Our Gift of Love Is Never Wasted

By Sister Maria Frassati, S.V.

+Totus Tuus

“Why has there been this waste?”

The Passion Narrative that kicks off Holy Week begins with the account of the woman in Bethany with the alabaster jar of costly spikenard. To the utter shock of all those present, she breaks the alabaster jar loaded with nard over his head, letting it pour and anoint the head of our Lord. Some are filled with anger at the perceived waste. But Jesus responds, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me” (cf Mark 14:6). The Gospel account of this woman’s love for Jesus can become the lens through which we see the whole of Holy Week: the power of a total gift-of-self to Jesus, a gift which is never wasted, and is such a consolation to His heart.

Wait a minute– aren’t we supposed to be spending Holy Week contemplating the total self-gift of Jesus to us? Is this backwards? Both are important.  God loved us first, as St. John tells us (cf. 1Jn 4:10).  But when we come to know His crazy, reckless love in pouring out everything for us, as if it were for me alone, this realization inspires the response to the Divine initiative; a total self-gift in return.  St. John Paul II repeatedly reminds us in his writings that “Man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of self.”  And still more, Jesus, in His total self-giving, reveals to us our deepest identity and calling (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22).

In giving myself, I come to discover who I really am. That’s a bold statement in a culture that revolves around self-fulfillment and gratification.  And, when I unite my life to Jesus in this total gift, not only is nothing ever wasted, but I become more myself, more truly who God made me to be.  Peter was no longer simply a charismatic fisherman, but a fisherman of souls who radically pierced the hearts of those who heard him with the power of God’s love. And Our Lady, through her constant yes throughout the life of Jesus as His earthly Mother, became a spiritual mother to all who believe in Jesus.

We can admit that this is hard. It often takes an act of faith to believe that my gift-of-self matters, that His grace is at work deeper in me than I can perceive.  What do I do when it feels fruitless, meaningless?

First, we can only give ourselves in trust when we are grounded in His gift of love to us, a gift He renews each day through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He tells us, you are worth everything. He would have given all for even just a single soul.  Jesus once said to St. Julian of Norwich, “It is a joy, a bliss, and endless delight to me that I suffered my Passion for you; and if I could suffer more, I would suffer more.”  Only when we know we are infinitely and unconditionally loved by the Father in Jesus, a truth we must steep ourselves in again and again, can we have the confidence to give ourselves to Him in total abandon.  Secondly, whether we feel it or not, it is in the Mass that we are reminded that His total offering of self in love gives value to all our offerings of love.  

Woman of Bethany: Our Gift of Love is Never Wasted.

In this, we also discovered another truth: He delights to receive our love, our company.  It matters to Him when we are simply there, with Him.  Do we have any idea how much our gifts to Him console His heart?  Not because we add anything to God or make Him more, since He is all-perfect and in need of nothing.  The woman in Bethany, before Christ’s Passion, reflects to Him her understanding of what He is about to do. And in this, she is with Him, demonstrating that she knows and supports the intentions of His heart.  During the pandemic, we heard stories upon stories of elderly married couples who would stop at nothing to visit their spouses in nursing homes and hospitals, even if it meant only standing on the other side of a window. They knew they couldn’t help or heal or ‘fix the problem’; they knew they simply had to be there.  Love desires to be with the one they love.  And this is what matters most to Jesus, that we are simply with Him.  In this, we can share the weight of His heart. St. Padre Pio once remarked that in the Garden of Gethsemane, even while Jesus was weighed down in agony by the sins of humanity, He was also consoled by the love of His future disciples who would give everything for Him. Even now, our efforts to be with Him and love Him console His heart more than we can ever know in this life.

As we enter the intensity of Holy Week, striving to contemplate His mysteries in the middle of our busy work, we can take comfort in the fact that spending time in prayer doesn’t need to be complicated. Just be with Him. And wherever you’re drawn in the mysteries of this week, give yourself permission to stay there. If we allow ourselves to simply sit in His presence, wherever we find ourselves —the garden, the pillar where He was scourged, His tomb on Holy Saturday—He will work to quietly transform us in His grace. And as He draws the mysteries of our lives into the mysteries of His own, nothing will ever be wasted; rather our lives will become more closely conformed to the mystery of His own, as we are brought to know the tender love of the Father through Him.

Juneteenth

By Jacqueline Casquero

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

I joined #rendyourhearts, a community that prayed the rosary, the St. Michael prayer, and the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for peace, justice, reconciliation, and reparation for the sins of racism in our homes, communities, government, and churches for nine days (ending today, June 19).

I’m glad to see that the Governor of New York and the Mayor of New York City are both in agreement about making Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, a holiday. Since that day of emancipation, black Americans still had to continue to fight for full citizenship rights such as voting and integration. The experience that they endured, being treated in a way that denied their human dignity, is an inescapable part of American history.

Pope Francis called out racism for what it is: a sin, since it rips away the dignity of men. He said“We cannot close our eyes to any form of racism or exclusion while pretending to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Let us take time to look into our hearts and pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to have a new heart:   

Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

I. O my Jesus, you have said: ‘Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” Behold I knock, I seek, and ask for the grace of… (here name your request). Our Father…. Hail Mary…. Glory Be to the Father….

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

II. O my Jesus, you have said: ‘Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of… (here name your request). Our Father…. Hail Mary…. Glory Be To the Father….

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: ‘Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. ‘ Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of… (here name your request). Our Father…. Hail Mary…. Glory Be to the Father….

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours. Hail, Holy Queen….

St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.

Ite ad Ioseph!

By Jacqueline Casquero

May 1st was the day when we consecrated ourselves to St. Joseph. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought much about him until I joined the group. We read a book entitled Consecration to St. Joseph by Fr. Donald H. Calloway each day for 33 days and met as a group on Mondays. The fellowship was beautiful; I learned through people’s experience, prayers, and kindly discussions about St. Joseph.

In the book there is a section that explains how St. Joseph’s vocation was one of perpetual adoration since he is the first and perfect adorer (along with Mother Mary) of Jesus Christ.  He immersed and consecrated his entire life to Jesus. When Mother Mary and St. Joseph made that long journey to Egypt for the safety and protection of their Holy Family, they were the first to conduct a procession of Christ.

In the Old Testament, another familiar man by the name of Joseph procured and stored grain to save a nation under severe famine in Egypt. The Pharaoh told everyone, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you!” (Gen 41:55).  In the New Testament, St. Joseph was given the task to maintain and protect the Bread of Life for us. He was instructed by an angel to save the Bread of Heaven and everlasting life by escaping to Egypt in order to save the entire world.

Let us continue to go to St. Joseph!

Pray for 30 Days the Holy Cloak Novena:
To you, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our afflictions, and, having implored the help of your holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg you also to take us under your protection.
By that charity wherewith you were united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which you cherished the Child Jesus, we beseech you and we humbly pray that you will look down with gracious eyes upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood and will succor us in our need by your power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen offspring of Jesus Christ.
Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption.
Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness.
And even as of old you rescued the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity.
Shield us ever under your patronage, that, following your example and strengthened by your help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in heaven.
Amen.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy

By Jacqueline Casquero

The first week when my Catholic school shut down, I was in complete shock. I couldn’t believe the changes that were happening. I felt that I had no control over the situation. I couldn’t go to work, as I was told to stay home except to buy from the supermarket and the pharmacy. The churches were closed, and my favorite place where I volunteered for severely disabled children was shut down. I couldn’t meet in person with my family and friends.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. I was looking at a place of darkness but thought there must be light. Like the saying goes, “There is light in the end of the tunnel.” When I contemplate the coronation of Our Lady while praying the rosary, I tend to think she will step upon the coronavirus as she did with the serpent, who brought death and sin.

To thee do do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. I was in tears when I heard about the severe shortage of hospital supplies such as masks, gloves, PPE, and ventilators. How many lives were at stake? The rising numbers of positive cases and deaths came upon my screen. How much I cried.

Turn then, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! When my mother and I finished the decade of the rosary, I started to really feel and understand the Hail, Holy Queen prayer. I was definitely feeling in exile, mourning over so my losses such as the lives lost, the jobs lost, our daily lives changed, but in the midst of this tornado I felt a sense of hope. Maria is our star in the sky when our ship has lost its way in the shaky waves of the ocean in the midst of the storm. Our Lady is that bright star in the right direction, and our hope. She comes to us with our Savior to redeem the world.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Miracle of the 54-Day Novena

By Jacqueline Casquero

I haven’t shared this with many people, but I’m willing to share this as a testimony of the miracle that happened to my family about two to three years ago.

It was the year 2017. My sister, Cathy, shared with the family about her pregnancy. Our family was full of joy. Cathy became sick, uncomfortable, and at the same time nervous. She’d had a miscarriage about a year earlier. She was afraid that she would be having a miscarriage again. I did all I could to reassure her that it wouldn’t happen again. We would go to different Catholic meetings and Masses, receive the sacraments, listen to Christian songs, and meditate on Scripture.

Aside from this, at the end of 2017 both of my parents announced that they had tumors. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I felt completely sad and lonely. I didn’t share it with anybody, but I talked and prayed to Jesus and Mother Mary.

One day, a friend of mine told me about the 54-Day Rosary Novena and how it worked miracles. I desperately needed one. I looked up the history behind this special, long novena to see what it was about. I’d never heard of it before nor the story behind it.

I decided to pray and do it. There were days that I was sick or tired or emotional, as well as days that I skipped, but I persevered. I also had a prayer partner, my mother.

In the middle of 2018, Cathy gave birth to Amada (named after one of the Sisters of Life). My parents’ surgeries for the removal of their tumors was a success.

Today, my mother and I are doing the 54-day novena again during this time of Lent. We are praying for those that have been infected with coronavirus for their healing and a cure.

Click here to learn more about the 54-Day Rosary Novena.

A Letter from Jackie Ostick

Hi My Dear Frassati Community,

I am sitting here in my apartment, about to do my morning prayers and at a loss because I can’t go to Mass. How is this possible? It always seemed like Mass was always there. Daily Mass. Sunday Mass. Bible study. Fellowship. And now? Where do we go?

This week has made me reflect on my first two months here in NYC. I moved here in November of 2008 to be an actor. There I was, someone who had to make a living and still have time to audition, and then be able to leave so I could go do said show that I would hopefully book. My anxiety creeped up and I was so overwhelmed. Luckily, I lived in Astoria at the time and there was a Catholic church right down the street from me. I went to daily Mass every day and suddenly I understood what I had heard all those years in Catholic school. God really does love me. He DOES have a plan. All I can do is listen to His plan in my heart and take the next right steps. This was a spiritual awakening that deepened my faith. It almost felt like another Confirmation for me. I was claiming my faith as my own, because I NEEDED it. My anxiety lessened and I have been able to take major strides in my career. All because I trusted in my Lord and listened.

I share this story because my faith is what is helping me through this crisis. It’s honestly a miracle that I’m not wrapped in plastic right now. Am I scared? FOR SURE! Am I overwhelmed? YOU BET. However, I am finding solace in my Lord. I’m talking to Him. Asking him to help me do the next right thing and to protect myself and everyone I love. That’s all I can do….because we know that God definitely can do more.

Thank you all for the time to share.

Gratefully,
Jackie Ostick

Valuing Sacrifice, Not Success

By Father Pier Giorgio Dengler, O.P.
on the Feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, July 4, 2019.

What does it take to be great? What is it that the angel of God approved in Abraham’s offering of Isaac? What is the secret of charitable works or the source of blessedness in the Beatitudes? The answer is not in the outcome, but in the offering.

In offering something to God, we consider it as a gift we have received from God and we seek to discover from Him how to best place it at the service of His plan of salvation. This is good news, because anything can be offered—riches or poverty, success or failures, wonders or wounds.

Bl. Pier Giorgio offered much—not just the corporal and spiritual works of mercy among the poor. More than even these, he offered what was most dear to him: his relationships—treasured or tragic. Instead of using his family influence and good name to blow off studies, he knew when to subordinate fun with friends to his student obligations. He even turned down traveling with his friends for hikes if it meant that he would have to miss Sunday Mass. He had to surrender his beloved sister as she left the family and the country to get married, and he held back on pursuing the love of his life when the circumstances of beginning a romantic relationship would spell doom for his own parents’ marriage. He lived the words of St. Paul: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).

PierGiorgioFrassati-PrésentationBl. Pier Giorgio is not famous because he was good-looking or rich, nor because he skied, climbed mountains, or hiked with friends. He wasn’t known for any of his achievements. Rather, we know him because he offered all of those goods to God, along with all of the failures, sorrows, struggles, and sacrifices which came his way (of which he has so many). Bl. Pier Giorgio united all of the elements of his life and times in a consistent litany of personal piety and prayer. Above all, he incorporated everything he had into the universal prayer life of the Church—the liturgy and its source and summit, the Eucharist.

How can we achieve such unity of purpose? A simple prayer provides the outline that Bl. Pier Giorgio personified in his brief but memorable life:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

Morning Offering composed by Fr. Francois Xavier Gaulrelet

This prayer truly offers God everything in our day, good and bad. It puts into action the importance of praying for others, seeks the help of our Blessed Mother, and it allies our offerings with our bishops and our Holy Father and thus the most pressing needs of those overseeing the Church itself.

Unity of life means integrating everything that comes our way and everything we aim at to God, lifting it all up in our hearts in the celebration of the Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. It means offering everything as a sacrifice, not seeking after showy success. And it means that everything we have to offer—not only our triumphs, but also the pains we suffer, sorrows we endure, and raw deals we receive—has eternal significance and yields a bountiful harvest of grace.

Knowing the Holy Spirit

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

– John 15

On Friday, Erin reflected on the mystery of friendship that Jesus offers us. Jesus mentions a very important fruit of this friendship in today’s Gospel: He sends us the Holy Spirit. At first (and not just at first, honestly) the Holy Spirit seems rather mysterious: Who is He? What is He? How does He do His thing today, in 2018, in my life? How can we come to know Him?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 688 is a helpful guide:  

“The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

– in the Scriptures he inspired;
– in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;
– in the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;
– in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit
puts us into communion with Christ;
– in prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;
– in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;
– in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;
– in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation.”

So in other words, we find the Holy Spirit and come to know Him wherever we find the Church.  Read a biography of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and you’ll find he was working the entire list pretty hard – because he sought to live fully within the Church! What Erin said about mystery in general is very applicable here: “no matter how deeply we study this complex truth, there will always be more layers of understanding to peel back, always something new to learn.” The list above is not exhaustive by any means – there are many, many ways to know the Holy Spirit and to welcome Him into your life in a deeper way!

My challenge for you today: spend some time in prayer with the list above. Pray the simple prayer “Come, Holy Spirit!” throughout your day. Ask the Holy Spirit in what ways He wants you to come to know Him. And then be open! Have confidence that through your life, the Holy Spirit will testify the love of the Father to the world as shown through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

Come Holy Spirit!

Pax et bonum,
Andy

The Faith to Be Healed

Paul…looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about.

– Acts 15

Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him, 
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

– John 14

The power of Jesus, working through His disciples (Paul, Barnabas – and us!) can heal others in a profound way – if they have the faith to be healed. The Evangelists tell us several times in the Gospels that Jesus either was – or was not – able to heal people based on their faith.

Do we have faith that Jesus, working through His Bride, the Church, can heal us? Do we have the faith that Jesus actually wants to heal us? That whatever current pain or suffering we experience, from without or within, is not meant to last? And faith that the time of pain can actually bring us closer to Jesus, even when the path is steep and you feel disoriented?

On the flip side, do we have faith that the Lord can make us instruments of His healing in the lives of others, knowing full well our poverty and weakness? Paul was Saul at one point – still somewhat of a piece of work even after his conversion – and yet the Lord used him in ways he could not have foreseen as he was led by the hand to Damascus. When your heart feels crushed or broken, it’s hard to see beyond the pain. But, it is precisely in our crushed and broken hearts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit want to dwell, revealing their love for us.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will remind us of all Jesus has told us in the Scriptures and through His Church, that He wants to reveal His Father’s love through us and within us. May we keep His word and know His love for us this day!

Pax et bonum,
Andy

By the Hand

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

– The Servant Songs of Isaiah

Praying with today’s readings, the comforting words I have grasped you by the hand reminded me of my favorite scene from The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo has decided to journey to Mordor alone, paddling his boat across a broad river. Faithful Samwise realizes what Frodo is up to, and plunges in after the boat. But Sam cannot swim and soon begins to sink, hand stretched towards the surface. Right as Sam’s hand becomes still, Frodo’s hand plunges down into the water. He grasps Sam’s hand and hauls the waterlogged hobbit up into the boat.

This Lent, perhaps more than any before, I have experienced the Lord grasping me by the hand and leading me into a deeper life in Him. It is not that He’s provided consolations, or that I have been particularly good at adhering to disciplines of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving. Perhaps it has something to do with receiving kindness, joy, and forgiveness from my wife and daughters in response to my weaknesses and poverty. Maybe it is the daily opportunities to serve all these ladies in my life, reminding me time and again that my life is not my own and I am called to empty myself. Or it could be finding community and brotherhood in an unfamiliar place, taking hesitant steps with hesitant trust only to be reminded again that God is faithful, He had always been faithful.

Frodo saves Sam from drowning – he saves Sam’s life. And yet because Frodo grasped his hand, Sam will go on to experience terrible suffering (no more spoilers here – read the books!). Sometimes when I feel the Lord reaching out His hand I would rather not take it – His hands bear nail marks, and I know what that means. This week more than any other reminds us of the cost of accompanying Jesus and entering into His life. And yet the wounds that signify the Cross are the same wounds that reveal the Resurrection, that are signs and witnesses to the power of God.

His hands, those wounds, this week…He’s calling us – the blind, the imprisoned – to know His Light and Freedom, and to bring His Light and Freedom to others who are blind and imprisoned. This Holy Week, grab hold of His hand that you may encounter Him in the suffering and and encounter Him in the joy.

Pax et bonum,
Andy