What God is assuring me of today…

Life is reliable because the Father is reliable. He is the root of our life, the horizon of our existence, the guarantee of our eternal joy, the hand that shields us in whatever life throws at us. But our life, our life hid in the Father, lived in the shadow of his beloved Son’s cross, is secure, always and forever, today and tomorrow, whatever comes our way.

One glorious week of salvation

Holy Week begins with the cry, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” 

In the Hebrew Bible, the word “hosanna” is used only in contexts like “help” or “save, I pray,” such as in Psalm 118. In the Gospels—for example, when Jesus enters into Jerusalem riding on a donkey surrounded by jubilant crowds waving palm branches—hosanna is used as a shout of jubilation. In this case, hosanna means a special kind of respect and honor given to the one who comes to save.

For a year, even those who may not normally pray have cried out to God, save us! Save us from the pandemic. Save us from financial loss. Save my job. Save my loved ones from death. Protect us from prejudice, racist attacks, bullying. Save me from the thousand terrors that fill my mind by night and by day.

And now in this week, this holiest of weeks, the week in which the Son of God kneels before us to tend to our deepest wounds, we whisper, Save us that we may live forever with you in the Kingdom to come!

Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom, cried out the repentant thief. Two bookends to one glorious week of salvation.

One of Jesus’ deepest heart-cries this week is the longing for us to understand what was in his heart for us. Mary, who anointed him at Bethany a few short days before his Passion—she understood him. His mother who met him on the way to Calvary as he trudged beneath the wooden beams of our salvation—she understood him. John, standing beneath the cross to receive for all of us the precious treasure of Jesus’ mother—he understood him.

There are many things in the world today that could make us run and hide, just as did the apostles who didn’t understand Jesus deeply enough to overcome their fear for themselves. Remember Hosanna. Save us that we may live forever with you in the Kingdom to come! Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

Whatever you are facing this Paschal Triduum and Easter-tide, Hope is here. Hope is strong. Hope has a name. Our hope is Jesus. Save us that we may live forever with you in the Kingdom to come! Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Guest Post: Daily conversion, a journey toward God!

At the beginning of Lent, we heard the words of the Prophet Joel stir our hearts for the need to convert:

Even now,” declares the Lord, “come back to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning” (Joel 2.12).

But in our hearts we know this isn’t an invitation only for the beginning of Lent, this is an invitation for every day of our lives. God is waiting for us …

One day, one of my sisters in community told me she always tried to surprise her parents by not telling them when she was coming home. Every time she arrived unannounced, her parents were always immensely happy she had come, because in their hearts they were always waiting for her. How beautiful that is: they were always waiting for her! And, later, reflecting on this conversation, I found myself thinking about how this is the way God loves me.

God sees us as more than sinners—that’s how often we think of ourselves, dwelling on our limitations. To God, we are sons and daughters, we are loved unconditionally. Every day, and until our last breath, we will always have this moment … even now … to return to God—because God is always waiting for us. God is waiting for me until my whole being belongs to him, whole and undivided.

God sees us as more than sinners. To God we are sons and daughters. We are loved unconditionally.

And whether we are aware of it or not, belonging to God entirely and undividedly is our heart’s deepest desire. It is true that because of the consequences of original sin our lives seem to alternate between periods of light and darkness. We have glimpses of this truth of God’s love for us in some moments, and then we lose it in others. We both yearn for it and revolt against it—as if it were a prison suffocating our freedom.

But the truth is that God created us free because he knows better than anyone that only those who are free can love. And God wants nothing but our love. Sin distorts our notion of freedom, and with it our notion of love. We must not deceive ourselves, the devil also wants us for himself—whole and undivided—not to elevate us to our true identity but to take possession of us by imprisoning us in something we are not.

And it is quite true that at the root of the word “devil” we find the one who divides, divides us from God, from each other, and causes division in our own being. As the devil tempted Jesus in the desert, the devil will approach us and tempt us, even when we walk with Jesus, even when we have faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the only one who can save us.

In the depth of our hearts there is an impregnable place where the Word of God never fails to echo, even now. Come back to me with all your heart. Anyone who hears this word must not ignore this invitation to look at their life and examine their heart.

In the depths of our hearts there is an impregnable place where the Word of God never fails to echo, even now.

Many times we live our life as if conversion were something that happens only once in a lifetime, or only happens in the life of those who have walked away from God. However, if we look at conversion in this way, we can spend a lifetime waiting for it to happen or, on the other hand, never feeling the need for conversion in our life.

Conversion is a radical change in life, something that involves our whole mind, our will, and our heart. And if we look at the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus or the conversion of so many other saints, we see how the radicality of that moment was renewed every day of their lives in a constant return to God.

The Greek word for sin means to miss the target, to change direction. When we think about this image of walking to a specific destination, if we were to change direction even an inch, in the end we would  reach a completely different place. Sin is like that “inch.” With sin, little by little, we end up changing the direction God would set for our life.

In the heart of our founder, Fr. Alberione, a question constantly burned: “How many times do you ask yourselves: where, how, and toward what is humanity moving, this humanity that is constantly renewing itself on the face of the earth?”

A river does not follow a straight path, yet even with the most rugged path it is intended to flow into the ocean. Our life of faith is also a river. Our faith doesn’t go forward in a straight line. It is sin that causes us to change direction, diverting us in our progress toward holiness. It is precisely here that daily conversion comes in, so that we can adjust our route to flow into eternity!

In all the chapels of our congregation around the world we have words that Jesus the Divine Master gave to our founder to enlighten the entire Pauline Family:

Fear not, I am with you, from here I want to enlighten, live in continuous conversion.

The last sentence is translated slightly differently in Pauline chapels around the world, but this is the version that is on the wall of the chapel of my community in Lisbon. Praying with this phrase weighed heavily on my heart as I was reflecting about my vocation as a Daughter of St. Paul. Living in continuous conversion means openness to establish a relationship of love with the God who awaits me every day in the tabernacle. It is not an obsessive search for sin. Being aware of sin outside this relation of love with God does not lead us anywhere; it is a pool of stagnant water that will not reach any sea.

At the end of the day what matters is love, as Pope Francis reminds us so many times. It is God who first loved us. Only by trusting in this love can we truly be aware of our sin. Only trusting in God’s love can we be healed and saved. Only trusting in this love can we walk toward the promise of eternal life. Love must always be the fuel for our journey towards God.

It is God who first loved us. Only trusting in God’s love can we be healed and saved.

Even now … return to me with all your heart …

Conversion is more than returning to God. It is the right thing to do. Conversion is returning to God because we love him. It is walking toward him without straying, because we want to love him for all eternity.

Mary our blessed Mother knows what it is to belong to God entirely and with an undivided heart. We ask through her intercession the grace to love God with all our heart, mind, and will, so that, like her, we can say yes to what God asks of us each day in freedom and holiness.

By Sr Marta Gaspar

Image: Cathopic: Gonzalo Gutierrez

O Love! O Kiss! O Lamb of sacrifice….

O Love, O divine Kiss of the Father and the Son,

            offer to my Sovereign, King and Master,

            the humiliation he endured

            on the way to his cruel execution

                        —O God! to put Sovereign Love to death!—

            …milling crowds, jeering, conjecturing, pontificating

            …leaders planning and scheming what would be better for the people

                        —and how right they were—

                        the people who knew better…

                                    who stripped away the flowers and fruits

                                                so fragile and tender

                                                            he had cultivated with

                                                            Sacred Hands

                                                            to his Father’s glory.

                        putting a hard stop to his mission

                                    now stamped with the verdict “Failure”

                                                to be uprooted

                                                            and eliminated from the land.

I hold to my breast, O Love, the

            lamb of sacrifice, shivering in the

            cold of a Bethlehem’s night….

                        “Are you willing to walk

                                    my way,

                                                set up your home in my broken Heart

                                                enflesh the Father’s Truth…as I.

O Kiss – O Love!

Offer to the Father

            the love of my Sovereign Lord and Master

            the force of his surrendered determination

                        to obey

                        to trust

                        to permeate the darkness of no return.

            to be counted as stupid,

                        useless, a danger to the establishment….

and he opened not his mouth.

                                    he handed himself over to his Abba.

I hold to my breast the Lamb of God

            who takes away the sins of the world.

            Mary hands him to me

                        for comfort

                                    He knows

                                                Compassion in His Eyes.

                                                            Radiant white

                                                                        cover my struggling

                                                                        heart-candle’s flame

                                                                                    flickering in the winds….

“I make you white as fresh-fallen snow.”

Stations of the Cross: finding peace in inner turmoil

The Stations of the Cross are a beloved prayer, a way for us to meditate on the mystery of God’s love for us in Jesus. In praying the Stations we journey with Jesus, we look at him, love him, and he looks at us and loves us.

I wrote this set of Stations based on the different cognitive distortions that cause us such mental and emotional turmoil. I find that praying myself into the life and death of Jesus is a powerful way to reframe, renew, and transform the weaknesses of my mind and heart. Somehow whenever I pray these Stations I finish clearer, more open to God’s love, more a channel of God’s love in what had been before an impossible situation. May it do the same for you.

These are based on the Stations of the Cross included in my book Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach.

Sr Kathryn

Joseph Moments

Today is the Solemnity of St Joseph, the husband of Mary, the man who is called “just.” To call a person “just,” is like saying “he who is virtuous in all things.” Joseph was faithful to listening and responding to the voice of God. He was courageous in carrying out his yes.

To be “virtuous in all things” makes me visualize a day-by-day, moment-by-moment ascent of a mountain range of choices, trials, unexpected changes, upset plans, new discoveries and challenging opportunities. Every aspect of Joseph’s life could be said to be an unexpected, upset, redirected, turned around…mystery.

Do you have these Joseph moments in your life?

Moments like moving, changing jobs, starting out on your own….

Saying goodbye at the moment when a loved one or friends walks into eternity….

Discovering that what you thought was true about someone actually wasn’t…

Being challenged to consider a vocation or ministerial possibility for which you don’t feel prepared…

Having to enter into a situation that compromises what others think of you without the luxury of explaining or defending yourself…

Trying hard to do what needs to be done only to have the plans completely changed for an unknown reason, leaving you only with the faith that God is still here whatever happens…

Joseph moments.

Stay close to Joseph in order to in all things live virtuously.

Joseph will inspire you to silence so that you will hear your angels when God sends you direction for your life.

Joseph will give you the courage of discernment and prudence so that you can listen for God’s voice alone and set aside all the other voices of self-interest, entitlement, or fear.

Joseph will show you the wisdom of openness to change so that you can show up fully and responsibly for your vocation as it unfolds throughout the years of your life.

Joseph will bless you with the trust needed to witness to your faith that God is at work in whatever confusion or reversal life may throw your way.

Joseph will remind you again and again that all his preparations for the birth of the Son of God went to naught as he left for Bethlehem during a census and fled to Egypt to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod. He surrendered all that was his and provided for the Holy Family “on the fly,” so to speak, so that we would know that it is God who does all things, and everything God does he does well. When things fall apart on our end, the failure simply manifests what God had intended all along. Joseph’s story was an endless discovery and embrace of the mystery of God’s plan for him and Jesus and Mary. This father of the Holy Family willingly leaned into mystery no matter what the cost to himself rather than relinquish the vocation given him.

Joseph moments. Our lives are full of them. May this great saint help us be faithful in all things.

Photo Credit Cathopic: Vanesa Guerrero, rpm