Monday, January 30, 2012

Christians in Relationship: What Gives?

Tell me the truth: Does this describe the relationships you experience within your parish, your diocese?

We thank God constantly that in receiving his message from us you took it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe.

Brothers, you have been made like the churches of God in Judea which are in Christ Jesus. You suffered the same treatment from your fellow countrymen as they did from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us. Displeasing to God and hostile to all mankind, they try to keep us from preaching salvation to the Gentiles. All this time they have been “filling up their quota of sins,” but the wrath has descended upon them at last.

Brothers, when we were orphaned by separation from you for a time—in sight, not in mind—we were seized with the greatest longing to see you. So we tried to come to you—I, Paul, tried more than once—but Satan blocked the way. Who, after all, if not you, will be our hope or joy, or the crown we exult in, before our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? You are our boast and our delight.

That is why, when we could endure it no longer, we decided to remain alone at Athens and send you Timothy. He is our brother and God’s fellow worker in preaching the gospel of Christ, and so we sent him to strengthen and encourage you in regard to your faith lest any of you be shaken by these trials. You know well enough that such trials are our common lot. When we were still with you, we used to warn you that we would undergo trial; now it has happened, and you know what we meant.

That is why I sent to find out about your faith when I could stand the suspense no longer, fearing that the tempter had put you to the test and all our labor might have gone for nothing.

But now, brothers, since Timothy has returned to us from you reporting the good news of your faith and love, and telling us that you constantly remember us and are as desirous to see us as we are to see you, we have been much consoled by your faith throughout our distress and trial—so much so that we shall continue to flourish only if you stand firm in the Lord!

What thanks can we give to God for all the joy we feel in his presence because of you, as we ask him fervently night and day that we may see you face to face and remedy any shortcomings in your faith?

May God himself, who is our Father, and our Lord Jesus make our path to you a straight one! And may the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. (1 Thess. 2:13 - 3:13, Grail Translation)

What has happened to the ability of Christians to have a holy ardor one for another, the type of which St. Paul bears witness to in his letter to a church he birthed through his preaching. What stake to we have in each other's lives?

Sin separates us from God, within ourselves, and from our neighbor. It almost seems we seek comfort in this separation. Everyone knows some horror story of relationships between Christians gone crazy, whether it is an account of a pedophile or of a preacher's thinly veiled attraction to adultery disguised as a new revelation to lead his congregation to greater "spiritual intimacy" with one another. Wild stories scare us perhaps because our own propensity to sin scares us. After all, we don't want to fall into some sort of horrendous sin, right?

Such "fear of sin" might simply be a cloak for sin itself. Fear might simply confirm one in spiritual torpor and sloth.  Remember what Bl. Teresa of Calcutta said of the West:
“You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness. They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don't know what it is.
“What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.” 

We cannot hope to share the gospel of Christ in any meaningful way without sharing our lives. We cannot share our lives with the sin that separates us left as an obstacle which we avoid rather than address. Forget preaching to others unless in the first place we bend our knees and fling our hearts open to radiance of the Blessed Trinity. Let the ardor of Christ captivate and transform you. Then, live the reality He has shown you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Because Your Love is Better than Life

Dear Jesus,

At different times in my life you have called to me. You've called to me through the presence, the concern, the service, the love of a lot of people. I've not noticed them all, I'm sure. But that didn't stop you from sending me more people who've helped me to see your face and know your heart. Now I know for sure that you love me and I can trust you, even when I don't understand.

What's more, Jesus, I know You do this sort of thing for everyone. And you can do this through everyone. I know that, just as I wouldn't have the exact certainty of Your love that I have, were it not for certain people I've known, so You've worked it out that other people out there are not going to have their certainty of Your love for them without me.

So, for the people who need me in order to see You, I pray, dear Jesus. I pray for me: help me to stay extremely sensitive to You and Your movements and Your love for all. I pray for them: help them to open their hearts to You in love and trust.

For your love, oh Lord, is better than life! (Ps. 63:4)


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Overture to Carmel?

It's been a little shocking to me to realize how intricately my life has been wound around working on my CD. In one way or another, either the question or the reality of this project has been etching itself into my heart and soul for over a year. I suppose etching is one of those things one might not notice is actually happening while it happens. I mean, I did, but... It's like a sound that is constant, and all of a sudden there is silence. There's a little bit something death-like to having that part of this process be complete. And yet it is not so much a grieving type of death. It feels maybe more like the end of one movement of something and the silence before the next movement starts.

It just feels weird.

I feel like I have done everything I need to do. Yes, I have 1,000 of these puppies coming my way in a few weeks, and I will need to do what I can to sell them and reassure my husband that I have not wasted a couple thousand dollars. But already I know the money is not wasted. I did not make this CD because I think I have this amazing, stellar talent that needs attention and showcasing. Gag. I did not make this CD because of a desire to "minister to people." God does that. Really, I made this CD out of a sense of obedience to God, and out of a sense -- now I see how accurate that sense was -- that I needed this process for the salvation of my own soul.

I have no idea what happens next, and frankly if nothing much happens next other than a few people buying CDs and saying "oh, that's nice," I'm perfectly fine with that. But I know that God is doing something interiorly in me. I know it is good. So many times I get this aching sense of God doing something, I usually can't say what, but I want to say something about it. And I usually can't, so why do I try? Why? I guess because I want to understand! I want to know where I am and where I am going.

That's reasonable, right?

All I know is that my heart is very drawn to Carmel. This is not strange. The Carmelite saints have made my heart burn since the first time I met them. I was writing a paper for my Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy class on Christian Mysticism, and as I read St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, as well as Hugh of St. Victor and others, I was bowled over. My heart had longed for a place it felt at home spiritually, and even though I was in a Lutheran college and attending a non-denom fellowship, I remember dropping the book on the table and praying emphatically, "Lord, if there is anyone left on the face of the earth who lives and believes like these folks, these are the people I want to be with."

A couple of years later when I first started talking with my friend who had returned to his Catholic faith and upset my whole life by it, I asked him, "are there people around still like St. Theresa of Avila?" I expected him to say no, of course not, but he not only assured me there were but later provided me with a little book about Teresian prayer. I spent lots of time at Holy Hill during my conversion process and afterwards.

And then a couple years ago, after my parish choir started messing with my life in divine ways, St. John of the Cross seemed to start resounding in my life powerfully again, especially through the book Impact of God, which I wrote about here. And on it has gone from there. I've been in touch with the local Carmelite community. It makes sense.

Being drawn to Carmel isn't about playing around, though. I discovered, for example, that recording is hard work. It is not only singing and deciding and doing musical things, there was a lot of emotional investment and a lot of working out being free interiorly so that the music could come out. It is hard work of every sort, body, soul and spirit. And I saw my weaknesses, for example in playing guitar -- I wished I'd spent more of the last 20 years playing guitar and not getting so dreadfully rusty. (God supplied the help I needed, thankfully, for I don't need to have all abilities myself!) But hard work demonstrates the need for hard work. If one doesn't work hard, one believes it doesn't matter, and the doors that could open otherwise stay shut. I have the same sense about being drawn to the commitment of prayer. Prayer can't be about giving me warm fuzzies of one sort or another. I don't, I mustn't love God nor people in order to please myself or get happy.

Really, being drawn to Carmel is really being drawn to Christ. He has so many ways to call to us and draw us and teach us and lead us on, but the goal is all the same: union with the Blessed Trinity in Christ. Part and parcel of that is being the frail, weak and sinful human beings we are and opening ourselves to the grace which infills and transforms.

I don't know what comes tomorrow. But this is what I see today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

What is God Whispering to You?

In the last few years it seems to me that the Lord takes about a year or so to communicate to me one sentence, one thought. And I don't mean that the Lord says the same thing over and over again to me for a year. It is more like the one thought takes that long to reach from His heart to mine.

Just today I read someone quoting Pope Benedict in asking "What is God whispering to you?" I didn't see the context of this quote, but I like it just the way it stands because it presumes rather than proposes this kind of Divine Whisper. Of course God whispers to our souls. Whispers can be easily overlooked when we are distracted, and I think they can be scary when we perceive them. At least I think of that when a human being near me whispers to me. I used to tend to ignore the first whisper I'd hear probably out of fear of looking too eager to respond, and worrying that it was just my wishful thinking that someone wanted my "secret" attention. I think I have treated God's whispers that way too sometimes. Couldn't be God. Wish it were. But why would God want my attention?!

What is God whispering to me? It takes courage to consider it. It takes faith; it takes trust. I am wanted by God. When I face that fact it makes me glow with joy.

What is God whispering to me? Right now?

This CD I've been working on is nearly complete, and soon I'll have 1000 copies (!) to try to pawn off on people. This project has been a work of faith from the very beginning. The only reason I undertook it was that I felt God call me to do so. It has been His desire. It has been like a large work of penance for me, and God has provided for all that I have needed along the way. I've learned a lot in many ways, and I've watched God prove His faithfulness once again. I feel my many shortcomings and I have a much more realistic view of myself. I've learned how good and pleasant it is to rely on other people for help, and how to value them rightly. I've changed a lot.

But through all that good stuff, what is God whispering to me? I think of the song Daughter which appears as the final track. This song spoke to me powerfully -- dramatically -- when I first heard it. The song in and of itself was an encounter with the Lord, coming as it does right from Scripture, and from the voice one whom God had already used in a powerful way in my life. This song ministered life to me, pure and simple. What God is whispering to me is that I've come full circle, and now He ministers life through me. I was a broken mess when that song reached me in 1986. I had "broken mess" as my identity for quite some time, too. What God is whispering to me is that long ago He crumpled up that identity and blew it away, and that something new has emerged.

I suppose the act of recording music for others to hear is itself an offering of healing to the world. That's my concept behind the CD cover art (which unfortunately I can't figure out how to post just now). The image is supposed to communicate one who receives from God, and in dramatic surrender to God extends himself to the viewer/listener for that healing to touch him/her, too. One could say that's the theme behind all of the songs, too.

But I know it is about so much more than singing, music, or these songs. These are just tangible markers for something God is doing deep within me. It is quite simple. God is love. He bestows love, Himself, on us His creatures. Experiencing God's love, I am drawn to love in return not only Him but in Him, all He has created -- primarily other human souls. My love extended out draws that which I love back to God, because there is this one rhythm of love that God breathes: I give to you, you give to Me, I give to you, you give to Me. When we love, we give that which we love back to God. Therefore we should never ever be afraid of love or afraid to love. The trick lies in the purification of our souls so that we are not calling "love" something which is simply the indulgence of our carnality and pride.

What is God whispering to me? Love. Go and love. It's not a feeling; it is definitely not an indulgence. It is giving back to God (by giving to others) that which He has given to me. It takes deliberate choice, courage, faith, humility. This is how I worship God.

Lord, graciously help me to walk in the light You have given.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Meaning Series: Deliberate

This is the last of the songs from Unleashed I have to write about. It was also the last one to be recorded, because I had intended to use a different song called Song of the Bride, but I couldn't get that one to come together the way I wanted it to. I wrote this one October 26, 2011 at the direction of my friend Br. Neven Pesa, who had challenged me to write a song every week last fall. My particular assignment when I wrote this song was to get out my father's keyboard (which has been mine since he passed 10 years ago) and write a song entirely on keyboard. Despite the fact that I don't play the keyboard. It seemed an impossible task even simply on the emotional level of taking something of my father's and really making it mine in the intimate way one must to write music. Then of course there was the minor detail of having not seriously played piano, even to play around with it, for three decades. Then there was the time frame of one week. Then there was the need for inspiration for lyrics.

But, he had challenged me, and nothing motivates me like trying to live up to an agreement made to a friend. The result was a song that I really like (and Neven really liked to, and was impressed with) that just dug like a shovel right into my guts at the time. It is not complicated musically, as one might expect, and the song depends on the vocals for color and interest.

Here are the lyrics:

Can you tell me what you do to crack an egg
Do you tap-tap-tap that thing just a little bit
Oh no, no, no
But you can’t lose control
You can’t smash it with your fist

You gotta make the break deliberate
Uh huh huh
Make the break deliberate
Uh huh huh
Make the break deliberate
Make the break deliberate

Now you see I’ve got a heart that’s like an egg
What it holds down deep inside I gotta give if I will live
Oh yeah yeah yeah
Why do I resist the hand that comes to bring me life

I gotta make the break deliberate (etc)

I trust you
I trust You
I trust You

So in my life I choose to lay it all on the line
I will die with you so that my heart can truly live
Uh yeah yeah yeah
Taken blessed broken given now to feed a hungry world
This song speaks to me where I am right now. To serve Christ, we must make conscious choices for Him. This song goes through my mind, for example, when I wake in the morning and have to climb out of my warm bed in order to pray instead of sleep some more. Simple example, but most of our decisions to die to ourselves are of this order.

My friend Joe Zamberlan stepped in to play the piano for me as my own keyboard skills might be enough to create the music, but not to play it without lots of stops and starts. The whole song was rehearsed and recorded all on January 4. Finally, after six months of recording, I have gotten to the point where I can sing a song the way I mean for it to sound in just one or two takes. I think in reality I'm just about ready now to start recording!
Marie Hosdil: Unleashed

The Meaning Series: Sunday Morning

Unleashed is now finished, in terms of recording. Tomorrow we do the mastering, and then it is done!  And I have two songs that I haven't written about yet.

I wrote Sunday Morning on November 16, 1986 when I was a few days shy of 19. (It was so long ago I was still Lutheran!) This song came to me as sort of a surprise, and for that reason I've always had a unique kind of respect for it. That is to say, I remember vividly starting out to write this song primarily as an expression of self-pity. It is about a lonely person who goes to church. But as I wrote about my fictionalized self in the third person, it was as if in my prayer the Lord met me, right there, and asked me to look at my situation with different eyes. As a result, the ending of the song literally surprised me as I wrote it, and spoke to me at a very deep level of my need. Jesus essentially told me that I was not the real lonely one in a religious, communal, or social setting; it is He. He is lonely and aching for us to see Him.

Here are the lyrics:

Sunday morning and he walks into your church
He sits in a pew towards the back
He listens to the sermon and he sings the hymns and he prays the prayers
Why still does he feel like no one here really cares

We go to church and we sit in our separate private clans
Unaware of the need our brother has
Do you see a tear trickle down his face
Or are you trying to soak up all God’s grace for you

Don’t you know that Jesus died for that one you’ve refused to see
Jesus’ love isn’t only for you and me

Back in church again, and yes I see him sitting there
But tell me please, what should I say
I say “good morning” look at him and I even shake his hand
I’ve done my duty, now I can be through with this man

Just like that I left him in my church today
Never meaning to give him a second thought
Then I looked into the hand that I shook with his a
And I saw the blood from the wounds of the nails that held him high

Through the eyes of the least of them
Jesus searches us
What answer will you give when he asks “where is your love.”

I changed some of the phrases in the lyrics some years ago to better express the theological truth of the song (my original ending sounded rather harsh). But essentially the message is that the real measure of a Christian is his love for the forgotten ones who are right in our midst. For years and years I was quite invested in different avenues of spiritual pride, in making sure I looked very holy to myself and others. But acts of real love done in secret for needy ones? That kind of thinking or behaving wasn't even on my radar screen. There is truly nothing scarier than a loveless Christian. It is such a contradiction in terms. But if Christian formation is all about right doctrine, right information, and right experiences, and holiness is seen primarily in terms of keeping away from contaminants (namely, other people whose thoughts and experiences are not up to par with mine) -- that is pretty much a recipe for loveless Christians. The call to follow Christ has to be all about Him ravishing our souls, alluring us, awakening such a desire within us that we can no longer be satisfied with anything but more of Him. Let right doctrine follow, but let us not be skeletal and unenfleshed. Let us hang on His every word and cast ourselves into every one of His precepts not out of a prideful desire to be right, but out of a lover's abandon to her beloved: I don't care what you ask of me; everything and anything you say is the only place my heart can dwell in peace, but You who are all Good say nothing but that which makes me fully myself, so I also trust you completely....

The popular video of late by the young man who claims to hate religion but love Jesus has reminded me of this song. When I wrote this, I was quite in the thick of his thinking, and it was precisely because I was experiencing loveless Christianity. Catholics might rightly point out that going to church is not a social situation but a communal one; we are not there to love on each other, but to commune with Christ. As a Catholic, I know that now. But the missing factor is that if we do not have an experience of loving on each other we will not be able to enter into communion with Christ in the way He intends. Yes, God can and does supernaturally overcome all of our sin-created barriers, but His standard way of operating is using the love of the Body of Christ to bring sinners to repentance. Once upon a time, families came standard with a sense of communal love. In our culture I don't believe one should ever presume that today, even among "church" families. We can argue doctrine (and I believe fully that right doctrine is absolutely essential), but love must be the alpha and the omega. To love is to be holy. Period.  St. John of the Cross reminds us that our final judgment will be based on how we have loved. Period. And it is futile to think we can adequately love other people without surrendering our hearts in love to the Lover who seeks us and waits for access to our hearts, who awaits our surrender.

Anyway, these are some thoughts generated in me by this song today.
Marie Hosdil: Unleashed

Monday, January 09, 2012


Been thinking lately about why I write. This blog has undergone several shifts in focus since I started it almost five years ago. Heck, I've undergone several shifts during that time! I'm not really sure if I have "regular" readers anymore. And I certainly haven't been that regular with writing, myself. No complaints on either account, though. Life ebbs and flows and it is all good.

Writing has always been necessary for me on one level. That is to say, there have been many times when I've needed to express something but could not speak it. Writing therefore is more natural to me than speaking. It gives me time to decide what I want to say, and to "unsay" it if necessary.

Really, I think what has been on my mind is this: On the short list of meaningful things that God has spoken to my heart was something back about 20 years ago now, give or take. These were the words: "I have called you to be an outspoken person." That was about as bizarre as Jesus saying to the dead girl, "Little girl I say to you, arise!" At the time this happened, I had a hard enough time saying anything to anyone, let alone being outspoken, frank, blunt about anything. And yet, there it was. Bizarre.

As I look back I see that God has had a process going. What does it all take within a person to be outspoken? I can only answer for myself. As a very intuitive person, I often can "see" or sense things in a sort of entirety without being able to put a whit of it into words. Words, in that case, become like a second language that I have to learn first. So, part of being outspoken means to spend a long time in meditation, in soaking, in marinating in something. I have the words when the thing itself has sunk into me and arises as if of its own accord. And I think bluntness comes from experience of a thing to such a degree that I could not deny it without betraying my soul. I am by nature pretty flexible and open-ended, but if I have, for example, suffered from listening to a certain song too many times I will tell you bluntly I can't stand it. Or if I've suffered interiorly over someone I can tell them bluntly that I love them. Does bluntness always come from a passionate experience of the soul? Isn't one of the greatest maladies of our time this tendency to keep our lives neutral, numb to passionate feelings of joy or pain, free from the suffering that passion produces? Of fear of those intense sort of experiences?

This is all on my mind lately because more and more I feel myself being drawn to actually be outspoken. I spent decades of my life hearing the internal tape say "shut up and go away." That tape has been dismantled, but from habit there are times when I think "should I say something, really?" and always this echo comes back to my heart "I've called you to be an outspoken person," and so more often than not I tend to speak up. Now, I know there is a time to speak and a time for silences. No one enjoys a pontificater, or a know-it-all, or a self-centered blabber. Least of all myself. Dead horses need not be beaten. That's not the type of speaking out I'm talking about. And to be honest, right now some of the "speaking" I'm speaking about is writing. But it is also spilling over in my life to those I communicate with mostly by talking. I have to sort of look and marvel at this, because I know myself and my history, and I have to see this as a development in grace. Like all development in grace, every new step is like the very first one, just at the starting gate. And the grace is there to serve God's grander designs and purposes. Don't claim to have all that figured out. But, there's something going on here that is a new thing.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Accept Heaven's Peace

On the first of every month, our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.
For more information, see

January 1, 2012


May the peace of heaven continually surround each of my beloved apostles. My friends, there are times when the peace of heaven must pursue you, because, despite its best efforts, you elude peace. My peace then follows you, waiting for you to pause long enough to accept it. When you bring yourself into My presence, then My peace can absorb you and saturate you so that where you go, it can follow. If you are alert to Me, you will see that others are blessed by Me through you. Dear apostles, please accept that this is happening and be reverent about what I am seeking to do. Are you with Me in this effort of renewal? Do you seriously consider that I am determined to bring light to others through you? If you will accept this more fully, I can work more freely. If you move too quickly through your days, convinced that you are not achieving as many actions and tasks as you would like, then you may be missing what is obvious to heaven, that is, that you are surrounded by grace and protected by light. When you rest into this reality, you will see how effectively I am serving the world through you. Truly, I am loving people and comforting them through your soul because each day, Heaven moves into the world through the souls of those who are willing to serve. Allow Me please, to continue, and allow Me please, to sustain you personally. It is not My plan that you become dispirited and hopeless. It is My plan that if you suffer, you suffer peacefully, confident about My presence in your cross. I want you to work calmly, confident of My effectiveness in your work. You must be brave enough to love completely, confident of the benefit the world feels because of your decision to serve Me in whatever place you have found yourself on each day. Rejoice, dear apostles. Look forward with Me to greater holiness.  I will protect My plan for you, but you must make a decision to accept heaven’s peace.