Travel experts wisely advise that when visiting a foreign country we should go off the ‘tourist track’ and go where the locals go, eat where they eat, etc., so that we get a truer sense of the place we are visiting. This has proven to be wonderful advice because we only pass through some places once in a lifetime. And because this may be so, it is important that we savor the natural beauty or uniqueness of a particular spot by immersing ourselves in it. By listening to the sounds of different birds, smelling the air which might carry the fragrance of native plants and flowers, and taking in the general ambiance, we can create a mental picture to take home, letting the place leave an imprint on our heart. Photos are nice, but it is important to truly be in the place where we are presently, especially one we may never see again. In this way, we might pass through only briefly, but when we leave, our hearts are somewhat changed so that we are not the same as when we arrived. And even if we were to return to a place on multiple occasions, it is never the same experience with each subsequent visit. True, things change locally, but the deeper reality is that everything is different because we are not the same. We return with extra layers of experience, some joyful and some painful, and hopefully, with extra wisdom. No matter where we go we can only take away that which is absorbed into our hearts. The truth is, no matter how much we want to hang on to anything, anywhere, or anyone in life, we are only passing through. But the beauty of it is that we are passing through with a purpose and a goal: our purpose is love and our goal is to be in Heaven with God forever.
To be clear, the source of the wisdom to do this lies with St. Ignatius of Loyola (feast day July 31) who taught that we should “relish” experiences because they are gifts from God. At the beginning of his spiritual life, (after his famous conversion), Ignatius spent a few years traveling on foot as a pilgrim. During this time, he learned how to savor everything. He discovered that it was not just about the destination and the physical exertion it took to walk from one place to another, but it was about the process. At the beginning he was so zealous that his tendency for scrupulosity got out of control. He lost focus on his exterior surroundings and worse still, on how God was calling him, zeroing in on his own sins and weaknesses which he perceived to be many at that point. Thankfully, God broke through to him in a dramatic way on the banks of the Cardoner River, an event which marked a huge turning point for him, beginning the formation of Ignatius into a master of spiritual discernment. St. Ignatius went on to compose his famous Spiritual Exercises, a directed retreat experience which at its core is about learning how to savor, to recognize God’s presence, and to listen to His voice through the process of spiritual discernment * so that we would come to know Him and thus serve and love Him better. Our goal is to always choose what leads us closer to God, while learning how to recognize God’s presence so that we might grow in holiness and discipleship.
The reflection and discernment which are intrinsic to Ignatian spirituality remind us that we are only passing through, and so we want to make best usage of the gift of the time we have at any given point. It is important to realize that we do not really possess anything, except our heart and our will which we can freely offer to God. It is the only return which we can make to Him, and it is the one in which He delights the most. As to the rest, we are simply stewards: we are stewards of our material goods, of the earth, of the hospitality and welcome we should give to others, and as such, we are stewards of relationships. In other words, we do not possess all that will fall away and become dust, just as we do not possess people or the earth. Rather, we are to make best use of these gifts and then pass them on to others when the time has come. Everything in life requires this letting go. Therefore we must not cling, even in relationships. And while some relationships are more enduring than others, our love should allow (and encourage) the other to make changes, especially those which involve personal growth. The result of this letting go, even if the other moves away physically, is a growing closer within our hearts through the true love of friendship. This is how it ought to be with God: our relationship with Him is the most important relationship of all, and so when it feels as if He is distant, because we have cultivated a relationship of faith, hope, and love with Him, we know He is nearer than we might be able to perceive.
St. Ignatius of Loyola provided a wealth of spiritual wisdom throughout his lifetime, especially through his Spiritual Exercises. Part of the ‘genius’ of the Exercises (which are truly directed by God and discerned by one’s director) is that everything within them ties together. At the beginning the retreatant freely accepts that everything is a gift to be used for the greater glory of God, and that all things are for this purpose. Thus, we do not cling to anything. Another way to put this is that we are only passing through and everything is intended as a way to help us discover “the purpose for which we are created.”** At the conclusion of the Exercises, the retreatant accepts this spiritual truth far more deeply: through the process, we come to understand more about our purpose and goal, which is Love. To this end, St. Ignatius provides a prayer, referred to as the Suscipe, as the response of the retreatant who at this point is so filled with gratitude and love that this offering is deeply heartfelt and sincere. It begins with the words, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will, all that I have and possess.”*** The retreatant now knows with experience that indeed everything is a gift not to be possessed or clung to, but is a means to the end for which we were created: to know, serve, and love God better and to know the depth of His love for us. Therefore, the retreatant has learned to see that our response of self-giving is the best (and only) thing we can ever give to God.
St. Ignatius understood the message of love taught by Jesus. He knew that living the Christian life means we are a type of missionary, a missionary of love. As such we recognize that wherever we go, we are passing through, not aimlessly, but with a goal: to share love and to lead others (and ourselves) closer to God who ‘labors for us,’ too. The only permanence we seek is that of Heaven, the rest is a means to that end. This is not to say that we are to use things indiscriminately or selfishly, as if to throw them away when we are finished. No, it means that we utilize both our talents and our material goods for the greater good (with love and gratitude) because we know we are stewards, not owners. Therefore, we give glory to God when we treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve, when we reverence the beauty of the gift of nature, and when we work toward peace and justice in little ways by our daily actions in order to assist in building the Kingdom.
If we accept the reality that we are only passing through, we will learn to savor each moment with each person in a new way, and we will keep our eyes focused on the Lord, the source of all joy, even when we are in the midst of pain. We will find an inner freedom so that we are not prisoners of our possessions, but are more able to share what we have with others, and we will be less prone to grieve when our things are gone or our health diminishes due to disease or the aging process. Let’s not be deluded: much about this is not easy, but with the purpose of love and the goal of life with Jesus in Heaven forever, we can embrace our passage through time as the wonderful gift that it is meant to be, sharing precious moments with loved ones as well as with those who are in need, finding Christ in our midst and love in the hidden places during our journey. Indeed, we are only passing through this life so that we may have permanence in the next.
May we have prayerful insight into recognizing the purpose for which we have been created! May we come to see the wisdom of letting go of all that which can hold us back from that purpose! May we ask for the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola that we might discern wisely as we try to choose that which leads us closer to God! May we come to greater interior freedom by seeing all created things as means to an end, which is the Kingdom of God! And may we have gratitude for the many gifts we have been given so that we might freely share them with others, assisting them by our little acts of kindness! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Notes: Next post, August 12
* In the next post, I will deal with discernment of spirits, a key principle in Ignatian spirituality. There was simply too much to say in a single entry.
** Principle and Foundation, paragraph 23 in The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. To read it, click here: https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/ministry/pdf/First%20Principle%20and%20Foundation%20-March%202015%20%282%29.pdf
*** Suscipe, (Take Lord Receive) paragraph 234, ibid. The text of the prayer is at the beginning of another excellent article. To read it, click here: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/suscipe-the-radical-prayer/
1. My photo, Glen Etive, in the Highlands of Scotland: I chose this because it is a place which I truly felt etched itself into my heart. It was so beautiful and quiet, even with many hikers in the area. While I only passed through, it was a place which I savored.
2. Icon, St. Ignatius the Pilgrim, by Fr. William Hart McNichols: This icon was perfect for depicting the early stage of the spiritual journey of St. Ignatius of Loyola into the spiritual powerhouse he became. He began to understand the 'art' and importance of discernment of spirits during this time. If you are interested in a copy of this icon in one of many mediums, you can find it at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-ignatius-the-pilgrim-021-william-hart-mcnichols.html
3. My photo, taken in Mount Desert Island, near Arcadia National Park, Maine: This photo seems to capture the nature of our spiritual journey insofar as the clear sky and calm seas, but with the fog in between the two. Spiritual discernment helps us to cut through the fog a bit, by relying on the Holy Spirit to help us become closer to God, sort of a spiritual GPS. (Perhaps in this case GPS could stand for 'Godly Positioning System?')
4. Icon, St. Ignatius in Prayer Beneath the Stars, by Fr. William Hart McNichols: This is perhaps my favorite icon of St. Ignatius. I love it because of the obvious contemplation he is engaged in, but it also depicts that he was a great mystic as well. That his feet are not on the ground spoke to me of letting go: he is not attached to anything and all is for the greater glory of God.
5. Painting, St. Francis Gives His Cloak to a Beggar, Giotto (1299): This painting is in the upper church in the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, Italy. I really like the work of Giotto, and chose this one because if ever there was a Christian missionary of love, St. Francis was it. He imitated Christ more than any other saint insofar as he truly loved everyone, regardless of who they were or what disease they had, poor or rich.
6. My photo, on the ferry crossing the Long Island Sound from New Haven, Connecticut to Orient Point, NY: This photo seemed to capture the theme of passing through once. I have actually made this trip a number of times, but every time it seems different. And in fact it is always different due to variables in the weather, the season of the year in which the travel is done, the passage of time between trips, etc. It is a reminder that while I may have taken this trip before, each particular time is singular and unique, unlike any before or to come. We only pass through in this way once.
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Reading is a wonderful way to learn and it is also a way to relax, depending on what it is that one is reading. When it comes to fiction, many older classics are among my favorites, although literature that is more current can be enjoyable, too. However, because of a tendency toward reflection, sometimes I find connections to spirituality, perhaps even where none were intended by the author. Recently I read such a book, a best seller which will not be named because spoiling a good book is not my intention here. Nonetheless, the basic plot sounds ordinary enough: a couple has some personal difficulty, a somewhat mysterious person comes into their lives, and through tragedies and triumphs which occur along the way, this person teaches every character in the novel a lesson of great importance. However overworked that plot line may seem, this one was cleverly written with characters that were well developed.* However much I enjoyed it, the end part of the book was disappointing at first; but after some reflection I began to see that while the mysterious person never ceased to be a mystery, that person had a profound effect upon every character in the novel by teaching each one how to love in a new way. And doesn’t that sound a bit like Jesus? He came into the world as a somewhat mysterious figure to those around Him who were trying to figure out what He meant when He said or did things which they could not truly understand. And in the end, He taught everyone how to love. The major difference between Jesus and the character in the novel is that Jesus did more than teach about love, He is love. And Jesus loves us with perfect love, a love beyond all comprehension that has no end: Love is always with us.
The main point made by the author of the novel was that love has lasting effects. All of the main characters grew in their understanding of love, an effect which was carried outward in their subsequent relationships with others. This is what Jesus taught: love begets love, and in this way Love is always with us. Similarly, all of our actions affect people around us, and so it is important to realize that we have the power to change lives for better or for worse. And of course, the effect we desire should be for the good, leading others toward love, that is, toward God, and not away. As Christians we have been taught that true discipleship is about the process of becoming more like Jesus, becoming His hands and feet, bringing His light and love to the wider world. Jesus taught this throughout His ministry, but it is driven home at the end of His sojourn on earth. The last words Jesus spoke before He ascended were these: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Therefore, the disciples were being told to bring love and everything love means to the entire world, a work which they would begin, and would then be continued by disciples through the ages.
The core of the gospel is love, something which often consists of challenging work. Love is about actions, difficult decisions, and commitment; it is also about kindness, leading others to goodness and hope, working for justice, and being present in every kind of situation. The source of this hope, courage, and persistence is Jesus who explains it in the first sentence of His commissioning. He said, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt 28:18) Thus, Jesus empowers His followers to have the gifts needed in order to go forth in love, to courageously persevere through the obstacles that will in fact come, as well as to be able to recognize the presence of God in the joy of new life, the result of love. But let us be clear: love does not solve all problems. Rather, love helps us to endure that which we would not be able to withstand otherwise. Love unifies people, enabling them to work as a true community; love enables us to see past differences so we can embrace diversity. Love unites and never divides; it brings us closer to God and never away from Him. But in no way did Jesus ever imply that love would be easy: love is not the easier path in life, but for those who love God, it is the only way.
An excellent example of one who chose love is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, (1901-1925; feast day, July 4.) Apparently he always carried a particular passage of Scripture with him.** This is interesting because Pier Giorgio had a habit of memorizing long passages of Dante or other classic spiritual works which he could recite at any given moment. Therefore it seems logical to assume that he had this one memorized, too, making it curious as to why he would carry a written copy. My guess would be that having it with him acted as a reminder of how he wanted to live: what he carried was the great hymn about love written by St. Paul which begins, “Love is patient, love is kind….” (1 Corinthians 13) If you research his life you will see that Bl. Pier Giorgio lived this passage as well as anyone ever could. He was patient, kind, selfless, polite, caring, and was not brooding or jealous. And in his actions toward the poor, he gave away much of what he had, but never in a way that brought him attention. When he died, thousands of poor people showed up at his funeral, baffling his family as to why this would be. It seemed that those poor were there to honor their friend and the Lord he served so valiantly, even with great suffering. Bl. Pier Giorgio was not perfect; no saint ever is. But as a lay person he devoted his life to spreading the gospel in word and deed, wanting nothing more than to share the love of Jesus with everyone, including his enemies. The effect he had on people was profound, and he continues to be a role model for young adults today.
Bl. Frassati lived the commission of Jesus in the very way Jesus intended, which is through love. You could say this of all of the saints, each of whom did it in their own individual way. However, one additional mention must be made, and that is St. Thérèse of Lisieux who realized that her entire vocation was love. In other words, she aligned the core of her being to Jesus so she could be love, just as He is love. Thus, being holy is about living love in whatever unique way we have been called, in whatever unique circumstances we encounter on a daily basis. Living love is not about being perfect, but rather it is about pointing others toward Jesus so that they might enter into a deeper relationship with Him, too. We have been empowered to love as we are able though the gifts given by the Holy Spirit at Baptism and through all the subsequent sacraments. Every time we partake of the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, we are immersing ourselves in Love in order to know (and thus share) Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly. *** The Eucharist is our food, our fuel, our lifeline to the One who loves us and enables us to love. It is also important to remember that sin is the enemy of love, and therefore it is imperative that we partake in the boundless mercy of Jesus offered through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That we are not perfect is no longer an obstacle to those who partake of the graces being offered through this great Sacrament of healing. Therefore, we have nothing to fear because grace (the Holy Spirit) will give us all that we need.
When Jesus said, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples….,” He not only commissioned His followers, but He also made it clear how we are to accomplish this work: He is love and therefore the power He gives is the power of love which we are to share in simple, everyday ways. This power enables us, His disciples, to build the Kingdom one act of love at a time. Thus, we can be like St. Thérèse, making small acts of love a part of our lives; or we can be like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, seeking the grace to carry within our hearts the love offered by Jesus and described by St. Paul so that we might bring healing, mercy, peace, and hope to a world which sorely needs it. Jesus calls us to be examples who teach with our lives that Love is always with us “to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)
May we be good examples of discipleship, working toward a return to selfless love! May we be inspired to live like the holy ones who sought to be as Christ to others! May we ask the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Thérèse of Lisieux that we might imitate Christ in whatever way we have been called! May we turn to the graces offered through the Sacraments, utilizing their power to enhance our ability to love! May we live such that others are enriched by our presence! And may we remember that God is always with us because as St. Paul says, nothing can ever separate us from His love! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Notes: The next post will be on July 29.
*If you absolutely must know what novel I am referring to, send me a private message via email and I will tell you. But be forewarned that I have not named the novel for a reason: I absolutely detest when someone ruins a story by revealing details and plot points to those who have not yet read or seen it. And even though I have been general in my descriptions, there is enough said to color how you might read this particular book rather than seeing things through your own lens.
**I read an article in Aleteia written by Philip Kosloski which brought this to my attention. https://aleteia.org/2019/07/04/bl-pier-giorgio-frassati-always-carried-this-one-bible-passage-with-him/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en
***While many will recognize this statement, I was not quoting a song in the musical, Godspell; I was quoting St. Richard of Chichester from whom it originates. For more see https://www.oystermouthparish.com/st-richard-of-chichester
1. Oregon coast, my photo: I chose this to open the entry because the overcast sky and low cloud make this beach seem like it is shrouded in mystery.
2. Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee, by Duccio Di Buoninsegna (1308-11): I chose this painting because it depicts Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus was commissioning the apostles as quoted in the paragraph.
3. My photo, taken on a hiking trail in mid New York State: This photo seems to exemplify the point that love is not always easy. Sometimes we have to watch our step carefully given that the enemy loves to trip us up or get us to head in the wrong direction.
4. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: This is a rather famous photo of Bl. Pier Giorgio taken when he was in his early 20's. (He died not long afterward, at the age of 24.)
5. Photo, Eucharist at the Consecration at Mass: I chose this for two reasons; the first is that it shows the vessels that hold the elements which become the Body and Blood of Jesus at the consecration. I also chose this particular photo because the hands are those of the iconographer who wrote the icon which is follows.
6. Icon, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, by Fr. William Hart McNichols: It only seemed natural to use this icon since it was commissioned by my husband and I a number of years ago. It is a favorite, naturally. If you are interested in purchasing a copy (in one of a wide variety of mediums) from Fr. Bill, go to https://fineartamerica.com/featured/blessed-pier-giorgio-frassati-197-william-hart-mcnichols.html
7. My photo, rainbow over Kaikoura, New Zealand: I chose to end with this photo because the rainbow was given as the sign of the first covenant God offered, the covenant made with Noah. A covenant is a commitment of love between God and His people. Love is the core of all covenants, and thus, Jesus is the New (and final) Covenant: He is Love and Love is always with us.
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Art galleries are wonderful places to visit, not just because of the masterpieces contained in them, but because something unexpected often grabs our attention while there. This is exactly what happened while I was visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. In one of the galleries there is an inscription on the wall, a quote from the Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro, which both captured my attention and became a point of reflection: “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” The quote was especially well-placed, as we were surrounded by the magnificent paintings of a multitude of artists. As we proceeded to view selections representing different artistic styles, I noticed that when I was unable to find beauty it was either because I did not understand the artistic techniques utilized by the artist or that it simply was not a style I prefer. I realized that just because we do not ‘like’ a style, it does not mean it has no beauty. Upon further reflection, there is a wider connection of this concept to the gospels: that is, (in our lives) we do not have to disingenuously like everything we see or encounter, nor should we see something and naively say it is marvelous when it really holds no appeal; and especially not if it moves us away from God, or worse still, is evil and thus, devoid of beauty – (anything evil has lost its beauty because it has stripped itself of God and godliness). At its core, this is not at all about taste; the concept here is actually what Jesus meant when He told us to love our neighbor, including our enemies. He was not saying that we should be inauthentic, nor was He conflating ‘love’ with ‘like.’ Rather, He meant that we do not have to like everyone, but that we are called to love, a choice we make to do what is kind, merciful, compassionate, and just. These are the characteristics of the holy, of those who see beauty.
Seeing beauty in others is not always easy for us, but for God it is. Scripture reveals that in the very beginning everything came from Him, the source of all Beauty. The writer of Genesis points out that after God finished working on each day of creation He “saw how good it was,” a statement which also implies that what He made was beautiful in His eyes. At the end of the process, as the ‘jewel in the crown of creation’ God made humans “in His image, in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27) The second chapter of Genesis provides greater detail about the creation of humans: God blew His own breath into an ‘Earth creature,’ fashioned lovingly with His own hands from the clay of the ground, (‘Adam’ comes from the Hebrew, ha adamah and means ‘the ground’ or ‘earth’), and then eventually divided it into male and female. This means that not only are we created from the divine image, which is Beauty, but that we contain beauty within us, the spark of divine love which animates our souls into the magnificent creatures we are meant to be. Thus, God will always see us as beautiful because we are His beloved creation, His work of art, as St. Paul wrote (Ephesians 2:10), created individually and uniquely, but all equally lovely in His eyes. It is not only our appearance that He sees; every aspect of our being delights Him.
Pissarro’s insight is deeply profound, but I also see it as both a challenge and a call to holiness since the saints can be characterized as are ‘those who see beauty where others do not.’ Part of what constitutes holiness is the ability to see beauty in the humblest people and places; to do so, the saints become humble themselves, shining with the beauty of God. Throughout history, many holy men and women have worked with the poor and destitute, seeing them far differently than did their communities. These saints imitated Jesus who saw the lepers as beautiful children of God, curing their affliction both to alleviate their suffering and so that others might see them as He did, that is, to see past illness and to see the beauty of the person. Jesus saw everyone, especially the poor, the widowed, the outcast, the leper, the sick, the alien, and all the marginalized, as beautiful people with something to offer the community as beloved children of God. The gospels are full of stories which demonstrate this. Nothing was too ‘ugly’ for Jesus, even those who were possessed. He saw the demons as interlopers who did not belong within the possessed individuals, casting them out so that the person would have the freedom they deserved, thus allowing their true selves to become visible again.
There are countless examples of holy men and women, such as St. Francis of Assisi, who when young was physically disgusted by lepers, yet found he could approach and kiss such a one, sincerely learning to see past their deformities and see the persons rather than the symptoms. St. Theresa of Calcutta felt called to some of the filthiest places in the world to care for the people lying in the gutters. She picked up everyone, no matter what their religion or nationality and no matter how fetid their condition. She called it “doing something beautiful for God.” There is no doubt that she saw these people as beautiful, beloved creatures and did not see their afflictions as that which defined them. Finally, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young man from a wealthy home, gave the poor all he could. He entered into the tenements and the hospital wards with the poorest members of society, bringing clothing, medicine, and food. As he lay dying of polio myelitis at age 24, his last act was to write instructions for delivery of some medicine to a poor man. Pier Giorgio contracted the disease that killed him from the very poor he served, yet he died joyously, though in great suffering. All three of these holy ones saw beauty where others did not. They were not seeking acclamation; rather, they were deeply humble. They acted as they did because the spark of beauty within themselves, the love of Jesus Christ, had been fanned into flame through their prayer and true desire to help the people they had come to love. They saw beauty in all children of God, and so they literally began to love with Christ’s own heart.
Last week we celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, that is, the celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh and blood at His incarnation, and on the night before He died, He intentionally left His Body and Blood as His everlasting presence offered to us. Every time we consume His Body and Blood as Eucharist, the spark of love within us, truly ‘lit’ at our baptism, is fanned into flame so that we might become more like Him. (The newly baptized receives a lit candle and is told, “Receive the light of Christ!”) Furthermore, what happens within the church is not intended to stay inside; this is why we are implored at the conclusion of Mass by the deacon to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life!” Our call is to take what we have received and to share it with others. This includes learning to see beautiful things in humble places, learning to see God’s beauty in those whose lives have either blurred their beauty such that it cannot be readily seen, or through no fault of their own, have been downtrodden by suffering, poverty, or the prejudices and preconceptions of society.
We do not have to be artists to learn to see beauty as God does. In order to see things that are not visible to the ‘untrained eye’ we must allow ourselves to be ‘trained,’ something remedied through prayer and by asking the Holy Spirit for the specific graces to do so. We can also appeal to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, (both feasts were celebrated at the end of last week), for the grace of loving more like they do. It is good to learn to see beauty in nature, in the arts, and in anything which leads us closer to God; it is blessed to learn to see beauty in humble places, in particular if it is within the people with whom we come into contact, and especially in those who might be outside of our ordinary comfort zone. Blessed are we when we love as Jesus loves! When we do, we uplift our brothers and sisters, and we enable others to see God’s beauty also; that is the very nature of discipleship, and it is at the heart of holiness.
May we ask the Holy Spirit to help fan the spiritual flame of love within us! May we ask the intercession of the Saints and Holy Ones to help us see beauty more readily! May we imitate Christ in our outreach to those who are in greatest need, learning to see beauty in the humblest, and learning to be humble from their beauty! May we turn to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, asking her to show us how to love as with her motherly heart! May we desire holiness and therefore turn more often to prayer so that we might grow in love of God and in turn share it with others! May we find the ultimate Beauty in the Body and Blood of Jesus, and with grateful hearts may we partake of this gift often and always! Let us continue to meet in the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: Next post July 15
1. I took this photo while in Cairngorms National Park in the Highlands of Scotland. Some may say that this is nothing but a dead tree limb, and that is actually true. But a dead limb can certainly be thought of as humble, artistically placed, an unusual bit of nature's idea of beauty. Thus, this photo seemed perfect to begin the entry.
2. More of Scotland, another of my photos: This is the garden at Dunvegan Castle. I was captivated by the rhododendrons, which are considered an invasive species by some, yet with a bit of intentional landscaping and care, they are quite attractive. Again, some things may be relative to one's preferences, but if we open our eyes to it, we can see beauty.
3. Julie and Ludovic-Rodolphe Pissarro Among the Flowers, painted by Camille Pissarro, (1879): How could I write a piece inspired by Pissarro and not include one of his paintings? I chose this particular one, however, because his wife and son who were the subjects of the painting. I loved that they were surrounded by their lovely garden, a humble place, yet filled with the grandeur of nature. You can find more on the artist at https://www.wikiart.org/en/camille-pissarro
4. St. Francis 'Neath the Bitter Tree, icon written by Fr. William Hart McNichols: I chose this because it depicts St. Francis of Assisi and is reminiscent of when he embraced the leper, an event which led to his ministry to the poor and sick, particularly those with leprosy. We still have our 'lepers' today, so I chose this as a challenge for us to pray about how we are called to see past the infirmities, or whatever we see as a 'stumbling block' to a relationship with them, so that we might reach out. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/francis-neath-the-bitter-tree-006-william-hart-mcnichols.html
5. My photo (cropped) of the stained glass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas: I chose this because Jesus is holding the bread and wine which He offers now as His Body and Blood.
6. My photo of gorse on a hill in Scotland: Gorse is a plant which grows all over Scotland and turns everything into a blaze of bright yellow. It is seemingly everywhere, a humble plant which is indeed beautiful when it covers a hillside.
7. Heart of the Mother, by Fr. William Hart McNichols: I chose this because I loved the simplicity of the image. Mary is dressed in pale yellow and cream, and so her heart truly stands out. Mary is pure, without sin, conceived as such within her mother's womb in preparation for her assent to being the Mother of God. Her heart was always immaculate, and I believe this image truly captures that, as well as her humility. We need to turn to Mary's motherly heart often, asking for her intercession as our model of faith, humility, and love. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/heart-of-the-mother-252-william-hart-mcnichols.html
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Heart Speaks to Heart