Monday, November 30, 2009
My husband is afraid. Last week Paul checked out a brand-new book from the library and decided he would bring it to work to read during his break. He came home from work that day and asked me if I had seen his book. "No, you took it to work with you." I replied. The next day he returned from work triumphant. He had found his book...on the side of the road. It seems he had set it on top of his car as he unlocked the door, and forgot all about it. He found it on the side of the road, rain-soaked, muddy and with a broken binding. It seems that sturdy book took a ten mile ride on top of Paul's car before it skidded off to the ditch.
Now, Paul is afraid to return the book to the library because he worries that the librarian will yell at him and cause him to blush, and possibly cry. (Truthfully, our family has a very bad reputation at our public library. We are much despised for returning items late and in poor condition. I'll never forget the time little Justin broke a library CD in half and then stuck it in our computer to see what would happen. I'll tell you what happened. A $65.00 fine is what happened.) So, Paul is justified in his fear. Still, he can't get around it. He has to face up to his fear and return the book, confess his crime and pay retribution.
I'm afraid, too. I'm afraid of how reckless my children are. I'm afraid when Jack tells me that while I was at work, Joe set up a mattress at the top of the stairs and they all slid down to the bottom on it, again and again. I'm afraid when Justin shows me a video he made of himself attempting to jump over the garbage can on his scooter and I hear the sound of Mary laughing as she watches Justin fall and practically break his neck.
Fear is irrational. I'm afraid of aging. I'm afraid that as I turn 44 years old, my entire body will begin to fall apart, and my mental capacities will quickly diminish.
But I know better than to be afraid. I just need to remind myself of the lovely words from 1 John and the tremendous Lover who is the only One whose Love can remove all of my unfounded fears and cast them far, far away from me...
“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear.”
1 John 4:18
I live inside of fear.
I cower under its shadow.
I carry it with me wherever I go.
But Your love is stronger than my fear.
You shower it down from the heavens
In generous rainfall
That enriches my soul.
You wash the fear
Into the stream
And carry it far away from me.
I am left with the glow
Of peaceful love
Finding it in all people
All things and
Fear trembles and runs in your presence.
Thank You Lord, for Your perfect love. Amen.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
My heart is like the manger straw at Bethlehem. It’s cluttered, unkempt and dusty.
Yet, You chose to be born in my lowly heart just as You were born in a lowly manger.
You know that humble, unworthy surroundings are the perfect holding place for Your love to grow. What’s more, Your beautiful love transforms cluttered hearts and filthy mangers so that they become shining temples of glory.
This Advent, I will patiently wait for You to renew my cluttered heart with the birth of Your abiding presence and love. Amen.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Every year it’s the same story when Advent comes around…Advent, which means, “come”. The ideals that our family holds up, the things we most want to come into our lives are peace, harmony and joy. We always start with the best intentions. We create a homemade Advent wreath, cutting fresh sprigs of cedar from our trees in the backyard and fill a glass pie dish with the greens and four candles, violet and pink. We lovingly place the wreath at the center of our kitchen table. Each evening as part of our dinner prayer, the children take turns lighting a candle and reading a prayer about building the stable in our hearts for Jesus. Doesn’t that sound beautiful? No greedy dreams of Christmas wishes for toys and gadgets. No secular Christmas music blaring from our radio. No loading up on Christmas treats and Christmas decorations before the season actually arrives. Just peace, harmony and joy around our Advent kitchen table...read more...
"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing" Psalm 30:11
Our God is a God of balance. He will never leave us in eternal sorrow or in eternal joy while our footsteps walk the soil of the land. No matter what we feel or have now, it is certain that He will give us an opposite to keep us balanced and detached from extremes. Praise for the Balance of God!
Praise for nights of darkness balanced by mornings of pink and blue sunrise.
Praise for frosty mornings balanced by the warmth of a woolen coat.
Praise for the pain of hunger balanced by a full, nourishing meal.
Praise for the dignity of work balanced by peaceful rest.
Praise for tears of sadness balanced by the sound of laughter.
Praise for empty loneliness balanced by the embrace of love.
Praise for songs of jubilation balanced by silent prayer.
For all of this and so much more, I praise You my glorious God, for you are always with me, loving me with your gifts of balance. Amen.
(Thanks to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for the Praise MEME.)
Friday, November 27, 2009
Now that my boys are teenagers, I am keenly aware of what an embarrassment I am to them. These are the years where I am supposed to become invisible, but I find that task to be impossible. I can manage it when I am cross and irritable; then it’s easy to be silent and unnoticeable, in fact, invisibility is what I most desire at those times.
But when I’m happy and joyful, becoming invisible is impossible. My entire being wants to passionately cry out with love and joy to you. I want to let my happiness show in singing, dancing, shouting and laughter. I want everyone to join in my joy. How can I help but sing along with the radio when such a fun, old-fashioned folk song like “La Cucaracha” comes on while I’m driving my children to school? That song was just meant for exuberant singing! How was I to know that at that moment when I would be so caught up in joyful singing, my son’s friends would all be standing outside watching as we pulled up to the school?
These are the moments when I see horrified looks cross my son’s faces and I hear them mutter under their breath, “Please Mom, people are looking at you!” It’s funny, but it seems like only yesterday when they were toddlers and I would mutter those same words to them when they would act up or throw temper tantrums in public.
I understand how they feel, so why is it so hard for me to control myself? As I approach my 44th year, why do I sometimes feel like the child and my children seem like the parents? Is life really meant to be this way?
Forgive me, Lord, for my childish behavior and please help my children to forgive me as well.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The day before Thanksgiving is a big grocery shopping day to gather up all of the special last minute ingredients for a family feast. Now you know that grocery shopping is not my favorite chore because I often feel persecuted by rude comments from fellow shoppers for my family size and the amount of groceries I buy nearly every week. But yesterday was a huge exception to the norm.
Yesterday the store was filled with smiling faces and friendly voices wishing one another a Happy Thanksgiving. I passed the security guard who commented with a wink "Here's Wonder Woman once again!" Next the manager asked me where all of my "helpers" were. I was grateful to tell him that although I appreciate their help in the store, sometimes it's nice to shop alone.
As grateful as I was to receive these kind comments, as Christians we know that the greatest joys come in giving more than receiving. So it was with great joy that after I unloaded my cart with the weekly grocery staples, I was able to add one more item behind my purchases, a gift of a jar of home-made grape jelly and a thank you card to surprise Carol, my favorite cashier as she finished ringing up my purchases. Week after week Carol greets me with smiles and friendly chat to help me forget about the rude comments I usually gather from the other shoppers. I was so happy to be able to give her this small token of my appreciation.
After sharing a hug of thanksgiving gratitude, we commenced with some small talk. Carol wanted to know if I would spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping for Christmas presents. I assured her that the stores are the last place I'd spend my time, but instead, I will spend that day mixing up Christmas cookie dough and filling the freezer with the cookie dough until I am ready to bake the cookies that our family will share and enjoy at Christmas time. I confessed that I have to stand guard at the freezer to make sure that my kids don't raid it and eat the raw, frozen dough before I get a chance to bake the cookies!
The woman standing behind me said with tears in her eyes, "If that is all you have to worry about, consider yourself lucky! I am going to visit my daughter today...in the cemetery." She was buying nothing but flowers. As Carol and I both reached to hug her and comfort her, I felt the sting of tears in my eyes, but this time, instead of the tears of self-pity and resentment from which I usually suffer in the grocery story, they were tears of gratitude for my healthy and happy family.
So this year as I sit down to a Thanksgiving feast with my family, I will bow my head and thank God for the rich blessing of my wonderful husband and our five beautiful children and four fabulous God-children. I will thank God for my brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews, including the greats! I am thankful that we are all healthy and happy and that this Thanksgiving, we will be visiting each other in our varied homes and not in the cemetery. I am especially thankful for my mother-in-law who is now cancer free and my father-in-law who will be relieved from some of the burden of caring for her in her sickness. I am grateful for my friends both near and far. I am grateful for this blogging community and your wonderful, loving words of wisdom and kindness. I am so grateful and I am so blessed. Thank you God!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Mary complains that she doesn’t have any friends and nobody will play with her at recess. Some of the third grade girls tease in a sneering tone: “Why do you go to Mass, Mary?” Mary tries to sneer back: “Because I’m Cath-o-lic!” Walking away, all alone, she shakes her head and wonders why her classmates at a Catholic School would even ask her that question.
Thirteen-year-old Joe stretches out on his parents bed as mom sorts through mail at the end of the day. “I hate to tell you this Mom, but it happened again today. Please don’t feel bad, but almost every day, someone teases me because I go to daily Mass. If I don’t behave perfectly, if I say something mean, or get in trouble with the teacher, it always comes out… “Nice Christian witness, Joe! Is that what you learn at daily Mass? What would your holy Mom say? And by the way, did she used to be a nun?” Joe grimaces at the snide remarks and holds his temper in check until I come home and he tries to release it without hurting his sensitive mother.
Wondering if Jack was getting the same treatment, I questioned my quiet son. Unsure of the details, all he remembers is a question from his teacher at the beginning of the year… “Do you really go to Mass every day Jack? Who else is there, any other students?” Jack replied in the negative, “The only other people there all have grey hair.”
We love You and try to serve You in all we say and do. Our time with You each day at Mass is a treasure beyond cost, even the cost of painful remarks. Let the power of our daily reception of Your precious Body and Blood soothe the hurts of these humble believers who choose to begin our days in Your Holy Presence. Amen.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. So he went to the Pharisee’s home and took his place at the table. There was a woman who was a notorious sinner in that city. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s home, she took an alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at his feet behind him. She was crying and began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet over and over again, anointing them with costly perfume.” Luke 7:36-39
The perfume that this woman poured on Jesus’ feet cost her a year’s wages! This was extravagant love indeed! I dream of being this woman, of pouring out all of my love for Jesus and having him respond gratefully. This is by far my favorite gospel story. Fr. Don Hying, the rector at St. Francis Seminary, writes about this extravagant love and says, “When we break open the alabaster jar of our lives, the world is filled with the fragrance of Christ.”(New Heart New Spirit, April 2008) I can easily see that alabaster jar being broken open in the love of Mother Teresa, and all of those wonderful missionaries who follow after her. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open when a mother sits up all night, exhausted, and patiently caring for her sick child. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open when two friends sit together and quietly share stories of the love of God working in their lives. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open at every Mass when the priest holds the precious body of our Lord in his hands and everyone looks upon it with love.
Recently, I witnessed two very real instances of alabaster jars in my own life and I would like to share those stories. Not too long ago, I was having a very bad day; I was feeling unloved and unlovable, really drowning in self-pity and sorrow. I spent an afternoon at home crying and pouring out my misery to God. Then, my husband walked in the door at the end of his workday. He held me in his arms for the longest time and poured love from his heart to mine. Later, when I opened the bedroom door, I found two dozen red and pink roses on our bed. They were the most beautiful roses that I have ever seen in my life! Now, Paul is not the type of husband who routinely buys me flowers. In fact, in the eighteen years since we were married, I can only recall two other instances when he bought me flowers. But this day, those arms around me when I needed them the most and those beautiful, fragrant roses were an alabaster jar of extravagant love that nothing could ever match!
Another instance of an alabaster jar brings a smile to my face every time I recall it. While babysitting for my great-nephews and great-niece, Alex, Andrew and Caitlin, we spent a sunny morning outside, delighting in the beautiful warm spring weather. Caitlin, having just turned one year old, enjoyed exploring her world from her new-found skill of walking. She wobbled from tree, to flower, to slide, to toy car, to sandbox with a smile of pure joy on her face. I’m sure our time outside completely wore her out! I was trying to delay her naptime to coincide with Andrew’s, so I know she was very tired. My nephew, David, came home for lunch, and the minute that Caitlin saw him, she threw her little, tired body down at his feet and wrapped her arms around his ankles as if to say, this is what I have been waiting for! Here is my beloved father who brings me happiness with his very presence! Watching the love of that moment, I was no longer looking at Caitlin and David, but before my eyes, I was witnessing Mary and Jesus. As David bent down to pick up Caitlin and hold her in his arms, her head naturally rested near his heart as if to say, this is all I ever need, and thank you for loving me.
Everywhere I look, I will be seeing alabaster jars breaking open for the rest of my life. The world smells delicious with the rich perfume of love hanging heavy in the air. I could never grow my hair long enough to dry all of the ointment mingling with the tears. And it doesn’t matter how many people may react with scorn and disdain and criticize the extravagance. Those alabaster jars are going to keep on breaking, the fragrance is going to continue to spread, because God’s love cannot and will not be held back. Once the fragrance of Christ is in the air, our senses are awakened and we cannot help but breathe it in and share it with others.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
When life becomes dark and I succumb to misery, the only solution is to praise God. Gratitude is the antidote to sadness. So it is with gratitude to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for this fabulous MEME that gives me pause to reflect upon all of the good things that God has done for me.
PRAISE for kind words of comfort and love from friends who care.
PRAISE for my children who sing so well and share their gifts with others.
PRAISE for a full pantry with healthy foods for my family.
PRAISE for the smiles of children.
PRAISE for a warm house and comfortable clothes when so many go without.
PRAISE for jars and jars of grape jelly to share with friends and family.
PRAISE for the gift of my Catholic Faith and the never ending love of Christ my King.
Praise for the King
In the dark days of winter,
a light shines forth
golden crown of glory
captivates my eyes
covering yesterday's pain.
Though marks of pain are lasting
the sorrow melts away
with the brilliance and majesty
of my wondrous Lord
who loves me,
Jesus Christ the King!
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Story of Mr. Blart
By: Joe Bender
Mr. Blart was not very smart.
Instead of a car he drove a grocery store cart.
“Today,” Mr. Blart did start.
“Today I will buy a car at Wal-Mart!”
When he got there he met Mrs. Dart,
a lady who worked right there at Wal-Mart.
What she said tore Blart right apart.
“We don’t sell real cars, cross my heart.”
That left poor Blart feeling real glum,
“A car at Wal-Mart, boy am I dumb!”
To cheer himself up he took out some gum.
It was his favorite and it made him say “YUM!”
But that still left him sad and his heart still numb.
Then poor Mr. Blart he started to hum
and on a guitar he started to strum.
Though nothing he did could make him not glum,
because after forty-three years he still lived with his mum.
“That’s it!” shouted Mr. Blart with might.
“I’ll change my life and I’ll put up a fight!”
Then Mr. Blart felt he reached a new height.
He felt like he was flying just like a kite.
He always wanted to feel so light.
He had never felt so cool so tight!
As he skipped home into the night
a smile came across his face full of delight!
He spread many books across the table.
He’d study all night if he were able.
One book had a very interesting label.
The title for it was Anne of Green Gable.
He read the book ‘til he didn’t feel stable.
Then he clicked the remote and fell asleep watching cable.
He had a dream about when he was a lad.
He got into trouble and acted real bad.
When the teacher yelled at him he got so mad
that he quit school and the whole life he had.
Waking up he felt very sad,
but only just a tad.
He wished that he still had his dad,
Though he knew he got shot by a Russian named, Vlad.
“I’ll do it!” Blart said “I’ll do it for dad!
I’ll do it for the dad I never had!”
And for him Mr. Blart went out on a limb.
He went to his old teacher, Mrs. Kim.
Mrs. Kim knew his chances were dim
but out of pity decided to help him.
Her husband, Tim,
bought some books on a whim.
With help from Mrs. Kim and Tim
he felt much smarter and they were so proud of him.
Then after that Mr. Blart was just fine.
He had an IQ of 2009.
He was so smart he could create things with some sticks and some twine.
He made a house, a garage, and a car with an engine 409.
He had lots of women all waiting in line
for Blart to say to one “You are mine!”
And so Mr. Blart turned his life upside-down.
He now wears a smile instead of a frown.
So the morale is if life’s got you down
and you’re always the loser in town,
work hard and you too, can turn your life around.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
“The Vatican denounced a ruling by the European court of human rights that said the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates religious and education freedoms.” By Alessandra Rizzo, Associated Press Writer
Does this break your heart like it breaks mine? How does the crucifix which freed me from my sin, violate religious and educational freedom?
Here in America, the crucifix and prayer in public schools has long been done away with and is a tremendous loss to people of all faith backgrounds. When my children study history and/or world cultures in school, they learn about all faiths, not only Christian but Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu as well. Having knowledge of all faiths can only help to increase our understanding of and love for one another. Shutting the door on a faith and its religious symbols only serves to increase fear, misunderstanding and hatred.
When my children were in a public grade school I was always saddened when I would take them to our parish classrooms for religious studies, for it was in those rooms where I would see the beautiful crucifix and statue of our Blessed Mother. It hurt to realize that my children were denied the comfort of the precious symbols of our faith in the school that they attended each day.
What I resolved to do was to make sure my children were well educated in their faith, not simply by sending them to Christian Formation classes at our parish, but mainly by teaching them the tenets of our Catholic traditions at home and encouraging them to live their faith each day no matter where they happened to be. If the Christian symbol of the Crucifix could not be displayed in their public school classrooms, then the symbol of the Resurrected Christ would be carried in their hearts each day and shared with a non-believing world through their daily words and actions. Like the old hymn states: “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
Each day when I would walk my children to public school, I would trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads before they walked into the school as a physical reminder to them that Christ lives in them and they are to show His love to others. Then they would each trace the cross on my forehead as well so that I would also carry Christ with me no matter where I went. Today, my children who attend Catholic school, begin their day with Holy Mass and the reception of the Eucharist so that Jesus is truly alive in their hearts and can readily be shared with others through their actions each day.
I realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg, for beyond living our faith as individuals and sharing our personal love of Christ with others, we can display our faith in so many ways. Why not consider wearing a crucifix necklace every day as an outward sign of your faith? Crucifix bumper stickers for the car and statues in our yards could be a great way to display our faith. My young friend John, in England, who is editor of "A Vocation to Be a Priest" has purchased small crucifixes to leave on buses and trains. If the European government is going to rule against the crucifix in schools, he plans to bring the crucifix with him wherever he goes so that the whole world will know that wherever we are, Christ is there too. With his loving words, actions and personal witness, John plans to keep the crucifix visible not only in the schools, but in every public place in Europe.
For more on this topic, I encourage you to visit Gabriella’s Blog. You may also feel moved to email the Committee of Ministers to protest their verdict at: email@example.com. This is a worldwide concern, not simply a European concern. Please add your voice and your prayers to address this disgraceful situation.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
We have a new Archbishop Designate in Milwaukee-Bishop Jerome Listecki. The Milwaukee news has been filled with pictures and videos of his welcoming Mass and meetings with the press at St. Francis de Sales Seminary. Our Seminary is a beautiful building set on the glorious wooded grounds next to the shores of Lake Michigan. I wonder if our new Archbishop will ever have much time to enjoy the natural setting in which he will be living and working, or will he be so busy serving the people of the Archdiocese that he will barely have time to notice the natural gifts from God that are right in his backyard.
Reading the stories about him got me thinking about how difficult his life and the life of all bishops must be. For that matter, I'm sure I could include Pope Benedict and most priests in that statement as well. I imagine that their lives must be filled with one round of meetings after another.
I think back to last spring when Archbishop Dolan was installed as Archbishop of New York. Watching the Mass on TV, I was struck by how this big, robust and energetic man, full of life and joy, looked like a little boy, fearful of what tremendous work lay ahead of him in his new responsibilities. I think that Bishop Listecki may be feeling the same way right now.
I offer my prayers to all of our hard-working and faith-filled leaders in the church who often have to give up so much of themselves and the things they enjoy, so that we may all come to know God more deeply.
I wonder, do they ever have much time to just enjoy life? I'm sure they are so grateful to be living their lives in a way that pleases the Lord and nothing must make a man happier than the knowledge that God is using him as an instrument to draw others closer to His loving heart. But I can't help but let my imagination get carried away with how similar the life of a bishop must be to that of the princes in fairy tale stories...
He lives behind the walls of the castle.
Although he is the leader,
his life is ruled by the demands of others.
All day long
he sits in meeting after meeting,
words rolling into each other until they lose their meaning.
He dreams of freedom.
If only…he thinks…
If only I could feel the cold, autumn air in my face.
If only I could see my breath escape from my mouth in little clouds of white.
If only I could watch the sky turn pink and purple from the shadows of the setting sun.
If only I could hear the crunch of autumn leaves under my feet.
If only I could listen to the sound of the waves crashing into the shore.
If only I could find the deer family hidden behind the trees.
If only I could live outside in the beauty of nature like Francis.
If only I could dance on the hillsides like David.
I am so close to that dream, yet I’m a million miles away,
trapped by the life that leads me instead of the life I lead.
Yet if I only had an hour in those surroundings, in that glorious fresh air,
I know that I could endure the stagnant indoor environment for days on end.
By faithfully succumbing to my rightful place,
whether it brings me freedom or entrapment,
I know that I am pleasing God,
And my heartfelt work is pure.
I trust that He will give me small gifts of time in the beauty of nature today,
that will be a foretaste of my future in heaven's glory.
(Inspired by the lyrics to "If You Want Your Dream to Be" from Brother Sun, Sister Moon)
Father of all the faithful, thank you for so many courageous leaders who are not afraid to give their entire lives to your service. Bless our wonderful Pope Benedict XVI, all of our Cardinals and Bishops (especially Archbishop Designate Listecki), our beloved priests, seminarians, deacons, those discerning a call to the priesthood and religious life and all of our wonderful religious brothers and sisters. Thank you for blessing us with so many who have bravely answered Your call. Give them moments of respite so that they many continue to serve with energy, zeal and love. Amen.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
'Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all burned out
You'll still be burning so bright
Cast me gently
For the night has been unkind
My mom and her sister Marge were women of deep faith. Their entire lives were lived in the love of the Lord. My mom died ten years ago. It was a brain tumor that resulted in her leaving this earth for eternity with the Lord at the age of 73. Eight years later my aunt Marge passed away at the age of 87.
At the funeral wake for Marge, her daughter, my cousin Mary, a beautiful and faith filled woman who seemed to have everything going for her, shared a story with me about my mom. It seems that Mary had been suffering from depression at the time of my mom’s death. Life for her was very bleak. Shortly after my mom had died, Mary had a dream about her. In Mary's dream, my mom came to her and said “Mary, it’s all worth it.” That dream gave my cousin so much peace, believing that my mom was in heaven and was encouraging Mary by letting her know that all of those earthly trials will be replaced with the joys of heaven. Of course, my sisters and I were a bit jealous of Mary because she had the dream about my mom and we didn’t, but maybe Mary needed it more at that time.
In the few months before my Aunt Marge died I myself had two experiences of prayer that have left me pondering the power of prayer and the ability we have to feel the needs of others. I was at daily Mass. During the consecration when the priest prays for those who have died, our pastor, Fr. Dave, has the habit of pausing to give everyone time to silently pray for those departed souls that we hold deeply in our hearts. I always use this time to pray for my parents and anyone I know who has died recently, by giving their names to the Lord. Suddenly, out of the blue, Marge's name came to my mind. I had not been thinking of her and had not seen her in such a long time. I wondered, "why now?" Had she died and I hadn't heard about it yet? Shortly after I “heard” her name at Mass, I was told that she was sick and in the hospital. I wondered if it wasn’t Marge’s angel who had placed her name in my mind and my heart, knowing that she was in need of prayer. A few months later this happened yet again, Marge's name coming to my mind during the consecration at Mass. It was later that I learned she had been moved to a hospice right around the time when I had "heard" her name at Mass.
By the time she finally did die, I was the one suffering through a deep depression like my cousin Mary. So, although I never had a dream about my aunt Marge or my mom comforting me from heaven, my cousin Mary’s words to me at Marge’s funeral wake about her own dream gave me comfort. God must have meant for her to share her experience with me at this particular time because he knew I needed it more at that moment than I did at the time of my own mother’s death.
Since that time two years ago, my bouts of depression come and go with a frequency which leaves me spinning, but those words that Mary heard in her dream, “it’s all worth it”, help me to cope when I know that whatever suffering I undergo here on earth will draw me to eternal joys if I can only remember to offer it up to God for the good of others both living and deceased.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I’m afraid that I will never know what it is like
to be whole and peaceful this side of heaven.
Whenever fresh pain enters my heart,
the remnant of a voice from the past comes back to haunt me,
“It’s your Good Friday, Anne, get on the cross."
I cry softly in the early morning hours of darkness,
desperately hoping God will hear me,
and release me from this pain,
but silence is the only reply.
Lonely, empty, long-lasting silence.
And when the help does finally come,
in the form of friends and family who really do care,
and put their arms around me and tell me that they love me,
I find that their love hurts, too.
I don’t believe that I deserve it.
Unworthiness and low self-esteem are my constant companions.
With a sigh, I ask God,
“This too, Lord? Do you want me to accept this pain too?
Do you want to take all of what I am, all of what I am not and all that I will never be?”
I’ve tasted resurrection; I’ve had joy after the sorrow of the past.
Now, I am here on the other side of that hill again,
standing before the cross that is waiting for me once more.
It beckons to me with the knowledge
that Jesus died because He loves me
and if I truly love Him in return,
I must also die to myself.
Like a child, I greedily beg to hold on to the joy for a little while longer.
I bite my lip to hold back the tears.
The blood dries hard on my lip like the happiness that is shriveling in my heart.
Lip biting is useless; the tears come anyway.
I walk the familiar pavement that leads to my cross,
face to the ground hoping my tears will go unnoticed.
Cold November wind stings my damp face.
I hear the Spirit’s reply;
"This too, Anne. I want all of you.”
I bravely surrender my desires and reach out for my cross.
“This too, Lord. I give you my all.”
Sunday, November 15, 2009
1 Thessalonians 5:18
I've had a couple of rough weeks recently. Nothing major at all, just lots of little things that nagged at me and bothered me. I wrote down all of the things that were bothering me, thinking I would counter each negative event with a positive thing. I never got around to doing that. Once I had my list of negativity, I was ashamed that I would even bother to write down the things that upset me as if I needed to hold onto them somehow, nurture them, let them grow and fester inside my heart.
I was blessed to spend a little bit of time with a friend this week and when I told him about my negativity list he said "Anne, that's not real. All of those things will be gone tomorrow, they don't last. All that is real is God. He is the only One who will last forever." WOW! That made so much sense to me, I went home and tore up my list. I am now determined to focus on the beautiful reality of God and all of the real ways that he shows his presence to me.
Here is my list of praise for the week. It is real because they are all gifts from God and I choose to remember them all and praise God for them.
1) For the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist.
2) For yellow mums growing in the garden in the middle of November after everything else has died.
3) For walking under a beautiful pink sunset, listening to the song of a friend.
4) For the new Archbishop of Milwaukee-Archbishop Jerome Listecki! Hooray! And a huge Praise be to God!!!
5) For the gift of old friends from the original St. Matthias Mom's Group and the chance to reconnect-especially for wonderful Sr. Moira who is visiting from Australia. How I've missed her these past 13 years!
Dear One and Only Real Father in Heaven, thank you for the reality of your love and goodness in my life. Thank you for the reality of my husband, my children and my friends. Thank you for the reality of your love in my heart. Thank you for the reality of the beauty found in nature. Thank you for being Real. Amen.
Thank you also, to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for hosting this weekly Praise MEME, and for her recent story about The Velveteen Rabbit becoming real (The Process of Holiness: Sometimes it Hurts to Let Yourself Be Loved for Real)published in Catholic Online.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
"Mary recaptures woman's vocation from the beginning namely, to be to humanity the bearer of the Divine. Every mother is this when she gives birth to a child, for the soul of every child is infused by God. She thus becomes a co-worker with Divinity; She bears what God alone can give. As the priest in the order of Redemption, at the moment of Consecration, brings the crucified Savior to the altar, so the mother in the order of creation brings the spirit which issues from the Hand of God to the cradle of the earth. With such thoughts in mind, Leon Bloy once said: "The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman."
"The World's First Love"
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tota pulchra es, Maria
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.
Last week I met with my sisters for our monthly rosary. My sister Cathy who lovingly cared for my parents before they died, brought along a box of post cards that my parents had collected on their world travels. I found this postcard in the box and I immediately fell in love with this beautiful picture, the lovely prayer and the gorgeous name-Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. This image of Mary is also known as Our Lady of Ostra Brama and/or Our Lady of Mercy. It originated in Lithuania in the 1300's and was painted by an unknown artist. The gold and silver were added to the portrait later. Her feast is celebrated between November 10th and November 16th. Happy feast of Our Lady of The Gate of Dawn!
rosary buried in the palm
of my hand
lest someone see it and know
of my prayer.
I pass the homeless,
the families and
the college students hurrying to class.
All the while
my prayer continues,
but now, it includes each of those
I pass on the way.
A stranger asks
"What are you doing?
Talking to yourself?"
I don't answer as the blush
of embarrassment covers my face.
I try to keep my lips from moving
so that only God will know of my
noontime conversation with Him.
But sometimes, I get carried away
in prayer and lose awareness of my surroundings.
All through the rosary and the
Chaplet of Divine Mercy
my fingers work the beads
as fast as my feet work the sidewalk.
I cross over to the college campus
and nod to the priest as he leaves the
Church of the Gesu
in appreciation for the many confessions
he's listened to my heart unburden.
Ave's continue for family and friends,
strangers and acquaintances
and my very own soul
as I skirt around the little French
St. Joan of Arc Chapel
and wind my way back
Now, I am refreshed,
and able to continue my day
of service to others
after having given the service of my heart
to the Lord.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I'd been feeling a bit of remorse over the fact that I don't openly live my Catholic Christian faith in a way that others could readily tell what it is that I believe in and value. This feeling was made clear to me last Spring while spending some time reading Jennifer's My Chocolate Heart blog. Jennifer embraces the pro-life cause openly and proudly. She doesn't seem to have any qualms about defending innocent life regardless of any backlash she may receive from others who oppose her view.
Last year, my niece Jenny gave me a bumper sticker which reads "You can't be Catholic and pro-abortion." I thanked her and promptly put the bumper sticker in a drawer, not wanting to advertise my pro-life views publicly. Yes, I'm pro-life and I pray for the end to abortion every day, but did I really want to advertise that fact to a non-believing world? Not at that time, unfortunately. But after reading Jennifer's blog, I decided it was time for me to stop hiding like a coward and to finally stand up for what I believe in publicly. So, I pulled that bumper sticker out of the drawer and put it on the van.
And nothing happened. For a while, anyway. I have since then received two compliments on the sticker-one was from Jenny who has the same bumper sticker on her van and was probably wondering what took me so long to slap mine on my van, and the other was from a man I met at a rosary prayer group who told me that he also had the same bumper sticker on his car.
Last month my son John completed the last of his "behind-the-wheel" driving instructions to obtain his driver's license. When he pulled up to our house with his driving instructor, the van was parked out front. John told me that his instructor commented on the sticker and said that it should read "You can't be Christian and pro-abortion". Of course, he’s right, all Christians should espouse pro-life views, not only Catholic Christians.
All of these positive comments had me feeling pretty proud of the fact that I finally put that sticker on my van. Until this past Sunday, that is.
On Sunday afternoon, I loaded up the van with three of my children and one of their friends. We headed down to the Seminary for our monthly Holy Hour for Vocations. After giving our respect and adoration to Jesus, we hopped onto the freeway for a drive out to the country for a visit with some friends at their "barn", a building filled with fun and active equipment like trampolines, climbing ropes, sponge pits and basketball hoops.
Now I don't have a reputation as a very good driver, in fact I have been known to have a lead foot and struggle to hold myself back from tailgating. But I am quite sure that on this particular trip I was not offending any other drivers with whom I was sharing the road by my poor driving habits. So, I was extremely startled when another car completely cut me off, nearly taking off the front end of my van as the driver careened into my lane. My son who was sitting beside me in the front seat was also in a state of shock over the near life-altering accident that was averted by my foot slamming on the brake. Later, as we passed that car once again, the driver sent an obscene hand-gesture my way which made me question whether or not I might have been driving in such a way as to have upset her. I'm sure I didn't.
Thinking back, I wonder if it was my bumper sticker that might have offended her. Could she have been an angry pro-abortionist who delighted in harming others who disagreed with her point of view? Would a person really be so vile as to nearly cause the death of innocent children who are passengers simply because she didn't like to be reminded that abortion is murder?
Maybe as a chronic worrier I am simply over thinking this incident, but I can't help but wonder, am I putting my children's lives in jeopardy every time I drive them somewhere in the van with that bumper sticker? I may be willing to die for my faith, but is it right that my children might be taken along with me? Is it time to cover up that bumper sticker with something more politically correct?
Regardless of whether that woman's reckless driving and obscene gesture were due to my bumper sticker or something else, I have decided that I will pray for her and others like her who feel that behind the wheel is the place to vent their frustrations, and I will pray for the safety of all travelers regardless of their faith values or lack of faith values.
"I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19
Monday, November 9, 2009
Bravely I stepped out of the boat,
not with a timid toe check
but with a full body plunge.
This is easy, I thought.
I can do anything!
And my head puffed up with pride.
The swelling of my large head
pushed my eyes closed
and I lost my focus.
I became top-heavy
and began to sink,
deeper and deeper.
I spluttered and choked
on my way down as
the anchor of sorrow
from my foolishness
pulled me into the watery darkness
and I could not break free.
I need a strong hand
to reach beneath the water
and pull me back to the surface.
I need to be resuscitated
with the friendship
and love of Jesus.
I need to be reminded
to keep my eyes
forever gazing on the Lord
for only in Him can I be redeemed
from my foolish pride.
Only in Him
will my steps on the water
humbly lead me to eternal salvation.
Jesus, never let me lose sight of you.
Hold my hand and lead me across the
watery path of life straight into your heart. Amen.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Her latest posting features a picture of my son Jack when he was three years old. He was having a bad day and sat at the table spunking. Usually, when my kids are having a bad day, I wouldn't say they look "cute", but in Jack's case, that word perfectly described his disposition.
The shadow couple fighting in the background are not Paul and I. We never fight! ;)
Why don't you pay a visit to Debby's blog and if you scroll back you will find some of the other pages from her book as well.
When I awake in the morning, and the fog of sadness overcomes me, thinking of reasons to praise God always picks me up...
1. My mother-in-law Marilyn had successful surgery this week to remove her breast cancer, and my nephew had successful surgery after being assaulted. (See my sister Debby's blog, Heavenly Humor, for the story and to join in prayer for Aaron.)
2. My nephew and Godson, Matthew was able to spend a few days at home from his military station in California before he leaves with the Marines for Afghanistan. It was wonderful to spend some time with him and celebrate his birthday before he goes. We were especially blessed with beautiful warm weather for November as we wandered the zoo on a family-free day.
3. My husband and I enjoyed a vacation day together this week browsing at an antique store and sampling treats at a gourmet grocery store. Days alone together are a rare treat!
4. My son Jack served at his first Mass this week. He was so excited and did a very good job!
5. I am so grateful for a warm cup of coffee between my icy hands on a cold morning, and the additional gift of warm steam rising to my face brings me so much comfort.
Dear God, for all of these blessings I give you praise and I ask you to keep gently nudging me with reminders of your goodness whenever I'm tempted to despair. Amen.
Thanks to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for hosting this MEME.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Elizabeth Esther is the host of the Saturday Evening Blog Post. Why don't you stop on over and join in the fun! Add your favorite post from the month of October and visit lots of other bloggers who are submitting their favorites as well!
My submission from October is Conversations from the Backseat/United in Prayer. I chose to share this post about one of my favorite people, my daughter, because although she is only eight years old, I learn so much from her about the power of God and how He works in our lives. In this particular story, she taught me about the power of prayer for those from whom we are separated.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
These have been the days of waiting. Fr. Dennis, the associate pastor at our parish very often tells me that God's answer to prayer is frequently one word… “Wait”. I think that Fr. Dennis is right and that this is God’s standard answer to the prayers of this very impatient girl. God keeps telling me "Not yet, not yet, slow down, everything has a season, and this autumn, my dear friend, is not the season for you.”
I have my heart set on beginning an Apostolate for Spiritual Motherhood in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. After reading about Spiritual Motherhood on so many wonderful blogs, I was sure that God had set this on my heart as my special calling. At first when I began to ponder this calling, I felt completely overwhelmed. Who am I but a simple mother and nutritionist, what do I know about Spiritual Motherhood and beginning apostolates? This is just beyond my ability, there is no way that God could be calling me to this. I thought that maybe I was bordering on mental illness with grandiose visions of greatness, thinking about such a fabulously huge endeavor. So I resigned myself to what I’ve always done, that is, to pray for priests on my own. But having the nature of a chatterbox, I couldn’t seem to shut myself up about the whole concept of Spiritual Motherhood and every person to whom I mentioned it all seemed to be intrigued and excited about it as well, so I remained encouraged.
Then, through what I believe was the intervention of God, I met my friend Marge. I told her the same thing I told everyone else. “I’d love to start a Spiritual Motherhood Apostolate for priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but I’ve no clue about how to begin, and really, I don’t need an apostolate to pray for priests, I do that anyway.” At that, Marge sat straight up in her chair and she said, “We’re going to do this, you and I! We’re going to establish an Apostolate of Spiritual Motherhood for Priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and we are going to see to it that every bishop, priest, religious brother and seminarian is assigned a Spiritual Mother who will pray for them. We can do it!” She was so confident and her assurance easily rubbed off on me and energized me. I foresaw a day in the near future, before the end of the Year of the Priest, when 800 women would readily sign up to adopt one of our holy men in Milwaukee as her spiritual son.
It wasn’t long after this conversation when I met someone who I thought could really help us move things along. Dick and Terry Boldin head up the very successful Rosary Evangelization Apostolate in Milwaukee and when I shared my idea with them, they were also very excited about it and agreed to help. I felt that this was a sign from God that He very much wanted this Apostolate and I knew that if anyone had the connections and expertise to help get this endeavor off the ground, Dick and Terry were the ones!
But now, we’ve officially hit our first roadblock, one that honestly, we anticipated from the beginning. Our Archdiocese has no Archbishop. It’s been six long months since Archbishop Dolan left Milwaukee for New York (can you feel the moisture from my teardrops falling through the keyboard as I type this? He is still terribly missed here!) Bishop Callahan is doing an outstanding job holding things together, but he does not have the authority to give his blessing to a new apostolate. So, until we have a new Archbishop, the Spiritual Motherhood is going nowhere! As Dick so wisely reminded Marge and I, we are not to become discouraged, because this is God’s will. We are to accept this in obedience to church authority. He’s right.
But I’m afraid that discouragement must be my middle name, because I can’t help from being discouraged! Wouldn’t God want this, I wonder? But then again, who am I to know God’s will? I am reminded of one of my favorite movies that my mom and I used to watch every Christmas when I was little, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”. Do you remember how desperately those nuns needed a new school for the students? They prayed that God would give them the building that was being built next door. As their hopes were being raised that this might actually happen, they all agreed to lift their voices in prayer and one of the nuns wisely stated, “God’s will be done.” Then the Mother Superior chimed in, “And may God’s will be our will.” Ooh, that part always got on my mom’s nerves! “That is NOT the way to pray!” she would say. “We are to pray for God’s will in all things, never for our own will! That's sacrilegious!” Of course, she was right.
So I turn to St. Monica and St. Francis de Sales who were both well known for their extreme patience. I ask them to guide me in the art of patient, hope-filled and prayerful waiting without the pain of discouragement. I also ask them to pray for me so that I will become enlightened about God’s will in this matter and to give Dick, Terry, Marge and I the fortitude to continue the work once our new Archbishop is assigned and gives his go-ahead for this very important Apostolate. And I ask you, dear reader, to join me in prayer for our beloved Pope, all bishops, priests, brothers, seminarians and those discerning a call to the priesthood. May our voices, united in a prayer of love for these holy men, inspire them and encourage them to continue their wonderful service to God and to all of humanity.
It was several years ago on Holy Thursday. I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and it hit me hard. My words can't adequately describe the sudden, completely empty, cold and drained feeling that washed over my soul like the suds on the dishes in my hands. God had left me. I don’t know how it is that I knew this was the cause of my sudden emptiness, but there was no doubt in my mind that the absence of God had overcome me.
I had walked in the light of His love my entire life and had really taken it for granted that His love would always be there. I never gave any thought to the fact that the awareness of His presence was a gift. There were many times in my life when I put His love on a shelf and completely disregarded it as unimportant. What a fool I was!
So anyway, there I was at the sink, feeling absolutely horrible. Tears began to fall and my children, upset to see their mother crying, asked what was wrong. I couldn’t answer because I really didn’t understand what was happening to me and hadn’t a clue about how to explain it to my little ones.
We went to Holy Thursday Mass, and as I sat in church and looked around at all of the other people present, I thought, “How can God love all of these people but not love me?” I immediately scolded myself for my prideful thought, but it wasn’t pride really, it was something worse than pride. It was despair.
The associate Pastor who loved to include pop music lyrics in his homilies quoted an Alanis Morrisette song at this Mass-
“You see everything,
you see every part
you see all my light
and you love my dark
You dig everything of which
There’s not anything to which
You can’t relate
And you’re still here.”
He explained that this is exactly how God is, loving us and never leaving us no matter what. As happens from time to time, I felt that these words that Father quoted, these song lyrics, were spoken directly to my heart. The tears I was trying so hard to control, began to spill once more. I knew he was right, that God is always with me, so that made my present condition even harder to bear. The tears continued after my family and I returned home. I cried while kneeling bed-side with my children for their evening prayers and once again they began to question my tears and attempt to comfort me. How could I explain the unexplainable? I had told them all their lives that God loves them and will never leave them. How could I tell them that He had left me?
By the next morning, I was feeling better, not quite so desolate, and gradually I began to feel the presence of God in my life once again. I know that God uses all things for good for those who love Him and this short-lived experience of darkness was enough to change my life significantly. Since that night, I began to attend daily Mass even though, at first, I questioned God all the way there and all the way home. “Why do you want me there? Right now I'd rather be anywhere but church!” I told Him. Yet everyday I'd get up, get dressed and drive to church regardless of whether or not I felt like being there. Sometimes I would cry all the way to Mass, cry the entire time I was there, and then cry all the way home. I wondered if there would ever be an end to my tears. Still, something made me go day after day. It’s as if God was drawing me through the pain to a deeper love for Him, one that didn’t rely on consolations and joy, but instead, thrived even in the nothingness and the pain.
That experience of the absence of God also brought me to spiritual direction in a desire to try to understand God and how he works in my life. It is such a relief to know that each month I can sit and talk one on one with someone who has also been in that dark place and has found a way through it to the knowledge that we remain forever in God's presence whether it is felt or not. It is a huge help to know that I am not alone on my journey to holiness, that others have been where I am, and that I will always continue to grow in my faith.
I know I’ve got a long way to go spiritually, but daily Mass, spiritual direction and spiritual reading have led me to understand that the words of that priest so long ago are very true: even when I can’t feel God, He is always there.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Never had the lake been so blue
Never had the sun shone so bright
Never had the cool autumn air felt so refreshing
Never had the leaves on the trees enchanted me so
And never have I loved my husband as much as I do today.
For all of these blessings, Creator God, I give thee thanks.
Happy 44th Birthday to Paul, my dear, sweet husband! I love you!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
While sitting on the rock by the beach,
feeling the cold November air chill
me to the bones,
I noticed The Angel of Death
pass over in a low,
gray, cirrus cloud.
Ripples immediately moved across the lake,
and the crow was silenced.
I waited for the Angel
to take my soul
and leave my limp, lifeless body
on the rock.
But, he continued on his way
and left me in my silent
peaceful reverie of Autumn.
(see Carry on Tuesday prompt
"In the arms of an angel"
for even more angels!)
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Oh life, I cling to you!
Though your days grow long
and the shadows linger
I hate to say good-bye.
I want to hold your hand and
feel the wrinkles in your skin.
I want to gaze into your
and recall the spark
that once existed there.
My heart aches
for the feeling of love
that once flourished
inside of me
because of you.
My body aches
for the feeling of
your once strong arms
that held me so tenderly.
I am left
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. Amen.
She really is a much better friend to me than I am to her. It's Judy who always comes to my house to pick me up when we go out for dinner and drinks. As I get ready to go out, my kids all ask "Who's Judy, again? Which one of your friends is she?" As if I have so many friends they just can't keep track of them all!
So, when Judy arrives, I round up the family from their activities and re-introduce them to her. As soon as they see her, instant recognition lights up their adorable faces! "Oh, Judy!" they say, "how could we ever forget you!" Judy laughs and says picking me up for our annual night out is like taking someone on their first date. Before we can leave, she has to meet the whole family to make sure they approve!
It makes me think of some of my other friends who I don't make contact with very often, my friends the saints. Sure, I have my favorites like St. Gianna Molla, St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane de Chantal, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Joseph. It's easy for me to have frequent prayerful conversations with these saints that I identify with so easily. But what about those saints that I hardly know or easily forget about? How can I keep in touch with the many, many holy souls in heaven that I've contacted on occasion, but fail to remember on a daily basis? That's where the litany of saints comes in. How I love the Feast of All Saints Day when we try to remember them all. It's like my annual night out with Judy, a chance to reconnect with some old friends.
Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to run through that list of names, maybe learn about someone we didn't know, possibly make a new heavenly friend. I love the Litany of Saints and the chance to roll my tongue across some of their exotic sounding names and ponder how it is that they served the Lord so as to earn the title of Saint. I pray that those Godly examples of Sainthood, will ponder my name as well, and keep me in their own prayers, so that one day, my name will be sung out with theirs in that glorious Litany of Saints.
Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, Holy Virgin of virgins, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, All you holy Angels and Archangels, All you holy orders of blessed Spirits, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, All you holy Patriarchs and Prophets, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Andrew, St. James, St. John, St. Thomas, St. James, St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon, St. Thaddeus, St. Matthias, St. Barnabas, St. Luke, St. Mark, All you holy Apostles and Evangelists, All you holy Disciples of the Lord, All you holy Innocents, St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, St. Vincent, Sts. Fabian and Sebastian, Sts. John and Paul, Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Sts. Gervase and Protase, All you holy Martyrs, St. Sylvester, St. Gregory, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Martin, St. Nicholas, All you holy Bishops and Confessors, All you holy Doctors, St. Anthony, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Dominic, St. Francis, All you holy Priests and Levites, All you holy Monks and Hermits, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Agatha, St. Lucy, St. Agnes, St. Cecilia, St. Catherine, St. Anastasia, All you holy Virgins and Widows, All you Holy Men and Women, Saints of God, make intercession for us.
(originally posted 6/09)