Blessed is She …Daily Devotions!

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Angels

Are  angel’s deeds the stuff of legends, children’s bedtime tales, wishful thinking or the creation of illiterate, ancient minds? 
Not for our family; we have seen too many inexplicable events, multiplication and miracles
Man has closed his mind to theses messengers of God, guides and defenders so they wait idly for the modern Catholic to wake up to their existence. They sit like gold in a bank, useless unless we give them permission to act.

What are angels?
An angel is a pure spirit created by God. The Old Testament theology included the belief in angels: the name applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence, employed by God as the ministers of His will.
The English word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which means ‘messenger’. In the Old Testament, with two exceptions, the Hebrew word for “angel” is malak, also meaning ‘messenger’. The prophet Malachi took his name from this word. He was himself a messenger, and he prophesied about the coming of “the messenger of the covenant”, Jesus Christ (Malachi 3:1).
Some may never see with earthly eyes these heavenly beings or know that they exist. Many are unaware of the numerous ways they have protected and guided us. We would like to share with you the stories of people who take pleasure in expressing how real angels are.Psalm 8 is a Psalm in which the creation of the earth is extolled. Here we are told that man’s position is lower than the angels:
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? … For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:4,5)
Don’t let  sweet angel pictures fool you. Angels are huge, powerful beings with the ability to perform great acts of strength. 
The phone call comes on a Saturday night.
I listen to the police in shocked silence.
“Your son has been in a serious car accident.”
“No, we have not ascertained the extent of his injuries.”
“We did use the jaws of life to extract your son and his girlfriend from the vehicle.”
“No, I told you, I cannot tell you the extent of his injuries but if you head over to Trauma 1 at the Civic, they will give you an update.”
” All I can tell you is it seems that the vehicle did flip end over end and then barrel-rolled down into a ditch filled with water.”
” Off the record, I will say that in 25 years of service, I have never seen a car look as bad as his does and not have someone dead on arrival.”
Sheer heart stopping panic grips me. I can hardly breath and my heart is pounding.We pass his car on the side of the highway. Spot lights, a crane, the car is on a flat-bed trailer, every side crushed,  dented. It looks like a giant has taken a baseball bat and swung about a hundred times. All I can think  is,
“If the car is that bashed and dented, how is our son who is only flesh and blood and breakable bones?”
 At the hospital
The emergency room nurse ushers us into Trauma 1 at the Civic Hospital,
“Well, you might as well just walk in and look around. This is trauma 1. As you can see, we were ready for the worst case scenario.”
Daniel stands at a sink, washing blood off his face and arms by himself!
I looked at my son, then at my husband. I am shaking. My mouth drops open.
We slowly turn to look at the emergency room nurse.
“If you had been here when Daniel arrived, you would have seen the entire team. As you can see, this young man does not even have a broken pinkie finger. If his seat belt hadn’t been buckled up 10 seconds before, he would have been ejected from the car through the front windshield.  You should have heard the doctor ranting and lecturing when she heard that he had barely clicked his seat buckle closed. She kept telling your son how lucky he is.”
 ”His girlfriend is an angel. She literally saved his life.”
Daniel is white. His face is drained of all colour and he is covered in blood.
“Not mine mum. Erica got a cut on her forehead and bled all over me.”
“Ma, I should be dead. I should be dead!! If Erica hadn’t bugged me, my seat belt wouldn’t even have been done up yet.”
 BOTH my husband and I sensed an inner voice..”angels protected your son”
Even with their seatbelts on, none of the response teams could get over these kids. A car looking like theirs did should have killed or seriously injured all of them. You can laugh but I have an inner sense that angels protected their bodies as the car flipped from right side up to upside down, first from headlights to hood, to tail lights and under body and then barrel rolled sideways landing upside down with water pouring in. 
There is no other explanation.

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman

Today’s readings contain the Gospel reading, Matthew 15: 21-28, which is one that I am afraid is a bit hard for my modern sensibilities.  I feel for the woman, who is clearly an outsider, and I feel for her poor daughter. This woman goes to Jesus, mindful of the cultural walls that should have made her mission impossible (remember what Deuteronomy says about Canaanites!), yet,still, she seeks Him.
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, ‘Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is tormented by a demon.’  But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her”If I am entirely honest, the silent response of Jesus as this woman pleads for her daughter really bothers me.  It is a terror in my soul not to be noticed by the beloved, to seek Him and not have him respond.  But this woman remains undaunted, she continues to cry out to Jesus! Was His silence a non-response?  Even the disciples want Jesus to respond to her:
“Jesus’s disciples came and asked  him ‘send her away for she keeps calling out after us.’  He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  But the woman came and did Him homage, saying, ‘Lord help me.’  He said in reply, ‘It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.’  She said, ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’  Then Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.’  And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”First he is silent, and then he reminds her that she is not one of the children, in fact, she is a dog.  My modern, and very superficial and thin-skinned sensibilities are insulted for this woman!.  I really want to explain that Jesus really did not mean to call her a dog.  I want to imagine he was smiling and winking at her when he said this, knowing that he was really going to teach the disciples a thing or two about inclusiveness.

  Or maybe I don’t.  Maybe it is in facing down the hard truths about ourselves, without fear and in absolute humility that the full height and depth of the Gospel can penetrate to the darkest and most desolate areas in our soul. And maybe His silence isn’t rejection, maybe it is in the dark night of His silence that the deeper truth of my need for Him, and my longing for Him are more fully revealed.  He draws forth from me the desire for His mercy because, in the light of His justice and truth, all is revealed.  But these are hard to endure, and sometimes I would rather choose blindness to truth.

 This woman comes to Jesus in absolute honesty,  about who she is and where she stands in light of the Truth as He stands before her.  It is her words and actions that indicate that.  In the passages before this story, Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus explains that evil in the heart of a person is what defiles a person, and leaves them blind, like the Pharisees who cannot see that disobeying a commandment of God is far worse than not following a tradition that has been handed down by their elders.  They are offended by Jesus identifying their neglect of the commandments and in their pride they are blinded and do recognize truth when they are confronted with it.  They refuse His justice, so they refuse His mercy.

 There is much to admire in the Canaanite woman’s courage to seek Jesus, and her faith to keep on seeking him for the sake of her daughter. I am also drawn to her humility and her lack of presumption. She knows where she stands and in knowing that she avails herself fully to His mercy.  And in her perseverance to seek the Lord, she helps all of us to see in His light, and all is revealed.  No superficiality or blind arrogance will be tolerated, not if you want to receive the fullness of His healing.
God’s peace and grace be with all of you!
Heidi Knofczynski, Journey to Wisdom 

Our Eyes on the Light

In today’s readings the Lord God admonished, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomor’rah is great
and their sin is very grave”, He would go down and see for Himself with an intent to destroy the evil city. We all know what happened next – Abraham incrementally asked for mercy for the sake of fifty righteous citizens, then 40 and so on – all the way down to 10. Due to the persistence of Abraham, God answered that he would reserve punishment, saying “for the sake of ten I will not destroy it”.

When we look to the state of affairs in today’s society, it’s no stretch to see some similarities with Sodom and Gomor’rah and our times. Rampant promiscuity, abortion, same sex ‘marriage’ – we have it all. And the numbers of faithful appear to be ever dwindling. Yet we all know people who live their lives in Christ-like love and service. We, ourselves try to model ourselves after the saints and live lives pleasing to God. Sometimes it feels lonely to be a part of the few – when the world at large seems to be so contrary to what we believe. It’s vital, then, to take our cues from God and not man. If we keep our eyes on the Light and strive for Eternal life, we will find our way to heaven. Hopefully we will also serve as an encouragement to others.

The Remnant

“They rejected his statutes, the covenant which he had made with their fathers.  The vanity they pursued, they themselves became; they followed the surrounding nations whom the Lord commanded them not to imitate.”  2 Kings:17

The word “remnant“ has been coming to my mind a lot lately and I have been trying to write a reflection on it for days, but I could not pull it together (admittedly this is a frequent problem for me).  I keep brushing the word aside thinking that the word remnant seems a tad over-dramatic. Is our culture dying so quickly that those who are still faithful to the Church’s positions on the issues of marriage, contraception and abortion in our Catholic churches are already a mere remnant (even if the pews seem full)?  Surely that is overstating the case!

Yet in headline after headline, and in discussion after discussion, with Catholic individuals who ought to know better, I am finding that adhering to the Natural Law (the Ten Commandments), particularly in political views is not even considered!  Many ( though not all) of my fellow parishioners use a soft sentimentality as the basis for many political positions, how you feel governs your stance.  Anything that causes discomfort ought to be re-defined. This is dangerous because so many of these individuals are willingly handing over to Caesar the powers to bind or loose moral teachings – and if you try to make an argument against that, you are completely misunderstood, because so many lack an understanding of what liberty and freedom really mean!!!  Are we narrowing down to a remnant of faithful Catholics?

Then the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA and dismissing Prop 8 came down, not unexpected, but still quite ominous, and after reading Elizabeth Scalia’s excellent article titled “The ‘Party’ is victor; Time to save souls and churches” I realized I was not being dramatic at all.  It was the Spirit that place that word in my heart.  Not to cause despair, but to show me that the seeds of renewal are even now being sown.

“So too at this present time there is a remnant , chosen by grace.”  Rom 11:5
The word remnant first popped into my head during the June 7th rehearsal dinner for my son Matthew and his then bride–to-be Grace. They were married on June 8th (Yes! It was the feast of the Immaculate Heart isn’t that awesome!!!) after a real courtship that was based on discernment of God’s will for them. These two have a profound respect, for each other and their deepening love, for parental authority and a commitment to Christ through their Catholic faith. In fact, it was their Catholic faith that came shining through all the wonderful parties and joy-filled celebrations. Especially in the beautiful Nuptial Mass, where the Gospel was chanted by a newly ordained transitional deacon and Panis Angelicus , Ave Verum Corpus and Gounod’s Ave Maria were beautifully sung. The Mass and all of the celebrations that surrounded it were directly and indirectly proclaiming what marriage truly is: A covenant that is “ordered to the good of the couple, as well as the generation and education of children.” (CCC 1660) Marriage was not just about the two of them, it was a bridging of the past generations to the future ones. It was about the obligations of these two to build up a Culture of Life through their vows to each other and to God.

Both myself and Grace’s mother heard from guests who felt renewed and filled with hope after the wedding. It was so joyfully Catholic! Three generations of the priesthood participated in celebrating it and at least one other young man was undertaking serious discernment for a religious vocation. And it was at the rehearsal dinner that I looked around the room and felt the hope and promise of renewal that God is always offering us! I thought here ,in this room, are some of the remnant, the faithful remnant in an increasingly post-Christian world. God always leaves a remnant. And what a joyful remnant it was! I wish I had words for my gratitude.

 Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And You shall renew the face of the earth.
The darkness of the Culture of Death’s attack on marriage, which is an attack on the Church, is even more disheartening because of the ignorant and complacent acceptance of these attacks by so many members of the Church.  In the face of this daunting opposition these young people were joyfully, faithfully Catholic.  They neither hiding their faith under a bushel basket, or stridently beating people over the head with it.  They simply lived it with a joy and maturity.  Sometimes it takes darkness to appreciate just how bright the light of Christ shines, and in the growing darkness of our world the joy of this marriage shines so brightly.   I know that some of our readers have also been graced with signs of hope like this as well, and to these things we hold on to.

Because the threats that were once vague and veiled and aimed at my Church are solidifying and they are proving to be formidable.  I take no comfort in President Obama’s arrogant claim the he won’t force religious institutions to accept gay “marriage”.  It is a hollow promise.  And every day more souls are giving up the fight, because it looks hopeless, because it is much easier to just give in, because no one they know and respect is willing to stand up and proclaim the truth, and take the insult and calumny that will result from it.  The Culture of Life is facing the ravenous dragon in the Culture of Death and we appear to be losing.  But we are not.  Have faith and endure, and be perceptive of God’s signs of hope! There is a remnant, praise be to God!

Go then, rejoice and exalt over the children of the righteous, for they will all be gathered together and will bless the Lord of all ages.  Tobit 13:13 

Matthew and Grace

And for more encouragement in strengthening and growing the “remnant” check out Deacon Paul’s link:  Small Faith Communities
or if reading is more your thing:   Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network

Heidi @ Journey to Wisdom

Do You Love Me?

  A reflection on John 21:  15-19

Picture by Heidi Knofczynski, taken during a lesson on John 21:1-19

Do you pray with the Scriptures?  When you read them, do you allow a word or an scene from the passage to speak to you in your heart and draw out from you a prayer?  It is essential for each of us enter into prayer in this way.  Yet, it is a direction that many “voices” –  from the world, and from your own ego – will dissuade you from; because it will reveal your idols, your weaknesses.  The Lord seeks to lead us out of those “Egypts” in each one of our souls.  To do so demands much; it demands a love that endures all things, hopes all things and to be completely truthful, I do not have that love yet.  That is important for me to understand, not for me to despair but so that I can live in His truth, endure in His light and be drawn up into a more perfect love by following His voice.  


When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”  John 21: 15-19

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

I need to live in His truth, I need to know who I am and who I am called to be in His truth.  I need it  desperately, and our whole culture is dying for lack of this truth.  In this Gospel, through the questions of Jesus, Peter is taken back into the bitter memory of his betrayal of the Lord, in order to receive the profound, unfathomable mercy of Jesus, and to be drawn up into His perfect love. What courage this takes!  We, who are so easily offended, we, who so often confess our failings in a self-justifying context, are also taken through the drama of the Lord’s threefold questioning of Peter.  Three times he questions Peter’s love for Him, mirroring the three times that Peter denied Him. The anguish of Peter by the third round is palpable. I can understand this, it can be agonizing to allow Christ to plumb the depths of our own individual depravity.  Especially in this hyper-sentimentalized culture, where there is no incentive to grow in a deeper more perfect love, to have cowardice and unwillingness to suffer in order to grow in love revealed in the unflinching light of His gaze is terrifying.  Who really wants to face their own spiritual impotency?  Yet, to grow in His perfect love is to drive out fear (1 Jn, 4:18), because above all we are afraid of our own ultimate futility – our own spiritual impotency.  Christ is the only possible answer to that fear.  Moreover, when Peter submitted to Our Lord’s probing and tending to the wounds of his darkest failure, we are shown that his little love was enough for Jesus, who would transform that little love into perfect love.  And then we see how much potency in the Spirit is released!  
We must obey God rather than men!

Perfect love does drive out fear!  Look at how Peter and the apostles rejoice at the sufferings and worldly dishonor they receive on account of the Lord! (Acts 5:41)  How can I be released from the bonds of my spiritual impotency?  How can I be freed the dark hidden wounds in my soul?  These wounds may not always be obvious, but they have a subtle control over my love, they keep me in bondage.  Again, I am not speaking of the sentimental love of our time, but the passionate, agape love of God.  The love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:7)  This is the love that our fears would block us from entering into.  This is the love that Christ will so gently draw you into, if you, like Peter, allow His Spirit to enter into your darkest wounds and heal them.  And not just heal them, but as we see in Peter, transform them!  His cowardice, in the power of this love, is lifted up to courage.  The Fisherman from Galilee will endure humiliation and martyrdom for Christ and His Church.  “I will praise you Lord…You changed my mourning into dancing!” Psalm 30 2;12

Worthy is the Lamb!

It seems a little unbelievable.  In this age of stunted, materialistic love, we may be a bit jaded in our hope that we could encounter Christ so intimately from reading the words of Scripture.  We may be afraid to enter into the contemplative prayer that will bring us to Christ in this profound and personal way.  Do it anyway.  Put aside your fears, suspend you disbelief.   When you read the Gospel, when you hear it proclaimed at Mass, place yourself in the readings in your imagination.  Yes, there may be detracting voices -inner voices, worldly voices- that will hurl all sorts of accusations and distractions at you.  Yes, it may take time to build up an ability to endure in this type of prayer.  Yes, you may have to let go of the insipid, sentimentalized one-dimensional Jesus that is too often presented to us;  this Jesus inoculates us against the One who is the worthy Lamb of God, in whose presence all creation trembles and cries out to in adoration. (Rev 5: 11-14)  Persist!  And be ready, because He will surprise you.  Like He did for Peter, Jesus will ever so gently direct you to true repentance and deep healing. He will take your breath away and you will begin to let the Spirit breath through you.  
You brought my soul up from Sheol

My own experience in this type of prayer is an example of how important it is to persist through those false  voices.  For many years in prayer I have entered into the scene of the sinful woman we read of in Luke’s gospel.  In this prayer I am that women attempting to approach the Lord, but the Pharisees are standing in my way.  They present every objection imaginable to discourage me from persisting to see the Lord.  They accuse me of my own unworthiness and some of their accusations are devastatingly accurate.  The worst one is:  “Just who do you think you are!”  And they go on:  “You do not belong here, you never will.”  “You do not need Him as much as others do, how presumptuous of you!”   “He will just send you away.”   It has really taken me years to get through that gauntlet.  Even when I did persist and I fell at His feet, I could not look at Him, I was too afraid.  And in my day to day life as well, I can tell you that this fear, fundamentally a fear of rejection, has stopped me from doing many, many things that I ought to have done.   But, one day I did look up at Him.  And He looked at me with eyes that were strong and serious, and said “ Well, who do you think you are?”  Wow! Those words from Him seemed to be my worst fear coming true, but the Lord’s eyes never wavered, and drew from me the answer “I am yours.”   And He responds, “ You did not choose Me, I choose you:  Follow me.”

Alleluia!

Take a moment to enter into this Gospel (or whatever scene you are drawn to). What would He ask you?  In moments of prayer, much like Saint Peter’s encounter with the Lord , Jesus will gently draw you to look at yourself with unflinching honesty, but bathed in His light you begin to receive the courage, the power to be so much more than forgiven:  to be transformed, to be potent and fruitful in His Spirit.  Follow Him!
Christ is Risen!  Alleluia!
Heidi@Journey to Wisdom

Prayer for the Petrine Ministry

Lord Jesus, through the one sacrifice of the New Covenant, you have truly become the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. But unto us you have given shepherds to teach, guide, sanctify and lead.
You had chosen Simon-Peter as your Vicar and Governor of the apostles, therefore, may his successors grow in love and submission to you, O Lord, and may they continue to guide your Church in steadfast faith over any stormy waters which lie ahead.
– Amen.

~ Rachel M. Gohlman is a convert to the Catholic faith from Evangelical Protestantism. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Bradley University, Peoria and is the author of the “Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli” book series.

A Sunday Reflection

“In this age, turning our backs on traditional Christianity is seen as original and a sign of free-thinking. What is truly original and a sign of free-thought is embracing tradition and love of Christ which stands in the face of this world and its idea of “values”.
The so-called Enlightenment of prior centuries has badly harmed Christians. One looks at the French Revolution and other revolutions that grew out of this movement and see how they have mocked and injured Christ. Brothers and sisters, we cannot free ourselves by breaking away from God’s hands, when we break away from God, we subject ourselves to the darkest form of slavery.
 Oh that we would give ourselves back to God! We were made for him to love Him and serve Him. When our service turns back on ourselves and becomes self satisfying, it is indeed slavery. But it is reward and preventable to be of service to Something greater. We are foolish to think we can ever break “free” of God. It is written in the Psalms “Where can I go from your Spirit. Where can I flee from your presence?” And the prophet Jeremiah did write “Shall a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him, saith the Lord? do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?”
He who made us will always be with us and any ideology which excludes Him seeks to take away our humanity and often does. Where else do we get our humanity but from Him. As did say Augustine of Hippo “Our hearts are restless, O God, untill they rest in you.”

from: http://thoughtsoflightinthedark.blogspot.com/2012/10/sunday-sermon.html

Rachel M. Gohlman is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. She is the author of the “Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli” series and is known on facebook for her apologetics work. She is a graduate from Bradley University in Peoria.