Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Affliction

Yesterday, I was nursing a very bad migraine which got worse as the day went by. I got off work slightly earlier than usual and went before my Lord and King at the adoration room of St. Joseph’s Church since I was early for class.

In there, I pondered. A lot of things have happened over the past week. It has not been easy to zealously share the faith, listening to people struggling with life and dealing with people who are rejecting the Gospel.

I realized that Christianity is not a sport for weekend warriors. It demands a dedication and consistency that makes time for God and summons the energy to do his will even when difficult. In short, the model Disciple is eager to serve the Lord in season and out.

Christians facing abuse, verbal or otherwise, are not to react in kind, but to invoke the blessings of God on the offender (c.f. Rom 12:4). Humanly speaking, performing an act of kindness in exchange for a blistering insult is counter-intuitive, to say the least.

Yet, this is one of the revolutionary demands of Gospel morality that makes Christians stand out. It is most perfectly exemplified in Jesus Himself, who invoked the Father’s forgiveness on those who crucified Him (Lk 23:34).

I’ve begun to see that the most foundational discipline of a Christian Disciple is serious prayer. Christian solidarity. Prayer, specifically in affliction, emphasizes on the Holy Spirit’s role as intercessor, helper and Paraclete. A Christian must sustain lifelong dialogue with the Lord.

Paul presses believers to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess 5:17) and to make their requests known to God in everything (Phil 4:6). Ultimately, constancy in prayer is a teaching that goes back to Jesus himself (Lk 18:1-8). For me, perhaps now is a time to just take a back seat and indulge in prayer.

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Originally posted on Instagram.

David “Brought up the Ark”: The Assumption of Mary

Guido Reni (1638-9). Wikimedia Commons.

The ancient Ark of the Covenant that accompanied the Israelites during the Exodus of Egypt until the Babylonian conquest, has long been understood in the mind of the Church as a symbolic type of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Made of wood and gilded in gold, the ancient Ark of the Old Covenant bore the Presence of God in spirit, while in a far more excellent manner, Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant bore within her womb the very Presence of God made flesh in the Person of Jesus the Word Incarnate. This is saying nothing of the extraordinary dwelling which God had made in Mary’s soul which was “full of grace”.

A Central Theme

It is no wonder then, why for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, a holy day of obligation, both first readings concern the Ark of the Covenant. The vigil Mass, taken from I Chronicles 15, and Mass during the day, from the Book of Revelation (chps. 11 and 12).

The first reading for the Vigil Mass concerns the historical occasion when for the first time David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem. The same occasion is described in 2 Samuel 6, painting a broader picture of this festive occasion. We’ll direct our focus to this.

Take 1: Bringing Up the Ark

King David has conquered Jerusalem and has arranged the Levites (the priestly tribe) to process into Jerusalem from the house Abinidab, amidst great jubilation, with the Ark at this stage of the journey being carried along on a “new cart” by a set of oxen. In the words of the Scripture:

“And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (2 Sam 6:5).

Along the way, the oxen stumble, and Abinidab’s son, named Uzzah, stretches out his hand to stop the Ark falling, and as a consequence of breaking a divine command meets his untimely end with a little aid (okay… more than a little aid) from above. There’s no time to go into that now, as that’s an article of its own. Yet feel free to see the relevant footnote.[1]

Anyway… the party kind of dies at this point. Well… sudden deaths as a result of divine smack-downs do tend to have this affect. Hence David gets upset at God — he probably liked the guy … he maybe even had dinner plans that evening with the fella. Oh well. So feeling like God’s being a bit of a kill-joy, he names the place “Perez-uzzah”, meaning “to break…” or “to burst out against Uzzah,” and being fearful of God and His Ark, David decides to hit stall on the procession, choosing to keep the Ark outside of Jerusalem at the House of Obededom.

Obededom’s Place

The Ark remains at the House of Obededom for three months — paralleling the three months the pregnant Virgin Mary stayed at her cousin Elizabeth’s house. When the word reaches David that “The LORD has blessed the household of Obededom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” (2 Sam 6:12a), he decides to fetch the Ark and bring it into Jerusalem. He is reminded of God’s merciful goodness and doesn’t want to miss out on God’s blessings!

Take 2: Bringing Up the Ark

 “So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing” (2 Sam 6:12b).

The key word is the Hebrew word וַיַּעַל (vay-ya-al)[2] which the RSV translates as “[he] brought up” — with the root word עָלָה (alah) itself meaning “to go up, ascend, climb”.

Allegory Alert!

Much like Spider Man’s spider-sense our Catholic ‘spiritual-sense’ should be tingling at this moment. We have the imagery of the Ark and the language of ‘bringing up’ and ‘ascending’. Here then is an allegorical allusion to Mary’s Assumption. For it was Jesus, the Son of David by royal lineage, and the New and Eternal David in the sense of being the King of heaven and the entire universe, who by His divine power “brought up” the New Ark of the Covenant — the most sacred body and soul of Mary — into the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:2) to be at His side forever. Doing so with the greatest rejoicing — not only Jesus, but all of heaven, the angels and saints, who like the Levites with their cymbals and tambourines, made festivity as this New Ark was assumed into heaven.

David Busts-Some-Moves

The narrative continues to describe how before the Lord present in the Ark, David danced “with all his might” girded with nothing but “a linen ephod” — so that he was nearly naked.

With the phrase “danced… with all his might” one can almost imagine David’s dancing as being nothing short of ecstatic. Such was David’s intense feeling of liberated freedom, a stark (pun intended) contrast with the fear he had before that stopped him from bringing the Ark into Jerusalem.

This serves as a type of the soul in Christ, whose servile fear of God is washed away by the Spirit of God, and who in turn has become a liberated child of God, free in the Spirit, and confident to the point of crying “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15).

The role of the Ark in facilitating David’s ecstatic response cannot be stressed enough, since the Lord’s Presence, in the context of the Ark’s ascent towards Jerusalem forms the focal point of the whole narrative. This highlights the important role which Mary plays in the life of the Christian. It is only Mary who can truly bring the confident freedom of the children of God to its full maturation. For she is after all the Mother of Jesus, and thus of God, and in turn of us — the children of God.

 

Michal—She No Like David’s Groove

Continuing the narrative, we read:

“As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Sam 6:16).

Later on in the story we are told how Michal, one of the wives of David, never bore a child until the day of her death. Not all infertility is a literal curse brought about by personal sin by any means! But in this case it was. She was cursed by barrenness, and we are to understand from the Scripture that this happened as a consequence of judging David for his jubilant act of praising God. For in her eyes, this wild dancing went against the civility of David’s royal dignity and offended her own sensibilities, and thus undermined her respect for her husband.

Without True Devotion to Mary: Spiritual Barrenness

The barrenness suffered by Michal, besides illustrating the spiritual consequence of judging others and attributing evil to what is good, serves to demonstrate the spiritual repercussions a lack of Marian devotion and a refusal to honor and welcome Mary and the mystery of the Assumption into our lives can have. Michal wasn’t struck dead, nor was she exiled from the Kingdom of Israel — she was made to be barren. Sure, she was made barren because she judged wrongly, but this only occurred because she wasn’t focused on the Lord and His Presence which was coming into Jerusalem, and this in turn was a result of her failure to reverence and failure to recognize the worth of the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, being hardly captivated by the Ark, she lost sight of God’s Presence, and so came to nit-pick on her husband.

Likewise, a failure to reverence the true Ark of God, Mary the Mother of God — not to worship, but to honour as did Jesus, and as did David in type — may or may not lead one into becoming a terribly judgemental Christian, but it certainly will lead to a relative spiritual barrenness. That is, a barrenness which is not absolute, but relative in the sense of limiting ‘what could be’ compared to if we were devoted to Mary. Such relative spiritual barrenness is an automatic spiritual consequence of failing to welcome with loving fervor the Ark of the New Covenant into one’s life, by way of devotion to Mary.

To put it more simply and in the positive sense, a true devotion to Mary can only make one’s spiritual life more fruitful. In the words of St. Louis De Montfort:

When the Holy Spirit, [Mary’s] spouse, finds Mary in a soul, He hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives Himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse. One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work striking wonders in souls is that He fails to find in them a sufficiently close union with His faithful and inseparable spouse.[3]

With True Devotion to Mary: Spiritual Fruitfulness

On this festive occasion of the Solemnity the ancient example of David spurs us on to increase our love and appreciation of Mary, by which means we can only ever grow deeper in union with God, sinking deeper into His Presence. A Presence which is Fruitfulness Itself, and which actualizes through Mary the Ark of God. For she was chosen to bring forth the fruit of God’s Son in the flesh, and likewise, with the Holy Spirit, Mary’s role extends itself to spiritually bringing forth the fruits of grace within our souls.

Bringing Up the True Ark

Just as Jesus brought up Mary to heaven, assuming her body and soul into the New Jerusalem, may we too, by uniting ourselves by faith with this living reality of the Assumption, the light and hope of every Christian, allow our Lord to bring up this Sacred Ark into the Jerusalem of our souls, households. communities and parishes. For then like Obededom, our exterior homes, but more importantly our interior homes will be blessed, along with all our words and deeds — sanctified by God’s Presence working powerfully through Mary; and like David we will be compelled to interiorly dance in the joyful confidence that we are children of God called to share in the splendor of the Risen Christ which shines most brilliantly in Mary herself.

“So David and all the house of Israel”—Jesus in the Assumption, and His Church figuratively in devotion on this Feast Day— “brought up the ark of the LORD”—the Blessed Virgin Mary— “with shouting, and with the sound of the horn.” (2 Sam 6:15).

 

[1] It may seem harsh, and it clashes with our middle-class “nice” conception of God, however Uzzah simply reaped the automatic consequence of going against the law which forbid anyone except the chosen Levites from handling the Ark. In the same manner, one who goes against the law of aerodynamics in faultily repairing an aeroplane will inevitably lead to the crashing of the aeroplane. God is no more to blame for the latter, than he is for the former. After all, God is good and merciful, and is incapable of doing anything evil, even if by our limited human perspective, it seems to be the contrary. Besides, if — and God only knows — Uzzah did so out of good-will and without really thinking about God’s command, there is no reason to doubt his salvation.

[2] With conjunction “and” included.

[3] Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Part I, 36.

This article was originally published on the author’s personal blog (2018), with possible alterations apparent in this edition.

Featured image: Domenico Gargiulo (c. 1609 – c. 1675), David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem  / PD-US

Oceans

[Oceans]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

I discovered many beautiful water bodies in Sydney, including popular coastal beaches as well as obscure lakes in the suburban areas. There’s always something about the ocean or lakes that speaks volumes to our human heart.

The thunderous roar of the waves crashing against the rocks or shore proclaims mightily the awesome power of God; the ever-changing patterns created by shore waters imprinted on rocks just declares God’s creative beauty; the calm ebb and flow of the lake waters gently caressing the boats they hold somehow reflect God’s gentle touch in our inner being.

But what I discovered even more was the ocean in my heart, where God was pounding ferociously to awaken a much deeper call and desire deep within my heart; where God was creatively revealing even more beautiful patterns and plans that invite me to participate in; where God was gently seducing me into an even more unimaginable plan of His that is giving me much peace, freedom and joy as I consider the deeper waters God is calling me to.

I pray I may have the strength and courage to walk on water wherever He may call me, the faith and assurance that He shall be with me above the waves, and the peace and freedom to trust in His greater plans and desires.

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Pentecost

Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104, Galatians 5:16-25, John 20:19-23

Catholicism sprouted from Judaism. The Church has always promulgated that because well; Jesus chose to be born into a Jewish family and was faithful to the Jewish traditions of his time. So my Catholic friends, always be proud of your Jewish roots because its a sign of authentic historicity of our Faith!

The Jews had a cycle of feast days just like Catholics (Lev 23). Out of these, two have been brought over to the New Covenant in the Catholic Church:

Passover 👉 Easter

Feast of Weeks (Shebuoth) 👉Pentecost.

The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek ’50’, which means 50th day after Passover. This is why the Church celebrates it 50 days after Easter.

From a Jewish perspective, Pentecost was immensely important because it was one of the three pilgrimage feasts. (This meant that adult male Jews were required to go up to the temple and offer sacrifices on this day.) Why? Well, the Babylonian Talmud indicates that Pentecost was the day Moses received the Ten Commandments on Sinai.

Understanding this is crucial to draw the parallel to Luke’s account of ‘Tongues of Fire’ in Acts, because Exodus 19:16-18 describes how God also descended upon Sinai ‘ in fire’.

12 Tribes + Ark present (Ex 19) = 🔥

12 Apostles + Mary present (Lk 1:14) =🔥

Pentecost is thus an extremely important feast day for it marked the sign of a New Covenant. The Psalmist sings: ‘Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth!’ (Ps 104:30). An early Church Father comments:

“Now the Holy Spirit appeared in fire and in tongues because all those whom He fills He makes simultaneously to burn and to speak—to burn because of Him and to speak about Him. And at the same time He indicated that the Holy Church, when it had spread to the ends of the earth, was to speak in the languages of all nations.” (Ven. Bede, 8th Cent.)

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Editor’s note: Today concludes the Octave of Pentecost, a beautiful tradition of Holy Mother Church.

The Spirit of Truth

Jesus said to His disciples: ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who issues from the Father, he will be My witness. And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with Me from the outset. (John 15:26-27)

If the sight of rose petals falling in the Pantheon is something to behold, I wonder what beauty “tongues of Flame” descending onto the Apostles must have looked like. The change it brought: fear into fearlessness, doubt into conviction, sadness into joy. But it did not come at no cost… The Apostles were surrounded by enemies; never mind their Roman conquerors, what would their fellow men have done if they found out that they belonged to “the King Of The Jews?”

Yet despite all their faults, all these circumstances, all the uncertainty, they were faithful; they stayed in Jerusalem and waited. And so we come to the end of Easter with the Feast of Pentecost — the Advocate’s arrival; the birthday of the Church! The question is; just how much of a witness have I been to the Spirit within? If I am in a trying situation, what does the Holy Spirit instruct? What spirit moves within me?

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Editor’s note: Today is Saturday in the Octave of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit in the Fast Food Restaurant

By guest writer Susan Windley-Daoust.

Recently I accepted a new position to work more directly in evangelization, and while I am excited and grateful, there are a lot of days where there is spiritual warfare going on in my head. Today was one of those days I was not feeling great (an understatement) about my ability to sense God’s inspirations, and then respond to them, and feeling “the voice”: “Seriously, YOU’re going to do evangelization?” self-defeating thing. It’s one thing to recognize rationally this is not from God, another to live through it… it’s hard to escape your mind, you know.  It was bothering me a lot the past few days and especially this morning.

At one point in the morning, as I am mentally talking back “the voice,” I grabbed God and brought him into the conversation.  “Holy Spirit, you know, it would be easier if you just made it obvious. I’ll do what you want if you just let me know. Please just make it obvious.”

My husband Jerry and I went to eat at a fast food restaurant for lunch, and there was a woman there who we both know a bit from around town as living on the margins and mentally ill. It was frigid out there (below zero) and she was nursing a coffee in this warm restaurant at lunch hour. (Holy Spirit: nudge, nudge, nudge.) Jerry said first, this woman… we should ask if she needs… something, like if she has a place to stay tonight. I actually knew more of her history than he did and said she’s not homeless, but she is mentally ill. But… yeah. Something. We decided to buy her a gift certificate to the restaurant and offer it as a random act of kindness. (I was still unclear if this was a Holy Spirit moment or a person in need moment. Nothing prevents us from doing the good, right? But I suspected the former.) For some reason, I took the lead on this, and approached her and said we wanted to offer her this gift card as a happy new year gift, to use now or later. She smiled, jumped up, and hugged me. And then said with some force, “Don’t let *anyone* tell you God doesn’t exist.” And then addressed a couple more things, directly, I was internally struggling with. I had said nothing other than introduce myself and offer a card. Then after a couple of minutes of conversation, she asked me where I went to church, I told her, and she said, “I’ve been there, but not in a long time. I’m going back to church tomorrow, this gives me so much hope!”

People, we noticed her and bought her a $10 gift card to a fast food restaurant. That was all.

God works in really weird and mysterious ways. I encourage people to go with that Holy Spirit flow.

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Susan Windley-Daoust is a Catholic theologian, married, and mother to five children. She is currently associate professor of Theology at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and will be taking a new position as Director of Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of Winona, MN in the summer of 2018.

Image: PD-US

Moana: the Ocean & the Holy Spirit

Guest post by Magdalyn Fiore.

A lengthy comparison between the Ocean and the Holy Ghost? What can I say except you’re welcome!

I recently saw the Disney film Moana for the first time. As you might know by now, the movie has some encouraging themes, such as stepping up to responsibility, discerning one’s calling, and learning that worth and identity are not dependent on material possessions (like magical fish hooks) or even the affection of others. There are also a few delightfully quirky side characters in the film, like Tamatoa, the shiny crab voiced by Jemaine Clement, and Alan Tudyk‘s character Heihei, the chicken who surely would have died off long ago by natural selection had it not been for Moana’s constant and patient intervention.

But the character I found most intriguing was the Ocean, which takes on a very present personality of its own throughout the film. There was something about the Ocean that was familiar to me, and I quickly noticed a handful of similarities between the Ocean character and the Holy Spirit — one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

The film begins following Moana of Motunui, the island Chief’s daughter and future heir, as a child when she has her first meaningful encounter with the Ocean. The Ocean chooses Moana to fulfill the task of finding the demigod, Maui, and taking him on a journey across the sea to return the heart of Te Fiti, the goddess of life. The heart was stolen by Maui long ago, which led to a curse that has affected the well-being and livelihood of Moana’s people. Returning Te Fiti’s heart would restore the life of Moana’s island and undo the growing threat of the curse. The Ocean calls Moana to her vocation at a very young age, knowing that her island will one day suffer from the curse and that Moana will grow to be the perfect instrument to fulfill the task and save the people.

The way the Ocean chooses Moana is similar to how the Holy Spirit gently directs us to our own calling. God always meets us where we are to guide us to His will and writes it on our hearts. In Moana, the Ocean meets the Chief’s daughter when she’s a toddler and speaks to her in a gentle and playful way that Moana can delight in and understand, at least to some degree. The Ocean invites Moana to come see what it wants to show her by leaving her a beautiful conch shell to find — and then another, and another like a trail of breadcrumbs, leading Moana closer and closer to the joys of the Ocean and the greatness it is calling her to. The Holy Spirit meets us in the same way. Though we are small and imperfect, God comes down to our level to love us and call us to greatness, just as the Ocean playfully calls Moana. The Holy Spirit often communicates with us through the people in our lives, small moments or words we hear throughout our days, or sometimes even through a trail of conch shells if that’s what will speak to us. These small (and sometimes big) moments and interactions are the trail of breadcrumbs the Holy Spirit leaves for us, leading us to our calling and vocation. Possibly more telling than anything, however, is the desire God places in our hearts for whatever it is He is calling us to, exactly like Moana’s deep desire to explore beyond the reef and her love of the sea. God would not place a desire on our hearts if He did not intend to fulfill it in some way. Speaking to us in ways we can understand and relate to, the Holy Spirit works with our strengths and weaknesses to lead us to our vocation, and therefore help us grow deeper on our greatest path of love.

momo
Additionally, when Moana faces opposition to her mission from Maui, who resists the journey throughout most of the film, the Ocean helps Moana in extraordinary ways, such as swiftly guiding Moana back to the boat every time Maui throws her far off into the ocean. Even before she finds Maui, the Ocean helps Moana by keeping her awake when steering the boat as she searches for the demigod. The Ocean provides Moana the means to fulfill her calling when she is faced with adversity, just as the Holy Spirit assists us on our journey. When fulfilling God’s will, we are given the graces we need to follow our mission through. The Holy Spirit helps us overcome obstacles that threaten to derail us when our hearts are fixed on achieving what God is calling us to. We are never without help when seeking God’s will, much like Moana is never completely without help on her journey.

giphy

But early on in her venture to find Maui, Moana finds herself suddenly caught in a treacherous storm while sailing the sea. The rough water thrusts her boat on its back and crashes into Moana as she tries to stay afloat. Moana pleads with the Ocean, asking it to help her manage the storm, to flip her boat and keep her from drowning. However, the Ocean does not provide help to Moana during what she thinks is her greatest time of need. Moana is knocked unconscious and dies. No, I’m just joking, Moana lives — but Hehei dies. I’m kidding, I’m kidding, Heihei doesn’t die… or does he?

giphy (5)

Moana lives and awakes to find she, her boat, and Heihei (maybe) have washed up on an island Moana is unfamiliar with. She becomes frustrated and feels betrayed by the Ocean, who gave her nothing but silence when Moana was struggling to survive the storm. Moana feels ignored and abandoned, until she turns around to see Maui’s shadow in the distance, signaling that she has finally reached her destination and found the demigod. The Ocean did not abandon Moana; it knew exactly what it was doing and was with her the whole time. The Ocean knew the storm would take Moana to her destination and that Moana would survive. It was not being silent out of spite or abandonment, rather the Ocean was allowing natural events to unfold and lead Moana to where she needed to be. This might have been my favorite scene just because it’s so relatable. How often do we pray and hear nothing but silence from God? I know it happens to me pretty often. But even when it feels as though God is not listening and doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to, that does not mean we have been betrayed or ignored. The Holy Spirit never abandons us, it only remains silent because it has a greater plan, similar to how the Ocean had a plan for Moana during the storm. God hears our prayers always, but sometimes He answers them in ways we do not expect. The Ocean never left Moana, and the Holy Spirit never leaves us.

Finally, God never forces us to follow the vocation He intends for us to follow, similar to how the Ocean never forces Moana to finish the journey she started. After a series of events, Moana begins to believe she is not the “chosen one” and is not fit to handle the responsibility the Ocean bestowed upon her. Moana tells the Ocean that it made a mistake when it chose her, and gives the heart of Te Fiti back to the Ocean, recommending that it find someone more adept for the task of returning the heart to the goddess. Though disappointed, the Ocean gently accepts the heart and Moana’s resignation. The Ocean doesn’t make Moana do anything she does not want to do, it allows her the free will to choose a different path, though it may be a path of lesser love and fulfillment. The Holy Spirit treats our choices similarly. God has extraordinary plans for each of us and wants to use our unique gifts to bring greater love to the world and to our own lives. We must decide whether to follow God’s calling and accept the graces He wants to give us — but God leaves that decision in our hands. We can choose a different path, and God will never force the decisions we make. But if we are open to it, the Holy Spirit continues to send us graces to guide us to our greatest path of love and redirect our path when we veer off course, sort of like how Moana is given a pep talk by her grandmother after giving back the heart. The Ocean (I think) sends Gramma Tala to speak to Moana. Gramma helps Moana see that Moana was chosen for a reason and that she is fit for the task. Moana then dives into the ocean to retrieve the heart in order to finish the task she was called to complete, and sets off with a clear mind and conviction in her heart to save her island. You go, Moana. You go.

giphy (3)

The character of the Ocean in the movie Moana provides a charming and relatable metaphor for how we experience God in our lives, particularly through His Holy Spirit. Discerning our vocation and following our calling can be hard sometimes. We are all called to greatness, and greatness is often faced with hardship and adversity. But if we keep our eyes on God and ask for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and guidance, we will not be led astray, and there’s just no telling how far we’ll go.

Originally published at “Flowers and Foxes.

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Magdalyn “Maggie” Fiore was raised in California, USA. Now living on the east coast, Maggie is pursuing her Master of Arts in Science Writing at Johns Hopkins University after recently receiving her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. Maggie’s greatest aspiration is to one day own a baby dinosaur. Unfortunately, some dreams don’t come true.

Water

God is closer to us than water is to a fish. – St. Catherine of Siena

Water is weird. Have you ever had that thought? I’ve been having it lately as I sip from my glass. Water is this transparent, tasteless substance that our bodies naturally thirst for; it composes 71% of the world and 65% of the human body (75% for infants); it is necessary for life. “Water, with its amazing dissolving properties, is the perfect medium for transmitting substances, such as phosphates or calcium ions, into and out of a cell… all life on Earth uses a membrane that separates the organism from its environment. To stay alive, the organism takes in important materials for making energy, while shuttling out toxic substances such as waste products.”1

Angelica Kauffman, Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen (1796)

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He was the bearer of the water of life (John 4:10), which is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Knowing the chemical and biological properties of water, we may reflect on the richness of Jesus’ metaphor. The Holy Spirit sustains us; He transmits God’s grace into our innermost being, and He cleanses us of toxic impurities like sin and despair. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel records his vision of water issuing out of the side of a temple, a spring which became a river so deep that no-one could cross it (Ezekiel 47:2-5). This has traditionally been interpreted in light of John 19:34, the piercing of Jesus’ side with a lance – blood and water flowed out of His side, His very heart.2 Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete or Advocate, would not come until He departed (John 16:7). After Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, which made perfect atonement for our sins, man was reconciled to God and able to enter into His life, life without end.

Water is a tremendously precious substance. We who live in more developed countries can so easily take it for granted, but “only 1% of the world’s water is readily available for human consumption. Approximately 97% is too salty and 2% is ice.”3 One in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water;4 “6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”5

We who know we live by the Holy Spirit have been commissioned by Christ to bear this Living Water to others: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well has ‘been described as “a paradigm for our engagement with truth”.’6 He reached out to her across strict social taboos – The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? For Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). He asked her for the water she had, just as we may ask a non-believer for his friendship. Jesus’ ultimate aim was to offer the woman the gift of God Himself; likewise, through our human friendships, we too may draw others into relationship with God, offering our friends new life in Christ, so that they may discover their true identities as beloved children of God, the source and ground of their being (Acts 17:28).

You can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink – let us be prudent and gentle in offering this precious life-giving Water to others, lest they develop a distaste for it without even trying It properly. Everyone is thirsty in some way – some thirst for beauty, so you can share the musical, artistic and architectural treasures of the Church with them;7 others thirst for truth, so you can find openings for reasoned discussions of the faith. Still others thirst for goodness, which you may exemplify by your living with the grace of God irradiating your life with peace, joy and charity in the midst of earthly trials. Find out what your friends are thirsty for, and you may deliver God to them in a Divine ice-cube to cool the fevered achings of their souls, or a flask of aqua vitae to give them new heart, or perhaps a sweet, fresh breeze that lifts their spirits to highest Heaven. Then you would have accomplished the best act of friendship, sharing your greatest treasure.

I have opened my Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. Sinners will attain justification, and the just will be confirmed in good. Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with My divine peace at the hour of death.
Diary of St. Faustina, #1520

desire for God

Images: Angelica Kauffman, Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen (1796); Catholic Images.

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1 Tia Ghose, “Why Is Water So Essential for Life?”, Live Science.

2 Bishop Wilhelm Keppler, “The Thrust of the Spear”, in The Passion (1929).

3 Jonathan Sarfati, “The Wonders of Water”, Creation.com.

5An increasing demand”, UN World Water Day 2013.

6Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life”, Pontifical Council for Culture & Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Running in Circles: The Luminous Mysteries

In keeping with my recent posts about the fruits of the mysteries of the rosary in our daily lives, today I want to tackle the Luminous Mysteries and their fruits.

The first Luminous mystery is the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan, the fruit of which is “Openness to the Holy Spirit.” At first this seems pretty obvious; when we are baptized we are brought into the family of God, children of His by adoption, we become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. However, I think this mystery goes beyond simply meditating on our own baptism (which is a good and worthwhile thing to do). If we consider the number of times we renew out baptismal promises each week, every time we enter and exit the Church for example, we suddenly become aware of the number of opportunities we have to crack the door of our soul open just a bit more to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Even more than just renewing our baptismal promises, think of all the times the Lord desires to shower us with His grace – “baptize us in the Holy Spirit,” as it were. Our Lady of Guadalupe once said that the fingers in the painting of her that do not have rays coming out of them signify all of the graces that are available to us that no one asks for. Perhaps if we come to love our baptism and the promises that come with it, we will develop a new openness to the Holy Spirit, thus allowing ourselves to be spiritually “baptized” in His abundant graces each day!

Indeed, opening our souls to the Holy Spirit then allows us to turn for even greater help to those in Heaven. Which, coincidentally, is the second mystery and fruit – the Wedding Feast at Cana and the fruit “To Jesus through Mary.” When we open ourselves to the workings of the Holy Spirit, we become more malleable to the ways the Lord longs to bring us to Him. For those who are cautious about getting to know Mary, opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit may be the first step in trusting her to get us to her son. After all, she didn’t receive her son until she opened herself (in every possible way, mind you!) to the Holy Spirit. Maybe she knows a thing or two about the workings of Our Lord in The Spirit and the two of them, spirit and Mother of God, can work together to bring about wonders in our soul!

Which brings us to the third mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom and its fruit: “Trust in God.” Only when we become a true instrument of the Lord through His Spirit can we begin to evangelize the world. Yet, evangelization only works if we place all of our trust in Him: that He is the one evangelizing, not us, that His work will be done if we remain humble. Yet we need the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother to help us reach those who have yet to be reached. Who better to ask for help than the Spirit, who gave the apostles tongues to evangelize, and Mary, who brought Jesus to the world for the first time?

In the fourth mystery, we see how the act of opening ourselves to the graces of the spirit, asking Mary for guidance, and bringing the gospel to others begins to have a profound effect on us. For, just as the mystery reflects on the Transfiguration we too are transfigured into a true reflection of Christ in the world. As we grow in this holiness and radiate the Lord to others, we find that our “Desire for God and Holiness” deepens.

Finally, our spiritual life culminates in the fifth mystery: the Institution of the Eucharist and the fruit of “Eucharistic Adoration.” As the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church, so too is it the source and summit of our life as Christians. As our desire for holiness grows in response to the workings of the Holy Spirit within us, we are necessarily drawn to the One who can make us Holy: Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In adoring Him, we are given the Holy Spirit and a new openness to His workings in our life, and the whole circle begins again.

Indeed, the spiritual life, it seems, is not linear, but rather a series of overlapping circles that build on one another to make a beautiful pathway to holiness. As we again grow in openness to the Holy Spirit, our desire for Mary’s intercession awakens and we are transformed by our desire for holiness, which again brings us to the Eucharist.

People like to say that running in circles in pointless. Well, maybe, it’s not as pointless as it seems!

“Unleashed” Book Review

Are you a woman who desires a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit and yearns to see the ways (courtesy of pursuingthesummit.com)that God is communicating with you each day? Are you seeking freedom from the habits that enslave you? “Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You ” by Sonja Corbitt could be just the book to pack for your journey!

The title speaks to being unleashed from sin and also how to unleash the Holy Spirit in our lives. Negative habits and relationships keep us from experiencing the full and abundant life that our Father hopes to pour out on us.; carefully reading and praying with Scripture better allows us to be more tuned into the ways that the Holy Spirit is moving and desires to move in our lives. Corbitt highlights various passages to connect with each chapter.

The author’s vulnerability is a breath of fresh air. She shares some very personal experiences from her own life and also how the Holy Spirit has set her free. Her tone is very conversational. I felt that a wise friend was teaching me as I soaked up each word. Reading this book was very encouraging for me to go even deeper in my walk with God and evaluate my habits and relationships.  The idea of “pop quizzes” is one that Corbitt proposes. For example, let’s say that a person struggles with patience. If a person is hoping to improve in the area, God will surely send a “pop quiz” to test her and hopefully allow her to grow in their area of struggle. I could very easily relate to these “quizzes” in my own life. I now have a firmer idea of how to pray with Scripture after reading this book and of how to ready myself for challenges that will come.

There is a prompt at the end of each chapter to illuminate your mind and heart about the chapter’s topic and specific Scriptures to ponder. It is important to remember that growth happens through community, and the book can also be used in group settings. The book contains Group Study questions for those interested in getting a group of women together to read the book. I would highly recommend this book for any women longing for something more in her life and her relationship with God. Are you ready to go deeper with the Holy Spirit and let go of your old ways?

That You May be One as I and the Father are One

Zechariah writes of a vision in which he saw a man going to measure Jerusalem, her breadth and her length.  Another angel came to tell him that Jerusalem would remain unwalled because of the great number of men and cattle that would be in her.  The Lord said through the angel, “I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”  After the announcement of this indwelling, Zechariah bids Jerusalem, “Sing, rejoice, / Daughter of Zion; / For I am coming / To dwell in the middle of you. / It is the Lord who speaks. / Many nations will join the Lord, / On that day; / They will become his people” (2:5-15).

The day of judgment becomes the day of glory when God comes near to his people to tent with them.  Deus fit homo, ut homo fiat DeusGod became man so that man might become God.  Mary pictures best the doctrine of theosis or divinization.  As Christ clothed in blue (heaven) puts on red (earth), Mary clothed in red (human) puts on blue (divine).  Like the burning bush she blazes but is not consumed.  Redemption realizes the purpose of the imago Dei.  God conforms us not only to his image but also to his likeness.  Through imitation of Christ we join or joys to his, our sorrows to his, our work to his, our prayers to his.

St. Peter writes that God’s divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, that through glory and virtue we may be partakers of the divine nature (2nd Epistle 1:3-4).  The redeemed, the elect, the Church Militant shine with the light of regeneration, and their purity testifies to the world of their baptism.  Our holiness should attract others to the fold.  We drink from the overflowing cup of Trinity’s love.  Why would we ever stop drinking?  We shall never be filled in this life or the next because of God’s infinity.  Only thus do our hearts come to rest in the source of all being, through drinking from the fountain of life.

The calendar pairs the reading from Zechariah with this statement of Jesus in Luke, “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men” (9:44).  The folly of God, his handing himself over to evil men, his granting them free will is the greatest source of joy for mankind.  St. Bonaventure said that free will is the second most powerful thing in the universe after God himself.  We have this terrible power within us, to choose heaven or hell.  If all our life we have said Fiat voluntas tua, Thy will be done, when we approach judgment day, we will hear, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”  If all our lives we have prayed, “My will be done,” we will receive our heart’s desire at judgment day.  “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you” applies not only to the saved but to the damned as well.  We should be careful to cultivate our desire for heaven.  God allows people to make their own hell.  If the things of this world satisfy us, we can have them for all eternity, but we will experience misery.  If this world leaves us longing, we shall receive a reward.  He will give us the desires of our heart.

Free will gives man the power to lock himself in hell or to follow the example of Mary and to say Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, Let it be to me according to your word.  W. H. Auden writes of this terrible gift which God gave man, “He told us we were free to choose / But, children as we were, we thought— / ‘Paternal Love will only use / Force in the last resort / On those too bumptious to repent.’ / Accustomed to religious dread, / It never crossed our minds He meant / Exactly what He said” (Friday’s Child).  The terror of free will lies not only in its power to rebel but in its power to submit.  Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will save it.

Some Wisdom from John of the Cross

Today at Holy Hour I read this passage in “The Living Flame of Love,” by St. John of the Cross:

He [The Holy Spirit] touches the soul not with His shadow only, for He unites Him self to it, feeling and tasting with it the form and attributes of God in the shadow of God: that is, feeling and tasting the property of divine power in the shadow of omnipotence: feeling and tasting the divine wisdom in the shadow of the divine wisdom: and finally, tasting the glory of God in the shadow of glory, which begets the knowledge and the taste of the property and form of the glory of God.”

If, like me, you are the sort of person who rarely if ever has the sensation of “feeling and tasting” the presence of Jesus, this is a very comforting passage. Certainly I believe that Jesus is present in the Tabernacle, in my soul in the state of grace, in the Eucharist. I would go so far as to say that I know this with a conviction that surpasses mere intellectual knowledge.

Yeah, Sure I believe this rope is going to hold. Totally.
Yeah, Sure I believe this rope is going to hold. Totally.

I have invested myself in it, like rappelling off a cliff. I know that the rope will hold me before I go. Afterwards I really know it from experience. However at no point during the rappel do I feel secure. I still feel as if the rope were going to snap at any second. It doesn’t really matter because I’m all in one way or the other, and that is the important thing.

Knowing is a gift, and being able to act on that knowledge is also a gift, but sometimes I think it would be nice to feel as well. This is why that passage from St. J of X (as Sir Alec Guinness affectionately called him) is so comforting. I may not be sensible of feeling or tasting the power and wisdom and glory of God, but that doesn’t really matter. The Holy Spirit is and does. When the Holy Spirit enters my soul He takes up residence and continues His eternal act of worship and communion with the Father and the Son. He feels and tastes the totality of the Godhead, which I am incapable of. By remaining in the State of Grace and by consciously uniting myself to that prayer, I make it my own. I am drawn into it, because I become a temple of the Holy Spirit.

I am sure I don’t know why I feel comforted by this, but there you have it. It doesn’t matter what I feel or don’t feel, as long as the Holy Spirit feels and tastes. More to the point, the Holy Spirit opens my eyes to various obstacles and hindrances I place between myself and being more fully entered into this eternal prayer. That gives me more than enough work to do. It sends me over the cliff edge, if you will.

It makes me go all in, which is really the important thing anyway.