Sunday, June 27, 2010

Discernment


It's been a long time. My son John, who so enthusiastically began a blog one year ago, had stopped posting last March. Life is busy for a teen. But this week he has put something up about his recent trip to the Seminary Summer Camp, and it is very impressive. I encourage you to check it out! The annual camp outing for middle school and high school boys never fails to light a fire in John's heart, and that makes me very happy. Feel free to visit his blog, Writings of a boy discerning God's call, to read his latest posting, as well as the website in which he takes part, A Vocation to be a Priest. And please, keep all of the young boys and men who are considering vocations to the priesthood in your prayers!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sacrament






















The new father held his baby daughter
gently within his hands.
His gaze never left her face;
he focused intently upon her,
not even looking up when I entered the room.

I dared not disturb this holy scene,
this reminder of how
tenderly God looks at
each and every one of us,
and I was blessed by the sacrament of the moment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Surrender

















dwelling on the unobtainable
forever fighting within
what a waste!

what is it exactly
that you are looking for?

you will never know
until you cross the border
and then, too late,
you won't want it anymore

give up now
wave the white flag
stop clutching so tightly and
redeem your dignity

He will hold you, love you,
regardless of your fickle heart

Monday, June 21, 2010

Seminary Summer Camp


It’s time once again for Seminary Summer Camp. This year three of my sons with be spending a few days and nights at the Seminary of St. Francis de Sales to pray and play with other boys and to get a feel for daily life at the Seminary in an effort to help them discern whether or not God may be calling them to a priestly vocation. My son Jack is participating in the camp for Junior High boys in the early part of the week, and John and Justin will spend the latter part of the week at the camp for High School boys. John has participated in the camps for the past two years and enjoyed it so much that Justin and Jack thought that they might like it as well and decided to participate this year.

This is Jack’s first time away from home with the exception of few sleepovers with friends. He and his little sister Mary are very close. After I had left Jack at the Seminary and returned home, Mary started to cry profusely. “I miss Jacky!” she cried, and the tears just fell and fell. I suggested that she get her pet guinea pig, Benny, and play with him for a while until she felt better. I promised her that Jack was probably missing her just as much, but he would only be gone for two nights and the time would go fast. Still, when bedtime came around, she decided to sleep in Jack’s bed instead of her own so that she would feel close to him.

At 11:00, several hours after I had gone to bed, I heard the phone faintly ringing and I heard my husband ask, “What’s wrong? Do you want to talk to Mom?” It was Jack. He was crying and said he wanted to come home. Without pressing him further, I told him that I would be there within thirty minutes. Paul asked our son Joe to go along with me, since he was still up and I was grateful for the company on the long drive.

When we reached the Seminary, we found Jack and a chaperone standing in the doorway, waiting for me. Homesick. Jack had his bag packed and was ready to return to family and house full of the comfort of the known. Susi, the chaperone, said that Jack was welcome to come back the next day for Morning Prayer followed by Mass and breakfast with the Archbishop, and then a day filled with games, sports, work and prayer. She also mentioned that Jack had signed up to serve at Tuesday morning’s Mass, so she was really hoping that he would be there for that.

I knew that serving at Mass was something that Jack would not want to miss. Ever since he was trained as an acolyte earlier this year, assisting at Mass has been one of his favorite things to do. In fact, one of our sweet, elderly parishioners has been serving at the daily Mass three days a week. It’s getting to be a bit much for her, and she asked if one of my boys might take one day a week during the summer months. That night at dinner, I mentioned this to the boys and asked if any of them might like to help sweet Mrs. B out. Joe said he prefers to sleep late in the summer months. John and Justin who have both served at the daily Mass in the past, complained that serving at daily Mass is much harder than at Sunday Mass as the daily server is required to set up the altar and has more responsibilities. Jack piped up that he would like to take a weekly Mass to relieve Mrs. B from some of her work. Both John and Justin told Jack that he couldn’t handle it. In their wiser big brother ways, they told Jack that if they found it to be too hard, Jack certainly would not be able to manage it. But Jack firmly insisted that he wanted to serve and he would do just fine. Sure enough, that smart little boy took notes when Mrs. B trained him and he is confidently doing just fine serving at the Morning Mass. It is a treat to watch him grinning that huge smile of his the entire time he serves. And his delight is not lost on the elderly parishioners who are regulars at the morning Mass; his joy spreads to their hearts as well leaving everyone with a warm and loving feeling as morning Mass is over. I was certain that he would want to be there on Tuesday for the honor of serving at the Seminary.

As Jack and I climbed into the van and drove down the Seminary’s long tree-lined drive and back home, Joe asked Jack what it was that upset him so much that he didn’t want to stay at the Seminary.

“Well,” Jack replied, “during Benediction I started to miss my family and it made me sad.” Fr. Peter asked me why I was crying and when I told him, he said that he knows what that’s like to miss somebody that you love. And Susi told Jack about how much she misses her cat when she is away from him. Still, their words were not able to offer him the comfort of a night at home. He said he definitely wanted to go back in the morning for Mass and to spend the day, but he wasn’t sure that he would want to stay overnight the following night, either.

When we got home, exhausted Jack found Mary sleeping soundly in his bed, so he curled up on the floor next to his bed with a pillow and a few blankets and instantly drifted off to sleep. I thought of how much Mary had missed Jack, and here he was, right beside her and she didn’t even know it. Isn’t that just like God? When we really feel lonely for Him and need Him the most, He is right there beside us but we rarely realize it. And maybe, when we miss the people we love the most, they are also right beside us in spirit, missing us as just as much as we miss them. I prayed that Mary would feel comforted by Jack’s presence in her sleep, even if she wasn’t aware of how close he was to her.

Early the next morning, I woke Jack and we returned to the Seminary, while Mary continued to slumber in his bed. When we arrived in the chapel, I was feeling a bit intimidated and uncomfortable. I wondered if the other kids would look down on him for having left and if the staff were worried that he wasn’t quite ready for this experience.

My worries were soon allayed as Deacon Kevin greeted me and said “I heard you had a rough night last night. Thanks for bringing Jack back today!” I realized that this warm and welcoming group would do their best to make Jack feel as if the Seminary were his home away from home. I stayed for Morning Prayer and Mass and was so grateful to be part of such an intimate group in the Seminary Chapel. There were 21 boys staying at the camp, three Seminarians who were helping, Susi, the Rector and his assistant, the Vocations Director and his assistant, and the Archbishop, who said Mass. For me it was a real pleasure to be at that very special morning Mass, and as I quickly whispered goodbye to Jack after Mass, he smiled and said, “I think I’ll stay all night tonight,” and I left for work, tired, but joyful and confident that Jack would have a wonderful experience for the remainder of his time at Seminary Summer Camp.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Locks of Gold















Family movie night left her in tears;
the story was sad and she was in need of comfort.
"Mommy, I always miss you the most
after we watch sad movies," she cried.

So we sat on my bed and I brushed her hair,
that long, golden, satiny hair.

Over and over again, the brush came down
gently through her locks of gold.

She calmed down and asked for a story.
"Tell me the story of the Eucharistic Miracle,"
she begged. And then, "Tell me about your favorite saint."
So, I shared the story of my favorite new 'almost saint,' Elisabeth Leseur.

When she asked to brush my curls
I gladly changed positions with her
and enjoyed the gentle motions of
the brush moving through my hair.
She laughed now, when she noticed that with each stroke
of the brush, my curls bounced back into place.

Now it was her turn to tell a story.
"Mom," she said, "I am going to tell you the story of my favorite saint."

And she told the story from the morning's Gospel, about
It was a story about great love, like that shared between
a mother and her daughter while brushing
locks of gold.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Closer to the Heart

"And the men who hold high places
must be the ones to start

to mould a new reality

closer to the heart

closer to the heart


Blacksmith and the artist

reflect it in their art

they forge their creativity

closer to the heart

closer to the heart." -Rush

















O Sacred Heart of Jesus
pierced by sharpened lance
and drained of precious
water and blood,
now hollow, but for the fire of love
that burns within

I want to crawl inside of you
be held there close and warm,
and bring my tender love within
for I long and yearn for You,
I long and yearn for You

As my love and devotion
for my Saviour and my Lord
heals His sorely broken Heart
my own is healed as well;
we are now united,
our wounds have become one

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I put my trust in you
You hold my heart within Your own
I'm as close as I can be;
in Your Heart I want to stay
never let me go
please, never let me go

Amen

Friday, June 11, 2010

Heart of Glass

"And the soul, entering into the Wounds of Jesus, like ice thrown on a fire, is melted and absorbed in it's God." From Jeffrey Allan's The Secret Harbor, attributed to Carthusian, Dom Anton Volmar.

















What a blessing and joy it is to end this year of the Priest on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Heart that beats with mad love for those holy men who have committed their own hearts to that of our Precious Lord.

My life has been blessed to be touched by so many wonderful priests. Just within the past month my family and I were present at the first Mass of newly ordained Fr. Matthew Widder and on the same day, attended a 40th anniversary party for our pastor, Fr. David Cooper. Witnessing both a first Mass and the longevity of priesthood on the same day was a wondrous joy! And today, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will honor all priests with a special rosary and Mass led by our beloved Archbishop Listecki, as our own wonderful Pope Benedict honors all priests in Rome. (And, congratulations to Bishop William Callahan, auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee who was just named Bishop of LaCrosse, Wisconsin! We'll miss you, but I know that you will be a great blessing to the people of LaCrosse!)

I have been praying a Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus this month for the intentions of a special priest as well as for my own special intentions. I had barely begun the novena when a day of searching for sea glass at the beach produced a real treasure, a sign from God that He was pleased with my prayer. I found a red piece of glass which is extremely rare. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the glass was in the shape of a heart with a gash in one side which reminded me of the sword which pierced the side of our Lord. There are a few scratch marks on the front of the glass which look like they might have been caused by a thorny crown. God gave me a great gift in sending me one of my favorite treasures, sea glass, that resembles His Most Sacred Heart.

I will always treasure this sign of love from God as well as the wonderful priests that have blessed my life and the lives of so many others in a multitude of beautiful and loving ways.

"O my Most Loving and Gentle Jesus, I desire with all the affections of my heart, that all beings should praise Thee, honor Thee and glorify Thee eternally for that Sacred Wound wherewith Thy Divine Side was rent.

I deposit, enclose, conceal in that wound and in that opening in Thy Heart, my heart and all my feelings, thoughts, desires, intentions and all the faculties of my soul. I entreat Thee, by the Precious Blood and Water that flowed from Thy Most Loving Heart, to take entire possession of me, that Thou may guide me in all things.

Consume me in the burning fire of Thy Holy Love, so that I may be so absorbed and transformed into Thee that I may no longer be but one with Thee. Amen." -Lanspergius, the Carthusian

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Simon




















While carrying the cross of unspeakable suffering,
the weight cast Him to the ground.
Without knowing why he was chosen to assist,
when he only meant to pass on by,
Simon lifted the weight to his own shoulder
and relieved a bit of misery,
allowing Him to continue on the path of our salvation.

I also carry a cross, not nearly as heavy,
but still capable of casting me to the ground,
and you are the Simon in my life that helps me to continue on;
when the pain is more than I can bear and fear holds me in its grip
it is you to whom I send my glance of sorrow.

You valiantly lift my cross onto your strong shoulder
and send your prayers to the angels
who fly at once to raise it even higher.
Suddenly, the weight becomes lighter
and the pain manageable
and I know that my cross has now become a gift
which pleases the Lord.

I could not do this on my own;
I would have been crushed beneath the wood,
but with the help of a loving Simon,
my Calvary will lead to my own Ascension
where I will be lifted up into His eternal arms of joy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"We Have Good Boys"

"When I grow up, I want to be a Bender!" four-year-old Stephen for whom my sons often babysit


















I spend too much time worrying about what the future may hold for my children. People often tell me what good children I have, and I know that's true, yet, I keep waiting for something unfortunate to happen instead of relaxing in the knowledge that I have been blessed with a wonderful family.

My two oldest sons are excellent role models for my younger children. They often volunteer at church and in the community, most recently joining with other teens from our parish to wash windows and mow the lawns of some elderly residents in our neighborhood who could no longer manage these chores on their own. Their wonderful example can be hard for the younger three to live up to.

As a middle child, I know that my son Joe wants to stand out from the hard-working and well-behaved older boys, and from the youngest two children in our family who follow behind him and are often quite pampered as the babies of the family. I worried quite a bit about him this past year as he struggled with teenage growing pains and often found himself in quite a bit of trouble at school. But God didn't plan to let Joe get lost in the crowd of family that surrounds him. He gave Joe the gift of a charming personality with a penchant for smooth talk that helped him make the most of the difficult situations that frequently beset him.

This past Friday, he graduated from the 8th grade and received many awards for his service as acolyte, Eucharistic Minister and cadet. He also stands out from his siblings by being our only child who always finds himself on the honor roll for his good grades. But, considering the many notes that came home from his teachers this year about his behavior, I caught myself letting out a gasp of surprise when he was awarded with the "Rainbow of Excellence" award for outstanding leadership skills and Christian values and learned that this award was chosen for him by his fellow students. I certainly did not expect him to receive any awards for good behavior! This whole year of worry and stress turned out to be unwarranted!

That night at the graduation celebration, I was sitting with a friend of mine, herself the mother of eight children, whose son also received an award for good behavior. She looked at me and said, "We have good boys," and I realized that it was as simple as that. God has blessed me with good boys. I hope I remember that the next time my stomach ties itself in knots of worry, certain that I have fallen down in my parenting responsibilities. Parenting is always a lot of work, and I know that my children will make many mistakes and find themselves in trouble now and then, but our God is a God of hope, and "hope does not disappoint." Romans 5:5

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blush






















The wild rose buds are pried apart
by the early June heat.
Their opening is a gasp for air and water
as they separate their soft petals,
reluctantly releasing their pink blush
and their heavenly fragrance.

I'm delighted by the hint of divine
that resides in their beauty and I blush too,
when I think of how He loves me.
He loves me passionately and wildly;
me...a simple nobody.

And he sends me an abundance of roses in June
to prove to me that being a nobody
is all He wants from me.
He is pleased that I am madly in love
with my Maker; and He smiles at
the nobody who blushes at His sweet and
fragrant pink roses in June.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spills and Drips

























The fragrant peony spills and drips sweet scents
in wild profusions of petals
surrounded by spiky, green leaves

The Sacred Heart of Jesus spills and drips sweet sentiments
with wild profusions of tenderness
surrounded by His fiery, unbounded love

What a wonder it is to be be filled with spills and drips of sentimentality
during wild profusions of contemplation
surrounded by love in this month of His Sacred Heart



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Liturgy of the Hours















It’s early morning, the earth is still dark, and the sun has not yet begun its ascent into the sky. You shift your legs out of bed and your bare feet hit the cold, stone floor. You dress quickly and head over to the chapel, as you do every day. Nods of greeting pass between you and your companions as you each take your places in your stalls, and the chant begins…“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” For those who live in Monasteries, this is a beautiful daily ritual, gathering at set times each day for the communal prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Jesus exhorts us to pray always, and the church, in her wisdom, has provided us with a method that helps us to do just that. The Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office, as it is also called, is the prayer of the entire church and it sanctifies the day of those who pray it. The Christian practice of praying the Liturgy of the Hours goes back to the first apostles who continued the Jewish custom of praying at certain times of the day. “Seven times a day, I praise you.” Psalm 118

Today the Liturgy of the Hours consists of six set times of prayer:

-Morning Prayer or Lauds (Latin for praise) in which we dedicate our day to God upon arising. It consists of several Psalms and canticles, a short reading from Scripture, a responsory, a hymn, the Benedictus canticle of Zechariah, intercessions, and the Our Father.

-Evening Prayer or Vespers (Latin for evening) where we offer Thanksgiving at the end of the day, has the same structure as Lauds, except it has Mary’s Magnificat instead of the Benedictus.

-Compline (Latin for complete) or Night Prayer, is a short, simple prayer said before retiring for the night.

In addition, prayer can be offered at intervals throughout the day-

-Terce (Latin for 3rd hour since it is approximately three hours since sunrise) at midmorning
-Sext (Latin for 6th hour) at noon
-None (pronounced like “bone”, Latin for ninth hour) in midafternoon

Together, these mid-day prayers are known as the Little Hours or Daytime Hours, and are intended to break up the day. The seventh hour, Prime, which came between Lauds and Terce, was abolished in 1970.

The Office of Readings (formerly part of Matins which would be prayed at 2 or 3 AM) can be prayed at any time during the day and it consists of two long readings, one from Scripture and the other from our Church Fathers.

Upon the reception of Holy Orders, praying the Liturgy of the Hours becomes a canonical requirement for all deacons, priests and bishops. Although it is not required for the lay faithful, it can be a powerful addition to our daily prayer, a few quiet minutes, at set times each day when the rest of the church is praying as well, in which we can join our deepest longings and needs with those of the Christian world, and send our prayers to heaven in one, unified prayer of the church.

One of the beautiful aspects of praying the Liturgy of the Hours is that the psalms we pray each day don’t necessarily match our own moods and feelings at that moment, so it draws us into a wider view of God’s world, instead of allowing us to simply focus on our own personal worries and concerns. Our prayer truly is a prayer for the entire church. According to Fr. Stephanos, OSB, a monk at Prince of Peace Abbey in California, “You end up praying God’s Word about himself, and praying God’s Word for the world and yourself.”

Author and poet Kathleen Norris, spent a great deal of time living at St. John’s Benedictine Monastery in Minnesota and she wrote about her time there in her book “The Cloister Walk.” She has this to say about her experience of the Liturgy of the Hours…“Gradually, my perspective on time had changed. In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chews us up and spits us out with appalling ease…Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented toward process rather than productivity, willing to wait attentively in stillness rather than always pushing to ‘get the job done’…every day you recite the psalms and you listen, as powerful biblical images, stories and poems are allowed to flow freely, to wash over you.”

If you have never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours before, and would like to begin, a few simple resources can be found. The book “Shorter Christian Prayer” can be purchased at local Catholic bookstores and online. It includes the cycle of Lauds and Vespers. For those who have internet access, a wonderful website to visit is the Universalis Site. Here you can find an easy to use Liturgy of the Hours that is updated daily. If you’d like to get a taste of the Liturgy of the Hours in a communal setting, many parishes offer morning and/or evening prayer.

And as the monks close out their day, they acknowledge that every moment was a gift and a favor from the Lord and they realize that they must rely on Him alone, and they pray, “God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me. Amen.” And they silently walk back to their cells to rest in the goodness of the Lord.

(Chapel image is from New Mellaray Abbey, Iowa)