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I looked up and hugged her, pressing my face into her apron that smelled like apple pies; quickly I ran off to show my brother the treasure that Nonna found for me
The house was old and belonged to my great grandparents. It was a small solidly built house where they raised many children. It’s rickety parts and musty smells often betrayed the facade of the freshly painted wood siding. It was a home with a history of family memories, stories and heirlooms. When guests came to call, the graying splintered wooden back door would release wafts of heavenly aromas from freshly baked apple pies cooling on the kitchen table. It’s a home that makes me reflect fondly on my grandmother. It’s funny how recalling one simple memory can lead to another memory and then another until a whole story floods my mind. Instantly, I’m taken back to another place and time that was part of the foundation of my life.
I grew up in a historical area of Kentucky, in a simpler place and time. It was a time when the mundane routines of the day were treasured as if they were family traditions. Sunday was a day of church, rest and family. We owned functional things and wore simple clothing which were either fixed or mended when they were worn out. Family and friends were relied on when we couldn’t fend for ourselves, but charity was not accepted unless it could be repaid at the first possible opportunity. Caring for another’s children was not charity, it was a necessity of life and the closest relatives were asked before friends or neighbors.
Mom and Dad regarded their parental responsibilities as their primary duties. They sacrificed to provide for us and rarely had time for themselves. However, every so often, they planned a special evening out and they looked forward to time together. My grandmother, whom we called Nonna, now lived in that old house, made those heavenly pies and cheerfully cared for my siblings and me while my parents were out together.
Mom’s heels clicked along the cobblestone walkway that led to Nonna’s backdoor, Daddy smelled of a freshly starched shirt and the break in our family routine filled the air with a sense of excitement on the evening when Mom and Dad went out together. Just as the old gray wooden door opened and my grandmother greeted us in her faded worn apron, I felt I’d stepped back into another time. A brief catch up conversation with Nonna was followed by a strict warning to behave ourselves and a kiss that left a waft of her cologne on our clothes and lipstick on our cheeks. When the door closed behind them, we were left to play in the adjoining room with a bag of toys we brought from home. While Nonna tidied up the kitchen and tended to an elderly sister who lived with her, we contently colored in the new coloring books bought for this evening.
It wasn’t long before the sense of excitement wore off and the toys no longer held much interest. There wasn’t a television to entertain us and the antiquated parlor radio played only old static country music. The aged furnishings, fixtures, sounds and smells of the house occupied my attention for a little bit. Then, as if on cue, I heard Nonna’s house slippers shuffling along the creaking wooden floors. She stopped in the doorway to see if we were okay or needed anything. The growing idleness of the evening made me call out, “Nonna, find me something”.
“What do you mean? She asked.
“Mom said when she was a little girl, she would ask your sister to find her “something” when she was bored. Then your sister would find her a treasure”, I replied matter of factly. Nonna looked away to ponder my words. Without much ado she turned back and gestured, “follow me”.
I scurried along behind her into a dark, cold, musty bedroom that contained some old furniture, including a beautiful, antique, wooden wardrobe.
She flipped on a light and glass knob handles on its doors glistened. I’d never been in this part of her house, nor had I ever been with Nonna all by myself. I had no idea what to expect. I tried to contain my excitement, wondering what treasures could be waiting behind those doors, which seemed to beckon us to open them. This unplanned moment, filled with firsts, was almost too much for a seven year old little girl to absorb, and I didn’t want to ruin this special memory with my grandmother.
Nonna reached for a glass knob, the door creaked when opened and revealed a stack of small wooden drawers. She reached into a drawer, pulled out a gently used brown leather coin purse, handed it to me and told me to open it. My little hands, nervous with anticipation, shook as I snapped it open. Tucked down into the corner of the leather was a small white pearl bead rosary with a silver crucifix. I just looked at it. Then she asked if it was a good treasure. I’d seen my Mom’s rosary, but didn’t have my own or know how to use it. However, for some reason, I thought it was the best treasure ever! I looked up, hugged her legs, pressed my face against the apron that smelled like Nonna and apple pies, then happily thanked her before I ran off to show my brother the treasure Nonna found for me.
The following year I was enrolled in a Catholic elementary school where I learned more about Jesus and His Mother Mary. I received my First Holy Communion and learned to pray the Rosary. The seeds of love for Jesus and Mary took root as I continued to pray the Rosary. In time that little white pearl rosary became too small for my hands and I acquired a simple wooden rosary. I always carry the wooden one in my pocket and it too has become a treasure to me. Through the years, spending time in prayer developed a love for the Blessed Mother and her rosary. These days, before I begin my rosary prayers, I quietly ask the Blessed Mother to “find me something”. Every story exemplifies a virtue to be gained. So, I often ask her to explain the details and stories contained in the daily mysteries in order to develop those virtues in my life. She never fails to open the doors to her Son, Jesus, so that I can grow closer to Him. After meditating on what she graciously reveals, I’ve discovered that’s where the “treasures” are found.
Fast forward. Today, I’m about the age of Nonna when she gave me that little white pearl rosary. When I recall the day she “found me something”, I wonder, as she paused to ponder my request, did she know the ramifications of the treasure she gave me or if she knew she was opening more than an old wardrobe door for me? In that leather coin purse, she opened a whole world of spiritual treasures. I wonder if she’d already discovered the treasure of the rosary for herself and wanted to pass it on to me. I wonder if she knew her words were prophetic when she told me to open the case myself and discover the treasure within. Nonna has long passed on to be with Jesus. I still have that brown leather coin purse with the little pearl rosary inside. From time to time I take it out and think of her. I can still hear her ask me, “Is this a good treasure?” I still happily answer her, “Yes Nonna, it is the best treasure ever!”'
As a young boy growing up in Northern Spain, Francis Xavier dreamed of doing great things. At age 19 and full of ambition, he went to study in Paris where he met Ignatius of Loyola. A Scripture text Ignatius was fond of quoting had a deep impact on Francis: “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Francis took that Scripture to heart and came to understand the emptiness of earthly greatness while becoming powerfully drawn to the love of heavenly things. The humility of the Cross appeared to him more desirable than all the glories of this world. Eventually, he took vows as one of the first seven members of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, founded by Ignatius of Loyola. When one of the two Jesuits chosen to travel to Asia as a missionary became ill, Father Francis joyfully offered to substitute.
Francis pursued his missionary work with great zeal. During one of his voyages, a terrible tempest so terrified the sailors that they gave themselves up for lost. But Francis immediately drew a crucifix from his breast and leaned over the side of the vessel to touch the waves with it. But the crucifix slipped from his hand into the raging sea. Immediately, the storm ceased, but Francis was much distressed that he had lost the only crucifix he had.
The next day after landing on the coast of Malacca, Father Francis was walking along the shore when he saw a crab come out of the sea holding the crucifix between its claws. The crab walked straight to Father Francis and stopped at his feet. Francis kissed the cross and clasped it to his breast. He then bent down to bless the crab and, to his amazement, noticed a cross on the back of the crab’s shell. This miracle story was depicted on a banner that hung from St. Peter’s Basilica during Francis Xavier’s canonization ceremony. Even today, every Malacca crab bears the marking of the cross on its shell, a sign, perhaps, of God’s paternal love for Saint Francis Xavier, the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles.'
Here’s a scale to test your courage…
Before entering a monastery hidden in the high desert of California, I lived at 5th and Main street in downtown Los Angeles, the border of Skid Row. Rampant homelessness is one of LA’s not so amiable qualities. Individuals down on their luck come from far and wide, often by means of a free one-way Greyhound ticket, to wander streets where winters are less hostile, begging for a means to rise above their circumstances. It is impossible to traverse a couple blocks of downtown without being reminded of the hopelessness that marks these individuals’ daily lives. The sheer magnitude of L.A.’s homelessness often leaves the more fortunate feeling as if nothing they would do could ever make the problem go away, so they resort to a strategy of avoiding eye contact, rendering invisible a population of 41,290, and counting.
Man on a Mission
One day I was having lunch with a friend at Grand Central Market. During our meal he unexpectedly handed me the key to a room in the luxurious Bonaventure Hotel, telling me it was mine to enjoy for the next couple of weeks! The Bonaventure, with its revolving sky restaurant, was the biggest hotel in LA, and only a ten minute walk from my studio apartment. I had no need for a fancy hotel room, but I knew 41,290 individuals who did. My only dilemma was how I should go about selecting the single person who would receive shelter? I felt like the gospel servant who was commissioned by his master to “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (Luke 14:21).
It was midnight when I got off work. Emerging from the metro station I began my “hunt,” asking God to select the person He wished to bless. Peering down alleyways, I glided through the city on my skateboard, trying not to appear like a man on a mission. I headed for the L.A. Cafe, confident I would find someone in need there. Sure enough I spotted a man sitting on the storefront sidewalk. He was old and thin, showing boney shoulders through a stained white T-shirt. I sat down a few feet away. “Hello,” I greeted him. “Hi,” he returned. “Sir, are you looking for a place to sleep tonight?” I asked. “What?” he said. “Are you looking for a place to sleep?” I repeated. Suddenly he became irritated. “Are you trying to make fun of me?” he said, “I’m fine. Leave me alone!”
Surprised and feeling sorry for offending him, I apologized and rolled off dismayed. This mission would be more difficult than I expected. After all, it was after midnight, and I was a total stranger offering what seemed too good to be true. But the odds were in my favor, I thought. My offer might get turned down, just like the servant in the parable of the great banquet, but sooner or later someone would be bound to take me up on it. The only question was how long would it take? It was already late, and I was tired after a long shift at work. Maybe I should try again tomorrow, I thought.
Skating and praying, I continued to make my way through the urban jungle, eyeing various candidates. Sitting on a nearby corner, I spotted the silhouette of a man alone in a wheelchair. He appeared to be half asleep and half awake, as many do who are accustomed to sleeping on the streets. Hesitant to disturb him, I approached cautiously until he looked up at me with tired eyes. “Excuse me sir,” I said, “I have access to a room with a bed, and I know you don’t know me, but if you trust me I can take you there.” Without raising an eyebrow, he shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head. “Great. What’s your name?” I asked. “James,” he replied.
I asked James to hold my skateboard as I pushed him in his wheelchair and together we made our way to the Bonaventure. His head became increasingly alert as our surroundings gentrified. While pushing him along through the darkness, I couldn’t help but notice what appeared to be sand covering his backside. Then I realized the sand was moving. It wasn’t sand at all, but thousands of tiny insects.
Entering the five star hotel lobby, James and I were met with expressions of shock from every onlooker. Avoiding eye contact, we passed the posh fountain, boarded a glass elevator, and arrived at the room. James asked if he could take a bath. I helped him inside. Once clean, James slid himself comfortably between white sheets and fell immediately to sleep. That night James taught me an important lesson: God’s invitations often come unexpectedly, demanding a measure of faith that usually makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes we must find ourselves in situations with nothing to lose before we are ready to accept His invitation to us. And more often, it is in bringing blessings to others that we are truly blessed.'
When I was very young, I remember asking my father whether it was really necessary to love one’s sister (even loving one’s enemy seemed more reasonable at the time). My father, of course, insisted that it was. And I recall explaining to him at length that this would be very difficult— even impossible—given the current circumstances, and that perhaps we should consider giving her up for adoption. My father said to me, “Jason, you may find this hard to believe, but some day, you will discover that you do love your sister. And when that day comes, you will actually want to be nice to her. In the meantime, however…fake it.”
At the time, this sounded like awfully cold advice, but if we are to put into action what Christ demands of us in the Gospels— if we really are to love our neighbors as we love our own selves—then there are going to be times when we don’t feel very predisposed to that emotion. Because, let’s face it, some people are very, very difficult to love. Even God can seem awfully distant at times, but if you think about it, those times when we must force ourselves to “fake” this love for a neighbor are often the most sincere instances of love, because those are the times when we can give love without hope of recompense. And if the wise ones are right, then the curious result of all this feigned affection is that an unfeigned affection begins to grow out of it.
So until we arrive at that point where loving everyone comes naturally, perhaps its best just to fake it—that is, to act as though we love others, whether or not we really feel it, and hope, in the meantime, that some day we will be able to see them with the eyes of faith.
Heavenly Father I surrender all my struggles in enduring certain people in my life. Give me the strength and courage to bear them gently with love even when I feel like giving up. Help me to be patient, kind, slow to anger, and compassionate. Whenever I feel like walking away, remind me of the grace you extended to me when I was at my lowest point. Let me love them just as you love me. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.'
I was terrified and frozen with fear, unable to move or make a noise.
It was a cold and eerie night. I was peacefully sleeping in bed when suddenly an enormous, grey wolf climbed in through the bedroom window. It bounded swiftly across the floor and hid under my bed, pushing its snout through my mattress. I could really feel the snout of the wolf pressing right at the small of my back. I was terrified, frozen with fear, unable to move or make a noise.
As time passed by nothing happened, and I thought to myself, “I have got to do something!” As a child I knew that the best thing I could do was to call for Mom. And so I tried to call her, but all that came out from my mouth was a small, feeble voice. Mom couldn’t hear me, but the wolf didn’t move either. I felt a little bolder and braver now, so I tried again, “Mom!” It still wasn’t loud enough for my Mom to hear, but the wolf still didn’t move either. So I took a deeper breath and screamed as loud as I could, “MOM!”
Soon I could hear my Mom rushing up the stairs, followed by the heavy thuds of my Dad. They burst into the room shouting, “David, David what’s the matter?” My voice was still trembling as I murmured in a low voice “There’s a wolf under my bed”. My Dad was startled and tried to assure me that we had no wolves in this country, but I quickly narrated how a big grey wolf had climbed in through the window and scampered under my bed. I concluded by whimpering “I can feel the snout of the wolf still pressing at the small of my back”. My Dad took control of the situation while my Mom stood perplexed. He declared, “I am going to count up to 3. On the count of 3, roll off the bed and I will grab the wolf.” My Mom gasped, but I agreed.
On the count of 3, I just rolled off my bed. My Dad didn’t move nor did the wolf. We got down on all fours and peered under the bed. There was no wolf in sight. We searched under the doorway, and every nook and corner but there was no wolf anywhere. Bewildered, I looked back to the bed and suddenly noticed a small button turned on its side, right at the place where I had been lying. A tremendous realization struck me…I had been lying on my bed, frozen with fear, unable to move or make a noise…terrified of a button!
The memory of this incident from my childhood is deeply etched into my mind. As I got older and wiser, I came to realize that most of the things that frighten me were, in reality, mere buttons, just like that mighty wolf who had been lying in wait to pounce on me. And I am definitely not scared of buttons.
Take a Look
Throughout the Bible, there is one message that is emphasized over and over again. “Do not be afraid.” Surely it raises a question. Why don’t we need to be afraid? All around us, terrifying scenarios are building up, and it seems right to be afraid. But God says, “Do not be afraid.” Does that mean you are doing something wrong when you are afraid? No. It simply encourages you not to let fear inhibit or stop you from being the person you were created to be.
Fear is a natural human response. It focuses our body and our mind on situations requiring our urgent attention. So, the fear that invades my mind when I am aware of a wolf under my bed is good and even healthy. But when that fear is based on something that isn’t true, then it can have a really negative impact. We can get stuck in that situation, unable to move or respond. So when we are frightened, we should stop and take a second look. We ought to pray about it, listen, reflect and think, “Is this something I need to be afraid of?” Maybe I can just push it aside. Maybe it is like my wolf, in which case I need to ask for help to transform my flawed perception of a terrifying wolf into a harmless button.
So why don’t we need to be afraid? The simple answer is: we are God’s children. No matter how bad the situation you are in, God holds you in His strong arms. He speaks to you today. Listen to Him saying, “Be not afraid” and seek His strength.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much. You know everything about us—all our strengths, weaknesses, and all the things that terrify us. Lord, help us to experience Your Peaceful Presence surrounding us, giving us strength to face our fears. When we feel trapped by anxiety, grant us the grace to overcome our panic and escape the bondage of fear. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The ARTICLE is based on the talk given by David Beresford for the Shalom World program “9PM Series”. To watch the episodes visit: shalomworld.org/shows/9-pm-talks'
I discovered the transformative power of the “Prayer of Abandonment” by Blessed Charles de Foucauld through one of my professors at graduate school, shortly after my husband and I became foster parents to a sibling group of three. I was reeling from the transition to motherhood, and my teacher suggested that this prayer might help me find the peace I so badly needed.
“If you want to change your life,” the kindly priest explained, “say this prayer every day … and if you want to transform your marriage, say it with your husband!” Eagerly, I took the little prayer card, taped it to my bathroom mirror, and read it aloud each morning:
Father, I abandon myself into Your hands;
Do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into Your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
For I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
To surrender myself into Your hands without reserve,
And with boundless confidence,
For You are my Father.
For nearly twenty years, this heartfelt prayer of simple trust, based on the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father), has been a constant source of light for me, especially as my husband and I continue to parent these children, two of whom we adopted in 2005. Through all the joys and sorrows of family life, this prayer rings true to me, and I find myself offering it in a new way now that my mother has joined our family. When dementia troubles her mind, this prayer helps me to walk with her without fear, with boundless confidence in the One who loves us both.'
Truly, at any given moment any one of us can find at least a thousand excellent reasons to be miserable. Our lives never turn out exactly the way we had hoped. But if we stick to the facts—resisting the temptation to lust after fantasies, where we eye with longing some world, some work, some life other than the one we actually live—we will see that happiness is an act of the will. It’s a choice. In the monastery, the old monks have an expression: “That monk has been looking over the wall.” An unhappy monk will always be casting furtive glances out of the cloister and into other men’s lives, imagining that they dwell in halos of unremitting bliss.
But hidden in the Gospel of John is the antidote to that temptation. The ninth chapter focuses on one of the bible’s more unlikely heroes: a man born blind. He is an unlikely hero not because he was blind but because in the course of the story, he shows himself to be lazy, obstinate, disobedient, disrespectful, and irreverent. Interrogated by the authorities concerning his miraculous cure, he answers, “You’re not listening to me, or is it that you people want to be his disciples?” He’s a real smart alec, and I am convinced that he is a teenager. (After twenty years in the classroom, I consider myself an authority on laziness, obstinacy, disobedience, disrespect, and irreverence. Plus…why else would they go to his parents? And why else would his parents need to point out that he was old enough to speak for himself).
At any rate, Jesus appears to be the only person in the story who is not annoyed by him. But this kid has one redeeming quality—redeeming in the theological sense of the word. He may be disrespectful and obstinate, but he sticks to the facts.
“How did you get your sight back?” they ask him.
“I don’t know. He stuck in mud in my eyes and now I see.”
“But that man is a sinner.”
“Maybe so. I don’t know. I was blind and now I can see.”
“But we have no idea where this guy is from.”
“Who cares? I was blind and now I can see! How many times do I have to tell you?”
Notice that he makes no profession of faith. And only after relentless interrogation does he finally acknowledge that this man Jesus (whoever he is) must be from God.He does not even thank Jesus afterward. Jesus has to find him.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” says Jesus.
Jesus says, “You’re talking to Him.”
Now I can imagine an alternative ending to this story where the teenager says, “Oh! Right. Thanks a lot for everything. But you know, maybe it wasn’t you who actually healed me. Maybe that was just a coincidence. Maybe my blindness was all psychological to begin with. Maybe there was something in that mud. Maybe I’d better go think about this for a while before I make any rash decisions.”
But remember: this kid is a pragmatist. For better or for worse, he sticks to the facts. Saint John tells us that all he said was, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshipped Him. I once asked my novice master how I was supposed to know if God was really calling me to be a monk of Saint Louis Abbey.
“Well,” he said after some thought, “You’re not somewhere else.” You are here and you are not somewhere else. This is cause enough for rejoicing.'
Want to change the world? Here are some simple tips
The lecturer in Church History at our local seminary asked his first-year seminarians to name the best year in the Church’s history. The fresh faced young men, only just embarking upon their vocational journeys, fidgeted in their seats.
As each suggestion was judged incorrect, the seminarians began to wonder if it had been a trick question. Eventually the lecturer conceded that it had been something of a trick because the Church has never experienced a perfect era.
Every age brought its own fresh challenges to the Christian faithful – everything from violent persecutions, scandals, and rifts within the hierarchy, to dangerous ideologies and heretical teachings, to present day secularism.
The Church and her faithful have weathered these storms, bruised but not beaten. Saints and martyrs and holy men and women stood up in the midst of those storms and carried on bravely. And while we might feel as though our present age is bleak, that the Church we love is constantly attacked, persecuted, and betrayed in many ways, we can take comfort in the knowledge that the Catholic Church has withstood it all before. And will do so again.
But as we strive to trust and endure, we can also seek ways to change the world around us and walk a path that leads to sanctification. We might never be recognised as canonised saints, but we can become saints nonetheless and spend eternity with God. Here are some simple starting points for a journey to holiness:
1.Practice the Ordinary
We might feel the urge to do something heroic but feel incapable of doing anything to strengthen the faith of the world. But heroic feats for Christ is not what most of us are called to. For many of us, our vocations and apostolates are much closer to home and are on a much smaller scale. Saint Thomas More, a great defender of the Church and her teachings, understood this reality well. “The ordinary acts we practice every day at home,” he said, “are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”
It may very well be our simple, everyday witness to our faith that influences others, planting seeds in them that we may never get to see bear fruit. Our homes, parishes, and communities are where we can cultivate our faith, the faith of others, and the overall health of Christ’s body the church.
2.Connect with the Extraordinary
The life of faith appears radical to our secular society. Many do not grasp the supernatural and assign religion to the realm of make-believe and fairy tales. But living an authentic Catholic life as befits our individual circumstances takes extraordinary faith and trust in God and, above all, a love that compels greater reliance on Him. Mother Angelica put this very succinctly when she said: “Faith tells us that God is present when we pray, and hope tells us that He listens, but only love makes us continue to pray when darkness, boredom and even disgust fill our souls.”
So, pray, trust, love, and pray again. What might seem like routine spiritual acts, in fact, connect us with the extraordinary—the sublime, supernatural presence of our Heavenly Father; His only Son, our Saviour and Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit who endows us with gifts of awe and understanding.
3.Practice Holy Stubbornness
None of us are perfect and we are all prone to sin, so it goes without saying that we are going to make mistakes. In fact, we’re likely to make a lot of mistakes and often the same mistakes, over and over again. But it is important that we do not give in to discouragement.
Saint Josemaria Escriva spurs us on: “Don’t forget that the saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness.” Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and step forward with a holy stubbornness that perceives that the path to sanctification is worth pursuing.
“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society,” says Saint Francis of Assisi. To me, this has always seemed easier said than done, given my sinful human nature and the enormity of the task. But just because this seems an unrealistic goal, does not mean that we cannot achieve it. Jesus tells us very clearly that what is impossible for us is not impossible for God (cf. Matthew 19:26).
Make sure you establish and remain faithful to your daily prayer life. Practice the virtues, and undertake a nightly examen to better understand yourself and your spiritual progress.
5.Hold onto Hope
Saint Padre Pio regularly encouraged people to “pray, hope, and don’t worry.” Our world is not perfect. It is often chaotic and riddled with tension. But this must not disturb our spirit. Padre Pio’s comments on the storms of life are very consoling: “God will never permit anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good. The storms that are raging around you will turn out to be for God’s glory, your own merit, and the good of many souls.”
So, do not lose hope amidst the storms in your life and in the world. These are the times in which God has placed us, and it therefore follows that these are the times that can make us holy. We just need to carry on bravely until we come to rest in God’s Heavenly kingdom.'
Tips to help you stay focused!
We had just arrived at the chapel attached to our local diocesan seminary. As I tried to encourage my pouty four-year-old to more appropriate behaviour, my two-year-old daughter quietly slipped out of our pew and wandered towards the altar.
She was almost at the foot of the altar before she turned back to look at me, pointing at the tabernacle and shouting: “Look Mum, it’s Jesus. Jesus is there.”
Of course she was absolutely correct. Jesus was there. In my haste to get the children seated and settled, I had neglected to remind myself of Jesus’s True Presence in that chapel. Instead I had entered the chapel on autopilot, guiding the children through their genuflection and unpacking and distributing a few books to keep them occupied.
These practical aspects of being a mother are certainly important. I was there, after all, to make use of the Sacrament of Confession and undertake spiritual direction afterwards. But I was distracted by the practical aspects of the morning that lay ahead of me.
Grasp the Infinite
When my daughter focused my attention on the Tabernacle I felt myself duly reprimanded. To be honest, I envied her simple faith. It is beautiful to watch my children engage with Jesus and our faith in their individual ways. One has a particular affinity for Saint Michael and his defeat of Satan. Another has a strong devotion and affection for Our Lady.
Above all, they seem to grasp the infinite, whilst I’m often preoccupied with the finite.
And I couldn’t help but reflect on Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel:
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)
Unless you change and become like children… Easier said than done perhaps, but here are some starting points for all of us:
1. Practise humility
Children accept that they don’t know everything. They trust that the adults will have the answers to their questions, the wisdom to guide them in tricky situations, and an unconditional love that is endless. Accepting that we don’t have all the answers and trusting in God’s wisdom and mercy is essential.
2. Keep it simple
We can read a multitude of spiritual tomes, blogposts and articles, but unless that reading is followed by meditation and prayer to discern its personal application by God’s grace, we might make little progress in our spiritual lives. One of the best ways to really grow in holiness, to foster our childlike faith, is to sit in quiet and meditative prayer and call God’s presence to mind. Spending this prayer time in His True Presence is even better.
3. Call to mind His Presence
We can do this over the course of the day in our structured prayer times but also in the regular humdrum parts of our day. Hanging out the washing with increasing monotony? Peg each item with an accompanied “All for You Jesus, all for You.” Thank Him when we’re happy, confide in Him when we’re struggling. Short, simple and spontaneous, and straight from the heart.
4. Ask for help
If you’re finding life a bit rough at the moment, then approach a good, holy priest or religious for help and spiritual direction. Or trusted friends and family who share your faith might be able to offer support and guidance for whatever you might be struggling with. In fact, they might even admit to having experienced something similar. Hearing the tale of their battles to cope with adversity and reach a place of peace, may imbue you with the hope that this time of suffering will ease for you too.
5. Above all, trust in Him
If you’re like me, relinquishing control is not easy. But it is precisely when we accept and welcome God’s will into our lives that we make the most spiritual headway. Learning to put God’s will ahead of ours, or accepting it when it’s the complete opposite of what we want can feel excruciating. God knows what is best for us, and if we can let Him take the lead, who knows what we can achieve for Him?
May God give us all an increase in faith, trust and hope so that we might truly call ourselves His children and experience heaven, where we belong:
“Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:13-14)'
When I become too serious
Make me smile Lord
When I become too anxious…
Make me smile Lord
When I become too envious…
Make me smile Lord
When the journey is long and boring…
Make me smile Lord
When people are cold and uncaring…
Make me smile Lord
When I’m tired and my strength is failing…
Make me smile Lord
When I’m burdened with work and deadlines…
Make me smile Lord
When I’m stressed with money and finances…
Make me smile Lord
When I have to adjust to unforeseen changes…
Make me smile Lord
When I feel like shouting and complaining…
Make me smile Lord
When people around me become irritating…
Make me smile Lord
When I experience
Make me smile
When I don’t feel
Make me smile
When I don’t know and
I don’t care…
Make me smile Lord
And when I don’t feel like
Make me smile Lord
O Often we encounter people who can be mean, rude, obnoxious or troublesome. Though we are called to love one another, admittedly it can be very difficult. Worry no more! Saint Therese of Lisieux is here with 3 beautiful suggestions for how to love difficult people as Jesus would.
“ There is, in the Community, a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything—in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me. And still, she is a holy religious who must be very pleasing to God.”*
So how did Saint Therese confront this Sister?
1. Through Charity expressed not in feelings, but in works.
“ Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved most.”*
2. Through Prayer
“ I prayed to God for her, offering Him all her virtues and merits. I felt this was pleasing to Jesus; for there is no artist who doesn’t love to receive praise for his works!”*
3. By not arguing, but smiling and changing the subject.
“ I wasn’t content simply with praying very much for this Sister who gave me so many struggles, but I took care to render her every service possible, and when I was tempted to answer back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile, and with changing the subject of conversation.”*
One day at recreation, the Sister asked in almost these words: “Would you tell me, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, what attracts you so much toward me; every time you look at me, I see you smile?”*
What attracted Saint Therese was Jesus hidden in the depths of that Sister’s soul–Jesus who makes sweet what is most bitter. Let us learn the art of responding to coldness, rudeness, gossip, and insults with active loving kindness and inner compassion.