5 powerful ways to find the love you’re looking for

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

I sometimes check an app where people are encouraged to leave their secrets, things they wouldn’t tell others. After many months of listening to people’s stories in this hidden way, I can say that the driving force that is at the root of all their stories and my own, is the longing to be loved, known, seen, heard, cared for.

These whispered fears, adventurous stories, and shame-filled confessions may not be my personal experience, but I too weave my own life’s narrative with the yarn of this deep longing for love. I can’t help but feel this strong inner connection with the rest of humanity, for we all struggle, rising and falling, in this arduous search for an eternal love, often getting short-circuited into a situation that promises love but cheapens us instead.

How God must have compassion on our human hearts, so gullible to the flashing promises of love’s allure. After all he created us for Love (capital L), forming our hearts with his own hands. His own heart has been broken by our longing for a “god” other than the One who tenderly bends over us in compassion. His Son’s heart knew the bitter tears of rejection and isolation, the fire of desire and dreams, the soothing comfort at the presence around him of those he loved.

Some of the situations whispered about on this app would arouse in any of us the deepest compassion: the shame and suffering expressed by those who have experienced abuse, abortion, rejection and loneliness in the most difficult of situations.

I want to cheer for others who tell their story: “I’ve been a month without cutting.” “This is my first year anniversary of being sober.” “This is my child’s first day of school. I chose not to abort her and I am so glad.”

People around us are whispering their stories to us all the time. Too shy to proclaim their need or their success, too fearful of ridicule or shame, incredulous that anyone would even care, the people around us leave clues of their desire to be noticed. And we can so easily miss these clues. It’s easy to look at a social media app and flip through the whispered secrets of people’s lives. What would be different if we could respond to the clues all around us that people are leaving in real life?

I have to admit I often miss them. My attention is on my own needs, my own longing to be seen and heard. My drive to finish something important to me. And I can’t see. Am deaf to the beating of the hearts around me. Perhaps too tired to exert the energy to show another the compassion I long for myself.

We are all struggling to get what we feel we need. We find what we long for when we give it away.

There are five powerful ways to give love away and find the love we’re looking for:

  • Listen with your whole body. Look at the person who is speaking. Lean toward them. Hold yourself quietly. Don’t interrupt except to say, “Yes.” “I see.” “Yup.”
  • Be vocal about your appreciation. Make a habit of telling people what you appreciate about them as a person. “I love the way you….” “I’m so grateful when you do…” “You make everyone smile when you…”
  • Ask someone to help you. Use that opportunity to get to know them a little more and to share something about yourself. Your vulnerability will encourage the other to feel comfortable sharing with you.
  • Be observant and sensitive. Ask someone if they are okay when you notice that they are a little down, or quieter than usual, or you notice something else has changed in the way they present themselves.
  • Practice showing your love on your face. Imagine if you couldn’t speak and you had to communicate your concern or interest entirely with your facial expression. Practice and you’ll see how much you are able to communicate without a word. And sometimes with our words, we don’t communicate the intensity of our compassion unless we pair it with the visible expression on our face. It’s the difference between a casual, “Are you okay? And “I really want to know, are YOU okay?” And yes, I am ready to stay here to receive your answer.

When you give this love away, you will find it coming back to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our future is in his triumph

Christ has risen, and we too rise with him. He has conquered evil and death. We see our future in his triumph over death and in his ascension to the Father’s right hand. In him we are taken into the circle of life and love within the Trinity. We are held and embraced there, hidden and protected. Such awe! God “has spoken to us…. When [his Son] had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He lives and so we will live forever. Jesus, you live and so I will live! Forever! Amen.

From the book Cherished by the Lord

 

Cherished by the Lord

The Gift of the Middle Years

The sunrise is the glorious announcement of something new, a new opportunity for joy, for birth, for creativity, for relationship, for love. As the sun stretches its arms of color across the horizon, gradually exchanging pastel hues of a sleepy dawn for the solid gold of day, the night is left behind. Even at times the memory of the darkness is gone. Only the expectant future, pregnant with promise, remains.

To run along the horizon at morn, to dance with the dawn, to explode with the joy of a future that leaves the past in the past is one of the greatest habits of mind and heart that we can develop. God gives us the opportunity to practice these habits day after day, for we can touch the sunrise every 24 hours and the possibility of joy is there again.

When we reach the “middle” years of our life, however, the dark of the night can overtake even the hope that there will be a dawn. Some of the hopes and dreams of the younger years, the expectations of how we thought our life would turn out, eventually begin to sour, no matter what efforts we put into them. As the years pass and we experience both life’s joys and bitter disappointments we realize at last that some of what we hoped for won’t happen, and sometimes it won’t happen because of decisions we ourselves have made. We begin to replay the messy events of the past, choices we made, sins and mistakes that weren’t really us, but there they are. We did them and now we can’t get away from them, even if we are the only ones who know about them. We look at them again and again because we can’t forgive ourselves for what we’ve done, and we fear that perhaps God hasn’t either.

We are primed to label any angst that we feel after 40 as a “crisis,” and the very special kind of crisis we have come to call “the midlife crisis.” Calling these wonderful middle years of life a “crisis” is a problem. Even just the word crisis makes me cringe, shut-down, withdraw in fear like a turtle pulling its head into its shell in the presence of danger.

In these transitional years between past and future, instead, I believe we are longing for something more: more prayer, more relationship with God, more family, more tenderness, more life, more peace, more trust…. Always “more.”

I admire how “sneaky” God is. At this time of our life, many wish they had prayed more, or that they had a better relationship with God. They want “more” of God, of spirit, of joy. They look back and think this feeling of guilt about how “little” they prayed and loved God is a condemnation of how deficient they were when they were younger. It is God coming closer, getting your attention, almost yelling to you, “YOU WANT MORE!” You can have more. Remember that in your younger years you did the best you could with what you had. And no matter what you did, it became a step to where you are now. So be here where you are now. If you want more spirituality and prayer, then take more NOW!

It was when I was in my early forties that I started having the scary thought, “Time is running out. The clock is ticking. I’m running out of time.” It was the gentle wake-up notice, and the beginning of many years of reassessing what my life had been, stabilizing what my life had become, and looking forward to a newer, gradually wiser vision of what I wanted the rest of my life to be. Today I am in my mid-fifties. The journey between the first wake-up call, through the midnight of deep disappointment with my life and myself, and on to a healing that brought closure to the guilt-ridden regrets has been long and difficult and blessed! It is for this reason that it is impossible for me to speak of a midlife crisis. I can’t even bring myself to see it as a midlife opportunity. Instead it is a midlife Gift. I am utterly in awe of the beautiful place God has brought me to…and it was all because I had to face where I had been, where I had fallen short, what I wish I had and hadn’t done in the first half of life.

This journey became my book that is releasing September: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments. 

This book is offered as a guide through whatever journey of self-questioning and regret God is taking you on now in your life. It will help you to:

  1. Step back, ease up, and take a walk through your inner space, a walk that is gentle, casual, and tender.
  2. Touch aspects of your history, of your soul, of your heart that you may not have had access to for a long time. By just being with all this, new doors will open. The regrets that sometimes assail us in mid-life and beyond are painful to process but ultimately good. We see how we have received God’s grace in our life and how we have fallen away. But the marvelous thing is this: we still have time. We have time to change. We have time for something new to come about in our lives. It is all mercy. It is all grace!
  3. Pray with scripture in a way that will help you deepen your intimacy with Jesus and your trust in God. Scripture shows us that it is when we encounter the Face of God, the gaze of Jesus, that our struggle ends.

Sound interesting? I’d love to share more with you. Join me for a 5-day free email series with exclusive meditations and exercises. God doesn’t want us to be bound by our past. He wants us to touch the sunrise again and again. I love the prayer of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist and it is my wish for you:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

May you once again touch the sunrise.

Sr. Kathryn

Regret Promo 01-3

In Transitional Times: How to Keep Your Feet on the Ground

This morning in our chapel, Redemptorist Father Tizio from Mission Church opened his homily with these words: “There is a Chinese curse: May you live in a time of transition.” The sisters all chuckled since we seem to be perpetually living in transition with a mission to evangelize with the means of communication.

We all in this country, he went on to say, are living in a time of tremendous upheaval. Living in transitional times, it has been described, is like living with both feet in the air. There is no security, no clarity, no way of knowing what will be except that we are not there yet and we can’t go back.

You, my friend, may be feeling this insecurity as you watch what is being reported in the news or perhaps witnessing yourselves the very human consequences of this struggle. For us Sisters, the events reported have names. For you it may be the same. It is a phenomenon that is not only playing out in the US but across the world, as people flee their countries for a better life, but the challenge of resettling millions of people while both respecting both their needs and the security of the receiving country is not easily resolved.

In January 2019, a man who would completely understand our struggle will be canonized. His name is Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador, who spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. Romero faithfully adhered to Catholic teachings on liberation and a preferential option for the poor, desiring a social revolution based on interior reform.

While seen as a social conservative at his appointment as archbishop in 1977, he was deeply affected by the murder of his friend and fellow priest Rutilio Grande a few weeks after his own appointment. As he took over the care of his flock, he actively denounced violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable people, defended the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence. He was declared a Servant of God by Saint John Paul II in 1997. His cause for beatification and canonization was reopened by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and he was declared a martyr of Pope Francis on February 3, 2015. He was beatified on May 23, 2015.

By the time of his death, Romero had built up an enormous following among Salvadorans. He did this largely through broadcasting his weekly sermons across El Salvador on the Church’s station, YSAX, “except when it was bombed off the air.” In these sermons, he listed disappearances, tortures, murders, and much more each Sunday. This was followed by an hour-long speech on radio the following day. On the importance of these broadcasts, one writer noted that “the archbishop’s Sunday sermon was the main source in El Salvador about what was happening. It was estimated to have the largest listenership of any program in the country.” According to listener surveys, 73% of the rural population and 37% of the urban listened regularly. Similarly, his diocesan weekly paper Orientación carried lists of cases of torture and repression every week. (Wikimedia)

How easy it could have been for the Archbishop to fire up his listeners with anger and violence. But like a sword his words cut a straight line through the human heart in its quivering attempt to hold the horror of their suffering and bring justice. Romero did light a fire in their hearts, a fire we desperately need today, here, in the throes of our own transition.

Let us take a moment to learn at the feet of soon-to-be canonized Oscar Romero:

In mid-May of 1977, military forces raided the town of Aguilares, killing dozens of people, desecrated the church and the eucharist, and deported the three priests remaining in the parish. A month later Archbishop Oscar Romero installed a new parish team. In the homily of the installation Mass, he said: “We will be firm in defending our rights—but with a great love in our hearts, because when we defend ourselves with love we are also seeking sinners’ conversion. That is the Christian’s vengeance.” (June 19, 1977, The Violence of Love, page 4)

How could the Archbishop talk love in a country torn apart by violence, torture, and murder.

“The church’s social teaching … is a looking at God, and from God at one’s neighbor as a brother or sister, and an awareness that ‘whatever you did to one of these, you did to me’” (The Nonviolence of Love, March 14, 1977, page 3).

But in the face of a problem so overwhelming, what should I do? What can I do? We feel like we should be able to do something. Romero couldn’t solve the country’s problems, make them go away, return to mothers their children who had disappeared, wipe away the floods of tears and fear. He invited his flock to enter into the problems of the human family.
“The transcendence that the church preaches is not alienation; it is not going to heaven to think about eternal life and forget about the problems on earth. It’s a transcendence from the human heart. It is entering into the reality of a child, of the poor, of those wearing rags, of the sick, of a hovel, of a shack. It is going to share with them. And from the very heart of misery, of this situation, to transcend it, to elevate it, to promote it, and to say to them, ‘You aren’t trash. You aren’t marginalized.’ It is to say exactly the opposite, ‘You are valuable’” (quote found: https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2014/08/13/man-gods-microphone-12-quotes-celebrate-life-voice-oscar-romero/).

In Boston, where I live, I may not personally meet these brothers and sisters of mine from Latin and Central America, although my sisters do (even here in Boston). I can hold these people dear to my heart: “You aren’t an illegal alien. You aren’t trash. You aren’t a criminal. You are valuable.”

From this experience of the heart of misery comes wisdom, for, as Romero says, “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

For starters, in conversations, social media posts, comments online, I can be intentional in my language and motivation to convey my respect for them as my brothers and sisters, their human dignity, people caught in the middle of a situation for which I don’t see an easy solution.

“I don’t want to be an anti, against anybody. I simply want to be the builder of a great affirmation: the affirmation of God, who loves us and who wants to save us” (The Violence of Love).

All I know, as Romero said, is that “there are not two categories of people. There are not some who were born to have everything and leave others with nothing and a majority that has nothing and can’t enjoy the happiness that God has created for all. God wants a Christian society, one in which we share the good things that God has given for all of us” (original quote: https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2014/08/13/man-gods-microphone-12-quotes-celebrate-life-voice-oscar-romero/).

So we can say that in a transition we don’t really have two feet in the air. If we choose, Romero shows us how to plant both feet securely on the ground: one foot in the kingdom where God loves us all equally and the other foot in the human heart where each of us and all of us blossom under the sun of God’s love with equal dignity and value. The winds of transition will continue to blow, the uncertainty cause us to wonder and fear, but our compass will still be pointed due north: to our common Father who makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ his Son.

“We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work” (The Violence of Love).

I invite you to sign up for my letter, just a couple times a month, and to join my Facebook Group: 

  • Upon research into this “Chinese curse” I discovered it was not invented by the Chinese at all: “It was first used by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936, and later popularized through a speech by Robert F Kennedy in 1966. The phrase “live in interesting times” dates at least to the late 19th century. The “Chinese curse” element was likely added by Sir Chamberlain as an (effective) embellishment. There is no evidence of a Chinese origin.” (https://www.quora.com/Where-does-the-quote-May-you-live-in-interesting-times-come-from)

 

Touching the Sunrise

‘Awake, my soul, awake! show thy spirit, arouse thy senses, shake off the sluggishness of that deadly heaviness that is upon thee, begin to take care for thy salvation. Let the idleness of vain imaginations be put to flight, let go of sloth, hold fast to diligence. Be instant in holy meditations, cleave to the good things which are of God: leaving that which is temporal, give heed to that which is eternal. Now in this godly employment of thy mind, to what canst thou turn thy thoughts more wholesomely and profitably than to the sweet contemplations of thy Creator’s immeasurable benefits toward thee.’

St. Anselm of Canterbury

What Wondrous Majesty! The Saints and the Eucharist

“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation.”
– St. Francis of Assisi
There are some amazing synonyms for prayer that only the saints seem to remember: Admiration! Astonishment! Humility! Adoration! Wonder! Mystery! These words of St. Francis of Assisi describe for us his prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
I believe the heart-movements of adoration and wonder so dear to the saints have been deadened in us by the over-stimulation that bombards us from all sides these days. The beautiful Feast of Corpus Christi this Sunday causes us to step back, kneel down, prostrate ourselves before Infinite Glory, and be swept up into the divine life of the Trinity.
“God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe
Our parish churches and chapels are temples of the living God. In the Eucharist, the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—becomes “fully a part of our human condition… God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us” (Sacramentum Caritatis, no 8).
Recently, I came across a story about Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR (priest, author, and retreat master, who died in 2014). He was traveling with a Protestant minister in a car and when they passed a Catholic Church, Fr. Benedict made the sign of the Cross. The minister asked him why he did this. Fr. Benedict explained that it was out of reverence for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The minister told him, if I believed what you believe, I would get out of the car, run inside the Church, fall on my knees and never get up again.
God dwells in our midst. God dwells in our midst. It isn’t quite like the wardrobe that was the portal through which the three children slip into the fantastic world of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, from his epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.
Instead, heaven is here among us. It is no fantasy, but Mystery. Yet the same struggle between good and evil that raged in Narnia, plays out also in our midst. In the end, as the prophetical scene described in the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation reveals, the majesty of God will be gloriously triumphant:
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.
Behind the tiny door of the tabernacle in our churches is not only a ciborium, but the awesome Glory of Infinite Love and Mercy who has chosen to live in our midst. Even in tabernacles where he is alone and blasphemed he remains with us.
“O Jesus, You instituted this Sacrament because Your love exceeds all words. Burning with love for us, You desired to give Yourself to us and took up Your dwelling in the consecrated Host, entirely and forever, until the end of time. And You did this, not only to give us a memorial of Your death which is our salvation, but You did it also, to remain with us entirely and forever.”
– St. Angela of Foligno

At the beginning of the fourth century, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, Christian worship was still forbidden by the imperial authorities. In 304, however, 49 Christians at Abitanae, however, felt compelled to celebrate the Lord’s Day with the Eucharist. Though the local bishop had obeyed the edict, they defied the prohibition. After cruel torture, the Christians and Saturninus, a priest, were martyred. Emeritus, in whose house the Christians had met, declared that it was not possible for them to live without the Eucharist, the food of the Lord. May these martyrs of Abitanae and all those who down the centuries have given their lives because “they couldn’t live without the Eucharist,” cause our hearts to burn in astonishment and gratitude for so great a gift.

For more, join me for spiritual support on my Facebook Group.
A treasure for praying before the Eucharist: Prayers for Eucharistic Adoration.

In covenant with God

We are persons who are in covenant with God. In this covenant we discover what it is to be truly human: sought out by God, loved, embraced, committed to by the One who was, who is, and who ever will be. This covenant assures us post-moderns that the identity we so desperately seek is found in the arms of a loving God who can’t abandon us. My Lord, I hunger so much to know my life has meaning. Is it too much to ask you to call me by a new name? Tell me who you’ve created me to be….

From the book Cherished by the Lord