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Spiritual Growth: The Lenten Mission

I’ve just checked through my archives and cannot believe I didn’t write a piece on the Lenten Mission from 2010.  In my blog, Spiritual Growth- The God Path June 15, 2011,  I told the story of my first experience of Fr. Jim Curtin.  Although I tried to get him to come and give a Lenten Mission at our church in the period of Lent 2009, we already had someone booked for that year, so I had to be patient and wait to invite him the following year.  He finally came to our church during Lent of 2010 and gave a Healing Prayer Mission which truly rocked our parish.  Out of that experience a fledgling Healing Prayer Ministry was established and I guess God realized that we needed a little more help along the path and by some miraculous divine intervention, Fr. Jim was invited once more to present a second Healing Prayer Mission in Lent of this year.

This time around, the Mission was probably even more powerful than the previous year.  Fr. Jim brought four of his parishioners with him, two men and two women, all Healing Prayer Ministers.  Much of the content was similar to the previous year and yet, somehow, it all seemed new.  The first evening was focused on physical healing and Fr. Jim reminded us that Jesus himself invites us to continue his work on earth – and some.  “Those who follow Me will do not only the works I do but greater works.” (John 14:12-14).  He also pointed out that Jesus’ work was about touching and praying over and healing the sick and even raising the dead. 

His subsequent exhortations to his apostles and disciples, his mandate to them if you will,  was to do the same and more.  In fact the work of the early church was just that: telling the story of Jesus, healing the sick, raising the dead, and forgiving people’s sins – also mandated by Jesus. Somehow, over the centuries the church has moved away from this simple mandate of Jesus.  Man-made rules and regulations were established and the church became very “powerful” and political.  It is only in recent times, partly because of the changes brought about by Vatican II in the 60’s and partly because of the upsurge of the charismatic movement, that there has been a desire to return to “doing the work of Jesus”.

The second evening of the Mission focused on the the Holy Spirit and how important it was to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  On the third and final evening we heard about healing on the spiritual level. After the presentation each evening, prayer teams would be stationed in the area surrounding the altar and parishioners were invited to come up and ask for healing.  It was truly a remarkable experience to watch people go up, be prayed over, and then be “struck” by the Holy Spirit.  Many people were so overcome by the Spirit that they “went down” to the floor and lay “resting in the Spirit” for some time. 

The fact that people came back to each evening of the Mission was testament itself to their hunger for an experience of the Spirit as well as an indication of the success of the Mission. People from many other churches attended this Mission because they had heard through friends what an impact it had made on their lives the previous year.  The church was full all three evenings.  My husband had an extremely powerful experience as he requested Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I cannot reveal the details here because that is his story to tell.  Suffice to say that it changed him dramatically. 

A friend, who I felt inspired to invite to the third night of the Mission, had her own very powerful and personal experience.  She was not of our denomination and I remember her saying that never would she have imagined having anything like that experience in a Catholic church.  She likened it more to a “revival” than a “mission”.  But whatever label she gave it, her experience led her to make a personal decision that she had been hovering over for some time.  She has since set up in her own business – a life-long dream. 

Since the Mission, Richard and I have felt compelled to become part of the Healing Prayer Ministry.  It is growing and blossoming into a fruitful work of the Lord, and we feel blessed and privileged to be a part of this group and to offer this service to our fellow parishioners.  As I look back to that conference in 2008 and the growth which has come from that, I am so grateful that I remain ever open to the beckoning of the Spirit.          

Shared Wisdom: My Friend Max

If you follow my postings you already know about my “love affair” with Max Lucado.  In my opinion, no other modern day spiritual writer touches on the affairs of the soul in such a compassionate and human manner.  His words reach into my heart like the comforting embrace of a friend.  So I was overjoyed to receive a copy of his Grace For The Moment – 365-Day Journaling Devotional from my husband for Christmas.

In the front of this book, as part of the introductory section, are four pages of writing with which I was already familiar from a previous book.  They are what I refer to as “The Choice” pages and whenever I need some  extra grounding in my day I go to them and take a few minutes to read them. I would like to share these daily choices which, as Max Lucado explains, because of Calvary we are free to choose.

No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness.
I choose love.  Today I will love God, and what God loves.

I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance.  I will refuse the temptation to be cynical ….. the tool of the lazy thinker.
I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings created by God.  I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I will live forgiven.  I will forgive so that I may live.

I will overlook the inconveniences of the world.  Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so.  Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray.  Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone.  Kind to the rich, for they are afraid.  And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one.  I will be overlooked before I will boast.  I will confess before I will accuse.  I choose goodness.

Today I will keep my promises.  My debtors will not regret their trust.  My associates will not question my word.  My wife will not question my love.  And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

Nothing is won by force.  I choose to be gentle.
If I raise my voice may it be only in praise.
If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer.
If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I am a spiritual being……  After this Body is dead, my spirit will soar.
I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal.  I choose self-control.  I will be drunk only by joy.  I will be impassioned only by my faith.
I will be influenced only by God.  I will be taught only by Christ.
I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.  To these I commit my day.
If I succeed, I will give thanks.  If I fail, I will seek His grace.
And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on His pillow and rest.

Max Lucado
When God Whispers Your Name

Self Nurturing: Working The Clay

Many years ago, perhaps in 1981 or 1982, I treated myself to a short course in pottery.  I was living in London at the time and worked in the area called The City.  This is the financial district where all the major banks have their head offices and various supporting financial institutions and the London Stock Exchange are also located there.

An adult education program was being offered in a school near my office and one of the classes on the evening schedule was pottery.  I have always had artistic inclinations and loved indulging my creative side.  The course was only six weeks long and, because it was being offered within the City education system, the cost was very low.  Pottery was one area of the arts that I had not tried and so I enrolled.

As soon as I touched the wet clay I was hooked.  There is something both soothing and sensual about working with clay.  I am a very tactile, hands-on type person so I was in my element.  By the end of the first class I already had two pieces made and ready to dry.  I could barely wait till the following week when we made another, slightly more complicated piece and also glazed our first work. 

Upon returning to the third class I was ecstatic.  There on a table sat two items with my name printed neatly on a label in front of them.  They looked like something that I would buy in a store.  They looked professional.   One was a flat, rectangular, plate-size dish with a slightly raised, inch-wide border that I had glazed in a deep burgundy red overlaid with a black speckle effect. 

The other was an eight inch tall cylindrical container with a lid that had a small loop handle on top.  This I had glazed in a soft grey-blue that was slightly mottled in effect, even allowing hints of light green here and there.  I had engraved the letter “R” in this piece because I had made it as a gift for my mother.  It sits upon my hearth today.

I made several other pieces over the course of the six-week class.  I gave them as gifts to my family members for Christmas.  But the class finished all too quickly and nothing more was offered.  I researched several other adult schools but found no more pottery classes.  I felt as though I had eaten an appetizer and was still hungry for more – lots more. 

Years went by and I moved back to Italy and life took a totally different turn.  I remarried and started a second family at age forty and got a little lost in child rearing and home making.  Years passed, other activities filled my life and I forgot about pottery until recently the hunt for a gift for a friend took me to a small art gallery and there was the sign:  Pottery Class – any level, come and have fun.

I signed up in a heart beat and two weeks ago went to my first evening of working the clay again.  It was as though I had never stopped touching this marvelous material.  Clay is so malleable, so soft, so giving and forgiving. If something doesn’t go quite the way you expect, you just wet it down and start over.  My heart was singing and I shaped and designed and created until my joy was on overload!

We used three different techniques and created three different bowls.  Each one was very unique in shape and finished design.  One was very smooth on the exterior but we cut out flower and leaf pieces and put them on rather like an appliqué.  On another we engraved whatever pattern we desired.  On the third one, which was very open and shallow, we created a textured finish on the top side and left it smooth underneath.

Tonight we went back to glaze our pieces.  So many colors and finishes to choose from!  I made each one different, but somehow either the color mauve or eggplant seemed to make its way somewhere onto each piece.  My soul was very happy by the end of the evening.  Now I just have to be patient.  Our teacher will fire our pieces in the kiln tomorrow and they will be ready for pick-up on Saturday.

This was just a two-evening class.  But before I left I spoke with the teacher.  More classes are coming up and she is hoping to offer them on a regular basis.  Thank you God, I need this kind of soul food.  My creative muse needs nurturing on a regular basis.