Friday, October 31, 2014

Bishop Donald Hying Film Debut

Ahava Productions presents it's film debut featuring Bishop Donald Hying, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, on Monday, December 8th, 2014 at the Marcus Majestic Theater in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  Yes, that's Bishop Hying on the BIG SCREEN!

The evening will begin with Mass celebrated by Bishop Hying for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at 5:30 pm followed by the showing at 6:15 pm.  The $5.00 tickets go on sale at midnight on Saturday, November 1st and will sell fast!  Order soon!  This is an event you won't want to miss!  A ticket is required to attend.

To order your ticket, please visit this link:

These Ahava Productions Anima films are described as follows:  "...a series of films that help us break through the noise of our everyday life in order to hear the voice of truth and love. Each film in the series guides us on an inward journey of self-reflection and wonder. The short movies feature Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying as he incorporates the word of God, original music, and the highest level of cinematography."

The True Tree of Life

"Happy the soul in which Mary, the Tree of Life, is planted; happier the soul in which she has acquired growth and bloom; still happier the soul in which she yields her fruit; but most happy of all: the soul which relishes and preserves Mary's fruit until death, and for ever and ever. Amen." ~St. Louis de Montfort

I've been working full-time these days, which leaves little time for blogging, and little from which to draw writing inspiration, it seems.  But today, since I was too wimpy to take a walk outside in the first really cold day of the season (I mean, we did have snow flurries earlier in the day), I spent my lunch time walking the stairwells and sky-walks at  the hospital where I work while praying my rosary.  I've walked these paths many times and have always admired the lovely stained glass window display in the middle of my walk.  But today, for the first time, a particular window caught my eye. It was the Tree of Life!  Considering all of the time that Christi Jentz and I have spent working on our sea glass version of the Tree of Life, I don't know how I missed this one before!  

Although we have been focusing on the passage from the Book of Revelation (22:2) in regard to the Tree of Life, I'm fascinated by St. Louis de Montfort's description of Mary as the True Tree of Life.  In The Secret of Mary, he tells us how to cultivate the true Tree of Life within our souls:  


[A. The holy slavery of love. The Tree of life.]

70. Have you understood with the help of the Holy Spirit what I have tried to explain in the preceding pages? If so, be thankful to God. It is a secret of which very few people are aware. If you have discovered this treasure in the field of Mary, this pearl of great price, you should sell all you have to purchase it. You must offer yourself to Mary, happily lose yourself in her, only to find God in her. If the Holy Spirit has planted in your soul the true Tree of Life, which is the devotion that I have just explained, you should see carefully to its cultivation, so that it will yield its fruit in due season. This devotion is like the mustard seed of the Gospel, which is indeed the smallest of all seeds, but nevertheless it grows into a big plant, shooting up so high that the birds of the air, that is, the elect, come and make their nest in its branches. They repose there, shaded from the heat of the sun, and safely hidden from beasts of prey.

[B. How to cultivate it]

Here is the best way, chosen soul, to cultivate it:

71. (1) This tree, once planted in a docile heart, requires fresh air and no human support. Being of heavenly origin, it must be uninfluenced by any creature, since a creature might hinder it from rising up towards God who created it. Hence you must not rely on your own endeavours or your natural talents or your personal standing or the guidance of men. You must resort to Mary, relying solely on her help.

72. (2) The person in whose soul this tree has taken root must, like a good gardener, watch over it and protect it. For this tree, having life and capable of producing the fruit of life, should be raised and tended with enduring care and attention of soul. A soul that desires to be holy will make this its chief aim and occupation.

73. Whatever is likely to choke the tree or in the course of time prevent its yielding fruit, such as thorns and thistles, must be cut away and rooted out. This means that by self-denial and self- discipline you must sedulously cut short and even give up all empty pleasures and useless dealings with other creatures. In other words, you must crucify the flesh, keep a guard over the tongue, and mortify the bodily senses.

74. (3) You must guard against grubs doing harm to the tree. These parasites are love of self and love of comfort, and they eat away the green foliage of the Tree and frustrate the fair hope it offered of yielding good fruit; for love of self is incompatible with love of Mary.

75. (4) You must not allow this tree to be damaged by destructive animals, that is, by sins, for they may cause its death simply by their contact. They must not be allowed even to breathe upon the Tree, because their mere breath, that is, venial sins, which are most dangerous when we do not trouble ourselves about them.

76. (5) It is also necessary to water this Tree regularly with your Communions, Masses and other public and private prayers. Otherwise it will not continue bearing fruit.

77. (6) Yet you need not be alarmed when the winds blow and shake this tree, for it must happen that the storm-winds of temptation will threaten to bring it down, and snow and frost tend to smother it. By this we mean that this devotion to our Blessed Lady will surely be called into question and attacked. But as long as we continue steadfastly in tending it, we have nothing to fear.

[C. Its lasting fruit: Jesus Christ]

78. Chosen soul, provided you thus carefully cultivate the Tree of Life, which has been freshly planted in your soul by the Holy Spirit, I can assure you that in a short time it will grow so tall that the birds of the air will make their home in it. It will become such a good tree that it will yield in due season the sweet and adorable Fruit of honour and grace, which is Jesus, who has always been and will always be the only fruit of Mary. Happy is that soul in which Mary, the Tree of Life, is planted. Happier still is the soul in which she has been able to grow and blossom. Happier again is the soul in which she brings forth her fruit. But happiest of all is the soul which savours the sweetness of Mary's fruit and preserves it up till death and then beyond to all eternity. Amen. "Let him who possesses it, hold fast to it."

Here are the some images I captured of the stained glass windows at my downtown hospital-isn't it wonderful that they have been preserved?

I was hungry and you fed me
I was a stranger and you invited me

I needed clothing and you clothed me

I was in prison and you visited me

I could not get a picture of this beauty without a reflection from the window interfering

Monday, September 22, 2014

Retreat to Durward's Glen

Durward's Glen, a charming retreat center and natural haven in Baraboo, Wisconsin, has been one of my favorite family hiking spots to visit whenever we take our annual weekend camping trip to Devil's Lake, one of Wisconsin's finest State Parks.  I'm not so big on camping these days like I had been when the kids were small.  Too often we find our camping weekends to be freezing cold, or we get rained out like we did on our most recent trip, finding our tents and sleeping bags to be no defense against the thunderous downpours that bear down while we sleep causing us to awaken to a wet and muddy mess-inside our tents!  But I do enjoy hiking, and for the opportunity to make a mini-family hiking retreat to Durward's Glen each year, I will gladly put up with rain and cold and any other weather related mishap that comes with abandoning ourselves to God's great outdoors.

Someday I will go on an actual retreat at this lovely, hidden piece of heaven in the middle of Wisconsin, but until then, I'm so glad that I took lots of pictures on our recent visit so that I can reflect upon them, pray with them and forever remember the grace of quiet time with God and my family at Durward's Glen.  Although I didn't take pictures of the Stations of the Cross, it is noteworthy to mention that each station is built in ground that has been brought from the Holy Land and Medjugorje. For more information about Durward's Glen including its fascinating history and information on the retreats offered there, visit the website here.  For more of my pictures of Durward's Glen, visit my facebook page, and for my 2011 post about Durward's Glen and my family camping adventure from that year, visit this link.

the artist's cottage

Mary's Shrine

Cornerstone Hermitage

the spring
a close-up of the spring

a stairway to heaven?...

...well, practically, because it leads to the Holy Family!

the cemetery where many priests and religious are buried

St. Mary's Chapel of the Pines

some of my companions and I reflected in the window as if we were inside

an adorable statue of St. Francis of Assisi guards the door

"Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." ~Matthew 8:20 

I pressed my phone up against that glass window to take this interior photo

These folded pieces of fabric tied with string to the boughs of a pine tree fascinated me!
Could they represent answered prayers?

an adorable planting

This oak tree is over 400 years old.

Don't you just want to wander down this path and lose yourself in prayer?

I love Durward's Glen!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Family Service

Paul and our four sons with Bishop Hying at Roses for Our Lady's 2012 Corpus Christi procession
(photo credit:  Mary Anne Urlakis)

Popular Catholic author and columnist  Marge Fenelon recently wrote a story for Our Sunday Visitor about families that volunteer together and included a piece about my family in the article.

“Volunteering as a family gives Paul and I a shared experience of planning and working together, supporting each other’s decisions and growing ever more deeply in love with God and each other through a joint gift of service,” -from Our Sunday Visitor column, Families Grow While Serving Together by Marge Fenelon.   

I hope that Marge's story inspires many families to look for ways that they can give back to the Lord as a united group and will find that the benefits they reap from their volunteer efforts are many.  You can read the entire story here.

My family preparing to celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Mother with Roses for Our Lady on September 8th, 2014 (photo credit:  Terry Boldin)

For more images of Roses for Our Lady's celebration of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother, visit this link.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Leaves Shall Be For Healing-Tree of Life Sea Glass Mosaic Progress

"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him." ~Revelation 22:2

Christi Jentz and I spent another lovely afternoon gluing pieces of sea glass to our Tree of Life mosaic. Her pictures turned out so beautifully, really showing the progress we have made on this joint project, and I'm pleased to share them here.  Autumn, spring and summer are "leafing out" well and we chose my patterned white pieces for the winter ice.  The marbles as the fruit of the tree stand out nicely!  Christi wrote a post for 9/11 on her Lumen Christi art blog, recalling the passage from Revelelations that the "leaves shall be for healing." Visit it and offer your own prayer for our nation. (link).  

See previous links here and here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother/And in Her Morning

Photo from Roses for Our Lady's Mass in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, 2013

I'm so excited about the Blessed Mother's birthday this year!  Roses for Our Lady will be celebrating in a big way with a Mass and outdoor Eucharistic Rosary Procession by candlelight at Divine Mercy Parish in South Milwaukee.  Mass with Bishop Donald Hying, Fr. Bob Betz, Fr. Joseph Sebastian, Fr. Tim Kitzke and Fr. Luke Strand is at 7 pm.   The beautiful and talented Grace Urbanski, who works and writes for the Apostleship of Prayer, (listen to Grace sing the Ave Maria here), and the St. Stanislaus Schola, will provide the music.  Then we'll have a Eucharistic procession by candlelight while praying the rosary in the lovely Divine Mercy neighborhood.  The weather forecast looks perfect!  And we'll finish off the celebration with a birthday party complete with cake and punch.  For more details, visit this link.

One of my favorite poets, Jessica Powers, aka Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, wrote a beautiful and moving poem about our Mother, and in honor of her September 8th birthday, as my own gift to her, I invite you to pray with it here.

And in Her Morning by Jessica Powers
from The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers

The Virgin Mary cannot enter into
my soul for an indwelling.  God alone
has sealed this land as secretly as His own;
but being mother and implored, she comes
to stand along my eastern sky and be
a drift of sunrise over God and me.

God is a light and genitor of light.
Yet for our weakness and our punishment
He hides Himself in midnights that prevent
all save the least awareness of Him.
We strain with dimmed eyes inward and perceive
no stir of what we clamored to believe.
Yet I say:  God (if one may jest with God),
Your hiding has not reckoned with Our Lady
who holds my east horizon and whose glow
lights up my inner landscape, high and low.
All my soul's acres shine and shine with her!
You are discovered, God; awake, rise
out of the dark of Your Divine surprise!
Your own reflection has revealed Your place,
for she is utter light by Your own grace.
And in her light I find You hid within me,
and in her morning I can see Your Face.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sea Glass Tree of Life Mosaic-Update

"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him." ~Revelation 22:2

Doesn't it look pretty with the light shining through?
When we are finished, the entire window will be covered with glass.

Last June my friend, Christi, and I began to plan out a sea glass mosaic project depicting the Tree of Life from the book of Revelation and I shared our beginnings here.  We recently spent six hours on a lovely late-summer day to seriously begin the work.  Since our first session in June, I diligently worked at sorting the many  jars of assorted colors of sea glass that I had accumulated over the last seven years.  I purchased an old window from our local rehab store thinking about how gorgeous the mosaic would look hanging in a window, and then I waited patiently until Christi and I could find a date that would work for  the two of us to gather at my kitchen table and begin the painstaking process of gluing the sea glass shards to the window glass.

When Christi arrived at my house, the first thing we did was to give my recycled window a critical look and decided that it was too shabby, too large, and in too much disrepair to use for our project.  So off we went to another store that sold windows that had known a former purpose.  The very first window we noticed when we walked into the store turned out to be the most perfect window for our project and we purchased it with some of the funds that I earned selling my poetry notecards at the Kansas City National Religious Art Show last July.  (For more on that story, visit this link.)

With the perfect window in hand, Christi offered a quick prayer offering our work for the glory of God and we began spreading the glass out on the table, and, using E6000 glue, set to work meticulously gluing brown glass for the tree trunk, and blue and white pieces for the river, onto the glass.

My collection of sea glass marbles is extremely small with only 12 pieces in all, and I had hoped to keep them in little plastic containers on my front porch window as a treasured prize forever, but Christi convinced me that the marbles would be put to better use as the seasonal fruits on the tree where they would really stand out.  Of course she was right. Her artistic eye instinctively knows what will look best.  Slowly, I am learning the spiritual discipline of detachment.

And so we carried on most pleasantly gluing the sea glass marbles and shards to the window when all too soon it was time for my children to arrive home from school and for Christi and I to clean up the project pieces and set them away for another day.  But this time we don't want to wait months before setting about the task once again and we set a date for the following week.  I can hardly wait to see how this will turn out when we are through and am anticipating a life-time of pleasure and prayer as I look at, and through, the glass recalling the bounty and goodness of God.

So much glass to choose from!
Can you pick out the subtle differences in shades of green and the faint difference between lavender and white?

A work in progress!

Setting the spring flowers in place using tiny mussel shells for the leaves and blue sea glass for forget-me-nots.

You can see that Christi had drawn a rough outline on the glass with blue marker.
We decided that it would have been better to have drawn it on the bottom of the glass so we could wash it off.  Can you see it through the blue water on the sides?

The large glass pieces along the bottom sides represent the 12 houses of Israel.