Thursday, July 30, 2009

World's Largest Monstrance/Guest Writer

Dear Readers, the following information is from my friend Marge. I apologize that the links won't take you directly to the sites, you'll need to type in the addresses. Something is not working right with my link thingamajig, can't quite get it to do what I want. Anyway, enjoy, and if you get a chance to visit St. Stanislaus, please tell me about your visit!

"The largest monstrance in the world is located at St.Stanislaus Kostka parish in Illinois (Chicago area). I believe, at present, it is located in the parish church, which has perpetual adoration, and is awaiting completion of the Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy, which appears to be a desire of Our Lady, directly made known to the pastor of this church.

The vision for the sanctuary and monstrance began nine years ago when St. Stanislaus Kostka pastor Fr. Anthony Bus, CR, heard a call from Mary asking him to build the sanctuary. (He wrote a book about his experience entitled A Mother’s Plea: Lifting the Veil in Sanctuary (Marian Press).) The book, originally published in 2005, has been a popular title in Catholic book circles partly because of its apocalyptic theme. It has been updated with information on the painstaking effort to build the sanctuary.

The gilded monstrance was sculpted by an artist/sculptor named Stefan Niedorezo and took two years to carve from linden wood using Renaissance methods (whatever those are..maybe you know). The 'iconic' monstrance is nine feet tall and weighs 700 pounds. Malgorzata Sawczuk is the artist who applied the gilding and he also serves as project conservator. (I don't necessarily know these artists or recognize their names, but I include them in case you want to research to know more about them).

The monstrance depicts the Blessed Mother as the link between the old and new covenants. She is depicted above/over the Ark of the Covenant which, as we know, contained the stone tablets inscribed with the 10 Commandments. In the monstrance, Mary is “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,” (Book of Revelation (Rev 11:19 and 12:1-2).

The unveiling of this monstrance took place last year, 2008, on the feast of the Visitation. The ceremony was televised live on EWTN and the Latin American TV station El Sembrador. Relevant Radio also provided U.S. coverage. Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Francis George.

As I mentioned, perpetual adoration before Jesus in this monstrance, is to be held in the parish church (except when Mass is being offered) until the Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy, requested by our Blessed Mother, is completed. As of this date, I have no idea how far along they are or if the Sanctuary is finished or ??? I am definitely going to go, one of these days, to adore Jesus in this most beautiful place and a place specifically requested by His Mother! I think it is so telling, for our times, that Mary requested the specific name She did for the Sanctuary - The Divine Mercy !!! (and, how often do you get to adore Jesus in a host that's bigger than a dinner plate???!!!)

Notice, when you look at the beautiful figure of Our Lady, that Jesus is positioned to be both in Her heart and in Her womb.

Below are some links that will show you beautiful pictures as well as some of the information. I've tried to label the links somewhat, so you know what they are, but you'll find out soon enough by clicking on them.

ENJOY !!! (I dare you not to get spiritual goosebumps!!) grin.."

http://www.amothersplea.org/ (home page of the Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy)

http://www.catholicnewworld.com/gallery.aspx?gallery=7 (various pictures of the Marian Monstrance in progress, etc)

http://www.amillionsouls.com/ (another homepage of the Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy, w/link to sign up for adoration and other links)

Jesus Freak

“What will people say when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak?
What will people do when they find that it’s true?
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak,
There ain’t no disguising the truth.”
DC Talk


There he goes again, driving slowly, voice shouting out through a loudspeaker, “Jesus saves! You heathens are doomed without him!” It is impossible to miss the black station wagon plastered with scripture verses and the huge plywood billboard on top usually displaying a message about the end of the world or the hopelessness of the sinners in America. Day in and day out, he drives up and down the downtown streets hoping to convert others with his message. My husband pointed to him and asked, “Is that going to be you in a few years?” After eighteen years I am used to Paul's teasing as a way to display some humor in his love, but still, I shudder. Is that how people think of me? Am I really that obnoxious in my efforts to share my faith?

Although I am a lifelong Catholic and have always had a strong faith, it wasn’t until the past few years that the label “Jesus Freak” began to seriously apply to me. I felt a deep conversion as if God had moved from my head and landed directly in the middle of my heart and burst it wide open. I couldn’t get enough of God. I couldn’t get enough of prayer, daily Mass and spiritual reading. I began journaling about my experiences and would not consider leaving the house without a book to read and a journal to write my thoughts and prayers in.

Soon there were signs that maybe I was going overboard in my faith (is that possible?). I couldn’t stop talking about God and church to anyone who would listen. Every day when I would go to work, I’d share stories about the latest fabulous homily I had heard, or the spiritual book I was currently reading. One of my friends at work told me that as she was waiting at the bus stop some Jehovah Witnesses approached her, wanting to share the Good News. But she stopped them cold “Please don’t share your stories with me today” she told them. “Anne is coming to work and I get all the religion I need from her!” Yes, my coworkers were definitely at my mercy. But gratefully, they are very sweet and loving and indulge me by listening to my church prattle day in and day out.

But there came a day when I felt I might have really crossed the line. We had a new employee starting. I had just finished a visit with an extremely inspirational client and was very excited. I told one of my coworkers that I just had to go to Mass on my lunch break so that I could pray about it. She turned to our new co-worker and said “Anne talks about God and church all the time.” The new employee’s response took away all of the joy that I was feeling. “Oh no!” she said, “I don’t believe in anything or anyone. You aren’t going to be preaching at me all the time, are you?”

I fear that even my loving family feels burdened from time to time by my expressions of my faith. My son, Joe, who seems to feel the sting of a teenager’s embarrassment towards his parents very keenly, asks me questions like “Do you remember life before you became a Jesus freak, mom? It doesn’t matter what we talk about at dinner, somehow you always find a way to bring Jesus into the conversation, it's all you talk about!” And, “ I don’t mean any disrespect Mom, but do you think we could sleep in once in a while instead of going to daily Mass? All of the kids at school tease me.”

On the positive side, every now and then I see signs of deep faith in my children, spouse and coworkers that makes me feel that my constant prayer life could be a good inspiration for them. For example, my son Jack was recently playing in a baseball tournament. John was with him and was sending text messages to Joe and Mary at home to let them know how the team was doing. When I called from work to check on my children, Mary told me that Jack’s team was losing 15-1 and Jack was scheduled to pitch the next inning. “So, Joe and I are praying the rosary for him. I never saw Joe so Catholic before!” she said.

Still, I wonder, am I over the top? Am I ruining my kid’s lives, making my husband question his choice in a wife, and turning off my coworkers? I certainly hope not. But I readily admit that I am head over heels in love with God and whether I am experiencing joy or sorrow in my life, there is nobody with whom I’d rather share those emotions with than my heavenly Father in prayer. I do try to curb my religious expression so as not to offend anyone or turn anyone off to the Lord, but I just can’t seem to resist sharing the joy of Jesus with the world. I guess there just ain’t no disguising the TRUTH; if the “Jesus Freak” label fits, I will just have to proudly wear it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Slow Down Martha!

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” Luke 10:41-41

How appropriate that I should be feeling overwhelmed on the Feast Day of St. Martha! Martha was a classic over-achiever, wasn’t she? There she was in the kitchen, frantic and worried about making everything perfect for Jesus, when all He really wanted was to enjoy her company. Most likely, it didn’t matter to Him at all which set of china she used or how many desserts she proudly set out. Jesus loved Martha for who she was, not for what she did.

That’s a lesson that I need to learn over and over again. It seems that in the frantic pace of life, I allow myself to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and place unrealistic expectations upon myself until I end up feeling overwhelmed, frazzled and drained. I expect instant success with any goal that I set for myself. I aim for the accomplishments that I see those around me achieving but only become disappointed in myself when I realize that I can’t attain those goals. What I am left with is unfinished stories and projects and a sense of failure.

What I fail to see is that God doesn’t care if I can’t keep up with the Joneses. All He wants is for me to take some time each day to give Him my undivided attention and love. He made me to love Him, and if I can truly love him with all that I am, then He doesn’t expect anything else from me. He doesn’t want me to be a super-author, a super-mom or a super-nutritionist. He simply wants my love.

Let me curl up at your feet, sweet Jesus. Let me gaze into your eyes and listen to your stories. Let me enjoy being with you as I put all of the pressures of my life out of my mind. Give me the gift of complete abandonment to Your love. Thank You for this gift of peace that allows me to let go of my self-imposed ambitions for the greatest joy of all, Your love. Amen.

Taffy Pull


Creator God,

You are constantly pulling me and stretching me. I see an image of the taffy machine at the State Fair, twisting and turning and pulling the sweet treat until it comes out perfectly tender and soft. In the same way that the taffy machine works with the candy, You work with me. In the end, when You are through pulling and stretching me, I will be sweet and delectable in Your eyes. But until Your work with me is done, I will revel in the delight of Your playful touch. Keep pulling and stretching me, Lord. Make me perfect in Your sight. Amen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pondering Pages/An Interrupted Life



I've been really slacking in the book-reading department of late. I guess I've been spending too much time reading the blogs instead!

Here's a book I read a year ago, it is an absolute favorite!

An Interrupted Life is the diary of Etty Hillesum. Etty was a Dutch Jew during World War II and she ended up dying in the concentration camps. This book is her story in prayers and conversation with God in the few years preceding her death. It is a very inspiring tale, telling how she came from very little faith, to a very deep faith. Her words and prayers moved me deeply.

Here are some favorite quotes:

"I love people so very terribly, because in every human being I love something of You."

"The jasmine behind my house has been completely ruined by the rains and storms of the last few days, its white blossoms are floating about in muddy black pools on the low garage roof. But somewhere inside me the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed, just as profusely and delicately as it ever did. And it spreads its scent around the House in which You dwell, oh God. You can see, I look after You, I bring You not only my tears and forebodings on this stormy, grey Sunday morning, I even bring You scented jasmine."

"You are sure to go through some lean times with me now and then, when my faith weakens a little, but believe me, I shall always labor for you and remain faithful to You and I shall never drive You from my presence."

"And what those who say 'You live too intensely' do not know is that one can withdraw into a prayer as into a convent cell and leave again with renewed strength and with peace regained."

"And when the turmoil becomes too great and I am completely at my wits end, then I still have my folded hands and my bended knee...it is my most precious inheritance...the girl who learned to pray. That is my most intimate gesture, more intimate than even being with a man. After all, one can't pour the whole of one's love out over a single man, can one?"

These beautiful heart-felt journal prayers just drew me in and made me want to love God more, to give Him everything. It was a great inspiration to me. I pray that you, dear reader, will feel the same way. Happy reading!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Smile to Start the Day

After a night of too little sleep, and an early morning routine of too much hectic rushing, stepping into the office to begin the workday can sometimes feel overwhelming. Thinking about a day with children crying, parents scolding and all of the other usual work involved in being a part of a busy office can make the beginning of a day feel long as if the end will never be in sight.

Then, along comes the cutest little three-year-old boy, with a smile from ear to ear. He is so eager to show me his teeth, and when I compliment him on his nice smile, he only smiles bigger and broader. As our family counseling session ends, I casually tell him “Keep smiling!” and he does! All the way down the long hallway, he flashed the biggest grin to everyone he passed, spreading sunshine and joy to along his way.

How easy it now becomes to add my own smile to brighten the day of everyone else I see. All it took was a happy little boy with a smile to perk me up and help me to refocus my day on joy. I'm sure he was sent to me by God to offer me encouragement. Keep smiling!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Delicious

Sometimes I just have to write a love letter to my daughter...

Delicious

My beautiful daughter Mary
wraps her arms tightly
around my neck, and I
breathe in deeply.
My senses are overcome
with her sweet smell.
She smells like dainty flowers
in the summer sunshine,
growing amid the fresh, green grass.
Mary is delicious!
My nose tickles her neck
and she giggles.
Mary’s laughter is
delicious, too!
Mary is the joy of God.

And sometimes, she writes one back...

Being with mommy

I like my mom because she is not like other girls. She is sweet nice and kind. When I look for her I do not know where she is then I go in her room there she is. If she is praying or just doing some stuff I sit on her bed and I join her with whatever she’s doing. I like my mom’s room because it feels so safe. To be in my mom’s room you have to have a secret pass word the secret password is love. My mom and I know the password but no one else does. It feels like my mom’s room is a magical world. I was looking for the love I found it in my mom’s heart. I LOVE MY MOM!!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Early Morning Stillness

clock ticks
refrigerator hums
pen scratching along the paper
flickering candle brings warmth and light
strong coffee smells delight my nostrils
alone in
peaceful solitude
my heart calls out a prayer of gratitude
for this gift of stillness
from the Master of Silence
my heavenly Father

Praise!

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling on top of the world! I had a few quiet moments to offer a prayer to God before I even got out of bed. With a kiss of the crucifix on the end of my favorite sleeping rosary (like a security blanket, I can’t sleep without my favorite rosary in my hand), I joyfully arose to begin my day. I was able to spend a few precious, quiet, and tender moments with my husband before he left for work. Then my oldest son and I headed out for the daily 7:00 Mass. What joy awaited me at church when one of my favorite visiting priests who is also my dear friend was there to celebrate the Mass. He gave a beautiful, thought provoking homily as always. His words and his ways are filled with love and joy and I was able to embrace him in a big hug after Mass, just before I walked out into the bright, warm sunshine to start my day.

While driving to work, the whole world seemed to be smiling and joyful. Everywhere I looked, I saw drivers courteously waiting and waving to pedestrians and bicyclists. I arrived at the WIC clinic, and all of my coworkers greeted me with friendly hellos.

After work, I was delighted to watch my son Jack make his first base-hit of the season (he had struck out at all of his previous games) at his last baseball game of the summer. One of the greatest summer joys I know is sitting in the sunshine, watching my children and their friends in healthy athletic competition.

When I looked at the mail, my favorite local paper, The Catholic Herald had arrived, and an editorial I wrote was published. It brought me great joy to see my words in print in this publication which I highly respect and long to write for.

A stop at the Salzmann Library at the Seminary topped off this lovely day with delicious new reads waiting for me and a little conversation with my favorite librarian, Kathy.

It is to God that I give praise and thanksgiving for this wonderful day. He is with me every step of the way, always leading me from darkness to joy, and more than that, to an appreciation for the little things in life that have come to mean so much to me. When I receive my precious Lord in Holy Communion each day, I can feel a change come over me, an indescribable peace. No matter what trials I may face, that peace remains in my heart and soul. So above all of the things for which I am grateful, I am most grateful to God for His constant presence within me and for the opportunity to unite with Him at daily Mass and in the reception of His Most Holy Body and Blood in Eucharist.

Kolaches

Last week it was the annual Kopidlansky family reunion (my mom's side of the family). My daughter, Mary and I prepared our family's favorite ethnic treat, kolaches (we're Czechoslovakian) to share with our beloved family. Beloved might be a stretch. My mother was one of ten children. Most of her siblings had large families. I am the youngest of nine. I have 5 children, 30 nieces and nephews and 17 great nieces and nephews (so far!). I have over 100 cousins (or so I'm told). I have to take that fact on faith because I have never met them all and probably never will. So this annual family reunion is often a reunion of near strangers. We wear nametags to identify which branch of the tree we fell from. The only way I can stand out in this mix is to bring kolaches. Everybody loves them. They especially love the poppyseed kolaches. They all dig to the bottom of the pan just to find the poppyseed! My aunt Judy buys her kolaches from the bakery. Everyone says that mine are better, and (pardon the pride) I believe them. I bring 12 dozen kolaches every year, and every year I bring an empty pan home. What is it that makes my kolaches so good?

It's love. With each ball of dough that I pinch back, press down, fill, slather with butter and bake, I offer a prayer of love for the memory of my mother who taught me how to make them, and I offer a prayer of love for my children to whom I will pass on the tradition of kolache baking. I offer a prayer of love for my distant and not-so-distant relatives. And I honor my Lord by showing my love for my family with a special once-a-year treat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Broken Dish

“I am like a dish that is broken” Psalm 31






Look at me Lord.
I am like a dish that is broken,
scattered and left in shards,
easily crushed underfoot,
useless.
Left alone, without care,
I will spread the pain that lives in my sharp edges.

Pick me up with your gentle, loving hands.
Repair me.
Hold me together with the glue of your Holy Eucharist.

As I praise you and love you
in the humility of my brokenness,
your precious Body and Blood will pull
my broken pieces back together
with an unbreakable bond.

I will be made stronger
through your love.
I will be made useful once more
so that I may serve you
and others.

Amen.

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene


“Woman, why are you weeping?”
John 20:15

“Why are you weeping?” he asks! “Why not weep?” would be my reply. How can I keep from crying when the one I love with all my heart is gone? I have no idea if I will ever see Him again! My life is black, dark, and empty like the tomb by which I stand. And then, it’s Him! He’s right here with me! I run to hold him, and what does he say? “Stop holding on to me.” I am stunned! How can He say that to me? Doesn’t he know me better than that? Doesn’t he know that my arms ache to hold him, my hands long to touch his face, my heart’s only desire is to love him and cling to him and never let go?

I have tremendous admiration for Mary Magdalene and the great strength she displayed in not just falling in a heap at Jesus’ feet, sobbing. What good is the resurrection, I would wonder, if that meant that I couldn’t hold Him? Yet here, she accepted his almost cold words “Stop holding on to me”, and joyfully shared the news of His resurrection with the other disciples. Mary Magdalene was so selfless and generous with the love of Christ. I am selfish and self-centered in comparison. Shame fills my heart when I think of how I want Jesus all for myself, without any thought for all the others who love Him, as well as all of the others whom He loves.

So, Mary Magdalene, I turn to you today on this your feast day, and I ask you to pray for me. I ask you to pray that I may be able to follow your example of strength and integrity. I pray that I may learn to love without the fulfillment of holding the One I love in my arms, but only holding Him in my heart. And I pray that I may be able to love all of the others that Jesus also loves, without any trace of jealousy, but rather with compassion and understanding for their own longing for Christ.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for me. Amen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pondering Pages/Seven Storey Mountain



I read Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain two years ago, but it continues to have an impact on me today. Upon completing the book my first reaction was "I want to go to a monastery! I want to experience that peace, tranquility and solitude with God!" I have not yet had that experience with the exception of an overnight stay at a local hermitage which was blissfully peaceful, but I continue to wait in joyful hope for that day when I will be able to make an extended retreat as a guest at a monastery.

Some of the quotes from Seven Storey Mountain which I hold dear are:

"All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don't you believe that God will make you what he created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it."

"See who God is! Realize what this Mass is! See Christ here, on the Cross! See his wounds, see his torn hands, see how the King of Glory is crowned with thorns! Do you know what Love is? Here is Love, here on this Cross, here is Love, suffering these nails, these thorns, that scourge loaded with lead, smashed to pieces, bleeding to death because of your sins and bleeding to death because of people who will never know Him, and never thank Him and will never remember His sacrifice. Learn from Him how to love God and how to love men! Learn of this Cross, this Love, how to give your life away to Him."

And finally my favorite:"And when Nancy Flagg was there, she sat in the same sun and combed her long hair, which was marvelous red-gold and I hope she never cuts it short for it gave glory to God." I loved to share this line with my daughter Mary whenever I brushed her hair because she would always cry and scream so loud I thought the whole neighborhood could hear her. I would say "quiet Mary, we're giving glory to God!" and it helped!

Great book, Saintly author! If you have read it before, I know you agree with me, and if you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Angels

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up and flee to Egypt with the baby and His mother," the angel said, "and stay there until I tell you to return." Matthew 2:13

What kind of life circumstances cause a young woman with a new baby to leave her home and move to a new city where she doesn’t know anyone at all? What could be so bad in her life that she would prefer being a stranger in a strange town to staying in the only place she has known her entire life? What kind of strength needs to be summoned from within to be willing to move all alone?

Diana and her two-month-old baby, Tyrone, moved from their hometown in another state one month ago. They are now living in a homeless shelter for women with children. Diana quickly developed a friendship with Iesha, another young mother at the shelter. With the exception of her new friend, Diana doesn’t know a soul here. She has a lot of pieces to put together to start a new life in a new town. In the best of circumstances, this would be extremely difficult. In the worst of circumstances, it is nearly impossible.

Everyone at the homeless shelter has been sick. Stomach flu, head colds, you name it, illness has been going around. Now Tyrone was sick. He was congested and vomiting. He had no appetite and all he did was scream. You couldn’t miss this family when they came into the clinic. For their entire three-hour visit here, Tyrone screamed. He didn't fuss, he didn't cry, he screamed and writhed in obvious pain. He was inconsolable. I don't think there is anything more difficult than to watch a baby suffer and be unable to relieve it. Diana was worn out and very stressed. Her tears were falling right along with Tyrone's tears.

We offer an immunization clinic at our WIC(Women,Infants and Children)program during the summer months, and the nurses that run it are angels. Seriously. I am sorry to say that I often complain about the three days each week that the nurses are here, as the clinic is extra busy and extra noisy. We have a vastly larger than usual amount of children crying because they don’t want to receive the shots that can keep them healthy. The nurses smile, sing, play and do whatever it takes to make the children happy. They put up with the kicking, crying and running-down-the-hall-to-escape-the-shots behavior from the children. It’s not easy to feel that kids are afraid of you, yet these nurses know that it is so important for the little ones to get their immunizations to stay healthy, that they all keep genuine smiles on their faces all day long and talk about how much they love their jobs. It really takes a special kind of person to be an immunization and school based nurse and we are blessed at our WIC clinic to have the very best!

As soon as they heard little Tyrone screaming in the clinic, they went above and beyond the normal call of duty to assist this young family. They started right in with giving feeding advice. I thought I could just turn my job right over to them as they were doing it so well! They knew that Tyrone didn’t have any insurance or a doctor yet, so while Diana was talking with me, they called a nurse practitioner from the School-Based Nurse Program to come to the WIC clinic to take a look at the little one.

As Diana and I talked and worked to get them signed up for WIC benefits, I fed Tyrone and held him and did my best to comfort him. Diana told me that she was planning on taking Tyrone to the free clinic after their WIC appointment. Just getting there would be a tremendous challenge, as their transportation would be by city bus. Diana would have to carry Tyrone, as well as all of the formula that she would be receiving from WIC (there is a pharmacy in the building where moms can cash their WIC checks and receive the formula right away)along with her on that bus ride. That's a lot to manage! When he finally settled down in my arms, I leaned over to comfort Diana with a hug as well. She was so overwhelmed and her tears were rapidly falling. A hug was the best I could give her.

As we left my office, the Nurse Practitioner was arriving. She set up an empty office as a medical clinic and performed a quick exam on Tyrone. She gave comforting advice to Diana and she helped to direct her to some follow-up medical care. Her presence in the WIC Clinic saved Diana that challenging bus ride across town.

While Diana and Tyrone were busy with the nurse, I went to the waiting room to visit with Iesha and her son who came with Diana and Tyrone to the clinic and were so patiently waiting. I had no idea at the time that they had only recently met. I thanked Iesha for being such a good friend to Diana. I told her that I wished I had a friend like that, and that Diana was extremely lucky to have her. She brushed it off as if it were nothing. And maybe it would have been nothing for a life-long friend, but for a new acquaintance, it was quite a big deal to spend a whole day taking a young mother and her son to all of their appointments and then waiting for them for hours. Iesha is another angel.

By the time Tyrone and Diana were settled down and had left the clinic, I was wiped out! But not those sweet nurses! They walked out of the clinic with smiles on their faces talking about what a great day it was because they helped someone in need.

Dearest Holy Family, You know how hard it is to leave your home and begin again in a strange place. You felt the discomfort and pain of exile with a baby. Bless and look after all women who leave their homes to start over in the hopes of a better life, especially if that better life is begun in a homeless shelter. Bless and look after all women who rise to the challenge of being a friend to women who are alone in the world. And bless all nurses who give their hearts and souls to caring for the sick and needy of this world. Keep sending us your angels Lord, we need them! Amen.


(names are fictional)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lost! Living the Fifth Joyful Mystery

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed the stay, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Luke 2:41-48



(Thanks to Ginny at Mary and Me for the inspiration from her July 10th post, What would you ask Mary?)

I can really relate to Mary the best whenever I meditate upon the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary-Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple. I've personally lived this mystery several times in my mothering experience, always with the same son, Jack. There is no way to adequately describe the emotional upheaval of overwhelming fear followed by immense joy contained in losing and then finding a child. Here is my humble attempt...

It was an early winter morning. I had walked my children to the elementary school which my three oldest sons were attending. I needed to speak with Joe's kindergarten teacher, so we arrived a few minutes early to allow time for a discussion. I was standing in the hallway with the teacher, chattering on and on. Baby Mary was in the sling and three-year-old Jack was holding my hand. He fidgeted and twisted with impatience until he finally broke free. He began to walk down the hall towards the staircase. I kept one eye on him, thinking he would stop when he came to the staircase. But I was wrong. Jack reached the staircase and immediately ran up the stairs! I ran after him as fast as I could with Mary strapped around my shoulders. When we reached the top of the stairs, Jack was nowhere to be found! I called his name. No answer. I looked in the classrooms. He was not in sight. I worried that he might have run down the other staircase and out the door. With three floors in the school, I had no idea where he might be. I began to cry in frustration and ran down to the school office to seek help. The school secretary made an announcement on the P.A. system asking all of the teachers in the building to help look for Jack. Nothing. Then the school bell rang and soon the halls were swarming with children. The secretary made another announcement, and the entire student body began to look for my son. It wasn't long before he was found, one little boot sticking out from under the third grade teachers desk. And what does a frantic mother do when her lost son is found? Immediately covers him with hugs and kisses, and saves the scolding for later when she is less emotional.

You'd think this experience would have taught me to be a more conscientious mother and to watch my children better, wouldn't you? Nope! I had more lessons to learn.

The next summer, we were sweltering in the 4th of July heat. My family decided to cool off at the beach. It appeared that we weren't the only family to have that idea as the beach was packed! We spread our blanket out on the sand. Paul and the three older boys headed straight to the water for a football game. Mary and I sat on the blanket eating peaches. Jack was sitting at the edge of the water throwing clumps of sand into the lake.

I took my eyes off Jack for a few minutes so that I could play judge over the family sitting next to us. All of the children were wearing life jackets, even though they were playing in the sand and not in the water. Both parents had walkie-talkies strapped to their waists. "What overprotective parents!" was my immediate impression of them, and I dismissed them in my mind as I turned my attention back to my own family, where it belonged.

When I looked back to Jack, he was gone! I looked out to the water to see if Jack was with Paul. Not there. I looked up and down the beach. No Jack. I frantically searched for the park ranger and tearfully explained my situation. My mind raced through all of the possible scenarios. Was he kidnapped? Did he drown? The overprotective dad overheard me and calmly asked me to describe Jack to him. Then he began running down the beach in search of him. It wasn't long before his wife received a message on her walkie-talkie. Jack was found! He didn't even realize that he was lost! He was just walking along the edge of the water looking for rocks, completely oblivious to the worry he had caused. The overprotective dad was actually a guardian angel! Do you think he was judging me as a completely lax and careless mother? I would have deserved that judgment! It was no wonder I couldn't see Jack when I had such a large beam of judgment in my eye obstructing my view!

Yes, Jack has caused me more than a fair share of worries in his ten years of life. But, he has also brought me more than a fair share of joy as well. I thank God for the kindness of strangers and I ask Him to help me take that gigantic beam out of my eye that keeps me from seeing the true beauty in the people that surround me. But most of all, I thank the Blessed Mother for her lovely example of parenting and for allowing me to see that even though I am far from being the perfect parent, there is hope for me. It comforts me to know that this foolish, sinful mother has something in common with the Blessed Mother. After all, even the Blessed Mother lost her most precious Son in a crowd and panicked about where He might be. When I pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, I feel connected to the Holy Family in a very special way and for this, I am most grateful!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Favorite Quotes/From the Blogs

This was written by a young man, Shaun, from Catholic with Attitude. I think it is amazingly beautiful. I am especially fond of his quote from Jeremiah since it precedes the title to my blog. So with his permission, here it is. Visit his blog for more inspiration.

"The Word has spoken, and I can never be the same again. He has whispered into the ears of my soul and has seized my being.

He asks for my eyes, so that I may see Him in everything. He has come so close to my eyes that I can no longer deny Him.

He asks for my mouth, to expel all evil talk and to allow grace to ooze from my tongue.

The Word stands one breath away from nothing; instead the Word has been given and now I have everything.

He has outraged my ego and has trampled my own selfishness. He has penetrated my heart and let loose His rampant love. My own heart is overwhelmed and cannot contain it. It spills over and flows into the crevices of others brokenness.

Creation is called into being by a Word; He said 'Be', and now, 'I am'.

Ignorance tells me He has abandoned me. Faith tells me He has enveloped Himself round me so tightly that I don't know where I am being led.

He has uttered my name and my knees are weak. 'Die', He says, 'So that I may give you life'.

Into silence I have ascended, by His grace there I shall remain.

'You have seduced me, O Lord, and I was seduced' (Jeremiah 20: 7)"

Friday, July 17, 2009

OCD

Exhaustion. That’s my excuse and I guess I’ll stick with it. I frequently suffer from insomnia and this past month I feel as though I have suffered from this malady with increasing frequency. In addition to lack of sleep, things at work have been very busy and stressful. The economy sure has a lot of people down these days and WIC is a tremendous blessing in the pocketbook for those who qualify. This past Wednesday was a particularly stressful day that ended with a sick baby vomiting on me, and his very overwhelmed, homeless mother crying in my arms. I arrived home later than usual, but still had to take on a huge baking task. My daughter Mary and I have the annual chore of baking kolaches for our upcoming family reunion, and this was the night we had scheduled to bake the treats, all 12 dozen of them. We were rolling dough and filling pastries until 10:30 at night. I should have gone straight to bed after that, but I didn’t. Instead I thought I’d just take a few minutes to look over the some of my favorite blogs.

God seems to be drawing me to Carmelite blogs with more and more frequency. Perhaps He was doing this because I needed a lesson in humility. Whether that was His intention or not, humility is what I got! I found a beautiful new blog written by a cloistered Carmelite nun. You can find the blog link in my list (lounge de sa gloire). The prayers and pictures are lovely! I just had to leave a comment. Unfortunately, I was not thinking clearly and I made an absolute fool of myself! Her bio described her as an ocd sister. In a world of abbreviations, the first thing those initials brought to my mind was “obsessive, compulsive disorder” to which I can completely relate. So, I told the sweet sister, “don’t feel bad about being ocd, I am too! As long as we are obsessed with Jesus and compulsive about prayer, its all good, isn’t it?” Then I went to bed.

The next morning, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I was driving to work and thinking about the feast day and all of the lovely Carmelites I had been coming to know when my mistake hit me like a ton of bricks. OCD…Order of Carmelites, Discalced! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so for the entire day, I vacillated between both! I couldn’t believe my ignorance! Of course this happened at a time when I was thinking pretty highly of myself, so getting knocked down a few notches was really what I needed.

That night it was back to the blogs to offer a humble apology. How do you show a red face with your words? Of course, the dear ocd sister forgave me and actually had a good laugh about it herself. And the lesson I learned? When you are tired, do not leave comments on blogs. When you are tired, do what comes naturally; go to bed! And now, good night from an OCD (obsessive compulsive) mom who may someday become a much better kind of OCD (Order of Carmelites, Discalced) Secular mom! Now I need a nap!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You're invited!....to check out this blog

I really can't believe that my 15 year old son writes a blog! I am amazed and humbled and in awe of every post he puts out there! Take a look and be ready to be surprised and inspired by the faith of a child! It's an upper-that's all I can say! Writings of a boy discerning God's call-find it in my blogroll!

Praise!



I join with Judy at "A Thankful Woman's Book of Blessings" and add my list of gratitude today.

God has been so, so busy working in my life, allowing me to witness to his greatness and I just have to share all the ways I've noticed this in the past week.

1. Last year I was a sponsor for a wonderful girl who joined the Catholic faith. One of the young men who had been in the group of RCIA candidates coaches a summer baseball league. I ran into him at a game last week. The first thing he told me was that he hadn't been going to Mass very regularly. "Shame on you!" immediately came from my mouth as if I were talking to one of my children. Surprisingly, he agreed with me that it was a shame. I left that conversation, though, feeling like I could have been so much more encouraging to him. However, there he was at the 9:00 Mass on Sunday with a big smile and wave for me! I pray that God helps him to get to Mass every Sunday from now on.

2. My friend, Melissa and her husband Adam, are expecting their first baby. Melissa and I are coworkers and neighbors. I love her! She is so sweet and a wonderful listener. Nearly every day for seven years she has listened to me go on and on about God and church and the Catholic faith. Melissa is a non-practicing Lutheran. She tells me that my stories about religion are interesting, but she never adds anything to the conversations about faith from her perspective, she just listens. Gotta love a friend like that, don't you? Anyway, last week she was complaining about how poorly she has been sleeping during the pregnancy and said "It must be God's way of preparing me to be a mother!" Well, I am thankful that Melissa is beginning to draw God into her daily conversations. After all this time, am I finally rubbing off on her?

3. My friend and coworker, Carrie,a non-practicing Catholic (doesn't anybody go to church anymore?) has two small children. Last week she asked my advice about holding her son back from kindergarten. After we talked about it for a while, I added "If it were me, the first thing I would do is pray about it." She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "You know, my husband and I haven't been to church in years. Maybe it's time we started going again." Wow! I pray they do!

4. Another friend (can you believe I have more than 2 friends?) had studied in the seminary quite a few years ago, decided the life of a priest wasn't for him, got married, and he has been working in the insurance field. Last spring, he lost his job. We had an opening at our parish for the director of religious education(DRE). He had applied and my husband and I had been praying for him to get this job. For the longest time, we heard nothing. Then last Sunday, the announcement was in the bulletin that he would be the new DRE! His seminary background was one of the deciding factors in hiring him. He is going to be awesome in this position! I love it when God answers my prayers like that!

5. Over a year ago, I sent my Sea Glass Prayer in to Leaves Magazine and the editor wrote to tell me that he would publish it. I've been watching and waiting...nothing! Last week, the magazine came in the mail and I had been so discouraged that it sat there in the pile of mail for three days. I had no interest in opening it because I thought that my prayer would never appear within the pages. Finally, I picked it up, ready to toss it in the garbage, but something made me skim through it first, and there it was! Hurray and thank you Jesus!

I have so much to be grateful for-don't you?

Waves of Love

While sitting on the beach, watching the waves crash to shore, I am reminded of how God's love comes to us over and over again, never-ending. All we can do is soak it in.







I am coming to you
from the deep.
Can you hear me
speaking to you
in the sound of the waves?
My Word is love.
I repeat it
again and again
with each crash of every wave-
I love you
I love you
I love you.
Can you see me
coming to you in
the rolling whitecaps?
I am rushing towards you
over and over
anxious to reach you
to hold you
to love you
forever.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pondering Pages-When's God Gonna Show Up?


The past two weeks, for my Pondering Pages post, I have written about books from local (Archdiocese of Milwaukee) authors. Why change things when you've got a good thing going? I just finished reading When's God Gonna Show Up? by Margaret Fenelon, also a Milwaukee author.


All I can say is "WOW"! This was a great book! It was filled with short stories of finding God in the ordinary events of family life. Each vignette is followed by a scripture passage (What does Scripture say?) and a few reflection questions (What does my heart say?).

Margaret is a member of the Schoenstatt movement, so many of the stories reflect her spirituality from this perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I felt that I could have written it myself, that's how well I could relate to her stories! My favorite was Easter Joy. In this story, Margaret relates the tale of her five year old son, John, who just wanted to to go confession and be free of his sins. My daughter Mary put our family through the same experience when she was five (see Mary's First Communion). It is so wonderful to witness the faith of small children. They really get it, don't they? We adults could learn a lot about faith from them!

With a humorous writing style that made me recall Erma Bombeck, Margaret's stories in When's God Gonna Show Up? reminded me that I don't have to wait for God to show up, He's already here! It's an wonderful, easy to read book and I highly recommend it!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feed the Baby!

I’ll never forget the sound of that baby’s cry. Scream would be a more appropriate word. His teenage mother stood in my office, desperate for formula for her baby. They had just returned from a trip to Chicago and had missed their regular pick up day for their WIC checks. Mom came to the clinic straight from the bus station. She didn’t have any of the required identification with her, including her WIC book, so we were unable to print her checks for her. It was one hour before our clinic closed. Her boyfriend had her WIC book and he was willing to bring it to the clinic, but he couldn’t get here within an hour, as he was without transportation and would have to walk quite a distance to get here.

I called the “211” emergency food pantry line and was able to find a food pantry, about three miles away, that would leave a can of formula outside their back door for her, as they were just about to close for the day. Mom and baby would have had to walk the three miles, in the cold, dark winter to pick up that can of formula and then walk two more miles to her house.

In the meantime, baby was starving and was letting us all know how he was feeling. Mom had been feeding him water mixed with infant rice cereal for the past two days, which was not satisfying him whatsoever. Now, here’s the rub. We had a closet full of powdered formula that other clients had returned, but we weren’t allowed to give it out because it had caused problems for us in the past. (Clients had been treating us as a food pantry and expecting our clinic to just give out formula.) That formula was all earmarked to be sent to a food pantry so hungry babies could be fed. Do you see the irony in that? The dietitian in charge at the time refused to bend on this issue. She was firmly standing her ground and the formula was not to be given to this client. So the formula stayed put, and baby stayed hungry. I had never been so irritated and frustrated about a rule in my entire life, and mom and baby were not leaving until his hunger was satisfied.

Thankfully, our clinic is down the hall from the hospital newborn unit. I called and asked if they had some formula to spare for our emergency. I was most grateful when they told me to come pick up a six-pack of ready to feed formula for the baby. I was glad to find some people who were willing to bend the rules for an emergency, and I can’t think of a bigger emergency than a starving baby! As I returned to the office with the formula, I was stopped in the hallway by a grandmother looking for formula for her granddaughter who was also out of milk. Are you kidding? I thought. What are the odds of a day like this? But, as the grandmother did not have the baby with her at the time, I felt less pressure and less guilt in saying, “Sorry, I can’t help. Have you tried 211?” as I stood there holding the 6-pack of formula.

What a relief it was to see that sweet 3-month-old baby greedily gulping down his milk! While he was quietly eating, I was able to spend some time with mom and instruct her on parenting issues regarding the importance of not missing WIC appointments and planning ahead to make sure her baby always has something to eat. Hopefully, that is a day that I will never see again and hopefully, that is a stress that mom and baby will never know again, as well.

This whole situation reminded me of our larger world-wide hunger issues where we often hear about Third World Countries whose residents are starving, while warehouses full of food sent by the United States is left to rot as it is caught up in red-tape issues. This wasn’t the first time that we have seen a mom and baby in this situation, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. There has to be something that we can do to help in immediate need situations like this. Punishing the mom for her poor choices by making her baby suffer is definitely not the answer! Maybe we need to do a more effective job of promoting breastfeeding while our moms are still pregnant, so formula issues will become non-existent. Maybe we need to do a better job of teaching parenting skills to teenage moms. Maybe we need more meetings where we put our heads together to come up with solutions for this problem. And maybe we could all call on God to lead us through this difficult situation, to bring more babies to that stage of greedily gulping down milk instead of screaming from hunger. We are not a Third World Country and this situation should not exist in the United States, the richest country in the world!

Dearest Jesus, you have given us bread from heaven, containing all sweetness within it. As you fill our hearts with your love, we ask that you also fill the stomachs of all your children with the nutritious food we need to survive. We echo the words of Your own prayer to the Father..."Give us this day our daily bread." Amen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Heart of the Matter

With a small, thin, frail body, hunched over by a dowagers hump and covered from head to toe in a long, black coat with a black scarf and heavy black boots, she made a strange presentation of herself on a humid summer morning when the rest of the world was donning shorts and tank tops.

She walked briskly down the suburban street, her right arm swinging strangely behind her back. In her left arm, she carried a large book of prayers, which she held tightly to her body. The colored ribbon page markers, dangling from the bottom of the book, were the most colorful thing about her, except perhaps for her language. Although I stood at quite a distance from her and couldn’t quite understand what she was saying, her tone sounded angry, her words seemed sharp-edged. What was she angry about, I wondered?

She was at once beautiful and grotesque, attractive yet repulsive, peaceful yet somehow intimidating. She was definitely a study in contrasts. I couldn’t help but stare at her. I longed to speak to her, to find out more about her. Was she part of a religious order, or a lone eccentric? And where was she going so early in the day in such a hurry? I felt so drawn to know more about her, to befriend her somehow. But for someone who appeared so frail, she moved with great speed, and even in my youth, I would have been no match for her efficiency.

So, I offered a prayer for her. I asked God to protect her on her way, and added a little prayer for myself, that as I age, I will not give up my independent spirit. I also asked God to help me remember that dear old woman as a role model for me. Like her, I wish to always be myself, the person God intended me to be, no matter what others may think of me, or how I may appear on the outside. I asked God to always help me to remember that it is the heart that matters.

Shortly after I had begun to notice this woman walking near my church in the early mornings and to pray for her, our lives connected in a mysterious way. It was a beautiful, peaceful Sunday afternoon last September. My husband Paul and son Joe were at the library. My sons John and Justin had biked to a friend’s house to return a textbook. Jack and Mary were upstairs playing a board game. I was enjoying my favorite music and a glass of wine while preparing a chicken dinner for my family. My peaceful moment was interrupted by a phone call. It was the kind of phone call every parent dreads. The voice of a stranger told me that my son had just been hit by a car. She reassured me that he seemed to be ok, and told me where he was. I still can’t believe that I had the presence of mind to turn the oven off as I frantically called to Jack and Mary to come downstairs right away. We ran out to the garage as Paul and Joe were just returning home. We jumped into the car and as Paul started driving to the accident scene, Mary said “Mom, let’s pray!” So we began. It was Hail Mary after Hail Mary all the way, fear in our hearts and voices as we repeated the prayer over and over again.

As we arrived at the accident scene, Paul told me to get out while he was waiting at the red light. He knew that I couldn't stand to wait for traffic while my son needed me. I ran across the street to find John lying in the middle of the road. Someone had rested his head on a backpack and covered him with a jacket. The ambulance had been called, but still had not arrived. The paramedics were tending to him. I knelt beside him, grateful that he was conscious and able to tell me what happened. It seemed that Justin had just crossed the street and John was behind him. As he entered the intersection, a driver that was turning right at the red light, failed to see him and her car hit him in the shin. He flew over the handlebars and landed in the road where I found him. Poor Justin was standing on the sidewalk looking so afraid for John. I wished I could hold both boys at the same time. Then I noticed the poor driver of that car, a young girl, sobbing in her mother’s arms.

I became aware of someone reaching out and holding me. It was a teacher from our school who was just leaving a volleyball game and saw my family in the street. She offered to take the boys bikes and drop them off at our house. As she was holding me, I looked past her and saw the woman in black, the woman that I had been seeing walking past the church in the early morning hours. She was standing in the middle of the road, staring at us. Her mouth was moving and I was sure that she was praying for John. She looked like an apparition, as if she wasn’t real. I'm sure God sent her as an angel, to watch over us and pray for us, just like Peter's angel who saved him from Herod in Acts 13:11 (Peter finally realized what had happened! "It's really true!" he said to himself. "The Lord has sent his angel and has saved me...")

Soon, the ambulance arrived and they braced John’s head and placed him on a stretcher. I offered some quick words of reassurance to the young girl who had hit my son, and climbed into the ambulance with John. I am forever grateful that the only injury John sustained was to his leg, and after a week in a wheelchair and a few months in a leg brace, he is back to normal. I credit that little old lady in the long black coat and her gift of prayer for the blessing of a minor, temporary injury instead of a life-long debilitating injury or worse.

I haven’t seen that woman in a long time. But, I will never forget her. And I will always keep her and her beautiful heart in my prayers of gratitude.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Perseverance

It was shortly before Christmas when I learned that a local grocery store was giving away bags of groceries to the shoppers. My family needed a turkey for Christmas dinner so we decided to take our chances and patronize the store with the give-away.

Each grocery cart was marked with a number, and every hour the manager would call out ten numbers announcing ten lucky winners of the groceries. To increase our chances of winning, my five children and I each took our own cart. So there we were, all six of us pushing carts around the grocery store, to pick up one turkey! We took our time; slowly walking up and down each aisle hoping that one of us would have the lucky cart when the numbers were called. Much to our dismay, we had spent an hour wandering the store but had no winning bag of groceries to show for it.

I was so determined to win and was sure one of our numbers just had to be next. So, although we had already purchased our lonely turkey, we waited at the service desk with our six carts, waiting for the next number call-out, hoping to win.

To my great surprise and delight, the manager came to me and handed me a bag of groceries! I protested, “But you didn’t call our number!” He said, “We were going to call your number next-you win!!!”

I am sure the manager was quite relieved to see us leave and stop cluttering up his store, as we walked away with smiles on our faces.

Teach me Lord, to always persevere in your service like I persevered to “win” the groceries. Even if my number doesn’t get called, remind me that all of my efforts to love you and others will be rewarded in eternity. Amen.

We Adore Thee, O Christ, and We Praise Thee

I'm hoping to draw more people to the beautiful practice of Eucharistic Adoration and was blessed to write this article for my parish newsletter...

Eucharistic Adoration

Are you burdened by the daily stresses and trials of life? Do you long for peace, quiet and happiness? Our Catholic faith is filled with many prayer forms that can bring those blessed qualities into our lives. One prayer form in particular that exudes these gifts is Eucharistic Adoration, also known as a Holy Hour.

My Aunt Monica, a widowed mother of 13 children had a habit of keeping a weekly Holy Hour. Her daughter would tease her and say, “Mom, I think you’re just keeping a happy hour!” Monica would reply, “Daughter, when I’m keeping my Holy Hour, I am happy!” In her struggles to raise her children and run a successful farm by herself, she found renewal, peace and the strength to meet the challenges of her life by regularly spending time in the presence of Jesus.

Pope John Paul II referred to the practice of Eucharistic Adoration in his encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharista” (Church of the Eucharist): “In our time, Christians must be distinguished above all by ‘the art of prayer’. How can we not feel a renewed need to spend time before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? St. Alphonsus of Liguori called it ‘the devotion…dearest to God and most helpful to us.’”



In this lovely, ancient prayer form, a Consecrated Host is placed in a vessel called a Monstrance, and is exposed (meaning outside of the tabernacle) in a church or special chapel designed for adoration. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus is really, truly and substantially present, -Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity- and living in the Consecrated Host, so we do not want to leave Him alone, we want to keep Him company. Whenever Jesus is displayed in a Monstrance, it is necessary that someone remain with Him at all times. We are reminded of His heartbreaking words to the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane…”Could you not stay awake one hour with me?’(Matt 26:40) So, we commit to one-hour intervals to remain and pray in the presence of our precious Lord. In churches where Eucharistic Adoration is routinely offered, there are usually sign-up lists where parishioners commit to spending regular time in Holy Hours with the Lord, so that He will never be alone.

There are several ways to make a Eucharistic Holy Hour of Adoration. We can spend the time in silence, trying to remain open to the Word of God speaking within us, we can read from Scripture or some other spiritual books, or we can silently pray the rosary or other traditional prayers of the Church. In his book, To Whom Shall We Go, Archbishop Dolan states that “Silence is attractive to God.” A silent Holy Hour is a great way to attract God into our hearts.

Fr. John Grigus, OFM, suggests dividing a Holy Hour into fifteen-minute intervals to spiritually enhance this time.
-Dedicate the first 15 minutes to the realization of the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
-Devote the second 15 minutes to Thanksgiving to God for being present in this very real way.
-Use the next 15 minutes to petition God for your requests and the needs of the Church.
-Finally, end your Holy Hour with atonement, examining your conscience and expressing sorrow for your sins.


In the words of Pope John Paul II “The visit to the Blessed Sacrament is a great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours and Eucharistic processions are likewise precious elements of your heritage--in full accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council”. Why not reclaim your Catholic heritage and make a commitment to spending time alone with Jesus?
May you all enjoy many “happy hours” in the holy presence of our beloved Lord Jesus with a heart filled with adoration and love, renewing yourselves to face the challenges of life!

For additional information about Eucharistic Adoration, visit: http://www.therealpresence.org/index.html

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Favorite Quotes/Pope Benedict XVI

Here are some of my favorite parts of the new encyclical:

"In every truth there is something more than we would have expected, in the love that we receive there is always an element that surprises us. We should never cease to marvel at these things."

"All of our knowledge, even the most simple, is always a minor miracle."



Pope Benedict XVI
Caritas in Veritate

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Festival of Fireflies






Just before sunset, the field came alive with thousands of flickering lights.
Fireflies!
The field was covered with them!
They shone and flickered so brightly that
I could see without artificial light
It was like a party,
A festival of fireflies!
What a delightful sight to
Enliven me in my weariness!
I felt in my heart
That each firefly represented a saint in heaven
That had come to earth to witness
To the glowing light of Christ!
Shine on, festival of saintly fireflies!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pillar of Salt-A Journey to Self-Acceptance

An overweight nutritionist-that was me for several years after my fifth child, my daughter, was born. You’d think that watching my weight would be so easy, considering the fact that I have a degree in dietetics and have worked in the nutrition field for 23 years. But just because you have the knowledge to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the ability, strength or the desire to do it. You’d expect a nutritionist to only eat healthy foods all the time and to be extremely thin. After all, how many people want to listen to an overweight nutritionist telling them what to do? But I confess that it is not easy! For me, it was, and still is, a constant battle! Temptations abound, especially with a house full of children. When they were little, I was tempted to eat their leftovers,and now that they are teenagers and constantly eating, it seems that I am often tempted to join in! I often feel guilty when I tell others how to eat healthy and lose weight, knowing that I plan on baking a high fat cheesecake for my family dessert in the evening. It does seem to take away from my credibility a bit, doesn’t it, if I am overweight and eat lots of junk. I punished myself with my own version of the motto "Physician heal thyself", only with the words "Nutritionist, go on a diet!" Yes, the vices of gluttony and laziness had been my daily companions, accompanied by a hefty dose of low self-esteem.

It was three years ago that I looked at myself in disgust, firmed up my resolve and worked out a plan to change my eating and exercise habits. I kept a written food diary, counting every calorie that passed my lips as well as every calorie that I intended to allow past my lips. My daily goal was 1200 calories or less. I began to exercise to aerobic DVD's for one hour each day, then joined the YMCA and sweated to the grueling classes, unable to believe how hard some of the women in the groups could work, as I panted and grunted alongside them until I collapsed in a heap at the end of the session. Some of the best perks I got from those classes were the kind remarks of one of the fitness instructors who complimented me on my energy and my newly budding muscles. I thought maybe she was talking to someone else! I took up running for the first time in my life and bragged about how I could run a 5K in 30 minutes! This was quite an accomplishment for the girl who was always chosen last in gym class because she was so lacking in physical fitness!

Soon, the hard work paid off, and within a year I had lost 30 pounds! It was a thrill to shop for new clothes as I whittled my figure down from a 16 to a 10! This was more like it, and I was proud to go to work each day and teach clients about healthy eating, knowing that I was a better role-model for them. I was so happy to donate all of my larger size clothes to a charity, which in turn donated the clothes to the poor. It was a win-win situation as far as I could see.

Then I got sick. I fell into a bout of anxiety and depression that affected me not only emotionally, but also physically. I was unable to eat for months. Everything I ate went right through me. Twenty more pounds disappeared like nothing! I hadn’t fit into a size 4 since high school, yet here I was shopping in the junior department! I couldn’t believe that the person I saw in the mirror was really me! I kept making frequent visits to the charity to donate more clothes that were now too big for me. You’d think that the joy of that weight loss would have been enough to snap me out of my depression, but anyone who has ever been depressed knows that there is no such thing as snapping out of it!

After much prayer, hard work and medical and psychological care, my depression has lifted. I have returned to my joyful nature, for which I am extremely grateful. Let me tell you that aside from the weight loss, there was nothing pleasant about that experience of emotional distress in my life!

So, naturally, as I began to feel better, I fell back into my old eating habits, and the twenty pounds came back on quickly. Although my laziness has returned and I’ve nearly given up all of the forms of strenuous physical exercise that I had brought into my daily routine, I do continue to aim for a daily walk. I am so grateful that the original 30 pounds that I lost have remained lost.

Recently, as I was listening to the homily at daily Mass, Father explained how the verse from Genesis 19:26, “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt”, about Lot and his family leaving Sodom, was about the dangers of looking back. That reflection came back to me when I returned home and was trying to choose some appropriate clothes to wear to work that day. I joined with women everywhere who cry, “I have nothing to wear!” I felt that everything I owned looked hideous on me and nothing fit me, everything was too tight. I started to complain “If only I had kept that 20 pounds off!” and “Why did I ever give all those larger-size clothes away, I could sure use them again!” and then caught myself. Had I turned into a pillar of salt? Why was I looking back to that horrible time in my life as if being thin was better than being happy? I know that God did not create me to be thin, He created me to be joyful. Was I regretting the fact that my charitable donation of clothes was being put to good use by those who needed them more than I? Why would I regret helping those in need? With these thoughts running through my mind, I looked at my hands and was relieved to see that they were still covered by skin and not the white grains of salt. Whew! Close call!

But now I had a new worry. Was vanity replacing the gluttony and laziness that had so long been a part of me? Will I never be free of those deadly sins that threaten to keep my soul out of heaven?

Then, while reading St. Augustine’s Confessions, I came across a very interesting quote and I could not believe it when I read: “Placed, then, amid these temptations, I strive daily against lust for food and drink. For it is not the kind of temptation that I can resolve to cut off once and for all and never touch it afterward…the brindle of the throat, therefore, is to be held moderately between slackness and strictness. And who is he, oh Lord, who is not carried in some degree beyond the bounds of necessity in it? Whoever he is, he is a great one! Let him magnify your name. But I am not such a one, for I am a sinful man.”

Well, well, well! I am in good company in my struggles to resist the temptations of over-indulging in food and drink! Who knew that way back then in late 300’s, people struggled with over-eating? I thought that obesity was a modern day epidemic! Isn’t it nice to know that we are not alone and that our struggles to consume only what we need for optimum nutrition and nothing more than what is required, is an ancient struggle? I was also surprised to learn that our modern-day mantra of “Eat all foods in moderation", is not so modern-day after all. It dates way back to St. Augustine himself!

Learning about all of the struggles that St. Augustine overcame in his quest to live in the light of God, I know that there is hope for me as well! I will press forward in my efforts to eat healthy, (only what I need and not more), and to fit physical activity into my daily habits,in an effort to be healthy, not skinny, knowing that with God, all things are possible! If St. Augustine struggled with overeating and still became a saint, what's holding me back from following in his footsteps?

Dear Loving and Forgiving Father, I ask you to pardon me for all of the times that I have allowed myself to become a “pillar of salt” by looking to my past with regret. With your grace, I vow to live my life in the present moment, even if that moment means too many pounds and uncomfortable clothes. I ask you to assist me in my efforts to refrain from gluttony, laziness and vanity so that the temple, which is my body, will bring glory to you through my care for it. At the same time, help me to realize that you love me for who I am inside, not for who I am on the outside. I know that it is the inner me with whom you are in love, and for that, I am most grateful. Amen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pondering Pages"To Whom Shall We Go?"



If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a huge, huge fan of Archbishop Dolan-you Catholics in New York are extremely blessed to have him!

Last week I read his book "To Whom Shall We Go?" It was a series of reflections on the words of St. Peter. Of course, I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it! It was written in Archbishop's usual, easy-to-read and easy-to-understand manner, and was full of great suggestions to advance in the spiritual life. Here are my favorite quotes:

I'm working on a story about Adoration for my parish newsletter, so this quote really stood out to me:
"Silence is attractive in the eyes of God."

I must be getting old, too!
"You know you're getting old when you start to like the Psalms. Well, I must be getting there, because the Psalms are starting to make more and more sense to me-especially those where the Psalmist is feeling beat up, or is 'letting off steam' with the Lord."

Any talk about marriage touches me personally in my vocation. I found this one to be especially profound:
"My first pastor in St. Louis-whenever he would have the marriage of a young couple, he would present them with a crucifix...If your married love is to be pure, faithful and fruitful,it will have to have a share in the cross. The struggle and the suffering of the cross will be a part of your marriage. And when the cross comes-when those setbacks, those frustrations, those arguments and those tensions come-don't you ask what is wrong with your marriage. You thank God that there's something right with your marriage, because your marriage is sharing in the cross."

And, on allowing Jesus to wash your feet he says:
"I find myself distracted. I find myself itching to do something. It's almost as if I am saying to the Lord 'Oh, you're not going to wash my feet...Well then, Lord, wash not only my feet but my head and my hands as well.' If I take this a step further, it gets interesting:
"Lord, wash my head. It's filled with distractions. It's filled with anxiety. Wash my eyes, I don't like what I see. Wash my mouth. I eat too much. Wash my throat. I don't speak well all the time. Wash my heart. Its filled with love that shouldn't be there. Wash my belly. I make it a god. Lord, go ahead. Wash, wash every section of my body. Let me just bask in your love."


Awesome book! Awesome quotes! Awesome Archbishop! Enjoy!

(I know I've shared this picture a couple times already, but don't you just love it? I imagine God will be holding us just like this if we ever reach heaven! I finally printed this picture and framed it. It's on my desk at work. My co-workers all roll their eyes and laugh at me because I am so obsessed with Archbishop Dolan and how wonderful he is. I laugh right along with them. But don't you just love this picture?)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Church of the Gesu




At the end of a long day, filled with babies and children crying, mothers scolding, and computers frequently freezing, I drag my tired, hungry body up the parking structure steps to the 6th floor roof where my car is parked. As I step out onto the roof, the first things I see are the towering steeples of Gesu church with the cross of Christ on top of each.

They stand out against the bright blue sky with the sun descending in the west. I am prompted by this sight to whisper a prayer of gratitude for this visual reminder that God is always looking out for me. He is always with me to lift my spirit up with his love when my body feels so low.

And with this beautiful scene imbedded in my heart, I am ready to begin the long drive home to my wonderful family.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Such a Deal!

My niece, Jenny, loves to shop at rummage sales and thrift stores. It's a great thrill for her to buy something wonderful at a low price, and she is an expert at finding a bargain.

Whenever my family and I see her, she is always sporting a new purse or shoes. When we compliment her on them, the game begins...

She gets a gleam in her eyes and says "Guess how much this cost?" We all throw out a few guesses and we know by now to keep the figure low. After a few close tries, she triumphantly announces "This purse was 50 cents!" or "These shoes cost $2.00!" We all rejoice with her at the fabulous bargain she has found.

But with God, we've been given an even better bargain. We can revel in his glorious love for absolutely free, nothing, nada! What can bring us more pleasure than knowing that there is nothing we can do to earn God's love? We can't buy it. We can only accept it and offer it to others. In that knowledge, I rejoice! I can brag to the world, "God loves me! And guess how much his love cost me? Nothing!" There is no better bargain in the world!

Thank you God, for Your never-ending love. Thank You for loving me always and everywhere. Thank you for leading my heart to love You right back with all I've got. Your love didn't cost me a thing, but it cost You everything. You are my treasure, You are my joy, You are my everything! Amen.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Anointing

Although the words “I love you” were rarely shared between my Dad and I, I will never forget the time when love was shared between us most poignantly.

It was three years ago today, when I received the call at work that Dad was in the hospital and wasn’t expected to live much longer. I immediately began to shake all over. As my sisters and I drove together to Manitowoc to be with him, and on that 1-1/2 hour long drive, we shared our pleasant memories of Dad and tried to keep ourselves calm. In our nervousness about what state we might find Dad to be in when we arrived, we often fell into fits of laughter about silly topics like our hair. As inappropriate as that sounds, it did help to diffuse the stress that we were feeling on that long car ride.

When we arrived at the hospital, we found the rest of the family waiting in the hallway outside Dad’s room. The hospital staff was giving Dad some kind of treatment that was causing him horrific pain. He cried out, loudly. Not one of my siblings or I could hold our emotions in check while hearing him in such pain, and we all broke down and cried.

When we were finally allowed to enter the room, we found Dad to be resting, obviously exhausted. Cindy went to him and told him the names of all of his children who were in the room with him. She said, “We’re all here Dad, and we love you.” He nodded and said, “I love you, too.” It was such a relief to hear those seldom spoken words from him. Then, as he drifted off to sleep, Diann prayed “The Three Beautiful Prayers for a Dying Person” from the Pieta Prayer Book.

I stood next to him, holding his hand, and although he appeared to be sleeping, I could feel that he was squeezing my hand. I took that squeeze to mean that he was grateful that I was there and the he loved me. In the Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser states that “any one of us who visits a sick or dying person, regardless of how inadequate and stuttering our actual words might be, anoints that person, just as a priest does in the sacrament of the sick. To touch a sick persons hand, or to speak words of affection or consolation to a dying person does what the woman named Mary did at Bethany for Jesus…anoints them for their impending death.”

I am so grateful that my brothers and sisters and I were able to be with Dad during his last days on earth and that we were each able to anoint him in our own way with our presence.

I know it wasn’t easy for Mom and Dad to raise nine wild children and bring us all around to a somewhat normal adulthood. But, their faith was strong and they passed that on to all of us. We each have embraced our faith in God in our own way and this embrace of faith allowed us to embrace our father with love and anointing before he returned to God and his wife in heaven, for his final, everlasting embrace.