St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A slow Saturday.....a breather

So much has been happening these days; I feel we've been switched on to warp speed! However, this week, I think we will be returned to normal - at least, I hope so.

We had an incredible vacation bible school this year. The children were so drawn into it, which tells me that while children seek "fun" they also are very receptive to "depth". They got it! It was such an inspiring and encouraging week for my personal faith and spiritual enrichment, having delved into the book of Romans per the Apostle Paul. When Paul's Roman guard Brutus converted to Christianity at the end of the VBS week, it was more than acting the part. The children rejoiced as if they had been successful in their mission. I don't know how else to say it in writing, other than it gives me chills! Praise God!

When I find a nice VBS photo from our week, I'll upload it to this post.

On another note, a 90 year old brother of my father in law, (his last brother sibling) passed away, and at the same time it was now finally necessary to put my mother in law into a care facility for 24 hour care. She just won't eat-drink, and her breathing is becoming more shallow. They have her on oxygen. She is 84 years old and suffered a TIA years ago that was the beginning of the end of her memory. She also suffers from dementia and it's been a difficult time with her this last year, particularly the last few months; too much for my father in law to deal with around the clock (at age 87). Now, she is closer than she's ever been to us, just minutes away down route 30. My children are glad she's close by - especially Michael (with OCD/anxiety) as he has driving-in-the-car-very-far issues anyway that we are working through.

I'm thinking of Twittering.... What do you think? I think it would suit my busy life and thoughts well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Natural Health - Honey Might Just Sweeten the Sinuses | Health News

Natural Health - Honey Might Just Sweeten the Sinuses | Health News

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Part II: Christian Friendship, Understanding

Introduction :

We continue our series with the aspect of "understanding" as it is so important in beginning, fostering, nurturing and maintaining friendships.

"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~

I have personally pondered and prayed on this quote ever since I came across it several years ago.

It is certainly not always easy to understand the convictions of others when they differ from our own; it does take effort, a caring and a regard for the person. We must, through the grace and strength of God, make a genuine effort toward understanding with a noble Christian spirit. We must be sincere and lay ourselves open to understanding; when we are sincere, perhaps our efforts will be reciprocated by the other party and they too will strive toward understanding our convictions as well, (but being understood yourself isn't your motive; we are asked to attempt to understand others even though it may not be returned in our regard).

And so as we are contemplating authentic friendship and what it is Our Lord desires of us in this area, let us broaden ourselves to open up to the possibilities of where we have fallen short in our efforts of understanding others.

(Following here are various passages from the writings of Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal regarding understanding in association with those nearest and perhaps even farthest from us. Other contributors are indicated within the text).

"The Lord asks us to understand others, even though others may not understand or even try to understand us. Perhaps sometimes they are like the guests invited to the banquet who could not bring themselves to respond to the Lord's invitation. We have to care for other people despite the possibility that they may ignore us. We should be performing acts of service for people who very probably will not do the same for us. Let us make life pleasant for those around us, no matter how they or others treat us. Everything we do should spring from a largeness of heart. We cannot keep a running tally of credits or debits. People who complain about the ingratitude of others should take a close look at their own rectitude of intention. Generosity should not lead to recriminations and collapse. Selfless sacrifice should make the heart bigger. It should uplift it with the consoling thought that God is pleased with our efforts.

The Christian gives for love of God without expecting anything in return. It includes whatever one person can offer another: respect, joy, optimism, companionship, attention.....The more generous you are for God, the happier you will be. [J. Escriva, Furrow, 18]

There are many virtues that make it easier to live with other people, and that even make it possible to do so at all; take kindness and forgiveness for example, which lead us to judge people and the way they behave in a favourable light, without dwelling on their defects and errors; take gratitude, which is that appreciation of a good received, with the desire of acting in some corresponding way. Often we will only be able to say thank you or something similar by way of expressing gratitude; it is not difficult to be grateful and it does a great deal of good.

Affection and friendship are of enormous help in our daily dealings with people;.... making an effort to live those many human virtues that make the growth of friendship possible; lack of self-interest; understanding; a spirit of co-operation; optimism, loyalty.

Mutual respect is another indispensible virtue in our relationships with others. It moves us to consider other people as unrepeatable images of God. In his personal relationship with God, a Christian learns to venerate the image of God that is found in each and every man (St.. J. Escriva, Friends of God, 230). We also have to see the image of God in those who, for whatever reason, we find less lovable, less likable, less amusing. Being with others also teaches us to have respect for things, because they belong to God and are at the service of men. Respect is a necessary condition if we are to help others improve, because if ever we try to lord it over others, our advice, our attempts to correct, and our suggestions become ineffective.

Again, Forgiveness: We would be poor Christians if, at the slighest upset, our charity were to grow cold and we were to distance ourselves.......A Christian should examine himself to see how he reacts to annoyances that being with other people always produces.

Jesus' example inclines us to live in a way that is pleasantly open towards other people; it leads us to understand them, to regard them always with an initial sympathy which will be a growing one. A person who feels understood easily opens his heart and lets himself be helped. Anyone who lives the virtue of charity can easily understand people because he makes it a rule not to judge others' inmost intentions, which are known only to God.

"Our friends, all the different people we come across, have to discover in our friendship or our attitude a firm support of their faith. If we want to be for them a source of strength, then we have to be close to them in their weaknesses....."if we are to serve others, for Christ's sake, we need to be very human...We need to understand everyone; we must live peaceably with everyone; we must forgive everyone." (St. J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 182)

How then can we improve our efforts of understanding others and the convictions they hold? Let us pray for the help we need to enable ourselves to be true and thoughtful friends to those God has blessed us with in this life, and those we have yet to meet, as we journey towards everlasting life and friendship eternal.

Next: Part III: Christian Friendship; Generosity in Friendship

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Living the Gospel

Being disciples of Christ – what does this mean? Well, in the first place it means being able to recognize him. How does this happen? It is an invitation to listen to him just as he speaks to us in the text of Sacred Scripture, as he addresses us and comes to meet us in the common prayer of the Church, in the sacraments and in the witness of the saints.
One can never know Christ theoretically. With great teaching one can know everything about the Sacred Scriptures without ever having met him. Journeying with him is an integral part of knowing him, of entering his sentiments, as the Letter to the Philippians (2.5) says. Paul briefly describes these sentiments: having the same love, being of the same mind, being in full accord, doing nothing out of rivalry and boastfulness, each one not only focusing on his or her own interests, but also on those of others (2: 2-4).
Catechesis can never be merely the instruction of the mind; it must always also become a practice of communion of life with Christ, an exercise in humility, justice and love. Only in this way do we walk with Jesus on his path, only in this way are the eyes of our hearts opened; only in this way do we learn to understand Scripture and to meet him.
The encounter with Jesus Christ requires listening, requires a response in prayer and in putting into practice what he tells us. By getting to know Christ we come to know God, and it is only by starting from God that we understand man and the world, a world that would otherwise remain a nonsensical question.
Becoming disciples of Christ is thus an educational journey toward our true being, toward the proper way of being human.

Pope Benedict XVI

Magnificat Vol II April 2009 pg.267
Reprinted with permission
L’Osservatore Romano, pg. 5
January 2, 2008 N. 1 (2025)
Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Friday, July 10, 2009

Part I: 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~