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“God is in the pots and pans.” – St. Teresa of Avila 

St. Teresa of Avila tells us that we are never closer to God than when we’re immersed in the ordinary moments of daily life. I love this part of the Carmelite spirituality because it plonks you right back down where you are supposed to be. 

There is a false notion that God is only found in church on Sundays. Wrong! Or that spirituality and holiness are these mysterious lofty ideals that can only be accessed by Priests and Nuns. Wrong! God calls each and everyone of us to holiness. That’s right – even YOU! Our job is to find God in the tiny moments of everyday normal life: Our journey to work, folding laundry, sitting at our desk, changing nappies, texting, cooking, moments of silence, the words we use… everything. Little acts of love, kindness, self sacrifice and beauty. 

If we remain mindful of this reality during the day, then it becomes apparent pretty quickly that God is present in everything we do each day. It also becomes apparent how we all rush around so busy busy busy, yet miss so much hidden within the finer details. 

After practising this for just a few days i have also become aware that the people God is calling me to evangelise are right in front of me. Just like charity, The New Evangelisation begins at home. We all have members of our family, close friends, work colleagues and neighbours we see regularly. These are the people God has put in your life for you to witness to. You have the opportunity to be the bridge of trust they need, to come to know and start a relationship with The God who loved them into existence and then died for them out of the same love, to give them the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. How is God moving in their lives at the moment? Can you recognise Him in them? Can they recognise Him in you? 

So as i cook for my husband and my kids tonight, i will pray for them. I’ll marvel at the fact that God has provided us with incredible foods that come out of the ground, and that He has given me the creative talent to turn these into dinner! I’ll thank God that we have a home to eat this food in, and i’ll remember all the mothers in Iraq who don’t have it as easy as i do at the moment. I’ll remain mindful that God is right here, in amongst the pots and pans.

 

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The sad news of Robin Williams death this week brought back memories for me of 6th January 1998 – the day i tried to take my own life. It was the worst and the best day of my life.

As an 18 year old almost sick to death (literally) with depression i had been prescribed Paxil Seroxat which was later banned in 2003 for under 18’s because it was found to increase risk of suicide.

I was begging God for mercy. My parents had had Mass said for me even though i had not been to mass for the last 5 years. I had no idea what was going on but can only describe it as a body-spirit split in which i was experiencing the most utter desolation and despair to the point in which it actually physically felt like my soul was being burned alive. This went on non-stop for 3 weeks.

“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” No profanity was to great to the God i had always believed in – but just hated for the last 5 years or so. Finally, not being able to withstand the torture i was experiencing any longer i felt i had no choice but to end it.

“I’m sorry, i don’t want to kill myself, but i just can’t live in this pain any more.” And after a failed attempt with a bottle of paracetamol, and knowing i was beaten, i turned to God and just surrendered.

“Clare, I’ve never forced you to believe in me” were the words i heard. I was aware of Jesus standing next to me, and behind Him was His Mother. And behind her were hundreds of saints all routing for me to come back to the faith.

“After everything i have done over the last 5 years, you still want me?”

“I love you.” 

And that was the first day of the rest of my life. The day of my conversion. The day i returned to the Catholic church. I guess you could say that i had some sort of an Epiphany (6th Jan – get it? Boom-Boom!!) Straight after that experience i felt the utter desolation lift and i was then able to cope with and slowly recover from what i would describe as ‘normal’ depression. 

Sometimes you have to come completely undone to discover who you are in Christ. Whatever it was that happened to me back then, however painful it was, it was pure grace. God knows where i would be now if i had not gone through that. It was so life changing i had no idea how to cope with it, so i did the normal 18 year old thing and got a tattoo. It is a picture of an electronic heart trace to remind me of the day my heart almost stopped beating, and then beat again for the first time as a new creature in Christ.

Interestingly, this evening i was just going through a box of old paperwork and discovered my baptism certificate. It seems that the date of my baptism was 6th Janurary 1980. Who would have thought that the Lord would use this date 18 years later to bring me back into His church? Unbelievable!

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I hate jogging.

I hate it so much i can’t even begin to describe…

I hate the way i am 3 stone over weight and totally unfit.

I hate the way it makes me gasp for air like a large cod out of water.

I hate the way dogs bark at me as i limp past.

I hate the way my neighbours see me from their windows and cheer, punching the air for me in a kind of Rocky Balboa celebratory motion.

I hate rain.

I hate sun.

I hate wind.

I hate whistling builders in peoples front gardens.

I hate cars and puddles near the curb.

I hate dog poo.

I hate mornings.

I hate the fact that i am so weak.

I hate sweating.

I hate wobbly paving stones.

I hate the way my fat wobbles with every step.

I hate having to suck my belly in while i run.

I hate being so vain.

I hate the way other joggers enjoy jogging and are good at it.

I am waiting for the day that modern science invents the machine that i can attach to my big toe that sucks out all the unnecessary body fat and makes me healthy. But until that time i will kick my own butt out of bed every morning and go jogging. But now i will do it with a smile on my face because i know by the power of redemptive suffering i will be kicking Satan’s butt too! 

It is a major part of the Carmelite charism to pray and offer sacrifice for priests. Every second i am out there dragging my big lardy self round the block, every single stumbling step i take i offer for Priests. Good priests, bad priests, saintly priests, fallen priests, young, old, seminarians, retired, traditional, liberal, those who are on fire with the holy spirit, those who are considering giving up – all of you. I love you all. I love you so much. You are so important. You are the boys on the front line. I pray for you everyday and now i jog for you everyday. I cannot tell you how much joy it gives me to know that i can carry a small part of your burden each day! So if you ever wake up feeling disheartened, know that i am out there fighting my way round the block – for you xx

XXX D 1976 ROCKY 75OSCAR 17 A ENT

 

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I have been having to let go of a few things recently. My 8 year old son has decided to stop calling me ‘Mummy’ and now calls me ‘Mum’ – He’s not my baby any more! My 10 month old has moved out of our room into her own room and my 4 year old is getting ready to start big school in September. Letting go is not easy.

It got to the point a few years back where I felt I had finally let go of everything and given it to God. And in my conscious mind I had. But the heart is full of secret chambers that hide deep, deep secrets. So deep that sometimes you are not even aware of them yourself.

In January this year the Lord was calling me to do something. I didn’t know what, and I was hesitating to give my ‘yes’ because I know what that means – He wants Everything. I had also recently just given birth to my third child and wasn’t sure I could commit to anything else. But eventually, one day when I was driving home from the school run I felt the prompt that now was the right time. So I said “OK, here you go – here’s my ‘yes’. I have no idea of what it is you are calling me to do but here is my ‘yes’ anyway – Jesus, I trust in you.”

Little did I know that this was a preparation for Carmel. The thing is, that when the Lord calls you into the desert with Him you go alone. I mean, you can take literally nothing with you. And it seems that in the deepest secret chambers of my heart I was holding onto something – security.

I got married 14 years ago aged 20. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband. I have never lived alone. I have always had someone to take care of me be it emotionally, financially or whatever. I have never been on my own with anything my entire adult life. My husband is my rock – he always has been. A week after I gave my ‘yes’ to God, my husband collapsed on the sofa with an unknown illness. By the next morning he couldn’t raise his head off of the pillow. It was terrifying, no-one knew what was wrong with him and he was getting worse. Blood test after blood test came back negative and at one point we even had the heart wrenching conversation “You know where all the life insurance documents are right?”

To cut a very long story short, after a month of searching we eventually got a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). There was relief that it was not life threatening. There was despair that there is no real cure. If you can imagine having run a marathon and having the flu and the worst hangover of your life – well that’s CFS. Every day without a break I would wake up to watch my husband suffering terribly knowing there was nothing I, or anyone else could do to help him. His courage and resolve throughout all this puts me to shame. He truly is the bravest man I know. The kids took it in their stride as kids do.

The hardest part for me is that my rock had been taken away from me. I was terrified and alone and had to hide my feelings not only from the kids but from my husband who had enough to deal with just getting through the day. There was not a day that went by for months and months that I would just find a place to be alone and just cry out of desperation and fear. I was alone in the dark with no-one to cling onto. “Why are you doing this to us?!” was all I could say to the Lord.

“Where are you hiding,
Beloved, having left me to moan?
Like the stag you fled
After wounding me;
I followed crying aloud, but you had gone.”

- St. John of the Cross

It began to dawn on me in prayer that there was something within me that was an issue, and the Lord was leading (a better word would be dragging) me through it. I was given the consolation of Our Lady reminding me that when I hold the Rosary, it is really her holding my hand. But things didn’t end there. The Lord also brought several ‘false rocks’ into my path that in varying ways seemed to offer me a perfect solution to the fear and despair I was experiencing. “Why are you doing this to me?!?!” These were some of the biggest tests I had ever had to face. Each time the Lord was testing me to see if I would rely solely on Him or not. He was testing me to see if I was ready to go into the desert with Him alone.

After much struggling and agonising, and being stripped down to my core, it seems that at 34 years old, I finally am ready!

My husband has improved so much since January and now is fairly normal at home. He has a good prognosis and has been told to expect to make a full recovery – in time. It could be a few years – we just don’t know. I the mean time he will remain at home and enjoy spending time with the baby. This does mean that because he cannot work we now have no income for the foreseeable future and I would ask you to pray about that for us. But quite frankly, I am at the point now where if we lose the house, we lose the house. So be it! It’s just a building and we can find another one if we have to. I am learning the true meaning of detachment – in every area of my life.

It’s been the hardest 8 months of my life. I’m bruised, but not broken. The main feeling I have is of incredible gratitude and relief that the Lord allowed me to go through this now, so I can learn to rely completely on Him and draw even closer to Him. I am beginning to learn the incredible beauty, purpose and value of suffering within the context of a relationship with Christ. He was amongst other things, preparing me to enter the desert that I now realise has always been my home – Carmel.

I hope this gives some insight into what has been going on for the last 8 months. I have not written about it before now because i had no way of articulating what on earth was happening. This is by no means the end – and there is of course much more to this story, but I’m afraid those things are to remain deep secret desert conversations between me and the ruler of my heart.

So now i ask you – What attachments are hiding in the secret depths of your heart? 

“…In the happiness of the night,
Secretly, unseen by anybody,
Looking at nothing else,
With no other light or guide
Save that which was burning in my heart.

This light guided me
More certain than the light of midday,
To where one awaited me
Whom I knew well
In a place where no one would appear…”

- St. John of the Cross

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A very sweet priest friend of mine was kind enough last month to give me a giant rosary.

I tried hanging it on the wall, but my husband said it made the house look like we were living in a convent so I had to take it down! Then it kinda just hung around for a few weeks until suddenly my tiny brain had a brainwave – “Let’s actually pray with it, like, together!!” (Sometimes I wonder how God can possibly put up with my unbelievably slow grasp of His utterly obvious plans.)

So that’s what we now do most evenings. The baby can’t join in yet because she just eats the beads and distracts the other two. But the older two love the BIG rosary and join in just fine. We say 1 decade together and try to all move along the beads in a clockwise motion otherwise there would be a ‘prayer collision’ between decades 2 and 3! It’s a really nice way of praying together as a family.

My kids know the prayers of the rosary because they have grown up watching and listening to me saying it. It is second nature to them, even if they do fidget, giggle and occasionally thump each other during the Our Father! Tonight was even more special because Daddy decided to join us. 

If you would like to learn how to pray the Rosary in your family try the Interactive Rosary.

Our Lady Queen of Peace pray for us.

St. Joseph, patron saint of husbands and fathers pray for us.

St Dominic Calaruega, receiver of the most Holy Rosary (feast day today 8th Aug) pray for us.

St. Dominic of Silos, patron saint of hopeful mothers pray for us.

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I’m not going to go into the long and drawn out story of how i got to this point in my life, other than to say that I didn’t realise there was a name for what i experience, and that name can be condensed into one word – Carmel. For those who understand no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, I’m afraid no explanation is possible. My heart has been in Carmel since i was 4 years old and it has taken my spirit 30 long painful wrenching years to catch up! But now it seems I can be whole again and it is time for me to take my first few steps into the home i knew was out there and have been desperately searching for my whole life.

This week i was enrolled with the brown scapular (to find out more about the brown scapular click here). Look at my big happy face! 

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It will take around 6 years in total before i can make my final profession as a secular carmelite and I would ask you now to pray for me as i start this incredibly exciting new part of my life! 

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That is all i will say for now other than if you want to know who made my beautiful brown scapular – it was my amazingly patient and kind friend Lynne and you can see more of her work here.

The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.”  ― Teresa of Ávila

This week in the year is always a very emotional time for our family. It is our eldest sons birthday – when we first became parents. It is also the anniversary of Granddad Michael’s death.

Our son was born at home on my bed on the 17th July 2006 at 11am in a 100 degree heat wave. Of course his life started 9 months previously at the moment of his conception. To explain this to him we recently put up a scan picture of him at 9 weeks post conception “Look Alex – it’s you!”

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But now here he was – all 9lb 11oz of him! (4.4k). He made me a mother – something i had dreamed of becoming since i was 4 years old. I felt totally overwhelmed, intensely proud, completely helpless and wide eyed with wonder at this little human being who had been kicking me from the inside for the past couple of months!

I truly believe there is no bigger adjustment anyone can go through in their entire lives that becoming a parent for the first time. It really does change everything. Things that seemed so important before are now forgotten. Things that meant so much to you before, now hold no interest whatsoever. This tiny being, this baby has suddenly totally re-ordered all your priorities, wants, needs and aspirations. The love you feel for this tiny creature terrifies you because you have never felt this way about anything or anyone in your entire life – not even your spouse. You would give up your life for this child in an instant. You notice everything: every tiny movement, every wrinkle, every breath they take is the most fascinating thing you have ever seen. Your heart doesn’t even know what to do with itself it is so in love! And all you want is for this child to love you back.

Of course the day our son was born was the morning my husband was due to start his big new job. Needless to say he had called in to say he wasn’t going to make it that day! Of all the days I could have gone into labour, it had to be the day he was starting his new job! I told him weeks ago that there was never going to be any question of it – THAT was the day I would have the baby!

We slept the rest of that day and then spent the next day calling and sending photo messages to the rest of our family. We asked for no phone calls because we wanted to just spend the first day or so together just the 3 of us. This decision was the biggest regret of my life.

The next day my husband completed his first day at work and came home to me and the baby. I hadn’t slept much and was still in shock from becoming a mum. But we sat together and congratulated ourselves that despite the chaos, we were doing OK. Then the phone rang. It was my husbands mum. She was calling to tell my husband that his father had just died. We hadn’t even named the baby yet.

To say this news was unexpected was an understatement. This man was fit as a fiddle. He swam in the sea everyday, cycled – you name it. No-one was expecting this.

We both remember the crazy mantle piece we had going on at the time: we had cards saying ‘sorry you’re leaving’ ‘congratulations on your new job’ ‘it’s a boy!’ and ‘with deepest sympathy’. It was like a time line of events that should have spun a few years – not a few days.

We decided to give Alex a middle name of Michael – after his Granddad. We take the kids each year to visit Granddad Michael’s grave. This year was a particularly happy time because it was the first time Angelica had visited his grave. We show Alex the date on the grave stone and tell him the story again of why his middle name is Michael. We talk about the fact that Granddad Michael is in heaven for ever now with Jesus and how happy he must be. We ask him to pray for us.

Life and death are a normal part of any families life. We are fortunate that in our family we have a time in the year where both mysteries can be contemplated together.

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faithinourfamilies:

Great post here from Father Chris Pietraszko…

Originally posted on diocesanspirituality:

Liturgical abuseFor a number of years I have struggled with resentments towards what is typically termed the “Vatican II generation.” Keep in mind that this phrase does not mean to generalize an entire bracket of people from one age to another. Rather, it summarizes a group of Catholics who have embraced an ambiguous, erroneous, and distorted vision of Ecclesiology, Sacramental Theology, and Liturgy. In effect, everything the Church teaches from the Natural Law to the Divine Law.  The “Vatican II generation” is not really a generation that embraced the documents of Vatican II either.  If it did, there would be Gregorian chant and Latin regularly practiced during mass…

Here is the problem. Resentment is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. First of all, it indicates a wound for which one has not forgiven his assailant. Forgiveness is not an acceptance of behaviour or even false-doctrine, but rather a sort of…

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Sixteenth Sunday – Year A

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Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.” Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds ar the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

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Today’s readings tell us about a very patient and compassionate God who is hopeful that the so-called “weeds” among us will be converted and that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate such elements from the Church or society or the family on the basis of unwarranted and hasty judgement.

In the 1993 film Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler, a successful businessman, arrives in Krakow from Czechoslovakia hoping to use the abundant cheap labour force of the Jews to manufacture goods for the German military. Schindler, a nominal Catholic and an opportunistic member of the Nazi Party, lavishes bribes upon the army officials and Nazi leaders and acquires a factory for the production of army mess kits. But he is a mixture of good and evil. Unfaithful to his wife, he certainly knows how to enjoy the so called “good life” -cigars, drink and women. He exploits his Jewish workers as a source of cheap labour. But as he witnesses the horrors endured by the Jews, the good elements in his character wake up. So he starts saving Jews, using his immense wealth and his political influence. At great personal risk he protects his workers from the death camps, there by showing that he is undoubtedly a courageous man with basic goodness. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and weeds explaining how we all are a mixture of good and evil and why God tolerates evil in the world.

Thought for the week…

Am I  wheat or a weed?

 

Dear Jesus,

Please help me see your truth clearly so I can be wheat for you. Help me love my brother weeds.

Thank You, I love you Jesus, Amen.

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Remember on Maundy Thursday when Jesus told me “…let people see my relationship with you…”?

Well, I guess I’m gonna tell you a bit about it now. Can you hear the hesitation in my voice? I’m shy about this. Really shy. That is because it is the deepest most personal relationship I have with anyone in my life. Seriously, it would be easier for me to reveal the secrets of what goes on in my bedroom rather than the secrets of what goes on in my heart (not that anything particularly secret goes on in my bedroom – we still have the baby in our room because there is nowhere else to put her!).

An-y-way…

Me and my son were at the vigil Mass on Saturday evening. I was having difficulty concentrating and so was he. I was plagued by the thought of something I have been really struggling with recently. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it is not good. I constantly go to confession about it. I am struggling with it. It makes me feel guilty and rubbish – like I’m the worst person in the world. And I just could not get it out of my brain.

I have never spoken so sincerely as when it came to the words just before communion “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” I know I’m not worthy. I really know it – especially at the moment, with this particular struggle I’m having. It seems that the closer I get to Christ the more I am acutely aware of my own sinfulness. This is especially a problem when I approach Jesus in Holy Communion. I beg our blessed Mother to help me receive her Son well. I just kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please forgive me. I know I’m not worthy to approach you.”

Quite often my heart burns while I’m in the line waiting to receive Him, but this time something different happened: Right after I said the “Lord, I am not worthy…” part, I was aware that Jesus was with me. He was all around me, in me and through me. He was everywhere in the Church but alone with me at the same time. I know Him. This is not the first time. My heart burned. He said to me “Don’t think of it as you coming to Me, it’s Me coming to you! I still want you.” He then reminded me of all the times in the Gospels when He invited Himself round to the houses of sinners to eat dinner!

The Eucharist is the same principle: It is not me going to Him, it’s Him coming to me. He desires me. God desires me!

Excuse me while I have trouble processing this information! Of course looking at it theoretically I know that I am made in the image and likeness of God etc, etc, etc. But when He comes to tell you Himself it is quite different. Despite my sinfulness, my struggles and my constant faults and failings, I know I am forgiven and I am loved. OH!!! His mercy breaks me! It BREAKS me! His gentleness totally floors me and His love is there to catch me. I am a tiny baby in His universe sized arms. And He looks at me and smiles, because He delights in me. His desire for me is greater than my desire for Him – if that could even be thought possible? Our endless infinite love affair continues…

So there we go. I said it.

 

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