Posts Tagged With: peace

Coffee, Contrition, and Clarity

Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 1:10pm – Cafe Central Coffee Haus – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

So I’ve been back in General Cepeda for about 2 months now. Earlier this week I realized that even amongst all the down time I’ve had from week to week, I’ve not left town a single time. So I decided to come to Saltillo for a few hours, just to get away. Hopped on the bus, and 35 pesos and 2 hours later I arrived. Having been here many times before, I had no desire to do anything touristy. I just wanted to walk around, explore a tiny bit, and relax.

I’d heard that just down the road from where the bus drops you off, there is a mall. Small, but nice. And the added bonus was stumbling upon this coffee shop. After I walked around the mall, I knew that this was where I’d have my chill time. Spending time at coffee houses is one of my favorite things to do back home. This habit first started during my high school days and cemented itself into my life during my college years. It’s a place and an environment where you can read, study, relax, visit, or people watch.

Did morning prayer from the breviary once I sat down with my frappucino. Also read alot from a book by Ralph Martin, a prominent figure within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. People-watched. Enjoyed the calm, relaxing atmosphere. The soothing hum of the coffee machines, coolers, and various other appliances. Realizing through all of this that we should always have some scheduled down-time, just to relax, refresh, re-energize, and get away for a bit. Also realizing that a key element in living apart from your favorite places and people is to always carry them in your heart. Another key element is to seek out a little taste of home wherever you are. A peaceful coffee shop. A city park. A grocery store. A shopping mall to aimlessly walk around in. These special things and little reminders are a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Embrace them. Rest in the comfort of these little blessings God sends you. They are part of what has made you who you are and gotten you to where you are. I believe in doing this, you will be more genuinely yourself and thus be better able to live and serve where God has you.

Another thing I want to share about is contrition, aka – sorrow for sins. As a Christian the more self-aware I have become, the more I have reflected on this. I feel like I am truly making progress in my spiritual life and that the Lord is helping me to find the proper balance in this area. What follows is a question I posed to several priest friends of mine and their responses. Names have been changed so that you can focus on the answers. And though not worded in exactly the same way, all of the responses essentially and basically say the same thing.

God Bless!
(the following is the question I posed to my priest friends and their responses)

Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation? Another way to phrase the question is, Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?

“My thoughts…Yes. One of the compounding negative effects of sin, especially habitual sin, is despairing emotions/shame. The progress one makes in combating sin is not all lost by a later fall. One truly does get closer to God and grows in his love and grows in trust. A later fall grieves us but our increased trust in God’s mercy dominants our emotional reaction to the sin.” –Fr.K—

“Yes, A healthy fear of sin, is a fear of the distance from God it brings. Being scared of sin means feeling that it’s bigger than God’s Mercy and therefore unforgiveable. count your blessings that you ‘ve been able to move beyond the previous despair. Despair is a trick of the Evil one, to lead you to procrastinate about Confession, to believe less and less in the Mercy of God and more and more of your worthlessness; both are lies. Sin, does not cause you to become worthless in the eyes of God. There’s nothing wrong about you, even if you’ve done something wrong!” –Fr.H—

“I think you are experiencing consolations of seeing some of the progress you’ve made. That is wonderful! I would say: yes, enjoy the good healthy reactions you have but also make sure to guard against the sin of presumption and do not let up in your efforts at self-mastery… Enjoy the consolations AND keep fighting the good fight!” –Fr.S—

“I certainly think so.” –Fr.B—

“I can only give a guess at what’s going on. First, there is a distinction in types of grace. You may have fallen from a state of “sanctifying grace” due to the sin and thus your conscience rightly pricked you making you aware of the fall. Seemingly God has blessed you simultaneously with an “actual grace” of hopefulness and love despite your fallen state. I would guess it was God presenting himself to you through “actual grace” in an attractive manner so that you trust in his future goodness and continue to follow him. You could prayerfully reflect upon this as though you were one of Jesus’ disciples in scripture before his actual death and resurrection. The joy and inspiration they received from his presence would have been more along the lines of “actual grace” (blessings from God) rather than salvific, since he had not yet offered himself in forgiveness of sins. (Of course, Jesus did forgive certain people along the way, but forgiveness was not yet offered to all prior to his death.) [The other alternative interpretation is that the feeling of “being okay” was from another spirit other than God. A way to discern this is reflecting upon whether your impulse at the time was to avoid the things of God (perhaps a subtle sense of joyful passivity and ambivalence to the things of God) or were you being drawn toward God and a deeper awareness of the peace and love that he reveals?]” –Fr.J—

“ the short answer is yes. Feelings are not a necessary part of the spiritual life. The spiritual life resides in “the will,” not “the heart.” And so you ought to have an intellectual fear of the consequence of sin and have the strength of will to avoid sin. If your feelings support those, super good! If they don’t, well that’s not a big deal. It is not necessary to feel sad or even frustrated when you sin. All that is required is contrition – which is an intellectual understanding of the consequence of sin and a disposition of will to make amends. Of course, all that’s very clinical. Unless you’re a robot, your emotions will play a part. Just don’t give them too much power over you. You can be contrite, even when you’re not “feeling it.” And contrition is what you need, not sadness or despair.” –Fr.R—

“Interesting that you ask this because I was talking about it with someone the other day. I think it is possible to have a healthy fear of sin and yet not be given to great sadness or despair in committing sin. Especially with sins that have been habitual to some extent in the past and from which we are trying to purify ourselves, I think we can arrive at a point at which, though we may fall into sin we realize that God is still working with us and trust in His mercy. There’s a book called “Clean of Heart” that is a 50-day meditation on sexual purity. In the introduction it speaks of a similar thing, namely when one falls they ought not too fall into great despair and get overly-consumed with the actions of the past but simply recognize one’s brokenness, bring it before the Lord in confession and continue the battle again. Hopefully that makes some sense.” –Fr.B—

“In a simple answer, it is possible. The more we grow in trust in the Lord the more we also grow in developing a healthy fear of sin. The challenge if one falls though, regardless of the sin, is to never become complacent. In other words, to recognize the seriousness of sin and go to confession as soon as possible, but at the same time not to despair because one has fallen. This comes with developing a healthy fear of the Lord.” –Fr.G—

“First off, I want to congratulate you for cooperating with God’s grace to create ways to protect yourself from sins of impurity. This is the point of confession: not just to shed the guilt of past sins, but (just as importantly) give strength to change these sinful behaviors and to break free from old patterns.

I definitely feel that your new perspective on sin is another a sign of God’s grace affecting your heart and mind.

That “normal” past sense of despair after falling into sin is healthy and necessary in the early stages of spiritual development. As you mentioned, our conscience must be attuned to the evil ugliness of sin and should thrust us into a healthy sense of guilt and remorse as well as compel us to go to confession ASAP. But as we grow and mature in the spiritual life, we should develop a greater sense of confidence in Christ’s victory over our sins.

So… Yes it is possible – and is in fact the goal- “to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation.” That sense of despair that you used to feel was in some way a lack of confidence in Christ’s power over your sins. This transition in thinking that you’ve described is a transition from worry about what you have done (sin) and what you now have to do (discipline) toward a confidence in what Christ has done (died on the cross/forgiven your sins) and what you and HE together now have to do (cooperate).

So… “Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?”… Yes. Because with Christ by your side there is no reason to fear sin. He has already conquered it. 2000 years ago. It’s done.

This is the transformative power of God’s forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hope this helps.”

–Fr.M–

“When we realize that sin is not distasteful to God, but that we have messed up our relationship with Him we are usually moved to fix it as soon as possible. Humility tells us that we have more work to do. It is no longer a childish fear, but an adult understanding of what I have to do. We have hurt the One who loves us most and most perfectly. Sorrow is a condition that comes, but in itself does not necessarily give feelings. Instead, it is the movement to get things right.”

–Fr.B–

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Silence and The Sower

Friday, August 17, 2012 – Noon – Ejido Tejocote – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Sometimes we prepare the soil. Sometimes we sow the seeds. Sometimes we water and nurture the plants as they grow. Sometimes we reap the harvest. All 4 are important. These were some of the thoughts that came to me during my weekly desert day prayer time. In my time here in Mexico I’ve been slowly reconnecting with my childhood hobby of gardening. I’ve also been thinkin’ about the parable of the sower and what happens to the seeds when they fall on the different types of soil.

And that’s what got me thinking about the 4 stages I mentioned above. So much emphasis is put on the reaping of the harvest. But so often we forget that for there to even be a harvest, someone has to first prepare the soil. No good soil = no plant. And what good does it do to prepare the soil if we aren’t actually planting the seed. Furthermore, if we plant the seed but never water it, nor prune and nurture the plant as it grows, then all has been for nought. And as we all know, if you do all that but don’t actually go out and reap the harvest, then it’s a waste. Maybe because of the line of “work” i’m in, I can’t help but think in terms of evangelizing and helping others. To me, preparing the soil is equivalent to forming a relationship with people. Sowing the seeds is equivalent to evangelizing. Watering and nurturing the plant is the follow-up that must be done and the maintaining of the relationship. And reaping the harvest is equivalent to helping them put their gifts to good use.

As I sat in silence during my desert day prayer time, I was enveloped by peace and stillness and this came to me: “The most profound silence I’ve ever experienced outside of Eucharistic Adoration has been during my experiences of desert day prayer time. Sometimes it’s so peaceful and quiet that I think I may have gone deaf because I see a blade of grass moving silently, or a spider web glistening in the sun. But without fail, I end up hearing the breeze blowing over the rocks and through the trees. And I think the silence is as profound as it it because of its nature. It’s not a purely nature-inspired silence. It’s not a mere admiration filled with awe and a love for natural beauty. It’s a God-infused silence that stills you way beyond the capacity of anything in the nature created realm to do so. It’s the Creator inhabiting his Creation.

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On the nature of Love & bein’ a country boy

Monday October 24, 2011 – 7:35am – Office @ Big Woods Mission – Esther, LA

“Learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding, that you may at the same time discern where there is length of days, and life, where there is light for the eyes, and peace.”
–Baruch 3:14–

Last week I started getting the urge to do another journal entry. After all, it’s been over a month. (Where does the time go?) Thought that I’d get a chance Saturday during Desert Day, but I had a good distraction. A friend of FMC who attended our Life In The Spirit Seminar at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Lafayette stopped by. I had been corresponding with him to try and get a copy of Sarah Granger’s talk to him. Tried to get back to journaling later in the day on Saturday, but things kept coming up, and I didn’t wanna force it. Sunday I was gone all day. Caught a ride to 10am Mass in Richard with Kylie so I could hear Sammy and Lindsey give a talk for World Mission Sunday. Stopped at Candyland Cottage in Rayne after Mass, and then Uncle Donald’s after that.

Ok captain, time to land the plane and get to the point. So, two weeks ago, someone close to me told me she was doing a discernment retreat to try and get a handle on what God is saying to her about her next steps on her journey. Being the good influence she is, I was motivated to do one as well. I was discerning both missions and marriage. For missions, I was discerning my next steps for both long-term and short-term mission opportunities. For marriage, I was discerning the who/what/how/when factors. As far as my discernment of missions went, my desire to go to Asia at some point was confirmed. Seeing as how it looks like me and Luis might end up in Costa Rica, my time in Asia is looking like it will be with a short term mission group. I also discerned that if God puts me with a family again next year, that it would be with the Romeros. For short term missions a whole plethora of opportunities popped up. The Phillipines, St. Lucia, Ecuador, and Peru all came up. Already confirmed that I’ll be helping to lead a trip to St. Lucia in January. We’ll see what God does with the other three locations.

As far as the marriage thing goes, you didn’t honestly think I’d give you all the answers to that, did you? 🙂 It’s a private revelation from God sort of thing, where only the people concerned find out. However, I can say that I also did alot of reflecting on friendship and love, and the end of this entry I’ll include some of the nuggets of wisdom God gave to me. The realizations and revelations were a blessing to me and were proof of the Holy Spirit working through prayer.

Living out in the country has been really good for me. Yes, a big part of my season of growth right now has been due to community life. When you are surrounded by good people and a life of prayer, you WILL grow in holiness. But that’s not the only factor. Being surrounded by nature is good for my soul. Living in the peace and quiet instead of the noisy and fast-paced city is good for my soul. Seeing things like rice fields, swampland, horses, cows, pastures, fog, dogs, barbed-wire fences, & birds is good for my soul. Swimming in a muddy pond that is home to the occasional 3-4 foot gator is exhilarating…………….and good for my soul. Burning logs and branches is messy, and good for my soul. Killing wasp nests is good for my soul. Pounding on a pile of rock hard dirt, shoveling it into the back of a truck, dumping it into a hole, filling a wheelbarrow full of horse manure to fill said hole with “fertilizer” so grass can grow and thereby hold the dirt in place, is good for my soul. Riding my bike down a country road and seeing a beautiful oak tree draped with spanish moss is good for my soul. Working and sweating and getting blisters and sore muscles is also good for my soul. I love where God has me at right now. I love that I get to wake up and do this (and other missionary stuff) every day. I think perhaps the singular greatest blessing I’ve received since being back at Big Woods is being able to work with my hands and do manual labor. It has taught me so many things, including obedience AND knowing the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

Lord Jesus, thank you for all of these blessings. Please continue to shower them down upon me. Help me to continue being open to your guidance. Bless us in all our missionary endeavors here at FMC, especially as Mrs. Genie prepares to go to China, and Intake prepares to go to Mexico.

Nuggets of Wisdom from The Holy Spirit about Love:

* be free to love * love unconditionally * draw close to me so that you can draw close to her * take a leap of faith * Friendship is not just a consolation prize, it is love through companionship. And marriage is the fulfillment of friendship * Instead of choosing good over evil because of an ideal, I can now choose good over evil because of someone. When I think in terms of people instead of ideals, love as a choice becomes real, and is easier to make * It should be a give and take, where you can savor the mystery * I need someone who brings out the best in me * I need someone who can bring me out of my shell * If you know the Lord has brought someone into your life, if you know you are drawn to someone because of a mutual love  for the Lord, then do not hesitate to grow close to that person! Do not be afraid that you are “deifying” them or “idolizing” them. Let yourself enjoy them and their company. Let yourself enjoy the love you give and receive. Draw closer to them by drawing closer to the Lord. That person is an instrument of God’s love in your life. To put them off due to a false sense of caution, humility, or discernment is a tragedy. By not putting your heart on the line and loving the person unconditionally, you risk losing out on the greatest treasure in life, LOVE.

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I will refresh you with living waters

Wednesday – June 15, 2011 – 6:15am – Marian Home Chapel – Castries, St. Lucia

One of the challenges I’ve discovered in my first few months as a Catholic lay foreign missionary, is that even though you may have grown enough to the point where God can use you as his instrument, you still are not perfect. I also commented last night as our group of SSME missionaries did Night Prayer, that the Devil does not like what we are doing and will come against us however he can. (Our scripture for Night Prayer was the one that talks about being on guard because the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour its prey.).

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been reminded that I still struggle with a lack of patience, joy, zeal, and humility. And since a big struggle in the past has been chastity (or lack thereof), the Devil has been throwing those kinds of temptations my way. It almost seems like the more and more I strive to be chaste and holy, the more temptations are thrown my way, and the more lies the Devil tries to get me to believe. On top of that, it seems like now that I’ve achieved a certain level of victory over sins of the flesh, that “sins of the spirit” that I mentioned earlier (impatience, lack of zeal, etc.) come at me with a fury. (Disclaimer: Even though I realize I’ve achieved a certain level of victory against sins of the flesh, I realize in humility that I must always be vigilant and on-guard and humble so that I do not fall back into these sins again.)

So taking all of this into account, you can see how my beginnings as a foreign missionary, though blessed, have been challenging and frustrating at times. This morning, as I was about to take a shower before Mass, all of this was on my mind again. Even though the wheels are always turning in my mind, I was puzzled as to why God allowed this to be on my mind at THIS time of day. As I step into the shower, turn the cold water handle, and feel a blast of cold water hitting my head, I think about how good it feels after a restful but sweaty night of sleep. Then I hear the Lord tell me “I will refresh you with living waters”. A sense of peace came over me. Thank you Lord for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

(Interesting sidenote: Right before my shower, I was reading Mrs. Genie’s 2nd book, and was at the part where she relates the story of how God revealed to her what their family’s missionary newsletter should be called. Having just read that, and then having the experience I just had, I decided that my missionary newsletter will be called “Living Waters”. It just seems so right and that it’s the perfect fit. Praise the Lord!)

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The blessings of friendship (with the opposite sex)……

Tuesday 7/6/10 – 3:30pm @ Awardmaster (my place of employment in Lafayette, LA)

I find myself reflecting today on the blessings of friendship. Recently, I met up with a friend of mine (who happens to be a female) to go jogging at a local park.  I needed to exercise (hadn’t in over a week) and also wanted to spend some time with her. Now, typically, it has been very hard for me to visit with a female friend and not think ahead of myself (if you get the hint). My tendency is to think light years ahead at the possibilities instead of immersing myself in the blessings God has for me at the present moment.

In this case, the blessing of the present moment was enjoying the company of a friend, with no strings attached. It was AMAZING how much I enjoyed myself. Society, as a whole (myself included), has largely forgotten the value of friendship. Even within the youth and young adults of the Catholic Church, I think we tend to skip the friendship phase because we are so in love with “being in love”. I’ve heard from many solid married couples that say “I married my best friend.” Ergo, I draw the conclusion that friendship is a wonderful foundation for a possible future relationship. Even better is the fact that if a relationship/marriage does not happen, you still gain a friend. And frankly, who couldn’t use more of those? Someone whose company you could enjoy, whom you can confide in, someone to socialize with, the list goes on and on.

Anyhoo, I hope that my reflections have maybe reawakened the grace of friendship in your life, or that maybe I planted a seed of friendship and an appreciation of it. Another reason (as alluded to earlier) that friendship is on my mind is because of the struggle of a close friend of mine. To be fair, I also used to struggle with the same thing quite a bit, and though I’ve come far, I still have a ways to go. Plain and simple, he is just trying too hard to be in a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, my best friend actually. But he just keeps desperately grasping for this miracle, wonderful, “OMG it’s so great” relationship that will just make him forever content.

I’ve learned that relationships/marriage, if we’re called by God to that vocation, are like sand or putty in our hands. First of all, it has to be placed there by God. Second of all, if we don’t wait for God’s timing and try to grasp at it ourselves, it will always elude, only serving to further the frustration and desperation we feel. If in our attempt to grasp at a relationship we somehow succeed, then our tight grip will only cause it to slip between our fingers and cause us to lose it. It’s so hard to watch my friend go through this because everytime some sort of date or meeting is setup and doesn’t work out, he get’s so aggravated and depressed.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this, it’s that God alone is our source of happiness. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we will be happy, no matter what our relationship status is. It also means that we can truly let go, let God take control, and trust that he will bless us with the desires of our heart on his timeframe, not ours. My hunch is that when we let go, and when God finally fulfills the holy desires of our hearts, we will know a joy that can’t even compare to a thousand forced & failed relationships.

It seems to me also that women/relationships are like feral cats.  You cannot force things or just lunge at what you want, or else they will just scatter. They (both feral cats & women) can usually sense someone who’s desperate for attention and will steer way clear of them (I speak from experience). However, if you are patient, and take your time to gain their trust and treat them right, you’ll eventually have a friend for life and possible more. Let me leave you with a random missionary-themed bible verse, that coincidentally is one of my top choices for my next tatoo on my left foot: “How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of good news…..” Isaiah 52:7

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DESERT DAY – PART 4

Once again, I felt God telling me to come before him in prayer in front of the Tabernacle while they prayed for her. Now I know that many people have already discovered the power of praying in the presence of the Eucharist. I reveal nothing new in that regard. But I felt like I got to do so in a way that really brought the reality of intercession and prayer to life for me. The crazy part is, I could go on and on about all the revelations and blessing I’ve received on this trip, but I’ve only got 10 minutes left before I have to return to the van. As I sit here, I’m under the shade of some bushes by the side of a beautiful little stream. The sun is bright, the sky is beautiful, the breeze is blowing, and I can hear the sound of the water flowing past me. It is so utterly peaceful and refreshing out here.

I feel blessed beyond belief to be here at this very moment and to have this time to be with God. Someone commented earlier today that God blesses different people in different ways. At this moment, as I sit in this spot, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God is using all of these surroundings to bless me and shower his love on me. Well, the car horn is honking so I gotta head back. Praise you Jesus for this time of prayer and renewal. Please give me a heart of love to continue growing and serving you. Alleluia! Glory! Amen!

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