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.  

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Bishop's Easter

Last July, on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, while on retreat at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa, Bishop Donald Hying, the bishop of Gary, Indiana, composed a moving poem about the saint's experience of the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Now Christi Jentz, of Lumen Christi Art, has vibrantly brought the poem to artistic life.  She is offering a 5x7 giclee print of The Bishop's Easter, along with a copy of Bishop Hying's poem for $15, which includes shipping and handling.  Together, the painting and poem make a memorable and inspirational Easter gift that is sure to be treasured for years to come. For more information or to order a copy, visit this link.

Walking Down a Country Road on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
by Bishop Donald Hying

A cacophony of birds sings the light advancing
Orange clouds prophecy the dawn
A forest of corn awakes, dewy-eyed from sleep
Freshly-mowed fields appear labyrinthine in the early light
A blue aura of stillness transfigures the world
A bursting and breathless woman runs down the country road
Her streaming hair caught by the rays of the rising sun
The news spreads like the tongues of Pentecost, setting all on fire
For this moment I live

framed with mat, approximately 10x12, $35.00 plus shipping and handling
Walking down a country road on the Feast of  St. Mary Magdalene by Bishop Donald Hying

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In the Upper Room

It was several years ago that I was introduced to The Book of the Savior, a compilation of poetry and essays published by Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward in 1952.  The book is hard to find and I especially treasure my copy.  I've been reading it ever so slowly, perhaps an essay or poem each week, and have been savoring most of what I read.  One of the featured poets in the anthology, Charles O'Donnell, C.S.C., deeply moved me with his poem In the Upper Room.  A google search revealed very little about Fr. O'Donnell other than the fact that he had been the president of Notre Dame University from 1928-1934.  I don't know of anything else that he might have written.  But this, oh how it moves my heart!  Perhaps it moves yours, as well.


In the Upper Room

~ Charles O’Donnell, C.S.C.

What did you hear last night, your head on His breast there?
It was Peter in the dark supper-room
Asking of John,
Who with Mary, His Mother, was just returned
From burying Him.

I heard His blood moving like an unborn child,
And His heart crying.
I heard Him talking with His Father
And the Dove.
I heard an undertone as of the sea swinging, and a whispering at its centre.
I listened, and all the sound
Was a murmuring of names.
I heard my own name beating in His Blood,
And yours, Peter,
And all of you.
And I heard Judas,
And the names of all that have been
Or shall be to the last day.
And it was His Blood was calling out these names,
And they possessed His Blood.

Did you hear my name?
Asked a woman who was sitting at His Mother’s feet.
I heard your name, Mary of Magdala, and it was like a storm at sea
And the waves racing.

I heard Peter’s name,
And the sea broke, I thought, and ran over the world.

You heard then the name of Mary, His Mother, Peter said quietly, as he wept there, kneeling.
I did, and it was like the singing of winds and they moving over an ocean of stars, and every star like a hushed child sleeping.

Again Peter-
What of Iscariot?
I heard the tide come in and I felt the tide go out,
And I saw a dead man washed up on the shore.

And then John fell to weeping, and no one there could comfort him but only Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and he could tell them
No other word.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Angel Gowns

Paul and I will be celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this April.  I want to do something really special and Paul and I have been having some wonderful conversations, dreaming of plans together.  We'll certainly celebrate Mass and have our marriage blessed and we'll probably enjoy a special dinner with our family.  Maybe we'll take a little overnight trip away, just the two of us, which we haven't done since the babies starting coming along so many years ago.

But beyond all of those special celebrations, I want to do something that would have a lasting impact of good for others.  We've been so blessed in ways that others can only dream about and those blessings should not remain within our household but should spread to the world around us.  We thought about planting a silver birch tree to replenish the earth on our silver anniversary since the date lands so close to Earth Day, and maybe we'll still do that, but I want to do something even more meaningful.

Then, I came across the idea of donating my wedding dress and I just knew that this is what I have to do.  I certainly can't fit into it anymore, and even if I could, where would I wear it?  My daughter won't want to wear an old dress that will be out-of-fashion by the time she gets married.  For twenty-five years it has been sitting in a box inside a trunk where nobody can find any meaning or joy from it.  My dress, a garment rich in beautiful memories, symbolizing the happiest day of my life, is destined for a new life with a greater purpose.

I found a website, Donate My Wedding Dress,  which has many ideas on where to donate wedding dresses for women who are in poverty or women who are suffering other indignities in life and while I was still pondering all of those worthy causes, I learned about Angel Gowns. Throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and perhaps many other places around the world, talented seamstresses give of their time to repurpose used wedding gowns into burial gowns for babies who are stillborn and they call them Angel Gowns.  Each donated wedding dress can be made into multiple burial garments which are all donated to Neonatal Intensive Care Units and funeral homes.  I think that each stitch of the needle and thread is a prayer of love and sympathy for the grieving families who must cope with such unimaginable sorrow.  The life of a child, however short, has meaning and purpose and the grief of parents who lose a child to miscarriage and early death is real and piercing.  I decided that I wanted my wedding gown to be used for burial gowns that will offer dignity and meaning to parents who must say good-bye to their children far too soon.

It took a few visits to several Angel Gown websites before I found someone who is currently accepting wedding gown donations.  I found her through Angel Gowns by Michelle, a beautiful website well worth a visit.  Linda, the woman to whom I sent my dress, has just started a website, Angel Gowns by Linda, and a facebook page, and is currently trying to raise funds to obtain tax-exempt status.  Please consider sending a donation if your heart is so moved.

As I wrapped my dress and hat in tissue and placed them in the box for shipping, I added a prayer for the future recipients and another one for the generous seamstress with the gifted hands.

Heavenly Father, you have blessed me in abundance with every good and lovely thing, and in particular, twenty-five years ago, you blessed me with a husband who has been my treasured companion each and every day.  In gratitude to you for your goodness, I give this dress, worn and kept with so much joy in my heart, as a token of my love and appreciation for the gift of all human life.  

Please bless the seamstress as she deftly takes the seams apart and creates a new garment of love for the little ones whose lives ended far too soon.  Please bless the parents and family members whose grief and heartbreak will rip and tear at the seams of their hearts for years and years to come.  May the gown that they place upon their babe bring them some peace amidts the tears.  And please bless the babies who have perhaps endured suffering and pain in their little bodies and are eager to join you in heavenly bliss for all eternity.

My Jesus, I trust in You and Your eternally wise and holy plan.  You make all things new and beautiful.  Thank You for the grace of Your love.  Amen.