holies.            Ex.26:33

You yourself are His dwelling and His secret chamber and hiding place.       St John of the Cross

Time seems to stand still in the inner recesses of our souls. I never quite understood how this could be exactly but a good guess is that our souls don't experience time in the same way our physical bodies do. Our souls, I guess you could say, stand outside of time in some strange way, even as our physical bodies stand very firmly IN time.  Because we are body, soul, and spirit we exist both in time and outside of time. This is the reason a person can experience heaven as a spiritual state of being while still in time. Our souls rest in God who is beyond time.

What more can you desire, what more can you seek without, seeing that within you have your riches, your delight, your fullness and your kingdom; that is your Beloved, Whom you desire and seek? Rejoice, then, and be glad in Him with interior recollection, seeing that you have Him so near. Then love Him, then desire Him, then adore Him, and go not to seek Him out of yourself, for that will be but distraction and weariness, and you shall not find Him; because there is no fruition of Him more certain, more ready, or more intimate than that which is within.     
                                                  St. John of the Cross (A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul)

Here are a few beautiful scripture passages (along with  the verses and quotes I mention above) that I have been meditating on recently that deeply resonate within my soul whenever I think of the indwelling of The Holy Trinity:

I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.                 John  17:23

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts become troubled or afraid." John 14:27