He desires your heart

+JMJ

There is a picture of Jesus I have that I really love. As I was looking at it one day, I wondered – what is it in His expression that helps me to pray? As I looked more closely, I saw that there was great longing in His eyes. What does Jesus long for? I believe it is to love us and to be loved in return. As Jesus’ Heart is more loving and thus more sensitive than ours, He suffers greatly when His love is met with rejection or indifference – especially in the Blessed Sacrament; the Sacrament of His love, where He is often left alone.

It is when we begin seeing more of Jesus’ love for us that we begin to really love Him. His thirst to have all of our hearts rather than just a part, satisfies our desire to love as well. Each soul is called to an intimacy with Jesus that is interior, strong, and consuming. How beautiful life becomes when we fall in love with Our Lord. I believe He longs for this too, but how?

How do we turn our faith into such a close relationship? G.K. Chesterton once said something that may sound surprising: “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”. If this is what Our Lord wants, how do we get there? I struggled with this question myself. I worried if I was being too bold with Jesus. I wondered – does He even want me to be that close? I am not a saint, far from it.

At first, our faith is something that is more theoretical. I think as we begin to pray and discover God more, we begin to know God by loving Him. Knowledge of Him becomes something deeper and it inflames the soul with love.

When we fear a close relationship with Jesus, perhaps sometimes it’s a fear of presumption, but I think it can often be a lack of trust. At the same time, the soul intensely wants to be loved by Jesus.

While I was wondering if Jesus would love me as much as I longed for, He loved me beyond all understanding. I forgot that Jesus wants to be one with each soul. He is jealous for our hearts and doesn’t want just partial intimacy with Him. Have we understood His Heart?

Have we understood how even little things we do for Him touch Him deeply? How attentive He is to our every thought, every heartbeat! If we only understand His love more, that would transform our relationship into something so beautiful. Each soul is unrepeatable. There will literally never be another like you, and you can give Jesus what no one else can. Your place in His Heart cannot be substituted by another. Let this bring you to total trust and confidence. Jesus already wants to love us more than we want to be loved, – we just need to let Him.

There is a beautiful poem by the Spanish Saint, St. John of the Cross. It is called the Spiritual Canticle and it is a loving dialogue between Christ and the soul as between a Bridegroom and bride. St. John also wrote a book explaining the meaning of his highly mystical poem. Each verse has some sort of hidden and very spiritual meaning. There are some verses in the poem that I believe show the level of closeness Jesus wants with souls:

“In the inner wine cellar / I drank of my Beloved, / and, when I went abroad through all this valley, / I no longer knew anything, / and lost the herd that I was following”.

St John describes this as the goal of spiritual growth, in which the inner wine cellar is the “most intimate degree of love” where Jesus infuses His own love into our souls. The soul forgets everything else, because Jesus becomes everything to it. If this is indeed the goal of holiness, then Jesus must very much want us to discover more of His love.

How do we even begin? Though I’m still learning, there are some ideas that I found helpful. I’m sure there are more.

  •  LET Him love you. Surrender any fear or distrust! Jesus wants your heart.
  •  Spent time with Him. Imagine an engaged couple: do they not rejoice to speak together?
  •  LET Him act. This can be hard. If while speaking to Jesus you find yourself recollected in His presence, just love Him back, open your soul and let Him do what He wishes. Be generous in responding to Him. We can never out-do Him in generosity! What do we get in return for our little efforts? His own Heart, the Heart of God.

One day as I was standing at a bus stop waiting to get home after work, I was struck by how ordinary I am and how extraordinary it is to know Jesus. As women we’re pressured to compare ourselves with others. Maybe by the standards of the world around us we all fall short. I looked at myself as another face in the crowd. Nothing extraordinary. But I realized that I’m happy, because Jesus is in my life. He can fill everything we need with Himself, and He can be who we need Him to be.

For Jesus, we are not a crowd. His gaze centers on each person. He sees YOU – as no one else sees you -and desires your heart. This relationship is not a theory, neither is it a shallow romantic notion. It is love shown through the Cross, stronger than death; a divine love that will not be content with anything but total union with the beloved.

(This article is also posted on the Made4More blog)

Advertisements

How to make a mantilla

+JMJ

If you feel drawn to wearing a mantilla for Mass, there are some online stores that offer great mantillas. I love the veils there but sometimes it can be expensive to buy one. A while ago, I found out that it’s not too difficult to make a mantilla, if you are feeling adventurous – and it only takes a bit of sewing practice 🙂

Where to get lace

I went to my local fabric store and found some lace there. Try to look for the flowy soft lace rather than the more stiff type that is used for curtains. Though much of this lace can be so expensive that it’s honestly cheaper to just buy a veil, – sometimes you can find some lace on sale for very cheap. I’ve found lace for as little as 5 to 12 dollars per meter. If you are making a smaller mantilla, you can buy around a meter just to be safe, but if you would like a really large one, I would recommend getting a meter and a half to two meters.

The lace that I found works the best is floral lace. There seem to be two methods to make the mantilla: cutting out the flowers, or adding trim to the edges. The advantage of cutting out the flower shapes is that you don’t need to buy trim – but not all lace works for this. I’ve found that designs with medium to large roses work the best for cutting out the flowers, and everything else is safer with a trim. Some lace also has a nice texture, while other types are very light and airy – it all depends on what type of mantilla you want. The great thing about this is that your mantilla would be completely custom made!

The colours I found range from white, cream, black, blue, beige, and grey.

How to make the mantilla

First, decide on the length and style. Mantillas come in several types of shapes: triangular, semi-circular, or rectangular. Triangular is the easiest to make.

How I did it is I just draped the fabric over my head and measured how long I’d like the veil to be. Then, I laid out the fabric on a flat surface and planned out the triangle that I would be cutting out. If you are adding trim, this part is not too difficult: add an extra centimeter, get some good scissors, and cut out the shape. If you are cutting out the flowers, you would need to actually follow the design to make sure that it would make a triangular shape once cut out. This doesn’t always work and I wasted some nice blue lace this way because I didn’t plan well enough. 🙂 Then, you can cut around the flowers to make it easier, and then use tiny sharp scissors to carefully cut out the flower shapes.

Whether you are making a triangular or semi-circular D-shaped veil, it helps to fold the fabric in half when cutting it, so that it’s perfectly symmetrical. You can also use pins to pin it together so that it’s easier to cut.

Once you’ve cut out the veil, if you are adding trim, you can do it by hand or use a sewing machine. I would recommend a sewing machine, but first attaching the trim by hand so that it stays in place as you sew on the machine. If you are adding the trim by hand, use very little stitches on the very edge of the trim to make it less noticeable. I used a type of stitch called the overcast stitch.

Here are some pictures of veils that I’ve made for myself. I just realized that the first one I put on backwards for the picture! The last one is a beige veil with cut-out roses. It has a nice textured lace that stays easily on the head.

Happy sewing 🙂

IMG_20150715_155443

IMG_20150715_155516

IMG_20150715_155459

Tips to Discern Your Vocation (Part 2)

405px-Charles_Camino_-_Nun_in_Prayer_-_Walters_371306

+JMJ

As we consider the different options of what God might want us to do, it can be very overwhelming to discern what is actually His Will. What could help us to find out God’s plan for us? How do we know it’s His plan, and not just ours?

As I am seeking His will for my life, here are some things I have found helpful so far (though I am still on the journey) :

Prayer: of course, the thing that helps the most is prayer. If we want to know what God wants us to do, the best thing is to seek His Will with an open heart. Mental prayer is extremely helpful here. Prayer also develops our relationship with God so that we can more easily hear and recognize His voice. As we pray, we may notice that certain desires of the heart grow and begin to give a certain joy and peace during prayer. A discernment pamphlet I once read made the point that it is normal if there is fear or confusion at certain times, but if we have peace about something in prayer that could be discerned with the help of a spiritual director. According to Ignatian spirituality, it seems best to also discern God’s will during times of consolation rather than times of dryness.

Sacraments: literature for discerners always mentions frequent reception of the Sacraments and attendance at daily Mass if possible. I found that lengthening my thanksgiving after Mass helped me to receive more grace and grow in intimacy with Jesus. God does not force us to receive His grace in Communion, and this depends on our disposition. Making a good thanksgiving afterwards is a great way to help us be better disposed to receive everything that God wants to give us.

Spiritual direction: I also realized that I do not know my soul as well as I thought, and my spiritual director has been incredibly helpful to help me identify areas to grow in. If you do not know where to begin looking for one, I would recommend asking your priest if he is available, and if not, if he has any recommendations. A diocesan vocations director may also be available to be a spiritual director to those discerning their vocation.

Active discernment: with the help of my spiritual director and other Catholics, I realized that we need to discern actively. Prayer is very important, but often God shows us His will as we are taking steps towards it.

Surrender to the Divine Will: It’s often important to surrender own desires, even if they turn out to be God’s plan for us too. This helps us to be more honest and open as we seek God’s Will, and helps us to also grow in holiness in the meantime – especially if we do this during trials in our discernment. This can be accomplished simply through making interior acts of surrender to God, or saying prayers like “Jesus, Your Will be done, not mine” or “Jesus, I trust in You”.

Cooperating with grace: often, it seems that God does not show us His will until He prepares us through many little steps. Each of these steps contains a grace, and these graces form a chain that allows us to advance. In a way it is also like climbing the stairs! I learned (sometimes through trial and error) that it is important to be faithful and responsive to the grace that God is offering right now. This means being open to it but also putting it into practice. This grace could be anything the Holy Spirit knows you need, but some examples could be a desire for more prayer, an attraction to a way of life, or a call to make a little sacrifice.

We only develop a virtue when it is being tested. Often, discerning a vocation can be stressful because of the uncertainty surrounding it, yet precisely in this uncertainty, we can grow in trust. Sometimes it seems like everyone else is finding their vocation, except me! One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to take it a day at a time and live in the present. God’s will is not just something in the future, but also where I am right now. Even if everything seems to go wrong, that gives us a chance to learn abandonment to God, and when it finally works out, we would see that it was clearly His work. A work built on ruins and seeming impossibility shows God as the builder and glorifies His power and mercy.

The vocation that God has for each person is their unique path to holiness and it is where they would be happiest. It is the place where God has prepared graces for them to help them attain salvation and become a saint. Other souls could also depend on their vocation. This amount of responsibility could feel overwhelming, especially as we see our weakness. Yet instead of discernment becoming a fearful search, it can help to prepare us for our ultimate vocation. I believe our job is to simply be faithful and cooperate, and God takes the heaviest part. A vocation is built upon grace, not human strength.

Finally, it is good to remember that God supplies the grace we need! If He calls someone to a certain way of life, He will also enable them to do it, even if it is naturally difficult. This is true for both marriage and consecrated life, and especially in the latter as it is a supernatural calling that we are not naturally drawn to. As Our Lord said, He is the vine and we are the branches, and without Him we can do nothing. Each vocation involves a gift of the self and sacrifice. Each has joys and crosses. Each vocation is also fruitful, as a woman can be either a physical mother to children, or a spiritual mother of souls.

Image Source

Discerning a Vocation (Part 1)

404px-Abend_am_Wolfgangsee_01

+JMJ

Each person has a unique path and mission from God that He wishes them to accomplish. Their state of life determines many things such as how they would serve God, but primarily, who they are in relation to Him and to others. It is very important to discern one’s own vocation that God is calling them to, and what follows is just a general summary of various vocations available in the Church:

Marriage is the vocation that most people are called to. God had placed a natural desire in the human heart for a family. Marriage in the Church has a beautiful meaning. It is a Sacrament, which means that through it, the spouses receive grace. With the help of this grace, the husband and wife help each other to become holy. God instituted marriage as a visible sign of His love: the love between Christ and the Church, His Bride. This is the reason why the Church teaches that marriage should be “faithful, monogamous, indissoluble, and fruitful” (Scott Hahn, Swear to God: the Promise and Power of the Sacraments). The purpose of marriage is tied up with the (amazing) idea that a man and a woman can cooperate with God in creating a new life: a totally unique person, never to be repeated, whom God wants to share in His own life for all eternity!

However, God does not call all to marriage. He calls some to be consecrated to Him in a special way, which means to be set apart for Him alone. We are all consecrated to God through our Baptism, and “consecrated life” deepens this consecration and points to the reality of Heaven, where, as Scripture says we would be like the angels who do not marry. Earthly marriage involves the spouse leading the person closer to God. In consecrating and perpetually vowing one’s chastity to God, a soul loves Him in a more exclusive way, a way that some Saints have understood to be like a spiritual spousal bond with Christ. This is what happens at a nun’s final profession when she makes her perpetual vows: she can relate to Jesus as her Spouse in a spiritual way. This bond reflects the reality of Heaven where each soul will be like a bride, as part of the Church. In a way, consecrated life enables the soul to begin this reality here on earth (in a limited way of course). The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience are counsels to perfection that are an imitation of Christ’s own life on earth.

There are several different forms of consecrated life: religious life, consecrated virginity, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, and eremitic life. The type that most people are familiar with is religious life. Religious life make public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and usually live in community. There are the older religious orders that are more contemplative such as the Carmelites, Benedictines, and Poor Clares. There are other newer congregations that have an active apostolate, such as the Sisters of Life or teaching Dominican Sisters. Religious orders and congregations differ in the vows they make (solemn or simple) and by name: the first are called nuns, and the second are called Sisters.

Consecrated virgins are women who have received a special consecration by their Bishop. In the early Church, they lived individually and later began forming communities. It is believed this eventually lead to religious life. Early on, there were orders that also did the consecration of virgins but later this practice became rare. Recently, the vocation was revived as a state of life for women in the world. As the name implies, the consecration requires physical virginity to be valid. A consecrated virgin bears an official, canonical title of a bride of Christ and in a way symbolizes the Church, though often religious share in this spirituality.

Members of secular institutes are consecrated persons who live in the world. They work to help sanctify the world and each secular institute has a distinct spirituality. Societies of Apostolic Life do not have vows, but share a way of life in common and may still follow the evangelical counsels. Eremitic life is lived by hermits to devote themselves to silence, solitude, and prayer.

The Church document Vita Consecrata also mentions those who make a private vow to God as a “special consecration”, though this is not listed as a form of consecrated life. These people live in the world and often take a vow of chastity (though some have taken another vow too), preferably under the guidance of a spiritual director. They follow their own rule of life or belong to a Third Order (the members of which are lay people associated with a religious order such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, or Carmelites). Though the Church does not yet offer extensive information on private vows, there are some great Saints who lived with them – St Catherine of Siena, St Rose of Lima, and St Gemma Galgani (who is also counted among the Passionist Saints because she intended to be a Passionist nun).

The next part will talk about how we can start discerning our own vocation!

Image Source

Blessed Dina Belanger

+JMJ

Recently I was very blessed to visit the tomb of Blessed Dina Belanger.

She was a Sister, a Religious of Jesus and Mary, who lived in Quebec in the early 20th century. She was also a mystical soul who got to know many secrets of Jesus’ Heart to share with the world. Her feast day is September 4th. The relics of Blessed Dina are located in the chapel of the convent of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Sillery. In addition there is a selection of old photographs and some of her things.

Jesus spoke to Blessed Dina about His love and especially His love for consecrated souls. I’d encourage anyone in the area to visit too and get to know about her. I also met some of the Sisters and was kindly given a little tour and some reading/devotional materials. Some more information about Blessed Dina is that she was a talented musician and played the piano. As a Sister, she gave music lessons to children. She was also a good student and a loving daughter to her parents. Most of all she had a great love for Jesus and said her mission is to beg Him for love for souls. Her mission still continues from Heaven. Blessed Dina, pray for us!

IMG_20150801_094838273

The littlest bird

Precious Blood doves fountain sacred heart

+JMJ

(Dedicated to St Therese, who spoke of these ideas in her book Story of a Soul).

A little bird

Gazed at the sky.

There, eagles soared,

Larks sang,

Brilliant colours dazzled it.

Its heart rejoiced,

It reached for the heights.

Then, it saw its own grey feathers,

And a little broken wing.

On the earth, it cried –

“I am the smallest!”

And as it wept,

It did not see –

The sun’s rays

Enveloping it,

It did not see –

Two hands holding it.

For Love reaches to the low,

As to the high.

Abandonment

Lord, teach me to do Thy Will

+JMJ

On a long journey,

A father carried his child.

The small child dreamed –

A vale of flowers,

Brilliant sunshine,

A bright blue ocean.

But the skies were grey,

Rain fell,

The wind beat against his face.

The child looked at the dark sky,

The cliffs, the sharp rocks,

And was afraid.

“Where am I going? And how?”

Then he looked at his father,

And saw that he was still carried,

And he did not look away.

Canticle of St Agnes

Simple, Sweet, Modest Bouasse Lebel 1496

+JMJ

I loved this poem about the Virgin Martyr, St Agnes. This poem was written by St Therese of Lisieux, translated from the original French.

  “My only Love is Christ.”

From the Acts of her Martyrdom

Christ is my Love alone, all life is He for me;

He is my one Betrothed, Who charms my dazzled eyes;

E’en now I hear vibrate the solemn harmony

Of His melodious sighs.

With precious stones and gold He decks my flowing hair,

Already on my hand shines bright His nuptial ring;

And many lustrous stars, magnificently fair,

Are love-gifts from my King.

With pearls, all price beyond, has He adorned my hands;

About my neck He placed a necklace wondrous bright;

Celestial rubies red, from far-off unknown lands,

Bedeck my ears to-night.

Betrothed am I to Him on Whom the angels wait,

Trembling before His throne throughout eternity;

The sun and moon His praise with rapture will relate,

Till time shall cease to be.

Divine His Person is; heaven is His realm of bliss;

He for His Mother chose a Virgin here on earth;

Who no beginning hath, nor end, His Father is, —

Eternal is that birth.

Ah! when this Jesus Christ at times to touch I dare,

More pure becomes my heart; more chaste, dear Lord, am I!

The kisses of His mouth give me the treasure fair

Of blest virginity.

His signet He hath set already on my face,

That so no earthly love may dare draw nigh to me;

Kept thus for Christ alone, by His abiding grace,

His perfect purity.

Cleansed by the precious Blood He shed on Calvary’s cross,

Already here I taste of heaven’s matchless bliss;

The honey and the milk — with joys that know not loss —

Come to me with His kiss.

No thought of fear have I, of either flame or sword:

For naught can now disturb this perfect heavenly peace

A fire of love divine pervades my soul, O Lord:

And never shall it cease.

January21, 1896.

(image credit: http://holycardheaven.blogspot.ca/

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

image unaltered)

Jesus only

4_ My beloved to me and I to HIm

+JMJ

This is a poem written by St Therese of Lisieux for a novice

Oh, how my heart would spend itself, to bless;

It hath such need to prove its tenderness!

And yet what heart can my heart comprehend?

What heart shall always love me without end?

All — all in vain for such return seek I;

Jesus alone my soul can satisfy.

Naught else contents or charms me here below;

Created things no lasting joy bestow.

My peace, my joy, my love, O Christ!

‘Tis Thou alone! Thou hast sufficed.

Thou didst know how to make a mother’s heart;

Tenderest of fathers, Lord! to me Thou art.

My only Love, Jesus, Divinest Word!

More than maternal is Thy heart, dear Lord!

Each moment Thou my way dost guard and guide;

I call — at once I find Thee at my side —

And if, sometimes Thou hid’st Thy face from me,

Thou com’st Thyself to help me seek for Thee.

Thee, Thee, alone I choose: I am Thy bride.

Unto Thy arms I hasten, there to hide.

Thee would I love, as little children love;

For Thee, like warrior bold, my love I’d prove.

Now, like to children, full of joy and glee,

So come I, Lord! to show my love to Thee;

Yet, like a warrior bold with high elation,

Rush I to combats in my blest vocation.

Thy Heart is Guardian of our innocence;

Not once shall it deceive my confidence.

Wholly my hopes are placed in Thee, dear Lord!

After long exile, I Thy Face adored

In heaven shall see. When clouds the skies o’erspread.

To Thee, my Jesus! I lift up my head;

For, in Thy tender glance, these words I see:

“O child! I made My radiant heaven for thee.”

I know it well — my burning tears and sighs

Are full of charm for Thy benignant eyes.

Strong seraphs form in heaven Thy court divine,

Yet Thou dost seek this poor weak heart of mine.

Ah! take my heart! Jesus, tis Thine alone;

All my desires I yield to Thee, my Own!

And all my friends, that are so loved by me,

No longer will I love them, save in Thee!

August 15, 1896.

(image credit: http://holycardheaven.blogspot.ca/

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

image unaltered)

Our Lady

+JMJ

This is a recent picture of Our Lady. I’m sure she is more beautiful in reality.. I don’t want to take credit for drawing it because I believe Our Lady helped somehow, so the credit goes to her 🙂

The words are “Ecce ancilla Domini, Fiat mihi secundum verbum Tuum”. They are from the Angelus and the translation is “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word”. These are the words that Our Lady spoke as she accepted God’s Will unreservedly and with great trust, and at her Fiat, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became incarnate to save us.

DSC03303edit