I am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.
Today’s gospel reading (John 5:1-16) at the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus heals the man who had been lame for over thirty years struck a familiar chord. In that reading, Jesus asks a most obvious question: “Do you want to be healed?” He sensed that the man having been ill for so long, was stuck in that mode.
I remember hearing that question in my head when I had my throat blessed two years ago on the Feast of St. Blaise--that blessing healed my singing voice. Actually my answer to the question at that point was “No!”
Why the heck not??
I no longer wanted the responsibility associated with being a singer. It sounds ridiculous even as I write this but leading the singing at mass each week had become a grind. That’s what happens when you do it too long without a break. It was time to step aside and I used my lack of singing voice to do that. I sure as heck didn’t want my voice to come back–it would take away my excuse!
Eventually I came to understand that it was perfectly okay to take time away. I have only just returned to singing in church but this time as a member of the choir, without the leadership responsibility.
Get that elephant off of me!
Then there was the feeling of being stuck when it came to my weight. I felt like I had an elephant sitting on top of me–loosing weight seemed like an impossibility.
A rare hour spent in church in front of the monstrance changed everything. The grace I received from that time of prayer helped me to gently prod the elephant to move away. He did and I was able to embrace my diet (which is now a chosen lifestyle). I’ve lost 22 of the 27 pounds that I wish to lose. That elephant will not visit me again.
Praying at home
As I wrote in my spiritual journal, “Is My Day Your Day,” Even though I felt the insistent call again and again to stop, be still and pray, I could not get myself to do it. Again, it was time spent in adoration that caused that elephant to move away as well.
I was healed: my voice came back, I lost the weight, I’ve started praying in my corner each morning and each night.
Healing removes burdens, not just of the physical ailment or stubborn mindset, but of the guilt and attachment associated with those things.
Sometimes it is there for so long that it becomes your identity. It can be a excuse to avoid doing something that is difficult. It definitely requires a truthful assessment of yourself and that can be painful.
All of that was true. But in each case, I experienced transformation. SO worth it!
Not such a simple question is it: “Do you want to be healed?”
Welcome to this Lenten Mini Retreat of self-examination and discovery:
“The Journey Within: Seeing Ourselves in the Eyes of God by Following the Path of Jesus”
This retreat consists of an hour-long presentation of word and song. It is broken up into sections and features several short videos. You do not need to do the entire retreat in one sitting. In fact, I recommend that you do a portion each day over several days so that the lessons really sink in.
You will need three additional items in order to participate in this retreat:
I present this retreat to show that by following our Lord’s example we find that the journey of self-discovery is not a self-indulgent act but one of love, towards ourselves and our Creator. It is an act of humility where we come face to face with the ugly truths and weaknesses in our lives and give them over to God. It is a fruitful action, empowering us with the confidence and vision to carry out the wonderful life plan that God has given to us.
This presentation is drawn from chapter 6 my book, River of Grace. You will be led on a rich journey where you begin to see yourself as God’s beloved child, fearfully and wonderfully made with a glorious mission to fulfill.
Listen to Part One of this retreat–it is the longest segment, lasting approximately 34 minutes:
a. Watch the video:
2. Listen to Part Two (3 minutes, 55 seconds):
a. Watch the video:
3. Listen to Part Three (6 minutes, 35 seconds):
a. Watch the video and sing along:
4. Listen to Part Four (1 minute, 50 seconds):
a. Watch the video:
5. Listen to Part Five (1 minute, 41 seconds):
a. Watch the video and sing/pray along:
6. Listen to the last portion, Part Six (13 minutes, 1 second):
I hope you have enjoyed this mini retreat–perhaps it will lead to a lifelong habit of self-discovery. Remember always to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and follow every footstep of his path.
Lent is already well underway but perhaps you are still in need of ideas for your reflection. Click on any of the images below for blog posts, songs, videos podcast presentations and Flow Lesson exercises to enhance your Lenten experience:
Do you have a particular spiritual practice that helps you draw closer to God? Please feel free to leave a comment and share–we can all use new suggestions!
And please–feel free to share on your social media:
In this in-depth hour-long interview: we dive deep into River of Grace – gratitude in the midst of difficult times – obedience as a joyful “yes” to new adventures, new life after loss and restoring the joy of living, life metaphors for grace … Also, a quick sneak peak at Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message! Elizabeth Reardon really did her homework! Check it out.
Anyone who enjoys Contemporary Christian praise and worship music knows about Matt Maher. Coming on the scene in 2007, Maher has written and produced eight solo albums with three of them having reached the Top 25 Christian Albums Billboard chart; four of his singles have reached the Top 25 Christian Songs chart (Wikipedia). He was awarded the Dove Award this year for Songwriter of the Year and Best Song (“Because He Lives (Amen))” Continue reading “Matt Maher rocks the house for Christ”→
The album is finished and I can now give you a full preview. From listening to this preview you will see that I got an exceptionally good product for a budget of $1600; in fact, it’s phenomenal! I can’t begin to thank my producer, Ron Zabrocki, enough for his talent, vision and commitment to this project.
Here is a sample of all seven songs (minute long samples):
And here is the artwork for the CD:
I hope you have enjoyed this preview. My Indiegogo campaign is ending this Thursday, the 15th and we have a ways to go. Your donation would be most appreciated. We have the finished product but expenses need to be covered. Please visit my campaign at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey.
This past Wednesday was a BIG day. This arrived in the mail …
But that was not all. I also got the final mix of my soundtrack CD for River of Grace from the producer. And I have to say he really outdid himself. I sent him a text back with 7 hearts – one for each song!
It was one of those rare, extraordinary days that sends you into orbit and you just want to cling to that feeling forever. I will write about it in my journal so I can go back and bathe in that grace, that pure gift from God whenever discouragement knocks on my door.
Now, I would like to share what God gave to me with you.
River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times is a spiritual memoir that reveals how several major losses helped me rediscover creativity and faith. Published by Ave Maria Press, it is described as “Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace–in the Mass and the sacraments, nature and grief, and even through the life and works of Louisa May Alcott–River of Grace guides readers in strengthening their faith, discovering their own hidden gifts and restoring a joy in living during and after tough times.” It contains lots of practical spiritual exercises called Flow Lessons that lead you there. (Some of the Flow Lessons are on this site–check them out here.)
Losing a part of yourself
One of the losses I experienced was that of my singing voice. Yet throughout the writing of River of Grace, I kept thinking of songs that would fit with each chapter. While writing the third chapter on the loss of my voice, I experienced a miraculous healing after receiving a throat blessing on the Feast of St. Blaise.
This song was playing in my head; here’s a passage from chapter 3 on why:
How Can I Keep from Singing • Traditional Quaker hymn
“Instead of being raw and fragmented, I began to feel whole. A sense of wonder and deep gratitude welled up inside. The following Sunday as I entered the church to go to Mass I was immediately struck with the knowledge that I had received a significant healing with that throat blessing. I couldn’t wait to tell the priest.
Thereafter during Mass I noticed that it became easier to sing the hymns. Buoyed, I pushed my voice a bit further each week. One day while driving home after Mass I sang some of the most challenging songs in my repertoire including “I Know That My
Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah and discovered to my delight that I could sing them just as I had before. My voice had been restored. I had received a physical healing along with the emotional and spiritual.” (from chapter 3, River of Grace)
New life after loss
River of Grace is also about new life. In the writing I learned that creativity is far more than being able to sing, dance, paint or write. Creativity is all about intention. As the Lord led me on my journey towards a new creativity in my life, I thought of Psalm 103, traditionally read during the Easter season, and this song:
So that’s the big reveal! This project has been my life for the last two years and a lot of the transformation I write about happened as I was writing the book. Gotta love the immediacy of the Holy Spirit at work.
Ave Maria Press is everything everyone said it would be. Totally professional, really helpful, and daring, taking chances on newbies like myself. I am so honored to have a book published by them.
You can order River of Grace (the book) through Ave Maria Press and Amazon. Don’t forget to write a review after you’ve read it!
The CD will be available by the end of October; I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
Fundraiser almost over; still need your help
I hope you are enjoying these clips from the new CD. With the deadline of October 15 looming just around the corner, I still need much help in meeting the goal of raising $1600 to pay for the making of the CD. You can donate at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey. Every dollar counts. If you can only give $5 or $10, I will be so grateful. And for those who can give more, I am offering some rewards which I think you’ll appreciate.