Another Flower From Heaven
Last night, we celebrated the wedding of our cousin, Ryan.
Something really, really special happened out of no place, and my heart is still incredibly grateful.
Vince and I were taking a rest from the dance floor when I heard the beginning chords of "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" by Elvis.
I thought it'd be nice to scoop Vince into my arms for a slow dance. As we began rocking to the music, I felt John come up and put his arms around us.
Instantly, I had this inner yearning for him to be dancing with Myla. I was struck with missing her fiercely. I should be dancing with Vince, and he should be dancing with Myla.
Suddenly, as if on cue, our niece, Alliya, tugged on my dress and said, "Here you go."
She held in her hands a perfect, pink rose.
I took it from her and handed it to Vincent. Immediately he began kissing it over and over and over again.
Just when I began grieving being unable to physically hold her in my arms, Heaven sent me a rose in the vein of Myla's namesake, St. Therese, who is still known to shower these flowers to those who ask for her intercession.
I clutched Vincent to myself and felt the tears of gratitude spill. Vince kept that rose with him for the rest of the night. He fell asleep with it on the way home. When I finally tucked him away in bed, he wanted to make sure that "his flower" was safe in water. We put it in front of the Blessed Mother statue on his dresser.
What a blessed gift when I needed it so.
Thank you, God, for giving me these little kisses from my daughter. Myla Therese, you be extra sweet to Sister Therese for me, okay? One day I'll return all of these kisses a thousandfold. I love you, sweetie.
Since this past week has been so frustrating and difficult for Vincent, I wanted to take him somewhere completely different to give him a chance to really run off some steam.
There is a massive playground a few towns over that he hasn't been to since he was very, very small. I decided that would be the perfect spot to forget the stress of his new environment and just have fun.
Vincent knew he was going "to the park" today, but he figured it was the one we regularly go to right around the corner. When we didn't make a right-hand turn off our street, he knew something was up. He started to whine, "No, Mommy. I want to go to the park. Turn right, Mommy. Turn right!"
I said, "Vincent, no whining. Mommy IS taking you to the park. We're going to a special park for you today. You're going to have SO much fun!"
He, however, was having none of that. He started to cry. I guess the poor kid was expecting his routine playground, and when his expectation for "normal" was once again smashed, he got upset.
I looked at him through the rear-view mirror and said, "Vincent, did Mommy tell you she was going to take you to the park today?"
He said, "Yes. I want the park."
"I'm going to take you to the park, Vincent. We're going to the park now. It's a BIG park with LOTS of fun things. You're going to like it, so stop crying, okay?"
His crying slowed to silent grumpiness. Clearly he did not trust Mommy to bring him to this big, awesome park that supposedly was better than his trusty old one.
I was confused as to where this distrust in me came from. I'm his Mom. When I tell him I'm gonna take him fun places, I take him fun places. Was the trauma of school really so much for him that he now thinks I've only got challenging things in store for him?
I drove on, but since this playground is a few towns over, it took longer than he's used to. He began to whine again that he wanted to go to the park.
I admit I was starting to get annoyed.
Then I felt this little knock on the head and an inner voice chuckling, "How do you think I feel when you do the same thing to Me?"
I really DO whine the exact same way when God tries to lead me down roads I want no parts of. I don't trust that He's leading me to goodness. I want to stick to my comfortable life of sin. What could Heaven possibly have that I can't find on my own down here on earth?
Vince's whining painted that picture better than any homily ever could. I was the crying kid who wasn't trusting her Father to take her to joy. How OFTEN I am that crying child.
And why? What has He ever done to cause me to doubt His goodness? Nothing. Some experiences have been tougher than others, sure. But all of them have helped me to grow when I've allowed them to. Heck, even when I've tried NOT to.
Point is, how often are we whining little children in the backseat of God's caravan?
We need to trust our Father to drive us to Heaven. It might take longer than expected. We might go down roads we're unfamiliar with... that might be a bit bumpy. But in the end, He's the very best driver there is, so we'd do well to trust Him.
By the time I'd finished that meditation, I was pulling my car into the parking lot of the playground. Vincent was in awe of how massive the structures were. It was pretty funny to see him go from whining to flipping out with excitement.
I imagine that's how we're going to be when we finally get to Heaven. In the end, we'll realize just how worth it that caravan ride really was, and we'll likely want to kick ourselves for all that pointless whining.
Here's a slideshow of Vince enjoying the playground. :)
Incredibly Beautiful Story
It takes a village.
Or in this man's case - a town.
We need more stories like this depicting the incredible beauty that humanity is capable of.
God bless the people of Bussey, Iowa.
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On Free Will and Evil
This entire entry stems from a thread regarding the "creation of evil" and free will. I wanted to post it here as well because I think it's a great conversation!
God grants us Free Will
God is the Supreme Author of creation... all things visible and invisible. Our creed states as much. However, does this mean He created evil as well?
My answer is no. Evil is not a thing to be created. It is a choice. One cannot "create" love, one can only choose it, right?
The same holds true for evil. One cannot "create" evil. One can only choose it. God, being Supremely wise, holy and loving, has the capacity for evil.
However (and this is a big however), being that He is Supremely wise, holy and loving, He eternally CHOOSES goodness. He eternally chooses love. THIS is the gift of Free Will that He imparted to us. If God doesn't have the capacity for evil, then God is not all-powerful. God wouldn't 'need' free will because He'd be incapable of evil. However, God IS all-powerful. The difference between Him and the rest of us, however, is that He's always chosen goodness and love over evil and hatred. Thus, God must have free will if He was able to grant it to us as a gift.
So, keeping His Perfect Example of free will in mind, let's move on.
God created the angels before humanity. Angels are purely spiritual beings that were also granted the grace of free will. We are taught through tradition that one third of these angels utilized their free will in opposition to the Divine Will of God (His Divine Will being Supreme Goodness). As a result, these angels were cast away from His Divine Presence (since to be united to God is to be united with His Will - which is Love above all else).
God did not cast them aside in judgement. They chose to dislodge themselves from His Goodness through pride. As a result, God, in His Goodness, created a place for them separate from the other angels who chose Goodness. Basically, He put the "bad kids" in the corner so they didn't disrupt the rest of the class. Those who wanted to continue to grow in love and understanding of God could remain with Him in Heaven.
Then God deemed it time for the physical realm to spring forth. After setting things into motion, He chose to bestow upon humanity the same gift given to the angels - free will. However, humans are intrinsically different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. Humans are the union of body and soul (which is why Catholics believe in the "resurrection of the dead"). As such, our free will is going to be utilized differently from that of the angels (though with the same premise... freely choosing good over evil).
Eden was a physical realm that was in perfect union with the Will of God - Adam and Eve included. Genesis states as much when it writes of Adam "walking blameless before God." Adam's will was united to that of God's Divine Will, and there was peace. Eve, too, lived in union with God's Will. Until, that is, she meets up with a pesky little snake.
As we all remember from our elementary days, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were located in the center of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge, when we trace it back to it's Jewish roots, was known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is an important distinction because Jewish tradition understands this Tree to be the mixture of good and evil. Until humanity (through Adam and Eve) ingested this fruit (thus introducing the conflict of evil), good was humanity's nature. Evil was something altogether separate that had no place in the nature of humanity. We simply understood and trusted that God knew best, and we willingly went along with the plans He set forth because we naturally understood Him to have our best interests at heart.
That changed due to the 1st sin (which was Pride, not disobedience). When the serpent suggested to Eve that she could gain the knowledge that God had and begin making her OWN plans that would be even better than those of God, she was feeling the temptation of pride. When she acted out in eating the fruit, it was not disobedience that goaded her... it was her own pride. Her mistaken belief that she could somehow gain wisdom above God's. That given the chance, her will could rival that of God's. Sound familiar? It was the very same sin that Lucifer introduced to the other angels. It was the very sin that caused their downfall as well.
This was the first time humanity said "No" to the Divine Will. The second time was when Adam came along and accepted Eve's sin into the family line. In allowing himself (as head of creation) to sully humanity by not only accepting this sin, but taking part in it, Adam solidified our downfall. Now that both of our parents (Adam and Eve) have sullied themselves with the stain of sin, all subsequent generations would feel the smudge on our natures. This is original sin. It's not an actual "sin" that newborns are held accountable for. It's the tendency towards sin that we have inherited from our ancestors. Much like the child of an alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic himself, the children of sinners are more likely to sin. We are children of Adam and Eve. The tendency has been passed from generation to generation, and with the exception of Our Lady, all of humanity has been marred by the stain of this original "No" to Divine Will... this original misuse of free will.
Out of love, God sentenced us to a physical death so that we might once more reunite ourselves to His Will. Since humanity had marred its nature through sin, God rightly passed judgement on us, deeming us unfit to reside in Eden as that was a place of peace and unity with God's Will. Humanity, having now turned from God's Will, would be forced to work their way back to their original Divine Inheritance. Free will, having been gifted at our time of creation, was not taken away. Instead, as punishment for misusing this gift to alter our purely good nature, we would need to learn to properly use this gift for love.
That is what our lives on Earth are all about. We are learning to love. We are learning to consistently choose good over evil. We are learning to trust the Will of God and allow ourselves to take part in His plans for Divine Providence. THAT is the meaning of our earthly lives.
Upon death, we are judged on how well we learned this lesson. Did we consistently strive to love others? Did we consistently choose good over evil? Did we trust in the Will of God to move our lives in the direction necessary to once more gain eternal happiness?
If the answer is a resounding "Yes," we gain entrance to Heaven. If the answer is "Eh, it was a hell of a struggle, and I've got a ways to go, but I at least learned that Your Will is right" we gain entrance to Purgatory with the promise of Heaven. Finally, if the answer is, "No, this is all bull, God, you're just a big bully" we cast ourselves into Hell.
And yes, I said we cast ourselves. Much as those original fallen angels had.
At judgement, we see our own lives in the Light of Divine Truth. We see our souls as God sees them, and in the face of this Truth, we cannot help but understand our successes and failings. We, ourselves, pass sentence before the Throne of God (before which no sin or dishonesty can stand). We accept whatever "reward" we are given because at that moment, we cannot help but understand God to be Supreme Justice. Thus, our soul either joyfully enters Heaven (where our free will exists, but has been perfected so that it is united always to the Will of God), willingly enters Purgatory (with the understanding that our free will can be cleansed through the fires of God's Love in order for us to prepare for Heaven), or willingly seeks Hell as the only respite from ourselves away from the burning Justice of God's Truth.
Christ as Judge
God is mercifully patient, this is true. However, He is Divine Justice as well, and this Justice is not simply meant to punish - it is meant to protect and nurture those who wish to remain true to His Divine Will.
In His Mercy, God grants us enough trials and experiences through our lives in order for us to properly learn Love. This was revealed by Saint Michael to someone whose name escapes me.
St. Michael the Archangel revealed that every person on earth is given exactly what he or she needs to learn how to live by God's Will. It is up to us to heed these lessons. They don't continue in Heaven because at that point, all free will ceases to formulate through one's own accord. It is either solidified with access to Heaven, becoming engulfed in the Divine Will, forged through Divine Love in the embers of Purgatory, or left to fester with no hope of respite in the bowels of Hell. Our actions on earth determine which area our free will goes for a make-over (if one is necessary) after earthly death.
Review: Within Heaven's Gates
So to break in my brand new Kindle Touch, I purchased a book by Rebecca Springer entitled Within Heaven's Gates. Springer claimed to have visited Heaven during a severe illness and documented her experience through this book, originally entitled Intra Muros or My Dream of Heaven.
Truth be told, her story is amazing. There is an authentic feel to her descriptions, though I was struck by a few curiosities. I'll handle those shortly. First, however, the positives!
Springer has a gift for description. Even when attempting to explain the unfathomable, she takes care to break down lofty images into manageable portions. Though relying heavily on flowery language, it doesn't seem tedious or superfluous. One gets the impression that every page really is a prayer of thanksgiving and awe, beckoning the reader to hope for the possibility that her descriptions are, in fact, what await us upon death. This sincerity of conviction is what makes this book so captivating and comforting.
Next, her understanding of Heaven is truly wonderful. Mansions built by the loving hands of God through each of our loved ones dot the perfect landscape. Holy lakes and rivers that souls truly cleanse and refresh themselves in, the companionship of angelic choirs, the incomprehensible, but much appreciated movement of Divine Will that all creatures happily submit to without hesitation... it is utopia. However, souls aren't all just running around, blissfully aimless. Life, indeed, continues on - preachers still preach (Martin Luther and John Wesley are mentioned), great authors still write, and missionaries still teach others the greater mysteries of Christ. Families joyfully reunite, friends share memories of their "earth lives" and seeming strangers rejoice in the surprising moments on earth that led to their meeting in Heaven.
I admit to, myself, longing to know this place for myself... to see and feel and experience these emotional and spiritual highs with my own loved ones.
Wonderful were her dealings with Jesus. Though she didn't detail much of their conversations, she was specific in her emotional and spiritual reactions to Him. Each time Christ makes Himself present... it's as if even through her words the pages (er, my Kindle?) would light up. Incredible.
Some things I was surprised with, however...
There was no mention of Our Lady. I noticed that almost immediately because I was awaiting this woman's reaction to the Blessed Mother (she is Methodist). Considering how much "time" she spent in Heaven, I figured there'd be a meeting somewhere along the line between her and the Blessed Mother.
There was no mention of guardian angels, either. Sure, angels would crop up now and again during particular passages, but no mention was made of personal guardian angels. Her brother-in-law, Frank, seemed to act as her guardian angel much of the time, but I don't think that was her purpose in explaining him in such a way.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that even from her own writings, a visit by the Blessed Mother may not have been a "reward" her soul was ready to receive at that point. Being a Methodist, her views on the Blessed Mother probably weren't very fleshed out. As a result, it isn't surprising that Mary wouldn't pop into her spiritual journey "so soon upon arrival" when there were other things God may have wanted her to understand first... especially if she were to be tasked with explaining Heaven to those of us still on earth.
As for guardian angels, I really don't know.
Would I recommend this book? I already have. Ha ha. Also, I'll be seeing my mother this weekend, and I'll be sharing it with her Kindle so she's able to read it as well. The views expressed within the pages are very Christian and very much in line with what the Church teaches. Many of the souls in Springer's book do exactly what St. Therese of Lisieux said when she wrote "I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth."
All in all, it was a quick and beautiful read. My heart felt lifted upon completion, and my soul longed more deeply for that which we lost through sin. Any book that can do that gets an A+ from me. :)
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