Realistic Lent.

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I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine yesterday about what we were giving up for lent. He felt the Lord was really calling him to rise at 3am every night and pray the Divine Office as a monk would do. I remarked that this was probably going to interfere with his job because he would be tired during the day, to  which he replied that it would be a sacrifice he would be happy to make (under the guidance of his spiritual director).

I then asked him if he would also be giving up coffee (he really likes coffee). He told me no – he wouldn’t be giving up coffee because that was too weak a fast. Lent demands harsher fasts. I replied that if it coffee was not a big deal to give up, then he would have no problem doing it, right?

No. He was not going to give up his coffee. 🙂

So I suggested he try only giving up his first cup of coffee in the morning…

No. If he gave up his first cup of coffee in the morning then it would be everyone else that would be doing the pennance because he would be so crabby! 😀 (An opportunity to do more penance and hold your tongue perhaps…? 🙂 )

So I suggested he give up another cup of coffee during the day instead…

“No! I’m not giving up my damn coffee!!”

Ok 🙂 I guess it is too easy a fast, huh? 😉

It was becoming apparent that even suggesting giving up even one cup of coffee was making him mad 🙂 I find most people are the same. I guess we all tend to rely on caffeine more than we rely on God – even if we do not want to admit it to ourselves. Of course it does not have to be coffee, but we all have a ‘thing’ or ‘things’ that we are highly attached to already present in our ordinary daily lives. We are so attached to these things that we would literally do ANYTHING other than face our attachment and offer it to God – even invent harsher and more elaborate penances that will make us feel as if we have made sufficient effort during Lent.

But after Lent has ended, we will still be attached to those tiny ‘things’ already present in our ordinary daily lives that we just can’t live without. We will still be attached, so what progress have we made?

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Going into Lent this year, let’s identify that tiny ‘thing’ that we just can’t live without. That ‘thing’ that we rely on to satisfy us and keep us in our comfort zone on a daily basis more than we rely on God (who never keeps us in our comfort zone). It could be caffeine, social media, TV, food, porn or whatever – even going to bed on time or not being late for things. Only you know what that ‘thing’ is. That small, supposedly insignificant thing already present in your ordinary daily life.

I guess when we really think about it, that tiny, insignificant cup of coffee that you rely on several times a day, would actually be a MASSIVE fast for you. You can gauge it by how annoyed it makes you feel to think about giving it up!  It takes humility to admit we are so weak.

I personally cannot give up coffee entirely. It is too much for me to realistically and sustainably take on for 6 weeks. So I will give up my first cup each day, and that, quite frankly, is about as much as I can do this year. But I will do it obediently and with my whole heart. Lent is not an endurance test. It is not a diet. It is about love and trust. It is about our willingness to detach ourselves from the things we rely on more than God. It is not the size or style of the fast that God is interested in, but the spiritual effort required from us, and our reliance on Him to sustain us through it.

Little things done with great love…

The first time I wore a mantilla…

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Rhoslyn Thomas wears a Di Clara Aubergine Mini Mantilla.

By Rhoslyn Thomas.

The first time it ever occurred to me that I might like to veil, I was 21 and walking home from Mass. I admitted to my friend that I was having thoughts about wearing a mantilla. We both laughed: What was happening to me?! This wasn’t ‘me’ at all. But we had both changed a lot in that last year and we were slowly getting used to the idea of letting God take the reins in our lives.

A few weeks later, I was living about 60km outside of Rome and attending, almost daily, an Old Rite Mass celebrated by the FSSP. I wanted so much to cover my head in Mass, not because anyone ever pressured me, but because I thought it was a beautiful gesture. However, I was very nervous and self-conscious.

Someone had once mentioned veiling to me on pilgrimage. She told me that our hair is our glory and that by covering it, we honor God while we are in His presence, i.e. in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I am ashamed to say that, before this short conversation, I actually thought that women who wore veils were a bit oppressed! As I began to become interested in veiling, I very quickly realized that this assumption could not be further from the truth (if only I could have seen myself now, how I would have laughed!).

The first time I finally worked up the courage to cover my hair during Mass, I was absolutely terrified. I wanted to do it so much, but in my mind I felt everyone was watching me. I sat at the back of the church in Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini in central Rome and tried to forget all my worries.

I actually felt different when I was wearing it. In a very short time, my mantilla came to be a great help to me in concentrating on the Mass and in helping me to differentiate between the outside world and God’s house, where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would take place and where I am in the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

At home, the reaction to my mantilla is almost always overwhelmingly positive. People just realize somehow that it is a very beautiful reverent thing to do in a sacred place. Now it is second nature to me and I would not be without my veil.

For those who are just starting out with veiling, a mini-mantilla might just be the thing for you. It is not as big as a full size mantilla and is also really practical if you are dealing with young kids at Mass. I have promised myself an early Christmas present of a purple one I can wear during Advent!

Until you veil, it’s hard to describe what it will do for you. The best way to find out would be to just try it! If you are feeling nervous then just start wearing it at home while you pray, then you might want to wear it at adoration, and before you know it you will have the desire to wear it every time you step into the church!

Before long, you’ll come to see how much more a veil will be to you than just a piece of material.

For a full range of mantilla veils, I would recommend www.diclara.co.uk who offer flat rate shipping worldwide.

Scottish purple High Mass set.

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I’ve been extremely busy recently putting together this Gothic style High Mass set for the Latin Mass guys up in Scotland UK.

I’ve really enjoyed making this set – especially designing the embroidery.

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I decided to incorporate a celtic knot circle which traditionally represents eternity because there is no beginning or end to the knot or the circle. I also used thistles which are a national Scottish emblem, and by their thorny nature they are also an ancient symbol reminding us of our need for redemption. This large embroidery sits on the cope hood and also the back of the humeral veil:

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Back of the Cope.

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Back of the humeral veil.

I also added a practical aspect to the humeral veil of large inside pockets that are used to hide the Priest’s or Deacon’s hands while they carry the monstrance. This stops the issue of slipping and also means that the chance of the expensive material catching or wearing on the monstrance is lessened.

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Inside pockets on the sleeves of the humeral veil.

This particular set wanted 2 dalmatics with maniples, and one Deacon’s stole:

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In fact there were 3 maniples in total and one priest stole that looked rather nice if you put them all together like this…!

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Anyway here are the rest of the pics…

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Humeral veil, used when carrying the monstrance during adoration.

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Cope, used at anytime the priest is not offering Mass ie. Baptisms or Benediction.

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Gothic Chasuble, Stole (underneath Chasuble), Maniple (on wrist), Chalice veil (behind), and Burse.

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Priest Stole.

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If you’re interested in seeing some more of my vestments please visit www.diclara.co.uk  and like my Di Clara facebook page.

For enquires, please contact me through my website or email me direct at info@diclara.co.uk.

And if you haven’t told your priest about Di Clara yet, then perhaps it’s time you did 🙂

 

 

 

Fr Aidan Kieran: Why I find fasting so darn hard!

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Following my Little Way of Fasting article, Clare asked me if I would write a follow-up, to give an update on my progress, and all the graces that have poured into my life because of my fidelity to fasting.

Oh dear!

When I read the request, my face went the colour of Palm Sunday vestments!

The things is, I found it a struggle to do any fasting for a few months. My first reaction to the request was that it would be hypocritical of me to write such an article, having become a bit lax on the fasting front. But, for better or for worse, here is my reflection on my recent experience (or lack thereof) of fasting.

So what stopped me fasting? I can answer the question with one word: stress. I’ve been facing a couple of stressful situations in my life over the last few months. It became more difficult to pray, and it felt as if it was impossible to consider fasting. I just wanted to distract myself from the pain inside. The internet, sports on TV and food were my favourite distractions. In the middle of all this, I certainly had no appetite for depriving myself of even a cup of tea in the morning and offering it up to the Lord. I was being deprived of a large part of my sense of self-worth, so He wasn’t getting any more sacrifices from me. It was almost as if I was empty inside, and so had nothing to offer.

One thing I was managing to do, occasionally, was to expose the Blessed Sacrament in the church for a while after Mass and spend time with parishioners in adoration. However, when Lent drew near, I realised I had to make some effort to get back onto the wagon from which I had fallen. It was time to try fasting again.

And the truly amazing thing is that fasting began to work (little) miracles almost immediately. Almost as soon as I began doing without my morning cup of tea, I felt a little spiritual strength come back. I began to get a new perspective on the trials I was experiencing. I began to pray a little better, and I was a little stronger in the face of temptation to sin. It was as if even the minuscule sacrifice I was making was creating just enough room in my soul for the Holy Spirit to get to work. Remarkable! It was a most generous payback on what felt like such a small effort. It’s as if I had deposited some money in the bank, and received a lot of interest almost immediately.

It illustrates for me how generous Our Lord is to me, and to us all. Sometimes it feels like he asks to work long hours in the vineyard. But He rewards us so generously for the efforts we make for Him, even if they seem small to us. He can even use our half-hearted attempts as occasions of grace.

What I have learned in the last while is how we must draw from all the channels of grace in the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. Reading the Word of God, Receiving and Adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, Praying the Rosary, Going to Confession and Fasting are important channels through which grace can gush into our souls.

The Church encourages us to fast during Advent and Lent, and on Fridays throughout the year. What I have learned recently is that even the smallest effort of fasting, done with love and with prayer, is enough to open the endless channel of God’s grace into our lives. However many times I fail or give up, it doesn’t matter. Jesus is never going to give up on me, so I guess I will just keep joyfully trying in my little sacrifices, to show my love and gratitude for the big sacrifice He made for me on the cross.

We have just 1 week left before lent ends, so lets summon up all our strength and offer that one cup of tea, that one cigarette, that one biscuit. And lets offer it to God as little imperfect children would to a loving Father – with all the love we can find in our hearts.

Gunman attacks Priest, and then asks for Confession.

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I was shocked to hear the recent story of Fr John Hamlet. Fr Hamlet had been called out on an emergency hospital visit late at night on Ash Wednesday, but due to his car being currently in an unusable state he instead decided to catch a cab.

He managed to give the hospital patient the last rites and then after a short while started to make his way back home – this time on foot. He knew it was not advisable to be walking alone in that part of town late at night, but he did not have enough money to pay a second extortionate cab fare that evening – even though it was freezing cold.

As he turned into an alleyway that would shortcut 10 mins off his walk home, he suddenly realised he was being followed. He quickened his pace but soon realised that the end of the alleyway had been  blocked off by two dumpster bins. Before he knew it, Fr Hamlet was pushed into a doorway and a young man was holding a gun to his head.

“Give me your wallet” The young man shouted into his face. Terrified, Fr Hamlet agreed, and then indicated to the young man that he needed to unzip his coat to get his wallet from the inside pocket.

As he unzipped his coat the young man noticed his priestly collar and suddenly dropped the gun. “Oh I’m so sorry Father! I had no idea you were a priest – If I had known I never would have tried to rob you. I’m a terrible Catholic…” And the young man dropped to his knees and began to cry uncontrollably.

“That’s ok my son” said Fr Hamlet as he tried to console the young man. He asked the young man if he would like confession and the young gunman agreed. Feeling incredibly moved by the situation Fr Hamlet tried to make the young man feel better. “You know what – I don’t even have any money left in my wallet, but why don’t you take this packet of cigarettes instead? I know I could sure do with a smoke after tonight!”

“That is very kind of you Father” said the young man picking up his gun and placing it back in his trousers “But I’ve given up smoking for Lent!”

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Beautiful Lent.

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‘Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge’ – Monet.

How’s your Lent going?

Are you finding it easy? Then perhaps do a little something extra.

Are you struggling? Then perhaps ease off a bit and try something a little easier.

You see, it is not how much we are fasting, but with how much love we do it that charms the heart of Christ (St Therese of Lisieux). Sometimes the smallest things require the biggest effort. God sees all of this. It’s not an endurance test 🙂

I have been giving up my first cup of tea in the morning, and also trying my best to find a way of giving up worrying. My worry habit exposes my lack of trust in God and my reliance on myself. This is something that needs to be addressed, but it really is easier said than done. However, I have found one little thing that really has seemed to make a difference.

I was at my Mum’s house on Ash Wednesday and she handed me a CD. “You should listen to this – it’s really good!” (You know you are approaching middle age when your Mum recommends you music – and it IS actually really good!) It was a CD from Medjugorije made by the young men and women of the Cenacolo Community. It was basically a praise and worship CD – but she was right, it was REALLY good!

I found that listening to people who had allowed Christ to be in complete control of their lives, who were worshiping Him with such enthusiasm and openness really lifted my mood. The whole thing was just so good, so beautiful, that it seemed to remind me that there were things bigger than me and my problems.

I had the same experience today in the car when I accidently turned on Radio 3. They were playing Vaughan Williams and I don’t know what it was, but the sheer beauty of the music seemed to have the most profound calming effect on me. It was just so beautiful. I swear the medical profession should start using beauty as a treatment for all sorts of ailments. Yeah – beauty therapy! I guess that would make composers like Vaughan Williams and artists like Monet beauty therapists!!

I think beauty is extremely important during difficult times in our lives. Real beauty is an intensely spiritual thing that simply cannot be rationally explained. Beauty – I believe – is a purely human experience. I don’t think animals are touched in the same way by a piece of music or a beautiful sunset. I believe real beauty speaks directly to our immortal souls. It is God giving us a foretaste of the life to come. And that is perhaps what I find so calming about it – to know that this life’s problems are only temporary, and they will not exist in heaven.

I suppose you could look at beauty as being an incredible act of mercy – giving us hope and inspiring patience, forbearance and also creativity within us. It reminds us that God is bigger than us, and that He is good.

I found that my response to this beauty was not just awe and wonder, but incredible gratitude. And I feel that is a most appropriate feeling to dwell upon as we go further into Lent and head towards Holy Week.

The Litany of Humility.

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This is one of the best prayers I have ever come across. We cannot change without humility. Let us pray this Lent that we can let go, and let God change us where we need it. Take courage! Amen.

Litany of Humility.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

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The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

The season of Lent is almost upon us, it begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we are asked to take on three traditional Christian disciplines: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Today I want to share with you a new insight into fasting which I gained recently.

I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.

Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect.

St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.

I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook:

At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together.

So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed.

I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him.

It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.

Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession.

With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others, the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.

It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.

During Lent, I won’t totally deprive myself of other drinks, because I know I would find that too burdensome. My aim is to give up my first cup of tea each morning. On some days I may give up my second cup of tea too! – a definite sacrifice, but one I can realistically sustain.  And each time I am conscious of foregoing a drink I would like, I will pray. I will offer my sacrifice to the Lord with a joyful heart and a smile on my face.

I will offer my Lenten fasting for your intentions, for the people who read this blog. In particular I will pray that those of you who need to do so will make a good confession in preparation for Easter, because confession is so important.

And if any of you would like me to pray for a particular intention of yours, please contact me through this blog in the comments section below. I’d be happy to offer my fasting on a particular day for your personal intention.

I hope you will find these words about fasting helpful during the coming season of Lent.

Fr Aidan.

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I’m giving up worrying for Lent.

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I know this pose. The head in hands face to the floor pose. I am doing it all throughout the day at the moment.  My favourite place to do it is probably in the bathroom where no one can see me doing it, except God. I also like to do it in the car (when I’m parked!), in front of my sewing machine, during mass and in my bedroom in the dark.

It achieves nothing. It changes nothing.

I have a lot on my shoulders at the moment. I have become the major bread winner for the time being. I don’t earn enough to cover even half our bills even though I am working all the hours God sends. My husband has not been well at all this last month which I find extremely upsetting. The baby has stopped sleeping in the afternoon and has discovered the word ‘NO!’, which is hilarious but it is just another pressure I can’t cope with.
I don’t want to lose the house. I don’t want my kids to have to change schools. I don’t want my husband to be I’ll for the rest of his life.

I have a lot to worry about at the moment.

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Worry achieves nothing. It changes nothing. The only thing it does is rob me of God’s peace.

I wish I could be brave but I’m afraid I’m not brave at all. If I give the impression I’m coping then that is just God’s strength and grace covering the fact that I am in a constant state of fight or flight. Panick attacks are not fun.

But still… Worry achieves nothing. It changes nothing.

For Lent this year I am determined to let go and let God. I will take my dispair to confession. I will discipline myself to remain in the moment rather than worrying about things that might happen. And I will keep my gaze fixed on Christ crucified, and Christ resurrected.

Recently in prayer I have found it extremely comforting to place my doubting hands into His wounds, and to rest my worrying head upon His chest.
I hold my Mother’s hand as she sees her loved one suffer – knowing the is nothing she can do to ease His pain during His passion. I know how she feels as she carries out her role: to walk along side the one who suffers.

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I remember sometimes to offer my own suffering along with theirs to God for the conversion of sinners, and this brings purpose to what I am going through.

The point is that I’m afraid of suffering. I trust that God is in charge, but I also know that God does permit the worst kind of suffering. And I’m terrified. Satan wants to keep me in that frame of mind.

This lent, if I can manage to give up worrying, I feel it will be one of the biggest spiritual advances I will ever make in my life. But I can’t do it alone. I’m going to ask a local priest to direct me, and I’m going to be relying entirely on the prayers of the incredible Catholic community I am part of.

I’m really beginning to regret asking to be made worthy of sainthood 🙂

Please pray for me.

When God’s Love Hurts.

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Fulton, before the accident.

When God’s Love Hurts – By Cassandra Poppe

“On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for,whatever we do, the cross holds us tight — we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to take us to Heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. . . . If you were wise, you would go to meet it like Saint Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, “Hail O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thine arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee. “ — St John Vianney

Crosses. Suffering. The human race has been plagued with hardship ever since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve desired more than the goodness God had already given them. And from that point on, most viewed suffering as a punishment from God – until that first Good Friday when Our Lord transformed punishment into a blessing. It seems natural for us to try to alleviate hardships when they come. A painkiller, a massage, an adjustment to the thermostat. How many little things do we do each day, each hour, to tweak the comfort level around ourselves? As these first 2 paragraphs were written, I have already adjusted my posture, scratched an itch and taken a sip of my drink. All actions taken almost without thinking and all done to increase my comfort.

But what happens when our discomfort becomes full blown suffering? Suddenly our pleasure and comfort seeking instincts are challenged and no matter what remedies we try, our suffering is not eased. Cancer. The loss of a loved one. Crippling persecution. An accident. These crosses do not refine and perfect our souls in little ways, as the everyday annoyances in life can. No. These crosses are life changing, redirecting our souls directly towards Calvary, to bring about in us a profoundly holy transformation. But only if we are able to see the love that is hidden within the cross.

While we may not cheerfully embrace our crosses, our Catholic faith teaches us of the immense value in suffering. We have Crucifixes to remind us of Our Lord’s suffering and sacrifice, inspiring us to mortify ourselves for love of Him. We understand that suffering is a part of life and a tool we must use well for the sanctification of our soul. Others avoid suffering, seeing it as either a punishment or from Satan.

And while this view may be correct in certain circumstances, we must always remember that all suffering is allowed by Our Lord. If He allows it to happen, we must treat it as an invaluable opportunity to grow in holiness, and give glory to God. No matter what. I do not say this lightly, as it is indeed both a joy and a burden to be trusted by Our Lord. He requires much of those He loves – sometimes more than we think we can handle. But we may rest in the fact that as long as we remain firmly at His side and under the loving watch of Our Lady, all things are possible.

When Our Lord redirected our lives that fateful January morning, I felt it more than I heard it. That deep percussion-like boom one hears when a firework is sent skyward, before it explodes. This was immediately followed by my husband’s unintelligible cry. Flying to the kitchen window, I saw what will haunt me forever. My four year old little boy was slowly moving away from the burn barrel, completely engulfed in flames from his waist to his head. His hands were clenched at his sides, moving them up towards his face in slow motion, pieces of his fleece jacket peeling away and falling behind him.

What followed could rival the goriest scenes in a horror movie. Grey, cadaverous forehead. Deformed ears. Skin still bubbling from the heat trapped within. Long strands of flesh hanging from little hands and arms like a partially unwrapped mummy rising from its tomb. Shrieks of pain. Tears of terror. As my son was laid at my feet on the kitchen floor, I collapsed before him, unable to do anything for him before the ambulance arrived. And so I prayed. The two prayers that came to me were, “Mother of God, be with us,” and “Thy will be done.” And looking back, I understand why.

From that moment on, Our Sorrowful Mother took me as her child, showing me that sometime God’s love looks very ugly on the surface. I had gotten a taste of this truth before, when my husband and I struggled to make our marriage work, and again when I cared for my father in his home as he died of cancer. But this by far was the most crippling form of suffering I could have endured. I wanted to take on Fulton’s burns as my own. “Lord, let me suffer these pains for You!” I prayed. “He is too little!” But I see now how that would have been the easy route for me. I already understood redemptive suffering, binding physical pains to the wounds of Our Lord on the Cross as an offering of love. But I could not do that for my son. This emotional anguish was new – and so instead of suffering with Our Lord, I suffered at the foot of Fulton’s cross with Our Lady. If she saw the love hidden within the Our Lord’s Cross, surely I could find the love in Fulton’s suffering. And that is what I needed to find. Otherwise, his suffering made no sense. I did not want to be a bystander on Calvary, disgusted by the scene before me, or to be one to rage against God amid the pain.

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I have known far too many bitter souls in my life who, do not take the time to examine their crosses and embrace them for the gift they are. Help me find the gifts, Sweet Mary. Help me find the love! And what love there was! Just as word spread of Christ’s suffering and brought about conversions, so too did Fulton’s suffering inspire others to the faith. I received letters from people who have returning to a life of prayer because of Fulton’s powerful story. Some grasped for the first time what it means to ‘offer it up’ and embraced their own crosses with a new found love for God. They saw through Fulton’s and my experience, that love cannot be complete without some form of willing suffering or sacrifice, choosing to participate in God’s plan through the cross laid upon their shoulders, even when they could not yet see the love.

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Truly, His call to take up our crosses and follow Him was a call to suffer for Him that others may be saved. And for the first time I understood the words of St. Paul when he said, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col. 1:24) when hearts previously unmoved by Christ’s Passion were moved by the sufferings of a little boy. Praise God!

Two years after the accident, the love continues to reveal itself. Patients in the hospital are learning Fulton’s ‘brave breath’ techniques to help them get through the pain. His burn cards, a social reintegration solution we invented together, have given confidence to other burn patients who are struggling with re-entering society. And his mere presence in restaurants or the mall have brought people to tears, once they talk to him and see how strong he is. He has brought hope and healing to adults who suffered various crosses in silence, inspired for the first time to face their own past hurts. His scars show them their own woundedness, and come to realize their scars are proof of their strength, not their weakness.

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Fulton, through the cross he carries and the scars he bears, has touched far more souls than he ever could have before the accident. And only in Eternity will we know how many hearts he helped return to the Church and into the loving arms of Our Father. Please Lord, may I be numbered among them, for I have learned so much.

My trials have taught me that every crisis forces one to redirect his life. We are handed a cross, designed especially for us, and asked to choose. We cannot choose whether we will take the cross. No. The cross is ours to bear no matter what. But we can freely choose how we respond to it.

Do we accept that cross and prayerfully carry it to its completion? Do we give hope to others along the way? Or do we curse our cross as it grows in weight and model for others how to stumble and rage against the One who gifted us?

I have tried both responses to the carefully chosen crosses Our Lord has sent me in my life. I can assure you that while cursing those things in our lives that cause us to suffer may feel more natural, embracing our suffering is by far the easier response, for it is the only response that coincides with God’s will.

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My prayer for you this Holy Week is that you open your heart to the cross God has given you and cherish it as a priceless gift. Just as Christ’s Passion draws hearts to love Him more, may you draw others closer to Our Lord through your suffering. Praise His name through your pain. May God be glorified through you!

“Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:3-4

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Fulton’s next big surgery is coming up on April 14th 2015. Please pray for Fulton! Come and see his progress on his Facebook page ‘Pray For Fulton’

Cassandra Poppe’s blog is Let us kneel