Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No One Who Prays Is Ever Alone

If you have followed my blog since the beginning, (and thank you VERY much if you have lingered that long-you are most kind!)you know that I have frequently written about Archbishop Dolan, my all-time favorite Archbishop. And you will probably remember this picture which I think is absolutely sumptuous and I have posted it several times, in fact, I've framed it and have it on my desk at work and people often ask me about it which gives me an opportunity to gush about Archbishop Dolan. The picture makes me think about how God will hold me if I ever make it to heaven, in fact, maybe He is holding me like that right now, every time I pray.

Here's another gush-this recent post of his is awesome! So earthy, natural and humble, so like that great man of faith! Enjoy!
(photo by Sam Lucero)

Growth Spurt

I am learning a thing or two about detachment, but oh, how I wish I were ignorant in this regard! You see, I have a teenage son, a normal, rebellious boy. I'm not allowed to talk to him in public, and it seems, no matter what I say to him, my words are skewed into condemnation. His favorite sayings seem to be "Everyone in this family hates me! Everyone is against me! No one understands me!" And then he slams a door to drive his point home. (I know he doesn't believe it when I say that I do understand him, because wasn't it just yesterday when I was that rebellious teenager throwing tantrums and slamming doors?)

This morning as I sat beside him in silence at his high school orientation, I longed to reach over and hold his precious hand, his beautiful hand that once upon a time would wrap it's chubby infant fingers around my thumb. Now, that hand is nearly twice as large as mine, he towers over me in height; his growth spurt seemed to happen in an instant. But, he's still my baby...always my baby, and letting him grow into manhood, into his own person, is so incredibly hard! I swallowed the lump in my throat as he walked among the crowd of his teenage peers and into his first day of high school.

Every now and then I catch a glimpse of the sweetness that exists under the veneer of tough attitude that he displays for the world. I know that his heart is kind and gentle. I watch him teaching math facts to his little sister and hear him cheer up his little brother when frustration overcomes. There are moments when he will quietly slip into the kitchen, grab a towel and dry the dishes for me without my having to ask for help. And most moving of all, sometimes I catch him deep in prayer, pouring his worries and wonders out to the Almighty, the only one in whom he seems to confide in this turbulent age.

How I long for those tender moments to last, to overshadow the "growing up and away" stage in which he currently finds himself. Lord, let me hold on to him for just a little while longer. I want to stroke his cheek, snuggle close and share a story or a lullaby with him. I want him to be my little boy for just a short while more until You lead him away to a life of his own. And when the time comes and I must finally let go and watch him enter adulthood, give me the grace to turn him over to Your loving protection, trusting that even when he becomes a man, he will always be Your little boy. Amen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Inspiration from the Blogs

It seems to have been a while since I have linked to other blogs that have touched my heart and I'm sure I'm overdue. The following blogs are all relatively new to me, yet each of them have quickly become favorites of mine due to their posts that are true to the Church, poetically written and great sources of new information.

Do Not Be Anxious-a blog that brings a little bit of much needed peace to this often frazzled woman, great reflections and powerful testimony

Autumn's Leaves-Autumn describes it best: "The occasional ruminations of a Catholic Wife, Mother, Grandmother & Counsellor approaching the mellow Autumn of her life. Despite life’s ups and downs, I am always aware of God’s canopy of love over me, rain or shine. You are most welcome to share my *bench* :)"

Family at the Foot of the Cross-here's a homeschooling mom who finds creative ways to incorporate the Feast of the Day or the Saint of the Day into her curriculum-great ideas!

Credo Catholic-written by a Catholic wife and mother who is studying for a degree in Theology, her posts always point to God's presence in her life

Finally, I just have to share a link to a lovely Christian blog. Sarah Mae simply and eloquently expresses a solution to my recent disquiet about divisions in the church with her post "When Convictions Collide" at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee.

Please visit and enjoy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Random Thoughts on Back to School

Yes, the bank account is once again thoroughly drained as the notebooks, markers, backpacks and spanking new school clothes are all lined up awaiting the first day of school. This time of year always seems to bring up a mix of memories and anticipation that leave my head spinning. Thought I'd share a bit of that spin...

My family and I took an end of summer trip to Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay. I know, it's hard to believe that Green Bay is known for anything other than being "Title Town, USA-home of the Green Bay Packers Football" but if you are ever in the vicinity of Northeastern Wisconsin and have a chance to visit Bay Beach with your little ones, you will never regret it.

Bay Beach was a tradition from my own childhood summers, one that my dad readily agreed to haul all nine kids to simply because the rides were only ten cents each. Yes, I am that old that I remember ten cent rides, but the beauty of Bay Beach is that the price of rides still remains extremely reasonable. Today, there is no entrance admission, no charge for parking, they boast fabulous picnic grounds with lots of playground equipment and the price for rides is a very low twenty-five to fifty cents each! My family of seven can play all day for under $40! Such a deal!

Most of the rides are for the little ones with the exception of a Ferris wheel, giant slide and bumper cars, but in recent years they have added a giant swing, a scrambler and a that killer of a ride, the tilt-a-whirl (which should be known as the tilt-a-hurl because I always turn a hundred shades of green as I work to hold onto the contents of my stomach while I simultaneously embarrass my family with my screaming!)

Once the summer time fun and games are over, we can focus on preparing to educate the young minds in our family. The youngest two Benders still attend Catholic grade school, and so before their school day begins, we attend the daily Mass together. Now unlike the high school Benders, Jack and Mary are denied a lengthy summer and they actually returned to school this past Tuesday. Mary told me that one of the things she was most excited about now that she was a big fourth grader, was the fact that her class would be in charge of sitting with the four-year-old kindergarten class at the school Mass each week to make sure they behaved themselves. She claimed that it is very hard work to make sure that those little ones keep quiet and sit still. "Well now," I replied, "Now you know what I have gone through making sure that you behave in church all these years!"

As we sat in our usual back pew on the first day of school and were watching Fr. Dennis set up the altar, nine-year-old Mary leaned over to me and whispered this fact: "Priests have a hard life. Nuns, too." "You think so?" I asked. "So do moms!"

Justin is the only one of my three high school boys who attended the public high school last year, and this year both his older and younger brothers will be joining him. He's been very helpful telling them how to get around at the school, explaining the rules of the school bus driver and telling stories about some of the teachers and thereby keeping the entire family entertained during dinner.

According to Justin, his algebra teacher used to have a very posh job at a well-known company making lots of money, but he gave up all of that luxury in his desire to pass on his mathematical knowledge to high school students. Unfortunately, he found the work to be so challenging that he decided not to return this year. "That's alright, though," said Justin. "He wasn't a very good teacher anyway. I don't remember one single thing that he taught me in that class." Hmmm. He doesn't remember anything he learned. Whether his teacher was good or not, I couldn't help but wonder whether the student (Justin) just failed to put forth his best effort. So much for our hard earned tax money being put to good use.

Tonight our dinner conversation turned to the upcoming changes to the Missal next Advent. I was explaining some of the beautiful and poetic wording that some feel will be hard to understand, for example, “Let the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts and make them fruitful within by the sprinkling of his dew” and “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” Some complain that most people will not know what "dewfall" is, which I find to be extremely insulting to my intelligence. So, I asked my children if they knew the meaning of the word. Of course, they could all explain what dew is, but wouldn't you know that class clown Justin couldn't resist asking, "Does it mean that I won't know what to "do" if I "fall"?

My husband and I are very grateful that God has blessed Justin with a great deal of initiative as well as many practical skills in landscaping, cooking and housework so that we are confident of his ability to make a successful living regardless of whether or not he remembers anything that he learned this past year or whether or not he knows the meaning of the word dewfall!

I pray that all of you who are sending your darling children off to school in these coming weeks will make lasting, loving and joyful memories that will bring knowledge to their minds, smiles to their faces, love to their hearts, and holiness to their souls.

Loving Father, as our family begins another year of school, remind us that without you, nothing we learn will ever make any sense, for you are the meaning in all of life. Help us to be kind and respectful to our teachers and to put our best efforts into learning. Teach us to be a good friend to our classmates and to see You in everyone each day. Send your angels to protect us and keep us from harm. But above all, keep us close to Your Sacred Heart, filling us with Your Holy Love each day, so that all we do will be a gift to You who has given us all that we have and all that we are. Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Length of Days

"Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding." Job 12:12

While grocery shopping with my children recently, I was greeted by an elderly friend from daily Mass. After I stopped to converse with him a bit about the never-ending growth of my children and the frequency of my grocery store visits, we parted ways and my family and I continued with our errand.

As we gathered up the groceries, my fourteen-year-old son told me that he felt sorry for me because all of my friends are elderly. I agreed with him that it seems to be true that most of my friends and acquaintances are of an older generation, we laughed about it a bit and continued on with our chore. But upon further reflection, I focused on the fact that my son was taking pity on me for something of which I am actually quite grateful.

Many years ago, before Paul and I were married, I worked as a nursing home food service director. At that time and in that place, my opinion of the elderly was something along the lines of that held by my son. The residents for whom I worked were usually quite cross, always complaining about the food and my staff and challenging me beyond what my capabilities were at that time in my life. I was fearful of those who could no longer comprehend the realities of life, and saddened by those who could no longer perform the functions of daily living such as feeding and dressing themselves. I viewed old age as a fearful and miserable time.

But as I age, and with the passing of my own parents, I often feel like an orphan in need of the guidance that only an older and wiser generation can provide to me. Because my work and my family life keep me surrounded by babies and youth, it is actually quite refreshing to spend some time in the company of those whose demands on me are quite simple-usually a few kind words and a smile are all they need to bring a little sunshine to their day, and that is something that I can easily accomodate. My elderly friends who attend daily Mass have become a type of surrogate parents to me and I am very grateful for their presence in my life.

I have met so many wonderful elderly people who attend daily Mass with me and I am moved by the constancy of their faith and uplifted by the fact that whatever stage of life I am currently in, they have been there before me and have survived it, no matter how difficult it might have been, and they continue to smile and pray and love, and so I know that I too, will survive any difficulties that beset me and I will continue to be able to smile and pray and love.

Recently, one of my elderly friends shared a most interesting story with me. I had never met his wife as he always attends daily Mass alone, so I was surprised when he told me that he and his wife attend a bible study at her church. I boldly asked him what church his wife attended. He answered that she was Presbyterian and that this month they would be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. "Wow," I thought, "forty-five years together, each maintaining a separate religion and continuing to remain faithful to their views is an outstanding accomplishment!" Then
he shared something even more astonishing with me. He said that two of his sons are Presbyterian pastors and he is as proud of them as any father could be. "When we get together, we have some very interesting conversations," he said. "And after a couple of bottles of wine, the conversations become even more interesting!" By sharing this story with me including the obvious joy and pride that he felt, he witnessed to the faithfulness required in the vocation of marriage, and I am blessed to carry his story in my heart.

I pray that as the shadow from my own length of days grows, I too, will bring an essence of joy and pride to a younger generation, encouraging them by my example of a life lived well and a faith lived deeply.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For the Care and Support of your Immortal Souls

A big H/T and thank you to Badger Catholic for posting the entire Mass of Installation for Bishop William Callahan as Bishop of La Crosse, WI. Bishop Callahan was a huge blessing to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as our auxilliary Bishop and he will be greatly missed. The following quote from his installation homily is a fine example of the great devotion of this very holy man.

"As your Bishop, I accept not simply the care of properties, balancing ledgers and the upkeep of temporal services. As your Bishop, I accept something much more significant-the call of Jesus Christ for the care and support of your immortal souls."

For more quotes from his outstanding homily, visit Credo Catholic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

He Knows Me So Well

Nineteen years we've walked
side by side through life.

I try to hide who I am,
thinking I'm so clever
thinking he doesn't really know me;
doesn't really understand me,
because we're so different.

He likes watching cooking shows,
I like cooking for church events.
He likes playing sports,
I like praying at Mass.
He likes to create gadgets,
I like to create prayers.
He likes hard rock music,
I like church music.
He likes resting on the couch,
I like resting in God's love.

But I was wrong in thinking that he doesn't know me,
in thinking that we were growing apart
because my single-mindedness is hard to miss.
I'm sure he knows me better than I know myself.

I want to be angry when he teases
but I can't stay mad because he makes me laugh
when he tells tall-tales about me to our children.

He says:
"Mom will only watch football if it's the Seminarians vs. the Priests"
"Don't mess up mom's plans for her day off: first she has a meeting with Fr. Don, then she has a meeting with Fr. Carl and then a meeting with Fr. Dennis. Next, she has spiritual direction and then she has to drive across town to meet with her friend so that they can talk about priests."

My husband knows me completely;
he knows that I'm a church-girl
through and through.

And he listens most attentively,
with all the love and interest he can muster,
when I excitedly share an
insightful homily with him,
or tell him about the Saint of the Day.

And he joins me on Sunday
head bowed, hand in mine,
giving the gift of ourselves,
our symbol of the union
between God and humanity-our marriage,
back to our Creator
on the one day each week
that is set aside for Him alone.

He knows me so well
and yet, he loves me anyway
and we'll continue to walk
through life together,
differences and all,
until He calls us home
to our eternal union
in heaven.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Five Favorite Devotions

I have been noticing with great interest a wonderful devotional MEME that has been making the blogosphere rounds. Recently, I was tagged by NC Sue at In Him We Live and Move and Have our Being and so I will eagerly play along.

1. Starting at the very beginning of my list is the devotion I always pray at the beginning of my day: The Morning Offering. How simply wonderful it is to promise God every moment of my day to use as He sees fit. All that I am and all that I have is a blessed gift from Him and so I give it all back to Him with joy in my heart. I ask that He use the thoughts and events of my day for the intentions of the Pope, for priests and vocations and for the spirituality of my family. "I belong completely to You, O God, take me, all of me, and use me for Your benefit. Amen."

2. I often attend Eucharistic Holy Hours as my way of offering adoration to the Lord and uniting my intentions with those of the others gathered at the Holy Hours. I enjoy these hours of adoration as a silent group with occasional vocal prayers and lots of incense more than adoration on my own. Maybe it's because I grew up with lots of siblings and I now have lots of children that I enjoy having a crowd around me when I pray, I'm not sure, but you say Holy Hour and I'm there! I could add that the same theory applies to the rosary...I prefer to pray it with fellow parishioners before daily Mass and with my sisters and nieces at our once-a-month rosary gatherings than to pray it by myself.

3. Now the Stations of the Cross is just the opposite. This devotion is one that I like to pray when I am alone, and the version by St. Alphonsus Liguori is my all-time favorite. Whenever I get a chance, I like to pray this version at an outdoor stations where it almost feels as if I am actually walking the way with the Lord.

"My Lord, Jesus Christ, You have made this journey to die for me with unspeakable love; and I have so many times ungratefully abandoned You. But now I love You with all my heart; and, because I love You, I am sincerely sorry 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 want, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of You. My Jesus, I will love and die always united to You."

4. Is it considered a devotion to light candles? If so, count me in! That flickering light on the blessed candle that continues my prayer long after I have left the church until it burns out with a whiff of sweet scented wax brings me so much comfort and peace.

5. Consecrations are another devotion with the lingering effects that carry me in prayer for much longer than the actual moment of Consecration. Last fall I had the honor of Consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary via St. Louis de Montfort. The prayer from the Crown of Mary continues to resound in my heart as I prepare to receive the Lord in Holy Communion each day..."Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, rejoice a thousand times!" It's almost time for me to begin my preparation to reconsecrate myself this year and I am greatly looking forward to it.

My family and I recently consecrated ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well, in a very informal way, but I can never look at the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that hangs on my living room wall in the same way, for now, my heart explodes with love and gratitude at the sight of that divine image.

I will pass this MEME on to the following bloggers:

Jeff at Secret Harbor
Linda at Don't Poke the Baby
Autumn at Autumn's Leaves
Tiffany at Family at the Foot of the Cross
Elizabeth at 100th Lamb

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Monthly Prayer Request for Priests

For the past year, my heart has been longing to do something special for the priests in my Archdiocese, to let them know that they are loved and needed, but most of all, to lift them up in prayer so that they will be under the protection of our heavenly Father in a very special way, especially those priests for whom very few people pray and those who may be struggling in their vocation, but also to strengthen and support those priests who are strong, healthy and holy, so that they may continue on the path to which the Lord has called them with vigor and deep love for all.

I had been so inspired by dear Easter and sweet Esther in Hawaii and the Spiritual Motherhood Apostolate which they began in their diocese that I began to work to build a Spiritual Motherhood Apostolate here in my own Archdiocese. Despite having lots of support from friends, family and several priests, I ended up hitting a brick wall last January and the entire plan was dropped. I decided that it was not God's will that I do this, and with deep sadness in my heart, I dropped the entire idea. I knew that I would continue to pray for priests on my own as I had always done before, in a particular way for those priests who were very special in my life and in a general way for all priests.

Now, for some reason, God has placed this issue back on my heart. I realize that a Spiritual Motherhood Apostolate is far too much work for me to even consider anymore, but I have found something so simple that anyone can participate in, not just women, and I have begun to become quite excited about the whole prospect of prayer for priests once again.

The Monthly Prayer Request for Priests (now in my sidebar), has been in existence for the past twenty years. It is currently operating in over 70 dioceses worldwide. It is simply a calendar format listing a priest's name each day for which those who are interested in praying for priests may offer prayers. In this way, each priest in the diocese is held in prayer by many people on one day of the calendar cycle for the diocese. The possibilities for prayer are myriad. Daily Masses could be offered, fasting, penance, daily offerings of joys and sorrows, rosaries or divine mercy chaplets could be prayed, or just a simple Lord's Prayer could be humbly prayed by a family for the priest of the day. The calendar can be printed in parish bulletins, posted in adoration chapels, distributed at nursing homes, convents and seminaries, or entire parishes could list the priest's name in their Mass prayer intentions.

I encourage you to visit the site to learn more about The Monthly Prayer Request for Priests and find out if your diocese participates. If not, maybe you would consider beginning one for the priests in your diocese. I would also ask that you hold me and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in prayer as I try to establish this Prayer Apostolate here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Praise for Priests

On the Feast of St. John Vianney, I praise God for some wonderful priests who often go above and beyond the call of duty to serve the faithful and who follow in the good Saint's footsteps so well. These men have touched my life and the life of my family in many ways and I am so very grateful.

Thank you God, for Fr. Don Hying, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Monopoly player extraordinaire and extremely good sport, as well as dishwasher when he's invited for dinner. Not only does he give wonderful homilies and uplifting written reflections, he knows the importance of one on one discussions, of taking the time to give a personal touch to all that he does, and of lasting friendships that take him hours away to preside at the wedding of a former parishioner as well as halfway across the country to help a friend with a benefit for Haiti. Here is a man who doesn't know the meaning of the word "no" and always makes the time for the needs of others, no matter how busy he may be with his responsibilities at the Seminary.

Thank you God, for Fr. Joe Lubrano, SDS, a loyal and loving friend. Not only does he lead the Candidates and Novices in his Salvatorian Order, but he also fills in wherever needed at area churches for Mass. No task is too large or too small for him. An Easter Mass at the Detention Center for Boys that is attended by only one boy, or a Sunday morning Mass during ordinary time for a large urban parish are both equally important to him and he finds and gives joy wherever he serves. His homilies are like words from the angels that comfort weary souls and I am so blessed to know him.

Thank you God, for Fr. James Kubicki, SJ, Head of the National Apostleship for Prayer. Jesus said that "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head." Matthew 8:20 I would think that Fr. Kubicki is in good company with the Son of Man, as he is constantly on the go, traveling to give outstanding retreats to soothe the soul and to promote the Apostleship for Prayer. He is gentle and kindhearted, a truly wonderful man. You can listen to his retreat online at Creighton University, and also find him on the web at the Apostleship of Prayer as well as on his blog, Offer It Up.

Thank you God, for newly ordained priests who are dedicating their lives to You, especially for Fr. Matthew Widder who has been a priest for a little over two months. Fr. Matthew is dedicated to the Church and works with youth to ensure a lively future of active young Catholics and to promote and encourage vocations to the priesthood. He also gives sweet blessings for guinea pigs and plays a mean game of basketball, even in 90 degree heat and humidity!

And finally, thank you God for Fr. Dave Cooper and Fr. Dennis Witz, who rise early each day so that the members of our parish who wish to attend daily Mass can have that special time with the Lord each day. My life would be empty if I didn't have the opportunity to reflect upon the Word and to receive my Lord in Holy Communion each day. At a time when many go without daily Mass, I am blessed to continue to have it readily available.

Thank you God, for these kind, hard-working and dedicated priests who give their all for You and who love You with an everlasting love. Please guide and protect all men who are called to a life of service in Your name so that through them, all the world will know that You are Love. Amen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

God's Microscope

My family and I took a weekend vacation to a nearby campground on the shores of Lake Michigan with some of my nieces and nephews and their children. After putting up with an entire Friday night and Saturday morning of rain, the clouds cleared and we began making more memories than simply those of huddling together under a tarp while waiting for better weather. Now that we are home, unpacked and cleaned up, I reflect upon the wonders of nature and the joys of family time together that highlighted our time away.

I thank God for...

Queen Anne's Lace and Black-eyed Susan's that grow wildly and profusely along the roadways of the campground,

toads that hop across the road in the dark night and aren't even aware that they have been named "Fruit Punch" by my daughter,

sunny afternoons spent frolicking at the beach and for the fact that Lake Michigan was warm enough to swim in,

sighting the Big Dipper, making s'mores and pudgy-pies and the sight of sticky faced children reveling in late night treats,

breathing fresh and fragrant air and tent-sleeping on an air mattress instead of the rocky ground,

waking up in a dome tent without the cover, but only a screen between me and the outdoors and enjoying the sight of trees and blue sky above me while the sound of birds punctuates the silence with their early morning prayer,

visiting a quaint country church for Sunday Mass and realizing that there is no place as wonderful as your own home parish,

and most of all, for my wonderful children who bring joy to their little cousins who look up to their older relatives.

Here's a little reflection I wrote about a camping trip we took last summer...

God's Microscope

Sitting around the campfire, watching the bright orange embers give way to blue, green, yellow and red flames can hypnotize me. The warmth that the fire produces draws me into a trance. Listening to the quiet voices around me share scary campfire stories brings me gratitude for my family members who have the gift of storytelling. The wide-eyed children huddle in closer to the fire in an effort to allay their fears.

As I hold my overtired and fearful daughter, Mary, on my lap, I lean back in my chair and look to the sky. What I see there is even more beautiful than the hypnotic fire.

The trees surrounding our campsite create a circle silhouette in the dark night sky. In the middle of the circle of tree branches, the dark sky glimmers with millions of stars shining so brightly that it is almost heartbreaking. I feel as if I am sitting under a microscope and God is peering down from the sky, through the trees, to watch my family. The stars are the specks of pride in his eyes for all of his creation with whom he is so madly in love. God is so generous to share these natural gifts with his lowly, human creatures. How blessed we are to receive his gifts, and how happy he is to see our gratitude.