Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How is a Mother-in-Law like the Holy Spirit?

Every moment of our lives is permeated with the Presence that loves and bestows.  To live in faith, means to be able to see this loving and constantly bestowing Presence. . . . Every moment of our lives brings us His presence.  Every moment of your life is a moment of meeting with the Presence, that is loving you. . . . . God links grace to each moment, be it an easy or a difficult one. . . . everything that happens in your life, is linked with some kind of grace. . . . It is extremely important for you to believe in this constant Presence which manifests itself in various ways. . . . If you would believe that you are always immersed in the merciful love of God, who never abandons you, then it is certain that you would never fall.Everything that you experience is linked to the love of God who loves you, and to His desire for your good. (See Romans 8:28)  -- Father Tadeusz Dajczer in The Gift of Faith under "To Perceive the Loving Presence" in chapter 1.
Tout est grace.  Translated:  Everything is grace.  -- St. Therese of the Child Jesus.
There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action. . . . The books the Holy Spirit is writing are living, and every soul a volume in which the divine author makes a true revelation of his word, explaining it to every heart, unfolding it in every moment.― Jean-Pierre de CaussadeThe Sacrament of the Present Moment 
Some moments are easier to perceive God's presence, in us and in those we love.  Moments like holding your newborn, or just a newborn, especially a newly baptized newborn.  Moments when we feel our hearts stirring within us (see Luke 24:32) while reading Scripture, or hearing the preaching of someone filled and in prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit.  Moments when we are blessed to experience the holy death of someone passing from this world into eternal life to behold forever the beautiful and glorious presence and to feel the embrace of our awesome and loving God.

Then there are the moments when those in our own homes or in our workplaces or in our churches or our childrens' schools or on the road to those places, do things or say things that evoke frustration, anger, even wrath.  Then do we sense God's presence?  Then do we perceive the loving, dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within our souls through the grace of the Sacrament of Baptism and confirmed in us by the grace of Confirmation or, in the case of non-Sacrament-receiving believers -- through the repentance and forgiveness of sins received through the "Sinner's Prayer", which may be equivalent to the Baptism of Desire (CCC #1259), or through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5)?

I don't.  I want to.  I am praying I will, but I don't.

This past Saturday night I had a little battle with my younger daughter.  There was a preceding battle, this past Friday morning, the second day of their private Christian school, when she was defiantly wearing something non-compliant with her school's dress code.  Actually both her shirt and her pants were against the rules.  The little battle lasted probably 20 minutes.  I'd tell her to change.  She would not.  I would express that she had to change, had to obey, had to follow the rules, and she would not.  I dressed her.  She got undressed and back into what she had been wearing.  I took away the shirt and hid it, she said she was just going to stay home from school.  Finally she did end up wearing a dress that was officially too short, but I let it go because at least it wasn't skin tight like the "jeggings" she had on.

Now on Saturday evening she was breaking her bedtime rule.  She is supposed to be in bed by 10 p.m.  She was not and because she was also late going to bed the night before and was up early, she was overtired.  She was fighting with her sister and was refusing to sleep either in her bunk bed or in my bed, since she shares the room with her sister.  I would not have it again.  Defiance.  Rebellion.  Disobedience.  Disregard for my parental authority in favor of her autonomy.  I was filled with anger and yes it was in the vicinity of rage.

She claimed her strained arm, injury of 1.5 months ago, was hurting, so I left the room and the confrontation with her to get her an ice pack, wrist brace, and ibuprofen.  My mother-in-law had been sleeping in the upstairs bedroom, but sometime during my elevated vocalization, and my daughter's crying, she woke up.

She came out of her darkened room into the hallway and grabbed my arms lovingly, gently, and said, "Colleen, can I help you?"

I brushed past her, shaking free of her hands, and said, "No.  I have to find her wrist brace.  Her wrist is hurting."

She said, "Fine," and left me alone.

So how is a Mother-in-Law or at least how was my mother-in-law in that moment like the Holy Spirit?

It is obvious to me after my morning meditation, that dovetails so nicely with my second read of the The Gift of Faith and the quote from St. Therese that was in a email from my parish priest this morning, as well as being included in the "To Perceive the Loving Presence" section of the The Gift of Faith.  The Holy Spirit has these little repetitions, and complementary sources of his teaching for me, and for many of us, because it takes this orchestration to make an impact on us.

My meditation today was on John 14:22-31 inclusive of the verses
23Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 
25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 

Father Bartunek, in The Better Part provides food for meditation on these verses, of which I bolded the parts that were physically played out by mother-in-law last Saturday night:
The Holy Spirit is like our own personal trainer, but instead of honing our physique, he polishes our love, our holiness, our very hearts.  Unfortunately, we often forget about him.  He is polite, he knows he is only a guest, because even though he created us, he completely respects our freedom.  And so he waits for us to listen to him, to ask him for guidance and strength.  And if we listen, he will teach us, just as Christ taught his disciples during those years when they walked together through the hills of Galilee and Judah.
Then he provides a prayer for us to offer to our indwelling guest, the Holy Spirit of God:
Wherever I go, you are with me.  Whatever I do or say, you are with me.  Whatever I look at or think about, you are there within me.  I believe in you.  Yet I have to ask:  Why am I not more aware of you?  Grant me that grace, Lord --teach me never to walk alone.
I believe in you, Lord, but help me to believe more fully.  Help me to believe so completely that my life and yours become one.  In all my activities, conversations, and relationships, I want to live and communicate the joy and peace that only you can give.
My personal prayer:

Father God, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit --- I trust in you!  I know that you have given me the gift of faith, the gift of loving you, and the holy desire to know, and love you with a purer heart, and to have the grace of unceasing recollection - attention to your indwelling Holy, and Loving presence in my soul.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for my mother-in-law!  Thank you for teaching me that in that moment she physically showed me, in a way my senses and memory could not dispute, a gentle, loving presence that wanted to help me.  And what did I do?  I pushed past her and refused the help.  I certainly didn't ask her for it.

In my anger, on the brink of rage, I did not in any moment come against the spirit of anger and disobedience that were active in the confrontation between me and my daughter . . . . anger on me, and disobedience on her.  Not to mention the selfishness involved in both of us wanting our way.  I am too immature and too lacking in the virtues of gentleness and self-control to succeed in moments like this, and yet I have the loving, gentle presence of God within me and I don't turn to you for help.  Thank you for the teaching, please help me to do better next time!  Please forgive me, and please do help me!

In Jesus's Most Holy Name, and in your name Yahweh Sabaoth, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, I ask these intentions, Amen.
If you would believe that you are always immersed in the merciful love of God, who never abandons you, then it is certain that you would never fall.  -- Father Tadeusz Dajczer in The Gift of Faith under "To Perceive the Loving Presence" in chapter 1.
If you have repented, and have experienced God's presence, and you are in a "state of grace" then you should be confident that the Holy Spirit is with you, and that you are immersed in the merciful love of God who never abandons you, even when you are sinning, and even when you have sinned.  What is affected if you are not in the state of grace, is your ability to perceive his holy, loving, life-giving, and wise presence.  What should you do if you don't think you are in the state of grace?  The Didache, an early Christian document written about 70 A.D. (70 years after Jesus was born, in the 1st Century) states regarding Holy Communion:
"Whosoever is holy [i.e., in a state of sanctifying grace], let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent (Didache 10). . . But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one" (Didache 14). 
The Didache is only 99 cents on Kindle and takes less than an hour to read.  It is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  If you are Catholic and you want to grow into a state of unceasing recollection as I do, it helps to frequently receive the Sacrament of Confession.  For any Christian, Catholics and non-Sacramental believers, it helps to have frequent examinations of conscience and acts of repentance, rather than to walk our Christian life recipient of the cheap grace that includes only forgiveness of sins, but not the repentance that St. John the Baptist and Jesus preached.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost Of Discipleship

May we all be brought by the Holy Spirit, and by our docility to his teaching and internal transformation to unceasing attention to the fact that we are, at every moment--the good ones, the tense ones, every moment immersed in the merciful love of God, and sustained by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!  May this help us grow in the gift of peace that Jesus gave us, that we would trust in him and not let our hearts be troubled. (See and meditate on John 14!)


  1. Colleen, this is wonderful! So much food for meditation here. One of these days, you really need to write a book. You have such a gift for taking a topic to its heights and depths and circling around to make connections which link everything together, and always based in Scripture. You are a natural teacher. This post also shines with your beautiful spirit, and your intense love for God. Thank you for sharing you wisdom, and your heart. God bless. Love and peace.....

    1. Patricia, thank you so much! The teaching is from the Holy Spirit! Your comment is beautiful and nothing could make me happier than my love for God shining through. You are a dear sister in Christ! God bless you, and love & prayers from me.