Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Home is Within You

"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24

Springtime is for planting the fields in hopes of a rich harvest in the fall. It is also time for me to plant my heart firmly within my home and allow all outside experiences of faith to die for a time, so that I may receive new life in the Lord. I know that my heart will find comfort in this old house of mine, made warm by the love of my family and the memories that we have built here during the past eighteen years, and I know that the walls of this old house hold so much more than the memories of my own family. They hold a rich history of all of those who have lived here before my family. I’ve heard that history often repeats itself, so I am glad to be the recipient of a rich family history of love and life lived well in this antique home.

Neighbors like to share the story of Mrs. Dietz who grew up in this house and then never left until she died. She outlived four husbands and raised twelve children within these plaster walls. Rows and rows of canning jars lining the basement walls tell the story of the many happy hours she must have spent putting up food for her family, possibly standing over the hot kitchen stove on an autumn day, a glass of wine in one hand, and a wooden spoon in the other, as she stirred a pot of grape juice into jelly to share with family and friends, much like I do each fall. The worn and creaking staircase is a testament to those many teenaged feet that raced downstairs to escape the fury of a wronged brother in a heated sibling battle. And in my quiet moments, journaling in the front porch rocker, I imagine a woman from another time, sitting on this same porch, writing poetry and prayers as my neighbors tell me she enjoyed doing. I believe that a kindred spirit once lived in this house, made it her own sanctuary for raising a family in need of the Lord’s love and life, and now I must capture her spirit and continue her efforts at keeping this house a well-loved home rich in memories, prayer and love.

April 28th is the one-year anniversary of "Imprisoned in my bones-releasing my Inner Jeremiah." I think that I have sufficiently let my inner Jeremiah out and now it is time to draw it back in for a while in favor of the comfort and warmth of the inner life that I had abandoned for the outspoken world of the blogs. It’s time for me to step back into the life of wife and mother, mistress of this old worn down and much loved house, making it a joyful home for all who live here. The seed of my written words must die for a season, so that it may come to life in the vibrant hues and fragrant essence of a happy and faith-filled family and together we may realize the words of Psalm 87-“My home is within you.”

Thank you to all who have taken the time to read my words, and have commented, encouraged and supported me. I have had an absolute blast in both writing this blog and reading others. I have found that there is a wide world of love for God and others alive and kicking on the internet and it has brought me much joy!

All of you in the Christian blogging world will remain in my prayers. Feel free to enjoy the archives, email me anytime, and please, hold my family and I in your prayers. And when it becomes too much for me, and God is bursting the seams of my aching bones, I will return to the blogs to release Him once again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Recalling the Mysteries

I came across my daughter, kneeling at the sofa, rosary in hand, trying to remember the names of the mysteries that spoke His story. My heart softened at the sight of her, and suddenly I was transported back in time, to my own youth. I could see my third grade classroom prayer corner, designed by my friend, Tammy and I, where we would kneel while our classmates were being drilled in math facts. Our reward for advancing in our studies was a bit of free time to quietly do as we pleased, and it pleased us to build this corner in honor of our Mother, and then quietly kneel and whisper prayers of love to His heart, the prayers that would forever be embedded in our minds, unraveling those very mysteries that told us of His journey on earth. And now, I knelt beside my own third grade daughter and spoke His mysteries with her, as we molded our hearts together, united in love with the heart of our Mother.


In this vast ocean of life, all I see is water, sky and the horizon in the distance. I search for God and signs of Him in my life, but He in not easily visible to me. He is in the undercurrents of my life, working just beneath the things that are easy to see.

He gently moves me back and forth, anchored in His love like a boat that is floating whichever way the waves take it. When I move ahead a short distance, He pulls me back as if to say, "Slow down, take your time, don't rush. I will always be here for you, there is no need to hurry."

It is so hard for me to allow God to move me at this slow pace. I want to advance quickly in His love. I want to see progress! It's so easy for me to become discouraged in this desolate ocean. I try to force my way by rowing with all my might, but God's undercurrent pulls me back and I know that it is not for me to decide the pace, God will determine when I am ready to move ahead.

Every once in a while, He sends me little signs of love to tell me that I am moving ahead in the right direction, that I am still on course. I need this encouragement from Him so that I don't drown in despair. In the darkness of the night, he sends the bright stars to shine for me to lead the way. The brightest star of all, Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, inspires me to continue on the journey by her example of enduring light and love.

I will stay close to that bright star, and learn to trust in the Lord and relax in His love. Mary shows me the joy that comes from simply drifting on the Holy Waters, knowing that when I finally reach the shore, the peace that will consume me will make all of the trials of life at sea well worth it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Check Mate!

My son Jack has joined the Chess Club at school and the family is helping him succeed with nightly games of chess. I love chess! It takes thought, strategy and skill. It is a slow game, there is no rushing through it. It reminds me of life. We might want to race to the end, to get to a glorious finish in the arms of God. But that is not how life if meant to be. We are meant to take our time. We are meant to think through our actions and movements, to assure that each step we take is for the glory of God. And throughout each day of our lives, God is forever watching us, protecting us, trying to keep us from getting checked in sin. But we are free to move however we want, to do whatever we want. Yet, all the while, God is in control. He will always win, no matter how we move. At the end of the game, His love will possess our hearts, his arms will hold us close and He will possess our souls in a check make of love.

The Tattle-tale

As my children grow older, I have been noticing that my authority seems to be diminishing. I recall with nostalgia the years when my children were so eager to help around the house. How I would smile when the toddlers would beg to sweep or to wash the dishes. I regret having impatiently said no so often because it took them too long and I would always have to redo the chore when they were through because I was never satisfied with the cleaning skills of a two-year-old.

As they entered the preschool and kindergarten years, they were still quite eager to help and their skills had improved so that they became entrusted with daily chores which I could count on them to complete to my satisfaction.

As they advanced to grade school age and into their teen years however, it became a greater challenge to instill the value of hard work in them. It used to be that I could simply give my children a good hard, stern look and they would jump to accomplish any task I demanded of them. But all too soon, they began to question me. A near-constant refrain became "Why do I have to wash the dishes" and "Why do I have to put the laundry away?" When my polished answer about the responsibilities of family members caused them to persist in new complaints such as "I just did the dishes yesterday!" or "Why can't I get paid to do chores like my friends do?" Before I knew it, they would simply find a way to conveniently disappear when work needed to be done. How quickly they could put together a family basketball game or sneak off to their bedrooms with a quiet book if it meant that they could delay their chores for a time. I realized that I needed to develop a new tactic that would get the chores done with less complaints.

I never met a child who didn't love to tattle to see their siblings get into trouble. I decided to use this less than endearing quality to my advantage. I enlisted the help of the tattler to get some chores done. Whenever I'd hear "Justin didn't make his bed today", I'd have the tattler help Justin make his bed. If the complaint was that Joe didn't put his clothes in the hamper or John didn't wash the dishes clean enough, it was put on the one who liked to tell tattles to help with the chore.

As it often happens, the siblings don't always listen to the tattle-tale either. They will usually tell her to leave them alone and mind her own business, which brings her right back to her mother in tears.

I guess it's time to come up with a new means of enforcing the physical labor that my children despise, but which is such a necessary part of growing up. So, I resort to the only means I have that I know will always work to my satisfaction, regardless of the results. I get down on my knees and beg Jesus to help me to be a good mother and to help my children to be good, obedient and holy. It'll take a miracle, I know, but I have faith that Jesus will come through. And if not, I'll just tattle to His Mother!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Praying the Psalms-Fifteen

"Lord, who may go and find refuge and shelter in your tabernacle up on your holy hill?"

Golden case behind the altar
holding the body of my Lord
Reverenced with bent knee,
bent head, bent elbow crossing self

Out of the reach of my hands
but never out of reach of my soul
for it flies to the tabernacle
and loses itself in Jesus

Oh to stay here in this holy place
to forget myself and my life
to live only for you
with prayers and adoration
at every moment

It is my greatest joy
to carry You within myself

to know that although your tabernacle
may be out of my reach
your love is always near
as close as the next beat of my heart
and the next breath from my lungs

You live within me
I am Your tabernacle
and one day
I will join You on your holy hill
for all eternity

Join Jenny at Just a Minute in Praying the Psalms

Friday, April 23, 2010

On Air!

This morning, my son John was interviewed by our local Relevant Radio station about his involvement with A Vocation to be a Priest website. The website has a link on their news page. Please support both Relevant Radio and A Vocation to be a Priest website. I would like to send out a special blogger thank you to my friend Fr. James Kubicki at the Apostleship of Prayer for recommending John to the radio station. Please visit his fabulous blog, Offer it Up. One of his most recent posts, a homily about Fr. John Hardon, SJ is a favorite of mine, and maybe you will enjoy it as well!

As if my son's on air interview wasn't enough to make me feel as if I were floating on air, I am very excited about a big event at my parish tomorrow, April 24th. My humble church will be the host for our Archdiocese's Transitional Diaconate ordination! I am so excited, you'd think it was one of my own children who was going to be ordained, but the way I have held these men in my prayers this year, it feels as they are my own sons, spiritually, anyway. Please pray for Christopher Klusman, Kevin McManaman, Hugo Londono, and Javier Guativa-Rozo as they take this next step in their journey to the priesthood!

To learn more about Christopher's unique story, click on his name!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fluid Embrace

The early morning sun rises above the lake and its brilliant rays pierce the water as if it could enter into it, become buried deep beneath the blue. The lake luxuriates in the warmth of the sun. It shimmers and glows while the reflection of the sun on the water spreads and grows. As if I were witnessing a private love affair between the sun and the water, it is painful for me to watch. The lake becomes so bright with the penetration of the sun's beams that it hurts my eyes and I look away as if I were embarrassed to be here witnessing the intimate love shared between the elements of nature.

When I dare to look again, I see that the reflection on the lake is spreading towards me at a rapid pace, almost as if the sun's light is running toward me. What a glorious feeling! I am not an outsider but have become part of the family of nature. The lake has brought the sun to me, and it is patiently waiting for me just beyond the shore. Humanity and nature are connected in God's loving embrace. There is no shame in this love, only joy. I can hear God's voice inviting me to enter into the still and peaceful lake and become one with nature and one with God. I wordlessly enter the quiet waters and am refreshed in this gift of beauty from the creator of all living things. He holds me in a warm, fluid embrace and I can feel His love completely surround me in the swirling waters of life.

Spy Wednesday-Pity for Judas

Had Judas given more forethought
to the misery he'd cause
by his selfish kiss of betrayal
would he have taken time to pause?

Would he have run back to the garden
and try to save the Lord
lanced the soldier's ear
like Peter with his sword?

Would he have tried to hide the Lord
safely tucked away
in some small room he'd known about
where he could quietly stay?

Would he have stood by His side
and said "Crucify me as well!"
unable to leave the one
he had believed would save him from hell?

Poor, poor Judas,
why did you turn awry
and forget to glance upon our Lord
with love and sorrow in your eye?

Why didn't you beg for forgiveness
and admit your evil act,
could you too, have had a chance for peace,
in our Savior's loving pact?

Instead you let despair
hang you from a tree
soul forever lost
name darkened through history.

Poor, poor Judas
I want to learn from you
the lesson we must all accept
and share with others, too.

God will always love us
His mercy never ends
if we but say we're sorry
and work to make amends.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Much Church Do You Need?

Dear Reader, in the worry that I had been sharing more of my personal life than I had cared to reveal, I sadly deleted this post and the many insightful comments it inspired. However, after a prayerful weekend, I thought better of it and re-posted this thought with as many of the comments as I could salvage. I know that Gabriella had left a wonderful comment about how my husband and I are both serving the Lord in the best way we know how, but sadly, that comment, and some others are lost. Please accept my apologies for my fickleness and know that I have carefully thought about and prayed over all of your words.

That's a question my husband asks me frequently. My answer is always the same: "I can never get enough!" I feel pained that Paul doesn't feel the strong and urgent need that I do to attend daily Mass and sometimes, twice on Sunday, depending on how my children and I are scheduled for singing, lectoring and serving. In addition, I like to go to adoration at least once a week, confession every other week and I run out to hear every speaker and program about church matters as often as I can. In other words, I spend nearly every bit of spare time that I have at church or in church related activities. Then, when I'm at home, I'm writing and reading blogs and spiritual books as well as praying with my family.

I had an aunt who was very devoted to the faith, and one of my sisters likes to tease me and tell me that I am just like her. It's actually a compliment, except that my poor aunt was often frowned upon and looked at as if she were an eccentric because she would carry her faith to extremes and push it upon others who weren't as deeply in love with Jesus as she was.

I do feel sorry for Paul. It's hard to love a woman who is deeply in love with someone else, and the competition that Jesus puts Paul up against is really impossible to compare with. My deepest prayer is that Paul will one day fall head over heels in love with the Lord as well, and be drawn beyond the basics of Sunday Mass and a few daily prayers because he is a fabulous husband and father, and I would love nothing better than to share my love affair with the Lord with him on a deeper level.

Paul works hard each day, from sunup to sundown, to provide for the needs of our family. He almost always has a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He has a youthful spirit and enjoys playing sports and games with our children. He cooks dinner for our family nearly every night, and then sits at the kitchen table helping the little ones with their homework. He runs the boys to endless basketball practices and games and chauffeurs our children and their friends home from school every day. He is a non-stop devoted and loving husband and father and I am tremendously blessed by him. On April 27th, we will be celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary and these past nineteen years have been wonderful in so many ways, but I do think he would have preferred that I had stayed home a bit more often and played with the children, watched movies with the family and just spent quiet time talking with him. Maybe, instead of pitying him, I should be envying him, because he seems to have the true meaning of living the vocation to family life well in hand, whereas my fickle heart keeps me running back and forth, forever undecided about how best to live my life.

Is there such a thing as being too religious and overdoing it in the spiritual realm? Am I driving him away, I often wonder? Would I be loving Jesus more by loving His presence within my husband and children in our everyday activities instead of adoring Him in adoration? As I reflect upon the words in today's Gospel from John- "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."(John 6:29) I wonder if the work of God could be more fruitful in my life if I would simply follow the advice of St. Francis de Sales and live my calling to be a devoted wife and mother as I draw God into my home life more and more, instead of frequently leaving home to find God in the world around me.

Dearest Jesus, Mary and Joseph, guide my family in your ways so that we, too, can be a holy family, devoted to God in our daily lives and constantly aware of His presence within and around us in all circumstances. Let a childlike belief in Jesus be all we need to hold us together in our service to you. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you, save souls. Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Shortest and Best Homily I Ever Heard

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17

Last night my family and I were visiting at another parish. I don't think that Father was feeling very well, and when it came time for the homily, he simply repeated several passages from the readings without expounding on them. Mary, my eight-year-old, busied herself re-reading the gospel passage from the Mass leaflet. After the homily she turned to me and said, "This is my all-time favorite reading! It's all about LOVE!!!" Her few words and her sweet smile said more to me than anything I had just heard in the homily. And she's so right, it is all about love, because God is Love and that's all we need, always!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Praying the Psalms-Fourteen

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Will evildoers never learn-those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord? There they are overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! Psalm 14

Lord, I know that you see directly into my heart and your timeless words reflect how I feel. Today, my worries are many about evil and corruption in my beloved Church and toward my beloved Church…Your beloved Church.

There are many whose hearts are true and repentant, but those whose hearts are cold are cruel are also many and they inflict their arrogant opinions and hateful words upon others without concern for the hurt they cause. Their only concern is to make themselves into gods instead of worshiping and loving You, the only one, true God.

Today my son asked me why some people think that abortion is ok. I had no answer. But God, if we could all see the evil in abortion, if we could all see the evil in all sinful actions, what a blessed and beautiful world this would be. I pray for those who don't care about You and Your laws. I pray for those who don't love You with their whole heart. I pray for those who don't believe in Your true presence in the Eucharist and for those who don't believe in Your true presence in others. I pray for those who hurt You and the people You love with hateful words and hateful actions. And, I pray for myself because so often I am the one in need of those prayers, I am the one who fails to love and to care; I am the one who allows my heart to be filled with hate and hurt.

Change the evildoers’ hearts, Lord. Change my heart. Draw us back to You and Your loving Sacred Heart. Hold us all close to You and Your goodness so that we may rejoice and be glad as one. Amen.

Join Jenny at Just A Minute in Praying the Psalms

Friday, April 16, 2010

Anointing-a re-post

Today was my dad's birthday, and in honor of that special day and that very special person, I am reposting a story from July 3rd, on the anniversary of his death...

Although the words “I love you” were rarely shared between my Dad and I, I will never forget the time when love was shared between us most poignantly.It was three years ago today, when I received the call at work that Dad was in the hospital and wasn’t expected to live much longer. His many years of illness and hospitalizations from diabetic shock and comas were finally coming to an end. I immediately began to shake all over.

As my sisters and I drove together to Manitowoc to be with him, and on that 1-1/2 hour long drive, we shared our pleasant memories of Dad and tried to keep ourselves calm. In our nervousness about what state we might find Dad to be in when we arrived, we often fell into fits of laughter about silly topics like our hair. As inappropriate as that sounds, it did help to diffuse the stress that we were feeling on that long car ride.When we arrived at the hospital, we found the rest of the family waiting in the hallway outside Dad’s room. The hospital staff was giving Dad some kind of treatment that was causing him horrific pain. He cried out, loudly. Not one of my siblings or I could hold our emotions in check while hearing him in such pain, and we all broke down and cried.When we were finally allowed to enter the room, we found Dad to be resting, obviously exhausted.

Cindy went to him and told him the names of all of his children who were in the room with him. She said, “We’re all here Dad, and we love you.” He nodded and said, “I love you, too.” It was such a relief to hear those seldom spoken words from him. Then, as he drifted off to sleep, Diann prayed “The Three Beautiful Prayers for a Dying Person” from the Pieta Prayer Book.I stood next to him, holding his hand, and although he appeared to be sleeping, I could feel that he was squeezing my hand. I took that squeeze to mean that he was grateful that I was there and the he loved me.

In the Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser states that “any one of us who visits a sick or dying person, regardless of how inadequate and stuttering our actual words might be, anoints that person, just as a priest does in the sacrament of the sick. To touch a sick persons hand, or to speak words of affection or consolation to a dying person does what the woman named Mary did at Bethany for Jesus…anoints them for their impending death.” Although Dad had received the Sacrament of the Sick from a priest many times, I am so grateful that my brothers and sisters and I were able to be with Dad during his last days on earth and that we were each able to anoint him in our own way with our presence.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ancient Words

"Holy words long preserved for our walk in this world, They resound with God's own heart, Oh let the ancient words impart. Words of Life, words of Hope Give us strength, help us cope. In this world, where e'er we roam, Ancient words will guide us Home. Ancient words ever true Changing me and changing you, We have come with open hearts, Oh let the ancient words impart." -Michael W. Smith

Tucked away in caves,
buried beneath the dust by the winds of time,
the fragments of parchment
holding Holy Words could not die.
They were carried by the winds of the Holy Spirit
to our very hearts
where they have lived and will always live
throughout eternity.
The Words are the voice of God,
written not on parchment,
but inside our hearts and souls
where they offer comfort and love to all who listen.

Be still;
listen to the ancient Words,
let them move you,
change you,
become alive within you.

"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears he will answer you." Isaiah 30:19

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41: 12-14

"I am the Lord. There is no other." Isaiah 45: 18

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fr. Stan Fortuna

I am richly blessed by the God of surprises. He has provided me with everything I could ever need to satisfy me. He gives me a little suffering, a little joy and a lot of love. What else could I ever ask for? God is soul good!

What I love the best is when He sneaks up and sends me something fun just when I need it the most. Like yesterday, for example. I received an email from my friend Julie. She was passing on a message from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Campus Minister, Fr. Michael Lightner, telling me that none other than Fr. Stan Fortuna would be appearing on campus that very night for a free talk and concert!

I raced home from work, picked up my son, John and we went to get my friend, Marge, and the three of us hurried to the UWM campus, thinking that the place would be packed by the time we got there. We arrived fifteen minutes before the program was to begin. We found Fr. Stan and a few assistants in the auditorium rehearsing, all alone. Nobody was there! We thought that maybe we had made a mistake about the starting time. But we didn't. In fact, by the time Fr. Stan was ready to start, there were only about twenty people there! We had front row seats to the best concert/inspiration talk/comedy show we had ever seen!

He had us laughing, crying and tapping our feet and lifted our hearts and souls to heaven so easily! There he stood in his grey habit, the bottom hem ripped and pinned in the front, long, thick locks pulled back in a pony tail. He was a one man concert with a recording machine that replayed each sound he played so that it sounded as if he had a whole band with him. He sang a great song to the tune of George Benson's "This Masquerade" about how God comes to us in distressing disguises. He said he wrote that song after first baptizing his guitar.

He shared the story about how God called him to the priesthood. He said he was about as low as a person can get, but then God got lower. That was followed by a Bob Marley impression of a song called "You Go Low, He Go Lower". Then he treated us to one of his rap songs called "FAMILY-Forget About Me I Love You". Every time I looked at my son, he had a huge smile on his face. That's a sight I will never forget! John had the time of his life listening to Fr. Stan sing and speak.

He spoke about how he wants to write a book called "The Rebukes of Jesus", he told us that God gave him a Divine upper cut when he called him to the priesthood, and talked about the baboons in Uganda in a hilarious example of how everybody peels bananas in a different way. He shared stories about life in the Bronx with the poor, mixed in with a few quotes from JPII and B16. But his biggest and most important message was that all hurt comes from no love and we are all called to love. Just love. What a beautiful message.

The evening ended with ten minute long blessing and a handshake from the amazing priest. It was simply fabulous and I am blessed! I had the time of my life and I am spiritually renewed! If you ever get the chance to see Fr. Stan, I highly recommend it, even if it comes last minute!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Death of Baptism

Last weekend, my niece Jenny and I were blessed to attend a “Lord Have Mercy” Conference here in our Archdiocese. We were so excited to hear words of wisdom from wonderful speakers Dr. Scott Hahn and Matthew Kelly. Yes, they were both wonderful, but even better, in fact, FAR better, was our own dear Archbishop Listecki. His homily at the opening Mass was OUTSTANDING! I’m hoping to find a copy of it somewhere, but in the meantime, I want to share some of his opening remarks with you. I wish I had a video of it to share, because the expression on his face and in his voice really made his words stand out, but for now, I offer you my memory of his words.

While presiding at an immersion baptism, then Fr. Listecki, lifted the naked little boy up and…(“No, mothers, it’s not what you’re thinking! No, mothers, that didn’t happen!”)... just as he was about to lower the babe into the waters of baptism, his four-year-old sister called out loudly “Don’t do it Father! Don’t drown him!”

Of everyone at that baptism, including the adults, it was that little girl who got it right. Everyone was looking at that baptism as a removal of original sin and a welcoming into the church, but that little girl, she saw it for what it really was…a death. Baptism is a death to the old life and a birth to new life in Christ. It was only the four-year-old who could really see that.

Cast aside my fear of death, Lord.
Wash me in Your Holy Water and cleanse me for new life in You.
Refresh my soul so that all I will feel is Your life within me. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lord, Hear Our Prayer

Last winter I watched a documentary about a 12 year old Jewish boy with Down's Syndrome who was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Everyone who had an important place in this boy’s life was interviewed and they seemed to think that this boy was far more spiritual than anyone they knew and that he had an especially close relationship with God. His main life focus was on his faith and his prayers. Even when he'd be outside on the playground, he would be chanting his prayers.

The interviewer asked him if he thought that God heard his prayers and he said yes. And she asked him if God heard his Dad's prayers (Dad was a Rabbi) and his brother's prayers and he said yes. Then she asked him if God heard his sister's prayers and he said no. When she asked why not, he said it was because his sister didn't pray!

I used to think that if I wasn’t reciting the St. Joseph Novena every day before nine am and the St. Therese Novena every day before 11 am, it was useless, that God wouldn’t hear and answer my prayers favorably. I had so much guilt if I didn’t say a daily rosary, or if I skipped a mealtime prayer. I couldn’t sleep unless I examined my conscience prior to dropping off to slumber. If I forgot to pray the Morning Offering each day before arising, I might as well go back to bed because my entire day was wasted. I was a basket case of guilt and convinced myself that I was a loser at prayer, I couldn’t possibly ever make it to sainthood, and God had lost interest in me because I wasn’t nearly devoted enough to Him.

My whole life I have moved in and out of deep devotion, going for months with much time spent on my knees reciting written prayers, and then going through a stage where written prayers just lost their meaning for me and I simply could not go through the motions and really just gave up. I struggled with this because I know that when our prayer is dry, it means so much to God that we continue, yet I wouldn't make the effort.

Then a wise priest told me that all of my life can be a prayer, as long as I keep my mind focused on Jesus throughout my daily tasks. He told me that folding laundry is a prayer, cooking dinner is a prayer, and even listening to secular music can be a prayer-love songs could be sung in my heart to Jesus and from Jesus. What he was trying to tell me was that like Brother Lawrence and his wonderful way of Practicing the Presence of God, constant prayer could be my way of life as well. It seemed so easy, and it is! I can pray constantly like St. Paul exhorts us, by keeping Jesus in my mind and in my heart in all that I do. The prayer "I love you Jesus" is never far from my heart and I repeat throughout the day. Quotes from scripture come to mind in many situations, and I use them as needed, for example: "I do believe Lord, help my unbelief" and one of my favorites "Look to Him, that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame."

I am finding that living my life in this state of near-constant prayer has been a blessing in all situations. I do still go through stages of deep devotion to daily written prayer, like reciting the Crown of Mary since my consecration and praying the rosary on my daily lunch hour walk, but now, prayer is so much more than that. Prayer is my own personal relationship with God, using my own words and silently listening and watching for the many ways in which He speaks to me as well. I know that the Lord will always hear our prayers if we but open our hearts to Him and His amazing, wondrous ways of working in our lives each day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

His Mercy is so Divine

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

My family has not had a devotion to the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and I know that I have not done a good job in teaching it to my children. In fact, it was just about a year ago when I first began to pray the chaplet with regularity myself.

This past year, my family and I have been attending several monthly Holy Hours at our local Seminary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed at each of these Holy Hours so my children have all been learning the easy prayer, but I didn't think that they knew anything about St. Faustina and the origins of the Chaplet.

I decided that tonight at our family dinner, I would give a little catechism lesson. I had barely begun to speak, when my fifteen-year-old son Justin, interrupted me and gave the lesson for me. He told us all about the little Polish nun, St. Faustina, and the story of how Jesus had appeared to her and asked for a picture of himself to be painted with red and white rays representing His blood and water. He said that the prayer on the bottom of the picture is "Jesus, I trust in you."

As I lifted my chin off the table, I managed to ask him how he knew all of that. His answer put my chin right back on the table.

After the lights go out in our house, John, our sixteen-year-old son, and Justin lay in their bedrooms and send each other text messages until they fall asleep. Last night, John sent Justin the texted story of St. Faustina and Divine Mercy Sunday. Justin couldn't help but add the fact that he was now out of minutes because John had used them all in telling that wonderful story!

I LOVE technology and the way it takes bedtime stories to a whole new level!

Jesus, I DO trust in you!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Praying the Psalms-Thirteen

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will me enemy triumph over me?” Psalm 13: 1-2

I recognize these words far too well, for they were my daily winter cry. In the gloom of dark days and the chill of blustery winds, my soul, too, grew dark and cold. The Lord seemed to be lost in the dark of the season and I could not find the face of God. My thoughts of despair and emptiness were hard to pin down, try as I might to overtake them with prayers of joy and hope.

“Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
My enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” Psalm 13:3-4

And suddenly, the Lord’s face shone brightly upon my darkness, giving that much needed light to my eyes. Spring is here, and the sun is shining bright and warm. I can see that the Lord loves me and He will not let my enemy have the last word. I will stand victorious in the light of day, with a calm and serene mind that has cast out the racing thoughts of doom that worked for control of my mind.

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6

The Lord heard my prayer and in His great love for me I will forever rejoice. Alleluia!

Join Jenny at Just a Minute to pray the psalms

Friday, April 9, 2010

Seven Quick Takes-Alleluia, It's Easter!

1. I’ve always heard that priests and parish staff are exhausted after the Triduum and Easter Sunday, and this year, my family had a taste of that, and we can completely relate to the exhaustion. Joe served at Holy Thursday and John sang in the choir. We stayed for Adoration until 10 pm. On Good Friday, we attended the Morning Prayer Service and then helped carry all of the donated food from the Holy Thursday Mass to the parish food pantry. Both John and Justin helped to carry in the cross for veneration at the Good Friday service. Our parish asks six teens to dress completely in black shirts and pants, and to walk in bare feet, while they carry the cross to the altar. It is beautifully dramatic. John and I read the Genesis creation reading at the Easter Vigil and John also sang in the choir. Then, on Easter Sunday, Joe and Jack served at the 7AM Mass, and John sang at the 10:30 Mass. We followed that up with lunch at my sister’s house and supper at Paul’s sister’s house. Are you tired from reading all of that? Me, too! But I wouldn’t change a thing! It was wonderful!

2. My family and I took a much-needed vacation this past week. We went to a nearby indoor water park hotel. We all had a blast and the kids were so happy to get away. We haven’t had a family vacation in several years. After a little rest, I can just breathe so much better and all of life seems to be a bit brighter! Praise God!

3. Alleluia!!!! Doesn’t it just feel good to say that? This morning at Mass we sang “Alleluia, The Strife is Over”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. I remember being an insecure fifth grade girl singing that song at many funerals as one of four girls in the funeral choir. In fact, the four of us were the funeral choir under the direction of our school principal, Sr. Lois. We were terrible! I could never tell if the mourners were crying because they missed their loved one so much, or because we were so off-key!

4. I am greatly looking forward to attending the “Divine Mercy Conference” tomorrow with my niece, Jenny. We anticipate being uplifted by the speakers, Scott Hahn and Matthew Kelly. I’m sure I’ll be writing about the experience in a future post.

5. My friend, Fr. Don, writes a column for our local Catholic Herald. His Easter column was especially touching and with his permission I reprinted it here yesterday. Check it out if you missed it, you won't be sorry!

6. We've had a few days of rain this week and the grass is a vibrant green, the forsythia and daffodils are glowing their brilliant yellow hue, and all of life is new and wonderful. Alleluia, it's spring!

7. Here's my bit for Lucy's "Kid's say the Darndest Things" blog-hop: My son Joe likes to beatbox, you know make music by emitting spitting sounds with his mouth. It usually drives me nuts, but being in the joyful Easter mood in which I currently find myself, last night I was absentmindedly dancing along with it as I worked at the computer. Joe was beside himself with happiness to find that his mom would even slightly appreciate his taste in music. He happily told all of his siblings, and when eight-year-old Mary heard about it she said "Mom, I am so happy that you are married to Daddy, aren't you?" Sweet response, and yes, I am happy that I'm married to Paul, but I'm left wondering what in the world that has to do with beatboxing!!!

Thanks to Jennifer at My Conversion Diary for the Quick Takes MEME.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Guest Post by Fr. Don Hying

I've frequently quoted my dear friend, Fr. Don Hying, on this blog. He is a fantastic writer with wisdom in his words that gives me food for thought and always satisfies my hunger for the Lord in one way or another. Fr. Don is the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee and writes both a monthly newsletter for the Seminary and a monthly column for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. He is also a frequently requested guest speaker at many Archdiocesan events, and has his own radio program, "New Heart, New Spirit", on our local Relevant Radio Station. Fr. Don has given me a wonderful Easter gift; he has generously agreed to allow me to post his most recent Catholic Herald column on my blog. I am thrilled to share Fr. Don's Easter column with you and I pray that you, dear reader, will find it to be as wonderful and thought provoking as I do. It is my hope that Fr. Don will agree to become a regular guest writer at Imprisoned in my Bones.

Last year I was blessed to go to the Holy Land for the first time; the highlight of the trip was celebrating the Eucharist inside the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I felt like I was standing at the center of the cosmos, for this was the spot where the greatest event in the history of the world took place!

As we celebrate Easter, the Church goes back in her mind and heart to that extraordinary Sunday morning when, against all expectation, the women find the tomb of Christ empty and breathlessly run back to tell the apostles. The rising of Jesus from the dead is more than the resuscitation of a corpse; having conquered sin and death, the risen Christ now has a glorified and saving relationship with all of humanity and indeed the entire cosmos. Mistaken for a gardener, a ghost, an anonymous traveling companion, he starts appearing to Mary Magdalene, the apostles, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, 500 brothers at once. The risen Christ could not be restrained by locked doors or fearful hearts anymore than a sealed and dark tomb could hold him.

Clearly, from the day of Pentecost until the end of time, the mission of the Church is to proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ as the foundational event of human history, as the definitive salvation won for everyone through the loving plan of the Father, the obedience of the Son and the working of the Holy Spirit. In every proclamation of the Gospel, in every celebration of a sacrament, in every action of charity and mercy, the Church makes present in this time and place, for these people gathered the saving power of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The Acts of the Apostles testifies to the extraordinary success of this endeavor, right from the beginning of Christianity.

What are the events in our lives that serve as our spiritual foundation, those experiences that we return to time and time again in order to draw strength, inspiration and energy to move forward? The birth of children, the day of your wedding, a miraculous healing from sickness, the holy death of a loved one, a religious profession or an ordination, an unexpected moment of grace that led to conversion. All of us have those fundamental “peak” encounters with God which serve as guideposts for the rest of our life’s journey home.

The day of my ordination to the priesthood was the second greatest day of my life, (after my baptism which, like most of us, I cannot remember.) God was so real to me that day I could have reached out and touched Him. Whenever I am tired, discouraged, fearful or overwhelmed, I simply go back in my mind and heart to that glorious day and I am renewed. It is like sticking a finger into an electrical socket. The joy, promise, love and energy flow into my body, soul, mind and heart.

What ordination day is for me is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ is for the whole Church, but with one absolutely fundamental difference. We do not simply go back into the recesses of history to discover the risen Christ; he is gloriously alive, present and active in our midst within the mystery of the Church! Last October, in a presentation he gave here at the seminary, Bishop Blaise Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota offered his assessment of the greatest problem facing the Church and his answer was not the one I was expecting. He didn’t talk about any of the crises reported in the newspapers; instead, he spoke about many Catholics’ fundamental misunderstanding that the risen Christ is truly, actively and gloriously present, right here and now, in our lives. Too often, we think and speak of Jesus as a historical figure who did great things but has passed from the scene.

How different life becomes when we expect the risen Lord to pop up somewhere in our lives every day. Assuredly, we will not recognize Him at first, just like the apostles didn’t. Probably, we will not fully understand what he is truly saying or asking of us. But when we put on the sacred lens of the resurrection, we start seeing Jesus everywhere! In that homeless man on the corner, in the splendor of the rising sun, in the gentle power of the Eucharist, in our family and friends, in the mystical truth of an El Greco painting and perhaps most surprisingly within ourselves. In God’s timetable, 2000 years is the blink of an eye, so it was just the day before yesterday that Mary Magdalene ran down the path with the astonishing news that the tomb was empty. The risen Christ lives, breathes and walks among us and within us. That Gospel should make us get up and dance! A blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another Nut

Dear Jesus,

as that nutty squirrel was watching me through my kitchen window, trying to assess the best path of entry, I realized that I am nutty as well.

I, too, live in the trash. I have grown quite comfortable amid the squalor of sin. Yet, somewhere in my conscience, I sense a little discomfort, a bit of unease, and if someone were to round the corner and find me in my state of sinfulness, I would quickly jump with fear and race away like the squirrel, afraid that someone might find out the truth about me. I am afraid that others might know that I praise You with my mouth, but far too often, my heart fails to follow my words. I fear that it may become quite transparent that for the most part, my foolish heart is content to stay here in the refuse of sin.

Like that squirrel peering through the window to a better life, I also dream of a different life, an easy, pleasant life. But, that easy, pleasant life is not in Your plans for me. Just as that squirrel cannot be content with the blessing of a beautiful home of trees and grasses in which to live and play, and healthy nuts to eat, I also am not content with my beautiful home and family. Too often, I lose myself in daydreams of a life that could never be, because the only life You have ever meant for me is the life that I have now.

I do not want to be a nutty squirrel, Jesus. I want to be your devoted and faithful follower, loving You, and enjoying the life You have given me here and now. Help me to see that You have given me all I need and all that I could ever want, and there is nothing that is better. Help me to shake my patterns of sin and greed that keep me searching for more and give me the sweet contentment that can only come from resting in You. Amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mingle With the Lights of Heaven

Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. –from the Easter Vigil Exultet

We are all lights from heaven

blessed from above as we

mingle with one another.

We may be divided, yet,

like the Paschal Candle

we glow to the honor of God.

Shine brightly!

Shine forever!

Bring the brilliant light of Christ,

the light of our world,

to everyone you meet!

You are made from love.

You are made for love.

Love shines.

Love shines gloriously!

Listen to Thomas Merton:

There is no way of telling people

that they are all walking around

shining like the sun.”

Oh Easter Joy!

Oh Risen Savior!

Bring our lights to life here on earth

and unite them to the lights of heaven.

May we mingle with the lights of heaven for all eternity!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Risus Paschalis-The Easter Laugh

“God has made me laugh; every one who hears will laugh with me” (Gen 21:6).

Before he became Pope, Joseph Ratzinger quoted these words, spoken by Sarah when she was told she would conceive and bear a child, as he shared the custom of Risus Paschalis-The
Easter Laugh, from the Baroque period, when the Easter homily always contained a joke to make people laugh so the entire church would ring with joy. He said, “On Easter, we imagine Jesus' laughter of redemption. We who share an Easter faith can say, like Sarah, 'God has made me laugh.'”

When I was in third grade, my parents allowed me to invite my best friend, Terry, to stay overnight at my house. The next morning, Terry came to Mass with me and my family. Two overtired girls sitting in the front row at Mass is not a good idea. We soon began a game of nudging each other with our elbows until we struggled to control our laughter. It wasn’t until we received simultaneous glaring looks (or so it seemed) from my mom and the priest, that we finally settled down.

Some people never grow up, and it seems that I am one of them. Recently, at daily Mass, my children and I sat in silence while some of our elderly friends brought up the offertory gifts. Our dear friend, Mrs. B. was one of them. Since we were in the front of church, we overheard Fr. Dave call her by her first name, Aileen, as he thanked her for the gifts. Mary, my eight year old, third grade daughter, nudged me and whispered, “I like her name, its pretty.” Now I know better than to encourage conversation with my daughter at Mass. Usually I'm the one giving the stern look with a finger to my lip for silence, but this time, I couldn’t help but reply with “That would be a nice name for your first daughter!” Which brought her response, “No, my first daughter will be named Anne and my first son will be named Paul after dad, or maybe...Paula!" She was referring to a form she saw where my husband's name was misspelled with an "a" added at the end. She had thought that was hilarious. Then she whispered, “Mom, remember the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? You know how the wedding invitation said “Rodney and Harry” instead of Harriet?” Those few whispered words about a silly movie were all it took to make us both work to stifle our giggles.

As Fr. Dave was lifting the Host for the consecration, I wondered if we were insulting Jesus by smiling and laughing instead of focusing on His sacrifice. I decided that Jesus was probably smiling and laughing himself to witness the joy of a mother and daughter, especially a mother who had shed so many tears at Mass. I think He gave me the gift of laughter at that particular time to help me understand that I was created for joy, and to let me know that my joy is pleasing to Him. After all, we know that laughter makes the devil cringe and run, so what better time to laugh than during Mass!

I pray that you all enjoy a hearty Easter Laugh this year and make the devil tremble from the joy of Christ's believers! A blessed Easter to all!

And since we also know that the devil cringes from the prayers of Christ's believers, I ask that you join in a spiritual bouquet during the fifty days of Easter sponsored by the Cardinal Newman Society for our beloved Pope Benedict during this time of his trial and suffering.
H/T to Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii and Sarah at More Than Enough.

“He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

“May the Lord continually bless you with heaven’s blessings as well as with human joys.” Psalm 128:5

“Your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20)

Praying the Psalms-Twelve

"The Lord replies, "I will arise and defend the oppressed, the poor, the needy. I will rescue them as they have longed for me to do so." The Lord's promise is sure. He speaks no careless word; all he says is purest truth, like silver seven times refined."
Psalm 12: 5-6

Such beautiful words of hope. Such tender words that bring joy to my heart on this day of waiting while our Savior remains entombed. He has assured us that He will arise and rescue me as I have longed for Him to do.

I will polish your silver Word, O Lord, so that it will always glisten and shine in my heart! I will reflect Your Word to the world around me and let it pour out of my soul until everyone knows that You have indeed arisen as You have promised!

Join Jenny at Just A Minute in praying the Psalms each week.

Friday, April 2, 2010

At His Feet

The fragrant oil was poured
upon His feet so sore and tired,
and she knelt down and washed them
with tears of salt and sorrow,
and dried them, oh so tenderly
with her undone tresses for a towel.

He in turn passed on the gift
of service to His friends.
He washed the dust and dirt
from weary, aching feet
before the dinner.

Such gentle gifts of love and service
for the body's lowest part;
why, oh why couldn't
the tenderness last, why must it turn
to pain unimaginable?

The burly solder took the spike and
drove it through his feet.
Ring of hammer could not mask
the screams of pain
this tortuous act had caused.
Blood and tissue, pain untold,
no washing could assuage.

And there they stood,
the ones He loved,
just below those precious feet
that once had been
anointed so fragrantly.
Helplessly they watched the blood
pulse out from the holes in His extremities.

Oh Jesus Christ my Savior,
how I long to ease your pain!
My own tears of distress
I will use to wash away the stain
of blood and hurt inflicted
upon Your feet so bruised and broken,
until the pain exists no more
with only love remaining.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Last Supper

Lord, You treat me like I'm Your favorite disciple, as if I am the only one with You although there are many who love You as I do. I sit at Your side and rest my head on Your shoulder as I gaze into Your loving eyes. Could it be that Your hands are shaking as You pass the bread to me? Is that a tremble in Your voice when You speak? How is it that I can be so close to You, and yet I feel so far away?

I can't understand what You are going through, Your words seem foreign to me, they don't make any sense. But I love You, I want to stay here with You. I want this night to last forever, You and me, side by side, loving one another.

You serve me heavenly food, Your very flesh and blood and I am satisfied. I know that if the words You speak are true about suffering and death, then this food You have given to me will strengthen me to face my own sufferings and bring You to live within me forever.

Jesus, I thank you for the gift of Your life poured out at this Last Supper and into eternity. Amen.