"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
By: Mary Maddox
I just spent a year of walking. In 2018, I walked approximately 1000 miles across Europe and Israel. Let's break this down:
In April/May, I walked a portion of the Camino from Samos to Santiago. (10 days)
In May/June, I walked the full Camino from St. Jean to Santiago. (34 days)
In June, I walked the Jesus Trail in Israel. (4 days)
In September, I walked a portion of the Camino from Leon to Santiago. (14 days)
In Sept/Oct, I walked the full Portuguese Coastal Camino. (14 days)
It was my most amazing year. I found so much joy in all of this walking. I knew I had truly found my calling... leading others to Our Lord through walking meditation. Healing and love happens in every step.
So, why am I telling you this?
Because, I spent approximately 76 days with Our Lord. Over two months of walking across the world. In all that time, in laughter with others, in quiet prayer and in walking, our Lord kept repeating the same words to me, "Open your heart, I need you."
"Open your heart, I need you." What do you mean Lord? I thought you had my heart, I thought it was open. I pray, I do mission work, I help others, and I walk in faith. So, what do you mean, "Open your heart, I need you."
His words came on a very ordinary walking day. We were walking from Catrojeriz to Fromista. It was sunny and warm, one of the few warm weather days we had on our full Camino. We had 25 kms (16 miles) to hike. Toward the end of the day, we were walking along some canals. They were built in the 1750's, now they are used for irrigation. It was peaceful to walk along the water. Our group had separated, everyone walking at their own pace. I started to pray. As I walked step by step, I felt Our Lords presence next to me. It felt like He was walking beside me. This is when I heard Our Lord say, "open your heart, I need you.". I walked in silence and pondered those words. It was on this day, walking in the sunlight that I realized that my heart had been closed.
So, what happened? What closed my heart up tight and locked it? For me, it was my first experience of betrayal, a painful and scary time. (I know some people will say, you’re pretty lucky that it was your first) but the number matters not. It was a crushing blow to my heart. I know you can relate. All of us have been hurt by someone.
I thought I had forgiven my trespassers and I thought I was moving on. Yet, on this day, He reminded me that yes, I had forgiven but my heart was not open. My heart was not open to making new friends; my heart was afraid. I had retreated into His love. It was a good place. I needed the assurance of His love and care. I didn’t want or need to open myself to the outside world. His friendship was enough. But on this day his words were loud and clear. And maybe because of so many walking days and prayers, my little brain slowly saw the truth. My heart was not open! I was too complacent knowing I had forgiven, and once that was done, I stayed there. I concentrated on protecting my heart. I was stuck. But on that day, in that moment, I understood His simple call. OPEN YOUR HEART. He needs me. He needs me to give my heart freely. God needs me to not be afraid any more.
It's funny, Our Lord kept giving me signs along the Camino. I was hearing the same words over and over, spoken to me from strangers, "you radiate kindness and love" Wow! What? How could that be? I think the Lord was reminding me of the open hearted person I used to be. He was touching my heart with words from strangers, preparing me for His message.
I knew it was time. Time to heal and time to come back to the person formed in my mother's womb. As I walked, I chipped away at all the things that were holding me back.
You might ask, how did I do that?
I let go of pain.
I let go of pity.
I let go of trespasses and trespassers
I let go of comparing myself to others
I let go of expectations
I let go of being tough
I let go of fear
I let go and choose love again
I know we don't all have time to walk 1000 miles with God but maybe for me, it was needed. He got my attention that one warm sunny afternoon along the canals. A quiet, solitary place ... we all need that. Find yours … maybe it's at Church, at Adoration, or on a walk. Listen as you go about your day.
Chip away at your blocks. Allow the healing to take place and expect love, peace and joy to enter into your hearts.
Open your heart, let go and choose love again.
The season of Advent is a waiting time. Waiting with hopeful anticipation. Waiting with joyful hearts. The Blessed Mother Mary is on her way to Bethlehem.
As a child, I couldn't wait for Christmas. In my child’s heart it was all about Santa. Of course, we had the stable set up and the Advent calendar to count down the days, Jesus was coming. But so was Santa.
Every Christmas, I was probably the most impatient of the four children. I remember bugging my parents and my grandparents so much, that they started a new tradition. The story our parents told us (in order to get some sleep on Christmas Eve) was that Santa would start his journey at our house. We would be his first stop. Our house! Out of the entire world, our house! He would stop early on Christmas Eve, (yeah, I believed them, not my brother, but my two sisters and I were sold.) That meant that we would get home from Mass, have our Christmas Eve supper... and then my Dad would take all four of us for a walk. I'm glad we lived in Florida because it was usually perfect weather. As we walked around the neighborhood, we would be looking for Santa in the sky. My Dad would always see him and but just as we returned, he would see him fly away. What an amazing night! After we opened gifts, I would fall asleep so happy and in peace because my wishes had come true.
What a joyful time? Now as an adult, the magic of Santa long gone, the waiting Advent season takes on new meaning. We wait, we prepare and we look for readings that will fill our souls with comfort in this season of waiting. We are reminded of the times in our lives when waiting was difficult. It’s in those times that we hold onto words of wisdom. “All will be well.” “This too shall pass.” “Nothing is impossible with God.”
I understand the frustration of waiting. I have had days when the words, “Jesus I trust in You,” were my only comfort. Even now I find myself in a personal season of waiting. At times I wait joyfully, knowing and trusting that all will be well and at other times I feel lonely. I'm sure you can relate.
But in this season of Advent, I am reminded that Christmas is all about the plan of God unfolding, in God's way and in His good time. Mary’s story is unfolding as we patiently journey with her through Advent. God’s plan is unfolding for our salvation. And in faith we believe a way for us is unfolding.
Because of this, I sit in my prayer corner and prepare my heart for Christmas joy. Entering into a time of deeper prayer and reflection during this Advent season, has brought me to a good place. I know that I feel closest to Our Lord, when I give up the call of the world and give my time to Him. Especially in our fast-paced, technological society, we need our quiet time, a time to enter more fully into the joy of Christ's birth. We must now wait patiently like Our Blessed Mother. She is a perfect example for us. Mary surrendered to the workings of Divine Providence.
After conceiving Jesus at the Annunciation, Mary had to exercise great patience with Joseph, her betrothed, and had to wait for the Lord to direct him. Since Joseph feared taking Mary to be his wife, she might have wondered if Joseph understood the great role God was asking him to play in the Incarnation and the salvation of the world.
In order for us to experience Christmas joy, we are invited to wait patiently like Mary. So, join me in asking the Blessed Mother to help prepare our hearts for Christ.
God calls us to "holy waiting" as we look for the fulfillment of His promises. May we follow the Blessed Virgin Mary, who models this patience and holy waiting for us. She is our mother and guide during this Advent, leading us on the way to Christmas joy!
May we sleep peacefully during this Advent waiting time, happy to know in our hearts that Our Lord is fulfilling our Christmas wishes and prayers.
Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
“Prepare your hearts to receive Jesus the Savior.”
— Pope Francis, General Audience, Nov. 27, 2013
As Advent begins, reflect upon how ready you are to receive Jesus.
Are you preparing for it with the same passion and drive that you are preparing for Christmas through shopping, cooking, decorating, etc?
Are you preparing for the spiritual celebration of His birth?
Are you awake and aware of the numerous ways that God speaks to you on a daily basis?
As Pope Frances says.,"Prepare your hearts to receive Jesus the Savior", make this Advent the time to prepare your heart.
Make some commitments to prayer, spiritual exercises, reflection and attentiveness to His gentle and glorious voice.
Our Lady Calls us to Bethlehem
First Sunday of Advent
It’s All About Love
Our Lady of Medjugorje
Message from December 13, 1984
"Dear children! You know that the season of joy is getting closer, but without love you will achieve nothing. So first of all, begin to love your own family, everyone in the parish, and then you'll be able to love and accept all who are coming over here. Now let these seven days be a week when you need to learn to love. Thank you for having responded
to my call."
What happened to us? And when? When did we become so careful about who we choose to love, thinking we can judge someone's intent. Mary knows that our life experiences can dim our spirits. She knows that when someone hurts us we tend to keep a closer hold on our natural loving ways. And so she asks us again to think about opening our hearts and letting our love show. If we were truly on this road to Bethlehem with Mary, our loving hearts would embrace this young pregnant girl and her unborn child. No questions asked. Today there are many on the road with us. And no matter how strong and bold some may seem, I bet if we could see their hearts and they could see ours, it would be all about love.
…this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you."
God, there are days we do not feel grateful. When we are anxious or angry. When we feel alone. When we do not understand what is happening in the world or with our neighbors. When the news is bleak, confusing. God, we struggle to feel grateful.
But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude.
We choose to accept life as a gift from you, and as a gift from the unfolding work of all creation.
We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that gives life; and for the air we all breathe.
We choose to thank our ancestors, those who came before us, grateful for their stories and struggles, and we receive their wisdom as a continuing gift for today.
We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating and accepting them for who they are. We are thankful for our homes, whether humble or grand.
We will be grateful for our neighbors, no matter how they voted, whatever our differences, or how much we feel hurt or misunderstood by them.
We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.
God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you.” We choose to see your sacred generosity, aware that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. That we all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will not let anything opposed to love take over this table. Instead, we choose grace, free and unmerited love, the giftedness of life everywhere. In this choosing, and in the making, we will pass gratitude onto the world.
Thus, with you, and with all those gathered at this table, we pledge to make thanks. We ask you to strengthen us in this resolve. Here, now, and into the future. Around our family table. Around the table of our nation. Around the table of the earth.
We choose thanks.
By: Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture. This prayer is based on a prayer published in Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen