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En route with the three Magi and be amazed!
The Epiphany is a feast of light. We hear from the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). We look to the actions of the Magi to guide our journey to the Lord Jesus, who is revealed as the light and salvation of the world. If we want to encounter Jesus too, we should pay attention to what the Magi did. What did they do? Three actions: they looked up to see the star; they realized what it meant and left their homes and activities to set out towards the light; and, they brought valuable gifts to worship Him.
This is where the journey begins. Have you ever wondered why the Magi alone saw the star, and realized its significance? Perhaps few people were looking up to the heavens, because their gaze was focused on the ground with their own immediate concerns. I wonder how many of us look up to the sky? How many of us are like the Psalmist who says, “My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak…” (Psalms 130:6), or are we more like, “Hey, it’s enough that I have good health, a solid bank account and stock portfolio, access to a 5G network, and a little entertainment, especially on Sunday in which I can watch wall-to-wall football games!” Do we know how to long for God, to expect the freshness that he brings to life, or do we let ourselves be swept along by the frenetic pace of our lives? The Magi understood that to truly be alive, we need lofty goals—we need to dream big!—and we need to keep looking up.
The second thing the Magi did, which is essential to finding Jesus, is to get up and begin the journey. When we stand before Jesus, we have a disconcerting either-or choice: is he Emmanuel, God among us, or is He not? If He is, then we have an obligation to give Him our total, uncompromised commitment so that our lives revolve around Him. Following His star is a decision to move towards Him and to advance steadfastly on the way He laid out for us. Although our journey is often two steps forward, one step backwards, the key is to keep our gaze on Jesus, pick ourselves up with His aid when we fall flat, and keep moving forward.
However, we cannot do that without getting off our couches, detaching ourselves from our comfort and security, and setting out instead of standing still. Jesus makes demands: He says that we are either for Him or against Him. In the spiritual path, there are only two directions: we’re either moving towards God or away from Him. If we want to move towards Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction, and our laziness. Put simply, we have to take risks, to let go of our self-referential lifestyle if we are going to find the Child. But, those risks are worth it because when we find the Child, we’ll discover His tenderness and love and rediscover our true identity.
At the end of their long journey, the Magi do as God does: they bestow gifts. God’s ultimate gift is His divine life, which He invites us to share for eternity. They offer what is most valuable for them: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts represent what St. John Paul II calls The Law of the Gift: we abide in an authentic relationship with God when we live how God operates with self-giving love. The best gift you can give to Jesus is your very life! Give freely, without reservations—don’t hold back, keeping something for yourself. Give without expecting anything in return—including the reward of Heaven! This is the truest sign that you have found Jesus in your life. For he says: “The gift you have received, give freely as a gift” (Matthew 10:8): to do good towards others without counting the cost, even when unasked, even when you get nothing in return, even when it is unpleasant. That is what God wants of you because that’s how God relates to us! Look at how God comes to us: as a Child—He became small for our sake. As we celebrate the Epiphany, let us look at our hands: are they empty of self-giving or are we offering the free gift of ourselves without expecting anything in return. And, let us ask Jesus: “Lord, send forth your Spirit that I may be renewed; that I may rediscover the joy of giving.”'
Last week, I had the great good fortune to sit down for a Zoom interview with Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Pageau, and John Vervaeke. As I’m sure you know, Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, is one of the most influential figures in the culture today. Pageau is an artist and iconographer working in the Orthodox Christian tradition, and Vervaeke is a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto. All three of these gentlemen have a powerful presence on social media. The topic of our conversation was a theme that preoccupies all four of us—namely, the crisis of meaning in our culture, especially among the young. To kick things off, Peterson asked each of us to give our definition of meaning and, more specifically, of religious meaning. When my time came, I offered this: to live a meaningful life is to be in purposive relationship to value, and to live a religiously meaningful life is to be in purposive relationship to the summum bonum, or the supreme value.
Following the prompts of Dietrich von Hildebrand, I argued that certain values—epistemic, moral, and aesthetic—appear in the world, and they draw us out of ourselves, calling us to honor them and to integrate them into our lives. So, mathematical and philosophical truths beguile the mind and set it on a journey of discovery; moral truths, on display in the saints and heroes of the tradition, stir the will into imitative action; and artistic beauty—a Cézanne still-life, a Beethoven sonata, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass—stops us in our tracks and compels us to wonder and, in turn, to create. To order one’s life in such a way that one consistently seeks such values is to have a properly meaningful life.
Now, I continued, the perceptive soul intuits that there is a transcendent source of these values: a supreme or unconditioned goodness, truth, and beauty. The fully meaningful life is one that is dedicated, finally, to that reality. Thus, Plato said that the culminating point of the philosophical enterprise is discovering, beyond all particular goods, the “form of the good”; Aristotle said that the highest life consists in contemplating the prime mover; and the Bible speaks of loving the Lord our God with our whole soul, our whole mind, our whole strength. Jordan Peterson, echoing Thomas Aquinas, put it as follows: Every particular act of the will is predicated upon some value, some concrete good. But that value nests in a higher value or set of values, which in turn nests in a still higher one. We come, he said, eventually, to some supreme good that determines and orders all of the subordinate goods that we seek.
Though we articulated the theme in different ways and according to our various areas of expertise, all four of us said that the “wisdom tradition,” which classically presented and defended these truths, has been largely occluded in the culture today, and this occlusion has contributed mightily to the crisis of meaning. Much has contributed to this problem, but we put emphasis especially on two causes: scientism and the postmodern suspicion of the very language of value. Scientism, the reduction of all legitimate knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge, effectively renders claims of value unserious, merely subjective, expressive of feeling but not of objective truth. Combined with this reductionism is the conviction, baked into the brains of so many young people today, that claims truth and value are simply disguised attempts to prop up the power of those who are making them or to sustain a corrupt institutional superstructure. Accordingly, these assertions have to be demythologized, dismantled, and deconstructed. And along with this cultural assault on the realm of values, we have witnessed the failure of many of the great institutions of the culture, including and especially the religious institutions, to present this realm in a convincing and compelling manner. Far too often, contemporary religion has turned into superficial political advocacy or a pandering echo of the prejudices of the environing culture.
So, what do we need for a meaningful life? From my perspective, I said, we need great Catholic scholars, who understand our intellectual tradition thoroughly and who believe in it, are not ashamed of it—and who are ready to enter into respectful but critical conversation with secularity. We need great Catholic artists, who reverence Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Mozart, Hopkins, and Chesterton, and who are also on point to produce fresh works of art, imbued with the Catholic sensibility. And we need, above all, great Catholic saints, who show concretely what it looks like to live one’s life in purposive relation to the summum bonum. We can and should blame the culture of modernity for producing the desert of meaninglessness in which so many today wander, but we keepers of the religious flame ought to take responsibility too, acknowledging our failures and resolving to pick up our game.
For people today will not enter into relationship with values and with the supreme value unless they can find mentors and masters to show them how.
© ARTICLE originally appeared at wordonfire.org. Reprinted with permission.'
Here’s a simple technique to stay focused on God’s plan for your life
A few years ago, at a New Year’s Day Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the priest encouraged us to ask the Blessed Mother for a “word” for the coming year. Maybe this would be a special grace that she wanted to give us, or a re-focusing word for our mission in life, or a virtue that she wanted to help us grow in. The choice of the word was up to her—our role was to pray and receive that word, and then let her unpack its meaning for us throughout the coming year. The priest paused and gave us all some time to pray. I asked Our Lady for the ‘word’ she had for me and the word “humility” came clearly to mind. As that year unfolded, I learned a lot from Mary about humility, and I know she helped me to grow in this virtue that she lived so beautifully in her life.
The following year, the word I received was “contentment.” In the subsequent months, Mary helped me learn what St. Paul talks about in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” Asking the Blessed Mother for this annual theme word has proved a fruitful practice for me in my spiritual life. So at the start of each New Year, I pray and ask Our Lady to give me her special “word” for the year ahead.
For this past year of 2021, my word has been “intercession.” In retrospect, I can see how appropriate this theme was for me as I am in a season of being the primary caregiver for my elderly mother. My life now revolves around caring for her, which is a privilege and honor, but it has also required me to shrink my outside involvement with people and ministries that I used to be a part of. Sometimes it can feel isolating and lonely. As my mom ages, we go to more doctor’s appointments, physical therapy sessions, wellness checkups, etc. and her emotional needs require delicate handling and reassurances. At the end of the day, I don’t have much reserve or inner bandwidth left.
But in quiet moments during car rides, or in examination rooms waiting on the doctors, I can intercede for people. I let the Lord bring to mind those He wants me to pray for — friends, family members, ministry leaders in our non-profit organization, the people we serve, etc. I pray for each person as they float through my thoughts. I feel the Lord’s tender love for them, His desire to bless and heal and help them. It comforts my heart to tap into the wellsprings of love and mercy that the Good Shepherd has for His sheep.
And somehow, I feel more connected to people as I cooperate with Mary in this mission that she brought into focus by giving me my “word” for this year. Instead of feeling isolated or on the fringe, a deep sense of our inner connectedness in the Body of Christ fills my heart. As we near the close of this year and the beginning of 2022, I encourage you to adopt this practice that the priest recommended. Take some time in quiet prayer and ask Our Lady to give you her “word” for you for this New Year. Receive it, and then ask her to help you understand what she means by it, how it will help you better live out God’s plan for your life, and how you can bless other people by embracing it. You may find that this simple prayer and practice will bring deep fruitfulness to your spiritual life, just as I have.'
That day I was feeling desperate and lonely but, little did I know, something special was about to happen…
When Pope Francis declared the “Year of Saint Joseph” starting from 8th December 2020, I recalled the day when my mother gave me a beautiful statue of this great Saint which I placed with deep reverence in my prayer corner. Over the years, I have prayed numerous novenas to Saint Joseph, but I always had a nagging feeling that he wasn’t really aware of my prayers. As time passed, I took very little notice of him.
Last year, one of my friends who is also a priest advised me to do a 30 day Prayer to Saint Joseph which I did together with the 33 day Consecration to Saint Joseph (by Father Donald H. Calloway). On the last day of the consecration, I had no idea that something special was about to happen in my life. It was a Sunday. I was feeling very depressed, although it’s absolutely not in my nature to be gloomy. But that day was very different. So right after Holy Mass, I decided to go to Adoration, seeking some relief before the Blessed Sacrament, for I had confidence that anyone who prays from the deepest recesses of their heart will always find consolation there.
Love from Above
On my way, while I waited in the U-Bahn (the underground metro rail services in Munich), I happened to notice a lady crying uncontrollably. I was deeply moved and wanted to console her. Her loud laments had attracted attention and everyone was staring at her, which put off my inclination to go and speak to her. After a while, she got up to go, but left her scarf behind. Now I didn’t have any option but to go after her. As I gave the scarf back, I told her, “Don’t cry…you are not alone. Jesus loves you and He wants to help you. Speak to Him about all your troubles…He will surely help you.” I also gave her some money. Then she asked me if I could hold her in my arms. I was a bit reluctant, but pushed it all aside, gave her a warm hug and softly touched her cheeks. I surprised myself by this act because that day I was feeling very empty and low in Spirit. And truly I can say that love wasn’t from me. It was Jesus who reached out to her!
Finally, when I reached the church Herzogspitalkirche for Adoration, I pleaded for God’s help and for a sign that He is in control. As I completed my Saint Joseph prayer and the consecration, I lit a candle in front of statue of Saint Joseph. Then I simply asked Saint Joseph whether he really cared for me, musing over why he never responded to me.
The Big Smile
On my way back to the train, a lady stopped me in the street. She looked like she was in her 50’s and that was the first and last time I saw her, but what she said to me still rings in my ears. As I looked at her wondering what she wanted from me, she suddenly exclaimed with a big smile on her face “Oh! Saint Joseph loves you so much, you have no idea.”
I was bewildered and I asked her to repeat what she said. I wanted to hear it again so much and the feeling I had is beyond words. That moment I knew that I am never alone. Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks as I told her that I had been praying and asking for a sign. With a mesmerizing smile she replied, “It’s the HOLY SPIRIT my dear…”
Then she asked, “Do you know what Saint Joseph loves the most about you?” I gazed back at her, bemused. Touching my cheeks softly (exactly as I had done to the lady in the metro earlier) she whispered, “It’s your soft and HUMBLE heart.” Then she left.
I have never seen this nice lady before or since, which was unusual because mostly in our churches we know each other, but I can still vividly remember how sweet and full of joy she was.
That day I felt so desperate that I really needed to feel that GOD really loved and cared for me. My worries were put to rest by the message from Saint Joseph who had been with me all those years even though I had often ignored him.
I firmly believe that the incident at the metro earlier that day was very much linked to my own encounter with this kind lady. She gave me a word of knowledge. Whatever we do for others, we do it for Jesus, even if we don’t feel like doing it. Jesus is even happier when we step out of our comfort zone to reach out to others. Ever since then, I seek the powerful intercession of my dear Saint Joseph every day, without fail!'
Question: I am starting to wonder if I will ever be married. I can’t fi nd a good boyfriend who is faithful to Christ. How can I find a good future spouse—and how will I know that he is “the one”?
In my work with youth and young adults, I fi nd this to be a common struggle: how to fi nd a good, faith-fi lled spouse in today’s world. I always laugh because at my young adult group, all the girls complain to me, “There are no good guys who I want to date!” Then the guys complain, “There are no good girls who I want to date!” Sometimes I feel like I should just be the matchmaker and put them together!
The best piece of dating advice I ever heard was from a priest who said, “Start running after Jesus. Once you’ve been running after Jesus for a while, look around and see who’s running with you. Those are the people you should date.” In other words, pursue Christ first—and seek a spouse who is also pursuing Christ first.
But where do you find such a spouse? Not at the bar, usually—but many cities have wonderful Catholic young adult groups where you can meet other people who are serious about Christ and serious about finding a spouse. Get involved, because I guarantee you will find others who are discerning marriage and looking just like you.
If you don’t have a local Catholic young adult group, you could either start one or seek out other young adults by volunteering at your parish or other charitable locations. Any young adult who volunteers their time is likely to have their priorities in the right order!
Catholic online dating sites can also be fruitful places to find a spouse. My sister met her husband on CatholicMatch.com, and I know many other young people who have found similar success online. When online, just be honest about who you are, and make sure that you have the same values as the other person (not everyone on Catholic dating sites is seriously Catholic—some may be more “culturally” Catholic than authentically Catholic and serious about the Lord).
A good relationship requires that the couple share similar values (faith, money, children, family), that they enjoy being together and enjoy similar activities, and, of course, that they are attracted to each other. If these things are present—and you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the relationship—then you should know that this is “the one”! I do not believe that God has created only one “soul-mate” for each of us; rather, there are probably many individuals with whom someone could be compatible and happy. If you feel peaceful in the relationship, if it is centered on Christ, if you love being with each other and your personalities and interests jibe, then you’ve probably found the person God is calling you to marry! God doesn’t usually put up “signs” that say, “This Is the Person You Should Marry!” Rather, the signs God gives are the compatibility in your relationship and your desire to help each other get to Heaven!'
I’d never met him before… and yet he said I saved his life…
It was the eve of the 4th of July. Bella, my fifteen-year old daughter and several of her friends were upstairs playing video games. They barreled down the stairs and came into the kitchen where my husband and I were chatting.
“Mom, we are all hungry. Can you make some grilled cheese sandwiches for us?” Bella asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“Randy wants to ask you a question,” Bella said.
Randy walked toward the stove.
“You’ve been here once before, haven’t you?” I said to him as I grabbed a pan and turned on the stove.
“Yes, a month or so ago,” he replied with a huge warm smile.
“That’s right. Where are you from?” I asked.
“Well my family is from Morocco,” he said.
Randy had a sweet, kind presence. I wasn’t sure if he went to high school with Bella or if they had met through social media, football games or a party.
“Wow, how exotic,” I said with a big grin. “So do you go to Bella’s school?”
“No,” he said. “We met this summer on the beach.”
“Oh, okay, what’s your question Randy?”
“Did you talk my mom out of an abortion when she was pregnant with me?”
I was taken completely off-guard. Who is he? Where does he live, I wondered as I stared at him, wracking my brain to recall if I’d had an interaction with his mother long ago.
I was certain it couldn’t have been me until I looked at Bella and Randy standing side by side. Suddenly, I recalled an interaction with a young woman when I was pregnant with Bella.
“What is your mother’s name?” I asked.
“Maryam,” he said.
Chills ran down my spine. How on earth did her son end up in my kitchen …and friends with Bella? I looked him in the face.
“Yes, I did.” I said.
Randy rushed over to me and wrapped his arms around me. He squeezed me tightly.
“You saved my life. You saved my life. Thank you. Thank you,” he kept saying.
We stood in the kitchen locked in a hug for several minutes.
I turned to my husband, “Can you believe this?”
“No, I can’t,” he said, staring in disbelief.
Randy called his mom and filled her in on our conversation. He then handed me the phone.
“I asked God to help me find you again and He did! Can you believe Randy and Bella are friends,” Maryam said as her voice cracked with emotion.
“I can’t believe any of this Maryam. Truly, I’m overwhelmed,” I said.
Before we hung up the phone, we made plans to get together to ‘catch up’ on the last fifteen years of our lives.
My husband kept shaking his head.
“I remember when you came home that night. I told you were crazy because there was no way you would talk her out of an abortion,” he said.
I thought back to that night almost sixteen years ago. It was a Saturday, and I was at dinner with my sisters and some friends. I sat at the head of the table because we were celebrating my fourth pregnancy. Our waitress was a beautiful, elegant dark haired young woman who was also pregnant.
A Treasure Within
After dinner, the waitress handed me my leftovers and then squatted down beside me and whispered, “I wish I could celebrate my pregnancy too, but I can’t. I have an abortion scheduled this coming Wednesday morning.”
I was shocked and saddened.
“Why are you having an abortion?” I asked.
“I am not married, and in my home country my parents will be exiled from their town and lose their business if anyone finds out their daughter is unmarried with a baby.”
“That’s terrible, but how will they know?”
“They will know. You don’t understand,” she said.
“You’re right, I can’t possibly understand, but what I do know is that God wants you to have this baby, or He wouldn’t have given it to you.”
“I am not Christian like you, I am Muslim. I don’t have the same God as you,” she said.
“Yes, you do. There is only one God,” I said.
“My boyfriend and I are struggling; things are very bad between us.”
“I’m sorry you are struggling. I have three other children. When my oldest was diagnosed with a rare and deadly disease early on, we could not imagine that he would still be with us today. And now at 42 I’m pregnant with my fourth child and facing my fourth cesarean section. But despite that, I can tell you that no matter what happens with your boyfriend, and despite your difficult situation, this child will be your treasure, you will see.”
“I have no-one, I can’t do this.”
“You have me. Give me your number and I will call you in the morning.”
I looked at her nametag as she quickly jotted down her cell phone number on my to-go box and we said our goodbyes.
I called Maryam the next morning. She explained her financial situation and shared some of the details of her relationship with her boyfriend. I understood why she thought her only way out was an abortion. I couldn’t imagine being in her predicament. I told her about a local pregnancy center and gave her their phone number.
Against All Odds
The day before her scheduled abortion, I called Maryam again. She shared the amazing news that the pregnancy center was going to help her and that she had cancelled her abortion. We continued to talk off and on throughout our pregnancies, but after our babies were born, we lost contact with each other.
I looked at Randy.
“Your mom was a beautiful young woman who became pregnant and found herself in a hopeless mess. The night we met, she felt alone, lost, and full of shame. All I did was remind her that God doesn’t build houses of shame, people do. He builds houses of grace, and He wanted to give her an unrepeatable treasure in you. Your mom’s courage to have you against all odds was heroic. I’m grateful I was one of the small pieces God brought together through a chance encounter.”
I turned to Bella.
“And you were an important part of it too, because Maryam would never have confided in me if I wasn’t pregnant too.”
Bella’s beautiful almond-shaped eyes opened wide as she smiled with pride.
Loving Maryam and listening to her that night required very little of me. After all, she wasn’t my unmarried, pregnant daughter. I wondered if I would have reacted the same if it had been my daughter? My interaction with Maryam challenges me to be a mom who responds to the mistakes and failings of my children with grace and belief in their goodness rather than shame and judgment. I want to be the person they come to when they are in trouble so I can remind them that they are not their mistakes. I want them to know that I have made many messes in my life through my mistakes, failings and sins, but through them I have experienced the redeeming and transforming love of God, and they can too.'
When I was doing full-time parish ministry, one of my favorite activities was performing Baptisms. I put the word in the plural, for I hardly ever baptized one baby at a time, but usually ten or a dozen. Typically, the quite large group of family and friends would gather in the first several pews of St. Paul of the Cross Church about 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, I would welcome them and do a very short description of what was about to happen, and then the happy cacophony of twelve babies crying at once would inevitably commence. I would shout my way through the prayers and the Baptisms—and a general joyfulness would obtain. Now that I’m a bishop, I have less occasion to baptize, and I do miss it. But an exception took place last week when I was delighted to welcome into the Church Hazel Rose Cummins, the daughter of Doug Cummins and his wife Erica. Doug is our Associate Producer for Word on Fire in Santa Barbara.
I would like to share with all of you what I preached to the group gathered outside (it’s COVID time) of San Roque Church in Santa Barbara for the ceremony. I asked them if they had heard the story of Fr. Matthew Hood, a priest of the Detroit Archdiocese, who discovered, after watching a video of his own Baptism, that he had been invalidly baptized. The deacon who had performed the ceremony did not use the proper words, and as a result, Fr. Hood had not in fact been received into the Church. And as a consequence of this, he had not validly received First Communion, Confirmation, or priestly ordination, since all of those sacraments depend upon the legitimacy of Baptism. Now, once this was found out, the Archbishop of Detroit administered all of the relevant sacraments to Fr. Hood and the young man was able to minister as a priest. You might think, “Well, that’s a strange story with a happy ending,” but it tells us, in fact, something extremely important regarding the Church’s understanding of Baptism. We believe that through the words and gestures of the sacrament, something happens. Baptism is not simply a celebration of a new life, or even an act of praying for and offering a child to God.
If that’s all it is, to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, the heck with it. It is, rather, the visible sign of the invisible grace of incorporation into the Mystical Body of Jesus. It changes an objective state of affairs, whether we acknowledge it or not.
Having said all of this, I then stressed what we might call the subjective side of Baptism. Since there were quite a few young people present, I used the well-worn parable of the eagle’s egg that tumbled out of the nest only to fall amidst a flock of chickens. When the eaglet was hatched, the only world he came to know was that of chickens, and hence he spent his first years pecking on the ground and never spreading his great wings. One day, I continued, a majestic eagle flew overhead and spotted his young confrere on the ground, acting like a chicken. “What’s the matter with you?” he asked. “Don’t you know who you are?” He then taught the eaglet how to deploy his wings and soar.
So it goes in the spiritual order. Every baptized person is, objectively speaking, a child of God, divinized, and destined to be a great saint. But the problem is that most of those who have received this new identity promptly forget it and take on the beliefs and practices of the world. Following the prompts of television, movies, social media, pop stars, and secularist ideologues, we give ourselves over to the acquisition of wealth or power or material success or fame. These things aren’t bad in themselves, but considering them our highest value and running after them with all of our powers amounts to pecking on the ground like chickens. What we need, I told the little congregation gathered for Hazel’s Baptism, is a strong community of people to remind this little girl who she is. They didn’t make her a child of God; Christ did that through the mediation of Baptism. But they can indeed teach her not to settle for being some pathetic simulacrum of who she is meant to be. Everything that they teach her, everything that they encourage her to do, should be directed to the great end of becoming a saint.
I have sometimes wondered what this world would be like if everyone who is baptized lived up to his or her identity as a child of God. What if everyone who is meant to soar would, finally, stop poking around on the ground? It would be a true revolution.'
As a part of my son’s 3rd grade curriculum, he was to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. So, I did a bit of research so we could talk about it together. Even though I knew the four stages of a butterfly’s life cycle, I had never probed into it deeply.
As I searched for videos and pictures about the different stages of this tiny, beautiful creature, I became fascinated by the 3rd stage of its growth when it’s in a pupa or chrysalis undergoing metamorphosis. The caterpillar has to remain in the pupa for few days to be transformed into an adult butterfly.
If you open the chrysalis in the middle of the process, you would only find a sticky liquid substance, instead of a caterpillar having a cosy nap inside the shell until it gets its wings. In fact, during this stage, the caterpillar’s old body dies while a new body begins to form. The caterpillar has to fall apart completely. Only after it has completely liquefied, does it start to become the beautiful being it was designed to be.
Another amazing thing I discovered is that the word Chrysalis is derived from the Greek for “golden” because of the golden threads surrounding the green chrysalis. You have probably heard some spiritual analogies about the chrysalis stage and how the tough times of our lives are actually those which transform us. However, when we actually find ourselves in crisis we often devalue the suffering, assuming that this isn’t meant for believers in Christ.
We keep on asking God to remove the uncomfortable and ugly shell of hardships and grief from our lives. We want Him to change our circumstances, but He wants us to be changed in the process of it.
Because, the deeper work within our souls takes place in the chrysalis.
Our faith is strengthened by being inside the chrysalis.
The most essential life lessons are learnt in the chrysalis.
Our relationship with our Master Creator is deepened as we metamorphose in the chrysalis while the parts of our character that are not essential are stripped away.
Just as the caterpillar is transformed into a beautiful butterfly in the darkness, solitude and repose of the chrysalis, such a time can reveal and prepare us for the purpose of our being.
I don’t know which metamorphosis stage you are in at present. If you have got your wings, praise God but if you find yourself stuck in the chrysalis, the place where you feel nothing is happening, where you see the darkness of your pain and hardships, where you feel like you are falling apart each day and where everything feels so stuck, dead and inactive, I want to encourage you to trust the process, surrender to it, embrace it and wait until the process works its best, transforming you into everything you are meant to be, giving you the glorious wings of your purpose and reflecting the majesty of your Heavenly Father.
No matter how your chrysalis feels, remember it will always be covered with golden threads of strength, assurance, love and grace from your Master Designer. He will be watching you throughout the process. Trust Him to protect and reconstruct you as you pupate in your chrysalis. Then your metamorphosis will astound you.'
I was 65 years old and I was looking into changing my life insurance policy. Of course, they required some lab tests. I thought, “Okay, I’ll go through the motions.” Up until then, every lab test I had ever taken, had been normal, including chest x-rays, EKG’s and colonoscopies, all normal. My blood pressure was 126/72 and my BMI was 26. I exercised four times per week and ate a fairly healthy diet. I felt good and was totally asymptomatic.
All my lab results came back normal…except my PSA, it was 11 ng/ml (normal is less than 4.5ng/ml). Three years earlier it had been normal. Bummer! So, I went to see my PCP. During the rectal exam, he found my prostate enlarged and indurated. “I suspect cancer, I’m going to refer you to a urologist,” he said. Bummer, again.
Eleven out of eleven prostate biopsies were positive for cancer. My Gleason score was 4+5 which meant that it was a highgrade cancer and could grow and spread more quickly. So, I underwent a radical prostatectomy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy with Lupron. Ooh those hot flushes! Ladies believe me when I say, I know what you’re going through. Bummer once again.
So why only “bummer” and not “I don’t believe it, it can’t be, I’m going to die. God is punishing me”?
Well, let me tell why. Before my mother’s kidney failure required at-home peritoneal dialysis, my parents traveled quite a bit, especially to Mexico. When daily dialysis brought travel to a halt, they spent more time working on puzzles, reading and studying their Bible. This brought them much closer to God. So, when her doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for her, she was okay with that. She told me, “I’m tired, I’m ready to be with my Father. I am at peace with family and friends, with myself, but most importantly, I am at peace with God.” A few days later, she died peacefully with a smile on her face.
“I am at peace with God”. That’s what I wanted. I no longer wanted to be just a Sunday-Mass Catholic. It was then that I started on the path that has led me closer to God: reading and studying the Bible in both English and Spanish, praying, saying the Rosary, giving thanks for my blessings, and volunteering as a Catechism teacher. Soon, I hope to finish my internship as a volunteer hospital chaplain and I am about to complete my spiritual guidance course.
So, yes, having prostate cancer is a bummer, but that is all it is, because I am at peace with God.'
“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 It was the Fall of 2020 and it was one of those beautiful warm days. My husband, Mark, and I were home doing things around the house. I was so tired of hanging around the house, more often than not, due to Covid, so I told Mark I was going out for a drive and would be back home in a few hours. He told me to have a good time and we would see each other later.
After I got into my car, I decided to head toward the mall. As I was nearing the mall I asked the Lord out loud, “Where should I go?” I immediately heard in my heart, “Pat”.
She is my old neighbor who is now in a memory care facility. I thought that was a great idea, and it had been awhile since I had visited her. By now, I was already halfway there. I decided not to call first; I would call from the parking lot once I arrived. The Covid restrictions, at that time, prohibited me from visiting inside. I thought maybe Pat and I could walk around outside. I had to wait and see.
I pulled into the parking lot and called Pat. She immediately answered! I do not even remember the phone ringing. Her first words were, “Carol, where are you?”, as if she knew I was coming. I told her I was in the parking lot at her place. She told me she was outside on the patio and I could join her there with a mask on. So, I drove around to the outdoor patio, put on a mask, and met her at the gate. She let me in. We were so happy to see each other.
The sun was shining warmly on our faces; the Son was shining in our hearts. There we sat, on the patio, just the two of us, talking and laughing for well over an hour. We even prayed together. What a wonderful visit or should I say, Divine appointment?
Just think, if I had not listened to that still, small voice I heard at home, nudging me to get outside in the sunshine, I would have missed out on a fantastic visit with my friend, Pat!
Thank you, Jesus, for loving me the way you do!'
There’s no greater relief than to discover that someone is paying close attention to you all the time!
The other day I decided to walk outdoors to clear my head of worry. When I went out, I discovered a partly sunny, partly cloudy day. By the time I reached the sidewalk, a brisk breeze discovered me! I laughed as I said, “You don’t need to push me! I can walk on my own!”
As soon as I spoke to that wonderful breeze, I remembered that I was not alone. And I am never alone. I looked upward as I continued down the street and prayed: “Dear God, you know precisely when I need you to push me and when I’m able to walk on my own. Thank you for paying such close attention!” With that, I continued to enjoy the familiar scenery that is my neighborhood. With every step, a sense of belonging replaced the angst which had urged me out of the house.
I had been anxious because news reports from around the world offered little to smile about. Even the heroic athletes at this summer’s Olympics failed to distract us from the planet’s sorry state. When some of these healthiest of us humans contracted the COVID variant, I wondered if we will ever be rid of this virus. As I considered that possibility, I thought about everyone around the world who has always wondered whether they would ever be rid of injustice and poverty, war and oppression, disease and natural disasters.
The gospels speak of a young boy who was in the crowd on the day when five thousand came to hear Jesus, without thinking about their dinner. Realizing that those gathered must be very hungry, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked where they might get food to feed them all. The Gospel tells us that there was nothing available except the basket of five barley loaves and two fish which that young boy had brought along.
Since childhood, I have wondered how that boy managed to protect his food in the midst of that hungry crowd. I have also wondered what Jesus did to ease that basket from the boy’s hands and into His own. What made the boy give up what might have been his only meal that day or a source of income if he had sold the loaves to someone in the crowd? I think the answer lies in the familiar scenery which was that boy’s neighborhood- -the hillside, perhaps his parents and neighbors in the crowd and, of course, Jesus. Although he might not have met Jesus before, he had certainly heard His stories and he surely felt His love.
Although I enjoy the trees and flowers and homes that line the streets of my neighborhood, my favorite aspects of this familiar scenery are the people whom I meet along the way. In each one, I see the joy that makes them smile and the tears which accompany their sadness. I see soft hands which hug children and calloused hands which earn enough to clothe and feed a family. I see strong legs which run to help an elderly neighbor capture her escaped dog and gentle arms which embrace a grieving neighbor.
In every person I meet, I see someone who needs to be pushed a bit at times, and I see someone who at other times can walk on his or her own. In every person I meet, I see a soul about whom God says, “I know precisely when to push you and when you are able to walk on your own. I pay very close attention to each one of you because I love you!”
Knowing that God loves me makes all the difference. Knowing God is with me urges me on. Knowing God pays close attention to my joy and to my sorrow strengthens me to face it all because I am not facing it alone.
If there is anything we can do for one another while we dwell in this world-full-of-trouble, it is to remind one another that we face these things together, with one another and with God at our side. Because God loves us and always pays attention to us, nothing is too great to bear!'