Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unrestrained Love or Coffee Spoons? A Meditation on the Visitation

Picture taken by Miranda Knofczynski

 Today is the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  This feast is a wonderful opportunity to ponder how we encounter and respond to the movements of the Lord.  Mary hears the words of the Angel Gabriel, and she believes.  She believes and she responds, not only with her great fiat -"be it done to me according to thy word" - but also with an immediate act of charity and generosity, anticipating the needs of her cousin.  In haste Mary goes to Elizabeth, who is expecting to give birth "in her old age" to the prophet John the Baptist.  Mary holds nothing back, she responds to God immediately, and He in turn holds nothing back from her. God responds to Mary's unrestrained giving of herself with a joyous affirmation, by Elizabeth, of the unbelievable events that are occurring. Elizabeth's prophetic response to the Holy Spirit was:
"Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy,  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." 
Both she and Elizabeth believed and responded with the whole of their hearts!  What would happen if you and I responded to God with such generosity?  What would happen if all the passion and desire that we so easily allow to misdirect us, or, even worse, through fear we suppress, were given over to the Lord with a daily fiat? What could happen if we accepted our lowliness, our nothingness without fear and allowed the Mighty One to sweep us away in His divine love?  What  could happen if we did not fear the deep emptiness that reveals our spiritually starved souls , but feared comfort that dulls and obscures our longings until it was too late and we are too lost?  Time is running out for you and for me.  Can we respond with Mary's beautiful canticle, rejoicing in our nothingness, because it is that humility which allows the unfathomable love of God to direct our paths through this valley of tears?

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones; but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant remembering his mercy according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Maybe this seem like an odd diversion, but I have just re-read T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  There are various analyses of the poem, but just today I watched a YouTube video on the Holy Spirit by Father Robert Barron in which he used a quote from the poem, " I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" as an example of a life lived withholding generous love.  A life lived afraid and unresponsive to passion and desire, and Prufrock is aware that his time to act is running out. It struck me that the frustrated sense of decay, unfulfilled longings and desires that  permeates the poem speaks of a lack of the overflowing love of the Spirit of God.  A withholding of love indicates a lack of love. The stanza before has Prufrock wondering "Do I dare disturb the universe?"  Well, with the Spirit of God directing those longings, desires and passions they will not only not be suppressed, they will fearlessly pour out with love unending and disturb the universe, but in a way according to the word of God.   

Brothers and sisters:  Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  Romans 12: 9-16
 Respond to God as Mary did; disturb the universe! Not by grasping at power or by fantasizing about mighty deeds, but by the transformation of your heart and soul through the humble reception of the Word! Let the Spirit flow through you with courage and joy, anticipating the needs of others and pouring out with unrestrained love.  Do you dare disturb the universe?  Do I?  Let us pray with Mary and Elizabeth today for an unrestrained and passionate response to the Spirit!

Peace and Grace!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Garden Canticle

Spring is here, and in this Marian month of May, with yard work and spring cleaning in progress (okay, I have not started spring cleaning) my two youngest and I spent a morning playing under the watchful and peaceful gaze of Mary. I tried to say a Rosary while the kids were running and climbing, but alas!  Motherhood means praying on the run, so instead I let my spirit lead me;  and how can you resist praying her beautiful canticle from Luke 1: 46-55?

My soul does magnify the Lord.  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.  Because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid:  for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  Because He that is mighty has done great things for me:  and holy is His name.

photo by Heidi Knofczynski

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.  He has shown the might of His arm:  He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.  He has put down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble.  

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

He has filled the hungry with good things:  and the rich He has sent empty away.  He has received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.  And He spoke to our fathers:  to Abraham and to his seed forever.

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski
Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

We had only one mishap, Max pulled a wheel barrow full of soil on top of himself!  Nothing that a hug and a bath did not fix! And it gave me pause to reflect that even when we have muddied ourselves in our sin, we know that Our Lady will gently guide us into reconciliation and repentance so that we can be cleansed in His loving mercy!  

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

May the prayers of the Mother of God be with all who read this blog. May her praise of our Lord ring joyfully in our hearts!  And may we respond to her request to "do whatever He asks of you."

Peace and Grace,

Friday, May 4, 2012


I had to laugh after watching a trailer for a new movie coming out.  Given Hollywood's perpetual mockery of the Catholic Church it is no real surprise that the part that caused the laugh was actually an uncharitable attempt at humor on the movie maker's part at the expense of Catholicism.  The line more or less implied that a Catholic does not think for themselves.
Why I laughed? There was great irony in that line.  Funny thing is the Church has always taught that free will, intellect, and reason are gifts from God and we are to use them.  It seems far more appropriate to imply  Hollywood as being the institution that encourages little thought.
A PERSON (not an angel)  trying to live an authentic Catholic life responds to the demands of deeper thought and effort.  They tend to hold themselves accountable for their words and deeds (Confession).  To adhere to the tenets of a demanding faith is far more challenging than giving into society's easy relativism .
 Obedience and humility are no easy feat for most of us.  Offering up our suffering and putting ourselves second is also no easy feat for most of us.  Tempering emotions and showing genuine love are not easy feats either.  These things are just the beginning of what we are called to do and each one of them requires a whole lot of thought and effort.  Sometimes it even requires our lives (Martyrs) 
The Church has challenged us to look beyond ourselves and the moment.  We are called to keep walking the road to the ultimate goal - being with God forever.  Even when society mocks Catholics we are to keep steadily on the road revealed to us from the time of Adam and Abraham through Jesus our Savior to today and tomorrow in the Church guided by the Holy Spirit. 
A little ironic humor certainly keeps the journey on this road interesting.-joze