Monday, February 10, 2014

Our Lady of Lourdes in the Combox

The Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11. In 1858, Our Lady appeared to fourteen-year-old Marie Bernarde Soubirous, who would later become St. Bernadette, in a cave on the outskirts of her home town Lourdes, France. In a series of visions Our Lady called for prayer and penance and eventually revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception.
During one of the visions Our Lady told St. Bernadette, “Penance! Penance! Penance! You will pray for sinners. Go and kiss the ground for the conversion of sinners. Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself in it. You will eat an herb that grows there.”
Most moms pray for their children, I think. Because we have to. We know intimately that we did not create the children in our homes, and we know, too, that there’s a limit to the extent to which we can influence them.  Someone greater than us is ultimately responsible for their existence and that Someone had better do something about it! I find it so easy to pray for my kids because their goodness and holiness closely correlates to my happiness and sanity.
However, Our Lady of Lourdes has asked that we pray for everyone, not just the people in whom we have a vested interest. It is natural to want the happiness of our children, family, and friends, but how about everyone else? Thanks to the internet, we are exposed to a vast amount of people throughout the day, people who could easily be lumped into “everyone else.” Their personhood is distilled into their online presence, which can often be a sharply penned opinion. And if their opinions clash with ours, what do we do?
Mary’s message at Lourdes served as a strong directive to me to both keep track of the kinds of thoughts that I’m having about her children during the day and then to turn them into a genuine prayer for them. When I remember to do it, I am reminded of what both the anonymous person online and I am–sinners in need of prayers.
What a challenge this can be, to let go of pride and become an intercessor for someone who hurt or upset us. The Church knows this, comfortingly. Regarding the effort entailed in prayer, the catechism reads:
Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer. (2725)
Our Lady of Lourdes is inviting us to draw close to Her Son in pouring ourselves out in prayer not just for our loved ones, but for everyone. It may be a big sacrifice at the time—depending on the comment—or small, but it’s an opportunity to enter into the heart of Christ, who gave up everything for us.
“We pray as we live, because we live as we pray.”-CCC

Monday, February 3, 2014

Responding to Evil with St. Josephine Bakhita

On February 8th the Church celebrates the life of St. Josephine Bakhita, a model of love and forgiveness.

St. Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869. At seven years old, she was sold into slavery and re-traded many times. Her captors were so abusive that she forgot even her own name and was given the name Bakhita mean-spiritedly, meaning “fortunate one.”

As a young woman, Bakhita was owned by an Italian family and served as nanny to a girl who was being educated by Catholic nuns. Bakhita felt drawn to the faith and under the freedom granted by Italy’s laws, eventually received the sacraments and chose to enter the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa rather than return to her native Sudan.

Josephine Bakhita spent the next fifty years of her life carrying out humble service with the sisters doing housework and warmly receiving visitors at the door. She was loved for her faithful, cheerful, quiet service to those she lived with and served.

At the end of her life she battled a long sickness and was eventually taken to her eternal reward in 1947.

She was known to have said, “If I were to meet the slave traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today.”

As a mom to an almost seven-year-old girl, it’s enormously painful to imagine the horrors this little girl was subjected to that would result in her forgetting even her own name. And as a grown woman, St. Josephine Bakhita’s life causes me to examine my own conscience: how do I respond to the problem of evil? What affect do the big and small injustices in my day have on my heart? Do they spur me to turn to the Lord in prayer for the situation and those involved? Or do I rather close in on myself and dwell on my hurt?

When I feel the latter is the case, I hope that I remember to turn to St. Josephine Bakhita, a true patroness of interior freedom, to pray for me that I trust in God’s goodness no matter the trying circumstances around me and that I, like St. Josephine Bakhita, receive everyone in my home as I would Jesus Himself.

“I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me-I am awaited by this Love.  And so my life is good.”-St. Josephine Bakhita