Be-Atitude: Getting out of a funk.

You Are Blessed – by Robyn Collins and Beau Hoffman
Sung by: Brooke Voland
From: Robyn Blaikie Collins Channel

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.”  

~ Romans 8: 35-37.

This week is the beginning of Lent, a season where we reflect upon how we have faltered on our journey of faith. During Lent we have the common tradition of giving something up as a sign of penance. A penance is the practice of self-denial with the end in growing closer to Christ. Sometimes this tradition becomes so common to us it becomes reduced to a habit that we do each year. As people living with severe illness and pain we have given up much. We should strive to leave our comfort zone and engage in doing something for Lent.

When I was sixteen I remember reflecting on what was keeping my relationship with Jesus in a stagnation. What was interfering with our relationship? What was I neglecting? I found that things were not a problem but interior attitudes that kept from following Christ faithfully. As a teenager I found that I was giving attitude to my family. Our home life was strained. Part of the cause was my own attitudes and dealing with raw emotions and mood swings related to steroid treatments. I decided to give something to Jesus for Lent. To work on giving up my own wants, fasting from hardness of heart towards family members.

I made the commitment to either hug or tell each of my family members at least once a day that I loved them during Lent. There were days when this was a real challenge and sacrifice. Imagine my little brother bickering over what shows we would watch after school, it would have been so easy to join the common sibling quarrel. Instead I would give him a hug and the remote and we would watch what he wanted to watch. This little act did not follow my nature, but I found the act of penance liberating. I started to find many little ways to change my attitude to draw me closer to Jesus and heal my family life.

It was so much better than giving up chocolate or some other frivolous thing. It began to get easier as each week of Lent passed. My behavior change so drastically that my brother was worried. On a day I was eating candy my brother caught me and told my parents at the dinner table that I was eating things that I normally didn’t eat during lent. I told my family what I was doing for Lent instead of giving up something. My relationships at home and with Christ grew greatly during that season long ago.

This Lent I am fasting from “me”-attitudes and will embrace the “Be”-attitudes for Lent. I have been living alone for several years and got use to having control in everyday things. Due to illness and financial hardship my parents graciously opened their home to help me. I am well aware of the sacrifices that this puts on them. I need to rise to the occasion. I need some edges rubbed off my flawed personality to fast from impatience, need for control, to become slow to anger and to die unto myself.

When I took a graduate course on Catholic Moral Theology years ago, we read a profound little book by Service Pinckaers. He shared how we should hear these words of the Sermon on the Mount like those who first heard them “with the same faith and hope for a cure; for before Him we are all sick and in need of a physician.” (“The Pursuit of Happiness ~ God’s Way: Living the Beatitudes”, 9)

See the beatitudes are a way of being and following Christ in our everyday lives. He was the very embodiment of the beatitudes. Just stop what you are feeling now. Ask for Jesus to open your heart and hear him afresh. To heal your cold dry bones. Just imagine seeing Christ like those who first saw him walking through the streets. Witness him healing the sick, the dying, and the brokenhearted. Imagine being in the crowd of thousands gathered around Him hearing those profound beatitudes for the first time.

Let us reflect on what those words really mean. Watch the video below by a confirmation catechist for seventh grade youths. I pray you are given more insight into their deep meanings.

Blessed Are They
Music by:David Has
From: Lerik Dee Channel

Wow every time I watch that video I’m reminded of something I need to work on myself. I also happen to really love that David Has hymn. My heart is lifted when I sing it too. But let’s get back to this reflection.

See the beatitudes are so hopeful. They tells us about the blessings God has in store for those who live in union with him. Those of us who suffer with chronic and severe illness find great comfort in these words. Because at the simplest levels he is talking about us. We are poor, broken, mourning, etc. The beatitudes “put into our hearts an astounding hope, new, strong, and capable of carrying us through the worst trials.” (Pinckaers, 35)

They are also a challenge for us. Really, because we suffer so much and he is not talking about physical but how our hearts are. See we have and opportunity through the be-attitudes to become more like Christ. This is the great mystery of redemptive suffering we are invited to enter into through our very lives. Our  “suffering, which leaves our mouths the taste of ashes, [becomes], at the heart of our life, the crucible in which the gold of a new love is formed.” (Pinckaers, 87)

A catechist, Gilles Cote, talks about how the beatitudes are the blue prints of becoming true disciples of Christ, “clones of Jesus.” By embracing the be-attitudes for Lent we are giving Christ permission to use our suffering for the best purposes. This will also be a great benefit to ourselves.

Now imagine the effect your be-attitudes could be in the midst of where you are each day; in a hospital bed, at a doctor’s clinic, in the pharmacy line, or infusion center? How could you become a living sign of hope through your broken body with a smile and simple joy radiating from you? Can you imagine that?

Challenge of the Week: Read the quote below from a great saint.

“Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good, from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want. Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us if it is compared with its opposite. Now the opposite of beatitude is misery. Misery means being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings.”

~St. Gregory of Nyssa

See those of us with chronic or serious illness are in pain anyway. We are going to suffer. Through the “be”-attitudes though we make the choice not to be afflicted in misery but to willingly live in joy and hope. So pick one of the “be”-attitudes that you are going to pray for in your heart. Give it a chance to change your Lenten journey to grow more like Christ.

Below is a picture of The Beatitudes. Depending on your device you should be able to save it. Use the picture as a wallpaper on your device. You could print it too. Keep it with your bible, prayer space or better yet hang the beatitudes on your hospital bed rails. Keep them close. Grow in them. And if someone asks, share what you are Doing for Lent! Witness to the joy in your heart. 😉

beatitudes3

Let Us Pray!

My Jesus enkindle my heart to become more like You. As I reflect on the meaning of the beatitudes in my life, move me to open my heart to Your movements. Help me to grow more into the beatitudes and that life will witness to the changes You have made in me. Help me to experience the joy that even illness, pain, and suffering can not destroy. Amen!

Need something to rest in. Rest in the video below.

The Beatitudes
Music by: Glenstal Abbey Ireland
From:Expostfactum Channel

But remember to witness to the power of the Beatitudes…

Join other bloggers for your Lenten journey.

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By visiting a Link Up Blitz you could find other Catholic Bloggers who are participating in the New Evangelization. There are so many beautiful bloggers to share your internet journey in faith.

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I Am Restless

Music: “Restless” by Audrey Assad

YouTube: created by musiclyrics001

“Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.”

~ Saint Augustine, Confessions, L1

I have been finding myself becoming very restless lately. One reason I know is the cabin fever caused by the long deep freeze we are thawing out from under. In Wyoming, we are even more restless because we know nature is only toying with us – giving forty to fifty degree weather as a temporary reprieve from arctic blasts. Soon we will be shivering – longing for the beaches of Hawaii or golf courses of Arizona, or some other warm place.

This morning I woke up, rather rudely, due to a major blow out of my permanent colostomy system. A living reminder of another cause for my restlessness – the endless waiting for a surgery to correct a malfunctioning stoma area and remove a failing gall bladder. With my twisted sense of humor, this event just added fodder for my post on restlessness.

Last week, I shared a little bit about what I am dealing with almost on a daily basis. I have chronic peristomal pyoderma gangrenosum. My current PPG activity is like the more extreme photos found on a Google search here. [Warning! do not visit if you have a weak stomach or children around.] Currently, I have four ulcers with only the smallest one still at the epidermis level of the skin. This complication is extremely painful. Literally, if one were to hold their hand a few inches above an inflamed area you’ll feel emanating intense heat. The problem is that active PPG bleeds profusely, thereby making a good seal almost impossible. There-go a blow out at 4:30 am when one should be able to sleep peacefully in their warm bed. Talk about a restless way to wake up.

But do not despair for me. Even though it caused extreme physical pain at 4:30 am this morning, I am still smiling. There might also be a little Wyoming grit in my flawed personality that helps me deal with it. Jesus is the only one who can get me up at that hour to clean up and slap another bag doomed to fail on top of bleeding ulcers. My nightgown was not even soiled because I was woken moments before it happened. Thank you Jesus and my guardian angels, amen!

Let’s get back to restlessness. For those of us who are always sick we have an intimate knowledge of that word down to the very core of our being. Many diseases and illnesses cause a physical restlessness or anxiety reaction within our bodies, that can affect movements, nerves, nerves, muscles, sleep, pain perception, and definitely mental function, . RightDiagnosis.com (here) lists over 380 medical conditions that cause restlessness and thousands of conditions that are related to restlessness. Even medical professionals classify restlessness as a natural stage of the human dying process. The restlessness we experience from our cloistered hospital beds or homes can make us feel like we are dying even if we aren’t.

These forms of restlessness I have described above are about mental or physical suffering. The type of restlessness that Saint Augustine speaks of in his Confessions is a spiritual reality of the frail human condition. (see a cool website with his PDF file Here.) OK, a little bit of heavy reading! I am feeling a bit restless, now. Lets break it down a little and learn more about Saint Augustine at the same time. Here is a FUN video about him and his experience of this type of restlessness. Warning it is a rap for Catholic theology students with some puppets, need I say more?

Music: Confessionz (St. Augustine Rap Remixed) by by Chris “MCG” Gehrz

Found on YouTube: CWCRadio  (full lyrics under about tab)

Now that was a fun way to learn a little bit about a doctor of the Church. A testament for how God will use our loves and desires to pierce our hearts. Helped relieve some of my physical and mental restlessness too.

Let’s get back to the seriousness of our discussion. Restlessness is not necessarily bad. It is like a warning signal not just to the body, but to our spirits as well. Restlessness always points to a yearning or longing. When our body’s are broken it’s a physical symptom of our body crying out for wholeness. When our emotions are torn to shreds it is a emotional signal that something needs to be worked out. Saint Augustine shows that spiritual restlessness is a reaching out for God and a necessary capacity of the human condition. Restlessness is always hard and at times quite painful.

The broken restlessness of our sick bodies are actually a testimonial to the complex nature of the very creation of human life. When something breaks we have blow outs. When we experience physical or mental restlessness our body cries out for physical and mental integrity it knows it was designed for. We only get little fleeting tidbits of of body integration on a very good day.

When we experience spiritual restlessness it means that our spirit longs for God. We are being invited to engage in relationship with the one who created us and our wonderful human body. We just know deep down inside that this longing cannot be fulfilled in this life – only in the next. We just get a brief glimpse of the hope of the resurrection of the body and the perfect union with God in heaven.

Challenge for this week: Cling to the knowledge that in this life there will be restlessness and that we will all experience it in different ways and different stages of our lives. We need to learn to trust that even though this moment maybe an extremely difficult one. We are never alone. We are always loved! Think of it! At that moment when the intense gross reality of human frailty glares at you smack in the nose. Even restlessness is as much a gift as the mess and pain one faces.

I actually had a wound care specialist talk about the art of healing horrible PPG wounds. It was fascinating for me to listen to her speak on the deep wonder she had for the complexity of the human body. The absolute uniqueness of every patient she saw. No case was ever the same. What works for one doesn’t work for the other. Some cases may be similar but they are always unique.

When faced with the grossness of the reality she faces in her work, instead of running away, she is inspired to heal and ease the pain. She said she often prays as she works, praying that God guides her hands. Not surprisingly, she had the most gentle touch I have ever experienced.

More amazing, God created bodily fluids – yucky!  But his ways are not our ways. He loves us more then we can even imagine. In his great love he gave us his son on the cross. His passion, as a brilliant 8th grader told me, “that was really gross, I almost threw up!” Talk about restlessness.

So are you as restless as I am?

Let us pray to be stilled as only God can!

Psalm 46

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. 

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

The Word of the Lord. Thanks Be to God.

Need to calm down more then let us rest together below.

Music: “Be Still” by Kari Jobe

Found on YouTube: KatyeIreland

When Calamity Strikes We are Held

WARNING this week’s blog (late due to illness of this blogger) tackles very difficult questions that relate to the major natural disasters that caused many fatalities. (All readers may want tissues on hand.) When events like these happen, many questions can raise that cause faltering in one’s faith. I focus on the Philippines in my writing. I am aware that this past week while recovery from a setback our Midwest was hit by bad tornados. If you are personally dealing with these tragedies while living with severe illness, you may want to pass on this and come back to it later when your heart is better able to cope. Just know you are in all of our prayers, and we are holding you in our hearts.

From: JJ4christ YouTube Channel

Music By: Arwen Vigil – The Piano Guys (original tune and video)

 “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is the megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 53

When calamity strikes the innocent we often hear, “Why did God let this happen?” The very depth of ourselves riles at the unfairness of those who suffer who are as innocent. Those who do not believe in God will often use that calamity to point out that if there was a God he would not allow evil, suffering, or pain to happen to the innocent. He would stop it.

Our responses to these challenges can are very different. A theological response might be to say evil happens throughout the world because the fall from the Garden. Adam and Eve sinned through free will and caused everyone to fall. That is true that through the fall not only are we broken but the world also is broken. That is why storms can destroy instead of sustaining life.

Words seem so empty, when we look into the irreproachable eyes of children who lost their whole world. These innocent ones haunt us. Their corporate suffering demands an answer. We must bring hope to a hopeless situation.

When we see those who harmed by others through violence or indifference in their many forms. Our response to evil is so much easier, because we can blame the people who caused the harm.

When natural disasters strike causing such utter destruction; it is perfectly normal for us to cry, scream and shake our fists to heaven. The loss of life and destruction of a whole region seems pointless and a great waste. The only one we can reproach is the Creator who controls the waters and the seas.

When we or someone we know struck down with a chronic degenerative disease in the prime of life, we can often feel this way. There is no one to blame for that type of calamity either. Once an acquaintance of mine heard the words from a bishop, “Never forget, you are filling up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.” She had just woken up in her hospital bed. What she wanted to do was throw her bed pan at him. One might be so angry they would want to throw the pan at God. I might even say to God, “You can take your free will.”

I heard a response to this problem while studying theology that turned attitude upside down. God allows evil in the world precisely because he loves us so much. How could God allow someone to suffer or countries to have a whole region destroyed because He loves us so? **

This principle explains that our world is fallen and cut off from the full grace of God due to its fallen nature. That means storms can destroy instead of nurture life. Animals kill other animals for food and nutrition. Man and woman must labor for everything they need to survive. And we all know about the violence that can reside within the heart of man. None of this was part of God’s original plan.

Ultimately, God allowed Adam and Eve to fall because he loves us all. He knew his first humans would fail – but still gave them the freedom to fail. He knew he would need to save what he created before he even made Adam and Eve. God knew we would mess up, but He still wanted every one of us. That is how much He loves us! Evil would not have the final say. The Word incarnated would.

He had a response to natural evil, a plan. “I have witnessed the affliction of my people…I have heard their cry…I know well that they are suffering…” (Exodus 3:7-8)  “Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.” (Songs 8:7a) 

God sent his only son to redeem the whole world. That means that Jesus did not just come to save sinners, but to transform all of creation. Through the greatest sacrifice of LOVE, he would redeem all  creation back to the way it was before the fall. Obviously, this would only come to fruition in His kingdom. Pounder the magnitude of that! That is why the Church explains that redemptive suffering is a mystery!

But you ask? What of those in the midst of that outrageous storm of destruction. Let us look to the Psalms,  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) There is a famous poem out there called Footsteps in Sand. In that poem Jesus tells the poet that when she sees only one set of footsteps he was carrying the her. I believe in the midst of the horror of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda there were many souls being carried, being held. I find hope in that and have experienced it personally sometimes even in my greatest moments of suffering through serious illness. Not only is he there for those who lost their lives, but those who survived too. He was there for everyone even if they did not know they were carried.

I remember the Christmas Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean and killed so many on Christmas day. There was a song that came out during the same time frame that I cried through many times in prayer. I think that captures this truth so fully. The words are powerful, so I choose a video on YouTube that focuses on those only.

Held by: Natalie Grant (Mobile Device alternate video.) Very beautiful performance by Natalie Grant.

Challenge for the Week: We need to respond in solidarity and prayerful presence in the midst of these destruction storms. 

So how can we here in the states, especially those who are sick, respond to this event. We can grow in solidarity and prayerful presence.

Solidarity as defined by Blessed John Paul II, is more than a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis 38)

So let us learn about the people and grow in solidarity with them.

A friend I knew in religious formation came from this area of the Philippines. I pray for her!

A friend I knew in religious formation came from this area (blue star) of the Philippines. I pray for her!

The region we mostly see in the news is the first largest and smallest islands that took a direct hit. (Those pictures and video clips I used in my video at the beginning of this post come from that area.) What you can see from the map above there were many more islands hit by this storm. The slide show below will show wider areas and people impacted.

Slide show of the people impacted by storm: NBC NEWS.

Something to think about while growing in solidarity for these brothers and sisters in the Philippines: over 80.6% of those you see in photos and videos are Catholic. Christians in general make up 93% of the population, and Muslim is 5%, the rest are other or unspecified.

See the Filipino people have a deep personal faith no matter the tradition they are from. Their faith touches all aspects of their cultural life as a people.

I have been personally touched by pictures of those who fled their homes carrying very little personal items. But I saw many a prized religious item carried in their arms through the flood waters. So touching.

There was a picture and story of a father who clung to his children as they died together. They were found still in his arms though they were carried miles by water and struck in large debris. Among their bodies were rosaries and holy items they must have carried on their person during their tremendous struggle. Their picture was too graphic and I did not put it in the video I made because it made me cry really hard.

There are many stories of hope too. So many people interview on international news talk about their faith when any journalists stop to ask them questions. There still are tears and gut wrenching pain, but that is to be expected. How is inspiring it must be encountering someone who has lost everything, but they still share their faith even in a place where all hope seems lost.

NEWS FLASH – As of this posting – there are 5,200 + confirmed dead with over a 1,000 missing. This does not count those who may still not survive the aftermath of the clean up and disease that is sure to follow. Over 4.3  million people are without homes and over 1 million of those are children.

Below is an appeal to Catholics from a bishop who is in close contact with some of the bishops of the area hit. I am very partial to CRS because I know the good work they do and I am Catholic.

Donate to them here: Catholic Relief Services,

Other reliable organizations are. Red Cross, Word Vision. Samaritan’s Purse

I chose the above groups because of transparency and how well they use funds to impact the people the most. I like CRS and Word Vision the most because after the initial response they stay and continue the work in the country. They move beyond critical needs and help to rebuild long after others leave.

Our second response to this news is to be a prayerful presence. We are brought to prayer.

Prayer for the Week: Catholics of the Philippines are famous for their beautiful liturgical music and for guitar music.  Let us look to the Filipino people and their liturgical music to help us in our prayer. As we watch let us pray for them and all those who are impacted by calamity that threatens life and wellbeing.

Hangad – Simeon’s Canticle based on (Luke 2: 29 -32)

Hangad is a music ministry out of Philippines produced through the Jesuit Communications Foundation.

This song they sing is a prayer found in the above scripture. It is known as the Canticle of Simon and prayed every night before bed (Compline) of those who practice the Divine Office. I find solace when I pray this and when I am in my worse pain it is the only way to fall asleep

The Canticle of Simeon with antiphon

Ant. Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace (alleluia).

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;

your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Ant. Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace (alleluia).

May you have peace and know you are in my prayers.

* Great book, catechist, speaker and author living with MS. Kathleen O’ Connell Chesto, Risking Hope: Fragile Faith in the Healing Process.

** Two really good books tackling the problem of suffering are from Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering and The Problem of Suffering Reconsidered.