Here I am, Lord

Holy Father,

Here I am, Lord. Please be here with me.

Even though my heart is burdened with the minutiae of my day and the continuing onslaught of evil in our world, please help me to quiet my mind and my heart, so I might experience Your presence here, so I might hear Your voice.

You are my only audience, my first and only love. Help me to keep my eyes and my heart fixed on You, and on Your purpose. Always grateful. Always faithful. Always Yours.

When the errands and the chores and the service to others call out for my attention, help me, Holy Lord, to turn first to Your beautiful face. Help me to pause to receive the gracious blessing that I know awaits me from You.

Be with me, Father, as I go and do today. Guide my thoughts and my words and my actions. Prepare them, strengthen my trust in You. Build the muscle of my knowingness — certain that You are everything I need, confident that You will provide everything I need to go about the tasks You given me to do today.

And wherever evil lurks, Holy Lord, lead me away, or so surround me with the light of Your Holy protection that I might find swift, safe passage. Or if is Your will, heavenly Lord, for me to act as one of Your defenders as I go, strengthen me to Your purpose that I might respond to hate with love, to false accusation and recriminations with understanding and forgiveness, and to despair with hope.

In Christ’s name I pray. Amen

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My belated response to Melinda Henneberger

Melinda Henneberger wrote and published a column in the National Catholic Reporter back in December 5, 2018 on her reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. She (and many of us) felt a crisis of conscious over the McGarrick revelations and the unfolding knowledge of our church’s continuing sex abuse scandal and coverup.

I shared her pain and her anger and frustration, as so many of us Catholics did, upon hearing the unwelcome news. I wrote this response at the time, mostly for my own healing. I share it here in the hope that it touches other hearts that have been broken by this terrible tragedy.

Dear Melinda,

First and foremost, I want to tell you how grateful I am for your column in NCR. I’ve been avoiding organizing my own thoughts, even as I’ve known I would have to do so eventually. Your column provided a helpful catalyst.

My heart hurt for you, as it does for all of us, as I read your piece. Our hearts have been shattered by this evil…most especially for the first order victims and their families. Their pain is paramount. But, all of us who love the church are experiencing our own personal crises.

I’ve recently been trying to understand and live better our church’s teaching on how to be blessed by the pain and challenges given to each of us. To somehow recognize and be blessed more deeply by His grace that attends painful times.

So, it was in this frame of mind that I prayed for you and for our church this morning. I asked God how my heart should respond to your decision to leave. Is it a signal for all of us to fragment? To exercise Rod Dreher’sBenedict Option”?

If not, how best do I respond? To the obvious corruption that has so gripped our beautiful teachings? To my own confusion and distress? How can I possibly be blessed by the knowledge of this terrible travesty that too many of our church fathers have allowed or enabled … or worse?

And, as I felt emotion well up inside me, I saw Our Lord in Gethsemane as Christ shed His tears of blood. I heard as His words from Sermon on the Mount rang out:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And I looked on at Calvary as He hung in pain on the cross. I heard Him tell Dismis, the good thief, “you will be with me today in heaven.

Then He gave His beloved disciple and all of us into HIs mother’s care to wait for Him until His return. Mother Mary will comfort each of us, if we allow her to embrace us.

For my own part, as a sinner who wandered and wondered for far too many years before finding the Catholic Church, before being allowed to join in the joyful celebration feast, before being fed and formed by the church’s teaching, before experiencing the warmth and abundance of our Blessed Mother’s embrace, before knowing how or even why I should want to walk with our Lord as He lived and died for us and for our salvation, I have opted to continue to receive and be fed by the Holy Eucharist and, as often as I can, to sit with our Lord in adoration and to pray our Holy Mother’s Rosary .

Is He really present in the host as Catholic teaching says? Can He only be present through the word and exhortation of priests ordained in apostolic succession from Peter? I was told once, ‘It’s a Mystery. We have to leave room for the mystery.’ So, is it true? I don’t know….mysteries, by definition, mysterious. But I do have faith. I believe based on my own personal experience and based on knowledge from the Holy Spirit within me, and my belief comforts me.

I’ve opted to stay — where else can we go, Lord? — and to wait (as much as possible) in joy-filled anticipation of His beautiful face. I know He will come one day and sort us all out. He will cleanse and purify, again and again, each of us and His Church Bride on Earth.

In the meantime I give thanks that you and I and other believers have already been given the end of the story. We know that the sweet incense that fills our beautiful sanctuaries throughout the world will not be overwhelmed by the sin and corruption of Satan’s smoke.

Those priests and bishops will not win, who, through their acts or their inaction, have caused your crisis of communion with the church. Theirs will be a terrible fate.

I pray your mourning for our church blesses you and that you allow Him to walk with you and to comfort you as you wander for a time in the desert. And when it is time, I pray you will again find a comfortable place at His table where we will all rejoice as one church in Christ, where we will all rejoice that we who have gone lost are once again found.

In the meantime I pray He blesses you richly and continuously on your journey.

Yours in Christ,

Mary Adrienne

Speak God’s truth. Leave the rest to Him.

Dear Holy Father,

I come to You in this place most often not having any idea what I want to say or what to focus on.

I’m never quite sure how to know if You have something You want to say to me. Eventually, You seem to speak, after I’ve quieted my mind and my heart a bit from the demands of my daily routine.

Yesterday, I began my writing with what I thought was purpose and direction. I was anxious to capture the lessons I’d learned about prayer and, in particular, the message I heard from our priest in his Sunday homily.

But maybe my clue to the problem that unfolded is captured in the word, ‘anxious.’

The words I wrote struggled to do justice to the message or to the feelings I had as I experienced Your message.

Listening to our priest speak felt like I was hearing directly from You.

Now, our priest is a nice guy. He’s young, not particularly polished yet as a speaker or as a homilist. Or at least I’ve never perceived that about him. He’s a bit awkward and seems like he’s reading his words rather than speaking Your truth.

Well, that was what I used to think, until his two most recent Masses. ‘Extraordinary’ isn’t too big a word for my reaction. Maybe not even ‘transcendent.’

I found myself, twice now, transfixed and hanging on his every word.

Thank You, Father. I guess it isn’t necessary to feel those feelings whenever a priest speaks, but to feel them at all — to sense Your presence in real time, at work through our priest speaking directly to me — was sublime. Thank You.

And maybe it demonstrates something more.

I struggle with my words here…working to make them just right. I feel frustrated when I can’t seem to capture in them the transcendent quality that I so often experience when I’m talking with You. If I can’t find words to communicate that most sublime sense of Your presence, I end up not wanting to share anything at all with others.

And yet, it wasn’t our priest or his words that was key, was it?

The fact is, I’ve heard the same lessons he was preaching on from several other priests in different situations, through different media.

Rather, it was Your grace that took his words as he spoke them and somehow, breathed Your own breath of love on them as You delivered them to my open heart.

The lesson? We need to speak Your truth, Holy Father, and leave the rest to You. Just as You gave all the right words in all the right languages to Your disciples at Pentacost, You can work with our words, our heartfelt expressions of Your truths.

So long as we express them out loud to others in love, You can bless them with Your grace and make of them the transcendent, sublime messages other open hearts are waiting to receive.

Sowing (and sacrificing) seeds of Your love and mercy

My Holy Lord,

Bless me, Father, this day, and my words and actions to Your holy purpose.

It’s my sister’s birthday today. And currently she’s upset with me. When that happens, she cuts herself off from me and avoids our conversations. I think I know the most recent cause.

I sent her one of Bishop Barron’s homilies on Spiritual and Religious. She and I had had a conversation in which she had told me she really didn’t believe in Christ and Christianity; that she was “spiritual.”

Bishop Barron’s homily on this precise subject was so gentle and welcoming and clear. We can find God in all things, all places, but only in Christ are we able to enter into a personal relationship with You. Only through Christ do You call us to be You own, heirs to Your kingdom, Your adopted children, part of Your family. When we are chosen by You, all we have to do is say ‘yes,’ and believe and submit our will to Yours.

Well, Bishop Barron said it all better than I have. But the upshot upon hearing his homily was my desire to share it with my sister since it spoke to precisely the issues she and I had been discussing. It felt as though You were encouraging me to act, to evangelize Your truth to her.

Sadly, as has happened before, my words were not only rebuffed, but a rift resulted. So, I’m confused. I don’t seemed to know how to share You with others, without causing relationships to be severed.

I don’t think this is Your desire…and yet…

Maybe You want me to sow these seeds and shake up the worlds of these people You call me to evangelize. Disturb them enough that You’re able to get their attention. Maybe my relationship with each of them is the sacrifice (long or short-term) that is required to save their souls.

I pray that You bless her on her birthday today and help me to let her know that I love her, despite how troubled her feelings may be about me and You.

Yours first, holy Lord, Your voice and teaching. Then I’ll go help Martha in the kitchen.

My Dear Lord,

I have felt great sympathy for Martha (Luke 10:41) over the last week. I tried to take the time to sit at your feet as Mary did, listening for Your voice, and reading Your daily word. But our time here, where You sit beside me as I write — such precious time — was sacrificed to serving our out-of-town guests.

The week left me exhausted, spent. The 24-hour presence of others to serve and to enjoy wore heavily, as we two couples shared our meals, our housing, our time, stories, music, travel.

I was left feeling incredibly inadequate as a servant and host, not because I did not serve our friends and make them welcome, but because rather than being uplifted and enlivened in my service, I was often left grumpy, stressed, frustrated by one thing or another, then, disappointed with my own behavior or words.

I think my sin-filled humanity dimmed, maybe even extinguished, the light of Your divinity in me.

I am sorry, Father. No wonder You choose to have me spend so much of my time in introspection and writing, where you give me time to consider with greater care my words and thoughts. I’m not yet well equipped to represent You as You deserve in real time with others. I don’t yet retain the calm and peace of Your spirit, allowing it clear passage to shine through my interior darkness.

Forgive me, Father. And bless me with Your gentle direction. Only with Your help and grace may I remember how to be, no matter my circumstances; whose I am, first and always; and only then, the holy purpose You have for me, when You place others on my path.

As St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata would pray, help me to give what You ask and to accept what You give, all with joy and a big smile.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Spread the Light of Love, not the darkness of division

Heavenly Father,

I am so sorry for my words last night.

We have friends visiting from out of town. They’ve been here now for several days and we’ve gotten all our catch-up conversation out of the way. As the evening wore on and our words became less guarded, the conversation turned to politics and our relationships with our respective relatives. As it did, the frustration I have felt with several of our kin just spilled out, raw and unguarded.

My husband and I stand pretty much alone in our family on most issues of our day. With next year’s presidential election, these issues are already heating up. Our family once again is coming face-to-face with the deep fault-lines in our respective world views. During less political times we manage mostly to ignore them or paper them over in attempts at family unity.

Facebook exacerbates the problem for us. It can be a terrible force for separation and division. People are less guarded there in their comments. One relative, in particular, feels driven to re-post others’ misguided, thoughtless, and ill-informed memes and opinions. As much as I would like to remain ‘above it all’, the endorsements quickly feel personal and alienating and divisive. Ugh. I understand why some go into convents and monasteries, taking vows of silence and severing contact with the outside world.

But, those were only the triggers. My poor judgment and incontinence of speech are more the problem here. I’m disappointed in myself and ashamed for allowing these distant postings to drive my own behavior. In doing so, I’ve hurt You, gracious Lord, and been a poor example of what it means to be one of Your chosen ones. None of us, last night, was blessed by my comments, and this morning, I am more frustrated and angry after giving voice to my frustration than I was before. Not because what I said was untrue, but because I surrendered to the temptation of…what?…whatever sin this would be. Gossip? Not really. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor? Not really, because it was all true. So what is the sin? Submitting to the luxury of venting in a safe space? Maybe. If nothing else just talking too darn much!!

So, I apologize, Father, and beg Your forgiveness. And I’ll go to confession and ask for Your absolution and You, in Your grace and love for me, will forgive me and wash me clean once again. And I will try to be better.

But I need Your help, Holy Lord, to overcome whatever this is that causes me to lash out about people and issues that frustrate me. Help me not only to control my words and my emotions and my behavior better, but if there is better way to address these concerns and to deal with them (writing here, maybe?), please direct my action to Your purposes and Your service.

Reaching out to change the minds and hearts of the particular person (people) involved have only made relations worse in the past and would likely result in a full severing of communication. So I pray Father that You take these concerns, and bless them with Your grace and love. Help me to be more detached from ignorant, hurtful words and actions, and more focused on You, who are my first love. These situations make me realize how often I fail You, fail to be that person You intended me to be.

You created me and called me to help carry Your light out into the world. All I seemed to be spreading last night was the darkness of division.

I am sorry, Lord. Please forgive me.

All my day is Yours, Lord…But this time right now, when I am able to write with You without fear of interruption

My dear sweet Lord,

All of my day is Yours for You to do with as You wish, according to Your will. At my best all my time begins and ends with You — seeking to serve You better, being the person You created me to be, learning to discern Your will for me, sharing Your Light as I go about my daily responsibilities.

I am only ever able to be anywhere, do anything as a result of Your grace, Holy Father.

But this time right now, when I am able to write to You without fear of being interrupted, when I can focus on our conversation and lose myself in Your Way is most precious. I pray You bless this time to Your purpose. Draw me closer and closer to Your perfect heart. In Your good time, I pray You’ll prepare me for greater and greater holiness.

Your words — the words You give me here as I transcribe them — fill me with such wonder. Every so often they let me glimpse, just for a brief moment, the woman You created me to be, the woman I know You love so very much. And for just that brief moment, I come to love her too.

Capturing these words — these thoughts and images that You share with me — are rather like lines in a sketch, where the artist must ‘feather’ in images, defining and refining the light as it glows through the shadows.

So, too, for Your words here. I don’t always capture them just right the first time, do I, Father. Instead, when I’m seeking Your voice and Your grace through my writing, I have to ‘feather’ the words and images, which You place in my heart. Often Your Light is revealed only as I fumble for a while with darkness and shadow.

And then, as if by some miracle of Your grace, there, hidden in some unsuspected phrase, I’ll be surprised by a beautifully constructed thought, or be blessed by the goodness of Your mercy or understand more deeply a new, yet foundational truth, which insight could only have come from You.

Glory to You, my precious Lord, for this time alone together.

All of my day is Yours

My dear sweet Lord,

All of my day is Yours for You to do with as You wish, according to Your will. At my best all my time begins and ends with You — seeking to serve You better, being the person You created me to be, learning to discern Your will for me, sharing Your Light as I go about my daily responsibilities.

I am only ever able to be anywhere, do anything as a result of Your grace, Holy Father.

But this time right now, when I am able to write to You without fear of being interrupted, when I can focus on our conversation and lose myself in Your Way is most precious. I pray You bless this time to Your purpose. Draw me closer and closer to Your perfect heart. In Your good time, I pray You’ll prepare me for greater and greater holiness.

Your words — the words You give me here as I transcribe them — fill me with such wonder. Every so often they let me glimpse, just for a brief moment, the woman You created me to be, the woman I know You love so very much. And for just that brief moment, I come to love her too.

Capturing these words — these thoughts and images that You share with me — are rather like lines in a sketch, where the artist must ‘feather’ in images, defining and refining the light as it glows through the shadows.

So, too, for Your words here. I don’t always capture them just right the first time, do I, Father. Instead, when I’m seeking Your voice and Your grace through my writing, I have to ‘feather’ the words and images, which You place in my heart. Often Your Light is revealed only as I fumble for a while with darkness and shadow.

And then, as if by some miracle of Your grace, there, hidden in some unsuspected phrase, I’ll be surprised by a beautifully constructed thought, or be blessed by the goodness of Your mercy or understand more deeply a new, yet foundational truth, which insight could only have come from You.

Glory to You, my precious Lord, for this time alone together.

Who am I?

She cried out to me,

“Tell me who am I?”

Who are you, my daughter?

You are many things …
And yet,

Nothing at all,
until to give yourself away
to each of these things

You are your parent’s daughter
Your sister’s sister
You are friend to a friend
Spouse to your spouse
Mother to your children

You are a protector of small things
And a lover of sweet memories

You are the hands and ears and voice and
Heart of our Lord here on earth,

And at Your very best, my child,
You are a child of God and
A slave to His will.

On evangelization

Dear Holy Father,

I was listening to Bishop Barron on evangelization this morning as I walked at the gym. He emphasized how we are all called to evangelize and went ahead to define some of the parameters of how and when and with whom.

You have tried to lead me on this in the past. I don’t know if I’m just thick or whether You’re not ready for me to venture out in the ways I have attempted, but I continue to feel a fair bit of confusion about the how and when and with whom aspects of it all.

I feel pretty certain that You have taught me that ‘I can’t show what I don’t know.” That I need my own training first before I can speak confidently about Christ.

And I feel like I have tried to demonstrate my love for You by my actions and what it is I spend my time and talent and treasure on, by how I live my life. So far, so good. But it feels there is more that I could do, should do to engage others and encourage their query about how You might fit into their lives.

Several instances come to mind of when I have stepped out with the tiniest of little toes to test the shallowest of waters of others’ receptivity.

Relatives

My sister, in particular, responded to me in a recent conversation saying, ‘I wish you wouldn’t talk that way. I don’t know how to talk with you when you talk like that.’ I don’t remember precisely what we were talking about, but it had something to with my faith experience. That time and a couple of others she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to engage with me on the subject of faith. I haven’t told her yet that by saying this, she’s preempted from our relationship the most important part of my life and who I am. I probably will at some point, but it has so far seemed a hard message to deliver (for me) without seeming accusatory.

I thought about a homily from Bishop Barron that I’ve heard recently on how to speak about our faith. His suggestion is to lead with beauty and that goodness and truth … maybe even unity will follow. I have yet to understand what this means for me or how to apply this in my own speech.

Close Friends and Family

For reasons that You and I have discussed before, Father, I have begun to wear a chapel veil whenever I’m in church in Your presence. It feels right. It has an almost healing effect. It helps me to feel more humble, to act and think with greater humility and charity, to remember to continually put my ego away, to be hidden, to focus all my attention on You, to allow Your word, Your spirit to find a more welcoming home in me.

As would happen, we attended church with friends and I wore my veil. It was noticed. But it quickly became obvious that it was not a topic either of them were comfortable mentioning or asking me about. You intervened and gave me an opportunity to broach the subject with the other wife while our husbands were off somewhere. She was polite, but showed little curiosity about this most important, sweetest part of my life. So there was no further chance to discuss these small ways that I am being drawn closer and closer to You. It often causes me to feel disconnected and detached from people who have been some of my closest friends over the years.

Several months later: Maybe the veil and other ways I demonstrate my love for You are just seeds planted and the rest is up to You. Wanting to continue to not only have a role of some sort in others’ growth in their relationship with You, but to be somehow credited for it, is just my ego getting in the way of Your purpose. If feeling alienated or divided from others is an outcome of sin, then the sin in this case must be my own egotistical need for power and influence. Instead, I should be thankful for the opportunity You gave me to share my faith and leave the rest to You. Thank you, Father.

Others

Several years ago when You first engulfed me with Your overwhelming love for me, I began a blogging website. I practiced it for a couple of years. But my energy for it dried up. I’ve since been certain that I had allowed this work to become more about me and not nearly enough about You in my life.

Now, today, several years hence, I’m still sorting how to You want me to proceed. Starting and stopping doesn’t feel right. One of the lessons I feel You have been trying to teach me, Holy Father, throughout the years is if I’m confused or lack clarity of Your purpose, it’s probably not time yet to venture out.

So, heavenly Father, I pray that You help convict my spirit for how to move forward. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Two months later:

Hallelujah. Thank you, Father,

You answered this prayer at last night’s vigil service. Our priest, in persona Christi, spoke of how we are called to evangelize and to spread the good news. It felt as though he was speaking directly to me when he spoke of the new technology You have given to the world. Through the internet we all have an immense opportunity to reach people far flung throughout the world. He said we might not ever know who benefits from our work or our words. Their effect may not even be felt until long after we’re gone from this earth. He said it was a holy calling, just as You have been trying to say to me here. He spoke to me — You spoke to me — loudly and clearly.

And I sat there transfixed. I’ve heard it all before, of course, but this time it clicked. I knew it was You speaking personally, directly to me, answering my prayers for spiritual direction and clarity.

Thank you Father.