90 Day Challege: Day 14 – Piety

Piety: reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations (Dictionary app)

“Charity and devotion differ no more, the one from the other, than the flame from the fire.” -St. Francis de Sales

When I think of piety, I think of those called to live the religious life or lay apostles who try -within their secular lives- to keep the devotional habits of the religious communities to which they are ancillary.

Pious is not a label I would ever attach to myself.  Like Sister Luke in “The Nun’s Story,” I would be forever lured by the desire to act out of my own moral will than subvert it to the rules of a group. My individualistic bent is quiet but deeply ingrained.

I only made it through boot camp during my initial Navy days by literally singing every chance I had. It distracted me from monotonous routine, drills and demands I take something perfectly well done and perfect it even better.

Or that I do the inane and scrub the bathroom tile with a toothbrush.

In a phase of life where I was still discovering myself, I chafed at being part of the faceless ranks.  I was just getting to know who I was and I suddenly was expected to make her conform to all the other young women around me.

But I have always been marked by the stamp of “different,” even as a child. I felt a shame in that as a little girl because then I wanted so much to “belong;” as a young woman, I was finally learning to enjoy the feeling of “standing out.”

So the idea of taking on a life of piety seems like a bad match for me.

It is not that I am failing to develop a devotion to God as Father; that, is in fact, why I am attempting this challenge.  I want more days in his presence because they are peaceful and uncluttered and far less messy than everyday life.

Truly I enjoy the hours spent contemplating the readings and meditations, the things that I learn. It is solitary but satisfying.

In my own way, I am attempting to burn from within in my desire to grow closer in relationship to Jesus through Mary. I want it to be a fire and not a candle flickering and easily snuffed out.

But for me that is more about desire than piety.  I visualize piety as chastened and buttoned down.  It seems like a discipline of coloring within the lines rather than splashing paint on canvas to see what shape it takes.

Not that I don’t admire the pious – I do.  I just don’t see that I have a place among them.

Yet I know piety was one of Mary’s virtues. When she saw the wine run low at the wedding in Cana, she did not instruct the wait staff to find more wine.  She told them to do as Jesus told them.

She directed their attention to her son, and a miracle happened.

Perhaps I should contemplate piety a bit longer.

“True piety hath in it nothing weak, nothing sad, nothing constrained. It enlarges the heart; it is simple, free, and attractive.”

– Francois Fenelon

Read more: https://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-topic/quotes-about-piety/#ixzz5LSJ72iqO

90 Day Challenge: Day 13 – Knowledge

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15)

First, I know I am a day late posting this blog. Day 13 of my modified Nineveh 90 Day Challenge was actually yesterday, Sunday July 15th.

Today – Monday, July 16th –  is the third anniversary of my consecration to Mary and the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

It was taking the six-week Fr. Michael Gaitley workshop “33 Days To Morning Glory” that led me to know Mary as my spiritual Mother and helped me to understand her place more fully in the Divine Order.

Although I had been Catholic since 2008, I really had not established a true devotion to Mary or the rosary. I considered myself a born-again Christian who joined the Church because of my longing to partake of Communion.

Yet, as I note in a talk I have given in group settings, I can now look back to see that Mary had been after me to notice her for many years before I made my first Profession of Faith.  Once in a very dramatic way I have shared with a discreet few.

But the knowledge I have gained since about entering the heart of Jesus through Mary has had a profound impact on my sense of being fully Catholic and my desire to understand the underpinnings of Catholicism “in the fullness of faith.”

Knowledge and its value was inculcated in me from a very young age.  Becoming educated was the primary goal the “Mom who raised me” had for my life; my Dad (by birth my maternal grandfather) held the same goal for me too, though less volubly expressed.

I was abetted in my scholarly quest by two summertime neighbors who had cottages where we lived year round. One was a former teacher whose first question for me every summer was what kind of grades had I made that school year.

The other was an older neighbor with whom I played Scrabble on rainy days.  It was from her I learned the meaning of the word “gnu” and many others.

And then there was “the box.” The box that had been left behind by the prior owners of our house.  It had a complete volume of the works of Shakespeare, as well as many navy blue, gold embossed books containing the writings of Ibsen and Wilde, Voltaire and du Maupassant (père et fils). There was an orange bound anthology of the writings of O. Henry and the works of Gustav Flaubert.

Curiously, there was also a copy of “The G-String Murders,” written by famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, and another murder mystery novel called “The Glass Key,” the book jacket of which featured actors I now recognize as Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd.

It was an eclectic collection perfect for a child who spent a good portion of her years hanging out in taverns learning to play shuffleboard and shoot pool, drinking Pepsi because – well, they don’t serve milk in taverns, don’t cha know.

It was because -even though they exposed me to it- they didn’t want that lifestyle for me that caused my parents to push me so hard to become educated.

Never ones to be comfortable attending school functions, my parents were in great haste to set up a parent teacher conference when I got my first “C” in math in sixth grade.

My teacher (also a family friend), would go on to educate me about the proper way to hold a fork and knife while cutting my meat. She never wanted my future mate to throw a frying pan at my head as hers had at her for making this mistake in etiquette.

Amazing the things your math teacher can help you learn to sum up about life.  I was 11 when I learned your mate might throw things your way you never saw coming, leaving indelible scars hidden by your hairdo and in the depths of your heart.

The depth of Mary’s heart is what we are called to study in our quest to become disciples.

We are to learn her virtues and do our best to emulate them, “thereby encouraging us fervently to honor the blessed Mother of God, in whom the Eternal Wisdom dwelt bodily, and through whom He was given to us, that by her intercession our understanding may be enlightened, our will strengthened, and we be inspired with fresh zeal to practice ourselves, and to prevail on others to practice also, whatever is chaste, becoming, and holy.” (Laudate: Saint of the Day)

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (John 13:17).

The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary:

1. Most Pure 2. Most Prudent  3. Most Humble 4. Most Faithful 5. Most Devout  6. Most Obedient  7. Most Poor  8. Most Patient. 9. Most Merciful  10. Most Sorrowful  (catholictruth.net)

90 Day Challenge: Day 12-Fortitude

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

Fortitude is another word for strength. But not the strength we equate with our physicality.

Rather, it is our mental strength, our emotional strength, our moral strength.

I have told myself I have not always had the gift of fortitude. But I am beginning to wonder if that is the devil trying to convince me I am not strong enough to make it to the end. To tell me I cannot endure the passions through which I must pass before I too must face death on my final cross as Jesus faced death on his.

In Gethsemane, Jesus himself asked before his arrest, “My Father,* if it is possible, let this cup pass from me..” (Matthew 26:39)

Do I have the fortitude not to ask God to spare me whatever agony waits me in the end if Jesus himself was tempted to do so?

Probably not.  But Jesus then went on to say in the same verse “..yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

Will I have his fortitude then? His moral character to let God’s will be done?  I don’t know.

For now, all I can do is look back at all the times I thought I was defeated, by myself or by others, and take solace in the fact that somehow I have carried on.

I am sure it has been God’s will I do so as much or more than my own.  The temptation to quit, to avoid any more pain in the name of life and love, is overwhelming.  Like Ophelia, sometimes I just want to let rue take me deep into the dark, where the bough breaks, the currents stop flowing and all is silence.

Yet somehow the buoyancy of God’s call on my life has been greater than the devil’s whispered seduction that to feel no more means the end of suffering.

Living is painful.  There is no way around that basic fact. Not even for Christ himself.

But it is also joyful and adventurous, thrilling and interesting and kaleidoscopic. It changes one moment to the next.  Paradoxically it is also peace and serenity and the timelessness of the night sky lit full of a million stars that appear fixed to the naked eye.

Yet they whirl to their own gravitational pull if seen through the eyes of God or a powerful telescopic lens.  Because God created them that way and man can only invent a device to see what God has wrought.

For man himself still cannot bend the entire cosmos to his will.  Only God retains that power, has that omnipresent strength.

Still, it takes fortitude to live a life both fixed yet mutable from every encounter with person, place or thing.

To be fully one’s authentic, cardinal self yet still allow oneself to be touched and moved by emotion and circumstance. To be strong enough to take on feeling and not let it bring you to your knees or shatter your heart completely.

It takes fortitude to keep this pledge of challenge for 90 days – even when I am more than an hour past the end of the twelfth day and into the next.

You can say I lacked the fortitude to complete the challenge on its due date.  Or you can say I had the fortitude to finish the race, albeit late.

In any case, what more can mortal man do to me than offer a judgement, on it or the life I lead?

I am not afraid.

 

90 Day Challenge: Day 11-Counsel

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

As I have matured in my Catholic faith these past ten years, the Bible and the Catechism have opened themselves up to me in new ways, giving good counsel to my soul.

And then there is always that moment of “gut hunch,” where you don’t know how you know something is true, you just do.

This is also known as conviction of the Spirit.

So with all this good counsel and spiritual reassurance, why do I still sometimes choose to do and say the stupidest things? Trust people who do not care a whit about my well-being?

It’s not that I am dumb.  I did make MENSA. Barely. Though I am no longer a dues paying member.

See, I didn’t have to tell you that, did I?

But I have always been a person of full disclosure, for good or ill.  The ill generally tends to fall on me.

I know that “keeping one’s own counsel” is generally thought to be a good thing.  And wherein self-interest is of prime concern, it is likely a truism.

But keeping one’s spiritual beliefs to oneself is not something Jesus called on us to do. In fact, he commissioned the Apostles – and by extension us as disciples – to spread the Good News throughout the ends of the earth.

It is called evangelization.  And it is counsel we should be willing to provide to any who will listen, a willingness to share the fullness of our faith so that others may have hope and believe.

Most Catholics I have met say “I could never do that.”

Perhaps because with over 2,000 years of history, tradition (little t), Tradition (big T), doctrine and dogma, Catholicism is not easy to distill.

I spent nearly a year of study and had to be deemed to have adequate discernment of the faith before I was confirmed in the Church.  Before I could fully participate in the Mass by partaking of the Eucharist. Before I could say “I am Catholic.”

It has taken nearly another nine to feel fully so, and still I learn something new daily about the Church and my faith.

But that shouldn’t keep me from speaking to all who will listen about it, especially in this moment of history St. Pope John Paul II called a time of unprecedented mercy that God wishes to bestow upon us.

Our opportunity to do so may be limited.

Don’t know what to say? Don’t worry.  The Bible has good counsel for that, too:

“You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20)

 

90 Day Challenge: Day 10-Understanding

“Thus understanding and love, that is, the knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it embraces and comprehends with all the saints the length and breath, the height and depth, that is the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom of God.” -St. Bernard

I think I can read the Bible from now until I am 100 and still find new truths to understand.

My understanding of human motivation will take as long or longer.  People often baffle me.  But I am sure it is a situation of vice versa – I am sure I am not always easily understood by others.

I just wish when they don’t “get me,” people would ask me directly about my motivations. I am always happy to answer.  There is no hidden agenda, and I usually have a reason for choosing to do what I do, though reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of my choices.

I am not above questioning them frequently myself.

Proverbs is full of advice about “understanding.”

”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

”Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Proverbs 3:7)

”How joyful is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding, because her profit is better than the profit of silver, and her yield than fine gold.” (Proverbs 3:13-14)

Ah.  I am still waiting for all that greater profit to flow my way.  I would take some of the silver and gold too.

In reading the Ron Chernow biography on “Grant,” I am finding a kindred spirit who was often baffled about why people ascribed motivations and actions to him that were not in alignment with his own view of his character.

It hurt him, though he wouldn’t say it.  But like me, he privately brooded on it.  He felt misunderstood and maligned.

I think we can all relate to that, especially when it seems to be coming from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is a vast difference between criticism and counsel.

One of the things that really shaped me as a child was an accusation I had tried to steal a netted hair bonnet from the local drugstore.

Now mind you, ours was a very small town in the northeastern pocket of Indiana where everyone knew each other and everyone’s personal business.

There wasn’t a day during summer that I probably didn’t frequent Smittie’s drug store for an order of fries and a Cherry Coke from the soda fountain.

Now on this particular day, I had stopped by the General Store first and bought my bonnet from Campie, the hair-bunned store clerk who knew me equally well.  I paid for my purchase but took it in its original package because I planned to open it and wear it on my one mile walk home along the lake shore.

But first I stopped to get my usual treat.  When I went to pay for my snack, Mrs. Smith tried to charge me for the bonnet too.  I explained I had bought it at the other store.

She still accused me of theft and dragged me across the street to the bar where my Dad was working.  I explained where I bought it and Campie verified the purchase.

Rather than apologize for falsely accusing me, Mrs. Smith coldly chastised me for not putting my purchase in a bag, admonished me to do so in future and walked off.

In her haughty pride, in her need to be “right,” she could not understand the shame and sense of helplessness I felt at still somehow being “indicted” and “found guilty” even though I had done nothing wrong.

Maybe that explains why I horde my shopping bags and purchase receipts long after needed.  Who knows?

I do believe that one of the things I need to better comprehend is that as a daughter of God, he will not leave me in a situation that will harm me.  My devotional reading today, by Sarah Young, is a reminder from God that I am to remember “who you are and whose you are.”

”Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

So even when I don’t understand “them,” or am confounded by “their” seemingly mean-spirited critique of me, I must remember to diligently pursue love and understanding of those who would accuse me in what I perceive as a wrong manner.

For through love and understanding, wisdom will flow.

 

 

90 Day Challenge: Day 9 – Wisdom

“Dost thou hold wisdom to be anything other than truth, wherein we behold and embrace the supreme good?” -St. Augustine

If wisdom is indeed analogous to truth, then this morning I had a big dose of it.  It did not come from the regimen of  prayer, Biblical or devotional reading to which I have committed for these three months.

Rather it was from a podcast in the Laudate app called “Heart of Mary.” The topics are not always overtly Marian, but the sign-off is always the same: “To Jesus, through Mary.”

For my non-Catholic friends a brief explanation: this particular phrase explains Catholic devotion to Mary.  It is not that our relationship to Jesus isn’t personal and direct – it is.

Rather, by modeling ourselves after Mary’s virtues and seeking a relationship with him that approaches her ways, our hearts can become that much more united to his.

She is the example of the perfect Christian, the Mother of God made man and – as brothers and sisters in Christ – she is therefore our spiritual Mother as well.

Back to the podcast.  I was catching up the past few days and it was yesterday’s that sparked a recognition of truth about myself.

The subject was the Ten  Commandments, most particularly  the First Commandment regarding idolatry:

“I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3)

It suddenly hit me that of all the things in my life that I sometimes let take precedence over my relationship with God, romantic love is my greatest idol.

Since my teen years, I have been obsessed with the idea of finding that one person with whom I will perfectly fit so that I am somehow made “whole.”

Except because we live in a broken world, that idol can be worshiped, but it is idling away time to do so.  While Eve was created to “fit” Adam perfectly, that perfection was broken when Original Sin entered the scene.

So many of us pine to find that special “someone” whose presence will be our surety against the buffets of life’s storms.

Yet I know from my first broken marriage, no human person can ever fulfill that worshipful fantasy.

Recently I had come to the conclusion that because I had a new understanding of the sacramental meaning of marriage and its reflection of Trinitarian love, I was developing a relationship with someone who better fulfilled a Catholic definition for the coming together of two lives.

But truth can’t be built on a false predicate.  And I will never enjoy a sacramental marriage as long as I put finding a partner before continuing to seek God in all things.

I am an idolator in this and perhaps other ways I have not yet recognized.  We all have idols of one sort or another. We just need to be truthful and confess them to ourselves and to God.

But with God’s grace, I pray someday to always seek his kingdom first.

To Jesus through Mary.

 

90 Day Challenge: Day 8 – Temperance

“When they sow the wind,
they shall reap the whirlwind..” (Hosea 8:7)

Today’s challenge was to get up early, fight the traffic to Emory St. Joseph on Peachtree Dunwoody and find the right doctor on the right floor for my 9 am appointment.

The third floor to which I was sent proved to be the charm, and I added yet another specialist to my growing doctor list.

Not that there is anything radically wrong with me. But as one lady on the elevator noted, growing old isn’t for sissies.

The drive home was smoother and faster than the ride up 285.  In my first act lacking temperance today, I decided I had enough of my current hairstyle and made an afternoon appointment to go for a shorter, chopped cut that will look more adorable ( I hope) when Gail can re-blonde the front this Saturday.

My second act was to buy a new diamond Cross to treat myself for my upcoming birthday. Having lost two previously, I am hoping that like my elevator ride to the top of St. Joseph’s and down, the third time will be the charm and this Cross will stay permanently wreathed around my neck as it should.

Besides, not only did I get it for almost 1/3 the original price, I got $50 in Macy’s reward dollars to spend. I wasn’t temperate about that, either.

In fact, my spirit of rebelliousness has lasted most of the day. I am determined somehow to triumph over the chaos the Fisherman brought to my life. Whether it means reaping a wild wind or not.

At least with my new mussy short crop, it will be hard to tell my hair has been touched by such wind. (Although it did get a bit limp from sweat when I rode my bike this afternoon to the beat of music designed to increase and decrease my pace at various intervals.)

Cutting my hair is always a reaction I have to feeling I have been betrayed and – in a sense – raped by the callous disregard of someone with whom I thought I was in love.

Like Samson, I am shorn,  But instead of losing power, I gain strength. There is nothing left for the false lover to take that way, you see. And I can then redefine myself on my own terms as I see fit.

Perhaps I will be blessed and grow to conform myself to the words of St. Augustine, becoming temperate as a result: “To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude).  It obeys only God (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).”

And instead of the whirlwind, there will be only the calm of replenishment and refreshment.

90 Day Challenge: Day 7 – Fortitude

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God[b] is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

Fortitude. According to my Dictionary app, it means having the “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.”

In other words, like the Cowardly Lion in the “Wizard of Oz,” sometimes we have to put up our dukes and fight our way through circumstances that impede our progress toward living our true and authentic lives.

Sometimes we need role models to show us what this looks like.  We find them in the Bible, in literature and in life.  Often we find them in those closest to us.

One person I have always admired is my friend, Margaret.  I know no one who is as true to her sense of self as she.

From the trials of her escape from Hungary in 1956 as the Soviet tanks rolled in to the ways she has dealt with personal tragedy, to her strongly held personal and political convictions, Margaret is one of the bravest persons I have ever encountered.

She knows who she is, what brings her pleasure and what she is and is not willing to tolerate.  She speaks her mind, she loves with her entire heart and at nearly 82, she has a lively and enquiring mind that is as sharp as when I met her 47 years ago.

We were an unlikely friendship pairing, the 18-year-old young woman who was me taking her first steps into a larger world and the 35-year-old married mother of two who was my supervisor at one of my first “adult” jobs.

I was quiet and reserved.  She was outgoing with a great and ready laugh.  I had met only one other person who came to the U.S. from a foreign country – my German teacher Mr. Sturmer.  Her Hungarian accent was still thick but her command of English – learned from watching soap operas in her early years here – was excellent.

I was a backwards rural Indiana girl.  She was a cosmopolitan woman from Budapest who had been politically active in her country.

My steps into my adult life were tentative.  Older by 17 years, she was more sure-footed about who she was and what she wanted – what she deserved from life.

Once I joined the Navy in 1972, I would be accused of being the feminist she actually was. With her I would take my first trip to a metropolitan city – Chicago – and fall in love with my first art museum and the Impressionist works I saw there. My first Renoir.  My first Monet.

(It is still our habit when traveling together to visit museums of all kinds. In fact, as I write this I realize I have traveled more places with Margaret than any other person with the exception of my son.)

Whenever life has given me lemons, it has always been Margaret who has helped me buck up and make some sort of lemonade as a result.  Just by letting me know she was always there for me.  Just by letting me know she always cared.

I am privileged to know four generations of women from her family.  Like Margaret, they are all strong individualists, goal oriented and intensely interested in the world and those they encounter in it.  Their interests are varied but deep, as are their connections to one another.

If Margaret were a saint, with her great love of all things flora and arboreal, she would be St. Dorothy, the patroness of gardeners.  A Master Gardener, Margaret roundly berated me on a visit to my then husband and I in California years ago because I knew nothing about the indigenous plants that grew there.

Her yard in Florida is filled with native plants, and I once spent an evening learning more than I ever wanted to know about avocado growing at one of her Exotic Fruit Club’s monthly meetings.  And tasting some fruit that deserved to stay exotic and off the grocery shelves, imho.

But as with the entirety of my friendship with Margaret, it was an adventure.

While the Lord is my Shepherd and my Shield, Margaret is the person who stands by my side and tells me I am up to all challenges that come my way.

And if I ever forget that, I have only to look for inspiration at the life she has led – one of fortitude in all that defines it.

 

90 Day Challenge: Day 6 – The Link Between Heaven and Earth

I started out Day 6 in Day 7 mode.  All I really wanted to do was rest, just as God rested after his six days of creation.

After waking at 5 am with a headache, I watched the first Bridget Jones movie. Not having enough of my Mr. Darcy fix, I then started watching the second until pain medicated sleep overtook me during the break-up scene.

Mercifully, Salem let me sleep from whatever time that was until 11:30 am.  I spent most of the day doing piddling things, feeling very non-creative indeed. I couldn’t even muster the energy to do the necessary reading for the class I facilitated this evening.

What should have been a deficit turned into a blessing, as the session dealt with the culmination of all the reading that had preceded it.

In Genesis on the 6th day, God created the animals and human beings.  Our lesson tonight was on the contemplation of the relationship between God and the latter.

Most enlightening to me was the idea that as the only creature that is both matter and spirit, we humans have a unique position in the cosmic order – along with Christ, as the head of the Church – to engage in the exchange of love from the Father to the Son.  It was why Jesus had to come to earth in the flesh as the “new Adam;” so that the love the Father has for his creation can be returned to him through the person of Jesus.

As the body of Christ, the Church participates in unity in this loving exchange.  It is the purpose for which every human being is created.

The angels, as pure spirit, cannot do this.  Matter that has no spirit cannot do this. Only man – as both spirit and matter – can fulfill this unique role. And since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, breaking their communion with God, man and woman can now only fulfill this task through the person of Christ.

For Catholics, the height and summit of this exchange takes place during the Mass, as the priest lifts the Host and pronounces the words “…through him, with him and in him, through the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory are yours forever and ever.”

So we are all of us here for a purpose – to allow God to love us and to love him in return.

It is both that simple yet very complicated at the same time, because each of us has a different path to take to reach this realization.

For some of us, that path is more littered and strewn with life’s debris, a steeper climb along darker paths.

But for those who despair and wonder then why on earth they were even born, may the simplicity of our Unitarian purpose give them hope.

May they know it is all for the sake of love, and love alone.

“All you need is love, love; love is all you need.” (1)

 

(1) “All You Need Is Love,” by John Lennon/Paul McCartney, Copyright Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

90 Day Challege: Days 4-5

“My grace is sufficient…” 1 Corinthians 12:9

This was the first piece of Scripture I saw this morning as I belatedly turned the wall calendar from June to July.

Low and behold, it was also the same Scriptural quote for the first of today’s reflections from the Laudate for this week’s Mass readings.

This is what I have seen called God-incidence.  The Lord is trying to tell me something if I will but listen.

I could not have heard this message on the 4th day of this challenge. I literally had a headache from sleeping so little the night before as I tried to reconcile two realities that had collided.

The Fisherman -of whom I have previously written- is real. But he will never be real for me.

I have discovered the identity of the man being used by the Fisherman in the many pictures he sent me – including pictures that were supposed to be from his childhood, of his family, of his supposedly dead wife.

There is a real man with a real family and a very alive wife out there. His is the face that was in the imaginings of the life I would share with the Fisherman.

His was the face I that I had so immediately loved, the hands I studied in the photos, the dogs I imagined us walking together once he returned from the Fisherman’s oversees project.

Normally I do not fall prey to scammers. And at first I resisted this one.  But I was so drawn to him from the moment I saw his photo on the dating web site, so taken in by the early intimacy of sharing photos of ourselves as children and the shared Catholicity, that I went back knowing I was taking a chance he might not be who he said.

What I didn’t bargain for was finding the “real” man in the pictures, discovering his identity and life and how that would also crush my heart; how discordant all my feelings would become.

What it would feel like to share a few texts in Messenger with him.

St. Paul would understand what I have been feeling.  In the Mass Second Reading from Second Corinthians he speaks of his own “thorn in the flesh.”

My thorn, my affliction, with which I have struggled since I was 18, is the thorn of the romantic feelings in my heart I always seem to hold for the people most wrong for me.

Then I saw those words on my calendar this morning, and had them repeated to me in reflection of Scripture.

And I know God is telling me He is my sufficiency and will see me through this ordeal of mind, body, heart and spirit.

I pray that like Paul, I will learn to be “content” with my inherent weakness towards the romantic side of love.

Because whatever else it may have cost me in this life, to be able to love is a weakness that ironically is my greatest strength.  “…for power is made perfect in weakness,” Paul wrote.

And I know this because Paul himself also said: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”