Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Textures of Faith









The broken texture of sin
hanging from a cross
health and vitality gone
replaced with wounds, blood and pain
a change in physical essence becomes a
bold entrance into the fabric of our lives
as an ointment of healing

with radical adaptation,
I can also change texture
to a form of all-encompassing love

When sorrow breaks into life,
I resemble a velvety soft rose petal
with fragrant aroma
bringing comfort to those who hurt

During times when disobedience dominates,
I am coarse sandpaper
smoothing down rough edges
that threaten to splinter lives
with the pain of unruly behavior

Difficult questions erupt like an overflowing water fountain
and I take on the qualities of a sponge;
absorbing the questions and possible answers
and then squeezing out solutions of peace

In joyful moments,
heart bursting with happiness,
my spirit is a sweet and bubbly champagne,
ready to pop the cork open and share joy

Silent moments on my knees
adapts my texture to the witness of my faith,
in gratitude for the constant love of Jesus
and His example of textural change.

Written in response to Fr. Don Hying's New Heart New Spirit Newsletter from St. Francis de Sales Seminary.

Pondering Pages/The Reed of God


Once again, I join with Lara at Holy Mothering to share my love for books.

I have recently read "The Reed of God" by Caryll Houselander written in 1944. This was a fabulous book and I absolutely loved it! (I also greatly enjoyed "The Way of the Cross" by the same author.) Her writing is poetic and her love and understanding of the Virgin Mary is deeply felt through her inspired words. This was a book that could not be put down once it was begun! The opening paragraphs follow...

"That virginal quality, which, for want of a better word,I call emptiness is the beginning of contemplation.

It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it was intended.

It is emptiness like the hollow in a reed, the narrow riftless emptiness which can only have one destiny: to receive the piper's breath and to utter the song that is in his heart.

It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.

It is an emptiness like that of a bird's nest,built in a warm, round ring to receive the little bird.

The pre-Advent emptiness of our Lady's purposeful virginity was indeed like those three things.

She was a reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd's song.

She was a flowerlike chalice into which the purest water of humanity was to be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love and lifted up in sacrifice.

She was the warm nest rounded to the shape of humanity to receive the Divine Little Bird."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Heart and Soul of Mary

"Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one."
Friedrich Halm-a prompt by Carry on Tuesday












My soul, lost for so long,
and my heart, barely beating
have found new life in you
my Mother Mary, and I long
to follow your example.

Your beautiful, soulful eyes
never release their gaze
from the face of your Son,
your every thought and deed
focused on Him.

Your complete and tender
love for Him in your most
Immaculate Heart beats
deeply and profoundly by His side,
never leaving Him alone.

Beautiful Mother,
unite my soul to yours
so that it contains your Son alone,
my eyes forever gazing upon
His Holy face.

Beautiful Mother,
unite my heart to yours
so that I too, may become
immaculate in the sight of
your glorious Son, Jesus.

Amen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Elvis Lives! And he works for the St. Vincent de Paul Society/Praise!








My family and I participated in the annual St. Vincent de Paul Society walk for the poor today. The rain clouds held off and the day was wonderful! It's such a joy to celebrate Mass under a huge tent on the Seminary grounds, and to join in with so many people who care about the plight of the poor and work to help change their lives. New this year, an Elvis Presley impersonator participated in the walk! I overheard Fr. Don, the seminary rector, tell Elvis how great he looked and how much they had in common since they both were dressed in black. Elvis is so generous! Not only did he walk to raise funds for the poor, he also offered his rhinestone studded belt to Fr. Don to snazz him up a bit! Unfortunately, he didn't sing for the walkers. That came later...

My sister Cindy and her husband Gary, invited Paul and I to join them for dinner and a show at their parish this evening. My niece Elizabeth and her boyfriend Ryan were featured performers in the show, and they were fabulous, of course! This program also raised funds for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. And there was Elvis again, in the show, and of course, this time he sang! Isn't he a great guy? Buried these many years but still hanging around to do good for others! Sounds like a lot of the saints!

So, today I praise God for kind and generous people who work to raise money for the poor, and who know how to have a good time as well! And, I thank God for the St. Vincent de Paul Society! (Feast Day September 27th)







Prayer to St. Vincent De Paul

O Glorious Saint Vincent de Paul,
The mention of your name,
Suggests a litany of your virtues:
Humility, zeal, mercy, self-sacrifice.
It also recalls
Your many foundations:
Works of Mercy,
Congregations,
Societies.

The Church gratefully remembers,
Your promotion of the priesthood.
Inspire all Charitable Workers,
Especially those who minister,
To both the spiritually
And the materially poor.

O Lord, give us the grace,
That You bestowed upon,
Your servant St. Vincent de Paul,
To relinquish the temptation,
Of material things,
In our holy effort,
To minister to the poor.

Amen.

Join Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart and add your own praises to the Lord!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Angel of Prayer























God has overcome me.

When my soul becomes so full
of the wonder of His presence
that I can no longer contain Him,
He overflows in the form of tears
spilling from my soul-windows during Holy Mass.
I bend to my knees in humble submission
to His glory.

I can feel His angels surround me,
and my guardian angel joins me in prayer.
She gently reaches into my heart
and takes my prayer into her hands.
She tenderly carries it to God,
and breathes my prayer into His heart.

Once the tears and the prayer
have been released from my heart and soul
to their proper Home, the heart of God,
peaceful exhaustion takes their place.

I simply rest in the Lord, my peace.

Dancing Shoes

If I were to wear my dancing shoes,
would you dance with me?







Will your footsteps lead me
in the way I should go?

Will you hold my hand firmly
assuring me of your friendship?

Will you look into my eyes
instilling a sense of confidence into my soul?

Will you place your hand gently upon my back
to strengthen me when I’m feeling weak?

Will you let me spin when the tempo quickens
and I’m feeling joyful?

And when the music ends,
will you slowly release me
as I continue the dance in my heart,
while stepping into the dance of eternity?

If I were to wear my dancing shoes,
would you dance with me?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blest Guest Wednesday at Blest Atheist

Elizabeth Mahlou, the fabulous author of Blest Atheist has asked me to write a guest post for her blog this week while she is traveling abroad for her career. I am so honored! You can read my post-"Stand Back and Let God Work" here, about my son Jack and his pull towards the priesthood. Thank you Elizabeth for the wonderful opportunity!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pondering Pages/No Wonder They Call It The Real Presence



Every once in a while, a book comes into my hands that just had to be placed there by divine intervention, and this one truly qualifies. I wish I could remember who it was that suggested this book to me because I want to thank them. I especially want to thank my friend Kathy at the Salzmann library who special-ordered this book at my request! It is really fabulous! No Wonder They Call it the Real Presence:Lives Changed by Christ in Eucharistic Adoration by David Pearson recounts the stories of nine men and women whose lives have been deeply affected by the time that they spent praying before the exposed host.

Each story had something in it that stood out as a reminder of my life, whether a current event or something from long ago, and my heart was moved.

I especially enjoyed the story about Mal whose two stepchildren died, followed by his wife. The experience of loss that he felt at losing his two stepchildren was overshadowed by the loss he felt when he realized that his wife loved Jesus more than she loved him, and he knew he couldn't compete. But by the time he tragically lost his wife, Mal had also fallen deeply in love with Jesus, and even though he had suffered so much in his life, he was so on fire for the Lord that joy was all that came through in his story.

The expression "save the best for last" was definitely true in the story of Simonetta. She was a revert to Catholicism who was fortunate to be allowed to spend seven and one half minutes with Fr.John Hardon, SJ. She asked him if she needed a spiritual director and he told her no. He said "My spiritual director is my journal. God is my spiritual director. Trust me. You need to write, and write and write some more. God will talk to you through your journaling. Spend time before the Eucharist, and write." She complained that she wasn't very good at writing and didn't think that was her calling. He replied, "Write." Later she went to confession and this is the penance that the priest gave to her-"Spend an hour in front of Jesus in the Eucharist, and pray. And what I also want you to do is write before the Blessed Sacrament." So off she went to adoration and there she "cried for the entire hour. I knew he was really present. And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote."

I had a similar experience in confession with a priest whom I had never met before who told me that I should continue to write because through this means I would draw souls to Christ. It seems impossible that a priest who is a stranger to you could utter a few words that would start a new calling in your heart and have the power to not only change you, but to also change others through you.

I was amazed as I read these stories and learned that I am not the only person to have felt the power of God through both adoration and confession. To me, reading this book was a little miracle of affirmation and I would highly recommend it to others.

from St. Augustine: "He took earth from earth, because flesh is from the earth, and he took Flesh of the flesh of Mary. He walked on earth in that same Flesh, and gave that same Flesh to us to be eaten for our salvation. Moreover no one eats that Flesh unless he has adored it...and we sin by not adoring it."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seasons of Life

Walking in the autumn, strolling by your side
I discover that neither crashing waves nor cloud filled sky
can dampen my spirits.

I am lifted in love through the words we share
of our joys, sorrows, hopes and fears.
We are the same inside.
We are connected by God, brought together by God.

Unseen angels surround us
sending God’s blessings upon our friendship.
The chill in the air cannot hold the blessings back
and we are warmed by them.

Just as the trees begin to let go
of their multi-colored leaves,
I realize that I too,
must release my hand
from it’s touch upon your sleeve.

As we turn to go our separate ways
I pray for many more seasons
to walk beside you, my friend.

prompted by Carry on Tuesday

Praise!

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow"




God has been so good to me...let me count the ways!

1. I had the privilege of attending a Hmong wedding this week. The bride and maid of honor were beautiful in their traditional costumes, and the food was amazing! My friend and coworker,Chue, the mother of the bride, and her family made all of the food themselves. The wedding was in the park across the street from their house. My son Justin received the chicken head from the plate of chicken and was told that in Hmong tradition this means that he is a man. My son Joe received the chicken foot. He was told that this means he is very lucky and will become rich, so all of my friends from work began to give him money! Life is so interesting when we can embrace all cultures! Thanks be to God for filling this world with so much variety.

2. My son Jack who is ten years old has been expressing an interest in the priesthood, and I am beginning to take him seriously. There will be a post about this on Wednesday. Thanks be to God for calling the little children to Him.

3. My son John sang at his all school Mass and I was witness to another young man expressing a calling to the priesthood there. Thanks be to God for beautiful music and the gift of song, and for continuing to fill this world with holy men willing to dedicate their lives to His service in the Church.

4. My husband Paul and I have begun to pray the Lord's Prayer together every morning. Thanks be to God for the unity of marriage and prayer.

5. I was able to attend adoration twice this week. My heart races with joy each time I am in His holy presence. Thanks be to God for the gift of Holy Hours.

6. My mother-in-law has received her final chemo treatment for breast cancer and is feeling much better. Surgery will be scheduled next month to hopefully remove the last of it. It's great to see her in such good spirits! Thanks be to God for physical healing.

Thanks Jennifer for hosting this MEME!

Friday, September 18, 2009

In Praise of Youth

It seems to be quite a fashionable past time to grumble about our youth and their behaviors. The grumbling is really nothing new...my parents grumbled about me, I'm sure their parents grumbled about them and on and on. Teenagers do seem to give us quite a bit to grumble about. My favorite pet peeves to nag my own teenagers about include pants worn down to their knees, rap music and lack of outdoor activities-too much sedentary time behind computer and television screens. If you were to ask my husband, his number one complaint would be the revolving door that we've recently had to install on our refrigerator! (kidding) But their constant eating does get on his nerves.

What's less fashionable is praising our youth for all of the wonderful things they do. I am very fortunate to have three fantastic sons who are all teenagers. Aside from the normal laziness, I have very little to complain about, and really that goes for their friends as well. But the person I just have to praise today is not related to me in any way, in fact, I don't even know his last name...

My son John sings with the Music Ministry at his high school. Today I took a vacation day from work so that I could hear him sing a solo during the closing song. (He was fabulous by the way!) But the boy who really shone so brightly was a young man in his junior year.

This particular Mass was celebrating the students in their junior year. The youth minister had asked M. to give a little talk after communion. Here is a brief summary of what he said..."I went to a public high school for my freshman year. One of my teachers was suspended for three weeks because he talked about God in class. I used to have a lot of anger at God while I was at that school. I thought, why would a God who loves me allow someone who wants to be a priest attend a school like this? I was fortunate to obtain some great scholarships which allowed me to come here to this Catholic High School for my sophomore year. I have been so happy here! I am so glad that at this school, I am free to express my faith in God and be the person that God intended me to be."

WOW! When he finished speaking, I wanted to stand up and cheer! This young man stood up in front of his entire school and told them that he wanted to be a priest! That took a lot of courage! He may be free to express his faith, but that doesn't mean that all of the other students share that faith. Sometimes those teen years can be pretty tough for faith-filled children. I don't know whether or not M. is going to take any ribbing for his public profession of his faith and call to priesthood, but I will be praying that he only receives support. And I pray for all youth who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in, especially when what they believe in is God.

The Breath of God

"Breath of heaven,
hold me together.
Be forever near me
breath of heaven."
Amy Grant


“He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20:22


Breathe on me Jesus,
let Your breath push aside
all of my worries and troubles,
all of my sadness and sorrow.
Make room in me for
Your spirit of love,
Your spirit of joy,
Your spirit of peace,
Your Holy Spirit.
Fill me to the brim
so there will be no room
for anything
but Your holiness.
Let Your breath warm me and inspire me.
Be my breath of life, Jesus.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

United Prayer

"And the two will become one flesh.
So they are no longer two, but one."
Mark 10:8


My fingers know the crook of your neck
Felt during gentle moments
I recognize the slump of your shoulders
Telling me that you are weary
I notice the look in your eyes
That shows worry and frustration
I am familiar with the sound of your voice
That speaks anger and resentment
I rejoice with you when something
Silly brings laughter to your throat

But I’m missing something important
Necessary to my happiness and yours
I long for the sight of your body
Brought down to your knees in prayer
Head bent low in submission to God
Hands confidently clasped together
Voice quietly whispering
words of love to our Creator
How I long to join you
Side by side
In reverent and loving prayer
Prayer of praise
Prayer of desire
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of surrender







Dear Father of Marriage,
You handpicked my husband for me
and consecrated our union
in the sight of our family and friends
so many years ago.
You made our marriage fruitful
with the gift of wonderful children.
You have held us together for many years
through both trials and joys.

I beg of you now to bless us with one more gift.
I ask You to light a fire in our hearts
inflamed with love for You;
a fire that cannot be extinguished
but which will only burn brighter through the years.
Draw us close to Your heart in unison,
as the couple you called us to be.
Make the Sacrament of Marriage
complete in us through united prayer. Amen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spirit of Fire








You are the flame fanned into being by the breeze.

Higher and higher You climb.
Sparks fly out from Your peaks.

You reach out to me and draw me in closer.
Warmed by Your presence,
Mesmerized by Your movements,
Comforted by Your sounds,
Mystified by Your fragrance,

I will remain in Your warm, glowing light
enjoying Your goodness, enjoying You.

Pondering Pages/Your Sorrow is My Sorrow

I’m not usually a big fan of Joyce Rupp, she’s a bit too trendy for this old-fashioned, traditional girl, but this book was an exception for I found that her words resonated deeply within my own life experiences. For the Feast of the Sorrows of Mary, I found this to be a very fitting book to share for Pondering Pages sponsored by Lara at Holy Mothering.

Your Sorrow Is My Sorrow-Hope and Strength in Times of Suffering offers reflections on each of the Seven Sorrows of Mary and unites them to current suffering that many of us experience in our own lives. The author divides the book into seven sections and in each section she writes a meditation from the viewpoint of our blessed Mother called “Mary Speaks”. She then gives specific examples of how Mary’s sorrows touch our lives today. Each chapter concludes with several prayers and reflection questions.


Here is an excerpt from the chapter Standing Beneath the Cross that touched my heart:

“Mary opened her arms and widened her lap to receive her crucified son. It was a natural response for her because her entire being had always been open to him. The generosity of Mary’s spirit inspires my own willingness to be with those who suffer. Her ability to receive suffering rekindles my own desire to be there for others, in an open and generous way. Her broad shoulders and her wide lap tell me that it is possible to enter into deep suffering and survive.

When Mary held Jesus that last time, she did not know where his body ended and hers began, so deeply was she united with him. When we are compassionately joined with the suffering of another as Mary was with Jesus, their great distress will resound in our soul. When our hearts are receptive and loving as Mary’s was, we will embrace this suffering and know in a deep place within us what it is like to be a living Pieta.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

"Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ
and the triumph of God's great love."
Daniel Schutte




I kiss the crucifix at the end of my rosary every morning before rising from bed. I press my finger onto the corpus of my Lord to try to feel His wounds. It makes me wonder...

What if the next time I kiss the cross, I can taste His blood on my lips, bitter with sorrow?

What if the next time I try to feel His wounds, my own finger is pricked and bleeds from the thorns?

What if His blood mingles with mine?

Will my wretched soul become holier?
Will my weak spirit be made stronger?
Will my sinful desires disappear?

Will His blood pulsate in my veins releasing His sweet love throughout my entire being?

Please, my sweet Jesus, I want to feel Your Precious Blood flowing throughout my body, in and out of my heart with every life-giving beat of this vessel of love.

Live in me Jesus.
Flow through me Jesus.
Bring me to life in You through your Holy Cross.

Amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Praise!


“Praise our God and Savior for God’s love endures forever! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Wylawiajcie Pana-Taize’ Chant

Joining once again with Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart with some weekly praise for my God and Savior who has been extremely good to me…


1. I never used to spend much time on the computer at home, because I felt I had enough of it at work all day. But then I discovered blogging and my computer use has significantly increased, so much that I have become a nuisance to my family as I have been encroaching on their computer time. I have been praying for a laptop computer so I can blog away without causing a strain in my family relationships. After a particularly stressful night in which I intensified my prayers, my friend Sara who only works with me one day a month, came to work and asked me if I was still looking for a laptop. She told me that she had just bought a new one and is going to give me her old one! Praise God for answered prayer and a significant sign that He wants me to keep writing about Him!

2. After my Pondering Pages post this past Tuesday, I have continued to discern whether or not I should consecrate myself to Mary. You, wonderful blogging community, have left me so many wonderful comments regarding that post, that although I thought I was not going to go through with the consecration, I had a change of mind and heart and will consecrate myself to Mary next month. My preparation begins today! Thank you all so much for your words of support and encouragement! Praise God for the gift of a call to consecration to my beautiful blessed mother, Mary!

3. My family had the opportunity to enjoy the play “Vianney” sponsored by our seminary last night. What a wonderful story of a wonderful saint! Praise God for Saints and actors who portray them!

4. As I spend time mending my son’s flannel quilt, I am reminded of the warmth of God’s love and His generosity in always covering us with his blessings. Praise God for His loving care!

5. I am grateful for concord grape pie and the joy that it brings to my family each year as they anxiously await the arrival of the treat from the oven and then partake in the tart delight. Praise God for delicious treats from the bounty of His earth!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

He Will Come To Us Like the Rain

He will come to us like the rain.
Hosea 6:3-6


Dear God,

Like the rains that flood the earth,
I want you to flood me.
Fill me with your refreshing water.
Drench me with your love.
I want to feel your love and grace fill every pore of my skin,
And soak right through to my very core, my soul.
I am an empty jar
waiting for you to pour your love into me.
I long to be like a watered garden
that is nourished and fed with your Word.
I need to grow beyond my stagnant and dehydrated life
to fresh beauty in your love.
This can only happen when your Spirit
recognizes my desire, my emptiness, and my thirst
and comes to me like the rain.
I wait in silent longing
for your rain to flow into my soul.

Amen.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

By His Wounds

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

While standing on top of a kitchen chair placed precariously at the edge of the grape vine arbor deck, I greedily stretched to reach the very last bunch of grapes in the corner, and the chair leg slipped off the edge of the deck and down I fell! Talk about crushed grapes; here I was lying in a pile of them! My daughter Mary who had been keeping me company while I worked by sharing her ideas about the differences between boys and girls in the 3rd grade, rushed to my assistance. "Oh Mama, Mama!" she cried, and then to Jack who was inside the house, "Jack, get out here right now! Mom needs you!" Mary is clearly in charge around our house, and Jack came running outside at the sound of her voice. I assured them that I was okay, and picked myself up as best I could to go change out of my grape stained clothes. As I walked in the door, the phone was ringing. It was Rose, my next-door neighbor. Her husband George had seen me fall and she was checking to see if I was all right and did I need anything. The Lord certainly does take good care of me by surrounding me with loving family and friends!

While I'm pretty sure that nothing was broken, and I am still able to use all of my limbs, it will be a while before the aches and pains of the multiple bruises and scrapes that I suffered in that fall, both to my body and to my ego, will heal. But they will heal, of that I am quite certain. Time does have a way of healing all of our physical wounds, but there are some wounds that require more than time alone to heal them, they require love as the ointment to bring healing about.

While contemplating the various places in which my body feels the pain most deeply, I can't help but compare them to the aches that Jesus suffered in His body while walking that horrific road to Calvary.

The pain in my upper back and shoulder that can be soothed with a little bit of heat and maybe a gentle massage, makes me realize that the pain of our sins that Jesus felt in his upper back and shoulder from the weight of the cross need our deep and constant love both for Him and for others, to bring about some relief.

With each movement of my swollen and bruised arms, I think of Jesus' beautiful arms, aching to hold me and comfort me. But, because they are attached to the cross by the nails of my sins, only my repentance can release them and fulfill His desire to hold me. I can work at releasing them and bringing his arms to embrace me by confessing my sins and resolving to resist future temptations.

When I look at the deep, purple bruise on my leg, and feel it's throbbing with each step I take, I can't help but think of the unbearable pain Jesus felt each time the weight of the cross caused his legs to buckle beneath Him, bringing Him to the ground. It's going to take my love for others, lifting them up when they fall down, to ease that pain in Jesus' legs.

The loss of dignity I suffered in my fall, lying in a pile of grapes, causing worry to my children and neighbors, will soon be forgotten. But how is it that Jesus will ever forget His loss of dignity at having been stripped of His clothes and laughed and jeered at by so many people? It's going to take a lot of love to heal that pain. I can begin by speaking kindly to and about others, by helping to restore the dignity that all people deserve by respecting the differences of others within the human race. I can stand up for the things I believe in firmly, yet lovingly, by remembering that God lives within everyone.

Feeling utterly exhausted after the fall, I longed to lie down and rest. How tired Jesus must be as well, after suffering all that torment and pain. I can make a quiet place for Him to rest while He heals, by quieting my heart in silent prayer, by reminding Him of my love for Him and by spending time alone with Him in my heart.

I feel better already, knowing that when I love others and spend time in prayer, I am loving Jesus and helping to relieve the pain of the indignities and physical anguish that He felt. Thank you Jesus, for this opportunity to feel a little bit of your pain and to work to relieve it for you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Power to Find Me


"You have the power to go where no one else can find me,
Yes, and to silently remind me
Of the happiness and good times that I know."

-Something in the Way She Moves-James Taylor























My Jesus,

It is only You who has the power to go where no one else can find me. It's so easy for me to hide within myself, to hold everything inside, to reveal only insolence to others in an effort to hold them at bay and keep them out of my heart. If I try to reach out, to speak of my pain to others, my words always fall flat, like a raindrop splattered on the steaming asphalt; they evaporate before they are properly understood, even by myself. I feel like a lost soul. Yet with only a short time in the presence of Your precious Host You rush right to my center, to my aching heart, and You flood it with reminders of joy. The power of Your love heals me. You don't have to speak a single word, I feel Your love for me in the sacred silence, as my eyes devour Your beauty residing in the golden vessel. Use Your power sweet Jesus; find me.

Amen.

Pondering Pages/True Devotion to Mary

Lara at Holy Mothering had the great idea to share a love for books in this weekly MEME format...




I have been considering consecrating myself to Mary through the intercession of St. Louis de Montfort. BothJamie and Lara have done this and written about it on their blogs. I have found their stories about the impact this has had on their lives to be fascinating and inspiring. Last year, before I even knew what total consecration was about, my sister Cindy and I attended a morning of prayer and reflection hosted by my very dear friend, Fr. Don. Just before the consecration, Fr. Don cautioned everyone not to come forward for the consecration unless they were well prepared and fully understood what they were undertaking. I gratefully stayed in my seat as I really had no idea what was going on. So, I thought I had better be prepared when Consecration day rolls around this October 17th. To help myself prepare, I read St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary. It was a sweet and sentimental book with a powerful message. In fact, the message was so powerful that I have decided to forgo consecration again this year.


After reading the True Devotion to Mary, I just couldn't drum up the fervor for consecration that I felt I should have if I were to follow through. I don't know what it will take to bring about that deep devotion for my beautiful Mother that I think I lack in my heart. But I trust that my desire for it will be fulfilled in God's time. In the meantime, I think I would be doing a grave disservice to Mary by consecrating myself to her just because other people have found joy in doing so. I have been recalling the words of Fr. Don when I was considering joining a religious order as a lay member. He told me that instead of looking outwards and wanting to do things that I found interesting and holy in other people's lives, I should really be looking inward, and go deeper into who I already am. With that in mind, I think that consecrating myself to Mary needs to be a desire deep within my heart, and until I am sure of that desire, I will wait for consecration. For now, I can live with this decision, and I hope that Mary can as well.

In the meantime, I would like to honor my beloved Blessed Mother on the feast of her birthday with my own words...








Radiant Mother,

prayerfully standing
clothed in blue
you are the image of pure beauty
but something is hidden underneath
your beauty
something I can't understand
despite my best efforts

there is a sword that pierces your heart
deep pain and sorrow surround you
but you don't complain
you remain silent
you ponder your world without a sound

your hands are constantly
folded in prayer and
you forever maintain
a slight smile on your face
as if you know a secret

perhaps your secret
is that your prayer of love
brings you joy
and you quietly reflect that
joy to the world
attracting us to the peace
that you have found

I love you, my beautiful Mother,
and I long to join you in that quiet,
reflective prayer
I want to draw peace from the
hole of emptiness
that is within my own heart

teach me your secret
dearest Mother
help me to hold the pain inside
hidden in silence,
and to only reveal
the joy that exists
within my heart
to the world around me
Amen.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Crushed Grapes

We have a very large grape vine arbor in our back yard and this is the season of harvest. I spend hours upon hours picking those grapes and cooking them down into juice which will later be made into sweet jelly. Last year as I was enmeshed in this activity, I heard from a dear friend who was enduring much pain in her marriage. I told her what I had been busy doing, and she said "Anne, that's me! I feel like crushed grapes." So for all of you who are feeling like crushed grapes (and don't we all from time to time?) this one's for you...

God,

I believe that you are the vine and I am the branches. You are sturdy, strong and life-giving. Your love flows into my branches and the fruit that I produce is fragrant and so sweet because of You. My deep, rich color is so attractive. I soak up the sunshine and revel in the beautiful, glorious life that You have blessed me with. I want my life to continue like this forever.

When You send your gardener to me, I am filled with joy. I think of how blessed I am to feel his gentle hands pluck my fruit from the branches and gently lay me in his basket.

But then, the gentleness turns to violence. His hands quickly pluck each of my grapes from the stem and toss them into a large kettle. Out comes the mallet and all I feel is pain as I am crushed to nothingness. I am little more than a jumbled heap of juice, seeds, skin and pulp. My beauty disappeared so quickly! I feel sticky and useless. What is your purpose, Lord? Why don’t You make him stop?

I’m not left to wonder in my misery for long, because an even more painful experience awaits me. I soon feel a fire burning beneath me and it quickly consumes me! I boil and froth. Can’t you hear me screaming in pain, Lord? Why is this happening? It’s so hot and I am in agony! I am stirred in fire so that not a single part of me gets left out of this pain. And then, slowly, I feel the fire beneath me diminish. But my pain does not diminish. It remains.

Now, I am poured out of the kettle and into the net. All of my sweet juice is drained out into the container below. Part of me has been separated from my original form. I am unrecognizable.

My pulp and my seeds which remain in the net are squeezed dry until they are useless, and they are tossed into to compost pile where the worms will turn them into dirt. Is that all I am to you, Lord, worthless dirt?

I hear You call to me to settle down. You say “Look what you will become. I have a higher purpose for you, but you could not attain it without first being separated from your original state, crushed into nothingness and purified in the fire. I am so sorry that you had to experience this pain. Believe me, I was crying and screaming and writhing right along with you."

"But now, you will become something even greater. The sweetness that is found in your juice has been concentrated so that it has become even sweeter. Sugar will be added to your juice to intensify your delectable flavor. You will have to be put on the fire again to purify you even more, but I know that you will be able to tolerate it, because I am with you in the fire and I love you, so much. When the heat becomes so strong that it is absolutely unbearable, you will be poured into a jar to contain you. You will be set on the windowsill in the path of the sunlight."

"You will shine and glisten and sparkle. Your deep, rich, purple color will become a clear jewel for all to see and enjoy; only now, you won’t be hidden under the leaves of the grape vine. You will be out in the open for everyone to see your glorious beauty. You will shine for me and I will shine in you."

"Children will see you and they will know immediately that you are something that they will enjoy immensely. They will be drawn to your rich color and your intense sweetness."

"You will be joyful because, by allowing yourself to be plucked, crushed and burned, you will have brought so much joy and love to the world around you. Through your new beauty, sweetness, clarity and brilliance you will draw more and more people directly to me. You are my instrument. This is your purpose. Don’t be afraid. I am with you every step of the way and I love you.”

Thank you God, for believing in me, for staying with me and for loving me. I am nothing without you, but, I am everything with you. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Praise!

Joining with Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart



Sitting amidst the noise of my wild sons fighting and shouting in what I interpret to be their overwhelming joy after spending a wonderful hour with the Lord at Mass, I try to calmly reflect upon all of those things for which I am most grateful to God...

1. I am so grateful for the gift of laughter, even when it is at my expense...

This past week, I arrived home from work to find a note on the kitchen table from my son Joe. The note said "Call Mrs. C about cookies for the homeless." Cookies for the homeless? How in the world would cookies be of help to the homeless, I wondered, but ever the helpful worker for the Lord, I returned the call to offer my baking skills to assist the homeless. As I waited for Mrs. C to answer her phone, I glanced over the calendar and groaned a little when I saw an upcoming home and school meeting scheduled for the next day. The phone was answered by a machine, and my voice rose into the lilt of a question as I agreed to bake cookies for the homeless. After I hung up, the connection became very clear to me. Mrs. C did not want cookies for the homeless, she wanted cookies for the home and school meeting! But now my voice was forever speaking my foolish mistake on her answering machine. When she returned my call, we both had a good laugh at my mistake. Time to review my son's phone message taking abilities!

2. I am so grateful for those who are willing to share their gifts from God to give glory right back to him...

We had a new cantor at Mass this morning, a beautiful young girl, a friend of my son's, who sings like an angel and gave me chills each time she opened her mouth to lead the congregation in song. A few years ago when my son, John had cantored for a school Mass, it was this very girl and some of her friends who gathered around John afterwards to ooh and aah over his singing ability. I had to tell the girls to scatter so his lifetime fan (me), could offer a few words of praise myself. This morning, it was my son who rushed to this young girl's side to compliment her singing and thank her for sharing her gifts. I am so grateful for youth who aren't afraid to share their love for God!

3. I am grateful for new friends...

I had been writing to someone for the past few months and we have instantly connected. I finally had the chance to meet her in person this past week, and she is wonderful! Marge and I have agreed to work together to establish an Apostolate of Spiritual Motherhood for the priests and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. (Easter and Esther-if you are reading this, we will be leaning heavily upon your expertise in the good work you have done in Honolulu!)

4. I am grateful for time alone with God and the lessons learned from that experience...

It is true that God works in mysterious ways, and I always marvel at the fact that I think I know so much only to find out that I know so very little. He is always in charge and my response can only be humble submission to His will for me.

5. I am grateful for the words of my friends in this blogging world, words that challenge, words that comfort, words that edify, words that bless, words that inspire. To me, they are the words of God. I would like to share some words that have especially touched my heart this week. These are from Susanne Barrett and her Meditative Meanderings Blog...

In the Confessional

Fear tastes metallic.
Eyes clenched, lowered,
I whisper the litany of my sins.
My cheeks redden --
a badge of transgression
unseen by all but the confessor.
Kindly he averts his gaze,
granting grace as I gather
breath and composure.
He has heard it all,
I scold myself.
He won't think less of
the bared soul before him --
I hope.

But shame envelops my tongue,
now dry as cotton,
choking words back into
my drought-scorched throat.
I vainly regather shreds of dignity,
desperately trying to cover
my exposed soul.

In this sacred space
my Lover cups my face
between His shattered palms,
gazes heart-deep
into my tear-stained soul,
looses my tongue from warp and weft
of imagined bonds.
My voice restored,
I raise my eyes to
meet the confessor's gaze...
At Last.

copyright 2009 Susanne Barrett



May the Lord bless you all with much to praise Him for in this upcoming week!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sun and Weeds

the sun
kisses
weeds in the meadow
licking
early morning frost
from the leaves
in a passionate
act of love
known only to me
and the
unseen wildlife

Friday, September 4, 2009

Retreat of Distractions

Like a deer that longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you, my God. Psalm 42

Feeling frustrated and worn down by my busy life, I took a retreat from ordinary activities and spent a day in silence with God, hoping that He would satiate me with the nourishment of His sweet love. Sitting in a wooded grotto, rosary in hand, I prayed before the statue of Mary without much devotion. The wooded location was beautiful, with only a few mosquitoes to annoy me, but I couldn't seem to bring about much feeling in my deadened heart. Before long, those annoying mosquitoes got on my nerves and I left the quiet sanctuary and I walked to the sunny outdoor Stations of the Cross. Meditating with the beautiful words of St. Alphonsus Liguori while contemplating the raised artwork on the cement stations, my heart quickened a bit as I felt a little more love for Jesus and his love for me, until the wasp nest with hundreds of wasps flying in and out, scared me away.

I left my natural surroundings to find God in the adoration chapel. Distractions mounted as some workmen had chosen this day for construction inside the convent and the constant pounding of hammers kept me from falling asleep as I often do at adoration, but also kept me from focusing on Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.

I left Jesus alone with an elderly nun in the back row before my hour was through, and walked across the street to the lake to search for bits of sea glass along the lake shore. I walked for hours upon the rocks, feeling them wear right through my shoes bringing pain to my feet and the muscles in my legs. My obsessive search for the treasured bits of softened glass came to symbolize my obsessive search for the part of my soul that had become buried under distractions and false idols these past few months. I wondered if God could ever find a home within my aching and sorrowful heart, or had I pushed him away by my neglect. My time of silent reflection was interrupted by some drunken men stumbling down the bluff and I thought with or without God in my heart, I had better leave.

In the early evening hours, I curled up on a park bench overlooking the lake to lose myself in a book and try to forget the emptiness that had taken residence inside of me. Streams of sailboats dotted the horizon, slowly moving back and forth against the brilliant blue backdrop of lake and sky. The scene was lovely but a chill in the air soon entered my bones and I knew it was time to leave. I felt stuck in my sadness and no amount of silence in the presence of God could change that. I wanted to feel Him within me so desperately, the kind of feeling that would linger forever, but it was time to accept the fact that it was just not meant to be.

As I was walking along the seminary path in the dusk, I spotted a doe and her two fawns in the field. The fawns were nursing enthusiastically, tails wagging for joy. Suddenly, the doe shook the fawns away and they all continued to graze on the grass. I think God must have meant for me to witness this scene. Maybe His chasing me away all day was just like the mother deer and her babies. Could it be that I was only meant to share a small amount of time alone with God, and then I was meant to go back to my business of every day life, caring for my family and my clients at work? I thought that perhaps, just as the mother deer lovingly nurtured her babies for a short time, God also meant to lovingly nurture me for a short time and then He expected me to be satisfied enough to carry on with bringing His love to others.

Dear God, I long to feel You within me day and night. I want your sweet consolations to constantly bring me comfort. Help me to accept the fact that I must draw my strength from small moments of grace and give me the courage to carry on with those tidbits of love that you share with me. Amen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Love on the Cross

"I love You Jesus, my love, with all my heart; I am sorry that I have offended You. Never permit me to offend you again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will." The Way of the Cross-St. Alphonsus Liguori


Jesus, you love me so much that you took all of your love for me and the world and you put it on the cross. It took your sweat, your blood and your tears. Your pain was so intense. Your love cost you everything.

Now, you are asking me to take all of my love and join you on the cross. I’m afraid. I am not strong enough. Do I love you enough to follow you to the cross? Do I love others enough to sweat, bleed and cry for them? Can I tolerate this intense pain?

Help me to say “Yes”, Lord. Take my hand and lift me up onto the cross beside You. Help me to give all of myself, everything, for love.

Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lullaby

Well I love my baby
sweet and fair
you've got the sky in your eye
the sun in your hair
I rock you to sleep most every night
and sing you this song
while I hold you tight

Sleep my baby
the angels keep you from harm
and your father above
cradles you in his love
safe and warm
sleep my baby
nestled in your mama's arms
sleep my baby
the angels keep you from harm

My baby
you'll be sleepin' soon
kissed by the golden stars and moon
I have just one wish for you
may your every dream come true

Appalachian Lullaby


I don't have any little babies in my household anymore. My last baby is now 8 years old. I am so grateful to be done with the diapers, and the colic, the temper tantrums and the potty training. I do miss the breastfeeding, baby curled up close, skin touching skin, mouth clicking rhythmically as a little drop of milk slips out of the corner of the rosebud mouth while eyes roll dramatically to the back of the head as sleep comes on (often for both baby and me!) That really was my favorite part of mothering so far. I also miss the bedtime stories and the lullabies.

For many years, I had the habit of kneeling beside my children's beds at night and saying the traditional bedtime prayers with my five little ones. But lately, I started to think that maybe they were getting too old to be praying "Now I lay me down to sleep" and "Angel of God" every night. I was thinking that maybe it was time for them to develop their own ways of praying to God with their own words. So, we started an examination of conscience at bedtime and spent a few minutes in silent prayer to thank God for the day and to tell Him that we were sorry for our sins. Before I knew it, I let them take that silent time with God by themselves, and our family bedtime ritual fell by the wayside, as so many honored rituals often do.

Then, a few nights ago, eight year old Mary, who still loves to snuggle in the evening, asked me if I would sing her a lullaby. How could I resist? I sat at the edge of her bed, tucked her up to her sweet chin in her downy quilt, and stroked her face with my finger, just as I did when she was a baby, and I quietly sang her favorite lullaby, soft and low. Soon, her eyelids fluttered one last time, her breathing slowed and sleep overcame her. I left her with a sign of the cross on her forehead and a tender kiss on her cheek.

I began to tiptoe back downstairs, but thirteen-year-old Joe and ten-year-old Jack listening from their bedroom, stopped me. "Mom, we want a lullaby, too," they told me. "Are you sure?" I asked in disbelief. They nodded emphatically. So, I tucked them both tightly into their beds like I hadn't done in years, and began the song again. I brushed the golden, shaggy hair from their foreheads, and ran my finger across their cheeks and chins. I could see the glimmer of faint smiles come across their faces even though the room was dark. Soon, they also drifted into a pleasant sleep. I made the sign of the cross on their foreheads, kissed their sweet cheeks, no longer chubby, but now becoming somewhat chiseled with the strength of adolescence, and sighed my own breath of contentment as I left them in their slumber.

It felt so good to return to those pleasant days that I had thought were long over for me. This morning Joe asked me if I would do it all over again tonight. I told him I wouldn't miss it for the world! I guess you never outgrow those tender moments of love with your children, hearts gently beating with the warm glow of family love, peace overcoming everyone. A lullaby really is a prayer, isn't it? It's like the words of the great St. Augustine when he said that singing is praying twice. My lullaby was both a prayer of longing for a future with God and a prayer of gratitude in remembrance of the love of days gone by. I can't wait until tonight so I can sing a bedtime prayer to my children once again.