Tag Archive: spiritual


A New Direction

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It has been a wonderful adventure posting on Catholic With A vengeance, getting fired up for the faith and defending her to the last. The support of my readers has been a gift of encouragement and strength to me. Sharing my views and insights has been an incredible joy. It is with a heavy heart I inform you that Catholic W/ Vengeance will be ending.

For a while now, I’ve noticed a gradual move into a new direction, away from apologetics and more towards more contemplative, spiritual and biographical writings. In order to retain the purity of the goal of Catholic W/ Vengeance, I’ve created an entirely new blog. I’m not going away- only moving! Catholic W/ Vengeance will not be deleted. It is here to stay. Forever. There will just not be any new content added.

Here is the address for my new blog:
http://drawmeafter.wordpress.com/
Trahe Me Post Te, is Latin for “Draw me after you.” taken from the Song of Songs 1:4 and a perfect description of God’s relentless quest for my love. You will notice that some older posts from Catholic W/ Vengeance have been moved there. This is because they fit the new blog better than this one. There is a more interior side of my faith that God is calling me to explore, a deeper aspect of my relationship with Him. I desire to share with you and it’s my sincere hope you will accompany me on this new journey. God is working on me and making inroads into my steely cold heart. Please be companions with me along this process, this arduous and long road to sainthood.

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The glistening tabernacle silently greeted me, sending forth an arch of gold, yellow and bronze light. I sat down and opened my book of hours. Nothing could be heard, no birdsong outside nor distant lawnmowers roaring,-not even the shuffle of feet as others entered the church. Periodically I glanced up at the abode of my Lord, perhaps nervously but more likely, full of thoughts. Sally, one of our sacristans, approached. Her neatly cropped hair and white shirt shone like silver beneath the bluish stained-glass window. Seeing me paused, with the open book, she said:
“Sing.”
And so I began chanting as she slowly opened the tabernacle, retrieved a golden container of already consecrated hosts. Beside it, was placed a small silver monstrance holding a larger, exposed host. She knelt down in reverence before closing the tabernacle and bringing the container to the sacristy. Immediately, I realized that a priest wasn’t available to say Mass today, that we would be holding a communion service led by the deacon instead. Anxiety gripped my heart as I thought of our parish priest and the sickness in his family that kept him away at this time. Ringing out the psalms, I asked God to watch over him. A thought suddenly came to mind. I stopped chanting and turned to Sally who now sat behind me. My heart thudded. The odd request lingered on my lips. Nervously, I asked:
“If it is allowed, can you open the tabernacle so that we can adore the host?”

~ ~ ~

“We can do that as long as I’m here,” Sally answered.
I didn’t check the expression on her face, whether it was joyful, eager- or baffled but gladly knelt down when the heavy metal doors were opened again, revealing the silent little host in its silver casing. Feelings of littleness and aggravation at my sins hit me full force. I really was no one and nothing compared to Our Almighty God who deigned to descend from heaven and dwell with us. I finished my prayers and remained kneeling on the floor for several minutes as love gently emanated from the small host, washing over everything like the sunlight, making cold places grow warm again. And at that moment, love was enough. He was enough.
Shuffling emerged behind us and glancing over my shoulder, I saw a man with sparse hair, glasses over his bright eyes and a white collar. Slung over his arm was a long, white garment. A priest! Rather flustered, he asked about the time of the Mass, explaining he got lost on the way to the church. Sally instantly sprang up to help him and followed him down the aisle. Hurriedly, not considering propriety, I closed the tabernacle, dropped upon one knee and said farewell to my Jesus, knowing I would see him again in just a few moments. My mind leaped and ran in circles as I absentmindedly followed them into the sacristy.
“Is there anything I can do?” I blurted out.
The priest was already throwing on vestments and I eyed the floor, worried I’d interrupted him somehow. I always worried about this. However, relief flooded my heart as Sally answered,
“Yes, you can take these hosts, put them in the tabernacle, lock it and bring me the key.”
As she placed the round, golden container in my outstretched hands, I bowed down and closed my eyes like a samurai receiving his sword in some epic movie. I walked gingerly, like a chemist carrying concentrated acid. I shivered expectantly, like a young, virgin girl pregnant with the Savior of the world. The thing in my hands was infinitely more precious than gold, jewels, the finest spices, more weighty than the universe. Every instinct in me wanted to loudly start singing: “Pange lingua gloriosi.” I sang it in my heart instead.

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The School Building

The school building filled with the sounds of raucous youth and footsteps running in the hallway. Peacefully I fiddled with the ribbons in an old, cracked, green breviary marked “volume IV”. His eyes bright and inquiring, James spoke to me from across the library table. Our conversation was animated and filled with jokes. Every once in awhile, I stopped to be sure the right color thread marked the proper place: Thursday: Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer… His fingers worked adroitly at tying together a pink and black rosary. My failed bunch of knots and poorly-gaped beads lay on the table between us. It was something we agreed not to mention.

Later on, bored, we strolled through the building, peering in each classroom. Stumbling upon an empty room standing with all the lights on, we wandered in. The chalkboard showed the large words: Trinity. Adam and Eve. Garden of Eden. My hands found a brown, untitled book which described the Mass in Latin and English, published right after the Second Vatican Council which so many assumed removed Latin from our timeless sacrifice. But right there, in bold red and black, the ancient words flowed, marked with illustrations of a priest in typical 60’s vestments. The book captured James’s interest as I explained to him the parts in Latin.

I grabbed a stubby piece of chalk then scribbled on the chalkboard: “In nomine Patris, Filli et Spiritus Sancti.” It felt so natural, working the letters, speaking and teaching their meaning, like I was made for this!
James began laughing and pointing. “Look at where you wrote that,” he said. I stepped back and viewed the chalkboard. Above what I had written, was the large word: Trinity. How apt… A big smile crept across my lips followed by laughter. God is good.

The church seemed all but empty. Lined up like sentries, the pulpit and candlesticks kept silent watch. I knelt at the wooden altar rail before the tabernacle, my nostrils took in lingering, sweet incense and my eyes fell upon the wooden high-altar, where our sacrifice was just offered. Jesus truly was in this place. I felt in my very bones. He gazed upon me as I gazed at Him. No, this was not my parish church but oddly enough, it seemed more like home than the parish church. So different, yet oddly familiar. Here amidst silence, the carved wood, the tall candlesticks and lace, remembering a simple, beautiful liturgy marked with chanting, bowing and many signs of the cross, I felt I finally belonged. Moreso, I felt fed, heavy with the fat things of the earth, lavished by the gifts of heaven.


Something moved from behind me and I caught sight of a figure in a sweeping, black cassock.

“Father,” I called out, “When you have a chance, may you please bless my scapulars?”

Wasting no time, he took the three, blue scapulars from me, strode to the altar and set them down. He faced the crucifix, speaking prayers under his breath. Immediately, the memory of him, up there in flashing, red vestments, burned through my mind. He who offered the greatest sacrifice for me, now said this small blessing. He who entered the heavenly courts now did what seemed, a very earthly thing, tracing a cross in the air and sprinkling holy water.


Returning to me, he set the scapulars down on the altar rail, put an arm on my shoulder and said, “Try to imagine that you are like the Israelites in exile. I know that it’s hard being where you are, where your soul doesn’t feel fed, where at times it’s debilitating, but He will pull you through this.”
This priest and I weren’t strangers. Every time my friend Leo brought me to this church in Orlando, a good hour away, I’d told him about my parish. I mentioned how barren and dead it indeed seemed compared to this lively place of wood, candle-wax, reverent song, of silk, linen, lace and black. Yet I didn’t need to say anything today. The tears in my eyes during the Mass said enough. My trembling as I approached the altar showed the pining of my heart.


“Thank you, Father,” I replied, looking directly at him.
A twinkle showed in his eye. Here was a man who knew what he was talking about, who perhaps tasted bitter exile himself. On his way from the sanctuary he passed the crucifix. I stared at the heavy beams, carrying their sweetest burden, suspended between heaven and earth.

PopeJohnPaulIId

She was the perfect image of a quaint old church lady, with brown curly hair, gentle winkles on her face, round cheeks and bright blue eyes, bending over a prayer book. Coming into the chapel, I immediately spotted her and drawn like a moth to light, sat next to her. I set my leather-bound Christian prayer book on the seat between us, where her well-used Magnificat rested. Curiously peering, I realized she was praying the Breviary. She prayed the prayer that I had just prayed, said the very same words I said less than five minutes ago. The beauty and timelessness of such united prayers made my heart soar!

Staring forward at the clean, barren altar, I tried minding my own business but another book on the seat between us caught my eye. On the cover, against a sky blue background, was a picture of Pope John Paul II leaning against his silver staff, eyes closed in a meditative gesture. The title read “Saint John Paul the Great” Instantly, I picked it up. The old lady finally noticed me, holding the book in my hand. I felt a tinge of fear yet did not stop smiling at the beautiful cover. She leaned over and whispered, “You may have it.” “Thank you!” I whispered back.

What seemed to be a random act of kindness however, ran deeper. I remembered earlier that night, at work, starting into the blackness of the night sky that so aptly described my life at this point and asking if anyone heard my prayers. Heaven felt very empty that night. Running down the list, I asked Jesus, Mary, Joseph, then lastly I said “John Paul II, please help me! I don’t feel like anyone is there so if you hear this, please help me.”
After Mass, I introduced myself to the lady, thanked her again and told her that I had just been asking John Paul II to intercede for me. “He must be your special protector,” she replied. Indeed those words were so truthful for throughout this week, I had noticed a protective presence watching over me. Now I know who it was. And now I know who, when I called out last night, heard and answered.

Mass ended. Joy still flooded over me. I had been smiling so much, my face almost hurt. Feeling well-fed and recharged, I finally met the one who I’d been longing to meet.
“Father, you said Mass so beautifully”
He thanked me and shook my hand as I kept talking,
“The chanting was beautiful. This was a breath of fresh air.”

Finally I shrank away, worried I’d talked too much. A young man approached, shook his hand and asked to have his rosary blessed. I suddenly remembered a rosary in my purse, which my non-Catholic brother gave me, and quickly had this blessed as well. Watching him sprinkle holy water on the rosaries, the smiles started up again. Joy bursted from within me. I headed for the main church to say my thanksgiving and yet, found the priest there again, preparing to hear someone’s confession, removing his chasuble.
“Father let me take that,” I said.

“Here, take the stole too,” he replied, handing the precious vestments to me.
A most awkward march to the sacristy ensued. In my joyful stupor, overwhelmed by what seemed to be Christ’s garments wrapped around my arms, I had no clue what to do. The sacristans darted in and out, shooting odd glances, wanting me out of their territory. I folded the stole nearly perfect, as I’ve seen them done before. With the chasuble, I had notably less luck. It was like folding a fitted sheet. No matter what I did, it wadded up, so I wadded it the best I could.
Seeing the note I’d left for him yesterday morning, I swiftly grabbed it, put it on top of the folded vestments and retreated out of there. The sacristy is unpleasant. It’s an overwhelming place of sweat and tears, altogether like the garden of Gethsemane.

Emerging into the church’s vestibule, I crossed paths with the priest. I informed him that I folded his vestments the best I could. He said it was fine. Inadvertently, I followed him, wanting to hear a critique of the folding, hoping to see how it was correctly done. I halted at the sacristy door.
“Father, I left you a letter, thank you for everything.”
I couldn’t leave the church yet for there was one last thing to do. Alone, at last with my Lord, I knelt down before the tabernacle and out-poured thanksgiving. My praises mixed with a most-foolish joy, with tiredness and awkwardness, the entire placed in Jesus’s loving hands. Images of the Mass flickered in my mind, of the host held so peacefully in the priest’s hands. The voice of his chant still rang in my ears. My gaze turned to the sanctuary lamp, burning bright red, a pillar of fire in the darkness.

I thanked Jesus for the gift of Himself, and for his other self back in the sacristy, probably reading the letter and scratching his head…and for his other, other self, who was getting some much-deserved rest. It was after all, the parish priest’s suggestion that the visiting priest said Mass this morning and at this moment, I believed he did it just for me. Everything seemed like love- for I was intoxicated with love.
After five minutes, I stood up and made ways towards the church’s front exit. I glanced around and straitened anything that needed straitening, closing doors, shutting off lights. The priest emerged. He said, “Thank you for the note.” Eyeing him a last time, the white flash of his collar and the glow in his face, I replied, “You are welcome Father, have a great morning.”
Then, I closed the heavy church door, saying a silent farewell to both of my Christs. How fortunate indeed am I, who is relentlessly pursued by God.

This morning, before Mass, I went into the main church to chant lauds. There was older gentleman in black, up by the tabernacle and I hoped it didn’t bother him. Anyway, after I finished I went up to the tabernacle and discovered it was a priest! I felt so bad for subjecting him to my horrible Latin. But I felt even more glad to see him there, praying by himself before Our Eucharistic Lord. In his clericals too! The Eucharist is sadly, not a big deal at our parish. Jesus is shoved into a corner and mostly ignored.

But here was a priest, silently adoring Him. On the chair in front of him, lay a beaten-up, well-loved breviary, while the Christian prayer books in our church are brand new, barely used. Seeing this intensity of devotion, which is so rare, moved me so greatly, I could barely keep it together during Mass. He was a visiting priest. He didn’t say the morning Mass but rather, I heard, he was going to say his own private Mass later in the day. Again, I was moved beyond belief. I suddenly longed to find this man, this perfect image of the priesthood, hug him and tell him what a badly-needed exemplar he was. Yet, after Mass, he disappeared.
Our parish priest bolted out the door. Catching his attention for one moment, I said “Father, I care a lot about you.” Thanking me with a quick gesture, he continued his flight from the church. The one I sought was nowhere to be found. I remained in the church, speaking with Our Lord, beseeching him on behalf of these two souls, my gaze constant upon the red, sanctuary lamp’s lonely flicker.

Drawn after the Lord, I went to Mass again this morning. I prayed in front of the tabernacle, remembering the mysterious, visiting priest who’d been there the morning before. I chanted lauds quietly, wondering in the back of my mind if I would ever meet him again.
Time for Mass drew closer and I whisked away into the chapel, where lo and behold, preparing the altar, was the visiting priest! From his movements around the sacred altar, bowing here and there, I could tell what sort a priest this was. This was a priest who took great care with the liturgy, who would give me something new. For the Mass, we celebrated the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My heart sang and rejoiced! He chanted the Kyrie in Greek and several other of the prayers were chanted as well. He handled the consecrated Eucharist: the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord, with such care and love- as one would handle a tiny, newborn babe.

I walked up to receive communion as the priest softly said “Corpus Christi”. I couldn’t believe it. My ears rejoiced at hearing Latin, what seemed my native language! He placed the Lord Jesus gently on my tongue then continued to softly speak the Latin words to others who approached. Beneath this living image of Jesus, who diligently feeds his flock, a feeling of safety, joy and peace filled the room. Everything seemed frozen, wrapped in bright light, white and fresh. My head sunk into my hands, I closed my eyes, and rested in God.

“Thus saith the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will send spirit into you, and you shall live.” – Ezekiel 37:5

 

It has been brutal. For the past year and a half, a struggle ensued for my mind and soul. Constant spiritual warfare wore me down to the point where, on most days, I could barely hold up my head. Going to Mass became a chore. Something was seriously wrong within my soul. All this time, it seemed God was distant. Watching me, yes, but with his back turned the other way. I wandered in the desert like the weeping Israelites, praying and hoping for the streams of life.

During the worst times, I could barely pray. Nothing gave me the joy and consolation I formerly felt. Even throughout Mass, everything remained numb, dead inside. Seeing Jesus in the priest’s hands: the solution to all my ills, I begged Him for deliverance, remembering in my mind the most-dreary verse of Psalm 88: “Friend and neighbor you have taken away, my one companion is darkness.” What the melancholy King David sang thousands of years ago, I felt in my heart this day.  Asking God for His grace, I decided to snub the devil by taking up even more prayer.

Now was not the time to let up. It was time for heavy artillery. Eucharistic adoration. If the local parish didn’t have exposition, I’d go into the church, before the silent tabernacle and voice my complaints and regretfully, not enough thanksgivings. Adoring the sacred host, the Real presence of the Lord is a remedy of peace, a soothing balm on the wounded soul. When you have one foot in the grave, in front of the tabernacle is where you need to be.

Another weapon: The Divine Office. A very ancient and powerful prayer, using the Scriptures, prayed in union with the entire church. It ensures the name of God be blessed at every hour… and the devil hates that! You don’t need to pray all five in a day as monks do. Start with Vespers or Evening prayer, which is easiest. Work your way up. Try chanting, in monotone or with accompaniment. As St Augustine advises: “He who sings prays twice.”

The spirits of despair and anger had encompassed me. There seemed no place to run. Last night, I struggled through my rosary, feeling suffocated by the evil and sin which weighed down heavy. Feelings of worthlessness, weariness and stress hung over my brow. It is no consequence that during the darkest times, Mary came to me, a quiet and serene presence. There is such power in the Mother of Christ, Our Perpetual Help. She crushes the serpent’s head. Wherever a public rosary was offered, I’d try best to make it.

But I am here to proclaim that God does wondrous things, even when we’re on the brink of giving up. We are always ready to give up, but Our Lord, He never gives up on us. Frayed, at the very end of my rope, I attended the rosary and adoration service at a nearby parish in Winter Haven Florida. The priest there is known to be very nice. He once heard my confession on the spot. I asked him before the service if he had time but he was understandably busy. After the service, I approached him and told him about this spiritual warfare I’d been going through, asking for his prayers. Even before we spoke, he could tell something was up. I glanced away, explaining that I’ve been thrown into so much confusion that I wasn’t even sure if I committed sins or not. He offered to bless and then absolve me!!

Taken totally by surprise, I knelt down before him, my eyes on the white stole hanging from beneath his robes. The power to forgive sins. Next to the voice of your husband, saying “I love you,” there is no better sound than a priests voice saying “I absolve you.” To me, it’s Jesus saying “I love you.” Totally beside myself with gratitude, I kissed the priest’s stole, thanked him profusely and skipped out of the church like a giddy fool.

Finally, I knew what it felt like to be that one leper, who showing himself to the priest, found he was completely healed. My heart racing, my face aglow, I ran and told everyone nearby of God’s goodness, of the healing power Jesus Christ gives through His “other Christ’s”, how God always comes through when we least expect it, how His love endures even in darkness. And that is why I wrote this for you today.

Good News.

The Lord is great and so merciful beyond measure! He truly gives good things to those who ask! For a long time, there is something I kept silent, perhaps believing that it was “too good to be true” But my heart has known it for quite some time, the Lord has finally entrusted a priest to me, as my spiritual son.

Last year, I attended a religious retreat during which Our Lord did extensive work on my soul, painful and extensive work within the period of three days. If one looks at a former entry in this blog, dating from June 10, 2013 (https://catholicwvengeance.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/a-retreat/) you will see my thoughts and reflections on this retreat, which I often describe as “like Holy Week” because during this time, I began to crucify the old self and let the new woman be resurrected. And let me tell you, it was long time coming. I met a young priest on this retreat who was newly ordained. He opened my heart to God’s love and after I left, his kindness left an impression in my mind, so much like the kindness of Christ Himself. Well, I went home and promptly took up the Divine Office again. Chanting it it with others, every morning and evening also left an impression, that this rhythmic prayer unified with the whole Church could be a means to taste heaven and intercede for others. Every now and then, I offered Lauds or Vespers for this kindly young priest. Nothing more.

Then came the soft, voice of the Lord saying “Pray for him”. So I started offering more prayers. However, myself being so stubborn in nature and skeptical to an infuriating degree, I grew slack. Let me tell you now, that when God wants something done, He WANTS it done. I learned that quick. He began urging me to pray for this priest, even at night and even in my dreams! If I did not stop whatever I was doing and pray for this priest, anxiety would well up in me so that I could think of nothing else but this poor man stumbling into some sin because of my negligence. So, by the grace of God, I “adopted” our kindly young priest in question, envisioning him as an innocent child yet with the power to call Christ down from heaven, who needs help in this great vocation. Not that I by my own power can help him, but Our Lord, He delights in hearing me ask for His help.

Recently, due to my horrible pride, and the attacks of the Devil (I never underestimate that dirty rat anymore) I nearly rejected my own spiritual son. I said “This is too good a thing to happen to me,” “He doesn’t even know me”, “He probably doesn’t even want my help.” And the worst one: “What use is it?” Going to adoration on a sunny Friday afternoon, seeing my Lord there, sitting silently with me, it made those thoughts go away. For so long, I had wanted God to outright say “Okay, Rachel this is your spiritual son. Yes, I gave him to you, here he is.” Yet, He never used words. The warmth and peace of His presence simply confirmed it.  This priest needs me, he needs my prayers. At last, at last this wonderful thing has happened. A beautiful soul, a priestly soul, has been put into my clumsy hands for special care! It is such good news that I had to tell others! What amazes me that the one whom God gave me at first as a brother and a father, was now given to me as a son, that I may be taught how to love. He truly is a compassionate God who meets all needs for all people! Every moment when I suffer, either from a headache or a hard day at work, I think of this priest and offer it up for him.

And Our Lord is still fond of waking me at night and asking for a few Hail Mary’s on his behalf. Blessed Mary, who is mother to all priests, is such a strong advocate for both of us. I entrust this priest to her because she can watch over him at all times. Such tenderness, that I feel for this spiritual son of mine, she is the one who taught it to me first. The Devil be driven far from him, I pray, and may his priesthood bear much fruit and may every blessing which is given to me, be also given to him.

 

 

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mother of priests

 

It was my fault. I asked for it. Yes, some years ago, I asked that the Lord would make me the spiritual mother of a priest. In His greatness, He chose first to show me exactly what that meant. You see I thought this vocation entailed nice theological discussions, gentle mentoring, sending packages with cookies, crying at ordinations, joyously partaking of the altar and assisting with advice. My vision of sunshine and roses was shattered in the month of May, 2013. God showed me a way laden with pain and sorrow, which was not a flowery image but an echo of Calvary.

Without divulging the events of the past month,  I will tell you that after pleading so long, it was finally shown to me the requirements needed to be the spiritual mother of a priest. The mother of a priest lives in uncertainty, trusting everything to God who sees beyond the human realm. She is not Pollyanna- but Mary who hears a prophecy of arrows, tends a poor and bruised child, hated from birth, walks with him to the rugged cross and sees him buried in the cold tomb. She who would be mother to a priest must feel the pains of the mother of Christ. She must lose him for three days, find him in the temple, declaring independence from earthly things, must watch him be scorned, rejected and despised, stripped of everything so that he even cries “My God why hast thou forsaken me?”

Priesthood is a bloody, painful affair, fraught with dark nights, the sweat of Gethsemane, the agony of Calvary. Brave enough, a man must give himself up, but as Christ died completely, in body, soul and spirit, upon the cross, so a man must utterly die. More sorrowful still, the mother of that man who must witness it all.

In a short time, compared to the whole span of life, I relived Mary’s seven sorrows. I lost something that was cherished immensely and buried it in the earth. I said goodbye to my dreams and desires, to my complacence and happiness. In turn however, I gained a trust in God, a closeness to Blessed Mary and a promise of future resurrection. We live the gloom of Good Friday and wait through the emptiness of Holy Saturday so we may rejoice at Easter Sunday. It is always darkest before dawn and so the darkest eve of despair gives way to glorious, golden sunrise.

I also know now that the devil ruthlessly attacks those destined for the seminary door, before they have even stepped foot in it. God taught me how to put up defense, asking for the shelter of his angels. The fragile, sheet-metal casing of my heart, He hammered into shining, iron armor. With the ore of my soft, pampered hands, He chiseled a broadsword. And with that sword I will slash the devil. I will not forget but fight, my every prayer forming a fortress for our future priests. The sorrowful mother is wounded- and allows herself to be so. She lets the serpent bite at her heel so she may savor even more the moment when he is crushed. She endures crucifixion so her face may shine even more radiantly at the resurrection.

And when the mother of a priest kneels before the altar, wearied by that battle, the copious blood of Christ washes over her. The sweet, Eucharistic chalice is balm to her wounds, polish upon her sword, fire within her heart and the pledge of forsworn victory.

 

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, Companion at the Cross, Ewe of God’s Lamb, Light of Confessors, Queen of Apostles, Mother of Priests,  pray for us.