The Desert: An Invitation to Belovedness

As the 40-day journey of Lent comes to a close and we enter more deeply into the Passion of our Lord in anticipation of His Resurrection, we still find ourselves globally in a quarantined desert of the coronavirus.

I’d like to say a word about this desert time of quarantine. It is not a timeout or a punishment, but rather, I believe, an invitation to meet the Word-made-flesh in our own flesh. Jesus waits for us at the place where we most hunger and thirst for fulfillment and meaning*, just under the surface of all those things we compulsively fill ourselves with, yet leave us unsatisfied. 

When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days*, He consumed no food or water. Having entered the desert after He’d been publicly identified as the “beloved Son”,* He consumed nothing but the all-consuming love of God. 

For forty days there was no food, no water, just filial intimacy.

Often, the words “desert”, “Lent”, and “penance” have come to my mind unfavorably. But now, the Lord is showing me how the desert is a place of delight. It is the more favorable place where He led the Israelites as an act of kindness* after he freed them from bondage, so He could speak to their heart.* 

It is this same Lord God who is leading us now. Each of us have things we are slaves to and have no control over that we find ourselves reaching for in this pandemic. This is an invitation from the Lord to surrender and trust in Him. The desert can become a place of transformation:  from addiction, compulsion, and shame to delight, confidence, and peace. It is a place where our Heavenly Father wants to rekindle His fond love for us, His people.  

Our inner life is this “desert”, but it is not a deserted place. It is a place of hidden intimacy, where we can find deep peace and let ourselves be known and loved. Yet, many things fight for our love and attention, so it is also a place of great struggle until we enter the deeper place of rest. 

Trying to start the journey within can be terrifying, like opening up the junk drawer that is heaped full of items. But what happens when we start to declutter? We start to see the bottom of the drawer. When we start to get rid of all our inner clutter of bad habits, lies, and vices, we start to grow in truth and virtue. We begin to see what we’re really made of—the image of God. It is here, in the silence of our hearts, that we hear the words the Father echoes into each of our souls: beloved

This is not a place we can enter alone! We must let the same Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the desert lead us into our inner deserts and thus to our Heavenly Abba, our heart’s only desire.

Be not afraid to enter into your own heart and mind, letting the good Spirit be with you as your guide! Ask the Holy Spirit to gently show you where to begin decluttering your inner room. He will show you the source of life that emanates from within you. It is the most Sacred Beating Heart of Jesus that beats within you and where the Father himself awaits to embrace you.*

-Marta Stangl, LAMP Missionary

John 4:4-26
Luke 3:21-22
Luke 4:1-13
Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22
Hosea 2:14
John 14:1-14
Luke 15:20

Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord! (Ps. 33)

Here am I, ending my 6 months with the LAMP missionaries, ready to enter in a new chapter of this sabbatical time which has been granted to me by my Community. The only word which comes to my heart is GRATITUDE, gratitude for the goodness of the Lord which has been so tangible each day since September the 1st, 2019. 

I had three desires in coming to LAMP: a desire to go to the poor and to learn from them what it means to be compassionate in a concrete and realistic way; to discover a new perspective of the Church and to be able to cooperate with and receive from lay people; and, lastly, a place which would allow me to be faithful to my prayer life as a religious Sister of St. John, so in love with Jesus’s divine Heart and the Eucharist.

Today, I can say that my desires have been fulfilled. 

It has been a beautiful journey, a beautiful school of communion, compassion and courage; a beautiful school of listening to the beating Heart of the Lord and praying to be united to Him in His love for the poor and for each missionary.

Life at the Annunciation House has been very joyful, peaceful, prayerful. How can I not be amazed by the beautiful heart of these young women, journeying together with such love and care for each other and for those they serve. Being with them gives me hope and assurance of the work of the Holy Spirit among the new generation. I could also witness how the life in LAMP shapes contemplative hearts, able to be moved by the distressed of our brothers and sisters and to respond to them with a genuine presence and a genuine love.

The ministries make us grow in unity and communion. We encourage each other, we pray with each other, we are attentive to each other. It is not always easy to go and visit the homeless in the street; it is not always easy to find the right attitude or word but we help each other. We can witness how the Holy Spirit is often present and at work. There is no more beautiful moment than to be able to pray two-by-two with a sincere heart with one of our poor brothers or sisters. 

The visitations at Times Square in Manhattan and the LAMP for Life ministry made me grow in courage but also in surrender to the Lord. The zeal and support of my young fellow missionaries taught me courage and humility. It is not easy to feel sometimes ignored or rejected in trying to save babies from abortion. It could be hurtful, but community support, prayer and love for these little beings, their mothers and Christ gave me strength to go beyond myself. 

I have so many faces in my mind, so many people who moved me and whom I keep in my heart. I learned so much through them. What is the most important is not trying to fix them, nor having the answer to everything. The most important thing is to love them at the very moment we encounter them: a gaze, a smile, a touch, a word…sometimes just a prayer in the heart. How it is hurtful to hear one of our poor brothers telling us: “People are treating me like a dog!” No dirtiness, no mental illness, no addiction can remove the sacred value of a human person.

Thank you LAMP for teaching me how to bring the good news of Jesus’s love and mercy among the poor, and to affirm the sacredness of all human life in places where we are sent.

I know that I received much more of what I am sharing here and that everything will unfold in time.  I don’t want to say goodbye because I know that we will be remaining united through Jesus’s beating Heart, “believing in his love, his exceeding love” (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity) for each one of his children.

-Sr. Ange Marie (Sr. Angel Mary), csj

Knowing Christ in His Wounds

For so many of us who have encountered the person of Jesus Christ, the deepest desire of our hearts is to be able to know Him more. However, we know from experience that He is not always easy to identify. 

Stories from Scripture attest to the fact that Jesus’ own disciples struggled to identify Him after He was resurrected, even when, as in Mary Magdalene’s story, He was standing right in front of her! But most striking of all is the story of Thomas, the Doubter. Because he was not with the other disciples when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to them, he could not believe that He was truly raised from the dead. Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands …” he said, “I will not believe” (Jn 20:24). 

As a new LAMP missionary, I discovered that I was more like St. Thomas than I thought. It isn’t easy to believe that Jesus really has wounds! Like Thomas, I struggled to understand that He really suffered, really was pierced, and still bears His wounds. I could believe in the theological doctrine of the crucifixion in my head, but I had not seen with my own eyes that God takes our pain upon himself. I had not touched the mark of the spear in His beating Heart. 

Mother Teresa said, “I know I am touching the living body of Christ in the broken body of the poor.” Through my journey as a LAMP missionary, I have slowly come to recognize that the suffering of the poor that I serve – whether it is the emotional anguish of a mother who can’t find housing for her children, the psychological tortures of a young person in the throes of addiction, or the terrible poverty of a mother who believes she has no choice but to abort her child – is identical to the suffering that my Lord endured in His passion. He really does have wounds, and His wounds are wounds of love. He never leaves any person alone in their pain, no matter how obscure or poor or inconsequential they are in the eyes of the world, but He allows Himself to be crucified in them.

When Thomas finally touched Christ’s wounds, he had no more doubts: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). In serving the poor in LAMP, I have touched Christ’s wounds as well, and like Thomas, I am left with a new revelation about who He is. In His humanity, He suffered in body and spirit to be one with us and our pain; but in His divinity, He overcame every wound, even death itself. In LAMP, I have seen how the Lord overcomes every kind of wound, every attempt by the enemy to harm us, and by the power of His resurrection brings life out of death and despair. St. Augustine felt this divine power when he prayed, “In my deepest wound, I saw Your glory, and it dazzled me.” 

As Christians we all are hungry to know Jesus more. If we want to know who He is, and what it means that He is the Crucified One (Matt. 28:5), let us reach out and touch His wounds in the poor. This means going further than giving cold charity from a safe distance, such as donating money to a good cause; let us look into the eyes of our suffering brothers and sisters, share their pain, and know their hurts. The suffering of the world is real, but it should never cause us to despair; because although Jesus is wounded and was dead, He is alive (Rev 1:17) and He makes all things new (Rev 21:5).

-Kathleen, LAMP Missionary

Keep Our Eyes on Jesus

Recently, another missionary and I went to a juvenile detention center in the South Bronx to lead a Bible study for any interested youth. Since it was the first time LAMP missionaries were serving there in a few years, we didn’t know how many attendees we would have. We were delighted when two young men joined us. We made introductions and then began the Bible study.

We chose the passage from Matthew when Jesus walks on water and invites Peter to come to him, and Peter says, “Lord, save me!” when he begins to sink. After reading the passage aloud two times, we asked a few questions to help the teens reflect and enter into prayer. We read it a third time and invited the teens to share what came to mind. One young man chose not to share, but the other man expressed that he connected with Peter in this passage when Peter cried to Jesus, “Lord, save me!”

The young man continued to explain that he’s done some bad things being out in the street and it’s thanks to God that he is still alive. He hopes to be discharged from the youth center soon and he wants to do better in the future. At times he may feel overwhelmed with what’s ahead of him, but he feels like he can trust Jesus to pull him up when he begins to sink. After sharing ended, we asked the young men if they wanted to pray for anything. The two of us missionaries planned to lead the prayer, but the young man who shared asked if he could lead the Our Father. Of course we said yes, so the teen led us in the prayer that Jesus taught us.

What was even more encouraging than this young man desiring to lead the group in prayer was that when a guard came into the room and asked him if he wanted to go to dinner now or later, the young man ignored the guard and continued praying until he completed the Our Father. The two of us missionaries were impressed and edified by the amount of faith and trust this young man demonstrated in the face of his uncertain circumstances.

This young man’s demonstration of faith is a testimony to all of us that Jesus will most certainly save us when we begin to sink into choppy waters as long as we keep our eyes on Him and cry out for help.

-Brooke, LAMP Missionary

Lyn: Her Heart Beating for the Poor

Celebrating the Life of Lyn, Part II

The precarious language of nature settles in our small talk as leaves shrivel their colors and holiday decorations make their early debut in stores. Halloween costumes are saved for next year’s inspirations or discarded with little to no attachment. And as the Big Apple shines the spotlight on Christmas, the Catholic Church is earnestly praying for the holy souls.

The month of November is a treasure in our Church because we are dedicating a month for all people who have passed on to the next life. We can remember loved ones who are no longer living and, as a Body of Christ, we offer up our prayers for them. Last week at LAMP’s weekly gathering, we dedicated the Rosary to all missionaries and loved ones who have passed away. Our Blessed Mother embraces individual souls each “Hail Mary” bead at a time. How can we not think of Lyn during this month? Especially because her birthday fell on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11).

Eternal rest, grant unto them and let perpetual shine upon them…

Her husband Tom has a difficult time imagining that Lyn had completed her mission while she was alive, especially with LAMP Catholic Ministries. Tom tenderly describes her heart for the poor: “That was so very much a part of who she was…. LAMP’s mission and vision was at the core of her being – the spiritual support of those in need – which was so very often lacking in society’s care for the poor.” Similar to St. Therese’s promise to the world (“I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens; I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth”), Lyn continues to be co-Director of LAMP but now outside of time and space. 

Tom shares that Lyn “had great compassion for the suffering and the poor, and passion for their knowing that they are loved by the Lord…” Through her intercession, we can enter deeper and deeper into God’s compassion and mercy for the marginalized in the world. Lyn’s concern for the poor is now lifted up to God in a new way. We are confident that her intercession spiritually benefits LAMP’s ongoing mission and service to the poor.

Jesus invites us to be at one with his longings and all of his loving attributes. We can reflect on Lyn’s vocation as a wife, mother, Co-founder of LAMP, and missionary. The Heart of Jesus was drumming in the interwoven layers of her life. To be at one with his longings…what does Jesus long for? Lyn knew that Jesus needed to be loved in the poor and forgotten. As we remembered her on her birthday and in the month of holy souls, let us ruminate on the longings that rest on Jesus’ Heart because we can begin to long for what he longs.

-Alexandra Henry, MSW, Admissions Counselor and Missionary

For Part I on remembering the life of Lyn Scheuring, our late Co-Founder, click here

Choosing Life Means Choosing Joy

As we stood on the street counseling outside the Planned Parenthood, a woman approached who appeared to be in her 30’s. I’ll call her Tanya. I offered her a pregnancy resource pamphlet and she took it without as much as a glance toward me. She appeared sad and proceeded to enter the building. I continued to watch her through the glass doors.

She stopped in the middle of the hall when she read the words on the front of the pamphlet, “Pregnant? Worried? We’ll help!” She turned back and looked at me through the doors with almost a look of longing, but proceeded on to the elevator. I knew in that moment that she must indeed be pregnant and I began praying to the Blessed Mother to intercede for her.

About 15 minutes later I saw her exit the building and stand to wait for the bus. I approached her again asking if she would like a rosary. She said yes and I asked her if she knew anyone who was pregnant. After a bit of beating around the bush, she admitted that she was pregnant but already had a 4 year old at home and didn’t feel like she could handle another baby right now.

She was considering having an abortion because “it’s still so little.” We spoke at length and though she was clearly uncertain and afraid, I could tell by the way she was speaking that she really didn’t want to have the abortion; she just felt it was the only way.

She walked with me over to the Expectant Mother Care (EMC) where I put her in touch with the loving nurses and counselors who provide support and pro-life care for women.  I told her that I would be praying for her. She sheepishly looked at me right before I left and asked, “Will you be mad if…you know…if I choose to…” I gently grabbed her hands, looked her lovingly in the eye and told her, “You won’t. You won’t because you know that abortion is wrong. You deserve so much better. You are a beautiful mother and God is with you and will give you all you need. You can do this.” I gave her a hug and left, leaving her in our Lord’s hands.

— — —

About a month later, another missionary and I were leaving the Planned Parenthood site after a day of counseling. As we crossed the street we saw a joyful woman recognize us and throw her arms open in joy.

“Tanya?!” I exclaimed. She ran over and gave both of us a bear hug. She was RADIATING joy.

“How far along are you now?” I asked her.

“8 weeks, thank God, 8 weeks.”

She showed us her ultrasound pictures and we prayed together. She prayed that women considering abortion would choose to keep their babies so that they can know the same joy that she does.

It is true: choosing life means choosing joy. Tanya experienced this first hand and we pray that each woman would have the chance to know the joy that life brings like she now does. 

Hailey Megge, LAMP Missionary

Image by Brian Odwar from Pixabay

One with the Holy Heartbeat of Jesus

Celebrating the Life of Lyn, Part I

As the anniversary of her passing on to eternal life came closer (9.20.2018), the idea came to my mind to honor Lyn. In my months being a LAMP Missionary, although I never met her, I have come to know Lyn through her writings, audio recordings, videos, and her influence on others. I hope to share what our Heavenly Father has given to us through the heart of His beloved daughter, Lyn (Evelyn) Falzon Scheuring. 

At a meeting for Lay Ecclesial Movements in 1999, Lyn was asked what the “movement” of LAMP is. Though she wasn’t quite sure about the question, the response came out of her, “it’s the Beating Heart of Jesus.”    

When I think of this phrase, “the Beating Heart of Jesus”, I’m reminded of John the Beloved, who rested his head on the heart of Christ (John 13:23) the same night Jesus spoke those intimate words to his disciples, “that all may be one.”

Unity, a fundamental truth of the Holy Trinity, is a common thread that runs through the fabric of the life of Lyn, woven in with her faith and daily life. Through the Sacrament of Matrimony, Christ gives grace to become a living sign of His own loving unity to man and wife. Because of the beauty of this Sacramental reality, I found it difficult to write about Lyn without spending some time on her unity with God through her marriage with Tom.

Two Hearts Together as One

When Lyn met Tom at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., her relationship with Christ was already maturing. In fact, both of them wanted to serve the Lord, each having an awareness of the goodness of God and His love for them which “pretty much influenced all of [their] decisions.” To be honest, I often believe the fallacy that, “if only I were in my vocation, then I would be able to really love and follow Christ better.” But from her early years, Lyn was putting Jesus first and letting him direct her steps rather than the world, the culture, or other persons. So by the time they met, it was a deepening rather than a beginning in her relationship with God as they were drawn together in the Sacrament of Marriage.

A Heart of Trust

In my own life I’ve been learning that painful moments can become lessons. In her life, God was continually calling Lyn to the way of trust and love as she wrote, “In pleading with the Lord to help me totally accept His will, I’m beginning to know a peace settling within me. The Lord is somehow conforming my desires to Him…” It seems to me that surrendering to the Lord is like a glacier: slow-moving and hurtful to its terrain, but a powerful force that allows for rivers of life to flow out of the canyons.

Like all parts of Lyn’s life, their marriage was included in this struggle to surrender. She reflected that “we certainly aren’t perfectly one, all our problems aren’t solved, and we still experience insecurities.” But Lyn’s object in their marriage was not “perfection”, unlike my own unrealistic ideals, but rather unity in love.

The more that she surrendered to God, the better she could love Tom, because Jesus’ own Heart of Love was beating with hers. Once at a marriage encounter retreat, she had begun to understand this idea, that “it is mainly through the love Tom and I have for each other that we will experience God…We really have been given the power to be one. It’s amazing to me to think that through our mutual love, other people will experience God’s love.” It’s amazing to me that through their marriage which I never witnessed, I can experience God’s love.

A Contemplative Heart

As her relationship with the Lord deepened as a married person, Lyn began to wonder about contemplation within the context of marriage. When I think of contemplation, oftentimes I think of monks and nuns. However, it was inspirational to read that Lyn was discovering that being closer to God would cause them “to fall more in love with Him and with each other.” She came to see contemplation in the everyday moments spent with their family and their community and not only quiet moments of solitude. The more aware she was of our God’s loving presence, the greater was her love for Tom.

As I come to the end of the first part of my reflection of Lyn, I see her as a woman who didn’t just proclaim the Beating Heart of Jesus, but truly sought to live out her life in union with His Heartbeat. Christ offered her his own Heart with which to love, as He loved, through the Sacramental grace he gave them in marriage. This was her path to the Father’s House, being led by Jesus along the way of trust, surrender, and love. I don’t know yet what my vocational path is, but regardless, I am inspired by Lyn’s life to live in loving unity, so that we may all be one.

-Marta Stangl, LAMP Missionary

Part II can be found here.

Everything is About Jesus

Sometimes time can feel as though it is drizzling down from an hourglass…in milliseconds. 

So much to do–how will I ever get everything done? How can they all fit in my day?

I am prone to fall into this thinking trap.

No matter how much peace wafted in my prayerful morning, the air of anxiety creaks in behind my automatic thoughts, above my expectations for the day, beneath the arbitrary needs of this or that, and then I slingshot back to that person who forgets that this is all about Jesus.

Lyn (RIP 9. 20. 2018), the co-founder of LAMP Ministries, had often remarked that all that we do is for Jesus…and that it is all about him—not us.  

Frustration, discouragement, impatience, shame, guilt and other negative feelings can nest in our hearts when we have not done everything that we had planned to do today.

After Lyn’s passing, this simple and yet real and profound statement has been traveling with me every time I am faced with a laundry list of things to do. It’s all about Jesus

Peace flows in and stays with me when I adopt this holy perspective. 

Trusting in the Lord drains out the restlessness of “getting everything done.” 

Trust makes room for clarity in my overwhelming laundry list of things to do that oftentimes consist of items from months ago.

Trust makes room for humility, most especially when I am clutching the last hours of the day as though I have the ability to freeze time.

In a fast-moving society, especially in New York City, we can all relate to the restlessness of an incomplete checklist.

Jesus knows exactly what can get done today and what will get done today. 

 A relationship with God steeped in prayer is absolutely, with no exception, necessary for peace in our day-to-day tasks. 

Lyn was so good at reminding the LAMP Community that everything is about Jesus. 

As we are drawing near to the anniversary of her death, let us ask for Lyn’s intercession that we may view our perpetually growing checklists—not with restlessness, but with peace and trust. 

Lyn, pray for us!

-Alexandra Henry, MSW, Admissions Counselor and Missionary

Becoming Who I Am: LAMP’s Role in My Personal Journey

For most of my life, I have had a tendency to be a chameleon when I am around others—whether it is by responding “yes” to social outings to avoid being the minority or chuckling to jokes that I don’t understand, so I can avoid being perceived as clueless. These learned social strategies have helped me to fit in quite easily in social crowds without ever needing to express my own feelings, wishes, or concerns in a free and authentic manner.

These chameleon-like tendencies had hung onto me as if I were a coat rack.

It was impossible to utilize these social strategies (or survival skills) when I began serving with LAMP a few years ago.

I drove into a cul-de-sac when I realized that I needed to be my own individual self at LAMP.

These thoughts dug into the bottom of my heart:

I have to serve at LAMPCafe just like she does.

I have to share my stories at the Monday meetings just like he does.

I have to do intercessory prayer just like she does.

These spiraling thoughts had convinced me that there was something wrong with the way God made me.

Ultimately, I was telling God that I have to be everyone else but me to serve with LAMP.

All along, God had a desire to see and hear me without all of these tight masks.

God didn’t want me to be another Ana or another Karen. If he did, he would have simply made me another Ana or another Karen. But why would he even make two of one person? (And twins don’t count because they are not born with identical souls).

It is God’s secret mystery that no person is exactly alike.

This breakdown was my breakthrough in my journey as a LAMP Missionary and now as a staff member at LAMP.

To be me, to be what God sees in me is freeing and yet startling at times. Because sometimes I forget the truth of my existence. It’s no wonder that we distribute this beautiful verse to people we encounter:

“You are precious in God’s eyes” (Isaiah 43:4).

Don’t we all need this helpful reminder?

Don’t we all have times we forget to embrace our true authentic selves?

As I revisit these spiraling thoughts,

I have to serve at LAMPCafe just like she does,

I have to share my stories at the Monday meetings just like she does,

I have to do intercessory just like she does,

the “have to’s” have gradually dissolved with time and prayer. Trustful cooperation with God helps me to create ample space for him to pour out his love into my heart and into all aspects of my life.

Although I have made progress in my personal and spiritual growth, I am acutely aware that the “old me” has not departed from me. This awareness moves me to spend more time with God.

Time with my Father reminds me that he has called me to serve him with the name that he gave me: Alexandra

Alexandra Henry, MSW, LAMP Missionary and Admissions Counselor

“And They Recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread.” -Luke 24:31

While it is essential to know more ‘about’ Jesus concerning the many Gospel details of His life, passion, death, and resurrection, the individual pursuit of such biographical knowledge alone doesn’t necessarily mean that we will intuitively know at once who Jesus ‘is’ in our lives.

Really getting to know Jesus exacts something more intimate from us, something much deeper which strikes at the core of our inner most being. Getting to know who Jesus is involves a personal and yet communal relationship in which we are willing to bare ourselves in total surrender recognizing our sinful nature so that we might allow Jesus to transform our individual brokenness into the ‘broken wholeness’ of His Mystical Body, the Church.

So how might we pursue such a life transforming relationship?

The challenging answer is found in Jesus’ breaking of the bread. The Sacrament of the Eucharist allows us as a community of believers to know Jesus so that He might unite our brokenness in the breaking of the bread. Such a communal recognition of who Jesus is asks each of us to join and center ourselves in Him so that we might experience His presence and grace to transform us together into His image and likeness.

In other words, our individual Eucharistic spirituality leads us necessarily to its communal expression ever seeking to recreate ourselves and the world through Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. Only when we decide to face ourselves in the stark mirror of our individual vulnerability can we then begin to know who Christ truly is in our lives as we admit our brokenness and total dependence upon Him.

The most certain way in which we can know Jesus is in the unity of Communion. Communion draws us out of ourselves into closer unity with Jesus and thus with all our fellow Catholics. We though many become one Body completely joined into a single existence in Christ.

When we offer and join ourselves to Jesus’ ‘broken wholeness’ in the sacrifice at the Eucharistic table, we come to know Him most intimately. Without the broken body of Jesus in the Eucharist, we could never be made whole because only He can heal our brokenness and restore us to new life through His redemptive death. Truly Jesus is the greatest creator of life, but even more so, He is an even greater restorer of that same life.

So let us in all our brokenness most intimately know who Jesus is by recognizing His presence, and our own, in the breaking of the bread at Communion so that He might heal and sanctify us as He transforms us together into His own image and likeness as members of His Mystical Body, the Church. Amen.

-Kevin Wright, LAMP missionary and deacon

[above] Kevin is pictured at right, where he serves full-time at a materially poor parish in NYC.