dear darian, meditation

MeditationDear Darian,**

When you are consistent in praying the rosary, you’ll experience a spiritual rhythm within the week. Tuesdays and Fridays will take on a more somber tone as they are the days we contemplate the Sorrowful Passion of our Lord. You may begin to look for ways to do penance. I’ve chosen stairs over the elevator, walked to the next bus stop, refrained from tempting snacks and things of that ilk because meditating on the sorrowful passions makes me want to participate in Jesus’ sufferings in small ways, even if it’s just giving up my desires to be on Facebook.

Meditating on the mysteries of the rosary is so powerful. (Don’t let the word “meditate” intimidate you. It’s acceptable, to call it “thinking”.)

Oftentimes I think about the day’s mysteries as I’m drinking my morning coffee and watching the sun rise, while making the bed, or showering. I can’t think of a more solidly Biblical way to regularly “think on things above”[1] than by thinking about the mysteries of the rosary.

Even though I haven’t been a Catholic for a long time, I’ve been a Christian for many years and have had years to build my praying muscles. Perhaps you don’t have a lot of strength in your praying muscles yet. If praying the rosary seems far-fetched, you can begin by just thinking about the meditations of the day. Try to engage your imagination as you think about them. You may be surprised how powerful using your imagination can be in bringing you closer to Our Lord.

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts. 

[1] Colossians 3:2


dear darian, the rosary

Rosary beadsDear Darian,**

Our imaginations are powerful and can be prayerful even if we aren’t engaging in prayer in a formal way. We may not say “Dear God” or “Hail Mary” but as we think of the mysteries of the rosary, we may be deep in prayer. If the rosary intimidates you in any way, know that you can begin simply by thinking about (meditating) on the mysteries. Allow your imagination to run wild. Be present with Jesus and Mary in the scenes. Imagine Mary taking you by the hand like a child and allowing you to see the scene through her eyes. What do you see? What is God seeing? What is Jesus thinking, feeling? What are the smells, weather, sounds? Who are you with? Who else is there? Try to look at the mysteries through the perspectives of those present. Allow all your senses to be involved.

By God’s grace and mercy, this was an area that came easily for me. I read a few simple instructions on how to pray the rosary and my imagination took off. Through imagining myself in the scenes of the mysteries, I learned to gaze on the face of Jesus every day. And that practice, better than anything else, made me fall madly in love with him. Through the rosary, that love continues to grow.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was a Spanish priest and the founder of the Jesuits. His imagination drove his spiritual life and eventually, imaginative prayer became associated with Ignatian spirituality.  Perhaps employing your imagination as you visit the scenes of the mysteries, like St Ignatius taught, will help Jesus become more personal to you. 

Allowing my imagination to be fully engaged has certainly been a tool God has used to help me fall in love with Jesus. I hope something similar for you. Our experiences will be vastly different, I’m sure, but I look forward to our conversations on how the rosary is changing us and leading us into deeper love with our Lord.

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts. 


dear darian, confession

ConfessionDear Darian,**

When I was a Protestant, I didn’t loathe my sin like I do now. I thought it was impossible to be without sin. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s easy, but I will say the goal to be sinless is solidly in place. Now, there are short periods when, to the best of my knowledge, I have no unconfessed sin. (Jeremiah tells us our hearts are deceitful,[1] that’s why I added the caveat “to the best of my knowledge”. Also, please note I said, “short periods.”)

Before my conversion to Catholicism, sainthood wasn’t a goal. I saw all believers as saints, although I could hardly imagine how I in my sin and others in theirs, could be saints. But now, I ask God daily to help me avoid sin and grow in virtue, to help me be a saint.

Awareness and conviction of sin is a special grace we’re given in the sacrament of reconciliation. I go to confession a couple times a month. I don’t often have mortal sin to confess, but I want to confess and receive reconciliation often. When a person brushes their teeth twice a day, they recognize the grit and grime of their teeth far better than someone who is haphazard with their dental hygiene. The sacrament of reconciliation is our spiritual hygiene. The better my spiritual hygiene, the more in tune I am to the grit and grime of sin and the more I love the experience of being spiritually clean.

As I confess my sin, my resolve is strengthened to “beat my body into subjection”[2] in that area of sin. Sometimes this works and other times the sins are so deeply a part of who I am that it’s pure grace that gives every ounce of victory. Perhaps my desire and resolve to overcome sin is what God’s grace in the sacrament looks like. James tells us to confess our sins and we will be healed.[3] Our sin is like a cancer and as we confess it, its evil talons are loosened. Some sins that were a problem in my past are no longer a problem because I’m dead-set against having to humiliate myself by having to confess them aloud. (Do you see the pride there? Funny how God draws straight lines with crooked sticks, eh?)

In my experience, one of the graces in the sacrament of reconciliation is the change of heart, the desire not to participate or engage in that sin. Because of confession, I become more aware of sins’ presence and influence in my life. Confession fine tunes my awareness of sin. The more often I go, the more aware I become of sin. My confessions use to be actions I’d done. Now it seems I confess a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle attitudes and thoughts. This is the fine-tuning of the heart.

After confession I ask God to help me be aware of sin and He does. Those hours that I’m free from unconfessed sin are wonderful. And again, by God’s grace, those periods are slowly growing longer. That’s more of the grace of the sacrament.

It’s none of my business what your confession habits are, but I’d sure hate for you to be missing out on this powerful sacrament and the graces it unleashes in our lives.

I’m thinking and praying for you today, Darian.

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts. 

 

[1] Jeremiah 17:9

[2] 1 Corinthians 9:27

[3] James 5:16


dear darian, guardian angel

Dear Darian,**

Guardian angelDid you know that guardian angels aren’t simply a thing of lore? They really exist and we all have one. Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”[1]

Recently I was meditating on this and wondering what my angel is like. It would be so cool to have a relationship with him since he is always with me. As I thought about him, I realized with amazement that he knows me better than I know myself. He’s been with me from the very beginning. He remembers when I was born and my babyhood. He knows everything he has spared me from – something I’m not privy to – protected me from and allowed me to experience for my good. He knows my sins and my merits. He knows me beyond well. Isn’t that interesting?

I wonder if he waits with bated breath when the Holy Spirit prompts me to do something to see if I’ll give my yes. It’s a thought.

I’ve heard of people who experience communion with their angel. I never have, but I’d like to and I don’t see any harm in asking to know him. What about you? Does that interest you?

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts. 

 

[1] Matthew 18:10


dear darian, humility

Dear Darian,**

As I meditate on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, I’m often struck by how each mystery has a strong current of humility. Everyone represented in the mysteries is humble. Mary, of course, is the humblest of souls. In her Magnificat she proclaims her low estate, her low degree, and her neediness. Elizabeth proclaims, “who am I that the mother of the Lord would visit me?”. Joseph accepts Mary even though he may have known he’d forever be in her shadow. Aged Simeon and Anna desire to see Israel’s Messiah even though they’re near death and probably won’t experience their nation’s improved status. The shepherds were among the lowest ranking in society, yet the heavenly host appeared to them, not to the religious or well-taught Mother teresa

One would be hard-pressed to find a saint who wasn’t humble. Pride and sainthood are mutually exclusive. They don’t reside together.

Mother Teresa said, “Humility is the mother of all virtue . . . It’s in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are. If you are blamed, you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint, you will not put yourself on a pedestal.” She even had a “humility list” for her order, the Sisters of Charity:

  1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
  2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
  3. Avoid curiosity.
  4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
  5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
  6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
  7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
  8. Give in to the will of others.
  9. Accept insults and injuries.
  10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
  11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
  12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
  13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
  14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
  15. Choose always the more difficult task.

That list drives home just how badly I need to grow in humility.

Consider Jesus: He chose to be born poor. He could have chosen to make Mary and Joseph wealthy prior to the annunciation, but he didn’t. He chose a humble earthly life. Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”[1] Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”[2] 

How do we humble ourselves?

Both Old and New Testaments are replete with encouragement to choose humility. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.[3] …. “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted"[4] “Humbles himself,”- it begs the question, how does one humble himself.

Sainthood can only grow in a humble person. Holiness and pride are diametrically opposed. To be holy as Jesus wants us to be, we need to choose acts of humility and graciously accept humiliations. Like a muscle, the more we practice humility by choosing acts of humility and accepting humiliations, the stronger our humility will become. But the paradox of humility is we will never know when we have it.

When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me a card that said, “Humility is the strange possession that you lose the moment you find out you’ve got it.” Like Jesus – who emptied himself – we can practice emptying ourselves. We can empty ourselves by embracing any item on Mother Teresa’s humility list. Practically, that could be saying, “Today I will speak as little about myself as possible.” Or, “Today when a slight is directed toward me, I won’t respond.” Or, “I’m not going to argue, even if I know I’m right.”

Ironically, sometimes it’s pride that drives the desire to get rid of pride. Really, when you think about it, aren’t the proudest people the hardest to be around? Isn’t it pride that says, “Who wants to be like him?” Pride is a tricky thing and it inserts itself into everything. We always need to be on our guard against it. While on this earth, we will have to battle pride. But to become who we were created to become, we must not abandon the fight.

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts. 

 

[1] Philippians 2:6

[2] Philippians

[3] Psalm

[4] Matthew 23: 11-12


dear darian, the agony in the garden

AbusedDear Darian,**

Today as I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, I thought of Jesus’ agony in the garden and how the fruit of that mystery is true contrition of sins. Did you know that each mystery of the rosary has a corresponding fruit? The fruit of meditating on the agony in the garden is true contrition for sin. We all need that, don’t we?

Do you recall the wooded park on the corner of Tyler and Emerson in Sechelt? Sometimes when I imagine Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, that’s the location I think of. I see him by one of those boulders pouring out his anguish to the Father. Before he even kneels, as he’s plodding to the place where he’ll pray, the weight of the world’s sins throughout the ages begins to press upon him.

Just a short time earlier, Peter had argued with him, claiming he’d never deny him. Jesus invited Peter, James and John to pray with him and to pray for themselves to be strong in the temptation they were about to experience. “Your spirit is willing, but your flesh will be weak,” he’d told them so they’d be more inclined to pray. And indeed, their flesh was weak. Sated by the Passover meal and the fellowship they’d enjoyed with their fellow disciples, they wasted no time getting comfortable and having a snooze while Jesus began his intense agony in the garden. Alone. His best friends left him to suffer alone. He even went to wake them and ask for their help. But their sleepiness prevailed. We can be so fickle. When our bellies are full and our emotional needs met, it’s easy to imagine we’ll not waiver, that our faith will be strong come what may.

Dejected and alone, Jesus returns to the boulder and falls to his knees as the weight of horrific sin begins to ravish his body. The sinless God-man sees the sins of the world playing in his mind like a movie reel. Evil scene after evil scene is before him. Perfect love is subjected to perfect hate. No sort of sin is withheld from his awareness.

He sees a father molesting his little girl and her humiliation, her bitter loss of innocence, her fear, and the unravelling of all the safety and security she’d ever known. Our loving Lord who said, “Let the little children come to me,” and who picked up the children and blessed them now sees the shame and betrayal in the little girl’s eyes as she forces them closed in vain hope of erasing the memory of what just happened. He wants to hold her, console her, heal her. Mysteriously, he is fully experiencing both the father and the helpless daughter’s emotions. Jesus passionately hates what the dad has done, but he sees the father when he was a little boy, himself a victim of shattered innocence. He is fully experiencing the effects of sin in both lives. “Both lives,” that’s laughable. It’s not like it’s just two lives. It’s millions of dads and millions of children. Pain, pain, and more pain.

The effects of sin! He sees the horror. Sin doesn’t end; it keeps revisiting the generations. My God, the anguish our Lord must have experienced as he saw humanity’s condition. He sobs for the pain he sees. “Father, let this cup pass from me,” he cries as he sees these pained people reject his love and invitation to life. Seeing billions of people reject his sacrifice and love, choosing hell over him, is the cup of agony he was drinking.

Jesus looked to our time in history and saw unborn babies in what should be the coziest, safest place in the universe, their mothers’ wombs, and heard their silent screams as they struggled to escape the abortionists’ evil instruments of mutilation. Millions of babies slaughtered. Can you imagine the crushing in his chest as he saw these vivid realities?

A few weeks ago, I drove through Vancouver’s east side for the first time. I’d heard of East Hastings, but I was shocked, nonetheless. A weathered young woman walked in front of traffic, oblivious to danger, clearly drugged. Dozens and dozens were sleeping on the sidewalk. Prostitutes, looking far from beautiful and fresh, were trying to make a living. People were asking for money and some mentally ill were yelling at no one. I could not shake the images of what I’d seen for a couple days. It occurred to me how much worse it is in other parts of the world. The homeless of Canada might at least find a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and, if they are sick, they can still access healthcare.

Jesus saw and loved these people that night in Gethsemane. He saw the whole of the human condition with agonizing clarity. Is it any wonder he sweat blood?

As you contemplate Jesus’ crushing emotional and spiritual pain in the garden, think about the greatest sorrows you’ve heard or read about and those you’ve experienced, plus those you’ve inflicted on others. Remember always, Jesus agonized over them all.

May we both become more and more sensitive to the sin in our lives.

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts. 


dear darian, he sweat blood

Sweat bloodDear Darian,**

Jesus sweat blood! Have you ever given that much thought? I never meditated on it prior to becoming a pray-er of the rosary. Again, I must say, if prayed well, the rosary leads us straight to Jesus and to knowing him better. To know him is to fall in love with him and to fall in love with him is to be changed by him. I want to continually be being changed and become more and more like him. I think you do too.

I recently learned that sweating blood is a real medical condition called hematidrosis, in which blood vessels rupture causing sweat glands to secrete blood. It occurs under extreme levels of physical or emotional stress, severe mental anxiety, and acute fear. Recorded incidents include one nearing execution, fear before battle, a sailor before a bad storm at sea, and during World War 2’s London Blitz. Recently I heard of a lady experiencing hematidrosis when she saw the van carrying her husband and children obliterated upon being hit by a truck.

But get this, Darian. The effect of hematidrosis is weakness, dehydration, and skin becoming extremely tender and fragile like a full-body bad bruise. Do you see it? Jesus had not even reached the physical abuse of his passion, yet his body was already weakened, dehydrated, and in pain. Before he was led out of the garden, he had suffered much more than most of us ever will.

“It is evident that before Jesus endured the torture of the cross, He suffered far beyond what most of us will ever suffer. His penetrating awareness of the heinous nature of sin, its destructive and deadly effects, the sorrow and heartache that it inflicts, and the extreme measure necessary to deal with it, make the passion of Christ beyond comprehension.” (Dave Miller, PhD, apologeticspress.org)

Until recently I thought that Jesus’s agony in the garden was fear of the brutality he was about to suffer. He knew what was before him, of course he was terrified. Or was he? I don’t think it was fear at all. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.”[1] Jesus had no fear because Jesus loved perfectly. He was in horrific anguish knowing the human condition and knowing that people would reject the salvation he was going to offer them. Jesus 100% embraced the suffering of his passion with no fear.

I’m praying today that we will both live in the holiness Jesus wants for us, that our love for Jesus would become greater, and that all fear in our lives will be replaced with greater love for him.

Love,

Valerie

[1] 1 John 4:18

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.


dear darian, the scourging

Scourging

Dear Darian,**

Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”, greatly influenced my meditations on Jesus’ sufferings. We watch it every Good Friday (and I recommend the same tradition to you). The most powerful scene in the movie, to me, was the scourging. No mercy was extended in any way. Something I never thought of prior to the movie was that Satan was there, stirring up the basest natures in the soldiers. Their treatment of Jesus was beyond excessive because their evil passions were in the hands of Satan himself.

Perhaps they only stopped when they were physically exhausted and could whip no more. Is that not a horrific idea? Our precious, sinless, loving Jesus whipped, brutally. I picture them making a sick game out of who could whip the hardest, cut the deepest, rip the most meat from his body. As Jesus groaned in agony, his groans went unheard because of their raucous laughter and drunken-with-evil cheering. Imagine, the creator of the universe, tied to a pillar, being beaten by men who owed their very breath to him. 

The cruelty, oh the cruelty. Satan and his demons took over the minds of the guards. Every merciful element in their characters was obliterated. A single merciful thought didn’t enter their minds and they put their entire strength into each lash they delivered, trying the win the applause of the others with their vicious brutality. Had their wives or mothers been there, they would have barely recognized their men for their beyond-crazed evil behavior. They were barely human, they were evil personified. They laughed, they scoffed, they mocked each other’s “weakness” in not ripping enough meat. “My turn, stand back, I’ll show you how it’s done.”

Once while meditating on the scourging, I imagined my 8-year-old grandson Roman had done a misdeed and was to be severely beaten by cruel authorities. The only way to save him was to take the whipping myself. With every excruciating lash, I had to tell myself, “for Roman. For Roman. If I don’t take it, they’ll do this to Roman.” Only love kept me there. I could have surrendered any time. Only love for Roman kept me there. Was Jesus having a similar battle? Was he saying, “for love of you, Father. For love of your people,” with every evil blow?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.[1]

Finally, it’s over and the onlookers are relieved. A guard unties one arm from the pillar and our Jesus falls. As the other arm is still tied, he falls in such a way as to expose some skin that is not shredded. The guards whoop at seeing virgin flesh. With scores of laughter, the beatings begin again, this time on his chest and stomach.

The soldiers are spent and didn’t have an ounce of strength left. They threw the bloody whips down and each gulped some fresh water. Jesus laid in a pool of his own blood and chunks of flesh. He was near death. Only his will to finish the Father’s assignment kept him alive. The guards dragged him to another room.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.[2]

Neck to head scourge marks. For love of me. For love of you.

Love,

Valerie

[1] John 15:13

[2] Isaiah 53:5

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.

 


dear darian, moral courage

Life chainDear Darian,**

I am a coward. Really, I am. I haven’t always recognized my cowardice for what it is. I cloaked it in words like “meeting people where they are,” pretending that first I’d work on the relationship, letting them see me as being “light in the darkness.” That’s noble; I definitely want to be light in darkness, but not at the exclusion of speaking about my faith. But I’m a coward and it is hard for me.

Last October, I participated in the Stand for Life Chain on Teredo Street. It was just for an hour and we stood about 25 feet from each other holding pro-life signs; a peaceful, prayerful protest. I was totally unprepared. I’d never had so much hatred directed toward me. People swore, shook their fist, threw their middle fingers in the air as they shouted, “Go to hell.” They blared on their horns as they yelled expletives. Although it was just one hour, it felt much longer. When I got home, mildly traumatized, I collapsed into a heap of tears.

I dreaded the next Stand for Life Chain for the entire year. It finally arrived last week and I went out dutifully, shaking the whole time. This time I kept my eyes closed and prayed the rosary and divine mercy chaplet the whole time. I heard plenty of expletives and blaring horns, but didn’t see the fists and the hate-filled, angry eyes because I kept my eyes closed in prayer. Just like last year, I was ashamed of my cowardice.

The fruit of the crowning of thorns meditation is moral courage. It’s humbling to come face to face with one’s own cowardice, and this meditation has brought me just there. Several months ago, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the virtue of fortitude. As I live in a spiritually dark area where Christianity – and especially Catholicism, it seems – is eschewed, evidenced by the reactions of our peaceful, prayerful pro-life protests, I think it’s clear that we Christians are going to suffer persecution like we’ve not known before, and of course, it has already begun. Christian fortitude will be needed to help us overcome the fear and cowardice of the suffering, danger, and humiliations that lie ahead. I’m not ready to suffer, but I am trying to get ready. One method I’m using to strengthen my fortitude muscles is simply crossing myself after prayer in public. You will have to come up with spiritual disciplines that work well for you, but I strongly encourage you to find a few that do indeed strengthen your fortitude muscles and counter any cowardice tendencies you may have. We must be ready to suffer for our faith and it will be much easier if we implement fortitude habits now.

On the subject of making the sign of the cross, crossing myself has made me more aware of the Trinity in my day-to-day life. When we cross ourselves, we are saying with our actions, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” As we do that, our minds grow more receptive to each member of the Trinity and we are glorifying each of them. Having an intimate relationship with each distinct member is beautiful. Are you remembering to cross yourself often?

As you meditate on Jesus wearing the crown of thorns, ask him to give you moral courage for any “crown of thorns” in your future. I think it’s safe to say that Christians will be offered crowns of thorns soon. Pray always for the courage to accept them.

I love you, Darian, and am praying for you today.

Love,

Valerie

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.


dear darian, the annunciation

AnnunciationDear Darian,**

Have you ever considered when the Trinity chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus? I never thought about it until I began to meditate on the Annunciation.

We know from Scripture that God is intimately involved in the process of us becoming people. He knit me in my mother’s womb.[1] He isn’t a distant God. He is real and up close to us, whether we feel him or not. If he was intimately involved in our gestation, imagine the attention given to the creation of the woman who would carry him in her womb. I can’t help but smile as I consider his joy in designing her. If we had the privilege of designing our mother, she would be the most wonderful person on earth. Perhaps Jesus hand-crafted her. I imagine him smiling as he chose each characteristic. “Dimples are cute. I’ll give her dimples.”

Did God tell the angels the plan of sending Jesus to earth to be born of a virgin? Imagine he did, and that at every conception on earth, they asked Jesus wild-eyed, “Is that baby going to be your mother?” One day he answered, “Yes, that’s my mother. She’s going to be beautiful; you’re going to love everything about her.”

As she grew in her mother’s womb, the angels took exceptional interest in her. Remember how awestruck you were at Holly’s ultrasound? It’s almost surreal to watch a child in its mother’s womb on a screen. Imagine that somehow the angels were privy to every detail of her being knit together in her mother’s womb. Mesmerized, they watched her development with glee alongside Jesus. Maybe before she was conceived, he told them stories of things she would do in her childhood. Maybe he told them some pranks he would play on her as a child on earth.  

And then she’s born and the angels spend the next 15 years watching her with admiration and interest. They’re curious how this crazy idea of Jesus becoming human will work. Finally, the big day arrives and Jesus, their beloved Jesus, calls all the angels together to tell them that it is THE day. Today Gabriel will go to Mary. He’d performed many missions, but this was the most glorious of all. He was elated. He loved Jesus beyond description and this girl he’d been watching for many years – oh my, how he adored her. He was delighted that he got to be involved in Jesus’ going to earth and that he got to make the annunciation to Mary. A greater honor he’d never known. The magnitude of this honor, well, even an angel sometimes feels stumped trying to express his elation.

The angels love Jesus. They spend their every moment loving and adoring him. This is a huge day. Their Jesus, is going to earth as a baby, but first this precious young girl must be willing to say yes! They know her well, they’ve watched her for years, but this request is huge. How will she respond?

Heaven is silent, as if all the angels are holding their breath, when Gabriel stands before Mary. He represents all of heaven when he speaks, “Hail, full of grace.” He calls her “full of grace,” rather than Mary. In heaven, did they call her Full of Grace as they watched her grow? From a heavenly perspective, might that have been her name? The angels stand in hushed excitement to see her response to Gabriel’s announcement. “The Lord is with you,” he says. The Blessed Trinity smiles. The angels loved her sweet voice as she asked how it would happen. They watched as her tiny hand instinctively touched her womb at the thought of Baby Jesus resting there.

Yes! She said yes. Did Jesus leave heaven at that moment to become an embryo? Did the Holy Spirit immediately overshadow her and conceive Jesus at that moment? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how those details transpired?

Love,

Valerie

[1] Psalm 139

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.


dear darian, the immaculate conception

ImmaculateDear Darian,**

Because Mary had the most important role in human history, our Lord took some extraordinary measures as he knit her together. He saved her, sparing her from original sin from her conception. This is the Immaculate Conception. (Many confuse the virgin birth of Jesus with the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being without original sin and the virgin birth refers to Jesus’ birth. This is a common mistake.)  

Many people get hung up on this dogma. I did. Sometimes it’s argued, where does it begin? If Mary needed to be immaculately conceived to bear Jesus, wouldn’t Mary’s mother need to be immaculately conceived, and wouldn’t her mother, . . . It wasn’t that Mary HAD to be immaculately conceived, but it was fitting for her to be. I heard a teacher, Dr. Taylor Marshall, liken it to the Queen of England roller blading in Central Park. It’s not impossible for her to do it, but it wouldn’t be fitting.

I had a hard time accepting the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. When I was studying it, the girls were on drugs. I prayed for their deliverance from drugs and recognized that it was only by God’s grace I never tried drugs. I was never exposed to drugs, therefore was never even tempted by them. God used that thought to speak to me. I was saved before getting into drugs and I prayed that God would deliver them from drugs. Both of us would be saved from drugs: me preemptively, them experientially. It was that train of thought that led to my accepting the Immaculate Conception dogma.

A favorite author of mine, Peter Kreeft, wrote this: Mary, too, needed Christ for her salvation, just as we do, but she was saved before she sinned, while we were saved after we sinned. It is like one person being saved from a disease by an inoculation to prevent it, and another person being saved from the same disease by an operation to cure it – by the same doctor.”[1]

Jesus was Mary’s before he was anyone else’s Savior. She knew him and worshiped him before anyone else. What a role to play.

Mary’s role in our faith is phenomenal. It seems I barely wrap my head around a truth about her before I learn of another one. But with each new awareness, I realize anew how profoundly her role is to take us closer to her son. She never, ever detracts from Jesus. In her Magnificat, she says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” In a nutshell, that is her role. Her job is to magnify Jesus in a way that it’s as though he is under a magnifying glass. She holds the magnifying glass for us and Jesus looms larger for us.

Marianology was the hardest part of Catholicism for me to grasp. Before my confirmation I spoke to a priest about it. I reminded him that Jesus tore the veil to make it possible for me to go directly to him. Why do I need Mary? He said, because Jesus gave her to us as a gift. she was a perfect mother to him and he wanted to share her with us. His love is perfect and he doesn’t withhold good things from us. It’s not that we can’t get to heaven without Mary. But in his generosity and love, from the cross, he gave his blessed disciple John his mother. “Behold your mother.” And we, as his blessed disciples, are still enjoying the gift of Mother Mary.

Love,

Valerie

[1] Catholic Christianity, pg 410

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.