I remember a time many years ago when I was struggling with life. I had too many needs, too many wants, too many expectations, and too many disappointments. There were several voices within and without constantly vying for my attention, and it was all too much. I felt unable to manage all the noise and confusion, for I was under siege and under so much pressure in that desolation that I could not muster much effort against it. It felt as if my overwhelmed mind had just quit on me. All I wanted to do was scream.
At that moment, I looked out; my sight landed on my camping chair and the vast open field right in front of me. I did not know at the time what prompted me, but I felt compelled to pick up my chair and walk onto that field. I felt very much like I was purposely going out into the desert. I must have walked about a mile or more but eventually, I stopped. There, apart from everything, I opened my chair and sat down right in the middle of my desert. There I was able to put down my head and let go. I proceeded to cry my ugliest and most heartfelt cry, and for a long-long time, desolation and desperation just flowed out of me. I cried until I was so dry that tears could not come out anymore. Finally, after my heart was empty, I was able to lift my head and look up to the sky.
My eyes were blinded for a moment; I felt the sun rays as if they were His hands coming down to touch my face, drying up my tears with their warmth. At that moment, I knew, for it was being written onto my heart:
Consoling scripture passages kept popping right onto my thoughts one after the other, and my heart just melted. My mind cleared, and the oppression was lifted. Why is it that I had to go towards the silence and solitude of that field so that I could feel His comforting embrace and hear His words to me in that “still, small voice”?
Many of us suffer from heavy expectations. We sometimes crumble under the weight of the world, a world that is neither kind nor compassionate. We live in this noisy place that constantly seeks to distract and confuse us. As disciples of Christ, we are called to discern God’s will, but there is so much noise in the world that it can become difficult to listen to God’s voice clearly. Sometimes, we thrust ourselves into escapism, which only adds to the noise, feeding our loneliness and restlessness. That is because we are not called to escape or worry too much about the future, but to do what we must here, present, now. We are called to reside in the present moment, for only in the present moment can we effect change. The past is gone; we cannot let that chain keep us imprisoned. The future is not assured; we cannot let it be our custodian. It is only in the present that God speaks to us. Only in the present can we choose to live our lives according to His will for us.
We are not called to be alone, nor are we ever truly alone, but there are many times that we are called to silence. Maybe we are called to find our own desert, either interior or exterior, where we can be set apart and drown the noise. When we silence ourselves and pay attention to experiencing the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to hear God’s words for us. We only need to take the time to recognize Him by our side. To listen to Him, we need to learn to be open and vulnerable, and we need to know how to listen properly. Maybe that means that we must run to the center of a vast empty field so that we can cry our hearts out in supplication, empty ourselves and drown our own noise so that our ears can listen to His love whisper to us. But maybe it just means to go visit Him in His temple, to share in union with Him in the quiet from Communion. Perhaps in that silence, He can capture our attention and speak to our hearts directly and without distraction. May we learn to find and embrace the silence.
Let us pray: Christ, you came to redeem the world and fulfill all Scripture. You are the will of the Father. Help us grow ever closer to You, that we may learn to hear Your voice and discern Your will for us, that we may live fully in You. Amen.
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
Ash Wednesday will be upon us in a few days. Looking at our lives through the eyes of Heaven, what do we see? Through the grace of the Eucharist, what is revealed to us?
Our individual sacrifices are varied in many ways. Perhaps we can look up together, to the head of the Mystical Body of Christ, to better see the feeble parts within. Beginning with ourselves, prayer is necessary; fidelity and self-denial are required to love in Christ.
We learn to love like Jesus by loving Jesus. During Lent, it has been a practice since before the 1500s to pray the Stations of The Cross. By this, we immerse ourselves into the Passion of Christ.
Mortification has been strongly in my prayer since it seems to be the way to lose ourselves and find God. The mystery of The Scourging at the Pillar is always very intense to pray on my rosaries. Mortifying our senses to perfection can be derived from this meditation and union with Christ. Only our Divine Savior could have endured the pain from the whips; it is beyond our comprehension. The strikes to the flesh, the pain Jesus endured in His Passion, help us to dissipate all we hold onto to find what will be with us for all eternity, love.
I recall the first time I watched the movie, The Passion of the Christ… I went through a box of tissues, and there was an emptying of self that seeped in my soul. The only hunger at that moment was filled by the desire to bind the wounds of Christ and cling to our Blessed Mother.
We can live in love for one another by the grace of the Eucharist, embracing the reality of the love that has been poured out for each of us so intimately. Lent is a special gift to us; it is a season of hope. It reminds me of our time in adoration, in that sometimes we cannot see what is happening, yet there is a mystical blessing affirming God’s love for us.
Quiet time will help us go deep within to identify with the pains of forgiveness we need to give and receive. Although we may not repair every part of our lives that have suffered, we can find peace and trust in knowing God always brings about a greater good.
Meditating in the presence of the Eucharist will draw us into the life that is to come in all of its fullness. Whenever I come out of prayer time, there is an awareness of grace, a desire to give. A fresh breath of air to take in to help me respond to situations with Jesus. Our Mother is with us in every virtue we try to grow in. Mary is in the shadows of Christ’s love for us, with St. Joseph in the Sacrament, they lived. May we find charity, almsgiving, and fasting as a special gift to Jesus this Lenten season.
To live in the realm of our spiritual realities, voluntary self-sacrifice will enable us to live in conformity to the love of Jesus Christ. Mortifying our senses will help us to see past ourselves into the heart of another, thus enabling the Eucharistic Heart to pulsate Our Heavenly Father’s love. The Holy Spirit who lives in the inner cenacle of our souls will grant us the power to find the fortitude of mortification. Love has Risen!
We are about to embark together on another Lenten journey. It is almost time to hop on board.
As I approach the shore, I see the boat is ready. Looking beyond, I see the open water and what looks like dark clouds in the distance. The clouds are still far, though, and the anticipation of what is to come fills me with excitement and maybe a little fear. Thinking I might have forgotten something, I go over the things I’ve packed for the journey: sacrifices to offer during Lent (fasting), new or renewed devotionals (prayer), commitments to serve my brothers and sisters (almsgiving). Check, check and check. I look around and see my fellow travelers busily looking through their luggage and checking their schedules for all the wonderful opportunities available to grow during this journey. Everyone seems too busy to notice the dark clouds ahead, and I wonder if we are truly ready for what lies ahead.
I think it is human nature to forget the “bad stuff” and focus on the good. When my son was born, the pain and difficulties during the pregnancy and labor melted away as I saw this miracle in my arms. But now that he is a teenager, I remind him now and then of all the sacrifices we made so that he could be born. I do not do this to make him feel bad. On the contrary, I do it to make him feel loved. When I shared with him how my life was at risk during the pregnancy and how we rearranged our whole lives so he could have a chance to live, he looked at me and said, “I was loved before I was born.” And I told him, “Yes, you were, my love.”
Each year, when we celebrate Easter, the difficulties of the last 40 days melt away. Lent reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made so that we may be born. Lent helps us remember how much God loves us.
As I look at the dark clouds ahead, I realize I am not ready, and that is ok, because this is precisely the point of Lent. Our Church invites us to embark on a journey of growth and preparation, a journey of transformation. Perhaps in our desire to “do Lent well,” we have overpacked. Perhaps God is asking us to only bring the one thing necessary… the desire to grow in the love of God and love of neighbor.
The path through Calvary is narrow, and to make it through, we will need to let go of some of the things we might be holding on to. Are we holding on to resentment, anger, or unforgiveness? Are we holding on to fear? Are we holding on to self-reliance? We need to pause and notice what is weighing on our hearts, for His burden is light
As we prepare for Lent, let us ask God to show us what extra baggage He wants us to get rid of, to show us what is keeping us from running to His love. And then, once He shows us, we must ask for the grace to let it go. We do not need to prepare for every contingency… look in the boat. Jesus is already there sleeping… let us hop on board.
Some time ago, as I walked down a lonely street in an old town, I saw this older woman sitting on a bench with a big frown on her face. I was compelled to stop walking and consider the scene before me for a moment. Why was she frowning? What did this have to do with me? Many faces were pulled from my memory; I had seen this scene before.
Memories surfaced from interactions I’ve had with many different people over my lifetime. I have been told I am pretty good at first impressions and reading people, but that does not mean I am good at this every single time. I remembered my first impressions of some of my closest friends; some were good and some not so good. With some of my friends, it took many years of continued approaches before I could open myself to them. I wondered why this was.
We do not know what most of our brothers and sisters have gone through in life, where they came from, and how those experiences and places shaped them. We meet them quickly, yet assume that this is who they have always been. We end up passing judgment on them from that quick interaction. Growing up, I never doubted this process: happy people that looked me in the eye were good, cranky people that side-eyed me were not so good. I did not have time to dig deeper nor knew how to go about it, so that simple judgment helped me get by.
How many good people did I designate not worthy of my time because of that one interaction? How many blessed friends did I not make because of my simple bias? I know that over time this has cost me. I can say that it was not done maliciously, maybe it was something ingrained through societal forces, or perhaps it was inherited through the example of those close to me, but regardless of how it came to be, in the long run, it has diminished me. It hurts to think that my quick judgment and dismissal might have also hurt them. Oh Lord, how sorry I am for that. How much of Your charity, true love in action, was not dispensed because of this?
I have come to understand what it is to approach someone differently by seeing them through the eyes of Christ. Everyone has a story, sometimes joyful, other times sad. In some of our stories, there is frustration and anger. In some of those, you can also find redemption and justice. There are so many stories, just as varied as the various people we are, and how we all carry the stories of our lives is written somewhat on our faces. It would be of great value to listen to these stories and acknowledge the lives of those in front of us. How much humility, joy, compassion, mercy, charity, and justice could we reap and share? How much would those interactions enrich us all? There is so much to learn from each other, but we need to be open to doing this.
We are all called to give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if the first impression was not ideal. Christ looks at us sinners and sees not our sin and faults but the persons we were created to be. Can you imagine being able to see our brethren in the world as Christ Himself sees us? Like the good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke (10:29-37), I am so glad to know that Jesus does not just walk on by. He stops to listen to our story and accompanies us, even when we have a frown on our faces.
Coming back from the depths of my thoughts, I decided to let myself follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit; I stopped to engage the lady on the bench. “Hi. I can’t help but see that you seem upset. Are you ok?” The lady looked up at me and, with a surprised look, gifted me with a little smile. “I will be ok but thank you so much for caring. It gives me hope.”…and that, right there, taught me why we are called to be good Samaritans; it both increases our charity and gifts hope.
Let us let go of our hang-ups, let go of our unfair biases, and go beyond our first impressions to truly look at the people we meet. Our care, tone, and intent towards someone can help reassure those who need acknowledgment. Maybe we end up with a new friend, and perhaps we end up growing in charity; both ways, we are no longer diminished but enriched, and at that moment, we are much closer to how Christ is.
Let us pray: Lord of Heaven and Earth. You are the perfect good Samaritan; from your love and compassion, we poor ones are acknowledged and enriched. Help us learn from your teaching, follow your example, let go of our own biases, and reach out to those we meet who need a compassionate hand and a willing ear. Help us see your people through Your eyes and love them as with Your heart. Amen.
Dearest Eucharist Family,
There are so many beautiful feast days in our Catholic Church. This past week we celebrated The Feast of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The Prophecy of Simeon so eloquently expresses to us what has granted him inconceivable joy, "For my eyes have seen Thy salvation" (Luke 2:30).
Today, February 5th, is a day held in great esteem for the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. It is the anniversary of their holy founder’s (Saint Peter Julian Eymard) baptism. As a Lay Associate, Peter Julian is my spiritual father, and I rejoice with the Eymardian family in celebration of this day.
Perhaps we can all take a moment to imagine the moment of our own baptism when water was poured over us. At this moment, we are born into a family as adopted children of Our Heavenly Father. Beheld in this love, our life finds purpose beyond our understanding. We live in the mystery and will of our Creator. We find mission in love and service and a remedy for our human frailty.
Our Mother, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, is surely with every baptized person as they enter the Church. She is planning, preparing, and her soul continues to magnify our Lord as the family of God grows in grace.
The present moment is a pure gift to be reverenced; by baptism, we can see what the world cannot see.
This past week my husband and I came through COVID by a mild case. We praise God, knowing so many fatalities and severe sicknesses have come from this virus. Assured that God's love beheld us and that suffering is part of the mystery of our faith, we remained in peace as we waited for the virus to pass by. Our quarantine time was useful, with time to read through and view old journals and photos. We were attentive to eating and sleeping, and most importantly, praying for our loved ones. Special prayers were offered for all those we were in contact with before knowing we were COVID positive. We prayed specifically that we would not pass any germs on... So it came to mind our spiritual lives, how we need to be attentive to our actions, how we affect others, what may come out of our mouths, or actions that may hurt another.
Charity is the real key to the Kingdom! Our baptism can bring us there in grace. The Eucharist is our sure hope to identify with a love that is beyond this world. We can see our salvation in our Jesus, who remains so humble for us in a simple piece of bread, to find true life, true love, and meaning.
Very close to the end of his life on earth, Saint Peter Julian Eymard consecrated his existence by offering a total gift of himself to God. He wanted to be free of his self-interest and vainglory and see all things through the light of the Eucharist. Aware of the grace of his baptism, Saint Peter Julian beheld this day so sacred, knowing it was the sacrament to bring him to perfect charity. Suffering was not exempt from his outpour of life; it is the grace that earned him canonization—a good, holy reminder for us.
We are blessed to see salvation now through the Eucharist, blessed to have a place to bring our joys and sorrows through our reception of Holy Communion. May the Liturgy be the central focus of our lives to regenerate all of our relationships in God's love.
Let us remember, too, the importance of our godparents and our godchildren. They hold a special place in our hearts. They may need our prayers for salvation, our prayers for spiritual guidance and education.
May the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance keep us clothed in our baptismal garment to live in the freedom of the Holy Spirit and true blessings from above.
Lent begins in a month… I've already seen several advertisements for programs, book clubs, virtual retreats, etc. They all seem to say it's not too early to start planning how to spend your time this Lent. But… is it? Are we really supposed to spend these precious days of Ordinary Time focusing on the season ahead? Or is this just a spillover malady from the marketing cycle, where everything has to be sold one quarter earlier? Is all this strategizing robbing us of today?
One of childhood's greatest gifts is the freedom from having to worry about the future. When children are properly cared for, they know their needs will be met. Adulthood brings responsibilities that require us to spend some time looking ahead. But with that comes the temptation to over-plan, to try to control every detail, to be constantly looking ahead. We end up spending so much time thinking (and worrying) about tomorrow that we miss living today. But this is utter foolishness. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. What if today ends up being our last day?
How are we called to live this ordinary day? The call is the same one it will be during Lent. We are to live this day in prayer. And by prayer, I mean in relationship with the one true living God. This is a place of abiding, of resting, of being loved. It is the place from where all our activity should flow… even our planning for the future. When our plans are guided by the gentle voice of God, we are living with Him in the present moment. We are looking at Him, trusting that He already knows what is ahead. We return to that blessed state of childhood, where we are cared for, where we know our needs will be met.
Our task then is to do everything in our power to enter into His Presence and there strive to remain. This will look different for each one of us. Our state in life, our season in life, our unique character traits, all of these will affect what our prayer life looks like, but there is one thing they will all require, and that is silence. Exterior silence is beneficial, but it is merely a means to the true silence within. Once we learn to still our hearts, we can abide in holy silence even amid the noise and the chatter. It is in that silence where we can listen… where we can begin to pray.
Perhaps God is calling you to sign up for a Lenten program… or to buy a new book… or prepare ahead. But maybe He is not calling you to do any of that. Perhaps He is inviting you to rest and gather your strength instead. The only way you will know is to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, to attune your heart to the silent sound of God's Word.
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
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