Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Practicality of Discernment and Prayer
I would like to use this post to let you all know why I have not posted weekly blog posts for some time. As those of you who know me well already know, two of my deepest desires have been to be happily married and have children, neither of which I have been gifted with. These desires have been part of my prayer for as long as I remember, but I also have surrendered those desires to the Lord asking for the grace to want what He wants because I know He loves me more than I will ever understand and that He knows what is best for me.
I really was content with my life, but then Our God of Surprises kept pulling on my heartstrings as it relates to neglected or abused children. For years, I thought I might do missionary work in orphanages but life circumstances led me in a different direction. The last few years while in graduate school, I have been journeying with my parents through the aging process and subsequently moved them closer to me to allow me to spend more time with them and care for them.
December 2013 First Christmas in Addis, Louisiana
I realized then that at least for their remaining years here on earth that I was called to not head out to the mission field in foreign lands to work in orphanages, but to stay local. Through much prayer and discernment, I had to face that I could not support myself and assist Mom and Dad on my ministry work alone. The Lord revealed to me that I had many gifts that I should not put under a bushel basket as He speaks to in the Gospel according to Matthew 5: 15 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5) so I returned to full time employment using my business skills in March 2014. The transition has not been easy for me because I am so passionate about retreat ministry. I began to be very intentional in my prayer periods about what I could do locally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Lord revealed to me that a large part of my ministry had become my family. I continued to pray for guidance.
Through the Daily Examen, I noticed how moved I was each and every time I saw anything about child abuse on the news or read about it in my newsfeed. Paying attention to my interior movements was key to my discernment. I was literally haunted by some of the stories. One in particular that moved me deeply was the case in Atlanta (http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/04/justice/hot-car-death-ross-harris-grand-jury/) of the Dad who left his son in the car all day while he was at work and the child died. At first, it was treated as an absent minded Dad who forgot the child, but subsequent facts led to his arrest for murder because research was found on his computer about how hot a vehicle had to be to kill a child. This was really a turning point for me, but I still was not clear about what I was being called to do. Several weeks later, there was another news article locally about a 6 month old left in a hot vehicle in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Livingston parish (http://wgno.com/2014/07/01/police-say-livingston-parish-couple-left-baby-in-locked-car/). Thankfully, this child was rescued by a police officer who saved the child and arrested the parents. The news story tells how the parents were impaired on drugs and that when they finally cooperated and told the officer where their other children were, he went to the home and found a 6 month old twin and 2 other children with a family member. Well that day, I sobbed at my desk reading the newsfeed. The Holy Spirit moved me to call the Livingston Parish Department of Children and Family Services(DCFS) knowing I was not certified to help with those children but passionate about helping abused and neglected children. This phone call started a beautiful process of discernment which led to my certification to become a foster/adoptive parent.
These prayer periods and times of discernment have not always been easy and without pain and suffering along the way. I looked for patterns and I looked for the fruits of the Holy Spirit vs. the disquiet, confusion, and turmoil that surrounds the work of the Unholy Spirit.
In my periods of disquiet in my soul during the process of certification, I was faced with the humanitarian crisis on our border and what if anything I might be being called to do in relation to that. I met with some of the Sisters of St. Joseph to discuss the orphanage that they closed many years ago to determine why they closed it and the difficulties they faced. I considered contacting my local bishop to discuss the possibility of starting an orphanage of sorts locally but decided not to do so. I continued to take all of this to prayer and listened intently for what the Lord wanted for me. The Lord showed me in prayer that the local orphanage was too lofty with all of my other responsibilities of caring for my parents so I returned to prayer.
I then began to think I should take in as many children into my home as DCFS would allow. I had daydreams of being the Old Lady in the Shoe. However, the disquiet remained calling me to consistently take it to the Lord. I explored in prayer why I was so moved by the Livingston case and went deeper into how the Lord uses our own woundedness to help others. In prayer, I was able to see that the circumstances of the Livingston case touched me deeply because since I was a young girl I have always wanted multiple births. In addition, God brought to the forefront my deep love for my beautiful cousin, Mira, who suffered so much with her drug addiction and I saw her although she was not a mom in the young mother with all the drugs in her purse when arrested. I continued to pray.
He gently revealed me to myself and spoke to me in the depths of my soul telling me, “Yes, my child…..DCFS is the right path, but let’s do one child at a time. Perhaps 2 or 3 if siblings of multiple births arise, but you’ll know when the circumstance presents itself.”
So here I am, thrilled to inform you that I attended DCFS orientation in July 2014, completed the DCFS Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting Classes in August 2014, submitted my comprehensive profile including medical, psychosocial, criminal and financial background information in August 2014, and completed my 3 Home Study visits in October 2014. After a few minor setbacks due to new pool safety regulations, the DCFS supervisor informed me that I was certified on November 3, 2014.
Pool Safety Fence Installation
I am a Mommy in Waiting!
My Little Girl’s Room
My life has been full! The certification process along with having to return to full time work outside of ministry in March 2014, caring for mom and dad on an ongoing basis and not neglecting my own prayer life has kept me hopping. However, all this to say that after reflecting back on my journey, my life has been a very practical application of Ignatian Prayer and Discernment which fills me with gratitude. I have not had enough hours in each day to blog my experience and really have missed blogging and my interaction with you all, my faithful followers. I can’t promise weekly posts going forward, but want you to know that I will post as often as I can and you are all in my thoughts and prayers. I ask for your prayers as well for me and whatever child/children God blesses me with.
May God Bless You All!
Peace and love,
After a long hard day of traveling from South Louisiana to North Louisiana today for work, I was so excited to find a large clean bathtub in my hotel room.
For anyone who knows me well, you know that bubble baths are my all time favorite stress reliever.
As I began to run my bath water and fill the tub with bubbles, I began to have thoughts of self-indulgence thinking that I deserve this after such a long hard day and that I had earned this because my feet were killing me. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of what is referred to as one of the key meditations of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola commonly referred to as the Two Standards.
In the Two Standards, St. Ignatius reminds us to be mindful of how the Unholy Spirit works. The Unholy Spirit attempts to enslave us to worldly things; whereas, the Holy Spirit will always lead us towards God or heavenly things. If we are not mindful of our inner movements, we can be tempted to succumb to those movements of the Unholy Spirit which will always lead us away from God instead of being grateful for the gifts God has given us.
Very simply put, we must constantly discern our inner movements to dismiss the Unholy Spirit. The strategy of Satan, the Devil, the Unholy Spirit, the Evil One or any other name you may have for the spirit which leads you away from God is to lead us, subtly, from the “path of light” (grateful recognition of God’s gifts to us) to the “path of darkness” ( which will eventually bring you to an attitude of arrogant superiority over everyone else).
When we are being tempted like I was to succumb to self-indulgence, we are called to beg the Lord to follow him more nearly, love Him more dearly and see him more clearly in our lives.
In the Examen, often times referred to as the granddaddy of Ignatian prayers, we are led to do this daily by thanking The Lord for our many gifts and beg Him for His eyes, ears, hands and heart to see, hear, do and love others the way He did. We are called to not fall into the “me” trap as I was beginning to do, but to beg to be in union with God asking how our gifted-ness might be used to draw us closer to God.
As I entered my “bubble bath”, I begged The Lord to be in His Presence and teach me what He wanted to reveal to me. I eventually felt a sense of movement to overwhelming gratitude for the privileges I have been given living in this first world environment I live in. I began to dwell with The Lord in Mathew 25: 31-46 very mindful of the cry of the poor. My heart literally began to ache as I was overwhelmed with the thoughts and pain of so many of my brothers and sisters in our human family who do not have basic human rights as I laid indulging in the bathtub.
I ended my “bubble bath” with an even stronger resolve to go forward each day trying to make a difference in the world in my uniqueness. I began to see with more clarity how the Lord is calling me to help change the lives of children who have been traumatized in some way even if it is one child at a time.
Thoughts to Ponder;
—-Are you mindful of your inner movements?
—-How might the Two Standards from the Spiritual Exercises be helpful in your journey to help you identify when your noble strivings could lead you down a path of darkness?
—-Are you begging The Lord for the grace to be in union with God before entering into each prayer period?
—-Open your heart and have your own mystical experience with great hope of the gift of union with God which will lead to a stronger resolve towards your unique calling.
As I stepped outside for my morning exercise, I immediately began singing and felt the lyrics of “The Deer’s Cry” by Angelina permeate my being in these beautiful surroundings…….journey with me…..
Angelina – The Deer's Cry lyrics
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise to-day
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's eyes to look before me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and a near,
Alone and in a multitude.
Against every cruel merciless
power that may
oppose my body and soul
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ to shield me,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me.
I arise to-day
Do you arise today?
Sunlight dawning through the trees at the replica of the Lourdes’ Grotto remind me of the importance of listening to and trusting my voice within just as Bernadette did so many years ago. Thoughts of the obstacles that prevent me from truly arising surfaced…..what prevents you from truly arising each day?
Bees, Butterflies, and Bunnies along the walking paths remind me to surrender my cares, concerns and worries to Our Lord….as I pray with today’s gospel, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”….http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11:28.
For me, I constantly struggle with lack of trust in Our Lord about financial security….Lord help us all to see that you will provide for us just as you do for the Bees, Butterflies and Bunnies……
And then I came upon the Deer on the retreat house grounds and knew in my heart that it was not coincidence that I stepped outside this morning singing “The Deer’s Cry”. It was God’s great sign that all will be well as long as I seek Him and bring Him to others……are you seeking Him and His Kingdom or have your cares, concerns, and burdens gotten the best of you…..”Come all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”
Ponder those living words from today’s daily scripture readings and allow the Holy Spirit to bless you beyond measure…..
Peace and love,
Evening Guided Meditation
I continue to be amazed with how God works! I have had what I would refer to as writer’s block since the Fall. Actually my last post was immediately preceding the last retreat I directed here at White House.
I praise the Lord tonight for the inspiration as my block has been removed. As I took an evening stroll alongside the Mighty Mississippi earlier tonight, I was moved to post a pictorial guided meditation for you my brothers and sisters in Christ.
First, take a few deep breaths and ask Our Lord to be in His Presence as you use this prayer aid.
Quietly place yourself in the scenes alongside the Mighty Mississippi as we journey together….take it slow and become more and more aware of your interior movements…….
As you gaze out at the beautiful cloudy skies and the Mighty River, what comes to mind, what stirs interiorly?
Now, marvel with me at the Beauty of Nature……imagine the sounds of crickets and birds, imagine bunnies and lightning bugs surprising you along the trails……
Now pause with me at the beautiful fountain…..imagine sitting at that fountain just as the Samaritan Woman sat at the Well….listen to the flow of the water that never stops…..imagine Jesus walking up to you and gazing into your eyes….what happens during this encounter?
Take Jesus by the hand and go together and explore the beautiful creation all around you…….
Jesus then says to you that He wants to show you His Great Love in the Beauty and Serenity of the Sun beginning to set and the landscape surrounding you at dusk….
Before showing you His final artwork of the evening, He guides you to the replica of the cave from Manresa, Spain attached to the main chapel to pray in communion with St. Ignatius of Loyola for whatever bubbles up inside of you…….take note of your inner movements….
When your prayer period comes to an end in the cave, Jesus invites you to His final piece of art for the evening…….the Sun has set…….
May you be blessed abundantly from this experience!
Peace and love,
Communion of Saints: Saints as Models and Intercessors
Litany of Saints
Inspired by the Feast of All Saints Day, the Beatitudes and The Essential Spirituality Handbook by Wendy M. Wright, PhD
I love the month of November because the liturgical calendar reminds us to pray for all the holy people who are part of our personal Communion of Saints in a very special way. Below is a Prayer Service of sorts with an Imaginative Prayer experience that I offer to you to assist you in getting in touch with your Communion of Saints:
Opening Song: Litany of Saints by The Cathedral Singers, Richard Proulx (Conductor)
Pray for the Grace Desired: I pray for the grace to experience interior stillness as I pause to reflect on the Saints as models that have inspired me in regards to how I might be formed in the divine image and likeness of God and as intercessors who intercede for me with God. Let my longing be to rest in God’s Presence as I reflect on my personal Communion of Saints who have touched my life in a special way as my companions, my advocates, my friends, my patrons and protectors, who have both inspired and challenged me to live into the promises to which I have been called.
Pray, Read, Reflect:
Matthew 5:1-12 The Beatitudes….Blessed are the poor in spirit, the gentle, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are persecuted for uprightness……..
St. Ignatius of Loyola Points of Interest: The phrase “spiritual exercises” takes in all the formal ways we have of making contact with God, such as meditation, contemplation, vocal prayer, devotions, examination of conscience and consciousness, and so on. For as strolling, walking, and running are bodily exercises, so too, are what we call spiritual exercises good for increasing openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, for helping to bring to light the darkness of sinfulness and sinful tendencies within ourselves, and for strengthening and supporting us in the effort to respond ever more faithfully to the love of God. (Spiritual Exercise First Annotation)
Imaginative Prayer Experience
St. Ignatius is known for saying the following: “The greatest consolation I experienced was gazing at the sky and the stars which I often did and for long.” I encourage you to have an imaginative prayer experience by imagining that you are laying out under a starlit sky and spend some time gazing at the sky and the stars and take a trip down memory lane calling to mind all the significant Saints, both those officially canonized and those holy people personal in your life. Reflect on all the people who God has gifted you with and used as instruments of His Great Love. Get in touch with your personal Communion of Saints… Those people who have been your models of forgiveness, compassion, love, meekness, peace, faith, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, etc.? Spend time with each of those people who are in your personal Communion of Saints and share with them whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to share………………………………………
Review of Prayer:
Spend a few minutes reviewing what occurred in your imaginative prayer experience and write your Own Personal Litany of Saints……………………Who is that you want to ask to intercede for you?
Closing Song: The Saint That is Just Me by Danielle Rose
Oh I thought I’d be heroic and inspiring. I wanted to offer you the greatest sacrifice. Like all the saints who’ve gone before me, I tried to prove my love for you and so to gain the prize. I thought I’d be a martyr like Cecilia, I hoped I’d disappear like St Thérese, Or wear a hidden crown of thorns like Rose of Lima, To heal the sick and raise the dead. Refrain: When you hung upon the cross looking at me, You didn’t die so I would try to be somebody else; You died so I could be the saint that is just me. I wanted to be poor and free like Francis, To cut off my long hair like lovely Clare, To be faithful like Mother Teresa in the darkness—Lord, won’t you make me just like her? I tried to kneel for hours in the chapel corner, To persevere like Paul with all my sleepless nights, To stay awake and trim my lamp with ten wise virgins, To really give the devil a good fight. Refrain: When you hung upon the cross looking at me, You didn’t die so I would try to be somebody else; You died so I could be the saint that is just me. Just me, just me, you died just for me. Just me, just me, you died just for me. You saw that I was perfectly imperfect, O happy fault, the sin of Adam’s pride. That’s the reason that you became man And bore the New Eve from your wounded side. If it weren’t for my sins and wounds and weakness, Then you wouldn’t have married me upon the cross. Why do I fear being seen naked and broken? That’s why you came—because I need you that much. Refrain: When you hung upon the cross looking at me, You didn’t die so I would try to be somebody else; You died so I could be the saint that is just me.
“Taken from the The Hopeless Romantic: Falling in Love with God site of Patti Clement. www.patticlement.wordpress.com Used with Permission.”
Parable of the Ten Lepers
As I sat in mass this evening and heard today’s gospel of the Parable of the Ten Lepers from the gospel according to Luke proclaimed, I could not help but think about one of the first post I read on Facebook today written by a friend of mine, who is a priest in South Louisiana. He was commenting about how he had to celebrate mass in the dark at one of his masses and how “the town drunk” had come to another mass.
Earlier in the day when I read the Facebook post, the first thought that came to mind was, “I wonder what Jesus would have done if a town drunk would have come to one of his masses?” Yes Facebook can lead us to prayer. Where the Holy Spirit led me was amazing. I actually thought well the historical Jesus would not have celebrated mass like we do today, but what if an intoxicated person had shown up when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue as we know he did in Capernaum or when He was delivering the Sermon on the Mount? I was led to place myself in those scenes and use imaginative prayer in those two scenes. I imagined someone in a drunken state(in bondage from their addiction) entering both scenes. I begged Jesus for the grace to see the situation through His eyes, to feel what He felt, to understand as He understood and to love as He loved. I watched along with all the other people in the crowd as Jesus gently paused from his teachings and tenderly ministered to our drunken neighbor offering him to participate, They conversed in private, but I imagined Jesus welcoming him to stay but giving him boundaries by telling him that he could not be a disruption. I saw the drunk man transform before my eyes because Jesus had acknowledged him, invited him to participate in the teachings and shown him love and respect.
Then I asked myself how I would respond today at mass if a drunk came in and attempted to disrupt the service. I was really challenged because my first reaction was not to let anyone disrupt my/the sacred time especially the consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ during the Eucharistic Prayer. I also thought of how difficult someone in a drunken state could be to deal with. To avoid dealing with my own resistances, I found myself dwelling on how I would hope the priest would respond. This question stayed with me most of the day and through mass this evening. I pray often for the grace to have Jesus transform my heart to His and today was no exception. Today’s gospel proclamation was a great reminder to me of how leprosy in first century Palestine was such a horrible disease. Lepers were outcasts and rejected by society. They were sent away to live. They were rejected by family, friends, and strangers; but we know from today’s scripture as well as others in the gospels that Jesus healed the lepers and always sided with the outcasts, the marginalized, and the downtrodden.
As I sat and reflected on who are the lepers today in my world(those people who family, friends. and strangers often reject), what Jesus ultimately showed me was that if a drunk person appeared at a mass that I attended, I should somehow be hospitable and attempt to help the person feel welcomed, loved and respected whether or not anyone else acknowledged him. I had to acknowledge that I could not do this in my own strength, I begged the Lord for the grace to give me the strength and the courage to do His will in all circumstances.
How would you respond?……………………………
Let me hear from you in the comments or click the “like” button if this post speaks to you……
“Taken from the The Hopeless Romantic: Falling in Love with God site of Patti Clement. www.patticlement.wordpress.com Used with Permission.”