She’s Fianlly Home!

This morning I finally got the call that Nikki’s remains were ready to be picked up at the vet. I had been dreading this moment and hoping for it all at the same time. These past few days have been anything but good. Getting her back home begins the process of healing and I am grateful to God for that. I had asked Our Lady to give her back to me and she did so on her Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. A feast which celebrates healing.
St. Meainrad Archabbey makes caskets and urns so I thought it fitting to have Nikki laid to rest in an urn made and blessed by the monks.  My little Benedictine will have a fitting resting place indeed!  Tuesday, one week from the day in which we let her slip into the hands of God, she will be laid in her final resting place with the love and respect she deserves.

I know that many people do not understand the connection one can have with a pet.  I certainly did not before I met Nikki.  After coming into my life she changed it in ways I never thought possible, and I know that she was a gift from the hands of God.

Since my heart and soul is Benedictine, I already have in mind a short little “liturgy” for her.  God has given us these wonderful gifts of pets who show us dignity and respect.  It is only fitting that when giving them back to God, we show them that same dignity and respect.  The way in which I feel most comfortable doing this for her is by giving her a proper liturgy of goodbye.

Thank you Mother for bringing her home!   

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Broken Beyond Words

Today I lost the best friend of my life. I had to say goodbye to a dog that I have loved for so many years. 

Nikki was an extraordinary creature, one that I know was created for me and I for her. Her personality was astounding and she went through the roughest times in my life, never wavering and even pushing me at times to grow when I didn’t want to. 

The wound created today will never heal and I don’t think it’s meant to. The wound created today by the loss of my Nikki simply shows how much she was loved and is already missed. No, that wound will never fully heal because a little part of me left this world today with my friend. 

Nikki was a gift from the hands of God and now she rests in them again.  

Oh Nikki, Rest In Peace and know that my heart aches for you but I believe I will see you again and I now know you’re no longer in pain. 

Saying goodbye…

I’m losing a friend. My best one actually. She’s been my friend and companion for over 11 years, and yes she is a dog. 

I don’t want to go into much right now because it’s just to hard, but she’s dying of kidney failure and has only a few weeks to live. 
She’s been my partner in crime and my buddy. She’s been through hell and back with me and now it’s time I’m by her side as she reaches the end of a beautiful life. 

Nikki isn’t my child as some like to look at dogs. No, Nikki’s is my friend and a true companion. She’s given and earned my respect and love. 

I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet and I pray for a miracle or at least a few more weeks. 

How do you say goodbye to another being who you know God sent into the world for you?  How do you say goodbye your buddy?  To the one who never judged you even though you got a look when you probably should have been judged?’

This isn’t fair and it sucks all around. My faith tells me to believe in something greater but the doesn’t stop my heart from breaking. 

I don’t want to say goodbye yet!

Beauties of Consecation to Jesus through Mary

I know that I have written about this before but after going through the process of St. Louis de Montfort’s “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary,” and then consecration everything that I have and am, my spiritual life has grown in significant ways. I must admit that I did not actually use de Montfort’s book but an updated one which I’ve shown here. It’s titled, “33 Days to Morning Glory” and is different from de Montfort’s in the way that the old original version is more about praying a lot and saying a lot of litanies and rosaries. Although these prayers are great, some of us also enjoy some reading and medition about what we’re actually getting ourselves into with this consecration because this is serious stuff!  I’ve placed a picture on here of the book and highly recommend it!  If you click on the picture it will take you to Amazon if you’re interested in purchasing it.  Don’t hesitate to get the used ones!

The author is a priest with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. They are the religious order which spreads St. Faustina’s Message of Divine Mercy. If you don’t know about this devotion I highly suggest it. It has brought me great peace in difficult times and has shown me that faith is trust in Jesus. The motto, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” which you find on the painting of the Divine Mercy, is one to pray throughout the day.  

There have been some difficult times over the past few months and I shall be facing a few more – nothing huge or that important. I also find out tomorrow if my beloved dog, Nikki’s, kidney failure has worsened, which I suspect it has. I don’t know what I’m going to do without that dog!  

Yet I find myself every day going up to a wooden statue of Mary holding the infiant Christ and saying to her, “I am all yours and all I have is your’s. Do with me as you will so that I may bring glory to your Son.” It’s a little daily renewal of my consecration to Jesus through her.  

“Let it be,” the Beetles once sang. “Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” As beautiful as that is it’s also sometimes the most difficult thing you’re faced to do, and yet that is what the Consecation calls one to do. Rarely do I promote someone’s books and I certainly do not know them or have anything to do with them. Yet I have to ask you to consider a few things.  

Is God maybe calling you to look into St. Louis de Montfort’s “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”?  Maybe you’ve never heard of it or been a little scared of the concept of giving EVERYTHING over to Mary, every our “merits and the value of our merits.”  When one does the consecration they give everything over to Mary to do with as she wills when she wills.  Why?  Because she can do it so much better for us and knows the secrets of her Son’s heart.  If we give her everything she will certainly not dissapoint us!  She will take us by the hand and lead us ever closer to her Son.  

There’s no commitment if you just pick up the book at the library or online.  As I said, I prefer the book above over the original, yet the choice is yours.  Just stick with it.  I’ll be honest, it took about 3 times for me to follow through!  Why?  Partly because I didn’t have the discipline to do the 30 day retreat and the original just didn’t fit with me.  When I found this other book it really stuck with me and helped.  And being more honest, it took me two tries to finish it!  I think the devil doesn’t like the fact of the consecration because of his deep hatred for the Blessed Mother.  He knows he is defeated through her.  

Take a moment and consider if you would like to see where consecration yourself to Jesus through Mary leads you.  It certainly has been very helpful in my spiritual life – even or especially in the dark times and failures – and I hope that I can go before God with empty hands because I have given everything to Jesus through Mary.  

I hope you take the time to experience this beautiful Marian custom.  She will take you by the hand and lead you closer to her Son/closer to the cross.  

Mary, Mother of Merciful Love, pray for us!

Feast of St. Meinrad / My Spiritual Home

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Meinrad who is called the martyr of hospitality.  I won’t get into that too much here so that I don’t ruin his life story, which you can check out here.  

What I would like to talk about is how thankful I am to be attached to such a wonderful monastery such as St. Meinrad Archabbey.  St. Meinrad follows its patron’s gift – hospitality to all.  It is a place where you from the moment you step foot on the holy hill you know you’re home.  It has been a blessing to be able to get to know some of the monks.  The first I met (Fr. Michael Keen) was a character.  I’m sure he may have had a rough side that rubbed some the wrong way in community life but he made a real impact on me, even helping to lead me into trying out monastic life myself.  He was the one I made my first confession to (being a convert to the Church), and he was the one who taught me that community living isn’t always sunshine and roses.  This was a great teaching to learn!

There is another monk whom I’ve gotten to know a little.  I’ll keep his name out of here because I have not asked his permission to write about him – Fr. Michael died in 2002.  This monk was gracious enough to give me the sacrament of the sick without even knowing me.  We met at Meinrad through a mutual friend of ours and have Skyped back and forth quite a few different times.  In just the small amount of time that I’ve spoken with him I’ve learned so much about myself.  He has helped me to look within and ask myself why God might be asking in certain situations.  Maybe I have an idea about something but what does God have to say about it?!  I also deeply respect the fact that this monk is genuinely just himself.  No pretense and no saving face on anything.  He just is who he is and that is something beautiful to see in a world that is so plastic and fake.  

Another wonderful example that I have had when it comes to St. Meinrad and Benedictine spirituality is from a dear friend of mine, Sally.  Now, I really haven’t gotten her permission to write about her but I’m sure she won’t care!  Sally has been a friend of mine for over 16 years.  She’s one of the dearest friends of mine who has been by my side through thick and thin.  She’s a tough lady having gone through some difficult times herself yet I have never seen her waver in her faith.  

Sally is also one of those people who is simply herself – what you see is what you get and that is one of her greatest attributes.  Although I know that she doesn’t recognize it, she’s a very humble person.  As I like to say to her, she’s a saint who can sometimes cuss a little too!  And yes, I believe those saints exist.

Having been a Benedictine Oblate of St. Meinrad for over 20 years, Sally has been an example of stability, obedience, and conversion to the monastic life.  Her love for Meinrad is shown in her constant visits and the deep friendships she has made over the decades with numerous monks.  You can tell when she’s at Meinrad, she’s at home.

St. Meinrad is definitely a place which I am proud to call my spiritual home.  I am proud of the monks and their example to the Church and the world.  I am proud of the beautiful praises which rise up to God through the Divine Office which is chanted throughout the day.  Their very existence – to praise God – is an example in and of itself.

Although I no longer live closer to St. Meinrad I carry her and her monks in my heart each day.  Some of her little traditions are with me and the spirit of the monastic community, I like to think, dwells a little in my heart.  

St. Meinrad, the monk himself, gave up his life in the service of hospitality, which is simply love in action.  This is a day to reflect upon those things which are truly important.  Would I give up my life for the Gospel?  Would I give up my life as an Oblate?  Would I give up my life simply in service of inviting others into myself home because I saw Christ in them?  These are all things which this day calls us to reflect on.  

St. Meinrad (both the martyr monk and the monastery) are example to all of us on how we should look at the world and those around us.  

St. Meinrad, pray for our monks.

Our Lady of Einsiedeln, pray for us oblates.

1 Year Anniversary of Oblation

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my oblation as a Benedictine Oblate of St. Meinrad Archabbey. This evening I will be renewing my promises in my chapel. As I have spent the day reflecting over the past year I have to acknowledge the failures of the past in living up to my promises and duties yet I must also recognize the successes and how God has worked through my life over the past year.  
Stability, Conversion to the Monastic Way of Life, and Obedience. How have I lived up to these and are there ways in which I need to tweak the way I’m living them out in my daily life? We make these promises “according to our state in life.” That’s important to remember. I cannot live like a monk because I’m not one. I must discern how best to live out the Rule of Benedict in my daily life and sometimes this isn’t all that easy.
 1 year anniversary of oblation.This past year has been filled with numerous challenging, too many to count. As much as I’d like to say that I was always faithful to my oblate way of life, that simply would not be true. It’s difficult to change and grow. It’s difficult to try and see life with a different perspective after all these years, yet that is what that Rule calls us to do. Thankfully, the promise of stability anchors us to where we are, draws us back to reality, and reminds us that holiness is found in the here and now.

St. Benedict reminds me that I need to live a more balanced life.  That certainly hasn’t been the case over the past year for a variety of reasons!  I’m beginning to make changes which will help in this pursuit but most importantly I’m learning to be more patient with myself and the situations that present themselves.  This certainly isn’t an easy thing to do yet conversion to the monastic way of life calls me to never look back and always be in the present moment, knowing that I am in need of continual conversion of life.

Listening is something that is quite difficult for me.  I’m one of those who talks over people.  Yeah, I know – rude.  It has been a bad habit of mine which I’m becoming more aware of.  I’m also trying to become more aware of what others are saying or what they are trying to say and discern if God’s will might be somewhere in it.  I definitely don’t have all the answers in life so it might be important to listen to others.

I cannot overlook the fact that the first word of the Rule is “Listen.”  St. Benedict makes this very important for if we do not listen how are we to learn?  If we do not listen how are we to hear the voice of God in the silence of the day, the voice of another, the moment we find ourselves in?  When we begin to practice this listening we then begin to truly practice obedience.  Obedience is a dialogue between God and the soul.  It is a listening to the voice of God all around us and responding appropriately.  It isn’t obedience like one would expect in the military.  When we begin to practice this obedience we then begin to experience true humility and freedom of soul.  Peace can only come when we are in union with God’s will.

Although there have been some tough times and failures throughout the year I am grateful for the beautiful vocation God has called me to as a Benedictine Oblate.  It is one that I cherish and hope – with God’s merciful help – to continue on the path in the “school of the Lord’s service” that in striving to live my life for his glory I might become a living oblation worthy in his sight.

Holy Father Benedict, pray for me!

St. Meinrad, pray for me!

St. John Paul II, pray for me!

Letting go…

I have had a difficult time over the past few weeks being sick.  It stinks!  I know that we are called to delve into the mystery of redemptive suffering but let’s be honest, it’s not easy!  The cross isn’t something that is easy to carry especially if we try to do it on our own.  

I’ve had health issues for quite a few years and have struggled with some issues over the past year.  I’d like to say that I’ve done well in dealing with it but that wouldn’t be the truth.  Yes, there are days when I am good and can do what I need to do but lately things haven’t gone so well.  During this time I’ve tried to see what God wants of me yet this hasn’t been easy and I certainly haven’t been as faithful as I should have been.  

I’m also dealing with trying to let go of my beloved friend and pet, Nikki.  She’s a beautiful creature and a gift from God.  She’s my first dog ever and has been by my side through some rough times.  It won’t be an easy day when I have to let her go but I have the hope that all dogs really do go to heaven and I’ll be able to see her again.

I’m beginning to see through all this that I need to let go – something I’m definitely not good at.  I’m great (or so I think) of controlling things.  I hate chaos!  Sickness and death are nothing but chaos.  I have to learn (with the help of God’s grace) to be able to trust in him more and in myself less.  I need to be able to radically abandon myself into his arms, trusting in his will, and knowing that I will never be harmed by him.  

Letting go isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t meant to be.  I only pray that I’ll be able to empty myself enough to allow him to work in my life as he wills.  

Mary, my Mother and Queen, all I have and am is yours.  Lead me closer to your Son!

Happy New Year / Happy New Beginning!

I don’t make New Years resolutions because I’m simply not good at remembering them or following through.  I don’t even think I’ve tried once.  I think to many people get caught up in unrealistic resolutions that cannot be fulfilled and then feel bag about themselves.

Today, the first day of the calendar year and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, gives us a chance to begin again, to start anew.  I just shared for the first time with my best first a tradition we are going to do every year from here on out.  Each of us wrote the bad things that went on in 2016 that we would either like to forget or move past from, things we’d also like to see change.  And we then wrote a little note of what we would like to see for 2017.  Both were confidential and right before midnight we sat them on fire.  It was like a burnt offering – an oblationi – offered to God of the past and what is yet to come.  May his will be done!

On this first day of the year, St. Benedict reminds us in his Rule to, “listen with the ear of your heart.”  Maybe this should be my resolution for the year – to listen, truly listen to those around me, to what is going on with my body and in my mind and soul, to God speak to me through creation and others, through the daily situations I find myself in.  Can I listen, truly listen with the ear of my heart to see what God has in store for me, recklessly abandoning myself into his arms this next year, facing one moment at a time?  

May Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church pray for us to we might listen to the promptings of the Spirit in our lives and help us to give everything to Jesus through her most loving hands and heart at the beginning of this year which God has given us.  

Happy New Year!  Let us begin again!

O Sacred and Most Holy Night

The time of waiting is over.  The time of preparation is no more.  In this most solemn and holy night the Church can wait no longer to cry out the praises of God -“Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will!”

In eager expectation the Church has awaited the birth of the Son of God and she can wait no longer, so she raises her voice throughout the world at the stroke of midnight, for morning seems too far away.  

A simple Child from a simple Mother is born into the world so that he might be one with us, share in our sufferings and joys, and lead us to that light which only comes from Him.  

In the stillness of the night one can only look on with bended knee to look upon this little child who will save His people from their sins.  Yet the Christmas message is far greater than this.  

God stooped down so low to become one of us that He might share in everything we are and have.  A baby.  Small.  Held in the arms of a woman so great He is once again brought forth into the world through the Liturgy of His most holy spouse, the Church.

Come, let us adore Him.  In silence.  Come.  Come and look upon the face of light and joy.  Come.  Come and look upon the face of God in the little smile of a new born child.

The Churches Labor Pains

On December 17th we begin in the Liturgy of the Hours what are called the O Antiphons: 

“O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Rising Dawn, O King of All the Nations, O Emmanuel…”

Advent is a time of waiting, a time of expectation, and now that the Church knows that the Christ Child is getting closer She, like Mary, begins to cry out in labor pains to give birth to the Savior of the world.  

The O Antiphons are just that cry!  “O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Rising Dawn,” come, come and be in our midst, come to set us free, come to save us and to set us free.

We cannot yet cry out the Gloria in the Mass – something which is held back during the Advent Season, yet we can cry out with the Church in eager expectation for the arrival of the newborn King!