Friday, February 22, 2019

Stirring Up the Waters of Grace

One of the most intriguing stories in the Gospel is the story of the crippled man waiting for healing at the Pool of Bethesda. The man has been suffering for 38 years but is unable to get to the pool fast enough when the angel comes to stir the waters. Jesus sees him and asks if he wants to be well. When the man expresses his desire for healing but his inability to reach it on his own, Jesus heals him on the spot. But then, Jesus later seeks out the now healed man to warn him about sin. He says: “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jn 1:14

This Lent, Jesus will approach us with the same question: 'Do you want to be well? Do you want to know where sin has crippled you, paralyzed you? And do you want to know true freedom?' Because, Jesus comes to destroy the sickness of sin and the deformity it causes in our lives. We only have to desire it and choose it.

Many years ago, an older friend shared a dream that deeply disturbed him...He was walking through a lovely forest when he came upon a clearing with a house in the middle of it. The house exerted a powerful pull on him. Everything within him wanted to go into that house. So he approached the screened-in porch, entered, and headed for the front door. As he walked up to the front door, someone came up to him and said: “Before you can go in you have to eat this.” He looked down to see a plate of dog excrement being handed to him.

He, of course, was upset that he could have had such a dream, not knowing at first what it could possibly mean. But then, in a flash of insight it became clear. The dream was an attempt to reframe a deep struggle that had to do with an almost over-powering temptation to grave sin. Everything within him wanted to give in to the attraction of this particular sin. Yet his faith told him that if he gave in to this sin he would so defile himself that it would be like eating a plate of manure.

Sin is really that ugly. And it's an ugliness we give ourselves. We often recognize that something is wrong within us, in the deep recesses of our being. We are attracted to things that are not good, things that enslave us, make us feel ugly about ourselves, and keep us from true freedom. And once we are bound, immobilized as it were, it takes an intervention of God’s grace to free us. We cannot free ourselves. 

Jesus wants to free us not only from sin but from the effects of sin in our lives. We are not alone in this need. Everyone who has ever been born needs this healing, liberating grace. The saints tell us that a soul in the state of grace is beautiful beyond compare. This is what Jesus wants to restore in us:
our original beauty!

So how can we access the same healing Jesus so freely gives in the Gospels? Many ways are possible. But we are given 3 special gifts during Lent which stir up the waters of grace in our lives. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Prayer stirs up the grace we need for deeper healing in our relationship with God. Fasting brings the waters of grace down upon the disorder we have within ourselves. And Almsgiving opens up rivers of grace in our relationship to others. 

Additionally, if you want to have the same direct encounter with Jesus that the crippled man had, start frequenting the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and Holy Communion after that. Every sacrament contains within it a personal encounter with the living God. Hence, every sacrament contains rivers of grace that can change us to the degree we let those waters flow.

Our deepest healing will always come first and foremost from eliminating sin in our lives. Sin always brings suffering, both personal and at the same time, upon the whole Body of Christ. There is no such thing as a private sin. As Our Lady of Fatima warned us over a century ago: war, something we often live in fear of, is a consequences of sin, both private sin and institutionalized, communal sin.

Lent engages the battle against sin, against judgment, unforgiveness, promiscuity, pornography, dishonesty, infidelity, blasphemy, greed, self-righteousness, gossip, slander, unworthy Communions, anti-life acts, apathy, and every other thing that mars the image and likeness of God in us. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and conquering every temptation you and I would ever have so we could more easily have victory over those same temptations in our own lives. Our choice this Lent is: beauty over ugliness, freedom over enslavement, self-denial over sin, happiness over temporary pleasure, shame and guilt. We too have to answer the question of Jesus: "Do you really want to be well?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The One Thing Necessary

The greatest moment of our lives, and usually the one we are least prepared for, is the one in which, upon leaving this world and entering the next, we will find ourselves face-to-face before God. In a real sense, we will judge ourselves in the presence of His pure goodness, love, beauty, light and truth. And we will immediately know where we belong.

Our judgment will occur in the context of two realities Jesus points to in the Gospel: how we have loved (I was hungry...) and how we have used the gifts God has given us. (Have we buried or hidden them under a bushel basket or used them to help build the Kingdom?) In the end, at this one definitive moment, that's what will matter.

So how can we prepare in order that this moment be for us one of utter joy and anticipation? Enter the deepest purpose of Catholic education which begins first and foremost in the home with the parents as the primary educators of their own children. The ultimate goal of all Catholic education, whether in the home, school, Church, or out in the world, is to prepare us to one day, see God face-to-face, having helped us to recognize and fulfill our own personal destiny in God’s great plan for mankind!

Even the most mundane subjects are meant, ultimately, to serve this goal, for everything that exists and that we interact with here has its own connection to God and either reveals something about Him directly or something about what He has created and why. In my early teaching years, the children, because they were in an environment which encouraged it, continually and spontaneously made these connections in music class, math class, science studies, geography, etc. It didn’t matter. They quite easily saw: “Middle C is just like Jesus. He’s the center to everything!” Or, “no matter what you are doing, God the Father looks into your heart to see if His Son is there!”

The development of Catholic education, which in a real sense began in the monasteries,
gives us a fundamental key to understanding the direction Catholic education should have today. For the monks, the essentials were always the same: "the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus"...(Phil 3:8), in light of which all else is rubbish.

The establishment of monastic communities was therefore ordered to a life that was conducive to the finding of God and to living out a covenantal relationship with Him. The biblical principles by which the monks lived and their deep study and contemplation of the mysteries of God in creation, started to leaven the chaos around them, so that time, learning, art, science, music, animal husbandry, farming, care of the poor, all began to be marked by the laws and light which God Himself had put into creation. An order and a fruitfulness developed that actually had heavenly origins. The bells announcing the call to prayer, which punctuated each day, and the liturgical seasons with their abundance of solemnities, feasts, and even the rich Gospel lessons of ordinary time, made the meaning of life, one's responsibilities, one's destiny, readily understood. It is important to note that Monasticism did not begin as an attempt to create a new culture or civilization. The holy men and women of early times were interested in the one thing necessary. The impact upon the surrounding environs was quite in accord with the words of Christ: "Seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." (Mt 6:33)

The Christ-life within is still the essential thing in the midst of the contemporary bombardment of the inessential and our own growing barbarism. With authentic education, children begin to become (not in a forced way, but in a supernaturally natural development), little Christs touching the world in the activities of their childhood and adolescence. In adulthood, as they grow into the full measure of the mature Christ, they are meant to move into all the realms of human activity: intellectual, physical, scientific, academic, artistic, apostolic, spiritual, etc. and to be, even greater leaven as they take their places in the world.

Pope St. John Paul II often pointed out that the Church and the world are at a crossroads. Catholic education must respond to this challenge with new vigor. When it stays true to itself, it is the key to the formation of the new man, a new humanity and a new Pentecost, for, we know, "a Christian has only to be, in order to change the world." -C. Dawson, Christianity and the New Age.

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT Jan 14, 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019

God's Dream

In the beginning, before light split the darkness for the first time and the waters were gathered into life-giving bodies, before the winds were purposefully directed and the stars and planets assigned their places, before any vegetation or land formation or animals were considered in the mind of God, we were His dream. The Father’s dream of a shared life with us, shattered in the Garden, awaited a new fullness of time. When the acceptable time came, “when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, God’s all-powerful Word leapt from heaven’s royal throne into the doomed land” and the darkness of our hearts-Wisdom 18:15-17.

At the first Christmas, the whole world is in movement. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. They journey, at the same time, toward the moment in which God, in the Person of Jesus, will enter the world through the womb of Mary, to live out His dream of a shared life of communion and intimacy with us. 

The Father knows the price He will pay for His dream. Mary, in Her mother’s heart and her knowledge of the Scriptures, knows it too. Her Son, Who shall be called the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Most High, will also be known as the Suffering Servant who will give his life up as a ransom for the many. 

God enters our world in the fullness of time because He can no longer wait to be with us in Person. But Christmas also comes because mankind, in the persons of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, seek God as well; because the intense, hidden longing of their souls has not been misinterpreted to them by the false prophets of the world. Their interior has not been cluttered with distraction. It is unfettered by illusion. God is their inner life and moves them in a mutual, eager longing, in silence, in poverty, in simplicity, in penetrating light and redeeming love so that His dream and our own everlasting happiness can be realized.
In every age, in the life of every person, this same movement is recapitulated. Christmas reminds us of this in a special way. For we too are moving on a journey through this life, in company with millions of others, to our own definitive encounter with God, a God Who has beckoned us to the deepest friendship and Who offers the gift of eternal joy to us by coming into the night of our world, our hearts, our souls, in the trappings of our own poverty, helplessness and littleness.

Mary and Joseph “walk the way of perfection” to Bethlehem because they know God and they understand, in the hidden depths of their hearts, the dream He has for all mankind. They call us to follow this way with them, a way which holds difficulty, discomfort, the contempt of the world, but which brings us also to be the friends of God, as the psalmist says: “He who walks the way of perfection shall be my friend.” -Ps 101

On Christmas night, Angel voices will beckon us to follow them to the stable where Eternal Love pierces through the veil of separation to reclaim His children, those starved for light and battered by the darkness of sin. As a tiny babe He comes. He comes to feed the hollow faces of the hopeless with joy, and surface the hidden grief that devours in silence, in order to heal in love.

In Bethlehem, two longings meet and answer each other: the longing of God and the longing of man. May this Christmas find us fulfilling the dream of God’s own heart in the lowly stable of our own souls. May He find in us the warmth and love and union that has been His dream from before time began.


Dec. 6, 2018

Principalities and Powers

Our life in time is pretty simple to understand. We live in the midst of a war which God in His mercy doesn’t let us see completely. Were we to see some of what goes on in the invisible realms we would probably die of fright. Yet, the battle, between good and evil is a part of our daily existence.
“For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day, having done everything, to hold your ground." Eph 6: 12-13
In the wake of the current crisis in the Church, there are two questions each of us must ask.

1. How does God want me to respond to this?
2. How does the devil want me to respond to this?

We can easily and correctly surmise that the devil wants us to become destructively enraged, fall into discouragement, rash judgment, accusation, despair, and justify ourselves into leaving the Church altogether. But, we can also look to Jesus to see how He responded.
Jesus chose 12 Apostles, men specially selected by Him for the specific work of establishing the Church which He promised us would endure even though all hell come up against it. One of those men betrayed Jesus for a lousy sum of silver. Jesus called him friend even then, in one last effort to reclaim him.
Another, the future head of the infant Church, denied him 3 times. Jesus gave him the opportunity to recant by professing his love 3 times.
All the rest abandoned Him in his greatest need, out of fear. One only returned to the Cross because Our Lady gave him the courage to accompany her there. Jesus appeared to them all after rising from the dead, spoke peace to them, and after banishing their fear, prepared them to become mighty instruments in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, Jesus does not go lightly on those who violate the innocence of children or remain obstinate in grave sin. “Better for them had they never been born.” But it doesn’t leave us off the hook either.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

The weapons of warfare against the evil in the heart of man have been laid out for us by Jesus in the Gospel: prayer, fasting (which the Fathers of the Church considered a form of exorcism), vigilance, self-denial and humility, humility, humility. Mary sends the devils fleeing in terror precisely for this reason. Her profound humility drew heaven to earth! It is the greatest power against the ugly pride that infects us all, a pride that is the gateway to so many other sins.
St. Ignatius picks up these themes in his classic meditation on The Two Standards. We are either in one camp or the other, the Lord’s or satan’s. It is necessary for us to know what ground we stand on. Because in the end, holiness, communion with Christ, is the only thing that transforms the human heart and changes the world.

As the devil told St. John Vianney, “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined. ...” That holiness, which should be the aspiration of every priest, is, at the same time, required of each of us as well. Our holiness as a people who come to live with and in and through Christ, will then be the driving force behind the victories of the Kingdom of Light over the Kingdom of darkness in this present age. And that holiness will mark the glory of the world that is to come.

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh SOLT 11/4/2018

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Reflection 2017

Christmas Reflection 2017

At this time when Mary and Joseph are following an inner vision, the three Kings are following an extraordinary star, and angels are appearing to shepherds near Bethlehem, we too turn the eyes of our souls toward the great Gift that comes to us in the Person of Jesus, our Savior.

We may think this is old news: that Jesus comes to save us. But it seems that in the world today, the same world that lay in darkness at the Advent of Christ’s birth, we have need of a greater appreciation of our need to be saved.

Man has tried over the ages to save himself. And though often well-intentioned, the simple truth persists: “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.” –Ps 127:1

We often live our lives without ever really seeking the whole salvation that Jesus comes to give us. He not only wants to free us from sin, but from worry, from resentment, from wounds and hurts that keep us bound to the past, from loneliness, from narrowness, from boredom, from indifference, from blindness, from selfishness, from our suspicions, our doubts, our negativity and fears, from self-sufficiency, from everything that leads us to spiritual starvation. He comes to give us life, and the more abundant life!

Yet how often do we use our words to try and save ourselves or others, instead of going to the Word to be saved by it. Or how often do we think our work, our apostolate, our service is the vehicle of salvation, forgetting that the work belongs to God and will only be made fruitful in Him.

We form human alliances instead of striving to live in communion with the Triune God who gives, heals and elevates every relationship. Or we stand in judgment over others rather than loving them and escaping our own judgment by living God’s charity which He promises covers a multitude of sins.

We try to save ourselves from our addictions and only end up replacing one with another. We do the same with our weaknesses. We spiritualize them in an attempt to still our consciences rather than seeking and depending upon God’s merciful grace. Our real self, which we hide, nevertheless dogs us into our life of prayer and charity toward our neighbor, especially those we live with. So we try to heal our brokenness with all sorts of self-help programs instead of letting God help us.

Jesus knows how hard it is for us to truly acknowledge our need to be saved. He knows how our pride blinds us. He knows how difficult it is for us to approach Him unguardedly. So He comes to us as a tiny baby, and as babies are able to do, draws us to Himself and commands our attention and affection by His beauty and littleness. There is no other human being we take as easily to ourselves as a little baby. There is no other that disarms us and wins our heart and our affections so quickly. There is no other creature that draws the good from within us, all that is human, the way a baby does, and most importantly, the way the Baby Jesus does.

May each of us this Christmas be given, and receive in all humility, the eyes of the Shepherds, the determination of the Wise Men to follow the vision of the Star, and the heart and soul of Mary and Joseph who so eagerly saw and so completely received the magnificent love come to us Incarnate in Christ Jesus our little Lord and mighty Savior.

Come Lord Jesus. Come to save us! Do not delay!

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Healing the Family of God/Receiving Jesus Worthily in Holy Communion

Why does it seem that every human analysis of the current situation in the Church produces a long list of problems with multiple causes but no apparent overriding remedy? There is a mystery here, which in our habitual human way, we are not tuned into. Could it be that the obvious cause and the obvious solution is right before us?

We know that Jesus is the One Who redeems us, heals us, restores us, and recreates us. And this happens especially at the celebration of the Mass, the highest form of prayer given us. It happens according to the degree of our receptivity and cooperation with the infinite graces Jesus holds for us from His sacrifice on Calvary, the sacrifice that is re-presented every time Mass is celebrated.

But why is it that we don’t seem to see miracles anymore. And why is it that the Church seems to be in serious decline? If Jesus desires so deeply to heal us, what could be blocking Him?

Let’s consider one possible cause by looking at our own participation in the Sacred Liturgy.

On any given Sunday, in Catholic Churches across this country and probably throughout the world, hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people get up to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, participating in what, for many, has become merely a social ritual. Of those who receive, one wonders how many do so worthily. How many are not in a state of grace and how many actually believe Jesus is really present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the sacred species?

For the most part there is no malice or ill-intention involved. Yet, there are very real and serious consequences which come down upon the whole household of God for every unworthy Communion committed by God's people.

Here's what St. Paul says:

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number of you are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by [the] Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world."

1 Cor 11: 23-34

Many of you are sick and some of you are even dying because you eat and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily?

Does that mean that everyone who is sick or suffering has made sacrilegious communions? No, of course not. But every Sunday we enter the House of God to worship as a family, the family of God our Father. And the deeds of one member, whether good or bad, always affect the whole family.

"God has willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness." CCC 781. We are saved as a people. We prosper and flourish together, or we diminish and decay together. It is all dependent on our collective choices.

The Old Testament shows us Daniel who was a righteous and holy man before the Lord, even though his own people were not. They continually broke the covenant with God and ended up in exile as a consequence. Daniel ended up in exile with them though he did nothing to deserve it except that he belonged to them as his people.

In the likeness of all the great prophets, Daniel prayed for his people, asked forgiveness and the Lord's mercy, and made reparation to the Lord by his own heroically faithful behavior and witness. This helped to bring the Lord's favor, restoration, protection and blessing back upon His people. 

We also, as the People of God today, have not been faithful to the Blood of the new and everlasting Covenant poured out for us and for the forgiveness of our sins. In fact we easily profane the Sacrament every time we unworthily or mindlessly go up to receive Him.

There is a real confusion today about what exactly we are doing when we receive Holy Communion. The confusion is about the meal itself. We think it is for everyone. Jesus ate with sinners. This is the same. Well, no it isn’t.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger clarified the proper understanding of the Eucharistic Banquet. (from his Collected Works, Vol 11, Ignatius Press pp 273-274:)

Nowadays [some] New Testament scholars … say that the Eucharist … is the continuation of the meals with sinners that Jesus had held … a notion with far-reaching consequences. It would mean that the Eucharist is the sinners’ banquet, where Jesus sits at the table; [that] the Eucharist is the public gesture by which we invite everyone without exception. The logic of this is expressed in a far-reaching criticism of the Church’s Eucharist, since it implies that the Eucharist cannot be conditional on anything, not depending on denomination or even on baptism. It is necessarily an open table to which all may come to encounter the universal God …

However tempting the idea may be, it contradicts what we find in the Bible. Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that the meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (John 13:10) to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.

The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family.

That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment … (I Corinthians 11:27 ff). The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles [the Didache] is one of the oldest writings outside the New Testament, from the beginning of the Second Century, it takes up this apostolic tradition and has the priest, just before distributing the sacrament saying: “Whoever is holy, let him approach, whoever is not, let him do penance” (Didache 10)."

No one can judge the state of another’s soul. We have no real way of knowing whether anyone is in a state of grace. But given the intensity of temptation in the world today, it seems safe to say that it’s difficult to stay in a state of grace without living a sacramental life which includes regular Confession. From that vantage point, it is hard to believe that everyone going up to receive Jesus in Holy Communion is doing so worthily when the lines for Confession are so consistently small. And when we know that Catholics sin in all the same areas as non-Catholics, and at the same rates.

Our stats for abortion, contraception, pornography, addiction, divorce, etc., keep pace with the rest of the world. And in the realm of what we believe as Catholics, we have become just as relativized. Most people certainly no longer consider missing Mass a mortal sin. And many don't even believe Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist, nor that hell is real. The sensitivity to sin is gone, a rotten fruit of the moral relativism that has also penetrated the thinking of ordinary Catholics everywhere. We've become like the rest of the world instead of the sign of contradiction Jesus spoke of. The salt has lost its savor and is not good for much except to be thrown away.

So many, (not maliciously but just mindlessly), receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, without discernment. The Eucharist, the source and summit of our life, the new and everlasting covenant between God and man in Christ’s own blood, the sacrifice of supreme worth and upon which our salvation depends, is not received in humble reverence or awe. It is generally not recognized for the intimate communion of persons it effects.

The "trouble" we see in the Church is really about a relationship, a relationship between Jesus and His Bride, actually, Jesus and us. If you need help understanding how offensive our insensitivity and unworthiness is in approaching this Sacrament, think of it this way. Imagine you have an honorable job that is at the same time one of the "dirty jobs", pig farming for instance. You would not work all day in the pens and then come into the presence of your spouse desiring intimacy, without cleaning up first. Your spouse would be repulsed.

This is the way it is with Jesus. Holy Communion is a moment of intimacy with Jesus in which He gives Himself completely and receives us in return. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says: "In the Eucharist a communion takes place that corresponds to the union of man and woman in marriage. Just as they become "one flesh", so in Communion we all become "one spirit", one person, with Christ." This is an incomprehensible expression of God's magnificent, humble love for us which descends from the heavens, from the heights of Divinity to be one with us whom He so inexplicably loves. We must begin to recognize this with unending gratitude and humble reverence in return. We want to see Jesus actually offering us an intense and delicately personal gift of Self, made in complete vulnerability and trust.

When we fail to do this, His Heart is stepped upon and the life of intimacy with Him begins to fade and then fail altogether. And all other realities begin to suffer and disintegrate, to fall apart, to fail to produce the good fruits authentic love always sows and reaps in abundance. Life becomes dull, disappointing, frustrating at every turn, without hope for a future filled with the joy that makes everything exciting and mystically wonderful.

This is not just a matter of failing to keep a few laws, or of a minority of members scandalizing everyone else. It is a matter of our own personal survival and the survival of our local communities and churches. I would suggest that this is what is really going on today. We have become estranged in our relationship with the Lord and are simply going through the motions. But unless we correct this quickly, we too shall perish in the desert like the generation of Israelites of old who failed to keep faith with the God Who had done such wonders in their midst. They never did see the Promised Land. They died in the interior desert of their own making.

Yet, if we address this one thing first, it can lift all of us to deeper holiness and health and clear the way for phenomenal miracles! At every Mass there should be, and will be, miracles, miracles of grace, miracles of healing, miracles of renewal and heroic witness. In essence, the new Springtime of Christianity Pope St. John Paul II spoke about will begin to manifest, an explosion of charismatic gifts and conversions, a new Pentecost.

In 1970, there were 175 active Priests in the diocese I live and serve in, 35 of them teaching full-time in high schools. Today there are only 55 serving and within 8 years there will only be 35. Why isn't God answering our prayers? We pray fervently for priestly vocations and nothing seems to happen. But we must ask: Why would God continue to give us Priests to confect the Eucharist when we turn around, and in massive numbers, make unworthy Communions? In actuality, withholding Priests may be a mercy of God. Were He to give us what we ask without change on our part, we would only bring greater judgment and condemnation down on our own heads.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says that

"For St. Paul, receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord in a state of mortal sin can be an act of sacrilege and self-condemnation. To sin against the Body and Blood of the Lord in this way is to be liable for the Lord’s violent death. The offenders in Corinth incurred this guilt by overeating and drinking and discrimination against the poor. Such carelessness before the Sacrament triggered divine judgments and even death.

What St. Paul indicates in Scripture is that self-examination should always precede reception of the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore a close connection between Reconciliation and Eucharist is implied.

Divine discipline is a loving call to repentance and spiritual growth. The purpose of these consequences is to avert final condemnation with the sinners of the world."

If we address this one reality Mass will become again an occasion of great miracles just as it was in the early Church. And God will give us many Priests. He will give us many vocations. But this is going to take a joint effort, out of love for Jesus and out of love for the whole People of God, because it is not possible to come to healing and forgiveness, growth and flourishing of our faith communities if we are at the same time spurning the Lord, eating and drinking of His Body and Blood unworthily and mindlessly.

So what can we do? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Eliminate the direct source of harm first. Stop doing the bad thing: in this case, making unworthy Communions. And begin to help other people to know how to receive Jesus worthily. This includes beginning with family members. It is not always easy, but if we love our families, they have the first right to be told the truth and to benefit from the extraordinary graces present in the sacrament.

2. Ask our Bishops and Priests and Deacons, and in fact, all those with responsibility to instruct the People of God, for teachings, homilies, catechesis, etc., on receiving the sacrament worthily. ​Much of this is ignorance. But the effects come nonetheless. Scripture never says ignorance suspends the laws of cause and effect. In fact, there are warnings: "My people perish for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6

3. Regular confession (once a month). This sensitizes the conscience and makes us far less likely to approach the Lord and His tremendous love for us indifferently.

4. Pray and make acts of reparation for the ways in which Jesus has been offended in this sacrament. This is an act of charity for our brothers and sisters and a special form of intercession for them which consoles Jesus for the many ways in which He is so deeply hurt in this Sacrament.

5. Ask Mary to help prepare us and to receive Jesus with us. This is very pleasing to Jesus and one of the best ways to approach Jesus in this sacrament of His love.

6. Cultivate a sacramental vision of the world. Help others to see the invisible and to embrace the truth. All of creation operates this way. Everything visible reveals deeper spiritual realities. The Eucharist does this in a singular way. Even though we cannot see Him, we know and believe Jesus is there under the appearance of Bread and Wine. This is the truth and it does not change based on your personal belief. So the choice is to live in reality or to live in the unreal, life-destroying world of the present culture.

7.  Always be grateful for the incomparable gift Jesus makes to us of Himself in this Sacrament.  Teach others to appreciate this gift!

“Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g., excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (Ratzinger Memo to Cardinal McCarrick, # 1).

Let us help each other! Let's love our Family back to health and blessing in the Lord’s goodness and great patience with us. Let us all one day be able to say wholeheartedly: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 May we live to see the day of a great flourishing of the Church and the transformation of our world into a civilization of life and love. And may we all have played our part in bringing it about.

Sr.. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT. 8/3/2017

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Reflections On An Anniversary

33 years ago I came to Our Lady's Society.  28 years ago today I professed my first vows.  My heart is full of gratitude especially to Our Lady, who came to find me in the darkness I lived in, and restore me to our Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Every good gift comes from the Father of lights.  His greatest gift is His only begotten Son Jesus.  My vocation of espousal with Jesus, comes from the Father, and is lived out in the Holy Spirit.  Who can really even speak of such profound things let alone consider themselves worthy.  Experientially I know well our Founder's insight into the way God works. He chooses the last, the lowest and the least.

28 years ago, Fr. Flanagan gave a homily at my First Profession Mass I remember to this day.  He said God told him to speak about light.  So he began by speaking about the light of the sun, the light of the moon and stars, and then he spoke about the light of faith, the light of our baptism, and the light that comes into the world when a child is born, the light of life.

He then said that there is a light that comes into the world in consecrated life.  And he said that light is like a laser beam.  He said they use laser beams now to heal people and the light that comes from our consecrated sisters in religious life is a light that God gives to heal his people.  And he said in professing the vows, the vows of poverty chastity and obedience, we become that kind of a light.  It was so beautiful.

I sometimes think of that light also as a kind of tracer in the night sky that shows people who are living in darkness the way to their heavenly homeland.  Saint Pope John Paul II said that the evangelical counsels are the most radical means for transforming the entire cosmos through the heart of man.  They help us to become like Jesus, the poor, chaste and obedient One.

The vows become a means to, and a witness of, the life that is to come.  And it is one of the reasons why religious life is not a sacrament.  Sacraments are helps for time.  They will not be necessary in eternity when we have the fullness of all we strive for here on earth.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that in religious profession God infuses the grace necessary to live as though we were already in eternity directly into the soul.  Which is not to say we don't need the other sacraments.  But we don't need one specific to this way of life. It is given directly at the moment of profession.

I will never be grateful enough for this calling and for the life Jesus has given me with Himself all these years.  At our first profession we are told we can ask Jesus for anything and He will give it to us.  So we all have our long lists of souls and intentions we confidently bring to Him.

I ask on this anniversary, His Priestly blessing on each of you and that He bestow every grace you need and He desires to give you, unto your salvation, sanctification and glory!  The psalms speak true when they say the Lord gives marvelous companions to us!  I'm grateful in the Lord for the gift you all are and I ask you to join me in thanking Him for His favor to me, undeserving as I am.

In the Heart of Our Blessed Mother,

Sr. Anne Marie