March 19, 2016
Dynamic Women of Faith Conference
And it is a special joy to be with you today on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Patron of Canada. Let’s turn to him now to ask him to intercede for us:
O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, so that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. Amen. (St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary, pray for us!)
GIVING AND RECEIVING MERCY
Here we are in this grace-filled time of the Jubilee Year of Mercy – and at a Parish with designated Holy Doors!
Thank you, Dorothy, for arranging this blessing for us all!
Our Holy Father has urged us:
“The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17)
And what better way to “celebrate and experience God’s mercy” than with the Sacrament of Reconciliation! It is the Sacrament of Mercy, or as Pope Francis calls it: “The Embrace of Mercy – being enfolded in a warm embrace.” (Gen Aud, Feb 19, 2014) Do you ever think of it like that?
He further added: “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3)
Our Heavenly Father is always waiting with open arms to receive us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; it is a personal encounter with Him. (Today, there will be many opportunities to receive this Sacrament, to be healed and forgiven.) As in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, our Father runs to us…
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is indeed a Sacrament of healing; it is listed under the heading of “Sacraments of Healing” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (The Catechism is an excellent resource!)
Our Holy Father said in a General Audience (Feb 19, 2014), “…. Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, and happy. This is the beauty of Confession.”
In the stained-glass windows of saints, the sun shines through them. So beautiful! When we were baptized, we became saints. Our souls were pure. Then we started to grow up, learned to walk, and got into trouble. J Later, sin “muddied” our souls. The light of the Son of God wants to shine through us, but He is not going to use Windex. No, He has a more powerful solution! His most precious blood! The blood of the Lamb poured out for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where our sins are cleansed and we are healed.
Pope Francis says in his new book entitled, The Name of God is Mercy (p. 26), “Sin is more than a stain. Sin is a wound; it needs to be treated, healed.”
When we go to Confession, we open the door, walk in, and then close the door and in the intimacy of that space, it is Jesus, in the person of the priest, and you. And then, ALL the treasures of the Church are poured out just for you at that moment! (From a talk by Father Cantalamessa)
Jesus tells St. Faustina, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (Diary, 1602)
God loves us! We may turn away but He never turns away from us. Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient and merciful, always ready to forgive us. No matter what the sin, God forgives us, as long as we have repentant hearts and we turn back to Him.
THERE IS NO SIN TOO GREAT FOR THE MERCY OF GOD! And yes, even the tragic sin of abortion, our Father wants to forgive. I would like to mention our Hope and Healing retreats for men and women who have experienced the suffering of abortion. You may be surprised to hear that men go. You see men also suffer because maybe they pressured her to have an abortion and are now repentant. Or he wanted the baby and was willing to support her but she had the abortion and he is now grieving the loss of his baby girl or boy. You may know a man or woman suffering in this way, please pass along to them this message of hope. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Father of mercy is waiting to forgive all who are repentant.
And if we have received mercy, then we are called to give mercy. Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful” (Mt 5:7) (Show them the holy cards of Maria Goretti and also Alessandro) St. Maria Goretti is not only a martyr for purity. She is a model of mercy for she forgave her assassin, Alessandro.
If you do not know Maria Goretti’s story, I encourage you to learn more about her. The holy cards of Maria are a third class relic.
There are two small words that can be very difficult to say: “I’m sorry.” And especially, they are not easy to say, when we are convinced that we are right of course. But seriously, how necessary and healing those words are for our relationships!
In a General Audience, our Holy Father said, “So many wounds…are the result of a lack of these precious words: “I am sorry.” Marital life is so often torn apart by fights…but let me give you a word of advice: never finish the day without making peace with one another…”
Good words of advice for families and for all who live in community.
Recently, a wonderful, elderly priest gave a very moving homily. He recounted a tragic, but hope-filled story about his sister and his brother-in-law.
One morning, they had quarrelled and the husband had stormed out —– never to see or speak to his wife again, never to have the chance to say “I’m sorry” or “I love you” — because that SAME day, she was in an accident and died suddenly. She left behind her husband, who was her childhood sweetheart, and four young children.
The husband told Father he could not forgive himself for the way he lost his temper and regretted that those were the last moments/ last words with his beloved wife. Later, Father remembered that he had a letter from his sister, written one week before she died; he decided to give that letter to his brother-in-law.
In the letter, she said how blessed she was to have such a good husband, whom she loved very much, and to have such wonderful children. The letter consoled him greatly! He needed such assurance that his wife loved him. And to this day, he has kept that letter.
What a gift for him to receive that letter! – Yet, the message is clear: we don’t want to wait until it is too late to say: “I’m sorry” or “I love you.”
THE POWER OF PRAYER!
Prayer is powerful to help us speak those important words sooner – especially the prayer, known as the General Examen.
THE GENERAL EXAMEN
Although one prays the Examen generally toward the end of the day, one of its effects is growth in awareness throughout the day. The General Examen is also known as the Consciousness Examen, the Awareness Examen, the Daily Examen, the Examen Prayer, or just simply The Examen.
Basically, it is a prayerful reflection on the experiences of the day and the movements deep within our hearts in order to discover God’s presence and discern His direction for us. It increases our awareness of God’s love for us and so moves us to become more grateful and loving.
To be clear, the Examen Prayer is not the examination of conscience that we use before going to Confession. The Examen is not primarily concerned with good and bad actions, but rather with the impulses that underlie our actions AND THE DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS, THE HOLY SPIRIT VERSES THE EVIL SPIRIT. (Spiritual warfare)
(I recommend to you Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s books and/or audio CD’s on this topic. Again, the name of the priest is Fr. Timothy Gallagher.)
The Examen Prayer helps to increase our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Our heart is a battleground, where the Holy Spirit and the evil spirit are at work. Ephesians 6: 12-13 says,
Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits.”
And so, we must put on the ARMOR OF GOD. The General Examen is armor! It opens our spiritual eyes so that we can respond more readily to the movements of the Holy Spirit, while rejecting those of the evil spirit.
We review our actions and thoughts of the day and see how we responded. We ask, “How did I respond to God’s loving action today?” At the end of the prayer, we can look forward to the next day with hope, armed with the lessons learned from praying the General Examen.
When I learned on a retreat, early in my religious life, that St. Ignatius of Loyola would never dispense his brothers from this prayer, I decided to make it a daily spiritual practice. It truly is vital to any one’s spiritual life.
It is a prayer. And prayer always involves two persons in a relationship: God and ourselves. It is not a list of steps that we need to accomplish. Rather, together with the Lord, we review the day.
The time of day to dedicate to praying the Examen could be before dinner or at nighttime. You know yourself and the flow of your day; so this prayer time can be at the time that fits with your vocation; yet it is important that it is slotted around the same time each day.
Some images may help you as a setting: being in a room with Jesus, movie screen in the front, and he has a movie of your day playing; you watch it together and He stops it at certain times to highlight something that occurred. Or another image is like a married couple who has just put the children to bed: you sit on a sofa with Jesus, maybe with a cup of tea, and He asks you, “Honey, how was your day?”
One woman uses both images and she said, “I have a tendency to take a seat next to God on the couch and listen to His commentary as my day flows past. That sense of seeing my day through God’s eyes, and the sure knowledge of His love for me and His willingness to watch, help, and guide is what keeps me coming back each evening to this prayer.”
The time allotted for this prayer is not long, about 10 – 15 minutes a day. So let’s take a few minutes now for praying together the Examen Prayer. (Refer to the GRACE cards) These cards were donated by Fr. Koterski, a Jesuit friend of our community.
He uses the acronym of GRACE to teach the 5 steps of the Examen Prayer.
G – gratitude,
R – request for light (of the Holy Spirit),
A – actions/attitudes,
C – chart your course,
E – Enthusiasm!
Reference for the Examen: http://www.diocese.cc/upload/images/originals/Examens070510A.pdf
The Examen Prayer provides a daily, intimate meeting with Christ. Therefore, a foundational attitude for dedication to the Daily Examen is a deep knowledge of God’s love for you. So often, we can be tempted to doubt God’s tender, immense love for us – a love that is personal and particular.
Our Founder, John Cardinal O’Connor, would often say, “God loves you. God loves you because you are you, uniquely you, the you that He made in His image and likeness. He did not make you like anyone else. He made you because He loves you.” (July 5, 1992)
God does not just love all of us in general; He loves each of us with a particular, personal love. “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” by Him (Mt 10:30). Have you ever tried to do that?
You are sacred; you are priceless; you are unrepeatable.
You are a unique reflection of God. You are precious in His sight (Isaiah 43). He knit you in your mother’s womb (Ps 139). We have come from God and we are going back to God; this is our identity. You are the beloved daughter in whom God the Father is well-pleased. You are known, you are loved and you are awaited. (Repeat twice, slowly)
GOD IS LOVE! The following true story will illustrate this further:
Sarah, a friend of ours, told us of a young girl with autism, named Lucy (about 7yrs old). Lucy’s parents are Catholic but they hadn’t gone to Mass in a long time because Lucy’s autism is severe. However, one day they decided they would start taking her to Mass, so they asked Sarah if she would go with them. Sarah agreed to help watch Lucy. They arrived at the church and sat in the back, in case they needed to step out for a moment with Lucy. Almost immediately, Lucy was agitated and Sarah realized Lucy did not want to sit in the pew. So Sarah said to her, “Ok, Lucy, you show me where you want to sit.” And Lucy stepped out of the pew and bolted toward the altar. Sarah, a little shocked, thought, “What now?” So she asked the priest, and he said it was totally fine for Lucy to stay there as long as she didn’t make a disturbance.
Now keep in mind Lucy is so low-functioning that she can only mimic others. So all through Mass Lucy was great; she was being quiet. Then arrived the moment of the Consecration and when the priest elevated the host, a voice could be heard from the bottom of the altar saying (use a high voice) “Hi, hi, helllllooo, hi hi!” Jesus must have first said hello to her! Lucy continued this for a few moments and then stopped. Mass continued and Holy Communion was distributed. And before the priest returned the Eucharist to the tabernacle, Lucy lifted her arms as though she were receiving a big hug. She blew some kisses, and she could be heard saying “you too!”…. and she has only ever said “you too” when someone first says… “I love you.”
Our God cares so much about little Lucy that He blew her kisses!! Can you imagine?
Jesus is saying, “I love you” – to each of us – at this very moment, at every moment! Are we aware of this?
MARY, THE MOST DYNAMIC WOMAN OF FAITH
Mary can help us become more aware. Mary, the most dynamic woman of faith, was constantly aware of the Lord’s loving presence in her life. (It is especially beautiful to speak about Mary today since we celebrate and honour her husband, St. Joseph, a man of great faith.)
There are many moments when we witness Mary’s strong faith, especially by her YESES: her yes at the Annunciation to allow her body, her womb, to become a living Tabernacle for God; that same yes as she stood at the foot of the Cross, watching her beloved Son suffer and die in order to redeem us; and her yes to become our mother when Jesus entrusted her to John, who represented each one of us.
Jesus loves His mother… and He has given her to us to be our mother.
Story: A little boy writes a letter to Jesus: “Dear Jesus, if you give me a red bike for my birthday, I’ll be good for two weeks… thinks about it, no too hard, crumples the letter and tosses it. Next letter: good for one week, three days… He then thinks he has a brilliant idea! So he runs to the Catholic Church near his house, grabs the small statue of Our Lady, and brings her home. He begins a new letter: “Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again…!” Ah, not QUITE how their relationship works…
BUT! This little boy was on to something. He knew Jesus loved His mother!!
Perhaps you know the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her appearance to St. Juan Diego in 1531. She spoke to him with such loving, reassuring, and beautiful words. In the account of the interaction between Our Lady and St. Juan Diego, she calls him “Dearest little Juan Diego” (Juanito Dieguito). Here are her most comforting words to Juan Diego, and also to each one of us: “Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more?”
Wow! Are those not the words of a mother who loves, nurtures, and comforts her children? So we can be confident that she is always there, waiting for us to turn to her. She desires this.
(I invite you now to close your eyes and make the following words personal to you by Mary)
With her motherly care, she tells us: “You are safe in my hands. I am your Mother and I care for you. I truly care for you. I am looking out for you. I know all your joys and sufferings. I care. I am your Mother. Yes, I care. I am with you and I care. I am with you; you can turn to me. I am here to comfort you. You are not alone, ever. My daughter, do not be afraid: I am here to help you. In me, you have a safe refuge.”
We all desire the comfort and tenderness that only a mother can give. And it does not matter how old you are. (Ex of my mom, “I’m still your mother.” Or she says, “It’s cold in Canada, are you bundled up?”) And Mary, our Blessed Mother, offers us this love in all its fullness. We can spiritually “curl up” in her arms, entrusting ourselves wholeheartedly to her maternal protection.
Now you may be thinking, this is great, Sister, but HOW? Well, the first way is just to begin. Mary knows what you are going through; she’s already told Jesus.
We can talk to Mary as we would to any other person, by telling her our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears, or anything else on our hearts. She desires to have a personal relationship with each of us, woman to woman. She is real, not a statue; she walked this earth.
There is one way in particular to grow more deeply in a relationship with Mary, and therefore also with Jesus: it is called the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary… Perhaps the best-known version is the Consecration of St. Louis de Montfort. Fr. Michael Gaitley produced another version of this Consecration, called “33 Days to Morning Glory”. Have any of you heard of it? Fr. Gaitley uses reflections from St. Louis de Montfort, St. John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and St. Maximilian Kolbe (the patron saint of this parish). Many of our Sisters and co-workers have made their consecration using Fr. Gaitley’s book as preparation.
This total consecration to Jesus through Mary is truly LIFE-CHANGING! If you want the Lord to work in your life in a more powerful way, if you want to grow closer to Jesus and Mary, if you want to see transformations happen in your life and in those you love, then consider giving the consecration a try. (I feel like a commercial! J) Consecration to Jesus through Mary is a way to take Mary’s hand as she walks beside you, leading you closer to Jesus.
Have great confidence in the love and intercession of our Blessed Mother! May she intercede for each of you, so that when you leave here today, your hearts would be filled with a deep HOPE, a hope that is not optimism, but rather Christian hope – founded on faith. Mary is our model of faith and she wants to strengthen and inspire you to become…. ever more profoundly … DYNAMIC WOMEN OF FAITH!
God bless you!
Sr. Maria Kateri de Francisco, SV