Tag Archives: prayer

Still Learning Perfect Joy from St Francis

St Francis of AssisiOne of my spiritual guides, St. Francis, continues to school me in this important life lesson: Perfect joy. As such, I’m resurrecting, polishing, and expanding a vintage post (2012) from my days at CCC of America.

I am more than just a bit acquainted with St. Francis. I attended a Franciscan school, have TOR (Franciscans, Third Order Regular) friends, and have even visited Assisi. In the event you are not acquainted with him, St. Francis of Assisi was the son of a prosperous merchant with dreams of Knighthood; yet called by God to rebuild the Church.  Reflecting once again on a powerful homily (at the Dominican Priory I might add), I know that I have so much more to learn from the Saint whose feast we celebrate today, October 4th.

At morning Mass a few years back, Fr. Scott was sharing a story from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis”.  Brother Leo and Francis were talking one cold December day when Brother Leo began wondering — of what does perfect joy consist?  The whole story is found here, but St. Francis began his response explaining all the things that one might consider perfect joy, but are not. Then he proceeded:

“If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy…”

I knew that day at Mass, as I still do today, that I have a long way to go in my strivings for sainthood. While Fr. Scott also mentioned that St. Francis did have an “interesting definition of perfect joy”, I know the core of St. Francis’ message. How do I know it? Because he finally tells Brother Leo what perfect joy consists of, after miles of bantering in the cold as they walked.

“Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”

Of all the things that we could try to do, become, or gain in order to obtain perfect joy, here St. Francis reveals the simple yet challenging truth. Perfect joy consists of bearing all that occurs to us amidst our daily sufferings with “patience, joy, and charity…thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him.” Yes, perfect joy is as simple and as hard as accepting our Cross and sharing in Christ’s sufferings with patience, joy, and charity.

St. Francis still has much to teach me about perfect joy. But I hope you take comfort, like I do, in the beauty of our Christian faith. It is God who does the work in us. We do not have to try and climb the ladder towards perfection by our own strength or make the mountains move. HE gives us our crosses and then He tells us what to do with them (Mt 11:28-30):

* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

HE gives us his yoke if we come to him. In return, we find rest and learn from the master of meekness and humility. He will give us all the grace needed to carry our cross, and if we allow it, through our suffering we will share in His suffering, as well as share in His GLORY. [Romans 8:17: “and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.”] The Lord will do the work of transforming us to become the persons He is calling us to be through the daily carrying of our cross, and living out our vocations right where He has us.

The cross of Christ brought his suffering and revealed his glory. Transformative. There are many heavy crosses and burdens in our world – we need not look far to be confronted with suffering. And of course, we intimately know our own sufferings. So does God. We are not alone in our suffering – He is near to the brokenhearted. [Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”]

St. Francis, pray for us on our journey. When we struggle to accept the crosses God gives us, help us to experience God’s mercy and grace. May we find our rest in him, and perfect joy in his plan for our lives.

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3 Things Lent Taught Me About Prayer

What we learn from LentPrayer is not something new to me. My Catholic resume has some pretty decent bones to it. Even so, I do believe we tread on dangerous ground when we feel like our faith cannot teach us something new. As a lifelong learner, I love when old “practices” can bear new fruit.

Sometimes simply making a few changes feels like opening wide the windows, allowing bright light and fresh air to pour in. Spiritual refreshment is an important part of our faith walk, otherwise we can experience pitfalls, such as mindlessly go through the motions or getting stuck in a spiritual rut. This Lent, my approach to prayer was different {read more here}. For 40 days, I prayed for 40 people and their at least 40 intentions — my 40/40/40 Lenten Prayer Pact.

It was a beautiful time of intercession, and I’m really grateful to all who participated – either through asking for prayer, or hosting your own. My heart swelled when my Sister-in-Law told me that she had her whole South Florida Catholic grade-school class doing the 40/40/40 for Lent.

What did I learn during the 40/40/40? Here are three things that Lent taught me about prayer:

1. Generosity and reciprocity.

My 40/40/40 in no way suggested to participants that anything may be expected back from those submitting their prayer intentions. This was not framed as, “Let’s pray for each other this Lent.” I told people that I wanted to pray for them, and that was that; yet I found that prayer begets prayer more often than not — reciprocity.

Many signup forms or emails were returned telling me, “I’m praying for you too!” Whether you call this show of generosity “Pay It Forward”, Karma, or the Law of Attraction — I know it was a blessing for all involved. Some of the intentions tapped into such a personal part of my own journey, so my heart was moved with compassion many times throughout Lent.

2. Outward focus begins in the heart.

If you do a Scripture search on “heart”, you will see from all the results that the Lord addresses the disposition of our hearts frequently in the Bible. As the central part of our person, that is intentional. Scripture affirms that our actions, thoughts, and words all flow from the heart. It follows that if we are to follow Christ’s example of Servant-Leadership, then our hearts need to be focused on others.

Prayer is a movement of the heart, so interceding on another’s behalf inclines the heart outward, which brings us to a frame of mind to be focused on others before self. When our heart, mind and prayer is not consumed by our own desires and thoughts, we become less self-seeking and desire to serve and help others more. I found myself participating in more ways than normal to support and help others that were in need.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8

3. Prayers prepare your heart for the answer.

We all can relate to asking others to join us in praying for something that we want God to provide for us. Whether our heart is seeking a general provision, like God send me a spouse, or a specific provision, such as heal this person of Cancer, our hearts are set on the answer of YES. Should God provide another answer it can be painful.

This weekend God further reminded me of how we ask people to pray for one thing, but it can be at work in another way. On Friday night, my husband and I decided to drive to Austin to see some properties we were interested in touring with our Realtor. Everything fell into place (thanks to a friend, with 3 hours notice, that responded, “You’re staying with me!”) On Saturday morning, after viewing a few lemons, we walked into a beautiful home that felt perfect. We agreed — we could live here — felt excited, and made an offer on the home the next day. Considering that we weren’t the only offer, even though the home was on the market for only 2 days, we immediately began asking our closest family and friends to join us in praying that they would accept our offer.

There was no lack of prayer, yet several hours later we learned the news that our offer was their 2nd choice and the home-owners were going with another offer. I believe that my prayer and the prayers of others afforded the grace to receive the news and remain positive and open to God’s provision still. The home for us is still out there, exactly where we are meant to be. My heart was readied by prayer to hear and accept the news that I did NOT want in that moment, but answered the greater prayer of moving exactly where we are meant to be. Was it disappointing – sure – but was I devastated and thinking God had failed us, certainly not. Everyone’s prayers lifted us up, and are still at work for the overarching prayer.

When we pray, we must also be open to the answers of no or not yet.

A BIG thanks again to all my 40/40/40 participants. Know that as the Triduum began on Holy Thursday, I also spoke each of your names and petitions before the Altar, laying each of them there.

Even though I am a planner and like to get all my ducks in a row in advance, I was the one that suggested we travel to Austin this weekend on a moments notice. Everything fell together beautifully, in that we were able to still spend time with family (even family I had never met before!) and friends. Sharing a few of the sweet moments that we spent in Austin over Easter weekend:

Home Slice Pizza Austin Things to do in Austin St Mary's Cathedral Austin cowboy boots in Austin S Congress St Austin

Kirby Lane Breakfast

It may be blurry, but the flavor of Kirby Lane’s Chicken Biscuit topped with Eggs and Green Sauce is crystal clear in my mind.

With Bill Williams family in Cedar Park

What did you learn this Lent? Please share in the comments — I would love to hear!

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What I’ve Learned About Prayer

Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous. When you have God, you don’t have to know everything about it; you just do it.”
― Mother Angelica

I had just made the move south to Cajun country Louisiana a few years ago. After attending a political event with my new ‘work’ family, with it getting late and a half-hour drive still ahead of me, my Boss invited me to stay over at her family’s home. Since I didn’t have any of my things with me, she made sure I had what I needed to settle in for the night. Without a contact lens case, she gave me two drinking glasses and some contact solution. I washed up, left my cup o’ lenses in the office, and settled in their country home for the night.

In the morning, she was making breakfast when I awoke. As I headed in to take a shower after we ate, I quickly mentioned that I left my contacts in the home office. Turns out I should’ve been a little more deliberate about that statement, as the cups were gone when I returned.

Half-blindly, I moved towards the kitchen, where she was dunking dishes in her soapy water-filled sink to load into the dishwasher. I think I asked her if she had seen my lenses probably around the time that she put a couple of small glasses in the top rack.

Her face dropped, and she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize what you meant about the glasses! I just rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher! I’m so sorry!”

As I felt my way over to her, with her profuse apologies, I assured her it was going to be ok. We proceeded to do the two woman-hunt for those small, clear objects that love never to be found once they’ve fallen from your fingertip. We searched and searched…nothing.

It was time to call in the big guns: St. Anthony. We asked for his help, and I promised him if he helped me find my contacts, I’d share my story with others.

Standing by the sink, we had both been feeling around in the dirty dish water for sometime. She turned to me and said, “In faith, I feel like we’re supposed to take the plug out of the drain. I know it sounds crazy, but…”

If I had thought about it, I would’ve hesitated, and logically I would’ve explained our way out of it. But, the preface was IN FAITH. So, as I went to pull the stopper out of the drain, I felt something. There IT is – one little contact stuck to my hand. What?!

Moving to do it again, boom, the other contact lens. We both were giddy.

Prayer can feel at times like you’re reaching into a murky mess, feeling around, searching for that answer. Maybe it has been for 10-minutes, or maybe it has been for 10-years — when you feel like you keep sending out an SOS signal and nobody is responding or seeing it.

That’s a lie. No prayer goes unnoticed or is unimportant to God. He doesn’t have selective hearing to tune you out with, nor does He make you feel like you’re not a priority because there’s bigger problems in the world. We need to be cautious not to ascribe our humanness to God’s Divinity.

As we prepare for Lent, there are some good reminders I’m receiving. Prayer requires a few things that are really hard, for me too: Faith, patience, and surrender.

StThereseQuote

My Dad would gently remind me in some prime moments of stubbornness: “You’re praying and asking God to do things, and then as He does, you’re saying, ‘No, not that way, like this.'”

Prayer requires our faith to ask it, our patient hope to wait upon it, and our surrender as to how He will answer it. And there is an answer EVERY time – whether it be no, yes, not yet. As many times as I’ve been through this, I still am amazed that nearly 10 times out of 10 it is never how you imagined and in the end better than you could’ve planned.

It may look and feel ridiculous at times — especially as you surrender to remove the drain that you feel is holding everything together. But what’s the alternative: To be blind and keep doing what hasn’t been working?

P.S. Don’t ever wash your lenses with dirty dishwater. Never. Ever.

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Feeling Underestimated?

Several years ago, a co-worker gave me one of those little inspirational Hallmark books for my birthday. The title seemed a good fit, “Laughter & Latte: Joyful Inspiration for Women”.  I never really cuddled up with it to read many of the reflections. To be honest, it quickly settled among my “bathroom books”. You can even see some of the dust still left on the cover.

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But this week I could really use some “joyful inspiration”. On Sunday, I got that Holy Spirit urging to go and pick up my little Bathroom book. I now know better than to write off or question those little promptings, so I did.

“Feeling Underestimated?” was the title of the excerpt from Laurie Beth Jones’ book, “Jesus in Blue Jeans.” OK, you’ve got my attention. Here is the short story across those two pink and brown pages:

The media escort who accompanied me on the Los Angeles stop of my most recent book tour was a woman about five feet, two inches tall. A petite blond with movie star charisma, she disclosed during our conversation that after she had been mugged and later car-jacked in Los Angeles, she had become a black-belt kickboxer. Now, when she and her husband encounter rough situations, her six-foot one-inch husband whispers, “Go ahead, honey, get ’em. I’ll hold your purse.” She says she actually enjoys the feeling of being underestimated.

Unless you are dealing with people who daily recognize and acknowledge the miracle-working power of God, chances are very good you are being underestimated, and more significantly, chances are you are underestimating yourself.

When we have access, through prayer and meditation, to all the gifts and knowledge of God, we can be relatively confident that whoever is challenging us is underestimating us. Our responsibility in difficult situations is to harness the power of God in us and the power of God everywhere.”

When I later shared it with my husband, we laughed through the part where the husband says, “I’ll hold your purse…” After all, who more than my partner, and my Confessor, knows what “kickboxing” the spicy passion of this five-foot three-inch Tomboy can unleash. God help us.

Yet it is not about believing and proving what we are capable of. Even Jesus was and still often is grossly underestimated. But, what if we embraced everything as a gift — recognizing that all we are, have, and can do is because of our Maker. After all, as His children, do we not have access to the miracle-working power of God?

This verse was shared with me this week, and I have since paid it forward; but take a moment to reflect on great power of God to work in and through you.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty STRENGTH, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

– Ephesians 1:18-20

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The Hardest Prayer for Me to Pray

Prayer is not something foreign to me, or that I struggle to formulate. There is one prayer that, if I’m being honest, has been difficult for me to embrace — The Litany of Humility.  Gosh, it’s humbling even to admit that.

Throughout my waking hours, as well as the moments where I’m drifting off to sleep, there are often little and then longer prayers interwoven into the rhythm of my day — many of which are never spoken aloud. The prayers vary: It may be the scriptures in Morning Prayer, offering up a friend that suddenly comes to mind, begging for grace needed at the time, entrusting special ongoing intentions, prayers from the heart with my husband before bed, and many types in between…

But have you heard the caution: “Be careful what you pray for”?  Unfortunately, this is the main prayer I associate with that warning. In praying this particular Litany, part of my hesitation lies in what opportunities I’m inviting beyond my normal humbling moments. Scratching beneath the surface, it’s likely because not until I pray these words do I fully realize exactly how prideful and sensitive to forms of rejection I am. If I’m being really honest, I think that this Litany throws a right hook square at my old people-pleaser tendency. WALLOP! Ouch!!

Humility

Photo: How to Nest for Less

Click this link for the FREE printable format of The Litany of Humility.

Where did The Litany of Humility first originate? Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val wrote this prayer which he recited after every Mass he celebrated. The sweet irony is that he is said to have had “one of the fastest-moving careers in all ecclesiastical history.” In fact, he was chosen by St. Pius X to serve as Secretary of State, a position of honor and authority, serving as the right hand to the earthly head of the Catholic Church. What generosity was shown to the man who daily prayed, “From the desire of being honored and from the desire of being preferred to others…Deliver me Jesus.”

“Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine,” was a prayer I recited often with my household in college. It’s one thing for me to say it, it’s a whole thing to embrace the opportunities to live it.  After all, beyond our own desires, how many voices in the world bombard us with opposing messages…we want to be esteemed, preferred, praised, and noticed!

This is the model of humility Christ gave us:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
– Philippians 2:5-8
 

I understand this, but how can I overcome my fleshly aversion to this prayer and what it really calls me to embrace?

Enter this new song, I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad, that I LOVE. Another irony — it’s based on the Litany of Humility. Yet there’s an echoing of Psalm 23 as the refrain, which is a Psalm of comfort:  “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

What a beautiful approach to the Litany, challenging my perspective: Why narrow your view coming from a place of pain, from suffering various forms of rejection? What if you approached it instead from a stance of fulfillment in the Lord, of wanting for nothing?

BOOM – the uppercut that rounds out the hit to the ol’ people-pleaser!  If nothing more, the best place to start is the final line:

“Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” 

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Prayer Before Surgery with Dad

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My Dad recently had a Nuclear Stress Test and the results showed that his heart isn’t functioning properly. He had not told us that he had been having some shortness of breath and palpitations and such…ugh… They aren’t sure what is wrong — if it’s something with his Quadruple Bypass (that they 10 years ago yesterday), or something new.
In order to discover that, today they will do a Cardiac Catheterization — during which a long thin tube, a catheter, will be inserted in an artery or vein in his groin and threaded through the blood vessels to his heart. This will show them what the issues are. He is deathly allergic to Iodine (which is why he can’t eat shellfish — hives, close his wind-pipe), so they have been prepping him before and will be ready during the surgery for that.
 
There is a chance when they are in there, that if he needs something done (like a stint), it may be taken care of at the time. Not sure. 
 
Dad has been anxious about this. He’s been through it before, and not seamlessly I might add, but with Mom. Without her optimism and “everything will be fine” attitude, he’s certainly feeling it. My Florida brother and I are here, well, to just be here with him.
Dad has had trouble sleeping the past few nights. Before we went to bed last night, I searched for a prayer and found this short yet poignent prayer at Catholic.org:

Loving Father, I entrust myself to your care this day; guide with wisdom and skill the minds and hands of the medical people who minister in your Name, and grant that every cause of illness be removed, I may be restored to soundness of health and learn to live in more perfect harmony with you and with those around me. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Into your hands, I commend my body and my soul. Amen.

When we have health scares, it reminds us how out of control we are of our lives, how fragile life is, how quickly things can change. It also can reveal to us how great we are in need of a Savior, how grand our trust needs to be, how loving our family and friends are, and how we need to embrace life and do and say the things we need to right now…not wait for “someday”.

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Two Years Later

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5photo (15)

IMG_7230Mother Mary, at St. Monica’s, was really where the story of Mike and I began, happening at the same time as my Mom’s illness.

Last night we visited Our Lady, in remembrance of Mom.

A mingling of joy with tears, gratitude, love, petition, thanksgiving…just laying it all out before Our Mama.

Mom and MeMe as a toddler with my beautiful Mom.

We celebrated your birth into this world two days ago. Today, we celebrate your rebirth into another.

It’s been two years without you, physically; but I’m grateful for the 30-something I had with you.

We love you, miss you, and are all better for having known and been loved by you.

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Serenity: The other Half of the Story

I take it by now that everyone is pretty familiar with the Serenity Prayer, right? You know:

This prayer is attributed to a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and often is associated with many 12-step programs.  Looking at the original prayer, most of us don’t realize that we are only familiar with the first half.  The rest of it is:

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
AMEN.

I think so many people relate to this prayer because it directly speaks to the areas that we struggle with the most:

ACCEPTANCE

SURRENDER

TRUST

Amidst the political brouhaha of today — such as this weeks CEOs of Chick-Fil-A vs. Amazon and the like, the part that particularly speaks to me is:

“Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.”

I am thankful for the promise that He will make all things right, because people of faith really need to hold onto that right about now.  So God, I’m gonna keep trying to work on my part of acceptance, surrender, and trust and let you work on Yours.  Oh, and thanks in advance for always forgiving me the many times that I fall short!

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My Favorite Prayer

In her own handwriting, the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila

Shuffling through some of my stowed away things while doing some project work, I rediscovered this gem.  This postcard purchase dates back to 1997, the spring I spent in the Austria study-abroad program, whilst out happily galavanting around the other side of the world.

St. Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite Nun of the 16th century Spain.  In her early years little T showed a real backbone for the Faith from as early as 5-years-old [hit up that link for more on her story.]  Then she put her folks through some real typical teenage rebellion years.  Take heart, Dads who think that sending your daughter away to a Convent will solve everything:  In this case, it not only worked but also cranked out an amazing Saint!

It looks like I now have a powerful new intercessor that meshes well with me, as she is the Patroness of not only headache sufferers (I’ve suffered with Migraines since Junior High School), but also Spanish Catholic Writers.  I wonder if she would adopt a Hungry-Mexican writer?  Hmm, worth praying for a shot at least…

Reflecting on this, it really is an exquisite prayer.  Simple yet profound; full of hope; directing all things back to total trust in Our Father God.  I would expect nothing less then this from one of the three female Doctors of the Church. This card shows the prayer written in St. Teresa’s own handwriting. You may have noticed it’s in Spanish as well, which makes sense since she was born in the province of Avila in Spain.

Take this prayer with you into your day.  May it help you rise above the challenges you may face, the unkind words that may be spoken to you, the busy coldness of the world rushing around you, the things weighing on your mind…  In short, may it lift you up to the God who loves you.

The translation is as follows:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
-St. Teresa of Avila
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