Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Catholic Youth Rally-Fearless

What a blessed and lovely day I spent this past Saturday with John and Justin, my two oldest sons, and our friends from church, Steve, Jessie and Cody. We had the great privilege of attending the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally, a twelve hour day of praise and worship. The theme of the day was "Fearless." There were nearly 1000 fearless teens packed into the large gymnasium that served as a church for the day. Contemporary Christian Worship music by Sonar was played throughout the day and two wonderful guest speakers, Jim Beckman and Sr. Terese Marie Iglesisas TOR provided great inspiration.

Some highlights of the day were: Mass with Archbishop Listecki, confession lines that stretched down long hallways and around corners, Christian music by Sonar, laying on of hands for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, thirty youth who stood up for an altar call to receive a special blessing from the Archbishop as they witnessed to the fact that they were all considering a vocation of service to the Church, and best of all, Eucharistic Adoration. During Adoration, Deacon Matt Widder who will be ordained to the priesthood this May (prayers for him please!), carried the monstrance in a procession throughout the gym and blessed everyone. The room was dark, with a spotlight on the monstrance. The smoke from the incense hovered over the monstrance casting a purple shadow upon it and as the spotlight touched the golden monstrance, they reflected out in beams throughout the room. Simply beautiful and moving. (The picture is Fr. Luke Strand from the 2009 Youth Rally.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Prodigal Mother With An Alabaster Jar

Unable to sleep, I cried and shook in the night, filling up God's jar, (Psalm 56) the one with my name on it, the one He surely must have to replace each year because the previous jar has overflowed. My strong husband reached over with his mighty arm and held me until the shaking stopped, until the sobbing dissipated and sleep finally overcame its battle with my exhausted restlessness.

Morning came, and I vowed that I would rise strong, stay strong. I asked God to take my jar of tears and turn it to fragrant oil that would become a gift to others around me.

Little did I know that a storm was brewing inside my teenage son. He wouldn't rest until he left me crippled with his wind-strong words. Angry with me on the drive to church and school because I denied him a privilege and sometimes the word "no" is hard to hear, he tore into me determined to cause damage.

"I am not going to Mass," he said. "Why should I participate in something that is meaningless for me?" and he rebelliously turned his back on me at the church steps and walked over to school. I remember words flying out of my mouth, words that shook with anger and frustration, words I didn't mean as surely as he could not have meant the words he hurled in my direction. "Then don't ever come to Mass again!" I stood at the steps, flooded with anger, and watched my baby, my thirteen year old baby, walk away.

I entered the church and of course, the tears came back. My two littlest babies, each wrapped an arm around me as I uselessly tried to dry the tears that wouldn't stop. I could feel the eyes of my elderly friends looking toward me. That just brought more tears for the shame I felt in my condition.

I cried as Father placed Jesus into my outstretched hands and I choked my Lord down with my sobs. I cried for myself and I cried for my Savior. Didn't He already die on the cross? Must we keep killing Him again and again with our temper tantrums and lack of grace? Does He have to continue to take the fall when the world doesn't meet our expectations or bring us immediate satisfaction?

I thought about calling in sick to work, and going back home to sleep the pain away, but I didn't. Instead, I let the tears fall behind my sunglasses as I drove to work and stumbled into my office hoping my co-workers wouldn't notice that I was beginning another day with a tear stained face, eyes red, wet and puffy, dark circles growing larger beneath the blues.

Somehow, the Lord carried me through the workday and led me back home to my son. I was afraid to face him again, afraid of another confrontation. My husband began by scolding him for giving me a hard time in the morning and for skipping Mass. Why was it that my son looked astonished, as if he thought he had done nothing wrong? Finally, my tongue released my words of pain. I confessed the tearful night I spent and the tearful day that had preceded that night. I confessed that his words brought those tears back on again, strong. I told him that I knew he didn't mean what he had said, that he was mad because he couldn't get his way, so he had simply intended to hurt me to share the pain he was feeling, and he had succeeded in not only hurting his mother, but in hurting God as well.

He scraped his dinner plate and began to wash the dishes without being told. Later, he came to me and apologized. I wanted to reach out to him; like the prodigal father, I wanted to lavish extravagant love on him. I wanted to act like Mary (John 12:1-11) and pour an alabaster jar of scented oil upon his brow and throw myself at his feet, crying "You're my baby and I am so sorry that our love has to change as you grow." I wanted to transfer all of the emotions that I held within my heart into his own heart so that he would understand how much I love him; how much I will always love him and how afraid I am of his growing up and growing away from me. But instead, I mumbled a half-hearted "I forgive you," and went to bed. Then, after a night of rest, morning broke with the sun of a new day dawning, my son and I embraced with a love beyond words and we could breath a sigh of relief that the storm was finally over.

The next day, while walking towards the church together, we noticed to our horror, that someone had vandalized the front door of our beloved House of God with spray paint graffiti! Always easily upset, I felt myself beginning to shake as I struggled to control my emotions. My son leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Don't think on it all day, Mom. It'll be alright. It was just some dumb kids." Then he put his arm around me for the remainder of Mass and enthusiastically participated in the liturgy. By the time we left the church, the graffiti was thankfully gone, someone had cleaned it away and my heart was stronger from the kind words and gentle touch of my beautiful son.

So who was really the prodigal here? I think in the end, it was me. My son gave me the love and care I so desperately needed, but it took a storm to bring the calm my heart was craving. Like the prodigal son, I had to be brought low before I could realize how incredibly blessed I am. I realize that like the wonderful story of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke (15:11-32), I re-live that story so often in my own life, in so many ways and as every one of the characters. But the lavish, extravagant love that comes at the end, makes all of the trials and difficulties so worth it! And in my soul, I carry the fragrance of exotic oil from an alabaster jar and I pray that God will help me to release it and share with the world whenever it's needed. I don't want to hold anything back!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Praise-Palm Sunday

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that "You're my God."

He rode in on a donkey to the shouts of "Hosannah!"
Today, I want those shouts to ring in my ears and remain in my heart.
I want to always remember that in his humble humanity, he saved my soul.
I cry along "Hosannah!" It is my song of unending praise for the One I love,
for everything He has done and everything He will ever do.
Hosannah and Praise forever!

Join Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart in weekly Praise

A Most Blessed Holy Week to you all!

Praying the Psalms-Eleven

"In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: "Flee like a bird to your mountain."

So often I am tempted to run away, escape from my problems and worries. I try to distract myself by pouring my energies into work or meaningless activities like watching television. But these are only temporary bandages to cover up the problems and help me to forget about my worries for a short time. Fleeing like a bird doesn't work because sooner or later the mountain begins to crumble around me and my problems become larger than ever.

The only solution to difficulties in life is to hand them over to the Lord, to bury my heart and soul in prayer. The Lord will hold me and protect me until the storm has passed and my problems are solved. He will love me, care for me and protect me. In the Lord I take refuge, today and always. I will stand firm and will not flee.

Today my prayers go out in a special way to all of those in the Church who are suffering because of the horrific scandal of priestly abuse towards children. This means that my prayers go out to everyone in the Church, because whenever one of our members suffers a tragedy in any way, we all suffer. Let us all take refuge in the Lord who loves each and every one of us and will protect us until the storm has passed.

Join Jenny at Just a Minute to Pray the Psalms each Saturday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Seven Quick Takes-Good Things

1. My son Jack had a doctor appointment this week to check on his progress with his attention deficit medicine. (All is well!) I have to take a minute to praise our wonderful pediatrician! Dr. S. is the father of nine children and he must be a wonderfully gentle and loving father. We can never leave his office without his kind reminders to my son: “Now Jack, remember, no TV or video games, go outside every day and play for an hour (after you change out of your school clothes), eat all of your vegetables, when mom and dad ask you to do something-always do it right away with a smile on your face-no grumbling, and make sure you go to bed early every night and get a good nights rest."

I am so grateful for all of the adults in our community who act as good role models for children and assist parents by speaking kind words of encouragement to the little ones in their care.

2. Four of my sisters and my niece Jenny, who is like a sister to me, and I had our monthly rosary night this past week. Each month we take turns meeting at one another's houses for treats, conversation and prayer. This time it was at my house and I was so honored that my best friend (and now honorary sister) Danette (as in, when you go fishing-don’t forget da net!) could join us for the first time.

I’ve been trying to make this a Lent of forgiveness and was given a big boost from my sister Cindy. I’m ashamed to admit that I have a long held hurt towards my mother that goes back 25 years and it continues to bother me even though my mom has been deceased these past 11 years. Mom was a wonderful saintly woman, who did her best to raise nine wild children while caring for an ill husband. In spite of all of the wonderful things she had done for me, I held on to the one time when she let me down, when she wasn’t there for me in the way I wanted her to be.

Cindy gave me a beautiful ring that had belonged to my mom and told me that whenever I wear it, it will be just as if my mom were right there with me! Knowing that she would have been with me if she could have at that time in the past when I needed her, wearing this ring makes up for her absence, because I can feel her love for me, and reciprocate my love for her with a prayer each time I feel the weight of the ring on my finger and I think of her. It is a precious gift that will always remind me that forgiveness is life's real treasure.

3. Today is my son Justin's 15th birthday. Justin is a real card who loves nothing better than to make people laugh. He likes to call himself "PJ" for "Paul Junior" since he favors my husband very strongly in both looks and personality.

The other night when my sisters were over for the rosary, my husband Paul took Justin and John to the library. The girls and I were in the midst of planning a pilgrimage to Chicago to explore a weeping statue of Mary and the World's Largest Monstrance, when the phone rang. It was Justin. "What are you doing Mom?" he wanted to know. "Well, what do you think I'm doing? You just left here two minutes ago and I was visiting with my sisters, and...I still am!" I replied. When I asked him what he was doing he told me that Dad and John were in the library. "Where are you, then?" I wondered. "Just sitting in the car, I didn't feel like going in the library," he said. Nice conversation. Who ever thought it was a good idea to let kids have cell phones for necessities? Oh, I guess that was me. Oops!

I hope this counts for Lucy's "Kids Say the Darndest Things" blog-hop.


4. When my family began attending daily Mass there was a lovely elderly couple who used to sit right in front of us. I always got such a kick out of their names-Anne and Gilbert, just like those of my favorite characters in the Anne of Green Gables series! Last year, Anne and Gilbert left our parish as they moved out of state to care for their critically ill son. We’ve been feeling nostalgic for them lately as we remember how Anne was always so kind and shared treats, seashells and books with us, and how Gilbert was so funny and he would always make us smile. Mary, my eight year old, told me that she hopes that Paul and I grow old just like Anne and Gilbert. Her hope is that I will be sweet and kind to children and that Paul will make kids laugh. Sounds not only feasible but also very enjoyable to me!

5. I’m looking forward to attending the Catholic Youth Rally this Saturday with my two oldest boys and our good friends Steve, and his daughter Jessie. It’s a full day event with a Christian rock band, Mass with the Archbishop, speakers and adoration. Sounds like a powerhouse of prayer! I can't wait!

6. Last Sunday, my oldest son John and I spent the afternoon at one of our favorite places, the Seminary of St. Francis de Sales for Vocationfest. We were there promoting the annual summer camp for boys who are interested in the priesthood. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and I met so many wonderful people who have an interest in the priesthood.

Here’s where I want to give a little shout out to our young friend John H. over in England who works so hard to promote vocations through his fabulous website “A Vocation to be a Priest.” If you haven’t done so already, please pay his website a visit! You’ll find lots of good information and inspiration there!

7. I’ve got to end with a favorite quote that is timely to the upcoming Holy Week. This is from one of my favorite authors, Fr. Robert Barron: “This is the meaning of the cross: God is heartbroken love.” Sigh...Gives me goosebumps!

Thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for this MEME

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Angels of Annunciation

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”…Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 26-38

We all have annunciation moments, but unfortunately, we are often unaware of exactly what is happening to us. Sometimes in our busyness we become so preoccupied with ourselves and our own needs that we fail to recognize those angels when they come to us.

In my job as a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Nutritionist, I have found that the angels of annunciation come to me nearly constantly. I can be so focused on what I have to do after work, or some problem with my children that nags at the back of my mind, or my own level of fatigue from lack of sleep, that I can let those angels in and out of my office all day without realizing who they are. What a shame!

But when I open my heart and open my eyes, I see that angels of annunciation are plentiful. God is trying to speak to me through them all day, every day, and when I recognize them, I can’t help but be changed by their message.

I recently met an angel who was a drug addict suffering from the horrific pains of withdrawal. Instead of sitting in my usual seat of judgment, I opened my heart to recognize that the message she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to see through my addiction, to find Jesus inside me. Jesus suffered just like I am suffering. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I listened to her story, with tears in my eyes and I was able to offer her comfort and assistance. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

I also met an angel who was a student working through her internship requirements for graduation. Instead of rushing through my usual day trying to get my job done, I opened my heart to recognize the message that she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to see that you were once in my shoes. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I slowed down from my busy agenda and found the patience to teach her the steps required to give nutrition counseling to young mothers in need. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

One of my favorite angels was a two-year-old girl going through the negative stages through which every two-year-old must pass. Instead of becoming irritated by her temper tantrums and constant use of the word “NO”, I opened my heart to recognize the message that she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to offer me kindness, to remember that it is the little ones such as these to whom Jesus offered the Kingdom of God. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I turned to her with a smile. I offered her a book, a compliment and a pat on the head. She walked out of my office with a smile on her face, calling out “I love you!” “I love you, too!” I called back. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

God’s angels of annunciation are coming to you as well. They are in every person that crosses your path. Will you be open to their messages? Will you hear them say “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God? Will you feel God’s Spirit coming to you and allow yourself to be open to it? Say yes! Become the handmaid of the Lord and watch the world transform into a beautiful place!

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

(A re-post from 6/09 and can also be found at CatholicMom.com)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Very Rest

it's not that I don't believe that God loves me
it's that I don't believe that I love Him
not enough
something always seems to get in the way
of my complete abandonment to His heart

I want too much
I expect too much
I don't know how to release
my possessive grasp
and hold on lightly
without clinging

oh for the grace of detachment
from this world
and the pleasures it contains
in favor of what's to come
for this I pray with all my heart

"For this is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul; that we seek here rest in those things that be so little, wherein is no rest, and know not our God that is Almighty, All-wise, All-good. For He is the very rest." Blessed Julian of Norwich

Monday, March 22, 2010

Washed Out

hurt washes over me like a wave
drowning my face in tears
without reason-
without restraint-

I succumb to the wave
and am washed out...

upon my return to the shore
I lay heavy with water,
soaked to the core
aching from the fight for control
of my emotions

I am drained and exhausted

resuscitate me Lord, and
keep me from the water's edge

Therese Borchardt has a wonderful book and blog "Beyond Blue" which offers great comfort and support to those suffering through depression and other mental illnesses. I found this wonderful poem "Seasons of the Soul:My Bipolar Experience" there and was deeply moved. I hope it moves you as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Praying the Psalms-Ten

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand."

I am the listener. At home, I listen to the complaints and problems of my family. At work, I listen to the grief of my clients and my coworkers. I offer words of understanding to soothe and then hold it all inside myself. My own troubles, I write in letters to an understanding friend as a way to share them, release them, without burdening the world. The letters are my prayer, it is a way to share my heart silently.

"You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and you listen to their cry."

But yesterday was different. Yesterday I couldn't hold my frustrations inside and I didn't take the time to write a letter prayer. I became angry with others, an emotion I'm not used to. I usually take out all of my anger on myself. (Depression is anger turned inwards.) I felt that anger and resentment rise up in a meeting at work. I heard my sharp words spoken out loud to my boss, in front of everybody. After the meeting, I rose up quickly, drove my van too fast with the music too loud. I stopped at the grocery store where I glared at everyone who looked at me, and snapped at the clerk. Arriving at home, I craved the soothing effects of chocolate, but could find none in our Lenten house, so I opened a bag of chocolate chips and ate too much.

I tried to redirect my thoughts to the Lord, but I couldn't. I had myself terribly worked up, really about nothing.

"Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"

But perhaps, it wasn't the Lord who was standing far off from me, maybe it was me who was standing far off from the Lord. I know that God was watching my troubles and my inappropriate responses to them. I know that He was loving me and was not far off, but was very nearby, waiting for me to settle my heart and turn to him. It was me who tried to hide from the Lord. Oh Lord, I failed You... I forgot You... I am so sorry.

Remind me Lord, that "You know the hopes of the humble people." Release me from my pride. "Surely You will hear my cries and comfort my heart by helping me."

Join Jenny at Just a Minute in Praying the Psalms each Saturday

Casting Stones

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

When you cast a stone into a still lake and watch to see what happens, you notice that the ripples brought about by that one stone spread wider and wider until a large part of the lake has seen an effect from that one stone. It’s like an echo in the water; it spreads far beyond its source.

The same can be said of casting stones at others. It’s so easy to be self-righteous and put blame and criticism on others for not acting in ways that we believe are right and good. We can put that same blame and criticism on ourselves, as well, causing that ripple effect of hurt and pain to spread out to others around us. Everyone we encounter can feel the ripple effect, the echo of our finger pointing, even when we point the finger at ourselves. It’s impossible for the one person upon whom the stone is cast to bear that pain alone. Before you know it, our families, friends, co-workers, and parishes all feel a bit of that pain caused by injustice.

Jesus challenges us to look within. Are we innocent, without sin? If we’re truthful with ourselves, the answer will be no.

Unclench your heart. Drop your stone on the ground where it will cause no damage. Quiet that echo, those repercussions of blame. Turn to the one being condemned, even if it’s yourself, especially if it’s yourself, and offer your love and mercy. A gentle word, a kind touch, a firm reminder of their dignity in the eyes of God and their call to live lives worthy of that dignity can stop the ripple effect of pain and bring about the solid foundation of a holy life in the eyes of God and others.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things-blog-hop!

Lucy at Mystical Rose Design has invited me to join her Friday blog-hop. What a fun idea, and I happen to have just the cutest quote to share!

A few years ago, my son Jack told me that there was a lot of activity going on inside his head. I began to panic, wondering if he might be hearing voices. "What do you mean?" I asked, nervously. "I have a new tooth growing in!" he replied!

Visit Lucy's blog to join in the fun!

Seven Quick Takes

1. Thanks for all the prayers! I passed my examination and am now a Certified Lactation Counselor! I will still have to make the 80 mile trip to Madison next month to complete the afternoon hours that I missed at the training, but I know that my son's beautifully repaired teeth are worth it!

2. Last Saturday, I was asked to bring lunch to my sons, John and Justin and several other boys who were touring the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist as part of the Seminary's Vocation Office efforts to bring about interest in the priesthood. Little did I know that Archbishop Listecki would be there, and I would have the opportunity to meet him and listen to him talk with the boys for a while. It was a blessing! He is a kind and interesting man with a wonderful sense of humor! In the future, when I'm asked to help, I will always say "Yes"! After all, wasn't Mary greatly blessed in her positive response to the Angel Gabriel? She sets the standards that I know I must follow!

3. Basketball season is over! No more running to 5 practices a week and 3-10 games on the weekends! No more admissions and concessions draining my wallet dry! I don't know what in the world my family will do with all of our spare time and spare money! :)

4. During Lent, we have a tradition in our family of watching a weekly movie about Jesus. No matter which movie we have watched this year (although Paul and I have watched the Passion, we have not shared that one with the kids), our eleven year old, Jack, ends up in tears at the cruxifixion. I am glad that he is so sensitive and has such a deep love for Jesus, but I worry that maybe it is all too intense for him. He cries quite a bit at Eucharistic Adoration as well. We also pray the Stations of the Cross at home as a family quite a bit during Lent, and I remember that when my two oldest sons were younger, they were in tears by the end as well. Is this a normal process of growing up? Anybody else experience this with their kids and/or have an opinion about it?

5. The weather here has been gorgeous this week! We've enjoyed temps in the 50's with blue skies! On Monday, just before my appointment with my spiritual director, I had the joy of spending thirty blessed minutes alone on the shores of Lake Michigan engaging in my favorite activity-searching for sea glass! Winter feels so long when the sands are snow covered and I am so grateful that I can partake in the peaceful pleasure of beach combing once again!

6. More Archbishop Listecki...he came to my parish for a Reconciliation Service this past Wednesday. The church was packed! In spite of the crowd, my family and I were able to be in the Archbishop's line for confession. I just have to say ditto to my comment in number two! He really is kind and loving. He gives great advice and reminded me of God's love for me. I love confession and the peace it brings and receiving the sacrament from the Archbishop was icing on the Lenten cake!

7. Speaking of cake, today is the feast day of St. Joseph. It was this great saint who helped my husband find a job all those years ago when I was pregnant with my third son in three years, so of course we named him Joseph! Today we celebrate my son's feast day with great joy and a little cake! Happy Feast Day of St. Joseph!

"O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen."

Thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for this MEME.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Air

the air is warm
full of Spring
and the sky is blue
full of sunshine
and my heart is light
full of joy

and my hands pin clothes on the line
and trim ends of vine in the hope of new growth

and God is here
my God
who fills the Spring air with His
warm breath
and draws the fragrance of freshness
across my face
and encourages the birds to sing
and slows my day down
to the rhythm of my prayers
that beat within my heart
as I silently, slowly work

relishing the chores of yesterdays
at home
at peace in the yard
at peace with the life with which He has blessed me
this beautiful, glorious, new life of Spring

The Incredible Shrinking Girl

I'm growing smaller. Standing in church between two of my teenage sons, I now only reach their shoulders and must bend my head backwards to look them in the eyes. I am shrinking, losing height. I am a tower that is falling.

I am smaller in other ways, too. My mind is smaller. I look at the surface of people and things and fail to notice the depth that lies underneath. I listen to hurtful comments and I immediately become defensive instead of accepting the full scope of the words that hurt and acknowledging that those words might have been lashed out in response to their own hurt, the hurt that I might have unknowingly caused.

I look at others whose appearance or actions are different than mine, and I immediately judge them and write them off as someone I wouldn't want to know. That beam that is stuck in my eye blinds me to so much goodness and beauty in the world around me.

Stretch me, Lord. Tug on my heart and my mind and my soul so that I will become an expansive vessel of your love to others. Take this shrinking girl by the hand and help me to grow in Your Love. Amen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Praying the Stations of the Cross

“We adore You Oh Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.”

As Christians, we have the ability to walk that dark path of agony that Jesus trod on the way to crucifixion over and over again, recalling his pain and suffering and praying in atonement for our sins. This special walk is called “The Stations of the Cross” but it is also known as “The Way of the Cross”, “The Via Dolorosa” or the “Via Crucis.” It is a tradition that is treasured during Lent, but can be prayed individually any time of the year.

Praying the Stations of the Cross is a traditional devotion that began in medieval Europe when Christian pilgrims were prevented from visiting the Holy Land due to the many wars of that time. Scenes depicting the walk Jesus made on His way to Calvary with the cross on his shoulders were installed along a procession, either indoors or outdoors. These stations draw those who pray the devotion into deeper meditation upon the Lord’s suffering as they stop to pray at each station along the way.

All Catholic churches have the Stations of the Cross depicted along the inside of the church walls for community devotion during Lent. Some are quite elaborate and can even be carved in life-sized depictions while others are very simple with a small wooden cross and the number of the station displayed beneath it.

The fourteen stations upon which we meditate are:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus is given his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. The Crucifixion- Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Of these fourteen stations, only eight of them are based on scripture. The others (3,4,6,7,9 and 13) are formed from legends. Nevertheless, they are all beautiful reflections on the pain and suffering of our Lord and are each able to draw us into the mystery of His passion in a deeply meaningful way.

The Stabat Mater is often sung between stations. This ancient hymn recalls the pain that Mary suffered in watching the sorrow and agony of her beloved son. Just the first stanza alone is haunting in its ability to draw the person in prayer into deeper communion with the pain of the Blessed Mother…At the Cross her station keeping,stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last.

St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote one of the most beautiful versions of the Stations of the Cross. His preparatory prayer is an example of his deep love for Jesus and the beautiful, poetic wording of his entire version: My Lord Jesus Christ, you have made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned you; but now I love you with my whole heart, and because I love you, I repent sincerely for ever having offended you. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany you on this journey. You go to die for love of me, I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of you. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to you.

When the weather is nice, walking outdoor stations can be a lovely way to immerse yourself in meditation upon Christ’s passion and death. When the weather is unpleasant, the grace of walking in a little discomfort adds to the feeling of suffering along with Jesus in His most painful moments.

If you have never partaken in this devotion, please consider this year to be the beginning of your walk with Jesus, to offer Him your comfort and love along the painful journey to His death.

Monday, March 15, 2010

crystalline raindrops

barely awake
breath still coming slow and deep
I listen to the rhythm of rain
tapping on the window
hard, insistent

opening my eyes
just a sliver
reveals beauty so wondrous
that the slivers
soon become saucers

shimmering drops
on the window screen
are illuminated
by the streetlight
that glows down the street

the rain
takes on the look
of a million crystals
dancing on the window
to the urgings of the spring breeze

I am delighted
by the presentation
of natural beauty that glistens
before my eyes
as I awaken to the day

for God loves me and
He gives me visual presents
to draw me into the morning
into His love
and into joy

what a blessing it is
to live my life
knowing that God,
the giver of all good gifts
sends His crystalline raindrops

raindrops that entertain
and delight my soul with riches
I would never have known
from any other source
but God alone

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Can You Spare Some Change?

It was a warm, sunny day. All the business people and college students out walking in the noon sunshine were casting off their coats and enjoying one of the first nice days of early spring. Then I saw her out of the corner of my eye. She was standing in the shadows of a tall building, dressed in a worn winter coat, with a woolen hat on her head. She had several plastic bags around her that I imagined contained her few possessions. She held a cardboard sign asking for work, money or food. Everyone hurried past her, as if she were invisible. I handed her the few quarters that were in my pocket and she nodded her thanks. It was then that I realized that I had something in common with that poor, homeless woman, because I needed some change, too…

Dear God,

I’m not asking for great riches or major transformation, just a little change every day, a little difference that will draw me closer to You.

I could stand on any old street corner begging for handouts, but that’s not the kind of change that will enrich my life. Material riches won’t give me the kind of gain that will bring about lasting joy in my soul. Instead, it is the spiritual riches that only You can give to me will endure and bring me peace.

I know that it is not within my power to make anyone else change. My husband, my children, my coworkers and friends are all going to be whatever it is that you call them to be, even if it displeases me. But if you would only give me a little change, modify my attitudes and the way I see others, I know that everything in my surroundings will change for me as if I had new eyes and a new heart. Those things that irritate me in others will no longer be bothersome because the change you give to me will increase my tolerance in direct proportion to the increase of Your love in my heart.

So God, it is to you that I reach out my hand. The change that I ask for won’t buy me a warm meal, but it will warm my heart and soul with Your gift of love. This gift would be but a pittance for you to share, but to me, it is worth more than all the gold and silver in the world. For with your love, I can do more than carry on and accept those around me who cause me difficulty or grief. When I am filled with Your love, I will be able to love others with all of my being.

Please hear my prayer, my plea for change, Lord. Change me so that through this metamorphosis, the whole world will be brighter and more beautiful. Amen.

-As seen on CatholicMom.com

Praying the Psalms-Nine/ Praise

"I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High. Psalm 9:2-3

Are you listening Lord? I said with ALL of my heart. I didn't mean just some dusty little corner that wasn't already filled with praise for other things like peanut butter cookies with chocolate on top, spring daffodils, piano music or childrens laughter. The only reason I will praise those other things is because they are all gifts from you, so when I praise the delights of this earth, when I am rejoicing in the pleasures I find here in my life, what I am really doing is declaring Your wondrous deeds.

Sometimes, though, my heart forgets. Isn't that sad? I hope it doesn't make You terribly unhappy that I forget to praise You, and that I take Your gifts for granted. You know I never mean to hurt You. What can I do, my glorious Father, to atone for my all too frequent ingratitude? If I sing hymns to Your name, will that please You? If I sing so that all my words and actions bless You and give You glory,and in doing so, I draw others to notice You and love You, will Your own heart sing for joy?

Then I will sing, just listen to my voice grow louder with a sweet melody for You. For You alone are wondrous, marvelous, fabulous and amazing. You are my maker, my lover, my father and my friend. You are my yesterday, today and tomorrow. You love me like no other ever could and I will love You in return, all my days. I will give You my heart and my soul, all that I am and all that I ever will be, in gratitude for the love You have bestowed upon me...simple, little, next-to-nothing me. In Your eyes, with Your love, I too, am wondrous, marvelous, fabulous and amazing. For You, and to You, I sing praise! Amen and Amen, forever.

Thanks to Jenny at Just a Minute for the Praying the Psalms MEME and to
Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for the Praise MEME

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seven Quick Takes-Links and Quotes

I've got some great links I want to share, and a few more favorite quotes that have been working my heart this week, so today's quick takes is a mixed bag.

1. My sister Debby has an awesome blog, Heavenly Humor. She has been working on a children's book called "The King's Kids" and has been posting pages of it on her blog. Today's page features none other than my precious daughter, Mary. (It's the same picture from my sidebar with some lovely additions.) Won't you check it out?

2. A quote for Lent that helps me feel better about my failures comes from my own parish Pastor, Fr. Dave...“Flunking Lent is still a gift from God. When you do well following your Lenten observances, that isn’t goodness on your part. It is God who gave you the strength to do it. So, when you fail to have the strength to follow through on your Lenten observances, that too, is a gift from God.” Fr. Dave Cooper, Pastor St. Matthias Parish, Milwaukee

3. A blog that I have recently begun to follow that lifts me up tremendously with daily reflections on the readings is Redemptorist Preacher written by Fr. Jon. It is always a source of great inspiration, both uplifting and convicting. I highly encourage you to pay him a visit!

4. I've been working on the freedom that comes from forgiveness this Lent, and this quote really speaks to my heart. It's from Creighton University Daily Reflections, which, by the way, is another awesome resource that I can't miss! I've been reading the reflections daily for the past few years. “Forgiveness happens in layers, especially when it is a huge or deep hurt. We can forgive, and then years later a triggering event happens and the old wound resurfaces. Again, we pray to forgive.” Joan Lanahan, Creighton University Daily Reflections

5. I've written about a lovely Holy Hour that I attended last weekend at our Seminary. The Holy Hour was sponsored by The Missionary Servants of the Holy Family, a new lay group whose focus is to pray for the sanctity of families. It is a beautiful effort run by a sweet young girl, Maryclare Stephens who has a wonderfully large heart and a deep love for God and for families. Please visit her website and join her in prayer for families and for the success of her lay effort. When you visit, be sure to check out the photos link, they're very inspirational!

6. This Lent the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is celebrating "The Season of Mercy". I think this quote is awesome and very fitting, and I highly recommend the book it is from-it's wonderful! “In a careless moment, when we accidentally leave the door to our hearts slightly ajar, God comes barging in and corners us and tells us the truth that strips all the lies and deception and pretensions away: we are loved to the core of our being. We are loved despite all of our weaknesses and failures, and we are not going to change God’s mind about this matter. Nor are we going to change His heart. The only question left for us to answer is this: will we accept God’s mercy?” Patrick Hannon, The Geography of God’s Mercy

7. Just a Minute is a lovely blog with great writing and fabulous pictures. Jenny H. prays with the Psalms every Saturday. This week she is praying and reflecting on Psalm 9. Won't you join her?

Thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for the MEME! Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Love Letter

It rained here today, all day long. As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I was feeling as down as the weather. I recalled a poem that my best friend Sylvia gave to me when I was in high school. The words in the poem "my tears were in the rain" reminded me of the comfort I felt in knowing that whenever I am sad and my tears are falling, Jesus is crying, too. I went home to look for the poem and found that I still have it after all these years, although the paper it is written on is now wrinkled and shabby looking. But the words written on that crumpled paper are still deeply meaningful and beautiful. I have no idea who originally wrote this or what the source is, but I pray that it will bring comfort and encouragement to you as well.

Dear Friend,
How are you? I just had to send a note to tell you how much I love you and care about you.
I saw you yesterday as you were talking with your friends. I waited all day, hoping you would want to talk with Me also. As evening drew near, I gave you a sunset to close your day and a cool breeze to rest you-and I waited. You never came. Oh, yes, it hurts Me-but I still love you because I am your Friend.
I saw you fall asleep last night and longed to touch your brow, so I spilled moonlight upon your pillow and face. Again I waited, wanting to rush down so we could talk. I have so many gifts for you! You awakened late and rushed off to work. My tears were in the rain.
Today you looked so sad-so all alone. It makes My heart ache because I understand. My friends let Me down and hurt Me many times, too, but I love you.
Oh, if you would only listen to Me. I love you! I try to tell you in the blue sky and in the quiet green grass. I whisper it in the leaves on the trees and breathe it in the colors of flowers. I shout it to you in mountain streams and give the birds love songs to sing. I clothe you with warm sunshine and perfume the air with nature scents. My love for you is deeper than the ocean and bigger than the biggest want or need in your head. Oh, if you only knew how much I want to walk and talk with you. We could spend an eternity together in heaven.
I know how hard it is on this earth; I really know! And I want to help you. I want you to meet My Father. He wants to help you, too. My Father is that way, you know.
Just call Me-ask Me-talk with me! Oh, please don't forget Me. I have so much to share with you!
All right, I won't bother you any further. You are free to choose Me. It's your decision. I have chosen you, and because of this I will wait-because I love you!
Your Friend,

The Pharisee

"My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad." Psalm 34:2

she holds her head up high
as if she’s someone special
and complains when others don’t notice

afraid that if they don't see
anything special about her
what they will see is that she is
really just a fraud
an imposter

pretending to be better
than she really is
not wanting others to know
that she is simply a sinner
like everybody else

waiting all day for praise that never comes
she fails to see the good that others do

perhaps a little kindness towards others
would go a long way toward building
true self-esteem, rather than false pride

instead of crying, “Look at me!”
she should be saying, “Look at them!
how wonderful they all are!"

Lord, open her heart to the good in others
break down her pride
and craving for attention

teach her your gentle humility
and remind her that You are the only reason to boast

"Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Disquieting Questions

"As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" Psalm 42:1-2

"There is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire. Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality . . . Augustine says: ‘You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest." -Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

The lonely girl sits in the bay window with her books. New to the neighborhood, she wonders if she will ever fit in and find real friends instead of those in her imagination. Looking out the window to the park across the street she notices two girls riding bikes and laughing together. The sight makes her feel even more lonely.

The young adult sits quietly while the group she is with engages in lively talk at the restaurant. Normally quite talkative, something about this particular group or occasion leaves her in silence, feeling like she doesn't quite fit in.

The married woman with the large family enjoys a peaceful Sunday afternoon, with everyone in the family engaged in some type of activity nearby. It should be a moment of peaceful joy, but instead, an uneasy ache fills her soul, something that feels a bit like the loneliness that has followed her all of her life.

These three different scenarios are all about the same person...me. God has blessed me with a wonderful life, yet there is always an emptiness that haunts me, a longing for something that can never be fulfilled. What causes this heavy longing? And am I the only person who has ever felt this way, or is it a natural consequence of being human?

If Rolheiser is right, then what I am longing for is God and the much quoted words of St. Augustine tells me that my restless heart will never be satisfied until it rests in God. So I pursue Him with all my might, and I know that as much as I am following Him, He is pursuing me even more. God longs for me and wants to be near me. So, why is it that I can't feel Him longing for me? Or do I feel it, but I just don't recognize it? And, what will it feel like if He ever catches me? If spirituality is truly about what I do with my restlessness, then what can I do to become more spiritual, more connected to God here and now?
Is it possible to answer these questions on this side of heaven ?

Dear God, fill my soul with your love. Don't leave me in this emptiness of disquiet and unrest. Let's stop chasing each other and just settle peacefully into one another's arms. Amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Reality of God's Presence

sitting behind this computer screen

writing my life

instead of living it

how I wish I were gazing into your eyes

instead of looking at this monitor

how I wish my fingers were touching your hand

instead of tapping on these keys

how I wish my words were spoken into your ears

instead of filling this screen

waiting for a virtual response

can make a conversation last forever

this internet world can feel so lonely

so empty

without the reality of your presence

here and now

how grateful I am that although

I may be physically alone with the computer

my soul is never alone

for God fills it with His Spirit

until it overflows

it is His tears that moisten my eyes

as I stare at the screen

it is the touch of His Spirit that moves my

fingertips across the letters

it is His whisper that clicks

in the compression of the keys

I never have to wait for God to speak to me

for He lives and breathes within me

forever close with His real presence

here, now and always

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Praise for the Little Things

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above you heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

This past week has been touched by little blessings which add up to overflowing wonder in the glory of God. It is for this that I praise God.

PRAISE GOD for my new desk and computer at work which enhances the atmosphere and the ease with which I can do my job. These little material benefits bring a little more comfort and joy to a job which I already love, and the homey environment with lots of room to display family pictures and holy cards helps to ease the nerves of clients who are uncomfortable answering so many personal questions.

PRAISE GOD for warm 30 degree weather with sunny blue skies! Oh the glory of an early March day with pleasant weather is beyond compare!

PRAISE GOD that I was able to take advantage of that nice weather yesterday and go for a quick two mile run! I haven't been running in months, and although I am terribly out of shape, it felt so good to be working my muscles and using the gifts the Lord has given me to care for my body, His temple.

PRAISE GOD for the opportunity to gather with my family and watch the movie "Jesus" as a Lenten tradition. Of course, after a busy day, like the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, I struggled to keep my eyes open. Sweet 11-year-old Jack nudged me awake at the heart-wrenching Pieta scene with my favorite song "Pie Jesu" playing in the background. I praise God for the tears Jack cried at the end of the movie, too. My son's little heart breaks for the love Jesus so generously poured out on the cross for us.

PRAISE GOD for lectoring with my 16-year-old son, John at the early Mass. It is an honor to read God's holy words with him. An extra bonus was the hug he gave me at the sign of peace.

PRAISE GOD for the lovely walk my husband and I took together. Moments alone with Paul are few and far between, but when we can spend those moments together enjoying God's beautiful natural surroundings, it makes those rare events even more precious.

PRAISE GOD because Justin, Jack and Mary took it upon themselves to clean the van without being told. This is more of a blessing than you can imagine! The van was filthy!

PRAISE GOD for lots of "I love you's" with hugs, kisses and the warmth of family togetherness.

Thanks to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for this MEME.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Praying the Psalms-Eight

"O Lord our God, the majesty and glory of your name fills all the earth and overflows the heavens. You have taught the little children to praise you perfectly. May their example shame and silence your enemies." Psalm 8: 1-2

Kneeling in church, her little hands folded tightly together, head resting against the pew in front of her, she is the perfect picture of angelic sweetness at the Holy Hour. Suddenly, she leans over and strokes my hair. "O Mama," she whispers, "you are so beautiful!" "Shh," I whisper back through my smile, with the realization that her words are a prayer of praise to God for blessing her with a mother's love. "Pay attention to Jesus in the Eucharist," I say.

She obediently turns back to focus her eyes on the Lord. She fingers her beads and prays along with all of the other voices that recite the rosary. Then, the church falls into silence as everyone speaks to God in the quiet of their hearts.

She sits back in the pew, looks through a few pages of her prayer book and begins to fidget. Her older brother nudges her and tells her to be quiet and pray. "I'm all done praying," she answers.

In a short time, she has praised God perfectly, in her own simple way, and is ready to move on to praise Him by enjoying a cookie at the social when the Holy Hour is over. And God is moving within her heart and soul in festive happiness for the simple prayer of a little child and her perfect love for Him.

Lord God, I am silenced and shamed when I realize how Your love overflows from my daughter's heart so easily and I pray that I will learn from the little ones to love You simply, to love You always. Amen.

Join Jenny at Just a Minute in Praying the Psalms

Seven Quick Takes-Favorite Quotes

This past week I spent some time looking through all of my prayer journals and found lots of quotes that I had jotted down from books, homilies and websites that had touched my heart in a deep and meaningful way, so I decided to share them on the quick takes. I so enjoyed looking through my journals of favorite quotes to choose these seven, that I just might make this my weekly quick takes theme. I hope you are as inspired by these words as I am, and that they help to draw you close to the heart of God.

1. Dive deeply into the miracle of life and let the tips of your wings be burnt by the flame, let your feet be lacerated by the thorns, let your heart be stirred by human emotion, and let your soul be lifted beyond the earth. ~Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Call of the Dervish

2. How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all of its beauty? It felt the encouragement of Light against its being; otherwise we all remain too frightened. ~Hafiz, Love Poems from God (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

3. For that contrariness is cause of our tribulations and all our woe, and our Lord Jesus taketh them and sendeth them up to Heaven, and there they are made more sweet and delectable than heart may think or tongue may tell. ~Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

4. When perplexed, always decide I will combat it by humble love. You can conquer the whole world. Loving humbly is a terrible force-it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing else like it. ~Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend

5. When we break open the alabaster jars of our lives, the world is filled with the fragrance of Christ. ~Fr. Don Hying, Rector, St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Milwaukee

6. God asked me to show Him where it hurt, and every cell in my body burst into tears before His tender eyes. ~Rabia, Love Poems from God (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

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

Thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for this MEME

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Mother's Love

Fever raged through her small body
throat red and sore,
like "pieces of broken glass" she said.

Eyes fluttering open and closed
as she drifted in and out of sleep.

My eight year old baby was sick,
body ravaged by the aches
and pains of the viral flu.

I silently sat with her and
watched over her in her misery.

She opened her mouth and
whispered her gratitude-
"Thank you, Mom," she said,
"thank you for taking care of me."

The influenza bug has entered my home and my children are coughing and sneezing their way through these late winter days. Visits to the doctor bring serious diagnoses like bronchitis and walking pneumonia. The local pharmacist has come to know my husband on a first name basis as he has become a frequent visitor purchasing various antibiotics and cold remedy prescriptions until our home has become a mini-pharmacy of it's own. It is a challenge for a working mom, torn between leaving the teens home to fend for themselves while I earn or living, or staying home with them to give them a bit of comfort and care in these last few years before they move out of the house and have to care for themselves. They will always be my babies, no matter how old they become. I will always yearn to be with them whenever I feel that they might need my loving arms.

Isn't that how it is with our Mother in heaven? Doesn't she long to care for us, simply by sitting by our side whenever we aren't feeling well? All we have to do is call out to her, remind her that we are always her children in need of the love and care of our Mother, and there she will be, right by our side, pressing our faces close to her own and whispering our names. We will always be her babies and she will always be our Mother, no matter how old we become.

Thank you beautiful Mother, for all of your love and affection.

On this day, O Beautiful Mother!
On this day we give thee our love;
Near thee, Madonna, fondly we hover,
trusting thy gentle care to prove.

On this day we ask to share, dearest Mother,
thy sweet care;
Aid us e'er, our feet astray, wandering from
thy guiding way.

Queen of Angels, deign to hear, thy dear
children's humble pray'r;
Young hearts gain, O Virgin pure, sweetly
to thyself allure.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good and Perfect Gifts

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

I was overcome by sin, shaking inside and out
from the mess I had made of my life
and He offered me the Sacrament of Reconciliation
with the promise of a celebration in the end.
"Go have an ice cream cone for your penance"
the priest said.

I was feeling insignificant and invisible
looking for a little affirmation to draw me
out of my self-pity.
Father stopped and thanked me
for being a role-model by
faithfully bringing my children
to Mass each day. Those words lifted my spirits
and opened me to pay attention to others
who may be in need of a bit of praise.

I was looking for something new,
feeling worn down by the familiarity
of my faith.
He drew me to a Holy Hour
where enchantingly beautiful girls
covered their long hair with lace mantillas
and dressed in modestly long skirts;
where incense filled my nostrils and my
ears were delighted by prayers in Latin.

I wanted peace and quiet
after too many hours of frantic
weekend activity, racing from one place
to the next at a dizzying pace.
I found it in a Taize prayer service
where the hush of silence in glowing candlelight
punctuated by harmonious chants
stilled my weary soul.

I needed a smile to start my day and God blessed
me with a husband who remembers the fun of childhood,
and loves to amuse me in the most joyful of ways.
I sat behind the steering wheel of the van, ready to begin my day
and smiled at the prayer card of Archbishop Listecki that was
looking back at me-a visual sign from my husband
that he had been in the van before me and wanted to
cue me into his presence.
What he didn't know was that was the day of the week
which I had signed up to pray the rosary for the good Archbishop,
and my husband's little prank
was a pleasant reminder to do just that.

God always knows what I need-whether it be
a little praise
a unique way to pray
peace and quiet
a smile
or a reminder to pray for others-
He always makes sure that I receive it!

Praise be our God who cares for us so well!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Father, Forgive Them

“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

Years of hardness were built up in my heart, like layers of stain and varnish applied to old woodwork. It would take some work, some old-fashioned elbow grease to remove it. I needed to scrape and sand the pain and bitterness of a long-held grudge away and it wouldn’t come easy.

After trying and failing with every method I knew, I finally fell to my knees in disgust, ready to give up and let that hardness remain. I became lazy and didn’t want to work at removing the hurt anymore and decided that I would just let it settle in and remain in my heart. After all, it was my hardness; I knew it inside and out. I ran it through my mind night after night before falling asleep, and in the morning, upon awakening, there it was again, drawing tears of pain from my heart and out from under my still-closed eyelids.

Each day and night I replayed the movie of sorrow in my mind in which I was so badly hurt by the words that someone who had been a friend once told me; the words that stung like a slap to the face and made me feel as if the meaning behind them was a wish that I was dead. The misunderstanding of that moment remained with me for years, damaging my self-esteem. I realized that I was only harming myself by holding on to the hurt, I knew that I needed to let go.

The harsh words spoken to me might have been a mistake, but my hardness of heart was not. I continued to nurture it and relive it day after day. I refused to release it until I looked upon my Lord, hanging on that wood of shame, love nailed to the cross and I heard His voice saying…

“Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

If Jesus could look down from His cross and utter those words of forgiveness in his darkest moment, how could I hold back my forgiveness while living in my own world of darkness? I had to begin to let go so that I could live free once again.

I took my hard heart to confession. I split it open and poured out the bitterness that was contained within it. The priest looked at me gently and spoke softly. “This is a day of celebration,” he said. “You don’t have to cry tears of pain anymore. You are free from all of that bitterness and pain that held you bound. You can forgive your friend and walk away from here renewed, remembering only the good and forgetting the bad. Release your anger and frustration and remember that your friend didn’t know what he was doing.”

And I felt God’s incredible mercy right then and there, mercy for me, and mercy for the one who had hurt me. Forgiveness is freedom. I am finally free because I remember that as long as God can forgive me, who had gotten so good at growing resentment in my heart, then I too, can forgive others. I have laid my burden down at the foot of His cross, and now my own cross feels so much lighter, so much easier to carry. That hardness that felt like a rock inside my heart was now like a balloon, and I could release the string and watch God carry it into the distance, far away from me, forever.

“Be merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36

Lent 2010 has been named “The Season of Mercy” in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee-how have you felt the Lord’s mercy in your own life and how can you show God’s mercy to others?