Thursday, May 19, 2016

To Honor Our Mother

The beautiful tradition of honoring the Blessed Mother during the month of May has been carried out with a May Crowning and Eucharistic Rosary Procession by Milwaukee's Roses for Our Lady for the past 36 years.  This year on the day of the May Crowning the group was blessed with beautiful weather and the presence of Archbishop Listecki and four Milwaukee priests, we were treated to beautiful singing by the Andress and Urlakis sisters, we were delighted by many reverent First Communicants and were joined by many religious and laity.  What a beautiful day and wonderful way to spend Mother's Day honoring Our Blessed Mother!

Here are images and video of Roses for Our Lady's 36th Annual May Crowning and Outdoor Eucharistic Rosary Procession held on Mother's Day, May 8th, 2016 at the Archdiocesan Marian Shrine in Milwaukee.  Photo credits to Mary Anne Urlakis, Terry Boldin, Jazmin Trujillo and Mary Bender.  Video credit to Sylvester Markowski.  You may view the videos here and here or at the bottom of this post.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


“Love seems swiftest, but it is the slowest of growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”
-Mark Twain

Paul and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last month.  Just writing that out makes me smile.  We've been married for exactly half of our lives.  It feels so comforting to know someone so well, to have traversed illness and health, joy and sorrow, struggles and ease, side by side with the same person who loves you even when sometimes they might not like you very much.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing how we might celebrate this milestone, and in the end decided that we would take a full week of vacation from work and spend each day doing some small, enjoyable activity together.  It was the first real, week-long vacation that we can remember taking in many, many years.  We rented bikes and went riding downtown, we walked in scenic parks and out on the pier of  Lake Michigan, we visited antique shops and my hometown of Manitowoc, and we loved every minute of it.  But the highlight of our anniversary week was when we traveled to Indiana for a short stay.

The morning of our anniversary I was as nervous as a new bride as we drove to meet our friend Bishop Don who said Mass for us and invited us to renew our vows. I was surprised to find that Paul was just as choked up and emotional as I was. Following a delicious Italian lunch we bid farewell to our friend and traveled to northern Indiana for an overnight stay at Serenity Springs, a resort with private cabins overlooking a small lake.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  The resort was definitely well named!  When we arrived we were taken by horse and carriage to our cabin.  I had to resist recreating a scene from my favorite movie, Barefoot in the Park.  I wanted to stand up and shout "We just got married!" but to Paul's relief, I refrained from embarrassing him.  We completed our vacation with a stop at Michigan City, an artistic little town with a sea glass jewelry store where I had my favorite piece of glass re-wired, and a nice hike in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  I never wanted the anniversary week to end.

Serenity Springs horse and carriage ride

Serenity Springs

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore-half of the trail had been burned by the DNR

The burned forest-not exactly my kind of paradise; this sign made me laugh.
Now this looks a little more like a paradise valley.

And Lake Michigan must be pretty close to paradise!

A week later, we drove to Lake Villa, Illinois to bid farewell to our friends, The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, at a final Mass as they prepared to move to their motherhouse in Tennessee.  On that sunny afternoon we took the backroads instead of the freeway for the one hour trip and were treated to a delightfully scenic drive that included farms, horses, white fences and fresh spring flowers.  It felt like an anniversary vacation all over again!

That night I dreamed that Paul and I were in heaven, and the heaven of my dreams looked very similar to that drive to Illinois, only we were walking together instead of driving.  I do hope and pray that after at least twenty-five more years of wedded happiness, when the time arrives for Paul and I to leave this earthly life, we will truly be walking hand in hand together through paradise.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Befriending St. Anne

"With or without all of our faults and sins, the role we play as grandparents, the real wisdom we pass on, is just in being.  We are age.  We have come to embody what has passed and is passing."
 ~Susan Griffin from Eye of My Heart:  27 writers reveal the hidden pleasures and perils of being a grandmother edited by Barbara Graham

"One of the most beautiful things in life, in the family, in our lives, is caressing a child and letting yourself be caressed by a grandfather or a grandmother.” ~Pope Francis

Despite sharing her name, I've never been overly fond of St. Anne.  Images I'd find of her always portrayed her as tired and old.  All these years I just wasn't ready to admit that I was getting older, I guess, so I would turn to saints that I perceived as being young and full of energy whenever I was in need.  But now that I'm a grandmother, it's finally time to embrace St. Anne, the wise and holy grandmother of Our Lord, and I have been readily turning to her in prayer, asking her to assist me to be a good and holy mother-in-law and grandmother to my newly and beautifully enlarged family.  I pray that I will age gracefully and my spirit will soar with the joys of these later years in my life, and that I might become a beloved grandmother whose deep love and kindness will benefit and be remembered by the future generations of my family.

Becoming a grandmother is a strange sort of feeling, isn't it?  I didn't have to do a single thing to earn this title.  When I became a mother I had to carry a baby within my body and  labor to bring the child into the world.  But I hardly had to do a thing to become a grandmother.  One beautiful day my daughter-in-law placed my grandson in my arms and I fell madly in love with him and that was all there was to it.  Easy love.

In my effort to become better acquainted with St. Anne, I've been praying this lovely old prayer and a hauntingly gorgeous Renaissance chant that can be found here or embedded below with the words printed beneath. I hope that you will join me in praying to St. Anne for your own needs.  I'm certain that her wisdom and goodness will be honored by Our Lord when she intercedes for us.

Prayer to St. Anne
Christ's mother's mother, hail! You are
The first on earth who knew that star
From whence broke forth our Sun!
Through you, Light from Light arose
From that gate to all men closed,
Foretold by prophets once.
Happy would that birthing be
By which God swore eternally
To shatter Death for good.
Author of such good that day,
St. Anne, drive cruel words away
As God's laws say we should.
You were barren once, so tongues
Teased you. When no longer young,
Your neighbors scorned your quest.
Fin'lly fruitful with a child,
You who once had been reviled --
Then they proclaimed you blest.
Your girl's Child wills that our prayers
With you and your child be shared.
So we trust them to you --
Whom God trusted to prove true,
Whom God grants to know and do
The great good given you.

Anna Mater Matris Christi

Anne, mother of Christ's mother
look with pity upon us
thou who was found worthy
to give Mary the breast.

Oh how worthily thou art honored

by the human race
who bearest Mary for the world
by the mighty gift of God.
For thou bringest the hope of remedy
by thy holy child-bearing;
be mindful of these thy dependents
in exile.

Blessed Anne, thou didst ascend

above all the stars;
do thou in our grievous hour of death
free us from the enemy.
Thus, matchless matron
mayst thou deign to help us,
being the mother who brought salvation
make us live to Christ.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Philip's Rejoicing Eunuch

"When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing."  ~from Acts 8:26-40

Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch

"Every new beginning is some other beginning's end." ~Seneca

Each year during the Easter season, when this joyful reading about Philip explaining a passage of Isaiah to an Ethiopian eunuch is proclaimed at daily Mass, my heart always feels a little pang of sorrow for Philip and the eunuch at the fact that their encounter was so brief,  I tend to focus on their sudden separation rather than the fact that the eunuch was rejoicing over his new faith and baptism.  He wasn't crying for sorrow when Philip was snatched away.  I pray that God could give me that same spirit of rejoicing at the life passages and changes that come my way.  Yet, my melancholy spirit rarely finds joy in letting go, even when that letting go is a natural consequence of new and beautiful life joys.

"Keep silent:  smile quietly when a treasured trifle is taken from you and causes you pain.  When things go of themselves, let them go-they leave you God." ~a Carthusian

I suppose my sorrow is natural, after all change is never easy whether it be a close friend moving far away to start a fresh and exciting life, a child growing up, marrying and starting a family of their own, a decline in our health and our ability to be as productive as we would like, or any other number of life changes and losses both minor and significant. But God is doing something new and wonderful in those times when someone or something is snatched away from us, even though, in our limited human minds and hearts, we might not be able to see or understand what it might be.  He is all we need cling to when what we are comfortable with and enjoy is snatched away from us, and in His time He will lead us to new life; He will mercifully show us His plans for our prosperity and eternal happiness.  

"There is resurrection everywhere." Caryll Houselander

I want to take the rejoicing eunuch as a role model and look for comfort in the little resurrections of daily life-the sunrise, a bird singing in the early morning, a new baby cooing, and daffodils unfolding as they push their way through the hard winter ground. There is always something new and fresh with God.  His ways of revealing Himself to us are many and varied.  May all our eyes be open to the new life that God wishes to bless us with as we let go of what was and accept what is with grace and joy like Philip's rejoicing eunuch.


"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"~Isaiah 43:19

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day of Divine Mercy

The door of St. Francis Friary in
Burlington, Wisconsin
Now that my daughter is a thriving teenager, mother/daughter moments aren't as frequent as they once had been.  Life is busy and full and beautiful for both of us, so I'm definitely grateful for any opportunity that we have to spend time together.

Nearly seven years ago, when Mary was just eight-years-old, she and I had just learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet while attending a Roses for Our Lady holy hour for vocations at St. Francis de Sales Seminary where the prayer is regularly chanted.  Mary was charmed by the chant and days later I would find her carrying our family crucifix around the living room and singing "For the sake of the sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."  I thought that we could both use some practice praying this beautiful prayer that was new to us so we decided to have a special mother/daughter afternoon together searching for sea glass on Lake Michigan, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet together, and topping the day off with a visit to an ice cream parlor, or as Mary said, "All things Catholic!"

Since the seminary is directly across the street from sea glass beach, we planned a walk through the seminary woods to the Marian grotto to pray the chaplet after sea glassing.  Mary had been walking in front of me and as we turned the corner to reach the grotto I heard Mary gasp with joy and then she started running to the grotto.  When I caught up to her I saw the reason for her happiness-our friend, Bishop Donald Hying, (then still Fr. Don) was sitting on a bench in the grotto praying the rosary.  He stayed and prayed the chaplet with us, making it an extra special prayer.  I wrote a poem about that special day here.

Earlier this month, when Divine Mercy Sunday came and I found that for the first time ever we didn't have other plans that kept us from celebrating this day, I wanted to do something special and was so grateful that Mary could join me in the celebration.  The weather was unusually warm and windy as we made the forty minute drive to the Franciscan Friary in Burlington.  We had never been there before but a friend of ours had told us that Bishop Hying, who is now the Bishop of Gary, Indiana, would be presiding at Mass there and since we hadn't seen our favorite bishop in quite a few months we thought this would be a beautiful opportunity to pray with him.  At the time I hadn't really considered the fact that he had been an important part of my daughter and I first learning the Divine Mercy Chaplet all those years ago.

The Friary grounds
We arrived at the beautiful Friary about ninety minutes before Mass would start and saw that the grounds were especially beautiful and could see an outdoor Stations of the Cross so we took a little prayerful walk before going to the Friary for the chaplet, confession and Mass.   Not only did the grounds boast the Stations of the Cross, but we also found a Portiuncula (small portion of land) of St. Francis that was open for exploring and prayer, as well as a magnificent Marian grotto, much larger than the one at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, that included all of the mysteries of the rosary embedded in the walls.  This grotto, however, was missing a Fr. Don sitting in prayer, but just the sight of it reminded me of that day so many years ago and  I realized how this Divine Mercy Sunday had brought my daughter and I full circle with all three elements-the two of us, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Bishop Hying-all together on the same day in the same place.

The day was perfect, rounded out with the kept promise of powerful prayer for some special priests as well as finding many good friends who had also made the trip to the Friary for the special afternoon.  How sweet is the mercy of the Lord, allowing moments of reminiscing and friendship to be a part of potent and jubilant prayer and bringing joy to the hearts of mothers and their daughters!

Jesus, I trust in you!

The Twelfth Station of the Cross-Jesus Dies on the Cross
The Marian Grotto
The First Glorious Mystery at the grotto-The Resurrection

The Portiuncula of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi in the Portiuncula

The beautiful altar inside the church-see St. Francis helping Jesus down from the cross?

Bishop Hying blesses the image of Divine Mercy

Our Lady Gate of Dawn icon inside the church-

From Wikipedia: The icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn has become associated with the messages of Divine Mercy. Eight years after the icon was conferred the title of Mother of Mercy, the first exposition of the Divine Mercy image, painted by Eugene Kazimierowski under the direction of Saint Faustina Kowalska, took place at the chapel on April 1935.  In her Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, she writes of a mystical experience involving the icon in the Gate of Dawn chapel. On 15 November 1935, Saint Faustina was at the Gate of Dawn chapel participating in the last day of the novena before the feast day of the icon, 16 November. She writes of seeing the icon taking on "a living appearance" and speaking to her, telling her "accept all that God asked of me like a little child, without questioning; otherwise it would not be pleasing to God.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Beautiful Sacrament/Beautiful Milwaukee Church

In January of 2013 I wrote a blog post on the Seven Most Beautiful Churches in Milwaukee.  I know I missed a few in that list and that there are many more beautiful churches that I have not yet seen and don't know about, but now I can add St. Michael's Church on 24th and Vliet to that list and make it at least eight beautiful churches, until I have the opportunity to visit others.  

Although we are parishioners at Old St. Mary Parish, my son Jack was the only teen being confirmed from our parish this year, and several other east and north side parishes had small numbers of confirmands as well, so the celebration was combined and held at St. Michael's Church where seventy-five youth were confirmed by Archbishop Listecki. 

The newly confirmed, Jack Thomas, (right) and his sponsor, Joe, pose with Archbishop Listecki

Conversation with Archbishop Listecki while our pastor, Fr. Tim Kitzke, looks on.

Before the Mass began we were given a brief overview of St. Michael's Church which was built by German immigrants and is now home to a multi-cultural community of Laotian, Hmong, Karen, and Spanish members, among others.  The church interior is stunningly magnificent with much of its original beauty left intact, although it did seem as though some modifications and modernizations were made in the sanctuary.

The church was packed with people and excitement.  The music was a mix of both traditional and contemporary which added a joyful atmosphere of prayer during the three-hour-long Mass and celebration of the Sacrament.  Archbishop Listecki likes to speak individually to each confirmand during the celebration and those conversations were not amplified so the singing kept the little ones (and adults) from becoming restless during the long process of Confirmation.  During Jack's conversation with the Archbishop, he shared that he chose to keep his baptismal name, Thomas, as his confirmation name because St. Thomas the Apostle, much like Jack, was strong in faith but short on words, saying only "My Lord and My God" upon coming to believe that Jesus was truly risen. 

Jack was well-prepared, excited and eager to receive the Sacrament. We hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will bless his life and guide his every move forever.  

(For a fun gift that we hope will help him to remember the anointing he received each time he applies it to his budding facial hair, we gave Jack  Barbatus Catholic Beard Balm in both Chrism and Holy Smokes scents.)

St. Michael's Church, Milwaukee
St. Michael's, interior

The First Station of the Cross-Jesus is Condemned to Death

The Marian Altar

soaring stained glass


smiling brothers

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gertrud von Le Fort/Hymns to the Church

Gertrude von Le Fort (1876-1971)
Gertrud von Le Fort, a German mystic, writer and convert to Catholicism at the age of fifty, has recently captured my attention and deeply moved my heart with her magnificent poetry.  She published over 20 books of poetry, essays, short stories and novels and was known as the "greatest contemporary transcendent poet."

In her book, Hymns to the Church, published in 1938 by Sheed and Ward, she beautifully captures the liturgical cycle with uplifting words that soar and sweep across the heart.  I was fortunate to find a copy of Hymns to the Church at the public library, because the only copy listed for sale on Amazon was offered for $500.00!  What a treasure these words are that a used book would be so highly valued!   In keeping with the season of Lent, here is one of my favorites: 


Your voice speaks to my soul:
    Be not afraid of my golden garments, have no fear of
    the rays of my candles,
For they are all but veils of my love, they are all but as
    tender hands covering my secret.
I will draw them away, weeping soul, that you may see I am
     no stranger to you.
How should a mother not resemble her child?
All your sorrows are in me.
I am born out of suffering, I have bloomed out of five
     holy wounds.
I grew on the tree of humiliation, I found strength in the
     bitter wine of tears.
I am a white rose in a chalice full of blood.
I live on suffering, I am the strength out of suffering, I am
     glory out of suffering:
Come to my soul and find your home.


And your voice speaks:
     I know of your shuddering at joy, I know how you go
     pale before the hours that are clad in purple.
I know your terror before the beakers of fullness,
I know too how you tremble before the soul of the best
For your depths are wounded by gladness; it reaches down
     into you with cold hands,
It quenches all your desires like a great hesitation.
It sinks on your senses like stones of guilt.  It falls on your 
     soul like the reek of wilted herbs.
It wraps you in pain from head to foot, then you are
     sheltered from joy by joy-
Then all your grief becomes eternal.


And your voice speaks:
     I will read the secret of your sorrow, O tender one,
     timid one, kin to my soul, beloved:
It is I who weep in the depths of you!
I have fashioned you for a thousand years and longer, I 
     blessed all your fathers and mothers with the cross.
You have cost me griefs and wounds, among thorns have I
     released your hands from the world.
You have cost me solitude, you have cost me dark silence
     through many generations.
You have cost me goods and chattels, you have cost me the
     ground under my feet, you have cost me a whole
You have grown subtle, soul, you have become like a 
     silky flax that it has taken long to spin:
You have become like a thread, so fine that it no longer
See, you float away lightly over the meadows of life, you
     float away over the flowering lands,
But not one of them can hold you, homeless one, wandering
     soul of my sorrow.


And your voice speaks:
     I will sing a Gloria that shall fill the top of my towers
     with the clangour of their bells.
Praise the Lord all sorrow of the earth!
Let the impoverished praise Him, and those who are in exile,
     let the disappointed praise Him, and the disinherited,
     let Him be praised by all whom nothing satisfies.
Be he praised by the bright torment of the spirit, and by
     the dark torment of nature.
Be He praised by the holy torment of love.
Be He praised by the solitude of the soul and by the soul's 
Be He praised by the sorrow of sin and by the woe that
     all things perish,
Be He praised also by the bitter anguish of death.
See, I strip my altars of all adornment, all their fine linen
     must fade like the loveliness of flowering fields.
All the images on them must hide their faces.
I will take away my last consolation, I will remove the
     Lord's Body, that my soul may become deep night.
For the sorrow of the world has become blessed, because it
     has been loved.
Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the
     Salvation of the world.

For more, visit this link to read/pray von Le Fort's magnificent Litany for the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart from Hymns to the Church.