Saturday, May 19, 2018

What's In A Name? Feast Day of St.Celestine V, By:C.C.

Pope Celestine V
Information below aided by a film found at Formed.Org "Saint Celestine: The Pope Who Quit"
and my Nonna
The extent I knew of my middle name, Celeste  in 2011 when I opened up this blog, was that it's meaning is "heavenly" and that I share a middle name with my paternal nonna, and also with my godfather whose middle name is Celestino. 

Beyond this, I had no deeper care for meaning. However, it did seem all the more appropriate to be using this "heavenly" name as I blogged the experience of attempting to draw nearer to meriting heaven (still stumbling and typing away). 

Celeste stuck, and I grew to like it. Although in learning Catherine means "pure" I was quite drawn to that too. Too bad I wasn't made aware of the meanings of my first and second name before many falls..names better suited then would have been impure and hellish, I digress. 

Over time, I became more interested in origin, precisely listening to my grandmother share stories of her hometown Sant'Angelo, Limosano in Molise, Italy. My father was born there. It is good to learn our history, there are lessons and wisdom to unearth. 

I recall speaking to my nonna some years ago about our shared name, she went on to tell me that her nonna was also named Celeste and many others down the line in her family also had the masculine name of Celestino. It's not uncommon in Italian tradition to be passing down names, so it wasn't completely unnatural to see this pattern. However, one day she told me that this name came from a Pope born in her town. I was quite confused, primarily because I hadn't heard of him, and secondly because her recollection of the history was very scarce as well. I dug deeper. And in digging deeper I discovered a fascinating man, a holy man, who desired a quiet life of solitude as a hermit, and ended up briefly serving as Pope before resigning. He is also the patron saint of Sant'Angelo.

His life, I came to learn was one of mystery. Even the exact town and date of his birth are argued over. There are two places in Molise that claim to be his birthplace, Isernia and our hometown of Sant' Angelo in Campobasso. Obviously, I choose to claim him as belonging to Sant' Angelo....shamelessly. 

Saint Celestine was born Pietro Angelerio, also known as Pietro of Morrone. in arguably 1209 or 1215, he was the 11th of 12 children and came from a farming family. He was not poor so was able to have his studies paid for. 

He felt called to enter the Benedictine order, as he felt strongly drawn to ancient tradition and especially a call to detach from the world. He sought to live alone in caves and other very solitary places removed from the world. 

A professor from the University of Verona, named Paolo Golinelli stated that "Pietro felt life should be articulated by prayers and very little sleep" He longed for living a life of simplicity and austerity. He also lived in a very turbulent time of the Church history. Between 1217 and 1270, five crusades were announced and several chaotic situations arose from there, including a great deal of heresy.

Pietro's quiet life in the caves and mountains surrounding Molise became noisier as people were made aware of his apparent holiness. People flocked to visit with him often, and he would soon then quicken his steps to flee seeking the solitary and prayerful life in a new secluded place. 

He was considered then a living saint, and also attributed to being a "miracle worker" people claimed being healed by him in various ways.  Golinelli said that "his miracles were very peculiar , almost as a type of rural and country healer" He was also very cautious about company with women, and never wished to see them, if they should have required his aid for healing then the husbands of these women were sent to see Pietro on their behalf. 

He had grown a small following of men who desired to live his way of life, a way of life based on the traditional Benedictine order, with an even more intense austerity than what was observed being lived by him. It is noted as being similar to the Cistercians, even in dress. I found this point to be most intriguing. For me, the Cistercian charism has been one of great inspiration and has helped form me. 

There seems to be scarce information about what the life of his order was like specifically, making it difficult for me to draw definitive differences or concrete similarities. But the depth of reverence for silence and solitude from the world and prayer is woven within both. 

Pietro wanted to escape the political current of his time, while also mindful of it's reality and his desire to establish his order securely he walked to Lyon, France in 1274, travelling 1200km to speak with Pope Gregory X ,and to take part in the "Council of Lyon in hopes to get his order approved. Because it was not possible to found new orders.During the Fourth Council of the Lateran, a special decree had already been issued : ne nimia monacorum 'Let there not be too many monks" ..limiting the proliferation of orders, but his order is included in the Benedictine tradition, for this reason it is not a new order, but rather a particular version of the Benedictine monasticism."

Through such Pietro was able to have his order secured, they would become known as the Celestines, following his acceptance of the Papacy and him taking the name Pope Celestine V, an event which came about in the oddest of fashions. 

The Church was in a complete mess. There was a struggle between the powers of Roman families and the Cardinals within the Church, and for nearly 28 months at the time there was no Pope in Rome. 

Pietro wrote a letter to the Cardinals in the conclave and expressed great concern for the misfortune that this is bringing upon the Church in not being able to elect a new pope. 

Essentially the cardinals unanimously chose Pietro to be Pope! 

It was noted in the documentary that reasons for this included the facts that he was not involved in the power games of the royal families, nor did he enjoy great prestige, and that he could be a great calm to the storm. 

His tone of humility and poverty was amplified when he rode into L'aquila (the place of his coronation ) on a donkey and not a white horse. It was said that he wanted to deliver a message of poverty and a truly Christian lifestyle of holiness into the church of his times. 

He was also most inspired by St.John the Baptist, and chose the day of his martyrdom to be the one of his papal coronation. It was noted that over 200,000 pilgrims came to this event, yes, even before the world of twitter and social media, that is quite profound! Even Dante Alighieri was in attendance from Florence! People were so hopeful for renewal in the Church by the hands of this new hermit holy Pope.

A month into his papacy he appointed twelve new Cardinals and wanted to quickly weed out influences of noble Roman families. 

The documentary spoke of a letter he wrote in his acceptance of the papacy, where "he references the beheading of St. John  the Baptist, and compared his tiara to the scimitar on the saints neck" meaning that he would sacrifice himself for the unity and forgiveness of the Church. For Celestine, the greatest sin is the separation, the schism within the Church."

He resided in a castle in Naples, and demanded to live in an underground , damp cell, opposed to the luxurious apartment prepared for him. He sought to maintain as much as possible his life as a hermit. That is what he most desired to be, praying and meditating. It was evident during this time that resignation was on his mind, however there naturally arose the question, "Can a pope resign?"

The man who would become his successor, Pope Boniface VIII, came forth with a solution 

"When a cardinal agrees to become Pope , then he gives his consent to the election of the Pope. Therefore, he may withdraw this consent without being influenced by anyone but his own will. "

In Decemeber of 1294, St.Celestine summoned the Cardinals, and announced what has become historically known as the "great refusal"

Fr. Quirino Salomone of Studi Celestiniani ,shared that "Celestino did not refuse , but rather gave up, he resigned. Celestino did not refuse the papacy he accepted, and then resigned."

People were very disappointed in this. The faithful were hopeful in him for change in the Church, and to put an end to the "material church".

As for Pietro , the humble monk , he returned to a cell, although this time as a prisoner of Pope Boniface VIII, who feared he would become an antipope, and held him in the castle of Fumone, where he resorted again to a life of prayer and meditation. 

He passed away on May 19th , 1296.

As for the Celestines, they are no more. But as for me, I find great comfort in coming to learn of this holy man and saint from my father's hometown.

I am equally thankful that the message of needed holiness is alive in the Church today. 

Celeste, has now become a name of greater value to me than it was before. In speaking with my godfather today, in light of my recent learnings, I assured him someday we would venture to Sant'Angelo and the surrounding areas to pay homage to a humble holy monk from our ancestral home and the reason for our sharing of middle names. (CC)

St.Celestine , pray for us, and for the holiness of our Church.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Motherhood: Learning About Holiness in Fragments. By:C.C.

On April 9th, The Pope released his Apostolic Exhortation, Guadete et Exsultate. In this lovely exhoration, Pope Francis highlights the very important and personal call that all of us faithful, within our various vocations, have to strive toward holiness. 

Perhaps it seems rather obvious that in taking one's faith life seriously, there is an element of desiring to be "holy" demanded of us. Though, at times this can be something that may be lost on us. We could struggle from unhealthy ideas of what holiness truly is and where it is found. 

It is important to recognize that holiness deeply belongs to where Christ has called you to serve, presently. And has also provided there a grace to enter into what is before you, keeping always present God above. 

This may seem a rather idealistic portrayal. In the practical, moments and circumstances demand questions, peace may seem far out of reach, and the mundane items seem overwhelmingly unholy. There is nothing further from the truth! It is quite dangerous spiritually, to envision holiness as belonging somewhere in the clouds and not in the trenches of ordinary and practical life. 

My reflections on this area increased greatly by the very means I had to approach this document. In fragments, due to my natural obligations that I have throughout the day. By doing such , the call to holiness in motherhood became even more evident to me than it has been made known already through experience. 

I read the first section riding the bike while the kids were napping.

While I would have preferred to sit with a coffee and indulge in the document, I recognized that part of my being able to remain holy throughout my day is tending well to myself, and disciplining myself to have daily exercise increases the peace in me and aids me to be better to those I serve.

The area of motherhood is one that I have a very big heart for. In saying this, it also seems to be an area that is incredibly challenged and deeply misunderstood by society at large, more tragically by many women themselves. 

There is a certain reverence owed to it, that when forgotten , robs it's very essence of sacrificial servitude and replaces it instead as a self-loathed burden. 

I had to stop reading to vacuum the stairs

While I vacuumed I thought about what I read, the service of my day amplified the call to personal holiness in the deeply practical areas. Even vacuuming the stairs is not excluded from striving for holiness. Holiness manifests in the practical, on the ground. To be obedient to duties that confront us responding with love, gives rise to peace. This simple work becomes a prayerful offering.

Motherhood is often described as a thing to simply "survive" and to me that is a wounding claim, though I am sure moments can arise where one feels they are clinging off a cliff dangling , holding onto dirty bibs, screaming babies, and explosive poo. This is not a task to simply survive, but to find immense life in, and to discover the grace of God's sustenance in all of it. To see that there is nothing untouched by the providence of God, especially towards the heart of woman, offering up her many tasks in caring for the beloved , His beloved, that were sent to them.

Where there is holiness there is freedom. Our vocations call us to become holy. To discover the implications of this is where we find freedom and the grace of endurance to greet every task with joy and balance. To know to place proper emphasis on the ordinary, extraordinarily, we need to be mindful of our deeper purpose. 

We need to reclaim that we are called and sustained by leaning into the love and providence of God. That nothing is insignificant, nothing too mundane or apart from His movements.

I had to prepare the chicken for dinner..

Yet another pause, another means to fulfill a task oriented toward personal holiness.   

For a mother, especially as a mother at home full-time, the call to holiness is evident in every natural rhythm of my day. Balance and structure is a primary necessity to be able to have peace, and so this has been source of much clarity for me in order to see the moments that welcome a call to holiness. 

For those, who present the task as near impossible do a tremendous disservice to themselves, and primarily place limitations on the goodness of God's graces that are especially near to us, should we desire to remain in Him. There are practical means to living this out. It belongs and begins in prayer. Because alone, we learn quite quickly that we sink without this. 

There is need then to practically make time to sit with God.Even if ever briefly , formally in prayer. One must strive to make that important and a priority. It is the fuel and the source of anything good that we will do throughout the day. If God is not primary in our order of things then secondary items in comparison only spiral out of control. The yearning for "me time" as often pitched by our secular society, is truly a starvation for time with God. The more we avoid this, the more sense of motherhood as a burden surfaces.

 Most of what I learned practically about my vocation, oddly came from observing the monastic life, prior to even knowing I was called to marriage, let alone to motherhood. The natural rhythm of work and prayer (ora et labora) was incredibly helpful to understand and recognize the fundamental sustenance of God's grace through prayer, to endure work, which was not separate from the prayer itself, but only the manifestation of prayer in the practical. The service of our hands is the offering we make to God. 

I sat across from an old monk in my young adulthood, and he shared with me how he was greatly moved by a woman who had come to the Abbey with her TWELVE children and her husband. They were annual retreatants.  Her children were of varying ages. And there was a newborn. As he spoke to me, I was amazed by his amazement at her sacrifice, not that it isn't heroic, because goodness.........I can't begin to claim how many ways it indeed is. 

But what struck him the most was the thought of rising in the middle of the night to feed a newborn baby. He said to me "You have really got to have a profound love for someone to be able to do this, joyfully, and lovingly, and not despise it". I did not offer much to that, as I couldn't claim experience yet to know what such a love, was. But I quickly thought of his life, and this is where the call to holiness, became quite evident. 

I was amazed by his awe, precisely because this is a man who has woken every day for nearly 60 years then, at 2am to pray his Vigils, without fail, without complaint, simply with a fullness of love for the Lord. If he could do that for the God that he "cannot see" , then how much more gracious is motherhood in giving to us this life, this infant, whom we see, hear cry, and can wake for in those early hours, during the early phases of development to hold and caress, and to love?

 This to me began my formation in motherhood. Long before a vow was even a thought. It resonated deeply with me there, and it remained.

It has been the source of tremendous courage and importance. The sacrifice of another that we experience helps us to endure our own. It is for such that we do not journey alone to holiness but as a Church at large. It is by each of us being faithful to the vocations we have and the call to personal holiness that encouragement is fostered.

My husband came home from his meetings hungry

By this point I was sitting with a coffee and quite enjoying myself, so this moment particularly demanded me to put my thoughts into action and to serve and tend to him lovingly. There would perhaps be nothing more troubling than reading about holiness in our personal vocations and having it take us away from doing what brings forth our holiness. I found renewed joy in his grumbling hunger, and the opportunity to serve.

Part of the freedom and enjoyment of fulfilling the very demanding role of motherhood is in growing in an understanding of it's dignity and value. We can only recognize such by remaining near to God. And in having a practical sense of what holiness is and the clarity to see that the opportunity greets us daily. 

The kids woke up from their nap

At this point I put the exhortation away and tended to my children. I was just about done my reading though. My son awoke with the most horrifying poo, there was nothing more grounding and humbling. There is great holiness in praising the poo. Though it may be often tough to "doo doo" ;)

"Go to Joseph"

Holiness manifests in the ordinary. The means to see this begins by starting the day with time in the Lord. It is the foundation of peace to lovingly endure what comes. If you can get to daily Mass this is also very helpful. I always tell moms to keep near to the Blessed Mother, but on Easter Sunday I received a message from a priest in Rome, at the bottom of his signature was "Ite Ad Joseph" , it resonated with me. Quite often I have petitioned him for my husband's vocation as a man and father, but I see him now as a very helpful intercessor for us mothers. For what better care can we expect than from a saint who cared for the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Lord Jesus? 

May we all strive daily to be faithful to what is presented to us as a means for our good, God's glory, and our long journey to becoming holy.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Help Us To Know You Dead. By:C.C.

Today we stop to pay homage to Your going.
The sun shines intensely and it's wounding, radiant with reason for it's being.
Burnt offering proclaiming God's goodness,
and the darkness of Your endured absence.

To the tomb , to the tomb, dead within us.
Weeping without hope, insensible despair.
Hidden from this great unknown
Yet, known to us it is by grace of time , 
how unmerited it seems.

The dream they wept for 
we live out daily.
All of this faith, all of our disbelief
woven in the experience of Cross to tomb

We slumber there in disobedience of the garden 
Trembling with the obedient consent You prayed in yours. 

While they mourned the loss of their hope
We mourn in the disbelief that is frequently ours.
Standing at the Cross in solidarity, 
mourning at the tomb in confused offering .

Messy praise ,and faithless glory, unknown Lord.
At times we come so unprepared.
What we know to call good emerges from this darkness .

Why have You told the sun to shine so brightly today? 

Haunted by the grace of Your rising
Please Lord , help us to know You dead!
Help us to see Your lifeless and bloody body offered. 
Help us to stand beside our Mother, Your Mother , 
help us to feel that sword!

Help us help to lay you in the tomb...

Just so maybe, for once, we can purify what we think we own in faith
Yet lack to claim by love.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Remembering The Cross. By: C.C.

A spirit of irreverence toward God increases to the measure that one lives mindless of the Cross.

The Cross that we can often be mindless of bleeds for our attention. Not just a look of acknowledgement but of trembling reverence, of complete and honest submission in whatever capacity we have received to offer ourselves. 

This remembering, though not pretty or comfortable is a necessity of our spiritual life and faith in Christ . It is by this alone that we begin to grasp the fragments of the understanding available to us about the height of Christ's radical love.

Love is taught here. 

Love is revealed.

Given life, learned in the giving up of Christ's life for us. 

The Cross is our unified place of belonging. It is the inescapable reality of our humanity . We , would rather suffer it without naming it, live chased by its shadow but keep running on our own esteem. 

Silly we are to run from such love. Strange love no doubt , but only in meditation of it do the implications of this love unfold to us, shaped as a cross.

"Do this is in memory of me"  becomes the necessity of remembering our belonging. The harness to our striving toward sanctity, and our encouragement along the way toward the eternal end. 

What we gain by our nearness to Calvary is the gift of the third day, the Resurrected Bread to consume and sustain us. 

The Liturgy is the place we walk this journey from the incarnation to the resurrection , intentionally. In this fullness and this completed mystery, yet ever hidden, we're made ready to see what has been eternally left to us. 

Do we know Who is among us? 

Are we aware of what is taking place?

We speak of encountering Jesus, we speak of authentic witnesses. He is met in the Calvary of our hearts an encounter all consuming , we must consent to be attentive to this greeting. This eternal encounter. At the table of Christ is where witnesses are made, where the Apostles were fed with necessary remembrance, and where transformation is radiated; from what dwells in the interior, and not from the peripheral matters we often select to be consumed by.

The priest at the altar carries us to this remembering, Fathers to us, Sons in the Son, to give us a nourishment eternal. 

We suffer from infinite longings in those areas of finite limitations. Only in relationship with the infinite can we sober ourselves to the uses of our finite things, our journey here, and of Calvary's visitation to us. 

The Eucharist is the Son, our light, so much the sun risen on the third day, conquering evil and darkness, not absolving us of our suffering, but claiming us as beloved. 

The Eucharist.  Father lifts the Son before us, in this rising mirrors that of the sun , expelling all darkness, redeeming so much by His light. This spotless , unblemished Eucharist that we gather to consume even before the sun is risen shines eternally for us even if the sun outside does not. There is such an important grace here, this is the only essential Light for us. This is what sustains us even if darkness was all we could perceive outside of Him. 

In the priests hands is lifted the Son, filling the faithful with rays of love, mercy, hope, and belonging. A grace of "keeping watch" with Christ . Of standing at the foot of the Cross while others fled. 

Stand there first fixed at the Cross. The love is agonizing.

Irreverence toward God begins in our forgetting of the Cross. You will know how to receive with an awe of reverence the Bread of Life, the love of Jesus, when you remember to remember the Cross.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day and One Universal Woman. By:C.C.

When woman lives mindless of her divine purpose all of man suffers the confusion of it's natural order.

Jesus, in His encounter with women at varying points in Scripture touches them with a profound sense of dignity, entrusting to them on more than one occasion the hiddeness of His majesty that through
them was further revealed.

Women by their very design make visible the invisible to man, and in the fertility of their ordained ability of receptivity to life bring forth, even in spiritual ways, a depth of understanding and sensitivity to the movements of the Spirit that ultimately encourage man to uphold all that is entrusted to him by God.

Through Jesus’ encounter particularly with the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and Mary Magdalene there is a restoration by His touch to return to that divine origin and dignity that they had been created in, by calling them from the bondage of sin and into the fullness of His grace.

There is great intentionality in the way that Jesus appears to these women, and what unfolds after these encounters.

Through the Samaritan woman many unbelievers came to believe, and Mary Magdalene was the one to bear witness to the most important moment in all of history and the reason for our rejoicing. I find great symbolism in the way that our Lord made himself apparent to these women, to go forth and carry the news to man that he may believe and come to faith, and even endure in it.

There is a sacrament born in the life breathed into them by Christ’s presence that blesses those who bore witness to it. They, in tremendous ways brought the Good News to men. They, through the encounter of the nearness of God made visible the invisible power of the Lord. The souls of these women and their receptivity is the fertile ground that our Lord plants seeds of His truth.

Though I am much ignorant of “feminine theology” and also the direction that a lot of it seems to take. I am struck primarily by the ways in which a false sense of feminism has crept into the Church, and into the minds of women, this idea that there is an inequality of roles, that there is need first and foremost to be as man. And to ultimately fulfill duties that our Lord never ordained to us as women. God in his design made us “helpers” to man, to be as partners, to receive life physically and reveal the majesty of God’s blessing, tangible evidence of a miraculous God through the body of the woman. This, I see as an important point that translates even in to the spiritual, into the mystical reality of Christ.

I see a tremendous suffering of ignorance to the truth and role of women as willed by God. There is one woman alive who has boldly shared her sentiments on this matter with whom I agree greatly. And this is Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand. I worry there are far too few women imbued with the sense of understanding that she holds, and as she nears her end it is a blessing that she has left us with the abundance of her words upon pages and pages that will endure beyond her time on earth.

I recall a lecture I heard of hers where she spoke about the creation of Adam and Eve, she spoke to those initial days in the garden and brought us into the moment of God’s creation of man and woman, identifying that Adam was created from “the slime of the earth”, and that “Eve had the dignity of being made from the human person”. Eve was created by God through man, through part of his body, the body that God had made from the earth, and in this wondrous creation, from the rib, and thus the dignity of the body was made Eve. She spoke to this to begin highlighting the initial glory already belonging to woman. Her thought continued in Adam’s naming of Eve “Mother of all the living’, this lingers in my mind as a key point, and a necessary point of remembering, that even though woman suffers the wounds of original sin, nothing can eliminate this point of potential or even divine purpose of being called to be “Mother of all the living”,even in a culture where women have too often become the handmaid’s of death through killing the life of their womb.

Vonhildebrand, a lover of St.Augustine went on to allude to his comments regarding the temptation in the garden, and while he suggested that Satan came to Eve because she was the weaker sex, Vonhildebrand differs in that she was able to see Satan’s coming to Eve as a means of highlighting the power of woman’s influence over man, for good, or for evil.

She sees this approach to the woman in light of the great threat women are to Satan’s designs, because through woman comes all life, through woman is mirrored God’s glory in a profound way exceeding that of man. She speaks of this in relation to the ability to beget life within the womb, and reminds us that everything God touches, especially in regards to the potential of conception is sacred, immensely sacred and calls for a “trembling respect”.

When we come to view woman in light of having the capacity for the greatest influence over man, the chaos we suffer from today and many of the issues surfacing arise from this forgetting of woman’s divine purpose, by women themselves.

Satan comes not as a serpent in the garden, but in cunning, tremendous ways to cloud the concept of the feminine dignity and divine purpose that consequently leads man to roam around in the filth from where he was drawn.

In numerous ways there is an outpouring of women seeking worth and dignity in areas to claim some lofty status of headship, especially in areas of the Church, in my opinion this is pursued completely ignorant to the reverence necessary to hold man in his designated place and fulfill humbly the immensity of the role entrusted to them as women of Christ. When woman becomes the antagonist to man she is no longer helper, she is no longer “Mother of All the living”.

There is One Woman through Whom we must pass to understand our role as women of God and this is the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. When we seek to be near Her and to grow in the virtues that she so taught by her witness, then we uphold the role within the Church that God willed for us. To imbue it with the gift of life, to receive in the hiddeness and fragility, by our nearness to God, the eternal truths made visible by faithful servitude.

There is One Mother of The Church, One Divine Woman deserving of the role to sit beside the alter of Christ. That woman fails at large to recognize the magnitude of her worth and divine purpose is reflective that she has forgotten her tremendous belonging to the Maternity of Mary. What does it mean to be a woman of God, and His beloved daughter, but to uphold the dignity of ourselves by seeking to unfold the mystery that we are in Him, being helpers to man by utilizing our gifts in accordance to their design. By carrying the good news entrusted to us, by being a “mother of all living” and caring prayerfully for the many sons of God through whom we receive the Living Word and Bread of Life.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Upon This Rock" By:C.C.

"You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

Even while I lived in complete error, even while I accepted sin religiously, I never thought anything within the Catholic Church was untrue.

It lingered truthful and intact, just unexplored, and unloved.

I dismissed it , accepting that it would be waiting , just as it has been left to us by Him. Waiting as constant and fixed as Christ left it to us, but I preferred the fluidity of the world , and all of its apparent freedoms.

I remember meeting a few religious, those people imbued with a sense of the Gospel , those to whom God was really God and they were subject to His authority.

I thought myself free. Not beyond His authority, but more tragically beyond His love.
In fact, I completely chose myself there. To love other things and left no room to love Him adequately, nor the room for Him to take the place He most deserved and desired, denying Him the place He created. 

But He rang the bell of my heart , He sang there in times of need. He reminded me Whose I was, always seeking to gain entry to a place He owned yet was shut out of completely.

Eventually He won , His Rock demolishing the castles I'd built from the sand of sin.

What is this Truth we possess , if it does not leave us changed? What is this faith we profess if our whole life is not rearranged?

On the feast of the Saintly lover in 2014 , on a fresh day in February, I knelt before the bones of St.Peter , and I felt mine within shatter in further surrender. I believed before I got there, but I left that tomb faithful in spaces within me I didn't know existed.

And so I do not worry what may force against It. I do not mind those entrenched in error and sin, for Truth, though unlived remains intact and valid. God's promise to us is a constant comfort.

He alone can ring the bell.

He alone will call His children home to Rome. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"That's Amore": Remembering Italy & God's love By: C.C.

"Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember" (Mark 8:17-18)

Our remembering of God's goodness and intercession in our lives does not render us perfect but points us to recalling where perfection can be found, and to where we must return and reside to attain it. To live in faith and trust God in order to be brought to the fullness of our purpose and know true life. 

It is important to remember where we came from, where God has brought us, and to do so graciously. The point of our remembering is important, because as we proceed in our faith lives and gain greater understanding, we see the grace of those moments behind us that  can help encourage our continued following of the Lord. This remembering also enables us to see the grace and movements of the Holy Spirit interceding at a time when we were much too ignorant to notice. It is in our coming to recognize Him at work that we become more attentive, more humble, and more faithful.

During my fourth year of university, I was far from God but nearer to my roots and indeed on my way to witnessing the collision of my culture and the faith that I had so poorly tried to dismiss.

I immersed myself in Italian studies during the later years of my post-secondary education. Many of the English courses were cross listed with Italian, and I used this to successfully explore my passion for the Italo-Canadese experience, Italian literature, and identity throughout my final year. 

I fondly remember reading through great works of Italian studies, plenty of those I read moved with deep critique and satirical references to the Catholic faith, despite how eloquently done they were, in time I did begin to recognize how controversial all of it was. Even at the highest most articulate critique of the Church I was moved to consider God in a way that I had not before.
It led me to entertain that there was something intensely true about the Catholic faith that I'd so nonchalantly thought of.
I was intrigued by the history of Italy the literary life of Florence , nostalgic for a time long gone and people etched in these pages. A dear friend of mine was going to Milan that year for a semester at Bocconi University. She is incredibly bright, I somehow always managed to keep some quality company, despite scraping through the trenches of immorality.
I approached my dad and told him that I would enjoy, as a means of celebrating my last year of university, to go to Italy for some time to be with my friend, to tour a bit etc. It was a fulfilled request and off I went for reading week and some added extra time.
I would also be spending Valentine's day in Italy , I mean, how romantic could it get?  At that point in my life I was far more into these secular things, and into plenty disastrous scenarios and men, but in honest reflection I was the tornado causing most of the disaster! God had a much bigger plan and lesson to be learned indeed.
Prior to leaving , given my interest in Italian studies I perused the Italian Interest section at Chapters one day and discovered a book about Padre Pio. It grasped my attention to say the least and I clasped the book and reserved myself to buying it. That my soul was never to be the same was an understatement, if you welcome him , look out! I am sure now , that God in all of His goodness knew I needed the intercession of one such spiritual warrior to help shake me from all my badness! 

I'm also assured had he been living and I went to him for confession it'd be one of those spent kneeling for 14 hours, with a line up of people outside shaking their heads at me chanting "Vergogna". 

I was shaken to the core , but not shaken enough of course, just rattled enough to know how real and mighty God was , how true this faith within me was , and how far I had gone from all of it, and that this Padre Pio man was a mighty man of faith and surely very real.
Valentine's day in Italy that year seemed far from romantic. It involved a yelling match with a partner left at home , and just disgust at my current life. Simultaneously this was incredibly the most beautiful day because alive in me was the desire for only God , for a Church, and this is where I reserved myself to spending the day, looking for a Church, a priest, and praying that my English tongue could muster up the ugly litany of my numerous sins in the beautiful Italian language in a confessional somehow. 

I'm amazed looking back and seeing the grace at recognizing the need for Confession, when I couldn't even muster up the effort to attend Sunday Mass. That awakening to seeing our sin and coming to know where it can be remedied is a true grace. 

My friend was off to her day at Bocconi and I was off to find a church, which I was sure in Italy, would not be difficult! Off I went to seek "la Chiesa"

What I discovered on the way was the awareness of radical solitude and my own freedom of vulnerability. There's something about the perception of being unknown in your surroundings that can offer a freedom to appear just as you are without concern. And so I wept and wept through the streets of Milan, it was far more dramatic than necessary, and maybe in many ways poetic perhaps. But it did indeed capture the moment I was in. Ah, the collapse of the sinful fortress within me was beginning. 

 I went into the Church beside the University  but there was no Priest present to hear my Confession. There was a young man praying there and I left as silently as possible in my sniffles and tears to continue seeking another Church. I walked outside and the young man who was in the Church followed me and introduced himself. His name was Giuseppe, he was from Sicily, and he was a law student at Bocconi. 

I was a mess, truthfully the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone beyond a priest. I spoke to him in my stuttered Italian and said that I was in need of a Priest and a good Confession. The young man looked at his watch, and told me that he knew where another Church was and that he would bring me there. He did have an exam to write that day, and told me that his time was short. He motioned toward his vehicle, and apprehensively I said to him that I would not be travelling in a car with as I do not know him. I was being "street smart" even in my state of personal disaster. He exclaimed a slightly frustrated "Va bene" and said he would walk me there. A walk that he said would take a near 30 minutes.

I could not believe the selflessness of this man's gesture to me. We spoke on the walk about faith, and religion. He shared about himself and his journey of faith and the very reason for his success of studies and in his life was due to his faith in the Lord and that of his praying family. He asked me bluntly if I was religious, I did not know how to respond to such a question. I was not religious, in fact I did not have any relationship with my faith life at that time. Although, I did talk to him about Padre Pio because I had just finished reading his life story, which I feel was largely responsible in aiding me to be walking the streets of Milan distressed and looking for a Confession.

Giuseppe had much to say about Padre Pio. In fact he was very devoted to him.  We approached this beautiful Church and he walked me inside. He spoke to the secretary for me and asked when the priest would be returning. She notified him that it would be a couple of hours. He parted with me and said ``be faithful and be strong``. He had to get back to Bocconi, and I agreed that I would wait inside of the Church for a priest. 

This Church was beyond words. There were people everywhere taking pictures. I knelt in tears in one of the pews and continued to weep for a rather long time. I did not recall the name of this Church and for years it had bothered me. I remained there for over two hours in silent tears of prayer. I did not end up seeing the Priest but there was still something seemingly profound and sense of home that I felt in being there within the Church. By God`s grace I would eventually find a priest for Confession back home, though it did take me some good time(couple years sadly) and bad moments until I sought it. 

(*Go to Confession, don't wait, it's beautiful)

When I left this Church I took a picture of it to remember. It would be years until I would realize the incredible holiness and sacred ground that I was kneeling upon, and it's symbolism. I learned that the place I was led to by Giuseppe was a Basilica.
While in attendance at a Conference in Connecticut (2013), I encountered a priest from Milan. I quickly realized that maybe he would be able to tell me the name of this Church where I was years before in tears and in search of a priest. 

   Fr. Mario did in fact tell me that this Basilica where I was at in 2008 is called Sant` Eustorgio. It is one of the oldest Churches in Milan and the original location of the relics of the Three Kings. It is also named after St. Eustorgius (I) who was Archbishop of Milan in 343-349. He was appropriately referred to by St.Ambrose  as `confessor`. I'm also baptized on St.Ambrose' feast day so I was pretty moved to say the least to know I came to the right place for a Confession, even if I didn't find a Confessor!                            
                                    (My friend gave me this as a parting gift from Italy)

As time went on in 2014 , I found myself off to Italy again for Valentine's Day, this time a practicing Catholic, a frequent Confession going woman, and about to be married in under a month. 

Within me was intense gratitude. I recalled prayerfully my last Valentine's day long ago that I had spent in Italy, and how far I had come. It was a necessary remembering of grace. It was a moment that grows in significance the more that time passes. 

At the center of all we think we know of human love is God's radical love for each of us. As Valentine's day approaches and all the fluffy nonsense is overdone, poorly done, and so meaningless. We as the faithful begin our Lenten journey. Remembering that we are dust. 

I am pausing to remember two Valentine's days spent in Italy coming to learn the amazing power and love of God, and His love for us, despite us. 

And I am also thankful for knowing where to find a priest, and for this morning's Sacrament of Penance.