For many this month, there are celebrations of freedom, annually enjoyed, proclaiming liberty in their land. There are fireworks. There are parades. Explosions fill the air. The sky is filled with streams of colorful lighting streaks and expanding bursts of pyrotechnics and flamboyant rockets and sparklers.
But for others, this month continues previous misery as they struggle daily to merely survive, seeking such a true freedom that others enjoy, keeping that desire within their hearts, wishing for the day to enjoy, like others, the rewards of independence.
However, with Christ, we as Christians enjoy a truer and better freedom. It is a freedom of spirit and soul. True freedom is when one is free of the bounds of time. We trust that God in His time and in His way will provide the answers to our prayers. True freedom is relying on a future that includes an eternal destiny with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We have the freedom of patience.
True freedom is the freedom of conscience. We have the joy of resting in the promise of forgiveness, trusting our past, present and future in the hands of a loving Savior.
True freedom is the absence of attachment to the world. Our riches are stored in another place. We are not bound by the chains of this world. We are not slaves to fashions or trends, passions, ambitions, or the love of this world. We are in this world, but certainly, we are not of this world.
We are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. We are free.
May we pass this torch of freedom to others, so that they too may know the love of Jesus Christ and the freedom that only comes from Him.
God bless you, everyone,
At the Society of Prayer, we offer something very different. Many of those who are privately vowed have absolutely no place to go. The convents are closed to them. The doors are shut to them. They want to remain vowed but have no sense of belonging.
Here at the Society of Prayer, we offer a chance to belong. But we offer something even more than that. If one belongs to our order and stays in our order, that individual is oftentimes required to be more dedicated than those that are within an established and canonical order. Why do I say this? Because to be in our order you must remain solely out of total dedication to God, not out of pride, not to look for a relationship, not to chat with others. This is one of our key differences. You must remain because you and you alone wish to dedicate your life to prayer and mercy. There are no perks aside from what comes from God and God alone.
Our vowed members wish to remain private, some of them with high prestige but a very dedicated spirit. We offer no chat rooms or groups to argue and to cause division. Each person runs their own hermitage as according to their own rule of life. A rule of life may go beyond what we require and often does.
However, just because we are alone in our rooms, isolated from the other members, does not mean we do not pray for each other. This is what I meant by a higher level of dedication being required. This is not for everyone. But rest assured, if you remain in our order, your reward will be far greater than you can imagine.
May God richly bless all of you, as you dedicate your life to Jesus Christ, to prayer and to daily acts of mercy.
One of the most popular prayers is The Lord's Prayer. And in that prayer we read:
"Hallowed be thy name..."
How is God's name more sanctified than it already is? Be being lived by us.
I was recently reminded by an associate of our society that God is "in us."
This is scriptural, as it says in 1 John 4:14 that "whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in Him."
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us. (KJV)
Now, one of our responsibilities in this society is not to promote specific doctrine outside of the Apostles' Creed due to our ecumenicalism. But let us acknowledge our commonality and what the Apostles' Creed says:
"I believe in the communion of saints"
We are cheered on by those that have gone before us. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-2).
And what brings this commonality about? The Spirit of God. And besides love, what signs or evidence are there of this communal relationship?
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galations 5:22-23)
My brothers and sisters, although there may be doctrinal differences between us that are minor, let us concentrate on the items that bring us together: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit inside of us that gives evidence through our conduct that we are followers of the Saviour.
There is a reason why we pray "Our Father," or "Give us," or "Lead us not." We are a community of believers, both past and present, and in God's time, our future, as others believe and come to Christ in faith and partake of all that is available, gifts, sacraments and fellowship.
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Sr. Bernadette Maria
We live in an age of "just getting by." It's in human nature to do the absolute minimum. We live in a stressful world with many stressed people. There is a level of entitlement often that screams from individuals that want everything yesterday and want all problems solved in the next three seconds. It is a me-me-me world. And yet, we have those that have dedicated their lives to God that insist on simplicity, values that know when to say no, when enough is enough, and more importantly, insist on solitude and times of prayer.
Prayer not only changes things, but prayer changes the one praying. It allows us to focus away from just getting by to doing something more...to make a sacrifice of time. Prayer is truly a necessity against all the stress in the world today. Prayer says STOP...LISTEN...WAIT.
People ask me how much I pray. And on most days, time wise, I pray about two and a halve hours per day. I have recorded prayers that start my day upon hitting play. I have prayer cds in my car. I have prayer books that I open and read. But the point is not the time. The point is the quality and the dedication to try. There is no required duration or length when we pray.
I know someone who cares for a relative and has literally no time in the day to pray but makes time with a simple "Jesus help me" or "Lord have mercy." Was it not the thief on the cross who simply said, "Lord remember me.." Was it not Peter who cried out, "Lord save me!"
God wants us to connect with Him. But God is more concerned with the effort, not trying to match someone else in what they do. Today, begin your daily prayers, even if it is a simple "God help me today" and begin to turn your life and worries over to the one who knows your heartache and trouble and burden. God is just a prayer away.
Here at the Society Of Prayer, members, after being Associates for six months, have the option to say vows to God, privately, vows of obedience to God, simplicity of life, and chastity. Some of our members are married, and some are not. Some of us are celibate. And sometimes, I get this question about vows. What are private vows?
Private vows are just that...private. They are vows between you and God. They are promises between you and God. You are not vowed to an institution or religion, but to God. And this is important, and it does not minimize the commitment whatsoever. No person can force you to commit an act against your conscience. Your relationship between God is a private matter. That being said, there is an element of "public" about private vows. Just because you make private vows to God, does not mean you are privately a Christian or privately a vowed or dedicated Christian. People will notice the change, which will invite questions, sometimes, even evangelization. Your family will notice the difference as well.
The other day, while at a grocery store, a cashier, noticing my wedding ring and a tired look in my eyes from a cold that I had, told me, "I'm sure your husband is proud of you shopping even though it's late and you had a hard day." I responded, "I hope he is." Of course, I didn't explain that my husband was God and that I was vowed, although the blue cross against my blue shirt was evident.
But seriously, people notice not just a blue cross or any other emblem...people notice if you are a person of prayer. Your attitude is contemplative. Your mannerism is different. Private vows does not mean that in public you don't have to be religious or hide your faith. And yes, sometimes, if employment demands it, we have to confirm to rules, and yet...there is a difference in us...a difference that people see.
Public vows, according to most religions, differ in that they are said formally before an organization and its leaders. But make no mistake, God holds the private vows, promises made to Him, as firm oaths to God. Just because you are not making the promises to a church does not negate the importance whatsoever.
All that being said, this does not negate the honor of those making public vows and entering convents. May God richly bless those making that sacrifice. But here, at the Society of Prayer, we have an option for those that cannot, for whatever reason, enter those institutions, whether because of age or marital status or whatever reason. Here we honor the private vows and offer a place to belong.
May God guide you as you decide how best to service Him in the future.
We are told that many people will come from East to West to take their place in the Kingdom of Heaven.
For far too long, however, we have defined these people only in terms of what separates them from God’s love…
If we truly come seeking God, we must not come merely seeking a God separate from our brother or sister whom God has placed on our path, but a God who comes to us personally, and individually, through each one of us. We must embrace equally and without condemnation with a universal love.
Christ proclaimed, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself."
Often the person we point the finger of judgment and condemnation at does not need to be as liberated as we personally need to be liberated from our own judgment, condemnation, and prejudices.
When we begin to understand this in our deepest being, we will begin to heal the churches’ and world’s sicknesses and divisions.
By an associate of the community.
Recently one of our members wrote these beautiful words:
It is all in a name.
The answer to our seeking and being sought.
The end of all our seeking and spiritual practice is in a name.
" I am."
" I am " the life before all life that you came from,
and the journey of prayer—calling you to return to your source of being.
When Moses asked God for His name, the answer came back plainly, "I am."
The "I am" is the one answer, the only answer to today's problems. And, to be frank, He simply just is. The "I am that I am" is the answer to war, grieve, sorrow, doubt, and the source of all happiness.
I invite you this Holy Week to seek the "I am."
The "I am" loved us so much that He became one of us. The Alpha and The Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who is before all and by whom all exists...Jesus Christ came to meet mankind, live with us, and then die for us.
Let this Holy Week not be so much about negativity or sorrow or death, but more of grace and mercy. Because despite the evils, regardless of the circumstances that surround you, the one that overcame the world is beside you right now. You are not alone. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is there right now...for you...Jesus loves you so very much.
And why do you ask? How can God love me?
He just does... I am that I am...
Connect to the "I am"
Sr. Bernadette Maria
The members of the Society of Prayer are from a variety of backgrounds, educationally and culturally. Those that are privately vowed have their own hermitage and live a hermit or semi-hermit type of spiritual life. Some are single, and some are married, leading their entire family along a path of dedicated prayer. Sometimes, this can be an isolating process and path. Those who are called to pray are not easily understood in today's society.
But you do not have to be a hermit to be reclusive enough to be lonely. I have been on the internet in one form or another for many years. The most recurring problem that I hear from people, regardless of their situation, is this. The main complaint I hear from people is one of loneliness.
Loneliness, please understand this, has little to do with being alone. Many people who are married and have busy lives and several family members living with them are extremely lonely. Loneliness is an extreme feeling of disconnection and is almost always a situation of perspective and a lack of the ability to cope. Loneliness can also be the result of the weight of regret and the inability to find a way out. It is sometimes the feeling that you are fighting the entire world...all alone.
Here is a confession. All of us, no matter who we are, get lonely. All of us have moments when we feel like no one understands, and no one is there for us.
The good news is there is some comfort to be had here. We all suffer as humans from occasional disconnection and isolation. But we have, as Christians, as believers, especially as people of prayer, a friend who is always there for us. This friend is often ridiculed as a fake and invisible force, something unworthy to believe in, especially in a rational and modern world.
I disagree. We need, now more than ever, this help, this divine assistance. I invite you to pray. I invite you to a life of prayer. I encourage you to fill your hours with less negativity, provide time for good things that lift your spirits, instead of depressing you. Learn to appreciate your own desires and weaknesses. Learn to be comfortable with you...because you have to spend a lot of time with that person...that is...you.
Accept yourself, the good and the bad. Stop destroying yourself with doubts. Stop attacking you.
Reach out and show love to others. Displaying love works wonders in getting your mind off possible selfish desires.
And finally, lean on the arms of Jesus Christ. The Lord loves you so very much. There is acceptance, forgiveness and understanding.
Many times loneliness results when we attack ourselves. We must learn to not only forgive others, but also to forgive ourselves.
And most importantly, remember that you are not alone.
Psalms 147:3 tells us He heals the brokenhearted.
1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Jesus...because He cares so very much for us.
Do not be afraid. God loves you and I love you.
Sr. Bernadette Maria
One of the first questions in the Bible, in the Old Testament, and specifically from God is this:
“WHERE ART THOU?”
How amazing that God is seeking man. And in fact, the Old Testament if filled with this theme, God seeking man. Appearing in various forms, a cloud, a man, an angelic being, a smoke or mist…
Of course, the first question is truly from Satan, in the Garden of Eden:
“Did God say that?” (paraphrasing)
First, there is a doubt placed by the all-time enemy of man, put into the brain to distract. Then there is of course the partaking of the forbidden fruit…and ultimately the first question of God. And His question is not a condemning question, as man was already aware of his sin. God’s question is one of desire and passion, of genuine caring and seeking of a lost soul.
Contrast this to the New Testament, from man:
“Where is He…” Meaning…where is the Messiah? Where is God? Where is the King of the Jews?
By the time of the New Testament, Satan and his demons are masters of the questions. Satan boldly questions Jesus’ faith in the desert—and his demons question and ask Jesus “Why are you bothering us?” a paraphrase of “What do we have to do with you?”—just seconds before demons are driven out of a man. Satan is bolder, no longer the snake in the garden, an honest chat and direct words.
But in the middle of all these questions and many more, the fact remains very clear. The Old Testament is God seeking man, and the New Testament is Man seeking God.
May we answer God’s question with sincerity and devotion and say…HERE I AM, LORD!
Sr. Bernadette Maria
Cardinal Newman once described history as a " recurring of spring time."
It was never ended, he was telling us. Always new, fresh, and evolving.
In the times of prayer, you will also come to experience the journey like this.
But I think often we must let go of a bit of baggage that we pick up through the years in our seeking and understanding. For every moment we journey through, and every season of grace, we must let go all that has passed before—and begin again. It is like having a blank piece of paper.
We often speak of prayer, like all our spiritual activity, as " My prayer," or “My Rosary," or “My retreat,” and so on. In a Hermitage, you soon come to understand it is the prayer of the other. The prayer of Christ in you. You are not the one who is seeking, but the one God has come seeking.
Those who have a ministry of service who sometimes listen to the pilgrims who are seeking God, or guide those who are just beginning down the path of the journey of prayer often point to what can be described as a poverty of presence.
People are looking in the wrong place. For some, the pain of the past, and their hurts and disappointments, are all very real. And it is important to acknowledge this and listen to what has happened to them. There is a time for everything.
Certainly, in our journey of prayer, silence, and solitude there is no escaping the past. Everything, even things we have buried, will be drawn out into the light. It is like peeling the layers of the onion away until we get to the very core of our true selves—and how God sees us.
But there are also those who are sadly so wounded that their past informs everything about their present, and they never seem to move forward to find God, where He truly is. We then see pilgrims who are seeking the mythical paradise. Such that, if they had everything, they dreamed that if obtaining the perfect house, car, and so on, life would be so good. But the truth is they still would not be happy and would always want more.
The God of love, mercy, and compassion, who comes seeking us always, does this in the present moment. Christ is in our midst. The Kingdom of God is in our midst in this present moment. It is not in some faraway place, but within us. “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
Prayer like history is an ever-unfolding journey. That blank piece of paper that is being written on by the goodness of God. It is always about new beginnings.
A spring time for our lives, and journey of the soul. Every moment of prayer just lives every time a sacrament is celebrated—every moment of silence, a new beginning for us, personally, in the church, and with humanity. It is a starting over again with that blank piece of paper.
An associate of the community.