2017: A Lesson in Humility.

As I look back over my year, I see slamming doors, unexpected detours and hills left to climb, and yet, at the same time, I see a year forever marked by the transformative powers of the Holy Spirit. This has truly been a year of contrasts, one filled with personal failings and unfulfilled aspirations, along side unbounding love and divine transformation. “What do all of these things have in common?” you may ask. Each one represents a single baby step towards the virtue of humility.

kneeling statue

Humility is often defined as temperance which exhibits neither pride nor self-deprecation. In a religious context, it can mean a recognition and submission of oneself in relation to God. In both cases, humility is an outward expression of appropriate inward regard.

Humility is the most basic of all the Christian virtues. In order to love God and neighbor, we must forget ourselves and believe in someone greater. This someone is the Triune God (God, the Father, Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son and the love between them, which is the Holy Spirit). Although humility is the most basic of Christian virtues, it seems the most difficult to achieve. Ironically, the verbal recognition of its gain, may actually indicate its loss. Simultaneously, its stated longing may ultimately magnify the lack of it in one’s life. Despite these challenges, I find myself in awe of what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in a willing heart.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come. Make us a holy family founded on love.”

This simple prayer has been at the start of every one of my family rosaries, nightly prayers and silent meditations over the last year. Perhaps this simple prayer, or act of surrender, has been the source of this year’s profound transformation. My son, Joseph, who has struggled for years, has made miraculous progress, both as an individual and as a family member. Over the last year, I have watched in amazement as my husband, Tom, has become the spiritual shepherd and protector of our family. In both regards, I have tried for years to accomplish what the Holy Spirit accomplished in record time. “What was different about 2017, you may ask, besides our family prayer?” I would say, it was my own getting out-of-the-way and trusting in the Lord to make all things new again. Perhaps only through the recognition of my nothingness, in comparison to the omnipotence of God, was I finally able to surrender my all in loving trust.

This was not an easy feat, for it required self-awareness, determination, and desire. A simple letting go or getting out-of-the-way can sometimes be harder than the most valiant of personal efforts. Doing anything, for me, is much easier than doing nothing. Failing is much easier than never trying. However, over the last year, it was in the not trying that I actually found my greatest success, for this was a success not based on my own ability but on the ability and pure gift of the Holy Spirit. This was my greatest gift and lesson in 2017. A gift which came on the other side of many closed doors, failed attempts, and thwarted plans, for it seems it took my actual giving up to finally give it over to God.

door

I have heard that the doorway to heaven has only one handle. Pulling as hard as we can to open this doors seems a worthy task. However, the irony remains, that it is a door only opened by Jesus Christ and at the end of it all, it may be our persistent pulling which ultimately blocks our final entry.

Our family’s miraculous success, achieved after the finality of my personal surrender, is perhaps as ironic a lesson to learn as is the virtue of humility itself. This kind of self-emptying and letting go seems a particularly hard lesson in today’s world of self-empowerment, self-promotion, and self-satisfaction. Surrounded by the material success and self-determination of today’s many heroes and world leaders, it proves challenging to embrace the almost “retro” message of humility. This is as much a counter-cultural message today as it was during the time of Jesus. Despite this fact, however, it is no less timely. Today’s self-reliance, self-determination, and material success seems to lead humanity further from happiness, for trapped within our very selves, how can we find love? It is love, the love of God, which ultimately leads to true happiness. It is often, from within the silent emptying of self, the emptying of our many thoughts and possessions, that we can finally hear the voice of God.

This emptying, or quiet simplicity, was probably best illustrated to me during my recent pilgrimage to Rome. There, I sat on the small, single bed of St. Teresa of Calcutta, perhaps the most humble person of the 21st century. St. Teresa is a woman who always surrendered herself to God. It was only through the emptying of herself out in love, that she was filled by the unbounding love of God. Filled with His love, she became a beacon of light and love to all those she encountered. This is my goal or resolution for 2018, to empty myself, so that I too, can be filled with the transformative power and love of the Holy Spirit. It is only in the emptying out that one can be filled up with something new.

May you have a wonderful New Year filled with the Spirit of Love. Amen.

teresa bed

Mother Teresa’s room at the Missionaries of Charity House in Rome, Italy.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.
Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

 

A Toast to St Teresa of Calcutta

St Teresa of Calcutta: A Modern Day Saint and Role Model for the New Evangelization by Catherine Cresson, this Friday’s guest spiritual safari guide.

mother-teresa

A Toast to St. Teresa of Calcutta. Throughout history, toasting or elevating one’s glass in someone’s honor has found expression in many cultures. The word “toast” may actually find its origin in the “toasting” or charring of oak storage barrels used during the wine fermentation or aging process. The addition of toasted oak barrels or chips helps to enhance wine flavor, color, tannin and texture. As in so many other life processes, the fire’s toasting or purging process leads to a most unexpected transformation. So too in the spiritual life, as unexpected difficulty and pain often enliven the most profound expression of love. In St. Teresa of Calcutta, we find the same: the bitter sweet sorrow of toasted oak, and an enhanced expression of Christian love. Join us on a virtual pilgrimage as Cathy Cresson, this Friday’s guest spiritual safari guide, offers a toast to St. Teresa of Calcutta, a modern day saint and exemplary role model for the new evangelization.

Charred-Barrels-S

Oak wine barrel toasting. The use of oak wine barrels first came into prevalence during the time period of the Roman Empire. Wine makers soon discovered that oak’s porous nature allowed for gradual evaporation and subsequent enhancement of the wine’s concentration, aroma and taste. Additionally, varying degrees of barrel toasting was found to impact wine tannin levels, color and texture.

A Toast to St. Teresa of Calcutta by Catherine Cresson.

If you are like me, the idea of evangelization in any form may be completely foreign and slightly intimidating. And yet, Pope Francis writes in The Joy of the Gospel,  “the new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized.”  “Indeed,” he writes “anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love” is called “to go out and proclaim that love.” Luckily, we have many Saints to guide our way on this new journey. One of the greatest and most recent of these is St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Many of us were blessed to have seen Mother Teresa in person. I was about ten when I sat with my entire family and thousands of others mesmerized by a small nun on a large stage with a quiet voice speaking powerful words.  She was unforgettable.

st teresa at 18

Saint Teresa of Calcutta at age 18

St. Teresa was born in 1910 into a devout Catholic family in Skopje, Macedonia.  At the age of 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto and was sent to teach in Calcutta. She taught for nearly 20 years, and then, while on a train, she received  “a call within a call.” God was calling her to be “a carrier of His love” to those who felt most “unloved, unwanted, uncared for, thrown away by society.”  “Come be my Light,” Jesus asked Mother Teresa.  She accepted his invitation with every fiber of her being.

Mother Teresa worked diligently for four years to establish in 1950 this new order of nuns: the Missionaries of Charity.  Once established, the order quickly grew, and their work flourished. The Missionaries of Charity began in the slums of Calcutta, gradually expanded across India, then across the world, caring for the dying, the hungry, the orphans, those suffering from leprosy, AIDS, and mental challenges.  At the time of her death in 1997, there were nearly 4000 MC Sisters in 594 foundations in 120 countries.

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Although the number of people served by the MC is staggering, for Mother Teresa, the work was always about each individual person and his/her relationship with God. “I do not agree with the big way of doing things,” she writes.  “To us, what matters is an individual. . .  Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, there is only one person in the world for me at that moment.”  Ruma Bose, a 1992 volunteer for Mother Teresa in Calcutta, remembers that she always had time for people. If you met with her,  “she would ask about you.  She would sit with you, envelope your hand in hers, look deeply in your eyes. . . and listen.”

Father Kolodiejchuk, an MC priest who worked with Mother Teresa for 20 years and was her postulator, recalls that one of the most striking things about her was “just how ordinary” she was.  “Sometimes if you didn’t know what she looked like and you were in the convent, she wouldn’t be sticking out in any way, unless you noticed how she would do those little things, like a genuflection, or taking the holy water.”

Everything Mother Teresa did flowed from her great love for God and her desire to be for others a channel of His love. “We have been created to love and be loved,” she writes, “and He has become a man to make it possible for us to love as He loved us.” Fr. Kolodiejchuk calls her a “realist saint,” and as such, she expressed love in concrete actions. “The cup of water you give to the sick, the way you lift a dying man. . . the way you teach an ignorant child, the joy with which you smile in your own home—all this is God’s love in the world today,” she writes.  “I want this to be imprinted in your minds:” she continues,  “God still loves the world through you and me today.”

Mother Teresa blesses a sick child held by his mother October 20 at the Missionaries of Charity conv..

Once someone asked Mother Teresa:  “Why do you go abroad:  Don’t you have enough poor in India?”  She answered:  “I think Jesus told us to go and preach to all the nations.  That is why we go all over the world to preach God’s love and compassion by our humble deeds of love.”  Mother Teresa was a wonderful speaker, a beautiful writer, a wise instructor. But it was through her “humble deeds of love” she best evangelized.  It was the way she treated each person with great respect and care that showed her love and proclaimed God’s own.

We cook, we sew, we mother and manage.  We practice law and practice medicine, but I think as long as we continue to practice loving through our own humble deeds, Mother Teresa will be happy to light our myriad paths as new evangelizers.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

Click on the link above to learn more about Karen’s non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about her upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

A Community of Love!

Lost But Not Alone. Who do you turn to for love, support and peace amidst life’s uncertainties?   Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the beautiful and at times overstimulating country of India as we explore this question.

beauty-and-chaos

Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Two: Lost But Not Alone (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

Initiating their nightly bedtime ritual, the mother placed a weighted blanket on her restless three-year-old son, professed her love, and proceeded to read his favorite bedtime story. Next, she gently kissed him goodnight and began their usual prayers. After a full day of overstimulation and severe anxiety, the predictability of this routine seemed to lull her small child into a peaceful slumber. Overwhelmed by the endless difficulties encountered during the first two years of his life, the new mother sought help from an occupational therapist. Recommended was a “sensory diet” to regulate her son’s over sensitive nervous system. Included would be the use of a weighted blanket, predicable routine, verbal pre-warning prior to intimate contact, and active playtime in place of his aggression or self-mutilating behaviors. Receiving the first diagnosis of many to come, that of sensory regulation dysfunction and high functioning autism, the new mom did her best to implement all recommended measures. Feeling lost but not alone, she found support amidst the vibrant community of believers at her local Catholic Parish, Mary, Queen of Peace. There, she found God’s loving presence, and an unexplainable sense of peace, amidst her family’s growing uncertainties.

india

India is the seventh largest and second most populated country in the world. Located in South Asia, it is bound by the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal to the south, and the countries of Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh to the north.

About five years ago, my husband and I went on a two week journey to India in search of adventure and a personal encounter with its most exotic wildlife. Ironically, I found something even more profound: the joy, comfort, and hope of Christ reflected in the community of believers at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Tradition holds that, after Pentecost, St. Thomas went east and eventually reached India around 58 AD, where he spread the faith throughout India’s coastal regions. Although Christians make up less than 3% of India’s total population, this small but vibrant group can trace its lineage to St. Thomas, the Apostle. Today, several of his bodily remains are preserved within the San Thome Basilica in Chennai, Mylapore, the destination of thousands of pilgrims each year. This unexpected spiritual oasis, found amidst the amazingly wonderful but overstimulating streets of India, provides the first clue in our search for peace amidst life’s uncertainties: Gather amongst a community of believers to give praise and honor to God. 

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Church of St. Peter and Paul in Jabalpur, India.

A further exploration of India’s history and culture will reveal our final three clues. In 2015, India’s economy was the seventh largest in the world. In fact, following the implementation of its 1991 economic reforms, it became one of the world’s fastest-growing economic nations. Although this rapid financial growth helped to create a large urban middle class, it failed to lessen the unyielding poverty still affecting a large percentage of its rural and urban population. It was there, amidst India’s “poorest of the poor”, that a small Albanian nun opened a school and began tending to the poor and forgotten. One year later, in 1950, this same nun, known as Mother or Saint Teresa of Calcutta, formed the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which today has over 4,500 sisters in over 133 countries around the world.

teach-india

It is in the following heartfelt words of St. Teresa, recorded in her spiritual diary, that we find our second clue to the source of inner peace amidst the overstimulation of life: join all of your suffering, uncertainty, doubt and pain to the Cross of Jesus. There, it will become redemptive and life giving for others. 

“Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked til my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health……..Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard,” (Mother Teresa, 1949)     

So close did St. Teresa feel to both our Lord and the people of India, that she went on to write, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” When considering where Mother Teresa found the strength and perseverance to continually serve others, Pope John Paul II replied, “She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart.” In these words, we find our third clue: Fall in love with Jesus. Seek His guidance and consolation in prayer and before the Most Blessed Eucharist. 

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A mother and child from the region of Assam, located in eastern India. Seen in the background is a typical Indian multi-generational home.

Our final clue can be found within the homes of most Indian families. There, we find an extremely low divorce rate and the continued existence of a multi-generational or joint family home, where uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and grandparents live together under a single roof. In India, family is the most important institution that has survived through the ages. Like most other less industrialized, traditional, eastern societies, India continues to emphasize family integrity, loyalty, and unity. Therefore, the Indian family supports its old, widowed, never married, disabled and unemployed. It provides security, a sense of support, and togetherness for each of its members. Here, we find our fourth and final clue when searching for peace amidst the overstimulation and uncertainties of life: foster traditional family values and unity, for it there, in the company of loved ones, that we find the peace and comfort of home. It is there, within our “domestic church”, that we find the love, and mirrored image, of the Triune God. 

Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com