Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The beauty of Catholicism and personal devotion

I was visiting my parents over the weekend, and so instead of going to our home parish we went to the beautiful church they go to. I always love coming to this church, with its old fashioned exterior and wonderfully pristine interior. The bells that ring out every Sunday morning before Mass feel like a celebration -- like Christmastime, all year round.

When you step up the worn concrete stairs and open the heavy wooden doors of the church, you make your way through the foyer and into the main sanctuary. This church is very blessed in that it is very, very beautiful. There are many stained glass windows on both sides of the sanctuary, and twin angel statues hold basins of holy water. The wood has been painted and lacquered to look like marble, and high up near the vaulted ceiling are beautiful painted portraits of various saints.

The crucifix is really awe-inspiring, with a large Christ suffering on the cross. His wounds are clearly visible, even if you're sitting in the very back row, or in the baby room, which has large windows so that parents can see the service (and hear it through an audio feed, as well). This suffering Christ looks down on the congregation and the pastor as the Mass is celebrated. There is also a lovely statue of Mary, holding a rosary. But the most beautiful of all the statues, in my opinion, is a large one of Mary with her beloved Son's body in her arms. She looks down at him with a serene sadness, and holds His precious hand in her's.

What must Mary have been thinking as she looked down at her Son, her only boy, her beautiful baby? How must her heart have been pierced and wounded as she remembered holding Him when he was just a newborn baby, and comforting Him when He was a toddler. She had watched Him grow into a strong young man, the Messiah of Israel, and now He lay, broken and battered, in her arms.

While she held his limp hand, what did our Mother feel? Thank the Lord, I have never experienced the loss of a child. It's a pain, I imagine, that never really goes away, and that aches the rest of one's life.

This statue, in all its beauty and sadness, is towards the back right of the church, near where the confessional is. I wonder, perhaps, if pentinents who are waiting to be absolved of their sin look at the fallen Christ in the arms of His mother and realize that this death He experienced was all for us. When I look at it, I feel awe -- awe for Christ and what He has done for us, and awe for the life of the Blessed Mother -- the joy and pain that coloured her existence. Despite the fact that her Son died for us sinners, she still loves us and intercedes for us as a loving mother.

There's no doubt that our Catholic faith is beautiful. We Catholics understand that beauty is an integral part of worship. God made us for a realm more beautiful than the one we currently live in -- so its only natural that beautiful music, beautiful art and beautiful words move us and help us feel closer to Him. I feel so blessed to be Catholic.

But yet, I want to go deeper. I want to be like the woman I saw at Mass at that beautiful church. She stood by that gorgeous statue of Mary holding her Son in her arms, holding onto His hand, and she joined her hand to theirs. She stood there, eyes closed, a serene look on her face. She quietly stroked the Lord's hand and prayed.

The beauty of this devotion astounded me. It made me ask myself, have I ever been that loving, that devoted to Christ? How can I make that love, that ardent devotion, a reality in my own existence? How can I pass it on to my children, in this world that scoffs at religion and is focused on self?

I can pray. I can pray, especially, that our Blessed Mother will bring me closer to Christ, and that the Holy Spirit will create in me a true, deep, abiding love and devotion to Jesus. I can really put my heart and soul into praying, every day, in a quiet place on my own. I can make sure I take time to read the Bible and I can ensure that my family and I take time for daily prayer -- be it morning prayer (Lauds) or evening prayer (Vespers) or both. And I can trust that God is working in me already to bring me into a relationship with Christ that is ever more loving and devoted.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Giving God my worries

As moms, we all worry. Some of us, though, seem to worry a little (okay, a lot) more than others.

I've always been a worrier. My mother is a worrier, and her father before her was a worrier (her mother, though, not so much -- she was a very stiff upper-lip woman, though Croatian and not British, and had an unshakable habit of always looking on the bright side and rarely complaining). I've also struggled with anxiety and, at times, depression in my life.

Thankfully, for the most part my anxiety and depression aren't  major players in my life. However, I won't lie, worry still creeps up on me -- especially, I've noticed, worry about my loved ones and in particular my children.

Something happened to me recently, a reminder that the world we live in can be a dangerous, scary, cruel place. I am pretty sheltered -- a self-imposition that I take to reduce my stress -- in that I don't watch the news or consume media that is scary, violent or disturbing. But sometimes, life can be scary, people can be violent, and situations can be disturbing.

Thankfully, what caused me anxiety was something pretty ambiguous -- I turned it into something more than it was through worry.

And then, my "skills" kicked in. My skills are what I call the stress- and anxiety-relieving techniques I've learned through cognitive behavioural therapy -- things like not letting your mind run around in circles, trying to stay in the present moment, meditation, visualization, positive thought replacement and more.

I've always been a very visual person, so I decided I would go down this route. I'm really into the British television show Doc Martin lately (I love all things British, but especially television shows -- everything from Being Human to Coronation Street to Downton Abbey) and I am absolutely in love with Cornwall. I really, really want to visit one day! I love how open it is, how the sea stretches on forever after the green cliffs give way.

Cornwall, UK -- my happy place!

So, I pictured I was there. It was a beautiful summer day, just before sunset, and I was standing near the edge of a grassy cliff above the sea. The ocean breeze was warm and refreshing. And I was giving my worries to God. I was taking out these imaginary worries, visible as black, untidy, worried scrawl, and squishing them into a ball, like how you'd make the base of a snowman. I kept adding worry after worry, some in black writing, some in red, until a big ball of worry was in front of me. And then, I looked to the sky. This is where it gets sort of cheesy, but really helpful. I imagined God's mind-bogglingly immense hands coming down out of the sky. Seriously, they were enormous. They lifted up the ball of my worry -- the ball that seemed so big to me -- and in His hands, my worries became small as a grain of sand. And then, the hands, the ball of worry, were gone.

I imagined myself taking a deep breath, saying a prayer of thanksgiving while looking up to the sky, and then turning and walking away from the cliff's edge. I walked, in my mind, with joy in my heart and a spring in my step. Any time a worry came, I released it and watched the tiny words float heavenward and disappear.

I like this visual, and I think I'll use it again. I may even record an audio meditation version of it to listen to from time to time. I think it's so important that we who worry (and even those of us who don't -- you don't have to give a ball of worry to God, you can give a ball of anger or sadness) are able to realize that we have a God who has completely and totally got this. He's got us! We can trust Him! We don't have to do this all by ourselves, we don't have to be strong, iron-willed, flawless people. We can tell God our fears, our deepest worries, and we can let go enough to let Him take them. We can banish the prideful thoughts that say only we can and should be in control of our lives, and let Him take control. I know it's what I'll be trying to do a lot more often.

Friday, 13 January 2017

New year, new blog

Hi everyone!

If you've somehow stumbled upon this humble blog, welcome! My name is Miranda. I 'm a 30-year-old wife and mother of two amazing children, ages 5 and 1, and I live in the beautiful Manitoba prairies. 

I've always been a writer. I work from home as a freelance journalist, and I've been writing creatively for just under 20 years. Okay, that makes me feel old! 

I'm passionate about my children (all children, really), my family, writing (of course), parenting, mental health and cooking! But what I'm most passionate about is my faith. I was raised Roman Catholic but fell away from the church in my early twenties. God constantly called me home, though, and I finally accepted his invitation to my rightful place in His arms, in the Church His Son started more than 2,000 years ago.

Being a Catholic in a small town in the Canadian prairies can be lonely. Please, join me as we walk our faith together -- no matter who you are or where you're from! My blog will focus mainly on living authentically our Catholic faith and the joys of being a wife, mother and woman in this sometimes crazy, sometimes scary but always beautiful world we live in today.

I'm so glad you're on this journey with me. May God bless and keep you, and may our Holy Mother intercede for us and keep us under her tender protection.  

We'll talk soon,