Monday, January 31, 2011

What I Love About Catholicism: Daily Mass #Catholic

I don't have the privilege of attending daily Mass, but have had the blessing of being able to attend a few Masses during the week. What I love about Catholicism, is that it is available. This really is a beautiful thing and a gracious gift of our heavenly Father.

I often think about the early Church, and how Christians had to meet in each other's homes because they were persecuted. They didn't have the freedom to walk down a street to the nearest temple and worship God and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the open.

We do.

Last week, I attended daily Mass twice. The first time was because I had read so much garbage about the evil in our world that I almost felt the worldly grime upon my soul. I prayed for God's mercy and thought, "I need to get to a Mass." Thank God (and I mean that literally), that almost around the corner and down the street from me was a parish that had an early morning Mass.

I joined the small group of about 18 other parishioners to take part of Mass. It was all so precious to me. I felt as though I had entered a safe harbor, a place where I could receive the peace and protection of God while I asked for strength for the day. Receiving the Holy Eucharist was exactly the medicine I needed.

Throughout the rest of the day, I felt buoyed by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. All this was imparted to me from a very abbreviated Mass that lasted under 30 minutes. The next day I attended again.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but our world is growing darker and to me, attending Mass is like a mini-retreat. It's the place where I get my head, heart, and spirit straightened out as I'm reminded of the truth. The world is spinning more and more out of control. We as Christians struggle to keep our lights shining. Sometimes it is very tempting to give up, to shrug our shoulders and say, "What's the use?"

And then we attend Mass, and are reminded of One Man, who sacrificed all for the glory of His Father. It looked like One Man could not do much and evil was all around Him. But He submitted to His Father's will, and ultimately, was victorious.

It is that victory, which was the shot heard 'round the spiritual world, that reminds me to never give up, to always believe, and to let God's truth permeate my soul.

He has won. He is winning. He will win again.

Friday, January 28, 2011

So How Is That Apostolic Visitation of Women Religious Going, Anyway? #Catholic

I haven't heard much about the results of the apostolic visitation of women but caught an article about it yesterday. (How Is It Going? From Catholic World Report)

There doesn't seem to be any clear results given, yet, but then again, the on-site visitation phase was just completed in December 2010.

The article, written by Ann Carey who is the author of Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities, shows that there is still distrust on the side of the women religious. I found the question of confidentiality particularly interesting.

Evidently, some of the women religious superiors were grilling the sisters after the visitation group had left. (emphasis mine):

Nevertheless, sisters from various orders report that their leadership approached the visitation with a fear that was fed in part by the LCWR and other outspoken women religious, as well as misinformation in the media. This fear, in turn, caused anxiety among many grassroots sisters. So, too, did pre-visitation “informational meetings” that seemed more like indoctrination sessions; some sisters say they felt intimidated by their leadership, who warned sisters not to answer certain questions from the visitors, not to say anything negative about the order, and not to tell anyone about the visitation, even as their leaders continued to disparage the visitation publicly.

Likewise, some orders who received on-site visits also scheduled post-visit meetings for sisters to report what they said and heard during their appointments with visitors and to discuss how they felt about the visitation experience. One sister told this writer that these post-visit meetings, which were announced before her order’s visit, made her feel that sisters’ conversations with the visitors would not really be confidential if sisters were expected to report on them to their superiors.

Sister Elizabeth confirmed that a number of sisters from various institutes throughout the US contacted her for advice about whether they were free to absent themselves from pre- and post-visitation meetings scheduled by superiors and presented as mandatory. She said she had explained to these sisters the basic information on privacy and non-manifestation of conscience and suggested that if sisters felt they might face intimidation for not participating in the meetings, then it might be better for them to attend and to speak if it seemed truly necessary. If they did so, she told sisters to inform the apostolic visitation office confidentially about what had actually transpired.

The privacy of sisters who wished to talk to a visitor also was problematic for some sisters. The visitation office tried to ensure confidentiality for sisters, and feedback from those experiencing a visit has been overwhelmingly positive. However, in some instances, sisters reported that the identity of some sisters requesting an interview with a visitor was inadvertently revealed to an order’s leadership. Additionally, the other confidential methods for speaking with a visitor—via telephone or webcam or at an off-site interview—were not feasible for some sisters, particularly the elderly in nursing care or retirement facilities. The visitation office did, however, encourage letters from sisters, and many sisters took advantage of that method when they wanted to be absolutely certain their identity would not be revealed to superiors.

That, is very troubling.

If there are issues that need to be addressed, then truth must be told. The only thing these superiors accomplished was to guarantee that they looked guilty by trying to squelch the voices of some of their fellow sisters.

I can only imagine the inner turmoil some of these sisters must have experienced. Could you imagine being a part of a community that was going in some wacky direction, but you had no one to turn to? And finally, when someone from the Vatican was listening, you're told to not say anything incriminating?

Seriously, it makes me feel as though some of those women religious are like battered women. I know that may seem harsh, but think of the controlling factors that go into an abusive relationship. I wouldn't doubt that some of those sisters felt similar emotions to a woman who wanted to escape an unhealthy relationship.

This is where the ugly side of women emerges. It is not what God intended for women, but certainly is the strategy of the enemy. Gossiping, slander, control, intimidation -- all of these have been used by then enemy to wreak havoc in the sisterhood of women.

Why would a superior need to know what was talked about confidentially with an apostolic visitor? To control the outcome.

Plain and simple. And unfortunate. Continue to keep this whole process in prayer. Pray that the apostolic team is given grace and wisdom. Pray for hardened hearts to soften. And pray that the truth is revealed and that the Balm of Gilead would heal all wounds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I Discarded My Ordination as a Woman in the Non-Denominational Church (Part 3) #Catholic

(Continued from Part 2 here.)

I spent over almost two years as a church secretary. I was nearing graduation from the ministry school and praying for future direction. One day, the vice president of the ministry asked to meet with me. He offered me a position to serve as a pastor within the school and a few opportunities to teach. I was elated. Finally, I felt as though God had answered the desire of my heart to serve Him full-time in the ministry. Ironically, I never thought of being a church secretary as being in "full-time ministry" or when I was working in a secular job, as a place to serve God. I still had narrow definitions when it came to what "serving God" meant and had unknowingly assigned a scale of importance to each area.

The offer of this new position quickly made its rounds within the church and ministry. Many congratulated me and quite a few women fluttered around me to declare that finally, women were being taken "seriously" as an equal partner in the ministry. I held all of these expectations carefully in my heart. On one hand, I had yearned for years for this very moment -- to have the opportunity to pastor. On the other hand, I did not want to give in to what was called "The Jezebel Spirit," which was to be controlling and manipulative. I knew I had to have God's guidance and stepped up my requests for His wisdom.

There was a man who previously held the position I was inheriting. In fact, I learned that he had been "let go" because he simply didn't fit in with the ministry culture. If you've ever worked in a corporate environment that made you feel uncomfortable, there is a good chance you were incompatible with that company. The same can be said of ministries. There are some who fit and others who don't. Many times there are personality conflicts and as much as we'd like to believe that everyone gets along within a ministry, nothing could be further from the truth. I witnessed staff members getting fired or harassed until they quit. One poor man was fired and the senior administration insisted on giving him a "going away" party. His wife fumed on the couch as we waited for the catered lunch. Such treatment was not uncommon.

Back to the man who held this position before me. He was on the Leadership Team. This team consisted of the senior pastor and several associate pastors. None of them were women. When I was hired to fill this position, I expected to be added to the team. However, this did not happen. It was another opportunity for the enemy to twist the knife of rejection in me, assuring me that I wasn't worthy for such a place of honor. I believed these lies only in the most secret place of my heart. Instead, I tried to focus on God's plan for my life and His perfect timing in all things. If I was meant to be on the Leadership Team, I would be. All I needed to do was be patient and wait on God. He had brought me this far, I thought. Why not to the Leadership Team, too?

After two years, I was formally ordained within the church. It was presented as nothing more than "acknowledging what God was already doing within my life," but the women in the church and the women students of the school looked at it as a breakthrough for women. Afterward, I had an increase of women students who formed a consistent line to my office, seeking their day in "spiritual court."

One woman said with exasperation, "When is it going to be my turn? When am I going to be invited to speak at churches, conferences and retreats? I'm so tired of waiting!" I remember encouraging her to wait until God opened doors for her. If she became impatient and tried to force open the doors, then she'd never realize if it was God doing it or her own stubborn ways. She walked away still feeling frustrated.

Some of the woman wanted me to be their mouthpiece, appealing to the senior pastor and associates that for all their talk about recognizing women in the ministry, there was little evidence of it. I was placed in the delicate position of upholding my loyalty and trust in the ministry's leadership while diffusing the unrest of those who were unhappy. It didn't help when a trusted advisor whispered to me at one of the church services that she had watched me walk up the aisle and noticed some people's faces as they looked at me.

"You know what I saw? Jealousy and envy. Pray for protection. I'm already praying this for you." After she walked away, I couldn't help but think -- Jealous? If they only knew.

Within a few years, I started to feel like a young girl who had outgrown a party dress. The things I had thought were so important started to fade away. The more I saw of the ministry, the less I was convinced I was to be a part of it, at least within that particular ministry. Fr. Corapi once said that never had he encountered in the world the level of hatred he received within the Church. I have thought for quite awhile that the admonitions and exhortations in the Bible to love our enemies is not for loving those who are in the world, but for loving our enemies in the church.

I had plenty of opportunity to love and forgive during those years. Sometimes I was victorious with the grace of God. Other times I failed. But through it all, I learned some very important lessons. The most important one, was dying to self.

In 2000, I was starting to experience the early stages of burn-out. I wasn't sure what was next for me, but I suspected my time at the ministry school was coming to a close. It climaxed with a heartless experience with an associate pastor, who coldly told me that my recommendation for a book resource for the upcoming new class of students was not only unacceptable, but just wrong. I suppose it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. That was the moment I decided it was time to leave.

That experience was followed up by another associate pastor visiting me in my office, "warning" me that I didn't want to get on the "bad side" of the other pastor. I assured him I wanted nothing of the sort to happen and that I genuinely thought the book would be of great benefit to the students. He nodded and smiled. And then, as though offering a bribe of candy to a scolded child, said, "You know, there are plans being made to ask you to be a part of the Leadership Team."

And there it was. The one thing I had yearned for since I had first joined the school was being dangled in front of me like a big, juicy carrot. I would be the first woman formally accepted as part of the team. How amazing. The women would finally see that they were really being taken seriously. And... how suddenly irrelevant it all was. The fact of the matter was, I no longer cared about it, nor wanted it. I smiled at him and said something trivial. He ended his visit and I sat there, pondering the journey I had taken and how it led me to a very surprising conclusion.

Somehow, I knew that if I had become part of the Leadership Team, it wouldn't stop there. My desire would be for greater and greater platforms of recognition. I would seek to become a spiritual teacher to hundreds, then thousands, then perhaps tens of thousands. I could see myself saying that I wanted to make a difference, but such a desire is a two-edged sword. I remembered reading the biographies of famous men and women evangelists who traveled non-stop throughout the world, preaching the Gospel and healing the sick. Most of them died at an early age from sheer exhaustion.

Those who are called to ministry are called to a life of sacrifice. I never saw it more clearly than when I was involved in the school of ministry. Just before I reached the decision of leaving, I was starting to experience a little of that "rock star" phenomenon where people would seek me for prayer and words of encouragement. It can be very draining. It also can lead one to assume that people are coming to them for their own spiritual gifts and not give glory to God. Truly, we are channels of His grace. If there is any good that comes from us, it is only by His hand that it is given.

I left the school and moved back home at the end of 2000. I met my husband in 2001 and married him months later. I had no desire to return to ministry. In fact, I think it's safe to say I was burned-out so thoroughly that church attendance, which before had been vital to my life, was avoided. From 2001 - mid-2007, I stayed at home on most Sundays. I tried to visit several churches, but felt restless in each one. I tried visiting the non-denominational churches but had no interest in getting on that hectic roller-coaster ministry ride again.

After my mother passed away in 2007 -- astonishingly, I discovered I was able to sit through Mass and feel peace and restoration, not anxiety. It was a surprise that still fills me with joy even to this day. I know I've been abundantly blessed and God has extended an enormous amount of grace to me. Words will never be able to describe my gratitude.

To end this little story, I would like to return to the priesthood, and how some women feel as though they've been left out of such an influential position. I think many of us know that if women became priests, many would not be satisfied. Next would be the pursuit of becoming a bishop, then an archbishop, and then, a cardinal. Finally, we would witness the demand and pressure that the College of Cardinals would elect a woman as Pope. I pray we never see such a thing.

If women could take a peek within the life of a priest (or a bishop, archbishop, or cardinal), they would quickly see that it is not a life of glory. It is a life of long hours, constant demands, emotionally needy people grasping for you, angry people upset with you, worries and concerns that you may not be meeting the needs of your flock, hidden guilt that you're not doing enough, nights spent in prayer asking God for the grace to love the unlovable and forgive the cruel, carefully dancing in the political arena as some plot your downfall and others appear to be trusted friends while stabbing you in the back.

And the loneliness... Serving daily while not having a spouse at home who can encourage you or fix you a nice, hot meal. These are the number of sacrifices a priest makes and there are many more. But most priests will say they can't imagine it being any different. They couldn't imagine trying to be a spouse or being happy in a secular job. Praise be to God for calling these men into His service! There is sacrifice, yes, but there is also unspeakable joy in doing the will of our heavenly Father. This is the place we all must find, that place where we seek God's will in our lives. When we find it, we find peace.

So when I look at the women clamoring to be ordained as priests, I do not see women who are filled with peace. I see women who are caught up in what used to bind me -- the desire for recognition and validation. But even if they ever receive a "badge," it will never be enough. As long as we seek power and the admiration of man, we will always be unsatisfied. Only by giving up everything, including our own dreams, will we find His peace.

And sometimes, when you do get the dream, you just might find it isn't all that you'd thought it would be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why I Discarded My Ordination as a Woman in the Non-Denominational Church (Part 2) #Catholic

(Continued from Part 1 here.)

As one of the female students in my ministry class, I sought opportunities to minister to others and serve in the church. Our class also had the privilege of receiving ministry from well-known spiritual teachers and pastors. I would secretly be filled with happiness when one of them would give me a "word of knowledge" about my future ministry or tell me that I had strong spiritual gifts. Each time I would think that "someday," others would see this, too. Spiritual pride can creep upon us without a whisper. Oftentimes we believe we are seeking God's will. Instead, what we're often seeking is our own sense of importance. This was true for me.

I mentioned that these traveling teachers and pastors were seen as "spiritual rock stars." I wish I was kidding. Some would insist on being housed in a fine hotel. Others would treat our ministry staff as personal servants. I was starting to see the ugly side of ministry and was both shocked and disillusioned. Was this what I desired?

I will never forget a married couple who made their mark upon me with their considerate and kind ways. The ministry hosted several large conferences throughout the year. Those who were employed by the ministry basically worked their tails off to pull off a spectacular event. Much of this work included the "hospitality room" for the special speakers.

This area was usually a well-guarded room within a hotel where the speakers could rest and pray before speaking before the crowds. At one conference, it was an actual stand-alone cottage. My boss, the administrative pastor of the church, asked if I would volunteer to work within the cozy retreat to help prepare food and drink. But only on one condition.

"Mary Rose, you need to abide by this one rule. Do not talk to the speakers. If they ask you something, of course answer and make sure they have plenty of food and beverage. But you are not to ask them for anything, or talk to them, or ask for prayer." He solemnly stared at me to drive home the point.

My eyes grew large. "Of course! I'll do whatever is needed," I said as I smiled.

But inside I felt another sense of disappointment and confusion. Was this what Jesus had meant when He told His apostles to go and teach all nations to observe all He had taught them? Where was the love? The humility? Or was I being naive?

It was at the cottage when I came across the married couple; whose easy-going personalities were like a draught of clear, cool water on a hot summer's day. Not only did they talk to me, they asked me questions and treated me with kindness and respect. I quickly considered them friends, but still realized that I was "just a staff person" and certainly didn't equate myself with these globe-trotting ministers. But what astounded me was they never gave me the impression that this was how they viewed themselves. We did become friends and I stayed with them on several occasions while I was involved with the ministry. They were and still are an amazing, God-loving and God-serving couple.

It took some time, but I was finally witnessing the veneer coming off the "spiritual rock star" world. Yes, many of them were good teachers. But most of them knew how to work the emotions of a crowd. Some indeed had prophetic spiritual gifting, boldly telling a stranger in front of conference attendees the desires of their heart. But behind closed doors, most were worn out and wary of anyone approaching them. Many who attended these conferences had emotional needs that could not be met by one session of teaching. But they pursued these teachers, believing that somehow, any notice from them would give them the seal of approval they desperately wanted.

There are many reasons why people crave approval. Within a ministry, it is unavoidable that such people will seek out anyone they think has a "silver bullet" for whatever ails them. Some of these people I considered "black holes." No matter how much attention and encouragement was given to them, they needed more, and more, and more. This was why many of those "spiritual rock stars" were so wary and often distanced themselves from others. It was a question of spiritual survival. Without retreating, as Jesus often did to be with His Father, a minister could quickly become burned-out.

I watched and observed these leaders, and wondered if the same was in store for me? Was this what I really wanted? More importantly, was it what God wanted for me? All I knew was that from those experiences, I was driven to a deeper prayer life as I asked God these questions and more.

To be continued...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I Discarded My Ordination as a Woman in the Non-Denominational Church #Catholic

In light of the wonderful news from Saturday, where three Anglican bishops were ordained as Roman Catholic priests, there was the backdrop of two unhappy women staging a "protest" and demanding women to be ordained as priests. From the blog Mulier Fortis, she shares a collection of other articles and posts that reflected upon the event, and then added a photo from Facebook that showed two women holding up a banner that demands women to be ordained as priests.

A U.K. writer, Peter Stanford, shared his observations in his piece History Overturned as Anglican Bishops Are Ordained as Catholic Priests. There are a few points I disagree with, namely the old canard that the Catholic Church is somehow "anti-woman" and that this momentous occasion of Anglicans leaving for the Catholic Church is a negative thing.

From Stanford's article:
Instead, it was hard to avoid concluding that what this ceremony really signalled was an end to the search for the compromises that would reunite two distinctive churches, and its replacement by Rome's scheme to gather up so many Anglican converts that the Church of England simply withers on the vine. A takeover, not a merger.

When the Church of England decided to allow women and homosexuals to become priests, they were the one who ended any compromise that would reunite two distinctive churches. The Catholic Church has explained many times why it is impossible for women to be ordained as priests. But the Church of England didn't pay attention. So now they've reached a point of no return and some want to blame the Catholic Church over it? All these Anglicans who converted did was emphasize orthodox Christianity, not bending to the world's standards but upholding God's. As a famous person quipped, "If there is distance between you and God, guess who moved?"

Stanford also touches upon the debate about women being ordained:

It is the Vatican's negative attitude to women's ministry that formed the backdrop to the whole affair. The three recruits oppose the Church of England's plans to appoint female bishops and regard the Catholic priesthood as a safe, female-free haven.

I wrote a comment on Fr. Z's blog:

I'm coming with a different perspective regarding the ordination of women (And may just write my own post about it.). The ordination of women has become politicized as the feminist movement systematically infiltrated Protestant and non-denominational churches over the past 40 years. Since my return to the Catholic Church in 2008, I have continued to hear the same complaint: The Roman Catholic Church treats women as "second-class citizens." What amazing ignorance such accusations expose!

For one, we have our Blessed Mother, Mary -- Mother of God; who I may add, has been elevated and reverenced in the Church in a multitude of ways. If I could have a word with those women who are so unhappy with the Church, I'd ask them to please consider Our Lady, and dare them to follow her ways. She led her life in complete obedience to God and had humility, love, and compassion -- not to mention a boatload of wisdom. She has influenced everyone from popes and kings to small children. If what these women are seeking is recognition and influence, I can think of no better woman as a role model than the BVM.

And secondly, we have in the Church three women Doctors of the Faith (out of 33). And those women lived centuries before feminism reared its self-centered big head! St. Catherine of Sienna (1347-80), St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82), and St. Theresa of Lisieux (1873-97). Those saints are my role models, not Gloria Steinem.

I was ordained within my non-denominational church but over the years, I believe the Lord has shown me some (ugly) truths about the pursuit of power; and I realize we all know that this is what it's about. Power. However, what priest do you know who has that as his motivation to serve? None I can think of. To answer the call to the priesthood is to surrender to a life of sacrifice. It is a life of serving. Try explaining that to these thick-headed women. I suspect all one would receive is a blank stare.

When I think of my Catholic schooling, I think of the nuns. Granted, at the time they were being over-run by feminist ideology, but still, they were there. Some had surrendered themselves to the political tumult of the day but a few had not. Those women influenced me. I did not look upon them at the time as either "having power" or not. They were in my life and that was powerful enough. Too many women underestimate the influence they wield in the lives of others and those who continue to bang the drum for women's ordination are unfortunately blind to that fact.

They mistakenly believe that the only way a woman can make a difference is if she has a badge on her chest so everyone will notice. How wrong they are. Women make a difference every day within their parish by showing concern for someone in need, praying for them, making a meal. As Christians, we are all called to give to others, to show love and compassion, to pray, to speak kindly to one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves - all without looking for recognition. This is what exasperates me when I see women clamoring for ordination. Seeking praise from men and women will not satisfy. And whatever is achieved will never be enough because the pursuit of power is never-ending.

I'm going to use my own experiences as an example.

In 1995, I left my hometown of Cincinnati to attend a small ministry school in another state. I was part of the very first class of a brand new school, and we were all very excited. We had come to the school from all over the country and some, from other parts of the world. It was a small class, around twenty students who ranged in age from 21-55. We were drawn to the idea of pioneering a school for prophetic ministry and believed we'd make a difference someday as we ministered wherever God led.

As I entered the second year of the program, I was hired as the church secretary. I'll be honest. I wanted to do more than make copies of a newsletter and answer the phone. But I had been encouraged by many people to "trust in the Lord and wait upon Him." If He had other plans for me, He would allow them to bloom in His timing. It was during this time that I started to read about famous women evangelists and prophetesses, desiring to preach to large crowds. I admired women who had broken through "the stained glass ceiling" to finally be respected by the men for their leadership qualities and spiritual authority. I reasoned at the time that many women had traveled to distant parts of the world to plant churches because men weren't available, so why not me? Already there were seeds of discontent sown but I was oblivious. God, obviously, had His work cut out for Him.

At our church, we'd have famous prophets and prophetesses visit. They often gave "words of knowledge" to those at the service. I always hungered for these words, viewing it as confirmation that I was spiritually unique and that God had a special plan for me. Looking back now, I can see that I was yearning for the recognition of the world. I thought that if others saw me as having a certain sense of spiritual authority, I would finally be seen as someone worthy. I might even get to hang out with the "spiritual rock stars" in the prophetic world.

Was I in for a rude awakening.

To be continued...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! Do You Have Spiritual Resolutions for 2011? #Catholic

Happy New Year, everyone! Another year closes and a new one begins. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We Catholics continue to celebrate the birth of Christ and remember that time in history when wise men sought Him and the Holy Family rejoiced.

I always love New Year's Day. It makes me feel as though I have this huge white board in front of me, white a fresh-fallen snow, and I have the opportunity to make positive changes in my life. We all know about the common resolutions most people have during this time. Losing weight, exercising more, eating more nutritional meals, reading good books, and volunteering may all be worthy resolutions that will reap great rewards. But have you ever made a spiritual resolution? Something that will help you grow closer to God and strengthen your faith?

Mine for this year was quickly determined. I have chosen Mary as my spiritual resolution. I want to understand her more, and understand her role in the Church and in my life. For many years, I operated under the Protestant view of Mary, which isn't much. She was brought out around Christmas and that was it. So returning to the Catholic Church has included having to re-examine my thoughts regarding her and asking for God's grace to accept Church teaching.

I'm nowhere near being a Marianist and at this point, not worried if I ever will be. I'm taking this one step at a time. And as a matter of fact, another woman from my parish will be joining me for walking sessions where we walk and talk about Mary. She also has questions and reservations and we figured it would be good to explore these things together. I've already accepted the Immaculate Conception. There are other doctrines that I'll be examining and praying for God's guidance on knowing the truth and receiving it.

Attending today's Mass was part of this resolution. Today is the Solemnity of Mary, a feast day. It celebrates Mary's motherhood of Jesus. It also is the first Saturday of the month, perfectly beginning the New Year with the First Saturday devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There are five First Saturdays to this devotion, although they happen throughout the year. I find it fascinating how this devotion is meant to revere Mary, but yet also bring us closer to Jesus. Some Protestants don't understand this devotion but I can say that Mary is nothing without Christ. She is always pointing the way to Him. She never takes any glory for herself.

Recently, I heard a priest say something beautiful. He was talking about the Holy Rosary. He said, "The Rosary is a meditation on Jesus Christ, and seeing Him through the eyes of His mother." That really impacted me. I do meditate on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, but never saw it as that -- viewing Jesus through the eyes of His mother. And we all know how much mothers love their children! So these are with eyes of love that we are viewing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I'll be commenting this year on any kind of spiritual lessons I'm learning as a result of this devotion. I do have the book by St. Louis de Montfort, Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I tried to do it in 2010 but didn't succeed. I'm going to try again this year.

I hope 2011 is an amazing year for you and that you, also, are drawn closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that we all know Him in a greater degree, starting today. :-)