Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Change of Heart

Change my heart oh God,
Make it ever true.
Change my heart oh God,
May I be like you.

Change:  to become different; to make radically different; to become something else; to undergo transformation.  We all probably like to imagine how we would look and how different our lives would be after some type of change.  With each new year, most of us make a resolution to try to change and improve ourselves; e.g., eat healthier, exercise more, improve relationships, etc.  While all good, how much better would be a spiritual makeover – a change of heart?

One of the greatest transformations in Christianity is celebrated with the upcoming feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25.  Paul’s heart changed; he had a spiritual conversion.  Unlike St. Paul, who had a dramatic conversion after an encounter with our Lord, our conversion is an ongoing process.  On the walls of every Pauline chapel the words “live in continual conversion” are written.  Ongoing conversion is at the heart of the Pauline experience.  How do we live in continual conversion?

The day I formally became a Pauline Cooperator, a friend reminded me of the verse, “Therefore, anyone who’s in Christ is a new creation – the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  What did that mean for me?  As a new Cooperator, what could I do to continue to change and grow?  Through the years, the Pauline family has afforded me many opportunities:  retreats, a pilgrimage, various programs and friendships developed with Family members.

Our Catholic faith gives us many ways to change and grow in holiness – praying the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration,  Confession, etc.  On my desk is a plaque of the Beatitudes. It recently served as an inspiration for spiritual growth. I decided to dedicate more prayer time to this beautiful teaching of Jesus which gives practical advice for our everyday lives.  It can help us, as well as the people we touch, to change.  Below are some personal thoughts for meditation based on one of my favorite methods of prayer -- Lectio Divina (read, meditate and pray).  

READ: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
MEDITATE:  When we become poor in spirit, we put all of our trust in God and not in material possessions.  We learn to rely on God and not the things that our culture tells us we need.
PRAY:   Jesus, help me to grow in trust.  I can’t do it alone; I need your help.

READ:  Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted
So then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with true compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience (Colossians: 3:12).
MEDITATE: Sorrow can make us more compassionate toward others since we may have experienced similar pain and sorrow.  Do I reach out to others who are not only grieving over the loss of a loved one, but those who may be in physical pain, feel hopeless, anxious or depressed?  From the Beatitudes of the Pauline Cooperators:  Blessed are you for infusing a compassionate spirit into every form of communication.
PRAY:  Jesus, help me to always reach out to those who are grieving or sad.  Through me, let them feel your love and presence.

READ: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The Spirit’s fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self control (Galatians 5:22).
MEDITATE: Meekness implies loving kindness and gentleness of spirit.   How do I practice meekness with others?   Am I patient with them as well as with myself?
PRAY:  Holy Spirit, help me to be kinder and gentler. Help me to give up anger and become more patient.

READ: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to do God’s will, for they shall have their fill.
MEDITATE:  For what do I hunger and thirst?  Do I long for a closer relationship with God?
PRAY:  (One of my favorite psalm verses): As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and behold the face of God?  (Psalm 42: 1-2).

READ: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other just as God forgave you in Christ (Ephesians 5:32).
MEDITATE:  During this Year of Mercy, how can I be more loving to others, especially those who may be difficult to love?
PRAY:  Jesus, help me to be merciful, especially towards someone who has hurt me.

READ: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
The purpose of this instruction is to foster that love which flows from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).
MEDITATE:  In his Angelus address on August 30, 2015, Pope Francis said, “The heart must be purified and converted,” the Pope continued, adding that without a pure heart, “you can’t truly have clean hands and lips which speak sincere words of love, mercy and forgiveness.  Only a sincere and pure heart is able to do this.”
PRAY:  Lord, let me be humble and pure of heart.  Let others see you in me through my thoughts, words and actions.  Like St. Paul, let me say, “It’s no longer I who live, it’s Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

READ: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Strive to be at peace with everyone and seek that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
MEDITATE: What does it mean to be a peacemaker in our day-to-day lives?  How can I be a peacemaker at home, at work, in my community?
PRAY: Jesus, make me an instrument of your peace.

READ: Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing God’s will, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Bless those who persecute you – bless and don’t curse them (Romans 12:13).
MEDITATE: Persecution in our daily lives can take on many different forms – verbal abuse, gossip,  ridicule for standing up for one’s beliefs, emotional outbursts from others, etc.  How do I handle persecution in my life?
PRAY:  Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life,  give me the courage and strength to handle conflicts in my daily life with love and kindness.

· Choose and practice a  Beatitude to fit into your daily life. Our paths to holiness and conversion are different; there is no "one size that fits all.”  Let our loved ones learn from what we do as much as from what we say.
· Let our prayer life reflect that of our co-foundress, Mother Thecla Merlo.  Her prayer life reflected the Beatitudes:  the mindfulness of poverty, meekness, mercy, purity of heart, these expressed her humble and diligent following of the Master.  (From Daily Wisdom from Mother Thecla on following Christ Jesus.  October 19, 2014.)

In closing, let us trust in the promise Jesus made to our Founder and to the Pauline Family:

“Do not be afraid.
I am with you.
From here I want to enlighten.
Live in continual conversion.”

To help you delve deeper into the beauty of the Beatitudes  and learn the secrets of a happy heart and life, I encourage you to read the new book, Blessed are the Stressed – Secrets to a Happy Heart written by Mary Lea Hill, fsp which you can purchase from Pauline Books and Media by clicking on this link.

Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator for eight years. Semi-retired as a credit/AR manager in NJ, she is a wife, a mother of two daughters, and a grandmother of four. She serves as a Eucharistic minister and belongs to a Divine Mercy Cenacle group. Maryann assists at Pauline book fairs and J-Club events, schedules meetings and prayer times for local Cooperators and friends of the Pauline Family, and accompanied a candidate in the Cooperator formation program. She participated in a Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage to Italy in 2010. 


Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Sr Margaret

Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP said...

Jeff Mathews's enthusiasm for your article led me to read it, Mary Ann. I'm glad I did. Thank you for sharing your faith-in-action.