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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Karen Motherhood Vocations

Do You Know Who You Are in the Father’s Eyes?

Recently, I attended a monthly diocesan women’s night where women from the area are invited to listen to a speaker on a topic related to our Catholic faith, as well as have a chance for confession and Eucharistic adoration. It is a wonderfully enriching time!

On this particular night, Father Prentice Tipton spoke to our group on the topic of Jesus and the Baptism of the Lord, and specifically the the moment when God speaks to Jesus saying, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). -This is my beloved Sonwith whom I am well pleased.- When the Father said this to Jesus, it grounded Jesus. His identity was not wrapped up in how men viewed him, but in the love of His Father. His relationship with God and his identity as His Beloved Son came before ministry to others, and certainly took priority over the accolades of man. This carried him at every point of His ministry, both when crowds gathered to see him, and when the crowds called for His death on the Cross.

Just as Jesus found relationship and identity in the Father’s love for Him, we must also find the same validation through God the Father, Fr. Tipton went on to share.  We must believe that we are the beloved children of God and that He is well pleased with us too.

As God’s creation, He is pleased with what He has made. We did not have to earn that. We have His eternal Love regardless of our actions or self-perception. Whether we stay home with our children, work outside the home, get a PhD, are homeless, wealthy, a criminal, or a saint on Earth, we are loved by God. Certainly our actions impact whether we attain heaven– but those are choices we make, not measures of our Father’s love for us.

But how many of us truly rest in that fact? Satan would have us believe that we are never going to be worthy of God’s love; even that Heaven is unattainable entirely. Satan would have us believe that the whisperings of disapproval from others is the measure of our worth.

We need to instead trust God when He sends the message to us that we are loved and only need to follow Him and rest in Him to have a relationship and identity rooted in Him that gives us peace. It was this peace that pulled Mother Teresa through when she went through spiritual darkness. Even when she didn’t think she could hear God speaking to her, she knew her value was that of God’s daughter, doing His work. She might not have had constant exuberant joy, but she had peace in her role as God’s beloved daughter.

Fr. Tipton closed his talk by asking of us, “Do you know who you are in the Father’s eyes?”

Do you know

And so I ask of you, do you?

As mothers we are drawn, by the nature of our vocation, to sacrifice for our children. We sacrifice our bodies in pregnancy and nursing, and in sheer physical exertion in caring for kids and keeping them safe. We sacrifice our sleep when our children wake at night.  We sacrifice our selfish desires in those times where we comfort our crying child rather than taking that long shower we yearn for. We sacrifice our time when we play with PlayDoh with our child instead of reading a book we were interested in. We even sacrifice spiritual practices when we walk a crying baby in the narthex during Mass, missing the readings and homily. Some mothers had careers they sacrifice to stay at home. Other mothers have to work to help their family financially. We often sacrifice to the point of feeling exhausted and drained.

All this sacrifice is very sanctifying. It prepares us for heaven by allowing us to infect our selfish urges with a spirit of giving. It forces us to use our God-given abilities to help others, often without a second thought.

But much of the time, those tiny people never say thank you. That stranger at the grocery store gives you a thorough disgruntled once over with any number of reasons for their disapproval. Your extended family members tell you how you should parent your children. Moms at the playground give unwelcome advice or admonition about a perceived trouble, or brag about their child’s advancements in light of your child’s average skills.

Are you rattled when this happens? Rest in the Father’s love. You are doing His work. You do not raise your children the best you can so as to please your children, neighbor, spouse, friends, or family members. You are raising your children up because it is God’s will for you to do so. It is too easy to allow Satan to work in you with your doubts about your mothering when you experience the disapproval of others. All this sacrifice isn’t about them or for them. And your worth does not rest in them.

Focus on God. He is the One who laid out this vocation for you, and who gives this hard road to you in order that you may become sanctified and able to enter His Kingdom. He is calling out to you as his beloved child, and He is well pleased with you.

 

Do you know who you are in the Father’s eyes?

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Anima Christi Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer Series

Line-by Line Prayer Reflection: Anima Christi, Part IX

This is the ninth of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.

Anima Christi Oct reflection

“From the malicious enemy, defend me.”

Every Sunday for months now, after receiving communion, I have been slowly saying the Anima Christi prayer, savoring the words as I say them. Knowing this post was coming up, I found myself lingering on this line: From the malicious enemy defend me. Each time I pondered it and wondered what sort of reflection I could write on this.

I should not have worried. The Holy Spirit had it under control. As my family has worked through a sudden fear of the dark our three year old twins have developed, I have found myself reflecting on darkness, evil spirits, the devil, guardian angels, and the prayers we invoke during times when we feel under attack. All perfectly timed contemplations.

“From the malicious enemy …”

Although we don’t see him, the devil is always looking for ways to turn us away from God. He would like nothing more than for us to believe that God does not exist. The enemy is conniving and smart. He knows how to make evil and sin look tempting and harmless and even like innocent fun. As the prayer says, he is malicious.

Malicious is the adjective of the noun malice, which is defined as a “desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness” (dictionary.com).

Michael Tramples Satan by Guido Reni (1636)
Michael Tramples Satan by Guido Reni (Rome, 1636)

This makes me think of how the devil uses humans in his hatred for God. All that the devil does is because of his mean-spiritedness. The Evil One hates humans because we were created by God, in his image and likeness, and then God became man, one of us, thus lifting humans to a place of importance in the heavenly Kingdom. The devil hates this and wants to get back at God. The devil delights in causing humans to fall out of God’s favor. He is Enemy Number One.

In previous lines we have asked for strength, asked Jesus to hide us, and begged Him to not let us be separated from Him. Here we identify the threat we fear. It is the devil, the evil one, the enemy.

“… defend me.”

Two simple words. It is hard to imagine the power of these two words. The devil works hard to get to us. VERY hard. He never stops. He works hard on those close to Christ and those who are striving to lead holy lives and build strong relationships with Christ. He works hardest on those that devote their lives to serving Christ, particularly our priests without whom we would not have the Eucharist. But no matter how hard Enemy Number One works, we have Jesus on our side. These two simple words carry great power. As I pray through the Anima Christi, I now find myself slowing down through this line and savoring these last two words. My heart feels at peace as they roll off my tongue.

Jesus loves us and wants us with Him. He wants to protect us like a father protects His children. He desires to come to our aid when we are threatened. The hard part for us, often, is to remember to call on Him.

“From the malicious enemy defend me.”

For me, praying through the words of this prayer each week is a gentle reminder of how much I am loved by my Heavenly Father. This line in particular brings a sense of peacefulness as I am reminded that Jesus has laid claim on my soul and all I have to do is choose to follow Him. By doing so, Jesus will defend me against the evil spirits that are working hard in the world to claim souls away from God.

I pray that we will all turn away from evil, seek solace in Christ Jesus, and be together in the Heavenly Kingdom one day.

Categories
Ink Slingers Katie

Put Your Helmet On

PutYourHelmentOnToday, I will highlight the way that Satan deceives our minds in order to trigger negative emotions and lead us into discouragement, and, ultimately, despair. In the last two weeks, I’ve had at least three conversations with women who are beautiful, blessed, and economically comfortable; yet, each of these women was in great distress, sharing with me emotional pain such as sorrow at not being married or fear of miscarrying or regret at sinful choices.  And, while these women were not sinning in their fear and sorrow, they had allowed their peace to be taken from them by the Enemy who plays with our heads.

Before we go on, let me interject a little metaphysics; metaphysics is simply a fancy word that refers to who a person is psychologically/spiritually/in their inner self. Metaphysically speaking, therefore, it seems to me that one of our dominant female weaknesses is inconstancy, namely, the temptation not to remain faithful to God and continue to believe that we are loved.  Women need to love and be loved. It is our primary vocation, given by God at the first moments of creation, and is summed up in the titles “helpmate” and “mother”. God offers woman to man, and, in some sense, to every person she meets, as helpmate who provides support and encouragement; this vocation is closely tied to that of mother, whether spiritual or physical, who draws nascent life into fullness and offers her energies to sustain and nurture that life.  These dual vocations of mother and helpmate are bound up in the feminine genius.  Pope John Paul II coined the phrase “feminine genius” to describe woman’s natural talent for relationship, for identifying the human dignity in every situation and emphasizing that personal dignity over economics or convenience.  Feminine genius guards women from treating others as objects or from using others for their own gain.

While we females are relational geniuses and while we thrive on love, it is very difficult for us to steadfastly believe that we are loved, no matter what. This is because we are daughters of Eve; we bear Eve’s curse, which includes the propensity to listen to the Serpent when he lies to us that God is not real and that we are not precious. Here is how Satan works against women.  It is the method he used with Eve, and he continues to use it successfully against women every day.  First, he attacks woman’s thoughts with a lie, such as “You are never going to get married because God doesn’t have a wonderful plan for your future.”  At that moment, unless a woman quickly takes that thought captive and intentionally thinks the Truth, like “God loves me and I entrust myself entirely to Him.  Jesus, I trust in you.”, her emotions will start to react. She will become sad at having an unfulfilled vocation and frightened of spending her life alone.  Those emotions will quickly snowball and before she knows it, she might start to think about all the reasons she has to be sad, such as the job she hates and the fight she had with her friend last week.  Suddenly, life can begin to seem unbearable, and her feelings lead her into discouragement.  This malaise of discouragement, if allowed to grow, will spiral into depression and, if not stopped there, ultimately, despair.  Despair is a sin; it is the sin of believing that God does not love me and that my circumstances will never change, which is simply not true. And, despair can lead to awful things, including suicide, eating disorders, escapism through alcohol or sexual promiscuity and so forth.

stay strongNow, please know that I am not condemning female emotion, nor am I saying that sorrow and anger are bad.  Emotions are neither bad nor good.  Emotions simply are; they are raw energy which cooperates with our intellect to move our will to action, and they are not sinful.  However, very often we allow our emotions to be roused unnecessarily and we suffer needlessly when, if only we had caught the Lie an hour ago, we would not be in tears on the floor right now.  We let the Deceiver trick us again and again and allow our emotions to be triggered.  And, while emotions are raw energy that is non-moral, they do take a toll on us, leading us through a veritable roller coaster that drains our energy and makes us grouchy with our families and co-workers.

It is amazing how much damage can be started by one deceptive thought.  And, we fall again and again, allowing lies to infect our minds and to steal our peace.  Everything might be great–my husband and I are in an affectionate season, my children are healthy, I feel pretty, and I feel close to God.  Then, tomorrow, I might see a woman whose diamond ring is bigger than mine and, if I don’t catch that thought of jealousy, I might end up with feelings of resentment toward my husband for not having more ambition and with feelings of frustration that I don’t have a bigger house and, suddenly, I hate my life and am feeling tempted to drive to the airport and fly to Italy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let the Serpent’s thoughts into my mind and ended up  with wild desires to drive to the airport.  Seriously.

helmet-of-salvationSo, what I propose is that we put on the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6, most especially the Helmet of Salvation.  The helmet of salvation is Truth, truth about who God is and who I am in Christ.  God is Love.  God the Father is visible in Jesus Christ.  God wants my good.  I am willed for my own sake, and I am not forgotten.  Etc.  These are a few of the truths that I often have to repeat in my head as I hold back a barrage of Deceptive thoughts.  Some days, when I am especially tired, the thoughts come like an assault, and, if I am not careful, I will be almost immersed an emotional response before I even realize what is happening.  On days like that, when I know that I am especially at risk, I put the Helmet of Salvation on tightly and turn off my mind.  I refuse to think about the future or what I wish for my life  and repeat doggedly, “Jesus, I trust in you.  Jesus, I trust in you.” As if holding off the barbarian hordes, I keep my head down and pray over and over, “Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner”.

I will close with this anecdote about Saint Therese; please pardon the rather vague paraphrase.  Basically, when Saint Therese felt distressed, she would say, “Jesus, I know that you are asleep in the stern of the boat, and I am not going to wake you up. I am going to trust you and let you sleep.”  That is beautiful.  And, that is the sort of trust that God hopes from us, that, just because circumstances are frightening today, we remember the peace and joy of yesterday and hold onto the blessings that we have received and refrain from accusing Christ of failing us.  Please, dear sisters, be brave and strong and take thoughts captive that are ugly and untrue.  Guard against thoughts that are anxious and that dread the future.  Guard against thoughts that lie to you.  Do God the service of being faithful to Him in your mind and emotions, even when the world seems to be falling to pieces all around you.

Put on your helmets of salvation, ladies, and hang on to the truth!

 

Categories
Apologetics Conversion Discipleship Doctrine Domestic Church Ecumenism Erika Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mass Prayer Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth Vocations

Mass Confusion: Interference

Earlier today I was driving down the road listening to my local Catholic station. Every so often a popular rock station would bleed in and cover the beautiful sounds of a Mass with Fr. Mitch Pacwa. Talk about Mass confusion***! I couldn’t seem to help myself, even as I listened to him intone the words of Consecration, from singing along with the popular rock songs. As I caught myself doing so, time and time again, I was reminded that this is somewhat “normal” for me and many other Catholics, Christians, and/or any faithful throughout our faith-lives to be so easily distracted by secular things.

On a basic level, this distraction has roots in Satan. The more concentrated we become on God, the more frustrated Satan is. So, in an effort to separate us from God, Satan throws little distractions at us. Physically, my Mass confusion was caused by two local radio stations sharing the same frequency; however, spiritually, each time I sang the words to a popular rock song instead of staying focused on the Mass, Satan was winning. Of course, this makes me wonder if perhaps God also uses the physical effects of a Catholic station sharing the frequency with a popular rock station to gain followers from the crowd of rockers.

Even through my Mass confusion I began to wonder about other things that distract us from the beauty of Mass and therefore from God: liturgical abuses**. Recently, my mother and I were discussing various experiences we’ve had on vacations with local Masses. She recounted one particular Mass, where the Eucharist was basically reduced to ‘chips and dip’, from which my whole family emerged silent and disturbed.If we err by thinking we are the center of the Liturgy, the Mass will lead to a loss of Faith ~ Cardinal Raymond Burke We were hours from our home with three children in the car, yet none of us spoke on the way home. I remembered another experience where we spent the entire Mass trying to find anything familiar besides some of the words – the Tabernacle was nowhere to be seen, the Crucifix was MIA, rubric defined words of Consecration were changed, and the layout of the church itself was in the round. We had other experiences with fewer abuses as well. Locally, we have a diverse celebration of Mass as well, but no where near the levels experienced outside our home area. Such Mass confusion dilutes the Word of God, Jesus, to our image of Him instead of transforming us into the Image of Him.

Some seem to thrive on Mass confusion in an effort to be more tolerant, entertaining, diverse, etc. Often, those faithful to the rubrics and to both ‘t’ and ‘T’ traditions are accused of being “rubric-Nazis”, “holier-than-thou”, “intolerant”, “behind the times”, and “divisive”. Yet Scripture tells us to stay faithful to the traditions given to us by Jesus and the Apostles as well as to avoid leading others astray. God is the ultimate in constancy whereas Satan is ever changing to tempt us away from God. Yes, we are called to be welcoming and universal, but we don’t do that by abandoning 2000 years of traditions and making Mass less about God and more about ourselves. Just as I experienced Mass confusion with my radio stations blending with one another, we all experience Mass confusion when we try to bend Mass to secular understanding.

Have veneration and respect for the holy Liturgy of the church and for its ceremonies. Observe them faithfully. Don't you see that, for us poor men, even what is greatest and most noble must enter through the senses? ~ St Josemaria EscrivaThere are many questions in my mind — that I’m unsure how answer. Have any of these changes to the Mass increased vocations, faithfulness, tolerance, holiness, etc?  When we knowingly participate in a less-than-stellar Mass (according to rubrics & Tradition) do we still gain the graces given to us through Mass? By knowingly (for convenience-sake*) choosing a Mass where there is less adherence to the rubrics and Tradition, am I putting my soul at stake or am I just exposing myself to disdain (since I veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament) and Mass confusion? Do I mitigate whatever harm going to a confused Mass because I chose to do so based on getting my reluctant Catholic husband to Mass? Or do I add to the harm (to my soul and perhaps his) by exposing him to Mass confusion?

* Obviously, when we only have one option available for Mass, whether on vacation or due to lack of churches, we are filled with all the graces available from Mass. However, in my area, we have many available options for Mass. I live 20 miles outside of the nearest ‘big’ town, yet there are 3 Catholic churches with different pastors within 2 miles of my home. If I were to drive all the way to town I’d add at least another dozen Catholic churches to the list of available options.

** More information on common liturgical abuses:

*** As I was writing this post I was completely unaware of a book published with this same title about liturgical abuses.

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4th Commandment Adrienne Catechism Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary Sacred Scripture Saints Ten Commandments

Mary’s Sinlessness and Our Salvation

Photograph by Adrienne Taylor
Sinless suffering.

Have you ever thought about what it would have been like if Mary hadn’t been sinless?  After pondering on Jesus’s adherence to the fourth commandment (Commanded to Love Mary) I realized that by the implications of the commandment, to honor thy father and mother, Mary had to be sinless.  Also, in writing this article, I’ve come to realize how the Church’s Marian teachings highlight both God’s sovereignty and the utmost importance of our salvation.

In God’s perfect plan for our salvation, He chose to involve Mary from beginning to end.  The Holy Spirit did not descend upon her until she gave her consent to Angel Gabriel.  Likewise, Mary was compelled to give her unwavering consent throughout the entire gruesome passion of her Son as He died for our sins.  Mary’s sinlessness is less about her never having done anything “bad” and more about the relationship God had (has) with her.

In the Gospel of Matthew (16) we read about Jesus calling Simon blessed, renaming him to Peter and then building His Church upon him.  Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail over His Church!  Yet, the Gospel of Matthew continues on to record Jesus next exclaiming to St. Peter, “Get behind me Satan!”  This is quite a letdown for the next words uttered to our first pope.  What drew such a remark from our Savior?  Jesus had for the first time revealed to the disciples that He must suffer and die.  Naturally, St. Peter, who loved Jesus with a love we can only hope to achieve, cried out upon hearing the news, “God forbid, Lord!  No such thing shall ever happen to you.”  How could this cry out of love be worthy of being attributed to Satan?  The Catechism provides several definitions of sin, the first of which concludes, “… It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’”   St. Peter, out of love for Jesus, committed a sin against the eternal law by desiring Christ would not suffer and die.

What would have been the implications for our salvation if Mary had harbored desires contrary to the eternal law?  Sadly, though by God’s perfect plan, St. Joseph had passed away sometime between Jesus’s childhood and adulthood, but, Mary remained by Jesus’s side through His death, resurrection, and ascension.  By consequence of Jesus’s perfect adherence to the fourth commandment, Mary had an unfathomable amount of power.  When she expected a reluctant Jesus to turn water into wine, Mary demonstrated the power she had over her Son.  This power, of course, was not of her own.  God willingly gave her this invincible kind of power over Jesus when creating a mother for Himself, and God found it fitting for her to be beside Jesus with this power throughout His life.  Could God have allowed this in His plan had Mary been ordinary?

Photograph by Adrienne Taylor
Mary with her expired Son.

Imagine how much Satan lusted after the power of Mary.  Satan tried to tempt Jesus in His weakness during His 40 days in the desert, but of course failed because Jesus is the all powerful God.  However, Mary was a mere human.  Since sin, in its most basic definition, is anything that separates one from God, and because Satan must be rather powerful himself to be a worthy adversary of God’s, it stands to reason that Satan would have been waiting for any opportunity for Mary to have been separated from God in order to successfully worm his way in.  Satan could have corrupted Mary even through original sin, since original sin is being created in a state separated from God.  All Satan needed to happen was for Mary to show even a little maternal remorse at any crucial part of Jesus’s passion, or utter words against God’s eternal law like St. Peter did, and Jesus would have been conflicted in His mission.  His parents would not have been united.  He would have felt compelled to carry forth with honoring His Father, but at the expense of dishonoring His mother, which would have been sinful.  Or He would have been compelled, in His perfection, to honor His mother’s wishes and avoid suffering the death upon the cross, but that contradicted His Father’s plan.  God’s perfect plan for our salvation demanded a perfect sacrifice, a sinless Jesus.  God’s perfect plan for our salvation also included Mary every step of the way.  In order for Mary to have been allowed to be present throughout Jesus’s life, and in order for Jesus to remain sinless while adhering perfectly to the fourth commandment, Mary too, had to be sinless, she had to be perfectly in union with God’s eternal law.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was the singular most important event in salvation history, would we expect anything less than the best possible plan from our God?   Our Church’s teachings on Our Lady demonstrate just how great God is and just how important our salvation is to Him.  Let us be thankful that He made His Mother so miraculously holy!  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”, this is the first commandment with a promise.  Ephesians 6:1-2

O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Amen