Tag Archives: spirituality

Crosses and Trials

Comfort: It’s what our bodies desire and our society cultivates and caters too. I would’ve taken an upgrade to First Class in a heartbeat on either of my flights home yesterday from Vancouver, had it been offered. While I would’ve avoided the manspreading fella on the first flight, I would’ve missed the adventurous couple whose love for life and travel was contagious. The husband gave a compliment to one of the Flight Attendants, the kind where it was visible how much it meant to her. The wife kept beating her husband playing Gin, mocking that her hands were tired from shuffling the cards too much, which amused both of us ladies as he half-heartedly griped.

We crave comfort while the call of the Christian life is the opposite — it is the cross. Christ calls us daily to pick up our cross and follow him, and some days are harder than others. The cross is the school of Christ, while it is painful it is also purifying.

st therese quotes

This quote, “I reserve crosses and trials for you,” is from page 133 of Therese’s autobiography (see more below) and a reference to Luke 22:29. Christ says he appoints us unto the Kingdom that God appoints to him – yet we must be worthy of it. Therese explains that as Christ suffered before he entered into glory, “if you desire to have a place by His side, then drink the chalice He has drunk!”

What if we viewed our crosses as trails chosen by God so that we too may enter into his glory?

I’m not going to say it’s going to feel great, friends. But which is more true – to trust your feelings or God? If we have glory with God set in our minds as the destination, then it can transform us along the journey if we allow it.

I am reminded of how we spent this last heavenly birthday of my Mom, January 21, 2019. It was in the ER with my Dad.

We had just added a Pain Management Doctor to the list of specialists which totaled 15 Doctors including his Primary Care. Dad had been given a new pain med that previous week which caused serious adverse reactions – the worst of which was altered mental status (hallucinations, agitated, very confused). He’d had a lot of Edema below the waist that his Home Health Nurse attributed to not have compression on his lower extremities for a few days. Off the meds, he had been getting better the weekend before Mom’s birthday but felt very weak.

Then that Monday (birthday) morning, an untrained shuttle driver failed to properly strap my Dad’s wheelchair before taking him to Dialysis. He tried to tell her, but she drove off and on the first turn on the road, he fell over in his wheelchair — hitting his head and side on the floor. If it could be worse, she then pulled over, put him back, and continued to drive him to Dialysis without reporting it. It was my Dad that called me on his cellphone from the back of the shuttle!

Infuriated, I called the Director of his facility and things were set into motion there. He complained of pain in his hip and leg, but after an initial evaluation, he thankfully was oriented x3. He had such fluid build-up, that we proceeded with Dialysis with the plan to immediately transport him (not the same driver, of course) to the ER afterward, where I’d meet him. He was taken to the hospital where he had been receiving wound care 2x a week on his feet, and where he finally got into Hyperbaric treatments before they had to do further amputations – to his leg.

When I met Dad at the ER, although I was angry and worried, I was thankful he was alive and lucid. I asked God to not only help us through that day’s trial but to also help us celebrate my Mom’s life. The blessings came, here are a few: Doctors and Nurses that were so kind and accommodating; Dad’s regular (trained) shuttle driver had come to take over and stayed with us the 4-hours in the ER to transport him back properly in his chair so as to not cause more discomfort; my Husband brought dinner to us, ravenous after hours in the ER, and a cupcake for Mom that we sang over and split. We smiled as we remembered her. And back at his Assisted Living, his caretakers were also upset and promised to look after him carefully throughout the night.

Despite what we lacked in physical comfort, the Holy Spirit – the Comforter, provided graces for the moment in abundance. Here’s the thing — I had to ask, and receive it, which is possible even amidst the chaos.

If you’ve followed my blog at all (thanks!), you’ll know I have a devotion to Doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux. If you’re new, a hearty welcome and I hope we’ll connect here or elsewhere more, I’ve posted links below to former posts – which were daily reflections during the Novena to St. Therese. Today I begin the Novena to St. Therese, the Little Flower – as it ends on her Feast Day, October 1st. Some other wonderful resources, such as Praymorenovenas.com, started yesterday — either way, it’s a beautiful time of prayer that I encourage you to take advantage of.

While I do reference St. Therese throughout other posts, these writings I’ve compiled on the Little Flower will pass along bits of her spiritual insights. You can follow along on the links below, and I’ll be posting more of my hand lettering quotes on my Instagram, so follow along there too @lisanch

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Lent: A Kindness to Endure the Final Stretch

Jesus Washing Disciples Feet

After nearly 40 days in the desert, journeying deeper into Holy Week, last night I hit the proverbial Lent wall.

Have you ever been there? Or maybe you are there now?

I wonder how Jesus felt in that final stretch? Hmmmm…

After several attempts to keep everything all nicely contained, in the end…yep, I t-a-n-k-e-d. Let me be clear, we’re certainly not talking anything earth-shattering here, but sometimes it feels like there’s a wall, and I smack up against it. AGAIN. And again…and, well, you know the drill.

When my resistance is low, it’s obviously a lot quicker process. The weariness from this Lenten trekking in the desert, and the thirst from “water deprivation”, can sometimes make pebbles seem like boulders.

White flag raised. Stick a fork in me. Insert another cliche of your choice here, but basically last night:

“I’m good, Lord. Yep, I’m done.”

While in my mind I sometimes entertain delusions of being Superwoman, in that moment I was completely aware of my humanness. I grabbed my bible, my journal, my keys, and my purse. I told my husband I needed to get out for bit as I placed a sandwich near him.

As I drove to the nearest chapel, it all started to fumble out. Those moments between me and God, well, I’m just glad he’s God…

It took awhile for me to even get out of my car to enter the Chapel. As I walked up to the glass doors, I saw two women were kneeling in Adoration. There’s no code on the door, and I wasn’t exactly sure when Adoration ended (it’s not a Perpetual Adoration Chapel), so I pulled on the locked door a couple of times.

A woman, probably around my age, got up to come to the door. As she did, she looked at me and softly said, “We’re about to repose Him for the night, but you can stay a few minutes until we do.”

A few minutes seemed like a complete treasure. 

Grateful, I knelt in the back. Knowing it’s Holy Week, I wanted to leave everything there. With many intentions for suffering friends and family too, I wanted to put them in good hands. Hopefully, the whole process would allow my heart to be more open for the celebration of the Triduum.

The other woman in the Chapel left after a few moments. As I continued to spend my moments with Him, the young woman approached me. Oh man, wipe my eyes…

“If you’d like to stay, I can call my husband and ask him if I can stay longer.”

It was so kind, I stumbled a bit, “Oh no, that’s OK. I don’t want to keep you…”

“Oh no,” she responded, “You wouldn’t be keeping me. Let me go call my husband…”

What an unexpected blessing. She was gone for a bit, and when she came back, she asked if I had a phone since her’s was dead and Father’s was locked up.

She was determined, so I handed her my phone. In the meantime, I continued to spend more moments with the Lord.

After they spoke a few minutes, she returned with the news that she had to go home. I assured her that I was glad for the extra time I already got, and I certainly understood.

She then asked me to join her in singing “Tantum Ergo” (which I needed to practice, by the way, for the Holy Thursday Liturgy. Score!)

We knelt and sang together. It was simple. Pure. Sweet.

As we briefly chatted while walking out to our cars, we quickly discovered who we knew in common. Indeed, it is a small Catholic world. She promised to pray for one of our special intentions.

Her kindness to me, without barely knowing my name, lifted me up. In some ways, it felt almost like the footwashing….

Spending time with the Lord — just being — returned some of my perspective: These things are really just pebbles, not boulders. After all my vocation is LOVE (a la St. Therese of Lisieux).

 

Tagged , ,

Prayer Before Surgery with Dad

084
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”.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: