Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where was Mary?

Converts often have a reticence about Mary. After my conversion, Mary fit theologically into the overall picture of the faith for so many reasons. As one Church Father noted, "You cannot have God as your Father without Mary as your mother." Of course. On paper "she works." Now as a person, she's another matter.

Like any person, time has to be invested in the relationship to build a foundation of love, trust, and understanding. This Easter will be my 29th as a Catholic — call me slow, but the foundation is finally in place. Years of rosaries, meditations, spiritual reading, theological formation, and, most importantly, personal prayer have allowed the relationship to blossom and deepen into a wondrous friendship. The abstract understanding of "new Ark of the Covenant" and "mediatrix of all graces" has warmed into the honest-to-goodness joy of knowing that she is "my mother!"

Therefore, this Holy Week I can't help but wonder beyond all my observance of the profoundly beautiful liturgies that lead to and mark the Passion — where was Mary?! What could she be doing at this intense time as her Son's earthly life comes to its climactic close? How could she be enduring this sword of all swords, piercing her heart and making its attempt to shatter her peace?

Once again — silence. Just as she is so quiet in the biblical accounts, she is all but absent in this pivotal week. But we know that she's there, most likely in Jerusalem already. Just as she and Joseph brought the Holy Child to the feasts each year, she made the trip alone this time. Alone or probably with her circle of women friends, mothers of key figures in the ministry of Jesus and those who provided for Him and His disciples over the years.

I picture now this subdued and apprehensive band of prayerful women. They know at the depths of their very beings that something powerful is about to occur. They've seen the anger, the threats, the attempts to silence and stone Jesus. They recognize the stirrings in the hearts of their sons. They also know that it is for them to withdraw and let the events pass; but rather than wring their hands over feeling "isolated" or "marginalized," they will pray intensely for the will of God to prevail, whatever that might be. Following the lead of the Mother of Jesus, they will all observe the demands of their Jewish faith at this important spiritual time while joining their every word and prayer to the intention at hand — the fulfillment of God's plan of Salvation.

I know her circle of women is focused; they are hidden — but not inconsequential. Every step of Christ is paved with Mary's prayers, His very flesh yearns for souls and thus so does hers. She models for us where our hearts should be and on what our thoughts should be resting. Amidst the tumultuous events of the week — when the very sons of the women in her circle betray her own Son — they will all remain fixed in prayer, in an attitude of forgiveness, and with hopeful eyes on their loving Father, Who will bring them all to the Resurrection in His own time, the time ordained since before any of us were.

Her prayerful silence and support mean more to me than ever this year as the Church continues along its path of purification. She is mother and refuge for all who weep and suffer, she is strength for those who find themselves weak or faint-hearted. We have found Mary and it is with her that we must be. A blessed Holy Week.

Monday, April 1, 2013

When Weakness Becomes Our Strength

I am happy to welcome, our guest blogger, Allison Gingras who is a Catholic writer and inspirational speaker. She founded Reconciled To You ministries in 2009, which seeks to awaken our response to God's abounding gift of grace by cultivating a Sacramental life. Allison is currently producing women’s events on topics of Forgiveness and Trust. She is very excited about her upcoming event, “A Taste of God’s Grace” in Danbury, CT on June 22, 2013. Allison's book: "Three Persons, One God: Growing in Relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit" encourages the reader to reconcile their idea of God, with that which is taught us in Scripture and Tradition.  She also contributes a bi-weekly column to TechTalk on - reviewing Android Apps and Technologies as they relate to the Catholic Faith. 

When Weakness Become Our Strength

As a mother, I make a lot of mistakes. It is probably what I do the most of, and am the best at.
While that may seem a negative assessment of one’s motherhood, I consider it a fair and accurate evaluation.   I see it as a frame of mind that keeps me humble, honest and always trying to improve. I am far from a failure as a mom, as I am blessed with three children who still do most of what is asked of them, come to me for advice, and participate in our Catholic faith without bribery or threats. However, I know that this admittance of my weaknesses and natural tendencies to get lazy in some area of discipline and parental involvement, are in truth my strengths. In order to keep improving as a parent, I must first admit that there is always room for learning and growing in my vocation.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:10

     In this Year of Faith, I am taking my attitude toward parenting and applying it to my vocation as a Christian Catholic. Over the many years of practicing my Catholic faith, I have made many mistakes.  Practice, does not, as they say, always make perfect.  I’ve had phases of being lazy at spiritual things, and doing the bare minimums – or less.  I’ve had phases of excuse making about why I was not attending Mass regularly, was avoiding confession, and even giving up on praying.   Then the pendulum would swing, and I would experience times of arrogance of faith, sure that I had overcome all earthly bonds, emerging from the confessional booth to become -- (*you’ll have to add your own super hero theme music here for effect) – Super Catholic!  Scripture warns against being a lukewarm follower, as well as speaks of the dangers of self-righteousness.   

     To grow in skill as a parent, I have a many options. I can talk to more experienced moms about lessons they have learned in their own journeys of motherhood. I can pick up reading on proper parenting – such as magazines and books. I can hit cyberspace for advice, instruction, or just plain old fashioned camaraderie. Additionally, I can take my concerns, fears and present state of motherhood to God – seeking His grace, guidance and blessing, knowing His promise to never abandon or forsake me. Yet to make any true changes, I must first admit where I weak, so that I know what information I am looking for, what questions I need answered, and most importantly, what areas I need to change.  If I am not willing or able to admit weakness, then I will not be open to accepting guidance and I will remain stuck where I am as a parent, which for me would have meant being stuck forever with a non-sleeping, tantrum throwing, unpotty-trained child (or 2)!

     To grow as a Catholic, I have to my surprise, the same options.  I can talk to more experienced women (or men) of faith, and learn from their spiritual journeys. I can open up the Bible,the  Catechism, or any number of wonderful Catholic books available to enlighten and teach me. In addition, a plethora of wonderful magazine and newspapers are available to aid in education of the faith.  

     Cyberspace provides many fantastic resources for faith discovery – however, just as when someone uses it as a Pediatrician, the Internet as a Spiritual Director, requires prudence and common sense.  Nevertheless, I cannot help but marvel at how God has allowed the World Wide Web, in particular social media, to bring His Church together. As we continue to experience a decline in the number of Catholics living their faith, being able to connect with those who do, will become increasingly important.  

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deut 31:6

     Always, I can turn to God, seeking His grace, guidance and blessing--knowing His promise to never abandon or forsake me. If I can humble myself before God, admitting the areas of my spiritual life that are lacking, then I am open to receive the graces God has for me to fill those holes.  If I am not willing or able to admit weakness, I will not be open to accept God’s loving, merciful and gentle direction and I will remain stuck where I am, which for me would mean being stuck forever as a lukewarm, tantrum throwing, untrained in my faith adult!