Spread Hope

It seems that the days of eloquent letter-writing and moving oratory have largely passed. And, with the passing of these times, the immense power of words has been forgotten. Civility has gone out the window. Hurtful words are thrown around carelessly – often aided by the anonymity of the internet. Thomas Merton, one of my favorite gurus, offers some timeless wisdom on the power of words.

Speak words of hope. Be human in this most inhuman of ages. Guard the image of man for it is the image of God.

Every time we open our mouths or type out our thoughts, we have the power to spread hope – or not.

Let’s choose hope.

Start today – with even just one person. Ask God to lead you to the person and give you the words of encouragement that this person needs to hear. Maybe it’s a family member, friend, or stranger – be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in finding that person and speaking the uplifting words they need to hear.

 

Photo Credit: CBF Portal Files
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Useful mistakes?

Sometimes, things don’t work out quite like we had hoped or expected. St. Teresa of Avila has some really great thoughts for times like these:

“To reach something good, it is useful to have gone astray.”

I love this sentiment! How often do we think of “going astray” as being useful? The temptation is to think of these times as “mistakes” or a “waste of time,” but she knew from experience that God works all things for our good – even the times when we think we screwed up!

Think about it…

“God created shadows to better emphasize the light.” – St. John XXIII

Did you see the solar eclipse this summer? During the eclipse, the light shone out from behind objects as crescent shadows. While the divisions between light are darkness are rarely ever sharper than they were during the eclipse, divisions between people were momentarily suspended during it. Strangers came together in fields, streets, sidewalks, and city blocks to admire the phenomenon with wonder and joy.

We divide.

God unites.

 

 

On Reaching out to Those on the Margins

I am so pained by the vilification of all refugees based on the actions of a few. Pope Francis, nearly daily, calls us to respond with compassion to those on the margins – in the world, in our communities and in our lives. Please check out my post on Loyola Press’ dotMagis blog this month:

A Grain of Compassion

 

 

“What is it that I Love?”

Want to delve deeper with this question?  Check out my post on the dotMagis blog this month!

Love, Relationship, and How We Live

“Where’d You Go?”

Dear friends,

Thank you for your feedback and for asking where I’ve gone!

Things got really busy in September of last year and haven’t slowed down yet! So, I’ve only been able to get a blog a month out.  Until I have time to write more here, you can find my monthly blogs on the dotMagis blog of  Loyola Press.

 

My latest blog is out today and can be found here:

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/23747/de-caussade-chance-encounter-divine-intervention?

 

Older blogs can be found at:

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/author/ruiz

 

Peace,

Rebecca

Losing the Masks this Lent

I was reading something that Marilyn Monroe wrote and it really resonated with me.

Monroe wrote, “I’m finding that sincerity, and to be [as] simple and direct as I’d like, is often taken for sheer stupidity.”

There is truth in her words. Sincerity and simplicity are not often-prized in modern times.  Rather, from the time we are small, we are taught control – which often claims sincerity and simplicity as its casualty.  We are taught to control our words, deeds, actions, goals, and dreams.  We are taught that we can control our destiny and our entire world.

As we grow and realize that this is not actually always possible, we develop masks to cover those places where we feel less adequate or where we feel afraid.  Nearly everyone develops these masks.  There is a multi-million dollar industry built on the sale of self-improvement books that teach us how to project power and confidence in the boardroom – and every other area of life.  They teach us to “pretend until you become” and “fake it until you make it.”  They teach us how to survive by putting on masks of power and of control.

Yet, despite our best efforts to maintain control, hardships still arise.  As much as we may try to project confidence and control our destinies with positive thoughts and illusions of power, difficult things still happen.  How is one to reconcile this?

The problem with “masks” is that this mentality, this projection of control, completely closes the door to God.  If we try to control everything and mask those things we fear we can’t control, we leave no opening for God to work in our lives.

Yet, whether or not we admit it to ourselves, God knows our minds and our hearts: LORD, you search me and you know me: you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.” (Psalm 139)

God knows what is under our masks.  It is in this place of sincerity and simplicity that God works without hindrance.  He is at home in our unabashed fears and in our unencumbered happiness.  St. Therese of Liseaux, contemplating ways to get to heaven, spoke of her “Little Way.”  It is a way of simplicity. In St. Therese’s “Little Way,” there are no masks – just overflowing love for her Creator, the desire to please Him in her every deed, and an openness to receiving His gifts.

One of the most common ways that God helps us to “lose the mask” is through illness and other hardships.  Countless saints, including St. Therese, St. Francis, St. Faustina, St. Padre Pio, and St. Ignatius, all learned through illness.  St. Ignatius lost his health in battle and during the long and painful months of recovery, came to the realization that he was not in control.  He dropped the masks of wealth and power that he had inherited at his noble birth.  It was during this time, that Ignatius wrote his famous prayer of surrender to God, the Suscipe.  This prayer represents a total offering of the self to God.

Suscipe

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

 

The more I pray this prayer, the more I realize how completely counter-cultural it is. The Suscipe represents a return to authenticity and simplicity – a removing of the masks before God. Essentially, what we are saying when we pray it is, “Here I am, Lord. I realize that I am dependent on you for every breath.  I offer myself to you totally and completely. I surrender my mask.”

In Latin, “suscipe” means “to receive.”  The beautiful paradox is that the more we give to God, the more we ourselves receive.

Perhaps because it presents an opening for God to work in our lives, each day I pray it, I also think of different things I should be handing over to God.  I offer whatever is weighing on me and whatever is making me happy that day.  As I pray it, I often find concerns that I didn’t even know were there rising to the surface of my consciousness.  I hand these things over too.

Praying the Suscipe almost always gives rise to further prayer which, for me, generally goes something like this:

Lord, I give you my joys, sorrows, victories, defeats, pains, consolations, and everything in between.  I give you my imperfections. 

Lord, please sort it all out. You know what’s best for me.  If it is your will, Lord, replace my fears, sorrows, and sufferings, with your love, joy, and peace.  Let me not hold onto things that weigh me down but let me hand them over to you. You are my strength in weakness. 

Even my dreams and aspirations – you may have better ones for me.  Let me not hold too tightly to these.  Keep my eyes and ears open to your designs for my life.  I am an empty vessel.  Fill me with whatever you choose – words, deeds, actions – according to your will, not mine.

Help me to see you at work in my life, Lord.  Open my eyes, my ears, my heart to recognize all of the ways in which you are working in my life throughout the day. 

Allow me to accept your love.

Allow me to accept the gifts you want to give me.

Allow me to accept the abundance of your gifts. 

Allow me to use these gifts you give me in word and deed for those around me too. Work through me in all things for your greater glory.

Praying the Suscipe creates a sacred space in our souls where we ask that “perfect Love” to “cast out all fear”; a place where we allow His mercy and His love to permeate our beings. It is a place where we come to the profound realization that, in the end, and every day in between, He is really our only strength.  In our weakness, He does make us strong.

This Lent, give Him your masks. Give Him all the fears that they cover.  Be weak in Him and let Him make you strong.

This Lent, open yourself to the Love that He is dying to give you.