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Early Autumn: A Meditation on the Love of God

altar candles

…and the Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There is something about the beginning of autumn that brings out the melancholy in me, even though I do like this season for its anticipation of Advent and Christmas. It is a time when nature says “slow down” and we tend to become more introspective, all the while the world says, “Hurry up! Only ___ shopping days until Christmas!” This is usually a busy time for our family; summer is over and we have just canned peaches and chokecherry jam. Now we pick several bushels of apples and take time to make apple sauce, apple pie filling, and spiced apple rings for the coming year. Sometimes there are pears or plums that we can preserve also. We get together with family and make our traditional red tamales to freeze for Christmas Eve. We try to make a lot so that we have some in the freezer for the next 12 months, but they never seem to last past June, if we can keep our hands off them for that long! It is a joyful, busy time.

But this time of year makes me a little sad, especially when it is a cold, cloudy day and I have not gotten enough sleep. I lack the energy I need to do the daily laundry, dishes, and meals: the work that is never ended. But God grants sunshine as well as clouds. He allows us to feel our imperfections and to experience the Ember Days in a more profound way, perhaps, than at other times of the year. We learn, if we are willing, to rely solely on Him. When the sun shines, the day seems to sparkle, with red and gold leaves and sometimes frost: the coming of winter is evident.

The Clouds of Autumn

Winter Approaches

For the first time since I have been a mother, I am not homeschooling my children. Seven of the ten are attending a local charter school, and I am at home with the three youngest, who are not yet old enough to go to school with their brothers and sisters. It would seem that I should feel more free, and have more time to run errands, clean the house, work on projects long overdue, and even start one or two more that I have wanted to do for a few years.

But I am tired.

I do not seem to have more time now, and I need more sleep at night. I am older than I was. The coming winter is evident in the frost-colored hairs that appear little by little, and then less gradually.

But God grants sunshine as well as clouds. I feel the end of my life coming much faster than it seemed when I was young, although I have always, ever since I can remember, seen the end of my life very near. The years and decades are shorter than they were. The clouds of doubt and sorrow and sin and regret close in, and I panic, thinking I have only so many shopping days left and not enough money! The temptation to believe that I have done nothing worthwhile with my life is very strong, and I want to just fall asleep and not think about the hopelessness of it all. But then the clear, warm, saving Sun pierces my melancholy and I am suspended in the Love of God. I have time, but I must begin again now and not give up.

Thank God for good Spiritual Directors. They are sometimes the only light shining in the darkness. Mine told me recently, when I was having a hard time seeing any good in myself, “Love yourself as others love you.” That is possibly the most difficult task I have ever undertaken. He asked me to look at the successes in my life: all of my children are happy and know that their parents and God love them. The teens among them are joyful and outgoing. The little ones are thriving and confident in the love of their family. He asked me to look seriously at the way people see me, and recognize that I have allowed God to work through me my whole life. God has granted me favors that not everyone is granted. He loves me because He made me lovable. Others have always thought of me as a kind and holy person.

I always thought that those successes were all God’s, and they are, but my Spiritual Father reminded me that I had to cooperate with God in order for these things to happen.

God's Love turns weeds into roses

God’s Love turns weeds into roses

And so, on this cloudy autumn day with amber sunshine piercing through the cold, I begin again to do the work He chose for me. That sink-full of dishes and that frozen roast thawing on the counter are my emblems. Some day they will be pictured beside me – grey hairs and all – on a holy card. In the meantime, “Jesus! MY Jesus! I trust in You!”

St. Paula of the Big Ham

St. Paula of the Big Ham

“Sometimes we feel tired and discouraged, just like Jesus’ disciples… ‘We have worked hard all night and have caught nothing!’ (Lk 5:5) However, nothing is lost if, in the hour of darkness, we are able to trust once again in Him, Jesus, in Whom we have placed our joy and hope.” ~Pope St. John Paul II

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Pilgrimage Day 19: O Adonai

Ember Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I love the Ember Days, and wish more people knew what they were and could take advantage of the riches God has for us if we only ask for them!

This morning I was blessed to be able to go to Mass at my parish. Fr. James Gordon, FSSP, said Mass and gave a beautiful mini-sermon on Our Blessed Mother’s  “Yes.”

18 December: 

O Adonai, 
and Ruler of the house of Israel, 
Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, 
and gavest him the law in Sinai, 
come to redeem us with an outstretched arm! 

Our Father...
Hail Mary...
Glory Be...

Today, I took my walk at about 2 PM. I walked 40 minutes, and I know it was more than a mile, but I don’t think it was much more than that. I wore black leggings under my denim skirt, and a yellow t-shirt with a red-and-white button-front shirt over it. I wore my green BSA socks instead of my new gray walking socks. I am sure I looked very fashionable to the people in the cars passing by. Perhaps they thought the circus was in town. My shoes continue to be very comfortable. The temperature was about 60 degrees, so I was not cold at all. I was pretty comfortable, although I did break a sweat. My hands swelled a little, which means I need to drink more water!!!

Day 18: O Wisdom

Here is the second day of the O Antiphon Novena:

December 17: 

O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, 
that reachest from one end to another, 
and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, 
come to teach us the way of prudence! 

Our Father...
Hail Mary...
Glory Be...

Since yesterday I took all the kids Christmas shopping, today I will go alone and do my own shopping for groceries and Christmas gifts. If I get home early enough, I will do my 40-minute walk while it is still warm outside!

Day 17: December 16: O Antiphons Novena

This Novena, though it starts one day earlier than the O Antiphons, correlates with the O Antiphons in the titles used to address Jesus between the 17 th and the 24 the of December. It would, therefore, make a good Novena to pray when your family prays the O Antiphons.

December 16: 

O Shepherd that rulest Israel, 
Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep, 
come to guide and comfort us. 

Our Father...
Hail Mary...
Glory Be...

Today I was supposed to walk 40 minutes, but I took my 10 children Christmas shopping instead. They wanted to buy little gifts for their cousins who will be in town for Christmas, so we spent the afternoon going from place to place finding just the right gift for each person. I did walk for several hours, but I did not get my heart rate up, unless you count my impatience boiling my blood.  My confessor will be seeing me soon.

Pilgrimage: Day 11 Happy Birthday to Me!

Day 11: December 10, 2013: St. Melchiades, Pope and Martyr, pray for us!

Pope miltiades.jpg

Today I turn 44! Ian is in Fort Collins at work, the kids are working on their school, and I am helping them while I get ready for a doctor’s appointment. I know it does not sound all that special or exciting, but the life that God has given me, and that I have freely chosen and accepted, is the most beautiful gift. Each moment I choose to say “Yes” to God is a diamond He adds to His Blessed Mother’s crown.

So how do I say YES today? By getting up when I would rather stay in bed. By getting the children up when I would rather enjoy the quiet as long as possible. By encouraging them to do their schoolwork when it would be easier to have a free day. By helping them with their school when I have 1,000 other things that have to get done besides this. By staying in God’s holy Presence all day, and keeping the inner peace He gives me, even when there is disorder and noise all around me. By doing what each moment demands. By giving priority to my prayer time, and going to bed on time so that tomorrow I can get up and do it again!

Here is a beautiful thought for today: “What? The cross make us lose our inward peace? Surely it is the cross that bestows it on our hearts. All our miseries come from our not loving it.” ~ St. John Vianney

Today’s walk: 20-40 minutes at an easy pace.

The Immaculate Conception

Happy Feast Day to Our Lady!

Dom Gueranger writes, “This truth of Mary’s Immaculate Conception—which was revealed to the Apostles by the Divine Son of Mary, inherited by the Church, taught by the holy fathers, believed by each generation of the Christian people with an ever increasing explicitness—was implied in the very notion of a Mother of God. To believe that Mary was Mother of God, was implicitly to believe that she, on whom this sublime dignity was conferred, had never been defiled with the slightest stain of sin, and that God had bestowed upon her an absolute exemption from sin.”

Below are quotes by saints from the early Church, verifying that the truth of Mary’s Immaculate Conception has been believed by each generation:

“Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying: ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.’ Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet a virgin, she did not obey…. having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race…. Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the virgin Mary loosed through faith.” (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, Book III c. 180 AD)

“He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” – St. Hippolytus (circa 235 A.D.)

“This Virgin Mother of the Only begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” – Origen (244)

“Thou alone and Thy Mother are in all things fair; there is no flaw in Thee and no stain in Thy Mother.” – St. Ephraim (370)

“Mary, a virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” – St. Ambrose (388)

“A Virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” – Theodotus of Ancrya (446)

“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” – Jacob of Sarug (521)

“In the womb of the her mother now begins to blossom the earth which will be the dwelling place of the Creator of the earth, the holy scepter, the new ark, the vessel of manna, … the bush which was not consumed by fire, the golden candelabrum, the living bridal room  of the Lord God.” – Hymn for the feast of the Conception of St. Anne (seventh century)

“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” – Theotoknos of Livias (650)

“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty.  The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature again regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today, and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” – Andrew of Crete (733)

St. John Damascene (645-750) speaks of Mary, saying: “The serpent never entered that Paradise.”

And other saints have extolled her beauty and power as well:

“[How to prepare for the feast of the Immaculate Conception]
…But how can we honor Mary these days so as to merit Her protection? I shall not insist on frequent reception of the sacraments. You already know that Don Bosco has nothing more at heart than this. But I will suggest two particular things to each of you in Mary’s honor. First, put your whole heart into this novena; second, prepare a bouquet of flowers for Her feast day. How? By picking a flower each day. But where, when no flowers are blooming in this cold winter? From the garden of your hearts. What sort of flowers? Some little act of virtue to be practiced each day in honor of Mary Immaculate. Let each one take this to heart, so that on the dawn of this great feast there will be as many bouquets as boys, and each bouquet will have a flower for every day of this novena. You may be sure that Our Lady will be quite pleased with your gift.” ~St. John Bosco

May I give you some advice for you to put into practice daily? When your heart makes you feel those low cravings, say slowly to the Immaculate Virgin: Look on me with compassion. Don’t abandon me, my Mother! —And recommend this prayer to others. ~St. Jose Maria Escriva

“Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.”  “When you see the storm coming, if you seek safety in that firm refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down.” ~St. Jose Maria Escriva

“Such is the will of God that we should have everything through Mary.” ~St. Alphonsus Liguori

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust when all hope is gone. From Mary we learn to trust her Son and Christ the Son of God.” Venerable John Paul II

“It is the privilege of the glory of Mary, that after God, our greatest happiness is from her.” ~St. Bonaventure

“The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Mary, however trifling they may be, are very pleasing to Her Divine Son, and He rewards them with eternal glory.” ~St. Teresa de Avila

“Believe me, there is no more powerful means to obtain God’s grace than to employ the intercessions of the Holy Virgin.” ~St. PhilipNeri

“When the Holy Spirit finds Mary in a soul, He enters that soul completely and communicates Himself completely to that soul.” ~St. Louis de Montfort

“Mary is the most sweet bait, chosen, prepared, and ordained by God, to catch the hearts of men.” ~ St. Catherine of Siena

Pilgrimage: Day 3

Day 3: Monday, December 2. St. Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!

Today is supposed to be the warmest day in the next 10, with a high temperature of almost 60 degrees. That means that we have to do as much laundry as possible before the wind and snow make it difficult. I also have a doctor’s appointment with one of the kids this afternoon. I had better walk this morning. I will see if I can have a regular walking time every day. With 10 kids that will inevitably change sometimes, but if I have a regular time that works most days, I am more likely to stick with it.

10:15 AM: 25-minute walk from the house to the corner of Cooper Grove and Black Forest and back. I wore my older shoes (the ones I wore on Day 1) and will continue to wear them until I have my new ones. Maria (6) and Thomas (4) went with me as far as the mail boxes around the corner, so my pace was not as brisk as when walking with Ian. It was about 50 degrees and a bit windy. Glad I took a hat. Wore a t-shirt with a sweater, and leggings under a wool skirt. I was warm enough, but not too warm.

I am keeping a food and exercise journal. I do not think I will post it, since the purpose of the journal is not (at this point) directly related to the Pilgrimage. Perhaps in a few months I will post it if I think it might be helpful.