St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Women of Faith, Women of Hope, Women of Love

"To learn from the Heart of Jesus the secret of love for souls and deep knowledge of them: how to touch their hurts without making them smart and to dress their wounds without reopening them; to give oneself to them and yet reserve oneself; to disclose Truth in its entirety and yet to make it known according to the degree of light that each soul can bear. The knowledge required for the apostolate can be had only from Jesus Christ, by encountering Him in the Eucharist and in prayer."

"In barren times, when duty seems difficult and the daily task has no charm, when all spiritual consolation is refused us, and the beautiful light that gilds life is veiled, then humble prayers alone can uphold us and give us hour by hour and day by day the will to act 'against our will'."

Elisabeth Leseur
My Spirit Rejoices: The Diary of a Christian Soul in an Age of Unbelief

Monday, January 30, 2006

This Week: Women of Faith, Women of Hope, Women of Love

"....Woman's soul is....fashioned to be a shelter in which other souls may unfold. Both spiritual companionship and spiritual motherliness are not limited to the physical spouse and mother relationships, but they extend to all people with whom woman comes into contact."

"Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning."

Saint Edith Stein

Grace-Filled Memories

Ten years ago, a small group of eight mothers met one evening at our church, beginning what would become our Catholic mom's homeschool support group. We named it for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and our parish priest presented and blessed us with a beautiful statue of Mother Seton placed in our meeting room.

That first evening, and for many evenings thereafter, Kimberly Hahn led us in a "Proverbs 31 Woman" study, via audio cassette tapes. We were brought together by the common thread of Catholic homeschooling, and grew together beginning that evening in our God-given roles as women: wives, mothers, friends, learning to embrace more fully authentic femininity.

In more recent years we embarked on further enrichment which included a wonderful series of sessions utilizing the Johnnette Benkovic devotional book: Grace-Filled Moments. It is specifically written for women. It is doctrinally sound, challenging and spiritually directive. I highly recommend it for any Catholic woman for individual study and meditation, and Catholic women's groups of all varieties; it works for both individual and group situations. It would make a beautiful and treasured gift for a Catholic woman in your life.

This week we examine a small sampling of what it is God asks of woman. Follow along as the quotes from the various saints, religious and authors will speak for themselves. God bless you.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sobrino's Impressions on the Pope's Encyclical: Deus Caritas Est

I encourage you to follow the link to the Catholic Analysis blogspot and read Oswald Sobrino's excellent piece: Impressions on Pope's Encyclical on Love.

Having just run the series on authentic Christian Friendship, I especially appreciated the paragraphs that began..."As someone with a graduate degree in economics, let me offer some mathematical analogies...." and the clear articulation of eros, agape and philia that follows. You will not be disappointed.

With Love, Your Moderator :)

"In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone."
Saint John of the Cross

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Part III Christian Friendship: Generosity in Friendship

Introduction, Moderator:

"The true friend cannot have two different faces for his friend. If it is to be loyal and sincere, friendship demands sacrifice, uprightness and an exchange of favours and of noble and licit acts of service." (Saint Josemaria Escriva, Letter, 11 March 1940)

Webster's New World Dictionary defines "generosity" as: "gen-er-os-i-ty 1. the quality of being generous; specif., a) nobility of mind, magnanimity; graciousness b) willingness to give or share; unselfishness 2) generous act"

"St. Ignatius, speaking of friendship between God and the soul, gives these two simple signs of the love of friendship: First, it shows itself by deeds rather than words. Secondly, if one friend has good things, he wishes to share them with the other. These are good norms, for human friendship, too; they indicate the quality of self-giving that is the salt of all friendship." (Chastity, p.11 Fr. Gerald Kelly, S.J., 1941)

Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal continues:
"It is proper for the friend to do good to his friends, particularly to those who are in greatest need." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics). There is no need greater than our need for God. So, the first sign of appreciation for our friends is that of bringing them closer and closer to Christ, the source of all good. We cannot be satisfied with their simply not doing evil, still less with their behaving badly. We must get them to aspire to the sanctity to which we have been called, all of us, and for which God will give them the necessary grace. There is no greater favour than that of helping them along their path towards God. We will not find any greater good to give them. This is why we should endeavour to have many friends and foster true friendships.

The true friend cannot have two different faces for his friend. If it is to be loyal and sincere, friendship demands sacrifice, uprightness and an exchange of favours and of noble and licit acts of service. A friend is strong and sincere, in the measure that he thinks generously of others, with personal sacrifice on his part - always of course, in the context of supernatural prudence. In the climate of trust which arises where there is true friendship, a corresponding reaction is to be expected from the other party; one expects a recognition of what we are, and, when necessary, a clear defence without palliatives." (St. J.Escriva, Letter 11 March 1940)

For there to be true friendship, a response is required; the affection and good will have to be mutual (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1) If the friendship is true, it always tends to become stronger. It grows when there are difficulties, up to the point of considering the friend as one's other self, whence St. Augustine says: "Well did he speak of his friend who called him the other half of his soul."

A good friend does not run away when difficulties arise; a good friend never turns traitor, never speaks badly of the other, and never allows his friend to be criticized when absent. Rather, he stands up for him. Friendship involves sincerity, trust, sharing of joys and sorrows, encouragement, consoling and helping by example. In a word: generosity.

From the beginning friendship has been the natural channel through which many people have found faith in Jesus Christ, and found even their vocation to a life of more complete dedication. It is a natural and simple way which eliminates many obstacles and difficulties. Our Lord often counts on this means of making himself known. The first disciples to meet Our Lord went off to communicate the Good News to those they loved, before they told anybody else. Do we do this? Do we want as soon as possible to communicate to those we care for most the greatest good we have ever found? Do we talk about God to our friends, our teachers, our relatives, our fellow students or our workmates? Is our friendship a channel for others to come closer to Christ?

....truthfulness and authenticity, without which friendship cannot exist......Charity gives friendship a deep Christian sense. A Christian must have a great heart. But since charity must be ordered, the Christian should practice this virtue primarily with those that God has placed close to him; nevertheless our respect and affection for others should be in no way exclusive or focused on only a small circle of friends. Our Lord does not want an apostolate with limited horizons.

To follow our Lord more closely we cannot be content to remain in our own little world. There should be no doubt in our minds that clarity has to be brought to souls. It is necessary that we enter into our environment so as to transform it from within. We should increase the number of our friendships, giving light to many souls.

Our world needs men and women who are all of a piece, who are exemplary in their work, men and women without complexes, who are sober, serene, profoundly human, firm, understanding but intransigent in matters concerning Christ's doctine, courteous, just, loyal, cheerful, optimistic, generous, hard-working, simple, courageous.......In this way they will be good collaborators with God's grace, for the Holy Spirit uses man as an instrument. Then their works take on a divine effectiveness, like a tool which of itself is incapable of producing anything, but in the hands of a good craftsman can produce a masterpiece.

And lastly, friendship can do everything with the help of grace; it helps move us to beseech Our Lord with prayer and mortification. As we have never hidden our faith in Christ from [friend] them, they will find it natural that we often talk to them about the most important thing in our life, in just the same way that they talk to us about the things they consider most important.

Our Lord wants us to have many friends because his love for mankind is infinite, and our friendship is an instrument for getting through to them. Today is a good day for us to ask ourselves: Do the people who usually come in contact with us feel the need to come closer to Our Lord as a result of our example and words? Are we concerned about their souls? Can it really be said of us that we, like Jesus are passing through their life doing good?

"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."
St.Thomas Aquinas

"There is more hunger in this world for love and appreciation than for bread." Mother Teresa

"What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people."
St Teresa of Avila

Now is a good time to read: Deus Caritas Est, the encyclical letter of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI: God is Love.

May God bless you. Please visit again soon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Recently our Catholic homeschool support group was discussing the mid-winter slump we homeschoolers tend to experience at the half-way point. I was sent this encouraging article through a friend, by Mary Kochan: Surviving the Homeschool Panic.

"Have patience with all things, but first of all, with yourself."
~St. Francis de Sales~

Part III of Christian Friendship coming soon.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Today's prayer: For blessings on the March for Life in Washington D.C.; that those who witness to the light of Christ will convert those who walk in the darkness of the culture of death. For the safety and well-being of those traveling to and from the march and their protection while there. (This year I seem to be a more nervous mom with family members attending than in previous years). Our Lady of Peace, Pray for us.

"What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."
~Saint Augustine~

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Continue on with what you are doing; labor perseveringly in My vineyard, and I Myself will be your reward. Continue your writing, reading, singing, lamenting, keeping silence and praying, and bearing your troubles bravely; for eternal life is worth all these combats and more." Thomas a' Kempis

Monday, January 16, 2006

Part I: Christian Friendship; Jesus, Authentic Friendship

Christian Friendship, Moderator:
As we begin this series on authentic friendship, we focus on the perfect model of all true friendship, Jesus Christ, whom we owe all praise and thanksgiving for the apostolate of holy friendship.

I think it appropriate to also acknowledge with gratefulness those whom I call friends; the very people who inspire this reflection on true friendship, and their sincere desire to always improve in their Christian vocations and virtue. There are many special people whom God has placed in my path and blessed me so richly with on this earthly journey. You know who you are. And I know you are wonderful images of Christ among us, as you place Him at the center of all you strive to be and do in this life. I am truly grateful for each and everyone of you.

And finally, I cannot miss the opportunity to acknowledge those friends of heaven; the saints so dear to me, St. Therese, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Thomas Aquinas, whom I lean on constantly; whose lives and writings have inspired, nurtured and carried me through. In this series it is foremost the inspiring wisdom and spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá and his chips off the old block, as I call them, that the reflective writings to follow are most attributed to, who also counted St. Therese, St. Teresa and St. Thomas among their friends. As our former pastor was fond of saying, "that we shall all someday meet merrily in heaven.." (St. Thomas More). I pray it is so.

Now we begin with Christ Jesus as our model of real friendship.

Part I: Jesus, Authentic Friendship

The following passages were compiled by the moderator.

Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
"We Christians should give our friends understanding, attention, encouragement, consolation, optimism and joy, along with many acts of service."

"Friendship has to be protected and defended against the forgetfulness which comes with the passage of time."

"Christians should be men and women with a great capacity for friendship, because close contact with Jesus Christ prepares us to put aside our egoism, our excessive preoccupation with personal problems. We can thus be open to all those who meet us along the way, even though they be of different ages, interests, cultures or positions. Real friendship is not born of a mere occasional meeting, or simply from mutual need of assistance. Not even camaraderie, a shared task or the same roof will necessarily lead to friendship. Two people who cross paths every day on the same escalator or the same bus, or in the same office are not thought to be friends. Neither is mutual sympathy, in itself, a proof of genuine friendship.

According to St. Thomas, not all love equals friendship, but only that love which involves benevolence. This is the attitude where we care for someone in such a way that we want that person's good. There is a greater possibility of friendship when there is a great reason to share the good which one possesses. True friends are those who have something to give and, at the same time, have sufficient humility to receive. This behaviour is proper to virtuous men. When vice is shared it does not produce friendship, but complicity, which is not the same thing. Evil can never be legitimized by a fake friendship. Sin never joins people together in friendship of love. (italics, J. Abad, Faithfulness, Madrid 1987)

Jesus enjoyed speaking with everyone who came to see him, and with those he met along the road. He took advantage of those moments to enter into souls, to raise up hearts to a higher plane. If the person concerned was well disposed, Jesus would give him or her the grace to be converted and make a commitment to his service. He also wants to speak with us in the time of prayer. For this to happen we have to be willing to talk and be open to real friendship. He himself has changed us from being servants to being friends, as he clearly stated: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). He has given us a model which we should imitate. As a result, we have to give our willingness as a friend, telling him what we have in our soul and paying close attention to what He carries in his heart. Once we open up our soul, He will reveal his own. The Lord declared: "I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14). The true friend hides nothing from his friend. He reveals all of his spirit, just as Jesus poured into the hearts of the Apostles the mysteries of the Father." [St. Ambrose, About the work of ministers, 3, 135]

We Christians should give our friends understanding, attention, encouragement, consolation, optimism and joy, along with many acts of service. But, above all, we should give them the greatest good we have, which is Christ himself, the "Best Friend" of all. True friendship leads to apostolate, we share the wonderful goods of the faith.

Friendship has to be protected and defended against the forgetfulness which comes with the passage of time. It also has to be safeguarded from envy, which is usually what is the most corruptive force."[St. Basil, homily on envy]

(Moderator): In my spiritual reading I came across this from the writings of St. Maximus the Confessor (+662): "Be on guard lest the vice that separates you from your brother be not found in your brother but in you; and hasten to be reconciled to him, lest you fall away from the commandment of love. Do not disdain the commandment of love, because by it you will be a son God. If you transgress it you will become a son of Gehenna. What separates you from the love of friends is this: envying or being envied, hurting or being hurt, insulting or being insulted, and suspicious thoughts. May you never have done or experienced any of these things by which you might be separated from your friend's love."

Fr. Francis continues:
"Friends are expected to be loyal, to be faithful in difficulties, to overcome the test of time and contradictions, to come to the defense of one another in the hour of need. As St. Ambrose counsels, Be steadfast in friendship, because there is nothing so precious in human relations. It is a great consolation in this life to have a friend to whom we can open our heart. It helps a lot to have a friend to share our joys and sorrows, and to sustain us in hard times." [St. Ambrose, About the work of ministers, 3, 134]

We should strive to be friends with our Guardian Angels. We all need a lot of company from Heaven and company on earth. Have great devotion to the Holy Angels! Friendship is a very human thing, but it is also very much a thing of God; just as our life is both human and divine. Our Guardian Angel will not be put off by our moods and defects. He knows our weaknesses, and in spite of them he loves us very much. (italics: St. J. Escriva, Friends of God, 315)

Over and above all friendships we must work to strengthen our bonds with that great friend, who will never fail you. (J Escriva) In Him we will truly learn how to be friends of our friends. We will be open to every sincere friendship, knowing that this is the natural road for Christ, our Friend, to enter souls."

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter - he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence." [Sir. 6 14-17]

Let us pause this very moment and say a special prayer for the friends Our Lord has blessed us with, and that we in turn will be good friends to them and our greatest friend of all.


Excerpts used: passages attributed to Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal (In Conversation with God, various selections), unless otherwise indicated within the text.

Next, Part II: Christian Friendship; Understanding
"True friendship also means making a heartfelt effort to understand the convictions of our friends, even though we may never come to share them or accept them". ~Saint Josemaría Escrivá~

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Upcoming: Christian Friendship: Authenticity, Understanding, Generosity

Please come back and visit next week as we will begin a three-part series on Christian friendship.

Until then, here are some thoughts to reflect upon:

"There are things we fail to remember, not because we have short memories but because we are short of love." ~Saint Josemaría Escrivá~

"True friendship also means making a heartfelt effort to understand the convictions of our friends, even though we may never come to share them or accept them".
~Saint Josemaría Escrivá~

"We Christians should give our friends understanding, attention, encouragement, consolation, optimism and joy, along with many acts of service."
~ Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal~

"Friendship has to be protected and defended against the forgetfulness which comes with the passage of time".
~ Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal~

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Prayer as a Response to God's Presence

Father Richard Veras

In his book, The Psalms, Monsignor Luigi Giussani writes: "Prayer does not ask for something we want, something we have thought of, prayer asks of someone Other, because of the impression this Other makes upon us."

Begging for a Presence

Christian prayer is not about me. It is not about my ability to concentrate or how peaceful I can feel. Christian prayer is begging for the Presence of God. Not God in general, however, but God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ and through the community of the Church makes an impression on me by touching my life in particular ways.

For the Jews and Christians memory is an indispensable aspect of prayer. The prayers of the Jewish people always recall the saving actions of God. When offering the first fruits of their harvest they would say, "My father was a wandering Aramean......[God] brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm" (Dt 26:5, 8). Notice that the prayer is not concerned with what my father is, but rather with the outstretched arm that saves us. It is what God does, regardless of our personal worthiness, that saves us. Prayer is an acknowledgement, full of affection and entreaty, of his saving Presence.

Memory and experience

At the Mass we call to memory the saving actions of Jesus Christ. The focus of the Mass is not the attentiveness of the congregation or even the priest; the Mass is centered around the Presence of Christ. If I find myself distracted during Mass, does that stop Christ from coming? No! When I wake up from distraction it is a moment to thank Jesus again for his Presence. If instead I concentrate on how inattentive I am, I simply extend the distraction. The same goes for the rosary (another prayer full of memory) and every other prayer.

But even salvation history itself does not awaken me unless I can also locate the Presence of Christ in my personal experience. To awaken the familiarity with the One to whom I pray, I must recall the particular ways he has saved me. I tell engaged couples that the love for their fiance that they discovered in themselves, and the way that their fiance's love has awakened them, are the very love of Christ. If they have experienced true love then they have experienced Jesus, they have met him. Thus, when they pray, they now know to whom they are praying; they have become familiar with the Presence for and to whom they are begging.

Saint Therese of Lisieux said that for years she slept through prayers in the convent, but that this did not bother her because parents love their children as much when they are asleep as when they are awake. She understood that her own parents' love for her was the very love of God the Father in her life, and that God could not love her less than her parents. So she does not look at her weakness, but rejoices in the fatherly Presence of God. Her prayer was a response of God's presence in her life. She had experienced the attractiveness of his Presence, and so begging him continually for more was the most human response.

The need for the Church

The Psalms themselves are the prayers of the Jewish people after God has entered into their history. I encounter God, my desire is awakened, and I beg for his Presence more and more, as the lover wants to see the beloved as much as possible, and as the child continually looks for the loving and affirming presence of his mother and father.

God's love for me becomes this concrete only in the community of the Church, through those members of the Church that Christ places closest to me. This is why the most exalted prayer is always the liturgy, the prayer of the Church, the prayer arising from the unity of the people where God's Presence mysteriously abides.

Guissani writes in The Psalms, "We are at the weakest point in our behavior when we begin with ourselves, so the greatness of man is in living close to God, as a young man near his parents."

Christian prayer in the Church can be this simple.

Magnificat January 2006, Vol 7, No. 12

Saturday, January 07, 2006

How Jesus Draws Us to Himself

In reality, we suffer only in our relations with others. The possibility of suffering measures the intimacy and the intensity of the bonds which unite us to another being. We do not suffer in our relations with those who are indifferent. In fact, indifference in some sense protects us against suffering. When indifference ceases, our capacity for suffering returns, and it is proportionate to our interest in and our affection for another. It emerges as soon as the bonds which unite us to the other are threatened; it is then that the bonds of friendship testify to their existence and their depth….

It is impossible not to seek the reasons for my suffering, not to undertake to justify them…

We are told that in pain we pass to a lesser degree of perfection; it is inevitable that this passage should affect our interior activity. We have an awareness of what we have just lost; we know that at one point we had something and now we no longer have it. But the very awareness of this loss introduces in us, as has always been held, a growth of consciousness which is not itself a loss. Consequently there is born in us a new being, very different from the being we were before we began to suffer. My spontaneity is curbed, it is true, but my reflection and my will come into play to compensate for what has been taken away from me. My activity, which has been up to this point instinctive, has now become spiritual. The use that I make of it will depend upon me alone; it will be up to me to decide whether or not this loss can be converted into a gain.

From: Evil and Suffering, Bernard Murchland, C.S.C.,Tr., 1963 Macmillan Company, New York, NY ; writings of: Louis Lavelle, (+1951) professor at the Sorbonne, Paris, France and prominent Christian philosopher.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Passage from: The Lady of Shalott

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

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Prayer by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Lord Jesus, Who was born for us in a stable, lived for us a life of pain and sorrow, and died for us upon a cross; say for us in the hour of death, Father, forgive, and to Your Mother, Behold your child. Say to us, This day you shall be with Me in paradise. Dear Savior, leave us not, forsake us not. We thirst for You, Fountain of Living Water. Our days pass quickly along, soon all will be consummated for us. To Your hands we commend our spirits, now and forever. Amen.

Lord God, you blessed Elizabeth Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to your people. Through her example and prayers may we learn to express our love for you in love for others.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.