“For I am the Angel Raphael…” (Of prayers and courtship)

Saint_Raphael

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

-Offertory from the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

A month and a half ago, if you had visited my little corner of the world, you would have stumbled upon me in my parish church, bent over my missal, sitting and reading this exact verse at the Offertory of the Mass.

It was a mere two days after I had entered into courtship. I was in the pew beside the wonderful man who had asked me to court him, and I was wearing “the veil” I’d kept tucked on my prayer altar near the St. Raphael holy card for months.

The Angel of the Lord . . . The words rebounded through my head, tingling with intense gratitude. The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them . . .

Today, on St. Raphael’s feast day, it’s a struggle to find words to capture the story of his guidance, protection and intercession on my behalf over the past months. It’s a challenge for me to fully absorb the reality that it is his feast day and that my current joys are due in such a special way to his prayers for me! I’m at a loss as to how to adequately honor him, apart from litanies, prayers, and praying along with the Mass of his feast earlier this morning. I have so much to thank him for but feel as though I can only give so little.

Vividly, I remember being at the beach this spring, in the middle of a jumble of vocational desire and discernment. My feet were planted in the sand, my head was bowed over the little book about him while the salty wind buffeted me and made a circus out of my hair (no exaggeration there . . .), and sensing quite strongly that I only needed to climb under the shelter of his wings in order to be lead closer towards what I was so hungry for: my vocation.

Our Lord had allowed my heart to travel a hilly road across the three years since I finished high school, and really, our family trip this spring symbolized a time of rejuvenation and reflection for me, because I had experienced and learned so much–some things through joy, others through pain. I had tucked the aforementioned book about St. Raphael into my tote bag, brought along a newly acquired holy card, and across that week, I began forming a relationship with this beautiful Archangel, thanks to the inexpressible gift that is the Communion of Saints.

For Thy counsel is not in man’s power, but this everyone is sure of that worships Thee, that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned: and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to Thy mercy. For Thou art not delighted in our being lost: because after a storm Thou makest a calm, and after tears and weeping, Thou pourest in joyfulness. Be Thy name, O God of Israel, blessed forever.

-Tobias 3: 20-23 (Sara’s prayer before encountering St. Raphael and Tobias)

Across the past year, I’ve shared here about my vocational discernment, particularly in my linked article on 1P5. I’ve written about how, all my life, I experienced a real longing for marriage and children, but how it took coming into the Latin Mass for me to be able to unconditionally, spiritually surrender to God’s (unknown) will for my life and, more specifically, for my vocation: to stop being terrified that He might be calling me to something else than what I wanted.

When I finally let His grace enable me to become open to whatever it was He wanted, I was soon given the beauteous peace of interiorly knowing the rose of marriage was in Our Lord’s design for my life. He lifted me out of myself during that time and transformed my desires.

This period of discernment all happened over the summer, after I’d embarked on my devotion to St. Raphael and was praying to him twice a day, every day. The specific words of my intentions varied a little, but they were as fervent as I could make them and were very much centered on my future husband (even if the state of my discernment meant that I was including the caveat of if God desires me to marry), and that he and I would be brought together. Eventually, I got to the point where I was specifically asking St. Raphael, the same Archangel that guided Tobias to Sara, that my future husband would be inspired to pursue me as soon as God’s will permitted, so that we could do all things together for His glory.

The two prayers I was offering on a daily basis throughout this time are copied below. This first prayer (taken from the above-mentioned book) brought me, from the beginning, an indescribable sense of consolation. It instilled in me a deep trust that I and my desires for my vocation and my future husband were all being taken care of; and it became the firm foundation of my little-sisterly relationship with St. Raphael.

Dear St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead me by the hand towards those I am waiting for, and those who are waiting for me. May all my movements, all their movements be guided by thy light and transfigured by thy joy. Angel guide of Tobias, lay the request I now address to thee at the feet of Him on Whose unveiled Face thou art privileged to gaze. (Mention your request.) Lonely and weary, deeply grieved by the separation and sorrows of earth, I feel the need of calling out to thee and of pleading for the protection of thy wings so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy.

Remember the weak, thou who art strong, whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God. Amen.

The second prayer was sent to me by a good friend earlier on this year in a text message, and I’m not sure of the source (I tweaked one or two words for clarity); but it struck me with its beauty and orthodoxy, and was in a way my first introduction to devotion to St. Raphael.

St. Raphael, loving patron of those seeking a spouse, assist me in this supreme decision of my life. Find for me as a helpmate in life the man whose character reflects many of the traits of Jesus and Mary. May he be upright, loyal, pure, sincere and noble, so that with united efforts and with chaste and unselfish love, we both may strive to perfect ourselves in soul and body, as well as the children entrusted to our care.

St. Raphael, angel of chaste courtship, bless our friendship and our love that sin may have no part in it. May our mutual love bind us so closely that our future home may ever be most like the home of the holy family of Nazareth.  Offer thy prayers to God for the both of us, and obtain the blessing of God upon our marriage, as thou wert the herald of blessing for the marriage of Tobais and Sara.

St. Raphael, friend of the young, be a friend to me, for I shall always be thine. I desire ever to invoke thee in my needs. To thy special care I entrust the decision I am to make as to my future husband. Direct me to the man with whom I can best cooperate in doing God’s holy will; with whom I can live in peace, charity and fidelity in this life, and attain to eternal joy in the next. Amen.

These prayers were the basis of my devotion to St. Raphael, but I also read the Book of Tobit and was blown away by the sheer beauty of St. Raphael’s instruction to Tobias and Sara in regards to their marriage. To imagine an Archangel, “one of the seven who stand before the Lord,” so mercifully intervening in the lives of Tobias and Sara and their families, bringing about healing and a holy marriage, was awe-inspiring, and it served as a confirmation that I was, indeed, praying to an advocate who had been made to care, with a special tenderness and power, for holy marriage and for potential spouses being led into one another’s lives.

A few months of this devotion went by; I received clarity as to my vocation and so then fell to praying more intensely; then came a new acquaintanceship, which grew into a friendship . . . and, in early September, I found myself sitting in the pew at Mass, belonging in a courtship: a time of purposeful, mutual discernment of marriage.

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

Our friendship-turned-courtship is a sweet and really amazing story in its own right, but one probably better saved for another time . . . however, the building blocks of it were so beyond me in the most literal sense of the word, so beyond my expectations and my own plans and potential conniving, as to be what one can only term “a God thing.” Or, more specifically, “a St. Raphael thing.” 😉 It all happened so effortlessly and gently; I blinked, and there it all was, laid out before me, its own story, so much better and more special than anything I could have written for myself! And now I am in awe of God’s grace and so grateful for the opportunity to discern marriage with such a good man in a courtship.

And now . . . a little bit about courtship itself, because I’ve been dying to blog about it! “Courtship” is a widely used term with various applied meanings and few if any universal rules. But for us, it’s pretty simple: courtship is a more traditional means of a man and woman coming to know one another better and asking God whether it would please Him if they married. While we don’t presume immediately upon the future and are focused on God’s will, courtship is very intentional and is not meant to last long unless the Sacrament of Marriage continues showing itself as a very possible and desired end for the couple in question.

For us, courtship has so far involved many purposeful conversations about the essential issues of Catholic living, marriage and parenting, and our perspectives and experiences growing up; but it’s also involved simply spending time together and growing used to one another’s temperaments and how we think, act and express ourselves. We have always been reserving our first kisses for our wedding days, and I have consistently thought holding hands would be a fun and sweet way to celebrate an engagement, so our courtship’s physical boundaries are modest but certainly not awkward. We’ve chosen for courtship to involve our being always chaperoned (which probably distinguishes it most drastically from the typical dating scenario) as a means of safeguarding our chastity and purity; and we’ve chosen for it to be very family-oriented, with our siblings, parents, and nieces and nephews around a lot of the time, brightening things up, making us laugh, and quite honestly putting us at our ease!

In short, courtship–while being a tradition both of our families have always believed in–was very much our own personal choice, and something that has since brought joy and healthy growth to our God-given relationship. Apart from our deeper conversations, it also involves him always opening and closing the car door for me, and it involves me almost always saying yes when he offers me something to eat or drink; it incorporates ballroom dancing, football games, skits, cooking and home movies, chivalry and good-natured teasing, prayer and, best of all, Mass 🙂 In my mind, it’s a perfect way for two young people to discern marriage and I wouldn’t have it any other way; and today, St. Raphael’s feast, seems the perfect day to write about it, and all he has done for me, with heartfelt gratitude.

And Tobias said to him: Where wilt thou that we lodge?
And the angel answering, said: Here is one whose name is Raguel, a near kinsman of thy tribe, and he hath a daughter named Sara, but he hath no son nor any other daughter beside her. All his substance is due to thee, and thou must take her to wife. Ask her therefore of her father, and he will give her thee to wife.
Then Tobias answered, and said: I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died: moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them. Now I am afraid, lest the same thing should happen to me also: and whereas I am the only child of my parents, I should bring down their old age with sorrow to hell.
Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will show thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.

But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away. But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs. And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.
Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and to morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.

Sig2

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October weekday ramblings . . .

 

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Hello! I’m sitting here at my desk, comfortably nestled in a very autumnal beige cable sweater since this morning it finally deigned to drop into the 40s, listening to “Choctaw Hayride“, surrounded by my assorted books such as my missal, The Baltimore Catechism, Hungry Soulsand my newly arrived War and Peace from the library . . . and having finally recovered some mental energy after a week-long tussle with a cold, I’ve realized I keep consecutively missing my 7 Rambling Monday Takes series (moan) and so simply need to do a “dump post” and ramble without prompts or reasons. Alas.

(Well. Now I’ve been called to a tutoring session. I’ll be back in 25 minutes.)

***

Well, make it more like an hour filled with grammar, poetry, and Men of Iron. But back to business. Here I am!

Today has proved to be a blissful fall day, with scoured blue skies, breezy air, and cheerful sunshine. It’s the feast of St. Margaret Mary and so the Propers for this morning’s Mass from Sarasota were filled with such sweetly beautiful Scripture and petitions . . .

I sat down under His shadow Whom I desired: and His fruit was sweet to my palate. How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it. My flesh and my heart have fainted away: Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.

Alleluia, alleluia. I to my beloved and his turning is towards me. Alleluia.

St. Margaret Mary, ora pro nobis! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, miserere nobis! And a very happy Confirmation-patronal feast to my youngest sister 🙂

So, of course, this past Friday the 13th was the hundredth anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. In the mid-afternoon, my mother, sisters and I were able to go, along (happily!) with my guy, to a few minutes of Adoration and to venerate relics of Ss. Jacinta and Francisco, as well as a relic of a branch from the tree at Fatima. Even now, I can’t absorb just how blessed I was to be able to do that.

Praying before their relics that afternoon, I was humbled by these two small child saints. Loving children as much as I do, it awed me to contemplate the heroic virtue this brother and sister practiced on earth, all “for souls,” to a level of zeal and faithfulness that far surpasses any of the paltry acts I’ve scraped together throughout my life for God and souls.

I struggle daily with my inherent superficiality, and so in prayer before their relics last Friday, I was inspired to really cast my heart upon their intercessions, asking them to inspire me in offering up little things to God, for souls, and to more willingly accept suffering. Also, my guy and I adopted them as the patron saints for our courtship after that time in the chapel; something about their purity and loving single-heartedness for God seemed to offer a welcome mantle of protection and support for our discernment and growing relationship. I’m excited and truly grateful for the two of us to be under their care during this time!

And the whole past weekend was a wonderful one, which my mother and sisters and I spent with close friends across two nights; most of us caught a Mass at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, followed by Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, and of course a big breakfast 🙂 Being the happy victims of brilliant logic and card games, watching football, doing dishes together, snuggling kids, praying the rosary, engaging in meaningful conversations, laughing endlessly, and being able to spend time getting to know many other Catholic homeschooling families up on a gorgeous piece of Southern land surrounded by foothills and ridges, were some of the highlights of this fine weekend 🙂

I spent yesterday catching up on my laundry and trying to write a blog post (failure), but in fact ending up catching up on rest (napping on the couch, waking up with a crick in my neck and very foggy-brained, but then eating a snack and feeling fine . . . sigh, my strange self) and going through a whole regimen of natural remedies for this cold which honestly worked wonders; I felt so much delightfully better this morning. The only dumb thing was once forgetting to add the saline to my saline rinse. Cue sinus burn. Fortunately I’d already invited Ss. Jacinta and Francisco into my spiritual life . . . 😉

And today, I have been intently reading on some topics (of a Sacramental nature) in preparation for something I’ll post about sometime next week . . . ah, I love secrecy . . . and I have also been looking forward to spending time with a friend this evening, the scheduling of which we have been working on for months; such is life, but God is good!

Oh, a random thought: While reading aloud Men of Iron to my brother earlier, my fancy was struck by a witty saying which I’ll have to paraphrase since I don’t have the book with me: seventeen-year-old Myles is attempting to convince his best friend Gascoyne to secretly deliver a letter to the young Lady Alice, whom Myles has been recently forbidden to see. The beleaguered Gascoyne sputters something to the effect of, “I’m not going to burn my fingers by trying to pull your nuts out of the fire!” And I liked that 🙂 So now your life has been immeasurably enriched by my sharing that with you; you’re welcome.

Hmm . . . do I have any other thoughts? Oh yes, Mom recently bought us all fairly nice metal travel cups for daily drinking (that brilliant idea of everyone having their one and only cup to drink from a day is slowly infiltrating our family) and ordered some decals so that we could tell them apart. Mine says “Mary A.” (have I ever mentioned here my middle name is Allison? Well, now I have . . .) and I had offered my cup as the guinea pig since we’d never applied decals before. Fortunately, probably due to the manifold merits of my noble sacrifice, my decal turned out just fine and I now get to gaze lovingly upon my own name every time I take a sip of ice water.

Oh, and if you haven’t read Lena’s post about her vocational discernment, you really should 🙂 Apart from a beautiful story, it also includes a perfect prayer by St. Anselm which I really need to make into a holy card for my missal (since my missal is so devoid of holy cards at the present moment, ahem . . .)

O Lord my God, teach my heart this day
where and how to see You, where and how to find You.
You have made me and remade me,
and You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
and still I do not know You. I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You, for I cannot seek You unless You teach me,
or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire, let me desire You in my seeking.
Let me find You by loving You, let me love You when I find You.
Amen.

Spotify, meanwhile, is continuing to play . . . the house is quiet in a post-school fashion . . . now I’m hearing the genius Jon Foreman’s “Inheritance” . . .

Your heart is a work of art
I want to be rich in memories, not money
Our love is our inheritance, honey
We’ve come so far
I want to be rich in memories, not money
Our love is our inheritance, our inheritance, honey

So sweet 🙂 And it makes me think about my amazing parents, who are going to be married 25 years next year!

And now I’m really just contentedly rambling, which means I should wrap this post up. 🙂 Have a blessed rest of your day! And please do continue to keep my great-uncle in your prayers, body and soul, as he continues suffering from his illness. Thank you!

Sig2

 

De Maria nunquam satis (Of Mary there is never enough)

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In all my ramblings here, I’ve written in a sporadic fashion about Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary . . . But I actually can’t recall a single post entirely devoted to it! (Although this one came close.)

This past Saturday, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, was my first “Consecration Anniversary” and I would have technically offered my yearly renewal on that feast if I hadn’t already made my yearly renewal back on May 13th (it being 100 years since Fatima, and that sort of thing not happening every day . . .). From now on, though, I’ll be sticking with tradition and renewing annually on October 7th 🙂

Across the almost-year of Benedic’s blogging existence, I feel kind of ashamed that I haven’t once gathered my thoughts and written coherently (well, um, do I ever write coherently . . .?) about what the Total Consecration devotion is, how I came into it, why I chose it, and the ways in which it has altered my heart and my spiritual life, the way I think about life and Heaven, and most of all, think about her.

What Lucifer has lost by pride, Mary has gained by humility. What Eve has damned and lost by disobedience, Mary has saved by obedience. Eve, in obeying the serpent, has destroyed all her children together with herself, and has delivered them to him; Mary, being perfectly faithful to God, has saved all her children and servants together with herself, and has consecrated them to His Majesty.

-St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, 53

So, as a belated Consecration anniversary gift to our Blessed Mother, I thought I would at last take the time to write about all these things!

“Strike the roots, My Well-beloved and My Spouse, of all your virtues in My elect, in order that they may grow from virtue to virtue, and from grace to grace.”

A friend introduced me to the Total Consecration devotion in August of 2016, and we did it together from that September to October. Before that point, I only vaguely recall having heard of Total Consecration at all, and the concept was accompanied in my mind by the recollection that it was rather intense and demanding, with a collection of long daily prayers. But at the same time, I was game for it for multiple reasons (let alone just trying to grow in holiness), and thus I embarked, little knowing how much I needed it.

The Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary itself is a 33-day period of daily (often long!) prayer, spiritual reading and meditation (in this case as prescribed by St. Louis de Montfort in his passionate work True Devotion to Mary with Preparation for Total Consecration), with the act of Total Consecration being made on the 34th day, which is always pre-selected to coincide with a Marian feast.

Total Consecration has the character of a vow, and so is solemn and lifelong. You voluntarily surrender yourself, in a spirit of slavery, to Our Lady, so that she can give you completely to Our Lord. Freely and willingly, you give her your rights to “your body with its senses and members; your soul with its faculties; your present material possessions and all you shall acquire in the future; your interior and spiritual possessions, that is, your merits, virtues and good actions of the past, the present and the future.” You give them to Our Lady for her own possessions, so that she can do with you as she wills, for God’s glory. Having totally consecrated yourself, your obligation is to then live in that spirit of special devotion and slavery to the Blessed Virgin for the rest of your life.

At first glance, it sounded radical and even a little frightening. But one thing that struck me from the beginning of this devotion was: how can I suffer, how can I be less, by giving everything I am and have to Our Lady? I have so much trouble sanctifying my own actions and clumsily trying to do God’s will (to put it mildly). If I theoretically gave myself to the Blessed Mother in such a radical way, wouldn’t she only help me and give God more glory in the process? The prospect was appealing!

So it was with that reasoning that I embarked on Total Consecration. Although I was able to keep to the prayers pretty well, I definitely didn’t do it perfectly (such a surprise . . .) especially in spirit, and in all my renewals I know I never will. (Sigh.) But in a way, that’s the point: the idea and practice of Total Consecration is a spiritual summit to daily climb towards and aspire to; it’s a challenge, not a pacification for where you are. My actual day of Total Consecration was comprised of a blown tire, a last-minute English Mass and a hurriedly whispered Act of Consecration that I had to break up into two parts, since I ran out of time after Communion . . . just to give an idea 😉

But despite the chaos and imperfection I brought to it, the graces I received from those 33 days were beyond what I’d anticipated. In fact, they were pretty inundating. The more I read of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, and had my eyes opened to the splendor and beauty of the Mother of God in a way I’d never, ever seen her before; the more of the daily consecration prayers I offered and the more I struggled to embrace that spirit of humble slavery and surrender to the Blessed Mother, I often received these incredible spiritual consolations and a feeling of sweet closeness to her that’s almost futile to attempt describing.

Most importantly, though, these graces coincided with a complicated and painful situation that demanded more of me, emotionally and spiritually, than I previously thought I was able to give. So I’ll always remember my initial Total Consecration as a chrysalis of grace and transformation, a mantle that was wrapped around my shoulders and helped me weather a strong storm. During those weeks, I would take solace outside in the cool autumn wind with a journal and write long letters to the Blessed Mother, sometimes crying, sometimes simply still and listening to the quiet, and feeling pieces of me heal and slowly awaken to a call to conversation with her, and conversion.

Total Consecration to Mary was, really, the very beginning of my being able to embark on vocational discernment. She was the one who tilled up and softened the rocky soil around the shoot of my rose. She began stripping away musty layers and prepared me to be able to tell God, “Do what You want with me,” for really the first time in my life with sincerity and love. She helped me to cry and pray, to better embrace the Faith, and to give God my rose.

Casting a glance back over that time from the perspective of where I am now–so happy and blessed–fills me with amazement. Truly, I would have to be blind in order not to see how much of where I am (so undeservedly) now is due to my first Total Consecration to her.

“It is Mary alone to whom God has given the keys of the cellars of divine love, and the power to enter into the most sublime and secret ways of perfection, and the power likewise to make others enter in there also.”

And now a year has gone by since then!

The practice of Total Consecration is, at its heart, an act of true and selfless love for Our Lady, and for Christ. And, just as with true love, I’ve found out that this practice requires effort of my will 99.9% of the time, with consolations and feelings of joy and devotedness making up the other 0.1% (okay, that’s something of an exaggeration 😉 ) . . . because spiritual consolations just aren’t going to last forever, no matter the devotion.

Although I deeply believe that the graces of this devotion are abundant, and I pray that much is going on (thanks to Our Lady) that I’m not currently able to see . . . I am still the same person, still invariably human and sinful and faulty, and I simply can’t go on feeling deeply excited and consoled all the time about being totally consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. I have realized that, without literally trying to maintain the spirit of consecration, I don’t get very far in behaving anything like truly devoted to the Blessed Mother. (In other words, although this devotion is truly wondrous, it’s not what we sloppy humans call An Easy Way Out.)

More often than not, I’ve learned that I have to purposefully enter into that spirit of consecration to her, and actively cultivate it through effort and prayer . . . especially when I don’t feel like it. (Which is odd, since most other areas of the Faith and the spiritual life are completely removed from that approach. Hmm.)

You are meant to renew your 33-day consecration to her every year, ideally on the same feast, but a year is a long time and you can’t simply glide on feelings of devotion for the other 330-odd days of the calendar.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post how praying the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been important for me, personally, in keeping and cultivating my spirit of holy slavery towards the Mother of God. There are several other practices recommended by St. Louis de Montfort for once the Total Consecration has first been made (below, from Fish Eaters). I feel like I am only scratching the surface in this devotion, and now that I’ve passed a year of being totally consecrated, I’m determined to learn how to incorporate these practices more into my daily life, in a way that’s practical and achievable in the duties of my state (and my own personal quirks . . . sigh):

  • Keep praying to develop a “great contempt” for the spirit of this world

  • Maintain a special devotion to the Mystery of the Incarnation (e.g., through meditation; spiritual reading; focusing on Feasts centering around the Incarnation, such as the Annunciation and the Nativity, etc.)

  • Frequently recite the Ave, Rosary, and the Magnificat

  • Recite, every day if it is not inconvenient, the “Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin” — a series of Paters, Aves, and Glorias — one Ave for each star in the Virgin’s Crown. St. Louis has a special way of praying the Little Crown, which is recommended.

  • Do everything through, with, in and for Mary for the sake of Jesus, with the prayer, “I am all thine Immaculate One, with all that I have: in time and in eternity” in your heart and on your lips

  • Associate yourself with Mary in a special way before, during, and after Communion (see Supplement of the book, “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary”)

  • Wear a little iron chain (around the neck, arm, waist, or ankle) as an outward sign and reminder of holy slavery. This practice is optional, but very recommended by St. Louis. The appearance of this chain is not further specified.

  • Renew the consecration once a year on the same date chosen above, and by following the same 33-day period of exercises. If desired, also renew the consecration monthly with the prayer, “I am all thine and all I have is thine, O dear Jesus, through Mary, Thy holy Mother.”

Since my personality and vocation are both rooted in the home and the rhythm of family life, what usually works best for me is to form habits of offering small prayers and ejaculations, or songs (like the “Salve Regina” at the dishwasher . . . those two just seem to go together), in conjunction with daily work, whether it’s dishes or laundry or even showering. (I’ve been finding out that if I don’t remember to pray the Little Crown in the shower, I usually fail to remember to pray it later. So yes . . . )

I’m not by nature a deeply contemplative person and I’m fairly certain my future vocation will require more active forms of prayer that come with nurturing and raising a family. And so I’ve begun to realize that I need to learn how to better incorporate my Total Consecration into the ordinary rhythms of my day, to where our Blessed Mother becomes all the more a part of me and my heart becomes more and more joined to hers, since spiritually I’ve placed myself in her chaste womb and pray to never be removed!

Despite all of my faults, I know it is she who will teach me over the years, in her own beautifully patient and gentle ways, to be a holier woman, a valiant woman, and God-willing a selfless and devoted wife and mother; it is she who will work to preserve my purity of heart and to give me deeper self-knowledge so that I can draw closer to her Son in humility and contrite desire. It is she who will, I pray, save my soul in the end. I really feel like I can give her so little, and yet there’s a strange sort of peace that comes from knowing that I’ve already given her everything I have or ever will have; even though imperfectly, I did it freely, and will keep on doing it freely for all my life. And I trust she understands the beauty and worth of it all far more than I do or ever can–and that’s more than enough for me!

“The most terrible of all the enemies which God has set up against the devil is His holy Mother, Mary.”

Sig2

 

 

We Must Win this Great Battle

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. . . For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened by His Spirit with might unto the inward man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts: that, being rooted and grounded in charity, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length, and height and depth: to know also the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God.

(Epistle for the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus)

I got up early this morning . . . and knew that, recently, I had not been trying very hard.

How much, I wondered as a padded downstairs and started turning on lamps and rolling up blind shades and looking at our sleepy dog poking her head through the gate to our back deck, have I been really, fully, wholeheartedly, devotedly, fixedly, determinedly wanting to be a saint–and all for the pure, ardent love of my Lord, Jesus Christ?

*Crickets*

Now . . . I don’t want to be misunderstood in this great, rambling stream of words I’m pouring forth on a First Friday afternoon. I’m a lover of, and a wholehearted believer in, the spiritual wealth to be found in ordinary days, and in an ordinary life. Of the beauty found in the simple, humble normal-ness of a Catholic home and family living; the chores, the meals, the dishes, the conversations, the giggles, the bickerings, the tears, the hugs, the outings, the nighttime rosaries, the memories, and everything in between. In fact, it’s this same love, this homely vision in my heart, that has remained with me through discernment, and which speaks strongly to me of how my vocation will one day lie in the home: in being a blessed wife, mother, and keeper of a “little church” of my own. I’m under no delusions that I need to go off seeking extraordinary, out-of-the-way missions or events in order to approach the path to sanctity. The path starts here.

Thanks to the freedom (schedule-wise) that my current state in life as a single woman at home offers, I try to have regular prayer throughout the day; I try to be faithful in my duties and respectful and obedient to my wonderful parents; charitable and patient with my siblings; loyal and true to my friends; content with what I have and accepting of what I don’t have. Helpful and industrious, not too demanding that things are done my way, and all that. But . . . I am a normal person. (I bet no one saw that coming.) By that, I mean I am often sinful, weak, silly, selfish, obsessed with things that don’t matter, or somewhat confused about things that do.

And . . . it can be incredibly easy to start going through the motions. By this, I don’t necessarily mean falling into mortal sin or doing anything grievously wrong. Rather I mean a slow, subtle, gradual decline from where I am asking the Holy Ghost to pour His divine fire upon my heart, and striving to be zealous and desirous of sainthood in everything I do–especially the ordinary, small, wiping-up-milk things–to where I am simply doing things. Inwardly, I slow down. I grow thoughtless, sluggish, more self-centered, more lukewarm.

I lack fire.

My Heart hath expected reproach and misery: and I looked for one that would grieve together with Me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort Me, and I found none.

(Offertory for the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus)

Yes, I still pray in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I offer my efforts to God; I try to combat what I think are my vices, to not be too selfish or wasteful with my time, and to not put off scrubbing the shower floor for too long. (Ahem.) I’m not snapping at people or saying hurtful things . . . but I become less willing to maintain a spirit of . . . how to put it?  . . . holy joy. Of purpose and resolve. My mind wanders more in prayer. Little things start creeping back in. I start forgetting things like sacrifice, praying for the souls in purgatory and for the conversion of sinners, sanctifying myself through prayer and good works, and I start thinking more about my current hairstyle. It starts becoming more of an unwanted effort to think about holy things; about God and the Saints, the Faith, Heaven and Hell. Oh . . . right. Sainthood. Self-denial. Heaven. Sigh.

Early this morning before anyone else was up, thanks to a stirring of God’s grace, I picked up my father’s copy of The Seven Capital Sins and turned to Sloth . . . the chapter I’d, so far, been planning to read but subconsciously avoiding due to the sneaking suspicion of how often this vice was unknowingly manifesting itself in my day-to-day spiritual life. (How ironically fitting.)

Sloth is a spiritual laziness, although it includes laziness of the body too. It is caused by a certain lack of trust in God and makes us indifferent in the use of the means necessary for our sanctification. It is an aversion to spiritual effort, which leads to the neglect of grace. Its worst effect is to make us put off our return to God after mortal sin . . . . Sloth resides in our mind and will and is the most dangerous of all vices because it makes us refuse to cooperate with grace. Sloth inclines us to habits of sin and leads us to despair of breaking away from their slavery . . . Countless venial sins result from our lukewarmness, tepidity and indifference in God’s service. These in turn further weaken our will, and we find ourselves caught in a net which we have no will to break. We can recognize how sloth affects us by our faint-heartedness in spiritual matters; by our sluggish will; by our procrastination or putting things off until another time; by our dissipation and useless work, which is a sort of feverish activity that distracts us and does not allow time to attend to the needs of our soul; by our seeking bodily ease and comfort; by our idleness, or doing no good at all.

Reading this passage helped me to see my slothful areas clearly: the times when I fall quickly away from asking the Holy Ghost for zeal to be poured into my heart (I hardly ever remember to do this as it is . . .); zeal for holiness, eagerness for sainthood, for consoling and honoring the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Zeal for living the way I ought to live, with the right intentions and with a fervent spirit. For completely surrendering myself to Christ, for love of Him. Love! For being a true child of Mary, not only in deed, but in heart and mind as well. For not doing things simply because they look right, are traditional, and true; but because I love God, profoundly. Period.

Reading about sloth, I nearly felt like a living paraphrase of George Bailey. I want to love again! I want to love again!

I want zeal. I want fire. I want love to permeate my being. God has given me great graces of understanding and knowing more about the Holy Faith ever since encountering the Latin Mass; but all this time, He has wanted me to know more solely because He desires me to love Him more than I ever have done before. While I haven’t completely failed at it, and there have been moments of grace where I felt I was growing in charity . . . I certainly haven’t been victorious either. There have been too many losses.

So . . . it’s time to do battle once again. It’s time to pull on the armor and to sharpen the sword, against sloth, and against all other vices. It’s time to begin praying daily, hourly, for the fire of Divine Charity to pour upon my heart again, so that I’m truly doing the right things, not simply because they’re right and because I should, but because I am motivated by pure love of my Creator. There is a tremendous difference.

Now . . . having faith and doing the right things are, of course, not reliant upon emotion; sometimes they must be done in spite of emotion, or with a complete lack thereof. But spiritual zeal is not an emotion. It comes, not through rousing music or high words, not from having a good day when things go well, people are happy, or hormones aren’t playing up; but through humble prayer to receive it and dogged persistence to hold on to it. It isn’t something we conjure. Spiritual zeal is a divine gift; a grace; an outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Thusly, I need to be asking for it; desiring it; hungering after it so that it can enable me to hunger after God, all the days of my life.

May Thy holy mysteries, O Lord Jesus, impart to us divine fervor; wherein we may taste the sweetness of Thy most loving Heart, and learn to despise what is earthly and love what is heavenly.

(Postcommunion for the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus)

We all must win this great battle for our souls, with the help of God. We must all live with the knowledge and conviction of why we are alive to begin with. I have a feeling I’m not alone. We are all human; sloth, at least on occasion, seeks to creep in to all of us.

So let’s combat it together. Let’s pray to the Holy Ghost, that we may receive renewed love, zeal, and spiritual fervor as we strive, in our ordinariness, for sanctity–because it’s in our “ordinary” where His holy zeal can burn most brightly. Let’s beg to receive an outpouring of that Fire which consumes our human weakness and fickle emotion and pierces the innermost depths of our hearts with the Presence of Divine Love . . . never to be extinguished by the tumultuous winds of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

PRAYER TO OVERCOME SLOTH AND LUKEWARMNESS (from The Seven Capital Sins)

O my God, I know well that so negligent a life as mine cannot please Thee. I know that by my lukewarmness I have closed the door to the graces which Thou dost desire to bestow upon me. O my God, do not reject me, as I deserve, but continue to be merciful toward me, and I will make great efforts to amend and to arise from this miserable state. In the future I will be more careful to overcome my passions and to follow Thine inspirations; and never through slothfulness will I omit my duties, but will strive to fulfill them with greater diligence and fidelity. In short, I will from this time forward do all I can to please Thee, and will neglect nothing which I know to be pleasing to Thee.

Since Thou, O my Jesus, hast been so liberal with Thy graces toward me and hast deigned to give Thy Blood and Thy Life for me, I am sorry for having acted with so little generosity toward Thee, Who art worthy of all honor and all love. But, O my Jesus, Thou knowest my weakness. Help me with Thy powerful grace; in Thee I confide.

O Immaculate Virgin Mary, help me to overcome myself and to become a saint.

Amen.