Thursday, September 8, 2011

Transformed by Love - Our Testimonies, Part 3

Noelle Curry

Last year, on Tuesdays, I started praying the Rosary while reflecting on the image of the Sacred Heart at the Newman Center. I grew up with the same picture of the Sacred Heart in my home, and it always scared me. I decided that I would sit there until it didn’t scare me anymore. As I reflected on the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I would pray that I too could understand more and become a part of the Heart of hearts. One Wednesday in Adoration, I was prayed over, and as I held this desire in my heart, I fell to my knees and knew God was moving in me. In all of this I didn’t know what I was really asking or still quite fully understand, but I believe it all to be God’s desire.
We prepared for the pilgrimage with St. Louis de Montfort’s 33 day preparation for the Consecration to Jesus through Our Lady. In Lourdes, France we met Our Mother in the grotto and consecrated ourselves to her on August 15. I now have more understanding that everything I have is no longer mine and that is such a relief. In Madrid, our holy father, Pope Benedicto, consecrated us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on August 20. It really happened! And Pope Benedict did not just bless us but he sent his love and blessings to our families and friends. Then we went on to the Holy Family Basilica where God brought us together as a family. Then again we went to see Mama Mary at the Miraculous Medal, then onto the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and then to the home of St. Therese where Our Lady of the Smile smiled upon us and all of those in our life. To Jesus, through Our Mother, to let His love be shown unto our family, the world.
One of the messages I received on WYD was very simple: Jesus says, “Come just as you are.” His invitation is open to all of us no matter how broken we are or how much we don’t believe in Him. This is just the beginning. From here God’s graces will continue to unravel and there will be more climbs. Oh man! Praise the Lord!

Ali Lundstrum

Firstly, to prepare for pick-pocketing I put miraculous medals in my pockets in the hope that our Blessed Mothers love would move their hearts to conversion! The most powerful moment(s) was the 3 times I was dipped into the waters at Lourdes (and seeing Pope Benedict!!!) It was profoundly peaceful, I felt very close to Mother Mary in those moments – as if I was resting in her Immaculate Heart! The second time I went in the baths, Sister Faustina and I were walking past and saw the line was really short (hour wait instead of 3 hour wait), so we rushed to get in line and she started calling the other Sisters on her radio and I sent my guardian angel (Demetrius) to get the other pilgrims - Padre Pio would totally approve. Then about 20 minutes later Kristi comes walking by, and she gets in line with us. When I told her I sent Demetrius to get her and asked her what made her walk past the baths, she laughed and said that she wasn’t going anywhere specific: she actually was asking her guardian angel (Joy), “Where are we going?!”

The most beautiful part about the trip was the transformation the Blessed Mother made to my heart. Ever since I made the consecration to Mary, she has been giving me her heart in little ways – I’ve noticed my desires becoming more beautiful: desiring Mass, adoration, the rosary, self-denial for the conversion of sinners, and the blossoming of her virtues in my life. And when I was prayed over by Dana before NK42, she had an image of the Blessed Mother giving me her heart for mine (and I was so happy because the Blessed Mother loves Jesus with all her strength and that’s all I want to do!) Also, ever since Mother Adela encouraged me at the charismatic conference to ask for the Blessed Mothers heart, I knew Mary would do something powerful at Lourdes – and she did! She truly is the Mother of Mercy!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Transformed by Love - Our Testimonies, Part 2

Cassie Kowaleski

When I first heard we could drink the holy water at Lourdes I was confused.  In my mind Holy water was only for exorcisms and blessing things.  It was sacred, and I guess to me sacred meant special, unique, rare, definitely not for me.   Holy and sacred were words that described something other-worldly, from biblical times, about saints, and Jerusalem - not something I could experience in normal life in something so simple as taking a sip from my water bottle.  Holiness was something to be admired from afar, it wasn't something I could achieve.  Sure, two of the holiest people from our modern times, Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta both agreed holiness is for everyone.  But this sinner thought that was easy for super holy people to say.

On our trip, the Sisters taught us about purity, both in words and by their actions.  They explained that saints had pure hearts, and having a pure heart meant loving only 1 thing.  Saints loved Jesus Christ and sought Him as their only desire, putting Him above all else, trusting Him in all circumstances.  Accepting every gift He gives you, understanding that our understanding is limited and His wisdom is infinite.  Saints say yes to everything Christ asks of them and always seek to know Him better.  I learned God is infinite, we can always know Him better and love Him more.  There is no end to His love!  Wow! 

When the Sisters asked us to think about our favorite miracle story, I didn't have to think long.  Mine has always been when Christ walks on the water.  Perhaps I can identify so strongly with Peter walking across the water with my eyes on Christ, wanting to be close to Him, but easily distracted.  When I look away from Christ and see the evil in the world and the sin in my own heart, I get discouraged and I start to sink.  I always used to think I was sinking because God was punishing me for not looking at Him, but I was wrong.  God is like any good father, he disciplines His children so that we understand what is good for us.  A two-year old may want to hold a knife and may cry if you take it from him, but every good parent takes the knife anyway.  Otherwise their child would hurt himself.  My sinking is my reminder of what I really desire, of where my eyes should be. God disciplines us because He knows exactly what we need and don't need.

Still unsure about drinking the water, I decided the water from the grotto in Lourdes was at least going to be colder than what I had brought.  So I got in line and watched horrified as people were wasting the water, letting it just pour out onto the ground.  It seemed a flawed design plan: people should be able to turn the tap off and on so that no water would be wasted.  And then my eyes were opened and I realized, God is infinite.  He didn't give us just enough water, He gave us much more than we need.  John 6:13 tells us that when Jesus fed the 5,000 there was enough bread left over to fill 12 baskets.  God is constantly trying to explain to us that He is not just enough for us, He is more than enough.  This doesn't mean we should take His gifts for granted or purposely waste them, but in this instance watching the water pour out, I could hear Him smile at me and remind me that all of the containers in the world can not contain Him.  It doesn't matter how organized I get or how carefully I plan, God gives His gifts as He pleases, and it pleases Him to pour His love lavishly upon us all.  Whether we choose to receive it is up to us.

I thought God was distant because I was asking Him to be.  I wanted control of my life, I wanted to be my own God, and good as God is, He lets us choose that.  But when we invite God into our hearts He comes!  He wants to be intimately associated with each of us!  He desires to be part of us, to be involved in every aspect of our lives, even the simple, everyday acts such as drinking water.  He is the best friend we've always wanted, He's always listening, always there, always in love with you.  Holiness isn't for other people, in other places, in times way past and over.  Holiness is for each of us, right here, today.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Transformed by Love - Our Testimonies

 Kristi Bergman

Scripture tells us, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 24:25).” In order to live life abundantly, Jesus tells us that we must die to ourselves, and like a seed, St. Paul tells us that we must be planted in Jesus Christ (Col 2:7)  In a beautiful way this pilgrimage was a sweet fulfillment of where I am to be planted and a sweet reassurance of the cultivation of my “seed offering”. With the Pope’s words of consecration I was planted in the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the hands of our Lady.  She tenderly prepared this seed and washed me clean in Lourdes.  On the feast of the Assumption, I was granted the graces to confidently renew my consecration at her feet in the grotto our Lourdes.  One year ago to that date I gave Our Lady My heart in Guadeloupe.  I believe in special way she brought me to Lourdes again to show me how she has been preparing the seed of my heart the whole year long to be planted in her Son’s heart. 

When I was in 4th grade I fell in love with a particular picture of Jesus that I cut out from a book and tapped it above my bed.  The black-and-white photo-like picture was Jesus with outstretched arms and His visible Sacred Heart burning in his chest.  Even to this day, this picture remains close at hand, and while I have seen many Sacred Heart images, I have never seen this particular picture.  That is, until we entered the Visitation Convent in Madrid, and my heart leapt as I saw the original colored version hanging in the chapel.  It was as though my Lord had been preparing me most my life for the events that were to come.  Our Lord also prepared our hearts for the consecration to His Heart through our providential circumstance in which we were able to celebrate the votive Mass of the Sacred Heart back at the Visitation chapel.  Of course the days following the Consecration the Lord offered opportunities for thanksgiving at the Sacred Heart Church in Barcelona and Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris.

Our trip began with our Lady’s preparation and ended with her maternal reassurance that we could trust her in cultivating the seed she planted in Her Son’s Heart.  Kneeling on the stairs before our Lady in the Basilica of the Miraculous Medal, I opened my heart to receive every grace streaming forth from her hands and enrolled myself in the school of Mary.  Finally, I wept with joy before Our Lady of the Smile in Liseux. The healing prayer of Our Lady of the Smile had begun our pilgrimage and, here she had brought us back to reassure us of her protection.  Never before had I felt her maternal love as tenderly as at that moment.  She sweetly wiped away all tears, replaced fear with joy, and in a graced-filled moment revealed her heavenly maternity as more authentic than my human perception of the relationship with my own biological mother. I have such confidence in my dear Mother that she will cultivate my dying seed into the fruitful flower God has intended me be. 
Immaculate Heart of Mary, I hope in you!
Oh Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you!

Claire Kunkel

What hit me the most was the people that I went to WYD with. God works through every single one of them in a different way. Whether it was in praise and worship or just how they reacted to different things on the trip and especially how they brought out the best in me. They helped open my heart and feel so welcome and loved. My faith has grown a lot and I know what I need to work on in my spiritual life. By the end of the trip I was on speaking terms with God again and began a relationship with Momma Mary. The experience was amazing and I can't say thank you enough to God for calling me to go on the trip, and to everyone that went on the pilgrimage. I love you all so much. You have become part of my family.