The Grace Trifecta
Standing before a room of 30 or so women facilitating my first faith sharing back in 2006, I fumbled around for the proper words as I tried to answer one participant's seemingly simple question on the grace of God. What is grace? While I had this innate understanding, I could not formulate the right words to express what I believed it to be. I realized, I had no definition.
Fast forward a few years, I am sitting in a small chapel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (aka Jesus in the Eucharist). In my reading I once again face the question, what is grace? This time I open the Catechism of the Catholic Church; and prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit. That day the Allison abridged version of how I define the grace of God, was born.
Freely given, yet completely undeserved. We can not do anything to earn it; from his love we are lavished abundantly with the Spirit of God. The caveat, so to speak, is we do need to be open to receive it. Grace, though abundantly available, requires our invitation, our willingness to allow God to touch our lives in this magnificent way. Grace is God's Holy Spirit in US! It helps us to choose holiness; including the help we often (read in my case ALWAYS) need to make the better choices that will continually lead us to God and the holy lives we seek - and ultimately to eternity with Him, the Son, our Blessed Mother, and all the angels and saints, in heaven.
That evening nearly 10 years ago, not only was I completely unsure how to define grace but I also had no idea how to seek an increase of it within me. It was abundant and freely available; I could not earn it but how did I open myself to receive it?
After many more years of studying scripture, the Catechism and spending many hours in prayer and adoration; my heart began to understand that best way to this abundant outpouring of grace was through what I affectionately refer to as "The Grace Trifecta".
This trifecta encompasses our encounters with the Triune God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) in:
As St Paul teaches, I try to incorporate prayer into my every breathe - to 'pray without ceasing'. I am not on my knees or continually reciting a vocal prayer - but I am ever mindful of God in my life. Consciously aware that it is because of him that I have life; that he is in all things and with me in all circumstances. My first prayer of the day is to ask for his outpouring of grace into my heart so that I may never forget those important lessons; nor miss out on any of the many blessings he has for me hidden in each day!
At the core of every Sacrament is an encounter with Jesus Christ. It is impossible to have an encounter with Christ and not be changed. Every time we live out our Baptism; receive or adore him in the Eucharist; or receive forgiveness in Confession - we are changed. One of my favorite aspects of the Sacraments is how they interact with our senses. Catholicism is a full-body sport! In living a sacramental life one smells our prayers raising to heaven on the smoke of the incense; we see the body of Christ in the Church; we taste his body and blood in the Eucharist. We hear the call to holiness in the hymns, chants and prayers. We feel the touch of Christ in his priests during the anointing of Baptism, Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick. The Sacraments clearly bring us to our senses - and in doing so we are open, prepared and do in fact receive grace. Abundantly.
"The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." CCC 458
Maybe my math is a little off; as I am not the best mathematician but as I see it, Scripture = Grace because ...
God gave us Jesus to redeem and save us... out of love.
Jesus is the WORD made flesh.
That Word is revealed in the scriptures.
IF then we read the Word of God (aka Scripture) than it is infused by it's very nature in God's LOVE.
IT is from love that God sends us HIS Holy Spirit to abide in us - that love that is manifest in an outpouring of his abundant grace. So therefore reading the scripture opens our hearts and minds to the gift of grace. It is also an encounter with Christ - and I will reiterate - it is impossible to have experience with the Son of God and remain the same person. You will always walk away changed for the better ... and that is grace!
All rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
Cover and inset photo credit: Debbie Gaudino, Saints365 2016
All The Ingredients
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God's Healing Waters
Do you ever feel like you are just waiting for someone to lift you into God’s healing waters? What if once cleansed of your ailment, you could return again and again for further assurance of healing, a spiritual refresher?
In this Gospel reading from John, we read about a man crippled for over 38 years. He has long been waiting to experience the healing power of God. This Gospel not only challenged me to consider the remarkable healing power of Christ but also His compassion and mercy. The Gospel of John, Chapter 5 begins: One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?’” The sick man answered him,“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Dependence On What
After reflecting on this conversation between the man and Jesus, it occurred to me that there are aspects of my finances dependent on my employer, my health reliant on my doctor and my spiritual well-being conditional on my priest; ultimately the most important dependency is on Jesus. It is not that my faith in Jesus negates the need for the others: each is an integral part in attaining that particular well-being I desire. With Jesus, as John’s Gospel illustrates, so much more is possible, including the miraculous:Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk. Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
There is Always More with Jesus
At first, today’s Gospel appears to be all about the physical. However, as so often happens when we encounter Christ, there is always more. We see Jesus’ desire for a deeper connection with us. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more,so that nothing worse may happen to you.” We see this same occurrence with the man lowered by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus. We see again and again how in healing physical maladies, Jesus demonstrates the authority given to him by God. It is this same power that allows him to forgive sins.
A Personal Analogy
For the last year, I have been battling Atopic Dermatitis aka eczema on my hands. Eczema is an incurable and chronic ailment. I feel so defeated with those words – incurable and chronic. There are days when the itch or pain is almost more than I can bear. In those moments, I am reminded of the long suffering people seeking Jesus’ healing in the Gospels. Jesus uses their suffering and healing to teach those healed as well as those witnessing the healing, I prayed for an insight into my current condition. It was no coincidence that I would have today’s readings to ponder.
Comparing Reconciliation and Chronic Illness
There are remarkable similarities between the eczema on my hands and the sin on my soul. Both need healing. For my hands there are remedies such as medicines and creams; for the soul there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I saw other connections:
I often feel embarrassed and ashamed of my hands and want to hide them, much like being caught in the shame or guilt of sin and wanting to hide from God. Covering up (either my illness or my sins) does no good in bringing about healing. My external healing means exposing the skin to the healing properties of the sun, transforms them from broken and useless to whole again. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the healing grace of the Son, radically transforms my soul, healing my spiritual brokenness, making me whole again.
Broken Skin, Broken Relationships
The hardest part of losing full use of my hands has been communicating with my daughter. She is profoundly deaf and our family uses American Sign Language to communicate. Since my hands started to bother me last June, I have sometimes felt as if I trying to talk with laryngitis. I am acutely aware that I don’t speak to my daughter as often as I should or as thoroughly due to this.
I lament that my disease has, at times, robbed me of the close relationship my daughter and I are privileged to enjoy. To be fully healed like the man waiting to be lifted into the healing waters, I must be willing to accept the love and mercy of Christ. When I avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my communication with him is strained, like trying to sign with crippled hands or speak with no voice. This great authority given to the Son of God is the same bestowed upon our priests through Jesus. We don’t have to wait to receive this healing. While our desire may be physical health, Christ desires so much more for us.
Christ is asking you right now, “Do you want to be well?”
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My Worry Remedy
This summer, my daughter discovered The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix. As I watched a few of the black and white episodes with her, it made me nostalgic for a more simple and peaceful time. As the show progressed into color I noticed the story lines began to reveal the reality of life. There has always been and this side of heaven, there will always be, something to threaten the peace Jesus came to leave us, even in the most idyllic settings.
That does not mean we should wave our anxiety flags in defeat. A faith in Christ comes with hope, as St. Peter declared, “a living hope.” When troublesome times arise, it is easy to become frightened and worried. Jesus counsels us as to the worthlessness of worry when he says, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
Worry changes nothing, including the inevitable of a fixed life expectancy. Trust me on this one: I’ve tested it out one too many times! As if Jesus’ words were not clear enough for us to see the frivolousness of a life of fretting, Padre Pio advised, “Pray, hope, do not worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
As someone who struggles daily with anxiety, I find comfort and strength in the many beautiful traditions and devotions of the Catholic faith. When I worry, I tend to be paralyzed by my thoughts. My worries, fears, and concerns can spin round and round on the hamster wheel of my thoughts for hours and days! These are just 5 of the many devotions I have found to break anxiety’s spell on me. Not only do some of these devotions give me healthy and helpful actions, but they also renew my thoughts so I can once again focus on Christ and live in hope.
Once considered the prayer of grandmothers, old-fashioned and even a chore to pray, the Rosary is finally getting the respect it deserves. For a worrier, the familiar prayers offer encouragement and the feel of the beads through my fingers brings comfort. Often, I use my Rosary as a “Spiritual Abacus,” praying each bead for a special intention such as a sick friend, a hope for my child, or in thanksgiving for a blessing! As my wise friend Michael once told me, “Prayer isn’t the least you can do; it is the most you can do.”
SACRED HEART OF JESUS
This devotion won my heart with its 12 Promises. Nothing soothes a worrier’s heart like healing, protective, security-offering promises from God. Those Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus given to us through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are:
Seven years ago, our family was blessed to welcome a little girl via adoption. We were so thrilled when we received her photograph in April and were informed we’d be able to travel and bring her home in 6 to 8 weeks. That quickly expanded to 6 months! The wait was agonizing, often triggering my negative-Nelly thoughts until I would be convinced something would prevent us from becoming her forever family. This is when I discovered the calming effects of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The boys and I made it a habit to pray the Chaplet every day at 3 o’clock during our long wait and received many incredible insights and blessings. By the end of 2009, Faith become a permanent part of our family, as did this special trust-producing prayer.
Time in our quiet chapel with Jesus has done more for overcoming my anxiety than any other remedy I have attempted. No matter how wound up I arrive, Jesus always has a way of straightening me out. Whether I spend my time in quiet contemplative prayer, engaged in spiritual reading, or engrossed in Scripture; this time apart from the busy world always brings me peace. Some of my Adoration visits have been wrought with tears, pleas, groans, and sighs; yet Jesus never leaves me in that knotted state. This ‘foretaste of Heaven’ as St. Teresa of Avila referred to Adoration as always gives me the hope I seek in the most troubling and unsettling of circumstances.
The Miraculous Medal is what is known as a Sacramental.
“Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” ~ Catechism Catholic Church 1667
A Miraculous Medal has been around my neck since 2007 and has been touched upon the relic of many a Saint. My anxiety always subsides when I reach up and feel the raised imprint of Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Saints, and remember she along with many other friends in heaven (my Saint Posse) are bringing my prayer intentions to Jesus.
The Mystical Catholic Faith
I was born into a Catholic family but not necessarily into the Catholic faith. My family attended Mass on Christmas and Easter and while our religious education classes were in session, yet I have no memory of discussing with my family what it meant to be Catholic. We prayed together ONLY during thunderstorms. I was so unaware of what was in Bible that I was in my 30s before realizing the readings at all the Masses were indeed Scripture!
In 2005, my life completely changed when I was invited to a bible study at a friend's home. There I started to read and learn about the beauty of studying Scripture, and developing a relationship with Christ. Then came a moment when I was faced with making an important decision of faith - stay Catholic or follow my very best friends into the Evangelical Church. Although, I loved them and even loved the music, services and fellowship of their church, it was not enough to call me away from the Catholic Church.
What followed was years of prayer, study and discovery of the faith I grow up with but until I embraced it for myself finally grow into! Every day I discover something new about the Catholic faith making this month's Catholic Women Blogger Network's Blog Hop topic: Why I Love my Catholic Faith, one of my favorite blog shares this year!
Here are just 5 of the many reasons I LOVE my Catholic Faith:
My Very Own Saint Posse
Let me introduce you to my Saint Posse - from top left to right:
FaceTime with Jesus
My road to sitting with Jesus in Adoration began nearly 10 years ago. Quite, some might say it was serendipitous but after these many hours in His presence, I would say this has the Holy Spirit's finger prints all over it!!
My husband and I, along with our kids, had just made the transition to this new Church. It was actually where we met and were eventually married, but we'd not worshiped there since our wedding. We had moved out of town, and spend many years at my childhood Church until circumstances arouse that made it clear it was time to find a new place to call our Spiritual Home.
I was going through a very difficult time spiritually, emotionally and mentally - and in hopes of accelerating the healing, I began attending daily Mass as often as I could. One morning, as I was leaving, a woman I knew very well from the Church was sitting chatting with a friend on the little stone wall right outside the lower church's doorway. She looked up to greet me, with a warmth that I rarely encountered anywhere else in my life. After initial niceties, and we catching up on her daughters, she asked me if I had signed up for weekly adoration yet. I felt a little embarrassed as I didn't know much about Eucharist Adoration, and definitely had no desire to spend an entire hour sitting by myself in the musty chapel.
What happened next, though I would not realize for many years, was about to change my life forever. ... Read More
Doodads that Remind Me to Pray and that I am Never Alone
Each Doodad has a story to tell. These remind me of the many blessings God has bestowed and serve as a reminder to pray and remember that I am never alone. In this world and in the one still veiled from my eyes exist a plethora of blessings and grace to sustain me on this journey. One of my favorite aspects of the Catholic faith are what we call Sacramentals. These are not lucky charms or magical tokens but beautiful, sometimes quirky, outward signs of the grace available to us from God though prayer, Sacrament and Scripture.
Let me explain some found in my office/studio "shrine":
Outward Signs of God's Ever Present Grace
Ah the Sacraments! Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick, and most importantly, the Eucharist. Outward signs of God's grace. Probably the less understood aspect of my Catholic faith until my 'reversion' in 2006 (well into my 30s)!
Grace, the undeserved, yet freely given gift of God's Holy Spirit within us abounds in the reception and participation of the Sacraments. Even though we receive only once - Baptism, Confirmation (and for some Matrimony and/or Holy Orders) - continue to pour out grace into our lives. It was not until I was faced with a crisis of faith and investigated why the Sacraments existed in the Catholic Church did I learn what an incredible GIFT they truly are!
Holy Vacation Destinations
Holy Places to Visit - the list is extensive here are a few to get you started:
Another Reason I LOVE My Catholic Faith