I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you Seven Quick Takes from my world from this week (and last week).
The Pope's visit was amazing. I am a huge fan. From my office cubicle, I was able to catch several of the happenings on live stream while I did other work. I saw him arrive in DC, speak at the White House, do the mass of the canonization of St. Junipero Sera, speak to Congress, speak to Catholic Charities, and greet people in DC. What came across to me, hundreds of miles away and watching through a screen, is the man's humility.
His speech to Congress was nothing less than inspiring. He didn't preach to our nation. Contrary to popular opinion and mass media, he didn't pander to either political party. His comments inspired me. There is something about his presence that encompasses seemingly opposite values - courage, and humility. He is loving and almost goofy, with his broken English and Fiat car. He was passionate and yet gentle. He got the left and the right to give standing applause and to sit on their hands. In a word - he was Catholic. He is the Pope of the Universal Church. It was wonderful. I hope all people of goodwill are inspired and touched.
I loved it that two very famous and prominent Jewish women both said positive things about the Pope on social media about him being one of us and the power of one person's influence. I love it that I heard a Muslim man call into a Catholic radio show to say that he wished the Pope goodwill on his visit and saw him as a man of God. Thank you, Pope Francis, for embodying what it means to build bridges.
(This image was taken from aleteia.org)
Fiat Voluntas Tua
(Thy Will Be Done)
It was a great week to be Catholic last week. The Pope was in our homeland. My husband and I went on an amazing retreat to a monastery for three days. It was so refreshing. Unfortunately, with all the Catholicism in the air, it was inevitable that the criticisms came. It's interesting to me that my extreme left wing friends hate the Church and the Pope for not allowing women priests, not sanctioning gay marriage, and meeting with Kim Davis. (He also met with Fidel Castro and Obama.) It's equally disappointing that my right wing friends find him to be too "environmentalist" and too "pacifist," believing the media hype about the Pope being a socialist or a communist. In a word, the Pope is Catholic. If you read his words in their entirety and put them in context, he will annoy both the right and the left at times. He will also agree with both the right and the left at times. He is Catholic. He is the leader of the universal Church. Sometimes we get so stuck in the American viewpoint that we misunderstand this. My own parents posted the most mis-guided, anti-Catholic meme on Facebook. I wanted to challenge it, but tried to pray for them instead. Some prominent Protestant progressive posted equally ignorant statements that "the Pope supports governmental discrimination against LGBT."
I hate that people waste their time and energy criticizing the Pope, Catholics, and other Christians. There was even a poll given by a Protestant magazine that went out this week saying, "Do you think the Pope is a Christian?" Give me a break. I guess I am wasting my time and energy criticizing their criticisms. It just breaks my heart. It is so mis-guided, ignorant, and really misses the point of what our world needs - JESUS!! This has sometimes come from fellow Catholics, too...those who expect the Pope to be more progressive, and those on the other side of the spectrum who think he is "changing" Church teaching and is too progressive. The poor man can't please everyone, though it seems we all certainly expect him to.
Pope Francis has spoken several times about his popularity, saying that he doesn't expect it to stay.
“Jesus also, for a certain time, was very popular, and look at how that turned out,” he said. “So nobody has his happiness guaranteed in this world. The only thing I ask is that this peace in my heart be maintained and that He keep me in his grace, because, until the last moment we are sinners and we can renounce his grace.”
Here is a good article from a few weeks ago in which the Pope speaks to the refugee crisis, the crosses we all carry, and his own "popularity."
Offer It Up.
I struggle to know how this works, as a Catholic. Suffering is a mystery, and uniting our sufferings to those of Christ is something of a mystery to me also.
"Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church."
~ Colossians 1:24
~ Colossians 1:24
Upon returning from our monastery retreat, one of the first places we went was the hospital because my brother-in-law had to have his appendix removed unexpectedly. He should make a full recovery, and he's doing well already.
So, as I was forcing myself to do all these household tasks, I thought, "Can I offer this up?" And, it was still a struggle. Then, a new thought came to me. "If you can't do this for yourself or for your husband, can you do this for your brother-in-law?" And the answer was immediately YES. I felt relief from the anger and bitterness in my heart. Rather than being jealous of my husband's time and companionship, I thought of what a hardship it would be to have an unexpected surgery, to have to miss work, face medical bills, not be able to care for others like normal or even eat or drink regular foods for a while. I thought of the humility it takes to be in need of help, in pain and miserable for several days, feeling alone or helpless, even if you're young and you know you'll be okay. I had compassion on my brother-in-law, and I was glad my husband could be there for him, even if it meant less time for me.
And in that moment, I finally "offered it up" in a way I could understand and feel. I was still tired and hungry, but I had a cause for the "suffering" I was going through, and the blame game ended. Thank you, Jesus, for that small insight. For that one moment, I got it.
"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how.'"
~ Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
There's a story that a bishop was eating his Easter dinner when a vision came to him of a hermit in the woods with no food. He left his table (with dinner in tow) and searched until he found the hermit. They shared the Easter meal together. That hermit was St. Benedict. Last weekend (at a Benedictine monastery, no less), we heard that story. And now for a much less miraculous, but similar story that happened to me.
One day at breakfast on retreat, I lamented that with my new way of eating (no starches, no carbs, no/low sugar), there weren't many options for me. Donuts, cereal, and bread prevailed. The only thing I could eat for breakfast was boiled eggs. Most mornings I home, I eat 3 boiled eggs, bacon and cheese. There was no bacon at the monastery, but there were eggs and cheese. I took 4 eggs. (This may seem like a lot of detail, but it'll be important). I figured without my usual routine, I might be hungry for more eggs than usual (with the lack of bacon, etc.)
I ate two of my four eggs and one cheese stick, and I was absolutely stuffed. It's funny, since I normally eat more food than that. We are talking every single morning of my recent life, I eat more than that. I am a creature of habit. I had coffee, two eggs, and one cheese stick, and I was stuffed. At one point, I thought I should maybe eat another egg or two, since I didn't know what lunch would bring. That way I'd have some protein on the reserves and not be as hungry at lunch if there weren't any low-carb options. Well, I couldn't do it. I was so full I thought I'd be sick if I ate more. (This is really unusual for me, a bottomless pit of hunger at almost all times.) I even peeled the eggs and waited a while to see if I was hungry.
So, we were enjoying our silent meal at the retreat, and I had my leftover two eggs sitting there. Finally convinced that I had had plenty to eat, I went inside to take them back to the breakfast area, in case anyone else wanted them. Wouldn't you know it, but my mother-in-law (who was also on the retreat we were on), was in search of breakfast for herself. She also avoids starch, carbs, and sugar like I do, and eggs would have also been the only thing she could have eaten for breakfast also. But, they were all gone by the time she came down for breakfast. (She wasn't feeling well that morning and came down for breakfast a little late.) Except for the two eggs I didn't eat, nothing in the whole dining hall was available for her. So, I gave them to her, and she was relieved to have a good breakfast.
I know it's a small example, but I was so happy that God did this for her - brought her breakfast through me. I can't convey how unusual it is for me to leave any food on a plate (I promise I'm not obese). God had to make me so uncomfortably full that I didn't eat those other two eggs. Every time I almost did, I felt this odd hesitation. It may seem like a coincidence or a meaningless story, but for me, it was God's hand at work, and I'm glad I listened. True to form, God has to be very clear when speaking to me. He had to make me so uncomfortably full that I didn't eat the food, and it was available for her.
Thank you God, for these small promptings of the Spirit. Help me to keep listening.
It's easy to get disheartened in this world and give into despair. It's something I fight constantly, probably due to my personality, I will always have to choose the light.
In honor of her little way, here is a link to Fr. Robert Barron's "10 Powerful Resources on St. Therese of Lisieux."
And, here is another good blog this week called "Love Does Not Brood." It reminds me of St. Ignatius's reminder that God is the voice of consolation and the enemy is the voice of desolation.
The first quote I ever heard from the Little Flower, which caused me to discover more about her, was this: "A God who became so small could only be mercy and love."
She's the Little Sister I never had.
Little Flower, show your power in this hour. Pray for us!
That we might know the love of God as you did.