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Musings in December 2017

Much of our life is lived in the past, which often catapults us into anxiety of an unknown future, based on what we know in the past. If the past seems bleak, the future will seem more so, which leaves the present not having a chance. Our past invades our present in such common ways, we often do not recognize, it is the past.

The past creeps in when we read the newspaper of events that have already happened and most television programs are recorded. Then while sharing conversations with people, we catch up after days and weeks have passed by since we last saw one another. It is usually after we catch up about happenings and feelings, that we return to the present, maybe dabbling into the future. This is the ebb and flow of going, from the past to the present, then to the future and so on. Flowing in and out, as our breath moves through and around our bodies.

This perhaps is the reason our breath is used most often to connect us to the present moment. Our breath enters and exits our body, usually without us even thinking about the process. If we focus our intention on our breath, the rising and lowering of our abdomen, soon as we inhale and exhale our breath, we can begin notice a softening in soften our bellies. This allows the focus to be in the present moment, “I am breathing in. I am breathing out”. There can be impromptu moments when we notice our breath coming and going, just as there can be moments when we set aside time to be in the present as we breathe.

Similarly as we notice our breath, we can notice the seasons coming and going. One preparing for the next as cycles continue. The season we are in now, is preparing us to embrace winter. The season of advent, holds the possibility for us to become stuck in the past. The idea of the oncoming cold and darkness can be intimidating. Our breathing can be hurried, labored and even shallow, as we move through the weeks leading to Christmas and a new calendar year. There is often the sense to overcoming of past holiday hurts, the holidays with limitations, to recreate the perfect holiday or maybe a somber noticing of people who have left our circles. There is so much nostalgia with the holiday seasons, that we see people busying themselves, almost in a way to leap into the future, while holding tight to the past, often missing the beauty we have right now.

All of this, can make it easy for us to lose sight of the seasons as we ebb from autumn and flow into winter. The season of Advent offers the reminders of hope, joy, peace, love and the light that already exists inside of us, as we move into the darkness of winter. There is a purposeful action in these days and weeks, whether we are lighting a Menorah, Yule Log or Advent Wreath. Each offers an active reminder of our light, when times ahead can look dim. We can see tangibly, that we have the ability to activate our light and connect to our breath in prayer.

Our breath can help fuel that light, just as a bellows fuels a fire. It is the action to the awareness of our own ability to carry light. We have light, even if someone is there to help us until we can hold our own light. Returning to our breath and finding ways to nurture our spiritual path is always fruitful, whether through meditation, Centering Prayer or Spiritual Direction. Each allows us to set aside time in our schedule, giving permission to focus on our present moment. Our present moment allows us to be fully engaged, breathing in and breathing out life, flowing freely and gently through our days. Holding the awareness of a constantly shifting tide, as our light brightens with each breath.

Saint Juan Diego Pray for Us

Or Saint Juan Diego, in appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you, a humble present, or chosen as Her messenger. Your faithfulness in the task is evident still today. In the miraculous image the Virgin left upon your tilma. Intercede for me, I pray, that I might have your childlike trust in the Mother of God, and that my heart might respond to her maternal promptings. Through such simple confidence, obedience, and love, may I join you one day in sharing everlasting joy, where our heavenly Mother reigns in the glory of her son. Amen

*Image and prayer gathered from a prayer card available from Catholic Company online.

Saint Juan Diego December Saint of the Month

Saint Juan Diego

(1474-1548)

Feast Day December 9

Patron Saint: Indigenous People,

Beatified in 1990 and Canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II

Saint Juan Diego was born in 1474, given the name Cuauhtlatoatzin and is the first indigenous American saint to be canonized. It is important to know, that not all canonized saints are cloistered men and women living a monastic life. While, some saints are laypeople within parishes, with faith of some form which enables the. To become canonized saints. This is the case for the saint of the month for December, who was not a monk, but a weaver and farmer.

He was not born into his faith, he would have been approximately fifty years old, when the Franciscan Missionaries arrived in what is today Mexico City, Mexico. He and his wife Maria, were some of the first to be Baptized in 1524.

His wife had died before he saw his first apparition of Mother Mary in 1532, on his way to the Franciscan Mission for mass. It was on Tepeyac Hill, where she asked him to tell the Bishop to build a shrine in the spot where she appeared. The Bishop, did not believe him. Probably at that time it was unknown that apparitions of the Blessed Mother Mary happen more frequently than any canonized saint and have been reported since A.D. 40.

An apparition is usually a term used in reference to sighting of Mary. Over 20 thousand apparitions of Mary, some include healing and some have been seen by large groups. There are different types of apparitions, not all offer a message and not all apparitions are seen by faithful Christians. The multiple apparitions, has resulted in many names being assigned to Mary, often in reference to the sighting location, such as Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima. The apparition that Saint Juan Diego saw, became Our Lady of Guadeloupe, whose feast day is on December 12. The image used in reference to Our Lady Guadalupe is the image that was on the tilma that Saint Juan Diego wore when he offered proof of roses to the Bishop.

Image of Out Lady Guadalupe on St. Juan Diego's tilma in the public domain

The proof that Saint Juan Diego thought he was providing was roses that Mary provided and he collected from the hill where Mary asked a shrine to be built. When he showed the Bishop the roses, the image of Our Lady Guadalupe had appeared. His tilma with the image of Our Lady Guadalupe is displayed today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica is round so that the image can be seen from anywhere within the basilica and is second only to Saint Peters Basilica as a  pilgrimage sight.

There are some discrepancies as to whether or not Saint Juan Diego ever existed, which has been met with a lot of discussion and speculation. There are even speculations about the second miracle attributed to him for canonization. The same skepticism has happened with other spiritual figures and even sacred sights, putting into question the validity of the actual place or people. Some of the speculation is based on the fact that Saint Juan Diego, was not someone in a monastery or having an education seen as worthy to experience Mother Mary. Perhaps, it has been forgotten by some, that Jesus did not gather disciples who had already been theologically educated, but people who were of faith and held the courage to walk with Jesus.

In this day and age, we can lose sight of our faith in seeking scientific facts. We forget that it is the faith of Mary, saying yes and believing in something that was not concrete and did not happen in every day life, that brought us to our faith today. Though science can offer proof and aid us, it also can lead us to doubt parts of our faith. This is one of those times, it comes down to our personal faith, where we want to put our energies and what feels right in our hearts.

Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini – November Saint of the Month

St Francis Xavier Cabrini Feast Day: November 13 

Image from the public domain.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of her death in 1917, there will be a special service at the Saint Francis X. Cabrini Shrine NYC. There is also one in Chicago.

Patron Saint of: immigrants (especially Italian to America), hospital administrators, Impossible causes, India and Lincoln

Canonized: July 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII

First canonized American a Citizen, after becoming a Naturalized American Citizen.

The life of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini began in 1859, in Milan, Italy. She was the thirteenth child and named, Francesca Cabrini, once she was a part of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, she added Xavier after Saint Francis Xavier. She learned about the saints when her father would gather the large family to read about the saints each evening.

Gaining interest and a strong desire for missionary work from learning about these saints, Saint Cabrini tried to join a monastery. She was turned away, due to her chronic poor health conditions. Instead, she began working as a teacher in Italy.

Saint Cabrini eventually became a headmistress of an orphanage in 1880. Which lead her to creating Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was officially approved in 1887. Finally she became a nun and still holding onto her hope of following in the footsteps of Saint Francis Xavier she then thought she could finally be a missionary in China. She asked Pope Leo to send her, instead he sent Saint Cabrini to New York City. 

Saint Cabrini arrived with six other sisters in New York City, to learn the place they were to begin working was no longer available. This is one of those times that the strong faith many saints possess could be seen. Saint Cabrini was described as a small woman, with a large presence. She found a residence and began working first with the Italian Immigrant population, followed with other immigrants and anyone needing assistance. 

It is easy when we hear no or nobody can, to give up and not pursue dreams or follow a calling. Saint Cabrini heard no or was met with obstacles, more than once, yet she was unstoppable until her death. It is the example that canonized Saints often live out through devout and unwavering faith. 

The devotion to Saint Cabrini can be seen with the four miracles attributed to her, enabling her canonization. I talked to a person who had stayed in the monastery at Saint Canrini’s shrine in New York City and was in awe of a person whom she had never met, by the Sisters who told her to sit in a popular spot where Mother Cabrini sat to gain inspiration. Saint Cabrini did not accept no and she did not wait for someone else to take care of a need. That is faith in action and the continuation of our communion of saints.

To understand this, it might be easiest to look at the word faith. To do something in faith can mean, that we plant seeds that we do not see grow. We know that what we do or did will continue to be nourished by those who believe. In the instance of Saint Cabrini, faith is living within a humble example of a strong conviction to be of service to others. That faith took her onward, from initially being turned away from being able to join a religious community, to find 67 schools, hospitals and orphanages. Her work continues one hundred years later, even after her death in 1917.  

All Saints Day

Collect for All Saints Day (November 1)

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints and all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those infallible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you in the Holy Spirit lives in reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer, page 245)

October Saint of the Month, Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Also referred to as St Teresa of Jesus

Feast Day: October 15
Patron Saint of: illnesses of the body, headaches, chess, lace makers, loss of parents, people in need of grace, people in religious orders. People ridiculed of their piety, sick people, sickness, Spain, Talisay City, Cebu, Požega and Croatia.
Author of: Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection

image

There are 36 Canonized Saints known to hold the added title of Doctor of the Church, a title given to those who have written something that is worthy for all to read in reference to theology or doctrine of the church. Although women have been a part of religious communities and called Saint since the first century, no woman was named a Doctor of the Church until 1970.

Even to this day, there are only four women who have received this title. In addition to St Teresa of Avila, are also Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Thérèsa of Lisieux and Saint Hildegard of Bingen.

There is much to find guidance from in the words Saint Teresa of Avila left us in her books. He books, which are mostly written for teaching other nuns. These writings were seen as a tool to help connect other nuns to Jesus, in a way not open to nuns at the time, because they did not receive the same formal theological education as men in the monasteries.

For myself, in addition to being aware that divine interactions can occur even when someone has not received formal theological training, I found guidance from Saint Teresa of Avila. To find connection of family and community, from God and within the Communion of Saints. Though I was much older than the fourteen that Saint Teresa was when she lost her mother and parents, I experienced a loss of identity and of family. Saint Teresa returned that to me, within finding myself among our ancestors of spirit. We pray to Saints who walked the Earth before us, because they too understand the way of man life.

The human life of Saint Teresa had many mystical experiences, from which she was berated, but she continued writing and speaking her truth. This ridicule can be seen within the pages of Interior Castle where she makes more than one reference to not understanding why she is to be the source of such divine guidance. Saint Teresa speaks of not having the same educational opportunities of men, still she references or writes of things that they say she should not have knowledge of. Which is possibly what has her open to receive such divine messages. It is after all Jesus who in the Bible went to those who might be seen as the least likely to be worthy of his company. It is said, that God prepares the called and not that God calls the prepared.

It is perhaps that Saint Teresa is aware how easy it is to not be fully present with Jesus in prayer. That through her own earlier faults, she is knows how easy it is to be distracted. Encouraging an inner awareness of divinity in both Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection. Saint Teresa begins early in writing when her view is shared as a Christian Mystic, with the connections of spiritualities in chapter two, by first crossing over into Jewish Mysticism, “this tree of life, which is planted among living waters”.(6) This connects us as Christians to our Baptism to a different tree of life, from the blood line familial tree. This tree grows not on its own, but by the water that quenches our thirst (John 4:4-26).

The divine experiences of Saint Teresa is what leads her to the other sisters to look inwardly at their life and devotion to Jesus. Saint Teresa expresses what we may identify as not living within dualistic thinking, that we cannot live a life and the Bible says, of serving two masters (Matthew 6:24) Saint Teresa expresses the importance in the humble process of relinquishing control to God of having faith. That without going the full process there is the potential for not progressing into the interior castle or as we may understand stepping out of awareness of God. Though possibly worse than before, because as she says that once a soul has the awareness of God, it cannot be removed.

Saint Teresa was a strong female figure during a time that women were not encouraged to be strong or to express their divine knowledge. She can certainly be a Saint that outcasts can connect to, through her divinely shared messages and moving forward despite expressing thoughts expected to come from those with the theological knowledge. She found a connection to a devotion to Mother Mary and of service to Jesus, which enabled her to live inwardly. This enabled her to grow in faith during a time when many did not see value in women with divine knowledge as men. As with many Saints and spiritual leaders, her contributions were not recognized as much during her living life, as she is now as a Saint and Doctor of the Church.

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