Sunday, November 20, 2011

Having trouble turning over your will? I know I am

God I offer myself to Thee...
This is the first part of the Third Step Prayer.  It's a prayer commonly used in Alcoholics Anonymous to complete the third step of the Twelve steps which states, "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him"(emphasis added).  As normal people, as non-alcoholics we think that we do not need the twelve steps, that they do not apply to us, the founders of AA thought differently.  They said that, "And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all." (Foreword to the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous).  In AA as in Christianity and more specifically Catholicism nothing is ever done alone.  As Christians, as Catholics we are never truly alone.  God is always by our side: He suffers with us, He takes joy with us, He is with us when we are sad, He is always with us.  As a community of faith we have our fellow lovers of God with us that we can turn to our fellow Christians for help.  So we do nothing alone, there is always someone or God with us.  So when I, as an individual, decide to to turn my will and life over to God, to submit my will to His so that I may know Him and His will better, I am not alone.  He is there with me along with my fellow sinners who are trying to align their wills with God's also.  Now when I make this decision, when I take this leap of faith I am not saying that I no longer have a will or life of my own, I am saying that I am it giving my will and my life to God to take care of, because, as a sinner, as a human I make mistakes and when I try and exert my will onto others, when I try to live my life without God I fail miserably.  Without God I am nothing, my will is nothing.  My will, when not aligned with God's, leads me to ever greater sin.  So I turn my will and my life over so that He may care for them, ever trusting that He will provide for me both spiritually and materially.  Knowing that as long as I do not try and bend His will to mine, that as long as I have faith and trust that all will be well.  Now, the fun part.  When the writers of the third step said, " we understand Him." they left room for God to grow and change and for the relationship each individual has with God to grow and change.  When we start out we start out with a small God, a God that someone new to spirituality can understand and as we grow and understand more about God our God becomes larger and as our relationship with Him grows our understanding grows and it is an ever growing cycle.  If our understand of God and if our relationship with Him does not grow and change then we become stunted we are like the child who suffers from downs syndrome who's body grows but not his mind.  So we turn out will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.  The book goes on to say, "Turned our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand Him praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out."  We pray not for selfish, self-centered wants, but for how we can be best be of service to His children and to grow in understanding of His will and for the ability to better be able to discern His will.  In that first line we are offering something to God.  We are giving Him the greatest gift that we possibly can, our will and our life, our entire being.  We are reconsecrating ourselves to His service.  Every day Christ sacrifices himself for us, so that we be saved.  The least we can do is give back to Him what He so freely gave us, life.  We can offer Him our lives so that others might find His love, grace and mercy.  The gift of self is the greatest gift any of us can ever give.  To give of our time, our energy, our God given gifts and talents to others.  By doing this we let go of our selfishness, our me first attitudes and we find the joy that we have lost.

To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt...
Fr. Thomas Philippe talks about being a useless servant.  This is where we become that useless servant.  We have given ourselves over to God to use as He wills, as He wants.  We are saying that we are turning our free will over to Him, our life over to Him so that He may turn us into the fullness of what He has intended us to be.  It is when we resist, when we take our wills and our lives back as our own that we fail to become who He intended us to be.  Psalm 139 says, "And in your book were written all The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."  When we take our wills and our lives back we are saying that His plans for us are not good enough, that our plans are better.  The plans that God has for us, the days that He has written for us are far better than any we could have planned, any we could ever imagine or bring forth in fantasy.  For while we dream of visiting foreign countries, having a big house, making lots of money and the like God dreams of making us saints.  What could be better than being part of the elect, being part of the communion of saints?  There is nothing that we could ever think of that could be better than what He has planned for us.  We need to be useless servants so that His will may flow through us as river flows through the earth.  We need to be useless servants so that His love can fill us and demolish any impediments that stand in the way of the river that is His will.  Once we become useless servants our lives will explode and be better than we had ever thought possible.  We will see the world and all the beauty that is within it.  Our hearts will burst with love and joy at the beauty that surrounds us.  This can only be accomplished through the the turning over of our wills and lives to God.

Relieve me of the bondage of self...
We ask God for so many things.  We ask Him to give us worldly things, to help us with our problems, to give us that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend.  We ask Him for so much for our self.  We rarely, if ever, ask for others.  We rarely ask that those who do not who God's grace, love and forgiveness that they may know them.  We do not pray for those mired in sin that they may know forgiveness.  We do not pray for those who do not know God to know Him.  We rarely ask that others may know what we take for granted.  Here is where we ask God to take away our bonds.  Selfishness and self-centeredness are accomplices to sin in our enslavement.  Sin is the is the chain that holds the bonds together, while selfishness and self-centeredness are form the bonds themselves.  We sin through our selfishness.  Our selfish nature blinds us to the pain and suffering of those around us because we are so concerned with our perceived pain that we do not see the homeless man on the street who is in far more pain than we are with our homes and cars and material comforts.  Yet that man will give his only blanket so that someone else may have warmth or give his meal to one who has not eaten in a week while he himself may not have eaten in a month.  Our selfishness stunts our ability to give and to be of maximum service to our God.  So we ask God to remove that burden so that weighs on us so heavily; the burden of self.  Once that burden has been removed we are able to be of maximum to service to our fellow children of God.  By being of service we are able to experience true joy and happiness.  It is through giving of ourselves, through emptying ourselves out totally for Christ are we able to receive all of His gifts.  It's only by losing everything that we are able to gain the greatest of all things and our inheritance; the kingdom of God.  By being rid of self, by asking God to rid of us the insidious disease of self He is taking our largest cross from us and allowing us to fully see the beautiful world that He has created for us and to see the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters.  Relieve me of the bondage of self.

That I may better do Thy will...
Once God has rid of us self we are now better able to do His will.  We have had the voice of self taken away from us and we are now able to hear the that little voice of God more clearly in our heart.  Once we can clearly Him we will be better able to do His will, but every step of this prayer is a choice.  Even once we have been rid of self we can still choose not to do His will, but our own thinking we know better how to server Him and His children than He does.  Instead of taking our will back and using our new found clarity as we see fit we should leave our will and our life in God's care and allow Him to guide us on how best to care for His children.  If we listen God will instruct us on how to be of benefit to Him and His children.  The entire purpose of this prayer is to let God take care of us and to learn to let His will be our will.  Now, is not the time to stop, but to push forward so that we may know the fullness of His glory.  With self gone we may now start the process of learning to discern His will for us.  We no longer pray for selfish things, but instead to know how to better serve His children.

Take away my difficulties...
So now we ask, "Well, I've gotten rid of self what other difficulties do I have?"  The answer to that is many.  First of them being pride.  We may find ourselves too proud to serve the poor or to clean a shelter or do the smallest of tasks.  After all we have much to be proud of so why should we lower ourselves to doing menial tasks such as cleaning?  We should because that is what He is asking us to do.  God does not command us as we have free will, so He simply asks.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is help our neighbor take our the garbage.  That simple act of kindness can mean more than donating money to the local agency that helps the aged.  So we must be rid of our pride so that we can do both the smallest task and the largest.  We must be willing to do whatever He calls us to do.  We must be rid of our pride, we must be stripped bear before we are truly able to abide in His home and before He is able to truly abide in us.  He must be allowed to decorate His surroundings to His liking and we must allow Him to do so.  This is a frightening proposition, to allow someone else to decorate what, we consider, our home, but have faith He will decorate to your liking.  All will be of such beauty that you have never seen and you will fall to your knees is adoration at what He has done.  Pride is the hardest difficulty to be rid of as we believe we deserve to be proud of all that we have done, when the truth is we have done nothing and God has done everything all we have done is to allow Him to work though us.

That victory over them may bear witness to those that I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life...
Once we have been rid of self and pride we can claim victory.  Though it is not us that has the victory it is truly God's victory and that victory is shown in the way we live, the way we talk, the way we walk on His path.  Everyone can see the change that has come over us, the light that shines from us.  Through our recovery from self, from being who society deems we should be, we bear witness to all those around us by being countercultural.  By caring more for others than for self, by showing the power of His grace and love.  Our happiness, our sincere smile tell everyone that we have found true peace and true serenity by dwelling with in His castle.  By our very presence in the world we bear witness to all that He has done for us.  It is our responsibility to be an example every day of the power of God in the life of one person.  Our simple, quiet witness of a life lived in service to God and our fellows is the best witness we could ever give to the power and the love that God has to offer.  That silent witness is us living His way of life, living the way God intended us to, living as Christ did by being of service to our fellows, to the lowest of the low.  We love the prostitute who knows no other way, the woman hurt by abortion, the child who beats others because he himself was beaten, the homeless man on the corner with no hope.  By being of service to them we give them hope and show them there is a better way.  We bear witness to all that Christ can do in our lives.

The Third Step Prayer

God I offer myself to Thee
To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt
Relieve me of the bondage of self
That I may better do Thy will
Take away my difficulties
That victory of them may bear witness
To those that I would help of
Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of Life

In Christ our life,

Thomas Catherine

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dominican Laity? For now. Perfect solution? Possibly. Am I worthy to be His? No, but yes.

So I'm still reading Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience.  I'm slowly getting through it.  I also got the rest of my books in the mail and will be going through them.

So today I went to the 11a mass at the Dominican priory near where I live.  I got to finally introduce myself to one of the lay Dominicans that I see at daily mass all the time.  I asked him about joining the laity and he introduced me to the novice misstress.  I talked to her for a bit and to him and learned the basics about the laity and how it works and the formation process.  I think, for now, I'm going to join the laity.  That way I'll have a support group and still be part of the Dominican family and that is a family I desperately want to be a part of.  While being laity isn't the same as being a nun, it is something.  Today at mass they admitted a candidate into the laity.  Watching that reminded me so much of where I long to be.  The formation process for the laity is very similar to the formation process for the friars.  I want to be in formation in a monastery.  For now though I will be a lay Dominican.  As Sr. Maureen told me at the monastery I have long winding road ahead of me and this seems to be a part of it.  I talked to my spiritual director on the phone today.  I'm trying to set up a time to have a long, serious talk with him about where everything is going.  I long for my sisters everyday, I long for the monastery.  I feel in my heart that I am called to be with nuns, but that seems to be stalled in real life.  So I'm going to sit down with mea carissmi and see if we can figure this out together.

I love my crucified Christ so very much and I long to be with Him, to be His bride.  I wonder though am I worthy of Him, worthy to be His bride?  How can I ever be worthy of such an honor?  How can any of us ever be worthy of His love?  We are flawed sinners who hurt Him everyday with our foolish disregard for His calls to us, with our sins.  There is not one among us who is worthy of His love, His grace, His mercy, His presence in our lives.  We can never be worthy of what He is offering us.  Yet He still offers all of this to us.  By choosing to accept His gifts we are saying that we will do all we can to try and become worthy.  Often times we fall short.  We don't go to mass, we don't pray, we don't give him time in our daily lives, we sin.  However He does expect us to be perfect, He does not expect that we will ever obtain perfection while we live in our earthly bodies.  All He is asks is that we try, it's progress not perfection as they say in AA.  I long for my love and one day I know that I will be with Him, I will be espoused to Him even though I will never be worthy of being His bride.  My love for Him, my obedience, my working towards being worthy are all that He wants from me, from anyone.  My Lord asks only one thing from me: He asks only for my heart and I gladly give that to Him.  I love you My Lord, my creator, my love.  You are everything I have, that I am and that I will ever be.  "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written / The days that were ordained for me, / When as yet there was not one of them." (Psalm 139:16).  Christ knows all of my flaws, strengths, weaknesses.  He knows all of my pain and suffering and struggles.  He suffers with me and so I am honored to suffer so that I may just a small portion of what He went through.  He loves me when I fall and when I get back.  He loves no matter what I do.  I am but a useless servant who gives her master no return on His investment and He still loves me because I love Him.  He knows I can never leave for He has my heart and I am intimately connected to Him.  His love flows through me and fills me.  There is nothing greater.

In Christ our life,

Thomas Catherine

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Books and Random Thoughts

I got several new books today.  Joy of joys I have more books.  This is one of those moments where I know I'm a Dominican.  I got books in the mail and got all giddy.  I now have a copy of The Dialogues of St. Catherine of Sienna, Silence of St. Thomas, The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision, and Mysticism and Prophecy: The Dominican Tradition.  I was able to purchase all these lovely books due to an Amazon gift card I forgot I had.  Yes, I bought books instead of other fun stuff.  Yes I am a nerd.  I promise that as I finish each book that I will write a review.

Now onto my random thoughts...
I have been thinking a lot lately.  I've been thinking about writing a paper on Heidegger and identity as evidenced in Being and Time, shortening my thesis into a publishable article, contacting all these Dominicans again, my dad and stepmom, my mom, my job and God and where He wants me.

I truly believe that God has an amazing plan for all of us; a plan greater than any we could ever dream of.  I keep wishing I knew what that plan was because I am failing to understand the point of everything that has gone on in my life.  I keep trying to date boys and failing because ultimately no man can ever love me as God does, because no man will ever treat me as well, because no man can ever compete with God.  I read once that once God has seduced you there is no other.  How true I constantly find this.  I have wonderful, kind, intelligent, compassionate, funny men that want my affection.  I turn them all down because I long for God and I long to be his alone.  This causes me to think about the quote, "A woman's heart should be so lost in God that a man must seek Him to find it."  However I believe that once you truly become 'lost' in God, once you truly come to know Him and let Him love you and fill your heart that there will never be another man for you.  Once you have allowed Him to pierce your heart, to live in your soul.  Once you become a regular visitor to His home there is nowhere else you would rather be and there is no other you will allow to live in your heart.  When I go out with a man I see God in him and I fall in love all over again, but not with the man, and my heart cries out and longs for the day when I am espoused to Him.  There is so much beauty in the Lord crucified.  His sacrifice for us.  There is beauty in His and pain and suffering.  How can you not fall completely in love with someone who willing suffered so much and went through such great and terrible pain out love for you?  How can you not want to spend your life dwelling with Him?  How can you not want to devote your life to Him?  I fall asleep every night talking with Him.  There is nothing like falling asleep with your lover.  My lover is always with me and He never leaves me and never will.  Only I can chose to leave Him and even when I chose to leave He stays with me, forever loving me and I know that I always turn around and go back to Him.  Time to start praying those sorrowful mysteries again so that I can spend more time investigating and meditating on the beauty of His pain and His sacrifice.  I am in love with Christ crucified and there is nothing more beautiful.

In Christ our life,

Thomas Catherine

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Current Reads...

So I've been reading a few books on and off lately.  Mostly off because they reminded me of a life I thought I was going to be leaving behind for a good while.  I've been reading The Contemplative Life by Fr. Thomas Philippe, OP; To Heaven With Diana by Fr. Gerald Vann, OP; and Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience: Recovering the Vision for the Renewal of Religious Life by Mother Mary Francis, PCC.

I love how they are all, in different ways, almost instruction manuals for the religious life.  Fr. Thomas' book tells me what it means to be a contemplative.  That living the contemplative vocation is not a retreat from the world or an escape from it, but a way of being more apart of the world.  Father makes very clear that life in the monastery is not an escape from the world or heaven on earth.  We are called as contemplatives to imitate Mary, to live her life, her fiat; for she was the original contemplative.  While in To Heaven with Diana you read about the relationship Bl. Diana had with Bl. Jordan of Saxony.  They had a relationship that was based in their deep love for Christ.  The love they had for each other flowed from the love they had for Christ.  As nuns we are called to love each other that deeply and profoundly, we are called to love everyone like that.  In Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience: Recovering the Vision for the Renewal of Religious Life Mother Mary Francis that change starts from the inside and not the outside.  We can change our religious habit, cloisters, and the rest but unless we are constantly renewing our love for Christ the outer trappings do not matter.

Now I have yet to finish any of those books.  I am working on it and when I finish them I will have reviews for each one.  All this reminds though, some think I'm not 'fit' for the contemplative life.  However the more I read about it, the more visits I make the more I fall in love with the life.  I have never felt more at home than I did in Summit.  Anyway...  I look forward to giving full reviews.  As for my life right now it's wonderful.  I have God, my Dominicans, my friends.  All is good and it is good because God is good.  Pax Christi.

In Christ our life,

Thomas Catherine

Saturday, November 5, 2011

After a long hiatus

Sorry that I have been gone for so long.  My life has been rather complicated as of late.  So lets start at the beginning, a very good place to start...

About the middle of October my dad told me that he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.  He told me he had about a year before he lost his memory and three years before he died.  I was devastated.  I have been spending as much time as possible with him since I found out.  I have cried and prayed and cried and gotten mad at God and yelled and isolated and stopped really praying.  Well, I found out that ne never had dementia.  That he had told me that so I would spend more time with him, my stepmom and her family.  Now I don't spend time with them because they demean me, treat me like a servant, cuss me out, and in general treat me like less than a human.

In the middle of the dad thing my great aunt died.  Another reason to be mad at God.

Now that the truth about my dad has come out.  I've been working on my prayer life and spiritual life again.  I've started going to daily mass again, sleeping again, praying.  I'm going to start discerning again.  Through all of this I've turned to God on and off.  I've turned to my friends and found them lacking.  I turned to my old life and found it seriously lacking.  I tried dating boys, but each and every time my heart called out for God and for where He has called me to.  I long for the monastery and for the nuns and for the silence and days spent in prayer.  Now to return to the practices that will lead me to where He has called me; to return to the one who never left me, who truly loves me and had called me to His and His alone.  Oh how I have missed my love!  When I leave Him my heart is empty and my soul cries out for His touch.  No wonder no man, no thing, no drink, no drug could ever fill me, could ever touch me.  The love of God is overwhelming.  His love encompasses me and wraps me up and fills me with a joy and warmth that I have never known.  How I long to be joined with Him.  My Lord, my love when will we be one?  When will I finally be with you and be only yours?  Oh Lord how I long for that day when I profess my love for you and become your bride.

In Christ our life,

Thomas Catherine