I was reminded today why it is so important that we remember who we are and what we have been made for. I find that it’s really easy to love someone you don’t know. I find it’s also really easy to have empathy or sympathy (depending on the situation) for someone you don’t know. I find it extremely easy to give someone I don’t know the benefit of the doubt – sometimes to the extreme. Why are all of these things so difficult with someone that I know?!? It seems that, if I know your background, your story, it would be EASIER to understand, empathize, sympathize, give benefit to, and love. It’s not. It’s so much harder…at least I find it to be. I find it easy to avoid passing judgement on the words or actions of someone I don’t know and even easier to cast blame and judgement upon those I do know. So, what is a girl to do?
The answer is easy and hard all at the same time. I am called to love everyone at all times, like Christ loves. No conditions, no qualifications, no expectations. I love them for who they are, where they are. (Aside…loving someone does not mean tolerating or condoning choices/actions that we know to be wrong/bad/sinful. Loving them means that; in an appropriate time, place, and manner; I should correct them with great charity.) Loving someone like Christ loves us takes great humility. I struggle with that. Christian humility flys in the face of everything we are told to believe in our society. We are told that we must look out for number one but humility says we should have no worries for ourselves. We should not desire to be loved, wanted, praised, or looked upon with high esteem. We should not be afraid of being forgotten, left behind, wrongfully accused, or despised. When we are humble, we know our place. When we are humble, we REMEMBER exactly who we are, who created us, and who is really in charge. When we are humble, we don’t worry about today or tomorrow and we don’t stress over yesterday, because we remember what is important.
God, please create in me a spirit of authentic humility & help me love everyone, strangers and non-strangers, like Christ loves me. Amen.
I LOVE Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I think he was given many gifts and was a wise & holy man. Below are some quotes of his that have been speaking to my heart, especially in regards to various situations arising in my family.
“Do not pray only in an emergency, the pleas of strangers is never as effective as the plea of friends. Do not think of God only in times of distress or danger. Heaven is not a firehouse, and God does not put out all the fires. Do not make all your prayers, prayers of petition. What would a young man think of a young lady who suffered from give-me-itis, who did nothing but ask favors?”
(Wartime Prayer Book)
“It makes no difference what you believe; it’s how you act. It makes no difference whether you have any rules in football; it depends upon how you play. It makes no difference whether you believe triangles have three sides; it depends on how you draw: Can we not see if we believe wrongly, we will act wrongly?”
(Wartime Prayer Book)
“If a man takes a poison and is given an antidote, it makes no difference whether he throws the antidote out of the window or whether he just neglects it. Because the poison is operating in his system, death is certain. Scripture asks us, “How shall we escape if we neglect?” The mole once had eyes to see, but it grovelled down in the bowels of the earth, and Nature, as if seated in judgment, said, “take the talent away!” And the talent that is not used was taken away. This is the first reason we have to begin to act differently, to resist the forces of evil.”
“There are only two philosophies of life. The Christian, which says: First the fast, then the feast; and the pagan, which says: first the feast, then the headache. In either case there is pain. The Christian never ends with it even if he waits until the end of time.”
(Wartime Prayer Book)
“The human heart is not shaped like a valentine heart, perfect and regular in contour it is slightly irregular in shape as if a small piece of it were missing out of its side. The missing part may very well symbolize a piece that a spear tore out of the universal heart of humanity on the Cross, but it probably symbolizes something more. It may very well mean that when God created each human heart, he kept a small sample of it in heaven, and sent the rest of it into the world, where it would each day learn the lesson that it could never be really happy, that it could never be really wholly in love, that it could never be really whole-hearted until it rested with the Risen Christ in an eternal Easter.”
(Manifestations of Christ)
“If a man is ever to enjoy communion with Christ, so as to have the blood of God running in his veins and the spirit of God throbbing in his soul, he must die to the lower life of the flesh. He must be born again. And hence the law of Calvary is the law of every Christian: unless there is a Cross there will never be the resurrection, unless there is the defeat of Calvary there will never be the victory of Easter, unless there are the nails there will never be the glorious wounds, unless there is the garment of scorn, there will never be the robes blazing like the sun, unless there is the crown of thorns there will never be the halo of light for the law laid down at the beginning of time which shall be effective until time shall be no more, is that no one shall be crowned unless he has struggled and overcome.”
(The Moral Universe)
“How can we stop brother rising up against brother and class against class, blurring the very sky with their cross-covered Golgothas? Thy First Word on the Cross gives the answer: We must see in the body of every man who hates, a soul that was made to love. If we are too easily offended by their hate, it is because we have forgotten either the destiny of their souls or our own sins. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Forgive us for ever having been offended. Then we, like Thee, may find among our executioners another Longinus, who had forgotten there was love in a heart until he opened it with a lance.”
(Unjust Suffering, Justice and Charity II, 1938)
“It is not wisdom that saves; it is ignorance! There is no redemption for the fallen angels. Those great spirits headed by Lucifer, endowed with an intelligence compared with which ours is but that of a child, saw the consequences of each of their decisions just as clearly as we see that two and two make four. It is because they knew what they were doing that they were excluded from the hearing of that cry that went forth from the Cross. It is not wisdom that saves; it is ignorance! “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
(The Seven Last words)
“Knowledge and wisdom sometimes may accompany one another, though not necessarily so. The gates of wisdom open only to the knock of reverence, to the bended knee, the humble and prostrate heart. Knowledge can walk with sophistication, egotism, boastfulness, pride, self-inflation. As Cowper put it: “Knowledge is proud that has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” The two, however, can become one by grace, but in order that knowledge may become wisdom, the soul must be rooted in God.”
(Knowledge and Wisdom)
“Hate comes from evil men who cannot stand the reproach of goodness because it makes demands upon them that they are unwilling to accept. The more intense the evil, the greater the fear of goodness. That is why Supreme Goodness is nailed to a cross.”
“A little boy who had been to Sunday School told his father that he learned that God the Father and Son were equal. The father said: “That is ridiculous. I am your father; you are my son. I existed a long time before you.” “No,” said the boy, “you did not begin to be a father until I began to be a son.”
He Who was eternally generated by the Father is generated in time, in the womb of a virgin Mary. The Son of God then becomes the Son of Man. As the word which I speak to you is not different because I give it breath and sound, so neither is the Word of the Son of God changed because He takes on a human nature like ours in all things except sin, “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
“The great tragedy of the world is not what people suffer, but how much they miss when they suffer. Nothing is quite as depressing as wasted pain, agony without an ultimate meaning or purpose.”
(On Being Human)
“What makes a thing bad? A pencil is a good pencil because it does what it was made to do. It writes. Is it a good can opener? It certainly is not! Suppose I use the pencil as a can opener. what happens? First of all, I do not open the can. Second, I destroy the pencil. Now if I decide to do certain things with my body which I ought not do, I do not attain the purpose for which I was created. For example, becoming an alcoholic does not make me happy. I destroy myself just as I destroyed the pencil in using it to open a can. When I disobey God, I do not make myself very happy on the inside, and I certainly destroy any peace of soul that I ought to have.”
“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil … a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons … never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error … Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”
“The tragedy of the world is that so many are unloved. Roses always look beautiful and smell sweet, and hence they are a prize to be possessed. Sweetbriar, however, has fragrant leaves, and they are never so fragrant as when it rains. The common people of the world are like these leaves; they have something fragrant about them, particularly when the days are dark and clouded and rain falls in their lives. Anyone can love a rose; but it takes a great heart to love a leaf.”
“Where our treasure is, there is our heart also. If we lived for God, then death is a liberation. Earth and its possessions are the cage which confines us, and death is the opening of its door, enabling our soul to wing its way to its Beloved for which alone it has lived, and for which it only waited to die.”
(Seven Capital Sins)
I started working on a post about The Holy Family on their Feast Day (12/30/12). I worked on it some and then saved it as a draft and kind of forgot about it. As I started looking through my drafts today it caught my eye. How appropriate that I re-read and revise this post today, 1/9/13, as this is also our first CCD class of the new year and we will be talking about The Holy Family, among other topics today. Not only will be talking about The Holy Family, but we’ll be doing a little dissecting as well. We’ll discuss St. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus and their individual roles within the Holy Family as well as what it means to be a family and what The Holy Family is like, as a unit. I’m excited to be back in class with my second graders and pray that God will give me the words and open their minds and hearts as we study and work on their preparation to receive Jesus, later this spring, in our Most Blessed Sacrament, The Eucharist. When I started writing this blog post 2 weeks ago, I had a love story on my mind. Well, more than one as The Holy Family is a picture of such amazing and pure love itself, but specifically I had the love story that God has written for my family on my mind and heart. He is so amazing & the gifts He wants to give us are divine. Simply, amazingly divine. So, below, you’ll find the post that I began working on last year. 🙂 To be totally honest, it’s really more about my family than The Holy Family but The Holy Family did provide inspiration!
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. I am sitting here, next to my husband, thinking about what all this means. I can’t help but hope that our baby will be born today. (Update…as of 1/9/13, I am still very pregnant. 😉 I must remind myself that everything is in God’s time & His time is perfect.) I realize there is a very slim chance that that will happen, seeing as it’s already past 3 in the afternoon and I haven’t had any kind of regular labor pains, contractions, etc & no water breakage, either. Why do I think today, of all days would be so cool for Baby Nixon to join us? Because it just fits us and our story so well. (This is actually all of the original blog post from 12/30/12 that made the final cut. LOL. Oh, who doesn’t love some editing and revision.)
Everyone has a love story. Really, we all have a few of them. The love story of us and our families. The love story of us and God. The love story of us and our spouse (no matter if our spouse is God, The Church, or a person). Every love story is supremely unique and so very special but, of course, everyone thinks that their personal love story is just a little extra unique & special. I tend to fall into that camp and happen to be of the (biased) opinion that the love story I share with Harold and our family is something a little extra special.
I could go all fairy tale on you (to be honest, I do LOVE a good fairy tale) but I won’t. 🙂 Everything about our relationship was a (to quote a Julia Roberts’ movie) “wrong fit right from the start”. Harold did not like me, at all. He didn’t find me to be attractive and thought I was a little too…well, too much, I guess is as good a way to describe it as anything. He liked girls with dark hair and dark eyes. He’s always found girls with an ethnic background, specifically Latina girls, to be particularly beautiful. What am I? Light hair, light eyes, and fair skinned. Northern European (whole lotta German & English in my background) through and through. Thankfully, he’s always been a bit of a chubby chaser, so one plus for me. So, almost no physical attraction on his side. What about me? Well, I didn’t find Harold to be all that attractive, either. He had a very young face and NO chin at all. Nothing, nada…he went from face to neck (not totally true…he just had a very “soft” chin). I also thought he was a little strange, a little quiet, a little too sensitive, and a little too meek. Also, he liked to talk philosophy. PHILOSOPHY?!? Ugh. Our personalities didn’t mesh (he told me I was simply too brash & I thought he was a mama’s boy), we weren’t physically attracted to each other, and every time we talked or hung out he always swore to himself that that would be the absolute last time. He really wanted nothing to do with me. And what now? We’re married. We’re madly in love (mad is a sometimes a big part of that) and we have one child in heaven and one in oven, due any day now. I can say there is no way we would’ve moved beyond personalities not meshing and the total lack of any physical attraction if it weren’t for God. He had to be at play in our love story. There had to be some divine intervention. (Just FYI…I find my husband to be ridiculously attractive and sexy now. He tells me how beautiful I am and that he can’t believe he didn’t see it the first time he saw me.)
I struggle with my prayer life. I always have. It ebbs and flows, like I’m sure many of yours does. I’ve always known how important it is to pray for your spouse, even when you are single and have no clue who your spouse may be. To know something and to do it are two different things entirely. I did not pray for my future husband. I’m sorry for that. Harold did. When I say Harold did, I mean that Harold prayed for MY future husband! He also prayed for me. He would kneel at the back of our church, under a picture of The Holy Family, light candles, and pray for me and my future husband. He was positive that I was a good girl, who needed a good man, and that man was NOT him. He figured that man would need the prayers. He figured I did, too. He was right about almost all of that. 😉 We’d been dating for nearly 6 months when Harold confessed this prayer habit to me. He still wasn’t sure about anything. I fell hard the instant he told me he’d been praying for me all that time. That’s our love story, well at least the beginning of it. My husband faithfully prayed for me (and him, he just didn’t know he was praying for himself), even when he didn’t like me. That is love. I am thankful. There are plenty of cute stories I could share with you. Plenty of ups and downs, plenty of inside jokes. Harold loves to make me laugh & he’s pretty funny. Those are stories for another post (maybe).
Harold and I had been dating for about 2 and 1/2 years when he decided to propose. He always said he would never ask twice BUT he actually did. 🙂 Most of the time I share the story about the first proposal but this time, I’m sharing the second. Harold took me to our church, to the back corner and we sat down. There were some older ladies in the church praying the Rosary and Harold didn’t want to draw attention or make a scene, so he told me I wasn’t allowed to cry. He asked me if I knew where we were and why were were there. I did not (I mean, I knew we were in church but you know what I mean). He pointed to the back wall, where the picture of The Holy Family was hanging and told me that we were sitting in the very spot where he used to kneel to pray for me. He knelt under The Holy Family and prayed for their intercession for me and my future family. Since it seemed to be God’s will that Harold was part of that future family, he thought it appropriate that this was the place he proposed. He dropped to one knee and pulled out my engagement ring. A pearl, surrounded by three interlocking circles of diamonds. The ring is full of a lot of symbolism, too. I did cry (very quietly…nobody noticed) and I said yes.
Sometime in the next three weeks or so, our baby will be baptized in the same corner of our church, under the same picture that Harold used to kneel under to pray for us and then that he knelt under to propose. I can not think of a more perfect place for our baby to welcomed into our Church family than that spot, under The Holy Family, where Harold and I agreed to start down the road to building our family. Icing on the cake…our baby’s baptismal garment is being made out of material from my wedding gown. Our baby will be baptized in a gown made from the gown I was wearing when our family was created before God, our extended family, and friends.
Our baby was baptized on February 3, 2013. This is a picture of our family standing in front of that picture of The Holy Family.
Okay, so this has nothing to do with The Simpsons, other than I’m watching a rerun as I write this post. I got you to read the first line or so, though, didn’t I? 😉 I’ve been thinking about humility a lot lately. I mean A LOT. The Litany of Humility is one of my favorite prayers. It is also one of the most difficult to pray with total sincerity. To pray for God to release you from the desire of being loved, from the fear of being forgotten, from the desire of being praised, from the fear of being falsely accused or calumniation (calumniate – To make maliciously or knowingly false statements about. – www.thefreedictionary.com). When you really stop to think about what you are asking for…what you are praying for – it’s scary. Most people have heard that you should be careful when you pray for patience because God will give you ways to practice patience Well, when you pray for humility – God will give you ways to practice it.
I was speaking with some friends earlier today about St. Ignatius of Antioch, among other things (including The Simpsons). He (St. Ignatius) was on his way to Rome, before Rome was Christian, and was fairly certain he would be martyred while there. He wrote letters to his friends and fellow Christians begging them to stand back and let him be martyred. Today, the Church would frown upon us seeking out martyrdom, like St. Ignatius did. As we were talking about this, one of my friends joked. “You mean I shouldn’t ask God to make me a martyr? How about to let it be quick and painless?” Praying for a painless, free, and quick trip to Heaven. If only it was so easy. In some ways it is. Remember, Jesus tells the rich man that all he needs to do is give away everything he owns and follow Him (Jesus). That’s not so hard, right? Right. Or not.
Just like we know the road to Heaven is not an easy one, practicing humility is a lot more difficult than you or I might think. Often, practicing humility requires humiliation. It requires a death of our pride. Our sweet, sweet pride. Sometimes I think nothing hurts more than dying pride. I pray to be free from the fear of being forgotten, so I am forgotten by those who (I think) I would never forget – and it hurts. I feel angry and confused. “Why am I so easy to forget, why am I not wanted, why don’t they like me?” These questions plague my heart and mind. “Oh, why God?” Then I remember, oh yeah, I prayed for this. Ugh. Thanks for that answered prayer, Lord. (I’m not nearly as sincere in my thanks as I should be.) I can’t develop humility on my own, by myself, because then I’m making it all about me and what I can do. That’s not very humble, is it? If I become too aware of my own humility then I run the risk of becoming proud about just how humble I am – not so humble. It’s a vicious cycle that Satan loves to use against us. All of this has been on my mind because I was recently given the gift of practicing humility. My first reaction was absolute anger. I was livid. Then, I stopped and thought about what I was feeling. I imagined carrying out many different scenarios that would assuage my wounded pride and put the other person in their place. How would that feel? Would I have satisfaction, peace, joy, or relief? No. I might feel a little superior but most likely it would only leave me one step closer to an ulcer and my heart would still be sad. I had to stop and calm my behind down. I had to stop and think about how many other people this would effect. I had to lay my pride down and walk away. It wasn’t easy – it still isn’t. I’ve been struggling with this since it happened. Part of me really wants to run back and defend myself. Part of me really wants to let my fury rain down upon them. Part of me wants to pick up my wounded pride and give it some life support. I am broken, fallen, and disordered. I want to take care of this in a broken, fallen, and disordered way. Who does that help? Satan. It helps him. He is the only one to benefit from me falling to my pride and disordered desires. It brings at least one soul (mine…possibly more) that much closer to him and that much further from God. I don’t like Satan and I have no plans of intentionally helping him out. I’m sure I already unintentionally help him out plenty.
I am prideful, fallen, and disordered. I am a sinner. A big, goober, stinky sinner. I have plenty of logs to take care of before I point out any of my brothers’ (or sisters’) splinters. Heavy logs. I desperately long to be free of them. The thought occurs to me that to be poor in something lends itself to being free. When I have no money, it’s so much easier for me to give everything I do have to someone else. When I have nothing, it is easy to share. The more I have – the more we put away in our savings account or the more material possessions we amass, the more I fear loosing it. The more difficult it is to share. I have to constantly remind myself that anything I have has been given to me by God and it is not mine to horde. I should share it and I shouldn’t be afraid. God will always take care of us, somehow. If I could be poor in pride – how free would I be?!? I would be free from feeling inadequate, defensive, vengeful, and angry. I would be free to be thankful for every little thing I was given. I would be free to love. I would be free to follow Christ and accept whatever crosses He gave me. So, I am going to pray for humility. I am going to pray for it as sincerely as I possibly can and pray that God will help remove any resentment and resistance from my heart. I am going to lay my pride and everything else down at the foot of the cross and try not to run back for any of it. It is only with God’s help that I will be able to let go of it all and truly leave it. I long for true freedom and truth in Christ and I can’t do any of this without Him.