Do I sense a wedding in the wild?

This morning with my cup of coffee and a bagel I witnessed a landmark in the world of the wild.  In our neighboring continent, Europe, there in the country of Germany, is an outstanding photographer.  Her name is Tanja Brandt.  Through the eye of her camera lens, she told a story of a very unexpected love between a sweet doggy and her handsome little owl friend.  The pictures show the couple on an adventure in the woods, tenderly nuzzling into each other’s warmth, and even leaning in for a smooch! —>

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Ms. Tanja Brandt, expresses the purpose of her life’s work on her website’s bio.  In her indigenous German language she writes:

Ich liebe die Tiere mehr als die Menschen und ich liebe es, mit ihnen zu kommunizieren, Abenteuer zu erleben und sie zu fotografieren.

I may know a smidgen of Spanish and a few German words here and there, but I definitely can not translate this on my own.  Luckily, she left an English translation:

I love animals more than people and I love to communicate with them, to have adventures and to photograph them.

Her photography speaks of this itself.  It justifies her passion for adventure and fond friendship with the wild!  Thank goodness she allows us to take part in these exclusive adventures and wonders through the art of her story-telling photography!  Begin your next journey with Ms. Brandt at her website: https://500px.com/tanjabrandt

Back to this particular story, I sense a future wedding for these two love birds! (no pun intended)

!Warning! Turn off your heaters or take a step into the winter cold, these pictures are likely to melt your heart:

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Secret santa, secret saint!

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“I prayed for you”

We all know the good-old classic game of Secret Santa.  I am sure many of you have taken part in this timeless, good-natured holiday tradition!  What fun, what smiles and good memories of this friendly game. Well, have you ever thought of being a secret saint for someone, just as the “secret santa” provides uplifting and lighthearted gifts and treats of good pleasure?

Here’s the name of the Secret Saint game: Give the gift of prayer.

Don’t be let down by the prospect of being a “saint” which may seem to be far out of an ordinary person’s reach.  Not true.  Saints were ordinary people, turned extraordinary because they opened their hearts to be lit with the light of Christ’s love.  We can light our advent candles and Christmas lights, as well as the wick of faith that awaits to be ignited by the love of God in our hearts.  Just kindly welcome the Holy Spirit.  Then, we can be a channel of peace and joy for others in union with our Lord—apostles of love and prayer as the saints were.  The most perfect gift we could give this Christmas season is the gift of prayer and the witness of this authentic peace and joy in Christ.  With our silent prayers, we can be a “secret saint” and give the gift of heavenly grace.  A gift that surpasses all material gifts of any value.

Now, we are not limited to being a “secret saint” to just one person or to our dear family and friends.  Share this quiet apostleship of prayer and love with everyone you encounter.  Let the light of faith shine forth at work, at school, in the grocery store or post office.  There is always someone you can love and pray for.  The smallest, ardent prayer said in love throughout the day can outpour a reservoir of grace on you and whomever the prayer is for.

Give it a try! Be a secret saint for everyone you encounter, even the faces on the other side of the comments and likes from this website left in your inbox.  In every encounter with another, there is always the opportunity to give the silent gift of prayer out of the love of God in your heart.

Share a laugh with a saint

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Smiling Kolbe (upper right) with young candidates for the Franciscan Order.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is known to be this extraordinary holy saint, which he is, but in his outstanding virtue he had an illuminating, cheery joy.  His fellow Franciscan brothers spoke of his beaming “radość życia” (joy of life).  His fervent love for God and for his beloved Mary Most Holy, produced an ecstatic effect on his heart.  These graces he did not fail to share for he would in part, express them through simple jokes.  Brother Severin (John Dagis), the main typist for Maximilian’s printing apostolate and his friend of many years, remembers a couple of these witty jokes in the early days of their monastic life in Grodno, Poland:

Because it’s the practice in all friaries, we had many hours of silence, but during our recreation periods each day, Father Maximilian was very good-humored.  He loved to tell us little jokes, usually in the form of anecdotes.  All these jokes of his were innocent and merry.  I remember the one he told us about the town in Italy with three tailors all on one street.  The first advertised, “Best tailor in this town.”  So the second put up a sign, “Best tailor in the world”.  The third made a small plaque, “Best tailor on this street”. 

Another time he told us about the absent-minded professor who was reading when the servant brought him a fish for lunch.  The professor became hungry after awhile and closed the book, marking his place with the fish.  Then he called to the servant, “Where’s my lunch?” “I’m afraid it’s reading your book” was the reply.

(Treece, Patricia. A Man for Others: Maximilian Kolbe, Saint of Auschwitz, in the Words of Those Who Knew Him. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. 27. Print.)

The first is my personal favorite!  Clever and funny jokes were a normalcy from the dancing heart of Father Maximilian.  Point is, he was a funny and relatable dude.  He shared the beauty and happiness in having a loving relationship with God. Beneath his pious, humble disposition was a universe of magnifying joy, reflecting Heaven itself.  Why don’t we ask St. Maximilian Kolbe to share his lighthearted joy with us?—for it is now multiplied to infinity as he is forever smiling upon the face of our Lord in the Kingdom of Heaven.

2am with the owls 

I lie snug in my bed, amid mounds of blankets and pillows.  It is the middle of a California winter night.  I’m nearly asleep, my eyelids are drooping and my thoughts are slowing, yet by the enchanting song of the owls outside my window, my heart finds the energy to dance with anticipation and delight.  I wait to hear more of their song, hanging on to every soft and melodious hum of their voice.  My soul is sensitive to their every movement.  I have a tender love for these birds.  A tsunami of great joy, peace, and gratitude whirl in the trenches of my heart.

In admiration for my beautiful, gentle friends, I am drawn into an inner recollection of the face of my Lord.  It is His face I experience in moments of beauty and peace like this.  Given the wonder and beauty of my little owl friends, just imagine the magnitude of peace and joy and utter contentment to be encountered gazing at our Lord God in Heaven.  That is the pinnacle of our existence.  That is what we are made for, for eternal happiness and peace.  My owl friends and their sweet song are a prelude to the joy of our ultimate fulfillment, which is the joy of forever gazing upon the face of our Father in Heaven.

Lectio Divina, reading Scripture with the “ear of the heart”

fullsizerender-4Periodically over the years, I have been introduced to the concept of praying with Scripture.  I seek to know Jesus better, to know God more fully.  Scripture speaks of God’s heart, so I have decided to seriously  start looking at the Divine Word of God as the door to knowing my Lord better.  I mean, Jesus’ words are literally written on those very sacred pages.  What greater incentive does one need to immediately race over and open up a chapter of the Bible? 

A deepened relationship with the One whom created us, opens the heart and heals the heart.  It adds a heightened experience of life to one’s own journey on this humble, yet magnificent earth.  It creates an awareness of God in oneself and in one’s life.  God is present; with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the awareness of God in our life becomes more sensitive, and His beauty is seen in the most subtle of things, of places, and in the characteristics of our dear friends and family, and in the beautiful people that cross into our lives.

Lectio Divina is the key to enter the life of scriptural prayer.  In Latin, it means “divine reading”.  This is an ancient practice.  I am most definitely not the first to come to the realization of the beauty and importance of praying with Scripture.  In exploring the history and purpose of Lectio Divina, I was charmed by the idea that it is meant to be practiced with the “ear of the heart”.  As we are to be attune to God’s Word on an intellectual level, so too can we see and hear His message of love with the heart.  It is a heart-to-heart conversation with the Lord!  It creates a personal dialogue, a catalyst to a relationship with God on a personal, more intimate level.

Let’s briefly delve into the history of this cherished practice.  Step back into the 6th and 12th century with me.  Under the ragged hood of a Benedictine monk did this practice of prayer become an essential piece to contemplative, monastic prayer-life throughout the centuries.  The Italian monk, St. Benedict of Nursia founded around fourteen monasteries.  As he began his monastic order of the Benedictines, he wrote a set of guidelines and rules to help his brothers live a faithful life of prayer in the spirit of Christ, known as the “Rule of Saint Benedict”.  In the “Rule of Saint Benedict” he emphasized the importance of praying Lectio Divina.  He ordained Lectio Divina to be one of the fundamental elements of Benedictine life of prayer and work.  It was simply to be a prayerful meditation on the Word of God.  It was not until the 12th century that Lectio Divina developed into a series of steps leading into a deeper, further prayer of contemplation. These steps were established by a Carthusian monk named Guigo.  The thoughtfully aligned steps are not fixed rules but are deemed to be a helpful and effective maneuver through the experience of Lectio Divina.  As written by Guigo in Latin, the original steps are: 1) lectio 2) mediatio 3) oratio 4) contemplatio.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, these steps practiced with an open heart, can lead to a sweet union and dialogue with our beautiful God. 

I found a great explanation in a pdf document online, of the most helpful guide to praying Lectio Divina, accompanied by some beautiful and inspiring quotes (I have bolded some of the points I reckon as most important in this excerpt and I put the listed quotes in italics):

LECTIO (“reading”)Read the passage attentively, reverently, slowly. Lectio is a listening kind of reading that patiently waits in trust for the Word (Jesus) to reveal Himself. Prayer means to open yourself. In this, recognize that the divine mystery cannot be contained or controlled by us. Allow yourself to be taken in by the words and be drawn towards the Word, Jesus Christ. Depending on what happens you might read the passage several times or linger on one particular phrase or even one wordWhatever you do, don’t rush through it. Praying takes time, patience and perseverance. It takes effort and cooperation with the grace of the Lord.

“It’s true that the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder, but before reaching the heart it is as weak as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation.”(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

MEDITATIO (“meditation”): This stage is our human response to God’s words. Here ponder and ruminate what was read.  Quietly savor the Word, and meditate upon it in expectation. Think of Mary who“pondered these things in her heart.Remember Jesus wants to reveal Himself, and pull you closer to Him.  Consciously open yourself to the Lord, allowing Him to touch your heart. Seek Him whom you love. Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. In meditation, God can deepen your faith, prompt conversion of your heart, and strengthen your will to follow Christ. A question to ask yourself is “What does this Word mean for my life? What do I need to change?” Notice this isn’t “navel gazing”, but an honest accounting of our lives and always directed outward to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

ORATIO (“prayer”): This is the prayer of the heart. It’s unique, personal, honest and spontaneous, specific to the experience of encountering God in his Word. It can be abandonment to the will of God, like Mary:“Thy will be done.” It’s a response to the Word from the center of our hearts. It may be in words, or even just a sigh of love.

“You are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know your truth.”(St. Catherine of Siena)

“O God, give me stillness of soul in you. Rule me O King of gentleness, King of peace.”(St. John of the Cross)

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me; to you, O Lord, now I return it; all is yours, dispose of me wholly according to your Will. Give me only your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.”(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

CONTEMPLATIO (“contemplation”): This stage is God’s response to us, so it’s totally beyond our control. We cannot create contemplation by ourselves. It is a divine gift that the Lord in His goodness gives us. In contemplation, one is totally passive, held by the mystery of God. Essentially it’s a gaze, God’s gaze into us, and our gaze of faith back at Him. Your whole self becomes focused on the Lord. It is nothing more than a close sharing between friends. It is deep, intimate, intense, sometimes tearful, and often too deep for words. It’s childlike. It’s a surrender to the loving will of the Father in an even deeper union with His beloved Son. His gaze purifies our hearts, illumines our eyes to see with the eyes of Jesus, and teaches us compassion for our neighbor. The aim is to allow the Holy Spirit shape us into the form of the Son. It is not weird, unusual or exceptional, but rather the normal fruit of devoted and faithful practice of lectio divina. Devotion to prayer leads anyone to personal union with God.

“Learn to abide with attention in loving waiting upon God in the state of quiet. Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful and loving infusion of God, which, if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.”(St. John of the Cross)

“Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”(St. Teresa of Avila)

“Prayer is sowing, contemplation the reaping of the harvest, when the reaper is filled with wonder at the ineffable sight of the beautiful ears of corn, which have sprung up before him from the little naked seeds that he sowed.”(St. Isaak of Syria)

“The grace of contemplation is granted only in response to a longing and insistent desire.”(St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

“I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of God.” (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque)

Sources:

http://qvdays.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/lectio_divina.pdf

http://www.centeringprayer.com/lectio_divina.html 

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina

I am in your heart and you are in Mine.

This is the excerpt for your very first post.


Look at his eyes.  I know those eyes.  He said to me, “My eyes are your eyes”.  That holds a number of mysteries.  The Lord has given me the light to understand maybe just a fraction of the meaning behind this mystery.  He wants my eyes to be His.  He wants me to change the lenses of my heart.  I am to look at the world through the eyes of my Lord, my Love.

He also said to me, “I am in your heart and you are in Mine”.  This one was simple for me.  Jesus told me He is in my heart, and that I am in His.  With the graces and help of my Holy Mother Mary, I prepared a soft bed of roses for the throne of my Lord in my heart.  It has become a welcoming, fragrant, majestic dwelling place for Jesus.  He is the Lord of my heart.  I keep His throne of roses fresh with the nourishment of prayer.  My prayer is the spring of love, flowing into the roots of theses precious roses embedded in my heart.

As He remains in my heart, so am I in His.  This is where I desire to be at all times.  Pure joy and peace.  It is my hiding place and refuge.  The ultimate consolation of my being is resting in the Eucharistic Heart of my Lord.

I did not understand why He said He was in my heart first.  I would expect the Master of my heart to say that I am in His heart first.  That remains a mystery.  Perhaps it is because of His humility.  Or maybe He wanted to show me the love He has for me by putting myself before Him.  He is a gentleman, a meek and humble God-man, yet courageous and glorious.  He hides His majesty and approaches, me, so little and frail and weak a creature, in the utmost humility.  Why? His love is almost unbearable.  It is so sweet, so genuine.  It surpasses the bounds of feeble human love.  He is my everything, without Him, my heart expires.

This image of my Divine Love, my Divine Master, and my only Teacher is taped above my bed.  Before I sleep, I see him.  After I wake, I see him.  Love stirs in my heart at the sight of this wonderful depiction of my Lord.  He is all I want to think about.  He is my joy, my peace, and like I said above, my hiding place.  I wish to hide in the recesses of His Most Sacred Heart forever.  I rejoice at the sound of His name and the beauty of His presence.  With Him, I find my meaning.

btw…This is one reason why religious art is a gift to the world.  It draws people to an inner recollection of what is unseen through what is being seen.  It visually takes the eye on a journey, and then the heart follows, climbing into the depths of it, exploring it’s deeper meaning.  This image of our Lord does just that for me.  It took my eye on a visual path, journeying from the blatant details in front of me, into the core of the image with it’s hidden meanings.