Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Longing, The Holy Spirit and St. Bonaventure

The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor on July 15 with a beautiful selection in the Office of Readings from his book The Journey of the Mind to God; a treatise about the ascent of the soul to the Lord.

St. Bonaventure describes this ascent, this longing for the Lord as something that is possible only with the assistance of the Lord himself. The key to unlocking this flood of grace - of divine assistance, is prayer.  St. Bonaventure tells us, "This divine aid is available for all who seek it with a truly humble and devout heart, that is by sighing for it in this vale of tears by fervent prayer. Prayer is the mother and origin of every upward striving of the soul."

The enemy #1 of this ascent to God is sin. "Sin", according to St. Bonaventure, "deforms nature." Once again, the antidote to sin that he prescribes is prayer and the living of a holy life. He encourages detachment in order to pursue this journey towards God saying: "Let us silence all our cares, all our desires and all our imaginings." 

YIKES! is what I have to say to St. Bonaventure.

Not only is he a little on the challenging side to read - his words throw down quite a formidable challenge to live out.

I have to be honest with you - I LONG for God - I want to be pleasing to Him, I want to know his will, I want to follow that will as best as I can. I can feel the desire for Him inside my chest and yet most days that desire is frustrated by the cares and concerns of the world.  Have I missed my vocation as a contemplative nun?  Or is this journey towards God possible for me, a wife, a Mom, a chauffer to the pool club, a laundry folder, a dishwasher, a chicken cutlet fryer (you get the picture).

A resounding YES is the answer deep in my heart. YES, this is possible for me....and for you. St. Bonaventure tells me that this yes is not just my imagination, but a gift from the Holy Spirit himself. He says a person cannot experience this journey to God "unless he surrenders himself to it;; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul."

Thank you St. Bonaventure, for letting me know that the longing in my heart for the Lord is not futile pipe dream, but has in fact, been placed there by God himself. Thank you for the comfort in knowing that I do not have to rely solely on my own sagging will-power in trying to overcome the obstacles in my life that prevent me from drawing closer to God - that it is the Holy Spirit himself who will aid my efforts. 

Thank you Lord, for the gift of your Saints who guide us on our journey home to you!
St. Bonaventure, pray for us!
This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link - if you click through and buy the Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure, my domestic church will receive a few pennies!  If you do read it, let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vacations and Virtue: 7 Resolutions For Managing Summer Overhoad

Ahhh....summer vacation - long relaxing days at the pool, followed by barbecues, late nights and no schedules.  Sounds like a dream - right?

Not to me. 

Summer time, with its lack of a regular routine, is driving me nuts. While I enjoyed the first few days of summer vacation,  I am now panicked about undone laundry, unhealthy meals, and unfinished blog posts - a panic which is being exacerbated by lack of sleep, lack of exercise and lack of prayer-time.

Am I alone in this?  

My guess is no. So what's a frazzled Mom to do with the majority of the summer still stretching ahead. Surely not whine and complain about it like an overtired toddler....

Here's a few strategies/resolutions that I hope to employ for the remainder of the summer that will hopefully prevent me from becoming a poolside version of the Grinch!

1.. Count Blessings
Ah, yes - the attitude of gratitude - easy to say, even easier to forget to do. I am embarrassed to admit that I have allowed my frustration over all the things I have not accomplished this summer cloud my vision enough that I have not been grateful for the many wonderful things that have already happened this summer.

Even more foundational than being grateful for the little things, is to be grateful for the big things - like having the financial means to stay home and accompany my children on their many summer adventures.

I resolve to begin and end each day with a written list of all the blessings God has given me and my family.

2. Stay in the Moment
By my (very loose) calculations, 18 years of summer vacations amounts to a little more than 1000 days of summer fun. Not very much time when you really boil it down to the numbers. Although it is challenging for me to do this, I am resolving to stay in the present moment as much as possible for the remainder of the summer and enjoy this time with my children. 

I resolve to put down my Iphone, put away my to-do list, and whole-heartedly participate in whatever activity I am doing at the present moment.

3. Plan Ahead
All of the "enjoy the present moment" exhortations don't change the fact that the mundane tasks of life like laundry, grocery shopping  and meal preparation still need to get done. For this, I am resolving to spend an hour or two each week planning a schedule for when and how those tasks can happen. What I seem to miss the most in the summer is the ordered schedule that the school year brings. Why not create a schedule that allows for all my "to-do's" to get done while still providing ample time for spontaneous summer fun?  Revolutionary thought - huh?  It is one that I seem to overlook every June.....

I resolve to make a plan, inform my family of the plan  and stick to it. 
4. Schedule Downtime
I  have fallen into a common trap of thinking that every single second of summer vacation needs to be filled with action-packed adventures.  The reality is that not only do I need some downtime, but so do my kids. Scheduling a few blocks of time each week to just hang at home is not a crime. 

I resolve to spend some time each week doing nothing - without guilt.
5. Ignore the Jonses
The old saying "keeping up with the Jonses'" haunts me every summer. I hear stories from other Moms about the wonderful camp their child is attending, or the educational day-trips they have taken, or the fifteen books their child has read, and my own summer plans seem woefully inadequate. All these comparisons to other families' summer plans leaves me anxious that I have not made the right choices for my own family. 

I resolve to not compare my summer plans to those of other families. 

 6. Cultivate Prudence
Ah prudence - that pesky virtue that seems to always want to insert itself into the middle of the fun as the biggest Debbie-Downer.  Boo to prudence, I say.  Except that I probably should be listening to the virtue of prudence when it niggles at my heart and says "stop your conversation and re-apply the sunscreen to the kids faces" or "choose the salad over the corn-dog for lunch today" or "letting the kids stay up for one more show is not a good idea for the 5th night in a row."
Prudence and its secular cousin, common sense, can be a great virtue to cultivate in the midst of the frenzy of summer activities. It is the virtue that sees the bigger picture, that looks beyond the immediate gratification of the present moment and takes into account the consequences.  It is the virtue that counts the costs (and the calories) and allows us to make an informed decision about the best course of action.
I resolve to pray for the virtue of prudence this summer and apply it to my in-the-moment decisions.
Put the Oxygen Mask On Yourself
7. Some things, like oxygen, are absolutely essential for us parents to have in order to function sanely in the midst of the summer insanity. Like the in-flight instructions to secure the oxygen mask on yourself before attending to the needs and wants of others, this is not a position of selfishness, but one of absolute necessity. While this looks different for every person, the list for myself is: prayer time every day, time alone away from the kids for a few hours per week, a good night sleep, and time to get my own work done. 
I resolve to ensure that I have time to do the things that are necessary for me to take care of myself so that I joyfully and peacefully be able to take care of others.

Please share your own tips for managing the summer - I can really use the help!

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