Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Heavenly Ascent

A recent leap of faith brought me to a mountain.  
An opportunity arose to accompany my 2nd son on a Boy Scout hike to Yosemite National Park.  The hike up to Glacier Point is well-known for its direct ascension,via switchbacks, totaling 4.6 miles to the top.  (And another 4.6 miles back down of course).  This is where the leap of faith came in...Could I "make it" up the mountain? 
The challenge beckoned me upwards as the summit promises a glorious view beyond measure, a sweet reward for the challenging trek up, up, up, the mountain...  Not to mention the breath-taking scenery to soak in, all the way up and back down the trail. I leaped at the chance to make this heavenly ascent!
As providence would have it, the hike date landed just prior to Ascension Sunday.  As I set out on my own ascension, I thought about the many parallels between the spiritual life and climbing a mountain.  In our case the climb was literal...but most of the time we ALL partake in a little daily mountain climbing.
As a Catholic Christian, heaven is the goal of our daily climb.
As we set out to hike our own mountains, the work is hard and the burdens are heavy but we keep our compass pointed to heaven for the promise of Eternal glory.  This world is not our home but within it, there are signs of promise and beauty all around us.  It's as if God breathes his grace through the splendor of nature so that we may catch a glimpse of His great reward.
I saw 5 parallels to the spiritual life on this heavenly ascent but there could easily be more!

1.  As I prepared my pack the evening prior to the hike, my husband and son reminded me to bring the '10 essentials.' For Boy Scouts, this includes things like a compass, a map, food & water, First Aid, and appropriate clothing for inclement weather, etc., all designed to equip you for safety, nourishment, and the ability to adapt to unforeseen changes in conditions.
In the spiritual life, we also need certain essentials to survive.  I am constantly reminded that I need certain protections, to include a strong shield from evil.  Christians are taught that prayer stands as the best weapon against the devil.  There are many powerful tools of prayer that we have in our spiritual day packs, including the Bible and the Rosary, to equip us for spiritual safety.  Not to mention Our Blessed Mother, Mary.  She is the perfect compass, Eternally pointing us in the most perfect and direct way to the Son.
The Sacraments provide the perfect nourishment for our faith journey.  Most importantly, the Eucharistic Lord gives us the very body which He gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which He poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  What better nourishment than the body and blood of Christ Jesus to sustain us!
2.  Hesitant to go on the hike at all, I looked to my spouse and friends around me for support.  Unsure of my physical condition and ability to make the climb, I doubted myself. They all encouraged me and validated my aptness to make it just fine.
In the spiritual life, our needs are the same.  Trustworthy companions are essential to our faith journey.  A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter. (Sirach 6:14-16)
3. When we got to the base of the mountain, our trusty Scout guide was well-prepared and led us confidently to the trail head.  He took the lead by example.
In the spiritual life, our priests also lead us, shepherding their flock, often up steep and dusty trails of trial.  We are blessed by their constant personal sacrifice and guidance.
4.  As we headed up the mountain, we encountered many switch-backs.  Just as we gained momentum in our ascent, we encountered another, and yet another. The quick change of direction with the added elevation inevitably causes a moment of slight discouragement when you are constantly climbing.  But we pressed on, with the encouragement of our companions, all with the ultimate goal in mind.
In the spiritual life, we often encounter these same switch-backs in our daily lives.  Just when we are moving a long and things seem to be going well,  a sudden challenge or trial takes the wind out of our sails.  We may be temporarily discouraged and have to pause to catch our breath but we press on, firm in our faith that promises a hope beyond measure.
5.  As we neared the top of the mountain, I was encouraged by our team of Scouts.  We were all tired, hungry, and ready to just get there.  Through it all, everyone rallied around the team and cheered one another on to the summit.  Not only  was it another great reminder that we are not alone on our journey, it was also a chance to help others and serve needs beyond our own.  The opportunity for acts of charity were abundant on the ascent.
In the Spiritual Life we also gain strength from a community of believers as the body of Christ.  Just when we think we will never make it, there is refreshment in one another.  We are called to build one another up in faith, hope, and love.  Because stumbling is inevitable, the Sacrament of Reconciliation brings our souls to right order and back on the path to heaven.  Learning to know, love, and serve God begins with one another on the mountains that we climb each day.
We made it!
Isn't this a most magnificent view?
The view from the top was God's glory at it's finest and a heavenly ascension extraordinaire! Words can only scantily describe the awesome splendor...
Just as the Holy Spirit breathes life into our footsteps of faith, the wind on the mountain filled our spirit.   We basked in the grace that permeated the soul.  
(Just in time for Pentecost, this Sunday:)
Gazing out into the beautiful landscape, I gained strength for the journey home, both earthly and heavenly homes, that is. Climbing a mountain is always do-able, metaphorically speaking, one foot in front of the other.  Despite all odds in our daily lives, there is rest for the weary, hope for the hopeless, and the promise of heaven on the horizon.

We are encouraged to keep climbing our mountains...
Hope to meet you at the top!
"The difference in winning and losing is most often...Not quitting."~Walt Disney~

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mary May Altar

I am thoroughly enjoying all of the posts that bloggers are dedicating to Our Lady this Merry, Mary, Month of May.  I listed a couple at the bottom of this post:)  Just in time for Mother's Day, we finally got our May Altar set up in her honor. 
I didn't grow up with a particular devotion to Our Lady, nor did I fully understand her Motherly role that dawned with the beginning of the Church.  It was an amazing discovery when I learned, as an adult, how Jesus gave us the grace of His Mother at the foot of the Cross...An immaculate gift indeed. 
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold thy son." Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother."~Luke 19:25-27
Our Blessed Lord was here establishing a new relationship; a relationship by which his own mother became the mother of all mankind, and we in turn became her children.
(If this is news to you, be sure to browse questions about Mary over at Catholic Answers.) Not to mention Mary's instrumental role to our Salvation when she said "Yes" to carrying God's Son in her womb! (Luke 1:26-38)
All of this made perfect and beautiful sense to me, thus the beginning of a new journey closer to Jesus, through His most Holy Mother.  Our relationship continues to bloom, spreading it's fragrance over the hearts of our children.  Praise God for the knowledge gained just in time to pass it on...No credit to me but all the workings of a perfect Mother.

All the more reason why I love that the Month of May is dedicated to Mary...It's a merry opportunity to honor our Blessed Mother during the Easter season and during the month of our American Mother's Day.  Who better than to celebrate than the Mother of our Church and model for all mothers?!

The tradition of a May Altar dedicated to Mary has strong historical roots.  I've seen some lovely ones out there, ranging from simple to elaborate.  I think it's fun to peek at all of the lovely ideas out there.
As for us, we begin by changing our Home Altar cloth to Mary's color of blue.
Then we add our favorite reminders of Our Lady.  We call this particular display the "many faces of Mary."
Of course we don't worship the statues but we honor the woman she represents...God's Mother, of course!  I love these words from St. John Vianney...
"When one loves anyone, it is a great happiness to have something of theirs as a souvenir.  If we love our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, we should make it both our duty and privilege to have one of her pictures or statues in our home, which from time to time will remind us of her."
The kids love to help and I, in turn, love the ideas they come up with...The display of the Rosary was Superboy's idea this year:)  Keeping a sprig or two of fresh flowers at the feet of Our Lady is also a joyful duty for the children.
Next up in the Mary Month of May is our Mary Garden...It's become a traditional gift that my family gives to me on Mother's Day, in honor of our heavenly Mother.  It's the best gift ever!  She's ready to go for this weekend:)
I think it's amazing that our "Lady"bug garden rocks have lasted, nearly unscathed,  for 2 winters:)

~I will be praying for Mother Mary's Immaculate intercession on behalf of all Mothers, including spiritual mothers, this Mother's Day...And Merry, Mary Month of May to all!~

Good Mama Mary Reads:
Allison from Totus Tuus is posting Something About Mary all month!
Barbara at Praying for Grace is posting Everyday for Mary in May.
Catholic Icing May Altar Ideas
*Check back periodically as I may add to the list:)*

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mommy, We Are The Sheep!

As a Mama and teacher at home, I often wonder who is actually doing the "teaching sometimes"...Me OR the children?

I suppose that sometimes it's BOTH.
More often than not, I find myself learning lessons about faith, life, and various school subjects, right a long with them.  

I know for certain that my children bring me closer to God, just when I need it the most.  It's either done via the knees (bringing me to them) or through some other profound lesson, one way or another.  I'm convinced that kids are God's special design to ensure you're never a slacker!  
They arrive promptly with a NO SLACK Policy.
Did I mention keeping up with them physically?!  
For the first time ever, we are up and running on bikes...minus one for the littlest.  It's the first time the majority of our family (6 out of 7) have ever been able to ride bikes together.  We are enjoying the heck out of our recent beautiful weather and racing with the wind:)
Lately, there's been lots to do around our house to wrap up the school year...The pinch is on here at home to finish book work...
(a rare precious brother-helping-brother moment)
And finish a Mission project...
A bit of a race is on as we are aiming to finish the bulk of schooling here at home, simultaneously with our oldest son, who graduates from High School in 3 short weeks (don't get me started on the emotions that surround all of that)...So that we can take one final family vacation before he heads off to college...*sniff, sniff*  We are heading towards Yellowstone National Park over Memorial Day weekend, God willing.
(Did I mention an RV to pack)?

All of this has had me feeling a bit overwhelmed, not to mention the flood gates of tears that are starting to swing open at the most unexpected moments...

SO then there was Mass tonight and the Gospel Reading from John 15:1-8.  As it spoke about pruning us so that we may bear more fruit, I closed my eyes for a moment and prayed for God's proper pruning during this time of change...Our first child leaving home.  I whispered a silent "Oh Lord, keep me close to you..."

Seconds later, Jesus proclaims in this Gospel "I am the vine, you are the branches."   At those very words, spoken by the priest, our 4 year old looked up at me and loudly whispers:  "No, Mommy, We Are THE SHEEP!"
(:I smiled and quietly nodded to her:)
Oh those little ears that listen...Surprise, surprise, just when we think they don't get it.
Yes, we are sheep, just like we read in the Gospel last week.  How quickly I had forgotten those words from Good Shepherd Sunday, just one short week ago, yet she remembered.
Jesus tells us (J0hn:10) that He is the Good Shepherd and he will lead us and we will hear His voice.

The voice of my innocent little child pruned my branches for this day, this time, this place in life so that I may get the message...Yes, we ARE sheep.  Our Shepherd hears our cry and He will bring us rest...Flesh of His flesh and Blood of his blood, poured out to give strength to His weary sheep... See what I mean, NO SLACKERS ALLOWED!

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