Gazing at my Father.

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There are none more beautiful words for my ears than the sweet “I love you Mummy” of my children.

Little children have very little self-consciousness when it comes to expressing love. They live their lives as open books and are unashamedly present in each moment. And in this way they are free.

Even as tiny babies before they can speak, they express love by  just beaming at you. And it is simply impossible as a loving parent to break that gaze. You just want that gaze of pure love to go on forever, because the tiny person who is beaming at you, totally reliant on you for absolutely everything, is reciprocating the infinate love you have for them. And from that reciprocated love comes forth joy and  hope and strength and life, that affects not just the two who gaze at each other, but those around them too.

Family life offers endless reflections of the Holy Trinity.

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And just as my baby gazes at me with awe and wonder, I gaze at my heavenly Father with the same awe and wonder, and it pleases Him. It pleases him because in a tiny way I am reciprocating the love He has for me. And that is all He wants. His purpose in creating me was so that I could dwell in Heaven with Him forever. And everyday He offers me new ways to draw closer to Him through the joys and sufferings He brings into my life.

What is the point of reciting long and complicated prayers if your mind is wandering and you are not completely present in the moment? How much more would it please your Heavenly Father if you could just give yourself entirely to Him in that one split second prayer of a brutally honest loving gaze.

Can you do it? Can you gaze at your Father with all the awe and wonder and honesty that your newborn looks at you with? Are you secure enough in your Father’s love for you that you can accept your complete reliance on Him for absolutely everything?

Your Father loves you. And nothing gives Him more pleasure than when you, His little child looks straight at Him with an honest loving gaze that says “I love you”.

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” – St Therese of Lisieux

“Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle…” – CCC 2715

 

Too busy to pray?

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My Carmelite formation director has asked me to share a few ways in which prayer is part of my ordinary daily life:

“Our charism is very focused on prayer, with Mary as our model in prayer and meditation. Our Carmelite constitutions tell us that ‘Mary preserves in her heart the life and actions of her Son and meditates on them, this is contemplation’. I would be really interested to hear any thoughts you have on prayer and contemplation, because for someone with 3 kids who hasn’t a moment to herself, you would have to be even more creative than the rest of us to be able to do this! – and yet it is possible.”

So lets have a think…. Hmmmm…..

What is Prayer?

Well I guess the first thing is to make very clear what prayer is. St Therese tells us that “Prayer is the raising of ones mind and heart to God.” And it really is as simple as that. At any time, in any situation, I am able to raise my mind and heart to God – either in thanksgiving and praise, contrite and sorrowful, anger and frustration or just simply resting in His peace.

Do not prepare to pray – Just do it!

I think it’s important to say that I don’t prepare to pray. I just pray. I think a lot of people make the mistake of waiting until they are in the ‘right’ frame of mind before they pray. This is a complete waste of time. If I am angry and frustrated then THAT is the time I need to talk to God. He wants me at THAT very moment. I don’t try to hide my negative emotions from God! I Don’t try to present myself during prayer as being on my best behaviour! God sees me ALL the time. He knows my every thought – so why not go to Him just as I am? I cry, kick and scream, I tell Him it’s not fair. I beg Him for His unending mercy. I open my heart to Him, because it is only when I let Him in to my heart that He can actually work with me. Be honest – He knows you are not perfect and He doesn’t expect you to be.

I usually have one of these prayer tantrums at least once a day. I’m a drama queen – what can I say?!

Tell Him you love Him – and mean it.

During a trip to Medjugorje in 2005 I had a very powerful encounter with Jesus during Adoration. He came from the Eucharist and stood beside me and placed His hand inside my chest and onto my heart. He said to me “Clare, you need to come to me everyday and tell Me that you love Me.” He was referring to Himself in the Eucharist.

Now this may sound easy, but to be honest – it’s not. Because for me to say “I love you” I have to mean it. There has to be nothing separating me from Him. There have been some days where I have really struggled to say it. There have been days where i have been unable to say it – and this has illuminated the sin that is separating me from Him. Quite often I say it almost begrudgingly – all too aware of what He is asking me to give up, to leave behind, so that I am able to say it to Him. But there are also the days when it is easy to love Him. And i rest in His love like baby in her Fathers loving arms – and I could literally stay there all day!

Go to daily Mass.

I started going to daily Mass about 10 years ago. It changed my life. The end.

I am able to get to the 9am Mass on my way home from the morning school run. If I have the baby with me we sit with my parents, or sometimes out the back if she is noisy. I have the mass reading downloaded onto my Kindle from Universalis so even if she is screaming i can still follow what is being said. Also, having the responsorial psalm on your Kindle means that it is almost impossible to forget the response after the first time you have said it! (It’s early! My brain doesn’t wake up before 10am!)

Divine Office

As a secular Carmelite I am expected to say at least the morning and evening prayer of the Divine Office each day. But with 3 kids that is not always straight forward. There are days where I simply do not have 20 or even 10 mins to sit quietly to read it. So instead I use divineoffice.org and listen to the prayers instead of reading them. Morning prayer gets played in the car during the school run. A by-product of this is that my 8 year old has started joining in with it! He is listening to the psalms and he knows how to join in with the responses!

Evening prayer usually gets played on my laptop while i am making the dinner or feeding the baby. Prayer and house work go together perfectly in my opinion, proving that it is entirely possible to be Martha and Mary at the same time. Sometimes it is difficult to concentrate, but i always get one or two lines that touch my heart. And to be honest – that is enough for me.

During night prayer (my favourite) i sometimes just sit on the sofa and listen, and sometimes when i have some energy to do stuff in the evenings, i like sewing. And I can tell you this – there is no better past time for contemplation than sewing (other than perhaps jigsaw puzzles – but i only do that on the nights when i am feeling really rock and roll 😉 !!!!)

Contemplation in Motherhood

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25: 35-40

It is not always easy to see Christ in one’s kids! But the fact is He is there present in each of them. It is even harder to see Christ in one’s husband! But He is there too! This in itself is contemplation enough for one day (my goodness!). I’ll tell you something: You do not know what it means to keep watch with Christ until you have a little one who is teething and just wants to be held, every night, until 3am. Poor little sausage!

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I also try to say the Rosary every day as part of my promise to wear the brown scapular. Again – this is a good one for the car. I have the interactive rosary downloaded onto my phone, so i can play that wherever I am. I even have a speaker in my bathroom that sticks onto the wall so that i can listen to the office or the rosary while i am in the shower!

So there we go. A few ways i am managing to make prayer part of my normal daily life. I don’t manage it everyday – sometimes it is just impossible, but i do manage it most days. And to be honest – it’s just become second nature. It is possible.

If the desire to pray is there, then you will find a way.

Today I was received into Carmelite formation – and no, I did NOT just become a nun!

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Today I was received into Carmelite formation. Really – I couldn’t be happier! 🙂 It seems as if my whole life has lead me up to this point. Now I am part of a family where I will have the space and the resources to discover and develop a part of myself that has been screaming to get out for a very, very long time.

I have been asking people to pray for me on Facebook regarding this over the last few weeks and to my great amusement, there were quite  a large number of people who congratulated me on becoming a nun! This got even funnier when they realised I was married with 3 kids!

Let me explain…

In the Carmelite (ocds) order there are the First Order – the friars (who are active/contemplative), the Second Order – the nuns (who are cloistered) and the Third Order (or ‘Seculars’) – laypeople who continue to live in the world, and can be married or single, and diocesan priests. I am becoming a Third Order (secular) Carmelite.  The seculars are fully part of the Order, taking similar promises to friars and nuns but related to their lives as lay people.

The first part of my formation lasts 1-2 years. At the end of this time I will make my First Promise. Then there is a second period of formation lasting 4-5 years. At the end of this time I will make my Final (life long) Promise. After this I will become a fully fledged Carmelite.

The charism (or spiritual focus) of the Carmelite Order is contemplation. But a very important point is to understand that Carmelites understand contemplation and action to be complementary, not contradictory. This is a particularly important point to grasp because I am living the Carmelite charism within my vocation as a wife and a mother. The two actually fit together hand in hand beautifully, and is perfectly described in the famous quote for Teresa of Avila “God is found among the pots and pans.”

The Carmelite Order is considered by the Church to be under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has a strong Marian devotion. ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order.

We wear the Brown Scapular (which is basically a tiny habit!)

We say the Divine Office morning, evening and night prayer.

We follow the rule of St Albert.

Some famous Carmelite saints you may have heard of are Teresa of ÁvilaSaint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Saint John of the Cross, St. Simon Stock and many more…

It is a way of life. A spirituality focused on the interior life – prayer from the heart, relationship with God.

I am really just scratching the surface here! And lets not forget I’m just a beginner! But I hope this goes some way to explaining what I am doing in my life now and the fact that even though I have just been received into formation, I have not just become a nun!

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