Saturday, October 31, 2009

There's one in every family...isn't there?



Just like every class has a class clown, every family has a clown as well, don't they? In our family, that designation belongs to fourteen-year-old Justin. I don't think there is anything he wouldn't do for a laugh. Sadly, I'm not quite sure he's trying to be funny, I think that most of the time he is quite serious about the things he says and does.

Tonight at supper, Joe was sharing a story with the family about conjoined twins. Then, he got up to get the Guinness Book of World Records to share some more fascinating information with us. As Justin was looking at the picture, Paul asked him about how they move around. Pointing to the name Guiness on the book, Justin said "How should I know Dad, I'm not a genius!" "Well that's obvious!" was the consensus around the table.

Paul turned to me and said, "This is from the boy who painted his face black with a red nose and went trick or treating this afternoon as Brett Favre. A man giving out candy said he looked just like him too!" I missed that scene as I was out trick or treating with Jack and Mary. What left me smiling as we left our house was Justin's attempt to add "scary sound effects" for those visitors looking for treats. He had a CD playing with the sound of someone snoring. Scary stuff! That would have kept me away for sure!

What would we do without our comic relief named Justin? He is one delightful laugh after another! We never know what kind of stunt he will pull next! I thank God for this sweet and silly son of mine!

Where is Father?

We had no priest for morning Mass yesterday. It's normal for Fr. Dave to fly in at the last minute, but by ten after seven, it was clear that he would not be coming. The silence in the church was heavy, not sweet, perhaps because there was an underlying sense of worry. Was he sick? Hurt? Hasn't the news been full of stories of priests who didn't show up for Mass only to be found (dead) afterward? I can't believe I actually let that ugly thought out of my head and onto this computer! Never have I prayed for Fr. Dave so much as I did on that Friday morning in church! My prayers were answered in the sweetest way, as Fr. Dave was not dead, he simply failed the check the Mass schedule upon his return from retreat. Thankfully, Sr. Doris was there to lead us all in a prayer service.

Communion Service

Discomfort filled my soul
as I stood at the Ambo,
Lectionary in front of me,
page turned to the Gospel.

"Read it," she had said.

"How can I read these words,
that belong to the priest?"
I wondered.

I scanned the faces in the pews,
look of hunger for God's word
lay heavily upon each.

Two smiling little faces in the front pew
gleamed with pride for their mother.

"They shouldn't be smiling," I thought.

I swallowed my worry
and proclaimed His words.

At the end of the communion service
I prayed that we would never be without
a priest again.

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the field." Lk 10:2

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Last Leaf

























What inner pain causes the last leaf of autumn to cling so tightly to the branch of the tree? What deep-seated fear impels it to hold on so desperately?

Is it worried that the winds will carry it far away from the security of the tree that it has known and loved throughout the seasons of the past?

Or perhaps it is the decay of death that repels it so.

Whatever the reason for the anguish of the leaf that causes it to be so very needful, it can't possibly know that the bitterness of a cold winter is just around the corner, or that the sturdy condition of the branch to which it helplessly lingers, is no match for the weight of the ice and snow that is sure to come.

Release yourself to the sweet surrender of God's love, lonely leaf. Let go in trust. Let your horizons expand like those of the sun rising above the lake.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Faith Empowering and Engaging Teens (FEET)

“How can nominal Catholics demand obedience and respect from their children when they extract from their children’s hearts, especially by means of their bad example, what the catechists have worked to plant in the young hearts? These Catholics are the same ones who complain about the youth of today and blame other people for this state of affairs. Could not the children of these Catholics say-though with a different meaning-to their parents the words that the child Jesus said to his Mother in the Temple: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”(Lk 2:49)
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter

Letters and Writings from Prison


There has been an intriguing discussion in the blog world about teenagers living their faith. Both Judy at Benmakesten and Karinann at Daughter of the King have had some very thought provoking posts on the subject. I can’t resist joining in!

As a teenager, I was pretty wild and gave my parents more than plenty to worry about. I came from a very devout Catholic family, the youngest of nine children. I was the product of a Catholic grade school and a public high school. Although I had never left my faith, I didn’t get a lot of support in the world of my public school peers during my teen years, and more often than not, I felt the sting of ridicule from my non-Catholic friends.

Recalling how difficult those years were for me, I really dreaded the day when my own children became teens, thinking I would be in for more of a challenge than I could cope with. The news is always filled with teenagers in trouble, the malls are filled with teenagers acting rowdy, and the WIC clinic where I work is always filled with teenagers having babies. So it makes me wonder why God chose to bless me with such beautiful children who are so wonderfully different than how I remember myself as a teenager. We have our trouble to be sure, but for the most part, my children are respectful and kind and they seem to be drawn to other children of the same nature, so I am very grateful to God and I pray that it remains this way.

We are a pretty close-knit family and enjoy spending time together. I always laugh about how anytime someone in our family is involved in an activity like basketball, the whole family comes along to show support. Where one Bender goes, more are sure to follow! We move around in a pack like wolves! But I think this is what helps us to stay close and connected and aware of what is going on in our children’s lives.

But the time that they spend at school is another story. It is then that Paul and I have to trust that the efforts we’ve put into instilling our faith and our values into our children is really paying off. We pray that they will choose their friends wisely, will be treated kindly by others and will treat others kindly as well. Here’s where it gets a little sticky, because we can’t control what other children do, we can only enforce a little muscle with our own.

However, in the world of school and work, friends are important. They help us to feel loved, accepted and normal. I'll never forget the one time in my life where I leaned heavily on the friendships of others. When my children were small, I felt isolated and lonely for adult company during the day while my husband was as work. Our parish offered a "Mom's Group" where mothers and their infants and toddlers gathered together weekly to pray and socialize. I don't think I could have survived all of those temper tantrums and childhood illnesses if I didn't have friends to commisserate with and show me that all families suffer through those difficulties. It was also a great place to share the joys of mothering small ones as well. Today, I continue to share the friendship of many of these fine women. Our families continue to get together to celebrate life. We joyously greet one another with smiles at Mass. The "Mom's Group" has been a wonderful blessing in my life.

Our teenagers also need friendships outside of the family. They need to be able to choose friends that share their values, their difficulties and their joys. They need to spend time with these friends in a safe environment away from the pressures that are placed on so many teens to dapple in drugs and sex.

My husband and I, along with a group of several other adults and parents in our parish, have begun to offer a youth ministry program called FEET, which stands for Faith Empowering and Engaging Teens. We’re trying to follow up on a program that was begun last year by some college students working on an internship. We did lots of advertising and promotion, and held our first meeting this past Sunday. I was very nervous! I had no idea how many kids might show up, what we might say to them, or how enthusiastic they might be. But in my heart, I knew that it was very important to offer a safe place for our youth to gather together and share their faith.

My sons John and Justin were both involved and we were thrilled to see that over 25 other teenagers from our parish attended the meeting. This wasn’t something that their parents forced them to do, and it wasn’t part of a catechism class or confirmation preparation. This was just meant to be a program where teens would feel comfortable praying together and sharing their faith in a fun and friend-filled atmosphere. The program wasn’t meant to separate them from their families or the adults in their lives, but rather, it was meant to enhance the faith that has already been established in their households, and to help the teens develop a sense of community with one another.

Now that the first meeting has passed, it seems that my nerves were unwarranted. Our session was actually judged by all involved to be very successful! The group listened intently as Fr. Don Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary spoke with them about the importance of their faith during these crucial years of their life and shared a story of his time in the Seminary. He told the group that even though he and his classmates were rambunctious, they were blessed to be free to share their faith with one another. His story caught the spirit of the FEET Program perfectly!

The participants warmly welcomed those teens who seemed a little shy and hesitant to join in the socialization.They readily volunteered to help with the first service project this December. And, they all joined in prayer with loving hearts. Many of the teens asked if we could meet weekly instead of monthly! I was so impressed with these wonderful teenagers and am so grateful to be a part of something that will help to keep them grounded in their faith.

Through this FEET Program I am reminded of the classic adage "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) And I echo the words of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter , our children belong in their Father's house, with their families and with the community of their friends, for both are important. God bless our youth!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All Things Are Possible With God! Meet Christopher Klusman


Christopher Klusman, a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, WI, will be ordained to the priesthood in 2011, God willing. Christopher’s beaming, radiant smile seems to be without limit. Wherever he goes he exudes a joy for life and for God that will easily translate into an outstanding priest.

Christopher was deaf at birth. His early years of life were filled with the love and support of family. He has many happy memories of laughter and play with his parents, siblings and grandparents. He is a big fan of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. He enjoys playing classic Nintendo games, attending theatre and museums, travel and reading. But most of all, he loves and cherishes time spent with family and close friends. It’s easy to see that the love and confidence with which he was formed at home, has lead to his openness to listen to God’s voice when He spoke to Christopher’s heart.

“The first people that I told about my call to the priesthood were my parents. I can't think of how many sleepless nights I've endured, as I tried to come up with words that could break the news with great ease. It was as if I was trying to think of a perfect proposal for the woman of my dreams. I swear I came up with over 100 ways. When I broke it to my parents, ironically, it wasn't what I planned. It came straight from the heart, since I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me. My parents cried, but they were tears of joy. Later, when more people found out, they were like, "I'm not surprised. It is a great fit." I didn't expect that they felt that way. If I only knew, I wouldn't have put myself through such agony!”

On October 2nd, the Annual Rector’s Dinner was held at the Hyatt Hotel in Milwaukee. Christopher stood before a crowd of over 500 supporters of our St. Francis de Sales Seminary and shared his call story. The crowd held their breath in awe of Christopher’s beautiful call story and he put a smile on everyone’s face when he shared the particular story of how his mentor, Monsignor Glenn Nelson of the Diocese of Rockford, IL “popped the question,” that is, he asked Christopher, “Have you thought about the priesthood?” According to Christopher, “Monsignor Nelson is like a superhuman because he amazingly handles his many roles.” Along with Fr. Michael Depcik of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Monsignor Glenn Nelson has helped to form and shape Christopher’s understanding that “nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). Through their examples, Christopher has found that there are no obstacles through which God cannot break through to use us as He sees fit.

Life at St. Francis de Sales Seminary is very busy, not at all as Christopher had imagined it to be. His days are filled with prayer to be sure, but there is also much work involved in the training for the priesthood. A typical day usually includes: Morning Prayer at 7 am, Mass at 7:15 am, breakfast at 8 am, carpool to Sacred Heart School of Theology for a full day of classes in intellectual formation, one of the four pillars of formation for Seminarians, then back to St. Francis de Sales Seminary for Evening Prayer at 6 pm, and dinner at 6:30 pm. In addition to these activities, time needs to be made for homework, meetings, and chats with friends, classmates and faculty, jobs, exercise and errands. The life of a Seminarian also includes one day a week that focuses on the other three pillars of formation: human, pastoral and spiritual. For Christopher, one of the highlights of his time in the Seminary is theology 24/7!

Last summer he had the opportunity to spend some time in Boston learning the role of hospital chaplain. Although it was hard for him to be away from home for the whole summer, he knew it would be a great learning experience. He appreciated this experience because “I learned so much about suffering and how that is related to us being connected to Jesus’ suffering on the Cross. I can’t say enough how much people truly appreciate even one visit! It is what Jesus said, ‘For I was …ill and you cared for me.’ (Mt. 25:35-36).

Looking ahead to April 24, 2010, Christopher will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. He is optimistic about his vow of celibacy as an opportunity to be exclusive to not one person, but to all people. He hopes for the chance to minister at his home parish with the proclamation of the Gospel, giving homilies and baptizing infants during the summer of 2010.

From there, the next step will be ordination to the Priesthood in 2011! “How beautiful it would be to be Jesus’ vessel in which He acts through me! It overwhelms me to anticipate the humble moments when Jesus changes the bread and wine to His Body and Blood through me and forgives sins of others at confession through me.”

Regarding the specific challenges that being deaf may bring to the priesthood, Christopher says,
“I am still amazed to this day on how well I can communicate with the deaf and hearing communities. I feel the ability to do that comes from my family's faith in me and from God. It is truly a gift from God. Statistics found that the best lip-reader can only read up to about 30 percent, only because there are limited numbers of lip-shapes that can be made. Just try watching a TV show without any sound! Imagine that I can never turn the sound back on, ever! I've learned that communication is a two-way street where it helps if we both come half-way to try to make each other understood in a way that is respectful to each other. As for schooling, interpreters ensure that I receive 100%. That is important because then I can pass on what I've learned, especially through future homilies, for example. Everything I learned is not just for my own gain, but also for all the others' gain! In groups of 2 or more people, lip-reading becomes more challenging because it becomes like a game of "Hot Potato." Ears can track where auditory cues occur. Since my deafness doesn't pick much auditory cues, I would often have to look to who is talking next. I learned from my parish internship that meetings, like Parish Council, are accessible with interpreters. Gratefully, I am blessed with the ability to speak, which is unusual for a deaf person. I could do Mass as a presiding priest without an interpreter, but if I attend Mass, an interpreter makes it more accessible (only if the priest doesn't sign). In the future, there are several situations that can be done with an interpreter and several that do not necessitate an interpreter. But, there is one thing that will never change and that is that I will never have an interpreter during the Sacrament of Confession. The one exception that I have to make is that I won't be able to use the grill or divider, for I'll need to be able to see the person's face to lip-read (not to see who s/he is!). The most exciting thing about my working with the deaf and hearing communities in the future is that I hope to help bridge the two communities more deeply than before. Isn't that what Jesus calls us to do. . . to unify more of his members into the one and unified Body of Christ united to Him as the Head?”

Let’s all unite in prayer for Christopher as he works through his final years in Seminary, as well as keep all of the seminarians and those discerning a call to the Priesthood and religious life in our prayers. As for Christopher, he really does hear perfectly well; he heard the voice of God calling him to be a priest and he answered “yes”! In any language, that’s a beautiful conversation and a reminder that “all things are possible with God!”

(To learn more about Christopher and all of the fine seminarians studying at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, WI, visit http://www.thinkpriest.org/ )

This story can also be found at: A Vocation to be a Priest

Another Award!



I think Judy likes me! She gave me another award! This one is much easier to accept because I don't have to think of any little facts about myself, I simply have to pass it on to other bloggers who inspire me. The hardest part is limiting myself to five blogs!

I can't think of anything in the world that is more beautiful than the witness of someone who is deeply in love with God. These five bloggers are all wonderful witnesses to that love, and it has become a real need for me to keep up with their words on a daily basis. So I pass this award on to:

Mary at the Beautiful Gate

Susanne at Meditative Meanderings of Susanne Barrett

Gabriella at Gabriella's Blog

Sue at In Him We Live and Move and Have our Being

Sarah at More Than Enough

and please, can I just break the rules and give this to a 6th?...
Elizabeth at Blest Atheist

And I ditto Judy's award to Karinann at Daughter of the King And of course, I would give this one right back to Judy at Benmakesten who is extremely generous in sharing her love for God! I don't know what I would do without my daily dose of these lovely ladies blogs!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gorgeous Blogger Award


Sweet Judy at Benmakesten has surprised me with this delightful award! With great awards comes great responsibility, so now I am responsible for naming six little known facts about myself and then passing this award on to six other gorgeous bloggers. Here goes...

1. Today I will be meeting a true lifelong friend for coffee, and I'm very excited! Sarah and I were next-door neighbors from birth. We ran away together to the playground on the corner when we were toddlers. She was the one who was really running away, I just went along to protect her because I was 6 months older than her! We haven't seen each other in at least 20 years, so I know that the "Funky Bean" will be the sight of a blessed reunion! (I'm the one in the red sweater and Sarah is next to me.)

2. My middle name is Marie, Paul's middle name is Michael, so, we are AM and PM! Day and Night, we continue to love and support one another!

3. I used to sing in a guitar group at Mass when I was in my early 20's. Do those even exist anymore?

4. My friend Marge and I along with our local Rosary Evangelization Apostolate are working to establish an Apostolate of Spiritual Motherhood for Priests here in Milwaukee. Our goal is to assign a Spiritual Mother to each of the 800 bishops, priests, brothers and seminarians in our Archdiocese by the end of the Year of the Priest this June. Gotta take care of those good boys with prayer! See my sidebar for lots of great links! And please, keep this effort in your prayers!

5. Today is my 6 month blogging anniversary!

6. I am a hard-rock girl at heart. My favorite all time song is "Spirit of the Radio" by Rush.

I can't believe how incredibly difficult it is to think of six little known facts that would truly be of interest, so I hope these didn't leave you all yawning!

And now to pass this award on to six gorgeous bloggers whose words and faith-filled blogs always leave me hungry for more...

Michelle at Always Room for One More!

Daily Grace

Dymphna's Well

Jennifer at Laudem Gloriae

Jessica at My Silent Journey

Elizabeth at Little Flower Petals

Pass it on gorgeous bloggers!

What's it Gonna Take to Make Me Like Sports?


I am not a sports fan of any type, unless my kids are playing. Then sitting in the stands cheering on my children is a joy! So,it's a real challenge living in a household full of men and boys when you don't share their love for sports! But, I just offer up the fact that I'm bothered by all the constant sports talk as a penance in reparation for all the times that my own obsessions and interests are a nuisance to my family. Listening to the games on TV or radio is a bit more of a challenge to offer up, though, because the noise of the cheering fans really grates on my nerves. I admit that it is fun when the guys get all excited as I reach for the sports section of the Sunday newspaper, thinking that I've finally caved to the pressure and have become interested in the latest baseball stats. I can't help but smile when I hear the unified groan as they realize that I'm only looking for the weather report on the back page of the sports!

But this sports story really made my day, and I just have to share it! Now if Archbishop Dolan lived at my house, I'm sure he could convince me to take up an interest in sports and he would become as much a hero to my husband and sons as he is to me! Check out his latest blog post!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Support a Catholic Speaker Month/Fr. Larry Richards



Matt Warner at Fallible Blogma has a great idea. He put up a list of over 100 Catholic Speakers and has been asking fellow bloggers to choose a Catholic Speaker with whom they were not very familiar, do a little research, perhaps send an email to the speaker, and then write up a post supporting your chosen speaker. According to Matt's post on the topic, "The goal is to create a rising Catholic tide on the internet that lifts all boats (websites, speakers, and all those who participate). This giant, sudden influx of catholic material and interlinking between Catholic websites should get some attention and raise awareness about all of these great Catholic speakers while also promoting the many wonderful Catholic blogs out there that perhaps you haven’t heard of yet either."

I can do that, I thought! I always love to meet new people, even (and sometimes especially) through the internet. So I chose Fr. Larry Richards, because although his name sounded vaguely familiar to me, I truly did not know him. I quickly googled his name to see what I could find. Lots of results, that's what I found! A hurried scan told me that two groups he especially likes to work with are men and teenagers. That second category intrigued me considering I have a few of those creatures called teenagers living in my house! So, I whipped out an email to Fr. Larry Richards asking him to please share a little bit of his story with me. Knowing that he must be incredibly busy, I wasn't sure if I should expect any kind of response, but within a few days, he did reply telling me what I already knew, that yes, he is very busy, currently promoting his new book "Be a Man", that just came out.

Not wanting to miss the deadline, I scooted back to the internet to see what else I could learn, and this time around, I lingered a bit longer and learned quite a lot!

"The Reason For Our Hope" is the name of Fr. Larry's website. The purpose and mission of his website and foundation is "in answer to 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” The purpose of The Reason For Our Hope Foundation is to fulfill the command of Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 16:28). The mission of the Foundation is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Church through various multimedia resources and to make available Catholic speakers who are effective instruments of this evangelization. The Foundation also helps various charities that make real the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Fr. Larry was ordained a priest in 1989 and is currently the pastor of St. Joseph Church/Bread of Life Community in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is also the founder and president of "The Reason For Our Hope", hosts a nightly radio program on Relevant Radio, has many CD's and tapes of his talks available, and can now add author to his list of accomplishments! Another google scan brought up many you-tube videos of his talks, and I can testify that he is well worth listening to! After a few short videos, I laughed, I cried and I wanted to rouse up my whole family and head out to confession! (Here's the link to his outstanding confession talk, it made for lots of healthy discussion in our household!) If he ever makes it back to Milwaukee to share his faith and wisdom here, I promise I will be first in line to buy a ticket!

I leave you with this very moving video and encourage you to support Fr. Larry Richards and The Reason For Our Hope Foundation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wMV0l7UXtY&feature=related

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Grotto














He sits on the bench,
fingers working beads,
lips silently mouthing prayer.

He is alone with God.

Hidden angels peek
through the canopy of leaves
in the trees that surround him.

He is oblivious to everything
but the presence of God
and his longing for Him.

A child, finding him on the bench,
impulsively runs
to wrap him in a hug.

He warmly welcomes her
into his sacred prayer.

The angels sing for joy
causing the vibrant-hued leaves
to shower down to the earth
in their own prayer of praise.

If I were an artist
I would paint a picture
of that scene…

-the priest, the child,
the angels and the leaves-

so I would forever be reminded
of that wondrous moment,
deep with reverence
for life,
for love,
and for God.


HAPPY WORLD PRIEST DAY! (October 25) If your life has been touched by a priest, please say thank you! Where would we be without these good and holy men who care for our souls?

Another Birthday Boy-Jack!



Jack Thomas is 11 years old today!

Jack Thomas, aka...

Slam
Sha-sha
Skittles
Baby Jack
Sweet Baby Jack
BJ
JT
Jackie B

and I should now probably add: King of Alias's!

But of course, my favorite name for him is Jack Thomas. When I was pregnant with Jack, Paul and I let John, who was 5 at the time, choose Jack's name. His first choice was Michael, but, considering we already had three sons whose names began with the letter "J", we didn't want the new baby to feel left out, so we asked John to think of something else. His next choice was Jackson, which we thought was a very nice name, but we knew we would never call him that, so we whittled it down to Jack and everyone was happy! His middle name was a nod to "Thomas the Tank Engine" who was quite popular in our house at that time.

Why all this focus on the birthday boy's name? Because my favorite story about Jack has to do with his lovely name. In our family, we celebrate the Saints Feast Days of our children's namesakes. We usually do something very simple like have a favorite dessert after supper. Since we don't know if there is a St. Jack (fill me in please if you know of any) we choose to celebrate the feast day of St. Thomas which falls on July 3rd, as Jack's namesake Saint.

My children and I are in the habit of attending daily Mass during the school year. Not wanting to be pushy about the faith, I allow the kids to slack off and sleep in during the summer months and I attend Mass alone. But last year, on July 3rd, as I was backing the van out of the garage, I heard a little voice call out "Wait Mom! Don't leave without me! It's my feast day, I'm coming to Mass with you!" Well let me just say that hearing that sweet little voice speak those sweet little words made St. Thomas' feast day a true feast for me as well as for Jack!

Happy Birthday Sweet Baby Jack! May the dear Lord bless you!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Taize' Prayer-A Pilgrimage of Trust


Darkness envelops the spacious yet intimate church. Then, one by one- beginning at the altar- the lights of hundreds of candles begins to cast a warm glow, banishing the dark and bringing about the light of the Risen Christ. Groups of candles draw attention to hand-painted icons portraying Jesus, Mary, and the Saints, each brush stroke a prayer by the painter. The church remains beautifully silent as all gather in peace. Our unified hush is a poignant prayer in itself, a prayer of love and worship. Quiet voices begin to chant, emphasizing a recurrent refrain, alongside chanted verses of Scripture. Silence resumes allowing the words of our chant to hover in the air and fill our hearts. Scripture readings are gently spoken followed by reflective silence that permits the Word to be immersed into our souls. This sequence of silence, song, scripture- with meditation and icons is the substance of the liturgical prayer from the Taizé monastery.


Taizé is the name of the village in Burgundy, France in which Brother Roger Schutz settled in 1940. Here, beginning in a plain farmhouse, he offered hospitality to refugees- particularly French Jews- suffering the hardships and dangers of WWII. By the end of the war, he began a common life of prayer with 6 other men who were committed to celibacy and a life of community. Their basis was the Rule of Saint Benedict, which Brother Roger greatly respected. Brother Roger devoted his entire life to the unity of all Christians. Although he had been a Protestant pastor, he entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, and every Pope has admired his foundation of a monastery that included Protestant and Catholic monks since the community’s beginnings. He died during evening prayer in Taizé on August 16, 2005.

Today the village of Taizé draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, seeking the community offered through prayer for all Christians. Led now by Prior Brother Aloïs Löser, Taizé brothers travel the world to encourage Christian unity in what they call “A Pilgrimage of Trust.” A strong Christian witness that crosses denominational lines, ages, and nationalities, is considered “a parable of communion,” extending reconciliation and the love of Christ to all.

Taizé Prayer is a beautifully peaceful time to contemplate God’s love and to allow His voice to be heard in the silence of your heart. A typical worship service includes: one or two opening songs, a psalm, a song of light, scripture readings interspersed with more song, a time of silence, a prayer of intercession or adoration, the Lord’s Prayer and a concluding prayer.


Taize’ Prayer is a “don’t miss” prayer occasion, a chance to escape from the busyness of the hectic pace of life and spend some quiet time with God. For more information about Taize’ visit: the Taize' Community. A special thank you to Speculator at La Vie Graphite for your helpful expertise in this story! Merci!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lost and Carried Away!


I am absolutely and completely in love with the month of October. I praise God for giving us this beautiful month of frosty mornings, breath carried away in puffs of smoke from our steamy mouths, and fiery leaves setting the trees ablaze against a bright blue sky, then silently falling to the ground in a sweet, musky-smelling pile that crackles under our feet.

Quite a few years ago when my children were very small, my sons and I were on our way to our neighborhood school where my oldest son, John, attended kindergarten. We were pleasantly surprised by a huge leaf pile, taller than my son's heads, piled up in the street, waiting for the city workers to come take it away in their truck to some far off destination for burning. Who could resist taking a few minutes out of a hectic schedule to jump and play in that glorious pile? We all rejoiced in the fun of that moment until a quick glance at my watch told me that we if we didn't cut the leaf-jumping short, John would be late for school. As the boys regretfully climbed out of the leaves, and brushed the remaining golden fragments from their jackets, Justin began to cry, for he had lost one of his shoes in the pile! We all quickly began to hunt for it, pushing and digging through the leaves, but to no avail.

We decided to let four-year-old Justin hop on one foot for the last two blocks to school, and after John went into class, we could look for the shoe once more. After kissing John farewell, Justin, Joe, Jack and I made our way back to the leaf-pile, poor Justin still hopping along. As we turned the corner to where the leaf-pile had been, here was the city truck, all of the leaves in the back, driving away with Justin's shoe! His shoe was lost and carried away!

It was bad luck for us that day, but thinking back to that moment, I realize that it is exactly how I want to be. I want to be lost and carried away like Justin's shoe. Only I don't want to be taken away to the city limits for burning. I want to be lost in Jesus' love, in his sweet and tender arms and carried away to eternal joy in heaven. I know I can get there, but it won't be from jumping head over heels into a leaf pile. Instead, I can get there by jumping head over heels into prayer, covering myself with words of love, burying myself under kind actions for my neighbors and losing myself in the joy of God's love.

Oh Jesus, let me get carried away in the wonder of your Love! Take me away to everlasting happiness. Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Forbidden Fruit

“Think about the shape of Adam and Eve’s hands as the reached for the apple. It was one of grasping, taking. Now, compare that with Jesus’ hands as he stretched them out in abandonment to God’s will on the cross.” Fr. Don Hying










How I long to take a bite of the delicious,
red, mouthwatering apple
that is set before me Lord.
I stare at it.
I turn it over and over in my mind.
My desire is deep.
My hand moves to reach for it.
My heart races with excitement.
I can almost touch it, feel it, and taste it. I’m so close.
But you pull me back, Lord.
It’s not meant for me.
It will be left on the tree so everyone else who sees it,
can enjoy it as well.
My tears of sorrow and regret fall freely down my face as I slowly walk away.
I thank you, Lord, for delivering me from temptation,
for You alone are my
one,
true desire.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pondering Pages/The Strangest Way


I loved The Strangest Way-Walking the Christian Path by Fr. Robert Barron, so I'm sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book for this week's Pondering Pages contribution in conjunction with Lara's Holy Mothering MEME. I hope that you will find them to be as inspiring as I did. Most of them deal with prayer, and what I love about his suggestions is that they are so easy, such as simply touching a cross necklace to center a chaotic day in Christ. One thing I have been doing in the past year is praying the prayer of the priest at Mass during the preparation of the altar, "Lord, wash away my iniquity, cleanse me from all my sin", each time I wash my hands. I love simple prayers that we can easily work into our daily routine so that we can obey St. Paul in his instruction to "pray constantly."(Thes 5:16-18) So without further ado, some great words of wisdom from Fr. Robert Barron...

The great mark of the disciple is obedience, abiding by the divine command; and the great mark of the anti-disciple is trying to master God.”

“No one is ever holy without suffering. Holiness involves suffering because holiness finally is reduced to love, the forgetting of oneself.”

Regarding the Jesus prayer: “While one prays the first part of the mantra, one is encouraged to breathe in deeply, filling the lungs entirely. This act symbolizes the filling of the heart with the living presence of Christ, the placing of Jesus at the center of all that we are. At the conclusion of the payer, one holds one’s breath for a brief period and then exhales while reciting the conclusion “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” This last gesture evokes the expelling of sin from the heart. The double movement of breathing in and breathing out is sort of a cleansing process, a taking in of the Holy Spirit and a letting go of unclean spirits.”

“The most striking quality of the rosary prayer is its deliberate pace, the way it, despite ourselves, slows us down. It is a common practice of the spiritual masters that the soul likes to go slow. This is because it likes to savor. Thomas Aquinas said there are two basic moves of the will, to seek after the good that is absent and to rest in the good possessed.”

“The touching of the crucifix focuses the entire personality on the power of Christ-centering and grounding it-this act wards off powers, interior and exterior, that seek to unravel the unity of the soul…spiritual integrity is affected, not simply by interior processes, but also by moves of the body, Christ entering through touch as much as through thought or feeling. A crucifix worn around one’s neck can serve as a powerful centering device. In the course of the day, when beset by a dozen worries and distractions, a believer can simply touch that symbol and thereby effect the gathering of the soul.”

“When we pray, it is not so much keen feelings of devotion that force us to our knees as kneeling that gives rise to keen feelings of devotion.”

“The humble man will always be talkative; for he is interested in his subject and knows that it is best shown by talk. But the proud man will be generally silent; for he is not interested in his subject, but in himself.”
I liked this last one because I am such a chatterbox and I found comfort here about something that I had considered to be a weakness in myself. Maybe it's not a weakness after all!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parenting a Possible Vocation to the Priesthood


A Vocation to be a Priest written by and for teens who are discerning a call to the priesthood, is a fabulous website that is drawing wonderful reviews worldwide. I have written this story to help show my support for their efforts and wanted to share it here as well. Please support the website with your visits and your prayers. If you have a vocation story that you would like to share, please contact the editors. I'm sure that they would be very happy to hear from you!

Parenting a Possible Vocation to the Priesthood


My husband Paul and I are the proud parents of four sons and one daughter. When my youngest son was born, a woman from church came to bring me communion in the hospital. Instead of congratulating me on the birth of my son, she said “Oh you poor thing! Four boys! They are all going to get married and leave you one day!” I countered her sad remark with “Maybe they will all grow up to be priests! Who knows what God’s desires are for their lives?” And since that day, I have resolved to cooperate as best I can with God’s plans for my children, because after all, they are His children first.

When John, my oldest son, was in the fourth grade, he began to express an interest in the priesthood and my heart was overjoyed! I knew that if God were truly calling him to this holy and honorable vocation, then it was my responsibility as his mother to pray for him and do all that I could to assist and support him. My sisters were also very supportive and began to give him spiritual books about the saints and invite him to prayer groups. He was always very open to that, although I do worry a bit that maybe he would think we were pushing him into the priesthood. I know that in life, balance is important in all things, including answering God’s call, so I try to gently invite and to be understanding when the answer might be “No, thank you.”

However, it seems that no matter what faith events and activities I would present to John as an option for his life, he has always said “yes.” He joined the Choristers of St. Francis Xavier at our Cathedral when he was in the 4th grade and continues to sing with this group. He has recently joined the adult choir at our home parish. He also sings with the youth ministry at his Catholic High School. He has been an altar server since the 5th grade. He is the only young man that our parish requests as an altar server for funerals. He and two of his brothers who are also altar servers were given the nickname of the “A-team servers” by our director of liturgical music. He has been doing an outstanding job of lectoring at Mass for the past two years. It seems that there is no part of the liturgy in which John is not open to becoming involved in and he enjoys all of it.

John is now 16 years old and I continue to marvel at his deep faith and maturity. In many ways, I feel as if he is the spiritual parent, and I simply follow his lead. I have learned a great deal from him! He seems to receive great joy in speaking of his faith and sharing it with me. He recommends spiritual books to me and shares his faith writings with me. His fine example has helped me to grow in my faith. What I have become very aware of regarding John’s deep faith is my great responsibility in needing to also live my faith well. If my son is to become a great and holy priest, the example of a holy mother is so important. So, I turn to God very frequently and am so pleased when John is able to join me in prayer at daily Mass, at adoration and at Holy Hours.

We are very blessed to have a fabulous Seminary in our Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States. The Seminary of St. Francis de Sales offers a summer camp for youth who are interested in the priesthood and also offers programs throughout the year such as “A Day in the Life of a Priest”, in which John always enjoys participating. A vocation to the priesthood involves so much more support than what a family can provide on their own, so I am very grateful that these opportunities are available to enrich John’s spiritual life and support him in God’s call for his life.

I see it as a great honor and a tremendous responsibility to have the privilege of raising God’s children. It is my job to see to it that my children know and live their faith. I see my role as mother as one of openness to God’s will in all things. If God is truly calling John to the priesthood, then I will honor and respect that. And, if it becomes clear to John that this is not God’s will for him, then I need to honor and respect that as well. It isn’t easy to know God’s will or to remain open to it. So many times I struggle because I want my will! But I believe that all things are possible with God, and if He is truly calling my son to the priesthood, then who am I to stand in His way? If the day of Ordination to the Priesthood does arrive for John, I will be so proud and happy to continue to pray for him and support him in his Priesthood in any and every way that I can!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Praise! This One's For the Girls!



Joining with Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart in a list of praises. I am a terrible copy-cat, her post included praises for time spent with her daughters, so I thought I would just have to share the joy that my daughter Mary brings to my life.

Last Sunday the kids and I spent a Holy Hour at the Seminary praying for vocations. It was the first time that Mary has heard the Divine Mercy Chaplet chanted. It must have made quite an impression on her. On Monday, when I came home from work, there she was processing around the living room with the crucifix held high above her head, and she was chanting "for the sake of the sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world" over and over again!

This morning, she came downstairs to snuggle under the covers with me for just "a few minutes more" before it was time for church. I told her that there was nothing I loved more than snuggling on a cold morning. "No!" she said. "There's nothing we love better than God!" She's just so smart! And sweet, too!

So, today I thank God for my lovely daughter Mary who knows that God is the most important, most worthy of all of our love, most wonderful, most everything! And, I thank God for my lovely Mother Mary, who also knows that God is the most important, most worthy of all of our love, most wonderful, most everything-and she is the one who always leads my daughter and I to her precious Son.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Consecration to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort

Today I had the great honor and privilege of Consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort. This post will describe a little bit more about what it means to be consecrated and the process that it entails.

Last year, my sister Cindy and I attended a conference at Mother of Good Counsel Church in Milwaukee which explained a bit about St. Louis de Montfort and his consecration. The day began with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass followed by the conference talk given by Fr. Don Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. Then everyone gathered around a Shrine of St. Louis de Montfort to pray the rosary, followed by the consecration for those who were participating and then the day ended with a benediction. The program was hosted by a woman whose mother had been responsible for the installation of the Shrine at Mother of Good Counsel Church. This year was the 55th year in which the Consecration Conference was held at Mother of Good Counsel. However, it is not necessary to attend a conference in order to consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. It is something that you can do on your own.

At the time when my sister Cindy and I had attended the Conference last year, I had never heard of the Consecration. We had only attended because it sounded like a nice, spiritually enriching program. This past year as I began the great blogging adventure, I ran across several blogs in which people wrote about their experiences with the consecration and I was moved to learn more about it.

St. Louis de Montfort, who lived from 1673-1716, wrote a book called True Devotion to Mary. This book explains the Consecration in detail. If you are interested in consecration, it is recommended that you obtain, read and study this book. Before I was sure that I would consecrate myself, I picked up the book from our Seminary Library. After reading it, I was thoroughly confused and decided that the consecration was not for me as I really struggled to understand it. It wasn't until I purchased the book and read it again, that the process became more clear to me. Today as I was skimming through the book once more, (I own the version copywrited in 1941 with this final edition printed in 1985), I ran across a quote from Pope John Paul II that really surprised me. He said "It is from Montfort that I have take my motto 'Totus Tuus"(I am all thine). Someday I'll have to tell you Montfortians how I discovered De Montfort's Treatise on the True Devotion to Mary, and how often I had to reread it to understand it." It looks like I am in excellent company!!!

The book is divided into three parts: Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Perfect Consecration to Jesus Christ, and the Supplement. It is the supplement that explains the process for Consecration. To Consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary, you must prepare for 33 days by saying certain prayers and reading selections from Scripture and spiritual books. Spiritual practices such as mortifications are also part of the preparation process. When the 33 days of preparation are complete, it is Consecration Day! After the sacrament of Reconciliation and the reception of Holy Communion "with the intention of giving themselves to Jesus Christ in the quality of slaves of love, by the hands of Mary", an act of Consecration is recited. In addition a special tribute such as a fast, a mortification, an almsgiving or a candle is offered.

After the Day of Consecration, the slave of Jesus and Mary recites the Crown of Mary daily. This prayer consists of three Our Father's and twelve Hail Mary's. The consecration is to be renewed annually, again beginning with the 33 day preparation period.

The Consecration is normally done on a Feast Day of the Blessed Mother. In my case, it was not a Feast Day of Mary, but since the whole month of October is dedicated to Mary, the Conference I attended is always held in this month.

If you are interested in learning more about this wonderful devotional practice but are unable to obtain a copy of True Devotion to Mary, Fish Eaters has a great website on the topic and includes everything you may need. For further reading about my experience in discerning whether or not to consecrate myself, you may enjoy the following posts: A Beautiful Holy Day, Consecration, and Pondering Pages/True Devotion to Mary. It is the comments to these posts that are truly wonderful and inspiring! Once again, I am deeply grateful to the blogging community for all of your support and encouragement. You are wonderful and I thank you for writing for God, you are doing more good than you can ever imagine!

TOTUS TUUS!

A Beautiful Holy Day!/Thank You


I am incredibly proud and honored that I was able to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary today! And I owe a deep, deep debt of gratitude to this blogging community who helped to make it possible! It was you, dear blogging friends, who inspired me by sharing your own stories of consecration. It was by your example that I first allowed the call to consecration to resonate within my own heart. Then, when I read "True Devotion to Mary" and felt that I had struggled through it and wondered whether this was something upon which I should really follow through , you overwhelmed me with your encouragement and stories of the profound difference that you felt this consecration had made in your own lives. My entire preparation period was filled with the graces of which you all spoke and I grew more and more excited as the day approached. Until this past week. I believe that God spoke deeply to my heart and reminded me that I had an unconfessed sin that needed to be tended to before I should present myself for consecration. I believe that the devil took this opportunity to begin to speak evil lies to me, telling me that I am not worthy and that Mary and Jesus didn't want me, and who was I to think that consecration would be for me? I wrote a tearful prayer about my struggle and once again, you responded with encouragement, support and love. But most important of all, you prayed for me! We all know that no evil can withstand the power of prayer!

I am blessed with the friendship of Fr. Don Hying, whom I've written about before. He is the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. He was able to hear my confession just before the consecration and then he held a conference about St. Louis de Montfort and the consecration. It was beautiful! He, like you wonderful blogging friends, was very encouraging and supportive. Finally, my dear, sweet niece Jenny whom I love with all of my heart, joined me in the consecration. We were able to support and encourage one another as we journeyed to consecration together.

So I am extremely thankful to God, to Fr. Don, to Jenny and to all of you wonderful internet friends who are so good and holy and have brought me closer to God. May God continue to shower you with sanctifying grace and love! You all remain in my prayers!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sweet Sixteen!


It's my first baby's birthday today! Baby no more is more like it! John Paul was born on the fifteenth anniversary of Pope John Paul's election to the papacy and the Feasts of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Hedwig. It also fell on Sweetest Day that year, and I can vouch that he is one sweet boy!

As our first child, he was certainly the one that Paul and I fretted over the most! Paul was (and still is) the most doting father to his first son! When John was a baby and he'd be in the car with us, Paul wouldn't drive faster than 15 miles an hour and would only listen to very quiet easy listening music (he's usually a fan of very hard rock!). We just couldn't bear it if anything bad would befall our wonderful little son. Of course, that extreme gentleness didn't last. By the time sons two and three came around, our house became a wild wrestling, running, jumping, chaotic playground of fun and fights!

I'll never forget the feel of John's soft baby cheeks next to mine or his sweet baby smell! I can still see him dancing to bluegrass music as a toddler. My mind can picture him peddling his bicycle without the training wheels and how I prayed that he wouldn't fall! Watching him receive Jesus for the first time caused my heart to swell with pride, and the swelling came again when he served at his first Mass, and lectored for the first time. Listening to him sing in the church choir gives me goosebumps, especially when he has a solo. But after his first-ever solo when all of the girls in his class gathered around to compliment him on his singing, batting their eyelashes and gushing praise, my defenses kicked in and I told them to scatter so his number one fan (me!) could give him a big hug!

Sixteen years have flown quickly by! Today he is taller than me and probably smarter than me as well! He's driving with great skill and will soon receive his permanent driver's license. He takes charge as the head of the family whenever Paul and I are away. He is kind, gentle, funny, fair and his faith is deep. For all of these attributes I am very thankful to God. But most of all, I am thankful to God for simply blessing my life with my beautiful son, John Paul

Won't you take a minute to stop by his blog and wish him a Happy Birthday today? You can find him at Writings of a boy discerning God's call

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pondering Pages/Pardon and Peace


Better late than never, right? I loved the book "Pardon and Peace" by Alfred Wilson, but this avid reader has become quite sluggish in making her way through the books lately. I wanted to completely finish this book before I wrote anything about it, and I'm glad I did because the end was the very best part! So here, two days late for Lara's Holy Mothering MEME, is my pondering pages contribution.

On September 23rd, the feast day of St. Padre Pio, my son John and I attended a beautiful program on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The relics of St. Padre Pio were at the church for veneration and a priest gave a three hour talk about the Sacrament. His talk was outstanding! If anyone had ever asked me if I would be willing to stand in line for two hours to confess my sins, I would have said "No, I'll go somewhere else with a shorter line." But let me tell you, after hearing this talk, I was just burning to go to confession and release that burden of sin that was weighing me down. So, I got in line and I did wait two hours for the Sacrament with no regrets for the time spent, for it was very well spent.

During his talk, the priest kept referring to a wonderful book he had read. The book was "Pardon and Peace" by Alfred Wilson. It was written in 1947. The book is really a "how to" manual about the Sacrament. It covers everything you could ever want to know about the "hows" and the "whys" of confessing sins. It offers encouragement and compassion while at the same time, talks about the respect and responsibilities that we should remember when celebrating the Sacrament.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the ending of the book really touched my heart and sent my spirit soaring, so I share part of that with you...

In speaking about the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead..."The raising of a soul from the death of sin to the divine life of grace is a still greater marvel and miracle. No bodily corruption can compare with the spiritual corruption of a soul in the state of mortal sin; a spiritual corpse is far more repulsive than a physical corpse. The spiritual degradation of a soul in mortal sin is indescribable, but even more indescribable is the transcendent beauty of a soul in grace. To transform a sinner from the loathsome corruption of spiritual death to the dazzling beauty of participated divine life is a work of power and mercy which even the angels cannot fully understand."

"Approach this Sacrament in a spirit of tranquility and boundless trust. You are going...to your Divine Friend of Friends, Who only asks you to lay bare your wounds that He may heal them. A drop of Precious Blood is, as it were, about to fall on your soul and "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall become white as snow." He is overjoyed that you are coming to Him-you must believe that."


And for me, I do believe that, and I can't wait to receive the Sacrament again, before my Consecration this Saturday, and with that forgiveness of my sins and the touch of Jesus' loving hand upon me, I know that I will be ready to stand in God's presence and profess my eternal love and devotion to Jesus and Mary.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Consecration

I'm waiting for my Mother to hold me. I'm waiting to give her my all. I've waited so long and I know the moment is near, and I'm trembling all over. I'm afraid. So very afraid. Something is holding me back and it won't release me to let me go to her. I can't escape it, I can't get away. It's always here, laughing at me, telling me that I'm not good enough and that my Mother doesn't want me...doesn't love me. My prayers fall into the silence. No one sees my tears but an old woman, herself the mother to many. She reaches out to me, asks me if I'm alright, but I can't speak, I only nod my head in a lie. Because I'm not alright. How will I feel when the time comes to go to her, and I let it pass, if I stay buried, hidden in my cover of shame?

















Oh Mother come to me! Don't wait for me to come to you, because I might not. Come to me now and hold me, don't ever let me go, promise you will always love me, always be here for me. Flood me with your goodness so I will become strong enough to consecrate myself to you, to become a slave of your love forever. Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Without Malice

"Life is a flower, of which love is the honey"
Victor Hugo

A prompt by Carry on Tuesday















I picked a sunflower from the garden to share with a friend.
The flower had a suspicious buzz, and upon closer inspection
I found a bee working at the center of the flower.
With a quick, firm shake, the bee buzzed away.

I gave the sunflower to my friend with these words…

“I offer you this flower without malice.
Although I shook a bee from the center,
I cannot guarantee that another may not be hiding within,
clinging to the flower, unnoticed by me.
If you should happen to be stung, please know that my
intentions were pure and loving.
I do not intend for this gesture to hurt you in any way.”

Just in case my friend would become pained
by my flower, I added a little prayer…

Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is beautiful,
just as this sunflower opens to your light,
please open my friend’s heart
to the blessing of the bees;
the honey-sweet flavor of love.

Please keep her from becoming stung
by the bane of the bees;
the pains of life.

Amen.

A Little Thrill

It really doesn't take much to set my spirits soaring. I guess I'm too much of a Pollyanna, always looking at the bright side and turning away from despair, but I just can't help it! It's the way God made me I suppose...

Last year at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, Archbishop Dolan was celebrating his last Holy Week with our Archdiocese. My son John and I attended the Mass and I was honored to be the representative from my parish to carry our Consecrated Oils from the Cathedral back to our parish. After Mass, I just had to speak with Archbishop Dolan, knowing it would be my last chance to see him before he left for New York. I was standing next to a group of sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary dressed in their bright royal blue and white habits. Archbishop Dolan couldn't get enough of them. He went on and on telling them how beautiful they were, and that they were more colorful than he was. Then he turned to me and asked "Aren't they beautiful?" Of course I had to agree! But when he asked me if I knew them, I shook my head for I did not know them.

But today, that has all changed! We have a new parishioner at St. Matthias Parish and her name is Sr. Helena. She is in the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and she is so beautiful in her royal blue and white habit. She has just moved to Milwaukee from Tanzania and recently joined our parish. As I spoke with her, she held my hand and the warmth from her hand spread through my entire being. Watching her genuflect as she received the Body of Christ and bow deeply as she received the Blood of Christ is what really thrilled me because my parish is known to be very liberal, very few people bow before receiving the Lord.

I have a feeling that her lovely witness is going to move many hearts in our parish and draw us all to a deeper love for the Lord. I suppose I can just go ahead and add my new friend to the list of Praise from yesterday's post, because I am very grateful to God for bringing lovely Sr. Helena to my parish and to my heart.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Praise!


Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart has a thankful, chocolate heart-I want to be thankful, too!

1. It does a mother's heart so much good to watch her 5 children stand on a busy thoroughfare on a Sunday afternoon for one and one half hours holding signs that say "Abortion kills children", without a word of complaint. It's been a week since "Respect Life Sunday" and I'm still feeling good about what they did. I have to say that my brave kids really rock!

2. I love receiving letters with kind words, and this past week brought quite a few my way. What a blessing to know that I have touched others hearts even in a small way, and that others have touched my heart in return.

3. My husband Paul and I spent Saturday at a "Light Up Your Marriage" conference. It was wonderful! Confession, adoration, delicious lunch, fabulous guest speakers such as our dear own Fr. Don Hying from St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Mary Beth Hicks of "Bringing Up Geeks" Fame as well as a columnist for Catholicmom.com(a kindred spirit!), and the energetic and enthusiastic Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of EWTN. I have to say that this wonderful day that ended in a blessing of the marriages of all participants certainly was a light for our marriage!

4. Spending Sunday afternoon with my children and friends at a Holy Hour for Vocations was a great way to start a new week!

5. Most of all, I praise God because He loves me so much, and keeps showing His love for me in new and varied ways like falling autumn leaves, bright blue skies, cool, crisp air, the opportunity to snuggle under blankets with my daughter and the first hum of a working furnace warming up the house.

And best of all, please pay a visit to Esther's Catholic Mom in Hawaai and be blown away by an amazing video by Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti (Holy Mother)! I am very thankful that I got a chance to watch it today-I hope that you will be thankful for it, too!

For all of these blessings and for so much more, I thank you Father!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Cross of Marriage

"I love to think of the cross as Jesus' marriage bed where he laid himself down, body, soul, mind and heart, thus giving himself completely to his spouse, which is all of us, reborn in baptism. Just as Eve comes forth from the side of Adam as he sleeps, so, too, the church is born from the wounded side of the crucified Christ.

Every wife and husband that marry in Christ are committed to loving each other sacrificially, unselfishly, completely, exclusively, permanently, because that is how God loves all of us through Jesus."


Fr. Don Hying, Rector
St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Milwaukee



That first summer when Paul and I met, we spent a lot of time at the State Fair because Paul was working at a restaurant there. I would wait for his shift to end, and then we'd wander the fair enjoying the sights, sounds and each other's company.

As we walked through the vending hall, admiring all of the wares for sale, laughing at the gimmicks of the salesmen trying to pass off another "Ronco slice 'em, dice 'em" cutting machine and counting the number of people walking around with mops they had purchased, Paul suddenly stopped in front of the booth of golden jewelry. "Pick something out", he said. "I want to buy something for you." My eyes landed on a beautiful golden cross. On top of the cross was a golden dove with an olive branch in its mouth. After paying the vendor, Paul lovingly clasped the necklace around my neck. After 5 years of dating and 18 years of marriage, that cross is still my favorite necklace, as meaningful to me as our wedding rings. None of the jewelry that Paul has bought for me since that day has ever held as much meaning for me as that simple cross necklace that I wear almost daily.

Over the years, the weight of that cross around my neck can feel pretty heavy as we battle with harsh words and cold shoulders, and struggle through the difficulties of parenting and family life. But no matter how heavy it can be at times, the dove of peace and forgiveness always moves his silent wings to lighten the load for us. In every marriage, challenges are sure to arise. Throughout the days of stress and worry that are part of all marriages, one action has kept us close and carried us through many storms. We have made a habit of rising early, before the children are awake, and enjoying a long embrace before Paul leaves for work. It is impossible to be angry or unhappy with someone when you are holding him or her close, feeling the rhythm of their heartbeat, hearing the sound of their breath, securely wrapped in the arms of the one you’ve promised to love forever. But Paul and I are not alone in our daily embrace, for the love of human spouses just can’t be strong enough to survive on it’s own. As we hold each other close each morning, it is God who is holding us even closer. We can feel the arms of His love embracing us both, His heartbeat uniting ours together, His breath warming us both. That daily embrace between God, Paul and I starts the movement of the wings of peace that lightens every cross that threatens to weigh down our marriage. As we embrace one another in God's love, it is ultimately peace that flies through the cross of marriage.

God of love, God of peace, be with us as we begin each day with a prayer and an embrace. Let the wings of peace carry us to Your heart whenever the burden of the cross threatens to weigh us down. Unite us forever in Your love. Amen.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lay Fast for Priests

The Deacon's Bench has a great post about a day of "Lay Fast for Priests" on October 24th, the day before the World Priest Day. Won't you join in the day of fasting to support the priesthood? Where would we be without them?

Archbishop Dolan's blog!


Archbishop Dolan has a blog! Check it out! It's been six months since he left Milwaukee for New York and I still miss him, but now, there's a way to stay in touch! And now, let's just enjoy this great picture of him, shall we? (I know I posted it before, but isn't it great?)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sliver Moon












Sliver moon
in the dark sky
hanging there
so small and lonely,
You bring me hope.

You show me that
there is always a small
amount of light that
shines through the
vast darkness of life.

I want to reach out
and hold onto you,
sliver moon of hope,
until the morning sun
shines in all of its
brilliance.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary












fingers tightly pressing beads
as if holding on firmly
will bring an answer to the prayer
that fills my soul

lips silently mouthing
words of devotion
while mind and heart dwell
on Scripture mystery

eyes fixed on Mother in blue
gentle breeze blowing
cloak around her ankles
lightly wrapping Her in love

smile in her eyes
sending rays of "yes" outward
I know my prayer is heard
by the One who loves Her best

Thank you Mother Mary
for loving me,
for listening to me
and for taking my prayers to God.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pondering Pages/Compassionate Fire



In deep gratitude to Lara at Holy Mothering for coming up with this wonderful Pondering Pages idea!

My wonderful friend Kathy at the Salzmann Library has done it again! I only have to walk in the library door and there she is with a new book that she is holding for me! I don't know how she knows what I will like...she must be a kindred spirit!

"Compassionate Fire: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty" edited by Robert Wild, is fantastic! I love to read the letters of saints and holy people, maybe because I love to write letters myself (well, usually by e-mail!)and only hope that one day I will be considered a saint and a holy person. I could really relate to Catherine's letters to Thomas, they were so loving and sweet! So, all of the quotes that I want to share from this book are from her. Catherine de Hueck Doherty was a Russian immigrant who established 'Friendship House' which, much like the Catholic Worker, was an organization which helped the poor. She and Thomas Merton worked together briefly at the Friendship House in Harlem before he entered Gethsemane Abbey.

So, here are some of the wonderful words that she wrote to this holy man...

"A saint is a well-rounded person, ready and able to do what God wants him to do. Never separate sainthood from ordinary living. For after all, what is it fundamentally but doing everyday things extremely well."

"I meditate best in writing."

"God who fashioned you, uses you to help others. And at the same time it is as if He allowed you the greatest gift, the lifting of the veil that separates us normally from Him. You have felt that haven't you, each time you meet someone that talks to you about God? Never mind if it is for or against Him, for he whoever bothers about God in one way or another is hearing the baying of the hound of heaven."

"Contemplation to me is so very simple. It goes on all the time "inside" of me, because of love. It cannot be stopped because it is like a hunger, a fire, that burns inside of one. Once you have passionately fallen in love with God, contemplation becomes the very essence of you, while you go about the Father's business. Nothing interferes with it because it can't. Love unites with the Beloved thru it. It goes on amidst the noise of cities, the chaotic brouhas of lecture tours, the whirlwind of places, the swish of auto tires on thruways. In the slums, in the fine parlors, it is always there for it is just simply and naturally the "being one with God" inside oneself. You see, He wants it, you wanted it, and there it is."


Finally, after Thomas Merton's death, she wrote a letter to the Abbott at Gethsemane and said "Father Louis, in some strange mysterious way I never quite understood, was in part my spiritual son."