Monday, September 27, 2010

A Life of Deep Discernment

God blesses us in many ways, especially through our children. The following guest post is from my daughter Jeanine Kraybill.

If one searches the word ‘discernment,’ you can find many varying definitions. Some sources categorize discernment, such as ‘spiritual discernment,’ or ‘Christian discernment.’ In reflecting and praying on my own discernment and reading through what others have written about the subject, I have realized that discernment is something deeper and longer than one might think. Sometimes the need for discernment does require us to act with speed, so we say a brief prayer and hope the particular situation demanding our attention at the time works out.

However, even though I have encountered such scenarios many times in my own life, quickly grabbing my rosary beads to offer up an intention, I realize that there has been a particular issue I have been discerning since childhood. From a very age I have had a yearning. I almost can’t quite explain it, except for the fact that I know it is a call from God and a deep feeling of wanting to be closer to him and reconciled to myself. Sometimes this yearning is so bad that I actually feel a physical burning in my chest and sometimes, I am absolutely moved to tears and weep. This has happened actually several times before I receive communion or while I am sitting in mass. Sometimes this yearning drives to me to solitude, where I can close my eyes and feel a profound since of God, especially when I am sitting in Adoration. So what is this yearning?

As a child I can remember going out to my back yard with a bible my Mom gave me and a Church song book and sitting by myself reading and singing. As my adolescence progressed my faith never left me, even though sometimes through my actions, I left it. Yet, this yearning, this feeling with not being satisfied with the world has always existed. At times this pain of discernment has lead me actually to do things I hate and the feeling of not being able to forgive myself and feeling unworthy sets in, which I am learning in some sense, is my own pride and false ego. I know it is important for us to be reconciled to ourselves and in a strange way, I truly think this is part of the discernment process, because in order to know God’s will, we must die to ourselves, so that we can clearly hear him, see him and know him and then act in good faith in what we are being called to do. This is peace. Peace will not ascend down up on us, we must choose to accept it—this is also what I am learning through this deep discernment.

Along with my strong Catholic upbringing, as a teenager, I was very fortunate to attend an all girls Catholic high school. I was highly influenced by several of the Franciscan sisters there and spent a great deal of time with them, evening staying the night at the covenant on occasion. My Mother had also had a great devotion to St. Francis, so I always grew up having him as my favorite Saint. I recall for a short period of time during my high school years of thinking about becoming a nun myself. However, as high school progressed and the college years set in, life took a different course. However, I still feel this yearning, this call, this “thing,” I have been discerning my whole life. I am not of this world in the since that its material possessions in the end are not all together that satisfying to me. I’ve tried to fill my round whole with many square pegs, such as pursuing several degrees, buying unnecessary material goods, being possessive with my so-called possessions, over drinking on occasion, trying to control my life and worrying about it and planning every detail of it to excess, but in the end, I am still hungry, I am still yearning to be free, joyful in the Lord and in full communion with him.

So again, I have come to an understanding that discernment is never ending. That we are called to holiness and saintliness (which doesn’t mean being perfect, remember that many of the saints struggled and were great sinners, but the difference is they embraced it, were reconciled to the Lord and themselves, overcame it and used their gifts for the greater glory of God). What that means is that in our path to being holy and like the saints, we fall each day, but we get up, we work on our weaknesses, and we ask the Lord what he wants of us and ask him to lead us that way. We follow our own goodness. Sometimes this way will be painful, dealing with one’s self sometimes is, but we cannot settle for the mediocrity of this world or the mediocrity of ourselves. We must strive to be whole, to be healed and to be reconciled with the Lord, with ourselves and others. We must be of service and die to ourselves. St. Francis was able to capture the true essence of this. He was the son of one of the wealthiest men of Assisi and strove to be a knight during the Medieval Age, when lofty titles of the world (as still now) were a sign of status and significance. He left this to be insignificant, essentially living the words in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Pope John Paul II captures this when he stated,

“Young Francis was called by his friends the king of parties, because he was available and generous, brilliant and likeable. Humanly he could have had many reasons to be happy yet he was missing something. He abandoned it all when he found what he needed most. He met Christ and discovered true happiness. He realized that one can only be happy by giving one's life for an ideal, building something enduring in the light of the demanding counsels of the Gospel.

Dear young people, many false teachers point out dangerous ways that lead to fleeting joys and satisfactions. Today expressions of our culture are mired in superficiality. Dear young people, in imitating Francis and Clare, refuse to sell your dreams too cheaply! Dream, but in freedom! Plan, but in truth! “

So, let us now not sell ourselves too cheaply for the things of this world, but discern what we are to do with our gifts and talents. We are all called, we all have purpose. Let us not be lead by the false teachers of the world, such as the icons of pop-culture or the politicians of today, but by the Holy Spirit, so that we may experience this deep discernment, which is a burning for full communion with God and reconciliation to him, to ourselves and others. If we are willing to be open, to die to ourselves and be of services, then we are living a life of this deep discernment and peace will become our path. This is my ongoing goal, my on-going discernment and when I fall, with the Lord’s help, I will be picked back up and try again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Gift of Faith

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
to another faith by the same Spirit…..1Cor.12:7-10

Lately, I have been thinking about the gift of faith. Throughout my life I have met several people that have a strong gift of faith. I have also met those people that struggle a great deal with their faith; some have lost their faith and some have never had the gift of faith to begin with.

My grandpa was one of those people that lost his faith. Whether or not his faith was ever strong to begin with, I will never know.

Grandpa was in WWII, in fact, he was one of the original soldiers on Iwo Jima to help raise the American flag. He told me that his experiences in the war lead him to believe that God could not possibly exist because if he did he would not have allowed such inhuman tragedy to take place. I have heard comments like his before from other people, you probably have too.

An interesting fact about grandpa’s loss of faith however, was that he spent the rest of his life trying to find someone that would convince him that God did exist and that faith was real. Hard as our family tried, he claimed that we still hadn’t proven it to him, and he struggled with this until his dying day.

The family spent much time in intercessory prayer for grandpa and I strongly believe that he is now resting in the arms of Divine Mercy, that he is finally at peace.

I am very grateful to have been blessed with the gift of faith. It is something that I have always had since childhood. And, though I loved playing outside and being with friends the same as the other children did, I was just as content to read my favorite bible stories like “Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors” or “Moses in the Land of Egypt” or to watch movies like “Our Lady of Fatima” and the “Robe”. These were always more than just stories or entertainment for me: they were examples of hope and faith in a loving God that never would abandon His people.

With each passing year, even in the midst of trial, I feel my faith grow stronger. I see the hand of the Almighty constantly reaching out to me, wanting to draw me closer.  His love is ever present and I find myself wanting to spend more and more time with Him.

Thank you Lord for the gift of faith which you have so generously blessed me with, may it always be used for your glory…. In Jesus Name..

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thanks be to you Mother

From the first moment of Mary's immaculate presence in her mother's womb, Our Lady has led us to her Son. From the cross, Christ commands, "Behold your mother". As the Savior's dying gift to us, Jesus leads us back to Mary.   Magnificat

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.
~Stabat Mater~

Friday, September 10, 2010

Opportunities to Witness

Early this morning as usual I got to make my hot cup of ginger mint tea, say my morning Rosary, then read and reflect on today's scripture readings.

The first reading hit me.

"Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!  

An obligation has been imposed on, that is a powerful line.

I began to think about
the commitment I made at my baptism, then later at my confirmation, these were the beginnings of my lifetime journey toward discipleship.

Paul continues...
"I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some."

I thought to myself, when my time here on earth is over will I have helped to save at least one; will I have been instrumental  in guiding at least one soul toward heaven like Paul mentions? Or, will I have missed my opportunity to be a witness for Christ?

After prayer I went over to the computer to read my email, where I came across this:

Jesus teaches us how to live in the present time. He identifies our present time as the end-time, the time that offers us countless opportunities to testify for Jesus and his Kingdom. The many disasters in our world, and all the tragedies that happen to people each day, can easily lead us to despair and convince us that we are the sad victims of circumstances. But Jesus looks at these events in a radically different way. He calls them opportunities to witness!

Jesus reminds us that we do not belong to this world. We have been sent into the world to be living witnesses of God's unconditional love, calling all people to look beyond the passing structures of our temporary existence to the eternal life promised to us. Henri Nouwen

I thought of a conversation I had with my daughter at lunch yesterday. She has recently been introduced to a wonderful older lady named Adelle, a Third Order Franciscan. She shared with me that one of the beautiful things about Adelle was not only her peaceful spirit, but her ability to listen and answer truthfully in love. She is a living witness of Christ's love by being love in that moment to the person right in front of her.  As she shared this with me I was reminded also of Paul.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

In a world that is always in a hurry, the unselfish gift of giving time to someone in need is a beautiful way to witness.  As Mother Teresa once said, "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

Today I pray for the gift of love, not to hold it close or keep it for myself, but to give it away freely as Christ did then and still does today, as an opportunity to witness..... Amen

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Heavenly Email

One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the rascally behavior that was going on. Concerned,  He called on one of His angels and sent the the angel to Earth for a time.

When the angel returned,  he told God, " Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.

God thought for a moment and said,"Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion." 
So God called another angel and sent him to Earth for a time.

When that angel returned she went to God and said, "Yes, it's true. The Earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good."

God was not pleased, so  He decided to e-mail the 5% that were good, because He wanted to encourage them and give them a little something to help them keep going.

Do you know what the e-mail said?

Okay. I was just wondering. I didn't get one either.............

I want to thank my mom for sharing this with me. I smiled when I read it and hope you to too! God bless you all today.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Proud Peacock

"Dear children. I am beside you because I desire to help you to overcome trials, which this time of purification puts before you. My children, one of those is not to forgive, and not to ask for forgiveness. Every sin offends love and distances you from it – and love is my Son. Therefore, my children, if you desire to walk with me towards the peace of God's love, you must learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Thank you." BVM, September 02 2010 Message to Mirjana

What is it that keeps us from forgiving others, or for not asking forgiveness from someone we have injured?

It has been said that pride is the root of all evil, that it started in heaven when Satan said, “I will not serve, I want to be like God!” That same cry can be heard today, not only in the world around us, but at work, school, home, even in our own hearts and minds. We strut, much like the proud peacock, loudly crying out , “I will not serve. You can’t tell me what to do!” We are often quick to notice the flaws in our neighbor while ignoring or justifying the flaws that are our own. We are blind to our own faults but have the eye of the eagle when it comes to others.

The remedy for pride is humility. To forgive other people or to seek forgiveness we must acknowledge our spirit of pride and in turn pray for a spirit of humility.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Lord, may the only pride I seek be that of serving you to the best of my ability, in Your Holy Name I pray.....Amen