Emily M. DeArdo

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prayer

#20 St. Therese chapel (retreat notes II)

Catholicism, journal, prayer, Take Up and ReadEmily DeArdoComment
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I’ve been making retreats since….gosh. 2009, maybe? 2008? One of those two. So that’s 10 years of silent retreats, which is sort of amazing when I think about.

I always go on silent retreats. I find that’s the best way to really listen to God, for me, and I sort of crave that silence. This retreat I went into with out “resolutions” (as Msgr. Knox calls them), but just with the desire to fill my cup, so to speak, with God, His presence, His voice, and His quiet.

The chapel is really well suited to these things.

It’s a gorgeous stone chapel, built in the 40s, I think. The floor has the patina of age. It’s always cool in there, and quiet. The decades of prayer are obvious. The art is gorgeous, too, and leads you to contemplation pretty easily, and prayer.

There is a small side chapel, which holds the reliquary (we’ll talk about that in a later post), and has a painting of the Annunciation on the wall. It’s a supremely comfortable spot, because there’s a nice big chair in there, so you can sit and look at the tabernacle and pray, hidden and secluded. That’s where I had one of my holy hours this time, and it really was delightful.

This retreat was different in that there were only three conferences (talks on the retreat theme, which was Mary), so there was ample time for silence and doing your own thing. Usually I also spend time in my room, but since it was so hot, I spent all of my time in the chapel or the lounge. I had brought extra books to read since I knew I’d have spare time (only spiritual books, and my Bible; I don’t bring Outlander on retreat with me.). So a lot of reading, and then note taking, pondering in my journal, Bible reading (lectio), and prayer. It was great.

 The chapel spire from the garden

The chapel spire from the garden


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The source of life

Catholicism, prayerEmily DeArdo2 Comments
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Adoration is an immense force of reparation; by it you will obtain healing for the sick, peace for the tormented, light for those plunged into darkness, and joy for those crushed by sorrows.
It is not by preaching, nor by teaching, nor by any outward works that you will do good to souls, but only by the humility of a hidden life of adoration and reparation. To others I have given other gifts and I am glorified in their works, but from you I ask only this: that you become hidden even as I am hidden in the Host, and that you become a victim of adoration and reparation with Me. This is the great work of Eucharistic Love that, at every moment, is Mine in all the tabernacles of the world.

(From In Sinu Jesu; read the rest of the excerpt here

 

Lately, when there's been a tragedy, people have derided the idea of "thoughts and prayers." They don't change anything, they're useless, prayers don't change things, action does!

They're so wrong. 

Prayer changes thing. But the problem is, we need to become fervent in prayer. Our relationship with God needs to take first place. If we really devoted ourselves to prayer, to Christian living, our world would change. Full stop. 

As Catholics, we have some pretty powerful weapons in our arsenal. The Mass. The rosary. The sacraments. 

And we have another: Eucharistic Adoration. 

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Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, here on Earth. We can be in the presence of Jesus--His actual presence!--every single day. We can receive Him every single day, by going to Mass. But I know that Mass schedules aren't often amenable for people who have jobs. 

But we can also go to him in prayer before the tabernacle or the monstrance. 

Holy Hours--or even holy half hours, holy fifteen minutes--is truly sacred time. Spending time in the very presence of Jesus is such a gift, and one that is so overlooked! So often churches are locked, and we can't visit Him. But many churches today are bringing back periods of adoration, or even perpetual adoration chapels, where Jesus is always available for us!

When we come before Him in this way, we are pouring out our time. We are giving it back to Him, and nothing can be a better way to spend our time. We worry about all that we have to do--but if we give time to God, He gives it back to us. Trust me on this. (Or, if you don't trust me, trust Mother Teresa--she said that her sisters had the time to do everything they did because they prayed so much during the day.)

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If we're serious about change--then we need to come back to Jesus in His Eucharistic form. He is here among us, and so often we forget Him. 

You don't need to start by doing it every day. Maybe try it once a month. Maybe come to Mass 15 minutes early to spend time in prayer before Him. Then once you're into that pattern, try coming 30 minutes early. Build slowly. But I will say that my best prayer time has always been before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 

You don't have to "do" anything. There's the famous story about St. Jean Vianney and the parishioner who came to the church every day, and just sat there; he told the saint that he looked at Jesus, and Jesus looked at him. You can say the rosary. You can read the bible, or a spiritual book. You can just talk to Jesus (because that's all prayer is, talking to God). He knows what you need, but tell Him! Pour it out before Him. Sometimes you can't even do that. Then just sit with him. 

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton said: "How sweet the presence of Jesus to the longing, harassed soul! It is instant peace, and balm to every wound." And it is

The practice of adoration is not difficult. It is a gentle abiding in My presence, a resting in the radiance of My Eucharistic Face, a closeness to My Eucharistic Heart. Words, though sometimes helpful, are not necessary, nor are thoughts. What I seek from one who would adore Me in spirit and in truth is a heart aflame with love, a heart content to abide in My presence, silent and still, engaged only in the act of loving Me and of receiving My love. Though this is not difficult, it is, all the same, My own gift to the soul who asks for it. Ask, then, for the gift of adoration.
--In Sinu Jesu

Eucharistic Adoration is truly powerful. Please, try to work it into your schedule, either by coming to Mass a little earlier, stopping by a chapel on your way to or from work, or trying a holy hour once a month at a local parish with an adoration chapel. 

Prayer isn't magic. But prayer works. Let's rev up our prayer lives, starting with a return to Eucharistic Adoration. 

Lectio di-wha?

essays, Lent, prayer, Take Up and ReadEmily DeArdoComment
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It's no secret that I love to read. I've loved it ever since my mom first read to me as a toddler; I was the kid who snuck books under her desk in school, and read while I should've been getting ready for Mass, or when I should've been sleeping. Books are life. 

So you'd think that the practice of lectio divina, "holy reading", would be the easiest type of prayer for me to practice. 

You'd be so, so wrong. 

I am terrible at lectio. 

Before I tell you why I'm terrible at it, I should probably explain what it is. As I noted, it means "holy reading." It's a way of praying using the Scriptures. Essentially, you read (lectio); you meditate on what you read (meditatio); you pray about what you read (oratio), and then you figure out how to put all that into action (actio). It doesn't sound hard, right? 

Except for me it is. 

First, there's the reading. What the heck am I supposed to read? The Mass readings? Go through the Bible chronologically, only to falter when I get to Leviticus and Numbers and lists of names and other rosters? Start with Matthew and work through the New Testament and then maybe try the old? 

And what if I read and nothing comes to me? I read, and read, and read....nope, God, sorry, nothing's hitting me. That's actually my biggest problem with lectio. I read. And I read. And nothing hits me. There's no inspiration. How am I supposed to pray with that? 

In Advent, I had a pretty big breakthrough. The Advent journal, Rooted in Hope, was a real, hard core introduction to lectio, and it helped me immensely.  

First--because there are readings given. There was a featured verse, and a few others. I didn't have to worry about what to read. 

Second--the steps were all broken down, and easy for me to see, to ponder, to do

At first, I had to re-read the passages a few times. I picked a word, an idea, that spoke to me. But some days it was harder than others. That's OK. I just kept doing it. 

Lectio also requires a bit of background--and this is hard, too. In the first step, you're supposed to do some analysis: what is actually happening in the passage? Is Jesus talking to somebody? Who is Paul writing to, and why? Who is speaking in this excerpt from 1 Kings? That's where a good Bible dictionary, or study bible, is so important (resources at the end of this post). Because this is a big key--knowing what's happening in what you're reading. 

Here's an example: The familiar reading from weddings, 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient. Love is kind. Yada yada. We've all heard that a million times. But if you know that Paul wrote that to the Corinthians because they were fighting among each other, because there was disunity, and arguing, and strife, and confusion--doesn't it take on a whole different tone? I know it did to me. All of a sudden, Paul's letter is real. It speaks to me in the twenty-first century. Aren't we all in strife, all the time? Aren't we fighting amongst each other? Paul wasn't just writing some nice platitudes. He was giving solid advice to people in the midst of bickering and in-fighting. 

So, keeping with this example: You would read 1 Corinthians 13. You'd do the lectio on it--you'd say, oh, OK, Paul is writing to these people, who are fighting amongst themselves. Then, the meditation. How does this apply to me? Who am I fighting with? Can I apply these concepts there? Who needs more love from me? Where am I not being loving? 

Then, oratio, prayer. Talk to God about what you're thinking. Ask Him to help you apply this to your daily life (actio, the application, the action). "God, I know I need to be more patient with XYZ. It's hard for me. But I know that's what you want. I know that living that way will be a true expression of the Christian life I'm trying to lead. So when I want to swear or yell at this person, help me to be kind. Help me to be patient. I won't be perfect--but with Your help, I will try. I will make progress." 

The actio is in the prayer, right there. You are going to be nicer to XYZ--you won't snap at her, you'll keep your patience, whatever. 

You see how that works? To me, the key is the lectio. It's knowing what the text is really saying, what its implications are. 

As you know, I'm a part of the Take Up and Read team, and we've published our Lent study/devotional, Above All. (In the photo at the top) Every day, you'll get lectio passages--and notes. I did the notes, and it wasn't just to help readers, it helped me! I learned so much as I researched these books of the Bible! It's a beautiful companion for your Lent, and I'm so proud of it. It starts on Ash Wednesday (February 14!) and goes all the way to Easter. There are pages for journaling, an examination of conscience, essays, and more. And the profits will go Adore Ministries in Houston to support ongoing hurricane relief efforts! 

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If you haven't gotten your copy yet, you can get it here. If you have any questions about it, or about lectio in general, let me know! I'm not an expert, but we can figure it out together. 

Lectio resources: 

Catholic Bible Dictionary

Ignatius Study Bible (NT)

Didache Bible

 

Catholics do read the Bible! And this is how we do it--with lectio. 

 

Sharing Contemplation No. 1

essays, prayerEmily DeArdoComment

One of the mottos of the Dominican order is, "to contemplate, and to share the fruits of contemplation." It's one of the ways we evangelize. So every so often, I'll be sharing the fruit of my contemplation with you. 

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On my phone case is a Bible verse. I know, that's kind of weird, right? And it's not even a popular Bible verse. In fact, it's one whose meaning changes a little bit based on the translation. But this verse has played a big role in my life. 

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

In the Revised Standard Catholic version, "trust" is changed to "believe." And to me, that doesn't pack the same punch. I've always believed in God. I haven't always really trusted in God. 

There's a difference there. 

Believing in God means I know that He exists. My faith is built on that. But trusting in Him means that I believe He's going to take care of me, to do what's best for me, all the time. That He won't let me fall. And that's harder to me than just believing in Him.

Right after I left my job a few years ago, I went on a silent retreat. It was the end of Lent, and it had been a hard Lent. I knew, intellectually, that leaving my job was the right decision. I felt that God had led me to make that decision. But I wasn't at peace with it. I didn't really trust Him not to let me fall. 

At every meal, Scripture passages, written on small cards, were at each plate. I always sit at the same spot when I go on retreat. (I'm like Sheldon that way.) On Saturday at lunch, the card at my plate had this verse from Romans. And it stopped me in my tracks. Relief washed over me. 

Emily, I'm going to take care of this. Trust me to take care of it. 

It's hard. I still have to remind myself that God's got this, over and over again. Like Ann Voskamp says in One Thousand Gifts, "trust the bridge builder." If I trust my earthly father, shouldn't I also trust my heavenly Father, if not more than I trust my earthly father? (And I trust my parents an awful lot.) 

Today, while doing my Advent study, this verse was one of the ones suggested 'For Further Reading.' And once again, I was hit with God's reminder to trust in Him. To Rest in Him and acknowledge that He provides--often better than I ever could've thought He would. 

This video popped into my mailbox today, too. Coincidence? I think not. 

Is God invited you to trust, too? Step into that trust. Know that He can always always always be counted on. 

"You've Got To Be Kidding!": Being Mad at God

Catholicism, prayerEmily DeArdo1 Comment

"And you can say to God sometimes, 'you have got to be kidding'...oh, I think you can say anything. You can say, 'I am mad at you, and I am not going to be a good sport about it!' And that's prayer...It's all prayer."

--Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but there are times when she hits the nail squarely on the head, and this is one of those times. 

If you never, ever read another thing I write (though I hope you do), remember this: You can be mad at God. It's OK. He can handle it. 

Is your jaw on the table yet? Do you wonder how I can be a "good Christian" and write what I just wrote? 

Some people are. I've had people say to me that being mad at God is a sin that will send me to Hell. Now, I believe in Hell, and I know a lot of ways to get there, but I don't think honesty is one of those ways. 

I taught my CCD kids a few weeks ago that prayer is talking to God, which is what it is. When you want to have a relationship with someone, eventually, the gloves come off, right? What friendship, marriage, partnership, etc. doesn't have the eventual fight? Eventually, the guy you marry will see you with your makeup off. Eventually, your best friend is going to see you when you're in a not-nice mood. It's part of life. 

God made us the way we are. He wants us to come close to Him, to enter into a real relationship with Him. He loves us so much, that that love created us, and sent His son to die for us. God doesn't want, and doesn't need, us to be happy all the time. 

Should we thank God in all circumstances, like the Bible says? Yes. Absolutely. It drives me crazy when people say "God is so good!" only when the job has been gained, or the house bought, or the kid chosen for the team. God is always good. Ann Voskamp says that God is always good, and we are always loved. And we are. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. God is never not good. He can't be--his very nature is Goodness. 

You can do that--and still get irritated at God. "God...this position I'm in right now? It sucks. I'm not real thrilled that I'm here. I don't want to be here. I want something different. But.....you are in control. But right now, I'm sort of pissed at you, and I want you to know that." 

Do bad things happen to good people? Yes. I've also been told that my illnesses, my "issues", are because I didn't have enough faith. That I didn't do enough. I didn't pray enough. That if I just did more, somehow, God was going to change everything. 

Guys. God is not a Cosmic Vending Machine. You don't put in prayers and get a Milky War Bar of Good Answer back. Yes, we have to pray, and we have to believe. But even with all those things--there is still suffering. Jesus, the Most Blameless, Perfect Person Who Will Ever Live, still died on the cross

Every time I've been mad at God, it's because I haven't been open to His Will. I would have long, drawn-out sessions of "I do not want to do this. I do not like this plan..." but at the end of all of them, I--and you--opened my hands and said, "OK. The only way I will stay sane through any of this is to commend my spirit to you. Just give it up. Surrender all of this to Your Will, because the only thing that's going to keep me sane in that." Corrie Ten Boom prayed that same prayer--keep me in the center of your will! Don't let me poke around outside it, because that's going to drive me crazy.

You can get mad at God. You can say "God, I do not understand any of this, and it makes me SO MAD!" That's OK! That is valid. That is prayer. 

But the thing that brings you back, and keeps you from going crazy? Knowing that He has a plan. It's His Plan, you don't know it, and you're not in control of it. Open yourself up and say "OK. Your plan is driving me nuts, but I know that without the plan, outside of your plan, I will definitely go nuts. The only way to keep myself in peace and goodness and sanity is to stay with you. You have to take me through this, because I can't." 

 

What do you think? Can you be angry at God? Is anger legitimate prayer? When have you been angry at God, and how did you work through it--or are you still angry?