Author Archives | Susan Klemond

About Susan Klemond

I'm a freelance writer who enjoys writing about the Catholic Faith, local issues and people. I love the challenge of learning about the Church and discovering the reasons behind her teachings.

Spiritual lessons learned from a wet basement

June 25, 2014

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There are a lot of wet basements out there right now. While water seeps into my basement, sin keeps coming back into my heart. Photo/littlegreenfroggy. Licensed under Creative Commons

There are a lot of wet basements out there right now. As water seeps into my basement, sin keeps coming back into my heart. Photo/littlegreenfroggy. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Like other places in the country, Minnesota has been pretty wet this spring and early summer. With each major rainfall, I’ve had streams of water coming into my basement.

My house is 106 years old and when it rains hard, water seeps in from the four corners. In one spot, there had been some kind of a pump which was later removed (I have no idea why.) and a concrete patch was placed over the spot.

Water comes in through the patch and pools there, so that I frequently have to sweep the water down to the drain. (I am going somewhere with this.)

A stream through the basement

Five minutes after I sweep, as much or more water collects in that spot so that I have to keep pushing it down to the drain. After an especially heavy rainfall last week, water continued to come up through that patch for a few days after the rain stopped.

It has mostly dried up but more rain is forecast this week.

I am looking for a permanent solution but for now I can be thankful that there has only been a couple inches of water in the deepest spots.  Compared to what many others are dealing with, that’s not so bad.

This stream running through my basement (apparently there are actual underground streams throughout the neighborhood) made me think of a particular area of sin I struggle with.

Pride like rainwater coming in

Like the rainwater, pride seeps in,  collects in my heart and swells my head. I sweep it out when I go to confession. I pray the Litany of Humility and I think things are drying out but then pride finds its way back in with each new rainstorm.

Confessing my pride and praying for greater humility are necessary steps in overcoming this sin. But just as sweeping out the water doesn’t keep more from coming in, I need to stop pride at its source.

In a sermon, St. Benedict said pursuing humility is like setting up a ladder. When we act humbly we go up and when we praise ourselves we go down. He identifies 12 steps going up the ladder toward heaven.  Near the top it gets a little monk-oriented but I think lay people can benefit from it, too.

Charity pumps out pride

Ultimately, the pump that will keep out the water of pride is charity, as Cardinal Giovanni Bona wrote in the 17th century:

Pride is the root of every evil; charity, that of all goods. But you cannot plant the latter unless you have completely uprooted the former. Charity will teach you how to extirpate it, since it alone knows how to withstand the spirit of pride. You will be able to resist its spirit if you hide your virtues and show your defects. Then give much attention and consideration to the following as the source of the vice of pride: not to tolerate that others say of you what you willingly confess of yourself.

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With quiet promptings the Holy Spirit transforms us

June 6, 2014

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Photo/Hickory Hardscrabble  Licensed Under Creative Commons

Photo/Hickory Hardscrabble Licensed Under Creative Commons

Tongues of fire and door-rattling wind shook the Apostles up at Pentecost I’m sure. When I pray to the Holy Spirit I also sometimes expect dramatic action. Mostly what I want is for the Spirit to instantly transform me—to give me a clear vision for my vocation or life’s purpose, to make me bolder or better at prayer, and overall to make me act and feel holier.I wait for the Lord to come with a powerful show of force as the prophet Elijah might have been expecting:

Then the Lord said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak … (I Kings 19:11-13 NAB)

Often while I’m waiting for wind and earthquakes, the Holy Spirit comes with small quiet whispers that nonetheless coax me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I say yes to what the Spirit asks. Little things like, ‘ask that crabby co-worker how his day is going’ or ‘say something nice to the cashier’ or simply ‘smile at the lady pushing her cart in the produce section.’  

Some promptings are scary

Other times out of fear and irritation I swat at the Holy Spirit’s suggestions like flies at a picnic. Little promptings that make me uncomfortable such as inviting a neighbor to a church event, sharing about my faith with non-practicing family members or defending Church teaching when it’s attacked.

When I do respond to these scary suggestions, the situations often turn out differently than I expect–and somehow I’m different. I think the Spirit quietly goes about transforming us as we let Him guide us. Maybe He’s doing with these small whispers exactly what we wish He’d do with one spiritual earthquake. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t ever make an earthquake, strong wind or fire happen in our lives.  

Elijah recognized the Lord in a small noise. We need to listen for those quiet promptings, too.

I believe the Holy Spirit gives us His gifts through these promptings.  As the Church teaches, Confirmation increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive at Baptism, gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. (CCC 1830)  But I wonder if are gradually learning to use these gifts as we rise to the challenges the Holy Spirit gives us.

He is transforming us

As we listen for the Holy Spirit’s whispers and try to act on them, we can trust that He is transforming us and  making us holy in the way He knows is best for us. St. Augustine reveals this trust in his famous prayer:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

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Mark this Ukrainian’s prayer request as urgent

May 24, 2014

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Mykola and Tania Symchych with their daughter Olenka

Mykola and Tania Symchych with their daughter Olenka

We Americans know it’s important to vote but we don’t usually experience quite the sense of urgency about elections that Ukrainians feel right now.

On Sunday, Ukraine will elect a new president and other officials while Russia, their powerful and somewhat menacing neighbor looks on. With pro-Russian separatists inciting violence in the eastern part of the country and  several regions voting for independence from Ukraine, the country doesn’t exactly have ideal conditions for free and fair elections.

The outcome of the election—whether a peaceful transition to a new government or what some fear, social and economic decline and more violence—could help determine the country’s fate.

Despite the uncertainty, my friend Mykola Symchych has hope that the elections will bring stability. His Catholic faith has something to do with that hope. On May 25 he will vote for Ukraine’s president as well as for the mayor and city council of Kiev where he, his wife, Tania, and daughter, Olenka, live.

Last Sunday, the Easter season sermon in Mykola’s church, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC),  the predominant Catholic church in the country, was preempted by his pastor’s exhortation for the congregation to be sure to vote after carefully considering the candidates.

Identifying candidates who haven’t been involved in corruption or at least seem committed to avoiding it now is challenging as corruption has been systemic in Ukrainian government. To make matters worse, corrupt officials have simply formed new parties, said Mykola, who teaches philosophy at a UGCC seminary and does research. “They’ve just changed masks but they are the same.”

Good guys and bandits

While Mykola is watching or reading the news, three-year-old Olenka points to images of politicians and public figures and asks, “Is he a bandit or not?” She already knows there are good guys and “bandits,” he said.

But while there is unrest in areas of eastern Ukraine including Donets’k and Luhans’k which have resulted in deaths, and even fears of violence as far west as Kiev, Mykola said the capital remains fairly peaceful. Prices for food and other items are higher.

As he crosses Maidan square each morning on the way to work, it’s quiet compared to a few months ago when Ukrainians held mass demonstrations against the former government, he said. “It is a memorial of people who were killed there though there is no need for rallies now.”

Mykola and his family’s Easter celebrations were a bit more somber this year because of the political situation.  The UGCC, though part of the Roman Catholic church normally celebrates Holy Week and Easter with the Orthodox on the Julian calendar instead of with Rome on the Gregorian calendar in order to align with the Russian Orthodox church.

This year however, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox observed the holy days on the same dates, something  that occurs about every four years and could be seen as a sign that greater unity among the churches and the country is possible.  “This year we were together with all the Christians of the world and it was very pleasant,” he said

Prayer is needed

Christians around the world will be watching as Ukraine elects a new government. Mykola asks us to join Ukrainians in praying for his country.

“We want to ask God to help us make the right choice,” he said.  “It is very difficult to make the right choice. Our wisdom is very limited. God knows what is best for us so we have asked him, we have prayed to Him.”

It’s not just about the election, he added.  “All our life we have to ask God to help us. “

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My personal relationship with “Him”

March 11, 2014

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It's possible to have a personal-sized Jesus. Do Catholics have a personal relationship with him?

It’s possible to have a personal-sized Jesus statue but do Catholics have a personal relationship with him? How is it different from other relationships in our lives?

I’ve never had so many relationships. Friendly corporations and nonprofits want to get to know me and reward me for liking them back. I have digital friendships with social media contacts I’ve never seen except for their profile picture. And I have close working relationships with the digital devices in my life.

In the movie “Her,” set in the not-so-hard-to-imagine future, a man falls deeply in love with his phone’s operating system. We think it’s a little weird but understandable.

It seems to me that we’ve expanded the definition of relationship for the digital age. But no one would ever say a digital friendship is the same as a personal relationship.

Before they tell you a lot about themselves or even where they go to church, some Protestants reveal that they have a personal relationship with Christ and they want to know if you have one, too.

Catholic personal relationship?

I think Catholics sometimes hesitate at this question because it’s not how we’re used to talking about our faith. Do you wonder if these Protestant friends have something you don’t?

As a practicing Catholic, I know I have a personal relationship with Christ because the Bible and the Church assure me that I do.

The word “relationship” doesn’t appear in my Bible concordance, so I looked up “friendship.” Jesus tells us we are his friends in John 15:15:
“…I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

The Catechism makes it clear that a friendship or a personal relationship is what we’re called to:

The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, “the image of the invisible God” is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the “image of God” and called to a personal relationship with God. (CCC299)

Called to relationship

The Lord is calling us to have a personal relationship with him that’s more than emotional. We know Him through prayer but we also come to know him profoundly through the gifts He’s given us in the sacraments. The Catechism states:

Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (CCC1088)

There’s nothing virtual about a personal relationship with Christ. The Lord is personally present in the sacraments and in his Word. According to Father Dwight Longenecker our relationship with him is really more like a marriage—we have to work at it.  “That relationship is made solid and real and substantial by day by day commitment to prayer, the sacraments and the works of mercy.”

I like my phone but we will never have that kind of friendship. As I continue to get to know the person of Jesus Christ, I look forward to going deeper our personal relationship.

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Stuck confessing the same sins over and over?

January 30, 2014

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Better to ask for "the usual" here than in confession, where it's not such a good thing to come in with the same list of sins time after time. A good place to get "the usual." Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives.   Licensed under Creative Commons

Better to ask for “the usual” here than in confession, where it’s not such a good thing to come in with the same list of sins time after time. Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives. Licensed under Creative Commons

If a regular customer sits down in a diner and says “the usual”, an experienced waitress will bring their eggs exactly to order without any more questions.

I feel like if I said “the usual” to my confessor he’d know my list of sins as well as the diner waitress knows her regular customers’ orders. When I go to confession it sometimes seems a lot like the time before.

I commit the same sins over and over. It’s some consolation that I’m mostly not out inventing new sins but sometimes when I kneel in the confessional I don’t feel like I’m making much headway.

I guess what I should ask myself  is, do I really want to get these sins off my list and what am I doing to make that happen?

Conversion

What it takes is interior repentance, according to the Catechism. “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed.

“At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart). “(CCC 1431)

According to one priest, the way to overcome sin is to “look at the causes of it in ourselves, address them, and avoid what leads us into temptation.” He suggests making an examination of conscience at the end of the day to look at each sin in context, ask for God’s mercy and grace and make a resolution to avoid those sins the next day.

Another suggestion is to journal about it and then go back to find patterns that could lead to a trigger or circumstance causing the sin. That can give clues about how to deal with those circumstances to respond differently the next time.

Desire to overcome sin

We have trouble doing  what we know is right because the enemy convinces us to give up the desire in our hearts to be good. If we don’t have the energy to please God, we won’t try very hard.

The solution is to ask the Holy Spirit to heal us and give us back the desire to please God.  A good goal is to ask God to help us eliminate one sin each year.

It is harder to work at avoiding sin than it is to say “the usual”  in confession partly because we’re kind of comfortable with those sins. They’re always there unless we decide we want to get rid of them. But change happens, if we want it.

A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit. 

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When Eucharistic Adoration feels like the library, try more Fear of the Lord

January 6, 2014

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The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of fear of the Lord which enables us to approach Him with awe and reverence. Photo/ElectricDisk Licensed under Creative Commons

The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of fear of the Lord which enables us to approach Him with awe and reverence. Photo/ElectricDisk. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Vitamin D is harder to come by naturally during this cold, dark season. My spirit’s also been lacking another nutrient lately: Fear of the Lord.

I walk into the Perpetual Adoration chapel, kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and sit down without giving Him much more thought sometimes than if I were walking into the library and he were the librarian.

Sadly, some of my Holy Hours can seem like a trip to the library. I get busy with prayer, reading and writing not thinking too much about the Lord in front of me until it’s time to “check out.” At times seeing Him doesn’t move me into rapturous prayer or even hold my attention very long.

More than the season

Winter blahs? Maybe but it goes beyond the season. Our faith isn’t based on feelings but without them life can start to resemble the winter tundra.

Saying I lack fear of the Lord doesn’t mean I feel more bold and brave before Him. It doesn’t mean we’re supposed to live in terror of God, either. As I see it, I’m  missing the awe and reverence I might feel before any king or even Pope Francis.

Fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that are increased in us at confirmation. (CCC1303)

As Mark Shea writes,  “We who have received his Divine life in baptism and confirmation are to walk in that same spirit of filial, not servile, fear and to likewise offer ourselves in love and not in self-contempt.”

Having some real fear of God mixed in with awe and reverence isn’t a bad thing. After all, even though Christ is with us so humbly in the form of a small disc of bread, He is King of the Universe.

Respect for God

According to the Catechism, “Respect for his name is an expression of the respect owed to the mystery of God himself and to the whole sacred reality it evokes. The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion.

It goes on to quote Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman:

Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not?… I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have — yes, have to an intense degree — if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realized, not to believe that He is present. (CCC2144)

I think the only cure for my deficiency is to pray that I may believe and become more aware that the Lord is present. Controlling feelings may not always be in our power but it is possible to make an act of the will.

A prayer

I will pray that I don’t take the Lord for granted, as I do the quiet presence of the librarian. Someone suggested saying a prayer modeled after the one priests say before Mass:

Enter this Holy Hour as though it were your first Hour, your last Hour, your only Hour. 

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The forgotten Christmas carol verses

December 23, 2013

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carolers 6647481663_c03702f643

Christmas carols make the season joyful. They also help us reflect on our faith.
Photo/di_the_huntress. Licensed under Creative Commons.

If you think you know Christmas carols by heart, try singing all the verses.

It seems like many Christmas carols and hymns have been distilled into short tunes that are strung together to form instrumental “carol medleys.”

I hear them on the radio, in doctor’s offices and in stores. Even at Mass we rarely sing more than a couple verses of any carol.

It’s too bad because there’s a lot more to many of these carols than we often hear at Christmas. Sing all the verses and there is sometimes a real story connecting the incarnation with Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, or a story of someone’s struggle.

“We Three Kings of Orient Are” is a familiar carol–until we go past the first verse and chorus. The next verses describe each of the kings’ gifts. Have you ever heard this verse on the radio?

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gath’ring gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

That’s pretty heavy for a Christmas carol but it was Christ’s life. The carol does have a happier ending:

Glorious now behold him rise,
King and God and sacrifice;
Heav’n sing “Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah!” earth replies.

The final verse of “O Holy Night” tells of Jesus’ mission and of his victory:

Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and his gospel is peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise his holy name.
Christ is the Lord, oh, praise his name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

When we sing  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”  we’re probably thinking about “the silent stars going by” not our redemption. We don’t often get to the fourth verse:

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel.

Probably the most personal story I’ve heard in a Christmas carol is in “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The lyrics of this carol are taken from a poem by American poet  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow written in 1863.

The opening verse is familiar:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

But the fifth and  following verses are not so Christmasy. Longfellow wrote the poem after his wife died and his son left to join the Union army during the Civil War:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I waited to see if Longfellow would regain his hope. Thankfully he did:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Besides offering the joy of the season, Christmas carols tell a real story. They help us reflect on Christ’s birth and life. If you want to know more about the forgotten verses, check out this large collection of lyrics and recordings of Christmas carols and hymns.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

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St. Nicholas and the worldly spirit of Christmas

December 6, 2013

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IMG_0001_1

Like a big, friendly dog that wants to rough house in the living room, the worldly spirit of Christmas jumps all over our quiet Advent.

All the music, shopping,  parties and expectation steal our attention so it’s hard to focus on purple candles, prayer and waiting for Jesus’ coming.

Today’s saint knew that Christ was the true joy of Christmas, so now he probably shakes his head at how his red-suited “descendant,” Santa Claus, has made his Christian charity in gift-giving so secular and commercial.

No doubt he prays for us especially during this season, as we try to keep the worldliness of  Christmas at bay so we can prepare our hearts through prayer and little acts of charity.

Nicholas is famous for giving gifts but he did a lot more than that. He was probably born in about 280 AD of wealthy Christian parents in Patara (now Demre, Turkey). He received an inheritance which he gave to the needy.

A source of our Santa tradition is the story of how Nicholas secretly delivered three bags of gold to a destitute father’s home so he could give his daughters dowries. It’s believed the bags landed in shoes or stockings drying by the fire. Despite his attempts at secrecy, Nicholas, by then a priest, was elected bishop of Myra.

During the persecution of Diocletian, some accounts say Nicholas was imprisoned and tortured. It is believed that he participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 and strongly denounced the Arian heresy, which asserted that Jesus is not truly divine but a created being.

According to another legend, when the governor had been bribed to execute three innocent men, Nicholas intervened and won their release. After three officers who had witnessed the men’s release were themselves falsely accused and condemned to death, they remembered Nicholas and prayed for his intercession. That night, Nicholas appeared to the Emperor Constantine in a dream, asking for the officers’ release. When the emperor questioned the officers and learned of their prayer for Nicholas’ intercession, he freed them.

After a life of service to the Lord, Nicholas died around 343 and was buried in Myra.

Before Santa was even imagined, Nicholas was long venerated in the Church, especially by the Orthodox. Many churches are dedicated to the saint. In 1087, merchants from Bari, Italy, took Nicholas’ relics to their city, where they are still located.

Every year the’ relics are exumed and they exude a clear liquid called manna which is believed to have healing properties. It’s a pretty amazing story about this amazing saint which you can read at a website all about St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas, prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming and show us the true Spirit of Christmas.

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Tired of leftovers? Try this banquet of joy

November 30, 2013

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laughing girl

Photo/Cristiano Betta Licensed under Creative Commons

The end of one Church year and the beginning of another shouldn’t pass without a celebration. A feast even.

I know we’re still finishing up the Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m talking about a feast of joy, not food.

Before we get too far into the new Church year and into the penitential season of Advent, take a few minutes to sample some great verses and quotes about joy. There are no calories and absolutely no guilt!

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Let us therefore both praise and sing; that is, let us praise with cheerfulness and joy.
–St. Augustine

…for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
–Neh. 8:10

Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.
–St. Teresa of Avila

Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When our heart is pure and united to God, we feel within ourselves a joy, a sweetness that inebriates, a light that dazzles us. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax melted together; they cannot be separated. This union of God with His little creature is a most beautiful thing. It is a happiness that we cannot understand. . . God, in His goodness, has permitted us to speak to Him. Our prayer is an incense which He receives with extreme pleasure.
–St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth, and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
 –G.K. Chesterton

Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.
–C.S. Lewis

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.
–St. Gregory Nanzianzen

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
–John 15:11

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Recovering from my broken leg with St. Ignatius of Loyola

November 22, 2013

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broken leg

Recommended reading whether or not you have a broken leg: the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo/koishikawagirl Licensed under Creative Commons

One morning in October as I was walking across a street near my home, a man in a truck didn’t see me as he crossed the intersection and hit me in the crosswalk.  The truck’s bumper broke my right femur like a karate block.

A week later, when my head cleared from the hospital, surgery and pain meds, I wanted to read about St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. I knew that he broke his leg and had a faith conversion during his recovery.

I’m convinced that when saints come to mind it’s because God’s already dispatched them to help us.

It turns out that St. Ignatius also broke his right leg–the shin bone–almost 500 years ago. After reading about the horrifically bungled medical treatment he received, I didn’t feel so bad about the titanium rod in my leg that now stabilizes the healing leg bone. I also couldn’t help noticing that St. Ignatius bore his pain very stoically. I compared that to all my inner and outward groaning.

Just as I read about his life during my recovery, St. Ignatius read the lives of saints during his.  Reading his story just inspired me but when he read about the saints he thought about outdoing them in works of penance. Since he hurt his leg while fighting as a knight, I guess he was still thinking competitively at that time.

Before his leg was healed, St. Ignatius had a deep conversion that resulted in a complete change of heart and a new direction for life.

That’s not to say that from then on he practiced only heroic virtue. One account states that he nearly died from his injury. Then he spent time in a cave battling his scruples and stubbornly refusing to eat until God granted him peace. (His confessor made him stop.) Later he wandered around asking himself what he was supposed to do next.

But beyond those times of weakness, St. Ignatius led an extraordinary life. I was amazed by his continual perseverance in seeking and following God’s will, his great courage in founding the Society of Jesus despite innumerable obstacles, and his faith in writing his Spiritual Exercises, which have helped many grow in faith.

St. Ignatius was pursued and accused a number of times during the Spanish Inquisition. He made a long, terrible journey to the Holy Land only to be ordered right back onto the ship to Spain once he got there. He was beaten, thrown in prison and almost always harassed for his efforts but he kept going.

St. Ignatius inspired me but in reading about his life I thought that the only thing we have in common is that we both broke our legs. He seemed too big to imitate.

Then St. Therese of Lisieux, also a patron of the missions, came to mind. I think she would tell me that there’s plenty of opportunity to practice heroic virtue right where I am in the ordinary challenges and inspirations of daily life.

Good things that have come from my injury include meeting up with this great founder of the Jesuits who broke his leg and also remembering the insights of another great saint, the Little Flower, who reminds me that my own path to holiness begins right here.

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