by: Marianne Williamson
Every morning when you wake up, your mind is more open to receive new impressions than at any other time. If you go directly to the news as the world defines it—to a newspaper, to radio or television that reports on the anguish and the despair of the world—and particularly if you add caffeine, don’t be mystified if you are depressed by noon. Turn to meditation or inspirational reading or whatever spiritual source material puts your mind and heart on track—on track with God’s will and on track with the deepest love, for the two are the same.
The level of thought is the level of cause. The level of your life experience manifested in the world is the level of effect. Therefore in order to change your life, you must change the nature of your thinking. Often the problem, however, is that this can be much easier said than done. And that is why spirituality supersedes traditional psychology. Sometimes it is difficult to change our thoughts. Sometimes our mental habits were formed very, very early in childhood and they represent the teaching and training of a fear-based world. And that is why we go to God. He renews your life by renewing your mind. But He cannot take from you what you will not release to Him. Take time to release to God all energies within you, all thoughts and feelings, all character defects, all wounds within you, which you know limit your life, block your growth, and keep from you the radiance and joy, which is your natural inheritance as a child of God.
As it is said in A Course in Miracles, it is not enough to bring the light to the darkness; we must bring the darkness to the light. If you go to the doctor with a broken hand, it’s not good enough to show the doctor your knee. Rather, we give to God, we place on the altar all that is wounded, all that is dark, all that is neurotic, and all that is painful in order that the spirit of God might lift up all that is low to that which is high, make all that is weak now strong, make all that is poor now rich and all that is bound by fear released into the arms of love. God Himself would replace all darkness with light. Make yourself available for the experience—and miracles will follow.
Here is a Morning Meditation for you to try:
We see in the middle of our mind a little ball of golden light. We watch this light as it begins to grow larger and larger. Until now, it covers the entire inner vision of our mind. You see for yourself in this light a beautiful temple. You see a garden that surrounds the temple and a body of water that flows through the garden. You see that the inside of the temple is lit by this same beautiful golden light. And here you are, for you have been born to this day in the spirit and grace of God. We surrender who we are. We surrender this day. May only God’s will prevail. You open your heart to all living things.
Thank you, God, for this day. Thank you for this new chance, this new opportunity for life. We call to mind everything that will happen on this day. Call to mind all the people in your life. For the relationships that are good and peaceful and abundant. Give thanks in your heart and commit within to participate even more fully, even more compassionately, to be even a greater space of love for these people with whom you share the fruits and goodness of your life. We place all these relationships in the hands of God.
Now gently call to mind the people with whom you are not in good relationship, the people or situations that annoy you, the burdens, the questions, the problems that you carry. Do not push them away. Do not allow yourself to become distracted. Rather call to mind all the burdens on your heart and gently, tenderly deliver them into the hands of God. In the mind of God lies a perfect day. You surrender now who you were yesterday. And ask that the spirit of God enter into you and lift you up to the better angel of your being.
May the spirit of God come upon you and smooth out all your rough edges. May the spirit of God come upon you and remove every burden you carry.
A path lies before you of perfect grace. It exists. Take the hand now of your Divine guide, be it an angel, be it Jesus, be it the presence of an amorphous light, allow your guiding light to walk across the bridge from your old self lost in fear and limitation and ego and pain, released now to the possibility of unlimited grace and radiance through the power and presence of God.
Give meaning to my life, health to my body and graciousness to my heart on this day and every day, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for me and for all humankind. Amen.
"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life: Amen."
Remember, these are prayerful sentiments of a saint, a heroically-holy man. Another saint, Mother Teresa, prayed this prayer every day after Holy Communion. Why? She wanted, and desired for her sisters, to impress within, the blessings of a saint, the medicine of a mystic to sanctify and bring about union-with God and others. So, as you pray the prayer and read the meditations, become heroic, selfless, and more Christ-centered, like Francis and Teresa. Some of the prayer may be counter-intuitive-that is, against your grain, contrary to your human nature. Spirituality is like that: you must lose yourself to find yourself (Mk 8:35), and "become as a child" (Mt. 18:3) to enter the Kingdom. Our Sacred Religion is, though rational and understandable, really, trans-rational--mystical mysteries elevating the soul into higher being and love (Cf. Col 3:1-3). After all, we believe in spiritual paradoxes like the God-Man, a Virgin-Mother and the One-in-Three-Lord. All these are what Nicholas of Cusa called "coindenta oppsotiroum"-the "co-incidence of opposites." Whereas these opposites may appear irreconcilable to the world and our rationalistic, scientific minds, they are, in God's plan, harmonized and fused, and the only response is pray, bow, and worship. A pilgrim once said about his Faith: I don't have the pressure to understand everything rationally but am freed simply to believe and accept mysteries. St Francis knew that. Though he wasn't a rocket scientist he was a brilliant Spiritual Strategist-a Mystical Medicine Man, a Spiritual Director. Why? The first stanza of the Peace Prayer is a "Call to Action"-a "Peace Plan" for every individual. We do not need Geneva Convention or Camp David accords, as good as they might be, to be peace makers-we have a "Peace Plan" right here! The second stanza of verses (II) is a "via negativa" of the spiritual life (which some quarters of modern Catholicism neglect or reject): they show and pray for the need to strip and negate ourselves of sins, self, attachments, and other junk. The third stanza of verses (III) are a climax of the Fruits of our Efforts and God's Grace-Union with Him, eliciting a "Spiritual Circle of Unity," where illusion is dispelled and soul is propelled into God-likeness. All kinds of people have found this prayer wise, healing and enlightening. So, then, enough, let us meditate:
Lord Make me an instrument of Thy peace
Look-you are called to be a saint. Yes, you. All are called to perfection (Mt.5:48) not just clerics and religious. St Francis, before he became a "Franciscan," was a layman. He was just like you, but he became like unto God. Why-how? Because of his thirst for holiness and his tireless, faithful desire to be used as a vessel of God's Mercy and Grace. An instrument is a vehicle to be used by another person to achieve a goal. Catholics have always been called to be instruments of holiness, this isn't anything new. Think of Saints Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Mother Seton-all were laypersons in their conversions to holiness. Despite our imprisoning misinterpretations-i.e., that holiness for all was repressed in the Church before and that it is now for all-- the Church has always called people-lay and clerics--- to holiness. Anyway-we-as Catholic Christians-- are called to be instruments. …Think: just as when, in a concert people don't clap for the violin-instrument after a beautiful performance, but for the violin player, the same should be true for us in our call to holiness: we are God's instruments--we should serve and worship God, not ourselves. A news reporter once asked a daring question to Mother Teresa if she were ever tempted to be proud. Mother Theresa inquired with a smile, "Proud about what?" The reporter replied, 'Why, about the wonderful things you have been doing for the poorest of the poor?" Then came her answer, "I never knew I had done anything, because it was God who had worked in and through my Sisters and volunteers." Saints show us the way of Selflessness in a seductive world of self-esteem. Another spin on this: a couple recently heard a Franciscan priest speak of the need for Catholics to share wealth with, and befriend, the poor: "If you have an extra coat in your house-it belongs to a poor person," the bearded preacher said. The couple went home and began planning for a dozen people to go to Nicaragua--to make housing for the poor…Are you serious about being an instrument of God? Are you using the Gifts He gave you for Him and for others?
Where there is hatred let me sow love
There is not only hatred in terrorists, rapists and abortionists, but also, sometimes, in our families, church-communities, in our political world, and, most importantly, in our hearts: So, there is plenty of need for us to be ambassadors of peace and reconciliation (II Cor. 5:20). St John of the Cross counsels: "Where there is no love, place love, and there draw out love." Our sinful tendency while reacting to hateful situations is"eye for an eye" retribution. St Francis and saints counter this inanity. Think of Pope John Paul II- a man (Ali Agha) once tried to kill him. The pope survived the hatred-in-action-assassination and went to the prison to forgive the man and reverse the evil. This is radical today. St Francis himself went to the Middle East and the Crusades to make peace with opposing warriors. Why won't you? Who are those who embrace hatred in your world? And how can you make peace with them? Maybe there is hatred in your office, in your family or elsewhere-be the first to reconcile, to begin anew. Where there is injury, pardon: we all get "injured" in life by another's words or deeds, by physical harm and sickness. Maria Goretti was stabbed eighteen times in an assault by a man and then died. The man was thrown in the slammer and, by God's Grace, eventually repented, reformed and was released-as a practicing Catholic. He became a third-order Franciscan and then went to visit Maria Goretti's mom and asked for forgiveness. She said: "Maria forgave you and so do I."… Be heroic in healing and forgiveness!
Where there is doubt, faith: atheism means a person doesn't believe in God; agnosticism means a person doesn't think anything can be known about God. We are called to alleviate these two sicknesses by proposing Jesus-God-in-the-Flesh--- to folks. Proposing Him, mind you, not imposing Him upon others. He is the answer to all doubts. One time the President welcomed a youth delegation of outstanding citizens for awards. As all were leaving the Oval office, one young man noticed he was last in leaving-with the President himself. So, he stopped and, looking troubled, said: "Mr President, can you do me a favor?" The President listened attentively as if nothing else mattered. The young man explained that a relative was very sick and would soon be undergoing serious surgery. He then asked the President to pray for this intention. The inquirer expected, from the busiest and most powerful and important man on earth, only for the President to say "Yes, I'll pray for him." Instead, the President of the United States then began praying-not standoffish-like, but, rather, by putting his hands over the young man's shoulders and invoking God's help, and then giving him an embrace. The young man wept. Amidst the young man's doubts abut his relative and also about busy, powerful people, the President dispelled all this and boosted the man's Faith! How can you do the same for others?
Where there is darkness- let me sow light
Jesus is "the Light of the world" (8:12), and yet there is still darkness and suffering. Where? People sometimes think it (darkness masquerading as light) will bring them happiness-in witchcraft, pornography, crime, drugs and drink. Only the One True God can bring ultimate happiness. We have other kinds of darkness, too. A soul once went to a psyche wing of a hospital for treatment and healing. Well, in the midst of this pilgrim's "dark night of the soul," they never forgot their spirituality-it was, thankfully, etched in the "spiritual sonar" of the soul thru the holy habits previously practiced for decades! This wayfarer gave out holy cards, invited people to prayer and helped others learn the St Jude novena for "hopeless causes". This wounded soul was a light in darkness. Jesus likewise teaches us in the Stations of the Cross-"Christ Comforts the Women of Jerusalem"-- that, even amidst personal afflictions-we can still be instrument-healers: Spread the Light! A pilgrim-donor to the Grotto recently wrote us: "Enclosed please find a check for $2,500 for your use to help a family or families who may be in serious need. We are doing this because we are Catholic Christians, and we spent about a dozen years outside of the Church's teaching on contraception. Please use the money as you see fit, but we would prefer it to either assist a couple who is being tempted to contracept, or to promote the Church's teaching on why contraception is evil." They gave because they, themselves, once embraced darkness, but now would like to help those enraptured by darkness into the Light and freedom. "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more" (Rm.5:20)
Where there is sadness-joy
Who isn't sad these days? There are plenty of people who suffer interior depressions and darkness. Americans spend at least 10 billion dollars a year on prescription drugs and medications. Today there are amusement parks, game-shows and gameboys, computers, magazines, and fantasy shows, extreme sports, "reality TV" and the Consumerist Complex to make one repress sadness and try to solve it thru inappropriate means. All this illusion equals unhappiness and endless catering to the ego and false, craving, unfulfillable self. Years ago Deacon Darin Didier, of Mt St Mary's Seminary was diagnosed with leukemia. Being a man of prayer he was probably sad-for a while, but then, after I asked him if he was upset or scared about his prognosis, he said: "Well, I pray for the grace to be ordained (June 4, 2005) and be God's instrument as a holy priest. That would be great. But, if God's will is something else, then I hopefully will be saved and be with him forever in Heaven. Either way, it's a win-win situation." Out of a possible imprisoning sadness this man found joy in trusting God's Divine-yet-Mysterious- Providence. How can you help others in their sadness to be awakened?- to remind them nothing can "separate us for the love of God in Christ" (Rm. 8:35ff).
Where there is despair-hope
The worst human emotion-commotion is despair: for one seemingly implodes upon oneself and finds no light-anywhere. Despair is the feeling when, as we say, "all is lost." Hope is when you may feel lost but you have All-God. One time a woman was mourning since her husband's death. They were married 35 yrs. She was home crying. Then, one lonely evening she heard the nearby church bells tolling for Mass. A thought occurred: Jesus is there in the sacrifice of the Mass. I must go. He will help me. The bells signaled an end to her despair-for the All, Christ Jesus, was nearby: "I will never leave you as orphans" (Jn 14:18). How can you be a ringing "signal bell" for another soul to bring comfort and liberation?
(II) O Divine Master, grant that I may rather console than be consoled
St Francis and saintly folks counsel an end of selfishness-though we usually want to be consoled. This is natural, but we are called to be supernatural. Blessed Damien the "Leper Priest" went to the island of Molokai to serve Jesus. No one was there to help him, but he helped countless lepers. Despite his heroic service, tireless daily hours, his desire to save souls and get in the trenches of suffering, no one consoled him. He continued serving the leprous natives-no holds barred…until he, himself got leprosy and eventually died. Think of him and countless other saints in their selfless service to the disguised Christ as He passes thru the world.
Understand than be understood
We sometimes ask: "Why doesn't anyone understand me? If only…" The saints, rather, dispelled all this and just "got in the trenches" of others' needs. Think of St John Vianney and Padre Pio and the uncountable confessions each man heard. They were in the confessional ten hours a day-listening to/hearing sinners. They were understanding-that was their charism. We need to work at it, to not only listen to someone, but to hear them. How can you work on this? Who can you listen to in your workplace, home or community?
Love than be loved
Sometimes at our Grotto we have a bunch of children at Mass, even little children. Anyway, some of the mom's need help and there are some teens present and I sometimes see the teens pick up a nearby, squealing baby for the mom to give her a rest. They might even bring the baby to Communion with them-smiling. It would be easier for the teen to simply pray and stay in their own world but, rather, they choose to love that mom's peace of mind, and that baby, by going the extra mile to help. How can you?
For it is in giving that we receive
Like Christ on Calvary or at the Last Supper-we receive Him because He gives Himself to us. Do the same. St Augustine has a marvelous verse about the Eucharist: "Believe what you receive. Eat what you receive and become what you eat." The giving and receiving become one continuous whole of our Lord's salvation-the more we give the more we will realize He is giving to us: hidden truths and spiritual surprises. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: "Open your hearts to the love God instills... God loves you tenderly. What He gives you is not to be kept under lock and key but to be shared." So, unlock yourself to others. When I visit the drug treatment centers, I may be tired or grumpy. But once I enter and talk to the folks I realize: they are helping me be saved. Their child-like Faith and Confessions and love of the Lord inspire me. I taught one non-Catholic how to make the "Sign of the Cross"-after she asked. I re-visited her a month later and she proudly demonstrated that she remembered it. Another soul who was there and was unaware of this practice asked to be enlightened and be taught how to make the Sign of the Cross. Remember: Bonum diffisum est…Good is diffusive of itself-it keeps spiritually snowballing.
Give away your clothes, money, books, and favorite things-even food: practice holy Charity. You've heard or seen the saying/bumper sticker: "Practice random acts of kindness…" This is an oxymoron-charity should be a virtue, not something random--a usual practice-not always when I want, but regularly. Form the habit and receive in return.
It is in loving that we are loved
"All of us know that unless we believe and can see Jesus in the appearance of bread on the altar, we will not be able to see Him in the distressing disguise of the poor. Therefore these two loves are but one in Jesus. If we really understand the Eucharist, if we really center our lives on Jesus' Body and Blood, if we nourish our lives with the Bread of the Eucharist, it will be easy for us to see Christ in the hungry one next door, the one lying in the gutter, the alcoholic man we shun, our husband or our wife, or our restless child. For in them, we will recognize the distressing disguise of the poor: Jesus in our midst." -Mother Teresa. The other night we had an all night Eucharistic Vigil, and in the Chapel around 3 am, there were about 10 people-praying in Adoration, loving Jesus and being loved by Him. The Dominicans have a beautiful motto: Contempalta alii tradere-give away the fruits of contemplation. Thru your heroic prayer and love of God may you bestow unto others Love-just as the saints did.
And it is in dying that we awaken to Eternal life
In meditation and contemplation, esp., we learn that we need to die spiritually, to our old self and sinfulness. God reveals our true colors when we are still enough to see them. St Francis was a man of great, contemplative prayer-he was offering himself to be purified, to die so that Christ would live in him more. As a matter of fact, Francis died so much that Jesus branded the Stigmata-Crucifixion marks on his body. The tremendous love Francis had inside manifested outside. The North American Martyrs were so converted into an evangelical, Christ-centered consciousness, dying to themselves and their comforts, that they risked and embraced death-cruel tortures-to preach and live Christ. "The Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church".
Perhaps you've read this Peace Prayer of St Francis before but, perhaps, you've never meditated upon it. To meditate means, literally, from the Latin, meditare, to "chew": i.e., to spiritually unlock within "flavors" of Truth which would normally go un-embraced. Our own Mt St Mary's President Powell opened his meetings at a previous secular school, with this prayer while he was president there: Courage! Wisdom!
By: Father John J. Lombardi
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox